January 30, 2010

Weekend Jumble

The other night, there was nothing on television that I cared to watch, so I pulled out my copy of "The Big Lebowski" and plugged it into the machine.  I love this film simply because it is so nuts.  A lot of other people must like it too, because it has apparently achieved cult status.  There is even a yearly Lebowski Fest to celebrate all things "achiever".  In fact, there is a line of Lebowski figures that you can purchase.  Here are some pictures from the Amazon site.

The characters are, in order: Walter, The Stranger, Jesus and Donny .  Studying them, they all looked kind of cartoonish, except for Jesus, who just looks frightening. Not much resemblance to their counterparts John Goodman, Sam Elliot, John Turturro and Steve Buscemi. So I didn't see anyone but the most devoted fan of the movie buying them.  Besides, John Turturo's character was a child molester.

But then I ran across a figure I did like.  The Dude. And, impulsively, I knew I had to have him.  And here he is:

The Dude Stands Alone
Complete with bowling ball & mobile phone.

The Dude & Friends

I'm still not too sure why I bought this doll figure.  Maybe it was because I was too old to get a GI Joe when I was younger.  Any any event, it's more than likely something deeply Freudian.  Looking at the last picture, I think I need to buy some kind of shelf to display this shit.

Speaking of The Dude, Jeff Bridges is one of my favorite actors.  Along with Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood, he's the type of guy that you'll generally always watch if you walk by the televison and see that he's in a movie that happens to be on.  But, as often occurs, there are one or two films that each of these guys made that are just embarrassements, and you shy away from them. With Bridges, it's "King Kong", with Connery, it's "Zardoz" (nice diaper Sean) and with Clint, it's anything with Sandra Locke.

And speaking of Clint, I ran across this cartoon during the week, which made me snort:

And speaking of movies, I have two that I want to watch tonight.  "Terminator Salvation" and "Public Enemies". I'm so excited that I can't decide which to play first.  I just hope they both don't suck.  Have a happy and productive Saturday night!

January 29, 2010

Would Be Outlaw

This afternoon I was driving home ... lost in my thoughts ... minding my own business .... doing 63 mph in a 45 mph speed zone.  When I was slapped back to my senses by a short siren blast and the glare of Mars Lights.

It took about 2 seconds to realize that I'd been nailed for speeding, so I studied the shoulder and found a good spot to pull over.  I took all of my information out of the glove compartment, rolled down the window and waited quietly for the officer to approach, just like they teach you in drivers ed.

The officer greeted me, I greeted him and he told me that I had been doing 63 mph in a 45 mph zone.  I told him that was "unfortunate".  And he returned to his vehicle to write me a ticket.  No muss, no fuss.

By the way, I've found that the phrase "that's unfortunate" fits perfectly in so many situations.  Drop a glass of red wine on your carpet, say "that's unfortunate". Lose twelve thousand dollars in the stock market in one day, say "that's unfortunate".  Your wife tells you she wants a divorce, say "that's unfortunate".   Just those two words can make you feel ... and look calm and in control. Take it from me.

Anyway, the officer came back with the ticket for seventy five dollars, we both bid each other a good afternoon and went our separate ways.  I hadn't received any kind of traffic citation in over fifteen years and the difference in my reaction this time, versus all of the other times was gratifying.  I didn't care.

In fact, I kind of chuckled because after all of those years of being such a law abiding driver, I was finally a "bad boy" again.  And there's something about being ticketed for speeding that's different from other kinds of traffic citations.  There's an air of  free-spiritedness about it. Hard to explain.

So, I enjoyed swaggering around a bit this evening, a little bit excited about my rogue behavior.  But tomorrow, I'll have to toe the line when I'm driving.  One ticket is okay.  Any more, and you turn from just a "bad boy" into stupid idiot territory.

January 28, 2010

Funky Town

I had second thoughts about writing this post after reading Libby's eloquent explanation of her current state of funkiness.  But I'm in a funk too, as are the other two members of this household, Jan the wife and Sam the cat.  By the way, Jan is free to describe me as "Rob the husband" if she wants, but since she doesn't have a blog, she'll just have to refer to me in that term in conversation with her co-teachers and students.

I have identified the cause of my funkticity, and it is called the deep freezing bowels of Winter.

Libby seems to be taking a rational approach to her funk by couch sitting, wine drinking, television watching and thinking funkily.  I'm attempting to deal with my own funk by excess coffee drinking ... period.  I think I need to throw something else into the mix though.  Television watching is out, because Jan insists on watching "Bones" from the minute she gets home until bed time.  I never thought one program could be shown so many times on so many different networks, but apparently, it can.

I've tried "thinking Spring", but I can't project my mind that far ahead in time.  I do have one reminder of warmer weather as I look out my window here in the den ... a fly that has been stuck to the screen since last September, but I don't really want to start equating Spring with flies.

There's a boat show in Chicago right now, and nothing says warm weather like boating.  But nothing says "poorhouse" more accurately than boating too, and besides, all of the water around here is frozen.

Sam the cat is dealing with her funk by sleeping 23 hours and 57 minutes per day, but this probably wouldn't be an option for me, particularly at work.

The stark cruel truth is that my funk will only be lifted by the passage of time.  So, I'll just plod through my days and keep my sphincter tight against the icy winds until the swallows return to Capistrano and the flies return to Northeastern Illinois.

January 26, 2010

The Cat Whisperer

Another cat fell into our basement window well this past weekend.  I say "another" because this is the second time this has happened.

Our basement has no outside door, so I imagine building code dictated that the builder install some kind of egress in the unlikely event that the homes occupants found themselves trapped in the basement by fire or some other catastrophe.  The only problem is that this particular window well is 7 feet below ground level and is half covered by the chimney.  I'm 6 feet tall with weak arms, and Jan is just over 5 feet tall with weak everything.  So I guess rather than be burned alive inside the basement, we could be burned alive outside trapped in the window well.  That's so much better.

Anyway, the first cat that fell in the well was someone's pet, and was rather cute.  We got lucky and found the owner.  He came over and managed to coax the cat into leaping 7 feet in the air into his arms.  I am not shitting you.  This thing didn't even have a running start and leapt that far.  This weekend's unfortunate victim was the ugliest fucking cat I have ever set eyes on.  It looked like some mutant combo of cat, skunk and ferret.  Frankly, when I went down to do the laundry on Saturday, and saw it peering at me through the window, it almost scared the shit out of me.

My first thought was to let it rot there, but then I would have had to look at it for days on end, so that wasn't an option.  So I went outside, took the latticework off the top of the well and stuck a board down at an angle so that the cat could walk up it and get out at it's leisure. The angle was kind of steep, but nothing it couldn't handle if it was motivated to leave.

And then I promptly forgot about it.

Sunday morning, I went down to the basement again to do more laundry.  I thought the cat would have taken the hint and made its way up to freedom.  But no, it still sat there, staring at me and hissing.  When I looked up, I could see that a couple of it's feral cat buddies were peering down at it, perhaps cheering him on.  But then I remembered that they were cats and were too stupid to do anything of the sort.

Did you ever wish something would happen to save you from an unpleasant chore, but the wish never comes true and you have to do the chore anyway?  Well, I had to do something to get that damned thing out of the well.  Jan suggested that I lower a basket down on a rope.  She said the cat would crawl into the basket and I could haul it up.

Yeah, right.

It had to be taken out by force, preferably without me getting my face eaten off.  So, pulling my best MacGyver, I fashioned a makeshift net out of a pole, wire hangers, a pillow case and a half a roll of duct tape and went after it. Fifteen minutes later, after convincing the beast that it was better to crawl into the pillow case rather than have it's butt beat to death by the pole I wielded in my other hand, I hauled it out of the well, carried it to the far end of the yard and dumped it out on the ground.

Where this cat/skunk/ferret hybrid decided to attack me. Luckily, I was well insulated with clothing and well armed with my net pole, so I managed to win the day and the cat retreated from the field of battle, hissing at me.

If this ever happens again ... and it probably will, I'll tackle the problem in an easier way.

I'll just drop an anvil on the damned thing.

January 23, 2010

Mommy Mayor

I live in a village situated in Northeastern Illinois.  I once thought that the place was a little too big to be called a village, but I guess it started out small.  In case this ever comes up in conversation, there are 4 designations for areas where people congregate to live.  They are in order from smallest to largest: Hamlet, Village, Town and City. I think I would have preferred to live in a Hamlet, but a Village is okay too.

Our village elected a new mayor several years back.  I learned about it when I saw her name affixed to the village limit markers.  This was either a very quiet election, or I was unusually unobservant and missed it. Her name is Susan Lahr, and I can remember it only when I think of Bert Lahr, who played the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz.  I don't know if Ms Lahr is related to Bert, but I'd like to think so.

I guess Ms Lahr does an adequate job as mayor.  The snow is removed, the trash is picked up and village trucks and equipment zip around the streets on a regular basis, doing whatever it is they do.

At the beginning of each season, the village sends out a newsletter.  The newsletter contains all sorts of chatty information.  A new patrolman is hired here ... a village secretary there ... the Halloween parade is such-in-such a date and a special garbage pickup is scheduled for the end of the month.  That sort of thing.  Just general information so all of the village residents are kept in the know on important municipal things happening in their little community.

At the beginning of this winter, the village newsletter showed up in our mailbox.  And as usual, Herzzonor the Mayor had a message for her brood on the front page.

And the bulk of her message told us in no certain terms to stop bellyaching about the weather.

She let us know that sure, it was winter, but that was no reason to sit around and complain.  We should feel fortunate to live in an area where there are 4 distinct seasons in the year, and that even if it was cold, we should get off our collective asses, get outside and do something recreational.

My first reaction was to mutter "fuck off".  In fact, that was my second and third reaction too.  Things are sorry enough in this cold climate without the mayor telling us to get on our coats and mittens and go make snowmen. I don't know about the rest of the people here, but I left my mommy a long time ago and like to make up my own mind about how I feel about the seasons.

Anyway, I read the rest of the newsletter, and seeing nothing more informative than a scolding from mom, I threw it away.

Several weeks later, I happened to be looking at the local paper and saw an article that grabbed my attention.  The village announced that it was raising the water and sewer rates 9 percent starting in February of this year.  I'm sure the Mayor knew about this rate hike long before she penned her "winter doldrums" piece for newsletter, but the fact that we were going to be tapped for an extra 9 percent in water/sewer fees slipped her mind.  Perhaps she didn't want her holiday season spoiled by the local citizenry descending on city hall with torches and pitchforks.

Maybe she'll mention something about the rate hike, after the fact, in the spring newsletter.

It'll be right after her op-ed piece on how we should all get off of our asses and go fly a kite.

January 22, 2010

That Stupid Feeling

In the last month of 2009, a strange feeling came over me.  A feeling of warmth, and happiness, and wanting to reach out to people.  I realize now that it was a near miss with insanity brought on by a combination of snow, Santa, roast turkey, Jesus and Vaughn Monroe.  I have, thankfully, come back to my senses and returned to my grouchy, cynical self.

But during that time period, I did send out Christmas cards to friends and relatives that I hadn't contacted in years.  And to my surprise, I actually heard back from a few of them.  And three of them actually sounded like they were glad to hear from me.  So glad in fact, that they sent me their e-mail addresses and asked me to write them and bring them up to date on what had been going on in my life all of these years.

And like a total dumb fuck knucklehead, I did.  I sent each of the three a multi page letter, describing all of the highs and lows ... triumphs and defeats ... wins and losses in my cruise through the 30's, 40's and early 50's. All of these letters went out before the New Year.

And I waited for my replies.  And waited.  And waited.

No one wrote me back.  Knowing better, but giving these people the benefit of the doubt, and convincing myself that my letters had disappeared into the ethernet, I double checked the e-mail addresses and sent a second, toned down note to all three.

And I waited some more.  But guess what?  Still nothing.

I should have let it go, but I didn't.  I had saved the letters that I sent, and I went back through them, scouring them for any signs of mental illness, entreaties for large sums of cash or extreme cheerfulness.  It sure didn't look like it.  So I concluded that I had been "punk'd" by these assholes.  They were probably sitting there snickering at me for falling for their little game.  I felt like Elmer Fudd when Bugs Bunny had tricked him yet again, and his head became a giant lollypop, with the word "Sucker" written on the wrapper.

For a while, I considered sending the three one last letter, berating them in the vilest language that I could muster. But those are the actions of a lesser man ... an immature individual ... a spurned child.  I remembered that I had included the address of this blog in my letters, hoping that they'd check me out, and maybe become regular visitors.

I don't know if they ever did, but should they do so sometime in the future, I'd like to leave them these words of peace, conciliation and brotherhood ...

You guys are mean poopy-heads and I hate you!

January 20, 2010

The Spirit Of Christmas Never Ends

My mom is old.  Real old.  Like late 80's old.  However, she is fortunate in that she is relatively healthy and still able to live by herself, with the occasional help of my sister, who lives nearby.

As a lot of people realize, as you get older, that there are certain abilities that start to diminish.  With my mom, it is her hearing.  She's not deaf, but her loss of hearing is significant enough to a point that it bothers her and she has to make adjustments.  For example, one of the adjustments she recently made was to purchase a specially amplified telephone.

In the months leading up to Christmas, mom started to mention with increasing frequency that she had a difficult time hearing her television set.  And although she had closed captioning, she still preferred to hear what was being said rather than read it.  The problem seemed to be that the sound from the television mixed with ambient noise from the room before it reached her ears, scattering and garbling it.

I did some research and found several products that could be attached to the audio system of the TV and transmit the sound remotely, via infrared, to a set of ear buds.

These products weren't cheap by any means, but one of the few pleasures my mother has is watching television, so Jan and I thought it would be nice to spend the money and buy her something for Christmas that she would enjoy, instead of the  usual scarf or robe.

Mom seemed genuinely happy with her gift, and said she would have someone hook the earphones up for her as soon as possible.  Christmas passed, as did several more weeks, and although I talked to her several times, she never mentioned the gift again.  I wondered if the earphones had worked for her, so finally this past Sunday, I called her and during the conversation, I asked how the contraption had worked for her.

As it turns out, my sister had taken a look at her gift, and determined that if she used them, she wouldn't be able to hear anything else, which included my sister calling her on the phone.  So they weren't used.  They weren't even taken out of the box.

After squelching my urge to scream at the top of my lungs, I just said "Oh".  We talked for a few more minutes and hung up.  Then I did a slow burn.

So, I spent over a hundred dollars on something so it could be thrown in a drawer, unused because ... you might not hear my sister call you on the phone?  I figured that the least she could have done was tell me that she wasn't going to use them.  That would have given me a chance to ask if I could have them back so at least I could have used them, or at the very least, get my money back on them.

Just think of what I could have done with the money?  I could have bought a weeks worth of groceries.  I could have bought a hundred dollars worth of chewing gum.  Hell, I could have gotten 100 plus, one dollar bills and wiped my ass with them.  That would at least have been more useful that those fucking ear phones sitting in a drawer, gathering dust.

But asking for a gift to be given back is crass, even if it is your ungrateful mother, so I'll chalk this up to a learning experience.  What have I learned?  That next year my mother gets nothing for Christmas.  In the past, I've ignored her requests that we not exchange gifts during the holiday, but next year, I'll be standing in line to suggest it first.

But I think I will get my sister something.  A "Ted Kaczynsky approved" pipe bomb in a nice ochre color would be nice.

January 18, 2010

Luck Is Just A State Of Mind

He had white horses
and ladies by the score.
All dressed in satin
and waiting by the door.

what a lucky man he was

"Lucky Man"
Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Several weeks ago, an ordinary man passed away at the very respectable age of 93.  By all accounts, Tsutomu Yamaguchi led an unremarkable life.  Except in one unlikely aspect.  On the morning of August 6, 1945 Mr. Yamaguchi was visiting Hiroshima, Japan on behalf of his employer, Mitsubushi Heavy Industries when he found himself with a front row seat to the detonation of an atomic bomb dropped by a B29 Stratofortress.  By official account, 80,000 people were vaporized in the blast and 60,000 died within several days of its after effects.

Yamaguchi suffered severe burns on the upper half of his body.  The following morning, he made his way through the radiation soaked city to catch a train home, where he hoped he would receive proper medical care and rest.

Two days later, on August 9, after a painful, miserable journey, he arrived home in Nagasaki.  Just in time to witness the detonation of a second atomic bomb dropped by another Army Air Force B29.

It's interesting to speculate how many times Mr. Yamaguchi looked on his life and pondered whether he had been lucky or unlucky.  Lucky, by the fact that he survived not one, but two atomic explosions.  Unlucky that he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time not once, but twice.  Lucky, because he was officially certified by the Japanese government to receive a lifetime pension for surviving both blasts.  Unlucky, because his son died of cancer as the probable result of the radiation received in the Nagasaki event.

Perhaps he never came to any definitive conclusion.  Or maybe he summed up his life another way.

A 19th century historian once drew up a list of circumstances in where it would be permitted to say the word fuck in polite conversation.  He concluded that one of those occasions would elicit the phrase "What the fuck was that?" which incidentally is reported to have been uttered by the Mayor of Hiroshima immediately after seeing the the bomb flash and feeling the concussion.  One can only speculate if the Mayor of Nagasaki repeated the phrase, as the young Mr. Yamaguchi plodded through his city, trying to get home.

Perhaps at the end of his life, Mr. Yamaguchi concluded that there were a lot of things that occured that were just out of his control.  That maybe sometimes you just have to say ...

What the fuck.

January 17, 2010

No Comment

There were some great football games broadcast on Saturday, if you enjoy one-sided blowouts.  I tried to sit through the Colts/Ravens game during the evening, but it became so tedious that I actually attempted to view "Miracle At St. Anna".  However, after an hour and a half of trying to figure out what was going on, and after a quick check of the Netflix sleeve informing me that this was a THREE HOUR cinematic experience, I left the rest of Spike Lee's opus in favor of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, featuring future game show host Guy Fieri. Seriously, NBC has tapped the Guyster to host a half-hour game show in one of the gaping holes that will be left in it's schedule once the Leno/Conan disaster has been swept up.

But I digress.  During the first part of the Saints/Cardinals game, when it looked that it might actually be interesting, I decided that I wanted to be "part of the action".  So I went online and found ESPN's live game blog, where I could contribute my two cents to those of four learned ESPN analysts who were nitpicking at the game.  I figured this would be fun as well as a means to improve my severely lacking social skills.

So, after a few minutes of catching up on the commentary, I plunged right in with my first comment, something about how it would have been better if Arizona had run a boot leg on the previous play.  And then I looked at the screen to see my canny observation pop up for the entire nation to view.


Undaunted, I typed in another comment about how well a line backer had picked up a blitz.  Still nothing.  I kept this up for the better part of the first half.  While other fans comments were jumping on the screen willy-nilly, my far superior observations were being ignored.  So, after half time, I decided to take a different tack on the game.  Soon after Kurt Warner returned after a vicious hit had knocked him out of the game right before the half, I remarked that each of his eyes were looking in different directions.  Then I pointed out that the Field Judge's shoe was untied.  I urged the ESPN analysts to comment on the skankdog in the Saint's t-shirt that had just been shown on the Fox broadcast.  I asked why Drew Brees couldn't find a better hair stylist.  I told one of the commenters who kept whining that Sean Payton needed to bench half of his team to save them for next week to quit being such a mega-pussy.

Much to my surprise, none of these well thought out, totally original comments were posted.  So in one last post, I informed the ESPN analysts that their opinions all sucked gigantic donkey dicks.

Lesser men would admit defeat, but today ... immediately following the opening kick-off in the Vikings/Cowboys game, I'll be back on that ESPN live blog with my first comment.

I have to decide between "Tony Romo is a faggott" and "Brett Farve is a douche canoe".

January 16, 2010

Jeff Foxworthy Infects The World

While flipping through the cable channels this afternoon, I came across something called "The Game Show Network".  For some reason, I didn't flip on and spent a couple of minutes watching a Jeff Foxworthy vehicle named "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader".  I remember something about this show, and apparently, it wasn't stupid enough to drift into obscurity and lives on in syndication.  Game shows seem to be the final resting place of flamed-out celebrities.  Richard Dawson, Howie Mandel, Drew Carey, that guy  who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld ... and Jeff Foxworthy.  He of the puzzlingly successful "You know you're a redneck" stand up routine. Christ I hated that shit.

But although Mr. Foxworthy has almost completed his journey into obscurity, his half-baked routine lives on in almost every society.  I present you with a sampling of You Know You're A ------ If jokes from around the planet ...
  • You know you're a Cuban if you think iodine will cure a hangover.
  • You know you're Ethiopian if your clothes smell like onions.
  • You know you're Chinese if your stove is covered with aluminum foil.
  • You know you're Russian if you don't know how to use a dishwasher.
  • You know you're French if you think yogurt is from Bulgaria.
  • You know you're Mexican if you have at least 30 cousins.
  • You know you're Egyptian if you wear more cologne than deodorant.
  • You know you're Canadian if you know Toronto is not a province.
  • You know you're Korean if there's more toilet paper in your dining room than your bathroom.
  • You know you're Argentinian if you smoke in the grocery store. 
I'll give you a few seconds to dab the tears from your eyes from laughing so hard.  Isn't it wonderful that some half-assed comedian can contribute to society in such a meaningful way?  Please join me in wishing Mr. Foxworthy a slow death continued success in his game show career.

The Gambler

This morning I was at one of those Murphy Gas Stations that have sprung up in the parking lots of Walmarts across the nation.  I wonder what kind of sweetheart deal Walmart got out of that alliance.  Whatever it is, I'm sure they're not losing money on it.  I was thinking the other day that all a small town needs is one Super Walmart and they can self-subsist.  Think about it.  At just this one place, you can get  groceries, clothes, medicine, glasses, hardware, tires, car repair, gasoline. electronics.  Virtually anything.  I'm almost certain that Sam Walton had none of this in mind when he started his first store, but it took one of his minions, David Glass, to put this whole juggernaut into motion.  It's quite an accomplishment when you stop to think about it.

This isn't a whole smack-down on Walmart, because I shop there quite often, and as far as I know, 90 percent of everyone else in the U.S. does too, whether they admit it or not.

But back to the Murphy Gas Station ...  this morning. The enclosure where you pay for things, amid the sea of gas pumps, is no larger than a walk-in closet, so when you go in to pay for gas, a coke, cigarettes, etc.; you make it quick, because more than two people in that little space is a crowd.

So when I went in, there were already 5 people in there, which is a signal that one of the customers is acting like an inconsiderate fuckhead.  It didn't take long to spot him ... a dried up little Asian guy with a wad of bills in one hand, madly gesturing with the other as he put the lady behind the counter through her paces printing out lottery tickets for him.  I won't go into the details, but it took this little cocksucker at least five minutes to transact his laundry list of lottery buys.  I wanted to kill him.

He finally left and I stepped up to the counter.  The lady apologized to me about the wait, and I told her that was okay, because the guy was an asshole.  She didn't disagree with me.

This leads me into one of my bigger gripes about States in general and the way they transact their business today.  Whoever thought up the idea that State sponsored gambling was a good move should have his balls removed with a piece of broken glass.  There's almost no place you can shop today that doesn't have a honkin' ass lotto machine on the counter or a glass case of scratch off tickets.

Sure, when all of this started there was the lofty goal of providing all of the profits to education. Horsehit.  It's just a way for the State to try to make up for the fact that they don't know how to do business.  No one even talks about education anymore.  It's a revenue stream, and a lot of States would completely collapse if it weren't for the millions of dollars pouring in from gambling.

In the State I'm unlucky enough to be stuck in right now, Illinois, the budget is in the hole almost 13 billion dollars, and one of the ways that they're looking to trim that deficit is by sponsoring video poker machines.  The same machines that were outlawed not two years ago.  In a delightful twist of irony, I heard on one of the local radio stations the other morning that Illinois had to cut funding for programs designed to treat gambling addiction.  No more treatment for a mental problem brought on, in part, by the same programs that the State promotes on a daily basis.

This is just another of a long list of reasons that I can't wait to flee the Land of Lincoln for a place that knows how to handle the money they have without resorting to hardcore gambling or leasing away irreplaceable assets to balance their budgets.

And back to that little shit at the gas station.  I saw him put almost a hundred dollars down on lotto tickets.  And for pissing me off, I hope he doesn't win one ... red ... cent.

January 15, 2010

Mmmm ... Donuts

In my most recent reincarnation, I see myself as a person of self-control.  In control of my emotions, my destiny, my life ... my appetite.

Over the last several months, I started to get the sneaking suspicion that I had gained some weight, and when I finally screwed up the courage to step on the scale the other morning, this was confirmed.  I had gained 7 pounds since I started back to work in late October.  I blame this on the fact that I sit on my ass for  8 or 9 hours a day, plus the fact that I tend to eat more during the winter for some fucking reason.  Maybe it's instinct or something.

So, in the last couple of days, I've tried to make a conservative effort to cut down on my eating.  If I were really serious, I'd start exercising too, but even though I have several pieces of expensive exercise equipment in the basement, I'm not that desperate yet.

This morning marked the last day for one of our group at work, who is going on to greener pastures, if your idea of said pastures is selling optical cable ... but everyone has their dreams.  My department doesn't put out food very often, but when they do, it's just way too much.  We all got together and wished this person good luck, and then I snuck back to my cube without touching a bit of food.  I was very proud of myself.

Proud of myself until 20 minutes later when the group dispersed, but the food remained.  I tried to stop myself, but something drew me to the table on the other side of the room, where a spread of cakes and bagels and breads were laid out.  Plus donuts ... tasty donuts, with chocolate icing ... and sprinkles.  I looked around to see if anyone was looking at me, and then I grabbed one and scurried back to my desk, where I wolfed it down.

Damn.  That tasted good.  And I'm still hungry.  I think I'll go get another one.  So I did.  And that one tasted good too.  But I waited 10 minutes this time, and then raced over and back with another donut.

Okay, I've had three donuts now, and I thought that would hold me.  So I sat down to work,  But the food laden table beckoned me once more.  Fuck it ... I've already had three donuts, it certainly won't matter if I have one more, so I did ....

But it did.  Matter, that is.  You know how you eat something, and it doesn't seem like it's made any difference at all to your hunger, and you just keep eating?  And then it's like all of that food was just holing up someplace above your stomach, just waiting?  And then the last bit of food comes in, and it all drops into your belly at one time?

Not pleasant.  I spent the rest of the day sick to my stomach, and tonight I feel like someone rammed a filling station air hose up my ass and turned it on full blast.

But I know that by the time I get up tomorrow morning, that the feeling will have subsided, and I can reincarnate myself once more ... as a person of self-control.

Except there's a ginormous pizza in the refrigerator that we are having for dinner tomorrow night, and I know the same thing is going to happen again.

Shit ...

January 11, 2010

Guys 'N Dolls

I was looking at my facebook page last night, wondering why I didn't have more than six friends, and my eyes wandered over to the advertisements on the right side of the page. Just the usual stuff. But then, I took a peek at Jan's facebook page, and realized that there was a fundamental difference in the advertising. Why this hadn't struck me before is unclear, but it shows that all of the tried and true tenants of Marketing 101 are still alive and kicking.

Here are the pictures on my facebook page, accompanied by banners that shout. "Who's Searching For You?" and "Get In Touch With Former Classmates!"


On the other hand, Jan's page was adorned with these guys with captions that read "Find THE One!" and "Marry A Millionaire!"


Not even a gratuitous pec or six-pack shot for the ladies. I love being a guy.

January 10, 2010

The Lingering Memory of Small Towns

Although six months have passed, I still occasionally find myself thinking about the long road trip we took to the California coast and back last Summer. Not so much the big touristy attractions that we saw, but the smaller things that obviously left their mark in my mind, but that I haven't thought about until recently.

This past week, I started remembering the places we had stopped for gasoline on the road, usually in the late morning or early afternoon. Towns like Vega, Texas, Wasco, California and Cedar City, Utah.

One town in particular stood out, because of the circumstances that led us to stop there on a blistering hot afternoon. Because Jan had been stricken with a totally bizarre case of agoraphobia at the Grand Canyon, we had left just after noon and were traveling west on I-40 toward Kingman, our planned stop for the night.

The stretch of I-40 between Flagstaff and Kingman is fairly lonely, with few towns. The country side alternates between craggy mountains and desert. Because we had become so used to driving long distances every day, I had began to ignore signs from my body that it might be a good idea to stop for a while and rest. Sure enough, right in the middle of Yavapai County, I started to lose feeling in my right foot and my lower calf started to cramp up. After a few minutes, I realized that I couldn't feel the accelerator or the brake pedals, so as subtlely as I could (didn't want to alarm Jan), I pulled my right leg under the seat with a free hand, and began working the pedals with my left foot. We crested a hill and an exit sign for Ash Fork, Arizona flashed by, so I just coasted down the off ramp and into the gas station/mini-mart on the ourskirts of town.

While Jan went inside to use the restroom, I hobbled around the car, trying to get feeling back in my right leg. When the pins & needles stabby feeling started to subside, I leaned up against the car and took a look around. The themometer hung over the entrance to the store read about 120 degrees. I glanced across the street at another filling station/repair shop, and saw three men milling around in the two bays, all dressed in sweat soaked blue overalls, looking like they rather be in an air conditioned tavern downing cold beer.

On the walk in front of the store was a hard looking woman in her 30's or 40's clad in a white sleeveless knit top, a mini-skirt and red high heels. She was picking at a burrito wrapped in tin foil that she had bought inside ... and she kept looking at me. I sure as shit didn't want to strike up a conversation with her, so I opened the trunk of the car, and appeared to busy myself until Jan came back outside. We made our way back onto I-40 and headed for Kingman.

And that's it. No funny story, no odd happenings. But for some reason, the whole event has stayed in my memory, and I'm certain that I'll be unlikely to forget the images.

Last night, I looked up Ash Fork on the internet, and came across this charming little blog. I'm going to bookmark it just on general principles, so I can see what's going on in Ash Fork from time to time.

The blog also contains this 4 minute tour of Ash Fork on the Fourth of July, 2009. The last 30 seconds show the Mustang mini-mart, where we stopped ... and also the one way road leading to it. I forgot to mention earlier, that when we pulled out of the mini-mart, I headed the wrong way up this road.

Just think, if this guy had taken this video tour only two weeks later, he could have had a visual record of me heading right for him and our head-on crash.


January 09, 2010

Confessions of an Un-Follower

I'm feeling a bit guilty about something I did over the recent Christmas holiday. I tried to convince myself not to do it. But it became more and more difficult not to as the days and weeks went along. Finally, on the day before Christmas, I could wait no longer. I did it.

I deleted a blog from my "follow" list.

Okay ... as long as I'm confessing, I may as well go all the way. I deleted two blogs from my "follow" list. My little picture graces their follow section no more, their list of followers is one less. I un-followed with extreme prejudice.

When I first started my blog last April, I picked a number of other blogs to put on my follow list. I chose them because they were funny, or they were thought provoking, or they were well written, or they were all of those things. For the first few months, I looked forward to reading all of the posts from all of the blogs. And then, I looked forward to reading all of the posts from some of the blogs, and merely tolerated the others. And finally, the two I merely tolerated became irritating.

I'll be the first one to admit that my own blog is not going to win awards of any kind, and only a few people read it on a regular basis. But that doesn't mean I can't offer up a few tips to keep your blog from becoming cringe worthy.

Tip #1 Referring to your husband, wife and children in your blog is definitely okay. The best blogs that I read include their family in their stories. However, these people do have names. And unless you're in the witness protection program, it's okay to refer to them by their name. They aren't "Mr./Mrs (insert cute moniker here) or "hubby" or "wifey". Your kids have names too. They aren't "Mini" this, or "Munchkin" that.

Tip #2 Eighty percent of your posts shouldn't be on the same subject. We get it. You love your job, but you work with a group of morons who make it impossible for you to shine like the super star you know you were born to be. You poor, put upon thing, you.

Tip #3 You are not "The Bloggess". Therefore you must be a copycat. Stop it. Now.

Last Tip It's unfortunate that you couldn't find a subject to post about today. That fact is not really post worthy.

There. I feel a little better now. After all, these two people had a lot of followers. They probably didn't even know I wasn't there anymore. I hope.

I guess I still feel guilty.

Kendra Who?

As is our habit on Saturdays, Jan and I did our grocery shopping early this afternoon. We went to three different grocery stores because our motto has become, "Why buy all of your groceries efficiently at one place, when you can waste most of the afternoon at three of them". Okay, one of the reasons that I like grocery stores is that I get to peruse the "entertainment" magazines at the check out lane.

This must have been a slow week for celebrity news, because none of the majors ... People, Us, OK, and others I can't name, had the same old themes from previous weeks. Tiger and Elin are trying to kill each other; Tiger is a homo; Oprah and Gayle are lesbians, hot for each others bodies; Angelina and Jen are sharpening their claws for the inevitable cage match while Brad and his butt-ugly beard anonymously haunt local bars; Kate Gosselin has a new sexy look ...

Speaking of Katie G., what the fuck is her draw anymore? There's no more show. She was bounced from that "The View" clone/rip-off thing. Why is she still cover news? I want to learn more about the "Plus Eight". These little fuckers were supposedly all upset that there weren't any cameras around anymore chronicling their every move. Where's the revelation that they are actually publicity hungry midgets? I'm mystified.

Anyway, as I was looking at all of these magazines, my eyes ran across one, with the picture of an attractive blonde holding a baby. The banner read "Kendra Has Her Baby!". The first thought that crossed my mind was "Who the fuck is Kendra?" But this was such a powerful thought that I actually said it out loud, which resulted in the woman in front of me turning around to glare at me and Jan punching me in the ribs.

Undaunted, I instructed Jan to pick up the magazine and find out who this "Kendra" was and why would she would warrant a cover shot on this magazine. The check out line moved quickly and Jan's fumbling fingers failed to find the feature article so I could learn the secret of Kendra. Actually, I think Jan's fingers fumbled on purpose because she was still pissed at me for saying "fuck" in the check out lane so she was trying to punish me.

In any event, we paid for our groceries and exited the store, and I was left hanging with the mystery of Kendra until I arrived home and could fire up the internet. Maybe I picked the wrong search engine, but no information was to be found on said Kendra. Instead, I was bombarded with everything I wanted to know about the country of Kenya. Fucking internet.

So now my Saturday is ruined and I sit here frustrated by a shitty supermarket tabloid.

Kendra, who are you?

The Reluctant Scab

Prior to graduation, I was repeatedly told that college would prepare me for the working world. It only took me approximately two weeks post graduation to understand that everyone dropping this particular pearl of wisdom on me were full of shit. And it wasn't until much later that I regretted choosing "business" as my major in school. My favorite classes in college were those relating to history, political science, English literature and earth sciences; and I know now that I would have been much happier in life had a chosen to major in any one of those fields of study. Honestly, the only knowledge that I gained from "business" related courses that I have ever used in real life are from economics and typing classes. And I really learned the basics of those in high school, not college.

Two days after I graduated, I started work for, what was at the time, the largest manufacturer of pet food in the United States. My home base was a huge manufacturing plant situated on the banks of the Mississippi River in Iowa. For the first few months, I learned the ropes of pet food manufacturing by sitting in a communal office shooting the shit with other trainees, making amateurish drawings of the plants manufacturing flow systems (most of which were wrong), filling in ineffectively for absent supervisors and, perhaps my most important role, taking visitors from our home office in St. Louis to the gazillion or so strip clubs that seemed to be on every corner in the river town the plant occupied.

One day a group of the plant's trainees were herded into a conference room and informed that we would be traveling to Oklahoma City in a few days to "fill in" for the plant employees there who had indelicately decided to go on strike. There we would be joined by other trainees and a number of experienced management staff from the company's other facilities across the U.S.

Well, this sounded like great fun, so I packed my bag, got on a plane and winged my way to OKC. There, a fleet of Hertz owned Chevy Novas had been rented to whisk us between the plant and our secret motel hideaway. I was chosen as the designated driver for my group of four and drove my lime green monstrosity to the local Ramada Inn, where the marquis in front of the motel proudly welcomed all employees of (my company) in neon glory. After we informed the manager that we were, in essence, strike breakers, the sign was quickly changed to "Vacancy". We enjoyed an evening of fine food and lots of beer in the Ramada restaurant, and the next morning we groggily went to our cars in the parking lot to find most of the tires slashed. This necessitated the first of many trips to the local tire store, after which we drove to the plant to receive our welcome and orientation. We were split into work groups and sent on our way to run the plant and produce dog food.

The next month was a blur. Almost no one knew how to run the machinery, so we either broke or plugged up most of it. We were forbidden to leave the motel in the evening, so we subsisted on the horrible motel food, or took delivery of too many pizzas. We couldn't wash our clothes more than once a week, so we stunk. There weren't enough rooms in the motel for everyone, so we "hot bunked" in other peoples beds while they were at the plant. We were bombarded with trash, nails and various farm implements whenever we entered or exited the plant gates.

Since there were more "chiefs" than "indians" in our group, no one cleaned the plant. More dog food was on the floor than in the bags, the restrooms overflowed with sewage, the lunch rooms were choked with trash. One night, to escape the stench in the cafeteria, I took a cold piece of pizza outside and sat on a step to eat it. The strikers lined along the fence called out to me from the dark ... yelling very scarey shit and lobbing rocks in my general direction.

After a month, our production output had come to almost a complete standstill, and it was decided to send us all back where we came from. I drove my car to the airport. In the one month since I had pulled it out of the airport parking lot, it looked like it had been through the Baja 1000 ... twice. I had replaced all of the tires at least once. One headlight was broken, the front and back windshields were cracked and there were too many dents and scratches on the body to count.

I turned my keys in at the Hertz counter, and as part of the protocol at that time, a man went out to look at the car and report back to the counter on any damage that might have occurred. I don't remember too many specifics about my time in OKC, but I do remember the look on the guys face when he came back to the counter. He looked at me and said "What in the name of God did you do to that car?" I half-smiled at him and said that I hadn't done anything to it ... and to charge the company for any damage. Then I walked to my gate, got on the plane, and left.

I know that the strike was settled several weeks later. I don't know if either side "won". But I sure did get an education.

January 02, 2010

This Week In My Head

One day this week, I was driving to work and listening to the local all news station on the radio.  One of the "news" items was that Joe Piscopo was visiting Chicago with plans of organizing an all new comedy troupe, but with a twist.  None of the comedians in his new group would do dirty material.  They played a sound bite of Joe, exclaiming breathlessly how much he loved Chicago, and that Jerry Seinfeld had proved that you could do comedy without being "blue" and blah, blah, blah ...

I dislike Joe Piscopo.  Intently.  I can't say that I hate him, because several years ago, I made a pact with myself that I would not say I hated anyone unless I knew them personally.  Therefore, I cannot state that I hate Joe Stalin, Idi Amin, or even Bob Hope.  I just dislike them all.  Intently.

For those of you unfamiliar with Joe Piscopo, he was a cast member of Saturday Night Live in the early 1980's. His main job on that show was to do poor impersonations of Frank Sinatra.  In fact, Joe had personally contacted "Mr. Sinatra" to see if it was okie dokie for Joe to do impersonations of him in the show.  What a fucking brown nose kiss-ass.

For those of you who want to find out more about the life and times of Joe Piscopo, you can visit his website, where you can learn what a truly fantastic comedian, performer, philanthropist, father, singer and all-around saint Joe is, plus you can plan an evening with him in concert at the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation convention in Los Angeles on January 16th.  Get your tickets now before they are sold out!  However, what you will not find on his website are all the details leading to Joe divorcing his wife and marrying his babysitter, who has just recently divorced him.  Small oversight on the webmaster's part.

You will also not see anything about Joe's plastic surgery, which resulted in this:


Apparently, Joe likes that she-man look.  In fact, I believe he and his pal, former Olympian and Wheaties box resident Bruce Jenner, went to the same plastic surgeon, maybe on the same day:


Well, good luck with that guys.  Joe (and maybe Bruce) is from New Jersey, which is unfortunate enough for that state, but alas, there are other reasons to feel sorry for New Jersey.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Great State of New Jersey, as I was, here is it's latest official photograph:

The Garden State

Kind of looks like a squashed, crumpled up California, doesn't it?  I'm sure, back in the 1600's, that the founders of New Jersey had great hopes and dreams for their land.  But, just like your Uncle Melvin, things didn't turn out too well.  New Jersey is a wreck financially.  It is the only state in the union that pays more to the federal government every year than it gets in return, it's taxes are one of the highest in the nation; and to top it off, it's one of only two states where you can't pump your own gas at a filling station.  How fucked up is that?  It seems that New Jersey's main claim to fame is the Jersey Turnpike, where you can zoom from Philadelphia to New York City and back again at lightning speed.  Very sad.

Speaking of sad, ponder, if you will, the condition of the long time newspaper comic strip Dick Tracy...

Dick then.

Dick now.

Dick Tracy was one of my favorite newspaper strips when I was a boy.  Although I was too late to thrill in the crimes of Flattop, Mumbles, The Brow and 88 Keys, I enjoyed Dick's adventures with other grotesque villains, which invariably ended with Dick shooting the bad guy square between his beady eyes.  And then in the late 60's and early 70's the strips creator, Chester Gould, apparently discovered LSD and began a bizarre series of strips involving magnetic space coupes, the Governor of Moon Valley, Moon Maid and other crazy-assed shit.  I quickly lost interest.  When Gould had decided he'd had enough acid trips in the late 70's, he retired and left the strips steering wheel to a series of heroin addicts, who promptly killed every one and started over.  But things have not improved and today we are  subjected to a pussy-whipped Dick who is currently stumbling around in a plot revolving around a fucking violin theft with characters named Strad E. Various, Phil Harmonic and Chris Chendo.  It's time to put this strip on permanent leave.

Those were the main topics running through my mind this week.  But now, I'm going to load up a favorite DVD and spend a couple of hours enjoying "Reservoir Dogs" I'll have to do it privately though, as Jan hates (not dislikes ... hates) Quentin Tarantino movies.  In fact, I think most women hate Quentin Tarantino movies. That's unfortunate, because no one but this guy could take a standard "killer/bank robber/kidnappers" plot, and surprise you three-quarters of the way through the movie and turn it into a awesome kick-ass Vampire flick like he did in "From Dusk 'Til Dawn".

I'll leave you with the classic opening to Reservoir Dogs ... enjoy.

January 01, 2010


The week between Christmas and New Year is a time of limbo.  You go to work, but you can't get anything done because no one else is there, and you don't feel like doing anything anyway.  You think about making dinner, but nothing sounds good.  You return Christmas gifts, but everything is so picked over that you end up buying crap you'll probably return again later.  You try to watch television, but all that you can find is the GMAC Bowl.

But there is one thing I like about this week that time forgot ... LISTS!  Lots of Lists!  Lists of the best movies, lists of the worst celebrities, lists of the most shocking events, lists of who died.  I pour over lists in magazines, newspapers, on television.  I wallow in lists.

So in that spirit, I'd like to present my own list.  I've spent at least 10 minutes of deep thinking compiling a list of televised commercials that I viewed during 2009 that I absolutely despised.  And since my reading public is vast ... literally "coast to coast", I will list only those commercials shown on good old U. S. of A. national television.  Of course, there are locally broadcast television commercials that I hate, like The Empire Carpet Man, or Bob Rohrman Kia in Gurnee, and even super lawyer Peter Francis Geraci, who promises you that bankruptcy is the one, the only, true path to happiness.

Here they are, from mildly offensive to "HULK SMASH" awfulness, my list of the worst commercials of the year:

Number Five - Depression is a serious issue.  But you can become a functioning member of society again with the simple action of swallowing a pill.  In this ad for Pristiq, we get a close up of a bland faced woman, tears welling in her eyes from the weight of the world sitting on her shoulders.  If this isn't sad enough, her metaphoric wind-up doll self is slumping, the key impaled in her back completely wound down.  But wind the doll up (gulp down a Pristiq), and she springs to life!  Sort of.  The frown becomes a fixed grimace and she takes off in a lock step, one foot in front of the other.  You go Stepford Wife!

Number Four - Masquerading as a trailer for a Tim Burton movie gone apeshit, this ad for Michelin opens with a landscape of squashed and mutilated cartoony creatures, all run over by careless drivers who didn't have the right tires on their cars.  Enter the Radialed One, who attempts to convince you that a set of tires is an adequate substitute for brakes.  At least the mangled critters come back to life, sans tire tracks at the commercial's conclusion.

Number Three - It took five viewings before I realized that this was not a commercial for Chipolte fast food restaurants, but instead for Boost Mobile.  Definitely not one to watch while you're enjoying breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Bonus "ick" points for the tendrils of burrito hanging from the morgue technician's yellowed teeth.

Number Two - Just one word ... EWWWWWW!  And for the record, I hate the concept of Axe and all of it's imitators.  There's nothing like giving a pimply, smelly teen-aged boy the bright idea that spraying yourself liberally with this odious stinking shit is an acceptable alternative to taking a shower.

Number One - I've had a hard-on for Procter & Gamble Company of Cincinnati, Ohio right from the beginning of their "Does A Bear Shit In The Woods?" ad campaign for Charmin brand ass wipes.  I hate them for making me think that I'm using too much toilet paper.  I hate them for making me think about the act of taking a shit against my wishes.  And most of all, I hate them for making me wonder why the hell those fucking bears don't have buttholes?  I mean, how the hell do they take a shit if they don't have an anus?  Their latest ad takes the proverbial cake.  Do people worry if they have bits of toilet paper stuck to their ass?  How do the bits get there anyway?  Is your shit so messy, so sticky, so viscous; and your wiping technique so mechanically wrong that you smear feces all over your butt cheeks?  And then afterwards, do you walk around in public with your pants down around your ankles so people can see the bits of feces-smeared toilet paper stuck to your ass?  This is enough to drive a normal person berserk.

Of course, there are a myriad of commercials on television that are light and airy; humorous and thought provoking. But I'll save a "best of" commercial list for that time in my life when I lose my dark cynicism.

Just don't hold your breath.