Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

When you live in Los Angeles, you get used to seeing movies being made all over the place. Huge trucks parked on the street, "StarWagons" pulled onto lawns, a whole host of directional clues leading the cast and crew to wherever they're filming today.

So when I pulled off the freeway and there was a bright orange sign that pointed left and said, "Coup D'etat," that's what I figured it was.

I hope.

Television is really, really awful; hugely awful; staggeringly awful; mind-bendingly awful.

Until you compare it to the Web.

Sometimes I worry that I've accidentally used up all my good luck.

The Peter Principle in Action: First in a Series

I'm at the drive-through and they ask me for my order and I say, "A chicken sandwich and a small chocolate shake, please," and they say that the shake machine is broken and I say, "OK, then I'll have a chicken sandwich and a medium Dr. Pepper instead."

Now, fast-rising employee, would you interpret the "instead" to mean I'm replacing the entire order, or just the shake? Do I want "a chicken sandwich and a Dr. Pepper" or "a chicken sandwich and a chicken sandwich and a Dr. Pepper?"

If you answered the former: Congratulations! You've been promoted to management!

If you answered the latter: You're not familiar enough with conversational convention to have read this far, are you?

And if you noticed that I'll blindly pay whatever amount they ask me for without thinking about it: You're a smart-ass.

No matter how stuffed up you are, no matter how phlegmy, do not use a toothbrush to scrub out your throat.

No, really. Trust me on this.

"Dark Angel," I say.

"Judging Amy," Joanne says.

"Dark Angel."

"Judging Amy."

"Dark Angel."

"Judging Amy."

"But she's such a babe..."

"Excuse me?"

"Ah. Um. Heh. Judging Amy it is!"

Some evil combination of paternal love, sleep deprivation and the New Economy has left me a hopeless, drooling sap. That eToys ad -- the one where the dad takes his son to the car wash, with the soft humming music and the guazy images and the wide-eyed wonder of a child -- leaves me misty-eyed. I want to pick up my boys and hug them and tell them I love them and go and spend thousands of dollars on them on-line.

Luckily, Windows keeps crashing, so I just go back to hugging them.

The thing about boxing is, you can give up. You drop your arms and you lay down and it's over. Sure, you've lost the fight, but at least you're not getting beaten up anymore.

Life, though... You drop your arms and you lay down and the son of a bitch just keeps pummling you.

A failed Suck submission:

Page 1

The Suck Debates

A Dialog With the American People,

Unless They Happen to Be Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan

LEHRER: Good evening, America, and welcome to the forth and final debate between presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush. I'm your moderator, Jim Leher. By tradition, a coin-toss was to determine who answered the first question, but the silver dollar was grabbed from the air and pocketed by Vice President Gore. The Bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has decided that this constitutes "Heads" so the first question goes to the Vice President.

Page 2

LEHRER: Mr. Gore, for ten years and through two administrations, Saddam Hussein has been America's Public Enemy Number One. If he were to offer a hundred thousand dollars to your campaign, would it alter your administration's policies towards Iraq?

GORE: No, of course not. A Gore Administration will have only the security interests of--

LEHRER: Two hundred?

GORE: Sure. I'll be anybody's bitch for two hundred.

LEHRER: Governor Bush, a rebuttal?

BUSH: No fair! Oil money is supposed to be mine!

Page 3

LEHRER: Mr. Bush, your promiscuous bisexuality is well known. How do you reconcile your status as a born-again Christian with ravenous cock-lust?

BUSH: What? I'm not bisexual!

LEHRER: My apologies, Governor. There's been some mistake. That question was for Secretary Cheney.

BUSH: But--

LEHRER: Mr. Vice President, your comments?

GORE: Under my administration, I will fight to make sure both members of the Republican ticket will be protected from hate crimes, no matter their craving for sweaty man-flesh.

BUSH: Hey!

Page 4

LEHRER: We now move into the second part of tonight's debate, where the candidates will directly question each other. Mr. Bush?

BUSH: Mr. Vice President, we all know about your involvement in the environment, governmental efficiency and the minutia of nuclear arms control. My question is, sir, are you just the biggest weenie ever or what?

GORE: Now, that's just the kind of personal attack that--

BUSH: Weenie! Weenie-boy! Weeeenie!

GORE: Stop it! Stop it!

(Bush gives Gore a wedgie.)

BUSH: Wedgie!

Page 5

LEHRER: Mr. Gore, you may now ask a question of Mr. Bush.

GORE: Governor, please repeat the following sentence: "She sells sea shells by the sea shore."

BUSH: The American people don't--

GORE: Say it!

BUSH: She shells she shells by the she shore.

LEHRER: Mr. Gore, a rebuttal?

GORE: I can't believe I'm tied with this moron.

Page 6

LEHRER: We now begin the third portion of the evening, questions for the candidates from the audience. Yes, ma'am?

WOMAN: Mr. Gore, you have been accused in the past of repeatedly embellishing your record, of claiming that you "invented" the Internet, for instance. How do you respond?

GORE: I'd like to take this opportunity to correct a misconception. I never said I "invented" the Internet, merely that I took the initiative in helping to create it.

LEHRER: Duly noted, sir. Governor Bush, your comments--

GORE: Though the Web, that was mine. Microwave popcorn, too.

LEHRER: Governor--

GORE: And written language, Chicken Kiev and the bossanova. The human circulatory system. Argon.

LEHRER: Governor Bush?

GORE: Yes, him, too.

Page 7

LEHRER: And the final question of the night is for Governor Bush. Sir?

FISH: Yes, I'd like to ask Governor Bush if--

BUSH: Not you again! No! I'm dried out, damn you! Leave me alone!

FISH: But--

BUSH: There's no such thing as a floating, talking fish! You're not real! You're not real!

GORE: I would like it noted for the record that I sponsored the Floating, Talking Fish Protection Act of 1991.

Page 8

LEHRER: We now conclude the forth and final debate between the best men that both major American political parties have to offer. Good night, ladies and gentlemen. God help us all.

BUSH (curled into a fetal ball): No fish no fish no fish no fish...

GORE: And I'm not just saying that to pander to the floating, talking fish vote, either.

LEHRER: I need a drink.

One of the sublime pleasures of parenthood is reading books to your kids wrong. You can make all sorts of editorial additions and they've got no idea.

Tom, for instance, likes this obnoxious wad of marketing called "Little CrittersTM Play With Me." It's the story of a furry, ugly, buck-toothed, blue-eyelidded little freak who can't get any of his family to play with him, until his little sister volunteers. It's point, I suppose, is that, gosh, your little sister can sure come in handy when you want someone to play with or can't get a date to the prom. I can't stand the damn thing, but Tom loves it.

So if I'm going to read it every night, I'm going to read it my way.

"I asked Mommy to play with me, but she was busy baking a cake... And taking long drinks out of this funny, square bottle.

"I asked Daddy to play with me, but he was busy painting the boat... Because material possessions are far more important to Daddy than spending time with his son.

"I asked Grandpa to play with me, but he was busy raking the leaves... And he kept grabbing at his left arm and staggering around the backyard."

I'm driving through Westwood on my way to lunch and came across a Screen Actor's Guild picket line outside of some industry office. They're commercial actors, on strike for the past few months, and they look -- I dunno -- really, really fake. They're a prefect demographic mix of young and old, black and white, man and woman, all coated in with a heavy layer of television-like unreality. They look too good, like the hamburger in fast food spots or the old couple in heath insurance ads. It isn't so much a labor protest as a commercial for a labor protest.

What they need to do is hire some burly, sweaty Teamsters. That's the way to sell labor unrest.

It's slow going, cricket-herding. I discovered the spindly-legged, antenna-waggling little guy in the middle of the family room, and I'm down on my knees angling him towards the open back door. He's lost of course, and I'm trying to get him back outside where he can run wild and free, as crickets were meant to do.

The dog is watching me from just outside, wagging her tail a little and wondering what the hell I'm doing. "I'm cricket-herding," I tell her.

I put my open palm down towards the cricket again, and he takes an enormous leap in the right direction, landing maybe two feet from the threshold. Ha! I close on him quickly and angle my hand and he jumps and--

And the dog snaps her head and starts chewing; chewing awkward, unexpected chews. She swallows, and she blinks and she turns and wanders away.

So I'm getting my lunch at 7-Eleven again -- because I'm a sad little man, that's why -- and I tear open the bag of nachos and pour them into the little red tray and slide it under the yellowest nozzle and push the button marked "Cheese." The dispenser shutters and moans and little day-go blobs of "cheese" are violently extruded onto the chips. It's an image that doesn't say "Tasty Mexican feast" so much as "This machine is going to the bathroom on my food."

Mmmm!

Joanne just ordered a customized license plate for the minivan: ESQ+TWO. She's a lawyer, see, and she's got a couple of kids to tote around with her. Makes perfect sense. Pithy, short. Not subject to misinterpretation.

Or, if it is, I don't want to know about it.

Not two days after wondering aloud how many years it had been since I'd gotten sick, I was in bed, bleary-eyed, sucking down soup, with a goodly portion of the Atlantic Ocean pouring out my nose.

Finally, definitive proof that the common cold is a vindicitive little bastard.

What I want to know is why do some narcissistic obsessives get columns in Time Magazine and I only get a Web site? I can be awful, too, dammit.

A house on my street has had their Halloween decorations up for a week already, a full three weeks before the actual event. I don't know if it was exactly their intent, but they've managed to creep the hell out of me.

There's a guy behind me in line at 7-Eleven. He's got heavy black boots on, and black jeans, and a black t-shirt and black shades, and he's got tattoos running up and down his arm and he's got a silver stud in one ear and he's maybe... thirty-five. His gut sticks out a bit and he's got a double chin and his hairline is starting to recede and the ache for the day "Social Distortion" was released is coming off him in waves.

It's late and I've got insomnia and I'm half-watching TV when an ad for the "Pizza Hut Insider" comes on. Instead of a dramatic story involving a fast food executive testifying against his employer, the "Insider" turns out to

be a new pizza, one that has a layer of cheese actually inside the crust. The announcer is waxing euphoric over this pizza technology breakthrough when he says -- I swear he says -- "How do we pack in so much cheese? Hey, we're Pizza Hut. We put cheese in places you've never dreamed of."

At which point I decide maybe bed isn't such a bad idea.

Suck: Asking the hard, fake questions. (Third item.)

People in the know, they say, "That Gore, he's high in fiber."

If you're ever looking for a microcosm of a city, visit one of its dog parks:

The tattooed, cigar-smoking lesbian and her pale-eyed rott; the perfect family and their perfect golden retriever; the senior citizen and his oldest living friend; the ragingly dysfunctional family and their perfect golden retriever; the woman wearing spike heels and leather pants and a yappy little rat-dog; the large, angry man and his large, angry pitbull; the neo-hippie with the macrame top, four-inch cork pumps and severe disinclination toward forcing her reality onto her dog.

And, oh yeah, the fat geek with the mutt.

I'm standing on the corner waiting to cross the street, when a beautiful, deep blue Jaguar rolls up, to make a right-hand turn. The driver is wearing a tiny, thigh-length black dress and string of tasteful pearls. He's got a moustashe, too.

Sometimes, I love Los Angeles.

The high school near my house recently started smelling like sperm. Two possible reasons spring to mind:

  • There are these trees surrounding the parking lot -- big carob trees, Ceratonia siliqua -- and in the Fall their fruit drops and starts to rot. One popular description of the resulting smell is "human ejaculant."

  • The students are back on campus.

I'm not sure which theory disturbs me more.

I got my shoes shined professionally for the first time today, and I have no explanation for why it's made me so happy. Maybe it's the small luxury. Maybe it's the moment's rest. Maybe it's the foot massage from an enormous, burley man.

I don't like to think about this last possibility.

There is nothing in this world more perfect than the quiet breathing of a child.

It's a dumb thing. I wouldn't understand.

Why we need Big Government: So that somebody is reponsible for making sure that this is stamped on the ass of everybody running for office.

It's Fall again, and as the leaves turn a deep gold and the weather grows chill, the air is filled with the stench of death -- strong and heavy -- as the networks start killing off their new shows. It's TeeVee Dead Pool time!

Welcome to the Great American Service Economy! But without the service.

The guy parked his brand new Porsche Boxster at the far end of the lot, cockeyed across two spaces. The car was obviously his baby, and he didn't want anybody coming within fifteen feet of it, much less actually having the gall to approach it with another car.

So, of course, I left him a note. "Sorry about the ding," it said.

Y'know, just to screw with him.

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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