Saturday, December 1, 2007


Dear Friends,

   The Hard Taco song for December is called "Oslo." This song is a tribute to the noble Viking berserker.

  The berserkers were the double espresso version of regular Vikings. When a certain mood hit them, they would throw off their armor and fight with an uncontrollable, trance-like rage. They savaged people and animals indiscriminately and fought with no regard for their own lives.  If the berserk fury overtook them when they were on a boat, they would quickly row to shore and wrestle with trees and rocks to prevent them from slaying their own friends.

  If a berserker was walking alone through a field and felt the berserk fury welling up, he would bury his arms in the ground as quickly as possible to prevent him from scratching through his abdominal wall and pulling out his own beating stomach. (Not as dramatic as a beating heart, but easier to remove without tools, especially when one's dexterity is compromised by hysterical anger.)

  In addition to setting an unreachable standard for the magnitude of human rage, berserkers have been credited with innovations in a number of loosely related spheres. It is thought that they pioneered the use of upside-down lampshades around the neck, a practice employed in modern veterinary care. In their case it was to keep them from frenetically chewing into their wives' carotid arteries during a berserk tantrum.

  There are few historical accounts of berserker life. Perhaps the best known is from the Icelandic epic, Hrndgiljob's Saga.

One of the berserkergang, who had the name Lfgeiril, wore a swatch of bearskin tightly around his scalp, for often his forehead veins would explode in the course of berserk conniption. On one such day, he set upon King Thjorb with hands bear. Lfgeiril did lift him bodily and dash him upon the precipice. He next set upon the king's wives and daughters and dashed them upon the same. With much ire, he did step on their necks and shatter them. After the berserk fury passed, Lfgeiril was self-reproachful and did not want to talk on it. There shall be no distraction of the gladdening lute, for the berserker knows he has banished much joy from the kingdom with his poor temper. (Hrndgiljob's Saga, c. 1035)

  In another work, a berserker is briefly mentioned by a dying King Hranjob as he recaps his life:

I have few regrets, but entrusting a berserker to carry my porcelain tureen collection up two flights of stairs was clearly a mistake. (Hervarar Oord, c. 1036) 

  I researched this song extensively, and at this point, I feel fairly qualified to answer any of your questions about how berserkers would react in a certain situation. Please ask! Usually, if you have a question about berserkers, everyone else has the same question!

With warmest regards,

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Daddy Mack'll Make Ya...

Dear Friends,

  The Hard Taco's 10th full length CD, "There There," is here and it is ready for public consumption, misuse, and general soaking up.

  A colleague recently asked me why I still release CD's every year, despite the fact that most contemporary music aficionados get all of their music online in MP3 form. Well, you can't use the reflective surface of an MP3 to signal a passing plane or temporarily blind a would-be rapist, can you? You can’t tie a piece of string to an MP3 covered with two-sided tape, and use it to go fishing for cash/money while hovering over a bank vault that has no ceiling, can you? And you most definitely cannot cut off your hand and serve it on an MP3 to a jilted lover with a note that says, "You already ate my heart for breakfast. Why not have my hand for lunch? Also, I really dig track 4. Check it out if you have a chance (after you’re done eating my hand)."

  To coincide with the release of this album, the Hard Taco song for November is called, "There There There." I encourage you to listen to it!

  "There" is one of a a few words in the English language that assumes alternate connotations when you say it twice in a row. For instance, your grandmother may use phrases such as, My My, Now Now, and of course, There There. If your grandmother is a member of Kris Kross, she may also say Jump Jump, which just means that she wants you to jump twice.

  Sometimes, it's not enough just to say a word twice. Each of these phrases requires the consecutive use of a single word three or more times to impart the appropriate nuance...

When you want to convey:
1. Shame on you, Pharaoh!
2. I request that you, the patrons of this New York state prison, join me in chorus.
3. Dang, that large piece of soft bubble gum is sexy!
4. The scientific name for the Western Lowland Gorilla
5. Hurry up and cleave this combination chemotherapy that contains cyclophosphamide, hydroxydaunorubicin, Oncovin and prednisone.
6. I am surprised, perhaps ironically, to discover that Orson's water hole is no longer ill.
7. I am your grandmother, and it would really mean a lot to me if you would jump twice, preferably on the second and fourth beats of the measure.

1. Tut, tut, Tut!
2. Sing, Sing-Sing.
3. Hubba-hubba, Hubba Bubba!
4. Gorilla gorilla gorilla
5. Chop CHOP. Chop, chop!
6. Well, well, well... Welles' well's well.
7. Miggety miggety miggety mack! Jump, Jump!

With warmest regards,

Monday, October 1, 2007

Do Not Lick Any Frog You Buy from a Street Vendor

Dear friends,

   Three months ago, I called upon you, North and Central America, to vote for the subject of the next great Hard Taco song. Rather than simply counting the votes, I calculated the winner using a histogram variance ANOVA T-test, reproducing the central limit theorom by the sum of inverse squares to distribute the alpha coeffecient's regression toward the null hypothesis.

    The winner for the October Hard Taco song was the country ballad, "Our First Dollar." As promised, those who voted for the winning song will receive co-authorship credit. Congratulations and welcome to the band! Unfortunately, I think we're going different directions musically. Let's break up and put out solo albums now.

Download Our First Dollar. (Please note that in the second chorus, the average deviation was corrected for Type II error.)

Pesticides, Antifreeze, Cleaning Supplies, and You

Every year, thousands of children die from ingesting toxic substances that are found in your home. What are these substances and how did you lure all those children into your home? This month, we'll take all the mystery out of toxin shopping with the Hard Taco Field Guide Of Local Poisons.

Poison dart frogs. If you travel to Venezuela, do not lick any frog you buy from a street vendor. It's probably safe to lick frogs in some of the nicer restaurants, but if you're not sure, just bring your own frogs from home to lick. If you do lick a local frog and begin to feel the early signs of brain herniation, quickly direct the nearest villager to this website, which provides Spanish speakers with a catchy musical reminder about how to contact Poison Control.

Nerve gas. Toxic organophosphates are derived from a byproduct of spongy soft darts and squishy orange footballs made by Hasbro. The term "nerve gas" was a mispronunciation by its German inventors, who do not have the letter F in their alphabet.

Arsenic. Arsenic is an element on the periodic table, which means that the smallest possible piece that it can be divided into is one atom. This concept is crucial if you decide to poison someone's coffee a little each day. It is best to start with one atom of arsenic in a cup of coffee (day 1) and gradually work up to one atom of coffee in a cup of arsenic (day 2).

Hemlock. Hemlock is not actually dangerous and I encourage/dare you to eat as much of it as you can immediately. Give me five minutes and I will prove to you that Socrates faked his own death and is still living in a bungalow in Switzerland. Five minutes, I swear to God.

Botulism. Often found in cans of spoiled vegetables, clostridium botulinum is the bacteria that puts the "rot" back in neurotoxin. Botulism can be easily identified because the gas produced by the bacteria will cause the cans to bulge. The only known treatment is to neutralize the bulging can by eating a dented can of the same vegetables.

Cyanide. Cyanide smells like almonds. I know this because I am allergic to tree nuts, so I often substitute cyanide for almond extract when baking macaroons or almond pear galette. (Ratio is 1:1)

Poison Ivy. "Leaves of three, let it be." While this saying is easy to remember, it does help you not differentiate poison ivy from other three-leaved plants such as box elder, Virginia creeper, or blackberry vines. I prefer the mnemonic, "If packing it into your mouth, lungs, and anus makes you itch, stop."

Until next month, remember that apathy is our strongest weapon against ignorance!

With warmest regards,

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Dipping into Mike's Hard Chickpea

Dear Friends,

In this issue: 
A. Die For Our Country or Die Trying
B. Hard Taco Video! 
C. Energy Drinks, Flavored Malt Beverages, and Intensely Bitter Gum 
D. A Brief Dirty Play 

A. Die For Our Country or Die Trying

   Every September, our thoughts turn to the people who run around inside burning buildings while everyone else is running around outside burning buildings. The Hard Taco song this month, "Fire Chief," gives a fresh look at these heroes and the maxim of their profession: Safety… is it all that?

   Although firefighters are the only civil servants specifically mentioned in the song, I also have a great deal of respect for police chiefs, librarians, DMV clerks, comptrollers, deputy comptrollers, and traffic patterns.

B. Hard Taco Video! 
For Christ’s sake, check out this live performance of some gifted tweenagers tap-dancing to the first ninety seconds of "Down the Wrong Pipe." These young hoofers were in a summer arts workshop for children whose parents have pneumonia or bronchitis. Hard Taco is proud to support these kids who are living in the shadow of this disagreeable, treatable illness. Many of their parents have been coughing for 1-2 weeks or longer, but these little guys don't let it stop them from dancing their little hearts out!  

*Choreography by Victoria Gilbert


C. Energy Drinks, Flavored Malt Beverages, and Intensely Bitter Gum 
Those are clearly the three hallmarks of our decade.  Perhaps the most representative product of that triumvirate is Smirnoff Source™, a unique malt beverage composed of alcohol-infused spring water. By cleverly taking alcohol and watering it down, Smirnoff has crafted what they call "the first lower-alcohol flavored malt beverage on the market that fits modern lifestyles and offers adult consumers sophisticated new drinking experiences."

Inspired by the subtle, sophisticated buzz of a 16 oz. Smirnoff Source™, I've got some other marketing ideas that I thought I would share. 

Mike's Hard Chickpea  (Alcoholic hummus)
Emphy-Zima (Pipe tobacco infused with carbonated, lightly sweetened alcohol)
Smirnoff Vapor (Vodka mixed with steam)
Bartles and Jaymes Deep Tropical Passion (Palm fronds soaked in blush wine and macaw blood)
Jalapeño Poppers MAXX (Breaded hot peppers stuffed with cheese, alcohol and up to 2MB of music)
Curad Extreme (Caffeinated Band-aids)
Coppertone Ultimate (Caffeinated sunblock)
Fleet's Supreme (Caffeinated enema)
Aquafresh Uttermost (Ritalin-infused toothpaste)
Dentyne Energy Vomit (Chewing gum with taurine, glucoronolactone, Ipecac syrup and B vitamins)
Gatorade Torrent Lite (Clear fluid with no flavoring or electrolytes)

D. A Brief Dirty Play

Jay Leno: Tonight we have a very interesting guest. Tim Gissel claims he can dial a phone with his butt. Tim, this is a very unusual talent.
Tim: Not at all, Jay.
Jay Leno: Would you like to give us a little demonstration? What do you think? (Audience cheers)
Tim: Sure, all right. 
(Tim takes a cordless phone off of Jay's desk and walks to center stage. He carefully places the phone down his pants and closes his eyes. After about 10 seconds, a cell phone in Jay Leno's pocket starts to ring. Jay Leno pulls out the ringing phone and answers it.)
Jay Leno: Hello? Hello? (He holds phone out to audience) There's no one there.
Tim: My butt doesn't talk, Jay, it just dials. 
Kevin Eubanks: Oh, man!!


With warmest regards,

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Beatrix: The Original Magical Potter

Dear Friends, 

  Tradition would suggest that a downbeat piano jazz anthem could never be a Hard Taco song. Well, Tradition, if you come close I'd like to whisper something into your ear... SLAP! Oh, I'm sorry, my hand must have slipped... SLAP! There it goes again... slap, SLAP! Scroooof! 
   The Hard Taco song for August, "Only a Man," has now repeatedly beaten and humiliated Tradition. (Scroooof, by the way, is the sound of sand being kicked in the face.) If this piques your curiosity, give it a listen!  

   I have another amusing diversion to offer this month. How well do you know your dead children’s authors? One of the following passages was actually written by the named author, and the other three are imitations. See if you can figure out which one is real!

1. "Not Hungry?" 
by Shel Silverstein
I will not eat the muskrat meat 
I will not eat the stew 
I will not eat the tart, the treat 
Or candied kangaroo 
I will not eat flamingo feet 
Or camel cordon bleu 
I must forego the cookie dough 
And I know why, 
Do you? 
(Sketch of man with a dead baby duct-taped over his mouth and nose.) 

2. "The Tale of Mrs. Wiggle-Otter”
by Beatrix Potter 

  Mrs. Wiggle-Otter lived in a thatch-covered hamper pot with her husband Tobias and their four children, Stumpsy Butterwinkle, Ginny Tinsel-Moppet, Criminy She-Mouse, and Jesus Hamilton Spittlecock. Every morning she would dress them in pinafores and tuckers, box their ears, and send them to the rockery. (When they walked, it sounded like this: wap dap woodle dap, wap dap boodle dap.) 
   One day, Stumpsy Butterwinkle, who was the fattest, came upon the ewe, Pansy-Woolly thighs, alighting about the vegetable marrows. Stumpsy said, "I rather fancy your frock, Mrs. Woolly-Thighs." However, the ewe was not fine company and was so affronted by the comment that she determined to kick the young otter, who was fat. Stumpsy tried to flee through the foxgloves, but Pansy Woolly-Thighs stepped on his face and promptly ate him. It is said that if he had returned to the hamper pot, Mrs. Wiggle-Otter would have beat him soundly and put him to bed in the wickery. 

3. From "Sylvester the Jester and Other Stories" 
by Dr. Seuss 

I met an old fish on the way to Van Floomph 
Who shouted and shouted with burgeoning Vroomf, 
"Why lad," said the fish, "you look downcast and grim. 
But here's the solution... a kettle of BIM
This BIM is outstanding! It's one of a kind! 
The kettle's the softest and freshest you'll find!" 
I handed him seventeen splinks and a wettle 
And took home the BIM in the soft and fresh kettle. 

The very next day, the same fish was still there 
"Why lad," said the fish, "you look fraught with despair. 
Your BIM is unblotted, and lad, let me tell you 
You need a BIM-BLOTTER, and I've one to sell you! 
I handed a kwut and three wettles to him, 
And I purchased the object designed to blot BIM
From the soles of my feet to my common carotid 
I now felt complete, for my BIM could be blotted! 

The very next day, I could hear the fish speaking, 
"Why lad," said the fish, "Your BIM-BLOTTER is creaking! 
This creaking is irksome! You're quaking with ire! 
BIM-BLOTTER GREASER is what you require! 
The fact is the creaking is driving you nuts!" 
But I had no more wettles, no splinks, and no kwuts. 
"No sweat," said the fish, "I will give you one wettle 
In equal exchange for some BIM in a kettle." 

I accepted this trade, but could still not afford 
The BIM-BLOTTER GREASER, which I so adored. 
I stomped and I swooned, and my mouth filled with foam 
I quimbled with rage like a short-sheeted gnome. 
"No sweat," said the fish, and in less than a wink 
I had sold my BIM BLOTTER, and made half a splink. 

And now I'm still several splinks short of the price 
Of the BIM-BLOTTER GREASER, that crucial device 
And the lesson, dear friends, is beware of the Vroomf 
Of the fish on the road between here and Van Floomph! 

4. “Untitled”
by Anonymous child signing a guest book at a rented condo in Traverse City, MI 

What a condo? I am only 10 but I have been to many condos and this is heer a great one. I am shure we will come back another day. Thank you to everybody who let us use your condo. Tennis was so fun in the camp. My cousin won because she catched up to me. We are here with Poof and Gail. P.S. If you come here it will be great. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So, did you guess which one is the real one? I don't know how to write the answer upside-down at the bottom of the page, so I'll just write it backwards. (4 rebmuN s'tI)

With warmest regards, 

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Please Help Me, North and Central America.

Dear Friends, 

The July Hard Taco song, "Stella," is the ultimate expression of loud and fun. (Wallpapering a racquetball court with bubble wrap is just the penultimate expression of loud and fun.) Now that you know what my voice sounds like, I invite you to make your own voice heard in the

Hard Taco Summer Referendum. 

I've got six Notions. I want you, North and Central America, to help pick the winner. The Notion that receives the most votes will be beaten (hard) into a hit song and I will name anyone who voted for it a legal co-author and equal owner of the copyright. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Notion 1: A pop rock song called "MPAA Ratings." It will focus on the specific parental warnings associated with each movie rating. Here are some examples: 
  PG  - mild thematic elements, brief language, mild rude humor, sensual content including dialogue.
  PG-13 - mild teen partying, images of wounded, some drug references, brief (but intense) non-frontal nudity, disturbing images.
  R - grisly violence including torture, pervasive language, cruelty to animals, intense sexuality and beatings. 
  NC-17 - sustained disturbing drug-addled infant pornography and cannibalism, high-pitched shrieks and live elder abuse. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Notion 2: A children's song called "Little Leather Dots." 

Your grandchildren are fascinated with belt holes. They keep asking you, "Grandma, where do belt holes come from?" Feed their hungry minds with this song, which describes the process of punching little leather dots out of belts, and the process of cleaning them up. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Notion 3:  The theme music to an 80's Soap Opera called, "Daylight Savings Time." (Instrumental) 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Notion 4: A driving honky-tonk jangle called, "Our First Dollar." 

This song is about a mysterious, good-looking man who robs small town diners. He is a last-of-his-breed, lonesome-eyed rambler who holds up cashiers at gunpoint, but never dips into the cash register. Instead, he just tips his hat and takes the framed one-dollar bills off the diner walls that came from their first-ever customers. The good-looking man's truck is packed with hundreds of these framed dollars. Where is he going? Will he ever be caught? Is there a woman out there strong enough to hold him? 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Notion 5: A spoken-word performance art piece called "A Muster of Peafowl." 

To help your deliberations, I will include the complete lyrics of this piece: 

"A Muster of Peafowl" by Z. London 

A coffle of donkeys 
A congress of baboons 
A culch of oysters 
A covey of partridges 
A rookery of sea lions 
CHORUS:  A muster of peafowl 

A fez of armadillos 
A chine of polecats 
A fluther of jellyfish 
A rabble of butterflies 
A clew of worms 
CHORUS: A muster of peafowl 

A business of ferrets 
Oh, a skulk of foxes 
Oh-ho, a tittering of magpies 
An army of wombats 
(Oh no you say) an army of wombats 

CHORUS:  A muster of peafowl, A muster of peafowl 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Notion 6: A tear-jerking ballad called "Mr. Tock's House." 

This song is based on the last hurrah of my middle school shop teacher. It takes place on the day that funding cuts finally force him into retirement after 35 years. His desk has been emptied and all of the woodworking books lie in boxes in the hall. He stares out the window onto the playground, wondering if he ever really made a difference in any of the students' lives. He begins to sand the windowsill, slowly at first. A social studies class will be taking over his room next semester, and he wants to make sure they have smooth windowsills. 

Gradually, he begins to hear swelling music emanating from the school corridors. He cracks open the door to investigate, and a stream of people marches right past him into the shop. He recognizes all of them, even though he has not seen many of their faces for decades. They are his former students... only, they are not children anymore. They are judges, college professors, astronauts, and industrial leaders. 

A woman steps forward, wearing a frock labeled "Shop Class '79." She clears her throat and says, "Mr. Tock. You always believed in us, whatever it took. Now it's our turn to believe in you." She unrolls a large blueprint on his desk. He sees it and lets out a gasp. 

The alumni put their protective eyewear on and begin swarming around the jigsaws, electric sanders and lathes. For a minute, Mr. Tock watches in disbelief. Then he starts moving from machine to machine, barking orders and lecturing about safety. Slowly, piece by piece, a glorious object takes shape in the center of the room.  It's the birdhouse that he had been designing for the last 30 years; the masterpiece he had always intended to build, but never had time to because he was always helping students work on their own projects. 

They are all Mr. Tock's children, and they have come together for just one day to build Mr. Tock's gloroius birdhouse. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

(Note: Voting Closed 8/1/07)

With warmest regards, 

Friday, June 1, 2007

I Can't Believe. It's Been 10 Years. You Look Fabulous.

Dear Friends,

If you love intrigue, but hate reggae, you'll have mixed feelings about the new Hard Taco song, "Bioluminescent Bear." Also, if you don't speak patua (Jamaican slang) you may want to contact Ziggy Marley and have him translate it for you. Of course, if I know Ziggy, he'll probably just yammer on about brotherhood, sexuality, and some inevitable uprising. I should warn you that these topics are only peripherally addressed by this song.

So I went to my college reunion last weekend. For 48 hours I smiled and nodded my way through a maze of awkward interactions with ugly old people who insisted that I looked familiar. I decided that if my classmates and I were able to obtain a few basic sound bites about each other (job, current home town, spouse, children, weight gain, level of alcohol consumption) there would be no reason to have reunions at all.

Thus, for the 1300 folks in the class of '97 who didn't come to the reunion, I think we should fill each other in on our career paths. I'll go first. Here are some of the things I told some of your classmates about myself last weekend:

1. I do software development. My product scans personalized license plate requests for dirty words and alternate spellings of dirty words. After five years of revisions, we have implemented version 1.0, which can identify and reject over 2000 permutations of the word ASS. If our funding holds up, we hope to completely eradicate CRAP and BULLCRAP by the end of 2008.

2. I am the vice president of decals for Over The Hill party supplies. We make chattering false teeth for people turning 30, fake urine-soaked underpants for people turning 40, bibs that say "Got Sagging Boobs?" for people turning 50, and for 60-year-olds, customized hearing aides that repeat the phrase "my wife's back is hairier than my head." Remember to ask for genuine Over the Hill products (NOT "Old Fart" products. That's the company my freshman roommate works for.)

3. I'm a toy designer for Tyco. Right now I'm working on the newest version of Torture-me-Elmo. When you touch it, it rolls back and forth on its back and shrieks, "Ahhh! You torture Elmo! Stop! Stop!"

4. I am a staff writer for Cosmopolitan. You probably have read either or both of my two monthly columns, "15 Try-Right-Now Sex Acts" and "Real Men: Top Three Naughtiest Rural Fantasies."

5. I am working on the vaccine for mule pox.

6. I am fat, bald, single, childless, unemployed and drunk, but at least I live in New York. Thank God.

7. Have you ever seen that pop-up ad where you are a kangaroo with boxing gloves, and if you punch out Osama Bin Laden, you win a free ring tone? I designed those gloves.

8. I do fund-raising for "Don't Go There", a non-profit aimed at fighting the battle against colon cancer research.

9. I work at the MIT optics lab. We use optics to see around corners (using prisms) or see through women's clothing. We only use these powers to help clients, and only clients who mean well. Furthermore, when our firm does see through women's clothing, we always acknowledge optics, rather than taking all the credit for ourselves.

10. I am a French consultant for shampoo companies. My first big break was in 2001, when I convinced Garnier Fructis to replace the English word "Shampoo" with the French word "Shampooing" on all of their bottles. Things have gone well, and I just signed a $12 million dollar contract with L'Oreal for the phrase "crème micro nutritifs d'enrichissement, avec le éclat et lisse des vitamines E et K," which means "fortifying nutritive microcreams, with the sheen/sleek of vitamins E and K."

Anyway, I would love to hear from the rest of you! Class of '97 rules! (Also: Class of '98 drools.)

With Warmest Regards,