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


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pelosi Issues Coded Message During State of the Union


WASHINGTON DC (FCN) – In a speech that was largely a repeat of his seven previous State of the Union addresses, President George W. Bush (R-Texas) delivered his eighth and final speech on the condition of national affairs. The address, which was ignored by middle class America in favor of 2008 primary speculation and Super BowlTM hype, centered on the economic, military and celebrity qualms our nation currently finds itself in and came just short of endorsing Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) for President.

But the real story from the State of the Union speech came from the stiff-backed wooden chair situated above and a little to the left (audience POV) of the Commander In Chief. CongressWOman Nancy Pelosi (D-California) gave viewers at home a first class display of political maneuvering as she delivered a simultaneous Democratic response to the President’s words.

“To the untrained eye, it really looks as if her contact lens is irritating her or she forgot her morning Visine. It’s actually reminiscent of vintage Clinton falling asleep during an MLK speech, except she was blinking proactively,” explained former Democratic strategist and talking head George Stephanopoulos (D-DC) as he stood on a booster box to speak to America after the speech. "I can't believe we missed this, given how long it's been happening and how obvious the communication is," Stephanopoulos added doing his best Scott Hamilton voice.

Code specialist and former KGB counter-intelligence agent Vladimir Loginova gave some more clues in a phone interview after the address, saying “It’s a basic code, really. Dits and dahs; the same thing Samuel Morse came up with for the telegraph back in the 1840s. At first it looks like she has a mental problem and she is blinking to cover it, but a closer examination reveals a blink rate of about 100 blinks per minute (BPM). A 100 BPM rate doesn’t come without a purpose.”

Loginova got to work soon after the address, pouring over YouTube video and communicating with other ex-KGB agents about the blinking. He soon discovered that a long blink equals a “dah” and quick, flutter-like movements represent “dits.” Using this paradigm, Loginova decoded the following message:

"This seat is hard. Remind me to use a cushion next year. Tell Billary to start working on our economic smear campaign. Reuse the 2004 election plan of attack. Call the networks and try to get them to flash the death toll in Iraq right now. Again now. Can we have an amputee in studio for a ‘victim’s response?’ Cancer kid works, too. Have James Carville arrange it. The camera had better not be panning to Obama right now. Call Fox and threaten to dig up more dirt on O’Reilly if they don’t focus on Billary. Man, this seat is hard. You’d think we could smuggle sum kind of padding into these august chambers. Is this almost over? It reminds me of some of Clinton’s extended oratories. Have a couple aspirins waiting for me when I get down. Oh, and fire Mike; I need more minorities on my staff. Ok, finally.”
In his report, Loginova really got a kick out of Pelosi’s use of the term “august” but criticized her for blinking with both eyes simultaneously, a behavior which slowed down her rate of delivery by a factor of two.

Democratic analyst Al Franken (D-Mars) commented to CNN after the Democratic response that the coded message was probably intended for Maye Antonin, the congressWOman’s personal assistant and longtime associate. The reference to “Mike” was probably Micheal Smith, the only white male in the congressWOman’s inner circle.

Vice President Dick Cheney (R-Wyoming) barely blinked at all during the fifty minute address, leading some to wonder if he was even conscious during the speech. Then a wry scowl would cross the politicians features and the attendant EMTs would return to their state of heightened alert (Yellow on the VP heart risk scale).

A GOP insider has informed FCN that this election cycle’s VP pick will be a “speed blinker” who is better able to “compete” with speaker Pelosi during next year’s State of the Union.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Life Tip #52

Don't drive while under the influence of alcohol.

If you do drive while under the influence of alcohol, drive a riding lawnmower.

If you do drive a riding lawnmower while under the influence of alcohol, don't drive on a state-patrolled road.

If you do drive a riding lawnmower while under the influence of alcohol on a state-patrolled road and get pulled over for "drinking and cutting," don't explain to the police that you are on your way to the liquor store to get more beer "for dinner."

Especially if your blood alcohol concentration is already 2 1/2 times the legal limit.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Notice: The Sky has not Fallen on our Heads.


The end of the day usually finds us FCN contributors huddled over our computers playing pac-man or chatting about our miserably failed love lives with people we've never met (presumably mass-murdering 50-year-old circus freaks). Last night was not one of those nights. The fact is, last night was special. The world nearly ended.

We know. We should have posted a warning to tell you to call your loved ones and say that one thing you had been putting off saying. But after extensive deliberation, we decided to keep quiet about doomsday and post an apology the day after. That seemed easiest.

Also, we didn't want to get too close to our computers. A friend of ours directed us to the following research:



We stared at the screen in stunned silence for a full thirty seconds after watching. Then we sprang into our Cloverfield Survival Plan (which doubles as an Asteroid Survival Plan in a pinch). The bulleted procedure is listed below. We followed it to the letter.

1) Get to the highest part of the building and look around.
2) Make a few wise cracks.
3) See something. If it is Cloverfield, it will be on the horizon obscured by buildings. If it is an Asteroid or a Nuke it will be in the sky. If it is Relatives, it will be on the road.
4) Person who was defamed most by the wise cracks says: "Did I tell you or did I tell you?"
5) Panic and run around for awhile.
6) Scramble, tripping, to the lowest part of the building.
7) Scream incoherently.
8) Person who was defamed least from the wise cracks says: "We can take this thing."
9) Any remaining person says: "Are you crazy?"
10) Run outside, preferably using the back door, preferably barefoot with shorts and a tacky t-shirt.
11) Stand in a circle facing out.
12) Wait until someone begins running in a random direction, at which point all others must shout: "Are you crazy? Come back!"
13) When the someone does not obey, the others must follow reluctantly, muttering grim prognostications.
14) Proceed in this direction until any noticeable event occurs. Examples include: a) Being stepped on by Cloverfield, b) being struck by an asteroid c) bumping into a Relatives, or d) getting lost.
15a) If the world has ended: post an apology on FCN.
15b) If the world has not yet ended: sprint in a different direction.
16) Find a place of ostensible cover. Gather in a loose group and pant frantically.
17) Propose a few hair-brained theories for the origin of the threat.
18) Dig a hole.
19) Get inside.
20) Fill it in.
21) Have everyone call their moms and let them know where they are and to call them if and when the crisis is over (how's that for a sentence?).
22) Wait.
23) Improvise from then on.

It worked perfectly. We ran upstairs and peered out the window. For a few moments, we said nothing. We made jokes at the expense of the anonymous contributor who found the video. Then we saw a red flashing light moving slowly toward us. Within moments, we were scrambling out of someone else's backyard pool yelling: "It's over! It's over!" The neighbors joined us because they had no common sense and/or like to play along and/or don't read FCN. All of us were barefoot (we scrupulously removed our socks on exiting the house in accordance with the plan).

Led by a neighbor, we ran out into the street and stood in a loose circle looking. The neighbor saw the light and pointed. We all squinted. Then the neighbor started running down the road. "Are you crazy?" One of us cried. "Come back!" But he was long gone.

"Must be the radiation from the thingie," I said. It passed as a wise crack. We followed the neighbor.

Then we heard a honking horn and a bright light lit up in front of us. We didn't stop to think. We ran, screaming incoherently. I dimly remember crashing through a window and over a couch on which people were sitting watching a movie and eating popcorn. Eventually we reached a city park and stopped, gasping for breath.

"There's only one thing left to do," I said. My fellow contributors, the neighbors, and the two dozen people who had joined us in our flight nodded in unanimous consent. We tore apart the monkey bars and used them to tear apart nearby cars, the pieces of which we used as shovels. We dug a nice big hole, then climbed in and pulled the dirt over us, using the monkey bars as breathing tubes. Then we called our moms, even though the reception was terrible. A few hours later, our moms talked us into coming back out and we went home, covered from head to toe with dirt and sweat.

Well, the world didn't end, so it was worth it. The plan worked.

You're welcome.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Public Apology to Em


There are many different levels of journalistic excellence. Each one stipulatse a host of different behaviors. Some publications require careful peer review of every jot and tiddle. Others refuse to print news that would place people or countries in danger. Others require that everything printed by fact-checked. Others simply ask their writers not to blatantly fabricate facts that they'll get burned on later.

Well, FCN has no such standards, and in a recent post, we misquoted Em. Okay, we didn't just misquote her. We arbitrarily put words in her mouth. We didn't even ask her for her opinion. We didn't even give her the chance to say something we could use. We didn't take that risk. We just openly fabricated an interaction with her and posted it, knowing full well she'd probably read the post and burn us on it.

Well, guess what. She read the post and burned us on it. She totally aggravated the author of the post in question by refusing to dance with him last weekend. In the ensuing argument, she made him promise to do the following:

1) Not embarrass her again on FCN.
2) Not post a public apology the next Monday.
3) Repent.

Well, all three of those stipulations just got broken, and we just want to say publicly: Em, we're really, really sorry about putting words in your mouth and lying to you like twenty times in one weekend. Our misrepresentations and deceits rank among the most banal ever put together by media publishers. They are worse than the fabrications of Jayson Blair and make Steven Glass look like an amateur. They are right on par with Jimmy's World and Gary Hart's "go ahead and follow me." Next time will be better. Honest. Unless we forget, or unless it's a Thursday, or unless we recently had chocolate or anyone in the room is wearing green.

In addition, we publicly commit to do the following:

1) Not embarrass Em again on FCN.
2) Not post a public apology next Monday.
3) Repent.
4) Hold ourselves to the highest possible standard of journalistic excellence, including peer review and actual interviews with people.
5) Unless we forget, or unless it's a Thursday, or unless we recently had chocolate or anyone in the room is wearing green.

Please forgive us, Em. Please?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Note to Self #5

There are better ways of getting people to feel sorry for you than fabricating a history of cocaine abuse on your job application.

Friday, January 25, 2008

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,

FCN

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Three on One with Dennis Kucinich

There is a common misconception that the race for the Democratic nomination is down to two candidates: The man trapped in the body of a woman and the white man in a black man's body. A large chorus of dissenting voices contradicts this claim, however. Candidates like the son of the mill worker with the really slick hair and awesome veneers and the guy who's name everybody forgets (for good reason) are all very much in this race. In fact, FCN has yet to come to a firm decision on who we support for a four year term in the world's most famous parsonage.

Here at FCN, we decided to systematize our search for a presidential candidate. We got a stack of paper and brainstormed the names of every presidential candidate we could think of. We wrote and wrote until our pencils broke like characters in a Dr. Suess book. A sample of our brain storm has been declassified below. This is one of twenty-three sheets we filled (click to enlarge):

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

We never erased. Except once when C wrote down Katie Holmes and it simply had to be wiped away. When we were finished our page was home to names like George Clooney, Madonna, and Nancy Pelosi. But nowhere was there mention of Dennis Kucinich. In fact, it was only after this charming fellow was mentioned in a very positive light by an FCN reader that we started paying him any mind.

We decided to pay Mr. Kucinich a visit.

The FCN team made a special bus ride out to a small but heavily urbanized town in southern Ohio. After an adventure with mapquest and an elderly lady who took the risk of picking up three hitchhikers, we were able to locate the environmentally efficient offices of Dennis Kucinich.


The parking lot was filled with bicycles, hybrid Priuses and electrical chargers and surrounded an ergonomically shaped building that was all glass except for some black solar panels on the roof. A windmill was stationed at each corner of the complex and rotated slowly in the muggy breeze.

We walked up to a receptionist whose hair looked drier than a frog in a salt flat and asked for an interview with the Presidential candidate. When she found out we didn't have an appointment (Greyhound's timetable was too imprecise to justify calling ahead) she refused. We begged, telling her that we'd taken a diesel bus all the way from California. She looked horrified and maintained her staunch "no" answer. Only when we mentioned that our blog readership includes as many as eleven readers on a good day did she finally relent and reward our entreaties with an audience.

//Begin Transcript


FCN: This is a really cozy office. I like the wallpaper.


DENNIS KUCINICH: You like that, do you? It's made entirely from recycled human waste and unhomoginzed soybean oil. The oil's for color, but it spreads really well and it doesn't kill trees. You know you can kill a whole tree by wallpapering an entire house? Think of how many forests we destroy by wallpapering a community's worth of homes.

FCN: What kind of environmental costs were entailed in the creation of this office?

DK: You boys don't waste any time, do you? I admit that building this complex hurt the environment and if we refused to compromise with the capitalists, we would be running our campaign out of a paper hut or a cave somewhere. But here's the way I see it: If I win - when I win, right Peggy?

PEGGY: Whatever you say.

DK: Peggy is my, well, what should I call you? [Chuckles] She is my confidence counselor. But where was I? Yes, when I am elected President, I will enact policies that will more than make up for the extravagance of this office. Also, I've been ensured by a handful of this nation's most highly respected energy engineers that this building will become a net energy contributor by the year 2040. So, with lifespans shortened by global warming, this is an asset your great grandkids will enjoy.

FCN: So you lost in Iowa, lost in New Hampshire, lost in Nevada. Why are you still running?


DK: I actually didn't lose in New Hampshire. I have issued a petition in New Hampshire to have a recount due to unexplained irregularities in that election. Although my campaign has yet to take an official position, I strongly suggest that Hillary might have been fixing the outcome. I mean, that would explain her come-from-behind victory. The evidence I have is as credible as it is serious and my request for a recount has nothing to do with my having a personal vendetta against any of the candidates, I just want to see that 100% of votes get counted 100% of the time. And that ballots are cast on recycled paper.

FCN: That's great. You were recently seen protesting at a U.S. Army training school. Do you respect the sacrifices of the American soldier?

DK: That's a divisive issue phrased as a right wing trap. You boys need to update your reading material. This school has been fostering human rights abuses in Latin...

FCN: Wasn't it training soldiers for action...

DK: ...America. My protest is a rejection of war as a foreign policy tool. One of my first actions as President would be ...

PEGGY: Will be.

DK: Will be, thanks Peggy - to shut down this school and most of its kind. The only thing soldiers today really do is wreck the environment and we get enough of that with industry to have to subsidize it overseas.

FCN: How do you plan to protect our nation militarily?

DK: For Californians you sure don't understand this stuff. The only way to have peace is to make peace.

FCN: What if someone makes war? What about the existing war on terror?

DK: Uh-oh, Peggy! Pessimists! [Chuckles] You guys should really read Peggy's book Loving the Unreal World; Motivational thoughts and principles for today's stressed mind. The receptionist will set you up with a copy on your way out. Speaking of which, we need to get out of Iraq and, well, everywhere our military is stationed. Fort Bragg for instance. The closer leash we keep on our servicemen the less they can damage our environment.

FCN: Would you say that protection of the environment is your biggest political issue?


DK: Absolutely. That or global warming, industrial pollution or oil spills. I also care a lot about deforestation and animal rights. Speaking of which, I need to cut this short. I have an dinner with PETA to attend. We are celebrating the incarceration of Michael Vick. You'll excuse me?

//End Transcript.


During the long bus ride home, we talked among ourselves about how Kucinich matches up against the other candidates we've interviewed. We also read Peggy's book (the last chapter of which had detailed instructions on how to roll a joint) and decided that having a confidence counselor is a point against one's candidacy. On the issues, Kucinich came across as a real winner. His demeanor was sincere and his manner thought provoking. We found ourselves impatient for the year 2040 when Kucinich's investment would begin repaying environmental dividends.

But the interview failed to earn Kucinich our endorsement. Although we can't put our collective fingers on the exact issue that dissuaded us - the smelly wallpaper, Peggy's freaky smile or the thought that Katie Holmes might actually be a viable candidate in comparison with Kucinich - we were not confident enough in the Ohio representative to give him our unreserved endorsement.

Oh well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Somebody beat us to it



This proves that dereliction is always the best approach. When we actually try for something - something meaningful and important - and make an attempt at history that will allow our names to live forever in the giant book of winners, someone else does it before us. Over the weekend a new world record was set with 4 1/4 bananas eaten in one minute. Now that's some news that wont make Drudge. The video above is a documentation of the effort and ensuing success.

All I have to say is that man had better not be one of the Faithful FCN Few who stole our idea and got into the record book himself. If you count yourself among one of our eleven readers Scott Whateveryourlastnameis, be sure to give us a shout out of some kind. Please? I mean, we're practically begging here.

Deep seated hatred, sour grapes and avowed vengeance aside, we extend heartfelt congratulations to the gentleman who managed to scarf down four good sized bananas in a minute. He deserves every ounce of ink the record book will devote to him next year. Great job Scott.

Life Tip #51

Don't rob stores.

If you do rob a store, don't forget your gun.

If you do rob a store and forget your gun, don't try to convince the cashier that your permanent marker is lethal weapon.

If you are going to try to hold up a store with a marker, at least make sure ahead of time that the store has money.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

FCN sees “Cloverfield”

“Let’s go see a movie.” A statement not a question, the line is uttered with no regard to consequences or costs, direct or hidden. Friends are over and conversation needs stimulation. A movie is just the thing.

But what to see? I like chick flicks, but F and N hold an automatic veto over any movie directed by Anne Fletcher. The visiting friends suggest the Johnny Depp movie, a proposition that is quickly asphyxiated with a chorus of “nos.” N puts forward his bid, a film with a couple of Academy Award winning actors that are probably closer to retirement than their next nomination, but no one is in the mood for a movie about a couple codgers end-gaming their life. F wants to see Enchanted, again. Yeah, right. The arguments buzz around like bees in a Penn and Teller magic trick. People change sides faster than Mitt Romney and preferences go from comedy to drama and back again like the F-Train. Even ambivalent viewers turn into ardent advocates as soon as choices are presented. The debate is fierce and enemies are made. Nobody is permanently hurt, though, and a choice is made before the clock strikes an hour.

None of us are sure who’s idea it was – the end of the film had us pointing fingers like a six year-old in a candy shop – but someone introduced the name “Cloverfield,” a virally promoted disaster movie shot entirely with hand held cameras. The merits of "Cloverfield" were never heavily explored but, by virtue of the fact that all the other films were disqualified, “Cloverfield” got the selection. It's a movie about a monster, filmed by a badly shaking cameraman who didn't know it was all computer generated and/or ketchup.

I wont drag you through the hour and twenty minutes of dizzying and horrifying film footage that was flashed before our wide-eyed faces, except to say that the plot moved exceptionally slowly and was a grating regurgitation of every other disaster movie plot, except it was worse. When the credits rolled, a gentleman sitting behind me muttered “Is it over? [Boy], what a waste of money. I should have just left a tenner at the foot of the movie poster.” Great piece of critical analysis, that. He should start a blog.

I, for one, have never witnessed such a tepid reaction to a movie in theaters. All fifty plus people in attendance sat stunned for over a minute before picking themselves up and walking shakily toward the exit, rubbing their eyes. The roomed seemed to spin slowly and I was a little nauseous as I stood up to follow their lead. Looking at the back of so many heads in dim light exiting a building reminded me vaguely of a scene in the movie. Which scene, you ask? All of them.

The baby boomer in attendance speculated that it was the “worst movie she’d ever seen,” a perspective that has been proffered for a dozen other cinematic productions. I thought the movie was creative, but was upset that all the attractive females were killed off (sorry, is that a spoiler?) and that the monster’s soft side wasn’t exploited by the directors.

F made the mistake of defending the movie’s concept publically and was berated excessively for his lack of taste. Defending bad movies is tantamount to making bad movies on the hierarchy of cinematic sins. It might even be worse than defending that limited release Hannah Montana production. Goodness, F, grow a tongue.

By the time we got home, the dizziness and arguments had worn off. We hopped out of the car and looked around. After an awkward pause, somebody asked: “So, now what do you want to do?”

Monday, January 21, 2008

Proof

On the Aerodynamics of Hair


This post is in response to a request from Frederic, who is a gentleman (as well as a scholar) known for combing his hair in the shape of a fin.

What do aviation engineers, swimmers, and race car drivers have in common? They all appreciate the importance of aerodynamics. Aerodynamics involve the travel of liquids and gases across a surface. Poor aerodynamic design means high drag and high friction, which make plane trips more expensive and slow down swimmers and racers.

But maybe people don't realize the effect of aerodynamics in their day-to-day lives - unless they're in a strong wind and feel themselves being pushed over. Aerodynamics effect you every time you get up to walk by increasing the effort it takes to move. If your profile isn't sleek, air will push against you rather than slide past you, meaning you aren't walking efficiently.

I realized this one day when I walked up a flight of stairs. As I lay gasping for air at the top, I realized that I was not doing everything possible to reduce my effort load. My hair (which had grown quite nicely since that unfortunate incident last year, thank you) was really slowing me down.

Now you'll remember that I vowed (after said unfortunate incident) never to cut my hair again. I had stayed more or less faithful to my vow. I tend to stay more or less faithful to all my vows. More or less. Note the word less.

Moving on.

By now, my hair was almost where I wanted it. Another month or two and I could have tied it behind my neck and been all: "Look at me. I'm awesome." But I decided that fashion choice wasn't nearly as important as aerodynamics. The hair had to go! And I had other reasons, too - the desire to have some sort of jarring physical chance to separate myself from 2007 (which, for those of you who are new to FCN, was a tough year); the lack of a mental filter to control my impulses; running out of hair gel - deep stuff like that.

So I wended my way to the old Vietnamese place at the corner. It took about five minutes to convince the barberette that I wanted it all off.

"Zero? No! No. Your hair so nice. And it so cold outside! You freeze. No. Really? All? [LAUGHS] Oh, no. But you so handsome now! Such nice hair. Shave it not handsome any more!"

Eventually she consented, and, after ten minutes and five different buzzing machines, my hair, which I used to be able to pull down to my mouth, was gone forever. I went to the nearest men's restroom expecting to have a good cry over the loss of my hair. Instead, I found I couldn't stop giggling. Losing the hair was a bit of a relief. It felt awesome. And I liked the way I looked. I decided that if shaving the head felt so good, there was no reason to stop.

An hour later, I had shaved my face, which had previously held a badly maintained Richelieu ripoff. Now I was getting aerodynamic. Bring the wind and the rain. My head wasn't going to stop it. But I figured that, having started, I might as well finish the job. Shaving my eyebrows proved harder than I thought. The eye reacts negatively to having something so close. It was kind of like putting contacts in your eyes for the first time. Only instead of contacts, it was a razor. But the final product was definitely worth it. I felt almost wind tunnel ready. There was only one thing missing.

So I shaved my eyelashes.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Desperate Student, Episode 15: Schmoozer

This continues the tragic tale of the Desperate Student. If you're not up to date, read up. Matthew, this is your chance. Start at Episode 1. Heh.

The problem with being stranded in Zimbabwe is that it's a lot like being stranded in Zimbabwe.

It doesn't get much worse than getting lost in a war-torn African country with a flimsy one million Zimbabwean currency (read: 7.81 USD), an angry world explorer on the loose, and the national police hunting for your rebel face.

Of course, I am a Desperate Student. I was undaunted by these apparent challenges. Other, less motivated people might have turned themselves in to the authorities or gone running to Jane Goodall for forgiveness. But not I. I was determined to see this through. Somehow, someway, I would get back to the states, and when I arrived I'd have enough money to treat Suzy the way she deserved to be treated.

Sticking to the shadows, I wended my way downtown in search of the American consulate. If I announced myself as a US citizen, I reasoned, they might have some sort of program to get me back to the states. It was worth a try.

I shouldn't have been surprised to find the consulate surrounded by concrete barriers, barbed wire, and machine guns. The building had a net suspended a yard from the outside wall to catch RPGs and a dozen soldiers with M16A2s were milling around outside. One of them extended his hand palm forward when I got close and I stopped instantly, overwhelmed by authority.

I felt a faint scratchiness in my throat. "I'm an American citizen," I said.

"Let's see a passport."

I stopped cold. I hadn't been issued a passport in years and certainly hadn't packed one when Jeeves had come to pick me up - was it just a few days ago? I thought fast. "Our 17th president was Martin van Buren. Independence Day is ..."

"I can't let you in without ID," The guard said.

"I lost it!"

"Then I'm glad I'm not you."

"Wait. Hang on. I have a driver's license." I reached for my back pocket and found myself looking down the business end of the guard's rifle. "Just getting my wallet," I said.

"You're in no rush."

I slowly retrieved the wallet and opened it. The guard studied for a moment. "Seems valid," He conceded.

"So do I get in?"

"No. A license isn't enough to prove you're a citizen. You might be from California."

I paused for a moment, temporarily stymied. I knew I would get into the consulate. I just didn't know how yet. It was at this moment of consideration that an unwelcome face appeared at the door behind the guards. It was the one person I least wanted to see - the person with the power and the motivation to ruin my life forever - the person who could make a hardened criminal quake in fear. I had seen her throw my co-workers to piranhas and shoot at RFCN contributors without fear or remorse.

"He's one of mine," Said Jane Goodall with a slight smirk on her face. "I've been expecting him."

"You know," I said, "I actually ... you're right. I'm an illegal immigrant. I got this license in California. You're so right. Nice catch. I'll be going ..."

"Not so fast," Said Jane. "This man is a criminal. He made off with my equipment a few hours ago in the jungle with a few of his cronies. Place him under arrest immediately."

"You can't let me into the consulate," I said, digging frantically through my wallet. Then I found what I was looking for. I produced the Mexican citizenship documents I had collected from a blackmailed mayor in a previous episode. "See? I'm not a US citizen."

"We still have authority to take you into custody," Said the soldier, grabbing my arm. I struggled, so a few more men came up and smashed the butts of their rifles into my ribs a few times. That took the fight out of me a for a moment. As I was dragged through the gate into the courtyard beyond, I screamed: "I want my phone call! Call the Mexican government! When they find out I'm here, they'll ... uh ... be ... all ... sad for me!" Then I shut up.

I was taken into the building and over to an elevator. The guard punched B2 and we went down two floors. We opened into a dismal concrete corridor with steel doors marked with ominous titles like I, II, III, and even IV. I was put in IV. The room was small with a low ceiling and a single naked light bulb hanging down at head level. There was a table with two chairs. I took one. Jane took the other. The guard stood behind me, ready to strike.

"Can we talk about this?" I asked, extending my hands in a pleading gesture.

"Let's," Said Jane with her usual impeccable coolness. She slowly raised one eyebrow. "Where do we begin?"

I cleared my throat again. The scratchiness was intensifying. "How about where I beg for forgiveness and ask you to please spare my life."

Jane studied me for a long moment as if she had just noticed something new. "You should know by now that I never forget."

"I ..."

"I'm not finished, do not interrupt me."

"Sorry. I'm really sorry."

Jane waited a moment as if to make sure I was done talking. "You should know by now that I never forget and I never forgive."

"But surely there's something I could do - some way to redeem myself."

"There is not. Someday, I will destroy you. Until then, you may live in fear."

"You mean ... you're not going to throw me in jail right this instant?"

"No. Not if you agree to a little bargain I have in mind."

"I knew it! Thanks, Ms. Goodall ... you won't regret it."

"You have not yet heard my offer."

"But I have accepted it, so tell me what to do."

"If only you were so willing this morning."

"I was shoveling monkey doo this morning!"

"No, you were collecting it, which is hardly the same thing."

"You don't want me to go back, do you?"

"Not at all. I have something much more ... American for you to take care of."

"Name it then."

Jane laced her fingers and rested her chin on them. "On the roof of this building, several local dignitaries are attending a party. Two of them are of special interest to you. The first is named Jared Woone. He's an assistant to the American consul. He's smitten with an attractive young Zimbabwean named Amadika. He has tried to meet her several times but she has rejected him. In fact, she has rejected all other men who have approached her. They are both at the party. You will arrange a meeting between Woone and Amadika."

"... Why?"

"For reasons known only to me. Convince Amadika to have a drink with Woone, and I will refrain from jailing you."

"But you'll still ruin my life."

"Eventually."

"Consider it done. Show me the way."

Jane led me back into the elevator and punched a button marked R. We went up six floors and got out on a roof-top pool party. The population consisted of fat people in suits and party dresses and skinny people swimming. Jane quietly pointed to a white guy in an expensive blue pinstripe suit standing in the corner nursing a whiskey and scowling.

Then she pointed to a gorgeous African girl sitting at the bar looking bored. I mean, we're talking Beyonce meets Ashanti. I was really intimidated. I'm not good with women, in case you hadn't noticed. But they don't call me Desperate Student because I only do what I'm good at!

After a moment of deliberation, I walked confidently up to the bar and plopped myself into the seat to Amadika's left. I cleared my throat once. The scratchiness in my throat hadn't gone away. "Well," I said, "Here comes the next contestant."

Amadika turned slowly to face me with a bored expression. "And what's your story?" She asked with a delightful Zimbabwean accent.

"I was born in a hospital with white sheets. Then some stuff happened. Then I met you."

She waited for a second, then smiled slightly. "That's actually kind of a good one."

"Good enough to let me buy you a drink?"

"All right."

"Well, I'm not going to buy you a drink."

"... Okay?"

"But I know a guy who will."

"What, did someone send you here to talk for him?"

"The man I'm about to mention, I've never even met."

"Then, what is this?"

"I saw him watching you across the room and I saw you sitting here alone."

"Jared Woone?"

"Yes."

"I won't drink with him."

"I think you could have a great conversation! Come on, Amadika. Just one drink."

"How do you know my name?"

I hesitated for a second. Then leaned forward. "Listen, I'm going to tell you something that sounds totally ridiculous, but it's true."

She crossed her arms skeptically. "Try me."

"I'm a Mexican citizen. I was taken into the consulate for committing crimes against Americans and secured a deal for my release. I have to convince you to have a drink with Jared Woone or they'll lock me up and throw away the key."

"You're right, that does sound ridiculous."

"But you believe me, don't you?"

"You seem honest." She studied my face for a moment, tapping her lips with her finger. "You're from Mexico?"

"No, I'm a Mexican citizen."

"And you were arrested for crimes against Americans?"

"Of which I am guilty."

"What crimes?"

"I stole an armed jeep and a bunch of weaponry and assisted in the attempted assassination of the President of Zimbabwe."

"Why?"

I reached into my pocket and produced a handful of loose change. "For this."

"You need money?"

"I need to get back to America."

"You mean Mexico."

"No, America."

She looked very confused. "If you were lying you would have come up with a better story than this. I believe you, Mister ..."

"Just call me Desperate Student."

"I believe you, Mister Student. I will have your drink with Mister Woone."

I clapped my hands in exultation. "Thanks, Amadika. You won't regret it!" And with that, I dashed off in Woone's direction.

"Woone!" I cried, grabbing his arm. This was a bad way to start. The man jumped backward in surprise, spilling whiskey on himself.

"What on earth?" He muttered, brushing at his tie. "Of all the nerve ..."

"Amadika wants to have a drink with you."

"You are sadly mistaken," He scowled.

"No, I'm serious. I just talked her into it."

He studied me more closely. "You? Why?"

"It's really complicated. Don't keep her waiting! Come on!"

"You listen to me," Said Woone, grabbing the front of my shirt. He paused with his finger in my face, then slowly released my shirt and wiped the hand on his pant thigh. "If you're having me on," He growled, "I will personally throw you off the building."

"It's for real. Honest."

He hesitated for a moment, then nodded and backed up. "How do I look?"

"Smashing," I lied. "Go to her."

He brushed his hands through his thinning hair nervously. "All right. All right I will." He waddled briskly off toward Amadika, as if to get it over with as quickly as possible. I shook my head sadly. Poor guy. He didn't stand a chance.

I turned and walked back to where Jane and the unnamed guard were watching with raised eyebrows and slight frowns.

"Well done," Jane said, surprised to hear herself say it. "I will drop all charges against you."

"Sweet! So can I go?"

She found what I said amusing. For the first time, I saw Jane flash a genuine smile. White teeth flashed, which she covered with her hand. "Of course. Good bye."

The guard showed me back to the gate of the consulate. I stepped out with a feeling that, though I hadn't escaped the country, I had done a good deed. I had given Jared Woone a chance with the girl of his dreams and I had cleared my criminal past (one portion of it, anyway - I don't suppose we should count my terrorist attack against a gas station in Episode 6).

I stepped back into the road in war-torn Harare and took a deep breath. It tickled something deep in my lungs and I coughed. My throat was very scratchy. Something was wrong. A coughing spell overtook me and I fell to my hands and knees. The force of the coughing built with every moment. I smelled the jungle. I gasped for breath. Then the street faded away.

I woke in a cot with white sheets. A nurse was standing next to my bed with a clipboard. I looked around for a moment and then focused on her. She made a check mark on the page.

"I'm Nancy," She said.

"Where am I? What happened?" Speaking hurt.

"You've contracted a rare, virulent disease. It's officially called VIRUS 200, but around here we call it Orangutan Flu. We're flying you back to the states, where you will be placed under indefinite study as a specimen."

I could almost hear Jane Goodall laughing.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Your germs love you

(And why you should never wash your hands.)

Of all the habitats in this world, the human body is the most complex. The Amazon rain forest is enticing and the Great Coral Reef interesting, but mossy ground and shiny fishes will dull when compared to the 500 strains of bacteria roaming your mouth. But, for some odd reason, the reefs are visited en mass and the Amazon a respected vacation spot, but the germs in all of us are labeled as vile and eradicated at every opportunity. The politically correct view does not condone germ habitat and even our everyday language incorporates words like "sanitary" and "clean," such that even germ lovers are normatively forced into talking down their passion. Like drugs in America, human beings are waging a War on Germs that starts with the Surgeon General and ends with Dove bathroom soap. Join us today as we discover why we must end this poorly conceived war.

Many so called "experts" will try to convince you that germs are bad. Yet their lies are contradicted by their own evidence. Take Bifidobacteria for example, a strain of bacterium that helps provide your body with Vitamin K, a Vitamin crucial in the formation of blood clots. This loving germ gives you with everything you need to prevent "death de la blood loss," yet does anyone say “thank you?" When was the last time you saw someone buy a ice-cream Sunday for their Bifidobactria? Does anyone do anything for these germs?

Germs are regularly abused and biased against in our culture. The negative view pseudoscientists have given germs has hurt not only them, but the human race. Take the flu for example. Put yourself in the place of this friendly virus. How would you feel if you were an innocent little flu bug and people started to try to kill you? How can we expect germs to be nice to us if we aren't kind to them? Yet after we try to exterminate this loving little virus, we are surprised when it infects, and sometimes even kills people.

But hand washing is the least of a germ's worries. Of all the abusive and cruel ways to harm innocent germs, taking vitamins is the most sickening (see, that normative language strikes again!). How can we take pills knowing they will kill visiting germs before they have even attacked us? How unfair is it to assault germs on presupposition that they might damage our immune system at some future time? It is morally wrong to try to kill germs before they have attacked us. Preemptive attacks are no way to handle health. The germs say so. France says so. We think the Pope would agree, but after an interview was arranged we realized none of us spoke Italian and we gave up the slot to Barbara Walters.

The fact is, we are fighting a war we cannot win. Millions of people have already died from disease, and the forces of germhood are only becoming stronger. The time has come for us to make peace with our bacteria brothers.

The time has come to stop the War on Germs. Why should we bother fighting when we know we will not win? The only way to win the war is to stop the fight. Only then will the germs be our friends.

Share the germs, share the love. Peace and cough syrup for all.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Life Tip #50

Don't drive alone in the carpool lane.

If you must drive alone in the carpool lane, do not fashion a dummy to fool the highway patrol.

If you must drive alone in the carpool lane and fashion a dummy to fool the highway patrol, make sure the dummy is visible to the highway patrol.

If you see someone on the side of the road who has been pulled over for driving alone in the carpool lane and fashioning a dummy to fool the highway patrol, watch the road and keep driving carefully.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

That can't be good

My car needed an oil change. Well, that's a bit of an understatement. My car needed an oil change before I drove to San Diego and back and then took a series of jumps off a rise in the road by the railroad tracks a few miles from my house. Now it's a miracle my car even responds to the key in the ignition or my foot on the pedal. I had to do something before my only means of transportation turned into a yellow metal box with sweat-smelling upholstery and a radio.

Last Saturday, I set out to remedy the situation. I hopped into my car (using the passenger side door and sliding over to the left since the lock on the driver's door was jammed), turned on the engine and eased out onto the main road.

In case you've never driven a four-cylinder two-door before, something about the open road demands more pressure on the accelerator. Even treacherous driving environments don't take away from the car's desire to be driven - and to be driven recklessly. In retrospect, I probably should have considered the oil situation and kept my speed within the legal limit, but at that moment I didn't have any retrospect. All I had was the wind in my face (the window control was not jammed) and the wind was whispering sweet nothings of dangerous velocity. It said some other things too, that I won't share here.

The railroad tracks were a few hundred feet ahead and I sped up to take the jump. I think I actually got some air on the attempt, but the return-to-earth impact caused such a jostle that I can't be sure. I tapped the breaks for a known speed trap and kept going toward the service stop.

As I pulled into the parking lot and waived to Cindy the clipboard-clad attendant, I heard the most obnoxious noise imaginable. It was a scraping sound combined with a whirring whine that, if heard on a car lot, would just shout "discount." I stopped and looked around. Nothing unusual. Then I checked my radio. The new CD from Whiskey Falls was in the drive, but the noise was like nothing I'd ever heard from Seven Williams, even in his darker moments. As I budged forward the scraping continued. Bracing, I turned up the music, gunned the engine and let out the clutch just enough to overpower the resistance and move over the sidewalk. I couldn't hear the noise anymore, but I wasn't completely comforted either.

Cindy marched to my window and went through her scripted customer service routine. I interrupted her with a hand, walked around to the front of my car and looked underneath, half expecting to see an alien or the Loch Ness monster. What I saw was less glamorous but similarly enigmatic.

Protruding from beneath my engine, lying there in all its indignity, was a car part. I really can't describe it any more accurately than that. It had all the telltale markings: it looked greasy and dangerous and was beneath a car. It was the kind of thing Billy Bob Thornton might put on his Christmas tree as an ornament. I told Cindy to come take a look.

She was appropriately impressed but had no idea what to do with it. I told her it wasn't there this morning and that I really didn't think it liked being on the underbelly of my vehicle, given its regular complaining. Cindy concurred.

The kind folks at the oil change sent me over to a mechanics shop with the encouraging words "they might be able to help you." I repeated the cringe inducing grating noise as I entered the mechanics parking lot and, as if called by my car's underside, Jose came sprinting from the store to help.

It took Jose all of three minutes to identify the problem. If only Guinness had been there to record the attempt, I might have had my name on the record too. Apparently my fan had fallen off its hinges during some kind of "jostling" and was now hanging by its air ducts, suspended beneath the engine. I assured Jose I could think of "no single incident" in my driving that could have caused such a problem and it was true because I didn't know for sure which railroad jump had disrupted the fan. But my mouth kept talking and I added that I knew "hardly anything about cars," a mistake I paid for at the checkout. Ouch.

Cars can be really expensive. After changing the oil (ouch), I drove over to a local filling station and spent some more Christmas money (ouch), the light on my dashboard reminded me of an outstanding problem with my breaks (future ouch) and the post office box had a letter from my car insurance company and they weren't just checking in to say "hi" (big ouch). And that's just transportation; think about all the other things needed to go on a date.

In other news, I'll be asking my boss at General Mills for some more hours and I'll be eating Cup A Noodles and green beans until future notice. Not that that's much of a change, but as long as I am suffering I may as well have your pity.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why I Dropped Out of College

School officially starts today. My fellow contributors are off to classes starting this morning and tomorrow, respectively. And while they're sitting in rows of desks listening to instructors tell them not to cheat and what the late homework policy is, I'll be driving from one job interview to the next begging for gainful (or at least semi reputable) employment.

I've completed 33.5 college credits and was sitting on the honor roll until about three weeks before finals (when I abruptly stopped studying because I had an itch). If I stayed in school a few more years, I'd be walking around with a Business degree and my starting salaries would be much juicier. I might even make double digits per hour. Crazy!

But that's not going to happen. I will never get my degree. I spent more than a year of life sitting in class writing FCN posts, and all I'm getting out of it is a lot of FCN posts. And zebra doodles, which are harder to draw than you might think. I don't mind keeping our eleven readers stimulated, but you'd think I could find a way to be more productive with a year of my life. Oh well.

So I know what you're thinking: "He's not taking class notes! One less contributor! Oh noes!" Well, worry not. After a long and sweaty FCN staff meeting, I managed to convince my fellow contributors to let me stay on in the same capacity I formerly worked in. It won't just be class notes anymore - now it'll be Funny Waiting For Tech Support Phone Call Notes or Funny Pool Cleaning Notes (or whatever job I end up getting). But since

FWFTSPCNoFPCN(oWJIEUG)aFCN

is not a catchy acronym, my fellow contributors were insistent on leaving the name as is. On the plus side, since we're not changing our name, your bookmarks will stay up to date. You do have FCN bookmarked, right? Right?

Moving on.

Another thing you're thinking: "Don't drop out of college, you loser! Stay the course!" Well, I'm not staying the course, and there are a few reasons:

Personality. My personality is such that I'm not the kind of guy who finishes what he starts. So dropping out of school comes naturally. Some people are just quitters. Think of that song by Shania Twain. That's how it is. Except take the opposite of that, and that's what I am.

Mind-bending boredom. As you could probably tell by reading FCN, college classes are like lullabies or "you've been a bad boy" lectures from people who are not my mom. They put me to sleep. Maybe being a cashier will be more exciting.

College people. There are two kinds of college students: Macho Emotional Wrecks and Emo Emotional Wrecks. I'm both. Neither are any fun to hang out with. In addition, students are uber-sheltered, non-unique, not on their last boyfriend yet, think of themselves as artists, smell funny, stay up too late, eat junk (but not enough of it), are politically active but politically ignorant, poorly dressed, drunk or wish they were, too young, nerdy, fat, ugly, boorish victims who play their iPods too loud.

Money. Textbooks are expensive. Minimum wage is - like - negative expensive. Show me the moolah!

Time. Even when you're not studying, college takes time. Not going to college frees up time for all those derelict pursuits I value more than warming the seat with my student-issue tushie. Like getting level 17 Dark Elf.

Tackiness. For about two decades, every time anyone wanted money from me, I turned to the person next to me and said: "Hey, can you cover for me?" Now, I can say: "Hey, can I pay you back later?" Eventually I'll have to move to Switzerland, but in the meantime, I'll be golden. Instead of broke.

So I'll concede that my long-term future is a bit dim. But it's all good, because today, as the other contributors and many of you in the reading audience march off to class, I'll be right here laughing.

And scrubbing.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Going Bananas for the Guinness Book of World Records

Of all the things to accomplish in this time on earth (sky diving, street miming and dropping a twenty dollar bill out of a sky scraper to watch the masses scramble down below) one of my highest priorities is to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. This respected book, published in volume format every anum, lists the greatest accomplishments and other physical feats of the last 52 weeks. It tells which woman has the longest beard (an 11 inch Moses motif), how many phone books a strongman has torn apart, longest spaghetti nasal ejection (just over nine feet) and the heaviest weight pulled with the the skin of one’s back. The performances listed are so astounding, so compelling, and so just plain random that they drive even a normally derelict individual to at least make an attempt at greatness.

There is a finite number of names the record keepers can fit onto the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records. Most people who try never get into print and are relegated to the oblivion of “almosts,” those who suffer all the disadvantages of an attempt but don't get to be recorded in infamy. That makes those who are fortunate enough to be blessed with recognition that much more awesome. It is a great achievement, a high honor, a noble goal. Greatness, majesty and splendor are all words that describe what a placement in the book of records means. Readers may have to fight against disgusting natural impulses when they read and see pictures of a record, but they always turn the page and go back for more.

I am particularly impressed with the food records. Participants gulp down large quantities of food and, in order for the record to be counted, must keep the food down for twenty minutes. Trips to the bathroom are monitored by Guinness staff who ensure that all food eaten stays in the stomach. The regulations also stipulate bites per spoonful limitations and one person was disqualified mid-attempt for speaking with his mouthful. Despite these strict rules, some significant appetite erasing records have been set. Various brave souls have eaten large quantities of mashed potatoes, pork rinds, and even salted peanuts in order to get their names immortalized in the big book of records. One Atalanta resident managed to eat 27 dozen oysters in ten minutes. Given that oysters are an aphrodisiac, the night after the attempt must have been immensely frustrating.

The key to breaking a world record is to find a record that seems deflated, something you could do better on. A fingernail that is less than three or four inches long, a toy collection that is on the low side of 1,000 count and a miniature tomato larger than an ounce are all likely candidates. Once you find your target, start training and get ready to become a record holder.

My personal target, after perusing the 2008 edition for over four hours, is "most bananas eaten and pealed (not necessarily in that order) in one minute." The number for the banana record is so low that it looks like a typo. It looks like something I could do without practice, training or preparation. According to Guinness, the most bananas eaten in their natural state in one minute is two. Dos. Zwei.

Without Guinness’ unbiased witnesses and a reliable timer on hand, I will not make an attempt to beat the record (the effort would be wasted without official recognition), but I have thought about banana eating strategy, including jaw and throat elongation for maximum banana packing and, at least in my mind, I can conceive of eating at least three bananas within the alloted time. The number I could actually push down the hatch depends on their relative size. If I were allowed to by the Guinness people, I would visit the supermarket and pick out the smallest, puniest and softest bananas possible. And, as long as I am making an attempt, I may as well smash them a little.

Speaking of smashing, I think that might be a good way of getting the bananas down quickly. After peeling them open (one by one) I will mash them with my palm so that they don’t get stuck anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract and form an embarrassing cork. After that, my only strategy is just to masticate as quickly and efficiently as possible. I will leave all manners behind (except those mandated by Guinness) and get banana into stomach without a lot of formal introduction.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

If one of you wants to set a world record, find your own category to make a try. And, if you decide try to steal away my chance at glory before I make an attempt, as I suspect many of the less scrupulous among you are considering, send us a video so we can share it with the rest of FCN.

And stay clear of oysters.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

On the Appropriate Length of a Humor Blog Post


When FCN was started, the topic was just a faint glimmering trace of discontent. Since then, it has risen to be one of the most hotly contested issues on a blog that frankly isn't very hotly contested.

How long should FCN's posts be?

Some of our readers see long posts as free content. A recent 2400 word Desperate Student made them feel happy deep down inside. Other readers just skim the headlines - literally. The latest FCN staff meeting yielded inconclusive results. Some favored the 3 to 8 paragraph rule. Others favored making the posts as long as the author preferred, consequences be hung. Still others favored removing all the HTML in the blog with the exception of a nice Hannah Montana background. This includes removing the posts.

With this inconclusive non-consensus, we were forced to consult FCN's extended family. Mommy G pointed us to that famous Justin Timberlake quote: "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Or was that Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I can't keep the two apart in my mind.

Uncle Wally started crying when we approached him. Between sobs, he urged us to make our posts as short as possible - preferably between one and five. Syllables.

Em refused to give us advice unless we promised not to use her name in the post, which of course we just couldn't do.

So we're left in a bit of a tizzy. We don't know what to think. And with every sentence we draw this post out, we alienate some (like jellyfish) and please others (like 200). So we turn to you, the noble reader. How long should our posts be? Tell us what to think.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Life Tip #49

Don't consume illicit drugs.

If you must consume illicit drugs, don't open your door without checking who is outside.

If you must consume illicit drugs and open your door without checking who is outside, don't be surprised when it's thieves coming to steal your pot.

If you must consume illicit drugs and open your door without checking who is outside and are surprised when it's thieves coming to steal your pot, please, don't cry to the police.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Aviso: Muestra de Boleta

I just received the Sample Ballot for my first ever Presidential Primary and it came with a big surprise. No, it's not that Tom Tancredo is the first GOP candidate listed or that Alan Keyes made the ballot. Nor is it that the Sample Ballot arrived before any of the candidate's campaign solicitation. Rather, I was shocked to learn that I will have a say in the Mexican election.

It's true. Written in large letters on the front of the ballot are the words "ELECCION PRIMARIA PRESIDENCIAL," which, roughly translated from Latino, means "Mexican Presidential Election." Then, in clear and bold Chicano, the rest of the very femininely colored document provides guidelines for voting (how to leave a hanging chad and how to vote if you are dead). Even the name of the county (San Joaquin) is written in Spanish.

This is amazing! Mexican workers have long had a say in our elections, now we get to meddle in theirs; with this election, Californians control the political destiny of our neighbor to the south.

But who should I vote for? Fox had a great mustache, but Calderon has that weasel face that many politicians wish for but only a precious few ever achieve. Eww, yes! Neither of them are remarkably handsome, although Fox might lay claim to some Clark Gable similarities and Calderon could be mistaken for an Enron executive. Oh what a tough decision! Maybe I should do what the average American does and just not vote.

But my civic duty calls. The neighbors to the south need my input. Not voting would be a betrayal, a declaration of anarchy. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, even the country that is turning our borders into mince meat and our sovereignty into ash. So I must vote.


It seems as if every election gives me the opportunity to vote for a foreigner. First there was Schwarzenegger who was born in the land of weight room and then came Jerry McNerney, my congressional representative, who, last I checked, hailed from the planet Mars. Even if I turn to the English part of the ballot (where the Cali side of Mexifornia gets its say), there are a series of propositions designed by "Native" - because they were here first - gaming interests. Goodness people, whatever happened to the soft, overweight, white, English speaking, male politician?

Give me Duke Cunningham and Jack Abramoff any day.

So I'll be brushing up on my Spanish as well as Mexican current events over the next few weeks in order to preparo for el Super Tuesday eleccion. A lot of work, I know. On the plus side, now I have something in common with everyone else on my street.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Enviga Nights

That's a strange name for a post, huh. And it's slightly disturbing to boot. And it has absolutely zero-zip-zilch to do with this post. Well, I can apologize for it but I can't change it. I lost a bet. So that's the name of the post. Actually I didn't lose a bet. But a pretty girl was involved. So was the word please.

While we're on the subject of apologizing, I ought to mention that all three of us feel pretty bad about not posting on Friday. We knew we wouldn't be able to make it and we didn't even give you loyal readers a warning. Missing a post isn't a very auspicious way to kick off the year. We should have at least given a notice of absence. Better yet, we should have posted. But we didn't, because we were on the road.

N left earlier last week for a debate competition near San Diego. Being bums, C and I stayed home and watched Bonanza reruns for a few days. When the need to wash the dishes grew too great to bear, we formed a convoy with some other homies and made an overnight drive to meet up with N. We left late Thursday evening, and that's why there wasn't a post Friday morning.

A lot of crazy things happen when you cram five young adults into a small, bright yellow sedan and go on an overnight road trip. The anecdotes that follow (which follow a Restroom theme) are not representative of the general atmosphere of the trip. Honest. No really.

So we drove to a rest stop a half-hour from the tournament grounds and parked to catch a few hours of sleep. We were pretty tired by this point. I extricated myself from the car and wandered over to the restrooms. There were two buildings. The closest one was marked women and had a bright yellow tape across the door which said: "CLOSED. PLEASE USE OTHER SIDE."

Well I obviously didn't have any interest in the women's restroom, so I went over to the other building and took care of business. As I exited, a portly woman brushed past me through the door.

F: Hey, you might not want to go in there.
PORTLY WOMAN: Why not?
F: It's a men's.
PORTLY WOMAN: No, it's not. (points at sign)
F: What ... what the ... (notices that sign does indeed say women's)
PORTLY WOMAN: It's a women's.
F: ... Oooops.
PORTLY WOMAN: That's okay. You're gay, right?
F: What? No. No, I'm straight. Honest mistake.

I ducked around the corner and met my two male travel mates coming from the other side of the building. As it turns out, both buildings had women's restrooms on the north side and men's restrooms on the south side. Who would have guessed? My male companions had a nice laugh. Hahaha. Yes indeed. Good clean fun.

We went back to the car. After a half-hour of squirming, we all found places to tuck our legs into and drifted off to sleep.

Three hours later, it was time to hit the road again. I was absolutely socked. I was sleepier than van Winkle on Nyquil. And when your brain is sleepy, it follows familiar routines. With my eyes barely open, I went off and used the restrooms again. As I was washing my hands, I realized that I was once again in the women's restroom. Without bothering to rinse, I dashed for the door.

Too late.

PORTLY WOMAN: (suspiciously) Hello again.
F: Hey.
PORTLY WOMAN: I see you found the women's restroom. Again.
F: Yeah ... nice convenient spot. Close to the ... parking lot. The cars.
PORTLY WOMAN: It's okay to admit it. I won't condemn you.
F: Thanks, but I'm good.
F: This is kind of awkward.
F: I'm going to go now.

I left again, now wide awake and desperately rationalizing my repeat slip-up. This was one of those mistakes you don't want to make twice, especially in such succession, especially in the same spot, especially getting accosted both times. It's like I was living out a Life Tip.

I went back to the car. Hahaha. Yes indeed. Good clean fun.

So we went to the tournament. It was nice.

Yesterday morning, we saddled up and headed back home. Well, I happen to be a big fan of a soda that really flushes - ahem, travels - through the system fast, especially when consumed in the prodigious quantities I consider appropriate. Around noon, nature began to call. What followed was a first-class exposition on some of the differences between myself and my dear fellow contributor C, whose turn it was to drive at the moment. Please read carefully, people. This is a glimpse of what I have to put up with in FCN staff meetings. Read and feel sorry for me.

F: Hey, you'll never guess what.
C: Boxing became a legal sport in 1901?
F: ... Yeah, and you know what else?
C: A Major League Baseball team uses ...
F: Actually, no. I need a bathroom break.
C: What! Why didn't you use it when we left?
F: I did. That was a hundred ounces ago.
C: Well, you're going to have to hold it. We're making really good time.
F: Okay, but whenever you get the urge to stretch your legs, follow it.
C: I get plenty of stretch holding the accelerator pedal down.

T+30 minutes

F: Yyyyyyo.
C: (Turns down music a notch) Hm? What?
F: Any time you're ready.
C: Oh, right. Forgot about that. Sorry.
F: It's all good.

T+60 minutes

F: So I'm told that human charity is a virtue.
C: I'm told patience is a virtue.
F: I'm told if you don't pull over and stretch your legs every now and then you'll get a blood clot.
C: This is good for you. It's developing your muscles. It's like a free workout.
F: If I explode randomly, you won't have to wonder why I didn't leave a note.

T+90 minutes

F: Look, I'm sweating. I'm actually sweating.
C: Why can't you just hold it already?
F: I am, thank goodness. (Awkward silence.) Say, do we have any painkillers in the car? Because I've got cramps. In case any of you were wondering why I'm all hunched over with my head between my knees, that's why.
FEMALE HOMIE 1: I've got Ibuprofen in the trunk.
F: Sweet. Do you mind?
FEMALE HOMIE 1: We have to stop so I can get over there.
F: You hear that? We have to stop so she can get to the trunk.
C: You already know my answer. We're not too far from the rest stop. Just relax.
MALE HOMIE: No, the last thing we want is for him to relax.
F: I concur. Maybe we can access the trunk from in here. Let me try something.
(60 seconds later)
F: Sorry about that.
EVERYONE ELSE: That's okay.
F: So I'll just sit here and hold it like before. And in the meantime, I'm going to stop drinking Coke.

T+120 Minutes

FEMALE HOMIE 2: Whoa, you're looking kind of sick.
F: Why don't we just pull over and I can get this over with?
C: On the road?
F: I'll just hop over that fence into the meadow.
C: That meadow is carpeted with cacti.
F: You're impossible.
C: You're impatient.
F: You smell funny.
C: Funnier than your FCN posts.
F: Oh, that was clever. You come up with that yourself?
C: I would retort if I weren't so busy being competitive.

T+180 Minutes

F: Aaaaaaaaaaah. Aaaaaahaaaaaa. Aaaah.
C: (turns up music)
F: I just lost muscle control below the knees.
C: When you lose muscle control of your mouth, we'll be getting somewhere.

T+214 Minutes

C: Well, the tank is empty. We're coasting.
F: What!
(Soon after)
C: We'll have to get out and push.
F: No way. I am NOT getting out of the fetal position. Not in a million years.
C: And I'm not letting the ladies push so get out of the car.
FEMALE HOMIE 2: I can push.
F: Oh look. Now I feel bad.
C: Take his legs.
MALE HOMIE: Got it.

So we pushed the car down the shoulder. There was a barbed wire, electric fence on both sides of the road. I had no alternatives. I helped push the car, but with my legs crossed at the knee. And then again at the ankle.

Four miles later, we reached a gas station. I abandoned my post and hopped into the convenience store. Gum, tylenol, and soda wizzed by on either side. I slammed into the restroom door and hit a soft body on the other side. I ducked into the restroom and stared in horror. It was the portly woman from before. She was standing in line with several other portly women who were waiting for two very occupied stalls.

F: No way! How'd you get here?
PORTLY WOMAN FROM BEFORE: I knew it all along.
F: I'm sorry. I'm just in a huge rush.
PORTLY WOMAN FROM BEFORE: You can cut in front of me if you want.
F: (Turning to go) Nono, I'll just find the men's ...
PORTLY WOMAN FROM BEFORE: (Blocking my exit) Enough of this. It's time for you to end the charade.
F: (Growing frantic) No, you don't understand. I've had a boatload of Coke and I've been holding it for hours. I really need to go.
ANOTHER WOMAN: You can go ahead of us.
YET ANOTHER WOMAN: Sure, go right ahead.
AN IRRITATING WOMAN: You're gay, right?
F: No! I am not gay! This is all just a big mistake. Can we talk about this later with me on the other side of that door?
PORTLY WOMAN FROM BEFORE: Don't listen to him, ladies. He's just not willing to come clean.
STILL ANOTHER WOMAN: It's okay. You can tell us.
F: I am seriously not gay. Seriously seriously.
WOMAN AT FRONT OF LINE: Then why are you all doubled over like that?
F: I really need to go now!
WOMAN AT FRONT OF LINE: (Stepping away from stall door as a portly woman exits it) Help yourself.

I glanced at the Portly Woman from before, who still blocked my exit with a firm glare and crossed arms. I was in pretty strong physical pain. I had to make a choice. So I made it. I hobbled down the line of women, shut the stall door, and took care of the problem.

Hahaha. Yes indeed. Good clean fun.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Note to Self #4

Let the umbrella dry out before closing it up for the summer.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Pine Scent Cologne

Everything is going back into the box and into the attic or basement, wherever seasonal garbage calls home. The wreaths, fake holly and bulbous objects that no doubt have a name, but are so rarely mentioned that they've been left out of the dictionary are meticulously wrapped in soft tissues and lovingly stowed for next Christmas.

The tree, too, suffers the same fate. Most American Christmas celebrators wouldn’t dream of bringing a real pine tree into their homes. The hassle of the pointy needles, the sticky sap and watering a live plant every day has been alleviated by corporate America. Now instead of visiting a quaint, rural Christmas tree farm where the old man who looks like Santa Claus without trying tells the story of the blight that almost “stole this year’s Christmas,” we march to our storage locations and find our perfectly symmetrical, seven foot “Holiday Tree.”

In the old days, fake Christmas trees were almost as bad as the real ones. The plastic pine needles would come off and had to be vacuumed, the branches needed manual placement and an artistic eye to simulate realism and some cynics concluded that the only advantage was the elimination of sap.

Today’s trees are much more technologically innovative. I’ve heard a rumor about a holographical tree that changes decorative themes every ten minutes. Apparently the computerized image is suggested for civic centers where one religion is frowned upon. The technology can change from a tree, to a manger scene, to a menorah and back again.

Our tree isn't so jazzed up that we had to take out a second mortgage to cover the cost of electricity, but it is a far cry from the "natural" monstrosities of old. The branches open as one with a swift, umbrella-like motion (think Veggie Tales Christmas Special), the needles are guaranteed green and will stay on longer with a new adhesive innovation and the smell of a real pine tree is matched with a spray-on scent that gives the plastic potpourri the final touches of the season.

After Christmas, the tree was folded up and returned to the attic with all the other holiday accoutrements, but we had oodles of spray on pine scent left over. And, smart marketers that the product developers are, the artificial pine boasted an expiration date of six months; it wouldn’t last until next Christmas.

Unwilling to throw out a perfectly good bottle of Christmas smell, I decided to use it as a replacement for my current dime store (or, as Carrie Underwood would call it, bathroom) cologne. The smell was only a little stronger and, as my younger brother pointed out, seasonally accurate. My old stuff caused a minor itch and some occasional hives anyway so I figured the change might be good for my skin.

I applied liberally, putting three complete squirts under my collar and a couple sprays each for my wrists. My senses were immediately assaulted by the wonderful scent of Christmas pine and I knew instantly I had made a good decision.

Work at General Mills was interesting. My boss had a smart comment about “somebody smelling a little fresh” and my female coworker laughed and shook her head when I explained the “alpine stench,” as she characterized my new style.

At lunch, a woman three booths over started sneezing and I a few small children stared at me with expressions reminiscent of posters for third-world starvation. I ordered a burger in the hopes that the smell would overpower the pine.

When I got home that evening (leaving my dress shirt by the washing machine, under the pretense that detergent would get the smell back to normal) and met my mother, who had been out when I left in the morning, a look of utter concern crossed her normally sanguine features. Apparently, the product had created a large, nasty looking rash wherever it had touched my skin. The marks had been covered by a long sleeved shirt during the day, but were now obvious in their hideous redness. Scabby and puffy, they emitted a stench that overpowered the pine. I was happy to smell something different, even if the new odor was unpleasant.

Fortunately another modern innovation - cortisone - helped alleviate the reaction and my neck and wrists are back to their normal pale color. Thanks for your concern.

I am, however, still looking for a use for quarter of a bottle of artificial pine scent. Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

On Psychopath Rights

For a long time, we here at FCN have more or less kept to personal issues and stayed out of politics. We don't like to embroil ourselves in the system when our ideas are already so well defended by people like Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama (both of whom we are strongly considering endorsing for President).

But there is a critical issue that is going almost totally undressed unaddressed in today's political debate, and it's high time a dialog was begun. In a society that prides itself on providing equal rights to all, FCN must be the voice that defends an undefended minority: the psychopaths.

That's right, the psychopaths.

Few people don't know that psychopathy encompasses a small but growing minority, including approximately one in five federal prison inmates. And while other minorities like women, asians, homosexuals, and vegetarians are making steady inroads toward acceptance in modern society, psychopaths are still regarded with an emotional, primeval horror.

Psychopaths make most people feel very uncomfortable. Think back to the first time you saw someone with a skin color radically different from your own. Probably the only thing keeping you from hiding your discomfort was the fact that you knew (because you had been told beforehand) that race has no effect on personhood. When you meet a gay person (this assumes you are not also gay), you don't recoil with a queasy expression. This is because you know better. You know that gays are people too.

Alas, no one is speaking in defense of the American Psychopath. There are no Psychopath organizations and the few support groups all treat psychopathy like some sort of mental disease, just as the American Psychiatric Association did homosexuality until 1973. There are no Psychopath rallies, holidays, or parades. There are no cities associated with psychopathy (although I went to Nice on the French Riviera once and thought they were pretty open about it).

Here's the deal: in a society which actively seeks to embrace every sort of minority, psychopathy is inexplicably and openly condemned. It's not acceptable to be a psychopath in today's day and age. You don't see psychopaths coming out of the closet! Why? Because if the public gets wind of it, you'll find yourself behind bars or worse within a matter of months.

Oh, you think we're exaggerating. You think the criminal justice system doesn't have a bias against psychopaths. Then how do you explain the fact that fully half of all convicted serial and repeat rapists are also psychopaths? Obviously this is because psychopaths don't stand a chance before a prejudiced jury.

Someone ought to do a To Kill a Mockingbird remake involving a psychopath.

Folks, it's time to set our primitive discriminatory misgivings aside and embrace all Americans as truly equal. It's time to realize that psychopaths are people too, which of course means we need to treat them as if they were exactly the same as everyone else. It's time to let go of our fears and take the hands of the people on either side, and unite in a great big circle and sing kumbaya.

Maybe then psychopaths will have true representation, equality and opportunity in this country. If you are voting in any election tomorrow, please don't hold anyone's psychopathic tendencies or identity against them. Look beyond the brain-deep flaws and cast your vote without prejudice.