Life can be seen as a series of comic insults, a never-ending reality show on Ultra-World-Widescreen. We cannot do much about the bold cosmic hilarity of getting crushed by a massive boulder on the way to see Aunt Bigot in Grand Junction, Colorado, but we surely can better handle the small personal affronts that come our way daily from those who choose to diss us. Know your Retort Law!

You must first recognize which type of Retorter you are. There are only three:

  1. Delayed Brilliance: Around 50% of those dissed need more time than the situation allows to come up with the perfect response. This could be from 2 minutes to 50 years. Who here has not seen their Grandpa on his deathbed scratch out with a shaky pen the words, “Tell that bastard Tom Smith I said, ‘Oh, yeah?? SEZ YOU, BUDDY!!’” The Delayed Brilliance person is often very frustrated, feeling they have missed every good opportunity they had in life by not being on top of things. All these people get terminal cancer.

  1. Mr/Ms Dozens: Five percent of people are wired for comebacks, and are lightening-fast, merciless, tireless, and clever, and we shall call them “Dozens-ers,” after the nickname given the respected African-American oral tradition of “yo mama!/no, YO mama!” The more the insult party goes on, the more amped they get, until they are running on nothing but racing adrenalin and the hooting admiration of the gathering crowds. Occasionally, Animal Control must be called in with a Bear Tranquilizing Gun to subdue the frothing Dozens-er, if they aren’t taken directly to a local comedy club. They are deft masters at not only quickly spotting the physical and mental flaws of their opponents, but also instantly figuring the best way to construct each comeback to dismantle their enemies, be it riffing on a retreating hairline, fundamental logic holes, or mothers.

  1. Deer-In-Deadlights: A full forty-five percent of you (higher in Red States and New Jersey), cannot think or speak well enough to construct any kind of retort that doesn’t involve punching, spitting, stabbing, shooting, swearing, hiding, crying, grunting, peeing, pooping, puking, or drooling. Prisons, bars, remote caves, and many branches of government are filled with these folks.
 Let us assume that you don’t want to get cancer or go to prison in your search for the crippling comeback. You want to be a Dozens-er. If you are the Deer-In-Deadlights, the best you can hope for is to be so profoundly dumb that you don’t even realize you have been insulted.


Second best would be blinking once, hard, then chewing some gum and frowning for awhile. A very poor choice of retort for a D-I-D would be running down the Disser with a monster truck, then fleeing to a Mexican border town with a “Jan Brewer For Presadint” bumpersticker on the tailgate. Just try to limit your exposure to other people.

The Delayed Brilliance person has a couple of options to try to fake being a Dozens-er: do something to buy more time to think of a retort or only hang out with the Deer folks, because anything you say will be better than anything they can come up with. Something you can do to stall while you think of a fine insult is point to a distant horizon and shout “LOOK!” This works best with very small nasty children and gullible cranky elders and some dogs. You can also try this:

You may get just enough time to deliver the Comeback Line Of All Time, or the Disser will eventually huff away or slug you. You could also compile a list of General Purpose Retorts and tattoo it on your forearm for quick reference. It beats the lame Chinese characters tat you were thinking of getting anyway.

And then there are the Dozens-ers themselves, who must always be honing the better comeback to stay on top. For practice, there is always the classic Hanging Out On The Streetcorner Talking Jive-Ass Crap To Anyone Going By, the Family Holiday Gathering With Inevitable Multiple Arguments, or watching old tapes of George Carlin handling hecklers. You could also register anonymously on multiple internet message boards and troll unsuspecting victims who may give you a good workout (or just ban you). If you are stuck in the effective-but-predictable rut of Foul-Mouthed Put-Downs, I suggest a month of elegant Victorian-style retorts only:

If you succeed in mastering Retort Law, you will be asked to join the Who’s Who Of Witty Windbags, which sometimes leads to an appointment to the Supreme Court Of The United Snark Of America. Provided some monster truck doesn’t run you down first.


(MissSeven is my guest today, reviewing the show she and I saw last night. I will provide the vids and pix, unless otherwise noted.)

What did you think of Marymoor Park?

MissSeven: I thought it was cool because it had dogs walking in the park on the way in. The stage was cool because it had lights that went up and down.  I ate a cheeseburger but I didn’t want to because I am a pescatarian. It was sort of cold but I put on a Vampire Weekend sweatshirt and the arms were really long like spider legs, ha ha.

What did you think of the Dum Dum Girls?

M7: I thought they were great.  I liked that one song that goes "la la la la" the best (ed. "Jail La La").  I liked their singing. The crowd probably thought they were great because they were screaming YAY. I was going to say hello to the singer but then I got shy. We gave her a movie for her bus about rock stars and left it by the guy with the shirts.

(More Dum Dum Girls photos here.)

What did you think of Beach House?

M7: I wasn’t really listening. I was drawing and looking at stuff on my camera. I heard a little of the music and I liked it. It was nice. The girl had wild hair. People liked them.

(More Beach House photos here.)

Tell me about what happened with Vampire Weekend.

M7: I was excited that they were going to come on and sing and then I got sad because they couldn’t. The people threw stuff at the guy on the stage talking and saying it was cancelled  and the guys taking all the stuff away. That was bad. Some dude threw a beer on the guy’s shirt. People looked sad and angry and they were saying BOO YOU STINK. The girl with the orange hair and the camera next to us looked really disappointed, like WHOA. I already saw Vampire Weekend before so I was OK and not as disappointed as the people who never saw them, but, you know.

(Official statement from Vampire Weekend released today)

"Dear Seattle,

We are incredibly sorry about our last minute cancellation last night in Redmond – the decision wasn’t taken lightly. Ezra had some vocal issues earlier in the day, but felt like he was improving however, while he was warming up just moments prior to our set time he lost his voice completely and was unable to perform. He was then taken to the ER and diagnosed with inflamed vocal cords and the doctor ordered him to not perform for 48 hours. Even so, we still wanted to perform but by that point it was clear that any performance we could give would have been essentially instrumental and nowhere close to what we or the audience was expecting.
We know you all had to wait around for the announcement, and many of you came a long way to be there, and again – we truly apologize."

Did you take pictures?

M7:Yes, but I was saving almost all my batteries for Vampire Weekend so I didn’t take any of the other ones.

I got some.

M7: Yup. I saw you.

1922, IN COLOR

Oh, this is soooo lovely. Thanks to a link forwarded by @theangrymick on Twitter, I can bring you this rather incredible little video from Kodak: a test of a prototype color film from (yes) 1922. NINETEEN TWENTY-TWO! Man! There is something quite poignant about seeing something from those days in something other than black-and-white, even if these colors are not really "real." It is a little reminder that the people back "then" were just like Technicolor 3-D living breathing folks today, somehow.

Kodak's post on their site will give you more info about how it was done and more. I am so glad these things are being restored and preserved; SO much in film has been irretrievably lost already. Thanks, Kodak!


This must be National Old Crap month for me. I have been enjoying the hell out of all the old books and photos and artworks I came across at my mom's house in Wisconsin, the Montgomery Wards 1979 catalog I found (with a Sears '80 to come!), and today, some vintage clothing I saved, fresh from a box in the piled garage. I do like to save some stuff, although I am not really a hoarder like Mom. Looking at a few of these items, I am glad I still have them, even if they are all wrinkled up and smell like dust and old.

This actually belonged to my Grandma Lizzie, who was born in 1892. I think this is pretty damn hip for a women who was then in her 70s to be wearing. She liked clothes, and was just a tiny lil thing. I think I might be able to get this on now, but would probably have to have it cut off to get out again.

This was a '60s Thai silk coat that I bought in the '80s, not sure if I got it at a rummage sale or a thrift shop. In any case, I loved the vibrant color. I wore it once to the San Diego Zoo.

This sweater dress was one of my all-time favorite vintage finds, and something I often wore to clubs in the late 70s/early '80s. I am pretty sure it came from a Chicago thrift shop. It's still in great shape.

Speaking of favorite club dresses from the same time period, this is perhaps the shortest minidress in the world. Note: the size listed on this circa 1966 or so dress says "12." Looking at it with a critical eye, today it would be called a size 4 or 6. Hmm. (Yes, that's me.)

You can buy '80s-wear like this in Target now.

I was explaining this 1983 height-of-fashion item to MissSeven today, to her amazement. I bought this Asian Transformer Garment at Aardvarks, I think, on Melrose Avenue in L.A. It's a jacket...

...but if you inside-out the sleeves and tuck them inside, it turns into a skirt! (What a blonde hair helmet I had.)

This little black wool dress was my mom's, and I think it was from the early '60s. Again, it says size 12, but it looks more like a 4 or 6 now. It's very skinny, and never looked right on me. My mom is skinny.

I loved this spangle-y '60s shirt, but it wasn't very practical; it was very heavy and hot to dance in, and hard to clean. But it's beautiful to look at.

Men's tab-collar shirts: a Stephen Sprouse from 1988 and vintage '60s overdyes.

More '80s-era metallic spangle wear, again a hard to clean thing without those little discs coming off. I remember Ray Davies told me he liked it, and I felt all special and smiley, like a big grinning goofball.

HA HA HA HA. Oh dear. This was a bridesmaids dress I had to wear. It flattered no one. I think Couch Teen wore it to school a few years ago on a dare. He's a funny guy.

And finally, the coolest item of the bunch: the MONKEES SHIRT! I nearly peed when I found this gem, in a Boys' size 18. I am guessing it's from 1966 or '67.

I think that photo was probably the last time I wore it, in the late '80s. I think it is more than due for a clubbing comeback now. Hey, Pavement? Flaming Lips? The Gories? Arcade Fire? Eels? Deerhunter? Vampire Weekend? Who wants to see a MONKEES SHIRT, hah? No fighting, boys and girls, line forms to the left.