Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Odd Bits - The Snorting Bacon Edition

A couple of news stories grabbed me last week.

Bacon: The WonderMeat!
Doctors at Detroit Medical Center treated a 4-year old girl’s life-threatening nasal hemorrhage by relying on the curative powers of bacon.  They used cured, salted pork as a kind of “nasal tampon” to stop the little girl’s nosebleed.

Just when I thought bacon couldn’t get any better, this new development is brought to light.  Apparently it used to be a common treatment for nosebleeds but modern medicine relegated it to the dustbin of history. 

The article doesn’t specifically say whether the bacon was cooked or raw, but I gotta figure it was raw.  Might be a little too crackly if it were cooked first.  But I bet the girl cold have really freaked out her friends.

Hey watch this!”  [Girl pulls giant shard of bacon from her nose and eats it.]

Eh, a little girl probably wouldn’t do that.  A little boy, on the other hand… I guarantee it.

I’m wondering if it helps bleeding ulcers too.  I’d be glad to volunteer for the research.

Excuse me… I think it’s still bleeding.  You better give me some more bacon…” They could just treat me at the breakfast buffet at Embassy Suites and save on the hospital bill.

Garbage In – Garbage Out
I just love this one.  According to Live Science, “People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study.”        It further finds that “low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies.”

While the article takes great pains to say that these are all averaged findings and that obviously there are intelligent conservatives and dumb liberals, it certainly explains the demographics for Fox News.  Remember those studies that showed that Fox News viewers were less informed about world events than those that didn’t watch news at all.   They were also less likely to accept scientific positions. 

I can’t blame all of that on Fox though… the communities pushing un-scientific science classes aren’t helping either.

Driving Me Crazy
I’ve been saving this since September, but Allstate conducted a study and found that Baltimore and Washington DC ranked as the bottom two in a study to find the nation’s worst drivers.  (Baltimore was ranked 192; DC was 193.)

Among the findings, the study said that Baltimore drivers average 5 years between accidents, and they were 88.7% more likely to have an accident, compared to the national average.  I guess that makes me a pretty slick driver, with no accidents in the 14 years I’ve been here.

This study surprises me not at all.  I figured this out the very day I moved here in 1997.  Once I crossed the Delaware line into Maryland, the difference was palpable.  No signals, camping in the left lane, tailgating, refusing to let people merge… I was shocked.  I’d driven all over Ohio, Pennsylvania and New freakin’ York, and had NEVER seen so many incompetent drivers.  I had to ask people if they even HAD driver’s ed here.

Just this morning, on my 10-minute, 3-mile trip to the subway station, I saw 2 people roll right through stop signs, barely slowing down.  They’re also very good at pulling out right in front of you, then going 10 mph slower than you want to go.  On days that Pinky isn’t here, it’s a safe bet that the first spoken words out of my mouth will be profanity in the car.  (Usually it’s something along the lines of “Nice signal, fuckface!”) 

I just thank my lucky stars that I don’t have to go through any tunnels here.  I hear from my fellow Pittsburghers that tunnels have a paralyzing effect on the drivers there.  Here, I think it’s bridges.  All in all, it’s enough to make me install a retractable, hood-mounted water cannon.  It’ll be Road Warrior – Beyond Baltimoredome.

Anyway, it’s nice to receive independent validation.  Thanks Allstate!  (But don’t tell my State Farm agent I said that.)

Deer Me
Hey, we saw some deer this weekend, right out our patio window!  They were just walking across the street, like they owned the place.  Lucky they didn’t get drilled by a car.
"Hey, lets go over there!”

“Hey Mom, are we there yet?  Wait up!  We want a snack!  This looks good…”

“OK, you two eat that bush; I’ll check out the grownups buffet.”

Icy You
And the weekend before, we had an ice storm.  I took these out on the same patio.

And now Icy you later…

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Who Knew?

My last post was about how I got my guitar: I won it at a big company meeting and it was presented to me on stage.  I had the opportunity to play it for everyone, up on a stage, plugged into a giant Marshall stack.  Unfortunately, I didn't know how to play a guitar so the moment was pretty much lost.  I’ve regretted it ever since.

This post is to make clear that while that stage was the scene of one of my biggest regrets, it was also the scene of my greatest triumph.  I was called upon to make a presentation to the same group of Regional and District managers and I killed.  Killed!  Here’s the deal…

It was the year following the guitar episode.  Our “Merchandising” department had a new VP, a guy brought in from the toy industry.  I still worked closely with my mentor, Vinnie, the singles buyer, but we both reported to the new VP. 

The Merchandising department was given an hour of time, to make a presentation to the whole group.  The VP would go up and make some introductory remarks and then turn it over to seven of his people, who would each give a 10-minute spiel on their area of expertise.  I was one of the seven and we would all be sitting up on the stage as the others presented.

While I tend to shun the spotlight, I was perfectly OK with this.  I knew my shit and I knew what I wanted to say.  But I also knew that my shit was pretty dry.  If I’m going to have my ass up on a stage, I refuse to be boring.  So I came up with a couple of introductory paragraphs that was just plain comedy writing.  I felt it would be a good way to butter people up enough to accept the thrust of my talk: “Stop spending so damned much money with outside vendors.”

I wordsmithed the opening bit probably more than the meat of my speech.  The timing had to be just right.  I rehearsed it a number of times at home to make sure I had all my inflections just the way I wanted.  It was one of those rare times where I felt my degree in radio production wasn’t a complete waste of time.  I certainly knew how to mark up a script to enhance the reading.

But even though I was ready, I was still tweaking my opening, even on the morning of our presentation.  The Loss Prevention guy that went on before us mentioned something about the trick speakers use to put themselves at ease: picturing the audience in their underwear.  I knew I could use that.  And it’s always a good idea to work in something that’s fresh… it gives the illusion that you’re right on the ball and up on things.  So as he was talking about underwear, I was scratching more notes onto my speech notes.

So, there we were at the appointed time.  The seven of us were all up on the stage, sitting in folding chairs and the VP came up for his opening remarks.  He then rambled on for two goddamn hours!  He yapped right through all of our time and deep into the time belonging to the VP of Marketing.  (And from what I was told later, she was seriously pissed!)

Then after this mind-numbing yak-a-thon, he had to gall to turn to all of us up there with him and say, “OK, wrap your stuff up quickly; we’re running long.”

Motherfucker!  I was steaming mad.  Luckily, I wasn’t the first one to go on so I had time to calm down and consider the job at hand.  And I also had to consider what I should do.  I could easily cut my time down by about a third, if I skipped the comic intro. 

It was decision time.  And I’m sure you know what I did, too.

That’s right, I did the whole thing.  I figured, “Fuck him, I worked hard on this bit and it’s exactly what this audience needs right now.  They need something to bring them out of the coma.

So when it was my turn, I let it rip.  I started by mentioning the Loss Prevention guy’s underwear trick.  I said I do the same thing, except that in my eyes, “you’re all wearing your underwear on your head.” 

Their laughter encouraged me, so I continued with some more stuff I added that morning.  The LP guy’s speech included material on EEO laws, so I worked that in too.  I said “I never planned to end up in this job, but I was an EEO hire, to fill the quota for the Follicle Impaired, because the Regional Managers don’t count.” (4 of our 5 Regional Managers were acorn-heads like me.)  That damn near brought the place down.

I went on to do the rest of the stuff I’d planned.  I wove in Monty Python references, referred to myself as playing "Aye-gor" to Vinnie’s "Dr. Fronkonstein," and generally performed like I was doing a standup act.  I only wish I knew what the hell else I said.  I had meant to keep my script, but I lost it in one of my planned bits.  After one line where I knew I’d get laughs, I took the top page of the script and tossed it back over my shoulder.  That was fine… but I forgot to go retrieve it afterwards.  That was the page that had all the “material.”

The funny thing was; I was never nervous when I was doing the shtick.  I never got nervous until I was well into the meat of the presentation… the stuff where I knew what I was talking about.  I think it was the adrenaline wearing off and I was coming down.  They couldn’t see it from the seats, (I asked), but my hands started shaking like crazy.  And it didn’t help when I spotted our company CEO slip in the door about half way through.  But I got through it… I lightened the mood, I dropped some knowledge, and I got off the stage. 

After my bit, the VP got up and said that due to the time, the rest of his team would make their presentations the following day, and right now it was time for lunch.  As we left the auditorium, I wondered how my bit was received by the execs.  I mean; I did defy my boss and spent five precious minutes catering to my sense of whimsy.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out.  I could barely turn around in the lunchroom without someone clapping me on the shoulder and telling me how good my bit was, and how much it was needed!    People were recreating the scene for me, from their vantage point… “First the VP gabs us to death for two hours and suddenly there’s this guy up there who’s just ‘bringin' it!’ 

Even the Regionals, of whom I’d made sport for being as bald as I was, made it a point to come up and congratulate me.  (I think they just liked being mentioned.  Judging from the skit they put on at the next meeting, I have them all pegged as frustrated song-and-dance men.) 

In the following weeks, I heard from people that weren’t even there, who would tell me, “I heard you killed at the meeting last week…

My favorite response came to me second hand.  A co-worker of mine was sitting right behind the Regionals and while I was up there doing my routine, one of them turns to the other, shrugs his shoulders and says, “Who knew?

Another of my co-workers still had to do her presentation and asked me if I could give her some jokes to do.  Seems I’d found my niche.  The VP never said a thing to me.  I think he realized I'd saved him by changing the mood in the room.

It was without doubt, the high point of my career with that company.  The following year, I was laid off with about 20 other people, as a part of a major cost-cutting operation.  The old windbag VP was gone and one of the Regionals took over.  The same guy that said, “Who knew” was the guy that decided to bring in some kid from a store, pay him half what I made, have me train him and then shitcan me.

You know, he was the one Regional that wasn’t bald.  Perhaps he felt left out.

Or maybe bald guys are just naturally nicer human beings…

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Guitar Zero

I hate it when I know I let major opportunities slip away.  It haunts me for years afterward, especially when it would have been something really cool.  Like this story…

First let me set it up.  As you may have picked up from reading prior posts, I’m a music geek.  And the reason I think I’m such a music geek is that I so much wish I could produce actual music.  But as I’ve discovered, I have absolutely no aptitude for understanding music theory.  Oh, I can use the music lingo of performance… bars, riffs, fills, phrasing, verse/bridge/chorus… But the physical act of putting notes together or understanding how music works in real terms; it’s like a secret code that I just can’t crack.  So instead, I’m devoted to music “appreciation.”  I spent 13 years working crappy jobs with terrible pay, just so I could be near the music business.

It’s funny… when I was a kid, I was always so happy that my folks never forced me to take music lessons, like so many of my friends’ parents did.  I was always available to come out to play, because I wasn’t encumbered by piano lessons or sax lessons or guitar lessons.

But now, what I wouldn't give to be able to pick up a guitar, or sit down at a piano and entertain people. 

Rock and roll is a guitar culture, so I’m especially fascinated by the good guitarists.  I love to watch their hands when they play.  They make it look so freakin’ easy, but once you hold a guitar in your hands, you realize that it is anything but.  It’s only easy if you’ve cracked the code.  I know this because I actually have a guitar; a good one, too.  I’ve had it for about 20 years.  How I got it is the gist of the story.

Back in the early 90s, when I worked at the home office of my music retail company, we would have these big semi-annual company meetings.  All the Regional and District Managers would come from all over the company for three days of meetings and seminars with us home office folk.

I loved these affairs, not only because you got to meet the people you’ve only dealt with over the phone, but there were other cool extras.  They’d bring in music stars for the meetings and the nightly entertainment.  Celine Dion, Patty Smythe, Steve Forbert, Norman Nardini, (and several other R&B stars of the time whose names escape me) all played our event.

Another was Vendor Day, where reps from all the record labels and accessory manufacturers would set up display tables with information and goodies.  I’d come home with bags stuffed with CDs, tapes, display racks, tape cases and all kinds of tchotchkes.  The vendors would also “sponsor” various meals, where they’d pay for the food and then give a presentation during the meal.

One afternoon there was a lunch sponsored by Relativity Records, who at the time was home to hotshot guitarist Joe Satriani.  As part of their presentation, they had a guitar giveaway.  Everyone was instructed to check for a red tag under their chairs.  Then if anyone with a red tag could answer a question, they would win a brand new Ibanez electric guitar autographed by Joe Satriani.  (That was the kind of guitar that Satriani played.)

Well, I found a tag, as did two other girls, and each of us answered the softball questions to win guitars.  They didn’t have the guitars there; they would need to be built.  They said they would send them to us.

OK, so no immediate gratification, but still, it was very cool.

After the meetings, the plan began to change.  The Relativity label guy said that we would get our guitars presented to us on stage at the next big meeting.  He further insinuated that we would be expected to play something on it when it was given to us.

I didn’t think too much about it at the time, but as our next meeting drew closer and the label guy kept asking me what I’d be playing, I began to fret about it.  He kept going, “What, you can’t play a little ‘Louie Louie’ for us?

Apparently, that was supposed to be easy. But whatever… how the hell was I going to learn to play?  I didn’t have a freakin’ guitar yet!  I hadn’t even held one since I was a kid.  Now if they were giving away air guitars, I could have given them a real show. 

I considered taking lessons or something, but still, I had no guitar, no one I knew to teach me and no money to plunk down on formal lessons.  So I basically did nothing.

Then there we were at the next meeting, in a big auditorium with the stage dressed to accommodate the rock act they had booked for the afternoon.  It had mics, amps, and giant Marshall stacks on each side of the stage.

The girls were called up on stage first and were presented with shining white guitars.  Neither of them could play either so all they did was pluck a few discordant notes and then scurry off the stage.  I knew I was going to be lame, but was determined not to be that lame.

They called me up and presented me with a bright red Ibanez.  Hot red!  I loved it!
The autograph is on a panel on the back side.  I bought the amp for it at a later date.

They strapped it on me and plugged it into the amp.  I was good to go.

I wish I could say I had something special in store, but alas, I didn’t.  BUT, I did have a long history of watching guitarists’ hands, to further enhance my air guitar abilities.  (Don’t judge; it was the 80s!)  So I did the one thing I thought I could pull off… I just focused on one string, the bottom one that makes the highest notes.  I pressed the string up high on the fret board and began hitting the string.  As I “played” I slid my fret hand lower and lower on the neck, making the guitar pitch higher and higher, until I got to the bottom and just let it scream.  I probably should have used the Whammy Bar, but for my limited abilities, it was about as cool as I could do. 

The whole thing probably didn’t last any longer than 10 seconds.  I got in and out quickly, feeling weird about occupying everyone’s attention when I didn’t know what I was doing.  You probably don’t believe it, but I’ve never felt comfortable in the spotlight, especially when I’m not confident in what I’m doing.

I still have that guitar; it sits on a guitar stand in my living room.  Right out of the chute, I picked up some How-to-Play books and tried to teach myself to play using tablature (meaning diagrams of where to put your fingers, as opposed to reading the music notes).  In 20 years, I’ve managed to learn three chords, E, A and D.  That’s it.  But I figured out that you can play “Louie Louie” with E, A and D.  The label guy was right, after all.

 I’ve never been able to form a C or G without stopping completely and carefully arranging my fingers.  That kind of thing brings a song to a halt pretty quickly.

With the place my life is at now, I could definitely hack taking lessons, but the onset of my Delayed Pressure Urticaria (hives) in 2001 made guitar playing pretty much impossible.  If I press the strings for more than 10 minutes, my fingertips will swell up like sausage links.  Not good, when you type for a living.

Twenty years later, I still think about that day.  What an opportunity I had, to do something cool and unexpected.  I totally should have scraped together some bucks for some guitar lessons.  I wouldn’t even have had to learn that much.  I’ve thought about this a lot; if I had a do-over, I’d learn how to play the intros to a couple of classic rock songs.  If I could have strung a couple of those together, it would have killed because it would have been so unexpected, coming from me.  Here’s how I see it now:

A tall gangly guy ambles up to the stage and a bright red guitar is hung around his neck.  He looks like a deer in headlights as he glances up at the crowd.  He plucks a few single notes, as if checking the sound.  As the last single note sustains and fades, he arranges his fingers high on the neck and begins a grungy, fat-fingered version of “Louie Louie.”  The crowd approves, as no one expected him to be able to play anything recognizable.

After a chorus/verse/chorus of “Louie Louie,” he sustains the last note, then looks up and smiles.  The crowd begins to applaud, but before they can get going, he raises his hands over his head and starts a rhythmic clap.  As the crowd picks up the beat, he hits the strings again, producing the instantly recognizable beginning of “Smoke on the Water.” 
After a couple of passes through the main riff, he again holds the last note and looks to the audience.  With a small smile at the corner of his mouth, he plays the opening to “Highway to Hell.”  The crowd goes crazy… they had no idea that the guy could play.  Now they were going along for the ride.

In quick succession, he ran through the openings of Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” and J. Geils Band’s “Come Back,” before finishing with AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds” and “Whole Lotta Rosie.”

Throughout most of the songs, he stood stock still, concentrating on his fingers, but as the AC/DC rolled, you could see his body come to life as he moved his legs with the signature Angus Young leg stomp and head bob.  As ‘Rosie’ kicked in, he suddenly turned and did the Angus ‘scissor-kick’ over to the side of the stage and back.

As he retook the center of the stage, he held one last note; left hand on the strings, right hand reaching for the sky, as a thankful salute to the appreciative crowd, before bending into a deep bow.  He straightened and cut the note off with a flourish on the fret board and waved as he strode off the stage.

“Follow that,” he said to himself as he disappeared into the wings.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bluz, You Have a Mitch Cumstein on Line 1...

As you may have seen in posts from earlier last year, I love practical jokes and there are few lengths to which I will not go in order to pull off a good one.  I can be inhumanly patient for the payoff too.  In fact, I set one up in 2005 and I’m still waiting for it to pay off.

Parallel to that, I’m sure you can tell that I love puns and word play.  Fake names are some of my favorite things.  My family and I used to always call each other up at work and give unusual names to whoever answered.  I remember I’d be all busy managing my record store and one of my clerks would come up to me kind of puzzled, and say, “You have ‘Mitch Cumstein’ on line one?

I’d laugh because I knew that was my brother, using one of the joke names from ‘Caddyshack.’  My poor clerk didn’t know if she was being put on or what…

We weren’t always that clever on the phone.  When I’d call my dad at work, he’d answer the phone with his name… “Jim Dude…”

I’d always say, “Big fuckin’ deal.”

It’s his own fault; he’s the one that told me that was what he always said when he called his friend, The Lob, at work.

OK now let me see if I can tie all this together.

I mentioned in Comments to an earlier post that we have a thing at work called a Desk Audit.  This was where once per quarter, someone would come in early in the morning and check everyone’s desk to make sure we were adhering to the company’s Clean Desk Policy.  That basically covered keeping your drawers locked with no keys in sight and making sure there was no personal or proprietary information left on your desk for someone to steal or make mischief with.
I gave a copy of this cartoon to the girl doing our Desk Audits.  It killed.

Now, let me be straight here: I’m all for Desk Audits.  In that department, we handled a lot of customer paperwork with names, socials, etc.  We needed to be sure they were secure.  So I had no problem with the Desk Audits at all…

That is, until I started failing them.  The first one or two, OK, they had a point… I had something minor that was wrong.  Then I failed an audit because my file drawer wasn’t locked… in my file cabinet that HAD NOTHING IN IT.  I didn’t even have a key to it.  It’s enough to drive you to drink.

Then I failed one because I had a department phone list posted on my wall, because we often needed to get a hold of our folks on the road.  These lists had been up in people’s cubes for years.  So NOW it’s an issue?  My beef was that I’d have been happy to comply, if only someone had mentioned that they were changing the freakin’ rules.

So I redacted all the personal information out of my contact list.  And I failed again, because now they didn’t want people’s desktop extensions listed in sight either.  I lost my shit with this one; I was so pissed.  I accused the Compliance people of trying to make people fail.  (I wasn’t the only one pinched on that.)  Any of us would have complied with all of these stupid rules, if they’d only told us what they were!!  Suddenly I’m living in Dilbert world.

I decided to start messing with my tormentors.  I started by placing “decoy” keys around my cube.  We were supposed to keep all desk keys on us, but I (and many others) hate carrying keys around.  So we usually hide them somewhere handy.  That’s a no-no.  But since I had the most brilliant Key Hiding Place ever (which I will never disclose), I decided to taunt my tormentor by attaching a paper clip to one of those wire key circles.  I stuffed the paper clip down the inside rim of my potted plant and left the key ring visible.  I had some hanging down in other places as well.

I also took down my department phone list and put up a new one, populated entirely with fake names.  But I couldn’t just leave it at regular fake names; I had to use funny ones.

Way back in the 70s, when the National Lampoon magazine was still relevant, they used to do these incredible parodies.  They did a complete Sunday newspaper, every word of which was a joke.  (The Classifieds were priceless.)  They also did a High School Yearbook parody, again, painstakingly detailed.  I remembered that they had the freshman class pictures all on one page, cut down to thumbtack sized, with a huge list of names underneath.  Every name was a joke. 

Fortunately for me, I was able to find the list online and steal a bunch of them for my list.  OK, I they’re not all literal copies… I made some alterations to a number of them, to make them less obvious and more, well, “name-like.”  A couple more, I made up out of whole cloth, and then threw in a few more that I’d heard somewhere along the line.

So now, there I was, just daring someone to bust me now.

Never worked out.  Shortly after that, the girl that was doing the checks left the company.  Before she left, though, I had her come in and see if she could find my key hiding spot.  She couldn’t, although she thought she had me with the decoy.  Revenge is mine!

I’m in a different department now but I still have the list up on my cube wall and we still do Desk Audits.  My new Desk Auditors have never mentioned the phone list.  I have a feeling that the phone list prohibition was unique to my old department.  It’s been 7 years and I’m still waiting for someone to notice.

But now, whenever I need a quick alias, I can consult my list and pick one of the following:
Aaron Buoy
Bert Toast
Penny Lofer
Castor Hoyle
Milton Yermouth
Hammond Ecks
Jacquelyn Hyde
Val Vita
Stu Pendus
Mandy Lifeboats
Daryl Licht
Barbara Blacksheep
Phil Landerer
Vic Trola
Justin Thyme
Nick O’Thyme
Rhoda Horst
Al Fresco
Eva Destruction
Sara Ann Dippity
Patti Melt
Lance Boyle
Al Dente
Michael Hawke (a distant relative of Michael Hunt)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Maraschino Evil

When my folks were back in town for Christmas, Mom told me this story about her father, The Storyteller.

As you may have read in the past, my grandpa was one of my earliest role models; a lighthearted merry prankster and premier teller of funny and often times true stories.  After watching him kill yet another room full of jaded adults, I’d always think, “That’s the guy I want to be.”

This story took place during World War II.  One of Grandpa’s brothers was stationed in the Pacific, building shit with the Seabees.  One of the provisions, though, was “no booze.”

I always thought the alcohol prohibitions were for the Middle East, so I guess you learn something new every day.

Anyway, in letters home, his brother lamented the inability to get a good drink.  Grandpa wanted to help, but obviously couldn’t ship him a big crate of liquor.  So he devised a work-around.  He sent them maraschino cherries instead.

The Navy passed the cherries straight through to Grandpa’s brother.  One full case of maraschino cherries… could be the harm in that?    

What the Navy didn't know was that Grandpa had poured out all the cherry juice from each bottle, replaced it with bourbon and packed it up again.  Mom said she’d never forget the sight of her dad, surrounded by cherry bottles, draining each of the little bottles and painstakingly pouring in the bourbon. 

Now that’s how you Support the Troops!  Beats the hell out of just slapping a ribbon magnet on your car, doesn’t it?

The Army commanders eventually realized that their men were getting loaded, but never figured out how they did it… defeated by a good brother with a little Italian-American ingenuity.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Modern Family Warfare

I spent about a half hour on the floor last night, laughing at “Modern Family.”  I get more consistent laugh-out-loud moments from this show than any other in recent years, save for maybe “30 Rock.”  And for me, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the yumminess quotient is off the charts.

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But as you may have heard, last night’s episode touched off some controversy this week, because word was out that a storyline featured 2-year old Lily, adopted daughter of gay dads Cam and Mitchell, dropping an F-bomb at home and later at a wedding.

Now, knowing this show as I do, I was sure it would be presented tastefully and fit in with a relevant plot.  This is not a crass or vulgar show at all; for all the craziness of the three families, it nevertheless has a sweet, gooey center that always leaves you feeling good at the end.

So naturally, here come the conservatives to try to spoil the fun.  First, some 18-year old college student, that founded a “No Cussing Club” that claims 35,000 members, began making noise about getting the episode pulled.  He apparently formed this club in 2007 when he was 13.

Yeah, like we want 13-year olds (OR 18-year olds) dictating public standards.  (Although that might explain the continued popularity of “Two and a Half Men.”) 

Later, the Parents Television Council got in on the act to condemn the episode, which was titled “Little Bo Bleep,” saying that they don’t want children exposed to that kind of language and emulating that behavior. 

I had to laugh… like these PTC people are watching the show anyway… Modern Family features a gay family that acts like any other ordinary family.  That disqualifies it for them right there.  God forbid the children see this realistic portrayal and become infected with the gay.

Anyway, all this happened before the show even aired.  I was half tempted to write this rebuttal yesterday, but unlike any of these bloody do-gooder groups, I thought I’d wait to see the episode first and then write an informed opinion.

As in keeping with the show’s history, it presented this very real situation quite tastefully and reflected a problem parents have had across time and space.  What happens the first time your kid says something off-color?  And what happens when the kid says something at a formal event, like a wedding?  Parents, you’ve all been there, right?  Or at least you know you will be one day. 

When filming the show, they had the little girl actually say “fudge,” so not to taint the little doll, and then bleeped the word and pixilated her mouth.

All I can say is “What’s the fuckin’ problem?”  No harm, no foul.

Eric Stonestreet, who plays Cam, said it best in a couple of tweets:

Lily didn’t ACTUALLY say FU*K, she said fudge. How bout see the episode, THEN form an opinion. For fudge sake people. Chill the f-k out… how bout redirecting the efforts of the No Cuss Club to reading to the elderly, picking up litter, feeding the hungry.”

I’ll come in here and add my usual solution to these kinds of TV-content issues… If you disagree with something that’s on TV, turn the goddamned channel.  You get to control your own TV, not mine or anyone else’s.  Get over yourself and stop projecting your tight-sphinctered morals on the rest of us.  We’ll decide what we can watch, not you.

Around my house, swearing was not really a big deal.  It wasn’t really encouraged, but there were no real repercussions from the occasional lusty swear word for emphasis.  Time and place were more of the focus.  We learned not to swear around our relatives, for sure.  But mostly we learned that there was a big difference between, “Dad, I smashed my fuckin’ thumb,” versus, “Fuck you, Dad.”

If I’d ever uttered the latter, I’d have been in a coma until I was 35.

But when your mom teaches you your first dirty jokes, the parents forfeit taking the high ground.  I don’t think I ever caused any of that kind of trouble when I was little, but my brother did.

When he was in, I think, 2nd grade, each morning one kid got to go up in front of the class and tell a joke.  One of his friends gave him a funny joke to tell, and my brother was naïve enough to do it. 

“What’s pink and lays at the bottom of the ocean?

Moby’s dick.”

All I can say is that the class found it far funnier than the teacher did.

I don’t recall my brother getting into any serious trouble at home though.  I’m pretty sure Mom just told him to stop listening to his friend.

Good thing we didn’t have a No Cussing Club in 1970, or he might have gotten suspended.  Gotta protect the innocent children, you know?

Unrelated Note
I’d like to thank the people that delurked themselves here for DeLurker Day.  I heard from PPG Industries (T-Man), Anchorage (Betty) and Salineville (Brooke).  Thank you for stepping out of the shadows and publicly supporting my little slice of the internet.  (And abating my growing paranoia over who might be is stalking me…So relieved it wasn’t the CIA, the No Cussing Club, or the C-Street House.)

Dedicated readers are like currency because it is through you that I have a richer blogging experience.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Call it 'Unfocused Tuesday'

I apologize ahead of time for this post being kind of a mishmash.  Sometimes, that’s how it goes, in my head.

First order of business: I still consider it DeLurker Day and I will until someone actually DeLurks!  So far I haven’t had anyone comment who hasn’t commented before.  And even more disappointing, I’ve had visits from all five people that I called out in the post, and they still haven’t commented.

Come on… someone has to go first!

In other news, I have a guest post up at AskCherlock.  I think it’s kind of like when you turn to your last-resort babysitter: all the good ones are busy but you still need to get out of the house, so you turn to your ne’er-do-well brother-in-law and hope he doesn’t destroy the place.

Cher asked me to do a political post, so I was happy to oblige.  That’s like handing matches and kerosene to a 12-year old boy in a tree house… something’s getting burned down.  I definitely brought the pain. 

In fact, I plan on cherry-picking the good parts to flesh out here, as we roll toward the November elections.  But to see it all presented in coherent (if elongated) form, click here to check it out.  If I send enough traffic, they might ask me back to defile their site again next year.  And now, onto…

Hey Bluz, what do you think about…

Monday morning when I woke up and heard the traffic report, I remembered it was MLK Day.

When I left for the subway station and there were no cars on the road, I remembered it was MLK Day.

When I got to the subway station and there were hardly any cars in the lot or people on the train, I remembered it was MLK Day.

When I walked to work and downtown was a ghost-town, I remembered it was MLK Day.

But when I ventured out into the freezing cold to mail Judie’s tee shirt at the post office, I forgot it was MLK Day.


Where’s Shelly Winters when you need her?
The Poseidon Adventure Part 3 – Head Over Keels in the Med

I don’t like this at all.

The first order of my rooting business is that the Ratbirds can’t win, so I’m forced to root for the Patriots.  I had been counting on rooting for the Packers or Saints to go on to beat the Pats in the Super Bowl, but they both lost last weekend.

So I’m left with San Francisco, who I can’t root for to win because it would give them six Super Bowl wins, which would tie the Steelers.  That makes rooting for the Giants as my last alternative.  I don’t feel strongly about the Giants either way.  I suppose I can take solace in the fact that their owners, the Maras, are old friends of the Steelers’ owners, the Rooneys.

All in all, I’m calling it Super Bowl ‘Meh.’  Maybe the commercials will be worthwhile.

It’s largely irrelevant.  Republicans, for better or worse, have been all over the news and when not criticizing each other, are going after the President.  Obama has been largely unheard from.  No ads, no big speeches, no appearances on the talking head shows, nada.  But behind the scenes, the troops are massing and the money is being collected.

Show me the polls when both sides are running in earnest and then I’ll pretend it matters.

…of that video Jessica mentioned in the last post?
Jessica left this in Comments of my Why Heathens Make Good Friends post and I just had to pass it on.  Hilarious.

Of course, this has nothing to do with MY religious upbringing.  We never went to a church that was even close to being this slick, but I know it’s part of the Mega-Church trend now.  This piece takes it down a notch or two, stylish glasses and all.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

DeLurker Day 2012

On various sites throughout the Internet, January 14 has been proclaimed “DeLurker Day.”  This is a day designed to coax those people that regularly visit a blog without ever commenting, to come forth and join the group by leaving a comment.

I’ve been itching for this day to come around.  I missed it last year, which severely pissed me off.  As you probably know, I track my blog stats and visitors with the intensity of a dog staring at a bowl of pork chops.  (Or, me, staring at a bowl of pork chops.)

In using my StatCounter service, I can see people turning up several times a week, if not daily.  I’m always so curious about who they are and how they came to find this site.  I wonder if they return because they enjoy it, or if they just want to see what that idiot is going to say next.  Is it an old friend or enemy, checking in to see what’s become of me?

I want to know who is checking in from Anchorage, Alaska and Dallas, Texas.  Who is coming from PPG Industries, Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh?  Who arrives from Salineville, Ohio via Cassie’s site, or who checks in daily via Uncle Crappy?

This is not to say I’m complaining about the visits.  I’m always glad for the attention.  I merely say to you, my regular silent guest, that if you have come this far, why not come just a bit further and participate?  And why not give everyone else the opportunity to check your blog, if you have one?  As you should know, all are welcome here.

Well, all that aren’t assholes, anyway.  That’s my job.

Now, I’m thinking of trying out a new short-form feature, where I talk about issues that have surfaced, and give a brief opinion because I don’t have enough material on it to flesh it out for even an Odd Bits bit.  I call it:

Hey Bluz, What do you Think About…

I’m kind of “meh” about the whole thing.  She was made up as Marilyn Monroe the whole time.  What’s the point of celebrities posing naked if they look like someone else?

Note to Lindsey: Marilyn did it better.  Now go back to your public service stint.

Note to you: If you click the link and check the pictures, please know that only a couple of these shots were actually in the magazine and the ran many that aren’t shown here at all.

At a press conference with the show’s stars and show runner, reporters made repeated charges that the characterizations of the Asian diner owner, the old black cashier and Russian cook were racist.  I never really sensed racism in these depictions, I just laughed a lot.  However I’m a mild-mannered Italian heathen.  Maybe if they had one of those on the show, I’d be more offended. 

I think they’re getting a bad rap.  What half-hour sitcoms drop fully developed and nuanced side characters into the first season?  Give them some time, for cryin’ out loud. 

“Work It” is a show about guys dressing as girls to get a job… or in other words, “Bosom Buddies” with an office instead of a school dorm.  From the promos alone, I thought it looked like a horrible show.  It’s been pretty much savaged by every critic in America as the worst show ever.

Sitcom Kelly likes it though.  I can only assume she’s growing tired of putting dresses on the athletes she keeps in her basement Silence of the Lambs pit, and craves some variety.

I’m of mixed mind on this.  While I wish they handled themselves with more decorum, I can certainly understand what may have driven them to such lengths.  On one hand, fuck the Taliban.  I make room for the notion that if I had been fighting these guys for months, had watched them shoot or blow up my buddies, had them shoot at me, watched what they’ve done with those that they’ve captured, I’d be sorely tempted to express my feelings in a similar vein.

However, I would NOT have put a film of it on the fucking Internet!  Now, we have an international incident with severe repercussions, just because someone wanted to impress other soldiers or his buddies back home?  Good God, if you must record this sort of thing for posterity, keep that of shit in the fucking camera.  Who knows how much of the success to which these guys contributed, just got rolled back into oblivion? 

When the Republicans take a line out of context and them blow it up and repeat it all over the media, I’m glad that this time they’re doing it to one of their own.  Yes, I know the so-called “Liberal Media” ran with it too, but right out of the gate it was blown up and batted around by the other Republican presidential candidates. 

While I think Mitt’s phrasing was clunky and a bit tone-deaf, I don’t think he was wrong.  We all should have the option of being able to “fire” those institutions that are providing us with substandard service.             Whether or not Mitt was callous or cavalier in the firing of employees working for the companies that his Bain group acquired is a different conversation, which has no bearing on this particular story.

…the employee evaluation you got yesterday?
It was just fine, but I had to laugh.  My boss included the following statement on my evaluation form: “Enjoys a good debate.”

I laughed out loud and said, “I know what you really wanted to say was, ‘Argumentative asshole.’”

She denied that, but I declined to argue about it.  That wasn’t an argument I needed to win.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why Heathens Make Good Friends

The other day I found myself emailing with my Hot Arizona Auntie, Judie, the Rogue Artist.  Seems she had a bit of a problem with Blogger (and who doesn’t?) where it posted her same comment 8 times.  I emailed her to tell her that I would delete the extras.

Bluz: It’s just another service from your friendly, neighborhood Heathen.

Judie: Heathens are the best kind of friends!

That got me thinking, which as you know, can be dangerous.  But it can also provide an angle for a blog post! 

I immediately started composing a list of why Heathens make good friends.  It started out pretty silly, but kind of snowballed from there.  It didn’t emerge all at once, but over a series of emails with Judie.  It’s so much easier for me to create when I’m outside the echo-chamber of my own head.  So with that, I give you:

Why Heathens Make Good Friends
  • We’re always available on Sunday.
  • We don’t judge.
  • We’re always at work because we don’t have any special holidays.
  • We’re hard to scandalize because we don’t claim to be prim or proper.
  • We’ll drink, dance, gamble and swear with you.
  • We’re not ashamed of our bodies (although maybe some of us should be).
  • We don’t intertwine sex and guilt.
  • We make better music.
  • A recent survey showed that the non-religious tend to be better informed on religious doctrine than those that believe, because we make the effort to find out what we’re rejecting.
  • We will be good for the benefit of society, rather than out of fear of afterlife retribution (or reward).
  • At our house, you can start eating dinner as soon as the food is served, so it’s still hot.
  • We don’t hassle people about their religion because we have no holy book that commands us to go out and recruit.
  • We will defend your right claim your own religion with the same voice we use to claim our own right not to be bound by it.
  • We have complete immunity from cults, Scientology or otherwise.
  • And as follows, we will never be seen in coordinated track suits.
  • We will never be linked to priests, preachers or any church officials who:
    • Get caught in heterosexual sex scandals.
    • Get caught in homosexual sex scandals.
    • Molest children.
    • Cover up for any of their officials that are known to be engaging in the prior three actions.
    • Burn holy books to inflame the people to whom the books are holy.
    • Desecrate military funerals in order to promote their own whack-a-loon societal views.
    • Build lavish churches and live large at their parishioners’ expense.
    • Preach hate, intolerance or suppression toward entire groups of people because of their opposing religious views, or the way they were born.
    • Spread health-related misinformation and lies under the guise of salvation.
    • Blame the Devil (or the media) whenever they’re found to be doing something in conflict with what they preach.
    • Support a nest of blood-sucking vipers like the C-Street House.
In related news, do you remember a couple posts ago where I showed you pictures of the new tee-shirts I got for Christmas?  (OK, I got them for myself, but whatever…)  I mentioned that one of them, my “Heathen” shirt, was delivered in a Boys XL size instead of a Mens XL.
(Heathen shirt pic)

When I contacted the fine people at Café Press, they immediately sent me the proper size and said to just keep the original one they sent me.  They didn’t want it back.

That’s fine, of course… saved me a trip to the post office.  But I don’t know any XL Heathen boys… what am I going to do with a Boys XL Heathen shirt?  .

Why, have a give-away, of course!  And this one isn’t even complicated… first one that asks for it, gets it.  I’d say it would fit a small to medium-sized female so don’t think it necessarily has to go to a child.  I’m 6’3” and two hundred {cough)ty pounds and I could fit into it, although it was snug like a scuba suit.  And don’t worry, I had it on and off in about 6 seconds.  It is not befouled in any way.

Here it is, in comparison to a Mens XL from the same shipment.

Just tell me you want it in Comments (so others then know not to ask) and email me your address (and name, if you go by a nom de blogge).  Check the “Important Stuff to Know” page for my email address, if you haven’t emailed me before.

If no one claims it, I’ll be forced to donate it to an organization like the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities.

If I didn’t know that it would never again see the light of day, it might be worth doing, if only to see the looks on their faces.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ripples of Terror

So my Steelers lost last weekend, to the wet-behind-the-ears Wonderboy Tim Tebow and his Denver Broncos.  As I stated in the last post, I was prepared for the Steelers to lose next weekend to New England, but not to the Broncos.  But I can’t complain.  Denver probably did us a favor, so we don’t have to go up to Foxboro and get our asses kicked all over the field.  But still, a period of mourning is required.

Yesterday, I went to work wearing all black… black shirt, black pants, black tee-shirt underneath and a black hat.  If I had bangs, I would have worn them over my eyes.  It’s my emo-Johnny Cash look.  Today I’m a little better, so I’m wearing dark gray slacks and a gray and black checked shirt.  Tomorrow, perhaps I’ll wear an understated blue.  Then on Thursday, I may break out the red, so that by Friday, I’ll be pooping rainbows again. 

But in trolling through the news on Monday, I could see the Bluz-depressing after-effects that the big Tebow win had produced.

Total Recall
There’s another big medicine recall… this time it’s Exedrin, Bufferin, No-Doz and worst of all, Gas-X!!

(Gas-X should not be confused with Rain-X.  I swear, they’re completely different products, even if they’re both from the “X” family.  I wonder who the inventor was, Malcolm?)

I dashed to my cabinet and was relieved to find that I last bought “store-brand” anti-gas tablets.  Phew!  I’d hate to be pent up in a cramped meeting room after a Mexican lunch, and have to worry about the sanctity of my simethicone tablets.

You know, someone should work on a pill that lets you fart, but takes the odor out.  That way you still get that gut-clearing sense of satisfaction, only without nauseating those around you.  I totally want to do the commercials.

Scene: Corporate conference room

Boss: Bluz, I just laid out our downsizing plans for the quarter; why do you look so happy?

Bluz: You don’t want to know.  But it’s a good thing there’s no smoking in here.

Family Gal
Shortly after I read about the pills, I got another punch in the gut.  Kristy McNichol, who was in a number of after-school specials, movies and TV shows, most notably the 70s drama “Family,” came out of the closet in support of bullied kids. 

As much as I support her trying to do something positive for bullied kids, it broke my heart.  Man, I used to have it bad for her back when I was 15.  It was different to like her, as opposed to, say, Charlie’s Angels, because she and I were about the same age.  She seemed attainable.  I’d see her on talk shows or celebrity competition shows and she just seemed so cool and together (and cute).
I don’t’ care how old and lesbian she gets, I still remember this little cutie.

I guess I blew it.  I know she was diagnosed as bipolar in the 80s or 90s, but I also know I could have fixed her.  I should have run away to find her when we vacationed in California back in the mid-70s.  If it didn’t work out with Kristy, I could have hooked up with Joan Jett. 

No wait…


I sure can pick’em, can’t I?

Snap Judgments
In other news, a woman went bungee-jumping off a giant bridge in Africa and the bungee cord snapped. 

On the bright side, the girl lived!  (Video of the incident is included on the page linked above.)

I know, right?  Holy crap!  Australian Erin Langworthy, 22, bungee jumped of a 365-foot high bridge at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe when the cord snapped, sending her plunging into the Zambezi River.  The river is also infested with crocodiles and to make matters worse, whitewater rapids, which are considered to be among the world’s most challenging.  As if the football-field length freefall alone wasn’t enough peril for an adrenaline junkie…

The plucky Ms. Langworthy managed to surface but as she shot down the rapids, the cord, which was still wrapped around her ankles, kept snagging on the rocks.  She had to dive under and free herself before she could make it to the river’s edge.  I’m not sure that even Cassie is that bad assed. 

I wonder if she Tebowed when she got out…

She is currently recovering from bruises and a broken collarbone and says she would consider a repeat performance, but not any time soon.

If that was me, I wouldn’t even use rubber bands any more.

Lastly, a Reminder
If you haven’t played the video embedded in the previous post, what are you waiting for?  It’s the most wicked piece of boogie-woogie piano playing you’ll ever see.  Do it!