Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The saga of Randy and Paula

Looks like the long-rumored parting of Randy and Paula White is officially news. Ah well, happens to the best (and the rest) of us. However, one has to wonder if this is the first visible sign that the Without Walls empire has reached a tipping point and things are going to proceed rapidly downhill from here. Allegations of general malfeasance and improper conduct have been floating around for some time now, as seems to be the norm with all these so-called "megachurches". By and large, Without Walls has enjoyed a pretty solid reputation for good works in the community, but as their profile has grown, so have whispers of improprieties.

I don't know if any of these rumors are true. I do know for a fact that Randy White regularly attends high profile events like concerts, Superbowls and championship fights in Las Vegas and the pair generally live their lives more like rock stars than church pastors.

As far as I'm concerned, I don't begrudge anyone making a buck and I don't necessarily believe that religious leaders need to sleep on a straw mat and eat out of a clay bowl (although, Mother Teresa seemed to manage somehow) but I'm also not going to go out of my way to salute someone who wants credit for tossing scraps to the poor while they live far above what any normal person's definition of comfortable would be. After all, how much food and clothing can be purchased with the difference in price between a Cadillac Escalade and an Infiniti G37 Coupe? (About $21,000 worth) So if this is the beginning of the end and this all goes down badly, and it's hard to imagine it going down any other way, I can't say I won't be somewhat satisfied to see it.

Plus, I'm pretty sure Paula White is a space alien.

Is this the definitive Tampa news story of all time?

Maybe! After all, it features a former professional wrestler, a county commissioner (the same guy, actually), a chain restaurant and a lawsuit. If only there had been some of our world famous adult entertainers involved. Well, it does have a happy ending...

Commissioner Blair's Suit Against Carrabba's 'Amicably Settled'

(Cross posted at Sticks Of Fire)

Karaoke and how it relates to differences between the sexes

As I mentioned before, the girls and I have been doing karaoke at the Proud Lion Pub lately. I'm learning some frightening new things Such as what the songs someone chooses to sing says about them. As seen here...

THE GIRLS: "I want to sing that one song about how I will survive without a man or men of any kind. Or one of the ones about how I can do without any of his stupid male nonsense. Or the one about how I'm going to destroy his personal property while he's out cheating on me. Is there a song about attacking men with crowbars and blowtorches while they sleep? No? there should be. I would sing the shit out of that one. Or anything by Alanis Morrisette. Hey, you know what would be even more fun? Let's all go up on stage as a group, or maybe more like a street gang, and sing all those songs!"

ME: "I'd like to sing a song about how
you can leave your hat on. It's a very nice hat and I know you're fond of it. Me too. Feel free to keep it on. You look cute in it. Plus, it's kinda cold out and you lose most of your body heat through your head, you know. I'm just mostly concerned about your health. Of course, I'm not ordering you to keep your hat on. I would never do that. But you can leave your hat on. You know, if you want. Or not. It's totally up to you. That's all I'm saying, really."

In summation;

ME = precious, kind and completely innocent
THE GIRLS = fearsome, ferocious and to be feared

Sunday, August 19, 2007

May I not help you?

Boy, for an area that relies so heavily on the tourism and hospitality industries, I sure do run across a lot of crappy customer service here in Tampa Bay. Let me cite three very recent examples.

  1. BOSTON MARKET (Carrollwood) - Earlier this week, I was behind an elderly lady in line who ordered her meal and also wanted a salad to go along with it. The server said she had a choice between Caesar and Market Chopped. The lady was confused. "I just want a regular salad". Again, she was presented with the choices of Caesar or Market Chopped. "Is one of those like a small dinner salad?" "Well, one is a Caesar salad and the other is our Market Chopped salad." Now the lady was very confused and I can't say that I blame her in the least. She was getting replies but no answers. What the hell is a market chopped salad anyway? What does that even mean, 'market chopped'? Now I know that people who work at places like Boston Market are conditioned to speak only in the approved corporate jargon at all times and that if some jamoke in an office building somewhere decrees that what the rest of the universe knows as a standard, garden variety, garden salad shall henceforth be referred to as Market Chopped, then by God, so shall it be. But that shouldn't overrule common sense to the point that it prohibits serving the customer or even communicating with them. It was pretty obvious the lady just wanted some lettuce, a couple of cherry tomatoes and maybe some cucumber slices and carrot shavings. The server could have very easily just made that happen, instead of engaging in a verbal tug of war of semantics with someone who just wanted a freakin' salad with her dinner, for cryin' out loud. It's because of things like this that the diner scene in 'Five Easy Pieces' (click the link or see above) should be required viewing for everyone in the service industry.
  2. THE RINGLING MUSEUM (Sarasota) - We bought tickets last Sunday at 3:30PM, knowing full well that the museum would be closing at 5:00PM. I guess it was nice of the lady reluctantly selling us the tickets to point out that we probably wouldn't be able to see everything but it got annoying when several of the volunteer ushers we came across insisted on driving that point home to us repeatedly, thereby ruining what little time we did have to view the exhibits. At 4:30, one was actually following us and turning off lights behind us. If that wasn't bad enough, at one point I happened to make eye contact with him and in an effort to be friendly said "How ya doin?", he replied "Good night". Real nice. Museums, performing arts centers and such rely heavily on volunteers in order to keep costs down which helps to provide high quality programming and exhibits. The problem is the handful of these people who have bad attitudes, no people skills and false senses of entitlement who seem to find their way into these positions. I guess I just don't understand why anybody would do a job for free if they didn't have a genuine passion for it. I know that if I were so into art, or whatever, that I went out of my way to work at some place for no money, I'd be thrilled to see people who shared that interest and I'd go out of my way to engage them. That's one exhibit we definitely didn't see.
  3. RACETRAC GAS STATION (Gunn Highway) - I bought an Arizona Iced tea at this gas station today. It came to $1.06. I gave the cashier two one dollar bills. He said "you don't have the six cents?" and I said "Nope, I have no coins". "Well you should carry coins", he replied with disgust. I've had cashiers ask for exact change before and if I have, I'll use it. If not, I don't. But this was the first time I'd ever actually been chided for not carrying three quarters, two dimes, a nickel and four pennies with me in the event that I might have to come up with any possible combination of change from a dollar for the benefit of a clerk with a cash register full of money in front of him. I reminded him that I had two dollars, more than enough to pay for the item. He said "Don't worry about it" sneering, as though he were graciously doing me some kind of favor. If there had been more than one cashier on duty and nobody in line behind me, I would have made an issue out of it right then and there and insisted that he take my two dollar bills and give me the 94 cents change. I didn't but I kind of regret that now. I'm all about picking my battles and usually don't make a big deal out of things like this but I think it might have been satisfying to make a small mountain out of this particular mole hill. Instead, I just won't go there anymore, which is the customer's ultimate weapon anyway.

(Cross posted at Sticks Of Fire)

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Worst Thing In The World

The worst thing in the world, worse than genocide or matricide or any other cide order, has to be when you wake up just a few minutes before your alarm clock goes off...on a monday morning.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"There's a new home run champion of all time..."

...and it's Barry Bonds. Deal with it.

Ok, only because I've been asked about it, here's my couple of cents on why I don't have a problem with Bonds breaking Aaron's record:

  • Steroids - Steroids make you bigger, stronger and faster but they do not improve hand/eye coordination. If you don't have that, I don't care how big, strong and fast you are, you're not going to hit worth a damn. Even if you're naive enough to think that the handful of players who've actually been mentioned by name as being involved with steroids are the only ones who are, it's not like there are several guys who suddenly are in the 700+ home run club. Bonds is the only one.

  • Asterisks - This is an awfully big can to open. If you're going to denote Bonds' homers with asterisks, how far are you willing to take it?Asterisks on his RBI? How about the ERA's of every pitcher who gave up a home run to him? How about Won/Lost records for those pitchers in games where a Bonds home run influenced the outcome? Team won/lost records? Standings? Pennants?

  • He's no Hank Aaron - Who is? Are we really willing to determine the merit of an athlete's accomplishments based on their personal demeanor? I'm not.

And there you have it, as far as I'm concerned anyway.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Fountain Blah

There's a fountain being built in Ybor City as part of a major beautification project. It's being built by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and when completed, will become the responsibility of the City of Tampa. This fountain is huge (nearly 29,000 square feet) and the total construction is going to cost about $1.3 million once it's done. The upkeep is expected to cost between $3,000 and $5,000 a month.
Now, as long as hospitals success rates aren't 1000% and crime rates aren't 0%, there are going to be plenty of valid arguments against spending millions of dollars on things like fountains. But we all know they're still going to get built and now we're stuck with this one so there's no point in bringing any of those arguments up now. Don't get me wrong; as far as fountains go, this is truly a beautiful fountain. It's as nice as any you're likely to come across. The problem is you're not likely to come across this one.
It's located between 21st and 22nd avenues underneath the I-4 overpass, right across the street from a McDonalds, which is what FDOT spokesman John McShaffrey refers to as a "gateway" to Ybor City. If you don't associate that particular vista with screaming "scenic view!", but more like just regular screaming, well, you're probably not alone. I'm pretty sure that's not one of the gateways to Ybor that Paul Catoe and Norwood Smith of the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau tout to out of towners.
It doesn't help that the entire thing is surrounded by a eight-foot high iron fence with locked gates. That's right, you can't (legally) get near it. It seems there are concerns about people misusing the fountain for purposes other than which it is intended, such as a bathing or, um, restroom facility. Now, I'm not making judgements about the people who live in or frequent Ybor City, I'm just following the path being laid here to it's logical conclusion. That being if that's really a concern, then maybe a fountain was never the best thing to put there in the first place. I mean isn't that kind of like getting your kids a puppy but you know they're too irresponsible to care for a pet so you take it to the taxidermist before you give it to them?
At any rate, the best place to actually view this magnificent fountain is from up on top of the I-4 overpass itself. Simply look for the McDonald's sign, then pull over and stop (illegally) in the inside breakdown lane, get out and lean over the retaining wall and look down. Voila! Gateway fountaintastic!
Of course, all this grousing about the fountain is pointless anyway, since the the city has already said that because of water restrictions and budget concerns, they're probably just going to shut the whole thing off once they take control of it. "I don't know of any reason why it should be running," said Elias Franco, spokesman for Tampa 's Water Department.
Oh. Never mind.

(Cross posted at Sticks Of Fire)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sunday is Derby Day again!

Looking for an activity that features tattooed women in fishnet stockings but not interested in attending a "gentleman's club"? Then the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins might be just what you're looking for!
I was a roller derby fanatic when I was a little kid, to the point where I remember writing an essay on my favorite athlete at the time: Joan Weston, the Blonde Bomber, #59 for my beloved Midwest Pioneers. Every Sunday, my routine consisted of getting up, eating breakfast and impatiently sitting through sepia-tinged reruns of The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid before Bert Weinman, Your TV Ford Man, presented this week's installment of the International Roller Derby League (IRDL). The IRDL ran into financial trouble in the early 70's and roller derby quietly faded away, basically disappearing in the 80's. In 1989 it was sort of re-invented as "Roller Games" with gimmicks like a figure eight track, an alligator pit and over the top WWE-style characters and contrived storylines. It lasted a year.
In 2004, the game was revived as an all-female (sorry, no dudes) amateur sport by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). Less a sanctioning governing body like those found in other sports, the WFTDA functions as a coalition of leagues scattered around the United States and serves to set standards for rules, scheduling and safety. While not members of the WFTDA (yet), the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins (TBDD) are a four team league that was formed in 2005 and they hold their events at the United Skates of America rink on Armenia in West Tampa.
Be advised; this is not your father's (or if you're my age, your) old roller derby. It's fast and full contact like the old game but these skaters have attitude by the bucketload. The event I attended tonight was titled "Blood Bath and Beyond", which gives you a hint of what the league is about. No more long-sleeved, superhero-type (shorts-over-tights) uniforms; the new breed teams wear miniskirts, short shorts and lots and lots of, um, exotic hosiery. Let's just say if the sport really catches on this time, Frederik's of Hollywood is going to have a whole new clientele to sell to. And then there are the skater's names. Tonight's event featured Ann T Social, Bettie Krueger, Violent Beauregarde and Spank Sinatra among others. But before you get the wrong idea of just what kind of entertainment takes place, I'd say that in spite of the ribald flourishes, it's entertainment on about a PG, maybe PG-13, level. People of all ages, including kids, were present and all seemed to be enjoying themselves. Yes, the sport is indeed full contact, and there's plenty of that, but there was probably less violent mayhem than at any football or hockey game. While hints at naughtiness abound, there was nothing presented in poor taste. Heck, intermission entertainment featured a game of musical chairs! Tickets are affordable ($10 in advance, $12 day of) and the whole thing actually has a real basic, minor league feel about it. Which for me, is enough to recommend it right there. And don't worry if you don't understand every esoteric rule; just like watching hockey, you'll pick up on the basics quickly enough to enjoy yourself without sweating the nuances.
Their next event is the championship bout, which will take place at United Skates on September 9th and I can hardly wait...just like when I was a kid.


Among the many delightful things that the delightful-in-and-of-themselves K & R have turned me on to is karaoke. In case you don't know, karaoke is the ancient (1970's era) and oft-scorned and ridiculed Japanese art of standing up on a stage in front of people and singing along to pre-recorded music. It may be responsible for spawning the horror that is "American Idol" but I choose to live in denial and refuse to acknowledge this.
Anyway, we have been doing a lot of karaoke lately after going out for dinner at the Proud Lion Pub a couple of weeks ago and hearing singing coming from the bar. After dinner we went over to gawk with no intention whatsoever of participating. We wound up having so much fun that we stayed until closing time. Since then, we've been averaging about one karaoke night a week, usually at the Proud Lion but we have ventured out to other locations with mixed results. There was the time at a resort bar on St. Pete Beach that was kind of old and creepy. Think the Black Lodge from "Twin Peaks" if it were in Florida instead of the Pacific Northwest. We also tried an Irish pub up the street from that place that was just a big frat house. Half the people were interested in karaoke, the other half were engrossed in taking turns clobbering a punching bag machine with everybody very, very drunk. We've also tried the Green Parrot on Dale Mabry a couple of times. The first time the place was packed and the crowd seemed to be comprised of several large groups of people. We went there last night and there were no groups and it was pretty empty so we didn't stay long. We'll keep returning to our "home base" at the Proud Lion though. For one thing, people know us there and we know them so there's a comfort level. This familiarity also breeds a supportive atmosphere, which can not be discounted when you're engaging in an activity where there's such huge potential to come off looking like an ass. The playing field is pretty level there, as far as talent goes. There are a couple of exceptions, one being a guy who goes by the name "H2O" who is seriously talented. Having him perform there is like having Frank Thomas on your softball team; it's fun to watch him launch home runs into the stratosphere until you realize you have to go up there after him and try not to dribble a grounder to the second baseman. But for the most part, we're all ham-and-eggers.
The three of us have very distinct individual approaches to how we perform. R has been accused of (and readily admits to) rehearsing in her spare time. She's also always the first one to get up on stage and get things rolling. For all the crap we (meaning mostly, I) give her about being timid (R is the one who will always poop a party by pointing out and actually obeying trivial things like signs that say "NO TRESPASSING" or "ROAD CLOSED"), she's invariably the boldest of the three of us. Whether it's deciding to make a film, quitting her comfortable job to devote more time to creative pursuits or singing a Pat Benatar song in front of strangers, R is always the one who dives in first.
K is kind of shy and a little less than confident in her karaoke skillz. She's not afraid to get up there but she holds the microphone away from her face and doesn't look or sound like she feels entirely comfortable. Which is interesting because in "real life" (whatever that is) K doesn't seem to lack self confidence in the least and is easily one of the most fearless people I have ever known. So in a way, it's really kind of endearing to see what is obviously a very small side to her personality.
Me, I don't sing. I'm a belter. I'm smart in that I know my limitations. I can carry a tune a little bit and can keep time so I mostly pick old soul, rock and roll or blues numbers that I can growl and grunt through in three and a half minutes or less. I'll do "Long Tall Sally" or "Mustang Sally" or "Lay Down Sally". Basically, I limit myself to songs about Sally. You get the idea.

Sometimes I don't hear so good either

Is it possible to be a dyslexic listener?
This morning I had the TV on in the other room and I heard an ad from Clearwater Mattress Company ("Where Tampa Bay Goes To Sleep") talking about a big sale they're having. The announcer said something about buying "a new Clearwater Mattress", but what I heard was something about buying "a nuclear water mattress".
Sounds dangerous...yet comfy.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Amazing Animal Facts!

I know many incredible things about the inhabitants of the animal kingdom. Here's some of them:

  • Over the course of its lifetime, every dog eats its own weight in phone books.
  • Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, the odometer and the giraffe.
  • Chickens can fly. They simply refuse to apply themselves.
  • I have no information regarding the two animals featured here. I think they might be cats of some sort. One of them looks sort of pissed off, which would further support that hypotheses.
  • Zebras lack the ability to intelligently discuss the Monroe Doctrine. However, they have some interesting views on the Magna Carta.
  • Muskrats are used as currency in Sri Lanka, with a live muskrat being worth approximately twice as much as a dead one (depending on the strength of the Yen at the given time).
  • Flocks of bloodthirsty dolphins roaming the Amazon River and the Himalayan Alps have been known to devour animals alive, using their razor sharp teeth to strip the carcass to nothing but bone in mere seconds.
  • The dolphin’s only known enemy is the Silverback Gorilla.
  • Lemurs believe that Ayn Rand is vastly overrated.
  • Lemurs are right.
  • While many disabled people employ the use of "helper monkeys" to assist them with day-to-day chores, many non-disabled people employ the use of "hinder monkeys" to keep things balanced.
  • Lobsters are the only animals that can be seen from space.
  • In space, no one can hear you scream…except for lobsters.
  • There are no lobsters in space…except one: the constellation Cancer.
  • Contrary to popular belief and scientific theory, the constellation Cancer is not totally deaf. Rather, it is merely indifferent to your incessant screaming.