Sunday, September 30, 2012

September tweets of the month

Looking forward to a day of televised sports and remote parenting. On deck for tomorrow: “Trouble with the Critics,” my take on the widely slammed new Clint Eastwood movie, “Trouble with the Curve.” I liked it!

And, yes, I still like Clint, too!

Check out the tweets @8days2amish and have a great Sunday!

• I plan on spending tomorrow saying same things over and over, repeating ad nauseam & beating proverbial dead horse. It's Happy Belabor Day!

• Can anyone explain why in San Francisco there's a big orange bridge right where everyone told me to look for a golden gate?

• The word clusterf*** is very misleading. Sounds like something we should all enjoy. "We're having a big clusterf***! Bring a casserole!"

• There are just two true rock stars left on the entire planet. One of them is Mick Jagger. The other is married to Hillary Clinton.

• God knows all/sees all. I wonder if He reads .

• I'm thinking it's physically impossible for someone who is Finnish to hitchhike.

• Another absurd story saying men think about sex 250 times a day. C'mon! I thought about sex 250 times in the time it took me to type this tweet.

• I’ve cut my nose off so many times to spite my face it’s become physically impossible for me to stop and smell the roses.

• A single splash of water killed the Wicked Witch of the West. Logical conclusion: Not only was she evil, she also reeked.

• If Three Dog Night had performed before Caesar they would have been called Tres Canis Nox.

• I wish Apple would cease making new iPhones and instead develop an engine that runs on all the iPhones they’ve snookered us into discarding.

• My mother looks at the new TV remote the way the ancients must have looked at a solar eclipse

• It'd be neat if our sneezes revealed our personalities. Cheerful people would sneeze confetti; sweet people jelly beans; politicians, crap.

• Chefs with rashes are the best at cooking from scratch.

• “Live and learn” is a popular phrase with no practical application. Most people live and stay stupid.

• Runways among our most illogical words. Planes never run on runways. If we named them after what happens most on them they'd be waitways.

• Can't prove it, but I'll wager Superman was the first person to ever say, "I see London, I see France ..."

• When is some entrepreneur going to seize the obvious opportunity and open a set of chain stores that sell nothing but chains?

• The problem with most people isn’t just that they have their heads up their asses. The problem is how many can’t stop admiring the view.

• That which does not kill me usually leaves me with one whopper of a hangover.

• Let's find homeless Happy Days star Erin Moran work. How about an antiquing show? "Joannie Loves Tchotchke!”

Related . . .

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Happy 73nd B-Day Frank Burns! A holiday tradition

This one is becoming my, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Every year on this day -- well, mostly -- I commemorate the birthday of the late Larry Linville by re-running this story about why I believe Frank Burns is one of the most indelible characters in TV history.
Please excuse any dated references from back in 2009. Like Burns, the piece is timeless.

Take the day off and do something incompetent and mean-spirited today: It’s the 73rd birthday of Maj. Frank Burns.
Larry Linville, the man who crafted perhaps the most indelible character in American pop culture, was born on this day in 1939. The five-times married Linville, whose only other claim to fame was, coincidentally, a series of ill-fated romances aboard the fictional “Love Boat,” died April 10, 2000, at the age of 60.
But, to me, at least, ferret-faced Frank Burns will live forever.
It’s a measure of the esteem I hold Burns in that when Matt Lauer saluted former Today Show colleague Bryant Gumbel on their shared birthday, I thought of calling up and demanding equal time for Burns. 
M*A*S*H remains one of the most endlessly fascinating TV shows in history because no other show has ever ranged the gamut from fall down funny to train wreck terrible. From 1972 through 1983, the show was compelling, sometimes for all the wrong reasons.
Many argue on about when the show leaped the great white maneater.
Was it when Klinger stopped wearing dresses? When B.J. took over for the incomparable Trapper John? When the insufferable Sidney Friedman became a fixture? Or was it when Col. Blake’s plane nose-dived into the South China Sea, a riveting episode that to this day lands like a punch to the solar plexus.
The show took hits with all those dramatic transformations.
But nothing caused the essence of the original hilarious premise to leak out of the storied series like when they lost Frank Burns.
He was the moralizing prig who cheated on his wife. He was the flag-waving patriot who stole purple hearts from wounded soldiers for his own self-glorification. He was a bumbling doctor who kept getting promoted over worthier physicians.
I’ll never forget the episode when Radar was a budding writer doing an assignment about amusing anecdotes. Burns told a story about growing up in Indiana next door  to a little wheel-chair bound boy named Timmy.
With evident glee, Frank tells of how Timmy was happily waving at the Burns family when he lost control of the chair. It plunged down the stairs, across the lawn and crashed the flailing invalid into the Burns family sedan.
He cackles witch-like through out the storytelling as B.J., Hawks and Radar listen in horror. When he concludes, B.J., the designated voice of conscience says, “That must have been awful!”
Frank says: “No, he just scratched the paint a little.”
Then he gets furious when the cheerful buddy-buddy reaction he’d sought results in scorn.
It’s brilliant. It combines a kind of malevolence and mean-spirited pettiness that used to unite the nation.
Today, all our bad guys divide us. You either love Barack Obama or hate him. Same goes for Sarah Palin.
Even deliberately cast evil doers like Montgomery Burns and Tony Soprano have their rooting sections.
That’s why we need more men like Frank Burns in our lives. We need people so bumbling and loathsome that the whole world can point our children to and say, “See that man in the white smock with the stethoscope. He’s pure evil. You don’t want to be grow up to be like him. He’s a mean, cheap and selfish stooge from whom no goodness results.”
So today, in honor of the great Frank Burns, I’m going to try and do something incompetent and mean-spirited.
Looking back over this incoherent blog post, I can surmise the incompetent part’s already taken care of.
Now, the hard part. Can I go against my gentle nature and do something deliberately mean-spirited?
I suppose while I’m thinking about it, I could call up Matt Lauer and demand he salute Frank Burns, too, instead of his suck-up buddy Gumbel, the egotisical poser who’s been on the fast track to Nowheresville since leaving the Today Show and whose head is becoming so big he ought to be called Giant Gumball.
Hmmm . . .
Maybe this mean-spirited bit won’t be so difficult after all.

Related . . .

Friday, September 28, 2012

Now's the time to buy my book

It’s so unseemly, I’ve resisted doing this for about four months. I’ve put it off, sought alternatives, relied on others.

I can procrastinate no longer.

It’s up to me. So here goes.

I need you to buy my book. Now.

Geez, that was awkward. I don’t know how the ShamWow guy does it.

Actually, I’m confusing need with want. I don’t need you to buy. It’s doing better than I ever dreamed without either of us really doing a thing.

But I really want you to. It’d be great if any of my Greensburg-area friends walked into the local Barnes & Noble and bought a copy of “Use All The Crayons! The Colorful Guide to Simple Human Happiness,” that’s currently being shelved in the self-improvement section.

If enough of you do that, I bet we can get it more prominent display. Or I need you to buy it online at or Just one copy’s fine. It’ll be $15.95 with a couple of dollars for shipping and handling.

An honest on-line review would be great, too. So would each of you recommending your friends to buy it.

Why after four months of giving the book away am I making this request?

Now’s the time to see if we can really move the needle.

This week convinces me my promotional efforts have reached a tipping point. As many of you know, the book on the very first page has a note that says it is free to anyone who can’t afford it or who is serving in the U.S. armed forces. All they have to do is e-mail and ask.

But it’s been much broader than that. It’s basically free to anyone who asks or whom I think might enjoy it.

I’ve given away for free more than 200 copies to friends, family, old classmates or people I know from bars, church or section 509 at Heinz Field. Recipients have included bankers, teachers, drunks, clergy, locker room attendants and the guy who cuts my hair.

The result of all these freebies is I’m starting to believe not only will the book succeed, but it has a chance of becoming a sensation.

Evidence of this came this week when readers, two of them previous strangers, placed orders for batches of books in amounts of 25, 20 and 15. I sign and sell these for a two-dollar discount. I now spend a good portion of each day sharpening crayons at a furious rate.

So three free books have led to $840 in sales in one week. Now, what do you think the 60 people who receive the book will do?

It’s becoming clear they’ll buy more. As I suspected, the more I give away, the more I’ll exponentially sell.

That people are loving it leaves me tickled beyond words.

Here’s the thing: if each of those 60 books were purchased on-line or at a store, the national retailers would take notice. They would give the book better distribution and promotion. It would really put some wind in its sales, er, sails.

I believe it’s time to fertilize the grassroots.

So if I’ve given you one and you’ve enjoyed it, I ask you to reciprocate by buying one this weekend. If you do, I’ll send you a SASE so you can drop it in the mail and have me sign it for someone whose life has added happy colors to yours.

Or maybe you’ve enjoyed the occasional blog and have wondered if there’s ever a way you can express your gratitude for the near-daily silliness. Now’s your chance.

Let me be clear: the book is still free and I’m aggressively giving it away. I’m arranging to donate 25 signed editions to the USO in time for Thanksgiving.

But I believe this slim little book can become a player in holiday sales and I want to do everything I can to maximize the possibility.

You buying the book this weekend could be a big step in making that happen.

There. That was as unpleasant as I suspected it would be.

I’m going to have to get in touch with the ShamWow guy and ask him his self-promotional secrets.

Related . . .

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The gayest sports figure in Pittsburgh history

When I heard a famous Pittsburgh sports figure was announcing he was gay I thought, man, I hope it’s Joe Greene.

He’s maybe the most iconic Steeler ever. I like it when anyone reveals something surprising about themselves that causes us to take a fresh look at them and, by extension, ourselves and how we perceive others.

Mean Joe Greene being Gay Joe Greene would demolish so many stereotypes and I’d love that.

It’s been about a week since former Pirate owner Kevin McClatchy revealed to the New York Times he is gay, an announcement that makes him, I think, the first gay person ever associated with professional baseball.

Pro sports are maybe our greatest statistical anomaly. If, as some studies indicate, about 10 percent of the population is homosexual it’s incredible that no one gay has ever swung a bat or dashed onto a football field.

It’s logical to assume at least a few of our most manly of men are gay, but are shy about sharing the news with teammates and fans.

That might be because they perceive other athletes and many meat-headed fans are what is commonly referred to as homophobic, a term that always reminds me of actor Morgan Freeman who said, “I hate the word homophobia. It's not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole.”

This is evident to anyone who’s ever attended a professional football game, as I’ve done maybe about 250 times over the past 40 years.

It can be vicious.

If you listened to disgruntled fans, you’d think everyone not performing well is either gay or really, really gay.

A soft defensive back who gets run over is queer. A quarterback who throws too many interceptions is a faggot. The refs? Whistles aren’t the only things they blow.

That means the gayest guy to ever play football in Pittsburgh is, by far, Kordell Stewart.

To me, his tenure from 1995-2002 represents the most disgraceful era in Steeler history.

Drafted second out of Colorado State, he electrified the NFL by playing a hybrid quarterback/jiffy back/wide receiver role that earned him the nickname Slash. One of the most gifted athletes to ever play the game, he could do it all. 

Then the Steelers made an historic personnel mistake. They made the quarterback the quarterback.

And Kordell Stewart is black, the first black to play in Pittsburgh’s most high profile position in more than 20 years.

The 2001 AFC offensive player of the year, he twice led the team to the AFC Championship Game, but was blamed for both losses.

I contend coach Bill Cowher ruined Stewart by taking one of the game’s most innovative and intuitive players and trying to make him conform to Cowher’s stupid system, which was better suited to slow white losers like Kent Graham, Jim Miller and Mike Tomczak.

Of course, that’s speculation. What is fact is that Stewart became the victim of the most vile rumor mongering I’ve ever witnessed.

Everyone knew someone who knew someone who knew a cop in Schenley Park who busted Stewart giving oral sex to some dude. It was reported he was caught wearing a dress propositioning an undercover cop right here in Latrobe.

In Latrobe! I live in Latrobe and if there’s 6-foot-1, 215-pound black man sashaying around in a frilly dress I’m going to know about it.

It got so bad Stewart felt compelled to address his teammates and tell them, it’s okay, I’m straight. You can trust me.

I guess it’s important to narcissistic athletes who think they’re so gorgeous a gay teammate will put them moves on them when they’re soaping up in the shower with dozens of men big and hairy enough to attract gay bears.

I remain appalled.

Today, Stewart is an occasional ESPN analyst -- is there a former athlete who isn’t? -- and is a married father living in Atlanta.

I guess he must be on some kind of gay sabbatical.

I wish him nothing but the very best.

Same for McClatchy.

He’s approaching 50 and said he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life living a lie. He should be congratulated for putting even this tiny crack in a dam that one day is bound to burst.

I hope the next Tebow to electrify the sports world is flamboyantly gay, a twinkle-toed prancer capable of throwing rainbow touchdowns for gridiron glory.

I hope he’s Muslim, too.

For me, the best thing about McClatchy revealing he’s gay is that he’s in a committed relationship with a fella he met through Rick Santorum, a man I believe to be utterly homophobic in the Morgan Freeman sense of the word.

And I’m glad I’m living in a time when describing someone as being homophobic is becoming worse than describing someone as being gay.

Related . . .

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy 25th Bday to our 12 yr. old daughter!

Great day for our family. Our beloved 1st born turns 25 today!

That means Josie, born in the year 2000, is now one year older than me. She lapped me on Sunday.

See, in my entire 49 years I’ve only celebrated about 24 birthdays. Birthdays were just never a big deal in my family.

In fact, the first birthday I can remember celebrating was when my parents tried to suddenly overcompensate after realizing they’d completely forgotten. I remember Dad throwing his arm over my shoulder, saying, “Happy Birthday, kid!” and handing me a Budweiser.

I was 6.

Mom, she never even knew I was born. She said she remembers the nurse bringing her a big breakfast and her saying, “Nurse, there must be some mistake. I’m not allowed to eat. I’m here to have a baby.”

The dumbfounded nurse said, “Ma’am, you can eat anything you want. Your baby was born last night.”

I’ve, of course, forgiven her. I understand the necessary role inebriation plays in surviving the daily challenges of parenthood.

Thanks to my wife, it’s vastly different for our daughters. Their birthdays are veritable Mardi Gras of celebration. They enjoy birthday privileges for the better part of the week.

It started with Josie on Saturday with special treats. Then Sunday the grandparents came over for cake and presents. She seized on the circumstances to proclaim viewership birthday privileges which meant I had to watch the Steeler game on the ancient piece of crap TV that is 25 true years old.

By my calculation, that’s what Josie will be by the end of the day, but that’s being conservative. Really, the kid could be pushing 30.

I have no problem with the excess either. Life can be short and brutal. I think many of the world’s problems are the result of us NOT spoiling our children. We should shower them with affection, even the monsters. Maybe especially the monsters.

I guess that makes me part of the Vito Corleone school of parenting. It was Don Corleone who said in “The Godfather,” “I have sentimental weakness for my children and I spoil them, as you can see. They talk when they should listen.”

He was referring to his hot-headed eldest child, Sonny, who met a premature doom at the hands of merciless gunmen laying in wait a New Jersey toll booth plaza.

That won’t happen with Josie, I’m sure. She’s a really good kid, people like her, and we have an EZ Pass.

I don’t know how I’ll feel with my 6th grader having had more birthdays than me, and it’s a situation that’ll only accelerate.

If trends continue, there’s a good chance she’ll be AARP eligible before she gets her driver’s license.

Me, I can envision a day when I cease aging altogether. My last birthday was over in just four lickety-split hours. They gave me a cake, some cards, some kisses, said I could watch my two favorite episodes of “3rd Rock From The Sun,” and that was about it.

I could get more attention from a cheap hooker.

At that four-hour pace, it’ll take me six years to add a single birthday.

As I get older, I get younger.

I have so many happy memories of the day Josie was born, same with little what’s her name.

We could shower them each with birthday bling and the material goods would never equal the spiritual ones they give us every day of the year.

A good friend of mine welcomed his second child, a daughter, into the world just eight days ago.

Altogether now, “Hello Addison Joanne Britt!”

He apologized for not responding more promptly to a congratulatory e-mail. Said he’d gotten a little behind.

I told him it was cool.

It was 12 years ago today Val and I got a little behind and we’ve been a little behind ever since.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Being bullish in meat lover's paradise

I learned at dinner the other night that a single straw of premium bull semen costs $20, or just about the cost of the premium bourbon whiskey I was sipping without a straw.

Happily, we weren’t there to conduct a taste test.

We were having a sumptuous dinner at Draper’s in The Greenbrier, the renown White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., resort. We were there as part of the Certified Angus Beef annual conference to promote one of the the world’s most sought after beef steaks. Only eight percent of all U.S. beef earns the esteemed designation.

If you think I paid even a dime for my meals, my liquor, my room, etc., then you haven’t been reading my stories very carefully.

And bull semen, it seems, is sold by the straw. That’s the technical term. I thought asking would make me look stupid, but I doubt it’s the same kind of straws they stick in the milkshakes down at McDonald’s. 

My table mates included people who were fluent in bull raising, bull marketing and preparing butchered bull meat for fancy dinner presentation.

What part of bull I brought to the table is so obvious further crudity would be redundant.

It was a great mix of beef people, earthy ranchers mingling with flamboyant chefs. Everyone was friendly and fun. The only beef jerkies there were shrink wrapped.

So I learned about proper soil content, feed mixes, crop yields and other relevant topics that more snooty city sorts would dismiss as pure bullcrap (if they had a session on that, I missed it).

 What’s the most memorable fact I learned?

That when good beef is free I go whole hog.

Certified Angus Beef proponents will likely wince at the metaphor but, yes, I ate like a pig.

Not wanting to appear gluttonous, I saw others showing more restraint. Not me. 

I wasn’t chicken.

Who could resist?

My wife? She’s what I call a situational vegetarian. She’s eager to reduce meat consumption for admirable reasons of health stability and animal ethics. Her ideal is Lisa Simpson, who once said she tried to avoid eating anything that ever cast a shadow.

But she straps on the bib whenever there’s some really great meat on the plate. So she’s maybe a 75 percent vegetarian, a healthy balance.

I encourage her ambitions so I felt like I was being a good husband when I told her I wasn’t taking her with me to The Greenbrier. Staying at home with the whiny kids while I was pampered for three days in perhaps America’s most splendid resort was all for her own good.

I thought about her when I strolled into the vast exhibition hall with the “Taste Drive” signs on the doors. I wondered momentarily how she would have felt at what was on the other side of those great doors.

Here’s how I felt: Exactly the way Augustus Gloop must have when he first gazed upon the chocolate river in Willy Wonka’s candy factory. I felt euphoric.

Better even. I was MOO-phoric!

There were maybe 50 Certified Angus Beef vendors offering roasters full of the choicest cuts prepared the most savory ways. There were beef meatballs, shish kabobs, shepherds pie, beef stew, sausage, roast beef, steaks, ribs, corned beef, beef brisket, barbecue, cold cuts -- everything but beef ice cream

My wife is eager to emulate Lisa Simpson. I unsnapped the top button on my pants and became Homer. 

I felt like Brad Pitt walking down a red carpet flanked by beef paparazzi. Every few steps someone shoved a tray loaded with little toothpick-stabbed delicacies right under my nose.

It was uniformly delicious.

Of course, part of me is concerned with gluttony. Why should I be tempted with so much when so many others have so little?

I guess that noble part of me became smothered in beef because I just kept eating.

So now I’m well on the way to becoming one of those insufferable beef snobs extolling the virtues of proper marbling, tenderness, age and color.

I’ll bore my dinner mates with insight about what it takes to get Certified Angus Beef from farm to table, from dirt to dinner or gate to plate.

Heck, I can go clear from straw to supper.

And that’s no bull.

Related . . .

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Re-run Sunday: Black men can't kick

This one from November 2010 pops up on the stats page about a dozen times a week. I remain mystified why some of our best athletes -- African-Americans -- aren't NFL kickers. My conclusion: They're too cool to kick. Scandinavians, it seems, are not.

Enjoy your football games. My prediction: Raiders 34, Steelers 31.

Of the 724 points scored in yesterday’s NFL games, 240 of them, more than 30 percent, were scored by a lilly white group of men who’ve always ruled a crucial facet of football the way Bull Connor used to rule Selma.

It’s a racial profiling so odd it practically defies belief, but anyone looking at the history of the NFL would conclude African Americans athletes are the victims of blatant discrimination.

Because on its pale face, it looks like the fair-skinned men who run the NFL don’t want black men kicking the football. They’d rather entrust the task to small white men named like they ought to be kicking in quaint wooden shoes.

While many of our best professional athletes are black, most of our best kickers seem to be, of all things, Scandinavian, a land known more for windmills and lutefisk than football.

Some of the greatest scoring machines in the NFL history are agile black men like Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders and Walter Payton. Their explosive play will dominate highlight reels for as long as the game is played.

Yet in a sport where nearly 70 percent of the competitors are African American, some of the league’s best kickers have been named Jan Stenerud, Morten Andersen, and Gary Anderson (he’s a South African in the old school sense).

Yesterday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers featured a game-winning kick by a white man named Shaun Suisham, thus helping his team beat the Buffalo Bills and their kicker, Ryan Lindell.

Other kickers scoring points yesterday were white men named Nate Kaeding, Garrett Hartley, David Buehler, David Akers, Neil Rackers, Ron Bironas and Josh Scobee.

I haven’t the motivation to research all their lineages, but I can pretty much eliminate equatorial regions as their ancestral homelands.

In fact, in the past three years only one African American has been summoned to try his, er, hand at kicking. And he isn’t even a kicker.

He’s Detroit Lion defensive lineman Nadamukong Suh.

And he’s scored one point.

He was called in to make the extra point after the regular kicker suffered an injury.

The regular kicker’s name is Hanson, Jason.

In what for any blogger passes for actual research, I believe I found the best African American kicker in NFL history. He played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1985-89 and is the Nigerian-born Don Amechi Igwebuike.

Igwebuike’s kicking career ended when he was indicted for smuggling $1 million in heroin from Nigeria. He was acquitted of the crime in 1991.

Some sources say there have only been seven African Americans who earned their living kicking in the NFL, none of them for any duration longer than Igwebuike’s, and several of them were punters, most notably Miami Dolphin Reggie Roby.

By comparison there are currently seven African American head coaches in the NFL (and zero owners).

Yet, just seven kickers in the entire history of the NFL.

It’s extraordinary.

The only thing I can conclude is blatantly racist.

Blacks are just too cool to kick.

It has to be. The culture that gifted humanity with the Delta blues wants nothing to do with an essentially silly skill practiced by grade schoolers at recess and men who reside countries that insist on calling soccer futbol.

Every aspiring football player, black or white, probably first aspires to be a quarterback, then wide receiver, etc.

A good kicker is likely someone who’s failed at every other position.

But why it seems to draw men of Scandinavian/Northern European descent mystifies.

Perhaps the harsh conditions of their ancestral homelands make them immune to the inevitable criticism that comes with high stakes kicking. Because even skillful kickers are eventually hooted out of town for missed kicks or evident stupidity.

That’s what just happened here in Pittsburgh with Jeff Reed. He said some stupid things, missed some easy kicks and now we’re all in love with this Suisham guy.

At least until next Sunday.

In this regard, Reed followed in the cleated footsteps of the former Indianapolis Colts kicker named -- Hello, Holland! -- Jeff Vanderjagt.

During a drunken interview, he once told reporters Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and head coach Tony Dungy were chumps and would never win a championship.

Manning could have been disparaging the entire kicking community when he said, “What can I say? Our idiot kicker got liquored up and ran his mouth off. The sad thing is, he’s a good kicker. A good kicker, but an idiot.”

The next year Vanderjagt was gone. The year after that Manning and Dungy won the Super Bowl.

You’d think there’s bound to be some grant money out there for a guy like me to snag to study the whole thing. It’s fascinating.

Of course, if I was serious about money, I’d devote my time to learning how to boot a football through the uprights.

Really, it’s perfect for a white guy like me. I’m Swedish and certainly have a high tolerance for disparaging remarks about my shortcomings.

I could kick myself for not thinking of it sooner.

Related . . .