Best of the USA 2002

The polls are closed, the votes have been counted, and it’s time to announce

defective yeti’s Best Of The USA 2002!

Best Restaurant — Winner: Carmen’s Bistro, Billox, AL. (Runner-up: Teriyaki John, Glenville, PA.)

Best Coffee — Winner: Java Junction, Port Panter, OR. (Runner-up: Thanks A Latte!, Austin, TX.)

Best Butt — Winner: Mark Campbell, Rosewood, ID. (Runner-up: Alice Ganderson, Dent, MA.)

Best Shape — Winner: Octagon. (Runner-up: Circle.)

Best Place To Get A Tattoo — Winner: Skinflint’s, Tucson, AZ. (Runner-up: Doug Peterson’s House, Bristol, WI.)

Best Margaritas — Winner: Casa del Sol, Aching Pines, OK. (Runner-up: Doug’s Peterson’s House, Bristol, WI.)

Best Ice Cream — Winner: Chilly Nirvana, Osage, TN. (Runner-up: We All Scream!, Bowie, NH.)

Best Slaughterhouse — Winner: Moo No More, La Mesa, TX. (Runner-up: Choppy’s, Grandiville, TN.)

Best Fire Hydrant — Winner: Hydrant on corner of 4th and 132nd SE, Galt, FL. (Runner-up: Hydrant on Madison st. near Video Vault, Cathedral City, RI.)

Best Chamber Of The Heart — Winner: Left atrium. (Runner-up: Right atrium.)

Best Place To Buy a Llama — Winner: Llamarama, Kamloops, HI. (Runner-up: Spitting Image, Feverfew, WV.)

Best Hepatitis — Winner: B. (Runner-up: A.)

Best Coupon — Winner: Buy 20 Wire Hangers, Get 10 Free!, E & H Dry Cleaning, Paradise, CA. (Runner-up: Thirty Cents Off 64 Oz. Bottle Of V8 Juice, Shop-N-Save, Rancho Palos Verdes, NM.)

Best William Pross — Winner: William Pross, Collingwood, ND. (Runner-up: William Pross, Seattle, WA.)

Best Urban Legend — Winner: The one about the guy on the Newlywed Show who said “That would be in the butt, Bob” when the host asked him to name the strangest place he and his wife had ever made whoopie. (Runner-up: The one about the Arab guys who bought a whole bunch of candy from Costco and were going poison it and then hand it out to children at malls last Halloween.)

Best Place To Get The Shit Beat Out Of You — Winner: Doug Peterson’s House, Bristol, WI. (Runner-up: Little Rock Museum Of Modern Art, Little Rock, AK.)

Best Egg-Laying Mammal — Winner: Duck-billed Platypus. (Runner-up: None.)

Best Dokken Album — Winner: Tooth and Nail. (Runner-up, via write-in campaign: DOKKEN SUXS METALLICA RULLLLLZ!!!!!!!!!.)

Best Civil Liberty Suspended By John Ashcroft — Winner: Right To An Attorney. (Runner-up: Freedom From Unreasonable Searches and Seizures.)

Thanks to everyone who voted, and congratulations to the Best of the USA 2002! See you next year!

Don’t Spend All My Love

I finally got so sick of that “Don’t Spend All My Love (In One Place)” song that I took action. You know the song I mean, the one by Friday Father that you hear on every radio station and at baseball games and on tv commercials, the one with the tune so awful yet catchy that you can’t get it our of your head for fortnights? Oh — hah hah, of course you don’t know the song, now. Well, trust me: this was the most obnoxious song of all time. Worse than “Who Let the Dogs Out,” even worse than the “Macarana” — it was terrible. So yesterday I went back in time and told Malcom Cander (grandfather to Stephen Cander, lead singer / songwriter for Friday Father) that I was his finacee’s lover, which caused him to call off his engagement to Katherine Sinceso. Since those two neither married nor had children, the existence of Stephen Cander was negated. And sure enough: when I returned the band was gone and the song never existed! Yay!

Of course some other stuff got screwed up too, as always happens when you change time like that: there’s a polio vaccine now (which is obviously a great side-effect) but apparently the Dominican Republic is no longer the 51st state. Despite all the changes, I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth it — that song was terrible! Well, I guess you wouldn’t agree, since you’ve never heard the song, now. To you everything must seem the same as it’s always been.

You know, it didn’t really occur to me until this moment that I’m not going to get any credit for doing this.


You a should give me a lot of money, because I have an absolutely fabulous idea for a business. Now, I know the heyday of Venture Capital is pretty much over, but you should nonetheless invest heavily in this scheme. Why? Because unlike the multitude of hare-brained, half-baked, poorly-thought-out ideas that swarmed yesteryear like stray cats on a dumpster full of albacore, this particular idea absolutely cannot fail!

It’s called: See? You love it already.

Ask yourself: what’s the typical lifecycle of Crap in the United States? (And you know what I mean by Crap: Yoga videos, bread makers, double matted art prints of cheetahs, musical picture frames … all that stuff that you see on tv or glimpse on a website or spot in a catalog or find in the checkout lane of a supermarket and, without thinking, buy.) Well, I’ll tell you what happens to this stuff. It arrives at your home, and you set it on a kitchen counter, and then a month later you put it in a drawer or closet, and then seventeen years later you haul it off to a storage unit. And why shouldn’t you? It’s the American way.

But what a hassle — not to mention a waste of space! Unpacking the UPS boxes from is a chore, and taking carload after carload of Crap to your storage unit can really eat away at your valuable time. That’s where comes in. Instead of buying that battery-operated self-cleaning litter box directly from the retailer, you will instead place the order with me. I’ll then order the item on your behalf, unpack it when it arrives, and drive it directly to your storage unit! No muss, no fuss! Then I’ll send you an email letting you know that your brand new six-pack of passionfruit-scented candles are right where they were eventually going to wind up anyhow: at U-Stor. And I’ll do it all for a mere $12 per transaction.

Plus, I’ll also set up a sister company called for those bleeding-heart types. It will work exactly the same way, except I will take the Crap to local thrift stores.

Please make million-dollar checks out to “Matthew Baldwin.” That’s “Matthew” with two-Ts.


Yesterday evening I attended The Pollack/Hodgman Interviews at the Richard Hugo House. The titular “Pollack/Hodgman” were Neal Pollack and John Hodgman, both of whom are affiliated with The Phenomenon That Is McSweeneys. More to the point, Pollack’s book The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature has just been published in paperback by Harper Perennial, which means they are flinging him all over the country to do book signing and readings and performances and other such Funny On-Demand events.

This was the conceit of the show: Neal Pollack would be playing the character of “Neal Pollack, the Greatest Living American Writer”, an author with countless National Book Awards and Pulitzers and Emmys and so forth, and Hodgman would be playing his former literary agent, who interviews him. Which is to say that Pollack, who has only written one book and has received no awards more prestigious than a pat on the back, would be playing a fictitious character, while John, who really was Pollack’s literary agent at some point in the past, would be playing himself. Hilarity would ensue.

Here’s what actually happened. First, Mr. Hodgman got on-stage and rambled along amusingly for a spell, reading the first piece he ever had published in McSweeney’s (which I cannot find a link to) and threatening to digress into a long discourse on “Lord of the Rings” at any moment. Then the “opening act” came on, young Tommy Wallach, who was so fresh-out-of-high-school that I was prepared to find him thoroughly Not Funny and was surprised to discover that he was Very Funny Indeed. (However, Tommy, if you are reading this, and I’m almost certain that you are: you need to trim that Cat In The Hat Piece by about a third.) Tommy is associated with McSweeney’s — and, by extension, Neal Pollack — because of this very fine short story he wrote for their publication. When I was Tommy’s age I fancied myself as funny as he, but upon reflection I realize that I was not, and for this I resent him.

Tommy was followed by Ana sAsKiA, a performance artist who either did an uncannily accurate rendition of a Bjork song or sang a non-Bjork song in the style of Bjork. Using the word “Bjork” three times in a sentence makes my spellchecker very unhappy.

Finally, the Pollack/Hodgman Interview began (although I am not here using the word “finally” to imply that I did not enjoy the material that proceeded it, because I did). Pollack and Hodgman sat in armchairs and sipped scotch as they spoke, all to further the illusion that Pollack was a highly respectable member of the literati and Hodgman was stolid and rather pretentious literary correspondent. Hodgman had a list of questions (on the subject “How to Write A Novel”) and Pollack had nothing, the idea being, apparently, that Hodgman would play straightman and Pollack, in character, would ad-lib hilarious, impromptu replies. I am not sad to report that the two gentlemen failed miserably in adhering to the premise. Try as he might, Pollock could not stick to his “Neal Pollock, Greatest Living American Writer” role, and kept reverting to “Neal Pollock, Amicable Goofball, Who is Frankly Astounded That He Gets Paid to Sit on Stage and Drink Bourbon and, Let’s Be Honest, While a Funny Writer, Really Isn’t That Great at Improvisional Comedy.” Hodgman, on the other hand, who is skilled at ad-libbing and mostly stayed in character, kept trying to keep Pollack on track, all while delivering many of the funniest lines of the night in the dry, monotone voice of a literary snob.

Hodgman [quizzing Neal Pollack, Greatest Living American Writer, on the first lines of famous novels]: Okay, here is your next one. “My name is Hubert Humbert, and I want to have sex with a little girl.”

Pollock Uhhh … Lolita! Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov!

Hodgman No, I’m afraid the correct answer is “Reviving Ophelia” by Mary Pipher, Ph.D

All this made for a show that was certainly funnier than it would have been if things had gone as scripted (or if, indeed, they’d had a script at all). Conducting an interview with The Greatest Living American Writer would have been amusing for a while, but conducting an interview with a guy who had somehow written a book, despite the fact that he couldn’t go more than 30 minutes without making a reference to Snoop Dog or attempting (and failing) to make a joke about “Nuclear Viagra,” was good for non-stop guffaws. It is no exaggeration to say that I laughed more during this show than I have at anything else in recent memory.

About two-thirds of the way through the performance and well into his fourth scotch, Pollack pointed menacingly at the crowd. “You better not blog about this!” he bellowed. “I don’t want to show up on no Google search!”

Check It Out!

The US Defense Department’s has created an Office of Strategic Influence, to help improve the United States’ image abroad. Some initiatives the OSI will be pursuing:

  • US will renounce policy of unilateralism and instead adopt a policy of monolateralism
  • Friendly nations eligible to join the “Axis of Awesome!”
  • Hollywood will be pressured to withhold “Super Troopers” from overseas release.
  • Fliers reading “USA: You Gotta Love It!” will be dropped over hostile nations.
  • For each UN vote, one nation, chosen at random from those who vote in accordance with the United States, will receive a Nintendo GameCube.
  • Bush will soon be sending out Evites concerning a bowling and karaoke party the US is organizing for Saturday, March 2nd.
  • Vice President will send card, small gift to each nation on it’s birthday.
  • All overseas McDonalds will offer free Super Sizing for a week.
  • NBC will devote three minutes of every hour of Olympics coverage to non-US competitors.
  • US will create humorous, snarky weblog and urge other nations to “come check it out!”


I’m in a bar. I hand my driver’s license to the bartender.

“I dunno,” she says, scrutinizing it. “In this picture you have a full beard, and here you are clean shaven. I dunno. I’m gonna ask someone else to look at it.”

She calls over a waitress, Ginger. I stand off to the side, quietly singing along with the song playing over the sound system: “I need an everlasting love. I need a friend and a lover divine…”

Ginger takes one look at the licence, one look at me, and says “Oh yeah, it’s him. Same smile.”

“Besides,” she adds, “the guy knows all the words to this Howard Jones song. He’s over 21.”


Like most males in the 30-35 demograph, I keep my butter in the refrigerator. This has, in the past, proven to be a problem, because when I make toast (which I do often, because I’m cuckoo for the rye toast) the butter is then hard, making it difficult to cut and impossible to spread.

Recently I realized that if, before I start toasting the bread, I remove the butter dish from the fridge and place it right next to the toaster, then, by the time the toast is done, the heat radiating from the toaster will have heated the butter just enough to make it perfectly spreadable.

This is the greatest thing in the world.