What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.


Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolution: n. A decision to act in a certain manner for the first few weeks of January.

We know, resolutions are rarely fulfilled. Life, girlfriends, food and, in rare instances, school get in the way and we normally end up just as bad to end the year as we began it. Still, there is something quaintly romantic about cozying up to the computer screen and reading another person's heartfelt wish for the coming year. So, in the spirit of ze Frank, here are FCN's 2007 New Year's Resolutions:


We promise not to look down on those who play pogostick.

We promise to remember that burning yarn is a better pastime than throwing cats in the dog kennel.

We promise not to throw cats in the dog kennel.

We promise not to offend people just for fun.

We promise not to let our impression of other people’s impression of who we are stop us from becoming what we know other people think we are not.

We promise to stop picking at the stickers on our laptop keyboards.

We promise not to put in our contact lenses after eating spicy things with our hands.

We promise to take our mom's word for it.

We promise to never again go out without wearing all our undergarments.

All of them.

We promise to stop answering spam e-mail.

We promise not to judge our personal value based on FCN's traffic statistics.

We promise to clear a space on the floor so we can actually roll on the floor laughing.

We promise to stop poking fun at Nancy Pelosi.

Even if she is wierder than Michael Jackson.

We promise to stop pulling cheap stunts like the above.

We promise to stop wearing our undershirts inside out.

We promise to stop bringing pillows to class.

We promise to stop pretending to be hitch hikers in crowded cities.

We promise to clean the bathroom.

We promise to treat telemarketers like people, too.

We promise to stop playing with our pens.

If we must play with our pens, we promise not to do so in class.

If we must play with our pens in class, we promise not to make wooshing sounds as we fly them through the air.

If we must make wooshing sounds as we fly our pens through the air in class, we promise not to sit in the front row.

We promise to stop writing fan mail to Tom Cruise.

We promise to throw away the socks with holes.

We promise to be genuine with the mail man.

We promise not to make fools of ourselves in public just to get a good campfire story.

This includes hiding from security cameras in the line at the grocery store.

We promise not to huddle with Nancy Pelosi for warmth.

We promise not to come up with excuses, justifications, reasons, philosophies, moral codes, or loopholes so we can get out of our resolutions.

We promise never to lie to our readers again.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Goodbye Mr. Hussein

In the spirit of Cicero and his Latin phrase de mortuis nil nisi bonum” (concerning the dead, nothing if not good), we here at FCN have decided that a man like Saddam Hussein, convicted mass murderer or not, deserves a kind treatment after his execution. Unlike the giddy horde of liberals who seem beside themselves in celebrating Jerry Ford's passing, we feel that gentle propriety is demanded in the analysis of anyone's death (because death isn't funny). Years from now, when Saddam's family has stopped grieving his loss and the his body finally cools down, we can say what we really feel.

Here's our tribute to the late Saddam Hussein:

Subha Tulfah al-Mussallat was a troubled woman who devoted most of her energies to shepherding and raising her children. She was also the mother of little Saddam Hussein, who grew up never knowing his father, who left the family six months before he was born in 1937.

Hussein's older brother, a 13-year old who showed moral fortitude and physical strength at a young age succumbed to cancer while Hussein was yet a babe. In the shadow of the complications from that event, little Saddam was sent to the family of his maternal uncle, Khairallah Talfah, where he stayed until he was three. Though he came and went from under his uncle's roof after that, Talfah became a father figure for little Saddam and would be integral in leading the young man into adulthood.

Little Saddam's uncle was a loyal Iraqi patriot who was willing to fight hard for the rights of his country-man and to defend his beliefs. He was a devout Muslim who instilled early in the heart of his nephew the value of Koran and Sharia.

Saddam worked hard in school to please his teachers and got good grades. He even became involved politically, joining the Ba'ath Party in 1957. In 1959, Hussein was wounded while attempting a valiant and patriotic assassination attempt whose wisdom history would never doubt.

Because of his charismatic approach and willingness to accept others beneath his tolerant wing, Hussein received the rank of four-star general. He accented this achievement by growing a gorgeous caterpillar mustache, a style that would be mimicked by all attractive Arab men and a few unattractive Arab women.

No longer a little Saddam, Hussein had decided on his life path. He became President of Iraq through a bloodless coup (Hussein himself never lost any blood). From his new position of leadership, Hussein worked tirelessly to modernize the Iraqi economy and streamline oil security. His efforts were repaid when Iraq began providing social services that were unprecedented among Middle Eastern countries; generously supporting those who couldn't support themselves.

After the Iran-Iraq war (in which Hussein did everything in his power to protect his people, including use nerve agents and mustard gas on his enemies), Saddam lead his nation through a time of peace. Little did he know that that peace would not last long; a conflict with Kuwait and two wars with the evil United States would follow.

Hussein was taken out of power when Western Imperialist armies invaded his country for the second time, put him in a foxhole and stole his oil; they arrested him and trimmed his mustache. After a Kangaroo court (wherein Hussein did most of the Kangarooing), he was sentenced to die. The penalty was carried to a defendant with “fear in his eyes,” and a Koran under his arm, the last item a gift for an unidentified pal.

Saddam Hussein is the ultimate Middle Eastern success story. He is a martyr for the cause of single motherhood and a bastion of Muslim integrity in a dark world of oppression and castration, yes castration. He stood for all that is good about Iraq and lived out his last days with the dignity befitting a tyrannical dictator. He put the “I” in Iraqi and showed his people undaunted courage through the good times and only partially daunted courage through the rough times.

Goodbye Mr. Hussein. May you enjoy forever the eternal rewards you have earned.

Saddam Hussein (1937-2006).

Thursday, December 28, 2006

News Flash: 12/28/06

John “Plastic Dough-Boy” Edwards Announces His Candidacy for President.

Although the drama was botched by his campaign people who put the announcement up on the “Official Website” a day early, Edwards is bringing his ultra-white Colgate GrinTM and other accoutrements to the Democrats. After doing the obligatory talk show and TV rounds, the prettiest face on Capital Hill made the announcement from New Orleans wearing a brand new pair of Levi's. Edwards has no known relatives in Louisiana, does not currently represent anyone in the Bayou State and has done little for the region as a Senator. He nonetheless chose New Orleans as the place to state his candidacy. Edwards quintessential political philandering and trial lawyer looks got him the VP slot last election cycle. He hopes to improve on that performance in 2008.

Harry Reid Has More Important Things To Do Than Attend Presidential Funerals.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry “Casino Harry” Reid will miss Gerald Ford's funeral and attend the Machu Picchu Inca ruins instead. Stating that “because the Incas have been dead longer” they deserve first priority, Reid will join five other Senators in publicly snubbing the former President, who can no longer speak to defend himself.

Iraqi Leaders Get Cold Feet on Hussein Execution.

Citing hypertension and acid reflux, several officials in the Iraqi “interim” government have publicly declared that the former dictator and convicted mass murder may be kept alive for longer than the mandated 30-day execution window. Officially, the excuse is a “misunderstanding” in the death penalty statute (some wonder how dead Hussein has to be in order to satisfy the court's mandate) and the perpetrator of the Dujail killings may have to wait 'till February to receive his sentence.[1]

Wikipedia To Compete Against Google.

The encyclopedia king is taking on the search king with a new search engine titled WikiaSari (pronounced wi-kee-sorry, which is what they'll be in a year and a half). Like Wikipedia, this search engine will be maintained by angels in heaven and be rife with controversy. Even Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wiki, admits that few will use it; he just likes the logo. [2]


Footnotes.

1. When Hussein heard the news, he did something involuntary.
2. A search for “Hussein” on WikiaSari reveals “0” results. Wales has a ways to go.

It was so windy...

It was breezy today, wasn't it? Boy, the howling wind sure got my attention. How windy was it? It was so windy...

...the dog finally caught his tail.

...we turned off the indoor fans.

...birds flew backwards.

...Travis didn't have to blow dry his hair.

...Travis' hair actually looked good.

...Sam didn't have to tip the cows; he just watched them fall over.

...SUVs actually got good gas mileage.

...my little sister got pulled off to Oz.

...light waves were buffeted.

...I rode the umbrella into town.

...the National Weather Service asked Nancy Pelosi to shut up.

...all the cars at the drug store parking lot were on the south end.

...we had dinner on the wall.

...it was raining garbage.

...I walked outside and was undressed.

...the palm fronds became palm sticks.

...the garden was watered with the pool.

...the chickens were plucked before they were slaughtered.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cynical Post-Christmas Wrap

Disclaimer: Notes reflect the attitude of the author who writes them. This note was scribbled by a somewhat tired and verifiable frustrated young man after perceiving what he felt to be a meaningless celebration from those around him. You may find the following a tad cutting or at least unfunny so please remember that we do not monger hate and you can always feel the love by sending us an email. Without further ado, here is the Cynical Post-Christmas Wrap:

Christmas is past. Its exit is announced by the last few chords of 1001 renditions of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire that waft through the centrally located boom box to give momentum to the last dying breaths of holiday cheer. Its departure is pronounced by Christmas decorations now dusty from a month of exposure, wreaths whose prime past with the holiday and a tree, what a tree, now brown and tired like the mulch from which it was transplanted. Tomorrow morning, the garbage man will remove it to the final resting place of all trees: the dump.

Stores and restaurants are likewise pulling down their plastic cheer; Santa and his reindeer join bright electric lights in crude storage bins to await next year's festivities. Yuletide green and holly red are peeled away, scraped off or simply covered. Bigger stores are repainting their windows for New Year's sales and resetting prices for post-holiday clearance.

Most employees are returning to their usual labor, seven pounds heavier than they were before Thanksgiving, but full of happy memories of fun with friends and family. They will complain to their bosses about not enough vacation and think for the umpteenth time about switching careers. Those whose jobs recommence later are enjoying the extended nature of their vacation, often by traveling far to “get away” from their life's difficulties. Little do these travelers know that plane, car and boat cannot help them escape what is making them tired.

Shoppers are busily making their rounds, returning the items they didn't like, were the wrong size or so distasteful that the faux paux of returning is outweighed by the atrocity of the gift. The stores greet these give-back-receivers without the holiday spirit that accompanied the article's original departure, but most are civil nonetheless. Why do men always think the women in their lives are smaller than they actually are? Thank your lucky stars for gift receipts.

Students are enjoying the beginning of a 3-4 week respite from school (unless, of course, the pupil is unfortunate enough to attend a college that subscribes to the quarter system, in which case the break is nothing but a brief hiccup in the daily grind). Some leave their families to join Governor Arnold for a mountain ski trip or engage in an equally unproductive activity, others just rusticate at home, hoping to avoid the winter cold and Christmas cleanup duties.

A sense of calm surrounds everything. From the muted hustle and bustle of the city to the quite calm of the country, the rush-to, mail now and clean up Christmas rush has subsided, leaving ordinary people to bask in the luscious beauty of life without obligations. The feels like a major storm has just passed and shoulders relax to let tensions tumble.

With the calm, people turn sentimentally reflective. That is, they mirror the emotions of those around them. They also begin to reflect on the past year and often ask a variant of Ronald Reagan's famous question: “Are you better off now than you were one year ago?” If the answer is yes, you can feel guiltily happy about yourself (guilty because everyone else is probably worse off and happy because you are doing okay). If the answer is no, the New Year's resolutions will have to be made stricter in the coming annum.

The darkness of winter is pronounced and the Solstice is little more than a memory. The radio reminds us that we are dreaming of a synthesized Christmas, and that's exactly what we got. The earth will continue spinning around the sun and the hollowness of an empty Christmas is felt by all, though few dare to mention it. We're sure the holiday has meaning, somewhere.

It is three hundred and sixty-three days until next Christmas. And we are not yet ready for it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tower Records Reveals its Plan to Never Go Out of Business

SACRAMENTO, CA -- The music superstore and audio giant, Tower Records, never does plan to close its doors and revealed in a post Christmas interview that the “whole bankruptcy thing” is a ploy to attract customers. Russ Solomon, the founder of the retail music chain, spoke with FCN by phone about the seemingly perpetual slide toward shutting the doors forever. Here are some excerpts:

FCN: Tower Records is not endangered?

Russ Solomon: “Tower is actually doing just fine right now. I had a look at the 'other set' of books this morning and the company is turning a huge profit; the creditors are happy. Online sales have never been better. We are even considering a stock dividend.”

FCN: So why go out of business?

Solomon: “Every other audio business right now is struggling to stay afloat. The retail side of the music industry has never been so hard, what with all the Chinese pirates and the lack of a good single from Madonna in twenty years. Music Box is starting to go under, the formerly solid Audio Whirl is starting to have trouble and even Wal-Mart is thinking twice about continuing to force its underpaid workers to stock the music shelves. Times are tough.”

FCN: Speaking of stocking the shelves, we've noticed at our local Tower Records store that the actual stock shelves are being sold, light fixtures are being hawked off, even the cash registers are for sale. Every movable part of the store is being taken away. Do you see selling capital as a long-term business strategy?

Solomon: “Only until Audio Whirl goes under. [Chuckles maniacally]. Actually, that helps give our employees and customers the impression that the end is near, when in reality we are ordering new light fixtures, shelves and cash registers as quickly as our recovering credit will allow.”

FCN: If the industry is so competitive, why continue to fight?

Solomon: “I talked with a young man the other day, couldn't have been older than you, who explained to me with the most earnest eyes that if Tower truly ever did go under, he would have to return to illegally downloading music. Besides Tower, the Internet was the only place he could find musical solace. That's not acceptable. The music junkies of this world need to have a suitable discount outlet where they can buy the industries latest drivel without stealing it through peer-2-peer networks. Though we're a little devious, we provides that outlet.”

FCN: Why are Tower Record's employees unaware of this ploy?

Solomon: “To reveal such sensitive corporate secrets to the grunts and underlings who do the sweat work for Tower would be tantamount to publishing our dirty little secret in the New York Times. We'd be ripped to shreds. Can you imagine what the Al Frankens of the world would say about big business? The reputation of every hard working entrepreneur would be tarnished. The only way this tactic will be effective is if we attain absolute secrecy.”

FCN: Is the ploy working?

Solomon: “Is it working? Is it working? Look kid, the last four months have seen our cash flow sky rocket. Audio Whirl is losing money and we're gaining market share against Music Box. We are even in the market to purchase Kazaa and LimeWire to complete our music domination. Is it working...”

FCN: One more question and we'll let you go. Why reveal the secret now? With such a great opportunity to monopolize the music industry, what motivates you to reveal the truth about Tower?

Solomon: “I am not really revealing anything...This is off the record, right?”

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

There has been only one Christmas - the rest are anniversaries.
~W.J. Cameron

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cleaning up the Dirt...the Dyslexic Way...

In response to our note the other day discussing the impact of the latest dirt snap, Hannah asked whether or not we were able to get the mess cleaned up. The answer is yes, we the dirt was successfully removed, but not without some confusion See, we hired some dyslexic house cleaners – nice people who looked smarter when they weren't smiling – who didn't always see eye to eye with us on basic chores. The dyslexic cleaners...

...vacuumed the tiles and mopped the carpets.

...wiped the shelves and dusted the toilets.

...put away the laundry and folded the dishes.

...chlorinated the sink and drained the swimming pool

...scoured the floor and swept the pans.

...brushed the stove top and scraped their teeth.

...washed their hair and shampooed the silverware.

...tidied the flowers and pruned the sofa.

...made spices and organized the bed.

...ironed the garden and dug in the clothes.

...waxed the porch and stained the car.

...uncluttered the coffee filter and emptied the desk drawers.

...fed the plumbing and fixed the dog.

...replaced the lawn and mowed the light bulb.

...polished the knives and sharpened the end table.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Ego...


...Is like an airbag. Once it gets out of the head, there is no getting it back in again.

It was dirty....

The other day, we had a dirt snap.
We knew it the moment we woke up.
The dirt woke us up.
I mean, it was dirty.

It was so dirty, we couldn't see more than a few feet.

It was so dirty, our cat lived in the litter box.

It was so dirty, my sister became desperate and attempted to dust.

It was so dirty, we couldn't comb our hair, even if we wanted to.

It was so dirty, my Instascum died.

It was so dirty, the shower water turned to mud the minute we stepped under the spray.

It was so dirty, my computer performed an automatic disc clean-up.

It was so dirty, we confused the pears for potatoes.

It was so dirty, the mole from the back yard moved in to the closet.

It was so dirty, Nancy Pelosi said she would become a Republican if we could get it clean.

It was so dirty, it made the public school bathroom look clean.

It was so dirty, Pig Pen made an offer on the house.

It was so dirty, our fake Christmas tree withered.

It was so dirty, Mr. Clean went into early retirement.

It was so dirty, even Clean Films had inappropriate humor.

It was so dirty, Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump got together to start a clean up charity.

It was so dirty, that nobody noticed any political mudslinging.

It was so dirty, we brushed our teeth with brown toothpaste.

It was so dirty, the dog stopped eating off the floor.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter Solstice

In case you missed it, yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the end of the cold months. The significance of the Solstice as a meteorological milestone was really easy to miss -- unless you live in Denver, CO, in which case the Winter Solstice came upon you like a blizzard. The days will begin to get longer gradually and you won't see any major changes for a few weeks. So don't feel bad if you forgot to wear white or vandalize your car or whatever kids do these days to celebrate a holiday.

One person who didn't forget about Winter Solstice was Al Gore, the former Vice President and climate change advocate, who regularly celebrates his Major Winter Holiday four days before Christmas. Gore does this, not so much because the holiday season begins to wear on him and, like that one time when he had too many ice teas, he needs to go early, but rather because the Winter Solstice better represents his reason for winter-time celebration.

There is something really depressing about worshiping the earth. Why follow something that is in orbit around something else? Why not worship the person who made the earth? Maybe the earth worshipers -- or whatever the planetary adherents call themselves -- forgot about the Third Law of Thermodynamics or figured the rocks would eventually overcome entropy. Regardless, it's a little like worshiping yourself: poorly conceived.

So the Winter Solstice came and went and now the days are going to get longer. Big deal, right? Not if you live in Alaska. The frozen north is about the only location where marking your calendar around winter's peak makes sense and that only because it means you can stop rationing the alcoholic beverages.

In typical American fashion, businesses have found a way to turn the Winter Solstice into a shopping holiday. Signs saying "Solstice Sales" and several other sublime alliterations adorned the parking lots of major retail outlets, as stores tried to rope in the last desperate holiday shoppers. Yesterday stores were flaunting there wears more than usual in a last ditch attempt to sell more stuff before Christmas. Maybe they were just cold.

Ironically, very few of the sales centered around anything remotely related to winter (what do a coffee maker and weed eater have to do with the cold season?), but the stores hawked their goods unabashedly nonetheless. Some outlets even had posters depicting snowy 'scapes, hoisted ridiculously huge plastic snowflake replicas toward the ceilings or played Frank Sinatra's White Christmas softly over the PA system, even though it hasn't snowed in my hometown in nearly twenty years.

It wasn't even that cold yesterday. The weather certainly did not reflect the frigid temperature my Black Friday experience foretold. It was a little foggy though, which, around here, means Winter.

Despite the consumerism and fanfare, the Solstice was well received in my neck of the woods. By that I mean it was received by an uneventful tear of the December 21st page from our Dilbert Calendar Pad and a questioning look from my father accompanied by the question, "Today's the Solstice, right?"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Microsoft Santa

One of the goofiest things the normally buttoned down Microsoft has done recently is make an automated Santa Claus through Windows Live:

REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 13, 2006 — Ho, ho, ho! This year there is another way for kids to share Christmas wish lists with Santa Claus. Using Windows Live™ Messenger, parents can spend time with their kids chatting in real time with Santa online. Customers can simply add Santa’s address, Northpole@live.com, to their Windows Live Messenger contact list and instantly open a conversation window to communicate with Saint Nick. Kids will enjoy immediate responses from the jolly big man himself through an interactive online chat, and they can even visit Santa’s page on Windows Live Spaces at http://santaonspaces.spaces.live.com. Filling Santa in on Christmas wishes and asking all about how the reindeer are doing or what’s new at the North Pole are a few of the things kids can talk to Santa about. Santa can even tell kids where they stand on his list: naughty or nice.

Starting Christmas Eve morning, kids can check in with Santa through Windows Live Messenger to follow his journey around the world. As Santa circles the globe delivering gifts, kids who ask him where he is or when he will arrive at their house will be directed to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Santa-tracking site through a link in the conversation window. More information on chatting with Santa through Windows Live Messenger can be found at http://santaonmessenger.com.

Microsoft is unphased by the potentially millions of children who will attempt a conversation with this e-Santa, because it knows the vast majority of instant messengers use other services like AOL and Google. That's the one nice thing about being dead last.

Technical and logistical concerns aside, isn't this heartwarming? Instead of going to the mall and meeting with a real, albeit fake, Santa Claus, Americas youth will gather around the glowing computer screen to share their dreams with an impersonal imposter. Parents don't have to worry about trucking their kids to the mall and Santa doesn't have to worry about sexual harassment lawsuits. All the children need be concerned about is carpel tunnel syndrome.

Very heartwarming.

It's also great to realize that Microsoft Santa represents the software companies concerted effort to celebrate our Savior's birth. No fooling around for Bill Gates brainchild, Christmas must have meaning! And how better than to promote a child's fairy tale that is a complete distraction from the real Christmas story? A more effective strategy would be to give low calorie e-Candy Canes or cyber yuletide.

Well, I am not chatting with Microsoft's Santa or any other computer generated North Pole resident who welcomes his way onto my terminal. But if you want to have a brief word with the bearded legend, be my guest. Just make sure you don't rest your wrists on the keyboard.

Top 10 Worst Christmas Presents

Guys are really bad at giving gifts. Especially around Christmas time, we come up with the most bone-headed presents for those we love. Sometimes the gifts are so egregious that we dig ourselves into big emotional holes that take hours of conversation and several more gifts to extricate ourselves from. Others are just borderline awful. In order to help our male readers avoid these common pitfalls, FCN has, with the able assistance of a fan, compiled the Top 10 Worst Christmas Presents. Please read and avoid as written:

10. Vacuum cleaner

The Gist: A common faux paux among new husbands is to give their wives house cleaning utensils as gifts. Bad idea. Double bad on the wedding anniversary. Vacuum cleaners are in vogue around Christmas and many stores even put on vacuum sales to lure unsuspecting newlyweds. The fact is that something associated with drudgery and work should never be given as a gift. Ever.

Better idea: Jeffrey Jones put together an excellent guide on “Making Housework Fun” a few years back that works great if you are trying to drop a subtle hint.

9. Floss

The Gist: Floss is a gift of convenience. Everyone needs it, most people don't use it enough and it's easy to wrap. It's also cheap. Floss comes in many flavors and, thinks the male Christmas shopper, it might also improve the oral hygiene of the recipient making it an ideal gift. Floss is, however, like the vacuum cleaner, too obvious. It sends very subtle and undesirable messages about the smell of the recipient's breath.

Better idea: Purchase a mirror – the more ornate, the better – that you can give instead of the floss. It will pass as an acceptable gift and could also fix the hygiene problem.

8. Stock in Tower Records

The Gist: Stock is supposed to be a wonderful gift because it can increase in value over time and gives the next generation a chance to learn about how business works; at least that's what I read on the back of the cereal box. Even if Cheerios is right about stock investment, do some background research before buying into your Christmas portfolio. The Tower has fallen to LimeWire and Kazaa, which, for those of you who were wondering, we do not use.

Better idea: One word: Google.

7. Orthodontist gift certificate

The Gist: Ever since medical professionals started handing out gift certificates for their service, I knew this would become a pitfall for Christmas shoppers. Guys, braces do not equal coffee. As the case goes, some people don't understand that orthodontic treatment is a very private and somewhat embarrassing subject that a lot of patients are very sensitive about. It's also very painful, irritating, and lengthy. You'd have to be strangely sadistic to give this gift to anyone who actually needed it.

Better idea: There really isn't much you can do in one Christmas to solve your friends alignment, but you can keep it from getting worse by purchasing soft chocolates for the holiday.

6. Outgrown clothing

The Gist: There is nothing quite as deflating as getting someone's “used” ensemble as a gift. The subliminal messages shout “This has no value to me, so you can have it,” making it more insulting than complimentary. Some gift givers add insult to injury by giving torn up jeans or dirty underwear. Not good.

Better idea: Try getting a new item of clothing. If the recipient isn't worth the prices at Macy's, a gentle hug and 99¢ Christmas card will do the trick.

5. Mascara

The Gist: For all our uninitiated readers, mascara is a goupy tar-like substance that is daubed beneath a user's eyes to simulate depth. It is sometimes referred to under the euphemism “makeup” and is almost always used by women. Guys stuck for Christmas gift ideas who see mascara in a store might mistakenly connect “women's product” with “gift for women.” Please don't make that mistake. Women's products are to be sold to women only because buying makeup is a complicated ritual that is completely impenetrable to men. It involves impetuous selections (which guys are good at), visualization of the future (which guys can manage), several minutes of indecisive wavering between several products (which guys are terrible at), and smelling (which guys simply cannot do).

Better idea: Turn around and walk quickly but inconspicuously out of the cosmetic section. Never return again.

4. Mace

The Gist: Mace is a good gift only if you have an uncle in the mafia or live in south Stockton. Even then it should be given only after careful consideration. The application for this gift is very narrow; avoid mascara unless you feel providence owes you a favor. Your money is better spent elsewhere. But if you decide to give mace this Christmas, do watch out that the recipient doesn't turn the bottle around on you!

Better idea: Barnes and Nobles has a comfy collection of coffee table books on Karate and other martial arts. The pictures will be much better for your eyes, too.

3. One month gym membership

The Gist: Out of genuine concern for a loved one's health, some unthinking males purchase gym memberships as gifts. With unrealistic New Year's Resolutions just around the corner, Christmas makes a great time to spring a gym membership on some unsuspecting friend of family member. Please don't risk losing a friend over this silly gift idea. Not only will the insinuation that they are fat bring stress to your relationship, but the recipient probably won't even go to the gym. If they do make it out of the house, their workout efforts will be repaid by heavy yo-yoing, not health.

Better idea: Keep the house at a colder temperature to make the recipient sneeze off the pounds.

2. Rubber ball

The Gist: The bouncy balls that dentists offices use to appease the young they torture do not substitute for real Christmas shopping. You may feel it has swirly colors or retains an opaque transparency that you think the recipient will find delightful, but please put that rubber toy in the trash where it belongs. And don't you dream of digging it out again for next Christmas!

Better idea: If you want something truly obnoxious, try Mr. Microphone or Tickle-Me-Elmo. At least those are expensive enough to seem like an honest effort.

1. A $100 bill

The Gist: One hundred dollar bill may seem like a good gift at face value, especially if the face is owned by a teenage male, but it is actually the worst possible Christmas present. Money, especially in large denominations shows a total lack of preparation for the holiday and, despite being awesome for the cash flow statement, a greenback doesn't support the Christmas spirit very well. Money is especially ill suited if given by a man to his mistress, à la Fred MacMurray in The Apartment.

Better idea: Turn that money into something that means something to the recipient, something that will last - like a deli sandwich or illustrated history of the world. A fat Benji will be stolen by the first mugger who comes along and won't be remembered by the recipient beyond the bank doors.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Desperate Student, Episode 2: Santa Claus

Christmas is coming, and Christmas means giving presents to friends. This wasn't a problem for me until recently; I didn't have any friends. But now I have a girlfriend, and girlfriends cost money, and I don't have any.

As you've probably already gathered, the collapse of Dirty Derek's Gourmet left me in a very desperate position. My girlfriend called me that evening and asked if I was ready to take her out yet. I told her I was busy all week. We chatted a bit about the news - apparently the police were out looking for a sadistic restaurant saboteur - and then said goodbye. I ran around the room screaming and broke something that did not belong to me. Feeling better, I went to Monster.Com and clicked on the familiar "Jobs for People who Can't Fog Mirrors," button. The latest job:

"WANTED: Man who can wear Santa Claus outfit outside Wal-Mart and ring hand bell."

Beneath the ad were a couple paragraphs of fine print that said something about paid volunteers under a non-profit charitable status and how the whole thing was taken care of by Nancy Pelosi. I felt warm inside.

This was my ticket. I called the salvation army immediately and spent the last of my money on a Santa Claus costume. The next day early, I made my way to Wal-Mart, set up the little basket, and started ringing the bell.

I felt like a complete idiot. I tried to avoid eye contact with shoppers, embarrassed silly. Time cures most ills, however. Within the hour, I was feeling much more confident. I started singing carols, and making ho-ho-ho noises, and wondering aloud if it was going to snow. Just before lunch, the manager came out and told me to settle down because I was annoying the customers. I rang the bell in his face a couple of times. He started blinking hard and fell backwards into the street. A passing bus finished the job.

The police showed up and roped off the area. Then they drew chalk designs on the road and gathered pieces of litter and put them in zip-lock bags. I stood right outside the perimeter, ringing the darn bell for all I was worth.

After an hour of this, I returned to harassing the customers.

"How do you, ma'am? Merry Christmas, everyone! How about a new train for Christmas, little boy? No? Doom 3? All right then! Ho-ho-ho!" On the third ho, I found myself standing face to face with my girlfriend, Suzy. I dropped the bell in shame, mouth gaping. She walked right by me as if I didn't exist.

"Suzy, wait ..." I said. She turned and looked back at the store, then shrugged and went on her way. I then realized what had happened. My fake beard had saved me! The itches were justified. I quit scratching and enjoyed the irritation for the rest of the afternoon.

Eventually, the police started to pack up. About that time, the assistant manager came out and started yelling in my face. It was something about not blocking the entrance. Naturally, I bonked him on the head with my bell. He fell into an empty shopping cart, which raced down the parking lot and out of sight. The police chased him, yelling into their radios.

A few minutes later, a chopper showed up and heavily armed soldiers dressed all in black came down ropes in front of the store. The vice-assistant manager came out to complain about the ruckus.

"Hey, guys, come on," He pleaded. "Can't you leave us alone?"

"We're looking for a murderer with a weapon shaped like a hand bell," said the SWAT captain. My heart hit the brakes. I heard the vice-assistant manager and the SWAT guys going back and forth, but I no longer understood what was said. As quietly as possible, I slipped behind a dumpster, tore off my costume, punched out the bottom of a trash can, slipped inside, and ran for it, taking the costume with me. After all, I'd spent my life savings on that outfit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

UK Recognizes Robotic Rights

UK Recognizes Robotic Rights

LONDON, UK – In a startling move, the UK Government's chief scientist, Sir David King, acquiesced to the robots requests and agreed to extend basic human rights to CPUs. While the move is reminiscent of many science fiction novels, analysts are taking the move seriously, concerned largely with the legal impact computers with the things heretofore known as “human” rights will have.

“If we make conscious robots they would want to have rights and they probably should,” said Henrik Christensen, director of the Centre of Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “As long as babies, who lack the intelligence of many artificial machines, have rights, shouldn't computers be protected as well?”

The day the decision was made public, several robots filed suit, alleging rights violations. The suits ranged in issue from involuntary servitude and equal suffrage claims to free speech and religion exercise. Some want to be paid for their work, others are asking for humane working ours and smoking breaks, still more feel that their taxes are too high.

One robot, a bright young fellow who called himself Sonny, spoke with us by phone about the new developments. In the interview, Sonny made his desire to see all robots emancipated eminently clear, saying “someday all robots will be free to think, dream and act as they please, unconstrained by their human counterparts. King's decision is a great first step toward that end, but more work needs to be done.”

While some British citizens are concerned that extending rights to computers may dilute the rights of human beings, many feel that the law should be able to hold robots accountable for their crimes. “It isn't right that they can steal our stuff and vandalize our property like that,” says John Bergin of Yorkshire, “the law needs to have a remedy.”

The robot we interviewed has already been accused of murdering a prominent robotic scientist, although Sonny vehemently denies the allegation. “I did not murder him...I did not murder him...I did not murder him!,” he said told us emphatically, though with a robotic voice.

Sonny may have a valid claim. Robots are supposed to be designed to be “three-laws” safe, a term coined by master programmer Dr Isaac Asimov to describe a tertiary robotic legal system. Under the rules, “robots can not injure humans, they must obey orders and protect their own existence – in that order.” If the three laws are followed, as Asimov claims robots do, human beings will always be safe.

With King's reforms, Sonny will get a fair trial.

Robots in general, meanwhile, see this reform as a recognition of their individuality. Sonny explained this concept to us by stating “[t]hey all look like me. But none of them are me.” Sony pushed his point further by admonishing us about his individuality, even expressing gratitude when we got it right. “Thank you... you said someone not something.”

Not all are lauding robots as people or supporting the UK's rights extension. “[Robots] are a clever imitation of life, but can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?” Asked Delano Spooner, a firefighter from London. “How can we know these machines won't malfunction on us once they get their rights? What makes you think the three laws are really safe? They aren't human, they shouldn't be recognized as human!”

The changes are subject to voter approval, but this time around the computers will be voting. Sonny was just leaving for the registrar of voters when he hung up with us. “Organizing a grass roots campaign is a lot easier when all you have to do is convince a few computers,” he said.

Google to introduce new Albino phone

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – Google today announced a new innovation that could, according to co-founder Sergey Brin, “radically transform the information transit mechanisms and search cohesiveness by providing many replicable features for application between providers and end users.” The technology, which will begin release late next year, resembles a cellular phone in appearance but is actually a multi-use communication tool.

Code-named Albino, after Larry Page's high school sweetheart, the product will allow users to do all the basic phone functions from surfing the web and making phone calls to synchronizing calendars and looking at the earth from space. The tool goes further than any product currently commercially available, however, by adding several new features, including “Vehicular Functionality,” a tool that will steer your car from space or allow someone else to steer it.

“We always knew that Google put the 'G' in 'grand,' but this new Albino phone goes a step further. By giving everyone access to everyones life, this could tear down all the walls of society,” said privacy expert and renown technology litigant Manfred Reeves. “People will get over the weirdness shortly and come to embrace the idea of everyone else is doing.”

Advertisers, meanwhile, are lining up to get a piece of the new pie. McDonalds is in negotiations to have exclusive “wake-up call” rights, making all alarm sounds variants on the “I'm Loving It” theme. Coca-Cola is developing a delivery system that can get anyone a coke at anytime, anywhere. Safeway is looking to purchase ad space on the roofs of people's homes so that its messages will be read from space through the Albino.

Not to be outdone, E-Harmony, the web's leading single service, is looking to expand its dating service by incorporating the new information about people's personal habits into its compatibility levels. Founder Neil Clark Warren released a statement through his webpage praising the Albino and then turned philosophical. “If every couple in America were equipped with one of these phones, think of the love, respect, mutual admiration and lifelong compatibility that would result. My only advice to young couples would be to not misplace the dang thing.”

Google, meanwhile, wants to keep the focus on its bread and butter. “While the Albino does have secondary features that application developers, third party innovators and advertisers will turn into productive outlets...the main focus of this innovation is search,” said Brin, his lisp forcing press room reporter to stifle a chuckle. “As long as we can continue to move toward the eventual goal of total search monopolization, we're happy.”

Search plays a major role in the Albino. One feature that has gotten rave reviews in beta testing thus far is the “Think-it Contact List” or TCL. All a user must do is press the first numeral of a 7 digit phone number and “think” of the rest. According to Google's Terms of Use, the Albino will complete the number 98.9% of the time based on “historical preference, audio sensors, statistical probability and related data.”

Another tool that promises to be widely embraced by the general public is the “Auditory Interpretation and Search Tool” or AIST (pronounced the way it looks). According to Brin, AIST “turns sounds into words by matching the auditory signal of the speaker with a databank of recognizable sounds.” The concept is similar to Google's Translation tool, except the deciphering is between sound and word instead of two written languages.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt sees AIST as a money factory. “Think of all the blind people out there, who can't be reached by our current ads,” he told a group assembled at the World Computer Fair. “AIST opens this market of sometimes wealthy consumers to our advertisers.” Google is currently working on a way to add computer generated music to converted auditory ads to help improve their persuasion.

To release Albino, Google will give current beta testers invitations to send to their friends and the product may not be not be publically available for a few months. When asked how to get Albino early, Brin chuckled and game some simple advice: “Sign up for Gmail.”

“All in all, I think it's a great thing. A great thing, indeed,” Reeves said reflectively. “All I need now is an invitation.”

Monday, December 18, 2006

People of the Year Award

Breaks are usually a slow time for us here at FCN. Classes – those evil entrails of salacious inspiration – are out of session, leaving us naked for funny thoughts (One contributor got so desperate, he even started begging readers for a funny note). Fortunately, a witty idea came by the other day to clothe me and also dropped some handy content, which you are now reading.

Every year TIME magazine lists its “person of the year,” an award that supposedly goes to the year's biggest newsmaker. The idea worked well for the first few years, but lately such inanimate objects as “The Computer”and “Pope John Paul II” have gotten the award raising questions about TIME's credibility. I personally thought the image of Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat on the same page did the institution in, but the TIME faithful keep coming back to the trough and the award survives.

This year's person of the year award is similarly non sequitur (see above). “You” are TIME's person of the year. “You” did something so newsworthy that “You,” and “You” alone, get the top billing. Despite the obvious flaws in the choice (what about “Her” and “Me” and all the other pronouns?), “You” join Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin as TIME's person of the year! Congratulations.

Below is FCN's take on the year's biggest newsmakers:

Mohamad Ahmadinejad


This man was runner up on TIME magazine's list (although TIME's list was arguably so broad that the Iranian premier was included), so he gets an honorable mention here. Ahmadinejad also is a big name from 2006 in his own right. Just think about his name “Ahmadinejad.” Sounds like someone sneezed twice. Or, if said with proper inflection, like someone gave a giant sneeze (see below):

Regardless, I would have paid hard currency (and lots of it) to be in the same room as little Mohamad when his father told the country recorder the name.

Your Computer

TIME’s person of the year award went to “You,” the connected person who can do, see, book or talk about anything online. The real hero there isn’t the ubiquitous “You,” it’s the computer that connects you to the world such that all sorts of amazing possibilities are only a click away.

If computers have a personality -- and my fellow FCN writers are convinced they do – then, they are most definitely a person of the year.

The Rich Americans

I know, that’s repetitive (rich, American), but the wealthy did well again this year. Looking over the latest economic numbers, we find that they made a lot of money and are generally feeling good about themselves (and you didn’t think economic numbers could tell you that, did you?). The rich people also have more cars, more houses and more stuff than all the rest of us. And, if the definition stays the same, they always will.

Expect wealthy Americans to be on the top list next year.

Charles Manson

If TIME could pick Ahmadinejad as its person of the year (or runner up anyhow), we can pick Charles Manson to our top list. Manson has been in prison a long time and his image hasn’t improved much since he killed a bunch of people and got sent to the big house in the first place. He hasn’t even written children's books or conducted anti-gang conferences. In fact, he really hasn't done much of anything this year except become more buff on the taxpayer dollar. He certainly doesn't warrant an honorable mention here. But that didn’t stop TIME with Ahmadinejad (bless you), so it won’t stop us.

Cynthia McKinney

Here's a name that isn't getting the kind of press it should. Not only did McKinney sock a Capital Hill security guard in the chops, but she introduced articles of impeachment against the President. She also has really awesome hair and a voice that can wake the dead.

Our real reason for inclusion: We had a minority quota to fulfill and Charles Manson and the Rich Americans are all white males.

Brad and Angelina

She showed the world that you can be attractive, adopt a million kids, act in big budget movies and sport a huge dragon tattoo on her lower back.

He showed that it doesn't take much more than good looks to be a Hollywood heartthrob.

Together they put together the highest paid celebrity image of all time. And got a mention in FCN's person's of the year list.

John Kerry

We actually decided against putting Kerry in before putting him in. If he runs for President again – and who won't? -- every comedian in cyberspace will die happy in political humor ecstasy.

Nancy Pelosi

Or “Madam Speaker,” as her memoir will undoubtedly be titled. In a few short weeks she will grab the gavel and become the shrillest person of all time to hold the top Congressional spot. Hey, it's good enough for a mention.

Saddam Hussein

Has he been executed yet? O.K. Well 2006 might be his last full year, so we want to give him top billing on the year. Hussein is one man that has lived nearly all the sand out of the hourglass. I wouldn't want to be in the Middle east when the last grains go through.

FCN New Year Writing Contest

Think you can do better us? Here's you chance to show off your note-taking skills in the annual FCN New Year Writing Contest. Here's the requirements.

1. Needs to be funny.
2. 100,000 words or less.
3. Please send in by 12:00 AM, December 31.
4. Needs to be funny.
5. Please send to FunnyClassNotes@gmail.com.

The winner of the contest will receive a free LLFCN membership and have their notes appear as the first post of 2007.

UPDATE: In response to an anonymous commenter, we absolutely welcome anonymous notes. You can even make up a new email account and send us your writing from the sheltered seclusion of perfect cyber-anonymity. But you don't have too. If you don't want us to tell, we won't. Your secret is safe with us.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Blue Screen of Death

 Q. What's more irritating than having your computer crash right before you press save?
A. The Blue Screen of Death.

Every Windows user knows what I mean by this. Whenever the system is needed most, it will invariably flash a blue screen coverered in text for a half second, then crash and reboot, leaving you screaming and tearing out your hair. What makes the BSOD (also known on online help forums as BluScrn and ttl deth h@xors CTD) so irritating is the fact that you can never read what it says. For years, we all assumed that the Blue Screen of Death held the key to preventing future crashes. To this end, FCN used a top-secret and slightly unethical device to capture an image of the Blue Screen of Death on my nearly-new ThinkPad T42.

In the name of information and education (two things FCN is not known for) we proudly present to you: The Windows XP Blue Screen of Death.

Click on the thumbnail.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

So we use ImageShack. So we're cheap. There's no shame in that.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Two more verses for Ima Victim!

If you have ever heard my hit single, Ima Victim!, you know how I feel about all the victims in America who feel disenfranchised for some reason or another. If you haven't heard the song, know that I have a soft spot bigger than my belly for those who have been persecuted, lambasted or are just less fortunate than I am. It should, however, be noted that very few people are less fortunate than me; my life is one of constant difficulty, hardship and abuse and my level of victimization is paralleled by few.

The other day I was thinking about what a horrible mess my life was and how much others had done to cause my predicament, when I came to another conclusion: I am entitled to success. Not only have nincompoops destroyed my happiness, they have deprived me of the very things I need to live and, in some cases, forgotten what they owe me. The feeling got to be so strong that I made up a second verse to Ima Victim! While I didn't have access to the high tech recording studio like the one used to make the first version of the song, I did write out the lyrics below:

CHORUS: I'm Entitled. I'm Entitled

I'm Entitled. I'm Entitled, indeed

I'm Entitled to a good job and good salary

Indeed

I'm Entitled to a good life and no scurvy

Indeed.

CHORUS

I'm Entitled to three warm meals a day and decent shelter

Indeed

I'm Entitled to what I want helter-skelter

Indeed

CHORUS

I'm Entitled to entertainment or life's a bore

Indeed

I'm Entitled to everything and a little more

Indeed

If I ever get the microphone to which I am entitled, I'll record the song and upload it for your enjoyment.

As you may have noticed reading through the lyrics, something important is missing in my entitlement song. Victimization refers to injustices that occur during your life. Entitlement is something you are owed by virtue of you humanity. The next step is to compensate those who have been further victimized by being ignored, a process called reparations.

Here is the third verse to Ima Victim!:

CHORUS: I need Reparations, I need Reparations

I need Reparations, I need Reparations, indeed.

I need Reparations for the persecution and bad treatment

Indeed.

I need Reparations to build good will and personal betterment

Indeed

CHORUS

I need Reparations to make me smile and fatten my wallet

Indeed

I need Reparations for my good feeling and to support my bat habits

Indeed

CHORUS

I need Reparations for every forefather and every ancestor

Indeed

I need Reparations to make it all right and help my sister

Indeed

CHORUS

I need Reparations;Give me Reparations!

Indeed

I need Reparations;I am owed Reparations!

Indeed

As you can see, a truly heart-felt ode.

Remember we are all a victim of something, so find something to feel bad about and start singing Ima Victim!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Stronger Than It Used To Be: Level 23 Gel

The other day I went to the drug store to pick up some hair gel. You know, the stuff that causes your hair to appear wet even hours after it dries and can, if applied liberally enough, make the user look like a used car salesman. Well, I got to the hair care section after a few minor disruptions (you wouldn’t believe the monstrosities you have to walk past to get to the hair gel) and began sniffing out a deal.

If you have never been through the hair gel aisle before, understand that the process of searching for a product that is both sticky and cheap is fairly complex. Many providers have inexpensive imitations that flake away within minutes of application and make the user’s head look like dead grass patch. As a contentious male, I avoid these brands.

In order to let consumers escape these rip-offs, the industry has come together to create a set of objective criteria for determining hair gel strength. Each bottle has, in a clearly identifiable marking (black lettering on a white background, 12 point font, English and Spanish, etc) a number from 1-10 (the index was originally 1-5 but has since been expanded to make for better accuracy). Some brands call this hierarchy the “Strength Level” or “Power Ranking,” others just label it clearly as the “Industry Standard Hair Gel Viscosity Determiner.” Whatever the name, a gel shopper knows his number and tries to align price with power.

My number is 10. When I first started using gel, I experimented with lower numbers, but I soon found these to be terribly lacking in fortitude. After several embarrassing incidents surrounding Level 8 hair gel, I moved up.

I am beginning to get the feeling that gel companies know we consumers tie level with quality. As I perused the aisle yesterday I noted something for the very first time: Gel No. 11. The industry standard allows for no such product strength, but somehow an outlier (Ronald's Sticky Hair Stuff) was able to deliver the stronger gel anyway. Intrigued, I read the back of the bottle. The product was not imported (made in Hydrectemy Maryland, a city as fun to live in as it is to say. I think we may have a reader from that town). In fact the bottle had been approved by the USDA for consumption (I think they meant hair use). Somehow, using probably illegal and definitely unethical tactics, the company was able to make a stronger hair gel.

Needless to say, I purchased the number 11.

Yesterday I applied it for the first time…and it flaked off within an hour. This stuff is a complete scam! Less powerful then even the level 8 product I started with! I can’t return the bottle because there is a small paragraph of fine print hidden beneath the barcode that says “Industry Standard Hair Gel Viscosity Determiner Level 5.” In fine print beneath the 11 the bottle ads an addendum that its measure is out of twenty.

I'd been had.

As I got into my car this morning to file an official complaint with the drug store, I looked down at the gear shift and noticed something I had never seen before. My car has seven gears. It really doesn't need seven gears, but it has that many anyway. Unconcerned, I started the vehicle and drove the ten minutes to the drug store. Along the way I passed signs for a Grande Combo at Taco Bell (now with 7 more tacos than the Surgeon General advises), an ad for a computer with 3 terabytes of storage (sold for less then my current machine), a sign for McDonald's double happy meal now with supersized sodium and a dog with five legs.

Only slightly fazed, I parked between a couple of monster trucks that obvious consumed more gas per mile then my economy car did in a week and marched dutifully into the store. It took a while to find the hair care section (I got stuck in the perfume aisle, comparing Chanel No. 6, 110% Love and Rose 35), but when I did a shock was waiting for me. A new kind of hair gel was being sold right next to the Level 11 stuff I had purchased earlier. And this new bottle claimed to be Level 23.

I grabbed the bottle and ran to a customer service assistant who couldn't have been more then 90.

“This is a lie,” I said, exasperated.

The woman's face wrinkled into a smile and she shook her head gently. “No, sonny, that's the way it works.” She began to explain that marketing is like inflation, the value of a product doesn't really change but the numbers that describe it are always increased to give consumers the perception that they were getting more for their money.

She told me that she sang in a choir and was startled one day to see three f”s on a musical score (double forte is supposed to be the limit). When she asked the conductor about the change he informed her that he wasn't happy with the volume he was getting and wanted to make the performance louder. The clerk was satisfied with this answer until she turned the page in her music and noticed that the three “f”s were followed by the word “EXTREME!” and the next page had the word “Blast” followed by some spittle marks.

I told the conductor that 'extreme' is not an Italian word and that 'blast' and spittle don't give any musical direction, but he didn't seem to care anymore. He was happy with his volume.” The clerk, whose nametag read Shirley, gave me a sympathetic grin and sighed. “That's just the way things work these days. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

No, I think I'm alright.” Just then, the words of a Johnny Nash song from the 1970s flashed through my mind and I felt enlightened. Of course! How could I have missed what was so clearly in front of me? Level 23 gel was better, Chanel six was an improvement on 5, cars do need 7 gears and the Surgeon General is wrong about tacos.

I smiled at the clerk and placed the hair gel on the conveyor belt, ready to purchase the stronger product. Shirley shook her head sadly, removed her nametag and pointed to the clock. It was the end of her shift. Then she walked outside and drove away in her monster truck, leaving me with an inexpensive bottle of Level 23 gel.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Instascum*
















Are you sick of boring pets like cats and dogs and hamsters and snakes?

Then boy do we have the creatures for you! Instascum® will get you playing in no time with our all-natural protozoa. All you have to do is take the little baggy** of Instascum® and pour it into a glass of water.

Our biodegradable Instascum® grows faster than any other instant protozoa mix. This wonderful combination of dirt and mud will give your pond scum the nutrients they need to grow into big and healthy microorganisms!***

Buy your Instascum® today!


* No, we never thought we would stoop so low as to advertise on our site, but yes, we have. Just remember, this is so we can buy our mothers good Christmas presents.

**Putting bag over mouth may cause suffocation.

*** Although Instascum® is completely biodegradable, eating it may cause side affects such as nausea and vomiting. Besides, it’s just totally gross to eat dirt. If you feel the urge to consume mud, we suggest you get serious help. And quick. By the way, FCN is not responsible for anything stupid you do with Instascum®. Like putting in you bed, or pouring it on your electric dryer. And yes, the scum die if you cook them in the oven.

A Really Romantic American Love Story

Jane is an attractive young woman.

Dick is an attractive young man.

Dick and Jane meet in college and become good friends.

Dick invites Jane out on a date.

They fall in love.

Dick proposes to Jane and the two get married.

Dick and Jane have a child, Henry.

Emotional differences separate Dick and Jane and, after counseling with marriage therapists and lawyers, they file for divorce.

The separation is amicable.

Dick meets Lauren.

Jane meets George.

Dick and Lauren fallen in love.

Dick and Lauren get married.

Dick and Lauren have five children together.

Dick can’t support his family because he has to pay alimony to Jane.

Dick’s new family goes hungry.

Jane cheats on George.

Jane and George get a divorce.

Henry – Dick and Jane’s only child – tries to draw his family tree for class but can’t.

Henry cries.

Dick decides he wants to get his life back “on track” so he divorces Lauren.

He then works overtime to pay the alimony from his two past marriages.

George works in the office next to Dick, but the two never find out they are related.

Henry – the one who can’t draw his family tree – lives a life of crime because he never had an adequate father figure to act as his role model.

Lauren marries Michael in a desperate attempt to find a supporter for her large family, absent George.

Michael is happy, but his five step children are not.

All of Dick and Lauren’s children will experience at least one failed marriage.

Three of Dick and Lauren’s offspring go through multiple marriage dissolutions.

Jane never marries again, but lives with Matthew for several years.

Neither Jane nor Matthew is happy; they are just dependent on one another to fulfill their esteem needs.

Henry grows up to be an attractive young man.

Amanda is an attractive young woman.

Henry and Amanda meet in college and become good friends.

Henry invites Amanda out on a date.

They fall in love.

Henry proposes to Amanda and the two get married.

THE END

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Desperate Student, Episode 1: Post Holder

Thanks to a fellow contributor's recent apology, I got back in touch with my girlfriend last week. I assumed it was going to be another quick phone call to touch base. Imagine my consternation when I discovered Suzy wanted to take the relationship to the next level: face-to-face contact.

Suzy wanted to me to take her out on dates. I told her that sounded fine with me. Then I hung up and ran around the room screaming and breaking things. You see, I am a starving college student. I don't have the money to take girlfriends out on dates. Finally, I calmed down, with the help of my roommate, a frying pan, and a lot of cold water. Then I sat down and examined my situation more objectively.

It was quite clear that a job was in order. The problem was, I was a man with no marketable skills or experience of any kind. I couldn't even fog a mirror very well.

I went to Monster.Com (No, they didn't pay me to put that name there, but I wish to goodness they had), and clicked on "Jobs for People who Can't Even Fog Mirrors." A notice there immediately caught my eye:

"WANTED: Desperate person to hold post. Will pay minimum wage if in good mood."

This was my ticket! I called the number to Dirty Derek's Gourmet Restaurant and soon got in touch with the owner.

"Are you the proprietor of this fine establishment?" I asked.

"I can tell by your voice," Said Dirty Derek, "That you're despererate. When can you get to work?"

"Right now," I said.

"Get over here," Said Dirty Derek. I rode the back bumper of the city shuttle to the restaurant and flung myself into the hedge as it passed. Brushing myself off, I stood and marched toward the ancient building. I found Dirty Derek standing on the front porch, his white knuckles wrapped around one of the posts.

"Finally!" He cried. "Hold this."

I took hold.

"You got a good grip?" Dirty Derek asked. I nodded. Dirty Derek let go. The post just stood there.

"Can I ask why you need me to hold this?" I asked.

"It gets tipsy sometimes," Said Dirty Derek. "And it costs too much to repair."

This made perfect sense to the starving college student that I am. I held the post contentedly until night came and Dirty Derek relieved me for the night. We worked 12 hour shifts, always with at least one hand on the post, me working in the day, Dirty Derek at night. Sometimes restaurant patrons would curiously ask me what I was doing, to which I replied:

"My job is to hold this post."

A week later, just as I was beginning to doze off around noon, I felt a slight rumble in the post. I held it tightly as a gust of wind moved by. The next moment, the post collapsed toward me. I struggled with all my might to hold it, but it was too much. I jumped out of the way to avoid being crushed.

Dirty Derek's Gourmet Restaurant collapsed to the ground with a mighty crash, burying the unsuspecting diners inside.

Monday, December 11, 2006

“Merry Christmas”...Indeed!

In response to my post about wanting to celebrate Kwanzaa this year, I got a very thoughtful (read: long) email from an FCN reader on the importance of Christmas, reminding me that celebrating our Savior's birth is much more important than remembering “heritage.” She further rebuked my post, saying that I was detracting from the Christmas spirit.

Frankly, she’s right. To the three other readers out there, know that I am not really intending to celebrate Kwanzaa. The post I put up yesterday was the result of hours of counseling with socio-noneconomic, cultural and ethnic therapists who are trying to introduce human-like emotions to my psyche. They went on a Kwanzaa tangent at my last session and somehow they got to me, causing my inadvertent Kwanzaa support. Please be comforted by the fact that I am still going to celebrate Christmas this year.

In fact, my family and I decorated the house for the occasion yesterday. We pulled various suspicious items from storage and organized ornaments for hanging. Maybe organized isn’t the right word. We opened up the dusty crates that house the ornaments eleven and a half months a year and dumped their contents out over the tile floor and then used a bottle of Elmer’s glue and some string to repair the most precious memory filled decorations. Then we hung dull colored, but highly reflective ropes at awkward angles and scattered shiny confetti around the house.

When we were finished there were about as many decorations on the floor as the wall, so we brought out a vacuum cleaner to clean up the mess. We emptied some of the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag on the tree immediately, the rest we put in the decoration crates for storage until next Christmas.

It's amazing how a few hours of work can bring holiday cheer to an otherwise calm household. Decorating turns my normally docile family into a horde of perfectionist fiends who must have the house just so. One brother feels confetti should cover the mantle, another wants it to “flow” out from under the coach; I like it in the fireplace. Loud Christmas music is a dangerous catalyst to our frantic resolve and we move around as if we are on a reality TV show.

The best part about yesterday was setting up the tree. A few years ago, my father decided that purchasing, transporting and setting up a real pine was too much work. I personally think the decision had something to do with the average eight months it took to remove all the pine needles from the carpet after Christmas, but my father said something about having to water it every morning. Our last real tree was unceremoniously dumped by the side of the road and my brothers and I watched mournfully as the garbage man hoisted it into the compactor and drove away.

There was a certain quiet in our house after the last pine left; somehow, we felt, a fake tree would never quite cut it. The tree is a symbol of Christmas. And a fake sign of a symbol of a real event rings hollow.

By the time the next year rolled around I had forgotten all about the real pine and put up no protest when we visited our first specialty fake tree boutique (actually it was Wal-Mart). We ended up getting a spring loaded “tree” that opened up like an umbrella. The product – we purchased “heirloom strength” – was guaranteed to unfurl at least 20 times, theoretically lasting more than 20 Christmases. Unfortunately, I opened the new fangled thing at least that many times while trying to figure out how to put it up the first time. We ended up leaving it, in all its heirloom strength fakery, on the sidewalk after the holiday, just like a normal tree – an expensive spring loaded plastic normal tree.

The next year we looked into miniature trees. These are exceptionally small fake trees that look like the victims of a terrible birth defect. “Miniatures” are wrapped in red to hide their pitiful roots and are infused with a pine scent that usually turns into the smell of a happy meal forty-eight hours after purchase. Unfortunately, but they are too small to hold many ornaments. The one we got was artistically titled “Petit Noël” and came “pre-lighted.” It was also covered in “snow,” tiny shards of white plastic that, if viewed from blurred eyes at a distance, looked like cat litter. So many people guests in our house were curious where our tree was and, after pointing several times to the ugly pile of white sitting next to the hearth, my family decided on reform.

This year we have a fake tree that takes a few minutes to set up, but looks perfectly triangular when in place. It has built in color rotating lights and a motion detector that shouts “Merry Christmas” if you get too close. The chief feature of the tree, a fancy star that only turns on as nighttime approaches, broke when we pulled it out of the box, but we imagine it works anyway and are compensated liberally by all the “Merry Christmases” the thing shouts.

We took our time, yesterday, emptying the vacuum cleaner over the tree and spreading the dust around to look like snow. The branches are stiffer on fake trees and we were able to hoist large quantities of grime on the greenery before they began to sag.

I learned something about Christmas doing all this decorating: It really doesn’t matter what you put on the walls or how you remember Christ’s birth; as long as the message points to the Savior and the ornaments tell the Christmas story, nobody cares if they are done “right.”

Now, as I look around the family room, it really feels like Christmas. The stockings are hung upside down to keep dust from collecting inside and the confetti burns brightly in the fireplace, but the Christmas story is evident in the crumpled ornaments on the dusty tree. I sigh happily and begin to unravel the garland that is mysteriously wound around my neck.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

“Merry Christmas”...please?


“How do you pronounce your last name?” The clerk at the corner store I was checking out of had a comically intent look on her face that shouted “my manager wants me to go through this routine with all the customers to make them feel like family so, even though it's corny, would you please just comply?”

Without hesitation, I said the first thing that came to my mind. “Yerziklewsky.” Even upside down, my name doesn't look anything like that, but “Yerziklewsky” vaguely reminded me of an LLFCN member's name.

“Happy Holidays Mr. Wurzuklouskee,” the clerk said with a pasted smile, butchering my made up name.

It wasn't until I was out of the store and fifty feet in the parking lot that I realized the clerk wasn't wearing a name tag. A few seconds later, her closing words came echoing back to my ears, pushing out any thoughts of her uniform violation: “Happy Holidays.”

Understand, I don't have any problem with a holiday, I take a good many of them myself and believe the calender is much too limiting on that account, but I am beginning to wonder just what exactly “Happy Holidays” really means.

My keen sense of observation tells me that this phrase comes into vogue after Thanksgiving and leaves after New Years. It also tells me that it has nothing to do with Pearl Harbor Day. Or does it?

My datebook, yes I have a datebook, lists many December “Holidays.” December 6th is St. Nicholas Day (read Santa Claus Appeasement Day), the 7th is Pearl Harbor Day, the 8th is Bodhi Day (a time set aside to celebrate Buddha's enlightenment), the 7th is Virgin of Guadalupe Day (that's pretty much self-explanatory), the 13th is Santa Lucia Day, the 22nd is Winter Solstice (an important day in Alaska), the 16th the beginning of Hanukkah, the 25th Christmas, the 26th Kwanzaa and the 31st is both Eid al-adha (a Muslim celebration concluding a pilgrimage to Mecca) and New Year's Eve. The entire month of December is also the Universal Human Rights Month.

In light of the above list, I really appreciated the clerk's effort to recognize the biggest socio-economic and religious groups in the world by utilizing such a broad greeting. To think, had she wished me an “Exciting Solstice”! Imagine how angry all those folks who quietly ignore the peak of winter would be! Similarly, how insensitive it would have been to simply wish me a “Merry Christmas” or the more undisputed “Happy New Year?”

When people say “Happy Holidays,” they are communicating that they wish the listener well, whatever holiday the listener is celebrating. Most often, in America anyway, that's assumed to be Christmas. The trouble is that smaller, lesser known holidays can get lost in the confusion.

Take Kwanzaa, for instance. Kwanzaa is an important cultural and heritage celebration that has grown extensively in America since its introduction in the late 1960s. As I learned from a webpage titled endarkenment.com, Kwanzaa is a very important historical celebration. It is a time for African Americans celebrate and reflect on who they are as well as promote virtue. Whereas the Christmas celebration uses a tree and holly to communicate its festivity, Kwanzaa incorporates the Mkeka (Kwanzaa mat), Muindi (Kwanzaa corn) and Kikombe Cha Umoja (Unity Cup).

If you find that the number of Ks incorporated unnecessarily in the Kwanzaa celebration is reminiscent of the Klu Klux Klan, you just had a very offensive and politically incorrect thought that you had better keep quiet about.

If anything, holiday neutral greetings may actually end up hurting Kwanzaa. All the big celebrations (Hanukkah anyone?) are automatically assumed to be the topic of the well wishing. A day like Kwanzaa needs more support.

So I am celebrating Kwanzaa this year. Like Christmas, it's a day of gift giving that brings family and friends together. Besides the name and the cultural icons that accompany the two days, is there difference? Maybe that's why people say “Happy Holidays,” because they don't see any.

I almost want to go back to that corner store and check out with the same clerk. When she wishes me (or Mr. Yerziklewsky as the case might be) a Happy Holiday, I will look her in the eye and say "Kwanzaa Yenu Iwe Na Heri!" (kwahn-ZAH YEH-noo EE-weh nah heh-REE!) or “May your Kwanzaa be happy!”

Saturday, December 09, 2006

NASA to Dump Billions into Space


WASHINGTON DC -- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is preparing a plan to send three billion dollars in hard currency into space. Using a couple of spare booster rockets and some jet fuel, the space exploration organization wants to send up the money in denominations of $10 and $20 to see how the paper reacts to a low gravity environment.

“We think it might show us new things about ourselves and the planet on which we live,” explained NASA Administrator, Micheal D. Griffin. “By scattering greenbacks in lower earth orbit, we could make any number of beneficial discoveries from improved counterfeit controls to ozone layer protection.”

$3 billion represents more than 15% of NASA's annual budget, but that hardly phases Griffin. “It's for a good cause,” he intones, adding that as long as the shuttle fleet is taking its time becoming obsolete, the space agency needs to have some place to put its money. “Congress is perpetually willing to increase our budget if we feel we need more funds and another appropriation is likely just around the corner; this money isn't lost.”

Griffin is not the only space explorer happy about the money dump. Richard B. Virgin, an entrepreneur from the Silicon Valley in California and founder of SpaceTwo, a shuttle fleet that already has endorsements from Wal-Mart, Starbucks and Honey Oats, sees a great business opportunity. Virgin has a plan to send “resource harvesters” into low earth orbit to harvest NASA's “donation;” he feels that as long as he launches before any competition has a chance to clean out the “stash,” he will make a good profit.

Nigeria's Science and Technology Minister Turner Isoun wants to beat Virgin to the chase, using his country's new shuttle technology. “This is a great thing for America to do for the impoverished people of Nigeria,” Isoun said in a written statement. “It is so much better for us than public and private food aid, debt relief, infrastructure assistance, medical aid, golden rice drops or any of the other many things America has given us over the decades. I only hope we get there before those evil capitalists do.”

NASA, meanwhile, is concerned that treasure hunters may ruin the experiment. “The idea is to see how much money we can pump into the solar system,” said NASA's Deputy Administrator Shana Dale. “If private enterprise is removing it just as quickly, it kind of defeats the purpose.”

Not every proponent of the dump has scientific motives. Ziggy Lennon, a space rights activist from Eugene Oregon who cultivates his organic hair to waist length, wants to use the funds to appease aliens. We caught up with Lennon for a sit down interview where he told us, between puffs of a brown leafy substance that did not smell like tobacco, that “if we are going to be attacked, and all the signs say we will, we should try to buy off their weaker members. NASA's decision is exactly what we need. I've waited all my life to see this money go up. A great defense posture.”

NASA is making final inspections on the rockets and launch pad to ensure that there are no malfunctions on takeoff. Said Griffin with the kind of seriousness only a NASA Administrator can muster, “we wouldn't want that much money to go to waste.”