Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Banning Four Loko Won't Work

You’ve probably heard of Four Loko, an alcoholic energy drink named after its four main beverages – alcohol, caffeine, taurine and guarana.  It also contains carbonated water, sugar, natural and artificial flavoring.  Four Loko is a big hit these days on college campuses, where, you may be surprised to learn, alcohol consumption among students is popular.

Recently several states have banned the sale of Four Loko, saying that combining energy drinks with alcohol represents a public health concern.  There’s been a recent trend of college kids binging on Four Loko and subsequently blacking out.  Once something like this happens three times, the news media loves to pounce on it with an series of “hard-hitting enterprise stories.”  Panic in the streets ensues.  Now there’s more hubbub associated with Cream, an alcoholic whipped cream, which is already generating controversy of its own.

Personally, I don’t do drugs.  I don’t advocate drug use.  I don’t even drink much anymore.  This past weekend I got through a 10-hour high school reunion on the strength of one beer and one screwdriver and, after being dry for the final eight hours of the night, was more than sober enough to drive home without incident.  I can’t envision myself ever being a regular Four Loko drinker.

But I’m also of the mindset that legislating morality and stupidity begins a slippery slope that ends in a police state.  Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol in the 1920s, unless you define “working” as the onset of organized crime.  Prohibition also isn’t working for the War on Drugs, unless you define “working” as the onset of gang warfare.  

Do politicians really think college kids will stop binging simply by banning Four Loko, or are they just taking a stand to make them look good the next time they're up for re-election?  College kids have been abusing alcohol for centuries.  Here’s a sample conversation of what’ll happen in the post-Four Loko world:

College Student #1: “Yo, dude, what are we gonna do tonight?”

College Student #2: “I dunno, man, we can’t buy Four Loko anymore.  It’s banned.”

College Student #1: “I know, dude! Let’s buy some regular energy drinks and mix them with vodka! That'll have the same effect as Four Loko!  Seven or eight of those and we’ll get totally hammered!”

College Student #2: “Great idea, dude!  You fly, I’ll buy.”

College Student #1: “Then we’ll go to that bar where all the smoking’ babes hang out, and drink Jack & Cokes all night long.  It'll have the same effect as Four Loko.  Man, after we down eight or nine alcoholic beverages mixed with caffeinated beverages, those babes are gonna be all over us!”

College Student #2: “Fuck yeah, dude!  We’ll get so hammered.  Those girls will totally wanna fuck us!” 

College Student #1: “I can’t wait to get loaded!  This is gonna be the best night ever!  Rock and roll, man! (Primal scream.)”

The best way to stop binge drinking (are you listening, parents?) is to educate kids – or if you are the kids, educate yourselves – on the dangers and consequences of alcohol abuse. 

It’s sad that some students have to learn the hard way.  But there comes a point in life where Social Darwinism takes over.  You can’t save people from their own stupidity.  Passing laws banning certain alcoholic beverages doesn’t stop kids from abusive those beverages.  It only creates more useless laws for kids to break.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Worst and Best Of the Holiday Songs You'll Hear For The Next Month

Now that Thanksgiving weekend is over, I feel like it's officially the Christmas season, which means one thing – holiday songs everywhere on the dial.  I have mixed emotions about this; some of these songs make me feel festive and spirited, others make me cringe and turn the radio dial.

At the risk of being a Grinch, I’ve presented my list of the 10 songs I could do without, but before you call me blasphemous, I’ve followed it with the 10 I could listen to all year long.  So here goes.

The Bottom 10....

10) Bruce Springsteen – "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" I know this’ll piss off hard-core Springsteen fans, but I'm not afraid to make unpopular decisions.  This time of year I can’t be in the car for two minutes without hearing this song.  I concede that maybe that’s the radio stations’ fault, but it's not even December and I’m already sick of this song.

9) Bob Geldof et al, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" With a roster that includes Spandau Ballet, The Boomtown Rats, Wham! and Big Country, this was hardly a group of all-stars.  If you’re gonna pick an era to grab a bunch of British rock stars for a collaboration, the early ‘80s was probably the worst.
8) Paul McCartney – "Wonderful Christmastime" See Springsteen, above.

7) Bryan Adams – "Christmas Time"  When I was in middle school, Bryan Adams could rock with the best of them.  Then he released this song.  Next thing you know, Bryan Adams was the successor to Christopher Cross and Robbie Dupree as the dominant force of the yacht rock genre.  Any song that single-handedly emasculates an artist gets on this list by default. 

6) Elvis Presley – "Blue Christmas"  There’s a reason I don’t listen to a lot of Oldies or country, and this is it.  I don’t know who sings the awful background vocals in this, but whoever it is deserve coal in their stockings.  

5) Elton John – "Step Into Christmas" Again, see Springsteen.

4) Adam Sandler – "The Chanukkah Song"  (Parts I, II, and III) Admittedly, it’s important to have Jewish representation during the holiday season.  But Sandler really runs out of gas in parts II and III, throwing in a few folks – such as "Flashdance" star Jennifer Beals – who aren’t even Jewish.   And let’s face it, Sandler’s singing voice is worse than fingernails on a chalk board.

3) Burl Ives – "A Holly Jolly Christmas" As much as I enjoy watching the old Rankin-Bass “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” special every year, I have to either change the channel or throw the mute button on when they play this song. The lyrics don’t even make sense – “I don’t know if there’ll be snow / But have a cup of cheer.”  Huh?  What the hell is a cup of cheer?  You can't do any better than that?  An aside: it’s interesting that this was written by a guy (Johnny Marks) who’s Jewish.  Maybe Adam Sandler should’ve substituted Marks for Jennifer Beals.  

2) Frank Loesser & Lynn Garland – "Baby, It's Cold Outside"  Turns out Loesser wrote this song just for kicks and he and his wife Garland sang it during holiday gatherings with their friends, calling it “their song.”  Then, Loesser sold the song to MGM, which infuriated Garland.  A few years later, they divorced.  Any song that leads to a couple’s divorce should be automatically barred from Christmas radio rotation.   

And the No. 1 worst holiday song..... 

1) George Michael/Wham! – "Last Christmas"  Pretty self-explanatory.  I don’t expect holiday songs to rock, but this song makes “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” sound like AC/DC.

So now that you think I'm the Grinch, here are my 10 favorite holiday songs of all time.... 

10) Vince Guaraldi Trio – "Linus & Lucy"  Technically this isn’t a holiday song, which is why I don’t have it higher up.  But radio stations play it a lot this time of year, and it does factor pretty big in the Peanuts Gang's Christmas play.  Plus, as this list will show, my life has been heavily influenced by Charles M. Schulz.

9) Thurl Ravenscroft – "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"  Any song sung by the voice of Tony the Tiger deserves to be on a Top 10 list for something.  Plus, thanks to this song I discovered how much fun seasick crocodiles can be.

8) Bare Naked Ladies, featuring Sarah McLaughlin – "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" The antithesis of the Bryan Adams song above, this collaboration is funky and cool, by far Canada’s greatest contribution to Christmas.

7) Vince Guaraldi Trio – "O Tannenbaum" Only Vince Guaraldi can take a stodgy old Christimas carol and turn it into the kind of tune that you could hear at a hoppin' jazz club on a Saturday night.  Plus, it’s a great TV moment when it’s the background music for Charlie Brown killing his dinky tree with the lone ornament.

6) Bob Rivers – "I Am Santa Claus" Here’s the best part of this parody of Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” – as a kid, when I was beginning to figure out that (spoiler alert!) there’s no Santa Claus, I asked the very same question as Rivers – “If he’s getting toys for everyone, Santa Claus has to be a billionaire.  Wait a sec…”

5) The Waitresses – "Christmas Wrapping" Who would’ve thought that the brains behind songs like “I Know What Boys Like” could kick it for Christmas, too.  Not only a good holiday song, but an early influence in the rap genre.  Plus, I always thought lead singer Patty Donahue had a nice voice (though she must’ve been doing a little too much smoking; she’s been dead for quite awhile now).

4) The Royal Guardsmen – "Snoopy's Christmas"  When last we left the Red Baron, he was chasing Snoopy into a the Halloween party from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," which led to Lucy kissing Snoopy while bobbing for apples. It's good to see everything turned out OK for all involved. 

3) Straight No Chaser – "The 12 Days of Christmas"  A mashup that has everything – in addition to the 12 Days, you’ve got Rudolph, The Dreidel Song, and even Toto’s Africa.  The only minor negative is, no Vince Guaraldi.

2) Trans-Siberian Orchestra – "Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24" I first heard this song at a Patriots game back in the late ‘90s and, true to form, this is one of the few Christmas songs that really rocks.  I wanna tackle someone whenever I hear this.

And, in my humble opinion, the No. 1 holiday song of all time....

1) Vince Guaraldi Trio – "Christmas Time Is Here"  Come on, is there any other choice for No. 1?  Snoopy is dragging Linus across the pond by his blanket as I write this.  An aside: it’s a travesty that nobody has put together a Wikipedia article on this song yet.

So those are my lists and I'm sticking to them.  You're free to disagree, or create your own list.  Here's hoping I hear more of my top 10 this holiday season.

Triassic Attack

There’s a consequence to staying at your high school class reunion until 5 in the morning and not getting home until 5:45 a.m.  It really fucks with your sleep schedule the next day.  I was a zombie all day Saturday, napping here and there and trying to catch up on sleep, but at 1 a.m. I was wide awake. 

Fortunately, it was SciFi Channel to the rescue, in the form of Triassic Attack, a SciFi original movie, which is an automatic stamp of quality. Dinosaur skeletons, locked in a university museum in a small town, come to life after a Native American guy does a rain dance.

All the formulaic plot developments are here.  The sheriff of this small town has some Native American blood in him, and the locals encourage him to get back in touch with his cultural roots to stop the dinosaurs from running amok.  He has a wild-child daughter who dates the local ne'er-do-well.  The townspeople do stupid things -- when someone's trailer gets knocked over and he hears roaring noises outside, he goes outside to investigate.  There's that scene that's nothing but 5 minutes of exposition about the tribe and how only they know how to kill these living skeletons.  And of course, they kill the skeletons at about 2:55 a.m., only to realize at 2:57 a.m. that they didn't quite kill all of them. 

The only upset in the movie was that the obnoxious, arrogant university president with the British accent survives the carnage.  I consider this a real missed opportunity.  But other than that, a good cure for insomnia.  On cheese value alone, I give this movie a 4.          

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The High-School Class Reunion

Last night was my high school class reunion.  I was supposed to go with a friend, who had to back out at the last minute because of a family emergency.  As a result, I almost didn't go.  The idea of going solo nearly spooked me into staying home.

While high school was fun, we always remember (or at least I do) the not-so-fun part, the insecurity, the belief that everybody hated you, and that nobody would ever like you.  Even though it was mostly in my head, sometimes I found myself dwelling on the negative.  There's strength in numbers and when your friend can't go you feel a little more susceptible to those negative thoughts, especially when someone inevitably doesn't remember you and is staring at you blankly, or remembers that they did indeed dislike you.

But I'm glad I mustered up the intestinal fortitude to head on over anyway.  It was a good time.  Every reunion I've gone to, I always find myself hitting it off with someone I never talked to in high school, which is always fascinating to me.  And then hitting it off with the people I was friends with.  I wouldn't say I'm super close to a lot of people I went to high school with, but as a class it impresses me how we all got along, at least on a superficial level, and managed to avoid much of the cliquiness that sometimes seems to be what high school is all about.

And there are those who made me feel glad I went, those who said stuff like, "Phil, you get it," and "You carried me in chemistry class as my lab partner" (even though if anything it was the other way around) and "The cool thing about you, Phil, is that you're always smiling" (even though I'm not always smiling).  It's great to catch up with everybody, but sometimes it's the little comments that make you feel good about yourself, like you're definitely glad you pulled yourself off the couch and forced yourself to go.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers

OK, lessee, what do we got here:

* Turkey
* Green beans
* Mashed potatoes
* Stuffing
* 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola
* Two aluminum foil sheets of brownies
* One gallon of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup ice cream

Awesome.  This should last me through the weekend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Not the Poe Toaster

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  Not much going on, though I'm excited because I've been placed on a 5 favorite authors list, along with Roald Dahl, Thomas Boswell, Edgar Allan Poe and Clive Barker. 

Clearly it was tongue-in-cheek. 

I will also say this -- I'm not the Poe Toaster.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dear Larry

Dear Larry Fitzgerald:

It's come to my attention that after your Arizona Cardinals lost the other day to Kansas City, you did a little bit of grumbling about playing for the Cardinals.  I can imagine how frustrating it can be playing out in the desert now that Kurt Warner is a professional dancer for ABC's Dancing With The Stars.  But I have just the solution for you.

You're still under contract with the House of Cards, and the treading deadline has come and gone, so it's a little too late to do anything about it this year.  But what about 2011 (or, if there is no season because of a strike, 2012)?  Have you considered a career in New England?  Arizona's practically a different country, so you may have missed the news -- we traded Randy Moss earlier this year because he was rapidly turning into the old, whiny, no-effort Randy Moss again.  Good for team morale -- the Pats are 5-1 since the trade.  Bad for the deep ball -- New England has only one completion of longer than 30 yards since the Moss trade. 

We could use someone to stretch the field.  Plus, unlike Moss, you're not afraid to actually go across the middle.  The best part about it is, New England has an extra first-round pick next year because of the 2009 Richard Seymour trade.  I know there will be other suitors -- Kansas City's head coach is your old offensive coordinator.  But think about it, New England is as close to a Super Bowl as anyone.  This is your chance.

Seize the day, Larry Fitzgerald.  Plant a bug in Cardinal management's ear.  You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Preparing Myself To Hear the Word "No" a Lot.

I did something crazy (for me) today.  I applied for two adjunct college professor jobs.

It's something I've been trying to convince myself to do for weeks, and couldn't.  Being that I'm still a year away from my MFA (and not even begun to speculate on whether to try for a Ph.D), I'm hopelessly underqualified for both jobs.  I could see the powers that be at both places laughing at my applications, CVs and cover letters as they come in, and that kept the voices in my head from letting me go ahead and throw my hat in the ring.

But it's something I have to do.  I'm still unemployed, so you never know, using the blind-squirrel theory, something good might come of it.  Besides, colleges are thinking about who to hire for the 2011-12 school year, and by that time I'll all but have my MFA in hand.  I should probably apply for one university job a day for the next year, and maybe one private secondary school job a day as well.  Can't hurt.  Something will pop eventually.

Now that I've actually done it, I feel good about myself, even though this is the beginning of a flood of no's.

Still, for someone like me, who doesn't handle rejection well, it's no more comforting.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Have a Decision to Make

The question dawned on me today, as I hung out at the semesterly Fairfield MFA party in lovely Shelton, CT -- do I bring my laptop to the coming residency?

In the past I haven't.  Our schedules at residency are pretty jam-packed, and there's not a lot of time to write, surf the Internet, or do anything else that'd require a computer.  Plus, as some of my fellow students have learned, Internet access on a small island off the coast of Connecticut is sketchy at best.

But I seem to be on a roll with this blog thing, and people bang on my door when I'm late with my blog (okay, not literally, but via e-mail).  And it is kind of a pain in the ass to come back home to 279 e-mails.

Another tough question.  My mind wanders lately.

To Outsource Or Not To Outsource

I got a haircut the other day.  As you can probably tell, it's not a lengthy process for me; I have little hair to cut and keep it close cropped.  I also know when the place isn't busy, so I time it right.  I'm usually in and out in 10 minutes.

But I'm starting to wonder, is this something I need to outsource?  It seems I could probably take a razor and do the job myself.  It'd save me $18 every two to three weeks. I would have to spend more on razors, and get a small mirror to make sure I get the back of my head.  That could be a source of embarrassment if I screw that up.  Plus I could, theoretically, slice up my head.

Tough question.  I don't know the answer.    

Friday, November 19, 2010

Substance Over Sports

I just got back from my writer's group meeting, where someone (who shall remain nameless) said my blog is "about sports."

According to my records, this is my 69th blog.  Of the previous 68, only 15 had a sports theme to them.  That means 53 blogs had nothing to do with sports.  Using standard rounding, that's 77.94% that were sports-free.  If this were a presidential election, 77.94% would be a historic landslide.

I've blogged about pop culture,  politics, stuff that nobody else would know about memy love of Vault soda,  the quirks of being a New Englander and the writer's life, among other things. 

I am a sports fan, and I do not apologize for that.  But I have depth and substance, too.  I'm not just some testosterone-snorting, brainless sports fanatic.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Best Fight Scene Of All Time

I'm amazed that, when I hear people talk about the best fight scene of all time, nobody mention this one.  ( in case the link gets disabled somehow.)

I mean, great action, both of them are beating the bag out of each other.  This is even better than Jurassic Fight Club.

For my money, there's never been a better fistfight in recorded history. 

Dream Interpretation

What does this dream say about me?  I'm in a strange room, one that I've never been in before, with a grizzly bear that seems a little too curious about me.  So I punch it in the nose.  Hard.  The bear recoils in pain, but then reorients itself and growls at me.  I grab a baseball bat that just happens to have materialized next to me, and.....

I wake up.

I didn't even have a big dinner last night. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Don't Give a Damn About the Royal Family

Though his talk show lasted a relatively short period of time, Arsenio Hall left an imprint back in my college days, from "The People Who..." gag to "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm..."  to the Bill Clinton saxophone appearance.  Another gem was whenever news would break about the royal family, he would make a quick mention of it and then say, "I don't give a damn about the royal family." 

I couldn't agree with him more.  The news was all abuzz today that Prince William is engaged to his longtime girlfriend (or is it Prince Harry, I can never keep track of those two).

While I'm certainly happy for two people in love who have decided they want to spent the rest of their lives together, I have more important things to worry about.  I wish them the best.  But I don't give a damn about the royal family.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A True New Englander

I was watching Chronicle on WCVB earlier and they had a special "Mystery Main Streets & Back Roads" segment, in which they didn't reveal the name of the town until the end of the show.  So I played along.

I'm proud to report that I was able to correctly guess the town at 7:43, 13 minutes into the broadcast.  It's pretty amazing considering I've never set foot in this town in my life.  I won't kill the suspense; you can check out the answer here.  But I can say there were a few helpful hints in the broadcast that unlocked the mystery for me.   

And we New Englanders like to boast about our native intelligence, so I guess I can call myself a true New Englander now.

Bonus mini-blog: Tonight dumbest quotes from Jon Gruden on Monday Night Football -- 1) "If DeSean Jackson isn't the fastest player in the league, then he's one of the fastest player in the league." 2) "If you're looking for a Christmas present for DeSean Jackson, get him a highlight reel package."  Gruden's a moron.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Problem With Your Team Winning on Sunday Night Football

It's fun when your team wins, (heh, heh, Patriots 39, Steelers 26. I could type that all night.)  And therein lies the problem.  I'm tempted to watch the post-game, 7SporttsXtra, waiting to see the disappointed look on Ron Borges' face.  I could go on all night, going over the play-by-play, stats, box score.

I really need to go to bed now.  Channel 7 is running reruns of Extra now, so it's as good a time as any.  Even though I'm pretty wired, I have to at least try, otherwise I'll be up all night.  So, good night.

Christmas Time Is Here

It's official -- the holiday season has begun.  I know this because I heard "Christmas Time is Here" on the radio on my way home from my writer's group meeting last night (actually this morning, the writers got a little out of control and rowdy last night).

Granted, I heard it on 93.3 FM, that Providence radio station that starts playing Christmas music around Labor Day.  But I say this counts.  It's actually been pretty quiet on the holiday front.  I didn't see any holiday commercials until Nov. 3.

I remember when I was a kid, Christmas ads wouldn't start until Thanksgiving morning, and I bet those who have been around longer than me probably would say at some point they didn't start until mid-December.  In recent years it seemed Christmas ads would begin by Columbus Day, so maybe this is a step in the right direction.

In any event, kicking off the holidays with the best opening jingle from the best Christmas special of all time.  (we'll see how long this link stays up) isn't a bad thing at all.  I now feel like it's that time of year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Battery Dead, Brain Dead

I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to cars, I'm not an expert on mechanics.  Apparently, people who are paid to be mechanics don't know much about cars either.

My car battery died yesterday morning.  It's been coming for awhile; every once in awhile I could feel the car have a tough time turning, but yesterday it was done.  I called AAA.  The AAA guy comes and can't start the battery.  So he says, "It's not the battery, it's the starter."  The he says, "Actually, it might be the alternator."

So I sit in the car, watch him do his thing.  He checks the alternator and it's apparently fine. He "fixes" the starter.  Then he "jumps" the battery.  I turn the ignition and the car turns, but barely.  There's a Monro shop right around the corner from where I live.  I get the car there.

I walk in and tell the guy what's happened to date. "It's the alternator," he says.  I drop off the car, walk home and wait for a call.  Monro guy calls back and says, "We checked out the alternator and the starter.  The only thing that's wrong with the car is you need a new battery."

A new battery has been installed.  I can't wait to start my car tomorrow and listen to it stall.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The NFL Is Still Better On TV

One of the big drawbacks to living in an area where you have Charter, the bastard child of cable companies, is that you can't watch Thursday Night Football.  Charter doesn't carry The NFL Network.

Apparently I missed a good game that just ended minutes ago. The Ravens scored with a minute left to take a 21-20 lead, only to have the Falcons march 80 yards in about 35 seconds to score a touchdown and win 26-21.

Not that it wasn't for a lack of effort on my part.  I tried watching on the Internet, where tried to suck me in with an offer to watch the game live.  I was skeptical, and yeah, it was bullshit. When I clicked onto the link, it sent me to a pencil-necked geek telling me that neither Atlanta nor Baltimore was doing much for his fantasy team.  There was no actual game coverage.  (Actually, I'm sure there was, but it would involve giving out my credit card number.)

Then I just settled for following the game online, with play-by-play updated every 30 seconds or so.  This would've been fine, except that it caused my computer to freeze.  Granted, my laptop still has Windows XP, which is two releases and five years ago, but I've never had many serious problems with my laptop.

When my computer finally settled down, though, I did notice this from the play-by-play of the game's final final drive:

1-10-BAL 9 (:16) (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass deep middle to 86-T.Heap to BLT 27 for 18 yards (50-C.Lofton). BLT-86-T.Heap was injured during the play. His return is Questionable.

His return is questionable?  Seriously? THERE WERE 16 SECONDS LEFT! THIS WAS THE NEXT-TO-LAST PLAY OF THE GAME! I'm pretty sure Todd Heap wasn't coming back.

Anyway, I look forward to moving somewhere that has NFL Network again.  The NFL is still better on TV.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The National Debt -- It's a Big Shit Sandwich, and We're All Gonna Have to Take a Bite

The United States of America has a $13.8 trillion deficit.  If you can't figure out that this is unsustainable, you need a brain transplant.  We all worry about the looming threat of terrorism -- and we should.  But the biggest threat to the future of this nation is not al-Qaeda but the crushing national debt.  Someday, the bill collectors will come calling, and they won't accept a payment plan.

ABC News ran a story a few hours ago about the bipartisan Debt Commission, which has made recommendations on cutting $4 trillion from the national debt by 2015.  There's something bitter for virtually every resident in America to swallow.  Say goodbye to the popular mortgage and most other tax deductions.  The U.S. Government would cut its work force by 10 percent, and those who stay would have their salaries frozen.  One-third of military bases overseas would be closed, and military spending would be cut drastically.  More low-income people would have to pay taxes, and high-income people would have their Social Security benefits reduced.

When I was still a reporter, I once covered a proposal to build a Target in a small town in Connecticut.  The next day I was shooting the breeze with a member of the Board of Selectman, who told me his phone rang off the hook that day, with both pro-Target people who said my story was biased against Target, and anti-Target people claiming my story had a pro-Target bias.  He told me that's how he knew it was a fair and balanced story, because both sides felt I was against them.  I'm sure there are things that could be tweaked here and there with this deficit reduction plan.  But to me, the fact that it will ding everybody somehow means it's probably good public policy.

Of course, the politicians are already lining up to oppose the plan.  Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said it's "simply unacceptable." Rep. Jan Schakowski, D-Ill., said "I agree that the debt and the deficits are unsustainable, but this is not the way to do it."

Then what's your plan, Congresswomen Pelosi and Schakowski?  Are you gonna write a check for $13.8 trillion out of your personal fortunes to erase the deficit?  Or are you gonna vote yourself a pay raise in the next session like you always do?

And, in a way, this is our fault.  Last week I blogged that we get the government we deserve, and I'm gonna keep blogging it until people wake up and realize we need to start electing a different breed of politicians into office.  

Regis Is Getting Bad Financial Advice

There's a TD Bank commercial out these days where Regis & Kelly are window-shopping and happen upon an atrocious suit.  Kelly says, "You should buy that."  Then Regis says, "I don't know.  I think my bank balance is a little low."

Seriously?  After a decades-long career as one of the iconic figures of television, Regis has to check his bank balance to see if he can afford a bad suit?

What the hell is Regis spending his money on?

Monday, November 8, 2010

In Memoriam: Wade Phillips

One of the entertaining aspects of the 2010 NFL season has been the train-wreck that is the Dallas Cowboys.  To be honest, I don't hate the Cowboys, or even have any reason to hate them (okay, maybe the whole We're-Gonna-Play-The-Super-Bowl-On-Our-Home-Field-This-Year talk this offseason got a little tiresome).  But the circus atmosphere surrounding this season for the Cowboys has been fascinating.

Alas, the Cowboys 1-7 start and 45-7 shellacking at the hands of Green Bay last night was too much for  Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to bear, and he fired Wade Phillips on Monday.  This is a great loss -- not for NFL coaching, but for people like myself, who enjoy watching coaches and their silly mannerisms on the sidelines. Whether he's scratching his chincursing after getting beat on a field goal on the final play of the game or or just running the gamut of his series of clueless looks, nobody made watching a coach patrol the sidelines more entertaining than Wade Phillips.

This is the third time Phillips has been fired as a head coach -- he also got the axe with the Denver Broncos in 1995 and the Buffalo Bills in 2001 -- so his head coaching career is probably done.  You only get so many chances in the NFL.  Phillips will be missed, if only for his goofball persona.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Conan's Back in Town

Conan O'Brien returns tonight at 11.  I wish him well.  This whole debacle was NBC's fault.  Why would you pick the Tonight Show successor five years in advance?  That's like the Patriots announcing that they've locked Brian Hoyer in as their starting quarterback in 2015.  Jay gets pushed out, his ratings sag, Conan ends up being a disaster at 11:35, NBC realizes the mistake and fires Conan, brings back Jay, Conan and Jay start to hate each other, etc. etc.  What a mess.

Personally, I think Conan is more 12:35 funny than 11:35 funny.  He's got that offbeat humor that plays better when you're about to go to bed, and you can make the decision about whether to stay up the extra five minutes for In The Year 3000 or Celebrity Survey, or go to bed a little earlier because Conan's dumber skits (The Masturbating Bear, The Interruptor) are on.

I hope NBC learns from this debacle, though I doubt it, based on their interminable Sunday night pre-game show. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This Daylight/Standard Time Thing Is Trippy

So I'm doing some writing and watching the end of USC-Arizona State college football.  It's 1:57 and I'm thinking maybe I should go to bed soon.

Then I look at my computer clock again, and it's 1:01. Holy shit!  I just realized, today was the day we turn back the clocks.

Man, this is groovy.  It's almost like being on drugs, without the negative side effects.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Writer's Block

I've been blocked all week.  And it's maddening.  It's not that I can't think of anything to write about, it's that I have too much to write about.  I've been working on my novel, trying to get another 25 pages written for my mentor, and ideas for other novels keep popping into my head.  I usually have some pretty good tricks to stop writer's block in its tracks, but this is the first time I've had to deal with so many ideas rolling through my head.  I think my head might explode.

I wish I could tell myself to go one at a time.

Anyway, now that I've gotten this off my chest, the current novel is starting to come into sharper focus again, so I'm gonna make this a short blog.  See ya tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ummm, Never Mind

Yeah, remember when I said I was screwed if I got into an accident during my trip to Connecticut?

From a few hours ago:

Me: "Hi, my AAA membership expired and I need to renew."

Customer Service Rep: "Can you give me your number."

(I proceed to do this.)

Customer Service Rep: "Sir, your membership was renewed two months ago."

Me: "Really?"

Customer Service Rep: "Have you not received your new card?" 

Me: "No."

Customer Service Rep: "We'll send another one right out to you."

So I hang up, and the first thing I see when I look over at my tablestand is my new AAA card, with a September '11 expiration date.  This writing gig is ruining my memory.


Yesterday I drove down to Fairfield to register for classes for the winter residency in my MFA program.  The process, which is usually a pain in the ass because of financial aid and the relative obscurity the FUMFA program holds among the university at large, was actually surprisingly smooth.  Then I went over to Mother Hastings' office to drop off my Enders Island deposit.  So everything is all set.  And I figured, since I was down there, why not go to a reading from writers extraordinaire (and Fairfield faculty) Lary Bloom and Nalini Jones?
After the reading we gathered and socialized, something writers tend to do.  I received some generous offers from fellow FUMFAers who live in the Fairfield area to stay overnight, but I felt it was better to drive home.  I'm a night person, and it's easier for me to stay up late and drive home and not have to fight traffic then to wake up early and be a zombie for the first two or three hours of my day while fighting traffic.

So I'm about to enter the on-ramp for the Mass Turnpike when I'm fumbling through my wallet for some change.  Some things falls out, one of which is my AAA card, which I realize expired in September.

It's a good thing I didn't know about this earlier in the day.  The last thing I needed is to be stressed out about getting into an accident, having a flat tire or needing a tow while driving all over Connecticut.

That's a wrap.  Now I gotta go call AAA and renew my membership.   

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy Freakin' Election Day

Here we go again.  Another election has come and gone, and once again we have change.  Something tells me going forward, Republicans and Democrats will take turns gaining and losing power in Washington every two years.

It's disillusioning when both major political parties suck.  We have a new movement, the Tea Party, that claims to support fiscal responsibility.  Great.  I'm all for fiscal responsibility.  The thing that pisses me off about the Democrats is that they spend too much public money (not that the Republicans don't waste their share; it's pretty fucking expensive to roll tanks into another country).  Where I diverge from the Tea Party is when they expend their energy talking not about fiscal responsibility but about evolution, witchcraft and masturbation.  The new Tea Party perverts the original, quite noble Tea Party of our Founding Fathers, who didn't give a shit about whether you masturbated in your private time; they just wanted to end the tyranny of the British Empire and gain their own sovereignty.

Two years ago, the Dems talked about reducing the deficit when they regained control of Congress and the presidency.  Yet they refuse to address the major cause of out national debt, a bloated entitlement system in Social Security and Medicare that is basically a trillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.  And the Dems have a Congressman, Barney Frank, who spewed out the most classless acceptance speech I've ever heard after Sean Bielat had the gall to contest his seat.  Trust me, there's a lot I don't agree with Bielat on, but tonight doesn't give me confidence that Frank will be very conciliatory in Congress.

In my Congressional district, rather than choose between a Democrat who refuses to acknowledge that Social Security is bankrupting America or a Republican who wants to build a fence on the border with Mexico (cuz, you know, that'd be a wise use of taxpayer money.  It's not like people would tunnel under the fence or anything), I ended up voting for an independent candidate.  Sure, he only got 4.5% of the vote, but I'll be able to sleep with a clean conscience tonight.

Americans like divided government for a reason.  I can only hope that, going forward, Democrats and Republicans will political parties will smarten up and work for the United States, not their own selfish interests. 

Alas, I'm not optimistic.  We get the government we deserve.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Phil's Bibliography

Yep.  I really was published today.  That was a quick turnaround.  My latest short story to be unleashed on the masses is here.

Some have told me that I should post links to my other two published short stories.  So, in the spirit of Election Day, here's my first published short story, my take on an election gone awry, and my second, a poignant tale of the friendship between a man and a Velociraptor.  (For this one I've enclosed the entire edition of the CRR.  My story begins on p. 39.)

Hope you enjoy.