Archive - January, 2015

Au revoir, Sky Mall: A musical tribute

It’s over…

The Sky Mall has filed for bankruptcy.

sky mall plane

And the immortal words of Pablo Cruise come to mind:

No, I don't know why they're nekkid.

No, I don’t know why they’re nekkid.

“And all your friends
They calling you a fool
Cause you don’t know
A good thing when you’ve
Got it in your hand”

And speaking of musical truths, I felt the only way to convey my heartfelt appreciation to the Sky Mall for the bounty of blog fodder over the years was an homage set to music.

My first instinct was to create a video slideshow set to the haunting “I Will Remember You” as sung by Sarah Mclachlan, but I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t have that kind of time.

sara mclaughlin

So instead, I’m asking you to sing along with the following karaoke track of Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight by The Beatles replacing the more commonly known lyrics with ones I’ve provide for you below. (Work with me, people!)

 

Without further adieu, I give you my musical tribute to Sky Mall. Last (sniff), in a series.

 

You’re welcome…

Golden Sky Mall

Once there was a place,
to shop for Sasquatch,

sky mall big foot

Once there was a place,
to shop for combs

sky mall hairmax laser comb

Weep pretty darlings, go on cry

sky mall celebrity crying 1

There’s no more shopping in the sky…

Siamese slankets filled the skies

sky mall siamese slanket

Creepy Elvis sang and sighed

sky mall singing elvis

Weep pretty darlings, go on cry

sky mall celebrity crying 2

There’s no more mall up in the sky

Once there was a place,
with magic toilets

sky mall magic toilet

Once there was a place,
for endless pools

sky mall endless pool

Weep pretty darlings go on cry

sky mall crying celebrity 3

There’s no more dog beds in the sky

sky mall dog bed

Boy you’re gonna carry that weight,

sky mall sumo table

carry that weight for a long time

sky mall zombie

Boy you’re gonna carry that weight,

sky mall exerciser

carry that weight for a long time

sky mall skeleton gnomes

I never give you my pillow,

sky mall travel pillow

I only send you my invitations

sky mall cover

And in the middle of the celebrations,

sky mall celebration

I break down

sky mall ostritch pillow

Boy you’re gonna carry that weight,

carry that weight for a long time

sky mall neck brace

Boy you’re gonna carry that weight,

carry that weight for a long time…

sky mall luggage scooter

*****

A fond farewell, Sky Mall. Your pages were scanned by millions.

sky mall autographed

Too bad no one ever bought anything from you.

Ever.

Cheaters never Win

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 12.45.22 PM

Neither NFL team I was rooting for on Sunday won.

Not that I had any strong allegiance to any of the four teams playing for their respective division titles. It mostly came down to picking Green Bay for sentimental reasons and Indianapolis because the Patriots just bug me–the team as a whole and Tom Brady in particular. Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 1.03.24 PM

Now it turns out that the NFL is investigating allegations of cheating by the New England Patriots. The focus of the investigation is whether the team intentionally deflated footballs used in Sunday’s game, which to me seems incredibly silly considering that the Pats tromped the Colts 45-7. I hardly think properly inflated footballs would have made much of a difference. Indianapolis was simply outmatched and outplayed on this particular Sunday. If New England cheated, they didn’t need to, and if found guilty, the punishment will most likely be the loss of a couple of draft picks. They’re still going to the Big Game.

“Deflate-gate” is just the latest in a string of accusations of cheating by the Patriots and will likely come to nothing. What’s the big deal? Should we simply follow quarterback Tom Brady’s lead and laugh it off?

"I think I've heard it all at this point. That's the last of my worries. I don't even respond to stuff like this." --Tom Brady

“I think I’ve heard it all at this point. That’s the last of my worries. I don’t even respond to stuff like this.” –Tom Brady

Maybe. But maybe not. I don’t know what will come of this latest investigation, but I do know that in previous controversies involving the Patriots the team wasn’t technically cheating. They stay within the rules, but many question whether they conform to the spirit of the rules and fair competition.*

That’s what bugs me.

It’s only cheating if you get caught.

Wait, check that. It’s only cheating if you get caught AND they can prove beyond any doubt that you cheated, in the meantime, quit your whining and accept that WE ARE WINNERS! I’m not picking on the Patriots, the world is awash in people taking short cuts, taking advantage and jumping through loopholes to get to the top.

Between 1999 and 2005, Lance Armstrong was credited to have won the Tour de France an unprecedented seven consecutive times.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.11.25 PM

He became a larger than life symbol of excellence and overcoming adversity, all the while consistently and voraciously denying any accusations that he used performance enhancing drugs. He even went so far as to sue journalists, friends and colleagues who accused him of doping. If he was cheating and getting away with it, there had to be a massive cover up involving numerous people, which is exactly what happened.

In the aftermath of his finally admitting that he was cheating all along, he not only brought shame on himself and the sport of cycling, but sullied the name of LiveStrong, his cancer awareness charity which has raised over 500 million dollars. (They have since cut ties with Armstrong.)

Cheating created an international superstar far beyond the sport of cycling, but Armstrong will forever be remembered for his deception, not his contribution to the sport. Meanwhile, a $100 million law suit and an arbitration for multiple millions more threaten to take away his considerable personal fortune.

Winning isn’t everything.
Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.02.10 PM
Especially when it costs you everything.

*One notable exception: The NFL determined that the Patriots illegally videotaped opponents from 2002 to 2007. Roger Goodell fined the team $250,000, and stripped New England of a first-round draft choice. Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the largest financial penalty against a coach ever.

Why I hate writing, Part 15: Experts, reviewers and other trolls

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

The novel got some good reviews, some mixed reviews, and some pretty nasty reviews. The New Yorker’s was literary water boarding: “…doesn’t even seem to have been written; instead it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper…what remains is a debris of sour jokes.” (The author) dwells on that particular review in his memoir: “I am tempted to drown in my own particular gloating laughter even as I set this down. What restrains me is the knowledge that the lashings still smart, even after so many years, and if I ever pretend to be a jolly good sport about them, as I am doing now, I am only pretending.”

Catch-22The above quote was taken from a forward written by Christopher Buckley (novelist and son of William F.) for the 50th anniversary edition of “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller.

To put this into context, consider that this debut novel is the 88th best selling book of all time and came in at number 74 on The Guardian’s 100 Greatest Novels of All Time.

Not that any such accolades matter much to a real, bonafide writer. Despite claims from people peddling self-affirming, Jack Handey-esque books that tell you you’re a writer simply because you write, I believe the universe has a way of weeding out those who are only attracted to the romanticized notion of being a writer. Anyone who tells you that being a writer is as easy as thinking/acting like one is trying to sell you something. Perhaps a book about being a writer. (Which ironically makes him a writer, but not you.)

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 2.25.11 PM

Which is not to say writers should not be encouraged. God knows they need all the encouragement we can give them, but if you consider yourself a writer and spend more time searching for validation than actively involved in the craft of writing, maybe you’re not cut out for this. On the other hand, if you live in fear that the world will soon discover the fraud you know yourself to be, you may just make a life for yourself.

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

–Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

If it seems as if I’m attempting to discourage you from writing, I’m not. There are stories that need to be told in unique voices the world cries out for. But if you’re new to this you need to know that it’s not for the faint of heart.

Prepare to be lonely, discouraged, disheartened, ridiculed and rejected. Go forward with the knowledge that people with infinitely less talent and skill will be more successful than you, that the old adage “Life is Not Fair” is painfully played out daily in the world of publishing.

Equipped with this knowledge, do it anyway.

And if you beat the odds and make it, don’t rest of your laurels. Do it again.

***

Editorial Note: I am not suggesting that writers should not read books about writing. There are some great books (and blogs) chock full of information and instruction on all aspects of the craft–from plot and structure to editing to building successful platforms. But you probably already knew that…

Just for grins, I went back and read the first of this series: Why I hate writing, written way back in July, 2010. You’d think I would have matured since then. But really? Not so much.

Childbirth, Ice Skating and the Halo Effect

People who grow up in Southeast Texas do not ice skate well.

image courtesy of google images

image courtesy of google images

I’m sure there are some notable exceptions, but none come to mind.

Skating fail 2

When you grow up in a climate where the largest body of water to freeze over in winter is a birdbath, things like snowball fights and outdoor ice skating are activities relegated to characters in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.

Which is not to say that the Houston area is devoid of ice skating.

Houston Galleria

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 7.56.01 AMIn the early 1970’s, visionary real estate developers built the famous Houston Galleria, with its overpriced retail establishments encircling the centerpiece of this three-story shopping utopia: the ice skating rink, because little rich girls have dreams, too.

There have been other Houston ice rinks in the 40-some years I’ve lived here, most of them fell victim to a lack of interest and downturns in the local economy. Only the Galleria rink has endured. Being smack dab in the middle of one of Houston’s most popular tourist destinations has helped secure its survival.

Fortunately there are a handful of other ice skating rinks in Houston, one of which is only 20 miles from my home on the outskirts of western suburbia. (Twenty miles may sound like a long way, but if you think that, you don’t live in Houston. Anywhere worth going to is at least 20 miles away from you. This city is HUGE. Also? The rink is actually 30 minutes from my house, not 20 miles. Because this is Texas, and we measure travel in time, not distance. But I digress.)

This other skating rink is also located in a shopping mall. Nothing attracts bored teenagers with a pocketful of gift cards on winter break like a shopping mall with a giant Starbucks and an ice skating rink. Which is not to say that any of these teenagers are particularly good at ice skating. As I mentioned before, people from South Texas do not ice skate well. But this does not deter them from strapping on rental skates in the misguided belief that they really are much better than past experiences would indicate. My 13 year old daughter has been ice skating with her friends on numerous occasions, and she will tell you that she is a “pretty good ice skater”. I’ve seen her skate. If by “pretty good ice skater” she means “I only fell down a handful of times”, then yes, she is pretty good. Much like women of childbearing age, teen skaters suffer from what researchers call the Halo Effect.

Halo effect

In both scenarios, hormones cloud the memory centers of the brain and block recollections of intense pain and humiliation. It is said that the Halo Effect in young mothers is to ensure the survival of the species. I can only surmise the phenomenon in teenagers is wholly for the benefit of the onlooking parents of said teenagers.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Hello again. Hello

I’ll give you a few minutes to get that song out of your head…

Neil Diamond

And if the Neil Diamond reference was completely lost on you, you’re probably too young to relate to me and I’m not sure we can be friends.

For those of you who used to read this blog back when people actually read blogs and not just snippets of information via social media, Hello again. For those of you who didn’t even know I had a blog, Hello. (See what I did there?)

2014 was a mostly silent year for me on the writing front. There were numerous times when I wanted to rant incessantly about any number of things–trust me, I have an opinion about just about everything. But lately EVERYONE seems to be ranting incessantly about something, and I didn’t want to be just one more cranky voice among the masses.

People were generally more pissy in 2014. The Chinese calendar may have denoted it the Year of the Horse, but let’s be honest. 2014 was the Year of the Grumpy Cat.

image courtesy of grumpycats.com

She was a media sensation, her fame culminating into its predictable conclusion: a truly horrible movie meant to cash in on all the fuss. It wasn’t the cat’s fault, it was her people.

People ruin everything.

But since January 1 is a chance at new beginnings, I am choosing to begin anew; to see the good and share it with you via my little spot on the Internets. Okay, maybe not all good, but I’ll be sharing again in 2015.

As always,

Sorry/You’re welcome.

Happy New Year!