Tuesday, September 1, 2015

DROP EVERYTHING YOU'RE DOING AND READ THIS POST!!!!!

You absolutely, positively need to drop everything you're doing and watch this !!!!!

Seriously, drop everything because you could die without seeing this , and if you die without seeing it, then you will have lived a life deprived of previously recorded joy, wonder, and ecstasy that couldn't be found anywhere else but in this .

And when you get done with dropping everything to watch that , drop that and don't pick up the everything you already dropped, because here's another that you absolutely, positively need to see, because if you die without seeing it, your life will have been incomplete and a waste. Or even worse, it will have been an incomplete waste. Only wastes that are complete qualify as truly successful wastes.

And then, once you get done with that , here's a list of 2,013 books that you absolutely, positively need to read if you don't want to die an uninformed, intellectually underdeveloped boob.

And then, here are 17 podcasts, each updated weekly (possibly daily), that you absolutely, positively should be listening to...

Hang on! Drop everything! Just saw this that you absolutely, positively need to watch right now in case you die in the next few hours, because if you die without seeing this, you will have been unfulfilled and a failure. Or even worse, an unfulfilled failure, because the truly successful failures are fulfilled in their failure.

Also: Be healthy. Be connected. Be informed. Be active. Be involved. Be social. And get eight hours of sleep a night...

Saturday, August 29, 2015

My Belle Girl


For 16 years, my best friend and I didn't speak the same language, but we still understood each other. Whenever I was feeling down about myself, my best friend would jump up on the couch or the bed or lay next to me on the floor or rub up against me, quietly reminding me that no problem was more important to me than she was.

I used to work the late shift at Wendy's, and she would greet me as I came through the door at two or three in the morning--loudly, I'll add, not giving a rip about the rest of the house being asleep. I was home, and she had missed me, and at that moment, nothing else mattered.

Whenever I was sitting on the floor reading the newspaper or a comic book or a magazine, as I tend to do, she had a knack for knowing the exact paragraph, sentence, and word I was reading and planting herself right on that spot.

When she joined our family in 1999, she was our first pet, and my parents weren't sure if they wanted her upstairs and on the furniture. My bedroom was in the basement, right next to her corner of the house. We locked eyes that first night and bonded instantly. Within a day or two, she took up residence in my bedroom, right before she worked her way upstairs and onto the furniture.

When Bethany first came into my life, I was a little afraid of how my best friend would respond to her. She didn't always like new people and could be distrustful of them. But she treated Bethany as if she had always been around. I think she was relieved that I had found someone.

Wednesday night, I looked at my best friend and knew that this was our last night together. Just as she could sense when something was wrong with me, I was able to sense that something was wrong with her. Too much, in fact, was going wrong. Too much of what made her her was fading. And we both knew that our time together was short.

She sat between us on Thursday afternoon as we were given the final X-rays, faintly purring as we both stroked her regal coat and faced the fact that the inevitable was our only option. She was calm. We were not.

As I laid her down on the table, she and I locked eyes one last time. She gave a final, reassuring meow. Then, she went to sleep.

Sometimes having a best friend means more than just being there for each other in life. Sometimes it means holding them and loving them as they drift off into death.

My best friend's name was Belle, and she was the essence of her name. I miss her so much. I haven't stopped seeing and hearing her since the moment she went to sleep. I hope I never stop seeing and hearing her, because no problem, not even death, is as important to me as she was...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Memo from the Galactic Muse #1: Bill Cosby in His Own Word



Photo from Jezebel

Rarely in American pop culture has the word "yes" meant so much. But when it comes to toppling icons, the word "yes" should be one legend's undoing.

On Monday, the Associated Press successfully persuaded a judge to unseal the deposition from Andrea Constand's 2005 sexual-assault lawsuit against clean comedian and besweatered moralizer Bill Cosby.

Ever since unclean comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist during a stand-up routine last October, the furor around the revered comedian has usually boiled down to he said vs. 40-plus she saids. In the world of logic and commonsense, the majority of humanoids would be inclined to listen to the 40-plus she saids because of their similar stories and experiences with the one he said.

But the United States is still predominantly a patriarchal society that loves to erect icons out of those who give them belly laughs or vicarious thrills, so the 40-plus she saids were summarily dismissed or treated with overwhelming suspicion, not by everyone but by enough to give Cosby the confidence to finish his stand-up tour, titled in grossly ironic fashion "Far From Finished," and to continue moralizing from behind his bully pulpit.

Yesterday, however, with the unsealed deposition, the he said vs. 40-plus she saids became he said vs. he said.

When asked if he had ever purchased Quaaludes with the purpose of having sex with women, Dr. Cosby said, "Yes." Note that he didn't qualify that "Yes" either. It was a solid, unequivocal "Yes" to a question that was clear in its intention: "When you got the Quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these Quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?"

Unless you're someone who assumes that an army of rape victims is lying or you're Whoopie Goldberg, then Cosby's decade-old deposition is proof positive of what was obvious from the time this story broke (or rebroke, since it had already broken once in 2005): Cosby, who already was a known womanizer, is a serial rapist. That's it. Punctuation: Period.

Oh, he'll probably do an end run around the justice system to keep himself out of jail. After all, he almost succeeded in keeping the deposition sealed. But his already-fickle reputation has been slashed and dashed to miniscule pieces. The money will keep him out of the slammer, but it can't repair his legacy or reputation.

But the main point of this memo is not to regurgitate countless analyses of Cosby's legal strategies and illegal sins. Instead, it's to address a larger question: Why in the world do we average Jills and Joes keep falling for the prerecorded, flickering images and pixilated photos of those who have had luckier breaks and larger bank accounts than we have ever had?

Here then are five things to teach yourself and the next generation about celebrities and about life in general:

1.) A guy playing a character on TV is just a guy playing a character on TV. He's not that character. That character does not exist. This principle also applies to movie stars, singing stars, and anyone else who recites scripts, sings songs, and tells jokes for their supper.

2.) Most people who present themselves as moralizers often lack the values to back up their moralizing. That preacher, that politician, that pundit...they may seem sincere and they may be sincere in their moralizing, but they all have faults that detract from their austere brand of purity.

3.) Don't excuse public figures from behavior that you would consider unacceptable from your family and your friends.

4.) Listen to the victims. Yes, some victims lie. That's obvious. But not all victims lie, especially if they have nothing to gain from lying. Drowning out the voices of the weakest among us with our applause for those who oppress them will only leave our culture mired in the rot of elitist corruption.

5.) Enough with the cult of celebrity. Find self-improvement and self-empowerment not in the hero worship of others, but in the constant pursuit of truth and knowledge.

I firmly believe that we as a species will not progress forward in our evolution until we cease with the iconization and idolatry of mere humans (like ourselves) and start viewing everyone as equal. This includes granting rights to those who have too few and rescinding rights from those who have too many. This means refusing to elevate someone to godhood just because they kick a ball or nail a punchline better than most people. This means refusing to worship anyone or anything, including ourselves.

True equality will only be achieved when those who are deprived rights can sit next to the privileged few without any difference existing between them

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.