Monday, October 30, 2006

Cinema juvenile

My wife and I finally went to see Jackass: Number Two. This was completely her idea, of course. I wanted to see Marie Antoinette, but Kara insisted on watching grown men hurtle projectiles into each others’ crotches for an hour and a half instead.

Before we decided to go see it, I read a review that said, “Ask yourself this: Did the title make you laugh? If so, you’re probably the target audience.”

I hadn’t realized that the title was a joke at all. But when I went back and looked, yes, I did laugh. But I stopped laughing when I realized that I had just placed myself in the most unenviable of all categories: people who find toilet humor funny, but only when it’s explained to them. So I was indeed the target audience, only dumber.

I wouldn’t say that watching the movie has made me any smarter, but I will say that I look at life a little differently now. Being a homeowner for the past few years has made the world seem like such a fragile place. Everything breaks. Nothing withstands the test of time. Doorknobs fall off. Pipes transport water only when they feel like it. Nietzsche was probably a cheerful guy before he bought his first house. I bet he came up with the whole “God is dead” thing very soon after his roof sprung its first leak.

But Jackass has proven to me that the world is not nearly so fragile. You can stand blindfolded while a Siberian yak hits you in the shins so hard that you flip through the air and land on your face, and then do you know what happens? Nothing. You have a hearty laugh and then cut to the next scene, which probably involves getting attacked by a shark or being stuffed into a grocery cart and having your friends slingshot you into a closed garage door. But still, the people don’t die, like they obviously should. They don’t even seem to get seriously injured.

Darwin did not predict these people. The laws of nature do not apply. I can’t for the life of me figure out how the Jackass folks are all still alive. Chipping an occasional tooth seems to be the worst thing that ever happens to them. Requiring minor dental work after giving the Grim Reaper a wedgie seems a fairly small price to pay.

In reality, stupidity is not treated so charitably. When I was at summer camp as a kid, my friend Chris and I were hitting rocks into the woods with broom handles. We’d pitch the rocks to ourselves and swing away.

“Oh, there’s a perfect one,” Chris said, walking over closer to me and picking up a rock right by my feet.

At that moment, as Chris knelt down to pick up that rock, I thought we had an implicit understanding: I wouldn’t wait for him to get out of the way before hitting my next rock, and he wouldn’t stand up. To me, that seemed to be an agreement we could both be happy with.

Unfortunately, Chris didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. He stood up just as I started swinging, putting his head where nobody’s head ever wants to be: somebody else’s wheelhouse.

Most people go through their whole lives not knowing what it feels like to hit someone in the head with a broom handle as hard as they possibly can. But I found out exactly what it feels like, and it’s not good, though it’s probably a good measure better than being on the receiving end. I sure didn’t appreciate people laying all the blame at my feet, though, when Chris was clearly the one who reneged on our unspoken contract. It made his funeral really awkward for me.

Actually, after a brief bout with a medical condition commonly known as “being knocked senseless,” Chris enjoyed a full recovery, even graciously offering to help knock some sense into me.

You can strap Mike Todd to a rocket and fire him over a lake online at

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Respect the bovine bandana

On my way into the hardware store the other day, a guy stopped me in the parking lot to talk cars. Nobody ever stops me to talk cars. That’s like stopping Tucker Carlson to talk foxtrot. I can change a tire, refill the windshield washer fluid and rotate the radio stations, and that’s about it.

Thankfully, this guy asked the only three questions about my car (a Toyota “Don’t Call Me a Station Wagon” Matrix) that I could answer: what kind of mileage did it get, how old was it and how did I like it. It was nice of him to lob me some softballs. I’m glad he didn’t ask more difficult car questions, like why the letter V is used to signify how many cylinders a car has, because that just doesn’t make any sense. A cylinder looks nothing like a V. My car should be an O4, or maybe an I4 if you’re looking at it from the side.

I usually don’t do conversations with strangers very well. I never know how much I’m supposed to pry. Not prying enough makes it look like you don’t care, but too much prying makes it look like you’re interviewing the person to be a congressional page. Luckily for me, this guy did most of the talking. But his son finally indicated that our boring adult conversation had gone on long enough by aiming his space man action figure at me and going, “Pyoo, pyoo pyoo!”

“You got me!” I said. If I were in a sitcom, I would have clutched my chest and acted like John Wayne during a protracted death scene, perhaps tripping backwards over a pile of garden hoses or something, but you have to be careful when you’re hamming it up for a little kid in the presence of other adults. If the kid doesn’t laugh, you don’t get back the dignity you just spent. That’s a little more power than I’m going to give a kid who just murdered me in his imagination.

Now I’m tempted to go out and get one of those action figures for myself. Every time I want a conversation to end, I could just take it out of my pocket and go “Pyoo, pyoo pyoo!” and that would be that.

“Baby, would you mind rinsing off those dishes and…”

“Pyoo! Pyoo pyoo!” I’d reply.

“Mike, I didn’t see the report you were supposed to turn in last…”

“Pyoo pyoo pyoo!”

The applications of this technology are limitless. It mustn’t fall into the wrong hands.

I’ve noticed that people are much more likely to chat me up on the rare occasions when I’m wearing my ridiculous cow bandana, as I was on that day. People are really nice to me when I’m wearing that thing, perhaps because it makes me look deserving of sympathy. It’s just a black-and-white bandana with cows printed all over it, but it seems to have magical powers, like the Great Tiger’s turban from Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!, except that instead of telling you when I’m going to fly around the ring and punch you in the face, it makes you be nicer to me.

Still, I don’t wear it that often because it pushes my hair back like baseball caps do, and people have told me that baseball caps are the number one cause of baldness. People have also told me that slicing through fingers in the attempt to slice through bagels is the number one cause of trips to the emergency room. All of this information seems slightly suspect to me. In my personal experience, the number one cause of trips to the emergency room is igniting model rocket engines in one’s bare hands, and I’m pretty sure that baldness is the number one cause of baseball caps.

You can borrow Mike Todd’s cow bandana before your court date online at

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Spring back, fall face forward

The end of daylight savings time is one of my favorite days of the year. It should be called The Clock in the Dashboard is Right Again Day. For six months, many of us have been mentally subtracting an hour from the clocks that we were too lazy to adjust back in April. But all that hard laziness is finally about to pay off. As a bonus, you get an extra hour of sleep, and it magically becomes okay that you left the snow tires on all summer. What an awesome day.

In case you’re thinking that The Clock in the Dashboard is Right Again Day isn’t happening this week, you’re probably right. I have no idea when it is. Every year, people like me depend on people like Mom to call and inform us that it’s time to change the clocks, hopefully before we accidentally get out of bed before noon on a weekend.

This fall is an especially significant one for me, as my fifth service anniversary at work is coming up (the Ergonomic Mouse Pad Anniversary). I think it’s true what they say: you’ll never forget your first half-decade of servitude.

Five years ago, right after I started working, a couple of my college buddies came up to visit me in my new apartment. On Saturday night, some of my co-workers joined us, we all walked across the grocery store parking lot that was right next to the apartment complex, ending up at the corner bar and grill, where we performed the public service of ensuring that none of the restaurant’s ice went to waste in any non-margarita applications.

On the walk home, my buddy Rory crawled into an abandoned shopping cart, squatted down and said, “Push me!”

Never being one to turn down a friend in need of locomotion, I obliged. “Faster!” Rory said, smacking the sides of the cart. So I pushed faster.

Before long, we were tearing across the parking lot, the wheels of the cart madly clacking back and forth, my co-workers wondering who the heck had interviewed me in the first place.

“Faster!” Rory said, clapping, but my RPMs were already maxed out.

And then we both saw it: the curb. There was still plenty of time to stop, or to go around it, but it sure looked to me like the curb was shaped, fatefully, like a ramp. The last thought (and I use the term loosely) that I remember having was this: “We’ll be fine if we just hit it fast enough.”

“Oh, man,” Rory said, ducking lower into the cart, but I knew that his misgivings were unfounded. Anyone who’s seen Bo and Luke Duke ramp over rivers and construction vehicles knows that they didn’t leave Roscoe P. Coltrane in the dust by slowing down right before the ramp. No, they hit the gas. Fast = yee-haw. It was simple physics.

I remembered later that physics was one of my worst classes. Applied physics turned out to be even more painful, which I learned the moment I physically applied my face to the handlebar on that grocery cart.

From the official accounts, Rory sailed through the air far enough to clear two school buses and a helicopter end-to-end. Somehow, he managed not to even skin his hands. I, however, hit the trifecta of minor facial injuries – black eye, bloody nose and fat lip. Lady Luck graciously allowed me to keep my teeth, even though we both knew I didn’t deserve them.

On Monday morning, I stealthily darted past my boss’s open door.

“Good lord, what happened to your face?” she called after me. Legend has it that even to this day, if you listen closely enough on some of our conference calls, you can still hear co-workers saying “shopping cart” when they cough.

You can take Mike Todd through the express checkout lane online at

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Biffed it big time

Hey McFly, here's a video that makes Youtube worth $1.6 billion all by itself:

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Organic panic

You might think that becoming a hippie would cost a lot of money, what with the investments you’d need to make in hacky sacks, bongos and patchouli oil, but my wife Kara and I just discovered that you can transform yourself into a hippie down at the grocery store for only a buck. We recently did just that by paying a whole extra dollar for organic milk. Buying organic things automatically makes you a hippie, like how adding McGee to the end of a nickname automatically makes it funnier.

We decided to become hippies shortly after we heard a news report on the radio that linked growth hormones injected into milk cows with twinning rates in Americans that have nearly quintupled. The hormones are banned in Britain, where twinning rates are much lower. But in the U.S., we shoot up our cows like we think they’re going to play Major League baseball, even though we know full well that most cows perform their best on the baseball diamond as mitts.

Kara looked at me and said, “I’m never drinking milk again.” Seeing as how we eat cereal for dinner several nights a week, this news report was clearly going to pose a problem for us. There’s just not a good way to prepare cereal without using milk; it’s really tough to get the Rice Krispies onto the skewer without breaking them.

So we decided to go the organic route. It’s worth a buck for the peace of mind. We’ve seen what happens to people when they have twins. My cousin Dana had twins a few years ago, and her two children are spectacular, a pleasure to be around and splendid in every way. But about two months after they were born, we visited Dana and her husband Dave, and they were green. I don’t mean that they were really pale-looking, or that they had a slight tinge of green about them. They were green and they were beat up, like they had gone ten rounds in a bare-knuckle bout with the Jolly Green Giant.

“We’re in Survival Mode right now,” Dana said. They hadn’t slept in months. They didn’t even have the benefit of outnumbering their babies. Survival Mode didn’t look like much fun. Given the choice, I think I’ll stick with Sleep ‘Til Noon on Saturday Mode.

Kara and I would still be buying regular old milk if having twins was more like how it looks on Everybody Loves Raymond. I never watched that show when it was on prime time TV, but now that it’s on syndication, you can actually change channels and watch Everybody Loves Raymond during the commercials for Everybody Loves Raymond. You have to flip to the Food Network to find something that isn’t Raymond or Law and Order.

Now that I’ve finally seen a few episodes, I might suggest that more appropriate title for the show would be: Everybody Occasionally Chuckles at Raymond When They’re Not Marveling at What a Terrific Harpy He Married. Man, she’s mean. The grumble bunny never goes back in the hole in that house.

During about the fourth episode Kara and I watched together, a kid wandered onto the screen and referred to Ray as “Dad.”

“Where’d that kid come from? They don’t have kids in this show, do they?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen any kids before. That’s weird,” Kara said.

Then another kid came hopping down the stairs. Then another.

“They’re supposed to have three kids? No way.”

Then Ray referred to two of the kids as twins. I could get used to having twins like that. They come downstairs every fourth episode to move the plot along, then they go back upstairs and play silently for a month.

You can fortify Mike Todd with Vitamin D online at

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Getting Lost

Okay, you can talk about “Lost” around me now. I was worried that you were going to spill the mangos and ruin the whole thing before I got a chance to catch up to you, but my wife Kara and I finally watched the second season on DVD, so we’re all spoiler-proof now.

I can’t believe we made it until now without anybody ruining it for us. Back when I was the only person in the world who hadn’t seen the movie “Scream,” I dodged conversations about it for years until I finally broke down and rented the videotape. Just as I was popping it into the VCR, I pointed to this guy on the cover and said to my roommate, “I didn’t know this dude was in the movie.”

“Oh, you mean the guy who kills everybody?” he asked. I learned a very important lesson that day: if you don’t have any better options available, a VCR tape makes a passable blunt instrument.

But Kara and I successfully avoided everyone’s conversations about “Lost” until we finally got to see it for ourselves, and we’re lucky we did. The show is definitely worth donating many hours of your life to, hours that you might have wasted in meaningful conversations with your family or reconnecting with old friends. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s safe to say that there’s never been a more perfect amalgam of Gilligan’s Island and The X-Files.

In one of my favorite scenes from the second season, the character named John Locke told this other character named Thurston Howell III that the only way to find something is to quit looking for it. This might be a good first step, but I think that the only foolproof way to find something that you’ve lost is to accuse someone of stealing it from you. And that’s only after you ransack your bedroom, of course.

“Why would I want your iPod charger, Dude? I don’t even have an iPod,” your friend will say.

“Yeah, of course,” you say, but then you give them a look so that they know you’re on to them. If you don’t have to apologize to several people after you find your iPod charger in the freezer, then you just weren’t looking hard enough.

If you’ve accused friends and loved ones of stealing from you and you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, the next step is to give up and go buy a new one. Once you lose the receipt, you’ll find the one you already had.

Kara recently lost a book that she was dying to read. After searching around for a while, she decided that she’d better bulldoze everything off the coffee table onto the floor. It didn’t qualify as a proper ransacking, but it was a good first step.

“Maybe it got thrown out,” she said, eyeing my suspiciously. This was not quite as effective of a finding technique as accusing me of stealing it directly, but at least we were headed in the right direction.

I said, “Yeah, I was playing Throw Random Items in the Trash all day yesterday. I hope you didn’t want our spatula anymore, either.”

But eventually I pitched in, going into the other room and calling out, “What’s it called again? There’s one in here called ‘The Maiden’s Voyage.’”

“No, no, that’s not it,” she said.

“Oh, wait! Did you say it was called ‘Heart of a Warrior’?”

“Yes! That’s it!”

“Okay, it’s definitely not in here,” I said.

Also, if you want to sound smart, name a character in your TV show after a philosopher like John Locke, even if you have absolutely no idea what he philosophized about. If I don’t get my own TV show soon, I think I’ll name my next pet Voltaire. That’ll make me sound smart, even though I know far more about Voltron.

You can reach between your couch cushions and pull out Mike Todd online at