Thursday, October 31, 2013


Oh my GAWD!  The wine is running out!  The wiiiiiiiine is running out!

I saw a news article today stating that due to increasing consumption and decreasing production, we may be looking at a worldwide wine shortage in the coming years.

Sitcom Kelly tipped me off to the story yesterday.  I’m guessing she’s already converting her basement Pit into an earthen wine cellar, in anticipation of the wine drought.  Best to lay in supplies now, while stock is full, choices are wide and prices are low.  I mean, people are going to have to prepare for this.  And wine will keep!
Sitcom Kelly's recycle bin, after a long weekend.
I’m just waiting for the ripples to hit the female blogging community.  I’m not trying to be sexist, but you can’t help but notice that wine comes up a great deal in blogs and Facebook posts written by women.  A wine shortage can make that whole Sex in the City / Wine-Therapy theme collapse like a house of cards.

Granted, there may be a lot of male bloggers that lean on wine as well; I just don’t see them.  Maybe I need to follow more dudes.  (And that’s a line I never thought I’d type.)

I like wine as much as anyone, but I’m just as happy with beer or some Jack on the rocks.  Call me when there’s a shortage of Miller Lite or Bud Ice. 

As you can see from my pedestrian tastes, I’m certainly no beer snob.  I like good old watery American light beer.  (Or “ice” beer, for that extra kick.)  Someone has to keep the major breweries in business… 

My Uncle Gordon, who is English, once told me, “American beer is for people that don’t like the taste of beer.”  I suppose he’s right, but whatevs… I likes what I likes.

Last weekend when I was at my regular sports bar watching the Steelers get their asses kicked again, (dammit…) the proprietor was all excited to get me to try a taste of his new pumpkin spiced ale.  I took a taste, and said it was “OK,” but inside, I was like “Bleah! This tastes like ass.”  I just don’t like strong beer.  I’m surprised he couldn’t tell that, from my regular orders of Miller Lite.  He probably just wanted to see the look on my face.  Freakin’ Ratbird fans…

I can only imagine what might happen once this wine shortage goes into effect.  Wine rationing?  Check.  Stampedes at the liquor store?  Check.  Purchasing grape futures?  Check.  People making bad wine at home?  Check.  Shady back-alley deals for some Chardonnay?  Check.  Raging cases of Pinot envy?  Check.

So if you’re a wine connoisseur, winophile, or just a wino, you may want to stockpile some supplies, while the gettin’s good. 

The future is not looking very rosé.  [Snork!]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Splinter Cell

I had lunch with Sitcom Kelly yesterday.  You may remember that she provided foster care for a little girl a couple years back, and she still sees her a few times a month.  The girl (who is about 5) was out to visit last weekend, and in the course of their adventures, she got herself a pine needle splinter in her finger.

Needless to say, there was much wailing and carrying on regarding Kelly trying to get the splinter out.  She said she was sure the neighbors must have thought she was performing a ritual killing.  It got to the point where she gave the girl the tweezers to let her try it herself.  I give her points for that, because when I was a kid, I always wished I was allowed to do it myself.

I still remember the age-old splinter battles of my youth.  Suffice to say, kids and grownups don’t see splinters the same way.

Here’s your garden-variety splinter:

Now, here’s how a little kid sees a splinter:

And here’s how a grownup sees a kid’s splinter:

I quickly learned to rue the moment I got a splinter, because I knew my Dad would have to take it out.  And he didn't consider it “extrication” as much as “exploratory surgery,” with nothing but a straight-pin.

First, he had to run the end of the pin through the flame from a match, to “disinfect” it.  I think it was really to make sure I was properly terrified.  Then he’d use it to start digging around in my finger until he couldn't hold my hand down securely, from all my wiggling and howling.  After much crying and moaning and swearing and straining, he’d come up with the splinter on the end of the pin.  (Although a few times, I think he just pushed it down far enough so I couldn't see it anymore.)  Afterwards, he’d apply some alcohol… not to me, to himself, in the form of Jack Daniels.

I remember one evening, when we still lived in Pittsburgh, I got a splinter from playing around near this rough railroad tie-looking plank that bordered our garden.  I came in and we did the whole Splinter Removal Dance, which took about 20 minutes.  (Not including the Jack.)  I went back outside to continue what I was doing and immediately got another splinter. 

That one didn't go over very well.  I think there was considerably less delicacy used in the second extraction, than there was with the first.  He might have even used an old corkscrew, I’m not sure.  I can’t say I blame him, but on the bright side, it was an early lesson wherein the little Bluzdude learned about the insanity of repeating the same action and expecting a different result.

Eventually, we managed to procure a pair of tweezers, so Dad could retire the straight-pin.  I’m not sure that was better, though, because often the splinter still had to be dug out, and the dullish edges of the tweezers were ineffective unless the nub was exposed.

Before long, I stopped telling anyone I had a splinter, and just went for the tweezers myself.  At least I could regulate how hard to push, and therefore the pain.  It’s hard to properly judge a kid’s actual pain when they scream before you even stick it in.

Like a lot of kids, I had a problem with needles.  I used to have to get allergy shots, which was always an ordeal.  I’d scream and howl and somehow, it never made any difference… I still got the shot.

Finally, Mom found an effective calming mechanism… bribery!  I had recently lost this little rubber change purse-thing… you know those things where you squeeze the sides and it opens up?  Well, I had one, I loved it, and I lost it.

Don’t laugh… it was the 60s.  We didn't have video games or cell phones.  I had a change purse.  But I’m OK now.

Anyway, Mom said that if I didn't cry when I got my shot, she’d get me another one.  So when the doctor approached me, I just bit my lip, scrunched up my mouth, and took one for the change purse.

And that was another lesson, about how the fear of something is often worse than the actual event.  Once I knew I could do it, that was the end of my carrying on over needles, thank goodness.  (I totally should have held out for more stuff, but I wasn't that bright.)

But face it; if I hadn't gotten over all the crying and screaming, they would have stopped calling me in for blood donations long ago.

You’re welcome, Mankind.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What Would YOU Do?

A story blew up in Maryland this week, that’s already put a charge in to next year’s race for Governor.  Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler was photographed at a large house-party in Delaware, where there was a copious amount of teenage drinking going on.  His son was there, and his original statement was that he came in to briefly speak with his son, didn't notice any under-aged drinking.  He told the Baltimore Sun that even if there was, he didn't feel it was his place to do anything about it.  The quote:

Assume for the purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party.  How is that relevant to me? … The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people’s children at beach week in another state?  I say no.”
Gansler is near the center, in a white shirt, holding out his cell phone.
Gansler also disputed charges that he was taking a cell phone picture.  He said he “was actually looking at a text message, because I’m 50 years old and can’t read, so I was holding it out.” 

To that, this 52-year old says, “Word,” although other partygoers say he was there for quite some time, and took a number of pictures and videos with his son.

What isn't disputed is that he was one of the organizers of this adult-chaperoned party (see the two dudes in the upper right corner of the picture), with ground rules.  (No hard liquor, no boys and girls behind closed doors.) 

Now, just to clarify, I really don’t know anything about his qualifications to be governor, nor do I know much about his opponent.  I figure I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them next year.  So as yet, I don’t have a dog in this fight.

I just wonder if this is something that should derail a bid for office.  I mean, there are two levels here… his role as a political leader, and his role as a father and responsible citizen.

First of all, I look at my upbringing.  I hosted a bunch of parties, just like that one.  (Only more “Barn,” and less “Beach House.”)  Well, my parents technically “hosted” the parties.  It was their house and their barn, and they often provided the beer and wine.  Sure, I was older; we didn't have our first Barn Party until I was out of high school, but my brother and sister weren't, and neither were their friends or our neighbors.

So I’m not really one of those “Never let a teenager drink” people.  I see the value in having a good time, but keeping some supervision so that things don’t get out of hand.  And always collecting keys at the door, so that there are no tragedies to wake up to.  At our parties, the only tragedies were spilled beer and spats between boyfriends and girlfriends.

I can state categorically, that if that were me, there’s no way I would have went in there and busted up the party or tried to curtail the drinking.  I agree that it wouldn't be my place to try to “parent” anyone but my own kid. 

I don’t know that I could have, even if I wanted to.  What am I going to do, run around and take the drink out of everyone’s hand?  That’s a good way to get your ass kicked by a group of teenage boys. 

The alternative would be to call the cops, to a party I had a hand in planning.  Again, I would not be “that guy.”  Teens will drink, and I believe laying down a total ban will make it that much more attractive later.  And I’m not going to risk getting a bunch of kids tangled up with The Law, over having a couple of beers and partying on.

All of this, I’m saying as a regular guy.  (And not even as a parent, obviously.)  So what about as a politician?  In technical terms, he’s right; he has no jurisdiction in another state.  But politically, it’s a major PR hit.  Common sense and politics rarely go hand in hand.  He’s the Attorney General, Maryland’s top law enforcement officer.  It just doesn't look good to be seen as anything but “Law and Order, Law and Order, Law and Order.”

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out next November.  But what I really want to know is what do YOU think?  What would you do if you were him, only as a regular civil non-servant?  Do you bust up the party and pull your kid out?  Do you call the cops?  Do you hang out and supervise?  Do you have a few beers yourself? 

And what if you did have political aspirations?  Does that change your actions?

Inquiring Bluzdudes want to know.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Friday Night Lights Out

I haven’t been to a high school football game since shortly after I was IN high school, so it’s not something I expected to be writing about today.  But there have been three news stories about high school (and youth) football upon which I feel the need to comment.

It’s either that or write about Obamacare again.

I know we all want to be sensitive to the bullying situation around the country… we can’t afford to have any more jocks and popular kids shot up by pissed off nerds and goth kids.  But this is ridiculous.

This is Texas high school football, which is notoriously competitive.  The coach of the winning team was playing his third string throughout the second half.  He can’t very well tell his scrubs, guys who rarely get on the field, not to try their best!

The fact that this ass clown father is throwing the “B” word around here is offensive to every kid that ever got his ass kicked after school, or spent an entire school year getting flamed on Facebook.  This isn't bullying, it’s a competition, and his kid’s team lost.  If he can’t stomach that, he ought to put Junior in the marching band.

Better let him play the triangle.   Making him learn how to read music might be considered bullying.

This one also takes place in Texas, and heaven forbid I ever agree with something that happens in Texas, but I agree with this.  The Keller Youth Association Football Program decided to end the practice of giving out participation trophies to all players.  They say it’s because awards should be earned.

I've mentioned it before that I've had it with handing out trophies just for being able to show up at a field, in a uniform.  In any sport, a trophy means something… it’s an award for individual or team performance.  If everyone gets the trophy, the trophy becomes meaningless.

Now if the team or league wants to give out something else for Miss Congeniality awards, like certificates or medals or coupons for a free ice cream, then beautiful.  But there should be something special for the winners.  Life doesn't come with awards for attendance or mediocrity (politics aside).  The sooner kids realize that reward comes from achievement and achievement comes from effort; the sooner we’ll stop having to deal with snotty 20-somethings that think the world owes them a living.

I understand that parents want to bolster their children’s self-esteem and don’t want their feelings to be hurt.  I say everyone’s feelings get hurt one way or another.  If parents want to do their child a service, they’ll teach them how to deal with their hurt feelings, rather than trying to smooth out every bump in the road.

Granted, I say all this as Another Childless Douche.  But I’m also a lifelong non-trophy-winning douche, who never got squat for my attendance or honest effort.  And look how I turned out.

Wait, never mind.

This one comes from Ohio, where a varsity defensive end wrote a poem for class in which he was critical of the team’s quarterback and the QB’s father, the coach.  The poem called out the quarterback for throwing almost exclusively to his best friend, who was a wide receiver.  The problem was that the receiver frequently dropped the passes and shied away from collisions.  The writer also called out the coach for not curtailing it, despite the apparent negative effect it had on team morale and offensive production.

You can see the full poem by clicking the link to the story.

Although it’s not really much of a poem, (more like a disjointed rant), I don’t see where it rises to the level of suspension or discharge from the team.  It’s a class assignment, in which the point is to produce art by displaying the truth of what one is carrying inside.  Face it, not everyone is built to wax poetic about why America is the Greatest Country in the World.  Or why World Peace is Good… for the world.  Of peace.  Which is nice.

Sometimes kids see things the grownups don’t want to hear.  Sometimes it comes out in a fit of creativity.  As a school, you can’t ask for kids to bare their souls through creative writing, and then crush their dreams by disciplining them for what is uncovered.  That’s what a job in the Real World is for.

Sounds to me like this coach enjoys running his little empire and doesn't want some twerp upsetting the apple cart, upon which his pride and joy son-the-quarterback is riding into a college scholarship.  I’d be interested to know what the rest of the team thinks about the situation.  Will they rise to his defense?

Is the player telling truth to power, or is he just a whiner?

Poor kid probably won’t get his trophy now.

Maybe the problem was that the poem was too explicit, and not “poemy” enough.  Dude should have been more subtle.

Here’s how I would have done it…

Friday vortex of gloom crushes my soul
Balls out and balls on the ground
Balls always in the same place
Destined to bounce in one direction.

Clipboard overlord nods approval
To one Golden Child
Among twenty-two random numbers.

Are we not worthy?
Do we not also toil on the same turf?
Do we not bleed in the dirt?
Can’t we all play with our balls?

OK, so maybe I would have been suspended too…

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The 20 Greatest Scary Movies

With Halloween right around the corner (and down the block), I saw a thing on Entertainment Weekly about the 20 Greatest Horror Movies.  I had a look and just for fun, I’ll give you my impressions.  Well, not like actual impressions… I’m not gonna act out the shower scene from Psycho, or anything.  And speaking of spoilers, there will be some.  But I figure you've either already seen these movies, or you never will.

They started with the best and worked down, so I will too.

1. The Shining.  I think it’s “OK,” but hardly worthy of the #1 spot.  Best part was watching Jack Nic slowly go mad, climaxing with a look at his days and weeks’ worth of work on his novel.  It’s chilling when it’s shown to be nothing but “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” over and over again, filling reams worth of paper.  After that, it was essentially just another ‘bad guy chases people with an ax” movie.

2. The Exorcist.  I never saw this in the theater; when I was in junior high, a friend did and told me about it.  I said, “No fuckin’ way I’ll ever see that.”  Many years later, I read the book, which paved the way for finally seeing the movie.

I think this should have been #1.  It’s one of the creepiest movies ever.  The visual effects were “meh;” nothing an amateur couldn't figure out.  To me, it was that sound!  The demon voice coming from the little girl is what always gets me. 

3. Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  I saw this one in college and I didn't care much for it.  It was the precursor of the modern torture-porn movies like “Saw.”  Just gore for gore’s sake.  No thanks.

4. Silence of the Lambs.  It’s one of my favorite movies ever, but I don’t think it belongs on this list.  It’s not really a horror movie… it’s more like an intriguing and occasionally violent murder mystery, with a fascinating villain.  (Hannibal Lecter, not “Buffalo Bill.”)
After last weekend’s game against the Steelers, they need to do another sequel: “Silence of the Ravens.”
5. Jaws.  I've written extensively about this one before.  Suffice to say, it gave birth to the Summer Blockbuster, and scared the shit out of beach-goers for years to come.

6. The Ring.  I didn't really see the big deal with this one.  Way too high a ranking, if you ask me.  Meh…

7. Halloween.  This one is to slasher movies what Jaws was to monster movies.  It’s more about suspense and a sense of doom, than hardcore violence.  Halloween kicked off the modern age of slasher flicks.  I fell in love with Jamie Lee Curtis from the trailer alone.  Pretty babysitter stalked by menacing, indestructible killer, tries to save herself and the kids, accompanied by the best horror film score ever.  One time in the 80s, I was driving in the car and the Halloween theme came over the radio, and I almost went off the road.  It made me check the back seat, I’ll tell you that.

8. Psycho.  This is the first one on the list I haven’t seen, probably because by the time I might have been interested, the plot twists were common knowledge.  Sure scared the shit out of my mom, though.

9. Seven.  This is the only movie that ever affected me once the lights came up.  Usually when they kill the bad guy in a horror movie, there’s a degree of relief and satisfaction.  Not here.

I saw this with Future Ex at a mall theater complex.  At the end, we sat there all the way through the credits, until the lights came up, just stunned.  Finally, she looked at me and said, “I need a drink.”  I said, “Oh hell yes,” and we went directly to a bar in the mall.  I said to the bartender, quoting Sipowicz, from a recent NYPD Blue episode, “Whiskey.  Line’em up.”

It was that upsetting of a movie… A great horror flick, but one I won’t see again.

10. Rosemary’s Baby.  I never saw this one either.

11. Poltergeist.  Now we’re talking!  Release almost in tandem with ET, it was a tour through Steven Spielberg’s childhood terrors.  Groundbreaking SFX (for the time) highlighted a classic Family Lives in Haunted House story.

Damn you, Spielberg, for that clown.  That fucking clown

12. 28 Days Later.  Groundbreaking zombie movie that introduced the nation to the “fast zombie.”  That’s what scared me… the mindless abandon with which these things ran; like rage personified.

13. Nightmare on Elm Street.  Freddie Kruger aside, I loved the idea of being afraid to go to sleep, lest you get killed in your dreams, and therefore in real life.  It was a simple idea that spawned a dozen (crappy) sequels.

14. The Thing (1982).  I've written about this one too… it’s another all-time favorite.  Dazzling (non-CGI) SFX highlight this creepy, paranoid, icy thriller. 
Boy, would I like to see the look on the faces of the "Deadliest Catch" guys, if they pulled this thing out of the water.
15. The Evil Dead.  Never saw this one.

16. Carrie.  I’m not sure I’d add this one.  Aside from the big ending, it’s not really much of a horror movie… just a very sad tale about a sweet but unhappy girl and her religious-nut mother.  Even that last legendary grave-side shocker came off to me as nothing more than another variation of a cat jumping out of a corner.

17. Night of the Living Dead.  I saw this one ages ago, and was underwhelmed.  But it literally defined the conventions of the traditional zombie movie.  Props for filming it in and around Pittsburgh though.

18. The Omen.  The last of the Nixon-Ford era trifecta: Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and The Omen.  The Omen has that same satanic dread that the other two do.  I mostly remember a creepy kid, pretty Lee Remick falling over a railing, and some dude getting decapitated by a falling pane of glass.

19. An American Werewolf in London.  One of my favorite movies ever, in fact I wrote a whole post about it.  Dark humor and brilliant (non-CGI) SFX highlight this off-beat werewolf tale.  If you've never seen it, please do so immediately!

20. Henry-Portrait of a Serial Killer.  Never saw this one either.  Struck me as just some dude stalking people and slicing them up.  I need a little more than that going on.

Now, with all that said, I present my sequence of their top 20.  I’m cutting the 4 movies I didn't see, plus The Ring, which I just don’t think is that good, and adding some that should have been included. 

  1. The Exorcist
  2. Jaws
  3. Halloween
  4. An American Werewolf in London
  5. Aliens
  6. The Thing (1982)
  7. Jurassic Park
  8. Cloverfield
  9. Silence of the Lambs
  10. Terminator and Terminator 2
  11. Poltergeist
  12. Cabin in the Woods
  13. 28 Days Later
  14. Seven
  15. A Nightmare on Elm Street
  16. The Omen
  17. Carrie
  18. Night of the Living Dead
  19. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  20. The Shining
OK, what am I missing?  And what am I overrating?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Strange things are afoot at the Chateau de Bluz.

I’m not usually one to flip out over things that go [bump] in the night, but I’m a little wigged out by what happened Thursday night.  Let me tell you what happened…

First of all, I have to start by describing how the light works in my bedroom.  There is no overhead light, but the on/off switch at the door controls one electrical socket.  I have a lamp plugged into it that has an old-fashioned clicker-type switch.
My lamp’s switch.
As long as the lamp is switched on here, the on/off switch at the door controls the light.  It is the only way I've turned on the light in the bedroom for the fifteen years I've lived here.

So Thursday night, Pinky was staying at her house, so I had the place to myself.  Nothing out of the ordinary happened.  I wrote a post, watched the Penguins game, then went to bed.  I distinctly remember turning off the light by the door.

When I woke up Friday morning, I got out of bed and tottered over to the light switch to turn it on and… nothing.  I was like, “I know this worked last night.  And I have one of those new twisty compact fluorescent light bulbs in there… it couldn't have burned out yet, they’re supposed to last for years.”

I was wondering how I was supposed to pick out my clothes, because it was still dark out and my room has an almost tomb-like darkness to it.  (It’s great for sleeping!)  So I reached over and fumbled with the lamp switch, flipped it on, and voila!  The room lit up.  This was good.  But wait a minute…

How did the light switch get flipped off?


Call the Syfy Channel!  Call the Ghostbusters!  Call! 

Seriously!  Pinky wasn't home, and when I asked her later, she obviously didn't come in the room, turn the light off, and then leave.

I didn't have anything to drink that night, and I don’t take any kind of drugs or sleep aids.  Also, I've never walked in my sleep in my life, as far as I know.  And if I did, you’d think I would go to the only light switch I've ever used in that room.

So how the bloody hell did that switch get flipped?  It’s not like it could do it by itself.  It’s rather clunky, and required a pretty firm force to flip it.  Did some burglar break in, leave all my electronics and stuff, but mess with my light switch just to fuck with me?

If it were ghosts, you’d think something would have happened here long ago.  I've been in this place a pretty long time.

There’s only one conclusion I can draw…

Any other theories?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The L Word

Since I hit politics in my last post, I wasn’t planning on doing it again today, but then Sitcom Kelly had to send me this online test, to see if I’m a part of the “New American Center.”

You may recall that I enjoy these tests.  I took one a while back, and I still have the resulting Political ID Badge posted on the right-hand margin.

I wondered if my views might have migrated to the center, like the accompanying article states so many people have been doing.  I try to be reasonable, but not to the point that I’ll betray the ideals in which I believe.

The test seemed to be more specific than the last one I took.  There were more questions, of varying structure, on real, current, hot-button issues.  Then after about 20 questions, you could stop, or take some more questions for a more accurate reading.  Since I was having fun, and I never tire of telling people what I think, I kept going.

I tried to provide nuanced responses, and not pick the most extreme answers unless it was a hardcore issue with me.  Age has helped me to better consider multiple angles of a given controversy.

The result?  I don’t know why I would have thought otherwise…

You know, I really hate that term.  Makes me feel like Michael Stivic, aka “Meathead” from “All in the Family.”  (That’s an early-70’s TV show, for you whippersnappers.)  To me, “Bleeding Heart Liberal” invokes granola-crunching, tree-hugging, tie-dye wearing, LSD-dropping, reality-escaping, smelly, hairy, naïve hippies. 

But I’m OK with just being called “liberal.”  I look at the things liberals are traditionally for, and they’re the things I’m for.  Liberals have made America a better place.

Liberals fought to end slavery, and helped women obtain the right to vote.

Liberals established Social Security and Medicare.

Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Liberals passed the GI Bill, Endangered Species Act, Motor Voter Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Freedom of Information Act, and the Lobbying Disclosure Act.  They also push for effective environmental laws, and set up the Peace Corps, Americorps and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Liberals fight for the equal rights of all, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

Liberals fight to raise taxes on the wealthy, rather than the poor and middle class.

Liberals fight to guarantee a woman’s right to control her own reproductive future.

The list goes on…

Conservatives fought against all of these things and even as we speak, are trying to undo most of them.  Fortunately for our society, they are endeavoring to put the toothpaste back in the tube.  Unfortunately, while they may not be able to take our freedoms and benefits away, they can still defund them.

That’s why politics matters.  And that’s why I continue to write about it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hey Mitch! What Day Is It?

It might have been better if I’d have written this last week, (as far as timeliness goes), but I heard over the weekend that various Republicans are pushing the idea that they are now being “humiliated” by the Democrats, over the Obamacare/Debt Ceiling/Government Shutdown mess.

Honest to God; I heard John McCain say so himself on the Sunday morning talking head shows.  I just had to laugh.  Aww, the poor fellas… getting picked on just because they took an ICBM to a procedural debate.

I’m picturing Harry Reid coming up behind Mitch McConnell in the Senate chambers and imitating that camel’s voice from the Geico commercial…

It’s day 18 of the Shutdown and everyone thinks it’s Your Fault!  Ha Ha HAH!

Is it me, or does Harry Reid (left) look like a somewhat less constipated version of Mitch McConnell?

I can’t believe that this crap is still going on.  I’m seeing now that the (non-whack-a-loon) Republicans seem to have given up on back-dooring the ACA, and are trying to extract some kind of concession on entitlement reform and debt reduction.

That they’re still trying to bargain tells me that they still don’t fully understand the situation into which they’ve gotten themselves.  They essentially have nothing to offer other than not tanking the foreign and domestic economies.  They now expect the Democrats to give them something just so they can “save face.”

I hope the President and Senate Democrats don’t yield a stinking inch, because even if the terms have changed, it’s still extortion.  “Give us what we want or we’ll blow this whole thing up!”  It’s what terrorists do, when they can’t convince anyone of their position through rational discussion.

And what do we never do with terrorists?  Negotiate, because if we make their actions profitable in any way, they will only terrorize again.  The GOP staked out this radical-right position, so in my book, they have to take the consequences.

Granted, the House GOP is in far better position than their counterparts in the Senate.  Senators have to win the entire state, where Representatives are likely to benefit from a district that’s been tightly gerrymandered to their own political direction.  The only way to dislodge these Representatives is for the Democrats to start winning more governorships, so that in 2020, they can redraw the districts to their own benefit. 

I fully admit that it’s easy for me to take a hard line on the government shutdown, because thus far, I haven’t been touched by it.  I still get up, go to work and get paid, come home, play on the internet and watch TV.  So far, the shutdown has taken no skin off MY ass.

You know, I bet if they found a way to include network and cable TV in the government shutdown, you’d see some real political action.  Once people don’t have anything better to do, you’ll see a lot better attendance at the rallies.

But I hope that come the 2014 elections, everyone remembers what really happened over the last few weeks.  We have to remember this stuff clearly, for when these GOP clowns start blaming all the pain and loss from this shutdown, on the Democrats.  They count on the fact that we have the collective memory of a goldfish.  ("Hey!  A castle!  And there’s another one!")

They’re going to have to go to those local Seniors Centers and explain, “I know we caused the economy to bottom out and gut your 401k funds, but we only did it because we don’t want anyone to get a better deal on health insurance.”

I have a feeling that position is going to be less popular than when they took Matlock off the air.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Daily Life Through Graphs

I apologize for not having any fresh stories or insights for you this weekend.  It's been busy, and now I need to go get cleaned up for my trip to the sports bar, to watch the Steelers game.  So in the meantime, let me go pull something out of my "archive" of future blog material.

These are from an email I got once, so obviously, this is not original material.  But funny...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Poets For Change

As you’ve probably gathered over the years, I, like a lot of people, harbor some activist inclinations.  Now, I’m not one to go out and protest, at least not unless there’s a tailgating opportunity.  What I do is formulate an argument (or rebuttal to another argument), write it up and post it here.  On occasion, I’ll write in to the local paper.

I come by this inclination honestly, having learned from my parents, my mom in particular.  While she’s also written tons of Letters to the Editor over the years, she doesn’t write a blog.  She makes poems instead.

Recently, poets in Pensacola took part in the “100 Thousand Poets for Change” event.  No, “Poets for Change” is not a panhandling scheme, although I bet it would be more effective than the usual “hard luck” story.  It’s a nationwide series of readings where local poets gather to read their work and inspire positive change.  (At least 50 cents worth.)

Mom took to the mic and read her poem, “Gunsmoke.”  Given the Deep South locale, I imagine it was a pretty tough sell, but it seemed to go over well.  I’m guessing she had a wooden spoon in her back pocket.  No one crosses a lil Italian mother with a wooden spoon.

The best part of the event is that they filmed all the readers and posted the videos on YouTube, so that people like me, who live 5 states away, can see the readings.  And it gives me the opportunity to relay it for you, wherever you are.

So with that, may I present, MC Lil Mother!

I don’t know how she arranged for the bells to toll at the end.  Age and treachery, I suppose. 

To me, the only thing missing would be for her to drop the mic at the end, and shuffle off the stage.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Of Birds and The Burgh

In April, I wrote about getting boned on some Penguins tickets, when the Boston Marathon bombing upset the NHL schedule and the game I was to attend moved from Saturday to Tuesday.  I wasn't able to extend my stay in Pittsburgh, nor could I move the tickets, so it ended up a $300 shit sandwich.

This weekend, I got to see a little satisfaction, as Pinky and I hit The Burgh for a Pens game against Buffalo (who was the same opponent as in April).  This time, we stayed at the beautiful Omni William Penn.  The Penn is one of those glorious old hotels built in the 1920s, that just screams with the opulence of yesteryear.  After we checked in, we got a couple of beers and sat in the lobby for a while.

The ornately carved ceiling, as reflected by overhead mirror panes.

No, that’s not a single chandelier, that’s four of them in a row, running across the lobby.
The room wasn't as large as the one I had for Podcamp Pittsburgh 5, but it was adequate.  Let’s just say, it wasn't commensurate with the lobby.  Of course if it was, I’d have spent the night smacking my head into the chandelier. I’d probably end up ensnared in it, like a fly in a spider web.

I was keenly excited to visit Consol Energy Center for the first time.  The last Pens game I attended was at the old Mellon Arena, which at the time was the oldest rink in the league.  Sure, it had loads of character, but boy, was it ever cramped, dark and dingy inside.

The CEC is the polar opposite of the old barn.  The corridors are wide and brightly lit, with loads of room to navigate.  I fell in love immediately, but then, I've always been a pushover for effective foot traffic management.

I’d been worried that our seats at the very back of the lower bowl would provide a limited view.  In similar seats at the old place, we were located way back under the overhang of the deck above, effectively killing any view of the scoreboard or banners on the ceiling.

That was not an issue here.

Before this trip, Sitcom Kelly told me there wasn't a bad seat in the house, and now I know what she meant.  The sight-lines were terrific from everywhere.

The game was enjoyable enough.  The Pens won fairly easily, 4-1, in a game where I got to see my first penalty shot.

This was Pinky’s first hockey game ever, so I got to play the teacher and show her things that are hard to pick up on TV, like the constant ballet of players coming on and off the ice during the play, the sound of sticks on puck, and the way the boards shake when the players mash into them.  Geez, I love hockey!

Because we didn't have to worry about post-game traffic, we stayed to the very end, unlike about a third of the rest of the crowd.  I just wish I would have stayed to see the awarding of the “Three Stars,” so I could have seen Marc-Andre Fleury come out waving the Jolly Roger, in support of the Buccos.  I love it how the Pittsburgh teams support each other.

In fact, the loudest I heard the crowd all night was when they showed Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutcheon on the scoreboard, who was attending along with some of his teammates.
Cutch, being interviewed by ROOT Sports’ Dan Potash.
On the way out, we passed by an amazingly lit fountain.  One of these will be “calendar material.”  I haven’t decided which one.

Anyway, we were back in the room for the start of the 2nd half of the Ohio State/Northwestern game.  What can I say?  I support the Bucs AND the Bucks.

This was just a quick “in and out” weekend, so I didn't seek to meet up with any family or blog friends.  But before we bugged out, we HAD to take a stroll around the most photogenic city in the country.  When we left the Penn at 9:00, they had some roads blocked off for the Mario Lemieux 6.6 race.  I told Pinky that if we stood here long enough, we’d probably see Cassie run by.  (Luckily, I didn't test that hypothesis, because I’d have been there a long-ass time.  She didn't run in this one.)

I love walking around dahntahn, especially now that the fountain at Point State Park is functioning again. 

The fountain, toward The Confluence (where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers form the Ohio.

The Fountain, from The Confluence, back toward the city.  Looks kind of medieval, doesn't it?
Oh, Steelers… why couldn't you be worth a damn this season?
While we were down by the river(s), I noticed a commotion.

I had to leave after that.  I didn't want to infringe on their privacy.  But the whole “duck” thing quacks me up.  People were all over this thing.  It was challenging getting a picture without a dozen other people in frame.  But I think we need another artist to hang a giant inflatable “Ernie” from one of the bridges, to play with the giant ducky.  Maybe next time.

On the way back to the car, we saw this…

I tell you, you can see everything in Pittsburgh, from the ornate grandeur of old hotels, to the modernity of a shiny glass building, to the ridiculousness of a giant ducky floating on the river.

No wonder I love this city.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weekend Road Trip

Guess where I was this weekend!  I'll give you a hint.

Pinky and I took a quick trip into The Burgh this weekend, to see a Penguins game.  We've been home for a couple of hours now, and I know I need to put up a post this weekend.  But after downloading and fiddling with a whole mountain of pictures, (I can't help it if Pittsburgh is so damned photogenic), all I want to do now is sit down, have a beer and watch the Pirates game.

I'll have the full rundown for you on Tuesday.  Lets Go Bucs!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Odd Bits - The Number One Son Edition

There are a couple of things I want to talk about today, but first, let me say thank you to everyone that bade me a happy birthday, through one social medium or another.  Monday was my 52nd birthday.  It wasn't a milestone or anything, so festivities were low key.  (But not so low key that Pinky didn't make me a German Chocolate Cake!  Whoo Hoo!)

I talked to my mom, who always calls me at 1:30 PM on my birthday, because that was the time I arrived. 

By the way, don’t think I’m not relieved that I wasn't born at 1:30 AM!

[Brrrrrrring!  Brrrrrrrring!]  [Reaches for the phone, falls out of bed, gets tangled up in the covers] “Dammit Mom, can’t you just call me during the day??

Anyway, she relayed something my Uncle Joe told her about my birthday.  He was at home with their mom when they received the news of my birth.  They realized I was my parents’ 1st child and the 1st grandchild, born on a Sunday, the 1st day of the week on the 1st day of the month, in 1961.  As Grandma said, “That’s a lotta ones.”

I realize now that I ought to consider “1” to be my lucky number, and maybe go so far as to get a “1” necklace or something.  But I’d rather not look like a giant douche canoe, walking around with #1 around my neck, like I was all that.  I’d feel more like a big pile of #2.

At work, this morning, my cubicle neighbor (as in “next door,” not “shaped like a cube”), who is about 10-12 years older than me, asked me how it felt to be 52.  I said, “I feel like the same dumbass I was last week.  When does all that ‘wisdom of the ages’ to come rushing in.”

She said, “When you get old, you get wisdom, but then you have to pray you don’t forget it!

And that’s why I love coming into work every day.

The Shutdown Bluz
I haven’t said much about the previously expected and now come to pass government shutdown, mostly because it’s just so goddamned stupid.  The Tea Party kamikazes on the right are showing how little they care about much of anything, except hating the president and getting their own way.

For what might seem to be a complicated situation, it really isn't.

*Obama ran for president in 2008, campaigning on health care reform, and he won.

*Obama and the Democrat-controlled Senate took a Republican idea from the 90s and formulated it into the Affordable Care Act, and passed it in both houses.

*The GOP tried every measure available to repeal, override and defund the ACA, but were unable to do so.  They went to court to have it declared unconstitutional and lost.

*Obama ran for a second term, defending the ACA as successful health care reform, and won by an even larger margin.  Democrats in the Senate gained seats.  The House GOP held serve, thanks largely in part to extensive gerrymandering and voter suppression.

So now, with the ACA about to take effect, the GOP goes with the nuclear option and digs in their heels to shut down the government, by refusing to pass any kind of budget, provisional or otherwise, until they get their way.

The real laughable part is how they’re claiming the American people (for some reason) don’t want access to affordable health care, and that Obama and the Democrats won’t negotiate.  Are they kidding?  What’s to negotiate?  The American spoke loudly in 2008 and 2012, with full knowledge that health care reform was on the table.  That game is over.  They lost.

These Teabaggers are like a 5-year old who won’t eat his vegetables, lights the tablecloth on fire and then complains that his mommy won’t negotiate.  The only reasonable course of action is to put out the fire, wrestle the matches out of his hand and lock him in the fruit cellar until he can learn to cooperate.

Bedlam in Buc-ville and the Rule of Three
So how about those Pittsburgh Pirates?  Wow, that game on Tuesday night was unreal.  Playoff baseball came to Pittsburgh for the first time in 21 years, and the whole freakin’ city showed up.  And now that they've survived a single-game elimination, versus the Reds, it’s on to a five-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s such a novelty to me to be able to follow the Pirates this late in the season.  I know I've written far more about the Orioles, but that’s the team to which I have the most access.  I never stopped considering the Pirates to be my #1 team.

I’m so happy reading tweets and updates and blog posts from people that have just been aching for a winner at PNC Park.  People were dying for a chance to become invested in Pirates baseball and it’s finally here.  If you saw the game, you heard it yourself as over 40,000 people shook the press box and shook up the Reds pitcher.

So it’s great watching the hubbub, albeit from a distance.  So far this is the best thing I've seen:

This is from St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh, and the same place that swaddled the newborns in Terrible Towels during the Steelers’ last Super Bowl run.  Obviously, with the Steelers’ 0-4 record so far this year, making the playoffs this year seems unlikely.

But it got me thinking about something and I've formed a hypothesis.  Ahem…

“Only two of Pittsburgh’s three professional teams can be good at any given time.”

In the 70s, the Steelers and Pirates were good, and the Penguins sucked.  In 80s, all three pretty much sucked.  Early 90s, the Pens and Pirates were good, but the Steelers sucked (at the end of the Chuck Noll era).  Then through the late 90s to early 2000s, the Pens and Steelers were good, but the Pirates sucked.  Same thing in the late 2000s up to last year.

So now it looks like the Steelers’ turn to suck.  The Pirates are in the playoffs, the Pens are still loaded with talent, and the Steelers have begun their season in woeful fashion.  (Barring a major turnaround, I project them to end up 4-12.)

So this year Pittsburgh has two out of three good teams, which as Meat Loaf would say, “Ain’t Bad.”

Luckily for me, the Ratbirds aren't looking so hot themselves, either, at 2-2.  You know, this might be the year I see if what I always say is true… that I would be OK with the Steelers ending up 2-12, providing the two wins were over the Ravens.

But OMG, I can’t believe what THAT might lead to… the AFC North Division Champion Cleveland Browns?

Nah… no sense in talking foolish…

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bluz Sings the Blues

My post from last weekend was taken from an email about how to sing and play the Blues.  That reminded me that I once wrote my own Blues song, so I thought I’d share.

The thing is, I don’t know how to write songs.  I have no musical ability at all.  But the thing with the Blues is, you don’t need any.  For the words, well, that last post told you all you need to know.  For the music?  It’s completely derivative.  There are only a couple of different riffs and tempos.  Just write about your pain, pick a tempo and go.

So, back in 2004, I was coming back from a very filling lunch.  I don’t remember where we went, but I remember feeling absolutely packed.  I complained to my cubicle neighbor, “Oh, man I got the full-belly blues…”

[Ding!]  Inspiration struck.  About ten minutes later, I had the following song.  Muddy Waters, eat your heart out!  (You know, if you weren't already dead.)

The Full Belly Blues, by Jackleg Cranberry Coolidge*

Da da N da dat…  (traditional slow blues riff, like the one Thorogood lifted for Bad to the Bone)
Just came back from lunch…     (Da da N da dat)
It was All You Can Eat…             (Da da N da dat)
And I ate it ALL…                        (Da da N da dat)
Now I’m stuck in my seat…    

Now I got da bluuuues…
The Fully Belly Blues…           
I’m stuffed to the shooooes…
Wit ‘dem Full Belly Blues.

Now I don’t wanna think…            (Da da N da dat)
I don’t wanna do crap…                (Da da N da dat)
I don’t wanna do nothing…           (Da da N da dat)
But go take a nap…
I got me da Bluuuues…
Them big ol’ Full Belly Blues…
I’ll be payin’ my dues…
Wit ‘dose Full Belly Blues

My pants are too tight                    (Da da N da dat)
And my shirt, it don’t fit                  (Da da N da dat)
And dat ain’t gonna change,         (Da da N da dat)
Till I go take a… oooooooooooooh  

I just got dem Bluuuuues…
Those Full Belly Blues…
Just wanna lay down and snoooooze…

With those belly packin’…  (Pow!)
Lip smackin’…                     (Pow!)
Over snackin’…                   (Pow!)
Big Mac’in’…                       (Pow!)
Self control lackin’…           (Pow!)
Pepto Bismal Fast Act’in… (Pow!)
[urp!] somebody get me a na’kin…  (Pow! Pow!)
Gotta make a fast 5 o’clock getaway so I had to back-in…  (Pow! Pow! Pow!)
Full… Belly… Bloooooooooze….

(Big flourish….)  Now ‘scuse me, I don’t feel so good…

* In the comments of the last post, I claimed “Jackleg Cranberry Coolidge” as my official Bluesman name. And those "Pow"s are meant to be big single-chord strikes.