I’m Afraid Of Americans

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The internet is the best thing and world and the worst thing in the world. If you have this view and maintain this perspective, then it’s pretty easy to navigate through the minefields of online battle. Everything on the computer is extreme; political viewpoints, cultural outrage and the definitions of important words like love, hate, good and evil. Thus, perspective is so lost, no one even bothers looking for it anymore.

In one-hundred-twenty-five days I’ll cast my vote for President of the United States for the eighth time. I voted for my first one in 1988. This is the craziest, most bizarre, and culturally damaging election of my lifetime. Remember, we’re on the internet, I can say this without even being fact checked.

Seriously, I think 2016 is worse than 2000 because at least sixteen years ago, you had two qualified, traditional candidates who seemed respectful from the outside and the vote was a tie, then we got crazy after the election night, The campaign itself, save for George W. Bush mudslinging John McCain in South Carolina with rumors of illegitimate mixed race children, was tame. The debates were boring. Election night through the final Supreme Court decision in December was nutty but it all seemed relatively civilized. But I personally wasn’t on Al Gore’s internet, then.

In a few clicks you can find out who was the MVP of the 1979 MLB All Star Game  (Dave Parker, but it should’ve been Lee Mazzilli), what the capital of the Republic of Congo is (Brazzaville, also a good pop band) and who played Millicent, the girl on The Brady Bunch episode that gave Bobby Brady the mumps after kissing him (Melissa Sue Anderson). But you can also discover deep, dark corners of the world wide web that appeal to the worst parts of us. And those parts are running for the highest American political office in 2016.

My becoming a voter in 1988 also coincided with the Fairness Doctrine being revoked. The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the FCC introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to present both sides of controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC got rid of this policy in ’87 and any language binding broadcasters in 2011. The internet never had policy regarding anything but doing it without pants was encouraged. 

As a result, the past almost 30 years have been a Wild West of sorts for media. I worked in the media as a reporter, producer, writer and other various positions full-time for almost 8 years before doing it freelance online for the past decade. Watching people deliver news without training or rules or pants has been scary. We are not the better for it.

I’m not sure if the Fairness Doctrine should be brought back. It would be nice to diminish the influence of talk radio, cable news and the internet on politics. But I don’t think it’s very American. And that is frightening.

This political season has seen the extremes dominate. If you were to just pay attention to the online world, you’d think Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were winning everything. They’re not. Sanders doesn’t have the Democratic nomination and Trump is 13 points behind in the polls and fading. It’s why perspective is the real world’s friend and the online world’s enemy.

Things are about to get worse before they get worse. The two major party nominees will go after each other and take us all with them. The minor party nominees may get more votes than a usual year, but they have no chance at anything but maybe creating amusing memes on Facebook.

What’s missing in this Dickensian tale of misplaced priorities and a lack of proper chill is a hero. Not a super one with powers and a cape but a regular, flawed, meaningful every-person one that can show us humanity and a good laugh.

And this is why I’m afraid of Americans. We can’t even agree on who that hero should be.

Here’s Bowie and Reznor.

Talk About The Passion

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I started doing stand up in mid 1993 after I got out of college at the University of Alabama. With no self-confidence, little life experience and a drinking problem, I struggled to make anyone laugh, on and off, for almost two and a half years. Back then, my goal was to close out a show at the now “old” Punchline Comedy Club. I thought that was ultimate success, at least for a local comedian who didn’t know what he was doing. On Sunday, June 26th, I was the headliner for the open mic showcase known as the Jokewriter’s Showcase at the now “new” Punchline in Roswell, Georgia.

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After a good ten minute set, I went home and told my wife, “Look, if you want me to stop going out 3 to 5 nights a week, it’s cool. Because I just reached my goal from twenty years ago.” She called me dumb and said “you’ve got three more sets this week so set a new goal.”

Tonight, I’m doing some new material at an open mic at The Laughing Skull Lounge in Atlanta, Georgia but tomorrow is something special. My friends, Alia Ghosheh and Veronica Darby have moved their cool Athens, Georgia showcase (that I headlined in January and am headlining again in September) to Thursdays. I’m one of the comedians on the bill but the feature act, David HT Rosen and the headliner Bo Micadelic are exceptional comics who care about their craft and most importantly, are hilariously funny. You have to see them, they’re terrific.

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BO: bo micedelic

Here’s what they told My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog’s Ten Questions.

MBCBUYB: 1) How long have you been doing stand up?

HT:  I’VE BEEN DOING STAND UP AS THE DUO FOR ALMOST 7 YEARS. I DID SOLO BEFORE THE DUO. (HT has a comedy duo act called A Jew And A Black Guy, that travels all over the country)

BO: 7 years now.

MBCBUYB: 2) What led you to get on stage? 

HT: When I first got on stage I played drums and bass for countless bands and toured for years and became a studio player till I started stand up.

BO: Well, I started telling party jokes at work. Jokes off the internet, or dirty jokes you hear in bars or from friends, and they seemed to go over pretty well, so I looked at taking it to the stage since I had already been a huge fan of comedy. I wrote a five minute bit about going to a strip club and it went real well for my first time up. I was hooked after that.

MBCBUYB: 3) Tell me about your first time doing stand up? 

 

HT: The first time I did stand up was in alabama as a freshman in college . Stacked the crowd with fraternity brothers.

BO: Lol I kinda just did. There’s video footage of it on YouTube as well. It was at the Laughing Skull in Atlanta. It’s was about a Batchlor party at a strip club … Good times.

MBCBUYB: 4) Who are your comedy influences and why? 

HT: Rodney Dangerfield. Bobby Collins. Roy Wood Jr. Attell. Steven Wright. I like the Schick. Henny Young man. Rickles. Mel Brooks. My father Al Rosen was big influence. And Bo Micadelic. He told me early on Stage D, at the front of the stage, to command the interaction, that makes the crowd draw in and participate, work the crowd.

BO: Eddie Murphy early on, because he was so dynamic and just flat out funny with stories and impressions. Then, as I got older it was Dice Clay for his raw in you’re face style of comedy. Then Dave Chappelle for his social commentary. Now it’s more Bill Hicks, George Carlin and Richard Pryor for actually saying meaningful shit that makes you think, in a funny way. I also think Bill Burr is AMAZING.

MBCBUYB: 5) Do you do anything artistic besides comedy?

HT: I was a touring and session drummer I play guitar drums bass saxophone. Horrible at piano. I wrote a book recently.

BO:  I’ve been acting now for a few years. Had a national commercial for Norfolk Southern that they played quite a bit on CNN and other news networks. I also was just the lead in a feature independent film called Go Mad and Mark, which was fun to do and will be out in 2017.

MBCBUYB: 6) What do you think you’ll do with your comedy in the future?

HT: We hope as a duo to get to television and broaden our touring base. More main stream clubs . As a solo act I hope to tighten up my quips and crowd work and bring a broader angle to the duo.

BO: Tour around the world.

MBCBUYB: 7) What do you think of the comedy scenes on Atlanta? In Athens? 

HT:  I and the duo have been blessed to do trade gigs, promote and perform in scenes that are thriving in Athens, Atlanta and all the cities and towns we perform in. Our show producers have become close friends and each return trip warrants bigger crowds bigger laughs and work begets work. Alia Ghosheh is a great example.

BO: I think it’s incredible. Many Atlanta comedians are getting the recognition they deserve on a national level and that’s inspiring.

MBCBUYB: 8) How would you describe yourself as a comedian to someone who hasn’t seen you?

HT: Quick witted pun driven comedic mind. Whether in all black or dressed slick he finds ways to deliver laughs. Butts in the seats sell drinks and make em laugh

BO: Controversial. I like to push buttons and make people think. It does something for me.

MBCBUYB: 9) What makes you laugh?

HT: My kids make me laugh. And funny shit makes me laugh I poke and write honest real bits and content. If it didn’t happen it’s not funny.

BO: My girlfriend. She’s hilarious! Quick witted and very intelligent.

MBCBUYB: 10) Anything else you want people to know about you? 

HT: Come see the show!

BO: Yea, they need to come and see me live before ticket prices are expensive. Lol

I can’t wait to share the stage with these great pros. They do comedy with passion. Flicker Bar, Athens, Georgia, 7pm start time. Come see a great lineup talk about the passion.

Here’s another Athens fixture, REM.

Campus

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I don’t consider myself a jealous person but since my oldest daughter started college almost two years ago, I’ll admit to a lot of envy of my 20-year-old’s life. The four and a half years I spent at the University of Alabama in the late 1980s and early 1990s provide a lot of fond memories.

Since I started doing stand up comedy again in May 2015, some of my best experiences have happened in Athens, Georgia, which surrounds the University of Georgia.

From headlining for the first time at the Office Lounge in January to becoming a regular at Livewire, Flicker Bar and Go Bar I’ve had the opportunity to become reacquainted with a college town.

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At 45-years-old, I’m way too “seasoned” to do more than perform at the comedy clubs, usually with a diet soda in my hand, but the feeling of a school town is always comfortable. It’s the opposite of whatever the suburb is, and I live in one of those.

Mondays are the (sort of) usual gig(s). Flicker Bar has taken the place of Office and Livewire as the “show up go up” venue for comedians. The comedy show is run by Alia Ghosheh and Veronica Darby. At the end of each month is the showcase, where a headliner act and a feature cap off the night. I had my shot at it back in January. Paula Gilchrist is the headliner for March 28th.

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Go Bar is another spot, with a bi-weekly open mic run by University of Georgia student and fellow stand up comic Caroline Schmitt.

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I’m not taking classes, but some of the social lessons I’m learning from being back in a college town are helping me relate to my daughter who is in downtown Atlanta at Georgia State University. It’s a lot easier to make fun of “millennials” when they’re sitting in front of you laughing, most of the time.

I’ll be at Flicker Bar March 21st and Go Bar the same night. Come to Athens, Georgia and see some funny people, and me too.

Here’s Vampire Weekend.

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

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To escape the insane American election season, many people are talking and writing about the 30 year anniversary of one of the finest teen movies ever made, Pretty In Pink. Most people are focusing on things that definitely made PIP so unforgettable. The soundtrack is one of the greatest in cinematic history, featuring 1980s alternative awesomeness of Echo and The Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs (who handled the movie’s title song and theme), Suzanne Vega and Joe Jackson and The Smiths. Molly Ringwald was never better as the girl from the other side of the tracks who makes her own prom dress. And the movie’s ending was not only surprising but also unique. But the real reason why Pretty In Pink is mythical goes to one man, and that’s James Spader.

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He entertains the masses now on the show Blacklist after a movie and television career that has seen several acting nominations and amazing roles. It’s the work he does as Steff in Pretty In Pink that not only spring boarded his ride into the acting stratosphere but also saves a very flawed movie.

Steff is Pretty In Pink.

Like Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight, James Spader steals an entire film from the “superhero”, Ringwald’s Andie, and does so AS THE VILLAIN.

Think about it. You can’t watch The Dark Knight and think of anything but Ledger’s Joker. You also can’t imagine Pretty In Pink without realizing that Spader’s Steff carries the film’s plot, fashion (dude wears suits to school with no socks) and has the flick’s best lines.

Movie stills from "Pretty in Pink".

Without Steff, Andie doesn’t have an enemy to fight back against to win Blaine’s love. Without Steff, Blaine has, well no reason to do anything in the movie. Steff is Blaine’s conduit to the rich kid world he hates and is rebelling against. Without Steff, Duckie is just a second rate amateur stalker and has no one to use his unrequited love of Andie frustrations against. While Spader runs circles around the less capable actors in the movie, he also gives the viewer the only reason to care about the other characters.

The way Spader says ” Nobody appreciates your sense of humor, you know. As a matter of fact, everyone’s just about to puke from you. If you’ve got a hard-on for trash, don’t take care of it around us” and “That girl was, is, and always will be nada!” and “Money really means nothing to me. Do you think I’d treat my parents’ house this way if it did?” and Why don’t you go to take a shower, you look like shit.” and “Andie, you’re a bitch.” and the greatest moment in the movie, when he drops the most insulting fight words ever “you got a problem, friend” are so spectacular, they should be taught in acting classes across the world.

So, dress like Andie or Duckie or even Iona and head to the theaters or your DVD collection to rewatch Pretty In Pink for the 123rd time, but just know, it’s the bad guy who makes the movie go.

Please, Please, Please, let me get what I want, Academy Of Arts And Sciences; a retroactive Oscar for James Spader’s Stef. He deserves it.

You got a problem, friend?

Here’s The Smiths.

Everybody Knows That You’re Insane

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Ten years is a long time to do anything, but in terms of writing online, it deserves to be considered an eternity. I sat in bed last night listening to a blonde on my floor to my left, my golden retriever, and a blonde in bed next to me to my right, coo themselves into beautiful slumber while realizing an anniversary was happening. Sometime this week, this month, a decade ago, I began writing on the internet.

It’s a bizarre “celebration” involving MySpace, a crumbling marriage to someone else and crippling loneliness. I can’t even tell you why I typed the first few words into cyber space (does anyone even use that term anymore?) but I think it was because I was looking for a connection.

The wheels had begun to turn that later became the machine of divorce, loss and a new way to become the writer I’d wanted to be for years but delayed out of fear and obligation.

I started a music blog to talk about the music I loved, the music I hated and the music I wanted to discover. That led to new friendships and a way out or in, I’m not real sure which, that later led to a completely different life. I eventually revealed a lot about who I was and wanted to be.

That blog lasted almost over a year, became a casualty of my broken firstmarriage, then I started another a year after that. This all snowballed, slowly, into what is now my existence as a published author of two books and active media that are social accounts that have seen me to travel and get my thoughts out to tens or hundreds or thousands, or well, more than a couple of people a day.

During my 25-year high school reunion two years ago, a long-time friend who knew me when, asked me a question that I couldn’t answer with a straight face.

What’s it all done for you?

I think I told her it had connected to me to like-minded people who’ve made me smarter, given me many laughs and taught me things I’d otherwise never known. That all may be true, but the harder perhaps colder truth, is the past 10 years have shown me that love is not inside a computer but in the hearts of people who are honest especially those I can touch.

I’ve been struggling in year ten of this adventure to the center of the screen. I haven’t become as successful as I thought I would be sharing my ideas. I’ve sold just enough books to say I’ve sold some books. I’ve garnered just enough fame on other sites to say I’m the guy to wrote that thing that ticked off some people. I’ve typed just enough to be able to shout “present” when the internet Gods, if there are still any left, do a roll call.

In other words, writing online is just like life. Moderating your expectations and counting your blessings will classify you as a survivor.

This blog turns five-years-old in a couple of months. It was inspired by the biggest change in my life over the past ten years, my second marriage. Shortly after we married in 2008, my wife said “you should blog all the time but do it right”. I don’t know if I accomplished the “right” part but having a place to show my general insanity has been cathartic and I’ve met some amazing fellow whack jobs while becoming a better person for my wife, kids and myself.

One of the first things I ever wrote online, back in 2005, was a CD review of the then new Queen Of The Stone Age disc, Lullabies To Paralyze. I gave it a B, I think, and it only took like maybe seven comments before someone called me an idiot preceded by an obscene action verb. Oh, internet, you’re so, well, whatever. I think they were right, it deserved a B+.

Here’s to 10 insane years.

Always On The Run

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Chewing my breakfast in the car, I ignored apple Danish smudge my thumb left on the phone screen. I typed good luck with first day of college classes to my oldest daughter while my middle one waved goodbye and walked into school.

 

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The ultimate question

Lace up those sneakers – this week’s ultimate question is designed to get you moving.

What are we running for?

Never Said

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It is a 20-year-old tale told by a fool, full of drunkenness and pity, signifying something, and when the Facebook friend request popped up I ignored her on instinct. The following message made me grin, wide, but guilt as cargo. My wife sat three feet away on the family living room sofa as I read.

What is the airspeed velocity of a flying monkey?

I remembered. Two decades earlier the person behind the message and I sat on a sad, yellowed couch watching The Simpsons. It was the episode where Mr. Burns unleashes his flying monkeys. We quoted every line, laughed at each joke, and plotted our own entertainment successes that never happened. Against better judgment, I answered.

Fly my pretties! Fly!

I didn’t wait for her response. I shut my laptop and walked into the kitchen to look for a diet soda. I opened the refrigerator, popped the top, and drifted into a memory.

I stood in front of a dirty fridge looking at a twelve pack of beer, a pack of cheese, some condiments and left over pizza. She had followed me into the kitchen, chattering about our plans.

“When we make it as comedy writers and stand ups, we’re never drinking cheap beer from a can.”

I swigged a Natural Light while tossing her one as she leaned against the lime green wall phone with a cord that could stretch into all five rooms; kitchen, bathroom, living room and two bedrooms. She caught it with her left hand and said.

“Tell me your first joke you’re going to do at the open mic tomorrow.”

I frowned at the thought of performing in front of just her. As close as we were, it was a competitive relationship. I didn’t trust her. If she liked my material, she’d downplay her delight. If she didn’t like it, she’s patronize my feelings. I took the bait like a hungry catfish.

“Hey, how’s everyone doing? I just graduated college and my post graduate work is making strangers laugh enough so that the important guy in the back running this place gives me a break and I’ll have my own sitcom by Christmas. So please, for the love of poverty, don’t forget to tip your waitresses. I plan on sweet talking one for a twenty buck loan at the end of the night.”

She drank her beer, then grinned. I fumed.

“What?” I demanded.

She stepped toward me, tossed back another drink, and answered.

“That’s so adorable, you’ll get laughs and get laid by the waitress.”

She patronized me. I knew her so well. I walked past her and looked for the black spiral notebook that contained my best stuff. I felt her hand on my back as I reached the bedroom.

“Who is she?”

The refrigerator door shut and I was back. My wife stood a few feet away with her arms crossed, holding her cell phone with raised eyebrows and a mischievous smile.

“Somebody I used to know from my stand up comedy days. I denied the friend request. answered her message, then walked away. I was going to tell you.”

She met me in front of the fridge and leaned in for a kiss. She brushed away strands of brown but gray-tinged hair from my eyes.

“I know, but I was bad. I looked her up on my phone. She’s not as pretty as me, and it looks like she’s unhappy with her life. If she messages you again, tell me, and I’ll have her killed by the end of  the day.”

We both broke into loud laughter. I composed myself, kissed her, then said.

“You’re the funny one, these days. Maybe I should take you to an open mic.”

I followed her into the living room. We never said anything else, about her, or my life, back then.