The Humorless Twit Es Bilingual | September 2010

 
Que Funny

In the shower one day (which is my second best place for thinking and coming up with my harebrained schemes brilliant ideas, I won’t tell you what my best place is other than to say it’s another bathroom fixture—which may go a very long way towards explaining this column, now that I think about it…), I noticed there was no soap. I called out to my wife, “Sweetie, can you reach me the soap?” As soon as I had blurted out that exact sentence I laughed out loud.

I had realized I was speaking in Spanglish to my wife, who as a British-Jamaican woman, doesn’t know a lick of Spanish (or Spanglish).

If you don’t know any Spanish, then you wouldn’t know the Spanish way to ask for someone to hand you some soap is to say “alcanzame el jabon.” Literally translated, this means “reach me the soap.” But its true meaning is “hand me the soap.”

Spanglish, for those of you who don’t know, is when someone who speaks both English and Spanish mixes up the two languages, often mid-sentence (sometimes, even mid-word!). Officially this practice is known as “code-switching.” I find myself doing this a lot, especialmente cuando yo hablo… oops, sorry, I mean especially when I speak to certain people, like my father for instance.

First- and second-generation Cuban- and other Hispanic-Americans, like myself, will often deliberately create the funniest possible constructs in Spanglish, to amuse ourselves. I worked at one place—for the record, the place no longer exists and I worked there very, very long ago—where many of my co-workers (who were also Cuban-Americans) and I would spend a great part of our days coming up with the most hilariously botched Spanish-language translations of American and British pop and rock songs you could imagine.

I’ll spare you all the hokey lyrics but if you don’t know any Spanish, trust me when I tell you “I am the eggman…” sounds funny as heck in Spanish (“yo soy el huevo-hombre…”).

Because Miami has such a large Spanish-speaking population, you’ll see many businesses catering to this population with signs and literature in Spanish. But because these businesses are located in the United States, they still have to keep one foot, as it were, in the English world. This sometimes results in unintentionally funny (to “Spanglish” speakers, anyway) placards and the like.

Photos of these unintentionally funny signs have made their way around the Internet, in much the same way as photos of hilariously translated signs (from Chinese or Japanese) have been posted on the funny and famous website Engrish.com (one of my favorite sites, by the way).

***WARNING! WARNING! SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT!***

This has inspired me to create yet another humor website. My latest time-wasting project features pictures of funny Spanish and Spanglish signs (à la Engrish.com). It’s called QueFunny.com (Spanglish.com was taken).

Enough self-promotion. Some of the funniest (to me and my smart-alecky mind, anyway) Spanglish and bungled Spanish translations can be found in restaurant menus. There was the time I saw what a resturant meant to translate as “apple pie” but read in spanish as “apple foot” (“pie de manzana,” “pie” meaning foot in Spanish). Then there was “fish macho style” (“pescado al macho”). Then there was “tongue in its own juice” (“lengua en su jugo”-you have to think about this one a bit to figure out why I found it funny).

I could continue but I’m starting to get hungry. I think I’ll have some old clothes with a side of Moors and Christians, dedos de señora for dessert, and I’ll wash it all down with a pitcher of bleeding.

The Humorless Twit Says “Study This” | Summer 2010

 
Scientist conducting a study

Scientist conducting a study

Every time a new “study” is reported in the news, you can bet your bottom dollar that another “study” contradicting it will come out shortly.

Every so often you’ll hear (or read or see) on the news about some new study on something or other released by some entity, most likely an entity you’ve never heard of before. I laugh when I see such news stories because invariably, some time later, we’ll hear about yet another study contradicting the first study. And so it goes.

Most recently, the news had on a story about a study that noted sleeping too little can shorten your life (by the way, for those of you who recall, I have a now one-year-old son I wrote about for last summer’s issue and as I write this, I had a measly three hours of sleep last night [which might explain this column…]).

That got me to thinking about all the other studies I’ve heard about in the past that claim if you engage in behavior A, your life will be shortened by X years (or Y percent). So I decided out of sheer boredom curiosity to see which of these supposedly life-shortening behaviors I take part in, and by how long my life will be shortened.

I found a few. Here they are:

– A study by Australian researchers found that for each hour a day you watch the boob tube, you increase your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease by 18 percent (for death by all causes it was 11 percent).

Eating red meat also shortens your life span (I couldn’t find by how much).

– A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children who experience six or more traumatic events during childhood live 19 years less than others (traumatic events were defined as abuse of various kinds and household dysfunction).

Four specific bad habits (Lord knows I have a lot more than four) can shorten your life by 12 years: smoking, drinking too much, inactivity and a bad diet. I won’t tell you which ones I do and which ones I don’t do, but let’s just say I’m in danger of losing six years of my life from this factor alone.

Being fat at 40 (I’m already past that stage) can shorten your life by three years, according to The Annals of Internal Medicine.

– I already mentioned that sleeping too little can cause you to go to sleep permanently at an earlier age. But sleeping too much—nine hours or more—is also supposedly dangerous: it increases your chances of an early death by 30 percent (ironically, this study was published by the same journal that published the “too little sleep causes early death” study mentioned before…)!

– Researchers in Toronto found that every hour you spend driving cuts 20 minutes from your life (thank goodness I only worked as a courier for one semester in college). No word on “extra bonus” minutes for the stress of driving in South Florida, though.

Bingeing (on food, presumably) followed by crash dieting (the so-called “yo-yo” effect) can cut your life by a whopping 25%!

Taking vitamin supplements can also reduce your lifespan; how much depends on which specific vitamin(s) you take.

I crunched some numbers to see how it all added up for me. And after taking a long nap, then downing a bacon double cheeseburger and a fistful of vitamin supplements while watching TV in my car and washing it all down with a triple vodka on the rocks, followed by a nice cigar, I came to a conclusion: based on all my bad habits and the amount of time by which each one can shorten your life, I never should have been born.

Which, if you’ve read this far, you probably wished were true.

NOTE: We originally credited the Journal of the American Medical Association with the study that noted being fat at 40 can shorten your life by three years. This study was actually published in The Annals of Internal Medicine. We regret the error.

The Humorless Twit’s Aunt Stabby Takes A Stab—Oops, Poor Choice Of Words—At Writing His Column | May 2010

 
Aunt Stabby

Aunt Stabby

Mug shot of The Humorless Twit's Aunt Stabby

Of all my obnoxious aunts (and relatives in general, for that matter), there’s one I avoid not out of annoyance and irritation, but rather sheer terror and fear.

She’s my Aunt Stabby. When she contacted me recently, the hair on the back of my neck didn’t just go up—it went wild.

You see, Aunt Stabby is in prison for life for… stabbing her live-in boyfriend to death. Because he snored. Don’t get me started on her former boyfriends, a few of whom went missing and she was the last known person to see them alive…

To make a long story short, she’s a big-time misandrist.

Anyway, she threatened my life if I didn’t let her write a column for me requested to fill in for me this month and I for fear of my life agreed.

Now that you know about her, don’t say you haven’t been warned…


DEAR STABBY: I met this man through the mail. He is wonderful. I get to visit him once a month, send him money and do all kinds of stuff for him.

The problem, Stabby, is his warden. You see, he refuses to allow me to visit my beau more often, and let me not even get started on conjugal visits which he has absolutely forbidden!

Oh Stabby, what should I do? LOVER IN LOXAHATCHEE

DEAR LOSER IN LA-LA LAND: Ditch his sorry (Twit’s note: censored! This IS a family publication, you know). He’s playing you for a chump. I know, I’m in the hoosegow myself, I know a chump when I see one. Matter of fact, why not send ME some money?

DEAR STABBY: I was two weeks away from getting married. Everything was beautifully planned—it was going to be a fairy tale wedding. But then I caught my fiancee cheating on me with my bridesmaid! Can you help me, Stabby? DESPONDENT IN DAYTON

DEAR DESPERATE DUMB (Twit’s note: censored again!) IN DAYTON: You want me to send someone to take care of him for you? Just let me know, I have peeps.

Better still, you can do it yourself. Tie him up and make it nice and slow and painful. Start with his (Twit’s note: censored yet again).

That ought to do the trick and I guarantee you he’ll never cheat on anyone again, ever.

DEAR STABBY: I’m a 38-year old married man, father to three lovely children and a successful businessman. I work hard to provide for my family and to give my wife everything she wants. I’ve always been faithful to my wife, even during the year when she was recovering from cancer. In short, I’ve been told I’m the ideal husband (by female friends, but not my own wife).

Suddenly last month, my wife left with the kids and is suing me for divorce, demanding a ton of money for both child support and alimony. After everything we’ve been through, now this. What can I do to bring her and my kids back? SAD AND LONELY IN SACRAMENTO

DEAR STUPID (Twit’s note: here we go again) LAMEBRAIN IN SACRAMENTO: Boy, what a sucker you are. You got played and you don’t even see it! You sound like my late old man. Too bad she didn’t do you the way I did mine. In fact, I think all women should (Twit’s note: censored, too crude) their men, take their money and run. I hope she does that to you and you have a huge life insurance policy and she gets it all.


And that, my dear readers, is about as much as I can stomach of my Aunt Stabby. Now you know why she’s the black sheep of the family. It’ll be a loooooooooong time (like, 25 to life) before I let her waste this precious space again!

The Humorless Twit Is A Moldy Oldie | April 2010

 
A Moldy Peach, Photo courtesy Luigi Chiesa

A Moldy Peach

No, it's not The Humorless Twit when he first wakes up. It's a moldy peach. Photo courtesy Luigi Chiesa.

The news recently had a story about the Space Shuttle going up with some science experiments on board. It dawned on me then that NASA must’ve stolen my refrigerator.

There must be like 40 different species of mold in my refrigerator, along with all kinds of bacteria and Lord knows what else. In fact, my fridge probably contains more culture than the Arsht Center downtown does.

The mold and fungi have spread to other parts of the house. It’s in the bathroom, which is the most obvious place and the place where most people, even the most diligent housekeepers (and don’t count me among them), tend to have mold. The cold weather this winter has prompted us to use our central heating system more than ever before; the combination of cold outside and warmth (and moisture) inside has caused us to wake up every day to a house full of windows dripping with water due to condensation. And this has created a bit of a mold problem on a few of our windowsills.

It doesn’t help that I have allergies and a young son. So I turned to the Internet and did some heavy duty research on mold and mold infestations. Now I know much more about mold than the average person does. I’m sure it’ll make for great cocktail party chatter:

FELLOW COCKTAIL PARTY ATTENDEE: So, what do you do for a living?

ME: I work in public relations but hey, did you know there are thousands of different species of mold and only a handful produce mycotoxins?

FELLOW COCKTAIL PARTY ATTENDEE: Uh, yeah, I’m sure, excuse me…

ME: Wait, I haven’t told you yet about how we actually eat some molds and fungi, like those crab-stuffed mushroom hors d’ouevres and the brie cheese spread….

I’m sure to be the life of the party with my newfound knowledge.

At least I did actually get some good news I could use out of my research. The first, most important thing I learned is that the “toxic mold” stuff you hear on the news is way overplayed. Mold is no worse than most other allergens—there are a few toxic molds but a serious infestation is extremely, extremely rare. Different people have different sensitivities to mold. It’s everywhere in our environment, whether we see it or not, and we’re constantly breathing it in as a result. The trick is to reduce the amount of mold spores in the air, because even if you’re not sensitive or allergic to mold, you obviously don’t want to breathe tons of it (to paraphrase that old joke about taking certain things to excess, “you want a little oxygen with your mold?”).

The people who have unfortunately succumbed to toxic mold were either highly sensitive to mold (in the same way that some people have actually died due to peanut allergies, yet you never hear of people referring to “toxic peanuts”) or they were just more vulnerable than the average person (infants and elderly, for example). It makes for great headlines but it’s very rare that people die because of mold.

Another important thing I took away from my research is that there really aren’t national or state standards for mold removal specialists or the like. The EPA itself notes that unless you have a serious mold infestation, you can probably handle remediation yourself—just follow a few common sense guidelines and you’ll do fine. Be careful if you call a professional because since there are no standards in this field, there are unfortunately some companies and practitioners who are all too willing to scare you out of gobs of money.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned about mold is that it is a symptom, not neccesarily a problem in and of itself. The underlying cause is moisture getting in from somewhere and until you address that issue, you will continue to have a mold problem. In fact, some of the worst mold situations that have made for scary news stories have involved homes and buildings with chronic water leaks and moisture problems, like the federal courthouse in downtown Miami.

In order to fix our problem, which fortunately was fairly light and involved mold growing on surfaces (as opposed to getting deep into the drywall), I recently bought a dehumidifier. My wife says it sounds like—speaking of NASA and the Space Shuttle—a rocket ship about to take off. But it works like a charm and so far, Starship Twit has kept our windows as dry as my humor no matter how cold it is outside and toasty it is inside.

I also bought a state-of the-art air purifier/cleaner with a HEPA filter. I’ve wasted money before on a variety of air purifiers that just didn’t work. This latest one—though quite expensive—has helped me noticeably with my allergies. It also helped clear up my son’s congestion problem within a couple of days. And it does the dishes, takes the dog for a walk, pays the bills, etc.

Let’s just say that having a mold problem has ended up being like a breath of fresh air for me.

The Humorless Twit (YAWN) is, (YAWN) um, (YAWN) zzzzzzzz… | February 2010

 
A Sleeping Kitten

A Sleeping Kitten

Must be nice to be a kitten...

Sleep, glorious sleep.

Even before the baby was born back in March of last year, I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I’m currently running a huge sleep deficit, one so big that if it were money and not sleep, I’d singlehandedly put Congress to shame.

You see, I’m one of those kinds of people who needs a solid eight hours of sleep every night. But I’m usually lucky to get five hours. Just too busy.

If I could catch up on all the sleep I’ve lost throughout the course of my life, I’d be out like a light for oh, 153 years or so. I’d make Rip Van Winkle look like a piker.

I don’t know exactly when this obsession I have with sleep began but I do recall enjoying sleep when I was in high school. Oh, I’d actually wake up super early on the weekends and other days off from school (at 4 or 5 am, in fact) to go bass fishing, my favorite activity in high school. But there’d usually be a nap waiting for me when I got home.

And on those free days when I didn’t fancy fishing, well… I’d sleep in late. Real late. I used to brag back then about not waking up until the clock said “PM.” My favorite line was a paraphrase from Joseph Heller’s famous novel Catch 22: “I spring out of bed every day at the crack of noon.”

I joined the Army out of high school. Man, oh man, talk about not getting any sleep. There were always early wake up calls for “PT” (physical training, meaning calisthenics, push-ups and running a few miles), guard duty at night, field training exercises also at night, and what not.

I remember a road march in Germany once, for 36 miles (and it lasted just as many hours) where I was literally falling asleep as I walked. True story. I was so exhausted and sleep deprived I was hallucinating that I saw billboards on the side of the road, when there weren’t any. Don’t ask me what was on those billboards, by the way. Too sleepy to remember.

After the Army, I went to college full-time. Yep, you guessed it—being a procrastinator by nature (just ask the editor, Marlene), I pulled many an all-nighter. If that wasn’t bad enough, I also worked a few semesters for a now-defunct (no, I wasn’t the cause of said defunction either, in case you were wondering) package delivery company. The work took place in the wee hours of the morning, loading packages onto delivery trucks that would leave the warehouse at 6 am.

The money was good at the time for a starving college student. But the lack of sleep was a killer.

After graduation, I had a hard time finding a job in my field (I majored in communications) but eventually I landed one at a radio station—on the overnight shift, of course. Then I got a day job as a proofreader and I worked at both places for a while. And naturally, didn’t get any sleep.

Even later, after I started working a more traditional “9 to 5” (which in reality was more like “8 to 5,” but I digress) schedule, I still wasn’t getting enough sleep.

Why not?

Because I spend an inordinate amount of time working on websites (such as TheHumorlessTwit.com, hint, hint) in the hopes that one day, they’ll make me rich. So far, this endeavor hasn’t resulted in making me rich. In essence, it’s a hobby that pays for itself (probably the only reason my wife indulges me—that, and the fact that I’m at home while I’m working on my websites).

I hope I haven’t put you to sleep (yet). I’m just about finished. Not because I don’t have more to tell, but because… I’m falling asleep myself. Good night….