Author Archives: edbis

Insult to Injury

not-a-moron

The old expression “adding insult to injury” might well have been coined with parents of high school seniors specifically in mind. Bison Daughter is in her senior year, and the nightmare of college selection is already fully upon us. The process is bad enough, what with the visits, the applications, the application fees, essays, and meaningless letters of recommendation dragged out of the hands of recalcitrant teachers, but when you consider that “success” merely triggers the sure and certain expectation of the forcible anal rape of your bank account for the subsequent four years, the fun factor really drops off.

Considering that, maybe I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to receive the package of glossy brochures from the school outlining all the wonderful things I might want to buy to commemorate said daughter graduating high school. For a start, there were rings. Lots of rings. Gold and silver and who knows what else, with blue stones, pink stones, green stones, engraved names, commemorative symbols and all manner of decorations. None of them seemed to cost less than a couple of hundred dollars, but you could drop a cool eight hundred, if you so desired, on a gold “Heritage Collection” ring. No need to stop there though – you could drop several hundred more on custom made class tags. You could buy class jewelry, apparel and commemorative pictures too.

But that’s not all. Just in case your friends and family aren’t aware that your little darling is about to leave high school you can order beautiful custom announcements, with ornamentally sealed envelopes, to be sent far and wide to broadcast the news. It really wouldn’t take much to spend well over a thousand dollars on commemorative graduation crap.

Remember – this is high school we’re talking about here, not college. You know what it takes to graduate high school? Show up until you’re eighteen, don’t be as thick as pigshit, and turn in a bare minimum of work. Unless you have a medical reason that gets in the way, (and there are people with real challenges, let’s be clear), about the only way you can fail to graduate is either to be a moron or to simply not bother to do the work. And since high school graduation is a pre-requisite for almost any job that offers any kind of a future, choosing not to do the work kind of puts you in the moron category too. So, in summary, you’re either “high school graduate” or “moron”.

So when a parent spends a couple of grand sending out gold plated notes, buying class jewelry and holding a party to celebrate little Johnny graduating high school, they are basically saying “Look, look! My kid isn’t a complete moron! Isn’t it great?!”

I suppose I should have seen this coming, in a land where graduating kindergarten is celebrated with a straight face as a rite of passage. It’s just one more facet of the “You’re all winners, everyone gets a trophy” mentality. And if it was just a fun “throw your cap in the air, celebrate with your friends” event I’d be all in favor. Parents with cameras, kids in gowns, cake afterwards – it’s all good stuff. But four figure jewelry bills and personalized gold embossed stationery? Are you kidding me?

It all makes me wonder what’s in store if my offspring manages to graduate from college? How expensive does that catalog get? If high school graduation (or “my kid’s not a moron”) merits a grand or two in cash outlay, I can only imagine the options available for the college graduation celebration. Maybe there will be personalized airplane banners, to be dragged over the ceremony by a gold-embossed biplane. Custom silver braided cakes, where a live dwarf leaps out and presents your college graduate with a platinum and diamond commemorative tiara. A fleet of Bentleys to hand deliver invitations to the graduation ceremony simultaneously to fifty of your closest friends and family. A choir, resplendent in robes custom-made in your college colors, to sing congratulations to junior as he takes his first shit after graduation. And what about post-graduate degrees? If Bison Daughter gets a doctorate I’ll have to file for bankruptcy, or face the shame of having her be the only not arriving at the ceremony in a silver carriage drawn by unicorns.

In the end Mrs Bison and I decided to go for a simple cap and gown, for twenty eight dollars I believe, and to keep our bank account as plump as we can, in anticipation of the financial ass-rape that college will for sure bring. I suspect, however, that we are in the minority, given that Jostens, a large purveyor of high school graduation crap, announced this week that it is being bought for $1.5 billion. That’s an awful lot of rings, shirts and tacky announcements, but unless either the moron count of kids in our schools or the good taste of their parents increases significantly the company apparently has a solid gold future.

Pumpkin is Shit

pumpkin-is-shit

It’s that season again. The season of pumpkin. I just saw a commercial for some kind of pumpkin frappuccino coffee-type drink, presumably about three dollars and seven hundred calories – I don’t know for sure as I honestly didn’t really pay attention, for the simple reason that pumpkin is shit. I suppose I should be grateful that some sector of the retail world is happy to pause in a Fall/Halloween type promotional phase before the inexorable march to Christmas (or “Holidays”). Some stores are already in full Xmas mode, one of them before October even started, I suppose motivated by the desperate fear that people will buy the first piece of useless Santa-themed crap they see, and if they wait too long it just might be some other retailer’s crap.
So I’m all for some Fall seasonal product – I just don’t understand the seemingly enormous attraction of pumpkin. Sure, it’s a seasonal vegetable, with all sorts of Halloween and Autumnal connotations. It looks great in harvest displays, makes a nice addition to twee home décor, and in its carved form can be relied upon to brighten up any front door in October. But what on earth would possess someone to eat one?

Food tends to fall into two categories: there’s stuff that’s worthwhile to eat, and there’s stuff you put on top of it to make it taste better. Bread is good. Want to make it better? Add peanut butter, or chocolate. Potatoes are good. Just add bacon, cheese and sour cream for better. So if coffee is good, I’d suggest (should you be so inclined) that chocolate might be a good addition. Or cream, sugar or whiskey. Not pumpkin. You see, pumpkin doesn’t fall into either category – it’s neither worth eating in its own right, nor is it, in a million years, something you add to other things to make them taste better. In fact, about the only way to get anyone to choke down pumpkin flesh is to cut it severely with something tasty, like marshmallow, or sugar, or maybe heroin.

Pumpkin is shit. Given the choice between eating it and dying of starvation I’d chow down on pumpkin with the best of them, but having been blessed with the great fortune to be able to choose what to eat, I’m going to stick with carving a big smile in it and leaving it on the porch for the ants. In fact, I’m surprised that anyone can face pumpkin if they have at some stage cut the top off one to make a jack-o’-lantern. When you reach inside to drag out its guts you are assailed with the feeling of pulling hair through slime, and a smell like someone took a great big dump inside. Hardly likely to trigger a rational being to think “Hmmm – I wonder what it tastes like. Forget apples, let’s make THIS into a pie.” And then people chuck the layer of marshmallow on top that is apparently necessary to overcome their gag reflex. But if you’re going to do that, why not put marshmallow on something that actually tastes good to start with? Cheesecake Factory has more high calorie, luxury desserts in their cabinet than you could possibly bear to eat, all variations on a theme of “tastes great, pancreas set to overdrive”. Ever wonder why pumpkin isn’t a recurring theme on the ingredient list?

So why do so many companies launch pumpkin promotional flavors at this time of year? I’m assuming none of them actually taste like pumpkin. In fact I bet that’s the secret – they’re probably stuffed full of things that don’t taste at all like pumpkin. With tons of sugar. So maybe consumers come to believe they love pumpkin, as all the pumpkin pies, cakes and coffees are basically a concentrated sugar confection that someone waved a pumpkin over.

All this leads me to wonder if anyone really loses in this seasonal pumpkin con festival. Brand owners get to stimulate demand with new products. Consumers get to believe the sugary crap they eat or drink is really pumpkin flavored. And all over the country our farmers get to unload tons of worthless orange crap that for sure we would otherwise be paying price supports on for evermore. God bless free enterprise, but I’ll pass on the pumpkin frappuccino.

Joyless Stuff

bog-brush

One of the many gifts of the internet is the constant stream of new crazes that make their way into our homes, whether it be through news or social media. Pretty much every day there’s something you can join in. Yesterday I saw “extreme phone pinching” – people posting photos of themselves holding their phones between thumb and forefinger over places that it would be highly inadvisable to drop a phone. Like a deep hole. Or a toilet. The risk/reward quotient of this seems a little out of balance – loss of a phone that seems to be (at least for these people) a gateway to their whole sense of self-worth, versus a photo that someone might “like” tomorrow. It’s beyond stupid, and one can only anticipate the evolution of this fad, until we get a new series of “my penis dangling over the spinning blades of the blender” photos.

Some crazes, however, are more durable, providing far greater opportunity for the participant to spend money and waste time, while endlessly immersing themselves in social media contacts with like-minded devotees. Decluttering is one such activity – it has gone beyond a generic desire to throw shit away, to become a “lifestyle”, with its own guru, a brand name, and books you can buy to help you transform your meaningless existence and find inner peace. The KonMari method is one popular approach, and an article I failed to avoid reading today described how one should review one’s possessions and keep only those things that bring “joy”.

Wow. Joy. That’s a high bar. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I can pretty much walk through my whole house and pick up everything I own in turn, and I doubt there’s a single thing in there that would bring me “joy”. It could be because I have a sad, meaningless existence, and am in desperate need of decluttering, but I suspect that’s not the case. I don’t have any desire to self-harm; I don’t find myself weeping uncontrollably for no reason as I sit, rocking back and forth, on the stairs; I certainly appear to spend way too much time laughing and enjoying myself for that to be the case. But none of the crap I own brings me joy.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. Here’s a thought – how much joy can one expect to receive from owning a toilet brush? Not a polished ivory, diamond-studded Kardashian model, just a simple plastic bog brush. Couple of dollars from WalMart. Not exactly a needle-mover on the joy scale. This morning, however, partly as a result of Bison Daughter’s bread and cake making day yesterday, I happened to, how do I put this delicately, manage to block the toilet. Not “plunger and plumber” block, just a giant U-shaped sausage stuck in the bottom of the bowl, receiving the flush like a dead seal, impervious to pressure. There was the plastic brush – one small push and everything went on its way. Joy? Not really. But relative to the “no brush” alternative, it was a pretty good option. Maybe a toilet brush doesn’t bring joy, but having to break up a turd with your fingers would be about the opposite of joy.

And that, I would suggest, is the reason for most of the stuff we have in our homes that would otherwise be called clutter. It brings us no joy for 364 days of the year, and then on one day we need it. I get no joy from a box of assorted screws and nails, at least until I need one and can pick one out rather than drive fifteen minutes to the hardware store, buy a packet, drive home, find out they’re the wrong ones, swear, drive back, wait in line to return them, buy another packet and drive home again. I don’t need dried milk, until I run out of milk, and I don’t need my electric pump until my tire goes flat.

Stuff is a bit like insurance. It’s a complete waste of money, until you need it, and then you’re glad you have it. The purpose of stuff is not so much to bring joy as to avoid misery, or at least irritation and minor unhappiness. Arranging stuff makes sense, if it makes you happier, but not if it’s so you can post a picture on Facebook and show off to your friends in the KonMari club. And certainly not if you become some weird, nervous, OCD bitch, constantly fretting that someone left a book out.

Do I have shit in my house that I could throw away? Sure. And I will, when I move house. Until then it can stay down in the basement and give the spiders something to play with. Because, when you think about it, even arachnids deserve some joy in their lives.

Not Funny

One of the distressing side-effects of Christmas holidays is an increased willingness to spend inordinate amounts of time in front of the television, watching the kind of moronic claptrap that during the rest of the year would rapidly trigger the off-switch response. Having free hours somehow lowers the bar, so that even moderately worthless crap seems like a good reason to slob on the sofa and gaze at the screen for a while.
That is not to say that all discrimination has been abandoned; reality TV is still utter drivel, Honey Boo Boo and her disgusting relatives can all still fuck off and die, and those weird Alaskan bush people can wander off into the wilderness and indulge in whatever unbiblical intercourse gave rise to their unholy brood. Actually, the list of shows worth watching is still really, really short, and consists mostly of cop dramas. If at any time you’re tempted to drift into the realm of network sitcoms they conveniently show clips from time to time, just to remind you why you shouldn’t.
Oh fuck they’re bad. I have in the last 24 hours seen reminders of just how bad, and as a means of determining when you’ve been at home too long and should really get back to work you could do worse than use the following: if at any time you’re tempted to turn on Two Broke Girls, Mike and Molly or the McCarthys you should grab your work clothes and get the fuck out of the house. If you don’t have a job to go to, just leave the house anyway. Or kill yourself. You’d be doing society a favor.
How does anyone manage to make sitcoms with such pitiful, weak, worthless humor? How do you come up with such weak premises and then overlay them with jokes of such mind-numbing banality that only a cretin could enjoy them? And then run them for years? Until the threadbare original premise has been worn to dust on the backs of the idiot actors with which our screens are infected?
I struggled with this question. I know that good sitcoms do exist – we had loads of them back in merry old England. Why are the ones over here so fucking shit? Are Americans somehow programmed to accept more mediocrity, like with their chocolate? And how do you go about writing something so unfunny in the first place?
“Here’s a really great concept – we’ll have a sitcom with fat people.”
“But surely we did that already? Roseanne was fat, and that King of Queens guy was a bloater too.”
“Yeah, but this will be different. We’ll have a whole new slate of jokes about it being OK to be a fat bastard. Not good jokes, but lots and lots of them, all delivered by a really annoying fat bitch”
It still doesn’t make sense. You’d have to specifically breed writers to be that shit – you couldn’t possibly hire them that way. You’d have to start by taking weak comic writers and breeding them selectively with the retarded. The offspring of that accursed coupling would be a litter of retarded comic writers. It wouldn’t be easy, obviously. The comics would be trying to shove it in all the wrong holes, just to be funny, and the retards would be putting it in all the wrong holes because they didn’t know any better, but eventually I figure you could get them to breed. That wouldn’t be enough though. For a real CBS level of comic banality you’d have to take the comic retards and breed them again with a whole new set of retards (or maybe the same ones – it’s not like it matters) and then take the second set of offspring and have them write the script for Two Broke Girls. One part weak comic to three parts retard.
For sure that whole process would take two generations, and would require an investment of time by the network, and a commitment to really shit writing, that is hard to imagine. But what other explanation is there for the sudden explosion of really fucking shit sitcoms on our screens? The second breeding must be reaching maturity and their writing is coming to fruition.
The most depressing aspect of this is that networks are in the business of giving people what they want, and obviously the public likes their humor with very little use of the cerebral cortex required. Which is probably necessary to satisfy the mentality of a population that appears to have been spawned in no small part by acts of love between the actual or borderline retarded. So my TV sucks because people are stupid. I’m half tempted to go back to work, but the stupid live there too, and the sofa isn’t nearly as comfortable. So I’ll smack myself in the head with a brick instead, and get working on my new sitcom about two fat bastards who talk to the dead. It’s called “XXXL Medium”. You’ll fucking love it.

No Stone Unturned

It’s the day after Christmas, or as the civilized world calls it, Boxing Day, and I’m starting to feel marginally less shit than I’ve done for the last six days. It’s a mistake to take time off work and relax because I can always guarantee that the moment I stop working a miserable cold/flu virus will descend on me from a great height and fuck me up. And that is indeed what happened precisely one day after coming home. Of course, like all normal males, I had not done one iota of Christmas shopping prior to this, having planned on the five remaining days before Christmas being plenty within which to accomplish the pathetic series of near-desperate purchases that normally make up my gift list.

I didn’t plan to be down for the count for six days, but fortunately I made the effort (greatly assisted by assorted medications) to visit the stores on Monday, just to get the whole exercise out of the way and ensure that Mrs Bison had something to open on Christmas morning. (Mrs Bison is a patient and wonderful woman, but like all women has an elephantine memory for such transgressions, and although she cares little for fancy gifts, I could not risk being slyly reminded for the next, ooh, let’s say thirty years, about the year she had nothing at all to open.)

We long ago stopped trying to impress each other with gifts, which does take the pressure off, and instead we just buy fun junk. If there was anything we actually wanted we would already have bought it, and it’s amazing how much crap you don’t really need when you get right down to it. Not exactly the consumer behavior the retail industry is dreaming about this season, and judging by the swarms of crappy people clogging up the roads around the mall on Monday, not a very common attitude either. So I patiently avoided running over the moron family who wandered out into the road, the dumb woman on her phone who didn’t look where she was going and the bitch who didn’t seem to care that between her and her bus was an active road, and parked the car at the mall. By this time I’d bought the more “fun” gifts, but I had it in my mind to check out some jewelry, because Mrs Bison is an excellent spouse, and wouldn’t it be fun to surprise her?

So I cruised a few jewelers in the mall, looking for attractive necklaces that didn’t cost the same as a small car. You have to be careful doing this – the trick is to wander through and glance sidelong at the merchandise, but without making eye contact with the lacquered harridan behind the glass counter, who will immediately ask what she can show you, and then proceed to attempt to guilt you into buying some overpriced tat. I had a narrow escape with one Eastern European assistant who wanted to direct me to silver jewelry coated in gold (“so you mean gold plated crap?”) but after three stores I had seen nothing remotely interesting. Last shot – Macy’s. Credit where it’s due, they had more attractive looking stuff, and my attention was drawn to one necklace – a gold chain with some diamondy bits, including one larger stone. Of course they had elegantly folded the price tag underneath the item, making it impossible to determine whether this was in the price range I was looking for. Along came the assistant to ask if I needed anything. “Sure – can you just tell me how absurd the price tag is on that necklace?” (No, that’s really what I said.) Out comes the necklace, display it, touch it, describe it, and then out comes the calculator for the myriad discounts, the result of which was $750, unless I wanted to get a Macy’s card?

Let’s leave aside for a moment that the gold chain was so insubstantial as to be near invisible, and that there’s a fine line between “delicate” and “cheap”. Let’s also leave aside that I thought the item would have looked better as a gold thing with glittery bits, and absent the solitaire stone, and also let’s leave aside the fact that I wanted to spend about $500 less than that. I was suddenly reminded about why I hate shopping for jewelry. It’s impossible to know if you’re being ripped off. (Actually it’s almost certainly the case, but let’s just pretend for a moment.)

The most expensive part of that necklace should certainly have been the single diamond; the gold chain and setting could have been bought for next to nothing in China, and the diamond fragments are worthless even if pretty. So what was the big stone worth? Well that depends doesn’t it? Forget the fact that it’s actually worth nothing without the artificial inflation of diamond prices by a worldwide cartel, and just consider its worth within the rigged market: was that stone a clear E color stone with no inclusions, elegantly cut to maximize brilliance? Or was it a yellow piece of near-industrial grit, knocked up in a cheap shop and glued to a gold setting in a Chinese factory? I have no way of knowing. I can’t pull out an eyepiece and examine it, partly because I don’t own one, and partly because I wouldn’t know what to look for in a million years. If I had that $750 necklace appraised, what would its value be?

If you buy a used Ford Taurus its value is largely a function of age and mileage. Buying a piece of jewelry in a mall store is like buying a used car without knowing either of these facts. “Here’s a beautiful blue Taurus, black tires, brown seats, lovely clear glass. How about this?” “Fifteen thousand? Yeah it looks nice, I’ll take it.” You’re spending significant money on something about which you cannot possibly know enough to gauge value.

And that’s where the whole jewelry business has its hands round your balls. You’re expected to buy jewelry for women because they like it, and you can’t buy glass or zircons, even though no-one could tell the difference, because then you’re a “cheap bastard who doesn’t think I’m worth it.” But if you do buy something how do you know whether that diamond is any good? Is that blue stone a pretty natural sapphire, or is it an artificially colored piece of crap produced in a factory? You could ask, but what sort of answer do you think you’ll get from the commission-based slime bag at your average jewelry store? “Yes, this is priced at $1100. It’s actually worth much less because the stone is very flawed, and the setting is mass-produced, but we make a 500% mark-up on this so I strongly recommend it to you.”

So I retreated from the store as gracefully as a shivering, run-down man with flu and three days of stubble could, probably leaving the assistant believing I was some kind of meth addict, and returned home.

Yesterday Mrs Bison and I exchanged fun gifts, and Bison Daughter got real gifts, and I managed to cook the turkey, even though I felt like crap, because that’s the tradition here, and Bison Daughter said it was excellent, and that basting with phlegm obviously helped, and then we did what everyone should do on Christmas Day, which is nothing. And later in the evening I recounted my jewelry story to Mrs Bison, and she laughed and told me she would have been pissed off with me if I’d spent $750 on a necklace, which is why she’s such a great spouse, and why I felt like I needed to buy something to show her that, so you can see my problem. But it’s a good problem to have, and I wouldn’t swap it for all the crappy diamonds at the mall.

Black Plague

black friday at walmart

So yesterday was Thanksgiving, and we gathered around the dinner table and consumed inordinate amounts of meat, potatoes, sausages and stuffing, and just enough vegetables to ensure that our colons didn’t completely seize up. Because that would be bad – no-one wants to spend Black Friday crouched on the porcelain, doing a Marty Feldman, attempting to pass three pounds of impacted seasonal joy. In the process of said Thanksgiving dinner we paused to reflect on that for which we were grateful in 2014, and number one on the list was unquestionably that we would not be getting out of bed to join in the festival of crass excess and consumption that is the Black Friday shop.

I have tried to put myself in the place of those sad, overweight, invariably ugly people who you see on the news fighting their way into Walmart when the doors open; I have attempted to rationalize their actions on the basis that they don’t have much money, and they need to get the best deals they can. And I have come to the distinct conclusion that this explanation is complete and utter bollocks.

OK, so here’s point one: you know what the cheapest form of consumption is? Non-consumption. Compared to fighting your way through the store to load up a cart with two giant flat-screen TVs, NOT buying two flat-screen TVs is a dollar-saving winner every time. I started out life with no money, and now I don’t have no money anymore, but the more money I have, the less inclination I have to spend it on upgrading electronic crap which I can confidently predict will be out of date in six months and obsolete in just over a year. And it’s not like there’s anything on TV that would make any sane person declare “You know, I really wish I could see that picture, only much, much bigger, all over one wall of my house, and hear that voice in skull-penetrating Dolby surround sound. I’m off to punch some fat Hispanic woman in the head and grab a TV in Walmart.” Are you fucking kidding me? There is nothing worth staying in to watch on TV, and very little worth turning the box on for, even if you’re stuck in the house with no better options.

“What about football?” I hear you ask. Yep, I like football too. And the eleven minutes of actual action, sandwiched between nearly 50 minutes of clock running down while nothing happens, and a further 90  minutes of commercials for more crap to buy on Black Friday, doesn’t even come close to making me want to fight the chubby crowds. Apart from that you have sitcoms that aren’t funny, movies that are so full of commercials you want to break the TV, and reality shows that would insult the intellect of a cockroach. To want more of that you’d have to be – well – you’d have to be exactly the kind of certifiable moron who leaps out of the house to the Pavlovian ring of the Black Friday sale bell.

Fundamentally though, if you’re that hard-up that you need to immerse yourself in Black Friday hell to afford the things you buy, maybe you should try not buying them.

But here’s the next point. It isn’t even about the stuff people buy. I don’t believe for a moment that the people who shop those sales couldn’t afford the crap they buy otherwise. Either they’d buy a bit less or they’d pay a bit more, so it can’t be about needing to save money – it must be something else.

Here’s the pivotal question: “If a man buys a flat-screen for $99 in Walmart and there’s no-one there to see it, does he still get a bargain?” Do you think people would fight the crowds at the sales if they didn’t get to brag to their buddies on Monday “Yeah, I got two tablets for under a hundred bucks, and a 50 inch LCD TV for four hundred.” Is the real motivation the acquisition or is it the feeling that you got a deal, that you paid less than someone else for whatever shit you bought. You’re a winner because you got a bargain! Yeah!

It just beggars belief that there are that many people out there with that much desire to buy that quantity of crap, every fucking Thanksgiving, in addition to all the other crap they buy for the other 364 days of the year. But it’s all about the deal – buy it now, quickly, so you can get one over on all the other poor saps who bought it last week, and those who are going to buy it next week, because you’re the chosen one. The deal-maker. The caveman, dragging superfluous electronic shit back to your semi-detached cave so your functionally retarded offspring can amuse themselves putting their opposable thumbs to work on the X-box while your spouse paints gazelle on the wall.

I shouldn’t complain. Selling crap to people who don’t need it is what makes the world go round, or at least the US economy go round, and heaven forbid people should suddenly wake up and NOT want all that unnecessary consumer tat. We’d be in recession faster than you could say “fat people shop at Walmart”. The merry-go-round of “I need to buy shit, so I need to work, so I make shit that people can buy” is the bedrock of our whole economy. If I wasn’t at home flicking through the TV in a desperate search for something not shit to watch I probably wouldn’t even notice Black Friday. But the wall-to-wall commercials are a stark reminder that, not only are there millions of dumb shits out there, but they’re all entitled to vote. And if the Black Friday shopper is any indication as to the intellectual capacity of the American voter I’d have more luck trusting to that three pounds of impacted colon.

House of Pain

When I was younger I used to try and do well at school. I’d do my homework, revise for tests, and generally try to get good grades, so I could end up at university. Then I tried to do well again – I’d actually get out of bed and show up for lectures. I’d take notes, do the assignments, and even write up all the boring lab work we had to do, so I could get a job. Then I tried to do well at my job. I’d use initiative, make good decisions, earn the company money and generally try not to step on my proverbial dick. And what was the point of all this? So that when I was a grown-up I could have my own house.

When you’re used to living at home the idea of your own house is a magical thing. It’s the place where bedtime is whenever the fuck you want it to be, and the music is never too loud, and your room is exactly as messy as you like it, and the washing up can wait. And when you’re used to sharing accommodation a house is even better. It’s the place where the food you buy is still in the fridge when you want to eat it, and you never wake up to find sick all over the toilet seat (unless it’s your own), and all your crap is always wherever you left it.

So, having spent all this time being good, and earning money, and occasionally moving to a bigger house, it has occurred to me that the whole idea was fundamentally flawed. Having your own place is a great plan. Owning your own place – not so much. You see, a house is, I have realized, merely a collection of things that are waiting to go wrong. It consists of a furnace that breaks in the winter, an air conditioner that stops working in the summer, a dishwasher that stops working every year, a garage door opener that shreds its little plastic gears and gives up the ghost, power that unaccountably stops being delivered to certain rooms, roofs that eventually leak, shutters that invariably blow off in the wind, gutters that fall off, windows that rot, a sump pump that freezes up in the cold, a deck that rots and needs re-sealing, wood that needs painting, grass that wants cutting, leaves that need clearing, faucets that start leaking, and all manner of annoying things that require sudden, unanticipated trips to the hardware store, where people in orange aprons will make you feel like in incompetent twat before informing you that they don’t actually have whatever it is that you desperately need to make your stupid fucking house work again.

This is the season of holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – the time of year where your house is absolutely guaranteed to cause maximum frustration by developing faults that require time, money, tradesmen, hardware store visits, and time outside in the cold shouting “fuck” at inanimate objects. And if you’re a man you will attempt to address these faults yourself rather than call someone in, partly to save money, but mostly out of sheer pride, so that the tradesman won’t look down his nose at you and communicate silently his lack of belief that anyone could call him out to fix anything so trivial.

So it was when the garage door opener packed up last weekend, just as I was trying to get out to the gym. To cut a long, boring story short I opened it up, found the drive gear that needed to be replaced and sent off for the part. Eventually it arrived, and I set out to complete what should have been a simple man-job. But I had reckoned without the gods of the hardware store, who looked down on me in my pride and decided to shit on me. The part slid into place but the three beautifully positioned screw holes were no use to me, on account of the fact that they had not been threaded. So, having vented my spleen with several high volume emissions of profanity, there I was, at the hardware store, looking for either a tap and die set or a pack of self-tapping screws, so I could bodge the job and get the door working again. (You see I find it very useful for getting in and out of the fucking garage.) But now that it’s done I’m not filled with satisfaction at my newly working house; I’m merely reminded that the clock is ticking to the next unexpected problem, and associated aggravation. It’s like waiting for a kick in the bollocks – you know it’s coming, just not when, where from, or how hard. Merry Christmas!

More Fat Please

Maybe real men shouldn’t admit to eating yogurt – perhaps it has the same stigma attached as quiche, manicures and man-bags – but I have to confess that I eat the stuff. I justify this on the basis that it’s proteiny, but sweet enough to count as dessert and (perhaps) allow me to resist the siren call of thousand calorie cakes. Yogurts used to be simple things, but recently they’ve started to grow in size, and cost, so that you’re being asked to pay an obscene amount for a small bucket of Greek yogurt. As though we’re bailing out their miserable economy one pot at a time.

Greek yogurt is supposed to be good for you – more protein, which is right up my street – but it doesn’t taste better. In fact it generally tastes as one would imagine the congealed nocturnal emissions of a diseased wino would taste, only with fruit on the bottom. We seem to have reached the point where yogurt all tastes shite, it’s just a matter of how shite you can stomach. But the other day Mrs Bison unleashed a yogurt revelation on me: small pots of yogurt that aren’t labeled LOW FAT and, apparently as a consequence, taste great. Like real food. Like you’d eat one out of choice rather than duty. And it suddenly hit me – ALL yogurt could taste this good if we only stopped obsessing about low fat foods.

All those attractive sounding but ultimately disappointing flavors that you see in the supermarket chill cabinet could really taste like key lime pie, or strawberry shortcake, or whatever it is they claim to be. And they’d all taste great. But instead we live in a world of mealy-mouthed, low-fat, calorie-counting self-denial, where luxury is an ever-larger pot of something that you just know will taste like fruity dog semen.

Mrs Bison says yogurts all used to taste like that, but I don’t remember those days. I don’t think we had yogurts when I was a kid, and I certainly didn’t buy them when I lived alone because they didn’t fit my “lots of protein, lots of carbs, and just enough fruit not to get scurvy” low cost shopping plan. Nevertheless I can’t help wondering why, in a country that is quite prepared to chicken fry steak, there isn’t just a little bit of room on the shelf for non-low-fat yogurt.

Maybe it’s the next big thing: “Food You Can Enjoy”, but I can’t help thinking that the great marketing powers that be have decided that Yogurt = Health = Low Fat, and taste can just take a running jump. Pity, because nothing puts you off healthy eating like the taste of dog spooge.

 

All I Want for Christmas…

Just to illustrate the point I made yesterday about gifts, here are some examples of the disparity that exists between desire and reality:

WANTED
– Porsche Cayenne Turbo
– Rickenbacker bass guitar
– Selection of fine Scotch whiskys
– Authentic leather bomber jacket
– Full bar for basement drinking sessions

RECEIVED
– Fake leather driving gloves
– CD
– Book about whisky
– Socks
– New tools to work on basement

Which is why at the end of the day gifts don’t add much to the festive occasion. Not when compared to the combination of friends, food and drink, and just the right amount of seen-it-before Christmas TV. It would still be better if I could get that bar done though…

Gifts?

It’s sad how the excitement associated with the major gift-giving occasions dissipates as you get older. When you’re a kid every birthday or Christmas holds the potential for some fabulous surprise. Admittedly the surprises were cheaper and simpler when I was a kid – it’s hard to imagine anyone today getting all hopped up on the possibility of a digital watch, for instance – but there are tons of ways to light up a kid’s face with gifts. Once you’re a fully fledged adult, however, birthdays are more likely to be an exercise in disappointment, tinged with the increasing relief as the years go by that you didn’t die in the course of the preceding year.

Why is this? Perhaps it’s the fact that all the reasonably priced sources of delight will have been purchased by you already, leaving only expensive stuff (that people won’t buy for you) and shit (about which they have no such qualms). With Christmas just around the corner I’d suggest investing in stocks of companies that make and sell shit; history suggests that they’ll do well again this year…