Monday, December 1, 2008

Good Afternoon, Cruel World

Dear Friends,

   At only 37 seconds, the Hard Taco song for December, "Giant U-Shaped Magnet," is the shortest piece to ever qualify as a monthly offering. From now on, Hard Taco will get in, tell you what you need to hear, and get out.
   As you know, the most popular topic of conversation for several years now had been The Case of the Runaway Bride. For those of you who have been living underneath a particularly heavy sound-proof rock, there was a woman named Jennifer Wilbanks who disappeared shortly before her wedding in the Spring of 2005. She reappeared in New Mexico, where she told police that she had been kidnapped and molested by a rotten-toothed Hispanic man. Eventually she confessed that she had invented the whole story, and simply had pre-marital jitters. This story was so captivating that nobody I know has been able to talk about anything else for nearly four years. You see, cases like this never really close. Will Wilbanks remarry? Will she issue a written apology to the rotten-toothed Hispanic community? Have the dogs in her search party been rendered useless for future rape-victim sniffing? If so, should Wilbanks have to pay to train some new dogs?

   This month, all interest in the Runaway Bride was suddenly and inexplicably supplanted by a new conversational nugget. The topic that has been on everyone's minds these days is financial uncertainty, and in particular "Depression-era suicide rates."  Unless you've been living in a particularly air-tight collapsed mine hole, you've seen headlines such as, "How to Talk to Your Children About Depression-Era Suicide Rates," and "Will Depression-Era Suicide Rates Change in the Next Five Years?"

   Many media outlets have been displaying grainy black and white images of disheveled businessmen standing on high ledges. What they don't tell you is that these pictures were all taken at the end of the Great Depression. You see, there were not nearly enough high-rises in 1929 to serve as suicide perches for the large influx of destitute businesspeople. Most corporate establishments were "ranch style" and had only one story*. Despairing white collar workers who jumped from the ledges of their workplaces would occasionally twist their ankles or damage a flower bed, but they rarely ended up dead enough to keep them from returning to work the next day.

   It was soon recognized that crest-fallen industrial tycoons had become an underserved population. The Roosevelt administration restructured the New Deal to include generous government skyscraper-building contracts, hoping to fill a much-needed role for woebegone day-traders and large business owners. These costly office spaces were quickly snatched up by companies whose self-destructive business executives needed high windows. The construction of these skyscrapers greatly increased the suicide rate among people with suits, while creating thousands of new jobs. This provided the economic stimulus that heralded the end of Great Depression.

   70 years later, it appears that we may have learned nothing from history. Unless you've spent the last several months suspended in thick foam, you would know that new skyscraper construction projects, such as the Chicago Spire, have halted due to the subprime mortgage crisis.  Friends, we need to prevent this from happening. Today's despondent billionaires are not satisfied simply to jump 100 feet to their doom. Warren Buffet, Alice Walton, Michael Dell, and others have declared that they would be "better off dead" and demanded that the government build them a 200-story building from which to hurl themselves. (This request has often been referred to as the Forbes 200.) Microsoft's Bill Gates has reportedly stated, "I cannot consider suicide a legitimate option to end my [expletive] misery unless I can plummet at least 250 stories." Gates added, "I doubt anyone would miss me."

   Please join me in urging our new administration to continue building supertall buildings. We need our nation's richest men and women to end their own lives so we can go back to talking about the Runaway Bride some more.

With warmest regards,

* As opposed to "dude ranch style," a type of architecture in which weight-bearing walls were reinforced with belt buckles and buttressed with lassos.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Top Ten Sad Horse Stories

Dear Friends,

   The Hard Taco song for November is called, "The Night That Eight Belles Died." If you watched the 2008 Kentucky Derby, you may be familiar with the doleful tale of Eight Belles, the filly who inexplicably fell and both broke her front ankles immediately after passing the winning post.

   Sad horse songs have always been my emotional Achilles heel. I actually get a lump in my throat when I hear, "Old grey mare she ain't what she used to be." I mean, my God, that poor mare! That said, you can imagine what I was going through when I found out that the only filly in the Derby was put down mere seconds after running the race of her life. Honestly, it's got to be number one on the top ten list of sad things that could happen to a horse. Here are other scenarios that round out that list.

2. The roof of the barn is about to cave in, and everyone knows it. At the last minute, a brave horse volunteers to martyr himself so that the other animals can make the glue they need to fix the roof.

3. A horse falls in a well, and he is too heavy to be pulled out by conventional means. The whole town has to chip in to raise enough money to buy a 50 foot syringe so they can euthanize him from above.

4. A Clydesdale has to take chemotherapy, and it makes the glorious tassels of hair around his hooves start to fall out. The other Clydesdales all shave their hoof tassels, because of solidarity. Budweiser films an inspirational commercial with the shaved horses pulling a sleigh and pledges to donate $10,000 in the fight against horse cancer. Veterinary scientists are so inspired by this commercial, they spend all of the grant money on beer.

5. Mr. Porter has to take poor Cinnamon back to the ranch after he discovers that his daughter's recurring birthday wish was actually for a peony.

6. A gallant bay named War Criminal is going to retire from racing after the Belmont Stakes. Unfortunately, he ends up losing because the rule book enigmatically refers to "racing animals" rather than "horses," and as such does not specifically exclude dart frogs from the competition.

7. Two wild appaloosas are captured and put in a zoo. At first, they spurn their realistic plains-like environment. Eventually, they realize that they have an opportunity to showcase their proud appaloosa heritage. They make a pact to never look back, but yeah, right. The next day a famous zoo critic writes a review with the headline, "Crappy Local Zoo Fleeces Public with Boring Horse Exhibit." The horses get completely depressed and start sleeping in way too late.

8. Benjamin Katz has a Dungeons and Dragons character named Borthwain Golf-raven (also known as Borthwain the Vigorously Renowned.) Borthwain uses a bag of electrum pieces to purchase magical barding armour for his steed, Strifeheart. The horse is delighted to discover that the armour is made out of flax mail +1. This story is more pathetic than sad, but I thought it was worth including.

9. A miniature horse is sick of being typecast in comical roles. In his heart, he's just like every other horse, but he happens to be small. Tell me what's so goddamned funny about that.

10. Ole Myrtle has been proudly straining at the plow for over twenty years, but now Farmer Delmar has a tractor, and she isn't needed anymore. He pats her on the nose and puts her out to pasture with the other nags, Ole Mamie, Ole Beulah, Ole Jennie, and Ole Claribel. One day, the tractor's engine breaks. Farmer Delmar is out of his mind with not knowing what to do, but the horses look at each other and nod. They harness the tractor to their backs and pull it through the fields, tilling and tilling until the sun goes down. For one last day, they feel alive again.

With warmest regards,

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Finding Mr. Smile

Dear Friends,

Hard Taco song for October is called, "Seasonal Affective." This song is so good, if you play it in your car, all of the manholes will explode into the sky you drive by. Ka-Woosh!*

   Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a well-characterized mood disorder in which patients suffer from symptoms of depression during periods of inadequate light exposure. This usually happens during prolonged periods of dimness, such as the winter months. However, there are severe forms of SAD in which patients can feel hopeless and deflated after brief periods of inadequate light, such as when their eyes are covered during a game of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey." Tragically, hundreds of Mexican children take their own lives every year when they are blindfolded and handed a piñata bat

   There are several other forms of stimulus-induced depression, including Latitude Affective Disorder (LAD), Euclidean Geometry Affective Disorder (EGAD), Queen Affective Disorder (QUAD) or a subset of that, Bohemian Rhapsody Affective Disorder (BRAD). Some people also suffer from Thinking Outside Of the Box Affective Disorder (TOO BAD) or even Midcourse Architectural and Terminal Tier Review Expeditionary Sustainable Solutions Program Affective Disorder (MATTRESS PAD).
   Finally, there is an uncommon syndrome in which feelings of anger and frustration are caused by confusing "Affect" and "Effect." This condition has been called People Incorrectly Spelling Seasonal Effective Disorder (PISSED).
   The most effective therapy for these conditions is the four-pronged combination treatment of chinning up, hunkering down, finding Mr. Smile, and tucking away all the blues into an invisible envelope that can't be opened.

With warmest regards,

* While "Ka-Woosh" is certainly an appropriate sound effect for exploding manhole covers, it is also falafel wrapped in lamb and grape leaves. 

Monday, September 1, 2008

No Diets Ever Work for Anyone Except That These Diets Work for You

Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for September is called, "Jelly IA." This song is not about a city in Iowa or an NCAA sports division, as the name may suggest, but a celebration of the seafaring life! You may notice that the lyrics are inspiring, but nonspecific enough to serve as a rallying call for all nautical peoples, from merchant marines and whalers to Argonauts and high school crew teams. Shanty on, my friends!

Are you ready for some foosball?
I raised a few eyebrows in my fantasy foosball draft last week by picking The Row of 3 Foosmen ahead of The Row of 5 Foosmen. Some of the ESPN pundits have predicted that The Row of 2 Foosmen has "deep sleeper potential" and "plenty of upside." Is this possible? No, because it is The Row of 3 that has all of the sleeper potential and upside. Smack.

Your Neighbors at Hard Taco Want to Help You Make Healthy Choices
For years, I've harbored a nagging sense of guilt about the prevalence of obesity in America. Have I been surreptitiously endorsing the consumption of tacos, thereby encouraging my adolescent readers to become or remain fat? Some have suggested that I should remove this subliminal impetus by changing our band name to Hard Fiber Supplement or perhaps, Flax Taco. No, my dear chubbies, that's just the kind of thinking that made you fat in the first place. Rather, I will take a page from the Philip Morris playbook and provide my audience with dieting strategies, while continuing to openly plug the smooth, satisfying taste of the hard taco.

Here, then, are three infallible ways to shed those kilos without having to sacrifice taste (or volcano virgins.)

1. The 51 Cent Stamp Diet
This one is easy, but requires patience. All you have to do is eat lots of salad greens, and replace the dressing with generous portions of 51 cent stamps.  Top nutritionists agree that this diet will be so effective that we can all let ourselves go until 2014 when these stamps are first printed. In the meantime, you can spend the same amount on postage by sprinkling a 3:1 admixture of 3 cent stamps and 42 cent stamps on your salad greens. This practice will not affect your body weight in any way, but it will enable the restaurant to ship the leftovers to your house so you don't have to carry a doggie bag around all night.

2. The Oelectrolyte Diet
Her Majesty's Registered Dieticiaries have long known that the secret to maintaining a healthy weight is a daily allowance of essential oelectrolytes. Not surprisingly, the richest sources of essential oelectrolytes are English traditional foods, including:
  • Pea meal
  • Bladder treacle
  • Blood crisps
  • Kidney Tea
  • Clotted eels 'n gravy
  • Mutton batter

3. The Iron Chef Diet
A stoic Japanese chef will take whatever food you crave most and prepare a perplexing five course meal using it. Do you feel like a slice of pie before bed? Iron Chef Chen Kenichi wrest that pie from your hands and return one hour later with a crispy sunburned pork in a pie reduction sauce, roasted spicy pie over skordilia, flash-seared pie and cantaloupe terrine, and a marinated soft-shell turtle in a pie weave dressed with a veal-tongue champagne. Allez cuisine!

With warmest regards,

Friday, August 1, 2008

Getting Into a Good Dojo

Dear Friends,

If you’ve ever wondered what Hard Taco sounds like LIVE and IN PERSONS, you may enjoy the new song for August, "Rotisserie.” It was recorded at a dojo party in 2001.

On the Subject of Dojo Parties
By definition, a martial art is any codified system of combat in which the combatants yell "Hi-YAH!" during a strike. To begin the path towards mastering a martial art, you must first select a dojo. This is sort of like picking which fraternity to join. Everyone tries to get into the "cool" ones, such as Jujitsu or Tae Kwon Do. 

But remember this: the dojo has to want you, too! At the end of Rush Week, there will undoubtedly be a roomful of drunk ninjas throwing shuriken and empty sake cans at the projected pictures of the less desirable candidates. These candidates will inevitably end up in a Tae Bo or Acupressure dojo. They can still make lasting friendships and learn a lot of valuable life skills, but no one will ever come to their parties except, perhaps, girls who do yoga.

Here is a summary of some of the most common martial arts, to help you pick which dojo is right for you.

A Mandarin word for "Two of (something)." A martial art is considered to be Judo if it consists of any combination of two different attacks, such as:
1. Kicking and hair-pulling
2. Suffocating with a pillow and teasing
3. Identity theft and growling
4. Telling half-truths and decapitating

Jujitsu is a form of combat that takes place while lying on a floating pool mat, usually between bouts of intense tanning. A modern adaptation of jujitsu has been embraced by the military in Japan, where entire companies of armed soldiers recline comfortably in pools, waiting for their orders to paddle lazily over to the deep end and shoot someone.

Aikido is not a form of fighting, but a notion of harmoniousness that unites the nine elements of the corporeal world (or Qiuouii) through ethnic jokes. For instance, I could describe a scenario in which a rabbi, a black Canadian, the Pope, and some gay persons are all in a rowboat when something tragic and amusing occurs. The punch line is not relevant. What is important is that all of those people were in that rowboat, fishing together, working together to catch fish, and enjoying each other's company. This togetherness has been referred to as the Qiuaiaa, or transcendent concordance. Aikido derives from the desire to attain this state for the self and for humankind. It also emphasizes the importance of stretching.

Ninjitsu is a form of combat practiced by the Ninja. (Likewise, Moose-jitsu is the form of combat practiced by residents of a particular city in Saskatchewan.) Ninjas are known for making warfare using unorthodox methods that have been forbidden by the Samurai code, such as assassination, espionage, and sweeping the leg. Ninjitsu, in fact, is not technically a martial art, since the black scarf wrapped over the mouth prevents the ninja from articulating the phrase, "Hi-YAH!" This muffling face wrap was imposed by the 16th century Samurai authorities who determined that Ninjas had been screaming "Hi-YAH!" at inappropriate times, such as when putting two pieces of bread together to make a sandwich.

Acupressure applied to the wrist of an attacker may quell a motion sickness-induced rage, which could theoretically pave the way for further attempts at diplomacy. Otherwise, acupressure is so poorly-suited for self-defense that people will want to be your enemy just to have an easy ass to kick. (See "A note about Ultimate Fighting Championships" below.)

This is the most popular martial art among children for one reason: grade inflation. There is so much grade inflation in karate that practically every 9-year-old in America already has a black belt. If you need to boost your GPA to get into med school, this might be the right dojo for you.

French Kicking
I included this one to drive home the point that not all martial arts are Asian in origin. French Kicking is popular among teenage couples who often refer to it as "Tongue Kicking" or "Slipping the Foot."

Shaolin Kung Fu
This martial art was developed at the Shaolin monasteries in the 11th century. The Shaolin monks developed ways to punch people that were literally a hundred years ahead of their time, giving them an enormous technological advantage over their foes. As you can imagine, a monk that is equipped only with an 11th century punch is going to be no match for a monk with a 12th century punch in his arsenal.

Finally, a note about Ultimate Fighting Championships:
Ultimate Fighting is a sport in which people from different dojos compete against each other. If you are ever involved in some sort of Ultimate Fighting Championship, try to arrange your opening match against an acupressurist. All you have to do is punch them in the stomach once, and they will spend the rest of the match pushing on their own earlobes to quell the pain.

With warmest regards,

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

History is More or Less Debunked/Rebunked

Dear Friends,

  The July Hard Taco song is called, "How to Love Your Process." This song will burn into you mind like a scalding vial of folic acid!

Debunking and Rebunking Popular Myths
Referring to something as a "popular myth" would seem to indicate that the veracity of the statement being made is in question. In point of fact, true statements sometimes pretend to be myths because they think it will make them more popular. Who would want to sit at a lunch table with a bunch of Unpopular Truths?

If I haven't already lost you, let's take a superficial look at some of these popular myths.

"Global warming is causing water levels to rise."
Verdict: FALSE
This is sheer balderdash. Water levels are rising, but it has nothing to do with polar ice caps melting. See below.

"Lemmings mindlessly swarm off cliffs as a form of population control."
Verdict: TRUE
Sadly, water levels are rising because the ocean floor is gradually being filled with the carcasses of lemmings.

"Water drains backwards in the southern hemisphere."
Verdict: TRUE
Here's a caveat: Rotini was developed (in Italy) to have a clockwise twist, so the uneaten portions could be flushed down the toilet. Unfortunately, pasta-makers in the southern hemisphere have not yet perfected a flushable counter-rotini. As a result, Australians will not be excused from the table until they eat what they put on their plates.

"No two snowflakes are identical."
Verdict: False
This is pure poppycock and hornswaggle. This myth has been perpetuated for years because no one has ever taken the time to examine snowflakes while they are still in flight. As it happens, snowflakes are exactly the same shape until they land, at which point they are deformed into unique configurations depending upon the angle of impact.

"Eskimos have two hundred words for snow."
Verdict: FALSE
This is a bona fide mound of malarkey. There is only one Inuit word for snow. However, if you punch an Inuit in the mouth while he is saying it, the word will sound different depending upon the angle of impact.

"One human year equals seven dog years."
Verdict: TRUE
Since seven dog generations occur in one human generation, dogs are evolving seven times faster than us. This explains their acutely developed sense of smell. It does not, however, explain their inability to operate a meat thermometer.

"It takes seven years to digest gum."
Verdict: TRUE
Although a dog can digest gum in one year.

"Dog meat is consumed in Korea."
Verdict: TRUE
Korean gum-enthusiasts used to believe that a man could hasten his own digestion of gum by feeding it to a dog, and then eating the dog.  By time this was disproved in clinical trials, the Korean Department of Health had already circulated pamphlets featuring a food pyramid that was founded on a base of dog meat products.

"The Great Wall of China is the only manmade structure visible from space."
Verdict: TRUE
If you heard somebody say, "I spent all afternoon staring at the wall," that person was probably an astronaut. The U.S. Space Program has really faltered in recent years, because there is absolutely nothing to do up there but look at the Great Wall of China all day. Talk about boring!

"You can tell the temperature by listening to the chirping of crickets."
Verdict: TRUE
Below 37 degrees Fahrenheit, crickets all stop chirping and die. If you count the number of times you hear crickets chirping in 15 seconds and multiply by six, and the number you get is zero, you should wear a scarf.

"Sucking on a penny will help you pass a breathalyzer test."
Verdict: TRUE
If you're drunk enough for this to seem like a reasonable course of action, you are probably not going to be able to suck on a penny without violently lodging it in your windpipe. The upside of this eventuality is that you will not be able to exhale at all, so the breathalyzer won't register an incriminating value.

"You can't fold a piece of paper in half more than seven times."
Verdict: UNKNOWN
No one has ever actually tried to do this. What possible purpose could be served by a piece of paper that was folded so many times? Honestly, the exercise would be a silly waste of time. It's better to leave this one unsolved.

"Swimming within an hour after eating causes cramps and may lead to drowning."
Verdict: TRUE

Please note that the Olympic Trials are scheduled to take place immediately before lunch. If, for any reason, they are delayed until after lunch, the team event will be renamed "synchronized aspirating of pool water/floating face down."
"You cannot sneeze with your eyes open."
Verdict: FALSE
…but making a splash as a closing salutation.

You cannot sneeze with your eyes open,

Sunday, June 1, 2008

White Lustrium: The Birthstone of Cheaptember

Dear Friends,

The new Hard Taco song for June, "I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying," is meant to serve as a welcome for our newest band member, Malcolm London. If you say this fast, you sound like Pac-man: Welcome, Malcolm, welcome, Malcolm, welcome, Malcolm!

New Hard Taco CD: "Jupiter the Balloon Horse"
Hard Taco's freshest, moddest (as in, "most mod") full-length CD, "Jupiter the Balloon Horse" has dropped. Having this album is such a good idea, it is now widely accepted to be the gold standard by which all other good ideas are based. To help put this context, I've developed the 10-point Having Jupiter (HJ) scale. The higher the number, the better the idea! Here's an example:

9 HJ's - Wearing a tie to a black tie party
7 HJ's - Wearing a tie to a white elephant party
3 HJ's - Bringing an elephant to a black tie party
1 HJ - Bringing a black elephant to a white elephant supremacist party

Who's in the house? Education!
Now that I have children, I have a tough decision to make. Do I want to homeschool? When my wife and I first talked about it, we came up with this list:

Homeschooling Pros:
  • Kids would both be valedictorians
  • Get to take off work every time the teacher's union goes on strike
  • Get to print up customized "hall passes."
Homeschooling Cons:
  • Have to build a full gymnasium and an Olympic-sized pool with high dive
  • Pep rallies - would they be underwhelming?

Our biggest concern was that many of the commercially available homeschool curricula have thinly-veiled religious undertones. It turns out our concerns were justified. I could not, for instance, find standardized homeschool lesson plans to teach heretical studies or gay-sex education. Sadly, the majority of homeschooled children graduate "high school" without ever learning how to perform third- and fourth-trimester abortions! It's no wonder homeschooled children do so poorly on standardized tests.

Speaking Of "Intelligent Design"
In the end, we thought of one word that made us accept the fact that our children would have to go to public school: Josten's. The culmination of a public school education is that oversized nugget of beautiful tradition known as a high school class ring. How can homeschooled children celebrate achievements, preserve memories, and shows pride if they can't purchase a class ring*?

Believe me… Josten's class rings live up to the hype. They are made of white lustrium, an alloy of silver and chromium that is guaranteed by the manufacturer to remain tacky for the lifetime of the wearer. The inset is hemi-semi-precious stone such as blue zircon or white spinel. (According to the website, the latter is the birthstone of Cheaptember!) The sides of the ring can be used to depict life-long interests such as:

Hip Hop Awareness
Pheasant Hunting
Love of Satan

Josten’s class rings are also great for "building affiliations." To this day I have held out hope that a potential employer may place his middle finger next to mine and declare, "Look… we are both dedicated to calf-roping! Let me enlarge your signing bonus!"

My Ring ("Zach" is written in Russian)
Of course, this has never really happened. Most people seem to think my class ring is pretty tasteless. In fact, most people don't even look at it at all, unless they are worried that I am about to punch them and they want to predict how much it is going to hurt.**

If I step back, I think my dedication to the concept of the Josten's class ring may have been instilled in me by the onslaught of propaganda from my high school teachers and administrators. They really pressured us into buying class rings. At the time, I thought it was a school pride thing, but now I know the true reason... public schools are under the thumb of BIG LUSTRIUM.

With warmest regards,

* Josten's apparently does sell class rings to homeschooled children, but they have a disclaimer on their website that these rings are "devoid of all value, emotional or material."
** A little bit more than usual.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Peer Pressure

Dear Friends,

What would happen if an elephant and a bee opened competing tea houses across the street from each other? The new Hard Taco song, "The Agony of the Leaves,” attempts to answer that question without relying on profane redneck tirades, paroxysms of weeping, and other gimmicks employed in most elephant- and bee-themed reality television programs.

Consumer Alerght
Don’t be duped by websites offering to sell you “real” Scottish titles. My brother-in-law was hoodwinked into buying a Scottish title, and while I am the first to admit that “Highland Laird Glenflichich Cock O' the North” looks neat on his driver’s license, I doubt that justifies the $750 he spent on it.

I, on the other hand, have decided to invest splendidly in my family’s future by purchasing a British title. Unlike the Scottish equivalents, British titles are a safe, legal internet commodity. Most importantly, the British variety confer all of the rights and privileges of the peerage.

Tantalized yet? Let's take a look at the benefits of lordship.

Trial by Peers
One benefit of becoming a God-sanctioned peer-of-the-realm is that all British lords are entitled to a “Trial by Peers.” Once I purchase my certificate of aristocracy, I intend to exercise this right all the time.

Picture this: A meter maid (or as they call her in England, a “just-o'er-a-yard maid”) catches me parking my MG in a bike lane. She's furious, but since I am a card-carrying peer, she can't do anything about it. Instead, the Earl of Gloucester, the Earl of Breastminster, and Baron Coventry of Rowington-Upon-Hull must slip on their wigs and convene at the House of Lords to write me the parking ticket.

Unfortunately, the Queen has spearheaded a lobby to abolish the privilege of Trial by Peers. I think she was just steamed about being called up for jury duty for the third time in as many months.

Coat of Arms
All British Lords are granted the right to a coat of arms. My family crest consists of a simple shield flanked by two lions with goats wrapped around their torsos. In the center of the shield, there is a gauntlet holding a bejeweled hammerhead shark by the tail. Below that flies a banner with our family motto, “Ever Fierce,” both in English and in a form of Gaelic that replaces all vowels with the letters cgh.*

Most families display the image of their crest on T-shirts and such. However, if I drop a wad of cash on a genuine legitimate lordship, I want my family crest to be genuine too. I’m mentioning this now, because I may need your help in locating goats that are flexible enough for lion-wrapping.

Audience with the Sovereign
As if you would need any more convincing, the price of an authentic legitimate lordship also includes the right to mingle with the Queen. When it’s my turn, I will not waste the HM’s time by prattling about faith-based taxes and which counties in North Ireland have the mealiest currants. Instead, I will ride with her out to the countryside, place her gently on an outcrop next to a gurgling brook, and ask her to close her eyes. “Your Majesty,” I will say, “Is it not truly magical how many wondrous sounds the world around us makes when we simply stop to listen?”**

The guy selling the titles on eBay hasn’t gotten back to me on how many times I am entitled to demand an audience with the sovereign. If it is only once, I may hold off until Prince Charles is coronated, because QE2 has a touch of high-frequency hearing loss, and might not get as much out of this exercise.

(Dude Looks Like A) Lady Chatterley
Choosing a title is both rewarding and challenging. Not surprisingly, the monikers that come with more vassals or bushier eyebrows tend to be more expensive. Here are some of the ultra-legitimate British titles that I have been considering, divided by price point:

Lord Swift Whitekirk of the Mount
The Right Honourable High Falconer Chaddington Kerfuffle of Foxley
Baron Saint Mortimer Blythe-Cornhole

Lord Bishop of Thrupennies-upon-Tyne
Baronet Regional Accountancy Lord Protector Thorton-beneath-Thames
Earl Buffingshire of Buffingshire-Buffingshire

Dowager Bathgate Fenster-on-Bimble
The Duke of Butterwiggle Ironmongery
High Lord Marquess Floorchester Saint Wets-his-Pants
Her Grace Duchess Slapping Tatties
née Wixhamderry of the Fine Fettle

If anyone is interested in going in on one of the pricier titles, please let me know. I would be cool with going halvsies if I could wear the robes of Viscount Wentworth Fop-in-the-Hole on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and alternate Saturdays.

With warmest regards,

* Gaelic family motto: “Cghvcghr Fcghcghrcgh.”
** Once I am a peer, I may find myself saying “verily” instead of “truly.”

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

It's Never Just a Cigar

Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for April, "Sleep Stages," concerns three actual dreams I have had within the last year.

The three dreams described in “Sleep Stages” are particularly enigmatic, so the lyrics of this song might be somewhat difficult to decipher (in contrast, you will agree, to every other Hard Taco song.) To avoid alienating anyone, I see no choice but to lash myself to the psychiatrist’s couch and attempt to interpret these dreams.

Without even scratching the surface, you can see it’s all here: Insecurity. Sex. Guilt. Self-loathing. Fear of commitment. A paternal-fetal-navel-fecal-feral complex. Now, let’s see what we get when we thrust the trowel of illumination a little deeper into the spongy burial mound of my submerged mind.

Dream 1: Permission to Run Free
In this dream, there are two blind fish. Fish 1 inquires, "Permission to run free, sir?" Fish 2 replies sternly, "Permission denied! Stapes do not run free."

Possible interpretation:
The stapes is a bone in the middle ear that conducts sound. "Stapes do not run free" probably means that listening to other people talk is keeping me from self-fulfillment.

Meanwhile, the most obvious characteristics of blind fish are that they smell bad and they see poorly. Thus, the failure of the subordinate fish to achieve autonomy signifies my desire to create something that smells good, such as a new line of perfumes. The fact that he is blind indicates that I long to embrace a visual aesthetic, perhaps by designing cool labels for my new line of men's and women's fragrances. "Permission Denied" could have a number of meanings, although I believe my subliminal self is suggesting Permission Denied as a brand name for a heady new fragrance.

Dream 2: Wedding Tables
In this dream, all of the tables at our wedding were decked out in customized white wedding dresses instead of tablecloths. During the prior three years of our engagement, each table dutifully came to the bridal boutique several times per year for fittings.

Possible interpretation:
The three-year engagement is obviously a reference to Cher, who is starting a three-year engagement at Caesar's Palace this May. I'm not sure what the rest of it means, but I am quite certain it has nothing to do with hidden feelings about my marriage, so shut up.

Dream 3: Fish Pix
In this dream, I catch fish and have them undergo post mortem plastic surgery to lengthen their bodies. Then I sell pictures of these surgically-enlarged fish on the internet. This obliges a unique customer demographic… perverts who want to look at pictures of REALLY BIG fish. For some reason, I accomplish this with actual surgery rather than just Photoshopping the pictures.

Possible interpretation:
While enlarging fish for the benefit of a bunch of internet deviants is sick (just plain sick, truly), I do have a legitimate interest in ichthyoplastics. As the dream implies, I have been strongly considering harnessing my medical background to open a cosmetic surgery clinic for fish. This is not just for the benefit of a few revolting seafood-fetishists (you make me sick, truly.) No, there are plenty of decent, God-fearing aquarium owners who have legitimate reasons for wanting to remove birthmarks, scars, or signs of aging from their marine companions.

Common procedures include scale transplantation and tattooing, unsightly scale removal, "dorse aug" (dorsal fin augmentation), anal finoplasty (tail lift), and caudal peduncle lateral line operculopexy (folding a fish in half and sewing the gills to the base of the tail). It is even possible for fish to undergo a species change. It isn’t discussed much in polite circles, but there are Oscars who hold a deep conviction that they should have been born Mollies. If a simple surgery could allow them to live the rest of their lives as Mollies, who are we to judge them?

After I wrote this, I used an online dream dictionary to break down each of these dreams. Check out the lyrics to “Sleep Stages” to see the professional interpretations and how they compare to these. If you ask me, they stink.

If, on the other hand, it is you who stinks, try spritzing your neck with a free sample of Permission Denied* for Men.

With warmest regards,

* Permission Denied is a woody, masculine fragrance reminiscent of oakmoss, bergamot, leather, calluses, salad bark, and tobacco musk. 

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Hard Taco Lyric Writing Workshop

Dear Friends,

  The Hard Taco song for March, "Take Me Home," is the first Southern Rock ballad ever to feature a chorus of women repeatedly shouting the phrase, “By Gum!” If that doesn’t turn you on, you probably have a hormonal problem. I’m not kidding… you should get your oestrotesterol and excretrogin levels checked.

  After 15 years, I'm finally ready to fess up to the source of all the "new" lyrics I come up with every month. I use templates. If you want to try it yourself, print out the sample below, circle the choices that articulate your position on things, and sing them.  When you're ready to write another song, print out the same template and repeat the process.

Template 4: "Sometimes I Feel Like (Cryin' / Dyin')"

I've been banging on your back (door / with a pipe)
Won't you let me (in / go / sleep / in to go to sleep)
I've got a (belly / pocket) full of (whiskey / nickels / troubles)
And a (mind / reason / contract / gift certificate) to (bring / take) you (down / daisies / to a bake sale)

  Sometimes I feel like (cryin' / dyin')
  It makes me feel like (dyin' / cryin')

If I'm to (blame / understand correctly), I (understand / have myself to blame)
But I'm not going to (beg / hold / trust / spank) you (anymore / tenderly / after breakfast)
You know me, I just can't be (satisfied / taken alive / out in the sun too long)
So I'm going to (Alabama / St. Louis / make sweet love) in my beat-up (Chevy / girlfriend's Chevy)

I'm a lonely (freight train / wolf / organ grinder) and I'm off to (chase my dreams / Sweet Vernita / private school)
You can (hurt / feed / sculpt) me,
You can (desert / debrief / delouse) me
You can tell me (lies / bitter lies / scathing hurtful fibs)
But at the end of the (day / line / Bronze Age)
The only thing I've come to trust is (God's love / racial profiling)

  Sometimes I feel like (cryin' / dyin')
  It makes me feel like (dyin' / cryin')

(Baby / Sugar / Your Honor), you're just a (two-timing / big-legged / coal-mining) woman
And there ain't no (shame / point / money) in doing you (wrong / right / in / any favors)

Can't you (see / pretend / disrobe when) I'm on my (knees / deathbed / best behavior)?
Can't you (shake / shave) your (moneymaker / preconceived notions)
And let me (live / die / drink / bake) in (peace / Hell / the pantry)?

  Sometimes I feel like (cryin' / dyin')
  It makes me feel like (dyin' / cryin')

You drive me (crazy / because I have epilepsy)
But I love (you / America / duck / spin class) anyway
I want to be your (handy / back door / pusher / swamp) man
Please, Baby, please (Baby please / don't take your love away / clear the dishes)

With warmest regards,

Friday, February 1, 2008

Great Minds Taste Alike

Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for February is called, "Rattle." Find out for yourself why everyone at the water cooler is talking about it in hushed voices.

: You look off-kilter today.
You: I took my allergy medicine this morning, and I've felt like a zombie all day.
Me: Yeah, I hate that. (Pause) So I guess that explains the bits of dried blood and scalp on your lips.
You: (Sinking your teeth into my ankle) I can never remember where you keep your brains. Are they in here?

I don't want to reinforce stereotypes, but I defy you dispute the following generalization: zombies are simply not very coordinated. You'll probably never see a zombie throw a lasso, make a lanyard bracelet, or return a ping pong serve. Despite billions of crime-funded dollars in research, modern evil science has failed to engineer a virus that can bring the dead back to life without severely compromising hand-eye coordination.

This has been a great source of disgruntlement for zombies. In fact, I believe that the anger and savagery that zombies frequently exhibit stem from a deep frustration with their inability to participate in group sports.

Zombies have not successfully competed in Olympic-level sports since 1924, when the triathlon officially became swimming, cycling, and running. Prior to that date, the standard triathlon consisted of moaning, dribbling and lurching like a drunk toddler. Inevitably, there would be three zombies shuffling onto the winner’s podium.

Since then, however, athletic events have placed more value on speed, dexterity, and grace. These are not common qualities in the zombie community. For example, no zombie has ever taken home an Olympic medal in ice dancing. The only zombie who tried spent the duration of the three-minute song hacking into her partner’s shins with the skates. The smell of blood on ice attracted a frenzy of other zombies and, of course, hockey players. The event deteriorated into a brawl of face-chewings and body checks. All told it was a real black eye for the Olympic committee.

Zombies fare no better in other events. As walking corpses, they cannot be trusted to steer a bobsled (although they occasionally stumble into an opponent’s sled to consume the opponent). The zombie running long jump record is only eight inches, which is about 30% longer than their standard stride length. Finally, their propensity to hold their arms straight in front of them severely limits the amount of inertia they can give to a shot put.

I am convinced that the inevitable undead uprising can be forestalled simply by instilling zombies with a greater sense of self-worth. We need to get them involved in sports they can play… sports that allow them to feel good about themselves. The more time zombies spend training, the less time they’ll have for swarming through malls and mutilating shoppers.

We can all help out. If you are a high school track coach and a zombie tries out for the team, don't cut him... put him in the relay race! If you space out four zombies on a 400m track, and give one of them a dismembered human foot, there is a very good chance the other three zombies will each take it from him sequentially. The trick is convincing them to do this with a baton instead of a severed limb, and to keep moving instead of stopping to gnaw on it.

What else do we know about zombies that can help us pick the right sports for them? Well, the undead travel in mobs, and innately tend to copy each other's movements. I’m not sure whether this has to do with peer pressure or team spirit, but in either case zombies are perfect for synchronized swimming! If you want to see the ultimate expression of coordinated motion, put eight zombies in a shallow pool and dangle a swinging teenager overhead.

Finally, zombies hordes are often described as "relentless" and "unstoppable." It is these very qualities that make them ideally suited for endurance sports, such as cross-country. This especially holds true when the event consists crossing an entire country. If the race is long enough, living athletes will eventually get fatigued or hungry. Zombies, however, can complete long races without stopping, provided they don't get sidetracked by 1) seeing a person or animal during the course of the race, or by 2) getting beheaded. Plus zombies can eat and eat and they never have to go to the bathroom.

Which probably explains why they walk like that.

With warmest regards,

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A_Cup: omg

Dear friends,

   Happy new year, baby. It's finally Auei. I hope you and your family have a very plentiful, rewarding Auei. That's right, friends, Auei is not just the word of the day, but the word of the year. Auei, (pronounced "Ow-ee") is short for AUght EIght, which, in turn, is short for 2008.

Just look what I heard in an actual chat room:

   Breighleen11: omg its auei
   training_bra: omg
   grease&luv: omfg it auei
   Breighleen11: brb

(1 year passes)

   Breighleen11: omg its auni
   A_cup: omg
   grease&luv: omfg its auni

*Note: Auni will be pronounced "weenie," and it will be an even buzzier buzzword than Auei.

   Anyway, the inaugural Hard Taco song for Auei is called, "Fortress of Lovingkindness." The idea and ideals of lovingkindness are staggeringly simple, yet a leaf blowing in the wind has a greater grasp of it than you do. If you want to understand lovingkindness as much as the leaf, you will have to immerse your heart in devotedness and open your mind in a thousand tender directions.

   One analogy I like to use to explain lovingkindness is a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. Now replace the hat with steadfast radiance and replace the rabbit with heartfelt lovingkindness. Now replace the magician with the rabbit, and have him raise his voice in praise of cherishment and forbearance instead of pulling anything out of something else. Are you starting to get it now? What you're left with is a rabbit who raises his voice in praise of heartfelt lovingkindness, and makes sensitive inroads into steadfast radiance, cherishment, and brotherly rapture-feelings.

   Like I said, lovingkindness is staggeringly simple. The key concept, you will note, is making sensitive inroads. Once you successfully make sensitive inroads, I assure you that you'll get a lot more out of this song, and you can show that blowing leaf what for.

With warmest regards,