Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

If you're someone who'd like to do something to commemorate Memorial Day besides wear white clothes, cook out and bitch about which political figure from whatever political party did or didn't do something to piss you off, drop off a load of books at your local VA hospital. You'll be doing something good and it will be appreciated more than you can know.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Somehow or another, I have reached adulthood in America without ever experiencing some of life's fundamental touchstones. I mention things I haven't done to people and they either think I'm lying or that I must have wandered out of some woods at the age of eighteen. Neither of those are the case. I just never got exposed to certain things for some reason. For example, I read "To Kill A Mockingbird" for the first time about three years ago. And that was because I wanted to. Everyone I mention this to says it was required reading for them in junior high school. But not me. It just...wasn't. I've never seen the original (or the remake, for that matter) Willy Wonka movie. Never saw "Jaws" or any of the "Friday The 13th" movies either. I also never had The Talk (you know what I mean) either. It was just something dad never got around to, I guess. As a result, while I think I have a pretty solid understanding of what parts perform which functions and how they're designed to work (or not) with each other, I don't think I'm legally certified in having been Talked To (consider that a warning, if you want).
The point of mentioning all this is that Tampa Theatre is presenting Sing-A-Long Mary Poppins in August and my friends want to organize an outing, and they want me to go with them. Well, guess what?

"You have got to be kidding me. This again? How is it possible you've never heard of Mary Poppins?!?"
I didn't say I'd never heard of it. She's an English nun who flies, right? Just like Sally Field.
"Not at all like Sally Field. She's a nanny, not a nun. She cares for a family's children."
Whatever. Dick Van Dyke is in it, right? He's not English.
"He plays an Englishman, a chimney sweep. You know the song 'Chim Chim Cher-ee'?"
Of course I do. A song about monkeys. I like that! And I also know the one about Super-californication-beep-beep-ribby-ribby.
"What about 'A Spoon Full Of Sugar'?"
What about it?
"It helps the (starts to sing) medicine go down, the medicine go down..."
This is an individual put in charge of caring for children, presumably a professional, who's tampering with medicine? That kind of thing might be okay in the UK but...
"Terrible. Maybe you should just not sing. What are you going to dress up as? I'm dressing as a penguin!"
I don't know. How about a robot?
"Why on earth would you dress like a robot?"
I like robots.
"What's that have to do with Mary Poppins."
Are you forgetting the famous fight scene with robots, battling in the streets of London?
"There are no robots in Mary Poppins."
You make the idea of robots in Mary Poppins sound completely ridiculous, yet there are penguins...
"The penguins are part of it!"
Part of the flying nun movie...
"She's a nanny, not a nun!"
Who flies. Right. I'm the one being ridiculous. You know what? Maybe she is a robot. Mary Robopoppins, who can transform from a nun into a helicopter and back again. Transporting kids around London, fighting crime in Detroit, specifically a band of terrorists who tamper with children's medicine. Serving up a spoon full of justice, and by spoon I mean shoulder mounted machine guns. Awesome! I could definitely see myself singing along to that!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Somebody needs a day planner...

Christina Aguillera has cancelled her world tour, within a few short days of tickets going on sale. But not because of poor sales or anything like that. Noooooo! She's just too darn busy, mostly with a film she's in with Cher.

"Immediately after wrapping production on Burlesque, I went directly back into the studio and then quickly started the promotional process for Bionic. With both the album press and film press I am booked the entire summer and need time to focus on the work at hand. After reviewing the schedule with my team, I realized there was not enough time to put together and rehearse for a proper show" -- Christina Aguillera

Who can't relate to that? It's happened to all of us at one time or another...

"Hey Brenda, I am soooo sorry for such short notice, but I gotta take a raincheck on lunch again. Yeah, I know, I know. It's been forever and we need to catch up on things (and we will! I promise!) but I just looked at my calendar and, damn it, I'm doing a movie with Cher. Augh! I don't know why I constantly do this; schedule appointments for important things that impact other people before remembering I'm in a movie with Cher. Maybe I should hire a team to mind my affairs. Ha ha! So sorry. My fault, totally." -- Me

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Don't "shh" me!

So I got into a fight at the library yesterday.
Here's what happened...
I went to my local branch of the Hillsborough County Library System, just like I have on a fairly regular basis since my two computers crashed (I still have trouble believing that actually happened. I mean, of all the...never mind), sat down to log in at one of the computer terminals they so graciously make available for public use and got an error message. It said my card was invalid and to seek help from one of the staff. I went over to the counter and a lady scanned my card and said it was invalid. She then looked up my name in some computer system and said I didn't have a card.
"Great. Can you make me a new one. please?"
"You don't have a library card, sir."
"I just gave it to you. You scanned it. That's it right there on the counter by your hand. That's my card."
"That card isn't valid, sir. There's no record of that card, or of you having a card, in our system."
"Well, obviously that's wrong. You saw me walk up here with it in my hand. And then I handed it to you. "
"Just because you had a library card in your possession doesn't mean you had a valid library card. People steal library cards all the time."
ERRRRRKKKKKK!!!!! Wait a minute...
" accusing me of stealing a library card?"
"Not at all, sir. But people do steal them. And I have no idea where you got that one."
"That sounds like you're accusing me of stealing it."
"No, sir. I never said you stole it."
"Okay, now what it sounds like is you're accusing me of trafficking in stolen library cards, a black market that can't be very profitable since they're free anyway."
There was some back-and-forth like this for a while. Eventually I got tired of trying to be rational and make sense...
"So basically, you're denying me access to a public library."
"No I'm not."
"Can I use one of those computers?"
"Not without a library card."
"Which I no longer have."
"I don't believe you ever did."
"So you are saying I stole that card!"
"I never said that."
Being a white, 21st century American male over the age of 40, I decided to go insane...
"You know what? This...this right here...this is exactly the kind of thing that makes people go join the teabagger party."
"I believe you're referring to the Tea Party."
"Well, I guess I'll have to take your word for that, since I'm not allowed to use any of the information resources here in this public library (I dramatically raised my voice there) to verify if that's true or not."
"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to be quiet."
"Oh yeah. I'll bet you'd looooove that, wouldn't you? Take away a man's voice, deny his right to be heard."
"It's a library, sir."
"Is it? Is it?? Because to me, it's more like a jail. That's right. A jail where I'm imprisoned with all kinds of books and computers that I'm not allowed to read and so I might as well leave because I'm a prisoner who's not even welcome within the very jail in which he, I, is, am Well, I won't stand for it!" *SLAM!* goes the door...except doors don't slam anymore; they're all equipped with those anti-slam gizmos. So it was more like this:
"....Well, I won't stand for it!" *!* goes the door.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hey, what the #@%& is going on here?!?

If you're wondering why I haven't been publishing this blog lately, or been on Facebook, Twitter or even replying to emails, the short story is that I have no computer.
The slightly longer story is that I had two computers, a PC and a laptop, and they both crapped out, for two different reasons, within four days of each other. This confluence of events, along with my recently confirmed status as mentally deficient and some other stress factors going on, caused me to see this as a sign from the universe, a rejection letter from God ("Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately at this time, it's not what we, meaning everybody, are looking for. I'd wish you success in your future writing endeavors but that would kind of be the opposite of what I'm trying to convey here, which is for you to shut up, and frankly I get in more than enough trouble as it is with messages that seem to contradict each other, so I'm going to dispense with that and just say stop it. Please and thanks."). Of course, that's an absurd assumption, but it still sent me into a funk that was severe enough to make me not want to write even if I had a means to publish it.
The bottom line is that until I figure out how to get myself another computer (robbing a liquor store is still an option), publishing is going to be sporadic at best. I'm not above going to the library, which is where I'm writing this now, and using the computers there, although if God really is trying to shut me up permanently (and if that's the case, by the way, I found the bone you put in my food last night. Nice try.), I'd hate to be even partially responsible for a library getting struck by lightning.
Anyway, see ya when I see ya. Hopefully sooner than later because I miss this. A lot.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A short conversation about the oil spill

"All right, it's been three weeks since the Deepwater Horizon sunk and this nightmare began. Please tell me you have something, some kind of viable solution to fix this disaster. Please."

"Oh, we've got something, sir. We've got something spectacular! Dolphins!"


"Dolphins, sir! We have a genetics lab and our engineers have been working tirelessly to successfully breed a dolphin with opposable thumbs. They're highly intelligent creatures. They can swim. We'll train them to weld, they'll go down there, fix the leak, pop back up to the surface and balance a colorful ball on their nose. It will be ecologically safe and it will be adorable."


"I've brought along a little friend from the lab to show you just what I'm talking about. Sir, say hello to Beepy The Dolphin, the answer to your prayers!"

" not a dolphin."

"Sure it is. It looks different from other species because of the genetic mutations, but..."

"That is clearly a raccoon. That's a raccoon and it's wearing a pair of swim fins and some welding goggles."

"Well, it's a prototype. And it's something they came up with in genetics. I'm not directly responsible for..."

"And now it's loose in my office! You idiot!"

"You're going to want to put your top men on catching him, sir, and right away. I can't completely guarantee that Beepy isn't rabid. Carl was bitten on the drive over here and he's been really, really thirsty since then."

"So that's it? That's all you've come up with so far?"

"Yeah. I mean no. No, that's not all..."

"Well, what else then?"

"We thought, uh, we could go down there and, um...


"And, like, jam a bunch of stuff in the leak hole and make it stop that way..."

"Stuff? What kind of stuff?"

"Uh...shredded stuff. Maybe some car tires? All shredded up"

"You're going to jam shredded tires in there..."

"And golf balls? Shredded."

"Nothing you have presented today seems remotely scientific in any way shape or form."

"Well, frankly sir, science is kinda what got us into this mess, so..."

"I can't believe this. I have a press briefing right outside those doors in less than five minutes and I have no updates to share with the American people about what is being done to repair a ruptured pipe that has been gushing five thousand barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day for almost a month! What am I supposed to stand up there and say?"

"Um, actually I can give you a scientific update about the five thousand barrels a day..."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Never mind the bollocks, here's the Republicans

It looks like Tampa will be hosting the 2012 Republican National Convention. This is fantastic news from a tourism standpoint, since here in Florida, we are all about the tourism industry. So as a resident of Tampa, and thereby a de facto ambassador on behalf of the city, let me be among the first to welcome all the Republicans who will be coming to visit. You'll be hearing a lot about our city in the near future and will be receiving all kinds of comprehensive information about lodging, dining, attractions, entertainment and various services to help you make your travel plans. In the meantime, I'd like to very briefly point out just a couple of points of interest...

Local-centric cuisine
WHAT YOU WILL LIKE: Try the Cuban Sandwich. What the cheesesteak is to Philadelphia, the Cuban is to Tampa. You'll find literally hundreds of small, family-owned and operated establishments (the kind that made this country great because they appreciate the freedom this country offers and how that freedom creates opportunity for those who are willing to work hard and make sacrifices, which is essentially, truly, The American Dream) that serve this local delicacy.
WHAT YOU WILL NOT LIKE: Very, very few of those families will be able to provide proof upon demand that they were born in America.

Nearby beaches
WHAT YOU WILL NOT LIKE: You won't see any silhouettes of offshore oil drilling platforms in the distance adorning the skyline.
WHAT YOU WILL LIKE: You'll probably see oil!

Faith among the locals
WHAT YOU WILL LIKE: You will undoubtedly encounter many, many people who live their lives guided by faith-based principles, and who maintain a strict adherence to those principles in spite of harsh criticism they face from those who ridicule their beliefs and who would seek the elimination of their very church itself if it were at all possible, which, thankfully, it is not.
WHAT YOU WILL NOT LIKE: They're Scientologists.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


In case you don't know, my mom has been spending a lot of time in the hospital lately. Three times in the last two weeks. Most recently, she checked in yesterday morning, less than 24 hours after checking out. Here's how I found out this time...

Phone rings, I answer it:
ME: Hello?
FAMILY MEMBER: Hey, how's your mom doing?
ME: Oh, I thought I updated everybody. She's home. Says she feels good. Sounds good. She's fine.
FM: Wrong! She's in the emergency room right now!
ME (unspoken): Oh. I'm so glad you told me like that. Because now in addition to all the fun of being anxious and concerned for my mother's well-being, I get to feel stupid too. Bonus!

Don't get me wrong; I love this family member and I appreciate getting the info...but that's how we roll in my family, baby.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The more things change...

My "real" job (real, in the two unfortunate senses that it's the one I spend the most time on and is the one that provides the most reliable source of income) is a customer service position and it frequently puts me in a position of having to answer for things that make customers unhappy that are not my fault. I like to think I have fairly decent communication skills (I'm a writer!) and if someone is reasonable in expressing their dissatisfaction and what their expectations are in resolving the matter, in almost all cases, it can be worked out. Then there are other people...we'll call them assholes...who are surly, uncivil and completely unreasonable. These are people who view a nametag as a target and are far more interested in expressing anger and being mean than they are in resolving a problem. This makes them feel good, I guess? They're certainly not accomplishing anything else, so that's got to be it. Normally the ratio of normal people to assholes is 9/1, maybe higher. However, there are occasions when that ratio is inverted. Such was the case Saturday night.
The day started out great; I had eight full, uninterrupted hours of sleep the night before, which hasn't happened in at least a month, maybe longer, I had a nice, healthy (and cheap) salad for lunch and I got some important errands done. Once I got to work, though, things changed. Drastically and instantly. I don't know what was going on...some people I mentioned this to suggested it's the unseasonably high heat...but everybody I encountered was pissed off about something and nasty to the point of being personally insulting. It was like a parade to celebrate National Condescending Hostility. I won't go into specifics, but more than 3/4 of the people I dealt with had issues they wanted resolved and were just downright vicious about it. It only took a couple of hours of that to erode all the positivity the morning had given me and my mood was shot less than halfway through my shift. By the end of the night, I wanted some retribution. It was my turn. I've taken more than my fair share of shit today, let somebody else take some now. Pay it forward? You bet I'll pay it forward; exactly what I'd been getting paid all day long, with interest, was coming somebody's way. I decided I was going to stop somewhere for dinner on the way home and be the most difficult patron that some server had ever had the misfortune of dealing with. I was going to order something not on the menu, prepared in a strange, specific way, send it back to the kitchen at least twice, make a mess at the table and talk to whomever the poor slob who should have called in sick was like they were not worth the effort to scrape them off the bottom of my shoe. I wanted, at minimum, tears. For them to storm out of the place in the middle of their shift, never to return and now in need of a job, would have been absolutely ideal. Hey, maybe if karma isn't bullshit (which it is), it would eventually work it's way around to somebody who actually deserves it.
That sounds harsh, doesn't it? It is. It's also kind of out-of-character for me. But as I've gotten older, I have come to regret just how much of my life I've wasted by being A Nice Guy. I have come to learn that no truer words have ever been spoken than "Nice guys finish last". Nice Guys are suckers. They're marks. Chumps. Low-hanging fruit, easy targets and stepping stones. Nice guys are, by any standard that actually matters in real life, losers. I realize that now.
Too bad I also realize that it's too out-of-character for me at this point. Either the Nice Guy/Loser gene is so dominant in me that I can't access the Winner gene or I simply don't have it. Regardless, I didn't follow through with my plan and wound up going through some crappy drive-thru where not only did I not get retribution, I didn't even get a "please" or "thank you" from the server who waited on me.
I'll probably end up working for that guy some day.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

And the search continues...

Ah yes, I see. That is helpful. It does narrow things down a little bit more, so thank you. Thank you and please do enjoy a pleasant day, madame.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Can't beat phun at the ol' ballpark

This is my new favorite photo:
It's an idiot Philadelphia Phillies fan who decided to run around on the field during a game the other night...just a second or two before getting nailed by a taser. Awesome!
As legendarily uncivilized as Philadelphia sports fans are, I find it hard to believe there are that many of them who haven't been on the wrong end of a taser before. Threatening Philly fans with a taser (or any other behavior modification technique that normal human beings would find unpleasant) is probably like threatening to squirt blood at Dracula. Seriously, they're scum.
Apparently, there's some debate whether or not excessive force was used in resolving this situation, specifically because of the use of the taser. I don't see what the big deal is: everybody knows you're not supposed to run around on the field and it's generally understood that if you do it, you're fair game for whatever happens to you. This kid is an asshole and he had it coming. It certainly could have been worse. See for yourself:
Here's the actual incident...

And here's a video (one of hundreds of this kind of thing on YouTube) of an incident where a taser was not used:

And just for fun, here's one from an NFL game where security didn't even get a chance to be involved...

Yeah, right, it didn't hurt. It probably still hurts today.
Anyway, I don't know about you, but of those three, the taser doesn't look that bad.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Dumb, baby, dumb

I have a selectively low tolerance for stupidity. Especially when it comes to stupidity that causes harm to others and could have been prevented. That's why I'm more than a little aggravated by what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico right now.
Remember when you were a kid and somebody in the neighborhood would build something like a fort or a treehouse or a go-cart, that
looked fun but also potentially lethal? Even as a child, you knew that human beings make mistakes and machines fail, and so as much fun as it looked, you decided it was too risky and not a good idea. Well, some kids didn't exercise that judgment back then but somehow managed to grow up anyway. Lucky us. Granted, a few of these daredevils went on to apply their risk-taking and bold ideas as scientists, artists and professional athletes. But the rest of them are out there coming up with things like off shore oil drilling.
Now off shore oil drilling might not be an entirely fundamentally dumb concept, but we clearly don't know how to execute it and that is, well, just really, really dumb. The only proof you need is the fact that there's no effective response to deal with the consequences when things go wrong. Sorry, but 30-45 days before action can take place is not an effective response. Try waiting 30-45 days to pay your light bill and see how effective the power company thinks that is. You'll be effectively sitting in the dark, eating melting ice cream. You dummy.
Eventually, there will be a report that can only be read by people who went to MIT that will break down exactly what went wrong and whose fault it is. Well, long before that report is published, I can tell you what went wrong: some combination of human error and machine failure. That's it. That's all that matters. It doesn't really matter whose names are on it. Who really cares? I'm far, far angrier at the person or persons who set this up in the first place, since they're the ones who didn't have a plan in place for when the shit inevitably hit the fan. We all know that human beings make mistakes and machines fail. We don't install seatbelts and airbags in our cars because we hope something might go wrong, we do it because we know it will. Because we all know that human beings make mistakes and machines fail! We know that from centuries of chronicled history and our own personal experiences, but we went ahead and stuck a pipe in the ocean floor with no idea of what we would do when...not if... somebody fucked up and/or something broke. If there's a word that sums that up better than dumb, please tell me what it is.
If you're Rick Perry, the governor of the great state of Texas, you could try to tell me that it's an act of God. Sorry, I'm not buying that. This isn't some impossible-to-foresee calamity like a tree that gets struck by lightning and topples over on to somebody's house. Considering that every aspect of the situation exists because of the conscious actions of mortal men, it doesn't seem to fair to invoke the phrase "an act of God". As though God is some kind of impetuous 2-year-old on a sugar bender, tearing around the house, throwing tantrums and spilling grape juice on the rug. Oh God, you adorable little scamp!
But that's not as dumb, not even close by half, as dumbass congressman Gene Taylor from Mississippi, who thinks the spill looks like chocolate milk and will break up naturally:
"He described the spill as a light, rainbow sheen with patches that look like chocolate milk."
Good grief.
The only thing I would say in response to that is to advise the good people of Mississippi to think about this at election time; if you're not going to elect someone who has even a passing familiarity with the properties of petroleum products, at least elect someone who's had glass of chocolate milk once in their life.

Then there are those, including the New York Times, who want you to know it simply isn't that bad. I mean, it isn't good, (insert reasonable amount of gravitas and sad head-shaking here) but let's get real, folks; on a scale of 1 to oh, let's say...a single car bomb that didn't even blow up, this is at best, a 6. Maybe. Heck, for your reassurance, they kindly mention three or four similar incidents that this one can't even touch. Yet. And then there's this ray of sunlight:
"...on Monday, the wind was pushing the slick in the opposite direction, away from the current. The worst effects of the spill have yet to be felt. And if efforts to contain the oil are even partly successful and the weather cooperates, the worst could be avoided."
Well, when they put it that way, I just feel silly. Because as long as we can count on the tools at our disposal that are as reliable and consistent as wind direction and weather patterns, we might be fine!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Have we met before...?

This is a poster outside of the drive-thru lane at my bank. The model's appearance is very striking to me. She was obviously chosen because of her distinctive, yet ethnically ambiguous appearance. Is she Caucasian? Light-skinned African American? Hispanic? It's impossible to tell. These marketing people, they're very crafty when it comes to this stuff. She's (well, They're) saying "Come on in! Everyone is welcome at this bank! We take care of everyone's money here!" It's an image to make people of different cultures feel comfortable and safe.
Yet, there's something else about her...something so familiar...but so strange at the same time. Let me look closer and think...think...
It's driving me crazy. Where have I seen you before?
Ah yes! I remember now!