No, It Wasn’t As Good For Me As It Was For You

Happy Shootin’ DudeSunday afternoon I took a what I thought would be a quick break from my on-the-side I.T. consulting gig to pick my wife up from the grocery store. I didn’t want to be gone too long, because I had plenty of work to do and not a great deal of time to get it done in. So I rushed out to the car, hopped in and started driving away without even bothering to light up my customary short-trip Sancho Panza cigarillo. I didn’t get five feet from my parking spot before I felt it. My vehicle was waddling. Yep, shaking it’s hind-quarters like it was a giant, 6-cylinder fiberglass duck.

Some of you have probably already guessed what’s wrong. But my mind was elsewhere. I checked the dash for the emergency break light. It wasn’t lit. But to be sure, I engaged the emergency break and then released it. I drive a few more feet, and nope, that wasn’t it. My vehicle is still wiggling its butt like the driveway was a catwalk. So I try putting it back in park and then putting it back in drive. A few more feet. Nope, more waddling.

Then a scary thought occurs to me. I might have run over something and somehow got it caught between the tire and the car’s body. It could even now be tearing healthy chunks out of the side of my car. (For that thought alone, I’m adding the “crackpot theories” tag to this post.) My car is no beauty, but it’s no red-neck body-by-Bondo affront to the car gods either. And I’d like to keep it nondescriptly normal.

As I walk around the car, I breathe a sigh of relief. No car chunks on the ground. And then I see the culprit: A flat tire. I was literally driving on the rim of the back passenger-side wheel. I’ve changed flats before. In fact I changed a flat on a large rental van in a gravel parking lot in the rain once. No kidding. But I’ve never changed any flat without a jack before, so I went the easy route. I called Triple A (AAA), and asked a neighbor to pick up my wife.

With nothing better to do, I fire up 5 Vegas Gold and wait for the AAA guy to show up. And if there’s one thing to learn from this little anecdote, it’s that you should smoke a cigar while you’re waiting for AAA. You will have the time to finish it! No matter what they say, it will be at least an hour before they show. Don’t sweat it, smoke it. (Another one for the Quotable Brian!) True to form, about five minutes after I finish that mild, but tasty little robusto, the guy drives up.

Fast forward ahead about an hour and a half. I’m at a local shop having the tire looked at. It doesn’t take long for me to spot a little metallic glint near the outward edge of the tread. I’d been nailed. It had to have been the sloppy bastards working on the condo construction next door. When I drove back from the herf the night before, I must have picked up a little present they left in the middle of the road. So the tire guy starts extracting the nail. Inch by inch. And it just keeps coming! And suddenly, it’s threaded! I hadn’t been nailed, I’d been screwed! And despite the evidence to the contrary (the cigar), I wasn’t enjoying this!

But actually, it all worked out as well as you could ask. Everything was sorted out by 7 that evening. Hey, if you’re going to get screwed, what better time than Saturday night? And what better place than at home? And can you beat thirty bucks to cover all the costs? Sure, the rubber broke, but we were able to plug it up just fine before any real damage was caused. OK, I’m out of innuendos (or in-your-end-o’s as a friend of mine used to say), so I’ll leave it there before this post just gets creepy. How was your weekend?

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Toilets And The Crap We Put Up With

Happy Shootin’ DudeDon’t ask me why. For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about toilets. I might have something to do with the leaky, finicky Kohler crapper in our master bathroom. (The linked model looks like ours, but probably isn’t the same one.) The one that sounds like a balloon slowly loosing air. Or a snake in a permanent state of hiss. Of course, this means it has a broken part.

Broken parts are understandable and an acceptable part of doing business with daily-use machinery. Things break, we fix them and move on. But what isn’t acceptable is a defective product right out of the box. Ladies and gentleman, I’m convinced that 99% of us are shelling out $300 plus dollars on defective products. That’s right, I’m saying that porcelain throne in the tucked away in the corner of your home isn’t worth the cheeks that press up against it or the matter left behind in it.

“What on earth are you talking about, Brian?” you ask. Well, let’s look at it this way. What is a toilet’s primary function? Is it to look nice? No. When was the last time you invited somebody into your bathroom to have a look at your crap cruiser? A water bowl for the dog? No. (Well, maybe, I guess it depends on the number of cars you have on blocks in the front yard.) A place to read the paper? No. No the sole purpose of is of a toilet is to make crap disappear.

“And isn’t that what it does?” Yes and no. Slim, spritely vegetarians may live their entire life and never comprehend the true failure of the western world’s toilets the way hefty steak-and-potatoes people do. What I’m saying is that the our toilets are marvelous when it comes to whisking away bird droppings, but absolute failures when it comes to processing the end result of a hearty meal.

“But it’s better than using an outhouse!” That may be so, but better than bad does not equal good. But wait, is it actually better? Sure it’s indoors and climate controlled, and you’re not likely to get a splinter, but when was the last time an outhouse backed up? Unless the countryside is flooding, you’re not going to have a problem until it’s time to dig another hole. And no matter how bad that breakfast burrito was, you’re not going to smell up half the house when you’re ridding yourself of it.

So here’s what needs to be done. For ages Asia has had some fantastic all-in-one johns; virtual spas for the backside. I understand the cultural reluctance to embrace something like that, to be honest, they kind of creep me out too. So that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about improving the existing toilet of the western world so it reliably does its job. No toilet should ever again clog up. Ever. If it does, it’s broken and in need of repair or replacement. Think of the garbage disposal. It has a very similar function, does it plug up every other time you use it? And when it does gunk up and stop working, it’s a good sign that it’s in need of repair. That’s what I’m talking about.

I know there’s a push for less water consumption in toilets, and I don’t think this is a limiting factor. Manufacturers need to look at other options. Motors. Pumps. Grinders. Pressure, suction and vacuums. Guppies with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads. The answer is out there, and it’s time we had a decent toilet! For what we pay, we deserve to be able to push the lever, let it go (without holding it down!) and see the ghost of dinner past swept on it’s way. Every single time. Our bathroom floors and cabinets should be free of the filthy toilet-crutch, the plunger. I should be able to dump an entire bag of potting soil in the bowl hit the lever and see a sparkling bowl 30 seconds later. Damn it, it’s time we had an actual toilet!

(I bet you’re wishing I was still talking about cigars right about now, huh?)

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Screw You And Your Condescending Customer Service Reps VistaPrint!

Happy Shootin’ DudeAs you can probably tell from the title of this post, I am angry. Livid. With small twitches in my extremities that can only be stilled by breaking something. Unfortunately, I’m pretty happy with the things in my office, so the twitching will have to subside naturally.

[Warning: The following was written in anger. While Brian generally avoids excess profanity in his blog, he doesn’t here. He revels in it. If strong language offends you, dear reader, consider checking back in later for the next installment, which will undoubtedly be cleaner.]

So I just got off the phone with a customer service representative for VistaPrint named Kevin. (Which kinda bothers me because I have a good friend named Kevin.) Thought I doubt that’s his real name, Kevin, I can tell you, is an asshole. And as you would expect from a grade A prick, he’s horrible when it comes to customer service. Here’s an example of the exchange that will cause VistaPrint to lose my business from this day forward.

Kevin the Prick: Hi, what can I help you with?
Angry Brian: Hi, I’m calling because the replacement order for my business cards never arrived. The one I ordered several months ago. And in fact, I’m looking at your website, and it says my order was canceled! I never got any notification of it being canceled, which is fucking ridiculous.
Kevin the Prick: [With attitude] Excuse me?
Angry Brian: [Ignoring attitude, more irritated] The replacement order I put in forever-ago was canceled. I didn’t cancel it. I wasn’t notified that it was canceled. I’ve been waiting forever.
Kevin the Prick: OK, if we can proceed without the swear words I can help you.

You know what Kevin? Fuck you and fuck your company. Customer service is of paramount importance, especially when things don’t go as planned. I think it goes without say you never, ever correct a customer. Especially an angry customer. And especially not when you’re all saddled-up on your high-horse. I don’t care if you wince. I don’t care if you shudder. I don’t care if you’re offended. And I don’t care if I was overly aggressive and a prick myself when spoke to you. You don’t correct a fucking customer. That’s right, “fucking”. Because you know what, when you do that, you lose a customer. You Kevin, you lost VistaPrint all my future business. Congratulations. I’m sure VistaPrint doesn’t mind the costs of my lost business to ensure your ears a G-rated work day.

What makes the whole thing even more asinine is I was using the word “fucking” in the exchange as an adjective; a description of how ridiculous the situation was, not as a verbal assault against Captain Pricktastic. (Who is probably illiterate and the progeny of a lonely goat herder and his smelly flock.) That sort of swearing is even allowed on the radio these days, thanks to Bono‘s televised slip at an award show a few years back.

So you as the reader, are probably thinking “Brian! Don’t say anything until you actually get your order! You won’t get it for sure now!” You know what, you’re probably right. But I don’t care. This is at least the third time I’ve had to contact them with regard to this order, and I have very, very low expectations of ever receiving it. Here’s the time line as it sits presently:

March ’07: Flawed business cards ordered (part my mistake, part theirs).
April ’07: Flawed cards arrive.
May ’07: Notice problems, which includes embarrassing spelling error, and re-order. (Have to pay a small additional fee for re-order, since it was partially my fault. Fine. Again stuck with 21 day shipping time frame. Fine.)
June ’07: Stumble on a confirmation email, and realize I never got these cards. Email customer service. Never get a reply. (I think I sent a second email, but no response to that either.)
July 13th ’07: Stumble on that forgotten confirmation email again. Check the website only to discover my order was canceled. Call Kevin the CSR clown and get pissed.

Some people reading this might also think I’m the one being a prick. Yep, that’s very likely. I was an angry customer. That was my role. They have my money, I didn’t receive the goods. I’d been screwed, and I wanted satisfaction. The CSR’s job was to talk me down with apologies (which are generally only a formality, but an appreciated one) and promises to rectify the situation followed with decisive action.

How do I know all this? I’m a I.T. consultant and I dabble with selling things on eBay. In both scenarios, you have to deal with people who are pissed from time to time. Just this week, an eBay customer failed to read my thorough auction write up (if you’ve read my cigar reviews, you know I’m thorough) and sent a livid email to me to tell me how unacceptable an item was. An item that he paid 50 cents for. The flaws were documented in both text and pictures, but instead of correcting him, I apologized.

Yep, that’s right. I was clearly right, he was clearly wrong. (And I think we both knew it.) But I asked him what I could do to make the situation right. You know what? It worked out beautifully. I got very positive feedback from him, and while I lost a little money on the item (I got to keep most of the shipping expenses), this customer would probably buy from me again! That’s customer-fucking-service, Kevin! Get your thumb out of your ass and grab a damn note pad!

WordPress needs a lion-roaring emoticon. Or maybe an exploding head. *Sigh* OK. I’m done. Happy again! 🙂

[UPDATE: I finally made it to the next level! My mother would be so proud…

Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
hell (8x), asshole (5x), pissed (4x), ass (3x), fuck (2x), gun (1x)]

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Global Warming: Saving The World One Hippie Jamfest At A Time

Hippie Jam Fest, Portuguese StyleFirst it was Bruce Willis. Now it’s the Arctic Monkeys (website). Finally celebrities and musicians are starting to make sense. It’s scary. What the heck am I talking about? I’m talking about a growing number of famous folk that finally realize that celebrity does not equal an advanced degree in medical science. Or political science. Or climatology. It’s the “I only play one on TV” concept that was once obvious to everyone, but in recent years has become uncommon sense.

In a recent article, Matt Helders, the drummer for the Arctic Monkeys had this to say when asked for his news-worthy thoughts on Global Warming / Climate Change / Honey-I-think-the-thermometer’s-broken:

“There’s more important people who can have an opinion. Why does it make us have an opinion because we’re in a band?”

A-fricken-men, Mr. Helders! There are more important people who can and do have an opinion. An opinion based on careful research. They’re called scientists. I don’t mean to diminish you in the slightest as a musician or a person (I really do like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”). I just want to say I love it that you choose to focus on your abilities on creating catchy tunes, where they’re best suited. And while you do that, I’ll focus on programming websites for security firms, insurance companies and banks, because that’s what I do. And you know what? The scientific community will be OK diagnosing and resolving the problems that arise in their sphere of expertise. Remarkably well, even without our considered opinions.

That quote alone makes the article worth reading. But it gets even better. He also points out the irony and hypocrisy of the Live Earth concerts that keeps his band from attending:

“It’s a bit patronising for us 21 year olds to try to start to change the world… Especially when we’re using enough power for 10 houses just for (stage) lighting. It’d be a bit hypocritical,” he [Matt Helders] told AFP in an interview before a concert in Paris.

Bass player Nick O’Malley chimes in: “And we’re always jetting off on aeroplanes!”

Yep, it’s a massive concert series promoting, among other things, reduced consumption of power and resources. Featuring some of the largest power consumers on the planet. Of course, the this particular concert, according to the website will implement “Green Guidelines”, but will those musicians commit to following the same guidelines in their future concerts? And you’re telling me all the people attending the concerts get there by bike or bus? That green is starting to turn a little brown if you ask me.

Call me cynical, but I don’t see the point to this concert. Like the massive hippie jam festival in the classic South Park “Die, Hippie, Die” episode (see partial clip below), it’s a great excuse for people to get together, drink, smoke, socialize and listen to music, but it what exactly does that accomplish? (I’m not saying any of those activities are bad, mind you!) It’s not spreading awareness, hell, you can’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing heated debate on Global Warming. Every time something even slightly unusual happens with the weather these days, somebody brings up Global Warming. If anything, it’s diluting awareness. People like me are already tuning out on the subject.

“Let’s have, like, a week long music festival. Draw everyone here and then together we can tear it all down.” (6:30)

The beautiful deceit of the whole thing is, musicians continue to do what they were doing already (playing music at concerts and scoring with groupies) but now suddenly they get automatic kudos for “trying” to save the planet. (From a marketing stand point, its pure genius.) Well if that’s all it takes to save the planet, I call a Live Earth Bender! It’ll take place the last week of August, and I encourage everyone to go out and get plowed for a week. (Yep, I was already gonna do that on my previously mentioned road trip, but hey, now I’m spreading awareness, man! Instant Karma!)

OK, I hope nobody reads this as a Global-Warming-is-bunk post. I have my doubts, but I think it’s smart to hedge our bets and take the greener path whenever practical. (I hate fluorescent lights, but we’re using the compact fluorescents at home. The sacrifices I make… 😉 ) And that’s about as far as I’m going on it. I’m not interested in debating the topic, it’s too much like politics now. And politics is one of the three forbidden subjects for this blog. (Religion and the Great Pumpkin are the other two.) And as I mentioned earlier, I’m just apathetic.

However, you might not be. Being the fantastic blogger I am, I anticipated that possibility. So if you are interested in an extremely well-reasoned discussion of the topic, I invite you check out Scott Adam’s four-part Global Warming mini-series on the Dilbert Blog (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). As apathetic as I am on the topic, I even found it interesting. You may not agree with his conclusions, but you have to give him kudos for a very fair, thorough handling of the subject.

I guess it goes with out saying that Matt Helders is one cool monkey. 😀

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Straight From The GodCast: The 10 Commandments Of The Road

Heed the sage words of Brian!As you’ve probably already heard, week or so ago the Vatican issued a new 10 commandments for drivers. Now I’m no Catholic, but I was intrigued that something as fundamental as the Ten Commandments needed an amendment. Or a sun porch. Or whatever you call an addition to an ancient holy document.

So I read the new commandments, and my first impression is that, well it’s not really anything new. Maybe a reshuffle of the commandment deck, and some carefully worded common sense thrown in to make it hip. Hmm, sez I, not exactly something momentous enough to merit entry on the eternal blog of the heavens. Something’s gotta be up here. So I decided to check it out myself.

(On a long, parenthetical side note, it’s interesting how priorities change in a few thousand years. Killing has really shot up the chart in modern times, jumping from virtual obscurity in the second stone tablet at #6 to the head of the God’s top ten driving list at #1. I guess you could say that killing is the Elvis Presley of the world of traffic sin. Back in the day it was, “Killing? Hmm, yeah, not good, but not quite as bad as those damn false idols and golden cows. And you gotta respect your folks, that’s pretty important too. We’ll fit in killing right after that.” Now the golden cow is nowhere to be found on list. And I guess you’re allowed to be a total ass to your folks too.)

Anyway, back to figuring out what’s up here. Now I’m not one to wear a large hat or resplendent robes, and I’m not very interested in hearing people confess their sins, but I’d say that I’m just as good as the next guy when it comes to picking up the GodCast, when I want to. (Better still when I’m off my meds and hopped up on caffeine.) I guess that has something to do with my Protestant background. And as everybody knows God speaks in King JamesEnglish, which was terribly fortunate for the old King and his people, not so lucky for everyone else. Fortunately for you, dear reader, your friend Brian is fluent in several archaic forms of English (Shakespeare, Bible, some Chaucer, etc.). So here, as heard on the GodCast, are the actual new 10 commandments of the road. Direct from God’s streaming MP3 audio to your eyes, minus the politically correct fiddling and platitudes, served up with a steaming side of my plain English interpretation. Enjoy, and behave!

I. Thou shalt not run the red light, nor shall thou hesitate to drive when mine light is the color of honey.

This one is pretty straight forward and should make sense to anyone. If the light is yellow, get your butt through it. If it’s red, stop, it’s not your turn anymore.

II. Thou shalt not change lanes in an intersection.

This one should also make sense to everyone. I can’t imagine there’s a driver’s manual or written test out there that doesn’t explicitly spell out that you need to stay in your damn lane when you go through an intersection.

III. Thou shalt not change lanes lest thou first use thy turn signal.

I can’t express how much not using a turn signal pisses me off (especially when you just cut me off) without swearing for 5 minutes and breaking something. And since I kind of like the things on my desk, I’ll not get into it. What I can say in a civil tone is that this commandment is so easy to follow. It’s so easy and requires so very little effort, that even the fattest American tourists at Disney World can do it without getting winded. (Sweating may occur, that’s hard to predict.) And yet, for some reason I see this commandment broken daily in my adopted home of Atlanta. Every single day. By people in the prime of health.

IV. Thou shalt not change lanes and use thine brakes immediately upon entry into thy brother’s lane.

This is a classic prick move and a very deadly sin. Clearly there wasn’t enough room for you to change lanes, buddy. If you did this and didn’t your turn signal, not only will you burn in eternal hellfire, you’ll be violated in the most unpleasant ways possible by Saddam Hussein. (He needs company since Satan left him.) Oh and it gets better. You know it’s been hot down there, and you know he hasn’t been wearing deodorant. Think about it.

V. Thou shalt not tailgate.

Unless you’re parked at a ballgame with a cooler full of beer and a blazing hibachi, you better not be tailgating. If you keep it up, sooner or later you will eat steering wheel and go directly to hades. And there, you’ll be tailgated by Saddam’s wild and crazy sons, if you know what I mean.

VI. Thou shalt not leave the space of a chariot between thee and the brother thou followest.

I don’t know what the hell the deal is people who come to a stop a full car length (or more) behind the car ahead of them. I’ve been trying to puzzle that out for a while, and what’s clear is that whatever the motivation for this hoggish behavior, it’s pure evil. Especially when this wicked craft is practiced in a very short turn lane. As punishment, you’ll get to rest on the fiery racks of hades, where you’ll be elongated to the size of the extra car lengths you took up in the turning lane.

VII. Thou shalt not drive at or under the speed limit in the lane of thy heavenly father. For yea, have I provided thee and thine ailing chariot a lane to thy right.

Nobody likes to be stuck driving 53 MPH in the fast lane on the highway behind someone oblivious to the traffic building up behind them. Especially when there is an open lane to the right. Not only is it ridiculous, it causes accidents as people take evasive action not to pulverize the low-speed nincompoop. It becomes a cardinal sin when combined with a proud self-righteousness that you are driving the speed limit and everybody else in the entire world should slow down. Listen buddy, kudos for following the exact letter of a pointless law. Jesus may love that about you, but we kinda think he’d still agree that you’re an asshole. Move over or face an eternity on the highway in hell being force-fed bran muffins and turkish coffee while stuck behind a demonic codger driving 25.

VIII. Thou shalt not pass in the lane of the poor and destitute (the slow lane). To do so is truly wicked and is hateful in mine eye.

Unless you’re stuck behind a breaker of the 7th commandment, passing on the right is unacceptable. There’s a reason why they call the left lane the passing lane. I cannot count the times I’ve nearly been killed by some jackass who passes on the right side because he thinks radar detectors won’t catch him driving 90 if he does it in the slow lane. My life is usually at risk because I’m trying to adhering to the 7th commandment by move over to let the ass-clown pass. (I do this even when I’m in the middle lane, ‘cuz I’m a damn saint. 😉 )

IX. Thou shalt not assume that thine time is of more value than that of thy road brother.

This commandment covers tremendous ground, and intentionally requires you, as a driver, to pull your head out of your ass and realize everybody else around you also has important places to be and things to do. Sorry, no special consideration because you drive a nice car. Prick moves covered by this commandment include driving up to the front of a line for an on ramp and forcing your way in, as well as, failing to yield right of way because you hate to bring your convertible to a full stop. Feel free to apply this commandment in any situation you find useful in your driving life.

X. Thou shalt not trouble thy brother with thine driving mistakes, nor wallow like the filthy boar in the mistakes of thy brother.

Talk about saving the best for last. This commandment covers scenarios like the asshole that decides he needs to make a left turn even though he’s in the right lane. And this realization comes only inches before the intersection. Instead of driving on and finding a way to turn around and correct his navigational error, he stops, put on his turn signal, and holds up a whole lane of traffic! (Hey, at least the inconsiderate bastard used the turn signal.) It all boils down to consideration of others. Yeah, you messed up, and yes it will take longer to get where you’re going, but deal with it. The people behind you didn’t mess up, and you have no right to waste their time. The deepest and hottest circle of traffic hell is reserved for you if you do. And you’ll be eternally stuck behind a 90-year old codger driving 15 MPH with his turn signal on for all eternity.

But wait, this commandment is a double header. It also covers the sin of rubbernecking. That’s right, from on-high, the big man is saying, “move along, there’s nothing to see here.” And there isn’t. If you want to see crazy car-related carnage, rent a movie. While you’re on the road your main task is to keep from causing crazy car carnage. Follow the commandments of the road!

Smite-ning Clause (Disclaimer)
Brian is neither a prophet nor a deity. Worshiping him, while likely to be fun and oddly fulfilling, will not result in your getting into heaven. (In fact, it may keep you out.) Brian simply does not have that kind of clout with the man upstairs, nor the size of the hat to intimidate anyone into believing he does. (Brian worship may one day get you into a cigar bar, though, even it does wind up putting you on the express train to a very warm climate.)

Brian has added this “Smite-ning” clause to this post in the hope that it will prevent his next cigar from being lit with heavenly lightning. (Though should that happen, it will fulfill his prediction that he’ll go out with in an explosion of color and sound.) As it so happens, there is a lot of lightning this evening. A lot. And Brian lives in a tall building and works next to a window. This could be his last post ever.

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Florida Apartment Leasing Agent Fired For Saving Woman’s Life

WTF?Wow, talk about a disconnect between movies and television from real life. According to a story (also here) that’s been all over the radio this morning, a man “brandishing” a shotgun saved a womans life and was rewarded for his efforts by being fired from his job.

His name is Colin Bruley (random aside: it’s hard to say that without thinking about Fight Club), and he lived and worked as a leasing agent for the Oaks at Mill Creek apartment complex in Jacksonville, Florida. He heard a woman screaming in the middle of the night. Instead of covering his head with a pillow, he grabbed one of his hunting guns and ran outside, to find a woman named Tonnetta Lee with a gunshot wound. Apparently he never used the gun, instead he spent his time giving first aid to the injured woman.

And here’s the punchline: He was fired for “Gross Misconduct”. From one article:

“Colin demonstrated extremely poor judgment in responding to this situation,” the complaint said. “Colin’s failure to immediately report this incident … could have serious ramifications to the property, its associates and residents.”

No matter what your opinion is regarding guns, compare this story with any action movie or television show you’ve seen in the last couple of years. This guy would clearly be the hero of the story, a regular John McClane or Jack Bauer, and the corporation owning the apartment complex (Village Green Companies) would clearly be the villian.

In reality, Colin Bruley is now out of work and out of home and getting little attention from the national media (just try searching for his name on Google News). And Village Green Companies has no comment. Well, I don’t care, Colin Bruley is a hero in my book, hopefully he will be in yours too.

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Oh Boy! Stars: They’re Just Like Us! (Who Cares?)

Why God, why do people waste synapse power on celebrities?Yesterday was a first. The first time I ever cracked open a US Weakly Weekly magazine in my whole life. Somebody left one laying on the floor of the stall in the men’s room. (I think whoever left it there missed their target by about a foot.) Being the adventurous sort, and having time to burn, I flipped it open.

The first thing I saw was several pages of famous woman vs. other famous woman wearing the same gown. The question, in clown-sized crooked font on every page was, “who wore it best”? I’ll spare you the specifics, because what it really boiled down to who had the nicest rack and shapeliest backside. And if neither had either, whoever had the best bone-definition won the day. Of course extra points were awarded to contestants who found a way to reveal more airbrushed skin than their opponent. Fascinating. Absolutely worth $3.49. (Coincidentally, I got a offer in the mail yesterday for another magazine that focuses purely on this sort of figure comparative-analysis for only a dollar an issue. A buck an issue! A steal, you say. You may have heard of it, it’s called Playboy.)

OK, so a bit pointless so far, but not yet annoying enough to stop. Well, I didn’t make it much further through the magazine before I hurled it down in disgust. The next several pages were pictures of famous people doing the mundane things that everybody else does all the time. A gnarled, weathered looking Ricky Schroder pushing a shopping cart. A platform shoe-elevated Eva Longoria buying junk food from a street vendor. Josh Hartnett sporting a serial killer mustache as he jogs under a rain cloud of his own sweat. And of course, it isn’t a story, without the right headline. (That is if a collection of pictures with a single sentence apiece can be considered a “story”.) And that scarce text gem was “Stars- They’re Just Like US!”

Well, no shit. Which is exactly why I don’t see the point of this magazine. I almost think they’re having a joke at their reader’s expense with this. Perhaps thinking “Ha Ha! Just look what you paid us for! Nothing! Who’s your daddy!” I really hope that’s what’s going through the editors mind even now, as he lights up a cigar and has a hearty laugh. Because I can get behind that kind of evil. But I have my doubts. In reality, I’ll bet the editor is probably an aging baby-boomer with a surgically-stretched face who is actually proud of this “article” and is deeply concerned about what Eva Longoria buys at a street vendor.

Probably the biggest reason I’ll never pick up this magazine again is that I don’t like seeing pictures of celebrities being unglamorous and normal. I don’t want them humanized. Celebrities work for me. (And you too, probably.) Their only job is to memorize lines and recite them in believable ways that imply sincerity and/or emotion, as applicable. Well, that, and look really good. That’s all I pay them for and that’s all I want. What they do in their spare time is their business. What they think about religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin is also their business. This kind of information just spoils the movie magic. When I’m watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I don’t want to waste even a synapse on Robert Downey Jr. and his trouble with narcotics. I want to just enjoy the movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate celebrities. Quite the opposite. I like celebrities professionally. Many of them do a fantastic, entertaining job of pretending to be somebody else in movies and TV. And it doesn’t bother me that they make millions doing what they do. I like actors with a good track record of great performances in entertaining movies. Once that track record is established, I’ll probably see any movie or TV program in which they star. But when the credits roll, the relationship is over. The transaction is complete: I’ve paid for my ticket, and you’ve delivered the goods. You’re not entitled give me your opinions on life, the universe and everything, and I’m not entitled to see your intimate moments with a shopping cart. And I love it that way. I wish everybody else did too.

However, if you do happen to be the type that enjoys seeing celebrities fueling their cars and taking out the trash, do I have a deal for you! For a mere twenty-five bucks, I’ll take a picture of myself, wearing a Hollywood disguise (hat and sunglasses- fake nose and mustache extra) doing very boring normal things in my neighborhood and send it to you. Hell, I’ll even autograph it for you! I mean, hey, my blog is literally read all around the world, but at least a dozen people a day. If that doesn’t make me a celebrity, I don’t know what does! But you better act fast, once I start appearing in US Weekly, it’ll be too late! 😉

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Sucker-Punch Sopranos Sunday

Antoni Gaudi’s Sun MosaicSunday beat me up something horrible. Like a guy with and overdue debt in the back alley behind the Bada Bing, I went to bed last night hurtin’. But not for the reason you might think. I wasn’t experiencing physical symptoms resulting from getting emotional over end of The Sopranos. Oh sure, I watched it. I wouldn’t miss it. A team of wild dancers from The Bing couldn’t keep me from it. (I think. I’d really like to test that theory to be sure. 😈 )

What had me down and out, more worthless than Homer Simpson at a nuclear power plant, was the sun. Did you know an afternoon drinking in the sun is the express train to a fantastically horrendous hangover? It may also surprise you that high SPF sunblock is not an adequate barrier between you and the ol’ temple jackhammer. Somehow, I forgot these important life lessons as I floated there on Lake Lanier smugly puffing on an Ashton Maduro #10 and knocking back Old Scratch Ambers. (That’s a pretty awesome combination, I might add. Minus the sun on my formerly pale skin, that is.)

So I had already been worked over by the time I was lying listlessly on the couch in front of boob-tube, double-fisting cold-brewed coffee (a subject for another post) and tankard of ice water. Lemme tell ya, in that scene where Tony walks in the hospital room were Silvio lies comatose, I really identified with Silvio. So it was, with squinty eyes, a cranium in an invisible vice, and lots of fluids I watched the final episode of the Sopranos.

But before I get into what I thought about the Sopranos series finale, let me just say, I called it. Well, sort of. I really saw one of two likely scenarios happening, based on the second to last episode. In the first, and probably most popular scenario, a giant, bloody massacre, reminiscent of the gangland slayings back in the prohibition era. While that might have made for some amazing cinematography, with intentional visual effects to clue the audience in on the timelessness of mobster violence, it really seemed unlikely to me.

These guys are no dummies. The head honchos of both sides kept low profiles, they both knew that a face to face confrontation would be one neither of them would walk away from. So an Italian restaurant full of well dressed Italian men shooting each other was really unlikely. Tony’s team had already holed-up in two story house, so you knew it wasn’t gonna go down in The Bing either. If the series was going to end bloody, the second to last episode would have been the last. Leotardo‘s goons screwed up. To win it they had to hit Tony first and then Silvio instead of wasting time on Bobby. Whacking Bobby first was like screaming “Yo Joe!” right before your sneak attack on Cobra’s headquarters: stupid. Fatally stupid.

So the other scenario, and the one I expected, was the Tony-lives-and-life-goes-on (or Tony-wins) scenario. And as it turns out, I was right. As I mentioned in the discussion for the bloodbath scenario, both bosses are smart guys. It just turns out that Tony had better connections, which both gave him Leotardo’s whereabouts and got him out of hot water. In the end, it probably was his counseling-enhanced diplomatic skills that saved his bacon. There was a reason that study was brought up in the previous episode.

OK, so what did I think of the end? I thought it was great. I liked it for a number of reasons. And I’m gonna give ’em to you in list form.

  1. It pissed a lot of people off. And that makes for a lot of fun reading. Mr. Chase essentially said, “Hey, this is my show. It ends how I want it to end. You gotta problem with that?” Yes, a lot of people do! But nobody can accuse the guy of being a sell out. 🙂
  2. It was unexpected (by people other than me). And I kept looking at the clock and thinking things like, “OK, Tony, you just gotta make it another 8 minutes.” I was pretty sure I was right, but I had to keep watching to be sure. It could have turned on a dime.
  3. It leaves the door open for a movie (or future episodes). This is the real reason I wanted it to work out the way it did. I didn’t want this series to end, and I like the idea that there could be a Sopranos movie on the horizon. (I don’t know how well the show would translate to a movie, but I still like the idea.) Or better yet, the series could be resurrected, bringing us back to items #1 and #2.
  4. It was consistent. Nothing about this story was ever clean, or neatly tied up with a bow. It’s been a dirty mess since before episode one and is still a dirty mess after the final episode. I watched this final season wondering how on earth they were ever gonna tie everything up. But as the show stomped forward, ignoring things unresolved, it became clear to me that it couldn’t realistically be done in one episode. Nor would there be an attempt to.
  5. It made a boring meal at a restaurant the most tense and talked about thing on TV. If you weren’t tense watching the final scene you were on something. And whatever that was, it was probably illegal.

As one of the articles I read roughly said, you get the impression that life continues, but you can’t watch it happen. And that is really pissing a lot of people off. People like Nikki Finke, who thinks people should express their lack of approval for the show’s final episode by pulling their HBO subscription. Talk about entertainment, peoples’ angry reactions to the show is possibly more entertaining than the show itself!

Oh yeah, one last thing. The second sucker-punch of the day. The abrupt black screen. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I was caught off guard by that. (My cable service is pretty crummy, so it wasn’t the first time my screen went black during the Sopranos.) When the screen went blank, you would have thought somebody spoke out of line in the back office of The Bing. My wife and I in unison yelled “OHHHH!” 🙂

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6 Words To Get Your Teeth Drilled To

Happy Shootin’ DudeOK, I’m back. The great thing about sneaking in a post after midnight, is that it makes your absences appear less long or noteworthy. To look at my calendar, you’d think I’d only been gone a day. Where was I? How long was I gone? What was I smoking? Did it involve paramilitary and dense jungle? I’m not telling. You have to pay for that kind of information. What you can have for free is a list of words I hate.

So anyway, everybody has them. Words that make you shiver uncomfortably like a duck just walked over your grave. (If you’ve never experienced that shudder, don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’ll live forever, it just means you’ll be buried at sea. Glad I could help.) Words that you wish would be expunged from the language immediately and without fanfare to make way for new, useful swear words. Well, I have them anyway, and that’s what really matters for the purposes of this post.

Obey Andre!Meme. I first encountered this word a year or two ago on a website that tracked stenciled graffiti and how similar stencils appeared unexpectedly in different parts of the world. (It could have been this site or this one or some other that no longer exists, I’m not sure.) For some reason, a stylized head of Andre the Giant seemed to be appearing all over the place and with no apparent explanation. (Note image to the left. I just saw this sticker under a drive in window at a Wendy’s this past weekend.)

At first, I thought it was terribly clever concept, this meme thing. But it wasn’t too long before it became painfully obvious to me that this word had become a catch-all cliche, who’s actual purpose is to indicate the hipness and intelligence of the user rather than convey useful information. Of course in no time flat it started appearing everywhere online, all the time, to describe anything. In short “meme” is the text equivalent to Emo glasses. The best part is that the word is, quite literally “me” and “me” shoved together, as if to say “me too” or “notice me, I’ve very trendy.” Enough already. What’s wrong with a word like “trend” or “concept” or “idea”? Oh yeah, I forgot, those words don’t automagically grant you hipness you haven’t earned.

Milk. No I don’t have it in for all words that start with M. I dislike this word because it’s unpleasant to say, unpleasant to hear people say, and because I’m not down with the nipple nectar. When you see me ordering a overpriced coffee concoction with soy, it’s not because I’m watching my figure (though I probably should), or because I’m Northwest granola. It’s because tree-hugger juice is the lesser of two evils in my book. The real stuff just grosses me out (though it is usually tolerable after it’s been steamed). And it sits really badly with the ol’ digestive system.

Oddly enough, I’m fine with the word “ilk” (of cliche “you and your ilk” fame). So maybe I do have a problem with ‘M’. No, wait, I like cigars with a Maduro wrapper, so it isn’t that. It must be a faulty synapse.

Symbology. Somehow, I managed to make it most of the way through a literature-heavy school career without ever hearing this word. And the first time I heard it, I thought the person saying it was an idiot with a malaprop problem. But then I did a bit of investigation. It’s a real word (damn!), but I was right about the idiocy/malapropism diagnosis. The speaker really meant symbolism, a word I much prefer.

If this word looks (or sounds) familiar to you, it’s probably because you read it in one of Dan Brown‘s books, or saw it in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code. While his use of the word is technically correct, I can’t get over how stupid the word sounds. I probably have my malaprop friend to thank for that.

Libation. I keep hearing this word, and it’s really starting to bug me. And I think it’s because nobody just says “libation”. There’s always pause for dramatic effect before or after the word, as if to silently trumpet a triple-word-score Scrabble masterpiece. Or it’s simply over pronounced, with artistic flair and false pompous accent. Dammit, can we just get back to having “drinks” or “pints” or just “beer”? Unless, of course, you really are pouring a ceremonial beverage upon the ground for the gods. In that case, forgive me and let me get out of the way. I don’t want to get any libation on me.

Simplistic. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word used where it wasn’t being misused, or at least mistreated. Fortunately, it’s been quite a while since I’ve heard it, which is just the way I like it. If this word comes to mind, think twice, you’ll probably realize you’re adding a syllable for no good reason.

I’m heavily biased against any words that end in -istic. They strike me as the lazy way of communicating any idea. Or really, not communicating an idea, communicating where the idea is likely to be found. It’s kind of like an obscure pun without the humorous payoff. And if I’m gonna do your work for you, I want to at least be amused. As I’ve said before, if you put no thought into your words, don’t be terribly surprised if I don’t put any thought into them either. “Simplistic” enough for ya?

Greedy. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not about to quote Gordon Gecko as part of my rationale. I just think this is the single most ironic word in the English language. When was the last time you heard somebody use this word (aside from your mother) when it wasn’t motivated by a measure of greed equal to that of the accused? Think about it. (But not too hard, let Brian do the thinking for you. It’s just easier that way.) This word makes a judgment call that the user isn’t qualified to make, unless they are speaking about themselves. And somehow it’s thrown around all the time in our supposedly non-judgmental society without any sense of irony.

Take for example, Paris Hilton. Some might say she’s being greedy collecting six figures for an appearance at a restaurant. But hey, you don’t know how her trust fund works. Maybe she’s on a strict budget of $20,000 a month. If, for example, she was nursing a spendy coke and Cristal addiction, it’s entirely possible that she’s living trust fund check to trust fund check. That stuff is expensive, especially if she has to share it with whomever she’s filming with on any given day! That 6 figure check will help keep jewelry out of hawk while she’s skiing down that mountain of white powder, knocking back champagne bottles and driving on an suspended license. In this scenario, I wouldn’t say Miss Hilton was being greedy, I’d just say she had expensive lifestyle requirements.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “who the hell died and left you in charge of the English vocabulary?” Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to discuss the things that took place during my deceptively short absence. Just keep an eye on the papers. If you see something noteworthy, I may have had something to do with it. Unless it was illegal. In that case, it totally wasn’t me. I have witnesses.

Well now you have ’em. A gold star to the person that comes up with the most annoying (or creative or funny) comment containing all these words. (Comments about in-again-out-again jailbird are optional.) You know you were going to write one anyway! 😉

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If You Name Your Baby After A Plane, You Might Be An Asshole

Why God, why do people name their kids so abominably?I don’t think there’s a better indicator of criminal levels of self indulgence and narcissism than baby names. This morning, as I was staggering in a caffeine-less fog to the break room to get my fix, there were a few people standing around discussing the imminent download of a brand new bundle of joy and noise. The soon to be happy father was telling the lady he was speaking with how he was glad to be a man. You know, the stock nonsense all guys say know whenever pregnancy is being discussed.

Before I get into the meat of the issue at hand, I want you to know I’ve already made plans to handle this scenario. I’ve determined if my wife and I every decide to grace society with a little one-two punch of brains and looks, I’m going to pre-record all of these inane phrases on a little voice recorder. When the subject comes up, I will motion with a finger (not that one) for a moment so I can pull out my pre-recorded statements and press play. And blammo, ten solid minutes of cliche, semi-apologetic, self-deprecating things all guys are required to say whenever the subject of pregnancy and birth comes up. I’ll then whisper that they can drop the recorder off in my office when they’re done. I want you to know this now, so you can plan to make your own 10 minute recording full of “Ohhhs”, “Ahhs” and “Uh Huhs”. That way we can both turn them on, leave them in the break room and get back to work.

So anyway, back to the baby talk. After delivering his charming schtick about reproduction and gender differences, they got onto baby names. The exchange when a bit like this. (I’ve changed the names here to protect, well, myself. But not so much that the point is lost. In the off-chance this guy Googles his kids name, I don’t want him to find this, put two and two together and start a Peter Griffin vs. The Giant Chicken fight with me. It just looks like too much effort.)

The Exchange

Lady: So have you decided what to name her yet?
Dadzilla: Well, we’re not going to commit to it for sure until we fill out the forms, but we like Cessna.
Lady: Oh, Cessna. That’s cute.
Dadzilla: Yeah, we were going to go with Emelia, but then we realized that it’s the name of my brother’s ex-wife. So we were walking through an airplane museum, and it just occurred to us.
Lady: Oh yeah, that’d be bad.
Dadzilla: Yeah, it’d make holidays difficult.
Lady: Isn’t Cessna the name of a character on a TV show?
Dadzilla: I think so, but I’ve never seen it. I wonder if it’s a good or bad character? [This last part a bit louder, probably with the intention that I’d overhear it and fill them in on the characters details if I knew them. I didn’t.]
Lady: Hmm, I don’t know either.
Dadzilla: Anyway, I like different, creative names. Different is good.

And I left them there. I had work to do, coffee to drink and staples to drive into the skin between my fingers. On the short hike back to quiet bliss of my office, I was thinking, “you stupid bastard, you’re talking about a person’s name, not a new marketing slogan!” It true, some unfortunate girl will be saddled with the name “Cessna” her entire life. She’ll hear no end of witty innuendo about taking a flight in Cessna and kids will call her “Cessna pool”. (These are just the tip of the iceburg, I came up with these in five minutes, and I’m not even going to school with her.) And why? Because you, dadzilla, are a selfish, self-indulgent asshole. Erin, Mary or Sarah isn’t good enough for you, you want people to hear your baby’s name and tell you how very, very clever you are. Your bundle-in-transit isn’t a pet, if you want to call something Cessna, why don’t you get a poodle?

OK, you knew it was coming. Here, in list form, are Brian’s rules of thumb when it comes to naming your little diaper slayer. Hat tip to fellow-Georgian Jeff Foxworthy (or a blatant rip off, you take your pick) of Blue Collar Comedy Tour fame. (Please note, I’m referring to English first names only, I just don’t know that much about baby names around the world to be fully inclusive with my insults. Feel free to use these as applicable in your culture. Your mileage may vary.)

  • If you name your baby after a plane or any other mode transportation, you might be an asshole. (This one could be universal.)
  • If you give your baby a name that includes punctuation or accent marks, you might be an asshole.
  • If you give your baby a name that includes no vowels, you might be an asshole. (Or you just can’t spell, and then you’re probably a Redneck. Seek Foxworthy’s help with this one.)
  • If you name your baby after rocks, trees, streams or shrubbery, you are a hippie, and probably an asshole too. (Flowers are excluded, it’s just too late to ban them now.)
  • If you give your baby a first name that rhymes with the last name, you are most certainly an asshole.
  • If you give your baby three or more middle names, you might be a pompous asshole. (I’ll allow two, otherwise, we’d have to say J.R.R. Tolkien’s parents were assholes. And that’s borderline nerd-sacrilege.)
  • If you give your baby a name that’s an insult in any language or dialect that uses your alphabet, you’re probably a lazy asshole. (Seriously, you need to do your homework here. To this day, I guy I know named “Wally” cannot travel to the U.K.)

This has been a public service announcement from your friend at Brian’s Random Thoughts. Brought to you by Citizens Against Stupid Monikers.

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