A Deal’s a Deal

The pre-nup didn’t mention beheading specifically. I’d like to think our relationship is more civilized than that. (Image from weddingcakes.com)

You’ve probably noticed.  I haven’t been cranking out the hits as often lately.  I know, I know, calling those posts “hits” is a bit presumptuous of me.  Even so, I’ll admit that things have slowed down a little.  I’m sorry.  I realize that I’ve surely disappointed you, and to be honest, I’ve disappointed myself a little too.  As adults, we have to realize that things don’t stay the same forever, things change and that’s just part of life.

I thought this might be a good time to bring up the pre-nup we signed and the vows we shared when you first started following me.

Please don’t try to play dumb with me.  I’ve got my copy right here.  If you choose to skip the fine print or to keep shoddy records, you have no one but yourself to blame.

Anyway, it says right here in the third paragraph that you pledge to follow me in good times and in bad, in periods of bountiful, hilarious posts and in times of minimal writing with infrequent pity-chuckles.

A few lines down it grants you permission to follow others, which I think was pretty progressive of me, especially since I’m writing just for you (those other followers don’t mean anything to me, you’re the only one who matters – you know that, right?).

To continue, if we scan down to the bottom of page one, there’s the clause for unfollowing.  You have the right to unfollow me, but I’m granted 2 weeks advance notice and the right to appeal your decision via repeated, whining emails and, at my discretion, small bribes.  This is only fair, as it gives me ample time to try to scratch out a new, funny post in a pathetic attempt at recapturing the magic which we shared just a few weeks ago when our relationship was fresh and new.

I realize that introducing legal documents into our relationship makes for some potentially hard feelings.  I didn’t want to have to do this, but dammit, I’ve been hurt too many times!  Besides, these papers don’t really leave you in a bad position; you’re still free to come and go as you please.  The rider regarding clicking “like” isn’t even in there anymore!

I think we need to put these papers aside for a minute and clear the air a little bit.  You might not realize it, but my dopey posts only look like the rambling thoughts of a stooge.  I actually go to great lengths to capture the innocent child-like literary voice of a simpleton for your amusement.  It’s hard work, darn it!   What do you bring to the table?  A promise to follow me?!  That’s it?!  I’m doing all the work and all you have to do is read?  Hell, you don’t even have to do that – just stay on as a follower and let me go on thinking that you still care!  I’ll try to amuse you when and if you deem my post worthy of your attention.

I’m sorry.  I lost my head for a minute there.  I’m just in a dark place right now.  I had this Justin Bieber piece almost done and The Good Greatsby beat me to the punch.  All that time and research down the toilet.  Now I’ve got photos of that little gnome Bieber in my media library, what the hell am I going to do with those?  That and the 7 Deadly Sins competition is tougher than I thought.  After I won the very first sin, it only increased the pressure to win again or risk being branded a one-post-wonder.

He’s mocking me. His recycling can has more followers than my blog. (Image from fanpop.com)

It’s a lot of pressure, because…well…because I want to do my best for you.  Because you believed in me and followed me when no one except those other 6 people did.  I know this line is corny, but by golly, you make me a better writer.  I want to make you laugh and write me cute little comments to make me feel better about my strange view of life.  Honestly, you don’t even have to write the comments if you don’t want to  (Actually, the paragraph requiring you to make comments was struck down by the judge weeks ago).

Excuses Excuses Excuses

No one, including me, likes to hear an excuse.  I’m fairly sure that reading them isn’t much more enjoyable.  Yet, here I sit, poised to write a post which is absolutely littered with them.

After a string of several weeks putting up 4 or 5 posts, I’ve fallen off the radar.

In truth, it’s not for lack of effort.  I’ve actually got a few things in the works, but none of them are quite ready yet.  The last thing anyone out there needs is an under-cooked blog.  They don’t digest well and will leave you readers with a funny taste in your mouths – bad funny, like getting hit in the privates, not good funny, like someone else getting hit in the privates.

Here are a few of the excuses I’ve been kicking around, followed by the reasons they suck:

Excuse  #1 – I’ve been really busy with work.

This excuse sucks because: Everyone gets busy at work, or worse yet, some readers may be among the scores of unemployed or under-employed and resent the hell out of me for having a job (actually, I have 3 jobs, but bringing that up won’t likely endear me to the unemployed)

Would it help if I mentioned that one of my jobs is working at a soup kitchen handing out croutons and extra napkins? (Image from untoldentertainment.com)

Excuse #2 – I’ve been saddled with family obligations.

This excuse sucks because: Everyone gets saddled with family obligations.  Feeling put-upon by the responsibilities of family life is one of the main reasons many of us write in the first place!  Writers in dry spells will envy my having family issues and obligations.  To be honest, my big family obligation was driving my daughter to Pittsburgh to help her move from one college dwelling to another. That’s not exactly like having a painful, dramatic intervention to get Aunt Tilly off the booze and pills.  Sorry Aunt Tilly, but making light of your addictions was for your own good (and it filled a void in my post)

Excuse #3 – I had to drive to Pittsburgh and back.

This excuse sucks because: Pittsburgh is a happening city filled with a delicious mix of culture and kitsch.  Driving there and back actually got me out of New Jersey for 3 days.  By the way, if you ever want to kill your liver and gain 10 pounds all in one weekend, let me know, I have some Pittsburgh attractions you won’t want to miss.

Excuse #4 – I was busy begging people to vote for me to win the “Gluttony” chapter of k8edid’s 7 Deadly Sins Challenge

This excuse sucks because: Even though I was busy begging, and I actually succeeded at winning, I now have 6 more deadly sins to write about and I have to make a good showing or I’ll look like a one-post wonder.  (By the way – Thanks for voting everybody, I’ll try not to let you down)

Excuse #5 – I was busy watching the NCAA men’s lacrosse playoffs.

This excuse sucks because: It’s not entirely true.  While Pittsburgh has no shortage of trendy bars and restaurants, I couldn’t find any bartenders who wanted to change the channel from tractor pulls or the replay of the Penguins most recent Stanley Cup Championship.  Though its popularity is growing by leaps and bounds across all demographics, many people still consider lacrosse the bastion of affluent, snotty rich kids.  With that in mind, maybe you’d enjoy watching the guy who will eventually receive a 7 figure bonus for moving your job to Sri Lanka get cross checked into the turf.

When the dude in the red shorts reorganizes your company and you end up on the soupline, you can look back fondly on this humiliating hit. (Image copyright – Hung Tran Photography)

Excuse #6 – I was expending all my creative efforts writing my rant for the people in my Survivor pool at work.

This excuse sucks because: Writing this blog is the excuse I gave to my work friends for doing such a lackluster job on the Survivor rant!  Let’s be honest, this season pretty much went down the toilet once Colton had to quit with menstrual cramps.

Excuse #7 – The sun was in my eyes.

This excuse sucks because: Everyone knows I do the bulk of  my blogging under cover of darkness.

Excuse #8 – I’m a perfectionist – you just can’t rush true art.

This excuse sucks because: Have you read my blogs?  Perfectionist?  Seriously?!

Cheap Sentiments – Get ‘Em While They’re Hollow!

Apparently, I am far from being the only person to be annoyed by uber-cute posters like this. A quick internet search for this poster revealed tons of cynical and occasionally grisly remixes of this image.

As my loyal readers may know, I rejoined the bizarro-world better known as Facebook after a year away.  I went back for one reason only – to drum up some readers for my dopey blog posts.  At the time, it seemed a small price to pay for my own perception of popularity.

Many people will admit to a bit of sentimentality when it comes to catching up with friends on Facebook, I have to confess that it’s been stirring up a very specific piece of nostalgia for me (Cue the time-travel music and wavy-screen effect).

It was the carefree days of my freshman year in college.  The rigors of high school and  oft-embarrassing life history of my hometown were behind me.  I was a whole state away from those ancient gaffs.  My slate was clean and I was making the most of it.

I’d chat up some little cutie from the dining hall, and before too long, I’d be hanging around in her dorm room.  Her pleasant-but-dumpy room mate would be there as well.  While my amorous intentions were held in check by the presence of Mandy or Becky or whatever the hell her roomie’s name was, I would look around the dorm room, sizing the place up, hoping to spot some clues which might come in handy later if whatsername ever left.

There were two staples in any of these freshman girls’ dorm rooms;

The first was a prom picture of the girl in her gown holding a corsage with some dude in a powder blue tuxedo.  The size and display of the photo spoke volumes.  The bigger the photo, the more likely she was still carrying a torch for him.  If it was in a massive Rococo frame surrounded by a semi-circle of votive candles, that would usually be an even worse sign.  If, on subsequent visits to the room, you noticed that the picture was missing or face down on the dresser, things were looking better.  If on a later visit still, you noticed that she had cut him out of the picture or somehow mutilated his image, that was even better.  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep any photo mutilation in mind for the future in case things with this young lady actually proceeded into some sort of relationship.  Knives and razor blades in the hands of a scorned college coed can be hazardous to one’s health.  Still on the topic of one’s health, another good use of the prom photo was for reconnaissance, in case her knucklehead date turns out to be the possessive type and comes to visit some weekend, it was probably a good idea to know what this former all-county linebacker looked like.

All-County linebacker?! From what county?! In which state?!!
(pic from piclab.com)

The other mandatory feature in all of these dorm rooms were the schmaltzy posters hung on the rather institutional walls.  There were two posters which seemed to be on nearly every freshman girl’s dormitory wall.  The first had a  kitten on it, clinging to a span of clothesline with the words “Hang in there, baby!” in jaunty letters somewhere on the image.  The second poster would have some saccharin sweet image of a mountain sunset or a horse and foal, with the words “If you love something set it free, if comes back to you, blah blah blah”  (I’ve finally managed to forget the exact quote, so “blah, blah, blah” is kind of nice for me).  As for clues, these posters told me next to nothing.  The kitten poster was there because the girl liked kittens or because she needed an emotional boost to help her get through those tricky freshman courses for Elementary Ed majors.  The “If you love something, set it free..” poster may have been there for any number of reasons.  It could reflect a deep, philosophical stance on love’s fleeting nature, or a taste for sunsets and horses with the sappy quote as a mere afterthought.

In any case, they bothered me.  Unlike the prom portraits, the posters had no redeeming value.  To be frank, once you’ve seen one kitten dangling from a clothesline, you’ve pretty much seen ’em all.  If there was any doubt as to the worthless quality of these posters, all one had to do was look at the dorm rooms of these same girls as sophomores.  There were typically no traces of these sickly-sweet bits of visual noise.

As the years marched on and I moved into what I like to refer to as the  post-college-freshman-phase of my life, I have been blissfully spared those horrible posters.  I don’t mean to imply that my life is without schmaltzy sentimentality.  The hollow sweet phrases are still there, usually sold for 2 or 3 dollars with color coordinated envelopes from Hallmark and other purveyors of prepackaged emotional kitsch.

For the record, I don’t mind receiving a greeting card, especially if the sender writes something other than their name inside it.  There is something which borders on insulting when someone sends me a greeting card and only signs it.  It’s as if they’re saying “I have incredible fondness for you and wanted to take a moment to let you know just how much I care about you on the special occasion of your birthday / death of your uncle / recovery from same-day surgery / loss of your job.  Luckily, the folks who make greeting cards wrote this particular one and it captures all of my emotions just so.  All I had to do was pay for the card at the counter and put the old John Hancock on it.  Thanks Hallmark!  P.S. I hope you can read my signature, I signed it in the car at a red light.”

Apparently Facebook has some kind of massive photo album of inspirational Hallmark-ish quotes.  They come in a wide variety of fonts and colors.  The quotes cover every emotion known to man (OK, every emotion known to woman and more than every emotion known to man).  A person needs only find the quote of their choice and click on it, and it will show up next to their name.  Other people, who are apparently even lazier than the original virtual-Hallmark poster, can then “like” the original poster’s post of an actual writer’s quote.  It’s quite convenient to be able to post your emotions by just clicking on an image of a dorm poster (Certainly it’s less labor intensive than, say, writing a massive blog post, then revising it, editing it and then hitting “publish” and regretting it).

Unfortunately, like everything else on Facebook, some people feel the need to overdo it.  I have several “friends” on there who regularly who post dozens of these little posters of deep-thoughts every day.  It’s like they have an all-you-can eat pass from the dorm poster store.  I can barely keep track of how my other friend’s quest for magic unicorn eggs in Castleville is going without these cloying posters popping up every 30 seconds.  The implied “cleverness” of the person who posted it is also kind of annoying, as they didn’t actually do much more than browse at a virtual card shop and click a key on a laptop.  Friends then “like” the little quote as if the person who clicked first had some sort of creative stake in the process.  The fact that this person clicks on more posters in a given day than most people even have time to read gives a more accurate reflection of how little they actually put into it.

So, after decades of not having seen kittens-in-peril posters, I’m now inundated with a new generation of feel good, pep-talks on people’s walls.  The difference is that now, I never even asked to hang out in their stupid dorm rooms in the first place.

Life On the Trail – True Tales from the Easter Bunny

Hippity Hoppity my fluffy white ass.  The trail is a bitch.

I’m down at the Pinewood, sipping on a short, dirty glass of cheap Canadian.  My beer back-up is looking a little flat.  This place is a long way from the Ritz, but you’d still think they’d wash the glasses a little more often.

The Round Man is sitting next to me.  Got himself swiveled on the stool while he’s chatting up some bimbo.  He’s jolly alright, but for all the hype about his taste in behaviors, he definitely leans more toward the naughty girls than the nice ones.  Next to him are three of the wee ones – two of Round Man’s best workers plus Irish.  That little dude is a mean SOB when he’s gettin’ his drink on.  I’m glad he’s four seats away from me.  You never know when some drunk college kid will come in and call him Chuckie or Lucky Charms or something and next thing you know, the cops are comin’ in and somebody’s gonna need stitches.  Still, I gotta admit, the three of ’em look cute sitting up there on barstools with their little feet so far off the floor.

The trail can wear a bunny down, make him cold, drive him into questionable locales. (Illustration by the author - That's right, I'm a freakin' Renaissance Man!)

We don’t always hang out like this, but sometimes I like to chill out with a few of my buddies who understand life on the trail.  There used to be better attendance at these get-togethers, but some of the usual crew’s drifted apart.  The T-Fairy prefers a different kind of bar, and that’s fine by me – to each his own right?  Jackie Frost, may he rest in peace, is gone but not forgotten.  Freakin’ global warming pretty much did him in.

Let’s not get it twisted, I aint no retiree in a Bunny suit down at the mall gettin’ my pic snapped with your brat for five bucks a throw.  I’m talking the real deal here – these ears aint clip-ons.

Like I said at the start, life on the trail’s a bitch.  I smell like freakin’ Hershey, Pee-Ay 6 months out of the year from all the crap I’m delivering.  Don’t think it isn’t a little weird to be spending a large part of my life carrying around giant, hollow chocolate replicas of myself.  Then droppin’ em off only to have the parents of these kids eat the ears off a day or two later.  It’s a heavy load knowing I’m guiding the youth of the world down the path toward obesity and diabetes.

I had to get therapy for that crap.  I finally gave up on talking to the shrink.  He blamed my issues on my father.  That was the last straw for me.  My father!?  How much of a presence in your life can your father be when you have 237 brothers and sisters?  Besides, the mental health waiver on my insurance sucked.  I’d rather spend that co-pay money on shots and beers and get my counseling from the Round Man and maybe one of his naughty girls if she has a friend.  You know what I mean?

Don’t get me wrong, the trail isn’t all sore paws and nightmares about waking up with my ears bit off.  I’ve had some good times too.  Some wild crap goes on out there.  This one time, outside of Dubuque, Iowa, this chick walks in on me when I’m hiding eggs and filling baskets.  She’s half in the bag and reeks of Malibu rum.  Anyway, she must be on her way to the head when she sees me standin’ there with a handful of Marshmallow Peeps, and she just goes nuts.  You know the whole “I can’t believe you’re really really real!”  song and dance.  She goes on to tell me how she always hoped I was real, but findin’ out -well that’s somethin’ special.  Then a little light goes on in her drunken head and she realizes that she aint wearing much more than her hubby’s Drake University T-shirt and a pair of fuzzy socks.  Well…one thing leads to another and let’s just say I didn’t do nothin’ to hurt the stereotypes about the bunny nation, if you follow my drift.

Stories like that, they happen, but it aint the usual.  The usual is more like people with hi-tech security systems and Rottweilers.  Bratty kids whose parents have convinced them that Easter aint nothin’ but Christmas in the Spring.  Chocolate and malted milk candy eggs can weigh a rabbit down, but they don’t compare to Nintendo Wii’s and bikes.  I got a couple dentists I play golf with in the off season and they aint too happy with that trend – believe you me.  My chiropractor – he’s happy as crap.

So in a few days we’ll close up shop and I can try to relax and enjoy the off-season.  Me and the Round Man are gonna hit the links and maybe do some fishing.  The trail aint no easy time, but fishin’ for wahoo and throwing back a few frosties can help me forget my tender paws and aching back for a while.

Uh oh.  Looks like a couple of frat boys are startin to bust on Irish a little.  It might be time to hit the bathroom until the smoke clears.  I’ll see you kids next year, okay?

Claes Oldenburg and Me – Misunderstood Artists

Recently, while driving South on Broad Street in Philadelphia, my dear friend and I spotted one of Claes Oldenburg’s impressive, whimsical sculptures.  While the subject of his piece was fairly obvious, my friend thought it looked like something else.

It’s no secret that the works of artists are frequently misinterpreted by the common rabble.  Even someone as vastly cultured as myself can look at a Rothko painting and exclaim that it looks like a big block of color with another block of color in it too.

This might be about man's inhumanity to man, or maybe it's about the artist's love of delicious strawberry shortcake...or maybe not.. (Rothko white over red - Image from etc.cmu.edu/projects/atl/rothko.htm)

I might look at a Robert Motherwell painting and see nothing more than a big black rectangle.  (On a side note, I’d like to take a brief moment to thank my parents for footing the bill for that undergrad degree which included quite a few art history courses – without their support, I might have gone through life thinking that Robert Motherwell was a British soccer player).

This is a painting by Robert Motherwell, or maybe it's a lithograph. I don't need to tell you what this is about - it's obvious. (Image by elogedelart.canalblog.com/archives/2009/06/20/14146298.html)

Oldenburg though, is not someone whose work is usually subject to such blatant misinterpretation.  He’s renowned for taking everyday objects and looking at them differently.  His sculptures include subjects such as a giant clothespin (Also in Philadelphia), a soft fabric version of a toilet and as we saw on Broad Street, a giant paintbrush with a healthy dollop of red paint on the pavement beneath it.  The tip of the paintbrush is way up in the air, a celebratory salute to Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts .  Technically, the sculpture is on a section of Cherry Street which is closed to traffic, but it juts out onto Broad Street (For the record, it’s Broad Street, putting sculptures on it and adding a few extra signs doesn’t change the name to the Avenue of the Arts – sorry).

My friend, like most people, had no idea about this whole Avenue of the Arts nonsense.  When I pointed out the giant paintbrush, she took one glance and said it looked more like an elf’s foot.  Almost immediately, we began to speculate about the state of the rest of the elf.  We settled on him being awkwardly splayed out dead on Cherry Street, in full rigor mortis, a giant cartoon butcher knife stuck in his chest and a chalk outline around his profile.  The elf in my mind would bear something of a resemblance to Sonic the Hedgehog, but more elfin and dead.  The street would be cordoned off with crime scene tape as throngs of morbid curious onlookers milled around just up-wind.

You can see where we let our imaginations get the better of us. The giant, dead elf just out of sight on Cherry Street - it looked a little more convincing from the other direction (Photo by the author)

While I don’t think that artists in general enjoy having their hard work misunderstood by stooges like us, I like to believe that Mr. Oldenburg would humor us a little bit.  Although, now that I’m a massively successful blogger working in words rather than oil or marble, I believe I’ve earned the right to identify with the frustration of the misunderstood artist.

Take comfort Claes, at least someone saw your work.  If there was a “like” button for your paintbrush, I’d hit it.

YOU CAN’T WIN EVERYTHING

By this time tomorrow, this wallet will be the same damn size. (Photo of author's wallet, by the author)

I was standing on line this morning on my way to work waiting to buy a lottery ticket.  Actually, several lottery tickets.  When the jackpot gets insanely high, it’s hard for even the mathematically savvy to avoid the temptation of buying a few tickets.

There was a woman at the counter, and from the look of her, you could tell she was no fair weather friend to the lottery.  On the contrary, she appeared to have had a long love affair with playing the numbers.  As I patiently waited my turn, glancing at my watch, she played the Pick 3, the Pick 4, the Cash 5 and the Mega Millions.  She was playing numbers boxed and squared and speaking to the man behind the counter in a lottery-dialect which the rest of us could not begin to comprehend.  I glanced at the sheaf of papers in her hand and began to worry that she might be standing at the counter for another hour.

I distracted myself from the potential of my being late to work for the first time in…well..ever, by looking at her attire.  She had on a purple, black, white and pink blouse which looked like something Peter Max had vomited after too many boxes of Good n Plenties.  Her pants were a shiny black and the wrong size for one of her sizeable legs, let alone both of them.  Her shoes were equally garish.  Her hair, in curlers, was covered by a scarf which looked to have been purchased several decades ago with Green Stamps.

As she left the store, my heart just sunk.  I knew that despite my pending investment of five bucks, my long shot odds had just gotten astronomically worse.  In the ridiculously highly unlikely odds that this convenience store would be selling the winning ticket to tonight’s Mega Millions, the chance it would be one of my tickets just got much worse.  The perfect  candidate for winning had just waddled past me.

I could visualize her standing there with her idiotic grin, her Peg Bundy wardrobe and family of deliriously happy hill-folk, holding a check with more zeros than she had teeth.

I thought of how the makers of hideous clothing would see a sudden jump in profits.  How her sons and daughters would soon be festooned with more gold chains than Mr. T when he was winning big at “Pretty Pretty Princess”.  The gold on their necks nearly blinding oncoming traffic as they drove past us in the Mercedes SUV’s which they had spared no expense having converted into bling-tastic monster trucks.

She’ll move out of that trailer and buy a place with some land.  Her new home will be recognizable by the multitude of fountains, bird baths, those cork-screw pine bushes, and of course the aforementioned monster truck-converted SUV’s.  Architecturally, the house will be a mess of styles, with Corinthian columns, turrets, bow windows and a wing which bears some odd resemblance to a Miami Vice drug king-pin’s penthouse lair.

Despite the massive amount of money she’ll win, the house will eventually be shuttered and abandoned when the unthinkably massive amount of money disappears, and our winner spends the last of her years unsuccessfully trying to sue the lottery for ruining her life.  She will have failed miserably at being rich.  Having as much money as the filthy rich and elite, she will have learned the hard way that it’s impossible to buy the taste, security and grace with which the truly wealthy stroll the earth.

As these thoughts bounced around in my massive bald head, I stepped to the counter and bought my tickets anyway.  I drove to work without wasting a moment thinking about the changes my life would see if I somehow won.  My neck is  safe from the weight of multiple gold chains, and the beach realtors will not see me unless I’m renting a place for a week in the summer.  On the bright side, I won’t have to worry about changing tax brackets or time zones.  I was quite pleased to note that I wouldn’t be late for work.

I’m Not a Helicopter Parent, I’m a Surrogate Child!

"Look at that Thompson kid! A sweater vest?! That's not how you dress for competition!! He's yours Brittany! DOMINATE his sweater-vest-wearing butt!" (Image from whatsupshopper.com)

Perhaps you saw the article where the annual Easter Egg hunt in my town in Colorado has been cancelled due to the over-zealous behaviors of some of us parents.  According to the article, in recent years, some of us may have been jumping into the action before the official start of the hunt to make sure our kids got the most eggs.  We sealed our children’s supremacy by finding the eggs ourselves.  It’s a good idea if you really think about it.  I mean, kids have such short legs and they can be distracted by the glory of a Rocky Mountain spring.

You need to FOCUS Brittany!  F-O-C-U-S !!!

It goes without saying that most four-year olds just suck when it comes to competition.  Studies have shown that at that stage of development, children have yet to acquire a taste for the blood of their opponents.  Four-year olds are like…babies!  They need to grow up strong and they need to grow up fast.  Kindergarten is next year and if you’re already behind from going to that mediocre preschool at Mommy’s work, you can kiss the Ivy League schools good-bye.  Then what?!  No kid of mine is going to some damn state school!

Any parent worth their salt knows the only way for a child to ever become a winner, is to have their parents win for them!  Then, when they’re holding the trophy in their stubby little hands, and watching their parents glow with pride, they will begin to understand the joys of crushing their competition (You can assume the parents are glowing with pride, we might be glowing with perspiration from hip-checking that Thompson kid’s loser father into the hedge on the way to grab those two purple eggs).

With the Easter Egg hunting dominated, our happy family can head home to count the spoils of victory.  Sadly, there’s little rest for the victors, as young Brittany has show-and-share in preschool just two days later.  Mom and I are already arranging for Chinese acrobats, flame eaters and jugglers.  The Thompson kid’s parents brought in a live ostrich and the kids got to ride it.  If they think their little twerp is going to beat our Brittany into Princeton ..well…wait’ll they get a load of the show-and-share – that’s all I’m going to say about it.

We’ll see who’s on top when kindergarten starts.  This is war, Thompson.

THE FUTURE OF REALITY TV

"So...these shows will have just like regular people OK?..but cooler than just regular people, because you know, they're like...on TV and stuff"

I’m sure if someone told you ten short years ago about what would pass for entertainment in 2012, you would have looked at them as if perhaps they’d lost their mind.

“There’s going to be a show about an exterminator, OK?  The camera follows him around while he gets raccoons out of attics and knocks hornets’ nests down from porches.  Sometimes he gets stung by the bees and possums try to bite him.  He wears a funny hat and he’s like..a rocker dude?  Then, there’s gonna be this other show, OK?  where they follow meter maids around in Philadelphia while they give parking tickets and put boots on cars.  It’s gonna be really funny because it makes Philly look even worse than usual.  Cool, right? There’s all kinds of people screaming and yelling ’cause you know, nobody likes having their car towed and stuff.  Then, there’s gonna be this other cool show where you watch people make cakes, but wait, don’t make that face, cause they’re really cool cakes that don’t even look like cakes man, and the bakers are all like these kind of Soprano-talking dudes and then…”

By this point you’d have tuned the person out and tried not to roll your eyes at their insane rambling.  He’s off his meds again – hide the pets.

Of course, as we know all too well, these are all shows which have actually come to life in these strange times.

Now the obvious question: What next?  What could possibly be more interesting than watching inept, out-of-work loggers trying to mine gold in Alaska?  What in the world could compare with the trials and tribulations of rich, suburban housewives from Atlanta, Orange County or New York?  Hold on to your hard-hats and/or breast implants people, because I’ve figured it out!

Several of these shows have already given us hints as to the future of reality entertainment.  “The Deadliest Catch” stepped away from showing the gritty, tough lives of crab fishermen in the Bering Sea and focused instead on their own difficult job of recording the gritty, tough lives of crab fishermen in the Bering Sea.  That’s right – they showed the cameramen, sound guys and producers of the show as they worked in challenging conditions to film the fishermen.  On a special episode of “Gold Rush”, the emphasis was on filming the film crew running around to catch all the action as miners threw tantrums and pick-axes (OK, I’ll admit, I didn’t see anyone threw a pick-axe – it’s called poetic license).

A brief, but necessary detour from our topic: It’s a fact that nothing is more appealing to show-biz people than shows about show biz-people.  You can see it now and way-back-when in entertainment from sixty or seventy years ago.  The black and white movie flickers on the screen, some freckle-faced young actor calls out “Hey kids!  Let’s put on a show!”.  Soon the whole gang is building scenery and practicing dance numbers.  There were notably fewer movies where the freckle-faced youngster calls out “Hey kids, let’s open a veterinary clinic” or “Say fellas, wouldn’t it be swell if we started our own full service nail salon right here on Main Street?!”

In the years since, there’s been plenty of narcissistic examples of show biz focusing on itself.  Movies and TV series like “Fame”, “A Chorus Line”, “A Star Is  Born” and more recently “Smash” all tell the stories of people acting and singing all about their lives acting and singing.

I know what you’re thinking: “Dave, what the hell does ‘Smash’ and ‘A Chorus Line’ have to do with reality TV?”   Keep your pants on, I told you it was a brief detour, didn’t I?

Show biz has waited patiently for America to get through this awkward phase of infatuation with reality TV.  Now they have found the gateway back into our viewing hearts.  Drum roll please…The next phase in reality shows is:

Reality shows about the making of reality shows!  The reality show will have less emphasis on the subject of the show and increasingly focus on the people who make the reality shows.  After the new “show about a show about a baker” phase runs its course, the logical evolutionary step into the future will be “a show about a show about a show about an exterminator”.  There will be a brief period where cameramen and sound engineers will be as famous as Kardashians.

In this scene, one of the miners takes over the sound boom to catch the audio as the camera crew pushes a car. A second camera crew records this special moment. In the next phase, a third camera crew will record the second camera crew - capturing the gutsy intensity of people filming other people who are filming other people who are pushing a car.

As the number of people on-camera swells, it will be increasingly difficult for producers to count on so many people who have traditionally been on the opposite side of the lens to act naturally.  Since the 1st and 2nd camera units will no longer be shooting any actual footage, the producers will eventually replace them with good looking young actors and actresses.

Within a few additional years, the viewers, who aren’t all that bright to begin with, will not be able to tell reality TV from scripted TV.  Television will once again be in the business of telling stories.  Writers, long thought extinct, will creep back into brainstorming sessions.  Actors, who were already confused by all of this, will settle back into the simple job of pretending to be a fictional character in a scene, rather than posing as a cameraman in a show about a show about a show about people who buy abandoned storage lockers.

Got it?

I didn’t think so.  Don’t worry, just keep watching TV and it will all be explained to you in due time.

The men of television – stupid or really, really stupid?

Look at Trixie and Alice. How they suffer, married to those two imbeciles.

There was a big flap recently when a diaper maker chose to hype the incredible ease with which their diapers could be placed on little poopers.  As you may have heard, they chose to describe the diaper as being so easy to use that even a Dad could do it.  As you probably also know, it didn’t go over too well.  Unlike cavemen, who only have a few delegates, plain old regular Dads represent a pretty sizable demographic.  There was outrage and multiple pouty guys interviewed on the  news whining about being unfairly ridiculed.  As is the case with just about any issue these days, there was a Facebook page where sensitive, caring fathers could weigh in about their quiet, painful outrage.

In this age of hypersensitivity and rampant political correctness, you have to wonder how an ad agency could have thought this angle would have skimmed by without ruffling feathers.  My guess is that they just took a look at the typical representation of guys on TV and went from there.  If that’s true, it’s actually kind of surprising that they felt that there could possibly be a diaper design simple enough to work.

Men of television commercials and comedies, for the most part, are complete, bumbling idiots.  They can’t find their sunglasses when they’re right inside the hoods of their sweatshirts.  They can’t remember anniversaries or birthdays.  It’s a wonder that Tim “Tool Time” Taylor could find his way home from work every day without a trail of breadcrumbs and a GPS.

Since its infancy, TV has portrayed men as the blithering stooges who their women simply had to tolerate.  In “The Honeymooners”, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton were constantly hatching idiotic schemes.  In case anyone watching forgot what dolts they were, they’d occasionally don silly raccoon hats as a visual reminder.  When their secret plot would inevitably fall apart, Trixie and Alice would look at each other with knowing glances – sisters in the sorority of intelligent women who stood beside their knuckle-dragging, idiot men with the noble air of martyrs.  To further accentuate the differences, the women always look so much better than their men.  Ralph was a fat slob and Ed constantly wore a pork-pie hat, T-shirt and vest – a fashion statement which has yet to catch on, 150 years later.  Meanwhile, Trixie and Alice were as svelte and sophisticated as two women with under-achieving husbands could possibly be.

"Which truck is mine? I mean, they're all brown and full of boxes, how am I supposed to figure this out?"

As the years have flown by, it seems the men of television have managed to get even dumber.  They continue to just barely bring home the bacon to their lovely, long suffering wives.  “The King of Queens” followed the trials and tribulations of another fat slob married to a looker.  It was a weekly contest to see whether Kevin James could appear more idiotic than Jerry Stiller, whose character was so pathetic that he spent many of his golden years living in his daughter’s basement.

How many times did we have to watch as that dopey Ray Romano made his wife look like a Nobel Prize laureate in “Everybody Loves Raymond”?  I realize he was playing a sports writer and not a nuclear physicist, but you get the picture.  Now that Ray’s TV wife is married to the janitor from “Scrubs” and living in Indiana in “The Middle”, we can see more clearly just how bright she actually wasn’t.

You really have to wonder why this is.  There have got to be a ton of guys writing these shows and commercials.  Is the portrayal of men as idiots an accident?  Is it a formula which worked so well for so long that people just accept it without question?  Or…is it something more sinister and calculated?

I’m going to go ahead and float an idea for you.  I think that the portrayal of men in popular media is an elaborate plan to both fool and appease women.  Studies have shown how effective subliminal messages can be (I have no idea who did the studies or what they even say, but I also know that starting a sentence with the words “studies have shown” tends to give a whole lot more weight to whatever words follow).  By making women think we’re dumber than we actually are, these writers have given men the ability to get away with all kinds of things, just by feigning a lack of intelligence.  The idea of idiotic men has become so pervasive in our society, we don’t even have to know what “feigning” means or how to spell it.

A feeling of intellectual superiority is strong medicine for the women of America.  Studies have shown that even in present day America, women still do much of the shopping for the household.  If women were insulted by programming which showed them in a less than flattering light, they might turn the channel and miss critical soap and canned chili advertisements.

Women regularly get together for bunko nights and girls’ nights out, spending countless hours comparing notes on whose husband has the thickest skull.  They laugh and giggle, secure in the false belief that they have the upper hand and superior intelligence.  They revel in the notion that their lame-brained partners are sitting at home scratching themselves then sniffing their fingers like the Al Bundy of old, while they enjoy sophisticated fun.  In reality, these women are the victims of a complex ruse.  It turns out their husbands are intelligent, urbane examples of civility, almost all of whom are more than capable of changing a diaper without getting ka-ka on themselves or surrounding furnishings.

If women choose not to believe me that’s fine, but it doesn’t make them look very smart.

Hangovers Dissected

It couldn't have been the beer and shots. My only hope is that they find a cure for MBF before it's too late. It's getting darker...I'm....getting weak...please..... no more suppositories...Skippy?!?....Is that you boy?! (Image from headachecures.com)

I know what you’re thinking; bad title.  No one with a hangover or even the memory of a hangover would relish the thought of dissecting anything.  Hangovers and dissection will often result in tossing your cookies in the general proximity of the gross anatomy lab.  Trust me on that fact and we’ll leave it at that.

The worst part of the hangover for me isn’t the headache.  Though it’s there, with bells on.  No amount of pillows or darkness or ibuprofen will erase it.  The nausea or general feeling of yuk isn’t the worst of it either.

The worst part of the hangover is my freaking imagination.  That tiny grain of a thought that maybe this isn’t a hangover at all.  That maybe the fact that I drank beers and shots and more beers last night is just a coincidence.   There’s a blossoming idea in my head and it’s thumbing through the Rolodex of horrible central nervous system killers.  Brain tumors and degenerative disorders with a side order of antibiotic-resistant infections.  It’s building steam and branching out to other horrible illnesses.

Massive headache – isn’t that a sign of an sub-arachnoid hemorrhage and Dengue fever?

Sensitivity to light – that’s consistent with  tumors on the optic nerve and Huntington’s Chorea, isn’t it?

Nausea – What illness doesn’t have nausea connected to it?

Soon I’ve convinced myself that I have some rare, horrific disorder.   I’m then faced with yet another brutally upsetting idea.  What if right now, lying in my bed trying to find a cool spot on the pillow to put over my face while suppressing increasingly moist, bourbon-scented belches is as good as it gets?  What if every one of my days from here on out is even worse than this?!  After all, this is the typical progression for Mongolian Brain Fever.  You wake up one day with hangover-like symptoms, then within a month you’re lying in an iron lung with anti-nausea suppositories every 2 hours.  Each day is worse than the one before it.  I’ll look back in my morphine induced haze to this first day of hideous symptoms and wish I could feel this good again.

Having lost the ability to communicate, I can only pray that my loving family will remember to remove the suppository from the foil wrapper before administering it.

That’s it.  Surely I’ve got Mongolian Brain Fever.  Disregard the fact that I haven’t traveled to the Gobi Desert or ingested under-cooked Asian ground squirrel in the past several months.  All logic is abandoned and I must accept that somehow it’s happened.  I narrow it down to one of two questionable dietary choices in the previous couple of weeks.  In a moment of extremely poor judgement, I had eaten one of those hot dogs on the heated roller thing down at the 7-11.  I knew it was a bad idea, but I was weak with hunger and cash poor.  The other possibility was that chicken salad from the week before last.  I thought that it had might have been in the fridge a little too long, but when I smelled it, the fishy odor was very faint.  Maybe I was too congested to notice, but it’s too late now.  Before any of you smart asses start listing the differences between undercooked ground squirrel and chicken salad, allow me to point out that there are dozens of unscrupulous chicken farmers out there who will feed their hens any number of sketchy ingredients to fatten them up.  We needn’t begin to speculate the actual ingredients of hot dogs.  I know it’s all a little far fetched, but these kinds of delusions are typical with MBF.

Convinced that this horrid day will be the best one I have left as I close in on the great beyond, I struggle out of bed.  I kiss my wife, despite her obvious annoyance with me, and my eyes well-up with tears.  I’ll miss this place.  I need to fight the throbbing in my head and get on with the business of the day.  I had originally planned to spend the day cleaning out the garage and picking up dog dookie in the yard, but my plans must change.  As this is likely the first day of my steep spiral down life’s drain, I’ll need to savor the hours I have left.  I decide to spend my day on the couch, surrounded by my family as they work on the garage and clean up after the dog.  I don’t want to burden them with the tragic news of my self-diagnosis.  I want to enjoy them in their state of innocent bliss.

They’ll undoubtedly resent my lack of help today, but within a few weeks, they’ll regret their selfish, petty feelings as they witness my rapid wasting away.  I’ll forgive them of course, they foolishly thought it was only a hangover.