Blog Archives

Wednesday Satire: Bespoke Building

My muse, Bluto, courtesy idiotflashback.

Bespoke Building:
Downsizing endowments one brick at a time

Having recently logged some off-road miles during the college search process, I have a few thoughts about the current state of higher education in America, none of which one might describe as glowingly positive; however, I have chosen to take the high road of satire rather than the lower, easier path of the rant in airing my opinions. Happily, the good folks at the Cronk of Higher Education have agreed to feature one of my recent my scribblings, Bespoke Building. If you haven’t already discovered their whipcrack funny site, do toddle over at your first opportunity. The Cronk is to higher ed as The Onion is to Snookie — an SAT-worthy analogy if ever I endlessly drilled one in preparation for a completely meaningless test.

Really Starbucks? No lemons? At all?

So the other day I was slogging through Midtown and made a quick stop at one of the roughly ten thousand Starbucks that occupy every available Manhattan street corner. I have noticed that some blocks even feature two, and as it now stands there appears to be at least one Starbucks outpost for every bag-laden, Euro-wielding tourist in the metropolis on any given day. Honestly, the next thing you know, you’ll slip into the restroom to drain off that tall skinny triple mocha-chino chai latte only to find they’ve set up a coin operated Automat style coffee bar next to the sink. Imagine it: a sign featuring an earnest looking barista in a rainforest setting with a headline that reads “Now that you’re down a quart, why not top off the tank with a super fast vente latte* to go?”  *Gigante size only in our pitstop refill stations. You’d be like a hamster on a wheel, endlessly draining and refilling, never able to leave the Starbucks without risking a toileting accident or caffeine letdown. On the positive side, maybe they’d start referring to their employees as the pit crew.

Read the rest of this entry

No retreat. No surrender.

C’mon ladies, let’s send the surrender T-shirt to sartorial oblivion.

Spring approaches and my sisters and I are contemplating a change of habit, specifically those of us in cooler climes are about to undertake the semi-annual, seismic shift from wool to cotton, from boots to sandals and, sadly, from cake to cucumbers — all in the name of spring fashion. As our toes yearn for liberation and our limbs again seek the sun, I am once more reminded of the question that springs to mind every year along about this time.

Ladies, why oh why do you continue to buy these?

It doesn’t even look good in the glamour shot. Courtesy of those bastards at Land’s End.

There’s really only one reason companies keep making these things you know: women keep buying them. Open a closet or dresser, and I’ll bet if you see one, there are ten more lurking nearby in a range of glorious colors and splatter patterns, depending on where the coffee/red wine/baby spew tends to land first (chest, mid-section, lap). I can’t even bear to think about the striped ones.

If you own one or more of these, I’m guessing that once the mercury starts to rise you wear them a lot. After all they’re marketed as “wardrobe staples,” right? They go gardening and shopping, get thrown in the suitcase for summer vacation, and even appear regularly at the office and social gatherings. Tell me I’m wrong. Please?

Well, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to get this off my chest, so you’d best buckle up.

Even if you look better than the perky model, I guarantee that the surrender t-shirt does absolutely nothing for you. It is just not possible. See photo above.

Which brings me to the name. Why surrender T-shirts you ask? Because when you wear them, this is the message you send the world: I give up. I feel unattractive and will never look good again. All I care about is taking care of my kids/fifteen cats/elderly and incontinent parents. I have no life. I surrender. If you’re reading this blog, I am willing to wager a significant sum that that’s not who you are.

Before you argue with me, hear me out. I’ve heard the justifications for these horror shows a hundred times. “Ooh but they’re so comfortable and cool. They go with everything. They hide my trouble spots. Cotton breathes, you know.”

Bullshit. These things are shapeless, frumpy and unflattering and they make anyone who wears them look like Charlie Brown in drag. Trust me, other than slapping an extra ten pounds and another 15 years on you, they do nothing for you, or anyone.

Still not convinced? Time for some tough love.

Not a good look, ladies. Surely you see that.

Still resisting? In that case you leave me no choice but the nuclear option, God forgive me.

TUCKED IN! you know who you are. Courtesy

Just so you know, this is how a cotton T-shirt should fit:

Courtesy and a seriously badass brassiere.

And yes, you have to look like Angie if you’re going to rock the body armor and firearms as accessories.

C’mon ladies, let’s put the surrender t-shirt manufacturers out of business and this wretched item out of its misery once and for all. Are you with me? OK, go to your dressers and pull out every one of those horror shows and destroy them immediately. Either cut them into dust rags or set them on fire so that you’re not tempted to resurrect them in a moment of weakness. Do not save them for gardening or house painting. And for the love of God, don’t give them to charity. Poor people have enough problems.

The Fast and the Furious: New Jersey Drift


What the hell is wrong with drivers lately? Are licenses being handed out at Walmart on a “special needs” basis? Has someone dropped a truckload of bath salts in the water supply? Or is it just that we have collectively crossed some kind of invisible behavior line from barely civil to overtly feral? I ask because every time I emerge from a highway on-ramp it seems I am immediately surrounded by the Toads of Toad Hall – their weak brains intoxicated by the rush of speed as they execute a frenzied series of high speed, signal-less maneuvers while talking on the phone, checking their email or plucking their eyebrows. This final activity is not confined to the ladies, either – I frequently have to drive in New Jersey.

It never fails; no sooner do I take to the highway than I am on the receiving end of a constant, escalating series of vehicular assaults that make a NASCAR race look like a geriatric Prius rally on National Put Granny Behind the Wheel Day. The local streets are equally treacherous.

Just so you know, I have driven in some scary ass places, on either side of the road and in panic-inducing conditions including but not limited to blizzards, monsoon rains, black ice and one unforgettable airport run with my in-laws providing a steady stream of helpful safety tips. Even so nothing, but nothing, can equal a few miles on today’s urban highway for sheer, trouser-fouling, mind-bending terror at the hands of gratuitously aggressive psychopaths on a manic UP and lacking any regard for life, be it human (yours) or sub-grade (theirs).

I’ve noticed that there are two recognizable types who are particularly dangerous (I’m talking about drivers who can personally skew the actuarial tables of entire regions): the overextended housewife in the massive SUV and the overcompensating middle-aged man behind the wheel of a minivan. If you routinely attempt highway driving, you will recognize the types. Consider yourselves warned.

Mrs. Apocalypse

To the unknown housewife who cut me off this morning after I obligingly pulled into the granny lane at 75 miles per hour to let her pass, I have a message.

Hey Blondie, put your bedazzled fucking iPhone down and listen up! That massive, white glacier of an SUV you pilot certainly is bangin’ and I’m sure you are, too. But as much as I enjoyed the thrill ride of having your fifty-ton Chevy Apocalypse half way up the tailpipe of my Jetta for the better part of thirty miles, I really must ask that you tighten up your driving skills, especially when you have at least twelve screaming ‘tweens in the vehicle, as you did earlier today.

Mrs. Apocalypse’s Death Star

Listen up Mrs. A, I have now officially had enough of you and your bling mobile, and next time we meet I cannot guarantee that I will show the kind of restraint I did earlier today when I merely love tapped your rear bumper. Though you may not have noticed it from up there in the wheelhouse, you very nearly turned my ride into a belly tank when you abruptly, and with no signal, swerved into my lane in an apparent effort to avoid missing the exit for whichever mall your ass was on fire to patronize.

My little bump was merely an effort to draw your attention away from the phone in your claw and the riot in your backseats and back to the job at hand, namely keeping that tarted-up cruise ship moving without actually killing me or anyone else. It is clear to me that the distractions in your Apocalypse, combined with your complete and utter inability to handle a vehicle that should require a class two license, had long since shorted out your small, bleach-addled brain, overtaken your limited cognitive powers and obliterated what remained of your hand-eye coordination when we encountered one another earlier today. You, Mrs. Apocalypse, have elevated inattention to an art form.

A word of advice: Next time you decide to start your day with that morning cocktail of Valium, Dexatrim and a vodka smoothie, get someone to drive you to your pole dancing class and stay the hell off the road, because you are a goddamned chaos machine.  If ever we meet again you’d best hope it’s not in my neck of the woods, bitch; the Brooklyn Queens Expressway will eat you alive, and I will be first in line at the buffet.

Mr. Minivan

Yo, Senor Caravan, just a quick question: What the hell is up your ass? I can only guess that having to cruise around in that powder-blue teeny bopper transport mobile is so demoralizing, so demeaning, so utterly emasculating that you feel you have no choice but to whip out your unit (yes, I’m sure it’s gi-fucking-normous and it’s a miracle you can even walk) and show the world who’s the man when you’re behind the wheel. How else to explain your excessive speed, hyper-aggression and crazed recklessness?

At rest a benign family car, but in the hands of Sr. Caravan it’s the great white of the turnpike.

Come to think of it, I have never, and I mean NEVER, seen you with both hands on the wheel. Now, maybe you’re busy twiddling the radio dial or touch-texting on the down low, but I have my doubts. In any case, I don’t really care what’s going on below my sightline; in truth, I’d rather not even think about it. The fact remains, however, that since you treat every little run to the soccer field like the final lap at Talladega, you always seem to get up in my grill.

Does it bother me when you refuse to pull over and let me onto an otherwise empty highway? Am I bugged when you swerve out into my lane on a local street, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision, to get around the double-parked Fed Ex truck on your side of the street? Does it fry my ass when you lay on your horn every time I fail to peel out within a nanosecond of the light turning green? Hell yes, you bet your sorry, middle-aged, Dockers-wearing ass it does.

So in the interest of road safety, I’d like to offer up the following: Mr. Caravan, please know that I realize your other car’s a Lamborghini, and I assume you’re just borrowing the little woman’s wheels while your chick-mobile is in the shop. In fact, I admire you for having enough confidence in your masculinity to get behind the wheel of a vehicle sporting bumper stickers that say This broomstick is PMS Powered! and Does this car make my ass look fat? Really I do.

I gave up on the paint job a LONG time ago.

Now would you kindly get the fuck off my rear bumper before I give you a brake job? Because I’ve got nothing left to lose here, pal. My car is fifteen years old and the odometer gave up the ghost at least 80,000 miles ago. Scratches and dents are just the cost of doing business in my world, but I’ll bet your wife doesn’t feel the same way.  You will not enjoy explaining the long ugly scrape or the bashed-in fender to Mrs. Caravan; I know because I’ve seen her screaming at you from the passenger seat.  So put it back in your pants and slow the fuck down, asshole. You have been warned.

The jig is up – or is it?

“Multiple planes of resistance” workout revealed to have been created as a joke.

Just a joke or multi million dollar industry?

New York, NY – In the weight room of the New York Sports Club on upper Broadway, 25 year-old Ashley “Ace” Judson stands before the mirror holding a kettlebell straight out in front of him. Feet apart, he drops to the floor in a squat while swinging the weight down between his knees, then abruptly snaps back to a standing position, swinging the weight up and over his head. Twisting left at the last minute, he then drops the weight down and pushes it out in front of his chest. Yes, it’s as complicated as it sounds.

Medicine ball lunge and toe touch

As he flings the weight, Mr. Judson narrowly avoids cold cocking Morgan Levy-Almond  as she passes by on her second lap of the weight room. Rather than walking, she marches in long lunging goose steps while also swinging a heavy medicine ball up and down and from side to side in a pattern so complex you’d need a smart board and John Madden to break it down. Both fitness fanatics are jacked into their iPods, effectively deaf to shouted hazard warnings about the heavy objects being flailed dangerously close to their heads and bodies.

Across the weight room, personal trainer Carlos Mandrake takes in the scene and shakes his head in regretful disbelief. Seven years ago, he now admits, in the final boozy hours of an Atlantic City bachelor party, he and two other personal trainers were joking about teaching their clients to work out incorrectly. He says, “One of the guys dug out this old Steve Martin routine about teaching kids to speak English wrong, you know that bit, May I mambo dogface on the banana patch? That’s how it started.”

The inspiration

They ended up betting on who could get a client to do the most ridiculous thing in the name of fitness. He shakes his head again. “It was getting boring just telling people to do set after set, so we thought we’d have a little fun. I mean it was just a joke. Before we knew it, people were asking for it, then there was an article in the Times about it…We never dreamed it would go viral, ya’ know?”

Viral is right. The workout, which has come to be called Multiple Planes of Resistance (or MPR), is so popular that weight rooms throughout the country have become virtual hazard areas. Interestingly, this has paid unforeseen dividends across the industry, particularly in the field of sports-related physical therapy.

Bruise courtesy Retrospects and a flying kettlebell

According to Ellis Haight at Joint Relief Physical Therapy in New York City’s Financial District, “We treat maybe five or six people a day for MPR injuries – self-inflicted and due to contact with high speed objects wielded by others.” Mostly, he says, they see lower back injuries, contusions and neck strain, but Mr. Haight also treats people who are trying to come back from broken bones and even a few who just can’t overcome TFSD, traumatic-flail stress disorder. Of these clients, he says, “Even after they’ve healed physically, the emotional scars and fear remain. I have one patient who had all his teeth knocked out by a flying kettle bell a year ago. The oral surgery and implants took six months, but now, six months after that, he’s still having flashbacks and can’t even walk through the weight room door.”

It’s not just the “Empers” (as MPR devotees are called) who are feeling the impact of swinging weights and flying objects. Notes Bruno Mancini, an old school iron pumper, “Used to be people just come to the weight room and laid on a bench or stood in one spot. It was all about control and form, but now it’s like frickin’ Cirque de Soleil in here. You need an air traffic controller just to cross the room. It ain’t safe no more. Last month I got my nose busted by some chick who was trying to juggle a couple of five pound plates while she was laying on one of them balls over there. It’s crazy, man.”

With the enormous injury risk, then, how is it the approach has become so popular? Trainer Carlos Mandrake says it’s the speed. “People come in now and expect you to give them one exercise that works every muscle in their body at the same time. They figure they work out for ten minutes and they’re done. If I tell ‘em, hey pal, it takes time to get ripped, they’re not buying it. I suggest starting with some bench presses, but they get down on the bench and they want to do crunches at the same time. That’s the expectation.”

“Lunge to Core Rotation” courtesy

Does MPR work? I ask. He shrugs. “Look at these people. You tell me.”

I look around. Ms. Levy-Almond has gone across the hall to the mat room and is lying on her back. At first she appears to be stretching out, but a closer look reveals that she is having minor convulsions. When asked about her condition, she explains that she’s having back spasms, but claims they always pass eventually and says she’d never go back to her hour-long circuit training regimen. “No pain, no gain,” she chokes between sobs.

Downstairs, Ace Judson is now working out on an old-fashioned escalator-style stairmaster under the watchful eye of his personal trainer, who prefers not to give his name. Mr. Judson is walking sideways up the moving staircase, which his trainer calls stair-crabbing. I ask the trainer what the benefits of this are. Lowering his voice, he says, “Nothing, it’s stupid. People don’t want to pay me to tell them to use the equipment the right way. They could do that by themselves. So I tell ‘em to do it sideways for half as much time as they need to.”

Business, he says, has never been better.

%d bloggers like this: