Thursday, December 24, 2009

Towards a Better Telecomic

For those of you who remember me as a child, this may be hard to believe. For those of you who have known me in my thirties, this will not be a surprise at all. And, for those of you who met me during college and my 20s, this will be more explanatory than anything else:

I am FAT. Note that I did not spell that with a PH.

Now, I'm not grotesquely fat by any stretch. I'm hardly the Second Coming of His Donut-Holeyness John Goodman or anything, but I've indeed got some pudge. The lingering effect of my lung infection of 2007 was a lung steroid regimine throughout 2007, 2008 and half of 2009. Can I breathe easier? Eh...not really. Did I gain 35 pounds? Oh yeah.

The lung steroid was supposed to make my lungs stronger, more capable of fighting back this bacterial Visigoth sacking my Roman bronchiole. Unfortunately, my immune system did a passable version of Nero, and the steroids simply turned me in a reasonable facsimilie of the little-known emperor Corpulous. You won't find him on Wiki, but that name sounds like it'd be perfect for a pudgy Caesar.

See, this is a great lesson in doctor/patient communication, and the fallout of poor doctor/patient communication. The steroids did accomplish one goal - turn my already-strong appetite into a movie character ably portrayed by Jason Stratham. Much like Spinal Tap's amps, my pie hole got turned to 11. The steroids turned me into an eating machine - part-Joey Chestnut eating hot dogs, part Monty Python skit, one thin mint away from a horrible explosion.

TO that end, I have come up with my motto for 2010 - Less. Just Less. Less food. Less gluttony, which, hopefully, will lead to less gut-on-me.

What I've decided to do is a form of public humiliation. A lot of toolbags get on the MySpaceter or the Twitbook or what-have-you, and post up sexy photos of themselves. For years, I thought "Look at my abs!" was a nice way of saying "Look where my scout leader touched me!" Well, I'm going to use a similar form of public humiliation on myself. If I DON'T lose weight, and get rid of my mid-30s paunch, I'll post up decidedly UNSEXY photos of my flabs, and let you all mock them incessantly. And I want you to make those barbs HURT - no mercy. Make me cry, though if I had any true emotions left, I might indulge your slings and arrows.

So begins 2010, a week before it says so on the ole' Blackberry.

Merry Christmas to all. May your holidays be decidedly less-sucky than most.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Can't See Russia From My House Because There Is No Alaska

For those of you who have sauntered over to my blog from Facebook, welcome. This is OBPOPCULTREF, which, way back when I started this lofty project, was either going to get me a book deal or back into broadcasting. It has done neither, and done so in spectacular fashion.

What it has become is a digital diary, of sorts. It's ebbed and flowed as much as the tides in the Bay, but with less pollution and more crabs. I never intended it to become a diary, but, that's what it somewhat is - a place to opine, rant like a less-funny and less-cancerous Bill Hicks, wax nostalgic in rose-coloured glasses and to occasionally whine like a little bitch. Tonight's post is going to be a bit of rant and a bit of whine...and some nostalgia. I've put off this first part long enough.

Bubby, the dog my mother and I have split custody of the past 11 years, passed away on August 4. I had to put her down due to internal bleeding - her spleen had ruptured, and she was bleeding from her lungs and heart. It was the humane thing to do, and I don't regret putting her to sleep. She would have died in a matter of hours, possibly a day or two tops, anyway. I hoped to allow her to pass away with some dignity, with myself and Kramer by her side.

The end, and this is probably true for all of us, comes when we least suspect it. I made no illusions of my dogs' immortality - I knew when I moved to Rockville last year that this would probably be Bubby's, and possibly Kramer's, last house. Bubby was 12 1/2 years old, which, for a larger dog, is a goodly amount of time. But if you had seen Bubby on Saturday, August 1, you'd swear that dog was 5 or 6. She ran around with Bart and I outside, chasing after us as we rode our bikes up and down the street. She was a puppy again, even if for a moment, wagging, barking, and, God damn it, she was smiling.

That next evening, she seemed lethargic even by her lazy standards. Bubby was never an active dog, but she was always responsive and alert. The next morning, I took her outside so she could do her business, and instead of bee-lining it to the backyard, she tried to crawl under the deck. That is never a good sign.

Some dogs will try to hide when they *know* what happens next. It's a weird, inane trait that I've seen in a few dogs. It's as though they don't want to be a burden, so they go out of sight, thinking that their last few moments on Earth should be spent in solitude.

At the time, I figured it was simply her bad hip acting up. I planned to take her to the vet on Tuesday, see what's going on. She was too healthy to be TOO sick, right?

That night, I carried her into the little futon we have in the spare room, and I laid down with her, holding her until she could fall asleep. I had given her a couple of aspirin and a nighttime pain pill, since I could tell she was in discomfort.

The next morning, that Tuesday, I carried her out of bed to the yard, so she could take a bathroom break. She simply panted and tried to crawl under the shrubs. I called the emergency vet around the corner, and Dr. Hambright, another vet here in Rockville. Hopefully one of them could see her, and tell me what was wrong with her hip.

An hour later, I'm at Dr. Hambright's office with Bubby in my arms, and Kramer on a leash, sniffing everything and being the friendly, happy dog he is. Dr. Hambright took one look at Bubby, and whisked her into the examining room. Five minutes later, he gave me the awful diagnosis.

"Massive internal bleeding, mostly due to cancer."

I was stunned. How could this dog, who had been SO lively and just a few days before, have been riddled with cancer? Surely there would have been a sign, a lump, something, right?

Sometimes, it's all internal, and the dog can't tell you if something feels less-than-normal. Dogs don't get mammograms.

Within thirty minutes, I had called Mark, Bart and my mom, and we said our goodbyes. Bart couldn't believe it, seeing her frolic like she did on Saturday. Mom, who had been here in Maryland to visit over the Fourth of July, was a mess. She had commented routinely that she couldn't believe how great the dogs looked. And now, barely a month later, Bubby would pass on.

Gene Weingarten, the immensely talented writer for the Washington Post, had written a feature about his beloved dog, Harry, in 2008. I've linked to it here. Please, go read that, and come back in a few moments to read mine.

You done? Crying, aren't you? If you're not, you either didn't read the whole thing, or you're not a dog-person. With Bubby laying there on the table, I remembered that entire story, and something he said in a follow-up chat on the Post's website. A person asked Gene how he could be there by Harry's side as he was put down, that the questioner himself couldn't do it. Gene said, and I'm paraphrasing, that dogs don't ask much of us, really. Food, shelter, affection. In return, they give us companionship, warmth, security. They're not as needy as children, don't require the constant attention of a baby. The least we can do, in their final moments, is to be by their side as they slip off into the great unknown. They're sick, they're scared, and they need some sort of reassurance.

My Lord did those words stick in my head as I held Bubby's paw. I held her paw through the entire process, telling her the constant truth that she was an absolutely wonderful dog, and, frankly, a great friend. I wanted to be there for Bubby, and Gene and his wife were for Harry. One final kiss. A wag.

Except Bubby had too much grace, or pride, for that grand of a gesture. She was classy, reserved. She stared off straight ahead, looking a thousand yards away. Never made eye contact with me but for a moment, never acknowledging Kramer, or even the vet. She passed away gently, probably pissed off that I had taken her to the vet. Her name was Bubby, and much like my Grandmother for whom she was named in tribute, she didn't like much fuss.

"She's gone" said Dr. Hambright, his stethoscope to her heart. He's been a vet for years, and he's probably said that a thousand times. He still said it with compassion and a crack in his voice. He'd just met me, and my furry brood, and yet, he knew. For that, I thank him.

I came in with a dog, and I'd be leaving with a corpse. That's a hell of a bait-and-switch there.

I took that day off work. I was in no state to go sit in a quiet cubicle with only my thoughts and regrets to keep me company. I took her lifeless body home, not exactly sure what to do with her remains. I took Kramer down to the hardware store with me, where we bought a camellia plant, amazingly enough called a Kramer's Supreme Camellia. Seemed like I had to buy that, huh? I planted that in the backyard with her remains in a simple ceremony, where Bart, Mark, Kramer, and our friends Stefanie, Elaine and her dog Koosh attended.

So, that was the memorial for Bubby that I have neglected to write for the past two and a half months. The "wax nostalgic" part is now complete. Let me now switch gears to rant and whine.

Last month, one of our neighbors stayed home during the week, and heard howling coming from our house. Obviously, it was Kramer. He had handled Bubby's passing so incredibly well - no whining, no chewing, no messing in the house. He handled it, dare I say, better than the humans in the house did. Mark had been looking for Bubby to let her out when he got home from work. Bart wanted to take her for a walk. I wanted to take her for a ride in the car. All of us momentarily forgetting that was no longer an option. Kramer had seemed to be the portrait of strength through all this. In a way, his normalcy made it easier for us to be, well, normal.

Except, he wasn't. While he was alone, in the house, he was a sad, lonely dog. He's never been one for doggie day care - one attempt back in Virginia with Bubby had the day care center remark "all they do is sleep!" He doesn't need 10 walks a day, he doesn't need 500 chew toys. He needed a friend, a furry friend during the day while his humans were out earning a paycheck.

So, I went to the Humane Society in Montgomery County last month. I figured that they would probably have quite a few dogs - given the lousy economy, I'm sure for some families, a canine is no longer an affordable luxury.

Even the best, cleanest, friendliest animal shelter is still a depressing place. Dozens of dogs living in close quarters, some who routinely mess in their pen, and cats with horrible litter pan aim, plus various rabbits, birds and lizards, it makes for a hell of a smell. It's like a Bouillabaisse made by an evil witch who learned her spells at Le Cordon Bleu. The cats are meowing, the dogs are barking and howling, and the smell of wet dog fur and dried urine hits your nose, it's sensory overload, and not in that fun "Vegas Casino" or "Awesome Theme Park Ride" kind of way.

It's like a prison. I've never been to a real prison, but, this seems about right. In fact, Mark noted that when a dog was let out of the pen to go outside, all the other dogs barked and howled like the old-time prisoners clanging their tin cups against the bars. "Here comes the new guy, let's razz him!"

In this four-legged Shawshank, most dogs have a look of desperation to them. They want out, and they will wag their tales, bark, jump enthusiastically, howl, run around in circles, anything to get the attention of a potential adopter. They don't know how desperate things are, how close to euthanasia they may be, or even how they ended up in this place. They just want to get out.

Other dogs are a little more mellow. Either they're older and just naturally calmer, or they're in a state of shock. Their eyes are scared, you can see it. They're not looking to impress; they just can't believe they're not where they were before. Maybe a family abandoned them. Perhaps they got away from their house, and had no idea how to get back. Who knows their backstory, really, for many of these dogs?

One of these dogs was Coltrane. Coltrane is a fairly young Lab/Pit Bull mix. He has, much like his namesake, a lot of soul. You can see the fear, the unease, in his eyes. He is not a barker. He is not a whiner. He is scared, and he is stunned. But the kindness and gentleness was obvious. He locked eyes with me, and it was amazing how those two dark eyes could show so much emotional chaos. I could tell he wanted to be somebody's pet, if he wasn't already a pet beforehand. I wrote down his name, just in case I didn't see any other dogs I liked. He looked like he might take some serious time to socialize.

Which brings me to this point - The Montgomery County Animal Shelter seems to have room for about 100 dogs. They're not completely full, but, they're close. Maybe one or two empty stalls. More than half of the dogs there are either pit bulls, or pit bull mixes. Some have obvious scarring and wounds that are consistent with fights, but most are simply pretty healthy dogs. Why are so many of them in there? I don't know exactly, but I'd reckon that most apartment complexes and community associations here in the County are not exactly pit bull-friendly. For the love of God people, read your *&@&! lease before you adopt a dog.

The pit bulls and the pit mixes are so numerous that the other breeds and non-pit mixes stand out. Flash, the German Shepard/Basset Hound mix was too cool for words, and fortunately, he's got a new home, away from the Canine Riker's Island. The huge Mastiff who is more content to eat his bed than to sleep on it. Then, there was Alaska, a positively lovely Malamute/Husky mix. Her friendly face and soft fur had me immediately, and she wagged her fluffy tail when I said her name. Her eyes were alert, ears perked, but was not as needy as the scores of dogs around her. I spent some time next to her cage, and she was very comfortable with me. I was pretty sure I would put in the adoption paperwork for her, provided she got along with Bart, Mark and Kramer.

This is where things get screwy. I met this dog, felt an instant connection, and had a good feeling about my ability to train her. The kennel staff member told me that I could bring Kramer buy for a fence visit - meaning Alaska would stay in the back outdoor area while Kramer would walk up to her from the parking lot, and sniff each other through the fence. I brought Kramer by the next day to do this, but was told by a different senior staff member, in a very direct, very rude tone, that they don't do that process anymore. I would need to put in the adoption paperwork BEFORE introducing her to Kramer. THEN, before meeting Kramer, I would need to have my human housemates meet her. THEN, before meeting Kramer again, I'd have to be judged worthy of adopting her. Only THEN could Kramer meet the new dog.

Weird, I replied. I was just told the opposite thing yesterday about the fence visit, but, hell, we can save everybody a ton of trouble if we just see if the two dogs get along. Kramer, despite anything Mark, Bart or I say, has the most important word. Or, bark, in this case.

A sympathetic worker arranged for a fence visit after all. Kramer and Alaska met through the fence, sniffed each other and wagged their tails. They seemed like fast friends, even though Alaska was a good 20 pounds heavier than Kramer and was obviously really excited to be outside. They seemed fine with each other, and she was responsive to me again.

I went back inside, and filled out the application for Alaska. She'd be a big dog, a big furry handful indeed, but I was certain she'd be a great pet. I filled out the paperwork, including my job info, my lease info, stuff about my house, my car. Part of the application deals with previous family pets, and pets I had cared for. I stuck with the highlights - JJ the Pomeranian, Bud and Vern the Chows, Glomer my rescue kitty in Des Moines, and my beloved box kitten Squeaky. Of course, Kramer and Bubby. I threw in some info about Uncle Larry's old dog Bandit, a lovely Norwegian Elkhound he had back in the early 1980s, figuring that more furry dog experience would look awesome on the application.

I thought right. The woman looked over the adoption paperwork, and noted "oh, Chow Chow and Elkhound experience, excellent... ." I didn't have the heart to tell her that my Elkhound experience was mainly getting out of the way of that horny furry bastard's unneutered crotch. That dog was pretty, but he was the jackrabbit of dogs. He humped my leg, my mom's leg, Uncle Larry's leg, my grandma's leg, the old tree out in the backyard, various shrubs and plants.

Here's where I should have known this would get fouled up - Alaska had been in the pound for barely two weeks, but already had two adoption applications in. The Humane Society does not tell you this when you put in the effort to meet the dog, get to know the dog, get kind of attached to the dog - they tell you this AFTER you have put in your application. Well, shit. Thanks?! Hell of a thing to meet this gorgeous, amazing dog, and find out "You're number three on our list for her."

Number three? Sheesh. That dog was essentially a high school student looking to go to college. Choice one would be the school she REALLY wants to go to. Choice two may not be as good academically, but she'd have a lot of friends there. Choice three was the local community college that's known for having a kick-ass vending machine. We were choice three.

I sneaked a peak at the applications in front of mine. Application number one, choice number one, was an address in Potomac, Maryland, on a street named after an old famous author. Potomac, for those of you who don't know the socio-economic levels of The Old Line State, is the wealthiest zip code in the wealthiest state, per capita, in the United States. It is home to diplomats, heads of state, actors, writers, lawyers, Arab oil barons, British royalty, Jewish property developers, Japanese tech investors, Italian shipping tycoons, and the dozens of Latina women who clean their houses. How wealthy is Potomac? You know that show "Beverly Hills 90210?" The original script was called "Potomac 20854." The town has big cash money, and I figured that Alaska would look wonderful in a house where the guest house's guest house is bigger than our house.

Alaska's first-choice school was Oxford, and we were TESST Electronic Schools, where you can train to be a printer or copy repairman in just a few short weeks. We ranked about one step above Sally Struther's old infomercial school and one step about Larry the Cable Guy's "Get `Er Done!" School of Toilet Clogging.

I went home pretty convinced we wouldn't get the dog, and it was too late in the evening for me to fill out paperwork on another dog.

Imagine my surprise when, almost two weeks later, I get a phone call from the Humane Society. We were now the number one application, and they needed to meet Mark and Bart. We went up last Saturday and met the dog. The gang loved her. Hopefully she could meet Kramer that day, too, and we could head on home, a two-dog household again. Alaska was friendly and hyper and sweet and excited, just like a young dog should be, but we were told we couldn't introduce her to Kramer yet. She'd been in the shelter for a month, and I hoped that her time there wasn't giving her too many bad habits. However, she responded well to my commands on the leash, lending credence to my theory that she merely needed some discipline and affection to become a great pet. She leaned up against Mark and Bart, and she offered me her paw without prompting. Yup, that sealed the deal. We wanted her. We just had one more small step...

The Adoption Nazi.

Now, she's not really a Nazi. She's got a thick accent, very much like Zorba the Greek. And you can tell she's a nice enough lady, and genuinely cares for dogs. So, she's definitely not really a Nazi. However, she is the interviewer for the Humane Society, and what she says, goes. She's like the matchmaker, a canine Yenta, if you will. If she doesn't get a good vibe with the adoptable dog and the potential owner, no dice. I could easily picture her saying "No dog for you for ONE YEAR!"

(Hey, my dog's named Kramer for a reason. I didn't love "Seinfeld" the TV show as much as I loved the characters on it. )

Kramer and I went to the Humane Society on Wednesday afternoon, hoping to FINALLY get this dog, nearly a month after this saga began. All we'd need is for the two pups to like each other, I pay the adoption fee, and we've got a new dog.

I knew something was wrong when I pulled into the parking lot. Alaska was straining against her leash, and the poor little female kennel staff member could barely hold her. She was extremely excited, but not towards me, or the car, or Kramer in the backseat. A large man took Alaska's lead, and kept her still. I take Kramer out of the car, and walk him towards Alaska. She strained at her leash again, to get a good look at Kramer. At this point in his life, Kramer is all about everybody, meaning that he wants to smell everything, and the big furry dog is about as interesting as the Adoption Nazi, the little female staffer, the large man, or the tree in the front yard. He eventually got over to Alaska, wagging his tail. So was Alaska, but the man had a hell of a grip on her leash. She started barking, and leapt forward, running into Kramer and knocking him off his paws for a second. She barked again, as Kramer smelled other things in the area. She lunged again, and this time the guy yanked back on the leash, making her bark and growl for a second.

The Adoption Nazi had seen enough.

"No, No no you cannot adopt this dog! This dog hate your dog!" she exclaimed through her thick accent. "She will hurt your sweet dog."

The large man hauled Alaska back into the kennel.

I said "she seemed a little riled up before I even pulled into the lot. I could see her straining-"

My Big Fat Greek Adoption Nazi interrupted me. "No, Alaska is not good with dogs! She hurt your dog!"

For the record, Alaska's adoption sheet, the canine equivalent of a Playboy Centerfold Data Sheet, said she's great with other dogs. She also likes long walks, cold weather, and Steely Dan.

That was the last I saw of Alaska.

The Adoption Nazi was not through, though. She asked me about what kind of a dog I was looking for, who Kramer would enjoy. I expressed shock that Alaska was so leash-aggressive around Kramer, because they were fine a few days a-

She cut me off again. "You like young dog? Old dog?" She said it like one of those doormen in front of a strip club in a seedy part of town. "Hey kid, you like redheads? I got redheads in here. You like Asian girls with stab wounds? I got Asians with stab wounds in here."

I resigned myself to the fact that Alaska was not to be. Adoption Nazi will not allow it. If I want to see Alaska, I'd better book a Carnival Cruise.

I asked about the funny Shepard/Basset hound mix, and found out he'd been adopted this weekend. I mentioned that I was looking for a younger dog, if not really a puppy. She said "I have a six year old Border Collie mix."

Unless you're talking about a tree or Roman Polanski's sexual preferences, six is not exactly young, but, Bubby was half Border Collie, and they are generally good dogs. My semi-photographic memory kicked in, as I went through the mental inventory of dogs I had seen on Saturday. I didn't recall too many middle-aged dogs...maybe he just came in...

Or, maybe, it's because the only other dog that matched the breed mix was a lot older than six years old. She trots out Bobo, a sweet little old man, but every bit of ten years old, if not older. He's a Border Collie/Shepard mix, with a completely gray muzzle, gray hair all through his coat, cataracts, a potential thyroid problem, some arthritis in his legs, potential hip dysplasia, a sore on his tail - all this I gathered in about the same time as it took the Adoption Nazi to write off the Kramer and Alaska love story. But, he's exceedingly nice to Kramer. They smell each other, and, you'd swear looking at the two of them, that Kramer was the six year old, and Bobo was the almost-ten year old. But, the Adoption Nazi swore he was six. She made me a copy of his information, and it showed he'd been microchipped, given all his shots, and this was his second tour of duty at the Humane Society. He'd been adopted last year, and brought back when the owners couldn't care for him. Uh-oh.

She went to get some more info on Bobo, when two of the Humane Society workers began talking back-and-forth about Bobo, as I petted him and Kramer.

"He is the sweetest thing!"
"Such a good old man!" (six year old dogs are rarely called 'old.')
"He'll be a great pet!"
"Did they get his cataracts fixed?" (thought he had those)
"I don't know, maybe it's on his sheet."
"Is his tail still bleeding?" (called that one, too)
"Nah, that's good. Shame about his arthritis." (I am on a roll at this point. Take me to Vegas! I can't lose!)
"Yeah, his hips are sagging." (I just hit a five-team parlay and covered the spread)
"Not much tartar on his teeth." (well, at least there's that.)

The Adoption Nazi brings me another form full of Bobo's info. It verified that he was a nice dog, very sweet and gentle, and very friendly. The previous owners couldn't afford to keep him, and, shocker! - he's at least 8 years old. They don't know, exactly. Judging from his looks, he's much older. I've never had a dog look this old, even the cancer-ridden Bubby, who, aside from some gray flecks on her muzzle, looked pretty young her whole life.

Now, this is where I call "Bullshit!" on this whole process. 30 minutes earlier, I'm looking at a healthy, fluffy, furry, energetic ball of joy and excitement named Alaska. She's not even two years old, ready to play, and to be loved, and to be a great pet for the next decade. I'm now looking at an elderly dog, with the thick, cataract-affected eyes of an old dog, with a lot of gray fur, a bad hip that probably can't be fixed, and the bulging eyes common in animals with bad thyroids. He's not in pain or any kind of suffering, but, he's not exactly the picture of health. Alaska, SHE'S the dog I want. A dog who is going to be a blast, energy and love. It's like I just saw an online personal ad, and the pictures on the ad are of a woman twenty years younger and fifty pounds lighter. That doesn't mean the older woman in front of me doesn't have value - just don't LIE to me. Don't pull a bait-and-switch on me.

If the Adoption Nazi had said "we have an older dog, very sweet, he needs a good home for his last year or two..." then you know what? I'd have considered adopting Bobo on the spot. At least fostering him - that's what fosters do. He's a kind old soul. But I just lost Bubby two months ago, and it still hurts. Hell, Squeaky ran away back in 2005, and I STILL keep a picture of that cat on my wall. I'm not a fool - I know Kramer doesn't have too much longer left in him, despite his ridiculously good health. He's a big dog, and he's got, what, one or two left in him? Maybe three, four would be pushing it, who knows? Bobo...hell, I couldn't take losing another pet so soon.

I just re-read my memorial to Squeaky that I linked to above. Damn I miss that cat.

In any event, I drove out to the Wheaton Regional Park with Kramer for a good walk and a chance to play with the dogs in the dog park. He was happy to be outside, and I was seething about the whole ordeal. Almost four weeks of practically courting the Humane Society and this dog, and I came up empty. This was almost 10 hours of my time, gone. That beautiful Alaska, sitting inside that kennel another night because she was overstimulated. That sweet old Bobo, sitting inside as well because he wasn't. And Coltrane, hopefully finding some peace.

All four of us wondering what they have to do to get adopted.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thanks to Unsuck DC Metro

Check out my lovely camera phone work on their latest "Hall of Shame" character.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New blogs for the lazy blogger...

I'm now writing over at the Church of Purple Jesus. Football, Adrian Peterson, and general trash talk.

Also, I might be doing the same thing for The Angered, which is a caption website. Hard to write pictures, though.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Just thought of this...

I'm sure somebody else has, too, if you Google for it enough...

Why do we have so many football teams named after birds and cats, two
species that would totally suck at football? Ravens, Falcons,
Seahawks, Eagles, Cardinals, Bengals, Panthers, Jaguars

If a dog is man's best friend, then dogs would like teams named after
people. Patriots, Bucs, Raiders, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Vikings,
Steelers, Packers, Chiefs and, potentially, big dogs would like the
Giants and Titans.

Dogs would be scared of Bears, Chargers and especially the Jets. Loud
noises and what not.

Dogs would run around with the Rams, Bills, Broncos, Colts, and
Texans, potentially trying to herd them.

Dogs would laugh at the Dolphins. Their wacky antics delight us all.

Dogs would never even see the Browns.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The death of a disco dancer

So, Michael Jackson died today. He was 50 years old, but his nose was only 8.

The news has been going crazy about it, as though nobody has ever died in the history of ever. NBC canceled their kinda-funny Thursday night lineup to switch to "All Michael, All The Time." CNN, knowing that nothing sells like death, ignored the death in Iran, Iraq and God knows what other country we couldn't identify on a map to go Whacko on Jacko. People were lining up outside UCLA Medical Center to get updates, or official word of his passing. CNN interviewed people on the streets of New York for their opinion. Some of the folks were crying. Newscasters did their best "grave, serious voice," the kind that Walter Cronkite used to save for the death of a President, or real honest-to-God Kings, not kings of pop.

Oh, yeah, Walter - I hope you'll rest in peace, by the way. It was reported that you were on Death's Door the other day. Some places reported that you were dead. Much like Abe Vigoda and that Monty Python skit, "I'm not dead yet." You were an inspiration to me during my budding television career, but more like in the whole "I probably shouldn't smoke while on camera" way than anything. Still, your grace and gravitas is sorely lacking in today's media. I miss it. We've been a little busy back here in the mortal coil to give you a proper send-off. Iran is squashing an uprising, using men with guns to shoot women with amazing cheekbones, haunting eyes, and more courage than the average man could ever imagine. The Republican Party is having a hell of a time keeping its collective zipper up, as two prominent GOP members got busted for cheating on their wives - one who railed against President Clinton for his adulterous tendencies, and the other who used tax money to go bang out some hot Latin love down in Argentina.

Fellow TV professional Ed McMahon died as well, a Korean War veteran, a beloved sidekick, and, in no small way, responsible for the viral video craze to catch on during the internet age. He and Dick Clark doled out bloopers during prime time, a predecessor to YouTube and all the DVD extra features we demand. 9 Washington D.C. citizens died in a horrific mass transit accident, and the repercussions of which has made the city you used to travel through a virtual blockade of slowed trains and slower cars. Former sex symbol Farrah Fawcett died today as well, succumbing to her years-long battle with cancer. And, on top of that, I think I read where some bomb went off in Iraq, killing another 50 or so folks. Nothing major, you know, when compared to a guy who kept a pet monkey, wore half as many gloves as society would demand, and had more face lifts than hit singles the past 20 years.

Let me get this straight - Gary Glitter writes a catchy tune, but he loves teenage Asian boys and their teenage Asian boy bits. He goes off to Vietnam to get a few for some sort of bizarre pre-teen sex/drugs/rock and roll/ thing and we can't listen to him anymore because he's a child molester. They stopped playing his big hit, "History of Rock and Roll Part I" - which you may know better as the "dot-da-da-daaa Hey! You Suck!" song. I get that. Child molesters are bad, at least, that's what Megan's Law told me.

BUT, Michael Jackson, who paid out MILLIONS of dollars to settle multiple child molestation cases, who had photographs of all sorts of nude children, and who damned near dropped his own son off a balcony a few years ago - *HE* is worth eulogizing??? Is it because, unlike Glitter, he had more than one Top 40 hit? He had almost as many Grammies as face lifts, but he's been around more kid privates than Pampers and been on more children than Osh Kosh B'Gosh, *HE'S* worth honoring? Crying in the street over? He's worth that?

Because that's what it comes to - celebrity. Michael Jackson was a child star. He was part of our lives way back before disco with the Jackson 5 and made a rock/urban hybrid sound on "Thriller" that only Prince (and ONLY Prince) could possibly emulate. (Linkin Park, take note of that. You've sold a lot of albums, but you still suck. Just a FYI for ya.) He did some acting - remember The Wiz? - and even turned his lesser-talented siblings into stars themselves, though Janet was legit in her own right, but LaToya, Tito, Jermaine, Randy, Reggie, Action, Pollack...sheesh. Really? REALLY? Really...?

Jackson became the King of Pop because nobody sold as many records as he did. Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones (Rolling and Roses), not even the amazing Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines combo, sold like MJ. He was a worldwide megastar. And, nobody became the poster boy for the excesses of wealth and trappings of fame like MJ. Neverland Ranch, Bubbles the Chimp, the obsession with the Elephant Man, the obsession with the Little Children - think about it - average folks who don't even care for Michael Jackson's music knew more about his personal life than almost any other celebrity. Who's the biggest star in the music world right now? Beyonce'? Miley Cyrus? The Jonas Brothers? Fergie? Bono? Bet you can't name their pets. Bet you can't identify the names of their houses. I'll wager you can't even guess who *their* necrophiliac crush is. The only person who has as identifiable questions would be the President - we know he lives in the White House. We know he recently adopted Bo, the First Dog, though, as far as we can tell, has yet to dig up the bones of JFK and put them in the Lincoln Bedroom.

But you could do all that and more with Michael Jackson. Hell, owning the remains of a dead man famous for his bizarre disfigurement wasn't even THE WEIRDEST thing Michael Jackson is known for!

Perhaps MJ's greatest feat was making people give a crap about him well-after he had so obviously lost his marbles. This manchild abused countless children, and yet was still free to roam the Earth. God knows how much therapy those children have had, and will need, just to even THINK about becoming normal. And, how much more they'll need after 10 hours of constant television coverage of their abuser, treating him as a deity.

All because of a couple of hit records.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Update for the Five Of You Who Care :)

It's been a little while since I ego-blogged, so here's a lil' update about me:

1) Employment - I recently took a job as a contractor at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. I obviously didn't agree with everything they espoused politically, but I did enjoy working as an A/V, IT, and broadcasting support guy. They had so many events in their building - speeches, seminars, documentary showings, minglers - and it was nice to meet a few folks I've seen quoted in the news. While I'm not the little conservative I was 20 years ago - far from it, actually - I do strongly agree with their points on controlling the National Debt and cutting entitlement programs. I fortunately was not there long enough to get into a political discussion with anybody of import. As soon as they'd find out that I voted for a Democrat in 2008, I'd probably be shown the door.

Having said that, the job itself was great. My direct boss was quite a pill, however. I've never worked with somebody so...blatantly hard to work with. She was a nice enough person on her own, but so incredibly odd. For instance - she's a micromanager to the ultimate degree. She didn't think I was taking enough notes on my first day, and physically yanked the pen out from my hands and wrote the notes herself. I have never had anybody do that ever, and she did it four times my first two days. She also forbade chit-chat. No talking, just sit at your desk quietly until the phone rang. So, it was next to impossible to ask the other members of the team for advice. She gave me four different shifts my first week - it's nice to know when you're working before you're working. 8-5? 7-4? 10-8? (not a typo) Pick one, lady. On top of that, the guy who was responsible for training me didn't talk at all, and then gave me bad information every chance he could. Not cool. It was like he was deliberately sabotaging me.

Ultimately, though, my issues with the job were directly tied to the odd boss. I can't work in silence. I'm 36, not in the 3rd grade. I need human interaction. And, I need my pen to remain in my hand until I set it down of my own accord.

The contracting company was of little help, either. They were paying a straight by-the-hour rate. No benefits, no sick leave, no medical insurance, no nothing. Need time off? Lose a paycheck. Need a 401k? Get it yourself, slick. That they also did not disclose the true working hours were set at 37.5 hours, not 40. So, when we did the math at 40 hours, it was a substantial, yet doable pay cut from my previous job. Knock another 2.5 hours off per week, and it suddenly became too dear to handle. I gave my two week notice last week, and they let me go that Friday night.

Why would I leave so quickly? Can you say "Department of Health?" That's where I'm working on Tuesday, after Memorial Day. One of my older job applications came through, and they offered me the job while I was at Heritage. It's a great pay and benefit increase from Heritage, about what I made at the Pentagon, but with better health care. Awesome, I say. My new employer is AVI-SPL - much more professional than Chronos and with all sorts of great projects going on across the country.

Hopefully this one will work out for a while.

2) Projects - The great digitalization movement is in full effect. I've filled up one 500GB hard drive with tunes. All my CDs are getting dumped into iTunes' lossless format so I can store these discs away and never have to see them again. I'm going to back up the entire music collection on a 1TB drive and probably connect that to a wireless network device. Yes, I know I'm a geek. Bite me.

I'm also putting everything in bins. I have bins for my bins.

3) Personal - Um...I took myself out of the dating world while unemployed, and now I'm looking to get back into the world of being at least semi-social again. Went on a nice date last week with a woman to Oyamel. She's a funny one - great taste in music, fierce independent streak, killer hair. However, I promptly followed up our date by getting a sinus infection, and that took me out of commission the last week. Thanks, karma?

I went to see "Lying In State" in Hagerstown today. Erika played "Bubbles," a stripper/Senate candidate in this political spoof. First time I've seen her in about 9 months, I guess. She's a natural on stage. Makes me want to dust off the olde head shots and audition myself. Wonder how I'd do with nearly a decade between roles?

4) Food - The gang have moved over to a new server, and the page looks good. Now that I'm employed, I'll be dining out more, and should be able to write about something.

5) Comedy - Ole' Wayne Man convinced me to do standup comedy a few weeks ago. I'm finding myself writing down little bits and lines again. I swear...if I get the jones to tour again... hopefully I'll be better at it.

6) Photos - Jan Louis, the stinkin' Cuban, has borrowed my Sony gear for nearly three weeks now. He's gone to Puerto Rico and Chicago and Gold Cup during that time. I've been to Hagerstown. He's unemployed, and has more frequent-flier miles than a professional baseball team. How does he afford his rock-and-roll lifestyle?

So, I'm stuck with the sad Canon and no good shots to speak of, except of this:

This is what happens when the Weirdest Thing Ever happens.

Two Sundays ago, Bart called me over to his room to see something on his computer. Kramer was laying down in front of Bart's door, and I stepped over him gently. As I'm doing this, a freak gust of wind outside created a vacuum in our house, and caused Bart's door to slam shut...right into my nose and eye, hard. I started to step back, but could feel Kramer's leg under my foot, so I lifted my leg off the ground. I went butt-first into the drywall, holding my possibly-bleeding nose and eye with my right hand, and trying to brace myself with my left. Fortunately, I was only left with a small red mark on my face - I must have somehow stopped the door with my right hand or something microns from my pupil. However, look at the hole. Notice the perfect circle. It's like Dana Carvey's old George Michael impersonation.

"It is so perfectly round that British scientists use it to calibrate their instruments."

I'll probably patch up my butt hole next week. I included the sleeping dogs in the shot to give a basis for scale. My butt is mighty.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dear O's Fans

Stop interfering with baseballs in play when the Yankees are batting. The O's are winning right now today if you behave yourself.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Lucky Magazine Likes Photoshop. A lot.

I saw the cover of Lucky Magazine at my friend Gina's place yesterday. I asked who the pretty young actress was on the cover.

Cute girl, huh? Looks like some budding young starlet. About what, 16, 17 years old? Possibly some Swedish model on the rise?


How about 35 year old actress Elizabeth Banks.

Yeah, this Elizabeth Banks. Do these two women look the same?

Look, Elizabeth Banks is hot. She's very young-looking naturally. Does she need to be airbrushed to the point of being unrecognizable? To have all of her features be flattened and smoothed and erased? To look like a Swedish model on the tube of a salmon paste pate you can buy at Ikea?

Bad job, Lucky.

Monday, March 16, 2009

From - The Five Paragraph Bitter Food Critic is Scared Amongst the Bargains


Bottom Dollar.gif

A decade ago, I dated a woman who worked as a grocery store consultant. She specialized in creating traffic flow through product layout and visual displays. I practically grew up in the grocery store my grandmother owned south of Annapolis, stocking the shelves for pocket money as a child, and managing inventory and the finances as an adult when her health faded. I thought I knew a lot about the grocery business, but I got a crash course in Grocery Store 101 from this consultant. Ever noticed how in the produce section uses lots of wood paneling and angled shelves? That's to give the customer the idea that the fruits and vegetables are "fresh from the farm," like they had been packed and shipped that very day. Colorful apples and oranges always get a prime location because they're eye-catching, while the lowly brown potato is regulated to back-of-the-aisle status. The meat section is the same way - higher-priced red meat is displayed prominently in front near the butcher's department, while lower-priced and less-colorful chicken is placed down the row 20 feet away. Seafood often gets its own corner section, as the mark-up on fresh fish and local crab meat is too much of a profit driver to just place haphazardly in the store. These little Jedi mind tricks are part of the subtle ways grocery chains subliminally herd you through the store. The consultant stressed the importance of initial visual impact - to make the store look appealing as soon as you walk in the door. High-end retailers like Harris-Teeter and Wegmans show either their incredibly sumptuous prepared-foods section or their diverse produce section right up front. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's can lead off with their wholesome baked goods or some special exotic food. Lots of new and refurbished Giants and Safeways entice customers with Starbucks locations as you enter. Newer locations of Shoppers like to start off with a large, colorful display of deeply-discounted products, thus proving to their value to the customer.

Then, there's Bottom Dollar Food. They don't have time for all that noise. They just leave a big ole' mess of cardboard right up front. See, Bottom Dollar is all about saving the consumer as much money as possible, so you can either pay a couple of cents for grocery bags, or use the free cardboard boxes. Sturdy boxes used to ship bottled water go quickly, while the small squares used to transport salt shakers are left to wallow. Some of the Bottom Dollar faithful bring their own. Either way, the boxes come in handy to haul away some pretty good deals. Prices are generally quite low - 2 liters of soda are half the price than the neighboring Giant. Fresh meats are about 15% per pound cheaper than their competitors. Produce is about 20% cheaper than the nearby Safeway.

Bottom Dollar is part of the Food Lion family, just like Bloom, which I reviewed in 2007. Unlike Bloom, Bottom Dollar doesn't try to hide its association with the parent company. They proudly sell Food Lion products as the generic options to the big brand names. Also, they don't have near the product diversity or the dutifully restocked shelves like Bloom. It's somewhat strange to see relatively thin inventories in an American grocery store, but that's the case at Bottom Dollar. You won't feel crowded or overwhelmed by the selection. Still, I got a large box of Honey Comb for $2.56 and a pound of frozen Alaskan pollack for $1.99 - about 33% cheaper than other stores.

However, I doubt I'll make regular trips to Bottom Dollar, and it has nothing to do with the products or the prices. It's the attitude. It breeds weirdness. The store is somewhat overly-lit, and their love of day-glo orange and green paint conjures up memories of the washed-out 1970s, and not the fun, coked-out 1970s, either, but of ugly station wagons with wood paneling. There's no background music playing, either - at least, not in any of my trips there so far - and there's something eerie about an almost silent grocery store. It's like the Centralia of shopping.

And, much like the few folks who remain in Centralia, frankly, the natives freak me out. This weekend, a married couple shopped with a Nextel dangling from a lanyard around the wife's neck, pulling double duty as a necklace and a phone. Their conversation with an offspring echoed and chirped throughout the frozen food aisle. And, while I'm thinking of it ...

Hey, Sprint, you want to know why you're taking a beating in the cell phone market? Because you purchased Nextel - THE MOST OBNOXIOUS CELL PHONE EVER! Nextels were cool for like a hot minute in 2000. Those "What if...?" commercials where firefighters run Congress and the delivery people run schools with their Nextels are only slightly less annoying than the new Comcast commercials with the weird monotone singing, bad acid flashback graphics and "The Sims"-like background. And, while I'm thinking of it - Hey, Comcast, I'm glad to see the outrageous amount of money I paid for basic digital cable and internet access for three years went to a good cause, like making THE MOST OBNOXIOUS CABLE COMMERCIAL EVER. I am now a proud FiOS customer, and I pay a lot less to have HD channels *included*, better channel selection, plus much faster internet access, and a lot more reliable service. For the record, the FiOS Guy/Cable Guy commercials are kind of funny. Learn from them, Comcast. Entertain potential customers, not make them think they drank tainted Flavor-Aid.

...sorry, I blacked out there for a second. Anyway, another customer, a man in his mid-50s, I suppose, was buying individual servings of frozen yogurt. Nothing odd about that normally, except this man was buying *A LOT* of yogurt. Like, an entire shelf of it. Like, even Jamie Lee Curtis couldn't eat that much yogurt. I estimated about 50 cups in his grocery cart as I walked past, and I watched him pull another 30 or so cups before the Nextel-couple asked him what he was going to do with all that yogurt. His reply was hardly as sinister as I hoped - "it's good for you!" - and yes, indeed he did intend to eat all that yogurt. The Nextel husband commented later to me in the checkout line that this stuff happens all the time at "Bottom Loser." Much like The Replacements, ironically, I can't hardly wait.

Bottom Dollar Foods gets 20 Whammies! out of a possible 25. I saved nearly 25% on my grocery bill at Bottom Dollar as opposed to similar trips to Safeway or Harris Teeter. However, I subtracted 2 Whammies! for the freaky Nextel couple, 1 Whammy! for the freaky yogurt guy, and two Whammies! for making me forage through the cardboard box dump to cart off my purchases. Shoppers used to do the same thing until they realized how ghetto that made them look. Take heed, Bottom Dollar...but, man, I do love cheap Honey Comb.

Bottom Dollar Foods
13 locations between Frederick and Fredericksburg.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Amish Rave Four Play Keepers

ROCKVILLE (UPI) - In what has become the annual highlight of owner Raymond Bradley's fantasy baseball season, his team, the Amish Rave Four Play, have announced the coaching staff for their 2009 season.

"For years, I have stepped up to the dais and announced the names of the men who will lead this team - my team - to fantasy glory," began Bradley. "Notice the key word in that sentence. 'Men.' I have yet to have any shred of success in getting men to run my team."

"This year, I have decided we don't need men running the Amish Rave," said Bradley. We need stars. PORN STARS to be exact!"

At that point, the curtain behind Bradley was opened to reveal a bunch of exceedingly naked people, many of them surgically enhanced to look almost buoyant.

"That's right, America, I'm bring porn back into the mainstream, and what's more mainstream than baseball?" Bradley asked.

One member of the press spoke up and answered "Um, our country's military heroes?"

"That was a rhetorical question, you yak-breeder," Bradley replied. "There's nothing more American than baseball other than porn! We make more porn in the US by 9 AM than most countries do ALL DAY! And all sorts of porn, too, from bored married couples looking to spice things up in the bedroom after 15 years of unsatisfying missionary position sex; from big-budget productions taking place on soundstages with all sorts of unnecessary plot, dialog and costumes; to back-alley sex dungeons in New York offering free streaming web cams of S&M sessions; to naive college girls on Spring Break and the horny 30 year old men who trick them into thinking that showing their boobs for "Girls Gone Wild" is "empowering to women"; to those Iowan strippers in seedy clubs outside of Council Bluffs looking to score a couple of extra bucks with a passing truck driver; from beach bunnies in Miami Beach who enjoy rubbing their firm and possibly-fake breasts on other beach bunnies from Miami Beach and the men who take pictures of them with their camera phones; to all the women who have bought double-headed dildos, video cameras, and who have a dream; and to all the scores of pretty but untalented wanna-be actresses in Southern California who give better anal than they do auditions and who really, REALLY need the rent money and didn't have a fall-back plan; I salute them all!" extolled Bradley, his voice strong, and, in this author's opinion, almost Obama-like in his diction, eloquence and mannerism.

Another member of the press corps, a large, muscular, tanned men who refused to be identified as anything other than "Arod from the New York Yank...I mean Post," asked "Mr. Bradley, I noticed during your speech that at no time did you mention any homosexual men, perhaps the largest audience of porn and a potentially big demographic for your team. How do you respond?"

Bradley calmly put his hands over his ears, and said "blah blah blah blah I can't hear you gay porn ewwwww blah blah blah."

The eloquence had left the building.

Bradley continued with his announcement, as two of the surgically-enhanced women behind him began to grind seductively against each other, causing visible anxiety amongst the members of the press who had gathered at the White Flint Mall for this announcement, except, amazingly, the man known as "Arod."

"This year's coaching staff needs really a minimal introduction. To my right, you've seen him in pornos since the 1970s, and wondered if an ugly, hairy bastard like that can get laid, surely I can too, the Amish Rave Four Play's hitting coach, Ron "the Hedgehog" Jeremy!" exclaimed Bradley, to a smattering of claps and a rousing round of applause from Mr. Arod.

Jeremy took the dais and said "I know *I* can suck myself off; I've now got to teach the Rave *NOT* to suck!"

Bradley went back to the dais, and sprayed the microphone down with Lysol and a Handi-Wipe, and continued with the press conference.

"Our strength and conditioning coach is a legend in the porn world. He too has been banging the hell outta sluts since the golden age of smut, but, has stayed in such incredible shape that he's a natural for the Amish Rave, Mr. Peter North!" said Bradley, again to a bit more clapping and a positively embarrassing display of whooping and hollering from Mr. Arod.

"Thank you for this opportunity," said North. "Do any of you know the muscle discipline it takes to do a reverse pile-driver into the gaping anus of a 19 year old girl from El Segundo? No? I do, and, it's a lot. I hope I can pass on this knowledge to the Amish Rave."

Bradley then went to shake North's hand, but found it to be gooey, and passed on the attempt. Bradley then said that he "...initially approached Jeff Stryker to see if he wanted a position on this team..." but was interrupted when Mr. Arod started cheering in Spanish and waved his shirt around like a drunk coal miner spun a Terrible Towel after the Pittsburgh Steelers got some complete B.S. calls against the Ravens in the NFL in 2008, but, this author digresses.

Bradley then completed his sentence "but the only position he wanted on this team was a sixty-nine!!!" which, at that point, made Mr. Arod ejaculate, and not in the old-fashioned nineteenth century version of the word, meaning "to exclaim," but in the 8th grade health class version of the word, meaning "to blow choad all over the poor dude in front of him." Yes, Arod came all over the back of another member of the press corps at mere mention of bisexual porn star Jeff Stryker. I want you all to think about that.

After a fifteen minute delay as the Rave's groundscrew cleaned up Arod's baby batter from the floor around him, Arod went outside to smoke a clove cigarette, and the guy in front of Arod who took the lion's share of the load to the back of the head went to the locker room to take a shower and ask himself questions, alone, in the shower stall, Bradley continued the press conference.

"Our bullpen is either a source of pain or of joy, depending on the season," said Bradley. "Often, the Rave's bullpen pitchers are not ready to come into the games like they should be, and really drive it home. So, our bullpen coach in 2009 is former Vivid Video fluffer and porn star in her own right, Mary Carey!"

Mary Carey approached the microphone, and promptly swallowed it, which drew many cheers and gasps from the audience.

Mr. Arod booed, for the record.

Without a microphone, the press conference looked lost, but thanks to the quick thinking of Peter North and Ron Jeremy, they immediately gave Ms. Carey a modified version of the Heimlich Maneuver, this one without pants and utilizing a lot more penetration than customary. Within minutes, Mary Carey had faked two orgasms and coughed up the microphone.

"As many of you know, the hard part - heh, I said 'hard' - with this team each year is coming up with a good coach and general manager combination. Few combinations had the panache, the joie de vie, the je nais sais quoi, the deja vu, the comme si, comme ca, the voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir and other assorted French phrases like Wade Boggs and John Kruk did during their time with the Rave. So this year, I was really looking to recapture that chemistry. I thought Weird Al was going to bring it for me a couple of years ago. And those other guys who I can't recall....they didn't work out too well either. I went for a couple who I thought extolled grace, the spirit of fun, and the complete lack of sobriety needed to run the Rave. This years' General Manager is the star of suck films - heh, I said 'suck' - I mean, SUCH films as "Cum Buckets! 3" and "Grand Theft Anal 9" Miss Jenna Haze!"

Ms. Haze approached the dais to much cheering and whistling from the press corps, shaking her hips from side to side, clad in a Catholic school girl's uniform with fishnets, a garter belt and a set of handcuffs. Once again, the only man not applauding was Mr. Arod, who was buried in his Blackberry, texting to somebody listed as "M.Donna." Ms. Haze took the Mary Carey-soaked microphone in her hands, and started to slowly lick the shaft.

"I want to make the Rave the hardest team to beat in the league!" exclaimed Jenna as she smacked the microphone against the side of her face.

Bradley reapproached the podium, and slipped Ms. Haze his cell phone number, saying something about "any late night personnel decisions."

"The manager this year is former hardcore star and current mistress and fetish queen Taylor St. Clair. She's got the experience and dominant personality this team needs," explained Bradley.

Taylor took the stage wearing more leather than a biker bar in Sturgis and showing more tit than the San Diego Chargers' cheerleaders.

"We will WIN or I will WHIP THEM!" said St. Clair forcefully. She smacked her whip against the podium, turned around, and gave Bradley a quick squeeze on the butt. She whispered "thanks for the job" into his ear.

At that point, Mr. Bradley called over his groundscrew to clean up around him. Bradley stammered out "Press conference is about to be over. Um, Ms. Haze, can you announce our keepers this year for me?" Bradley asked while trying to hide a massive erection.

Jenna said "OK, here's who we want...badly."

Josh Ham-in-my-ill-tush
Cunter Penis
Chris Ian-my-enda
Dan Uggly
Shane Victor-in-ho
Daisuke Matsuzaka sounds dirty enough on its own
Brandon Webb - too good to mess with
Ty Wigginin-my-bum
Troy Tulowitzkitty
Brandon Morrow-yer-junk-in-my-butt

and possibly David Labia Murphy in case anybody gets hurt.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm not clever, but I own a cleaver. Does that count?

Because I'm not clever enough to come up with my own Facebook memes, but just wise enough to change them into my own lil' sub-meme. These are 16 albums that changed my life, and 9 that missed.

First - the Good 16.

16) Faithless - Outrospective. To say this is the best electronica band I've ever heard is an understatement. They make dance songs with meaning...or they make meaningful songs you can dance to. Either way.

15) XTC - Nonsuch. Not their best album, but very whimsical and surprisingly brilliant. It's amazing at how vital this album becomes with every passing year.

14) Kitchens of Distinction - "Strange Free World." You can listen to a million albums, but you will never hear a trio sound so incredibly rich. They do a Phil Spector-esque "Wall of Sound" but can do it on the quietest, loveliest songs. It took me a while to realize the lead singer/songwriter was a gay man, and suddenly all the love songs took on a different meaning. The songs were more than mere expressions of affection, but also of a man trying to come to grips with his sexuality in a world when other artists where still firmly in the closet.

13) Depeche Mode - Violator. Josh Grinnell was the biggest Depeche Mode fan I'd ever met. He was essentially an evangelist for them, as at the time, I didn't care for much of those new-fangled synthesizers. Gimme guitars or go home! I mean, I could listen to some stuff, like DM's "Music for the Masses" or Erasure, but I never had a "whoa..." moment with them. Violator was a giant "whoa..."

12) The Replacements - Tim. The Replacements are probably my favorite rock band, and I loved the way how they straddled between competence and drunken brilliance. I have never cared to listen to many of their albums, though. They always seemed to botch something. Three good songs and then something almost unlistenable. They didn't do that on "Tim."

11) Men at Work - Business as Usual. I bought this on vinyl. This was my second or third album I bought, but the oldest one that survives and is playable. I remember saving my dollar-a-week allowance for a month to buy this. The Christian bookstore by the Old Country Buffet in Annapolis used to be a record store. My mom used to take me on her shopping trips, and she wondered why I would be a monster in the toy store, yet calm in the record store. I guess I always knew. But this is the album that made me figure "Australians are pretty cool" and the fact I had more success as an actor in Australia than I ever did in the U.S. is directly attributable to Men at Work.

10) Shirley Horn - Shirley Horn, with Strings. A local DC woman who was essentially unknown outside her neighborhood, but a legend in the jazz/standards community. A former lover of Miles Davis, her songs played the role of the aging beauty still trying to hold on to strands of dignity and come to grips with her emotions.

9) The Killers - Hot Fuss. I was in Vegas a few times back in 2002. A comic friend of mine back then was getting married; I went to a big convention and expo, and I had a job interview. A friend had told me about this local band playing at some bar off the Strip. I remember thinking "these guys have a good sound, but suck live. I'll bet they're better in the studio." I was right. This album did not escape my CD player in my old Ford Focus for two months, at least.

8) The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds. If you've ever heard it, you'll know why. Amazing production values, great lyrics, incredible mood. That our generation knows them more for that tripe "Kokomo" is sad. They were this close to being better than The Beatles.

7) Prefab Sprout - Jordan, The Comeback. In 1991, I was looking for some good electronic angry music. Something industrial, like Front 242, or Skinny Puppy. I saw a postcard at Oceans II records in Annapolis for a British music dance party. On the list of bands were groups like New Order and Front 242. And Prefab Sprout. I had never heard of those guys, so I picked up "Jordan" out of the used bin. Paddy Macloon is the lead singer and creative mastermind behind Prefab Sprout. He is as industrial as I am a professional opera singer in Italy. But, you've got to have some serious talent to make a pissed off 18 year old go "damn..." with music that has nothing to do with industrial. The Sprouts have been one of my favorites since.

6) Kent - Isola. An album I bought completely based on the recommendation of the clerk at a record store in Des Moines. I was telling him that I'd heard a song on Iowa Public Radio (which, for all you who heap scorn upon my former state, was BY FAR the best alternative-indie-singer/songwriter stations I had ever heard) and tried to hum a bit of it. He goes "you're the third person to ask me that. I think it's these guys" - reaches for Isola - and hands it to me. I put it in my car...and promptly forget to listen to it for three months. When I do, I'm driving through Northern Iowa, it's 17 degrees, snowy, and kids are racing by on their snowmobiles. If there's ever been a better time to listen to a band from Sweden than during an Iowa winter...

5) Van Morrison - Moondance. One of my stepfather's only non-bluegrass recordings, but I nonetheless unfairly lumped this album into the category "If my stepdad likes it, it must suck." Thanks to Katie Craig, now Mrs. Bocock, I saw the error in my ways.

4) Barenaked Ladies - Gordon. It was refreshing to see musicians so talented, but yet so nerdy. Unlike the skinny Brits or the drunken Yanks, BNL back in 1992 were just five geeks from Canada who had like, maybe 10 fans in the states. That they were about 15 minutes away from being the one of the best-selling bands in Canada's history is important to note - they may have gotten more polished with money and fame, but they're still pretty dorky. Although they're not as vital as they used to be, they had a good 15 year run, and their newer music every once in a while hints at the madness they used to achieve regularly.

3) U2 - War. The album that made me thing that maybe politics and history do have a place in rock.

2) The Church - Seance. One of my bigger regrets in life was not being born and raised as a Maine sailor. Maine is a state best known for Stephen King and having a shit-ton of lighthouses. However, there is a ruggedness and bleakness to the terrain that is rather amazing. And, as a 16 year old vacationing with my aunt and uncle in Rockland, Maine, and bringing three tapes with me and my old Sony Walkman, there was no better soundtrack than Stephen Kilbey's voice, Marty Wilson-Piper's guitars and Richard Ploog's drums. Watching the fog roll in over a craggy landscape while "Fly" was Still gets me.

1) Trashcan Sinatras - Cake. The last album I bought in the 1980s, it came out just as the the entire political landscape was changing in Europe, and this album had exactly NOTHING to do with it. It wasn't political, it wasn't loaded with messages, it was simply perfect British pop made up by exceedingly talented Scots, perfectly produced, and blessed with some of the best wordplay ever put to tape. I've had this album for almost 20 years, and every listen gives some new little "ah-hah!" Been my favorite record since I bought it, and has yet to be dislodged.

10 that didn't...

9) Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking/ Ritual de lo Habitual - The band wasn't bad at all, but I have never cared for Perry Ferrel's voice. Some of the songs are great, but, really, Perry Ferrell's screeching killed me. He was much more reserved in Porno for Pyros, and those albums, while not as urgent musically, are much less grating on my ears.

8) The Strokes - Is This It? I like this album a lot. I really do. Strange that I would say I really like an album, but still say it didn't hit. It was given so much indie hype, and was told that it would blow my mind. It didn't. It was good, no doubt, but, it unfortunately launched a spawn of horrific imitators that didn't have the talent or chops. Still, I do like The Strokes.

7) Dashboard Confessional - A Mark A Mission a Brand A Scar - Seriously? THIS is supposed to be an album? If I want to hear crying with guitars, I'll stroll into Guitar Center and show how badly a left-handed person can play a right-handed guitar.

6) Radiohead - Kid A. I can hear the "WHAT???" hipster indignity from here. I like what Radiohead was trying to do. I like the concept, and I appreciate the effort. However, OK Computer is weird, yet listenable. I didn't think it was as brilliant as some thought, but it's a fine recording. Kid A, however, is much harder to listen to, and is weird for the sake of being weird. I'd like to remind Radiohead that "The Bends" is a great album, and nothing to be ashamed of.

5) Linkin Park - pick one, any one. A friend of mine, whose taste in music is usually without reproach, fell head-over-heels for their first album. He extolled their virtues by saying "they don't cuss once!" Well, fuck it, maybe they should. Whine has no place in rock, son.

4) Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine - I get it, Zack. You're pissed off. You're not going to take it anymore. I've been there, bro. I feel for you. But you make better singles than albums. Sorry.

3) Pearl Jam - 10. I like the idea of Pearl Jam more than I like Pearl Jam. I never got into grunge rock anyway, but I liked Pearl Jam's kinda "no, really, we don't care" attitude. Vs. is a much better album than 10, but even then, I thought Eddie Vedder's singing kind of hurts my ears.

2) The Beastie Boys - License to Ill. This *should* have been perfect for me - a teenage boy looking for some rebellious outlet, and three punky Jewish kids from New York who rap about naughty things. Fantastic! didn't. It's a fine album, and I like it, but it didn't change my life like it did for others. Never quite connected like it should have.

1) Nivana - Nevermind. Sorry to all those who worship at the altar of Kurt Cobain, but this is one of the most overrated albums of all time. He was truly a talented guy - his uncredited work with Hole proves that he could make crap sound great - but this album was not life-changing. Fuzzy amplifiers, sloppy lyrics - they weren't doing anything I hadn't heard from my stepbrother's old band, and I thought they sucked too. Nirvana sounded more vital on "Bleach" and more sincere on "Unplugged." Never mind.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sick of Unemployment. Can't Wait to Get Unemployment

It's been six weeks since I last went to work at the Pentagon. I was let go as of January 1st, and even though the economy is pretty much collapsing around us, I was confident I'd find a job quickly.


I was laid-off because I did not have a security clearance. The company I worked for knew I didn't have one, knew I needed one, but never put me through for one. Thanks? Any old citizen can not get a clearance; you need to be sponsored by an employer or Government agency. As of January 1, the agency I supported enacted a rule stating that everybody on the computer network needed a clearance, whether the employee had access to secure information or not. So, I was given my walking papers.

It's weird leaving a job. For however brief a time it was, a place of employment becomes that Second Place - it's not home, but you sure spend a lot of time there. You put up decorations in your cube. Carve out a little spot in the fridge for your lunch. Stash some snacks in your drawers. Constantly bang your knees against a horribly-placed keyboard tray.

In the case of my office at the Pentagon, I guess it's because I miss the people. I was very blessed to have met some great folks in my nearly 4 years of contract work. And the people I worked with at the Reservation even more so. A good mix of eager young guys, fresh from school and the retail world, and world-wearied gents with a good eye for detail and memories full of good tales.

And then, poof, it's gone.

I got my notice of being laid-off on December 22, 3 days before Christmas and during my vacation to Florida. Now, the employer KNEW about this change in requirements for the network for at least 5 months, but neglected to tell anybody about it. And when do they decide to notify anybody? Oh, I don't know - 6pm during a week when half the building is on vacation.

Let me give any employers a couple words of advice. First off - did you know it's a violation in many states to lay somebody off over the phone? Such procedures need to be done either in person or in writing. That was told to me by somebody who does HR for a world-wide management firm. Hmmm. Interesting. I did not know that. I got a phone call. Second - if you need to lay somebody off over the phone, don't let some dingbat Valley-Girl wannabe bimbo who only got her job because she's got two boobs and half as many brain cells be your Turk. "Like, I guess, you could like, um, consider this to be like your two week notice!" is not a good phrase to hear, especially when said by a giggling young woman who makes the wasted-sperm retards with pretty teeth and ugly acting on MTV's "The Hills" look positively Mensa-like in comparison. When it comes time to give separation, you need somebody to deliver the news who's more Frasier Crane than Brendon Frasier.

I applied for unemployment assistance from Virginia as soon as I was able to do so legally, back in January. Contrary to popular belief, you do not apply for unemployment in the state you live in, but the state you worked in. As I physically worked in the Pentagon, and, the last time I checked, the Pentagon was in Virginia, hence, I applied for assistance from the Commonwealth.

One small problem - my erstwhile employer, Chronos Systems, despite having a scores of employees based in the Pentagon, does not pay Virginia Unemployment Tax.

Now, as I'm trying to get my security clearance, I'm trying to be as legal and forthright as possible on all my doings. To that end, I followed the letter of the law, and applied for benefits in the state I worked, Virginia. However, even the oh-so-qualified administrative and management staff at Chronos fell into the misconception that I should have applied for Maryland benefits...which, ironically enough, the State of Maryland said "You worked in Virginia, go to them."

Virginia, to its end, has been attempting to get me some money before they investigate Chronos and further delay my benefits. They have applied for a Multi-Jurisdiction Claim, where MD, VA and DC pool together funds for those employees who work in multiple locations across the region. Hopefully that will free up some funding, and I'll get some cash flow coming in again.

As it is now, I'm cashing in an old money market account back from Iowa, which should give me another two months to live on. Hopefully I'll get those funds in the next week or two.

Otherwise, let me simply say this - I am not a sentimental cat. I am fully aware of the business of being in business. Being laid-off is about dollars, not personality. And sometimes, those cuts need to be made at bad times. However, I find it amazing that a Government contractor can openly violate basic employment law; can be completely clueless in the procedure for obtaining a security clearance; would blatantly lie to Federal Government personnel about staff levels and competencies; and would also lie to State Government personnel trying to get a laid-off employee even a base level of economic safety.

Where does this leave me? Out of work and with ZERO income.

Anybody got a job for me? I work cheap.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lost Episode 2 Live Blog

902 - Hell, Penny's pregnant! Good job, Des. Remarkably clean baby. I've seen one childbirth, and there was more blood there than in a Tarantino film.

903 - Des is telling his young son about the special island - England. Good one.

905 - Ginger is not doing so well. Miles is a hoot - gallows humor, and with sharp enough vision to see the tripwire. And boom. Who's the hot blond with a gun? She knows Faraday. Awww shit, it's ON!

910 - Des thinks he'll be done with the island forever after this. Riiiiight. Apparently he's never watched this show.

912 - The hot blond is back.

913 - Back to Locke, Juliet and Sawyer. She speaks Latin, as do their two prisoners.

914 - Miles can tell that some soldiers were recently buried there. Richard Alpert is back. The ageless one. He says that Faraday is back for his bomb.

920 - Des is looking for Faraday's mom and his lab. Blocked off for fumigation. There's the rat maze, and a comment about that poor girl.

922 - Miles, Faraday and Ginger are apparently meeting a young, mysterious Richard Alpert, who doesn't have all the answers this time. Talk of a radiation poisoning and the bomb.

928 - Locke has people???

932 - Des sees the girl is a coma. Whitmore is involved in the care of her.

934 - The H-Bomb is being suspended above the ground. Strange position. Kinda looks like an old-school bomb drop tower.

942 - Des meets Whitmore again. Whitmore is concerned about his beloved daughter.

950 - F*CK!!! A young Charles Whitmore!!!

957 - Penny knows Des is lying.

959 - Charlotte doesn't look so good.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hour 2 of Lost

1008 - So, Sawyer's got a new shirt. Dr. Wizard, Mr. Wizard.

1010 - And Hurley almost ran into Kate at the gas station. She's getting a mysterious phone call. Who could it be? Locke? Ben? Her mom? She was the diner waitress, you know?

1013 - Back to Ben and Jack. Ben knows Jack's an addict.

1015 - Previously on Expose - hah! Nice touch. You gotta love a Cheech sighting.

1020 - Cheech is going to help, and the LAPD is hot on Hurley's trail.

1022 - Back to Kate and Aaron, and they're moving on the east siiiide. Or, it's just Sun. My future ex-wife.

1023 - Ben knows a butcher :) Now I'm hungry for a steak. Thanks Lost. I just made fajitas, but I could use a nice, medium rare steak. Then again, I always can use a steak.

1024 - Back to the island, and Faraday's making calculations. His redhead is still wounded. And flaming fuckin' arrows??? Sheesh! Now who's on the island? Romans?

1030 - More flaming arrows. Some extras got lit up.

1033 - Kate and Sun...normally a hot thing, but Sun seems crafty to me for some reason. Nice lil' cameo for Jin.

1035 - Jack. Ben, Hurley, Sayid... it's almost chaotic at this point.

1041 - Hurley and Mom. Hugo's telling the truth to his mom. She's not going to get it. And this is the perfect description of the show for people who've never seen it. It really does sound silly when it's said aloud. But that's about right. Nice little mom and son moment.

1046 - Sawyer needs shoes, and there's a guy with a gun. Ethan? Nope. Dharma Initiative people! They went WAY back in time.

1050 - Back, and Jack's going to try to save Sayid. Kinda nice having a surgeon around. What is it with ABC and surgeons? Grey's Anatomy...anyway. Jack's brought Sayid back.

1052 - Hugo just chucked a Hot Pocket at Ben. Classic. Ben's offering Hurley a hell of a deal. Ben's got Crinkle Eye power as well! But Hurley's gone and ran off and is being arrested by the cops.

1055 - Locke to the rescue - damn he's handy with a knife.

1056 - A new station. Seems the island is bouncing around the Pacific Ocean off the Australian coast and towards South America. Weird. Bouncing through space and time? Ben's apparently Catholic, and he's found the lady from Desmond's shop, and she just out-creeped Ben! Cue SFX and SCENE...

Stay tuned for a preview? Sure.
Kate's skeptical, Red's bleeding, and somebody is pregnant, and another dude is getting dragged down the street. Chaos.

Live Blogging Lost's Season Premiere

First off - YES!!!

901 - Willie Nelson, and the Dr. Candle is back. Orientation film.

Cameraman looks like Sawyer.

There's Hurley's way of Ben's dad.

904 - Limitless energy.

WHOA!!!! First "Oh holy hell moment of the show!" Faraday.

Back to the recent present day. Locke's in the funeral home.

They're heading back to the island. The Orchid must be one hell of a valuable station.

907 - Back to the Orchid at the time of the move. The first shirtless Sawyer scene for those keeping score. Rose and Bernard are back. Shame the camp's gone.

So, much like Huey Lewis once said "Back in Time."

914 - Kate and Aaron, and a couple of lawyers. They want blood...samples, at least.

916 - More shirtless Sawyer. Trying to take Faraday's shirt? he'd fit. He's got him by 40, 50 pounds.

918 - Locke's got crinkly eye power. And he's sunburnt. Poor dude. He just got North by Northwested by Eko's brother's plane. And he's got Charlie's Virgin Mary heroin. And he just got shot - could it be! Crap! This is getting MESSED UP.

Commercial V/O'd by Jack Bauer.

924 - Locke's about to be shot by Ethan. And more shirtless Sawyer.

925 - Hey, there's my future ex-wife, Sun. My goodness she is lovely. Well, she's now trapped by the big guy.

928 - Hurley can't be dead - he's eating fries. Hah, he needs a cool code name.

931 - Sayid can still FSU.

935 - back to the Island - and the Hatch is gone.

936 - Locke's still shot...poor dude has been shot more than 50 Cent. The plane has fallen, therefore, there might be a dead Boone around. Aw crap, who's coming for Locke now? Richard, the ageless one. "When am I?" - great line. Hah...a compass. It points north. Damn, that's some cold shit - you're going to have to die, John.

This episode is quickly becoming a mind-f*ck.

946 - and we're back, and the hatch was gone, Sawyer's still shirtless, and the hatch is now back. And Sawyer doesn't want to listen to logic, he just wants his clothes back. Hah, the Ghost of Christmas Future! Another good line. Faraday's concerned about his bleeding girlfriend's nose. Hey, Desmond!!! He's got a gun, and the toxic suit. And Faraday just dropped a mind-f*ck on Desmond, and there's Penny as he's back in present day. And they're off to Oxford. Wow.

957 - Back to the Oceanic 6, and they're on a boat. Good ole' Frank's back. And they're back to the new present day, and Sayid's still shot up. Holy hell, Anna Lucia - wow. And Libby says hi. JEEZ...mind F*CK! And SCENE....

My goodness. That's a season premiere. Looks like they're going deep into the conspiracy-side of the show. Hopefully they won't get too X-Files on us.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

from - The Five Paragraph Bitter Food Critic Needs Beta Blockers

glory days.JPG

Not even three weeks into the new year, and I already have a serious contender for the highly-uncoveted title of "Worst Restaurant Meal of 2009." If this meal had taken place in 2008, it would have won like Usain Bolt. If I'd had this meal in 2007, it would have won like Barbaro in the `06 Kentucky Derby. Only a couple of burnt hamburgers-slash-hockey pucks in Des Moines and a ridiculously spoiled swordfish fillet on undercooked linguine in Baltimore's Little Italy keep this debacle out of the "Worst Restaurant Meal of the Double-Aughts" status. And here's the kicker - it started off fine but, man, how it proceeded... nothing less than a sin against all that is holy and deep-fried. I shall explain.

A shopping trip in the Virginia `burbs with a friend ran much later than expected, and the Vietnamese place we wanted to try had long closed by the time we walked into the frigid air. Hungry and cold, we settled on a nearby local chain, Glory Days Grill, figuring a warm meal in a lively atmosphere would help lift our spirits. I've had decent salads from there before, so it seemed like a good idea. The menu is nothing fancy - standard bar grub but with a Chesapeake twist - Old Bay seasoned wings and real Maryland crab cakes are a nice touch - and with local professional and amateur sports teams' paraphernalia on the walls, proves that this is a restaurant based here and focusing on here.

Much like "Wedding Crashers," the meal began promisingly enough. A cup of clam chowder was filled with plenty of fresh seafood and seasoned correctly. But remember that breakfast scene with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, and the movie seemed to lose a lot of steam? Well, the same thing happened with this meal, except much earlier in the film. The appetizer was the breakfast scene, with no Will Ferrell around to save the meal from disaster.

Now, as a rule, it's hard to botch fries. Les Pommes Frites are about as common and simple of a food as can be found. Cut the potato in to strips. Fry the potato strips. Drain. Serve. Boom. Done. If you're feeling zany, bake them. Bread them. Make them curly and season them. Bury them in gravy, or cheese, or go crazy like the Quebecois and use both and call it poutine. Just don't serve them how I got them Friday night - apparently marinated in salt, cooked in salt, coated in salt, and then, for good measure, add salt. I used to bartend at a margarita joint, and we had boxes of sea salt that we used to rim the glasses. A prankster co-worker poured about a cup of sea salt into my Starbucks one day, and that wasn't as salty as these fries. I now know what a deer feels like during hunting season. I have tasted the salt lick, now, where are the guys in camouflage jackets and bright orange hats?

Sadly, our entrees were equally salty. My friend's chili mac made her mouth pucker as the saline sucked the moisture from her skin. My chicken sandwich was ridiculously overseasoned, and I might be mistaken as the sodium-induced dehydration is affecting my short-term memory, but my side dish may very well have been the Bonneville Salt Flats. When the server asked if we wanted dessert, one thought permeated my mind - I normally love Teaism's delicious Salty Oat Cookies, but I had one right now, I would have an aneurysm. Seven hours later, and nearly half-a-gallon of water later, I still might. We skipped dessert, much like the arrhythmia is doing to my heartbeat.

Glory Days gets 2 Whammies! out of a possible 8. The clam chowder was certainly acceptable, and the server was fairly snappy with refilling our water glasses. However, between the two of us, there are 8 chambers of our two hearts that now need replacing. No one should ever have this conversation after a meal - "My heart hurts." "Yeah, mine too. Know a good cardiologist?"

Glory Days Grill
Lots of locations in the region, many of them conveniently located near emergency rooms and defibrillators.