Blood Sport

I know, I know. After nine solid years of at least monthly blog entries, I’ve suddenly skipped a couple of months. Call it my summer vacation — seventeen days of which were spent (or wasted) watching the summer games. I’m more of a winter games guy, and I’m not usually drawn to the spectacle of people running and jumping and lifting heavy things in the July and August heat. But after tuning in to see what Danny Boyle did with the opening ceremonies, I was hooked by the craptacular spectacle of it all and couldn’t turn away. By the time the key allegorical centrepiece was over — a tribute to industry’s triumph over the natural world as I interpreted it (suck it, nature!) — I was hooked. Then it only got more awesome with Paul McCartney singing the interminable “Hey, Jude” while Ringo Starr sat at home, watching it on the telly, crying into a pint, and mumbling “I wuz a Beatle, too” to himself. This was followed by a solid hour and a bit of international athletes in The Parade of the Silly Hats. Marvelous. But I can’t say I really cared for the queen’s lauded acting debut opposite Daniel Craig as James Bond. They could have done so much more with the concept. It’s James Bond fer chrissake. He’d totally give Liz a good shag for Queen and Country, but mostly for Queen. Mr. Bond, you disappoint me. After nearly sixty years On Her Majesty’s Secret Service you deserve to get In Her Majesty’s Secret Orifice. Just close your eyes and think of England. And if that doesn’t work, just close your eyes and pretend Helen Mirren is still playing Her Royal Highness.

The Olympics are all about blood, sweat and tears. Emphasis on the blood. Sweat and tears are fine, but they’re just salt water and they don’t sell as many tickets. I was struck by how bloody this round of the Olympics were — like somebody decided they needed to compete with The Hunger Games for the attention of the next generation of sports fans. There were all sorts of open wounds and gushing crimson to behold, whether it was judo competitors bleeding all over each others’ nice white robes or an eight-lady pileup on the streets of London when some runners hit a particularly slick patch of wet road. When there were no open veins or spurting arteries to behold, the commentators all seemed to take particular delight in describing how painful every event was. Whether it was chucking a javelin or rowing a boat, they wanted us to know that every muscle in these seasoned athletes was screaming out in unspeakable agony from the moment they did a few warm-up stretches to their post-games shower and oily rub-down. And let’s not remind ourselves of the brutality of having to lug home all those impossibly heavy medals in their carry-on luggage. Michael Phelps apparently gave himself a career-ending injury trying to carry his haul onto the plane. Why else would this be his last Olympics?

Yes, it was the Torture Porn of sporting events. At least, that’s how it was promoted by our media. Perhaps it was their way to reassure fat, unhealthy North Americans that they really wouldn’t want to be fit and trim anyway. Look at the horrible agony these poor specimens have to put themselves through in order to have a slim shot at a hunk of metal that will often be won or lost within ten seconds flat following years or grueling training. Would you want to put yourself through anything resembling that in order to lose a few pounds? I didn’t think so. Now go support our nation’s competitors by having another Big Mac. Did we mention the 2012 Olympic Games were sponsored by McDonald’s, the breakfast, lunch and dinner of champions?

Defeat Is Mine!

It’s good to be back in the student-protest hellscape of Montreal. I’ve been back for quite awhile now, but blogs have to take a backseat to important springtime activities like digging up the backyard, burying the evidence, and planting the vegetable garden over it. Thankfully the police are too busy pepper spraying kids and arresting random passers-by to come snooping around with intrusive search warrants and a backhoe.

Yes, there have been a lot of muddy pits in my life lately, but enough about the Writer’s Guild of Canada Awards — which I lost. Or won, if you tally the results by how many Steamwhistle Pilsners I drank at the open bar before they shut off the taps for the evening. What I really want to discuss is only tangentially related to The Industry, so I’ll skip the gory details of my crushing and utterly expected defeat and dish on some other (quite literal) dirt.

The hardest decision I had to make concerning the awards ceremony was not what to say if I had to get up on stage, but what shoes to wear. I ultimately wore my “dress” shoes, which can always be relied upon to look respectable, hurt my feet, and cut into my ankles by the end of the night. I really wanted to wear my more comfortable shoes, which were new enough and nice enough to see me through an evening populated mostly by writers (rarely noted for their fashion sense), but they were still caked with mud from the graveyard.

On the way to Toronto, I spent a couple of days in Port Hope visiting my cousin. The graveyard in question wasn’t a long commute — it was just across the street. The colonial-era church was undergoing renovations and they had hardly broken ground on the expansion when they discovered the bodies. This happened the day before I arrived. The police had already been on the site, making sure the corpses in question weren’t recent and worthy of a homicide investigation. Most of the graves on the grounds were pre-confederation and it turned out there may have been rather more space devoted to the dead than previously thought. The north side was still an active cemetery, but sections closer to the church itself must have become overgrown long enough ago that no one who remembered where the original parishioners were buried was left to say, “Hey, don’t dig there.”

Not long after I unpacked, I couldn’t resist the urge to go Scooby-Dooing around the grounds, looking to see if I could spot something nice and morbid in the newly opened graves. You never know. Sometimes when they disturb and move skeletal remains, they miss a finger or a toe. I wasn’t looking for a souvenir, I was just being nosey. Kind of like the history-nerd version of the rubber necks you see driving past car accidents at a snail’s pace, just in case they get an opportunity to see a bit of blood on the pavement. Or a head.

The truth is I rarely pass up the opportunity to explore vintage or forgotten graveyards, or go spelunking in ancient tombs and catacombs. I like to think this makes me an Indiana Jones type of guy, but I expect I’m more akin to the Cryptkeeper. I’m rarely more pleased with myself than when I’m doing something like sitting in the stifling humidity at the very bottom of the pyramid of Menkaure, in the depths of an ancient burial chamber.

Okay, yes, it is rather ghoulish. But if I were really going to go full-ghoul, it turns out I don’t have to go all the way to Egypt. Or even Port Hope. I can just go out my front door and take a not-very-taxing stroll to the scene of Montreal’s latest grisly murder. Pick through a few garbage bags and you too can come across a headless, limbless, partially cannibalized and post-mortemly sodomized torso. If that’s too much trouble, you can just wait around at one of our federal party headquarters for a unique campaign contribution to show up courtesy of Canada Post. A lot of Canadians would give an arm and a leg to see some political change in this country. It seems our newest top-billed serial killer, part-time porn star, and failed reality-show contestant, Luka Rocco Magnotta, would gladly give both. Just not his own.

After seeking fame and/or infamy for so many years, Luka has finally hit the jackpot with an international manhunt. And just in time too. Montreal was suffering from such a wealth of good press lately, we really needed to balance things out with a spectacularly vile murder that would grab headlines around the world. And because this is such a multi-media era, you don’t have to be satisfied with the hyperbolic news media reports. You can read all about it online, watch editorial videos on YouTube, or simply go watch the murder and dismemberment for yourself. It’s out there on the interwebs. And it’s not even particularly hard to find. Enjoy!

Meanwhile, this particular morbid ghoul will go back to appreciating death, dismemberment and other atrocities from antiquity. I always prefer to be separated from my horror by a couple of hundred or a couple of thousand years. Not a couple of kilometres.

Requiem For Peaceful Protest

Remember back when the global economic protests were all about bongos and camping gear? It seems like only yesterday. Come to think of it, it was.

At this point all the major Occupy-Wall-Street protests have been swept away by police, leaving only a few scattered Show-Up-At-Wall-Street-And-Hang-Around-For-A-Bit-Before-Taking-The-Bus-Home protests in their place. The tents are down, the makeshift libraries and medical centres are gone, and the only people sleeping in parks these days are the old-school breed of economic casualties. Namely homeless meth addicts.

Marginalized by corporate media outlets that never passed up a photo op with the dippiest hippies, reporters couldn’t wait to talk to the next unfocused radical or glam-rock attention-seeker showboat, conveniently skipping over anybody involved in the movement who knew what the fuck they were talking about. “Where’s your leader? What’s your demand!” was all they could think to ask, which kinda misses the point by several hundred miles. The world already has its leaders, and look what a splendid job they’ve done of running the economy off a cliff. As for boiling it all down to a single demand, that’s impossible. The reason this has been such a successful, widespread movement is because the litany of complaints is so long, everyone feels included.

Now that the most obvious evidence of civil discord has been put out of sight, the media mills can’t help but gloat. Some have been terribly rude about it, others can’t quite muster that Rupert Murdock level of vitriol we’ve come to expect in our current age of disinformation. I had a look at the local right-wing shitbag newsrag that comes free in the mail along with the advertising fliers, coupons, and free food samples. It was sitting on the doormat when I came downstairs to look for some real mail. “Sorry, But It’s About Time,” screamed the headline in a civil, apologetic tone that pronounces “about” at the midpoint where “aboot” and “aboat” meet. The picture was of a pair local police officers carrying one of the last occupiers out of the park in a rather gentle fashion. A third officer brought up the rear, carrying the protester’s bag. Respectfully. If there had been a piece of hockey gear in the frame, it would be the single most Canadian front page I’d ever seen. At least under a Conservative party majority.

Cops in other cities didn’t play so nicey-nice, and there are protesters painted pepper-spray orange to prove it. I guess it’s reassuring to know that when the MUC police force trample our basic human rights, they do so politely, with Nerf riot gear. Well, unless you’re a black man who gets all uppity and decides to drive an automobile in broad daylight while recklessly obeying the rules of the road of course. Then they’ll blow your ass away.

Before tent city had its stakes pulled up, I went down for a visit. Occupy Wall Street was Occupy Victoria Square up here. And although I didn’t strike a single beat on a drum, bongo or otherwise, I had a leisurely wander around the site that had roughly two hundred tents by my quick count and bad math. It was all as peaceful and non-violent as advertised, and I knew I was witnessing history. This was the last moment in the coming global turmoil that would play out so civilly. It can only get nastier from here.

With the camps forced out, the powers-that-be think they’ve won. But it was a terrible strategy on their part. They could have just waited for occupiers to get bored and cold and go home. Failing that, they could have waited for the cholera to set in and wipe them out. Either way, the protest problem would have resolved itself, and no one would have had to look like a fascist. But no. There are just too many cops and politicians and pundits who are just dying to slip on the jackboots and see if they make for a perfect Cinderella-fit.

The problems are all still there. The issues are all still there. Things are getting worse, not better. And the movement is now on the move. You got violent with the peaceniks and now you can bet that the next wave of protesters is going to be prepared to step it up. All you did was let everybody know that no matter how peaceful the protest, eventually The Man is going to come down hard with billy clubs and tear gas. Round two will only escalate accordingly, and there will be fewer verses of Kumbaya in the drum circle before things turn ugly.

Faustian Fashion

We hit 7,000,000,000 people today. How’s that for some Halloween horror?

Well it scares the shit out of me. And it’s not just because I’m a misanthrope who doesn’t like the idea of being stuck on the same hunk of space rock with that many assholes. Rather, I’m terrified of the next wave of children that will be showing up at my door every October 31, looking for a handout. It gets worse and worse every year.

My wife bought so much shitty candy this Halloween (shitty so we wouldn’t be tempted to eat it ourselves) I thought we’d never get rid of it all. Normally we get a few hundred kids in our area. This time around we got hit by that many in the first forty minutes. We were cleaned out by a quarter past seven, and the streets were still packed with the sugar-fuelled piranhas. The feeding frenzy was so brief and intense, it hardly seemed worth my ten minutes of effort to butcher an innocent pumpkin into something reasonably jack-o-lanterny.

As always, I made a careful tally of the costumes on parade. My favourite this year was the kid dressed as Don Cherry. At least, I assume he was supposed to be Don Cherry. He was a clown in a hockey jersey so I think I made a fair assumption there. I like to take this annual opportunity to tap into the psyche of today’s youth to see which costumes most commonly appeal their pop-culture ravaged hive mind. In reverse order, here was tonight’s top ten:

10) Cowboy (An oldie but a goodie. Sadly, most of them were of the Sheriff Woody variety.)

9) Robot (Like Apple hasn’t already turned everybody into one of those with all their iShit.)

8) Trailer Trash (At least, I keep telling myself those were costumes.)

7) Darth Vader (Nooooooooooo! You’ll only encourage George to keep reissuing those damn movies.)

6) Various Harry Potter characters (Yes, still. It’s over. Please stop.)

5) Fairy Princess (Disney Inc. scrambles the brains of yet another generation of young girls.)

4) Spider-Man (The web-head blew away the superhero competition. Batman, Iron Man, Thor and Green Lantern only made one appearance each.)

3) Skeleton (Or, arguably, an Eating Disorder. Take your pick.)

2) Pirate (I guess the kiddies still like those Johnny-Depp-cashes-a-paycheck movies.)

But it was the number one most popular Halloween costume of 2011 that shocked the hell out me, so to speak.

1) The Devil

Boys, girls, the tiny five-year-olds, the giant teenagers, and at least one parent — they all wanted to hit the town and paint it devil-red. I was beginning to wonder if there was a fire sale on eternal damnation over at Walmart, but there was too much variety in evidence. These weren’t off-the-rack one-sin-fits-all getups. They were cobbled together do-in-yourself Beelzebubs and Belphegors. And it pleased me greatly. It was sinister, it was horror related, it was on-topic. And it had nothing to do with sparkling vampires or beefcake werewolves.

Satan had his night, so suck it you Jesus Ween tools. Eat shit you anti-scary-costume Calgary schools. And kindly suck my balls all you Christian fanatics who freak out every time anybody has anything critical to say about Christmas or Easter, but then turn around and fuck with my spooky pagan candy fest.

The horror nuts and gore hounds have taken back the night. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend the rest of that night melting my brain with another half-dozen crappy monster movies.

Pwned! All Your Soul Are Belong To Us.

As The World Burns

Have you been watching what’s been going on in the world these last few weeks and months? To recap:

England went all Lord of the Flies on us, Somalia starved, America went bankrupt, so did the Eurozone, Norway turned into a shooting gallery (Norway?!?), Syria openly revolted, as did Libya with the help of the rest of the world, Turkey nearly went military coup on us, Egypt is a mess, not to mention Greece, Italy, Spain and Ireland, Afghanistan remains as hot as ever, Pakistan and Iraq haven’t exactly cooled off either, Mexico is openly run by gangsters, and, for the record, Japan still glows in the dark.

If you’re smart, you’re probably well stocked with food, water, guns and ammo, crossing off days on the calendar until the socio-economic apocalypse arrives. Unfortunately I’m Canadian. So the best I can do is cower in my igloo with a couple of cans of maple syrup stuck in a snow bank. But I’m armed with a hockey stick and I’m totally willing to go for a high-sticking penalty on your ass if you fuck with me.

Good luck, stay strong, and try to hold on until Apple finishes taking over everything and installs the new world order.

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In more celebratory news:

Happy fortieth birthday, unbacked American fiat currency! You look like a million bucks. Even though you’ve lost 85% of your value since Nixon.

Enjoy your special day and live it up. Because you won’t see fifty.

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I had to share this because it made me laugh. And then cry. And then laugh some more. Read it for yourself and we’ll talk…

So apparently Hollywood now holds the written word in such disdain, they’ve taken to blowing up screenplays. Oh sure, they use the excuse of terrorism paranoia and suspected bomb threats to cover their tracks, but we all know what’s going on here. Screenplays and their screenwriters have always been considered marginally necessary evils by the movie moguls. Past films like Sunset Boulevard, Barton Fink and The Player have allowed the power brokers to openly play with the idea of murdering screenwriters for fun, profit or sport. But now, in an era when Michael Bay films make a billion bucks, they’re getting bolder and have begun actively destroying scripts Michael-Bay style — with a big fiery explosion. I bet they even had a hot chick washing a car in the background when they blew this poor defenseless manuscript to smithereens. How much longer before they load a bus with explosives and screenwriters and purposely drive it below 55 miles per hour?

It’s clear they’ve decided they don’t need those nuisance writers after all, and that blockbusters, left to their own devices, will write themselves. Don’t believe me? Have you been out to see any Hollywood movies this summer? I think they may well be old plots pulled randomly out of a hat, and populated with characters written by a computer algorithm with all the associated warmth and understanding of the human condition you might expect. You can argue that qualifies as writing too. And sure, technically speaking, there are a lot of words to be found in them. Just let me know if you ever spot a soul in there too.

Cliffhangers

Another month has flown by with no real blog activity on this end. What can I say? It’s summer. Who wants to do any work in the summer? Not me. I have a strict regiment of sweating to attend to. There’s a lot of perspiration to get done on a tight schedule and I can’t afford to waste any vital melting time on something as frivolous as writing or a career.

Besides, I’ve been glued to the television, hopelessly wrapped up in my soap opera. Sure, the format has taken some hard hits in recent years. As the World Turns is gone; One Life to Live and All My Children have been shuffled off to the netherworld of online broadcasting. But the knuckle-biting high drama continues on C-SPAN as a cast of villains, heroes and hairdos plot against each other in a riveting tale of backstabbing, revenge and debt ceiling hikes. Like sands through the hourglass, so are The Debates of Our Lives.

Pause for dramatic effect, zoom in for a close-up, the music swells, and cut to commercial.

Hopefully the audience will still be there, hanging on every word, by the time we return from this important message from our sponsor.

I Don’t…

I wish I could say I got up early to watch the royal wedding, but the fact is I just never went to bed.

The highlight for me was watching what felt like twenty minutes of Prince William trying to cram a ring onto Kate Middleton’s fat commoner finger. That’s what happens when you marry someone of such low breeding. You just can’t fit your multi-million-dollar baubles onto extremities that have been calloused by years of toil in a coal mine, or a smithy, or a woad factory. When will the royals learn? They’re intrinsically better than us, and should only marry each other. Granted, he and Kate are 11th cousins, and no royal wedding would be complete without SOME in-breeding, but that simply isn’t close enough. The Ptolemys had it right. You need to marry your brother or sister. That way you get to hoard all the wealth and power and DNA. If you dole out your precious royal juices willy-nilly, you only end up with some ginger monstrosity like Prince Harry, who is only fit serve as party organizer, bon vivant, and cannon fodder for the armed forces.

I played network roulette for a while, trying to decide whose coverage was the least awful. CBC had Peter Mansbridge literally seeing people who weren’t even there (he’s getting a tad old, admitting he covered Chuck and Di’s wedding from the exact same spot thirty years earlier). CTV had out-of-synch sound and Tracy Ullman poking fun at Canadian accents (keep it sharp and edgy as always Tracy, that’s what it’s all aboot, eh?) And of course there was CNN with their go-to royalist, Richard Quest (the single worst parody of a Brit since Dick Van Dyke chim chim cher-eed his way through Mary Poppins). That was an automatic pass. I briefly considered switching to Fox, but I figured their coverage would be all about how Obama, the Marxist-Kenyan Socialist, destroyed the U.S. economy by not getting an invite.

Now that it’s mercifully over, I will spend my late-night/early-morning TV- time more productively. There are some damn intriguing test patterns airing in that time slot.

White Dudes In Black Masks

Calgary just had its annual white pride parade. If you’re not familiar with Alberta in general or Calgary specifically, they’re like our little slice of the south, tucked up in a barren stretch of the north that is so cold the people there go crazy over the winter and emerge from their cabins in the spring whistling Dixie and looking to blame black people for the defeat of Confederate forces in the Yankie war of aggression. Luckily, they never find any because there are no black people in Alberta. They’re too clever to move there.

Aside from oil and racists, Alberta also produces its fair share of hockey players so the rest of us won’t forget they’re Canadian. This year the racists – oops, I’m sorry, RACIALISTS — are protesting that parliament is too anti-white.

Really?

Have you seen parliament lately? I have, and I had to wear sunglasses to shelter my eyes from the light reflecting off of so many miles of Caucasian flesh.

Anyway, I wish the best of luck to the white-pride folks and hope that one day they’ll be proud enough of their skin colour to take their masks off.

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As far as I’m concerned, Bill Hader is one of the most awesome cast members Saturday Night Live has ever had. I always figured he was a big movie buff considering his string of black-and-white Vincent Price skits about the long-suffering Mr. Price trying to host a creepy talk show in the early ‘60s despite the disruptions of period celebrities (who behave just as poorly as our contemporary celebrities).

Hader has earned new movie-geek street cred by writing a top-ten list for the Criterion Collection. Added points go to him for cheating and making his choices double features so he could bump the list up to a top twenty. And they’re all smart choices. Sure, Criterion specializes in art house films, so it’s hard to look like a dumbass picking anything from of their collection. But there are still a few landmines of shit to be sidestepped (some Michael Bay, a Kevin Smith).

Bill Hader currently has a role in Paul alongside the likes of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. And speaking of those guys, I quite enjoyed this clip of them recreating one of the great homoerotic tension scenes from Star Wars.

Nerds Of The World Unite!

The turmoil in Egypt has got me thinking — when is our revolution going to happen? I’m not talking about the imminent collapse of the United States (although the clock is ticking on that one) or Canada finally ousting Harper’s minority government after five interminable years of douchebaggery (the clock can’t tick fast enough on that one). Rather, I’m referring to the long-overdue uprising of the geeks and nerds of the world. It’s time we unite, and not just with each other, but with all mankind. Because, at the end of the day, we are all nerds about something.

Who is more pathetic? The guy who’s seen every episode of every incarnation of Star Trek multiple times and owns all the DVDs, or the guy who can rattle off every obscure baseball statistic from memory? Trick question. They are equally pathetic. Just because one of the nerds is obsessed with a manly sport full of testosterone and steroids doesn’t make him any less of a nerd. Whether you’re prattling on about Nimoy Spock versus Quinto Spock or Mark McGuire versus Roger Maris, I’m going to be equally bored and longing for a nap so I don’t have to listen anymore.

It’s time we leave people who are a little too much into Star Trek, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings alone, and stop giving a pass to Civil War reenactors, fashionistas and Super Bowl superfans. You know who you are. I don’t give a shit who designed your shoes, you hear me? Only you and your fellow shoe-fetish nerds care anything about that crap. The rest of us are happy to wear sneakers that didn’t cost us three hundred dollars because they just happened to be the exact shade of green that matches our purse and eyes. If you want to obsess about it with your fellow fetishists, go right ahead, but don’t for one second think you’re superior to your next door neighbour who went to last year’s San Diego Comic Con dressed as his favourite character from Babylon 5.

So whatever the subject of fixation, let’s collectively agree we all pick our own poison and forgive each other our personal areas of trivial expertise. Except when it comes to religion. People who geek out about that and take it way too seriously need to be ostracized from civilized society for the good of everyone. Perhaps we could put them in special camps. No, not death camps — that’s too much like something religious zealots would do. I mean something more like their own Jesus Camps, only this would be Jesus Deprogramming Camps. Or Muhammad Deprogramming Camps. Or L. Ron Hubbard Deprogramming Camps. After a successful stay at one of these camps, the Christians and Muslims could downgrade their geekdom to simply being fantasy nerds (since they already believe in magic) and the Scientologists could go on fussing about science fiction like they always have, provided they agree to read something better than Hubbard’s dimestore bullshit. Maybe we can get them hooked on Asimov or Bradbury or something that doesn’t involve the galactic warlord Xenu — the worst sci-fi villain since George Lucas showed us Darth Vader’s origin as an annoying kid who spends three films whining about school, girls, pimples and the fact that his mom got raped to death by sand people.

By the way, as a self-professed history nerd, could I ask the Egyptian revolution to pretty please leave the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and its priceless treasures alone? The relics of King Tut’s tomb really don’t need a Molotov cocktail to complete the collection. But should you end up burning down such a major respository of world heritage, thanks, at least, for not doing it in the name of religion.

My Scorched Earth Vacation

I still haven’t written about my Alaskan vacation two years ago like I promised. Now I can’t wait to not write about my Mediterranean trip as well. I didn’t say much to anybody beforehand about this epic voyage because blogging about a three-week absence is like saying, “Please, at your earliest convenience, drop by my empty home and rob the shit out of me.”

Although I’m likely to never get into the specifics of my day-to-day travels through twelve cities in four countries on three continents, recent events have prompted me to mention certain highlights. Mostly because disaster has dogged my heels at every turn. Timing in life is everything, and during the trip I managed to narrowly avoid all sorts of inclement weather. Rain, when it came, generally waited until I was indoors and then stopped in time for me to step back outside. But it was only after I was safely back home that the real cataclysms started to explode in my wake, including incapacitating snow, airport shutdowns, floods, embassy bombings, shark attacks, closed ports, violent seas, and all-out revolution.

You may have heard that Egypt is burning tonight. On some level, I fear it’s all my fault for having spent two days there. I’m sure thirty years of oppression has less to do with it than a nation-wide intolerance for yet another westerner violating the sanctity of their national monuments. By paying a fistful of Egyptian pounds to go crawling around deep inside one of the great pyramids like a latter day crusader, looking for something cool to loot from the gift shop, and contemplating lunch at the Pizza Hut that rests majestically in the shadow of the Sphinx, I may have triggered some ancient curse or other. I’m not sure which one, since there are so many curses involving mummies and scarabs and crazy drivers in Egypt, but I’m hoping a qualified Egyptologist might weigh in with a professional opinion — provided they’re not currently occupied torching government buildings and throwing teargas canisters back at riot police.

I hope this isn’t a trend. I feel like merely passing through places like England, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt may have inadvertently caused all sorts of damage with my aura of cynical pessimism. But it’s not like any similar horrible disasters happened following my 2008 visit to Alaska.

Well…Sarah Palin. But that’s just… Aw shit, I’ve done it again, haven’t I?

Loot from the fourth crusade adorns St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Seeing the statue of the Tetrarchy from Constantinople was a big deal for me because I’m a history nerd. And you probably don’t give a shit because you’re not. Just take my word for it. It’s fucking cool.

My homoerotic fascination with phallic obelisks was satisfied in Rome, which sports thirteen of these ancient monuments. More than any other city in the world. I visited every single one. And you probably don’t give a shit because you’re still not a history nerd. Just take my word for it. It’s fucking obsessive and weird to do that, even for a history nerd.

Me versus the Mouth of Truth. Mostly because I wanted to stick my hand in the same hole as Gregory Peck. And I don’t mean Mrs. Peck. I told a lie while my hand was in there and wasn’t maimed as promised — so it didn’t work and I totally want my fifty Euro cents back!

The Milvian Bridge. Not much of a tourist attraction, even though the fate of Christian civilization was decided here after Constantine squared off against Maxentius in the year 312. The signs on the site make no mention of what happened, which is fucked up. I guess when your entire city is overflowing with history, it’s easy to overlook a few minor details here and there. Like an event that swung the entire course of world history.Yes, as a matter of fact, it does look like I’m standing in front of a tourist agency poster.

The Pyramid of Menkaure is the one I went spelunking in. It was cramped and hot and miserable and AWESOME. Saladin’s son, al-Malik al-Aziz Osman bin Salahadin Yusuf and his crew spent eight months back in the 12th century trying to destroy the pyramids, starting with Menkaure. After barely denting it, they gave up. Losers.I wasn’t kidding about the Pizza Hut (left).

While in Istanbul, I visited the set of Tom Tykwer’s film, The International. I guess they left the facade standing after production wrapped.

Me sitting on an ancient public toilet in Ephesus. Pretty funny. But had no one been around, I would have dropped my pants and made a straining face. Because that’s what’s known as INTELLECTUAL comedy.

All over the Mediterranean, stray dogs and cats live in the ruins. I have to admit, it makes ancient history a lot more adorable.

Shockingly, in Greece, they treat their ruins with roped-off reverence. Everywhere else they pretty much let you climb around on their ruins like they’re two-thousand-year-old jungle gyms. Because hey, they’re just a bunch of rocks, right?

Casts of the remains of Pompeii’s volcano victims ratchet up the creepiness factor of the tour to eleven.

Winners of the Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman lookalike contests shake hands in Naples and vow to co-star in a buddy cop film at some future date. Box office gold guaranteed.