Friday, November 21, 2014

Clark's Favorite Things 2014 (Part IV of VII)

Let's talk t-shirts.
We love to wear t-shirts. Like no other garment, they help us draw attention to ourselves through the expression of some thought, idea or philosophy while we're simultaneously being annoyed that people are staring at us.
Here are my favorite t-shirt things...

FAVORITE PLAIN T-SHIRT
Blank.

This one, I guess. I'm pretty sure I got it at a gas station. Honestly, I have about a dozen of these, maybe more and I don't think there's a notable difference between any of them. I don't know. This one is fine.

FAVORITE T-SHIRT ASSOCIATED WITH A CAUSE OR TWO
Angry.

Unlike a lot of people, I've taken the unpopular stance of not liking cancer. Also, I sincerely believe that women should be empowered. I don't mean by yelling empty platitudes like "you go, girl!" like a trained bird all the time. I mean by giving women their just due, respecting them as individuals and not associating femininity with inferiority. This is a t-shirt that works on different levels.

FAVORITE T-SHIRT WITH A FOCUS ON A SPECIFIC CAUSE
Fightin' mad.

My friend Marissa is currently fighting cancer. I wear this t-shirt to support her in her efforts.

FAVORITE STUPID T-SHIRT
So, so stupid.

A couple of weeks ago, Monica wore a t-shirt on the Spike on the Mic Show that read "Wisconsin: Smell the dairy air". That's pretty stupid. Then, last week Mike Pepper wore a t-shirt to our post-show dinner that read "My Pen is Huge". That's really stupid! I realized I don't own any stupid t-shirts so I went out and got the one featured above. Lots and lots of choices for stupid t-shirts out there but I selected this one. This is my stupid t-shirt. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My stupid t-shirt is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. (see below for a humorous aside)

FAVORITE SMART T-SHIRT
Contemplating Shakespeare and/or math.

I've never attended Harvard. I've never even visited the campus. You can say I have no business wearing a Harvard t-shirt, but so what? I've seen you wearing a Rolling Stones t-shirt and I know for a fact that you're not a member of that band. I subscribe to the Harvard Lampoon and I'm Facebook friends with Megan Amram and she went there. So, comedy pedigree established!

HUMOROUS ASIDE ABOUT THE STUPID T-SHIRT
Tuesday, the day I thought it was going to arrive, this happened:
(Knock, knock)
BETH: "Hello. I'm Beth and this is Matt and we have some important information for you regarding current events and what it says about that in the book of Revelations!"
ME: "Oh. Hi Beth. Hello Matt. I thought you were delivering my t-shirt. If I had known it was you guys, I would have ignored you knocking while watching you through my window."
BETH: "Oh... well, what we have for you is far more important than a t-shirt..."
ME: "Nice recovery, but I don't think so. You see, this t-shirt has a picture of a hot dog on it and says 'I want to be inside you'. Ha ha ha! What do you think, Matt?"
BETH and MATT: "... "
ME: "Listen, you both seem nice... matt, you aren't very talkative. But I'm not a fan of people using fear as a sales tool, whether it's for hurricane shutters or the merits of a particular faith-based belief system. So I'm going to close the door now and watch you walk away while I wait for the mail. Have a nice day and like us on Facebook."
MATT: "Oh. Um, well. Uh..."
ME: "Too late, Matt."
(Door closes)


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Clark's Favorite Things 2014 (Part III of VII)

As I mentioned on Monday, I haven't taken a vacation in a while. I don't have a really good reason for it either. I don't have a job that requires me to be available around the clock like a heart surgeon or anything like that. It's just one of those things that slips through the cracks. I guess.
For example, I actually planned on making a trip up to St. Paul, Minnesota when the Lightning played the Wild this season, figuring I could tie it in with a write-up for Raw Charge and also travel around the Twin Cities area and geek out on all kinds of Prince stuff. Prior to the big trip, a friend asked me, "I thought you were planning a trip up to Minnesota. Do you have your plane tickets and hotel reservations?" I said, "Nah, that's not 'til October." She said, "November is next week." "Oh."
Yep, I forgot to take a vacation. I think maybe doing nice things for myself is not always a priority.
With that, here's my list of favorite places to vacation.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA
I haven't been but I know it will be fun when I finally go. I will stroll right up to the front door of Paisley Park, Prince's recording studio and performance facility (in relatively nearby Chanhassen) and say, "Hi. I'm here to see Prince, if he's around, and all the Prince things." Whoever answers will be suitably charmed and let me in. I don't see a logical reason why that wouldn't happen. I'll also visit the First Avenue nightclub and...well, I guess that's about it. Huh. That should take one day. I'll spend the rest of the time swimming in lakes and going to Twins games.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

I've been to Chicago dozens of times and in fact, it's where I spent my last vacation. There are millions of things to do and I know where stuff is and how to get there. Must visits include The Billy Goat Tavern, Second City, Portillo's and all the museums. I'm hesitant to mention Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood because I'm kind of afraid of the impact that renovations currently taking place are going to have.

CASPERSEN BEACH (VENICE, FLORIDA)
I'm somewhat reluctant to mention this one because if the wrong bunch of fools find out about it, they'll come down and ruin it. Notice the lack of condo towers, t-shirt shops and shitty "beach bars"? Exactly. There are places to stay, but they're mostly small, mom-and-pop operations (this one is my favorite). It's what I think the Gulf Coast of Florida must have been like during the '50s.

SILVER LAKE SAND DUNES, MICHIGAN

This is north of where I grew up and I haven't been there in years, but it's absolutely beautiful there. My uncle Dave lived there for a while and he operated a place that had a waterslide, a miniature golf course and an ice cream shop. He also rented boats and drove dune cars like the one seen in this photo. People would bring their off-road vehicles from all over to participate (and fail) in hill climbs. As a kid, it was a pretty incredible place to spend a summer. I gotta believe it's not too shabby now.

MY HOUSE, TAMPA
I love being home. Not that I have a high-stress job, but as soon as I pull into my driveway, I can feel myself relax. It's the one place on the planet where I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Every day I'm there is a vacation.

Well, this has been a corny, sappy, sepia-tinged, nostalgia-soaked edition of Favorite Things, hasn't it? All we need is some dickhead strumming an acoustic guitar to make us all throw up. Come back Friday. Things will be a tad more raucous, I promise.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Clark's Favorite Things 2014 (Part II of VII)

Most people who work in an office decorate their work area with a collection of things that make them happy. Most, not all. There are employers who are bent on crushing any small spark of joy that might exist in the lives of their employees. I know because I've worked for some. But those of us among the fortunate display photos of loved ones or places we've visited on vacation, trophies and awards or even little toys and trinkets. I have all of that stuff. Well, no photos of loved ones or loved ones themselves. And no awards to speak of. Also, I haven't been on vacation in about 10 years. But I have tons of toys and trinkets!

FAVORITE TOY
This is a Tampa Bay Lightning Zamboni from OYO Sports piloted by Homer Simpson. Homer is sold separately because he's a Lego and Legos and OYOs are not the same thing (Note: they totally are). A Zamboni is a machine that resurfaces the ice at skating rinks. I like to pretend that this keeps my desktop nice and clean and suitably slippery. 

FAVORITE SIGNED BASEBALL

This is a baseball signed by Mike Veeck. Mike is the son of legendary baseball owner and promoter extraordinaire Bill Veeck. Mike is an owner and promotional genius in his own rite and the guru behind the "Fun Is Good" philosophy. That's a principle upon which I try to live my life. This ball says "Clark, You're right. Fun IS good! Thanks, Mike Veeck" and helps keep me focused and motivated.

FAVORITE RETIRED TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING PLAYER

Another source of focus and motivation is this poster of former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vaclav "Vinny" Prospal. This pictre shows him wearing a bronze medal earned while playing for the Czech Republic men's national team in the 2006 Olympics. A bronze medal, which is awarded for coming in third. And look how happy he is! If somebody can be that happy with a third-place medal, I don't think I have a right to complain about my lot in life.

FAVORITE PIECE OF SHOW BIZ MEMORABILIA

When I worked at the Sun Dome, this nutty group of kids basically spent every penny they had among them to attend a concert we were hosting (Slipknot). They arrived before noon and were planning to sit in the broiling summer sun until the doors opened at 7:00. I found all this out by going out and talking to them. Throughout that day, I made sure they had water, walked them in and out for bathroom breaks and even bought them pizza. The last time I went to check on them before they went inside, they presented me with this "thank you" note that they had written and signed on the back of a flyer for some after-show party. I had it framed and it's the only real souvenir I've hung onto in all these years in the business.

FAVORITE ACTOR

I love Paul Newman, especially as player/coach Reggie Dunlop of the fictional Charlestown Chiefs in "Slap Shot", a role he said was his personal favorite. It's hands-down the best minor league sports movie of all time (if you think it's "Bull Durham", I just feel sorry for you). This photo serves to remind me of all the inspirational and motivational things he said in this movie, like, "Goddamn lard-ass Barkley Donaldson, I'm tellin' you he jumped us! Gloves off, stick down, no warning, he challenged the Chiefs! Called us names!" and "It's their rink, it's their ice, and it's their fuckin' town. But tonight we got our fans with us! They spent their own dough to get here, and they came here to see us! All right, let's show 'em what we got, guys! Get out there on the ice and let 'em know you're there. Get that fuckin' stick in their side. Let 'em know you're there! Get that lumber in his teeth. Let 'em know you're there!" as well as "Oh you cheap son of a bitch. Are you crazy? Those guys are retards!"and of course, "Jesus Christ, what a friggin' nightmare...". I'm also a big fan of his spaghetti sauces.

FAVORITE HAT

Because sometimes, an office needs a sheriff.

FAVORITE COFFEE MUG

Oh, what a shock; Clark is going to plug his book! This time in the form of this sweet mug emblazoned by the cover illustration (by Jessie Stehlik) from "A Ridiculously Inconsistent Treasury". Want one? You can get one here.

OTHER FAVORITE COFFEE MUG
First Avenue is the legendary nightclub that became famous after being featured in "Purple Rain". I've never been there  but I'll get there some day. Until then, I'll drink coffee.

ANOTHER FAVORITE COFFEE MUG
What can I say? I'm a company man.

YET ANOTHER FAVORITE COFFEE MUG
This was a gift from my friend Donna. Nobody who knows anything about dinosaurs will steal the T-Rex's coffee mug.


DAMN SON, THAT'S A LOT OF FAVORITE COFFEE MUGS
This isn't really a coffee mug, but you never know when a 1950's-style luau party might break out.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Clark's Favorite Things 2014 (Part I of VII)

You know which two people on this planet have a lot in common? Oprah Winfrey and me (nobody else).
Oprah recently released her list of Favorite Things (2014 edition) in which you'll find what "Oprah tasted, tested, sniffed, snuggled, brewed, steeped, read, shared and dared—Check out what she's calling her favorite, favorite gifts to give and receive this year." The very first item on her list? $700 headphones.
No offense to Oprah. I have tremendous respect for her and I would go so far as to say I'm a fan. But you know who needs $700 headphones? Nobody. In fact, if you have $700 headphones or think that you need them and you're not a multi-Grammy award-winning record producer, or somebody else who might need something like that for your job, you're an asshole. I'm sorry, but that's just excessive. I don't care what they're made out of or how they're manufactured. The only purpose of any set of headphones is to act as a sort of conduit between the sounds that come out of some device or another and your brain via your earholes. There is simply no justifiable excuse (Wires made out of mink? Each set molded to the exact dimensions of each individual customer's head? Dipped in real gold?) for a delivery system like that to cost $700. If you're one of these people who say (and actually believe) things like, "yeah, but a really good pair of headphones allows you to hear micro-chords and subtle sub-layers of ambient harmonies that would be impossible to appreciate otherwise", you're a gullible idiot.
"Oh yes, your majesty! A pair of $700 headphones is EXACTLY what you need to complete that ensemble!"

First of all Johan Sebastian Stradivarius, nobody is impressed with your snobby, self-proclaimed, pitch-perfect audiophile sensibilities. Secondly, if Bon Jovi (which is what you listen to when you're not trying to impress people) wanted you to hear all that shit, they would have made it louder.
You know what's just as good as $700 headphones? .79 headphones.
Sit on them. Leave them behind on a plane or in a taxi. Drop them on the floor. Drop them on the floor and then drop heavier things on top of them. Let your dog chew on them. Do weird things to your own butt with them. Who cares? They're .79! You could literally go through two pairs a day every day for a year, even if it's a leap year, and save about a third of what you would have spent on $700 headphones.
And they do just as good a job of getting the crappy music you like into your crappy ears.

Anyway, all this has made me realize that since Oprah and I are so alike, albeit with slightly different ideas of what is good and/or necessary, that I should do my OWN (ha!) list of Favorite Things, so that's exactly what I'm going to do between now and the day after Thanksgiving, the official, semi-reasonable start to the madness that is The Holiday Shopping Season (if you shop on Thanksgiving Day or you own a company that requires people to work on Thanksgiving Day, you're a savage and probably the kind of asshole who aspires to own a pair of $700 headphones some day). There will be six entries between now and then and each will highlight different items that I determine are favorite enough for you to maybe go out and get.

Think of it as an advent calendar crossed with a shopping catalog in the form of a blog!

Think of it as a blog that doesn't serve much of a purpose!*

Think of it as a gimmick that seems to be a bigger deal than it really is by virtue of entries being labeled with Roman numerals!

Think of it as a way for me to be relatively lazy for two weeks by not having to work very hard to come up with new material!

This particular entry doesn't really count; it's really just an introduction and not an actual endorsement of the .79 headphones. I mean, I like 'em but they're not a favorite thing. Go ahead and buy some. Or don't. Who cares?


  • Part II of VII - Monday, November 17
  • Part III of VII - Wednesday, November 19
  • Part IV of VII - Friday, November 21
  • Part V of VII - Monday, November 24
  • Part VI of VII - Wednesday, November 26
  • Part VII of VII (Grand Finale!) - Black Friday, November 28



* as is always the case

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Brooks family pride

You know, I'm always proud and happy to be a member of the Brooks family. Who wouldn't be? I consider my dad to have been a pretty great man. My mom was certainly a good person. My sister isn't currently in jail. I don't think she is... no, pretty sure she's good.
And that's just my immediate family!
When you get into the extended branches of the family tree, you find some pretty remarkable people...


My Uncle Mel is responsible for some of the funniest movies ever made. He remains consistently hilarious to this day.



Cousin Derrick won a Super Bowl as a linebacker with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is active in the Tampa Bay community.



And then the other day, cousin Garth, a country crooner of some renown, did this...



Yep, some fine folks in the Brooks family. And our family reunions are a blast.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Confirmed: I'm doomed to be single

Hey, remember the time when I wrote this? You might. But you might not know that I actually signed up and joined OK Cupid. You know, strictly for research, because that's the kind of thoroughly professional writer I am, fully immersing myself in the subject matter in order to gain a better perspective.
Of course, if I happened to get any responses to my personal ad in the process, well, I guess that's okay too.
Anyway, yeah, I've been signed up for some time now and I get one or two emails a week with "matches" the service has found for me. Typically, each email has four or five profiles, rated anywhere between 30 and 80% compatible. The overwhelming majority of which I don't even bother to check out, due in large part to how many are closer to 30% than the 80% range. They've even sent me some that are lower than that, including a few rated at 0%. What possible reason could I have for pursuing a relationship with someone with whom I share so few common interests? Either OK Cupid feels they have to send me something or they think I'm looking for someone to not get along with. At any rate, my point is there are not a lot of matches out there for me.
I knew that before I signed up though. I'm weird. I'm not good looking. I have some strange ideas. I can be difficult to deal with. Basically, I'm the worst person I know. I'm fully aware that I don't have a lot to offer and that most people reach that conclusion within minutes of meeting me, if they hadn't already preconceived that notion. Still, under the popularly-held concept that there is a lid for every pot, I remained hopeful that I metaphors could mix and that my lid could slip through the cracks. Then, last week OK Cupid sent me an email with a link to this profile:


A 91%! That never happens! I think the highest I've ever gotten before was an 85%. Never one within 10 percentage points or less of perfect. They even drew a gold circle around it! This was very encouraging...until I read the self-summary just below.
It's not easy to read, but this is how it starts;
"I changed my orientation because I am not absolutely sure anymore. I have been what I consider straight all my life but now I am wondering if I might have feelings for women so I decided to try okcupid and investigate. "
That's right; the best match that OK Cupid has ever found for me is a 44-year-old woman who signed up so she could meet women. This isn't a criticism of her. It's certainly not her fault that she wound up sorted into my bin and I wish her nothing but the best of luck in finding whatever it is she's looking for. But what about me? I now have to go forward with the knowledge that there's an algorithm out there that has determined I'm best suited to date women over 40 who have made a decision now to self-identify as prospective lesbians. That means my ideal soul mate is a mature woman who is one left-up toilet seat from giving up on men forever.
Sometimes the universe sends you a sign, other times it sends you an email with a big gold circle drawn around the pertinent info.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Oh shirt!

As a writer and fan, few things bug me more than war metaphors applied to sports. Games are not battles. Athletes are not warriors. Simply because they aren't. Sports and war are two entirely different things. Beyond the fact that there are opposing sides, they have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. To attempt to draw similarities between them is to artificially inflate the depth and meaning of games and those who play them for the purpose of entertaining spectators. These metaphors are applied to all sports from time to time but football practically feeds on them. As a practice, it's crude, lazy and frankly, kind of tasteless. Of course, I suppose war metaphors are not as crude and inappropriate as rape metaphors. This is a picture of a t-shirt that was issued to football players at Arlington Martin High School in Arlington, Texas.
It says "Martin Football - We take what we want - Shhhhhhh - Just let it happen" and was apparently the brainchild of students(!). Predictably, adults affiliated with the school and its football program don't see a problem.
“It’s sickening to me that the (slogan) was misconstrued, And it’s weird that it has been out for so long and just came up.” - Kevin White, booster club president
“I've seen the shirts several times since July, and not once did it cross my mind that it was inappropriate. I have a wife, I have a daughter, I have a mother. Our players have sisters and cousins. It’s unwarranted. Our kids deserve better, especially from their own school. One of the things we've done really well throughout the years is winning the take-away battle, In fact, when you leave our locker room, there’s only one billboard on the wall and it simply says ‘take aways.’ The act of piracy, taking what you want. What we want is the football.” - football coach Bob Wager
Ohhh, so it's supposed to be a pirate football thing, not a pirate rape thing. Okay, that helps me understand the imagery; I was thinking that the Martin mascot was Native American Pirates with Gym Memberships. It does not however, wash with the words on the shirt. Can you imagine a high school football player, perhaps a defensive end, pumped up with adrenaline coursing through his body just prior to the snap, feet pawing the turf like an about-to-charge rodeo bull, screaming "WE TAKE WHAT WE WANT!".

Sure, that's reasonably something that might happen during a football game.

Now imagine what happens next. The ball is snapped, our defender fires off the line so quickly and ferociously that he catches the opposing tackle by surprise. In a flash he's past him and in the offensive backfield. A running back who stayed behind to block offers only token resistance and the defender is bearing down on a defenseless quarterback. His legs churning like pistons, he embraces the quarterback in a vice-like grip with one powerful arm and clawing at the ball in the quarterback's hands with the other, and he says softly, "Shhhhhhh, just let it happen".

Hmm...

The booster club president says the slogan has been around a long time, though. According to the Star-Telegram, the team is currently 6-2 (5-0 in District 4-6A), has won five straight games and is expected to make the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year under coach Wager. It must be working! Along with a defensive game plan that emphasizes intimidating behavior, failure to respect boundaries, maybe slipping a little "mood enhancer" into the opponents water supply, where their provocative uniforms (come on, look at those tight, shiny pants) suggest that they're practically begging to fumble the ball away or throw an interception. Come on, you know they want it.