Changing Things.

As the kids would say, “Shit’s fucked.” Yes, indeed.

But first things first: when it comes to trampling the civil rights of our country’s minority populations, it’s not just the cops. They’re the front line, the point of contact, sure. And they need a serious overhaul. But it’s also the prosecutors and judges, the entire legal system. It’s a simple, ugly fact that from bottom to top, our legal system fails black Americans. It has for generations. It has to change.

It’s been said over and over that “if you have ten bad cops and a thousand good cops, but the good cops don’t hold the bad cops accountable, then you have 1,010 bad cops.” This is…oversimplifying things. Because, for the good cops, it simply isn’t that easy.

Just hear me out here for a second. I promise you there’s a point to all this, and if we’re going to improve our legal system, we have to understand the hows and whys of some of this stuff. Okay? Cool.

A law enforcement officer in this country has a very dangerous job. Every time they pull over a speeder on a dark highway at 2am, they know there’s a chance (no matter how slim) that the person being pulled over is dangerous. Panicked. Drunk? Maybe. Armed? Possibly. Consider what it’s like responding to a domestic dispute call. Are you going to have to taze a guy? Is the husband swinging a baseball bat at his family, or worse? What about a bar fight? Knives, guns, all manner of dangerous implements might be brought to bear on the officer. Now, this is all a risk that a police officer accepts when they put on the badge. Most of them (I still have to believe that most of our cops are good. I have to. I’ve known enough cops in my lifetime to refuse to believe that they’re all secretly wearing a façade, hiding their true, violent, racist personas from me. If so, they’re very good at it) know that it’s an acceptable risk for maintaining the peace. Serving and protecting. So, if you’re that good cop, you also know that if and when you need backup, it’s going to be one of your brothers or sisters in blue who has you back. If you’re going into a crack house full of people who want you dead, you absolutely have to trust that the person going in with you will do whatever it takes to keep you safe.

So what if, later that week, you see the same cop who safeguarded your life, abusing a person of color? Obviously the right thing to do is to intervene. Best case, you need to step in to protect the person being assailed, and then report it to a superior. But…what happens when you need that cop to have your back again?

Again, I’m not saying it’s right. I’m saying that we have to understand how and why cops don’t police one another. So what do we do? How do we ensure that the good cops don’t let the bad ones get away with crimes against the citizens they are charged with protecting?

An idea that’s been recently circulated is one which I’m honestly surprised took this long to materialize: civilian oversight. When a cop is brought up on some sort of complaint, take it out of the hands of the police. Let a council of citizens determine if the officer was out of line. It would be like jury duty: you get a letter in the mail instructing you to show up to a disciplinary hearing. If the public thinks the complaint is unfounded, then life goes on. But if they find negligence, corruption, or any sort of overreach, then the officer must face punishment. It’s accountability, and removes a lot of the stigma of “ratting out” fellow officers. I know there are kinks in the idea, like where does the complaint originate? A citizen? That’s a good place to start. Make some sort of channel, a path towards justice, for citizens. There has to be someone for them to go to that isn’t the very cops they’re complaining about. And maybe an anonymous tip line or something for the police themselves. Rather than go straight to internal affairs, they submit an online complaint via a specific website. I don’t know all the details, I don’t have all the answers here, but we have to move in some sort of direction that will allow the cops to police themselves, and if not, allow the public to do it.

But aside from all that, there’s one very easy way to improve our nation’s law enforcement problem. It wouldn’t cost anything. It wouldn’t require an overhaul of the entire justice system (although we really need one of those anyway.) No, the best way to ensure that we have great law enforcement officers keeping the peace? Have better law enforcement officers. How do we get better officers? That’s where you come in. And I mean that literally. Join the force. Sign up for the police academy (according to those old Steve Guttenberg films, that place is HILARIOUS!). Get a degree in criminal justice. Get sworn in. Become a deputy, a patrolman. If good citizens join the police, the police will be made up of good citizens.

The problem has been that the good people aren’t signing up. Not in numbers that matter, anyway. Recruitment is down, everywhere. When the police department can’t find good recruits, well…it takes what it can get. It settles for guys who never went to college, never experienced a race or culture other than the one they were raised in. Thus, you get a squad of homophobic, misogynistic, racist bullies. You get people who have felt powerless their whole lives, and now they want some god damned respect. You get people with anger issues. You get bad cops.

So, how about it? Want to change the world? Want to clean up law enforcement? Your local department is probably hiring. And until all the other reforms kick in, it just might be the easiest way to start fixing things.

Clock Watching During Quarantine

Earlier today, I sat on the couch with my wife, taking a break. See, in work from home mode, things are fluid. I’d been answering emails all morning (such tiring work, really.) I mentioned being hungry, to which she replied “then get something to eat!”

I checked my watch. 11:30 AM.

“I’ll get something when it’s lunchtime.”

“Well, it could be lunchtime right now! Why are you such a slave to the clock?”

Well…I’m not. I mean, okay, yes, I am a bit of a Time Cop™ in the sense that I absolutely abhor being late. In my mind, showing up “on time” is actually about 5-10 minutes tardy. It gives me absolutely real anxiety and stress to find that I’m running behind schedule. In that sense, my wife was 100% spot-on in her assessment. However, I also have always been fairly flexible with regards to the times things occur throughout the day. Is there a meeting at 1pm? I’ll take lunch early. Nothing on the books? Maybe I still eat early, in order to get to the gym for a bit. Maybe I’m there an hour. Maybe I’m there 90 minutes. Meh. Big deal. As long as the work gets done, who cares? A two-hour TV commercial shoot at 10:30 AM? Guess my lunch is going to be late. No big deal. Things are fluid, life at an advertising agency is always in flux. That’s where my small (five person) agency excels: we’re not rigid, confined by red tape and inflexible schedules. We roll with the punches and find a way to make everything work.

But now? Gosh maybe the spouse is correct. Maybe I have been assigning too much importance to when I take my lunch, or when I shut down for the evening. And maybe there’s a real good reason why.

See, before COVID-19, I had a routine. Not necessarily a hard-core schedule, because of the reasons I mentioned above, but also because during a regular school year I am at the whims of my children, and their school schedule. Father-son breakfasts, honor roll meetings, field trips, all these can play havoc with a hard and fast daily itinerary. Add to that a teenager who is supposed to be at school by first bell at 7:20 AM, but who often needs to be literally pushed out of bed on many cold, dark, January mornings, and it becomes obvious that a person in my position needs to remain agile and reactive.

But even so, there had always been a loose expectation of unfolding events, an order, a series of dominoes that clicked off one after the other.

Get up. Brew a cup of coffee. Feed the cats. Make sure the teenager is brushing his teeth. Get dressed. Check appointments for the day. Browse Facebook while having a bite. Get the kid to school. Drive to work. Open the office. Make sure the Mac is up and running. Make another cup of coffee. Check emails. Traffic meeting. Settle in to write some scripts. And so on. And so forth.

Now? There’s no such routine. There’s waking up, rolling over, checking the phone, and getting to work from my bed. Replying to an email on the way downstairs. Oh, there was a problem with a TV spot upload last night? Might as well get that sorted while the coffee is on. The cats can wait. Huh. A text from the boss. Client wants to shoot a COVID-centric commercial. What time looks good today? Hold on, let me check the weather. Yeah any time. Client says 1PM. Okay. Home by three. Editing until…oh, crap! It’s 7pm! Where the hell did the time go? Did I feed the cats? Are the children awake? Nobody knows. The world is a blur. There is nothing but my Mac and me. Hey, that reminds me of that great Paul Rudd running gag. Did I eat? Yes, I think…

I guess the point is that I’m discovering that on some level, yes, I guess I do worship at the church of the clock, but only as a way of applying some sort of structure to this whole miasma. Waypoints of sorts for a daily journey. Self-checks to ensure that I remember that there is more to this life. They say that in these WFH weeks…months…years? It’s important to try and act like you’re still at WORK work. Shower. Get dressed. Etc. Maybe it’s also important to remember that lunch is at noon, unless you have a meeting…in which case shoot for11:30. (And make sure lunch is more than a handful of peanut M&Ms, mmmkay?) Allow yourself a cocktail when you get “off work” at five. Or six. But just try and keep some sense of a “workday.”

And maybe when this is over, we’ll all take a moment to re-evaluate what a workday even is. Won’t matter, my kid will still be late for school.

Context is King

Disclaimer: I am wholeheartedly aboard the #MeToo train. Hell, I’m a feminist snowflake, if that’s the language you want to use. Our sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends deserve better, quite frankly. However, I also acknowledge when “cancel culture” goes too far. Political Correctness usually has the noblest of intentions, but now and then it gets in the way, and creates division where there has previously been none. Case in point: the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

Watch this video.

Here are the first two times this song was ever recorded for distribution, from the 1949 film “Neptune’s Daughter.” We start with Ester Williams and Ricardo Freakin’ Montalban (!) doing the version we all know…the wolfish male predator and his hesitant quarry. Okay, yeah. It looks really bad. When he grabs her arm…repeatedly…to prevent her escape…oof. Not a good look. At least in the radio versions, like Dean Martin’s 1959 rendition, or the (far superior) Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer version from 1949, we don’t actually see the couple. We can imagine that she really does want to stay, but feels guilty, because people back in the late-40’s and 50’s were completely repressed, and slut-shaming was rampant…like, he’s almost doing her a favor in making the decision for her. Still, when you see Ricardo essentially chase her around the room, it’s a little unsettling to modern eyes.

And then we get to observe the other couple, and, uh…well, now!

I mean, come on! Showing her KNEE! Like some shameless HUSSY!

From the same film, we see Red Skelton doing a cartoonishly bad accent, and the tables have turned…his lusty adversary is Betty Garrett, and she demands, like any liberated woman, to have her needs met, by God. Years later, in her powerful “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” Thelma Houston expressed her similar desire thusly:

 

“Oh baby, my heart is full of love and desire for you

Now, come on down and do what you’ve got to do…”

 

Do what you’ve got to do. Yes. TELL HIM, SISTER!! That was the disco-clad Sexual Revolution in the Swinging’ 70’s, but even then, fairly bold. A woman? Demanding sexual gratification from her mate?! CLUTCH THOSE PEARLS!!
“Okay, great…but what’s your point? That we should forgive Montalban’s character for his aggressive courtship?” Well, no. Not entirely. But we have to realize that A) it was a wayyyyy different time and B) the scene exists primarily as a way to set up the much more comedic scene which follows. The Red Skelton stuff would have been somewhat humorous in and of itself…but after seeing the “male” version, it’s even more impactful when Betty Garrett throws her conquest on the couch…sits on him…and turns out the light. She’s in complete control, and there’s not a damn thing Red can do about it. And as a viewer, we all sort of agree that he really doesn’t want to anyway. And, ultimately, as things tended to do in the screwball comedies of yesteryear, everything worked out, and both couples found love. Here’s the official “Neptune’s Daughter” synopsis from IMDB:
 
Scatterbrained Betty Barrett mistakes masseur Jack Spratt for Jose O’Rourke, the captain of the South American polo team. Spratt goes along with the charade, but the situation becomes more complicated when they fall in love. Meanwhile, Betty’s sensible older sister Eve fears Betty’s heart will be broken when Jose returns to South America. She arranges to meet with the real O’Rourke and love soon blossoms between them as well.
 
This brief description leaves out that Eve is an aquatic dancer (hence the movie’s title) and that she’s actually partnered with a man (the omnipresent Keenan Wynn) in a swimwear company. Partnered. Equal. She is, by 1940’s standards, a powerful, professional woman. Athletic, smart, cunning, and protective of her younger sister. Does it make Ricardo’s Jose O’Rourke (his character’s actual name, and Beto O’Rourke is totally biting his rhyme, yo) any less creepy? Not really. But it implies that Eve was more than capable of fending for herself. And that makes a huge difference; she’s not some meek little virgin, not some naive waif who simply doesn’t stand a chance against the machismo of a young Khan Noonien Singh. (And who among us can truly say that? Not I. I’m a 49-year-old heterosexual male, but if he wanted to chase me ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom, well, heck…no mere mortal can resist such masculinity, especially if it smells of rich Corinthian leather.) I digress. Okay, in conclusion, I’ll simply say that yeah, “no” means “no.” Still. But it’s never wise to take isolated incidents out of context. Do the homework. Read the entire article. Watch the interview. Consider everything before leaping to condemn. And above all, relax, people. Have fun. Kiss him or her. If they slap your face, stop. Pretty simple.
 
Enjoy the holidays, everyone.

Patagonia

You know what I’ve always hated about this sort of thing? The lack of sensation. You’re flying through the empty void of space…and, yes, mister smarty-pants, I know that space isn’t ‘technically’ empty. There’s radiation, fine particles of space dust and ice, black matter or dark matter or whatever the hell they’re calling it these days, so I get it, but it’s practically empty. Anyway, you’ve jumped or been pushed or shot out of a tube (as in this particular case) and are nothing more than a projectile. An incredibly accurate one, as there’s no wind or gravity to alter your trajectory, so you’d best hope that whoever programmed the aiming and firing solution knew what the hell they were doing.

But, so, anyway…there’s no friction, no wind whipping past, no sound except the constant huff of your own breath and the occasional bit of communication in your helmet. “200 meters. Almost there.” Motia’s steady voice kept me from puking or shitting my suit or both. The Patagonia was coming up fast, and the whole thing was surreal and deceptive. She had no external lights on her hull, which was some dark steelskin anyway. That meant that just the slightest outlines and edges were going to be visible until we got closer. The faint glint of starlight tracing the edges of the massive derelict was all we had to gauge not only the girth of the thing, but how fast we were approaching it.

“100 meters. 75.” Damn, we were moving.

I hate this stuff, but Ray fuckin’ loves it. Of course he was the first one to the hull. The ship grew until it filled most of my vision, but it was still so dark that I had that terrifying sensation of trying to find a doorway in a pitch-black haunted house, your hand just out there in the void, flailing around until it touches something, then you nearly scream, before your synapses relay the information that what you came in contact with was, in fact, drywall, and not, as your primitive brain stem initially guessed, a monster with rows of serrated teeth. That’s what was going through my mind right before I got confirmation of Ray’s touchdown.

“Oh, yeah, you big black bitch! I’ma walk all over you and not even take my shoes off!”

“Ray, you’re almost there. Don’t forget—“

“I’ma seriously fuck up your carpet and drag my ass across you like a dog with ringworm!”

“RAY! Inertial recoil, NOW!”

“Oh, shit, watch! Cannonball time, suckaz!”

“Don’t ball up, god damn it!”

Then I felt, more than heard, the soft thud of Ray’s suit deploying his IDAR system, which stood for Inertial Dampening Anti-Recoil. We’d copied it from some old alien weapons, and it was a pretty crafty bit of reverse-engineering. It was currently saving Ray’s life, but if the fool didn’t plane out, there was a good chance he’d still skip off the hull and careen into the far reaches of space. But Ray lived for the rush, so there was no telling how it was going to go. We hadn’t lost him yet, but we all sort of knew that it was a matter of time, even though I felt that his end would somehow involve a flaming broadsword, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and about a thousand pounds of TNT. Skipping off a derelict spacecraft just wasn’t his style.

Shit, I hadn’t even been paying attention. Motia was chirping in my ear.

“Any time now, dude. You ain’t Ray. You need to stick this.”

POP POP POP POP POP went my suit as the IDAR rig did its thing, followed by the PUFF-UFF-UF-FFF and all of a sudden the big ship in front of me didn’t seem to be growing as quickly, and then there was a soft clanking noise…and that was it.

“Okay, you’re there. Bolt on, please.”

The whole trip is surreal, because, again, you have no sensation of speed. All of a sudden you’re just there. Without the IDAR system, I’m not sure how we would have done it, except maybe with bulky thrusters…but those would require fuel, along with a fine-tuned and well-timed deployment. Way above my abilities. No matter what, though, I was eager to use the “bolt poker” (really sort of like an old pneumatic nail gun, only this beauty fired rivet bolts into the skin of the craft, one, two, then I was able to attach my lanyard, double-secured, to insure that I wouldn’t float off. I mean, I was still anchored to an abandoned space ship. We were still careening through space. Without my suit, I’d suffocate, freeze, and be burned by cosmic radiation. We were still a million miles from Earth (our Earth!) But in that moment, I felt as secure as I was ever likely to. So weird, the things one gets accustomed to whilst jaunting through multiple universes and star systems.

“All accounted for?” Motia was doing a headcount.

“Brubaker here.”

“Phillips, present.”

“Here!” I offered. “But I think you forgot to assign homework.”

“You know I’m ready, guys. Let’s do this!” I looked over at Ray and he had wrapped his lanyard around the gloves of his suit, tightly. He proceeded to extend his body out in a straight, perpendicular line, away from the hull. “Look! I’m Atlas! Or one of those old gods, you know? Like, if you looked from like, over there…and you were upside-down, it looks like I’m lifting this fuckin’ ship! Like Superman with a semi truck! WOOOO!!!”

“That’s great, Ray. So, what next?” Motia had a video screen on the inner part of her suit’s left arm. It gave her readouts on all the team members’ status; oxygen, energy, etc. She checked it and pursed her lips.

“Whelp, once Bru-meister cracks this bad boy, we slip in and make our way to the bridge. My guess is they don’t know we’re coming.”

“Wait…’they?’ Who is ‘they?” I sputtered.

“Well, I don’t know ‘em personally, but hell, figure about fifteen crew?”

“Ray! Are you fucking serious?” Motia stared at him, gape-mouthed and incredulous.

“Yeah, but, you know…surprise, motherfuckers! We’re here!” Ray laughed.

“This was supposed to be a derelict vessel! Abandoned! Ours for the taking! That’s how you described it! ‘Ours for the goddam taking!”

“Yeah, and we’re gonna take it! If it was empty, I’d have said ‘ours for the finding’ or some shit. Taking. That’s what we’re doing. I thought it was pretty clear.”

“Fuck.”

“Shit.”

“Fucking shit.” The rest of the crew expressed their exasperation. But we all knew that there was nothing else to do except cut open a hole, hope it wasn’t right in the middle of their rec room or whatever, glide in, and make our way through the cabins until we either killed, subdued, or captured all the occupants, then seize the ship and its contents. I really hoped there wasn’t any more killing. I had grown sick and tired of it. I guess that meant that my soul was still there, somewhere. Some guys just get numb to killing. It’s like they almost do it absent-mindedly, like a toddler picking his nose and wiping it on the couch. I just got sick of it, like I got sick of baloney when I was young and poor.

“Whelp, here we are. Brubaker, if you would be so kind as to create an entrance into this not-quite-abandoned space vehicle, we’d be much obliged.” Motia looked at her readout again. Her face told me she was doing calculations in her head. She must’ve come to a satisfactory conclusion to whatever problem she was working on, internally, because I noticed her nod, slightly, like she was telling herself. ‘Okay. We’re good.’

Brubaker began his cut. Again, it was disorienting to see the laser torch, but not hear it. Not hear the hull being sliced open. The good news was that nobody else would hear it either, hopefully…but the atmosphere inside the Patagonia, if life support was still operational, would conduct a lot more noise. Nothing we could do except wait.

I looked over at Ray. He was now ‘laying’ on the external hull with one arm drawn up under his head like a pillow, his legs casually crossed at the ankles. I heard his sigh in my headset.

“Guys…whatcha all thinking about?” he asked dreamily as he stared at the stars

“Murder.” Motia, through grinding teeth.

I noticed a dark shape float away from my vantage point, and realized it was the rectangular chunk of hull cut away by Bru’s torch.

“We’re in” he said, quietly, like he was already worried that the crew would hear us.

“Okay, let’s go.” Motia was first through the breach. I was so very relieved it hadn’t been Ray.

Fake Stats.

Life has gotten crazy. With the interwebs and all the fake news and whatnot, it’s hard to know WHAT to believe anymore. So I assembled these little-known Fun Facts for your enjoyment They are, without a doubt, 100% made-up and fake, straight outta my twisted little noggin’. But feel free to share them as if they were bona-fide, completely accurate, vetted pieces of knowledge.  You’re welcome.

 

Popeye the Sailor Man was loosely based on Norman Keith Collins, aka “Sailor Jerry.” Hence the anchor tattoo on his forearm and the ever-present pipe.

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“Ughugugugug…can ye cover up that portrait of me ex? Olive cants stands that whore, and it’s erfectin me loves life!”

 

 

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is dangerously close to bankruptcy and is undergoing a serious financial restructuring of his business enterprises and holdings, including the Cowboys. The alleged reason for these financial troubles is rather recent: Jones was convinced that the “fidget spinner” craze was here to stay, and spent billions acquiring not only eight fidget-spinner manufacturing sites in Southeast Asia, but several inline skate/skateboard bearing manufacturers stateside, hoping to not only corner the spinner market but to be prepared “when rollerblading comes back big-time.”

 

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Like, any second now.

 

 

The flavor we humans taste when eating coconut is completely imaginary. The human tongue lacks the receptors required to correctly process the tropical fruit-nut-seed’s taste. Scientists believe this is because coconuts are actually terribly toxic, unless they are mixed with rum or lime/other citrus flavors. (BONUS fun fact: this lime/coconut elixir is the basis for the popular song. Europeans first traveling to Papua/New Guinea became violently ill from eating raw coconut, until the local shaman or “witch doctor” mixed lime juice with coconut milk to create a cure. Then everyone got drunk.)

 

 

There are actually only seven planets in our solar system. The rest are simply light reflecting off of asteroids and cosmic dust.

 

 

One out of every ten Spree candies is actually a button that fell off someone’s shirt on the assembly line.

 

 

If you were to place the cast of Big Bang Theory underwater, without any supply of oxygen, and left them indefinitely, nobody would really have a problem with it.

drowning

Well, hi there, Sheldon!

 

 

Men over 40 years of age spend up to fifteen minutes out of each day running a finger over the outside of their ear and muttering “…the hell is that? A hair?”

 

 

Ancient Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes would often blurt out “I love cheese!” for seemingly no reason (although many modern scholars believe he suffered from a form of Tourette’s Syndrome). This phrase was incorrectly translated over the years, so that it eventually became widely accepted that his exclamation was actually “Eureka!”

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“Goddammit, can’t calculate right now…thinkin’ ’bout dat stanky CHEESE!”

What I Did Last Summer

Everything. I did everything last summer. Want to know why I haven’t touched this blog in forever? Because I was doing everything.

Let’s rewind a bit. I began the summer chugging along professionally in a pretty sweet gig as copywriter/digital content specialist for Asher Agency. To sum that position up: I would come up with ideas for commercial campaigns. TV, radio, digital, print, whatever mediums we were going to use, and then the message or thought behind said concept. From there, I’d work with the other creative team members to shape it up into something that made sense and looked great, and we’d produce it. I’d cast actors, guide the graphic artists, write the actual “copy” or words (spoken by actors or printed on billboards, etc.), get it all produced, and then we’d throw it all out there into the world. The process is truly a satisfying experience, watching your ideas come to life, even if only for thirty seconds at a time or on a clickable strip of banner on someone’s website.

I must’ve been fairly decent at this, because I started getting nibbles. People inquiring as to my future plans. Recruiters asking “Hey, how happy are you at Asher?” Finally, an old compatriot called me up and basically offered me his job as creative director. He described the position to me thusly: “you’ll come up with ideas for commercial campaigns. TV, radio, digital, print, whatever mediums we were going to use, and then the message or thought behind it. From there, you’ll work with the other creative team members to shape it up into something that made sense and looked great, and we’ll produce it. Cast actors, guide the graphic artists, write the actual “copy” and then throw ‘it all out there into the world.”

Huh. So, of course I took it. A corner office with windows? A bunch of new business cards? Hells yes. So I took a new position doing pretty much what I did at Asher, only with more perks and a nifty title. So that was cool.

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Plus, I mean…a place to hang an old Robert August promo flyer (autographed!) and prop my Scottish claymore against a vintage photo of Fred Toenges?! SIGN MY ASS UP!!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

 

My wife and I also decided to sell our house. We had lived, with our two boys (Simon is 12, Rhys is almost 9) in a nice, old (built in 1920) home in the Oakdale Neighborhood in Ft. Wayne. Tree-lined streets, gorgeous old houses…and very narrow, busy streets. No back yard to speak of. Or front yard, for that matter. In other words, charming as all hell but not conducive to bike riding or football tossing or anything else that growing young men want to engage in. So, when the market heated up, Heidi and I jumped at the chance, trading the urban pulse of the ’07 for the serene spaciousness of the ’15. It was a long, hectic process, selling the old house. Folks can be very particular and selective, even in a sellers’ market. It was stressful, especially since we purchased our new (current) home before we’d sold the old one. But in the end we persevered, chalking up another adventure on the Watson Family history. (An adventure that yielded a three-car garage and the chance to hang hockey equipment up without carting it all to the basement after every practice or game.)

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Basically from this…

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…to this.

BUT YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!

 

Actually, that’s not accurate. The “next” part. That’s not how this timeline played out. Sorry. I strive for realism, and that’s…that’s misleading. Clickbait nonsense. No, this is actually something that’s been simmering along for a while now, but in addition to my role(s) at a couple of different ad agencies this year, I had the opportunity to write for a fun, exciting new enterprise. The minds at Bound Publishing have come up with a mobile-specific reader, and are releasing serialized stories on it. One of the cool features of the Bound app (learn more here or find them in the iTunes store) is the ability to expand on the story via sourcebook entries, diary passages, bits of propaganda, etc. from the story universe. If you’ve ever seen the Star Wars sourcebook or any of the supplemental Lord of the Rings or Song of Ice and Fire materials, imagine being able to have those open to cross-reference whilst reading the novels or watching the movies. “Oh! The model that Luke is playing with is an actual Incom T-16…and later, during the Death Star briefing, he talks about bulls-eyeing womp rats in it! I always wondered what the T-16 looked like!” Well, the Bound platform is like that, with all sorts of artwork and specific expanded entries, and I was asked to write the sourcebook materials for a science fiction space epic called Purgatorio. Go get the app and download it and let me know what you think. It’s been a great experience, and the Bound guys have given me all sorts of latitude. It’s been pleasant and rewarding, in a very different way than the advertising life.

http://www.getbound.io

A mobile-based work of expanded fiction, based on a mobile-based FPS game. Welcome to the future, kids.

So a very full summer now gives way to a hectic fall, because, as many of you know, we’re at the cusp of hockey season. And I live with a hockey family. Both kids play, Heidi is a team manager for one kid’s team, treasurer for the other, and I coach the boys and play in my own ASHL beer league every Sunday. From now until April. And it’s awesome. And we wouldn’t change this life for anything. Which leads me to my other big news…

 

WHICH WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL NEXT TIME!!

 

Seriously, I can’t talk about it, but it’s pretty rad. Talk to you later.

Ad astra

Oh, yeah, and with everything else going on in my life…I’m starting a new job. I haven’t been talking too loudly about it, because since I am still at Asher Agency for a few more days. It seemed unprofessional to go crowing about my sweet new gig when I was still working as hard as I could to serve current clients. But enough people have asked me about it, I figured, well…time to crow about my sweet new gig.

 

As of June 21st I will be assuming the role of Creative Director at AdLab Advertising, filling the stanky, musty, fungus-ridden shoes of Shane Albahrani (his feet, dude…) as he transitions into the role he was born to play, the full-time radio voice of your Ft. Wayne Komets. He’s been running the show at AdLab for years. Now he tosses the torch to my hands, to hold high. (Habs fans will recognize the paraphrasing there.)

 

And while this new gig will be really, really sweet (a corner office! FOR ME!!) it will be very different, as the client list for AdLab is a bit more personal, local, downright homey, compared to some of the larger clients I’ve handled for the past three years. Not that Asher doesn’t have some of those types of clients: 3RRC, Turnstone, FWCS…there are tons of campaigns I have been so very proud to work on for those clients, and others. But with the enormity of Subway and some of Asher’s higher education clients always looming, it will be quite a change to do something different. I’ll be trying my best to help AdLab grow, to elevate our profile, to expand our scope and capabilities. It’s exciting. It’s challenging. And as a competitor, I love it. I can’t wait to roll my sleeves up and get to work.

 

As for my time at Asher, I can’t say enough good things. Dan Schroeter and Kelly Gayer took in a completely inexperienced copywriter and gave him a shot. Tom Borne said “Okay, sounds good.” Into the frying pan I went, concepting, writing, casting, directing, and producing all manner of print, TV, and radio spots. Over the last year and a half, I’ve added digital video and content creation, working alongside talented individuals like Morgan McIntire and Sean O’Leary and crafted digital and social media campaigns with Anthony Juliano, Brandon Peat, Brandon Wolf, Anthony Boyer, and Caity Rose. (In fact, if you see a video for FWA, Indiana Tech, or FWCS pop up on your timeline, there’s a good chance I did it, and those folks all added their parts to the process to make it work.) It’s crazy to sit back and think about how many wonderful people I got to know and love within the walls of that building on Wayne and Fulton. My work wife Jenna, my loveable uncle Larry…hell, I could go on and on and not mention everyone who has made my time there so enjoyable. So I won’t even try.

 

And of course, there’s Motia. Her alter ego has appeared in many of my science-fantasy short stories here in this blog from time to time, but the real AJ Motia is a hundred times as powerful, brave, smart, and kind. It was she who initially told me “I don’t know if you’d be interested in the Asher copywriting gig. It’s sort of entry-level.” But she also knew what I wanted to do, and she has been my champion every step of the way.

 

Finally, there’s my Sweet Baby. She and I are sat here on a Saturday, discussing life and how wonderful things are and what a strange, often trying trip it’s been for the last 13 years or so in Ft. Wayne. And how it really does feel like home, and we never want to leave. And how we can do whatever we want. And we will. And we love you guys. Thanks.

 

Excelsior!

Funball Sportacular!

It’s one of the most magical times of the year for sports fans. The NCAA Basketball Tournament looms, the NHL and NBA Playoffs are on the horizon, pitchers and catchers are reporting, the Barclays Premier League has entered the final stretch…our collective athletic cups runneth over. (That’s an unsavory image.)

So what better time for me to dazzle and amaze you with some incredible sports facts? None! None, I say!

(DISCLAIMER: for some reason, I have been unable to confirm the accuracy of all of these facts, but, you know…it’s the internet. They gotta be true.)

DID YOU KNOW…

Soccer players run, on average, seven miles a game. This is largely because A) they are lost or B) they really need to use the bathroom but can’t find one.

 

Craig MacTavish was the last NHL player to skate without a helmet. The last player to skate without a protective cup was Andre “No-Balls” Parenteau.

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“Perhaps my flowing locks will distract everyone from these brutal uniforms…”

Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. played 2,632 consecutive games from April 30, 1982 to September 19, 1998. There is a fair deal of controversy surrounding this record, however, as for at least fourteen of these games, Ripken was supported “Weekend at Bernie’s” style between two other players who helped him “catch” and “run” whilst Ripken was semi-conscious.

 

85% of middle-school children will chuckle to themselves when the coach asks them to “Hand over the balls.”

 

Nowhere in the International Olympic Committee Guidelines does it mention anything about including bowling balls as props in Synchronized Swimming.

 

The first “hoops” in basketball were actually just peach baskets. The first “players” in basketball were pimply-faced white motherfuckers.

 

At 200 mph, NASCAR drivers in one second travel 293 feet, almost the length of a football field. (In other words, about half as fast as Barry Sanders.)

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Barry Sanders deserves so much better than a ’99 Mustang.

Gatorade is actually less than .5% alligator.

 

Contrary to popular belief, at no point in history is it recorded that regulation NFL footballs have been made of frozen rhinoceros turds.

 

Horse racing enthusiasts are often said to be “playing the ponies.” This is actually a common misnomer, the result of a misspelling. The original phrase was “paying with peonies” and dates back to the days of the Great Depression, when unpaid gambling debts resulted in a funeral for the bettor, complete with a wreath of flowers.

 

Rugby balls were originally made of pigs’ bladders, and had to be inflated by human breath, which led to…Jesus, never mind. I can’t, because this is actully 100% true, and you can Google the rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Radio.

What the hell, radio? Why do you keep trying to destroy yourself?

 

Let me back up.

Some friends on Facebook recently got into it over why, philosophically and morally, one shouldn’t listen to Pandora (I’m throwing Spotify into this conversation, along with all the ‘radio’ style online streaming playlist generators available everywhere now) and further, why one should embrace the good ol’ fashioned LOCAL RADIO.

Except that there’s no such thing anymore. Not really.

And I’m not just implying that all the little mom and pop radio stations have gone away, because as you surely know by now, they mostly have. The ones that cling tenaciously to life in this day and age do so with automated satellite programming in every daypart outside of maybe morning drive, which begs the question “how are you considered a local radio station if you don’t have local jocks or local news or sports or weather after ten AM?” It’s like a local businessman owning an Applebee’s. It’s in your town, but it sure ain’t a “local” joint.

Ah, good point, Turner!

Thanks. But let me finish.

Local radio. Okay. I’ve got a plan to fix local radio, to save it, to grow it back into the behemoth it once was. The great thing about it is that my plan provides for those radio operations owned by great big monster corporations, too. Sorry, whiney buy-local types, but at this point there’s no distinction. Radio, to survive must embrace what it has become, which is a business, a factory, a product. And like it or not, those megalithic companies like iHeartMedia? Despite laying off or firing thousands over the past decade, that company in particular still accounts for over 20,000 employees. Those are real, live humans with mouths to feed and mortgages.

So, what’s my plan?

 

Be. Local.

 

It’s so simple. So brilliant. And it’s not an original thought; consultants have been screaming this at air talent for decades.

 

Be. Local.

 

How in Christ’s name are you going to claim to be a “Live and local” radio station if the only topics of conversation are Metallica and Donald Trump? Or Taylor Swift and the next Avengers movie? Or whether Big Bang Theory got renewed? Or Connor McDavid retaking the NHL scoring lead? Because here’s the tough medicine, kids: if I want to hear about those topics, I’ll go to a national news or entertainment outlet. I’ll do this because I know those outlets have you totally outgunned. They have reporters on-site, backstage access, the agent’s phone number, etc. They’ll do a much better job of covering the big stuff than you ever will. It’s not your fault. It’s just the way it is.

That’s one reason why I have NEVER been able to listen to local home-grown sports shows in markets outside of the top fifty or so. Because once your local AA baseball team news has been covered in three minutes or so (“Looks like Jennings is getting called up to the AAA team! Okay, on the MLB scores…”) you literally have nothing else to talk about but the big leagues. And brother, if you think I give two shits what the guy in Champaign, Illinois thinks about this year’s Masters, then you, my friend, are sorely mistaken. Leave that stuff to ESPN. They know what they’re doing.

Can a local radio show talk about the big events, the hot new movie or mobile device or TV program? Absolutely. Can they express disbelief at our moronic President and encourage discussion? Certainly! Hell, I’d say you’d be falling behind if you didn’t touch on those things. But you have to make them local. BE. LOCAL. There’s talk of Trump being impeached or quitting. If you’re a radio show in Indiana, you must absolutely discuss how your former governor might soon be president. What does that mean for the state? After Pence’s record of gutting education in his home state, how does the DeVos appointment help or hurt? Did a listener used to work for Pence? Are there local teachers that have horror stories? Or a business that maybe was saved by Pence’s tax credits or some shit? These are discussions that the guys in Washington D.C. will never tell as well as you can. James Hetfield had a mic malfunction at the Grammys. What happened the last time Metallica played your town? Good? Bad? Who was there? Are they coming back any time soon? DO YOU HAVE TICKETS?!? BE LOCAL.

Anyway. Maybe radio doesn’t stand a chance. Maybe people enjoy satellite radio because it’s safe and uniform and they can travel the world and hear the exact same thing no matter where they go. That seems impossible to me, though; but then again, the average Sirius XM listener has like 140 channels and only listens to about six of those (seriously, everyone really likes Lithium and like one 80’s station and some sports feeds until they go on spring break and check out the reggae channel only to discover that it isn’t 100% Bob Marley all the time.) Safety in boringness. Vanilla remains the top-selling flavor of ice cream. Big Bang Theory is “America’s #1 Comedy!” Fucking puke.

 So, radio friends…fight the fight. Dare to improve. Stop getting your entire show from show prep services and Reddit. Tell the story about that weird guy who always hangs out on the corner of Fairfield and Washington. Even better, get that guy on the air. Bring him into the studio. New donut shop in town? Buy a dozen and bring them in, eat em on the air. Had an unusually mild winter (or even better, an unusually bitter one?) Host a beach party. Fake tan contests. Give away a trip to the Bahamas. WHATEVER. Do your own thing. Relate. Be local.

Save radio. I’m counting on you. I believe in you.

Peace.

TW

Symbols

I’m troubled by something. 2016 has been mighty troubling to a lot of people, to be sure, for a lot of different reasons. And yes,it’s easy to just slap the name “TRUMP” on a blog post or article and get the same standard outrage from the Left and hoots and cheers from the Right. Yeah, yeah, he won. Fair and square. And there have certainly been a number of well-publicized hate crimes and what seems to be an increase in racist and misogynistic rhetoric; however, it’s really hard to get a true, accurate read on those numbers because, as we learned all too well this election cycle, the internet is full of shit and people only hear what they want to hear.

No, it’s not really a Trump issue, not really, that has me feeling tight in the chest and anxious. I feel like he’s sort of the symptom rather than the cause, the bellwether of a growing problem, an infection of sorts. The infection of jingoism and Nationalism that seems to have taken root in our beloved United States.

“Wait, what’s wrong with being Nationalistic? Ain’t nothing wrong with being proud of your country!” I can hear it already. Okay, look. I’m one of those people who get labelled “smart-ass” and “elitist” because of this argument, and I’m fine with it, because look: I don’t think it’s correct for most of us to say that we are proud to be Americans. And it’s not for the reasons you may think. It’s just semantics. See, I feel that if you’re proud of something, then it should be something you had a hand in earning. Be proud of earning your Masters. Proud of the bookshelf you built with your bare hands and a miter box. Proud of the way your kids turned out. But here’s the thing: most of us in this country were born here. We didn’t earn that. We just got lucky.

Am I delighted to live here? Oh, you bet yer sweet ass I am. For the past 46 years of my life, I’ve been able to say what I want, eat what I want, work where I want, worship (or NOT worship) how I want. I’ve had a say in who runs my community, my state, my country, even which laws are to be enforced. There’s so much about this country to love, but I have to acknowledge that I could very easily have been born in Sri Lanka or Hungary or Lithuania, and while I’m sure those are all wonderful places, they just don’t have the quality television programming, fast food, and rock music that I’ve been spoiled with my entire life. Now, someone who emigrates from any foreign country to the U.S.? Who toils to earn the money for the trip here? Who brings his or her family and studies hard and gets a visa and takes the test and thus joins the great community of these United States of America? THAT person has every right to be “Proud to be an American.” Because they will have earned that shit.

I simply inherited it.

Anyway, with that perspective firmly in mind, I get a bit nervous when I hear and see things like the huge outpouring of support for our President-Elect when he says “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” (Twitter, November 29, 2016)

Okay that shit’s alarming to me. Not that Trump said it…he’s made so many insane declarations that it’s hard to keep track, and if I got stressed out every single time he opened his mouth or his Twitter, I’d never sleep. And hey, the 1st Amendment protects his right to say it, even if some of his statements are offensive to me. I don’t have to like what he says. But I have to let him say it. That’s free speech, baby.

What concerns me is the way my social media feeds have been filled with ignorant shouts of “HELL YEAH! THROW THEIR ASSES IN JAIL!” And even more alarming is the number of folks who have no idea that not only is burning the American Flag as a form of protest completely legal, but it’s been upheld twice by the Supreme Court of the United States of America. And for good reason.

Consider the order in which our Bill of Rights fall in our Constitution. I mean, there’s some good stuff in there, stuff we often take for granted. The right to a speedy trial by a jury of our peers. That is huge. (Ask anyone in Saudi Arabia who’s committed a petty theft.) How about being protected from unlawful search and seizure? Yeah. The cops can’t just barge into your house when you’re at work in an attempt to find something incriminating. Oh, and that big one, the right to keep and bear arms. So very important. And yet, in front of ALL of these is the right of the people (or the individual) to say what they want, worship how they want, assemble how and where they want, and to publish or otherwise disseminate their thoughts to whomever will listen, watch, or read them. These rights were so important that the framers of our governmental framework said “OH, SHIT, GUYS? KNOW WHAT WE FORGOT?! FREE FUCKIN’ SPEECH! FUCK! PUT THAT SHIT IN WRITING AND GET IT IN THE CONSTITUTION POST-HASTE!”

Now, I get it. I do. This country love us some symbols, don’t we? The Stars and Stripes. The Bald Eagle. George Washington, minutemen, the flag raising over Iwo Jima. Powerful symbols that carry a lot of weight. I believe that our national obsession over such icons is due to our very brief history (we’ve only been here for 240 years, compared to, you know…the thousands of years our European and Asian friends can claim) and our mixed-breed pedigree (British, Germans, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italians, followed eventually by all manner of Asians and blacks, which is a whole ‘nother discussion, but anyway). We didn’t have a history. We didn’t have a shared national identity. So we made one. We adopted certain symbols and sigils and combined them into our own iconography. And then, slowly, things started popping up on their own. The Liberty Bell. The blues and rock & roll. Cowboys. Hot rods. Hell, I’d argue that blue jeans are more of a holy symbol of America than the bald eagle. Because we made them. We invented something timeless and enduring. Bald eagles were simply here. And like the native human population, we pushed them to the brink of extinction before realizing “holy crap, we’d better slow down! Let’s hunt some buffalo and wolves instead!” But as bad-ass as the American Bald Eagle looks, and as wonderful a national bird as it is (WHY THE HELL DO WE EVEN NEED A NATIONAL BIRD?!) landing on the Moon is much more representative of the USA. And yet, there are complete idiots that would choose to believe that it never happened, because…reasons? I’ve never understood that particular conspiracy theory, by the way, and wish I could haul off and Buzz Aldrin some bitches when they propagate that sort of foolishness.

But hey, you know what? I don’t punch them. Because they have a right to say whatever pea-brained derptastic feces that falls from their tiny little cerebrums and out through their putrid mouth-holes. So I sigh and shake my head and leave them to it.

In closing, I suppose the person I’d really love to ask about all this is my late Grandfather Watson. He won two Bronze Stars in Europe fighting the Nazis, and I think he’d be alarmed that a lot of the same rhetoric that was being spouted as Hitler rose to power is echoing here in the U.S. “OUR COUNTRY FIRST! NO FOREIGNERS! TO DISRESPECT A NATIONAL SYMBOL IS TREASON!” On the subject of flag burning, I’d imagine he’d say something to the effect of “Well, that’s their God-given right…but I’d recommend they don’t pull a stunt like that in front of the VFW. Like to get their asses handed to them.”

Grandpas always have the best advice.