Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Another essay for Everything Explained Through flowcharts. Again, I can't include the chart, for fear of Swiss thieves.

– – –

Finishing moves are not all equally awesome, but all awesome wrestlers must have a finishing move. Without a finishing move, a wrestler is just the jobber in the blue trunks that gets smacked around by the Honky Tonk Man while Honky waits around for the Ultimate Warrior to take the Intercontinental Belt from him in an embarrassingly short match (32 seconds). The best finishing moves embody a defining characteristic of the wrestler who invented them, and are thereby indelibly linked to them: The DDT’s stunning speed mirrored Jake the Snake’s viper like quickness and cunning; the Perfect-Plex showcased Mr. Perfect’s technical prowess; and Junkyard Dog’s DogButt—where he would crawl on all fours, repeatedly headbutt his opponent, and then pantomime urinating on them—vividly illustrated his belief that he was a dog(1).

This chart isn’t a comprehensive list of every WWF finishing move. I limited its scope to important or influential wrestlers who were active between Wrestlemania I and XIII, a golden age of wrestling bookended by the wrestling boom of the 1980’s and the Attitude Era of the late 90’s. The Attitude Era officially began at the 1996 King of the Ring, when America embraced redneck heel “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s victory over Jake “the Snake” Roberts, a willful act of stupidity with strong parallels to the 2000 presidential election(2).

You may notice that Crush’s Heart Punch is missing from the chart, as is the British Bulldog’s Running Power Slam, Dusty Rhode’s bionic elbow, and Doink’s the Clown’s Whoopie Cushion. If you did notice any of these omissions, congratulations! You’re a bigger wrestling nerd than I am. Also, the Heart Punch is a lame finishing move, Doink is literally a clown, the Running Power Slam is just a standard power slam with a running start, and while I liked Dusty Rhodes, he had big yellow polka dots on his singlet, and a doughy physique like one of those Hollywood character actors that always plays a hot dog vendor. So, although I tried to make this chart as comprehensive as space allows, it’s also skewed towards my personal preferences. (See Figure 2: Why Isn’t my Favorite Wrestler on This Chart?).

You might have noticed that this essay is more serious than the other essays in this book(3). That’s because there is nothing funny about professional wrestling—unless you think muscle-men playing dress up, smacking each other, and rolling around on the ground together is funny.

– – –


(1) Incidentally, my favorite WWF entrance music is Junkyard Dog’s song, Grab Them Cakes.

(2) This is one of two instances in the book where I compare Al Gore to Jake “the Snake” Roberts. See if you can find the other one!

(3) You might have also noticed that none of the essays have a clear thesis statement, that the charts are riddled with curse words, and that this is the worst silver-anniversary present you could have possibly received.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Future

Another essay for Everything Explained Through Flowcharts. This essay precedes a chart of predictions about the future, which I unfortunately can't post here, because if I do some Swiss advertising company will probably steal it.

– – –

“Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown . . . the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here.”
—The Great Criswell

This quote is an excerpt from the monologue at the beginning of Ed Wood’s seminal film Plan 9 From Outer Space; the Great Criswell, a prophet sent to warn humanity about its apocalyptic future, stares into the camera and speaks directly to the audience. I’d like to direct your attention to the second sentence: “We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.” This sentence is true, and it also looks nice when engraved in a chiseled serif font on a radium plaque, which makes it the best kind of truth—the kind that can easily be viewed on the dark side of the moon, where the remnants of the human race will mount their rebellion against the machines in the year 2025.

You are interested in the unknown, that is why you are here. (See Figure 1: What You Want to Know About the Future). Unfortunately, we won’t have time machines for another twenty years (some scientists say twenty-three), and by then the future will already be here. However, I have something even better than a time machine: educated guesses. And when I say “educated,” what I mean is “four years of art school,” and when I say “guesses” what I mean is “absolute certainties.”

Before you accuse me of sorcery, let me assure you that none of the predictions on the Future chart were attained through the use of occult methods(1). They are predictions, not prophecies, and as such most of them were realized through relatively pedestrian methods (See Figure 2: How Were These Predictions Made?) It doesn’t take a Nostradamus to figure out that lasers will replace flyswatters, cheese graters, and reasoned debate, or that herds of teacup pigs will replace dogs as household pets. ­­­

­­­I can tell by the pink hue of your mood ring that you’re still skeptical about the validity of these predictions. Well it doesn’t matter, because by the time any of these predictions could possibly be disproved, this book will be long out of print and my writing legacy overshadowed by my career as a holovision product endorsement spokesperson for my line of home-cooking conveniences (See Figure 3: Inventions in the Horner Line of Home Cooking Convenience Products).

However, if my predictions do turn out to be true (they will), and twenty years from now you discover yourself searching for some small way to thank me, here is what you can do: Visit the Ed Wood Memorial on the dark side of the moon and—when Orion’s belt aligns with Mars—whisper my name into the windless, eternal night. Then please break me out of whatever robot-controlled radon mine I’m toiling in, assuming the machines haven’t already wiped my mind or turned me into a living battery. In which case just kill me.

– – –


(1) Although I didn’t use sorcery to make my predictions about the future, I probably could’ve, because my girlfriend is a witch, and I bet she’d help me see into the future if I asked her to—but that would open up a whole can of worms, because then she’d ask me to design a logo for her coven, or chart positive witch role models in popular culture, or something like that. Sometimes I think she’s not really a witch, she just likes to wear black. But after I think that I get really bad acne for a week, or I’ll flick on the lights in the bathroom first thing in the morning to find a spider sitting on my toothbrush, just staring at me. So she’s probably a witch.

Figure 1: What You Want to Know About the Future

1. Will Papa’s Mustache place in the third race?
2. When can I replace my girlfriend with a Robo-Gal?*
3. Is this as good as it gets?
4. Should I buy an alpaca farm?
5. When will the Rastafari overthrow Babylon and reach Zion?
6. Is this an awkward phase that I’ll eventually grow out of?

*Don’t bother. With the constant malfunctions, they’re just as much trouble as the old-fashioned kind


A. Common Sense
B. Uncommon Sense
C. Read about it in a Philip K. Dick novel
D. Calculus
E. Hairdresser told me
F. Magic 8-Ball
G. Using the Farmer’s Almanac
H. With a graphing calculator
I. Found beneath a loose flagstone in an ivy-covered corner of the garden.
J. Sunspot activity
K. Gut feeling
L. Not using sorcery, I can tell you that
M. Tip from a guy whose cousin is a bookie
N. 12 hours of meditation in a Hopi sweat lodge

The Horner Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker
The Horner EZPZ Swine Sizzler
In the Shell Egg Yolk Teleporter
The Horner Lazer Flavr HD Tongue Dazzler
The Horner-ator Flavor Replicator
Sea of Tranquility Salt 12-Part Application System
The Horner Hand-Held Peppercorn Incinerator
The Horner Digital Wireless Mini Computer Spoon
Smokeless Sandwich Crust Disintegrator
The Dial-A-Genetically-Modified-Crime-Against-God-Frankenfood

Sunday, November 22, 2009


The Spiderman, Batman, and other superhero documentaries have gone a long way towards fostering understanding between humans and meta-humans, but we are still worlds apart. “Can I gain superpowers during sexual intercourse?” is still a question I get asked all the time at meta human education seminars (See Figure 1: How Are People Gaining Their Supernatural Powers?). Superpowers are, for better or worse, part of our world now, and it's best that you familiarize yourself with these “gods that walk among us,” and their accompanying powers.

Perhaps you or someone you love are struggling with strange powers you don't want to talk to your doctor or spiritual advisor about, for fear of being sent to a superhuman government detainment facility? The Superpowers chart can help you identify your power and move on from there (See Figure 2: What Should You do After Identifying Your Powers?). Superheroes hate to be “defined” by their superpower. “Oh, just because my power is superspeed, you think I have commitment issues?” Or, “Just because I'm physically invulnerable, you think I don't have feelings?” I can't tell you how many times I've heard these complaints from superpeople I know.

Should you become a hero or a villain? Both have their advantages: superheroes win more often (See Figure 3: How Often do Heroes and Villains Win Their Battles?), but super-villains have more fun. You hardly ever hear super heroes laugh maniacally after a victory, but villains can do so for hours, their manic laughter bouncing off the walls of their underground lairs. Although powers themselves are neither good or bad, there are certain superhuman abilities that seem to lead to villainy, or are difficult to use in a positive manner: Mind control (possession), darkness control, poison generation, necromancy, self-detonation, disease bestowal. Superhuman intelligence especially seems to lead people down the “mad scientist route.” But whichever side of the law you choose to align yourself on, you’ll find the same career perks: flexible hours, excitement, and travel (See Figure 4: Where do Superhumans Fight Their Battles?).

Once you figure out what your particular power is, you’ll need to identify your weakness. Don’t worry, it will be something very rare! Perhaps a relic from your home world, a rare isotope, or the love of a pure woman. (Unless you’re a member of the Green Lantern Corps., in which case your weakness will be something incredibly common and inane.) If you’re unable to discover your weakness on your own, don’t worry, eventually your nemesis will figure it out. No matter what your weakness is, you will probably also be susceptible to magic, the annoying wildcard of the superpowers world. Many superheroes who are supposed to be invulnerable are still susceptible to the effects of magic. Super strength, mental powers, power negation, illusions—a magical being could have any and all of these powers. The chief drawbacks of magic are its unreliability, high prep time, and general cornyness. 

Young meta humans often argue about what power is “the best.” Super strength and invulnerability are top contenders, as is mind control and super intelligence. But even if your super power is something more humble (See Figure 5: Lamest Super Powers) just remember, it’s not the size of your power that matters, but how you use it. 

– – –


1. Name yourself
2. Sew a costume
3. Fight crime/commit crime
4. Battle nemesis
5. Repeat

FIGURE 5: lamest super powers

1. Super boring
2. The ability to see 3 seconds into the past
3. Animal communication: worms only
4. Impenetrable dinner conversation
5. The strength of a dog
6. Invisibility to the opposite sex
7. Ennui
8. Heightened paranoia
9. Omnilinguism
10. Je ne sais quoi

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Top Five Alien Pornos

1. ALIEN: A crew of spacemen get face-raped and impregnated by an alien whose head is shaped like a giant phallus, and whose blood is made of acidic sperm.

2. EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY: Aliens cross the galaxy to have sex with Geena Davis. The amorous invaders discover that Earth girls are indeed easy, assuming you look like Jeff Goldblum.

3. SPECIES: An alien succubus who conveniently looks like a underwear model has sex with a bunch of men before killing them. It won an Oscar for Most Thinly-Veiled Pretext for Sex and Violence. 

4. COMMUNION: Christopher Walken is given rufies by aliens and then probed in a lewd and invasive manner. There are also some great dance scenes.

5. MEN IN BLACK: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones star in this sizzling summer blockbuster about secret agents who police alien activity on earth. If you want to see some real sizzling, check out the director’s cut, which has a scene where Jones has to suck the venom out of a poisonous alien bite on Smith’s tongue.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Doomsday Scenarios

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the world is going to end—maybe today or maybe a million years from now, but its destruction is inevitable. The end may come without warning; everything you know, including your cat, could be obliterated at any moment. “Oh no,” you think, “armageddon won’t happen to me.” You know who else thought that? (See Figure 1: This Guy).

That’s the bad news, and I realize it’s depressing. However, remember, I have good news as well: the good news is that, odds are, the end of the world is going to be awesome. Like a gut-shot gunslinger in an old western, the human race will fling itself over the balcony railing, screaming melodramatically as it falls.

For instance, theoretically, there are one-dimensional cracks in the fabric of space called cosmic string. Although only a proton thin, they run the length of the universe and have incredible density. We’re not sure whether or not they exist, but they might, and if they do, and if one were to touch the earth, the earth would be torn apart in a matter of seconds. The whole earth, reduced to cosmic rubble by invisible space string. How cool is that? (Cooler than nuclear winter, which is another completely plausible doomsday scenario.)

Or, there’s a chance that, if a large enough meteor hits the earth (it’s happened before) it could trigger simultaneous underwater volcanic eruptions that would make the oceans boil, spawning giant hurricanes that merge and form a hypercane, a giant storm the size of North America. Not to mention the volcanic ash and dust that would blot out the sun. Whoah.

Tidal waves, biblical plagues, alien invasion, hell reaching its maximum capacity and forcing the dead to rise from their graves, they’re all exciting possible doomsday scenarios. There are, however, a few boring doomsday scenarios: dwindling natural resources, a global pandemic, pollution, and global warming are all steady, gradual problems that could ultimately destroy the human race, hopefully before they bore us to death. Nobody wants to spend their afterlife telling other spirits “How did I die? Well, the earth’s temperature climbed half a degree every year for twenty years, which doesn’t seem like much, but that increase significantly increased the amount of algea in the oceans, which upset the foodchain and blabbity-blab blab boring scientific stuff.” The biggest reason to fight globabl warming is so we can obliterate ourselves in a flashier way, like by creating a miniature black hole or zombie plague. 

This brings up a frequently asked question: are humans stupid enough to end the world? This is a facetious question, because causing doomsday is anything but easy. Look at dodo birds—the dummies—they came nowhere near obliterating themselves. Rats, pigs—and yes, humans—had to do it for them. In a way, completely destroying our race or planet would be an impressive accomplishment, the crowning cap stone to our pyramid of self-destructive behavior. 

“Doomsday” in the sense I’m charting doesn’t require global demolition, merely the extinction of the human species (or permanent enslavement by another race, such as the Alien Zoo or Planet of the Apes scenario). The earth is a 4.5 billion year old ball of rock that is much harder to destroy than the human race, and the majority of doomsday scenarios would leave the earth intact enough to support other life forms (See Figure 3: Who Will Inherit the Earth?). 

Even if we avoid the many natural or unnatural catastrophes that could end the world, in a billion years our sun’s steady increase in brightness will evaporate all the oceans, which means there will be no place to vacation and the Earth will consequently be unlivable. Ultimately the universe will either continue expanding and tear itself apart at the seams, or reverse course and contract, ending in a cataclysmic reversal of the big bang.  

And while it would suck to be in the middle of one of those apocalyptic situations, you have to admit that the end of the world is far more exciting than anything else you’ve ever done, including that time you made out with the high school chemistry student teacher and then smoked grass in the back of his van. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Literary Adventure!

I used to write a series of short stories called Literary Adventure. When my wake-boarding career really took off I had to stop writing, because I was too busy breaking world records for number of flips done on a wakeboard (10). This was before I realized wake boarding was for girls and switched to land luge.

Anyways, here's one of the old Literary Adventures. 

Literary Adventure: War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy began writing War and Peace, his epic story of Russian Society during the Napoleonic era, in 1863 and finished it 6 years later, in 1869. Today, many people spend as long just trying to read its table of contents.

At 1456 pages, War and Peace is far from the longest book in the world (that distinction belongs to the fully-illustrated Uncle Wally's Big Book of Dirty Jokes), but it is long AND boring, with no pictures whatsoever. The last person to supposedly read War and Peace in its entirety was in fact, Leo Tolstoy, and even that is in doubt.

Many skeptics note that War and Peace was originally written in Russian, yet now exists in an English translation. They ask where this translation could have come from unless someone read the entire book. They might just as well ask how baby sparrows learn to fly, or why balloons fall up. Such things simply are. You can shut these naysayers up real quick by asking if THEY have ever read the book, at which point they will stare down at their shoes and mumble incomprehensibly.

In 1935, as part of the New Deal, Roosevelt constructed a team composed of one-hundred and fifty unemployed novelists, poets, vaudevillians, and one actual Russian to read War and Peace. Each person was in charge of exploring approximately ten pages, and then summarizing to the rest of the group what they learned, to try to form a complete picture of the book. Here is a transcript from one of their meetings:

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Uh, well it was hard to say really, what was going on. There was a lonely boy, and he was in Russia of course . . .

Buster Keaton: (makes a funny face and falls out of his chair)

(laughter from the group)

Jilly the Ventriloquist: I actually fell asleep two pages into my section. Before that they were walking in the snow, talking about stuff. I think my dummy, Woody, read the rest though.

Woody: Who you callin' a dummy?

(more laughter)

It was this team which wrote the historical "War and Peace with the Boring Parts cut out," which has been the basis for every subsequent book report, critical review, flip book, and computer-animated musical film adaptation.

The first 200 pages of the epic novel are widely read, but around page 220, readership drops off sharply, and comes to almost a complete halt by 643 (see graph). Despite the many attempted expeditions into the interior of War and Peace, few have pierced its deep, dark center, or glimpsed the fabled 150 blank pages said to lie near its core. Indeed, more is known about the surface of the moon than about page 1028 (if it does in fact exist) of War and Peace.

I resolved to see how far I myself could journey into the impenetrable depths of War and Peace.

Reprinted here are excerpts from my journal which I kept during the journey.

– – –

Day 1:

I pulled a hamstring just lifting the book off the shelf. You use different muscles lifting books than you do in everyday life, and I just wasn't ready for it. Problem numero uno. The native guides took this as a bad omen and fled. I must carry on . . . alone.

Page 10: I decided it's not cheating to skip the copyright page and table of contents. I plunge right into the beginning of chapter one.

Page 12: I am immediately immersed in a world strange and incomprehensible. My compass spins madly; my sextant turns red hot and melts into a puddle of molten brass.

I leave a trail of breadcrumbs and tie a spool of twine around my waist, should I need to find my way out again.

Page 150: Ive set up camp for the night under a dangling participle. Reading going smoothly so far. I tripped over a 16-letter word and opened a small cut on my forehead, but other than that I'm doing fine. We'll see what happens when I hit the first landmark, page 220.

Day 2:

Page 220: I hit 220 at first light and discovered what has discouraged so many readers before me: a sheer wall of prepositions three pages thick.

I decided to cut my losses and go back. However I turned around to find that voles (or ferrets, its hard to tell from the tracks) had eaten my bread crumbs. My twine is gone as well, and was doubtless untied in the night by mischievous faeries.

There is no turning back now. I must press on.

Day 3:

Page 378: I have befriended a small arctic hare and taught him to walk on a leash. I've named him Leo. He's a capital fellow! We hold long discussions about Nietzsche. I hope I'm able to bring him home to show the chaps at the whist club.

Page 379: Hunger has set in, and I had to eat Leo.

Day 4, or maybe 4,000:

Page 654: I'm lost inside what can only be described as the Literary Bermuda Triangle: a paragraph ten pages long. Without any paragraph breaks, I've lost my sense of direction. I find it increasingly difficult to keep my eye on the folios, and I fear I may be reading in circles.

Page 653: Yes, I'm reading in circles.

Page 654: Hey great, I'm finally back here again.

Page who cares, I'm going to die: I should've asked Debbie to dance, and now I'll never get the chance. I've wasted my life.

Page ???: Legs . . . weary. Vision . . . growing dim. The sea of words is rising higher around me. I surrender to their cold embrace and sink. Darkness washes over me . . .

Day 5:

Page 664: I awake on the shore of page 664. Behind me, stretching unbroken to the horizon, lays the mammoth paragraph which nearly claimed my life. But how did I get here?

In the midst of the sea of words a large sea tortoise floats, waving his flipper at me. He must have towed me to safety! I salute the brave terrapin and set off with new resolve, knowing that providence has handed me a mandate.

Page 725: New words, never before seen by man, scurry amongst the underbrush all around me. I try to catalog as many as I can: bulbouslyish-like, portitudity, gwibberrrrrr, fnoob. Though I'm unable to ascertain their meanings, I can tell you that a fnoob will snatch a ham sandwich right out of your hand if you don't keep your eye on it, and that a gwibberrrrrr is good pan seared with butter and saffron on a bed of baby spinach.

Page unknown: I made a grave error today. I took a nap without laying down a bookmark. When I awoke, I had lost my place. It took me the rest of the day to find it again, after re-reading plenty of pages that weren't interesting the first time around.

Day 6:

Page 800: I am now deeper than any man has read before. The air is very thin here, and I find myself tiring easily.

Page 890: Living so deep within the book, words here have evolved very differently from those at the surface. Many of them are translucent and have luminescent organs, eerily similar to the deep-sea aliens in James Cameron's blockbuster, The Abyss. This merely buttresses my theory that James Cameron is the mouthpiece for the creator of the universe.

Page 925: Something is approaching on the horizon. It's outline is dim, is it a mirage? No! It's an International House of Pancakes with an attached War and Peace giftstore!

The prices at the gift store are outrageous; this is what happens without the healthy competition of a free market. I had to pay $20 for a War and Peace t-shirt. I just had to get it though, because it's really funny. It says on it, "Warren Peace? Never heard of him." If I live through this, I'll kick myself if I haven't gotten a souvenir.

Page 1000: It is no myth. I am standing on the threshold of the fabled 150 blank pages written of in War and Peace lore. Tolstoy peered deep into himself, and envisioned a wasteland so absolute, so empty, that it could not be expressed by words. Either that or I've finally gone blind from peering at the tiny font this book is written in.

Page 1075: Smack in the middle of the wasteland, I find a lone word: PERSPICACITY.

Page 1150: At the edge of the wasteland I come upon three doors. I somehow know that I can only choose one, and how well I choose will decide the outcome of my journey.

I pick the middle door.

Inside is a dusty mirror. Inside the mirror, my mirror-self. He is grotesque. He has little bony-girl legs with gawky doorknob knees and a scrawny chicken neck. His knuckles are hairy. His teeth are gappy. There is a mad, feverish gleam in his pornographer's eyes.

He looks just like me.

He lunges out of the mirror and wraps his filthy fingers around my neck. Though he barely has the strength of a fourth grader, I'm unable to fight him off. I have only one recourse.

I pull my mental self back into my physical body. I come to in my high backed Windsor chair, covered in cobwebs, the mammoth book open and glowing in my lap. A strong wind--a vortex--tears at my smoking jacket, threatening to suck me back into the pages. My pipe is sucked out of my mouth and disappears into the book.

With every last bit of my strength, I close the book and hurl it into the fireplace. This accomplishes little, since the fireplace is never lit (Im allergic to smoke). I quickly take the book outside with a pair of tongs and burn it on my hibachi, where it explodes in a noxious tower of blue flame which all my neighbors complain about the next day.


What did I learn from my journey? Did I learn anything about myself? Did I learn anything about the tragic comedy known as the human race? No. All I learned is that War and Peace is a dog from hell, and that bitch will finish you if you don't finish it first.

"But you didn't finish the book," I can hear some of you smarty-pants in the back row saying.

I'm sorry, but that is the end of this week's adventure


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Comic Book Sound Effects

The world depicted in comic books is very different from our own. Impossibly-muscled heroes with powers far beyond those of mortal men leap around in outlandish costumes foiling unnecessarily elaborate crimes, extraterrestrials and ancient gods periodically threaten the earth, and all women have perfect, round boobs. How could comic book reality be any more different than ours? Oh, that’s right, when you punch someone, giant floating letters appear in the air. 

What you and I call comic book sound effects—or SFX, punch words, or sound scribbles—are examples of onomatopoeia, a large, pretentious word that can score you major points with the brainiac squad (See Footnote 1). Onomatopoeia’s use is not limited to the realm of comic books. For instance, words like zap and zip mimic the sounds of their respective actions. Certain birds, like the chickadee, whip-poor-will, and cuckoo got their names based on the sounds of their calls, because the ornithologists who were in charge of naming them apparently had better things to do than sit around all day trying to think of names that didn’t sound like they had been invented by toddlers (See Figure 1: Onomatopoeiac Bird Names). 

So I’m on the campus of Carnegie Melon, right? The campus is right down the street from my apartment. And I’m playing street hockey in one of their fancy courtyards, by myself, because I’m so good at street hockey that nobody else can handle playing with me. So I score this killer goal, right through the front doors of the library, and the puck hits some genius in his big genius head and he starts crying. He gets in my face and says “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” and I say “Onomatopoeia, bitch!” which leaves him totally speechless, so I grab my puck out of his hand and skate away. Final score of the game? Carnegie Melon 0, The Mighty Fucks (my street team) 3,000.

FIGURE 1: Onomatopoeia-inspired Bird Names
Tweet tweet
Mr. Quackers
Humphrey Hoot Hoot 
MC Chirps-a-Lot
Dr. Cockadoodle

Comic book sound effects underline the medium’s glaring technological limitations. Simple stacks of glossy paper held together with staples, they have no video component, and must instead substitute small, primitive drawings in the place of high definition widescreen. They also, incredibly, lack an audio component—a feature even the lowly gramophone has (See Figure 2: Most Exciting Inventions of the Victorian Era)—and must instead communicate the sound of Captain America’s shield punching through an F-16’s cockpit glass using large, cartoonishly distorted letters. 

Many scientists believe that within twenty years this primitive art form will be completely replaced by television, movies, and video games (See The Future chart on page xx). Studies have shown that television and movies are better for your brain, because they eliminate the wear and tear that reading causes. And although comic books are good at desensitizing children to violence, they simply can’t compete with video games’ ability to realistically replicate the visceral experience of shooting someone in the face, or battering a hooker. It’s only a matter of time before comic books join heiroglyphics, Mayan doomsday carvings, and cave paintings in the pantheon of sequential art that nobody cares about.

Some critics have pointed out that I myself use words and drawings in this very book. When they point it out, they do it all dramatically, like Sherlock Holmes uncovering the identity of the murderer (“Who is in this very room!”) However, the crucial difference is that this book is merely a companion to the film version of Everything Explained Through Flowcharts, (if you haven’t seen it yet, Orlando Bloom plays me; he had to work out a lot and wear a prosthetic chin for the role) and is intended for people in remote areas such as the Mojave Desert, Antarctica, and West Virginia. Seriously, we merchandised the shit out of that movie. (See Figure 3: Everything Explained Through Flowcharts Movie Tie-in Merchandise.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Most Exciting Inventions of the Victorian Era

1. the bicycle
2. sarcasm
3. opium-flavored chewing gum
4. steam-powered top hat
5. spats
6. pocket locomotive
7. cocaine-infused soda 
8. wooden toilet paper
9. telegraph sex
10. leeches

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Everything Explained Through Flowcharts: the movie!

The following is an excerpt from the Everything Explained Through Flowcharts movie script, currently under development.

The gritty city skyline crouches in the background like a hungry animal.

Grizzled Captain (O.S.)
You’ve gone too far this time, Maverick!

Maverick (O.S.)
What can I say boss, I’m a maverick!

The Captain paces the room angrily. Maverick is sitting on a horse on top of the Captain’s desk.

Grizzled Captain
Reckless endangerment, destroying public property, excessive force--

(gesturing to the horse)
Captain, you’re upsetting Maude.

Grizzled Captain
And get that damn horse off my desk!

Maverick flicks the horse’s reigns and he and Maude leap through the captain’s closed window, shattering the glass.

Grizzled Captain (cont.)
(shaking his fists)
Damn you Maverick!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sound Effects for the Common Man

Special thanks to Luke Giordano for making up the nonsense words. GRROM!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Things People Say to my Dog

I’m a charming conversationalist. I make sure to read the newspaper everyday to stay abreast of current events (Orlando Bloom's New Gal Pal!) and keep a special eye out for interesting stories I can use as conversation starters (Scientists Discover that Dolphins Name Themselves!). I have a non-threatening physical presence, warm smile, and wear pleasant, sorbet-colored shirts. I know three different sure-fire ice-breakers ("Did you hear about the overweight polar bear? He broke the ice—hi, my name's Doogie), a ton of jokes, and one magic trick involving clothespins (which I always carry, just in case).

My dog walks around naked, has pee breath, and cannot speak a single word of English (or Spanish), but people still prefer talking to him than me. Squatting to shit on the sidewalk, he makes a better first impression than I do wearing a tuxedo and handing out free ice cream. Strangers will often stop us during our walks and hold lengthy, one-sided conversations with my dog without ever acknowledging my presence, other than to ask me his name; his name is Toby, but sometimes I’ll tell people his name is Doogie, so the conversation at least takes on the illusion of involving me. When people ask Toby questions—the same stupid questions over and over—it’s unclear whether I’m supposed to answer for him, or stand in dumb silence, holding his leash. It’s not dissimilar from someone walking up and starting a conversation with your shoes or wristwatch. 

I’d like to make it clear that I’m not jealous of my dog—seriously, I have way more friends than him (If you don’t count his Facebook friends. He especially makes a big deal out of the fact that he’s Facebook friends with Mr. T., even though I’m almost positive it’s not the real Mr. T.) 
And I can’t help but think that the daily grooming and jaunty little bandana I put on him is an integral part of his charm. I do feel kind of bad for him, because when people talk to him, he can’t talk back—although he can communicate eloquently non-verbally. (See Figure 1: Nonverbal Dominance Assertion.)

Of course, dogs’ inability to talk actually increases their charm. They can’t judge you, challenge your politics, or condescendingly question your employment status (“I wasn’t fired, I’m on furlough.”). If people actually wanted talking dogs, we would have them. It’s an open secret that the technology to read certain animals’ minds, including dogs, has been around since the 1960s, when the government developed it as part of their Cold War Bovine Interrogation Program. I know that sounds unbelievable, and I’d explain the mechanics to you, but it would be way over your head. (See Figure 2: Other Stuff You Wouldn’t Understand, Even if I Explained it to You.)

1. Atoms
2. Anti-matter
3. Electrolytes
4. Floam
5. The opposite sex
6. Rap music
7. Nuclear whatever
8. Lasers
9. Imaginary numbers
10. Gaydar

Anyways, what scientists discovered is that dogs are pretty much thinking what you think they are, although they’re surprisingly snarky when it comes to questions about their pedigree. 

Personally, my favorite aspect of talking to dogs is that it’s one of the few crazy behaviors that you can indulge in public, besides organized sports, which I enjoy far less, because sports involve sweat. You can walk up to a stranger’s dog and talk to them in a weird high-pitched voice as you stroke their face and—surprisingly, illogically—it’s socially acceptable. Same thing with babies. That baby can’t understand a word you say, but nobody would let that stop them from complimenting his hat, asking if he wants to be a fireman when he grows up, or pretending to steal and eat his nose. (See Figure 3: How Crazy are You for Talking to the Following People, Animals, and Inanimate Objects?)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Drinks Only College Students Order

Of all the valuables lessons you learn at college, none is as important as how to drink until you almost die—unless you’re one of those nerds who doesn’t drink, and instead spends their evenings studying and anticipating with relish the inevitable day when all the jocks who used to mock them have to come crawling to the door of their lucrative software company, begging for a job (See Figure 1: How Are the Nerds Getting Revenge?).

Figure 1: How Are the Nerds Getting Revenge?
• Panty Raid
• Icy Hot on football team's jock straps
• Rousing speech
• Something involving computers
• Elaborate musical production
• Restore potion
• Saving throw

I never went to college, because I learned everything I needed to know on the streets—in the grimy back alleys and darkened juke joints; the smoky nightclubs and dead end avenues; the crazy criss-crossing maze of forgotten roads and grimy tenements that I grew to know like the veins on the back of my work-hardened hands—you prissy, pampered, ivy league fop. Actually, I didn’t learn everything on the streets, I also learned quite a few things on an Alaskan crabbing boat. And there was this old WWII vet who had half his face burned off, and when I was a kid I’d play chess with him—learned a lot of stuff from that guy. And I learned massage therapy from the University of Phoenix Online. 

One thing I definitely didn’t learn on the streets was how to drink like a college student. So when I began research on this chart, I had no idea what sort of drink names I would find. Had I known, I might’ve charted something less disturbing, like War Crimes or Feces Casseroles (See Figure 2: 15-Minute Feces Casseroles). 

1. Sloppy Joe Shitpot
2. Crispy Crap Ragout
3. Steaming Excrement Sweetbread
4. Mushroom Manure Hotdish with Grits
5. Zesty Guano Guacamole Casserole
6. Bohemian Poopoolatta
7. EZ Number Two
8. Green Bean Carbonnade Feculence
9. Lima Bean Stool Bake
10. Granny Smith’s Hotpot Turd Surprise
11. Tetrazzini au Diarrhea

The names of drinks only college students order provides a revealing snapshot into the minds of young adults at a pivotal age—and that snapshot is the scariest photo I’ve ever seen. It’s like that blurry photo of Bigfoot, if Bigfoot was staring right at you, had a massive erect penis, and was wearing a Who Farted? t-shirt. That startling mĂ©lange of mystery, smut, and innocence is at the black, beating heart of drinks only college students order. They are simultaneously jaded and juvenile, appetizing and disgusting, innocent and profane. Witness the sophomoric sacrilege of the Dragon Dick, Vampire’s Woo Woo, Spunk Guzzler, and Fuck My Bum Crack. 

The profane names and scandalous nature of most of these drinks are an embarrassingly inept attempt for college students’ to assert their adulthood. “I can shittin’ swear if I dick-suckin’ want to, Mom! Pass the smurf-fuckin’ potatoes!” It’s like listening to a foreign exchange student try to curse in English. The desire to shock often supplants all other considerations, including plausibility (eg. Bear Fucker), desirability (eg. Sweaty Shit), and acknowledgement of cosmic irony (eg. Call an Ambulance).

No exploration of college drinking habits would be complete without mentioning that other uniquely collegiate tradition—drinking games (See Fun Drinking Games, on page xx). You can’t just suck down a drink as special as the Lick My Banana—it deserves pageantry, pomp, a special sacred process not unlike the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace, or that crazy dance lizards do before they have sex (See Figure 4: Lizard Mating Dance).


Whether you’re partying with the guys or snowed in during nuclear winter, these great games are guaranteed to put the “fun” in “functional alcoholic!” Bottoms up!

Here’s a fun game to play if you like to have fun and also enjoy drinking. First you’ll need a stack of a hundred quarters. Hide each quarter in a different spot all over the city. Then go into a bar and get shit-faced. When the bill comes, leave a treasure map detailing the locations of each and every quarter in lieu of payment. 

Modified version: Use nickels instead of quarters. This version is called Dimes.

To play this game you’ll need a deck of cards and a bottle of whiskey. After shuffling the deck, place it face down in the center of the table. Drink the bottle of whiskey. Think about how everything is such bullshit. Mutter the word “bullshit” over and over again between drinks. When the bottle is empty scatter the cards all over the room. 

Go to Spain and drink wine until you become a truly great author. Write very truly and very fully, standing as you bang out your stories on an old Corona. See a bullfight or two. Lay in a big bed with a plump thighed woman and drink cold sweating glasses of beer naked under the crisp white sheets and the spinning palm frond fan. Forty years later blow your brains out with a shotgun.

This is a good “get to know you” party mixer kind of game. Have everyone stand in a circle. Turn to the person on your left and ask “Why are we doing this?” Then they turn to the person on their left and say the same thing. This continues until someone decides to say “Human interaction frightens me.” This reverses the order of play, and the person on their right now has to say “Alcohol numbs my fear.”

Any time someone screws up or says the wrong thing, they have to drink. Anyone who tries to break free from the circle is tackled by everyone else, dragged into the center of the circle and forced to make small talk with the least attractive person at the party. 

Any number of people can play this game, but you need at least four people to fulfill the following roles (in order of descending authority): President, Vice-President, Vice-Asshole, and Asshole. Each player has total authority over all the players below them, and can command them to drink at any time, or perform various menial and degrading tasks. 

Determining Roles: 
The most popular or feared person at the party is the President. The slightly shorter guy that agrees with everything he says is the Vice-President. The awkward introvert who’s too shy to admit he doesn’t want to play the game is the Vice-Asshole, and the social pariah who is so desperate for acceptance that he’ll do absolutely anything is the asshole. A crowd is also useful to embarrass the asshole in front of.

How to Begin:
Every round must begin with each of the players fulfilling their role’s prescribed duties.

President: Remember all the times you’ve disappointed your father. Visualize everyone as tiny pawns you move on a chessboard. Cruelly demean people based on whims. Dole out miniscule portions of kindness and bask in the resultant fawning gratitude. Wonder why homeless people don’t just get a job. 

Vice-President: Turn your fear of being demoted to Vice-Asshole into fuel that stokes your white-hot furnace of cruelty. Kiss the President’s ass. Visualize your fear of failure and social rejection as a scarecrow. Now put the Asshole’s face on that scarecrow; treat the scarecrow accordingly. 

Vice-Asshole: Take comfort in the fact that no matter how bad you have it, you have it better than the Asshole. Prove to everyone you’re not the Asshole by being crueler to the asshole than anyone else. Do not touch the Asshole, for fear that his bad luck might rub off on you. Scheme to become Vice-President.

Asshole: Reflect on the irony that you’re the only person not behaving like an asshole. Wonder why you’re playing this game, and then remember that even negative attention is better than being ignored. Pray to the god of your choice for deliverance/vengance.

Add a deck of cards to the mix; move them around the table in meaningless patterns while everyone berates the asshole.

The Asshole refuses to play the game, but everyone calls him an asshole anyways. He leaves the party, but continues to play the game for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Everything Explained Through Flowcharts cover

The cover of Everything Explained Through Flowcharts! is under development. Let the horror begin!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chain Restaurants essay

Another essay for Everything Explained Through Flowcharts! This one is about chain restaurants, and won't totally make sense if you haven't seen the chain restaurants chart—but even with the chart probably doesn't make sense, so no big loss.

- - - - - - - - -


Maybe you’ve had this experience before: You’re driving to Minnesota to buy a futon because you and your girlfriend broke up but still have to share the same apartment for the next six months, and she refuses to sleep in the same bed with you after what you did. You want to get a bite to eat, but you’re driving through some provincial burg that doesn’t have a McDonald’s or any other fast food that you recognize. It’s dark and raining. You haven’t eaten anything since post pre-dinner (also known as lunch 4, or early evening snack 2), almost two hours ago. You can feel your blood sugar dropping—the steering wheel swerves in your suddenly weak fingers, your eyes can’t focus; the road doubles and trebles through your rain streaked windshield. Is this how you’ll die? For a futon? The old gypsy’s warning suddenly makes sense. Then, a neon sign swims out of the darkness: Hamburgers. Uncle Jonnie’s Hamburgers.

The inside of the hamburger joint is like a hall of mirrors. The employee isn’t wearing a uniform, the decor is strange and unique, and the atmosphere is unsettlingly one-of-a-kind. You look at the menu, which might as well be written in Arabic. You ask if they have chicken Mcnuggets—they have chicken fingers. You ask if you can get a number two—they don’t understand. You ask if they have Big Macs—they have Uncle J’s Double Love Burger with Rattlesnake Sauce. You ask to speak to the manager, and instead of rolling his eyes at you, the cashier says “I’m Uncle Jonnie. What can I do for you?” You curl up into a ball and repeat over and over “I’m lovin’ it, I’m lovin’ it, I’m lovin’ it . . .” but the teleportation spell doesn’t work.

If the unknown is the only thing you fear more than being thin, then you probably don’t care that chain restaurants contribute to the homogenization of American culture, the steady decline of hourly wages, the rising obesity epidemic, and whatever other crazy shit Upton Sinclair says from beyond the grave. But whether you like chain restaurants or not, you still eat at them, because if you’re not at home and need to eat, you basically have no other choice except for windfall apples and lichen.

Although the defining characteristics of chain restaurants—a group of separate restaurants rendered identical by an coldly calculating, controlling hive mind like the Borg—are identical for both fast food and casual dining, consumer perception of the two groups diverges drastically.

Fast food at its worst is viewed as a necessary evil, at its best a guilty pleasure—a mercenary industry we grudgingly support in the interest of convenience and economy. The categories on the fast food side of the chart reflect consumers' contempt: here’s the mexican place, here’s the place my friend got food poisoning, here’s the place I eat when I only have a dollar, here’s the place I only eat at because I don’t want to get off the turnpike.

Casual dining, on the other hand, occupies a more personal position in our lives, almost like family. While fast food is a necessity, like taking a shit or mowing the lawn, casual dining is a luxury, albeit a small one, like taking a bubble bath or masturbating at work. Casual dining is there for all the most important parts of lives, reflected in the three major categories: work, play, and love. You just got a promotion? Time for Margaritas at Chili’s. The bar just closed and you want waffles? Time for a triple stack at IHOP. You need to trick someone into thinking you’re interesting and attractive? It’s time for the Melting Pot.

Like a lover, casual dining often lies, but always for our own good; they’re white lies, intended to lift us from the dreariness of everyday reality. “Oh my god, look, we’re in the old west!” or “I’m your server and although we’ve never met, I’m super happy to see you! Here’s a song I wrote about it!” Unlike a lover, casual dining will never say the hurtful lies that are sometimes spat in the heat of an argument. “I never really loved you,” “I’ve had better,” or “Your charts are stupid, especially the one about salad dressing (see page xx).”

Casual dining may lie, but it’s a warm quilt of deceit, knitted to make us feel better and take all our money. Oh, wait, I forgot about that—chain restaurants are only nice to you because they want your money. So I suppose the whole “lover” metaphor doesn’t work. I guess chain restaurants are really more like a hooker. Regardless though, they’re not a hooker that will make you drive to Minnesota to buy a futon. (See how I tied this whole essay together at the end? It’s just like Finnegan’s Wake! But less readable!)

Friday, July 17, 2009


Another essay for Everything Explained Through Flowcharts! You'll have to imagine most of the additional charts and such. You'll also have to imagine that the writing is good, and that you're interested in my point of view.

How To Choose the Perfect Tattoo

You want to get a tattoo, but you don’t know what tattoo to get. You realize that the right tattoo could transform your life: motivate you to take that cross-country motorcycle trip, get that hot barista at Starbucks to notice you, and make your big belt buckle appear un-ironic. But you also know that that wrong tattoo could ruin your life: get you kicked out of drama club, send unintended secret messages to bisexuals, and prevent you from wearing short sleeves at family reunions. 

Choosing what tattoo to get is literally the most important decision you will ever make in your entire life, and if you accuse me of hyperbole I will never forgive you in a billion years. Like most important decisions, choosing a tattoo is something you’re not qualified to do on your own (same reason we have the electoral college). Luckily for you there is now a flowchart to answer the question that your pastor is too holier-than-thou to help you with. 

The Perfect Tattoo Flowchart™, using a combination of statistics, psychology, science, and good old-fashioned witchcraft, is guaranteed to lead you to the right tattoo for you. Perhaps you’re thinking “But I don’t want a tattoo off a chart, I want a totally unique, one of a kind tattoo, to reflect my completely unique and special-like-a-snowflake personality.” I hate to break it to you, but there are no unique tattoos left, and snowflakes are an optical illusion created by swamp gas. Everything that can be tattooed onto a person (or pot-bellied pig) has been, except for the following four tattoos (See Figure 1), and depending on when you read this, those may have been taken too, probably by Johnny Depp. 

Choosing a tattoo is a two-part process. You must not only choose the tattoo, but also its placement on your body, which will effect the tattoos meaning (See Figure 2). If you go into the tattoo shop and don’t specify where you want that ink, it could end up anywhere, even on someone else. Here’s an example of how the same tattoo in different locations sends vastly different messages.

• American flag on arm: You’re a proud patriot.
• American flag on thigh: You’re a patriot, but kind of shy about it.
• American flag on butt: You’re extremely unpatriotic.
• American flag on forehead: You’re a psycho.
• American flag covering entire face and both fists: You’re a government engineered superhero.

People often decide to get a tattoo because of a dramatic life change—a difficult breakup, whirlwind summer in Thailand, or mob initiation ceremony. Be careful not to let the emotional turmoil of that moment cloud your tattoo judgment. Remember that that tattoo is going to be inscribed in your flesh for the rest of your life, until the day you die and are denied burial in a Jewish cemetery because you defaced your body and broke your grandmother’s heart.

Luke Giordano's Heavy Metal Band Names List

The charming and talented Luke Giordano came up with this list of currently available, copyright free heavy metal band names for inclusion on the Heavy Metal Band Names Chart.

Imaginarium's Fall
Gun Knife
Pregnancy StairKase
Judas' Hammer
Lord Metal and his Axe-Slingers of Death
Murder Wizard
Slikk Kitty
Baby Graveyard
Angel Smashers
A Quiet Party in Hell for Two
Anger Force
The Drums of the Anti-christ
Spies of Saruman
Transylvania Pie
George Harrison's Brain Pudding
Lovecraftian Tryst
The Miracle and the Sleeper: A Black Metal Tribute to the Music of Dream Theater
Rapelings from Planet X
Gargoyle Nightmare
Edje Ridor
Curb Stomp Tango
Belt of Souls
Spleen Karkass
Death Ride
At the Summit of Mt. Sorrow
Rings of the Succubus
Sword Cunt
Handicapped Sacrifice
Premature Decapitation

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Minor Disappointments


 1. Fortune cookie empty

2. Antique worthless

3.  Season finale inscrutable

4. Hot tub tepid

5. Spouse aging

6. Long story pointless

7. Mall Santa slightly Asian

8. Caricature looks nothing like you

9. Potato chips baked

10. Savages not noble

11. Picnic rained out

12. Summer camp friends drift apart in the Fall

13. Au pair not attractive; not even French

14. Vacation too short

15. Revenge hollow

16. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

17. Mentor lecherous

18. Sasquatch sighting faked

19. Outfit that looked great in the store looks not so great at home

20. Cookies eaten by roommate

21. Grandparents racist

22. Amish village touristy

23. Organic food unhealthy

24. Pancakes too filling

25. Company outing business-like

26. Triscuits unsalted

27. Twist ending predictable

28. Crossword puzzle difficult

29. Magic eye picture not working

30. Comedian tragic

31. Birthday ignored

32. Presents crappy

33. Holiday stressful

34. Prayer unanswered

35. Nature buggy

36. Ebay bid outbid

37. Innocence slowly eroded

38. Sex anticlimactic

39. Star Wars prequels

40. Party not wild

41. “Best years of your life” okay

42. Nostalgia unwarranted

43. Foreign film hard to follow

44. New haircut funky—not in a good way

45. Swimsuit unflattering

46. Master’s degree useless

47. Foreplay cursory

48. New sweater not complimented

49. Blog ignored

50. Friend request denied

51. Toast burnt

52. Poem unintentionally hilarious

53. Daughter plain

54. Altoids not as intense as their marketing claims

55. Hero rude

56. Bin Laden uncaptured

57. Cat unaffectionate

58. Baby ugly

59. Sermon soporific

60. Imported cheese smelly

61. Portion too small

62. Fancy cigar like sucking on a bundle of burning leaves

63. Really cute heels uncomfortable

64. Leftover french fries inedible

65. Beach crowded

66. Film you loved when you were a kid not so good anymore

67. Three day weekend wasted

68. Role model sexist

69. Boxing match civilized

70. Chicken salad sandwich dry

71. Dog disobedient

72. Puppy to sleepy to play

73. No room for dessert

74. Youth fleeting

75. Second place

76. Psychiatrist preoccupied

77. Old person not full of wisdom

78. Art unappreciated

79. Retirement boring

80. Christmas not white

81. Circus ratty

82. Fortune-teller vague

83. Exercise regiment effects gradual

84. Solar eclipse unimpressive

85. Vending machine out of order

86. Soda flat

87. Expensive wine tastes like regular wine

88. Buffet selection limited

89. New cubicle same as old cubicle

90. Sequel not as good as original

91. Awesome dream just a dream

92. Son not good enough to play major league ball

93. Pen pal dorky

94. Lap dance perfunctory

95. High five left hangin’

96. Scrabble triple word score word disputed

97. Inspirational quote uninspiring

98. Monkeyhouse closed for cleaning

99. Limerick not bawdy

100. Disappointment list depressing

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Supervillain Schemes

Another essay for Everything Explained Through Flowcharts. I'm not really happy with this one yet. Not sure why not though. You'll have to imagine the graphics for the sidebars that are noted inside the brackets.


It sucks to be a villain. How would you feel if every time one of your plans failed (that soufflĂ© you burnt, that lop-sided sweater you knitted, or that child of yours who turned gay) everybody clapped? You’d be feel rotten, that’s how you’d feel. And you’d swear vengeance! [See Figure 1: Parting Oaths] Now, also consider the fact that supervillain schemes almost always fail. [See Figure 2: Supervillain Scheme Success Rate], and it’s easy to understand why villains are always scowling from the balcony of their mountain fortress.

(sidebar) FIGURE 1:

Parting oaths

  1. You have not seen the last of (your name)!
  2. You will rue the day you crossed (your name)!
  3. Vengeance shall be mine!
  4. My memory is as long as my reach.
  5. I’ll try harder next time!
  6. Every dog has his day!


(sidebar) FIGURE 2:


Supervillain Scheme Success Rate

Scheme succeeds: 5%

Scheme thwarted: 80%

Scheme succeeds, but only for a moment, then is thwarted: 15%


I know I shouldn’t feel any sympathy for supervillains; that, if they had their way, I’d be toiling in the methane mines of Titan, or be just another pile of bones beneath their throne of skulls. Although I can’t empathize with the black-hearted motivations behind their schemes, I still, unfortunately have more in common with supervillains than I do with superheroes. (Although I have little in common with either, because super isn’t an adjective that describes me well.) [see Figure 3: Things Super About Me] Rarely have I swooped in, saved the day, and been carried off on the shoulders of a cheering crowd. However, there have been many, many times when the poorly constructed plans that I dreamed about for months collapsed into shambles. (See Failures chart, page xx.) I can remember clearly the rickety skateboard half-pipe I built in the backyard that broke a friend’s leg, the useless philosophy degree I got in college, the awful band I formed in junior high. (We were called Leaky Stigmata. We only ever played one show, in the back room of a pizza shop, before a heated argument about “selling out” tore the band apart.) [See Figure 4 for Leaky Stigmata logo.] The only time I’ve come close to saving the day was when we went camping and I was the only one who remember to bring the ingredients to make s’mores.


(Sidebar) FIGURE 3:

How I’m super

  1. Super crabby in the morning
  2. Super hairy in unusual places
  3. Super stumbly after drinking lots of wine
  4. Super self-deprecating
  5. Super shy around strangers


Scheming is a distinctly villainous activity. Heroes certainly don’t scheme, they just wait around for the villains to do something, then stop it. Villains spend months, perhaps years, planning complex schemes—building lasers, breeding super-smart apes, searching catacombs for magical stones—and then, just when they’ve almost succeeded, just when their scheme is almost finally accomplished, a red light will begin blinking on the console of the superhero’s crime fighting computer. The hero will put down their newspaper, say something corny, and then fly over and punch the villain into submission. “Nice try, Dr. X! Maybe next time you should build a bigger robot.” Then the hero will go on vacation, perhaps to a tropical island somewhere, and walk down the beach kicking over sand castles.

 Supervillains are kind of asking for it though, since their schemes are always absurdly complicated. Why shrink the hero and make him battle a scorpion when you could just shoot him in the face? Or, if he’s already shrunk, why not just squish him? Ruling the world or destroying one's nemesis isn’t enough for a supervillain, he also has to accomplish it in a grandiose way. Often it seems that schemes are chosen more for their dramatic effect than their chance of success or degree of efficacy. [See Figure 4: Schemes With Impressive Visuals.]


(sidebar) FIGURE 3: Schemes With Impressive Visuals


  1. Floating battle zeppelin
  2. Barely controllable monstrosity
  3. Giant insect army
  4. Your face carved on the moon


This flair for the theatrical is the supervillain’s Achilles heel, but it’s also what separates him from run-of-the-mill hoodlums in the first place. The common thug’s brilliant scheme to rob the bank by walking in and pulling out a gun—although effective—is not on this chart. Yes, most supervillain schemes are guaranteed to fail, but at least they will fail spectacularly, grandly—a flaming comet streaking through the night sky (and hopefully striking something important).

Everything Explained Through Flowcharts

Did you know I'm writing a book of flowcharts? I am. Each chart is preceded by an essay with some smaller charts and diagrams, illustrations. One of the flowcharts is all about salad dressing. Here's the essay I just wrote for it. Let me know what you think.


 I know what a lot of you are thinking—that the inclusion of salad dressing in this book is a crude and transparent attempt to appeal to readers’ baser instincts; another shameful example of the commercialization of salad dressing, an exploitation that pervades our culture like the strangling tendrils of a fleshy vine (your words, not mine). 

 Nothing could be further from the truth. The discussion of salad dressing here is meant to educate, not scintillate. Like yourselves I am shocked at the ubiquity of salad dressing in the mainstream media. I believe there is nothing inherently wrong with salad dressing—when used properly. Good dressing—used judiciously, applied prudently—is the glue that holds a salad together. But the wonton portrayal of salad dressing in the mainstream media is anything but healthy or prudent.

 Let me describe a commercial I saw on TV the other day: Fade in on a black marble kitchen counter. A techno beat pulses tribally in the background. The camera zooms in close on a chilled salad bowl. The bowl is filled with fresh, plump produce, beaded with moisture, partying on a bed of lettuce: hothouse tomatoes lounge near the bowl’s lip; twin sprigs of frisee frolic between French-slivered carrot sticks; a firm, quartered cucumber dances with a cluster of cauliflower. A husky woman’s voiceover says “What’s sexier than undressing?”

 (Sensitive readers please stop reading here and proceed to the Legumes chart, page xx.)

  In slow motion, a massive bottle lowers into frame above the bowl and douses the salad in thick, creamy, homestyle Ranch dressing. The veggies squeal in delight. Close-up, quick cuts of the tomatoes, the carrot sticks, a giggling gaggle of baby spinach, laughing and splashing in the gooey cream, smearing it all over each others’ bodies. [FIGURE 1: Illustration]

 The woman’s voice breaks in again “. . . Dressing.”

 And then I threw up in my popcorn bowl.

 If you think this kind of filth is only on Cinemax you are wrong. I saw this commercial at 3pm on a Tuesday in the middle of Boy Meets World. Oh the irony of that title! Because this is exactly how so many of our young people (boys) are learning about the salad dressing around them (meeting the world, so to speak). [See figure 2 for full metaphor equation.]


(footnote) FIGURE 2

Boy = Young People

Meets = Learn About = +

World = Salad dressing

Young People + Salad Dressing – Education = Teenage Wasteland

Teenage Wasteland = awesome song/parental nightmare


The crucial variable that separates healthy salad dressing users from dressing abusers is education, and that knowledge is exactly what the Salad Dressing chart can facilitate.

 “But I don’t want my kids to know about dressing!” you whine in a wimpy voice.

 Don’t begrudge your children their natural salad dressing curiosity. Remember that once, not long ago, you too were young and hungry. We can all remember nights when we parked under a burnt out streetlamp and greedily gobbled a take-out salad in the front seat of our hatchback. Or that electric summer night when we plowed through an entire bottle of rich poppy seed dressing, Thunder Road blaring in the background.

 Heck, you might even find your own salads revitalized by one of the dressings on this chart. Maybe you’ve been nibbling greens for twenty years and need a little something to spice things up. How about a French flair spritzer? Or some Garlic Lover’s Sour Cream Caesar with cracked peppercorns? You’re never too old to try something new, and you might be surprised by the zest and flavor some of the new dressings offer. You’ll be shocked to discover that many dressings considered outre twenty years ago are now commonplace. Just look at the proliferation of hot bacon and Asian dressings in your grocery store’s condiment aisle.

 The bottom line is, whether you like it or not, your kids are going to learn about salad dressing—that’s not up to you. But what is up to you is how your kids learn about dressing. Do you want them to learn about it by being eyeball groped by a slick TV commercial with Gwen Stefani dressed as a carrot? Or by having an uncomfortable, borderline creepy conversation with you on the edge of their bunkbead? [See figure 3: Best places to talk to your children about salad dressing.]


(footnote) FIGURE 3:

  1. Ice cream parlor
  2. Around a campfire, woven seamlessly into a ghost story
  3. The Natural History Museum’s Salad Dressing Exhibit
  4. Their wedding night
  5. Fishing trip/rowboat
  6. In the backyard, tossing the old pigskin around
  7. The midst of a three-legged race


The choice is yours.