Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest Author: Tara Shrodes

Today's post (and the last for Guest Author Month) is from Tara Shrodes of Clique Clack.com, the online home of "TV Episode & Movie Reviews - Unique Recipes - Snarky Commentary - Deviant Thoughts". Here's her bio from there: "I have a long history in television and radio, writing and performing. In 1991, I won a Michigan Emmy Award for Comedy Acting. Emmy's wing broke off during a move. But I still love her. We all have our flaws." You can check out her various 'clacks' here and follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/tarashrodes. And in the meantime, check out her review of the classic musical "West Side Story" she shares with us here...



Earlier this month, Turner Classic Movies hosted a special nationwide screening of my favorite musical, "West Side Story", in celebration of the fiftieth year of its' release. I've never seen it on the big screen before, so when an alert and thoughtful friend sent me a link telling me about it? You better believe I circled the ninth in red on my calendar. (That was a lie. I lead a quiet life, and don't really write things on a calendar. I'm more of a list making person. But you get the gist.)


Having put my poor husband through at least 23 television viewings of WSS in the past seventeen years, I wasn't surprised when I told him about the upcoming extravaganza and he looked as if he was passing a kidney stone. I was quick to reassure him that I'd find a victim ... I mean someone to go with, or heck even just have myself for company. (I do not understand people who have problems going to movies alone.) He was super relieved, and did remind me gently that Tony would indeed die this time too, only about 30 feet larger than I'd seen him die before. (I've jokingly asked him during each time I've forced this on him ... "Do you think maybe this one time Chino won't kill Tony? Do you think maybe this one time Tony and Maria can hop a bus to Somewhere and be OK?") Sigh.


So, I picked up the phone and called an old friend I used to work with in Detroit Public Television back in the day. I knew this woman would jump all over going to this flick with me if the date wasn't already taken, and happily I was right. We agreed to meet for a light dinner beforehand, as I stressed I needed a huge tub o' popcorn to fully enjoy the experience.


Turner Classic Movies did a bang up job of making sure you could find the theater with a showing closest to you on the big day. All you had to do was type in your zipcode, and Pow! Wacko Jacko! Down goes a teenage hoodlum! (And by this I mean a screen popped up telling you exactly where to go.) Thanks, Daddio!


Still my friend Marty and I found ourselves phoning each other and lost on the way to the restaurant. I was there a bit earlier than she, so I snapped some pics of the foreboding clouds.



The weather was definitely doomishly perfect, considering Tony and Maria's fate. You'd want to see this movie on a night like this. The arrow in the picture below is pointing the way to the AMC 30; a short drive from the diner where we ate. (I had the spinach salad.)


Are you getting excited? Am I building you up for the Big Show? Are you humming "When You're a Jet" yet?


So! After visiting the ladie's, Marty went for seats and I went for my Big Tub O' Popcorn. Here's a pic of my ticket stub while we wait in line.


Yep. Twelve smackeroos. And fiddy cents. I didn't bat an eyelash though. It's a small price to pay for Leonard Bernstein cranked up to eleven, and Steven Sondheim lyrics swirling around the theater. Small potatoes!


Not so for my Tub O'Corn though. I must not have been to a movie in eons. (It has been eons, as I can't even remember what I saw, and it was most certainly at a matinee.) But when the pimply faced kid behind the counter told me that I owed him $13.25 for my Coke and popcorn, I almost skivved him like Bernado did Riff. Much to the impatience of the hungry movie-goers behind me, I declared my own personal rumble on the management of the theater, who obviously thinks that charging $7.25 for a soda fountain drink that costs at most a quarter to pour, is fair. But the clock was ticking, and this is one of my favorite films, so I took a deep breath and put extra butter on my tub. (Hey! I told you I only had a salad!) And I headed to find Marty in Theatre Seven.


Marty was about two thirds of the way up, on the right almost to the end. I'd tried to talk her into one of the first ten rows, but her neck bothers her. I was square with that. Hell, who cares as long as I've got Tonight, Tonight? Right? So, I threw my coat around me like a blankie and settled in.


After the lights went down, TCM showed a long bit with host Robert Osborne on the making of the movie, with guests George Chakiras (Bernardo), Marnie Nixon (the singing voice of Natalie Wood) and one of the producers who I shall call Ancient Old Man. Marty and I (remember I told you we both worked in television together) agreed afterward that this half hour bullshit could have used a good editor. It was also waaaay disrespectful to Natalie Wood (God rest her soul) who Ancient Old Man and Marnie just trashed for being angry that her own singing voice was not used. I mean they went on and on about it. Hey! That was part of her deal with the studio (not written but implied). I would have been pissed too! Thank goodness George Chakiras spoke up for her and pointed out what a truly lovely performance she gave in this film. Classy move, George. (He himself won an Oscar for playing Bernado.)


I won't go into the play by play of the movie. Hopefully you know it, or I do believe I lost you about four paragraphs ago. Let's just say that my thoughtful friend who told me of the screening in the first place, asked me why I love WSS so much. And I have to say? It's a culmination of reasons. First and foremost; the casting is perfect. To this day, I cannot see Richard Beymer as anything but Tony, and every other Tony just isn't Richard Beymer! (When I first saw the film I was about 13, and I was in looooove with Tony. So imagine the first time I saw Chino shoot him! Crushed! See above conversation with husband.)


The direction is amazing in West Side as well. There were two directors and alot of bullshit in between, but Robert Wise gets most of the credit. (Jerome Robbins got fired midway through production, but was responsible for filming and choreogphing all but two of the musical numbers. He received a special Oscar.) The lights and shadows. The placing of the actors, just so (sometimes with symbols in the background.) The difficulty of filming the live dance routines and doing them justice! Wow!


And of course, the most obvious. The score. With lyrics by a very young Steven Sondheim (who must be a genius to ome up with words like this in his 20's), and music by Leonard Bernstein (one of my personal idols) the soundtrack to this film is hand in glove with the story. It's seemless. It's priceless. It's one of the best marriages of images and sound and words that you will ever see.


Ever.


And it's funny in parts too. (Take the songs "America" or "Officer Krupke" for examples.) I really loved the fact that my 300 plus seat theater was packed. Only a few empty seats. And with people of all ages; from 8 to 80. We cheered at the end of each song. There were audible sniffles at several of the swoony Tony and Maria moments. The only part that sucked was when Tony was dying in Maria's arms and some clown says out loud, "Just take him to the hospital!" Assmonkey.


Although everyone shushed him and all was well for Natalie's big scene at the end. How fantastic was she? I still get chills thinking about it. "How many bulletts are in this gun, Chino? Enough for you? And you? All of you!" Heavy sigh.


I guess the biggest thing I love about WSS has got to be Tony and Maria. Their relationship is just so perfect and tragic and sad and lovely and ... doomed. Appeals to the romantic in me.


And I wish? (Aside from the fact that just once Tony wouldn't die?)That TCM would sponsor old movies on the big screen on a regular basis. After all, it's the way they're meant to be seen!


Thanks for the space to rant, Clark!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Author: Mike Lortz

Our next writer is a stand-up comedian, so let's do a stand-up comedian-style intro, shall we?

Ladies and gentlemen, you might know our next performer from his sportswriting at "Bus Leagues Baseball"and "RaysIndex", or you might know him from his own web site "MikeLortz.com/JordiScrubbings.com" or maybe you've seen him on stage at the Tampa Improv or cavorting about town as his afro-ed alter-ego Jordi Scrubbings. You may even remember him from his guest spot on this very web site a year ago. Or it's entirely possible you're not familiar with him at all. Either way, let's keep it going right now for Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike Lortz!

The Inconsistent Value of Fries and Drink



As always, it’s an honor to be here among other great writers. I’d like to thank the academy, my co-stars, and my writers (oops!). And of course, thanks to Clark for hosting this great bloggeration mixtape. Every year I find new voices here and this year is no different.


Speaking of no different, last year I used this forum to voice a complaint on a situation that had been bugging me for years. For those who forgot, or who weren’t around, last year I spouted off on the insane amount of letter labels I receive in the mail from charities. I even created a new word: “free-tionary”. It hasn’t caught on yet, but I’m still using it.


This year, I’d like to again get on my soapbox about something that has bugged me for a while. One of those societal peccadilloes that make no sense on the surface and make even less sense the more you investigate. One of those things most of us face regularly without even knowing about it.


A little bit about me, I am fast food restaurant addict. I’m single and typically too lazy to cook, so I go to fast food restaurants at least once a week. This is different from a fast food addict. I eat healthy, I just do it at McDonalds, Wendys, and Subway. I’m a grilled chicken sandwich junkie. And of course, I always get a value meal. I know fries are terrible and sweet tea is liquid crack, but I gotta get both. Not getting a drink and fries with a sandwich is like eating cereal with no milk, drinking kool-aid with no sugar, eating peanut butter with no jelly, and eating ham with no burger.


But what really tweaks my melon is when the price of these valuable extras varies between meals at the same restaurant. It’s true. Sometimes the value in the value meal is different per meal. Most people don’t realize this as they use value meals as convenience more so than for a true value.


Confused yet?


I recently toured a McDonalds, a Burger King, and a Wendys on Kennedy Ave in Tampa. I figured proving my theory would be best at fast food joints on one of Tampa’s most highly trafficked road. Here is what I found:


First, some insight on my methodology. Because of its average size between small and large, I decided to set “medium” as the basis of my cross-restaurant comparison. Disclaimer: I didn’t get picky and measure ounces.


At McDonalds, value meals come with a medium size drink and fries. Those components individually cost $2.19 for the fries and $1.99 for the drink, totaling $4.18. For some insane reason, McDonalds has the greatest price variance for these components in their meals. For example, if you order a Big Mac meal, the price is $5.99. The sandwich by itself is $3.29. That’s $2.70 for the fries and drink. That price is consistent for the ¼ pounder with cheese as well.


However, if you order the “two cheeseburger” value meal, you will pay .80 cents more for the same fries and drink. One cheeseburger costs $.99, two cost $1.98, and yet the meal with medium fries and a drink costs $5.49. That’s $3.51 for the fries and drink.


How does that make any sense?


Down the road at Burger King, things are little less varied. A medium drink and a medium fries costs $3.84. Unlike McDonalds however, Burger King sets their defaults to small and medium costs 50 cents extra. But there is still variance for the same product. For example, a Whopper costs $3.49 individually and $5.99 with a medium drink and medium fries. That’s $2.50 for the value part of the meal.


However, if you order the 10 piece chicken nugget you pay more for the medium drink and medium fries. A 10 piece nugget box by itself is $2.69 and the meal is $5.49. That’s $2.80.


How does that make sense? Where did the additional 30 cent cost come from?


At least things are more normal at Wendys. There a medium drink costs $1.99 and a medium fries costs $1.99. That’s between the price of Mickey Ds and the King. But where Wendys gets credit is in its value pricing. Like Burger King, Wendys sets their default to small, and upgrading to medium is additional 69 cents. But every medium sized combo is $2.69, regardless of the meal. It doesn’t vary from chicken to burger to salad to anything else.


So cheers to Wendys for being consistent with their product prices. Even though the nine usually makes you have to carry a number or two, you can sorta kinda do the math in your head.


And as Andy Rooney used to say, I like that.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A second helping from Guest Author: Tanya Doyle

Tanya submitted two pieces and I liked them both and wanted to use them both. But I had a problem figuring out how to do that and be fair to other writers. Then it hit me: I'd let her have the day after Thanksgiving! I think it's a slightly less primo spot than other days because with everything going on, I don't expect to get a lot of traffic today. This way, I can use her second submission (scroll down to read her forst one) and not stick another wrtiter here in the "leftovers" slot. Of course, that's not to say that if you're here and reading this that I think any less of you. Quite the contrary; I think you're great and I love you! Same goes for Tanya. And leftovers, for that matter. You're ALL equally delicious! So enjoy!  

I devote a lot of brainpower to completely useless thought. The types of thoughts that roam around my brain range from the completely irrelevant to the utterly practical. The problem is that they all seem to occur at the same time. Random stuff like “Why don’t we gain weight in our lips?” or “Am I going bald?” or “Look at all the seams in this carpet…somebody did a bad job” is overlayed with the regular “gotta get it done” variety of mental activity. You know, the checklists, tasks, and prolonged activities that help us get our kids off to school, ourselves off to work, and our paychecks off to the bank. I’m fairly aware of the jumbled processing going on up there, and most of the time I like my mind just the way it is. But I’ve wondered to myself if this constant flurry of activity is what everyone else experiences.

ADHD runs in my family. Big time. Doctors have told me that I meet the DSM requirements for this diagnosis, but still I wonder. I did well in school, I’ve never had problems with authority, and I’ve been happily married for 17 years. Doesn’t sound like ADHD to me. So I googled ADHD to see what I could find out. There’s plenty out there to be found…for males. Not so much for females. I managed to find a few sources that note differences in the way ADHD manifests itself in girls. Some of the signs are:
· Intense studiousness – as a way to compensate for inattentiveness (ie. spending more hours than average to keep up good grades)

· Hypercritical of self
· Difficulty fitting in with peers
· Anxiety
· Hyper-talkative
· Emotionally hyperactive

Check, check, and check. Really? Me? Still not sold. How is it that I’ve managed so well to date? I know I’m not perfect (far from it), but I’m happy and healthy , with a good family and a roof over my head. All measures of a successful life, in my book. Well, it turns out, the plus of being a female with ADHD is that the higher functioning executive skills that seem to be a problem for males is not so much of a problem for females. So things like planning ahead, organization, and follow-through are less of a challenge. Hmm. Interesting.

Out of curiosity (or perhaps medical necessity), I started medication, and sure enough, I saw a difference. The areas where I saw a difference are what were fascinating to me. Biggest difference: I stopped surfing the net. Or at least dramatically cut down. I’ve come to realize that the World Wide Web is this attention-deficit person’s drug of choice. It calls me to me, promising all that my wondering mind can think up. That feeling of constantly wanting to “google” waned. It was noticeable. And liberating.

The other area where I noticed a difference was in my tendency to dwell, a common trait of my people (yes, I’m embracing it now). All the thoughts that would linger and grow out of proportion no longer festered. I was conscious of all the same old triggers, but like a door that slams shut, my mind no longer went there. I was able to perceive more realistically, process, and move on.

My stint on medication only lasted a few months. Those drugs are expensive, and I didn’t see enough benefits to outweigh the costs (monetary and physical). That first day off, I cried for a solid two hours. Over ridiculous stuff. It was as if all my craziness had been stomping at the gate, building up, just waiting for the medication to wear off. Even as I was crying my eyes out, I knew I was being comical. So I let the tears roll and then picked myself up and got back to work.

Side note: one should always work from home on days when one plans to go off one’s medication.

By the next day, I was back on the internet.

And now I know that this bombardment of thoughts isn’t necessarily what everyone else experiences. There are times when I wish for that quick fix that the medication provided. It’s definitely a calmer state of mind. But for the most part, I enjoy my random mind and all the entertainment it brings me.

http://www.ncgiadd.org/pdf/GirlswithADHD.pdf

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guest Author: Tanya Doyle

Today, we're hearing from a new writer, not just 'new' as in I haven't known about her for very long, but 'new' as in she hasn't been doing this very long. However, Tanya Doyle is off to a great start with her blog at "Original Thoughts of an Unoriginal Thinker". Here's how she describes herself: "...I'm dreadful at self-promotion. I'm a full time drone in a company of over 40,000 employees. Nothing says Employee ID more than that. I was laid off in September, only to be rehired in September. The good thing about getting fired and rehired almost simultaneously is that you are afforded the opportunity to evaluate yourself and your place in the world without actually losing your home. I started this blog in that time. So doing the math, you can see I'm very green. And going by the useless widgets and whistles I've embedded on blog, you can see that I'm doing this all by the seat of my pants."


Money and Me. We have a complicated relationship. We've never been very close, perhaps because it has been in and out of my life since I was a young child. I've always wanted more of a relationship with it, but it ran out on us long ago. It's funny how, despite the disappointments, I keep coming back for more. Alright, enough bad jokes.



People's relationship with money is a funny thing. For some, the absence of it in childhood motivates them to work harder to have it in adulthood. And once they have it, how they use it sheds light on their psyche. Some spend frivolously, as if to make up for past losses, and others do their best to hoard it. I like to think I've completely shed any hang-ups from my penniless childhood and am fully, financially self-actualized. But the truth is, I'm a tightwad. I can't help it.


Which leads me to today's ramble. I want to talk about hair care, specifically hair cuts. I neither like nor look forward to spending money on hair cuts. Between a husband who would love to get a clean up every 2 weeks and 3 growing, hairy kids, I see money going down the drain every time we step into Fantastic Sams or Supercuts or whatever cheap salon we can find. At $15 to $25 a pop, these places are the thorn in my side that I can't avoid. Because the hair won't stop growing. And the cuts that come out of these places are shameful. My 12 year old came out of Fantastic Sams last weekend looking like Dumb and Dumber. For those who have already forgotten, 12 years old is not the age to have a bad haircut. He was mortified. Desperate, he asked to shave it all off.


Because looking like a thug is obviously better than looking like an idiot.


After talking him off the ledge, I convinced him to let me have a go at his hair. If he still hated it, I promised he could shave it all off. Now, I imagine myself to be somewhat of a renaissance (wo)man, and I've been known to save the day with a pair of scissors before. So I worked my magic, and he was satisfied enough to keep his hair. Disaster averted.


The whole experience reinforced my opinion of this regular expense. Why am shelling out so much money for something that looks no worse than what I can do? If only I really could cut hair, instead of just fixing the bad stuff. Isn't it all just angles and geometry and scissors anyway? I'm good with geometry, and I've got an analytical mind, maybe I can do this. I just need to find a website that gives diagrams and measurements to follow. I already have scissors and a ruler. I might need to invest in a protractor, but I think the upfront investment is worth the potential payoff. I'll be saving buckets of money in no time.

In preparation for this new venture, I did my online research, looking for any documentation that was out there. I was on a hunt for haircutting diagrams. Would I be lucky enough to find a goldmine, similar to the Butterick sewing patterns websites that bound aplenty?


My first search involved the term "haircut patterns". I was pleased to have Google complete my term by adding "for men" to it. Unfortunately, what returned were page after page of Vanilla Ice-etched heads. Not what I had anticipated. I tried various other terms, and none of them returned those elusive blueprints I was searching for. I did stumble across a very cool step-by-step tutorial on cutting women's hair. I wish I had a barbie head to practice this one on.
http://www.hairdressing-training.co.uk/cut/step.htm


The same site offered 4 men's tutorials that I could view for 30 pounds. A quick search of pound-to-dollar conversion told me to bookmark the page and save it for a time when I'm feeling wealthy.


It turns out, there's no such thing as haircut patterns. There should be. For people like me. So for now, the haircutting dream will have to be put on hold, and I'll have to find other ways to pinch my pennies.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Guest Author: Keri Ramos

One of the most fun things about doing this whole "guest author" gimmick is finding "new" writers. Keri Ramos is one of my new favorites. Why? Well, check out her Twitter bio:



"I'm pretty rad. I say inappropriate things quite frequently. I halfheartedly write a pseudo-funny blog. I dig music. And dinosaurs."



Clearly, she's me as a twenty-something-year-old woman. How could I not love that? See more at the appropriately-titled Filthy Nerdy, which she describes as "an elitist, profane examination of trivial, everyday things". I love that too.

I have never been so poor in my entire life. Admittedly, I’m not very responsible with money anyway, but usually it’s because I spend $50 on someone else before spending $20 on myself. I once paid for someone’s abortion. Having never paid for or had an abortion myself (I’m not a right to life-er, I just know how to use birth control correctly, as opposed to everyone else in my hometown. Seffner represent!) I had no idea they were so costly. Whoever invents a safe, do-it-yourself option available for purchase at Target will be a millionaire. After financially backing a murder, I had to cancel some plans in the upcoming weeks due to lack of funds, but my friend didn’t have to raise her rapist’s baby. Everyone wins!

I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy dresses from Forever21 and chai tea lattes from Sacred Grounds and Urban Decay eye shadow and it could also help me pay for books at USF and fix my car which was accidentally clusterfucked in a rear-ended sandwich by my little brother. But I have no money so I currently have none of these things. And even though I am still lucky enough to have a place to live and things to eat, I am, at times, acutely aware of the fact that I have never been so poor in my life. It’s an annoying kind of poor; I’m not living on the streets or fighting for my survival, I just miss out on social events and guilty pleasures (read: drinking excessively at bars with friends and buying weird music documentaries).

When my car was operational a few weeks ago, I gave my buddy a ride to and from the airport when he went to Colorado to visit family. His return flight landed at midnight and after I collected him, we met a third buddy out for beers to catch up on adventures. Traveling buddy was kind enough to pick up my modest tab, and not because I whined about being poor, but because dealing with the Tampa airport twice in one week without getting to leave Tampa sucks. He also brought me back a shirt from the Colorado dinosaur museum and it has five dinosaurs on it and it is way better than any Forever21 dress. He found it for me at a thrift store and it is my newest and quite possibly favorite article of clothing in the history of clothes I’ve worn.

I’ve started a new tradition known to those who attend it as Family Dinner. It’s so badass and important that we capitalize Family Dinner via text and tweets. Aside from my brother, no one who attends is actually related to me, but they are the kind of family that stumbled into my life some way or another and if they were to leave now I’d be very upset. Everyone brings something to the table, literally. A bunch of social misfits and odd characters show up with pasta and various sauces and garlic toast and drinks. And it’s awesome. The crowd varies week to week, and we keep adding new people but that’s okay because pasta isn’t very expensive and I don’t buy it anyway. I make the meatballs. It happens most Wednesdays and afterwards we go to the Pegasus Lounge for Porneoke. It’s karaoke with a giant screen onstage playing (really awful) porn. The singers in the Family sing everything from Frank Sinatra to Beyonce. And the guy who sings “Single Ladies” also does the dance from the video. It’s a wholesome family activity, and I dare you to have more fun.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo, which has me paralyzed with writing anxiety, but I have an awesome FiancĂ© who bought me a desk and a chair so I would have a legitimate place to write during this arduous challenge. I think he felt sad for me when he watched me sit on my bed Native American style (I’m assuming we can’t say “Indian style” anymore) with my laptop sitting on top of an overturned laundry basket. The desk is nice and the chair is awesome (it has a ‘mod’ pattern that looks like the 70s threw up on it) but I’m more taken by the fact that he believed in me enough to encourage my endeavors. Or he loved me enough to shut me up about not having a desk and not being able to use the kitchen table because the refrigerator is so loud. Fuck you, Whirlpool.

I’m sure you’ve guessed, through my heartwarming tales of life being rich even though I’m not, is that money doesn’t buy happiness and even though I’m woefully destitute, I’m still wonderfully in love with my existence.

You would be wrong. I have cool dinosaur shirts and Family Dinner and karaoke (now with porn!) and usually someone buys me a shot there and I am currently typing at my fancy desk. These things are free for me, but they cost someone else money. And all the shit I legitimately need? That’s still expensive.

My point is that my friends are better than yours. And luckily for me, they aren’t as broke as I am right now.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Author: Jeff Hickmott

Today's submission is from Jeff Hickmott, with two T's, no N's, not Jeff Hickmont, as he was listed here....briefly...last year (I have no idea who Jeff Hickmont is; probably a nice enough guy, drawn into all this ugliness through no fault of his own...unless he's a tool, in which case, screw him).
I don't have to write an intro, as Jeff has done that himself. I just have to spell his name correctly (two T's, no N's). Other than that, all I have to tell you is he's British which means he's inherently funny, as he hails from the land that gave us Monty Python's Flying Circus, Peter Sellers and Ricky Gervais and that still kind of owns the country that gave us Kids In the Hall. Ladies and blokes, Jeff Hickmott (two T's, no N's)


So, here is the bit where I tell you about myself. Hmm, what can I tell you that you don't already know from reading my wildly popular blogs The World Of Jeff! and The Food Of Jeff!, not forgetting my guest shot on last year's blog-sitting-type-thing-a-thon-of-infinite-wonder. Well, in the past year I have been employed twice, unemployed twice, and started me a little community action group in my hometown of Tenterden, Kent which you can read about in my third blog, Transition Town Tenterden, at transitiontenterden.blogspot.com. Oh, and I'm in lurrrve. With Laura. I was last year too, but I didn't mention it then. Aaaand I'm rambling. Right. Biography over. On with the motley!


One thing about British TV when compared to American TV is the difference in what's allowed to be shown. Sure, over there in the good ole U S of A you are allowed to have political pundits and religious nutjobs spouting off all kinds of stupid and inflammatory remarks 24/7, but show a movie with a dirty word in it and it's either bleeped out, or more commonly, replaced with an innocuous and ridiculous one. Over here we are allowed to say words after the watershed hour that makes George Carlin's "7 Dirty Words" sound stupid and pointless. And it's not just limited to what you can say. If in the UK you have a programme that is pseudo-health-oriented, then full-frontal nudity and extreme close-ups are A-OK.


Channel 4's show Embarrassing Bodies (along with its sequel Embarrassing Teenage Bodies) has people with serious health complaints on.






A rather unfortunate promo shot for Embarrassing Bodies, and yes, these people are actual doctors.


These people are too embarrassed to go to their regular doctor with these unusual ailments. However they don't seem to mind coming to a studio and having a camera broadcast the innermost workings of their naughty bits to the nation. To give you some sort of example of what we are subjected to every week, I shall tell you some of the ones I've seen (and I've only seen a couple of episodes). The one I remember most was the young man who had a... well, he had... well, it was sorta to do with his butt crack... well, he had a lot of hair growing in his... and, well, he... see, I can't do it. It's too embarrassing. But you can check it out if you want - they have a website... with video clips... oy vey. It's at http://www.channel4embarrassingillnesses.com.




But it's not just limited to this show. On ITV in the a.m. you have Phillip Schofield, former Children's BBC presenter and now sorta-serious journalist (just kidding - there's no way that his oeuvre could be considered serious journalism) co-anchor of ITV's This Morning which recently shocked the nation by showing a live demo of how us guys should be checking our (ahem) balls, which apparently we should do ALL the time. Well, Kojak, let me clue you in - we are guys. We need no provocation or incentive to touch our packages ever. We DO do it all the time. Probably even more than that. But the week before that they had another live demo of Sex Positions for the Over-60s. I kid you not. (It's OK, the senior citizens were dressed).


This sort of stuff would definitely not fly in the United States. Your Bill O'Reillys and your Sean Hannitys and Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins and all the other tea-bagging loose cannon political loons and their friends the religio-nutters at the 700 Club and TBN would have a field day, with outraged cries of FILTH and PERVERSION and so on and so forth. C'mon, you know they would. Imagine Dr. Phil doing a live nutsack or boobie inspection. Or on second thoughts, don't. Imagine the cast of The View doing it. Aah. That's much better.


So why is American media so uptight when compared to its UK counterparts? Why is "The Land Of The Free", "The Land Of Opportunity", "Home Of The Brave", the country that produces about 90% of the porn on the planet, so sensitive about swear words and nudity? Why can you only see uncensored rude material on pay channels in the USA, when you can turn on your TV after about 9pm here in the UK and see expletive-laden stand-up comedy shows such as Russell Howard's Good News? My friends, it's no use asking me, I'm simply asking rhetorically. I don't have the answer. But it's probably got something to do with money and religion. After all, US currency does say on it "In God We Trust".


No God references on English money, no sirree. The Church of England does not have a tight grip on the BBC or ITV. We have very few evangelists on TV, and the ones that are on are usually satellite broadcasts of TBN shows anyway, and most Brits probably consider them a bit of a joke with their glistening cardboard hairdos and their impassioned cries of PRAISE-UH JEE-ZUSS-UH! It's like like a parody of itself.


So as usual I have managed to say a whole lot without actually making a point or accomplishing anything. I guess the only thing I can conclude at the end of this is one of two things: either


(a) We Brits are just a bunch of foul-mouthed perverts, or


(b) You Americans are just a bunch of uptight assholes.




However, as a Brit who lived in the States for 18 years, I can safely say that both statements are false. And somewhat true.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Author: Mr. & Mrs. FruDO

Today, we are treated to a piece of internal company correspondence created by a mystery author, whom we will refer to as FruDO. The main reason for all the secrecy will be self-evident when you read it. The other is that some of you may know FruDO and/or Mrs. FruDO, who furnished us with this (with his permission on the grounds of anonymity). If you do or even if you think you do, please don't say so in the comments; I'll have to delete it. The only things I will reveal that are even close to a hint is that yes, this is real and no, this is not from a company I have ever personally worked for. Although if they're hiring...

Not everyone values their job.


Thousands of unemployed people are out there, pounding the pavement in search of a job. And yet, too many companies are saddled with employees who jerk off in the company restroom instead of at home in front of the computer as God intended.


Here is an email from Frustrated Director of Operations to such employees. See if you can spot the puns and other efforts to avoid ending up in a harassment lawsuit.

Gentlemen,


It has been brought to my attention that the etiquette level in the men's bathroom has plunged to an all-time low.

Etiquette is a complicated beast. The whole philosophy of etiquette is to be aware of others and to act in a way as to minimize or eliminate your negative impact on other people whenever possible. To that end:


· Urinating all over the seat and not wiping it up is bad etiquette because you can and should clean it up.


· Not flushing the toilet is bad etiquette because you can and should flush the toilet. We respect the conservationist in you, but please stick around and flush twice or thrice if need be.


· Leaving empty toilet paper rolls (even when the second one has sheets left) is bad etiquette because you can and should replace them with a full roll. If supplies are the issue, please get in touch with me and I'll make certain we have enough on hand.


· Speaking of on hand, not having a grip on your libido is bad etiquette. Hats off to you if your mind got occupied with imagery so powerful that you felt it necessary to take care of it right then and there, but in the future don't. Friendly reminder: when we request "new product" this is not of what we speak.



Please take this email as a call to employ common sense in our shared bathroom. Leave the area as clean as possible for the next teammate.

Thank you.


The Director’s wife was so impressed, she asked to tape this to the bathroom wall at home. She was refused.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Guest Author: Ruprecht

Today's post is courtesy of the mysterious and irrepressible Ruprecht. When he's not mentally torturing the citizens of California (Honestly, haven't those poor people suffered enough? No? Well, carry on then) or making up words (which is downright irresponsiclous) he's authoring two blogs,"Rupe's Value Added Services" and "F(STOP)" and contributing his views on what's good and bad about television at "Clique Clack". And yet, he still found time to share some material with us here. Isn't that nice? (Just smile and nod; it's best not to provoke him).

Well ... I stepped out of my mind for a moment (it wasn't too painful) and wondered: What should I write about? Something entertaining? Engaging? Interesting?
  • How 'bout my world famous Cup 'O Meat? Not only scrumptiously delicious, but exactly what it sounds like. (And yes ... it must be eaten from the cup. Duh. It's in the name.)
  • How 'bout the time I was 10 times more annoying silent than when I was free to say whatever I wanted during that Saturday night poker party? (A friend turned to me and asked if I could just shut the #%$*@! up for a couple hours. I did. She got so annoyed and disgusted with me being quiet - gesturing during every single hand instead - she stormed out of the house, dragging her husband with her. Good times.)
  • Or ... how 'bout the "exploding house of Italians" birthday event? (The house survived. Barely. The bar-be-ques used to cook for everyone, on the other hand, did not.)

So many to choose from. Decisions ... decisions.

I figured I'd go with the Darth Vader Cheez-Its test.

At a party one night, a bunch of us were waxing poetic about life, liberty and the pursuit of whatever we happened to be thinking of that week. At some point the Coke / Pepsi debate came up for the 1,000th time. Naturally, some Bozo decided a bonafide taste test was in order. Several of us decided to put our taste buds on the line and our money where our mouths were.

Now understand: I haven't lost this particular bet yet. I can identify Coca Cola over Pepsi each and every time. Why? Easy. Pepsi tastes like mold. It's that simple.

One guy I hadn't met who had imbibed a little more at the party than was probably good for him (along with Coke and Pepsi during the challenge) came up to me. He glared with eyes rapidly on their way to bloodshot: "You think you're show schmart, don'tcha?! Tell you what ... I'ma gonna challenge you to sumpin' else ... and I'll beat'cha at it, too! Name it, pal! The choice is yoursh!"

Huh buoy. Here we go. I thought I'd make it interesting.

"Cheez-Its," I said.

"Wha ... ???" was his reply.

"Cheez-Its. Cheez-Its snack crackers." I explained. "You see ... the ones that come out of the Darth Vader box are infinitely superior than regular Cheez-Its. Why don't we see if you and I can differentiate between the regular ones and the ones infused with The Force."

My "friend" was skeptical. He looked left, looked right, then said: "Let's do dis thing."

"Tell me how you want to work this," I asked "Blotto".

"Breast 5 out of 7 takes it!" I was informed. "And no Jedi mime tricks, either!"

"Works for me," I responded looking at the ceiling and trusting myself I could get out of the situation without anyone getting hurt.

Several close friends set up little miniature cupcake liners filled with 3 Cheeze-Its each. They had written on the bottom of the liners which ones came from the Darth Vader box, which ones from the non-descript box.

With the both of us wearing blindfolds to make things that much more difficult, we went back and forth identifying which we thought were which. Random bunches of Cheez-Its - in no particular order - were given to us for identification.

When it got to the point where I had recognized every single Cheez-It container correctly (4 out of 4 guessed right) and Blotto was at 1 of 4 correct guesses, he emphatically reminded me we were doing "the best 5 out of 7". At the next correct guess on my part (and incorrect guess on his), he threw in the towel.

"I don' know how you do it," said slowly and with a few Cheez-Its still crumbling around in his mouth. "Mebbee you got that Dart Vader Star Wars Force or sumpin' ... Jew cheat?" he asked.

"No," I explained to him. "It's just the ones coming from the box with Darth Vader on it taste better than the others."

"Thatsh impossible to determine!" he protested, waving me away and plopping himself in chair in the corner. He promptly fell asleep 5 minutes later, grumbling to himself.

You think I'm kidding? Give them a try ... that is if you can still find a Darth Vader box of Cheez-Its around somewhere.

................. Ruprecht (STOP)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Guest Author: Marissa Rapier

Today's selection comes to us from America's heartland, specially prepared by The Pride of Kankakee her own self, Marissa "Miss Riss" Rapier.
I've had a crush on her for years now. Is it because she digs the '80s? Is it because she has what the young, sassy folks call "attitude"? Or is it her impeccable taste in flashy eyewear? Probably a combination of all that and some other stuff (I will admit to having a thing for girls who wear glasses though). You can see much more of what Marissa has to offer at Marissology, her site.


Meandering with Marissa


What an honor to be asked by Clark to contribute to his blog. Wow! Initially, I told him that due to my recent affection for snapping photos of the terrifying public here in Kankakee, Illinois, that I’d center my post around the sights of my Midwestern village. However, the freaks haven’t been cooperative. Maybe the snap of cold weather has caused them to retreat or cover up. I bet the folks in Florida get more than their fair share of overexposure, eh?


Just last night I was taking a stroll around the mall on my break (I work as a lab manager for a major optical company). My Droid was charging back at the store so the heinous vision of a pregnant woman wearing what appeared to be a child size t-shirt and sweatpants tucked beneath her about-to-burst girth could not be captured on digital film. What a disappointment. The corneal scaring it caused gets lost in translation.


Want to know something else that annoys me about fashion trends other than pregnant women letting it all hang out by refusing to purchase maternity clothes? That is women who appear to have NO clue about their coin slot being exposed when they bend over. You know what I speak of, right? Low-rise jeans are fine and dandy if the right size and cut is worn … and you never squat down or bend over. I’d like to reintroduce the body suit aka the adult onesie as prevention for what was once frowned upon and known as plumbers crack. At least put on a thong and amuse us with whale tail, will ya? In my humble opinion, a butt crack is a butt crack no matter if it belongs to a man or woman; chubby or thin. Cover it up!


Whoa, are you folks in luck! Since photos of wackadoos of Kankakee weren’t procured, on a whim, I took a drive to the park where many of my childhood memories are fondest. The neighborhood has changed fairly dramatically as it was once where the affluent citizens of Kankakee resided. My family of 8 kids didn’t live there, mind you, but it was within walking distance. Well,1970s walking distance. I am not so sure kids of today would take a 10 block stroll to play tennis. Now, it has become a reasonable place to live and the majesty that once was has vanished. Cobb Park is nestled along the Kankakee River.


Did I lose you yet? Hang in there.

A few years ago, my fair town (county) was named THE worst place to live in America. As a result, David Letterman made a big spectacle of it on his show and graciously donated two gazebos so Kankakee could claim the title of “Home of the Twin Gazebos.” On my little cruise around Cobb Park I snapped a photo for your viewing pleasure:




I cannot confirm or deny that the child in the gazebo wasn't part of the donation. A David Letterman love child?



Whilst cruising the area, I spied a house with a sign on its porch. Like a beacon it cried out to be photographed. Do you think it lights up at night and shines into the neighbor’s front windows? Would a special permit be required for such a thing?




This home is located only a few blocks from the Letterman gazebo. Do you think the residents are merely grateful that Kankakee County is no longer the worst place to live? Or does it go much deeper than that. Yeah, it is probably the latter. Still, I think there might be a classier way to let Jesus know you love him. Say, donate 10% of their income to the 700 Club.



A handful of movies have been filmed in part here. Heck, Keanu Reeves allegedly rented porn from a local video store when he was here filming "Chain Reaction." Totally a claim to fame better than being mentioned in an Arlo Guthrie tune or sung by Groucho Marx in "At the Circus." I'll stop because it's unfair of me to make you woeful that your town isn't as fantastical as mine.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Guest Author: Gail Worley

Rock n' roll. Skulls. Bacon. Pink stuff. All the usual things a girl loves about living in New York City. And nobody does New York better than rock-critic-at-large Gail Worley and her rad blog, The Worley Gig, where she covers that and much, much more.

Check out Gail's review of the Rolling Stones new DVD...

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas Coming to DVD!


It’s easy to take a band like The Rolling Stones for granted. They’ve been together, through various lineup changes (but surprisingly only one actual member death!), touring and recording new music since before most people reading this blog were even born. Is that some kind of record? I’m just going to say that it is. In the summer of 1978, having just released the album Some Girls, The Rolling Stones took off on a summer tour of the United States that is considered by many fans to have included the band’s best performances ever. Guitarist Ronnie Wood had been an official member of the group for just two years and the entire band – Charlie Watts included – were still at least a few years on the left side of 40. The Stones were young, they were hot, and they were an unstoppable rock force!


In fact, the awesomeness of The Rolling Stones in 1978 is a subject that takes too long to talk about, which is why you’re going to have to get your hands on the soon-to-be-released DVD, The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas, which I saw last night at a screening here in NYC. You know, I have this fun joke like to I tell where, when someone talks about going to see The Rolling Stones on their latest tour, I’ll say, “I liked the Stones back in the sixties, but not so much now that they’re in their sixties.” Hilarious! And that’s not say that they still don’t put on a kick ass show for a bunch of dudes pushing seventy, but when they were in their prime – both musically and physically – they were the greatest live band in the world. That’s the band you’ll see in this film


By the time the Some Girls tour arrived in Texas in mid-July of 1978, the album had reached No.1 on the US charts and the single “Miss You” was all over the radio. The tour took a back to basics approach, with the band and their music very much at the forefront and little or no elaborate staging. Filmed at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas, on July 18th, this concert is typical of the tour, with The Rolling Stones delivering a raw, energetic performance in front of a crowd who are clearly out of their minds with excitement and totally into the show. Originally shot on 16mm film, the concert footage has been carefully restored and the sound remixed and re-mastered from the original multi-track tapes by award-winning music engineer Bob Clearmountain. Jagger himself admits that, “Fort Worth was an amazing night in a blistering hot July. Watching it now, the band was really intense and focused, but we were also having a blast with the fans who were really getting into the show and the new tracks from Some Girls.”


That the band were having fun is obvious from the way Jagger practically makes out with Ron Wood at various intervals, and his chemistry with Keith Richard’s is unmatched. Jagger is lucid, sober, handsome and playful. Richards looks like the ultimate rock star and although Watts and Wyman are very much relegated to the background as far as screen time goes, the Stones are tight and in sync with each other on a level that few bands today could achieve. For this recorded performance, the band – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood and Bill Wyman, with various guest musicians including violin player Doug Kershaw and keyboardist Ian McLagan – performs a mix of Stones’ classics, blues numbers and Chuck Berry covers, and a good number of songs from the Some Girls LP, though sadly “Before They Make Me Run” – my favorite – is missing from the set. Highlights for me were “When the Whip Comes Down” and “Happy,” because I’ve always loved the songs were Keith sings lead, or at least tries to.


If you’re looking to find out more about the members of the band as individuals or pick up some new forbidden dirt, be aware that this is a live performance only documentary: neither backstage “down time” nor candid personal shenanigans are included. What you see them do on stage is all there is. The bonus material comes in the form of a fairly recent interview with Mick Jagger, where Mick shares his memories of different aspects of the Stones’ career at that time (as Punk Rock was just on the cusp of breaking big) the Some Girls Tour in general, and the performance in Fort Worth specifically. While there were a few dissenters (read: Dicks) at the screening I attended who were clearly bored with Jagger’s banter and restless for the Big Rock Show to begin, I found the interview to be quite fun and charming. I mean, Mick-Fucking-Jagger! The guy’s been around practically since Rock & Roll was invented! Sure, sometimes he sounds like your grandfather telling stories about how things were “back in the old days,” but mostly he’s just such a fascinating and charismatic character, you can’t even guess at what he’ll say next. And that keeps it interesting! Even if he’s forgotten how many buckets of water he threw on the audience at the end of the show (spoiler alert, sorry), he’s lived more life in 68 years than most of us could even fantasize about. Mick Jagger!


The full Set List for that night in Fort Worth is as follows:


"Let It Rock"
"All Down the Line"
"Honky Tonk Women"
"Star Star"
"When the Whip Comes Down"
"Beast of Burden"
"Miss You"
"Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)"
"Shattered"
"Respectable"
"Far Away Eyes"
"Tumbling Dice"
"Happy"
"Sweet Little Sixteen"
"Brown Sugar"
"Jumpin' Jack Flash"


The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas will be released on November 21, 2011 and can currently be pre-ordered for $10.99 (retail is $14.98) from Amazon.com at This Link.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Guest Author: Dawn Morgan

Very rarely do you meet someone whose blog title so aptly defines who they are. My friend Dawn Morgan is truly a Tampa Do-Gooder, and for my money she is THE Tampa Do-Gooder.
I'm not kidding. All the stuff we're supposed to be (socially conscious, politically active, sincerely concerned with the welfare of others) and do (be nice to people, think beyond the spehere of one's own existence, recycle) she actually is and does!
She makes me sick.
I console myself with the knowledge that she isn't perfect, though (I've heard her cuss).
You can check out her do-goodings around Tampa at her site, Tampa Do-Gooder.

Sweet November


Am I the only sap who liked that movie? That & Thanksgiving make me a very appreciative person for all I have, even though I readily admit I ain't got much. 


Currently what I own is stowed in six neat boxes, the most expensive item being the iPhone in my pocket, which I bought to entertain myself & my dedicated blog readers.


No matter, traveling light is the best way to go. And this weekend at my friend Jenn's wedding I was as light as could be. 


One aspect of my life I have always been unsatisfied with is that I've always lacked friendships with deep roots. This began when I was a kid in a military family, moving every two years for my first 10 years. I was so shy that by the time I opened up, it was time to move again.

We ended up outside of Ft. Dix, NJ, and instead of moving in the early 90's as anticipated, my dad retired and I got to spend six years in one place, until my parents split my senior year of high school. 


Ugh. My love of flannel and prior Pearl Jam obsession came in handy as a primer. To avoid both parental units, I moved in with my grandparents and spent that year at Cocoa High in Brevard County, Florida.


Up to that point, I had had no life whatsoever. I was a heavily sheltered and despondent youth who *tried* to be stimulated. But nothing worked: not cross country or lacrosse, musical theatre or even stepping. The latter definitely did not suit me, and other than my Mcjob (which this future Supersize Me fan hated even then), I didn't stick with anything.

After I moved to Florida, I had way *too* much life. I quickly found a circle of friends made of the most creative people I had ever met. Musicians, actors, artists and writers; every one of us a drama queen of galactic proportions. 99% of us came from broken homes but we were mostly good kids, despite the boys with long hair & girls who couldn't or wouldn't say no. We lived all over the county, from Titusville to Palm Bay, and traveled to each other for live music, parties, and the godforsaken live weekly sing-along’s to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

My young adulthood continued to be full of missteps (heh) and ill-fitting choices. I moved a lot after senior year, briefly relocating back to Brevard County out of desperation a few times until my early 20's when I finally seemed free of Florida. 


I came back to the state in 2005, this time to Tampa, and was distraught to be here because of what Florida represented to me: Fake lawns, friends and cold air and overpriced, manufactured happiness. Still at least it wasn't Brevard.


Tampa was by far a better fit than even Seattle had been for me. It was a place I could get my arms around, not too overwhelming like larger cities, with lots of like-minded folks.

I'd occasionally drive over to Brevard to see family and friends, and I came to appreciate the place, especially its beaches, definitely among my favorite in the country.

Yet I skipped my 10 year reunion a few years ago; the trauma of that one year of high school still hadn't left me. Also I felt I hadn't connected well enough with my classmates to make it worth going.

This past weekend at a wedding in Cocoa though, that all changed. There were a lot of former friends and frenemies from that old circle. We're still musicians and artists and writers despite the hardships of reality & making rent, and all grown up. I’m exponentially nicer, if only because of improved self esteem. I even re-bonded with the one guy in our group who ran off to get his MBA and went on to work for a big corporate bank. Opening one’s mind is so lovely. You can’t be much of a do-gooder unless you do.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Guest Author: Ellen Mueller

"I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like" - Gelett Burgess

Me too, Gelett. And I like art that is playful, surprising and encourages interactivity, which is why my favorite artist is Ellen Mueller. I've had the pleasure and privilege of working under the direction of Ellen three times ("Complete With Illustrated Manual", "1st Annual Black & White Sustainability Mixer & Recognition Ceremony" and "The Waiting Room"), and each time, I had no idea where we were going but I knew it would be fun getting there. You can visit her web site at EllenMueller.com and her blog "Tracking An Artist". As far as I can tell, Ellen is travelling the world right now (I still have no idea where she's going). Some of her work will be on display at the Freyberger Gallery on the Penn State Berks campus in Reading, Pennsylvania from November 6th through December 15th. Also, this is another way she's spending her time these days...

So, what is an artist to do once they've left the confines of a school setting? How do they keep themselves motivated and pushing forward into new territory in the absence of assignments and homework? One answer: Postal Art Exchanges! These are small expressions (confined to the space of a postcard), that can help an artist push through a block or more deeply explore a theme. The attached images are ones I recently put together for an exchange. I recommend the practice. Email some artist friends, set a mailing deadline, and go!