My Quarantinecooking Diary

Posted August 4th, 2020
https://tinyurl.com/yxskpte
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HOW to MEDITATE

Posted July 29th, 2020
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Saint Cally of the Possums

Posted July 24th, 2020
L

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MY NEW NORMAL

Posted July 18th, 2020
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Read more

A DAY IN LOVE WITH YOU

Posted July 17th, 2020
It’s WORLD EMOJI DAY. If you were on twitter, you would KNOW this. It’s TRENDING! I am going to use this as an excuse to re-post a video I made for a song by Mr. Andy Prieboy.  The premise here was that words are going away, and all we are going to use to communicate with are Emojis. Therefore a love song is going to have to be reduced to it’s pure Emojian essence. As we embrace this inevitablity, please enjoy the first example of what will surely be The NEW Love Song. Read more

WE SAW SCENERY

Posted July 16th, 2020
This is the cover of my first graphic novel. It goes on sale October 20….just a week before the election. Because I fully expect it to be suffocated under an avalanche of Trump bullshit, I have decided to start to pimp it now.  I wrote it and Illustrated it. So see? Six years of art school finally paid off fifty years later. This is an uncorrected draft of the cover. it contains several misspellings. Do not be alarmed. They will be corrected in the copy I expect you to buy. Are you my best friend or are you not? Well I guess we’ll see, won’t we. Here is a link to an Amazon page where you can pre-order it. I hope you like it. All my friends seem to like it. And they are NO SLOUCHES.https://www.amazon.com/We-Saw-Scenery-Diaries-Merrill/dp/1616209038/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1594960234&refinements=p_27%3AMerrill+Markoe&s=books&sr=1-1 Read more

The Indignities of Being a Woman: an audio book

Posted July 16th, 2020
In 2019, I co-wrote (with Megan Koester) an Audible Original called The Indignities of Being a Woman. It can be found here:https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Indignities-of-Being-a-Woman-Audiobook/B07GDPQRPC?ds_rl=1262685&ds_rl=1263561&ds_rl=1260658&source_code=GO1GB907OSH060513&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIv9Km5J-k6AIVitlkCh0N0QVsEAAYASAAEgJJEPD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds Its the hideous history of women being fucked over since the dawn of civilization as we search for the answer to the question “How did 51% of the population become a minority.”  We find out. And we try to make it funny. I am told it’s really funny and fun to listen to. but it’s a horrifying story.  AND it has music by Andy Prieboy! Here is the original cover:     If you aren’t sold already, here is a little promo movie I made to the theme Mr. Prieboy wrote for us. This should do it: Read more

A cartoon about things I learned during quarantine

Posted June 23rd, 2020
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A few thoughts on women in comedy

Posted November 26th, 2017
(Originally published Nov. 21, 2017 in REFINERY29)
Inside the DNA of the average joke is usually a story about an underdog seeking to level the playing field; someone trying to right a wrong by pointing out the holes in its logic, so everyone stops accepting it and starts making fun of it instead. When you think about it that way, comedy is a woman’s art, ripe territory for people who are 50.8% of the population and somehow still living with minority status.
Which brings us to the irony-laced dilemma that only the women pursuing careers in comedy face: Even though comedy is supposed to be the art form where the outcasts and underdogs go to expose the lies inside of unfairness, women have been regularly expected to overlook the poor treatment we receive, lest we be called humorless and viewed as bad sports. In other words, we’re the one group asked not to use our “minority” status as a way to rise comedically. This is why we’re regularly labeled as unfunny.
Comedy in all of its various mutations has been my home for the past 40 years. Luckily for me, my idea of home has always been a place where I expected to be treated rudely which is why I was not knocked that far off balance when I heard about Louis C.K., whose meteoric rise to success as someone with deep insights into the human condition now seems pretty suspect.
In 1978 when I first went rushing headlong toward the professional comedy lightbulb like a medicated moth, it never occurred to me that it was a male-dominated field, because I didn’t imagine that anyone smart thought laughter had a gender bias. I was aware that historically speaking most of my comedic heroes were men: Ernie Kovacs, W.C. Fields., The Marx Brothers, Monty Python. But also there was George Burns and Gracie Allen. Mae West and Lily Tomlin had their own empires. In the midst of all those guys at the Algonquin Round Table, there sat Dorothy Parker.
And things looked to me like they were really opening up for women in comedy because there was this brand new show called Saturday Night Live, which was introducing more contemporary parody and satire onto the mostly corny TV landscape. Not only were half of the cast members women, there were three female names on the writing staff! That meant a grand total of six women creatives, a big leap forward from the usual token one.
 (PHOTO: ME when I was starting out.)
 
So I got in my car, which had only one functioning door, and drove from my home in San Francisco to Los Angeles with no way of knowing that 23 years later, in 2011, Jane Curtin, one of my favorite Not Ready for Prime Time Players and the one who anchored Weekend Update, would appear on Oprah and say the following about the women on the show’s writing staff back in the beginning: “Their battle was constant. They were working against John [Belushi] who said women are just fundamentally not funny. So you’d go to a table read and if a woman writer had written a piece for John, he would not read it in his full voice. He felt as if it was his duty to sabotage pieces written by women.” I also couldn’t have imagined that even five years after the world began a whole new century, I would pitch a sitcom idea to ABC only to be told “Well, the truth is we aren’t looking for any female character driven shows this season.”
But in the beginning, I didn’t know how heavily things were weighted (against women. So just a few years out
of art school, I went racing full steam ahead. At 27, I checked into a scary hotel in Burbank where they charged for the room by the hour and began seeking employment as a TV writer and stage time as a stand-up comedian, completely unaware that the very underpinnings of the comedy establishment had been constructed on a foundation designed to work against women from day one. I had no idea that straight through to the end of the 1960s, a mere ten years prior, all the clubs that hired stand-up comedians were owned and run by the mafia — not exactly a group known for its even-handed treatment of women and their career dreams. Says Kliph Nesteroff, comedy historian, “it didn’t matter if these clubs were in Cleveland, Portland, Corpus Christi or Baton Rouge — if it was a nightclub — the owners were the Mob. For a good forty years the Mob controlled American show business.” For those who now fret about how comedy club owners and festival directors are misogynistic, imagine waiting around for a guy in the mafia to give you a time slot.
Looking back, I have to laugh at the view I have of myself in my twenties, trotting cheerfully into a mob-run patriarchy where even the women on the most progressive show in television were being shunted to the back of the comedy bus. But the truth is that none of that occurred to me because, okay, I was young and stupid but also: It made no sense. Comedy was one of the things I loved most in the world. I saw it as a tool used by people intelligent enough to have figured out how to elevate the human condition by transforming dark, hidden, appalling truths into something over which we gained power via laughter.
I had yet to learn the most commonly repeated tropes used as an excuse not to hire women, which were the equivalent of the 16th century sink or swim method of identifying a witch. Back then the set of excuses went something like: “Having women in the room makes men feel inhibited. If they can’t swear and talk about their dicks, it gets in the way of being creative and funny.” The newer version of that describes the exact opposite: “Having women in the room causes men to become so hormonally imbalanced that the overwhelming fatigue caused by trying to exercise dick control gets in the way of being creative and funny.”
To which I would say: Hmm. Interesting. Maybe it’s the gender with so many roadblocks to being creative and funny who are bad hires.
 
Meanwhile, there in the middle of it all, are the women, expected to exhibit both empathy and support, to be accepting and non reactive to a firestorm of freeform sexual innuendo, while also helping construct an invisible barrier capable of helping these poor guys resist their own worst impulses. And at the same time be creative and funny.
Actually, I would argue that this very situation gives women the comedy advantage because there’s no better starting place for joke writing than the awareness that you’ve been trapped in the middle of someone else’s inescapable, neurotic behavioral limitations. Hey comedy! It’s 2017. Don’t keep breaking my heart by allowing yourself to become just another tier in the looming monolith full of dim bulb thinkers who degrade women and stand in their way.
This very situation gives women the comedy advantage because there’s no better starting place for joke writing than the awareness that you’ve been trapped in the middle of someone else’s inescapable, neurotic behavioral limitations.
Okay yes, throughout your history, your most powerful players have overwhelmingly been rage filled, frustrated narcissistic men. But now we’ve got a president for that!
Come on! It’s time to join the modern world. (By which I mean the better one I envision after the Trump administration leaves the building.) And while we’re at it, how about if maybe we can also teach heterosexual men how to play a useful part in the promise of a better humanity. Or at least how to stop acting like assholes.
 
 
There are apologies and there will be more. Which brings us to the only one on the list of shamed public men currently under discussion that I know personally: Al Franken, who I’ve always thought of as one of the good guys. Unfortunately the omnipresent and casually demeaning treatment of women appears to be bi-partisan, which I guess is something every woman has always known.
Whether Al or Louis or anyone else has actually learned anything from the women they stunned into submission remains to be seen. A few people try and learn something from big moments like this one. Most do not. Time will tell if the culture of infuriating, insensitive, quasi-legal male behavior improves because of any of this, or if everything just cycles back to ground zero, as I have seen feminist progress do before. After all, the rest of these guys, (Harvey Weinstein, that creepy Roy Moore, our awful president, Bill Cosby, even Bill Clinton) have continued to call their accusers liars. If there is one thing life has taught me, it’s that there is no hope for redemption if powerful men don’t acknowledge that they did anything wrong.
Meanwhile, the women I know are no longer into holding our breath while we wait. We have had it with this shit. Notice has been served. The answer to these problems seems to be the same one that is being suggested in politics: Women need to run. We need to own the shows. We need to own the clubs. For too long men have been allowed to justify their behavior by selectively using statistics. For example, the way they claim to be the best most innovative high end chefs, while at the same time being unable to help out in a regular kitchen.
It’s our turn now. Time to relegate men to the minority status they so richly deserve. After all, they are only 49.2% of the population.
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Beautiful Women Do Not Know How to Eat Cake

Posted January 5th, 2017
  Young beautiful women eating cake

stock-photo-cheerful-woman-eating-pie-isolated-over-white-background-117805627  By now, we have all seen women laughing with salad. But yesterday, quite by accident during a google search, I stumbled upon something equally disturbing. The truth should come as no shock, since many professionally beautiful women are under a lot of pressure to maintain a very low body weight. Thus they may have little or no practical experience as cake consumers. Yet I was surprised and saddened to see how many of them had absolutely no idea how to direct a piece of cake into their mouths without unfortunate incident. I present the facts here but can offer no solution.

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© Picup Pictures
Model Release: Yes
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Woman With Chocolate on Her Face
Eating Cake[/caption] 240_f_86771309_ddmsa9mrrgxb1wusbnzf80adnycb52d9 portrait-of-a-young-woman-eating-cake-icing-and-smiling 17744418-woman-licking-her-fingers-while-eating-cake young-cute-woman-eating-cake-over-white-background-egtbe0 Beautiful stained girl eating cake and licks her fingers stock-photo-the-girl-greedy-eats-sweet-pie-unhealthy-lifestyle-bulimia-concept-109084997 Read more

The Evolution of the Sex Doll

Posted August 15th, 2016
I wrote a piece about the evolution of the ever changing sex-bot.  You can read it HERE. If you DARE. Custom720    watch-this-creepy-animatronic-dolls-erotic-da-L-7AMbOi Read more

THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION: DAY 1

Posted July 26th, 2016

Well, I may be losing my mind but I thought the Democratic Convention Day 1 was pretty exciting. Passionate diverse looking people! Warring factions! Actual issues!

Having sat through the entire 4 days of the GOP convention last week, the differences between the two parties are now glaringly apparent in just the language used at today’s event alone. Gone was obsessive talk about ISIS, guns and walls. In their place were phrases rarely heard last week: Civil rights! Voting rights! Affordable health insurance! Labor unions! A woman’s right to choose! There were even mentions of raising the minimum wage and two little words I was worrying I might never hear again: CLIMATE CHANGE! What a relief to realize that everyone who spoke was from the public service sector or a union or a committee of some kind…not just the relatives or employees of the candidate. Yes, there were obvious short-comings, like the notable lack of discussion of golf courses or the building of luxury hotels. But they couldn’t get to everything. It was only day 1. Day One started off strong and positive with a black gospel choir, followed by a montage about Philadelphia: a city full of clapping and jumping people. An appearance by Boys 2 Men immediately set a better standard for dancing. Taking in the high spirits, I thought to myself, “Go team! Hooray for my vision of the family of man!” But by the time the distinctively named Marcia Fudge, a woman of great dignity who chaired the event, began to be rudely overtaken by the Bernie chanters, I was back to remembering why I learned at a young age to be suspicious of anything reminiscent of family. Whenever things appear to be going great, somebody in the family always has to start in. The minor chords of the chanting and the booing from the disillusioned Bernie contingent continued to be heard behind the next few speakers. They especially exhibited displeasure at the idea of Bernie being subsumed into the unified field, as seen in the signs that said “Stronger Together.” As they continued to bleat, that mosquito like BOO tone began filling me with the same nervous apprehension I feel when I realize the people sitting behind me are planning to talk through the whole movie. Eventually the task became figuring out how to pay attention in class when the boys in the back of the room refused to stop pushing over desks. It took an appearance by the fearless Sarah Silverman, a former Bernie campaigner, to finally address it. I have never admired her more. She later referred to Hilary “as the first person actually over qualified for the job of President. ‘ I was relieved to hear a repeated mentions of the specific pathologies of the terrifying Presidential candidate Mr. Trump, his misogyny and his bullying, his dishonesty and scams and obsession with personal aggrandizement. These included both a video about Trump university, and a live appearance by a Trump U. victim.

Act two started with Al Franken, who was smart and funny. And encouraged people to go to work for Hilary.

Then peaked with a great inspiring speech by Elizabeth Warren,. in which she referred to Trump’s entire campaign as an infomercial, and countered a lot of other Trump rhetoric.“America isn’t going broke.” She said, “ CEOs make tens of millions of dollars…Washington works great for those at the top but try to do something anything for working people and you have a fight on your hands.” Though, for me some of the evening’s most amusing moments were provided by the cutaways to Bill Clinton, who appeared to be feeling flu-ish or peevish or peckish. Here he is after Elizabeth Warren’s rousing speech. ACT THREE was totally owned by the electric, brilliant and graceful Michelle Obama who actually made me tear up…and I only cry twice a year. Maybe it was when she spoke about teaching her daughters to ignore the ignorant things being said about their father. “When they go low, we go high.” she said. But it was probably when she spoke of “Leaders like Hilary Clinton who keep coming back and putting cracks in that highest and hardest glass ceiling, lifting all of us along with her” But ACT THREE was always building to the headliner, Bernie Sanders, who received about 8 minutes of cheering from supporters so emotional that they reminded me of old timey Beatle fans. Bernie loved their adoration for quite a while before he went on to assure them that he and Hilary had a “a significant coming together and we produced the most progressive political platform in the history of the Democratic party” Now the downside: this week’s camera pool was provided by CNN who seem to be asleep at the switch. Though there was a live band playing, there were relatively few shots of the band or of audience dancing. My thoughts and prayers are with the camera crew that they can find their way down to the convention floor and right this terrible wrong. Here is all I could find.     Read more

I Covered ALL FOUR DAYS of the GOP convention!

Posted July 22nd, 2016
I tried to cover the stuff everyone else was ignoring. I kind of succeeded. Day One: Everything worth knowing PLUS  milennial dorks AND Exciting footage of G.O.P. DANCING! Day Two: An actress pushes her resume AND The weakest joke of the entire day. Day Three: Circus Woman, Trump’s rambling partner and okay,yes,..more dancing. Day Four: A farewell to G.O.P. dancing AND a farewell to the RNC convention in general. Read more

A Day In Love With You: The love song of the future

Posted July 11th, 2016
Obviously you have noticed, as I have, that emojis are now omni-present. The writing is on the wall. Its just a matter of time until the whole idea of carefully selected words becomes an interesting relic of  our cultural past, like the silent movie. Why bother with having a vocabulary when you can easily define your every emotion via a whole alphabet of ready made reactions provided for you by Japanese designers? Anyway, its just a matter of time until song lyrics follow suit and all pop songs are reduced to their pure emojian essence. Everyone will embrace it. Everyone will demand it. Here is a love song from the near future. Read more

Bob Dylan’s Christmas Lights: 2015

Posted January 20th, 2016

I didn’t intend to write this piece this year.  I felt like last year I was so thorough, everything had been said. Then VICE asked me if I would reconsider. And thus did I drive past his house and see that he or someone had added some NEW LIGHTS.

So….. HERE WE GO AGAIN.

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30 years after the fact: Someone appreciates MERRiLL’s L.A.!!

Posted July 21st, 2015
In 1986 I worked in Los Angeles at KCOP, a local TV news station. I was given free reign, relatively speaking, to do pieces about Los Angeles. It was very exciting. It marked the first time I got to appear on camera and speak my own voice. My previous experiences had been writing/producing/editing pieces for Late Night with David Letterman. He always got to be the one behind the mic, because after all, it was HIS SHOW!  But it was a thrill for me to get the chance now. Anyway, I did about 35-40 pieces and recently began digitizing them. They were recorded on 3/4 inch video tape. Then I started posting them on You Tube because, why not. Today a site called The LAist wrote a nice piece about them and I am very thrilled and happy to find out, thirty years later, that someone likes them. Guess what I’m saying is: Sometimes these things take a long time! If you want to see more of this stuff, I now have a lot of it up on a You Tube Channel I opened. This one is a tour of the beaches of So.Cal. but I did it for something called RealLife magazine in the mid nineties. It contains two things I’ve never seen in one of these reports before. 1) a look at the restricted public access area in Broad Beach, north of Malibu. And 2) a chat with The World’s Best Wino. Read more

The Long lost TV pilots of Merrill Markoe

Posted June 24th, 2015

People say to me “Merrill, didn’t you make three TV pilots between 1987 and 1991 that you were kind of proud of?”

Okay, no…No one ever said that to me.

But because I have spent the week digitizing my old VHS tapes, I offer them to you now because: why not?

1. From 1987: This Week Indoors. Written and directed by and starring Merrill Markoe and Harry Shearer. with guest appearances by Fred Willard and Harry Shearer as Dick Clark, Laurie Anderson, Jerry Falwell and Ronald Reagan.

2. From 1988: Merrill Markoe’s Guide to Glamorous Living: Written and directed by Merrill Markoe with special guest appearances by Andrea Martin, Elayne Boosler, Martin Mull, Fred Willard, Harry Shearer and David Letterman.

and

3. From 1991: NEWS 2 Us; a personal newscast written by and starring Merrill Markoe and Richard Rosen.

with guest star Harry Shearer. and also:

4. The Lewis Lectures. From 1999/2000. Originally for Adult Swim.

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A digitizing frenzy: Many videos by me.

Posted June 20th, 2015
I have been digitizing all my old VHS tapes and decided to make a page for them on You Tube. They are:HERE and HERE and they date back to the eighties. And I am still digitizing. Its a sickness. But now, through the magic of digitized video, you can join me at The Republican Natl. conventions of 92 and 96.  Or in Alaska for the Talkeetna Bachelor Auction.  Or in Las Vegas for the Nite Club and Bar Expo, or the Pet Industry Convention. And more!  Here’s some love advice (from the 90s) and a food technology convention (from the 80s.) Thank you for your time and good night.   Read more

Me doing some dog related standup

Posted June 10th, 2015
Here I am doing a lot of dog related material. I was performing at a benefit for Elayne Boosler’s great dog rescue organization Tails of Joy. Read more

College isn’t necessarily the best 4 years of your life.

Posted June 9th, 2015
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This is a piece I published in June in VICE.  You can read it THERE …or read it below.   Every June, as I am admiring the pithy speeches full of carefully worded wisdom delivered by people of accomplishment to various cap and gown clad audiences, I have the same reaction. I breathe a sigh of relief for not having had to write one. Then I am pulled into a vortex of anxiety about what I would have said had I been asked.  What exactly did I learn from 4 years of college, (besides how to quickly sign up for graduate school when I couldn’t find a job?) Well, one thing I learned is to roll my eyes when I hear people tell brand new high school graduates that “college will be the best four years of your life.” For some of us, those years were pretty rough.. Lets start with the physiological reasons. First of all, your brain isn’t finished cooking. An idea as basic to clear thinking and smart decision making as ‘considering the consequences’ doesn’t become a permanent plug-in until your frontal lobe finishes hooking up in your late twenties. Its no accident that organizations like ISIS, AL QAEDA, and the NFL are made up entirely of people from this demographic. Although I never saw myself as a big risk taker, when I was a college freshman, I had no problem jumping into a car full of strangers who stopped me on the street and asked me if I wanted to attend a new kind of religious meeting. Absolutely! Make room for me! Fortunately it turned out to be a harmless evening of chanting but the fact that I didn’t mind heading off to an undisclosed location without telling a soul is just the kind of hairpin I was back then. Below is film of me made sometime in the early seventies, smoking and drinking by the extremely flammable acetylene tanks used for welding outside the UC Berkeley art building. The joke here was that there were signs everywhere saying this behavior was forbidden. Ha ha! Get it? The good news is that life actually gets easier after graduation. So in the interest of reassuring struggling students, I offer this partial catalog of some of the many bad ideas I accumulated during my college years. Honesty is not always the best policy. Neither is spontaneity Maybe it’s a post teenage reaction to all those years of gaining leverage with your parents by pretending to be someone you are not or the result of 12 years of taking tests that make you race a clock, but by the time you get to college you are pretty certain that the best thing you can do is let your raw feelings be known the minute you feel them. That makes them real. Its important to be authentic, right? Well, yes and no. As it turns out, one of the biggest lessons life has to teach you is that its possible to say “ Let me think about that and get back to you.” when negotiating delicate issues with loved ones, leaving emotional voice mail messages, or texting in the middle of the night. This applies across the board. In college, its not uncommon for people to over-share their feelings. Its not necessary to apply the ‘total honesty’ template to everything. It took me much longer than it should have to learn that the answer to “How are you?” does not have to be, “Well, I thought I was getting a headache but I took two Advil and a chewable zinc so now I’m better but I might be getting a cold.” No. The proper answer is “Fine.” Period. Also, and this is big, you will discover that unless it connects to a life threatening situation, there’s not very much your partner needs to know about your sexual history or past indiscretions. In most cases: the less said the better. Honesty be damned. Much later in life you will realize that there’s a reason why your parents wound up so “compromised”. It because when they were your age they did the same stupid shit you are planning to do and it didn’t work. That’s why they made up irritating cliches like “Let sleeping dogs lie.” NATURAL IS ALWAYS BEST and other half baked ideas At some point during college, some budding visionary will say to you “ I don’t get why we have to wear deodorant. What could be more natural than body odor? In fact, why do we have to wear clothes? We should be allowed to take off our clothes whenever we feel like it. “ To this there is only one reply: “Interesting. Get back to me after your frontal lobe finishes hooking up, and we can discuss the idea of the consequences that will result from a life lived stinky. Or naked.” Baboon males murder their rivals. Sand tiger shark mothers eat their young. Matricide, infanticide, and homicide are commonly found in nature. That means they are natural too.  ALWAYS DRINK AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE Why drink at all unless you’re planning to drink unlimited quantities? Isn’t the goal of drinking to get really fucked up? Not that long ago, I was talking to my college student nephew who was suffering from a bad hangover. I said “How much did you drink last night?” He said “Not that much.” When asked to be specific, he added “Like four vodka shots. And eight beers. And a bottle of wine.” To which I replied “Actually, that is not only ‘that much’, its the clinical definition of ‘that much.’ When you are in college, people see evenings full of blacking out as ‘a rite of passage.’ If you still drink like that in your thirties, people will start to leave pamphlets at your house and want to talk to you about ‘your problem.’ I still shudder when I remember whatever that was in those monstrous toddler sized jugs of purple liquid we all passed around. Or that drive I made home from a party, so drunk that not until I stopped to pay a toll on the SF Bay Bridge did I realize I had come all that way with the emergency break still on. Then there was the time I was sitting at a table in the kitchen of my first apartment, drinking and talking about whatever while making little sculptures out of rubber cement and setting them on fire. Yes, I managed to damage the ceiling of the kitchen and no, I can’t explain my motives to you now except to say that it seemed like a good idea to me at the time. Its almost like its important to people that age to invent a couple of brand new ways a month to get killed or injured. THE MAGICAL PRISM OF ‘POTENTIAL’ Everyone in college gets free points in “potential” just for attending. For only these four special years, a brooding student who is sleeping through classes and never turning in assignments can still seem like a genius or a prodigy, an embryonic Charles Bukowski or Sylvia Plath. Why? Because anyone can be anything! Who knows what will happen! Sadly, after you graduate, the magic starts rapidly leaking out of that winsome notion. Now you only get points for what you actually DO. As this begins to occur to you, the anxiety can be overwhelming. To put it more harshly, a moody 45 year old with a beautiful soul who is still ‘wasting their God given talent’ working at an automotive supply store is, in fact, a depressed person who works at an automotive supply store. Period. There are always exceptions but as a general rule, if you meet someone who is full of excuses about why they have never accomplished anything they set out to do, you’re probably looking at a personality disorder. BAD SEX. College sex is where your poorly developed ideas about spontaneity, substance abuse and passion for its own sake unite with your sense of yourself as a sophisticate to create a perfect storm. This was already a tinderbox before “campus rape culture” became a phrase you hear or read every day. You may never again give a more poorly chosen group of people a roll in the hay than you do in college. Some of them will literally turn out to be people you would avoid sitting next to on public transportation. Others you will pretend not to recognize when you run into them years later. Sexually speaking, there’s a lot of faking going on in college. But because college students wrongly believe that being in college means they have achieved some level of worldly refinement, they also assume that when a sexual misfire occurs and no one says a word about it, its probably because there is something terribly wrong with them. The truth is that young guys barely know where anything is on a woman. (which is not to imply that they necesssarily know that much more after they graduate.) To any neophytes reading this, may I offer a valuable word of advice: If you suspect you don’t know what you are doing, you are probably fooling no one. In that case, for God’s sake, don’t do it harder. FINDING THE MEANING OF EXISTENCE You will never in any other period of your life have so many convoluted conversations about the meaning of existence with people who have given it almost no thought or have so little experience to back up their theories. The good news is that unless you become a philosopher, an astro-physicist or someone who likes to sign up for New Age retreats, as time goes on you will stop thinking this is a problem you need to roll up your sleeves and solve. CRUSHING DEBT College loans are mandatory for many. There is no question that they leave a big scar. But in a variety of ways, you can have much better control over this in your adult life. Even better, in the future its unlikely that you will incur that much debt that quickly without also gaining possession of something fancy that will impress your friends. FRIGHTENINGLY RANDOM LIVING SITUATIONS Living in a dorm is like agreeing to cohabit with everyone who shares your lane on the freeway. For that reason I am happy to report that unless you wind up in prison or sign up for a Carnival Cruise, you may never have to live with as random a group of wasters again. THE TEDIUM OF WRITING COHERENTLY Your college papers may be the last coherent writing you ever have to do where you will be carefully judged and critiqued on your ability to substantiate an argument or assimilate a piece of material. Blogging, song lyrics, poetry, political speeches, legal briefs, government policy and literary masterpieces are just a few of the areas of post graduate writing that will not require you to make any sense. More good news: As far as I know, there is still no law that says you have to become a writer. THE TREACHERY OF BEING COOL During your college years, a frightening premium is placed on having a lot of insider knowledge about transitory things. You must keep your head down and master the art of the wry but all knowing facial expression as you commit to memory the details of a seemingly limitless list of bands, sports stars, cutting edge Improv groups, comedians, cast members of SNL, comic book artists and poet/philosophers your generation thinks are the game changers. You will also need to attend a lot of events in support of all of these things wearing the right kind of clothes and consuming the right kind of substances. On the bright side, it turns out that this is so much work, the list has no expiration date. As you get older, you will be unwilling to waste that much time on pop culture ever again. Many adults hold onto the list they learned in college for the rest of their lives. WHITE KNUCKLE STUDYING You will never again study as hard for something you don’t specifically need to know. In your real life, studying will be related to things like the DMV. However do not make the mistake of believing that the only point of being in college is to get a good grade. In fact you will find that many of the important people you meet later and/or employers will never ask to see your college transcripts. They will, however, expect you to actually know stuff. This is why the biggest waste of your time is finding ways to cheat. Use your time to develop an affinity for learning. College is a fantastic place to develop secondary and tertiary passions. Look for things that interest you outside your “requirements” because they will come in very handy later in life to help heal the wounds that come from being kicked hard in the primary passion center. That will definitely happen, no matter what you pursue. You will get knocked down in your area of expertise and have to pick yourself up again. Secondary passions help you keep going. By caring about botany or literature or abnormal psychology, you will be better able to maintain your sense of purpose as a member of humanity. So on balance, while your college years may not be the best four years of your life, you can definitely turn them profitable if you make a point of training yourself to be excited by the learning. Its not only the greatest gift. but it’s also a path to joy as you enter the more sedentary but generally happier years of greater maturity where you can look forward to less vomiting and fewer crab infested sex partners.     Read more

All that Letterman brouhaha.

Posted May 27th, 2015
devil head ride._edited-1             1.HERE is a piece I wrote for TIME, looking back on my connections to the Letterman show. 2.HERE is an interview my friend Mike Sacks did with me. (It was originally published in his great book “And here’s the kicker: Interviews with 21 Humor Writers.“) 3.HERE is a piece that ran in Salon. me as headwriter4. Here is a photo of me, taken back when I was the person who had that job.     Read more

Letter to the thing I wished I had written: A Letter to the “Chicken Soup for the (Your Noun Here)” Series

Posted April 7th, 2015
About a year ago I was asked, by an Australian salon/charity called Women Of Letters, to write ” a letter to the thing I wish I had written.”  After I slowed down long enough to understand what that could possibly mean, I noticed that the proceeds were going Edgar’s Mission: an animal rescue and that I would be reading with the extremely brilliant Tim Minchin and Moby, among others. So I wrote the following “LETTER To Chicken Soup for the Soul” and now it has been published (along with letters by Susan Orlean, Tim Minchin, Moby, Josh Radnor, Ayelet Waldman and many many others) in a very entertaining book called AIRMAIL, which I highly recommend if you’d like to donate to an animal rescue and get a free book for your contribution. Here is a link to the book that lets you look inside. Below is my contribution.

Dear Chicken Soup for the Soul:

You had me at Chicken Soup. And when I say “HAD ME,” what I mean is ‘repulsed me’ from the moment I heard those words in your title. And not just because I’m a vegetarian. No, I shifted immediately to a deeper level of irritation. The words Chicken Soup instantly conjured for me boring corny clichés about the healing powers of Jewish mothers. And before you start calling me a racist, understand that I was raised by a Jewish mother whose healing powers were few and far between, and whose link to charming old world folk wisdom was at best questionable. She was, after all, the one who explained to me “If someone seems gay, that means they aren’t because why would they want you to know?” I guess I should also add that her connections to Judaism were so tenuous she sometimes served ham on Passover. And even she was pushing chicken soup as a panacea despite the fact that it had no noticeable effect on any ailment ever to befall me, including hunger. But getting back to your title; There’s also the word “soul,” the presence of which usually means the reader is about to embark on a mind numbing journey through greeting card spirituality. I know that many people hunger for this kind of thing. Fortunately I am not among them because I am able to get most of my cloying sentiment needs met by paying regular visits to my aging aunt, a woman who actually underlines the important parts of a Hallmark card poem before she gives it to you. On the other hand, even grade school children know that it’s wrong to hate a book for its terrible title. Perfect example: I wrote a book called ‘Its my Fucking Birthday’ and if you were to judge me by that title alone, would you get an accurate picture of me? Okay, bad example. That title does give you kind of an accurate picture of me. Almost an x-ray. But all that aside, Chicken Soup, (if I may call you by your first name) I decided to sit down and analyze your contents and give you the fair chance you’ve earned . And you know what? I learned a lot. First of all, I learned it wasn’t true that most of what you have to say can be found in Mothers Day Cards or on bumper stickers. No! Not true at all! Some of what you have to say can be found in corporate ads for telephone calling plans, and on the sides of Celestial Seasonings Tea boxes. Yes, I was correct in presuming that you are, in fact, maudlin. Yes, your phrasing is common, your basic ideas platitudes steeped in magical thinking… but the more I read, the more obvious it became that this is precisely why you are so beloved. By then I’d noticed that there was not one volume of you. There are 200 plus different Chicken Soup titles, all direct descendants of your family, bringing the total of your offspring to 112 million in print in 40 languages… each and every one of you emblazoned with a banner boasting how internationally cherished and admired you are. And you never have to worry about getting a bad review because as each of your new offspring hits the stores, another devoted segment of your target demographic rushes out to buy you sight unseen, just like they do with any new variety of gummy bears. Look at all those titles you’ve spawned: Chicken soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After,  Chicken Soup for the Soul: Answered Prayers,  Chicken Soup for the soul: Devotional Stories for Wives, (the cover featuring a woman pondering her steaming hot mug full …I don’t know what’s in there, I want to say ‘human waste’ but of course its probably chicken soup.) Talk about branching out! There’s also Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hooked on Hockey. Chicken Soup for the Dieter’s Soul, . Chicken Soup for the Soul. I Cant Believe My Cat Did That, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Golf Book.Chicken-Soup chicken-soup-for-the-soul-indian-fathers-400x400-imadghuvng5abkgcYes, you have successfully managed to address every conceivable human preoccupation with the possible exceptions of Zombies and Painful Rectal Itch. (And by the way, congratulations. I understand Chicken Soup for the Soul: Painful Rectal Itch is finally being published this spring!) Okay…Its not easy for me to admit that I’m jealous of your unqualified success; or that it’s a teensy bit infuriating to someone like me (who works for years on a book and sees just a fraction of your sales) that you don’t even have to write your damn stories yourself. You just compile them from other people who probably only get a modest honorarium but are nevertheless totally thrilled about getting their story published in a best seller . I bet all you ever have to do is mumble the words “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Annoying On-Hold Music” and the next thing you know hundreds of people have offered you heartwarming tales highlighting how annoying on-hold music changed their lives for the better. Damn. I wish I knew how to create a self perpetuating franchise like you’ve done, where I could wake up in the morning thinking “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Potato salad!” and then run in to see how many more millions of dollars had accumulated in my bank account. And that was before you launched your new line of ACTUAL soups. Which, according to their nutrition labels, are 24% sodium, so in the interest of truth in advertising maybe you should re-label them “Salt, With chicken soup flavoring”Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul-Foods-Jar-FINAL-755x1024 Yep, you’ve got humans from 40 different countries right where you want them, just like that goddam blurry parrot, which is a video I ran into on YouTube of a parrot that does absolutely nothing. He’s not even in focus yet 300,000 people clicked on him just on the outside chance they would get to see a parrot do something, anything at all, blurry or not. The sad truth is although I would like to have come up with you so I could sit back and watch the money pour in, I have no more idea how to write the kind of content you thrive on than I would how to insert a few fresh details about dark matter into a book by Steven Hawking.   Much of what you say makes no sense to me. It doesn’t reflect the world I live in or the way the people I have met behave. Give you an example: In the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories about Hope, Answered Prayers and Divine Intervention a daughter is yearning for her departed father who “always began every conversation with ‘Have I told you get today how much I adore you?” . I was reading this story when I was stopped in my tracks because I couldn’t imagine a Dad saying that. I mean, I had a pretty nice Dad but when I try to recall his most frequently repeated remarks I come up with “WHADDYA NUTS?”. And of course the mantra to his personal religion, Negative Zen, which went “Come on. Lets go so we can get back.” Anyway in your story, the dad dies and the woman prays for a message from him from the great beyond. And although she never receives one, by the end of the story she still feels her prayers were answered because she received an amazing message from her mother instead. What? You’re telling me that THE PAYOFF to the story is that she gets a last minute walk on from a character who wasn’t even mentioned in the rest of the story? What kind of story telling is that? She would flunk out of any creative writing class I’ve ever taken. You give a lot of peculiar advice too. In another of your stories you say “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth” We do? 24 hugs a day? I don’t think I have had more than a 2 hug day at any point in my entire life including on Christmas and the days when I have sex. If a man came into my life demanding 24 hugs a day, I would immediately take out my copy of “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” to try and pinpoint which personality disorder was causing this behavior . To me the life you describe in your pages is a life inspired by sayings on refrigerator magnets and anecdotes about how God talks to us through personalized license plates. And so I have written you this letter, Chicken Soup for the Millions and Millions of Things, knowing I am never going to find a way to publish anything as successful as you. Especially one that doesn’t even require me to sit down and write. Because I have always been told “write what you know.” And the truth is I never know what the hell you’re talking about.           Read more

This week in sociopaths: My analysis of The Jinx

Posted March 31st, 2015
After watching episode 5 of The Jinx, I wrote THIS PIECE about why we all like to watch sociopaths. And when I say “we”, I mean “me”.   Read more

I attended The Academy Awards of Sex Toys

Posted February 18th, 2015
I wrote this piece for VICE. You can read it here. But since they decided to only run a few of my photos, I thought I’d publish the original version of the piece below.

Award season is upon us, sucking up all the oxygen it can before Valentines Day hogs the stage.

The human being, in its evolving quest to broaden and refine the ways in which it is able to celebrate its existence, seems driven to increase the number of awards for which it is eligible every year. We are the only animal that can not contain our need to establish ever more competitive festivals, and Halls of Fame. Of the many thousands of awards we bestow upon ourselves annually, the televised ones get the most attention. According to one list I found on Google, there were 97 separate televised award shows in 2014. These did not include The Nobel Prizes for achievement in physics, medicine and chemistry, perhaps because no one would know what the winners were talking about. They also did not include any prestigious literary awards like The Pulitzer, The Man-Booker Prize or The Pen awards, all of which bestow considerable prize money. They even excluded the less flashy more cerebral cousin of The Sag Awards, The Writers Guild Awards. Of all the people who toil in the national entertainment factory, writers have yet to figure out how to attract a large audience eager to see which rumpled sport coat they have selected to wear with which pair of running shoes. In the ever expanding world of televised award shows, the most publicized now function almost like a version of a national holiday. Within this pantheon, The Kennedy Center Honors/ The Tony’s/The Screen Actors Guild Awards/The Miss America pageant represent the third-tier holidays, like President’s Day or Columbus Day . These are holidays where the post office is closed but there is no other real sign that anyone observes their existence. A tiny step above that would be The People’s Choice Awards/The Country Music Awards/The Miss America Pageant/The MTV awards which are more like Mother’s Day/ /Labor Day/Memorial Day. Their level of holiday is big enough to inspire department store sales and the occasional barbecue but that’s about it. Further up the ladder, The Grammy’s/ The Emmys/ The Golden Globes take a medium sized step up to a July4/Halloween/Valentines Day level of prominence. And, of course, at the pinnacle is the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years Eve of the award shows: The Academy Awards. Parties are thrown, guests are invited, ritual food is prepared. Bets are placed and personal reputations are staked on the outcome. The mood becomes so giddy and contagious that an argument can be made that the whole “War on Christmas” that Fox news trots out every year is simply old-style-Christmas’ attempting to retro-fit itself as a televised award show in which Jesus/Moses/Mohammed/ Buddha and Krishna will all compete for a shot at dominating the season. Representatives of the winner will get to dress up, walk the red carpet and give a humble but gratitude filled speech. As we wait for all that to evolve, each year brings plenty of newer, smaller award shows lurking in the wings, hoping to grow their brand via the internet until that hoped for televised moment opens up. The Adult Video Awards (AVA) are at the head of this category. It can’t be long until someone offers porn stars a chance to sashay the red carpet. And several tiers below them, a brand new planet has begun to form in the same universe. I refer now to the brand new SHE awards, which I attended last Saturday. SHE, of course, standing for Sexual Healing Expo, honoring “ the very best in products designed for a healthy sex life.” The event was held in West Hollywood, at “the stylish Sofitel hotel” directly across the street from The Beverly Center; a mall where you’d be well advised to spend the rest of your money buying the provocative clothes and shoes you will need if you ever hope to attract the kind of partner who will agree to try out the items being honored tonight.The She awards1 Every gender, race, age and weight class of sex product professional and consumer was in evidence; representatives of the buff, the anorexic and the Tweedle Dum communities, resplendent in everything from short leopard skin sheaths with 5 inch stilettos , to sweatshirts and running shoes. White women in their fifties who may have stopped by on their way home from a ceramics class sipped pricey cocktails beside stylish Latino teenagers who pretended to spank each other for a photo they would immediately post on Instagram. By 6:30 we all began to drift to the downstairs lounge where the “lavish gala for attendees and participants” was still setting up. This is where it became clear that The SHE awards would be unburdened by antiquated formalities like “seat fillers”, those formally dressed non-entities who The Emmies and The Oscars pay to occupy empty seats, lest the audience ever look sparse. .the audience At 6:45, as the podium is placed on a riser, and the awards are removed from their packing containers, the MC for the evening “Sex and Relationship Expert” Reid Mihalko arrives. He is instantly identifiable as he is the only man in attendance wearing a tux. Among the credits he lists on his website, along side assorted talk show appearances, is “The Creator of The Cuddle Party“. Tomorrow he will be teaching a seminar here called “Making Threesomes Happen.” Before the show begins, Reid confers briefly with his co-host and Expo Spokesperson Emily Morse. “How about if you ntroduce me as “The Richard Dawson of The Sexual Healing Expo.“ he suggests. “No one knows who that is” Emily replies. “Okay, then how about that guy from Jackass?” he replies. Emily is Dr. Emily Morse, sex and relationship expert, podcaster, occasional reality show star and Doctor of Human Sexuality from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, a learning center which calls itself “The Harvard of Human Sexology Study” (presumably because Harvard itself still declines to offer degrees in “Certified Sexological Hypnotism” and “Certified Love Coach.” ) “I was tasked with making this the shortest award show ever.” Says our MC, after he is introduced by Emily at 7:30. And true to his word, he immediately announces the first award.  “Best Luxury Sex Toy” (apparently “The Best Supporting Actress” of the SHE awards.) BEST MC reads awardsNominees include: The SOL Sonic Vibrator; the only vibrator “that operates at the frequency of OM, the energy that joins and holds things together.” And The Vesper, a double threat since it claims to be “Both a gorgeous piece of jewelry and a strong slim vibrator.” But the winner is Pino from Lelo, a vibrator so bling-intensive it comes with both Silver Cufflinks and a Money Clip. That kind of luxury is hard to top, even if you vibrate at OM. Unfortunately no one from Lelo is here to accept the award. Quickly, the MC designates Emily, who stands beside a camera, prepared to interview the winners, “The Ryan Seacrest of the SHE awards”. He suggests that she accept the award for the absent Lelo winners, after which she can interview herself. Emily agrees. And on behalf of the Lelo family, Emily gratefully thanks the academy. emily accepts first awardNext up: Best Sex Enhancement Product. ( The Best Cinematography of The SHE awards.) I decide to use this award as a chance to run to the restroom. While I am in the middle of washing my hands, I look up and am amazed to learn that The Ladies Room by the Lounge at the Sofitel Hotel is the winner of The Best Lighting in a Ladies Room in Los Angeles. The gentle front lighting coming off sconces by the mirror is so flattering that I leave feeling much more attractive than I did when I first entered. By the time I return with my newly improved self esteem, Emily is again gratefully thanking the academy, this time on behalf of “pjur Original”, by the pjur group. And so we move on to Best Sex Toy for Couples, the SHE award version of Best Original Screenplay. Will it be ”The Hello-touch”, a futuristic looking battery operated arm bracelet that makes your finger tips vibrate?eolectrostimulator award No, the winner is The We-Vibe®.4 ”Together you both share the vibe.” Two surprisingly sensible looking women come forward to receive the award. 2 ladies, first to accept an awardIn their acceptance speech, the winners reveal they have sold 3 million units so far. Emily is enthusiastic. “You guys, this has an app that lets you vibrate someone who is on the other side of the country!” Emily gushes. Seconds later, without further hesitation, Reid recites the nominees for The SHE Award equivalent of Best Actor: “Best Sex Toy for Men.”. “Cobra Libre for Men,” he reads, raising his eyebrows a little as he offers a testimonial, “I’ve actually used this one. It was great.” But there is tough competition from “AUTO BLOW 2” with its catchy slogan, “Enjoy unlimited blow jobs on demand.” And the SHE Award goes to…. “Flight Pilot” by Flesh Light .”Turbulently pleasurable, providing the variety men crave and deserve.” Unfortunately once again, no one is here to accept the award. Emily rises to the occasion.MC jokes with Emily “If I had a penis, I would stay home all day and use “The Flesh Pilot” she says, showing great empathy as she again thanks the academy, “ But I don’t have a penis.” And so we move on to: “Best Sex Toy for Women.” The SHE equivalent of Best Actress. Will SOL finally take home an award this time for their patented OM generator? Or perhaps SORAYA by Lelo with its guarantee of “the most satisfying climax time after time?” No. The Winner is a modern update of an old classic: The Magic Wand. AND someone is here to accept award! Emily visibly relaxes as a representative from Vibramax comes forward.guy # 1 accepts award ,Factoid: Known as “The Cadillac of Vibrators,” the Magic Wand originated in 1968. And in a serendipitous twist of fate, so did the outfit of the guy who accepted the award! This brings us to: The Eco Friendly Toy Award, the SHE award equivalent of best foreign language film. Much like the foreign language film category itself, these entries contain a lot of disturbing imagery. Critics who felt the masturbation-industrial complex had been slow to embrace the idea of local sourcing and sustainability were eagerly awaiting the results of this unusual category. Nominee “Mesmerize” by Nob Essence, brought to mind both a surgically removed appendix and medium sized N.American brown snake.Eco friendly #1 worm
 Nominee “ Corkscrew Glass Dildo” by a company called Fucking Sculptures has been waging a campaign declaring ‘2015 “The Year of the Dildo”. Yet they still had to overcome the fact that their product resembles something that might have been created in an intestine.turd dildo
So it came as no surprise that the winner was the less visually jarring LEAF by BMS Factory.THE LEAF “Come on down” says Reid to no oneemilie accepts award 3 “Congratulations LEAF, you made a vibrator that looks like a LEAF!” says Emily enthusiastically.”That’s so ECO!” “Thank you. We’re so proud” Emily replies, channeling the award winning Leaf People. The next award is for “Best Sexual Health Product for Men”. Says Reid, racing in to The She Award equivalent of ‘Best Special Effects’. Factoid: This is a bittersweet category for Emily’s since her own product “Emily and Tony’s Down Under Comfort.“a cream for your “intimate areas” is locked in competition with The Hyrdromax Pump, touted as “the definitive starter pump for the world of penile enhancement.” And the winner is: Progasm Junior. AND someone is here to accept.guy accepts progasm by Aeros Emily must interview him, even as she is facing down a personal defeat. Bravely she turns to the audience. “You’ll love it” she says, covering her disappointing while also reminding everyone, “Don’t be afraid of your prostate.,” Now its time for “Best Sexual Health Product for Women” says Reid as he introduces one of the lower key awards. This is perhaps the SHE awards version of “The Best Sound Editing” And the winner is “RegularGlide…a regenerative water based personal lubricant” Unfortunately, no one is here to accept . “Its amazing, everyone! You should try it!” says Emily, now looking a little bit weary from having to improvise so many different but overjoyed prize winning sex product creators.emilie accepts award 2 We have now arrived at “MOST INNOVATIVE SEX TOY”, the SHE Award equivalent of Best Picture. Nominated again is Vesper Crave (It’s a necklace AND a vibrator! ) And the much touted “SOL Sonic Vibrator,” with its signature OM. Will this finally be their cosmic moment? The winner is….the also twice nominated “Hello Touch from Jimmy Jane. Emily breathes a great sigh of relief as a large group comes forward to accept.jimmy jane family wins  There are five of them. The women are dressed in hot pink and black, the same colors as the vibrators they are selling. But it’s the man in the purple shirt who thanks the academy. “Its really an amazing product.” Adds Emily, supportively,” And there’s no awkwardness afterward.” The evening ends with SEXPERT OF THE YEAR, the SHE equivalent of Best Director. There is a lot of controversy surrounding this award because The Academy chose not to acknowledge many of the Exhibitors in attendance today at The Expo…many of who also fit the category . ‘Andrea Renae’ and ‘Girl Boner’ were both snubbed by the academy. As was author Lynn Rosenberg, and her ‘Sexual Awakening at 70.’ And “Sex Nerd Sandra”.girl boner  sex nerd sandra  sex at 70 lady andrea the sexpert 2 The actual nominees were a group of podcaster/media personalities/authors and sex educators, many of whom claimed to have been on everything including The Howard Stern show. There would be only one winner. For the first time I found myself rooting for one of them.emily interviews self again Co-host Emily Morse is nominated. Fingers crossed she will now have a chance to make an acceptance speech as herself. And the winner is: Ava Cadell, “media therapist, worldwide speaker and founder of Loveology University” .best ava cadell wins And with that, the evening comes to a close. The First Annual SHE awards is over. Any attendees who would like to bask in the after glow have been invited to gravitate toward the bar and mingle.texting by vibrator sign As for me: I have other plans. I can not wait to return to The Ladies Room where I will re-experience myself looking far better than I ever will again. Then, having boosted my self esteem, I will take my swag bag full of free samples of “Stroke 29” and something called “Gun oil”, my complementary Fifty Shades of Grey Ben Wa balls and my Certified Ethical Vegan & Fair Trade condom and begin the long drive across town .Glyde the vegan condom   Read more

An examination of Fifty Shades of Grey via its merchandise

Posted February 18th, 2015
I wrote a piece for GRANTLAND.com about the peculiar and hilarious FIFTY SHADES OF GREY merchandise on sale , all of it specially approved by its author. But I barely scratched the surface. There is more…so much more…that never made it into the piece. Of the thousands of different items I saw, this ad was a stand out. Read more

Perusing the new McDonald’s Web Pages

Posted February 5th, 2015
Tags: , , , , , , ,
I originally wrote this piece for VICE, who declined to publish it for reasons of their own. In it, I examine last fall’s new “frank and honest web page” marketing strategy by McDonald’s. What if, one evening, in a fit of romantic nostalgia, you Googled your high school sweetheart and were led to a website with a FAQ page? And then what if those frequently asked questions were “Do you really have a personality disorder?” and “Are there any restraining orders against you?” and “What about the rumor you have a dungeon under your house?” Would you still want to send your old crush an invitation to get together for a drink?
That kind of describes how I felt yesterday opening the new McDonalds website to check out their answers to a lot of “tough questions.’ And no, they aren’t weighing in on ‘Free will versus fate’ or ‘Evolution versus Intelligent Design.’ I’ve never been a big McDonald’s fan. In fact, I’m a vegetarian. But obviously its impossible to grow up in this (or any) country without being aware of how many otherwise sensible people, from heads of state to notables in entertainment, regard the McDonald’s experience as a sacred ritual in the one true indigenous American religion. For those people, McDonald’s is linked at the cellular level with happy childhood memories from irresistible junk food that comes with a free toy. Plus they hired a clown as a spokesman years before the clown lobby surrendered its ‘poorly dressed, unfunny physical comedy franchise’ to Carrot Top and rebranded themselves as rictus grinning symbols of terror. But despite all this, recent headlines reported a big slide in fall quarter profits for McDonalds. Part of the reason involved a recent scandal in China, involving an Illinois based McDonald’s meat supplier caught mixing old meat, beyond its expiration date, with fresh meat. To rebound from this and other bad press, McDonald’s decided to be pro-active and launch some brand new web pages . A careful review of them offers a crystal clear cautionary tale about the difficulty of defending your reputation on line in the age of Google . Let’s begin with the big purple-on-purple web page entitled “Our food. Your questions.” where six suggested links are being offered. The top one is “ARE THERE WORMS IN YOUR BEEF?” I’ve heard many unsavory if not downright nasty things about McDonalds over the years; from that lawsuit involving their dangerously hot coffee to Morgan Spurlock’s terrifying documentary “Super Size Me” where he proves that if you eat nothing but McDonalds three times a day you wind up with a career as a cable TV personality. Yet a burger full of worms was such a disturbing new image for me that even after McDonald’s emphatic denials, it continued to live in my head making me feel like Medusa. I escaped by moving forward to: “IS THE McRIB MADE FROM REAL PORK?” Here McDonald’s was very clear in rebuttal that the McRib is “pork shoulder”. But having read that, I became curious about why people were asking this question. And so I Googled : ‘What is a McRib made of?’ Had I discovered it was mostly art gum erasers and silly putty, I might have tried one. Instead I learned that the 70 ingredient recipe is a “congealed slurry” of “disposable innards of the pig including tripe, heart and scalded stomach.” “Scalded stomach”promptly leapt to the head of my 2014 list of “Hideous phrases I hope never to hear again.” where it made itself comfortable next to that burger full of worms I was trying not to see. Next thing I knew, I was reading a 2012 Business Insider report about the McRib’s use of “restructured meat technology’…a new take on sausage making for which its inventor, Prominent Meat Luminary Richard Mandigo, won a coveted place in the Meat Industry Hall of Fame. When I stumbled upon a description of “baby pigs tossed into carts like rag dolls.” I decided it was time to flee the topic entirely. Back in the safe embrace of the McDonald’s website, I was now forced to confront another worrisome question it had never occurred to me to ask : “Do McDonalds buns contain the same chemicals used to make yoga mats? The answer turned out to be yes… with an explanation. Azodicarbonamide is a chemical which the McDonald’s bakers (along with those who supply Wendy’s, Arby’s, Burger King, Chick Fil A, Dunken Donuts, Jack in the Box, Carl Jr., Hardees and White Castle) use to keep their dough “consistent”. And whaddya know: its also found in rubber soles and foam plastics like yoga mats. McDonalds sums it up thusly: “Some people have suggested… that the ingredient is unsafe. It’s simply not the case. Think of salt: the salt you use in your food at home is a variation of the salt you may use to de-ice your sidewalk. The same is true of ADA — it can be used in different ways.” A follow up Google search showed ADA linked to respiratory illnesses and banned as a food additive in Europe and Australia, a charge which McDonald’s also responds to on a page called “ Why does your food in the US. Contain some ingredients that are banned in other parts of the world?” Naturally, once again, the answer was surprisingly simple: “Different countries may have different food and agricultural requirements.” Whew. Another silly regional difference! Obviously, yoga mats are considered food in the U.S. although not in fussy old Australia or Europe! Next question: “Do you use so called pink slime in your burgers or beef treated with ammonia?” (Related:”Is pink slime in a chicken McNugget?”) Ah…pink slime and ammonia: two old friends I still remember. My Google refresher course reminded me that a bath of ammonium hydroxide, also found in fertilizer and household cleaners, is used to reduce the large number of bacteria and pathogens such as E Coli and Salmonella found in certain “inedible cuts of meat” which, before 2001, were used legally only in dog food. Renamed “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (nicknamed ‘pink slime’) after being put thru a grinder, the mixture was then added to regular ground beef and approved for human consumption in the U.S. by former ‘undersecretary of agriculture Joann Smith over the objection of USDA scientists. In an amazing coincidence, Ms. Smith then stepped down from her government job and joined the board of directors of BEEF PRODUCTS, the company that makes ‘pink slime’. On this subject, McDonald’s is once again clear. It no longer uses pink slime. Although a near by page on their site that asks “Have you EVER used so-called pink slime in your burgers?” confesses that they used to dabble a bit…. during a teensy little seven year period (2004-2011) when, at their stated rate of 225 million burgers sold a year, a mere 1,575,000,000 burgers containing pink slime were sold to McDonald’s customers. It was in the midst of exploring this that I tripped and fell into a dank internet cavity full of high resolution microscope views of McNugget matter being compared to views of actual chicken and showing no resemblance. Racing back to the comfort of the website, there were still more tough questions. For example: “Why doesn’t your food rot?”  and “How much do you care about the people who eat your food?”  Lots, since 2011! To review: No worms. Some scalded stomachs and slurry. Yes on yoga mats and variable food regulations, hormones in beef, GMOs, carcinogenic acrylamides, trans-fats and defoamer in oil. No on pink slime or expired meat from Illinois. For now. At this point, because the range of things connected to a McDonald’s burger had begun to seem infinite and inexhaustible I decided to try some random combination- Googling. I am relieved to report there were no links to mustard gas, or rattlesnake venom, only one link to a Chem Trail and only one to toxic gas in a bathroom in a McDonalds in Georgia killing one and hospitalizing nine. Clearly we have entered a time when the bad things that we are not = the good things we are. That is why my suggestion for McDonald’s is that they expand the new website even further to include the fact that all of its menu items are 100% free of cyanide, aluminum shavings and ebola. They should point out that not one elephant or African child soldier was killed to make A Happy Meal. And really, shouldn’t that be enough? —
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Bob Dylan’s Xmas lights: A Final Wrap Up

Posted December 22nd, 2014
Dylan 2014wishbone sevenThis year, since I have a monthly column for VICE, I wrote up the past 6 years of light snooping into one big piece. I re-visited every set of lights from 2008 to present. Here are this year’s lights. For an explanation, you can read the whole piece HERE. In case that link isn’t working, here is the URL: http://www.vice.com/read/i-have-an-unhealthy-obsession-with-bob-dylans-christmas-lights-129  Visit often.  They count the page views. Happy Holidays everyone.       Read more

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: An interview with Neil Diamond’s Chair

Posted November 6th, 2014
Forty three years after Neil Diamond released his hit song, “I am I Said,” the much maligned chair from the chorus has decided to come forward and set the record straight.   Read more

A Dylan Christmas MIRACLE

Posted December 22nd, 2013
UPDATE: With only a few days to go until Christmas, an amazing thing has happened. A brand NEW second string of lights has been added to the annual Bob Dylan display. This is a sign that this will surely be the most amazing Christmas ever. Or that a new member of the staff has been upgrading the lights for some reason. Perhaps because I am making everyone punchy. Either way: Merry Christmas everyone. Merry Christmas.Miracle Dylan (If you missed the original post: HERE ) Read more

Bob Dylan Xmas 2013

Posted December 17th, 2013
For an increasing number of people, The Holiday Season isn’t really officially under way until we all spend a moment of quiet contemplation with Bob Dylan’s Christmas decorations.  I have been doing this annually since 2009, making this my fifth year as curator of this semi-sacred event. Sometimes it seems to me that the rest of the weeks of the year are merely antipasto plates and hors d’oevres, leading up to this final special entree. Okay, it doesn’t really seem like that to me. I’m just trying to be festive. I apologize. I will try to be more honest in 2014. And now we begin. To get into the proper frame of mind, click the following video and one of Bob’s Christmas songs will play as a background to our guided tour. Go ahead. Click. I’ll wait Okay:  here we go. Odd that it took me until last year to finally realize that the main string of lights are up all year round. My guess is that they’re too difficult to get out of that hedge without wire cutters. Of course, they only are turned on during the weeks before the holidays and it is one of the lesser known holiday miracles,  almost like a modern day story of Chanukah, that they continue to work year after year without maintenance. They should have burned out by now, yet they remain lit; an electronic tribute to his long career. And this year, as we look at them once again, we see the now familiar classic annual strategy ; A simple string of uneven lights, with a familiar double loop toward the lower right. As time goes on, and the color wears off the bulbs, it begins to look as tho they are trying to spell something.                             It almost looks like an M. At first I thought it might be the beginning of the word Merry.  Or perhaps  an homage to me and the scholarly work I do here. But then I cracked the code and realized the lights present a graph upon which we see a broad annual assessment of his year. There is one last area of lights, further back, behind the main gates. It is a winter wonderland of sorts. Here we see a display of candy canes and reindeer and a few other things I can not make out. All I can say about this one is that it is a work in progress; much more elaborate this year than ever before. So KUDOS! And with that  The Holiday Season is now OFFICIALLY open. I bid you all a Merry Everything.   PS: If you’d like to take a stroll down memory lane, here are the links for a look at this display thru history. By which I mean, over the last four years. A Dylan Christmas 2009 A Dylan Christmas 2010 A Dylan Christmas 2011 A Dylan Christmas 2012   UPDATE: December 22,2013 A Christmas miracle has occurred. A SECOND string of lights has been added to the display. I don’t know why the last minute upgrade. Maybe I am making everyone punchy. Whatever the reason: Merry Christmas, everyone. Merry Christmas one and all.Miracle Dylan   Read more