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Man! It has been awhile. I really appreciate your looking after the place while I've been gone. Everything looks terrific. Seriously - the chrysanthemums would have been withered shadows of their former selves in my care. Even my goldfish seem perkier. I can't thank you enough.

So take a load off! Make yourself comfortable! I'll make coffee.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

my bad epic poem, part one

I had that same dream the other night.

The one where I had gotten involved in a mass marriage in a park the year before--
One of the ones with hundreds of people marrying each other under the auspices of some cultish leader on a dais,
Only my wedding hadn’t been that successful, and there were only dozens of us.
And I ended up wed to thirty-seven men and sixty-eight women,
Each of whom turned out to be nearly twice as desperate for affection as any of the men.
That’s almost one hundred and thirty-six units of desperation.
We kept most of it in bottles in the garage.

So anyway, my dream started a few months after they all divorced me.
A mass divorce--
One of the ones with hundreds of people divorcing each other under the auspices of some cultish lawyer on a dais,
Only my divorce hadn’t been that successful, and there were only dozens of them
And one of me.
They got the houses in the divorce,
But they all ended up paying me alimony.
I was getting over a million dollars a year.
I quit my job
(I was a dancer),
And spent my days pursuing my one true love:
But just for the art,
Not for the money.
I’m no whore.

So my dream started one night when I was bored
Because I didn’t have a job
And I had entered a dark period in my art
And developed cartoonists’ block.
And I was sitting in my flat
Sniffing magic markers and feeling conflicted about the fact that I hadn’t yet given my ex-wives and ex-husbands back
The one hundred and five keys to their one hundred and five houses,
When I looked out the window
And saw a drunk Irish priest staggering up the street.

So, just for fun--
I was bored, remember--
I decided I’d steal his wallet.
But just for the art,
Not for the money.
I’m no thief.

I went outside and then realized
I hadn’t brought a mask.
So I hid behind a hedge and set it on fire instead
And when the priest walked by, I bellowed in my best Charlton Heston voice,
“I am the Lord your God! Avert your eyes!”
And he was so drunk he did it,
And when his eyes were averted,
I got his wallet,
Although he did see me.

I had a great time.
I spent the money on Simpsons DVDs and keychains.
But then I started to feel guilty and to question why I’d done it
(this turned out to be all a part of a dark period in my art).
I figured I should go to confession,

Because even though I had joined the cult,
I had held onto my love of Catholic confession--
The face-to-face kind.
I loved it.
I loved telling the priest the sins I’d committed
Right to his face
Just to watch when he winced
Because then I knew
He’d committed the same one.

But I couldn’t go to face-to-face confession,
I realized,
Because if it turned out the priest was the one I’d mugged,
He’d recognize me,
And he might beat me up
(he looked like one of those violent kinds of priests).
So I had to go into a confessional,
Which I also loved,
Because I’m a claustromaniac.

So I’m in the confessional
And I’m telling my sins through the screen,
So the priest can’t see me,
When all of a sudden I notice
That there’s a fake screen
Superimposed over the real screen,
Like at cash machines when smart criminals get your card details and password as you slide your card into the slot.
I raced through my sins
And bounced up and down nervously while the priest absolved me
(God he took forever),
And I got permission to do my penance in installments,
Although I had to make a downpayment of five Hail Marys,
And agree to a lousy interest rate which basically tacked a Nicene Creed and a decade of the rosary onto a principal penance of less than half that.
So I got outside
Just in time to see some guy racing out of the church with all my soul’s details.

Naturally I panicked.
You hear all these horror stories about people having their soul’s details stolen.
My worst fear was that he’d sell my soul to the devil
In order to finally launch his career as a cabaret poet or
Internationally-renowned Cajun chef or something.
But at the least I figured he’d be going out and committing terrible sins
Like embezzlement
Or heresy or coveting
Or desecration of holy relics
And charging them to my soul
So his soul would be clear of wrong-doing.

I had to find him and stop him.
It was time for some soul-searching.

But first I called the Vatican’s emergency 800 number
To report my soul stolen.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

nine elements of the master plan

  • find 599 other guys to ride into Valley of Death
  • evil twins
  • tie sheets together, drop them out window and shimmy down after bed check
  • annex Poland
  • throw toaster in bathtub so it looks like heart failure
  • after henchman crushes Bond, irradiate US gold supply at Fort Knox
  • gather 10,000 Mongol warriors to storm city
  • burglarize Watergate Hotel
  • rent ancient god Mohotec costume to frighten Scoob and those meddling kids away from Aztec treasure

Thursday, March 27, 2008

untitled julia roberts vehicle

Julia Roberts needs my help, clearly. Let's look at how things are going for the former mega-star:
  • her last major box-office hit was Ocean's Eleven, and she didn't even get to be one of the eleven--six years ago.
  • Charlie Wilson's War, napped its way through its opening weekend. Also, Julia played a 55-year-old woman.
  • in Ocean's Twelve, the poor dear's name came seventh in the opening credits. SEVENTH. Even Elliott Gould and Carl Reiner got a "with" and an "and."
  • yes, she did win's 2008 online poll for the "Best Dressed Oscar winner," but she won it for her look from 2001. To paraphrase Hilary Duff, how very yesterday.
  • and okay, fine, she was named America's fourth favorite movie star in Harris' January poll. But John Wayne was sixth, and he's dead. And Sean Connery was seventh, and he's not dead, exacctly, but he's definitely collecting a pension. The point being, Harris isn't doing Julia any favors.
  • she's had to resort to doing voiceover work for animated characters in kiddie films: The Ant Bully and Charlotte's Web. God knows there aren't enough movies out there about bugs...
  • her slated 2008 releases are Fireflies in the Garden and The Friday Night Knitting Club. Why do I suspect these will not have the impact on our screens of, say, a Gladiator or a Day After Tomorrow? I mean For crying out loud - a KNITTING CLUB MOVIE? And as far as the other one goes, the title comes from a poem by Robert "Upbeat, Feel-Good Movie of the Summer" Frost. Nuff said.

Thus it is high time someone put together a vehicle that will enable Julia Roberts to breathe some life into a career that is, frankly, flagging. Hollywood, I am that someone. And I have just the vehicle. Remember this movie?

Mystic Pizza (1988) - Three teenage girls come of age while working in a pizza parlor in Connecticut.

Why doesn't Julia make films like this anymore? The major marketing demographic for movies these days is still males aged 16-35. There's nothing males aged 16-36 like to look at more than teenage girls. And what better fantasy fodder for males aged 16-36 than teenage girls in tight clothes serving up beer and pizza?

Case closed. Obviously, a sequel to Mystic Pizza is in order if we have any hope of saving Ms. Roberts from herself. I therefore entreaty any film company execs and/or green light guys reading this to consider the following pitches:

Alarmistic Pizza
- Three teenage girls try to deal with the color-coded, post-9/11 world while working in a pizza parlor in Connecticut.

Animistic Pizza - Three teenage girls convert to Shinto and make pizza in Connecticut.

Bigamistic Pizza - Three teenage girls marry the same man and work in his pizza parlor in Connecticut.

Conformistic Pizza - Three teenage girls make a completely predictable Hollywood sequel about working in a pizza parlor in Connecticut.

Euphemistic Pizza - Three "teenage" girls "work" in a "pizza parlor" in "Connecticut," if you know what I mean...

Extremistic Pizza - Three teenage girls work in a pizza parlor in Connecticut and dream of becoming professional ice-climbers.

Optimistic Pizza - Three teenage girls only send out half-full pizza boxes from their pizza parlor in Connecticut.

Pessimistic Pizza - Three teenage girls bake their heads, Sylvia-Plath-style, in a pizza oven in Connecticut.

and my personal favorite...

Taxidermistic Pizza - Low-budget horror. Three largely unclothed teenage girls. An isolated pizza parlor in the backwoods of Connecticut. Watch them stuff themselves.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

zen rude-ism: rude questions for meditation

rude questions for meditation

Meditation is a critical element of Zen Rude-ism. It is just as Pying-Pyong asked his pupils, "Why don't you go someplace perhaps no less than a million miles away and sit in a position that you find uncomfortable for you to be in so you'll stop with the bothering of people all the time and you'll maybe be staying put for a change and doing not a thing for let's say five to seven years or longer it should be too soon?"

Just as Chin, Shin, and the other pupils of the Rude-ist Masters had their wisdom upon which to meditate, so we provide you here with a variety of spiritual conundrums to occupy your thoughts and bring you closer to your own Rude Awakening.

We have found that obsessing about one question each day for a week has made us significantly Ruder. We hope you will find the same. About yourself, that is, not us. We mean, we hope you will find yourself Ruder. Not Ruder than we are, but Ruder than you were before. We don't mind if you're Ruder than we are--it's not like a competition or anything, but that's not what we hope for. Not because we're comparing, but...whatever.

week one

What is the deal with that guy?

week two
Do I look like I give a rat's ass?

week three
What's a guy gotta do to get a little service around here?

week four
Who asked you, anyway?

week five
I've lost my ticket - can I still collect my shoes?

week six
Geez, make it a little hotter in here, why don't you?
(additional thought for deeper meditation: I'd like to melt my ass off)

week seven
You wanna hear the sound of one man snapping?

week eight
So the soup today...any good?

week nine
How am I? Can I just tell you about this lower back pain? Have you seen how I'm sitting here? Do I look comfortable to you?

week ten
What, do you work for Rubbermaid or something?

Monday, March 17, 2008

the oxy-moron

I had a pimple once--
largely a tiny blemish--
but when it wouldn’t go away,
when it just sat there, quiet and well-behaved on my face,
comfortably situated like a gracious house guest who won’t leave,
who has outstayed an invitation he never had,
when it did absolutely nothing as hard and fast as it could,
there on the back of my forehead,
I found I had begun to obsess about my abscess--
I was the Restless Patient.

At one point, an odd line of thinking struck me:
what if, as a symptom, it filled out, ballooned, snowballed into a kind of volcano?
A real nightmare, clearly. Or not?
I’d be Volcano Man - no, Lavalier Mike, Suburban Superhero.
I said my name out loud, intoning it like a transforming spell
in some dramatic comic book.
When nothing happened, I realized
words do not make reality. A pronoun is not a person.
Saying “volcano” won’t cause a volcano,
even if the word erupts from your mouth
like lava.

A few hours later, I had a minute eruption
when I was stuck, trying to find a solution for a problem with a friend
as we filled out a sheet of transformations for geometry class:
you know, homework.
The pimple hung heavy on my mind, if lightly on my face.
It couldn’t go anywhere - my thoughts raced,
fixed on the swelling,
and transformed me into an idiot.
My friend suddenly exploded, “Ah, that’s it!”
but I heard the same words differently:
“Ugh, that zit!”
and I blew my top,
my thoughts melting into words carried along by my emotions.
I had become the Supermoron, Idio-tick, biting my friend’s head off:
“I used an Oxy-10 solution!” I fumed. “I can’t just erase it, you know!”

Profoundly confounded and openly wounded, my friend closed his book.
“Clearly we’ve shared a misunderstanding,” he said coldly,
then took the coat
and went away just like the pimple wouldn’t.
And a chill shook me
and I understood my mistake
and I thought,
if we both now understand it, was it still a misunderstanding?

Words aren’t lava.
If lava finds you, there is no mistake about it.
It will coat you and fix you
just exactly the same as you are
when you first fall under it, fall victim to the fumes
and the liquid rock whose heat will leave you unchanged and frozen in place -
a lump on the face of the rock -
until some future someone surveys the area
looking for the right imperfections that will carry him back in time
and breaks open the lump
and finds you in that same embarrassing position
and says to his equally unknown future friend, just a little ways off,
“Hey, come look at this idiot.”

Later that night, I looked up “lavalier,”
since I didn’t know the word.
Turns out it’s just a certain kind of suspended rock,
that can have special meaning for good friends.

I popped the pimple,
though in the past many have ordered me not to mess with such things
on account of it leaves marks that way--
in fact, I have a friend
different from the friend with whom I worked transformations
(not that it matters to you since you don’t know either of them)
but anyway I have a different friend
and his half-sister popped pimples her whole life
and now her face has been transformed by tiny dents--
the coordinate points of her poor behavior--
like she was hit with very small rocks
or very big words.

As I popped it
and I allowed my foremost thoughts to take me back
to what happened with my friend,
I imagined us as two cartoon heroes in a boxing ring:
General Specific and Private Public,
our words in balloons above our heads,
both hoping a left cross will be the right move.
I saw the lines drawn on paper locked in battle,
and I couldn’t erase them.
And I wondered,

Could a civil war start over something like this?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

american update, part one (cliffs notes version)

I considered it my patriotic duty to kill some shorter trees in order to create the tree-death (printable) version of this post. Also, I said "duty"! Hee-hee!

Or you can click here to read the longer original version of the post. Or you can wait and read the longer version two days ago, when I posted it.


  1. At the time the text begins, the narrator has been in the US for just over six months. He owns a cell phone. He bought three house phones at Circuit City[1]. We learn that the narrator’s story is set in an alternate-universe version of our world where cell phones are allowed to be as large as a Pez dispenser.

  1. The narrator is a fat, country-western-music-loving American who has a lot of credit-card debt and votes Republican. His remarks about the War in Iraq reveal him to be an idiot.

  1. The narrator analyzes an uninteresting headline from his local TV news, not realizing how this may confuse readers who believe that headlines are actually used in newspapers.

  1. The narrator bought a house and through use of irony[2], he details the financial pitfalls he encountered, including:
    1. moving to New York,
    2. specifically Westchester County,
    3. where the houses cost a great deal of money.
    4. He also timed his purchase badly--
    5. --here he digresses into a blatant rip-off of The Truman Show and a re-tread of earlier remarks about the alternate-universe America he inhabits; he attempts to avoid sounding unoriginal through use of postmodern self-conscious narration[3]--
    6. arrived in the US without the paperwork he needed to establish his credit history while living overseas,
    7. and moved into his house at a really inconvenient time for his family.

  1. The narrator confirms the purchase of the house in the end and makes an unsuccessful joke about his own sarcasm.

  1. He concludes by being rather unkind to the very nice lawyer who helped him with his home purchase. And all over a pen. What a jerk.

[1] The name of this chain of stores is derived from an early draft of the screenplay for the classic 1982 movie Tron.

[2] Irony (ī′ ruh nē, n.) - a literary device which allows posh speakers to be sarcastic without sounding common.

[3] Postmodern self-conscious narration (fan′ shaw, n.) - a literary device in which hack writers plagiarize the ideas of superior writers who have gone before them and attempt to come off as clever and knowing by pointing out that they’re thieving someone else’s work, but really just come across looking shabby and desperate.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

american update, part one

I considered it my patriotic duty to kill some trees in order to create the tree-death (printable) version of this post. Also, I said "duty"! Hee-hee!

Or you can click here to read the shorter Cliffs Notes version of the post. Or you can wait and read the shorter Cliffs Notes version tomorrow, when I post it.

Right. I’ve been in the US for a little over six months now. One of the first things I did upon arriving in this country is purchase a cell phone (to those of you living in the UK, this is what you would call a mobile; to everyone else, this tone is what you would call condescending). I also went to Circuit City to buy three house phones. I bought three phones because the Patriot Act has outlawed the purchase of single items. Buying only two of something is a Class B misdemeanor. With a court order signed by two sitting judges, a US citizen can still buy single items, but only in gallon drums. Unless they are buying a single cell phone, which must be no larger than a Pez dispenser.

I have become truly American. I own two cars now. I have gained 140 lbs., largely by listening to everything that the ads on the Food Network tell me.

It’s okay, though, because I have registered for eight weight-loss programs and purchased twelve fitness products, each of which I learned about on a half-hour infomercial fronted by Jessica Simpson. I can’t afford any of these things, so I’ve put them on credit cards. Several lovely TV spokespeople have suggested cool ways to consolidate my debt.

I now vote Republican, because I realize it is sinful not to. I send an embossed Christmas card to the Bushes (Jr and Sr) every year. I realize that we had to invade Iraq because Osama bin Laden attacked us using the frequent flyer miles of Democrats living in Afghanistan. And because I’m in America, I now think Afghanistan is a city in Iraq.

I listen to country-western music. I think Hannah Montana is a funny show. I watch local news and I’m not bothered by headlines like “Robbed by Thieves.”

No, I have to stop there. This was an actual headline on my local news the other night, and it does bother me. I’m forced to wonder what it said before the editors got hold of it:

“’Robbed by Robbers’? What the hell kind of headline is that? Take it back and do it again. Preferably without inhaling varnish beforehand.”

So the copywriters spend an hour at Starbucks and come back with--

“’Robbed by Thieves.’ By thieves. Yes, dammit, yes. You see that? I like it--cuts right to the heart of the story. No fluff or crap. Run it.”

My main problem with the headline, frankly, is that it isn’t news. “Robbed by Thieves.” Well, yes, that is what thieves do. They rob. Thieves who never rob are just law-abiding citizens in ski hats. So how can it be news to say thieves robbed?

No--news would be something like, “Embalmed by Thieves,” or “Smelted by Thieves.” These are activities rarely associated with those who burgle. On the other hand, “Robbed by Buddhist Pilates Instructors” or “Robbed by Ferrets” would make excellent news stories as well.

But I digress.

So let’s see: I bought a house, which was a major undertaking, requiring me to provide our mortgage lenders with a scavenger hunt list full of things, except possibly a major and an undertaker.

I make no claims to be any kind of financial guru, but I now feel qualified to offer the following advice to anyone looking to relocate to the US from overseas. If you are interested in purchasing a home, you might consider...

  • not moving to New York, whose housing laws were clearly devised by a real estate attorney trapped inside Cheech and Chong’s VW minibus. I kid you not, in NY State, when you purchase a house, you will be charged $75 in order to pay a gratuity to the person who prepares the title for your home. That’s right - the state is enforcing tip money for its civil servants. They even label it that way on the closing paperwork: “Title preparer’s gratuity.” God bless. Call me pedantic, but if you are FORCED to pay it, then it isn’t TECHNICALLY a gratuity, is it? I’m going to introduce a motion to the New York legislature proposing that that line be reworded, “Title preparer’s mandatority.
  • If you must move to New York, under no circumstances should you move to Westchester County, which is the county with the highest property tax in the state. Seriously - the local taxes here cost more than the state taxes do. Which I think means that economists can now complete their geometric proof that New York is bigger on the inside than on the outside.
  • Then again, sure, the property taxes here are spine-chillingly high, but at least the actual houses are as expensive as all get out. Whee!
  • Naturally, if you’re going to invest thousands and thousands of dollars in a gaping vortex of debt, you’re going to want to time it carefully. I would recommend, for example, NOT attempting to secure a mortgage, say, around the time that the bottom falls out of the sub-prime lending market. As it happens, bottoms falling out of any kind of lending markets--sub-prime or prime or super-prime or even markets which are divisible by several different positive and negative integers beyond themselves and one--basically bottoms of any kind falling in any way out of any sort of lending markets will tend to make lenders, like banks and mortgage brokers and bent-nosed Sicilian gents with names like “Marty Shoes,” a mite anxious. So beware of falling bottoms. Because it’s bad enough that lawyers, banks and New York State will devour your savings like they’re a 3-pound lobster. It will be worse if you have to beg them to tie the bib on in the first place.
  • Of course, if you do end up begging, it’s best to have all your paperwork in order. Thus, when making your overseas relocation to the US, it will be best if you haven’t actually spent any time overseas prior to your arrival in America. It turns out that for the last 50 years or so, the US has ceased to believe in the existence of “the rest of the world.” Instead, it believes that the horizon line created by the ocean and the sky is a fixed, tangible barrier into which ships will sail if allowed to go too far, like Jim Carrey did in The Truman Show. If somehow a ship should accidentally break through this barrier, it would find itself in a dark, nebulous world filled with sea serpents and bogeymen. This alleged “Europe” of which so many speak is purely an imaginary Never-Neverland with no more bearing on reality than the Loch Ness Monster or the separation of church and state. The Middle East is a sort of fictional “Albert Square” setting used as the background for the long-running nightly serial drama called “The News.” Some people have been watching this program for so long that they have actually begun to believe that the characters in it are as real as they are.
  • The point is that if you have been out of the US for any length of time, when you return, you will find that no record of you as a consumer or wage-earner exists here. You will have no credit record and will thus be incapable of qualifying for a loan of any sort unless you a) construct a credit history for yourself by pasting together every bill, bank balance sheet, credit card report, tax return and pay stub you have received or sent for the last two years (make sure you have all of these handy so you don’t have to make a lot of overseas calls!), or b) convince the financial institutions of the US and the rest of the world to communicate with one another in a spirit of respect and cooperation as peers and equals.
  • Oh, and if you DO manage to sort out all the necessary paperwork, neatly line up your internal organs in alphabetical order on a marble slab, pay all the necessary expenses and live through the closing date without stabbing one of the eight people there to sign papers in the neck with a pen, be sure you have more than four days to move in before school starts for your kids and your new job begins in earnest.

In spite of all this, we managed to buy a house. Which we love, by the way, irrespective of my mildly sarcastic tone (okay, maybe less of a tone and more of a sarcastic orchestration). My favorite part of the whole experience was when we finished signing all the paperwork. After the fiscal colonic we had undergone, we stood up with our papers and our lawyer said, “You can keep the pen, you know, as a memento. Because it’s such a big day.” She was, in reality, a very lovely woman who was incredibly helpful. But there was a part of me that wanted to say, “Um, actually, I think the house will probably remind us of buying the house a bit better. Plus, I’m less likely to lose the house by putting it in my shirt pocket and then having it fall out when I lean over to tie my shoes. Plus, it’s kind of a cheap pen.”

more to come...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

my bad limerick

There is a fine Irish lad named Tom Quilligan,
and if you let him drink once, then he will again.
I bought him round after round
Last time I was in town,
And the S.O.B. stuck me with the bill again.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

nine surprises encountered while on safari

  • rain barrel outside hut stocked with something that clearly wasn't Evian
  • during documentary filming, vegan hyenas refused to eat wounded gazelle
  • sides of rhinos used as ad space for GAP and Verizon
  • "Serengeti" is a really really funny word when you're drunk
  • nothing tastes better than barbecue of endangered species
  • native clicking language made up years ago to mock American tourists
  • that big ball of yarn those lions were playing with? actually a human head
  • difficult locals refused to tape new episode of Boston Legal for us
  • turns out it's not so much a dry heat

Monday, March 3, 2008

zen rude-ism: the rude-ist view of karma

the rude-ist view of karma

Conventional Zen teaches that any deed which stems from an intention of desire, hate, or delusion will create a response in the Universe. Put simply, the Universe acts on us as an effect of the way we ourselves behave.

The Zen Rude-ist understands this, but figures, 'If the Universe can dish it out, the Universe can take it.'

from the fifth kondo of the nameless master

Chin's desire for Awakening stood the test of Time. Many months had passed. He had learned much. Again, he asked his master, “Please show me how to achieve Inner Peace as you have achieved it, Master.”

The master responded in a riddle. “Let me clue you in to something, Melvin. Ever since you showed up, I haven't had twelve seconds of ‘Inner Peace.” If you'd go away and never talk to me again, maybe then I could teach you something about it!”

Chin paused in his bewilderment. His thoughts chased the paradox around and around, as a dog with its tail. While he was so occupied, the Master gave him a dead arm.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

newsletter from the head office

HEADLINESS - the unofficial in-house newsletter of the head office

  • HEADLINESS is only available online, and then only if you behave yourself. Submissions should be sent to The Shadow Head marked "You Have Way Too Much Free Time". Unlike the other in-house e-newsletter, if you want to send in stuff, we don't care what font or color you use. Knock yourself out.


a newsletter for select staff of the Head Office

1 March 2008

--Benjamin Franklin

Thanks to Plain Amanda in Accounting for the above inspiring quote. We may have punched it up a bit.

new notices

message from the shadow head
Thank you. At our last full staff meeting, or as I like to call it,
The Beginning of the End, our Fearless Leader mentioned two things that I hope we all remember. First, the New Restructuring Plan is currently being road-tested in our division, and the effectiveness and value of the plan will be evaluated at the end of the fiscal year. Second, our Fearless Leader has NO DOUBT that at that time of evaluation we as an office will resoundingly and enthusiastically endorse our New Restructuring Plan as The Best and Only Restructuring Plan for Us.

With this in mind, I have been asked to remind you that March is already upon us. By now you should all be quivering with the ecstasy produced by life within the New Restructuring Plan. If you are not, you'd damn well better start quivering now, or you're in it deep, okay? You have all been assigned to cross-divisional committees which will meet once a week from now until the Time of Evaluation; the entirety of these meetings will be given over to what we are sure will be nothing short of hyperbolic laud for the New Restructuring Plan. Weird Gavin in Tech Support is designing a new database in which all staff will be required to enter daily compliments for the New Restructuring Plan. Some suggestions for entries:

"If you only use one restructuring plan this year, make it The New Restructuring Plan!"

"Because of the New Restructuring Plan, I can enjoy dairy again!"

"The New Restructuring Plan is the feel-good plan of the year!"

"I didn't think it was possible for someone my age to meet someone new. Boy was I wrong. Thanks, New Restructuring Plan!"

"The New Restructuring Plan has helped me to finally consolidate my debt!"

"Nothing ever conceived by Man can compare to the awesome glory and majesty that is the New Restructuring Plan - not democracy, not fire, not calculus. All Man's achievements from here to the dusk of time will be crushing disappointments. We have reached the apex of our existence."

Or words to that effect. Please bear in mind that your raises for next year will be offered in direct proportion to your sincerity. I look forward to reading and hearing your critiques of this important new development in the life of our business.


The Shadow Head

cool person of the week

This week's Ultra-Cool Person is Hot Debbie in Human Resources. She is that from which all other cool derives. She could give seminars on cool. She has cornered the market on
coolosity and coolaciousness, which we realize were not technically words when we started this sentence, but due to the Universe's awareness of the need for newer and better words to more effectively encapsulate the coolarianism of Hot Debbie, all of the formerly made-up words we've written have now popped into existence in the Oxford English Dictionary. So that's a big up to the Universe for finally getting around to recognizing what the rest of us have known forever.

More cool people later.

bored of directors?

So are we.

seriously--true story

So we're getting ready to leave the house the other day, and we start talking to our daughters about things. The girls could not be less interested, as they're engrossed in
some complicated fantasy about a grand ball for princesses and fairy godmothers getting their dresses ready and the dances they'll have to do and what-not. So we're doling out instructions like, "Listen to your mother," and "Try to pick up all the toys you're leaving all over the place," and "Never agree to the first bid you're given--a punter's always willing to bargain at least a little," and so on, and the girls are working out dance moves or something. So we say to them, "You know, you could at least PRETEND to be listening to us."

And our older daughter gets all indignant and comes back with, "But we were pretending to listen."

this has nothing to do with anything

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking, and when she passes, each one she passes goes, "Ah." When she walks,
she’s like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle that when she passes, each one she passes goes, "Ooh." Oh, but we watch her so sadly. How can we tell her we love her? Yes we would give our heart gladly, but each day, when she walks to the sea, she looks straight ahead, not at us.

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking, and when she passes, we smile - but she doesn’t see.

question for ya

How come you can get
salmonella from eating bad chicken, but you can't get chickenella from eating bad salmon?

very imaginary person consulting visit

On Tuesday, 19 March, from 8.00 - 11.00 am, the Head Office will be visited by General Robert Tuttle (Ret’d.), now senior consultant at Load of Crap Consulting, in order for him to offer tips on the implementation of the New Restructuring Plan. Some of you may remember Tuttle as
the imaginary soldier that Trapper and Hawkeye made up in order to play with Frank and Margaret's heads in that episode of M*A*S*H in the first or second season. Since then, Tuttle has had roles as Vera, Norm's imaginary wife on Cheers, and as Niles' imaginary wife Maris on Frasier.

It is highly recommended that you find an opportunity to actually meet General Tuttle, as for some mysterious reason doing so makes it easier to forget him later on.

upcoming staff appreciation party

Several staff members have expressed concern at the previous bulletin’s announcement of our Staff Appreciation Party next Friday at 2:00 and have suggested that the bold face sentence at the end, "
Employees may leave at 4.00 pm," cast a slightly draconian shadow over the event. Some say that this has given the party an "obligatory" feel which could make the event feel less "light" somehow, less "fun." The boldface remark seems to have had a certain "or else" tone of which we were unaware.

We would like to assure everyone that though you absolutely and without exception must attend the party in its entirety from the first cheesing of the crackers at 2:00 to the final meaningless, empty wish for everyone to have an enjoyable weekend, the party is not--we repeat NOT--obligatory. There has been a grave misunderstanding. Having said this, while none of you are obliged to attend the party, all of you are obliged to want to attend the party. Various senior administrators will be circulating throughout the event. Any body language, sarcasm, off-hand remark or latent thought detected behind one's eyes will be grounds for immediate professional humiliation.

One final point. It has been observed that this is meant to be a "thank you" event, and that if we powers-that-be really wanted to say thank you, we could have let all of you just go home at 2:00. Well, geniuses, if you all go home at 2:00, how exactly are we going to be able to say thank you to you all? So thank you, you ungrateful motherthankers.

professional development

Effective immediately, professional development will be referred to as "Professional Regression," in order to more directly enable us to nurture the tendencies we have caused to gurgle up from the Office's very
esophagus. All professional development funds for staff will be transferred over to corresponding Professional Regression funds; staffers wishing to secure money in order to do something unprofessional will find the appropriate forms in the Conferences folder on the network.

repeat notices

numerology division

just how healthy are you?

Can you answer the following questions?

  • Does your blood pressure have three 6's in it?
  • Is your body fat percentage a multiple of 7?
  • Do you find yourself drawn to food in pentagonal containers?
  • Is it all you can do to muster up the energy to click your mouse in order to scroll down through this email?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, help is at hand. The Numerology Division offers FREE Death Checks to all staff members. We'll take all the numbers the medical staff gave you in your WellPerson Check and plug them into our astrological charts to tell you to within twenty years, exactly when and how you're going to die. You'd be surprised how well this will enable you to plan for the future. If you're in need of a second opinion, one of our phrenologists would be happy to read the bumps on your head.

renewal of staff contracts

Because many other international headhunters begin recruiting in the summer or early fall, there is a significant advantage for We Administrators to know how many of staffers will be killed by
paid assassins this year. If there is a staff member on whom you would like to take out a contract, please let us know as soon as possible in order that we might dispatch one of our boys to whack him or her.

still bored of directors?

Right back atcha, baby.

fearless leader’s monthly staff meeting address
Tuesday, 30 March 2008

In a departure from tradition, our Fearless Leader this year will be performing his one-man version of
two sell-out Broadway shows, "The Reduced Mamma Mia." Thrill to his dulcet renderings of "Money," "Gimme," and "Just Knowing Me, Not You."

Plans for next year's "The Reduced Cirque du Soleil" are already underway.

security reminder

We understand that many of you are disgruntled with the necessity of having to show your IDs every time you come or go from the building. Please understand that this is critical to company security. We have been informed by
unreliable know-nothings at the Department of Homeland Security that we are at Tom Clancy Alert Status, which means there is a clear and present danger to us. We have it on good authority that Sean Bean is planning something against us, something spectacular involving CGI programming, even as we type. So guards will continue to search bags of those people who do not have proper ID. If your moaning continues, the friskings begin. If the crap from you people continues even still, we implement the body cavity searches. So watch it.

instructions from the shadow head

Effective immediately, all personnel will be aware that lies are the new truth. Additionally, we have recently outsourced to various consultancies all our
boat-rocking, muck-raking, water-muddying, devil's advocating, rabble-rousing, nay-saying, down-putting and head-shaking. You shouldn't need to worry about this stuff. Everything's great.

Have a nice day.

We will have more
Headliness another time--not necessarily next week, but when we can get around to it, all right? Sheesh! Enough with the pressure, you people. For crying out loud already--you are aware that we have to write all this ourself, we trust?

Friday, February 29, 2008

eight ways to get asked to leave staff meetings

  • bathe in fish juice
  • order invisible friends to put clothes back on
  • spell, out loud, everything everyone says
  • periodically ask if person next to you wants to see your rash
  • play ‘chew and show’ with cookies
  • get up and run fingers through the hair of whoever’s speaking
  • suggest group consider how Captain Kirk would handle situation
  • two words: interpretive dance

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

my other bad couplets

other bad trees were killed to make the tree-death (printable) version

1. my elephant couplet

Flyswatters hold no appeal to the elephant:
due to her size, gnats and flies seem irrelephant.

2. my manatee couplet
The lumbering, sweet-tempered manatee
despite her great size shows no vanatee.

3. my couplet describing a grade-school loser

He's the guy who jabs and pokes at you in lunchlines,
then tries to tell you jokes without the punchlines.

4. my condom couplet
Having sex every now and then is
the perfect time to wrap your pen-is.

Monday, February 25, 2008

a word from the head office

toward a new corporate restructuring plan

as it happens, this plan itself has been restructured in tree-death (printable) format

it has also been restructured into a tree-death (printable) format just for SCHOOLS, if you're interested, though you'll need to print the pages back-to-back and fold them into a cute little booklet; it's an arts-and-crafts feature to make it feel more "schooly"

The Head Office Restructuring Committee (HORC) was formed last year in response to the need for a new committee to be formed. Following the consumption of literally dozens of half-caff lattes and the general acknowledgement that a cohesive restructuring plan will never be created until managerial pig-headedness and office in-fighting is quashed (i.e. never), the Committee has prepared this booklet as a summary of progress. Presented largely in rhetorical-question-and-facetious-answer format, the Committee hopes you won’t notice the misplaced participle at the beginning of this sentence which implies that the Committee itself, rather than the booklet, has a format. If we’re an office anywhere near worth our salt, these grammatical mistakes will engender extensive and vitriolic staff feedback.
--The Committee to Openly Mock the Head Office Restructuring Committee (COMHORC), February 2008

The Committee will be guided by the following priorities when making decisions regarding restructuring, except in cases where we don’t feel like it:

  1. Dedicate so much time to planning the restructuring that it is impossible to facilitate the creation of an office culture that values collaboration, reflection, and communication, because we’re all too freaking busy going to restructuring-plan meetings
  2. Promote a greater sense of those things that make each office division pissed off at the others
  3. Take advantage of corporate discretionary fund to go on frivolous fact-finding trips and “retreats” to nice local restaurants
  4. Over-extend the use of all existing office facilities such that members of the office staff can butt heads as much as possible

1. Is the office going to move to a structure that streamlines and improves transparency?

Please. Streamlining and transparency are so 2005. If we’re going to steal a restructuring model from another company, you can be damn sure it will have a funky, hip descriptor (who has a “name” anymore, anyway?) with loads of corporate street-cred. Something like an Organic, Multi-Phase, Triangulating (OMPT) Restructuring Model, only softer to reflect the fact that we’re warm and fuzzy while at the same time getting across the idea that we are all about kicking the ass of other businesses. Maybe, “Fuzzy, Warm, Whole-Customer TimeFrame with Special Ass(everation)-Kicking Adjunct.”

In the meantime, you could call what we’ve been doing “investigating” types of restructuring plans, if by “investigating” you mean “having all our friends at other companies email, fax, and otherwise pelt us with whatever rubbish ideas their companies have been using to deal with their own structural inadequacies.” This has been very helpful in that it has proven to us that yes, in fact there are dozens of other companies around the world just as screwed up as we are.

As a side note, it turns out that the classic type of restructuring model, which involves focusing resources in areas of greatest market opportunity, is very unlikely to work for us. So expect to see this as the proposed model from the Head Office some time soon.

2. Is the Restructuring Committee looking at personnel, budget expenditures, and internal conflicts, or is it looking only at the office management structure itself?
As we’re sure you can imagine, it is very hard to look only at restructuring and also fulfil our mandate to get our sweaty little fingers into as many office pies as possible.

3. The process seems too fast—what can we do about this?

Lace up them running shoes, baby.

4. How will low-level office staffers be included in the process?

In much the same way that smoking is included in the life of a professional athlete.[1]

5. Will there be an approval process after the new restructuring plan is completed?

Our intention is to make you believe that your input is valued throughout the process. By the time the new plan is actually created, we hope to have had a number of occasions for you to say what you think while we sit and stare at you with empty smiles on our faces. After you have been thanked and your suggestions summarily ignored, we will leave to ridicule you behind closed doors. So no, genius, there won’t be a separate approval process.

If the new structure is profoundly different from what we currently have, how will staff be able to prepare for the change?

Even if the restructuring plan is finished in time for an adequate period of adjustment to take place, we plan to pack that time full of amusing time-wasters, which we like to call “professional development.” These will include visits from the top professionals in the field of corporate restructuring, people with “best-selling” books entitled things like All Work and No Play Means Johnny Needs a New Corporate Structural Model, and REST(rict)RUC(tions)TUR(n out)ING(enuity): Bringing Peace of Mind to Your Head Office. They will come with their pre-fab presentations, foisting their agendas and opinions on us by the roomful and trying desperately to jam our square realities into their round ideas.

People who agree with us will get to go on trips to offices in exotic locations to see how much easier it is to be happy with your office’s structural model when you work in an exotic location. In short, we will do exactly what we feel is necessary to alleviate our guilt about those people whom we’ve made unhappy with the changes. Then we will stop thinking about it.

What if the new plan appears to require a change in contracts or staffing levels?
This is a very sensitive issue, mostly because nobody likes it when we in the Administration say we are going to start “making changes in staffing levels,” a polite euphemism for what we in Admin more often call “cutting loose the debris.” You’d be really surprised the way people’s danders get up when the idea of losing their jobs rears its head. Go figure.

Because of this, we will never EVER talk about people losing their jobs, even when we have every intention of getting rid of them. Instead, we will continue our policy of passive-aggressive staff review and control. This is that thing we do where we don’t tell you, “You should have done this in that situation”; what we say is, “It’s interesting that you chose to do that in that situation. I might not have chosen to do that. But you did, which is interesting.” It’s also that thing we do where we don’t tell you what we think personally, but we tell you, “You should know that this is what people are saying about you.” Often we do this during formal job evaluations, which is great fun. You should see the looks on your faces when you suddenly think that you’re completely alone and everyone around you is talking about you and you don’t know who you can trust. It’s a hoot.

Anyway, we the Administration hope that breeding this fear and mistrust and self-doubt will cause those people we don’t like to quit of their own accord, thus saving us the emotionally draining experience of firing them. Oh, sorry—this was another planning question, wasn’t it?

8. What precisely, then, is the goal of the Committee?

The goal of the committee is to develop another bizarre-as-hell restructuring plan that reflects the narrow views of those random people involved in the committee and to provide ample time which will be largely wasted on excursions to theoretical restructuring conferences and to other companies who serve as exemplars of bizarre-as-hell restructuring. Bearing this in mind, the committee is striving for a January 2009 implementation date, with a proposed restructuring plan in place by September 2008. We know this is not enough time, but we don’t care. We will labor and delay for months, the restructuring plan will not be done until August—probably just before most office staff goes on vacation so that it will be presented to public outrage which will be frustrated and/or forgotten during the next two weeks, after which everyone will become overwhelmed by the end-of-the-calendar-year routine and won’t have the time or inclination to look at, critique, discuss and modify a restructuring plan. Then the Christmas holidays will roll around and a cabal more clandestine than freemasons will put the plan in place as a fait accompli for January.

Your Role
The committee is genuine in its quest to appear to want feedback from all members of the office community, particularly mid-level management. If we have time, we will make an effort to appear to want feedback from low-level staff as well. And lastly, from tech support. We ask EACH OF YOU to do three things:

1. Review the questions and answers contained in this document. Be distracted by the colored font. Ask yourself, “Why lilac?”

2. You will have time now during which you could prepare your own reports or read emails and other communications relevant to your actual job. Instead, spend this time examining the attached documents and any other stuff we throw at you. Consider how it would overturn your professional life if we decided to make our restructuring plan conform to one of those provided. Additionally, and most importantly, forget the practical issues associated with this plan. Rather, think “big picture”; practice talking about these restructuring models in broad, general terms. Use phrases like “workplace efficiency” in ways that never actually address either the workplace or efficiency.

3. Spend time going to long, drawn-out meetings where people are asked to talk about sensitive issues that get everyone riled up. Get riled up. Be assured that what you say will go nowhere. Become part of the negative undercurrent here at the office. Start sending hostile emails to like-minded thinkers swimming alongside you in the undercurrent. While you send these, notice that, on the office email system, new folders with attractive icons have been set up and dedicated to the controversial topics discussed in the aforementioned meetings. PAY NO ATTENTION to these folders—they are absolutely pointless, and frankly pretty stupid. The only people who contribute to these folders are sad losers who obviously don’t understand how this process works. These people are also compulsive committee-joiners and energetic do-gooders who will have the enthusiasm and joy beaten out of them in due course.

Your efforts in these matters will help make it easier for our confused ideological oligarchy to run the office unimpeded. We appreciate your understanding.

[1] A dangerous thing that we’ll try to avoid, though we know we can’t entirely.