Make A Little Effort Please, People, It’s A Holiday For Christ’s Sake

28 Nov

Dorothy Parker said gratitude is the meanest and most snivelling attribute in the world, and she makes a good point.  In fact, that’s probably the simplest explanation for why I’ve never married: there’s little less appealing than a person who can’t stop telling everyone how thankful he is to have me in his life. Restating the obvious does get tiresome rather quickly.

That said, I think more obnoxious are the people who can’t find a single thing in the world to be grateful for. Right now in America, I don’t doubt there are millions who, having wept over their TV turkey dinners, are watching King Kong and wondering why they are alone and miserable on Thanksgiving Day. The smiling faces of families at the Macy’s Parade, the constant commercials for Black Friday sales they cannot afford to take advantage of and the piles of empties lined up on the kitchen counter only serve as evidence that there is nothing for which they can give thanks.  You know who you are (my guess is if you’re online reading this instead of spending time with loved ones, you are probably one of the saddos of which I speak). Pull yourself together and try a bit harder.

Everyone can find something to be grateful for this holiday, if you really put your mind to it.  Out of the goodness of my heart, let me offer some suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • Be grateful that fluffy little puppies exist
  • Be grateful that modern dentistry uses anesthesia
  • Be grateful that your hair is still full of bounce (disregard if you are bald)
  • Be grateful that shards of glass aren’t a dietary staple
  • Be grateful that you do not have to have a boil on your eyeball lanced
  • Be grateful that Dina and Michael Lohan are not your parents (disregard if they are)
  • Be grateful that your suicide attempt did not leave you alive but essentially a vegetable

See? With a little effort and imagination, you will be able to find something that makes you can appreciate. If all fails, be thankful I took the time out of my busy schedule to write this thoughtful message. I don’t do this for my health, you know.

My Final Word on Men’s Facial Hair

11 Nov

I am sick of being asked about this.

At least twice a day, someone contacts me via telephone, post, email or “tweet” to ask my advice about men’s facial hair. While it is an important and complicated issue, I’m bloody sick of addressing it. So I am going to do it one final time: this is it. Pay attention and take notes because I shan’t be saying it again.

Cleanly Shaved Face:

This is an ideal option for very young and very old men. Because the whole hair-on-the-face-thing is new and fascinating to young men, they tend to want to show it off; however, wearing a sparse moustache or beard indicates their newness to puberty, and for legal reasons, women find it less than appealing. Also, many employers refuse to hire young men because they think they are stupid and lazy. Because both are likely to be true, shaving one’s face can counteract this by showing one is bright enough at least to maneuver a possibly deadly weapon and take the time to do a nice job.

The primary issue old men have with hair is that it is disappearing from their head and sprouting in their ears. Shaving their faces helps them hold on to some kind of control.

Moustache Alone:

In my heart of hearts, I would never suggest that any man wear a moustache but no beard. It’s shameful.

Beard Alone:

Too many men refuse to consider this option and therefore it is ideal for a man who wants to stand out among his peers (without going overboard, see below). It’s ideal for men with especially fanciable lips, those in artistic professions or those trying to unite a divided nation. I personally find it strangely alluring.

Moustache and Beard Combo:

“Hide your flaws” is a famous beauty maxim: all butt ugly men should keep as much hair on their faces as possible. Luckily, others can wear beards and moustaches so the presence of a lot of facial hair doesn’t necessarily indicate a hideous face underneath. In fact, particularly good looking men are encouraged to let their facial hair grow for at least one month out of the year, as long as they permit women to stroke their faces the day they shave it off.

This choice is also appropriate for men who like adventure, those who live in cold climates, and those who have lost their hands in tragic farming accidents. Generally, this type of facial hair should be kept tidy and relatively short, though men with nubs needn’t bother about that.

Unusual Variations:

The only men who wear bizarre facial hairstyles are complete geniuses or utter twats. If you think you’re a genius, you’re likely a twat so you’re safe either way.

Why I’ve tired of addressing this issue is because ultimately there are three things that should guide a man’s choice about how to shave this face: his god, his partner and his common sense. Apparently if he’s lacking all three, he turns to me. Aren’t I the lucky one?

The Willy Wonka of Art: At Warhol’s Factory

28 Oct

A few years ago, a man died in a vat of melted chocolate in Camden, NJ. It happened at the old Campbell’s Soup Factory. It is so sad that factories these days have become symbols of financial distress and confectionery casualties. I remember a time when a factory was a place of passion, beauty, and non-fatal incidents.

As a real mover-and-shaker on the New York scene, I, of course, crossed paths with one Mister Andy Warhol. There was a time in fact where he and I crossed paths on a daily basis as I was living on East 47th Street, and we often bumped into each other as we were nipping down to the store to pick up pints of milk each morning. Our interaction began with just a friendly hello but quickly grew much deeper.  He and I often discussed local news events, the weather, and, before I knew it, the possibility of marriage.

Andy was such a virile man that he literally stank of potency. I remember he once challenged a homeless man to an arm wrestling match, and Andy wiped the floor with the poor veteran (though he generously refused to take his winnings from the man’s Dixie cup). At first this oozing masculinity was appealing (I was between beaux at the time and could have been described as gagging for it), but I must confess I soon tired of watching him bench press bicycles and outrace buses. Andy, sweetheart, I asked him, do you not have any other interests? It was then he confessed that he was working as a part time artist until he was able to bulk up enough to join the middleweight circuit. As I have always been keen to encourage artists, particularly ones hung like a horse, I immediately asked to see some of his work. This is when I first entered his Factory, an oasis of calm in the storm of midtown Manhattan.

And was the place full of characters? Oh yes, indeed it was. I loved many of them and have stayed close with some even to this day.  I was particularly fond of Pope Ondine, who once retrieved a kitten from out of a local park’s mighty oak, and I will forever remember him as a gentle soul. I was also close with Nico, an actress from Alabama who was in New York desperately trying to shed her down-home, plain Jane persona. Many of Andy’s friends were also musicians, and it was at the Factory that I first heard the melodic music of a band called the Velvet Underground.

While I confess that illegal drugs were bountiful in the Factory, I for one never partook. Lou Reed, another abstainer, and I spent many an hour trying to understand the appeal of “getting out of one’s head” when far greater highs could be achieved by simply playing canasta and eating pretzels. There was also a plethora of sexual activity, and this did little to throw water on Andrew’s libido. I generally keep my displays of affection at least semi-private, but Andy was always all over me like white on rice. I tried as hard as I could to remain clothed for most of the time, but the building itself seemed to just encourage lust.  One night while Andy was in the kitchen making sandwiches, I shared a quick kiss with an actor named Joe Dallesandro (who later went on to become a primary school teacher in my hometown of Trenton, NJ). Luckily, Andy never found out because he was a ruthlessly jealous lover and the more time we spent together at the Factory, the more adamant he became about wanting to make an honest woman of me. He told me he dreamt of us growing old together in a farmhouse, surrounded by little Andy’s and shelves full of his boxing trophies, where he could spend his weekends chopping wood, hunting bear and trapping beaver. But I unfortunately wanted more from life and could not grant this wish. We eventually parted ways, but those memories still reside warmly in my heart.

Despite the romantic difficulties, in retrospect, my only real regret about that time was that I never introduced Andy to a good friend of mine named Valerie Solanas, a delightful charmer living in our neighbourhood. She was young and had fallen into that trap that many ladies do of being focused on nothing but finding a man. It’s a shame the two of them never got together because I think there could have been a real love connection between them.LouReedHershey

The experiences I had at Andy’s Factory certainly were more fulfilling and passion-filled than that Camden worker’s; at the same time, though, I imagine they were just as a sweet.

Rest in peace, Lou Reed.

Can You Keep A Secret?

22 Oct

Those who know me well (including most of those I’ve slept with) know that I don’t muck about. Faffing is not part of my nature. Among the many things I have in common with Ludacris is that I give it to ya straight, no chase. So please allow me to tell you like it is.

Secrets: they’re bullshit.

There are two kinds of secrets: the ones you don’t want anyone to know about and the ones you want everyone to know about.

Secrets that you don’t want anyone to know about are bullshit because they’re usually pretty diabolical. When you killed that tramp. The money you stole out of the charity box. The time you let your employer go out with a ladder in her stockings. Why you neglected to mention that, I will never understand. But that’s what’s behind these types of secrets: you’ve done something or something’s been done to you that you fear others will not understand. Occasionally, of course, you probably should share. Notify the coppers if you’re the victim of a crime. Other times telling might help you heal from a bad experience, but please — rather than post your secret in the comment box below — think about consulting a mental health professional to talk to (choose an ugly one: it makes it easier to open up).

If you refuse my very reasonable advice above, the only other suggestion I can make about these types of secrets is to keep your trap shut and just not do anything like that again. Unlike Bill W, I’m not a big believer in the reveal and heal strategy: going back, confessing your shameful action and demanding that the wronged party accept your apology (and from what I understand, that tramp’s identity is still unknown so you’d have no one to pester anyway). Move on from your secret and just think a little more sensibly the next time you have an urge to push someone in front of a train.

The other type of secret — the one you actually do want others to know about — is equally bullshit. Firstly, it’s not a secret if others know. Duh. Stop calling it a secret and call it what it is: a boast. I myself am not much of a boaster (and if you’ve read any of my critically acclaimed books, you already know that), but some people quite enjoy it. If you’re one of those people, embrace it. I hadn’t planned on bedding you anyway.

vintage-87gThe idea that secrets are seductive is just silly talk. A true secret is usually shameful and if your partner is seduced by shame, consider it a wake-up call about the real reason they’ve chosen you. Besides, if you do feel obliged to share something you had intended to keep private, you’re opening up a can of worms that invites them to share a secret as well — are you ready to hear their confession? I just hope you’ve been using condoms. Relationships that are built on secrets tend to go bust pretty quickly. Unless Josh Homme is involved, but don’t ask me how I know this.

Listen, we’ve all got secrets. Yes, I’ve killed a tramp. Basically, you’ve got two simple options: stop going on about having a secret or post it online like the rest of the world does. Just think good and hard before you do because, remember, there is no statute of limitations for murder.

The Forgotten Victims of the US Government Shutdown

4 Oct

404 ShutdownWe’re a few days into the US Government shutdown, and quite frankly it’s a wonder there are any Americans still alive at this point.

The shutdown is no joke, people. It’s not for me to say who is to blame for the situation (it’s the Republicans), but every day that it continues, the more bad shit that’s coming America’s way. NBC estimates that the shutdown costs $12.5 million an hour. That’s a brilliant way to solve budget disputes, isn’t it? No wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans don’t understand irony!

It’s not just a vague disgrace that’s going on — it’s one that affects many Americans in very real ways. Hundreds of thousands of government employees have been furloughed and are not receiving paychecks. Services like food programs for low income pregnant women and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention flu program aren’t running. National parks are closed; even the National Zoo is affected. Animals can’t even vote yet they’re feeling the pain of the GOP’s childish behaviour.

However, when talking about groups of people (or pandas) affected by the shutdown, we can’t ignore the individuals — the ones who don’t get mentioned in the papers — whose lives are being tragically altered forever.

I’m talking about the children who just a few short days ago saw politics as a high calling, a career path for those who care about and want to help others. Who will explain to the little ones how terribly, terribly American politics has gone wrong?

I’m also talking about the nail technicians, telemarketers and tabloid journalists around the country. They wake up in the morning eager to get started on their life’s work and read that the government has deemed so many of its employees “non-essential.” If working for education or the environment isn’t seen as an essential task, well, that really puts other jobs into perspective, doesn’t it? It wouldn’t surprise me if people started topping themselves left and right. Sadly, this will only lead to more problems since the Federal Department of Suicide Clean Up is currently running on a skeleton staff.

And, of course, I’m talking about all those Americans out there who were taught in elementary school to look towards elected officials as models of responsibility. Those models of responsibility have decided that if they don’t get to play their way, they’re shutting the whole operation down (while still collecting their pay, natch). Why should Lenny over at the liquor store have to pull three late night shifts in a row; why shouldn’t he just lock up early and head home? Steve in an accounting might just up and say screw it and his company will be powerless to conduct business. Who will sponsor the t-shirts for Jerry’s daughter’s softball team then, I ask you? All of these little effects have roll on effects which could, quite frankly, bring the world’s most powerful nation to its knees.

Which would be a shame. Because I’m American and I hate to see this happening to my country.

Pleasure v. Pain: Which Brings More Pleasure?

17 Sep

Don’t be daft: obviously, the answer is pleasure.

Or is it, Agatha? you might be asking in that cute way you do when you’re trying to look clever but are really just being silly.

Well, yes, it is. Because pain is always painful. Guaranteed.

Whip of DesireNow if you are currently clad in handcuffs with a ball gag in your mouth, you might be tempted to speak up to contradict me. You needn’t bother. I’m well aware of the whole “pain is pleasure” scene, as the young sadomasochists are calling it these days, though I remain skeptical. I mean, we all love a good whipping, sure, but those welts are going to sting like a bitch the second you lower yourself into a nice, hot bubble bath and then you’ll have wished you thought twice last night before introducing leather play into your bedroom shenanigans. Let’s face it — orgasms are a dime a dozen (if you’re a Gold Club member) but few things are more pleasing than a long, hot soak. Write that on a piece of paper and tape it to the door of your sex cupboard (or car dashboard, if you’re a member of the dogging community) to remind yourself for next time. In the long term, doing what you can to avoid pain usually pays off dividends.

However, pain does have a purpose and the next time you feel it, I recommend you stop to think about the lesson it is attempting to pass on. Pain is rarely subtle; it screams but doesn’t whisper.

For example, if your hand hurts because you’re hitting it with a hammer, you’re probably going to want to stop hitting your hand with a hammer. Pain’s messages are usually as straight forward as that.

If your ears are hurting, turn down your iPod or purchase higher quality headphones.

If your eyes are hurting, you probably need more sleep or to take breaks from looking at the computer.

If your nose is hurting, cut back on the cocaine.

I am not even a doctor and I know these things.

Emotional pain works similarly. If your heart is breaking, pain is trying to tell you that your taste in romantic partners is poor. If you suffer from a panic attack on the drive to work, you probably should quit your job. If you feel despondent, why not lift your spirits with some cocaine?

So while we can learn from pain (and learning should always bring joy), ultimately the evidence has shown that pleasure packs more punch in the pleasure department than its alternative. However, this is not say that pleasure doesn’t have the potential to bring harm. It does, because everything does. Are you really that naive? I’m sure you familiar with roses, yes? They’re beautiful, very pleasurable to both look at and smell. Yet if you eat two thousand tonnes of rose petals, you are going to get a very nasty tummy ache.

So I generally don’t recommend doing that.

It’s Your Body

7 Sep

Bollocks.

I hear the word a lot. It’s usually used to dismiss something, to question its credibility or to accuse the person speaking about it of being a liar and/or idiot.

You already know how I feel about liars. And idiots. Now I’m going to tell you how I feel about bollocks. Well, specifically complementary medicine, which is what curly-haired clever clogs currently enjoy dismissing.

Complementary medicine can refer to a wide range of health remedies — from herbs, tinctures and oils to procedures like cupping, acupuncture, and energy therapy. These options are seen as alternative, because they are not scientifically sensible as things like drilling into teeth, putting pigs’ parts into humans and swallowing chemicals in tablet form are.

I am not going to defend complementary medicine. However, I am also not going to rip it a new asshole either. Because, while I have no truck with most of it myself, those who judge should keep a few things in mind.300px-Jekyll.and.Hyde.Ch1.Drawing1

If you think everything scientists get up to is automatically above board, I’d like to remind you of Victor Frankenstein and Henry Jekyll. Yes, they had white coats and medical books but their methods were a little dubious, don’t you agree?

Drink MeAs long as no one is being swindled out of cash or doing damage to themselves, if something relieves someone’s symptoms or worries, who am I to judge them and their gullibility? There is such a thing as the power of the mind, you know.  What about Alice, eh? After drinking a special potion, she went on a pretty magical adventure — is it asking too much to allow a little girl some joy? (Please do not be distracted by my over-reliance on fiction-based evidence.)

Quite frankly, some of what falls under the complementary medicine label is actually pretty clever. For example, making sure you get good nutrients can prevent getting poorly in the first place. Filling your room with some nice smelling lavender isn’t going to cure genital herpes, but it might lift your spirits so you focus less on that painful itch. Sometimes what is actually common sense is banished as bunkum, just because no pharmaceutical company can market it.

Massage is another treatment that often gets unfairly lumped in with alternative therapies. Unless, of course, it’s called physical therapy when all of a sudden it’s medically sound. Whatevs. I happen to know that certain types of body manipulation are extremely beneficial: they can relax stiff muscles, can hasten injury recovery, and, if done in the right alley, can earn you a quick tenner.

All I’m saying is this: I don’t care what you do. Go to a GP with a certificate and swallow her elixirs or go to a herbalist and rub his salve into your chest. As long as you get the facts for yourself before you do anything, you won’t ever hear of bollocks coming out of my mouth. Promise.

My Apologies

23 Aug

wish-you-were-here-east-of-india-postcardI am so sorry, my dears, for neglecting you. I have been off on my jollies , but was unexpectedly delayed. Unfortunately, I had the bad luck of choosing the same guesthouse as a formerly famous American rock god who caused a disruption to my rest and/or relaxation. I don’t want to give him the publicity by mentioning of name as his antics clearly indicate a desperate need to be back in the spotlight. Why exactly he released what he released into the pool, I do not know, but the quarantine meant that I missed my flight home and had to reschedule a number of appointments, which might not have been important to one Axl Rose, but which really mattered to me, thank you very much.

It might take a few days for me to get back to my normal schedule, but know I’ve missed you more than I can say because, I swear on a stack of bibles, it is you — and your love — that sustains me.

Do Good And Don’t Worry To Whom

12 Aug

This proverb is one of the many reasons I love the Mexican people (their overindulgence in cilantro is perhaps the only reason I do not). Too many people today only “do good” if it benefits their friends or family or even themselves personally—by helping them get promoted at work, go to the head of the class once they get to heaven or satisfy their God complex.

When was the last time you did good without worrying to whom? You just did something good, something nice, something kind. You didn’t tell anyone, maybe not even the person who benefited (making anonymous erotic phonecalls, I’m afraid, does not count). What would happen if you did something like this today? What could it hurt? Whom could it help?

I’d like to say I do good like this all the time. But, of course, I can’t say that because it would be taking credit for my good acts, which nullifies the very point I’m trying to make (pay attention, please). So I won’t say that I do good all the time, but instead I shall say that I will try to be more like the Mexicans and spread a little sunshine around—to anyone, to everyone—just because doing good is good. You should do some good, too. If you do, resist the temptation to email me to detail what you’ve done, because one, keeping quiet about it is part of the challenge and two, I’m not really that interested in you as a person and you are quickly becoming tiresome to me.

Harm Prevention

4 Aug

The other day I was in the library and was confronted with a rather unsavoury situation. Now I greatly admire the staff at our local branch: they have always been polite —  in fact as a show of respect for my frequent custom, they often allow me to take home books for free as long as I show my loyalty card. However, my experience this week was quite shocking: inside the library was a large and perpetually annoying fly.

fliesNow as a rule, I cherish all sentient beings, even disgusting ones, and I’ve got no problems with flies when they are out in nature or buzzing around someone other than myself. But I am sorry: I just cannot tolerate them near my face. Call me a Nazi, I don’t care. Flies in my face are simply unacceptable.

Obviously, my first strategy was to move away. I left the periodicals and moved to a more central location, hoping that if he were to follow, at least there would be other people present for him to annoy. However, the fly did not take the bait. Fine, I thought, I am free from torment, and I sat quietly, reflecting.

Shortly thereafter, the library began to empty and I soon found myself alone in the big, book-filled room. Lo and behold, who shows up? That’s right, it was the fly. The dastardly little devil obviously just wanted to avoid having witnesses to his harassment. A war was now on.

I grabbed the first book I could and prepared to send the fly to his maker. I won’t detail the delicate dance of battle, but I can assure you that only one of us walked away still breathing.

As I sat down to wait for Christopher’s play group to come to a close, I found myself skimming through the book-cum-murder-weapon. It turned out to be Careful Now! The History of Health and Safety Laws. And I must say, I found it surprisingly interesting.

Buttloads of people currently find Health and Safety laws oppressively restrictive and generally stupid, and, quite frankly, they frequently are. I now know, though, that it’s incorrect to assume these rules are evidence of today’s Nanny State. Actually, H&S has been around for a long time and it used to be much worse than it is now.

NOW: East Riding Council restricts kite-flying on beaches because it is a risk to others.

THEN: In the early twentieth century, word went round about an old woman who had died after swallowing a fly, a spider, a bird, a cat, a dog, a goat, a cow, and a horse, so a small Cornish village ordered all farmers to slaughter their animals to ensure such a circumstance did not reoccur.

NOW: A school bans triangle-shaped flapjacks because they could thrown at children.

THEN: For almost a month in 1923, children were not allowed to eat any solid food as the chewing motion was deemed “potentially threatening to others.” Parents were only permitted to serve soup and applesauce for twenty-six days before the law was reversed.

NOW: The Royal British Legion stops supplying pins with its poppies to avoid being sued by those who prick themselves.

THEN: Although the most famous of these cases is the American woman who sued McDonalds because her coffee was hot, it was not the first example of this type of litigation. In Victorian times, Lord Stephens of Stephanie brought a case against a five-year-old child who was playing with a stick in the street. Lord Stephens’ argument was that the stick could have flown from the child’s hand, turned the corner and continued into the window of a building where the good man was purchasing a piece of jewellery for his mother. The Court agreed that Lord was assuredly more important as a human being than any dirty child could ever be and awarded him the boy’s newborn sister (who was quickly deposited at the nearest poorhouse).

I am hoping, of course, that the fly’s family does not press charges against me. It’d be a bitter irony to have the book thrown at me for throwing the book at the fly. Bitter, but admittedly poetic.

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