Category Archives: Fireside Chat

Fake Palindromes

Everybody I know is getting pretty sick of all these Palin “scandals.” I say we just list them all, acknowledge that she’s a human being like everyone else, then move on to actually getting to know McCain’s hastily-picked VP nominee.

Here are the facts, as best as I can remember them from skimming headlines, dreaming dreams and talking with angry New Englanders:

– When Sarah Palin ran for President of her 5th grade class, she quickly turned the issue away from her opponent’s popular “No Homework Day” campaign and towards hot-button issues like gun control and abortion.

– Sarah Palin fired the Alaska Public Safety Commissioner after he refused to TP her ex-brother-in-law’s house.

– When Sarah Palin ran for Miss Alaska, she quickly turned the issue away from beauty and towards hot-button issues like gun control and abortion.

– Sarah Palin’s new baby is having a baby and is planning to marry the father.

– Sarah Palin calls drilling for oil “ice fishing.”

– Sarah Palin’s baby’s fetus is having a baby and is planning to marry the father.

– Sarah Palin ran a polar bear deathmatch ring in her backyard from 2001-2003 until it was shut down by the local neighborhood watch. She was not convicted on account of being too gosh darn pretty.

– When Sarah Palin sighted Mark Twain and the guy who wrote the Golden Compass on an Alaskan hunting expedition, she fell them both in a single shot and thus committed the ultimate censorship. There is a picture of her and her daughter smiling by their husks.

– Sarah Palin accepted funds for an escalator to nowhere, pocketed the fund, bragged about it when introduced as McCain’s runningmate, and didn’t even credit The Simpsons for the idea.

As if any of that matters. Show some respect, naysayers. Sarah Palin is a war hero by association.

Tagged

What Marriage Is

guitar by Gabe Durham

There was a little confusion about whether or not I was joking when, in “What Engagement Means to Me,” I mentioned that we would drop all of our friends post-marriage. I hope the fact that we moved about as far away as you can go without leaving the country and changed our cell phone numbers clears that up.

But. Just because I don’t want to talk to you doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk at you. I recall the old saying that goes, “Make it through the first four weeks of marriage and you’re an expert.” My advice to the singles out there: Grab someone who smells good and marry them.

Anything you’ve heard about waiting to be sure you’re “really ready” or that your prospective spouse is “the one” is a dirty lie perpetuated by selfish married couples who feel threatened when they see people who are as happy as they are. It’s just like the trick Northwesterners pull to keep people from moving to Washington—they say, “Oh it’s so rainy we’re all suffering from depression blah bleddy blah haven’t seen the sun in months…” Well a year ago I spent July and August there and it rained twice.

One way the Married Club tries to dump on your happiness parade is by telling you marriage takes work. False. Marriage is this thing where people you know and don’t know give you gifts and you thank them. And, yeah, I suppose those thank-you notes can get old, but if you divide the total cash value of all the gifts by the number of hours spent writing the notes, you’re making about as much as the CEO of a small corporation. I think you can handle that.

Marriage is getting to call your wife’s stuff your stuff. It’s using her fancy shampoo without asking. It’s upgrading from a paint-peeling, no-AC Accord with 130,000 miles on it to a new Mazda 3 with better mileage that allows you to cruise across the continental United States in style.

Marriage is a week-long Hawaiian vacation that your parents mostly pay for so you can relax after partying with friends and family every night of the week of your wedding. It’s eating all the sushi you want and then sleeping for twelve hours. It’s asking each other, “Do you want to go on a hike or something?” and deciding to just sip on some Rex Goliath merlot on the porch instead.

Yes, the Married Club says, but you also have to work on the relationship. I’m still trying to figure out what that part means. Talk about feelings? Just this morning I told Liz I was hungry, but that didn’t feel like work. Especially when she made those banana crepes with chocolate sauce that I like so much. No, I’d say that was less like work and more like lying in bed gorging myself. And here’s the thing about fights and stuff: all those get smoothed over by a raging physical attraction that—as far as I know—will never diminish.

The only true downside I’ve encountered is that marriage means moving out of your parents’ house and into an apartment with no garbage disposal, boiling water tap, furniture, bi-monthly maid, ocean view, or self-refilling fridge. But even that feels kind of rustic. I just tell myself I’m in the pioneer days. Hell, if they got by with only a big apartment in a safe neighborhood with plumbing, electricity, and a gas stove, so can we.

Most of all, marriage is playing house and having no one call your bluff. Try saying, “I’d like you to meet my wife.” It feels good. Now just think how good it would feel if you actually had one.

Fireside Chat #24

guitarWhat Engagement Means To Me

I feel so grateful for the holy bond of wedlock for which I am preparing to embark.

Tough to say when I feel the most grateful. Perhaps it is when I look into my love’s eyes. Perhaps it is the assurance that I will not have to face life’s struggles alone. Yet in my heart, I feel the greatest surge of appreciation when I consider the many people who will never find love such as this. For it is only when we contemplate the less fortunate that we can truly feel good about ourselves.

Love, my friends, is an exclusive club, and you have to have the right denominations to bribe the bouncer. It takes a heart for others (check), the ability to get in touch with one’s feelings (check), the ability to put another person’s needs above your own (optional), physical attractiveness (double check) and a sweet ride with which you can pull up to her house and rev the engine, thus announcing that you intend to pick her up for your date without meeting her parents (more of a high school thing, but check).

There were moments there in the last 23 years when I wondered, “Will I have what it takes to make a marriage work?” But when I stopped Liz in the middle of the Sizzler parking lot last Saturday night, busted out that fatty rock and said, “See anything you like?” I knew from the relative brevity of her hesitation that yeah, baby, I’ve got it.

Once you’re in the engaged club, life is sweet. Engaged/married couples are inviting us to dinner, dancing, swingers’ parties (“No thanks, but I like being asked, and actually, can I hang on to this number in case my morals become a little more flexible?”), movies, yacht races, tyrant hangings—and we’re loving it. Couples who never used to give us the time of day are calling us nonstop, saying, “Please know that the time is currently 3:40 pm.” They do it so much, I stopped wearing a watch.

Also, I don’t have to be careful not to flirt with other girls because they know I’m off the market. “Congrats, you hunk of man!” female friends and co-workers will tell me. Then, while we’re hugging they’ll notice that my back is tense and offer to work out a couple of knots, and I’ll say, “Sure you don’t mind?” And it’s not a gray area because I’m engaged! Awesome!

I’m told that being engaged is a lot of work, but so far my status only serves as the ultimate excuse not to do work, as in, “I’d love to file these I-9 forms, but I’m a little engaged right now.”

The pathetic fact remains that there are still a lot of people who are not engaged/married, and these people are, by nature, very sad. When one of these people congratulates me on my good news, I smile, nod, and say, “Listen here: It’ll happen to you too. But you have to let it happen on its own time.” Of course, this is not necessarily true, but it’s very nice of me to say it.

Then I pat them on the head or give them a side hug and add, “I want you to know that my engagement won’t change our friendship.” That part is a flat-out lie. Truth is, I’ve been planning to shed these friends for months now. I kept them around this long in case getting engaged wasn’t the instant popularity ticket I suspected it would be. But it was.

History Lesson

At one point in his swampy, poorly punctuated tirade, Tom made an interesting error. He spelled our site’s name “Gather ‘Round Children” instead of the traditional/correct “Gather Round, Children.”

Tom’s use of an apostrophe before “Round” implies that the word is slang for “Around,” as in “Gather Around [the radio for some old-fashioned story time], Children”. This makes a certain sense, as it was the explicit goal of our radio show to get people to gather ’round the radio, just like in the old days.

However, Tom and most of our listeners are oblivious to the original purpose of the GRC website when Clarence Ohbigey and I began it in 1965. The site first appeared “Gather, Round Children” as a resource for the unionization of the young and obese. We held rallies and protests, championing Round Rights, and gained quite a bit of attention (particularly from Time Magazine.) What did “Gather, Round Chilren” in was the media maelstrom that came about when it was discovered that co-founder Gabe Durham, me, was not obese. I quickly fired back with a “Doesn’t that make me all the more heroic, in a way?” but the smart-ass media kept quoting my famous “We Chubb-os Gotta Stick Tagetha” speech (completely out of context) and Clarence and I declared G,RC, as it was dead.

Clarence went on to found the very successful Round Alliance (www.roundalliance.org). He even ran for president in 1969 and again in 1971. I continued to maintain the GRC site under a new premise: old-timey radio (which was then not old-timey at all but quite recent). Now, to change the name to “Gather ‘Round, Children,” I would have had to purchase an apostrophe to add to the marquee at GRC Headquarters. I was in a tight spot, now that Clarence got 100% of the profits from G,RC’s popular “I am a round child” t-shirt line, so, in the end, no apostrophe was added.

Same url, different comma placement… “Gather Round, Children” was reborn, like a phoenix from the ashes.

Thomas got involved in the GRC project in 1970. After my first wife left me due to my long hours at GRC headquarters, I realized that I could use some help running the old-timey radio show. I put an ad in the paper (“Co-host Wanted, Shirtless a Plus”) and Tom was the only one who answered. Hoping to leave the shame of my “G,RC” days behind, I never told him about the site’s near-forgotten past. Hence the lack of an apostrophe. Hope that clears things up.

Fireside Chat #23

Celebrity-Stalking, Part 3: Slow and Steady Wins the Chase

I read a disturbing statistic—it’s on Wikipedia, so you know it’s true—Only 20% of stalkers are women. What? Come on ladies, do your part. I was already tailoring this series to the fraught female homespouses (my catchy replacement for the now-cliché “desperate housewives,” tell your friends), but now I’m tempted to dissuade male would-be stalkers so the gals can have a go at this growing career.

That’s right—career. You didn’t think you’d be doing this pro bono, did you? Some people may tell you it’s somehow more “authentic” to stalk only out of the perversion in your heart, but I’m of the emerging school of stalking scholars that will tell you that if you’re serious, make sure to get paid.

Veterans get corporate sponsorship from the start, while beginners need to pay their dues. If this is your first time, ask around the community: Local restaurateurs are a good shot, especially up-and-comers whose Wall of Fame boasts only Pauly Shore and Richard Kiel. Call around twenty places—one of them will bite. If they’re new to this kind of sponsorship, you can talk them through the following progression:

Stage One: Letters

Send a series of increasingly fanatical letters to your celeb, always under a false name. Use Eminem’s “Stan” as your template. First, come off as really respectful. Talk about the movies he was in, which was your favorite, and why. At the letter’s climax, subtly allude to a deeper obsession just beneath the surface like, “Christian Bale, you’ve opened the gates and seized my heart. I’m as sure that we should be together as I am that Howdy’s has the tastiest burrito in town.”

To which he’ll say, “I don’t know about the ‘we should be together’ part, but a burrito sure would hit the spot.”

If he writes back, take it as a sign that you have a good chance of getting married and having dozens of his children, and reply suggesting just that. If he doesn’t reply, send an angry note threatening not to have his children: “Perhaps I shall die as barren as Howdy’s nacho platter is tasty.” That’ll confuse him. Maybe even make him think that fathering the child of an obsessed fan was what he always wanted.

Stage Two: The Phone

Find his personal phone number. He’ll probably be unlisted, but there are plenty of people you can pay to get you this kind of info. Call it a couple of times, and, when he answers, hang up. After a couple of those, ask him if he recognizes your voice, even if he couldn’t possibly. Don’t try to get him talking yet, just offer a quick, “Eat at Howdy’s” before hanging up.

Stage Three: In Person

Try to run into him around town. Another advantage of local sponsorship is that if you’ve been doing your job right, he should be a regular at Howdy’s by now. So you head over to Howdy’s (maybe they’ll even feed you), and you wait. It’s the hardest part, I know, but you wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t have time to kill. When he shows up, make sure that the establishment you’re endorsing gets their autographed photo or whatever, then approach him.

Stage Four: The End…?

What happens next is up to you, lunatic. I got you to this moment, but I can’t tell you what to say. I will remind you that it’s absolutely unacceptable to murder the celebrity you’re creeping on. I said it once, I’ve got no truck with stalker-killers, stalker-maimers, even stalker toe-stubbers.

You can ask him to marry you (he won’t), you can ask him to have a wild fling with you (he might), you can start showing up at his house (watch for dogs), or follow his band across the country (watch gas prices), or start a fan site badmouthing his wife (she doesn’t understand him like you do).

Or you can end it right there at your first meeting together. Say, “I’m the one who’s been writing and calling, thanks for eating at Howdy’s,” and walk off into the sunset a success, hoping to gleam a little fame and maybe get Nike’s attention when the time comes to pursue the next lucky star.

But remember, this was never about you. Months later, your celeb-of-choice will be standing in a circle of A-listers swapping stalker stories at the Academy Awards, and Jack Nicholson will turn to him, “What about you, Christian Bale? Who was your craziest stalker?” Bale will look away for a moment of reflection, smile, and say, “Well, Jack, there was this one time…”

Fireside Chat #22

Celebrity-Stalking, Part 2: The Selection Process

“I’m an ideal stalker,” you realize. “I’m a stay-at-home mom whose kids have left the house, and Jesus told me, while I was smoking out with my oldest daughter, that stalking is part of his divine plan. Now whom should I stalk?”

First, crazy housewife, may I just complement you on your grammar? Most people tend to use “who” and “whom” improperly, so it’s always refreshing to hear someone use it correctly and without hesitation.

I suggest that you begin your career by making a list of all actors, musicians, athletes, and models with who you could realistically become obsessed. Make it as long as you like, but only include celebrities you could really flip out about. Someone who scores high in both “revere-ability,” one whose career you respect, and “bone-ability,” one who you’re sexually attracted to, would be an excellent choice. After all, there’s nothing worse than a tepid stalker.

Once you’ve got your list, start narrowing. Cross out anyone so famous that he has already been stalked dozens of times. The oft-stalked celebrities (Tom Cruise, Gallagher) are the ones least likely to be flattered and most likely to press criminal charges against you. I heard a story of a guy running to hide in the bushes at Meg Ryan’s house, only to find three other stalkers in the same bushes. They made it clear that there was no room for another “Meg-Head,” and he had to go home and start the process all over again. How embarrassing!

Likewise, cross off the “minor celebrities,” like the guy who plays Led Zeppelin covers at the local indie-cool café on Friday nights. Stalk that guy and you may not make it into the local paper, let alone onto the evening news. Remember, a big part of what you’re doing is leeching yourself to the celebrity to achieve your own pseudo-fame.

Do some internet research. The goal is to find someone as famous as possible whom has not yet been stalked. If Paul Giamatti does it for you, and it looks like he’s a stalker-virgin, then he should make it onto your short list.

Narrow the list down to three. Now, close your eyes. Look deep inside your heart. Which of the candidates do you picture screaming, “Get away from my dumpster”? That’s the one. Choose him. Or her, Crazy Housewife, I’m not judging.

“Great!” you say, pulling a black wool mask over your face. “I’m heading over to his house right now.”

Hold it, you eager sicko. If you’re going to do this thing, you do it right.

Before you even begin the stalking process, make sure you’re completely well-versed in the celebrity’s body of work. If it’s an actor, see his early films, no matter how small. See the one where he played Cop #4. You’ll need this info later when the time comes to prove to him that you are his number one fan.

If it’s a musician, dig up his early demos, or some live bootlegs and pay special attention to the songs he covers and the stage banter. Later, when you purposefully run into the celebrity at the supermarket and pretend you don’t know who he is, you can nonchalantly recommend that he listen to a band whom’s song(s) he plays live.

Only once you have become the nation’s predominant Barry Bonds scholar will it be time to begin stalking. I’d continue, but I’ve got to go, for now—“Whom’s the Boss” is on.

Fireside Chat #21

Is Celebrity Stalking the Right Vocation for Me? Frequently Asked Questions.

I’ve had it up to here* with all the trash everyone is talking about celebrity stalkers.

Let me clarify. Obviously, I have a problem with stalker/killers because they cross the line between a little good-natured invasion of privacy and forever ending someone’s right to live long enough to catch “Rocky VI” and “Rambo IV.”

Stalking celebrities is a long held national tradition, as American as robbing banks, stealing cars, or punching a guy cause you don’t like his face. The first American stalker was named Hortence Creepwater, a man aboard the Pinta in its maiden voyage to the New World. Hortence passed the dreary travel days writing love letters to Christopher Columbus, tying them to rocks, and chucking them aboard the Santa Maria. When one of the rocks hit Columbus in the back of the head, Hortence was tossed overboard, and Columbus went on to a fabulous career of discovering new land, pillaging, and enslaving the natives.

And, though he wouldn’t admit it, Columbus was flattered by Hortence. The celebs love attention, that’s why they’ve gotten into their professions in the first place. Sure, Mandy Moore would go on the record as horrified if she found a 40-year-old creepo who watches “A Walk to Remember” twice daily, in her home, trying on her underwear. But once the cops have dragged the man off, she’d think, “Wow, twice daily. My films have that kind of replay value.”

Anyway, nobody wants to be a stalker-virgin. It’s the kiss of death for the world-renowned. Imagine you’re Will Smith in a circle of A-listers swapping stalker stories at the Academy Awards, and Jack Nicholson turns to you and says, “What about you, son? Who was your craziest stalker?” and you have nothing to say. You’d wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Am I unworthy of a stalker? Is it because of ‘Bad Boys II’?” In this example, yes, it is because of “Bad Boys II.”

“Okay, Gabe,” you’re thinking, “I’ll admit that celebrity stalkers are great in moderation. But how do I know if it’s right for me?” Good point. Of course, not everyone should stalk. If everyone were stalking, there would be no one to stalk. AND there would be no one to watch the stalkers on the news and comment, “What a sicko. Glad I’m not like her.”

There’s two camps that celebrity stalkers generally fall into. First, there’s the “Bored Out of My Mind With Loads of Free Time” camp. If you watch “Entertainment Tonight,” the E! network, MTV, VH1, subscribe to both People and Us Weekly, and can name celebrity children faster than you can name your own, you likely fall into this category. Then there’s the “Insane” camp. If you feel compelled to stalk Ashton Kutcher because George Washington hovered into your window and told you to stalk for the good of the Union, you would likely fall into this category.

However, the ideal candidate for celeb-stalker is someone who is both Bored and Nuts. So before you jump on the bandwagon, take a good long look in the mirror, pal. This is going to be a long, arduous process—it could go on for years—and there are a select few who are bored enough, crazy enough, and man enough to get the job done.

* I’m currently standing, holding my hand flat at about eye level.

Fireside Chat #20 (Spring ’06)

THE GOOD OLD DAYS (LAUGHING AT FATTIES)

In the 1961 film, “The Hustler,” Paul Newman shoots pool against Minnesota Fats, the world’s best pool player who happens to be hilariously overweight. The joke is a simple one, but it’s enough: Fats is fat.

It’s too bad fat jokes aren’t politically correct anymore.

Nowadays, the greatest way to get away with making fun of the overweight is to disguise it as coming to their aide. I haven’t seen “Phat Chicks” yet, but I read a review that has led me to believe I was going to both sympathize with the empowered plus-sized protagonist and I laugh my head off when she couldn’t fit through doorways.

The king of the “Fat People are People Too But Let’s Belittle Them” genre is the Jack Black classic, “Shallow Hal.” The film boldly explores the question, “What if what is on the inside was what people saw on the outside?” while leaving plenty of time for jokes involving a disastrous poolside cannonball splash, enormous underwear and the song, “Who Let the Dogs Out?”

Still, the film’s moral slant really cuts down on its potential for more fat jokes. It makes me think back to a simpler time when we didn’t have to hide our wicked senses of humor. Call me old-fashioned, but I yearn for the day when I make a joke about people of a particular size, color or gender and get away with it.

Recently, I defended using supposedly “off-color” jokes in the interest of defending free speech, but there’s an even more important reason: They’re funny!

Yessir, I tell you what, there’s nothing like having a few laughs. Laughing burns calories, it acts as a facelift and best of all, it’s free. And the best things in life are free. My pa always said, “Only a sicko would stop a man from having a good ole American chuckle.”

So who is this PC Police coming up in my grill and telling me I can’t have one of “the best things in life” at the expense of some minority that’s probably not even in the room?

Luckily, there’s still one minority group that it’s safe to make fun of: Midgets. Nothing sets off a comedy club like a reference to midget bowling. I think it must be because most of us don’t know any midgets personally. They aren’t people to us so much as hilarious Tolkeineque concepts, like elves and trolls.

We need more concepts and fewer people. There was a time when a white male only had to respect other white males and the rest of the world was fair game for our entertainment. It ended, inconveniently, right around 1984.

It would take way too much energy for me to have a real I-you encounter with every single person I come across. Energy I could be spending laughing.

Speaking of alienating people, see you around, Peppersuckas! I wish I could say that you and I need to hang out in the next few weeks before graduation, but if we’re not spending time together now, we’ll probably lose touch in the next couple of years anyway.  Unless you have a job for me in the LA area, ha ha. Seriously, though, do you? Have a job for me, I mean?

Fireside Chat #19 (Spring ’06)

LOVIN THAT HYPE MACHINE

By the time I actually heard “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor,” I knew that the Arctic Monkeys had the highest-selling British debut of all time, that they’re dubbed the biggest Brit-rock band since Oasis, that one prominent reviewer had heralded their album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” as the 5th greatest British album of all time, that their album holds together as a piece of social commentary about the British clubbing scene, that they are taking their newfound fame in stride and that every member of their band is younger than me.

Man, that was some sweet hype! I’d heard so much going into this listening experience that my curiosity was absolutely peaked. Had I heard them on my own, I would have summed their sound up with “two parts The Living End and one part Franz Ferdinand” and I switched my iTunes back to Sufjan. But thanks to the hype, I knew that I’m supposed to really like them but admit that maybe the reviewers went overboard. So that’s what I think of them.

Being the frontman of Biodome 5 (2nd place winner’s of Pepperdine’s Battle of the Bands), I’ve been the subject of hype myself and have studied how it works. Let me break down the “hype cycles” for you:

  1. An advertiser, reviewer or fan gets the word out there. “Have you heard about that Biodome 5?” some freshman says to her RA. “They’re really blowing up.”
  2. Soon, the hype is about the hype itself. “My ears are buzzing with talk about that Biodome 5!” a Pepperdine administrator tells a Caf worker. “They’re all anyone ever talks about.”
  3. Then the hype is criticized. “People talk about Biodome 5 like they’re so much better than The Beatles,” a professor writes in an op-ed letter the Graphic, “but really they’re only slightly better than The Beatles.” That stings. But the freaky twist is that even the criticism of the hype creates hype. When the vindictive professor writes hurtful things about Biodome 5, it creates more hype for Biodome 5. You try to keep us down, but you can’t!
  4. Repeat. Guitarist Alex Moore sets fire to the green room, and all of a sudden Biodome 5 is back in the news.

Alan Moore, the author of the graphic novel, V for Vendetta, has publicly renounced any connection with the Wachowski brothers’ film. In doing so, he only adds to the hype. All of a sudden, it’s important to see the movie and form an opinion about it to see whether or not Moore was just being a jerk. Not that any of us have (or ever will) read the book.

The wonderful thing about all this hype is that it informs our decisions of so that we don’t have to make them ourselves. Yes, it would be nice to make up our own minds about what music, books and film are good or bad, but who has that kind of time?

As long as people keep talking about us, The Arctic Monkeys and Biodome 5 are here to stay. The only way to fight hype is with silence, and silence is, by nature, boring.

Fireside Chat #18 (Spring ’06)

FREE SPEECH TRUMPS DISCRETION

A couple of years ago, a documentary called “Super-Size Me” shocked the world with the news that McDonalds makes food that is bad for you. Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker responsible for the life-changing film, recently spoke in Philadelphia at Hatboro-Horsham High School’s health fair.

In the speech, Spurlock flexed his public speaking muscles by implementing not one, but all three of the official Tricks to Make Teenagers Think You Are Cool: he swore, made fun of retarded kids and joked about teachers smoking pot. Suffice to say, his street cred went through the roof. He got a standing ovation and was mobbed for autographs after the lecture.

But the administration, as they do whenever anything cool happens at a public school, shut Spurlock down and cancelled the lecture he was to give later that evening.

Spurlock didn’t let the man get him down. "The greatest lesson those kids learned today was the importance of free speech," he said. Amen, brother.

Free speech is the sweetest part of the first and greatest amendment (in close competition with the 21st amendment). It’s a well-known fact that anyone who defends free speech is automatically an American hero, though some of these heroes you might not expect.

The Free Speech Coalition is a watchdog/lobbyist group with a surprisingly legitimate-looking website, considering it is run by the adult film industry. Who’d have thought that the porn producers, responsible for robbing so many lonely men of their souls and healthy sex lives, was actually defending our liberties? Really, the acts cancel each other out.

I won’t be surprised if one day we’re celebrating Howard Stern Day or Larry Flint Day, or just combined them into Perverts That Defended Our Liberties Day.

Then you’ve got bigoted comedians defending free speech. Sure Larry the Cable Guy can set our nation’s equality back decades in one joke ("There'll be a new show out next week called Black Eye on the Queer Guy"), but somebody’s got to encourage hate crimes now and then.

Sure, I’ll admit that when Spurlock makes fun of the mentally handicapped, he’s hurting a few feelings. But can we really stop to wipe the tears from a few sensitive faces when by all of our racist, misogynistic or otherwise prejudiced comments, we’re protecting the world from those who would steal our freedoms?

That’s the real danger here, folks. If the world was kind and decent and everyone made a point be respectful of one another, Congress could quietly pass a law saying, “No swearing” and then pretty soon the government’s got a camera in your living room and you’re trying desperately to keep from committing a thoughtcrime. That’s where your kindness will get you.

This is my challenge to the entertainment industry: shock the world. You don’t need a cause worthy of attention; shock for its own sake. Be as outlandish and profane as possible, especially in situations where you’ll offend. If your mom or priest or conscience tells you that what you’re saying is wrong, say, “Don’t censor me! I’m just keeping it real.”

Free speech isn’t just about freedom from censorship—it’s freedom from being political correct, freedom from restraint and freedom from decency. And it’s fun!

Fireside Chat #17 (Spring ’06)

SOUTH PARK’S INEVITABLE DOWNFALL

I think we’ll all remember exactly where we were when we heard that Isaac Hayes quit “South Park.” As for me, I was sitting in Payson Library researching a topic for my weekly column.

If you’ve been living in a bomb shelter the past decade (like Brendan Fraser in the hilarious 1999 hit film, “Blast From the Past), Isaac Hayes has been playing the role of “Chef,” the children’s lovable, over-sexed life advisor on “South Park” ever since the show’s creation.

Now “South Park” has always been edgy, but Hayes’ departure is irrefutable, indisputable, ill-reputable proof that their “Trapped in the Closet” episode has gone too far.

It was all in good fun when “South Park” masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone took on controversial topics like sexual harassment, immigration, home-schooling,
Canada, Mormonism, Judaism, Christianity and Pokemon, but Isaac Hayes and I draw the line at making fun of Scientology.

In the 11-16-05 episode, Stan spends his bike money on an e-meter reading that tells him he is a reincarnation of the religion’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard. By the end,
Hollywood heartthrobs John Travolta, Tom Cruise and their religion have all been ridiculed. The episode aired as usual in November, but when Viacom was threatened with a lawsuit, they pulled the episode from the show’s rerun roster.

Rightfully so. Scientology is nothing to poke fun at. They’re into activities like protesting the use of any prescription drugs, cutting off all ties any family members that publicly denounce the religion and charging exorbitant amounts of money for church membership—nothing that Christians haven’t tried at one time or another.

Also, like any cool secret club, Scientologists get their own buzzwords. I used to think I was cool for understanding “sanctification” and “exegesis,” but these guys have their own dictionary. To name a few: Apparency, automaticity, beingness, and destimulate. They’re the kind of nearly-plausible words that make you angrified at Microsoft Word for not recognating when working on a paper late at night.

If pressed to name my favorite thing about Scientology, it’s the saying, “You get what you give.” Me, I get a lot, which tells me that along the way in my billion-year lifespan (twenty-two of which I’ve spent in this mortal shell), I’ve done a few things right. Now all that previous-life good work is paying off, and I’m not even tired!

It’s also nice to know that the homeless are not merely economically inferior to me, but ethically as well, because if they were better people they wouldn’t be homeless. Now I can actually feel good about myself as I refuse to look them in the eye and pick up the pace when asked for spare change.

More than anything, we have to respect Scientology because of all its beautiful members. In addition to the obvious Tom and John, you’ve got Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, Juliette Lewis, Jason Lee, Jenna Elfman, Kirstie Alley, and of course, Mr. Isaac Hayes himself. Celebrities wouldn’t be celebrities if they were not better than the rest of us, so surely their religion is to be at the very least respected if too expensive to join.

Good luck, Trey and Matt, trying to cook up more episodes without your precious Chef. Be warned: If the new episodes aren’t funny, I’m suing you guys faster than you can say, “Upgrading to a sexier religion.”

Fireside Chat #16 (Spring ’06)

SO MANY ROADS TO FAME

Osama Bin Laden’s niece, Wafah Dufour, is getting her own reality show that will chronicle her quest for stardom in modeling and singing. Isn’t that great? I’ve always said, “When your uncle is the world’s most notorious terrorist, it’s time to cash in.”

In a way, it would be a dishonor to Bin Laden’s victims for Dafour not to launch a pop singing career. Wafah is just a girl finding a little silver lining (stardom) in the storm cloud (mass murder).

Really, having an evil uncle is ideal. You don’t want evil parents because they would probably lock you up in the pantry for months at a time, feeding you gruel and frozen waffles through a doggy door. But an evil uncle is more of an occasional weekend thing. If Uncle Demento says, “Come into the backyard, I want to show you how my death ray works,” you just make plans to sleep over at the neighbors’ house. 20 years later, you’re in the movies. Fair trade? I think so.

Granted, we don’t all have evil uncles. But there are so many ways to break into the entertainment industry, it’s a wonder you and I haven’t done it yet.

One great way to become famous is to do something crazy or hardcore. There was Aron Ralston, the guy who had his arm pinned under a rock in the mountains and had to cut the arm off to survive. He wrote a book about it and went on some talk shows, and now look at him: part machine, part millionaire.

More impressively, it wasn’t long ago that Johnny Knoxville was just some “Jackass” burro. Now he’s on top of the world, getting roles as a Duke of Hazard and a guy who pretends to be mentally handicapped to compete in the Special Olympics.

The surefire road to fame is to be patient, play the odds and take every opportunity in sight.

If you write enough bad songs, one of them is bound to be a smash hit. Just ask Rivers Cuomo. Three 6 Mafia wrote a mediocre rap song, had it featured in a movie, won an Oscar for it, got made fun of by Jon Stewart, and look, now they’re household names. The fact is, the majority of Pepperdine students are more than smart enough to pump out a song like that.

Or you could make a career out of auditioning for shows where you compete to become the Next Hot Singer, Songwriting, Model, Comedian, Boxer, Skater, Dancer, Breakdancer, Choreographer, Doctor, Attorney, Business Executive, Indian, Policeman, Sailor, Construction Worker, Cowboy, or Leatherman, and you’d be bound to win one of them. But that’s probably too much work.

Here’s the best way, the “Paris Hilton” model: inherit an enormous grip of cash, then using that money to buy your way into fame. Not many people know this, but it wasn’t her acting chops alone that won her that role in “House of Wax.”

So until my parents get their act together and start making a little money, I’m going to have to look deep into my family to see if I’m even distantly related to someone notorious, like Jack the Ripper, Joseph Stalin or Paul Reubens. But I hope not Paul Reubens.