patents pending

 

For some reason, my neighborhood has more labradoodles than most. Makes me wonder if there’s some kind of canine genetic engineering facility in Uptown, disguised as a Vietnamese restaurant or a bike repair shop.

 

 

I don’t usually weigh in on bioethical issues, being a comedy writer, and I realize the labradoodle was bred to be a service animal, but I think it’s a slippery, if adorable, slope. What’s to prevent an enterprising breeder from crossing a crow with, say, a raccoon, creating a frightening flying destruction machine, swooping down on trashcans in the alley, all claws and beak? Point being, you open the door to labradoodles, and eventually the bus stop at my corner will end up looking like a bizarre, surreal bio-lab.

Despite my skittishness about tinkering with genetics, what is typically called ‘Frankenfood’ doesn’t bother me.  If a some scientists can come up with a way to breed garlic cloves that you don’t have to peel, or brussel sprouts that taste…different than brussel sprouts, I say give ‘em a grant. If there’s a way to breed broccoli so that it’s all florets and no stems, that’s science helping mankind.

I’ve always dreamed of being an inventor, but my dreams have always been stymied by my lack of actual inventions. I also can’t draw, and I have no mechanical aptitude, so I have to basically describe my inventions with words. This has made my ideas harder to pitch, what without some sort of…thing to show people.

I’m sure if I had a workshop, and knew what one did in a workshop, I could build something that would be huge. Not sure what it would do, but I’d make it really big. Understand that my visions require you to not only think outside of the box, but to actually get in a second box and think outside of that.

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For example, the Bicycle Ashtray™. Let’s face it. Not everyone bikes for their health. Sometimes you bike because you need to get to the store for a pack of smokes. But what if you want to have a smoke WHILE you’re biking?

Attaching to the handlebar at an ergonomically designed angle, the Bicycle Ashtray™ is, technically speaking, an ashtray, attached to the bicycle. Some of these things invent themselves, people.

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We’re Americans, and as Americans, we like as many vices at one time as we can handle. Soda pop with extra sugar? Check. Chocolate-flavored wine? We got that. Vodka AND Red Bull? Who doesn’t want ox bile extract in their cocktail?! So why not caffeinated cigarettes?

The reality is, the few people who actually have jobs are very busy. And I’m sure there are times at work, when you need a pick-me-up, but you don’t have time to get a cup of coffee on your smoke break.

Now you can enjoy the jangly buzz of the bean and the edgy heart-racing of a cigarette in every puff! Hello? Phillip Morris? Might want to jump on this. Call ‘em, Sippin’ Cigs™, and put a cartoon hipster with dreads on the box.

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If you live anywhere that has winter, you know that not everyone is diligent about getting the ice off their sidewalks. Well if the landlord isn’t gonna hunker down with a bag of rock salt, do the next best thing—walk in shoes that have the salt already built in!

With each step, tiny holes in the bottoms of your Slushers™ will release enough snow-melting salt to turn treacherous sheets of ice into whimsical puddles (note: focus groups seemed to resist the idea of keeping a bunch of salt in the bottom of each shoe, and having lots of tiny holes in their shoes…this concept may need more work).

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Love to read? Love hot baths? Until now, you couldn’t take your favorite author into the bath with you without getting your Dan Brown damp and your Ludlum limp. And I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to take your Kindle or Nook in the tub at all. So…..waterproof books!

These would be special versions of current bestsellers, each page laminated with a splashproof coating. You can finally read underwater! Sure, an eight-hundred page laminated novel might be a little cumbersome, but none of those eight hundred pages will be wet. Here’s a slogan for you: “Bath Books™–making reading almost too relaxing.”

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Lastly, as a novice cook, I’m all about the gadgets, especially gadgets that have more than one use. Then I got to thinking, why not combine every essential kitchen appliance into one mega appliance! You’d have the OmniChef 3000™! The bottom part would be a broiler, then above that a toaster, and coming out on the sides would be an electric can opener, a blender, and a cappucino maker.

Then on top of that you have a built-in wok/steamer, and coming out from that would be various sharp things you can use to peel potatoes, husk corn and zest whatever you want to make zesty. At the very top would be four electric burners, with a removable lid for grilling. Oh, and I picture a foldout cutting board, and probably a mandoline.

Sadly, in addition to some potential safety issues, the original design would have to be about four feet tall and three feet wide, require a special power cord, and cost about seven thousand dollars each to manufacture, but for the right kitchen they’d be perfect.

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Despite the obvious genius in these inventions, I’m far too busy mocking things to actually make something, so I’m giving these ideas away. That’s right, free. Are you good at makin’ shit, but not so good at thinkin’ up shit to make? Here you go—knock yourself out. If you make a few bucks, good for you.

viggo, iggy and me

We are a nation of immigrants, and we have made great strides toward inclusion, but there is still work to be done. Sorry–I thought I was running for office. My point is that, for too long, one group of Americans has been ignored despite its contributions, either marginalized or ignored. I’m referring, of course, to Danish-Americans.

A million and a half Americans have Danish ancestry, which amounts to over one half of one percent of the entire population. That means if you find yourself in a room with two hundred people, at least one of them has Danish roots. But where are the Danish pride parades? Why is there no Danish history month? I’ll tell you why—danskaphobia.

I blame the Swedes. And the Norwegians. And to a small extent the Finns, but mostly the Swedes, with their Swedish…meatballs, and their stupid gigantic stores filled with reasonably-priced furniture. Well let me tell you—Danish people make furniture too, and they don’t force you to assemble it yourself! Ever heard of ‘Danish Modern’? Ever bought an end table? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I live in Minnesota, where Scandinavian roots run deep. Yet even here, when most people hear the word ‘Danish,’ what do they think of? A pastry. Well, I am here to say that I am not a pastry—I am a Danish-American, and I think it is time for Danish-Americans to recognized and, yes—celebrated.

Eighty-nine thousand people in Minnesota can claim Danish ancestry, but are state offices closed on June 5th for Grundlovsdag? No! Why are there no parades to celebrate the Great Northern War of 1700-1721, during which Denmark regained control over parts of Schleswig and Holstein? It’s obvious—anti-Danish policies.

Try to imagine a world without Danes. And I don’t mean a world without Claire Danes, as horrifying as that would be. A Dane carved Mount freaking Rushmore, fer chrissake! You can thank Gutzon Borglum for that. Without Mount Rushmore, South Dakota would be known for the fact that Citibank bases its credit card division in Sioux Falls.

I could go on and on about Danish contributions to our daily lives. And I will. Ever thought to your self “I like cream in my coffee, and I wonder whom I should credit with patenting the first centrifugal cream separator?” That’d be a Dane. Football fan? How ‘bout the all-time leading scorer in NFL history, Morten Hedegaard Anderson. Twenty-five hundred and forty-four points, bitches. Ever listen to…music? Then you’ve probably listened through Jensen speakers—and yeah, Jensen was Danish. Wondered why Two and a Half Men is still on the air? You can thank Arthur Nielsen, creator of the Nielsen ratings. Wait, that’s not a good thing.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “So Danish-Americans have done some interesting random things, but have they had any impact on politics?” I’m glad you asked. Janet Reno, first female attorney-general, ring a bell? What about Lloyd Bentsen, one of the most famous unsuccessful vice-presidential candidates in U.S. history? That’s right—Danish.

You want celebrities? You like heavy metal? Metallica’s founder, Lars Ulrich? Big ol’ Dane. Scarlett Johansson, Viggo Mortensen, Iggy Pop…if you’re looking for someone to crawl through broken glass onstage, or someone to play a Russian gangster onscreen, or someone to be…insanely attractive–you’re gonna want a Dane.

I’m guessing some of you use a Bluetooth for all those important business calls. Well, the first king of Denmark, the son of Gorm the Old, a guy named Harold Bluetooth! When you were in college, did you ever spend Spring Break in the Virgin Islands? Guess who sold the Virgin Islands to the U.S.—yep, that would be Denmark.

It’s important for Danes to hang on to our traditions. Traditional foods, like liver paste and beet sandwiches. Yum! When we raise a toast and say ‘Skol!,’ we need to remember that the word ‘skol’ comes from the Viking tradition of drinking from the skulls of our enemies. How cool is that?

As Danish-Americans, we have much to be proud of. We have two national anthems—obviously, everyone knows Der Er Yndigt Land, but there’s also the much more hummable King Christian Stood By Lofty Mast. And don’t forget—we’re in charge of Greenland. So, the next time you sit down to enjoy some rød grød med fløde in a Royal Copenhagen bowl, think of how much Danish-Americans have done for this country. We will be ignored no longer—Danish pride! Det er et lille land, men i det mindste, vi har universel sundhedspleje (We are a tiny country, but at least we have universal health care.)

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i need a quirk

I’ve come to an important conclusion—I need to be famous.Not sure why I didn’t think of this before, but being famous would really help my career. I used to think that I wanted that fame to be the result of my work, my craft, my artistic vision.

But the clock’s ticking, people—at the end of the month I will have bounced around on this plane for half a century. It’s time to get noticed, and, though you might find this surprising, posting a seven hundred and fifty word comedy piece every couple weeks hasn’t made me famous.

 So I wanna be that guy. You know, the guy with that one weird quirk that has nothing to do with his talents but still makes him memorable? For example, there’s an artist in Minneapolis who, during the winter months, wears all black, and during the summer, he wears all white. And then, from what I can tell, he walks around the city, from coffeehouse to coffeehouse. That’s it. Not even sure if he paints anymore, but…everybody knows him. As affectations go, it’s fairly simple. But I’ll tell you this–people I know who know NOTHING about art know that this guy is an artist.
You need to decide on a weird thing to do, and commit to it. If you do something weird enough, often enough, with no apologies, people assume you must have artistic credibility. We expect our artists to be freaks.

I already walk with a cane, but that doesn’t count as an affectation, because I need the cane to avoid falling down. If I tricked out my cane to look like a wizard’s staff, that would be an affectation. Or if my cane had a hollowed out interior that could hold a pint of vodka and I drank from my cane, that would work. The key is to pick something that nobody does, and ideally, something nobody else wants to do. Because you really don’t want a bunch of hipsters just copying your affectation—then all of a sudden you become a cult leader, and that’s a whole different deal.

 So I’ve narrowed down the list of possible quirks to adopt, and I figure there are a few ways I can go:

 A Strange Hat

 I could be The Guy Who Wears A Bowler, or alternatively, The Guy Who Wears A Pith Helmet. Not sure if I would need an entire outfit to go with the strange hat.

An Unusual Pet

 It can’t be a reptile. We’ve all seen the guy with the iguana at the coffeehouse—it’s been done. And if you’re going the bird route, it can’t be a parrot—done. Now maybe, if I got a heron, and took it for walks around my neighborhood…
 
Communicating Only In Show Tunes
This affectation requires a lot of rehearsal, and risks annoying one’s existing friends. Not recommended.
 
The Monocle

Now we’re talking! Henceforth, I will be known as The Guy With The Monocle. It has everything I’m looking for in an affectation—pop culture cachet (Mr. Peanut, the Penguin, Colonel Klink), implications of wealth, and vague connotations of evil.

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separation of church and sport

I consider myself a spiritually-minded man, even if I’m only occasionally religious. Now I believe that God CAN be everywhere, but I’m not sure God SHOULD be everywhere. Or wants to be. Sometimes I think it’s useful to think of the universe as a big company, with God as more of a…chief executive officer. Makes sure things are running in the black, but kinda removed from day-to-day operations. When I look at the universe this way, I’m struck by a profound realization–people pray way too much.

Just as you wouldn’t constantly pester your CEO with suggestions and special requests (do office employees at Apple constantly call Steve Jobs’ direct line with requests for more paper clips?), I don’t think humans should be bothering God with every detail of their own lives. I’m pretty sure God, if there is one, is too busy with the big picture stuff to address a lot of the things we’re calling about.

C’mon, you know there must be times when God thinks “Stop bugging me. Handle it.” In my conception of the universe, God wants us to at least try to handle our own shit. Or at least go through middle management first (not sure who ‘middle management’ is in my metaphor, but it’s my metaphor, so indulge me). What I’m saying is, we need to stop annoying God.

Which brings me to the Super Bowl (dizzying how I got there, isn’t it?) Apparently, during one Super Bowl, millions of drunk, Doritos-engorged football fans had to endure a thirty-second ad from a Christian organization called…not sure if I have the name right…Focus On (An Incredibly Narrow Homophobic Misogynistic Definition Of)  The Family.

One of their ads a couple of Roman numerals ago featured Tim Tebow, wunderkind quarterback from Florida. Now Tim is really into the whole God thing, to the point of inscribing Bible verses in his eye-black (and seriously Tim—if someone is close enough to you to read what’s written under your eyes, they’re probably planning to tackle you, and aren’t really gonna take the time to reflect on whatever wisdom might be found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians).

Another interesting thing about Tebow, and I guess the point of the ad, is that he wasn’t aborted. Well…congratulations? Me neither, Tim! We’re like…related! My point (and yes, I’m a little winded with how long it took to get there too) is that EVEN IF your God tells you the issue needs to be addressed, you’re not gonna change a lot of minds during the third quarter of the biggest sporting event in the western world!!! When that game goes to commercial, I’m probably gonna be grabbing another beer and swearing about the refs—I’m not in the most philosophical place!

American culture has cruised along just fine for decades because of one fundamental understanding–that on Sunday, you either went to church OR you watched sports on TV. Why risk tearing apart our cultural fabric? God does not care who wins a football game.

The players are as much at fault as the fans. It’s nothing new—Sandy Koufax was an observant Jew and wouldn’t play on the Sabbath. But it’s not like he had ‘Shema Yisrael’ written on the bill of his cap, and he didn’t try to convert anyone. I don’t mind the occasional prayer in the end zone, because it’s like a touchdown dance—silly, pointless, but it doesn’t last long. It’s the post-game interviews that bother me.

Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals used to refer to God so often after games it didn’t’t look like reverence, it just looked like he’s sucking up. Mercifully, God commanded him to retire. And by the way–if you’re gonna give God credit for what goes right during a game, why don’t players ever blame God for bad games? “I wouldn’t have thrown that interception if God hadn’t wanted my team to lose a playoff game.”

As a sports fan, I don’t WANT players on my team to be really ‘religious.’ Football used to be filled with tough sons of bitches like Lombardi. I’m sure away from the field, he was a deeply spiritual guy, but I can’t imagine Vince Lombardi praying during the game. I don’t want my middle linebacker to be particularly Christian—what if he has some epiphany and decides to forgive the nose tackle for blocking him? Christianity is about peace and love and a lot of admirable, but kinda…squishy, feelings. Nowhere does Scripture say ‘the meek shall inherit the Super Bowl trophy.’

I watched my Vikings play the Packers at Green Bay this year, and there was that guy. Big foam block of cheese on his head, no shirt, and scrawled on his chest was ‘John 3:16.’ Is this guy really the kind of messenger God wants? True enough, God created Wisconsin. God even created the ‘frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.’ And then God left and moved on to bigger things.

All I’m saying is that religion and the average sports fan have different agendas. As a fan, I want to be able to yell “Kill that bastard–and then rip his head off!” without being confronted with moral dilemmas, and I don’t want my cleanup batter to suddenly love his enemy, the pitcher. I leave my soul at the stadium gate–and my God is O.K. with this. I’m pretty sure My God actually wants to smite the people who hold up signs that say ‘John 3:16’—it sorta trivializes the message if the messenger takes the form of a fat guy in a rainbow-colored wig trying to do the wave without dropping his bratwurst.

So if you’re an athlete or a fan, do take the time to go to the church or synagogue of your choice. Sign up for missionary work in Zaire. Donate your entire salary to the Sisters of Mercy. But do me and God a favor–once the whistle blows, just play the fucking game and let me enjoy a three hour break from the brutal things in the real world that actually warrant calling on God.

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animal instincts

Now that I live with The Girlfriend, I also live with two cats. Now, I’ve never been a ‘dog person,’ and before you all start typing your angry comments promoting your ‘pro-dog’ agenda, let me be clear. I have seen a dog be cute. A few times. But there are a few reasons I never wanted a dog as a pet:

  • They’re needy.
  • They slobber.
  • Occasionally, they shit on the floor.
  • Seriously, if a woman (or a man) had any of those traits, I wouldn’t want to DATE them, let alone feed them and have to paper-train then.

The only thing better about dogs than cats is that a dog will mind you. A cat will simply remind you how powerless you are…you can tell a cat not to do something, and if they don’t heed you, you can…tell them not to…again.That’s pretty much all ya have in your arsenal.

I have a friend who thinks I should get a fish. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. Own a pet fish and…what? See, it’s not even in the saying. The problem I have with fish as pets is, it seems like they can’t hold up their end of the owner (sorry, companion) – pet contract, which states:

1.      I will feed you regularly.

2.      You will love me unconditionally. (I realize this skews a little in my favor, but you signed the fucker.)

How the hell are you supposed to know if a fish loves you? A creepy side-wink when you change the water in his tank? Also, I’ve had a cat before, and I remember it being really cool if I were stressed out, to put the cat on my chest and just be lulled to sleep. You cannot do that with a fish. Well, you can, once. Then you have to get another fish.

I thought, “You know, I’m already pretty eccentric, why not get the weird pet, too.” (Now, if your reading this aloud, you should deliver the next line in the voice of Gabby Hayes.) So I went to the Google to look it up. (Drop Gabby Hayes voice here.) My search string was ‘unusual apartment pets,’ and lemme tell ya, some people are thinking WAY outside the litterbox.

Hermit crab? Nah…hard to pet. Ferret? I’ll pass on anything belonging to the mammalian group Rodentia, thank you very much. A pot-bellied pig! Oh sure, and while I’m at it why don’t I look for one with a limp, so it can look like my freakin’ porcine doppelganger!

I had to laugh when I read about the Madagascar hissing roach. Apparently, this particular roach is a popular pet. I suppose part of the appeal is that if you get bored with your pet roach, you can kill it with impugnity, ‘cuz…it’s a cockroach. I’m just imagining the roaches from my apartment in Chicago running into one of these pampered novelty acts in some dark cupboard—

“We hear you got mad skillz, yo! What do you do? You…hiss? For reals? Ah HELL no! Chicago roaches kick your thorax, beeyatch!”

One interesting pet possibility was the Australian Sugar Glider. Adorable fella, the glider; he’s a marsupial, but not as Hallmark-cutesie as a koala. Then I found out they cost a hundred and seventy-five dollars, and fifty bucks to neuter them, because if I don’t neuter the bastard, you know he’ll be makin’ time with all the other Australian Snow Gliders in the neighborhood! Oh, and there’s this from the same site—“ Sugar Gilders require so much attention that if left alone too much or if they feel neglected, they will stop eating and eventually die.” Great—it’s my college girlfriend with sharper teeth.

I knew a woman who once owned a hedgehog (true statement, but sadly it also sounds like a lost Zeppelin lyric). I found the definitive hedgehogs-as-pets website, and one paragraph struck me—allow me to parse it for you.

To handle a hedgehog (and this is me avoiding the sophomoric double-entendre), place your hand on each side of him and gently cup him in your hand (right, now it reads like gay porn).Use great caution not to place your fingers in the middle (this thing is suddenly not sounding so cuddly, but…okay).They can ball up quickly and your finger can get caught in the middle of a bunch of quills being squeezed together by very strong muscles (WTF!!!). If this happens, you will need to gently uncurl him to ease his anxiety (HIS anxiety? This Satanic mini-Ewok has decided to turn me into a pincushion, and I have to be gentle?).First, turn him over on his back to identify where the nose is located (What kind of carnival freak show am I in?). Gently rock forwards and backwards, and when the nose starts to show the front legs will also emerge. As the legs reach for the ground, gently put the hedgehog down (never to pick it up again).

So, I’m glad we have cats. Although if I were alone, I’d probably just have one, because I’m pretty sure that “multiple cats, lives alone, kind of a drifter, drinks a bit” is the character breakdown for ‘Crazy Cat Guy Serial Killer’ on an episode of Criminal Minds.

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screwing with your head

NASA will be releasing more of what they’re calling ‘cleaned up’ footage of the moon landing, and that’s like Christmas for wackadoo conspiracy buffs (I don’t call them ‘theorists,’ since they’re usually a bit short on that whole evidence thing that makes a theory…a theory). While I do believe we walked on the moon (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘they’) I wouldn’t be surprised to find out NASA did a bit of editing. For instance, they probably chose to remove the following:

  • The moments just after the ‘one small step’ speech, when Neil Armstrong was uncontrollably screaming “ARE YOU SHITTING ME? I’M ON THE FUCKIN’ MOON!!! JUST ME, YOU SONS OF BITCHES—NOT YOU, ME! (I always thought that, if he wanted to, Armstrong could have been an enormous prick when he got back—picture him in some bar, guy next to him is yammering on about some promotion, and Neil stops him, just points at the moon out the window and says “That’s nice—ever been THERE, loser?
  • The audio of Michael Collins saying “Oh, that’s great—big first trip to the moon in human history, and I basically get to drive you guys there. No, that’s cool, you go down there—I just wanted to get close…nah, seriously, get a little golf in—I’ll just circle around till you’re done—I got some Tang, I’m good.”
  • The approximately seven minutes of silence when Armstrong, just to mess with Mission Control, told them he saw something “over there—behind the module—and it’s coming after me!” after which he pretended that communications device was ‘on the fritz.’

I spend a lot of my time thinking of ways to mess with people. I don’t act on them, because I’m enormously lazy, but I do like thinking of them. I’ve always wanted, when a Jehovah’s Witness comes to my apartment (seriously, you think I’ll convert to a religion based on a pamphlet and a conversation held in my doorway? “Yeah, that sounds good—you guys meet on Saturdays, right?”) to actually invite them in…tell them I’ve been waiting for someone I don’t know to randomly visit and talk about their faith with me.

Here’s another pointless way to freak people out—go someplace busy, where people wait on line for a really long time (a bank on Friday afternoon, perhaps), and every time the line starts moving, keep letting people go ahead of you. For like, an hour. Just keep saying, “No, you can go ahead of me.” Heads will explode.

Or, try this—when you’re at home, play some really meditative music—new age, quiet, solo piano, George Winston contemplating the seasons while gazing at his navel barefoot stuff—but play it REALLY LOUD—just because it’ll make the neighbors feel so weird complaining –“Hey man—would you PLEASE turn down that…really pretty and evocative tone poem? Never mind.”

Just some ideas for killing some time. For you guys. It’s not like I’d ever mess with people like that.

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