February 28, 2003


Charles. Put the goddamn link machine down.

Posted by Jeff at 11:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


We get lots of weird e-mail at work, most of it spam and a majority of it relating to either farm-centric porn, ill-advised long-distance Central African banking or risky mortgages that only require $1 down and $1 a month repayment.

Occasionally you get a pearl that you can share with the world.

This unsolicited column came today from a woman who obviously was moved by the death of Fred Rogers.

I, however, was unmoved enough by the column to consider it for publication.

As a co-worker wrote to me: "OK, which is more inexplicable: The fact that this woman got into the Washington Post (letters to the editor, perhaps?) or the "telescope" line from the Mr. Rogers song at the bottom?""

And she writes:

Dear editor,

Please consider the following timely essay for publication. My credits include the Washington Post, Reader's Digest, Family Fun Magazine, and many more.

Best Regards,


Farewell, Mr. Rogers: You Can Never Go Down The Drain


In this age of modern media, we've all heard about famous people who've died. Princess Diana, Kurt Kobain, Jacqueline Kennedy, and the list goes on and on. But, face it, there's something about hearing that Mr. Rogers has died that just seems, well, wrong.

Maybe it's because we never expect our childhood icons to ever die. Or perhaps it's that we feel that a part of our childhood is gone. Or maybe, just maybe it's that there are few things in this world that you can truly count on, but you could always ALWAYS count on the fact that everyday Mr. Rogers would enter his television house, change into a sweater and tennis shoes, and feed the goldfish. And, even though his cardigan collection wasn't all that great, somehow that simple act itself was comforting.

Let me explain.

Fred Rogers and I go back. Waaaaay back. I found him purely by accident on public television one Saturday morning while trying to fill my free time between Sesame Street episodes. Frankly, I was a bit skeptical at first. I mean, every kid under five knows that any show worth watching needs a cast of adults dressed in animal suits and some catchy nursery rhymes. Frankly, compared to that, this gentle, soft-spoken man with his hand puppets and trolley was well, boring.

But for some strange reason I kept watching. And watching.

Then one day it happened. He looked up from tying his shoelaces and said, in a way only a four-year-old could understand: You-can-never-go-down-the-drain.

Clearly, this was a man who spoke to my very soul.

And that's not all. Over the years Mr. Rogers went on to give me all sorts of comforting information I couldn't get anywhere else. He told me that people will like me for who I am. He told me that I was special. And, on top of that, he showed me how to tie my shoes over and over again, without once getting mad. I was putty in his hands.

The funny thing is, today when I told my eight and 10-year-old children that Mr. Rogers had died, they looked at me and said, "Who?"

"You know," I said, "the man with all of the same sweaters."

They instantly knew.

Let me just say, we haven't just lost someone who had a popular television show for thirty years, we've lost one of the few people who could still, in this violent and complicated world, look us in the eyes and tell us that we can never, ever go down the drain.

And we'd believe him.

Good-bye, Mr. Rogers. And thank you.

You Can Never Go Down the Drain
1969 Fred M. Rogers

You can never go down
Can never go down
Can never go down the drain.
You can never go down
Can never go down
Can never go down the drain.

You're bigger than the water.
You're bigger than the soap.
You're much bigger than all the bubbles.
And bigger than your telescope

So you see...
You can never go down
Can never go down
Can never go down the drain.
You can never go down
Can never go down
Can never go down the drain.

The rain may go down
But you can't go down.
You're bigger than any bathroom drain.
You can never go down
Can never go down
You can never go down the drain.

Uh, ma'am? You can't go down the drain, but your prose certainly can.


Posted by Jeff at 04:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


As voyeuristic as this country is, it cracks me up when people go apoplectic about Alleged Reality But Really Just Made Up TV and What It All Means.

I mean, after you see footage of a couple presidents getting plugged and two shuttles being smeared across the sky on live TV, seeing a lunkhead trying to fool 20 women into thinking he's a millionaire isn't that big of a deal.

If the Alleged Reality But Really Just Made Up TV trend says anything, maybe it's that people have come to find real life a lot more interesting than fake presidential docudramas and paunchy John Ritter sitcoms.

And not unlike the way that video games are boosting the popularity of the NFL and NASCAR, maybe the Sims games have a little something to do with stoking the boom in Alleged Reality But Really Just Made Up TV.

I say all this in order to have an excuse to show a simulated house being built.

Speaking of What It All Means, what does it say that simulated houses start and end with construction of bathrooms?

Posted by Jeff at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Colleague and blog mentor Dave Simanoff (his Daily Dave is a featured link along the left rail) gives Side Salad's revamping a hearty thumb's up. That's high praise, considering his site is so much fun to read and the design is so clean.

I like. You get the Daily Dave seal of approval!

It's like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval ... but gayer.

(DSIMANOFF, 2/28/03 11:03)

Posted by Jeff at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Posted by Jeff at 12:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2003


Here's something kinda cool: I found out the other day that I coined a phrase.

For a writer or an editor, it's the equivalent to creating a hybrid fruit. Kinda like a durian.

For the horticulturally impaired, a durian is a weird looking, strong smelling fruit that grows in South-East Asia. It resembles a spiked American football, is brown (almost yellow when ripe), and its smell has been compared to a sewage tank. The fruit separates into five segments, after being split open. The meat of the fruit is a creamy substance surrounding the chestnut-like seeds. The edible part of the durian has been compared in taste to cheese cake, onion flavored custard, or chocolate mousse.

To me, coining a phrase is sort of like that; you take something that doesn't seem to go together and create something new and unexpected.

As odd as that sounds, I remember early in my writing career when I read a Dave Barry column about weird things people do and he invented the verb "hork" to describe the act of jamming a swizzle stick up your nostril. I've tried at various times to devise words that not only are descriptive but ones that will get by the tight-assed copy desk.

Looks like "dog whisperer" worked.

I'll keep you posted for when the word Houck becomes synonymous with "heroically wealthy literary titan."

It could happen.

Posted by Jeff at 11:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


If Side Salad had a mascot, I'm sure it would be some sort of oversized crouton named "Crunchy," or something equally as ridiculous.

Since crouton costumes are not exactly an off-the-rack purchase, Side Salad hereby adopts the dolphin as it's mascot.

That said, we hereby announce that it's Hug a Wet Dolphin Day here at the Salad Bowl.

Damn, that's one happy looking mammal.

Posted by Jeff at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


So much for a negative and pessimistic media...

This online poll is being conducted on our in-house Intranet:

NewsSource Poll

Do you think there will be another terrorist attack on America soil?

Yes: 27%

No: 73%

Posted by Jeff at 04:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Here's a phrase you don't hear every day: "End Stage Nose."

As if the nose was in Hospice, or something.

About whom does the phrase refer? Michael Jackson, of course.

And I quote:

"Michael Jackson has what we call an end-stage nose, a crippled nose, a crucified nose one that's beyond the point of no return.''

This ABCNews.com chat with a noted plastic surgeon following the recent avalanche of Michael Jackson documentaries is a pretty interesting medical look at what he's done to his face.

The plastic surgeon, Dr. Pamela Lipkin explains:

"An end-stage nose means a nose that can't be salvaged; the tissues have lost their viability and even with perfect, expert surgery, improvement would be unlikely. Very few noses fall into this category even noses that look awful and considerably over-operated may be highly improvable. End-stage really means that the nasal tissues have been so traumatized and scarred that reconstruction is doomed to fail. Obviously, continuing to operate on a nose like that could only make the situation worse. By "worse," I mean further destruction of the tissues so the nose gets smaller, more contracted and scarred."

In a word: Ick.

Grab the reins, Mike.

Posted by Jeff at 03:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


It's official: Writing a book about female orgasms can destroy your marriage.

Just saw this breathlessly reported piece of gossip at the New York Post's Page Six site:

IT is finally official - Kim Cattrall and her hubby, Mark Levinson, have split. "Yes, they are taking a break," said Cattrall's rep. Careful readers will recall that our fellow columnist Cindy Adams wrote about the rift in December, when she noted Levinson had flirted with other women. The story was loudly and repeatedly denied. On Tuesday, Liz Smith reported the two were "separated." And Cattrall, who's away skiing, is finally coming clean. "They had nothing in common," explained a spy.

Maybe the clues to the separation can be found in this exerpt from the Amazon.com book review:

A little education for men can go a long way. The concepts are basic--anyone who isn't a virgin probably knows them. But the rub lies in the consistency, the selflessness, and the patience required of the man. Cattrall and Levinson ask their male readers how they'd feel if they experienced some physical pleasure during lovemaking but never got to climax; they would likely get frustrated after a while.


Can you imagine being Levinson and going into a book store, only to see for all time your name on a Big O title next to your ex-wife's?

Posted by Jeff at 08:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


We had a discussion at work the other day about the crazy things your kids say at the oddest moments.

Karla told about the previous night, when her 11-year-old son, Zachary, let out a belch of heroic proportions.

"Zach, what do you say?"


Same thing happened last night in our house when it came time for my 7-year-old son Brian to take a dose of nuclear-pink antibiotic fluid. He's still fighting the remnants of strep throat.

He took the small, see-through cup in his right hand, tossed it back until the pink ooze dribbled into his mouth and then took a huge gulp.

Without missing a beat, he wipes his mouth with his forearm like a cowboy in a saloon and says, "Set me up with another one."

Posted by Jeff at 08:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 26, 2003


My professional life features an unending stream of phone conversations with slack-jawed mouth-gaspers who are incapable of logical, interesting or relevant communication.

That proved true today when I called to verify information in a press release. Of course, the number was wrong. Instead I had reached a knockoff crisis hotline.

I chose to forge ahead, thinking maybe it actually was a correct number and that someone at the hotline had given it as a contact number on purpose.

The conversation went a little something like this:

Him: "Hello, Crisis Hotline."

Me: "Hi, I'm calling from the Tampa Tribune to verify information in a press release."

Him: "Well (extended pregnant pause while millions of neural synapses fail to connect) I can pray for you."

Posted by Jeff at 03:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack