Mad Dog Weekly - Doing It Doggy Style

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Columns about London, Paris, Prague, the US, souvenirs, road signs, and more.

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Columns about Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Valentine's Day.

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Dispatches from the land of ducks, geckos, and rice. Lots and lots of rice.

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Welcome to the iOlympics
If there’s one thing you discover after watching 8,247 hours of the Olympics on TV, it’s that even a funny commercial becomes tiresome after seeing it three commercial breaks in a row. Well, that and it all starts to feel awfully, well, familiar. What we need is new event blood. Like maybe a couple more biathlon events. Or to drag the Olympics out of ancient history and into the 21st Century with the post-modern pentathlon.

How About If I'm Just Bored To Serious Injury?
Every day we’re confronted with new advice about what's good or bad for us. This week alone there was a report that beer may prevent osteoporosis and eating chocolate could decrease the risk of having a stroke. It's enough to bore you to death, which it now turns out can actually happen. While there aren’t any surefire ways to guarantee you’ll live longer, there are things you can do to make your time here feel longer. Aside from listening to Bob Costas drone on and on.

Waste Not Time, Want Not Time
There are only 24 hours in a day, so why do we waste so many of them? We waste time waiting for traffic lights. We waste time waiting for slow web sites to load. We waste time standing in the checkout line, commuting to work, deciding what clothes to wear, and sleeping. But is it really all wasted?

A Humbling Day At The Races
There comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to bet on the ponies, and that day was Sunday. It turns out there weren’t really any ponies there, just horses. And I didn’t get to place a bet. See, I can follow instructions, figure out how to use a complex computer program intuitively, and even read a manual if it comes to that, but I couldn’t figure out the automated betting machine. It gives new meaning to being a loser at the track.

A Few Words Before School Starts
It’s back to school time, so get ready to sit down and have a talk with the kids about the importance of an education, be they your kids, your sibling’s, or the ones that live next door who spent most of the summer tied up and gagged in your tool shed so you could have some peace and quiet. In case you don’t feel comfortable having this discussion, you can relax. I'm here to do it for you.

The Need For New-Monics
The British government has recommended that teachers stop passing along the “i before e, except after c” mnemonic. It's too bad because it works—well, most of the time, anyway—and it's still embedded in my brain along with "dessert has two esses because you always want seconds” and a bunch of others. But if they're going to do away with the old mnemonics, we definitely need some "new-monics" to replace them.

Pro Fewer Choices
Imagine sitting back and enjoying a lovely Green Tea Coca Cola. If you go to Japan you can get one. You can also get a basil flavored Pepsi. Geez! How many choices do we need? As it is you can get 17 types of Oreos. And mayonnaise comes in regular, light, fat-free, olive oil, canola, with lime juice, and with mustard. Three kinds of mustard. Honestly, do we really need more options? No, but there is one place where we could use more choices. Yes, just one.

Talk To Me, But Only In 25 Words Or Less
We live in a world of brevity and bullet points. It started when letters went out and emails came in, making communication shorter. Next came text messages, which are limited to 160 characters and, since that’s just too verbose for emoticons, Twitter, which maxes out at 140 characters per tweet. But if we’re really going to shorten communication we need to take it down to its essence, to the one character that gives you the feel without any of that icky, extraneous, boring content.

If At First You Don't Succeed...Aw, Forget It
Tenacity is an good virtue to have these days. It’s what we need if we’re going to get through the current global financial crisis with our homes, bank accounts, and retirement years intact. But we also need to be innovative and creative, like the village in England that's not going to repair potholes so they can save money and lives. Or Ohio, where prisoners will take the place of 17 janitors and groundskeepers that were laid off. What next, let prisoners sleep in museums? Hey, it's worth a try.

With Friends Like You, Who Needs Facebook?
They say you can never have too many friends, but obviously They aren’t on Facebook, where the  unofficial motto is: “He who dies with the most friends, wins.” But how many friends do you really need? Exactly 148 if you can believe anthropologist Robin Dunbar. But even then it turns out we ignore most of them. This is all the ammunition I need to not add another person as a friend, not even my mother. Okay, especially not my mother.

Can You Hear Me Now?
The latest burial trend is to take it with you. Your cell phone, that is. Not only are people being buried with their cell phone, but also with their Blackberrys, Game Boys, and iPods. It’s hard to figure out what this means, but imagine thousands of years from now when archeologists discover a pile of bones with a small, primitive electronic gadget in the casket. It's not “He who dies with the most toys wins” anymore, it's “He who is buried with the most toys wins.”

The Million Word March (Or Maybe April)
According to the Global Language Monitor, by the end of April the English language will be one million words strong. That's a lot of words, way more than any dictionary includes. In fact, it's one word for every 1,350 people in the world who speak English. But considering that the average American knows about 20,000 words, what in the world are we going to do with 980,000 more of them? Hella good question, isn't it?

For Sale, One Slightly Used Senate Seat
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested and charged with trying to sell a slightly used Senate seat once occupied by soon-to-be-head-bailouter Barack Obama He called people and flat out told them what he wanted, using the F-word more often than the movie Casino, if you can believe that. If he'd only posted it on the Craigslist jobs board, put it on eBay under “Furniture> Government>Seats,” or started a Facebook Group, “Whadayagot for Rod?” he might still be able to keep his job.

The Secret Life of Thanksgiving
It’s almost Thanksgiving, the holiday that begins with watching giant over-inflated balloons and winds up with us sitting on the couch feeling like one. It’s the day when we spend five hours cooking a turkey that will be a burp in twenty minutes, and the day we pull out the Art of War so we can plot a strategy to outflank, outsmart, and outbuy everyone when we hit the stores at 5:00 a.m. on Black Friday. But mostly, it’s a day of giving thanks.

The Truth in (Anything But Political) Advertising Law
Politicians are like weather forecasters—they can say anything they like without worrying if it’s right, wrong, or is grounded in Bizarro World. It shouldn’t be this way. Politicians should have to back up anything they say. Lie detectors could work. So could hooking them up Abu Ghraib style so if they answer a question falsely they get shocked. At the least they should be required to put warning labels on their ads: "Contents may include stretches of the imagination, fanciful tales, and outright lies."

Election Reform, American Idol Style
The presidential campaign is finally kicking into gear, not to say that the past 12 years of it weren't rolling. We’re tired, worn out, numb from the brain down, and at this point couldn’t care less how it turns out so long as it’s over. But it doesn't have to be this way. We could take a tip from the British and make the process shorter. Or learn from American Idol and make it more fun and glam. Personally, I think we should follow in the footsteps of how they choose the Slug Queen in Eugene, Oregon.

Easy as Pi
If there’s one thing everyone wants, it’s something for nothing. That's why the drug scientists have found that burns calories without exercise is great news. Well, for mice anyway. Meanwhile a professor in England says it should be okay for students to spell words any way they want as long as it’s phonetically correct. I say we should extend the concept to math, then life would be as easy as wun, too, thre. And add up to whatever we want it to.

The Dog Days Of Summer Are Sirius Stuff
The Dog Days of summer are upon us. This is the time of year when the thermometer hits triple digits, there’s so much humidity in the air you get in the shower to dry off, and the power company sends thank-you notes because your air conditioning is making the electric meter spin faster than a Tilt-a-Whirl at a meth convention. So how do we get through them with our sanity and antiperspirant intact? Watermelon. It’s cooling, tasty, cheap, and nature's Viagra.

The Answer Used To Be Blowing In The Wind
Scientists in New Zealand are working on a vaccine that will stop cows and sheep from emitting so much methane. That’s farting and belching to you. If it works, maybe they can adapt it for humans. It could help slow global warming, reduce your carbon footprint, save a polar bear or two, and translate into one less time you’d have to watch An Inconvenient Truth on your solar powered DVD player while driving your Prius. Not to mention save more than a few marriages.

i’ll rite btr l8r
The president of France is worried about what text messaging is doing to his language. He's not the only one. A study found that 64% of American teens have used chat shortcuts or emoticons in their school assignments. Can you imagine that? :) what's next, sentences not having to start with a capital letter, using numbers 4 words, and having Hooked on Phonics replace Strunk and White?

Shiny Happy Countries
It turns out Disneyland isn't the Happiest Place on Earth after all. Denmark is. At least it is according to the World Database of Happiness. The U.S. comes in at number 17, which is a far cry from Moldavia, which brings up the bottom, but then what do you expect when you have mold in your country's name? So how can we increase our happiness, other than move to Denmark? Good question.

Age Before Happiness
A new study shows that the best years of your life weren’t really the best years of your life. Your Golden Years will be. And why shouldn't they be? Movies are cheaper, seats are reserved for you on the bus, and you don’t have to worry about acne. But according to experts it's more because we learn to lower our expectations. I mean, who needs a Nobel Prize in literature when you can write “I hate my job” over and over in a PowerPoint and send it to all your friends?

Misty Watered Down Memories (The Way We Weren’t)
Most of us have no memory of our early childhood, unless of course you count what we think we remember because we've seen the photographs or heard the apocryphal stories and anecdotal evidence handed down by our  parents. But that won't be a problem for anyone born after Hannah Montana. They'll be able to Google their personal memories and save themselves the trouble of having to remember any of it.

Give a Hoot, Thou Shalt Not Pollute
The Catholic Church has added some new sins to the list of life’s don’ts. Things like pollution, mind-damaging drugs, genetic experiments, and accumulating excess wealth. It's not as if we don't already have plenty to choose from, so it must be an attempt to stay hip and up-to-date.If these new green sins turn out to be popular don't be surprised to see Catholic Church 2.0 unveiled, complete with web sites like MyPew and FaithBook.

Learning The Value of a (Billion) Dollar(s)
When I was young, my parents spent a lot of time trying to teach me the value of a dollar, but how are we supposed to teach our children this when the Federal government and big business are setting such bad examples? GM lost $38.7 billion last year and the national debt is increasing by $1 million a minute. Maybe it's time to figure out how to actually grow money on trees. We could use it to repay the national debt and, if there’s any left over, convert it to ethanol so corn doesn’t wind up selling for $1.00 an ear.

Women Love Valentine’s Day, Men are From Mars
Men and women see Valentine’s Day very differently. Right, like they don’t see just about everything differently. Only the stakes are much higher on Valentine’s Day. It’s like the final exam for a relationship except there’s no book you can study, no CliffsNotes to memorize, not even a Classics Illustrated to read in five minutes. There are movies which would give a guy a good idea of what the day is all about but there’s just no way he’s going to sit through it since The Rock isn’t in it. Thus, we’re on our own.

Thanks For No Memory
We’re not getting dumber, we’re getting fuller. And I don’t mean our stomachs, I mean our brains. The Information Age begat the Overload Years and now it’s hard to know what to hold onto and what to send to the Recycle Bin. Face it, there’s only a finite amount of information a brain can contain, which is why I get afraid that if I put one more piece of information in my head something important like my social security number will fall out my ear. Whoops! Oh well, I don't use it  very often anyway.

One Person, One Vote, One Dollar
Finally, after a primary campaign that’s been going on since the day after the last presidential inauguration, it's time to head to the caucuses and polls. That brings up the question, How much is my vote worth anyway? Depending on how you figure it, anywhere from a penny to $49,190. I have an idea. Instead of spending their  money on silly stuff like buttons, bumper stickers, balloons, fake straw hats, TV commercials, and ridiculously priced haircuts, why don't the candidates cut out the middleman and pay voters directly?

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving
Somehow, Thanksgiving has remained relatively intact, still being celebrated by eating until a plunger won’t get more food down, snoring in front of the TV while telling yourself that breathing is aerobic exercise, doing our best to pretend we like everyone in the family for at least the first half hour, and trying not to think about what mincemeat is while we shovel it down because, well, it’s Thanksgiving and you’re required by law to eat everything that’s set out on the table, including the pine cone turkey centerpiece.

Taking The Fun Out Of Eating Out
Dining out used to be fun. Now, even if you can decide which hyphenated food style you want, you have to leave yourself an extra hour to read the menu descriptions and hear the server drone on longer than a politician on a quiet day. Remember, if it takes the waiter longer to describe the dish than it does to eat it, something’s radically wrong, and it’s not the number of times you chew your food before swallowing that’s the problem. And that's just for starters.

Obliviousness is Bliss
Some people are completely oblivious. They go to the dentist complaining of a toothache and find out they have a four-inch nail embedded in their skull. Or they have headaches and foam at the mouth for 64 years only to learn they've had a bullet in their head all this time. But most people are everyday oblivious, like those who use cell phones and the ones who allow themselves to be ridiculed on the “Jaywalking” segment of The Tonight Show. Hopefully they're in bliss.

Don't Read, Don't Smoke, What Do You Do?
A recent poll found that the average adult read only four books last year, while one in four didn’t get around to reading a single one. Oh, we read magazines, Crate and Barrel catalogs, and web sites we stumble on that aren’t filled with photographs. What we don’t read are warning labels, instruction manuals, ingredient labels on non-dairy creamer, nutritional labels on anything that tastes really good, and books. Maybe what we need are more books about what people really care about.

Wearing The Scarlet Hello Kitty
As the saying goes, if you do the crime you should serve the time, though jail time and fines aren’t the only ways to be punished. Shame works well too. If you shoplift in Alabama you might have to walk around wearing a sign that says, “I am a thief; I stole from Wal-Mart.” If you're a bad cop in Thailand you'll have to wear a Hello Kitty armband. And if you steal someone's identity they should be able to use yours. Hey, no one ever said a punishment can't be unusual as long as it's not cruel.

It's Not The Heat, It's...Okay, It's The Heat
The dog days of summer are upon us, which means the big topic of conversation is the weather. More specifically, how hot it is. Newscasters interrupt your favorite commercials to comment on it. Radio announcers dedicate songs like Heat Wave to it. And the newspaper splashes it across the front page as if it’s never happened before. Don’t they know that summer is defined as “the season between spring and autumn which causes otherwise sane people to forget that it gets hot every year”?

Thou Shalt Not Cut Me Off, Dammit!
The Vatican has issued the Ten Commandments for Drivers. It discusses road rage, respecting pedestrians, keeping within the speed limit, avoiding rude gestures while driving, and how a car shouldn't be "an occasion of sin." Whoops! Too late. These guidelines come none too soon. A survey finds that bad driving manners and, as a result, road rage are getting worse. Luckily the new Ten Commandments say praying while driving is okay.

Trendiness Is In The Eye Of The Early Adopter
People like being trendy. That's why we  wear unflattering clothes, eat food we don’t like, and watch TV shows we  can’t stay awake through. The problem is, by the time an idea gets to most of us it’s on the way out and should be avoided like this year’s recycled leg warmers. In other words, it's gone past the tipping point. This is the moment when something unusual becomes common. In other words, when something fun becomes boring. Here's how you can stay ahead of that curve.

Summer Vacations And Summer Not
It’s time to get those summer vacation plans figured out. You could rent a house at the beach or go back to see how much the world’s largest ball of ear wax has grown in the past year, but why? There's the new Creation Museum, with a vegetarian T-rex riding on Noah’s Ark. And Dickensworld, a theme park based on the life and works of *yawn* Charles Dickens. While it's true the indoor roller coaster that takes you on a simulated alien abduction isn't open yet, remember, good things come to those who wait.

When Bad Food Goes Good
It’s not easy being good these days, especially when it comes to eating healthy. The latest word is that the staffs of life — coffee, chocolate, and wine —  are good for you. Even better, new research shows that say pina coladas, daiquiris, mai tais and other fruity drinks are high in antioxidants that fight free radicals. In other words, they're good for you. I'll drink to that! 

All This For An Office That Isn’t Even Round?
Growing up we were taught that good things come to those who wait, but not anymore. It’s 18 months before the presidential election and we’re already in Massive Candidate Overkill Mode. Everyone you’ve ever heard of in politics has thrown his or her hat into the ring, plus a few you haven't heard of. They've already raised $132 million and could end up hauling in $924 million by election day. Who ever knew that being a candidate could be such a lucrative full time job?

57,000 Channels and Nothin’ On
The number of TV channels we get has been steadily rising over the years, with a recent prediction saying we'll soon get 5,000 of them. Of course they’ll be available on the computer, not on your TV. In case you didn’t get the memo, computers are the new TV. That's right, the future of home computers is to be glorified TV tuners. Same junk, new delivery system. It’s the computer as 21st century rabbit ears. Makes you want to go to the library, doesn't it?

Twelve Steps To Never Having To Say You're Sorry
The Virginia General Assembly voted to express "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery. Hey, what’s 400 years amongst friends? They join a long stream of recent apologizers, including Michael Richards, Newt Gingrich, JetBlue, and even the Associated Press. But nothing says “I’m sorry” like going into rehab. I’d believe the Virginia General Assembly’s apology more if they went into rehab. Or at least shaved their heads in atonement like Britney.

Peace Prize Out, Dude!
Nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize are closed, which means only one thing — it’s time to face up to the truth and cancel my October reservation at the Stockholm Motel 6. Again. But really, who cares about the Nobel Prize? Okay, I do. That's why, even though the nomination deadline for all of this year’s prizes has passed, I’m submitting some of my research for consideration next year. Like the 2008 presidential campaign, you can never get started too soon.

It's Nice Work If You Don't Have To Do It
Robert Nardelli, the chairman and chief executive of Home Depot, resigned last week. But don't feel bad for him. After all, he walked away with about $210 million in severance pay. That's $575,342.46 for each day he won’t work during the coming year. Assuming, of course, that he doesn’t work seven days a week. The question isn’t whether it’s worth that much not to have him come to work, but rather how the heck do I get a job like that?

The End of New Year's Resolutions
Every year about this time at least a dozen people feel the urge to ask me if I've made any New Year's resolutions. And every year I feel compelled to tell them that although Albert Einstein calculated the density of the Milky Way in 1931 he never fully understood the Snickers bar. Heck, it's easier than telling them the truth: that I've never made a New Year's resolution in my life.

'Tis The Season To Be Shopping
For years the great philosophers of the world have told us that people can be divided into two basic groups: shoppers and rational human beings. As opposed to other classifications of the human race — such as “those who think Borat is funny” and those without a sense of humor” — it’s easy to tell shoppers and non-shoppers apart. Just pretend you're reading Cosmopolitan and take this little quiz.

Vote Early And Vote For A Long Time
I just took half of Al Capone’s advice — I voted early. I’d consider taking the second half and vote often but, to be honest, it’s just too much work. My absentee ballot had 11 sides to fill out. I cast my vote 56 times, including for governor, senator, representative, city assessor, whether to keep or dump 12 judges, and 24 (count ‘em, twenty four!) state, county, and city propositions. There's got to be a better way.

But Mom, I Want To Steal This Phone!
We spend an awful lot of time, money, and effort trying to keep people from stealing things. We have alarms in our cars, CDs are displayed encased in big plastic frames, and half the items at the drug store are locked up. Even your cell phone can have a howling alarm that goes off if it's stolen. Enough with the piercing alarms destroying our peace and quiet, what we really need are alarms that sound like a mother’s chiding voice.

A New You Is Just A Click Away
Recently a photo was printed of Katie Couric in which she was digitally slimmed down. Now HP has made it easy for you to do it to yourself. They've built a function into some of their new cameras that automatically makes you look slimmer. You simply take a photo and select the “Slimming” option. Instantly you’ve lost the ten pounds the camera adds. It's a start, but what they need to do is add some really useful effects.

What, Mea Culpa?
People say the darndest things. First Mel Gibson showed his true colors, then Senator George Allen put “Macaca” in the dictionary. Even Gov. "Hot blood" Schwarzenegger has weighed in. Not surprisingly, members of Hypersensitives Anonymous are in an uproar because, well, face it, there’s nothing you can say nowadays that won’t offend someone. We need to lighten up and be more like Dick Cheney. Seriously.

The Real Artificial Reality
We live in a world of artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors,artificial grass, even artificial insemination. Is nothing real? Hair too curly? Straighten it. Don’t like how you smell? Wear dirt, paint,sawdust, earthworms, or funeral home cologne. The most unreal place is Dubai. They have the world’s largest indoor ski park, a water park with fake thunderstorms, and Michael Jackson. See, nothing in Dubai is real.

A Nickel For Your Thoughts About The Penny
We all spend money without having the foggiest notion what we spent it on. Hey, it happens to the best of us. We could keep a strict budget or write down every expenditure, but a better answer is to make more money. That's what the government does. The problem is, it now costs 1.4 cents to make a penny, so the government stands to lose about $38.4 million dollars making them this year. What would life be like without the penny?

I Cannot Tell A Truth
Whether we like to admit it or not, we all lie.In fact, a recent poll found that 16.66% of the  respondents lied when they said lying is never justified. Honestly. The problem may be that there are so many types lies. There are lies, white lies, fibs, spin, and advertising. It's important to be able to tell them apart. Hey, would I lie to you?

You Can Never Be Too Thin or Have Too Many Excuses Why You Aren’t
The International Journal of Obesity published the Top Ten Reasons Why People Are Obese. The reasons include getting too little sleep, living in air conditioning, and smoking less. We could sleep more, shut off the A/C, and take up smoking so we can shed a few pounds, but there are better ways. Like Twinkie Burritos.

Read This Now, Dammit!
We’re an impatient bunch. We hate standing in line, fume when we’re on hold, and think “instant gratification” is just a high falutin’ way of saying “life.” It takes just 17 minutes of standing in line before we lose our patience. That's it. In some people it turns into rage. Be nice to them, they may be suffering from Intermittent Explosive Disorder. HEY, WILL YOU CLICK THE LINK AND GO READ IT ALREADY!

Baby's First Cable Channel
It’s amazing it’s taken this long, but finally we have a cable channel programmed for babies. The founders of BabyFirstTV say their programs are educational and aid interaction between infants and parents because they’ll fall sleep — I mean, watch TV — together. But why wait until the baby’s born? Why not start showing them TV while they’re still in the womb?

Put Down That Cap And Gown And Back Away Slowly
Finally, the big day is here, the culmination of 16 years of school — actual mileage may vary — and the reason Mom and Dad have been eating ramen noodles every night for dinner and wearing the same clothes every day. But before you take those final steps down the aisle and onto the muddy road called reality, there are a few things you should know that they probably didn’t tell you.

Driving + Anything Else = Boom!
A study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that multitasking drivers are three times as likely to be involved in an accident as those who are paying attention. Who would have thought it? So put down that cell phone, quit reading the newspaper, and stop searching for that half-eaten burrito, this is important stuff.

Beauty Is In The Mirror Of The Beholder
We all like to look good. At least we like to think we look good. Yet for every person who thinks they're dressed hot there’s someone else who thinks they look like a slob. Whether it's baggy pants that hang to your knees, Birkenstocks with white socks, or white powdered horsehair wigs, what we see in the mirror and others see when they look at us can be two very different things.

Pro (Too Many) Choices
We have too many choices. The Rolls Royce Phantom comes in 45,000 colors. Nabisco makes at least 17 different types of Oreos. And face it, a restaurant menu shouldn’t be as long as a Stephen King book. So how come the one place where we desperately need more choices we don't get it? Yes, you guessed it - elections.

Caution: Falling IQs Ahead
A recent survey found that while 22 percent of Americans could name all five members of the Simpson family, only one in 1,000 could name all five First Amendment freedoms. And no, the freedom to be stupid isn't one of them. So it shouldn't be surprising that a high school girl in New Mexico had a baby without knowing she was pregnant, or that a manufacturer of kitchen knives includes a warning sticker reminding you to “Never try to catch a falling knife.”

No, I'm Not LOL
Email is a wonderful thing, but like any form of communication it has its problems. We can use silly emoticons and abbreviations like LOL all we like but it’s still hard to make sure you get your point across. According to a recent study, people correctly interpret the tone and mood of an email only half the time. Since there's no “Retrieve” button on your keyboard, and you can't attach a coin for them to flip, you need to be careful about what you write.

Every Family Has a Loser, Who Invited You?
You and I can ignore our loser relatives, but politicians aren’t so lucky. Lyndon Johnson stashed his brother in the White House where the Secret Service could keep an eye on him. Richard Nixon had his brother's phone tapped. Consider Billy Beer, Roger Clinton's country music CD, and the Bush twins' fake IDs. Somewhere, Franklin D. Roosevelt is thanking his lucky stars he was an only child.

All Beings Being Unequal
The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal. Don't you believe it. If they were, would a 20-year-old California Institute of Technology student be able to unscramble a Rubik’s Cube in 11.13 seconds while other people are lining up to take a course so they can learn how to use their iPod? You know, the same portable music player their 6-year-old had wired and hacked six ways from Sunday before it was completely unwrapped.

Unfortunately They Didn’t Say “Phatest”
According to Men’s Fitness magazine, Chicago is officially the Fattest City in the United States. Hey, we all need a claim to fame. At least it's not Cleveland, which is known as the Mistake on the Lake, Winnemucca, NV, which is the City of Paved Streets, or Jamaica, which the BBC just named  the “Murder Capital of the World.” Catchy, but not exactly something you can base a tourism campaign on.

The Party That Called You Has Changed Its Mind
Cell phone companies want our phones to be everything - PDAs, MP3 players, game consoles, and movie theaters. *yawn* Now StealthText, the British service that lets you send a text message that deletes itself from the recipient’s cell phone as soon as it’s been read, that's a good feature. Even better would be a “Retract” button. I'd pay extra for that one.

A Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide
It’s time once again to settle in front of a roaring fire, munch on roasted chestnuts, and dump the eggnog down the drain so you can chug the rum straight. That’s right, it’s time to make out your holiday gift list. And since you don't want to worry about it, I will. Here are this year's late-breaking holiday gift suggestions. Go ahead, put the "X" back in Xmas.

Not So Great Expectations
It should come as no great shock that a recent study found men and women to have different tastes in humor. What might be surprising is that they say women actually enjoy a good joke more than men. This is because they don't always expect a joke to be funny, are more analytical, and have lower expectations than men. Maybe it's time to set our sights a little lower.

Beware The Potty Patrol
Ford Motor Co. is keeping an eye on how long workers spend in the bathroom because they say it's slowing down production and the company's losing more money than a blind poker player. And why shouldn't they? Lord knows it's easier to make workers stand around fidgeting with their legs clamped tightly together than it is to design small, reliable, reasonably priced cars that get great gas mileage.

Hey Jerk, Who Are You Calling Rude?
In a recent AP poll, nearly 70 percent of the people said Americans are ruder now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. I know, big shock. The funny thing is, no one thinks they’re rude, it’s always the other person. Since 93 percent blame parents for failing to teach their children better manners, it's time to take some responsibility. So put down your freakin' cell phone and teach your kids some manners, dammit!

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones But Names Are Forever
Nicolas Cage just named his new son Kal-el, as in Superman's name on Krypton. Of course considering other celebrity children are named Speck Wildhorse, Apple, and Audio Science, that isn't so bad. Celebrities need to realize that the name they give their child has a big effect on his or her life. Are you listening Tom and Katie? 

Hitting the Big Five-Oh-Oh
This is my 500th column. That’s a lot of words, about 450,000 of them to be exact.Okay, that's not exact, it's just a close approximation, but it will have to do. While it's true that a Stephen King book, any speech by Bill Clinton, and the Bible are all longer, I still feel good since I chose the 450,000 words and put them in what was hopefully a new order. And that is, after all, what writing is about.

Ten Reasons Why Robots Are Better Than Children
In Japan, childless women have snapped up Primopuel, a human-looking monkey doll that talks in a childlike voice and has a repertoire of over 200 phrases. Kind of like Victoria Jackson with an "off" switch. They can also buy Wakamaru, a $14,300 robot that’s shaped like a child and can be both housesitter and security guard without breaking child labor laws. Is there any doubt robots are better than children?

Wake Me Up When The Nap Shop Closes
Taking a nap is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately there's not always a good spot handy, especially if you're out shopping. Well there is if you're at the Mall of America, the 520-store shopping center in Bloomington, MN, where a nap shop has opened. Yes, for 70 cents a minute -- that's $42 an hour -- you can catch forty winks. Sure $1 per wink per hour is a lot, but hey, we're sleep deprived.

A Few Words Before School Starts
It’s back to school time, so get ready to sit down and have a talk with the kids about the importance of an education, be they your kids, your sibling’s, or the ones that live next door who spent most of the summer tied up and gagged in your tool shed so you could have some peace and quiet. In case you don’t feel comfortable having this discussion, you can relax. I'm here to do it for you.

Can You Hear Me Now? Do You Want To?
Researchers have developed the Jerk-O-Meter, a program for your cell phone that lets you know if someone's paying attention to what you’re saying. That's just what we need, one more useless thing — I mean feature — on our phone that we won’t use. If they're going to be electronic Swiss Army Knives how come they don’t have the things we need most, like a screwdriver, corkscrew, and Jude Law detector?

The Manchurian Candidate Diet
The low-carb Atkins diet is going the way of Teddy Ruxpin. So what's a weight watcher to do? Have someone lie to you and convince you that you don't like a food you really like so you won't eat it anymore. It's scientifically proven, addition-free, and is based on the same principle that gets us into messy wars. What's not to like?

Eschewing Obfuscation And Spitting It Out
A teacher’s group in England is suggesting that schools stop using the word “fail” and instead call it “deferred success.” What next, will we start telling children they're being recycled to third grade and console them by saying they’ll get to sit at their previously owned desk? No problem, as long as we leave out the part about it downsizing their earning potential. That they'll definitely understand.

Harry Potter and the Full-Blooded Hype Machine
The new Harry Potter book is out and in the process the country’s security level was raised to orange. With all the uproar you’d think it’s a violation of the Patriot Act to accidentally sell a copy of the book. Repeat after me: It’s only a book. Okay, maybe it's the best selling book this side of the Bible, but it’s still a book. We need to regain our perspective.

Real Men Eat Pain For Lunch
A new study shows that, contrary to what we all think, men actually handle pain better than women. At least real men do. You know, like the guy in South Korea who had a 2-inch nail removed from his skull, one that had been there for four years without his knowing it. Hey, put that in your Lamaze class and smoke it.

Shedding Some Light On Sunlight
Where I once thought getting sun was good for me, I later had it drummed into my head that it was evil and I would turn into a pile of wrinkles and carcinoma if I wasn’t bundled up like a 2-year-old heading out into a blizzard. Now it turns out sunlight may actually prevent cancer. Yes, I said prevent it. I haven’t been this confused since Elton John got married.

For Sale, One Slightly Used Life Story
There's a new way to make crime pay. It’s called selling the book and movie rights to your life. Jennifer Wilbanks, the Runaway Bride, and her fiancé just got $500,000 for the rights to their life stories. Mark "Deep Throat" Felts got an estimated $1 million for his book and movie rights. I may sound jealous but I’m not. See, I have a plan.

Laughter – It’s Heart Healthy and Low in Calories!
According to two recent studies, laughter may indeed  be the best medicine –  it can not only help you lose weight, it’s good for your heart. The question is, How much laughter do we need? Luckily we now have a scientific formula to help. It determines the funniest sitcom and, contrary to what I expected, the answer doesn't always come out to zero.

Having a Large Vocabulary is Hot
Thirteen-year-old Anurag Kashyap won this year's National Scripps Spelling Bee by spelling “appoggiatura.” Don't worry, I don't know what it means either. At least he has a good vocabulary. When David Letterman interviewed Paris Hilton the other night I don't think she said three words other than “hot.” While we don’t need to sound like eggheads, it wouldn’t hurt if we sounded a bit smarter.

Everything I Know I Learned From Donald Trump
As if owning buildings, casinos, and the 9:00 PM Thursday time slot isn’t enough, Donald Trump has launched an institution of higher learning. At  Trump University there are no grades, degrees, or chance to score at a football game or frat party. It’s a virtual university consisting of online courses, books, self- assessment tools, and home study courses. Oh yeah, and hats, T-shirts, golf shirts, and sweatshirts emblazoned with the Trump U. logo.

Usefulness Is Going To The Dogs
A cell phone company in South Korea has started a service that translates your dog's barks. Bowling balls are available in grape, cherry, and amaretto scents. And Fox is starting the Reality Channel to prove that you can never be surprised too many times by the same thing. Yes, boredom has bred a craving for intense uselessness.

A Few Words Before You Graduate
Graduation Day is an event full of pomp, circumstance, and sheepskin diplomas that conveniently come with the messy wool already shorn so you don't have to comb it before you have it framed. But before you pass through the collegiate portals into the brave new world that awaits you — known in many cultures as “waiting for retirement” — there's one more obstacle you have to get through: the graduation speaker.

A Summer Vacation Guide
It’s time to start thinking about your summer vacation. Face it, the world's largest ball of ear wax was fun once, but you need something different to do. So put down that travel brochure and call the family together. Just wait until they hear that you’re going to Museum of Foreign Debt. Or Dickensworld. Don't worry, they'll perk up when they find out you'll stop for a 10.5-lb Beer Barrel Belly Buster burger. Yum!

Mo Better Looking Money
Congress is thinking about putting out new $1 coins featuring the faces of past presidents. But I have a better idea. Put People’s “50 Most Beautiful People” on silver dollars and sell them for 50 cents each. Since they only cost eight cents to make, the government will earn a huge profit. The federal deficit goes bye-bye, taxes are lowered, and I walk home with a Nobel Prize in Economics. What's not to like?

The New Food Pyramid - Shape Up Or Ship Out
The USDA has come up with a new and incomprehensible food pyramid that has no words, no icons, and no meaning. What they should have done is clarify the food groups, change the shape to something a little slimmer, and switch the responsibility for it to a different government agency. Like the IRS.

Voting Is Easy, Showing Up Is Hard
Voting is a privilege. It can also be a big pain in the butt. It's inconvenient, there are too many elections, and it takes too much effort to decide who to vote for. I picture a day when everyone sits at home and hits a button at the same time, watching the polling numbers on a graph on the TV screen, much like the audience lifeline in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I have seen the future of voting and the ratings will be huge.

Who Says You Can't Buy Happiness?
A study found that increasing the frequency of sex from once a month to once a week provides as much happiness as a $50,000-a-year raise, while a lasting marriage brings $100,000 worth of happiness a year. Meanwhile a man who paid doctors to give him a second penis had his wife leave him. The question is: Can money really buy happiness?

When Good Pranks Go Respectable
The new edition of Webster’s New World College Dictionary includes the word “wedgie.” You’d think at this point everyone would know what a wedgie is because they've either given or received one. But wedgies aren't always the innocent fun you might think. It turns out they can land you in jail. At least they can in Chicago.

Here She Comes, Miss Trump America
Donald Trump is thinking about buying the Miss America pageant. And why not, he already controls 50 percent of Miss Universe. If he does buy it he'll need to spruce it up a bit. After all, as with anyone or anything that’s been around for 84 years, it could use a make-over. Think: Barbie meets Fear Factor. Is that the sound of soaring ratings I hear?

Everyone Talks About The Weather, But Only The Weatherman Gets Paid To Do It
Being a TV weatherperson has got to be the best job in the world. Sure, being an ice cream taster at Ben & Jerry’s, the head of human resources for the Acme Porn Flick Company, or Leonardo DiCaprio are also good career choices, but they don’t afford you the luxury of screwing up 365 nights in a row while not only keeping your job.

Going Out With a Bang, Not a Whimper
Hunter Thompson asked that his ashes be blasted out of a cannon. Big deal. Some people have had their cremains stuffed into firework shells while others have had theirs mixed with concrete to form artificial reefs. Mark Gruenwald's ashes were mixed with ink to print a  comic book, while “Steady Ed” Headrick had his incorporated into a special edition Frisbee. Me? I want my friends to smoke my remains.

Welcome to Birdbrain Spacelines
The Federal Aviation Administration released guidelines for passengers and crew members of tourist space ships. Among them is the recommendation that crew members "be trained to operate the vehicle." This Duh! Report is another example of a government agency spending our hard earned tax dollars to state the obvious. But don't call them birdbrains, it turns out that would be in insult to birds.

You Can Never Be Too Rich, Too Thin, Or Brush Your Teeth Too Often
No one likes going to the dentist, but good dental hygiene is important. Especially now that it turns out brushing your teeth can help prevent a heart attack. And help keep your weight down. Hey, it doesn’t get any better than this. Well, not unless we were to find out that brushing our teeth also makes Jessica Simpson invisible.

Let Them Eat Twinkies
It's been ten years since a group of students at Rice University (motto: "It's a change from potatoes") took time out from their busy schedule of watching Beavis and Butt-head, putting boxer shorts on their heads when posing for their class photograph and pretending Jerry Garcia hadn't died, to conduct some scientific tests on Twinkies. Not much has changed since then, other than no self-respecting college student would waste his or her time like this. Oh, and Twinkies are about to turn 75 years old.

This Column For Sale. Cheap.
Like most people, I’m always on the lookout for ways to make more money. That's why I came up with a plan. Since the government has been paying syndicated commentators to promote its programs, why not put my column up for bid on eBay? I’ve got a column ready with blanks left in it. All I need to do is drop the name of the government program in the slots and it’s ready to go. Let the bidding begin!

How to Tell If You're Having a Bad Day
A Welsh psychiatrist has declared that January 24th is the “most depressing day of the year.” He arrived at this conclusion by way of a mathematical formula he devised. Who needs that? There are plenty of signs to let you know when you’re having a bad day, and they’re not algebraic. In case you need some help, here are a few of those signs.

A Guide to Getting Tickets to the Inauguration
You don’t need an invitation to attend inaugural events. Well, not all of them. You do, however, need to know a member of Congress if you want to see the swearing-in. Luckily the parade is free. Unless, of course, you want to be able to see it. And the inaugural balls will only set you back between $395 and $1,495. Yes, that's per person. Thank god it's on TV so I can turn it off.

Nothing Says Lovin' Like Twinkies in the Jailhouse Oven
Martha Stewart is complaining about the bad food in prison. Can you imagine? Actually she's more upset that prisoners at the Walla Walla state penitentiary have beat her to the punch by publishing a Convict Cookbook. But that's not the only hot cookbook these days, there's also The Good Food Cookbook for Dogs and the upcoming one chock full of Twinkie

The Buck Stops Anywhere But Here
A survey found that 80% of those polled think people are less courteous when using cell phones today than they were five years ago, yet 97% of them said they are “very courteous” or “somewhat courteous.” This is a phenomenon known as INM (It’s Not Me). It combines denial, delusion, and the Gross National Clueless Index. And it's becoming more common all the time.

Being Thankful For a New Year
As the year winds down it’s time for reflection and giving thanks. I’m thankful I made it through another year reasonably intact. I’m thankful the presidential election is over. I’m thankful that Ocean's 12’s only predecessor was Ocean’s 11 and that the series didn’t start with Ocean. And I’m thankful I haven't had a nail in my head for four years. That's only the beginning.

You Think That's Humiliating?
A woman who was patted down while passing through airport security has filed a complaint saying, “I’ve never been so humiliated in my life.” Hah! That's not humiliating. Being named Phinnaeus as Julia Roberts’ son is, now that's humiliating. Or having your umbilical cord preserved in acrylic resin instead of being gold plated, that’s really humiliating. And that's only the beginning.

Christmas Gift Guide 2004
If you’re anything like me, and for your sake I hope the resemblance is purely superficial, you haven’t made out your Christmas list yet. Okay, you haven’t even thought about it. But there’s no need to panic, I’m here to make your life easy. Whether you want a fish stick with an image of Jesus on it, an exploding cell phone (a real laff riot!), or synthetic urine, you've come to the right place.

It Ain't Easy Being Holy and Cheesy
A woman is selling half a grilled cheese sandwich on eBay. It's ten years old, has a bite taken out of it, and has an image of the Virgin Mary charred into it. At the current bid of $7,801 it's a bargain. I would gladly have paid that for the cinnamon bun that looks like Mother Theresa which I saw in a coffee shop in Nashville. Hey, no one ever said salvation comes cheap.

Predictions Seen in the Rear View Mirror May Appear More Accurate Than They Are
In July I made an election prediction based on the best and most reliable forecasting I could get my hands on, including how the candidates parted their hair, how the Redskins would play, and what world renown psychic Bob91322 thought. The predictions indicated that John Kerry would win. Boy, were they ever wrong by a landslide. Okay, a mandate. Lets take a look at how so many  predictions could be so wrong.

You've Been Warned
Everything seems to have a warning label these days. In the case of ladders there are so many there's no place to stand. While in some countries the warnings are tough, as in cigarette packs that announce “Smoking can cause a slow painful death,” here in the U.S. we prefer wussy warnings like “Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide” and “We Really Wish You Wouldn’t Smoke.” We definitely need better, more direct warnings.

Is That Prozac In The Water Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?
They've found traces of Prozac in our drinking water. While it has environmentalists in an uproar, it could actually reduce crime, put an end to fighting and war, cause employees at the Division of Motor Vehicles to smile and be helpful, and mean the Counting Crows would put out a CD that doesn’t cause everyone who listens to it to contemplate suicide. Unfortunately it  won’t cure everything.

When Lottery Winners Are Losers
A recent Gallup poll found that 55 percent of Americans would continue in their jobs if they won $10 million in the lottery. That’s why the emerging field of Lottery Eugenics is becoming increasingly important. Simply put, anyone who is too stupid to enjoy their winnings shouldn’t be allowed to have it. Before they collect they'll take a test. It will consist of one question. How hard could it be?

Please Don't Call Me On The NannyPhone
A German company has created a tiny sensor they'll put in a cell phone that will detect if you’re too drunk to drive, need a breath mint, or someone cut the cheese. I'm sure there will be a line of add-ons to let you know if your zipper is undone, your socks don’t match your shirt, your deodorant is letting you down, or there’s toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe. It could signal the end of cell phones.

Hello! It's the New Grammar
While the dictionary says whatever can be a pronoun, an adjective, or an interjection, it’s more than that. So much more that it deserves to be its own part of speech. It should be the founding member and cornerstone of the dismissive case, right alongside “Don’t go there”, “What’s up with that?”, and “Hello!”, as in “Hello! What did you think I meant?”

Livin'La Vida California
It’s rather ironic that while I sit here waiting for the Big One that all my friends and family knew would strike the instant I moved to California, they’re back east getting slammed by back-to-back hurricanes and massive floods. But that's not the only plus to living here. We also have Arnold, the only Great White shark in captivity, and a shiny new anti-necrophilia law.

Being a Jester is No Laughing Matter
England just hired its first Official Court Jester since 1649, a man named Kester the Jester. You can just tell from his nom du clown that he’s one funny guy. We should consider having an Official Jester here in the United States. Lord knows we could use it since life isn’t very funny these days. And yes, I do think I'd be perfect. Hey, quit laughing!

Seeing Red Over Purple Pens
In a show of educational Kumbaya-ism not seen since English became Language Arts, teachers are dumping their red pens faster than plans for Gigli II and grading students' papers using purple ones. They say marking errors in red has a "negative connotation." What next? Stop giving out gold and silver stars, eliminate letter grades, and only hand out two grades, pass and passable?

Attraction By Any Other Name Could Be More Attractive
It’s not news that our name affects our image, not to mention our life. Researchers have found that people with “good” initials live longer than those who have “negative” initials. Now a graduate student at MIT says men who have names with a front stressed vowel are seen as being more attractive than those who have a back stressed vowel. The reverse is true for women. It's not too late to change your name.

Dogestan, the Official City of the New Millennium™
The next time you hear from me I may be the mayor of a city. Or possibly king. Actually, since I’ll own the place I can make myself any damned thing I want. The town I’m considering buying is Otis, Oregon, a nice little 187-acre place on the coast which comes complete with a gas station, Pronto Pup hot dog stand, two houses, and an empty 25-stall horse barn. But if I’m going to attract the beautiful people who spend the big bucks I need a trendier name. That's why I'm going to call it Dogestan.

The New and Improved Olympics!
Traditionally the Olympics have been about royalty sports, like equestrians (“The sport of kings”), badminton (“The sport of princes”), and synchronized swimming (“The sport of queens”). This year there’s only one new event — catfighting. I mean, women’s wrestling. If they really want people to watch they need to make some bigger changes.

Not With a Pop Rock But a Whimper
William Mitchell, the man who invented Pop Rocks, recently died. He also made discoveries which helped bring about Cool Whip, Jell-O, and Tang. Who’s going to replace him? Certainly not the genius who came up with Krispy Kreme's new Frozen Original Kreme drink. Have all the good food products which can be invented already been invented? I sure hope not.

Conspiring Against Conspiracies
We all love a good conspiracy theory, whether it's about politics, space aliens, or Princess Diana's death. There's a Web site which lists 1,500 (count 'em, fifteen hundred!) different conspiracies. But they're such old news. We really need to come up with some newer, more interesting conspiracies.

The Last Election Prediction You'll Ever Need
Political predictions are in high gear, most of them based on telephone polls, computer modeling, and the incumbent’s approval rating in May. Forget that. I’ve rounded up a selection of more vital and accurate indicators. Hey, if you can't trust how the candidates part their hair, how the Washington Redskins do, and renown psychic Bob91322, what can you trust?

God Save the Smoke- Free, Unspanked Queen
Some longstanding English traditions are in danger of biting the dusty scone, including fox hunting, smoking in pubs, and smacking children, which is what we call spanking. At least high tea and the royal family are safe. For now, anyway.

The Return of the Bloodsuckers
Doctors are once again using leeches, this time to drain blood after a skin graft or limb reattachment. You think that's gross, if you have inflammatory bowel disease they might make you drink a new treatment that contains thousands of pig whipworm eggs. Yum! What next, drilling holes in the skull to release evil spirits?

Gorilla My Dreams
Casey, a 21-year-old gorilla who lives in New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo, is being shown a gorilla porn video because, well, what comes naturally just doesn't come naturally to him. You can't blame him completely, how much can you learn when all they'll let you watch is reruns of Every Which Way but Loose?

Courting Disaster
Being a Supreme Court justice is a pretty sweet job. Not only do they get to work in their robes all day, they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do. They can even tell the president he's wrong, though of course he doesn't have to admit it. Is that why lawyers drool over the chance to argue a case there? Nah, it's the Lady of Justice snow globes.

Turning Politicians Into American Idols
The season finale of American Idol drew 65 million votes, yet only 105 million people managed to cast a ballot in the 2000 presidential election. That's sad. Maybe we need to  take some tips from the TV show to liven up the voting process. You know, things like voting by telephone and holding a talent competition.

The Endangered Endangered List
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has put the state of Vermont on their  endangered list. Yes, the whole state. It joins the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, Yellowstone National Park, and a mythical creature in Sweden as endangered. But why stop there? Lets add a few more things to the list.

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past are Condemned to Use Technology to Repeat it
It's hard to find really new uses for technology. In the beginning television was just radio with pictures. The Internet is the same old junk on an expensive new delivery system. That’s why it’s nice that there are people who are using technology in more innovative ways, like setting up gang fights, quitting their jobs, and filing for divorce.

The Carbs Made Me Do It
Twenty-six million Americans are on a low-carb diet. That's why 586 new low-carb products were released in the first quarter of this year, restaurants are serving hamburgers wrapped in lettuce, and I keep picking up the wrong items at the grocery store. Carbs are evil. They are. And now you can blame everything on them.

Drowning in a Sea of Popcorn
I’m not a popcorn guy,unlike the average American who eats 59 quarts of it a year. Or Crazy Legs Conti who recently tried to eat his way out of a telephone booth-size container filled with the stuff. It's tasteless, I don't like the smell, and the EPA thinks you might catch a respiratory disease if you breath the vapors. So what's not to like?

Caution: Writing Poetry May Be Hazardous to Your Health
A new study shows that poets die younger than novelists, playwrights, and nonfiction writers. Screenwriters who win an Oscar, on the other hand, live an average of 3.6 years less than those who are merely nominated. So what's a writer to do if he wants to live a long time, be an unsuccessful nonfiction writer? Hey, I can do that!

Women Are From Venus, Man Are Like Papayas
The Y chromosome is taking a beating. Not only is it shriveling away to nothingness, now Japanese scientists have  created baby mice without using them. Or any of a man's chromosomes. What next, will papayas be the fresh source of newer, heartier Y chromosomes? Stop laughing. One day your kids might find themselves buying Father's Day cards for Papa Papaya.

Tune it Out, Turn it Off, Dropkick the TV
It’s National TV Turn-Off Week. Last year only 2.4% of the population joined in and turned off their set. Come on, it really isn't that difficult. A couple of years ago I spent eight months in Bali and did it without a television. Of course I'm probably the only person alive who doesn't love Raymond.

When Your Looks Have Gone to the Dogs
A professor in California has proven that when people choose a dog as a pet they look for one that resembles them. Of course dog owners will deny this to the death. After all, if we have to have a doppelganger we don't want to think that it's Benji, Lassie, or The Taco Bell dog, do we?

Life in the Parsing Lane
Downplaying can be a wonderful thing, and one of the most important items in a downplayer’s arsenal is the euphemism. A bodice that rips when you yank it becomes a “wardrobe malfunction,” losing touch with a $400 million spacecraft is "an anomaly," and violent clashes in Afghanistan are called "a small accident.”  Obviously ball isn’t the only word that can have spin. 

At Least Pinocchio Had an Indicator
It’s hard to know what to believe these days. Luckily, I’m here to help you cut through the crud. By following a few simple rules, you too can learn to spot the difference between a collision and 26,500 miles, understand chemistry better than a city councilman, and figure out whether a liar's book about his lying is the truth.

Okay, Don't Show Me The Money
Thanks to a conspiracy — I mean, agreement — between banks in 27 countries, hardware manufacturers, and software programmers, you can’t print money from your computer. You also can't display the image or soon, scan it. But who needs to counterfeit when you can load your wallet with fake million dollar bills?

My Computer The Snitch
Last night I was working at my computer when out of nowhere it tried to communicate with my PDA. Seriously. Maybe they were lonely and wanted to chat. Or maybe they were going to laugh at the stupid things I do. But what if my computer turned out to be a tattletale and told the PDA about me. And then called the police. Hey, in Finland it could happen.

What Would Jesus Buy?
The Passion of the Christ is off to a roaring start at the box office, but it doesn't stop there. You can buy The Passion pendants, crucifixes, coffee mugs, and of course the official soundtrack CD. But Gibson showed a lot of restraint by not having any paid product placement in the movie. I'm sure Craftsman tools, Jackson & Perkins roses, and  Birkenstock would have been glad to have been featured.

What Hath God Wrought Dot Com
While he was in office, Bill Clinton sent all of two e-mails, while his staff churned out nearly 40 million of them. Come on, even Morse code has come kicking and screaming into the 21st century by adding the “@” symbol. So pull out your semaphore flags and tell someone your email address. Hey, it's a concept.

Putting that Shrimp Ken on the Barbie
After 43 years of dating, Barbie and Ken have called it quits. Yes, she's dumping poor Ken for an Australian boogie boarder doll named Blaine. True, Ken wasn’t exactly the most ambitious doll in the dollhouse, but he was faithful and into long-term relationships. Doesn't that count for anything anymore?

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a 2.0
The line between work and the rest of our life is blurring more every day, thanks to cell phones, email, and instant messaging. Seventy-four percent of college freshmen think it’s important to be “very well off financially.” In England two-thirds of the workers have confused their office with their bedroom and had an on-the-job romance. And in Michigan a couple has named their child Jon Blake Cusack 2.0. Be scared.

Trimming The Budget With a Fund Razor
The president has handed his budget to Congress and it's putting us $521 billion in the hole. Why not make some of it up by selling more copies of the budget itself? All it needs is better distribution, a ghostwriter, Illustrations, and maybe a CD of Willie Nelson singing The Beatles’ Tax Man. It wouldn’t solve the deficit problem, but it would be a start.

Weighing in on Obesity
The United States is the world’s fattest nation. Two-thirds of us  are putting an unnecessary strain on our  hearts, lungs, feet, and the good nature of those who have to sit next to us on an airplane. Maybe it's the 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the average child eats by the time they graduate high school. But don't worry, there's hope for the over- gravitized.

Deleting Temptation
A rabbi has created a prayer to help Jews overcome guilt from visiting Internet porn sites. While people of most religions could use this prayer, Catholics don’t need it since all they have to do is go to confession and be absolved. But since the Church  is looking for a patron saint of  the Internet, can one for resisting online porn be far behind?

Playing The Percentages
Numbers can be deceiving. West Virginia saw an infinite percent increase in the number of Starbucks recently when they got their first one. A graduate student in Michigan  discovered a 6,320,430-digit prime number, which is only 47% larger than the previous record holder. And a woman in Singapore set up and knocked over 22,040 more dominoes than ever before, yet it was only 8% better. And you thought math wasn't fun.

Your Attention, Please
Admit it, we’re impatient.  President Bush doesn’t read a newspaper but would rather be briefed by his staff. Britney Spears' attention span is so short she was married for  less than 24 hours. We have scan buttons on our radios, watch TV with the remote in hand, and read condensed magazines like Reader’s Digest. Hey, if I  held your attention this far, why not go read the rest?

How Now Mad Cow?
It’s hard to turn on the TV or look at a newspaper without having a mad cow smack you in the face. If you’re one of those people who still have a hard time telling a mad cow from a disenfranchised electorate, I’m here to make your life a little easier. No, I won’t vacuum the living room, but I will answer your questions.

If It Isn't One Thing, It's Another
It must be Natural Disaster Week here in San Francisco. First one-third of the city lost electricity, then there was an earthquake. But no matter where you live you’ll find natural disasters. Hey, if there were a completely safe place to live don’t you think we’d all be there? But disasters can have a good side to them. Honestly.

Mad Dog's Budget Holiday Gift Guide
In spite of what Someone keeps telling us, the economy is tight this year. This means we need to buy gifts on a budget. But don't despair, you can still afford a glowing fish, a well-endowed fossil, a highly sexed worm, or a 10-cent metal sculpture of a president.

Thank God Christmas Only Comes Once a Year
The past year has been amazingly busy here in the Dog household. The body cast will be coming off soon, Brian apologized for misspelling "Mom" on my new tattoo, and the I.R.S. dropped the tax evasion charges when they came to the house and agreed that I couldn't possibly have made any money last year. But look on the bright side, at least I can still send out this Christmas newsletter!

I Don't Love Paris in the Fall
Paris Hilton certainly isn't the first person to be famous for being famous. Kato Kaelin, Jessica Hahn, Angelyne and Anna Nicole Smith immediately come to mind. What are the odds that most of us will ever see our promised 15 minutes of fame? Not good, but thanks to a couple of web sites we can fake it.

Prioritizing Linguistic Robustness
They say English is one of the most difficult languages to learn, but what really makes it tricky is that people don’t say what they mean. Politicians talk about regime change when they really mean overthrow a government, while business people want to synergize when they could combine. We need to start using our whole brain when we speak. You know, like the Chinese do.

Take My TV, Please
If the average American watches more than four hours of TV a day, then how is it I can have satellite with every known channel in the universe and still spend all my time scrolling through the program guide looking for something interesting to watch? And of course ending up with a channel I can get over the air with good old rabbit ears. It just ain't right.

Get a Tan While Riding a 60,000-Mile Elevator
Scientists have cloned a rat, perfected the spray-on tan, and created the oxymoronic fat-free half-and-half. What's left? Okay, besides the 60,000-mile high elevator they're talking about building so they can haul cargo to a non-existent space station.

Rating the Raters
Everything has a rating system these days. Movies, television, music, even video games. And they're so arbitrary. Violent Kill Bill was rated R while sexy Showgirls  was NC-17. We need new ratings. Like TF, specifically for Mel Gibson’s lightning-stricken upcoming movie, The Passion of Christ. That guy's Tempting Fate.

Don't Touch That Name
The Chinese government has copyrighted Yang Liwei, the Chinese astronaut's name. It's a good thing you can't do that here or people couldn't name their children Chevy, DelMonte Nautica, and L’Oreal, which they do. How low class! Why aren't they naming them something fancier, like Rolls-Royce, Harley-Davidson, or Ferrari? 

Now Where Did I Leave That Bone Again?
I got a look at my colon the other day and it wasn’t a pretty sight, but at least it didn't have a piece of my skull stashed there. You see, doctors put a piece of  Roy Horn's skull in his stomach for safe keeping. Honestly. But that's not so odd. Dr. Chevalier Jackson removed, and saved, 2,000 items from people's bodies. And I know where you can see them.

The Species of the Origin
The European Union has  a list of food names they say should only be used when a product is made in a specific area. They say champagne should come Champagne, feta from Greece and haggis should be kept in Scotland. We should retaliate by insisting they not make American cheese, New York style pizza, or Rocky Mountain oysters. Right. As if they'd want to. 

Deck the Halls With Boughs of Flip-Flops
I’m in Florida and I can’t find a pair of men’s flip-flops.  Sure it's September and getting cool in most of the country, but the temperature here is in the upper 80’s and the beaches are crowded. It's like January when you can't find a winter coat. Or August when it's hot and there's not a bathing suit to be found. That's why I'm going to start a  chain of stores. Look for Off Season, coming to a mall near you soon.

Mankind Overboard!
We’re officially living in the Age of Going Overboard. The average American family has more cars than licensed drivers.  A couple in England  kept 244 dogs, 16 birds, five cats, one rabbit, and a chinchilla as pets. And in California, thieves stole an entire house, lock, stock and bathroom. It's time for a bit of moderation. Okay, you can wait until after you buy that $5,200 toilet.

And the Winner is....a Loser
This past week someone became a winner and loser at the same time by not cashing in a $50 million Florida Lottery ticket. But they're not the only one. A man in Brazil went into the hospital for an earache and won a free vasectomy. The guy who won the World Rubik’s Game Championship lost his senses. Hey, even George Bush is a winner and a loser. Just ask any Democrat. 

Chocolate, the New Health Food
For years we were told that chocolate was bad for us, but now they say it can be downright healthy. Eating chocolate can lower your blood pressure. Men who eat three chocolate bars a month may live longer than those who don't.  Now people are paying to get chocolate massages, chocolate facials, and a chocolate body rub. Life was so much simpler when all we did was eat the stuff.

Thanks a lot, Mercury
Astrologers say when Mercury goes retrograde life becomes problematic, which is a polite astrological way of saying everything is a pain in the ass.  Don't get upset, use it. After all, we haven't had a good scapegoat since Russia, Osama bin Laden, and El Niño So the next time you‘re late for work, just look the boss in the eye and say, “Mercury retrograde.” No worries!

Press 1 to Hear a Familiar Voice
We all hear voices. We hear the Voice of Reason, the Voice of Authority, and the voice of Jane Barbe, who for years said, “I’m sorry, the number you have reached is not in service at this time.” Now that she's in charge of that Great Voicemail in the Sky, who's going to take her place?

I'm Not Sure How To Tell You This, But...
There are ways to break important news and there are ways not to. Doing it in person is good. Over the telephone is probably second best. Taking out a full-page ad to announce that you're breaking up or going on The Tonight Show to declare your candidacy aren't high on the list. God help Maria if Arnold ever decides he wants a divorce.

For Sale: One Slightly Used Vote
Since politics has turned into a bidding war, why not actually let the candidates bid on it? That’s right, we should post the presidency on eBay. The campaign would be shorter, sweeter, more honest, and it would help lower the federal deficit. On second thought, why don't the candidates pay us directly? That’s it. I’m putting my vote up for auction on eBay. Let the bidding begin!

All Jobs Are Not Created Equal
Jobs are like soul mates, they say we each have a perfect match out there somewhere, it’s just a matter of finding it. Ones most of us can eliminate include whale head decapitator, roadside urine bottle collector, and being the poor projectionist who has to watch Charlie’s Angels—Full Throttle over and over. But that doesn't mean you won't want to bid on eBay to become sportswriter-for-a-day.

TV or Not TV, What Was the Question?
If you’re an average American you watch over four hours of TV a day, which isn't surprising since 780 out of every 1,000 of us own a TV set. But is this good? In Andorra they have no broadcast TV channels. They also have no unemployment, no military, and the highest life expectancy in the world. Should we use the "off" button on our remote more often?

Eat, Drink and Be Stuffed
Eating contests have become very popular. Takeru Kobayashi won the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest by downing 44½ hot dogs in 12 minutes, while Eric Booker ate 21 matzo balls in 5½ minutes. Don't be surprised if competitive eating becomes an Olympic event. At least it would be something we could all relate to, unlike those where you have to train hard, be in shape, and actually exercise.

Heavy Petting in America
Fifty-eight percent of the households in this country have at least one pet. Cats are the most popular, followed by dogs and reptiles. People dote on their pets and think they're smart. They are. They get to sleep 20 hours a day, are fed well, and don't have to work for a living. Nice work if you can get it.

So That's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
There are 7.3 million millionaires in the world, which is one out of every 863 people. The newest member of this club is LeBron James, the high school basketball player who just picked up a seven-year endorsement deal with Nike worth $90 million. That's $35,225 a day just for wearing shoes. Nice work if you can get it.

Danger Traveling Will Robinson!
There’s a hall of fame for just about anything you can think of, including baseball, rock and roll, cockroaches, and even the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame. Now Carnegie-Mellon University has announced that they're going to open the Robot Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh. Danger Will Robinson!

Headlines We're Dying to See
Recently, seven well known people got a glimpse of their obituaries when CNN accidentally left a group of mock-ups on a page of their web site. Personally, I don't want to see mine. It will probably have a headline like “Thought he was clever.” Or “Now we can list our phone number again.” Unless, that is, I follow Jay Leno's lead and buy a more interesting life story.

Assertive Descriptions for Pedestrian Palates
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, cat’s pee is an accepted description for wine. And not a bad one, either. So is wet dog, burnt match, and medicinal. Olive oil tasters use such delightfully descriptive terms as vomit, fetid cheese, and grubby. If this trend spreads, soon it will be a compliment when the kids say your tuna casserole tastes like dog crap.

Taking the Joy Out of Killjoy
It would be nice if our feelings of accomplishment could last a little longer. Recently I returned from a five-hour, 10-mile hike to find out that a Sherpa named Lakpa had trekked to the top of Mount Everest and did it in just over twice the time. Luckily Takeru Kobayashi doesn’t have to worry about being outdone--it's going to be really hard for anyone to beat his record of eating 50½ hot dogs in 12 minutes. I'm not even going to try.

Making Room at the Top of the Food Chain
A scientist from Detroit says chimps should be grouped with humans in the genus Homo because 99.4 percent of our DNA is the same. But there are a number of things that very definitely differentiate us from chimpanzees, including how we look, act, talk, and that they'd rather pick bugs out of each other's fur than watch Mr. Personality. Go figure.

Funny Money
The Treasury Department is messing with our money again, adding larger portraits, yellow numbers flying around the back, and changing the front so it fades from green to peach to blue. But they're not changing the $1 bill--they're still thinking about replacing it with a coin to save money. They wouldn't have to if they sold ads on it. 

Online, On The Toilet
If there’s one thing that’s been missing from my life, it’s the ability to surf the web and check email while sitting on the toilet.  Well, no more. Thanks to Microsoft, the iLoo will make the rounds of British music festivals this summer. With a computer under the sink, six-channel surround sound, a flat-screen monitor, and a waterproof wireless keyboard, you know there will be a long line of fidgety people waiting to try it out.

If Life Had a Laff Track
Television shouldn't be the only place we hear laugh tracks--we should have them in everyday life too. Wouldn’t it  feel good if when you remembered to put the toilet seat down or replaced the cap on the toothpaste without having to be reminded there was applause? It would be a nice addition to email too. Better than using those silly emoticons, don't you think? (;}) 

This is Your Life, Take Two
People reinvent themselves for different reasons. For some, it’s the sudden realization that they’re not happy or fulfilled. For others it's to help find a job, keep a job, or comes after losing a job. But reinvention isn’t easy. Just ask the two men who met in an anger management class and got into a fight while working on a home-improvement project. That's what’s known as reinvention failure.

The Sweet Smell of Success is Actually Lily of the Valley
Scientists have discovered that sperm are attracted to the smell of lily of the valley. Not Budweiser. Not car exhaust. Not even the smell of their own armpits. They hope to use this revelation to create a fertility booster and a contraceptive. Is it any wonder they get all the grant money and we don't?

Simplify Yourself
There's a movement to simplify our lives. Books, TV shows and magazines have popped up to tell us how wonderful it is. Luckily there are places like Hearst Castle and the Madonna Inn which were built long before anyone thought of this. They're the forerunners of the new opposite and equal reaction--the Simply More movement. Fire up the Hummer H2 and lets go check it out.

Charity Begins at the Racetrack
Raising money is never easy. School groups hold bake sales. Girl Scouts peddle cookies. And churches pass the collection plate, which is now easier than ever since they're starting to accept credit cards, install ATMs, and set up automatic withdrawals. But if you really want to raise money, get some nuns to go to the racetrack. A group of them in LA  bought their students new desks  that way. Hey, they might be onto something.

Something's Fishy About The News
A talking carp has predicted that the end of the world is near. It’s really not that farfetched to think that the next Nostradamus might be a fish, what is hard to fathom is that the New York Times beat out the Weekly World News for the story. But we shouldn’t completely dismiss the fish’s words. After all, if it turns out the end actually is near we need to stop floundering around and do some quick sole searching. You wouldn't want the carp to clam up, would you?

Hey Baby, Want to Give Me The Heimlich Maneuver?
A guy in Punta Gorda, Florida called the Choking Man has been feigning choking incidents, then when a woman gives him the Heimlich maneuver, he hugs and kisses her. There are definitely better ways for him to meet women. For one, he needs to change his name. Nothing turns a woman off faster than to hear that your name is Choking Man. Unless, of course, it’s Saddam Hussein, Miss Prissypants, or Carrot Top.

Voting As If Your Life (Savers) Depended On It
Television has become a democratic medium. We vote to get celebrities out of here, to marry off couples, and soon to choose an American Candidate. Now voting is even sweeter since we can choose the new flavors for Life Savers' five-flavor roll. Hopefully all this will get people in the habit so the turnout for the next presidential election will increase. Of course it would help if you could vote from home and they'd give away a car in a random drawing.

Reverse Chic Is Better Than No Chic At All
When the economy gets tough, cutting back becomes a way of life. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up everything. The rage on the West Coast right now is Charles Shaw wine for $1.99 a bottle. And bragging about it. It's called reverse chic. It builds character, helps us feel good about ourselves, and gives me something to write about.

Hey Kids, Let's Go To CareerWorld!
It’s not easy trying to decide what you want to be when you grow up. Luckily we live in the 21st century so going to a theme park can help. When Wannado opens in 2004 children will be able to role-play different careers, learning how to climb the Corporate Ladder while screaming at the heart-stopping ups and downs of the 401-K Roller Coaster. If only they had that when I was growing up.

Cleaning The House of Jupiter
Tarot cards hate me. Actually I don't think any form of divination this side of free-range organically grown chicken entrails likes me. But I do read my horoscope every day. And  I've figured out that Neptune, Pluto, and Jupiter do nothing but cause trouble. I think we should take a few rockets armed with the nuclear warheads we don’t want other countries to have and blast the suckers into cosmic lint. The result? Peace on Earth.

Cheaper Than Therapy
Recently I’ve read that flying, gardening, thrifting, knitting, quilting, yoga, ice skating, and playing Bunko are all cheaper than therapy. Considering therapy can easily cost $91,000, and getting your small jet pilot's license can set you back a whopping $480,000, we need to look hard at these claims. Besides, even if it is cheaper, does that mean it's as effective?

Aw, Forget It
We all forget things from time to time, though at least most of us don’t forget our surgical tools are inside a patient’s stomach when we sew them up. You know, like what happens 1,500 times a year. People also forget their manners, especially when using their cell phone. And Pete Townsend, well he forgot that he used his credit card to view child pornography online. Don’t you just hate when that happens?

Eating Your Way Through The Seven Deadly Sins
The Old Homestead restaurant in New York City has a $41 hamburger on the menu, but be warned, eating one violates each of the seven deadly sins. Of course you may not have to worry about gluttony much longer. At least not if a group of French chefs, writers, and media stars get their way when they ask the Pope to remove it from the list of no-nos.

That Was Then, This Is Cheez Whiz
A hundred years ago helium was discovered, Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company, and the Wright brothers flew their airplane across some sand dunes. But Cheez Whiz wouldn't be invented for another 50 years. Now it turns out if you put Cheez Whiz on your greasy clothes and wash them they’ll come clean. And you thought there were no more great discoveries to be made.

Send In The Clones
The big news is that a religious cult led by a man who claims space aliens he met in a volcano told him humans had been cloned from the DNA of extraterrestrial scientists says they've cloned a woman. And 2,000 people are on a waiting list to have themselves or a loved one cloned. Before you decide that this is the best thing since plastic wrapped slices of peanut butter, remember it doesn’t mean you’ll end up with an exact duplicate. For better or worse.

Uselessness is the Bastard Son of Invention
One online database catalogs over 30 million patents from around the world. With that many it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one or two are useless items, such as the Apparatus For Simulating a High Five or the Gravity Powered Shoe Air Conditioner. So how come inventors aren't dreaming up the things we really need, like a microwave oven with a “Reverse” button for those times when we overcook our dinner? 

The Universal Battle of the Bulge
There’s no nice way to put this, but the Earth is getting fat, and the blame is being pinned on El Niño. It's a shame the one-third of adults and 12 percent of children in this country who are overweight can't use that excuse. All they can blame it on is Homer Simpson, doughnuts, and a faulty education system. 

It's Not The Gift That Counts, It's...Okay, It's The Gift
Just in case Santa's elves are too busy auditioning for Under The Rainbow-2 to help with your Christmas shopping, here are a few gift suggestions. Well, providing you have people on your list who would like a bondage Barbie, a crying baby translator, an ad on a police car, or a roll of wart-removing duct tape. And after all, who doesn't?

Are Sharks Afraid Of Being Hit By An Asteroid?
Scientists say that a catastrophic asteroid hits the Earth only once every 1,000 years. Of course this is little consolation to the English teenager who had a meteorite land on her foot. Meanwhile the odds of being attacked by a shark in the U.S. are 1 in 5 million, yet people are scared to death of them. Does this mean we can stop being afraid of the dark, spiders, and Carrot Top too?

Searching For The Perfect Combination
Some things just belong together, like popcorn and a movie, T-shirts and jeans, and peanut butter and jelly. But what if we were to take mice with fluorescent green fur, combine them with a female fish that turns into a male, wrap it in cellophane like the new peanut butter slices, and put it on Lech Walesa's new fishing TV show. Now that could be the perfect combination.

So Many Words, So Few Chances to Use Them
The new version of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has been released and they've added 3,500 new words. I have to wonder though, whether we really need more. After all, we hardly use the ones we have. But one type of word which needs updating is the collective noun. Shouldn't we be talking about a sorority of coeds, a Bubba of rednecks, and a palette of artists?

Crispy Crickets, They're Not Just For Dinner Anymore
A chain of kiosks in Thailand is selling cooked insects as snacks. But don't despair, even though you can't get them here you can still order them online from DCO Thai, including the ever popular Mixed Insects, which are ”cooked, salted and ready to eat.” Hey, they’ll even gift wrap them for free. Your Christmas gift worries are over.

Greetings from Your Name Here, USA
The mayor of Biggs, CA is considering the California Milk Processing Board's proposal that they change their name to Got Milk? If that doesn't work, they should consider buying their own town. Hey, Amboy, CA is up for sale for $1.9 million. Don't be surprised if soon you'll be able to visit The Other White Meat, MI and  K-Y Jelly, KY.

Will The Real Saddam Please Stand Up?
A forensic specialist has discovered that Saddam Hussein has three body doubles who appear in his behalf. In fact, the real Saddam hadn’t shown his face in public for 14 years. What if he's not the only one doing this? Might there be spare George Bushes floating around who are schooled in the fine art of malapropisms? And can we be certain that when the Israelis are demolishing Yasser Arafat’s compound they’re not going after Ringo Starr?

Mamma Mia, It's Certified Italian
Starting next year the Italian Ministry of Agriculture will send inspectors to Belgium, Japan, and the United States to certify Italian restaurants. This ethnic food cleansing could lead to the end of fusion food while making certain your fries are French, the cheese on your sandwich is Swiss, and the muffins being served at the diner are English enough for the Queen.

Why Politicians Aren't American Idols
A higher percentage of eligible voters cast a ballot for the finalists in American Idol than voted in the last presidential election. Maybe it would help if the campaign was shorter and we limited campaign spending. Maybe. I think the most effective thing we could do would be to make elections more like reality TV.

I'll Take Creative Solutions for $500,000, Alex
They just announced the winners of this year’s MacArthur Grants and, once again, I didn’t receive one. The winners included an artist who draws on long pieces of paper, a musician who combines classical and bluegrass styles, and a man who builds Transformers. Big deal. What about solving the big problems, like how to stop kids from bringing their dirty laundry home from college, what to do with aging hip-hop artists, and how to get Hooters girls on airplanes? 

Who Let The Dogs Out? Woof! What?
A company in Japan has released a “portable emotional analyzer” called Bowlingual which they say can translate a dog’s barking. It lets you know whether your pet is happy, sad, frustrated, angry, assertive, desirous, or just obnoxious. I don’t expect it  to be a huge seller. After all, if a dog’s vocabulary is as limited as the Bowlingual makes it out to be, we’re going to get bored with the conversation pretty quickly. But that doesn’t mean we won’t find other uses for it.

Altered Reality TV
They're remaking Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies as reality TV shows, moving a mountain family to a posh L.A. mansion and a city family to a farm. What next, send a family up in a rocket to remake Lost in Space Mom, knock off Mom to redo My Mother The Car, and recruit men for an adventure camping reality series based on Deliverance?

That Diamond Just Might Be Your Best Friend
It's natural to want to be remembered after you're gone. That's why “Steady Ed” Headrick asked that his ashes be part of the plastic in a special edition Frisbee. And Marvel Comics artist Mark Gruenwald had his mixed into the ink used to print an issue of Squadron Supreme. Now a company in Chicago will  turn your deceased loved one into a diamond. It's true. That heirloom won't just be Mom's, it will be Mom.

Slip Slidin' Away on the Battlefield
In an effort to come up with a new non-lethal weapon, the Marines have had a Texas company create an antitraction gel that's so slippery it’s impossible to drive or walk on it. That includes the enemy and our troops. Just wait until chefs, handymen, and sex workers get their, uh, hands on the stuff.

The Ultimate Cable Channels
Meow TV may be coming soon. It will feature bouncing balls, squirrels, and birds. That's because Meow TV isn’t about cats, it’s for cats. But since it isn't on my cable line-up yet, I've had to watch something else. That's how I got hooked on Channel 76, which broadcasts an oscilloscope 24 hours a day. There are no commercials, no breaks for station identification, and none of those obnoxious promos for other programs.  It's a beautiful thing.

We're All Turkmenbashi On This Bus
As of January 1st, Russian TV stations will have to stop inserting subliminal messages into their programming. Of course they'll find another way to get people to do their bidding. They might take a tip from the President of Turkmenistan, who named himself, a meteorite, cities, airports, and that confusing first month of the year after the country. Hey, it's easy to remember.

Mommy, Why Do I Have to Go to School?
It’s never too early to encourage your children to choose a career. After all, they’ll be working at it for 40 hours a week over the next, oh, 42 years. First, It’s a good idea to check off some of the things they shouldn't  want to pursue. Then they can look at the perennial favorites. In the end they should become either governor or coal miner. Here's why.

How I Survived Jury Duty And Lived To Tell About It
On the morning of jury duty I found myself in the basement of the courts building with fifty other semi-comatose potential jurors, thankful I wasn't putting my fate in the hands of people like us. We watched a short instructional video. We learned the answer to the question: Do judges wear anything under their robes? And we were sent home unused, earning a whopping $1.50 for  the day. It's a shame I can't be called back for at least a year. I saw a career in the making.

Your Ad Could Be Here
If you thought advertising was hard to ignore before, look out. While we’re used to seeing it on TV, in magazines, on Web sites, bus stop benches, trash cans, and billboards, now they're starting to put them on those concrete parking lot bumpers. You know those products you see in movies and on TV? They're  a sneaky form of advertising. But please don’t be upset about it. After all, they’re just doing their job to help the economy.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off On A Long Ride To Work We Go
The average person in the U.S. spends 51 minutes a day commuting to work. That’s 221 hours a year, or 9.2 days. If you use your time wisely, commuting can give you a chance to become more cultured. It can be educational, save you time, and be a good outlet for releasing your aggressions. Well, as long as you don't attack anyone with that half-eaten breakfast burrito. 

Ridin' and Ropin'-- It Ain't Just For The Bedroom Anymore
Rodeo is a popular sport. It’s NASCAR on horses, only without the noise, fumes, and seat belts. It's roping steers, wrestling calves, and being proud of holding on for eight seconds of wild bucking fun. That's holding onto a bull, of course. It's also the perfect way to resolve international disputes. Look for the International Peace Rodeo, coming to a web site near you soon.

Discovering the Truth About Discoveries
We all enjoy discoveries. They’re fun, they’re educational, and they let us sit back and say “Damn, just when I thought I’d seen everything.” But there are still many things yet to be discovered, including why the average person on the West Coast has 0.8 fewer personal friends than the national average, or how to use an empty cigarette carton, worthless stock certificates, and an orange jumpsuit to brighten up a dank and dreary jail cell.

Allergies Are Nothing to Sneeze At
Allergies are the body’s way of saying “Keep Away.” But sometimes allergens end up in our food by mistake, such as when Berkeley Farms had to recall a big batch of milk because it contained too much penicillin. Instead of destroying it, if they'd been smart they would have seen the milk glass as being half full and repackaged it as Berkeley Farms Milk With Calcium, Vitamin D, and Penicillin. Imagine being able to get rid of gonorrhea while enjoying your morning Wheaties.

Y Johnny Kant Spel Gud
A boy from Colorado won the 75th annual National Spelling Bee and walked away with $12,000. It’s nice to know that there are kids who think good spelling is important, after all, to the Hooked on Phonics Generation U2 isn’t just a band, it's a reply to the compliment, “U r 1 hella kewl grrl!” If u think this is 2 complicated 4 you, read this be4 you 4get.

Branding--It's Not Just For Cattle Anymore
Branding, for those who slept through Business Buzz Words 101, is the idea that if a name is well known enough you can slap it on anything. That's why Coca Cola is putting out Vanilla Coke, why you can buy Pez-flavored popcorn, and why there are so damned many sequels. It also explains why soon you'll be able to buy Mad Dog Beef Jerky (slogan: “It takes a real jerk to make jerky this good.”).

Driving Miss Dzesika
In Lithuania women no longer have to undergo a gynecological exam in order to get their driver’s license. But that's not to say that additional testing before being issued a license is such a bad idea, even here in the U.S. If we really want to make the roads safer we need to add a few more tests. It will help save lives, keep our tempers under control, lower our blood pressure, and get some of those idiots off the road.

Gardening in the 21st Century--Hold The Veggies
Growing your own vegetables is so passé. That's why NASA is coming to the rescue by trying to figure out how to take fish filets and make them grow. Imagine being able to soak a cocktail wiener for a few days and ending up with a foot-long hot dog. Or buying some chicken nuggets and growing them into, well, bigger nuggets. As God is my witness I'll never be hungry again!

Now That's What I Call Dirty Money
Dirty money is everywhere. That’s why they have ATM machines in Japan that clean, sanitize, and even iron the money before spitting it out. The money in northeastern India is so dirty you can catch tuberculosis and pneumonia from it. And here in the United States seven percent of the bills contain bacteria that could cause an infection in healthy adults. It's time to replace the dollar bill with a coin. Or at least start handing out Listerine Wet Wipes with people’s change.

You Want a Piece of Me?
Everyone is saving their DNA. Some are doing it in the hope that cloning will become possible. Others are doing it in case they lose their hair and scientists discover a cure. Still others want to have their DNA copyrighted. Don't be surprised if any day now eBay has an area where people can put their slightly used DNA up for bid, you'll be able to buy DNA futures, and DNA urns start gracing people’s mantles as a way to remember those who have passed on.

Sex And The Single Panda
Tian Tian, a male panda at the National Zoo, recently decided it was time to get down to business. So he did what any self-respecting panda would do: he jumped the female, bit her, pinned her down, and asked her repeatedly, “Who’s your daddy?” Most men don’t see a problem with this, in spite of women trying to get them to realize that foreplay is important. But a woman's troubles may be over soon. Scientists have discovered a way to make sure men don’t ever bother women again.

The Museum of Stripping Cowboy Vampires
Both the Exotic World Burlesque Museum and the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum have hit hard times. They'd probably do better if they were converted into theme parks. After all, people can’t get enough them. That's why a group in Transylvania is raising money to build a Dracula theme park complete with rides, a spooky Gothic castle, a zoo, and of course a golf course. Maybe they should combine their efforts. A theme park featuring female vampires slowly stripping off their capes while singing Happy Trails sounds like a sure fire winner.

Why Can't Robots Be More Like a Man?
For years we were fed an image of the future in which robots cook, clean, wash the dog, do the gardening, and either take out the trash or eat it depending on which version you bought into. Of course this would make our lives pure paradise. But so far all we have is the robot dog, robot cat, robofly, and yes, the robolobster. And of course the new vacuum-cleaning robot which manages to clean 92 percent of the room. Ah, it's a beautiful new world that awaits us.

And You Think You're Losing It?
We all lose things. Okay, so we don't usually lose 85 million doses of smallpox vaccine like a  French pharmaceutical company did. Or 6,000 pieces of evidence like the Los Angeles County Sheriff, a whole dust storm like they did in China, or their orientation like the British Royal Marines who stormed a  beach in Spain when they were supposed to be in Gibraltar. At least the 85 million doses of smallpox vaccine were found.

Hey, I Own Those Words
People are possessive about the words they use. The Todd M. Beamer Foundation is trying to trademark “Let’s roll.” President Bush has declared that catfish from other countries can’t be called catfish in the U.S. And two historians were recently caught cribbing passages from other books. According to the Oxford English Dictionary there are 615,100 words in the English language. There must be a few left we can still use without getting sued.

Is The Human Body Worth The Sum Of Its Parts?
They used to say the human body was worth about 89 cents, but times change. Now experts claim it's worth about $220,000 thanks to the market in hearts, livers, kidneys, corneas, skin, bones, and other body parts. That's why we need to take better care of our bodies by chewing gum and wearing shirts which supply two lemons’ worth of vitamin C a day. Hey, you want to fetch a good price on eBay, don't you?

Waking Up To The Truth About Sleep
There’s been a lot of talk about how we’re all sleep deprived, but the truth is sleep deprivation isn’t the real problem. What we should be concerned about is that, thanks to all the snoozing we do, we’re life deprived. Face it, we spend 106 days each year sleeping. And only 4.36 hours kissing. Obviously we need to cut back on our sleeping. And, of course, pump up the kissing.

How Come There's Never A Space Taxi When You Need One?
It looks like Lance Bass of ‘N Sync won't be taking a Russian space taxi to the International Space Station after all. Of course even if he had paid his $22 million he might have had a problem getting through spaceport security. NASA, in a burst of good old American Puritanism, recently issued guidelines covering who they’ll allow to hang out up there. And there isn't a musician alive who could make the grade.

Raising a Stink
Of the five senses, there’s little question smell is the most underrated. But it’s receiving a lot of attention these days. A company in Philadelphia is trying to come up with a truly putrid stink bomb for the military. Scientists are working on an artificial nose that can smell anthrax and land mines. And a researcher at the Monell Chemical Sense Center claims men’s armpit sweat can stimulate a woman’s menstrual cycle. And you thought your job stank.

Amazing Color-Changing Food
As if it wasn’t enough that every food product comes in fourteen varieties, now you have to decide what color you want too. First Heinz came out with green and purple ketchup for kids. Now their Ore-Ida division is making brown and blue French fries, scientists have developed a gold kiwi fruit, and M&M's may add aqua to the mix. Any day now you'll be eating brown Cocoa Crisper chocolaty French fries covered in green ketchup topped with pink M&M’s wrapped in red strawberry-flavored wrapping. And you thought you had nothing to look forward to.

Let The New Games Begin
People get tired of watching the same old thing. That’s why each time the Olympics rolls around they add a few new events to keep things fresh. This year they've added the women’s bobsleigh, the skeleton, and the biathlon pursuit. A group is lobbying to add bridge to the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. If they really want to spice them up they should have the athletes shoot at the Olympic mascots, institute Olympic shoplifting, and have the Downhill Souvenir Smash. Now those would bring us some fun Olympic Moments.

Money For Nothin' And The Checks Are Free
Mariah Carey’s got a new gig--she's being paid to do nothing. This is the perfect career for me. After all, I’ve been doing nothing for years, and I do it rather well if I do say so myself. The problem is that until now it hasn’t paid much. If this catches on Adam Sandler could be paid not to make any more movies, Martha Stewart could be paid not to subject us to another recipe that starts with “First, create the universe,” and I could be paid not to write. I think we're onto something here.

I've Seen The Future Of Food, And Boy Is It Fancy
I went to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco where 1,200 exhibitors promoted 50,000 so-called fancy food items which were Faster! More Intense! and Less Real! There were potato chip cookies, ten-minute tiramisu, and Swiss cannabis pastilles. There was flavored water, vitamin-enriched water, and antioxidant water. If this is the future of food I want to eat in the past. Except for the cannabis pastilles, of course.

Those Who Cannot Rewrite The Past Are Condemned to Repeat It
Everyone's rewriting the past. In the new version of E.T. the guns the FBI men used to be holding have been digitally removed and replaced by walkie-talkies. In the "restored" version of the novel All The King's Men the lead character's name is different. And in the Harry Potter movie they change the way witches actually ride brooms. What next, rewrite The Chair so it will be an exciting, fun TV quiz show? Sorry, there's a limit to what directors and writers can do.

A Long Day's Journey Into Knighthood
This past New Year’s Day Queen Elizabeth II made about twenty-five people knights, including actor Ben Kingsley and Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson. At the same time The Bee Gees became Commanders of the Order of the British Empire, Lynn Redgrave became an OBE, and another James Watson, this one a parking lot attendant at Leeds Metropolitan University, became an MBE. We need to establish an American knighthood. And we need to do it soon.

A Euro For Your Thoughts
On New Year's Day twelve European countries dumped their francs, drachmas, and pesetas in favor of the euro. The idea is to unite the countries economically, give the dollar a run for its financial money, and create some truly boring paper money. Oh yeah, and make it easier to travel from country to country. In spite of their releasing a rousing theme song--The EuroWorldSong--a lot of people still aren't happy about it.

Honest to God, It’s The Flexi-truth™
It's getting so you don't know who to believe anymore. George O’Leary, coach of the Notre Dame football team, lied about having received a master’s degree. Federal judge James Ware made up a past. And Felix Urioste lied about his gender and got away with it. How do we stop this trend? Make lying acceptable behavior and rename it Flexi-truth™. Honestly!

The Animals Even Vegetarians Love to Eat
Animal crackers are 100 years old. Growing up, we each had a favorite animal whose head we preferred to bite off. Some were camel chompers. Others bison biters. Still others were hard core, dyed-in-the-wool monkey munchers. In honor of the 100th birthday, Nabisco is adding a new animal to the line-up. And you can vote on it I’m predicting the walrus will win. Not because I think it’s the most deserving. Or would even be the most fun to eat. No, I’m making this prediction based on clues left by the Nostradamus of the Silver Screen, Shirley Temple.

I'm Beginning to Shop a Lot Like Christmas
Christmas is going to be different this year. Not just because the outside of every house will be decorated in red, white, and blue bulbs. Or that you'll  have to explain to the kids that Santa’s beard is white because he’s old, not because it’s covered in anthrax. No, this year will be different because when you splurge on gifts you won’t have to feel guilty. In fact you’ll feel downright good knowing that you’re not only bringing a smile to people’s faces, but ’ll also helping the economy and doing your part to win the war on terrorism. Now if you only knew what to buy....

Why The Nuts Always Rise to The Top
Scientists have finally solved  the Brazil Nut Effect, where the first person to pour a bowl of muesli gets most of the Brazil nuts while the last person gets a pile of oats. It turns out to be a microcosm for life. That’s right, it demonstrates how the nuts rise to the top while the flakes sink to the bottom. It’s why Lyndon Larouche and Ross Perot aren’t running our country yet Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi are running theirs. And why Rip Taylor is still tossing confetti at the Shriners' convention while Jim Carrey gets $20 million per movie. Isn't science great?

Ask Not How Many Mosquitoes Your Country Can Kill For You…
People around the world are being asked to pitch in and help their country. In Brazil one town is asking citizens to trade their dead rats for cash. In Italy they held a mosquito-killing contest. And in England they’re asking people to help out by sending in the world’s funniest joke. Meanwhile in California, Assemblyman Joe Simitian held a contest in which he asked people to suggest new legislation. In the process he might have come up with the world's funniest joke.

Cleaning Up The Economic Doo-doo
The global economy’s shrinking faster than a cheap T-shirt that says “My parents went to a refugee camp in Afghanistan and all I got was this lousy T-shirt and some peanut butter and jelly.” In Paris even the men who clean the dog crap from the streets are about to hit the unemployment line. But if the Federal Reserve plays its cards right we'll be able to hire them to clean up our economic doo-doo.


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