Nov 302012

All right, I felt like I am still on a bit of a roll from the post the other day when I embraced the madness that is the holiday retail season.

In that spirit, I thought I might address the impending fiscal cliff facing the U.S. government that has been bandied about the news so much lately. For the record, I think that like a lot of political “issues,” this situation is probably being overhyped in yet another game of partisan political gamesmanship. Seriously, if you think these guys and gals care about doing right for the U.S. (“us,” ironically) over posturing in a way that’s best for their political careers, then I have a Bigfoot in Saskatchewan that I’d like to sell you! Wake up! These people don’t care a lick about you or I, only your vote, and will ultimately only do what’s best to get re-elected so they can continue to cash in. Period.

That all aside, there is apparently a somewhat major issue that needs to be addressed, and I like to think that I’m all about providing answers rather than just chirping away with the chorus about the problems.

Right now, the President has said “everything is on the table,” and there’s a talk about finding a compromise somewhere between raising taxes and cutting expenses. I’d like to suggest a third course that should be considered. Selling stuff!

Now, I know it’s ludicrous to suggest that the U.S. government starts selling off major assets and landmarks, although I’m betting there’s an entrepreneur or two out there who might be enticed to purchase Death Valley in order to make it a death-themed amusement park! Think about—dark tourism is all the rage, and what’s more macabre than an entire landscape named after death? Put in a museum of death or make it a haunted attraction, offer the opportunity for visitors to actually drop dead from the heat (which is regularly in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit), and I guarantee people will drop top dollar to get into a barren superheated desert!

Hmm… now that I think about it, the kids’ college money is just sitting there …

Anyway, so rather than outright putting up our national assets for sale, I suggest our government take a page out of the professional sports (and rayality) playbook, and offer lucrative sponsorship opportunities. There are thousands of landmarks and “marketing opportunities” out there, so I’m pretty sure we can raise enough funds to fix the debt thing without cutting or taxing.

In fact, to get us started, here are—

Five Potential Corporate Sponsorships for the United States

1. The Washington Monument, Presented by Viagra

Uh, yeah.

2. The Dirt Devil Tower

I can see the ad campaigns now: “Tower over dirt in your house!” or “The power of the devil compels you … to clean!” or “Avoid close encounters of the dirty kind!” [You can look it up here, kids.]

3. The Depends Hoover Dam  

Obviously, Pampers or Huggies could also be interested in this opportunity! I’d also suggest Tampax, but that might just be a bit tacky.

4. The Dr. Scholl’s Statue of Liberty

Hey, Lady Liberty is on her feet all day, so why shouldn’t she be gellin’ like Magellan?

On a side note, that may be simultaneously the worst and greatest tagline from any ad ever—I mean, what the hell does a 16th-century Portuguese explorer who was slaughtered by natives in the South Pacific have to do with podiatric comfort? Sure, it rhymes, and I guess it’s so bad that it’s memorable—like, “Where’s the beef?!”—but they could’ve just as easily gone with “Gellin’ like Sue Ellen” or “Gellin’ like blind Helen.”

5. Old Faithful, by Metamucil

Seriously people, this stuff writes itself! And if I can think of it, how come no one in an actual position of authority has thought of taking advantage of these opportunities yet?

Again, President Obama has said that he’s looking for ideas to resolve this looming crisis, so I suggest you do something for your country by getting off your lazy ass and contacting your local congressperson—or better yet, send them the link to this post—to tell them of this option to help avert a trip off the fiscal cliff.

Remember, as always, I’m here to help!

Nov 282012

Although many professional athletes act like jerks on the field, court, pitch, etc., every now and then you’ll get a guy who behaves so badly on a regular basis, it transcends the game he plays.

Let’s just say this week’s JERK OF THE WEEK was a “shoe in” for the award.

If you’re following along in your program, he’s #90 of the Detroit Lions—

Ndamukong Suh

Yes, to paraphrase the old Johnny Cash song, what we have here is a jerk named Suh.

Now, this will not be a surprise to anyone who follows the NFL as Suh was suspended for two games last year after he stomped on a member of the Green Bay Packers who was on the ground during last Thanksgiving Day’s game! He was also recently voted by his fellow players as “the dirtiest player in the NFL,” and that was all *before* this past Thursday’s game and the jerktastic act he perpetrated on Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.

Anyway, like many, I was laid back on the couch after having gorged myself on turkey, mashed potatoes and apple pie, when this play sent me to the edge of my seat because I couldn’t believe what just happened. (And no, this isn’t Mark Sanchez running into his own lineman’s butt—that “joy” was still hours away for me.)

Here’s the clip—

Yeah, that kick to Matt Schaub’s groin was about as accidental as John Wilkes Booth’s revolver going off in the presidential box of Ford’s Theater, and only a little less vicious. I can’t help but think of “Oww! My Balls” from Idiocracy.

Suh wasn’t flagged by the refs, nor was he fined by the league, but given his past transgressions and visual evidence, it’s pretty darn clear that he meant to do it.

Interestingly, after the Lions blew the game in overtime, Suh was ticketed by Detroit police for reckless driving—the perfect end of the perfect day for a perfect jerk.

Speaking of perfect jerks, I know where you can find 15 of them, only a few of whom may have kicked unsuspecting foes in the groin. (I’m looking at you Benedict Arnold and William Stuart!)

Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen to any of you!

Nov 252012

[Quick programming note: I will be at the UConn Coop in Storrs this Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 4 pm talking about Connecticut Jerks and signing books—please come out and say hi if you’re in the neighborhood, or even if you’re not!]

So we’ve floored the accelerator and driven like Thelma and Louise off the cliff into the yawning chasm that is the Crazed Retail Frenzy Formerly Known As Xmas, leaving Thanksgiving and anything remotely resembling personal fiscal restraint in the rearview mirror. The doors have been busted on down and now it’s time to BUY BUY BUY anything and everything that’s on sale—even if you can’t afford it (that’s what credit is for, dammit!)—so you can have your own cushy wet spot in the annual orgy of commercial excess. Remember, your friends and family and children and co-workers and neighbors and sewing circle and postman and guy who cleans your bidet *won’t love you ever again* unless you lavish them with overpriced baubles and trinkets, so open your wallet and join the fray! Love = money, dammit!

Hey, why the hell are you even wasting time reading this?! Get the frack out there and SHOP SHOP SHOP—your god, your country and your universe demands it!!

Really, when you think of it, the pagans have gotten their revenge as it seems we’ve drifted farther from a holiday of alleged Christian purity and closer to the godless drunken indulgence that was Saturnalia, which the early fans of Jeebus tried to eradicate by replacing it with their holiday. Go pagans!

Well anyway, as my friend Joopiter likes to remind me, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” And despite all the hype, it’s become abundantly clear as the years wear on that the religious observances have become secondary at this time of year and the true importance of this season is how much we can spend. It’s the American Way, after all, and one thing (despite all the other issues) I am is a proud American. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

So it’s time for Shopocalypse, and far be it from me to stand in the way of the inevitable. As a matter of fact, I would suggest that even though it may seem that the holiday retail market is currently at its saturation point, there are more commercial opportunities than are currently being leveraged, as they like to say in those business-related meetings at work I’m never asked to attend.

Thus, in *true* holiday spirit, here are

Previously Untapped Holiday Marketing Opportunities

Santa Claus, Presented by WalMart – This seems to be a natural pairing as I’m under the impression that Santa also doesn’t really care to pay his workers top dollar for their services, preferring to offer lesser financial incentives like room and board. I mean, when was the last time you saw an elf rolling around in a tricked-out Escalade, dining on sushi at Masa or playing the roulette tables in Monaco? Ditto WalMart greeters.

Santa Claus’s Craftsman Tools Workshop – A natural fit, right? Although I always wonder how every time you see elves in the workshop, they’re always building wooden trains and generic dolls, yet on Christmas morning, kids open up Xboxes and Barbies. Magic of Santa, I suppose.

Santa’s Sprint Cup Sleigh – This one doesn’t take much to imagine: Santa’s shiny red sleigh plastered NASCAR-style with dozens of sponsor stickers, from and Budweiser to Napa Auto Parts and of course, STP, which in this case would stand for Santa’s Traveling Product-Placement.

The UPS Reindeer – When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. What can brown animals do for you?

Rudolph the Target-Nosed Reindeer“Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say, ‘Rudolph with your bulls-eye logo so bright, can you guide my sleigh tonight?'” Then how the marketeers loved him!

Yukon Jack Cornelius – A little liquid refreshment to warm the insides of you and your Bumble when you’re out prospecting for gold in the frozen north.

“Toymakers: Here Comes Hermey Boo Boo” on Discovery Channel – A way to maybe earn a little extra income with this reality-show look at life inside the workshop, including how making toys for Mr. Kringle can sometimes be like pulling teeth.

The Viagra North Pole – Uh … do I have to explain this one to you all? Okay, fine. Sometimes when a man is attracted to another person, he wants to hug them in a very special way, but that isn’t always possible because his north pole is pointing south and groinal warming is preventing it from freezing stiff, so he needs some *help* …

Cialiscanes – You know, some medicated treats for adults to suck on under the mistletoe. Oh, speaking of which …

The Herpeset Mistletoe – Because if you’re going to swap holiday spit, do it responsibly.

Frosty the Coors Snowman – Forged from the frosty goodness of the Rockies, when the snowman in the tophat turns blue, you know your beer is ready to drink!

The Flameless Candle Menorah – Oh, I haven’t forgotten about my Hebrew friends at this time of year, and neither has the retail universe as it has steadily tries to pump up Hanukkah despite it not being as important to the Jewish faith as Christmas is to Christianity. Then again, I suppose you could argue that Easter is really the defining holiday of the Christian faith and that hasn’t stopped Christmas from taking all the glory, so really Hanukkah upstaging Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah shouldn’t be all that out of line. Anyway, nothing saves lamp oil like batteries, amiright?

Exxon-Mobil Dreidels – How much difference is there really between an oil drill bit and a dreidel? They both turn, and when each stops, there is a prize to be had. Of course, dreidels generally don’t explode and destroy whole ecosystems when they do, but hey, never say never.

The Planned Parenthood Manger – Appropriate since women in out-of-wedlock pregnancies would have fewer choices for help if certain Christians had any say in the matter. (I think you know of whom I’m talking.)

iWiseMen – Why bring a kid gold, frankincense and myrrh when what any self-respecting future messiah needs is an iPad, an iPad mini or an iPhones to help him plan his ascension to glory. Saving your people? Yeah, there’s an app for that.

The Blessed Virgin Atlantic Mary – Travel woes got you down? Let divine intervention guide you to your destination this holiday season. With direct flights to most pilgrimage sites, plus much better than riding on the back of a donkey.

The LucasFilm/Disney Star (Wars) of Bethlehem – Aside from the obvious Star Wars Holiday Special tie-in and Star Wars Lego manger building sets, think of all the other opportunities with this one: Mary and Joseph riding a bantha arrive in Bethlehem, try to find a room in the Mos Eisley cantina (while the band plays in the background), and then huddle with some cuddly ewoks in the manger while giving birth. Oh, and don’t forget Jar Jar—”Mistah Joseph, mesa knowsa nothin’ about having nosa babeeee!”

And of course, then there’s the entire mind-boggling array of possible Disney marketing opportunities (worth a post of its own). I’ll just leave you with the image of Jiminy Cricket sitting on a hay bale in a manger, crooning to the Bethlehem sky, “When you wish upon a star …” 

Ahh … that holiday magic!


Nov 232012

This one doesn’t need a lot of explanation, really.

Five Things Overheard In My Living Room Last Night As the Jets Embarrassed Themselves on National TV

1. “Wow, just when I thought I had seen every way a quarterback could fumble a football, shame on me for not thinking of running head first into your 300-pound lineman’s ass to tackle yourself. Well played, Mark Sanchez. Well played.”

[click to play if it doesn’t work]

2. “I always thought that minute after I passed my kidney stone—and was literally doubled over on the bathroom floor and vomiting from the excruciating pain—was the longest 60 seconds of my life. Guess I was wrong.”

3. “Well, at least I won’t have to watch Fireman Ed do his attention-whore thing all night long. Although, I’m sure a true fan like him won’t abandon the team in its darkest hour.

4. “So … I guess the Jets aren’t going to cover the spread tonight.”

5. “Please pass all of the 6 pounds of leftover turkey so I can eat myself into such a tryptophanic coma that I won’t wake up until next August, you know, in time for training camp so I can do this all over again next year.”

Nov 212012

Okay, I stole this from something I wrote for my daytime gig … it’s not plagiarism if I’m taking it from myself, right?

If you’re like me—and you darn well should be—you’re probably already sick to death hearing all about Black Friday, the “official” kickoff to the season of crass commercialism and retail excess that masquerades around  … well, I think it was some sort of notable holiday at some point.

As Charley Monagan and others have noted, the ever-growing shopping frenzy set to kick off on Friday threatens to envelop Thanksgiving itself, which will be a sad, sad occurrence if—actually, make that *when*—it happens. Sigh.

Of course, I’m not foolish enough to think I can help hold off the zombie hordes of bargain seekers that will be shuffling into stores in about 36 hours or so, but what I can do is still cling to everything that’s still good and enjoyable about my favorite holiday before it’s all swept away.

As I sit here typing, it is the day before Thanksgiving, a day that has traditionally hasn’t been a special one on the calendar, although it is often erroneously described as the “busiest travel day of the year.” Although there will be many people on the road, it’s actually not even in the top 5 or 10, according to AAA—various days in the summer are worse. (Of course, this doesn’t actually ruin Planes, Trains and Automobiles in any way.)

When you consider it, in addition to the anticipation of the best holiday on the year (food, family, football, friends and no gifts—what’s better than that?), there’s a lot of special things about the Wednesday before Thanksgiving:

  • Normally, the house is full of great smells while many prepare for the feast, baking cakes, pies and other dishes. When I was a kid, we’d always go to my grandmother’s house for the holiday, and although she was one of the best cooks I’ve ever had the privilege to know, she would always start cooking the turkey on Wednesday. She said she needed her oven free to cook other dishes on Thursday, and didn’t want to tie it up for hours on the bird, which she would try to put back in the oven on Thanksgiving to “finish it.” As you might imagine, this occasionally did not work out well, although we never got botulism. One of my proudest moments was the first time she came to my house for Thanksgiving and she raved about my turkey and wanted to know the secret. (Just actually cooking it in one shot, Granny!)
  • It’s not officially a holiday, but it feels like something special. People are relaxed and generally in good moods, work is usually light and there’s a holiday spirit all around as altruistic souls go about gathering food for those less fortunate on the holiday.
  • Along those lines, it’s usually a half-day for most students, and usually an occasion for early dismissal from work, you know, if you work hard for kind, generous, good-hearted people (like I might). [*HINT HINT*]
  • All our clothes still fit comfortably at this point. After Thanksgiving and the subsequent meals of leftovers and extra helpings of desserts, this won’t be the case by Sunday night.
  • On Wednesday, we’re usually still happy to see family who have come from afar—no one has gotten on anyone’s nerve’s yet, and most of the family drama won’t come to a head until the holiday cheer starts flowing into wine glasses on Thursday. House guests haven’t outstayed their welcome yet, either.
  • Wednesday night is also a time where many friends who haven’t seen each other in a while get together. For my wife and her besties who grew up in Ansonia, it’s often referred to as “Happy Valley New Year,” a night of celebration in the local bars and restaurants met with a fair level of revelry. Usually** my wife will roll the car onto the front lawn at about 2 a.m., jump out of it, hop on the roof and boisterously shout “HAPPY VALLEY NEW YEAR!!!” to the entire neighborhood. (**By “usually” I mean I may have completely made this up—we’ll see how it goes tonight.)

Anyway, I think we need to have an official nickname for the day to recognize the optimism, happiness and good will of the day. I suggest White Wednesday as it sounds like the antithesis of Black Friday, but I’m certainly open to other suggestions. Kickoff Wednesday? Friendsday? You Don’t Have to Make Amends Day? Or do we just go with the simple Thanksgiving Eve?

Well, whatever you call the day, please enjoy it!

Nov 182012

Be honest—you either giggled or rolled your eyes when you saw the title of this post, or figured I’d be writing yet again about how old I am. Chances are you didn’t say to yourself, “Well, this should be a rigorous academic treatise explaining why one of the most natural of bodily functions is the red-headed stepchild of the physiological world.” (With all due apologies to Senior Smoke and other ginger offspring via marriage.) Not that it will be . . . .

So the other day I was talking to a respected work colleague (who probably would not be appreciated being named in this post) and, as happens from time to time, we the discussion wound down a path where most professional discussions don’t go: Farts.

“Why is this subject so taboo?” I asked. “Absolutely everyone does it. Every single family on the planet has sat around the table and laughed when someone has let one go. We all know what it is, we all joke about it, but for whatever reason, it’s just not acceptable to discuss in social places.”

“Maybe it needs a better word,” he suggested. We then went on to talk about how many of the taboo bodily functions have acceptable names (urinate, defecate, regurgitate, etc.), but the act of “passing gas” or “breaking wind” has “flatulence,” which really treads on the edges of the English language with “fart.”

As it turns out, “fart” is one of the oldest words in the English language, dating to the 14th century, not surprising since the act of farting dates back to when Man first separated himself—and herself (girls fart, too!)—from the other primitive creatures on the planet. The word comes from Middle English—ferten, farten was the verb, with fert, fart as the noun. It has origins in the Greek word pordḗ, which has the same meaning as it pretty much always had.

Still, no matter what it’s called, it’s a subject that universally seems to be one *not* for polite conversation.

Obviously, I’m not the first to address the subject—esteemed authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain have written about passing gas, although mostly with tongues firmly planted in cheeks, so to speak. It appears in Samuel Johnson’s seminal A Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755, although very few authors actually address the subject with any sense of seriousness. The Gas We Pass is the only children’s book I remember seeing that’s devoted to it; The Art of Fart, although comprehensive, is far from a bestseller.

Again, I don’t understand all the diffidence since we all do it—at least 14 times a day on average. (By the way, there’s some other great fart facts if you follow that link: Farts leave the body at 7 mph; they are normally composed of 59 percent nitrogen; and termites are the biggest farters on Earth. Who knew?)

Okay, I will admit that the offending smell that comes with some farts certainly could factor in the shunning, although who among us hasn’t “admired their own handiwork.” We’ve all been there, ranging from “Oh, that’s an interesting bouquet” to “Good god, what in the name of lactose intolerance have I wrought?”

Although it’s kind of the same act, burps aren’t considered nearly as offensive, and in certain Middle Eastern and Asian countries, such as China, burps are even considered a compliment to the chef. Maybe farting should be thought of as a way of saying “Hey man, that was a great meal,” particularly in a country like Mexico where many dishes are made with beans, which are indeed a reliable source of intestinal gas. Just a passing thought …

Could part of the problem be the unpredictability of farts? I mean, unless you’re my son or my buddy Bob, very few people can command their flatulence at will. Farts are not the most reliable of bodily function in a few ways—the aroma can be anywhere from non-existent to room clearing to outright toxic. They can also pop up (or out) at inappropriate moments, and you usually don’t know if they are going to be loud or silent until it’s too late. I’ll never forget one time when I was sitting in my office and a co-worker was talking to me while standing in my doorway; she was stretching and suddenly ripped a loud one. We both froze for a moment before she ran off. She came back a few minutes later to awkwardly apologize, which I awkwardly accepted.

Speaking of awkward and unpredictable, there is the whole issue of wet farts, aka “sharts” or “skidmarks,” which have ruined more than one pair of undergarments. No fun there.

Still, we all mostly agree that farts are funny—heck, it may be the *one thing* that we, as a species, all actually agree on, going back through the milennia. What impresses me is the varying degrees of the humor—not unlike the varying degrees of fart odors, now that I think of it. Fart humor can range from the simple “pull my finger” trick and whoopee cushions to more … well, sophisticated isn’t exactly the word—let’s go with “more nuanced” shenanigans such as “Who Smelt It, Dealt It” and the feared dutch oven. And of course, there are plenty of jokes.

My favorite gas-related line: “That’s about as funny as a fart in a space suit.”

I also remember as a kid looking up “fart” in the dictionary and tittering with my sister that the definition included “a slight explosion between the legs.” So maybe it’s tilting at (breaking) windmills to expect a word and an act that seems to be so base and crude to be treated properly or with any sort of decorum. Still, it shouldn’t be completely verboten, right?

Okay, I’m sensing the puns starting to come on, and I don’t want to linger and ruin my noble (gas) attempt at making a point. Ultimately, I guess I’m not saying that you should go out and light one up—although that’s certainly your prerogative. Be loud and be proud? Not quite sure that’s right posture to strike, either. I guess I come down in favor of a little less awkwardness and a little more acceptance. As I stated earlier, we all do it—chances are you may have let one go while reading this.

Ultimately, I hope this post hasn’t been just blowing in the wind.


Nov 162012

Okay, I know that maybe all my attempts to help kids haven’t always worked out well, so this time I thought I’d go to an actual expert to share some tips.

Out of all the toys, knickknacks and gifts I got as a new parent, there was probably none that was better than the book Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker. I can’t recommend it highly enough as it gives sane, practical advice for every parent. Actually, I’ve recommended it so much and loaned my copy to so many people that I don’t have it on my bookshelf anymore. Oopsie!

I know I got a lot out of the book, and I’m reassured by the dozens of five-star reviews from people who seem to have gotten the same confidence that I got from the book.

Anyway, if you’re not already familiar with de Becker or the book, here’s the official summary:

All parents face the same challenges when it comes to their children’s safety: whom to trust, whom to distrust, what to believe, what to doubt, what to fear, and what not to fear. In this empowering book, Gavin de Becker, the nation’s leading expert on predicting violent behavior and author of the monumental bestseller The Gift of Fear, offers practical new steps to enhance children’s safety at every age level, giving you the tools you need to allow your kids freedom without losing sleep yourself. With daring and compassion, he shatters the widely held myths about danger and safety and helps parents find some certainty about life’s highest-stakes questions.

I also suggest visiting de Becker’s site as there’s lot of great advice for just dealing with life.

Okay, I know this all sounds like some sort of cult or infomercial, but I really felt better after reading de Becker’s stuff, and genuinely thought he helped make me and my wife better parents.

In fact, here are

Five Great Parenting Tips from Gavin de Becker

1. Teach children that if they are ever lost, find a woman, preferably one with other kids. Why? From the book: “First, if your child selects a woman, it’s highly unlikely that the woman will be a predator; a woman is likely to stop whatever she is doing, commit to that child, and not rest until the child is safe.”

He points out how most men, although meaning well, are more likely to give a lost child directions to find help rather than actually get involved with them, while a woman—politically correct to say or not—has natural motherly instincts that prevent her from just walking away from a lost child.

He also talks about how we people tell their kids to find a police officer, which he points out is pretty much sheer folly nowadays, as cops are no longer walking a beat around a neighborhood. As he says, “Teaching this to a young child ignores several facts: All identifying credentials, insignias, badges and nameplates are above the waist, but a young child sees a world of legs. In fact, many children get lost in the first place because of following legs (the wrong set): Legs aren’t that distinctive when viewed from two and a half feet off the ground.”

Fortunately so far, we haven’t ever lost our kids, but we make sure to remind them on a regular basis that if we ever get separated, they need to find a woman to help them.

2. Teaching a kid to *NOT* talk to strangers is a BAD rule. First off, he says kids see parents breaking this rule constantly, talking to strangers at the grocery store, at the bank, in restaurants, at libraries, in museums and pretty much everywhere else. And when kids see parents continually breaking their own rule, it sends a terrible mixed message.

He also points out that the idea behind this is the notion that children are constantly abducted by strangers; he then shows that the truth is that more than 90 percent of all child abductions and abuses are perpetrated by people who the child knows, not random candy-proffering freaks in rape vans.

de Becker has a great plan for teaching kids from when they’re toddlers the proper way to approach strangers and how to talk to them, ultimately helping them nurture their own ability to determine who can be trusted and who should avoided.

3. Trust your instincts. A big part of his philosophy talks about how many times people will instinctively recognize that something is wrong or a bad situation is about to happen, but chose to override those instincts.

He makes a great comparison to a doe at a pond with its fawns; if it suddenly senses something is wrong and runs, no human would bat an eyelash, simply chalking it up to “Oh well, its instincts told it there was danger near.”

Yet humans are animals, too, and thus have the same sort of instincts available to them, and constantly let our “rational” minds overrule our instincts. In short, we don’t listen to the “fight-or-flight” instinct that we all have, and tell ourselves things like, “Well, he’s a friend, so he couldn’t possibly be molesting my child,” when, again, the truth of the matter is that the majority of kids who are molested are molested by someone they know.

4. If someone is overly interested in your children or is being overly nice, be aware. Think about it—if someone is trying too hard to be too friendly to your kids, chances are it’s to overcompensate for the creep vibe that they are sending out and that your instincts might be picking up on.

Also, in most situations, no one is going to be more interested in your child than you.

5. Don’t go quietly. This always stuck out in mind as great advice for anyone in a potential hostage situation.

In the section of the book where de Becker talks about children—and specifically, adolescent girls—getting abducted, he says one thing that abductors commonly say is, “Be quiet and you won’t get hurt.” He points out that really what an abductor is saying at that moment is, “If you make a lot of noise right now, I am extremely vulnerable and chances are you will either disrupt whatever plan that I have or this is the prime moment for you to escape.”

Of course, he encourages anyone to fight rather than go along peacefully because more times than not, those who go quietly are never heard from again.


Nov 142012

Oh, World—thanks again for making this weekly feature so easy!

This time, we go Down Under to New Zealand for our JERK OF THE WEEK:

Sam Bracanov

Okay, even though that over-sized sweater vest may look benign, the kiwi jerk wearing it is looking to do some harm—in particular, to Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

From CNN:

The 74-year old man, a known anti-Royalist, was arrested in Auckland on Monday at one of the venues Charles and Camilla were due to visit during their tour, according to a statement from the New Zealand Police.

Neither of the British royal family members were in the vicinity at the time, the statement added.

Bracanov was charged with preparing to commit a crime, namely assault, against the royal couple, according to police.

Bracanov had planned to throw a bucket of horse manure at Prince Charles, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Okay, I know you’re chuckling—and so I am, to be honest. A pail of poop for the Prince? Perfect. Not exactly lethal bodily harm, but certainly dramatic enough to send a message. Hey, loonies have used apple pies and glitter to attack public figures, so why not excrement?

And you also may be saying that I’m being a big harsh for declaring this guy a jerk for just wanting to attempt this—heck, some of you may have entertained similar fantasies involving other heads of state. As a matter of fact, I can’t sit here and say that I would be calling anyone a jerk if they had targeted a jerky blowhard sore loser.

But the reason that ol’ Sam wins the title this week is his comments after being released from jail:

“I won’t do it [again this week], I’ve done it once. I was not successfulbut there’s always next time.”

Atta boy, Sammy! A true jerk doesn’t let little things like the police or the law stop him from bad behavior.

If you don’t believe me, feel free to put down your poop pail long enough to buy my book!


Nov 112012

[A quick programming note: In case you’re interested and missed it because of the storms—and we all pretty much did—here’s my appearance on Jaki’s Buzz with the totally awesome Grimm Generation, which you can listen to.]

As a few of you already know, my wife and I are in an unusual position when it comes to the education of our two sons in that they are currently in separate public school systems. One is enrolled in Shelton while the other goes to an arts magnet school in New Haven. And while both school districts are clearly—and rightly—focused on education first, the way they approach it is quite different.

[Disclaimer: To all my friends and family out there who work in education, please don’t take what you’re about to read personally. I’m just making some observations from what I’ve seen personally, so continue to be aggravated with me for other reasons, of which we all know there are plenty.]

Obviously, any big city school system is going to have some fundamental differences from a suburban one, especially in terms of logistics, resources and the caliber of students. It’s not fair, but that’s just the way it is currently. What I have been intrigued by is the attitude.

You may have heard about this already, but recently Connecticut sustained a bit of damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy, which for some reason is now “a SUPERSTORM”—I assume that’s derived from the insatiable media need to make whatever is happening NOW sound like IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN FOREVER TO HAPPEN!!!

[For the record, although this storm would turn out to be historically destructive, it was a bit oversold: Before Sandy hit, Gov. Malloy here in Connecticut dove headfirst deep into the hype and proclaimed: “Think of the worst occurrence you’ve ever seen in your area, and assume it’s going to be worse than that.” The hurricane that struck the state in 1938 packed winds in excess of 150 mph and killed more than 600 people! This one, unless it was going to have fire, brimstone and sharks with frickin’ lasers on their heads, was not going to be anything remotely reaching that. Please, we get that it will be bad, but try to keep the historically excessive descriptions under control. You’re supposed to be calm and in control in a situation like this, not inciting panic.]

Anyway, many towns and cities lost power, which not only affected individual homes but public buildings such as schools.

In Shelton, the board of education kept all the students in the city home the entire week of the storm, partially because of the damage to the town, but mainly because one of its schools did not have power.

In New Haven, schools re-opened Thursday and stayed open Friday, even though my son’s school didn’t have power either day. What they did have, however, was a plan—when the kids arrived, they were bussed to different schools around the city for the day, then brought back at the end of the day for dismissal. Yes, it was chaotic, but it was organized chaos. When I arrived to pick my son up, the school principal was calmly directing (with a bullhorn and walkie talkies to his assistant principals) the numerous buses dropping off and picking up kids, and marshaling his students to where they needed to be.

I find it especially interesting because you can’t tell me that the city schools have more resources available to them than the suburban schools. They just have a better attitude, as far as I’m concerned.

Another example:

Last year, I went to “Back to School” nights for both schools. In Shelton, I sat there quietly with all the other mute parents and listened to the principal read her Powerpoint presentation to us from the big screen in front of us, neatly outlining all her and the school district’s goals for the upcoming year.

In New Haven, the principal stood up at the lectern, and proceeded to passionately tell the parents exactly what he expected from the students in terms of dress and behavior. He left no question to how serious he was about sending children home who were not attired properly and ready to learn. The parents, for their part, were enthusiastic—in fact, it reminded me a bit of a revival, with parents around me muttering, “That’s right!” and “Absolutely.” I almost expected him to end the presentation with, “Can I get an amen?!”

I’m an atheist, but even I would’ve stood up and cried, “Amen!”

And one more another example:

This past week was the big “Nor’easter” that surprised much of the area with an accumulation of snow. Although the forecast was wrong for Wednesday, much warmer temperatures were forecast for Thursday and Friday.

Shelton cancelled school on Thursday; New Haven had a two-hour delay. As most of you who live here know, the forecast was right and the roads everywhere were clear by 10 am, at the latest.

Now I’m sure there are argument that will be made for Shelton about having hills, and that making for potentially treacherous driving, but I can personally attest that the majority of roads in New Haven weren’t even plowed, hills or not. So sorry, that’s a wash.

So why the difference?

I know it’s only anecdotal evidence, but I’m an ignorant blogger and I’ll dare to say it: The city teachers, administrations and students are tougher than the precious snowflakes that populate the school boards and classrooms of the suburbs.

Now, I’m not talking about quality of or commitment to education here—I think it’s been historically proven that the suburbs can dedicate more and better resources to education, and usually end up with higher test scores as a result. I’m just saying that I appreciate the mental fortitude of the New Haven Public School system. Maybe it’s a result of necessity, as I’m sure the teachers in the inner city have had to deal with things teachers in the more peaceful and less turbulent suburbs have never had to contend with. Or maybe it’s just part of the natural toughness that comes with scraping by in a city as opposed to living peacefully out in the country.

Part of me also wonders if the parents are responsible—I’ve been witness to plenty of suburban parents overreacting to the slightest change in school policy. Heck, I saw the locals here in Shelton get bent out of shape over the possibility of adding a community garden (you know, because nothing spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e like dirt-lovin’ gardeners), so I can only imagine the challenges from parents that local educators face on any given day.

Ultimately, it’d be great if we could meld the two mindsets together, taking that discipline and toughness and support it with the financial resources. Then again, I might have a better chance of getting into clown college than having various school districts—and the parents involved—agree about anything.


Nov 092012

Okay, let’s get some of the greatest movie theme music ever going here …

That’s right—this weekend the latest James Bond 007 film Skyfall opens, and the reviews seem to indicate that the film does not suck.

For the record, I enjoyed the way they rebooted the franchise with Daniel Craig in 2006’s Casino Royale—I didn’t mind a grittier, more dangerous Bond. Sure, it was a bit of knockoff of the Jason Bourne movies, but still, I thought it was enjoyable and a little less silly than where the franchise had been mired for the better part of the last four decades.

Now don’t get me wrong—I certainly enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek Roger Moore version of 007, but that was probably because he was the Bond I was raised on. The first drive-in movie that my parents ever took me to was Live and Let Die, which was Moore’s first turn as the suave superspy, and like any impressionable young boy, I immediately was hooked by the mix of action, violence and intrigue. Oh, and sex.

Hello, Solitaire!

Hmm … she reminds me of this medicine woman I knew once …

Anyway, as you might expect, James Bond shook and stirred my appreciate for spy movies and TV shows, and I’ve certainly watched a number over the years. And while doing, I’ve been able to compile

Five of My Favorite Fictional Spies (Other Than Bond, James Bond)

1. Agent 86, Maxwell Smart

You don’t know for how many years I wished I had a shoe phone! Don Adams was pitch-perfect as the bumbling CONTROL agent—even now, decades later, I’ve found myself saying, “Would you believe?” or “Missed it by *that* much.”

I saw a lot of this show growing up in the 1970s as it was constantly in reruns during the day, and it’s comedy was broad enough that I was able to laugh at most of the jokes. And yes, I had a crush on Agent 99. Who didn’t?

It also has one of the most memorable opening sequences of any TV show—I used to always wonder how he got out at the end considering he dropped out of sight.

2. Jack Bristow, aka “Spy Daddy”

Victor Garber was nominated for an Emmy three times for his portrayal of the father of Sydney Bristow on “Alias,” and if you watched the show once, you’d understand why as Jack was the baddest of the bad asses on the show, which was a great mix of drama, action and occasional humor. And yes, I had a crush on Jennifer Garner. Who didn’t?

I still can’t see a spork and not think of the time he had to instruct Marshall how to use one to remove someone’s eyeball.

I will also never forget HOW ANGRY I STILL AM SIX YEARS LATER after the series finale when—sorry, it’s not a spoiler six years later—he sacrificed himself to save everyone. I—like everyone else in the room—was literally sick to my stomach after the show was over. Grrr …

3. Austin Powers

Yeah, baby! Who doesn’t love Mike Myers over-the-top parody of all those great and cheesy 60s spy films. Sassy, sexy and silly. I was just watching Goldmember the other night with the kids, and I had forgotten how laugh-out-loud funny it is. And yes, I had a crush on Beyoncé. Who doesn’t?

Although to be honest, I think I identify more with Dr. Evil more than Austin—and I definitely want a tank of sharks with frickin’ lasers on their heads.

4. Chuck

For the first few years of its run, this was one of my all-time favorite shows because, again, it had the perfect mix of fun and guns, and a lot of nerd references mixed in, which, you know, I can appreciate since—and let’s be honest here—I sort of trend toward nerd. No, no, it’s true.

And yes, I had a crush on Yvonne Strahovski. Who doesn’t?

The show also had a great ensemble who were equally fun to watch, including Adam Baldwin as Casey and the immortal Jeffster. Oh, and have I mentioned I had a crush on Yvonne Strahovski?

Again, who doesn’t?

5. Agent P

A platypus? They don’t do much … unless of course they are s a semi aquatic egg-laying mammal of action! I know it’s easier with animation to be more expressive with a character who doesn’t speak, but Perry the Platypus is one of the more original an fun characters on kids’ television, and a show totally targeted for adults. He’s the ultimate good guy, resourceful, loyal, has lots of fun gadgets—what’s not to love? And yes, I have a crush on Carl. Who doesn’t?

Although I do admit, much like Austin Powers, I enjoy the work of Agent P’s nemesis, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz more than our hero. Hmm …

Maybe it’s time for a list of my favorite bad guys? Oh wait, I’ve already sort of done that!