Keeping it on the Download.

Billy Bragg's Workers Playtime album has a unique distinction in my musical collection. No, it's not the greatest album ever... That honor goes to either Menudo's landmark Reaching Out or Fabio's After Dark opus.

Mr. Bragg's album released almost exactly 16 years ago (shudder) is the only musical release that I've acquired in cassette, vinyl LP, CD and digitally. I bought the cassette when the album was first released, the LP when I bought a turntable and it was one of the first CDs I bought when that now archaic technology first reared its $14.99 head on the shelves.

The last listen it got was on my 40 gigabyte iPod, where it currently resides with approximately 700 other albums or nearly 7900 songs.

This large volume is both a blessing and a curse. In one way it consolidates a portion the approximately 1200 CDs I own in a convenient device that weighs about as much as run-of-the-mill paperweight, but it also changes the way I listen to music. Rather than listen attentively to a whole album, appreciating the craftsmanship that went into it, I put it on shuffle play in the house and have frankly forgotten what the f*ck I put in it or who is singing half the songs.

Even worse is that tendency to listen to snippets of songs here and there. With that much music at one's disposal it's tough to resist listening to 28 songs in a fifteen minute drive.

Stephen V. Funk, host of this week's feels like the lone holdout on the iPod front. Homeboy is still cruising the aisles of the local record and CD scores, rather than inviting a friend over with a full 80 gigger to poach his eclectic bounty.

Heh. Half of me wants to throw on side two of the Velvet Underground & Nico album on the ol' turn table, but I know as soon as I do the Fletchmonster's peanut butter-coated paws are going to slap that stylus right across "There She Goes Again" to "the Black Angel's Death Song."

Stop by Mr. Funk's viridescent blog and try to get him to switch to the dark side. As for me and Mr. Bragg? This might be the end of the road. If they have to jam the microchip of Workers Playtime up my ass for me to enjoy it, I think I'll pass. The cassette's long gone, but I think the record's still on the shelf.


The Last(?) Temptation of Prego

Every once in a while a stranger knocks on my door holding a raffle ticket or something. My stock greeting is:

"This better not be about Jesus."

Today an older gentleman knocked on the door. I was raised to respect my elders, so I gave him a cordial 'hello' instead. I was wondering what was up, though. Perhaps he was coming over to complain about Barky the Mutt, who was yelping his fool head off in my yard.

"I'm the pastor of the church on the corner. We have a chicken barbecue today and..."

(F*ck... here we go. 'Your dog is quite the nuisance. We're wondering if you could throw him in the basement for the day.' Okay... prepare respectful response.)

"...we'd like to invite you to join us. I have some free tickets for you if you'd like to come."

(Wait. Scratch that. Yes or no question.)

"Uh, sure. (What the f*ck did you just say? He's a cleric. DECLINE! DECLINE!) That sounds great." (Aaaaaaarrrghhhhh. It burns. It burns.)

The Fletchmonster and the O-Dog peek their curious heads in and say hello.

"Hi guys. So, three tickets?"
"Well, my wife will probably join us."
"Oh, sure," he says as he hands over four tickets.
"Thank you," I said as he departs.

Now part of the reason I agreed to take it is that we've scavenged a summer picnic or two. Sometimes I'd be taking the Fletch or the O-Dog out of their car seats and some friendly church broad would offer the kids a hot dog.

"Sure, what the hell - uhh... heck."

(The last time this happened, the Fletchmonster pissed in his chair so we had to take our church dogs to-go.)

The other part of the reason is that every once in a while, the missus and I try to make it through the weekend without having to cook. Friday? Fish fry at the in-laws. Today? Jesus Chicken.

When Mrs. P comes home from work I fill her in slowly.

"What do you want to do for dinner?" I offer a loaded lead-in.
"I don't care. What do you want to do?"
"Well," I reply, "we've got an invite."
"Oh, cool. Who?" She inquires.
"We'll that's the good news."

"Okay. What's the bad news?" She asks.
I bow my head solemnly, keeping a straight face: "And now we pray."

"My Aunt Jo and Uncle Rob?"
"No," I laugh heartily. "The church across the street!" I knew she'd be agreeable. She's not a church-goer either, but she doesn't look out for lightning whenever she steps near one. Besides, that's one of the four things she's in charge of: laundry, the bills, small talk and jesus. I'm in charge of good times and taking out the garbage (which she's in charge of picking up the slack).

The afternoon progressed, we digested lunch and once the bellies started grumbling again we rustled up the kids for the churchy dinner. O-Dog was a little tough to rein in, since he was having the beginnings of a meltdown. We approached the entrance and my wife starts falling behind - a maneuver that indicated she didn't want to go in first. 'F*ck that,' I thought, on to her little game. I stepped aside and said, "Go ahead. By the way, that guy there's the one that gave us the freebies. Thank him again."

Common courtesy falls under small talk.

Anyhow-lellujah, we went in, smiled politely at everyone, bought raffle tickets for the 'theme-tray' acution (stuffed the smoked salmon bucket with tickets) and sat down to feast.

Now we go out to dinner a LOT, but seldom attend these types of functions. I couldn't help but notice how friendly and welcoming everyone was. Even the crack-heady looking lady and her bag ladyish friend with the beard were real sweethearts. I looked around and saw a lot of families with their kids, elderly parents et cetera... all enjoying the churchy meal.

For a fleeting moment, just a f*cking milisecond I thought, 'This is actually nice,' and was toying with the idea of telling the missus, 'You know, maybe we ought to pop in here on Sundays.'

(Aaaarrrghh.... nooo.... beelzebub.... mmmmust.... fight... pious Flandersy... gasp feeling.)

I held my tongue, as I mulled it over. Then it happened. I wiped the grease from the Fletchmonster's cheeks, put the napkin down and started fiddling around with the table top literature.

After-school art program. This looks cool for the O-Dog. Underneath? A churchy brochure... pastor this, pastor that... 'Christ-Centered. Inclusive. Committed.'

Oh yeah. I forgot about the christ part. All of a sudden the thought of nursing the muscles after Sunday morning hockey in a pew listening to the preachings and teachings of a two-thousand year old corpse made me take a couple steps back. I thought about all those creepy-ass crucifixes on southern roadways and those weepy freaks on TV...
(Grrrrnnahhhhh... That's it. You're one of us, sinner. You're nobody's bible-bitch. Nyyyyyyaaaaawww...)

At that point, the O-Dog's meltdown finally materialized and we had to kowtow our asses backwards out of the place. Of course I was gracious and thanked the pastor heartily for the meal and neighborliness, but the Religification of Prego?

Thank you for the tasty meal from thy bounty, dude, but not this weekend...

(Flames flicker. Head spins.)

And I didn't win the salmon basket, either. Damn.


Roundtable on Bumpin' Uglies

Sex is interesting, but it's not totally important. I mean it's not even as important (physically) as excretion. A man can go seventy years without a piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement.

- Charles Bukowski

Throw in your two minutes cents on the topic at metaphorvoodoo for this week's .

Me? Yeah I dig it... Unfortunately in the midst of the throes we are usually interrupted by one of the little men, suddenly awake and screaming from their bedroom:

"Mommy! Mommy I want you!"

"So do I, you little bastard. Just let me keep her for 20 more seconds."


The Aftermath

Three days later and there are still hundreds of thousands without power locally... We've been lucky on our block. Sh*t. I even got my cable back today. Some households will be without power until next weekend.

I ventured out today to take a peek around town. I think these pictures speak for themselves. We're hearty bastards here in Western New York, so a little bit of snow doesn't stop us. The storm wasn't too kind to the woodier residents, though. I actually felt sad taking these pictures. Multiply this scene by sh*tloads upon sh*tloads of city streets. It's going to change the 'look of the land' for sure.


Dreaming of a White Halloween

Snow days f*cking rule if you're a teacher. You get a short but much needed respite from the urchins. Usually we get thrown one or two during the mid-winter jicker, but the gods of winter decided to give us a surprise reach around.

Usually the "snow day" routine is to wake up at 5 am on a snowy morning in February, turn on the news, wipe the rice krispies out of the corner of your eyes in hopes of seeing your school on the news.

Most of the time we get just a teasin':


That usually gets a resounding "Faaaaaaaaaaahkkkk!"

The school district actually called us last night and gave us the heads up, though. We got to sleep in here at the Prego household. That is until the in-laws called us up at 7am and the Fletchmonster woke up. Oh well... At least I get back to back "three day weekends."

Ordinarily we brush off a two foot snowfall without batting an eye, but since the trees still had most of their leaves on them branches were snappin' off all around town. In the process, cars were damaged, power lines were yanked and the morning drive was made quite treacherous.

Here's a few snapshots of my neighborhood this morning. I'll start off with a picture of an ominous Red Cross billboard that's been up for a couple weeks:

Something tells me this f*cker didn't go to work either:


A couple of barflies presumably walked home:



So much for a cozy sidewalk cafè table at Le Metro Bistro & Bakery:


This branch spanned our street, thus cutting off traffic.


I like this f*cker's appropriately emblazoned sweatshirt.


Elmwood Avenue is usually bustling at 9 am.



Here's one of the Prego family sh*twagons:


And some unfortunate soul's ride:


And here's your hero bringing home some emergency supplies from the local gas station.


Stay warm, pinches.

Making the Rice

"Making the rice" is an inside joke my friends used for a while based on the lame excuse my friend Jon once used when bailing out of "good times."

"Gee, I'd really like to stick around and drink more beer with you guys, but I have to go put on the rice for Jen."

For months (years) henceforth, whenever he'd decline an invite somebody would inquire, "Making rice?" Eventually it was just shortened to, "Rice."

This week's roundtable, hosted by badass Atul takes a look at ridiculously "convenient" kitchen gadgets. When you stir the pancake batter, do you plug in the wooden spoon? Do you use an electric jar opener? When Jon 'makes the rice', does he use one of these?

Pop by "Things I've Noticed" and fess up. What kind of sh*tty gadget do you plug in to make yo'self some chitlins?

By the way, we just got dumped on by Jack Frost here in Western New York. More on that later. In the meanwhile:

Q: How do you turn your dishwasher into a snow thrower?
A: Click here.


When the Lightning Strikes...

On the way to work Wednesday, I was treated to the spectacle of lightning in the dark October sky. I've heard the loud pops nailing trees nearby and thought that if the 'almighty' wanted to rub my ass out with this preferred method of disposal that sh*t would really hurt. I also began pondering my mortality (ugh...) and subsequent afterlife (or possibility thereof).

It was similar moments that actually brought religion into existence.

Caveman #1: Ngug dergag umpfor! (Dude, I'm scared of dying.)
Caveman #2: Sdgarg rergge. (Amen, nigga.)
Caveman #1: Gdsgerrer dergad gyujk areth? (What do you think happens after we die?)
Caveman #2: Oisdg fdoeg rgrhoofd morge reoyege ogoeoo ooyyopoo gosogs arog asdoyyos. (Your guess is as good as mine, but I hope it includes an endless supply of prehistoric cave 'tang.)
Caveman #1: Sdgarg rergge!

We've gotten pretty damn creative... The Vikings had Valhalla, the Hindus have saṃsāra and those Jehovah's witnesses have those happily deceased Land's End shoppers gaily cavorting lions and tigers in a lush post-mortem petting zoo. The atheists have (.) and we agnostics are left to our on devices and a coffin-load of "what ifs." We are the free-agents of theological theory. It's not like we're going to be able to pick and choose our afterlife but we're more likely to be surprised than anybody (except the atheists).

Christians might be surprised - "Faaaahk. The atheists were right! What a drag." (.)

The Muslims? "Hey! These 70 virgins are fat and hirsute!" A Hindu might come back as a Southern Baptist in his next life and have to spend a lifetime wearing a fake moustache at Hooters... And the Jehovah's witness might try to pet a leopard that decides "Man, this afterlife's for p*ssies. (CHOMP)."

Though I have no idea what to expect, here's one way it might go down for me:

(Lightning bolt)BOOOOOOOOOM! Srrrrrrrrzzzzzzzzzzztttttttttt!


Prego: Ow. What the heck (eck eck eck eck....)? (timidly) Hello-lo-lo- lo?
God: Krmmmff - hee hee hee...
Prego: Wha- wha... ? Who's that? What's goin' on?
God: (chuckling) I'm sorry. I'm sorry. (chuckle...)

Prego emerges out of a 'dark tunnel' into a large pantheon.

Prego: What's so funny? Who are you?
God: I'll give you a wild guess.
Allah: Hey, can we get on with this? I've got 743 martyrs waiting.
Prego: What the f*ck's going on? If this is a jesus thing, don't waste your breath.
Jesus: Actually it is kind of a jesus thing, now that you mention it.
Vishnu: Um... according to the rule book, this guy's unaffiliated, so it is most certainly not a jesus thing.

Jesus: Yeah, but it was my dad that snuffed him out!
Prego: Snuffed who out? Me? I've been snuffed? For what?
God: Nyeh. No real reason. I was bored.
Prego: Bored? So you snuff me?
God: Every once in a while I like to go old school on someone.
Fulgora: Who are you calling old?
God: Sorry. Anyway Prego, you and I are due for a reckoning.
Prego: Oh yeah. I've been wondering about this. I guess you do exist, and so do all the other deities, apparently...
God: Yes, (ahem) well...
Ometeotl: What do you mean 'ahem'... You're not top dog around here.
Zeus: That's right!
Anubis: Shut up, Zeus...
God: Guys! GUYS! I'm in the middle of something here. Listen, Prego. You've been talking a lot of sh*t that borders on the blaspheme...

Prego: Oh, that "Why doesn't Jesus play hockey" joke? I haven't told that since 1992.
Jesus: 1998, actually. During the Olympics. During the Russia/Czech Republic game.
Prego: Oh yeah. Remember that hit that Zhitnik laid on Jagr?
Jesus: Yeah. That sh*t was sweet. We felt that up here.
Prego: Nice playoff beard, by the way. A little early, though.
Jesus: Thanks. Long time Devils fan...
Prego: No sh*t? I'd have figured you more for a Kings fan.
Jesus: What, are you f*cking kidding me?
God: PREGO! Damn it!
Prego: What? What?
God: Back to blasphemy... about that tendency to use my name in vain and all that...
Prego: You're not seriously offended by that, are you?
God: That's the third commandment.
Zeus: Come on, you know we don't all agree on that one.
Allah: Or the first one for that matter.

Elvis: I thought we only agreed to keep VI and VIII?
God: Sorry sir.
Prego: Is that who I think it is?
Jesus: Who do you think calls the shots around here?
Prego: Presley? Sh*t. This should bode well for me...
Elvis: You think so, wise guy? What about all those jokes about my weight and dying on the shitter?

Prego: You heard those, huh?
Anubis: We hear everything.
Prego: So, you guys just keep track of all we say and do...
Allah: And eat...
God: And think...
Prego: And then hold some kind of tribunal to determine my fate?
Atropos: Not quite. This is kind of out of our jurisdiction.
Allah: We determine what to do with you, yes...
Prego: Do I have a say so?
God: No.
Prego: Well, that's pretty lame. How long does that take?
Vishnu: It depends. Sometimes it takes about an hour, sometimes it can take forever. You're a tough case, since you're basically a decent person, but lack a little... shall we say... reverence...
Prego: Aw man. You know what? You guys seem like a decent lot, but I don't have time to sit around, listening to you nitpick. I'm out of here.

Elvis: Where are you going?
Prego: To get something to eat and go find me some prehistoric cave 'tang.
Elvis: Sh*t. Sounds good. I'll go with you.
Jesus: Sdgarg rergge.

God and Allah look at each other for a moment... the five of them fade off into the distance.


Sherpan Strippers? Japanese Country Singers?

RW Chases Vincenzo around the world in this week's roundtable and poses the 'product of the environment' question. What would you be like if you grew up in a Muslim household in East Timor? Would you still have a penchant for poker, Hooters french fries and Lucky Lager? How much of "who we are" is shaped by where we live or where we were reared?

Get your passport stamped. We're waiting at the airport bar.


Golden Rule #2

It's been a rough time to be in the classroom this month (to say the least). We used to just worry about some heathen science teacher filling our kids' heads with evolution nonsense. Nowadays we worry about some malcontent filling our kids' precious little bodies with buckshot. The second amendment has come back to bite us in the fuzzies. Our general distrust of 18th Century monarchs has forced us to arm ourselves to the teeth. The victims these days are innocents.


Wise philosopher Bobcat Goldwait once observed that you're "more likely to shoot your wife over meatloaf" than an intruder. I also doubt very highly that the local gun-freak is amassing his arsenal in case the Grand Duke of Luxembourg decides to launch a ground assault through Montana.

Yeah, some deluded zealots might pose a threat, but it's not likely a motley crew (or crüe) of toothless and inbred NRA members would be much of a defence. Sh*t. Even the VP had a moronic mishap, busting a cap in the a-s-s of a crony.

If it were up to me, we'd take every weapon on the planet, melt them down and pour the molten metal over Los Angeles, CA and Cheektowaga, NY... but it's not up to me.

Now take a look at at this picture (provided by a co-worker who happened to teach me in seventh grade):

In this photo you have an attorney who ran for City Court Judge, a doctor in Rochester and the world's greatest educator, law abiding members of society - though the kid in front with the eyes closed may for all we know be wearing a dress, pushing around a rusty shopping cart and living behind the dumpsters at the Airport Plaza.

But that's not the point...

The point is this: a simple request for gun-toting idiots. If you are planning a murder-suicide, please do the suicide part first. Don't worry. We'll do our best to find another milk truck driver, drifter or sh*thead.