Tricks Of The Trade

A while back I read an interview with a birthday clown — you know, one of those guys who gets hired to entertain a bunch of yard apes at a seven year-old’s shindig? And the interviewer asked, like, “What if you’re dying out there? What if the kids are hating it?” And the subject, the interviewee-guy (I honestly have no recollection who this clown was or why I was reading this interview) said, in a pinch, he could always resort to a Funny Word. When pressed for clarification, the clown revealed a fascinating (to me) trick of the birthday clown trade: apparently every year there are two or three Funny Words, which invariably crack kids up, and when things are going sour you can just blurt one out and bring the house down. But you gotta keep up-to-date, because the Funny Words mysteriously change over time, so while “booger” might have killed in 1998, 2004 demands nothing less than a “monkey.”

Anyway, this got me wondering about other professions and other sooper secret tricks of the trade, to the point where I’d like to write an article for The Morning News on the subject. Or, to be more specific, I’d like to have a bunch of other people write the article for me.

If you’d like to contribute your own Trick Of The Trade, please do so using the form below. I can’t promise I’ll use them all, but I can promise that everyone who contributes will get to see a painting of Bea Arthur fighting a velociraptor. That’s a defective yeti guarantee.


Your Trick Of The Trade:

Update: Wow, getting some great one. Two comments. First, the vast majority of the tricks are coming in unsigned (i.e., just as “Anonymous”), which is fine but means that I will probably omit names when I compile them into the article. Just a word of warning, so no one gets irked when they don’t get proper acknowledgement. Secondly, I’m getting a lot of tricks for the same 20 jobs — you know, the jobs that everyone on the Intenet has (IT, Customer Service, Developer, etc.) so you get bonus points if you work in a slightly more unusual position like, you know, astronaut or pornstar.

What A Waist

I bought a new pair of jeans, and, after wearing them for about a month (not continuously), I’ve come to realize that they are too big for me. I’ll probably need to gain another 15 pounds for them to fit comfortably. And, yes, this means I’ll have to drink more alcohol, increase my consumption of carbs, and stop excercising altogether, but I don’t really have an alternative. If I don’t, the thirty bucks I spent on these pants will be, like, a total waste.

Fly By Night

It’s no surprise that birthrates in the United States dropped dramatically after the Wright Brothers’ famous flight in 1903*. After all, is there a more effective form of birth control than the knowledge that sex might lead to pregnancy and pregnancy will lead to a child and sooner or later you will wind up on a plane with said child and he will scream for the entire trip and then everyone in the world will hate you? (Oh man, just typing that sentence made me want to join an abstinence league.)

And yet, that’s what we did two weeks ago — threw kid on one of them flying contraptions and shuffled off to Washington D.C. We purchased a ticket for The Squirrelly, though this was not strictly necessary (you’re allowed to hold children under the age of 2 on your laps while in flight). I was against spending the extra money, but my wife was at one of her parenting support groups a while ago — you know, those groups where, near as I can tell, they sit around a campfire and swap blood-curdling stories about terrible things that can happen to your child? And, anyway, when The Queen mentioned that we were travelling to DC, another mother assured her that any babies not shackled to a car seat when a plane hits turbulence will perforce fly out of their mother’s arms and smash through the nearest window and be sucked into a turbine. So rather than become a party to hypothetical aeronautic infanticide, we sprang for the extra seat.

The Squirrelly was exceptionally well-behaved for most of the flight, wherein “exceptionally well-behaved” is defined as “dead asleep” (probably because we took a redeye to maximize the chance that he’d slumber through the whole ordeal). He went out like the proverbial light the second the plane left the ground. Alas, such was not the case prior to take off: when we got stuck on the tarmac for half an hour he got increasingly bored, restless, and shrill. By the time we started taxiing down the runway the people around us looked like they were in the midst of a plane crash, gripping their seat arms with white-knuckled terror, their faces frozen into grimaces of horror as our child continued to increase in volume and eventually forewent inhaling entirely in favor one continuous, unbroken keen. Fortunately their psychological defense mechanisms must have kicked in immediately afterwards, because, by the end of the trip, everyone had apparently suppressed the traumatic memories of our child’s pre-flight freakout and they were all commending us for having such a charming critter.

We had also taken someone’s advice and ordered vegetarian meals for the flight, despite the fact that we are carnivores to the core. We can’t remember who told us to do this (although we are trying, because we want to punch them), but someone said that requesting the veggie option ensures you get a healthy, homemade meal instead of the standard airline fare. That turned out to be technically true, but the “healthy, homemade meal” turned out to be the culinary equivalent of a birthday party where no one shows up. I’ll probably get sued by Northwest Airlines for revealing their top-secret vegetarian meal recipe, but this is what we received:


1/3 cup cucumber, chopped
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/2 pita bread


Place first two ingredients in latter ingredient. Garnish with a packet of mayonnaise, four baby carrots, tiny tub of warm water. Serves 1/7th of a person.

We only got two meals, which didn’t seem quite fair. So we took it up with the stewardess, explaining that, although The Squirrelly is an infant, we did pay for a third ticket and he should therefore receive a meal as well. We kind of had to go back and forth with the stewardess for a bit before she ceded the point and reluctantly agreed to breastfeed him.

All and all things went pretty well. And the we learned a Very Important Lesson about air travel with infants: if the baby ain’t screamin’, don’t mess with it. You should resolutely ignore thoughts like “I bet I could make him a little bit happier if I stuck a pacifier in his cryhole,” because a kid on a plane is like a brushfire, your attempts to sooth him are like either water or kerosene, and you won’t know which until it’s too late. In this respect babies are like dogs: it’s best to let sleeping ones lie. (Curiously, this completely contradicts the Very Important Lesson we learned during out last vacation, that babies are not like dogs: you apparently can’t just leave them at home for a weekend with a big bowl of water and a chew toy.)

* 100% made up fact.

Holding Back The Giggles

Confidential to the guy in sunglasses and muscle shirt who was driving around downtown Seattle this afternoon in a tricked-out, bright red convertible with the top down: your Herculean efforts to look cool are being largely negated by the fact that you are blasting Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years” at volume 11.

Movies: The Manchurian Candidate and The Bourne Supremacy

I so infrequently get to the movies these days that it was something of a minor miracle that I saw two films in two days last week. Unfortunately I squandered this historic opportunity by kind of going to see the same movie twice.

The first time it was called The Manchurian Candidate. When Angela Langsbury was told that Jonathan Demme was remaking the classic 1962 film in which she starred, her reaction was “What a shame — it was perfect the way it was.” Frankly I was inclined to agree, but my curiosity was piqued when the rave reviews started trickling in. Plus, I was was interested to see how they would drag the exceedingly dated piece into the 21st century.

Candidate is a nightmare of a movie, but I mean that as description rather than as criticism. The action takes place 20 minutes in the future (to borrow a phrase from Max Headroom), in a world that’s a slightly exaggerated version of our own. As in the original, the plot centers around a conspiracy to infiltrate the US Government, although this time the Big Bad is corporate America rather than the Communist party. The story begins during the first Gulf War, when we meet Ben Marco, the leader of a unit doing reconnaissance in Iraq. When the squad is ambushed and Marcos is knocked out, Private Raymond Shaw bravely assumes control and manages to get the men to safety with minimal casualties. That, at least, is what Marcos has been told — because he was unconscious at the time he has no independent memory of the event. But the recollections of the other soldiers are highly (uncannily) specific about Shaw’s heroics, and even the US Government acknowledged his extraordinary actions by awarding him the Medal of Honor.

Fast-forward to today, where Shaw is a Vice Presidential candidate and Marco is stuck giving pep talks to Boy Scouts. As Shaw’s political viability is predicated on his wartime heroics, Marco decides to use this opportunity to resolve a few niggling discrepancies that mar the otherwise perfect description of what took place during the gap in his memory. But even more troublesome to Marco is not the flaws in the legend, but the fact that, in his dreams, he “remembers” a completely different account of events, one that’s as sinister as it is outlandish.

The second film I saw was The Bourne Supremacy, a sequel the surprise hit The Bourne Identity. (Actually, I don’t know if the success of Identity was really unexpected, but it was a hit with me, and that was something of a surprise.) It’s Matt Damon again as the titular Jason Bourne, a guy the CIA trained as a perfect killing machine and then tried to snuff after he lost his memory and went all “rogue agent” on them. As in the previous movie, sinister forces are again pursuing Bourne and he has no idea who or why — and, thanks to his amnesia, doesn’t even know if he should know who or why.

The tagline for the film could have been “This time it’s personal.” Pissed that he has again become a target after setting his affairs in order at the end of the first film, Bourne decides to seek out his attackers and take the fight to them. This gives the film a bit of a different dynamic than the prior installment, but there’s still no denying that The Bourne Supremacy, is, at its core, a two hour chase scene. Because Bourne’s CIA training apparently didn’t include seminars on disguise how to change clothes, the baddies have little trouble locating him and, consequentially, he is always on the movie.

(The other thing always in this movie, alas, is the camera, to the point where I sometimes felt like I was watching The Blair Witch Supremacy. Most of the time I found this frenetic style is tolerable, but some of the action scenes look like the directory tied a rope to the camera and twirled it over his head. I know of at least two people who said Supremacy’s “shaky camera syndrome” made them nauseated, and even I left the theater with a low-grade headache, so buyer beware.)

The Bourne Supremacy is an exciting and well-made movie, and contains one of the best car chase scenes ever committed to film. Still, about halfway through the film I had the disheartening realization that I had just seen this movie, albeit it a different guise. The protagonists of both Supremacy and Candidates are ex-governmental officers who are rushing to decipher conspiracies that are somehow linked to their memory problems. The directors of both films attempt to convey the paranoia their heroes suffer by giving the movie a “fog of war” feel, with assorted chronological and cinematic tricks employed to jumble the linear story. And at the end of either the viewer is left with the realization that there was considerably less plot in the film than the convoluted narrative structure would have had you believe.

Still, both films are quite enjoyable and either is suitable for an evening of light entertainment, so I’d happily recommend one or the other. But not both.

There Can Be Only One

Apparently they are making an Alien vs. Predator movie, perhaps because of the success of last year’s Jason vs. Freddy. That’s cool, I guess, but there are so many other matchups I’d rather see.

In fact, I think they should just go whole hog, pair up all the movie villians March Madness style, and settle the issue once and for all.

Click for larger, office-pool sized sheet.

Go Anne Wilkes — I got five bucks on ya!

Update: Good gravy, how did I forget the Deliverance hillbillies?! Added them at arto’s suggestion.

Also: Jason went ahead and filled out the sheet; Mr. Grooism wrote something similar to this in January.

The Works

Speaking of talking politics with John Moe …

I’ll be on The Works again this evening — in Seattle you can catch it from 8:00 – 9:00 on 94.9 KUOW, the online stream should be posted to the website shortly thereafter. Update: It’s live.

This week we discuss political blogs and their influence on mainstream media. Here are the blogs we mention by name:

Right Leaning

Middle Of The Road

Left Leaning

And here are some articles on the subject.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, though — there are plenty more. I also read The Washington Monthly, Wonkette, and the grandfather of all political blogs (even though it isn’t technically a blog itself), The Drudge Report.

If you live in Seattle and have a political blog (like my buddy Duane), feel free to mention it in the comments.

Wrong Turns

I had lunch with John Moe. We talked politics.

JM What’s really interesting about the Republican Convention is that, the day after Bush gives his acceptance speech, the jobs report comes out. And it could corroborate or contradict what he says about the economy.

MB: Well, except I’m sure Bush will pull some strings and get a sneak peak at it.

JM: True.

MB: So, really, we’ll know what the job report says a day early, based on Bush’s speech.

JM: Right. If it’s positive he’ll say, like, “we’re turned the corner!” And if it’s bad he’ll say “We’re still, um, approaching the corner.”

MB: He’ll say, “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And we’ll reach that light, and come out of the tunnel, and walk down the street for a bit. And then: there will be a corner.”

JM: “Don’t worry about it you guys, I’ve totally been here before and I’m sure there’s a corner way up, up over there.”

MB: “Remember a few months ago when I said we’d turned a corner? I wasn’t lying, but, before we turned that corner, the economy was going down, right? After the turn we started moving horizontal — perpendicular to the way we were going before. So if we want the economy to go up, we have to turn another corner, see? And that corner is just ahead.”

JM: “There’s like a record store, and then there’s some guy … in a hat? And I think the corner is right past that guy.”


The Catholic Church has been a little down on its luck recently, what with the abuse scandals and the Pope running out of people to confer favor on, to the point where he has to resort to blessing breakdancers. What they need is something that will not only refill their depleted coffers, but also enable them to earn the goodwill of people across the world like they did during the crusades.

That’s why I think they should found What Would Atkins Do, Incorporated.

Here’s how it works. The church opens a series of bakeries across the nation, selling all varieties of grain products: bread, muffins, pasta, you name it. Each outlet also employs a deacon, who sanctifies everything before its shipped to locals stores. It would be sort of like the kosher food deal, but, you know, Christier.

And voila: moneymaker! The 96% of the American population currently on the Atkins diet could enjoy all those baked goods they’ve had to forego, without having to worry about meddlesome carbs. Thanks to the (literal!) miracle of transubstantiation, those WWAD cinnamon rolls and bagels will turn into the (literal!) body of Christ after consumption, thereby converting a carbohydrate-laden doughnut into a the relatively carb-free hunk of Messiah. Dieters get to eat bread again and stave off eternal damnation, all at the same time — it’s win-win!

If WWAD, Inc. is successful (how could it not be?), they could even branch out by opening vineyards and launching a line of sanctified wine for vampires.