Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Portrait of the Footist

My son is a creative type. He is seven, and he will grab a handful of printer paper and crayons and draw entire comic books of Indiana Jones and Star Wars, then staple them together on the spine just like a real book. He has always loved to snag my camera and take pictures too, of his favorite show on the TV set, of the ceiling, of toys. Some are compelling, but many are out of focus and I just delete them. When he was four, he shot this one of his foot, and the menace is tangible, as if Darth Vader is just over his shoulder.

Three years later, his photographic foot fetish is still in evidence, but in this shot he goes with the other foot, probably to change things up a bit and keep the critics guessing, plus he adds a sandal into the mix, I assume, to mock society's addiction to bourgeois materialism. Also seen are his sister's shoes, tucked under the coffee table, unused and half-hidden, as if to say who needs shoes? My big sister doesn't! Power to the proletariat!

Imagine what he will be capable of saying about society and feet when he is 10.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Niche magazines I have known

The average American subscribes to 10 different magazines, as well as to the theory that any statistics I mention here are not totally made up. Silly Americans. Ten is just something I pulled out of my abacus. We subscribe to a lot, though, if my house is any indication. We get a bunch of those magazines women like which don't even have perfume ads, just strips of estrogen you can tear out and apply directly to your skin. Hearing our mail delivered to our box is like listening to newsreel footage of World War II artillery. I am not complaining. Subscriptions are cheaper than flying to see Oprah in person.

Being a freelance writer, I am always researching potential writing venues, but you probably have no idea of the sheer variety of mags in circulation, because they target such a niche market ("niche" is a French word meaning "low paying"). Take, for example, "Miniature Donkey Talk." This makes me think: a) I didn't know there was such an animal, and b) I didn't know they could. It is a real publication, though. Here are some other actual titles I found which amazingly somebody, somewhere out there, is reading:

"The Atlantic Salmon Journal." Sure, fish have every right. I just want to know how they hold the pages open.

"Big Reel," in contrast, is not a fishing magazine at all. It is for movie collectible enthusiasts, and isn't that just like a movie collectible enthusiast to brag about the size of his reel?

"Coonhound Bloodlines" caters to "a wonderful segment of the American population, many of whom still live by honest, friendly values." Like blasting the innards out of a fluffy critter. At least you can tell what the magazine is about right off, unlike:

"Catholic Forester." This has nothing to do with the outdoors.

"Wake Living" not only sounds like good advice, it sounds like some kind of ultra-inspirational, possibly religious publication, but just covers, in fact, people living in Wake County, N.C.

"The Roanoker" sounds dirtier than it is. "Jewish Action" does too. And "Rack." (It's for deer hunters). Not to mention "Friction Zone," which is merely a motorcycle mag.

"Toy Farmer" sounds intriguing. I was just wondering the other day how this year's crop of Barbies is coming along.

"Musky Hunter" is not, contrary to what you might think, a hygiene magazine for outdoorsmen.

"Silent Sports" covers activities like running, cross-country skiing and cycling. I think I could break in there with a first-person essay on passive-aggressive channel-flipping.

"African American Golfer's Digest" has a circulation of 20,000 copies, exactly the same quantity as "Muzzle Blasts" magazine. The fact that there are as many people interested in antique, muzzle-loading rifles as there are African Americans interested in golf is disturbing to me in a way I cannot exactly define.

"Fur-Fish-Game." I played this in college, and let me just say that rug burns take longer to heal than you would think.

At least "I Love Cats" magazine wears its tiny, inscrutable heart on its sleeve. You either buy it or you don't. But what am I to make of a magazine called "Frank"? Does it contain brash, undiluted opinion, or a discussion of meat by-products?

There is a magazine called "Combat Handguns," and another called "Numismatist" (for coin collectors), which makes me wonder what would happen if readers of the former got hold of the subscription list of readers of the latter. Would burglary rates go up? These are the things a writer ponders when he really should be busy writing. Yes, O.K., I'm going, but first there is a copy of "Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot" I have been meaning to get to.

Friday, June 27, 2008

New Orleans and the boy who has seen it all

The boy with the ball stopped and looked up. Looked me over. Looked us over.

He was playing in the front yard with two or three buddies when we rolled up, all diesel and air brakes, in a tour bus. My fellow columnists and I were having a look at the post-Hurricane-Katrina-flooded parish called St. Bernard, where maybe one out of 20 houses is occupied, even now. The boy's house was one, and he was doing what boys do, tossing the ball around on a sticky June Saturday between thunderstorms, except he was doing it in a ghost town.

Mayberry R.I.P.

I recently joined the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for its annual conference in New Orleans, in an effort to give support to a city which still needs it badly. Nearly three years after "the storm," as locals call it, downtown and the French Quarter look normal, and tourists like us have come back in force, but get out of town a couple of miles and the storybook ending has waterlogged pages. Where one house still stands, 10 others are just cement slabs. Where one house is occupied, 10 more squat abandoned, untended weeds and bushes leaning to the windows like nosy neighbors.

The weekend was an exercise in jarring contrasts. We began it in style, dining at Brennan's in the French Quarter, the kind of place where they give you six utensils. (I have never been able to find a use for two spoons except to play them on my thighs). The meal was capped by their famous, flaming Bananas Foster. Suddenly cameras were everywhere. You would have thought that a bunch of jaded columnists would have seen fruit on fire before.

It did not appear so.

Local journalists who covered the hurricane told us their stories, and we were rendered speechless by a montage of Times-Picayune photographer Ted Jackson's pictures of that day. But our visit was not all grim remembrance. Later we were also led through the streets by a jazz band while playing our own kazoos, after which, returning to solemnity, a man from the city's aquarium told us how 5000 of their animals died after Katrina when the power failed and employees had to evacuate. That's the kind of weekend we had. Tragedy, comedy, repeat. (Probably not a bad description of New Orleans history itself).

But he also let us pet a penguin. Rubbing the penguin was even more popular than the flaming bananas, and led to many "penguin rubber" jokes, the best of which ended with the punch line, "But I couldn't convince it to wear one."

We toured the devastated areas, which are still only sparsely populated. Each place we visited, we heard how the government had failed to respond to the disaster adequately, is still failing, but how people from all over the world, volunteers, have come in droves to lend a hand in rebuilding, how total strangers have restored Louisianans' faith in people.

My mind kept going back to the boy with the ball, though. What intrigued me most was his lack of surprise, like a tour bus coming past his house was nothing big. He just watched us like I would watch a blue jay. Like he had seen it all. Hurricanes, evacuations, floods, abandonment. Like nothing could surprise him any more. Like whatever came, he would take it. Like he was lucky, even.

Then I realized why. Unlike so many others, so many tens of thousands of others, he was home.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

See Ted Jackson's hurricane photos from the Times-Picayune (click the "next" arrow after each one).

Read my fellow columnists' many different perspectives on the New Orleans trip. (On the home page, scroll down to "Blogs and news articles about New Orleans").

For more stories from my trip I could not fit in this column, and my own pictures, click here. (After you click "here," you will need to scroll down past this column).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Po'boys and Segways and lairs, oh my!

I have lived all my life within 40 miles of Los Angeles, which is so wide and flat and vast in scope, it's hard to catch details driving around, as we do, with our windows rolled up. So New Orleans on foot was like a dose of chickory-scented smelling salts to my under-nourished photographer's eye. Ouch, or fill in a worse metaphor, if you possibly can, and I would bet serious bank you can't.

Stand on any corner in the French Quarter, look up, and this picture is the kind of thing you see. (Click it to enlarge it).

Even though, in June, Mardi Gras seems like ancient history, there are reminders everywhere. Beads hang year-round from trees like some kind of gleaming, local fruit; on balconies, from street signs. The party is never quite gone from view.

I thought this balcony was unusually pretty, be-ferned and whimsical. Notice the cutout of the cat in the center. In L.A., we would probably expect that some graphic artist or hipster lives here, but I bet this is the home of a banker or insurance salesman. In the French Quarter, the scene above is just baseline, run of the mill ornamentation.

"Segway Tours!" the poster on Decatur St. cries. "Ride the future in America's most historic city!" And a few blocks away, there they were, right in front of St. Louis Cathedral. Two tourists dutifully listening to their tour guide, who had a tattoo of something huge, maybe a Segway, on her shoulder. I didn't hear much of her tour guiding, and I'm not sure how lengthy her training period was, but I definitely heard the guide pronounce the name of the famous local 19th Century pirate Jean Lafitte as "Gene" Lafitte. Like he was from Jersey or something.

But who cares? You're on a freakin' SEGWAY!

Having sampled the beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde, having eaten at famous local restaurants like Brennan's and Dooky Chase, and having strolled about 30 blocks of the French Quarter, many of them on purpose, the last item on my New Orleans checklist was to eat a genuine po'boy.

So on my last day in town, after sampling the 1000% humidity of the French Market to see if my pores could be more open (no), I stopped at a corner restaurant on Decatur St. and ordered one up. I didn't want a seafood one, and I fought back the urge to get a sausage po'boy, because, well, I had eaten pretty richly for four days and, well, I had to get on a plane soon. You-know-what-I'm-saying? So I ordered a roast beef po'boy.

My waitress, who was about 25, looked like some slim kind of mildly exotic racial blend, and kept calling me "babe," shot this blurry picture of me with my bounty. Well, she was busy. I don't know what expression I was going for, probably food lust, but it came out as...what? Indigestion? Oh well, it's my po'boy on the official record, anyway. On the plate you can see the open-faced pile of beef on that sucker. I ate it all. The beef was fine, but the French bread it came on was poetry. Light, chewy and crunchy at the same time. Po'etry.

Before checking out of my hotel, I wandered in and out of the tourist lairs looking for souvenirs for my family. I passed on buying one of the seemingly thousands of actual little alligator heads that every shop sells, their jaws frozen open in a menacing snarl. Clearly they are not endangered, although I began to think that New Orleans' charm was.


New Orleans, if it has anything, or will ever have anything, it is charm. There hasn't been a hurricane made that could wipe that off the map for long. And it's not just the French Quarter, with its wrought iron balconies, horse-drawn carriages, and antique buildings. It's the feel of the place, this intangible thing, like something that has survived 200 years and will survive whatever comes, with style.

After taking my picture, my waitress asked where I was from, and I told her L.A. She looked unimpressed, and said she had never been there, said she had lived all her life in New Orleans, and she loved it. I told her that even visiting for one weekend I could tell the place had soul. Not something you get a lot of in L.A., except in flashes. She nodded like I turned out to be smarter than I looked. "I wouldn't live anywhere else," she smiled, and then she turned and left me to my po'boy. I left her a nice tip. Call it Hurricane Relief.

It was time to head home and write up my trip column for the newspaper. I'm also going to go add "The Big Easy" to my Netflix queue, so I can mock it like a local.

Some things rub off, cher.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dooky Chase and my artistic impulse

One of the highlights of my trip to New Orleans was when the columnists from NSNC and I stepped in from the steamy rain for a lunch at Dooky Chase, a famous old restaurant renowned for the Creole cuisine of 85 year old owner Leah Chase. Ms. Chase, in fact, visited us in her trademark fuschia chef's coat and thanked us for supporting the city with our visit. The restaurant had been flooded out and closed for a couple of years. She apparently lived in a FEMA trailer next door during the rehab. Ms. Chase has long been a supporter of African-American artists, and their art is what you see on the walls in the picture below. A couple of local Habitat For Humanity leaders stopped in as well, to update us on their rebuilding efforts in the area.

We feasted on crawfish etouffee over rice, greens, barbecue chicken, and the best taste I had all weekend—gumbo. Shrimp and sausage in a dark, spicy roux. My wife will laugh at this, because I am not even remotely an adventurous eater, nor much of a seafood fan, but this had about as much to do with seafood as the Lakers have to do with the ability to close. This was culinary witchcraft. My only complaint was the conservative size of the bowl.

With my belly full of Creole inspiration, and the rain past, I set out in the French Quarter with my camera to capture some of New Orleans' unsung beauties.

These hitching posts still adorn many sidewalks in New Orleans, although whether they truly go back to when horses and carriages ruled the streets, or are just for show, I don't know. Most of them are black, but a few had a nice, historied patina like this. Click to enlarge the picture.

The poster below was one of hundreds stuck to a bulletin board on Decatur St., the touristy strip along the riverfront. I like the way the yellow and black contrasts with the green of the wood, and I love the generations of rusted staples from concerts long ago forgotten.

I like to picture a guy hitting on a girl somewhere on Bourbon St.: "Ooh," the girl says. "You're in a band? Which one?" "I play bass for 'Frightened Rabbit,'" the guy says, followed by the girl's raucous laughter and a hair-flip dismissal.

The blues are tinged with gold

As part of NSNC's visit to New Orleans, we columnists were taken on a bus tour of the lower ninth ward and St. Bernard parish, where the worst of Hurricane Katrina's flooding hit. We saw block after block of abandoned homes, some with holes in the roof where people hacked their way out of flooding attics, some still spray-painted with notes from rescuers telling how many, and what kind, of dead pets were inside. In some cases, how many people, as well.

We visited Chalmette High School, where the principal talked about the Monday almost three years ago when the floodwaters came, and filled the school's main hallway you see below to the ceiling within 20 minutes.

You know those outdoor walkways high schools have? The ones with roofs over them to keep the rain off you between classes? The day Katrina hit, the tops of those were used as docks here. Principal Warner took us up the stairs to a set of second-floor windows through which they pulled people that day, off those walkway roofs after they arrived in boats from being rescued around the neighborhood. Hundreds of people survived on the second floor of the school on half a cup of water twice a day and a bowl of Fruit Loops for almost a week before they could be rescued from the flood zone.

I will go into more detail in my regular column next week, but suffice to say our visit was a study in contrasts. A half-hour drive away, back in New Orleans proper, with thousands of tourists enjoying the mostly-sunny summer day, there was little evidence that the town had ever known anything but bliss. I thought this sculpture and mural were particularly pretty. Click to enlarge it.

As befitted the dignity of our particular group of journalists, Friday night, a band paraded our group down Bienville Avenue as we played along with kazoos and waxpaper-covered combs. We stopped traffic. The saints totally marched in. We ended up at the Aquarium of the Americas, where the band continued to play us right inside and through all the exhibits to our dinner destination. I wondered what the sharks thought of the blazing jazz. The otters seemed to love it. They dived and twirled. The penguins looked a little confused. In fact, a curator brought out a penguin for us to pet before dinner. So my weekend varied wildly from seeing acres of empty, sagging homes to rubbing penguins. (This last inspired all manner of "penguin rubber" jokes which I can't repeat here).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How can you not?

While in New Orleans, I had to stop by Cafe Du Monde and drink cafe au lait ("coffee and lait") and eat beignets ("little coronaries"). When in town, how can you not? When you go to Paris the first time, you ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower. When you go to Ireland, you kiss the Blarney stone. Unless you're me and just out of college. Then you're too cool, and you live the rest of your life without the gift of Blarney.

So I did the touristy thing. Those little powdered-sugary pillows below are beignets, a French word inexplicably pronounced "Ben Gays." History tends to savage language as much as anything else, I guess. Although after eating, I did notice a certain warming sensation in my shoulders and a loosening of those tight muscles. The cafe au lait ("coffee for tourists") was great, I think. I don't even drink coffee, so it was kind of wasted on me, but then again, so is "American Idol." But I drank some on behalf of my wife, who loves coffee, who would marry coffee if California had not passed a Constitutional amendment banning it. Then I got her a "Cafe Du Monde" t-shirt, so that when she wears it in the future, and people ask with conspiratorial, coffee-worshiping lust, "OH, did you go to New Orleans?" she can reply "No."

Cafe Du Monde ("Cafe of the 'please watch your valuables' signs") is in the touristy part of New Orleans. Ha ha! That's my joke for today, because, you see, New Orleans is in the touristy part of New Orleans. But the waterfront, especially, is pretty much all trinket shops and mimes. One guy, his head and body all in silver like a robot, did a routine where someone, usually a child, would put a dollar in the cup he was holding, and he would release the bottom, so the buck would fall out on the ground, and they would have to put it back in the cup, and the gathered crowd would laugh. It never got old.

I have respect for the guy, though. He was in the sun, in body makeup, in 1000% humidity. Dude was working. At least that was the impression I got, watching through the window of a restaurant where the air conditioning was blasting a new part into my hair, and I had a headache from sucking down my iced tea too fast. That guy was working.

This is what you look like when you have seen too many mimes. When you have seen one too many tourists sporting a "You look like I need another beer" t-shirts. When you have, in fact, seen it all. That is not actually a leash. That is a failed noose.

Monday, June 23, 2008

No doubt Jean Lafitte drank here

Sure, New Orleans has hundreds of years of history on display, from its fern-hung wrought iron balconies to its brightly-shuttered shops, but it has also used those hundreds of years to adopt the best of the modern world too, as you can see above. Take your hand and cover up the bottom half of this shot. Go ahead, do it. There, you've got New Orleans, 1850. Now cover the top half. Welcome to New Orleans, cruise ship visitors!

Yes, I'm back from my four-day weekend in New Orleans for a writers conference with the NSNC, and I will be posting more pictures soon, but right now I am trying to write next week's column and convince my colon I am back in Southern California. Since Thursday I have abused the poor fella with shrimp and sausage gumbo, French bread, crawfish etouffee, and peppery roast beef po'boys. Everything in New Orleans seems to have a cream sauce. Even the cream sauce comes with a side of cream sauce.

I had amazing food, heartbreaking views of the crumbling lower ninth ward, and a really extensive walking tour of the French Quarter in 1000% humidity because I didn't bother to consult my pocket map for directions. But wrong turns often bring scenes like the picture above. And ones like this:

Click it to enlarge it. It's even better. Many of the buildings are 150 years old, and you're not allowed to alter the exterior structure any more. A pretty scene like this is around almost every corner, but I also I went around shooting all kinds of crumbling brick and peeling paint too. Anywhere else it's called "blight," but in New Orleans it's considered "charm." I'm out of time, I'll post more as the week goes on, even some shots with actual humans in them, but for now, here is some lovely crumblage across the street from the open-air French Market by the Mississippi. Ugly was never so pretty, cher.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


To all who read my column in the paper today and were curious enough to check this out, thank you, and welcome. There isn't much here yet, but there will be soon. I tried to give you an idea in the column of the kind of stuff I will be posting. I intend to post each day, Monday through Friday, with something original that's funny. This will not be a here's-a-funny-thing-I-saw-on-YouTube kind of blog. It's been done.

Of course, it's Memorial Day weekend, so this week may be a bit light on content. But I'll see what I can do.

What does "Wa" mean? Visit "About" and find out.

I've got one or two hopefully-funny features planned for each day, so I recommend you subscribe to the blog using one of the methods to the right of the screen. By email is the fastest, easiest way, and, if you find you don't want my funny musings each day, very easy to unsubscribe from. But if you are familiar with blogs, you can click on the "RSS" method too.

You'll notice I set up a "Help Subscribing" tab at the top of the page to help those of you new to reading blogs. You can also contact me to ask me how it all works or click on "Comments" at the bottom of this post to let me know what you think of the new blog.

A few of my past humor columns are archived in the "Humor Columns" section above, to get you started until I begin posting new ones. If you have never heard of me, and are here by accident, that is a good place to start.

Welcome again.

And here we go.

About the humor columns below

Below are several humor columns I wrote recently for newspapers. They are also collected in the "humor columns" menu near the top of this page, and I will be adding new columns each week.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sick of standardized testing? Bubble THIS in

© George Waters

With all the standardized testing our children undergo these days, if a child gets "left behind" it will only be because he was still bubbling answers in when the boat pulled away from the dock.

My kids, before their schooling is done and they begin their inevitable careers as underpaid but highly esteemed bloggers, will have endured, at a minimum, the STAR test, CAT/6, SAT, CAHSEE, and quite possibly the TACHS, COOP, SSAT, ISEE, SHSAT, the FAB 4 and the Dave Clark 5.

So I have developed a test of my own, which combines all of the tests above into one, in an effort to simplify life for the students of our nation, and also to sell my weighty and expensive study guide. I call my test the "ASSI-9." 

Below are a few sample questions:
1. Which of the following may be said about the American Revolution?
a) The food wasn't as good as the French one
b) Say what you want, they had great hats
c) The book was better than the movie
d) Every time Paul Revere yelled "The British are coming!" everyone had to drink a shot

2. 4 (x - y) = 4x - 4y is a good example of:
a) things I used to know
b) what am I, Stephen Hawking?
c) I was never very good at geometry
d) I missed that lesson because my piercing totally got infected

3. What is meant by the phrase "He wears his heart on his sleeve"?
a) The transplant did not go exactly as planned
b) His feelings are always easy to figure out, since he is screaming in agony
c) He has absolutely no fashion sense when it comes to organs
d) You should see what he wears on his tie

4. Cats claw your furniture into ribbons, urine-mark your walls and deliver small dead rodents to your feet. Based on this information, we can deduce that:
a) owning a cat might be fun
b) cats never attack large rodents
c) cats think your feet are their master
d) a Broadway show is no place for cat-themed entertainment

5. Henry David Thoreau lived alone in the woods for two years. Historians now know that during this time he:
a) plowed through a heck of a lot of pork rinds
b) could never, no matter how hard he tried, get past 93 bottles of beer on the wall
c) gained new human insight into nature as a way of picking up babes
d) invented the "I spent two years staring at a pond and all I got was this lousy" t-shirt

6. If 257 x 900 = 900 x a, what is the value of a?
a) Nowhere near what it was back in '99
b) What is the value of a what?
c) "Value" is the bourgeois conceit of capitalist running dogs
d) I was never very good at geography

As you can see, my test very much lives up to its name. In this, it is exactly like every other test your child will take, but with mine, the dozen standardized tests your child might otherwise have had to endure are compressed into one, the most important one, the one for which I get paid.

Please contact your school board and tell them you want your child to take an ASSI-9 test today. I have no doubt they will be happy to oblige.

Country Mottos Which Need A Makeover

© George Waters
The Wa Blog

Every great country has a motto, like the United States ("Now with 40% more swing states!").

I am joking. Our motto, of course, is "In God we trust," which our forefathers clearly came up with back before we started putting so much stock in our automatic weapons.

As hard as it is to believe, Great Britain has never had a motto. Recently, Prime Minister Gordon Brown (personal motto: "I am 'Anyone but Tony Blair'") has challenged his citizens to create a five-word slogan which represents the British in the way a great people who invented blood pudding and haggis deserve.

Top vote-getters in a London Times poll were: "Once mighty empire, slightly used," "Try writing history without us," and the winner, "No mottos, please, we're British." A few of my other favorites: "Full service will soon resume," "Mind your own bloody business," and "Drinking continues till morale improves."

Ah, the British. It must be hard to live in a place which was once acknowledged by the world to be its preeminent power, knowing that its glory days are behind it, watching other, hungrier countries taking its former place as #1.

Hey, wait a minute.

Many countries create mottos in Latin, which they probably think makes them sound more lofty. Brazil's motto, for example, is "Ordem e progresso" ("We'll have the soup!").

Some countries' mottos work best in their native language, as with Wales: " Y ddraig goch ddyry cychwyn" ("I'm choking. Little help!").

Or in Turkey: "Egemenlik kayitsiz sartsiz milletindir" ("Tofurkey is from Satan!").

Some countries' mottos even work best in a language completely unrelated to their own, like Uganda's: "Mi ganda es Uganda."

A surprising number of countries have no official motto, which I think is a mistake. A motto sets you apart, announces who you are, and also allows you to fill up those pesky border areas on your currency.

Some countries try to get by just using some generic slogan like "Fellowship, justice and freedom" or "Free refill Fridays." Somebody should give these countries some creative counsel, so for their betterment, I have come up with my own motto suggestions, and I submit them here for your approval:

Morocco: "Because 'Less-occo' just sounded kind of negative."

Paraguay: "When you just don't have enough room for the whole guay."

Jamaica: "Jamaica me crazy? No, we hadn't heard that one before. That's hilarious!"

Guyana: "Where dudes go for memorabilia."

Antigua and Barbuda: "We can't find us on a map either."

Oman: "We're what you say when you dent your dad's car."

Poland: "Birthplace of Edgar Allan Poe."

Qatar: "We're what you learn to play after you master the qiano."

Mali: "Like Bali, but without the babes."

South Africa: "It's not just for Whitey any more."

Togo: "Would you like to try that on our new cheesy Parmesan bread?"

Mauritania: "We sank off of our own coast years ago."

Seychelles: "Actually, we don't sell squat by the seashore."

Hey, I am only trying to help these folks stand out from the crowd. In today's world, you need a hook. I mean, who had ever heard of the island of Mauritius before my motto, "Fishes nutritious. Delicious! Mauritius"?

Now take Botswana. Botswana could really use my help. Its actual motto is "Pula" ("Rain"). Yes, "Rain." Truthful, yes. Sexy, no. I say we drop the weather forecast and go saucy. Saucy sells. How about this:

"Birds wanna. Bees wanna. Botswana. Don't you?"

Come to think of it, maybe Great Britain is fine the way it is.

. . .

Thanksgiving Tips for the Clueless

© George Waters

While I am not an advice columnist per se (a Latin phrase meaning "purse"), most advice columns simply require using common sense, and I can certainly fake that. So, since this is a week in which many people have Thanksgiving-preparation questions, I am here for you with my faux (a French term meaning "best") advice: 

Dear George, what is the best temperature/time combination to cook the perfect turkey? Sincerely, Perfectionist in Pasadena.
Dear PiP: First of all, there has only ever been one perfect turkey, and that was Jesus's turkey, so get over it. Many people like to cook a turkey for five hours at 325 degrees, but I have never been a "follower." So I put my turkey in at 85 degrees last Labor Day. I haven't checked it lately, but I am sure it will be great for Thursday. It is too late for you to do this, so just buy a really big chicken and a lot of wine. 

Dear George, my mom and stepmother are not on speaking terms, but I have to invite them both. How should I deal with seating arrangements? Signed, Flummoxed in Fontana. 

Dear Flum: Seat them right next to each other. This will make it easier for you to hear the Cowboys/Jets game. 

Dear George, I turned 18 this year, and now that I'm a man, my mom wants me to carve the turkey. I have no idea how. Signed, Turkey Trouble in Temple City.
Dear TT: Now that you are 18, your mother will start asking you to do a lot of things you don't know how to do, like grow up. The key here is to proudly take the carving knife and proceed to cut slices which are alternately transparently thin and as thick as a "Harry Potter" book. To cement the deal, bust a huge sneeze on the bird too. Guess how soon you will be asked to carve the turkey again. That's right. 

Dear George, is there such a thing as "too much pie"? Sincerely, Curious in Covina.
Dear Curious: I am often asked if there is such a thing as a stupid question. I have always said no, but I stand corrected. Dude, the concept of "too much" pie is like the concept of "too many" black olives on your fingertips. No way. 

Dear George, what is the most appealing centerpiece for my table? Sincerely, Decor-deficient in Duarte.
Dear Dec: The centerpiece of your festive table is the most important element in your guests' enjoyment of the holiday. I would go with two flat-screen Sony Bravias set back to back facing the long way down the table, so nobody misses any part of this meaningful celebration of America's team. 

Dear George, my hipster aunt from Santa Fe and her husband, the Reiki healer, have made it clear they won't set foot in my home unless I provide Tofurkey with Ancho chiles. What the heck is that? Signed, Stressed in San Berdoo.
Dear Stressed: Tofurkey is a tofu-based meat substitute. Anchos are dried Poblano chile peppers grown in the Central Mexican state of Puebla, famous for their sweet, mild paprika flavor, moderate heat, and a hint of jalapeno and tobacco undertones. What were you, raised in Antarctica? 

The main thing to remember Thursday is that a long time ago, Indians helped white settlers survive the winter, and in return the white man showed them how to completely cover their land, ocean to ocean, with Jiffy Lubes. Ask any Indian. Before us, it took for-freakin'-ever to lube.

You're welcome, Indians. You're welcome. 

Thursday, January 10, 2008

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Wa Wear

As this blog is rarely visited any more, there is no longer a link to Wa Wear. It will have to remain a mystery to you. 

Humor Columns

Below are fair samples of the kind of humor columns I write. If you are a publisher, and would like to reprint one of these in your papers, contact me for reprint rates.

Feel free to link to these from your own blog. If you want to post the actual text, though, please contact me first for permission, and please maintain the copyright notice, my name, and the URL of

Thank you,

George Waters

Sick of standardized testing? Bubble this in

Country Mottos Which Need A Makeover

Thanksgiving Tips For the Clueless

More humor columns on this blog may always be found here.

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As this blog is rarely visited, there is no longer a Contact page here. Made ya look!

About George

Hi, I'm George.

I'm what they call an "award winning" humor writer. I write a weekly humor column for newspapers, as well as funny freelance essays for other publications and Web sites. Well, I did until 2018 or so. This blog is left up simply for you to enjoy. 

I live in Southern California in a flat, baking valley named for San Gabriel who, by all appearances at least, was a saint.

This blog exists for one reason: I could no longer hold back the urge to inject the world's English lexicon with the phrase "Wa Blog."

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If you would like to know where "Wa" (pronounced like "saw") comes from, here is a brief explanation...

The Origin of "Wa"

What is the origin of "Wa," you ask, because you are sitting in your cubicle pretending to work? It's funny the things that stick. In college, my friends, like all college students overburdened by the requirements of studies and hoisting multiple cases of beer, wanted to lighten their load in every way they could.

So to make their lives that much easier, to reduce the burden of pronouncing both syllables in my last name, my friends took to simply calling me "Wa." I don't remember exactly which friend coined it, but chances are it was Ted.

Coincidentally, the word "Wa," in Japanese, means harmony and balance. In fact, "Wa" even refers to specific things which are Japanese. For example, "Wafuku" means Japanese-style clothes. Ironically, in college, even though my friends did not know anything about Japanese-style clothes, they shouted "Wafuku!" at me a lot.

So it is that I name my blog "The Wa Blog." You may not know that "Wa Blog" is also part of the lyrics to the five-note musical theme which the alien spacecraft in "Close Encounters" plays to communicate with earthlings. The full five notes go like this: "La la loo WA BLOGGG!"

"Wa Blog!" is also a great thing to blurt out loudly in a meeting if anyone asks your opinion of the sales projections. Or randomly on a first date. Seriously. I could use the exposure.

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Other derivations of Wa:

You Gotta Have Wa, a very entertaining book about the word "Wa" and the sport of Japanese baseball.

The Japanese symbol for Wa

Wa state

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