Summer’s Over, Back to Work

Summer is over. It’s time to get back to work.

Sure, for you – for most people in the northern hemisphere – that’s old news. Summer for most people, at least as a state of mind, ends on Labor Day. For me, it’s a different holiday – International Talk Like a Pirate Day, every Sept, 19.

I’m not very productive in the summer. I’m just not. (Obviously, the includes blogging.)  And the two and a half weeks between Labor Day and Talk Like a Pirate Day I’m even busier. As of the two guys who started the holiday and then took the idea way too far, the buildup is a little like I imagine mid-December would be in Santa’s workshop. Not just getting my own schedule together but dealing with our newsletter – The Poopdeck – and the website and interviews, it all gets a little hectic. It’s slowed down some these days, the holiday has taken on a life of its own. It’s reached critical mass and doesn’t need Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket. It’s reached critical mass. Ten years ago we would do more than 80 interviews in a 36 hour period, radio stations all around the world, starting in Australia and New Zealand and following sunrise around the globe. This year we did a handful, and that’s fine. If something happens to me or Mark, the holiday will go on without us.

I’ll talk a little more about this year’s holiday in a later post this week. (No, seriously, this week.) For now, I’m thinking over what I’ve got to get onto.

I’ve got to keep pushing on. I’ve got three projects lined up in a row, that I’d like to have cleaned up and ready to go in the next year. One that’ll be finished in ten days, one to complete by Dec. 1, and then one to have finished by summer.

It’s all a question of being organized, making a schedule and sticking to it. So far, I’ve got the “making a schedule” part. Now for the “sticking to it” part.

Pizza at Big Rico’s for my birthday

No one does a slice like Big Rico. No one.

If you recognize that slogan, then you’ll understand why I was so happy to receive a “Big Rico’s” T-shirt from my family for my birthday last week.

My new shirt. I like it a lot.

It’s an ad from the podcast “Welcome to Night Vale” for Big Rico’s Pizza. “No one does a slice like Big Rico” – then a pause, and a slightly sinister – “No one.” Big Rico’s is the only pizza parlor in the desert community of Night Vale. The others all mysteriously burned down.

“Welcome to Night Vale” is a strange and twisted tale. The best way I can describe it is if you combined Lake Woebegone or Mayberry with “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits,” then had it written by Dean Koontz. The twice-monthly podcast is in the style of a broadcast from the town’s community radio station, featuring updates of activities and city council meetings, local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and the glow cloud that hovers over the town at night while citizens pretend to sleep. It presents the bizarre in a perfectly matter-of-fact way.

And my family knows me, and knew exactly how much I would like that shirt.

If you haven’t been listening to “Welcome to Night Vale,” and that might be a small number considering that it has been the most downloaded podcast on iTunes, and if you like the weird, then give it a try. It’s odd enough that it probably doesn’t matter if you know what’s gone before. Just dive in anywhere. But I strongly urge you to start at the beginning. That’s the episode that starts with this warning from the announcer:

“The City Council announces the opening of a new dog park at the corner of Earl and Sommerset, near the Ralph’s. They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible that you will see hooded figures in the dog park. DO NOT APPROACH THEM. DO NOT APPROACH THE DOG PARK. The fence is electrified and highly dangerous. Try not to look at the dog park, and, especially, do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures. The dog park will not harm you.”

WRITING NOTES: I’ve gotten a LOT done in the last two days, but very little of it was work on the WIP. I worked on setting up a podcast (lots to learn,) have done a ton of laundry, washed many dishes, mailed off books, ran around to the bank and some shopping. Lot of stuff. Still had a little time Tuesday, and got 300 words in. I should I have a couple of hours later today and with luck will get another couple of hundred or so in today. Hard to say.

CORRECTION: My friend and partner in piracy Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers pointed out that I was mistaken when I wrote last week that I had never seen a movie with Minnie Driver. I had forgotten she was the woman in “Grosse Pointe Blank,” an entertaining movie starring John Cusack about the difficulties of establishing a romantic connection when you’re a professional hit man by trade. And it gets a lot more complicated than that. Great supporting performance by Dan Ackroyd as a rival hit man who’s trying to set up a union.

No Hoverboard? Blame Marty McFly

This is the year Marty McFly jumped to in Doc Brown’s time machine (in the movie “Back to the Future,” obviously.)

Today is the very day, Oct. 21, 2015. From today forward, all of “Back to the Future” takes place in the past.

And all around the universe we keep hearing the same refrain:

“Where is my hoverboard?”

It’s obvious. We don’t have them and it’s all Marty McFly’s fault.

It has to be. Look. In 1985 Marty jumped back to 1955 and changed things so that his parents would fall in love and have a great life. Then he jumped back to 1985, then forward to 2015 – a 2015 where they had hoverboards.

But Biff took the DeLorean back to 1955, gave himself the sports almanac and changed the future in an awful, awful way. Then Marty went back and changed what Biff had done, canceling out that timeline. Then of course he had to go back to the 19th century to save Doc again, before jumping back to 1985 to see that everything seemed to be back to normal.

Except something that Marty did in 1955 (or maybe back in the Wild West, who knows?) must have changed the timeline, because when he jumped to 2015, there were hoverboards. But when we got here the old fashioned way, no hoverboards. No self-tying shoes or self-drying clothes. And fax machines everywhere. Seriously, who uses fax machines in 2015?

It’s not that the movie makers got it wrong. If you want to blame someone because you don’t live in a world with Pit Bull hoverboards, look no farther than the only possible suspect.

Something Marty did altered the timeline and made it impossible for commercial hoverboards to be invented and produced for the public.

Damn you, McFly!

(Side note: I have always loved how in the second movie they actually had to pause while Doc drew out the timeline paradoxes, as if the production staff realized, “Man, I’m having trouble following this. The audience will never get it!)

27 Ways to be a Modern Guy

Last week The New York Times Style section ran a column on “27 Ways to be a Modern Man.” It was either a parody or the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. Just stupid.

I’m pretty sure it was a parody, because no one could be that fatuously pompous, and no one in DeKalb, Illinois, (the author’s home) knows what Kenneth Cole oxfords are. But if it was parody, it was a little too subtle. Only one or two of them were so over the top as to be completely ruled out. Mostly they were just obnoxious.

The problem with the piece is that the author has never met a guy. He’s met lots of men, but apparently no guys. They are NOT the same thing, as Dave Barry has spent a career cataloging. Men belong to organizations like Rotary and the Trilateral Commission and do important, world changing, serious things. Guys belong to groups with names like the Cavemen and do things involving archery and beer and blowing up vacuum cleaners, often all at the same time.

The author has spent his life in the company of men, despite the fact that his last name, Lombardi, is one of the great guy names of all time.

So here in the name of equal time, I am offering the “modern guy” equivalent of the insipid “modern man” offering. I’ve put Lombardi’s suggestions in italics, followed by the guy’s response.

27 Ways to be a Modern Man – Modern Guy

Brian Lombardi, man, and John Baur, guy

1. When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn’t have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small.

The modern guy does not buy shoes for his wife or girlfriend. Ever. It’s impossible to get it right. Even if he manages to get the right size, he’s sure to get the color or style wrong and possibly be off on the exact number of feet. The modern guy also wonders why the modern man can’t ask his wife what size shoe she wears. I mean, she’s right there and she probably knows. Or at least look in her closet, if you’re going to do something as foolish as try to buy her shoes.

2. The modern man never lets other people know when his confidence has sunk. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly until it is.

The modern guy’s confidence never sinks. Never. He is always sure he’s capable of anything from replacing his brake pads to installing electrical wiring in his new storage shed. He thinks he’s unstoppable, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. The modern guy’s wife/girlfriend is always hiding his toolbox, but he keeps finding it.

3. The modern man is considerate. At the movie theater, he won’t munch down a mouthful of popcorn during a quiet moment. He waits for some ruckus.

In the movie theater, the modern guy is the ruckus.

4. The modern man doesn’t cut the fatty or charred bits off his fillet. Every bite of steak is a privilege, and it all goes down the hatch.

OK, this one actually applies to guys as well. He’s never going to throw away a bit of beef (which he would never call a “fillet” for fear of the grief his pals would give him.) When his wife or girlfriend tries to take his plate away he’ll complain, “Hey! I wasn’t finished. That’s the good part!” even if there’s nothing left on it but some gristle and charred bits,

5. The modern man won’t blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot. He finds a reasonable one and puts his car between the lines.

For the modern guy, securing the best parking spot in the lot is why god put him on this earth. He will stalk the perfect parking spot like a tiger after a dentist. When the perfect spot opens up he will race to it like a Formula One driver, knocking over pedestrians and cutting off other drivers for the chance to get that space.

6. Before the modern man heads off to bed, he makes sure his spouse’s phone and his kids’ electronic devices are charging for the night.

The modern guy is slightly intimidated by his children’s electronic devices. But he accepts as part of his parenting duty the importance of teaching self-sufficiency to his kids (and his wife.) They are responsible for their own stuff. It’s not his job to plug in their phones etc. That’s not how the world works.

7. The modern man buys only regular colas, like Coke or Dr Pepper. If you walk into his house looking for a Mountain Dew, he’ll show you the door.

First, Dr. Pepper is not a cola at all, let alone a regular cola. It’s some weird mutant drink that looks like cola and tastes like sicky sweet death. The modern guy likes Mountain Dew because it’s the best for creating epic belches. This is a well-known fact that all guys learned in high school. But he’ll only go for the soft drink if he’s driving, or about to perform surgery, or about to perform surgery while driving. Otherwise, he’ll have a beer, thank you. Nothing too fancy. (And it seems to this guy that the Modern Man is kinda touchy if he’ll toss you out just because of your choice of beverage.)

8. The modern man uses the proper names for things. For example, he’ll say “helicopter,” not “chopper” like some gauche simpleton.

The modern guy recognizes that nomenclature equals ownership. If you name something, it is yours. If you control the language, you control the thing. So the modern guy is constantly making up names for things. And he knows that a chopper may once have been a helicopter but is now a motorcycle, and ridicules anyone who thinks otherwise. He also knows that anyone who uses a phrase like “gauche simpleton” today almost certainly spent his high school years getting wedgies and being shoved in a locker.

9. Having a daughter makes the modern man more of a complete person. He learns new stuff every day.

Having a daughter scares the hell out of a modern guy, who remembers exactly what he was like as a teenage boy. He learns new stuff every day. Most of it horrifies him.

10. The modern man makes sure the dishes on the rack have dried completely before putting them away.

10. The modern guy doesn’t put the dishes away. What’s the point? You’ll just pull ’em out and use ’em tomorrow. They’re handier right there in the rack. Hey, if he washed them, consider yourself lucky.

11. The modern man has never “pinned” a tweet, and he never will.

The modern guy doesn’t think you  pin a tweet, they are two completely different social media. That’s why the modern guy suspects this whole “Modern Man” column was an elaborate hoax.

12. The modern man checks the status of his Irish Spring bar before jumping in for a wash. Too small, it gets swapped out.

The modern guy doesn’t realize the soap is gone until he’s already in the shower, so he washes with shampoo.

13. The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week.

The modern guy will turn up the radio when Wu Tang is played by the oldies station, because it reminds him of the ’90s when he was in high school. He hasn’t bought music since the year after he graduated from college, and mostly listens to Bon Jovi, Springsteen and the Stones.

14. The modern man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in the phone.

The modern guy doesn’t make shopping lists. He knows what he’s going to the store for – “food” – and doesn’t want to be bogged down with trivialities like what kind or how much.

15. The modern man has hardwood flooring. His children can detect his mood from the stamp of his Kenneth Cole oxfords.

The modern guy only knows what kind of flooring is in his house if he installed it himself. He doesn’t know what “Kenneth Cole oxfords” are, but would make fun of anyone who was bragging about his shoes unless they’re Nikes.

16. The modern man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so that his wife has a chance to get away.

The modern guy starts the night sleeping on the side of the bed closer to the door, because it’s closer to the door and he didn’t want to walk all the way around. He usually ends up on the couch because his wife couldn’t sleep through his snoring.

17. Does the modern man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped?

Does the modern guy have a melon baller? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Actually, he might, but he doesn’t know that’s what it is or what it’s for. The only fruit of any kind served in his house was prepared by his wife or girlfriend. Unless you count apple ale.

18. The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.

The only thing the modern guy has thought “seriously” about in the last seven years is the backup quarterback on his fantasy football team. “Weeden or Hoyer? Weeden or Hoyer?”

19. The modern man buys fresh flowers more to surprise his wife than to say he is sorry.

The modern guy bought flowers to surprise his wife exactly once. He spent the next three days explaining that he hadn’t been cheating on her, hadn’t done anything more boneheaded than usual, hadn’t forgotten their anniversary. “No! Seriously! I was just trying to surprise you!” He finally put an end to it by apologizing for something, although he’s not sure what. He’s never going to make that mistake again.

20. On occasion, the modern man is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.

The modern guy doesn’t know what any of those words mean. Little spoon? Feeling down? The last time he felt vulnerable was when he was teaching his three-year-old son how to hit a baseball, and the kid hit a line drive right into his crotch. Kid’s a natural.

21. The modern man doesn’t scold his daughter when she sneezes while eating an apple doughnut, even if the pieces fly everywhere.

The modern guy will laugh when his daughter sneezes while eating an apple doughnut (though he’ll wonder how an apple doughnut got mixed in with the order. He’d specifically asked for a dozen chocolates.) Then father and daughter together will invent a game that involves seeing who can shoot a piece of doughnut from their nostril the farthest.

22. The modern man still ambles half-naked down his driveway each morning to scoop up a crisp newspaper.

The modern guy is a little surprised to learn that anyone still has the newspaper delivered to his home. He has, on the other hand, often been seen outside wearing only shorts and flip flops while watering the lawn. He assumes he still has the physique he had in college. He is wrong, but nothing, not even his neighbors’ complaints, will change his mind.

23. The modern man has all of Michael Mann’s films on Blu-ray (or whatever the highest quality thing is at the time).

Who? Michael WHO? The guy who wrote for “Starsky & Hutch” in the ’70s, and produced the 2006 “Miami Vice” movie? Someone collects his work? Why? To use as coasters? The modern guy has the first three “Fast & Furious” movies on Blu-ray, but now he streams everything online. But he does bring out his old DVD of “Patton” every now and then, because – “Patton.”

24. The modern man doesn’t get hung up on his phone’s battery percentage. If it needs to run flat, so be it.

The modern guy can tell you every spare outlet at his office, the grocery store he frequents, the gas station and his church if he has one. He has to be ready in an emergency, like hearing there’s a new video online about a guy trying to help an old lady cross the street and he ends up getting hit in the nuts by her cane. Comedy gold.

25. The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and he never will.

The modern guy has a handgun locked in his safe. At least he’s pretty sure he put it there in 2007. That’s the year he lost the key to the safe while he was on vacation in Fort Meyers, Florida. He hasn’t needed any of the things he thinks are in there so he hasn’t bothered to try to get it opened since then.

26. The modern man cries. He cries often.

The modern guy last cried when watching “Brian’s Song,” when Billy Dee Williams as Gale Sayers gave the “I love Brian Piccolo, and tonight when you get down on your knees I want you to ask God to love him too” speech. A LOT of guys were sniffling and mumbling about having a cold after that one, I promise you. The original “Brian’s Song,” not the pointless remake. “Ol’ Yeller” tears him up, too.

27. People aren’t sure if the modern man is a good dancer or not. That is, until the D.J. plays his jam and he goes out there and puts on a clinic.

27. The modern guy doesn’t care what anyone thinks of his dancing. In his mind, he’s a combination of Baryshnikov and Mick Jagger, especially when he’s had three or four beers. And after five, he’s happy to hit the floor and prove it.