Friday, March 20, 2015

Random Attempts at Being Witty #1


These attempts at Being Witty first inhabited my Facebook and Twitter pages. For posterity, I'm preserving them here.

I may regret this...
******

Once upon a time, there was a frog, a hungry princess, and a grill. The princess never did find her prince...

*****

Winter has been going on for so long I keep expecting four kids to show up claiming they got here by walking through a wardrobe...

****

Sometimes, I look heavenward and say the first combination of words that pops into my head. Tonight, it was "Dom DeLuise."

Don't ask...

***

This week's Hump Day is brought to you by Time: Some days it never moves fast enough...

**

Did you hear Oprah laid off 200 employees? I hope she gave them all a free car...

*

The next time I'm pulled over or called on the carpet by some authority figure, I'm going to use the Hillary Clinton defense: "Yes, sir/ma'am, it may look as if I did not abide by the law, but I was actually following the 'letter and spirit of the rules.'" 

Wish I had thought of this when I was attending Christian schools... #notHillary2016

**

Many of us refuse to believe other people's eyes when they see a blue/black, gold/white dress, yet many of us readily believe other people's eyes when they see ghosts, heaven, UFOs, the Virgin Mary in their toast, mommy kissing Santa, and Elvis? #doesnotcompute

***

My wife and I had a horrible argument today. She said the outfit she was wearing to school was blue and black, and I said it was white and gold. Now, we hate each other.

So, in our infinite wisdom and in an effort to save our marriage, we've decided to take it to the Internet because we know the Internet can always reach a consensus about everything, even the color of clothes, in a rational, sensible, non-obsessive way. Picture forthcoming...

****

No matter what happens in my life, I know I can always depend on cheese to make my day better. Cheese: The secret to (a few seconds of) the good life...

*****

I think I just aced my audition for NBC Nightly News! I looked straight at the camera and solemnly said, "Trust me. I'm a news anchor."

******

Sometimes when it's dark, I'll peer into the shadows and whisper menacingly, "I am the danger. I am the one who knocks."

Nothing happens...

*****

"Cinderella" did so well at the box office last weekend, I wonder if Jerry Lewis will make a live-action version of "Cinderfella"...
****

If I were God, I would also do stuff that made you think I didn't exist...

***

Just thought of a great Zsa Zsa Gabor joke. Maybe I'll submit it to Bob Hope...

**

I fervently believe the world needs more jokes about kangaroos...

*

Somewhere someone is doing something you don't approve of. Stop them at all costs!!!

******

Whenever I attempt to be witty, I'm reminded of what the MC said to me at a talent show in which I tried stand-up comedy. (The talent show ended up being a lesson in tragedy.)

As I was going off the stage to deafening silence that overwhelmed the smatterings of polite applause, he whispered to me as we passed each other, "Nice try."

To this day, I still haven't thought of a better epitaph for my tombstone...


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pete on Pop #7: A Love Post to "Arrow"


In a world where Gotham sucks and Constantine is aired at an undisclosed time on NBC (I think), where Agent Carter has ended its sexy, superb eight-episode run and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can't be the superhero show it wants to be, a fanboy's delight is found through tuning in each week to CW's(!) Arrow and The Flash.

Confession Time: I hated Arrow in its first season. I thought everything about it was amateurish and atrocious, from the acting to the writing to the overall execution.

You know how some people yell at the TV when they're watching sports? I've never been that impassioned about grown men in jerseys throwing balls around, but I can be that impassioned about grown men in costumes throwing punches around.

Each week during that first season I would yell at the TV whenever Arrow was on. I would tell Oliver Queen/Stephen Amell to man up and take an acting class. I would pray one of his arrows would find its way into my heart after yet another plot line failed its execution. I would gag over the cheesy, hackneyed dialogue that sounded unsophisticated for an Archie comic, let alone a CW series.

But I kept watching. And watching. And watching. All the way through Season One and then through Season Two, although I did drift a bit when I became hooked on Breaking Bad.

However, once I had blazed through Walter White's exploits, I returned to Arrow, because in the back of my head, I had to find out: "So what happened next after that last cliffhanger?"

See, this was the one thing that kept me watching even when I hated the show the most.

The cliffhangers.

Better than any show on television, I would argue, Arrow has always known how to end an episode.

Everything preceding the final scene might be rotten baloney that you cuss with all 26 letters of the alphabet, but the last few moments of each episode always silence me. And I eagerly begin to anticipate next week's show.

Midway through Season Two, I noticed my feelings for Arrow had begun to change, and like the girl or guy who may annoy you at first but with whom you end up falling in love anyway, I fell in love with Arrow.

This was mainly because the series did get better, addressing its major weaknesses or empowering its strengths to a degree where those aforementioned weaknesses were overshadowed and I, as a viewer, just didn't care about them anymore.

Also, like that guy or girl who repulsed you at first, over time I began to admire and appreciate certain aspects about Arrow. 

First of all, its star, Amell, grew on me. For whatever acting shortcomings I may feel he has, he answers all of them with a complete and total commitment to his character. He has invested himself fully in Ollie, navigating rapidly changing story arcs, both absurd and amazing, in a way that only a skilled performer can do.

Sure, I may not agree with all of his choices, but that commitment, that investment is what really matters to a character in the end.

Then, there's the comic-book aspect of the show. I remember the days of Smallville, an incredible show in its own right, and being offended when the producers instituted their "no tights, no flight" rule at the inception of the series. In fact, it took them several seasons before they fully embraced Smallville's obvious comic-book roots.

Arrow held the comics closely from the beginning. It is a show based on a comic-book character, and its writers and producers have staked the entire series on the character's print roots.

In three seasons, we've gone from Slade Wilson's campaign of vengeance to Ra's al Ghul's quest for an heir to Ray Palmer's journey of self-discovery, with numerous, countless story arcs in between, many of them from the comic books.

This has worked so well for Arrow, when its spin-off, The Flash, premiered this past fall, it hit the ground running, with all story lines barreling for the "The Flashpoint Paradox."

Next season's yet-to-be-named crossover series with Palmer, Black Canary, and others promises an even greater exploration of the outer reaches of the DC universe.

Speaking of crossovers, I'm not sure there's ever been two series in television history that have exchanged characters more frequently and effectively. This is also from the comic books where crossovers happen every week.

Finally, I love Arrow because of the efficiency and swiftness of its storytelling.

I'm a huge fan of The Walking Dead, but honest to God, that show knows how to drag out a story line. Although last week's episode, "Spend," seems to have redeemed the series from the hell and damnation of eternal tedium, TWD still hasn't mastered its pacing. It either moves too quickly, as with the underdeveloped Terminus and Grady Memorial Hospital story arcs, or it moves too slowly, as it did with the overly developed farm and prison story arcs.

The benefit here is found in the character-focused stories that fill in the time between big events and big deaths (the latter trope being the top candidate for doing in the series). The mid-season premiere, "What's Happened and What's Going On?," was one of these (featuring ironically enough, based on my just-written parentheses, a major character's dying moments). Last year's episode, "The Grove," was another, and Season 3's "Clear" was stellar.

I'm also not naive enough to ignore the fact that some of these plotting dilemmas are probably forced on the TWD writers. It's obviously a budgeting decision. If you have a huge, expensive set like the prison, you need to stay there for a while.

Arrow moves along at a clipped pace, telling enough stories in a season to last TWD four seasons. However, it still manages to have time for character-focused episodes, such as this past week's superb episode, "The Offer," in which Ollie has to reconnect with his purpose after various life-altering events have thrown him off-mission.

Honestly, I wish I could be writing this post about Gotham, since my fanboy heart will always belong to Batman. And maybe Gotham is having a rough first season, similar to Arrow's first season.

But Gotham doesn't seem to know what it is, who its characters are, and where it's going or how long it's going to take to get there. Even at its weakest, Arrow has never seemed to flounder for direction.

And in a world of too many shows and too little time, I find myself less and less tolerant of the series that seem to be making it up as they go along, as Gotham does, and more inclined to forgive the series, like Arrow, that make occasional missteps, yet clearly have a cohesive direction and vision.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Writerly Tips #1: How to be Strong, Above-Average, and (Maybe) Good-Looking



Great advice for young writers (I hope I still qualify as one) from Garrison Keillor, who knows a thing or 40 about writing:

I advise young writers to see to their health, to sidestep the greasy fingers of alcohol and narcotics, to get out of the house, to be playful in their work. A writer is someone who writes, actually writes, not merely one who plans to write, so it's good to fashion strong habits. Two hours a day, every day, same time if possible, will get you a lot. Sometimes you have to throw away weeks' worth of work, which feels bad, but still, something is gained. Be funny, if you can. It's a real service.

Incidentally, the dude is still hinting at retirement in the article from which that quote is lifted. Wish it weren't so, but I suppose it's inevitable. I mean, 40 years is no small feat. One could only hope for half that longevity.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to share the opening to the 40th anniversary broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion from last July.

What a grand celebration that was. I loved all of the instruments that were involved, the musicians, the meshing of the show's two theme songs from PHC Era 1 and PHC Era 2, GK's opening monologue. Hell, I just love the show...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Few Irish Blessings T' Ye

The Institute of Stereotypical Humor would like to wish you and yours a Happy St. Patrick's Day...


My St. Patty's Day wasn't exactly spent driving out snakes, but I was still glad when the workday was over. The two Black and Tans at the end were a needed treat, as was successfully recording another episode of a soon-to-be-released podcast series.

I'm sure there's an Irish blessing about stressful, trying days out there somewhere. Personally, I love Irish blessings. Here are a few that were shared with me today:

May your days be long, the road be kind, and the wind never flip your sandwich. 

There are few things in life more demoralizing than a flipped sandwich. Thankfully that did not happen today.

Another one for you...I mean, ye:

May love and laughter light your days,
And warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
Wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
With joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
Bring the best to you and yours.

While that blessing is completely sincere, I love how many end on a humorously ironic note...

May the saint protect ye-
An' sorrow neglect ye,
An' bad luck to the one
That doesn't respect ye
T' all that belong to ye,
An' long life t' yer honor-
That's the end of my song t' ye!

And then there's this traditional Scottish and Irish song, as presented by current chart star Ed Sheeran, who frequently performs the number at his concerts...


Just look at these lyrics. You can't get much more wistful, yet hopeful than this, folks...

Of all the money that e'er I had
I've spent it in good company
And all the harm that e'er I've done
Alas it was to none but me
And all I've done for want of wit
To memory now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all

Of all the comrades that e'er I had
They are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e'er I had
They would wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I'll gently rise and I'll softly call
Good night and joy be with you all

A man may drink and not be drunk
A man may fight and not be slain
A man may court a pretty girl
And perhaps be welcomed back again
But since it has so ought to be
By a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
Good night and joy be with you all


This song was also covered quite chillingly by the Greene lassies (appropriately enough) on The Walking Dead...



Finally, I leave you with my favorite Irish blessing...


May you be half an hour in Heaven
Before the Devil knows you're dead.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Internet Tids 'n Bits #2: Putin Sandiego, Paula's Whisk, and Jim's Note

Where the hell is Vladimir Putin? That seems to be the question in everyone's headlines today and spewing out of every pundit's mouth.

It's good fodder, of course, given Putin's reputation as the world's foremost embodiment of a James Bond villain...



...or Lex Luthor...


But from what I've seen, only Vox has had the wherewithal to yank this golden oldie from my childhood...


...and apply it to the missing tyrant. As the article notes, the words fit surprisingly well by only changing the gender of the pronoun. It's as if the whole show was predicting Putin's reign of mystery, terror, and six-pack abs...

******



Wherever Putin may be, we all know he's in better shape than Paula Deen's career...


The second she asks you if you're ready to have some fun, with those soulless, beady eyes furtively searching for the back door to your soul, you should call the police. That's what I did. 911 was busy. People's minds and bodies were being assaulted by...

...those eyes...


Go forth, sweet Paula, and embrace your future as a 21st-century Universal monster. Or a Walking Dead villain. 

Those eyes. That whisk. You could do some damage, forever mining our bodies for brains and butter...

******

 Finally, I leave you with this...




Unoriginal Thoughts #1: Rod Serling Better Be There When I Die

What is the nature of our existence?

This is one of those dumb, unanswerable-but-not-quite-rhetorical questions I ask myself from time to time. 

That list of dumb, unanswerable-but-not-quite-rhetorical questions also includes: Is there such a thing as time? And if there is, is it really linear and unforgiving in its relentless progression? 

It’s hard to arrive at any consensus on that matter when I’m not even sure there’s such a thing as reality.

At this point in the game, I keep hoping when we die, before we fade into the eternal energy of nothingness (or whatever), Rod Serling blesses us with an epilogue to our episode.



That would make me happy and certainly dry all tears from my eyes.

Nevertheless, I’m going to still muse on the nature of your, my, and our existence. For a few paragraphs anyway.

And yes, I realize I could be talking out of my nether regions. It certainly feels that way. But tell me: What else do you do in a day’s time?

Oh, what’s that?

Oh. 

You spend your day saving the world and rescuing babies. Never mind. I digress…

…by making this statement: Death itself may actually be a part of our evolution.

Maybe death isn't the final destination that both atheists and believers seem to believe it is, but rather the Next Step™. Maybe our final destination isn't the cemetery plot, ashes to ashes and dust to dust, or heaven and/or hell. 

And if we can’t know what death is exactly, can we even begin to fathom what life, what the nature of our existence really is?

To make this even trickier, I’m not sure it’s actually logical that we do exist. In fact, until we find out whether or not there are other worlds and races in the universe, the context for our existence, let alone the nature of it, is merely a guess.

A guess that is still a guess whether it’s being made by a philosopher, a scientist, a theologian, or a barely educated, foggy-brained unknown writer like yours truly.

From our limited perspective, which is so often overrun by ego and a thirst for validation and self-importance, any answer you or I or any egghead PhD gives to this question is of equal weight. Which is essentially no weight whatsoever.

At this point in humanity’s history, it is simply impossible to know why we’re here, sacred texts, algorithms, and elegantly worded theses and dissertations be damned.

And what’s more, we have to reach a point of contentment with this. Rather than trying to solve an unsolvable mystery, we should enjoy being a part of that mystery. And we should give up on hoping for a resolution to it, especially since there’s no guarantee an answer is even out there or in us or above us or under us.

So how should we spend our time (which may or may not exist, Rod Serling be damned) without ascribing to the demons of futility and hopelessness?

At this point in my life, I think it goes to the nature of our humanity. Focusing on the nature of our existence distracts us, it seems, from the nature of our humanity. This is to the peril of our species.

But I'll leave those Unoriginal Thoughts for a future post. I believe in letting the janitor clean up the first round of b.s. before I unload a second round.

In the meantime, you can find me uttering these thoughts and other nonsensical mutterings on the nearest bar stool or street corner. The guy may not look like me, and the guy may be a she and not a he.

But our mutterings and sputterings will certainly sound the same...


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Internet Tids 'n Bits #1: The Knives of March

Apparently, Brutus only likes fat-free Caesar, perhaps with a side of croutons...



This photo has been getting a ton of traction on the Internets today. The Web can be a vacuum of creativity, but in this case, I kinda wish I had thought of this. Guess I'll have to look ahead to the anniversaries of other world-changing assassination for viral ideas.

While you're being amused, take some time to educate yourself on six common mythical beliefs about the Ides of March and the assassination of Caesar. (SPOILER! No salad dressing was involved in the actual event.) 

Don't feel stupid about believing these myths. Shakespeare popularized most of them in Julius Caesar.

Apparently, even back then "Based on a True Story" meant "Mostly Made Up"...