Women in Sport

The U.S. women's World Cup soccer team this week is locked in a dispute about receiving the same compensation as the men's team. Can you believe we're busting these women's metaphorical balls over a few bucks after that incredible victory? Shouldn't we be paying them for taking the term "header" out of the White House and putting it back onto the playing fields where it belongs?

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but tonight's subject is "women in sports." I know what the women are thinking: "Oh, great, goatee boy is gonna tell us about women in sports. We're gonna hear all about women's sports from the funny little man on TV who's more full of shit than a whale with no ass." Well, I happen to love women's sports. Sometimes, even for the right reasons.

You know, the increasing visibility of women's athletics has to be attributed to more than simply being the right idea at the right time. The women's World Cup soccer team and the players in the WNBA have struck a resounding chord deep in the American psyche, because they have something that most pampered, overpaid, arrogant male athletes long ago forgot about. They have breasts--I mean, heart.

Seriously, I believe the reason people follow women's sports nowadays is that for the most part, female athletes are still pure. Women play for the reason male athletes used to play: the love of the game. They sure as hell aren't doing it for the money, are they? Christ, the kids making their shoes are getting paid better than they are. Anyway, when I read about male professional athletes being arrested for murder, assault, rape and theft, I must say I agree with those who say they just can't see women competing on the same level as men.

Look, as long as women have been around, they've had athletic ability. It's just that their defined role in our society was narrower than an armrest on Southwest Airlines. Opportunities for women used to be harder to come by than a Pat Buchanan button in a Mexican border town, but they are finally getting more plentiful.

In just a few short decades, our perception of female athleticism has shifted from the cliched lanky, deep-voiced, perpetually single girls' gym teacher to indisputably feminine sports figures like Mia Hamm, Gabrielle Reece and Anna Kournikova. Although there are exceptions--Like that Rodman chick. What's up with her?

If you doubt the genetic capability of women to physically compete with men, stay up late some night and check out women's bodybuilding on ESPN 2. The other night I saw a woman who looked like a shiny fire hydrant with eye lashes, straining so hard in the final pose-down that a tiny, perfectly formed penis popped out of her bikini bottom. Well, I've got some news for all you female bodybuilders out there, especially the ones who are more ripped than Hillary Clinton's love letters from Bill: Let me assure you that people are checking you out, but they're looking at you for the same reason they look at incredibly bad toupees. And of course no one is going to tell you that you look frightening, because we're all afraid you'll kick our scrawny little asses, OK, Congolia?

On the other side of the Susan B. Anthony dollar, why are certain events at the Olympics restricted only to women? Take rhythmic gymnastics. Is there something unmanly about a guy doing backflips down the balance beam, or playing with a red ball and whipping that ribbon on a stick around to "Muskrat Love?" I think not.

Female athletes must deal with a host of stereotypes, the most prominent being that women's sports is the exclusive domain of lesbians. Some people actually believe that LPGA stands for "Look Prick, Go Away." Like most stereotypes, that one is simply not true, except when it's true. By the way, in pointing out the inaccuracy of a particular generalization, I am not implying that there's anything wrong with lesbians--whether on the field or off, whether they're in training or in the showers after the game, soaping each others' toned, hard bodies and giggling girlishly as their friendly pushing and teasing escalates into something much, much more... Where was I? Oh, yeah--the stereotype thing--no, not true at all.

Maybe what's really happening is that we've evolved to a point where we're no longer shoehorned into rigidly confined gender roles. Maybe we're developing into a society where it's okay for women to be forceful and powerful, competitive and driven, and it's okay for men to be soft and passive and do cross-stitch embroidery and cry at movies and squeal at kittens in baskets and walk around the house in their lacy underthings without their wives rolling their eyes and saying, "Come on, for crissake, the pizza guy's on his way over. Wouldja put some goddamn pants on, Dennis?"

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

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The Social Responsibility of the President

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but our current Commander in Chief seems to have yet again raised the bar for questionable behavior. As a matter of fact, Hillary Clinton hears the words "I'm sorry" more frequently than Pauly Shore on "Celebrity Jeopardy."

You know, I feel a bit of sympathy for Hillary. But she's obviously known about this kind of stuff for years and made some peace with it. And I even feel a little sorry for Clinton himself because truth be told, none of our lives would stand up to this high-powered X-ray scrutiny. But the fact is, he chose the fishbowl, undoubtedly so he could grope the plastic mermaid seated on the little treasure chest.

Clinton's recent scandal is reminiscent of Nixon's Watergate, if for no other reason than each President's main mistake was the firing of Cox. You see, until the other "tricky dick" was asked to leave the table, no President had ever quit and we weren't sure our system could survive it. Well, now we know it can.

But it's not as if getting caught really matters, does it? Clinton's most recent approval rating is 73 percent. Can you grasp that figure, 73 percent?

You cannot get 73 out of 100 people to agree on whether or not they like themselves. Now these figures, of course, could spiral downward if more women step forward or obstruction of justice is proven or, even more importantly, if the stock market suddenly does a Lewinsky.

But the President's amazing approval rating would seem to indicate that we are now prepared to accept the sexual foibles of those who seek public office. Why not go all the way? Instead of names on the ballots, why don't we just make our decisions based on Polaroids of all the candidates' genitalia? It wouldn't be that different, really. Some are to the left, some to the right. Some represent bigger government and some, unfortunately, smaller government.

You know, maybe the reason we're more forgiving nowadays is because it's finally sunk in these are just guys.

Guys who at some point are presumptuous enough to lift their head off the pillow in outback towns like Little Rock, Arkansas, lean over, and tell their wife that they've decided it's their turn to become the most powerful man in the world. And the only difference between you and them is that their wife doesn't say, "Ah shut up, you asshole. How's about gettin' the day shift at Meineke first, okay?"

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Talk Shows

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but daytime TV talk shows have become a vast, fetid, sump-sucking wasteland, populated by a parade of circus geeks and sideshow oddities that would have given even Federico Fellini a case of grade-A, toss-in-your-sleep, ate-a-garlic-cheese-and-sushi-calzone-right-before-bedtimeni- ghtmares. And that's just the hosts.

With everything that's on daytime television today, one thought continues to haunt me: How in the hell did Richard Bey get canceled?

Lest anyone think I'm biting the hand that feeds me, let me clarify: When I speak of talk shows, I mean the anti-Darwinian, Lord of the Flies cluster-fucks that pass for daytime programming. The shows where the basic rules of human discourse are paid about as much attention as Linda Hunt on the set of "Baywatch."

Now, I'm not saying they all suck like airplane toilets, but you could safely conclude that the good ones can be counted on the one hand of a bad wood shop teacher.

It's not hard to figure out why these shows are popular. They answer the burning question: "What do the people we see being arrested on 'Cops' do during the day?"

Why have these daytime chatfests flourished? Well, the answer is that all the smart people are working when this shit is on. The submorons who watch this dreck are the people nobody wants to hire.

That's the only way I can explain the sheer number of gene pool skimmings that make it on the air. I swear, you can still see the jelly on their foreheads where the electroshock terminals were attached. And what I find so scary is that some of these shows have been on for years but they still manage to find this Fantasia broom army of social misfits to appear on them. They all look like they've just stepped out of a William Faulkner rough draft, mouth-breathing freaks who make Jethro Bodine look like David Niven.

But these shows do provide a service. They weave together some of the shabbier threads in the fabric of our society and give them a voice . . . even if that voice is frequently only heard in their own heads. Hey, how many times have I seen chunky tattooed women slap-fighting in the Laundromat parking lot and wished I knew the back story?

And the Yoda of Daytime, the Professor Emeritus of emotional chum, is one Jerry Springer, Esquire. Now, here's a man who has become a household name . . . make that a trailer-hold name, by offering daily spectacles that make Brazilian snuff films seem uplifting by comparison.

Each day Springer ladles through the primordial ooze like some psychotic cafeteria lady and dishes up the mystery meat of the human condition.

My favorite part of the Jerry Springer show is Jerry's "Final Thought." Yeah, like all of a sudden Jerry is going to add some perspective and sanity to tie it all together. I got news for you. Jerry has only one final thought. And you know what that is? "Are the Siamese-Twin Hasidic Skinheads confirmed for tomorrow?"

We are the rubberneckers and Springer and his ilk orchestrate the train wrecks we all slow down to ogle. And the freak stakes have to be jacked up higher with each passing day because, let's face it, folks, we are less shockable than David Lynch in a pair of platform galoshes.

Well, that just about wraps this rant up, but here's my final thought. What kind of world would it be if we weren't all inexorably drawn to watching trashy chicks scream at each other right before they get a makeover that looks like it was done by a guy who paints murals on the sides of vans, only to find out that no amount of makeover will be enough to assuage their pain at losing their man to another ho's hoochie?

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

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Drugs

Now I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but America’s war on drugs has turned out to be as fruitless as Pavarotti’s diet.

We seem to be fighting this multi-front campaign with all the cool-headed expertise of the Three Stooges fixing a leaky faucet... I mean, when you think about it, who really is fighting this supposed war on drugs? Let’s face it folks, we have a couple of McHale’s Navy boats, four dogs who got tired of sniffing other dogs asses and that commercial with the eggs. And that is it, okay? Its as easy to get drugs in present day America as it is to get elected Mayor of Washington, D.C. As a matter of fact, its exactly as easy.

The war on drugs is nothing more than a syringe full of platitudes that politicians try to mainline into the public’s happy vein to keep us compliant. If we had any actual commitment, you’d be able to look at a map and see a smoking hole where Columbia once was. Short of that, the war on drugs has failed. Oh wait, I take that back. My kid got thrown out of school this week because they caught him with some menthol flavored Ricolas.

The war on drugs quite frankly is a farce, and here’s why. Getting high is hardwired into our DNA. It’s a basic human need, right up there with food, clothing and Seinfeld. Ever since primitive man first looked around the crude lean-to he’d built and thought "Man, I need an escape from this Arthur C. Clark shit-hole", then loaded some Mastadon dung into bong-a-saurus and proceeded to get so swacked that he would order a slab of ribs that could literally tip his car over, people have used any and all means at their disposal to alter their perception of reality.

Look, we can’t just point our fingers at the drug-producing nations and whine about their lawlessness and disregard for human life, because we’re inextricably entwined with them in a lock-step tango of supply and demand. We comprise 5% of the planet’s population and consume 50% of the planet’s illicit drugs. I got that off the liner notes for Yes songs. You know, we may complain about the neighbors, but we’re rummaging through their medicine cabinet like Gary Busey’s babysitter every chance we get. We need to get the mirror off the coffee table and take a long hard look at ourselves without giggling and realize that our attitude towards drugs is more conflicted than Woody Allen at a family reunion.

Now, I myself don’t do drugs, because as I grew older I began to discover that they are not nearly powerful enough to quell my inner pain. But even I believe that at the very least, marijuana should be available to those who need it for medical reasons. And no, going to see the director’s cut of Blade Runner is not a medical reason. Showgirls, maybe.

Look, the role of the government is to protect us from other nations and other people, the government has no business protecting me from me. But we refuse to accept that you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. I’ve come to the realization that America doesn’t have a drug problem, some Americans do. And it is their personal responsibility to fix it, not mine. Their drug problem only becomes my drug problem when they operate a moving vehicle, try to sell drugs to a minor, or corner me at a party and try to explain to me who really killed Bruce Lee. If a fully grown adult in reasonable control of his faculties wants to plunge a syringe full of lighter fluid into his urethra and piss fire, as long as he does it in the privacy of his own asbestos bathroom, I will flick the Bic. .... Let’s face it folks, drugs aren’t going anywhere in America, any substance that helps ugly guys get laid is here to stay. Of course, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

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Violence in Media

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but there's a lot of violence in the media. And I think we all know the core issue that we must confront as a nation. Without a doubt, Jimmy Carter must be brought in to mediate between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, because this Sicilian thing has got to stop.

In an increasingly permissive and shockproof society, where taboos are being shattered like a bank of TV sets at Graceland during a Robert Goulet special, we have all become more desensitized than Rush Limbaugh's ass after an eighteen-hour bus ride.

This is an issue that concerns me deeply, because I, personally, am a victim of media violence. Every movie I'm in, I get killed halfway through. I'm like the guy on Star Trek in the red shirt.

Now, to listen to the frantic bleating of social reformers and family-values-mongers, you'd think that media violence is some new, demonic invention and before that pesky Quentin Tarantino came along we were skipping through an idyllic G-rated wonderland. Well, guess what? From cave drawings depicting the hunt to tribal war songs to a gory little tome called the Bible, the portrayal of violence has, in one way or another, been a part of human discourse ever since we stopped dragging our knuckles on the ground and started using them to give each other noogies.

But we're hypocritical about violence in the media. We're looking for someone to blame and if our kid goes bad, the media is a defenseless target for the clusterfuck of self-righteous rhetoric that passes for intelligent debate these days. We all seem to want our children to watching nothing but nice, positive stories so that they'll be so suffused with love, they'll go traipsing through the world, handing out big flowers to strangers like the summer of love hippie kids who always placed a daffodil in Jack Webb's gun barrel on Dragnet. The truth is, TV isn't the biggest influence on your kids. You are. There's probably more real emotional violence and bad vibes at the average American family dinner table than in an entire season of Highlander, not to mention better acting.

Mom and Dad, look, your television is not a babysitter. It can't rack up long distance calls talking to its boyfriend who's away at college, it can't eat the frozen Wolfgang Puck pizza you were saving for the De La Hoya pay per view, and it can't have a six-year fling with a Kennedy. It's just a machine.

I didn't even know if I really buy that there's a connection between violent TV and violent behavior. I mean, I grew up watching a steady diet of Mannix, Krazy Kat cartoons, and Combat, and I'm so nonconfrontational, I make Deepak Chopra look like Oddjob.

Besides, it seems to me, as far as adults go, we gobble up TV violence like it's an ear and we're a mentally unbalanced boxer.

Just look at the titles of the sickening shows that prey on our morbid curiosity: When Animals Kill, Brushes with Death, and one of the worst of all, Circus of the Stars. And, come on, when you watch Circus of the Stars, aren't you rooting for Richard Mulligan to fall off the high wire, ricochet off Tootie from The Facts of Life, and then crush Screech?

What about the local news? In reporting violent crime, the local news comports itself with all the dignity and responsibility of Moe, Larry, and Shemp locked in a haunted house.

And network news aren't much better. The big three all feel the ratings pressure, and know that if they shovel some bloody chum onto the airwaves, Americans will swim over to their little pond and gorge themselves on the carcass. I mean, do we really need Dateline NBC on every four hours every night, combing through every detail of some horrible act of violence like Columbo with obsessive-compulsive disorder? And while we're on the subject: The only thing stiffer than Stone Phillips is Richard Simmons watching him.

Hey, this is all very simple. Forget V-Chips, forget government intervention, forget blaming it on the networks and get back to basics. If you don't like what's on, you have the power. To all my fellow men out there lying in bed watching TV, take a look down. . . . You see that thing you're holding in your hand? Well, let go of it, pick up the remote control, and watch what you want.

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

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Smoking

You know, they say every cigarette you smoke makes your life seven minutes shorter, and I know that's true because I had an uncle, and the first cigarette he ever smoked was on an airplane. Smoked the cigarette, and he immediately dropped dead of a heart attack. Seven minutes later, the plane crashed into a mountain.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but America's attitude about smoking has become more hostile than a militia member at a tax audit. These days even the Philip Morris employee cafeteria has a no smoking section. If you walked into a restaurant and loudly demanded that they serve you a charbroiled live puppy, you'd probably cause less of an outcry than you would simply by sitting down and lighting up a smoke.

When I say "smoke," I'm talking mostly about cigarettes, although I guess with the increasing popularity of cigars, we have to include them in this discussion. For years, cigars concerned only half the population, but their usage is growing more prevalent with the fairer sex. For women, smoking cigars is like going to Chippendale's: You're basically saying, "Look, guys, we can be just as big a bunch of assholes as you can."

Now, it's been proven that tobacco company executives' sworn congressional testimony concerning the addictive properties of nicotine had all the sincerity of a defense attorney's tie rack. But who can possibly be shocked by this?

Tobacco companies will stop at nothing to win the smoking wars. Now their scientists are saying some of the smoking research data is no longer valid because the contemporary mores dictate that rats have to step outside their mazes to have the smoke.

Hey, don't blame the cigarette makers. Tobacco companies are being sued way too much. I admit they're evil poison-mongers who give other poison-mongers a bad name. Yes, they lie about the addictive nature of their products and get rich doing it. But come on, tell the truth, we knew they were lying all along. If you're saying you didn't know cigarettes were bad for you, you're lying through that hole in your trachea. Of course it causes cancer. Of course it causes emphysema. It's fucking smoke. Would you build a campfire and every hour stand real close and take deep breaths? How could you not know smoking is bad for you? Is having teeth the color of caramel corn normal ? Is coughing up your lungs one smoldering loogie at a time normal? God gave you two lungs, so don't be an asshole. Think. Use one lung for smoking and the other one for breathing.

Here are some signs that it might be time to quit smoking:

1. Before you light up, you wrap a nicotine patch around your cigarette.

2. Your newborn twin sons are named Benson and Hedges.

3. You name each cigarette and have a personal conversation with it while you smoke.

4. You're at Arlington Cemetery, paying your respects to JFK, and you lean over and light one up off the eternal flame.

And 5. You shit pure tar.

Listen, the bottom line on cigarette smoking is it's really just the way you interpret things. I mean, they say smoking gives you cancer. Sure, you can be negative and look at that as a bad thing, or you can see that smoking gives you cancer. It gives it to you. It's a present. Here, here's cancer. . . . Why, thank you very much, Mr. Cigarette.

You know, when I find myself in a room where everyone's smoking, and it gets too intense, you know what I do? I don't start waving my hand around and fake coughing; I don't start rattling off heart disease and lung cancer stats like some autistic surgeon general; I don't lecture anybody about their lifestyle choices. . . . I leave the room, okay? My acceptance of smokers is one of the compromises, one of the little negotiations that once must make if one is to live in modern urban society.

I don't know why people complain about secondhand smoke. At nearly two dollars a pack, don't you realize how much money they're saving you?

Plus, if you smoke, you get to read the matchbook covers and learn about the exciting career opportunities awaiting you in cartooning.

And hey to all of you militant antismokers whom I see screaming at strangers for lighting up: If you were that concerned about your lungs, what in the fuck are you doing living in L.A.?

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

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The Fate of the Presidency (Bill Clinton)

Poor Bill Clinton. Well it’s his fault. Who the hell would want that job anyway? You know what the problem with the presidency is? We only pay the guy \$250,000 bucks a year. You know even NBA white guys make more than that. Now I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but what is to become of our beloved presidency? And I don’t mean the Clinton presidency, because you know he’s gonna survive this. Clinton’s ass is 90% super-ball. OK. And the harder he falls on it, the higher he bounces. Christ, even Jason looks at Clinton and says, "I can’t believe this son-of-a-bitch is still alive." President Clinton’s popularity is through the roof. All right, some of it is stuck on the ceiling. But it is through the roof. Partly because we like the job he’s doing, and partly because most Americans view those numb nuts in the Senate and the glass House of Representatives like they’re the uptight frat guys from Animal House.

To me, the most interesting revelation to come out of this whole affair is that after a year in which the entire executive branch was supposedly hamstrung, the American people have gotten along very nicely without it thank you. Our founding fathers could never have predicted the absolute stability of this rudderless ship of state. Oh and by the way, we have to stop viewing the presidency through the rose garden colored glasses of the constitution, OK. Quit beating me over the head with this rolled up 200-year-old things-to-do list. Yeah, some of its great and some of its just antiquated bullshit, OK. Listen, if Thomas Jefferson were alive today and you drove him out to Washington National Airport in a BMW 700 Series and put him on the Concord and gave him a laptop and a cell phone to fool around with for the three and one half hour flight to Europe. And then told him we were still running the country strictly according to the precepts that he and his friends scribbled on a cocktail napkin once at a party in 1787. Well do you think Jefferson wouldn’t look at you in disbelief and say, "What the fuck are you thinking?" Flip it over. See it says right there "feel free to change this every couple of centuries or so asshole."

Look the office of the president has always functioned much like a frilly toothpick on a deli sandwich. It serves no nutritional purpose, but it looks good and holds things together. For better or for worse, a president embodies the sentiment and spirit of his time. And Clinton? Yeah, OK, compared to Clinton, eels are Velcro. But, reprehensible as he is, we identify with him. Clinton’s insatiable need to be loved, constantly undermined by his own self-destructive tendencies, is a larger-than-life parallel to our own inner turmoil. Ironically enough it’s now we who feel his pain. In the near term what will happen to the presidency depends on who we put into office. If we elect Al Gore, the president will be a dull ineffectual figurehead from Tennessee. On the other hand, if we elect George Bush, Jr. the president will be a dull ineffectual figurehead from Texas. See that’s why it’s so vitally important that you vote. Because the letters after the T in the state they come from start to get different. Hey, the presidency is not supposed to be a Crisco orgy. But it’s also not a platform for canonization either, OK. It’s a job. And up until recently, it was one job that respectable public servants might aspire to. And until we stop putting the chief executives personal life under more scrutiny than Tyra Banks in a tybo class, the prospective pool of qualified applicants is going to be shallower than Jennifer Love Hewitt reciting some of her own poetry at the Virgin Mega Store Café alright.

Look folks, I hate to burst anybody’s patriotic bubble, but there are no heroes anymore. The times we live in won’ t allow them. The very process of running for the presidency is so debasing its guaranteed to squash whatever noble or idealistic impulses a candidate is naïve enough to entertain in the first place. I look at presidents the same way I look at the guy who trims my hedges. All I ask is that he does his job, doesn’t rip me off or stare too long at my wife, that’s it OK. I think if the next president is to learn anything from this whole episode, its that he should be totally forthcoming with whatever dark secret he harbors thereby completely defanging the rabid pack of partisan watchdogs nipping at his heels. You know, at this point, I really believe that our entire nation actually would deify the first president who steps up to a podium, looks dead into a television camera and says, "Folks, she blew me. As a matter of fact, she’s blowin’ me right now. But enough about me, let’s talk about cutting yo…uh…eh…uh…you’re taxes." Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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UFOs

Speaking of aliens, why are Americans so reluctant to welcome anybody from Mexico and so enamored, witness the grosses for Independence Day, of the idea of encountering creatures from another planet?

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but it seems like nowadays you can't throw a rock without hitting somebody... who'll claim it was a UFO. As life on this planet swirls in an ever-increasing speed down the crapper, is it any wonder that we've become more and more fixated with this notion of life elsewhere?

All began in the 50s when we saw an astronomical increase in the number of UFO sightings. In fact, before 1947 there were next to no reports of UFOs. Is it just a coincidence that everyone began to see flying saucers about the same time everyone began seeing Communists? World War II was over and we needed something new to fear.

In 1947 something crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. Some believe four aliens were discovered at the site and that their remains, as well as the flying saucer, are being held in an Air Force installation 100 miles north of Las Vegas in an area known as Area 51. UFO-ologists insist that the four aliens and manager, Brian Epstein, accidentally crashed their own flying saucer. Yeah, because they can travel 350 million light years dodging black holes, asteroids and comets, but those New Mexico telephone wires are a real bitch! I think two of the four aliens might have survived the wreck, escaped from Area 51 and made it to Vegas where they have been doing nine shows a week under the name Siegfried and Roy!!

Now, true believers say that Area 51 is definitely hiding something because if you go there, they won't let you in and they won't tell you what they have there. You know why that is? Because it's a fuckin' military installation, alright?! What, do you think that if you go to Areas 1 through 50 you're gonna get a Chardonnay and some gouda? No you're not! You're gonna get turned away faster than Roger Clinton tryin' to get backstage at a Marilyn Manson concert!

Now some believe that there is an authentic film of an autopsy on one of the Roswell aliens. I saw the film on FOX. I believe it was sandwiched between a very special "Martin" and a special "Party of Five." And, ahh, I thought the autopsy was as authentic as a piece of total bullshit can be. Ahh, by the way, you know what they found at the autopsy? Traces of OJ's blood.

Now, in addition to the Area 51 freaks, there are those who legitimize the existence of aliens vis-a-vis the appearance of crop patterns that resemble the symbol that Prince uses as his name etched into an okra field outside of Mount Pilot. Alright, occasionally bizarre patterns can be seen if you and Mike, the crop duster who dated Bee Benadara's lesbian daughter, Bobby Jo, fly over the fields out back of the Shady Rest. Some say it's a landing marker for aliens; I say it's Uncle Joe with an IV drip of grain alcohol and a Weedwacker.

Another core-ingredient of UFO studies is the abduction by aliens. Under hypnosis the abductees recollections all share the same characteristics; long stretches of time unaccounted for, strange bruises on the body, a suspicion of sexual violation. Is it just me or does alien abduction sound amazingly like spring break?

Listen, it's a natural tendency to look skyward for the next shiny thing to answer our prayers. That's why people flock to UFO conventions; in the hope that when the inevitable mass landing does happen the star gods will first want to get in touch with the mentally unstable among us.

The purest defining event of the UFO culture has got to be the Star Trek convention. Not since the Pope and Cardinal O'Connor spoke to a symposium of nuns catered by the Amish has so little sexual experience been assembled in one room.

Hey look, I'd be the first one to tell ya I would welcome aliens, because quite frankly, I'm running out of people to despise on this planet.

Despite the barnacles of cynicism which resolutely encrust my hull, I do believe that there is life other than ours somewhere other than Earth. I just don't think they're coming here! I don't know who they are or what they drive, but I assume that they, like I, stick to the tenet that the less you have to do with your neighbors, the better off it is for everyone involved.

To an extraterrestrial, Planet Earth at best would be like the Vince Lombardi rest stop along the Jersey Turnpike. Chances are they stop off here once to try to stretch their tiny gray limbs, pick up a nut log and take a leak out of one of their 47 penises. But, on the off-chance that there are super advanced alien beings out there tonight interpreting this signal: First of all, thank you for watching. And now, I want you to listen up, Caldar of Ramoula-Five! When you do come here and abduct one of us, invariably, might I add, one of us from a rural address, please... Stay out of our asses, okay! There's nothing in our asses that will help you and your dying planet! Life is tough enough out there in Grow Country without you procto-naunts downing a couple cases of Zima and getting your moon rocks off checking on Jethro's oil, okay.

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

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The Afterlife (Death)

Colonel Tom Parker passed away this week, age 87. So. Elvis? If you can hear me, get ready to give up half the strings on your harp, my friend. 87. Had a good run. And eventually, we all have to leave the building, don't we? It's just, "What's out there?!" aura. I don't want to get off on a rant here, but as more and more aging Baby Boomers peer through their bifocals at the haggard Lance Hendrixian face of their own mortality, one question seems to occur with numbing frequency, where do we go after last call at Bistro Earth? As a forty-three year old man I am starting to ponder concepts like my own end game, not so much in a Dionne Warwick way, but as a means with which to acclimate myself to facing the inevitable. I know people say life begins at forty. Yeah, if you're the fucking Highlander. But, you know, the rest of us are trying to make sense out of the indecipherable babble of everyone else's best guess as to what awaits us behind door number 3 in Monty's death jar.

Do we go on a journey into something more magnificent, or do we merely get buried and remade into bridge-mix for worms? Well, you know, we just don't know, and that question often tugs on us like harder than Newt Gingrich trying to water ski. Death haunts us because the only guarantee that comes with the gift of life is that sooner or later you're gonna have to return that gift to whatever cosmic Nordstrom's we inhabit.

The afterlife is a subject that's inspired more speculation than how Melissa Ethridge's girlfriend got pregnant. You know, I would like to believe that when I get to the Pearly Gates I will be greeted by St. Peter, and he'll say that he's a big fan of the show, and I don't have to queue up with the rest of the dead losers, and then a big doorman with a headset halo and black leather wings unhitches the velvet rope and waves me in. That's what I'd like to believe, but for all I know, St. Pete is just another pissed off DMV zombie who makes you go to the end of the stooge line behind the guy who had one Tai Chi lesson and went into a biker bar to test it out. He's standing in front of you there in the crane position with a pool cue sticking out of his ass, blunt side in.

Then the next thing in the eternal life is you get to review all the moments of your life. Oh, that's great. Having to watch daily's of all the stuff you'd rather forget from your earlier days. Scenes like the time you figured out how to fuck your toy cement mixer when you were twelve. How about the time you ate a castanata size portion of buttons at a college party and thought your roommate was a giant suck locust so you ran nude through a mall with a Doors' 45 stuck on your penis to warn the villagers?

So, while we can all pretty much agree on what heaven must be like, hell, like Winston Smith's rat cage, is a subjective thing; it's what you find most loathsome and frightening in your heart of hearts and it is forever. It's sitting in the Clockwork Orange chair through an ever repeating double feature of Showgirls and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. It's being stuck in a never-ending traffic jam in mid-August with no air conditioning and a radio that only gets the "All Rosie Perez-All the Time" station.

Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said, "Hell is other people," and he should know because he lived in France. About the only evidence we have to go on as far as the afterlife is concerned is the testimony of people who have had near-death experiences, and they all describe the same phenomenon: rushing at break-neck speed through a long dark tunnel towards a bright light at the end. Hey, you call it a "near death experience," I call it "riding on Amtrak," okay? Poe-tay-toe, pa-ta-toe, dee-rail-lo, dee-ral-low.

But, near-death isn't enough, is it? What we really need to do is to talk to somebody with a cellular on the other side whose got meta-physical roam. Now, when I was a kid we got a Ouija board and we proceeded to convince ourselves that we had discovered a direct connection to the world of the unseen. I realized that may be it wasn't that precise a device when we lost the sliding thing and replaced it with a Cool-Whip lid with a thumbtack in it. I was getting suspicious anyway when I noticed that all of the spirits we contacted misspelled the exact same words that my brother did.

Now, the later day Ouija boards are the channelers, and channelers for a hefty fee will sit you down at a table, back light a crystal, turn on some Tesh at Red Rocks bootleg tape, and then pop in and out of characters so paper-thin that they couldn't get passed the Table Read at "Renegade." And this stuff is rife in LA. I mean, I would remind you that most people in Hollywood barely have one person inside of them, let alone 200, okay? Simply put, if there were no money to be made from summoning the dead, channeling would be about as popular as Marla Maples at a benefit screening for the First Wives' Club, okay?

So, if much of man's dabblings in the afterlife distill down into nonsense, why does it hold so much fascination for us? And for the answer to that question, we must go to the afterlife's PR firm, organized religion, promising us eternal bliss and threatening us with hell and damnation are the bullwhip and the chair that keep us from trying to maul our trainer. Well, it's ironic that an argument about finality could just go on and on. But, that about sums it up.

So, let's just leave it at this: Your Big-3 brand name creeds all agreed on one thing: Sammy Hagar was a mistake. But they also believe in a judgment day, when the world comes to an end. The dead shall rise and judgment will be pronounced on the deeds of all those who inhabited the planet. And folks, even Johnny Cochran won't be able to bullshit his way out of that one.

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

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The Death of Common Sense

You know, lately I find myself recurringly gripped by an overwhelming desire to smack our entire country upside its collective head.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but common sense in this country isn't just dead, it's been cremated and Woody Harrelson is smoking his ashes in his lucky skull bong. There is so little common sense today that Thomas Paine is spinning over in his grave so rapidly that they are thinking of hooking him up to a turbine to light up the Vegas strip.

You can't get to your office in the morning without colliding with some idiot who is trying to spawn upstream onto the elevator while everyone else is trying to get off.

You can't get in your car and not run into another idiot who pulls into the gas station with his fuel tank on the wrong side and then has to get instructions from a NASA team at Houston Control to figure out how to maneuver his car so that the tank is on the correct side. And you can't open a paper without reading about a mondo idiot who gets hurt or killed at a railroad crossing because they had to try and beat the train to get home in time to watch Charlene Tilton's salute to porcelain clowns on QVC.

Now, what the fuck has happened to us? A chalk outline is slowly being drawn around common sense and most Americans can't even identify the victim. We've gone from a nation of practical-minded, can-do Johnny-Get-Your-Guns and Rosie the Riveters to a bunch of sniveling crybabies who can't take it on the chin without running whining to our lawyers.

Christ, we're so bogged down in procedure, we make Radar O'Reilly look like Henry David Thoreau. You coulple that with a Blanche DuBois-like denial of personal responsibility for the crap in our lives, and it's no wonder we're in a malasie that makes a bout of Epstein-Barr seem like a Laker Girl doing the Watusi after four triple lattes with a Dexatrim chaser.

You know, there's 800,000 lawyers in our country, and many of their livelihoods depend on the fact that we have got no common sense. My theory is that intelligence, like every other resource on this planet, has a finite amount. And as the population increases, the intelligence resource is being stretched thinner than the elastic in Marge Schott's G-string.

For instance, some old lady burns herself on a cup of coffee at McDonald's ans sues for three million dollars because it's not her fault. And she wins. She wins! We have trouble convicting people who actually confess to murder, but this woman is able to take three mil off of McDonald's? If the judge had any common sense, the trial should have gone like "Will the plaintiff please rise? Yeah, it is your fault. You're stupid. Coffee is supposed to be hot. Why didn't you blow on it before you chugged it down like a pledge having his first beer? Get our of my courtroom, you stupid, stupid woman and take your pin-striped parasite lawyer with you. Next case."

Common sense has been defined as the quality of judgment necessary to know the simplest of truths. Well, nowadays simple truths are sighted about as often as Mary Hart on Crossfire.

In the last twenty years we seem to have completely lost the ability to obey the natural laws around us. We no longer recognize things that are shockingly wrong anymore. We can't tell up from down, right from left, absolutely one hundred percent not guilty from double-murdering scumbag guilty. And we are getting stupider. Are we stupid or were we always this stupid?

I watch these TV evangelists on late-night cable channel 66 and see the stadium full of people giving hard-earned money away to some chrome-head, sweat-covered, barking con man dangling eternal salvation in front of these poor bastards like a leash in front of a chihuahua with one kidney.

Well, I'm just shocked at our lack of our common sense. Clearly, this crook couldn't be more full of shit if he were a Porta Potti at the Lollapalooza festival.

Now, to many people the government is the main foundry of not-know-how, turning the raw ore sent to it by votes and tax dollars into cold-rolled sheets of incompetence, which are then used in every aspect of our societal infrastructure. Reports on reports of subcommittees of commissions create a sea of paper that could float Rush Limbaugh's butter dish. All in all, practicality has about as much chance of being served by the federal government as a loud Texan does by a French waiter.

Folks, we don't need more government, we don't need more colleges; we need more schools that teach common sense. We don't need any more Einsteins who can tell you the principle of microwave cooking but can't figure out how to plug one in. I've always said, "Give someone a fish and they'll eat for a day, teach someone not to run a bass lure through their testicle and they will be able to fish for the rest of their life."

Where does common sense come from? It's slapped into the back of your head by your mother when you try and touch the hot stove. It's the Oldsmobile crest branded onto your forehead for all of eternity beacuse you didn't want the seat belt to wrinkle your new shirt. Common sense is what gores you in the ass in Pamplona when you dress up like Topo Gigio and run in front of the bulls down a street that's narrower than Newt Gingrich's mind.

And most important, common sense is admitting when you don't have a big closer. I don't have a big closer.

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

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