Sometimes The Bull Wins

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:39 pm

Thanks to Laura for sending this to me. I’m sure many of you have already seen it, but it was new to me. Very amusing. Requires a Windows Media compatible player.


Something Is Very Wrong Indeed….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:07 pm

….with the algorithms used by the Google Image Search. This is the only possible conclusion at which to arrive. To what else can I possibly attribute the fact that, at 6:20 Pacific Time this evening, someone from Ottawa, Canada arrived at this photograph posted by Margaret almost three months ago:

Hole In The Shower Floor

from an image search for the phrase, “cairn terrier with scabs” ❗ ❓ ❗

Sorry about that, Sir or Madam; and the very best of luck to you in your future image search endeavors.


Neologism Of The Sea

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:42 am

Growing up in Hawaii in the late 70’s/early 80’s gave me an interesting childhood relationship with sushi. Sushi in Hawaii does not embody the magic and mystery of the Orient that it does in much of the rest of the nation. Many things that seem exotic in other environs are commonplace in the 50th state, due to the crucible of interacting cultures there.

Much like raw fish (enjoyed most commonly as poke’), sushi in Hawaii inhabits a couple of different culinary and cultural strata; a more commonly accessible niche as well as that of more traditional haute cuisine. It is considered much more of a casual snack—surfer food, even—than it is elsewhere. Sushi is sold in grocery stores and okazuya in a couple of basic forms. None of the highfalutin’ cuisine with its delicate slices of otoro or glistening drapery of uni. The sushi of the proletariat in the islands is available in either maki (roll) or inari (cone) form. There is no raw fish involved, nothing that might easily spoil. It is a simple delivery device for vinegared rice and a few largely shelf-stable wraps and fillers. It was not until I got to the mainland that I was introduced to the wonders of nigiri.

Now as a semi-official Northwsterner and left-coaster, I am in the midst of an intense and abiding love affair with sushi. I can sit down and polish off twenty or thirty pieces without batting an eye. There’s just something about the one-two protein/carb punch of fresh fish and rice that stimulates my yummy centers like little else. Even the protein warhead of a big ol’ rib eye steak can’t touch it. A massive slab of charred cow leaves me turgid and logy, while a party platter of sushi leaves me bright-eyed and ready for action….the primary action coming to mind being the consumption of more sushi. Maybe it’s all the dissolved antidepressants suffused throughout the fresh fish that does it….

I don’t eat sushi as much as would be my druthers; Margaret does not eat raw fish (a phobia leftover from her courses in parasitology in vet school), so I am forced to pursue my passion solo or in the company of the occasional like-minded friend (hi Curt!). As a result my encounters with sushi are relatively few and far between. And sometimes I have to find ways to palliate my cravings in between hot man-on-fish sessions.

Many high-end grocery stores in the Northwest such as Trader Joe’s sell a form of sushi substitute that will temporarily quell the longing. These are trays of mass-produced maki rolls: gluey, semi-pulverized sushi rice filled with a crabesque-salad mixture of pollock, mayonnaise and other flavorings. They bear the same relationship to bona fide sushi as a plastic-wrapped lozenge of binder-infused chopped/formed/pressed turkey meat bears to an actual ten pound tom with garlic-sage stuffing.

The product is by no means sushi, but the size and shape, coupled with the ritualized movements of chopstick and pool of wasabi and shoyu, can temporarily trick the mind into thinking that you are ingesting the real thing. Basically, this stuff is the methadone of sushi.

The other day, whilst gamely masticating a tray of the stuff, I came up with the perfect, the signature name for this product:

mocki. 💡


Stuff Is Mostly Un-Re-De-Fucked, Thanks For Hanging On

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:44 pm

My blog was down for most of yesterday, because of a cataclysmic experience with migrating my blog database from the latin-1 character encoding to utf-8. Somewhen during the process, my database got itself completely töhtenhösen. I had to reinstall from the backup I had prudently made just prior to the conversion. Unfortunately, during the restore, all of my categories were stripped from the database, meaning that all of the posts were glommed together in a single category of “Uncategorized”. There was simply nothing to do but sit down and build the categories (Roominations, Rants, Food Fright, etc), then re-enter the category information for each of my 621 posts manually, one by one. I finished about an hour ago.

On the upside, my blog is now fully utf-8 compliant, which should get rid of the occasional weird characters you may have seen whilst trawling these posts—schwas, copyright symbols, black diamonds with question marks in them—in place of the intended verbiage. It should also be a bit leaner, having had the last of the antiquated WordPress 1.x database structure peeled away by the unexpected “upgrade”. (It’s doubtful that this jettisoning of obsolete ballast will actually make my blog run any faster or anything, but it’s always refreshing to give your server the occasional high colonic to purge the impurities.)

On the downside, anyone who may have linked to a category—Irony Supplement, say—rather than an individual post will find that the rebuilt list of categories does not match the old one, so your link will connect to a different category entirely, or perhaps no category at all.

Overall this could have been much, much worse, and it did give me an un-strenuous project to work on while I’m recuperating….well, physically un-strenuous, anyway. 😕


Well Heck, That Wasn’t So Bad….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:54 pm

I would never have guessed that having a stainless-steel pilot needle rammed through your sternum and a couple of small chunks of a very near-and-dear vital organ yanked out could be so relatively discomfort-free. Of course, the highball of fentanyl and versed they dumped into my blood shortly before the mining excavation began sure helped. I almost fell asleep twice during the procedure. That would not have been a great thing: they need you awake so you can hold your breath for a moment or two every time they take a CT scan or jab your kidney. And you not only have to take and hold a breath, you have to take and hold the same amount of air every time, so your kidney remains in more or less the same place every time. Inhale too greatly and they might take a needle biopsy of your liver or your lower intestine or your eyeball or sumpin’. 😯

Anyway, the actual surgery took about an hour, after which I was whisked off to my private recovery suite, where I listened to the dulcet tones of the lady in the next room horking up chunks of alveolar tissue and spitting them into the toilet, while her human foghorn of a husband gave an exhaustive play-by-play of each and every Law & Order episode they watched, the total count of which must have reached well into the hundreds by the time I gave up trying to sleep. At that point I corked my iPod headphones tightly into my ears and drifted in and out all night to the soft, measured tones of David Sedaris, reading his newly-released book When You Are Engulfed In Flames. Between my iPod and Vicodin I was able to get a decent amount of sleep, certainly more so than I had originally anticipated.

The next morning (this morning, in fact), someone finally thought to give my bloodwork results to the on-staff nephrologist, who pronounced me fit for release back into the wild. Some forty-five minutes later—roughly three minutes before I chose to chew it off myself and make a break for it—someone else came by to pull out my IV and make me sign thirty-six pieces of paper. After this was finished I was free to leave the hospital, at which point Margaret and I made a beeline to the San Francisco Street Bakery for a celebratory breakfast of coffee and danish. Not that the boiled egg, single shingle of white toast and old-topsider-consistency slice of tepid ham I got at the hospital wasn’t simply scrummy, but I felt it needed rounding out. Particularly the decaffeinated coffee: bleah.

It will take one or two weeks for the results to come back from pathology. There are a number of possible outcomes to this scenario, none of which I feel like expounding on at great length right now. In the meantime, I’m to avoid lifting or bending or twisting while my kidney scabs over (“The Kidney Scabs” would be a great name for a punk band). Right now I’m going to go lie down and give my torso a little break-time, I’ll let you all know the final results when I get them.

My Take On It

Filed under: @ 7:30 am

When Andrew had his first back surgery 10 plus years ago it was at a seriously sucky time in my life. I was only a few weeks out from quitting my job with Dr. Ratbastard in Olympia when Andrew blew his discs. Andrew spent six weeks in moderate to severe pain spending most of his time lying on his back on our couch while trying to work from a 1998 era laptop and the jury rig that we’d worked out for his desktop. I signed a contract for a new job, while working relief at several places.
After six weeks of Andrew failing to improve his doctor finally told him he’d need surgery.
During this time my grandfather, who had been failing for some months, got abruptly and profoundly worse.

I was working at a practice on Vashon, moving gunk from our house in Olympia to the house that we rented in Burien (shudder), and calling the hospital in central Illinois getting updates as often as I could.

My grandfather was in the terminal stages of cancer and renal failure. On the 10th of April Grampa died. On the 17th we moved from Olympia to Burien. On the 24th Andrew had to be at Capitol Medical Center in Olympia at 0730 to check in for his surgery.
I sat with him while he was prepped for surgery and was nearly hysterical when they wheeled him away. To the point where I ended up needing 4mg of valium to keep from going running through the place screeching like a banshee. I was VERY interested in the embroidery that I’d brought along with me that day.
The night was horrid. Andrew was in a shared room with an older guy who was, essentially, dying and his television stayed on until 2 a.m. Between the TV and the series of vampires that kept coming in to take his blood, neither of us slept that night, although Andrew did have the comfort of an on demand morphine pump.
I started my new job on May 2nd.

Despite the very welcome attentions of my thrice blessed mother in law who came out to help me take care of Andrew and to take care of ME while I spent most of a couple of months going insane, I went pretty seriously boingy for a while there. The uncertainty of the move, the stress of the new job, the grief of losing one of my biggest (though granted subtlest) fans as a person and a veterinarian, and the absolute terror at the thought that Andrew might die or be permanently crippled…. well let’s just say that the combination made for an especially exquisite form of mental torment that took, literally, years to be able to recover from.

This time, well, my situation is at least a little better. My board of governors complaint has been resolved in my favor. I didn’t end up having to testify as a prosecution witness in the State of Washington V The Mouth Breathing Morons Who Owned The Pit Bulls Who Attacked A Little Old Lady’s Chihuahua Outside Her Retirement Home and my job…. well, I’ve got about the sweetest schedule I could imagine. I am secure in my own home and outside of the very welcome attentions of my buddy the landscaper, I don’t even have remodeling chaos in my house anymore.

Which is not to say that Xanax isn’t my friend.
There’s something especially horrible about being in a position where you understand the procedure, hell, I’ve even done a renal biopsy or two, but having to be witness to it’s performance on a person you’re not sure you can live without. (And here I mean “witness” in a figurative sense not a literal one. No, they did not have, nor would they have even if I had asked, me anywhere near the procedure room.)
There’s also the marked frustration of being a medical person and having no effin idea of what the hell is going on. I understand the reason that the biopsy was done, of course, but I don’t understand why the biopsy had to be done… if you get my drift. Andrew is playing a most excellent game of Stump The Doctor. We don’t know what we’re looking for. An asymptomatic otherwise healthy well controlled adult diabetic without a blazing urinary tract infection should NOT have significant amounts of protein in his urine. It just don’t make sense. When this happens with my patients I get very frustrated, run all the practical tests that I can think of doing and then throw up my hands and say “I haven’t the faintest idea why this is happening. Go and see the internist.”. But I can’t. And even if I could I wouldn’t.
The procedure doctor yesterday said that it would take between 7-10 business days to get the pathology report back. Which is also frustrating because I know that with my patients that if I need a report back STAT I can call the lab, push a few buttons, whine a little bit, and get a report in as little as 2 days. I guess the fact that they didn’t send Andrew’s biopsies out STAT is a good sign, you only do that when you’re really concerned. But knowing that I can’t call the pathologist up and whine is just another exciting little twist.

And so we’re stuck in a weird sort of limbo that does my temper no good whatsoever and makes Andrew alternately grouchy and a little hyper.

More as it all develops of course. Right now I need to plug my i-pod back in, listen to the crotch novel audio book I loaded up specifically for this purpose, and knit. Andrew is asleep while we wait for the staff nephrologist to come in and give us a blessing on Andrew’s discharge so we can get the hell out of this joint.


I Must Be Dreaming; Pinch My Kidneys

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:32 am

I go in for a renal biopsy tomorrow. Will the fun never fucking cease?

During my last routine physical my doctor found an unusual amount of protein in my urine. We ran some other tests and determined that I am shedding many, many times the normal amount of protein an otherwise normal human male should be. Basically, with what I’ve been passing, the toilet should have been full of Ball Park Franks (although I rather suspect I would have noticed if that had been happening; the phrase “HEEEEEEYAAAAAAAAAUUUUUGHHHH” comes to mind).

Now normally, when a diabetic is peeing away a bunch of protein the diagnosis is a cinch: diabetic nephropathy. Basically, the presence of unhealthy amounts of sugar in the blood and tissues has eaten holes in the glomeruli of the kidney, compromising the filtration system and allowing stuff to get through that ought not. However, this typically only happens in poorly-controlled diabetics, and my sugar control is damn near perfect. On top of that, in diabetic nephropathy the loss of protein through the membranes of the kidney should also be accompanied by the buildup of toxic metabolites in the blood. A kidney that is perforated enough to allow protein to escape through the urine should also be compromised enough to allow things like creatinine to make it back into the body. But my creatinine clearance is excellent; better than the average healthy human male my age. This has left my doctors a little puzzled. My brother-in-law the trauma nurse came up with an excellent analogy: it’s as if you had a colander whose holes were so big that it couldn’t hold a batch of cooked pasta, yet simultaneously so small that they could filter the salt out of the water in that same pot of pasta. Don’t make no sense.

So, the next step is to take physical samples of the kidney via needle biopsy and see what can be seen. I go in tomorrow down at Saint Peter in Lacey, after which they’ll keep me overnight to make sure my abdominal cavity isn’t filling with blood from my ruptured organs, leaving me to explode in a cataclysmic font of Roo juice like Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I made Margaret promise to get me a pizza from The Old School as long as we’re in the neighborhood; pfui the hospital food.

I have to say, I’m more than a little worried about the outcome. Not the surgery itself, really: despite the apocalyptic prose found in most pre-surgical releases, this kind of procedure is totally run-of-the-mill these days. The surgeon has multiple CT scans taken in advance so that (s)he knows exactly where the ideal extraction site lies. The biopsy itself if said to be a bit painful, but I’ll be seriously medicated although awake….I have to be sufficiently conscious to hold my breath on command during the actual pinch.

But I’m not at all thrilled to contemplate what they’ll find. Right now, about the only things we know with near-complete certainty are that it isn’t diabetic nephropathy and it isn’t cancer. That’s great, but it does leave me and everyone else wondering what the fuck it actually is. I worry that I might have some other form of autoimmune disorder. I worry that protein may be leaching from some other source in the pathway between my insides and my outsides: some weird bladder or urethral problem. I worry that I have some sort of totally unique condition for which there is no cure. Even weirder, I worry that I may have some totally unique condition that will inspire the folks at Saint Peter to harvest my renal cells and patent them, selling them to a biotech firm for three billion dollars, of which I will never see one thin dime (sorry, I just finished rereading Michael Crichton’s Next).

I swear to God, if they perfect the cybernetic wiener in my lifetime I am so outta this body…

I’ll let you all know how this turns out.



Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:15 am


Margaret and I spied this bumbler nosing around in our irises the other day. This particular guy was almost too portly to fit between the petals to get at the good stuff inside, and the image of those fuzzy bee cheeks poking out of the blooms just cracked us up, so we thought we’d grab a photo.


Those Stimulus Checks Must Have Landed

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:22 pm

I get the feeling that those ridiculous self-defeating election-year-suckup economic stimulus checks must have started arriving in people’s mailboxes. It’s the best explanation I have for the fact that Margaret’s recent post about our remodeling is receiving a hefty dose of traffic from Google image searches for “stackable washer dryer“. As of this post we rank #12. ❗

Even more interesting, some of the earliest searches I found in this particular vein came from a block of IP addresses owned by the Internal Revenue Service. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that those folks got their checks first….

Keep spending that dough, America! if you don’t buy a 42 inch plasma TV, the terrorists win!


Food Fright, Part 22

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:32 am

This installment of Food Fright comes courtesy of my lovely wife, who picked this item up for me at the 99 Ranch Market in Renton whilst out on an errand:

She thought they might be a good candidate for a Food Fright. Can’t say I was inclined to disagree….

This is another of those Asian concoctions that make for such good sport among food wags here in the West. We get to jeer at the packaging, prose (directly under the logo on the front of the box are emblazoned the words, “Natural * Regimen * Leisure Time * Refreshment”) and product positioning of items never really intended for consumption by us round-eyes, all the while failing to remember that we’re the ones who came up with things like an 8,000 calorie burger and Hostess Sno Balls.

The name “Pasture Cake” seems to stem from the presence in the confection of a substance known as “pasture powder”. It took a bit of digging to figure out that pasture powder is most likely a mixture of one or more edible grasses, processed into a powder reputed to have health-stimulating benefits: cholesterol reduction, elimination of free radicals and promotion of cardiovascular health. The Asians have always been able to teach us barbarians a thing or two on the subject of functional foods. I was delighted to discover that the name came from a specific ingredient or constituent, and was not just an odd translation from the product’s language of origin or a misguided attempt at a more Western-friendly moniker. Were the latter the case, I would take it upon myself to deem the effort a complete failure: the term “Pasture Cake” is entirely too reminiscent of the American English idiom, “meadow muffin”. 😯

Like many Eastern treats, it is lightly sweetened (making it totally unsuited for the—ahem—bulk of the American market), with a relatively modest 115 calories per pager-sized serving. The outer texture is very soft and a little crumbly (too crumbly, really; thank goodness for iSkins), with a sort of melt-in-your-mouth feel that I attribute to the presence of milk powder and butter amongst the ingredients. The inside is a little gummy, with a slight flavor of melon and something else, an undertone of “green” that I suspect is old Mr. Pasture Powder making his presence known. The center does not, thank my lucky stars, consist of the gelid Cyalume-green ectoplasm that the picture on the box would suggest. I was quite hesitant with my first bite, openly terrified that the sensation would be not unlike nomming on a long-haul trucker’s used hankie.

The overall experience of the Pasture Cake is not unpleasant by any means; just sort of bland and a little odd. If a Fig Newton had connubial relations with a Cotlet, and their offspring went on to knock up a green-melon-flavored Gummi Bear, I imagine that the runt of that litter would probably look and taste rather like a Pasture Cake. The sensation is nothing I would pursue with any zeal (unlike, say, Pocky or TIng Ting Jahe), but sufficiently inoffensive to ensure that the eight-ounce package Margaret brought home won’t go to waste. I can feel my radicals becoming less free already….

So I guess, since there’s nothing particularly frightening or outrageous about Pasture Cakes, the term “Food Fright” doesn’t really apply in this instance. Too bad, ’cause I already took the time to superimpose the logo on the picture; no going back now.


Stay on target!

Filed under: @ 9:08 pm

Many have asked how the remodel and re-garden process are going and why I’ve stopped posting weekly updates.

Well to answer the latter first, the reason is that the major portion of the remodel, that is the portion that involves having my house covered in drywall dust and infested with contractor(s), is done. After three months of holes, patches, sawdust, power tools and large sheets of plastic in various odd locations…. We’re done. Andrew and I spent two remarkably sweaty weekends moving books, vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning carpets and we LOVE the new interior.
Which is not to say that we’re completely done. I am currently squatting in what will be our guest room with all of my study paraphernalia while the primer in my study dries. Over the last three weeks or so in between gardening I’ve been peeling wallpaper (erm….where did I put it….. Oh yes!
THIS wallpaper)Ugly Study Wallpaper

stripping wallpaper backing, scrubbing the glue off the walls, and spackling. On Monday I finally got everything set and started priming. Hopefully by the time this is posted I’ll at least have one coat of the final color on the walls, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
I have also left instructions with my devoted husband that if I ever have the urge to put wallpaper on something that he should immediately cart me off to the home for the permanently deranged. I am also working on painting the west wall of the laundry room (since it was mostly spackle anyway) and I am proud to admit that I painted right damn over the wallpaper. I have had it up to the hairline with peeling, scraping, and scrubbing. One of these days I may get over it enough to want to tackle the kitchen and the dining room, but I wouldn’t bet on that either.
Keeping the momentum going has been very important. More than anything I want the whole process, and that includes having my study finished and the damnable garage finally cleared out, OVER.
Which is why I’ve been working like a lunatic to get it done. I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it when it’s all done.

The re-gardening is another story entirely in that I am working equally hard, indeed quite a good deal harder, there but I’m loving every minute of it. Sheri and I have been working in a serious fashion for close to 3 weeks.
On the first week we dug a 4 foot wide by 6″ deep pathway from the front porch to our northwest corner, sifted the rocks out of the dirt, lined the whole thing with landscaping fabric then moved the rocks back into place and covered them all over with gravel. Yes, it was a LOT of dirt and yes, it was a LOT of BIG HEAVY ROCKS.
On the second week while I dug a 15 X 3 X 2 foot trench along our west property line (and hacked through the leftover cedar roots and heaved out the biggest of the rocks), Sheri attacked the stump of the sickly little cherry tree that had been on the northeast corner of the garden. Now she’d actually taken the tree out the week before and we figured that since the tree had been such a sickly little thing getting the stump taken care of would be a piece of cake. It was not. The stump was a tenacious bastard with roots better than 6″ in diameter that resisted all sorts of blandishment and violence. Sheri finally rented a stump grinder (it’s so cool that she knows how to use a stump grinder. Oh, and get this… Sheri owns a CHAINSAW!) today and took the bastard out. However last week we got to the point where we had exhausted ourselves with axes, splitting wedges, chainsaws, handsaws, hatchets, and sledgehammers, so we decided to bag it. I planted Pieris japonica, which will be a lovely hedge in about 3 years, in my trench while Sheri planted all sorts of lovely shrubbery on the north side of the pathway (sorry, no herring).
The theory is that the weather will cooperate with us next week and we should be able to finish.

I’ll wait on posting the garden photos until it’s all done. There are plenty of them so take this as warning that you’ll need to have good download time or it’ll take you a while.
In the mean time, here’s the new living room (Ssshhhh! No one tell Joan that we’ve got empty bookshelf space!)The new living room.


If You Haven’t Anything Obscene To Say, Don’t Say Anything At All

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:52 pm

Margaret and I catch a fair amount of two of the forty-plus spinoffs of the Law & Order franchise. We used to follow the original program fairly aggressively, but our attention has waned quite a bit over the years. So many other, more powerful, less senesced shows have come out over the years. Still, L&O’s writers definitely have some talent amongst them; Law & Order manages not to drive a stake through its own heart via thumb-fingered plot development and timing as much as 65% of the time—which, sadly, is a pretty good record.

The first sub-species to cleave off from the parent genome, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, has an even better success rate. We caught the first two or three episodes when the series premiered and decided that it wasn’t for us; it seemed like the producers were trying to sell the same series, only with a new, raunchier angle. So we ashcanned the program for a couple of years, then picked it up again after happening across a few episodes on Turner Network Television. (In case you yourself are not firmly lampreyed onto The Glass Teat, old episodes of SVU play on that network incessantly; at a conservative estimate, this show is on TNT no less than thirty-seven-thousand times per day. TNT is to Law & Order what Turner Broadcasting System used to be for Airwolf back in the late eighties.) SVU seemed to find its legs in the second or third season, becoming less prurient, something more than Law & Order With Kiddy Porn. The show had developed a heart, even if it doesn’t always seem to be packing much in the brains department. And it’s where I got to learn about the down-low. 😮

(Speaking of the down-low: check out this screen capture from the Home Page for SVU. I’ve highlighted the interesting part. The two characters portrayed are Detective John Munch, played by comedian-turned-actor Richard Belzer, and Detective “Fin” Tutuola, played by decent-rapper-turned-gawdawful-actor Ice-T. Ice-T is on the right, manhandling someone, presumably a “perp”. He’s the only one interacting with anyone else in the picture, and that person happens to be someone who is not in the actual series roster—what gamers would call an NPC, or non-player character. Presumably this is being done to show just how tough and streetwise his character is. However, the suspect being cuffed is almost completely occluded by the figure of Detective Munch….only the person’s arm and hand are fully visible. The layout and coloration of the scene further obscures the outlines of Munch and the figure behind him, making it hard to distinguish one from the other. The overall effect being that, at first glance, Detectives Munch and Tutuola appear to be holding hands. Interesting. Particularly since, in the story line of the show, these two characters are, um, “partners”.)

Anyway, this post isn’t really about SVU, or Law & Order; it’s more about crime drama on television in general, network television in particular. The writers on these shows are forced to walk a really fine line in their portrayal of the world of cops and criminals. They have to try to establish a mood, to give the viewer the impression that they are witnessing a windows into the “real life” of the characters on screen. A life that in this case happens to be fraught with pain, anger, misery, aggression, mendacity and, at times, true evil. And they have to do it without showing too much blood, too much of the more titillating bits (heh heh….”titillating”….) of the human form, or uttering too many naughty words: a task that is both Herculean and Sisyphean in scope. You can’t possibly win this one. You either satisfy the concerns of the bluenoses or the demands of the smut junkies….it’s simply impossible to do both with any certainty.

The Law & Order franchise does as well as a show really can under the circumstances, with one glaring exception: the phrase, “screw you”.

This phrase is used entirely too often on the program, whenever a character is particularly angry and wants someone to know it. When the grieving parent is questioned by police about his missing daughter and the cop intimates that said parent might have played a part in the disappearance; when the junkie is cornered on the street by detectives and pressured to give up the name of her supplier, wanted for questioning in an armed robbery; when the near-hysterical arson suspect takes a little girl hostage and screams through the barricaded apartment door at the cops acting as de facto negotiators. Any time the writers want to indicate that the character is furious, wracked with guilt yet steeped in denial, or mistrustful to the point of paranoia.

Problem is, “screw you” is quite possibly the most flaccid, desultory exclamation it is possible to utter within the confines of the modern American English lexicon. About the only thing that would make it less potent would be the addition of, “you big poopy head!”

My heart is with these writers, really. Compare poor Law & Order with something like FX Network’s The Shield, which airs on cable instead of over the airwaves. The Shield is probably the best drama on television, ever. Or the worst, depending on your perspective. (Suffice it to say that, if you feel as though, say, Touched by an Angel was one of the best dramas on television, you should probably never even look at an advertisement for The Shield; your eyes would most likely burst in self-defense.) Cut free from the tethers of broadcast television censorship, the writers for The Shield are able to use just about any kind of language or situation they care to. “Shit”s and “God Damn”s, references to sex acts and bodily fluids pepper the dialogue like grody sprinkles adorning the world’s least appetizing cupcake, and it all works. It feels real.

The closest the audience ever got hearing the oh-so-dreaded “F” word (which, by the way, is fuck. FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK FUCK. Fuckity fuck. Penis.) is during an agonizingly tense moment of confrontation between two main characters. Detective Vic Mackey steps towards his best friend Shane, his face drained of blood and creased with anger. He balls a fist. “You f—” Shane, knowing he has crossed a line, takes a half-step back, scared but not ready to capitulate. Mackey reins himself in. “You’ve got one chance to walk away. Take it.”

In a series running positively rampant with so-called dirty words and phrases, this instance packs a real punch, as much for what is not said, what is almost said, as for all the nasty things that are. Particularly since none of the things said is “screw you”.

Thing is, if you are hamstrung by the FCC and can’t use the more colorful variants of the language, there’s still a fair amount of wiggle room. I can think of half a dozen phrases that convey more power and venom than “screw you”. “Go to hell”, for instance, which if said with sufficient menace conveys the willingness of the speaker to escort you there him/herself. “Piss off” is a good one too, as is “kiss my ass”, both dripping with dismissive contempt. “Eat me” has lots of aggression to it if coupled with a smoldering gaze. Hell, even “up yours” and “get bent” have more edge to them.

By comparison, “screw you” sounds….well, it sounds like the utterance of someone who’s afraid they will get in trouble if they say, “fuck you”. Which is the point, really: writers and producers of broadcast programming will get in trouble if they say “fuck you” on TV.

But unless you are assembling dialogue for a gripping crime drama about an eight-year-old Sunday school student who is caught stealing chalk, it’s really preferable to cast off one’s aspirations of obscenity and pick some other phrase entirely. Better to come out sounding evasive and complaisant than puerile and stupid….you big poopy head.

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