I’m On A Boat

Me, today, on the Maid of the Mist boat thing. New York side, of course, what, you think any of us haz our passports updated? I had just gotten soaked by Niagra Falls here, soaked in my hair, my face, my goggles, everything.

These Falls are an awesome Falls. The boat, I had forgotten, as it’s been decades since I boarded it last, the boat sails right into the mouth of the Horseshoe, even from the Amurkin side. My party chose to be on the upper level, front, so we bore the brunt of the choppy waters and the rainy, thick mist. I can’t help but wonder if you get a better perspective below deck.

How nice that the blue in my Bills cap and the blue in my disposable poncho so nicely match the blue on the ol’ 8WK here. How nice. Blue blue blue blue blue blue. So much blue you could barf.


Stalwart sailors. From left, my Uncle Mike and my Dad. Both soaked and awed to the gills. I think in the throng behind them is our token youngin, cousin Jordyn, who was a lovely travel companion.

I’m On A Boat

So yeah, it was exactly like this.


Adjuncts

We’d stopped in for lunch at the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery in Buffalo, where I had a lamb burger, which was delicious. After our adventure here, we returned home and watched Silence of the Lambs. So, accidental theme day. FTW.

Uncle Mike would have my hide if I mentioned him in a blog post and did not plug his Web site: Please visit sanders-warren2016.com and learn about candidate Bernie and you can even buy a bumper sticker. It’s one site started by one determined man and it’s become something of a big deal.


In Other News

“Mr. Burns: your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?” (Lisa Simpson to candidate Montgomery Burns at a planned press event, 1990).

“So in June, right before you announced, you were at one percent. In July, after you’ve announced, in the last six weeks, you are in first place with 19 percent. Why do you think you’re resonating so quickly in the Republican field?” (Chuck Todd to candidate Donald Trump on Meet the Press, this morning).


Timehop


Finally, Your Moment Of Zen

Regarding the ‘Confederate Flag’

I want to point out a few simple points about the new debate we’re having about the “Confederate” flag since that Squeaky Fromme wannabe marched into the Emanuel AME church and ended the lives of nine of probabaly the finest Christians who ever lived.

First, that is not the Confederate flag.

That flag never represented the Confederacy. It was a battle flag. It was a flag of war, not of state.

Put a bookmark there, please.

Second, the debate that we’re having is not about whether you should be allowed to fly that battle flag on your front porch, or whether you should put it as a bumper sticker on your gas-hogging truck, or whether you should fly it at a concert by your local Lynrd Sknynrd tribute band’s performance.

The debate is about whether or not a state capital should fly it over official buildings that everyone in the state pays for.

Should a state capital in today’s United States of America be allowed to fly a war flag? A war flag that once declared war against the United States of America?

Racism aside, seems like a no-brainer to me.

No.

Next.

Happy Equality Day

“Now we won’t know how the Court rules until later. But I for one hope they’ll somehow miraculously come down on the side of equality rather than postponing the inevitable.

“Because it is inevitable.

“Or didn’t you know that?”

Me, in this space, March 25, 2013

My handsome cousin who lives in Kansas got married today. I mean that’s how badly some folks have wanted to tie the knot: They clicked on CNN, saw the news about today’s SCOTUS ruling, and sprinted down to the courthouse. That’s how vital it is and how urgent it is for some of these folks to get that license. They couldn’t wait one more day.

And who could blame them? The hashtag of the day is “lovewins,” but there’s a ton of more to marriage than love. Before my own state of New York got enlightened and approved equality, there was a list published, a list of 1,324 aspects of life covered by the laws of marriage. Imagine having to hammer out even half of these details by hand with your lawyer.

Regardless. Today’s ruling is earth-shattering. What a lovely day.

P.S. Did Scalia give away a bit TMI in his dissent?

“The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality,'” he quoted from the majority opinion before adding, “Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.”

Spy

Melissa McCarthy’s new vehicle, Spy, is a considerable mess of a film that has trouble grabbing you at first but leaps the ramp in its midst and, gladly, recovers. In the process, though, it fails to clearly tell its story, and that’s a real shame. Because it’s a pretty good story. It’s a shame it got so horribly lost.

The usual spoiler alerts apply. If you read beyond this paragraph, you may find details integral to the plot. I’m not going to offer every detail, just the points that bug me. You have been warned.

Now. Here is the story of Spy, a story the move fails miserably to reveal to its viewers: Susan Cooper (McCarthy) works as a real-time logistics agent for the CIA. This means that her job is to use satellite tools, along with body cams and mics on the agent, to provide instant intelligence for her asset on the ground. It is a job she has been at for a decade.

Cooper feels stuck and dissatisfied with her life. Not to mention, her side of the department is severely underfunded. Despite these obstacles, Cooper is usually able to save the life of field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). He is ambushed and killed in the field, and during this incident they learn that all of their top agents have been compromised. The enemy knows their names.

The agency needs an agent who is not known. Fine’s death and her own ennui drive her to volunteer for the mission. Because of the mission’s urgency (something about an nuclear weapon blah blah blah), Chief Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) opts to put Cooper in the field. And here comes the point of the story where Spy fails.

I mean, it gives you hints. There is one scene where she takes the controls of a private aeroplane and can do so because of some preternatural schematic that drops into her brain, which is shown by a series of embedded graphics, and there is another time when she is eluding capture that we see the same graphics to indicate that she has some sort of instinctual brain compass that allows her to zig when her pursuer has zagged.

As I recall these are the only times the film portrays Susan Cooper’s superpower. And that is the story it fails to tell, what I believe to have been the original pitch of this movie.

Susan Cooper has spent a decade sitting at a user interface, steering skilled espionage workers through often life-and-death obstacles. But she always credits the agent more than herself. Then she goes into the field. And she discovers that all of those years, all of that experience, actually translates into practical skills that are useful in the field. In fact, she discovers a recall of skills and proclivities that she did not know she could access. She has become a sublimely skilled field agent. This realization and its application is the arc of our protagonist’s story. And this movie flubs it.

I mean, to be honest, I’m just speculating about what the writers originally intended. I had to infer the story’s details because it is that under-told in this film. So, I may actually be making this up.

Don’t get me wrong, Spy is worth seeing, if you can make it through the first mucky hour of it. Had it stuck to its story throughout, though, or at least the story I was forced to glean from it, it would have been a more enjoyable time. That and a few nitpicky things as follow:

~ Cooper is partially motivated by a goofy crush on Agent Fine. This is not necessary and I think detracts from Cooper’s character. General ennui and an envy for another field agent, Karen Walker (Morena Baccarin), would be motivation enough for this character. In fact, I’m thinking a friendship between Cooper and Walker might have been more interesting than her friendship with comic relief pal Nancy (Miranda Hart). I dunno.

~ Jason Stratham is wasted here. His Rick Ford is an aggressive blowhard and in truth should have been fired from the Agency long ago because he is not even a good agent. I think Stratham is better as a restrained and often bewildered badass like the one he played in Snatch than he is like this.

~ I am not a prude about language in movies, but really? Really? F F F F F F F F? Really? Too much reliance on the F bomb, folks. Here’s a weird idea. Write some dialogue.

Fortunately, Spy starts weak but finishes strong. McCarthy proves again that she is one of the best physical comics in the biz. But I think that Spy invested too much in trying to utilize that energy rather than focusing on what could have been an interesting story.

Mothers’ Day 2015

motherly_love

The lore is that the band known as The Mothers was christened on Mothers’ Day. I guess. I mean it sounds like the kind of story that could have actually happened or the kind of story that a man keenly interested in writing his own story largely would later tell. I don’t know. Then again, it would certainly match the AAAFNRAA creative model.

So yesh. Mother’s Day, which, with the new job I actually get to do something about since I don’t work Sundays. I mean the greeting cards went out last week of course. Say, have I mentioned to you Aaron’s rule of shopping for greeting cards?

Do not. I repeat. Do not take longer than two minutes to select a greeting card. Ever.

Reason one being of course, that one should not spend one’s precious life moments furrowing one’s brow trying to decide between sending a loved one the puppy or the kitty greeting card. There is, however, a better reason than sheer laziness: It is more effective.

If you don’t see the greeting card you seek in two minutes or less, you have simply not found the right card and you should move on. You approach the greeting card aisle generally aware of the level of sentiment or humor you want to impart and generally what message you wish to communicate. Either the right card will leap at you or you have not found it. Setting a two-minute deadline for yourself prevents the second-guessing, the hemming and hawing, strategies that are guaranteed to help you choose a milquetoast, inappropriate greeting.

Just a little unsolicted advice from me to you. Filed under Hints from Abelard.

So, yes, I woke up this morning and got myself together, then walked to Hart’s to grab a few victuals, including ground beef to later this week make some Sloppy Joe, some burger patties to boot, some Ithaca Farms ogrets, and a few other essentials, including beer. I then returned home and drank one of the beers and called the matriachical figures in my family to wish them good tidings. Then drove out to the farm and ate meat with the family. Stepmom recalled her formative training in muckraking hilarity, remembering when she was young and her Mom would drag her to protest the Tocks Island Dam. Fitting, since Mother’s Day originated not so much as a greeting card pusher’s fantasy but as a tribute to one mother’s peace activism.

Seriously. Go look it up.

Then Dad and I sat down and watched one of the truly great and utterly overlooked movies of 2014: Chris Rock’s Top Five.

I could not help but draw comparisons between Top Five and another of last year’s offerings, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which was for some reason quite critically acclaimed. The premise is similar, actor who previously found immense success with schlocky roles tries to pack on some credibility. The difference is that Chris Rock’s film is a likeable, accessible, smart, ribald, and funny movie, while the Michael Keaton vehicle was a self-indulgent, horrible piece of poo that I hated so much that I resented it for keeping me in the theater.

I could watch Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson banter for an entire film, which is fortunate because that approaches at least half of it. (Ah, let’s face it, I could watch Rosario Dawson do anything for any length of time. But that’s beside the point.) The banter introduces the movie and drives the story forward throughout, and it is a joy to watch. The writing is excellent and the cameos will keep you standing and pointing.

How that Birdman piece of crap garnered Best Picture and this thing only got a nod from the Critic’s Choice Awards is beyond me.

P.S. My top five: Public Enemy. De La Soul. MC Serch. Sage Francis. And let’s even it out with Mr. Chubb Rock.

I know. Too many white guys. What can I say. My sixth would be the word famous Beastie Boys to completely ruin it. Oh well.

Sound & Color

The most remarkable thing about the Alabama Shakes’ new release, Sound & Color, is how savagely it bests its predecessor, the band’s post-EP debut Boys & Girls.

Who could imagine that this band could dig deeper? That they could exhibit more aplomb in musicianship? That they could draw upon more musical influences? Who could imagine that Brittany Howard could be more compelling a vocalist? Who could dream of what this band would sound like once it discovers multi-tracking for her vocals? That their music could remind me of the Beatles? That their music could remind me of Prince? Who knew that their songwriting could be this much better?

Boys & Girls was in my mind a perfect album. But it is beat into the ground by Sound & Color. This is a sonic triumph.

Now, leave me be. I have some serious listening to do.

17 Days

They can train you for 17 days, they can teach you every system, every TLA in the book, I mean you would not believe what goes into delivering your dose of fresh clean entertainment to your home every day, the systems, from the central facility to the local office to the pedestal outside your house that you always wonder about as walk or jog past it, like, what is that thing for? guess what, it’s probably the thing that brings your cable service to your home, to the aerial wire to the NID to your receiver inside, you would not believe how far that signal travels and how many men and women it takes to get it there, it really is a thing to behold. But they can train you for 17 days, and even though the trainer is dogged and funny and delivers the material effectively, you simply cannot ever be ready for the first days, the first days, when there will be strangers on the phone desiring answers from you, and to deliver those answers you must be in a minimum of four computer tools, maybe more, and they are complicated freaking tools, and the fact is that despite 17 days of training, you do not actually know a darned thing, and you feel feeble-kneed, and you say “uhhhhh” a lot, and you know you’re not meeting the client’s quality metrics, or the time metrics, or the service metrics, or the metrics metrics.

When I’m pretending that I’m a coach, I’m always saying, drop a pin right here because I’m going to tell you something you’re going to need in the middle of that call, in the middle of that call where the person is overly-insistent, or angry, or difficult, get the pin you dropped because here’s what I said when you dropped it: That is the customer who’s going to improve you. That is your breakthrough guy, your light-bulb over yer head, your teachable moment. When you are sweating and squirming and saying “uhhhhh” a lot, that, my friends, is called “learning.” And when you’re done with that call, you will, involuntarily, put your hands in the air like Bruce Friggin’ Jenner, because that feels goooooooood.

I’m just saying. I had one of those today.

I know I’ve been a mess lately, a real big whining pain in the ass making noises like a wounded dog. Sorry about that. I haven’t faced a disappointment that arduous in several years. And circumstances surrounding these 17 days made it more so the bittersweet. But that I’m having moments like that at my job, that is a good sign. The agita is lessening and the clouds seem to be parting.

Brought To You by Corona

Hooray for NBC for embarking on a bold programming choice in broadcasting live boxing matches last evening and for several Saturdays to come via Premier Boxing Champions. I cannot tell you how much fun it was to sit with my Dad and watch boxing on regular ol’ network television, just like he used to do with his DOD.

As a sport, boxing is faltering. Because the only way to appreciate the sport is to cough up the ridiculous PPV fee. So I only know who Manny Pacquiao is. I had no idea who any of the fine boxers were they had on last night, but they were exceptional pugilists. Who knew there were any Irish boxers left? I do now; Andy Lee held American scrapper Peter Quillin to a decision draw by for 12 rounds. Heck, I assumed all Britons and their neighbors left the sport after Pacquiao destroyed Hatton’s career in two rounds in 2009.

Anyway, that was really fun. More boxing on TV. Yeah yeah yeah.

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So yeah I don’t write here as often anymore. It’s been a pretty harrowing month, all related to ups and downs at the job. I’ll just say this about that: I have always assumed that if someone got down on their hands and knees and kicked and screamed in a temper tantrum while at work, it would be me.

That was one of the strangest things I’ve seen in my whole entire life.

And friends, I’ve seen some thangs.

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