Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"A Visit From (Non) Saint Joe"

'Tis the night before Wednesday, we call it Tuesday
In a week from today, it will also be Tuesday.

The boy's playing Xbox. Why's he so loud?
He calls another boy a "cunt". Makes his dad proud.

Mom's in a thong, but that doesn't matter.
She said I'm cut off 'til I stop getting fatter.

I've got insomnia, I'll probably be up all night
So I head to the kitchen to grab myself a bite.

On my way there, I hear a scary fucking noise.
Relax fattie! You just stepped on the dog's toys.

The kitchen is filled with cake, cookies and pie.
I'd say I chose one, but you'd know that's a lie.

Back in my room I plop down hard in my chair,
Grab the TV remote. Let's see what's on there.

The dog stares at me, saying, "I'd like a snack".
I take some chocolate, and rub it on my sack.

I kneel down close to him, but to my surprise,
He turns up his nose, and let's out a sigh.

If you cringed at those lines, that makes me glad.
But my mom read them and cried. Now I am sad.

Rejected first by my wife, and then by the dog,
I load up Spankwire, type in the word "PAWG"

I should stop before this story reaches its climax
SPOILER: It ends on some TP...thrown in the trash

If you're still reading this, that's the greatest gift ever
Sorry I'm not funnier. Sorry my poem's not more clever

I hope your New Year is filled with joy and health
I only said that 'cuz it rhymes with "go fuck yourself"


Saturday, September 7, 2013

"No Rain"

In Satiristas (which everyone should own and read), Judd Apatow says,

"When we were making 'Freaks and Geeks', NBC said, 'Why can't they ever win?' They tried to turn it into a wish-fulfillment show like they were used to making. 

We said, 'The whole point is they DON'T ever win - but they have each other. They MAY win in the end, but not right now. I had a sense of that myself as this funny kid, bad at sports, reading comic books and writing reports on the Marx Brothers - not for school, just for myself. I used to think, 'One day, these things will be COOL.'

When I moved to L.A. at seventeen, I started hanging out at the comedy clubs. I felt like that 'bee girl' in Blind Melon's 'No Rain" video, walking through the field and finding all these other people dressed like bees. I couldn't believe there were that many people with the same interests as me. I felt alone in high school; nobody else cared about comedy or was obsessed with Bill Murray or Monty Python or any of that. It was a great feeling to be in the comedy world, where suddenly, 'Oh, I'm NOT that weird? People VALUE that I know minutia about John Candy?"

I've probably said enough times that Penn Radio was my "bee girl" moment. It was the first time I looked through the gate and discovered there were other people who shared my point of view on god and religion. The "No Rain" video doesn't end at this discovery, however. "Bee girl" runs through the gate and begins dancing with all of the other "bees". This is the exact feeling I have when I get to moderate the LIVE chat during Ardent Atheist and Skeptically Yours. In my opinion, this is what the Internet does best. It allows small, disconnect pockets of like minded people to find each other and shed that sense of loneliness. It's where you can stumble on great sites like The Not Alone Project or The Coming Out Godless Project and read stories written by folks who are dealing with (or have dealt with) that same sense of isolation. You are not alone. Both The Not Alone Project and The Coming Out Godless Project were kind enough to post my "Spiderman Made Me an Atheist" story. I hope it helps someone who's feeling how I felt during my youth. Go to these sites and share your story. You never know who it might help.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Know Your Audience

"When the garrulous barber asks him, 'How shall I cut your hair?," a quick wit answers, 'Silently.' 

In a video I watched recently (see below), Jimmy Carr said this was the oldest known joke. I don't know if that's true, but I did learn that its earliest known telling is in an ancient document titled, Philogelos (Laughter Lover), that dates to the 3rd or 4th Century A.D. I have no idea how well this joke went over in Ancient Greece. I can tell you that it bombed this morning while I was getting my haircut. It did earn me a mostly silent haircut. I fear the result of that haircut is probably the funniest joke of all, however.

You can find a version of Philogelos translated into English by Professor William Berg here.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


As soon as the final fifth grade bell sounds, everyone I knew began telling me how awful my first year of middle school was going to be. They told me, and told me, and told me. They continued telling me throughout the summer (You ever notice how much quicker summer months expire?) It wasn't long after the opening bell of sixth grade that I figured out they had all been lying. It's not awful. Ask anyone involved, and they'll tell you the same thing. Teachers, students, parents, the custodial engineers (It would be rude to ask everyone else, and leave them out) name it. Sixth grade is not merely awful. It was the worst year of my life. And there's not an ounce of hyperbole in that sentence. 

Okay, there may not be hyperbole in that sentence, but I did leave off a crucial qualifier. Sixth grade was, in fact, the worst year of my life...up to that point. There are a number of reasons for this. For starters, I believe middle school teachers suffer from a condition similar to road rage. Something about being penned up with preteens sends them into outbursts of aggressive behavior. I learned that it wasn't that uncommon for a sixth grade teacher to shout obscenities at a disruptive class, or to throw a trash can across a room to get the attention of his students. Across the room and through a window. A closed window. True story. It wasn't a case of the inmates running the asylum. It was true, however, that a number of those running the joint should have been inmates. If the kind, elderly woman who taught your fourth grade class was Dr. Jekyll, the red-eyed, lunatic who taught your sixth grade shop class was certainly Mr. Hyde. 

Teachers were not the only change, though. All middle schools have an awful smell. It's created by pubescent boys who have yet to figure out that the foul aroma is actually emanating from their armpits. No middle school aged boy has ever heard the word deodorant. It's been shouted at him by his parents and teachers repeatedly, of course...he just hasn't heard it yet. The halls are filled with more than this malodorous stench. They are also filled with what appears to be real life giants. The students in eighth grade are only a year away from high school and many of them are huge. Not only that. A number of them have facial hair. Three months prior, I was one of the tallest kids in the school. Now, I'm straining my neck to (reluctantly) make eye contact with a bearded guy wearing a denim jacket covered in Iron Maiden patches, who reeks of cigarette smoke (Which is actually pleasant compared to the BO lingering everywhere else). As luck would have it, this monster is in your class because he's been held back the last two years. You know who else was in that class? Girls. When did they start letting girls in school? I swear, I didn't notice a single one of them in elementary school. Now they're everywhere and more interesting than pretty much everything else. Put all of these ingredients into a blender and you have middle school life. It's a huge culture shock and very intimidating. None of this has anything to do with sixth grade being the worst year of my life (up to that point).  

Roy Eugene Swam died January 1, 1986. You didn't know him, but that's okay. I didn't really know him, either. Despite growing up only a few miles from my father's father, we spent much more time visiting my mother's parents who lived farther away. If I had to guess (and I'm almost 40, so I do), I probably shared space with him two or three times a year up until I turned ten. It was about that time when, because of diabetes, he had the end of his left foot surgically removed. While he was recovering from his surgery, he moved in with us for awhile. Almost all the memories I have of my Granddad come from these few months. 

He was the most amazing house guest ever. Both of my parents worked and it was unusual for them to be home when we (my sister and I) got out of school. My Granddad lit up the minute we walked through the door. He was filled with questions about my school day. He would sit quietly with me while I did my homework or told him about some of the lunchroom antics of my classmates (never me, of course). Just the act of spending time with me seemed to fill him with joy. That meant a lot to me (still does). It's an odd thing to be unable to remember many specifics from those few months, but to have such vivid memories of the emotions I felt. If Doc Brown ever shows up at my house tomorrow in a Delorian equipped with a flux capacitor, I'll ask to travel back to those couple of weeks we got to spend with him.

We're going to borrow Doc Brown's gadget and fast forward to New Years Eve, 1985. I was eleven and my sister was nine. We were allowed to stay up to see the ball drop that year (it was a pretty big deal). My father worked a late shift with the police department at the time. He had many opinions about how a police department should be run, and was happy to share them. He told me several times that opinions were like assholes. Everybody has one, but not many people want to see (or hear) yours. Since he was unable to watch the ball drop with us, it didn't seem that unusual for him to call the house and say hello shortly after midnight. I remember the brief conversation he and my mother had, and I remember being upset to not get a chance to say hi to him. A short while after she hung up, she told us that Granddad had died. 

This was my first experience with death, and I was devastated. I didn't get a chance to know Granddad well, but what I knew of him, I liked a lot. He had a kindness and humor that was contagious, and I was never going to experience it again. The finality of it all was too much for me to wrap my head around. My father came home an hour or so after the phone call. I remember him coming into my room and sitting on my bed. He was still in his uniform. Just before he broke into tears he said to me, "At least he made it long enough to see the New Year." It was the first time I had ever seen my father cry (I've only see it happen one other time. We're very different that way.) I cried with him, and I'm crying again now as I write this.

My Granddad was a deeply religious man. He played the organ at his church and had perfect attendance for more than fifty years before he got really sick at the end. Years later, I learned that he gave a large amount of his savings to a con man, or televangelist. Which ever you prefer. I have a few blurry memories of his funeral service. People said kind things and talked of seeing him again some day. I do remember being lured in by the thought of seeing him again. I had given up believing in god, but maybe there was a way I could be reunited with my Granddad.

I have trouble remembering too much about his funeral, but I have very clear memories of a get together at my Uncle's house after the funeral. What sticks in my mind are the stories told about my Granddad. No one talked about the last year or so when he became sick. They were sharing happy stories, from a healthier time. My father told a story of Granddad chasing him out of the house after he had gotten into some trouble in school. My Dad was a high school football star (another way we are very different) and thought for sure that Granddad would never catch him (he was a short man). He jumped a fence at the end of their backyard into a farmer's field, and thought he'd glance back to celebrate his escape. Instead he turned to see Granddad coming down the other side of the fence, right on his tail. My father decided at that point to give in and accept his punishment. The laughter and smiles that filled my Uncle's living room that night...those I'll always remember. It was obvious that my Granddad was a great man and those closest to him would hold him in their hearts for as long as they lived. That was how he would live on. 

When I returned to school, I remember my sixth grade math teacher asking me how my grandfather was doing. I told her that he had died shortly after the ball had dropped on New Years. Sadly, one of the clearest memories of my Granddad's death is what she said to me. "Well, he's in a better place now." What?!? What place would that be? How was that "place" better than here with the ones who loved him most? Other than those few moments at my Granddad's funeral, I had never given much thought to whether or not there was an afterlife. No one I knew personally had ever died before. These were new and difficult questions to consider. Would I ever see him again? I didn't know. I was too upset and too young to have an answer to that. One thing was certain. Her comment, though well intended, offered me no consolation. 

I learned an important lesson from my Granddad's death. I would have loved some more time to spend with him. There was no guarantee, however, that time will come. What we do have is the time we share with one another in THIS life. That's the life I want to celebrate and take advantage of. It's something I could still do a better job of. What can never be taken from me are the memories of my Granddad. Some I formed on my own and some I've acquired second hand. Some are more accurate than others, I'm sure. All of these memories come back to me every December 31st . It's because of this (in my twisted mind at least) that he's been able to see every New Year since. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I'm Fatsighted

Yesterday, in an attempt to poke fun at myself, I posted the following on Facebook:

I have (as far as I know) a rare condition. If an object is just far enough away that I can't make out what it is, I automatically see it as food. For example, my wife had left a striped rag on a table in our room after cleaning. From my chair, it looked like a plate of striped fudge (boy was I disappointed.) I've searched and searched the Internet and I can't find an official name for this. Rare medical conditions are like distant objects in the sky. If you find it, you name it. (Okay. It probably doesn't work like that. Cut a fat guy a break.) So, I'm calling it fatsightedness. Snappy, huh?

Like any person (loser) who writes a post with a fake "rare medical condition" that receives 11 "likes" on Facebook...I submitted my new word (fatsighted) to Urban Dictionary. They've since approved it (you can see it here). So, when people want to now what's taking so long to write my book...I'll point them to this blog post. And, if you could've seen my wife's face when I said, "Cool. Look dear, I can even get a mug with my word and the definition printed on it!"'d probably have a better understanding of why it's taking me so long to have sex again.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Under god?

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

Not anymore, you jackass. I'm talking about when I was younger...better. School-aged. They made us say it every morning. But to answer your question, no...I don't say it anymore. I guess I could have changed that first sentence to "I pledged allegiance...", but that's not the line. Please hold your questions until the end. Thank you. Now, let's try this again...

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

It wasn't until the fifth grade that I starting paying attention to the words in this thing. Why were they asking us to pledge allegiance to an inanimate object, anyway? It didn't make any sense. I was as happy to live in America as the next kid in the room, but what did that have to do with pledging to a flag. It would make more sense if you were pledging allegiance to a flag... 

"and to the republic for which it stands"

Oh. Well, okay. That made it a little more sense, but what does it mean to pledge allegiance to a republic? Were they asking me to blindly follow the country, no matter what? And what did they mean by "country"? The people? In that case, I'd probably be okay with it. I'd met mostly good ones at that point. Of course, I'd only met my family, a handful of teachers, and a few cool kids that taught me how to do "the worm". I think it's safe to say that at ten years old, I hadn't met a bunch of people. Maybe I didn't know what I was talking about. I did know the government had done some awful things. What if they did something else that was really shitty? There were tens (even dozens!) of missiles pointed at the Soviet Union. Professor Boyd put Bonzo to bed and then somehow made his way to Washington. He had his finger on the scary buttons. (Okay, fine. Reagan probably didn't put his finger on any of those buttons. But they would have let him had he wanted to). There was more, though. I'd just seen a movie with Rambo (John J). The government screwed him over and left him for dead. Of course, he went on a one man killing spree and managed to survive, but it was still a shitty thing for the government to do to him. After all, we were supposed to be... 

"one nation under God"

Wait...what?!? Why is that in there. I definitely wasn't saying that part. I didn't know much at ten years old, but I knew there was no Spiderman, no Santa Claus, and there was probably no god. (I was still undecided on the Rambo thing). I couldn't be the only one that didn't believe, right? There had to be others, right? Come to think of it, I hadn't heard anyone else say they didn't believe in god. Surely others existed, right? And if they did, why would the government put those words "under god" in this stupid thing. Does that mean I'm not included? (When I said hold questions to the end...I was talking about you. Not me. I'll ask all the fucking questions I want). I mean, if we're supposed to be... 

"Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all.

...why the fuck were they excluding me. I really liked that last line, but isn't it null and void if this pledge thing only applies to people who believe "under god"? Fuck them, I'm not saying it! They can't make me. I'll say the rest of the stupid words, but I'm not saying those two.

And I didn't. Day after day, week after week, I omitted those two words each time I said the Pledge of Allegiance. Soon, it wasn't enough to not say the words. I wanted something more. I started closing my mouth in a very goofy looking, animated way during those two words. I closed my mouth hard and even lifted up on my toes while the other kids happily chanted along. Boy, I was clever. So clever, in fact, that the teacher noticed my little one man protest. Apparently, those two words meant a lot to him, because he promptly marched me to the office.

I was a good kid. I had never been to the office for a disciplinary reason. I was scared. When we arrived at the office, my teacher announced my crime to everyone. I was not saying the Pledge "correctly" and my parents needed to be notified right away. It got worse. The principal decided they would be called into the school. The school was going to fix me right away. 

I'll never forget seeing my parents walk through the door to the office. My father was in his police uniform and he looked really angry. When he saw me, however, he gave me a big smile. My mother did, too. They announced themselves to the secretary and the principal invited them back to his office. He offered them a seat, but my father said he'd rather stand. "This won't take long," he said. I was seated in the lobby area, but within earshot of all that was said. The principal began to speak, but my father cut him off right away. He told him without any hesitation that I didn't have to say any of the words in the Pledge. He added how angry he was to be called from work for such a ridiculous thing. The principal tried to "correct" him, but that wasn't going to happen. He told the principal the conversation was over. Dad walked over and told me I didn't have to say it and they weren't allowed to make me. I must have looked scared, because my father turned to the principal and announced that I'd had enough fun for one day. They would be taking me home with them. Stunned, the principal told me to go gather my things. 

As we walked out of the building that day, I looked up at the flag outside of the school. I think it was at that moment that being an American made sense to me. I was free to believe what I want. No teacher, no principal, no government could take that away from me. My little protest had worked, and I was filled with pride as we walked to our car. My parents both hugged me before we got inside to drive off. Once inside, my mother began to cry, and all my feelings of pride and victory disappeared fast. I knew why she was crying. Her son didn't believe in god. My father told her it would be okay. 

The lesson I really learned that day? Telling people you didn't believe in god caused a lot of drama. It made assholes angry and it made the people you loved sad. I promised myself that I would never tell anyone again. A promise I kept for a long, long time.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gilbert Gottfried -- Roaster Extraordinaire

I enjoy the Comedy Central roasts. Comedy Central aired the New York Friar's Club roasts from 1998 to 2002. Once the contract expired in 2002, they decided to produce their own version of the show. The roasts have turned into a bit of an event in our house. We don't miss them. This year, Comedy Central announced this year's roastee will be James Franco. More interesting (disappointing) to me than who they are roasting, is that Gilbert Gottfried is not going to be on the dais as one of the roasters. To me, Gilbert is the highlight of every roast he participates in. As I said, I enjoy all the roasts...even the ones that don't feature Gilbert. I love the other regulars, such as Jeff Ross, Lisa Lampanelli, (and more recently) Anthony Jeselnik, and Amy Schumer. But I'll miss seeing Gilbert this year. In honor of his brilliance in the roasts, I've collected his last five appearnces on the show here -- as well as a clip from The Aristocrats, discussing his telling of that famous joke during the roast of Hugh Hefner in 2001. Okay, on to the list.

The Bob Saget Roast (2008)

The Joan Rivers Roast (2009) 

The Roast of David Hasselhoff (2010)

The Roast of Donald Trump (2011)

The Roast of Rosanne Barr (2012)

And here's the clip from the Aristocrats...


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Spiderman Made Me an Atheist

I remember it being hot. Fuck, it was hot! It was the type of hot that causes two trees to fight over the same dog. (No, I don't know what kind of dog.) I'm pretty sure it was 1982. That's a long time ago now. I can't remember all of the little details the way I used to. A stupid alien with a sweet tooth and a glowing finger phoned home that year. I'm about 40 percent positive it was 1982. Stevie Wonder and the cute Beatle sang a stupid, stupid song that year about the way piano keys fit together. Did I mention it was hot? It was so hot I saw a dog chasing a cat and they were both walking; but I didn't care about that. I had been anticipating this day ever since my father came home from work and said Spiderman was coming to the Baltimore Zoo; and we were going. Excelsior! I didn't even know what that meant, but stupid words and their definitions didn't matter. We watched a gorilla vomit an orange into his hand, then watched in fascination and disgust as he shoved the liquified orange back into his mouth. Somewhere, in an air conditioned living room far far away, a family that wasn't ours was watching Higgins scold Magnum for not minding the hounds.  I was sweating like a hen wrapped in a wool blanket, standing in a line longer than a row of cotton; but I wouldn't have traded places with the loser kid in that loser family for the world. The stupid gorilla made my sister cry and it smelled like...a zoo, but I was able to ignore all of that. The wall-crawling, web-slinging, webhead was coming to my friendly neighborhood and I had a ton of questions to ask him about superheroing. It was going to be the greatest day of my life.

Patiently, we stood in line with the rest of the crowd. And by patiently, I mean me asking, "When is Spiderman coming", and then waiting at least thirty seconds before asking again. Finally, after what felt like a four day wait (probably less than half an hour), Spiderman poked his head around the corner of a large building to a chorus of oohs and aahs. A beautiful chorus. Not that lousy, "Living in perfect harmony" crap that the Beatle and the blind guy were singing. This was different. This meant that I was only moments away from meeting my hero. Everyone was saying that he looked just like the comic books. Of course he did. Why wouldn't he? They obviously weren't real fans. The line was moving along at a Motor Vehicle Administration pace. As each one of the lame kids ahead of me got their audience with Spidey, they just shook his hand or asked to have their picture taken with him. I half watched them, and half kept an eye out for the Green Goblin. This would be the perfect time for him to ambush my hero. That's the funny thing about eight year old kids. They don't know a fucking thing. I told my parents I was going to ask Spiderman to shoot some webs or climb the side of the building. I wasn't going to be content with a handshake and a Polaroid like these other kids. They looked at each other and smiled before saying, "He's not really Spiderman, buddy. He's just a man dressed up in a costume. Nobody can really climb walls like a spider." I thought, "WHAT?!?!" What were they talking about?

(I need to back up here just for a moment, dear reader. I was a pretty quiet kid. There were no children my age that lived in our neighborhood. Sure, I had friends at school. But there were no kids my age within walking distance of our house. I made up for that by having a big imagination. I fed that imagination with comic books. I was a big reader at that age. My favorite thing to read other than superhero comics? The "Children's Illustrated Bible", given to me as a gift by my grandparents. I didn't read the illustrated bible any differently than I read the four color process pages of Marvel or DC Comics. In my mind, they weren't fiction. The comic books were my thing, but I read that Children's Bible just as seriously. It was obviously something that meant a lot to my grandparents (still does), so I finished that book as soon as I could. I wanted to be part of it all. Now...back to that story.)

NOT SPIDERMAN?!? This news stunned me. Maybe I could hitch a ride home with that stupid alien. All of the sudden, the line seemed to be moving faster. Maybe they meant that he was a Spiderman stand-in, like those helpers Santa keeps on his payroll and sends to the mall. You know, because Santa couldn't be everywhere at once (but somehow he alone managed to deliver all the presents in one night...stupid kid). My parents quickly shot this down as well. I was panicking. I had to be asking the wrong questions. "Ebony. Ivory. Living in perfect harmony." There were just a few kids between me and Spidey at this point. They were shaking his dirty imposter hand and posing for their stupid pictures. In a last ditch effort to make some sense of it all, I asked my father about the stories in the Children's Bible. They were every bit as far-fetched as the comic books. Walking on water, water to wine, talking snakes, so on and so on. My parents looked at each other again, but this smiles. They were obviously uncomfortable; my father in particular. He answered, "Well, no...those stories are...umm...different." I was convinced that he believed that, but it was too late for me. He couldn't put the genie back in the bottle. There was no genie.

Next thing you know, I was face to face with the phony Spiderman. I said, "Hi", and stuck out my hand. He asked if I wanted a picture. I said, "Yes". He draped his leg over my shoulder and put his elbow on top of my head. My dad snapped the picture. He sure looked like a real superhero in that suit, but I knew that wasn't right. I said to him, "There is no Spiderman." He patted me on the head and greeted the next kid. 

It would be inaccurate to say I knew I was an atheist at that point (I don't think I even heard the word "atheist" until high school.) I did stop believing any of it that day, however. Until now, I've only told that story to a few people (now 10 more people will read it). Many of them have told me how sorry they were that my Spiderman visit was "ruined" by learning the truth. I like to respond to that with a quotation from Carl Sagan. "For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." (Except I butcher the quote, because stupid isn't just an affliciton I suffered from as a kid). It didn't turn out to be the greatest day of my life. But that's only because my life has been filled with some great days since then. It was super important, though and I'll always look back on it fondly. Well, except for the heat. And the zoo smells.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Only Adult Religious Experience

That whole "your kid gets half of their genes from you" thing is probably one hundred percent accurate scientifically. I'm not doubting it for a second, so don't try to bust me on it. I'm just saying in my kid's case, it feels a little off. Okay, maybe a lot off. He's like a carbon copy of me. No, fuck that. Not a copy of me...a younger me. A headstrong me with hopes and dreams (No, not "hope and change". He hasn't found pot yet); a me not particularly interested in what you think of him. I understand him, because I remember being him (me). But that was all before marriage. Now, don't get me wrong. There's no doubt I "batted above my average" when I married my wife. She is WAY too good for me. There has never been a person that isn't at least a little shocked to discover that we're together. It's not uncommon to hear "Really?" when I say, "I'm with her". Part of the reason she puts up with my lame ass is because she has me trained. "Whipped" if you prefer (How does this happen without sex? Oh. Maybe that's exactly how it happens. Sorry, back to the thing). It would be really, really rocky if she didn't have me properly trained. It would be...exactly what it's like when she and Jeffery talk to each other. He just doesn't care that there are things she doesn't like to hear, or things he does that drive her up a fucking wall. He's punk rock like that. I'm not trying to paint a loveless picture here. They have a great relationship. There are bumps in the road, however. And these bumps get weird, because like every other mother on the planet, my wife is more than happy to break out the "You just wait until your father gets home" card when she's really agitated with him. And then comes the scenario I dread more than any other. I'm now being asked (as the well trained second or third choice) to discipline a younger, better version of me. And there we are. There I am. Standing in a room...talking to myself. Like every religious person on the planet. And as we talk, I realize I'm not interested in correcting him. I'm wishing I could live up to his image. The father, the son, and my (our?) fucking dilemma.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Husbands are tools

I was lounging in my chair, reading on my iPad, when my wife appeared (seemingly out of nowhere, but I'm guessing from the kitchen) to tell me she was struggling with the lid on a jar (of I don't even know what) and she asked if I could open it. Now I'm no alpha male, but I don't run when asked to open a jar (of I still don't know what) so I accepted the challenge. I struggled for a moment (or four) but then felt the lid start to loosen. I was about to crack a clever joke about married guys having superior grip strength because of all the masturb...and then it hit me, like a ton of soul crushing bricks. You think your wife has relegated you to dry dock to make your life miserable, or as punishment for not being her first choice...but you're wrong. It's actually a very practical decision she's made to ensure you develop adequate grip strength to open a jar of pickles (or whatever the fuck!), every time she asks. Husbands. We're nothing more than a tool in their fucking drawer. Not a particularly sharp one, either.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Comedians...On Religion

It will come as no surprise to readers (there's no good reason for 'reader' to be plural other than to not damage my fragile self esteem) that I am an atheist. Atheism and skepticism are two of my favorite topics to think about, read about, or talk about. Comedy, though, is my favorite topic of all. Fortunately, many of my favorite comedians are also atheists and have provided us with a lot of really funny bits on religion. Here's just a few of my favorites:

Doug Stanhope

Doug is known by many for his time on Comedy Central's "The Man Show". I didn't watch much of "The Man Show". It's Doug's stand up act that speaks to me. Not just an atheist, Stanhope is also known as a libertarian and an anarchist. In his book, Satiristas, Paul Provenza says of Stanhope: "From his outsider vantage point, we see the forest, and the questions about where we stand among the trees can often be unsettling". In the bit below, Doug riffs on an idea I think about often; making your own version of Christianity.


George Carlin

Carlin is considered by many to be the greatest standup comedian of all time. His "Seven Dirty Words" comedy routine was central to the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, in which a 5–4 decision by the justices affirmed the government's power to regulate indecent material on the public airwaves. Carlin was one of our finest social critics and he didn't shy away from the topic of religion. In this bit, well...Carlin comes right out and calls religion bullshit.

Jim Jefferies

Australian comedian Jim Jefferies has used his confessional style to become one of the most popular and acclaimed comedians in the world. No subjects are off limits when Jefferies is on stage. In this clip, he starts off talking about having no fear of death...but he doesn't stop there.

Jimmy Carr

Jimmy Carr is an English comedian with a deadpan delivery and a fondness for dark humor. No joke is too offensive for Carr. In 2006, Jimmy wrote a book titled, "The Naked Jape: Uncovering the Hidden World of Jokes". The clip below is just a small sampling of some of Carr's most offensive jokes, including some about religion. 

Tim Minchin

Minchin has been performing his unique brand of musical comedy all over the world since 2005. His songs cover topics such as rationalism, prejudice, logical fallacies, guessed it...religion. Here, Tim talks about religion and finishes up with a lovely little song called, "If You Open Your Mind Too Much, You're Brain Will Fall Out."

Ricky Gervais took a different route to success in the comedy world. Gervais worked a number of odd jobs and tried his hand at music and radio before having success as a writer on a number of British television shows; the most famous being "The Office". He's continued on to have many other successful television projects. Ricky has also become a very popular and well respected stand up comedian. Ricky is very public about his atheism; talking about it on The Piers Morgan show and writing a piece about it in the Wall Street Journal. Here he is talking about religion and the accuracy of the Bible. 

You didn't think I would write a post like this and not include Provenza, did you? I've written about Provenza a lot on this blog (here and here and here and that awkward?), but that's because I agree with Penn Jillette, who said that Paul is the greatest mind in comedy today. The Aristocrats...The Green Room...Satiristas...Set get the idea. Here's two clips of Provenza talking about religion. (When I first heard the "clerical error" bit on The Green Room, I laughed so hard that I cried). 


Well? What do you think of my list? Did I miss some of your favorites? If I did, post them in the comments. Until next time...


How the fuck did I forget Anthony Jeselnik?!?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

You're BLOCKED! I've Told Everyone. Now I'm Sharing Your Posts (That I Blocked).

I can understand blocking someone on a social network. I've done so myself, but it's rare. I can even understand (in some weird section of my brain) creating a list of people you've deemed "block worthy"; although (is this the right place for a semi-colon? I never know) I really struggle with the idea of sharing that list with people so they can uncritically decide to block the same people (not taking into consideration any biases you may have against this "awful" person) but, whatever. That's their choice. What I don't understand (and likely wont understand) is blocking someone...adding them to your bullshit "block worthy" list...and then writing a blog post containing 200 (2000? do you think I counted them?) tweets that this "horrible" (actually...WONDERFUL) person sent. What sense does it make to block someone, tell the entire world you've done it...and then share a bunch of that person's tweets (which you've blocked!) on your blog?!? I don't know why I'm even saying anything about this. You should probably block me for even posting about it. It only matters to me because EVERYONE I met at TAM talked about how "lack of community" was the most difficult part of "losing their faith". It's tough to feel like you're the only one (I know. I felt this way for years). I'm sorry. This post is rife with babble, odd punctuation, and likely typos. It's the only time I'm going to post about any of this. I really do understand blocking/deleting/unfollowing me for it. I hope you don't. Ok...I got it out of my system. I hope some small piece of it made sense.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Skeptical Look at Pseudoneuroscience

One of the best books I've read lately is "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)" written by Carol Tavris (along with Elliot Aronson). The subtitle of the book is, "Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts". I was hoping that Carol would be at TAM this year so I would have a chance to tell her how much I enjoyed it, but she was not. Fortunately, the JREF not only puts on a truly AMAZING meeting, they also post videos of all the great talks that take place there. Here's a talk that Carol Tavris gave at TAM 2012, titled "A Skeptical Look at Pseudoneuroscience"(definitely worth a watch):

I just wanted to include quickly a quote by Lenny Bruce that Tavris shared in her great book. The following was said by Bruce after watching the Presidential Debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960:
I would be with a bunch of Kennedy fans watching the debate and their comment would be, “He’s really slaughtering Nixon.” Then we would all go to another apartment, and the Nixon fans would say, “How do you like the shellacking he gave Kennedy?” And then I realized that each group loved their candidate so that a guy would have to be this blatant – he would have to look into the camera and say: “I am a thief, a crook, do you hear me, I am the worst choice you could ever make for the Presidency!” And even then his following would say, “Now there’s an honest man for you. It takes a big guy to admit that. There’s the kind of guy we need for President.”
Pretty great, huh?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Great is Kyle Hill?

I've been a big fan of science writer and JREF Research Fellow Kyle Hill for awhile now. I first discovered his writing at his blog "Science Based Life", but he now writes a blog at Scientific American (Overthinking It) as well. His writing has been featured in Pop Sci, WIRED, the JREF Swift blog, and Slate. Basically, you can find him anywhere they are willing to talk science. You'll even find him popping up in places that you don't normally associate with science. Fox News, for example. Here's a video of him on Fox and Friends talking about the Kopp-Etchells Effect.

I was fortunate enough to meet Kyle at TAM. I attended a workshop he gave with Barbara Drescher titled, "How Rational Are You?". Also, Kyle and Sara Mayhew recorded a GREAT episode of Skeptically Yours. The episode also featured John Whiteside (affectionally dubbed John the Super Atheist by Penn Jillette). John founded the United Church of Bacon and is a member of the MRFF (Military Religious Freedom Foundation) Advisory Board. I'll post a link to the podcast once it's available. 

Ardent Atheist - Episode 115

Here's the link to the episode of Ardent Atheist that I was a guest on. Oh yeah...Paul Provenza and Father Guido Sarducci were on it, also. (This is a really short and lazy blog post. Whatever. You're not paying for this. Fuck you!)

If you like what you hear during the free portion, sign up for a premium subscription and listen to the whole damn thing! It's only $10 a year. That's cheap! Go here now.

Monday, July 29, 2013


At the risk of turning this blog into a shrine for Paul Provenza, I want to share an excerpt from the introduction to his book, "¡SATIRISTAS!" I picked up a copy at TAM and it's really a great book (the photography by Dan Dion is wonderful). Ok, here's goes. Speaking about satirists, Provenza pens the following:

"...because they want you to listen and pay attention, because they want you to relate, because they want you to think, because they want you to get angry, because they want you to know you're not alone, because they want you to wake up, because they want you to learn, because they want you to understand them, because they want you to understand yourself, because they want us to understand each other, because they want you to be skeptical, because they want you to feel passion, because they want you to be empowered, because they want you to be free, because the truth will set you free, because they want to tell the truth, because they want us to discover the truth, because truth is absolute, because, as William Shakespeare said, "Jesters do oft prove prophets," because as Dario Fo said, "With comedy I can search for the profound," because as Moliere said, "The duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them," because as Mark Twain said, "Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand," because as George Orwell said, "Whatever is funny is subversive," because as Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph over evil is for good men to do nothing," and because we all know what happens if someone doesn't stand up and say, "Stop drinking the Kool-Aid!," the only thing that matters is the laugh." 

You NEED this book! Fortunately, I've got your back. Here's the link to click to pick up your own copy. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Just Me and Paul Provenza biggie.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend my first TAM (The Amazing Meeting) this year in Vegas. I had so many wonderful experiences and met so many wonderful people. This is one of my favorite pictures from TAM...maybe ever (the picture was taken by Ed Ondrick. Thanks, Ed!). Just me and Paul Provenza...podcasting (I'm the dipshit with the stupid beard wearing a stupid hat).

And then one more with Don Novella (Father Guido Sarducci) after the show.

Emery and Heather asked me to moderate the "Wall of Reason" during the Ardent Atheist podcast on November 18, 2011. It's one of the most enjoyable things I've done in my life. I've met a ton of great people and heard a bunch of great shows. I'll never forget being on the show with Provenza and Don. I probably said less than 50 words (I was nervous) and really only had one funny line, but it was a truly AMAZING experience. I'll add the link to the episode in this post as soon as it's available. I'll share more of my TAM experiences soon. I'm still trying to wrap my head around how much fun I had. I can't wait for next year!

Here's the link to this episode of Ardent Atheist (episode 115).

My Kid is 13 and I Have a Stupid, Stupid Beard

My son, Jeffery, is 13 today. I'm 39. I'm three times as old as him. This won't happen again (I think, right?) It's a big deal (no it's not). You know what's crazy, man? If you add the two digits of his age (I'll help you. 1+3= 4) and the digits of my age (hint: it's 12), guess what? My number is still three times more. Do you have any idea what this means?!? It means I'm tired and stupid...and if you add the numbers from his birthday this year (like this: 7+2+7+1+3) and the numbers from my birthday this year (5+2+9+1+3) they both equal 20. And if you add the two twenties together you get 40, which is how old I'll be next year. You know what that means?!? That in addition to tired and stupid, I'm also old. Old, tired, and stupid. With a stupid beard and a brain that won't shut the fuck up. Happy birthday, kiddo. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I'm gonna start writing here again. Try to contain your excitement.