Friday, December 19, 2014

A Santa Story! Kind of.

(WARNING! This story is not appropriate for little kids. You'll see why.)

This is a true story that happened to me a long time ago, when I was but a wee ankle-biter. A third grade student to be exact.
I was in Mrs. Reed's social studies class at Lybrook Elementary School, learning about Christopher Columbus. Actually, we were learning how people considered Columbus to be either brave or foolish, because people back then thought the world was flat and that if you sailed to the horizon, there was a very high likelihood that you'd go right over the edge and fall off of Earth. We as a class were having difficulty processing how something so silly could be a widely-held belief when Mrs. Reed interjected. "It's really not that hard to understand. Large groups of people are frequently led to believe things that seem impossible. For instance, how old were you when you found out there was no Santa Claus?"
"Um, well, what time is it right now?"
I have no idea what followed because it was all drowned out by the sounds of minds exploding. Suddenly, 30 sets of wide-with-horror eyes were scanning the room for each other. It was like Mrs. Reed had just summarily executed Santa right in front of us. Worse, really. It was more like she had rendered null and void any possibility that he had ever existed in the first place. A few kids had looks on their faces that read, "It all adds up now..." but otherwise, we were devastated. Of course, nobody would admit that afterward when we interacted with one another. But we knew. We all knew. A major piece of what had defined our very existence had just been erased.
"Duh. I could have told you Santa Claus wasn't real. What? No, I haven't been crying!"
I recovered, obviously, since I basically had no choice, although I have remained quite bitter about the situation. After all, Mrs. Reed didn't teach us anything important... or, you know, true... about Christopher Columbus, choosing instead to take that opportunity to assassinate a beloved figure of folklore and completely decimate a belief system that my classmates and I had built our young lives upon. It would be a long time before I found out (on my own) that Christopher Columbus "discovered" America in the 15th century about the same way that I "discovered" Burger King last Thursday.
"Hey everybody, look what I found! Yeah, it's been around for years and years and there were already a whole bunch of people there doing stuff when I got there and many more travelling around outside who already knew about it but yeah, I 'discovered' this."
Yeah, I'm not sure that whole situation couldn't have been handled better.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Space invaders

The other day, I was enjoying a perfectly wonderful little breakfast at El Gallo De Oro, one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall (that's a compliment, by the way) restaurants in West Tampa. Eggs, yellow rice, chorizo sausage, Cuban toast and coffee. Wonderful way to start the day. I like West Tampa because it really is a convivial family community, where most people seem to know each other. That actually worked against me on this particular day.
As I'm sitting there and enjoying my perfectly wonderful breakfast, some guy at a nearby table came over to share something with the people at the table right next to me, turning my view to this:
Pray tell, what is the proper etiquette when you need to express "Excuse me, could you please get your ass out of my face?" or at least "Please don't fart on my bread"? I don't think it would be out of line to express concern about either or both of those things. Of course, I didn't do anything. I tried to be classy about it by staying calm and patient, hoping he would figure it out and either adjust or move completely away. He didn't and I never said anything, so I guess I deserved what I got.

Then, the other night I was eating dinner at Miguel's, a local Mexican restaurant when two families who know each other bumped into each other and had an extended reunion... at my table.
These aren't great pictures; they're dark and blurry and it's hard to tell, but there were about eight people in the merged group and they all hung out there and caught up on what sounded like a couple of years worth of updates while I tried in vain to enjoy my chips and salsa in peace, again not saying or doing anything about it other than waiting for them to figure out that what they were doing was obnoxious.

I can't say these people or the guy above are rude. I think they're inconsiderate. It never occurred to them that what they were doing might be impacting anyone else. Why would it? After all, they are the beginning, center and end of their own personal universes. To be alerted that other people even exist, let alone that those people might regard an uninvited occupation of their personal space as a source of discomfort, would probably be a huge surprise to them.
In my opinion, that's worse than being rude. At least with rude people, you know where you stand. They're rude, that's their deal. But with inconsiderate people, who knows what they're capable of?
A rude person will aggressively cut you off in traffic. An inconsiderate one will just kind of drift in and out of lanes of traffic as the mood suits them.
A rude person will push you out of the way to get a jug of orange juice at the grocery store. An inconsiderate one will leave their cart in the middle of the aisle while they read the labels on all the jugs of orange juice.
Rude people don't care. Inconsiderate people lack the self-awareness to make that kind of statement.

Of course, the real variable in all of this is me and my reaction to it. That's the only thing I can control so maybe I'll change my reaction to things like this in the future.

Monday, December 15, 2014

DON'T save the date

In case you didn't know, Saturday was December 13, 2014, notable because it was a sequential date, and even more notable as it was the last sequential date in this century. That means most of us will be dead before the next rounds of emails, Tweets and Facebook updates (because all of those things will still be around) telling us to pay attention to a certain date because it's kind of interesting to look at when you write it down.
I can't help feeling that we've lost something. Something of no or very little actual value, like a koozie given away by a radio station doing a live broadcast from a used car lot.
"I wonder whatever happened to that thing I probably threw away if I even brought it home in the first place?"
Because who cares? It's what happens... or doesn't... during a particular day that should determine your level of interest and excitement. Dates are just a way of recording time for the sake of being able to make plans or cataloging things that happen.
"Ah yes. I think I ate some really good soup that day."
It's just a labeling system. Sequential dates like 12/13/14, dates where the numbers are all the same like 12/12/12, or dates that are palindromes like 4/1/14 shouldn't rate more than a "Huh. Cool." when someone points them out to you.
And that might be too over-the-top.
Aw, don't be sad. 5/1/15 is right around the corner, thrillseekers.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kirk Cameron to the rescue!


Oh boy, everybody! Either Kirk Cameron is saving Christmas or he has produced a movie titled "Saving Christmas". It's grammatically unclear from the poster. But one thing's for sure; KIRK CAMERON'S SAVING CHRISTMAS!

Finally, someone (Kirk Cameron) has made a movie about The War On Christmas. It's like somebody making a movie about aliens invading Earth, except that actually is something that could still exist as an actual threat. By the way, if you're someone who believes that there is such a thing as The War On Christmas, please take the following fact into account:
"100% of people who believe there is such a thing as a War On Christmas are mistaken*"
Of course, that certainly doesn't mean there can't be a movie about it. And if there is going to be a movie about The War On Christmas, it might as well be the best The War On Christmas movie ever!
Check it out:


OH MY GOD, this movie has everything!!!
  • A protagonist named "Christian" who is disillusioned about the true meaning of Christmas: Symbolism!
  • "Christian" looks kind of Jewish: Irony!
  • Associating the theme from "Rawhide" with a carjacking: Lack of cultural awareness!
  • Kirk Cameron as a creepy, leering Santa Claus ala Dan Aykroyd in "Trading Places" and Billy Bob Thornton in "Bad Santa": Throwback!
  • Kirk Cameron lecturing "Christian" on the true meaning of Christmas: Lecturing!
  • Some old-timey manger footage: Throwback!
  • White people line dancing: Umm...
  • Kirk Cameron poppin' and lockin': Ooh. Okay...
  • A black person saying vaguely black people gospel things: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Holy solid-gold X-Box wrapped in $700 headphones! Go see this movie!

So Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings, "whatever that means" (hint: It's a greeting, just like Merry Christmas. Stop being such a misanthrope and respond to it in the spirit in which it's given, dick.)

And put Christ back in Christmas, unless you want Kirk Cameron to whoop yo' ass with a candy cane!








* Source: Common sense

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Eaten Alive, Schmeaten Schmalive

I don't believe most of us walking around today would have been able to hack it as pioneers migrating to the west during the 1800s because of our aversion to and our outright rejection of anything that's even slightly uncomfortable, but I think we all would have fared just fine during the Roman Empire, when the Colosseum was booked solid with gladiator battles, public executions and other events where human heads were lopped off and launched into the stands like foul balls at a baseball game.
On Sunday, the Discovery Channel aired a program titled "Eaten Alive", during which viewers were led to believe that a man would be, well, eaten alive. Actually, the plan was for the man, wildlife author and conservationist Paul Rosolie, wearing a special snake-edible exoskeleton suit to be ingested by a 25' anaconda, hang around in there for a little while to see what's going on and then be regurgitated (TA DA!) back out. All for the alleged purpose of increasing awareness of the Amazon rainforest.
This is not what happened.
Early prototype of the snake suit, abandoned after determining anaconda's can't read English.

Instead, the snake, a different one than they intended, one who was presumably not in on the gag (HA HA!) started to swallow Rosolie's head and crush his arm (two things I would have predicted even without so much as a layman's level of experience in being eaten by giant snakes) and he called the whole thing off.

This resulted in people being very, very angry. Many, ironically, lamenting the time they had wasted (as though it would have all been totally worthwhile if the dude had simply let the snake pulverize his body and gulp him down). The Discovery issued a statement addressing the letdown, but people are still pretty jammed up about it.

"Paul created this challenge to get maximum attention for one of the most beautiful and threatened parts of the world, the Amazon Rainforest and its wildlife." - Discovery Channel

"The only thing that anaconda swallowed were the two hours of my life I'll never get back. #EatenAlive" - Zach Aplin (@Zaplin64)

"He went to great lengths to send this message and it was his absolute intention to be eaten alive." - Discovery Channel

"There's 16 minutes left and this man is not in a snake's mouth. What have they been doing for the last hour and 44 minutes?? #EatenAlive" - Amy Mariani (@AmyMariani)

"Ultimately, after the snake constricted Paul for over an hour and went for his head, the experiment had to be called when it became clear that Paul would be very seriously injured if he continued on." - Discovery Channel

"So the snake never eats the guy?  What a farce.  I'm going to bed.  #eatenalive" - Matthew Unga (@matthewunga)

"The safety of Paul, as well as the anaconda, was always our number one priority." - Discovery

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. This is bullshit. I erased a ton of 'The Bachelor' and 'Scandal' so I could DVR someone being eaten alive by a snake. You promised me someone being eaten alive by a snake and I want to see someone eaten alive by a snake. Now, it doesn't matter who it is. You can get some useless elderly person or an ugly baby that nobody wants anymore, I don't care. But you need to send a crew back out to the Floresta AmazĂ´nica and feed somebody to a goddamn giant snake, because if we can't grant a level of trust to the people who provide us educational programming like  'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo' and 'How To Be Eaten By A Goddamn Giant Snake', our society is a joke!" - Clark Brooks (@clarkbrooks)

Monday, December 08, 2014

Having fun and doing good

"When you wake up every day, you have two choices. You can either be positive or negative; an optimist or a pessimist. I choose to be an optimist. It's all a matter of perspective." - Harvey Mackay
"Harvey Mackay is clearly not a social media participant." - Clark Brooks

The fact of the matter is that sometimes it's extremely difficult to be upbeat, a lot harder than simply waking up and making a choice. There are times when it seems like we're surrounded on all sides and at all times by surly, miserable people and just horrible things. And that requires extra effort to seek out and find a reason to feel good about the world.
It sure seems that way lately. There's trouble all over the place and everybody is upset and hard to deal with. It's been depressing to the extent that I've found it difficult to maintain a sunny disposition, even at work, which is a serious problem since having a sunny disposition is a fairly significant chunk of my job description.

Speaking of where I work, our owner Jeff Vinik has initiated some high profile charitable efforts, most notably, the Lightning Community Heroes program. On a much lower profile, is a "Pay It Forward" program that exists for employees:
"In the spirit of helping others during the holiday season, we give each employee $75 and ask that that person donates the money to a holiday charity or needy family close to his/her heart."
That's it, nothing else to it. No guidelines. No minimum requirements. No required follow-up. Just take this $75 in cash and do something good with it.
Perfect. Right up my alley. Just what I need to straighten out my attitude. The problem is since I'm not a very good person to begin with and an even worse shopper, my first instinct was to go to Publix and spend it all on frozen pizza and beer and then just stand outside and hand it out to passers by. I knew I could do better with some guidance, so I enlisted the help of someone who could compensate for my shortcomings and who I know has also expressed similar frustration: the one and only Lynne Austin.
We met up at a nearby Family Dollar store last night and hijacked the manager, a relentlessly patient man named Milton, who helped us tear up and down the aisles in search of the really good bargains. $75 doesn't sound like a lot of money but we managed to fill up two and a half carts (actually, we may have exceeded that budget a bit which someone may have covered out of their own pocket).
Milton: "When it comes to canned goods, stick to the Family Dollar brand. They're only .65 instead of a dollar."
Lynne: "Get things that can be used to make soup."
Me: "Anything can be used to make soup, if you want soup bad enough."
Lynne: "What about this? Potted meat."
Clark: "No! Stay away from that. That stuff is really bad for you!"
Lynne: "Oh, it is?"
Clark: "How do I know that and you don't?" 
We got a ton of food and quite a few toys and it really was a lot of fun. At one point, this happened:
Lynne: "(laughing) Stop it. You're going to make me pee."
Clark: "I know! I'm really funny, huh?"
Lynne: "Don't flatter yourself. I've had four kids. It doesn't take much."
Anyway, when all was said and done, we had $75 (actually $100) worth of Christmas presents in the form of food, toys and other gifts heading toward The Volunteer Way, a food bank in New Port Richey, and I find myself in a much better frame of mind to deal with some of you f*ckers on Facebook.
Both of those are good.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Help me to help them in order to help you


As we all know, black people can't do what Michael Brown was accused of doing in Ferguson, Missouri, because nobody should do what Michael Brown was accused of doing in Ferguson, Missouri. Not sure most of what happened necessarily deserves a death sentence, but I'm not here to quibble over details.


In response to how that whole situation was handled (or mishandled, if you're one of those sticklers for using the correct words to describe things), there have been riots and black people were admonished for doing that.

  • "If you're gonna smash windows and throw rocks at police, expect tear gas in return," *
  • "Imagine what Chicago would look like if blacks rioted everytime a black killed a black say from gang violence," *
  • "When have u ever seen white people destroy their own community because they were upset with something black ppl did?!" *
  • "pull your pants up so you don't trip and drop your [state benefits] card" *
  • "Nonviolence is the answer" *
Okay, got it. Rioting is bad. Don't do that, black people. Stop it right now. Find some non-violent way to make your point.

Oh, God damn it! Stop happening on television, things!
On Sunday, five members of the NFL's St. Louis Rams came out on to the field (before the game itself actually began, allowing it to be played to from start to finish without further distraction or interference) displaying the 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' gesture as a form of protest, opting not to throw bricks or smash windows. That wasn't cool either.
  • "The [sic] were great role models for future thugs." **
  • "They lost my respect! Sending a message that Blacks should be allowed to break the law with no consequences is asinine! And that's what they did with this stupid, ignorant gesture. How about teaching these troubled youth some respect for authority instead of even more contempt? They are morons." **
  • "Come on why do almost all blacks think someone is always out to get them? Its not 1800 anymore there are good people white and black. If you wanna go that route that Marcus then i could say you would still be in Africa getting ebola and throwing spears at lions... See what i did there? Same as you except im not racist." **
  • "These protests belong outside of private enterprise. If I were the cops, I'd memorize these "NFL player protestors" addresses and I would ensure that if there was trouble, I'd not show up. These guys crap on police and then want their protection in times of trouble...." **
  • "Its an absolute disgrace that these players weren't punished for this perpetuation of lies, yet a player can be suspended 6 months for spanking his kid."  **
Sooo, riots are bad; and quiet, non-violent symbolic gestures are too.
Man, this whole Freedom of Speech thing is pretty cool, right up until certain people actually want to exercise it, huh? Then it turns into a huge pain in the ass!
As the one commenter above mentioned, it's not 1800 anymore and everything has been simply awesome since. It's like some people ("almost all" of those some people, if you believe internet commenters, which is something you should almost never do) have conveniently forgotten how much time we've all devoted to sitting together at lunch counters near integrated schools, watching Jackie Robinson play baseball and not walking around with our hands in our pockets when it's cold outside since January 1st, 1801.
Anyway, in spite of how fantastic everything has been for the last 214 years, a lot of black people are angry and frustrated and I'll admit, with the tone of the feedback at both ends of the protest spectrum, I'm white and I'm not even sure what is or isn't appropriate or allowed at this point. I've got a pretty good idea what is NOT allowed, but I'm foggy on what is. So I'll tell you what; if somebody answers that question, I'll go down there (you know, to where those people live) and I'll pass it along to them. That way, everybody can be on the same page. (NOTE: "Shut the fuck up already and stop inconveniencing me with having to worry about other people's quality of life because doing so makes me uncomfortable", or anything else you wouldn't have the balls to say to someone's face because you know deep down exactly how idiotic and unfair it is, is not a valid response.)
Seriously, I don't mind. Tell me: Exactly what CAN black people do?



* = Source: BBC News
** = Source: ESPN.com