Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Change A Letter, Ruin A...

Twitter is great for a lot of things. Silly things. In terms of actual news, while it hits the mark on quantity, the quality is often lacking. Unless Bono really does have Ebola. In that case, I take back everything. There was a hashtag making the rounds a couple of weeks ago that cracked the hell out of me: #Changealetterruinatvshow. Well, let me tell you, I rocked at that. My personal favorites: America’s Toe Model, The Love Goat, and The Biggest Loner. All, as you can see, appropriately ruined. I’ve now applied that concept to movies. Here goes:

Kids of the Spider Woman – Hundreds, to be exact

Apocalypse, Wow! – A hilarious romp through the jungles of Vietnam

2 Angry Men – Specifically Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show

The Humper Games – Dogs getting distracted at an obstacle course

The Love Ranger – Johnny Depp, being weird as usual

Kind Kong – The nicest ape in town

Snakes on a Plant – Okay, they’re just worms

Steal Magnolias – Thieves with a flair for what makes a home beautiful take over a small southern town

Sawing Private Ryan – Magic tricks gone awry

Desperately Seeking Sudan – Madonna knows it’s in Africa, but where?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Sucrets – He has a sore throat

The Lizard of Oz – Run!!!!!

It’s a Wonderful Lime – See just how versatile this often unheralded citrus fruit is

Norma Rat – The chilling tale of exactly what happens when rodents organize

The Lord of the Rinds – A gamer sits in his parent’s basement, eating pork snacks

Flee Willy – The Orca’s on the loose!

Hannah and Her Misters – She’s a bit of a whore

Bag – Tom Hanks plays a grocery store bagger. Just because.

Bard On A Wire – Shakespeare uses a telephone!

Saturday: Light Fever – A suspenseful tale about the Ebola incubation period

A Few Gold Men – A behind-the-scenes look at the Oscars race for best picture

Citizen Kale – A man, obsessed with leafy greens

96 Candles – Sam’s parents forgot her 96th birthday

A Fee, Good Men – The life and times of a polite tollbooth worker

Muriel’s Weeding – An Australian lady gardens

The Silence of the Limbs –A psychopathic murderer holds the cure for restless leg syndrome

The Frying Game – The knives fly on this realistic look at competitive cooking shows

Gone With the Wine – We’ve all been there

(Alternately) Gene With the Wind – When he’ll blow by, nobody knows

Sunday, October 19, 2014

HR Speak

I work in HR.  Human Resources, where we’ve perfected to an absolute art the ability to say things without saying them.  I told a friend the other day that I don’t think I’ve used the work “problem” for years.  We don’t have problems in corporate HR.  We have “opportunities.”  Sound confusing?  Not if you do it for a while.  But, for those who need to know how to speak HR, here’s a translator for you.

You want to say: Wow, your work is terrible.  I think my second-grader could do better work than you.
In HR speak it is: Wow, you are a diamond in the rough!  I’d love to talk with you about process improvements we might be able to enact.

You want to say: What is the problem with coming into work on time?  Do you not own an alarm clock?
In HR speak: Let’s brainstorm some strategies to help you be more effective in getting to work at the traditional time. 

You want to say: The last thing you should be doing is managing other people.  You’re going to scar them for life.
In HR speak: While we need all kinds of leaders here, I wonder if we can think about different ways you could message what you are saying. 

You want to say: You’re a backstabbing son-of-a-bitch.
In HR speak: I always enjoy working with you.  You challenge me to think differently. 

You want to say: You are such a fucking asshole.
In HR speak: Your point of view is so interesting.  Can you tell me more?

You want to say: Why would I do it that way?  That’s so inefficient!
In HR speak: You are brilliant.   But might I offer another way of thinking? 

You want to say: This will never work.
In HR speak: You are brilliant.  I’m interested to see how this will turn out. 

You want to say: How dare you speak to me that way!
In HR speak: Thanks for your feedback!

You want to say: This meeting has been going on for over an hour, and all we are doing is sitting around, pontificating, like our words are really important, and everybody knows WE’RE NOT DOING BRAIN SURGERY HERE so can we pick up the fucking pace?
In HR speak: Great meeting, everyone!

You want to say: You are inept, have always been inept, and will always be inept
In HR speak: Congratulations on the promotion! 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

In Fear of Shark-Jumping

A week or two ago, after I wrote that hilarious blog about what my parenting book would look like, my son said, “I liked it, but that post was just like your one on helicopter parenting.”

“Well, your mother is a whore,” I responded – my typical response when I feel insulted. Because I saw a very clear distinction between those two posts, and I was totally offended that he didn’t get it.

But, God knows, there are only so many storylines before things start getting repetitive, and, including today’s post, this particular blog has had 170. That’s a lot. So I think it’s time to take a break.

I don’t know when I’ll start back up – maybe never, maybe under a different title – but it’s been an experience. I’ve had the chance to catalogue my trip through law school, most of my neuroses, the hilarious hijinks of my mom, dad, and son, turning forty, taking the bar, running a marathon, my love of grammar and books, my frustration with kids these days, and losing my dad.

Thanks for your support! Thanks to all of you who didn’t complain when you saw your name in a post. Thanks for those who managed to look past my liberal use of swear words. Thanks, especially to those who gave me encouragement along the way. Anything can be done once - trying to do it week after week is a little more challenging, so I have deeply appreciated your thumbs-up, shares, comments, and personal encouragement. Now go read a book.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Go Bucks, Part IV

Every year since starting this blog, I’ve done a post about the Buckeyes. To recap: I love my Bucks, I think most Buckeye fans are freaks, I can’t stand when people refer to a team that they are not part of as “we,” and I will NEVER forgive Jim Tressel. Okay, we’re caught up.

Anyway, my dad was the biggest Buckeye fan, despite the fact that he didn’t graduate from Ohio State. He didn’t finish college at all. But he considered his several quarters at TOSU as good enough to form an allegiance, and he was a lifelong Buckeye. This is the first football season that he’s not around to scout the games with me and do a post-game debrief. Well, technically, he’s not around, because he died in January, but I’m still having these weekly conversations with him.

For the next several years, I will still be able to have these conversations with my dad, because we’ve already talked about Braxton Miller, Jordan Hall, both Pittsburgh and Philly Brown, Ryan Shazier, Carlos Hyde, Kenny Guiton, Bradley Roby, and a host of other Buckeye players. In a few years, as new players start to roll onto the team, I won’t have his voice in my head, reminding me of where these kids played high school ball or their stats to date. My dad had an encyclopedic knowledge of the players. Aside from watching soap operas and the stock ticker on CNBC, he obsessively listened to talk radio, especially the call-in shows dedicated to the Buckeyes, and he remembered everything.

On my longest run before I completed a marathon in May – a grueling 20 miler in a biting wind where my friend and running partner, unbeknownst to both of us, had a temperature of 104 degrees – we ran out to the statue of Woody Hayes, gave it a tap, and asked Woody to guide the winds in a friendly way and help us through the rest of our run. (He was supremely unhelpful.) I have run out to that statue more times than I can count, because to me – to a lot of Buckeye fans – it IS where Woody is now. I mean, I know Woody is in heaven, but the spirit of Woody is in that statue. Likewise, I know my dad is in heaven, but his spirit is on the sidelines. Standing next to Woody, yelling for these kids to get up, to play together, to give it their all, in every play.

At my dad’s funeral, my brother told a story about how, when he was a little boy, he watched a Buckeye basketball game with my dad, probably for the Big 10 title. When the Bucks won, my dad grabbed my brother’s hands, and jumped up and down in pure joy, celebrating his Buckeyes’ victory. This year, that’s what I imagine doing with my dad after every Buckeye victory. Jumping up and down with him in joy and love for our Buckeyes. And yeah, there are tears running down my face as I celebrate, but they’re tears borne of so many memories of Saturday game days, Sunday debriefs, and anticipation of autumns and Buckeye football seasons to come.

Carmen Ohio, the most beautiful song in the world to any Buckeye fan, says the joy that lives in the heart of every Buckeye fan can only be stilled by death. I disagree. I know that death didn’t end my father’s love for the Buckeyes. I can feel it in every play, every down, and every toll of the victory bell. And every play, every down, and every toll of the victory bell gives me a chance to be with my father again. And now I understand that being a Buckeye fan isn’t just about these kids, and this team, and Woody, and the scarlet and gray. It’s about the memories that are passed down from generation to generation. Of cheering with family and friends, near and far, present and past, and those who live on in our hearts. Go Bucks.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Feel Free to Put That in Your Tell-All Book

If I wrote a parenting book, it would be called, “If You’re Not Snorting Crack Off of Your Kid’s Toy Box, You’re Probably Fine,” because that’s true. You are DEFINITELY going to fuck your kids up somehow, and you’re PROBABLY not going to fuck them up the way you think you are, so you might as well have a sense of humor about it and just genuinely do the best job you can. In that spirit, here are the chapters of my parenting book:

Chapter One: Go Drink Some Water – Whenever my son had a physical ailment, the first thing I’d say was, “Go drink some water.” As it turns out, water cures about 90% of a child’s problems, including overheating, exhaustion, hunger, headache, itchy skin, leg cramps, boredom, and hypochondria. One thing water doesn’t cure: a broken foot. I learned that the hard way.

Chapter Two: Well, Robbie Is Probably Going to Be A Serial Killer – Your child will insist that Robbie, or whoever his friend is, has the best life, and he has the worst. What your child doesn’t know is that Robbie is probably going to end up in the State Pen when the authorities find body parts under the basement of his house. Or at least that’s what I told my son would happen to his friends who: went to PG-13 movies before age 13, got tattoos, smoked the Mary Jane, skipped school, drove a car without a license, or drank more than one soda a week.

Chapter Three: Talk to Me About How Awesome Robbie’s Parents Are in a Few Years – When your kids further complain about how Robbie-the-future-serial-killer gets to: go to co-ed sleepovers, carry a loaded gun, see Wiz Khalifa, wear a baseball hat with the bill facing sideways, or eat popcorn, despite the fact that he has braces, remember the title of this chapter. Right now, your kid won’t understand that Robbie’s parents start drinking at 3 pm, are constantly cheating on each other, don’t pay their taxes, and are wanted in Texas, but one day he will.

Chapter Four: I’ve Already Passed Tenth Grade – There will come a time when either your child, one of your child’s teachers, or one of your child’s coaches will suggest to you that your child’s life would be easier and better if you would just do his homework for him. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. And I KNOW that many of you have fallen for this, because it is a FACT that a Kindergartener is INCAPABLE of making an exact-to-scale replica of the White House, complete with pocket doors and vintage wallpaper in the Lincoln Bedroom without considerable help from you. Whenever someone suggested that I just do my son’s schoolwork, I would simply reply, “No thanks. I’ve already passed (whatever grade your child is currently in).”

Chapter Five: That’s Fine, As Long As You Understand that It’s a Cult – At some point, your child will want to join some weird, charismatic youth group. He will bring home a brochure that has healthy-looking kids doing wholesome activities, and will boast a membership of hundreds of thousands of kids across the country. In smaller print, it will mention that homosexuals, Muslims, non-believers, preggos, sluts, pinkos and members of Greenpeace are not allowed, nor is dancing, communing with the opposite sex, fingernail polish, makeup, or free thought. Still, your child will want to join, because they have pizza on Wednesday nights, and every other kid in the school has joined. Your response: make your kid watch the original version of Footloose, and let him know that you’re fine with him joining, as long as he understands that it’s a cult, and that he will probably have to get born again several times.

Chapter Six: Welcome Home. Please Let Me Shine this Flashlight In Your Face – As it turns out, underage drinking is totally illegal, and I refused to harbor a criminal. I had absolutely no problem waiting for my kid to get home, making him breathe in my face, and shining a flashlight in his eyes. And I seriously didn’t care that Robbie’s parents let him drink. As we all know, Robbie is going to be a serial killer.

Chapter Seven: Only Idiots Make Deals with Children – Have I mentioned that kids these days are soft? They are, and they think that everything is open to negotiation. I say negotiation is for suckers. Your kids want a collective decision-making process? They should get a lawyer. They want a democracy? They should write their own damn constitution. My house was a dictatorship, I was the dictator, and that’s the way it was. When you live in a world where people blow up buildings, swindle people out of their savings, train dogs to fight each other to death, and let other people go hungry, a dictatorship is a pretty safe place to be.

Chapter Eight: Feel Free to Put That in Your Tell-All Book – Inevitably, you will have to make decisions that are unpopular with your kids. Even wildly unpopular. I know plenty of parents who can’t take the heat, and cave under their child’s disappointment. I never had any such qualms. I would just cheerfully suggest to my son that any unfair, stupid, mean decision I made would eventually earn him big bucks when he wrote his tell-all book about his miserable childhood. “I’m not being mean, I’m investing in your future book profits,” I would add, a big smile on my face. “You can thank me later.”


Saturday, September 21, 2013

All Players United

On Saturday, a handful of football players from Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Northwestern wore the letters “APU” on their wrist tape. APU stands for “All Players United,” and is a protest of the NCAA’s treatment of players on issues ranging from concussions to compensation.

Now, to begin, I don’t know about Georgia (I could find out, but Wikipedia is tired right now), but I know for a fact that Georgia Tech and Northwestern are fine, fine schools. These are not dumb kids who don’t know what they’re doing. Furthermore, a quick glance on ESPN.com (it’s not as tired as Wikipedia) tells me that this effort was coordinated and carefully orchestrated by the NCPA – the National College Players Association – to bring light to the dirty practices of the NCAA in regard to college athletes.

The NCPA is an advocacy group supported by the US Steelworker’s union, which, for some reason, some people hate on principle. Because they have been brainwashed by Rush Limbaugh. Sane people, however, understand that unions are simply a way for many people to be able to speak in one voice. They are not a tool of the liberal left wing, or an effort to make us all socialists. In fact, unions are the reason why you’re not living in a tenement with black lung, eating hot dogs made out of cats. So unwrinkle your underpants about unions.

Anyway, as you probably already know, the NCAA runs a billion dollar slave ring, where college athletes sign over all of their rights for the length of their college athletic career, while the NCAA has complete control over their image, likeness, and well-being. In exchange, these athletes are given scholarships, which may be great, but, if I went to my job, and at the end of two weeks, my employer said, “I am going to give myself a paycheck, and I will give you a scholarship,” I would think that was pretty jacked up. People act like being part of a NCAA Division I school only involves three hours on Saturdays from August to January, when in reality, it is a full-time job, with considerable risks and an uncertain future. I took a few classes with football players (Troy Smith was in one! When he walked into class after winning the Heisman, we all clapped!) and those kids had to do the same class work as me. The difference was, I got a paycheck for my full-time job, nobody was allowed to sell my face for money without my permission, and if I got a concussion, I could go to a real hospital, instead of having someone holding up two fingers in front of my face, slapping my ass, and telling me to get back in there.

The NCAA also has the power to impose – or not impose – sanctions on players and teams that bear no rational connection to the act committed. For example, football players from Ohio State who sold their own belongings, specifically memorabilia from games in which they themselves had participated in and incurred substantial risk to their health and future, were suspended from play, and the entire program lost scholarships, vacated wins, and forfeited participation in postseason play for a year. Johnny Manziel, notable douchebag and a real firecracker, was penalized for a half a game for (possibly) selling HIS OWN signature. Not drugs, not porn, not NCAA-owned equipment. His own signature. Members of the Penn State football team were hugely punished for an act committed by someone who was no longer a member of the football staff. This is like YOU being punished for something the manager of McDonalds did last week, because you worked there five years ago. No rational connection.

Wearing APU on their gear is an act of incredible guts by these current football players. These kids depend on their college football careers to get them to the next level. They depend on their scholarships to get them through college. For them to stand up to the NCAA is akin to you putting a sheet in your window that says “FUCK YOU, ELECTRIC COMPANY,” when the actual electric company guys have climbed the actual pole that connects your actual electricity to your actual house, and hold whether or not you can use your hair straightener in the palm of their hands. And then smiling at them and flipping them the bird.

Make no mistake about it, it is a huge risk. Remember Curt Flood? He was one of the first baseball players to fight for free agency in baseball, and he is widely credited for giving baseball players the ability to control their own destiny. But he was a casualty of the business – although baseball changed as a result of what Flood did, he lost his fight, and played only a handful of games after taking his fight to the Supreme Court. He was a great, great player, and lost his career to fight the good fight.

So here’s to the men who are continuing the fight: David Andrews, Jeremiah Attaochu, Chris Burnette, Kain Colter, Synjyn Days, Kenarious Gates, Kolton Houston, Vad Lee, John Theus, Justin Thomas, Anthony Williams, and likely countless others who were not captured by the TV cameras. You represent the famous Gandhi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Whether this is successful or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that you stood up to The Man, and fought for your own humanity. Good for you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Trip to the Liquor Store

Here is a secret, shameful fact. Despite all of my bluster, I am not a big drinker. Now, immediately I have to qualify that by saying that law school increased my alcohol consumption exponentially. But to me, getting rowdy is having two glasses of wine, and probably not finishing the second one. I’m a lightweight, I’m pretty sensitive to alcohol physically, and I do not like being drunk. I know too many secrets to want to get my tongue unloosened.

So, it should come as no surprise to you that the liquor store was especially challenging for me.

I’ve been in the liquor store two times before – once to buy my dad some Beefeater or Johnny Walker Black or something else for Christmas or a birthday or something, and then once when I was picking up some Crown for a friend. Both of those times I had cash, I had a job to do, and I got in and out without looking around.

This time was a little different. I was going on a business trip, but instead of flying commercial like a regular asshole, I got to fly on the company jet like a PRINCESS! Here’s how the company jet makes you feel like a princess: the minute you walk in the hanger, the pilot greets you and takes your bag, saying, “Please don’t worry your pretty little head off. We’ll keep your things safe and sound for you.” Then, once your whole party is there, you just GO! You don’t have to follow boarding protocol or anything those sad bastards in the terminal have to follow. There are warm blankies, reclining leather chairs, all the Pringles and candy and healthful snacks you could want, and a real bathroom, like real people use. As long as the seatbelt sign is off, you can do whatever you want: trained animal shows, competitive Twister, sword swallowing – the sky’s the limit.

Here’s the problem though: no wet bar. At least not one that I saw. Normally when I fly, immediately after passing through security, I take myself to the nearest barstool and order a double vodka – to quell my horrible fear of flying. In a private jet, there IS no convenient bar, so I was forced to make my own damn cocktail, hence the trip to the liquor store.

Right after work, I drove to my trusty CVS to purchase some grapefruit juice. I like grapefruit juice - it’s tart enough that it feels like just a little bit of a punishment for pounding the booze. But a good punishment. From there, it was off to the liquor store, a mean-looking building with steel bars criss-crossing its windows despite the fact that it’s in, arguably, the safest part of town. I’m just saying that I don’t think Arlington moms are thinking of breaching the fortress if they find it closed. But, you never know. Arlington does have a lot of women who look and act drunk all the time. Like that Donatos lady. She totally looks like she might kick in the window of a closed liquor store.

In any event, that wasn’t a concern here, because the store sign clearly said “OPEN.” I had one mission: find one airplane-sized bottle of vodka so I could make one drink to brace my nerves before my flight. And to chase down the massive amounts of anti-anxiety medicine that went with it. Lo and behold, there is a WHOLE WALL of vodka in that joint!

I really only know three kinds of vodka: Absolut, which tastes like someone mixed ground pepper and cigarette ash, Grey Goose, which tastes like the kiss of the tiniest angel, and Stoli, which is what people give you if they hate you. However, at the liquor store, they had brands like Trotski’s Revenge, and Gulag’s Finest, and after that I started having a psychotic break, so I had to go find a person to help me.

Thankfully, the guy who worked there was coming out of wherever I’m sure he keeps the sawed-off shotgun and surveillance videos. I know for a fact that I was acting very suspicious, because I was basically turning around in circles, and then looking right, left, right, like a maniac.

“You need something?” he asked, because he was the James Earl Jones type. Not messing around. Air of authority. Played Darth Vader.

“Yes, um, sir, I do. I would like one airplane-sized bottle of vodka , please. And yet, I have searched the store, including the extensive vodka choices, and have been unable to locate such an item.”

“We keep them behind the counter,” he said, waving his arm toward an assortment of airplane-sized bottles of things.

“Oh, I just want one,” I said.

James Earl Jones gave me a look of patience. “Well, sadly, we only sell them in multiples,” he replied.

“Hmmmmm,” I said, flummoxed by this. He just looked at me, growing more and more entertained by my dilemma.

“I just…I really don’t need all of that,” I murmured.

“You don’t have to drink it all at once,” he whispered.

“Oh, yeah!” I brightened. Good point! “Okay, do you have multipacks of Grey Goose minis?” I asked him.

A sad look. “No, we only sell Grey Goose in regular-sized bottles.”

I looked above the airplane bottle and saw a slim, chic bottle of Grey Goose. Seventeen bucks.

“Let me see if I have the cash for that,” I said.

“We take credit cards,” James Earl Jones said. Okay, that was new. I must have looked at him suspiciously, because he calmly pointed to the credit card swipe machines.

Hmmmmm,” I said. “I’ll take the Grey Goose. To be purchased by credit card.”

“Okay,” he said, grabbing it off of the shelf and ringing it up. I waited patiently, card out, for the charge to appear on the card swiper thing. And waited. And waited. And waited. And finally…

“Sweetheart, I’m on this register,” James Earl Jones said gently from a totally different register than the one I’d been standing at for five minutes.

“Ah, there’s the problem,” I said, fully three times crazier-acting than when I’d entered the store.

“How about we just check your ID,” James suggested, not, I’m sure, because I looked young, but more likely to check me against the DO NOT SELL LIQUOR TO THIS WOMAN list behind the counter. I wasn’t on it! He completed the purchase and put the liquor in a bag. I stared at him, waiting for something to sign.

“There’s nothing more I can do for you,” James said correctly assuming that, at least in this store, I couldn’t make a move without checking with him first.

“No receipt to sign?”

“No,” he said. “You’re free to go.”

“Oh, okay,” I said, and ran as fast as I could.