Saturday, September 16

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #13.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #13
"It's My Costume."
(Originally published 10-13-05.)

Here's a quick Halloween story to get you in the spirit.

When I was in Kindergarten in 1987, it was the school's policy to have everyone in the building parade around each other for the afternoon. Every year, all the kids would dress up in their favorite Halloween costumes, and show them off for the remainder of Winneconne Elementary to view.

I think the big thing in the mid-80's was the California Raisins, so there were a lot of kids in purple-face, wearing garbage bags stuffed with newspaper. This was not only sad and lazy on the part of the parents, but also a tad racist. I never quite jived with the thought of 4 overweight prunes donning sunglasses and singing soul tunes. Maybe I'm just sensitive; after all, it was the most successful marketing campaign in fruit and vegetable history.

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Anyways, my Mom was much too cool to send me to school wearing a garbage bag. Man, I was set. Today, I was Sylvester the cat, complete with full costume and a giant head. I looked like the mascot for a football team, that's how rad this costume was. Screw the plastic masks with the rubber band and the staple, I was going for broke this year. If this didn't score me some more friends, I didn't know what would.

On the day of the parade, I brought my amazing costume, neatly folded and packed in a paper bag, and placed directly under my hanging jacket in our cubby section along the wall. There it would sit, unassuming and quiet, waiting patiently for the afternoon to arrive to spring itself free from the bag and blow the minds of about a thousand educated minds. I felt like a suicide bomber before the big moment. Before you could say "Allah," the moment had arrived.

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Frantically, the entire Kindergarten class darted over to the cubby, tearing their meager raisin costumes and cheap masks out of their horrible paper bags. I sauntered over slowly, as to not draw too much attention to myself. The time for that would be soon enough. As the dust began to settle, I strolled in and started looking for my costume.

But...I couldn't find it.

The bag that I thought it was in was empty, and all the other bags seemingly belonged to other kids. After a thorough check of all the bags again (thorough for a 5 year old, mind you), I realized that my awesome Sylvester costume was no more. It was either stolen or had simply disappeared.

Again, being a cool Mom, my Mother was actually there as a chaperone for the proceedings. She asked and re-asked me if I was absolutely positive that my costume wasn't over by the cubby. I gave her my word that it had dropped off the face of the earth. Suddenly I went from almost being the coolest kid in Kindergarten to the loser without a costume. Something needed to be done, and my Mother was getting a bit frantic.

Mrs. Broderick, my Kindergarten teacher, had a plan. "We have some spare costumes in the closet," she said, doing her best to make the most of a bad situation. She was an amazing teacher, and away she went, digging around to find something for me, just minutes before the big parade.

"Here we go," she said. "Try this on."

"This" happened to be the saddest looking dog costume I've ever seen. Yes, a dog costume. Why someone would neglect a costume like this, leaving it for dead in a Kindergarten closet for 80 years was beyond me. Oh, wait, it was because the costume sucked a boatload of ass.

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Imagine the cheapest Halloween costume you can think of. Good, now pretend that it's of a dog. Okay, good. Now cross-breed that dog costume with a clown costume, make it horribly ill-fit and make it orange and yellow striped, and you're getting into the ballpark of what this costume looked like. It certainly didn't look like something a dog would wear, but the mask assured me that it was indeed a canine outfit. Perhaps this particular dog worked at a circus or something, but I was really in no position to ask questions. While my Mom literally held back tears of embarrassment and anger, I slipped into a skin-tight circus dog uniform.

(INTERMISSION.)

I want to use this break in the story to tell you a quick joke I was just reminded of.

A dog walks into a hardware store and says, "I'm looking for a job."The clerk says, "I'm sorry, we don't hire dogs. Why don't you work for the circus?"The dog looks at him and says, "What would the circus want with a plumber?"

(END OF IMTERMISSION.)

Okay, back to the story.

So, furious, sad, heartbroken and humiliated beyond my wildest dreams, I was forced to get in line with my friends and respected quad-partners, and parade this obscene costume in front of every single person in the school, grades K through 8.

Peering at the other kids through the tiny plastic slits in the mask, I didn't know if they were making fun of me, or just didn't recognize who I was. It doesn't really matter if any of the kids remember this moment, because I will remember this humbling experience for the rest of my life. For a fleeting moment, I was on top of the world. I had everything I needed for a successful afternoon, and in less than a minute, everything came crashing around me. Instead of going out with a bang, I was wishing to God that I would turn into a California Raisin.

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It didn't happen.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, at the tenderest of ages. Life is hard. Nothing should be taken for granted. If you think that everything's going to go well, that's going to be your first of many mistakes. Billie Joe Armstrong says, "Don't pat yourself on the back, you might break your spine." Well, on Halloween 1987, I gave myself a Christopher Reeve-style thrashing.

It was one of the worst days of my entire life.

So, after the parade, everyone was changing out of their costumes and getting ready to go home. I was peeling the circus dog outfit off of me, dripping with sweat and failure, when my Mom asked me a question that I'll never forget.

"Hey, what's in that bag over there?"

I don't think I have to tell you what I found in it.

Friday, September 15

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #14.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #14
"10 Stupid Jobs."
(Originally published 01-17-06.)

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Unless you're handicapped or some kinda jerkass, you have to work for a living. You have to do it; I have to do it; the American People have to do it. It's nothing I'm too happy about, but I take pride in knowing that about 85% of the population probably hates their job more than I do. That alone is refreshing enough to get me through the day.

I've got a pretty decent handle on my job. I make important decisions and change peoples' futures by the mood I'm in. I get to write expensive checks and charge them to Wisconsin taxpayers like myself. Sometimes I have to wear a tie. On Friday of last week, I used a Magic 8-Ball I keep in my cubicle to solve a problem I was having ('outlook not so good').

Even though things are going fine enough, I had much bigger plans for myself than to become an Exam Administrator. I feel bad that somewhere out in the workforce, there sits a guy who's only goal in life was to work with state codes and statutes pertaining to professional regulation, and I'm not appreciating it nearly as much as he would. It's not fair to either of us.

Even if I could get paid boatloads of cash to write full-time, I'd probably still find a way to be miserable. It's just the way I operate. Even the freelance stuff I do chaps my hide, mostly because it turns my hobby into a profession; which instantly sucks the life out of anything you enjoy. I don't care what you do for a living; chances are you'll get sick of it after a while.

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Do you honestly think that Babe Winkleman likes Bass fishing every day of his life? Not even millions of dollars, Blu-Blocker sunglasses and that sweet beard can keep a guy happy day-in and day-out, especially when he's coming home to his family reeking of dead fish and about 10 bottles of Blatz. It's just not logical, folks.

In my life thus far, I've had 10 jobs. Some of them didn't earn me a penny. Most of them didn't earn me a penny. I've quit 90% of them, and I've never been fired. I may have liked two of them, tops. I've had to do things I don't wish on anyone. I've also met some of the biggest weens alive.

Allow me to share my sordid employment past with you.

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Job #1 - Helping Out On The Olson Farm.
Length Of Service - 1989/1994
Salary - $0.00/hr.

I grew up on a farm; so when I didn't do a good enough job of busying myself away from prying eyes, I had to put my ratty clothes on and do chores. I fed calves, shoveled various feeds and animal excretions, herded cows and drove tractors. Seriously. Most of the time, I found various ways to almost turn myself into a double-amputee, but those are different stories for a different time.

For all the hard work, I learned a lot about a very difficult and thankless profession. I also got to hang out with hundreds of cats and bottle-feed baby calves, so it wasn't all bad. But for every baby puppy I got to hold, there was a cow that was all set to kick the taste out of my mouth, so it was a life and death trade off for most of the duration.

One summer, my Dad caught me and my cousin using my new golf clubs to hit rocks on the road, so we were subject to a week of 'hard labor,' baling hay in the 90-degree heat. It was the worst week of my entire childhood. Sunburns, every muscle aching and varying rashes on my body made it clear to me early that I wasn't going to be carrying on the family business anytime soon. I'm clearly not built to be a farmer; even hauling a gallon of milk to my car is a massive chore for me. Eventually we moved away from the farm, and I was allowed to throw away my feces-encrusted boots...

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Job #2 - Handing Out Flyers For Aluminum Siding Company.
Length Of Service - 1995
Salary - 10% Commission On Sales ($0.00/hr.)

Over summer vacation in the 7th grade, I went door to door, bothering people and sticking flyers everywhere for a home improvement business in Appleton, Wisconsin. I did most of my work in Winneconne, where I went to school. For those three months, I dragged around my then-girlfriend in the blistering heat, ringing doorbells and having shotguns pulled on me. I was shocked beyond words when she dumped me mere weeks later.

Every day, I would walk down every street, steaming with heat lines, as she trailed behind me with an ice-cream cone. I kept telling her how much money I was about to be making, and she did her best not to smash the cone in my face and walk home by herself. I can't remember what I was wearing at the time, but I can figure it was unappealing and sad. I wish she would have told me then that I was getting screwed over by this businessman. She obviously knew, but didn't feel like sharing.

The guy in charge of the business assured me that I would see hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars in commission should anyone bite on the flyers. I know now that he was staggeringly full of crap and a total fraudulent businessman. I had no choice in the matter then, however, because my Mom was living with this guy at the time. See, this is why I don't like to talk about the past a whole lot. I tried to quit once the summer was over, but Mr. Fraudulent Businessman had a bigger and better job waiting for me...

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Job #3 - Odd Jobs, Lawnmowing In Neighborhood.
Length Of Service - 1996
Salary - $10/lawn.

Freshly dumped and living with an aforementioned fraudulent businessman, I did what any teenager with dignity would do. I took my shirt off, put on some cut-off shorts, cried and mowed lawns all day. I mowed my Grandparent's lawn, the lawn at the Post Office where my Mother worked at the time, along with the lawns up and down my street in Appleton, Wisconsin.

We lived on a street full of duplexes in Appleton, next to a Hmong family of about 29, and a sad, single woman who used to watch me when I went rollerblading. Once, one of the Hmong girls broke her arm in front of my place. Before the ambulance got there, I took a good look at it and it was shaped like the letter 'S'. I almost threw up. Another time, I was selling pizzas for school, and I knocked on the sad single woman's door. She answered wearing a towel, and I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen up to that point. Way better than the broken arm. Let's get back to the story.

The first two lawns in question used a push-mower, but the neighborhood job allowed me to use a monolithic Golf Course-sized mower (see photo). I was given approximately 10 seconds of instruction on how to use the thing, then I was left on my own to handle about 60 acres of grass. Within 5 minutes, I had gone right over the top of someone's brand-new baby tree (with them watching me, I might add), and within 10 minutes, I took a hard turn and crashed right through the fence separating the backyards from the busy highway. All true. I again got to quit once my Mother wised up and we moved out of the city...

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Job #4 - Cleaning The Steerhead Saloon.
Length Of Service - 1997
Salary - $20/day.

Back in my hometown, I started working for my Dad at the bar he owned. (Doesn't this all just SCREAM 'Wisconsin!' to you? I can't wait for Sufjan Stevens' take on the dairy state.) As it was, he also set aside the family farming business for a life of booze peddling. He needed someone besides himself to make sure the bar was in pristine condition before 8am, so it could turn into a vomit-soaked nightmare by 2am. Every early morning during the summer, I would bike a mile to the bar and get a move on.

Clearly, cleaning up a redneck bar is one of the filthiest jobs you can imagine. Stocking the coolers, wiping things down and scraping ashtrays is one thing. But scrubbing toilets and mopping up is yet another. Any and every bodily fluid was located in the bathrooms. Blood and teeth were mopped up on the dance floor. Ashtrays has spit in them. Everything was sticky. I damn near had a breakdown every morning. I took to making myself drinks and stealing quarters to play pool just to make the job seem worthwhile.

I didn't want to do the job anymore, but it was hard to tell my Dad that I didn't want to work for him anymore. Instead, I just started doing a progressively worse and worse job until he started to get angry. Every morning, I would plead with him to fire me, but he knew that would mean having to clean the bar himself. Eventually, we worked out a compromise...

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Job #5 - Bartending At The Steerhead Saloon.
Length Of Service - 1998
Salary - Maybe $50 a week, tops.

My Dad was known for making borderline illegal business decisions, and hiring his 16 year old son to bartend seemed to be one of those choices. In fact, there's no 'borderline' about it. He needed some additional help during football season, and he didn't want to have to pay anyone anything, so I was on the top of the list, throwing caution and child labor laws to the wind.

When you work in retail, there's a line of people who all need service. You help the people by who's next in line, and that works pretty well. When you bartend, there is no line, just 50 drunks waving empty glasses at you. Learning to make the drinks was hard; learning to assert myself around these people was much harder. Fights would break out. Vomiting was a nightly occurrence. Breasts that were never meant to be seen again were seen by all. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and by age 16, I was freakin' Superman.

I took in next to nothing in tips, despite being the youngest bartender in the nation. I had to quit after the stress started messing with me, and the football season was over. I certainly didn't want to end up like the people I saw there every night, so I jumped ship and went looking for work in the city...

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Job #6 - Movie Theater Usher For One Day.
Length Of Service - 1998
Salary - $0.00 & One Free Movie.

I got hooked up to this job by a friend at school who worked there. I didn't really want it, but anything was better than bartending. Besides, if I couldn't find anything different, I would be right back at the Steerhead Saloon. My opinion was that cleaning a filthy theater was still worlds better than cleaning up a backwoods tavern.

The interview/training was unlike anything I've been a part of. It was basically 2 hours of training tapes about how movie theaters make 100% of their revenue through concessions, and that I needed to sell tons of them at all costs. Tickets meant nothing, and nobody cared who snuck in, as long as I moved product. I was offered the job, and accepted. I then spent the rest of the night taking in the luxury of a free movie, which was the Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho, arguably one of the worst movies ever made. I was fitted for a sexy usher's outfit, and was all set to return the next week.

Problem number one came up because I didn't have my own car. Borrowing my Mom's car every day for work just wasn't going to fly, and I didn't have money to buy my own. Of course, nobody around me had any money, either. Problem number two (the closer) came when I found out that I had to work on Christmas day, which is a big day for losers to go to the movies and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with a Jennifer Aniston flick. I quit over the phone, and sent the usher's outfit back with the friend that got me the job in the first place. Dejected, I hung my head low and looked for something closer to home...

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Job #7 - Clerk At A Hardware Store.
Length Of Service - 1999/2002
Salary - $6.25/hr, tops.

The Larsen Co-Op was right across the street from the Steerhead Saloon, so I didn't make it quite as far away as I wanted to. They were opening a new hardware store, and needed a nerd to run computers and make sure nothing blew up. My Mom got me the job, as she worked at the Post Office that was also right across the street from the Steerhead (Yeah, I'm from one of those towns).

For the next four years, through high school graduation and right up until I left for college in Madison, I wasted away there. You've read some of my accounts of the place in the past, and I honestly think I could write an entertaining novel about the stretch of time I was there. Things exploded, people died, sexual harassment was rampant, a 17-year old was having an affair with a married man with a hook for an arm. The rotten underbelly of Anytown, USA was alive and well in Larsen, Wisconsin. I lived on a steady diet of candy bars, Mountain Dew and microwavable hamburgers until I was 20.

I worked 13 days on, 1 day off, full-time after graduation, year-round. Seriously, I put a lot into that job. I was able to buy my first two cars because of the job, and have a steady, bill-free income to spend on the future Missus. In terms of expendable income, I'll never have another job that comes close to what I had there. I left there in the summer of 2002, and I haven't set foot inside since...

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Job #8 - College Student.
Length Of Service - 2002/2004
Salary - $22,000 debt; out of pocket.

I consider being a college student a job. Who wouldn't? Following a long line of doing things for myself because I had to, I bought myself another reliable automobile, got a tiny apartment with the Missus, and wrote a hefty check for a two-year music, sound and business program in Madison. Sometimes I went to classes. Sometimes, I slept until noon and never wore pants. Sometimes I went to classes without pants.

I did well. Very well, in fact. I got to learn a ton about music and music business, produced a few albums on the amazing equipment the school had to offer, and eventually got some writing work based on my degree. Sure, I'll be paying off the loans for the rest of my life (6 figures after interest), but what else could I do? The big city was calling, and I'm not down with suckling on the Government's (or anyone's) withered teat. I was getting sick of people thinking I was spoiled or lazy (based on what you know about me now, does that honestly sound anything like me?), and I had been taking care of myself for this long, so I have no regrets in the matter. The best way to handle things is to do them yourself, and there was no way in hell I was going to stay at the hardware store for another year.

I don't really talk about the college thing much, mainly because it was kind of a blur and it's not incredibly exciting to anyone but tech nerds like myself. The most important part of those two years were me and the Missus adjusting to roommate and independent life. We pulled it off without a hitch, and that's so much more important than my silly degree. Eventually, the loans started to take their toll and the Missus wasn't bringing in enough cash for our lavish lifestyle, so I used my charm and zero office experience to land a position at the State level...

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Job #9 - Receptionist/Mailroom At State DRL.
Length Of Service - 2004/2005
Salary - Dude, I worked in a mailroom. You figure it out.

In trying to get into state service, I blew a ton of interviews before getting the formula down right. One particular interview had me sitting bleary-eyed and delirious in front of a room full of suits. They asked me what my biggest flaw was, and I scoffed and murmured, "Modesty." They got my ass outta there pretty quick. Eventually, my current office hired me and I started on the ground floor, answering phones and opening mail all day.

Don't get me wrong, it was a nice enough job. It's just that I'm not built to answer 300 phone calls per 8-hour day. I don't like talking on the phone, although I was decent enough at it. Usually I did mailroom stuff, which allowed me to meet a lot of the higher-ups and establish contacts. People started to notice how efficiently and super-awesomely I got work done, and supervisors started fighting over me. Everyone, including myself, wanted me doing a job where I could use my brain and make decisions.

After a year of this, I interviewed for, and was offered a few higher-paying jobs downtown. I was loyal to my office, however, and played hardball for a job that I wanted in-house. Eventually, the bargaining paid off, and I took the position in the Examination Office that I hold to this day...

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Job #10 - Exam Administrator At State DRL.
Length Of Service - 2005/?
Salary - Just enough to not have to burn my cats for warmth.

Well, here we are. This was the State job that I fought for, and I'm settling in quite nicely. For the time being, it will pay the bills and keep the household happy. I've talked about this before, but basically I work with state testing for professional licensing. Doctors, Chiropractors, Real Estate Agents, Engineers, Nurses, Accountants, almost anything that you pay someone else to do for you, they go through me.

I keep quiet in my corner cubicle, bringing in another toy from the rumpus room every day for flair. The crew here is good, and my Exam Office only has 4 other employees, so that rules. I work under an 'Examination Specialist' that's on the verge of retirement, so if they decide I'm game to take his place, I can look forward to a salary of about $50,000 a year. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't take it even if they asked me. My job is stressful enough as is; I don't need the damn Governor and about 10 TV stations yelling at me because a serial killer got issued a Medical license.

We had a big Medical Board hearing here several months ago in the matter of a Doctor who sexually abused patients and colleagues. He was also an honest-to-God midget. When I got to work, there were protesters and news crews everywhere, waving signs and blocking the doorway. After the hearing was over, the midget in question was drowning in microphones and lawyers, and he started freaking the hell out. He was pushing people around and shouting obscenities. Some days here are better than others.

So, what have we learned about me? Well, I'm not all that lazy. In fact, I'm very goal-driven and task-oriented. I've had a lot of crappy jobs, most of which foreshadow equally crappy life experiences. My autobiography is a best-seller that doesn't exist yet, and I can't trust anyone else to take care of me but myself. I'm not a professional writer yet, but maybe it's better that way.

What have I learned about life? Well, I learned that Golf Course mowers need experienced drivers behind the wheel. Babe Winkleman is a fraud. A good way to die is to work on a farm. A good way to die inside is to work at a bar. All siding salesmen are terrible people. You can sneak into movies without getting into trouble, provided you buy some popcorn. Small towns are just as seedy as huge ones, if not seedier. College isn't so bad, and Hmongs have brittle bones. Those are rules to live by, people.

So, what will be Job #11 on the list?

Bikini Inspector, God willing.

Thursday, September 14

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #15.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #15
"Where's My Promotion?"
(Originally published 06-11-05.)

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A couple weeks ago, a customer came in to work, telling me how much my office reminded her of "The Office". Maybe she was right.

At work yesterday, I was cornered in the hallway by the frantic administrator of the Wisconsin Real Estate Board. He looked like he was in a hurry, and this somehow involved me.

“Quick, I need you to make a snap decision for me.” He said, waving his arms around.

But, here’s the thing. I misheard him, and thought that he said “snack” decision. It didn’t register that this important person would need my opinion on anything vital, so I just figured it concerned food. I mean, why would my input be necessary concerning laws or statutes? My best guess was that there was a Zagnut and a Milky Way staring back at him from behind the plexi-glass in the machine, and he needed me to break the tie.

“Sure!” I shot back to him. “What are you hungry for?”

His eyes narrowed. Then they got very wide, as he cocked his head to the side in a futile attempt to make sense of my folly.

“What?” He squeaked.

What?” I deadpanned back to him.

“Um…I’m going to go and get Bill’s opinion on this.” He said, slowly making his way around me in the hallway and eventually out of sight, leaving me to wonder where I went wrong. Later, I asked “Bill” what was up, and that’s when the full force of my stupidity struck me like a concrete watermelon.

I’m an idiot.

On the bright side, I made it through another day without having to make any actual decisions. Perhaps I should respond this way to every query I get at work.

“Hey CDP, can you get these forms done by lunch?”

“Sure thing, are you in the mood for something salty?”

(Long pause)

“Um…you know what? I think I’ll go ahead and take care of those forms myself. Thanks anyway, though.”

“You betcha.”

Wednesday, September 13

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #16.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #16
"The Bit."
(Originally published 02-15-06.)

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For most of my life, people have told me I should do stand-up comedy. This is due in part to the fact that not only am I good looking, but also insanely funny. So funny, in fact, that I should be allowed to talk into a microphone on an illuminated stage, thus proving that my jokes are more important and thought out than yours. It's the only real way to separate the contenders from the pretenders.

The thing is, my public speaking woes have all but destroyed these dreams, leaving me to wonder what might have been. Also, I'm pretty pale, so when those stage lights hit me, I disappear completely from sight. To those in attendance, it would look as if a radiant, heavenly glow was standing behind a microphone, talking at length about airplane food and fanny packs.

Nevertheless, I often fantasize what my routine would consist of, and how it would be received....

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MC: All right, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming out to Open Mic night here at the Ha-Ha Hut. Let's all give a warm welcome to a young man making his first stand-up appearance ever. Here he is, the CDP!

(Polite applause from friends and family, pompous silence from locals and other comics. Brief camera flash as my mom takes a picture. I take the stage sporting a fake moustache and briefcase, and pull the mic from the stand.)

CDP: Thank you. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Well, it's great to be here in (name of city); I took a walk downtown this morning. Hey, did you ever notice that the homeless guys always make you feel bad for not giving them money?

(Very light applause, somone in the back says 'yeah!')

It's like, excuse me, buddy, but it's not my fault that you were drafted in Vietnam, right? I mean, it's not my fault that you were spit on when you returned, and your wife and kids up and left you without a dime. It's not my fault that you took shrapnel to the head, so you can't hold down a decent job. I mean, come on!

(Crowd is stunned. My mom claps twice before she's restrained by my sister.)

...Okay.

Well, nevermind. I'm just kidding the homeless. They're good people. Some of my best friends are homeless. It's not like there's any homeless people in the crowd tonight. Shopping carts aren't allowed in the club.

(Muffled laughter from the back.)

So, like I was saying, I was walking around downtown this morning, and I went to McDonalds for breakfast. I had an Egg McMuffin. Have you ever seen these things, these Egg McMuffins?

HECKLER: No!

CDP: You've never seen an Egg McMuffin before, Sir? Well, they take ham, cheese and eggs, and-

HECKLER: Not funny!

CDP: You got that right, it ain't funny. Instead of Egg McMuffin, they should call it a 'Dead...Mc...Dead.....Dead.'

(One person laughs really hard. The sweat from my upper lip causes my fake moustache to go limp on one side.)

CDP: And what's the deal with Ronald McDonald? If you ask me, I think there's something going on between him and the Hamburglar. Am I right, people?

(Slight chuckle from young ladies in front row.)

Like, I think they might be re-routing donation funds from the Ronald McDonald house to support their prostitute and meth habits.

(Crowd gasps. Two women in the front get up and leave.)

CDP: Oh, don't act like you weren't thinking it!

HECKLER: I think you suck!

CDP: Fair enough. Now, who's up for some impressions?

(Crowd groans as three more people get up and leave, including the Missus. I try to get my moustache to stick back on, but it's hanging by a soaking wet thread.)

CDP: Okay, this is my impression of the President.

HECKLER: This is my impression of your mom!

CDP: You don't even know my mom!

HECKLER: You idiot! I'm your dad!

(My dad throws money onto the table for the waitress and storms out of the club in a huff.)

HECKLER/DAD: This guy sucks!

CDP: Um...let's give it up for my dad, everybody!

(Nobody claps, not even my mom. Moustache finally falls off.)

CDP: Okay, what was I going to do now? Oh yeah, my impression of the Hamburglar.

(Reach into suitcase and put on bandit-style Hamburglar mask. The elastic band snaps, and I'm forced to hold it over my eyes with my left hand, while holding the mic with my right.)

CDP: My fellow Americans, this is your president, George-

(Varied groans.)

NEW HECKLER: OH, COME ON!

CDP: What?

NEW HECKLER: YOU'RE WEARING THE GODDAMN HAMBURGLAR MASK!

CDP: Oh, that's right. Robble-Robble!

(Remaining crowd begins to boo loudly.)

CDP: (Still doing Hamburglar voice) Come on, Ronald! We don't need these people. Let's go smoke crack in front of some sick kids!

(Coasters begin to whiz past my head. In the distance, I hear the sound of a shotgun cocking.)
MY MOM: I HATE YOU! YOU'VE RUINED EVERYTHING! (Gets up and leaves.)

CDP: ...So anyways, I was at the grocery store the other day, when-

(50-pound stage light suddenly comes loose and lands on my head. Microphone, mask, suitcase and myself hit the floor in a heap. Silence and shock engulfs the crowd.)

NEW HECKLER: ...Woah...what a finale. (Starts clapping.)

(Suddenly, the whole club begins to applaud and cheer, standing up and hollering for an encore.)

OVERHEARD IN AUDIENCE: You know, I didn't really 'get' what he was doing until the very end. That bit with the stage light was brilliant.

WOMAN WEARING SCARF AND HORN-RIM GLASSES: Oh, I know! What a great performance artist. He's symbolizing the death of the traditional 'stand-up' comedian. And that thing he did with his 'dad,' genius!

HONEST-TO-GOD GROWN MAN WEARING DEPECHE MODE SHIRT: Amazing. I wonder if he'll do a second show.

(I'm still on the ground, completely and totally unconscious. An audience member picks the fake moustache off of the floor as a souvenir. Eventually, I'm taken to the hospital by club staff, where I'm treated for massive blunt-force trauma. The very next day, I'm offered a $50 million deal with Comedy Central. Fake moustache from first show ends up selling on Ebay for $8,000.)

Hmmm. Maybe I will try stand-up someday.

Tuesday, September 12

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #17.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #17
"Harry Potter - The IMAX Experience."
(Originally published 01-03-06.)

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I took the Friday before Christmas off, in lieu of some last-minute shopping and packing for the trip home. One of my errands that day was to run to the other side of Madison to pick up a gift certificate from The Exclusive Company, one of the better independent record stores in Wisconsin. At about 10am (after SportsCenter and a bowl of Clusters), I hit the road.

The trek to the other side of the city takes at least an hour, round-trip. I had to make this journey alone and without a CD player, as mine was on the fritz due to a massive wiring short in my car. I would later find out from my Father-in-law that it was merely a blown fuse, and it took less than 8 seconds and 25 cents to remedy the situation. I bet he worries about his daughter constantly when he's not around, and I really don't blame him.

I spent most of the trip singing out loud to myself and drumming on the steering wheel. That morning was particularly frigid, so my voice shivered off-key. It was then that I found out I do a very good Bright Eyes impression when the circumstances are right. I made a mental note of it and focused on the road.

Just then, my eyes caught a glimpse of a huge billboard on the eastbound side of the beltline. It was an ad for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I took the Missus to see 'The Gobb' the day it came out, for which she was pleased, but this billboard was a little different. They were going to be showing 'Gobb' at the only IMAX theater in the county.

This represented a moral dilemma in my eyes. Do I tell the Missus that she has the rare opportunity to watch a 4-story-tall Rupert Grint make dumbass faces into the camera for 150 minutes? Or do I keep my fool mouth shut, confident that she's content in just seeing 'Gobb-Gobb' on the little-big screen once in her lifetime.

I gave in and spilled the beans just as quickly as I could, and before you know it, I was attending the 7pm showing of 'Gobble-Gobble' at the Fitchburg IMAX-itorium.

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I had never been to an IMAX theater before; presumably because my Mother was afraid of them. The Missus, on the other hand, was an IMAX aficionado, hitting screens from here to Vegas in her short 22 years on the planet. She gave me a briefing before we got there, just so I didn't puke the instant I entered the theatre.

The show was sold out, which always spells trouble for any paranoid neurotic. To me, there's nothing worse than a sold-out kids movie that's also appreciated by college-aged nerds. It's almost like they're in a heated battle royale to see who can annoy me the fastest. Fortunately, I have the jump on them, as I get annoyed minutes before my ticket is even ripped.

If you've never been to an IMAX theater, imagine a film being projected off of the Washington Monument, while pressing your nose against the first-floor elevator. Oh, and since the action is super-sized, so are the prices. Two tickets to 'Gobble-Tron' ran us $22.50. Throw in a large popcorn, two sodas and some Junior Mints for yours truly, and we're talking close to $40. Add that to the fact that we've already seen this movie once before, and we've pretty much given $75 to the 'Robble-Robble' film franchise.

Before I get into the actual IMAX film-watching experience, I want to share my thoughts with you concerning the movie theatre itself. By following by 10 simple rules, movie theaters can be a much more rewarding and memorable experience for all the right reasons. I like to call it:

"Shut The Damn Hell Up And Sit Perfectly Still: Movie Theatre Etiquette."

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#1 - Charge more for tickets. Double the price, I don't care. Kids and adults alike are going to movies without any intention of even watching them. If tickets were $25 apiece, less fools would show up, and only those who really cared would be in attendance. This would bring more film lovers out of the woodwork to pick up the slack, and the industry wouldn't miss a beat. There are already high-class theatres across the nation that are having much success with this formula.

#2 - With the aforementioned jack in ticket prices, they can do more to make the theatre a comfortable place. Wider lanes, comfier seats and a larger menu could all boost profits. Put in a vertical row every 5 chairs, so losers who can't hold their urine aren't always stepping on your feet and getting in the way. Install tray tables and serve pizza, burgers and fries; they're quiet foods to eat, and nobody will think of hurling them at others, because they will cost $18 each. Again, some theatres are already doing quite well with this shift in consumerism.

#3 - At showtime, the doors lock. Nobody can get in and nobody can get out. If you have to whiz or grab a bag of Goobers, you can leave, but will not be permitted back into the theatre. Screw the 'vertical row every 5 chairs' business, because once you sit, you're not standing until the credits roll.

#4 - If someone 'reserves' a row of chairs by placing personal goods on them, such as coats or concessions, you are allowed to not only take their chairs, but you may also help yourself to their things. In the real world, the concept of 'savie-savie' is strictly forbidden and stupid, and for all intents and purposes should be punishable by death.

#5 - If you applaud or cheer for a trailer or the start of the film, you will be asked to vacate the premises. Your ticket will not be refunded.

#6 - Each chair will be equipped with a motion and audio sensor that measures how many times you shift, talk, stand up or kick the chair in front of you during the course of a film. If you exceed the set number of parameters for your specific chair, it will explode.

#7 - Before entering a theatre, your picture will be taken and electronically linked to your ticket stub, which you will swipe on the armrest of your chosen seat. If you decide to switch seats, talk, answer your phone, or do anything that will otherwise disrupt the experience of those around you, the movie will instantly stop and be replaced by the picture of you. The viewing audience will then have the option to ask you to leave or make your chair explode, depending on the majority vote. They will then be provided with your license plate information and home phone number.

#8 - The MPAA will alter its rating system based on demographics. G,PG,PG-13,R and NC-17 shall now be included with 'Everyone under 21' and 'Everyone over 21.' This will give viewers the luxury to not have to see the film in the company of children or teenagers, or vice-versa.

Parents may accompany their children if they are under 13, and alcohol will be served at 'Everyone over 21' shows. Beer will cost $13 a bottle.

#9 - If you are under 13, you will buckled into your seat. If you are over 13 and can't sit still, your chair will explode (see previous rules on chair explosion).

#10 - In between each chair, optional dividers will be provided, much like those used on Jeopardy.

If cinemas would start adapting just a few of these rules into their gameplan, I'm sure they would notice an immediate change in sales and morale.

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We were sitting in a row just behind 7 children all under the age of 5, accompanied by adults who were louder than the kids were. To the left of us, a young couple who fell asleep in each others arms 30 minutes in, and to the right of us were three of the loudest college nerds I've ever seen.

These grown men and women were going on about how cool it would be if theatres introduced 'Smell-O-Vision' into the viewing experience. They were talking as if they had come up with a radical new idea, while the Missus kept muttering, "Polyester! John Waters already did it with Polyester in 1980! Aaauugh!!!"

(For the record, John Waters used 'Odorama' as an homage to 'The Scent of Mystery,' a 60's movie that is to this day the only 'Smell-O-Vision' feature in existence. Now you know.)

The best thing about the IMAX is that once the movie starts, it's deafening. Nobody can talk, because you can't even hear yourself think. I remember the usher saying something about 12,000 watts of power, which is large enough to run a small radio station if my math is correct. Sadly, once you get over the fact that the screen is really, really big, it just becomes another movie. Watching 'Gobb-O-Matic 5000' was nice even the second time around, and when the film was over, I was in a much better mood than when it started. I don't know if this had to do with the experience itself, or the fact that I was now stone deaf and blind.

In conclusion, watching a movie on an IMAX screen that's not made specifically for an IMAX screen (like space exploration or natural disaster documentaries), is nothing too special.

However, during the bathtub scene, Harry's nipples were the size of doorknobs, so we all had that going for us.

Monday, September 11

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #18.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #18
"Let's Go To The Mall."
(Originally published 11-13-05.)

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We're all probably several weeks away from starting our Christmas shopping this year, but I'm fairly certain that I'm already sick of the mall.

This happens to me every year, without fail. I've never been a huge fan of the mall; not when I was a kid, not even when I was a teenager. To me, the mall is like High School with cash registers. Everyone is better looking than you, everyone has more money than you, everyone is more in tune to what's popular at the moment, and everyone's in your way.

This weekend, me and the Missus went to the mall in Madison so she could pick up some new clothes. I was in the mood for a bit of a buying frenzy myself, as I've had an awful week and spending hard-earned money always seems to cheer me up.

When we go shopping together, I can circumnavigate an entire store in about 15 seconds. It doesn't take me long to see that they have nothing that I want. This is due to the fact that women shop and men buy. This doesn't sit too well with the Missus, who now has to entertain me while I peer over her shoulder, bored and ready to go home. The remedy for this was simple; we split up and meet at a neutral location at a set time. I'm not allowed to bother her until this set time, no exceptions. This gives her plenty of time to look for important things that she needs, and it gives me plenty of time to drink an Orange Julius and fall asleep on a bench.

We gave each other a couple hours, entered the mall and went our separate ways. You should know that it's not wise to have me go shopping alone. I always end up buying things that I don't need, purely out of boredom. It's the equivalent of grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You get home, and you start to question why you purchased a metric ton of Gummi Worms and an entire bag of Carnation Instant Breakfast. Had you eaten before you shopped, you would have bought only what you needed, and if you hadn't gone to the mall in a bad mood, you might still have money in your checking account once you got home. It's a bad recipe.

So, the Missus ran off to get her clothes, and I stood in the main corridor of the bustling mall, already wanting to kill anyone within a foot of me. Allow me to break down a few specific things that put me in thy murderous mood:

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1. The Christmas Season Starts On November 1.

The very second that the last shopper leaves the mall on Halloween night, they lock the doors and transform the place into Christmas Towne. Every song over the PA becomes a carol, Santa poses for pictures in front of non-denominational slogans (Happy Holidays! Merry Winter!), and fake snow covers the isles, although we won't get snow until late December. The Mall Christmas Season is almost 60 days long now, which is almost the length of an actual season. Weather I like it or not, the mall has violently thrust me into a holiday buying frenzy. Apparently, Thanksgiving isn't much of a spending holiday, so malls are in the habit of pretending that it doesn't exist.

2. When I Walk Into The Arcade, I'm The Only Person Who Speaks English.

Now, I know for a fact that Caucasians like video games. I'm absolutely sure of it. However, every single time I step into a local arcade, I'm instantly surrounded by men of all ethnicities but mine, sporting shaved heads, impossibly baggy clothing and 8 year old girlfriends. Even though I know for a fact that I won't play anything at the arcade, I always seem to find myself in one every time I go to the mall.

I consider it a carry-over from my childhood. Something always tells me that I'll find something fun to do in there, even though I never, EVER do. It always ends with me playing a game of Tekken with some Hmong kid that destroys me in a 4 second barrage of button mashing. Well, that was a blast. I specifically don't carry change on me anymore just so I don't feel tempted to enter arcades at the age of 23. Especially after I found out that I enjoy Dance Dance Revolution.

3. XXXL or XXXXL?

Women complain because there's nothing at the mall that's big enough for them. Most men complain that there's nothing at the mall small enough for them. Who gets the shorter end of the stick? Men do. In a mall that has 89% of their apparel geared towards women, they can always find at least something they'll be happy with. Me, I've seen 3 stores that carry small shirts for men. If you're not a 7 foot 9 male that weighs 1400 pounds, you won't find a shirt that fits unless you ask someone to dig around in the back for you.

When it comes to men's shirts, I'm a size small. On a bet, go looking for a shirt in a size small that's not the gayest thing you've ever seen. I dare you. People wonder why I wear nothing but black t-shirts and goofy sweaters. It's all I can find! Believe me, if I could put on 80 pounds, I would. Until then, please put some small-sized shirts on the rack. Small-chested American boys thank you.

The only places I can get small shirts that don't outright suck are Target, Express and the Gap, and even that's a stretch. Sure, there are other stores that carry small shirts for men, but I'd prefer not to wear a shirt that advertises the store's logo in GIANT LETTERS ON THE FRONT OF MY SHIRT. If I wanted to be a billboard, I would have sold space on my forehead to Golden Palace.com long ago. Keep your logos off of my clothes, and I'll stop messing up your carefully folded garments.

4. Kiosks Ahoy!

Don't buy stuff from kiosks. They are of poor quality and they are being sold by pushy foreigners who are on the run from the law. They stand in your way when you try to walk into actual stores, and they spray you with horrid fragrances and splort body lotion into your palms. 'Nuff said.

Kiosks are much like those little shops that you see in airports. Like Jerry Seinfeld says, "Do these people have any idea what the prices are everywhere else in the world? Tuna sandwich? Eighteen dollars. Tuna is very rare here." I once saw a board game for sale at a kiosk that was twice as expensive as the same game in the store right across from it. That's stunningly arrogant, and just bad business.

5. Don't Buy Books Or Music From Barnes & Noble.

Barnes & Noble is a cool place, seriously. They have a huge selection of books, a decent CD collection that rivals most chain stores, and a Starbucks in the lobby. The atmosphere makes you feel smarter and more sophisticated almost instantly. Problem is, you shouldn't ever buy anything there.

First off, the books are overpriced. Chances are, if you can find a book at Barnes & Noble, you can find it at Waldenbooks for cheaper. Remember Waldenbooks? That's the smaller book store at the other end of the mall that's going out of business because of Barnes & Noble. Give them a try someday, their employees are very friendly and lonely. They could use the company.

The music is INSANELY overpriced. They're one of the few stores on the planet that still sells albums for $19.99. I was looking at the new Fischerspooner album there, and it was $17.99 for 10 tracks. No, thank you. If shopping for albums at chain stores is in your wheelhouse, you'd be much better suited looking at Best Buy. There's always a Best Buy within 5 minutes of a Barnes & Noble, the prices are cheaper and they have a better selection. Besides, you should be supporting your local independent record store anyways.

Starbucks? Are you serious? What year is this? When at the mall, go to Gloria Jeans. They're the coffee shoppe on the other side of the mall that's going out of business because of Starbucks. They have a better selection, they are cheaper and the store smells really good. Besides, caffeine is no longer hip. Meth is making a huge comeback, so hop on that train while you still can.

6. Wing Stores Suck.

JC Penney, Macys, Bloomingdales, Boston Store, Younkers, Sears. For all the floor space they gobble up, you'd think they'd have something there you'd want. I could count up all the things I've purchased at wing stores on a one-fingered guy's hand. Too much variety is a bad thing, because then you miss out on the specialty stuff that sets you apart from other stores. When you lose variety, you become stale and people go elsewhere. If you think I'm full of it, there's plenty of unemployed Sam Goody salespeople who would like to have a word with you.

7. The Food Court Is The Most Depressing Place On Earth.

My God. If you've ever felt suicidal, but needed that one last push to justify your actions, look no further than your local food court. There, you will find society in various stages of mental, physical and social decay. Allow me to flashback you to a line from my last rant about the mall:

I don't like the crowds of kids that congregate at the Food Court and never buy anything. I'm just trying to get my Julius Smoothie and hit the road, and some kid who's barely visible through his massive sea of giant, baggy clothes is in my way and not moving. Hey kid, 1997 called and they want their raver pants back.

Whenever I find myself watching people at the food court, I get quite philosophical. I start to wonder if I'll be sitting in this same uncomfortable chair when I'm 80, sucking on the same hot chocolate and becoming part of the sorry mob I see before me. I begin to wonder if this is all there is to life. Showing up at the mall, spending money on things that don't matter and listening to Christmas carols in early November. It's usually at this time that the Missus shows up with a bag of clothes and a big smile, and things start to make sense again.

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We can't leave fast enough, but you can bet we'll be there again next weekend. Merry Holidays.

Sunday, September 10

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #19.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #19
"Razor Burn."
(Originally published 12-11-05.)

I was having a discussion with a co-worker about beards the other day (who am I kidding, I was talking to myself over my lunch break). We (I) came to the conclusion that there were really only 10 good reasons for growing facial hair of any kind. I thought I could take a moment to explain these to you, in a segment I'm calling:

Know Your Beards.

You may be wondering to yourself, "Only 10 good reasons for growing a beard and/or moustache? You're sky-high on the meth!" Truth is that I am sky-high (on life), but I'm still right. Let's get started.

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Beard #1 - The Winter Beard.

The Winter beard could be considered the most important type of beard, because it actually serves a purpose. In this case, a thick layer of fur is grown in order to survive the bitterly cold elements, traditionally used in the Midwest and Canada. Winter beards serve no fashionable purpose, although these hunters and lumberjacks did receive a lot of unwanted company when grunge was big. (See: Shackleton, Hemmingway, Red Green)

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Beard #2 - The Beard Of Shame.

The Beard of Shame usually surfaces on men after a breakup or divorce. This is due in part to the combination of reclaiming one's manhood mixed with the crippling depression of a hardcore dumping. The wearer of the beard thinks that they are making an independent statement with said beard, but appear even more dejected and alone than if they had just shaved in the first place. (See: Any recently-dumped man with enough testosterone to grow facial hair, Ben Affleck)

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Beard #3 - The First Beard.

When a young man starts to notice hair growing in places that it previously didn't, he gets scared and excited. This presents the youth with the first of many puberty-related decisions. To shave or not to shave? To start showering more than once a month or risk losing friends?

Usually, young men allow their facial hair to grow until a friend makes fun of them, or until they work up the nerve to ask their Fathers to teach them how to shave. (See: Any and every Middle and High School in the nation, women who can't help it if their hormones are messed up)

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Beard #4 - The Emo Beard.

The blazer, the scarf, the black-framed glasses and the scruffy beard. This is the emo look for winter, and the man in the picture has it down pat. Emo beards exist as another way for men to impress women, this time to appear even sadder and more world-weary than while smooth-faced. The illusion of the Emo beard is to convince people you do something other than read People magazine and eat Kix all day. (See: 41% of all male college students, that one kid on the High School drama club that turned out to be gay anyways)

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Beard #5 - The Molester Beard.

While this is technically a moustache (the moustache of former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren, to be exact), the Molester beard is a tricky one. In this case, the facial hair exists to assume some sort of dominance over whoever it is you would like to intimidate. On the bright side, molesters can be spotted from miles away while they sport these things; it's like a tracking device that they don't even know they're wearing. (See: Domineering fathers, men on trial for sexual harassment, priests and Mormon dads)

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Beard #6 - The Funny Beard.

Woo-hoo! It is so awesome to have a beard! The Funny beard is a personal favorite, in that it turns the wearer of the beard into a willing punchline for a social joke. People who sport funny beards do so because they know it's funny, making them funny as well. Funny beards don't normally look good, but that's the point. In doing this, the Funny beard makes fun of those who sport serious beards. (See: My Name Is Earl, Salvador Dali, Benjamin Jenkel, I hope)

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Beard #7 - The Youth Minister Beard.

This is funny because it's true. I did a Google Image Search for "Youth Minister" and up popped 15 pages of guys with this goatee. Most youth Ministers are really nice guys who try to spread their message while remaining open and hip with today's youth. I don't know why they think the goatee is a good way to do this, but I guess it's up to them. Other youth Ministers shave their heads to draw more attention to the goatee, making them look like they should be the frontman for a Christian ska band. (See: Your local youth Minister, the O.C. Supertones)

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Beard #8 - The Porn Star Beard.

I knew better than to go looking for pictures of porn stars with moustaches, so I'm putting up a picture of this old-timey guy instead. This is a staple of the adult film industry, most notably in the 70's, but even going as far back as when this guy was alive. Come to think of it, he probably is a porn star. I wonder what his stage name was. Mine is "Jasper Sauby." (See: The roped-off section in the back of Family Video)

(Note: If you don't know how to figure out your Porn Star name, take the name of your first pet and combine it with the street that you grew up on. Again, I'm Jasper Sauby.)

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Beard #9 - The Spite Beard.

I believe that the spite beard was invented by yours truly. In fact, that's me in the photo, straight rocking the phase one beard (phase two to never follow). A Spite beard is grown for the sole purpose of showing your significant other that you are still in charge of your body, and can do whatever you want. It's like a married version of the Beard of Shame. In my case, the Missus forbid me from growing one, so I unplugged the razor and let it grow for a week. In a radical display of reverse psychology, she took a shining to it, which frightened me and caused the subsequent shaving of it. She won again, mainly because she's smarter than me and knows what's best for my well-being. It was still a cool beard, though. (See: Me)

(Note: It should be noted that I consider my beard to be a combination of every beard on the countdown. It's diverse like that.)

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Beard #10 - Alex Trebek
.

If you're Alex Trebek, you can do whatever the hell you want, and still rule. 'Nuff said. (See: Alex Trebek)

I hope you learned something today; I know I did. Sound off in the comments section, and tell me what your favorite beard is, along with your porn star name.