Friday, September 28, 2012

What a day that was

"You know, nobody can make you have a bad day..." - Some dumbass
People say this kind of thing all the time and they do so to illustrate that while you can't control what happens to you, you can control your reaction to it. Seriously, those people need to go harm themselves. Their intent might be good but their execution sucks. How do they consider themselves helping me deal with my anger because somebody did something shitty to me and they're pointing out that the real problem is my thought process? Those idiots would be much more useful (and safe) if they'd just recognize my bad mood and stay the hell away from me while I work through it. For example, here's how my day unfolded yesterday:
  • Got up early because I planned to visit someone in the hospital. Naturally, I'm already pissed off. No mentally undamaged person is happy about getting up early or having to go to the hospital for any reason.
  • Get to the hospital and ask for the room number. I'm told she's admitted but in a different building.
  • I hike over to this other building and ask for her room number. The receptionist says, "you can find it on that display board" as she gestures to a video screen on the wall where colored sequences of numbers in a grid scroll slowly downward. "What the hell is that?", I ask. "I'm sorry, I don't speak Matrix." "Oh, you don't have her case number?" "No, I don't. Why and how would I have that?" "What about her dittybop?" "Huh?" "Her Dagobah?" I couldn't understand her saying 'date of birth' because sitting directly under the sign that said "NO CELL PHONES" was a woman watching hers ring loudly. She just stared at it as it rang and rang. Who does that? The Damned, that's who. Pick it up and talk or hit "ignore" but watching you sit there and stare at it while you decide what to do as it rings and rings and rings and rings is infuriating to those of us who aren't single-cell organisms. The receptionist said, "Ma'am, you can't use your cell phone in here" and she replied, "it's okay; I'm not talkin' on it." Eventually, it stopped ringing and that seemed to satisfy everyone. "No, I don't have her date of birth or her case number. I have her name. You sort people by birthdays and arbitrarily assigned sequences of numbers but not alphabetically?" "We have a lot of people here with similar names. It's easier. At any rate, we have no record of anybody with your friend's name." "You have no record of anyone with the last name of 'Davis'? How is that possible? Did you just open this hospital last week? What about the lady at the other building far, far away who looked it up right away and told me to come specifically here?" She smiled and said, "I don't know what to tell you, sir." There are few responses I hate more than that one. It's the pinnacle of unhelpfullness. When someone says "I don't know what to tell you", they're saying, quite literally, "I don't want to talk to you about your problem but I also don't care enough to gather the minimum amount of information it would take to shut you up." Now I'm really pissed off.
  •  "That's fine", I said. "The next thing that's going to happen is I'm getting ready to meet everybody here. Because I'm going to open every door in every building of this hospital until I find her. When I do, maybe I'll stop back by and give you her date of birth so you can update your display board, 'kay?" "If you do that, I will alert security." "That's fine. You do that and I will be one of those people who calls a TV station before they dial 911 when their house is on fire." This earned me a one-on-one with the receptionist's supervisor, a person who had more in-depth access to the hospital's records and who informed me that my friend had been discharged the night before. Let me state for the record that I am not intolerant of mistakes. 'Oh, you're looking for Davis? I thought you said Stankowicz'. That's a mistake. People are human and mistakes happen. It's when humans attempt to abdicate responsibility because of their reliance on some kind of inherently flawed system that I get intolerant. And angry.
  • While waiting in a line of cars attempting to exit the hospital's parking garage, a panhandler approached me and didn't leave me alone until I threatened violence with a hockey stick. Granted, in my mood, that probably took less than eight seconds. But it seemed longer. The nature of the threat was insertion-based, not hitting. I would have regretted that; I really like that hockey stick.
  • At work, I got a phone call from a friend seeking a$$i$tance because their water was turned off. While they were attending Prince concerts. Two of them. In Chicago. "But here's the (incorrect) account number. Call them at this (incorrect) phone number. Thanks!"
  • Somebody from another department came looking for me but asked co-workers for "Chris" or "Mark". They informed him my name was Clark and I heard him reply, "Chris, Mark, Clark. Good enough, right?" That's not a good way to get my help when I'm in a great mood.
  • A friend (different friend, up-to-date on their utilities) called looking for Lady Gaga tickets. I've helped this person purchase tickets before but apparently they've lost their mind since then because this is how that went down: "Hey, I want floor tickets in the $100 range. Seats on the side are okay too, as long as they're not too high." "Okay, well, I can't do anything until they go on sale tomorrow, I can't get floor tickets and all the lower level seats are over $200. The $100 seats are all in the upper level." "Floor isn't necessary, I just need $100 seats that aren't in the upper level. Put the best couple on hold for me, let me know the location and I'll get back to you." "All right, again, there are no $100 seats below the upper level. None. If you want to sit down low, it will cost more than $100 a seat. I'm running out of word combinations that might make this clear to you but we need to reach an understanding on this point immediately. The price of the seats and their locations are not negotiable. This isn't eBay. There is no 'Or Best Offer' option. Beyond that, the seats are 'on hold' in that they aren't on sale yet. When they become available for sale, everybody who works here who has friends that want tickets to that show will be diving into the same pool, so lengthy deliberations are not encouraged. Lastly, who are you and what have you done with my friend who would already know all of this since it's been this way forever and they've bought tickets lots of times previously?"
Maybe there are people who can laugh all of that off and somehow say that it was a great day, but I'm not one of them. Is it possible to develop the skills necessary to become one of those people? I don't know what to tell you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

And a child shall lead me

"I pooped in these. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"
(Caption by Amber)
The other day I had coffee with an old friend and her 7-year-old daughter. I was moaning about the state of my writing lately, in that I felt that the tone of this blog had turned kind of dour and that I was struggling to find humorous subject matter. Amber, the 7-year-old, said, "you should write about a company called TurdEx. They deliver poop to people". Instantly intrigued, I jumped in before her mother could chastise her for language or inappropriate behavior. "Why do they do that?", I asked. She shrugged and said, "they're a company; it's their job". Seeking more background, I asked, "so I could just show up with some poop, pay them and they'll ship it off to someone?" She answered, "well, you'd have to put it in a package first, of course".  Of course.
Since she's only seven, I don't think Amber's mom has ever let her read this blog, so I don't know why she thought this advice would be specifically beneficial to me. Anyway, I've gotten far worse suggestions and general writing advice. So thanks, Amber.

A visit to the TurdEx office

TURDEX MAN: Hi. Welcome to TurdEx. Are you dropping off or picking up?
LADY: Neither, actually. I'm here because I have a complaint. A major complaint.
TURDEX MAN: I'm sorry to hear that. What seems to be the problem?
LADY: I ordered some CD's online from last week and this box showed up at my house yesterday.
TURDEX MAN: Yep. That's one of our boxes.
LADY: It's full of poop!
TURDEX MAN: Yes ma'am. And the problem is...?
LADY: Why would you bring me a box of poop?!?
TURDEX MAN: (reciting the slogan printed below the logo emblazoned on his shirt, his business cards and all the company's vehicles) "We're a company. It's our job".
LADY: You're a company that delivers poop? I thought you delivered packages.
TURDEX MAN: That's a different company. We only deal with packages that have poop in them. We're specialists.
LADY: There's enough demand for the delivery of poop to run an entire company? Who are your customers?
TURDEX MAN: Assholes! Ha ha ha ha ha!
LADY: ...
TURDEX MAN: Sorry. Inside joke. Hard to say exactly. If I had to guess, I would say about 60% of our business is from people who are angry about something, or pulling a practical joke. Probably about 10% of it is for medical or scientific purposes. The other 30% is miscellaneous. You know, weirdos. Deranged, sick and twisted people.
LADY: That's a lot of miscellaneous.
TURDEX MAN: Yeah. We try not to think about it.
LADY: So I still don't understand why you sent me a box of poop.
TURDEX MAN: Well, the important thing to remember is that we're merely a delivery company; we certainly don't make the poop and we don't just send it out arbitrarily. We're hired by people to deliver it. Did you check the return address on the label?
LADY: I did, and that's what is so odd. It says it's from
TURDEX MAN: And what did you order?
LADY: A special limited edition boxed set of the Black Eyed Peas greatest hits.
TURDEX MAN: Ah. So I'll be filing this under 'miscellaneous' then.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A master moves on

Mike Hurley, the Chief Projectionist at the historic Tampa Theatre passed away the other day after a long illness. I currently work part time at the Tampa as a projectionist, a job I got from knowing Mike and learning from him.
A long time ago, I managed a movie theatre in Sarasota, a job I got because I had concession stand experience from working in sports. The idea was that I would serve as a "front of house" manager, responsible for ticket sales, concessions and housekeeping while someone else would serve as "booth manager", responsible for all the film handling and technical stuff. That didn't really work out and I ended up needing to learn the basics of film handling on a trial-by-fire basis and became a competently functional projectionist.
Years later, seeking some part-time money to deal with financial struggles, I hired on as a part-time projectionist at a drive-in theatre here in Tampa. Working conditions were less than optimal... actually ALL conditions were pretty nasty; when I took my dinner break during my first shift, I asked the young lady working the concession stand what was the best thing to eat. Mindful of the security cameras that fed to monitors in the back office, she shook her head slightly, almost imperceptibly, but enough to let me know that eating there was a bad idea. If you ever go there, I'd advise you to bring your own snacks and refreshments.
Soon, I found out about an opening at an independently-owned multiplex (10 screens) nearby and that's where I met Mike. He taught me a lot in the short time we were there, but we both moved on because the company that operated that theatre kind of lost interest in paying their employees.
Mike caught on at the Tampa and several years later, when they found themselves shorthanded, he remembered me and recommended that they make me an offer. It turns out they were shorthanded because Mike's health problems were becoming pretty serious at that point. In fact, I never even saw him again after the last time we worked together at the multiplex but he thought enough of me to bring me on to fill his spot (which is not the same as replacing him).
Mike was among the last of a rapidly vanishing breed of projectionists who look at the job as a craft and pay as much attention to presenting films to an audience as any director or actor ever did in making them. I say vanishing because the multiplex doesn't allow a projectionist to take the time to clean each tooth on every sprocket with a tiny brush or any of the other painstaking details to which these craftsmen lovingly pay attention. Multiplexes are designed to cram as many people into as many auditoriums as possible, show a movie (and ads), take enough time to clean in between showing so as not to be disgusting and then do it all over again. This isn't intended to be a shot at McDonald's, but there's a reason why chefs don't work there. Multiplexes have been the industry standard for almost 50 years now and most of the craftsmen who operated projection booths before their proliferation are getting older. For another thing, the time is coming when all films will be digital. They'll be downloaded from the internet directly into digital projectors, eliminating the need for the careful maintenance of all the amazing working parts of a 35mm projector, as well as all the other film-handling skills required to put a picture on a screen now. This isn't necessarily a debate over which is better, ala vinyl records vs compact discs or mp3s, but the fact of the matter is that it takes a lot more work to put a picture on the screen with a 35mm print tan it will with a digital file. With film, any number of things can go wrong and you have to have someone up there who can be careful and pay attention to several things at the same time; with digital, all you need is someone who can push a button.
As a craftsman, Mike did his best to impart his wisdom on me. Unfortunately, between not being mechanically inclined and coming from a front-of-house background, I never really turned into one of those guys. I respect the hell out of what they did and do and I make every effort to give a perfect presentation every single time out. I do okay, but I'm not in the same league as guys like Mike. As much as it's possible to truly love what you do for a living (and it is; I've been fortunate enough to be there myself in other jobs), Mike loved showing movies. He saw himself as the final stop in a process that starts when a script is written, through it being acted out in front of cameras, edited, made into prints and shipped to theatres all over the world to be shown to audiences. He took that responsibility very seriously and was as good at his job as Spielberg is at his or Paul Newman was at his. More importantly, he took as much joy from doing it as he took pride.
We're going to be losing something special when guys like Mike are no longer up in the booth, taking great pains to make sure the experience of seeing a movie is as special as it can possibly be. I'm fortunate to have known Mike and will do my best to honor his legacy every time I'm up there from now on.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Interview: Rebekah Pulley

It's probably a subjective statement but it's not a stretch to say that Rebekah Pulley is the most celebrated, popular and talented singer/songwriter in Tampa Bay. She's won five "Best of the Bay" awards, she performs in front of packed houses all over town and she's preparing to release her fifth album of all original material, titled Tra La La. She has launched a Kickstarter campaign to pay for production costs of the new album, a campaign that reached its initial goal within 30 hours of being launched. Of course, you can still contribute and take advantage of some pretty sweet perks (word is that Rob Pastore's eggplant parmesan is really very good). Here, Rebekah talks about songwriting, musicians (and non-musicians) she's worked with and on her evolution into a fancy lady who isn't above using goons to get a good table at local restaurants.  

When do you know it's time for a new album?

I am always working on a CD. As soon I release this one (Tra La La), I will start writing for the next one. If I'm not working on a CD I feel like I'm not being productive.

Do you write all the time, stockpiling material, or just when inspired?

I write all the time about everything. I've always kept journals since I was a young kid. However, I am definitely more profound and write my best material when I am inspired by some event.

I understand there are horns on this album and that's new for you. Did you write the horn parts and is that difficult?

I wrote the horn parts, note for note, on a song called, Sway. I used a midi keyboard with corny horn sounds to write the arrangements on a computer, the computer then translates the notes into written music that can be printed out. I read and write music very slowly and I wrote the three-part horn harmonies as I would a three-part vocal harmony. When it came time to actually record the horn parts, I quickly discovered that just because a midi keyboard can play a certain note, it doesn't mean the musician can play it on a real instrument. So some little adjustments ended up being made here and there, but I have to say that the horn players rose to the occasion and came pretty damn close to the melody lines I had in mind. The other songs with horns were an 'on the spot' trial and error type of thing. I'd hum a melody and they'd play it or they improvised parts based around the ideas.

Any other new/different things on this album?

Rob (Pastore) is playing the pedal steel all over the place on it, and I love it! Also this is the first time I've used the piano in place of an acoustic guitar as the dominant rhythm instrument. I played a bit of accordion on the CD, which was fun. There are some pretty interesting harmony arrangements that I also had a ton of fun putting together. Rebecca Zapen, an amazing violinist, played on several songs.

Rebecca Zapen?!? She's one of my favorites! Can you talk about working with her?

Rebecca is really talented and professional. I think she may have been the only musician that actually listened to the songs before they came over to record their parts. She actually had her songs charted out and knew exactly what she was going to play when she walked in the door. Aside from that, she has great tone and knows how to play to a song's strengths. I was really impressed and would love to work with her again.
Our old buddy, Rebecca with two C's!

Is there a central, recurring theme to this album?

Not that I can think of, although there was an alternate album in the works before I started Tra La La with a water theme. Unfortunate, Sway was the only song that made it out of that endeavor alive.

Who are the musicians you worked with on this album?

Rob Pastore (bass, pedal steel, harmonies), Max Norton (drums), Rebecca Zapen (violin), Ryan Arsenault (piano and organ), Jim Moery (trumpet), Ryan Wendall Bauer (Wurlitzer), Dave Russell (t-bone), Joe Terrana (sax), Steve Conelly (guitar), Jasmine Conrad (harmonies), and of course myself (vocals, guitars, piano, accordion).

In your Kickstarter video, there are pictures of you all decked out as a fancy lady. Are you going to go all big time on us now, fancy lady?

Of course I am! Honestly, my daughter, Jasmine Conrad, did my hair and make up, and she took all the promo pictures too. She’s 18 now and really good at that sort of thing. I’d walk around in my boyfriend’s boxers and a t-shirt all day if I were allowed to. Jasmine’s best friend, Samantha Mendez drew the Tra La La picture phrase in a note to my daughter. I saw it on the bathroom floor and thought, Hey, that’s a great name for a CD.

Are there musicians you haven't had the chance to work with that you want to?

I’m sure there are but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

Do you remember when I was a member of the band "Chinese Mary Jane" for a short time (one song)? That was awesome!

Yes I do, and you were superb!

Me, being superb!

Ronny Elliott says nice things about you all the time. Anything nice you want to say about him?

Ronny is my songwriting mentor. I have looked up to him for many years as a songwriter I aspire to. I am an ardent fan of his lyrical stories. He is a dear friend and I am honestly not sure that I would still be playing music if it weren’t for him. He can take three chords and a simple melody structure and create a three-minute masterpiece. I don’t get people that don’t get what he does.
Rebekah and Ronny

People in general say nice things about you all the time. What's that like?

Embarrassing and flattering. I would be depressed if no talked about me, I am needy like that.

Ever walk into a restaurant where there's a wait to be seated and yell, "I'm Rebekah Pulley, damn it!"

No, I never have, I think you are thinking of Vanity (Styles)!!
Yeah, probably

Ever had a goon rough up a photographer?

Ha! No, but I’ll get to work on it!

Would you classify Rob Pastore as a goon?

Not until he starts roughing people up.
Rebekah and not a goon.

Again, you can make a contribution to the Tra La La project via Kickstarter here. You can check out where Rebekah is playing soon and pick up copies of her previously released material at her web site.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Judging a book by its (back) cover

In case I haven't mentioned previously that I'm writing a book, I am. The heavy lifting-est part of the whole thing, the writing, is all done. We're currently editing and doing layout and should be finished soon. Definitely by Christmas. Among the finishing touches is designing the cover and on Monday, I had a photo shoot with Jessie and Pavel Stehlik for the author's picture that goes on the back. In an effort to cram as many fart jokes as humanly possible into the thing, we made a high-concept joke out of that too. Hey, if the stuff inside sucks, at least you'll have funny covers to look at.
In case you've never seen a book in captivity, this is what the back typically looks like:
Our is going to be different. For starters, we'll have more picture than words. The inside of the book is full of words. We don't need a whole bunch more on the back cover. So we'll start with a bigger picture and far fewer words. Our picture will also have a theme. The idea is that this is my first book and there's no reason to think I'll ever get to do another one so let's make this author photo as awesome as humanly possible. The inspiration came from the galleries of awful album covers that are so popular on line. A lot of author photos strive to display an air of affected gravitas and/or barely subdued inner turmoil and angst and that comes off kind of smug to me. Well, nobody does unjustifiably smug better than Chris Elliott so he was an influence as well. Our first idea was to shoot it with me in an overstuffed chair in front of an enormous bookshelf, wearing a jacket with patches on the elbows, an orange turtleneck sweater and smoking a pipe. We scrapped that in favor of posing at a piano with my laptop on it (Get it? Keyboard, keys? Artsy! Creative! Clever!!) with a gorgeous model. This would give me motivation to appear unnecessarily pleased with myself and we could use the gorgeous model to simultaneously contribute to and deflate all that tacky, pretentious nonsense. Now, who would be better suited for that than a drag queen? This was our formula for success: 
With our formula in place, we called our frend Amy DeMilo (who said yes without hesitation, as I hoped she would) and booked the lobby of the opulent Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn and we did stuff like this...

These aren't the ones we'll use but you get the idea. The only problem we encountered was that Amy is such a nice person that she had some trouble displaying disgust or disinterest.
Anyway, soon you can buy this book, read it and when you're finished, flip it over and see the photo we picked to grace the back!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Call somebody who cares

Seen on a gas pump in Brandon...
"But not TOO MUCH assistance. Good luck with that, wheelie."

Friday, September 14, 2012

"One of those"

The other day, I was talking to some people about music. Specifically, we were talking about songs and performers that we used to hate that have sort of grown on us, or at least done something like demonstrating a willingness to poke fun at themselves. The names Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and Michael Bolton were among those that came up. When I mentioned George Michael as someone who I think should fit into that category, my friend Chuck reacted strongly.
"Ugh. I hate George Michael. He's one of those."
"Wow, nice restraint in not using the word 'faggot'!"
"No, it's not that. I don't care if he's gay. But he's one of those guys that likes to slink around and hook up anonymously with other guys in public restrooms and parks. That's creepy."
"So your problem isn't that he's gay but that he has a penchant for having semi-public gay sex?"
"Half right. It's got nothing to do with being gay."
"Um, I'm pretty sure that's exclusively an all-dude thing. You never hear about hetero couple or lesbians getting picked up by the cops sweeping a park after hours."
"That's true. But these guys are different from gay guys who have sex with their partners in an apartment or a house or a hotel or even make out in a bar. These guys are into doing something forbidden and they get off on the shame factor in that. True, they may be engaging in what can be classified as homosexual acts, but they would never identify themselves as gay men. Outside of these kind of scenarios, they're probably not even attracted to other men. They're not attracted to men; they're attracted to doing something they see as perverted, dirty and disgusting. After Idaho senator Larry Craig got busted trying to solicit sex from a male cop in an airport restroom in Minnesota, he vehemently denied being gay. And that's because him and guys like him aren't gay. They're doing gay stuff, but they aren't really gay."
"All right. So if they're not gay, what are they?"
"Oh, I don't know. I really haven't thought about it that much."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Let's hug it out, bitches

I have made a concerted attempt to keep this blog as close to non-partisan as possible, especially now, during election season, but some (not nearly all) of you right wingers should be ashamed of yourself for your reactions to pizza proprietor Scott Van Duzer giving a big old bear hug to President Obama the other day. 
No, not all conservative-leaning people, just you bitter miscreants who truly do thrive on hatred because it's the closest thing to an emotion that stimulates the tiny, puckered rabbit-turd-with-Hitler's-face-on-it where your hearts are supposed to be. 
I get it, you're upset that a registered Republican not only stated that he voted against party lines and will probably do so again but he also offered up a pretty flagrant display of public affection with the man that you've decided is your sworn enemy. Between that and all the rock stars who don't want you associating with their music in any way, shape or form, well, I can see where that would hurt.
But your basic unlovableness coupled with some other individual's ability (and constitutional right) to think for himself is no excuse for trying to hurt the guy's business with a bunch of one star reviews and nasty comments like these on  
"I will not eat from traitor's hands and I'll never take food from man who DIDN'T BUILD his business". 
"If you were a real republican you would have body slammed the socialist President Obama."

"Well.. I'd eat there but after seeing the owner grab our leftist President I felt compelled to disrespect his establishment as much as the President disrespects our constitution. Shame on you Scott Van Duzer for thumbing your nose at all the small business owners this President has disrespected for the last four years. I guess you DIDN'T BUILD IT!"

The problem with that strategy, even though you kind of stayed on message with the DIDN'T BUILD IT stuff (although it might have been more effective if you'd actually mentioned, you know, the food), is that every one of your bad reviews has been countered with about 60 positive ones. At that ratio, it's probably safe to assume that some of those are from conservatives who find your tactics reprehensible also. As a result, Van Duzer's Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant, a place that nobody had heard of a few days ago, is now Florida's highest rated restaurant, surpassing the world renowned Bern's Steakhouse. In light of all that, you might want to re-consider some things.
  • The guy owns an independent pizza joint, not a Pizza Hut franchise. Even if he wasn't a registered Republican, it would appear that he's still one of those small business owners you like to espouse...when it suits you to do so. Heck, the guy even displays a framed Tim Tebow jersey on the wall! And as far as "never" taking food from someone who didn't build their business, I'm not sure exactly how you're defining someone building their business but if you're serious about that and Van Duzer doesn't qualify, I think you're going to be losing a significant and unhealthy amount of weight in the near future.
  • His name is Van Duzer. Didn't everybody go to high school with a big friendly dude that had a name like "Van Duzer" (probably known more widely as "Duze" or "Duzer! What's up!") that went around picking people up and hugging them?
  • You know, when two people like each other for whatever reason, maybe you can learn to accept that it's not about you and just leave them alone already (feel free to extrapolate that philosophy into other relationships as necessary).
  • The bottom line is Van Duzer got excited that the President of the United States was visiting his business. We're Americans and sometimes when we get excited about stuff, we hug each other, okay?

    See? That's just something that we do. It's no big deal. So if you... wait a minute... is this all because nobody has ever given you poor miserable bastards a hug? Well, why didn't you just say so? We could have saved so much time and so many hard feelings. Come here, you knuckleheads! 
Too much, too soon? Okay, fair enough. Just let us know when you're ready.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sports talk radio leaves a lot to be desired

I like sports and when I listen to the radio, I listen to a lot of sports talk radio. And boy, I sure do hate a lot of it. Specifically, I hate the shows that in their effort to stand out from the crowd end up sounding like every other show.
The kind that starts with some old heavy meatal music (think of songs like "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne; nine times out of ten, it is "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne). Then the host introduces himself and announces that his show is "hard-hitting" and "edgy". That makes me imagine something like a Mike Wallace investigative report produced by David Lynch but what he's trying to do is give you the impression that listening to his show is like participating in an actual sports activity. He drives this home by telling prospective callers to "bring it!" and "get after it!". Nobody ever says exactly what "it" is, but the implication is that "it" is good and always needs to be brung and gotten after. Really, "it" doesn't mean anything at all and this is the equivalent of a musical artist constantly telling the crowd to "make some noise".
Hey, you're the one with the professional
sound system. We bought tickets to
sit here and watch YOU make the noise.
Often, the shows themselves will have a sports-centric name like "The Huddle"or "The Dugout" or "The Penalty Box". The host of the show sometimes has a hard-hitting and edgy nickname, like "Rock" or "Brick". Here in Tampa Bay, we have "The Big Dog", who proves his hard-hittingness and edginess by yelling a lot and then hanging up on people who disagree with his opinions.
After all the introductions are out of the way, discussion usually revolves around the same three topics, at least here in Tampa Bay:
  1. What about the Buccaneers? - Depending on their last game, they're either hopeless (if the last game was a loss) or the sky is the limit (if the last game was a win). This even applies to pre-season games, when the starters spend most of the game on the sidelines watching young men who are more likely to make a bigger impact in the car washing industry than the NFL. The callers "bring it", establishing their credibility by informing the host that they've been "watching film", which means they record the games on tv and watch them again. If training camp is still going on, they go out to watch the players playing catch in shorts and t-shirts and call in to report that "(Insert player name here) looks really good out there." It should be noted that about the only people who wouldn't look "really good out there" under those conditions are either already washing cars or calling into sports talk radio stations.
  2. The Rays attendance - What to do about the Rays problems drawing fans to games at Tropicana Field is a seemingly endless topic of discussion, which is ridiculous since the answer is simple: all they need to do is build a new ballpark that is so huge that it is within a 15 minute drive of everyone who lives in the Tampa Bay area. Granted, that wouldn't solve the issue overnight as it currently takes at least a half hour to drive between any two points in Tampa Bay regardless of distance, but I'm sure the local government could resolve that by eliminating 400 or so of their least essential traffic signals.
  3. College Football (I) - There should or should not be a playoff system to determine a champion and (II) you're biased on behalf of the (Gators/Seminoles) at the expense of the (Seminoles/Gators) and therefor, have no idea what the hell you're talking about.
That's not to say there isn't entertainment value in listening to the discussion of these topics; there is! But the purveyors shouldn't attempt to present it as more than what it is, which is a show like this...

The opening notes of Yoko Ono's "O'Wind (Body Is the Scar of Your Mind)" play before being spoken over by an announcer
ANNOUNCER: Okay, sports freaks! It's time for hard hitting and edgy sports talk, so get after it and bring it. This is "The Shower Drain"! And now here's your host, Crispin Glover!
CRISPIN GLOVER: (47 seconds of silence)
ANNOUNCER: Uh, "The Shower Drain" is sponsored by The Wing...
CRISPIN GLOVER: (Screams) SPOOOOORRRRRRRTS! I am the host of this program and here is my co-host, a blind dwarf midget named Duncan who speaks backward.
DUNCAN: Strops ekil I.
CRISPIN GLOVER: Let's open the phone lines. Call in and share your opinion about our topic: Do you like my necklace made of real human baby skulls that I purchased from the great-great grandson of an 18th century Gypsy conjurer?
DUNCAN: Cipot s'yadretsey saw tahT.
CRIPSIN GLOVER: Duncan, I will rend you of your spleen! Is the caller there?
CALLER: Hello? First time caller and I'm psyched about the Bucs! I want to talk about Josh Freeman. Do you think this is a make-or-break year for him?
CRISPIN GLOVER: I think you will find the answer to your query in a short film I made titled "Atrophy", which is 45 minutes long and consists of black and white footage of an ant crawling in concentric circles across the eyeball of a cadaver.
CALLER: Uhhhh...what?
CRISPIN GLOVER: (Sighs) Obviously the statement I'm making with this film is that this is Freeman's third season and he needs to show improvement in the form of consistent play if he's to be the long-term answer for the Bucs at quarterback, and that all hinges on how quickly he assimilates offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan's schemes. COME ON!!!!
DUNCAN: Taht swonk ydobyreve, huD.
CALLER: Oh. Um, thanks.

I will continue to listen to sports talk radio and I will continue to frequently be annoyed and disappointed by what I hear, but I would never miss a single episode of that show.

Friday, September 07, 2012

First class from now on

The seats in first class are wide
enough to accommodate four or
five anorexic raccoons like this one
 My mini-vacation/escape from the RNC to Chicago was pretty good. Double cheezborger at the legendary Billy Goat Tavern! Dinosaurs at the Field Museum! Old Style beer at the Cubs game!
I only get opportunities to take vacations every five years or so, so I'm always appreciative and make an effort to thoroughly enjoy myself to the fullest, even the travel itself. I wasn't too excited about returning to Tampa from Chicago though, because I was scheduled for connecting flights with a three-and-a-half hour layover in Philadelphia. I had made my arrangements through Travelocity and had requested a return to Tampa in the late afternoon or early evening, with the idea that I could sleep in a little bit and maybe even squeeze in a little more sight-seeing before leaving. I would be getting home around 4:00pm but because of the layover, I still had to to be at the airport in Chicago by 6:30am to leave. Stupid computerized service, for doing exactly what I technically asked it to do instead of perceiving what I actually wanted. It's not breaking news that air travel is still kind of a hassle and getting on and off airplanes can be nerve-wracking and exhausting and I was not looking forward to having to do it twice, separated by an extended break. Sitting around an airport for over three hours is only slightly less aggravating than sitting around a laundromat for that long, and only because there's a better variety of food and beverages plus not having to fold clothes. The odds of being trapped in cramped, sweaty quarters with screaming toddlers and parents who wouldn't shut them up even if they could is just about the same.
However, Friday night something very cool happened. I had hit it off with one of the desk clerks at my hotel during my stay and joined her for a cup of coffee at a little place a couple of blocks away after she got off duty that night. She invited her roommate to come downtown and join her. It turns out her roommate works for the airline I was flying home on and after we joked around a while, she offered to upgrade me to first class. "You can do that?", I asked. "Sure. It's no problem. We do it all the time to deal with complaints." I said, "yeah, but I don't have any complaints." She put on a very fake, customer service-y smile and asked, "sir, is there any aspect of your travel experience with our airline that has been less than satisfactory, any aspect whatsoever?" I said, "Well, I..." and she hit what seemed like three buttons on her phone and said "Boom! Done!" I was dubious but thanked her.
Sure enough, when I picked up my boarding pass the next morning, my seat assignment was in the second row, not the 27th that I had selected on line. When they made the boarding announcement, they called the first class passengers first. I went up to the counter and sheepishly said, "I think I'm in first class this morning...". The attendant flashed a big smile and said, "Yes sir, Mr. Brooks. Good morning!" And instantly, upon confirmation that I was receiving a perk that I hadn't paid for or otherwise earned upon any merit whatsoever, I immediately developed an absurdly disproportionate sense of entitlement.
I grunted an unheard, exasperated "ugh" as I walked around a woman who was being aggressively ethnic, blocking my access to my gate as she re-arranged some of the intricate network of scarves that made up her attire. I settled into my wide, cushy seat, one of two in that row on that side of the plane, separated from the other seat by an extra-wide console. In coach, there would be three seats. In first class, the space that would have been used to seat another human being was allocated for my ass, and a place for me to put some book that I wasn't even going to bother to read. As I buckled the seatbelt, the flight attendant asked if I would care for something to drink. Usually, beverage service on a flight is something that happens after you've been in the air long enough to have given up hope that they would offer beverage service. In first class, we were getting it before the other jerks were even being allowed to get on the plane! I settled in and watched passengers file past to the coach seating. One man, for whom I had already formed an intense dislike upon seeing him in the gate area, shot me an incredulous look as he went past. I knew he was wondering why somebody like me was in first class and not him. He was wearing loafers and khaki pants, a white golf shirt with a navy blue blazer. Even though we were flying to Philadelphia, I just knew he was the kind of guy who would eventually wind up in West Palm Beach. He was being as aggressively Caucasian as the scarf lady was being ethnic. I glared back at him and prayed that he and the scarf lady would be seat mates and that at some point in the flight, she'd be futzing with one of her scarves and would whip it around her neck and hit him in the eye. Seriously. The way people pray for their loved ones to arrive home safely for the holidays is how I prayed for that interaction to happen. I thought about bringing the matter to my flight attendant: "Excuse me, miss? I don't want to cause any problems here but one of the commoners made eye contact with me, which is okay, but he didn't make much of an effort to avert his gaze. Is there a Sky Marshall or other member of sky law enforcement on board? I'm willing to fill out a report if necessary..." I didn't do that though, figuring that as a first class passenger, I'd be among the first to get off and would never see him again and that would be good enough. I was and it is.
Meanwhile, I just sat back and judged the rest of the coachies (I decided I would now refer to them as "coachies"; as far as I was concerned, they were more than welcome to refer to us as "firsties", which I considered a pretty magnanimous gesture on my part) as they paraded by. "Mullet...short...too much make-up...stupid tattoo...probably a racist..." I was surprised at how good and how quickly I'd become so judgmental!
The quality of the service never faltered either. I overheard the woman behind me ordering coffee and expressing a request for a particular artificial sweetener: "Do you have Splenda?" "No, I'm very sorry. We have Sweet and Low." "Equal?" "No, sorry. Just Sweet and Low." "Splenda?" and at no time did the flight attendant throw the cup of scalding hot coffee into her stupid face.
Honestly, it was such a pleasant experience that even the layover in Philadelphia didn't get me down. In spite of the fact that a server at an airport restaurant brought me ranch dressing for a Greek salad because "we outta Caesar."
Overall, it's basically impossible to overstate how much better first class is than coach, and I will never fly anything but first class from now on. Since I'm sure it costs about $4,000 more than a regular plane ticket, it's a good thing I only take vacations every five years. I'll need that much time to save up.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Get a head!

As I mentioned last week, I wanted to avoid as much of the nonsense that was taking place here during the Republican National Convention, so I got the hell out of town (I went to Chicago and had a nice time, thanks). I figured I'd miss all of the madness if I got back late Saturday but when I stopped at Denny's for late night breakfast, I saw this in the Grab 'Em game located in the restaurant's foyer:

Yep, that's right. It's Mitt Romney's head rendered as a plush toy.
In an ongoing sequence of things that I don't understand at all but other people think are great ideas that I should just start referring to as "life", I submit the following conversation that I would guess must have happened at some point...

VICE-PRESIDENT OF GRAB 'EM INC. PLUSH PRIZE DIVISION: Okay, that about sums it up for the upcoming line. We'll go with our traditional favorites of bears, dogs, monkeys and frogs. We've got some licensed superhero, cartoon character and professional sports items. Ned, what do you have for us from the novelty line?
NED: I think we really outdid ourselves this year. Voila! (unveils item)
NORTHWEST DISTRICT MANAGER: Is that...Mitt Romney's head?
NED: It sure is! You know what else it is? It's topical, funny and completely adorable!
SOUTHEAST DISTRICT MANAGER: Please tell me we're getting some of those in Florida!
NED: You got it, buddy! Your locations in Tampa are going to clean up during the Republican National Convention. Just think of how much dough those Republican families in town for the convention will shell out for a chance to win one of these sweet babies! "Look what daddy won for you, Chloe! Snuggle with it. Snuggle with the disembodied stuffed head of the one man that can save America from Obama and being turned into a socialist wasteland!"
NORTHEAST DISTRICT MANAGER: What about Democrats? They'll be turned off by it.
NED: Nah, they'll buy them for their dogs to chew on.
NED: They sure do! We researched this whole angle. Listen, people are all basically the same and we have no reason to believe that liberals wouldn't enjoy watching their beloved family pets ripping the head of their rivals literally to shreds as much as anybody.
SOUTHEAST DISTRICT MANAGER: Now, how hard are these going to be to win?
NED: Are you kidding me? Look at the size of this crazy thing! Nobody's hauling one of these away without dropping at least $5.
VICE-PRESIDENT OF GRAB 'EM INC. PLUSH PRIZE DIVISION: Ned, it's like you've re-invented the wheel....yet again! Looks like a 26th straight year of huge profits here at Grab 'Em, Inc. I smell bonus!
NED: Well, thank you sir. Honestly, in situations like this, the work itself is its own reward.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Happy Labor Day 2012

Once again, it's Labor Day (in America....sorry, people who actually make all of our stuff, for you it's just another Monday). This is a time for us all to reflect and remember what is really important: football doesn't even count yet but baseball is just getting really good. Priorities, people!!
Happy Labor Day!
"To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded." - Ralph Waldo Emerson