Thursday, March 29, 2007

A short conversation about super powers

"If I were a superhero, I would be HourMan, and my super power would be hour power. That means I could do whatever I want, fly, be bulletproof, run fast, be on fire, see through shit, anything, for one hour at a time. My costume would have a real working clock on my chest and a watch on each wrist, all set to precisely the exact right time. And my battle cry would be, check this out: 'Knock knock, it's justice time!'. How cool would that be?"

"Well, pretty cool, I guess. But your battle cry doesn't really make a lot of sense. Why not 'Tick-tock, it's justice time!'?"

"Oh yeah. That's so much better."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Family Matters

My family lives up in the Midwest, in the northern Indiana/southern Michigan area. My mom called yesterday to tell me that my aunt was in the hospital, in fairly serious condition. It looks like she’s going to be ok, but the doctors aren’t exactly sure what the problem was/is, although I have no doubt that it is somehow minivan related. The beauty of this story is that mom called me after spending the weekend in the hospital herself. As it turns out, when my aunt got sick, my cousin wasn’t able to find mom and literally had to call a couple of hospitals to track her down before she could tell her about it. I thought that kind of thing only happened on TV and in movies. I found out this part of the story after calling my cousin to get my sister’s phone number, which I thought I had but oops, I didn’t. Of course, neither she nor my sister (the person with whom I would have shared a womb for nine months had we been twins, which we are not) called me because I’m running around somewhere in Florida, doing whatever it is I do. Which, I think they believe might consist of wagering on jai alai, cruising around in an airboat, screwing up elections, drinking umbrella drinks and not having a telephone. The whole confluence of circumstances makes me think that if my family was made up of characters from movies, I'd be Uncle Buck.
At any rate, I’m apparently harder to find than, well, my mom.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Knock, knock...

Here are two stories involving my front door that happened within the last 24 hours.

Last night, I had just gone to bed when I heard someone trying to open my front door. Sure, it was late, I was tired and the cats are constantly getting into stuff, but the sound of someone trying to turn a doorknob makes a pretty distinctive 'chnnk-chnnk' sound
and that is definitely what I heard. I waited a second to see if they were going to try to break a window but that didn't happen. I guess whoever it was didn't want to get in that badly, which is good. For reasons of my own, I would never consider having a gun and even though I know I have several, I didn't know exactly where the nearest baseball bat was at that hour. We all like to think that if someone breaks into our home we'll have the advantage over the intruder because we know the layout of everything in the dark and the adrenaline would kick in if we were put in a position of having to defend ourselves and/or loved ones turning us into cunning warriors. But these factors are probably negated by the facts that we're going to be nervous to some degree, the person breaking in is obviously pretty desperate, probably prepared for some sort of confrontation and has in all likelihood decided that they won't mind hurting you. In fact, that may be the reason they broke in in the first place...Ah, it was probably just the cats getting into something.

Tonight, I had just gotten home when somebody knocked on the door. Unprepared for company and thus lacking a witty quip, I yelled out the classic "Who is it?" and was answered with "It's Matt and John. We want to talk about The Bible." Wow, Matthew and John are both in The Bible. And since I don't know anybody named Matt and John, at least that travel as a couple, they must expect me to know who they are. What if it's the Matthew and John? This could be the opportunity of a lifetime! Not entirely convinced that it was the Matt and John, I asked again "Who is it?". Again, they replied, "It's Matt and John". I'd had time to think about it now and realized it probably was not the Matt and John so I asked again "Who is it?". "It's, uh, Matt. And John. We said we want to talk to you...". By now I had lost interest in the possible theological merits of this conversation and decided to conduct a social experiment, mainly how many times could I ask "Who is it?" before even the most dedicated door-to-door solicitors of Bible discussion named for participants therein gave up and moved to the next door. The answer is 19. I asked them 19 times "Who is it?" before they got pissed off and gave up. If they're really angry about it and come back later and try to break in, I will hit them with a baseball bat.

Spaghetti & meatballs after 9:00PM + Reality TV = Bad idea

...Unless, of course, you like the idea of spending the whole night dreaming about how you can repair the rift between Ron Jeremy and Vanilla Ice.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


I bought one of those crazy vibrating razors recently, although I'm not sure why.

That is, I know why I bought it; because now that The Big Companies know that all of us are on to their eight hot dogs / twelve buns in a package swindle, they've changed their bait-and-switch tactics to the shaving game. They make hundreds of different razors and blades, none of which are compatible with each other. They look almost identical, and you're pretty sure they're the ones that go with your particular razor but they're just different enough to not work with anything other than it's own particular brand and model, which is not yours. And since returning an opened package of razor blades is harder than returning an opened home enema kit (trust me), you wind up just buying yet another new razor. That's why I bought one.

What I don't understand is why vibrating is good for shaving (if you know, don't bother trying to explain it to me; reasonable explanations based on thought and logic are completely lost on the likes of me). You'd think when you're maneuvering a piece of steel that's..well, razor sharp...across your face, it's steadiness you'd want, not vibration. It's just one of several things I don't understand about shaving, such as whose bright idea was it to sharpen a hunk of metal and drag it across their face in the name of fashion in the first place?

Anyway, I thought advances in shaving technology were limited to increasing the sheer number of blades involved. In the old days, you had one (1) blade that shaved the hair off your face. Then in the 70s you had the dual blade system where the first blade would hold the whisker up while the second one came along and chopped it off, sort of like an illegal chop block in the NFL. Now, the first blade gives the whisker a dirty look, the second one throws a rock with a note tied around it through the whisker's window as a warning, the third blade roughs up one of the whisker's family members, the fourth and fifth blades jump the whisker in an alley one night, the sixth blade is up state doing a four year stretch for B & E, but it never said anything about that whole mess down by the docks and we appreciate that. Blade seven is the one that actually takes the whisker out, blade eight disposes of the evidence and blade nine, he don't do nothin', but is there to make sure nobody else does nothin' either, capiche? That, plus vibration, is how you shave these days.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Yet another plug for the film...

It's official: "Ten at the Top in Tampa Bay" will be broadcast this Sunday at 4:00 on WEDU.

I'll admit, it's a little scary that this thing that has been looked at by less than ten people in the whole world up to now is actually going to be broadcast on television. That really didn't hit me until yesterday when WEDU put a trailer on their web site.

Anyway, if you can tune in on Sunday afternoon at 4:00, please do so. Don’t worry, they probably won’t make you pledge any money, but if they do, I hear you get a really keen tote bag.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I needed to buy a new watch and somebody from work recommended the Fossil brand. I could have shopped online, but instead I sucked it up and went to the Fossil store at the International Plaza last Saturday.
Chris Rock was partially right when he said that every town has two malls; the one the white people go to and the one that white people used to go to. International Plaza is a third type of mall; the one where all The Right People go. It’s Tampa’s one-stop shopping destination for people who look like the models in the catalogs from the stores inside the mall. The faces of the stores as well as the shoppers themselves are all freshly scrubbed and peeled. You’ll see lots of ponytails pulled through the backs of khaki baseball caps in carefully choreographed displays of casualness. Many of its patrons are men named Howard and women who spent four years or more in college just so they could eventually marry men named Howard. Basically, if you want to pay $50 for a plastic case to carry your iPod in, this is the place for you. It’s just not the place for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice things and I’m willing to pay for them when necessary but I’m (surprisingly) easily intimidated (sometimes) and I’m just not fond of putting myself in situations where dialogue like this can occur:
“May I help you?”
“Um, yeah, I’d like to make an appointment to look at some of these watches, please.”
“All right, why don’t you start filling out this application and the rest of these eligibility forms and we’ll get your request denied in a jiffy, ok?”

Anyway, I escaped without incident and am happy with my new watch. Too bad it didn’t come with a khaki baseball cap!

I'm not goin' to Brandon this time

Last week, I mentioned that I inadvertantly wound up on an expressway from downtown Tampa to Brandon. Yesterday, I was driving in the same vicinity and happened to notice the same entrance ramp, only this time I noticed the sign, which is about the size of a softball diamond, that gives you all the information you would need to know if you were in the position of having to decide whether to get on it or not.
I never said I was smart.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A short conversation about assholes

"I am just so sick and tired of dealing with assholes, man."
"Wow, could you have possibly uttered a more innocuous, generic statement?"
"What? What do you mean?"
"I mean, is there anybody who would disagree with that? Can you imagine anybody under any circumstances taking the opposing stance?: 'Not me, I love dealing with assholes. They enrich my life and I cherish the opportunities to interact with them every chance I get'. Of course you're sick and tired of dealing with assholes! Everybody's sick and tired of dealing with assholes. That's why they're called assholes!"
"I am sick and tired of dealing with you."

Another negative aspect of the prevalence of cell phones

Aside from the fact that the cell phone has done more to erode what's left of common courtesy than any invention in history, it's also made it harder for the rest to identify the weirdos. Used to be when you saw someone walking down the street and muttering, you knew they were talking to themselves and thus should be avoided. Easy. Now, you don't know if they're holding a phone to their ear on the side of their head you can't see and discussing dinner plans or if they're talking to invisible robots and discussing how to turn your skull into a gravy boat. Worse, they may have one of those incredibly stupid looking clip-on ear phones. So now you don't know if these people are weirdos or just tools (believe me, if you use one of these gimmicks, you are, indeed, a tool. And spare me the safety lecture. Hands-free? More like dignity free).

I guess we'll have to go back to the old days of tag and release when it comes to keeping track of the weirdos. Thanks, cell phones. Thanks a lot.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A short conversation about catchphrases

"Hey listen, don't be that guy, man. Ok? Just...don't be that guy. Seriously."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"Don't be that guy that says stupid shit like 'don't be that guy'. Trust me, you do not want to be that guy."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I'm goin' to Brandon

Tonight after work, I was going over to a place in Ybor City to check out the place where we're having the premiere party for "Ten at the Top in Tampa Bay". There's been some recent construction in downtown, with buildings being torn down, new roads added and old roads re-routed. I thought I was heading towards Ybor when I found myself on what looked like an expressway. I realized that it was an expressway, and figured that I had somehow wound up on the new and improved Selmon Crosstown by mistake. "Looks like I'm goin' to Brandon", I chuckled to myself. As I traveled a little further without seeing any exits, I thought "Shit, I am going to Brandon". The longer this went on, the more I repeated this to myself, each time emphasizing a different word as I grew more and more incredulous; "I'm going to Brandon", "I'm going to Brandon". I may have also added an adjective that started with F and ended with ING between "to" and "Brandon". Don't get me wrong, I have no ill will towards Brandon. There's a huge mall there, which is kind of nice. Actually, the whole place looks like it's one huge mall. But I couldn't help wondering who decided that with all the traffic problems we have in this town that a four lane, non-stop, no-exit express route from downtown Tampa to F-ing Brandon is what we need. It's kind of like installing a Weber 6750001 Genesis Gold C Propane Grill at a mosque; it's nice and it may even come in handy sometimes but it's certainly not what anyone would describe as an essential.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Courtesy is dead in the grocery checkout line

So tonight on the way home I stopped at the local Sweetbay for some groceries. I didn't have a lot so I was using one of the smaller hand baskets. The kind you carry, not push. I got my stuff and got in line behind this lady (not this lady; this is just some photo I grabbed off Google. I'm sure this lady is perfectly nice. Look at how swiftly she's unloading her cart!). The lady I was behind tonight loaded all her stuff on the conveyor belt and then started browsing through a magazine while she waited for her groceries to be scanned. The things is, as her groceries moved along the belt, she didn't. She stayed camped out in that same spot, not allowing me to put my groceries up there. I didn't have that much stuff, but it was heavy enough that it would have been nice to not have to hold it if I didn't have to. So now I'm thinking, "What do I do here? Do I say something? I don't want to seem like a wimp who struggles with a lousy 10 pounds of groceries. Or do I just stand here until she realizes that she's holding me up, gets embarrassed, apologizes, laughs a cute, embarrassed laugh and moves up a little bit, allowing me to smile back and chuckle 'Hey, no problem!'. Well, she isn't moving. She is reading that magazine. And I don't mean just the captions under the photos; she's reading articles! What magazine is that anyway? Ashlee and Keith are hooking up? I don't even know who that is. Brad and Angelina are adopting another baby? Ok, I know who that is. But didn't they just adopt a...Jesus, her groceries are almost all bagged up and she isn't budging!!"
Honestly, it's not a huge deal. It's just that I don't understand people being so wrapped up in themselves that they don't notice little things like this going on around them. These are the same people who slow down to 10 miles an hour in the left hand lane because they just realized they want to cut across two lanes of traffic so they can make a right turn. they'd rather impose on everyone else, maybe even put them in mortal danger, because it's just too inconvenient for them to acknowledge that they screwed up and that they should just double back.
Anyway, she eventually did budge enough for me to move up and put my stuff down, but she never even acknowledged me. I think she just finished doing the crossword puzzle and decided to move along. But now I have another dilemma: just what is the correct etiquette for putting that little divider bar thing down? I'm always of the mindset that we don't need barriers between us. See? We can be cool, man. I have my groceries, you have yours and you, me and the groceries, are all just doing our own things. As long as we're not, like, imposing on each other's space, man, it's cool. But inevitably, somebody will not-so-subtly drop that thing in there. They don't make eye contact with you when they do it, but they're still making a declaration that what's theirs is theirs and what's yours is yours and they have no interest in getting the two mixed up. It's like they're saying, "I don't want your hot dogs anyway near my bran flakes, you filthy hot dog-buyer". I know it's pretty stupid to find this offensive but I do anyway. Also, I don't even know whose responsibility it is to lay down the boundary. Is it the leader or the follower? Can somebody please explain the protocol to me? Since I don't know, and since I'm such a free-spirit philosophically opposed to grocery segregation, I usually just let the other person do it. Except tonight, I'm a little pissy now from thinking of all this stuff and I didn't want my salad dressing associating with her ginger ale and Perrier (gee, in addition to celebrity gossip, she really enjoys nearly-flavorless carbonated beverages) so I put that thing down there. But it slipped from my hand and landed with a *THWACK!* that made everybody turn to see what was going on. Oh yeah, and by the time I actually out it down, she had paid and all her stuff was bagged up and put in her cart.
So once again, I'm an ass.

Check it out: I'm legitimate!

What's been said about "Sticks Of Fire"
  • Best Of the Bay 2006; Best local blog - Creative Loafing
  • "...Tampa's premier blog, Sticks of Fire. This is the one blog that is essential to have on your blog roll or bookmark list. Tommy covers all sorts of topics relevant to Tampa. He also has the best list of Tampa bay area blogs. It is currently featured on the St. Pete Times weblog site." - Seminole Heights
  • "Sticks of Fire is not Tampa’s first weblog, nor its most prolific, but it may be the Bay Area’s most decorated. Showered with awards from local free culture papers like the Weekly Plant (or whatever it’s called now) Sticks of Fire is widely considered Tampa’s best blog about Tampa." -

All of those kudos and credentials, and they choose to interview and profile who?!?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cracked Out

Cracked magazine, perennially the Burger King to Mad magazine's McDonald's recently reformatted itself, taking on a hipper and (gasp!) funnier edge. I read the first new issue and liked it enough to go ahead and subscribe. I mean, it wasn't as great as any of the classic era National Lampoons or Spy in it's heyday but it was at least as good as The Onion.
Two issues later, it's over. "New" Cracked, as a magazine, has folded (it lives on as a web site, which is fine unless you've ever tried to take a web site into the bathroom with you. I'm just sayin'...) after a total of three issues.
This leaves a total of exactly zero worthwhile humor magazines in existence. Mad just flat-out stinks now. Each issue is about as thick as a standard comic book and takes lame, half-hearted potshots at whatever the hottest tv shows, movies or products are at the moment (ironically enough, exactly the kind of waste product that used to fill the pages of Cracked). I'd be willing to bet that the issue on the newsstands right now is chock full of jokes about Grey's Anatomy, iPods and Ghost Rider. Cripes, if I wanted that, I'd buy Entertainment Weekly. And I don't want that.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wow, what a night

Last night, I went to MacDinton's Irish Pub in the South Howard part of town to watch the Lightning game with four co-workers. This was a historic occasion because it was the first time I'd been to MacDinton's for a reason other than seeing the Johnny G Lyon Band and it was the first time I'd gone there when I wasn't already drunk. It was also historic because it was BY FAR my shortest visit there...and most likely my last .
Let me explain.
We started the evening with dinner at the Chipotle Grill in the plaza next door. After dinner, we went across the street to Marble Slab Creamery for ice cream. Then we made our way back across the street to MacDinton's to watch the game. We were there for maybe 20 minutes when somebody mentioned that cars parked in the plaza next door should probably be moved or there was a possibility of being towed. Guess what happened? Three out of the five of us had been towed. Thankfully, I wasn't one of them (Why? I honestly think it's because they took one look at my car, Jeeves, and figured I wouldn't be able to pay to get it out of impound. thank heaven for perception being reality). So I wound up taking everyone who had been towed over to the impound lot, which is not in a nice part of town, where we learned the fee to retrieve their cars was $162, each, in cash, exact change only. Further adding to the fun was remembering halfway there that I had started running a tab at MacDinton's, which meant I had left my credit card behind...and I was low on gas. Bottom line: My co-workers were seperated from $486 and none of us got home before 1:00 in the morning.
These tow truck/impound lot operators are scumbags. There's no other way around that. They're parasitic scumbags who have figured out a way to steal people's property legally and get paid to do it. As a sidebar to this story, when I lived in Sarasota, I managed a movie theatre that lacked adequate parking and our customers often tried to park in the lots of antique shops across the street, all of whom closed by 6:00PM. These merchants didn't like it and started towing cars. Not the friendliest thing to do, but it's their private property, so fine. Whatever. In an effort to be neighborly and respect their property, and save my customers some grief, I went out and bought great big orange traffic cones and used them to block off the driveways to these lots after they closed. One night, one of my employees told me that a guy in a tow truck was outside taking the cones. See, as it turns out, it wasn't really about keeping people out of the parking lots; it was about towing people's cars out of the lots and then basically demanding ransom to get them back. Nice, huh?
To answer the unasked question, yes, the lot was marked as a tow away zone for people who were not customers of the plaza, but remember we started the evening by eating dinner there. And the thing is that South Howard, or SoHo as the euphemeisters would prefer you call it, is the kind of neighborhood where parking the car and exploring the eclectic collection of shops and restaurants should be encouraged. Heck, our group patronized three of them in the hour we were there. But after last night, it's going to be a long time before any of us think about going back.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A short conversation about breast exams

"How often should women have mastectomies?"

"Well, in all but the most extremely rare cases, the most any person can have in their life is two."

"Oh. What? Wait. Are you sure? I would think it would be every six months or at least once a year..."

"Wait, do you mean mammograms?"

"I don't think it really matters whether or not they have children or how old they are. All women should have them."

Monday, March 05, 2007

"Viewer advised"

What other four words are capable of inspiring such giddiness and delight in me than the ones listed above that herald the weekly arrival of "24", featuring Jack Bauer and the general mayhem that comes with him? Well, maybe "I love you Clark" would do the trick, but I don't hear that once a week.
I'm not the world's biggest TV fan but Monday nights at 9:00, however, is another story. That is my TV time, the one hour a week for which DVR was invented. I'm not old enough to remember the old movie serials like The Shadow and the Lone Ranger but I have to think that the fans of those old yarns felt the way I do about "24". I spend all week wondering what will happen next (something bad; worse than last week) and how Jack is going to get out of it (he always does, even though you think he might not). Being able to tell a story over a much longer period of time is a distinct advantage TV has over movies. And serial shows, when they're done well, with the right balance of prolonged suspense (cliffhangers) and resolution (payoffs) are ultimately more satisfying than just about all films. "Lost" often hits this mark, but when it misses, it misses big. "24" NEVER fails to deliver.
Critics of the show point out how Bauer has no qualms about breaking rules (and limbs, his or someone else's) to accomplish his mission, as well as concerns about the show's perceived insensitivity towards non-American cultures, since many of the villians are non-American. This causes fans to be defensive about liking the show, for fear of being labeled as jingoistic racist supporters of fascism.
My enjoyment of "24" makes me no more of any kind of fascist than my enjoyment of the "Grand Theft Auto" video games makes me a cop-killing sociopath.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

S Words

I got home very, very late last night from a road trip to south Florida with some co-workers to watch the Lightning play (and let me state for the record that baseball is the only sport you can watch your team get it's ass kicked and still have a good time).
We got down there early enough to do some shopping at the Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall, which is reportedly the largest outlet mall in the world. Visiting the world's largest anything is certainly an experience but what I was most impressed with was this: there was a store selling samurai swords for $12!
Now, I'm sure these probably weren't exactly Hattori Hanzo quality swords (katanas to be exact) but still. How can you possibly beat a $12 sword? (No, not with a gun, smartass). The price is certainly right and there's apparently no three day waiting period if you want to walk right in and buy one, regardless of how angry you might be. Three of us considered buying them, decided not to, and spent the rest of the night regretting it.
In the relatively short period between the mall visit, the game and the ride home, we thought of literally hundreds of occasions where the swords would have been useful. They would have paid for themselves at the game alone.
One of the many brilliant ideas we had was to become a team of sword guys for hire, kind of like an A-Team that was actually bad ass (the original A-Team was like G.I. Joe; forever firing off clip after clip of ammo and blowing up all kinds of stuff but never actually hurting anybody). We couldn't agree on a team name (I liked Sword Guys, somebody else said Sword Dudes, I think somebody else suggested Sworders, which is just dumb....I don't think they were taking us seriously at this point, which would not have been the case if we'd actually bought the damn things) but I was already visualizing our ads on the sides of HARTline buses all over Tampa: "1-800 ASK-WHOEVER, my a$$! You got problems? You need somebody to do something about them? Call the three guys with the $12 swords!".
Oh, and we would also wear top hats. Damn, we would have been so bad ass.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A short conversation about logos

"Look at that nerd. He's got a friggin' silver-plated Star Trek logo on his car. Friggin' nerd."

"That's not a Star Trek logo. He's driving an Acura. That's just a chrome Acura logo."

"No, it's not. It's the Star Trek emblem that's on their spaceship, the Skywalker, and that Captain Spock and the other guys wear on their shirts."

"I'm telling you, it's an Acura logo. Do you even watch Star Trek?"

"Not as much as you, apparently. Friggin' nerd."