Monday, March 30, 2009

Welcome to L'Olivier!

L'Olivier Restaurant and Cabaret is one of Ybor City's...and Tampa Bay's newest and most unique nightspots. Seriously, outside of Disney or Chuck E. Cheese, where can you find a place that offers dinner and a show anymore? Not to mention a full bar and a dessert menu.

As guests of owner Mike Edmondson and general manager Ricky Ali, I went last Thursday night and brought two companions. We didn't eat dinner there, which was probably a huge mistake because if the desserts are any indication, I'm guessing it would have been fantastic. The service was great too. Our waitress was absolutely charming. I attempted to appear cool and continental by ordering off the menu using what little I've retained from a wasted semester of French in high school, buttressed by the handful of phrases I've picked up from pop songs like "Michelle" and "Psycho Killer" and somehow managed not to offend anyone or order myself a shoe with cheese on it. Success!

You should know that most of the items on the menu are not cheap. But the quality is excellent and as I mentioned before, there's a show. Featuring singing, comedy, pyrotechnics and lots and lots of dancing, it's like a miniature Moulin Rouge right in the heart of Ybor. The cast features Amy and Dex Quijano, Ashely Clark, Megan Morgan, Derek Ostrem and Lamount Davis of Dorene Collier's Event Show Productions and L'Olivier Dancers Ana Jackson, Dani Leporino, Lynette Gryniak and Cleo Young. Most of those girls spent a lot of time flirting with me, which was nice. The time they spent flirting with the other dudes that were there was not nearly as entertaining to me, but what are you gonna do?

Believe it or not, I swear I do not have a "thing" for female impersonators. Drag queens are NOT the reason I went there that night. Ok, sure, maybe they're the reason I stayed for the second show but I just want to defend myself by saying that laying eyes for the first time on Amy DeMilo, well, it's very easy for a poor boy who grew up reading comic books that featured the likes of Wonder Woman, Sheena: Queen of the Jungle, Catwoman, etc. to become...confused. I'm just saying.
The second show also featured performances by Beverly Wilde, Natasha Richards and Felicity Lane.

Both shows were sexy but not lewd. Risque would be a good description. One of my companions is planning on going back this weekend and bringing her parents and I think that's a pretty safe proposition.

So if you're looking for a complete evening out in one place, or if you just believe there's nothing new, good or different to see in Ybor, you owe it to yourself to check this place out.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

This week's Clarketplace item

Here is this week's item:
A couple of shaving can caps - $10 (Tampa)

Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]Date: 2009-03-29, 10:06PM EDT

Here are a couple of caps from now-all-used-up cans of shaving cream. One is menthol (green) the other is regular flavor (red). These would be ideal if you and/or your child are making a display presentation about traffic lights for safety class and wanted to add a 3D kick to it! All you have to do is go out and find a yellow one (I don't even know what kind of shaving cream that would be...lemon or banana, I guess...or even if they make that kind). Could mean the difference between a B+ and an A-, which could mean the difference between USF and Princeton later in life. You never know! Or you could use them for the purpose that God intended in the first place: to safely cover the exposed tops of shaving cream cans from something heavy falling on them inadvertently from above, squirting shaving cream all over the place and creating a hazard in your bathroom, which is where most household accidents take place (except maybe the kitchen). In case you lost yours or already used them for a safety class project. Cash, checks, money orders all ok. FREE DELIVERY!

LAST WEEK'S ITEM: Amazing baseball card!
No responses. I guess too many investors went belly up in the great baseball card market crash that time their moms cleaned out the garage.

Relay wrap-up, 2009

The 2009 Temple Terrace Relay For Life is history (sort of; more on that below) and we helped raise over $130,000 to fight cancer. Thank you to everyone who contributed!

Sorry, I know I promised a detailed event summary, but no new ground was covered. At least anything with entertainment value. We celebrated, we remembered and we fought back...which is all that matters.

Now, here's good news for those of you wanted to contribute but never got around to it (or bad news for those who thought I'd shut up about it): the books aren't closing on the event until July. So you can still make your secure online donations right here. There's also a semi-permanent link posted in the sidebar over there on the right that will remain on this site until the books are finally closed out this summer (hint: Tax return!).

Thanks again!!

A short conversation at the bat home office

"Sit down, Carl. What do you have for us? How was Washington?"

"Well sir, I have bad news..."

"Hit me."

"I couldn't get them to cease and desist with the constant association of us and vampires. I tried telling them it was a degrading stereotype and very hurtful to us. Apparently it's ingrained into the culture at this point and they just wouldn't budge."

"That's disappointing, Carl. A real downer."

"The trip wasn't a total loss, sir."


"I was able to get an exclusive designation for our poop."


"From now on, it will be known as 'guano'. This is something no other species can claim."

"So...nobody can say 'bat shit' anymore?"

"Only as a modifying adjective for the word 'insane'. That's a special codicil I had built into the agreement."

"You're a genius, Carl! Good work!"

"Thank you, sir."

"Let's go drink some blood!"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The final pitch

Okay folks, Relay starts on Friday night (well, probably around 4:00PM or so) but this is it; the big event is here!! This is the last desperate plea for contributions. A dollar, two dollars, anything and everything, whatever you feel like you can give. It's all appreciated. Here's the link where you can make your secure donation today (or tomorrow or the next pressure).

PS: No wireless access available in the middle of the Greco Middle School football field (go figure!) so no live blogging, but I'll be maintaining a sort of diary which I'll publish after the fact. Cool?

PPS: Have I even invited you to come out and visit? I haven't, have I! Where are my manners?!? By all means, come out to Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace (it's on Fowler, west of 56th street) and see us! There are actually lots of fun activities and plenty of great food to enjoy. Seriously, if it sucked, I wouldn't plug it. You should definitely come out if you can. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where's a harpoon when you need one?

Today I found myself in a position where I had to interact on a professional level with someone wearing a pair of pants with little whales on them. This angered me a great deal, to the extent that I seriously considered not providing service...

HIM: Listen, I'd like to see a version of this where you break the info in the second and third paragraphs out as individual bullet points...
ME: I'm sorry...your pants. Are those...those are little whales, aren't they? Your pants are covered in little whales. What the...I can't work with you. Jesus, whales? Whales?? Are you kidding me?

I have nothing against whales. Or pants. Or even this guy, for that matter. There was something about the combination of those three things that set me on edge.
I think somebody could throw on a pair of whale pants fully aware of what a ridiculous garment it is and walk in saying, "Check it out, bitches! Pants with whales on them! What!!" and I'd be fine with that.
I'd also have no problem with the kind of people who are so un-self conscious that they're oblivious to how unintentionally ridiculous they can be. I love those people! I mean the kind of person who would say, "Huh? Whales on my pants? Oh yes, I guess there are. So what?".
I don't really know how to explain it, but I think this guy was trying to be both of those things while simultaneously trying to appear to be neither. For starters, the guy is one of those golfers. And by that, I don't mean he's someone who plays golf. There's nothing wrong with the game of golf or most people who play it. I'm talking about those guys who always look like they're ready for a game of golf to break out anywhere, any time. And the forced feigned nonchalance and complete lack of irony with which he wore the pants ("I'm going to wear these whale pants to a meeting today and I'm not going to say anything about it, and I don't expect anyone else to mention it either") was just such an exercise in being completely full of shit that it pissed me off, and sometimes I just can't handle people like that.

John Mellencamp reflects on the state of the music industry

I'm always interested when a musician shares their thoughts in regard to what's going on in their business, especially now that the old paradigms are obviously dying (or evolving, depending on whether you're the half empty or half full type). Here's what John Mellencamp had to say about it on The Huffington Post. For those who aren't inclined to read the whole thing, the gist is that he blames most of the industry's current problems on executives in charge during the late '80s and early '90s who were not only excessively greedy...

"In essence, the artists were no longer the primary concern; only keeping their stockholders fat and happy and "making the quarterly numbers" mattered; the music was an afterthought."

...but also lacked the vision to anticipate and take advantage of developing technology...

"Not understanding the possibilities, they ignorantly turned it into a nightmarish situation. The nightmare is the fact that they simply didn't know how to make it work for us."

He's definitely not a fan of the skewed ratings generated by Broadcast Data Systems (BDS) and SoundScan...

"Record companies soon discovered that because of BDS, they only needed to concentrate on about 12 radio stations; there was no longer a business rationale for working secondary markets that were soon forgotten -- despite the fact that these were the very places where rock and roll was born and thrived. Why pay attention to Louisville -- worth a comparatively few potential listeners -- when the same one spin in New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta, etc., was worth so many more potential listeners?"

He also resents and rejects the notion that artists should be expected to be more actively involved in the promotion of their music...

"These days, some people suggest that it is up to the artist to create avenues to sell the music of his own creation. In today's environment, is it realistic to expect someone to be a songwriter, recording artist, record company and the P.T. Barnum, so to speak, of his own career? Of course not."

To sum up...

"Had the industry not been decimated by a lack of vision caused by corporate bean counters obsessed with the bottom line, musicians would have been able to stick with creating music rather than trying to market it as well."

While I respect the fact that he obviously has a more informed perspective on this than I do, I'm not sure I agree with everything he says here.
He seems to want a system that is dedicated to artistic expression while simultaneously distributing product into as many ears as possible and insulating the artist from having to participate in mundane, non-creative chores. I don't think such a mechanism has ever existed, or even could. Certainly not without the artist's slice of pie shrinking, which is something I'll bet he doesn't want. Someone with whom I was discussing this suggested that "...Mellencamp is saying that art and business have to find a balance and coexist for the industry to prosper. When artists dominate, you have excess. When business dominates, you have vapid corporate pop that nobody wants. That 'sweet spot' middle ground seems to be missing." I'd say that it would be great if they could find that middle ground. We'd all benefit from it. But I think it would require both sides to behave in ways that run contrary to their nature, with the execs letting the artists make the artistic decisions (content, presentation and timing/frequency of releases) and the artists getting out there and being more accessible, available and visible. I just don't see that happening.
Mellencamp talks about the failure to recognize and react to developing technology as one of the industry's major failings. Well, I believe the artists that are embracing the new technologies, especially social media such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter, stand to benefit. The public is rapidly becoming accustomed to having increased access to and interactivity with artists. The days of putting out an album and saying "Here, now leave me alone and I'll see you again in 12 months" are over for anybody who expects to still be around in 13 months. Mellencamp suggests that it's unrealistic to expect the artist to wear so many hats, but I question that assertion. Every professional musician I've ever talked to says that you make more real money by generating your own music and selling it out of the trunk of your car yourself (so to speak) than you do with any record deal (not to mention the control you get to maintain over the ownership of your material, the value of which is hard to calculate). Lots of people are starting to use technology to do just that. The point being, there's more than just one way for an artist to "make it" now, and it's hard to see that as anything but positive. I'm not sure that would be possible if the music industry weren't in the shape it's in.
Personally, I'm kind of excited by the prospect of the old system being torn down, only because of what could potentially be re-built.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You gotta read the fine print

Say there, fella. Excuse me. You local? I'm from out of town, myself. What can you tell me about this place? Why, sure I see the sign. What's the big idea? You some kind of wise guy? Of course I can read. But it's still a little vague, that's all. I'm not sure I'm savvy. What goes on inside this establishment? Why do people come here? What does everyone do in there? What can I expect to find when I go inside? Come on pal. Help a fella out, will ya?

Hey, that sounds swell. Thanks a million, chum!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A truly special effect

I went to see "Raiders of the Lost Ark", presented by Tampa Theatre's Sunset Cinema program last Saturday night at River Tower Park. As one of the theatre's highest profile community outreach programs, it's basically impossible to find anything not to like about Sunset Cinema. Admission is free, the weather is beautiful. You bring your own food, drinks, blankets, chairs, footballs and Frisbees or whatever and you basically have everything that made going to the drive-in so much fun. You can even bring dogs. They also showcase great movies. In the case of "Raiders...", I'm sure I've seen it over 100 times at this point, more than any movie I've ever seen, but I'll still watch it every time I get a chance.
They show the movies using a rear screen projector on a huge inflatable screen. Here are pictures of it being blown up (if you scroll down slowly, you can kind of get the time lapse effect)

Glitches are an essential component of the drive-in experience. I think people almost looked forward to a little spontaneous intermission as an opportunity to honk the horn and then run to the concession stand. At our drive-in back in Michigan, it seemed like the film would break at least once every time. The projectionist would usually play the radio broadcast of the White Sox game over the speakers while he fixed the break and dad would go get pizza. Of course, with the Tampa Theatre being all grand and spectacular, you know they just had to come up with a grand and spectacular glitch.
It was a pretty windy night, with heavy gusts occasionally ripping through the park and chilling the air. During the scene where Indy is in the map room using the Staff of Ra to find the location of the Well of Souls (if you've seen the movie at least 10 times, you know what I'm talking about; if not, there's no hope for you), the screen buckled, the picture distorted and slowly started to lean backwards and toppled over. Rather than be upset, the crowd let out a huge cheer as it crashed to the ground.
As far as glitches go, this one didn't clear out the crowd like the time the sprinklers came on just as the credits started to roll after they showed "The Wizard of Oz" at Cotanchobee Park (yeah, that happened) but it was more impressive because of the sheer spectacle of it. It only took about 15 minutes to get the screen back upright again, eliciting more cheers from the crowd.
I hope they plan to show "The Dark Knight" at that location and figure out a way to get the thousands of bats that live in the Sulphur Springs water tower to make an appearance at some point...and I hope I'm there to see it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This week's Clarketplace item

Here is this week's item:
Amazing baseball card! - $10 (Tampa)
Reply to:!%20-%20$10%20(Tampa) [Errors when replying to ads?]Date: 2009-03-22, 8:17PM EDT
Thurman Munson, Rollie Fingers, Brooks Robinson, Fergie Jenkins, Dave Winfield, Mike Schmidt, Carlton Fisk, Willie Stargell, Phil Niekro and many, many more all on THE VERY SAME CARD! No pictures or stats but their names are all there. This card, labeled "Topps1975 Checklist" and numbered 126, is incredible! I don't know anything about baseball cards but I know baseball and this is a spectacular collection of hall of famers as well as some true all stars from back in the day (Tug McGraw, Dave Parker, Joe Rudi, Bobby Bonds...Barry's dad! among others). There are 131 bonafide major league baseball players listed here! If you want to read some of the great names to ever play America's pasttime (again: read, not read about, since there is no information beyond the list of names), then this is a one of a kind collectible keepsake for you! Treasure it for the rest of your life and then some day you could pass it along to a loved one as an heirloom that is sure to make them not as sad that you died. Cash, checks, money orders all ok. FREE DELIVERY!
LAST WEEK'S ITEM: Some crackers
No responses. Maybe this stuff isn't as stupid/weird/funny as I thought it would be.

State champions!

My high school alma mater, the Benton Harbor High School Tigers, won the Michigan state championship in women's basketball by defeating Livonia Franklin 60-48 on Saturday.

Basketball, both men's and women's, has always been a big deal in Benton Harbor. When I was there, some kids from other schools would rather come watch the Tigers play than watch their own team. But for whatever reason, in spite of how ridiculously talented our teams were, they couldn't seem to get past the regionals and we never won a state championship.

A state championship is a pretty big deal for Benton Harbor because there isn't a lot to celebrate there. While Benton Harbor is the home town of a handful of notable celebrities (Gene Harris and his daughter Niki, Ernie Hudson, Arte Johnson, Sinbad, Julie Krone among others), it's identity, at least since just after the middle of the 20th century, has been largely defined by poverty, racial strife and urban decay. As of the 2000 census, the median income for a household in the city was $17,471, and the median income for a family was $19,250.About 39.6% of families and 42.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 52.5% of those under age 18 and 29.7% of those age 65 or over. In August of 1966, National Guard troops were dispatched to Benton Harbor to quell race riots that began after a police shooting. In June 2003, riots broke out over two days when black motorcyclist Terrance Shurn, being chased by a mixed-race police officer, crashed into a building and died. Riots also were reported in 1960, 1967 and 1990. An excellent book that examines Benton Harbor's problems and it's relationship with middle class-to-affluent "twin city" St. Joseph is "The Other Side of the River" by Alex Kotlowitz.

So while I'm glad to not be there anymore (I've only been back to visit a couple of times in the last 20 years), I'm also very happy and proud to say I grew up there. Largely because I believe that being white and growing up in a city where the population is approximately 92% black provided an opportunity to develop a fairly unique perspective in how people from different cultures interact and I'll always appreciate that opportunity. Now I get to also be proud of and happy for the ladies who finally brought home the hardware to prove that the Tigers kick ass.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chris Brown & his hands of renown...

...will be coming back soon. Not right away, of course. he has to spend a requisite amount of time out of the spotlight before popping up on the cover of Us magazine, telling us how sorry he is and about all the contributing factors (none of which are really his fault) that led to such unfortunate circumstances and oh yeah, his new album and tour. We'll buy that magazine and the apology and the excuses and the album and the concert tickets. Because the only thing we love more than when celebrities fuck up is forgiving them and granting them second chances...presumably so they can fuck up again. Besides, all he did was beat the living daylights out of his girlfriend. Is that even a crime? If that's all OJ had done to Nicole, he'd probably have a recurring role as a wacky neighbor on "Two and a Half Men".
So look for Chris Brown's comeback soon! Not real soon but still too soon.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Alright, who dealt it?

Pass gas = fail

This story is odd for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that anybody who's ever been on a school bus full of teenagers knows that there's no way mere farts can make it smell any worse.
One can only hope the ACLU is on their way to intervene on behalf of this young man's constitutional right to freedom of, um, expression...

What's a words worth?

Wisconsin's new state slogan, is pissing some people off which is just further proof that we have been conditioned to respond by getting pissed off any time a government entity ever does anything. Sure, it's stupid, empty and utterly meaningless but so what? For one thing, nobody goes or doesn't go anywhere based on a slogan. Not one person has ever chosen to honeymoon in Virginia just because it's for lovers nor has anyone ever gone to Alabama for wonder sharing (although there probably are quite a few people who went to Colorado with the intention of entering a higher state). For another thing, we encounter stupid, empty, utterly meaningless slogans all the time and we don't even flinch. Unlike numbers, words don't seem to have the power they once did. We can't just write some numbers on a piece of paper and say "this is how much money I have" without serious consequences (this is actually a fairly recent development).
But in the case of words, you can throw out a declarative statement that says absolutely nothing, to which people can only respond by going, "umm, okay" and that's all that will happen. Here are some examples:

  • The new slogan that's created all the controversy in Wisconsin is "Live like you mean it". If I'm not already doing that, which I thought I was, I have no clue how to go about it. is the answer in Wisconsin? Do I have to go there to find out? Maybe that's what they're trying to say. Sorry, Wisconsin is a fine place but I while I like mottoes to mean something, I prefer they be slightly less cryptic than a David Lynch movie.

  • The slogan that's being replaced in Wisconsin is "Life's so good". Yeah, I see now why people are so upset. That's soooo much more meaningful.

  • The slogan for Superbowl XLIII (played here in Tampa) was "Believe in now." Like there's an argument against that. And if you wanted to refuse to acknowledge the existence of the present, how would you even do it? Think about it.

  • "It is what it is". Wow. That's really deep. I didn't know community college offered degrees in philosophy.

  • "Take it to the next level". There are 52,500,000 results for this phrase on Google. I guess it means to improve something, which is fine. My question is, why screw around with levels? Why don't we skip the next level, and the ones after that, if there are any, and go right to the top? When somebody tells me they're taking it to the next level, I don't think they're elevating their performance, I think they're demonstrating just enough incremental improvement to not be called on it. Somebody can say they're taking their alcohol abuse rehab to the next level by only getting drunk five nights a week instead of six and that would be a completely true statement.

  • The apartment complex where I live was owned by a company that had a stupid slogan posted at the entry; "Raising the level of living." Now that the company has gone El Foldo, the sign has been removed (see below; apparently, the grass isn't being watered anymore either). I'm glad because that sign always bugged me. Did they mean improving the quality of life? Because I don't really consider a yearly re-painting of the laundry room followed by going out of business and leaving the complex staff unpaid and hundreds of renters with signed leases in a state of limbo to really be steps taken to accomplish that lofty goal.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

As promised, the Lion no longer sleeps!

"I've got good news...we're putting the band back together!" --Johnny G Lyon March 17, 2009, around 8:30 or so.

And with that declaration, followed by the JGLB launching into 'Let The Good Times Roll', the Proud Lion Pub was officially back in business. Let me tell you something; these days when simple, pure joy is so hard to find, you can't do much better than being there when a man with a guitar opens his own tavern. Maybe a litter of golden retriever puppies frolicking in a meadow under a rainbow, but it's close. Johnny and his band (featuring Tommy Duncan, Ray Blade and Ben Jammin) played for the listening and dancing pleasure of what seemed like over a hundred close friends and family (seriously, I think everybody there got at least one shout-out from the too-small-and-soon-to-be-expanded stage). Johnny is one of those guys who will play until you make him stop, much to the frustration of the smokers in his band, all dying for cigarettes four songs and about 20 minutes after he promised a break. The joint was hot and sticky, funky the way it's supposed to be when a good bar band holds court. On the food and beverage side, there were free chicken wings and since it was St. Patrick's Day, lots of beer consumed to celebrate everyone's oft-ignored Irish heritage.
As far as who was there, there were a lot of people I didn't know, which is understandable being as this is a new incarnation of an old favorite, but still kind of jarring. It was kind of like when you were a kid and you'd find strangers playing in some woods that you thought only you and your friends knew about, but everybody winds up getting along anyway somehow.
People I did recognize included Mike from the kitchen, Diane behind the bar and of course, former owners Steve and Dave, who will be hanging around for a month or so to help get the place back on it's feet. I did get Steve to commit to making his homemade lasagna at least once before they ride off into the sunset again.
Of course, there's a lot of back-breaking work ahead. As I mentioned previously, that's the only way you can succeed in that business (I know virtually nothing about the bar and restaurant biz, aside from that fundamental truth. As a result, don't hold your breath waiting for the grand opening of "Clark's Place" unless you happen to look good in purple). But if they can sustain the vibe that was there last night, they're going to more than okay.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A short conversation about miracles

"Oh my God! I...I can read braille! I've never learned how but I just touched this little tiny sign and I know it says 'Exit'!"

"That's because the little tiny sign you touched is attached to the bottom of a great, big sign that says 'Exit' in great, big, red letters. There's even another sign, one that lights up, above that. It also says 'Exit'."

"What? I didn't...oh. I didn't even notice that until now. No, I read the braille sign, with my untrained fingers. This is a miracle!"

"It's not a miracle. You're an idiot."

"Why can't you just accept the fact that you're in the presence of a very special person, someone who can perform miracles, or someone to whom miracles happen? Either way, face it, I'm miraculous!"

"Because I know you. And the only thing miraculous about you is that you don't fall down more often."

"Do you think we should call the Vatican?"

Monday, March 16, 2009

We've still got time, let's get more!

I've reached my fundraising goal for this year's American Cancer Society's Relay For Life. Thank you very much!!
Since there are still 12 days before the event, and I'm pretty sure any "extra" money would come in handy somewhere, let's say we keep on pushing.
If you haven't contributed yet, or would like to do so again, here's the link where you can make secure online contributions. Like I said before, even if it's just a dollar or two, it's needed and sincerely appreciated.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

This week's Clarketplace item

Here is this week's item:

Some crackers - $10 (Tampa)
Reply to:
Date: 2009-03-15, 5:33PM EDT
I have been subsisting on nothing but saltine crackers for the last seven months. It's not something I'm proud of and I don't go around telling people. Sometimes they find out anyway, and when they do I tell them it's because of the economy. But the truth is it's because I love (well, loveD) crackers. When I'd eat soup, I'd crumble so many crackers into it that it took on the consistency of paste. Not only would a spoon stand straight up in it, you could tip a bowl completely over and not spill any. Eventually I figured out that I didn't even care about the soup so I just started eating plain crackers. I ate them all the time, every meal, every day, and snacks in between. However, today during lunch, I had a cracker in my mouth and I couldn't swallow it. I couldn't even continue to chew it. It was like my body and psyche both decided simultaneously that they've reached their absolute limit (there is probably more sodium in my hair and fingernails than in most people's entire bodies) and now I can't even think about eating them without making myself naseous. The problem is I have boxes and cartons and cases of crackers everywhere and I have to get them out of here or I will go insane. I'm spending tonight in a hotel because of them and can't afford to keep doing that (in spite of all the money I've saved by not eating anything other than crackers for more than half a year, I'm not rich). This is an excellent opportunity for somebody who is starting a soup restaurant to bolster their inventory for not a lot of cash. Or for someone who just really likes crackers (and there's nothing wrong with that, until they take over your life). Cash, checks, money orders all ok. FREE DELIVERY!
Location: Tampa
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interestsPostingID: 1076389015

LAST WEEK'S ITEM: Bucket of scalding hot water
No responses. Apparently there were no babies born outside of hospitals (don't they always need hot water for some reason?) or any sudden Earl Grey or Lemon Zinger emergencies.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Let's HOPE they're delicious

A friend shared a link to this new story earlier today. For those who are too busy to click through, here's the gist: In an effort to cash in on a hot pop culture trend, a German frozen food manufacturer has released what they're calling "Obama Fingers", which are breaded chicken tenders. The company was apparently unaware of any implied racial overtones associated with the product.
Oh, those poor, poor Germans. They just can't seem to get a grasp on the whole cultural sensitivity thing. I really don't think they intended any insult. I thought Europeans desire to emulate American culture died when Madonna stopped getting her clothes from thrift stores, but that's all they say they were trying to do. Look at the package; you got some stars and stripage there, you've got what looks like the Golden Gate Bridge, which is one of our favorite golden bridges and you've got what looks like some spearmint leaf garnishes. I'm not sure what that has to do with anything but it's all very nice imagery!
You certainly can't blame them for wanting to capitalize on Obamamania (or is it Obamania?). Cripes, every yahoo and their brother has at least one trendy Shepard Fairey (legit or parody) poster or t-shirt or bumper sticker, rendered in the now-iconic cream, red and two shades of blue color scheme. At least they showed a little restraint by not jumping on that bandwagon.
At worst, this just seems kind of dumb. But that's about it, right?
"I never heard something so offensive about a president
of a country."

That's part of a comment on the link where I found it (Facebook). To which I can only reply: Seriously?!? Never? The only way that's possible is if you were born on January 20th. Because, while I'm certainly not defending George W. Bush, if a company had come out with something called Bush Fingers and featured a picture of him on the box eating actual human fingers, covered in blood, with horns coming out of his head and laughing maniacally inside of a burning orphanage, it would hardly rate among the most offensive depictions most of us have seen (or produced) of him. Hell, I can easily think of 50 more offensive insults to Barack Obama, and I voted for him! Some people need to unbunch their pantaloons, go outside once in a while and find out what getting hurt really feels like.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The return of El Goya

"Welcome heteros, homos and freaks alike. Does that cover everybody?"

Yeah, pretty much. And with that greeting from hostess Melanie Minyon, I found myself in the audience as the cast of the legendary El Goya's drag shows reunited in Ybor City last night.
Bad news for some of those in the ultra conservative right: I am living proof that it is impossible to be turned gay. I participate in community theatre, am willing to crossdress (for a cause) and after last night...still nothing. Sorry boys.
So why was I there? Because, quite simply, the opportunity to see the North American Drag Queen in her natural habitat is a highly entertaining experience and one that should not be missed. If you've never been to a drag show (and you're not put off by bawdy, raucous spectacle for the sake of bawdy, raucous fun) you really should go. Plus, this was a historic occasion. In the early 1980s, El Goya was the first (and basically, only) gay nightclub in Ybor City, and the premiere spot of it's kind in Tampa Bay. The drag shows were immensely popular and drew audiences of all kinds to the club. But with the nature of nightclubs being what it is, El Goya didn't last forever and was no more by 1990. It went through a couple of different incarnations and is now known as Czar.
The reunion was organized by performer Stephanie Shippae' with apparently considerable support and assistance from the management of Czar. Shippae' along with Melanie Minyon, Gilda Golden, Bobbie Lake and Candy Kiss brought back the best of '80s era Ybor for a couple of hours. There were even .25 drinks! And it was an absolute blast.
All five took the stage for an opening number around 11:30. The show was supposed to start at 11, but nobody expected it to start on time. What fun would that have been? Melanie Minyon kept the crowd's attitude adjusted throughout as Gilda Golden pouted sternly, Bobbie Lake let it all (well, almost all) hang out and Candy Kiss literally brought down some of the house, as one too many spins on a sweaty stage sent her toppling into the backdrop. A temporary glitch in the sound system required Minyon to kill extended time with more banter with the audience, which, honestly, is the best part of any drag show. The genuine affection between these performers and those in attendance was evident when Stephanie Shippae' left the stage three different times during her number to hug as many people as she could reach. The show was capped with a touching and very well done tribute to Kim Ross, another El Goya performer who has since passed away. All five were in fine form and it's hard to believe they've been at this as long as they have. There were hints that while this may have been the first reunion, it's probably not the last. Here's hoping that's true!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Lion is getting ready to roar once again!

Few things I've posted here have generated as much controversy and vitriol as this post I wrote bemoaning the unfortunate and unnecessary demise of the Proud Lion Pub. I myself was accused of being a "petefile", a charge to which I plead...well, I don't really know. I'm not really fluent in Duh (I know enough to get around but that's about it)*.

Guess what, folks? The Proud Lion is back! Well, it will be. Under the leadership of none other than Johnny G Lyon and with the assistance of previous previous owners Steve and Dave, the Proud Lion will reopen just as soon as some housekeeping issues have been taken care of.
It's hard to think of a person better suited for this task than Johnny G Lyon. His JGLB has been Tampa Bay's semi-official house party band, synonomous with good times, for over 20 years. The Proud Lion has been around for over 30. Hell, the guy's name is Lyon fer Pete(file)'s sake!
If that isn't a sign, I don't known what is.

* Go ahead and post your opinion, pro, con or whatever. There are very few circumstances where I will censor any comments so feel free to let it fly, if you think that's what you want to do. Just remember the immortal words of that great philosopher, Mr. Blonde, "You kids shouldn't play so rough. Somebody's gonna start cryin'."

Monday, March 09, 2009

It was the best of times...or not

If you're the kind of great, big idiot who specializes in saying and/or doing incredibly stupid things to the extent that those incredibly stupid things overshadow anything else you accomplish professionally, and you make your living as a major league professional athlete, I guess last Thursday was a great day for you. It really, really was! Unless, you know, it wasn't. In which case, it really, really wasn't.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Introducing: Clarketplace

Welcome to a brand new feature on this blog, something I'm calling Clarketplace. Here's how it will work: Every week, I'll put some arbitrary, useless and completely stupid item up for sale on Craigslist. At the end of the week, I'll post the responses I get (if any). Hilarity may or may not ensue. Here is this week's item:

Bucket of scalding hot water - $10 (Tampa)
Reply to:

Date: 2009-03-07, 7:46PM EST
For sale: 1 large (approximately 5 gallon) yellow plastic bucket full of scalding hot water. I have no idea what you would use this for (NOTE: Seller does NOT condone scalding anybody!) but if you need it and you've been looking for it, here it is. The water IS clean, but not drinkable as it is scalding hot. You can see steam coming off of it and everything. I can't guarantee how long the water is going to be as scalding hot as it is right now (trust me: ouch!) but I suppose for an extra couple of bucks I could heat it up for you. If you'd just like a yellow plastic bucket full of lukewarm water, wait a while and if someone doesn't buy it, I'll sell it to you for $5, which is a bargain because the bucket alone is pretty nice. Cash, checks, money orders all ok. FREE DELIVERY!
Location: Tampa
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interestsPostingID: 1065069035

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Big Pitch

Okay, here it is: I need you to send me some of your money. Here's a link. Hey, thanks!

And for those of you who might need a little extra fleshing out of the background before you pull the trigger on a request like that...

As you may know, last year I was the captain of a Relay For Life team. Many of you contributed to that effort and for that I am sincerely and eternally grateful.
However, apparently cancer can't take a hint and figure out that nobody wants it around and for the sake of good taste, just put it's stupid, ugly, ill-tempered self into remission on it's own. So I'm back again, appealing for your assistance in trying to continue that fight.
I know times are tough, believe me. But if you can spare even a buck or two, well, honestly, that would be great. It's a cliche, but every little bit does help.
Here's the link where you can make a secure on-line donation. You can also find more information on Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society's signature fundraising event.
Seriously, thank you very much!

Nude Nite in Tampa

I'm not a guy who "gets" art. And I'm not saying that as a guy who really does "get" it, but pretends not to in an effort to be endearing by seeming to be smarter than he's willing to admit, because that is just as obnoxious, maybe more so, than the guy who doesn't "get" art but pretends to because he's a pretentious horse's ass. But I do enjoy attending art events and I do so as often as possible. In large part because of a teenage fixation with John Lennon, I think I'm destined to meet my exotic, avant garde artiste soulmate at one of these things. I'll walk in and she'll be sitting on a bamboo mat, stir frying a pan full of Barbie doll heads, pouring green paint on herself and chanting the lyrics to the theme song from "The Flintstones" while a blind midget wearing bifocals plays the bongos. A single tear will roll down her cheek when she gets to "One day, maybe Fred will win the fight..." and I'll go, "Ah yes! I get it! I get this!"

That probably won't happen, but I keep going anyway. Such as last Saturday when I attended Nude Nite in Tampa, accompanied by The Up-And-Coming Author. Here's what happened:
  • We got our hands stamped at the door. Fantastic. That ink NEVER comes off with one washing. Now I have to go to work tomorrow with "NUDE NITE" on the back of my hand.
  • You know, as Americans, we're never really ready to encounter naked people, regardless of the context. You can go in to an art exhibit like this knowing exactly what you're going to see, but the first time you're face-to-face (so to speak) with Hoo-Hahs and Nee-Nees, Va-Jay-Jay in the light of day-day or Herr Schwantz mit keine panz, you're going to turn into a 12-year-old and giggle at least a little bit. In this kind of setting, it's best to do this as subtly as possible and get it over with, which I think I was able to do fairly well.
  • The first, and probably most striking, exhibit we saw was a woman wearing nothing but high heels, kneepads, a black bag over her head and what can only be described as a prosthetic attachment crawling verrrrrry slowly across the floor. Probably about two feet a minute. If she's still crawling now, she's probably still in Ybor. Especially with that bag on her head. Surely she would have hit a wall or something. Unless the apparatus was a GPS.
  • I was a little disappointed there weren't more artists there. I saw some very cool artwork (especially some of the photography) and would have liked to have talked to the people behind it.
  • There was a performance by a Fosse-esque dance troupe. I'm not sure why, but I actually kind of expected that.
  • I had the chance to try naked sushi. But at $6 for two pieces (plus a glass of wine) it was out of my budget. Plus, it would have been just my luck that the specific kind of sushi I wanted would have been very strategically placed. I would have taken it and the model would have rolled her eyes and said, "yeah, you just had to have that one."
  • Many of Tampa's most beautiful people were there. The Up-And-Coming Author made the observation that guys can show up anywhere dressed like slobs and women are expected to get dressed to the nines. I pointed out to her that there was a carnival taking place up the street in the Gaybor district where many of the men were far more dolled up than any women here.
  • In the presence of all the nakedity, I couldn't stop thinking of the showgirl in the feathers we saw when we passed L'Olivier Restaurant & Cabaret on the way to the exhibit. Great googly moogly! OVERRATED: Nudity UNDERRATED: A costume made entirely of big white feathers. I wonder if she's an avant garde artiste...?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Another new musician for you!

I'm beginning to think it's entirely possible I just have a thing for women who play the guitar (exhibits A and B). That, or it's just a coincidence that I've recently discovered so many talented musicians who just happen to be female guitarists. Either way, it's always exciting and rewarding to find a new artist and explore their music. My latest find (and I'm not saying that like I'm Clive Davis, although that would be awesome) is Rebecca Zapen, who performed at Tres Amici on my birthday (and I'm not saying that like she was booked to perform for my birthday, although that would be awesome as well).
Rebecca is originally from the Jacksonville area but now calls the Tampa Bay area home, where she is working on her fourth album. Here are Rebecca's answers to some questions I asked her regarding her music and her thoughts on the Tampa Bay arts "scene"...

ME (my blog, I get to be in bold and italics): I know you're originally from Jacksonville. What brought you to the Tampa Bay area?

HER: I am engaged to jazz pianist Jeremy Douglass, of St Petersburg. When we were courting long-distance and realized it was serious, we recognized that one of us would need to move. Both of us were well-established musicians in our respective cities so it could have gone either way. I have visited many cities, but none of them ever beckoned to me the way St Pete did. I'd always said that I would only move for one of three reasons: love, education or a job. A big love will make you do big things.

ME: What, if anything, had you heard about the local arts "scene", especially in regards to music, before you got here?

HER: I hadn't really heard anything prior to playing here. I'd played a dance hall gig for Swing Time at Centro Asturiano years ago, and it was a phenomenal experience, but I knew nothing about the "scene". It wasn't until Stephanie Carpenter, who was hosting Girls With Guitars at the Whistle Stop Grill, invited me to come down last summer that I was again exposed to the Bay's scene. I was amazed at the response and receptiveness of the audiences in terms of being great listeners and their interest in my albums. In my first two visits to the Bay area in 2008, I had performed at Whistle Stop Grill, WMNF, The Globe, and Skippers Smokehouse. I was hooked, and in love, so make that doubly hooked.

ME: And now that you're here, is it better, worse or about what you expected?

HER: It's at least as good as I expected, and in ways, better. Considering the economic concerns we all live with, I feel very grateful that Jeremy and I are able to make our living as musicians. I have been able to play at a number of venues in the area, but still have so much more to learn about the area, and its venues and performers.

ME: What do you hope to accomplish for yourself as an artist here?

HER: Back in Jacksonville, I found myself wearing three main musical "hats": classical violinist, jazz vocalist/violinist, and songwriter (in addition to other freelance work such as regional orchestral work, playing in hospitals and care facilities, recording sessions, and private violin instruction). I want to utilize my versatility as a multi-instrumentalist who plays in the classical, jazz, and folk genres. As a songwriter, I want to find my audience that is touched by the mellow, quirky songs I write (one listener called it Existential Folk), and be a supporter of my fellow musicians.

ME (apparently "scene" obsessed, for some reason): How important is it for an artist to be part of a "scene" or "movement"?

HER: Some people can work in a solitary fashion, but I am more of a social creature. I gain great strength in my friendships with fellow musicians and fans. We can encourage each other when we have doubts or lack motivation, can recommend venues and opportunities to one another, and of course inspire each other through our music either as listeners or collaborators.

ME: (standard music interview question) Who would you say has influenced you as an artist?

Classical music was my only influence until I was 11, when some Billy Joel slipped through the cracks as I carpooled to ballet class. So I would say my classical musician parents are a big influence. In high school I listened a lot to The Roches, The Beatles, and Simon & Garfunkel, and that cemented my love of harmony. In college, while majoring in music and biology, I had my first exposure to jazz, and specifically bossa nova. Even when I'm writing a 'folk' song, it could easily be a bossa nova with altered chords. Other artists that have influenced me are Antonio Carlos Jobim, Suzanne Vega, Stephane Grappelli, and Jonathan Richman.

ME: You write your own songs, handle the musical arrangements, produce your own albums and you play several instruments, while I have to consult the instructions before opening a jar of mustard, yet I don't hate you. Why is that?

HER: I'm with you on the jar of mustard. You'd think I'd have a better grip. As for why you like me? First, thank you for that. I think that my music comes from an honest place. I'm not afraid to share my feelings and experiences. I'm also open to being silly with my music as well. In "Japanese Bathhouse" I sing about feeling ogled by the other ladies in a Japanese bathhouse. You can see my silliness in some of my music videos too, such as "Smile", "I Have A Little Dreidel", and "We Didn't Bother".

ME: Anything else you'd like to get out there?

HER: If this is published in time, I'd like to encourage Tampa Bay area music lovers to come out March 8th to the Whistle Stop (Safety Harbor) where I'll open for Maine songstress Emilia Dahlin. I also want to mention I'll be recording my 4th album in the coming months, which should be completed by the end of the year. Also, I just want to say thanks for interviewing me. I'm glad our paths crossed at Tre Amici.

Learn more about Rebecca, and listen to her music at her official web site!