Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Humor Writing”

Rusting On My Laurels

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This is my 124th post (yay me!), which is about 120 more than I thought I’d be able to create when I first started this journey at the beginning of the year (2017).  Sticking to projects is not my strong suit.  I get bored easily, which, I suppose is just a euphemism for “I’m lazy” or “I have a very short attention span“.

But honestly, I never thought I’d get this many posts written.  (high fives myself)

So I’ve been wondering when it gets easier.  When will I be able to just sit down and dash off something and post it?  When will I post 2 or 3 times a day just because I have that many interesting things to say?

It’s a struggle to write even once a day.  My days don’t change much from day to day.  I’m firmly ensconced on the work-home-sleep-work treadmill.  Whatever flashes of brilliance or genius I have while in the car on the way to or from work tend to either get forgotten by the time I am sitting in front of the computer, or else when I really start to ponder them and try to flesh them out as a blog post, they take on a sort of ridiculousness or insipidness that makes me just wad them up and throw them in the trashcan (figuratively speaking).

But if there’s one thing I’ve discovered, blogging is definitely a “what have you done for me lately?” medium.  One can post every day for a month and the likes and the follows roll in (relatively speaking), but stop posting for a single day and they drop to zero quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.  It’s definitely not like a musician who has a hit song or an actor who’s on a hit TV show that goes into syndication.  The royalties don’t keep rolling in decades after the song or show was first released.

So, there’s no resting on one’s laurels.  It is, to borrow a phrase from academia, publish or perish.

The problem is, I don’t have enough interesting thoughts or experiences to post every day.  I may have to resort to just making things up.

But I’d hate to be mistaken for a journalist or politician.

 

 

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Poor Biff’s Almanac — Thursday Evening Edition

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It has been an arduous journey, but I have managed to stagger from Monday morning to Thursday evening.  I still have the Friday workday to get through, of course, but the weekend is so close that I can practically smell it.  It smells sort of like funnel cake at an outdoor carnival.  It is the aroma that helps you realize you’re having a good time.  Or about to.

One of the things that has made the week so toilsome is a “special project” I was assigned at work a few weeks ago.  Whenever anyone approaches you with anything labeled as a “special project” you should run, not walk, to the nearest exit.  Leave your personal belongings behind, forget about your dignity, and gallop towards the door like the Roadrunner avoiding Wile E. Coyote.

Another phrase that should make your ears prick upwards as your internal alarms go off is the dreaded:  An opportunity to excel.   If you hear this phrase come out of anyone’s mouth that is above you in the org chart, you should spring upwards like a bunny who just saw an eagle’s shadow and bolt violently (remembering to run in a serpentine fashion).  Run!  Run like the wind!  Run until your little bunny heart explodes (figuratively) from the exertion of exercising your choice of flight.  (Fight is rarely an option in corporate America unless you enjoy being unemployed.)

“Opportunity to excel” is really just management euphemism for one of the following:

  • Career-ending debacle
  • Reputation-shattering fiasco
  • Soul-sucking disaster
  • Confidence-crushing catastrophe

The worst part about being saddled with a “special project” is that it is like the tar baby from Southern folklore.  Once you have gotten your hands on it, you can never rid yourself of it.  It will follow you for the rest of your career.  You will become known as “the guy who worked on that special project that time“.  Your fingerprints will be all over it.  Your name will be on all of the drawings and documents.

What’s worse, you will become known as the expert in that thing.  Which means every time another “special” project arises, you will be the go-to guy.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Friday Afternoon Edition

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At long last it is Friday.

Yep, I’m standing on the threshold of another weekend that starts out as an overly-ambitious to-do list but that ends up as a rumpled piece of paper in the recycling bin with nary a check-mark on it.  Usually, my sole accomplishment for the weekend is coming up with the to-do list.  My enthusiasm wanes pretty quickly after writing down the list.

But this weekend will be different.

For one thing, I am not going to make a list this weekend.  It would be pointless since it is Easter weekend.  My to-do list this weekend would look something like this:

  1.  Go to Target and look at all of their Easter candy and basket-stuffing knick-knacks.  Browse for 30 minutes without picking up a single thing.  Become disillusioned with the modern world.  Leave Target.
  2. Go to World Market and buy a bunch of overpriced German and Belgian chocolates in cool shapes and packages.
  3. Return home and assemble an Easter basket while suffering buyer’s remorse at having spent $100 on chocolate that will sit in the pantry for six months and then get thrown away.
  4. Boil eggs.
  5. Use all the eggs that cracked during boiling to make egg salad.
  6. Ponder if anyone likes egg salad besides me.
  7. Shrug shoulders and realize it doesn’t make any difference.  Just more for me.
  8. Suffer another bout of buyer’s remorse regarding the overpriced candy and doo-dads, but eat a big dollop of egg salad to blunt the remorse.
  9. Ruminate on how saving for retirement is really just a fool’s errand anyway.
  10. Get everyone together to dye Easter eggs.  Discover once again that dipping an egg in all of the colors just makes brown eggs.  Also realize once again that I don’t have an artistic cell in my body.
  11. Ponder briefly on if I can pass off brown Easter eggs as organic, free range, eggs.
  12. Travel to visit in-laws.  Eat too much.  (This seems to be common to all holidays.)
  13. Spend the post-Easter denouement Sunday night eating chocolate and egg salad.
  14. Wonder just what the heck I am doing with my life.

 

I think it is pretty obvious why I am not making a to-do list this weekend.

 

Happy Easter, everyone!

An Interview With the Author of the “Alistair and Alexis” Comedy Series

Biff, author of the wildly unpopular “Alistair and Alexis” series of allegedly humorous short stories was recently interviewed by Yuks and Chortles Magazine.  What follows in an unauthorized, copyright-infringing excerpt from that interview.

Y&CM:  We understand, Mr. Biff, that you consider yourself a humor writer.

Biff:  Please.  Just call me Biff.

Y&CM:  Right-o.  Biff it is, then.  And you consider yourself a humor writer?

Biff:  Not originally.  No.  I was an ordinary writer, but in college I kept getting my papers back from my professors with things written in red pen at the top of the paper like “Oh, you think you’re funny, huh?” and “Funny guy, eh?” and “Very humorous.  Please see me after class.

Y&CM:  And that led to a life of comedy writing?

Biff:  No, it led to a life of ostracism and privation.  It seems comedy writers are held in the same regard as carpetbaggers, used car salesman, and people with pinkeye.

Y&CM:  I see.  Most interesting.

Biff:  Not really, no.  But thank you for saying so.

Y&CM:  I would like to ask you about your “Alistair and Alexis” series of short humorous pieces.

Biff:  Must you?

Y&CM:  Yes.  Your check cleared the bank and so this was our agreement.

Biff:  You’ll edit this part out, right?

Y&CM:  Oh yes.  Without a doubt.

Biff:  Good.  Carry on.

Y&CM:  A lot of humor experts and analysts say that comedy very often comes from a dark place, a place of pain.  Is that true of the “Alistair and Alexis” series?

Biff:  Oh yes.  Indubitably.

Y&CM:  And what is the pain that is reflected in “Alistair and Alexis”?

Biff:  The pain and anguish that resulted from my not being born into a wealthy family.

Y&CM:  So you live vicariously through Alistair?

Biff:  No, I live precariously through myself.  Alistair and I are nothing alike.

Y&CM:  How so?

Biff:  Well, Alistair is shallow, self-centered, highly educated while not being very bright, and he tends to drink alcohol when he feels nervous and unsure of himself.

Y&CM:  And how do you differ from that?

Biff: Well, I prefer chocolate to alcohol.

Y&CM:  But you’re alike in every other way?

Biff:  No.  As I pointed out earlier, he is fabulously wealthy.

Y&CM:  And you’re not?

Biff:  Well, I’m a comedy writer …. soooooo …

Y&CM:  So, no.

Biff:  No.

Y&CM:  And what of Alexis?

Biff:  What of her?

Y&CM:  Is she symbolic of something or is she merely a foil for Alistair?  His “straight man”, as it were.

Biff:  I think the politically correct term is “straight person”.

Y&CM:  Straight person, then.

Biff:  Or Person of Straightness.

Y&CM:  As you wish.

Biff:  Or “Human of linear extension with non-curvature”.

Y&CM:  And you feel that accurately describes her?

Biff:  Who?

Y&CM:  Alexis.

Biff:  Oh!  Alexis!  No, she has curves.

Y&CM:  So if she is not merely the … er … um … foil to Alistair’s antics, then is she symbolic of something else?

Biff:  Yes.  She’s symbolic of his wife.

Y&CM:  But she actually is his wife.

Biff:  Right.

Y&CM:  So that’s not symbolic.  That is, in fact, who she is.

Biff:  Symbolic.  Symbiotic.  Semiotic.  Schmimbolic.  Potato, puh-tah-toe.  She just sort of appeared in the first story.  What was I supposed to do?  Tell her to hit the bricks?  They seemed to hit it off okay so I thought, “What they hey?”  And the rest is comedy history.

Y&CM:  Is it?

Biff:  No.  It’s not.

Y&CM:  So what’s next for the “Alistair and Alexis” franchise?

Biff:  Well, Y&CM … do you mind if I call you Y&CM?

Y&CM:  No, go right ahead.

Biff:  Well, Y&CM, I hope to write enough “Alistair and Alexis” stories to be able to mimeograph them out into a small booklet and leave it in the waiting area of Gate 32 in Terminal C of the DFW International Airport.  The plan is to have a literary agent, who might be traveling from Dallas/Fort Worth to, say, Wilmington Delaware in order to scout out a good military school for his bratty son, find the booklet and read it on the plane.

Y&CM:  And you think he will find it so good that he will publish it?

Biff:  No, I expect the mimeograph fumes will be so strong that he gets so high that he thinks it would a good idea to turn “Alistair and Alexis” into a TV series or a movie.

Y&CM:  I see.  That is actually fiendishly clever!

Biff:  Thank you!

Y&CM:  Well, Biff, I see from the time that your check for $32.50 has been consumed and so we must bring this interview to an end.

Biff:  Must we?

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Alistair and Alexis Go to a Board Meeting

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It was time for the annual meeting of the board of directors at Gargantua Enterprises and Alexis and I wanted to get there early for the pre-meeting elbow-rubbing that always preceded the actual board meeting.  And by “we”, I mean “Alexis”.  Alexis found schmoozing to be great sport and was a big fan of anything corporate.  I, on the other hand, was just hoping there would be snacks and spirits and a motion to adjourn early.

Things were well underway as Alexis and I made our way into the board room.  We walked through the large double doors which were no doubt made of some exotic species of wood from the Amazon rainforests.  The executive board of Gargantua spared absolutely no expense in the lavishness of their board room or the compensation of their top executives.  This was in evidence even more as my leather wingtip shoes sank into the plush emerald-green carpeting of the boardroom like cinder blocks in quicksand.  I only hoped their budget for food was as lavish as their budget for boardroom accoutrements (or, as the French would call them, accoutrements).

“How do I look?” I asked Alexis, shooting my cuffs nervously.

“You look great,” she said, somewhat distractedly.  I could tell she was looking keenly at everyone in the room and cross-referencing them against the leather-bound copy of Who’s Who Among Business Titans which she keeps on her nightstand and which she has committed to memory (along with the quarterly supplements).

“Is my tie straight?” I asked, straightening it just a bit.  The haberdasher had assured me it was of the finest silk, produced by pampered mulberry silkworms in a quaint little Italian village overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.  However, one can never be sure if that is enough in these situations.

“It’s as straight as an arrow,” she said, glancing at it for nearly half a second before resuming her field studies of our city’s industrial elite.

“Thank you, my little rose,” I said, beaming at her compliment.  “And may I say you look absolutely ravishing!”

She glanced at me sharply and held up a dissuasive finger.  “There will be no ravishing,” she said.

“It’s merely an expression, my beautiful little daisy.”

“Well, that’s what you said at the charity ball last month and as I recall, you got entirely too handsy.”

“It was a tango,” I said.  “I hardly think I was taking any liberties.”

“Well, all the same, we need to stay focused tonight and not let ourselves get distracted.”

“Oh!” I said excitedly.  “Hors d’oeuvres!”

My outburst was caused by a silver tray passing before my very eyes like a vision, being borne by a somber man in tails, striped pants, patent leather shoes, and a nametag that identified him as Ivan.  Ivan looked as if he bore the weight of the world upon his shoulders in addition to the weight of the tray of nosh he held somewhat morosely.

“Hors d’oeuvres, sir?” he said in monotone, obviously unimpressed by his own wares.

“Oh, my, yes!” I said excitedly.  It had been hours since my petite little dahlia and I had strapped on the ol’ feedbag.

However, Alexis slapped my hand lightly as I reached for an amuse-bouche which I suspected might contain wild salmon.

“We need to stay focused,” she said.

“I hardly think an amuse-bouche will make me distrait.”

“Oh?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.  “Remember the deviled eggs at League luncheon last year?  You became obsessed with them.”

“In my defense, it was the first time I’d ever had one.”

“Well, somehow your brief introduction of the League president to the assembly turned into an homage to deviled eggs.”

“Well,” I said, becoming a bit reminiscent, “They were quite amazing.”  I looked at the hangdog countenance of our present Hors d’oeuvres hander-outer.  “Do you have any deviled eggs, Ivan?”

“No, sir,” he said, sounding as if he were delivering a eulogy.  “Just assorted bruschetta, canapés, caviar, charcuterie, spanakopita, and amuse-bouche.”

“That’s a pity,” I said.  “I would give anything for a deviled egg, up to half my kingdom.”

I noticed Alexis had become distracted by someone across the room who looked important, so I quickly grabbed an amuse-bouche and popped it in my mouth.  It was absolutely heavenly, though I had no time to savor it.  I had to swallow quickly before Alexis turned her eagle-like gaze back on me.

“We should take our seats,” she said.  “I think they are about to get started.”

I quickly swallowed the flaky perfection of the amuse-bouche and said somewhat dryly as I tried to avoid choking, “Lead on, McDuff!” I grabbed a frosty goblet of white wine off of another tray as it passed by me like manna from heaven to help me clear the ol’ throat.

We took our seats down in the lower-rent section of the mammoth boardroom table.  Dear old Pops may have been a member of the board of Gargantua Enterprises, but not one of the more important ones.  That was the sole reason he trusted me to be his proxy and to cast a vote in his stead.  If it had been for one of the corporations of which he held a higher stake, he would not have let me within a hundred miles of the place.  He had resigned himself years ago to the fact that I did not have a head for business.

There were opening statements by various bald-headed, portly men who looked like they might clutch at their hearts at any moment and make gurgling noises.  At appropriate junctures in these blatherings, their fellow board members harrumphed and said “hear hear” periodically.  I suddenly realized my wine glass, though still frosty, was empty.  I made eye contact with Ivan and raised my glass slightly.  He morosely walked over and filled my glass with a fine Port wine and then resumed his post against the wall.  He looked like a man who had spent a good deal of his life standing against walls before managing to defect from his home country and make it here to America.

Alexis leaned over to me and whispered, “Lay off the sauce.  It’s almost time for the vote.”

“What vote?” I asked, also whispering, for apparently that’s what we were doing.  I sat my empty glass on the boardroom table.  There was no coaster, so I just set it on the copy of the Annual Report that was sitting in front of me.

“They’re voting on whether or not to merge with Leviathan Industries.”

“Well that certainly sounds ominous,” I said.  “Gargantua and Leviathan teaming up?  Didn’t Hobbes warn us about that sort of thing?”

“What are you babbling about?” she whispered, trying not to attract the attention of the Chairman.

I whispered back, ” … a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire for Power after power, that ceaseth only in Death.”

“Are you soused?” she asked in a whisper.

“After two glasses of sub-standard port?” I whispered sniffily.  “I hardly think so.  Oh, thank you, Ivan!”  My somber sommelier had refilled my glass and shimmered noiselessly back to his position against the wall.   I lifted my glass in a wordless toast to this Gunga Din.  He may be dour, but he knows a man in need when he sees one.

“It’s time for the vote,” she whispered, her voice becoming higher pitched and fraught with anxiety.  “It’s a voice vote and it’s almost around to you.  Are you ready?”

“Vote?” I asked again.  “What are we voting for?”

“I’m not voting,” she said quietly.  “You are.”

“That hardly seems fair,” I said, incensed.  “Our forefathers fought valiantly for universal suffrage.”  And then added, in the interest of fairness, “And our foremothers.”

“No,” she whispered, seeming most distraught.  “You are voting proxy for your father.  About the merger.”

“Ah, yes,” I said, suddenly remembering.  “Father was telling me something.  About something.  Or other.”

“About Leviathan.”

“Ah, yes,” I said.  “Leviathan.”

“Mr. Callington,” came a booming voice from the head of the high-rent district of the boardroom table, which seemed to be in a different zip code from the part I sat at.

“Present!” I said, standing, forgetting for the moment that I was no longer in Sister Theresa’s Latin class.  Her stentorian voice always had an effect on me not unlike a gunshot near a skittish horse.

“How do you vote, sir?”

I gazed around the august assemblage (though it was only April).

“Let me start by saying,” I said, setting my empty glass on the annual report.  “That Hobbes was an ass.”

I felt my dainty Alexis tug at my sleeve, but I patted her fondly on the shoulder to assure her that I had the matter firmly in hand.

“To whom are you referring, Sir?” asked the Chairman of the Board.  He was an intimidating chap who stood about six foot seven, had a burr haircut like he had just returned from several months at Parris Island where he tested the mettle of Marine recruits.

“I refer, sir, to Hobbes,” I said.  “He was a most colossal ass.  Are we living in a Kingdom of Darkness?  Are we Leviathan?”

There was murmuring among the board along with more tugging at my sleeve, but I extracted my arm with some difficulty.

“Sir,” said the imposing and impatient chairman, “We are Gargantua.  Are you for or against the merger with Leviathan?”

I drew myself up.  I may have pounded the table, but the presence of the Annual Report, now somewhat soggy from the perspiration from my wine glasses, dampened the results and robbed them of their effectiveness.

“Never!” I said, feeling quite strongly about it.  “We are not Leviathan!   Look at Ivan here,” I waved my hand at my old friend, who now suddenly looked less morose and more surprised.  “Does he benefit from Leviathan?  I think not.”

“Yea, or nay, Sir!” said the beet red Chairman.

“Nay!  Always nay!  We must never become Leviathan!”

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The back of the limousine was very quiet on the ride home.  Alexis looked at me periodically, but mostly looked out the window at the passing scenery.  But finally, she spoke.

“Your father wanted you to vote yes on the merger with Leviathan,” she said quietly.

“Did he?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.  “He was quite explicit about it.”

“He is always quite explicit about everything,” I replied.  “The man doesn’t have an ambiguous bone in his body.”

“Do you think he will be upset at your vote?”

“Oh, most assuredly he will be.”

“Will he cut you off?”

“Perhaps for a bit,” I said.  “But he will eventually come around.  He will say I take after my mother’s side of the family.  Apparently he has a soft spot for my mother.  And anyway, this is really his fault.”

“His fault?  How?”

“He was the one who insisted on giving me an Ivy League education.  That’s where I learned what an ass Hobbes was.”

 

Jack Be Nimble

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I strode purposefully into the conference room where my staff was already assembled.  About half of them were looking at their phones and busily swiping left to right or up and down, depending on whether they were looking for a date or catching up on what their friends were doing.  The other half were talking quietly among themselves and laughing a little, no doubt talking about what they did last weekend or are planning to do next weekend.

“Okay, people,” I said as I closed the door to the conference room.  “Let’s get busy.  The customer will be here tomorrow afternoon and we need to get this presentation polished up ASAP.”  I sat and hooked up my laptop to the overhead projector.  “I don’t need to tell you how important this presentation is.  We have been selling them for three months on how we are nimble and agile and can meet their specification quickly.   Now –”

“Um, Jack?” said Dave, raising his hand slightly as if we were still in high school.

“Yes, Dave?”

“I noticed the company logo …”

“Yes?” I said.

“I noticed that it’s the wrong color blue.”

“Wrong color blue?”

“Yes, sir.  The logo is supposed to be Pantone 2132 XGC, the logo in your presentation is Pantone 2387 XGC.”

“Um … yes.  Thank you.  I’ll make a note to have it updated.”

“It’s in the header on every page.”

“Noted,” I said, making a note on my legal pad.  Then I straightened back up,  “And so, we’ll just move on past the title page …”

“Jack?” came Mary’s voice.

“Yes, Mary?” I asked.

“The title font is Cambria and it should be Century.”

“Um … yes … okay.  Thank you,” I said, making a note in my legal pad.

“And the body font throughout should be Times New Roman,” said Tim.

I glanced up over my glasses at him.  “Very good.”  I made another note.

“The title page needs to have our company’s security and privacy markings,” said Ellen.

“Yes.  Fine,” I said, trying to hide my mounting frustration.  “But I think it’s important that we move on to the actual content of the presentation.”

Having silenced them temporarily, I moved off of the title slide and to the first slide.

“Now on this slide,” I said, “I want to grab their attention.  I want to get across to them why we are uniquely positioned to quickly …”

“Um, Jack?”  It was Dave again.

“Yes, Dave?”

“Your bullet list contains diamonds.”

“Yes?  Is there something wrong with diamonds?”

“Diamonds are not on the company’s approved list of bullets.”

“You don’t say.”

“Yes sir.  I would suggest either dots, circles, squares, open squares, or pips.”

“Pips?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very well.  I’ve made a note to have that corrected.  Now, on this first bullet, I’m going to state how we can meet their schedule because of our agility …”

“Jack?”

“Yes … Mary …”  I said, finding it difficult to mask my growing frustration.

“The hanging indent on your first line should be a half inch …”

“Listen,” I said to the room at large.  “We are never going to get through this if we just focus on formatting issues.”

There was a moment of silence and I was about move on when I heard a small voice say, “Nimble is misspelled in the second bullet.”

                                                              *

Seven hours later the door of the conference room opened and we all filed out, totally exhausted and dejected.  We had finally gotten through the three-page slide presentation and had cleaned up all the formatting, font, and color issues.  I would just have to review the content at home that evening so that I could make sure it was okay before the customer presentation tomorrow.

I’d call a quick 8 am meeting tomorrow morning with the engineering staff so they could review it.  That should work out okay.

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