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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Life Tip #7

Don't steal a PS3.

If you must steal a PS3, don't hide inside the store from which you steal it.

If you must hide in the store from which you steal the PS3, don't hide in the heating ducts.

If you must hide in the heating ducts of the store from which you steal the PS3, don't hide near the security camera.

Ignore all the above if you already have enough cash with you to buy the PS3.

Comment Policy

I awoke this morning with my usual lack of alacrity and went through my morning routine with my trademark grumps (shave, shower and shine) when it hit me like a round from a catch bullet magic trick gone awry: FCN doesn't have a comment policy. The absence of such a policy is tantamount to surfing the Internet without virus protection (although that's another story); it invites every manner of conniving, contumacious and spamacious commenters to leave an inappropriate “reply.” And some, we are sure, do.

Thus far, the FCN Team has been faithful in removing this social grime from our site and we have every intention of remaining so. But it does seem a tad presumptuous of us to assume our loyal readers (all four of them) have the exact same standards and criteria for evaluating their comments as we do.

If you think this post is going to explain those criteria, you have another thing coming. The FCN Team uses completely subjective and arbitrary standards when determining what comments deserve deletion. There, I said it. Sometimes the comment is too vulgar (“darn” is a questionable word), others it just don't suit our fancy (any comment that begins with “this was not funny” is eligible), sometimes we are just in a mood for silence and all loquacious comments are removed as a matter of practice.

We scrub the comments away like so many Waste Management employees; fearful of garrulous discourse, we sometimes like nothing better to see “0 comments” at the bottom of our posts.

Scared yet? Worried that your seven page diatribe against tattling on one's sister may be lost to cyber-posterity? Hurrying to backup your hate-speech and thus preserve it for the next Internet generation?

Take a deep breath, a long drag on whatever it is your smoking and another sip of Alka-Seltzer. We haven't actually deleted anyone's comment yet. We are salivating impatiently for the opportunity (as if saliva encourages spammers) to find some incongruous reply or catch an advertiser in the midst of his consumerist gyrations, but no one has met our arbitrary criteria and all comments currently stand as posted.

In case you were wondering, this post does have a more noble purpose than Indian Rhetoric: as long as we have a perfect comment record, we ought to try and keep it clean (pun very much intended). To that end, here are a few things you as a reader can do to repel our collective mice away from the tiny trash icon on your cherished comments:

First, comment without any regard to your thought's potential deletion. If you start thinking about the police, you are more likely to break the law. Police also have a way of destroying creative expression, so put all thought of the FCN Team and our well-honed deleting skills out of your mind as you press the “PUBLISH YOUR COMMENT” button.

Second, try, just a teency weency [insert another childish synonym for “little” here] bit to remain on topic. We probably won't delete it if it isn't. Actually, we won't delete it if it isn't, no "probably" about it. But it is nice for the other readers to have all the comments under a particular post at least somewhat tangentially related to said post.

Third, feel free to link back to your own blog or your girlfriend's blog. Some bloggers are just desperate for traffic. While the FCN Team has embraced the four readers scene wholeheartedly, some website owners feel that “more readers” is preferable. And they also think the best way to attract readers is, like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs, to leave comments on successful blogs like this one with painfully obvious hyperlinks back to their own page. Go right ahead.

Fourth, just because someone got there first doesn't mean you can't post too. When your brilliant thought is stolen by an ugly curmudgeon who just happened to have a faster Internet connection, don't do anything rash; just post your comment anyway. Maybe the first commenter misspelled something or did something else that will get his hasty comment deleted and you'll be the only one left with the brilliant thought. Maybe.

Fifth, please, please, please be polite. Life is always easier when folks are nice (Proverbs 15:1). Please avoid any word or expression that is unnecessarily unkind and doesn't portray Christ-like charity (examples include foul language, abusive writing, ad hominem attacks and any reference to Micheal Jackson). It isn't a matter of deletion, it's our concern for your interaction with the other FCN readers. Although we will delete, too.

Sixth, make it fun. This is, after all, Funny Class Notes. We rarely evaporate all possible rabbit trials of a particular joke (the last time it happened, we got into trouble with our moms), so why not extend the humor a bit? Any two of you are probably as smart as any two of us, so together we'll get to the same place.

Any comment that is removed (isn't that a better word than “deleted?”) will be replaced by a tidy “This post has been removed by a blog administrator.” The author's name and time stamp will remain, leaving you in perpetual state of embarrassment and subject to emails from other readers asking what exactly you did that was so naughty.

Well, hopefully that sums up. To the 99.999% of readers who will never have to worry about this, thanks for putting up with me and my morning grumps. To the 0.001%, you know who you are and, unless you change from your evil commenting ways, everyone else will too.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Windows Vista

You would have to be blind, deaf or totally uninvolved in the daily operations of the technology world to not notice the emergence of Window’s new operating system (OS), Vista. Like a Boeing crash-landing, the new OS has torn across the tech world, tearing out telephone polls (Adobe), chopping off control towers (NVidia drivers) and polluting the airport with broken parts (viruses).

Vista is Ron Burgundy and Ugly Betty all tied together. It’s Barry Bonds and Floyd Landis off the juice. It’s Bode Miller on beer. It’s great, but it’s impaired.

Before the operating system was released, thousands of virus manufacturers were toying with beta versions, creating diseases for systems that would run it. Like so many infested ants, they crawled around spreading their cantankerous concoctions. In August of 2005, one Aussie hacker even published five “sample viruses” (not for resale) that supposedly could defeat the new OS (although I think we can safely doubt the veracity of this claim, given that it was reported by the “Mac Observer.”) Even while it was known under the euphemism “Longhorn,” the operating system took flak for being too weak against the lesser species we call hackers.

Fanfare and plane crashes aside, Vista has now made its entrance (Cue: Bridal Chorus). The shoppers, like so many Black Friday cattle, are obediently waiting in line for their chance at the diseased product. Not a pretty picture.

Bill Gates seems to have met his match with this one. Open source Operating Systems like Linux’s Ubuntu or BSD are gaining market share and Mac remains a formidable, if dark, opponent. Maybe that’s why he’s planning on doing philanthropic work full time.

What does “Vista” mean anyway? It sounds like some Mexifornian excuse for creativity. The dictionary says it’s a “distant view or prospect, especially one seen through an opening.” But not many people will be looking in the “distance” as they stare at a computer screen 18”-28” from their faces.

I know, why all the sudden grouch? I should have recovered from the Patriots loss by now, right?

Here’s my problem. My Internet pride and joy, the tool with which answer your emails, write these post and even do the occasional homework paper will never be able to run Vista. My computer has lost capabilities over time and is now little more than a workhorse. Sadly, Steve is completely cut out of the Vista fun. Completely.

Give me a minute while I pick Steve’s ego off the ground.

Steve runs XP alright (it’s a little blurry), but if any change should be made it’s a downgrade (to Windows 3.1, according to the diagnostics software) not an upgrade. I’ll only be able to enjoy the beauty of Vista vicariously, through the high end computing equipment of the other FCN writers or the guy at the soup kitchen on Pine Street.

Sure makes the sour grapes more understandable, doesn’t it?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Dear Microsoft...

The folks over here at FCN are big fans of your program, Microsoft Word. After our classes, we type our notes right away on Microsoft Word. There are five reasons for this:

1. Necessity. If we don’t type our notes right away, all our brilliant ideas would lost to the scribbles of time. After all, it has been proven that FCN notes become illegible after 2 hours. Alternate policies have been proposed, such as writing neatly, but we have found that just typing the work on your word processor immediately after classes is much simpler than retaking first grade penmanship.

2. Design. We love the layout of the program. Its makes Adobe Creative Suite look like a child’s toy. Of course, we don’t actually use anything but the spellcheck and save- we just like looking like we know how to use a complex program.

3. Toolbars. Even Adrian Lamo would be stumped by the mess of button-filled tabs that coat the top and side bars of your program. The complexity of Microsoft Word puts other bloggers who use notepad in awe of our PC skills, and for this we are sincerely grateful.

4. Fonts. Who could complain about cool names like “Trebunchet”, “Poor Richard” and “Karkatrina”?

5. Paper Clip Dude. We are greatly saddened by his rejection at the Microsoft conference and are still big fans of the eyebrows. We want to let him know that there are people out there who love and appreciate him.

The purpose of this letter is not only to compliment your good work, but to let you know of a flaw in the programming. We wanted to bring to your attention that FCN is not automatically in the spellcheck, and must be added manually. This serious problem is easily forgiven by magnanimous bloggers such as ourselves, but we do expect that these errors be fixed promptly.

With much love to Clippy,

The FCN Bloggers

P.S. We suggest that the "Microsoft Word 2007" name should be changed to "Microsoft Word FCN", along with an update to add FCN to the spellcheck.

Getting serious

You read it right - FCN is getting serious. We're not just a motley collection of bad students wasting precious time on an obscure blog. Okay, well, we are, but that's not the point. The point is that FCN is moving up in the world, and we want to show that by leaving behind the artsy-pants layouts and going for something credible - a professional, unified black and white design that my uncle set up for us.

FCN is looking for a consistent visual theme, something that's memorable. We want people to be able to look at our blog from across the room and say: "Oh, that's FCN. You actually read that stuff?"

This unified visual theme is just a stepping stone to something big in FCN's future. We can't tell you what it is yet, because then you wouldn't be curious about it and we'd lose all the shock value. But suffice it to say that it's really, really big - probably the biggest thing in FCN history since we resolved to stop lying and cheating.

Let us know what you think of the new look. If you find it an eyesore, we won't be offended. Uncle Wally's labor comes cheap.

Update: Thanks Hannah and anon (whose email was as detailed as it was criticizing). We softened the image a little through less pronounced and concentrated colors (i.e. we added water to FCN). Wally is dutifully offended.

Unhealthy Campaign

I am starting a new campaign. Over the next few days, I plan to call every phone number in the residence listings and knock on a few hundred doors in my vicinity to pass out the four color fliers I recently had printed up. The campaign's scope will be local and grassroots based at first, but I have a plan to expand it to include national political candidates, talk shows and television ads (keep your eyes open during the Super Bowl).

My issue: Health. Americans are just too healthy. They walk around like Muscle and Fitness models sporting unnaturally large biceps and thighs that would raise steroid suspicions if sported by professional athletes. They spend excessive amounts of time pumping iron and burning fat in their gyms, country clubs and golf resorts and it shows. Americans look better today than they have in years and no one feels worse about the situation than me.

When I pass good looking people on the street, I feel self conscious about my own soft folds, soda gut, limp arms and balloon tush. I don't look like Ryan Seacrest, in fact I don't look anything like Ryan Seacrest, so when I pass the square jawed, tight bodied specimens, I feel woefully inadequate. I could grow a beard to cover the double chin, wear baggy clothing to hide by belly bulge or slip shoulder pads under my T-shirt to make my shoulders look stronger, but all of these solutions are temporary and superficial fixes that do little to solve the health problem. They're also really tacky.

There are probably a handful of people who feel just like me; social outcasts who can't make it into the “beautiful people” clubs or start hyperventilating after five seconds on the Stair Master. We are human beings too and deserve the respect of healthy people. It's not our fault were fat, slovenly, scurrilous (yes, scurrilous) pigs who rusticate our days away watching reruns of inappropriate (yes, inappropriate) TV shows.

My campaign hits the heart of the health concern. The problem is, after all, health and not clothing or some other aesthetic element. People are just too healthy and that makes us insalubrious folks feel terrible. We're not flagitious, but we are fat. And we want respect.

By bringing everyone to the same physical and health level we can ensure than no one succeeds based on looks alone. We know that God looks at the heart while man looks on the outside. After my campaign, everyone will have to look at the heart for any beauty. The arrogant buff folks who currently populate our country will be reduced to crying over the scales and watching their bodies loosen. Can you imagine a more vindicating feeling?

If you want to join the unhealthy campaign, call your local politicians and radio stations to argue against the creation of new public swimming pools, parks, tracks, hospitals or anything that could conceivably promote health. Consider asking your city counsel to create tax incentives for fatty foods and high carb beverages. Have soda machines installed in your elementary school and host Twinkie sales for pre-schoolers. The younger we can hook kids on unhealthiness, the more likely they will end up looking like personified GoodYear blimps.

Finally, believe in this campaign. We can promote unhealthy lifestyles and encourage obesity across this great land. This strategy can work. You and I don't have to feel self conscious at the public pool or worry about the snide comments our neighbors will make when we go for a walk (or waddle as the case may be). We can beat this health epidemic and, with your help, bring all America's bodies to the lowest common denominator.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Life Tip #6

Don't steal money from an armored car driver.

If you are going to steal money from an armored car driver, don't try to escape on foot.

If you are going to steal money from an armored car driver and escape on foot, don't make the attempt in front of a police dog academy.

Take it easy on Sandy!

Sandy Berger has taken some serious flak in the political community of late. While I am sure no one who counts him or herself among the faithful FCN few would ever deign to deride the great achievements of this noble public servant, some hebetudinous commentators have taken it upon themselves to poke fun at or otherwise tear down this great American.

In case you were born yesterday, which given the fact that most kids these days can type before they are potty trained is a possibility, Sandy Berger became famous as the 19th National Security Advisor under President Clinton; he did what Condi Rice now does, minus the estrogen.

In his position as NSA, Berger was widely criticized for looking the other way as Chinese espionage agents pilfered some of our nuclear weapons technology. While there is little doubt that Berger didn't do enough to secure the technology, the widespread dissemination of the latest scientific findings should be regarded as a good thing, especially if it gets into the hands of a close ally like China.

Despite his in-office accolades, Berger's rise to fame took place after his stint in office on the rocket of a national security “fiasco” involving allegedly “secret” documents. Berger lost his clearance after it was found he was doing technically illegal things with the classified papers, like cutting them up with scissors and sticking them in clothing compartments they weren't designed to fit in. But nobody ever asked the question, what would have happened to America's national security if Berger hadn't eloped with the documents?

Maybe as former National Security Advisor, Berger knew of an imminent threat and saved us from indescribable monstrosity. Maybe he discovered a dirty bomb plot or impending small pox attack and used the documents to histrionically save the day à la Jack Bauer.

Berger took his punishment like a real Clinton man, absorbing the indignity of a large fine and suspended security clearance with all the gumption and resolve of George R. Kelly. He didn't cry, ask for a blindfold or beg for one last cigarette. He was the dream criminal, accepting the castigation in the only way he could. But for some reason critics have materialized like a fog, covering a decent man with a shroud of suspicion.

Some center on the socks, others zoom in on Berger's allegedly unfulfilled promise to take a lie detector test, still more slander him for no reason more than that he took documents from the national archives that could very well be used to aid the 9/11 commission, like that's really a big deal.

Cut the poor man some slack! He has a wife (Susan) and three children (Peter, Paul and Mary) who are probably struggling through school under constant jabs about their stocking stuffing father. How would you like to have your future determined by an unfortunate judgment against your patriotic father?

Please, take it easy on poor Sandy. Let him rebuild his life, get his children through college and reestablish his relationship with the Clintons. After all, if he doesn't get things together now, he won't have any shot at the National Security Advisor position in Tillary's administration.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cowomander in Chief?

News travels slowly through the apathetic information sludge surrounding FCN headquarters, but we nonetheless discerned very quickly that Jillary Clinton is running for president. We are very, very excited about her candidacy for hopefully obvious reasons.

Evidently, Sillary is making the rounds with various news outlets, and we managed to get a piece of her as she prepped for a TV interview with an organization we would like to consider a competitor. Between layers of heavy makeup, she gave us the following conversation (gently edited for content):

FCN: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us.

Hillary: Who are you?

FCN: We're the students from Funny Class Notes. We were told we could talk to you for a few minutes.

Hillary: Who told you that?

FCN: That guy over there.

Hillary: Jack! Come here a second.

Jack: Yes, ma'am.

Hillary: You're fired.

Jack. Yes, ma'am.

Hillary: Oh, and Jack!

Jack: Yes, ma'am?

Hillary: Don't even think about going to work for that [guy running against me].

Jack: Yes, ma'am.

Hillary: And quit saying yes ma'am.

Jack: Yes, ma'am.

FCN: So, if we may ...

Hillary: Oh, you're still here. [sigh] Well, fire away.

FCN: Great! So, you may be the first female president in history! What does that mean to you?

Hillary: Well, I'm big on female empowerment. I think I got it from Bill. The presidency is just another step toward bringing true equality between the genders. I also think it'd be really great to have a president carrying a purse. And mark my words: with me in the white house, state dinners will be worth attending! [laughs]

FCN: What will you do to fight terrorism in office?

Hillary: Hey, if I can handle Ken Starr, I can handle Osama.

[Awkward silence]

FCN: Okay. Some people have accused you of being a carpetbagger. How do you respond to that?

Hillary: You're just saying "some people", but I know who you're talking about. You've been talking to that [guy running against me], haven't you?

FCN: I assure you that ...

Hillary: No matter. Well, there's a huge stream of defeats historically with carpetbaggers losing elections. I think I have a chance to change that and sort of redeem the whole thing. So I'm really going to be hoping for the carpetbagger vote.

FCN: There's a rumor going around that ...

Hillary: You leave my husband out of this.

FCN: Yes, of course ... but we were told that you may become the first president who doesn't drink beer.

Hillary: Ridiculous.

FCN: Can we ask you a sensitive question about your husband?

Hillary: Just be careful.

FCN: What does he think about your candicacy?

Hillary: He's very excited about the possibility of being the first First Man. I believe the words he used were: "All of the perks, none of the duty."

FCN: How well are you prepared to run the armed forces?

Hillary: I like the idea of all those hotshot generals having to answer to a woman. "Ma'am, yes Ma'am!" [laughs] Someone said Cowomander in Chief. I like that. I like that a lot.

FCN: Some people say men make better leaders than women.

Hillary: I don't know who you've been taking your tips from, boy, but that's [hogwash]. For one thing, we women don't do stupid things in front of the opposite gender to prove ourselves. If [Bush] were a woman, think about all the problems we wouldn't have. It'd be a dream come true. Plus, he'd be a democrat.

FCN: What's your biggest priority for the first hundred days of your presidency?

Hillary: Well, it's a little early to be thinking about things like that, but mainly I just want to prove that Al Gore would have made a terrible vice president.

FCN: But wasn't he once vice president?

Hillary: That's pretty much my point, yes.

FCN: So, you opposed Al Gore's candidacy?

Hillary: Of course not. Don't be silly.

FCN: Some people are speculating about a Clinton-Obama ticket.

Hillary: That's outrageous. I would never let that [person with various properties it is insensitive to mention, particularly in a derogatory fashion] try to piggyback on my success. Do you realize we're courting pretty much the same votes? That [guy] is trying to steal my candidacy! I wouldn't come near him with a ten foot pole. In fact ...

[This portion of the conversation is off the record]

FCN: So, who would you consider for VP?

Hillary: Well, it's all speculation and equal opportunity and all that nonsense right now, but I think it'd be funny to run with Tipper.

FCN: Thank you so much for your time.

Hillary: Sure thing. Oh, and trim that mustache.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Desperate Student, Episode 3: Human Lab Rat

After an unfortunate escapade with the salvation army, I found myself once again hunting for work so I could support a relationship with my girlfriend. Suzy was growing more and more suspicious with each passing moment, so I made a rash move: I booked a date. Worse yet, I opted to do it at a fancy restaurant. I had no cash on hand and was up to my follicles in debt.

So I let Monster.Com find me a new job.

"Wanted: Live humanoid to be paid minimum wage while we run tests on him/her."

Just my style! In a flash, I signed up for a job interview. I showed up at the provided address the next day - an FDA testing facility - and gave my name to the girl at the front desk. Her eyes got really big and she pushed a button on the desk. Then a crowd of people in white lab coats came out of the back and led me through a series of corridors to a small room. It was the kind doctors give checkups in.

One of the people stayed. He asked me some questions to make sure I was the right man for the job. Questions like: "Are you genetically human?" and "Have you ever been brought back from the dead?" Apparently I answered all these questions satisfactorily, because he made the appropriate check marks on his clipboard and handed it over to me.

"You're hired," He said. "Please sign on the dotted line."

The form was about forty pages long. I didn't read the whole thing, but the last paragraph said:

"I waive all my legal, civil, and human rights, explicit and otherwise, and surrender my integrity and my dignity to the Food and Drug Administration, with which it is authorized do whatsoever it pleases, for as long as it wishes. I have no entitlement or expectation of proper treatment or behavior from the Food and Drug Administration and will not pursue any action against it, legal or otherwise, under any circumstances, for as long as I live, so help me, I swear."

I signed.

Then I was strapped to a gurney and led into a large, laboratory looking room. The lights were very bright and cast dark shadows on things, making everything seem clinical and sinister. My mind immediately began ticking off the time for which I was being paid.

A fifty-something year old man in a blue coat and medical mask leaned over me. "The purpose of this test," He said, "Is to determine the effects of a new pesticide on human vision. This is so we can provide proper wording for the warning label. Do you understand?"

"No," I said.

The man turned to someone I couldn't see. "Run system Alpha," He said, then backed away. The lights dimmed and I stopped squinting. Gloved hands touched my face in the darkness, found my left eye, and pulled it open. Then a warm, sticky wetness oozed into the eye.

"How do you feel?" The man's voice droned.

"Uncomfortable," I said.

The man grunted, and I gathered he wasn't satisfied. "Run Beta," He ordered. This time, the substance was drizzled into my right eye. The substance felt like thickened water, just like the first, but after several seconds I felt a stinging sensation as if I had rubbed my eyes after eating mexican food.

"Whoa!" I shouted, pushing my hands against the restraints.

"How about now?" The man asked, his voice betraying a hint of pleasure.

"This hurts!" I shouted. "Rinse it out!"

"Run Chi."

I didn't know what Chi was, but I soon learned it had something to do with nearly indescribable pain. Naturally, the man asked me to describe it.

"It's like a million needles pushing into the surface of my eyeball!"

There was a pause. Then: "Run Delta."

Ten minutes later ...

"How about now?"

"It's like someone's powerdrilling through my eyeball!"

"Run Zeta Four. How about now?"

"It's like someone just popped my eyeball like a grape!"

"Run Zeta Five."

Two hours later ...

"How about now?"

"A hacksaw!"

"And now?"


"And now?"

"A croquet spike!"

"And now?"

"A fork!"

"And now?"

"A riding spur!"

"And now?"

"A jackhammer!"

Finally, it stopped. "His eyes won't open, sir," Someone said. The questioner grunted. "All right, untie him."

My eyes would indeed not open. In fact, they felt welded shut and my eyes had swollen to the size of softballs. Someone counted out 32 dollars and pressed them into my hand.

"Good work in there," A voice said. "Very creative."

I was walked back to the front and left standing on the curb. After five minutes of fumbling around in the middle of oncoming traffic, I found my car and drove home - by braille.

I stumbled up the steps and into my dorm, still blind as a bat. I had one message on my phone:

"Hi, this is Suzy, just checking to make sure we're still on for tonight."

Well, I was not on for tonight, and I was forced to tell her so. She dumped me right then and there. I confess that as I type this, my heart is broken, among other anatomical components.

I lay in bed, weeping tearlessly. Then I dozed off to a troubled sleep. I assume a few hours passed (I couldn't see the clock). I was rudely awakened by the phone ringing. I stumbled over to the table. My hand pushed against something that felt like my roomie's laptop, then I heard a hollow shattering and the sound of millions of tiny pieces of plastic skittering across the floor.

I lifted the phone. "Hello?"

"This is the United States Government. Are you interested in continuing work with us?"

"I ..." I hesitated. I was desperate, but not that desperate. I shocked myself by saying: "No. In fact, get lost."

"Evidently," The man said tersely, "You don't realize who you're working with." The call ended a few minutes later with both of us very angry at each other.

I went back to bed and was next awakened by my frantic roomie. After a tense argument, I finally relented and relinquished my life savings so he could buy a new laptop. That's right, I gave him my 32 dollars.

A few weeks later (about the time my eyes had shrunk back to size), I recieved a small envelope in the mail. I opened it and discovered that the FDA had had the audacity to send me the completed label. An excerpt:

"DANGER! PELIGRO! NO TOUCHIE! Extremely hazardous chemical. If contact is made with eyes, rinse thoroughly for several hours and call a poison control center immediately, not necessarily in that order. Failure to follow these instructions can cause instant, permanent blindness."

Life Tip #5

Don't put a toaster oven in a kitchen with highly flammable pressed cardboard walls.

Don't leave a toaster oven unattended while operating in a kitchen with highly flammable pressed cardboard walls.

If you insist on leaving an operational toaster oven unattended in a kitchen with highly flammable pressed cardboard walls, have a fire extinguisher handy.

An Open Letter to Uncle Sam

Dear Uncle Sam,

I’ve seen your picture several times on various billboards around town and always admired your stern confidence, unwavering confidence, and inspiring confidence. Your white beard reminds of Colonel Sanders, your demeanor like a car salesman closing a deal and your pointed finger looks a little crooked, but I’ve gotten past these aesthetic elements and fallen in love with the way you express yourself and the ideas you hold dear.

You see, I am a working man. While taking a full load at the university, I work part time at General Mills, where I perform an important security function and help to keep millions of Americans young and old from the dangers of rotten cereal. Some would say I help keep the cereal killers off our grocery store shelves. But that’s such a dumb pun, I would never use it.

For my work, I receive a paycheck. The compensation isn’t anything substantial – I neither work enough hours nor have enough skill to justify anything significant – but it is my money, a collection of hard earned pennies that I like to spend as I please.

Of course, I can’t spend all of the money as I please. Gas is expensive and driving between school, work and home requires a good lot of it. I also have to buy food and, while my housing costs are covered and I don’t have to pay an electricity or water bill, I eat a lot, so my meal costs can take quite a bit.

For entertainment, I invest nominal amounts of money into failed business ventures (although usually people don't tell me the business will fail beforehand) and I also have to keep enough on hand to cover the many chump change bets I place with family and friends.

Of all the things I devote my paycheck to, however, you are at the top.

My employer kindly provides a breakdown of little “deductions” taken off my check before I cash it at the bank. The sums aren’t huge, but they are persistent. The other day, I calculated that in a ten day pay period, I work the first day and a half to pay you. It’s not as if I am making enough money to place my earnings in a higher income bracket, either; I earn student subsistence wages.

The money isn’t taken from me, though. It’s not as if it’s stolen or anything like that. The funds are just withheld, which is a nicer and cleaner way of taking it. I don't have to hold the money and grow attached to its papery softness before your crooked nose enters my line of vision and carts it away.

I used to be kind of sore about all of this, but the more I think about it the more I realize that you are probably a better financial manager than me. So I am really not at all mad about everything you take before I have a chance at it.

In a few months when I fill out my first tax return, I will do so with a smile. Thank, Uncle Sam!

With all cyber-sincerity,


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union 2007

The following is a transcript of President Bush's State of the Union Address as delivered on January 23rd, 2006, The Most Depressing Day of the Year:

Mrs. Pelosi, loyal members of the GOP party, Zillary Clinton, Baruch Obama, and You, Time’s Person of the Year:

Bill Clinton, when he was president, set the time record for the longest State of the Union Address ever. He clocked in at just under six hours and forty minutes, a real feat given his heart condition. I always admired people like Clinton, Harry Truman and Jimmy Stewart who could chew the air for hours like that, so today I want to beat Clinton and enter the record books as the biggest windbag ever to sit in the Oval Office. [CHEERS]

Actually I’m just kidding. I’ll say a thing or two about the war and then we’ll all be out of here. [BOOS]

As is customary about this time of year, Karl prepared a speech for me to deliver outlining the last twelve months and road-mapping the next twelve. It is the year two double “o” seven and that brings new challenges and more burdens to our nation; challenges and burdens the newly empowered Democratic Party is just itching to handle. [APPLAUSE]

Congress has changed and so have our responsibilities. No longer will cost cutting and reducing wasteful spending be meaningful goals for this formerly august body. No longer will we hide our ties to special interest groups. No longer – [APPLAUSE] No longer will we hold back the incomes of the poor, disenfranchised, entitled and reparation worthy (that is to say, the minorities) of this great land. No – [SUSTAINED APPLAUSE]

Thank you. That’s probably enough on that point.

You all came out here today, not to vote more money for your districts or find a way to criticize our hardworking troops abroad (although you’ll probably find a way to do that when the party really gets started when I step down), but to listen to my analysis of the state of global affairs.

There is a common misconception that this speech is constitutionally mandated. It’s not. I could faint right now and my duties as President would still be fulfilled. That’s just an important thought to keep in mind as we get into the controversial content.

We have a duty as politicians to step forward, to make flowery speeches in disaster regions, to hawk our nation’s posterity for a couple cheap votes and to generate quick fixes for America’s most pressing problems, fixes that won’t come undone until the next Party is in office. Those are our duties. Sometimes we come short, but we always try.

Next week I’ll have a full report on the state of our economy. Our trillion dollar government machine couldn’t get it done before the deadline and so nobody really knows what’s going on in the financial world right now. When I do, I’ll sit down with Jack Abramoff, Speaker Pelosi, the two Clintons and Reverend Jesse Jackson to iron out some meaningful economic solutions.

I have a few ideas that I’ll bring to this culturally, ethnically and ethically diverse group.

First, it's high time we balanced the budget. There's been a lot of talk in this chamber about the budget, and most of it has been a waste of time. The fact is, almost all of government spending is pretty much essential, and many programs are underfunded, like research grants to make cars run on grass and money grow on trees. Cutting funding to the arteries of America's success is not the answer. [APPLAUSE]

Cutting taxes is also not the answer. We ... [APPLAUSE] Well, apparently you get the idea. So, I urge Congress to balance the budget without reducing spending or increasing taxes. It is only in this way that we can hope to keep America fiscally and economically strong. [APPLAUSE]

Before I talk about my other proposals, I want to take a moment to recognize my darling wife, Laura Bush, who spends her time every day doing the kinds of things the rest of us only do on the campaign trail. Her hard work and dedication will pay off when she runs for president in 2016, by which time she will be the second most battle-hardened politician in the country, right after Chelsea.

Now about that second idea. Money has a way of seeping through our government like water through a strainer. It can't be stopped. Just can't. [PAUSE] One thing we can do to make us feel better about the situation is earmark that money so everyone knows who it was wasted on. That's right, instead of just dumping tax dollars down the sink or leaving it out in the sun for buzzards, so to speak, we'll assign it to specific money-wasting projects so at least we'll know where your retirement money ended up.

Third, I want to talk about Social Security. The idea of forcing younger people to pay for you gets more and more attractive every day, which is a big reason I supported old people benefits from day one. And that's also why I want to make sure it's still around when I get old. That is, older than I already am.

I warned you people last year that Social Security was a mess, and I worked hard to get it fixed, but some of the people in this chamber were too obstinate to work with me, and the ones that tried to help got kicked out of office a few months ago. [APPLAUSE] Last year, I warned you that unless something changed, we'd be faced with three foul-smelling options: huge tax increases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits. Well, nothing changed, and I'm here today to break some sad news. We'll have to pretty much do all three, after which Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security will probably die out anyway. [APPLAUSE]

The public education system is all about imparting knowledge and character to America's youngest. Decades of testing have demonstrated the only real source of knowledge and character is what people? Say it with me: taxpayer dollars! That's right, one more time! Hear that echo?

It's come to my attention that some people in this great nation - mainly the ones that arrogantly hire and support thousands of workers - aren't paying their fair share. Which is why I'd like to encourage Congress to continue to support the No Taxpayer Left Behind Act, which closes the economic achievement gap by bringing the rich back to the level of the little people. And where does that leave us here at Capital Hill? [SUSTAINED APPLAUSE]

Health care is a big weakness here in America. Some of you here in this chamber believe we should socialize it - make it all free. We are inexorably moving in that direction. [APPLAUSE] I'm a conservative, which means I need to have different ideas about health care. I have no illusions, however, about where any of this is headed. So here's a way we can all be happy. We'll make all kinds of complicated tax breaks and schemes for poor people. This will have many effects: everyone will think their taxes are being lowered, the IRS will take on more employees, and best of all, the arrogant rich will get fleeced to pay for the ever-needy poor. [APPLAUSE]

As you can tell, health care is a sore spot for me. I guess the more time I spend with Dick, the more bitter I become. It's terrible what the doctors have done to that guy. He's practically half-machine by now. Almost inhuman. Imagine. Our Vice-President, a cyborg. Kind of blows your mind just thinking about it.

Okay, I guess we should address the elephant in the room now. You know, the little thing we have going on in the Middle East. That is to say, Saddam Hussein's former country? That really spells it out, doesn't it? You know, so much has been said already about this politically charged topic that I don't see anything to add to the dialogue. You know where I stand; I know where you stand. So let's move on. [APPLAUSE]

Dick and I have been through a lot. We have met challenges and faced dangers, and we know that more lie ahead. Yet we can go forward with confidence - because the State of our Union is strong ... our cause in the world is right ... and tonight that cause goes on. [APPLAUSE]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Most Depressing Day of the Year

You, the faithful FCN few who regularly visit our humble blog, probably come here to get your measured dose of satire, synicism and silliness (the three Ss of FCN writing) and maybe to chuckle off a few pounds. If that's your reason for surfing here today, you're in for a major disappointment.

Today is not a day to be funny. To attempt anything light would be sacrilegious on so momentous a jour, to use a little français. The irony of humor might even make the day harder to bear, driving us all to an early grave and weight gain. We write this, not because we're a passel of cruel savages, although that might very well be the case, but because today is:

The Most Depressing Day of the Year.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, the experts who study this sort of thing have decided that, of all the 365 days that populate our datebooks and cell phone calendars, today is the day most likely to inflict a long face (see above photo).

Here's the formula:

The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) motivational levels and (NA) need to take action.

Here's the logic: As the weather of winter becomes colder, wetter and generally danker, the debts and assorted costs of Christmas express their fiscal impact, and the good vibes of Christmas join our New Year's Resolutions as distant memories, we become depressed. All these factors combine with increasing intensity to tell our brains to release commensurate stress hormones and our faces slowly morph to more closely resemble John Kerry's.

Most folks quit trying to keep their New Year's Resolutions three weeks to a month after New Years. Life gets too hard, the pounds just stop falling and we begin to realize just how expensive a nicotine strip really is. It's back to the same old same old and the imminent recycling of New Year's Resolutions, which, for some reason, gets people down.

Debts also come due about this time and the wisdom of getting the multitude of yuletide gifts for all those “friends” is not as clear as it was standing next to that persuasive sales clerk at Mervyn's a month ago. Visa and Mastercard are more concerned about their bottom line than your hypertension, so when the two conflict, you pay up. Ouch.

Finally the motivation, encouragement and rejuvenation we get during the Christmas season evaporates pretty quickly when school and work recommence. Even though Grandma is back in her happy home, normal day-to-day tension is stronger than that brought about by extended family.

This year a passel of over-educated psychiatrists and assorted therapists have determined that the most dreary day falls on Canada's election day (today).

I know, cheerio. At least it's not a Monday, right?

Despite the fact that the Patriots lost the AFC championship, the Democrat Party controls Congress, American Idol's continues to dominate prime time, Prince is doing the Super Bowl halftime show and the Oscar nominated films don't beat YouTube for content, we here at FCN see several reasons to be cheerful about the day:

  1. It's 342 days until Christmas. Which is nice.

  2. It could be any number of days until your next birthday, which, depending on your age, is nice.

  3. A man survived a 300 foot fall from a hotel window. He is probably going to sue. Hey, it could happen to you.

  4. Google is still doing well and shows no signs of slowing its rabid growth. We know, you don't care and you're never going to actually follow that link, but its still there just in case.

  5. Paula Abdul is fine. Really.

  6. McDonald's is going to start serving burgers on a comet! Or are we misreading this headline?

  7. The new Boeing 747-8 sure looks comfy. And it's made in America!

  8. Internet Explorer is being replaced by open source browsers like Firefox and Opera.

  9. The year can't get any worse; all days from here on out will be better!

  10. New Year's resolutions are no fun, anyway.

Have a great 23rd everyone!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ski Stunt Extreme

After my adventures on the frozen slopes, I discovered a Javascript application that simulates the motions of a real skier called Ski Stunt Extreme. The skier can be manipulated by pushing buttons on the computer keyboard and by moving the mouse. Tricks can be performed and high speeds can be attained. The game looks like a lot of fun.

Before going further, it is imperative that the faithful FCN few understand my gaming habits. Whilst some of the FCN writers are veritable aficionados of the computer gaming industry, my needs are very well satisfied by Jetpack and Microsoft Hearts. This adherence to games that were made over a decade ago is partially due to personal preference (the dizzying colors boasted by modern games give me an equally dizzying headache) and partially due to necessity.

You see, my computer, affectionately called “Steve,” suffered a violent crash a few months ago that destroyed his drivers, which, I am given to understand, are important in the operation of a game. (Not that poor Steve could ever run a very fancy game on his economy CPU, poor thing). I could take the time to browse the Internet and locate his lost drivers (especially the video card driver which, in its absence, gives the screen a blurry quality), but I am beginning to like Steve's austerity and am falling in love with suddenness of his system noises.

(To all potential future wives in the reading audience, note that this attitude extends only to the computer world and would never be applied to a spouse. Never.)

Jetpack barely runs on my computer and Microsoft Hearts fares little better. Such advanced games as Halo for PC or Unreal Tournament are out of the question entirely. I was perfectly happy with this arrangement until I discovered the aforementioned Ski Stunt Extreme.

The game is a beauty to behold. In order to help describe it, I was able to locate a YouTube video that portrays some of its characteristics. While the visuals are decent, I am afraid I cannot endorse the music that accompanies it. Please mute your sound and watch this:

“Addictive” doesn't scratch the surface of this game's impact. It is the liaison between the gaming gods and teens with too much time on their hands. It is the ultimate representation of arcade beauty. As soon as I watched this video, I knew I could spend hours making the little character do face plants in the snow and that I would laugh for hours as he bonked his noggin against sharp boulders.

Unfortunately, as I went to download Ski Stunt Extreme (executable file here and Javascript demo here, if you are interested), Steve informed me very loudly, with a series of disruptive system sounds, that he would be unable to run the program. Errors popped up saying that my drivers (or lack thereof) were incompatible with the game and that in order to enjoy the fun I would have to leave my rigid stringency behind.

I was crushed. To think that such an amazing game, the ultimate in time wasting technology, was so close to my mouse yet so far from my motherboard.

I took the news with controlled emotion; I would not sacrifice Steve's innocence to play a game.

Today, Steve lives on without his drivers and I survive without Ski Stunt Extreme.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Life Tip #4

If you plan to disguise yourself like a woman to smuggle guns and cattle under the noses of AK-47 wielding Ugandan officials, shave the beard.

Russian complaints drive “24” to “Muslim well”

NEW YORK, NY -- The writers of Fox's hit drama “24” have succumbed to pressure from radical Russian groups to remove references to Russian villains. In their stead, Muslims will play the the diabolical and dangerous characters who threaten major US cities with suitcase nukes and otherwise keep Jack Bauer's day interesting.

“We really feel this is a step in the right direction,” said Russian liaison an former KGB agent Boris Innokentiy. “When a popular show like '24' goes out there and presents such a negative image of us to the viewers, who knows what could happen?” Innokentiy cites several incidents of anti-Russian violence and a growing trend of “Ruski stereotyping,” which he says threatens “all Russians, anywhere.”

Yegor Anton of the Post-Cold War Peace Project and KGB sympathizer notes that the animosity was increasing at an alarming rate during the last season. “Shows like '24' gave viewers a reason to hate us, adding fuel to the Putin-hater's fire. The overwhelming impression you get is fear and hatred for Russians.” Anton even fears for his life, noting that “[a]fter watching that show, I was afraid to go to the grocery store because I wasn't sure the person next to me would be able to differentiate between fiction and reality.”

The shows move to Muslim villains is motivated by lower casting costs and increased scariness. Jeffrey Reynolds, the former executive producer of the “24,” explained, saying: “In today's world, Arabs are the bad guys. Ever since 9/11, nobody wants to sit near one on a bus or plane and, God forbid, befriend a Muslim. They make great villains.”

The writers of “24” issued a statement defending the move, saying “[t]he show has made a concerted effort to show ethnic, religious and political groups as multidimensional, and political issues are debated from multiple viewpoints. You'll see that in this season as Jack Bauer actually hesitates before shooting a terrorist, I mean a Muslim. The Muslim and Arab wells are deep, very deep, and we intend to return to them often.”

Kahlid Al-Jihad, a Muslim activist and former correspondent for Al-Jazeerah, took the news of the switch with quiet rage. “Someday America will regret offending us as it has. Praise be to Allah! Death to '24.'” The Muslim community is preparing a heavy media blitz in an attempt to salvage public opinion.

Despite the change, not all Russian leaders are satisfied. “We need the show to write in sympathetic Russian characters to reverse the anti-Ruski sentiments among the viewers and Fox should donate some cash to our slush fund in an act of goodwill. That might make things right,” said Innokentiy.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Top 10 Fairy Tales You Were Never Told As A Child

Yeah, yeah. I know. You graduated from Fairy Tales and don't plan on returning until you have children. But these Fairy Tales aren't the ones you were told as “bedtime stories” or picked up when you first learned to read. Those had the distinct disadvantage of being false; these have the advantage of being funny.

Here they are; the Top 10 Fairy Tales You Were Never Told As A Child:

10. Three Kind Mice

The charming story of three friendly rodents who learn the importance of being gracious and generous.

9. Alice in Blunderland

A collection of exciting children's stories that follow the life and times of a young girl (Alice) who falls down a Rabbit Hole and starts tripping over things.

8. Hassel and Gretel

An endearing story about a brother and sister who cause a lot of problems for their parents.

7. Rapulzive

The oddly poetic tale of a disgusting young critter with hair like Davy Jones who is locked up in a castle.

6. Cindersellya

Story of a beautiful princess who forces her sisters to cut off their toes and peck out their eyes so she can marry the handsome prince.

5. Rumpeledstillskinny

A bedtime story (literally). An old man lays down to sleep in a last ditch attempt to gain weight (he figures he is burning too many calories by staying awake). When he rises from his bulimic slumber, years later, he is still thin. He lives happily ever after.

4. The Golden Gecko

Sponsored by Geico. The Gecko lays an egg which has various magical powers.

3. Snoring Beauty

In this enchanting story, a beautiful princess is discovered by a buff prince because of the noises she makes while sleeping.

2. The Big Mermaid

In this delectable tale, a mermaid discovers she doesn't need Curves to develop body confidence.

1. Ali Baba and the Forty Muslims

A delightful story about the Religion of Peace.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Life Tip #3

Don't go to a party hosted by a man with a reputation for being reckless if it involves heavy drinking at early hours of the morning.

At a party hosted by a man with a reckless reputation and involving heavy late night drinking, don't throw empty bear kegs into a raging fire.

At a reckless man's drinking party with empty bear kegs in a raging fire, don't stand too close to the flames.

Please Pass the Salt

My dear lady,

You are between me and the thing I want most at this very moment. Yes, you - the woman sitting across from me at this square three-by-three table - lie betwixt the condiment containers and my plate of steaming vegetables that demands their attention. Your chair blocks my arm and decency blocks my body from reaching over to claim them, but you are in an ideal position for such a reach. Hence my request:

I deem that the time it would take me to remove myself from my chair, walk around the table and capture the seasonings is much greater than it would be for you to lean over yourself and grab them. I also value my time more than I value yours making such a request doubly advisable. Your effort would be so much more insignificant compared to mine and your exertion would bring a healthy flush to your cheeks and maybe even have calorie burning advantages.

As much as it pains me to put you in such an awkward position and ask that you interrupt your train of thought and motor movements in order to satisfy my wishes, I feel that the request and commensurate reaction are an appropriate course of action.

To put my solicitation in a less garrulous form, I sincerely desire your attention and obedience as you deviate from your preplanned course of action and abide by my wishes. Please pass the salt.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Observation One: Redefinitions

I apologize to CJM for the nerdiness of this post. It was unavoidable.

The FCN writers were all present at a large debate tournament in Southern California a couple of weeks back (the one that got one of us drunk on coke and the others roadsick -- as opposed to homesick) and we had the opportunity to sit in on some of the policy debate rounds. In the course of these surprisingly long events (you wouldn't believe the windbags they had ka-chooing behind the podium), we discovered something that many high caliber debaters missed: the duty to define the resolution is rarely, if ever, fulfilled.

That's right, team after team would walk into a round and completely renege their affirmative duty to define the terms of the resolution. As many of you know, this year's debate resolution is “Resolved: That the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should be significantly reformed or abolished.” Well, instead of defining all the terms the way they should, most teams just define so-called important terms like “NATO” or “the.” This results in a very skewed interpretation of the topic.

In the interest of setting a sound example and in order to give any of the debaters who count themselves among the faithful FCN few a late Christmas present, we are going to show you how definitions should really be done.

Here are the definitions we found after a few minutes of research:

Resolve: To separate (something) into constituent parts

That: something

The: beyond

North: cardinal point on the mariner's compass

Atlantic: the second largest ocean

Treaty: a formal agreement between two or more states

Organization: administrative personnel of such a structure

(NATO): (a musician who dresses like a Muslim woman)

Should: it is logically necessary to

Be: exist in actuality; have life or reality

Significantly: considerably

Reformed: produced by cracking

Or: and

Abolished: extirpate

When we add punctuation and articles, the defined resolution reads:

To separate something into constituent parts: beyond [the] cardinal point on the mariner's compass [and]the second largest ocean, a formal agreement between two or more states [or] the administrative personnel of such a structure (a musician who dresses like a Muslim woman), it is logically necessary to exist in actuality, have life or reality considerably produced by cracking and extirpat[ing].

With a resolution about cracking open an ocean to create dry land, why are were so many teams talking about Kosovo?

Alternate definition scenarios are welcome in the comment section.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

News Flash (1/16/07)

Congressman Sworn in on original copy of A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh

Kieth Ellison (D-Minn), the first stuffed toys addict to be elected to a constitutional position, was sworn in on a 1930s era copy of The House at Pooh Corner, an A.A. Milne classic. The children's story convert cited moral and religious reasons for deviating from the time honored tradition of using the Bible during the swearing in ceremony.

Pooh has such a rich heritage in my family. From the first stuffed animal I got when I was five to the matching bedroom set in my prepubescent years, Milne has been a part of my life, my family.” Ellison became emotional as he recounted the decision to use the heirloom book. “It's not that that I don't like the Bible, its just that Pooh teaches us so many lessons about life and the way we should conduct ourselves as human beings. And we can't forget about Christopher Robin.”

Jerry Rickers, the custodian of the National Children's Story Archive, said Ellison “wants this to be a special day, and using The House at Pooh Corner makes it even more special.” No word yet on why he chose The House at Pooh Corner and not the original Winnie the Pooh.

First test-tube kid has kid

In an episode that will have scientists shaking the heads for months, Louise Brown, who was the world's first test-tube baby some 28 years ago, has given birth to a bouncing baby boy. As of yet there are no verifiable photos of this baby, giving credence to allegations that he doesn't really exist. Until Vanity Fair is able to get some overpriced photos of the test -tube offspring, we can safely assume that the baby is really an alien.


Patrick Dempsey is ready for a political career

Citing his continued struggle with dyslexia, Patrick Dempsey, a highly inconspicuous male actor known only to a narrow female demographic, has announced he is looking toward public office. “I good look, good really, fact in, a lot of hair have head on my and my words stumble over. Doesn't qualify that me?”

Dempsey spoke briefly with an AP correspondent where he seemed quietly satisfied with his acting accomplishments, but was also looking ahead. “The Dempsey's future in elected office is. Be there I want,” he said.

Human Growth Hormone ineffective for as aging remedy, but does make users look like Barry Bonds

A recent review of published studies suggests that aging is inevitable and that no number of elixirs and spirits can keep the wrinkles away. The findings come on the heels of years of speculation that steroids may be solution to the "getting old" dichotomy.

Dr. Hau Liu of Stanford University (Liu is actually from a foreign country, but was signed as a free agent by Stanford U.) tells users of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to watch their weight level while on the juice. "There are unconfirmed reports that HGH can dramatically improve a users weight. By improve, I mean increase," he said in a high nasal voice. By the looks of things Liu never had a weight problem.

When San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds heard the news that all his juicing wouldn't make him live forever, he was inconsolable. "Do you mean that I've endured two decades of acne for nothing?" he sobbed. At least he will live forever in the Baseball Hall of Fame, with an asterix.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Politics is like show business

This is a class note contributed by a female fan. Obviously, we at FCN are very excited about this because it is the first conclusive proof we've encountered that females read this blog (besides our moms).

Its theatre is packed with patrons who eagerly await temporary pleasure, caring not about long-term consequences. They have riches, and will spend them indiscriminately. They have morals, but will cast them aside without discernment. Perhaps there is somewhere else they should be going, but in their ignorance, they have forgotten where.

The politician enters the stage. He is an entertainer playing to a captive audience. His face, painted brilliantly, conceals who he truly is. Through a delicate dance, he courts the majority of the crowd. He only needs the approval of half to make a buck. The rest are irrelevant to him.

This dance becomes inappropriate. For a split second, his fans wonder if something is not right. Weren’t there guidelines for behavior? A few walk out of the theatre. Others vocally protest and must be removed. Yet the entertainer’s presence is more powerful than ever- the majority cannot leave.

The guidelines don’t matter, the onlookers decide. They never did. The entertainer knows best.

In a moment, another character appears. Deliberately and slowly, he enters the stage. His face is ghastly for lack of paint. His voice is plain; his movements simple. He struggles to deliver a message, but it isn’t what the people want to hear. There was a time when entertainers were different? Ludicrous. Make the old-fashioned fellow go away. Perhaps he thinks he is an entertainer. But to the audience, he doesn’t compare.

And so the entertainer restarts his dance- hips swaying to the music, eyes full of flame. His opponent is gone; his fame is secure. Laughter and excitement resume again. He pleases the people, he notes proudly, that’s all that matters in the end.

The theatre reeks with the wine of democracy. But everyone is too drunk to care.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Skiing with Fiends

The other day, several fiends had the bright idea that a ski trip was in order. The idea was actually born a week or so ago, but the concept came to fruition Wednesday at an ungodly hour when we (the fiends and I) piled into a fifteen passenger van and rumbled toward the frozen slopes. We arrived, after a ride with thankfully little incident, to a view of a beautiful California slope and, this should have sent off the warning lights, a novice skier taking a nasty spill off the carefully manicured snow onto the cement parking lot ten feet below.

This was to be my second ski trip in five years. On my first outing, at an age much more tender than the one I now boast, I had an unfortunate accident and ended up breaking my thumb. I say unfortunate, not because of any permanent damage it caused (my finger was ugly before the incident), but because of the way it predisposed my mother against future skiing. During that period, any mention of a ski trip was met with a disgruntled look that clearly expressed “no;” I was forced to satisfy my fantasies of snow-scapes by making sand angles in our neighbor's unused sand box.

I still don't know why she approved this trip. Maybe she was distracted by my double-jointed thumb or perhaps she saw it as a punishment, a possibility that looks frighteningly real in retrospect. Whichever motive encouraged her consent, I had gotten the go-ahead and intended to ski with the best of them.

After picking out rental equipment – including a bright orange titanium helmet that emitted a strobe light and emergency beacon (my mother's idea) – I went on my first ride, the “kiddie slope.”

Before you start laughing at me, you gotta realize that these hills are poorly named. The slope looks a lot steeper from the top than it does from the bottom. And the fact that I took three nasty spills on a three percent grade in my first five minutes is perfectly natural given that I was wearing the skis backwards.

After I got my gear straightened out, I went with my fiends (who had only barely stopped laughing) up a large chairlift, toward the top of the mountain.

Getting on the chairlift was an experience in and of itself. Ours was a small “two-seater” lift and, after I was able to secure a place in line (“'scuse me!” “coming through!” “sorry about that!”), I was waved to the loading position. Two-seaters are designed with a couple of extra-small, obesity discouraging chairs attached to a cable via a sturdy bar. The unit, bar and all, came up behind me with all the speed of a raging bull and, before any of the attendants could react, spirited me away up the mountain.

I thought for sure something had gone awfully awry; I was sitting wrong (it was really uncomfortable), I was too heavy for the seat, the chair was broken (it kept on making these clicking noises). I am, to this moment, convinced that something was amiss and that sheer providence kept me from plummeting to broken bones.

You do a lot of soul searching thirty feet above hard packed snow with no buckle and only the gentle swaying of the chair to keep you company. A lot of soul searching. Why was I even going skiing? My mother's warnings ricocheted around my head like so many racquetballs and I pictured myself strung out in a full body cast à la Mad Mad Mad Mad World. My thoughts were so real and my dreams so vivid, sitting up above the snow, that I almost did something involuntary.

Were I weaker species, I would have stayed on the lift all the way round and returned to my departure point. But no! I could do this skiing thing.

With little more than a faded sign as warning, the chair dumped me unceremoniously on the snow, where I crumpled like a folding chair. I stayed there until an alpha male employee tapped me on the shoulder and informed me I was blocking the exit. I collected my skis and went to the trail head.

As I gazed at the assorted alpine sport enthusiasts zipping their way through the ice and powder, I was once again empowered. My fiends had chosen the “trick ride” slope for my first excursion. Littering the hill were oddly shaped jumps, rails and loop-d-loops. A few skiers were trying some of the tamer tricks, but the snowboarders, oh those snowboarders, were really tearing things up. One of my fiends was completing death defying (or is it death inviting) stunts at speeds I could only dream of.

Another fiend flew several feet in the air off a natural “jump,” or pile of snow and landed hard on his tail bone. The collective grimace of our party was audible, but our enthusiasm was unaffected.

With a “well, let's go,” I pushed off the hill, pointed my skis toward the bottom and tucked into the aerodynamic position reminiscent of Olympic down-hillers. That didn't last long. Whether the obstruction was a patch of ice or a loose twig is a question history can only guess at. One fact we can be assured of is that when things stopped moving my skis were fifty feet up the mountain and I had a mouth full of snow. My fiends thought this was funny.

My first trip down the mountain was a painful retelling of the above episode.

When we reached the bottom (my fiends some fifteen minutes before me), we hopped on the lift to attack the same slope a second time. As one fiend explained it to me (the one who fell on this tail bone), “you have to do the same run a couple times to get used to it; you can expect some falls the first time through.” Right.

When we got to the top, after another chair dumping, I decided, after much prodding from my fiends, to attempt some tricks. Following the hot dogging example of the snowboarders on the slope below, I turned off my brain to see what would come out. What did was a painful finish to a brilliantly conceived trick.

I approached a deceptively easy-looking flat bar at a fairly fast quip (for me anyway) and pushed my skis onto the platform. There I slid with my hands in the air, enjoying the encouraging calls from my fiends. The landing brought me back to reality. I came off the bar with a violent jolt and the next thing I remember is that I was sitting on the bar with a searing pain in the region we just don't talk about at parties.

I could walk; but my chief concern was for the next generation.

That run was to be my last of the day. I rode gingerly down the mountain, holding my skis in a “pizza” as my fiend showed it to me to keep from moving too quickly. When I got to the “lodge,” I collapsed in a chair and waited for the stiffness to set in. That, and a cup of hot chocolate, occupied the remainder of my afternoon.

Given the opportunity, I think I will go skiing again. When the skin finishes flaking off my sunburns, my knee learns how to bend again and frostbite heals, I'll be ready. In the meantime, I think I'll stick to sand.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Life Tip #2

Don't steal all the stuff in an old lady's apartment.

If you are going to steal all the stuff in an old lady's apartment, don't stash it in the next door flat.

If you are going to steal all the stuff in an old lady's apartment and stash it in the next door flat, don't cut identical holes in the windows of each flat through which to pass the goods.

Minimum wage hike not big enough

As aspiring minimum wage earners, we here at FCN took the news of the House of Representative's approval of a wage hike very seriously. Yesterday the House passed a bill that would increase wage rates for the lowest earners in America. Over two years, pending approval by the Senate and a signature from Mr. Doesn't Veto Anything, the minimum wage in the United States will increase by just over two dollars.

Quite frankly, we oppose this measure, but not for the same reasons as our gun toting, tobacco chewing, "let them starve" brethren. While the yellow toothed of America make a compelling argument, we oppose the wage hike because it is yet another example of Congress tackling a problem with the effectiveness of J. Pierpont "Ponty" Finch and leaving a nasty predicament for the next guy.

The goal the wage hike is undoubtedly noble; ensuring that no member of society is left behind is as American as welfare checks and WIC coupons. But somehow this bill misses the point.

Why ensure partial wage equality when full egalitarianism is knocking at the door?

This bill ignores major wage discrepancies on the higher end of the earning bracket and also deprives middle class employees of a wage increase. In short, it leaves too many behind.

There are two ways Congress might have achieved the parity goal without compromising with mediocrity.

The first is to set a higher minimum and would be called the "No Worker Left Behind Act." If Americans can "survive" on $7.10 an hour, wouldn't they do "better" with 8.00 or 9.00? Heck, why even worry about the "living wage" and cost of living concerns? Wouldn't ten dollars an hour help the lower income families hoist themselves out of poverty? How about twelve? Fifteen would allow them to save and maybe invest in real estate. Sixteen, argue some experts is the ideal wage.

We here at FCN are of the opinion that an appropriate minimum is somewhere between fifteen and twenty bucks an hour. That covers the movie and girlfriend funds pretty well and would allow us to eat out at least five times a week. And wouldn't twenty dollars an hour be doable for the richest nation on earth?

Under the No Worker Left Behind Act, employers would have the freedom to set individual incomes based on the productivity of a particular worker. A successful employee could earn as much as he or she deserves, but they could take comfort in high floor from which they operate.

Who knows? If the wage is increased enough, all poverty might be eliminated!

The second strategy is to establish a flat national income and is called the "All Workers Left Behind Act." The income of everyone from George Soros and David Beckham to Kevin Federline and Isaac Cohen would be averaged and all Americans would make a decent wage. It wouldn't matter if you were an entertainer, physician, bedpan cleaner or floor sweeper; the wages would be the same for all.

This creates a uniform society where no one has any claim to greater success than anyone else. It would eliminate jealously, vehicular pride and thievery. Can you hear the happy sighs? They sure sound like utopia to me.

Unfortunately, the political wind isn't blowing the right direction and a complete evisceration of the capitalist system may take a few more years.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Up with the Mission, Down with the Troops

We don't pretend to follow current events. In fact, we'll go ahead and say it: we don't follow current events. But one can't stand on street corners for very long before discovering that there's a war on in Iraq, after a certain fashion. After discovering this quite by accident a few weeks ago, the FCN team got to work gathering information and opinions for the following position paper. No good blog goes without an official opinion on the War in Iraq. Not even the bad ones can go without an opinion. Not even the Daily Kos can go without an opinion. We at FCN don't want to be left out. After examining all sides of the issue, we can sum up our position on the war as follows:

Up with the Mission
Down with the Troops

So many people today say: "I support the troops but not the mission." Frankly, this is nonsense. Throughout our nation's history, we have taken on some of the greatest and most idealistic missions ever concieved, from stopping terrorism to containing Nazi Germany to liberating Iraq. Anyone who can say with a straight face that these are bad things need to be thrown out the second story window. If you oppose the mission, sorry, but we don't even respect your opinion. Opposing the mission is pure stupidity.

Troops, however, are a terrible way to get things done. They break things, blow stuff up, and shoot people. They cost a lot, and they die all the time. If it weren't for soldiers, war wouldn't be such a bad thing. In fact, it would be wonderful. Supporting the troops is almost as dumb as opposing the mission. Haven't you seen what's on TV lately? That's what troops are doing to the middle east. They're causing all kinds of strife, heartache, and bloodshed.

Here at FCN, the proper position to take is clear as day: Up with the Mission, Down with the Troops. We are officially starting a new campaign in favor of bloodless, troopless war. The campaign is being inaugurated with the two free wallpapers below (after all, wallpapers are cheap to make). We hope to continue to add to the collection of DWTUWM materials as time goes by, though of course we'll probably end up being paralyzed by laziness.

In any case, we encourage you to join us in supporting the missions that keep people free and opposing the troops that make people hurt.

Click to enlarge, then right click > Set as Desktop Background. Or do whatever you want with it. It's a free country.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Life Tip #1

If you are going to stash marijuana in your car, don't hide it with the registration and insurance papers.

If you are going to hide marijuana with your registration and insurance papers, don't have have 85 ecstasy pills hidden under the back seat.

If you are going to hide marijuana with your registration and insurance papers and stash ecstasy under the back seat, don't drive without your seat belt!

Nation Mottos

Our writing contest invited readers to send in their own funny class notes for consideration and publication. In response, we got everything from the image enhancement to dry comedy. Dry comedy won. Below is the winning post from Randy Hawthorne:

France’s motto: At least we have good food

Germany’s motto: Hitler? I really don’t know what you are talking about

Canada’s motto: A home for those too liberal to live in the United States

California’s motto: We aren’t Canada, but at least we try

USA’s motto: Home of the Free, land of the Brave

Mexico’s motto: I think I see a hole in the fence

United Kingdom’s motto: There was a day when the sun never set on the British Empire

China’s motto: More is less

Japan’s motto: One step ahead the rest of the gaming world

North Korea’s motto: Let’s go nuclear!

Taiwan’s motto: We aren’t China

Iran’s motto: The US can burn

Israel’s motto: Please…don’t…hurt…me…

Alaska’s motto: Burn the caribou

Russia’s motto: We are still a threat!

Mexico’s motto: Mr. Bush, tear down that wall!

Italy’s motto: We can sure beat the US!...well…when it comes to soccer at least.

Cherokee Nation’s motto: Check out the welfare wagon!

Randy Hawthorn