Monday, November 22, 2010

How to Enjoy or at Least Endure Thanksgiving Dinner with Your Family

It’s hard to find fault with the Thanksgiving workweek. Barring any Dickensian employment practices at your office, you can count on spending three days at work and two days far, far away from your cubicle. Not too shabby…that is, when taken at face value. But like any Tyco accountant will tell you, just because the final tally seems pleasing doesn’t mean the numbers actually add up. After all, most of us will be celebrating the rather arbitrary anniversary of the first breaking of bread in the New World with our families. So in fact those two vacation days will be spent in the company of your folks, meaning the supposed “holiday week” will actually be comprised of five solid days of labor, some physical, most emotional (seven days if your flight out doesn’t leave until Sunday).

But don’t worry. Simply take a deep breath and then take heed of the following tips for a tolerable turkey day. I can’t promise you’ll be walking on sunshine by day’s end but we can be reasonably certain you won’t be willingly walking into oncoming traffic either, and that has got to be a step up from last year.

• Sit at the children’s table: The kids’ dinnertime conversations may be less than engaging, their food will constantly be in mid-air and, let’s face it, children are never in a position to float you a crucial sum of cash. But when was the last time a five-year-old turned to you and said, “Well, well, well. Hung over and a vegetarian to boot on what may very well be your grandmother’s last Thanksgiving meal. My, isn’t that so…now.”

• Bring a friend: Many people invite a friend to their family’s Thanksgiving meal with the belief that their parents are far less likely to critique you in front of someone they don’t readily have dirt on. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, cutting comments once phrased directly to you will now be delivered as an series of endless Trivial Pursuit questions to your unsuspecting, uncomfortable guest—“What do you think of a daughter who never calls?” “How come he can’t come on weekends and help his 68-year-old father with the leaves?” “Did you know when he was little he was terrified of the color yellow and would burst into tears upon seeing a lemon?” While such an experience will seem initially mortifying (and ultimately scarring), just keep focusing on the big picture. After all, the next time you find yourself ranting on and on to friends about your meshugenah parents—like the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving—your invited pal will be right behind you the whole time, saying, “Believe me, everything he said is the God’s honest truth.” Of course, the downside is that while you’re looking at all the relatives gathered around the holiday feast thinking, “Jesus, how on earth could I be related to all these nut jobs?” your guest is looking around thinking, “Ah, now it all makes sense.”

• Show up sporting at least one radical cosmetic change: In military camps and NRA-supporter households this is known as the “draw away the line of fire” approach. Rather than leave yourself open to the usual round of family remarks—knocking your career direction, love life, weight loss or gain, lackluster demeanor, questionable social habits, unique attire, poor posture, political beliefs, religious doubts, nervous habits, choice of car, inability to call, intolerance of racial jokes, inadvertent sighing, indefinite time spent watching the TV rather than talking to family, indefinite time spent in the bathroom rather than talking to family, indefinite time spent puttering around in the garage/yard/crawl space behind the living room wall rather than talking to family, refusal to offer any personal information about yourself, refusal to offer any personal information about your siblings, refusal to offer any personal information about the in-laws, cut or absence of hair, skin condition, proclivity to bite your lower lip until it bleeds while listening to your mom praise Rush Limbaugh, acute and indefensible sensitivity to questions concerning your self-worth, mistaking “guilt trip” for “caring for one’s child”—immediately draw your parents’ attention to one specific, wholly inescapable topic of conversation on your part…and your body. Like a face tattoo. Or pierced lip. Sure a new hair color may raise eyebrows and breast implants may provoke the most awkward stares in the family’s history but if you really want to avoid talking about anything else in your life this Thanksgiving, you’re going to have to go for broke. You may not necessarily want to spend the rest of your life sporting the word “Sex Toy” spelled out in rhinestone studs on the back of your neck, but do you honestly want to talk to your mom about your bowel movements? In short, sometimes the end—no matter how excessive or unresponsive to corrective surgery—does indeed justify the means.

• Go easy on your folks: The truth of the matter is, your parents are just as uncomfortable around you as you are around them. Let’s look at it from a business perspective: Imagine while walking down the street (or, if you live in the suburbs, while walking out of a Krispy Kreme) you suddenly bump into your boss from a previous job. After exchanging initial pleasantries and professional updates, you both find yourselves with absolutely nothing to say. Why? Because your relationship was never based on the easy conversational give-and-take of an actual friendship. Rather, it was built upon an understanding of authority that dictated your daily exchanges and interactions. But with no set rules to now guide your conversation, you would have better luck chatting up a lilac bush or Bengal tiger. At least the talking points would be crystal clear (“Nice bloom you got there” and “Don’t puncture the aorta! For the love of God, don’t puncture the aorta!!!”). So it goes with parents and their grown children. With no one the obvious leader and no one the follower, no one knows how to act when they get together. So while you hope this year your parents finally give you a break, make sure to cut them a little slack, too. If your folks want to say grace before dinner, close your eyes, clasp your hands and quietly recall “The Simpsons” episode in which Homer gets out of work by saying he’s celebrating “The Feast of Maximum Occupancy.” If they want to go around the table and have each person say what they are thankful for this holiday season, kindly respond with something innocuous such as “Times like these” (rather than just blurt out “Paxil!”). But remember, just because you’re in a giving mood doesn’t mean you should hand over a blank check for your parents to cash in on any insane request they see fit. To put it another way, don’t feel obliged to close out the Thanksgiving feast by entertaining relatives with your once-annual childhood performance of “Turkey in the Straw.” After all, at age five seeking your folks’ attention and/or approval is perfectly normal. At age 35, it’s textbook pathological. Keep in mind the difference and you’ll do just fine.

• Don’t overstay your welcome: Each one of us has found ourselves on the phone with a friend or business associate only to hear them say, “Well, I better let you go,” knowing full well that what they actually mean is “Well, I’ve had enough of this. Bye.” The same logic applies here. When we say, “Don’t overstay your welcome” what we clearly mean is “Leave before it’s a murder-suicide and you’re the one reloading.” In other words, phrase your desperate escape to freedom as a thoughtful concern regarding your parents’ valuable time. For example, “Mom, Dad, this has been terrific. But surely you two want to spend some time alone together.” However, as with all selfish desires disguised as acts of civility, timing is paramount. Don’t blurt out your farewells the moment it comes time to clear the table. Don’t say it immediately after a quick perusal of the deserts finds the selection wanting. And don’t say your good-byes from the cell phone in the car as the rest of the family is still sitting at the table, wondering why it’s taking you so long you to find a second gravy ladle in the kitchen. Be patient. The right moment will present itself, usually in the form of a question like “So, do you want to spend the night on the couch in the basement or on a cot in the room with Grandma? Either way, remember, we’re all up at six tomorrow morning to go shopping!” That’s when you take the coat you had draped over your dinner chair the whole time, bid your fond farewells to parents and relatives alike and quickly run to a waiting taxi, making sure to grab a “to go” turkey leg on the way out. It may not be the most thoughtful exit, but what it lacks in sentiment it will more than make up for in conversational fodder for your parents’ next Thanksgiving—and trust us, that’s the best present you could ever hope to give them this holiday season.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Karin, Don't Write to Me Again

Every time the name "Schwaller" (the last name of a dear college friend) appears in Sally Forth, this person (let's call her "Karin" since that is her real name) sends me an email saying that's her family name and what an odd coincidence that is and do I know anyone in her family. I always write back (admittedly not within the next few minutes), thanking her for her message and letting her know that I was not directly referring to her family. Then a few months later she sends the same message.

Now, I understand that seeing your surname in print is fun--it's why I use friends' names in the strip--but the tone with which this individual employs when I don't immediately respond or stand up and applaud upon receiving her comment is astounding.

Please take special note of her use of quotation marks in today's message (never minding the curious legal document approach to the number "two") .

It has been almost two (2) months since the below email was sent to you - with no response. At least you responded to my first email in 2007 even though that was not in a timely manner either (you were "in the middle of a divorce" then).

Here, just for the hell of it, is an excerpt from her email of 2007, which she sent to my syndicate:

I tried getting in touch with the cartoonist by calling (my fucking home phone number!) and left a message which was never returned. This is my second attempt. Hopefully I will get a response from someone.

And here is my response to her latest message:

Wow, you really have the nastiest, most childish, self-involved demeanor I have ever encountered. Putting a painful time of my life in quotation marks as if that should have been a minor concern of mine in light of your email?!? There will be no further response from me to you. Your email will now be sent directly to trash and I will alert my syndicate not to forward any of your messages.

On the bright side, I will get to have a laugh about your email with other readers, so thank you for that.

I like to think I'm a relatively calm, reasonable individual when it comes to my readers, for I am very fortunate to even have readers. And once a comic strip is published it belongs to the readers, not me, so any response they may have is personally valid and I have no right whatsoever to tell them they are wrong to believe such. Write to me to tell me you really didn't like a particular strip? At least you read the strip and took the time to write and I thank you.

But, Karin, dear, if for some reason you are reading this, you really are in a class all by yourself.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Teenager’s Written Account of the Very First Thanksgiving, November 1621

“The feasting has summarily been concluded and I have repaired to my room, far from relatives most fractious and grievances oft repeated to no avail except to sway Aunt Ecclesianne to dip once more into the sherry and regale even the most unseasoned family member what a total arse they be.

“I had stepped not one manfoot into the repast quarters during the time of preparation when I was immediately struck with comments most thunderous about my unkempt head fur and demeanor quite displeasing. Our family being all well recovered in health and having all things in quantities good and plenty had apparently done little to close their fowl holes for even one damnable moment. Rather, they took to the occasion of my verbal lashing yet again with great practice and flourish, once more rekindling my passion for a native onslaught, great blaze or some warbler of alarming size to finally rid me of these blood fellows.

“While I was instructed vigorously on how I was slicing most unwell the almonds for the greens, my valueless sister arrived, short in wanting to assist in our cooking endeavors but long in attributes of a canine feminine. Rather she took the moment to shine but on herself as was her want, introducing her new swain to relatives no doubt astounded that a woman of such girth and cretinous demeanor could land a man without ammunition or rock most sharp. For his part, the man I readily surmised to be no greater possessed of intellect than the nuts I angrily cleaved. Yet within but a moment our feast had miraculously transformed into a celebration not of our great harvest but rather a fete in honor of two people who could not look less like that of God’s image if their hands were cloven.

“Soon the relations not so immediate arrived, complaining of foot traffic unending and sharing long tales whose points even the great native scouts could not manage to uncover. Grandfather himself directly embarked once more into his yarn of how the very idea for the Frobisher Expedition had been vilely stolen from him, only rather than a ‘Northwest Passage’ Grandfather stated he would have explored for ‘tobacco mermaids.’

Meanwhile, several of the nonmaleperson’s arms groaned heavily from the prepared meat they carried into our dwelling, notwithstanding my mother’s pleas that she was well in capacity to prepare the feast. Said nonmalepersons countered that guests oft like a selection—especially more than one lone pie—and not everyone takes to the singular aridness of my mother’s turkey. This put my mother in a humor most abominable, which my Aunt Benefice sought to allay by stating that this is why they really ought to have held the feast at her house instead.

I asked to be excused, fearing being confined with such persons would soon make me disembowel my feces and utter remarks untoward yet unerring, but even such a simple request was furiously denied. Alas, I was harshly instructed to set the manner of the table alone while all manguests sat before the large fireplace, preparing for an afternoon of watching whose pine cone would blaze in great, colorful glory.

“After what seemed to this author an interminable era wherein I tried to make myself scarce whenever chance allowed—only to be utilized repeatedly as the beast of burden unassisted—the food was brought forth to the banquet surface. I had not one hand on a ladle of potatoes mashed when I was scolded for impertinence and told by my mother to proffer thanks. ‘For what?’ came fast my reply, only to receive a slap wholly sharp on the posterior of my head. Knowing that I had no choice in the endeavor and seeing this as my only moment to speak undeterred, I chose to educate my family most disagreeable with the atrocities they have brought upon not only the initial inhabitants of this land but on this very person.

“‘Oh Lord,’ I commenced with great solemnity, giving not a soupcon of what was to come, ‘We thank you for allowing us to defile your earth with contemptible persons who want only for themselves and care not for their fellow man or creature. We thank you for the ammunition with which to blow asunder more animal than Noah himself could board, even if he dismantled and stored them in containers non-perishing for later utilization. We thank you for the arrival of my sister and her manfriend, whose very countenances surely makes His Lord question His own powers. We thank you for the wisdom of our parental folk, who sought to keep me from enjoying but a seventh a fortnight skiing with peers on Plymouth Inclines, rather imprisoning me here to toil at their unkind will while the most contemptible lot of individuals ever gathered not before a barrister or executioner gorged themselves on appetizers and imbibed great quaffs of ale as if the end were near and you Lord would only welcome the plumpest, most pickled, most execrable vermin to skitter into the gutters of thy kingdom. Amen.’

“Sadly, I was not six words into my oration when great cries and several blood pressures rose from the table, seeking to shout me down only to be met with great failure. Great paternal Uncle Cotton was first to damn my good name, swearing that my absence of piety was no doubt grave indication of my maternal side’s deficient breeding. My mother’s father Cotton was swift to take umbrage at this assertion, declaring that Uncle Cotton could take nourishment from his manmember for as long as he sought to suppose such twaddle. That was when my Aunt Cotton, for reasons still unknown, thought it best to bring up the curious displacement of departed Great Grandmother Cotton’s china most fine, mere days before the reading of her will. My mother, locating great offense in this, took the occasion to mention to the gathered that Aunt Cotton’s daughter Impudence had been seen “plowing the field” with the Reverend Increase’s niece not two days ago. Said daughter, turning crimson as the harvest beet, then summarily countered that her brother Barrett had most recently acquired a stamp of ink fully permanent on his reaping arm, fashioned in the visage of a skull immolated. My detestable sister then wailed fiercely that everyone was churning gray clouds on what she took to be her, and hers alone, special day, whereupon I with tremendous skill hurled an acorn squash at her proboscis. Soon all family took to flinging pies at one another with violent force. And it was at that very moment, when the dining hall sky was thick with mincemeat and butternut, that my Aunt Ecclesianne stood up, swigged from the sherry bottle she no doubt stored most secretly in her garments, and bellowed ‘A pox on you all!’ It was then that we learned that she had the devil’s pneumonia and soon, alas, we would as well."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Ted Forth Could Have Said to His Mother-in-Law Instead

"I don't know what's more insulting--your attitude or your Talbots ensemble."

"Just for that you're not getting the antidote."

"If you wanted to make a grown man hysterically weep before woefully cooing like a mourning dove and then passing out on fainting couch then mission accomplished!"

"If it weren't for the 12 'Sally Forth' comic readers looking at us right now I'd kill you with my bare hands."

"Kali ma... Kali ma... Kali ma, shakthi deh!"

"I pride myself on being a man of few words...Boogerhead!"

"Thanks to years of therapy, constant work on myself and the ability to sublimate all frustration and depression through huffing, I'm going to ignore that."

"That's it. I'm taking the sherry, the shawl and this Barbara Cartland novel and I'm going to bed."

"Hassan chop!"

"If you'd be so kind as to give me a lock of your hair and two hours in the sewing room I'll have the perfect voodoo retort for you."

"Do you know what 'tard rage' is, Laura?"

"I don't know if it's your commanding presence or your Aqua Net hairspray but I've never been so turned on in my life!"

"This is so going on tumblr."

"Why, nerf herder!"

"Sure, there may be worse ways to go than being buried alive, but I can't think of any so start digging."

Poll: Did Ted Forth go too far today or not?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Angry Santa Elf Speaks and Spews!

"Nothing shows an appalling lack of Asian elves or the willingness to tape eyelids like a North Pole production of 'Flower Drum Song.'"

Start ringing in the holiday season now with the vitriol and vindictiveness of Angry Santa Elf on Twitter!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Today's Photo: Pissed-Off Pumpkin

This gritting gourd can barely contain his anger that Halloween is at an end and the stores are already decked out for Christmas, including Barney's, whose new display window "Hooray for Food Network Contract Players" (or something like that) seems a curious seasonal celebration of cross-marketing and a Brothers Quay horror puppet short.

Monday, November 8, 2010

UPDATE: The Good People of the Old Farmer's Almanac Want Me--and You--to Know That They Are Not Aligned with Witches

Recently I made what I perceived to be a mild--and quite frankly endearing--reference to the Old Farmer's Almanac in my immediately previous post Serendipitous Snow Day (Central Park, November 6th, 2010) (fourth photo caption down). In response I received this message from the editor of

Hi, Francesco, Though we are usually happy to be quoted, The Old Farmer's Almanac was incorrectly sourced in this (otherwise enjoyable) blog: (We receive google alerts with any mention of our brand name.) Perhaps it's the Witch's Almanac? The "Old" Farmer's Almanac is an astronomical, scientifically-based reference guide, and not the source of this content about witches. Please correct the reference and delete mention of The Old Farmer's Almanac.

So please let it be known that in this new post-Christine O'Donnell era of witch and satanic association and allusions that The Old Farmer's Almanac does indeed NOT reference or rely on any manner of sorceresses, enchantresses or pythonesses.

You have to admit, though, "The Witch's Almanac" line is adorable. Good feelings all around.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Serendipitous Snow Day (Central Park, November 6th, 2010)

While walking in the Harlem Meer section of Central Park earlier today, we came across this rather odd occurrence--a single mound of snow in early November. There having been no snowfall in the New York metropolitan area since last winter we were left to only grasp at the reason for such a weather phenomenon. Had we somehow angered a very localized nature spirit? Is global warming getting both intensely focused and quite honestly a little lazy? Is this what that ominous fortune cookie we got meant when it said "Buy more Chinese food?" Or did it somehow have something to do with the ice skating rink just off camera. Alas, we may never know.

Whatever the reason, this minor yet mighty snowdrift attracted children of all ages. Take this child for example. He's seven, 14, three, 34 and 87-years-old all at once. Oh, to be displaced from a single-dimensional sequence of events' grip once more. Cherish these innumerable times, young/old one, for they will be gone...or repeated or, well, I've confused myself...before you know it.

And here we have preseason's first snowball. Preseason is actually a a good time to check out this year's snowballs as they train to resume previous fitness levels, engage in exhibition games with other natural projectiles--like acorns or a fistful of gravel--and potentially promote snowballs to new audiences as they travel the country, melting.

Naturally, such an odd event as a singular, localized snowfall is an ominous sign, attracting people from all over (such as this worshipful mother and daughter) to dispel potential horrors by engaging in pagan idolatry, creating images of the premature winter gods to show their allegiance and be spared the death tolls that can only comes from six square feet of crystalized ice flakes.

Find their actions foolish? Then perhaps you, too, should consult that perennial guide to all matters meteorological, "The Old Farmer's Almanac." Since 1792, the almanac has made long-range weather forecasts using a time-tested approach and meticulous formula that have remained virtually unchanged for more than 200 hundred years. According to such age-old methodology, the almanac is predicting that come mid-November we can expect the following:

"The air shall be thick with witches. And grave portents. And manure. By the time of the great tobacco harvest many of ye townsfolk shall be stricken with ill spirits, a result of either lack of piety or uncooked quail. Grandparents and other 35-year-olds will be the first to suffer. The harvest will be blighted by demons, the milk will be curdled by Catholics and a low-pressure system will bring some much needed rain into the valley and adjacent regions. Bedlam will ensue in the mills, the smithies and the mead houses as the children of the elders will speak in tongues not of their own! We beg of thee, look to the livestock and insects for guidance!"

Well, there you have it. So for any of you who have long feared a dramatic spike in sorcery, possession and pestilence, your concerns have finally been justified.

And so we leave this magical but portentous scene, paying our due respects to this lovingly cast image of that most fearsome cosmic entity Cthulhu's younger brother, Jimmy. Pray he takes mercy on our souls this non-winter.

The Woods

Alas, if you were led to believe that this photo post The Woods was actually a slide show music video for the Sleater-Kinney album The Woods...or a low-budget Sony Cybershot remake of the 1999 "The Wood" starring fall foliage instead of Omar Epps...or a hipper, non-musical production of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods replacing Bernadette Peters with some lovely lichen--you will be as disappointed as I was when I learned that "The Manhattan Project" was not in fact Peter Stuyvesant's attempt to build an atomic bomb fashioned out of twigs and his prosthetic limb while harnessing the awesome power of quail. This post just happens to be about a day in the woods (with Sleater-Kinney and Omar Epps).

In upstate New York and throughout New England you are bound to come across many a stone wall, whether in the woods, driving through a charming hamlet or asking you for change in front of a Stop and Shop. Many locals and historians believe such walls were built by early American farm families to denote the boundaries of their property or perhaps restrict the movement of livestock. But the trace writing in a palimpsest that was most recently reused as a store circular for a Yankee Candle outlet indicates that these walls were in fact thousands of feet high and used as a defense against the countless dinosaurs that still roamed the land up until the early 1800's, when the last were burned alive for not being Christian. A few such creatures still survive in Canada, practicing their Celtic polytheistic ways and managing charming incense and crystal shoppes.

When I was little I would wander the immense (an now sadly razed) woods behind my parents' house with my friends Jeff, James, Val and Bruce. We would wander for hours pretending to be on expeditions, looking for treasure or trying to find a hill steep enough that sledding down it in the winter would almost guarantee a sonic boom. Then it would get dark and we'd have to find our way back home. But we never could. So we'd each move in with a new family and call them "Mom" and "Dad" and "Marcello." (Why we all called our newly adoptive brothers and even sisters "Marcello" escapes me to this day.) This would repeat itself again and again. I now have 478 parents and 1242 siblings. I don't even remember my first, true surname. "Marciuliano" was just something I once saw on the side of a truck for a concrete business or baked goods store or whatever it is Italians do. I don't know, being originally Korean.

Whenever you are in the woods you must take a moment to lie on the fallen leaves, look up at the sky through the branches and ask yourself, "What does it all mean?" Say that three times and a leprechaun will appear from some nearby shrubbery. He won't answer your question but rather silently hand you a business card with a phone number on it, typeset in a crisp Akzidenz-Grotesk font and featuring a lovely logo that recalls the best of the Swiss Style school of graphic design. Call that number and you will be put on hold. For a while. (Apparently leprechauns hand out quite a number of such cards.) But be patient, for the answer you receive will be well worth it.

The woods can be a scary place, chockablock with countless horrors that once seemed solely to reside in a Grimms fairy tale or Washington Irving legend. Take this tree, for example. As we approached it the air grew thick with sulphur, the blood in our veins turned gelid and that ingrown hair we thought we finally had beat came back. One could hear low, trembling moans coming from within the very trunk. The limbs oozed a black, viscous substance that caused our souls to shrink away in abject terror. The ground bubbled and cracked, the leaves grew mandibles, the bark bellowed, the very woods roared to life with the deathless voices of a thousand interminable victims before us!

But then we saw this really neat butterfly--it had like maybe three or four of the most delightful colors on its wee wings!--and we chased after that instead.

In the fascinating documentary Visions of Light cinematographer Conrad Hall explains how such previously perceived photographic errors as light flare on the lens--originally deemed a mistake since in essence it broke the fourth wall by reminding viewers of the camera's presence--eventually became an acceptable and highly expressive aesthetic to denote such elements as heat. Naturally, such is what I was going for here, since the sun was not so much setting behind the woods as in the woods, igniting the dry timber and creating a conflagration that burns to this day. That is why we no longer have a Northeast.

Some trees are iconoclasts. They balk at their brethren's cherish belief that vertically is the only way to grow. So they assume a more bowed path, reaching towards heaven in their own time, on their own terms. This tree's singular nature reminded me of a cartoon fable from the early 70's called The Point, about the sole round-headed boy in a village of pointed-headed creature who...well, I'm not quite sure what happened. From the moment I turned it on at age four I just kept screaming and screaming in horror. (Even more so then when I saw the commercial for Dario Argento's Suspiria as a kid in which a skeleton combs her hair while chanting "Roses are red...") Nothing could stop the shrieking, not even Harry Nilsson's wonderful soundtrack. Maybe as a pathologically shy child the cartoon made me feel even more alone. Maybe as a pathologically insane child the cartoon actually talked to me. I don't mean resonated with me. I mean talked to me. Maybe this is what happens when your childhood predates adequate psychopharmacological treatment. All I know is that this tree is doing its own thing and that both delights and alarms me.

The thing about taking pictures of the woods is that even though you can capture some absolutely stunning scenery the photos can all start to make the same statement--"This is nice." That's why I like to mix things up by hiding a small infant in the picture. Just a little visual game to keep things interesting. Can you spot the baby? Can you? Because if you can please tell me where it is. I borrowed the kid without permission like three weeks ago and I really need to return it before its parents realized that changeling I put in their Bugaboo stroller is actually a shaved puppy.

And with those last "shaved puppy" and "missing infant" remarks from the previous photo the camera is being forcibly taken away from me and I have been instructed to end this tale immediately. But seriously, you gotta help me find that baby.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkins. Pumpkins? Pumpkins!

The secret to finding the perfect pumpkin begins with finding a sincere pumpkin patch. Any by "sincere," we of course mean the pumpkins say what they genuinely feel and/or believe. Take the above pumpkins, for example. They believe that the world sits atop a never-ending stack of turtles. But they are honest about their belief. They don't hem and haw, trying to determine where your spiritual and metaphysical underpinnings lie and then try to match or at least mirror such. The moment you drive up to this patch the pumpkins yell out in unison, "TURTLES! IT'S ALL TURTLES" which...well, which frankly scares the crap out of you. In fact, such was our shock at being not only addressed by but actually screamed at by gourds that we quickly grabbed a tire iron and killed at least 60 pumpkins before we eventually gathered our wits and simply started stabbing them unnoticed with a shiv we fashioned from some lovely Indian corn.

Some pumpkins are clearly to large for our needs and, to be blunt, their own good. Take these fellows, for example. They look like the B-roll for a news story on rising obesity. The important thing, though, is never to stop and stare. Simply smile politely and move on. But they know when they are being dismissed. Pumpkins always know. That's why they always huddle in little groups like above, for the camaraderie and confidence that sometimes can only be found in numbers. Plus, if you lean in, you can hear them whisper what a judgmental jackass you are.

On the other hand, some pumpkins are just far too wee to carve. Take these little fellows as presented by Kim and Remy. Only a small mouse could create a Jack O' Lantern from such pumpkins. And do you know how much a mouse artisan costs these days?! That's why next time there's a mouse in your house or apartment, don't kill it. Instead capture it, send it off to the Rhode Island School of Design, buy it a tiny X-acto blade and let it work wonders. Frankly, it's your only logical course of action.

However, if you do not have the necessary funds to send a mouse to RISD and the little bastard is far too busy getting stoned with his idiot bandmates--seriously a prog rock group in this day and age?-- to do well enough in class to score at least a partial scholarship, then you may have no other choice but to wear the tiny pumpkins as hats, just like Kim and Remy are doing in an all-too tragic moment of millinery faux pas. It makes the heart weep, it does...

Sometimes, though, you'll come across a wee pumpkin with so much character (read: startling ugly but in a "can't stop gaping" kind of way) that you just have to find it a home, like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. And, alas, like that tree if you hang a large red ornament on this pumpkin you are just as likely to kill it. But, more importantly, you'll be killing your soul, because you will be the person sitting alone in their studio apartment festooning a small, pockmarked pumpkin with Christmas decorations in the middle of a weekday afternoon, forcing you to come to the conclusion that yes, getting a B.A. degree in English, no matter how good the university, nailed your professional and personal coffin shut before you ever really had a chance to live.

But the search for just the right pumpkin the direction of even smaller pumpkins, leading the corporations and academic institutions who funded our expedition to question not only our true intentions but also our ability to even identify a goodly-sized gourd. With each step on our journey their missives and telegrams displayed more concern, more vitriol and more unique ways we could shove said gourds up our "bumholes" (I should note many of these aforementioned institutions were British). But we ventured onward, certain in if not our mission than in the fact we had driven an hour upstate to get here and we were going to return to the city with something, even if it were just more medium amber maple syrup...

...Only to once more be occasionally waylaid by the apparently repetitive human instinct to sport round, fleshy fruit on one's head at a jaunty angle.

Our expedition did lead us to some very unique specimens, though, including this elongated goiter removed from the neck of a pumpkin so massive that the local villagers have forsaken all Judeo-Christian tenets and now worship a giant squash named "Steve." Can you believe it? "Steve." That would be so much more pathetic had it not been that the pumpkin had that very name written on a "Hello, My Name Is..." sticker on what one would presume would be its lapel. Word is it was on its way to a heating and plumbing convention but got lost and just became a god instead.

We also happened upon this little specimen which, yes, looks exactly like what you think it does--1928 Democratic Presidential candidate and supposed papist Al Smith.

And then there is this fellow, a sad reminder to sailors everywhere to always watch those "beware the clap" educational shorts before hitting port.

Now some of you may be asking, "Why are you looking for a pumpkin in November?" (You may also be asking, "Why are the cows so flat in upstate New York?") The answer is "We weren't. These photos were taken in mid-October." Then you may ask, "Then why didn't you post them in October?" To which I can only reply, "Because it's already November and I don't have a time machine! Do YOU have a time machine? Huh?! DO YOU?!?" To which you may very well state, "Yes, I do." Then we would talk a bit about the possibility of letting me use the device at a reasonable rate.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that online friendships can be hard.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Professionally Driven but Not One for Such Stuffy Business Attire as, Say, Pants? Then Craigslist Has the Job for You!

Update on the Little Book That Isn't (Now Updated!)

Yes, the little book that isn't is now the talk of the Internet! (Well, the part of the Internet that's usually vacant or used for temporary storage during moves.) Why, just look at these sample pull quotes!

"A breathtaking work of profound academic value..."

"...At just 3 words a page, this tome elicited from me both diarrheatic and arthritic unstoppable miasma, truly spreading into my soul like cancerous stem cells..."

"Perhaps this is meant to be a probing psychological study of a damaged individual, but Ted Forth's rampant psychosis is an unpleasant read at best..."

"...This beautifully crafted piece of metafiction is a wonder to behold, and most definitely does not exist."

"The minute you read that the source for a book of eighteen pages is going to be wikipedia, you know in your bones just what a work of quality it must be that you're going to hold!"

"It was much better than "Cats: Andrew Lloyd Webber, T. S. Eliot, Old Deuteronomy."

"Only a dedicated and seasoned mountebank could achieve this level of guilefulness with such apparent impudence."

That's right! Over six customer reviews are coming in with no end in sight! (That is if you keep in mind time itself is without conclusion.) Read for yourself what these informed, insightful, insane critics are saying about the one Sally Forth collection to be inexplicably made available but not actually exist!

Make sure your voice is heard--add your review today!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Never Before Has the Word "Douchebag" Been Said So Eloquently and Significantly

This Holiday Buy the One Book That Doesn't Exist

Whether you wish to acknowledge it or not, the holiday shopping season is indeed upon us. And while many of you may be looking to the latest Wii-inspired/infringing devices from Xbox and Playstation to make your loved ones momentarily happy with you and the season, may I suggest a more luddite alternative? In short, a book. But not just any book. Oh no. A book that I stumbled upon while Googling my own name for pathetic self-validation. A book that is now selling for a mere and curiously priced $14.14. A book that comes in at a whopping 20 pages and 1.6 ounces. A book that does not, in fact, actually exist.

Yes, that Sally Forth. No, not the Wally Wood comic strip Sally Forth. No, not the record company Sally Forth. No, not the turn of phrase "sally forth." No, not the untold number of bloogers who write under the name "Sally Forth." But yes, that Sally Forth.

However, before you quickly go to Amazon and snatch up your eleven hundred copies, let's review the "book" in the spirit of consumer protection, shall we?

First, let us take note of the collection's distinctive yet highly descriptive imprint--Books LLC--a publisher that not only plainly focuses on its own namesake but whose very limited liability status clearly prevents it from dealing with the potential legal and financial culpability that so often comes with cover art, correct typesetting or a spine. I'm not even certain that there are actually any pages behind said cover rather than the idea of pages. So minimal is the collection's tangible qualities, in fact, that were it not for the slightly embossed paper stock one could almost assume that this may very well be the first tome to be published in a purely gaseous state. So take that, e-books!

Second, and more importantly, let's review the authors. The third author in particular, that is--Ted Forth. Obviously his inclusion in the masthead can only mean that not only is this a collection of Sally Forth strips but also a glorious work of metafiction so aware of its own construct and conventions that it draws awareness to its status as an assembly of supposed artistic fabrications by having one of the strip's character--and a secondary character at that--co-author the book. Perhaps the book is Ted Forth talking about the stories behind the stories in the strip, spinning creative "reality" behind the illusion, like Tristam Shandy but with far more robot monkeys. Or perhaps it's a collection of Ted Forth trying to read said collection, like If on a winter's night a traveler, alternating between him preparing to peruse the strip and then the strip itself, causing us to question not only how and why we read but also why we need to be far more careful in our book purchases. Or maybe Ted Forth's inclusion as author is a proofreader error, but a purposeful one. A seemingly insignificant detail that actually elaborates and comments on the collection as a whole, like a footnote in Infinite Jest or that obsessive-compulsive who highlighted every damn paragraph and repeatedly wrote "what does it mean?" in the margins of my used university bookstore copy of The Sot-Weed Factor, forever causing me to associate John Barth with autism spectrum disorder. OR, maybe since the very existence of this collection is fictitious to begin with, it's not just a statement on such fiction but on the things we dearly need to hold true to make sense of our lives, like books, like art, like comic strips and like online retailers we trust are selling actual product.

And third, and even more importantly, this imaginary book does not have a single customer review yet. Go nuts.

So this holiday season, avoid the long lines, the endless gadgets and the need to impress. Simply click on Amazon and get the one gift that will make friends, family and loved ones say, "You know, Hickory Farms sells both cheese and sausage in one gift basket."

Monday, November 1, 2010

"And Don't Even Get Me Started on the Validity of Bit-O-Honey!"

The following email was received in response to the final panel of yesterday's Sally Forth Halloween Sunday strip (as seen above).

What a disgusting commentary on our society and your cartoon. Your priorities are way off base as are your values. Our children are reading your comic and you have a moral responsibility to send the right message. Since when does a halloween treat given in good faith have a monetary value? I happened to love bubble gum and tootsie rolls as a child and was happy to have them as a treat. No, I have never given them as a treat on Halloween. Let's see-I gave Reese's Peanut Butter Cups this year. I got 14 for $2.50. That's obviously unacceptable by your standards or lack thereof.Our children should be happy with "any" treat given in good faith from a kind and generous neighbor. Clean up your act. Think about it please!