All posts by J-Money

Twitter: @JDollarSign

Sprinkles On Top

Chapter 1: The Love Lab

The laboratory was… unusual. A Costco-sized warehouse, filled with the whirring echoes of humming electricity. There were cavernous vats of jelly laced with with clear tubes pumping what appeared to be blood.

The floors were sticky like a movie theater’s. The lab notes, loose papers, doodles, and drawings  were sticky, too, pasted to the countertops like lollipops to a sidewalk.

Commander Cortasche peeled a book up off a desk, and flashed an incredulous look at Dr. Wildadoo.

“The Love-A-Lot Bears and the Magic Rainbow Romp?” he asked

“Yes. It’s my daughter’s,” Wildadoo replied. “It’s what gave me the idea.”

An awkward silence ensued. The doctor fumbled with his glasses as he pulled them from his labcoat and slid them onto his face. He put his hands in his pockets and then quickly pulled them back out, gesturing towards the commander.

“These bears, you see, they love… a lot. I mean they love evvvvverything. They use the power of love to solve all of their problems – from petty arguments to sinister outside forces. Reading this book, to my little girl, I thought: ‘What an amazing idea! What if we could do that? Maybe love, love like these bears possess, is all we need to defeat ISIS.”

Cortasche had been a commander for 25 years, and this was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard. He adjusted his monocle, took a closer look, and frowned a discerning frown.

“I don’t like it,” he said. “I think we should use grizzly bears. Angry, wild, genetically enhanced grizzly bears. We could drop them down with some parachutes.”

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” Wildadoo said “No!”

“No. Those bears would die in that climate. Even if they didn’t, they’d just get shot. These bears are different. The terrorists won’t shoot them right away. They’ll at least, you know, hear them out first. They’ll come to realize that they’re going about things all wrong.”

“I see,” Cortasche said. “Well, what if the terrorists don’t listen?”

“In the unlikely event that the terrorists don’t respond to the Love-A-Lot bears positively… And, again, from what I’ve seen in these books, and the cartoon, that is a very slim possibility…” Wildadoo went on. “Well then, in that case, I’ve rigged the bears to explode. They’ll blow up and kill as many enemy combatants as they can.”

Cortasche struggled to get his mind around what he was hearing.

“How did you get funding for this?” he asked.

Wildadoo chuckled.

“Let’s just say, we at Amore Armaments have made some very generous campaign contributions.”

Cortasche chuckled, too.

“Haha. Of course,” he said.

Dr. Wildadoo laughed.


Then, Cortasche laughed back even louder.

“Ahaha. Hahahahahahahhhaha…”

Soon both were laughing.


Then they got tired and stopped. It grew awkward once more.

“Oh,” Dr. Wildadoo said, noticing an open valve. “I left the Happy Gas on. That’s what gives the bears their congenial spirits.”

Gives them?” Cortasche asked. “So they already exist?”

“Oh yes,” Wildadoo replied. “They’re very real. I had a few…. um… mishaps… early on… Some what, I think, more unforgiving observers might call… abominations, I suppose. But these are good. I believe in this latest batch. Initial interactions with them have proven quite pleasant indeed… Would you like to meet them?”

“Yes,” Cortashe said. “Yes, I most certainly would.”

“One moment,” Wildadoo said, walking briskly towards a door.

The doctor pulled a lever and left the room. Minutes later he returned holding the door open behind him.

“Come in. This way. Don’t be shy,” he said.

Five four-foot tall bears came bounding into the room. They were each different a color: blue, red, green, yellow, and purple.

“Commander Cortasche, allow me to introduce, Sprinkles, Ruby, Ollie, Sunshine, and Milkshake.”

“We’re the Love-A-Lot Bears!” they shouted in unison.

“The pleasure is all mine,” Cortasche said. He was totally stunned.

Stunned… and moved. He could feel the warmth radiating from their little teddy tummies. Their bodies were soft as marshmelllows. Their fur was as gentle as a kitten’s. Their affectionate enthusiasm was infectious.

“Are you with the military?” Sprinkles asked.

“We LOVE the military!” Ollie interjected.

“I taught them that.” Wildadoo whispered.

“Yes. Yes, I am,” Cortasche told the bears.

“Papa Doctor says you need our help!” shouted Ruby.

“Is there something we can do for you?” asked Milkshake. “We’d just LOVE to help the military!”

“Why yes,” Cortasche responded. “I believe there is.”

“I recently lost an operative… I mean, a friend of mine. He was taken by some… not-so-nice people.”

The bears gasped.

“Yesss. I was hoping maybe you could convince them to let him go…”

“If we can help, it’d be our pleasure sir!” Sprinkles yelled.

The bears cheered.

“With the power of love, we can accomplish anything!”

Commander Cortasche turned back to the doctor.

“Well,” he said. “Nothing else has worked so far. Let’s give it a shot.”

Chapter 2: A Sticky Situation

Flying low through the night, the helicopter churned its way over the barren desert landscape.

Commander Cortasche’s voice came through the bears headsets: “Down there,” he said. “That’s the ancient city of Palmyra. It’s 4,000 years old.”

“I love history!” Milkshake shouted.

“Well, enjoy it while you can,” Commander Cortasche said. “These men you’re going to visit are destroying it. Piece by piece, they’re tearing it all apart.”

The bears were confused.

“Why?” Sunshine asked.

“Like I told you,” Cortasche responded. “They’re not very nice.”

The helicopter ride carried on to the city of Raqqa.

“We’re going to let you off here,” said the commander. “The city is just north. Here’s a picture of the man you’re looking for. Find him and see if you can’t convince him to let our friend go.”

“Will do!” Sprinkles shouted.

The bears climbed out of the copter amid a cloud of swirling dust. They all agreed they loved helicopter rides.

As they made their way into the city, the sun started to rise. The bears were disappointed by what it shed light on.

The city itself was largely a ruin – slightly more modern, but no more furbished than the 4,000-year-old Palmyra. Women and children gathered in long lines, too tired, too exasperated, too hungry and too thirsty to be moved by the sight of five cheery bears meandering through the streets.

“This isn’t what I expected,” Ruby said. “I don’t know what I expected, but this isn’t it.”

“I don’t love this,” Ollie agreed.

None of the bears loved it. They hated it, and as their walk continued, they grew more and more upset.

“It’s okay,” Sprinkles said, trying to cheer up his comrades. “I bet with enough love, caring and generosity we can turn this all around.”

The rest of the bears agreed, albeit half-heartedly.

Eventually, Sprinkles spotted a man that looked like the one they were looking for. They composed themselves and set about their task.

“Hello Sir!” Sunshine shouted. “We’re the Love-A-Lot Bears and we want to be your friend!”

The man looked surprised at first, and then scared and angry. He pulled his AK47 up to his shoulder and pointed it at the bears. They each stepped back slowly.

“Uhhh Sprinkles,” Ruby whispered. “What do we do now?”

“No need for that,” Sprinkles comforted. “We’d just like to talk. We mean no harm. We bring only love and the offer of friendship.”

The man shouted at them in a language they didn’t understand. Then he gestured with his gun and the bears started walking. They went a couple of blocks before being ushered into a shabby building. There, the bears were led into a dark room.

“This is good,” Sprinkles said. “I think this is where we wanted to go.”

The man with the gun left the room and locked the door behind them. About 15 minutes later he came back with another bearded gentleman.

“What are you?” the man asked in English.

The bears were relieved to hear their native tongue.

“We’re the Love-A-Lot Bears,” Sprinkles said.

“Fareeq, here, says he found you in the city,” the man replied. “Where did you come from? Who brought you here?”

“The U.S. military!” Milkshake blurted. “They brought us here in a helicopter. It was lots of fun!”

The man grew very serious.

“Why?!” he shouted. “What do you want?! What are you?!”

“We’re the Love-A-Lot Bears,” Ollie repeated. “And we don’t want anything but friendship.”

“And,” Sprinkles added, “If it’s not too much trouble, we think it’d be really nice if you let us have our friend back.”

The two men looked at each other.

“Your friend?” Fareeq asked. “You mean the American spy?”

“I guess so,” Sprinkles said.

Fareeq turned to his partner, and nodded towards the door. Together they left.

“What do you make of this Bahij?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Bahij said. “It’s obviously some kind of trap. The Americans are capable of nothing more than deceit.”

“Yes. We kill them then?” Fareeq asked.

Bahij paused.

“Part of me thinks,’Yes,’ that is what we should do,” he said. “But another part of me thinks different. For some reason, I feel comforted by their presence. They don’t seem to mean harm. And they smell like babies.”

“Yes, which is why it must be a trap,” said Fareeq. “As you say, the Americans are capable of nothing else… And they want the spy!”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Bahij agreed. “But still, I don’t know.”

“Maybe,” Fareeq said after a long pause. “We kill one?”

Bahij thought for a moment and then agreed.

“Yes,” he said. “We’ll kill one and see how it goes.”

The two marched back into the room.

“You are spies!” Fareeq shouted. “You are spies and infidels and by Allah’s command you will be slaughtered!”

The bears shuddered and stepped back in shock.

Fareeq pulled his gun up to his shoulder aimed it at Milkshake and pulled the trigger. A large glob of jelly plastered the concrete wall behind them.

“Milkshake!” they shouted in unison.

Sprinkles ran over to Milkshake, drenching himself in the sticky goo of his fallen comrade.

“You monsters!” he yelled. “We’re not gonna take this are we Love-A-Lot Bears?!”

Sprinkles looked over at his remaining friends, but they didn’t appear up to the task. In fact, they looked sick… sick and unstable.

Ollie started to shake wildly.

Fareeq and Bahij looked on at first with amusement, and then with concern. Ollie took a couple steps forward, shaking ever more violently.

And then BOOM!

He exploded in a cloud of jelly. Moments later, Sunshine did the same. The room was now dripping walls to ceiling with sugar.

“Ruby?” Sprinkles asked.

Then Ruby exploded, too.

Bahij and Fareeq looked at Sprinkles with nervous anticipation… But nothing happened.

Sprinkles, not wanting to waste a moment more, rushed for the exit.

“Shoot him!” Bahij yelled.

“I can’t,” Fareeq said. “My gun is jammed – jammed with jelly!”

Sprinkles punched Bahij on the way out and he fell to the ground.

Fareeq tried to give chase but his feet stuck to the jelly floor and he slipped, awkwardly pulling his groin as he fell to the ground.

Sprinkles ran through the door and back outside. There, one militant saw him and fired a single shot. Sprinkles felt the impact on the left side of his head and started to get dizzy. But he kept running, the whole time thinking of things he loved.

“Friendship, helicopter rides, history, Friendship, Papa Doctor, the U.S. military, Friendship, and Sprinkles on cake. Sprinkles…. Sprinkles… Sprinkles…”

When he woke, he was back at the base. Commander Cortasche and Dr. Wildadoo were there, too.

Sprinkles cried for the first time in his life.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Cortasche, Papa Doctor, I couldn’t get your friend. And Milkshake, and Ollie, and Ruby, and Sunshine… I don’t know what happened,” he said.

“Oh no,” said Dr. Wildadoo, sitting on the bed to comfort his protege. “I’m the one who is sorry. Commander Cortasche is too. We never should have sent you into the clutches of those brutes.”

“We failed you, Sprinkles,” Commander Cortasche conceded. “Not the other way around.”

“Is there anything we can do to make it up to you?” Wildadoo asked.

Sprinkles wiped the tears from one eye, but when he reached for the other he found only jelly seeping through a bandage.

“It’s gone,” Wildadoo said. “You lost your left eye.”

Sprinkles sniffled.

“Dr. Wildadoo. Commander Cortasche,” he said. “There is something you can do: Send me back.”

“What?” Wildadoo asked.

“Send. Me. Back.”

Chapter 3: The Love of Vengeance

The desert air was hot and I was thirsty. I was tied fast to the chair, where ISIS had been torturing me for weeks.

“We’re going to cut off your head,” Fareeq said.

Normally, I’d be offended by that kind of a threat, but I knew Fareeq was just trying to look tough in front of his terrorist friends.

“Not cool,” I said. “But if it helps you get that promotion you’ve been gunning for…”

Fareeq nodded his head reached for his scimitar.

“Bahij,” he said. “Get the camera. We’ll put this on YouTube.”

Bahij went to get the camera but couldn’t find it.

“Ugh. I think Ahmed had it last.”

Bahij opened the tent flap and then quickly turned around. He looked as though he’d seen a ghost.

“He’s here,” he said to Fareeq. “He’s back!”

“Who?” asked Fareeq

“The little bear. Ahmed is outside. He’s dead. There is a knife in his throat.”

“How do you know it’s the bear?”

“Who else would it be?!”

Suddenly, there was a loud shot and Bahij dropped to his knees. There was a hole the size of a softball in the middle of his chest.

“I just love this SSK .950,” I heard a small voice say.

Fareeq turned and was terrified by what he saw – a four foot tall teddy bear with blue fur and a high-powered rifle. He had pretty good aim considering he was wearing a rainbow eyepatch.

Fareeq looked for his AK but it wasn’t anywhere near him.

“Untie my friend and put the scimitar down,” the bear said.

Fareeq did as he was told.

The bear approached us casually and handed me the rifle, which I could barely hold. Then he walked up to Fareeq looked him in the eye and punched him square in the nuts.

Fareeq fell to the ground and the bear hit him in the balls some more –  about a dozen times by my count.

“This is for Ollie,” he said. “This is for Sunshine. This is for Milkshake. This is for Ruby. This is for me. And this is because I. LOVE. Punching. You. In. The. Nuts.” – each word punctuated by a fierce blow.

There were tears streaming from Fareeq’s eyes.

“I got some girls I want you to meet,” the bear said. “Seventy-two to be precise.”

He pulled a grenade off of his vest and tried to force it into Fareeq’s mouth. It wouldn’t fit, so he reached in and broke Fareeq’s jaw.

“I love that sound,” the bear said.

Fareeq screamed but his chin dangled loosely.

I threw up in my mouth a little.

Having forced in the grenade the bear looked back at me.

“Well,” he said. “Get the fuck out!”

Then he pulled the pin and we started to run. We got about ten paces away from the tent before it exploded.

And that’s when the real carnage started.

Too weak to go any further I collapsed to the ground.

“Yeah,” the bear said. “You wait here. I’ll take care of the rest of these assholes.”

He took back his rifle and started dropping more bodies. A Blackhawk helicopter came into the vicinity. It laid down some suppressing fire while the bear mercilessly tortured his foes like a blood soaked Viking berserker.

“Leave none alive!” he shouted.“I’ll eat my own young, before I see a single one of these camel-fuckers make it out of here!”

The bear pulled his knife out of Ahmed’s throat and threw it right into another enemy’s eye. Then, I’d swear I saw him use it as a phallus to penetrate the skull before taking it out and wiping the blade on his fur.

Limbs were severed. Bodies were burned. The heat was so intense the sand around us turned to glass.

It was bedlam.

I passed out and then woke up in a helicopter. I looked up and saw the bear, leaning out the door, pissing on a fire down below. When he was done shaking he walked over to a cooler reached down deep and pulled out a beer.

“It’s over now,” he said cracking it open. “You want one?”

I did. I really did.

The bear just sat there while I sipped my brew. He closed his eyes and a satisfied smile creeped across his face.

“Wow,” I thought. “Now, that’s a bear that loves what he does, and does what he loves.”


“I’ve got something for you,” Dr. Wildadoo said. “It’s a surprise though. So you must cover your eye.”

Sprinkles did as he was told. He heard Papa Doctor rustle around and then a door open.

“Okay,” Wildadoo said. “You can look now!”

Sprinkles did look and he was instantly filled with joy. Standing in front of him were Milkshake, Sunshine, Ruby and Ollie.

“You’re all back!” he shouted.

The bears hugged and love filled the room.

Dr. Wildadoo took the hand of Commander Cortasche standing next to him.

“See. Love conquers all,” he said.

Netflix Instant Classic: 13 Assassins

Genre: Foreign, Action, Samurai Western

What’s it about? A ragtag group of samurais launch a suicide attack on an evil nobleman and his retinue  of armed guards.

Who’s in it? Bunch of crazy Japanese dudes.

You’ll like it if… You like Westerns, Japanese culture, and bloody sword fights. Compares to Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven.

I’m gonna be straight up with you here: This movie is badass.

It’s a typical guy movie in that it’s dark, violent, and deals with the highfalutin concept of honor.

The latter is most important, as this movie is about samurai warriors – which are pretty much honor personified.

In fact, the movie opens with a dude committing seppuku/harakiri right on the steps of a palace courtyard. He does this as a form of protest against the shogun’s half-brother Lord Naritsugu – an absolutely grotesque individual born with a “vicious nature.”

And so the question of honor is raised right from the start.

Principally, we are asked to contemplate exactly what it is to be honorable.

To hear Lord Naritsugu tell it, honor means a strict adherence to tradition. When his top advisor, Handbei, finds him torturing a family, Naritsugu reminds him that the samurai code stresses honor and duty above all, and that it is a master’s duty to punish his servants.

“Dying for one’s master is the way of the samurai,” he says. “Dying for one’s husband is the way of women. “

Of course, it’s not clear that Naritsugu actually believes this. It looks more like he’s using “duty” as transparent and cynical cover to legitimize his brutality.

In fact, Naritsugu’s misdeeds actually threaten to upset the peace that’s reigned for many years prior to his ascendance. And that seems to be exactly what he wants.

Hanbei, on the other hand, does believe in honor and duty. For better or worse, he has pledged fealty to Naritsugu, and he will die before he disavows that pledge.

Shimada Shinzaemon, the assassin enlisted to deal with Naritsugu, is also pledged to service. But for him honor is something more than strict adherence to the social order.

Shinza isn’t just interested in doing his master’s bidding. He’s looking to mete out some samurai justice.

Dude was just chillin’ out fishing before being summoned to his task. But when he sees the results of Naritsugu’s handiwork firsthand, his mission morphs into a personal quest.

“As a samurai, I’ll do what must be done for the people,” he tells Hanbei.

Hanbei’s reply: “A samurai must do but one thing: Serve his master.”

And so the stage is set.  Shimada Shinzaemon and ragtag group of assassins set out to kill Naritsugu, even if it means dying themselves.

In fact, their own deaths are almost pre-requisite. The only death for a samurai is an honorable death – either by your enemy’s hand, or by your own.

And so death comes to dominate the story. The last 45 minutes (out of a total 2 hours) are devoted to a wild battle scene, in which the confrontation plays out to its bloody conclusion.

It’s thirteen versus two-hundred. Elaborate traps are set and sprung. Hails of arrows are launched. Swords are swung in the samurai ballet.  And heads roll. Literally.

Netflix Instant Classic: The Babadook

Genre: Horror, Independent, Foreign

What’s it about? A mother and her son are haunted by a mysterious monster, and perhaps something more.

Who’s in it? Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, The Babadook

You’ll like it if… You like psychological horror. This isn’t a slasher. There are no cheap scares. It’s suspense driven. Compares to The Innocents and the Amityville Horror.


That’s the sound of the Babadook knocking.  It’s a shadowy figure that fills the room with its presence, donning a large tattered cape and brandishing razor sharp fingers.

Spawned from a wicked children’s book, this monster torments a single mother, Amelia, and her six-year-old son.

At first, only the child, Samuel, can see it or sense its presence. For that reason the first part of the movie relies on a pretty tired trope of the haunted child and frustrated/exasperated parent (a la Henry Miller’s classic ghost fable “The Turn of the Screw,” its film adaptation “The Innocents,” and Steven King’s The Shining).

Thankfully, the plot soon evolves beyond that, as the Babadook shifts its attention from Samuel to Amelia.

Furthermore, as the movie goes on, it becomes clearer that the Babadook may not be an outside invader at all, but rather the spawn of Amelia’s own subconscious – an amalgam of grief, guilt, and anger wrought by the untimely death of her husband, Oskar.

You see, Oskar was killed on the same day Samuel was born. Nearly seven years later, Amelia is still struggling to cope. There’s a terrible loneliness inside of her, and as much as she loves her son, it seems that at least a tiny part of her blames Samuel for Oskar’s death.

Samuel’s eccentricities don’t help matters, either. He’s pretty irritating early on. So much so that I found it really hard to sympathize with him. Though to be fair, his tantrums are at least somewhat validated by the appearance of an actual monster.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about what exactly the Babadook is, except to say that some demons can’t be killed. Sometimes, you just have to learn to live with them.

Also, one more note about the Babadook…

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Babadook does look rather minstrel. It reminds me of the infamous British “Golliwog.”


The fact that this movie is Australian is pertinent here, as the country has a history of minstrel shows and blackface that’s as long and sordid as that of the United States.

In fact, it might even be worse. While blackface is overwhelmingly regarded as inappropriate and offensive in the United States, it’s not such a huge deal in Australia – something Harry Connick Jr. found out a few years ago…

To be clear, I don’t think there was any intention of referencing blackface. But I do see some similarities to what one might call a “voodoo” or “witch doctor” archetype. And those references appeared to be echoed in a very brief, and creepy television scene that represents Amelia’s descent into madness.

Just sayin.

In any case, the Babadook is pretty good. It’s dark and gritty. It’s gotten a lot of favorable reviews, and they’re well deserved.

Bad Poetry Vol. 3: Inside Out

This poetry’s so bad, it broke out of jail and knocked up the warden’s wife….

The Best Captain

“We’re trying to settle an argument,” the nerd said to me.
“Who was the best captain – Kirk or Picard?”
I looked at the nerd incredulously.
“The best captain,” I said, “is Captain Caveman.”
The nerds just looked at me…
“He’s the world’s first superhero… The first.” I said.
“He had three teenage girlfriends.
They went on hilarious and sometimes scary mystery missions.”
The nerds kept staring. After a long pause one asked:
“What about Captain America?”
“What about fucking yourself?” I said.
Then I walked away.
Fucking nerds. They don’t know anything.


Agent Franks

The scientist handed Agent Franks a pipe
and he smoked it.
Immediately he felt a rush. It was amazing.
“This is incredible!” he shouted.
“I feel like Mickey Mouse is giving me a reach around!”
“Right?” the commander said.
“What are we gonna do with it?” Agent Franks asked.
“That’s the thing,” the commander said. “I don’t know.”

After thinking for a minute, Agent Franks got an idea:
“Let’s give it to black people,” he said.
Everyone laughed.
“Why would we do that?
Why should they get this miracle drug?”
“Just look at all they’ve been through…” Franks said.

For the next 3 hours and 27 minutes
Agent Franks recounted the country’s history of racial oppression.
“So, you see,” he said in closing. “They deserve this.”
Everyone in the room applauded.
In their hearts, they knew Agent Franks was right.

A few weeks later,
the first shipment of crack hit California.
Things did not go as planned.
Agent Franks was given a promotion.

Drag King

Chuck Norris zipped up his dress and blotted his lipstick.
“Chuck Norris isn’t a drag queen,” he said to himself.
“He’s the Drag King.”

Child Star of Bethlehem

“Hey Jesus,” I said.
“Whatever happened to that stuff the three wise men gave you?”
“What?” Jesus asked.
“The gold, frankincense and myrrh…
What happened to it?”
“Oh,” Jesus said trying to act nonchalant.
“I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

Then he frowned and looked sad.
That’s when I knew…
“Your parents took it didn’t they…”
“I have to go,” Jesus said.
Then he left the room.

I pulled out my notebook
and went to the page marked “Xmas List”
I wrote “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh” under “Jesus”
“I hope it’s not too cliche,” I thought.

Then I wrote down “New Sandals” just to be safe.
It’s good to get your Christmas shopping out of the way early.
Less stress around the holidays.

Cake Monster

It was my birthday and all the boys bought me giant cake.
Suddenly a topless woman popped out.
“Cake Monster!” I yelled.
I punched her in the face.
It was then that I realized the cake was hollow inside.
“We’re too late,” I said. “She already ate all the cake.”

Zarlor’s Lament

Zarlor the Lizard Man got home
and took off his Donald Rumsfeld mask.
His wife Cynthia peaked her head in from the kitchen and asked:
“Is it almost done? Have we enslaved the human race yet?”
Zarlor was frustrated.

“Not yet Cynthia… God, you know, I just got home.”
“Okay,” Cynthia said. “I just thought it’d be done by now.”
“Yeah. I know. I thought so, too,” the Lizard Man snapped.
“But this kind of thing takes time.
You wouldn’t believe the level of bureaucracy involved.
It’s maddening.”

Cynthia paused for a minute. Then she asked:
“Do you want to refurbish the dwelling this weekend?”
“Oh for fuck’s sake Cynthia!” Zarlor shouted.
He stormed over to the bar and poured himself a drink.

“Well, you keep putting it off…”
The Lizard Man said nothing. He just drank faster.
Then he turned.
“I need some fresh air,” he said, whipping the door open.
“Zarlor!” Cynthia shouted.
The door slammed shut.

Zarlor got in his car and put it in reverse.
As he did, Zarlor Jr. ran from the house screaming.
“Daddy!” he shouted.
Zarlor hit the brakes and looked his son in the face.
Then he pulled out of the driveway and headed down the block.

“I’ll come back,” he thought to himself.
“I just need to take a drive and clear my head.”
Deep down he knew it was a lie. Zarlor just kept driving.

Baltimore Unveils Memorial for CVS Looted in 2015 Riots

April 27, 2016

Baltimore – One year after a wanton gang of thugs and criminals ransacked the city of Baltimore, Maryland, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake today unveiled a monument to the riot’s first casualty – the CVS located on the corner of North Ave. and Pennsylvania Ave.

I hereby dedicate this monument to the CVS that stood so proudly in the face of lawlessness, and the unprovoked rage of a mob drunk on its own power,” the mayor declared in triumph.

The CVS, an enduring icon of perseverance and courage, never returned to business after being looted and set ablaze by marauding vandals.

It’s hard to believe it’s not here, anymore,” said Burt Hamilton, a Baltimore resident currently living in Roland Park. “It’s such a senseless and tragic loss. How could this happen in 2015? Why and for what?”

Indeed, few remember what it was that spurred the godless horde on its path of carnage and destruction in the first place.

It’s because they were angry about being poor, right?” asked one of the ceremony’s attendees. “Or did we win something? Was that the year the Ravens won the Super Bowl? I don’t know. They’re just animals, I guess.”

While the motive remains murky at best, nothing can replace the value the retailer provided to the community.

Sadly, the CVS on North and Penn can never be replaced,” said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of the nation’s second-largest retail pharmacy chain, valued at $114 billion. “However, Baltimore residents can still enjoy access to the seven other CVS locations in the immediate vicinity.”

Also on hand at the unveiling was officer John J. Hunt, who stood courageously amid a contingent of 20 other officers holding riot shields to ward off any further onslaught.

I just did what any other officer would have,” Hunt said accepting his Medal of Honor. “I’m sworn to protect and serve. Whether it’s a CVS or City Hall, it doesn’t matter. I’m part of that thin blue line standing between businesses and government property and those that would destroy it in some fruitless, symbolic act of frustration.”

Following the monument’s dedication, the mayor and chief of police led a procession through the surrounding area, stopping to lay wreaths on sites that once hosted a check-cashing store, a 7-11, and a deli.

Netflix Instant Classic: Atari: Game Over

If you have some time to kill, or just want to take a stroll down memory lane, head over to and play some of the games.

They’re nothing special in the context of today’s entertainment, but it’s easy to see the appeal, especially to someone back in 1972.

Atari didn’t invent the home video game system, but it was certainly a pioneer. It brought a vivid imagination and programming innovation to a fledgling industry.

Yet, somehow, it doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves. Nintendo gets far more credit, even though it was really just standing on Atari’s shoulders.

I think that’s largely because of the video game crash of 1983. A collapse as spectacular as Atari’s tends to come with a loss of credibility.

Age could have something to do with it, too. My fondest gaming memories are Nintendo-based. I’m not sure if we even had an Atari when I was small. (We actually had an Intellivision.)

So the Atari 2600 is rather mythic to me. I’m familiar with the games, but I’ve never really played them.

As a result, I’ve never played E.T. – the video game, which has legendarily won the title of “Worst. Video Game. Ever.”

Though, that’s exactly the reputation “Atari: Game Over” seeks to confront.

Screenwriter and film-maker Zak Penn travels to Alamogordo, New Mexico in search of the fabled Atari El Dorado.

That is, legend has it, that dragged under by the abysmal failure of E.T. the video game, the dying company, with its last gasp, dumped millions of unsold cartridges in a landfill. They did this in secret, under the cover of night, like top-secret government agents burying a defunct nuclear warhead.

Penn isn’t the only one interested in such lore. He’s aided in his journey by Joe Lewandowski, a former employee at the Alamogordo dump, who has spent years investigating the alleged dump site and convincing the local government to let him excavate it.



I honestly don’t know. But whatever the reason, the Atari generation clearly felt strongly about this. Hundreds of Gen-Xers travelled out into the middle of nowhere, braving desert heat and a Dust Bowl-level sandstorm just to watch construction equipment dig up trash.

The catharsis of the event is most palpably felt by Howard Scott Warshaw, Atari’s ace engineer and the genius behind the E.T. game.

I’m not being sarcastic when I say genius, either. While many video game players panned E.T.’s playability, its formulation was a stunning technical achievement.

Bound by an absurd deadline, Warshaw was tasked with creating Atari’s flagship game in a matter of weeks. Even with modern technology video games take months, and even years, to design, code, craft and polish. Warshaw had just weeks.

It’s hard to blame Warshaw under those conditions. After all, he’s not the one that told Atari to spend a rumored $22 million for the rights to license Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie and then rush to get it out by Christmas.

Yet, that’s precisely what happened.

Howard Scott Warshaw, who was probably the greatest video game designer of the era, unquestionably a pioneer in the field, took the fall not just for game, but the collapse of Atari as a whole.

The poor bastard. He’s not even a game designer anymore. He’s a psychologist that works exclusively with other computer geeks in Silicon Valley.

How sadly fitting…

So for me, the emotional thrust of this movie wasn’t in the nostalgia it dredged up for games I played as a kid, it was Warshaw tearing up at the sight of his past literally being dug out of dump and laid before him.

But unlike the ignominious burial, this event was celebrated by the gaming community his art touched so deeply.

Indeed, sometimes, making the very worst of something is an achievement in its own right.

The First Ever Drunk Hunger Games

The year is 2015.

J-Money is Supreme Ruler of Planet Awesome.

As such, every spring he chooses 24 tributes to participate in the first ever Drunk Hunger Games.

No, I’m afraid you don’t get to actually see it. Nor do I.

All we have is this Hunger Games simulator.  It’s not ideal, but it at least offers a glimpse of how it’d all play out.

Two dozen tributes – entertainers, politicians, even historical figures – hand picked by yours truly to compete.

Who will live and who will die? Who will emerge victorious, the sole winner, drenched in the blood of their rivals?

Let’s look at the tributes and find out…

The Reaping


District 1: Kim & Kanye

They’ve got the privilege, but do they have the necessary grit and guile? No, probably not. But who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise us…

District 2: Donald Trump & Sarah Palin

What’s that loud, grating sound? Oh God… Maybe everyone else will just commit suicide…

District 3: Pit Bull & Madonna

There’s something to be said for persistence and these two just refuse to go away.

District 4: Tom Brady & Bill Belichick

They’re fierce competitors, and they usually find a way to win. It may not be ethical or even legal, but they find a way.

District 5: Vladimir Putin & Benjamin Netanyahu

One a former KGB agent, the other a former-member of the Israeli Special Forces. Will might make right?

District 6: Walter White & Frank Underwood

Two of television’s most feared and revered masterminds. A very capable pairing, indeed.

District 7: Bill Cosby & Spanish Fly

Nothing funny about these two. They’ll have the game won and be out the door before you even wake up.

District 8: Robert Durst & Jeffery Dahmer

Cold blooded murderers. Capable of anything.

District 9: Robin Hood & Lil Jon

Robin Hood disrupts the social order by flouting the upper class. He lives off the land, easily eludes authority, and is good with a bow. Remind you of anyone?

District 10: Sun Tzu & Confucius

Maybe the greatest military tactician in history paired with one of the world’s greatest philosophical minds. Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.

District 11: Darren Wilson & George Zimmerman

It’s easy to win when you’re the only one with a gun… That won’t be the case here.

District 12: A Shred of Decency & Darwin

I’m really pulling for these two. So far, they’ve failed to even slow any of these tributes down. This is their chance to make amends and re-establish order.

Let the games begin!

The Bloodbath

Bibi, Walter White, Frank Underwood, Bill Belichick, George Zimmerman, Lil Jon, Sarah Palin, Madonna, Jeff Dahmer, Confucius, Robert Durst, Kim K., Vlad, The Donald and Darwin – all run away from the Cornucopia.

To no one’s surprise, Spanish Fly finds a canteen full of “water.” Yeah, okay Spanish Fly.

However, a curveball comes when both Robin Hood and A Shred of Decency take sickles from the Cornucopia.


I really applaud Decency’s aggressive approach here. It’s long been the whipping boy of many of these tributes. It’s out for revenge.

Pit Bull grabs a first aid kit. SMART. People will be gunning for you, Pit Bull.

Also, an unlikely alliance forms, as Darren Wilson, Bill Cosby and Sun Tzu work together to get as many supplies as possible. I can’t see this bond lasting. I think it’s just a one-time thing.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 12:52:46

There is only one death in the whole melee…

Tom Brady steps on a land mine. There is no referee to save him.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 12:50:24

Obviously, I was hoping for more out of the “Bloodbath” Round, but whatever. It’s a wily group. We continue…

Day 1

Things heat up as the day progresses.

Spanish Fly breaks the ice with the game’s first kill, “overpowering” Donald Trump. Nicely done Spanish Fly. That’s strong aggressive play, right there.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 13:08:07

But that’s not all.

Robert Durst, the cold-blooded murderer that he is, wants to make a statement, too. He shoots an arrow at Kanye West, but misses, hitting Sarah Palin instead.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 13:08:27

Just like that, District 2 is eliminated on the first day.

I can’t say I’m surprised by this. Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are loud and annoying as fuck. They’re also weak.

However, I was surprised by the early exit of one Walter White. Heisenberg may be a master cook, he’s no survivalist. He falls into a pit and dies.

Finally, another motley crew forms, as Bibi, The Coz, Pit Bull, Darren Wilson, and Human Decency hunt for other tributes.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 13:08:38In other news, Madonna and Jeffery Dahmer practice archery, while Robin Hood fishes. Vladimir Putin discovers a cave he can invade. George Zimmerman injures himself. And Kim Kardashian and Frank Underwood think about home.

At night, four cannons sound in the distance, as the tributes consider the respective fates of Tom Brady, Walter White, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump.

Night 1

Night 1 falls and District 11 can’t get out of its own way.

As George Zimmerman spends the night tending to his wounds, Darren Wilson unknowingly eats toxic berries and dies.

He is the only death as Bill Belichick gets an inexplicable reprieve from Madonna.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 13:26:12

The rest of the tributes break into groups, sleeping in shifts, and huddling together to keep warm.

Day 2

Violence is relatively subdued on Day 2.

The only death comes when Sun Tzu begs Robert Durst to kill him. Durst reluctantly obliges.

Darwin gets fruit from a tree, while an unknown sponsor sends food to Vladimir Putin.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 13:30:48

Kanye and The Coz injure themselves, while Kim, Frank Underwood, Pit Bull, and Bibi flee danger through the use of deception.

The day’s big event comes when Madonna, Decency, Coach Bill and Spanish Fly raid George Zimmerman’s camp, while he’s gone. Good. Fuck him, I say.

Robin Hood, who to this point has only gone fishing, picks flowers. His confidence is legendary. So, too, is his ability to live off the land and dodge the law. He’s going to be tough to take down.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 13:36:54

Night 2

Night falls and the cannons sound for Darren Wilson and Sun Tzu.

Later that night Spanish Fly claims its second victim, severely injuring Confucius before putting him out of his misery. That puts an end to District 10, Chinatown.

Madonna and Darwin kill Lil Jon, while Robin Hood (the other half of District 9) quietly hums.

Again, Robin Hood is known to be a little cocky, but I really hope he starts to take this more seriously. Get your head in the game, man.

George Zimmerman is once again snake bitten, as Bill Cosby destroys his supplies.

Pit Bull suffers night terrors.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 13:46:01

Day 3

Day 3 is relatively uneventful.

Camps established by Madonna and Common Decency get raided.

Frank Underwood explores, while Bill Cosby seeks out higher ground.

Blood thirsty Robert Durst hunts for more tributes.

After three days, we’ve lost only seven tributes. Robert Durst and Spanish Fly lead the kill count with two lives a piece.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 13:39:00[Note: There’s an error on this graphic, Lil Jon is deceased.]

Night 3

More blood is spilled on the third night of the Hunger Games.

First, Vladimir Putin shoots an arrow directly into Jeffery Dahmer’s head.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 13:56:20

Then, Kanye West attempts to climb a tree, but falls to his death.

A grieving Kim runs into Bill Belichick, but he lets her be. Belichick is clearly playing defense with Tom Brady no longer on his team.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 13:59:04

Pit Bull looks at the night sky. In the distance, he hears George Zimmerman scream for help. But no one comes.

Day 4

Little happens on Day 4. But there is one death.

Frank Underwood, Robert Durst, Spanish Fly, Pit Bull and Bill Belichick track down and kill Madonna.

It takes all five them to subdue the beast. The old broad certainly put up a fight.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 14:04:08

Night 4

The night brings more death with it…

Benjamin Netanyahu finally makes good on his tough talk, stabbing Robert Durst with a tree branch. It’s a grizzly end for The Jinx, who was living up to his lethal reputation.

More tragedy.

Kim, distraught over Kanye’s passing, and Spanish Fly, overcome with the guilt of its misdeeds, join in a double suicide.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 14:09:39

In a rare act of kindness, Vladimir Putin lets Darwin into his shelter.

Robin Hood stays awake all night. Frank Underwood sleeps like a baby. And Bill Cosby quietly hums. Curious. What will he do without his beloved Spanish Fly?

Day 5

Day 5 is a bloodbath.

Pit Bull and Darwin team up to take out Robin Hood.

George Zimmerman, who couldn’t handle a 16 year old in a fist fight, somehow overpowers Vladimir Putin and kills him.

And Bill Cosby bashes Bill Belichick’s head with a rock.

Cosby is clearly pissed about losing Spanish Fly. I’m afraid for the rest of this field.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 14:15:23Suddenly, we’re down to just seven tributes:

Pit Bull, Benjamin Netanyahu, Frank Underwood, Bill Cosby, George Zimmerman, Shred of Decency, and Darwin. The latter of which is our only complete team remaining, District 12.

I felt like D12 were clear underdogs at the outset. I saw Donald Trump strangling the Shred of Decency and Sarah Palin shooting Darwin from a helicopter.

Instead, they’ve been a pleasant surprise.

Another surprise has been Pit Bull. I thought he’d be among the first to go. Yet, not only has he survived, he’s racked up two kills – instrumental in the deaths of both Madonna and Robin Hood.

Darwin has two kills, as well. Prior to partnering with Pit Bull to eliminate Robin Hood, he helped Madonna kill Lil Jon. Clearly, he had some kind of beef with District 9, the Fo’ Richer or Fo’ Poorer crew.

Zimmerman is just slimy. I’m not surprised he’s still alive, but I can’t believe he took out the ex-KGB agent Putin.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 14:18:58

Night 5

George Zimmerman spends the night alone, while Pit Bull, Decency, Bibi, The Coz, and Frank Underwood track down and murder Darwin.

As with Madonna, it takes a village to get the job done. I have no idea why A Shred of Decency would conspire to kill his own teammate. I suppose there can be only one winner.

I guess they all felt Darwin was their biggest threat.

Some parting words…


Day 6

Day six starts slow…

Bibi and The Coz team up to hunt other tributes, but they come up empty-handed.

Then it finally happens…

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 14:31:34

George Zimmerman once again proves himself a detriment to humanity.

Aside from maybe Frank Underwood, there’s no one left to root for…

RIP District 12.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 14:34:00

Night 6

Ugh. It’s getting ugly. Here I am reeling from the sudden disappearance of District 12…

And Frank Underwood goes down.

It’s Netanyahu with a spear to the stomach.

Sorry Kevin Spacey.

Pitbull spends the night alone, while Cosby and George Zimmerman huddle for warmth.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 14:35:49

Day 8

George Zimmerman will not win the Hunger Games.

Pit Bull does the world a favor and strangles him.

Meanwhile, Cosby has Netanyahu on the ropes, but let’s him go.

I gotta think he’ll come to regret that decision.

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 14:38:29

Night 8

It was all a ruse!

Amidst the darkness, Cosby pulls a page out of Bibi’s own playbook and stabs him with a tree branch.

Pit Bull can smell the victory. I’m pulling for him, but I wouldn’t sleep on Cosby. (Literally.)

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 14:40:59

Day 9

It all comes to an end…

“Pit Bull is unable to convince Bill Cosby to not kill him.”

What? Did Pit Bull honestly try to engage Bill Cosby in some kind of diplomacy? Or was he just begging for his life?

It’s no matter. Cosby is the victor.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Bill Cosby has nine lives. Any man that can survive literally 10,000 rape allegations obviously has enough Teflon to slide through the Hunger Games.

He knows when to lay low, when to attack, and when to slip into the shadows.

The final placements….

Screenshot from 2015-03-27 14:43:56Observations

I’m surprised Walter White didn’t do better. With his MacGyver-like brain for innovation and his comfort with making ethical compromises, I thought he was a shoo-in for the Final Four.

Ditto for Sun Tzu, who went out like a punk.

Vladimir Putin had a respectable finish, but I’m amazed he didn’t come away with more kills. I think that’s largely to blame on the high number of suicides and self-deaths we witnessed.

Conversely, I didn’t expect A Shred of Decency or Darwin to last long in this group, but they put in a respectable effort.

Finally, I greatly underestimated Pit Bull. I threw him in there as a patsy, thinking he’d be fodder for Vladimir Putin or Heisenberg, but he really showed me something. I was definitely rooting for him at the end.

Alas, it was the Great and Powerful Coz that proved to be too much for this field. Together, he and Spanish Fly had seven kills, making them the most prolific killers by far.

Like it or not, Cosby always gets his way.

Bad Poetry Vol. 2: To Hell with Justice

Just as asinine, every bit as bad as Vol. 1

The Donald

I walked into Donald Trump’s office,
and found him shaving a red-assed baboon.
He was bald and oily, and he looked startled.
The Donald, I mean. Not the baboon.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said.
“That I’m shaving this baboon,
and that I’m going to use its hair as a toupee.”
I frowned and nodded my head ‘yes’.

“Well, that’s not it,” he said.
“I’m shaving this baboon to have sex with it.”
“Oh,” I said. “I guess I’ll leave you two alone then.”
“No,” Donald Trump said. “Stay.”

I stood there for another 47 seconds.
We made silent eye contact the whole time.
It was awkward.

I came back a few hours later
to deliver the bankruptcy papers.
As I came through the lobby
I saw the red-assed baboon leaving.
He was wearing a trenchcoat and sunglasses.
He looked ashamed.

I don’t think the money was worth it.


(Pictured: A red-assed baboon. Though not necessarily the red-assed baboon I saw Donald Trump have sex with.)


Kanye West won the award for Best Celebrity.
He walked up to the microphone and said:
“First, I’d like to thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
through who all things are possible.”

I looked over at Jesus angrily.
He kept his eyes on the TV, refusing to acknowledge my glare.
I was about to say something like “Way to go” or “Nice one, Jesus.”
But then Kanye said:
“Psyche. This is all about me tonight. Me and Beyonce.”

Jesus breathed a sigh of relief.

Next up was a tribute to flood victims
who died in the Great Asian Tsunami.
Jesus got up to get more popcorn.
I didn’t say anything.

The 4th of July

The 4th of July fireworks were beautiful.
They really took the edge off the sacrifices that would come next.
“Don’t worry,” my mother whispered in my ear.
“They’re not like us. They’re just ants.”
It was hard to think of it that way, but I got used to it.
After all, the Antpeople had landed five years ago,
and they sacrifice humans everyday.


(Pictured: Antpeople- Left: Shaman, Right: Garth)

Fear Itself

“We have nothing to fear, but fear itself… How’s that?” FDR asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m afraid of clowns.”
FDR looked angry.
“I’m just saying, I’m not afraid of being scared.” I said.
“I’m afraid of clowns. Clowns and polio.”
Now FDR was really angry.
“Look, write what you want,” I said. “I’m going bowling.”
I bowled a 230. It was pretty cool.

Bargain Hunting

The Wal-Mart clerk handed me the gun from behind the counter.
“Are you sure you should be selling these?” I asked.
“All the people in here look like suicide risks.”

The clerk thought for a minute and said:
“Yeah. But they’re the type that kill themselves slowly…
With Twizzlers, Coca-Cola, and poor life decisions.”
It was a fair point, I thought.

I took the gun and started aiming it.
“So what are you planning on doing with that gun?” he asked.
“Me?” I said. “I hunt people for sport.”
We both laughed.

“Seriously, though… Lock the doors.” I said.

The Bag Trap

“I’d sell my soul for a doughnut right now,” Greg said.
Nothing happened.
“Try something else! Think big!” I shouted.
“A doughnut? What are you Homer Simpson? Sell it!”
Greg took a minute and tried again.
“I’m just sooooo poor,” he moaned. “I’d do anything for money…
Even sell my soul…”

Suddenly the room filled with smoke
and The Devil appeared.
“Rrrrreeealllyyy?” he hissed.
“Now Jesus! Now!” I yelled.
Jesus jumped from behind the couch
and sprang at Satan with the bag.
But it was too late.
He was gone with a poof.
“Damn. Don’t worry Jesus.
We’ll get him next time.” I said.

Justice Is Served

When we entered the juror room,
half of us thought the defendant was innocent.
The other six thought he was guilty.

We argued until we got hungry.
When it came time to get food, half us wanted pizza.
The other six wanted Chinese food.

“I’ve got a compromise,” I said.
“If you six agree to get pizza,
then we’ll agree the defendant is guilty.”

In the end we got pizza.
And I was the best jury foreman ever.


(Pictured: Pizza with a Side of Justice)

The Deer Hunter

I was hunting a deer with the new gun I’d bought at Wal-Mart.
I was about to shoot it when it shouted “Stop!”
I was like: “Whoa! Deer, did you just talk?”
It was all: “Yeah. Don’t shoot me, okay?”
I asked why not. After all, I’d come that far.

The deer answered with a question of its own:
“Why do you want to shoot me?”
“Gotta shoot something,” I said.
“Are you going to eat me?” it asked.
“Yeah, I think so.” I said.
“Am I really that delicious?”
“Well, I mean, not as delicious as cow, or chicken,” I said.

Then we both yelled in unison:
“Then why don’t you go kill a cow or chicken?!”
(I knew I’d walked right into that one.)
“Because that’s too easy,” I said “Cows and chickens don’t run.
They’re too slow and duh-.”
I was cut off by the sound of a double-barrel shotgun being cocked.

“Don’t fucking move,” a voice said from behind me.
I looked at the deer grinning.
“Who’s slow and dumb now?” he asked.
He took my gun and then tied me naked to a tree.
I just had to stand there and watch
as the cow, chicken and deer left with my stuff.
“At least we’re not gonna eat you,”
the cow said as they walked away.
“Boc-Boc- Bah- Bah-Bitch!” the chicken said.

I’m a vegetarian now.

Bad Poetry Vol. 1: It’s a Small, Weird World

When I talk to people about writing I usually tell them that I can write anything… except poetry.

I just never developed a knack for it. To this day, I don’t understand what an iamb is. And I’ve looked it up at least a half-dozen times. I don’t know what meter is. I don’t understand it, and I get frustrated thinking about it.

Given this ineptitude, I’ve avoided poetry for most of my life.

But no more.

Rather than running, I’ve declared war on the form, with this newest Drunk & Humble Feature: Bad Poetry.

Please enjoy…

Jesus Rides Behind Me

I was riding my motorcycle through the Nevada desert, 
By Area 51.
When I saw Jesus on the side of the road.
I wasn’t looking for him, like so many people are.
He was just there, standing in the dust and the sun.
“Jesus Christ!” I shouted, in disbelief.
Jesus smiled sheepishly and waved.
You’re not supposed to yell out the names of famous people when you meet them.
I felt embarrassed and started to drive on.
Then I turned back.

“Hey, Jesus,” I said. “Do you want to join my motorcycle gang?”
He held his hands up and shook his head.
“C’mon. It’ll be fun,” I said.
Jesus looked down.
I could tell he was uncomfortable.
After a pause I said: “You don’t know how to ride do you?”
I smiled a little so he knew I wasn’t judging him.
He smiled a little too.
He knew he’d been busted.
“Here,” I said, tossing him my helmet.
“Climb on back.”
Jesus looked up at me, still smiling, and put my helmet on.
He got on back of my bike and we rode off.
Jesus had his arms around my waist.
It was a glorious day.

Groundhog’s Day

The Oracle emerges every February 2.
He blesses us with an early spring or curses us with more winter.
Our prayers and offerings weren’t enough this year, and the little bastard cursed us.
He crawled from his hole, stroked his beard thrice and said:
“You will spend another six weeks shivering in winter’s cold, unforgiving shadow.”
Then his eyes glowed white and he went back inside.
One woman screamed and killed herself on the spot.
It’s an ugly affair, Groundhog’s Day.
But without it, there’d be no order.

 Fuckin’ Weird

I was walking through Monument Park.
Sometimes I go there to read.
By one of the benches, there was a mime and a clown.
The mime was playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on a saw.
It made me uneasy.
One phrase just kept repeating in my head: “Fuckin’ weird.”
I walked past them and found a separate bench.
A few minutes later, they came by.
They were throwing a ball to people who would throw it back.
I couldn’t concentrate on my reading.
I just kept praying they wouldn’t engage me.
Thankfully they didn’t.
Eventually, I walked away chuckling to myself.
Again thinking “Fucking weird.” over and over again.
Who wants to be a mime? Why are people clowns?
Did they meet as a mime and a clown?
Or did they make that choice together?
Either way.
Fuckin’ weird.

The Pope Goes Nuclear

Jesus and I sat in the fallout shelter eating cans of peaches.
It’d been three years since the pope declared thermo-nuclear war.
I could hear the mutants roaming above.
“Maybe you could talk to him,” I said.
Jesus finished chewing his peaches, swallowed, and said:
“Funny thing is, I don’t really know the guy.”
“Oh,” I said. “Well maybe your dad then?”
“Mmmm,” Jesus said grimacing. “We’re not really on speaking terms.”
“Oh,” I said.
I was out of ideas.
“Yeah, to be honest, He abandoned you guys a few thousand years ago.
Just gave up, and walked away.
He’s got a new planet now. That’s why you guys had, like, Hitler and AIDs and stuff.”
“Oh,” I said. “Well, I’m gonna give it another hour.
Then I’m gonna go womp those mutants with this crowbar.”

The Break Up

I was lying in bed next to a girl I’d been dating.
We’d just had sex.
I farted really loudly.
It shook the bed.
My cat laughed.
I laughed, too.
“Like it or lump it,” I said to the girl.
She laughed.
Then she farted really loudly.
“Ew. Gross.” I said. “That’s not funny.”
We broke up.

 In the Army

Of all the officers in the Army,
Sergeant Jazzhands was the toughest.
“It’s almost like he’s compensating for something,”
one private said to me.
“Yeah,” I said. “I bet he has a small penis.”

 Road Rage

The parking lot was crowded, but I’d found a space.
I was just about to pull into it,
when another man with a truck cut me off.
He took my space.
I got out to confront him and a heated argument ensued.
Then, out of nowhere, aliens landed about 10 feet away.
I felt so small.
Here I was in a country with racism, inequality, and The Bachelor.
In a world full of famine, war, and suffering.
In a universe so vast, aliens with foreign technology travel billions of miles to investigate a distant planet,
Just to find me arguing with some asshole over a parking space.
As I was paralyzed by this moment of clarity, the alien emerged from its ship.
“I come in peace,” it said.
I looked at the man I’d been arguing with.
We both kind of laughed.
And then I shot him.
It was my parking space.
I handed the gun to the alien before the police showed up.
That’s how I started the war with the aliens.

Netflix Instant Classic: A Touch of Sin

Genre: Foreign, Action, Drama, Indepenent

What’s it about? People grappling with varying forms of corruption in China.

Who’s in it? Wu Jiang, Baoqiang Wang, Tao Zhao

You’ll like it if… you can handle subtitles and moderate violence. If you’re curious about China. And if you like good movies.

China has always been a mysterious country. Whether it’s behind a great wall, within the confines of a forbidden palace, or cloaked in the shroud of bureaucracy, China’s inner-workings are always obscured from view.

Centuries of invasion and exploitation have left the country notoriously distrustful of outsiders. China is decidedly introverted – a characteristic that’s been exacerbated by its autocratic leadership.

So it’s fascinating, and in a sense comforting, to see the kind of vulnerability laid bare by A Touch of Sin.

The movie’s brooding atmosphere, violent and sexual overtones, and critical view of public policy got it banned on the Mainland.

But its rich characters, robust storylines, and forceful direction got it nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, with director Jia Zhangke winning the award for Best Screenplay. (Both the movie and Jia could have won an Oscar, too, but it wasn’t eligible since China banned its official release.)

 I didn’t know it before I saw this movie, but Jia is a big deal.

Another one of his films, Still Life, won the top award at the Venice Film Festival. He’s a subversive force China, a country that takes its censorship very seriously.

Rather than present an idealized version of China that Beijing wants people to see, Jia focuses on a more authentic depiction of life in the world’s fastest developing economy – specifically the alienation and disorientation felt by so many Chinese people.

A Touch of Sin divides its focus among four main characters, all of which are driven to violent acts, and in some cases, ends. They’re mini-tragedies that play out against the grim backdrop of a rapidly industrializing nation. (All of them are based on real-life incidents.)

At a small coal-mining village in Shanxi, the air is rife with both soot and corruption. Government officials operate on a plane separate from the local workers. They fly high in private jets, soaring over motorcycle taxis and train wrecks.

In Dongguan, wealthy businessmen choose from a buffet of high-priced prostitutes, while factory workers down the road churn out cheap clothes and iPhones.

In each case, the gears of cold, mechanical progress grind on, lubricated by human blood.

It may not sound like there’s much in common with the U.S. experience, but in truth, the stories are eerily familiar. If it were cast with white, English-speaking actors, it would be easy to picture these stories unfolding in the United States or Europe, as opposed to China – a country that is considered an ascending power that will inevitably challenge Western hegemony.

At its core, this movie is about a country whose social and political structures struggle to keep pace with the evolving desires of its people. It’s about a population of farmers-turned-factory workers-turned consumers. It’s about people overwhelmed by the stress, indulgences, extravagance, disparity, and violence that money can bring.

It’s about the high human cost of wealth.

These stories play out so graphically, with such humanity and vulnerability, that by the end, China doesn’t seem so mysterious at all.

It seems shockingly, disturbingly familiar.