Friday, July 30, 2010

Saggy Pants and Crushed Cars: Justice for Some

Saggy Pants and Crushed Cars: Justice for Some

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

As much as I hate to admit it, a teenager's right to wear his pants below his butt are protected by the First Amendment.

Bronx fashion accident, Julio Martinez, was recently given a ticket by a cop for disorderly conduct, for having "his pants down below his buttocks exposing underwear [and] potentially showing private parts."

But, according to a New York Post story, Bronx judge Ruben Franco threw out the ticket, saying that "the Constitution still leaves some opportunity for people to be foolish if they so desire. Stupid Constitution." (I made that last part up. He didn't say that.)

"While most of us may consider it distasteful, and indeed foolish, to wear one's pants so low as to expose the underwear . . . people can dress as they please, wear anything, so long as they do not offend public order and decency," Judge Franco wrote in his findings.

I always try to be a live and let live person. I don't make judgments about people who have large holes stretched into their ears. I support people who get extensive, colorful body art. And I am completely unfazed by people who have piercings all over their body.

Similarly, I always support the First Amendment, even when it means I have to put up with some of the most idiotic, heinous, and reprehensible speech ever, even certain white board scribbling, overly-prone-to-weeping hate mongers on cable TV.

But wearing one's pants below your butt is just plain. . . asinine. Whenever I see anyone wearing low riders, my temptation is to yank their pants up well beyond their waist, and fasten them with a belt, duct tape, or a staple gun.

My younger brother used to wear his pants low rider style, and I would very helpfully yank them up so he wouldn't accidentally be wrestled to the ground and shown the errors of his ways. Sometimes he would let his pants slip back down, so I had to show him that teachable moment, but our mom usually made us stop and said he was free to wear his pants as stupidly as he wanted. (I made that last part up. She didn't actually say that, but that's how I choose to remember it.)

Some cities and towns around the country have banned this fashion fatheadedness from wandering their streets, but it's still pervasive throughout the country.

Still, when it comes to public annoyances, I like the approach Australia is taking. They're crushing cars as part of a new anti-hoon law.

According to Wikipedia, a hoon is an Aussie term for a "young person who engages in loutish, anti-social behaviour." (You can tell it's an Aussie term because of the extra 'u' in 'behaviour.') It's also a term for driving recklessly or dangerously fast. So, a hoon can hoon Down Under.

This past week, the Australian city of Dandenong, Victoria, crushed their first car in order to demonstrate their new anti-hoon laws.

According to the Victoria Herald Sun website, a white Holden Commodore belonging to a 22-year-old "serial hoon" had been impounded by the police for a third and final time. And thanks to the new laws, the police were allowed to crush the car.

The unnamed hoon's car had been impounded three times for hooning: two burnouts and once for high-speed driving. Each time, police impounded the car under the new laws: first time offenders will have their car impounded for seven days, and second-timers for 28 days. But in Dandenong, it's three strikes and you're crushed, hoon boy.

Police Minister Bob Cameron told the Victoria Herald Sun, "(a)s the car does not meet Victoria's resale safety standards and is owned outright by the driver, it was used by SES volunteers to practise their road rescue skills before being crushed. And I farted in the driver's seat." (I made that last part up too.)

Deputy Police Commissioner Ken Lay (not that Ken Lay) said that cars that met the safety standards would be sold, rather than crushed. However, hoons are not allowed to buy back their own cars, so neener neener neener.

I hope the towns that have already banned low rider pants will adopt a similar three strikes law. While I'm not actually advocating crushing violators, I think they should adopt a similar system of impounding: first-time violators have to wear tan polyester slacks for a week, second-timers have to wear white jeans for a month. And three-time offenders should have their jeans shredded in a public setting, and then be forced to wear too-short plaid 1970s pants for an entire year. With a white belt.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Electronic Erotica On the Rise, Thanks to iPad

Now the British can buy pornographic fiction without the embarrassment of brown paper wrappers or risqué paperback cover art, thanks to the iPad.

In fact, the proof was in the pudding. At the beginning of the week, erotic fiction was at the top of Apple's British iBooks sales figures. This is, until Apple "allegedly" removed the titles on Tuesday. According to a story on WTTG5's website (Washington DC's Fox affiliate), some people speculate that Apple removed the pornographic titles from the sales list so they didn't look like a bunch of filthy smut peddlers. (I embellished that last part a little bit.)

Still, when "Blonde and Wet, the Complete Story" ranked number one on Monday morning, only to be replaced with British lawmaker Peter Mandelson's autobiography, you have to wonder

"Blonde and Wet" was (and probably still is) available from Apple for £.99 ($1.50), which also makes me wonder, will Apple do to the erotic fiction industry what it did to the music industry?

If they do, I'm sure someone will be able to write a story about it.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

LaPorte, Indiana County Fair Makes Sheriff's Deputy Buy Ticket to Do His Duty

I pity my fellow Hoosiers sometimes, because some of them can be such idiots.

According to a story on the Channel 22 WSBT website (official motto: what do you mean, there are people outside South Bend?), a LaPorte County sheriff's deputy was told to pay the $5 entrance fee, even though he needed to enter the fair to make an arrest.

Fair and police officials are calling this a mix-up, I call it just plain idiocy.

Apparently the misunderstanding arises from the fact that the fair used private security this year, rather than hiring police officers. As a result, deputies who had worked the fair in the past now had to pay to get in, "unless called to make an arrest," said the website.

Sergeant Mike Kellems was called to the fairgrounds to arrest a man on an outstanding felony warrant. Kellems stopped at the gate and said he was there to arrest a fugitive, but was told by two separate officious dunderheads gate attendants that he pay the $5 ticket.

Kellems paid the ticket, and then asked for a receipt, and returned to his squad car to wait for it. (Personally, I would have then entered, done my job, and gotten the receipt on the way out, but that's just me.) Kellems waited for several minutes, but nobody showed up, so he went inside to the fair security office, where the fugitive had already been detained.

The stupid part is that when the fair decided to use a private security firm, they arranged with the sheriff's department to allow deputies to enter the fairgrounds without a ticket, since the private security firm cannot make arrests.

What I don't understand is why Kellems didn't just remind the two gate attendants that of the three of them, only he had the power to arrest people for obstructing justice and being a general pain in the ass. The other two were just there to collect money and hand out tiny pieces of paper. While that may be an important job, I would think removing a felon from their midst would be worth forgoing the $5 just this once.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Sassy Gay Friend: Eve

The Sassy Gay Friend has saved the lives of three Shakespearean heroines, Desdemona, Juliet, and Ophelia, and now he's saving all of humanity from Original Sin. Sort of.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

My 25th Year High School Reunion

My 25th Year High School Reunion

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

I attended my 25th year high school reunion this weekend, although I was a little nervous about going. After all, I had my share of the typical teenage angst and conflict, caused by my classmates and friends, and I hadn't seen any of them, except one, since graduation. And I hadn't seen that guy for 22 years.

I graduated in 1985 from Muncie Central High School in Muncie, Indiana (official motto: More State Basketball Titles Than Any U.S. High School, So Suck On THAT, Iowa). I was even a legacy student of sorts, because my stepfather graduated from Muncie Central in 1965.

I had only been back once, when I was still in college. I have driven past it twice since then, but other than that, I haven't had anything to do with my alma mater since.

I learned about the reunion on Facebook, that great reuniter of high school friends, past girlfriends and boyfriends, and brand new friends.. I started finding them, first one, then another, and then a whole handful of them as they had already been busy on Facebook tracking each other down. I got to catch up with them online, learning where life had taken them, what it had taken from them. Marriages, divorces, children, even grandchildren in a couple cases.

Grandchildren?! You're MY age. How the hell do you become a grandparent when you're MY age?! Let me tell you, nothing makes you feel older than realizing that your contemporaries are grandparents, and you've barely cracked your 40s.

So I drove back to my hometown of Muncie, to the reunion, reflecting on my past life in that other era. My years in the band, hanging out with the other band geeks. Meeting after football games at McDonald's. The fights and the feuds. The time several of us stole several For Sale signs and put them in our band director's yard. And an ex-girlfriend's yard. And in front of the school.

The Horizon Convention Center broke through my fog of nostalgia and I walked in. I looked around for any faces I recognized, but I didn't know anyone. They didn't look like any of the people I remembered from way back then.

These people were old. They looked like they were in their forties, not the 18-year-olds I had hugged and said good-bye to a quarter of a century ago.

Not me, of course. I was still as youthful looking as I was in high school. Oh sure, I had put on more than a few pounds, and had a beard. And wrinkles. And a lot less hair. Flecked with gray. But other than that — oh God! — I looked just like them.

If it hadn't been for our yearbook photos on our name tags, I think we would have spent the entire night trying to puzzle out who each other was.

"You remember, we were in Mr. Langdon's English class together. I helped you study for the test on Cannery Row."

"No, I don't remember."

"We dated for six months afterward!"

"Sorry, not ringing any bells."

Any fears I had, any long-ago feuds, were forgotten. These were not the kids I went to high school with. They weren't the obnoxious teenagers I spent four, six, or in some cases, 12 years of school with. These were moms and dads (and grandparents!), with had jobs, families, and histories.

They had moved beyond the teenage drama we had all shared They had made lives for themselves. Their kids were in high school and college. Some even had kids in our rival high school, but no one made faces or jokes about consorting with the enemy.

We discussed people we had kept in touch with, friends we lost touch with, those who didn't make it, and those who never would. We prayed for one friend who is now fighting cancer, and welcomed someone who never even graduated from our school (although we all remembered her from middle school).

Despite what I had seen from all the high school reunion movies (except "Peggy Sue Got Married." I never saw that one.), no one was trying to relive their high school glories. The high school quarterback had gotten fat, and never once discussed football, the homecoming queen didn't go into fashion, the punk had straightened up and gone into business for himself, and the party girl was now a PTA mom. The cliques weren't clicking, and bygones were truly bygones. And I didn't tell anyone I had invented Post-It Notes, despite my jokes about it with some friends earlier that week.

But as I looked around the room, saying my good-byes at 12:30, explaining that I was too old to stay up late and go to the bars afterward, I was struck by a singular thought.

I STILL don't look as old as these people.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Sassy Gay Friend: Othello

From those hysterical folks at Second City, it's another Sassy Gay Friend. From here, we have two more SGFs to go, so my Phone It In Sundays are all set until the end of July.

You can see Sassy Gay Friend: Hamlet and Sassy Gay Friend: Romeo & Juliet.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Ghostwriters In The Sky

Ghostwriters In The Sky

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

I'm a ghostwriter. Other people hire me to write stuff for them, but they get to put their name on it. I've ghostwritten blog posts, brochures, press releases, websites, and half a book.

It's an odd career choice, especially when you consider that if you did this in high school or college, it was cheating and you could be expelled for it.

I'd like to say that's why I turned down a guy in college who asked me to write his paper for $10. But in truth, I turned him down because it was a Thursday night, I was going to a party, and I wasn't changing my plans for 10 lousy bucks. (He wouldn't go any higher either, so I didn't feel bad when I left him with his stack of books and a pad of paper.)

Ghostwriting is usually considered a reputable, if mostly anonymous and thankless, job. Ghostwriters write speeches for politicians and CEOs, books for celebrities, and marketing copy and press releases for businesses. A ghostwriter never gets their name on anything they write, but they do get their name on their paycheck, and that's all that matters.

Now there's a new type of ghostwriter in town: the dating service ghostwriter. These wordsmiths are flexing their literary muscles, writing clever little messages for single men and women who don't have the time or ability to be clever themselves.

A recent story on the BBC website discussed how several ghostwriters are becoming virtual Cyrano de Bergeracs by writing messages on behalf of dating service customers.

"We've noticed a definite trend with more and more of these companies springing up, and there is a huge demand," Mark Brooks, editor of Online Personals Watch, an Internet dating trend-tracking site, told the BBC.

Evan Marc Katz, a dating coach and owner of, told the Beeb, "(t)here are a surprising number of people out there who don't know how to market themselves in an original way."

Apparently, "I like piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne," just doesn't cut it anymore.

So that's where Katz comes in. He interviews his clients extensively, and then writes the initial profile message for around $230, and no mention of piña coladas.

Some of the dating ghostwriters are also dating coaches, charging around $140 per hour to walk their clients through every step of a date. And a few will even "ghost" for a client — we ghostwriters use "ghost" as a verb. We're cool that way — picking out the potential partners, communicating via email with them, and even arranging the first date. One company, VDA, will guarantee two to five dates per month, and will only charge $600 – $1,200 per month to do it.

Katz says that his clients are not losers, but are usually successful professionals. You'd have to be to spend $1,200 per month to find a girlfriend or boyfriend. (But if you're making that much money and still can't find a significant other, the "loser" label would like to have a word with you.)

But don't assume that Katz is just some geek who happens to be handy with a pen and paper. He has loads of experience to back it up.

"I did online dating myself for years with great success and I worked as a customer-care representative for an online dating company," said Karz.

Doing something like online dating "for years" doesn't sound like great success to me, unless one's goal is to be saddled with disappointing date after disappointing date. But still, Katz is married now, so it looks like all his years of hard work and dating drudgery finally paid off.

However, some critics claim that dating service ghostwriting is dishonest

"It's awful. You're misrepresenting yourself," said Jared Gordon, owner of the A Bad Case of the Dates blog.

No, not really. A book ghostwriter doesn't lie about her subject. A speechwriter doesn't write lies for his client. An advertising agency doesn't lie about its — er never mind. All a dating ghostwriter does is present their client in the best possible light. Most people don't have the innate ability or willingness to promote themselves. They either don't know how or are too humble to promote themselves in the best possible light. It takes a ghostwriter to bring out the information and then show the world how great their clients are.

Who am I to tell someone it's dishonest or that they're misrepresenting themselves?

After all, they've got more than 10 bucks, and I'm already married, so it's not like I've got plans on a Thursday night.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Sassy Gay Friend: Romeo & Juliet

I can't thank my friend, Kimberly, enough for introducing me to Sassy Gay Friend. I think this one is my favorite of the three. I'll have the third one next week, but you can see the first Sassy Gay Friend: Hamlet by clicking that link (that one back there).

I can't decide if my favorite line is "You big slut, good for you!" or "Save it, Patty Hearst."

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Friday, July 09, 2010

ESPN Scoops ESPN on Lebron James Story

ESPN Scoops ESPN on Lebron James Story

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

LeBron James will play for the Miami Heat, although you probably knew that already.

But I knew it before you did.

The sporting world was all a-flutter for months with speculation about where James would end up — Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Miami, Chicago or even staying in Cleveland — and sports reporters would clasp their hands to their cheeks, get a far-off dreamy look in their eyes, and gush about where the Royal One would spend the next five or six years.

The speculation reached such a fever pitch that ESPN planned to air a 1-hour special called "The Decision," in which James would announce his team choice.

LeBron's people contracted with ESPN to run the special, and had a few restrictions for the sports network, including not telling ESPN what the decision would be beforehand, and not letting ESPN sell advertising. Rather, Lebron's people sold sponsorships, and the proceeds would go to the Boys and Girls Club of America. (They received $6 million in sponsorships and advertising, and $2.5 million went to the Club in both cash and goods.)

In essence, ESPN agreed to devote a whole revenue-free hour to a publicity stunt that could have been summed up in a single 14-word statement

"LeBron, what's your decision?" interviewer Jim Gray asked.

"I'm going to take my talents to South Beach, and join the Miami Heat," James said.

"Is that your final answer?"

"Uh, can I phone a friend?"

While I applaud James giving $2.5 million to help a great organization that helps kids all over the country, I still can't believe they devoted an entire hour to "I'm going to … join the Miami Heat."

I can spin a long story out of a short one, but even I can't create a whole hour out of what amounts to seven words.

But this isn't the stupidest part of the whole evening. (I say "stupidest" instead of "most stupid," because something this staggeringly stupid deserves to have the incorrect word applied to it.)

No, the stupidest part of the whole evening was what time I actually found out about LeBron's career choice.

Most of the world learned LeBron's choice at around 9:30 pm, but I knew about it an hour earlier.

That's because I was at the gym watching ESPN News, when they posted on their news crawl: "Sources close to LeBron James say James will join the Miami Heat."

(In other earth-shattering news, I was at a gym.)

I was dumbfounded, I was astonished, I was sitting with my mouth open, and not just because I was pedaling like a mad fool on a stationary bike.

ESPN just scooped themselves with the news of The Decision.

They had just given up a whole hour of prime time programming, yammered about it at least two hours before the event, and spent more time than was emotionally healthy talking about it afterward, and they ruined it all by running a news crawl 30 minutes before The Decision was set to air.

I realize I don't know much about sports news, but I do know that you should never, ever scoop your own 1-hour news special that you've basically spent the entire NBA season leading up to. Especially when you just gave up at least $6 million in ad revenue, and gave up all editorial control of your entire network.

Admittedly, other news outlets were also reporting James was leaning toward the Heat, but what was probably most galling for James was the fact that he didn't tell anyone until Thursday morning, and supposedly only told a few people. So obviously someone in his camp spilled the beans, and wrecked his chance at being the first to make The Big Announcement about The Decision.

But ESPN should not have stooped to the level of the other sources, especially 30 minutes before The Decision was going to air. If I were King James, I would be royally pissed, and call for someone's head. (Of course, if I were King, I would also invade Major League Baseball and end the Designated Hitter rule.)

Someone needs to explain to ESPN that you do not ruin a mystery by telling whodunnit in the first 5 minutes, you don't explain how a magician does his tricks, and you don't ruin a multi-million dollar sports special by premature proclamation. Let Entertainment Tonight ruin it for everyone.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Guest Post by Theresia Whitfield: Changing the World Through Social Media

My good friend, Theresia Whitfield, is a fellow blogger and writer, and taught me a lot about writing about auto racing last year when I became an Indy 500 blogger.

She recently told me about her concerns and fears for the town of Bulembu in Swaziland, and how she became committed to helping the people of Bulembu.

"You asked how you can help me," she said in an email to a few of us. "Help me promote this, like posting something on your blog."

I told her that she would be more than welcome to do that, so this is what Theresia has to say about how she wants to — and we can — help Bulembu, Swaziland.

The floor is yours.

Changing the World Through Social Media

By: Theresia Whitfield

The skeptics are everywhere. One fellow writer and good friend recently said he was holding off on joining the social media revolution because he wanted to see if it was just another passing fad. My guess is that it’s not just a fad. In fact, my prediction is that social media is going to change the world. Ok, maybe I’m a little late on that prediction but I think we’ve only scratched the surface on what it can really do.

I admit to having an insane addiction when I first started learning about it. But I eventually discovered how to keep it from being a big time-waster and uncovered the wonderful way it can be used to accomplish some important things. First, I have been able to reconnect with old friends from high school and college. Sure, some of those people haven’t changed a bit in nearly 25 years, but other relationships have blossomed in meaningful ways.

Social media has also introduced me to some of my newest and dearest friends; the majority of whom I have never met as most live in foreign countries. What’s the common denominator in these connections? Music. To be more specific, the music of the Canadian Tenors whose popularity isn’t limited to their native land. I could rant and rave about how fabulous they are, but you’re just going to have to trust me. Suffice it to say that these four young men from our neighbors to the north, Fraser Walters, Victor Micallef, Clifton Murray and Remigio Pereira, have an uncanny ability to bring about life-changing emotions through their music.

But even more amazing than their musical ability is their generous hearts. The Tenors are known for their philanthropic efforts through a variety of charitable organizations but especially close to their hearts is Voices for Bulembu, which they started in support of Bulembu Ministries Swaziland.

Bulembu is a small town in the northwestern region of Swaziland and is privately owned by the aforementioned not-for-profit organization. This once booming town was almost deserted when nearly all of its 10,000 residents left after the main employer closed its doors in 2001, requiring people to seek employment elsewhere.

Swaziland itself has a population of more than 1.1 million but it also has the highest rate of AIDS cases in the world. Statistics indicate a 900% increase in AIDS cases from 1992 to 2002. The current life expectancy is approximately 32 years of age and, with the negative growth rate (-.41%) coupled with the current death rate, the Swazi people will cease to exist by 2050.

Bulembu was purchased with a vision to rejuvenate the town to a self-sustaining entity that combines sustainable, innovative enterprises with orphan care for Swaziland’s most vulnerable children.

The Bulembu Foundation‘s mission is serving Jesus Christ by restoring hope to the people of Swaziland through community enterprise and community care and accomplishing that goal by 2020.

Knowing the passion the Tenors have for this project, Canadian Tenors fans from across the globe have united to support the upcoming Voices for Bulembu campaign with a fundraising initiative called Raise YOUR Voice for Bulembu. The initiative began June 25 and ends when the Canadian Tenors host their cornerstone fundraising event, Voices for Bulembu: A Legacy Weekend at Mission Hill, which takes place September 17 – 19th, and culminates in a spectacular concert at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver on September 19.

Organizers of Raise YOUR Voice for Bulembu, Indiana’s Theresia Whitfield, and Debora Hoeksema, from Holland, are challenging Tenors fans to help raise $2,500 (USD) by the time the Tenors take the stage on September 19. To ensure safety and that all funds raised are distributed appropriately; Raise YOUR Voice for Bulembu organizers have partnered with Bulembu Ministries.

Secure donations can be made by visiting Bulembu reSTORE, an online catalogue with donation categories such as: orphan care, enterprise, school, home, environment and general funds. Donations can be made for as little as $1.00 (USD), as a one-time gift or a monthly commitment and 100% of all donations go back to Bulembu.

So, this little web site called Facebook had the power to bring together a few people who like the same musical act and have a passion for orphan care. And now, the 2,000 orphans in Bulembu are getting an extra boost of exposure through the combined efforts of a few people who like the same musical act and have a passion for orphan care. It’s just that simple. The world really can change one song at a time, one tweet at a time.

What can social media do for you? You’d be surprised. In the meantime, you can Raise YOUR Voice for Bulembu, too.
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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Sassy Gay Friend: Hamlet

A friend introduced me to Sassy Gay Friend from the Second City comedy network this past week. I think several plays and movies would be greatly improved if they all had a Sassy Gay Friend.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

One Man's Vuvuzela is Another Man's Curse

"Kid, is that what I think it is?" asked Karl the Curmudgeon.

Depends on what you think it is, I said. We were sitting in the Tilting Windmill, a Dutch-themed bar, watching the football team of my ancestral homeland, The Netherlands, put a pounding on Slovakia in their quarterfinal match.

"You didn't really get a vuvuzela, did you?" asked Karl, staring daggers at the plastic Alpine Horn-looking device I held in my hands.

Oh, but I did," I said, grinning evilly. I blew as hard as I could. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!

"Why, Kid? Why?" Karl shouted to be heard above the new noisemaker that was the target of many complaints around the country.

It's the World Cup, bay-bee! I bellowed. And when we watch the World Cup, we blow the vuvuzela!

Karl made a grab for the offending instrument, but I was too fast for him. Dude, you do not grab another man's vuvuzela! I said.

"Why do you even have one of those?" Karl said, rubbing his eyes hard, like he had a headache. Or was about to get one.

Because we're celebrating the World Cup. Haven't you been watching the games? You can hear the vuvuzelas blowing in the background at all the games.

"I know," said Karl. "The first time I heard them, I thought a swarm of angry bees had attacked the broadcast booth."

Oh bull, I said. Quit being such a bandwagon anti-fan.

"Seriously, they're the most annoying things I've ever heard," said Karl, plonking his beer mug down on the bar. He gestured to Nicholaas, the bartender, for two more beers.

I continued on: so many Americans are griping about the vuvuzelas, saying they're the worst things they've ever heard. What a crock. Just because they won't let themselves get swept up in the pageantry and celebration of the World Cup, they have to focus on people having a good time.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!! I blared when Nicholaas set our beers in front of us. GO, NICO! I bellowed. GOOOOOOOOOOAAAL!

Nicholaas smiled in appreciation, although whether it was at the cheer or the five dollar tip, I can't be sure.

See, Karl, Nicholaas likes it.

"He's just smiling because his team's winning," grumped Karl. He lunged for the vuvuzela again, but I yanked it out of reach. "Gimme that noisy thing!" he shouted.

Karl, don't you feel the passion of the World Cup? Doesn't the sight of some of the world's greatest athletes competing on a global stage stir anything in you?

"Yes, it does, but that doesn't—"

And don't you feel the energy of thousands of people screaming, chanting, waving their flags, and beating their drums coming through the TV?

"It's not as good as a live game," he admitted. "I mean, you can really feel the energy in your chest, and hear the crowds booming in your ears."

And yet, you want to go along with the soccer haters, and hate vuvuzelas too?

"You can't get away from them," said Karl. "They're so damn loud."

They're loud because you have the TV turned up too high, you deaf old coot! The TV stations turned the crowd noise way down after the first couple of games, because too many people complained about the vuvuzelas. But no one noticed that, because they're not actually watching the games. They just hear their friends whining about them, so they want to be cool, and complain too.

"But I suppose you like them," said Karl.

Sure, a little, I admitted. They're kind of comforting. I like knowing they're there. It's white noise, like the crowd noise at a baseball game. I get excited when I hear them, because I know that for 90 minutes, the whole world is doing one thing at the same time, that they're watching the same thing I'm watching. By now, I was feeling the energy of the moment, and I rose to my feet to preach.

The vuvuzelas are calling the world, Karl! They're calling the world to tell them something exciting is happening!

I put the vuvuzela to my lips, to sound my own clarion call.


Karl held the stolen vuvuzela over his head in victory, before slamming it down on the edge of the bar, and bending it into a V. Then he threw it on the ground and jumped up and down it several times, grinding his heel on the mouthpiece for good measure.

He picked up the dead vuvuzela, breathing hard, and grinning triumphantly.

"The world can set their alarm clock like the rest of us," Karl said, offering it to me.

Actually, that was the one I got for your birthday. I reached down into a shopping bag next to me. I got one for me too.

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