Extra duck sauce for everyone.

Today, we wandered around downtown Saratoga for a while because it was such a nice day out. Since it was a weekday, it was spectacularly uncrowded, and I loved it. We hit the coffee shop, the bookstore, the tattoo parlor, etc. When we done wasting time, we walked back to the car. The sidewalk we were walking on runs parallel to a tall iron fence that separates the street from Congress park.

When we were nearing the car, I heard some quacking, and when I looked toward the fence I saw a mallard duck walking on the grass. Through the bars, I spotted a kid and his mom walking on the path toward the duck. The kid was running ahead a little bit, his hand outstretched. He was holding a cracker or a piece of bread or something -- obviously trying to feed the duck. His mom wasn't exactly keen on the idea, and she was desperately calling him back. "Josh! Leave the ducks alone! They aren't hungry!"

I am a sucker for wildlife of any sort, and so before we got into the car I decided to quickly run up to the fence and see what I could see. I got to the fence just in time to realize that the ducks in question were actually pretty hungry after all.

It turns out there were two males and a female, and the lone female didn't seem to be having a very good time of it. Or maybe she was having a good time -- I confess to not knowing what sort of kinky stuff chick-ducks are into these days. One male was holding the female by the neck with his beak and humping the shit out of her while the other male looked on and quacked his encouragement. I'm not sure if he just liked to watch, or if he was waiting his turn, but I quickly turned back toward the car to let them have their privacy.

In retrospect though, given the fact that they were busily rough-humping a foot away from the sidewalk, I'm pretty sure they didn't care all that much about their privacy. Apparently, hot, juicy duck-love overrides all inhibitions.

At least I knew why mom wasn't too keen on letting junior attempt to shove crackers at them, and I applaud her-- because if there's one thing I hate, it's when complete strangers try to feed me crackers while I'm attempting to get busy. It really wrecks the mood.*

If you vote for me by clicking here, you will save a duck (or three) untold measures of embarrassment.

*Unless they're those bright orange crackers with the peanut butter inside.


A little foundation will fix that right up.

My wife is heavily into gardening -- Flowers, not vegetables. Every year around this time, she spends all her waking moments sticking various plants in various flower beds, and I spend all my waking moments trying to keep the various woodland creatures from eating them level with the ground.

In addition to the big things that I keep out with the electric fence and the motion-sensor sprinklers, there are other animals of smaller stature that also like nothing better than to chow down on a fresh salad every morning if given the chance.

Unfortunately, she keeps these creatures away by spraying the plants with a noxious concoction called "Deer Off" which consists mostly of rotten egg whites, hot pepper and garlic. While this is pretty effective at keeping the rabbits and porcupines from eating the plants, it also has the unfortunate side-effect of making our backyard smell like the dumpster behind an Italian restaurant.

None of that is the topic of this post, however. Instead, we will now talk about the art of copy writing as it pertains to selling perennials.

Yesterday, my wife came home with some lilies, and she showed me a picture of what they will look like when they bloom. Now, I can appreciate a pretty flower as much as the next guy, but I generally don't have much of an opinion other than to say "that's nice" or "cool colors."

Because I'm a freak who has some sort of deep-seated psychological need to read any words put in front of me, when she handed me the little picture card attached to the plant, I also read the description. When I did, I immediately started laughing.

What's so funny about day-lilies, you ask?

Well, to answer your question, I've scanned this fantastic copy writing masterpiece for your reading pleasure:

So my advice to you is this: If, for some inexplicable reason, your garden suddenly fills up with peasant girls and starts to look a little shabby around the edges, you should immediately drive to your local low-budget strip club and hire one of the early-shift women to come home with you and stand in the middle of them.

That should spruce things up nicely, because -- as every good copywriter knows -- nothing stands out in a crowd of peasant girls like a stripper with a black eye.

Click here to keep Diesel up to his eyeballs in peasant girls and strippers.


The past is gone but something might be found.

Wow, this might be the longest I've ever gone without posting. In the last couple of weeks, I've attended two concerts, gotten sick, gotten better, watched a ton of movies and otherwise wasted time doing things other than writing. So hey, let me just say it's good to be back. Today's my first day of vacation, so hopefully that means more adventures and more blogging. So I'm here all week. Also, try the veal.

So back to these shows I attended -- The Gin Blossoms and Dream Theater. No, it wasn't a double bill, although just considering the possibilities of that makes the part of my brain that likes music want to curl up in a ball on the ground and beg for sweet, merciful death.

If you're familiar with both of these bands, you'll know they reside on very opposite ends of the musical spectrum. I was a big Gin Blossoms fan back in the day, and they sound just as good now as they did back in the 90's. I'm relatively new to Dream Theater, but my friend Rikk is their tour manager so I got to experience a show on Sunday. I'll have more to say about that experience later.

I'll talk about the band that the sane people go to see first. The Gin Blossoms show was in a little theater in Connecticut, just over the NY border. It's a crazy-rich neighborhood, and just about every other car in the parking lot was some sort of Mercedes Benz, Lexus or BMW.

Put it this way: David Duchovny and Tea Leoni were in the front row at this particular show and nobody cared. (I'm not sure if that was because the people in this town are used to celebrities in their midst, or if it was because it was David Duchovny and Tea Leoni.)

The show itself was really good, and the band played a lot of tunes off their newest CD "Major Lodge Victory" released in late 2006. If you were ever a GB fan, you need to check it out. It will bring back memories and make you want to put the top down on your 911, put your arm around your best girl and just burn a hundred bucks-worth of gas that used to cost about twenty. But you don't care, because you're rich and you do what you want.

Initially, the crowd was a little stiff, and I think it made the band a bit uncomfortable. After the first few songs, Robin Wilson practically begged everyone to just get out of their seats and come down near the stage, so a lot of people finally did. He then pointed out the security guards, said there were only two of them, but if everyone behaved they could probably stay there for the rest of the show. Behavior really wasn't a problem -- given the average age of the audience, the area in front of the stage was basically just a broken hip waiting to happen. I am not entirely sure, but I think this particular venue is treated as a "night out" by the locals, and they tend to go see whatever happens to be there. I have to admit, I liked the crowd better when they weren't all riled up and clackin' their dentures. Mostly because when they were sitting down, I could see the stage.

We had pretty good seats. Since the place is so small, there really aren't any bad seats, so this was my view for every song except for the big hits:

During the hit songs, however, my view changed to this:

That's because Giant Shiny-Headed Guy stood up for the entire length of any song he recognized or even thought he recognized. It was pretty fucking annoying, but not as bad as what was going on a few seats over. My wife had Fat Janis Joplin doing the bad-acid dance right in front of her, which was way more annoying for multiple reasons. Picture Mystery Science Theater 3000 with a silhouette of Miss Piggy instead of Tom Servo, and you'll have a good idea of what we were up against.

I think my wife was most annoyed by the constant flipping-hair move, while I (being a drummer) was more annoyed by the fact that she was doing this spastic dance in double-time. This made her look as if she were being stung by bees, which is hard to not watch. Eventually, my wife took a walk and said something to her boyfriend to the effect of "if she's going to dance like she's on fire and trying to put herself out, please tell her to do it in the aisle with the rest of the crazy dancing folk."

So she did, and life was good. I've realized that some people are really so oblivious to their surroundings that they don't even know they're messing up someone else's good time, and if you point it out to them, they are sometimes willing to stop doing whatever it is that they're doing. I've also realized that this is not always the case, and if you intend to pursue this course of action, you must choose your venue -- and your target -- wisely. Girl at concert in rich neighborhood = Good. Large, tattooed biker in strip club = bad.

[Warning: heart-warming anecdote] At one point, Robin Wilson saw a little girl in the audience who had brought her own tambourine to the show, so he brought her on stage to play a few songs with the band. She was probably 4 years old, and Fat Janis could have learned a few things about rhythm, because she never missed a beat. She kept better time than the drummer in the band. At the end of the show, Robin asked her if she would trade tambourines with him, and she said yes, so he autographed his and gave it to her. It was pretty cute, and she was thrilled.

At any rate, if they are coming to a town near you, I highly recommend you check them out. They are as tight as they ever were, and Robin Wilson's voice hasn't diminished in the slightest. They also looked like they were having a blast on stage, and I love that.

The Dream Theater show happened, as I said, because a friend of mine is their tour manager. Also, they haven't played Albany in 15 years, I have never seen them play, and my friend Yort is a fan of theirs from way back. It was the perfect storm of rock. Well, maybe not, but it was a free show and an excuse to hang out with a couple of friends for a bit.

This particular venue is in a weird place, so there was absolutely nowhere to park. We ended up parking about four long-ass blocks away, and I was fully convinced that we would either get mugged or the car would be gone when we got back to it after the show. Luckily, neither of those things happened. I think it's because there were so many freaky white boys at this show, the normal riff-raff were scared to come out of the woodwork.

We were clearly the least tattooed people there. A marathon run of Miami Ink would have exposed you to less tats than this crowd. Way less Hep C, too. We were also the most colorful (while fully clothed, at least), since I had on a green T-shirt and Yort was wearing a gray hoodie. I would say that fully 90% of the crowd was dressed in black. Black leather, black concert T-shirts, black jeans...black eyeliner, you name it. These were old-school metal heads mixed with screamo fans and a smattering of people who looked like they just finished shooting a Federal Marshall in the head and gnawing the handcuffs off their wrists so they could come to the show.

There was a lot of weird hair, too. I saw one guy with a completely shaved head, except for a long top-knot pig tail that he thrashed around like it was some sort of head-mounted buggy whip. I saw another (white) guy with dreads down to his ass. As you would expect, there were surprisingly few women there. That's not to say the number was zero, but it was close to it. The one I remember best looked like a female version of Ethan Suplee's character in The Butterfly Effect. I'm still trying to unremember that, btw.

Actually, the worst thing about this show was that there were three opening acts: Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, and Three.

Being old, we hadn't heard of any of the openers, so we didn't realize how odd the musical bill was until the music started. Already almost done playing when we got there, Three was actually pretty good, in a Rush-like kind of way. Sort of proggy, and actually talented. They finished their last two songs, and left the stage. The next band up was Opeth, and we had no idea what they were about. They took the stage and the aural assault began. To give you an idea of what they sound like, I provide this example from one of their previous recordings. Go listen and then come back here.

If your thought processes are anything like mine, you will think, "Oh, hey that's pretty cool. He has a pretty good voice...I like the harmonies...I like the .......AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN MY FUCKING EARS!!!! And then you will feel the odd sensation of your soul being pulled slowly from your body. I don't know how that guy does that for a whole show without coughing up chunks of his larynx.

We had a couple of backstage passes, and in direct opposition to our immediate instincts, we walked toward the stage. It turns out that was the right decision, because once we got past the wall of noise, it turned into something akin to the rumble of nearby demolition and you could actually talk if you screamed at the top of your lungs directly into each other's ears. My friend Yort asked me where I thought Rikk might be, and I said, "As far away from this music as humanly possible" and I was right. He was in the production area at the front of the arena, behind a very solid oak door, doing all the things that tour managers do.

We walked in and said our hellos and introductions to everyone in production, hung out a bit, and discussed the bands thus far. I have to say the funniest description of Opeth's music had to be "cookie monster rock."

Then we all took turns singing nursery rhymes and Christmas carols in the style of Opeth, because we determined that it doesn't really matter what you're singing as long as you sing it with the proper amount of heart-felt evil. The funny thing is, their lyrics are actually pretty good.

After a nondescript set by Between the Buried and Me, Dream Theater took the stage.

All I have to say about Dream Theater is this: Goddamn, those dudes can play. Hol-E-Crap. I never saw such complete mastery of a guitar and keyboard in my entire life. Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci are inhumanly talented, and
they play like they are a single person. Mike Portnoy is certainly no slouch, either. The music is very technical, and some of it is truly amazing, but unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of James LaBrie's voice. That's the deal breaker for me. Even though he has a great range, and rarely misses a note, he has a little too much Ronnie James Dio-meets-Queensryche in his pipes for me.

All in all, it was an interesting and impressive show and I'm glad we went. It was good to catch up with an old friend and have some laughs. And as an added bonus, I got to hear me some cookie monster rock.

You can't beat that with a nail-studded, black-leather-covered stick -- unless you like that sort of thing, of course.

If a humor blog falls a notch and everyone is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If not, I think it should....


There goes my neighborhood. Again.

Picture moving out to a nice home in the country, and then, 3 years after you've gotten used to the peace and quiet, you wake up one morning to discover that the pristine field in front of your house is now the site of PhishFest 2008 and covered in filthy hippies, and that's the way it's going to be from then on.

A while back I had a job in a cube farm. I am pretty sure that while I was there, I had fungus growing in my ears. This is because in order to avoid going completely bat-shit insane, I was forced to wear ear-buds and listen to my iPod all day.

There is a universal truth about working in IT. The absolute worst group of people you can sit next to is a group of help desk people. There are many reasons for this. Allow me to list a few of them:

(1) They are on the phone with customers for 8 hours every day. Their phones ring constantly, and every one of them has a different ring-tone assigned to their phone.

(2) Their noise levels do not increase in a linear fashion. To put it another way, 8 help desk people do not make twice the noise of 4. They make at least 3 times more. This ratio holds true regardless of the number of HD people you have. And they are completely immune to the noise.

(3) They have a tendency to have 200 IM messages on their screen at any given time, all of which beep every time the person on the other end hits return -- and,

(4) They all do the same job. That means they are constantly yelling back and forth over their cube walls with their customers on hold.

And I sat 20 feet from the monkey house.

All this would have been tolerable, and I probably would have gotten used to it, except for three individuals. I never actually saw these people, so I drew pictures of how I envisioned them to look based on their behavior.

This is Trumpet-Nose Guy.

When TNG blew his nose, it sounded like an elephant getting a red-hot poker jammed up his ass. He blew his nose like he was trying to summon the Loch Ness Monster to his cube for a quickie before lunch. He blew his nose like this every 2-3 minutes, all day long. I heard him in between songs on my iPod. I heard him during songs that weren't by Tool. I don't know if he had allergies, or a cold, or if he was just doing too much coke before breakfast -- I didn't give a shit. I just wanted him to learn how to blow his nose like a member of the human race, instead of like some prehistoric plant-eating dinosaur warning the other herbivores that the T-Rex is coming for lunch.

This is Nubbin Girl.

Note the tiny, useless, ornamental skin nubs where her ears are supposed to be. I base this drawing solely on the fact that she always had her IM notification beep set to a completely insane volume, and it beeped non-stop. It was an annoying DOO-DOOP sound that dug tiny but deep furrows in my brain stem. I can only assume Nubbin Girl had it set that way so she could feel the sonic vibrations in her chest and would consequently know that she had an IM. Or perhaps it was so someone else would get fed up with the noise and punch her in the neck so that way she would also know she had an IM.

Lastly, this is No-Nose Guy.

Something over there always smelled like ass, and while I never determined who the offending individual was -- I envisioned him with no nose because he obviously couldn't smell himself. I knew it was a person, because it was intermittent -- but due to proximity, I couldn't seem to catch him. I would be sitting there minding my own business, when the smell would waft past my desk in his wake. By the time I smelled it, he'd already have taken a hard left down cube row and disappeared. This happened a few times a day. Wafting was not my friend.

Today, I got new neighbors at work, and they're help desk people.

Wish me luck.


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