Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sudden Movements

I believe the leading cause of holiday stress has nothing to do with how you actually feel about your family. You can take all the pop psychology theories that Oprah & Dr. Phil spew and throw them right out the window. The true underlying cause of stress, frustration and all the crap that happens when families get together is, well, literally crap. More specifically, where we crap.

The one thing I miss most when I travel is my own bathroom. It's like my own little Fortress of Solitude. I know where the extra toilet paper is if the roll is empty. I know that when I'm in there, no one's gonna bother me. I know that with the fan going whatever is happening can't be heard by anyone else. I'm safe, secure and relaxed. And, as we all know, relaxation is very important when taking care of business.

But when we travel, everything that was certain becomes an X-factor: Where's the backup TP? No fan...can anyone hear me & how much Glade do I use? Why are people standing outside the door, yelling up the hall about where we're going to dinner? Do they not know what's going on in here? Let's not forget the horror of discovering that maybe your family only uses Ply when you're used to, at the bare minimum, 2 Ply or quilted. That throws off your sense of proportion and can lead to the 5 words you never want to say to your host, "Do you have a plunger?"

All of this uncertainty leads to tension, which of course causes people to get off schedule. Being off schedule for a day is no big deal. But if your visit lasts, say a week to ten days and add in multiple locations, a wide variety of food choices and having to wait on other people to finish their business before you can start yours and folks are going to start getting a little cranky.

This conundrum works both ways. It's not just when you go visit relatives. It happens to them when they come to visit you. If Dad or Cousin Bo seem a little edgy by the end of the weekend, it's not because they don't enjoy your company...it's because they're backed up.

Also, if you're having guests, please make sure everything works and all needed materials can be easily found. Don't hide the spare rolls in cute, discreet boxes or cozies. Your guests need visual confirmation in an emergency that everything they need will be literally at arms length. Having to yell plaintively "Need a little help" is a humiliation that should be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. Unless you want to run to the nearest convenience store when nature calls (and public restrooms are potential minefield in their own right), you're just going to have to deal with it. So, I encourage patience and consideration when you've got to be away from your own facilities. Remember, we're all in this together (though not literally, because that would be gross.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Odd Occurence

A couple of days after Christmas, I had a rather odd thing happen & I wanted to share it with all of you.

Seeking respite from family time, I snuck off to a local bar. The place was pretty deserted. In fact, except for a couple of people at tables there was no one anywhere near me except the bartender & he was talking to the waitress at the other end of the bar.

So you could imagine my surprise when I heard someone say to me as plain as day "Nice shirt.". I looked around, a bit confused, but didn't see anyone. A few minutes later I heard someone say "Nice haircut.". I looked around again...nobody was there. A minute or so later, I hear "Nice shoes."

By this time, I'm confused & a little annoyed. I call the bartender over & tell him what I've heard.

He tells me "Those are the peanuts. They're complimentary."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Christmas Specials

Every year beginning right after Thanksgiving, I start watching the various Christmas specials & episodes that I have accumulated on DVD. I never get all of the ones I want to see watched, but I give it the old college try.

As the season winds down, I thought I'd share my Christmas season playlist. In no particular order, here's what made me Holly & Jolly this year:

It's A Wonderful Life

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

The Dick Van Dyke Show: "The Alan Brady Show Presents"...Rob, Laura & the cast celebrate Christmas at the Alan Brady Show

The West Wing: "In Excelsis Deo"...Toby honors a homeless vet, President Bartlet goes Christmas shopping & Mrs. Landingham misses her boys

Saturday Night Live: The Best of Christmas Past...classic sketches from Belushi, Aykroyd & Farley

The Year Without A Santa Claus

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

A Charlie Brown Christmas

So, however you're spending Christmas Eve, from my blog to yours Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sports Night

I know many people who love sports. They enjoy watching highly trained athletes pitting their skills against one another. They love the thrill of competition. They live and die with their favorite teams.

More power to them. I am not one of these people.

"Apathetic" doesn't begin to cover how I feel about sports. I realize as a Southern male that I'm supposed to have some sort of genetic predisposition to athletics, but apparently it skipped me and got passed to my sister instead.

Part of it is due to the fact that I have no depth perception. I can't judge distances until something is literally a foot in front of my face. Since proficiency in most sports require being able to catch and/or throw with some accuracy, I'm spit out of luck there.

The other factor is my inherent laziness. I'm a watcher by nature, not a doer. I can provide smart aleck commentary with the best of them...just don't ask me to participate in what I'm mocking.

In addition, I figured out early on that one person/team/animal or car would an could run faster/jump higher or score more points than another person/team/animal or car. The law of averages demands it...otherwise all sports would wind up like a typical pee wee soccer match and no one wants that.

Over the years, I've learned to fake an interest in sports to avoid being rude. I know enough rudimentary information to appear interested when someone corners me about the BCS, NHL or March Madness, but as I get older it's getting harder & harder to pull off.

I love movies & TV shows about sports. I think because the time commitment is much shorter and I pretty much know who's going to win right from the start.

So sports fans, please enjoy your pastime to your heart's content. I'll just be over here napping.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Careful What You Wish For...12 Days Edition

Because I was bored the other day, I did some math while listening to "The 12 Days of Christmas."

There were 23 birds given during the aforementioned 12 days. Think about that for a second...23 birds. Even by Victorian standards, that's a lot of poultry. I imagine that the lady's "True Love", being a typically clueless gift giving dude thought to himself "She really seemed to like that partridge in a pear tree. That means she likes birds. I'm gonna get her more birds."

After the 4th day, the lady was hinting strongly that if she got any more birds, she would deck him instead of the halls, so he ditched the 5 Chickens Clucking and resorted to jewelry...always a safe fallback gift. Unfortunately, he'd already bought the 7 swans a swimming and the 6 geese a laying and lost the receipts...which is why his beloved got 5 rings instead of one K-Mart chain purchased right before closing.

You have to be really careful when even casually mentioning things you like around gift giving times. I'm reminded of the time I made an offhand remark to Sainted Wife's grandmother that I liked Red Hots. What I meant was that once every 10 years or so, I might eat half a box of Red Hots, remember why I stopped eating them in third grade and throw the rest away.

What she took from the conversation was that Red Hots were my absolute favorite thing in the whole wide world. Which explains why I received a four-foot plastic candy cane full of Red Hots the following Christmas. In retrospect, I wish I had told her I liked 5 dollar bills.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Annual Review

In a little over a week, Christmas will be here. Time for eating & partying with friends and family. Also time for your annual performance review.

What's that...Christmas is a performance review? You bet it is. When you're unwrapping those gifts under the tree, what you receive is a comment on what kind of person you've been since last Christmas. Here's a handy chart to help you see where you stand:

Congratulations...your performance has been mostly excellent this year. No major screw ups, no indiscretions that wound up on You Tube...you even remembered your mother's birthday. Look to receive most of what you've been hinting at since your birthday.

Oooh...looks like there's room for improvement here. You were pretty decent, but perhaps you made an ill timed comment about how your wife/girlfriend's mother is annoying or forgot to lower the seat once too often. Things like that will cost you that "Dark Knight" DVD you wanted and get you a nice pair of slacks. Better be more detail oriented in 2009.

Danger Will Robinson, Danger! Looks like someone was a big jerk this year. Made a lot of major mistakes...commenting on weight gain, forgetting birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine's Day, maybe even voting Republican. These were costly, costly errors that need to be corrected immediately. You're looking not only at slacks, but socks and underwear as well. You're flying very close to the Danger Zone, Maverick and Goose has already bailed out.

President Bush had a better year than you. Expect to find self help books, weight loss drinks, shirts that your Dad would wear and personal grooming products under the tree. If you've really screwed the pooch, you're gonna get something plaid or even worse....some sort of food item. Food as a gift basically says "Basic nourishment is all you deserve. I'm willing to keep you alive & that's about it."

With only 10 days left until Christmas, you might want to put in some overtime if you think there's a jug of windshield wiper fluid or fruitcake in your future. Be good for goodness sake!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Shoe Fits

A few thoughts about RLT's 25th anniversary production of "Cinderella"...but first, a couple of confessions:

1) Though I've lived in Raleigh for 6 years, I have never been to one of its long-running Christmas productions. No particular reason...just haven't.

2) Between the weather, work, traffic & spilling tea on the first French fries I'd had in a long time, I wasn't in the best frame of mind when I took my seat. If I hadn't promised a dear friend I'd go, I probably wouldn't have braved the monsoon. But I'm glad I did. By the time the cast took their final bows, I was feeling holly and jolly.

"Cinderella" is a great way to spend a December night at the theater. It has great songs, big laughs, bad jokes, a talented cast having what looks like the time of their lives and true love. What more could you want?

Since I am in no way, shape or form the actual target audience for the show, I'm not going to quibble over the script or other traditional review fodder. I will be more than happy to praise the cast.

Every one of them gave fun & lively performances. I didn't have a program, so I can't give them the full credit they deserve...but Cinderella's step-family all but steal the show right out from under our heroine. What scenes they don't walk away with are pilfered by the Fairy Godmother and her assistants Snow & Flake.

The kids in the audience had a ball & so did the grownups. Make time to see "Cinderella." You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Circular Logic

I find myself with nothing particularly interesting to write about at the moment...so I write a blog about having nothing to write about.

There's nothing out of the ordinary going on...so I Twitter about how there's nothing out of the ordinary going on.

I don't have any remarkable insights...so I update my Facebook status to tell people that I don't have any remarkable insights.

There's nothing I want to watch on TV...so I spend an extra half-hour flipping channels to make sure there's nothing I want to watch on TV.

Radio stations either play new music that sucks or old music that I've heard so many times that I think it sucks even if I once thought it was cool...so I scan the dial and complain about the new music that sucks or the old music that sucks because I've heard it so many times.

I have nothing to write about...so I write a blog about how I have nothing to write about because there's nothing out of the ordinary going on, I don't have any remarkable insights, there's nothing to watch on TV and music either sucks because it's new or because it's old and I've heard it so many times that I think it sucks.

And just like that...we're done.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Rage is all the rage these days. Everyone's ticked off about something: the economy, elections, traffic...you name it, somebody's p.o.ed about it.

But there's a special type of anger that has gone widely unnoticed but attention must be paid.

I speak of (insert dramatic musical sting) Geek Rage.

No group of people can get their Underoos in a twist faster than geeks. There are literally thousands of topics that can send them off into spasms of anger and frustration. For example:

*Star Trek vs Star Wars
*Marvel vs DC
*PC vs Mac
*Superman vs Batman
*Harry Potter vs Lord of The Rings
*Any filmed adaptation of a beloved childhood cartoon/comic book/tv show

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a proud card-carrying geek myself (I know you're shocked) and participated in many discussions/arguments that are so geeky they make me want to give myself a wedgie. But until the worldwide Interweb gave geeks a voice, I never knew what real, hardcore Geek Rage looked or sounded like.

It's not pretty...but it is funny. Don't believe me? Go to aintitcoolnews.com and read the talkback section on pretty much any topic. Responses start out with reasonable differences of opinion and quickly degenerate into profanity, name calling and character assassination of the highest order. And this is typically about movies that haven't even been shot yet.

It's ridiculously easy to set geeks off...in fact, I bet I can do it right now. Ready...here we go:

I haven't seen "Twilight" and don't plan too because I'm not a 15-year old, too much mascara wearing, Hot Topic shopping Anne Rice reading girl.

Too easy? All right, let's try another one:

The shows we loved growing up? Mostly crap. Especially the cartoons. "GI Joe"...crap. "Transformers"...crap. "He-Man"...crap with a sword. "Thundercats"...a clumpy litter box full of crap. Poorly animated, lowest common denominator, toy commercial crap.

I bet some of you are really ticked off right now. Congratulations...you're a geek. Welcome to my world.