Friday, May 28, 2010

From Beyond Our Galaxy

Introducing my newest movie:

We've lived on this tiny planet, orbiting our insignificant star, in this ordinary galaxy for thousands of years, alone.

Until now.

And they've come a long, long way.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Un-Green Cuisine With Chef BP

Hello, I am your host, Chef BP and today I'll show you how to make one of my favorite environmentally-unfriendly dishes: Oil Spill Stew

First, let's get our mis-en-place together, shall we?

Prepare your cook's station by insuring there are no hindering safety practices in place even though it would be a violation of federal regulation. Regulations, smegulations...we are BP, one of the most powerful and wealthy corporations in the world. We do whatever we want. Seriously.

Next chop and assemble all manner of debris like:

  • Golf balls used during many of the decadent and extravagant executive "conferences" held throughout the years.
  • Rubber tires from last year's model (thus undesirable now) of gas-guzzling Hummers and Escalades owned by BP executives.
  • Mud, lots of it. BP brand "mud" is made from the dirt and sand sloughed off the dead bodies of third-world victims of BP exploitation in places like Venezuela, Nigeria, Indonesia and Oman, mixed with Iraqi blood, sweat and tears.
Put all this aside as we'll need it soon.

Make sure your oil spill is at a nice hearty boil. Remember, the more oil, the better the stew! The killed marine life only adds to the flavor.

Once the surrounding ocean becomes literally thick with millions and millions of gallons of crude, add in your mud. Well that, as expected, creates only a dirtier oil spill. Time to throw in generous amounts of your other debris.

Side note: Remember one of the main components used in the manufacturing of golf balls and tires? That's right: petroleum. Isn't that simply magnifique?

After a few months, this lovely stew will be ready to serve. Just let this luscious gunk ooze all over the beaches and wetlands of the Gulf coast. If we're lucky, the currents will allow the coating of both coasts of Florida and even up the eastern seaboard. The more the merrier!

Wha la! Enjoy! I'm Chef BP...

Until next time,

Bon Apetit!

THE DRUDGERY REPORT: Healthcare Ripoff

Good evening and welcome to the first installment of a new series: The Drudgery Report.

The Drudgery Report* will feature pertinent issues of the (re: my) day. It will expose the hypocrisy and corruption in our system (those that affect me) and seek to disseminate the truth (for me when I forget about it in the future).

*Yes, the title is a spoof of the well-known Drudge Report and it serves to remind one of the arduous drudgery of everyday life in this fucked up society we endure.

Tonight, we look at heathcare and the scam it seems all doctors (the ones I've had contact with) are in on.

As you may know, I've been unemployed since last November and since COBRA is a joke (who can afford those "discounted" premiums?) I subsequently am without health insurance. The president's new healthcare plan may adjust the oddities of the current system somewhat but that isn't going to affect me right now. So the fact is, the way the system is designed to work right now, if you are unemployed or under-employed (employed but no insurance), you are left to pay out-of-pocket for healthcare. Just when you can afford it the least. Does this make sense?

Soon after my insurance went bye-bye late last year, I asked my regular doctor if she knew of any stop-gap measures I might take, like reduced cost or free healthcare, in order to keep my prescriptions going while I search for a new job and then wait for new insurance.

Of course she (well not really her, of course, but her receptionist) mentioned the office had "competitive" rates for in-house tests that they offered like bloodwork and sonographic scans (both of which I badly needed) at just about $150 each. It wasn't mentioned but I'm sure this didn't cover costs of the doctor visit (probably in that same $150 range) or incidental costs (like maybe they'd charge me for the lubricating jelly they use in the sonogram?).

Side Note: Why do I need a sonogram? Am I pregnant? No, silly, they want to see if blood flow in my legs is compromised by blood vessel damage or potential clots...just what my mother had...and what killed her!

So I'm going without those tests since I can't afford them of course and thus my doctor has refused to renew any prescriptions for diabetes and gout prevention medications. Even though, without tests to confirm such, I reported to her that I was feeling much improved after taking them.

Now the old symptoms of pain in my feet and legs are back and my blood sugar is through the roof (never below 140 and usually in the 180s, frequently past 200 after eating). I have about a month to go before my blood pressure meds are also denied refill.

I found out just today, while cruising lazily around the Web, that there is a resource called 2-1-1. It's a hotline for people in need of vital human services...like low or no cost health care! Huh?!!

Why didn't my doctor let me know about this? When I called 2-1-1, I was given a list of local clinics that might be able to help me FOR FREE!

People...It's not that I'm stupid. But until this year I've lived in one of two lifestyle scenarios:

1. I have health insurance through my employer and it assisted me when I needed it.

2. I have not had insurance, but I was healthy enough to not need it. Or, if I occasionally did, I could pay out-of-pocket for it.

Now, though, I'm living with chronic and morbid illnesses and desperately need health care, but I have no insurance and I can't afford it out-of-pocket!

"Free healthcare" is like a cuss word to many people 'cause they either think people will abuse the system or they'll have less incentive to get a job and stop being a loser. Harsh, I know, but that's how I think they* see it.

*Yes, I mean Republicans!

Am I crazy to think it is a fundamental right???

Does not the Declaration of Independence declare there are certain unalienable rights such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?" Well how can you have "life" if you are left without medical care which could save you. That would be the fast track to death. I guess since that too is unalienable, the Republicans would have you opt for that right rather than the former. It's cheaper for them. And that's all that matters.

Until next time, this is Michael, signing out for The Drudgery Report.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Loss Of LOST

You all, everybody
You all, everybody
I don't like you stupid people
Wearing expensive clothes
You all everybody
You all, everybody
You all everybody

You All Everybody -
Drive Shaft

But after last night's finale...I think I'll get over it.

The signs were there from the beginning that this whole shebang would come down to some New Age Higher-Power-centric spiritual gobbledygook. Oh, I tried to ignore them and the writers even threw in some major red herrings for us "science-minded" fans early on like the whole Dharma Initiative story arc and Daniel Faraday/Widmore's techno babble about time shifts and electromagnetic portals and all.

As it came down to the wire, I saw what they were doing in the last half hour. And even up to the last 4 minutes, I told Ric they [the writers] still had time to redeem themselves.

But they went there.

Ric loved the ending. It confirmed (in his mind) his own faith in God and Heaven. He watched this finale episode with me having never watched an episode of the show before. To say he was mightily confused is an understatement and some of his incorrect assumptions were hilarious.

You know, you'd figure after my diatribe about what J.J. Abrams did to Star Trek (you can read about that here) that I'd wise up and would have assumed he and his lackeys would have pulled the same shit with LOST. I didn't and they did.

Ultimately, the writers probably would have earned more points in my book had they actually gone with one of these endings (preferably the last):



From the rushed and illogical way this whole last season has gone, I guess I was right when I wrote this back in October of 2005:

"Lost" on ABC. Its an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, inside a mystery! Or some shit like that! I have the strong suspicion that the show's writers brainstorm each week and come up with the next episode's quirky twists and turns of plot on the fly. Probably not, but it has that..."Hey, what if they found this!!!" or "What about if they saw this!!" feel.

Ah well...as Desmond would say "Hey Brutha, could you spare me 6 years of my life?"

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Really, Subconscious? Really??

A few posts back I complained vehemently about the fact that I don't seem to dream about anything contemporaneous in my life. Dreams tend to stick to people, places and events that have occurred over a decade ago. My subconscious seems to ignore anything post-millennial.

I challenged my subconscious to come up with something better for my sleepy-time entertainment. And what do I get? Even older material! Ugh! It's like I'm trying to revamp an old venue in Vegas and I'm beggin' for somthin' new, somethin' hip, somethin' today (whatever that would be for Vegas, anyway). And all I get is the dried-up ghosts of Shecky Green (oh wait, he's not dead!) and Don Rickles (shit!, he's still kickin' too!).

This morning, I wake up to this memory of my dream:

I'm on a planet somewhere halfway across the Galaxy (cool so far...at least it's not Rhode Island!) and to get around this world, you just step on an invisible square, somewhere nearby that brings you to some other invisible square at pre-determined coordinate points...kinda like fixed wormholes I guess. I don't know how it works, folks, I just live here. I step on one square that transports me instantaneously to Earth. Since Earth is half the mass of my home planet, I have Superman-like powers. Sweet!

But instead of smashing things up and lifting cars over my head and making Earth bow to me as its master (cue Dr. Evil music), I meet up with some old friends and we have brunch and giggle and chit-chat like every freakin' episode of Sex and the City!

Really?

And to make matters worse, who are these "old friends"? Barbara Valletta and Kristen Dvelis! Huh?!

Barbara was a co-worker acquaintance from NRIARC back in 1994.

Kristen is the daughter of my once-BFF Linda. In the dream, she appeared as I most remember her...a happy-go-lucky pre-teenage girl. That was back in the late 1980's!!

Really??

Ugh x Infinity. I give up.

I guess whenever I lay my weary head upon my pillow each night, I best be lookin' 'round for that souped up Delorean. 'Cause it's back to the 20th Century for me!

Friday, May 21, 2010

After Sunday, It's All Over

Yup.

Hard to believe that after all these years. Six seasons. LOST will be soon off the air.

What will I do on Tuesday nights?

If you're a Lostie like me, proudly loyal since the very beginning, then check out this blog from someone who has never seen LOST and has only decided to watch and blog about each of the final episodes this season. Trust me, it is friggin' hilarious. His post(s) after the finale should be a riot!

http://neverseenlost.wordpress.com/

If you are a "nubie" to the LOST universe, I suggest you view this video. It'll CAT-ch you up really quickly! (See what I did there? LOL!)

FLASHBACK: November 1991

Our weekly managers' meeting at work had been relocated to a new venue for the day as part of an HR prescribed in-service. We attended a training session at Road Counseling on Depot Square. This non-profit agency operated group therapy and one-on-one counseling for persons wishing to deal with their alcohol and/or drug addictions.

I remember my sister had been placed with counselors here a few years back, when she was a teenager, as she was going through her early-stages of alcoholism. Before she eventually relapsed, ran away to Boston, lived on the streets, slashed up her arms (more of an SIB behavior than suicide attempt, I think) and lost a few teeth from being mugged; perhaps raped...never got the full story of those years...when she was about 16 through 21 years old.

The session brought up all those memories of my sister's troubled time. And as the instructors explained some of the symptoms to watch for if an employee may be having trouble with alcohol, it was like they were describing me. I was exhibiting every warning sign.

One of the instructors even mentioned that, when she was an active drinker, she had times when she searched frantically under her car seats for loose change so she could scrape together enough coins to equal the purchase price of a cheap bottle of wine. She was broke and about to lose everything, but she'd be damned to not be able to gather up enough to buy her precious wine.

It was like she could see into my soul.

Though the in-service was meant to educate us group home managers to be aware of the warning signs of alcoholism in order to provide proactive assistance to our employees who may be in trouble, I swallowed the bitter pill of realization and admitted to myself that I had a problem.

Unfortunately, after the end of that work day, I had a craving. And despite my admission just hours earlier acknowledging my disease, I caved in, stopped at Minuteman Liquors and well, you can imagine the rest of the story of that night.

At least my subconscious might have remembered my earlier state of mind since, soon after sucking down the last of my cans of beer, I was hugging the side of my toilet.

I knew then...it would be a long, long road.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Three Day Buzz

Black hole sun
Won't you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won't you come
Won't you come

Black Hole Sun - Soundgarden

Hey Man! Are ya feelin' groovy? Well I'm not!

Saturday night I went over to Rico and The Boys house and Zach offered me some pot.

Now mind you, I rarely smoke weed. Last time was with Gary back in 2003. And that was only a couple of hits off a very meager joint. Gary liked to smoke his own and rarely shared. But then again, I never ask either.

If you've read enough of my FLASHBACKS you'll get a pretty accurate picture of my drug use throughout the years. It comes in waves of about once or twice a decade and usually for no more than a few weeks at a time or even less depending on the circumstances. I only bought it when I was much younger; last time around 1985. Since then I've only ever "partook" when I was offered it for free under social situations.

We all smoked , even Ric who never did so with Gary, and sat watching Saturday Night Live stoned. I, as usual when high on this stuff, shut up like a buried clam and started diving through the layers of consciousness to try and get to the core of reality. Oh yeah, I get REALLY deep when stoned. It's all an inner journey to the Source of the Universe and shit.

Ric sounded pretty straight, commenting on the sad sketches SNL and host Alec Baldwin were trying to pull off. Truthfully, for the first half of the show, I was still sober enough to see that they were totally failing in every skit. Alec was definitely phoning it in and I guess the writing staff and regular players realized they peaked last week with Betty White and just couldn't top it, so they just gave up.

But Ric eventually wound down and we all watched quietly as the show dragged on. How weird to have 4 stoned guys watching what is supposed to be a comedy show and not laughing. I think we were all in our own little worlds by the shows end. Joe and Zach, naked except for their underwear, were cuddling with each other on the floor, munching solemnly on dry ramen noodles right out of the package. They broke off chunks of the noodle brick and fed it to each other. It was freaky to watch.

I slept over on the sofa bed and got up around 9:00 the next morning as Ric was preparing to go play golf. I felt normal enough then but as the day wore on, I became more and more aware that all the effects of smoking hadn't fully worn off. Most disturbing was the feeling of loss. It's weird and hard to describe but it feels like I lost a part of what it means to be "me". My personality and personal convictions were seemingly altered by the drug and I was not enjoying the feeling.

Here it is Tuesday and though it's fading, I still feel the effects. Though merely an easily ignored whisper now, I still feel a bit out of it. I think it's because I have so much free time to simply just sit and think, and this is the activity, in my experience, most affected by pot, thus, it makes sense it is the most enduring of the effects. Also, being fat may have something to do with it. I read THC adheres to fat cells so it might stay in a fat person's system longer.

Well, it all boils down to why I am such an infrequent user. I don't really like the effects. Especially when they linger long after the party has ended.

It's time to ride the magic purple dragon across the puffy white clouds and under the rainbow, back to my humble, boring, but solid reality.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Magic Awaits. Only One Month Away

In just about a month from now, Islands of Adventure will unveil its newest addition. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens June 18 and the anticipation fever is rising.

Though the throngs will no doubt be massive, I'll be there sometime within a few weeks of its opening. It looks like it'll be awesome.

I was at the park yesterday and took these photos with my new Samsung phone. Takes pretty good looking shots for a camera phone, if you ask me.


Here's a look towards Hogwarts Castle. Seeing it in person, you note it is high but not as high or as big as you may think. It is constructed using foreshortened perspective, a common theme park trick. Impressive nonetheless though. It's a bit odd seeing it with palm trees and other subtropical flora in the foreground but you gotta remember...we are seeing this from a bridge designed to be temporary while they work on this area. Once completed, I'm sure, when you enter the WWHP island, you won't see a hint of "Florida".


And here we see the back of Hogsmeade Village and the patio seating of Three Broomsticks restaurant. This location is on the exact site of the former (much beloved) Enchanted Oak Tavern and Alchemy Bar. It looks like they built out the escarpment and refaced the stone walling surrounding the patio with a darker colored "rock". I'm sure they'll serve up the same or similar fare to its predecessor like wood-fire barbequed chicken and ribs. Yum!

I'm not an UBER fan of HP but I've seen all the movies (read no books since I hold a bias as they are, after all, children's books) and I like the premise. I'm sure if I were 30 years younger I'd be absolutely nuts about the whole HP thing. But I think this new "island" will be a fascinating journey, like the other islands at this wonderful park. An escape into the world of imagination...where anything is possible!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Dream Paradox



I came to a sudden realization recently that frankly has me perplexed. I cannot remember the last time I dreamt of anything that has happened, or could happen, in the present tense under present circumstances. And this, apparently, goes back for what seems like quite a while.

Let me explain this better.

I can't remember the time I have had a dream of anything in my awake life since around the last years or so of the 20th century.

In other words, every dream I have takes place, in time, prior to, I would guess, 1997.

That was the year I moved to Florida.

So, in yet more, other words:

As far as my dreams are concerned, I never moved to Florida.

The dreams seem, while in them, contemporaneous in time...ie. I don't get the feeling I am in the past in many of them and when using objects, like riding in a car, for instance, I feel it is contemporary. A car is a good example since, if I were stuck in the 90's (or earlier) in my dreams, I think I would immediately be aware of the perceived dated-ness of the cars since automobile models change with the times so rapidly.

Though I wouldn't consider myself to be a car buff, I can easily determine at least the decade of a car model design. If I were constantly in 1990's model cars or older in my dreams, I think that anachronism would have stuck out. In reality, if you watch a number of cars drive by on a road today, most would be 2000's models, not 90's or older. At least in my town.

Which brings me to the other dilemma of these dreams. I'm never in Florida. I'm always still living in Rhode Island. Many times in a place I never really lived, but in RI nevertheless.

And lastly, it seems other people around me in my dreams are either family or friends from the 20th century only. No Roger, no Chris, no Claudia, Rich and Tascha, no Jay, no Alisicion, no Gary and, most oddly, no Ric.

In my awake life Ric has been a near daily character for over 11 years, but I can't remember the last dream I've ever had of him.

I just constantly bring up the "usual suspect" supporting character cast of my sister, brother, parents (including a living mother) and occasional friends like Linda, Michael P., and John N. In "reality" I haven't seen my sister and parents since 2003, my brother since 2000, and as for those friends...1994, 1988, and 1985 respectively.

Last night, in my dream, I was again in RI with my family there and we were all doing something so I was participating as a character. Suddenly the dream turned lucid and I was aware I was in a dream. I looked around and saw it was again in the usual location and with the usual cast of characters and I got a little perturbed. So I turned to my sister and broke out of character. I said "Where do I live?" She looked slightly puzzled for a second but then just stated matter-of-factly "Florida." Satisfied, I broke up the dream and woke up.

Note to my subconscious: Let's start getting some fresh material, guys! I'm sick and tired of the same old, same old. Y'all should have more than a decade of memories to use as source material. When I go to sleep tonight, if I don't see some palm trees and, at least, Ric's sorry-ass face, then there'll be some hell to pay!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

More Drama Queen Fun

Looks like JibJab isn't allowing embedded videos anymore. Makes sense, they want you to buy them.

Anyway, you can go here to see my newest JibJab movie starring Rico and The Boys. Oh yeah, I have a small part too.

May the Schwartz be with you!

Holy Crap!

I was watching Carson Daly's little show and he was talking to these guys who do funky low-budget local commercials featuring a huge dose of tongue-in-cheek humor. I checked out their site and found this, ehem, gem.

While Orlando, 20 miles to the south of me features, of course, some very well known and heavily visited tourist attractions, my town and environs don't have much in that category of entertainment. Except for one small zoo on the shores of Lake Monroe.

Central Florida Zoo, or as we locals know it - Sanford Zoo, is about 3 miles away from me in nearby Sanford. It's really small and has no shows or rides (oh, strike that, it does have a small kiddie railroad you can ride, for an additional fee). If a tourist brought their kids here instead of say, SeaWorld, the kids would likely never forgive them.

But, for locals who have been to SeaWorld numerous times and are looking for something a little more down home, this is great. Or if the budget is tight. The price can't be beat: Only $12 as opposed to $79 for SeaWorld!

The guys at I Love Local Commercials did this commerical for them. I have never seen this on TV and I doubt it would ever make it there. It's not even on the zoo's website.

Nevertheless, it's hilarious:

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

FLASHBACK: May 1982

Do you know where you're going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to?
Do you know...?

Theme from Mahogany - Diana Ross


Did I?

Did I know?

Everything about this day was a rush.

I rushed to the tuxedo place to pick up my chocolate brown tux with the newly-retro fashionable style pleated tuxedo shirt with wing tip collar. Accompanied by a thin brown bow tie. Gone, apparently, were the days of ruffles and velvet.

I rushed to the florist to pick up my single simple yellow rose boutonnière and Kathleen's organic spray of 9 yellow full stem roses. Maverick for the time. The 9 blooms represented the nine months we'd been going out. My idea.

I zoomed down Rt. 146 towards Providence to pick her up. The prom was to be held all the way up in Randolph, Mass. A lot of driving for an overactive 18 year old.

It was her prom. We were scheduled to attend my prom only a few weeks later.

When I got to her eastside Providence house, her family did the obligatory thing and took pictures of us. But soon we were off in my Chevy Astre wagon north to Randolph. Kathy looked great in her pale yellow satin dress but as it hung on her and revealed more intently that, in fact, she lacked a sufficient rack, I wondered if this was one of the reasons I found her attractive, and, perhaps, why she hadn't found a suitor in her own hometown.

We danced alot that night. Not so much that I desired to be close to her, but that I desired to avoid her friends...and their prying questions.

All I could think of was that they would have wondered: "Why was I interested in a girl who went to school 20 miles away from me?"

And frankly, by then, I wasn't really interested in Kathleen anymore. She had become an easy tool by which I could avoid confronting what I already knew. That I was gay. As long as I was going out with her, there was always the feeble hope that lust, then love, would spontaneously develop and I would be free to live my life, what I then saw as a "normal" person.

This was not fair for her. And I realized it more and more as the night went on.

The theme song of the event started and as we danced to it, I hugged her tight to me but I knew that my gaze was a thousand miles away. Diana Ross belted out her "Theme to Mahogany" and, as if the "Diva" herself were asking little old me, a teenager from a little city in Rhode Island, "Do you know where you're going to?".

And, for the first time in my life, I couldn't answer that question.

Four Dead In Ohio

Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'.
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drummin'.
Four dead in Ohio.

Ohio - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

40 years ago today four unarmed student protesters at Ohio State University were killed, and nine others were wounded, as National Guardsmen opened fire on the verbal, but non-violent crowd.

In tribute, I post here again, my video Frontiertown Boot Camp, a visual/audio poem inspired by this FLASHBACK post.

No doubt, memories of the news coverage of Kent State popped into my mind, along with numerous other horrors of that time.

I may have been young, but I was attentive.

And I will always remember.

Monday, May 03, 2010

FLASHBACK: December 1996

Here it was, the end of the month, the end of the year. I was already a month late on rent and I knew I not only didn't have it, I wouldn't have next month's either.

Unlike past relationships I had with other landlords, I didn't want to rip this one off. But I was broke.

Though I had a job, it wasn't making it anymore. Utility costs were the big culprit. I owed over $800 to Providence Gas and so they cut me off. Now, like that winter 5 years earlier, I was facing a long, freezing winter without heat. Just a tiny space heater. But that increased my electric bill. And that was on the verge of default as well.

I had no choice but to move. I should have sought cheaper digs or gotten a replacement roommate back in '94 when Wayne left. But my pride wouldn't have it. I'd fallen in love with this apartment and I was determined to maintain it. But not enough so to get a higher paying job.

So now, even though I'd done an amazing job of keeping spending at a bare minimum, and doing a parttime stint or two at DM when needed, I was facing, for the first time in 5 years, a major financial crisis which was about to jeopardize my housing.

I contacted John and asked if I could rent his 2nd floor unit (really no longer an individual unit, but a part of his house). He was a little hesitant at first. He'd become happily accustomed to living alone for the past year or so since his last roommate. But he soon realized the desperate situation I was in and he agreed.

I got a waiver from my landlord Dan on what I owed, thankfully. He was going through his own personal crisis himself having just filed for divorce from his wife. He was soon moving to Los Angeles and his wife was going to take ownership of Rosebank as part of the agreement they had.

As I cleared out the last of my stuff from the apartment in early January, Dan's wife was there, painting and repairing the place, getting it ready for a new tenant. I told her that the walls I built in the living room were secure and sturdy, but they needed baseboards. She said she loves the walls and would keep them so she'd be putting baseboards on them.

So as I left Rosebank for the last time, at least, I thought, something of me will remain with the house long after I'm gone. And that made me feel better.