Monday, March 28, 2016

Tales from the Glassy Knoll

I had a glorious day on Saturday, playing Baltimore Ambassador to another visiting dignitary.  I had received an email from my long-time blog friend, Kernut the Blond, asking if she could take me up on an offer I once made.

Kernut writes a kind of life and travel blog, featuring lots of small towns, roadside attractions, and tales from the heartland.  I don’t remember how we came to start following each other’s blogs, but hers is a real pisser.

After living in California and making a living doing office work, Kernut decided to chuck it all, buy an RV, and ramble around the southwest and make do as she went.  She spent the last several years living in waterfront RV parks in Texas and Oklahoma, doing whatever kind of work she could find to keep herself afloat.  She documents all her adventures in her blog.  (It also includes an explanation of how her nickname came to be.)

I’ll say this, the woman is brave.  She faced an internal “put up or shut up” moment and went all in.

It was some time ago, I don’t remember the context, but I dropped a comment on her blog saying that if she ever found herself out this way, let me know and I’d take her out for crab cakes. 

Then several weeks ago, I heard from Kernut, saying she would soon be coming to southeastern Pennsylvania, and wanted to get together for those crab cakes.

As you know, I love to meet other bloggers so immediately accepted her accepting my original invitation.

When the day drew near, I emailed her with a brief rundown of things I thought she might like to do, which included the Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium and a waterfront lunch.

She also had some ideas after a little Google research.  She wanted to go the “Top of the World” observation deck of Baltimore’s “World Trade Center,” and to go find what’s known as the “Seven-foot Knoll Lighthouse.”

The former was easy; the latter… that gave me a brief twinge of heartburn.  This area is flush with waterways.  The Patapsco River feeds the harbor area and there are all kinds of offshoots here, there and everywhere.  This lighthouse could be anywhere, including clear down on the Eastern Shore.

Then I Googled it myself.  Turns out, I can see the damned thing from my office building. 

If you look to the left of the Marriott Waterfront, and the right of the Four Seasons construction, and just above the white Pier Six Pavilion roof, you can see a little red lighthouse.

I had no idea it was even a lighthouse.  In fact, I already had a picture of it, from when I went to see Boston at the Pier Six Pavilion two summers ago.

So it was perfect!  Everything we wanted to do was in about a 3-block area surrounding the Inner Harbor. 

It’s always a bit nerve-wracking meeting someone I’ve only known online. I get so amped up wanting to make sure everything goes well and that I’m sufficiently entertaining.  Then when the time comes, I find myself relating a story, which inevitably reminds me of another story and next thing I know, I have a dozen stories all fighting to get out at the same time, leaving me jabbering like a monkey.  Sometimes I just have to force myself to STFU.

So, it was gorgeous out on Saturday and the flowering trees were in full bloom.

My theory is that those trees look so good because they’re right next to the water treatment plant.  I’m sure they’re well fertilized.

The harbor area was also setting up for a massive Festival of Lights which starts tonight and runs through the week, so we could see the preparations taking place.

I’m assuming these will be all lit up, come nightfall.  (That’s Pier Six Pavilion in the background.)

We started our tour with the Seven-Foot Knoll lighthouse.  Built in 1856, it used to be out in the water at the mouth of the harbor but was moved to shore in 1988, to serve as a museum.
The National Aquarium tour was awesome, as usual.  We saw everything from happy turtles…

S'up guys?! grumpy fish.

Another day, another lap around this stupid tank…”

It takes a good couple of hours to get through the Aquarium, so by the time we were done, we were ready for a seat and a meal.  I picked the local McCormick and Schmick because it’s supposed to be good and it’s located right beside the lighthouse. 

Kernut liked her crab cake; I was less than thrilled with my fish and chips.  The fish were more like marginally puffier Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks.  The calamari, however, was wonderful. 

After eating, we walked up the pier to the “World Trade Center” and the "Top of the World" observation deck.  It’s a pretty lofty set of names for a mere 28-story building, but it’s a good place to take a look around Baltimore.

In this shot, you can see everywhere we’d been so far that day. Pyramid-looking buildings on the right are the Aquarium and you can see the little lighthouse between the “pyramid” and the Pier Six Pavilion.

After the high-level observing, we took a walk around the harbor to scope out some of the old, retired boats moored there.  You can buy tours of all of them, but we were pleasantly surprised by a visiting “tall ship,” the Stad Amsterdam.”

The Stad Amsterdam (with the “World Trade Center” directly behind it).

They were letting people look around the boat for free, so we had a walkabout.  It was pretty cool.

A look up one of the masts.

As we were wandering around onboard, a couple came up to us and asked if we’d take their picture for them, and in return, they’d take one of us.  So here we are.

As you can see, I was a very lucky guy to be squiring around such a treasure.  She looked great… I, however, looked like an unmade bed.  When the hell did I get so rumply?

After the ship, we made our way back to the car; we pretty much had our fill of walking around by then.  We also wanted to get Kernut back on the road, so she could make it home, (or at least close), by dark.

All in all, I had a ball.  I just hope Kernut had a good enough of a time that I can tempt her to come back.  As a lover of kitsch, she’s just got to see HonFest.

Kernut has posted her version of her trip to Charm City. You can see it here:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Court Jester

I think the Republicans have really boxed themselves into a corner with this Supreme Court obstruction, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

All they had to do was put on a show, go through the motions and very somberly place their predetermined vote of no.  That, alone, would have taken the Democrats’ number one objection off the board… they would have done their jobs.  (Poorly, but still…)

But within hours of Scalia’s death, Mitch McConnell released a statement saying that they would not consider any Obama appointment, regardless of who it was.  Subsequently, a laundry list of other GOP leaders echoed the statement.

The effect of those statements was to tie their own hands.  Now, even if they reverse field and hold meetings and hearings, everyone knows the nominee is being turned down because of politics, not qualifications.  And that leaves them looking like political hacks.

(See, technically, the Senate is supposed to be evaluating the qualifications of a Supreme Court nominee.  They are not supposed to automatically turn down anyone with opposing political views.)

It’s funny that Obama then went out and nominated a centrist; someone numerous Republican leaders have already endorsed for the federal bench, after which they accused Obama of playing politics with the nomination.  My hope is that they continue to shoot down this nomination, the Democrats win in November, and then the new President nominates someone much less palatable to the Right.

No one knows justice like Samuel L Jackson.

My hunch is that Mitch was told by the Koch Brothers and the other filthy rich GOP financiers that he needed to shoot down any possibility of a liberal-leaning Supreme Court.

Big Business has prospered mightily for the last 40 years, under a Republican majority court.  But what would happen if all of a sudden, decisions involving worker protections and environmental regulations started falling on the side of the People instead of Big Business?  It would hit these guys right in the wallets, that’s what.  Can’t have that, now, can we?

So Mitch was sent out to strangle this possibility in its sleep.  He just had to come up with a plausible excuse.

The first try was a disaster… “The American People should have a say in the nomination.

Instantly, Democrats from all over the country responded with the obvious retort, that we had already spoken, twice, by a combined total of 14 million votes.  We elected Barack Obama with the specific intention of him making Supreme Court nominations throughout each term.

The Republicans are still pushing that line, by the way, but even they don’t believe it.  It’s just too stupid for words.

So they sequestered themselves for a weekend, and what do you know?  Someone found a clip of Joe Biden saying the Senate shouldn’t approve any nominees during a presidential election year.

Bingo!  Just what they needed.  Looks pretty bad, doesn’t it?

Of course, it’s not really a valid comparison, although it is about standard for Fox “News” and talk radio.  McConnell and the GOP are now calling it “The Biden Rule.”  Like the Republicans have ever given any weight to something Joe Biden said…

The clip in question was Senator Biden answering a hypothetical question, a couple months before an election, with no nominees in play, without even a judicial opening.

It’s a hypothetical statement that meant less than nothing and the Republicans are making it the centerpiece to their unprecedented obstruction.  It’s par for the course, really.  The GOP has spent the last seven years in unprecedented obstruction.  And Mitch knows all about obstruction…
Where’s the jobs bill, Mitch?

Have you ever seen a picture of this guy when he doesn’t look constipated?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Quick Hits and Odd Bits

Let’s fire up that browser because it’s time to play, “Hey Bluz, what do you think of…”

I don’t see what the problem is.  It kind of cracks me up.  I keep hearing “We don’t want to bring terrorists onto American soil.

I say, it’s a big assumption that these people will ever see anything resembling “soil.”  I don’t see the harm in throwing known terrorists into the deepest, darkest jail cells we have and introducing them to some of the righteously convicted Americans dwelling within.

You want to hate America?  We’ll give you something to hate America over.”

And as far as where to put any newly located terrorists, we don’t seem to be capturing them as much as blowing them the fuck up.

Completely manufactured outrage.

The last line defines Obama’s entire presidency. It’s only a big deal because it’s Obama.

Same goes for the first lady.  I still can’t rationally understand why Michelle Obama gets so much shit.  Is fighting childhood obesity and growing a vegetable garden really that big of a deal?  Hell, it’s what your mother told you throughout your childhood…

Put that junk down and eat your vegetables.”

Maybe it was just mine.

Then there are also those memes you see on Facebook lamenting our lack of a “classy” first lady.  Seriously?  I’ve never seen Mrs. Obama do anything that wasn’t classy or appropriate for the occasion. 

She is a first lady of our times and our times are not the 1940s or 1960s.  Oh, and she can’t be found online starring in nudie “modeling” pictures either, like one of our prospective first ladies.  Can’t seem to locate any public outrage over that development.

And if Michelle Obama ever spent $200,000 of anyone’s money to buy new china for the Whitehouse, like Mrs. Reagan did, Fox “News” would have a new graphics package up and the GOP Senate would have an investigation committee appointed so fast our teacups would spin.

I wonder what it is that makes Mrs. Obama so much different from the other two…  Hmmm.  What could it be?

It ultimately failed, so now state law allows the good, God-fearing, sincerely believing people of Missouri to pick a single item from the Bible and use it to deprive their neighbors of their civil rights.  Ain’t religion wonderful?

So who’s going to deny flower service to a wedding reception serving shrimp and scallops?  Hmm?  The same guy who says men laying with men is a sin said the same thing about shellfish.  Funny, I don’t hear anyone taking that part seriously.  Where are the pickets outside Red Lobster?

Could it be some conservatives are using religion to ban behavior they find icky?

Nah, couldn’t be.  At least not until one of their own kids comes out. 

I admit, my first thought was that maybe Dad should have let it go and taught the boy a lesson, that you should pay attention when you’re sitting down there in the danger zone.

But no, I don’t really want to see some kid get conked like that.  But that’s totally a teaching moment.  Get your nose out of your phone, kid, and watch the game.

Yes, I know he was sending his mom a picture, but that’s what the inning breaks are for.  If you’re sitting down there, low along the baselines, you have to be alert at all times.  Otherwise, we’re going to end up with netting all the way around the damn ballpark, and where’s the fun in that?

First of all, I’m glad she wasn’t killed and no one else was injured.  Secondly, that’s still pretty damned funny, if you ask me. 

If a “Second Amendment Activist” doesn’t have enough sense to keep her loaded handgun out of reach from her 4-year old, while she’s driving and unable to keep watch on the kid, where exactly are the common sense gun rights supporters?

I suppose the only answer is to get more 4-year olds with guns.  I can see it now… “Gunfight at the OK Daycare Center.”

I agree, Obama is completely culpable.  He had the audacity to be black and the president at the same time.  He should have known better going in.

I can’t believe this is a thing.  It’s been a fact of life since 1918.   That means every single person in this country has grown up with it.  Why exactly are we unable to cope with it now?

To me, it’s a mild irritation on a Sunday, but by Monday, it’s back to business as usual.  I still go to bed at 11 and still wake up at 6.  All year long, the same hour sees a different level of light.

I say, quit bellyaching, get up and go the fuck to work.  If it’s dark, sit tight; it will be light momentarily.  And if your kids are pitching a fit, maybe just take them to a baseball game and hand them your phone to play with.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Liz Lemon Goes to War

Yesterday I went to see the new Tina Fey movie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, (which is NATO-alphabet for “What the Fuck?”)

I’m on a roll here… that’s two Tina Fey movies in 3 months.  Granted, she is a goddess to me, but it’s not like I go see every one of her movies. 

I can do without the dippy rom-coms.  But put her in an R-rated movie, and I’m there.  "Sisters" was a riot; pure mayhem.  “WTF” was funny, but not in the same way.

The movie is loosely based on a book written by Kim Baker, who was a print journalist, thrust into a war correspondent’s role in the war in Afghanistan.  She hangs out in Kabul with the rest of the war reporters in their own little community/nightclub.

It was more like an episodic war correspondents’ story, with lots of snappy banter.  And swear words.  Lots and lots of swear words.  And one thing I learned: you can take the most vulgar and obscene lines of dialogue, and if they’re spoken with a Scottish accent, they become endearing and exponentially funnier.

Once on the ground, in the “Kabubble,” she meets Amazonian beauty Margot Robbie, playing an English war correspondent, who becomes her friend and advisor. 

The young and lovely Ms. Robbie’s fame is about to explode once the movie Suicide Squad comes out, in which she plays The Joker’s protégé, Harley Quinn.

Kim also meets Englishman Martin Freeman playing a Scottish photojournalist, and provider of all the Scottish vulgarity.  He is best known (to me) for playing Bilbo Baggins in the last three Hobbit movies.

One of the consistent criticisms I read in the reviews was that the movie doesn’t quite have a point.  It’s not a pro or anti-war movie, it’s not an out and out comedy, it’s not a feminist vehicle or any other catch-all bucket.  But I don’t see where it has to be.  It touches all those areas while it just tells the story of what happens to a sheltered writer when she is thrust out of her comfort zone.

Anyway, I liked it a great deal.  It made me wish Tina Fey would go back to TV and do a comedy series for HBO, or some other pay-cable outlet.  I mean, I absolutely loved 30 Rock, but I’d really love to see what she could do without a network Standards and Practices department monitoring every line.

I’ve written before that I think she’s drop-dead gorgeous, but it’s really more than that.  One of the reasons I find her so appealing is that she’s so sharp.  She writes, funny, biting satire, the kind I can only aspire to creating myself.  It took me awhile to figure that out, though.

I first saw where most people did: doing Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.  I remember seeing her and thinking, “Hey, she’s seriously cute!  And hilarious, too.” 

So I started paying more attention to her bits.  (Material bits, not naughty bits!)  I always liked to follow stars that weren’t obvious; who were not the usual bombshells.

What I didn’t know at the time was that she wasn’t just doing that one role, she was the head writer.  I suppose I might have picked that up quicker if I’d watched SNL more regularly. 

When she took that experience and spun it into 30 Rock, I tried it out right away.  And, believe it or not, I wasn’t impressed.  It didn’t seem to be any more than Alec Baldwin being a meddling boss, Tracy Morgan being weird and a bunch of misfit comedy writers.  I saw the first episode or two and kind of dropped it.

In retrospect, I understand why.  It takes a while for a new series to hit its stride.  I ended up reading a lot of positive press in later months and gave it another shot in the 2nd season.  So glad I did.  Suddenly it was a LOT tighter and snappier. 

When I eventually began buying the season DVDs, I saw that it took until around the 8th episode of Season 1 before it started clicking.  And I began falling head over heels for Liz Lemon.

If there was one moment that locked it all down, it was this one… the famous “Night Cheese” bit.

It was a brilliant bit of Monty Python-esque absurdity. I loved that not only does she have a name for sitting on the couch at night, in a snuggie, eating cheese straight off the block, but she has a song for it.  AND, her boss knows the song.

I thought, “This is a world I want to hang out in every week.”

Plus, they figured out what to do with Alec Baldwin’s character; by setting him up as Liz’s friend and mentor, they gave him some of the best lines on TV:
  • There are no bad ideas, Lemon. Only good ideas that go horribly wrong.
  • Fifty is the new forty for men. Fifty is still sixty for women.
  • Rich fifty is middle-class thirty-eight.
  • Lemon, the grown-up dating world is like your haircut. Sometimes, awkward triangles occur.
  • (This one’s not even a line.  He walks into Lemon’s office, finds her crying, and hands her a business card that says “There there.”)
  • You are going to be an excellent mother… as long as you don’t overthink the names.  Stick to Kings and Queens of England.  There will never be a President Ashton or a Dr. Katniss, or a non-sexually confused Lorne.” (Poke at executive producer Lorne Michaels.)
  • Good God, Lemon, those jeans make you look like a Mexican sports reporter.
  • Lemon, what happened? Did you take an Ambien with your Franzia and sleepwalk here?
  • Ambition is the willingness to kill the things you love and eat them in order to stay alive.  Haven’t you ever read my throw pillow?
  • I only pass gas once a year… for an hour… on a mountain in Switzerland. 
Well, I could keep quoting dialogue lines for the rest of the post, but it’s getting late.

And that Night Cheese isn’t going to eat itself.