Bureaucracy

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but bureaucracy is out of control. Bureaucracy is out of control. Bureaucracy is out of control. They told me I had to give you that in triplicate. We live in a society where it's easier to climb back into the birth canal than it is to get a copy of a certificate to prove you were actually born.

Bureaucracy. Just take a look at the word itself. How come there's no "O"? It sounds like there should be an "O", but instead there's an "E", an "A" and a "U". Of course, the sensible thing to do would be to eliminate those unnecessary letters and just replace them with the "O", but it can't be done because "E" has tenure, "A" is the union shop steward and "U" is married to the boss' accountant's son.

Truthfully, I'd be perfectly fine with all the rules and red tape if we didn't have to wait in line for so long that the people in the line eventually develop their own distinctive regional dialect. Hey, is it any coincidence that government offices have the birth and death registries in the same room?

I can't even clean up after my dog now without first getting an environmental impact statement from the Army Corps of Engineers. It's gotten so bad, I demand to see three different forms of ID before I'll let me pleasure myself in the shower.

And is there any welter of perdition more soul-destroying than the Department of Motor Vehicles? People go in whistling like Andy Griffith skipping rocks and leave more pissed off than Gary Condit's wife. In exchange for the privilege of operating an automobile, you have to embark on a Hieronymus-Bosch-like odyssey through the dingy, institutional-green, cinderblock-lined bowels of the System at its most wearisome. First you find the line for the people who have appointments, then you wait for them to call your name, then you get in another line for people with your blood type and birth date, then the clerk who's been taking people in your line goes to lunch, so you have to line up at another window, then after several evolutionary epochs, during which innumerable species have arisen, roamed the earth and then succumbed to eventual extinction, you finally reach the front of the line where the whole process culminates in you challenging Death to a chess match.

I discovered one of the more frustrating strains of bureaucracy recently when I applied for a mortgage. Hey, all I want is to borrow some money and pay you back five times the amount over the next 30 years. If I don't pay it back you keep the house and my money. And let me get this straight-- you're trying to stop me?

What is particularly exasperating about bureaucracy is you can never put a face or a name to the logjam. That's because the genius of bureaucracy is it's never one person's fault -- it's everyone's. It's ineptitude in its most socialistic form. Whenever you walk into a store that proudly stresses teamwork, save yourself some time and money and just back your naked ass up to the ream-a-tron.

The reason bureaucracies metastasize the way they do nowadays is that when you go to fire someone, they automatically sue you. So it is now easier to just give them a desk, and say, "Don't touch anything," and then tell everyone what a great job they're doing, in the hopes that your competitor will eventually steal them away from you.

Ah, the bureaucrat. A murky figure, smelling slightly of fax toner, for whom you must constantly tack back and forth between sympathy and white-hot antipathy. Sure, there are plenty of them out there who are hard-working and conscientious and friendly. But there are just as many who have used their Vanilla extract-sized drop of power to build a tiny administrative empire out of policies and waiting lists and access to files, so that -- for the 2-4 hours a day they're actually working -- they may bestride the rest of us like some kind of Cubicle Colossus, bellowing, "I am Ozymandias, Clerk of Clerks! Look on my files, ye mighty, and despair!"

Let's face it: We might complain bitterly about bureaucracy and red tape, but at least they give us something to blame when our lives don't go exactly the way we want them to. There is something admittedly soothing about the abdication of responsibility, the Zen-like moment when you give up and see the poetry in the ticket agent telling you not only does your flight reservation not exist, you're going to be charged for the ticket anyway; the college admissions board notifying you that your grade-point average is too high to qualify for a scholarship; or the VA official who tells you to your face that you died in combat over 30 years ago. Lose yourself in the arcane maze of nonsensical rules, delight in the Lewis Carroll anarchy of the organizational world. In other words, relax and take it easy, because if you do flip out and have to be committed to the nuthouse, you would not believe the fuckin' paperwork involved.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Anxiety

Interestingly enough, "anxiety" comes from an old Greek word that means "Dennis Miller."

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but to me, anxiety makes sense. I see it as a reasonable response to the frightening clusterfuck that is our increasingly stressful world. The people who creep me out are the ones who don't seem to be bothered by anything. My theory is that anybody who has it completely together in times like these is either stupid, crazy or evil. I'm on to you, Dr. Phil.

Mental health professionals believe that anxiety stems from not facing your true emotional needs. That's why psychiatrists advise you to uncover those hidden fears you dare not name-because then, and only then, can you can stop being anxious and start being completely fucking insane, and that's where you make the real money.

Over the last decade, pagers, cellphones and personal data assistants have marionetted us into a Sysyphean existence where we are perpetually ten minutes late for our next appointment. The only reason we're living longer is because we can't fit death into our schedules anymore. Anybody remember a simpler time when "Palm Pilot" was just a nickname your friends gave you when you hit puberty?

Youth-obsessed, money-hungry power-grabbing Los Angeles is Ground Xanax for anxiety. You see it right there in the clenched jaw of the high-strung B-movie producer who's wrestling his Humvee into the handicapped parking spot so he can get to his meditation class on time.

Anxiety can lead to certain phobias such as fear of strangers, fear of elevators, fear of airplanes, fear of heights, fear of speaking in public, and fear of parties. Got it, got it, need it, got it, need it, got it.

Some guys suffer from urination anxiety: the presence of other men acts like a psychological truck parking on top of their personal garden hose. Now, I have the reverse: I can only pee when somebody else is watching. So if you ever run into me in a rest room and I've got a sock puppet over my free hand saying, (SQUEAKY VOICE) "I can see your wee wee, Dennis!" I'm not a freak or anything. That is a prescription sock puppet.

Then there is sexual performance anxiety. Always having the fear that your cock is too big, or you'll last too long or after a night in bed with you, the woman won't find any other man satisfying and she'll fall into a deep depression. Of course, that was never my problem. NEVER. NEVER ONCE.

I suppose I have one of the odder anxiety triggers, I plunge into panic when Stone Philips wears earth tones.

Many people find the most disturbing thing about panic attacks is you never know when they're going to strike, which in itself becomes a source of anxiety. But I'm lucky. I'm in a constant state, so there's really never any surprises. Guess I'm just blessed. (DARTING LOOK OVER SHOULDER)

People deal with anxiety in many different ways: some take yoga, some take tai chi, others work it off in the gym. Me? Well, once a month or so, I take off all my clothes, get on my candy-apple-red moped, and drive really fast into a field of corn. As the stalks and ears of caressing maize batter my exposed flesh, I suddenly feel my other problems melting away. Sure, it means coming home in the back of a police car with a blanket around my head and shoulders, but sorry kids. Daddy needs his "Me Time."

Hey, if you suffer from chronic anxiety, repeated panic attacks, obsessions, compulsions or social phobias, take my advice, forget therapy and don't even think about drugs. I know it sounds crazy, but my sanctuary has always been... well... the Laundromat. Think about it. You can immerse yourself in the calming hum of the washing machines, the familiar warmth emanating from the dryers, the comforting smell of soap and the soothing snap and pleasant pop of loving mothers folding clean sheets. Relax in the uncompetitive, undemanding realm of vending machines that feature off-brand sodas and Circus Peanuts. Self-conscious about your appearance? Just take a look around. By comparison, you are a prince. Socially awkward? Well, anything short of flinging fecal matter at the change lady, and you're a charmer in this quirky little kingdom. Obsessive compulsive? Hey, go ahead. Count quarters until your fingers bleed. Sexually frustrated? Well, just collect the thick wads of lint from all the dryers and fashion them into a large lifelike doll, lean it up against a washing machine during the spin cycle and start grinding your pelvis against her-but be gentle. You don't want to cause Dusty Lady any anxiety.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Energy and the Environment (The Environmental Crisis)

You know, we have windmills here in California, but we use them for miniature golf. Europeans seem to have little sympathy for our current energy woes. Hey, who needs Europe, anyway. I always find it a little grating when Germany refers to us as "power-hungry."

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but the debate between environmentalists and energy advocates in this country shows no sign of abating, and as a matter of fact, is only getting more confusing. I mean, you've got to love the philosophical clusterfuck that is a bicycle rack on a Lincoln Navigator.

And this battle will no doubt be waged for years and years to come, largely because it's fuelled by America's most plentiful natural resource: narrow-minded self-righteous indignation.

The state of California is currently bearing the brunt of the energy crisis, with rolling blackouts across the state affecting vital services like hospitals, resulting in countless lopsided boob jobs. For the love of God, will the horror never end???????

Our problem is, we don't have enough power plants in our state because with every site allotted for one, someone finds a reason to stop it. Hey, you want to block a power plant because it might interfere with a migratory path for albino duck gerbils? I simply can't go along with that. We have to prioritize and decide what's really important here, people. You want to see animals thrive in their natural habitat? Go to the San Diego Zoo. I'm trying to microwave some popcorn over here.

I mean, maybe I'm in the minority with this, but my ideal vision of the world is where the only remaining species are somewhat literate human beings and small, well-mannered Beagles wearing little top hats and bow ties.

Let's cut to the chase. The oil companies want to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But the environmentalists say it places in jeopardy a prime breeding ground for Alaskan Caribou. Great, so now I have to pay four dollars a gallon just so Donner and Blitzen can get their rocks off. I say we don't touch the oil reserves and just invent a car that runs on endangered species. Yeah, put a tiger in your tank. Literally.

If we are to maintain our position as a world power, we must dedicate ourselves to finding acceptable alternatives to fossil fuels. Wind power and solar power are clean, cheap, safe, renewable sources of energy, which, I believe, will be widely utilized as soon as someone figures out how to establish a price-gouging monopoly on them.

All kidding aside, I'm actually a big proponent of using alternative energy. As a matter of fact, at this very moment, every single watt of electricity in my home is being provided by an alternative energy source: a low-cost, underground shunt-wire that my brother-in-law David has tapped into my next door neighbor's fuse-box.

Now we're supposed to buy disposable diapers that are environmentally friendly, diapers that break down more readily when placed in landfills. Hey, should there ever come a time when I'm wearing a disposable diaper, fuck you, fuck the planet, fuck everything.

As I've said, at my house, everyone is aware of the energy crisis, and we all pitch in to do our part. For example, I never use the twin Boeing 747 engines I bought to run my Dancing Waters Lagoon while running my Bumper Boats at the same time. That just wouldn't be fair to others.

Another way I do my part is going down to the ride-share station in my neighborhood and inviting a complete stranger to get inside my car, so we can qualify for the carpool lane. It shaves about forty-five minutes off my commute, and sometimes, if I'm lucky, the stranger will hold a gun to my head and force me to blow him. You see? Saving the planet doesn't have to be all drudgery!

You know, I may pretend not to care about what happens thousands of miles away in a place I'll probably never see. But I know that all of life is deeply interconnected and interdependent in a symbiotic, primal dance. That a butterfly beating its wings in the African bush can dislodge a particle of dust that makes a monkey sneeze, which startles a herd of gazelle into stampeding, causing a rockslide down a hill which dams up a stream and floods it, creating moisture which evaporates and cools the air, which rushes into the hot air above it, becoming a cyclone, which whirls out to sea and joins up with other storm clouds, forming an enormous raging squall that travels thousands of miles across the ocean, disrupting electromagnetic fields and making my cell phone cut out. Fuckin' butterflies.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Civil Disobedience

See? That's why we don't summer in Algeria any more: no right to protest.

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but, unlike in Algeria, the act of civil disobedience is deeply woven into the fibers of our nation. From the Boston Tea Party to the Beastie Boys' fight for your right to party, our country has a proud history of civil disobedience.

It has been a part of American history ever since the aforementioned plucky band of American colonists refused to pay a tax on tea, thereby paving the way for a free, democratic nation that does not tax tea... except, of course, for a local sales tax paid by the purchaser, an income tax paid by the seller, and corporate taxes paid by the manufacturer... Civil disobedience is the greatest engine for change the world has ever known.

However, all that today's so-called civil disobedient seems to be protesting is boredom and guilt over having well-off parents, while killing time between Dave Matthews concerts.

Throwing a chair through the window of Starbucks because you disapprove of their treatment of coffee pickers in South America is juvenile. Throwing a chair through the window of Starbucks because you asked for a grande latte percent and they gave you a venti half-caf caramel macchiato, well, that?s just basic common sense.

Do you know there are people who refuse to pay their federal income taxes because they don't want their money going towards building weapons of mass destruction? Now, while I applaud these citizens for their dedication to their ideals and for having the courage to act on their personal conscience, I also offer them one word of advice: move. It's a big world out there, Rainbow McDolphin. If you don't feel like paying the cover charge at Club America, pack up your Birkenstocks and find yourself another place to groove.

Many participate in acts of civil disobedience because it gives them an instant community of like-minded brethren who keep them from having to spend their evenings alone, perusing a three-year-old issue of "Mother Jones" magazine under the flickering half-light of that cat-shit-powered lamp in their hydroponic marijuana nursery, before crawling under their unbleached burlap sheets for the unsatisfying solace of a non-gendered dildo carved out of a cruelty-free handmade beeswax candle.

Give them this, though. Today's protesters are a lot more media-savvy than their predecessors, striving to spend more time in front of the camera than a lens cover. Sure, without a doubt, there are many people out there truly sacrificing for a worthy cause. However, I opine that for every one of them, there are many more who are in it for the publicity, the pussy or the buzz.

Come on: Al Sharpton on a hunger strike? Please. All he's doing is going on all the diets he should have been on for the past 20 years, all at once.

I mean, look who's doing the protesting: garage band dropouts, the chronically unemployed, limelight-whore politicians and B-list entertainers. People for whom living up in the top of a tree for 3 years could only be considered a lifestyle improvement.

Remember that girl in the redwood tree, huh? I think her name was Butterfly, and she was living there to keep a timber company from cutting it down. She stayed up in that tree for over a year through lightning storms and rain and fires. And I have to say... I was inspired. So inspired, in fact, that about a week after hearing about Butterfly, when the owner of a local shoe store refused to give me a refund for what was obviously a defective pair of Ugg Boots, well, I got a sleeping bag and some basic supplies and climbed up in the green-striped canvas awning over the shoestore's front door. And I read a book, took a nap, ate an olive-loaf sandwich, talked to some friends on my cell phone... then an hour and a half later, climbed down and went home. I don't think the shoe store owner ever even knew I was up there. But I knew it... and a few people walking by knew it... and I... I just think sometimes you have to take a nap in other people's awnings, that's all.

And a personal note to all the eco-zealots out there, inexplicably blocking the roads to protest global warming: nobody loves this planet more than I do. I live here, most of the time. But don't make me sit in traffic for six hours because the only way Mother Earth will let you fuck her is if I stop using hairspray, OK, Stinkbean?

You know, in 30 years, this country has gone from Vietnam protestors placing rose petals down the barrels of National Guardsmen's rifles to tossing over garbage cans and setting fire to police cars because we?re glad the Lakers won the championship. I can't tell if we've grown soft or just lost our fucking minds.

Ironically, nonviolent protest is at its most effective when it sparks the authorities into violence, shaming them in the eyes of the world. So what I'm saying is, if you're a cop, and some irate malcontent who's dressed up like a sea-turtle is screaming in your face about globalization or multinational corporations or whatever the latest codeword is for "my parents say I have to be out of the house for at least four hours a day," well, pull out your billy club and give him a good whack on that so-many-piercings-you'd-think-it-was-a-fucking-tacklebox head of his. He'll be getting exactly what he wants. And if not, well, at least I will.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Death

Good to see you can actually laugh at death. Usually, talking about death and dying makes people feel about as comfortable as Shaquille O'Neal flying coach.

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but death is the price we pay for life. Oh, by the way, I did see it much cheaper at Costco last weekend, so you might want to shop around.

We have a lot of cute euphemisms for death: "croaked," "kicked the bucket," "bought the farm," "took a dirt nap," "met your maker," "cashed in your chips," "ordered-in from the dollar-an-item Mongolian Barbeque in the alley behind the Gold-Chains-By-The-Inch stand downtown."

There is a school of thought, usually promulgated by the topaz-jewelry-wearing, multiple-cat owning, ancient-Volvo-with-"Practice Random Kindness And Senseless Acts Of Beauty"-bumpersticker-driving segment of our population, that says we as a society need to remove the stigma from death and regard it as just another part of life. These rainbow-and-unicorn simpletons ask, "Why do we insist on portraying death as cruel?" Well, it's difficult to answer that question, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would say, because it fucking kills us.

Other cultures, perhaps those with less material wealth but a far richer spiritual heritage, embrace and celebrate death. But then, what do they have to live for in the first place? Of course you're gonna have a big bash for Grandpa Bo-ba-la, Bo-ba-la, Bo-ba-la[CLICK CLICK CLICK] when he goes, he doesn't have to eat dingo shit off a flat rock anymore.

Another thing I don't get is when a society decides they need to keep the remains of a beloved leader on display. That's great as long as they still admire you, but look what happened to Vladimir Lenin. Now they've got him standing up outside a Moscow restaurant, where parking valets pin car keys to his face.

It's ironic that in our culture, everyone's biggest complaint is never having enough time, yet nothing terrifies us more than the idea of eternity. In America, we want to live forever, and a wide array of advanced cosmetic surgeries now guarantees that at least certain parts of us will. In fact, an increasing number of deceased bodies are now neither buried nor cremated, but returned for a deposit. Experts say that over the past 20 years, there's been a 72-percent increase in the number of eulogies that end in the phrase "Nice Rack."

Everyone who survives a near-death experience reports the same phenomenon, that being a bright light. You know what that light is? It's the doctor, trying to detect any brain function by shining a flashlight into your pupils, you almost-dead clueless jagoff.

Now, the second worst way to die has to be in an airplane crash. The worst way, of course, is choking to death on an apricot pit after waving off the only guy offering you the Heimlich because he was too good-looking, and you were afraid he'd stir something in you that's best left dormant.

Some people feel the need to have very bizarre funerals, trying to be the life of the party even when they're dead by insisting that everyone wear a Hawaiian shirt. These are the same assholes who get married on roller coasters. You know, it's only a matter of time before some octogenarian prankster rigs his body to pop up out of the casket like Big Mouth Billy Bass and sing, "Don't Worry -- Be Happy".

And the cost of dying is unbelievable. Because just like in life, in death we can't resist having the latest and best of everything. I mean, a casket with Internet hook-up? Give me a break. When I go, stuff my ass full of candy and toys and let some little Mexican kid whack me with a bat. I don't give a shit; I'm dead.

At my funeral, I want to have a TV screen showing the end of "The Beverly Hillbillies," where they're all waving goodbye, but they have my face digitally superimposed over Granny's.

Einstein said energy can't be created or destroyed. I agree with that. I believe there is a spark inside each and every one of us that lives forever. When we die, I believe that energy leaves the body and floats towards some new vessel. Now if we can just find a way to capture that spark before it finds its new repository, we could keep California's power grid up and running for most of the upcoming summer.

I urge you to view your inevitable demise not with grief or fear but with acceptance and perhaps even hope. Your death is an end to sadness and pain. Your death is a passage to a better world. Your death is a moment of unification with the sacredness of eternity. My death, on the other hand? Greatest fuckin' tragedy in the history of mankind.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Victims' Rights

Can you believe that there are actually people out there who want to portray him as a victim? It's about time we put things right for the real victims of crime.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but given our scant attention to victims' rights, sometimes they're better off if the criminal is never caught in the first place. At least that way they only get fucked around once.

Maybe the problem is, we're a culture already saturated with victimization. We're all so loud, shrill, and adept at playing the victim in inconsequential situations that an actual bonafide victim stands about as much a chance of being noticed as an unemployed guy with a laptop and a goatee at a Starbucks.

The sheer volume of cases presently deluging the courts pretty much guarantees that no matter how heinous the crime, its victims are faceless entities, mere numbers on a court docket who are accorded all the dignity of a ring girl at a cockfight.

The entire legal system is bent on ensuring the rights of the accused. Victims couldn't wield any less power if they were the California electrical grid. The disparity between the victim's and the criminal's rights is most obvious when it comes to representation. Criminals who can't afford a lawyer get one appointed to them by the court, while victims who cant afford one are relegated to hiring the cycloptic paralegal who advertises during "Mama's Family."

In order to avoid creating vigilantes, society takes the right of retribution for a crime away from the victim and makes it a matter for "the people." Of course, in America this means the solemn burden of justice is in the hands of the same "people" who created the Chia Pet, order the "Backyard Wrestling" tapes, and have demanded 7 distinct flavors of Corn-Nuts.

Come on, there's gotta be a way to protect the rights of victims as well as the accused. For example, victims should have a right to know when the animal who attacked them is going to get out of jail. They shouldn't have to read about it in the papers, or find out their assailant took tax-payer-financed computer courses in prison and has just been hired as their boss.

And how about white collar criminals who bilk people out of their life savings and are then given a slap on the wrist-sentenced to house arrest? The solution is simple: Sentence them to house arrest in their victim's house. Trust me, they'll be beggin' for prison.

As for paying restitution... Well, many criminals don't have any money. What they do have is unlimited time and limited space. I think they should have to spend their entire sentence pedaling a stationary bike in their cell that generates electricity and sends it to the homes of their victims. Take a big chunk out of those monthly utility bills.

And I can't believe that there is any argument against rules requiring convicted child molesters to announce their presence in neighborhoods. Hey, fuck that. I think they should have to wear bells on their shoes and a bright yellow windbreaker that says, "I am a convicted child molester" on the back. But I do have a solution that should make everybody happy: Let's force paroled child molesters to live in the same neighborhoods where all the ACLU attorneys live.

In the case of physical assault, the victim should have the right to choose his assailant's cellmate. If done properly, this one easy step could serve the dual purpose of making the victim feel empowered, and the criminal feel victimized. Or, at the very least, sore.

In our increasingly vengeful society, guaranteeing crime victims their rights is not just desirable. It's essential. It channels that need for vengeance away from chaos and into socially acceptable expression. But if we continue to push victims around, they may one day feel as if they have no choice but to take back their rights in the only way they've seen work: by becoming defendants themselves.

Yes, we are all innocent until proven guilty, but when a self-confessed monster like Timothy McVeigh can stall his execution because of a few misplaced boxes of documents that only show how much more guilty he is, we need to hustle his ass up onto that gurney faster than the time it will take for his scumbag lawyers to sign their upcoming book deal.

I endorse the execution of McVeigh. But every now and then I feel a pang of guilt, thinking, "Could he suffer more?" In my fantasy, we get a Port-A-John that's brimming with shit, lock him in it, and put the whole thing on a pickup truck driving slowly cross-country on badly paved roads.

Some anti-death penalty advocates say that McVeigh's execution won't bring closure to the survivors of the bombing. Maybe not, but it will bring closure to McVeigh's eyes, and frankly, that's all I need right now.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Advertising

You remember Saturday morning cartoons? They're the two minutes of filler between commercials for supersoakers and 16,000 forms of sugar. Including salted sugar.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but while I sometimes find advertising misleading, I do think it is necessary, as it often imparts vital information to the consumer. For example, paper towels with two plies are more absorbent. Wider gaps in tire treads help prevent hydroplaning. Fluoride fights tooth decay, and visiting foreign countries makes you shit yourself. And then you're back to the two-ply thing.

Advertising is not merely a human phenomenon, but a biological impulse found throughout the natural world. Peacocks attract the attention of a mate through a multicolored feather display. Baboons signal their sexual readiness with a pair of red, swollen buttock. And both the duck and gecko offer a broad range of attractively priced supplemental car insurance packages.

TV commercials nowadays are unrecognizable from what they were 20 years ago. Now you get these out-of-focus MTV jump cuts with a throbbing technosoundtrack and writhing supermodels in tankinis having simulated lesbian sex in the rain and a nun riding a yellow bike and a little barefoot kid in a Guatemalan village, and it's an ad for fucking pretzels.

I just wish people who wrote catchy commercial jingles in the 70's had taught at my high school -- I think I would've retained a lot more important, useful knowledge. I don't remember anything about geometry, history or science, but I do remember that when it says Libbie's Libbie's Libbie's on the label label label, you will like it like it like it on your table table table. And I swear, if I find myself alone in my car car car one more time singing, "Plop plop fizz fizz/oh what a relief it is", I'm going to hunt down the mind-control fuckwad who wrote that piece-of-shit Pavlovian haiku, and demand that he give me that part of my brain back.

You know, I'm seeing a lot more ads for medicines now. They're pushing pills for allergies that are followed by a list of side effects that read like a book of witch's spells. Nosebleeds, dry mouth, insomnia, shortness of breath, liver damage. You know what? Keep your allergy medicine. I'd rather reach for a Kleenex than have a blue arc of electricity connecting my nipples. At the top of my list of commercials I do like are the ones for the local stereo store starring either the stereo store owner, or the heavily made-up stereo store receptionist the stereo store owner is trying to bang.

You know which television commercial makes me laugh? The one with the kid sitting in his car in the parking lot, dancing like a robot to "Mr. Roboto." Genius. Absolutely no idea what it's selling.

Now, I'm all for sex in advertising, but I think it's gone too far. Steamy, provocative magazine ads are fine, but I was at the beach recently, and there was a prop plane going back and forth along the shoreline trailing a banner that said: "ADD INCHES TO YOUR TINY COCKDENNIS" And then there's no phone number.

Recent advances in digital technology now allow dead celebrities to endorse products that weren't even around when they were living. Just in case the heirs to my estate are getting any funny ideas, I want to get it out of the way right now: No matter what kind of cure for diarrhea they may discover in the year 2525, leave me out of it.

Now I might not be most objective guy to lecture you on the dangers of pervasive consumerism, given my own occasional forays into the world of advertising. But please believe me: I am just as concerned as any of you about the omnipresence of advertising, and try and take my warnings tonight as a desperately needed wake-up call... of up to 20 minutes for only 99 cents.

As a public person, I'm very picky about what I choose to endorse. A few years back I got a call from some arms dealers. They wanted me to be the spokesman for a Kalashnikov machine gun that they wanted to market to child soldiers in Southeast Asia. I said, "What kind of sick fuck animal do you take me for? You want Jon Lovitz."

You know, folks, it's inescapable. From the designer label on the protruding elastic band of the immense size-52 underpants of the man in front of you in the line at Dunkin' Donuts straining to point out the maple cruller on the bottom rack of the display case - no, no, not that one, that one with the extra frosting and the jimmies - to the drive to work where you are subjected to a flashcard-like strobing of billboards that leaves your brain stamped with subliminal impulses to fly United to Florida's Gulf Coast to take a Princess Cruise to a Radisson Hotel in the Friendly Bahamas, where you'll drink Ronrico White Rum and wear an oversized Tommy Hilfiger shirt, and Merrill hiking shoes, while getting Lasik eye surgery, having your teeth whitened, getting approved for a home loan over the phone and winning a large cash settlement for your personal injury claim. And then the light changes, and you drive a second block.

As a matter of fact, life for me is just the downtime between Chevy "Like a Rock" ads, which have now officially lasted longer than Bob Seeger's actual career. Attention, Madison Avenue: I give up. You've won. Here's my wallet, just get it over with and paint a milk mustache on the Statue of Liberty, OK?

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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The War on Tobacco

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but tobacco is so entwined with the history of this country, the only reason the Statue of Liberty is not holding up a lit cigarette is that her torch provides a better backdrop for final showdowns in shitty action movies.

Now, if you ask most smokers whether or not they want to smoke they'd probably tell you "no," they hate it. But nicotine couldn't be tougher to kick if Lucy Van Pelt from "Peanuts" was holding it with her fingertip.

Los Angelenos have been some of the most outspoken advocates against smokers exposing us to their second-hand smoke. Which is ironic, considering that compared to L.A. air, second-hand smoke is like aromatherapy. I'm so paranoid about getting sick I'm even worried about third-hand smoke -- the smoke coming off a second-hand smoker. Where's the research on that?

Now, as everyone who saw "The Insider" will remember, Russell Crowe's character, in trying to testify against the tobacco industry, was up against an adversary that would do anything to stop him, from e-mailing him threats to targeting his wife and child to forcing him to fight off man-eating lions on the blood-drenched floor of the Coliseum.

Because, by definition, their best customers are the ones most likely to up and die on them, tobacco companies must constantly look for fresh meat. As a result, they must aim their laser sites on the only group of people who are easy prey because they are so naive, so easily swayed by peer pressure, and so unready to make their own decisions as mature adults: Southerners. Also, teenagers.

And they start 'em off young. Remember candy cigarettes? I used to love those. At first, I only enjoyed one with an occasional glass of Kool-Aid or, say, after a wild and crazy Slip-and-Slide party at Ray Luigi's place, but pretty soon I was up to three packs a day. I never went in for bubblegum cigars; they always seemed a tad, I dunno, pretentious.

Our war on tobacco is a microcosm for a fundamental contradiction in the American psyche. We see ourselves as independent, livin'-my-life-without-the-government-on-my-back Marlboro men until something goes wrong, whereupon we turn into whiny, litigious crybabies looking for someone to foot the bill for our fuckups.

Currently there's a raft of ex-smokers suing tobacco companies because they got sick, and I just don't think that's right. Sure, I hate tobacco companies and think they sell a quintessentially evil product, and then lie insidiously through their yellowed teeth, all the while trading in their venal, profiteering souls for a lucrative paycheck in this life, knowing full well they'll spend all of time having their flesh raked by the fiery claws of Hell, while the cries of all their victims resonate in their ears for all eternity. That being said, I hate lawyers even more.

Yes, I feel sorry for the people suffering the effects of years of smoking. Yes, I think the tobacco companies should be punished for their deceptions and subterfuge. But suing a tobacco company because youve developed a health problem from smoking cigarettes is like suing McDonalds because they failed to inform you that the hot coffee you ordered will scald your lap if you spill it on yourself. Hmm, bad example.

OK, let's try this one. Suing a tobacco company because you've developed a health problem from smoking cigarettes is like demanding an apology from the "Members Only" jacket people for your not-getting-laid in the 80's.

It's pretty clear that President Bush isn't going to lead a fight against the cigarette companies, as he has stated several times that he believes the answer to the problem lies in opening up the Alaskan Wildlife Preserve for growing more tobacco.

I believe that right now the tobacco companies are missing a perfect PR opportunity to turn the tide of public opinion in their favor. I'm speaking, of course, about the energy crisis and the surrounding environmental concerns. For example, if the lights go out during an unexpected rolling blackout, who's going to have a lighter to provide emergency illumination? The smoker. If we experience increased pollution from unregulated power plants, who's going to require less oxygen because of diminished lung capacity? The smoker. And if ecosystems fall like dominoes, rendering the human race a mere band of cannibalistic scavengers wandering through a barren wasteland, whose flesh will possess the pleasant smoky taste of barbecue? Thank you, smokers.

Hey, America grows most of the world's tobacco. If I were president, I'd go on national television and tell those jagoffs from OPEC, "Hey, you know what's tougher to kick than cheap oil? Those Yankee Devil Marlboro 100's that you're always lightin' off a burning American flag. Yeah, that's right, Sheik Octane, you heard me. I don't see any tobacco plants sprouting up from that desert shitbox of yours. Now I want to see premium gasoline going for fifty cents a gallon again, or you guys are going to be up all night chain-sucking on goat-flavored Jolly Ranchers."

Of course that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Reality TV

And earlier today, Timothy McVeigh's execution was moved back to June 11th. Ahhhhh. You know, I love a June execution.

Or better yet, let's forget June. Let's put it in sweeps week. Just imagine what an ad would go for. You think I'm kidding? Trust me, if General Motors thought it would move vehicles off its dealers' lots, they would sponsor a live TV broadcast of Timothy McVeigh's execution. No doubt with some sort of tasteful product tie-in: "Folks, if you thought that injection was lethal, check-out the fuel injection in the all new 300-horsepower Cadillac Escalade"

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but what does it say about our culture when the most escapist form of entertainment is currently called "reality" television?

In the past, most networks tended to dabble delicately in the arena of reality tv, but lately, they've been going for it like a hungry mutt on an ass-flavored Milkbone.

One of the longest-running reality shows is "Cops," every episode of which poses the burning question: "Why is that morbidly obese man not wearing a shirt?" At least digitally scramble his mantits, OK?

Then theres "The Real World." Based on the premise that living rent-free in a fabulous house on the beach with a bunch of attractive young people all the while being videotaped by an ever-present camera crew is in any way, shape or form "real." However, "The Real World" does provide us with the valuable insight that, like, when you buy, like, orange juice, you know, and somebody else, like drinks it without, you know, like, asking, that's, like, a personal violation? You know?

And I couldn't watch "Temptation Island" because from what I gather, it would have reminded me of one of my vacations when I was single. Remember when you planned to hit the island and fuck anything that movedand nothing moved?

"Survivor" is the gold standard of reality programming, and when this craze is over, appropriately, it will probably be the last one standing. I caught the season finale of "Survivor." Watching this poly-merized tribal ritual through the smoky tiki-torch kerosene-scented haze, just one thought crossed my mind: How come that Keith guy is 40 but looks like he's 90?

Now I realize that if I were to be a contestant on "Survivor," I would probably be one of the first to be voted off -- if not for my tendency to openly hate other people, then for the visual and emotional assault that is me in bicycle pants crying all the time. But my plan would be simple. As soon as the votes were tallied, and Jeff Probst gave me the bad news, saying, "The tribe has spoken," I'd say, "Oh yeah? Well fuck the tribe. I'm a 'Survivor!'" and I'd bolt into the jungle, only to emerge every night to pick the other contestants off one by one with poison darts. Then I'd start in on the crew.

The truth is that, although people see reality shows as their doorway to instant television celebrity, it's probably much harder to beat out the 35,000 other applicants vying for a spot on "Survivor" than it was for me to beat out the one other applicant trying to be the host of Dennis Miller Live. Though believe me, Lynn Redgrave did not go down without a fight. That is one scrappy lady.

Now they've started double-layering the reality shows. They've had everything from "Dateline" stories on "Big Brother" to the "Survivor" cast on "The Weakest Link." But you know something? I'm not sure they've taken it far enough. I wouldn't mind seeing that frigid dwarf chick from "Weakest Link", caught in nothing but her chainmail corset and size 2 jackboots, running down an alley from an immigration officer on a Fox special called "When Untalented Foreigners Get Hired."

But while I've got my bones to pick with it, I do think reality television has a deserved place in the roster of our nightly entertainment. In fact, I myself have several ideas for new shows in the genre. The first is called "You Gotta Be Shittin' Me," and it involves simply mounting video cameras atop gasoline pumps at stations throughout Southern California.

I'm also pitching an alternative to "When Good Pets Go Bad." It's called "Put the Goddamn Video Camera Down, Edna, and Yank This Mongoose off my Nutsack."

To make a long story short, the key thing to remember about this evolutionary stage in the television medium is that TV tends to eat its own. And in a classic example of plagiaristic television logic, the geniuses at NBC noticed that every successful reality show sparked its own catchphrase "Voted off the island," "Is that your final answer?" and so they decided that all they needed to make a hit out of "The Weakest Link" was to plaster the phrase "You are the weakest link" over so many billboards and bus-stops that it is now permanently burnt into my brain like that time I walked in on Star Jones at the Universal Amphitheater VIP bathroom. But you know what? You cannot build an entire show around a single, easily-remembered catch phrase, and assume that just because you repeat it week after week, people will ultimately attach some sort of profundity or wit to it, and clap like trained seals whenever they hear it. People are not that stupid. They're not going to fall for it, and it's simply not going to work.

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

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The Stock Market

And on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average took another 80-point nose dive, before rallying today. You know, lately, the stock market's been performing like a blind dominatrix...you never know when she's going to hit bottom.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but the stock market is Las Vegas without the slots, the hookers or the dependable odds.

The market's so volatile these days, so dependent on so many minute indicators. A \$50 billion manufacturer of 16 different microprocessing components, each indispensable to the computer industry, can see its stock price plummet by half or more, solely on the rumor that Benny Kelso on the loading dock says it hurts when he pees.

Now, two phrases you'll often hear are "Bull market" and "bear market." In case you're wondering about the difference, a bear market is where I lose money because my stocks are plummeting along with everybody else's, while a bull market is where I lose money because my stocks are plummeting all by themselves.

Analysts are always telling us that the best way to invest in stocks is for the long term. The only problem with that is, in an attention-deficit-disordered America, the words "long term" indicate a time unit somewhere between the career of a boy band and the bitch-slap of a hummingbird.

And now, with the advent of the Internet, an unholy alliance between the home computer and the stock market has spawned the day-trader ? the kind of proto-loser who is spotwelded into his Incredible Hulk underoos down in the basement, his trembling, silver-Lotto-scratch-card dust-encrusted fingernails frantically pounding "buy" and "sell" orders into his keyboard so loudly that he can't even hear his mother upstairs crying out for the good old days when all he did online was compulsively masturbate.

The widely-held gospel of Wall Street is "buy low and sell high." Thanks. Thanks for the tip, Motley Fuck. That's like telling a bald guy "Getting laid's easy...Just go to a bar and pick up Heidi Klum."

Now, I don't want to act like I'm a fiscal expert here. As a matter of fact, when it comes to my own investments, I have only one question: What do all those numbers mean? Seriously, what would I know about what things are actually worth? I'm in show business, for chrissakes.

When the market began to tank last month, I couldn't get my broker on the phone. Finally, his secretary admitted he had quit to take a job with Exxon, but she couldn't quite remember which gas station it was.

I've learned some painful lessons about investing. In the future, when ending conversations with an investment advisor, I will do so by saying, "I'm done speaking with you now," instead of saying, "Bye-bye," which my former money manager always mistook for an enthusiastic request to purchase shares in whatever lean-to piece of shit-dot-com sham he was getting blowjobs and free plane tickets to push that week.

Hey, there's no substitute for doing your homework before investing in a company? good, solid, sound fiscal research. When I'm thinking of investing in a retail chain, for example, what I do is go to one of their stores, and lock myself in a bathroom stall. Then I curl up in a fetal ball on the floor and emit a low, painful- sounding groan, and I time how long it takes one of the assistant managers to come in and see if I'm okay. Wal-Mart? 3 minutes. Target? Half hour. K-Mart? Kibbel the night janitor woke me up at three in the morning and asked me if I had any rolling papers.

Hey, I know investing is a risky proposition, and I don't mind losing my shirt, but can I have my pants back? Recently, let's say, over the past month, I've put sixty-thousand dollars into Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Thank God I didn't buy the stock.

And last year I bought Pets-dot-com at thirty. Two weeks later, it was dropping faster than Al Roker on a greasy flagpole. You'd think I would have learned my lesson, but instead I moved my remaining capital into something called e-Toys. And last time I looked, that stock had broken through zero and was tunneling into the molten magma at the core of our planet.

But the gloomy end of the unsurpassed bull market of the 90's did turn up some unexpected bright spots. For one thing, remember that day-trading dilettante prick neighbor of yours?the guy who threw a few lucky darts at the NASDAQ wheel and showed up at every party for the next year in his Lincoln Navigator, downed a few too many glasses of Turning Leaf Chardonnay and got all self-important, going on and on like he was Warren Buffet with a soul patch talking about P/E ratios and small-cap funds' place in the Keens-ian oeuvre and you figured, "Well, he must know what he's talking about," and so you put ten grand in a stock he recommended that collapsed like the Three Stooges' tent the following week? You remember that guy? Well, right about now, he's replacing all the deodorant cakes in the men's room urinals at Der Weinershnitzel before he finishes off his shift standin' out front and handin' out half-off chili fry coupons, dressed like a giant fuckin' bratwurst. I'd say karma is up about a hundred points.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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