Say what you will about his singing (awful) or the emotional maturity he exhibits on his new album, 808s and Heartbreak (appropriate for a fifteen-year-old’s impassioned Facebook Note), you have got to hand it to my man — Kanye’s new look is very fresh:

My friend, Gregg, told me I should be nicer to Kanye West because he’s clearly still recovering from cataract surgery.


The Morning News is a very respectable web publication staffed with very respectable writers and designers and illustrators all working very hard to disprove the idea that the web is a disposable publishing medium — and, in my opinion, they are succeeding. However, just to disprove the point they just worked so hard to disprove, they have done something special with their creative energy: published (in the truest sense) the first-ever The Morning News Print Annual.

Among its 200 (!) pages, the editors have collected some of their favorite pieces from 2008 and have also (bonus!) commissioned 21 new pieces from some of their writing staff. One of those new pieces was written by me expressly for this annual, so if you’d like to read it you should buy this thing now. I would also add that there are 200 pages worth of other reasons to buy this damn thing. If I know the editors of TMN — and I’d like to think I do — I know they made certain they were producing a quality (maybe even respectable) product.

It would make a fine gift, and also a fine small, selfish gesture during this holiday season. Plus, for this initial run there is only a limited quantity of 200 copies. So please, do us all a favor.


This season’s Top Chef has the distinction of having the contestant with the deadest eyes (Jeff) as well as the contestant with the craziest eyes in the history of the show. (Carla)

I wasn’t able to find any photographs online of Jeff speaking directly to the camera, because he is a dracula monster whose filmed image disappears at sunrise. I can, however, tell you this: hearing Jeff speak of his passion for cooking in that uninflected, unblinking robo-speak is exactly like watching an imprisoned serial murderer detachedly recount the grisly details his crimes. Jeff is Top Chef’s B.L.T. Killer. (HUGE APPLAUSE) He’s the Hannibal Lecter of cooking things that aren’t people’s faces. (STANDING OVATION) He’s John Wayne Gravy! (DEVELOPMENT DEAL WITH NBC) The Zodiac Griller! (ENOUGH! OK? ENOUGH!!) Jeff has dead eyes.

But even if Jeff were talking about preparing a meal with fava beans and a nice Chianti (an incredibly obscure film reference – METACRITIC IT!) it would not be nearly as scary as his ocular opposite, Carla:

Oh man, quit it. If eyes are indeed the windows to the soul (I made that up but it has an inherent truth to it, no?), then Carla’s eyes should have iron bars on them and be made up unbreakable plexiglas just in case Carla’s soul tries to smash its head against it. Also, Carla’s soul should have its shoelaces and belt confiscated. There are other jokes I could make but, seriously, mental illness is a real disease and diseases are not funny. (With the exception of Spina Bifida, which is only funny in name, and not at all funny in many other ways.) Carla has an intensely nervous energy. She actually seems to vibrate when she speaks. At one point in the last episode, one of the judges mentioned that Carla made her uncomfortable when she was giving an on-camera cooking demo. I wonder what could have made her uncomfortable? Was it the fact that Carla was having a little trouble finishing her demo on time? Or maybe it had something to do with her being a six-foot eight electric eel in a fright wig whose eyeballs are so large they press up against the lenses of her glasses? Seriously:



My search for a new couch has been driven primarily (maybe even solely) by concerns of the feline sort. When I moved into my apartment just over two years ago, I bought a couch through Craig’s List. It was an old couch — what I guess you would call a “mid-century modern” design if you are someone who wears tight-fitting merino wool sweaters and displays his casual, laid-back side by wearing Camper brand adult sneakers — and it was in nearly perfect condition. Apart from a small, almost imperceptible tear along the bottom edge, the upholstery (aquamarine, with a neat silver thread woven through it) was pristine. It was also the exact texture of a scratching post. The first time I witnessed one of my cats getting a claw caught in the sofa’s loose weave, the moment passed between us in a quick series of flashes, like that drug abuse montage from Requiem for a Dream: Ble’s claw, snagged; close-up of my worried eyes; Ble’s cat eyes, rapidly dilating, and glazing over with a “holyshitihavefoundparadise” expression; the claw, flexing; threads pulling free; me shaking my head, woefully; liquid boiling; a syringe filling; my pupils dilating; etc.

Within six months, the couch looked like a middle-aged prostitute–and not one of those high-class ones, either. The kind of prostitute that make lots of mistakes on the job, forgetting to tell johns to pay cash up-front, picking a mean pimp, walking over subway grates in heels, and so on. Now, nearly every edge of the sofa is torn beyond repair and its stuffing exposed, except in certain places where the stuffing has been completely removed and secreted away in various cat hiding spots around the apartment. The frame is visible through giant tears on the sofa’s arms; you can slide your arm inside and press it against the fabric to make it look like the couch is breathing. And these days, when the cats drag their claws across the couch, they do so joylessly, like they’re just going through the motions. It’s not quite as sad as coming home each night to a couch that would look more at home in an underground compound inhabited by mole people than a Brooklyn apartment inhabited by an effete snob, his wife, and a pair of lousy cats.

In an attempt to avoid a similar outcome with our new couch, precautions were taken. Lisa and I did a lot of research. We tried “no claw” sprays — some kind of bottled mist that is supposed to smell like farts to cats, which is a pretty incredible thing considering how much cats enjoy the odor of “salmon and liver”-flavored cat food and each other’s anuses. Unfortunately, it seems my cats equally enjoy the smell of farts because that spray prevented nothing except a repeat-purchase.

Next up: Soft Paws. Soft Paws are kind of like Lee Press-On Nails for cats and come in an assortment of colors, including special holiday-themed mixes. Lisa and I had some disagreement about whether these would be a viable solution; I thought applying and maintaining them would require as much, if not more work than just cutting their nails; Lisa thought they’d look really hilarious. We were both right.

soft paws

Soft Paws are actually kind of fun, providing your idea of fun is participating in weeks-long scavenger hunt, collecting the ruby red plastic sheaths your cats have chewed off their nails and deposited all around your apartment. But as an alternative to worrying about our next couch purchase, they were kind of a big, fat failure. (Coincidentally, I think “Big, Fat Failure” is also the title of the 37th Garfield Comics Treasury.)

As a result, shopping for a couch has not been the fancy experience I’d hoped it would be. I haven’t even bothered visiting nice home furnishings stores like Conran’s, ABC Home and Carpet, and Design Within Reach. Instead, I’ve been spending most of my time on cat-related message boards, where cat owners share helpful advice about cat-resistant fabrics. I read a lot of arguments for (and, frustratingly, against) leather, microfiber and microsuede, but I also found a lot of advice like this:

“…to keep my twelve feral cats from wrecking my furniture, I simply drape my IKEA futon in a couple of old mismatched bed sheets, then and wrap hotel bath towels around the arms using electrical tape. Works like a charm!”

“I bought a couch upholstered in sisal. BIG MISTAKE! I learned my lesson real quick, and got rid of that thing. These days, when I want to watch my stories, I just stretch out on a pile of saved-up plastic grocery bags. The cats still claw at them and sometimes the noise can be unbearable, but at least the bags are easily replaceable. So I guess you could say we’re all living happily ever after!!”

“There is only one foolproof way to keep your cats from trashing your furniture: mittens.”

“Hi. I’m wrapped in a hand-made afghan covered in cat fur, and waiting for a mail carrier, Chinese food delivery person — anyone, really — to ring my doorbell and become part of my life, even for a few precious minutes of human interaction.”

When we finally settled on a couch — a model that was neither outrageously expensive nor upholstered with chain-mail — and found a few fabrics we liked, Lisa assessed the various colors against our apartment’s decor. I, however, had my own ideas about what to do with our fabric swatches. I arranged them in a small grid on one of the couch cushions and had Lisa transport one of our sleeping cats from the floor to the couch, directly on top of the swatches. I wanted to test the various colors and materials for their respective properties of Fur Magnetism and Ease of Removal. After a few hours, I lifted the cat’s belly and removed the swatches to examine them for hair distribution. This is what it’s come to, I guess.

The whole experience made me feel a little like a sad shut-in — the kind of person who posts hundreds of photos of himself on a European vacation, and you can kind of tell, usually by the distance of the camera to the subject, the angle, or the presence of tensed shoulders in the frame, that all of the photographs were self-portraits. But necessity is the mother of shut-ins, and these measures were necessary. I’m just grateful that, in 10-12 short weeks, we’ll have a brand-new couch to replace the tired prostitute we sit on these days. And just to be safe, I’m probably going to buy some filthy bed sheets and electrical tape, too.


Just what the economy needed:


Riding the train home last night, late, when two black guys board. Now, ordinarily this would be my signal to flee, but I decided to risk it because Obama, etc.

One of the guys was carrying a plastic McDonald’s take-out bag, I guess because he’s one of those people who are too busy to sit down and enjoy a nice meal in the comfort of a McDonald’s. In his other hand he was holding a drink. It was some kind of brown liquid in one of those tiny, semi-transparent Dixie cups you get at movie theaters and pizzerias, as their way of shaming you for requesting tap water instead of Sierra Mist.

As the train bumped along, he took small sips from his Dixie cup. Finally, his friend asked, “what’s that?” Mr. Sips slowly raised the cup in a toast, and replied, “Courvoisier. Smells like money, don’t it?” His friend laughed and heartily agreed; I would have agreed, too, if I had been able to smell the Courvoisier over the stronger, headier aroma of Chicken McNuggets.


Lasterday I saw a lady seated on a street corner, asking (axeing?) for spare change. She was holding a sign that said, “TIRED OF PROSTITUTION.” I realize that sign was intended to trigger a number of responses, emotional and otherwise–compassion, pity, charity, blogging. And sure, I felt most of those things, but not before experiencing my knee-jerk egghead response to the sign, which was, “Um…pardon me, but shouldn’t that say, ‘TIRED FROM PROSTITUTION?'” (Imagine that question intoned in the most condescending, professorial manner. Or, if you can’t imagine that, just imagine that question asked by film director Peter Bogdanovich.) It’s not apathy, or self-conscious cruelty; I am just very serious about proper grammar and syntax.

If she was trying to escape a life of prostitution, and not just stating her political views while trying to raise enough money for stamps to write a letter to her congressman, I fear she is in for a rude awakening. (Though not an awakening quite as rude as the one where you realize, uh oh, I’m a prostitute.) Panhandling is rarely more lucrative than prostitution and, let’s face it, only slightly less demeaning. I just hope I don’t see her next week on that same street corner, with a sign that says, “THINKING OF GIVING PROSTITUTION A SECOND CHANCE.”

Yes, I decided that woman who was trying to escape a life of prostitution needed to be taken down a peg.


I’ve suddenly come to the realization that I no longer have much privacy. I’ve forfeited it, bit by bit. Some was intentional–this website, my decision to talk about my personal life in stand-up comedy, my compulsive need to show my penis on the bus–and other things were beyond my conscious control, although I suppose they would have been in my control if I exercised slightly more control. Most things I didn’t notice, but now I’m struck by the cumulative effect. Struck and stuck.

Honestly, it makes me more wary about willful sharing, because lately I’m much more conscious of who might be reading my words, commenting on my Facebook status, clicking my links, watching my videos, subscribing to my Flickr stream, following my Twitter feed, etc. I’ve consciously chosen to engage in all of these aspects social networking tools, but separately. To see the picture of my personal life they create, all together, is a little intimidating. I could unsubscribe to all of them, in one sweeping gesture, but in this age doesn’t that just make people think you’re suicidal/dramatic? I used to be really amused when people would discontinue posting to their websites because they’d never just neglect them into obsolescence. Instead, it would usually end with One Final Post. A long goodbye, filled with all of the many reasons This Must Happen. Or worse, a pithy and obviously labored sentence meant to convey, in as few words as possible, the weight this website has burdened the author with all these many years, and their regrettable–but necessary!–acquiescence. Something like this:


So I’m in a bind. I’m not paying much attention to this website lately, and trying to put more effort in other places. But I don’t want it to go away completely, because I do like having it here. It’s just that, with the way I feel these days–maybe being married has suddenly impressed on me the need to better protect my privacy–I’m just less inclined to post stories like this:

Yesterday I gave away some fluids–two of the less viscous kinds. I didn’t want to give them away, but it was starting to become necessary. For the last few weeks I’ve been experiencing pretty consistent brain-grabbing headaches and occasional dizziness. Like, real dizziness. The kind you got when you were doing that trick in grade school where you to make each other faint by hanging your head toward the ground and then standing up very fast. Rug-pulled-out-from-you dizzy spells.

I experienced the first of these on my wedding day, I think. I hadn’t eaten much. I was too nervous to eat for most of the day and then, when I stopped being nervous, I spent cocktail hour hugging people. So, no food. I was making the rounds, chatting with people at each table, and I’d been squatting low at a table of old friends from high school, so they wouldn’t have to look up at me. After a few minutes, I stood up and suddenly it was like the planet had just been hit by a giant pinball and the ground reverberated from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. All the blood drained from my head and my legs felt like they could no longer support me. I didn’t go down but, man, I was close. I can’t imagine what a scene that would have caused. People are already unnaturally attentive to you on your wedding day; a public fainting spell would be like an irresistible bucket of chum spilling out on the dance floor.

Since the wedding, the dizzy spells have persisted. Sometimes it will occur if I stand up too quickly (is there even such a thing as standing up too quickly?); other times I’ll just be walking down the street and the world will tip sideways for a second, just to remind me that I could die at any minute. After spending a few weeks of very well-informed self-diagnosis–both my brother and a good friend were recently diagnosed with diabetes, so maybe it’s a rare, contagious strain?–Lisa convinced me to give someone my fluids and let them sift through them for the source of my vertigo.

Here’s the thing about testing labs; they’re not a ton of fun. The whole mood in these places is very “impending AIDS-y.” As an aside to the many medical testing laboratory employees who subscribe to the RSS feed: This is no fun for us, either. We don’t like being forced to bleed, secrete, or micturate according to your whims, especially knowing the best possible outcome of all this painful and humiliating work is that we don’t have brain worms. Knowing this, would it be so hard to cheer up the process a bit? Why not put one of those hairy troll pencil toppers on the end of your hypodermic needles, or tape a photograph of Bush to the bottom of the urine specimen jars? Or, better still, hang a few Mylar balloons printed with upbeat messages, like “I HOPE IT’S THE *GOOD* KIND OF HEPATITIS!” or “THERE’S NO ‘U’ IN AIDS!” or “TO PEE OR NOT TO PEE: THERE IS NO QUESTION.”

Giving blood was easy, and I think I did a great job. I had a little help from their various needles and rubber belts and strong, beefy arms that held me down as I shrieked and squirmed. Giving urine was no more difficult–I’d had a ton to drink that day, in eager anticipation of this moment–but certainly more confusing. For one thing, I don’t mean to be showy but I easily had enough urine to fill their tiny jar, and then some. But how much urine is enough for a workable specimen? And, more to the point, how much is too much? I didn’t want to freak them out by unnecessarily filling the jar right to the rim. (Forgetting for a moment that this would be a fine demonstration of my can-do spirit and urethral agility.)

In the past, when providing urine, there was usually a sliding door in the bathroom–kind of like that plexiglas mail puzzle at post offices, where you open your side, place the package down, then close it, and they open their side to retrieve it. That seems like a good system to me, urine sample-wise. However, at this facility, the technician asked that visit the bathroom directly across from the patient waiting area and then return the jar directly to her. Not in a paper sack, but naked and exposed to public scrutiny. I held the jar close to my chest and side-stepped out of the bathroom, shielding my hideous pee from any patients who might be faint of heart. Then I walked it back to the examining room, where another patient was already in the middle of having his blood drawn. Tacky!

Now, I can’t say exactly what the protocol should be when dropping off urine. Maybe it’s best to say nothing and just scurry away, but that seemed to me like it would be a gesture loaded in shame. Like you weren’t asked to leave the urine sample; it’s just something you do to get off. You place urine jars all around town and then run away with your eyes cast downward, then hurry home and pleasure yourself to thought of people discovering your urine jar on a chair in Starbucks, or resting next to a salt shaker at Popeye’s Chicken. I don’t know if such a fetish exists but I would guess that if I could conceive of one so easily, there is probably already a website, DVD series, and hand-bound monthly magazine devoted to the subject.

If silent shame, following by fleeing (on a gimpy leg, in my vision of this scenario), is not the best way to deposit a urine sample, I know for a fact it is still not the worst because here’s what I did: as I entered the examining room and saw the technician drawing a patient’s blood, I placed my half-filled pee jar on a stainless steel examining table, nodded to the blood donor (and not the technician, for some reason) and said, “Enjoy!” And that, in no uncertain terms, is the worst.


My pal, Mike Sacks, and I wrote this quick piece for Vanity Fair’s online stepchild: “Some Surprising Results From Today’s Exit Polls.” It is as dumb as the title would suggest.


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