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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cold beer! Get your cold beer!

So, I understand that people raise their eyebrows and tend look askance at me when I start talking. It's the Cold Beer Phenomenon.

It's a hot Saturday afternoon and you're at the ball game. Your favorite ball player has just grounded into a double play and, in disgust, you threw your give-away mini-bat into the head of the octagenarian in the seat in front of you. As the paramedics carry her out, the beer man hoists his beer tray above his head and looks directly at you.

"Cold beer! Get your cold beer!"

You're obviously a little nervous. The security staff is reviewing video tapes to find the hooligan who dented the old lady's noggin and your team is just five innings away from ending another pathetic game. You could use a cold beer.

So, you reach in your pocket, peel off a twenty and buy the one beer you can afford (saving a few bucks for bail, just in case security indentifies you from the video).

With taste-bud-tickling anticipation, you turn up the beer and let it slide down your throat. With a slight gag, you find the will to swallow it.

It's not cold. You knew it wouldn't be. It was simply the sales pitch of a guy with a 40-year beer gut who looks like the fugitive you saw on America's Most Wanted the week before.

Still, you finish the beer, retrieve your bloodied mini-bat and go home to watch TV, where you'll be pitched product after product by Madison Avenue slick-nuts who just love to sell you stuff that you don't need, want, or even recognize as a buyable product.

It's a sad life for consumers in the 21st century.

So, I understand that when I get on one of my sales pitches that my friends and family will look at me with a blank look of disdain and tired consumership.

For instance, just the other day I had one of the best open-face turkey sandwiches I've ever eaten. Moist turkey rested on sourdough bread, covered in a shitake mushroom gravy, accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes. I nearly cried when I ate it. It was the special at Karrie's Kafe, a local deli that puts to shame the Subway a few doors down. Over the past few years, I've come to love Karrie and her cooking. I can't count the number of meals I bought there. Hell, one night my friends abandoned my drunk ass downtown. I ran into Karrie and she gave me a ride home. That's customer service.

So, before I even finished the meal, I sent out a company-wide e-mail advertising the daily special and encouraging all of my co-workers to go have a bite at Karrie's. Within minutes, I was receiving semi-accusatory replies, most of which suggested I must be getting some sort of kickback. The accusations were patently untrue. The only free thing I've ever take from Karrie's was a free cookie on a day I was very ill and Karrie and Dee Dee wanted me to feel better. Again, that's customer service.

But you know what? People still went to Karrie's and nobody will deny that she's one of the best deli-smiths in town.

In short, I'm right.

Isolated incident? Unfortunately not.

On a whim a few weeks ago, I signed up for Yahoo! Launchcast. I was amazed at the ability to chose the bands I wanted to hear, the genres of music I liked. I was further amazed by the ability to rate artists, songs, and albums as they played. Launchcast began to learn what I like and what I don't. It's like satellite radio with my own personal station.

Of course, I shouldn't talk about it, should I? After a few weeks, my friends began to tire of my suggestion that they just try it out. Some of them bordered on hostile. I was playing in a poker game Saturday night and apparently launched into a discussion of LaunchCast. After about five minutes, somebody looked up and said, "What in the hell is he talking about?"

G-Rob responded, "Don't listen to him. It's just a sales pitch."

This morning, G-Rob met me at work and--almost embarassed--admitted he tried out LaunchCast and loves it so much he's going to buy the premium service (something I did myself earlier this week).

G-Rob's admission goes a long way toward proving my point. I'm the most average guy you've ever met. I'm a tired consumer who has been burned too many times by Madison Avenue. However, when I find something I like, chances are, average folks like me are going to like it as well. So, I tell them about it. Simply put, I consider myself a great barometer for what's good and what's not. And you should, too.

Don't get me wrong. I hate most consumer products. They are useless to the nth degree.

Still, there are some things that have found a way to cross the line from usless consumer product to something that you really should enjoy.

Here's just a sampling of regular comsumer things I've found in the past several months that you should look into:

* Yahoo! Launchcast
* Karrie's Kafe
* The Hoover FloorMate (what happens when you combine a mop, a vacuum cleaner, and six scrubbing brushes? You never have to mop again).
* Satellite Radio (oddly, I haven't bought in yet, but I will based on my experience with friends and family who own it. Oh, and if you already consider me to be a shill, this will prove it to you: Take a look at Sirius stock. While it's in flux right now, it's up 48% from when I bought it)
* Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (this film isn't for everybody. If you don't like mind-fucks and actually thinking about a movie, you'll hate this one. But I really enjoyed it. In fact, it was of few films I've seen in recent years that I can say I enjoyed enough to talk about it)
* Desperate Housewives (I hate TV. I really do. With the exception of CSI, poker, and football, I watch very little television. By accident, I found myself watching Desperate Housewives Sunday night and really enjoyed it. For network TV, it's not bad.)
* Nature Valley Trail Mix bars (if you're looking for a healthy snack that actually tastes good, these are the best I've found. I buy them 70 at a time at Sam's Club--incidentally, a place I really hate going).

Now, back to your regularly sheduled mind control, courtesy of the ad wizards of Madison Avenue.

But, remember, I'm right (except maybe about the Sirius stock, which is bound to plummet by year's end based on the rest of my portfolio).

Friday, November 19, 2004

Why Top-Random # Lists are stupid

I hate top anything lists, but the blogging community is awash with much-deserved bitching about Rolling Stone's Top 50 rock songs of all time. To kill a little time, I'm playing around with some song lists of my own. I encourage you to offer your lists in the comments. (Oh, and a new real post is below this one).


1. Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
2. Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
3. Imagine - John Lennon
4. What's Going On? - Marvin Gaye
5. Respect - Aretha Franklin


26. A Day In The Life - The Beatles
10. What'd I say? - Ray Charles
27. Layla - Derek and the Dominoes
30. I Walk The Line - Johnny Cash
48. All Along The Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix


1. Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
2. Already Gone- The Eagles
3. Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell
4. Landslide - Stevie Nicks or Dixie Chicks
5. Cracklin' Rosie - Neil Diamond (oh, just shut up with your teasing)


1. Brown Mountain Lights - Acoustic Syndicate
2. You're Not the Best (but you're the best that I can do) - Charlie Robison
3. Three Fine Daughters - Eddie from Ohio
4. Positive Friction - Donna the Buffalo
5. No Depression - Uncle Tupelo

MY TOP FIVE COVER SONGS (which is to say, I really like the originals but don't mind these covers)

1. Little Wing - Stevie Ray Vaughan
2. You Really Got Me - Van Halen
3. Higher Ground - Red Hot Chile Peppers
4. North Country Girl (aka Girl of North Country) - Acoustic Syndicate
5. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes - Eddie from Ohio


1. Tangled up in Blue
2. Girl of North Country
3. From a Buick 6
4. Don't Think Twice
5. Subteranean Homesick Blues


1. Thank God I'm a Country Boy - John Denver
2. Mama Tried - Merle Haggard via Grateful Dead
3. Be My Baby Tonight - I have no idea what pop country band sings this
4. Dixie Land Delight (including a rap version with my brother)
5. Georgia - Ray Charles (this actually turned out much better than it should've)


1. The End - The Doors
2. You Can't Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones
3. Some Chris Isaak song I can't remember right now, but it's on the Wild at Heart Soundtrack
4. Black Eye - Uncle Tupelo
5. Shape of the World - John Gorka

...and finally...

MY TOP FIVE ROCK SONGS (and, again, this is really, really wrong, but the best I can do after an afternoon of thought)

5. Crazy Train - Ozzy
4. Roadhouse Blues - The Doors
3. Black Dog - Led Zeppelin
2. Ramblin' Man- The Allman Brothers
1. Get Back - The Beatles

That was tiring.

What are yours?

Changing to the same

I woke up this morning, my eyes swolen from a night of hard, sometimes restless sleep. The phone had stabbed through my occiptal bun and sliced a dream about something good and kind. The call was for my wife, a neighbor passing along a sad story. I watched as tears welled in my wife's eyes. She wasn't sad for herself, but for her friend. Mrs. Otis is like that.

While she took the call, my wife had laid L'il Otis on the pillow beside my head. He didn't know his mom was sad or give any indication he recognized how ugly I really am in the morning. He gurgled a little and shifted around in his new pajammas. I marveled at how quickly the kid is growing. A picture from his first day on earth sits on our coffee table. Somehow, in three months he's gone from looking like a albino raisin to a little man in unfortunately feminine jammies. Fortunately, he has no idea that he's dressed like a wuss. And he's cute as hell, so whatta I care, right?

With the phone back on its cradle, my wife relayed the story to me. Our neighbors' dog (the one that protects my wife and puppy during long, dark walks through the neighborhood) was found to have a rapidly advancing cancer and had to be put down.

The kid gurgled again.

It's real life before 9am. Before I'm out of bed.

Real life is about to change. Again.

The past few months have been a strange trip. For those who haven't yet had children, it's like you're in the middle of a giant earth-changing calamity. A good one, though. That is, you're only struggling to keep your head above water and paying little attention to everything else you once thought was important.

After about 12 weeks, though, you find yourself in a groove. Things have certainly changed, but those important things you've been ignoring for three months start to seem important again. You're just looking at them differently.

With that in mind, the folks at Mt. Willis were forced to confront real life. For the past six months or so, I've been struggling with my work situation. I wasn't very happy, I wasn't very well compensated, and...well, yada, etc, mama mia I'm a whiner.

Still, we didn't feel like we wanted to put L'il Otis in daycare. To make that work, I needed a new job.

Let me summarize: In April, I made the cut for interviews for the Executive Director of my city's festival organization. I think I only got the interview because of who I knew and my name. Not surprisingly, they hired somebody who actually had event planning experience. After that, I used my name and contacts to nose my way into conversations with people looking to hire public relations directors. Again, that experience thing got in the way. I learned a great deal during those months about who one knows is not always good enough to get one a job.

After a few dismal failures in arenas outside my profession, in June I decided to start looking for better work in my field. Finding a new job in my field would require moving from this little burg. It wasn't something I was all that hot on, but I was dedicated to finding a job that could support my family.

Three jobs presented themselves fairly quickly. Ft. Meyers, Kansas City, and Phoenix. Each job had its pros and cons. Despite being very far away, I was keenest on the Phoenix job. Again, not surprisingly, the only job that was actually offered to me was the one in Florida. In the end, it just didn't work. The money wasn't what I wanted (or needed, for that matter) and I didn't see any sense in making a lateral move just to be moving.

Again, I'd like you to meet my friends Dispair and Self-Loathing.

By late July, I'd fallen into quite a funk and decided that I wasn't nearly as cool as I thought I was. A couple of neat freelance writing gigs lifted my spirits somewhat, but not enough to convince me that I had the stones to actually be a bring-home-the-bacon sort of husband and father.

By August, when L'il Otis arrived, I'd resigned myself to hating myself and hoping that something good would happen. Thankfully, I was so deluded with fear of being a father that I forgot about my self-loathing for a couple of weeks and stopped paying attention to the fact that I was making no progress professionally.

Then, October came and with it the best possibility I had yet seen. The local newspaper reporter who specializes in my specialty left his job, leaving open a spot into which I was perfect for the walking.

I got in touch with the editor who seemed genuinely happy that I was interested. He brought me in and we talked for a solid hour. We talked about the job, the money, the life. I walked out of his office feeling like I already had the job.

Rumors circulated around town. I found it hard to do my job without someone asking me when I'd be making the move. I'd always respond the same way: "Nothing is for sure yet, but I'm hoping for something to happen soon."

A week passed. I went camping. Another week passed. I played some cards. Another week passed and I got busy with my current job.

It was during this time Mrs. Otis was confronted with an inevitability: Come back to work. Now.

Everything we'd been hoping to happen before the eventuality arrived had not happened. We were stuck. No daycare. No plan. Nothing.

We didn't know what to do. We explored every possibility. We considered fulltime daycare, but counted it out almost immediately. We considered me staying home, playing Mr. Mom and working on my writing until the newspaper was ready to hire me.

In the end though, there was only one decision we felt we could make. We had enough savings to live for a year on my salary alone.

Mrs. Otis tendered her resignation and we sat back and hoped the newspaper job would materialize.

Last Friday I was on my way home, driving down a hooker-infested street and looking forward to a good night of not hating myself.

The editor called.

Again, let me summarize: "We're filling the job internally. Sorry. You were perfect, but it's not going to work."

I wanted to stop and buy some crack, but the dealers were conspicuously absent. Instead, I called home and delivered the news.

Mrs. Otis met me at the front door with a beer. It was perhaps the kindest thing she's ever done. I sat down and started getting drunk.

Mrs. Otis left the house, ostensibly to have a drink with our boss and say goodbye.

An hour later she returned and threw an envelope at me. I read it through a rapidly advancing buzz.

"Fuck," I said. Actually it came out more like, "Fuhhhhhhhhhck."

Apparently our employer didn't want to lose Mrs. Otis. The envelope contained an offer of a major promotion that was, in its essence, everything she'd ever wanted and worked for her entire life.

"Fuhhhhhhhhhhck," I said. Then I said it again.

After recovering from my hangover, the wife and I talked a great deal. The offer would allow us to again live comfortably on a financial basis. It would only require L'il Otis to be in daycare for three hours a day. It would elevate my wife to the level that she has deserved for a long time.

While a hard decision for her (she is still really torn up about the daycare stuff), it was a no-brainer for me.

She signed the contract last night and submitted it today. On Monday Mrs. Otis will become a working mom.

This afternoon, I was standing in front of a television camera, bright lights in my face, and some work to do in about three minutes. Marty called, we chatted for a moment, then he asked what the big announcement was going to be.

I told him, to which he replied, "I was hoping it was that you'd quit your job to be a fulltime writer."

Well, no. Not for now anyway (that's another post for another day).

For now, I'm back to being me and doing my best to keep my wife and kid happy. I've tried the "threatening to quit" thing and the bosses usually respond with, "Have you seen the front door? It's very nice. Here, let me show it to you."

I'm okay with that (sort of). I'm embracing the concept of my wife not only making more money than me (she always has), but making A LOT more than me. Now, I just have to find a way to get rid of the self-loathing and focus on the stuff I'm starting to believe I'm good at.

Tonight is dinner and DVD night at Mt. Willis. The kid will go to sleep about 8:30 and we parents will sit up and spend a nice night together, embracing real life, and setting out on a journey that will be very different, but very much the same.

Something I've come to realize is that we're still young. At this point in my dad's life, he hadn't yet even started doing what eventually made him successful and gave me a perfect little life.

So, I guess L'il Otis is going to be okay.

And since I spend so much time communicating with my wife through e-mails and blogs these days, let me offer this:

I love you, baby.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Okay, we have an announcement coming from Mt. Willis within the next 24 hours (no, Mrs. Otis isn't pregnant again...at least I don't think she is...), but for the time being, we need your help.

A series of voting irregularities in a local contest has resulted in the rightful winner running behind and her voters being disenfranchised. With that in mind, we're jumping on the illegal voting bandwagon and asking as many readers as are available to vote in the contest before 9am Friday.

Please go to this site http://theriseguys.com/hotnewsgirl.html and vote for Beth from as many computers as you can. If you vote once before midnight, you can vote again in the morning.

PS-- Yeah, we all know this is really silly and superficial, but there is a principle involved and we base our lives on principle (and beer).


Friday, November 12, 2004

Cue the hand

Anyone who watches the movie "Carrie" is a liar if they tell you they didn't wet themselves in the closing scene when the hand shoots up from the soil. Of course, I wet myself when the Law & Order "bum-bum" hits at the opening of the show, so what the hell do I know? In fact, I just wet myself for no reason in particular.


Autumn turned to blah yesterday. The sky took on a dead-fish tone and started spitting random drops of worthlessness onto the ever-slickening asphalt that weaves in and out of this little burg. I hate this time of year. I love the brisk, leaf-changing winds of Fall, but once winter starts messing with my chi, I get a little slurpy in the head.

Yeah, I disappeared for a couple of weeks. Sorry about that. I kept thinking I'd have some important announcement so reveal in a shock headline. I'd started formulating them in my head. The top vote-getters among my committee of one were as follows:





As it turned out, I haven't quit anything, I feel fairly centered, I've been hiding from potential sockers, and I haven't eaten much in the past few weeks. So, I haven't had much about which to write.

So, perhaps this little missive is like the hand at the end of "Carrie." It's a suprising, yet confounding re-emergence of your lovable anti-hero. Feel free to wet yourself. I just did. Again.

Here in about nine minutes, the jury in the Scott Peterson case will return its guilty verdict. I don't know whether the dude did it or not, but I know I get really uncomfortable when a judge starts booting jurors who are favorable to either the prosecution or defense. If you didn't catch the lead line to this paragraph, let me be clear: The verdict will be guilty (I'm guessing it will be second degree murder, which the jury will see as a nice compromise between having actual evidence and really, really wanting to convict the guy). Chances are, I'll still be spewing forth here when the verdict comes in, so if I'm wrong, I'll be happy to admit it.

A brief update on the LOO (Life of Otis):

My baby is cute and quite fat. Mrs. Otis is adjusting to motherhood very well. I've come to believe my kid hates me for coming home when he's ready to go to sleep. It could also be that in moments of pure fatigue (mine, not his), I fall asleep with him the crook of my arm, relegating his noggin to my armpit. I didn't think it was much of a problem until Mrs. Otis pointed out, "Your son's head smells like your pit funk."

I haven't had a day off since the last time I wrote. I've become very close with the people who spend their lives in the local courthouse. I thought very briefly yesterday I'd be sent to jail for contempt of court. While a very real possiblity for a couple of seconds (I gotta stand up for my rights, ya see), as it turned out, the attorney was just bluffing. I've got a greater chance of going to jail for contempt of my bosses.

On an unrelated but tangentially connected note, I'm getting some good reading done. I just finished Wil Wheaton's "Just a Geek." Wheaton was the actor who made his bones as the lead in "Stand by Me" then went on to greater--if geekier--fame as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek the Next Generation. Wheaton is a good egg and has been very kind to me recently. I'd recommend the book to anyone who has struggled with major life decisions and the lack of respect good people find in real life. I'm also re-reading David Sklansky's "Theory of Poker" and finishing up Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods." I'm trying to decide what my next read is going to be. I'm thinking something in the nonfiction realm (I'm on a nonfic kick). Any suggestions would be appreciated. Maybe we could start Otis' Book Club.

Fuck Oprah.

Peterson update: Hundred of people have gathered outside the courthouse, crowding the streets. I just told a co-worker if I were there I'd be selling funnel cakes and Bloody Marys. I don't know what those people want. Are they planning to tell their grandchildren they took a Friday off work to stand outside the courthouse in the Scott Peterson case? Scopes monkey trial? Sure. Sam Sheppard case? Probably. O.J.?

I just wet myself again.

Here comes the live audio feed from the courtroom...standby...

Uh-huh. Guilty. Oh...first degree. That's a little shocking. That's first degree for his wife, second degree for his baby. Looks like we have a penalty phase coming.

Okay, that's about as much as I want to think about this case until I hear from the ousted jurors about how the would've voted "not guilty."

So, the nation is about to become void of news. The election is over. Scott Peterson has been found guilty by a California jury. Yassir (no, sir) is dead (seriously, he's like Franco). The war? Ah, yes, that.

Maybe I'll have some news for you in the coming days. If so, I promise to allow cameras in my courtroom. And I won't balk like Yassir.

Cue the hand.

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