Thursday, July 24, 2014

In Order to Beat'em, Join'em

There was a story out this week that almost made my head explode.  Just when you think you’ve seen every type of attack on birth control, the Religious Right hits an even deeper low.

In Tampa, a nurse-midwife is suing Planned Parenthood because they refuse to hire her, for the flimsy reason that she refuses to prescribe birth control pills, due to religious reasons.  The Christian right organization Alliance Defending Freedom is representing her.

I see two possible scenarios at play here.  Either this woman is deluded into thinking she can strong-arm a business into hiring her, despite her unwillingness to do the job (unlikely), or this is yet another route from the Religious Right to put Planned Parenthood out of business (yep, that’s the one).


I mean, they’ve stripped them of funding, they’ve forced them to read from scientifically unsound scripts, they’ve legislated one onerous requirement after another that no other outfit has to meet, and cleared the way for patients to be hounded and harassed on the way in the door, all under the guise of “protecting” women.

Since they’ve been unable to directly overturn at Roe v Wade, they’re doing the next best thing: making obtaining reproductive services so expensive and inconvenient, they accomplish their goals in practice, rather than theory.

I’ll be interested to see how this plays out in the courts.  To me, common sense says it gets dismissed out of hand.  How can one not see the ramifications here, if a business can’t establish job requirements and hire to fill them?

What happens next?  Can a vegetarian sue a butcher shop or deli for not hiring her, because she refuses to sell meat?  Can a Christian Scientist sue a pharmacy for not hiring him, because he refuses to fill prescriptions since doesn’t believe in medicine?  Can a Southern Baptist sue a casino for not hiring him because he refuses to deal any cards due to being against gambling?

I’m all for equality in hiring, but the bottom line is that the applicant has to be willing and able to do the job.  No can do?  No get job.  Period.

Monday, July 21, 2014

One Down, Five to Go

That was the subtitle of the “movie” I saw on Sunday.  You might have heard about this, but the English sketch comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus reunited in London this month for a series of live shows, the last of which was broadcast to theaters around the world.  Everyone got back together, except, of course, Graham Chapman, who died in 1989 (hence the subtitle).


If the surviving members of Monty Python were going to get together for one last show, do you think there was any possible way I would miss that?

So there I was, Sunday afternoon, in a theater that was more crowded than any I can remember in recent history.  It was mostly filled by middle-aged hippies and nerds, but there was a solid youthful presence as well.

Let me lead by saying I absolutely loved the show.  Was it perfect?  No.  Were the lines and timing as crisp as they used to be?  Hell no.  But it didn’t matter.  It was a privilege just to see these five geniuses going through their paces one last time.  It’s not like we all didn’t know every syllable of dialogue.

There was no theme; the show was basically a review of all their best skits, along with some song and dance (the Pythons have a slew of catchy tunes in their repertoire).  Much like the Seinfeld of their day, Monty Python generated a ton of catch-phrases into the lexicon, most of which found their way back into the show. 

Who’d have thought, 40 year ago, we’d all be sitting here doing Monty Python?”  (A mild adaptation for the Four Yorkshiremen sketch”)

“Every sperm is sacred.”

“I wanted to be… a Lumberjack!” 

“What’s on the television?”
     “I think it’s a penguin.” 

“Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more.” 

“I certainly didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.”
     [Door crashes in] “Nooobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

“Is this the right room for an argument?”
     “I told you once…”

“I DON’T LIKE SPAM!”

“Excuse me, I’d like to register a complaint!”

(You can find a full sketch by sketch rundown of the show by clicking here.)

In between sketches, they would either bring out the Broadway-style dancers for musical Python bits, like an elaborate dance number referencing the Ministry of Silly Walks, or just roll some film of sketches that didn’t lend themselves to a live show, like “The Silly Olympics,” the “Exploding Blue Danube,” or “Philosopher’s Football Match.

So there was a lot to like about the show, but that’s not to say there wasn’t room for some irritations and criticisms. 

For example, there was the guy sitting about 2-3 rows behind me, who loudly giggled and cackled at every freakin’ line of dialogue.  Often times, he was the only one laughing in the whole theater, and it sounded like he was right in my ear.

Because they had to cover for Graham Chapman, (what with being dead and all), it was weird seeing the other Pythons (or anonymous cast members) doing the dialogue for which Chapman was known.  For example, the funny part of the Spam sketch was Chapman, dressed as a dowdy middle-aged woman, shrieking “I don’t like Spam!”  In Sunday’s version, they had Carol Cleveland, their Gal Friday who plays most every part where they needed an actual female, sub in for Chapman.  It just didn’t have the same impact.

And speaking of the cross-dressing parts, you can really see where age has taken a toll, because very few of the Pythons can hit those shrill tones any more.  (Granted, they’re all in their 70s, so I give them a bit of latitude.)

During the dance performance of “The Penis Song,” (“Isn’t it awfully nice to have a penis? / Isn’t it frightfully good to have a dong?”), they added a new verse about how nice it is to have a vagina and another one about the “bottom.”  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make out but a word or two of it, because it was sung by the dancing chorus.  In the London auditorium, they had the lyrics up on the video screen, but the rebroadcast only showed it in passing.  It was probably really funny; I wish I knew for sure.

Maybe if the theater would have had the show’s volume up as loud as they do for movies… I assumed the problem was with the original transmission.  Perhaps that was as loud as they could get it.

I grant you that all of these issues are trivial, in context of the awesomeness of the event, but there was one thing that legitimately pissed me off.

An hour into the show, they had an intermission.  I mean, a real, 30-minute intermission.  The cast left the stage and a digital clock filled the movie screen, counting down from 30:00.  At first, I thought it was a joke, like the fake intermission near the end of Holy Grail.  But after two minutes rolled off the clock, we figured out that they really were breaking.

Now, I understand that you need an intermission during a play, especially one that runs three hours.  BUT, they could at least put something up on the movie screen!  Everyone else in the crowd began playing with their smart phones.  Not having one of those, I had nothing else to do but sit there in the dark for a half an hour, and wait.

Yes, I could have gotten up and walked around, but I couldn’t count on finding my seat again. Plus, it’s not like there was anything to do in the lobby.  I think the least they could have done is run some previews or something.  I’m just glad the show restarted right at the end of the countdown.

All in all, I loved the experience.  You could see on screen how beloved these guys are.  When the last sketch was done, the Pythons took some bows, and after sucking up some prolonged adulation, retreated backstage.  Up on the video screen, the message appeared: “Two minutes until the completely spontaneous encore.”

It could only be one thing.   Eric Idle, who all show long, looked like a weathered, merry, ring-leading elf, emerged to lead the rest of the guys in song.  He also said that the crowd may want to sing along as well, as he was “pretty sure they knew the words.”  He bade the theater-goers so sing as well.  With that, he began “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” the legendary coda to “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” 

So that’s how 16,000 people in London joined untold thousands across the planet, in singing the theme song to a movie that had been repeatedly banned and boycotted due to its blasphemous nature. 

I don’t know if other theaters joined in, but the one I was at erupted in full-throated song.  It really was a beautiful thing.  (No, I didn’t join in.  I never sing in public, due to the “public nuisance” restraining orders.)

Monty Python have been around almost as long as I have.  Their humor and irreverence has been a part of my life ever since I discovered them, when I was in college.  Since then, I’ve always known that I had a measuring stick for encounters with other people.  If I threw out a Python quote, and someone came back with the next line, I knew that person would be simpatico.  It wasn’t my only measuring stick, but it was reliable.

I suppose I could say that I’ll miss these guys, but the truth is; I won’t.  I won’t have to.  They’re all over my MP3 player and DVD shelf, and I don’t see that changing. 

As long as I still appreciate the inherent absurdity and silliness of the human race, I’ll be listening to the Pythons. 

Director’s DVD Commentary: If this post has piqued your interest, theaters are rebroadcasting the show on 7/23 and 7/24.  Check your local listings for times and availability.  Otherwise, I think it’s a sure bet to wind up on DVD.  And I bet neither one will have an intermission!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Winter Wonderland

It was with much sadness that I read of the passing of blues guitarist Johnny Winter.  It was on his Facebook profile this morning.  (I’m fairly certain he had people who ran that for him, otherwise, there is a bigger story at hand.)

My top 5 favorite blues guitarists have all passed on, Roy Buchanan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins, Gary Moore, and now Johnny.  

I first encountered Johnny Winter in the early 80s, shortly after I discovered Stevie Ray.  A co-worker at the record store, who was learned in the ways of the blues, told me, “If you like Stevie Ray, you’ll like Johnny Winter.”

So I bought his first album on Alligator Records, called “Guitar Slinger,” took it back to my little apartment in Bowling Green, and watched it reduce my speakers to matchsticks.  I was hooked for life.

Obviously, this was one weird-looking cat.  He was a heavily tattooed, albino with terrible vision, and played a guitar that looked like it had the end cut off, but boy, could he ever wail on it.  Dude was lightning fast, all over the guitar neck.  But was always slayed me was the “yell.”

Any self-respecting bluesman has to have a good yell.  Johnny used his early and often.  It was a long, rumbly gravelly growl, that sounded like a PeeWee Herman yell.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

A typical song began with a yell, then some unintelligible lyrics about how his baby done him wrong, another yell, then 72 bars of guitar solo.  In other songs, he sometimes worked with a piano player, frequently Louisiana legend, Dr. John.  They’re both on Sugaree, one of my favorites.  The piano solo comes in around the 1:00 minute mark, goes 24 bars in 30 seconds, then Johnny yells and comes in with this wicked Chuck Berry-esque solo.  Gives me chills.

Johnny could easily be labeled as misogynistic, and technically, that would be correct.  I call it an occupational hazard.  If a guy spends his life singing about how his baby done him wrong, the women are not going to come out very well.  

He did one song in the mid 80s, called “Bad Girl Blues.”  It was a slow blues number using a steel guitar, about the perils of dating lesbians.  Seriously.

You know the woman went out last night boogying
Smelling sweet like a rose.
She come home five o’clock in the morning
With that fish scent on her clothes.

These women lovin’ each other.
Y’all know they ain’t thinkin’ bout no man.
They ain’t playin’ no secrets no mo’
They playin a wiiiide open hand.”

I guess that’s why he never played a N.O.W. benefit.  Or one for G.L.A.A.D.

I saw Johnny in concert twice.  The first time was in 1988, at Peabody’s Down Under in Cleveland.  He was really rockin’ that night, with a tight trio.  This clip is roughly from that era.

Notice how he works the “yell” into the open lyric… “I went Ouuuuuuut and got married…”

Back then, I knew a guy who did some backstage work at that show, and he told me how Johnny pitched a fit when he didn’t get a baked potato like he asked for.  For some reason, I found that hilarious.  I could just imagine what a Johnny Winter fit would sound like… “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh where’s my baked potato?  Yaayaaaaaaaaaahh!

Better yet, I could see it turning up in a song… “The Baked Potato Blues.”

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, I asked my baby for a baked potato,
But mashed was what she brought.
Woman shoulda known better than that,
So I shot her with my thirty-aught.
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh… [72 bar guitar solo]”

The second time I saw Johnny was 1999, here in Baltimore, and it was depressing.  It was like he was barely there.  He started by playing a 10-minute version of the blues instrumental classic “Hideaway.”  That was fine in itself; the problem was he played the exact same solo twice in a row.  The whole show he never engaged with the audience, he never moved, or yelled, or hopped around like he used to.  None of the songs had any life either; all he played were slow to mid-tempo songs.  His voice sounded thin, without the robust life he used to bring.

He just kind of stood there and swayed as he played.  At one point a guitar tech came up and took his guitar from him, while Johnny stood there.  A moment or two later, the tech came back and put a new one in his hands. 

It was like he was either high on smack, or so old and decrepit he couldn’t function, other than to go through the motions of playing guitar.  I figured he had one foot in the grave, and another on a banana peel.  That was the only concert in my entire life where I left early.  Given he spent another 15 years touring after that, I can only hope that was a temporary low-point.  Like maybe he had a serious health issue that week. 

Or maybe it was just Baltimore.  It’s not like he was playing Madison Square Garden.

Anyway, that’s one more bluesman down, and I’m pretty bummed about it.  At least he has one more album in the can, “Step Back,” ready for release in September.  It’s an album where he plays with a number of other guitar legends from Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top) to Joe Perry (of Aerosmith) to Eric Clapton (of Eric Clapton).

Best wishes, Johnny.  I hope wherever you are now, they serve a nice baked potato.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Director’s DVD Commentary: When I recorded my own Johnny Winter mix tape, I called it “Baked Potato Blues: The Best of Johnny Winter.”  Who cares if no one ever got the joke but me?  Also, I just came up with that Baked Potato song verse on the drive in to the subway this morning.  With enough popular support, I won’t write any more of it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mismatch.com

This week, a friend asked me if I was going to get back into online dating, once the Summer of Bluz was history.  (I considered engaging in the Fall of Bluz too, but it makes me sound like the Roman Empire.) 

While I don’t rule out online dating, I said I didn’t plan to jump in again.  It’s not that I have anything against it.  On the contrary, I think it’s a good way to increase the number of contacts one makes, especially for someone who doesn’t get out much, aside from the daily routine.

There was a time where I thought online dating was a godsend.  Although I worked in a large office building that housed anywhere from 900 to 1200 employees, very few in my age group were single, let alone compatible and interesting.  Going on Match.com got me out of the house once in a while, at minimum with someone who was available, interested in dating, and somewhat compatible (on paper).

Yes, there was a time, and that time was from 2003 to 2006.  I am no longer the person I was then.

It’s true that experience changes you; sometimes for the good, sometimes for the not so good.  For example, I used to think that I was a nice guy; selfless to a fault. 

I no longer dwell under that illusion.

I find that I now have very little interest in doing things I don’t want to do.  Maybe that would change, given the right motivation, but I doubt it.  I know what I like to do, and what I don’t.  Self-awareness is good.

Unfortunately it doesn’t leave me with a lot of material for a prospective dating profile.  Where once I sold my being a nice, decent, caring guy, who would go overboard with attention and affection, I now feel more like, “Mehit depends on what’s on TV.”

On the bright side, I would no longer reek of desperation.

So what would a more accurate profile look like?  Let’s see…

Godless heathen, set in his ways, seeks female for occasional company. 

50-something, goofy-looking bald guy, sports fan and couch potato, seeks 50-something childless* female to hang out, watch action and monster movies, dine out, snuggle occasionally and go to ballgames.  If you are a sports fan; I probably like your team’s biggest rival.

*Grown, out-of-the-house children are OK.  In another city is better.

Will hold hands if it’s not so hot out, it makes our hands sweaty.  Will not be told what to do.  Will engage in witty repartee, if not annoyed by something that happened earlier in the day.  Willing to travel to distant locations.**   

** Pittsburgh, parents’ house in Florida.

Can’t work in the yard or on the car; prone to back spasms and hives.  Heart problem is probably cured.  Don’t move my glass or my pen.  You can have the red freeze-pops if I can have the blue; we can negotiate the rest.  No garlic, multi-syllabic vegetables or cream sauces.

If interested, send me an email.  I hate talking on the phone.

What a prize.  I’d have to question the judgment of anyone who would answer.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

How to Spot a Knockoff Baseball Jersey

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while.  I was going to cover football and hockey jerseys as well, but I had so much material just on baseball, I figured I’d break it up.

As you may know, authentic game jerseys are insanely expensive.  True licensed game jerseys generally run over $300.  That’s a lot of dough to lay out for something you’re not wearing every day.  So in response to the high cost of wearing “authentic,” a whole cottage industry has sprung up overseas, to sell jerseys that at first glance, look authentic, but only cost $20 to $40.

The thing is, there’s a reason that the genuine authentic jerseys cost so much… quality.  Every detail is usually perfect with the official product.  The knockoffs… not so much.  They’re generally produced in China and other East-Asian countries, with the obvious goal of producing them as quickly as possible.

What I’m going to do today is show you what to look for, so that you can tell the difference between a knockoff and the real thing.  Granted, if you’re buying online, like through Ebay, you won’t be able to tell as easily.  (Big hint though: if they’re offering an “authentic” jersey for $100 or less, it’s a knockoff.)

Now, for demonstration purposes, I only have Orioles and Pirates jerseys.  But the principles will remain the same.  You can apply what I show you to any team.

As a baseline, these are what Orioles jerseys are supposed to look like.
 They also have orange jerseys, which aren’t pictured.

Here are some tip-offs for a knockoff jersey:

Check the Neck
In the picture above, you can see that the neckline of the jersey is fairly high up on the players.
On this one, the neckline plunges to about mid-sternum.  (If I was wearing it, you could tell a lot better.)  The low neckline means you absolutely have to wear a t-shirt underneath, lest you look like a hotel lounge lizard, circa 1985.

The neckline is also supposed to meet evenly.
This one clearly misses the mark.

Messy Stitching
The stitching on a genuine authentic is firm and straight, with few stray ends.  As opposed to these:

Even if it doesn’t show, because it’s inside the jersey, this is still a mess.


Threads shouldn’t be pulling out at the seams.


Lots of loose threads here, from the collar and the letters.  With the letters, also check the spacing.  Sometimes they get condensed, other times, too spread out.

Stitching Shortcuts
I really hate this one.  Sometimes, they don’t tie off the thread before moving on to the next section, leaving it dragging over the letter.

You can see that happen three times on this one section.


They ran the thread directly from one letter to the next, without tying it off.

Bunched Under-Sleeve
The opening of the sleeve hole should be smooth and even, not bunched up like this one.

Loose Buttons
Buttons are a primary area for loose threads, with may result in losing the button.


Logo Gap
This one probably bugs me the most, just because it’s so careless.  The thing with baseball jerseys is that they are usually buttoned up, so the logo has to stretch across the opening.  That means they have to be careful to make sure both sides line up, and it looks like an unbroken word.
This one isn’t even close.  They need to bring the orange script right up to the edge of the seam.

They got this one half right.  The bottom is OK, if not perfect.  But they whiffed on the top.

Incorrect Detailing
At minimum, they need to get the details right.  For example, the Orioles have an orange stripe on their sleeves, not black.


Wrong Color
Another big one… make sure they get the color right.  I’ve mentioned this one before, but I got a jersey that was supposed to be white, but was actually a cream color.
The one on the left is the correct color; a blinding snow white.  The beige/cream deal just looks dirty, in the sun.  It looks like I washed with a bunch of rusty lug nuts.

The one on the right is a bright, neon orange.  The one on the left is a deeper orange.  And the funny thing is, I’m not even sure which one is right.

At the end of all this, you might think I’m really down on the knockoffs.  Sure, I’m being all critical and stuff, (because that’s what I’m good at), but obviously, I’m still buying them.  Why?  Because I don’t want to pay $300 for a jersey either!

So now if you’re ever in the market for a baseball jersey, you’ll have these tips in hand, which can help you avoid paying “authentic” prices for a knockoff jersey.

I’ll be back later with tips on football and hockey jerseys.  (Maybe this week, maybe closer to when the seasons start.)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hobby Lobby - Update

As I mentioned in my previous post, the only way to “fix” the Supreme Court decision allowing closely held corporations to deny birth control coverage if it is contrary to their sincere religious beliefs, is for Congress to pass a remedy bill.

Senate Democrats began this process yesterday, introducing the “Not My Boss’s Business Act.”  Democrats are introducing a similar bill in the House.

Unfortunately, I don’t see any of this doing any good in the foreseeable future.  They may get the bill passed in the Senate, but I don’t think it has a prayer in the House.  I’ll be surprised if Speaker Boehner lets it come up for a vote.  Probably won’t even get out of committee.

Obviously, it’s a political maneuver on the part of the Democrats, to get as many Republicans on the record as against women’s reproductive freedom as they can, so they can beat on them in the mid-term elections.  And I don’t have a problem with that.  They need to run on what they stand for, and Republicans are against anything that has to do with Obamacare, period.  If that’s their stance, then they have to defend it.

What’s cracking me up (in the story I linked above) is how Mitch McConnell is calling out the Democrats on conducting “show votes.”  Here’s what he said:

We’d have a better chance of working our way through bills that we need to pass if we cut out the show votes and didn’t eat up time trying to score points for the fall elections.”

Yeah, Mitch, those are just show votes… not something important and vital like trying to overturn the ACA by holding more than 50 different votes over the last few years, when there was zero chance of it passing the other house and being signed by the president. 

Yes, I know McConnell is in the Senate, and it’s the House that keeps pushing the anti-ACA bills, but it’s not like he and Boehner aren’t in cahoots.  When one of them farts, the other says “Excuse me.”

Also, it’s not a “show vote,” for the people that are greatly aided by the birth control portions of the ACA.  And I’ll tell you one more thing… If I hear one more jaggoff spout off about not wanting to “pay for sluts to have sex,” I’m gonna scream.

That’s a low-grade bumper-sticker sentiment and people saying that are either willfully or genuinely ignorant of the basic facts at play.  Providing birth control is chump change compared to picking up the costs of birth and care for lower income people having unwanted babies.  It’s spending one dollar to save hundreds.  It LOWERS the amount of money coming from our tax dollars; it does not raise it or add to the deficit.

Also, there’s the added kick that increased use of birth control reduces abortions, which is a goal on both sides of the issue.

As with any other issue over the last 6 years, I have a pretty good suspicion of why the Republicans are fighting it so hard…


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

SCOTUS vs Women of the USA

SCOTUS 2, Women 0.

I know I haven’t written about it yet, and obviously these news stories from last week went right to the heart of one of my pet issues: reproductive rights.

One reason I haven’t commented yet is because as I stated in my “Malaise Post,” I don’t really have anything new to say about politics.  It’s just the same shit over and over.  If you’ve read me before, you know where I stand here. 

Another reason I’ve been quiet is that my friend the Red Pen Mama covered both the Buffer Zone ruling, and the Hobby Lobby/birth control case, better than anything I could have done, and she does it with the standing of being one of the people affected, either past or present.  She is the married, Catholic, mother of three, and she has skin in the game.

I wrote about the Buffer Zone case back in January, when it was being presented to the court.  My main point was that it seemed the Justices had mistaken impression that the protesters were interested in engaging in civilized confrontation.  I said all they should have done was run some film of a typical Planned Parenthood entryway gauntlet, to see how much civility there really was.  The clinics don’t use volunteer escorts because the women are afraid of a polite conversation. 

Instead, the court ruled that the protester’s right to free expression trumped women’s rights not to be yelled at, jostled, harassed, shamed and intimidated for daring to walk into a clinic to get birth control, a pap smear, or an abortion.

The Hobby Lobby case is also disturbing because it we essentially had five , male Catholics, predominantly white, deciding a case where women’s health care choices were at stake, with the Catholic faith in the middle.  No kidding that they found for Hobby Lobby’s right to have a few individuals make thousands of employees dance to the dictates of someone else’s religion.

And this isn’t some “religious institution” or Little Sisters of the Poor situation… it’s just another company selling cheaply made shit from China.  As I commented on RPM's blog post, "I wish I shopped at Hobby Lobby, just so I could stop."

I guaran-damn-tee you that if this was a case with a Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or any other religion besides Christian owner refusing to provide insurance for a service 98% of the country has used, this case falls the other way.

Just wait until the ripples of this case shake some more cases from the tree, and we see who else doesn’t want to pay for some other health care option.

Of course Congress can always pass a law to mediate the situation, but I’m not holding my breath.  I think both sides are too interested on campaigning on the issue to do any real damage control.

In the meantime, chalk up two more times the Roberts Court finds in favor of the powerful at the expense of those in need.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Busy Busy

I was really looking forward to this long weekend, not only for the R&R, but to get some stuff done around the place.  Naturally, I started feeling sick around Wednesday afternoon.  It started the usual way, with a sore throat.

Luckily, we were able to leave work early on Thursday, in anticipation of the holiday weekend.  I used the time to come home and take a nap.

Even though I felt like crap on Friday, I still had some pressing things to accomplish.  Normally, I don’t consider my chores to be “post-worthy,” but I had a thought while I was in the middle of them.

First I was thinking, “Geez, I really had a lot to do for one day.”  But immediately after, I had to laugh.  What I consider a “busy day” is laughable compared to so many others whose blogs I read.  A “busy day” in MY life (single and childless) must look like a walk in the park, comparatively.

Here’s what made up my “busy day:”

* Did a load of laundry.  I almost didn’t count this, because that’s my usual, bi-weekly routine.

* Changed the comforter on my bed to a much lighter bedspread It’s getting warmer, and even though I like the weight of the down comforter on me, I don’t like waking up all sweaty.

* Tightened the screws on the door handle to my shower door.  Power screwdriver, five seconds on each screw.  I feel like I get bonus points for using a power tool.

* Changed a light bulb in my dining room chandelier.  One of those “teardrop-shaped” bulbs.  It’s funny how one missing bulb out of five can hinder my reading the paper in the morning.

* Hung the new photo-on-canvas I ordered I even had to attach the hanging bracket to the wood frame.  Again with the power screwdriver.  I probably could have used a hammer and nail on the wall, but I try to be mindful of the neighbors on the adjoining wall.


* Scrubbed the toilets.  I feel I just have to do that every 6 months, whether they need it or not.

* Took a 2-hour nap.  I was exhausted.  (Remember, I had a cold.)

* Took the large glass pan out of the dishwasher and washed it by hand.  I realized that it would probably be months, if not longer, before I used the dishwasher again.  When you only use one plate or bowl at a time, you might as well just wash it by hand and use it again.

* Went grocery shopping.  This is actually something I enjoy doing.  I love when I have a full pantry; that means I have the widest possible range of options for meals.

* Scanned a piece of mail that came for the last girlfriend, and emailed it to her. 

And that, my friend, is a busy day for bluzdude.  Normally, I would have had a couple of beers, but the cold medicine was doing just fine.  In fact, it was the cold medicine that told me this was a good idea for a post.

Good thing I had another couple of days to recover.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Process

You may have noticed that a number of bloggers have been posting about their writing process.   At the end of their post, they then tap a couple of other bloggers who they want to see write about their own processes.

Well, my friend Jessica from Leelafish, the pride of Shreveport and my birthday buddy, gave me the tap upside the head, so here I am. 

When Jessica wrote up her process, she had it divided in two: work writing and blog writing.  I write for my company as well, but for the purpose of this exercise, I’m going to stick to blog writing.  The “work” writing just isn’t that interesting.  I write procedures and any general communications my boss requests.  She asks, I write.  That’s the process.

So, let me run through the questions, as they appear throughout these “process” posts.

1)      What are you working on right now?

Just my blog.  Well, OK, I’m often told that I should write a book.  I always say that I am writing a book, and I’m posting it online bit by bit.  Maybe one day, I’ll sift through it all and pick out and self-publish the posts I consider book-worthy, probably those containing the wild stories of my misspent youth.

Other than that, aside from a list of ideas I plan to write about when the mood hits me, I tend to write about whatever strikes my fancy at any given time.  I rarely have a schedule mapped out in advance, unless it’s a multi-part story.

2)     How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t know that it does.  There are lots of all-purpose blogs around.  I know that I never wanted to be limited to one general arena.  I want to be able to write about family stories as well as sports, politics, TV, movies, and pop culture.  I will concede that this is probably the only blog to delve into the scientific study of game jersey mojo.

3)     Why do you write what you do?

I feel my primary mission is to entertain.  I love to tell stories… no doubt heavily influenced by my maternal grandpa

I’m also a compulsive documentarian.  I’ve kept journals off and on throughout my whole life, and it’s funny because sometimes when I’d go back and read through them, I’d find a passage or two that I thought was particularly well-written or entertaining.   Then I’d mourn the fact that no one would ever see it but me.  So when blogs came along, it seemed like a natural progression. 

4)     How does your writing process work?

That’s a tough one.  I don’t know that I really have anything I’d call a “process.”  I pick a topic that interests me that day, and just start writing.  Often, I literally don’t know where I’m going with it until I get there.  I’ll start out with a little seed of an idea, and just start tapping.  Next thing I know, I’ve got three pages and it’s time to put a bow on it.

There are exceptions from time to time.  Like early this year when I started writing about my experiences with chat rooms, I knew it would be a multi-part series, and that Island Girl and Virginia Girl would each need their own post.  And I knew the end of the final post would lead directly into reuniting with my old girlfriend.

It was funny though… when I started the series; I thought it was going to end with this amazing and improbable love story.  Instead, it ended with another crash and burn.  Just goes to show how reliable long-range blog post planning can be.

As for my physical process, I do all my writing and editing in Word, and then copy/paste it into the blog template, then add pictures as necessary.  I hate writing directly into the template.  Plus, I file all the Word docs, so that I have backup that’s independent of an outside storage source.

I do have the Blogger app on my iPad, but I only use that for short posts when I’m on vacation.

So, that’s it?  Any questions?  And thank you Jessica, for considering me worthy of this exercise.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Boomerangin' The Burgh

I call it “boomeranging” because I was there and back real quick.  Drove out Saturday; returned Monday.

This weekend, I went out to Pittsburgh for my cousin’s wedding.  It was an easy trip out Saturday morning, probably because I had to leave early.  The wedding was at 3:30, so I set out around 8:00 and pulled into my hotel by 12:15.  I actually got about 35 miles of uninterrupted cruise control, which rarely happens with me.

This was an outside wedding and reception, which took place at an old B&B with a large back yard and adjacent horse field.  In one respect, it was a beautiful setting… green grass, sunny day, everyone all dressed up. 

On the other hand, have you ever sat out in the afternoon sun, wearing your best clothes?  I wasn’t lucky enough to have drawn a seat in the shade, so I had to sit and stew in my own juices.

At one point, I reached back and felt where my back was up against the back-rest of the chair, and my shirt couldn’t have been any wetter right there if I’d dumped a drink on it.  I should have done like my dad did, and just wear slacks and a polo shirt.  For him, a Florida retiree, it was a big concession just to wear long pants.  And the polo didn’t even have a Steelers logo on it!

The “Tri-Ring Bearers.”  Now these boys know how to dress!

Luckily, it was considerably cooler once they wrapped the ceremony and we could adjourn to the reception tent (and start pouring drinks). 

Any more, my cousins’ weddings have become our de facto family reunions.  Hey, I’ll take any opportunity to hang with my extended family, eat like a king and drink the good stuff.

Cookie Table!!!

I’ve blogged in the past about my cousin Angela… her appearance on Fear Factor, and her having a baby boy the same week Cassie had her daughter Mae.  (Angela’s son EJ is the middle boy in the ring bearer picture.)  My nephew, Daniel, was ring bearer in her wedding, and seemed to strike up a friendship with the flower girl.

This wedding was for Angela’s brother Jeff, so we basically had the same cast of characters in attendance.  Now, Daniel has changed a lot since 2010, but not nearly to the degree that the flower girl did.  What once was a tiny little girl was suddenly sporting a bod like BeyoncĂ©.

My brother, brother-in-law and I kept trying to get Daniel to go over and talk to her, or ask her to dance.  I told him, “Don’t sweat whatever you have going on back home… what happens in The ‘Burgh stays in The ‘Burgh.”

I think the boy was scared to death of little BeyoncĂ©.  He was probably right to be wary, because one misplaced booty bump could have sent him flying out of the tent and into the horse pasture.

Daddy, how did that boy fly over the fence?

It was funny, because the whole scene reminded me of when his dad was 9, and at our cousin Denny’s wedding, he was trying to get my brother to dance with his flower girl.  My brother, speaking with more clarity and composure than your average 9-year old, said, “Denny, I’d do anything in the world for you.  But I will not dance with that girl.”

After the wedding, I met my sister and her husband for a brief “after-party” in our hotel bar, where I got to reacquaint myself with a delicacy I rarely get to enjoy:

Iron City Light, the Bucco Edition.

After much deliberation, my brother-in-law decided to order us some wings, which turned out to be the last batch that they had.  This proved to be a bit problematic, when the wedding party from the reception going on at the hotel, all came into the bar, smelled his wings, and wanted to order their own.

We had a couple wings left over, which my sister kept insisting that people take.  They’d be like, “No, I don’t want your food.”

And she’d go, “No, we never even touched those… you can have them.  Well except for that one because I pulled a strip off of it, but those other ones are OK.”

I don’t know if the plate got cleared by the bartender, or if my sister just snuck them on their table anyway.  I just remember that it all struck me as a very Pittsburgh kind of moment, with these wedding participants talking and carrying on with a bunch of out-of-town drunks at a hotel bar.

On Sunday, we hit the hotel breakfast buffet, hard!  Well, eventually.  My sister decided on Saturday night, that we’d all meet up in the lobby at 9:00 and go to breakfast.  So there I was at 9:00, all alone in the lobby.

After 10 minutes, I texted my brother-in-law: “Yinz comin’ dahn?

He replied, “Were we supposed to meet you or something?  Your sister is still asleep.”

Yeah, they were pretty hammered by the end of Saturday night.  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  So I started solo, and they joined up later.  I even left them some bacon.

It was probably a mistake to have a big breakfast because the next stop was our aunt’s house, where my 98-year old grandpa lives and my folks were staying.  It didn’t really matter that we’d already eaten… more food just appeared anyway.  Granted, they had to eat too, and I obviously could have declined.  (Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen.)

Anyway, we spent the day there, shooting the breeze and watching the Pirates game on TV.  My aunt and uncle, and various cousins came and went throughout the day, so we had the chance to catch up, without the chaos of a wedding reception swirling around.

My grandpa is not what you’d call a “dog person.”  The only dogs he ever dealt with were hunting dogs, who were kept in pens out back.  But he has a dog now.  Or rather, I think the dog has him.  My aunt got a little Maltese, Samantha, who just adores Grandpa.  So now they’re inseparable.  It’s very cute to see.  I’m glad there’s someone there for him to interact with, when everyone else is busy or at work.

Grandpa and Sam

But speaking of old Italian men, while I was visiting, my dad sent this joke around, and it seems appropriate to close with.  Ahem…

A salesman drove into a small town where a circus was playing.  A sign read “Don't Miss the Amazing Italian.”  The salesman bought a ticket and sat down.

There, under the big top in the center ring was a table with three walnuts on it.  Standing next to it was an elderly man.  Suddenly, the old man dropped his pants, whipped out his huge male member and smashed all the walnuts with three mighty swings.  The crowd erupted in applause and the elderly Italian was carried off on their shoulders.

Fifteen years later, the salesman visited the same little town, found the same circus and saw the same, now faded, sign that read “Don't Miss the Amazing Italian.”  He couldn't believe the old guy was still alive, much less still doing his act, so he bought a ticket.

This time, however, instead of walnuts, three coconuts were placed on the table.  The Italian stood before them, then suddenly dropped his pants and smashed the coconuts with three swings of his amazing member.  The crowd went wild!

Flabbergasted, the salesman requested a meeting with him after the show.  "You're incredible," he told the Italian, "But I have to know something.  I saw your act fifteen years ago and you were using walnuts.  Why the switch from walnuts to coconuts?"

"Well," said the Italian, "My eyes ain’t what they used to be!"