The Best of ‘Snide Remarks’: 2005

Another year is drawing to a close, as years tend to do, and I have compiled a list of highlights from the last 12 months of columns, as I tend to do. Enjoy this little stroll down memory lane, won’t us?

On the kittens that were wandering the halls of my apartment building:
How did the kittens get into the building? Even if they knew the security code to access the main door, they wouldn’t have been able to reach the keypad to type it in. Why, it’s four feet off the ground, and these kittens were no more than six inches tall! (January 10)

On noisy neighbors:
Dear Eric: The people who live directly upstairs from us stomp around constantly and it drives us crazy. What can we do to stop the insanity? — Tested to the Limits
Dear Teste: Get a set of earplugs. These will be very useful for when you go upstairs and shoot your neighbors. (January 24)

On the weather:
My friends who live in Las Vegas told me it was snowing there a few weeks ago. Snow in Las Vegas! Hell had literally frozen over. Do you realize how many things had to happen now? I was going to have to pay my BYU parking tickets, eat at Arby’s and set foot in Florida again. (January 27)

On “Racing Stripes”:
Dustin Hoffman, who is the voice of a Shetland pony in the movie, was being interviewed about his character and about the film in general. He said, “There’s a subtle message in this piece,” and I was startled. Did he just refer to “Racing Stripes” as a “piece”? Like it’s art or something? As in: “Last weekend we listened to the symphony perform a piece by Mozart, then we went to the museum to see some exquisite Picasso pieces, then we went to the movies to watch the piece about the talking zebra”? I thought “Racing Stripes” was a “piece,” too, but probably not in the same sense that Hoffman meant it. (February 7)

On the royal family:
It was announced last week that the stork-like Prince Charles will marry his horse-faced girlfriend and adultery partner Camilla Parker-Bowles as soon as he returns from delivering babies and she has finished running the Kentucky Derby. They hope to produce many beaked and hooved children. Charles’ ancient, inbred mother, Queen Elizabeth II, issued a statement indicating her approval of the marriage, then went outside to dance on the grave of Princess Diana, which caused her to fall and break a hip, which caused all of England to weep like little snaggle-toothed girls. It was indeed a sorry spectacle. (February 14)

On a report of an incident in England:
The news story says the woman pleaded guilty to “unlawful wounding,” which implies that in England there is such a thing as “lawful wounding.” I suspect things like beating up a mime or stabbing a hippie would fall under that category. (February 14)

On advertising tactics:
I often hear radio commercials for auto dealerships where we are told the proprietor has “gone crazy” and is slashing prices right and left, and we should hurry on down before he regains his senses. But to me, suggesting that car salesmen are mentally unstable is not a selling point. Sure, their insanity may be manifesting itself in low, low prices right now. But what if by the time I arrive their insanity has switched to the kind that involves high, high prices and killing people? What if they get tired of slashing prices and begin slashing throats? Where does that leave me? Dead and without a new car, that’s where. (February 21)

On metaphors:
I think “I’m crazy about you” is one of those figures of speech that is best not to think about literally, like “she broke my heart” or “he beat the crap out of me.” (February 21)

On basketball:
To me basketball is like a vasectomy. I understand how it’s done, and I can appreciate the skill involved, but I have no interest in watching it performed, much less participating. (February 24)

On manliness:
I’m not much of a guy. I don’t say “dude,” I can’t build anything, I don’t know what “torque” is, and I’ve never measured anything in horsepower. (Except, one time, a horse.) (February 24)

On university “honor codes”:
Even party schools like San Diego State and UNLV have honor codes. (“Students shall refrain from pilfering other guys’ chicks, because dude, that’s not cool.”) (February 28)

On a news story about a big manure fire:
No one knows how the fire started, but the prevailing theory is that heat from the decomposing manure deep within the pile simply ignited of its own accord. I think you will agree that when enormous mounds of dung are spontaneously combusting, it is time for all of us to start making our peace with God. (March 7)

On movie warnings:
I feel audiences should be alerted ahead of time if a movie contains Rob Schneider. His starring vehicles are clearly marked, of course, according to government regulations. But what about his cameos? There is currently no system in place to protect viewers from those brief, upsetting appearances. (March 7)

On our thirst for celebrity justice:
Martha Stewart actually did jail time! Do you know what that did just for the careers of people who make lame jokes for a living, people like editorial cartoonists and Jay Leno? The goddess of domesticity in prison—why, the jokes about using pine cones and potpourri to decorate her cell practically write themselves! (In Jay Leno’s case, they actually do write themselves, with the computer program HackComedianPro 4.0.) (March 24)

On the new pope:
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is the new pope. He was chosen by an enclave of cardinals, who managed to elect him decisively in only two days. The annoying part was how Ryan Seacrest stalled for an entire hour before finally announcing it. (April 25)

On how the new pope is chosen:
Then the college of cardinals meets in what’s called a “conclave” to choose a successor. The race is technically open to any baptized male member of the Catholic church. Which means this is one more election that John Kerry lost. (April 25)

On the litigious history of the woman who “found” a finger in her chili at Wendy’s:
Ayala says she once successfully sued El Pollo Loco for $30,000 after her daughter got food poisoning there, though El Pollo Loco says they haven’t paid her anything. Nor should they. I say you eat at a place called The Crazy Chicken, you take your chances. (May 2)

On the copying and cross-promoting that TV networks do:
Game Show Network’s “Match Game: Special Victims Unit” Contestants try to match answers to fill-in-the-blank excerpts from sex-related police reports with a panel of C-list celebrities. For example: “The witness said she knew the man was a flasher because she could see his BLANK.” (Winning answer: “mother-in-law.”) (May 9)

On the “Runaway Bride” and her claim that she’d been kidnapped:
After only an hour of questioning, Jennifer caved like a French soldier and admitted the abductors did not exist, which probably explains how she escaped them so easily. It turns out she had simply fled Georgia, and not for the reasons you would expect someone to flee Georgia — the oppressive humidity, the racist underpinnings, the pervasive stench of peaches — but because she was overwhelmed by the upcoming wedding. (May 16)

On how even bad movies like “The Pacifier” take time to make:
Then there’s the actual shooting schedule, which takes several weeks. Even simple shots require technicians to set up the lights, load the film into the cameras, put the makeup on the actors, and train Vin Diesel where to stand and how to approximate human speech. (His trainer is just off-camera, issuing commands, a tranquilizer gun at the ready in case he snaps his tether and begins mauling crew members.) (May 23)

On watching “Jeopardy!” with my friends:
We each had our strengths in “Jeopardy!” Greg excelled at the science and sports categories; I did well on entertainment and vocabulary; Michael focused on finding double-entendres in every clue and on yelling obscenities at Alex Trebek. (June 6)

On attending a game against the Cubs at Dodger Stadium:
We were in the cheap seats, too, amid the rabble, the drunks and the rowdies. There were many Cubs fans around us, openly taunting Dodgers fans. To be a Cubs fan is sad enough, but to go to other people’s stadiums just to harass them? There are some deep psychological issues at play there. (June 13)

On losing weight:
Dear Eric: Why can’t I lose the rest the weight I gained from pregnancy? The “baby” is almost two! — Chubby and Crying
Dear Chubby: Well, maybe you should finally give birth to the poor thing! (June 20)

On pop music:
I love music. When life seems complicated and impossible, I like to turn on the radio. The top hits of the day always remind me that, no matter what troubles I may have, at least I ain’t no holla back girl. (July 4)

On accidentally using the wrong public restroom:
The person in the stall next to me left about then, and two new people entered the bathroom together, chatting. They had women’s voices. I thought, “Dear me, what have I done?!” I realized that at that very moment, I was voiding my bowels in feminine territory. The shock of this realization was so great that it was a good thing I was sitting down, and on a toilet. (July 11)

On apartment hunting:
It’s so hard finding the right apartment. You find one that’s a great price, but it’s too small. Or it’s the perfect size, but it’s in the wrong part of town. Or it’s in a great location, but it’s built on an ancient Indian burial ground. (August 1)

The exam you have to take to become a notary public:
Question 1: Can you see?
Question 2: If someone were signing his or her name on a piece of paper in front of you, would you be able to watch this without turning away, being distracted, eating a banana, etc.?
Question 3: Do you have religious or personal beliefs that prevent you from applying rubber-stamped messages to documents?
Question 4: Do you want to be a notary public?
Question 5: Really? Why? (August 8)

On the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina:
Once President Bush had seen the destruction from the sky, he immediately swung into inaction. Despite having proven with the Terri Schiavo case that he is perfectly capable of providing swift aid to people who are already dead, Bush was curiously slow to get adequate military and medical support to the Katrina disaster zone. The official word was that the roads were impassable — but Harry Connick Jr. was able to get to there, so why not the National Guard? And why Harry Connick Jr.? Hadn’t those people suffered enough? (September 12)

On seeing “The Price Is Right” for the first time in many years:
I note that Bob looks positively ANCIENT. He is over-tanned and white-haired, gaunt and desiccated like a particularly white-toothed corpse. I foresee his death: His sternum is crushed by an enthusiastic contestant, and a rib punctures his heart. He is dead in a matter of moments, and contestants immediately place bids on his corpse. (September 26)

On going back to school, after already obtaining one degree, to study film:
I figure if I have a bachelor’s in journalism, followed by a minor in film studies, reviewing movies will be the only job I’m qualified for, and people will stop asking me why I do it. Also, when people e-mail me questions like, “How culd you hate Rob Zombie movies????? What r ur creedentials 2 B a movie critic anyway??????,” I’ll be able to respond with: “This diploma right here, jackface.” (October 10)

On my new apartment:
My apartment is one of eight units in a little horseshoe-shaped complex that was built in 1940, which means this year it reached retirement age. Officially, the apartment is “quaint,” in that it is made of brick and has hardwood floors and high ceilings. In practical terms, it is a lot like a 65-year-old person, in that it’s always cold and has a peculiar odor. (October 17)

On the Katie Holmes/Tom Cruise pregnancy:
What will a Cruise/Holmes baby be like? Will it have a million-dollar smile and earn Oscar nominations? Will it achieve worldwide fame and stardom? Will it be the worst thing in “Batman Begins”? (October 24)

On not socializing with my neighbors:
We Americans lead pretty independent lives nowadays. It’s not like I need to run next door to ask old Mr. McGillicuddy to help me get the livestock inside when there’s a twister a-comin’, or to get my mule out of a ditch after a carting mishap. Even the proverbial cup of sugar is no longer passed between neighbors, what with the fact that no one bakes anymore, and that “sugar” could be a code word that undercover cops use for drugs. (November 28)

On Alabama:
Do you like making fun of Alabama? Sure, we all do. That’s why we have Alabama. That’s why they kept it intact when they were making America. You know how there’s one person in every group whom the others mock when he’s not around? That’s Alabama. His 49 friends secretly think he’s a moron. (OK, not secretly.) (December 5)

On social movements:
It’s not often that I find myself leading a revolution of the oppressed working class. Usually I look at the oppressed working class and think: Meh. I’m not the one oppressing you. Quit whining and make my McNuggets. (December 12)

On the “holiday tree” in downtown Portland:
It’s not a Christmas tree, obviously, because that would drive all the people who don’t celebrate Christmas to suicide, mass bloody hari-kari right there in the middle of downtown. It’s a Holiday Tree, meant to represent not just Christmas, but all the other December holidays that have trees as their central icons. When you think of Hanukkah, you think of a tree, right? And when you think of Kwanzaa, you think of a holiday that somebody made up out of thin air in 1966 that no one actually celebrates. And then you think of a tree, right? (December 19)

There were 57 "Snide Remarks" columns published this year -- 52 (including this one) on, plus five in Salt Lake City Weekly. It was therefore my third most prolific year since beginning the column in 1997. (I did 103 in 2002 and 95 in 2001, when my column was running twice a week.)

These retrospectives always make me realize how often I use parentheses as a way of punching up an end-of-paragraph joke. Why are things funnier when they're in parentheses? Are the parentheses my favorite punctuation team?

As always, I thank you, the readers, for supporting and (I hope) enjoying the column. Here's to 57 more in 2006! Or 52, anyway. At least 52.