>>> Bang for Your Buck
By staff writer David Nelson

January 14, 2007

Essential New Word of the Week: butterlamb (definition hint: spreadable sculpture)

In terms of difficulty, writing a weekly column is a mixed bag. Some of the articles that read like I was typing at top speed about whatever popped into my head are precisely that. Then there are articles like the Hangover Experiment that took months of liver-detonating research, and the Asian Snack Exposé that cost literally tens of dollars in fishy source material.

I still remember back when Court was trying to recruit me like he was the Houston Rockets coach and I was a shorter, hairier, and more articulate Yao Ming. He didn’t exactly promise me money, women, and chocolate unicorns, but I knew it would be a fun gig nevertheless.

After over a year, I realize that I’m probably not going to get rich doing this, and that’s OK. I look at this column as something to fill my time when I run out of crotch oil. But you never know where shit like this can lead, and I’ve got a little story that proves it.

Before I became the resident comedic eskimo here at PIC, I had a different internet writing gig. I wrote for a site called Grudge Match. The premise of the site was simple, yet brilliant. We would take two icons from pop culture, write a scenario that gave them cause to fight, and debate which of them would win. Fans could vote and leave their own commentary on each match.

“I discovered that exploring a sci-fi convention would be a great new form of torture for Iraqi prisoners.”

Take, for example, a confrontation such as Webster vs. Gary Coleman. On one hand, Coleman outweighs Webster by about 30 pounds. On the other hand, if Webster lands just one kidney punch, he’ll have Arnold praying for dialysis. Sure, it was pretty fucked up to debate the fighting ability of black midget child stars, but that was our mandate, and we took it seriously.

Not all of the matches were simple fistfights either. We argued who would solve a spooky mystery first: Scooby-Doo or X-Files? Who would get the girl: Sam Malone or the Fonz? Who would win a build-off: MacGyver or the A-Team? There were hundreds of matches, and, when you’ve had your fill of me here, you should check out the archives. They’re densely packed with comedy.

The site was massively popular. It got to the point where we were invited to perform Grudge Matches for live audiences. Not many websites can make the transition to live action. If PIC tried, it would probably involve Nick Gaudio coming to your house and showing you his penis. And it might be weeks or even months before there’s a demand for that.

I volunteered to be part of the team presenting a live multimedia Grudge Match at Boskone, an annual science-fiction convention out of Boston, Mass. As someone who has touched a woman in his lifetime, I had a natural disdain for science fiction conventions, and didn’t want our kickass concept to be associated with one. But pickers can’t be choosers, so off I flew to Boston, cashing in all the air miles I earned by overseeing shipments of Hello Kitty vibrators from Japan.

It was the middle of a cold Massachusetts winter. Not wanting to take my chances with public transportation, I took a cab into the city centre. I’ve seen enough Cheers to know that New Englanders have adorably retarded accents, but I never thought I’d have to deal with an actual language barrier. I’m positive I told the cabbie to go to the hotel, but he must have heard, “Please drive as slow as possible, get caught by every red light, and drive me to the wrong part of town entirely.”

When I finally arrived at the hotel where the convention was taking place, I had to suffer the indignation of registering alongside a teeming mob of science fiction fans. I realized that those same people comprised our fan base, but still, the entire room stank of unwashed nerd. I was an artiste, a performer doing a brilliant pop culture riff, I didn’t deserve to be stuck alongside sweaty, 300-pound men wearing capes.

It’s important you understand how weird and pathetic this scene was. In order for me to describe the appropriate level of shame, I would have to somehow combine that kid whose Jedi combat storm kept the internet entertained for weeks and a grown man caught playing Dungeons & Dragons with a bunch of kids in a hobby store.

I actually went into this with a bit of optimism. I figured I might encounter some just-turned-18 sci-fi babe with her own Sailor Moon outfit. As a featured performer, my comic delivery and stage presence would surely make this hypothetical girl cream her Thundercats panties.

But, as many other delusional idealists before me have learned, such a girl simply doesn’t exist. If there were any women at Boskone, the layers of atrophied blubber made them basically indistinguishable from men. In fact, most were confined to wheelchairs, which probably smelled like ass and were powered by leftover gravy drippin’s. Wheelchair chicks can be sexy, but as everyone knows, that’s “crippled” wheelchair, not “immobile fatty” wheelchair.

In any event, I met up with my colleagues to rehearse. Because we knew what kind of Grudge Match fan would show up for this, we were presenting James Bond vs. Indiana Jones, Harry Potter vs. Anakin Skywalker, and John McClane vs. The Death Star. (McClane: Tends to cause things to explode. Death Star: Tends to explode. You do the math.)

After we made a few last-minute changes to our script, I circulated among the sci-fi people in an attempt to see what made them tick, and maybe drum up some additional interest in our show. I discovered that exploring a sci-fi convention would be a great new form of torture for Iraqi prisoners. Everything smells like B.O. and ozone, and sometimes if you look in one of the rooms, you'll find something you wish you hadn't. Like a symposium on all the things that were wrong with Green Goblin’s hat in the Spiderman movie.

At one point, I strolled through a marketplace where the more entrepreneurial nerds could sell their battle-damaged action figures and other crap. If a really dirty refugee camp held a gigantic rummage sale, this is probably what it would look like. Until that moment, I had never realized that Klingon erotica was in such high demand.

That night, we attended something a concert of something called “filk” music. According to reliable nerd sources, filk is folk music with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Here’s a brief sample lyric from the evening:

(To the tune of Hey Mr. Tambourine Man)
Hey, evil Borg machine-man, get away from me!
You're creepy, and I don't want to be one of you!
Hey, evil Borg machine man, won't you let me be?
In the interstellar darkness I'll be running from you.

And if that doesn’t make you want to gouge out your eardrums with a sharpened Q-Tip, I applaud your courage, soldier! Later, when the euphoric crowd started conga dancing to “Zombie Jamboree,” I decided I needed a drink bad enough to shell out for second-tier scotch at the overpriced hotel bar.

The next day, my colleagues and I made our way to the room where we would be revolutionizing the world of comedy. But there was a problem. Some douchebag photographer was in the middle of a slideshow, and he didn’t show any signs of relinquishing the room. We needed time to set up the sound and video, but this asshole was plowing on about the time he met Chewbacca or something.

For what it’s worth, his audience seemed perfectly happy to stay, so I could see that this situation would require a little creative thinking. My fellow presenters were too panicky to be useful, so I grabbed an official-looking piece of paper (actually, I think it might have been a Babylon 5 short story) and marched right up to the guy.

Angrily jabbing at the paper, I told him that I was with hotel security, and the room had to be cleared out, right now. I may not be the most intimidating guy in the world, but I was powerfully motivated. I sure as hell didn’t fly to Boston just to take in the local nerd culture. Amazingly, he bought it, and within 3 minutes, he was lugging his gay-ass slide projector out the door and back into the lonely world of alien photography.

Needless to say, our show was a rousing success. One of the responders mistakenly thought we were presenting the Death Star vs. Senator John McCain, which brought the house down. For a brief moment, I was worshipped by nerds of all ages; I knew just how Weird Al Yankovic must feel.

The city of Boston and its demented science fiction convention almost wore me down, but in the end, it proved to be a worthwhile trip. To topit off, my flight was cancelled due to snow, so I stayed an extra night in a youth hostel where I hooked up with a beautiful girl who had absolutely nothing to do with science fiction. She had a well-developed social conscience and, more importantly, enormous tits.

To make a tired point, it’s amazing how a spot of writing, no more than a hobby, can lead to cool shit sometimes. I did a bit of writing for a site I believed in, and it led me to a memorable experience and a better-than-average lay. Can history repeat itself? All I can say is, stay tuned. An editor at a small publishing house, someone I’ve worked with before, has asked me to send him some samples. Probably, it will come to nothing. But like I learned in Boston, you never know.

Essential New Word of the Week:

butterlamb n [’bUdrlæm]

By now, everyone knows what a butterface is—a girl with a hot body but an ugly visage. In other words, everything about her is great… butterface. But this has nothing to do with the legend of the butterlamb. I was on vacation in the Dominican Republic. The food was mediocre, but at least there was a lot of it; buffet-style every night. And greeting us as we walked into the dining hall was an enormous lamb sculpted entirely out of butter.

To a couple of deeply inebriated friends, nothing could have been more hilarious. What was the purpose of this sculpture? Why butter? Why a lamb? How did they keep it from melting? We began to revere the butterlamb so much that we created rhyming parables about it. “If you spurn the butterlamb, you will surely turn into ham.” Then one day we saw a German tourist cut off part of the butterlamb’s foot and spread it on his toast. That bastard. Ever since “butterlamb” has meant an impossibly ridiculous thing worthy of worship.

Oh yeah, the next year, we went back, and there was a melonfish, but that’s another story.