Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Life in the post-eclipsealyptic wasteland

It's over. The great eclipse of 2017 is finished. A time when we all put aside whatever it was that was pissing us off to go outside and look at the sky together for a few minutes and say, "hey, that's pretty cool".

What remains now are questions.
What can we do to make sure this never happens again in seven years? Sure, we can (and probably will) blow up the moon, something that would probably have no immediately-known negative consequences.
Cool! Everyone lives at the beach!

But that doesn't answer the other question: what do we do now? Specifically, how do we unheal? How do we get back to a place where literally everything and everybody gets on our nerves? A place where you would never answer the question, "can I look through your glasses for a minute?" without hesitation, if not flat-out denial.
The good news is it's already begun. Within minutes of the event's conclusion, many people were already going about the business of rebuilding their lives and returning to normalcy, thanks in large part to President Trump...

  • "What an idiot! He deserves to go blind!"
  • "Out of context! Fake news!" (also, "This proves science doesn't know anything; you can do anything you want without oppressive so-called 'safety equipment'!")
The point isn't what side people would take, the point is people took sides! They weren't too damaged by what the eclipse hath wrought to argue over stupid shit. And if they can find their way back, then we can too. All we have to do is not work together, and we can make it happen again still!

A world where people wouldn't dream of taking a few minutes to enjoy an experience with other people who don't look and think exactly like them: it's not only possible, it's likely.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Indy film re-boot

Lots of classic movies are being re-booted all the time. They're either crass, unimaginative attempts to cash in easily because familiar story lines resonate immediately with fans, or they're made to bring these stories and characters into more modern and relevant settings. Or both. Regardless, one beloved franchise is due to be re-done in a more edgy, dark and gritty fashion is the Indiana Jones saga. And now is the perfect time to bring the roguish Nazi-battling archaeologist kicking and screaming into the current age (and played by Idris Elba). I can see it all now...

Indy is briefed on the situation by a couple of shadowy men from the government...
Major Eaton: Doctor Jones, we've heard a lot about you.
Indiana: Have you?
Major Eaton: Professor of Archeology, expert on modern race relations, and how does one say it... black guy.
Indiana: That's one way of saying it. Why don't you sit down, you'll be more comfortable.
Colonel Musgrove: Yes, you're a man of many talents. Now, Doctor Jones, you must understand that this is all completely confidential.
Indiana: I understand.
Major Eaton: You see, for the last eight months, the Nazis have had teams of archaeologists running around the world looking for all sorts of covfefe. Trump's a nut on the subject. He's crazy. He's obsessed with tacky shit. And right now, apparently, there is some kind of alt-right archaeological dig going on in Charlottesville.
Colonel Musgrove: Now, we have some information here, but we can't make anything out of it and maybe you can. "This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in. That's why we voted for Donald Trump. David Duke, US."
Indiana: The Nazis have discovered anus!
Major Eaton: Now just what does that mean to you... 'Anus'?
Indiana: Sorry, I meant asshole. David Duke is a racist asshole. He's the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and he tried to run for president in 1988 and 1992. He's resurfaced and is staking a a desperate attempt to reclaim relevance.
Colonel Musgrove: Seriously? President? Like, of the United States? Twice??
Indiana: Shit's been crazy since long before 2016, man.

Indiana needs his bullwhip to swing across a chasm...
Indiana: Give me the whip.
Satipo: Throw me the idol.
[they both see a stone door closing]
Satipo: No time to argue! Throw me idol, I'll throw you the whip!
Indiana: [throws the idol] Give me the whip!
Satipo: [drops the whip] I refuse to participate in the perpetuation of cruel and inhumane treatment of a marginalized culture by giving a black man the whip.
Indiana: No, no! I'm asking you to give it to me as a symbolic gesture. This would be me reclaiming power by acquiring an instrument traditionally associated with inflicting pain and suffering used against me and my culture.
Satipo: Oh. I can dig that. [picks up whip and throws it to Indiana]
[stone door slams shut]
Indiana: Well, shit.

Indy is walking the streets of Charlottesville with his girlfriend Marion and her pet monkey...
Indiana: Do we need the monkey?
Marion: I'm surprised at you. Talking that way about our baby. He's got your looks, too.
Indiana: ...
Marion: Oh god, I'm sorry! I wasn't thinking! I'm so sorry! I just meant...
Indiana: (sighs) Don't worry about it.

Indy encounters a UVA college student...
Student: I can only say I'm sorry so many times.
Indiana: Well, say it again anyway!
Student: Sorry.

Marion accidentally clicks on a link to Breitbart.com ...
Indiana: Marion, don't look at it. Shut your eyes, Marion. Don't look at it, no matter what happens!

A mechanic discovers Indy attempting to sneak aboard a Nazi plane...
Mechanic: [to Indy, in German] Hey, thin man! Come here! Come here! Come here! Come on, fight! Boy, come down! Down now!
[Indy turns and the mechanic sees his face]
Mechanic: [to Indy, in English] Whoa! Hold on, bro. It's cool. I didn't realize... We're cool. We're cool.

Indy finds himself face-to-face with Trump...
Trump: You and I are very much alike. Racial division is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.

Indiana: Fuck you! I have a white girlfriend!



This, plus lots of scenes featuring Indy punching various Nazis.
Yeah, I'd watch this.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Condole? Can do!

A friend recently lost someone (they died) and I have been seeing people express their sympathies on Facebook, where I've learned some things about how to and how not to do that, funky-fresh for the 2017s-style. Think this is a difficult position to be in? Think about yourself and how hard this is for you!

  • Don't LOL - If you know what 'LOL' stands for, you probably already know you shouldn't do it. If you don't know what it stands for, you still shouldn't do it.
  • Maximize the minimization - Your friend feels bad, because they're burdened by overwhelming grief and sadness. Of course you don't want that. You want your friend to feel good, and the way you do that is by minimizing their grief and sadness. Take it down a notch! Helpfully remind them of things that they may have forgotten, such as "death is part of life", "he/she is in a better place" and "God has a plan". Don't be harsh in pointing these things out; they might have just slipped their mind. 
  • Make sure everyone knows how you feel - You want to relate to your friend in this situation. Establish common ground by telling a story about how you knew someone else who died once and how sad you were and how that means you know exactly how your friend feels. Don't be afraid to dig deep (side note: try to avoid metaphors like 'dig deep' when possible) to find common ground (side note: maybe avoid mentioning 'ground', while you're at it). If their mom died and yours is still alive, tell them that you knew somebody once who had a mom but that was a long time ago and she's probably dead by now (you've lost touch over the years) and even if she might not be dead, just the idea that it is likely true has affected you profoundly, because that's how deeply you feel things.
  • Don't waste an opportunity - When you post on a social media platform like Facebook, you have to think of it as posting to the entire world, because that's how pervasive the reach is. With that in mind, it would be downright silly to not let folks know what side projects you have going on, even as your friend deals with the aftermath of a loved one's absence from their life: "I'll miss (person who died) and I'm very sorry (he/she) didn't live long enough to read the new book I'm writing that will be available on Amazon as well as several local, independent book stores in the Tampa Bay area. I know (person who died) would have wanted it that way, and by 'it' I mean global distribution via the world's leading on-line retailer while also supporting local 'niche' merchants."
  • Go big - Try not to be the first one to express your condolences because there's a lot of pressure that comes from setting the bar and you don't need that in a time like this. Wait until a few people weigh and then be better than them. If someone says "You have my sympathies", say "You have my deepest sympathies". If they say, "I know this is a difficult time", say "I know this is an extremely difficult time". Adjectives will be tremendously helpful but be judicious; avoid extreme modifiers unless circumstances warrant. Somebody's 91-year-old grandfather passing away peacefully in his sleep might qualify as "tragic" but probably not "horrific".
  • Be inclusive - Kind of along the same lines as the previous bullet point: If someone says "I'm holding you in my heart", say "I'm holding you and your family in my heart". This is a great way to earn points with cousins and other outliers. If someone says "You are in my thoughts", say "You are in my thoughts and prayers". A great philosopher (I don't recall the name) once posed the fundamental question, "Conjunction Junction, what's your function?" Think about it.
  • Spelling matters - It doesn't matter how casually you normally regard spelling and grammar; a situation like this requires that you buckle down and do it the right way for a change. Don't say "I'm sorry for your lost" because that doesn't make sense and it doesn't matter how sincere your condolences are, nobody wants to hear from a dumbass when they're trying to deal with a lost. 
  • Don't say "I'm sorry" - It's trite. Plus, why would you apologize? It's not your fault. Unless it is, in which case it's probably best that you not say anything at all. Until you talk to a lawyer, at least.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Writer: blocked

I had to buy some stool softener the other day.
Assuming I didn't just lose everybody under what I completely understand could be construed as an imminent threat of incoming TMI, let me offer assurances that this will not be a crude, graphic post about poop.

Listen, I'm getting older and certain bodily functions need a boost sometimes. It's nature, that's all. But like so many things in life, natural or otherwise, necessary or not, it's an avenue that is fraught with peril.

For starters, once I was presented with the obvious evidence that led to an immediate, successful and unfortunate self-diagnoses, I had to do research. What is the difference between a laxative and a stool softener and which one would best suit my needs?

Again, I don't need to give you graphic details but it was immediately apparent from what I read on-line that the stool softener presented the best plan of action.

Off to the drug store I went, where I was confronted with more questions.
How soon would it start to work? What if I took too much at the wrong time of day. I had visions of Turbo-laxing myself, producing results too immediately. A sudden gurgling from down below telling me I shouldn't have taken a fast-acting remedy before getting in my car. The key question being, where do you want to be when your stool softener starts to work?  Or, more accurately, where do you NOT want to be?
This requires using math and a clock to back into an optimal time to take the medicine. The instructions said to expect results in eight to twelve hours. That four hour margin makes a big difference. I decided to take it when I got home from work, expecting it to kick in during the middle of the night rather than chance that happening while I was at work. And also hoping that I wouldn't be experiencing an especially sound sleep that night.

Second, and only slightly less important, you don't want to go up to the register with just that. I decided to enlist the strategy I used when I was a teenager, trying to buy porn at a convenience store...
"Yes, let's see, I'll have this bag of potato chips, these two bottles of root beer, and if you could get me a comb, this month's issue of Juggs magazine, some baby aspirin and a pine-scented air freshener for my car, I'll be all set, thanks."
"Huh? Juggs magazine? No, clearly I said Jet magazine. Yes, that makes much more sense, since I'm a white 16-year-old male. Ha ha! Okay, can I leave now?"

It didn't work then, I didn't expect it to work now. Still, I didn't want to walk up to the cashier with my bottle of poop plunger (I'm so sorry) and nothing else, like there's nothing else going on in my life at the moment, even though that's an accurate assessment. Because when you want to go and you can't, well, everything else kind of takes a back seat (again, I am so very sorry).

I'm fine now; the product worked as advertised and without embarrassing incident which is a huge relief on a number of levels. Now I just have to live with the internal stigma that comes from the fact that I'm a person who has used stool softener.

Friday, July 28, 2017

This, yet again, one more time (until next year etc.)

Isn't voting so much fun that you wish you could do it more often than every three or four years or whatever it is?
It is, you do and YOU CAN!

Creative Loafing's annual "Best Of The Bay" polls are now open..."It's time to vote for the tastiest restaurants, the baddest local bands, the politicians who inspire and infuriate you — even for your favorite acupuncturist. Now in its 27th year, Creative Loafing’s Best Of The Bay has long been a local institution, but it’s one that always depends on you. You suggested the categories, you submitted the nominations, and now you’ll decide who wins. Your voice, your choice."
Once again, this blog (actually, me as the blogger of the blog) is nominated. It has never won. A blog now in its 12th year has never won a BOTB. Not that longevity merits a "Best of" award, but I'm going to pretend that it does so I'm asking that if you vote (and of course, you don't have to), please vote for it (me) as "Best Local Blogger". It's located under the "People, Places, Politics" tab.

While you're at it, please consider slinging votes (follow the rules and DON'T CHEAT!) at a couple of other things in which I have vested interests:

  • "The Spike On The Mic Show" - nominated as both "Best Local Podcast" and "Best Local Internet Radio Show".
  • Vivienne Brown - nominated as "Best Local Actress" (under the "Arts and Entertainment" tab) Because she was just great as The Amazing Desdemona.
  • Me - nominated as "Best Local Stand-Up Comic" (also under "Arts and Entertainment"tab). I won't mind if you don't do this one because I already won it two years ago. SERIOUSLY!  I'm only mentioning it because, well, I am nominated and if I won it again, that would be kind of cool. But I don't need to win it like the blog (me) needs to win, so by all means, go ahead and vote for someone who is not me. There are lots of very good, award deserving comics nominated. Besides, as I have been told, it's just a meaningless token from an irrelevant popularity contest (until you get one, when it suddenly becomes a relevant achievement and you slap a mention of it on every piece of promotional material that bears your name after inciting your followers to send death threats to a previous winner). Oh well. As FDR once said, "Haters gonna hate, voters gonna vote".

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

(Last) Christmas in (this) July!

Jeff Vinik, the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team for whom I work, gets a lot of attention for his philanthropic efforts in the Tampa Bay community. One of the things he does that doesn't get any attention (because it's a low-key, in-house staff initiative) is he authorizes an amount of cash to be made available to each Lightning employee, who is then allowed to go out and spend that cash on some charitable endeavor of their choosing. Theoretically, you could take that cash and just drop the whole lump sum in the first donation kettle you come across. Or you can choose to do something more elaborate. Whatever you want. The organization doesn't scrutinize you, trusting each individual to honor the spirit of the endeavor.

I tend to skew toward the elaborate because that's much more fun.

So for the third year in a row, I enlisted the help of shopping expert Lynne Austin and we invaded a dollar store in search of items to help The Volunteer Way, a non-profit agency that helps people in need in Port Richey. brought along our mutual friend Kelly to document the proceedings (she also edited the finished product, which she just finished yesterday and is why this is just coming out now).

And here's how that went down...

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Billy's Brain is almost Bad enough

We're getting close to living in a world where everyone can watch Tony Gaud's film, "Billy's Got a Bad Brain"! In 86 days (on October 15) the film will premiere at a gala event to be held at the Tampa Improv. In 100 days, on Halloween (October 31), it'll be available to stream everywhere.
It's a horror-comedy, shot entirely here in the Tampa Bay area with a cast and crew comprised of all local actors, most of whom are stand-up comedians.
Here's the link to our IMDB page with a full list of cast and crew.
And here's the link to purchase tickets ($10) for the premiere event at the Improv.
And here's the link to the special episode of The Spike On The Mic Show where we interviewed many of the people involved in making the film.
More to come as we get closer to the big date(s)!!