Rapid Eye Reality -- Home of Brad Willis' writing on family life, travel adventures, and life inside the poker world

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Swiss Cheese Incident

I've been cooking with swiss cheese a lot recently. You know, a little cordon bleu, a little casserole, a little this and that. Cheese fetishes run in cylces, I think, and recently I've been feeling a little Swiss.

Saturday was one of those days when nobody should've been messing with a big block of swiss. Up late the night before, I was cooking for 25 people, suffering a work crisis that threatened to (and did) last for 36 hours, and helping my neighbor move five years of living into a 18-wheeled moving truck. There was no time for messing around with any kind of cheese, let alone one as haphazard as swiss. And yet I was. For lack of better sense, I was grating an entire block of swiss for a monster cordon bleu-y pasta salad I was whipping up to go with the grilled fare. In the end, I got a little carried away and grated the whole damned block. Work was pinging me on the IM machine, the moving truck guy was idling in the cul-de-sac, and the wife was giving me a look that said, "I love you, but if you don't put down the damned cheese, I'm going to put it in a hole you don't even know you have."

I had too much grated cheese.

My keen eye noted this as I filled up a bowl with enough pasta salad to feed 60 people (that eye wasn't so keen) and started cleaning up my work area.

"Something is wrong with the garbage disposal," the wife said.

This, as I have noted before, is my wife's verbal cue that something isn't working for her. Nine times out of ten, whatever it is works just fine. This time though, she was spot on.

Something was wrong with the garbage disposal. Flipping the switch produced a sound a lot like you get when you...ah yes, jam up some sort of motor. It was a strained "I'm about to burn out like a motherfucker" sound.

And this was a bad time for such a thing to happen. I had scraps of just about everything I'd been cutting that morning. Egg shells littered the countertop. Not to mention all the cheese.

Wait, where is all the fucking cheese?

Well, it's in the garbage disposal, of course.

Now, I don't fault the wife for putting about two cups of shredded swiss in the disposal. I would've and have done the same thing. However, this timing was especially bad.

After two minutes of using the old Garbage Disposal Reboot trick, I finally just shoved my hand in the small hole and felt for the problem Sure enough, the whole of the blades was gummed up with melted swiss cheese. It was a decidedly non-neutral situation.

Eventually, with the help of a spoon, my wife's smaller hands, and a lot of hot water, we got the thing running again. The crisis, however swiss, was over.

Later, after the work debacle, the move, the BBQ, and a few too many beers, I got to wondering about the swiss cheese. A simple sentence kept running through my brain:

You eat that stuff.

Now, given, I rarely eat two cups of cheese at a time, so my chances of gumming up the works to the same degree are slim. With that acknowledgement, I also don't have sharp blades spinning at several thousand RPMs in my gut.

Methinks it may be time to switch cheese for a while. It just might be time for something in the way of a Stracchino or Teleme.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An open letter from the Vista

To be opened only in the event you have not heard from me in the next 30 days

To whom it may concern:

If you are reading this, it's because I have not returned from the darkness. I recognized from the outset that both hubris and naivete led me down this path. It was on February 27th that the new machine arrived. It bore the symbol of the beast. And I welcomed it warily into my home.

Trust this: I recall your warnings. "I would rather scratch out my own eyes..." you said. "I don't trust..." you said. "Cancel or allow..." you said. I heard them all, but I could not make myself take heed. I was driven by familiarity and frugality. It was my avoidance of risk that drove me to risk in the first place.

As I waited for my fate, there was a part of me that said, "It can't be that bad. It's barely different than what you already you know." And, most of me believed that. Most of me believed that the hip, nerdcore propaganda had been getting to me.

"You are coming to a sad realization," you said.

And as I took hold of the new machine, I whispered, "Allow."

Indeed, if you are reading this, I allowed too much. I can only hope I return with as much relief as I have trepidation today.

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Monsters under my mucus

I'm not sick. I'm not. I mean, yeah, I have some issues I should be dealing with, but who doesn't? At least I'm not sick. In fact, I've been fortunate this cold and flu season. Four days of wishing I was dead (in Las Vegas and Cincinnati, no less) was all I had to endure. It was a bad-ass illness, to be sure. For me, though, it was up and down relatively fast.

Relatively, you say? Well, yeah. Most people I've met have been dealing with it for a long, long time.

Right now, I'm sitting in the dark. I mean dark-dark. No lights, no TV, no radio LED display. If not for the light of this computer screen (and the ever-so bright light of my achey-breaky heart), I couldn't see anything. And maybe it is the dark that has me a little paranoid, but I'm thinking there has been a little something odd about this season's colds and flus.

Now, it's a given...I get around, govn'ah. I meet all kinds of people in all kinds of places. And, yeah, many of those places are not the cleanest of joints. Regardless, I've not known many people who have not suffered some dread disease this year. And most of them have described it as a lingering death march from the local drug store, to bed, to work, back to the drug store, to the doctor, and eventually to a priest for last rites...you know, just in case.

Now, maybe it's just that my fortunate life has led me to be acquainted with people all over America. Maybe I'm just a little more exposed the maladies of the country at large. Maybe it's just that I'm sitting in the dark at 2:30am. But, this year seems a little odd to me. It seems to me that more people are getting sick this year, they are getting sicker, and they are staying sick longer.

I remember one paranoid night in my garage about 12 years ago when I was talking to a med student friend of mine. He laid out the case for how our overuse of antibiotics was eventually going to make us terminally vulnerable to germs and bugs. I'm not saying that's what we're dealing with here, but I've seen more otherwise healthy people bedridden this year than I've ever seen in my life.

I got rather lucky. While my early December bout with the bug made me wish I dead for 48 hours, I recovered rather quickly. Many other folks have not fared as well.

So, I ask you, delicate reader, am I just being paranoid because of insomnia, darkness, evil spirits, and the ghost of Christmas past? Or do you think something is going on here? Because, I'm not one to go looking for monsters under the bed, but if they start knocking in the middle of the night, I'm at least going to take a peak and make sure they aren't sharpening their fangs for me.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Ronnie Sheppard to stay in prison

The appeal bond is one of the greatest tricks of white collar crime trade. Generally, because the white collar crooks are not violent, they are allowed to stay out of jail and/or prison while they appeal their case. As most folks know, appeals take forever--years, even--and if crook is out on bond pending the appeal decision, had can enjoy another 3-5 years of freedom when he should be serving his sentence.

Ronnie Sheppard will not have that luxury. Today, Judge Jim Johnson told Sheppard he will have to stay within the friendly confines of the South Carolina Department of Corrections while waiting to appeal his case.

While I personally lost no money as a result of Sheppard's malfeasance, I can't help but feel a little joy in the fact that he will be spending most of the next decade working for as little as thirty-five cents an hour.

I know this means very little to the folks who read around the country, but in this little corner of the world, this kind of justice just makes for a good day.

Have a good time in the pen, Ronnie.


Ronnie Sheppard: The Fall of a Sleazeball

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday's Mental Massage

Last year, I made a last-minute decision to sell my gas grill at the annual neighborhood yard sale. It's taken me until this very second to realize that the grill pre-dated my marriage. My then-fiancee bought it for me as a gift in late 1999. I used it to cook food for a whole bunch of people the day after we got married in June of the following year. When we finally bought a house, I forgot to pack the grill in the moving truck and ended up begging a buddy to drive me back down the highway in his truck to go get it. Once here on Mt. Otis, the grill served me well over the course of a young life of partying, barbecues, and family meals.

Thing was, I never really liked that grill very much. Oh, sure, back in 1999, it was pretty cool to have my first gas grill. I'd cooked on nothing but electricity or fire to that point. Over time, though, I found myself losing desire to spend any time with the green beast. In 2006, I shed no tears when I rolled the thing into my driveway and sold it to a lady for $30.

It didn't occur to me until I saw the thing rolling out of my driveway that, "Hey! That's my grill!"

By that time, it was gone. In the few months since I sold off that part of my manhood, I've cooked outside on the bottom half of a smoker a few times. However, a 14-inch diameter grill just doesn't cut it when you're cooking for more than one or two people.

As it happens, our long-time neighbors are moving to Denver on Sunday. Seeing them go is going to be rough on all of us here. My kid loves their kids. My wife loves the lady of the house. While I won't admit any man-love for the patriarch, the sonofabitch can fix anything he can touch, and as such, has become the solution to most of my ham-fisted attempts at home repair. That and he is a damned nice guy and quite a bit of fun.

So, we're throwing the family a small going away thing on Saturday that, apparently, is going to require me grilling some stuff. Yesterday afternoon, in a fit of boredom and latent depression, I turned off my computer and said to the family, "Alright, let's go."

The wife and kid are a lot like dogs in this respect. If I actually get up from the computer and say, "Let's go," they jump to their feet and run for the door. It doesn't matter where we go, as long as we're going. It took my wife less than five minutes to figure it out. "We're going to buy a grill, aren't we?" she said.

"Maybe," I said.

Buying a grill had become a lot like buying a computer for me. While not as expensive as buying a car for my wife, it was a significant purchase. What's more, like the laptop (oh, yeah, I bought one...more on that next Friday), the grill is one of those things that is distinctly mine. I spend a lot of time alone with it and I want it to fit comfortably with my psyche. So, if I'm going to spend several hundred bucks, I want it to be...you know...right.

And, so, to the store.

The entrance to the store was set up like it saw me coming. No fewer than 30 stainless steel gas grills sat in front of the place, each priced to sell. The pre-Spring sun reflected off the grills and onto my son's face as he begged to ride the lawnmowers. Sensing I needed some time alone for my own reflection, the wife allowed herself to be dragged to the John Deeres.

"It's not right," you know.

That was my heart talking.

"Sure, these things are pretty. They look impressive, what with their big knobs and shiny surfaces. They are all huge and you'll be able to stand there looking impressive when you cook. But you don't want this. You don't. You buy this grill, it will be the same as marrying a woman because she has big breasts and a pretty face. Sure, she'll make you look good in front of your friends and she might even be fun in the sack. But, at the end of the day, you gotta love her heart, right?"

This was heavy. Heavier than the grills.

I could see the family watching me at a distance. I sort of shrugged my shoulders and said I was going inside to check out the grills there. The family followed.

I made a real show of looking at all the various gas grills, nearly all stainless steel, all of them huge, each with different tools and surfaces. The best excuse I had for not buying a grill was that we didn't have a vehicle to get it home. My wife, ever helpful, suggested my neighbor could come with his truck and get it for me.

I walked away quietly and went to the service desk to ask who I could talk to about the grills. No one was around except an off-duty guy who had come to pick up his paycheck. I asked him a couple of questions and wandered away.

It just wasn't right. I was faced with a decision. Did I really want to drop $600 on what was the equivalent of a trophy wife? The buyer's remorse set in before I'd even picked out the purchase.

I fiddled with a couple more grill knobs and stared into space.

That's when I saw it.

It was black, square, and sitting off in a dark aisle. No light reflected from its surface. It had no big knobs. In fact, it sat so high on a shelf that I couldn't even touch it.

That was it. The charcoal was the thing.

See, deep down, I knew I didn't want a gas grill. Sure, they are convenient. Sure, they look nice. But, other than that, they are nothing more than eye-candy. If I want food cooked over tasteless heat, I'll cook in the kitchen. A kitchen grill, a broiler, or a butane lighter would do about the same thing...and I don't have to go outside. Gas grills were invented to give people the illusion that they are BBQ chefs without ever actually doing anything they couldn't do inside.

Now, I know, most of you likely own gas grills. And I'm not saying anything bad about you. Except that I am. You're fooling yourselves, people. If you want to cook over gas, fine. But, don't think you are doing anything more than adding grill marks on your chicken breasts.

I've come to believe that good food takes effort and effort, usually, takes time. If I don't have the 15-20 minutes it will take me to build a good charcoal fire, I don't need to be grilling. I'll cook the chicken under a broiler or pan fry the burger. But, if I want really good steak, I'm going to spend some time with it. I'm going to build a good fire, cook it perfectly over the smoke, and then clean up the ashes afterward.

The fat guy from behind the counter wandered up to see the epiphany still in my eyes.

"You decide on a grill?" he asked.

"I decided on that charcoal grill," I said, the hint of a smile on my lips.

His face screwed up and he said with complete incredulity, "Really?"

"Really," I said, putting a period on the word like a slap on the ass.


So, I'm putting that bad boy together this afternoon in preparation for the shindig tomorrow. Apparently, said shindig is now going to be preceded by me actually loading a moving truck. I think I might have had a couple of drinks when I offered to do that.

In other end-of-week news, I'm on some emotional rollercoaster that vacillates between high and low about once every 12 hours. I need to spend more time outside and away from this machine, methinks. Thus, the grill.


Local crime drama has picked back up and the owner of an antique store where the wife and I have shopped was shot to death. This is one of those stories that I think I'd be covering pretty hard and for a while if I were still in the business. I owe this thought to the main soundbite from the live interview at noon today:

"Right now, we don't have any suspects or any leads."

For now, Christopher Mario Maddox, aka Kit, is dead and the cops are, ostensibly, clueless.


Finally, I think part of what's getting me down has to do with a mistake I made in 2001. I went after a story really hard and nailed it to the wall. That is, I nailed the story I thought I knew to the wall. The rest of the story turned out to be the real story. The fallout from all of that continues to this day. An e-mail from a man I really respect popped into my e-mail box this week. Blind to him: Thanks for not giving up.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Not titled "Gollywood"

I'm sad.

I've had this idea for a book for a long time. It would be funny if I could just sit down and write it. The working title of the book was "Gollywood."

Then, a bunch of stars (Renee Zellweger and George Clooney) invaded town to film some romantic comedy about football. It has the local small towns all abuzz and a few papparazi in town. We often call this place G-Vegas, so, it seemed appropriate to call it Gollywood this week.

So, I was going to write a big, funny post and call it Gollywood.

And then, just to make sure I had a good idea that nobody had come up with before, I Googled it...and realized that my little title is a little used up.

So, forget it.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Four years of Otis at work

I don't know how much has changed on my outside or inside. Something about these four years of pictures, though, makes me wonder. I'll leave it to you to decide. All I know is that my expression when working seems to be be the same, no matter how different I look.

2004, mid-right in blue shirt, during news conference on the scene of a medical helicopter that had crashed in Newberry County, South Carolina. Everyone inside died.

2005, Monte Carlo, Monaco

2006, Las Vegas, Nevada -- taken by Pauly

2007, Paradise Island, Bahamas


Monday, February 19, 2007

Brooke Holsonback: Ten Years Ago Today

I was in a hurry. I'd left the family in the car while I ran in to the store to get zinc cough drops, a collection of medicines, some herbal tea, and some other sundries. As I stood in the check-out line, I noticed the guy behind me had a newspaper. On the front page was a picture that I've looked at more times than I can count.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the day Clemson University student Brooke Holsonback was found floating in Lake Hartwell.

There has been so much written about the subject that I can't offer much more than I have in the past.

The story, The Murder of Brooke Holsonback, was one of the first stories I really cared about when I moved to this community.

Back over the summer, during the Tiffany Souers murder at Clemsn, I spent a lot of time thinking about Brooke, her family, and the one investigator who spent a good chunk of his career beating his head against the wall over this case. That investigator and I had a long off-the-record conversation one afternoon in his little office.

By the time I ended up writing the story, it had been--as we always called it-- lawyered to death. The key paragraphs in the story read like this:

"Both Bryant and Jeff were drinking heavily. Brooke actually drove them to the mud bog," Oconee County Investigator Sgt. Greg Reed recalls.

The trio’s trip ended in a muddy field just a couple of miles from the dorms. No one except Gallup and Dubnansky can confirm any detail from that point forward.

"All we have is what Jeff and Bryant can give us," Reed said.

The two men told investigators the mud was thick that night and their black 1996 Jeep Cherokee got stuck. The situation started a fight.

Jeff Dubnansky and Bryant Gallup said that when they stopped fighting Brooke was gone.

The men said that they looked for Brooke but couldn’t find her. Dubnansky walked back to the dorms, picked up some friends and went back to retrieve the Jeep.

The men told investigators that they went back to the dorms and fell asleep. When they woke up the next day around noon, they saw a news report about a body being found in Lake Hartwell.

A few weeks later, Dubnansky and Gallup dropped out of Clemson and hired lawyers.

Ten years ago today, somebody killed Brooke Holsonback. And to this day, that person is living a life of freedom.

I wonder what that person is thinking about today.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Jimmy Crack Corn and Cingular is forced to care

As it happens, I'm currently sitting at #1 in the Google search rankings for "jimmy crack corn commercial." It's all based on a comment from a wandering and lost post I wrote some time ago.

In the comments, TripJax mentioned he was a big fan of the Cingular Wireless commercial that at one time featured the old song, "Jimmy Crack Corn." Tripjax wrote:

I love that "Earl" phone commercial. I also love the one where the soon to be son-in-law is talking to the soon to be father-in law"...

FIL - You're about to be my SIL, just call me Jim.

SIL - Okay...Jim-Bo...Jimmy-Boy...Jimmy Crack Corn And I Don't Care.

That commercial still airs in my market and I had noticed that the "Jimmy Crack Corn" reference had been deleted from the ad. I mentioned to my wife that I wondered whether the song's slave-oriented history had anything to do with the deletion. Later, I figured Cingular had cut a couple seconds off the ad to make room for a new promotional announcement.

I thought about it again yesterday after watching part of a Reno 911 re-run in which Deputy S. Jones, played by Cedric Yarbrough, sings the song and messes up the last lyric. In response, his parter looks at him and deadpans, "My massa's gone away."

While that is the end of the scene and the joke is likely lost on most people, the punchline is pretty clear. "Jimmy Crack Corn" (aka "Blue Tail Fly") is such a part of our popular culture that few people know the songs roots. That is, even a black guy might not know the last lyric but his likely latently-racist white buddy does. No word on whether Bugs Bunny had any idea, but methinks he did.

What's really interesting about the whole thing is the the lyrics, their origins, and their meanings are lost to time. Check out this thread in which the debate sits as just one of a dozen or so arguments on the site about a song that is widely considered just a silly kids tune.

All of that said, Cingular Wireless apparently stepped in it when the it green-lighted the ad in question. Regardless of whether the song is racist, it at least carried a perception among some folks that it is. And thus, Cingular cut the line from future airings of the ad.

Cingular told a San Francisco TV station, "Cingular had, at most, a half dozen complaints. We took a look at the song itself. We wanted to make sure we didn't have even the appearance of offending anybody. The commercial was edited. We did the right thing."

In the long run, I don't really care. No company wants to offend people just to save one line in a commercial. On all sides, including this post, it is much ado about nothing. However, apparently people care enough to be looking for an answer. And, since I'm the first stop, I figured I'd save everybody a little clicking.

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Anna Nicole Smith redux

Whether it was marketing genius or the product of some unfortunate related-term contextual advertising algorithm, this pretty much is the alpha and omega of my daily reminder that I live in a very tiresome world.

This is a screen shot from this morning's web edition of The South Flordida Sun-Sentinel. Check the ad banner at mid-page.

For some reason, this reminds me of when we caught up to double murderer Brad Sigmon in Tennessee. When we asked him why he ran to Gatlinburg, he replied, "It seemed like a great place to hide."

Gatlinburg, Tennessee: A great place to hide!

The Seminole Hard Rock Casino: A great place to die!

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday's Mental Massage

I like to end the week on a high note. For this week, it appears that's going to require more than a good attitude. I'm three days behind on work. I'm a week behind on getting motivated to do work. It's cold outside. Or, in short, as someone (Jimmy Buffet?) once said, "My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don't love Jesus."

This old laptop is on the verge of giving up the ghost. It's been a trusted companion. It's been to Europe more times than I can count, visiting Monte Carlo, London, Austria, and Denmark. It's made three trips to the Caribbean, a few trips to odd places in Mississippi and Missouri. It's been up the Pacific Coast Highway. And now this old bitch is about to die. I feel it coming. Even as I peck away at her keys, I can smell death on the hard drive. I don't want to give this thing up, but as my ability to be online at any given time is pretty much my lifeblood, I need to get a new high performance machine.

Back when I got this thing, it was pretty damned awesome. That was in October of 2004. Now, I don't even know how to buy a laptop. So, I need your help. I suspect this purchase will be made before Monday, so don't be shy with your comments.

First off, let me put a stop to all talk of a Mac. Yeah, I know how cool they are. I know John Hodgman is doing a great job of making PC users look like a ball of dufus. And yeah, I'd sorta like a Mac. Thing is, my line of work requires I have a PC. "It makes a difference?" some of you are asking. Yeah, it does. Gotta have a PC. Nothing I can do about it right now.

So, with that in mind, my needs are pretty simple. I need an internal Wi-Fi- card. I need a fast processor. I'd like a 17" screen. I write, I surf, I play games that don't require a lot of computer memory. It's not that hard on a computer. It's not like I sit around playing Second Life, downloading porn, and pirating music all day long (although, that sounds like a good career move).

Hmph. Yeah, that's about it. I'm a simple guy.

But, hell. There's all this talk about how bad Vista sucks. It's actually kept me from buying a new computer up until this point. Now, I think I can't wait anymore. So, any advice from the peanut gallery?

What else?

Oh yeah, I'm still a procrastinator. I've had a February 16th deadline for a project for the past two weeks. Guess what's not done yet? And what am I doing? Blogging.

Other than that, the dog is playing the "I don't want dog food game." The kid is playing the "I'm ready to play outside, when is spring?" game. The wife is not playing any games, thankfully.

Yeah, I got nothin' here.

Back in 2003, I mighta had something, though.

Being a good assistant's assistant eventually became pretty simple for Roy. When the boss needed something, he asked the assistant to get it done. The assistant turned to Roy, made a few nearly-obscene gestures with his fingers, and Roy took off to get the job done. Since Roy hired on as the AA he had learned to make coffee, balance the company's books, and screw the boss' wife. Getting the promotion was going to have its disadvantages. Roy just couldn't stand the idea of someone else making his coffee.

Want more? That was an ill-conceived Mental Massge titled: The Great Corn Nut Conspiracy.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

True Romance

With each passing year, the Valentines Day expectations around Mt. Otis get smaller and smaller. Mrs. Otis respects my disdain for the holiday. I humor her attempts to make it relevant. This year, we worked together. Instead of buying useless gifts for each other, we went out for a nice meal last Friday night, had some drinks, and came back home to watch "Snakes on a Plane." You know, lovey stuff.

Part of the deal on spending a nice little sum on a meal and $3.99 for SoaP was that we wouldn't buy gifts this year. In the past, I did a lot of the roses and other romantic crap. Mrs. Otis bought very thoughtful gifts (just two months off of Christmas, my level of thoughtfulness and creativity is usually still in the wane). And so, no gifts.

Last night, I was at my local Men's Club. And by Men's Club, I mean room full of boys (ages 17-70), thousands of wagering dollars, and a new cocktail waitress who obviously forgot to tell her breast augmentation expert when it was time to take a coffee break. In this room were discussions of true romance. One man--gold chained and overweight--spoke of divorce, or after a few drinks, the donkey shows he'd seen in the Far East. Other men would speak reverentially about their wives in between mad cussing fits, driven by poker tilt and general rage.

It was around 8pm when Stan walked in holding a red five gallon bucket. Stan is a genial guy, rarely swears, and acts a lot like that older uncle who always gives you a chocolate bar when you see him.

"Oh, jesus," I muttered. I like Stan. I really do. But, this was a little much.

In the bucket rested about 20 dozen roses of varied colors.

"Just in case anybody forgot," he said with a smile. Thirty-five people looked up and pretended to dismiss Stan's entrepreneurial efforts. "Just $20 a dozen," he said.

Stan is not a late-night guy, so I was surprised to see him stay past 1:30am. Even more surprising was the line that formed around him around 1:45am. He was selling and selling fast.

I couldn't decide which was correct. Was this of a bunch of forgetful, unromantic, painfully inept guys? Or was I watching these usually tough men turn a little soft. Before I could figure out which, I was buying a dozen white roses and a little red balloon. Just because I thought they would make the wife smile.

I guess it was pretty clear. We may act like a bunch of tough guys who talk about Far East sex shows and try to wrap our head around the concept of double-D breasts on a 105 pound girl, but deep down, we're romantics. Or something like romantics, anyway.

"Be sure you put them in water before morning," Stan said.

Love comes in many forms...and sometimes it comes in a five gallon bucket.

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Monday, February 12, 2007


I didn't weigh in on the Boston-Cartoon Network thing for a number of reasons. One, I don't live in Boston. Two, I don't watch the cartoon network. Three, well, I was lazy. At the same time, I was pretty put off by the Boston response to the whole thing.

That's why I found this pretty damned funny (Bloglines readers will have to click through).

Double click it to activate


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Statement regarding the death of Anna Nicole Smith

I wasn't going to admit it. In the current media climate, it seemed unseemly. Simply mentioning it is sure to draw photographers and nosy reporters to my front door. Worse, it stands to adversely affect my relationship with my wife, a woman who is understanding...to a point.

Before I make this admission, I want you all to know that my motives here are pure. My only goal is to make sure the world knows the truth. Any thing else that my come of this admission is beyond my control. I just want to be honest.

I am the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby.

I don't plan to file any lawsuits or submit to any paternity test. I won't tell you how the relationship started. Nor will I tell you how it ended. I will only tell you that the time in between resulted in the conception of Dannielyn (a name that I accepted on the grounds that I get to name the next child "Q*Bert").

It goes without saying that I am crushed by Anna's untimely death. While it did not susprise me, it was an unfortunate way of making sure little Q*Bert would never see this world.

Anyone wishing to discuss this matter, please understand that I am in a time of greiving. I'm spending a lot of time trying to explain to my wife how I ended up in a threesome with Anna and Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband. Oh, there, now you've made me say it.

I will make no further statements on this subject and ask that all members of the media respect my privacy during this tragic time.

Note: It has come to my attention that I am not the only one making this confession. I guess in this world of money/celebrity-hungry vulturism, there is no end to people's need to be seen and recognized. I, for one, am disgusted by this kind of behavior. How disgusted? I may just reveal where Anna's viola-shaped freckle is.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday's Mental Massage

There are days that I'm not even sure I'm awake. Hell, there are weeks like that. Time goes by so fast that it seems impossible that I'm living the same life as everybody else. The days are going by much too quickly. I'm sort of afraid I'm going to wake up and I'm going to be 19 again. Either that, or I'm going to wake up and I'm going to be 80 and it's all over. I'm not ure which would be worse.

Maybe it's just that I've been busy. And I have been this week, though I don't really feel like I have a lot to show for it. One of the biggest non-work concerns of the week was finally getting around to buying my wife a new vehicle. She's been driving the same thing ince 1999 and the time for to have a new ride came and went a long time ago. After reading Maudie's tales, I decided to by this vehicle differently than I have any others. It's been a fun process. I'm going to write a sizable check at 2:30pm today. I'm sure you'll see the result over at the wife's blog in the coming days.

Speaking of the wife, we are eschewing the traditional Valentines Day junk and going out for a dinner date tonight. Nothing special in terms of the food, but it will be a nice night away. It will also be an opportunity to see if the new babysitter can succeed in putting the little one to bed.

Today, it's the other little one I'm worried about. The dog is doing her biannual "I'm sick and hence not eating" thing that always causes me no small amount of worry. We're now cooking hamburger and rice on the stove in hopes it, as usual, entices her back to her old self.

I've gotten a lot of praise in the past week or so about a couple of stories I wrote over at the Up For Poker Blog. The Last Poker Game is a true tale. The Syndicate is not. But it might be. Regardless, as a person who fancies himself a word-using-guy, it's nice to receive so many nice comments.

Anna Nicole Smith is dead. It's probably a little a cold of me, but I thought more than three hours of uninterupted news coverage on CN-fucking-N yesterday was a little much. While her death, like just about any, is tragic, she really didn't give he world anything but big boobs and news-about-how-she's-making-the-news. And stop it with the comparisons to Marilyn Monroe. For the love of all that's holy. And if you missed it, late yesterday, the paparazzi outlet Splash News & Picture Agency held a screening of Smith's "final moments." While said video showed nothing more than a few paramedics working on...somebody...it still sold for half a million bucks. Oh yeah, we are a classy bunch.

Oh! And who is reading this bad boy via RSS feed? Looks like anybody can now. After a lot of Blogger and Bloglines troubles, I finally determined that the RSS problem was 99% on Bloglines' end. It took some convincing to make Bloglines believe the issue was theirs. However, after about 100 people said, "Hey Bloglines, your stuff don't work anymore!" they listened and seem to have fixed everything. So, Rapid Eye Reality seems to be back on the RSS bus again.

Other than that, without going too deeply into it, how would you feel if you were waiting for the other shoe to drop, you could actually see the other shoe falling, you were fully prepared for said shoe to hit the ground, and the shoe just kept hanging around in the air, acting like it's going to drop but never actually doing so?

Yeah, me, too.

From time to time, I go back a couple of years in the archives and try to figure out how different this world is. Here are a few of pieces I wrote in February of 2004 that are reminders of how much...and how little...life has changed.

My Friend Xan
Pit Bulls

What is the Friday Mental Massage? It is an end-of-the-week brain dump in which I get rid of everything on my head and don't worry about making it sound nice-nice.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ronnie Sheppard: The Fall of a Sleazeball

Television news is not a glamorous business. It's cheap, it's tiring, and it makes you old before you're supposed to be. It's not what you see in movies. It's not romantic, dangerous, and sexy.

Except for when it is.

There was a two-year period of my TV news career that I spent fielding anonymous phone calls, meeting Deep Throat sources in dark offices, chasing paper trails, nailing the big interviews, and watching people go to prison.

The Carolina Investors saga began after I was already established as a reporter here in town. Twenty-four hours into the story, I was assigned as the lead reporter, a role I would both relish and hate for the rest of my TV news career. How many stories did I file? I don't even know. Although this page will give you some idea.

Re-telling the whole story would take way too much time. I do remember the first few months, though, when I realized the whole thing started well before I was born with the death of a child.

Dwight Holder stood in the middle of the small plot of land and stared down at his first child's grave. Weeds grew up around the headstone. Holder looked up and surveyed the graves around him. In such a place, weeds are unwelcome.

Holder had returned from World War II and service on a PT boat.

The idea that would define the rest of his business life came as he stood in the middle of an overgrown graveyard in the middle of Pickens County.

Holder was a good man, as were the many men who ended up following in his footsteps. I wrote the first long piece on the Carolina Investors story in May of 2003. In a world where only blood, guts, and gas price stories made it to TV, it was a challenge to make a story about an investment scam interesting enough for people to watch.

The simple fact was, however, that what was once a venerable investment company had turned into South Carolina's version of Enron. The hard-working farmers and mill workers of this community lost a combined $280 million. One investor committed suicide. Other folks thought about it.

I got to know an old preacher during my time on the story. He was one of the investors.

The Rev. Joe Trotter stood in a northern Greenville County fish pond and guided a young boy's head under the water.

The ceremony was one of seven baptisms Trotter performed in his first year as a minister at a small mission church.

The boy would eventually grow up to be a minister himself. It was the beginning of Trotter's life's work.

While he worked for his Lord, Trotter also worked to live. The early days of his ministry did not provide enough to put food on his family's table.

"They would take up offerings sometimes and I'd get 50 cents," Trotter remembered decades later. "Sometimes I'd get nothing."

So, Trotter worked, sometimes in a mill's cloth room, sometimes as a carpenter.

"Jesus was a carpenter," he reminded an afternoon visitor as he discussed his various careers.

During his time as a mill worker, Trotter grossed about $32 a week.

Pennies went to Social Security. Trotter put as much as he could afford into savings. He saved for his retirement.

Over time, Trotter amassed a working man's fortune, the dollar amount of which his wife of more than 60 years begs him not to discuss.

He put almost all of it into a reputable investment company called Carolina Investors and felt it was safe there. Each month of his retirement, he received a check to complement a small Social Security benefit.

He bought his daughter a car, put a grandson through college, and paid private-school tuition for his great-grandchild. He did it all while spending 40 years preaching the gospel.

On a sunny April 2003 afternoon, Trotter struggled to explain how his life savings had disappeared.

"I've helped everybody and led so many to the Lord," he said. "Now everything's gone."

Watching an old man cry on his front porch helped me realize that, even if TV drained every bit of my spirit, I was at least telling stories that needed to be told.

While there was a lot of fault to go around in the story, it was clear after a few months of investigation that the chief villian in the saga was a 9th grade drop-out who had somehow become CEO of a mortgage company that bought out Carolina Investors. For several years, he cooked the books, got rich, and, essentially stole the life savings of people who had lived in this community their entire lives. While I've known this to be fact since late 2003, I was never able to really say it until now.

Nearly four years since Carolina Investors closed its doors, Ronnie Sheppard is in prison, sentenced to 20 years for a variety of securties fraud and conspiracy charges.

There are days I miss being a TV news reporter. This happens to be one of them.

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Monday, February 05, 2007


There was a time in my life that I didn't go. When I was a kid, it was something that happened on a regular basis. Then, in my teenage years, I stopped going completely. It started as rebellion and later devolved further into pure laziness. I'd tell myself I was too busy. I'd tell myself I didn't need need structured, organized involvement in the scene. What's more, among the crowd with which I hung out, the entire concept was something that wasn't discussed.

A couple of years ago, without really telling anybody, I started going again. I had my own reasons. My father had been sick. I'd just had a kid. My life was in a pretty odd place. I felt that I needed the structure and organization in my life. So I went.

In recent months, I'd gotten lazy again. Life had been very busy. With five out of eight weeks on the road, I told myself I could get by. Then, Monday morning, I looked at myself in the mirror and didn't like what I saw. I was a mess. There was something hollow in my eyes. What was worse, my head was a mess.

So, I went to get my hair cut.

When I walked in, I scanned the empty place for Michael, my bald, effeminate hair guy. I saw him in the back, nuzzled up against a guy with only slightly more hair. Stephanie, an eager new stylist, ran to the front of the store and started escorting me to her chair before I could insist on using Michael. See, that's the the thing. Several months ago, after losing my stylist in management-change dick-swinging contest, I found a new hair cuttery and Michael. Though he pressed against me more than your average stylist and spent a lot more time massaging my scalp, he cut a mean head of hair. After the first two cuts, I told him he was my man. (I felt confident in doing so after learning the Rev. Ted Haggard emerged from three weeks of intensive counseling and was now "completely heterosexual").

But, on this day, I didn't feel like waiting the extra time it would take for Michael to finish pressing up against his current subject. And, so, on with Stephanie.

I am not, nor have I ever been a Catholic. However, I have Catholic friends and watch a lot of TV. If I understand correctly, confessions usually begin with, "Forgive me father, for I have sinned. It has been six weeks since my last confession." In my coiffed world, it's not much different. A good stylist will know by looking at you how long it has been since you were last under the hinged knives.

I really didn't think I had that much to confess, but Stephanie was not going to let met slide.

"You usually don't keep your hair this long," she said.

"No," I confessed. "But I've been on the road a lot recently."

"Mmm-hmm," she said. "And so, how are we going to do this?"

"Scissor-cut the sides and back pretty short, the top not as short, but still short, take most of the bangs off, bring the sideburns most of the way up," I said. With Michael just a few feet away, it was like directing a stripper--or worse, a prostitute--while my wife was watching.

"You don't like clippers?" Stephanie asked, already underway with the clippers.

I struggled to say what I really meant. "Well, some people use clippers for speed...I mean..."

"You mean you don't trust people to use clippers," Stephanie said and kept cutting.

She worked her way through my mop and finished in record time.

"How does that look?"

My face twisted up in the mirror. I felt cheap. Michael was clipping his subject's hairs one at a time to make sure everything was even.

"You know how it should look," Stephanie said.

Of all my sins, I'd always managed to avoid two of the biggest ones. It was on this day that I realized I was both vain and a hair adulterer.

With Michael pretending not to hear, I directed Stephanie to take more off the top and bangs, put some product in it, and let me see how that looked. She did and I did and we did. And we did it all in front of Michael. I felt sick to my stomach. Part of me wanted nothing more than to run out of the store before I made eye contact with Michael. Part of me wanted to be sure my remaining hair was properly styled. This had to be something like watching porn on a video iPod in church. You know you should stop before somebody notices, but, hey, the money shot is coming up.

I paid Stephanie and was in my car before Michael had lovingly dusted he hair from his piece of art. I drove home feeling dirty, like someone who had converted to Satanism during Midnight Mass.

I remain, today, confused.


Special good wishes go out to Jen and John who finally decided to make honest women of each other...or something like that. Crack reporter Amy has the details (and a nice photo of the niiiiiiice ring) over at Calistri's Corner.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Greg Kinnear: The Power of a Script

There are some actors I seek out. There are actors that serve as the only reason I watch a film. There are some actors who are so consistent that, regardless of how good or bad their last performance was, I will continue to seek them out.

Greg Kinnear is not one of those actors.

Don't get me wrong. Back in the early days of "Talk Soup," I considered Kinnear to be daily viewing. Not only that, I enjoyed his performance in "As Good As It Gets" and Auto Focus.

Last night was movie night on Mt. Otis. After a frustrating hour in the neighborhood movie rental store, I emerged with a movie I knew was good and a movie I hoped would at least keep me entertained.

I had not heard one person say a bad word about "Little Miss Sunshine." In fact, on a recent long flight, I had trouble sleeping. The movie was playing and people were laughing so hard, it cut through my fatigue. Last night, the wife and I nearly woke up the kid. It had been a long time since I'd seen a movie that could make everyone from my parents to my hipster friends laugh until it hurt. And I thought Kinnear put on a great performance. Sure, the rest of the cast overshadowed him at times, but, hey, that cast could overshadow a lot of good actors.

Because the wife and I weren't tired yet, we popped in the second movie. Don't ask me why I rented "The Matador." Maybe it's because I know my wife thinks, "Pierce Brosnan gets sexier the older he gets." Or maybe it's because I like movies with hit men in them. Or maybe it's because I have a habit of renting two movies with the same actor. Regardless, "The Matador" made its way to our DVD player and we watched it from beginning to end. Therein I found myself wondering if I was watching the same Kinnear I'd just seen in "Little Miss Sunshine."

With not a lot of time or desire to make a real argument here, I couldn't help thinking that whoever made the "The Matador" really wanted William H. Macy for Kinnear's role, but couldn't get him. Instead, he got Kinnear and said, "Okay, for this scene, I really want you to act like William H. Macy. Think you can pull that off?"

I know precious little about the movie-making world. What I do know comes from friends who are either actors or in the business of making or reviewing films. I do none of that. I am a consumer and nothing more. That said, I think there are probably smart people out there who would entertain the idea that the script for "The Matador" needed some serious doctoring. Either that, or it was over-doctored. All I know is that after watching Kinnear do a fantastic job in "Little Miss Sunshine," it was rather disappointing to see him in "The Matador."

It makes me wonder how much power writers and directors have over actors. Actors gotta eat, so they take jobs when they need them. I guess actors like Kinnear aren't really in a position to turn down as many scripts as some other high-dollar talent. What's pretty amazing to me, as a lowly consumer, is how much power a script can have over my perception of an actor. If I knew nothing of Kinnear or had not ready any reviews on Little Miss Sunshine, I might have accidentally watched "The Matador" first and then looked at "Little Miss Sunshine" and thought, "Well, that can't be very good."

Of course, one reason I will never work in the review industry is I have a hard time offering criticism for artists of any kind (that and the fact that I have never written anything resembling a review in my life that was anywhere near good writing). In reviewing Kinnear's bio, I just learned that he graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and then went on to be a Hollywood star.

Now I have to back off any criticism of the dude. Why? Well, I think anyone who majors in broadcast journalism and ends up making something of himself deserves some respect.

I, as you know, am still working toward that goal.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday's Mental Massage

Hellstorm Carolina did not hit as hard as predicted. That left me with a mental cocktail of "Go figure" and "You're fucking kidding me!" However, to those of you who teased me for fearing the worst (those of you in Missouri, Indiana, and Colorado), I think I failed to properly convey my point. As a native midwesterner, I know weather. I know ice. I went crazy with the ice. The thing is, up there, you only know it's bad when nobody could drive or leave their homes. Here, it's different. What happens 15 times a year in the midwest only happens once or twice a year in South Carolina. And when it does, people freak out. Yesterday was a lame weather system. I was able to leave my house in the middle of it and drive around town without sliding once. Still, all schools were closed, Chik-Fil-A was closed, and every parking lot was empty. It was a snowday for the community. So, yes, while I agree our weather here is lame, you should recognize that it's all relative. Oh, and you should also recognize that the south is a very odd place.

Moving on...my wife didn't find my Victory post nearly as funny as I did. She's been sick, though, so her sense of humor may be a little off. Funny thing though. Last night, a CD didn't start playing the moment she wanted it to. I swear to all that's holy, she turned around and said, "The CD player is acting up." Love you, baby.

As for my February goals, I made it through Day 1 (wow!) with no problems and in every way working toward a successful month. BadBlood is speculating on what I could be trying to achieve. He's hit a couple pretty close.

Finally, to get you into the weekend, I'll offer a little You Tube goodness. With a background in creative editing, etc, I know what the right music and cool edits can do to change direction of any piece of video. One of the best examples I've seen in a while is this.

Happy Groundhog Day, folks.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

February by the numbers

I'm not a good person. I'm selfish. I'm hedonistic. I'm undisciplined. I have no faith I will get any better before I die.

The other night, as my wife and I sat at a bar together, I admitted that I am void of goals. The past few years have forced me into a number of routines that are unhealthy and generally tiresome for all involved.

So, for lack of something pushing me to get better than this, I have set some goals. I'm not going to tell you what they are until March 1. However, they are based on the following numbers. Regardless of what happens between now and March 1, I'll publish the results and meaning behind them 29 days from now.

And yeah, I'm aware I've picked the shortest month of the year for this little experiment.


#1 -- 12
#2 -- 7
#3 -- 26
#4 -- 14


#5 -- 10
#6 -- 6
#7 -- 4


#8 -- 25
#9 -- 3


#10 -- 0
#11-- 0


#12 -- 24
#13 -- 28
#14 -- 3000


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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
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