Sunday, January 31, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Will Ferrell's "The Landlord"

Will Ferrell has some of the craziest ideas. If I had done something like this, I would totally have to do it without my wife knowing.

After you watch the video, make sure you watch the outtakes. It shows why kids are notoriously hard to work with. The landlord in question is his daughter, Pearl. But I was surprised to see Pearl's mom was in on the show.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

A One-Sided Conversation With My Daughter

A One-Sided Conversation With My Daughter

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

"Daddy, are you awake?"


"I said, are you awake?"

"I want to watch TV."

"I don't want to watch football."

"You weren't watching it, you were asleep."

"But people don't snore when they rest their eyes."

"How does meditation make you make that noise?"

"Nuh-uh. I don't believe you."

"I'll ask Mommy."

"No, she's — oh, I guess she's meditating too."

"Why can't I watch my show?"

"You can watch football later."

"But my show is on now."

"Yes, twice."

"Well, the DVD is somewhere. We were playing with it."

"No, we were really careful."


"But why?"

"But why are you saying so?"

"We didn't scratch it. We didn't even take it out of the case. We were stacking them all up and building houses out of them."

"Why can't we play houses with the DVDs?"

"What does alphabetical mean?"

"No, she's fast asl — I mean, she's still meditating."

"Oh, hi Mommy."

"Mommy, what does alphabetical mean?"

"It means Daddy's a geek?"

"I don't think you're a geek, Daddy."

"You're welcome."

"So can I watch my show?"

"But why?"


"Because why?"

"That's not fair. You watch football every Sunday, and I only get to watch iCarly once a day."

"Okay, twice."

"Okay, three times."

"I haven't seen every episode seven times."

"I've only seen today's four times."

"Stupid football."

"When can I have a TV in my room?"

"How long before I go to college?"

"Ten years?! That's a long time."

"But you'll be old in 10 years."

"I was just kidding. I don't want to go to my room."

"Fine, I'll watch the game. Who's playing?"

"Hey, we like the Colts. Who are those guys in green?"

"Who are the Jets?"

"Why do they suck?"

"Daddy, why is your face turning red? Mommy, why is Daddy turning red?"

"That sounds funny. Jets suck, Jets suck."

"When will I be old enough to say that?"

"Ten years?! But you'll be ol — never mind."

"Why do they keep jumping on each other?"

"That's stupid."

"So why don't they throw the ball every time?"

"That's stupid too."

"Why doesn't that guy in the striped shirt just let them keep playing? He keeps blowing his whistle just when it starts getting interesting."

"That's stupid too. This game sucks."

"What? Daddy said it first. I learned it from him."

"I've heard a lot of words from him."

"Well there's —"


"Sorry, Daddy, I didn't mean to get you in trouble."

"Is that true, Mommy? You're not the boss of Daddy?"

"Does that mean Daddy is the boss of you?"

"But I don't want to go to my room."


"But why?"

"But — ooh, okay, I'm going, I'm going."

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Lisa Nova Does "Twilight"

The great thing about YouTube is that people like Lisa Nova can unleash her creativity on the entire world, and we all get to see it. I love her takeoff of Twilight. I've seen enough of those friggin' spoofs people have done, I'm glad I finally got to see a good one.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

4 Dollar Footlong on "Up Next InSports"

I just made this at the Up Next In Sports blog, which is part of the I Can Has Cheezburger/LOLCats family.

You can actually help my photo make it on to the Up Next In Sports front page by voting for me. Stop by the actual photo, vote for it, and tell your friends.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Review of Richard III at the Indianapolis Fringe Theatre

Review of Richard III at the Indianapolis Fringe Theatre

I'm never sure of what to expect at the Indy Fringe Theatre. It's always something fun, but thought-provoking. This time, it was William Shakespeare's Richard III, as produced and adapted by Tristan Ross.

Ross said his version of the play is "non-tights-and-doublet-epic Shakespeare; this should get back to base Shakespeare with ink under his fingernails. I want to see people connecting on stage. I want the violence ultra-violent."

The story of Richard III is a well-known one. The brother of King Edward IV, Richard decides he wants to rule, and systematically dispatches everyone who stands in his way: Edward, Clarence, Edward's two sons, and six of the other characters.

This was a more challenging play for the troupe, since all of the actors, except for Ross, played two roles. He played only Richard.

To make the play more "Fringey," the play was done in modern dress and with modern weapons, but with the original language. Hearing Shakespearean English while seeing villains brandishing guns and wearing suits was a little dissonant, but nothing we couldn't handle.

Fourteen more roles played by seven actors was a challenge, but they were able to pull it off. Thanks to some clever choreography and quick costume changes, we were able to keep up with the story line and tell who was who. However, since I wasn't familiar with the story before I showed up, I had a little more trouble keeping the characters straight with the storyline. A program would have been helpful, but there were none available.

It's been years since I've seen any Shakespeare, so my Middle Ages English was a little rusty. Oftentimes, I can pick out most of what is being said, but several times during the play, I felt like I was watching a foreign film, relying on the tone and facial expressions of the actors to convey the message, rather than hearing the words. This was more of my own issue, rather than a deficiency of the actors. However, there were a few times that the pacing was rushed, and the lines were not delivered with the inflections and changes in tone and volume that would have made my understanding that much easier.

I like the idea of mixing the world of Shakespeare with our own modern day one. While this has been done before, with Romeo & Juliet, I would like to see this kind of production again. I've always enjoyed Shakespeare, and would love an excuse to see more of it.

FTC Disclaimer: While I did not receive any remuneration for this review, I was given two passes to see the play in order to write it.

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Deckers Family, Inc. Annual Report for 2010

Deckers Family, Inc. Annual Report for 2010

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

To: All members of Deckers Family, Inc.
From: President Daddy
RE: Yearly Evaluation Report

Dear Employees of DFI:

It's been a year since my last report, so in keeping with our corporate by-laws, I want to evaluate our progress over the last 12 months.

First, I am pleased to report that DFI has finally moved to its permanent headquarters. I appreciate your understanding and flexibility, since this is now our fourth HQ since arriving here four years ago. However, this one is permanent, and we have no plans of moving.

This is also an important move for all of us, because this is the first time that any of the junior staff have each had their own workspace. Previously, the Senior Manager and Assistant Manager of Daughter Operations (SMDO, AMDO) were required to share space. In fact, this has been the case since the Coordinator of Son Operations (CSO) joined us six years ago. So I'm pleased to see that you are all enjoying your new work areas, and that our SMDO is keeping her space neatly organized and free of the types of decorations that your counterparts in other organizations will plaster on their walls.

(Note to SMDO: While CEO Mommy and I are not opposed to decorations, we have strict policies in place regarding teenage movie vampires and teenage boy bands. We will provide you with approved posters from our local sports teams or cute animals at the appropriate time.)

I have been rather disappointed in the spaces of the AMDO and CSO. While I appreciate the spirit of collaboration and cooperation you have shown over the years, working together on a wide variety of projects, the resulting condition of your workspaces is a cause for constant concern among senior management.

This is also true for the corporate cafeteria. Remember to clean up after yourselves, and please refrain from raiding the company refrigerator. Many times, those items have been allocated for staff meals or late-night senior management meetings, after the junior staff have shut down for the night. We have purchased several different varieties of fruit, which you are allowed to eat at any time. And please refrain from eating anything one hour before staff meals.

Another note to SMDO: I realize you have been with the organization for nearly 13 years, which gives you seniority among junior staff, but I would like to remind you that this does not make you senior management. You are still responsible for upholding the same rules and performing the same responsibilities as your colleagues, including the care and feeding of our Acting Chief of K9 Security, Sophie. (More on her later.)

Additionally, while I realize that your length of service with the company entitles you to some familiarity with senior management, I'm not quite ready for you to shorten my title of President Daddy to "Dad" just yet. I know this will be an issue for some discussion in about six months, when we celebrate your next anniversary, but I'm still holding on to the traditions of the past. Besides, I'm concerned that your colleagues will begin following your example before they, or I, are ready.

Chief Sophie has proved to be an acceptable addition to our staff, although I do not believe a five pound Maltese-Poodle will actually be able to function adequately in her role as Chief of Security, should the need ever arise. So effective immediately, I am appointing her Chief Morale Officer instead, and the Chief of Security position will be left vacant.

We will either leave the position empty, or I may make an executive decision one day by hiring a new chief from the Beagle placement agency. As President, I believe I should be allowed to make executive decisions like this, no matter what CEO Mommy says. I realize she will disagree vehemently, but I will continue to make my case in the weeks, months, and years to come until she relents.

However, I am pleased to report that Chief Sophie has vastly improved her performance since she joined DFI in August 2008. She has almost completely stopped "leaving evidence" on the floor, although there have been times that the SMDO has not discharged her responsibilities in time, so Chief Sophie has discharged hers wherever she happened to be standing. There is still room for improvement on all parts.

While 2009 was a somewhat difficult year for us, I believe 2010 will be our best year yet. I'm looking forward to spending time with each of you, and know that you will all work toward our continued success.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Facing a Tough Choice On the Comedy Crossroads

I'm changing this blog. I can't go on the way I have been.

I've been writing humor of one sort or another for 16 years. In fact, I can't write anything else. Can't write drama, can't write romance, can't write science fiction. I do humor. That's it.
  • I've been a newspaper humor columnist since 1994. Haven't missed a deadline yet.

  • I've been blogging since 1999, before it was even called blogging, and we did our coding by hand, like real men.

  • I've written 7 or 8 audio theater plays which were all produced (honest to God, I lost count), and 5 of which will be produced by Decoder Ring Theatre in Canada next year.

  • I've written three stage plays (I won Best Comedy at the 2005 IT Works conference for my play, Cabin Fever U), and recently started a fourth.

  • In 2007, I received an art grant from the state of Indiana to write a humor novel, which I completed last October.

  • I've written a number of comedy sketches, some of which were even produced by an Internet audio comedy troupe. Today I sent off four new ones to one of my favorite shows to see if I could get any interest out of them there TEEvee people.
But I'm not happy with my blog.

You'd think I'd be satisfied that I'm doing most things right. But I'm not. And while I'm a glass half full kind of guy everywhere else, I can't even settle for 95% full in this one part of my life.

This blog originally started out as a once-a-week way for me to promote my humor column beyond the 30,000 people or so who read it on dead trees each week and on The American Reporter.

Then, from December 2008 to December 2009, I tried writing every day, to see what would happen to my readership. I actually saw a big increase, running around 4,000 readers a month. Then, when I cut back to 4 days a week at the end of 2009, readership dropped by half. That caused me to do a lot of thinking about what I want this blog to be.

The problem is that keeping a daily blog has become dreary. Three days a week I was putting up a video (Phone It In Sunday), reposting an old column (Wayback Wednesdays), or publishing my newspaper column (Contractual Obligation Friday). But the other four days involved me finding some story on about some idiots — usually a British city council or some dumbass in Florida who assaulted their boyfriend/girlfriend with food – and mercilessly berating the poor sonsofbitches until my thirst for righteous indignation had been slaked.

I'm getting a little tired of that last part though. Not berating sonsofbitches, because that's a blast. Rather, I'm just tired of more than half my blog being the Here's What Erik Found on Fark Yesterday Parade.

So I want to do more personal stories for my non-newspaper days. I'll still do the videos on Phone It In Sunday, because the kids at The Cool Table are hilarious and I've gotten to hang out with them and eat their big giant cookie (that's Lindsey and Dave and a big giant cookie in the photo), and because people like Lisa Nova need the 36 extra hits I bring on any given Sunday to her 6 million+ views on her YouTube channel.

I'm going to get more personal and write about more observational stuff, rather than just stuff I observed on Fark. And if that means I write one extra post a week, so be it. If I write four more times a week, that's fine too.

I'm not going to become one of those freaking daddy bloggers who writes about the joys and elations of raising children, or one of those panty-waisted nancy boys, I mean modern men, I mean girly men — no, I'm sticking with panty-waisted nancy boys — who want to breastfeed their children and weep silently into their chamomile tea that God didn't give them boobs.

See, I told you berating poor sonsofbitches was fun.

And I have a couple of mommy bloggers that I enjoy reading, but seriously? Do you really need to give a blow-by-blow description of how your gynecologist had to sculpt your uterus so you could "try" for another child? Good God, woman, there are some things we do not discuss in polite society, and uterine sculpting (or whatever it's called, I just made it up) is one of them.

While we're on the subject, whatever happened to the good old days of surprising your friends with the news of the Blessed Event around the middle of the second trimester? I miss those days. These days, I get to hear about how these women writers are "trying," which means I'm stuck with the permanently-chiseled mental image of them laying on their backs with their feet over their heads, whisper-chanting "healthy baby, healthy baby, healthy baby."

Needless to say, I would make a horrible mommy blogger. For one thing, I don't have the right plumbing. For another, I get really grossed out whenever women talk about their. . . womany business.

(I don't always do well in this new age of "transparency and authenticity" we social media types keep talking about.)

Of course, this means I won't get the cool swag that the mommy and daddy bloggers get, like a free Chevy Camaro to drive for a week (friggin' Casey Mullins), and no one will give me a free digital video camera I can use to make wacky videos about my family. But I won't sell out like that.

Okay, I totally will. I'm not asking for much either. I'll even review a Canon EOS Rebel, and would be just as happy driving a Chevy Cobalt for a couple weeks. Anyone? Flip camera and a Honda Fit? Sketchbook and a bicycle?

All this is to say that I'm changing how I do this blog. More humor from within, less humor from those damn Farkers and their Farking headlines (hysterical though they may be). It's just too easy, and I've worked too hard for 16 years to get lazy now.

But I'm still going after idiotic sonsofbitches, no matter where they are.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Ancient Greeks Don't Know Squat About Sex Education

My daughter nearly gave me a heart attack last week.

We were sitting around the dinner table, and my wife gave me an orange.

"Do you remember what these are called?" she asked. "We get them every year around this time."

I was stumped. "Uhh, oranges."

"No, they're not quite oranges. They start with a T."

"Trains!" says my 7-year-old son.

"Tangerines," offers my 9-year-old daughter.

"Trojans?" says my 13-year-old daughter.

My daughter realized she might have said the same thing when she saw the horrified look on my wife's and my faces.

"Where did you learn about those?" I choked out, trying to ignore the shooting pain down my left arm.

"In history class. They fought in the Trojan War, had the big wooden horse."

My wife and I heaved a sigh of relief.

"Why, what are they?"

"We'll tell you later," we promised.

Much later.

(The answer we were looking for was "tangelos." We would have also accepted "Minneolas.")

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Cop Assaults Affirmation Girl

Affirmation Girl is back again and this time she's taking on the police. She's giving polite society the bird. She's sticking it to The Man. She's. . . she's. . . she's a freakin' mess.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Dangers of Writer's Block

Bet you didn't know writer's block could kill a guy.

Neither did one writer at Tuesday's Jabberwocky event.

I was attending the joint event at the Indy Fringe Theatre, hosted by the Storytelling Arts of Indiana. The theme of the night was "Writer's Block," and the premise was that different writers from Indianapolis would stand up and tell their experiences with writer's block and how they overcame it, or didn't.

Shari Scales Fennell, editor-in-chief of Indianapolis Woman, Dennis Ryerson, editor of the Indianapolis Star, Lou Harry, arts reporter for the Indianapolis Business Journal all spoke about their experiences with writer's block.

For Shari, her own experience led her away from and then back into journalism, taking her down the editorial path. Dennis was at the Iowa Writer's Workshop when he witnessed a woman break her 8-year dry spell and write one of the most beautiful essays he had ever heard. But Lou had never had an experience with writer's block, but he very nearly didn't become a writer.

To keep a long story short, Lou's first writing experience was nearly his last. Back when he was a teenager, he typed his very first screenplay. (For you young people, a typewriter is a machine that puts characters directly on paper and is not hooked up to the Internet.) The screenplay was 180 pages and as thick as a brick. One page usually equals one minute in movie time, so it needed some editing.

On stage, Lou even pulled a thick stack of papers out of his briefcase to show us what 180 pages of a screenplay looks like.

Lou gave his manuscript to his best friend, the very friend who it was about, and asked him to read it. The friend agreed, took the stack of pages in their manila folder, and set it on the hood of his car.

And then drove off.

"If you've never seen what a 180 page screenplay looks like flying off the hood of a car, it looks something like THIS!" And Lou hurled the stack of pages out into the audience to illustrate his story.

I should probably point out, Lou is a nice guy, and a hell of a writer. He's meticulous. He had probably rehearsed this. Had written his script, and probably even practiced it a couple of times. So I don't think anyone was more surprised at what happened than Lou. Except maybe the other guy.

The pages flew through the air, and four pages flew off and fluttered harmlessly to the ground. I even watched the stack whiz past me, and then I heard a WHAP! The audience ooh'ed, laughed, and murmured, followed by a cone of silence somewhere behind me that just sort of grew as we all realized another guy had just been hit by the remaining pages.

Lou stopped his monologue, and asked the guy, "Are you okay?"

"Mumble mumble," said the guy.

"No, seriously. Are you okay?"

"I'm mostly okay," said the guy, and we all laughed. (The guy really was okay. I saw him after the show was over.)

Lou looked relieved and continued on with his story. Ultimately, he wrote another screenplay, since the only copy of his first one was lost forever. And that launched him into a lifelong writing career, filled with books, plays, and countless articles. He even reconciled with the friend who destroyed his first dreams of Hollywood fame and fortune.

Afterward, a few of us got up and told our own stories of writer's block. I even told one of my own, about how Garrison Keillor managed to shake me out of my writing doldrums with an off-handed piece of advice that ultimately led to 7 radio plays, and extended a 4-year humor column writing gig that has now entered its 16th year. But regardless of what I've done, I have never managed to assault an audience member with the written word.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but paper is a cruel bitch.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Because I Said So, That's Why

Because I Said So, That's Why

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2002.

"Okay, Honey, it's time for bed."

"Because you're six years old, and it's 9:30. It's already past your bedtime."

"I know you don't feel tired. But you should have been in bed 30 minutes ago."

"Yes, I know you want to play with your new Barbie doll. But she looks a little tired. And so do you. So get moving."

"OW! Sorry, I stepped on one of Barbie's shoes. You need to clean this up tomo—Honey, why doesn't Barbie have any clothes on?"

"No, it's not funny to take Barbie's clothes off. Where's your Ken doll?"

"You didn't take his clothes off, did you?"

"Good. Why don't you keep him in Barbie's Dream House tonight."

"No, you don't have to put naked Barbie in there with him."

"Uhh, just because."

"Because I said so. . . look, why don't you ask Mommy that question in about 10 years or so."

"Okay, climb into bed. Let me tuck you in. Don't forget to say your prayers."

"Amen. No Honey, I don't know what God looks like."

"Yes Honey, He lives in Heaven."

"Yes, Heaven is up."

"Well, the sky is blue because when sunlight hits our atmosphere, the blue light bounces off molecules in the air."

"The atmosphere is like a big invisible blanket over the Earth."

"Yes, invisible like your puppy Bloodhounder."

"No, I don't know what Bloodhounder did today."

"I didn't know that Barbie didn't like Bloodhounder."

"Why would your invisible dog try to eat your plastic Barbie?"

"Well, then why don't you feed him more often?"

"No, you cannot feed him the hamburger in the refrigerator. That's for dinner tomorrow."

"No we can't have pizza for dinner. We just had pizza."

"Because I said so. Look, don't you want to know what the atmosphere is?"

"Yeah, I didn't think it was that interesting either."

"I don't know. You need to go to sleep now."

"No, I'm not going to check your closet for monsters."

"Because there's no such thing as monsters."

"Yes, I know Elmo and Cookie Monster are monsters, but they're friendly monsters. Besides they're just on TV."

"Alright, I'll check. See, there's no monsters in your closet."

"No, they're not in the toy box either. And before you ask, they're not in the clothes hamper or on the shelves."

"Yes, I know I said there's no such thing as monsters. I was just making a point — listen, you need to go to sleep!"

"Why would they be under your bed? Is there even any room under your bed for monsters?"

"Fine. If I check, will you go to sleep?"

"Look, there's nothing under — AAGGHHHHHH, WHAT'S THAT?!"

"I'msorryI'msorryI'msorry! No, Honey, stop crying. No, there's no monster under there. I stuck my hand under the bed, and your Tickle Me Elmo doll went off."

"Okay, technically there WAS a monster under the bed. But he's not even the real Elmo Monster, he's just a toy."

"Yes, that's funny. It'll be even funnier when my heart stops pounding."

"Because I just scared myself on your Tickle Me Elmo. Please clean that up tomorrow too."

"No, I can't read you a story. It's time for you to go to sleep. You've got a big day tomorrow."

"Let's see. You've got to play with your sister, play with the dogs, watch Sesame Street, and clean your room."

"I know that's what you do every day. But—"

"I know it's not. I was just saying that so you would go to sleep."

"No, that's not a lie."

"Because it isn't. I would explain it if you didn't have to go to sleep right now."

"We've been through this already. Whether or not you're tired has nothing to do with going to bed at a certain time."

"You can stay up later when you're older."

"I don't know! About 12."

"That's in six years."

"No, I will not read you a story."

"Don't start that. If you keep doing that, a bird will land on it."

"No, not really."

"No, not even an invisible bird."

"Yes, invisible like Bloodhounder."

"You already told me what Bloodhounder did today."

"That's right, with your Barbie."

"No, no more questions. That's enough. It's time for you to go to sleep right now."


"I mean it. No more."

"Your night light is still on."

"Yes, good night. Go to sleep."

"I love you too. See you tomorrow."

"Jeez, you scared me. Don't sneak up on me like that."

"Yes, she just went to bed."

"No, we weren't playing around!"

"I was NOT trying to keep her awake."

"She was — never mind."

"Listen, you need to talk with her tomorrow. She's taking Barbie's clothes off."

"No, I'm not going to talk to her about it."

"Because daddies don't talk about that kind of stuff with their daughters, mommies do."

"I am NOT blushing!"

"No, I'm not!"

"I'm going to read for a while. You should go check for monsters under her bed."

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Monday, January 11, 2010

British Model Told Protecting Her Family With a Knife is Illegal

British celebrity model Myleene Klass (yeah, I didn't know who she was either) was in her kitchen after midnight on Friday when she spotted a couple people looking in her window. With her daughter upstairs, and her fiance away on business, she did the first thing that came to mind: she grabbed a knife and banged on the windows.

Which, according to the Hertfordshire Police, is illegal.

The two teens — the British press said the peepers were teens, although they were never caught — ran off, and Klass called the police.

The Hertfordshire police told Klass that even in her own home, brandishing a knife is illegal, because it's an offensive weapon.

"I totally respect British law - but surely everyone has the right to self defence in their own home if they are in danger?" Klass said in a statement
. "However, I was left shocked and surprised to be told that a private individual in the privacy of their own home runs the risk of committing a criminal offence if, out of fear for their own safety and their loved ones, they grab something with which they could defend themselves if an intruder enters their home.

True to form, Britain is giving greater and greater rights to criminals by preventing home owners and victims from protecting themselves. Pretty soon, British home owners and shopkeepers will only be allowed to defend themselves with a cabbage and a sharp retort.

Until the British politicians decide that sharp retorts can hurt the yobs' widdle feewings. I give it 6 months.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Blanket!

I thought the WTF Blanket was funny, but this is actually funnier. And I don't think the Snuggie people can or should complain about how Dustin McLean made the Snuggie sound stupid. They made blanket owners everywhere look like mouth-breathing morons. And I would have done something about it too, if I could have just gotten my hands out from under my blanket.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

TV Weather People Create Fear Mongering

TV Weather People Create Fear Mongering

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

The TV weather people are turning us into sissies. They're doing everything they can to force us all into our homes, where we'll be found dead after the Spring thaw, huddled together in frozen masses.

Don't believe me? Watch your morning news next week and see how dramatic the weather reporters sound, especially when there's anything heavier than a snow flurry. They'll stand on the city streets in the "dangerous cold" (10 degrees), telling people why they should stay inside. We used to go out and play in 10 degree weather. It was double digit temperatures, so we were okay. Now, they're telling people how to avoid frostbite during the short walk from the parking lot to the office.

Just three weeks ago, my oldest daughter and I were watching the morning news on our local FOX affiliate, as I was getting ready to take her to school. All the news casters were using their Very Serious Voices, warning us about the bitterly cold winds, the dangerously low temperatures, and the winter storms of biblical proportions that were looming over the city. Drivers leaving the city were told not to look in their rearview mirrors, lest they turn into pillars of salt.

When we stepped outside, I expected to be whipped around by heavy winds and blinded by snow.

It was sunny, in the mid-30s, and a stiff breeze messed up my hair and made me zip up my windbreaker. On the way home, I drove through a snow squall two miles wide, and I was back in the sunshine.

So much for dangerous weather.

Every TV station's weather promo carries this underlying message: "Weather is scary and dangerous, and it will eat your children. Only our news station can give you the most up-to-date weather and road conditions. If you watch the other guys, you will probably freeze, suffocate, or die in a fiery crash of twisted metal and Titanic-sized snow drifts."

But Indiana isn't the only place the TV news is trying to scare the bejeezus out of their viewers.

FOX11 in Green Bay, Wisconsin has begun naming the winter storms. Once limited to only killer hurricanes, FOX11 is naming the winter storms to drum up more viewers.

I can't be sure who came up with the moronic, overly-dramatic idea of naming a winter storm, but I'm astonished that it's Wisconsin who's trying to create this panic. To hear most Cheeseheads tell it, an Indiana winter storm is just a minor inconvenience. A mere dusting of snow and a few cold gusts of wind.

Or as they call it, August.

FOX11 has come up with a list of storm names to use whenever there's more than two inches of snow on the ground. They're already up to Chloe, and it's only the first month of winter. But the entire list only goes up through Nathan, so they don't seem to think their fear mongering list will be used up before Spring.

Come on, people. I've seen less drama at a high school prom.

Now, I realize we don't get horrible storms here in Indiana like they do in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but I also know that we get some pretty hard weather. We'll get a few inches of snow, and people will drive like idiots for the first couple of days. But then everyone gets their sea legs back, and we're fine again. We're used to this kind of weather.

That's because anyone who's my age or older remembers the Blizzard of '78, where schools and businesses were closed for a week. I remember my dad putting on his cross-country skis and skiing to the store for some groceries.

See, here in Indiana, we're made of sterner stuff than Wisconsin. We just name the more memorable storms after they happen, not before. The last time the weather worried any of us was 32 years ago.

Maybe Wisconsin's getting soft. Maybe the Upper Midwest is losing it, and are turning into a bunch of sissified weather whiners who would rather fly away to Florida every year until April.

Not us Hoosiers, nosiree. We'll stick it out here. We won't name our storms or huddle in fear. We'll ignore our TV newspeople and their feeble attempts at fear mongering, and we'll just fight our way through winter like we always do, heads down and eyes squinted. against the wind.

And after a while, the temperatures will warm up, and we'll all be fine again. At least until Spring Shower Rachel rolls across Central Indiana.

That's when we'll panic.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Mystery Pizza Thank You

Earlier today, someone sent me a pizza in response to this morning's post about E.J. Montini being sent anchovy pizzas by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. Here's my appreciative response.

Many thanks to whoever sent it.

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Arapaio, AZ Sheriff Delivers Anchovie Pizza to Newspaper Columnist for Negative Story

Arizona Republic newspaper columnist E.J. Montini wasn't too surprised when he returned to his office on Wednesday and found an anchovy pizza ordered and paid for by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, AZ, with a note attached to it.

The note said:
Dear E.J.,

Thanks for another negative story about me. (“Criticism that Arpaio, Thomas can’t shake” Jan. 5, 2010 Arizona Republic) As it is my tradition, I hope you enjoy the pizza (with anchovies). Have a Happy and Prosperous 2010!


Joseph M. Arpaio, Sheriff
Apparently this is an ongoing thing. Montini writes a negative column about Arapaio, who is accused of abusing his power, the FBI is taking a personal interest in the self-proclaimed "America's toughest sheriff." In return, the sheriff sends him anchovy pizzas to thank him for negative columns. Montini doesn't like anchovies, so I guess this is Arpaio's way of yanking Montini's chain.

I happen to like anchovies, so I don't see what the big fuss is.

However, I don't like pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese pizza. I especially don't like them from Bazbeaux Pizza in Broad Ripple.

So I hope that big jerk, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, doesn't send me one of those after I question his fitness to serve the community of Maricopa, Arizona, or point out the fact that his politics and actions of late, like racial profiling, having a deputy steal files from a public defenders desk and then threatening a law enforcement slowdown, or other abuses of power that are bringing the FBI onto his head.

So, please Sheriff Arpaio, don't call (317) 255-5711 and have Bazbeaux deliver a 16" pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese to my office at 5348 Tacoma Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220 between 12 and 2 EST. And if they don't deliver, please don't purchase a $25 gift card and have it mailed to me.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Wayback Wednesday: I'll Have What She's Having

I'll Have What She's Having

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2003

Every Wednesday, I republish old columns from years past. I've got 16 years of the things sitting in the garage, so they might as well serve some other purpose. This is one originally published in 1999.

I've sometimes considered being a restaurant critic, but I'm worried about the restaurant that delivers shish kebabs William Tell style, so I've held off. Unfortunately most restaurants sell the same items with no great variety, which means the reviews would all end up being the same.

The typical restaurant, assuming it's not a four-star gourmet restaurant, serves some sort of hamburger. They also have chicken, vegetables, and salads. There's no major difference in taste or quality. The biggest difference is the name of the food, which varies wildly from restaurant to restaurant.

Since the hamburger is usually a restaurant's flagship sandwich, it's named after the restaurant or one of its characters. You can order the Big Boy, the Halfback, the Gunslinger, and the Bronco Burger: a quarter-pound hamburger with pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomato on a bun.

One of my favorite lunches is a nice Reuben sandwich — corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread. It's a universally recognized sandwich, and one of our local restaurants makes a pretty decent Reuben.

Unfortunately, the restaurant, which has a nautical theme, has named the sandwich the "Shiver Me Timber." As a result, I'm supposed to order the "Shiver Me Timber," and NOT "a Reuben sandwich" whenever I eat there.

It doesn't matter that I order the sandwich so often the waitress has it waiting for me as soon as I walk in the door. And it doesn't matter that everyone else in the free world, including people in Brazilian rain forests who have never seen corned beef, calls this "a Reuben sandwich." They don't even care if I read its menu description ("succulent corned beef lovingly smothered with sharp Swiss cheese, tart sauerkraut, and a huge smear of Thousand Island dressing, layered between two thick slices of fresh rye bread").

What matters is that I call the sandwich by its proper name, the "Shiver Me Timber." But I hate doing it, because it sounds like something Pee Wee Herman got arrested for.

"I'll have the Reuben," I tell the waitress.

"The what?" she asks.

"The Reuben. . . sandwich."

The puzzled look on her face tells me I must have been speaking Ancient Greek and not been aware of it.

I point to that particular item on the menu. "This one."

I can't make her mad; I don't want any "sneezers" mixed in with my Thousand Island dressing.

"Oh, you mean the Shiver Me Timber," she says, as if I've just revealed the secrets of internal combustion to her.

"Yes, that one."

"That what?"

I grit my teeth and try not to cry. "That sandwich."

"Come on, you have to say it," my waitress says in a sing-song voice. I was afraid it was going to come to this. I hang my head and my shoulders quake with silent sobs. I barely gasp out the words, "I'll. . . have. . . the. . . Shiver. . . Me. . . Timber."

I feel so dirty.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?" The look on my face tells her not to push her luck, so she goes off to put in my order.

I hear her yell from the kitchen, "Hey Joe, I just broke another one! That's 37 for me this month!"

Now I can put up with the occasional Shiver Me Timber or Big Buoy half-pound hamburger. But what really makes me cringe is ordering off the kids menu. Luckily, most restaurants across North America have the same kid's menu, because my daughter is as predictable as gravity when it comes to restaurants:

"I'll have chicken, French Fries, ketchup, dip," she used to say the way only a parent could understand. Unfortunately, with the exception of our favorite Sunday restaurant (sadly now closed), no one else knows what the heck she's talking about. But it's always the same, no matter where we go.

"What did she say," asks our waitress.

"She'll have the chicken fingers, fries, with Ranch dressing and ketchup on the side," I tell our waitress.

"The what?"

Oh no, not again.

"The chicken fingers and fries?" I ask, hopefully.

A sadistic smile slowly spreads across her face. She shakes her head slowly. I look to my wife for help, who is suddenly engrossed in the color of my daughter's left ear.

"Fine," I say in a clear, loud voice. "I'll have the Lucky Plucky Happy Chicky Delight with Tatie Stripes," reading it directly from the menu. I can clearly see that she's written "chix fngrs, FF" on her notepad, so if she keeps this up, her tip is going to be 4 pennies at the bottom of a full water glass.

She races off toward the kitchen and shouts to her co-workers in the back, "Hey guys, I just hit 50! I set the new record!"

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Scottish Man Forced to Choose Between His Wife and an Orc

One British man was lucky enough to escape from his parents' home and marry a real live girl.

But he nearly lost her over a 6 foot model of an orc.

According to a story in The Scottish Sun, Robert Cushnie had a giant model of an Orc in his home for nearly six years, but his Canadian wife, Dee, said that he had to choose between the grumpy, bloodthirsty monster, or the orc.

He gave up the orc.

"I've had him for six years but Dee means more to me, so he had to go," Cushnie told the Sun.

Robert has actually known the orc longer, having bought it from a toy shop in Falkirk. But he married Dee last February, and the pair are moving to Canada in a few weeks. Plus there are concerns the orc would not have passed quarantine laws.

Dee said, "I just don't like it. I'm only 5ft 3in, so it towers over me, which is quite creepy."

Other computer geeks were heard to murmur, "aww, that's nice," before returning to their World of Warcraft games, and promising their moms they would empty the garbage "after I finish this quest, dammit!"

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Friday, January 01, 2010

LSSU's List of Banned Words for 2010

LSSU's List of Banned Words for 2010

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009/2010

It's the end of the year, which means word nerds and writer-types around the country are rejoicing: the Lake Superior State University has released their 35th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use, and General Uselessness.

The list was created by former LSSU PR director Bill Rabe and a few of his cronies in 1975 and released on January 1, 1976. Back then, words like "meaningful," "macho," and "detente" felt Rabe's wrath. This year was culled from tens of thousands of submissions from all around the world, and released in time for this column.

In the past, the list has usually been released on the first day of the new year. This is the first year I can recall it being "shovel-ready" on December 31st. In other words, the list was completed and ready for implementation.

The problem is "shovel-ready" made the very top of the LSSU list. I don't know if it just happened to land there, or if the committee really, really hated it. But "shovel-ready" got the axe.

Jerry Reddington of Keosauqua, Iowa said "when something dies, it, too, is shovel-ready for burial." In that sense, "shovel-ready" is now shovel-ready.

One of my much-hated words made the list this year: "transparent" or "transparency." I work in social media, and a lot of my peers use this word. It's supposed to mean that we're allowed to see behind the curtain and see what processes are in place. We want our government to be more transparent, so we can see what they're doing. We want big corporations to be more transparent, so we can understand how they cook the books. But LSSU banned it too.

Thank you, guys.

And while being transparent is the opposite of being secretive, people are using the word to mean "don't keep secrets." Why we just can't say "public," "out in the open," or "not secretive" is beyond me.

I think we need to find a "teachable moment," where we can encourage others to stop using the word. Except "teachable moment" is shovel-ready now too. (The burial kind, not the ready to implement kind.)

Good riddance. I used to use the word — a fancy way of saying "a lesson" — when I worked at a college. We used it then because we were truly trying to find teachable moments to give to our young charges while they were in our care. Now everybody is using it, and I'm ready to whack it with a shovel.

Eric Rosenquist of College Station, Texas said the term is "a condescending substitute for 'opportunity to make a point.'" I have to agree. Frankly, it sounds too touchy-feely. Instead of "teaching someone," people feel they have to "find a teachable moment."

Here's a teachable moment for you: don't use four words when two will suffice.

LSSU was apparently hoping that "tweet" would be my teachable moment. They want to get rid of this word, because, as Ricardo of Merida, Mexico said, "(it) has lost all meaning."

I'm going to have to break with the Fighting Lakers on this one. I love the word tweet, and "all of its variations. . .tweetaholic, retweet, twitterhea, twitterature, twittersphere." This is my world, my bailiwick. I am the master of this domain, the king of all I twurvey. Tweeting has become an important word.

Anyone who uses Twitter, the 140-character public messaging service, understands what it means. If you don't use it, you won't understand it. Twitter has become this decade's email, widely used, and slowly taking over everything.

Still, I'm not surprised to see the LSSU word squad try to ban the future. In 2000, they tried to ban "E-anything." E-commerce, e-tailing, e-communication were hit with the school's Delete key.

In fact, LSSU went after a lot of social media and electronic communication methods this year. Not only did they ban tweet, but they had a whack at "app" (short for application), "sexting" (sending sexually explicit pictures and text messages via cell phone), and "friending" (a verb that means adding them to your social network, like Facebook).

While some of these may seem rather harsh and restrictive, I think LSSU has provided a great service yet again, especially "in these economic times." They're helping us get rid of these linguistic "toxic assets" in our everyday language. So if this list upsets you, you just need to "chillax."

Dang it.

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