Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oh, and one more thing, 2011 . . .

Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you so much.

Thanks to each of you who’s taken the time to stop in and read my blog. It means the world to me.

Of the many things that struck me following the death of Christopher Hitchens, one that stands out was why he said he was so prolific.

“Writing,” he said, “is my recreation.”

I feel that way, too.

Blogging for me is essentially like bar time without the hangover. What I write about here is exactly the same as what me and my friends talk about in The Pond, the lively little tavern that’s just beneath my feet.

We talk about family, sports, politics, oddball news and those are the exact same topics that wind up as blog fodder.

I began blogging in May 2008 and didn’t tell a soul for six months. Then I told Ron. He’s been reading ever since and I often think when considering a topic, “Hmmm, would Ron approve?”

Happily, he usually does.

One gauge of the blog’s success: I now know of eight readers named Ron. If positive readership trends continue, by June there will be 20 Ron readers.

The last year, especially the last six months, have shown sharp readership spikes.

A 2011 recap:

The three most widely read, according to the highly unreliable stats page are this straight-faced travel story about the Kinzua Skywalk, which benefitted from a friendly endorsement on a state park website, this one about the recent discovery of another Earth-like planet ripe for exploitation and, of course, this one about exotic sexual practices from the South Pacific.

Some of my favorites have included this March 10 one about how I became a prosetitute (it lead to me coining an alternative word for blogging, “auth-whore”); this one about the phone message Miss America left me; and anything that lets me bash Pat Robertson always leaves me with warm feelings.

It’s been a very difficult year with my demented mother. I’ve heard from a number of readers and friends who commiserate. I try not to write about this too much, but every time I do I’m grateful for the reaction. This one about her Kleenex obsession seemed to ring a lot of bells. And this one about how I faux-outed my friend John got a good reaction.

I wrote about my socks, the death of jukeboxes, Roberto Clemente, and what I think about when I think about Dolly Parton.

I’m grateful to, the only other site on which I simultaneously post. They promote the heck out of my stories with encouraging tweets and getting 2,000 hits a day is becoming common. And the great comments I get from so many friendly folks always gives me a lift.

I remain thrilled by the reaction to this Barbara M. Neill story in the Latrobe Bulletin. It led to scores of new readers here at home and has me hoping Barbara gets a dream job with “USA Today” in 2012 where her first assignment is to promote unheralded blogs with Amish in the title.

Since I decided five months ago to increase my output, my readership has doubled.

I ask you help continue this trend by in 2012 referring the blog to friends and sharing it on the social media whenever you find it worthy. That makes a huge difference.

All told, the blog enthusiasm and the increasing readership convinced me it’s time to put some of it all together in a themed book and release it on my own.

See, I’ve been pitching an idea to publishers for years and am always blown away by the reaction. Top editors and agents have raved about it and the writing. I know they are sincere because I’ve seen the other side of it with a handful of other proposals that are cruelly scorned.

This one they truly love. They say it’s funny, it’s touching, and they’d all leap to publish it if only . . .


“If only your last name was Kardashian.”

The book is about crayons.

More on that soon.

Traditional publishers may not believe in me, but I know a man who does.

He’s one of the most highly sought-after and influential endorsers in marketing history: Arnold Palmer.

He’s read the book, thinks it’s great, and has agreed to provide the promotional foreward.

And he doesn’t even care that my name isn’t Kardashian.

I’m starting to think you don’t either and for that . . .


And Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Anderson Cooper blows, journalistically speaking

Sometime in the next 24 hours, one of America’s most visible news anchors is going to do something that will demolish his credibility.

He will cavort, he will mug, he will giggle like he’s being tickled by endless feather-filled breezes.

Of course, that’s something Anderson Cooper has since September been doing every day before lunch.

He will be hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve coverage from Times Square. His co-host will be comic Kathi Griffin, whose mission is to so thoroughly embarrass Cooper the network will be forced to issue an apology for her behavior.

That no one finds the pairing incongruous is symptomatic of all that’s wrong with the 24-hour news cycle.

Griffin is funny, irreverent and prone to spastic outbursts of emotions.

The problem is so is Cooper.

And for this he is celebrated. CNN honcho Jonathan Klein called Cooper “the anchorperson of the future.”

Broadcasting & Cable magazine said Cooper’s Hurricane Katrina coverage ushered in a “new breed of emo-journalism, skyrocketing Cooper to superstardom as CNN's golden boy and a darling of the media circles because of his impassioned coverage of the storm.”

His news skills are such that he’s been elevated to the very pinnacle of broadcast news excellence, a regular position on “60 Minutes.”

What demographic are these outlets seeking to tap when they hire Cooper? Kids who no longer feel challenged by MTV News?

The world and national news should be like married sex. It should be straight-forward, business-like, tickle-free and the whole thing should be wrapped up in under 22 minutes.

Or so I’m told.

News anchors like Cooper make ESPN sports gigglers look reserved.

He’ll tear-up over famine in Asia, darken in rage over tribal conflicts in Africa. I see him doing a report over endangered sea creatures and feel sad I can’t rush to New York to give him a reassuring hug.

I don’t want the news to be an emotional roller-coaster. I just want the news.

Anchors used to have about 30-minutes. Someone as hysterically over-exposed as Cooper is on for two-hours at a time, minimum.

So in addition to true news, we get to see the playful Cooper, the pensive Cooper, the caring Cooper and the Cooper who shares he doesn’t much like spinach.

We see every side of Cooper except the one he’s oddly coy about, the gay-or-not-gay Cooper.

“Out Magazine” listed him in 2007 as the second most powerful gay person in America.

The declaration should have had “Out” readers suggesting editors change the magazine name to “In” because Cooper has never said one way or the other.

A son of billionaire socialite heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, he’s said revealing his sexuality would threaten his self-perceived impartiality.

“The whole thing about being a reporter is that you're supposed to be an observer and to be able to adapt with any group you’re in, and I don’t want to do anything that threatens that,” he’s said.

That’s just silly. People aren’t going to watch or decide they are going to talk to him based on whether he’s gay or not.

I still tune in even though it’s clear he’s an ass.

I don’t understand why Cooper is considered, egads, a modern Walter Cronkite when another zipper-thin contemporary is dismissed as a shallow boob.

To me, Cooper and fellow lightweight Ryan Seacrest are journalistic twins.

Watching Cooper report on the European debt crisis is no different than watching Seacrest report on the Kardashians.

What’s happening isn’t as important as the fact that each is on television getting to say that it is.

This became clear to me in September when Cooper began hosting “Anderson,” a syndicated yap fest in which he interviews people like Jerry Seinfeld’s wife about things like zucchini.

It’s a daily disgrace that in another day would have led both CNN and CBS to terminate Cooper for acting more like a showman than a newsman.

I remain part of the problem because I still watch CNN. I’ll be among the multitudes tuned in for their New Year’s Eve coverage to see if Griffin gives Cooper a wedgie.

The next day CNN executives will look at the ratings and be pleased, I’m sure, that so many viewers tuned in to watch the big ball drop.

What their charts won’t detect is that many viewers like me were watching in hopes it would land on the host’s head.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What if Tebow is Jesus?

If I were Denver Bronco coach John Fox I’d order NFL sensation Tim Tebow to show up for Sunday’s game wearing sandals, a long robe and riding a donkey into the stadium.

It’s bound to give the Broncos an edge if his opponents think they’re lining up against the Prince of Peace.

Win Sunday and the Broncos begin an improbable playoff run led by a quarterback revered by Christians and derided by ESPN analysts and, I presume, Satan.

Tebow has in just eight weeks become my second favorite Christian behind only Christ. As I wrote here on November 16, he’s a role model who doesn’t deny being a role model.

He’s cheerful whether he wins or loses, he shares credit, he doesn’t taunt, showboat and it’s a near-cinch he’ll never say the words, “I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Kato Kaelin.”

I don’t pray over small potato matters like NFL game outcomes. That demeans God.

I’m praying Tebow wins because it might mean the only overlooked aspect of the Tebow story might then come to pass.

I’m praying that Tebow is truly the Second Coming.

And I’m not talking about Denver Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.

I’m hoping he’s the prophesied Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Who’s to say he’s not?

We’re taught in Sunday school to believe no man (or female sideline reporter) can know the hour of Christ’s return.

So it would certainly be a shocking surprise if just before Super Bowl halftime a heavenly dove landed on Tebow’s shoulder and a voice from on high thundered, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased . . . Let’s go Broncos!”

The announcement would herald the Son of God’s return to earth to lead the good in triumphant battle over all evil.

Paradise will ensue, at least for those of us who assume we’re the good guys (don’t hog the passing lane, kind to children and old people, never resort to annoying ALL CAPS e-mails, etc.).

The Super Bowl is the world’s most watched event. Wouldn’t God want a large audience to trumpet the news that the apocalypse was about to commence, one would hope immediately following the game?

Plus, if it’s timed just right it would pre-empt that saint of unholy sacrilege, Madonna, and her sure-to-be-cringe-worthy Bridgestone Halftime Show, giving God a nifty two-fer.

What if Tebow is J.C. II?

This is one of those times when I regret placing trivial knowledge above Bible study. Yes, it might have been a mistake to spend so much time learning to say, “Two big beers!” in 12 different languages.

It is my layman’s understanding a time of tumult will ensue as Jesus -- Tebow? -- leads us against the Satanic forces of evil -- Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys?

Again, Tebow precedents support my supposition. Chaos reigns for most of the games he starts, then Tebow shows an uncanny knack to make miraculous comebacks in the game’s last two minutes.

People are always talking about them wanting Jesus to return -- and they mean it in a holy way and not in reference to special teams duties. But I wonder how many of them really mean it.

Pestilence, war, famine -- it sounds as horrific as it does familiar.

I’d just like to see Him return to hear Him answer some questions:

  • I believe God created heaven and earth, but who or what created God?

  • If God is as omnipotent as I believe he is, why doesn’t he just slay Satan?

  • Why does God permit so much unholy killing in His name?

  • If the Broncos do make it to the Super Bowl, will they cover the point spread?

Do not be surprised if none of this hopeful speculation comes to pass.

The Super Bowl is being played indoors this year and God may not want to send a sacred dove of peace through the nylon roof of Indy’s RCA Dome.

He might want to wait until next year.

And He might not want to anoint Tebow at halftime, preferring to wait until the end of the game for a holy play on the traditional, “I’m going to Disneyland!” moment.

Our new savior could be baptized, not with holy water, but with victory Gatorade.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Conservative Scrooge vs. Liberal Scrooge: who wins?

I guess the reason I’m so feeble with New Year’s resolutions is I lack resolve.

For instance, I’m about to demolish one of my 2012 resolutions and it’s still 2011.

Yes, I’m about to bash Republicans.

About two months ago I said to myself, “You know, I’m going to resolve to never get in another political argument. It gets everyone upset and is utterly pointless. And I will refrain from posting any blogs or tweets that might upset my Republican friends.”

I felt so pleased with my rationale I immediately began composing another resolution aimed at no longer talking to myself.

Yet, politics and politicians were providing too much compelling fodder to quit cold turkey even during a season renown for warm ham.

It happened on Christmas Eve. My thoughts were on the pending worship when I fired off the following tweet: “I'd like to be in church tonight when the pastor asks everyone to pray for peace on earth to see what happens after Dick Cheney stands up to object.”

It never occurred to me that this would be a violation of my new mindset restricting GOP-bashing.

In fact, it was sort of a Christmas wish, like a kid asking Santa for a new scooter.

Because it would, indeed, be electrifying. Imagine a reverend swept up in the spirit exhorting his flock to pray that wars cease, peace reigns and that goodwill toward all men prevails.

Then you’d see Cheney rise and say, “Now, hold on preacher,” and begin laying out the case for war, strategic bombings and Halliburton-boosting budgetary increases.

It happened again about three hours later during the annual telecast of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I posted how meanie banker Henry Potter’s rhetoric sounded so in-tune with Tea Party stalwarts I kept expecting him to demand George produce a long-form birth certificate to prove he’s eligible to run the old Bailey Building & Loan.

The reaction was immediate: There was outrage. Umbrage was taken. Feelings were hurt.

Here it was Christmas Eve and I’d upset a bunch of GOP friends who, like me, couldn’t pry ourselves away from the social media on the holiest night of the year.

Now my feelings were hurt. It was a simple observation, the kind you see all over FaceBook -- “Yea! Almost Christmas!” -- and thin-skinned friends reacted as if I’d ruined the holiday.

It was as if I were some sort of Scrooge.

And, of course, I am some sort of Scrooge.

I’m the good one who wakes up in time for Christmas morning fired with inspiration to help the less fortunate.

Yes, I’m the liberal Scrooge. The one everyone loves.

The holiday-ruining miscreant Scrooge? He’d be leading the GOP race for president.

Check it out:

• Scrooge: “If they'd rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”

Wasn't that sort of line that drew raucous applause at the September Tea Party debate in South Carolina? Rick Perry also drew applause when he boasted about his state’s record of executions, even though Texas leads the nation in -- whoops! -- Death Row exonerations.

• Scrooge: “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

Newt Gingrich enjoyed a surge in the polls when he said child labor laws are too restrictive.

• Scrooge on if he’ll donate to help the poor: “I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish sir, that is my answer. (My taxes) help to support the establishments I have named (prisons, workhouses, orphanages); those who are badly off must go there.”

So old Scrooge is a miserly Libertarian who believes charitable interventions are unnecessary.

And pointing this out to people who believe “The Muppet Movie” is an insidious indoctrination is some sort of affront.

One more from Scrooge: “Bob, I haven’t taken leave of my senses. I’ve come to them.”

This was the Scrooge who underwent a Christmas morning transformation so remarkable he extended universal health care of Tiny Tim, redistributed his hoarded wealth and became a man whose charitable heart will be revered throughout history.

The parallels are too obvious to ignore.

I say this with cheerful heart not to upset, but to like the Ghost of Christmas Past joyfully illuminate.

To prove it, I offer one more line from Dickens.

God bless us all! Everyone!

Even the thin-skinned Conservatives who forever fail to see the light.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Yes, this is the same picture I've used to commemorate our Latrobe Christmas for the last three years. The Rodells have each aged the equivalent.

Only Palmer hasn't aged.

Nothing about Arnold Palmer ever gets old.

Merry Christmas!

Thanks for reading my blog!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas time = no time

Time doesn’t fly. It drives a Maserati 190 mph down the Autobahn blithely oblivious to the brick some prankster strapped to the accelerator.

Where did Christmas go?

People who think Christmas time refers to a season are wrong.

Christmas time is a spacial acceleration that turns weeks into days, days into hours, etc.

It’s like the whole season disappears down a black hole, only the black is replaced with tinsel, glitter, and flashing colored Christmas lights and the whole giddy trip is soundtracked like one of those sped-up Alvin & The Chipmunks monstrosities.

I feel like I didn’t do anything.

My wife did all the shopping, all the wrapping, all the organizing, all the cheer spreading and somehow found time to patiently listen to all my bitching about never having any time to do anything.

I feel like I didn’t spend enough special time with my daughters, my wife or all my needy bar buddies.

Christmas cards? Not a chance.

I haven’t sent a batch of cards in 10 years. I always say I’ll compensate by spending an afternoon calling dozens of far-flung friends just to wish them Merry Christmas.

So far, I’ve phoned just one dude and part of my motivation was to remind him he still owes me $20 so that taints the whole gesture.

I wanted to write a piece about my book review The Cleveland Plain Dealer published this week about Greg Olear’s book, “fathermucker.”

It’s the first book review I’ve written in 20 years because it’s the first fictional book in 20 years I’ve read that made me want to shake strangers on the street until they’d agree to buy it. It’s wonderful.

Plus, we’ve had some brief correspondence and he seems like a really decent guy, rare in anyone audacious enough to practice the self-absorbed craft of writing.

Or so I’m told.

I cracked up an old friend earlier this year when I told him my greatest quality was self-forgiveness. I was telling him about my perceived shortcomings in dealing with my aging Mom.

“No matter how often I lose my temper,” I said, “I just say, ‘Hey, I’m doing the best I can. I’m only human.'”

It’s like I’ve extended myself a personal get-my-conscience-out-of-jail-free card.

How come I can so easily overlook cruel failings in dealing with my dear mother, yet feel forlorn I let Christmas slip by?

Is it because Christmas is only once a year?

I wondered this morning if this self-imposed funk would lift if, geez, I found a big bag of money.

I don’t think that’s it. I don’t need more Christmas money.

I need more Christmas.

I need time to take my wife out to dinner and show her how much she means to me.

I need two full days to take each of our daughters somewhere Christmas special so they’ll have memories of Daddy lavishing them with the attention every little girl deserves.

I need a night to spend with my fading mother so she’ll maybe realize her son’s there for more than just pills and bills.

And what would Christmas be without more time getting gooned up with all my buddies? The more time I spend all alone writing, the more I appreciate the time I get to spend with the friends who help keep me essentially silly.

I wish I had time to sit home alone for an evening in front of the fire to read, watch an old Western, and marvel at the shabby little Christmas tree the girls decorated while I was out doing something I don’t remember.

Maybe that quiet little reverie is what I need to deploy the self-forgiveness card and realize I’m doing the best I can.

I’m sure you are, too. I can guess I’m not alone in wondering where the time went.

I’m sure you wish you had more time to do what matters most at Christmas -- and it’s not getting gooned up with friends, although that is high-up on the to-do list.

If some Christmases, all we have time to do is wish one another a sincere Merry Christmas then let it be done.

Merry Christmas, my friends! Let there be peace on Earth!

That’s straight from the heart.

I hope you’ll forgive me if it sounded a little rushed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taiwanese animators coloring future news

Something I used to enjoy doing three times a day is becoming impossible for me to do even once.

I’m sure exposure to multiple hours of erectile dysfunction ads have conditioned you to conclude I’ve become sexually feckless.

That isn’t it and I’ll resist the manly urge to make up some face-saving “Hail, Zeus!” quotes and attribute them to my wife.

This is something lots of people do fully clothed while they’re eating breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I’m talking about watching the local news.

It’s become a bore. There nothing new about the news. Only no-frill white box cereals are less generic.

Worse, we rarely watch the news. We instead watch reporters and law enforcers talk about the news. And it’s all the same.

I swear you could take any random broadcast from the past year, re-broadcast it today, and no one would know the difference.

Happily, I’ve found a futuristic solution. And I’ll tell you all about it right after the weather (that’s what those in the news business call “a tease”)!

Few people realize it but the root of news is, in fact, new.

This was, er, news to me back when I was a young reporter in Nashville. I overheard an editor ask a police reporter, “Any news, Jimmy?”

Jimmy, a bright young wit, said, “Nope, not one single new.”

I’ve never forgotten it. News were living things reporters were duty bound to herd.

Today’s news has become like the great American bison. Too many hunters, not enough buffalo.

No where is that more obvious than the local TV news.

I still watch, of course, because seeing pretty people smile always soothes me. And after they get through the obligatory six minutes of mayhem, there’s nothing but smiles.

I like to imagine right after the five-day forecast recap, the whole happy gang skips back to some big bed behind the set to snuggle and snooze until it’s time to slap the make-up back on.

See what I did there? I put a titillating visual in your head.

And that, my friends, is the future of the news.

It will be vivid, it will be imaginative and it will hail from Taiwan.

It will be the aptly-named Next Media Animation.

I’ve been hooked ever since I saw Roger Ebert tweet about it last year.

It is the greatest news innovation since live television. They not only report the news, they recreate it and add cartoonish embellishments.

The bin Laden take down may have been the best ever. It showed brave SEAL Team 6 breaching the walls, mowing down the doomed defenders and finally the bloody coup de grace.

As all this is being shown in deliberately clunky animation, a narrator prattles on in Taiwanese. Beneath the action, subtitles scroll.

So as you read “The Americans treated the body with respect according to Muslim tradition,” you watch the SEALs from behind urinating all over the body.

I can see where some news directors might have trouble with this sort of artistic license, but I found it very compelling, especially when the 90-second clip took it even farther and depicted what happened next in Hell.

It was all so wildly profane, so sacrilegious, the station pulled it down after just 12 hours.

As this bold step may take time, I advise local broadcasters to pave the way by hiring thespians to act out the news.

This would be a huge ratings boost and viewers would immediately begin to bond with the cast.

Think of how much theatrical drama you could wring from a news segment that opened with, “A North Side woman shot a trespasser she saw peeking through her bedroom window.”

It could work with actors either playing it straight or, better still, really hamming it up. And it would be a great training ground for our next generation of actors. We’d see what it was like the exact moment the single mom realized she’d won the lottery, and the sin extravaganza of how the comely 8th grade teacher plied the boys with weed and liquor to satisfy her indecent lusts.

It’s possible the same actor could in one 30-minute broadcast die from multiple gunshot wounds, be stabbed to death in a neighbor dispute and get electrocuted stealing electricity.

It’d be an instant sensation.

Oh, how I hope I only live to see it.

It may be unethical. It may be tawdry. It may be a tad unrealistic.

But it sure would put at least a little new back in the news.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

To hell with Kim Jong Il, world's greatest golfer

I posted this on my 8days2amish twitter account with no intentions of re-posting it here. But it led to such a surge of readership I thought there might be some interest for it here. This reads differently from one of my usual posts in that it was written with the intention of Sports Illustrated Golf Plus running it. The editor there has run my stuff before and always gives it a considerate look and a friendly reply. He said this was a little too edgy for him. I remember the 2010 rejection because I'm rarely anyone's edgy. And isn't this beccoming a dandy year for tyrants -- bin Laden, Khadafi, KJI -- heading to hell? Been a tough year, but that death trifecta's been great.

Many narrow-minded American golf fans have been upset by the onslaught of talented Korean golfers crowding the LPGA leader boards.
They ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Because the world’s best golfer now has time to play more and if past ambitions are any indication, he’s bound for the PGA Tour.
It’s soon-to-be retiree Kim Jong Il, the despotic president of North Korea.
State run media reported in 1994 that Kim was eager to try golf on his nation’s first course when it opened near Pyongyang. The results stunned the world.
The first time he ever played, Kim is said to have shot a jaw dropping 38-under-par in a round that included 11 holes in one.
It’s impossible for a non-golfer to appreciate the staggering scope of this achievement. For perspective, I’ve been golfing an average of about 25 times a year for 35 years or so and have never had a single ace.
That’s about 15,750 aceless holes.
Kim played 18 holes and snagged 11.
Two of the greatest and most prolific golfers ever, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, have only had 20 and 19, respectively.
Of course, this shouldn’t be surprising. This is a man so powerful his subjects believe the weather is controlled by his moods and his body so evolved it produces neither urine nor feces, a bit of a pity, perhaps. You’d think the sprinkled tinkle from a body so divine would be nourishing enough to feed the millions who are starving to death under his tyrannical rule.
But having a man of Kim’s accomplishments would be a boon for the PGA Tour, a realm so priggish it spent the entirety of the 2010 season rattled by the private shenanigans of Tiger Woods.
Golf’s never had a real villain and Kim’s a real villain. He regularly cracks the top five of the world’s worst despots lists. There’s rampant starvation, disregarded international nuclear weapon treaties and cruelty and eccentricities grand enough to smack of sheer lunacy.
From 1993-94, he was Hennessey’s best customer and spent $750,000 a year to import the stuff to a country where the average worker earns just $900 during that same span.
So having him on the PGA Tour would not be without its PR challenges.
Still, there are sound reasons why Tim Finchem should consider recruiting Kim to try his hand at Tour Q school.
It is reported in all the school text books that when Kim was born on February 16, 1941 -- he’s an Aquarius just like me! -- that spring suddenly bloomed and the country was showered with a spontaneous outbreak of rainbows like what happens in the Care Bear stories I read to my 4 year old.
And we all know how cool that looks on hi-def.
For ratings purposes, it’s a can’t miss for the PGA. People would tune in for the controversy, for the aces and all those rainbows.
And, really, how much worse could he be than John Daly?

Ed. Note: Much of the "research" for this found on Sam Greenspan's hilarious site, Check it out.