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Mean people's rice pilaf is a terrible disgrace. At Kaiser Vanduzer's Brathaus and World War One Memorial, get the wiener sandwich and wheat beer, but tell the bright-eyed frau in lederhosen to keep that damn rice. You're going to want to do that before it's scooped onto your metal tray. After that it's too late. That vulture of a woman will see to that. The part of the Memorial Museum I ate in was also the all-terrain vehicle motor pool and grease pit. My waitress was head mechanic. Uninspired cook staff don't wash their hands, and white rice shows transmission-oil fingerprints all too well.

It's that bad.

"Yavol! Zee r-r-r-rice iz on your plate. You vill eat it!" the dye-job and blue-eye-makeup harpy barked at me.

"Look," I said. "I'm sure you're all very nice people and everything. It wasn't you. I know that. You didn't start those wars. Sure, it was your great grandparents and all; you're all sorted out. But, this rice can't be eaten, and that's how that goes."

"Za wars? Vat do za wars have to do wit zhis rice?" the blonde behemoth spat. She was furious and her face flushed from pale to hot pink in seconds. "Victory vill still be ours someday!" she shouted and then slammed her spatula and socket-wrench set on the table.

"I've had about enough of your--" I was interrupted by two quick raps to the mouth from the hag. The dirty-penny taste of blood mingled with the schnitzel grease on my lips.

I am not a big man; chubby, sure, but not long-limbed or wide, more of a squishy shrimp. This terrible beast of a waitress had hands that were easily twice the size of mine, and her shoulders stood out from her leather suspenders like wooden beams under fluffy sleeves. My fight was ended before it began. I tried reason.

"I know you've gotten a lot of bad press," I said. "The TV reporters cast a harsh light on your treatment of the Serbs. What's a little border skirmish between neighbors? And Archduke Ferdinand--"

She answered me with another belt across the bratwurst hole.

"Someday vee vill be shown as the noble and sturdy people vee truly are on your American television," she said. "But until zhen you vill eat vat I serve you and you vill like it!"

What could I do? I picked at my rice with a set of slip-joint pliers and smiled.

Thursday, August 30 NASA Connect ITVS 9:00 a.m. I've figured out what's kept me from joining the space program: clunky magnetic boots. Now that I've lined my ceiling in steel and affixed a pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars with refrigerator poetry, I'm all set for my training. Zero-gravity, shmeer-o gravity.

Lobster Wars Discovery 9:00 p.m. Lobster WARS! Time to pick sides, and I'm with the lobsters! Come feel my pink pincher of doom as it snips your windpipe like wire cutters through a drinking straw. Finally, our day has come, my crustacean comrades. Our day has come.

Friday, August 31 Speed FX 8:00 p.m. There's a bomb located in Ted Theodore Logan's facial expression, and if he shows emotion or a sign of acting ability, it goes off. Two hours of Keanu's blank stare later and we're all left with the vague feeling that our buttcracks have been steel-wooled. Way to go, FX. Thanks for replaying this winner.

Saturday, September 1 Babar NBC 9:00 a.m. What kind of horrid child would watch the very polite world of effete schoolchildren elephants instead of Transformers ? The kind of kid who grows up to wear a beret, that's who. Put away your art pencils and kiss Optimus Prime's chrome trailer hitch, Frenchie. Time to toughen up.

Wheel of Fortune NBC 7:00 p.m. Pat Sajak's knee sweat and Vanna White's discarded mustache wax form a team of superheroes with special powers and crime-fighting abilities. When whomping an arch nemesis they shout inspirational phrases from the show, such as, "I'd like to buy a vowel!" Bang! Zoom!

Sunday, September 2 Big Girls Don't Cry...They Get Even (1992) MyTV 8:00 p.m. My friend, Althea, has elephantisis of the extremities. Her feet are the size of tennis rackets. She's embarrassed by it, but I'm going to see if the added surface area will let her walk on water like a ninja. Watch out, feudal Japanese warlords, my friend Althea will cross your moat like death in the night.

Monday, September 3 The Mask of Zorro Telemundo 8:00 p.m. My Lone Ranger mask is twice as cool as Zorro's. Because I'm a cowboy with bright blue fringe that flaps in the prairie breeze instead of a wine-swilling, rose-chomping Nancy boy. No, I don't need to learn to tango, thankyouverymuch. I've got a silver pistol and a horse, and you can sashay out of this town, sissy.

Tuesday, September 4 The Biggest Loser NBC 9:00 p.m. Shoot your boyfriend. It's the latest weight-loss craze. Two-hundred pounds of unwanted bulk stinking up your couch with its sweat and oil? Get tips on staying divinely thin in county jail from Paris, Nicole, and Lindsay. They've all done it; now you should, too!

Wednesday, September 5 America's Next Top Model CW 8:00 p.m. Sarajevo's Next Top Chicken Plucker is by far the more entertaining show. Armpit hair distracts from the bikini contest, but that can be overlooked. Challenges include burlap-sack dressmaking and a barefoot snow hike to the International Relief Station -- sponsored by Khrushchev Lard and Ball Bearings.

Thursday, September 6 Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown ABC 8:00 p.m. Swapping. That's what they're talking about. Nobody wants to say so, but Charles Schultz was a swinger, and his cartoons reflect this deviance. Detestable the way he attributes his own prurient devices to these cartoon children, but sometimes art isn't pretty.

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