Friday, December 30, 2011

What's in the box???

Tomatoes are fruits.
Pluto's not a planet.
The ending of "Lost".
Come on, Charlie Brown. Life is complicated enough as it is.
Can't I just enjoy a snack without having to think about it?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One stop shop

There is a neighborhood here in Tampa, just north and east of Ybor City, that seems to consist entirely of barber and beauty shops, churches and houses. It's probably easy for cops to patrol the area because anybody who doesn't look nice and is either on their way to or from church probably doesn't live there.
One establishment in particular stood out to me as I was passing through there once, the B-Elegant (or B'elegant if your method of saving time consists of eliminating extra syllables whenever possible or if you just hate hyphens). That's it in the picture, located at the corner of north 34th Street and east 26th Avenue. And what caught my eye was the sign above the front door:
There are generally two ways you can go as a small, independent merchant; find a niche and dedicate yourself to that or try to provide as much service in as many areas as you possibly can. The purveyors of B-Elegant have obviously decided on option B because that's an awful lot of good and services under the roof of one small shop.
"Come on in, shop, grab a bite to eat, get your hair done (madames et monsieurs) and if for any reason you find that you're not satisfied with the efforts of our stylist, please allow me to show you to our haberdashery."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sometimes, noble experiments pay off

Louis CK is one of my favorite comedians. Right now, he's more popular than ever, with a successful sitcom on FX ("Louie) and having just been named the headliner at the upcoming radio and TV congressional correspondents dinner. He also recently produced and directed a stand-up comedy special and distributed it himself, directly to consumers via the internet for the price of $5, just to see what would happen. What happened was success beyond what most people would consider their wildest dreams:

So it's been about 12 days since the thing started and yesterday we hit the crazy number. One million dollars. That's a lot of money. Really too much money." - Louis CK, December 21, 2011
Keep in mind that this is without the aid of a record/video company or a service like Amazon or iTunes, so that million goes directly back to Louis CK, the person who created the content.

I don't really know why, but I'm fascinated by stuff like this. Prince has tried similar things, some working better than others, but there seems to be a growing movement fronted by several performers who are testing the limits and boundaries of how artists can reap profits from their material without working within the confines of the established system. Feel free to ignore any of the words in that last sentence, like "boundaries", "artist", "established" and "system" if any of them strike you as effete; the point is people who make stuff are figuring out how to keep more of the profits generated by the stuff they make. You probably can't attribute any of this to social media like Facebook or Twitter, but it's difficult to imagine it taking place before these things came to be and removed several layers of insulation between artists and audiences.

If you think that point is overstated, here are more qoutes from Louis CK...

"It's been amazing to conduct this experiment with you. The experiment was: if I put out a brand new standup special at a drastically low price ($5) and make it as easy as possible to buy, download and enjoy, free of any restrictions, will everyone just go and steal it? Will they pay for it? And how much money can be made by an individual in this manner?"

"What I didn't expect when I started this was that people would not only take part in this experiment, they would be invested in it and it would be important to them."

"I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have shitloads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked. If anybody stole it, it wasn't many of you. Pretty much everybody bought it. And so now we all get to know that about people and stuff. I'm really glad I put this out here this way and I'll certainly do it again. If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that i can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I'll do it here and I'll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction."
How fantastic would it be for you, me, all of us, if (insert the name of your favorite artist here) could make a living this way? The trade-off here here is that regardless of the price, if the artists isn't producing something of high quality, they have no right to expect anybody to pay them for it. But that's still a win for us as consumers. If it sucks, we don't have to buy it (but even if we do, we're only out a few bucks) and we don't have to worry about some big company's promotional department glossing things up and beating us over the head, trying to convince us it's wrong to think that way. Honestly, is there a better, more democratic system than that? I can't think of one. "Here, I made this. Please buy it. If you like it, come back and I'll make more." It works for the donut shop. Is there a reason it can't work here?

And how is the special itself? Well, admittedly, I'm a fan so I think it's pretty great. And he's made over $1 million at $5 a pop, so apparently I'm not alone. 

You can buy "Louis CK: Live at the Beacon Theater" for yourself by clicking this link right here. I think you should get it, although to be fair, I feel I should warn you that the language is strong and his material goes into areas that make many people uncomfortable. If you're not familiar with him or his style of comedy, I'd suggest you check out a couple of clips on YouTube first, rather than be mad at me because you wasted $5. If nothing else, at least check out the site and read about the process of how this all came about and where the money is going.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Christmas Velcro Shoes

Very rarely do I grant requests from readers, mostly because very rarely do I receive any. But for the sake of making this bit work, I've made one, both a request and a reader.

Larry Biblibbbington of Fingerbang, Arizona writes:
"Hey Clark,
In the past you've gifted us with some holiday poetry. In 2008, you did one for Happy New Year and in 2009, you did one for Christmas. You didn't do another one until this past summer, but it had nothing to do with the Christmas or the New Year. How about getting back in the holiday spirit and doing one for us this year, or else I will put on some astronaut diapers and drive cross country and murder you. Please?"
Well Larry, since even the people I make up seem to hate me, I don't see how I can refuse.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present...

The Christmas Velcro Shoes
As I get older every day,
So many things that I have learned.
Like, an oven filled with microwaves
Turned up to 10 makes popcorn burned

Some other lessons I've picked up
I choose to ignore or to use 
Like drinking whiskey from a coffee cup
Or not wasting time by tying shoes

Since I've discovered footwear with velcro
I can't be bothered with silly strings
To me, this is the way to go
More valuable than Five Golden Rings

There are no laces so I don't get knots,
That I would have to snip
I just grab
that velcro tab
Tug it once and hear it rip

Also, I don't worry about kids I meet
with crumb-encrusted faces
Crawling down between my feet
And tying together my laces

I have one pair in stealthy black
Another in a pearly white
Stylishly, I'm not held back
Even if I were to meet Jesus tonight.

It's not that I can't tie a bow
(I'd learned how by second grade)
But shoelaces come from...where? I don't know
While velcro is American made

That's why I mentioned to Santa Claus
In my lengthy annual letter
Don't give me no shoes with inherent flaws
When velcro makes it all so much better

I'm already planning to leave him cookies in a dish
Santa's cool and oh-so-smart
I know that he will grant my wish
Because I saw him wearing some at Wal Mart.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, regardless of what you wear on your feet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday week spite of me

So apparently, I'm on a mission to ruin Christmas for everyone. Since Sunday, I've no-showed at two of the three holdiay gatherings to which I've been invited and forgotten to deliver a present I procured on behalf of a friend. It's not intentional; I think maybe somebody has activated a post-hypnotic suggestion I was given some time ago by somebody who wanted me to jack up Christmas 2011 for as many people as possible. Like the responsible guy in the movies who turns into a werewolf and tries to make sure he's incapacitated when the moon is full, I'm trying to take myself out of circulation until December 26th. I asked a friend who has access to a boat if she would take me out and drop me off on an island for a few days. I think she thinks I was kidding but she still said no. She has only herself to blame if I screw up her holidays. At any rate, I just want to get through the rest of the week without touching anything or talking to anyone, thereby minimizing the opportunities to give myself more reasons to hate myself than I've already got.

Aside from that, I'd like to continue this week's holiday film festival with this little gem I whipped up last year. I'm going to post it every year with hope that it becomes like the Charlie Brown Christmas special and generations of screwed-up kids grow up with it forever and ever. As far as legacies are concerned, I figure I could do a lot worse than festive, hungry, foul-mouthed robots.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy holiday week!

Are you insane yet? If so, I hope you're having fun. Because we're in the home stretch of the holidays and when it's over, guess what's waiting for us? The 2012 presidential election. So please, please, please find a way to enjoy yourself during this holiday season...because what comes next isn't going to be any fun at all.

To help, I'll run a couple of my personal seasonal favorites this week, starting today. This one is my gift to those who love the Frank Capra classic "It's A Wonderful Life" but can't carve out more than two minutes and fifteen seconds to sit down and watch it. You're welcome!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sign O' The Times

This is what my apartment complex looked like Wednesday morning:

What happened? Zombie apocolypse? Smallpox outbreak? Holiday vacation travel?
No, I'm afraid the situation is much, much more not that big of a deal; the parking lots are being resurfaced.
It's a large complex and they're doing it in sections over the course of a week. So while one area is being worked on, residents who live in that section can't park right in front of their homes. As yet another example of Why People In Other Countries Hate America, many of the residents have reacted to this slight, minor and short-term inconvenience by freaking out. Lots of them are very angry, acting like it's just the worst thing that's ever happened. Some people are parking in grass areas and others are cramming their cars into any available sliver of space, blocking each each other in while full spaces a little bit further away sit empty. And in spite of daily notices from the management office on where to park or not park and signage all over the place, many people just decided to do whatever the hell they wanted, as evidenced by this exchange right outside my window forst thing that morning:
"Ma'am, I'm sorry. You can't park here. This is where the men are working today."
"The note said I couldn't park here last night."
"Right. Because we need the area clear so the men can get started working first thing in the morning. It actually would have been fine if you had parked here last night, as long as the car was gone now. We thought it would be easier if people just parked their cars elsewhere the night before."
"Yeah, but you didn't say that. You said not to park here last night. So last night is over and now I want to park here. There's nothing that says we can't park here this morning, so that's what I'm going to do."
"Yes, there is. In addition to the flyers we put on your door, we posted signs saying so."
"No, you didn't."
"Ma'am, you're standing in front of one of them right now."

"No, you didn't."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sharing the love!

For some odd reason, I've come across people doing nice things for me and saying nice things about me the last couple of days. Being the compulsive, unrepentant braggart that I am, I'd like to share them with you now...

The Bus Leagues Experience: Volume 2 - This is a book from the writers of, a web site dedicated to covering minor league baseball. I was interviewed by Michael Lortz this past summer and they saw fit to include that in their latest volume of collected "best of". You can buy it here from and read some misty, water-colored memories of my days with the dearly departed Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League, as well as some not-very-nice things about the way the Tampa Sports Authority conducted business back in the '80s (that can't possibly come back to haunt me, can it? Nahhhhh) among interviews on more than 50 other baseball personalities (I think my thing in 2012 will be to start referring to myself as a "personality"; I figure that would be easier than actually having one). You can also buy Volume 1 while you're there, although I'm not in that one. Thanks to Eric Angevine, Chris Fee, Scott Grauer, Brian Moynahan, Tamara Swindler and especially Michael Lortz. 

Silverwood Technology - My friend Brent Silverwood is a guy I went to school with back in Michigan and he now works in technology. I know nothing specific about what he does or technology itself. As far as I'm concerned, that is his job: "What does Brent do?" "Technology." "What, he makes it, markets it? What kind of technology? Medical, automotive?" "Yes.".
If you had told me that the kid that was befuddled by the onions we dropped into his fruit punch that we had told him were tiny ice cubes would grow up to be employed in the technology industry, I would have spewed fruit punch from my nose. Of course, as dumb as we all were as kids, I'm sure our classmates (and probably our parents) would be amazed that we grew up without drowning ourselves while putting on a pair of shoes or getting run over by a car chasing a balloon out into traffic or something, so there's that. Anyway, Brent has started blogging and look what he wrote in his very first post:
"...this will be my forum for those lessons and philosophical regurgitation of my education and experience.  I am also inspired by Clark Brooks' Ridiculously Inconsistent Trickle of Consciousness (the all too clever writings of a high school friend"
High praise indeed! I'm sincerely flattered!

The Spencerian - Somehow I missed this when it came out in August, but this was posted when I was knee-deep in my annual mock-non-campaign for Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay award. You may recall that Peter Schorsch complimented me but stated his case for why I, and others, shouldn't win the award. Well, Benjamin Kirby who publishes The Spencerian took issue with Peter's opinion and dropped this nugget in his response:
First of all, Clark is an interesting and very talented writer.

Honestly, that means more to me than winning an award (Creative Loafing voters, please disregard this sentence next summer). Thanks Ben!

Serge Lavange - Who? I have no idea. The email I received says it's an account manager for a company that "aggregate job adverts around the world" whatever the hell that means. I suspect it's somebody...or something...that uses some sort of MadLibs-inspired algorithm to search blogs for words and phrases from the authors blogs and profiles and then use them in emails to those authors in an attempt to establish some sort of false familiarity. I could be wrong, although I'm pretty sure neither David Sedaris nor Chuck Palaniuk have written books titled "Anything". I've copied and pasted it here, so you be the judge. At any rate, he/she/it seems to enjoy the blog, so thanks and have an excellent mood yourself!


I'm so glad that someone else reads books :) I found Anything by David Sedaris in your profile, it is one of my favorite ones! By the way, I do not know if you read Anything by Chuck Palahniuk, I can recommend it to you, I think you should like it.

I just want to thank you for your wonderful blog

I read the post "This is glue. Strong stuff." and then I spent another hour on your blog by reading your posts with pleasure :) Every article is interesting and easy to read. I really like the "A Budget-Conscious Tourist's Tale".

I work for XXX company, we aggregate job adverts around the world.

My job is to persuade bloggers to link to our site.

I really love my job! We have a friendly team and good management, but unfortunately I have no idea how to convince a blogger to link to us, I'm afraid I might lose my job because of it :(

And that is why, instead of sending letters to thousands of different blogs, I am reading yours.

Honestly, I am not really sure if the link to our website in United States -, will be appropriate for your blog, but if you believe it will and it is possible to add it, I would be really grateful to you! Our site is really cool, it can greatly help hundreds of people to find a job.

I wish you to have a good day and excellent mood! Thanks again for your nice blog. Write more! Thanks!

Best regards,

Serge Lavange
Account Manager

Monday, December 12, 2011

The bachelor, his breakfast and the bigger meaning of it all

As you may or may not know, I am a single dude, currently sans companionette, due in large part to my general unlovable-ness. As such, I live alone. And this is a status update I posted yesterday via Twitter:
Being unable to find a fork didn't stop me from eating spaghetti for breakfast this morning. Single life has all kinds of pluses & minuses.

I'm not usually a big fan of my own words but I'll readily admit that this little statement pleased me. Funny, yes? But sad as well, no?
Ah, the dichotomy! The duality! The two-sided-ness! The seeming contradictitude!
You see, it doesn't matter whether or not it's mostly true (it probably isn't...kind of). It's the exploration of the wide variety of all the aspects touched on within, regarding the pros and cons of a single lifesyle versus that of co-habitation. Both have merits and drawbacks. People are attracted to one another, drawing pleasure and comfort from the company of another. Yet, they (especially men, am I right, fellas?) frequently feel the need for independence and to stray. What's right? What's wrong? Let us tally the pluses and minuses referred to in this statement for the sake of exploring and resolving this age-old conundrum once and for all, shall we?
"Being unable to find a fork..."
Okay, that's not good. It paints a picture of me owning at least one fork at some point and having lost it/them. That's not entirely true, though. While it's true that I didn't know where any forks were at the time this Tweet was originally written yesterday (also, now), I don't consider them lost. There's simply no logical reason to think they've left my apartment. In fact, I frequently steal flatware from restaurants so it's entirely likely I have many, many more forks now than I did when I moved in. It's just that I can't account for their whereabouts. When and exactly where will I see any of them again? There is absolutely no possible way on earth to even hazard a guess at the answer to that question. My faith is of tremendous comfort to me during times like these. Still, I'm willing to concede the point that if a woman lived here, the likelihood of any forks wandering off unattended drops significantly. COUPLE: 1, SINGLE: 0.
"...didn't stop me from eating spaghetti for breakfast this morning."
On the one hand, if a woman were present, she wouldn't let me eat spaghetti for breakfast (and certainly not without a fork). On the other, if a woman were present, there undoubtedly would have been other (better) options available for breakfast. On the one hand, I like eating whatever I want for breakfast and not having anybody criticize me one way or another. On the other, some sort of egg dish, perhaps an omelette, would have been nice. TOGETHER: 3, SEPARATE: 2
Let's go back to the first hand again, where I think it's indicative of my raccoon-like resourcefulness that I'm able to feed myself without the benefit of available flatware and civilized people-groceries. Why did I eat spaghetti? Because it was there...while so many other things were not. And, uhhhh, I didn't feel like starving to death, thank you very much. But with the absence of a fork, how did I eat it? Let's just say that simple machines are generally sorted into the following six classifications: lever, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane, wedge and screw. And that many of these simple machines can be created with various combinations of common breakfast table items like toast, butter knives, pens and fingers. For that, if anything, I should receive praise. The kind of praise that would not be forthcoming from a female roommate. So if I count up all the hands, I think that makes the score... SHACKED-UP: 3, LONE WOLF: 3.
Well, I guess this issue is far too complicated to be settled within the confines of an admittedly well-crafted Tweet of 140 characters (I told you it pleased me) or even the ramblings of a pointless blog post (this, eh). That's a shame, as I was hoping to settle it once and for all, at least for the sake of gay people who can now get married but haven't screwed up their lives yet.
Sorry, gay people. I have failed you yet again.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The two stories behind one picture

Story #1 (the short one) - The other day, Tuesday, November 29th, I was working one of my part-time jobs when I found these glasses on a co-worker's desk. I thought it would make a funny picture (especially with the goofy mustache I had at the time) so I put them on and had someone snap this photo.

Story #2 (the long one) -  The other day, Tuesday, November 29th, I was working one of my part-time jobs when I found these glasses on a co-worker's desk. I thought it would make a funny picture (especially with the goofy mustache I had at the time) so I put them on and had someone snap this photo. 
As of December 1st, two days later, I no longer had the mustache. It was something I did to participate in "Movember", a cancer awareness thing that took place throughout the month of November. However, I did still have the glasses. Uh-oh. I must have gotten distracted (possibly with something work related, but not likely), put them in my shirt pocket and forgot about them. I wasn't scheduled to work again for a couple of days so I immediately called my co-worker.
"Hey Doug, it's Clark. Listen, I have your glasses. Sorry about that. I'll bring them right over. Sorry."
"Why...? Because I figure you'd want them?"
"Why do you have my glasses?"
"Oh! Well, I was goofing around and I had my picture taken wearing them. Heh heh!"
"Goofing around? You know I need those to see, right?"
"Well yeah, I just thought it would be funny..."
"What's funny about that?"
"Um, they're unusual glasses. You know. Funny."
"Depriving me of the ability to something you find funny?"
"No! No, of course not! That's not what I meant."
"Well, explain it to me then. What exactly is so funny about a pair of glasses, something that gives people who would otherwise be impaired, the gift of sight?"
"Come on, Doug. It's just that..."
"Yeah? Go on."
"Well, for starters, the frames. They're bright red, like Sally Jesse Raphael used to wear..."
"Oh, those red ones? Those aren't mine."
"Yeah, I found those crazy things. I just keep them around because they're hilarious!"
"So you don't need these to see...?"
"I couldn't figure out what you were talking about; I'm wearing my glasses right now."
"Don't ever mess with stuff on my desk again."

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Normally, I'm not someone who's all that impressed with so-called "extreme sports", as you can tell by the snotty, hyphenated descriptor I placed in front of the term which renders the quotation marks around it redundant.
I appreciate that the people who do these things are athletes of considerable skill and what they do is certainly impressive. But beyond taking a glimpse at YouTube videos now and then, they just don't hold my interest.
But if you mix extreme sports with a goofy internet fad that's probably 15 minutes past its 15 minutes of undeserved fame as I write this, well, now you have my attention! Of course, I'm talking about...
As I'm sure you're aware, ""Planking" (or the "Lying Down Game") is an activity consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. Both hands must touch the sides of the body and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the Internet is an integral part of the game. Players compete to find the most unusual and original location in which to play. The term planking refers to mimicking a wooden plank. Rigidity of the body must be maintained to constitute good planking.

Since early 2011, many participants in planking have photographed the activity on unusual locations such as atop poles, roofs and vehicles. Planking can include lying flat on a flat surface, or holding the body flat while it's supported in only some regions, with other parts of the body suspended. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)" Well, the daredevils who engage in EXTREME PLANKING! have taken it to the next level! How, you ask? Simple. Regular planking requires lying down horizontally; EXTREME PLANKING! is done vertically! What?!? Check it out!


Tandem? Cowabunga!

Video game!


Monday, December 05, 2011

This probably happened too

The video of Zach Wahls speaking in the Iowa Senate against a joint resolution that would ban gay marriage and civil unions in the state has become very popular recently ("gone viral", as they say). Watch the video here and then read below it to see what I'm pretty sure came afterward...

"Thank you, Mr. Wahls. Now, who's next?"
"Uhh, that's me, your honor. My name is Larry Dobberman. But that's okay. I'm good."
"You asked for the opportunity to address the state senate. Obviously, there's something of great import on your mind. This is your opportunity, let's hear it."
"It's just that I, uh, really wish I could have gone first. I didn't know that..."
"Mr. Dobberman, this is the state senate. We don't have time to play games."
"Okay, okay. Well, uh, like I said I'm Larry Dobberman. I too, also, am a native Iow-o-nian in that I've lived here in Iowa all my life after my folks moved here from Chicago when I was 17. I'm pretty sure my grandfather was born here but I don't know much before that..."
"Go on."
"Um, my dad is a man. With a penis and my mom is a woman, presumably with a vagina of some sort. They got divorced though...look, I'd really feel better if you let Zach go again. Maybe there's something he forgot that would make him sound stupid."
"Mr. Dobberman, please. We've listened to Mr. Wahls already. Now proceed."
"It's just that he gave a good speech, a really good speech, and giving speeches isn't really my thing...and an Eagle Scout? Geez, really? I mean, come on overachiever!"
"Mr. Dobberman, do you or do you not have something to contribute to these proceedings in regard to the matter at hand?"
"You know what? Before we started, I saw him drinking coffee in the cafeteria and he didn't have a spoon so he used a fork. He stirred his coffee with a damn fork! What about that, huh? Huh? Zach Wahls is a fork-stirrer!"
"Mr. Dobberman..."
"There's a right way and a wrong way to do things. That's all I'm saying. Is...anybody going to applaud? No? Right. Okay, then."
"That's enough, Mr. Dobberman. Have a seat."
"Buncha fork-stirrers."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

An extra point from a guest author

Monica Idziak is a traffic reporter for local Clear Channel radio stations. She submitted this before the end of the month but after I had filled all the guest author slots, so not technically late...but late. The good news it's never too late to include something good. Here's Monica's bio:
Born in Iowa, lived in Buffalo, LOVE my Florida life. I “work” at Clear Channel Radio, although reporting traffic is, I’m convinced, the easiest job known to man in present day time. 2 cats, avid runner (completed multiple 5k’s, a 15k, and a half marathon), sports enthusiast, and all-around smart-ass funny girl. No ‘real’ blog experience, but writing pretty much non-stop since high school. I’m the grammar snob/spelling queen your mama warned you about. :-P
And here's Monica's post (and I have a rebuttal of sorts at the end)

Chicks Portrayed in Sports Commercials: That Ain’t Right.

I realize it’s 2011, and (finally!) I’m not the only girl in America who enjoys watching sports. At long last, I am not the only chick at a sports bar and I don’t hafta choose between a Men’s Small or a Child’s Large in the jersey section. Having said that….when the bleep are sports-themed commercials gonna catch up and get outta the dark ages?!

Now, let me clarify. When I say “sports-themed” commercials, I mean:

1) Anything with a sports logo in the ad.
2) Those fancy car ads aimed to make you feel like you need the vehicle in order to remain sporty/cool/manly/relevant/hip/you get the idea.
3) Snack food commercials that consistently insist you eat whatever salty/sweet/savory food they’re selling at whatever sporting event you’re watching or attending.
4) Beer commercials

They all start out innocent enough: A dude. A Chick. He is watching a game or wants to go to a game or has friends peer pressuring him into watching or going to a game. Enter the Evil Chick. Oh yeah, she can’t be trusted or even liked. SHE has other plans. She wants to cuddle/shop/cook/clean/run errands/ruin his plans however her estrogen can make that happen.

It’s insulting. It’s demeaning. It’s, quite frankly, disgusting.

I know plenty of women who know what Saturdays and Sundays in the fall are for. I know a lot of girls who countdown to Spring Training. I know a crapload of girls who salivate at the thought of watching grown men duke it out on the ice for an entire season, and I didn’t realize exactly how many girls I know that just got their Christmas NBA miracle.

As part of the collective sports-lovin’ buncha females, I cringe when I see the woman portrayed as the obstacle to the man’s happiness…especially his sports happiness. I’ve always encouraged supporting one’s favorite team. I’ve always made plans around important games/meets/matches. I’ve always enjoyed the jumping/screaming/drinking/eating that accompanies a good sporting event.

I recall a specific time about 5 weeks into football season. A man (he shall remain nameless so as to minimize shame) announces to me 10 minutes before kickoff that he had some errands to run and we always watch football all day Sunday so he just wants to be productive and get things done that week. Now, we have a sweet setup. Tiki bar with pool in backyard and surround sound, flat screen with NFL ticket. I ain’t goin’ nowhere. I proceed to tell him, “Um, you get your productivity outta the way during the week so you can watch football and drink all day Sunday. (yelling at this point) Now SIT YOUR ASS DOWN on that bar stool, drink a damn beer, and shut up and watch football with me damnit!” I can tell you, THAT ain’t gonna be made into a commercial. (He did eventually realize his ridiculousness and enjoyed a fun Sunday.)

So, here’s to all the females who aren’t nagging/whiney/boring chicks. We aren’t represented in any national tv commercial, but we’re here. And we ain’t goin’ anywhere. National Advertisers: you’ve been warned.

Well said. And for what it's worth, Monica, I'm a male who finds the portrayal of the "bros" in many of those same ads equally as cringe-inducing. I do not, can not, never have and never will relate to the Ralph Kramden/frat boy hybrid mindset that places such high value in male bonding and 'boys night out'. The thing is, I know that those guys exist outside of the world of sports themed advertising. I know because I've had them tell me my viewpoint is "gay". And when I point out the irony in that statement, they act like I'm validating their opinion. Yeah, that's another thing I haven't been able to figure out either. - Clark

Friday, December 02, 2011

Door: Busted!!

Look how happy he is!
Sometimes I like to pretend I'm a real human being and participate in activities that real human beings find popular. Similar to the way a chimp in captivity will eventually start to mimic human behavior. Especially around the holidays, it's hard not to want to get caught up in all the fervor and activity like everybody else. So I get involved as much as I can. I drink hot cocoa. I listen to Christmas music. This year, I even attended Thanksgiving dinnerS (plural, as in two of them!) with actual real human beings!  One thing, I've never done is the whole "Black Friday" thing. Oh sure, I'm sure I've shopped on the day after Thanksgiving. If you abandon any false hope whatsoever that you're going to be able to move about freely in any way, shape or form, it can be a tremendously rewarding people watching experience. But I've never arrived early at a store to take advantage of crazy markdowns on merchandise. I don't need anything and I don't have any money anyway. It just seems like one of those real human being activities that I've missed out on.
I have a friend who works for Ikea here in Tampa who told me all about the stuffed toys they're offering this holiday season. They're inexpensive at regular price but would be on sale at 50% off for a holiday special. And for every one they sell (plus children's books and kid's meals) between November 1 and December 24th, Ikea will donate one Euro (which is about $1.35) to UNICEF and Save The Children to support quality education. She showed me some pictures and I was intrigued by the broccoli guy you see pictured here. For one thing, I've never seen such a happy vegetable. For another, he would only be about $4 with Ikea donating more than 25% of that to a good cause. I now had a valid reason to camp out at a store!
"Oh. Um, well, you don't need to do that. We don't really do 'doorbusters' like other stores. The toys are on special but we have plenty of them."
"Yeah, but it will be fun to write about. I'll live blog the whole experience right from the Ikea parking lot!"
"We don't really encourage that. Like I said, there's really no incentive. You'd be the only one there."
"Even better! It'll be hilarious!"
"What's...hilarious about that?"
"I don't know. I'll think of something."
"I really wish you wouldn't..."
"Too late. I'm doing it. This is the kind of gonzo comedy journalism my readers expect! I'm like Hunter S. Thompson or Lester Bangs. You can't stop me. As soon as I finish Thanksgiving dinner, I'm heading over to Ikea with a comfy chair, a blanket and some rain gear. And the next morning, I will be the first one in line, whether or not there is a line, long before the crack of dawn. This is real, and this is happening."

When I woke up in my warm, comfy bed at home on Friday morning, having forgotten my commitment to gonzo comedy journalism in a turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie-induced haze, it was almost 9:30. I barely had enough time to drive to the store for breakfast in their restaurant ($1.99!). After my second refill of coffee, I picked up a broccoli guy from the bin right outside the restaurant, made my purchase and headed home.

Final assessment: Black Friday is vastly overrated.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thanks, guest authors!

And so ends Guest Author Month.
My thanks to all the participants for sharing their work and letting me basically goof off for a month:
I hope you enjoyed their contributions and will visit their sites often....not often enough to keep you from spending time here, but enough to make them...and you...feel good.

give me back my blog!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest Author: Tara Shrodes

Today's post (and the last for Guest Author Month) is from Tara Shrodes of Clique, 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!/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.


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 "" 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.