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Winter advisory advice

February 16, 2014

I have a good friend, Dan, who is a very good writer. His columns are featured in our local paper. They are often at least semi-autobiographical, in that he often writes about his wife and kids, be it about school, soccer, their version of the Food Network show ‘Chopped’, or what have you. I love his columns and each time one runs in the paper, I look that much more eagerly to the next one.

His column in today’s paper is about winter. Specifically, it is about complaining about winter. This article may well have been written with me firmly in mind- Dan and I are, after all, friends on Facebook, where I do a LOT of grousing about the weather- or, on the other hand, it may well be extremely conceited of me to think I ever even slightly entered his thought process when he conceived of and wrote the article. Regardless, I saw a lot of myself in his article, and it actually kinda hit home pretty hard.

Here in Illinois, it gets hot in the summers and cold in the winters. That’s just how it is. I accept that. But what I just don’t like are the extremes to which they occur. One hundred degrees with 90%+ humidity is unbearable and dangerous. Conversely, -10˚ temperatures with wind chills close to -40˚ are just as unbearable and equally as dangerous. Plus, the last few winters here have had what at least seems like far more than normal snowfall. Tonight and tomorrow, we are being blessed with freezing rain. I think what makes the last few winters so particularly hard [for me] to deal with are the preceding dozen or so winters were extremely mild in comparison, with respect to both temperature and snowfall. Whatever the reason, winters have been very, very hard for me to get through the last few years. Hence, I have been extremely vocal in my contempt for the weather.

I agree with Dan in that directing one’s ire at the school superintendents for cancelling (or not cancelling) school, or at the street department workers for not plowing the streets you live and drive on quickly enough to suit you, is completely misguided. However, I also agree that complaining about the weather itself, regardless of how many weather-emergency days it creates, or how many flights or basketball games it cancels, or how many times it forces me to shovel my and several neighbors’ driveways and walks, or how many times it has caused me to spin out in my car or fall on the ice and further deteriorate my tailbone, or simply how friggin’ cold and nasty it is, is pretty ridiculous as well.

No matter how much better it makes me feel, if only temporarily, to [literally] curse Mother Nature.

As I type this, it doesn’t help that my eyes are bugging out of my head due to a good old-fashioned cold, but I can’t blame my last two months’ complaining on this cold. I simply don’t deal with weather extremes well.

Therefore, even though a few days back I posted on Facebook that I do not apologize for my very vocal dislike of winter, after reading Dan’s column, I really feel I must. There are only a few more weeks until spring- at least, as the calendar is concerned, anyway- and they say that we could come close to 60˚ this week some time. I am not going to ever be able to “enjoy” or even “like” the extreme weather, but I do accept it simply because I can’t do anything to change it until it changes itself. So, I am on record as saying I am sorry for being one of the insufferable clods going on about the weather.

All that said, I am also putting it out there that I will be watching all of social media as the weather warms this spring and into the summer, and will be calling some people out. The people that told me I should either “move or STFU.” The people that threw the ridiculous, snarky, quasi-religious platitudes at me. The people on Facebook that have been so adamant that I quit complaining about winter, because “Meh, that’s just how it is in the Midwest. Get over it.”
You are all on notice: if I see one complaint about heat or humidity, I’m calling you out. If I see one Instagram picture of your car’s temperature gauge, I’m calling you out. If I see one tweet or Facebook post about how hot it is, how the humidity has ruined your hair, how much you sweat the instant you walk outside, how badly we need rain, or anything else having anything even remotely to do with the weather, I’m calling you out. You will ALL need to be reminded of how you wagged your fingers at me all winter for my complaining about the cold and snow and ice.

Finally, to Dan, I just want to commend you on yet another brilliant article, and I promise I will try to curtail my hatred of winter weather- or, at least, the vocalizing of said hatred of winter weather. Now if you’ll excuse me, as per your friend Poss’s advice, I have a bottle of Gentleman Jack that requires my attention.

Or, perhaps more accurately stated, I require its attention.

R.I.P. Coach Flohr

September 3, 2013

The faculty and students of Franklin Middle School, as well as the entire Springfield School District 186 and the middle school sports community in general, lost a great man yesterday.

Mr. Flohr coached the cross-country team for Franklin MS, and was a 6th grade World History teacher. From everything I have seen, the students loved him. My brother’s daughter goes to Franklin, and she adored Mr. Flohr as a teacher.

Ian, my oldest, is an 8th grader at Lincoln Magnet School, one of Franklin’s “competitors” on the cross-country courses. Coach Flohr was at virtually every meet Ian has had, as Ian’s Leopards were chasing Coach Flohr’s Falcons in almost every meet.

I go to every meet I can- I think I’ve only missed one over the last two years- and at most meets, I spoke briefly with Coach Flohr. While his school and Ian’s were “competitors”, he always took the time to speak to me, he was always very kind and respectful to me and, toward the end of last year, even started addressing me as “Coach” (I’m not LMS’s coach). Coach was simply one of the kindest-hearted and most genuine gentlemen I’ve ever met. Naturally he was preferential toward his runners, but Coach always very strongly and vocally supported each and every single kid on that course, no matter who they were or what school they attended.

I was extremely saddened to hear of his passing this morning. Ian’s first meet is today in Chatham, and I will be thinking of Coach Flohr today, as well as this Thursday- Lincoln’s first meet against Franklin- and every meet this season.

(photo taken from Franklin Middle School’s website)

Into the ‘Sunset’

July 14, 2013

In the spring of 2012, I saw a blurb on Facebook (or maybe it was Twitter) that a local theatre here in Springfield was looking for volunteers.

I know virtually nothing about theatre or musicals or tech work or anything like that, so I really didn’t know of what use I would realistically be. I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I do play several instruments but none of them well, and I know nothing about lights, props, set design, wardrobe, or sound. But I decided to go ahead and toss my name into the proverbial hat. I wound up going intermittently, whenever I had occasion to get away for a few moments, and shadowing my friend Jeff, who is the lighting guy [extraordinaire] for the Legacy, as he installed lights for various shows. I was both mentally and physically trying to take notes, in the hopes of learning… SOMEthing, or at least not looking like a total doofus. I eventually got to where I was climbing ladders and scaffolds, hanging and aiming lights, things like that. It was really pretty cool. I “helped” Jeff with an effect for the Jennifer Holliday concert that wound up being pretty damned amazing. He has also tried to show me the lighting board through which he controls all the lights, and I remain to this day very deer-in-the-headlights when it comes to that thing.

It frightens me.

So about a month and a half ago, Jeff somewhat reluctantly texted me with an opportunity. He said that they would be putting on nine shows of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ over three weekends, and asked if I wanted to run a spotlight for the show. He added the caveat that, due to the rather involved nature of the job, he really needed me to be able to commit for the entire run, but that he understood if I couldn’t commit to the whole thing. Family obligations and all.

I talked with Dawn about it. She was in a couple shows in college, and ran lights for several others, so she knows the theatre experience, and she was all, “Absolutely! You should do this!” So I told Jeff, I’m in!

Being as this would be not only my first venture at the Legacy, but also my first into theatre period, I was very, VERY self-conscious and was really wanting to become a piece of the background so I would hopefully have less of a “NEW GUY!!” blinking neon sign on my back. My first day, I just kinda hung back with Jeff in the booth and watched the rehearsal, to get somewhat of an idea of how the story goes. I then spent the next couple days up in my light tower, listening to Jeff give me cues over a headset, and trying to make it look like I know what the hell I’m doing. I think I fooled them.

Last night was closing night. It wound up being one of the most incredible three weeks I’ve ever spent. It was such a great production. I had no idea what a blast I would wind up having. Sure, I screwed up a few times, but I realized that I wasn’t going to get my head thumped in for doing so. Jeff gave me a great pep talk before opening night, saying that I will screw up. It’s going to happen, and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. But when it happens, what I have to do is own it and move on. If I stew over it, it’ll snowball and I’ll screw up the next 10 cues. I’m SO a stewer, but I took his advice and soon discovered that he was exactly right. I made some mistakes, but a few of them he said he didn’t even notice. And I’m grateful for the little white lie.

I had THE best time. This final weekend especially. Everyone was loose, having fun, and cutting up. Great cast, great crew, and the set was seriously awe-inspiring. The closing night party last night was a blast. Wendy, our outstanding props magician, gave each of us a photo collage of Cotton the dead monkey (you had to be there) in various poses on the set and backstage. Scott, our director, gave us a Radko-type ornament of  a monkey. Again, you had to be there.

It suddenly occurs to me that if I were to talk about my entire range of emotions, the ups and downs, and everything else that happened during the last three weekends, it would take about four hours for you to read it. So I’mma just sum up and say some thank yous.

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To Cynda, Jeremy, Sara, Mark, Ashley, Missy, Greg, Dorothy, Emilie, Jim H., Jim N., Grant, Rachel, Allison, Joe, Nathan, Frank, Ed, and Sarah: It was my honor and privilege to light you up these last three weeks. I am absolutely stupid jealous of what incredibly talented performers you all are, and I hope to at least watch you perform again soon, if not to work with you again. You guys all rock. And some of y’all crack me right the hell up.

To Hillary, Emerson, Xander, Nancy, Wendy, Ron, and Nick: You guys are awesome. From the second I walked in the door, you all instantly treated me like part of the family- and the Legacy clearly is a family- rather than the FNG that I am. It was a blast working with you all, and I hope to do so again as soon and as often as possible. One more thing: You are ALL friggin’ nutjobs, and I love that about you.

To Scott: I greatly appreciate everything you do and have done not just for the Legacy, but for the performing arts scene in Springfield in general. I’m also grateful for the chance to come in and help out once in a while. I only wish I were able to do more.

And last but by no means least, to Jeff: What can I say, Homie? You have no idea how overwhelming it was for me walking completely green into this ‘Sunset Boulevard’ gig. Yet you believed in some abilities that you had no idea I even possessed- hell, *I* had no idea I possessed those abilities- and you turned me into a bona fide spotlight operator. You’re an incredible teacher, mentor, guru, sensai, whatever word you want to use. I could follow you around and listen to you spout technical jargon all day long. Granted, I wouldn’t understand a damn word of it, but by God, once you explain it in English words of five letters or less, I’d do my best to do it and make you proud. I hope I did a good enough lighting job these last three weeks that you actually felt comfortable putting your name on it. And, if you’ll have me, and as long as I can work it out at home, I’d be honored to climb a light tower for you again. Or hang lights. Or run cable. Or all three and then some.

I’m just not ready for that goddamned board yet.

Anyway, Jeff, thank you for giving me the shot and for believing in me. You’re the best. And thank ALL of you, again, for welcoming me into your world.

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“MAX!” ["What?"]

“Call me a taxi!” ["You're a taxi!"]

Today is not a “happy” day, ‘Merkans

May 27, 2013

I’ve made it abundantly clear in the past that there are certain holidays for which I have little to no use- Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, to name three- because they are either ridiculous and unnecessary, and/or have been Americanized (i.e., the reason the day exists has totally been forgotten or ignored, and the day now exists for no other reason than to drink to excess). But folks, we can’t even get our OWN holidays right.

FYI, “Mexican Independence Day” is celebrated on September 16th- IN MEXICO. Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla. Neither has anything to do with Corona overindulgence and half-price tequila shots.

[crickets]

Obviously, Independence Day commemorates the day we became a nation independent from the “evil tyranny” of the British empire. (See also: Declaration of Independence.)

Today is Memorial Day. The name should be enough to know why today is a “holiday”, but clearly, people still don’t get it. Memorial Day is not a “happy” holiday. It is a day meant to reflect upon the men and women that gave their lives to protect our freedom. Actually, it was originally a day meant to honor those that lost their lives in the fight to abolish slavery. (Hat tip to my good friend Kelly for that article.) Regardless, wishing people a “happy” Memorial Day is a bit twisted. And to be perfectly honest, thanking the currently serving men and women is incorrect. That is what Veterans Day is for.

But here is the rub.

There shouldn’t even be a Memorial Day OR a Veterans Day. Now before you go bombarding me with curse-riddled comments, hear me out.

I’ve often mentioned how Valentine’s Day is stupid worthless unnecessary, in that one’s love for their significant other should mean no more- nor less- on one day than on any other. And in my mind, if one day IS more special than all others, it should be an anniversary, whether of marriage, of the day the couple met, of the day of their first date, whichever. At any rate, my point is that every day should be “Valentine’s Day”. Exactly the same idea with Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Instead of taking one day to recognize those that lost their lives, and another to recognize those who are currently serving- and, in the process, bastardizing both days into nothing more than a day off from work/cookout/excuse to drink to excess- we should remember the deceased servicemen and women EVERY day and remember that they died for us to be able to get shitfaced and fall into swimming pools and burn hamburger patties. We should shake the hand of a veteran, whether currently serving or discharged, EVERY day. Buy them a coffee. Hell, just say “thank you”. Veterans deserve a hell of a lot more than what they’re receiving, but that’s another post for another time.

But until we can all learn to treat every day as though it were both Memorial Day and Veterans Day, can we at least correctly distinguish between the two? Veterans Day, November 11, is to honor the current, discharged, and retired living servicemen. Today, Memorial Day, is a solemn day to reflect upon the millions of men and women that died in battle protecting our freedom. So stop wishing people a “happy” Memorial Day. Today is not meant to be a “happy” day. Learn how to at least be correctly patriotic.

Oh, and brush up on your knowledge of the actual origins of Memorial Day.

Friday 5

May 10, 2013
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A few weeks ago, while reading other blogs on my RSS reader, one of them posted something from a website called Friday 5. Every Friday, they ask 5 questions and have you post the questions and your answers on your blog as, perhaps, a means of getting discussions started. At any rate, I decided I’d try it myself, so here goes.

My Friday 5 for May 10, 2013.

  • What’s something you know about constellations? Next to nothing. The stories and legends intrigue me, but I’m relatively ignorant about them. I DO know that the Big Dipper and Little Dipper are not constellations unto themselves, but rather are parts of constellations: Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, respectively.
  • What’s something you know about bugs? That they are vital to the planet to thrive. Yes, folks, even those !*!&#% mosquitos serve a purpose. Although, I have to say, I’m very appreciative for bats, for they eat thousands and thousands of mosquitos each night. Circle of life and all.
  • What’s something you know about a car’s engine? That they are wonderful until they stop working correctly, and that their care is best left to qualified individuals. I know how to check and add oil, and that’s pretty much about it.
  • What’s something you know about wine or beer? Wine: that the mere smell of it can trigger a massive migraine. Beer: simply that it is the nectar of the gods. I love beer. Not all that long ago I drank nothing but the mass-produced, slightly (and I do mean SLIGHTLY) flavored water that comes out of St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Golden, CO, and viewed people that drank craft beers and micro-brews as “beer snobs”. How wrong I was. Three years or so ago, I finally started trying different brews and styles, and now I am on a mission to try as many different beers and styles as I possibly can. But as far as what I “know” about beer, besides that it tastes good, not much. Other than that hops smell delightful.
  • What’s something you know about the Pacific Ocean? That it is larger than all of the Earth’s land area combined. The ocean has had me captivated since I was a kid. I love everything in and about the ocean: sharks, whales, dolphins, rays, fish, eels, jellyfish, you name it. However, I have a recurring dream that I am out on the ocean, with no land in sight, and it is an absolutely terrifying dream.

How nice that they picked five things about which I possess virtually no knowledge. Luckily, I have Ian and Adam to teach me things. I can never say my kids don’t pay attention in class. Ian spouts off facts and figures about historical events and, especially, science-y things and I’m simply in awe. Most days, Adam (2nd grade) comes home and informs me of something I didn’t know I didn’t know.

Moral of this post: Don’t ever be unwilling to learn. We never stop learning unless we so choose.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes 2013

April 9, 2013

It is that time of year in central Illinois again.

Time for the annual Walk A Mile in Her Shoes walk. The walk in which men strap on women’s shoes (REAL men wear high heels!) and literally walk a mile through downtown Springfield, ending up on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol for a rally.

This walk benefits the Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault, an organization that provides assistance to ALL victims of sexual assault- men, women, and children- and seek to prevent sexual violence all together. This year’s walk is Saturday, April 20, 2013.

This is a very good cause that means a lot to me. In today’s economy, I realize there is not much extra money aside for charity donations, but if any of you has even $5 to spare, I’d greatly appreciate anything you can give. My donation page can be found here. If you don’t donate, that’s fine. If you live in the Springfield area, I’d love for you to come out along the route and support me and the rest of the walkers, and then join us all for a party afterward at Donnie’s Homespun at Vinegar Hill Mall on Cook St. in Springfield.

Or, if you live in Springfield and are man enough, get yourself a pair of heels, sign up, and join me.

Regarding Sandy Hook and guns

December 14, 2012

I’m going to take a whole lot of shit for this post. But I don’t care.

As we undoubtedly all know by now, there was a shooting at a grade school in Newtown, CT. A deranged unstable young motherfucker gentleman walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School with three guns and opened fire, killing 20 children between the ages of 5-10, and 6 adults, including the principal, before killing himself, as they always do. Punk ass bitch.

There are all sorts of fuzzy and/or conflicting details- first that it was the shooter’s brother that was the shooter, and apparently the brother was on Facebook saying, “IT WASN’T ME! I WAS AT WORK!” Then it was discovered that it wasn’t who they thought it was after all. Nice job of fact checking, CNN. Here’s a tip: instead of being the first to get the scoop, how about being the first to get the goddamned facts correct? THERE’S a novel idea. News outlets get hard-ons for sensationalist stories like this. Sure, it’s a “senseless tragedy”, but you can just read it on their faces that there is some mass circle jerk going on in some board room at CNN Plaza or Rockefeller Center or wherever. “Ratings!!” *stroke stroke stroke*

But that’s a whole other kettle of whoop-ass for another time.

[cue Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry" in 5... 4... 3... 2...]

It was said that the shooter’s mother, who was reported to be a kindergarten teacher at the school, was one of the six adults killed. Now they’re saying that the mother was killed at the family home before the shooter ever got to the school. It has also been reported that there was a related killing in Hoboken, N.J., 80 miles away, where the shooter is said to have lived. Not sure we’ll ever even know for sure what happened, let alone why it happened.

Anyway, naturally, when each of my kids came home from school today, we hugged them a little tighter than normal. We told Ian what happened, and it shook him up. Adam, we’re not really going to volunteer anything about it until such time as he asks, at which time we’ll be up front with him about it.

But here’s the thing. The anti-gun folks are going to be full of all kinds of piss and vinegar about how we need to ban all guns. The pro-gun folks are going to be all kinds of piss and vinegar about how that’s not fair. Neither are correct. But then, neither are incorrect, for that matter.

People that say, “Cars kill people; are you going to ban cars?!” are idiots. Same with knives, baseball bats, or anything else. The fact is that knives  baseball bats, and cars have intended uses besides inflicting harm upon people. A gun’s sole purpose is for inflicting harm, whether on people or on animals. But here’s the rub: A gun does no damage until someone pulls the trigger. Someone has to willingly aim that gun and pull that trigger for it to do any harm. That gun has no emotion, no freewill, no motive. It takes a shooter to shoot a gun. It takes a killer to kill.

I agree that it is way, WAY to easy for anyone to get a firearm. There needs to be a serious overhaul of that system. One can literally walk into just about any gun show and buy a gun and take it home with virtually no questions asked. That is simply wrong.

But folks, there’s also this little thing called the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights. The 2nd Amendment states, and I quote directly from the text of the document itself:

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Shall NOT be infringed. What that means is that law-abiding citizens have the right to own a gun. And once Illinois pulls its head out of its ass, to carry one in all 50 states as well. There IS a serious flaw in the system regarding how easy it is to obtain a gun. It is far too easy. There need to be background checks. There need to be mental health evaluations. There need to be waiting periods. There need to be safety education requirements as well as shooting education requirements. There need to be age requirements. Direct sales at gun shows need to stop. Allowing convicted felons to obtain guns needs to stop. Allowing the mentally ill to obtain guns needs to stop.

But banning guns is not the answer.

Many killing sprees, such as this one today, are reportedly carried out with legally obtained weapons. To me, that lends itself to the notion that it is not the gun, but the shooter. A legal gun in the hands of a killer becomes a lethal weapon. An illegally obtained gun in the hands of a law-abiding citizen remains nothing more than a gun. Law-abiding gun owners don’t fucking kill people. It IS just that simple. Believe it or not, folks, it will not turn into Shootout at the OK Corral simply because citizens are allowed to carry firearms.

Do you truly believe that banning guns will just magically make crime disappear? Or that banning guns will at least make gun crime disappear? If you believe that, you’re either delusional or an idiot. That. Will. Not. Happen. All a full-out ban will do is drive up the price of those illegal guns that are being bought and sold already. And they’ll still be bought and sold. Mayor Daley instituted a gun ban in Chicago, and gun crimes have increased since. You know, because criminals are all about obeying the law and all.

And quite frankly, even if you could somehow magically get rid of all guns, even illegal ones, and take all guns out of the hands of criminals (good luck with that, by the way), there will still be murders. Killers kill, regardless of their weapon of choice. Knife, car, baseball bat, meat cleaver, wood-chipper, poison, explosive, plastic bag [i.e. placed over someone's head], or bare hands- it doesn’t matter.

It is the killer that kills. Not the weapon they use. Not even the gun.

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What is most important here, regardless of where your beliefs lie, is the fact that there are 20 families who no longer have their children to hug and kiss and tuck in at night, and the families of the adults that were killed that no longer have their spouse, parent, aunt, uncle, sibling, or whatever the case.

I also have to mention the President. At approximately 2:15 CST, President Obama delivered a statement with regard to this tragedy. He spoke not just as the leader of our country, but more so as a father. I watched the President of the United States cry on television. People will undoubtedly argue that it was staged, or even phony. I’m willing to put it all out there and say that the tears he wiped away were genuine. I know the tears that he caused to pour down MY face were genuine. I am dropping my guard and admitting that I did not vote for him last month or four years ago (nor did I vote for his Republican Party opponent either time, for what it’s worth, but that’s irrelevant), but in watching him today I was never more impressed with, and proud of, my President. Much respect, Mr. President.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims of today’s horrific shooting, their families and friends, and the entire community of Newtown, CT. I hug my boys a little tighter from now on, partly because my heart aches for those 20 families that don’t get to do so with theirs any longer.

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