Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wanda Sykes

A friend and ex-coworker bought lunch for the Complete and Total Loser earlier today as a birthday present. His birthday was two days ago. Afterward, the two shopped at a Trader Joe's near the friend's house. The music playing over the store's spearkers was by a female vocalist the Loser didn't know. 
"Wanda Sykes," the Loser's friend said.
This puzzled the Loser because he hadn't asked and he didn't think Wanda Sykes sang. 
wanda sykes
Wanda Sykes lives in Los Angeles and Media, Pa.

"Huh?" he said, always quick with an intelligent question. 
"It's Wanda Sykes," the Loser's friend said. "Over there."
The Loser followed his friend's gaze and there, indeed, was the actor and comedian Wanda Sykes, alone, pushing a grocery cart, shopping. 
The Loser likes Sykes. She stays black but funny. He looked up her Wikipedia entry and, as is true with many actors you look up, was surprised by how extensive her background is. 
Why she lives part of her time in Media, Pa., when not living in Los Angeles is beyond him. She has no doubt explained her reasons someplace but the Loser is not so crazy about her that he'll do the research to learn them.

Friday, May 15, 2015

On this day

For years, the Complete and Total Loser got via email a daily almanac page from Called "On This Day," it listed significant events that had occurred in history, and people who had been born and died on that date. 
But no more. The Loser got this email on May 7:

Dear On This Day Subscriber,

We regret to inform you that as of May 13, 2015, the On This Day email will be shut down. For an alternative to learn about something new and exciting every day, please sign up for our other newsletters, including Word of the Day, Word of the Day Quiz, Slideshow Snapshot, and more.

Thank you for using and please contact us at if you have any questions or concerns.

Kind regards,

The Team 

It surprised the Loser that they pulled the plug on it. It seemed like it would have been an unchanging enough thing that they could almost set it up to be done automatically, maybe getting an intern to tweak it now and then. Their other newsletters? Screw 'em.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Loser on YouTube

youtube logo
YouTube logo.
A couple of weeks ago, the Complete and Total Loser went to a story slam in his home city. He spoke for five minutes—the allotted time—and although he was the oldest speaker of the nine others, what he said seemed to be well received. A video of his effort was posted on YouTube, as were the others'. The number of hits it has received are the lowest of them all.
The Loser, losing again. It just never stops.

Monday, May 4, 2015


  • This man's name is Ken
  • He sat at a table outside a convenience store
  • The Complete and Total Loser talked to him while waiting for a friend
  • Ken said his wife died
  • Ken said he owned three ranches in Texas and that they were going to move to one but now he won't
  • His arthritis hurts him
  • The last two Pennsylvania winters were hard
  • He'd been a broker at a large financial services company
  • The Loser's friend arrived
  • He and Ken knew each other and caught up a little
  • Later, the Loser's friend said Ken had driven the van that took people, including him, to and from the company and the train station
  • He doubted that Ken had worked there as a broker

man at outdoor table with coffee
Ken enjoys a cup of coffee.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Off the saddle

Man on Victorian era bicycle
A man rides a Victorian-era bicycle.
The Complete and Total Loser's history of bicycling for exercise may have come to a close. He rode a few times, OK, twice, some days ago and his right knee—the one on the bad leg—aches and is making him walk like the gimp that he is but tries not to be. This will be sad, if true. The Loser's happiest times are when he's on a bike, exercising, rolling down roads, breathing great lungs full of fresh air. Without it, he'll just sit around and decay, watching his heart lose its tone as he packs on fat. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The gathering

The Complete and Total Loser has an affinity for the world's nut cases because they, like the Loser, are missing a cog that makes brains run smoothly. It's different in the Loser's case, however. In his case, he simple doesn't get it, whatever "it" is. In theirs, they don't get it, but they've replaced their gap with other beliefs. Conspiracies, UFOs, the supernatural, religion; things like that.
The Loser pictures them getting together with groups of guys (most of them are male) who have different beliefs but stemming from the same source. A convention of groups who think the moon landing was faked, that fluoride in water is controlling us all, that 9/11 was an "inside job," that there are alien bodies and a vessel at Area 51, that Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim, that the Holocaust never happened, that contrails are poisoning us, or that a virtual platoon of people shot JFK could meet in a large, open forum.
ice crystals on windowpane
There's more going on here than at first appears. There has to be.

It'd be interesting to see. They'd all be standing there in little groups, all looking suspiciously at the other groups, only eating snacks that they brought there themselves because, hey, better safe than sorry, right?
Then they'd all get in their old cars (they're rarely successful enough to buy new) and hit the brakes a few times before hitting the road to make sure they haven't been tampered with. They'd drive home to their small, cramped, cluttered apartments where they live alone, like the Loser does.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring exercise

Today, the Complete and Total Loser rode his bike for the first time since November. He felt bad about not riding more often and he has the fat body and diminished lung capacity to show for it. The ride went well, even though he had to dismount on the long hill back home like a fat kid. 
bagged leaves
Bagged leaves await pickup on a suburban street.

More remarkably is that he did not experience the aerobic-induced deja vu he has for the past seven years after exercising hard following an absence of doing so. 
"That's odd," the Loser thought. The odd thing really was his finding it odd that he felt normal. He's searched on the net and asked his doctor about it and come up with nothing on both counts.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

At the zoo

It is 1962 and the Complete and Total Loser is at the zoo. His father, aka "Daddy," holds the Loser, then four, over a large tortoise while the Loser's mother, aka "Mommy," takes a photograph. The Loser cries, his father stops, but one of the Loser's shoes has fallen off. His father steps over the fence and retrieves it. 
aldabra tortoise
An Aldabra tortoise munches grass on a spring day.

On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, the Loser is again at the zoo after a nearly forty-year gap. He dislikes zoos on principal, but is there with a friend and her two children, who are three and one. He sees the enclosure of tortoises. The oldest one there is named Bubba, an Aldabra tortoise (so named after the atoll from which he was kidnapped), and has been at the zoo since 1947, meaning he was there when the Loser was there with his family. Bubba was too busy eating grass to acknowledge the Loser, which he finds rude of him.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


The Complete and Total Loser met a guy who had a rifle hanging on the wall of his apartment. 
assault rifle
An assault rifle.

"Do you hunt?" The Loser asked, knowing little about guns. 
"No," said the guy. "That's an assault rifle. It's only meant to kill people."
the end is near sign
A sign proclaiming that the end is near.

He said he had it because he was certain society was on the verge of something big happening within a year or two that would lead to its collapse and that he wanted to be ready in some way.
This was in 1981.
People crave the feeling that the times they live in are the most interesting times there will ever be, that change will be fast and dynamic and they'll be one of the ready ones who cope with it well and survive, perhaps even lead. They will have taken a shortcut that will make them far more significant than they were before. This feeling is wired into our egos.
meteorites destroying city
Meteorites destroy a large city.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of any of us being around for any sort of apocalyptic, end times event is minuscule. Life will just grind away at us all and we'll all die of old age if some form of disease or an accident doesn't kill us first. It's meaningless and dull, but that's what will happen.

Monday, April 6, 2015

In the seats

The Complete and Total Loser went with a friend to see Fast Furious 7. They went to a 12:30 showing to avoid crowds, and saw it in one of the smaller theaters of five at the multiplex. They can do this because they've both been unemployed for a long time, having been laid off by the same institution.

The movie was—oh, you know what it was. That's not the point. 
As the lights dimmed, the Loser and his friend saw an older man come in carrying a clipboard. He sat near them. 
movie theater concessions stand
A concessions stand at a large movie theater.

Great, they thought. A troubled loner of some sort is going to sit nearby. At any time he may start ranting about the end times or contrails or something.
The previews started. In case you haven't been to a movie lately, you should know that previews run a full twenty-five minutes.
The man sat quietly, making notes on his clipboard. After the previews, he got up and left. 
"He must," the Loser said to his friend, "check to see that they were all shown."
The Loser and his friend envied the man and wondered how to get a job like that.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Makes sense

The Complete and Total Loser read a letter referring to the Germanwings air crash, caused deliberately by the suicidal co-pilot. The letter noted that there are drones being flown by pilots on the other side of the planet, and that future planes should have that technology. If they did and went markedly off course, a drone pilot could take over the controls. 
antique aviation gauge

It's a short step from there to have the plane flown without a pilot at all, which some Airbus pilots would tell you they nearly are already. 
There will always be someone onboard who knows how to fly, however, unless human instinct changes drastically. A change to that degree is unlikely in the time the Loser, who is in his late fifties now, has left. There will be someone in the cockpit for the rest of the Loser's life, if only to tap on the gauges, like people do in movies.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A stupid phrase, but ...

The Complete and Total Loser only uses the phrase What the fuck? in jest. Not when he read the following, though, in the New York Times:

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — The co-pilot of the Germanwings jetliner that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday had been treated for “suicidal tendencies” before receiving his pilot’s license, the office of the German prosecutor in Düsseldorf said Monday.
The co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had been treated by psychotherapists “over a long period of time,” the prosecutor’s office said, without providing precise dates. In follow-up visits to doctors since that time, the prosecutor said, “no signs of suicidal tendencies or outward aggression were documented.”
Mr. Lubitz’s medical records show no physical illnesses, the prosecutor said.
Mr. Lubitz, 27, was at the controls of a Germanwings Airbus A320 jetliner on Tuesday, en route from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany, when he set it on a course to crash into the mountains in southeastern France, a French prosecutor has said. Cockpit voice recordings document that Mr. Lubitz was alone in the cockpit and refused to allow the captain to re-enter as the plane crashed, killing all 150 people on board.

germanwings victims

The Loser is a liberal type, all for giving people second and third chances, trusting them, etc. But not an airline pilot. Also, not a surgeon, military official, law enforcement officer, or operator of any large passenger vehicle. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

An unreported quote

In 2002 the Complete and Total Loser worked in a branch of a major news agency. Some months after September 11 of the previous year, there was a
Andreas Lubitz
Andreas Lubitz
minor incident at the international airport in the Loser's home city. A pilot, angry at the then overly stringent, since relaxed, rules about what you can take on airplanes, was angry at having an object that meant something to him confiscated by airport security.

The story that ran said he had said something threatening and been taken into custody because of it, the flight delayed for several hours as a substitute was found. 
What the pilot said was never reported, but the reporter who covered the incident told the Loser what it was and it was this: "I could crash this plane in my underwear."
That is, as we've all been painfully reminded, to true. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"We will never forget her"

That's what a Pittsburgh Fringe Festival Facebook page post said about Emily Selke, who helped found the organization.
emily selke
Emily Selke, one of the 149 Germanwings crash victims.

Selke was one of the 150 victims in the March 24, 2015 Germanwings crash in the French Alps, apparently due to a disturbed copilot's actions. She was 22 and traveling with her mother. 
The Complete and Total Loser had friends and acquaintances who died much too young and he knows that it's true: They will never forget her. He also knows, however, that the memory most have of Selke will fade over time and that its bearers will feel guilty for that even as they're remembering her.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Life, in short

Life beats you down from the beginning and it beats harder with each passing year. You can stay even for awhile, but after point it wins and you lose, no matter what. You may still be smiling, but it's the withered smile of a diminished being. 
Scrubdaddy cleaning pads, one old, one new.