DomiNO’s

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In my ongoing quest to make my gastronomical preferences and critiques well-known…

“DomiNO’s: They put the “NO” in pizza.”

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Another Day For You

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For some, it’s a white almost-Christmas morning. For others, Festivus.

Some are waking up with an ache in their hearts for absent furry friends or family, whose bark, meow or voice still resonates in their ears.

May the echoes diminish and laughter knock on your door.

Ponder: The Lesson of Karl

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I think we should adopt the word “Karl” as a code word to indicate that we love someone deeply, even as we live flawed lives. Whether we like to admit it or not, even when we are comfortable with people, ‘love’ is a catch in our throats, often reluctant to escape.

“Sling Blade” is an iconic movie. Each time I watch it, I see it from a different point of view, and not only because I am not quite the same person as the last time I watched it. As tragic as it is, it is evocative of a life of connections that I would cherish.


After Doyle kicks Karl out of the house, Linda drives up as Karl is shuffling away. “You light him up in his eyes, I’ve seen it. He wouldn’t know what to do without ye….” Karl tells Linda, referring to her son Frank. Linda calls out, “Karl?” as he leaves.

When Karl leaves Frank his books, the sum total of everything he holds to be valuable in life; inside is a bookmark with the words “You will be happy” written on it. As Karl walks away, Frank turns to the trees and shouts, “Karl?”

Karl knocks on Vaughan’s door and hands him all the money he has in the world when the door opens. He tells Vaughan that he would be a good daddy to Frank and that he won’t be judged for who he is. “That boy lives inside of his own heart. It’s an awful big place….” Karl says and ambles away. Vaughan calls out, “Karl?”

Of course, Doyle looks up off-screen at Karl as he raises the sharpened lawnmower blade to kill him: “Karl?” Doyle asks, after talking calmly with Karl about being killed by him.

The last spoken word in the movie by Doyle, Vaughan, Frank, and Linda is the same: “Karl…?”

As broken as Karl’s life was, he managed to touch each of those people’s souls by his words and presence. In response, each one was powerless to respond at the same level with Karl.

I think we should agree to use “Karl?” as a code word in our daily lives. Using it would be a signal that conveys our deep understanding of who and what the person with whom we are speaking means to us.

Some words are like knives passing our lips, even when coated with the warmest regard and sincerity.

Honesty is a sharp weapon and truth is a hard master. Even in love.

“Karl,” I whisper to you all.

Earwax Candle Kit For Christmas

 

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These fun PrankPack boxes are awesome. I bought a few this year to wow friends and family. This “Create Your Own Earwax Candle Kit” is going to be a surprise for my mother-in-law.

She loves being pranked and nothing says “I cherish you” like a horrified smirk followed by a laugh. (She can’t see this post…)

This kit allegedly comes with an earwax collection hat and a collection reservoir for your ounces of nightly earwax.

I wonder if such a candle, were it possible to produce one, might waft a lightly-scented aroma of yuletide inner ear around the house for Christmas?

 

The company offers several styles. At least one of them will make you laugh. I promise.

P.S. If you want to order your own for a future bit of fun, here is the website:

PrankPack Website

Social Media Is Us

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Another social media friend posted about the depressing content of his or her social media. There are only two possibilities: he or she is not using the tools at hand to curate it or their friends, follows and likes are less than stellar. There is no reasonable way that social media, containing billions of people and pages, all representing every corner of the world, are the culprits in the equation. Social media is a prism which reflects the world of users, the same world that already exists. It might not be the world we desire, but it’s the one which greets us and gives both our joy and sadness.

The world might be spinning off its axis, but it is the only one we have. Generations have come and gone, each sure of its superiority over the last.

Social media is us, warts and all, smiles and frowns, fake news and authentic, gossip and compassion. Our aversion to it reflects more toward our self-recognition as a species than to the means by which we communicate.

Social media and the internet present new challenges, yet they also present new opportunities, especially in regards to engaging with one another.

It’s bizarre to me that two people can use the same technology and have disparate experiences. Social media can be a buffet of 10 million similar tv channels – or it can be a room with 10 million doors and windows, all of which can be opened by you on a whim, all leading to new worlds.

If you have friends who don’t share your values, sense of humor or worldview, be friends with them in the world instead of social media. Or hide their posts. If you don’t engage with them, at some point you are going to need to ask why you need to keep their names on a list in social media. You can still go to reunions, work, or lunch, – and hug and smile warmly when you encounter one another in a live social space. People fighting this cause themselves a tremendous amount of needless frustration in life. Friends lists are one of the new ways to hoard in our modern world.

If you find yourself getting upset or angry at what friends posts, hide their posts if you can’t unfriend or unfollow them. It’s your social media experience so take the time to make it your own.

If you are following news sites and pages which fill you with something other than interest, wonder, creativity, or inspiration, stop following them. Click “unfollow,” or “show less.” Unlike them. Bookmark them and visit them when the mood strikes, actively, instead of passively. Seeing content only when you are interested or curious keeps both you and the content fresher.

There is no danger of an echo chamber, no more than in your real life. All the tools are the same, within reach, and easy to use. If you live a full life, you are going to be exposed to a variety of languages, cultures, and ideas, whether you have a cellphone or social media.

In the same way that it almost impossible for me to ever get bored, I can’t fathom how anyone with access to the largest communication and knowledge resource ever created can feel anything except wonder. If it bores you, I promise you that you are doing it wrong.

I’ve always shared; not pictures and stories which only require a click, but words, anecdotes and parts of myself. Much of it is probably tripe to you – but that’s how it is in the world, too. I’ve seen so many eyerolls in response to my stories or comments that I started to believe almost everyone had an undiagnosed ophthalmological condition. If 1 in 10 people engaged like I do, we’d either be woefully tedious or richly engaged.

As a small part of this social media project we all live in, I wonder how you can read through the mountain of craziness I’ve produced and come up for air with a “meh.”

The internet and its biggest component social media is a box. Whether it is to be filled with a surprise of daily delights or duty and drudgery depends on you.

Stop looking at the things which make you lesser. Strike that. Stop focusing on those things. Look toward those things which remind you of what it means to be alive and creative.

 

A Christmas Villa In The Living Room MMXVII

My wife Dawn greenlit my enthusiastic wish to build a Christmas villa in the living room this year. Using several hundred pictures, 100+ boxes, innumerable lights, a couple hundred ornaments and bits of crazy, a universal remote to control it all, a Festivus pole (for the rest of us, of course), hidden gift compartments, a house cat who daily prays for a gift to fall from above, and a huge dose of yuletide spirit… we present the most unusually-decorated living room you can possibly see all year.

I shot this video with Dawn performing the role of director. I drank 17 cups of coffee prior to shooting and I now regret telling Dawn her version was too jittery.

P.S. I wrote this version of “Carol of The Bells” myself so that social media sites couldn’t claim copyright. I hope you like that part, too. Writing music is another one of my hobbies, one which requires a commitment of time.

My living room has a vaulted ceiling, so the drunken rectangle I created piece by piece is approximately 8′ high, 15′ wide, and 20′ long. It’s difficult to grasp the scale unless you walk through the front door.

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A gallon of my patented Elf Juice, one which grants the imbiber the ability to decorate one’s domicile in the manner of Buddy The Elf.

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A necessary part of the structure is a cat bed constructed into the base of one of the 8 9-foot vertical columns. (Our cat’s name is Güino, given that he was a shelter cat, one rescued from the Feline Witness Protection Program.)
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The green-and-yellow picture is a wanted poster for my stepson Ty. A list of mostly imaginary crimes is listed at the bottom. To the right, you’ll note our infamous family portrait, just us two monkeys posing for the camera. (Dawn is on the left in the portrait, by the way.)
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Anyone who thinks I don’t like pictures, please take a note at this point. Despite ordering several hundred before I started, I found myself needing more as I neared what I thought would be the final push to completion.
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The columns are all tall and each one is connected in a drunken rectangle around the entirety of the living room. Looking back, it was a lot of work but if Dawn didn’t lose her mind watching me meticulously create each box, each column, and apply every picture and detail, I will look back on this in years to come and ask, “Why didn’t anybody stop me?” 🙂

There are both visible and concealed Christmas-themed quotes from some of my favorite books and movies for the season, too.
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Don’t be distracted by the backward clock. It comes in handy when visitors foolishly try to determine what time it is. Note the handsome couple in the background of the clock. Anyone with a spider phobia needs to walk around carefully, as the million streamers often touch you unexpectedly in the neck as you pass.
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What’s not visible in this barrage of pictures and Christmas insanity is my appreciation for life, one given to me in daily wonder and amused amazement.

To have the time, energy and ability to creatively express myself is a luxury which I don’t take for granted.

I have to admit, though, that this is a spectacle.

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Almost everyone I know has at least one picture of honor in the celebration. Some of the pictures are irreverent, but none fail to make us think or laugh. Or think then laugh.
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You’d never know it, but there are several presents hidden in plain sight around the room. Several might require demolition to access them but as we all know, that is what Christmas is all about.
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Taken from the kitchen, looking over the counter, perhaps waiting for Santa Claus to come inside and demand a pint of eggnog and a slice of pepperoni pizza.
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The Festivus pole certainly adds a dazzle to the room, doesn’t it? In keeping with the original intent of Festivus, I don’t adorn the pole with anything to distract us from its beauty. I’m convinced Dawn wants to accidentally recycle it sometimes – or give it to someone building a fence. If this were to happen, however, I would have no choice but to replace it from Wagner Steel and add her transgression to the following year’s “Airing of the Grievances.”
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Note that my genuine Daisy BB gun sits next to our wiretap device, ready at a moment’s notice if some crazed Christmas-hating Grinch attempts to enter the house and steal Christmas from us. Hint: such a person is going to need a truck, a saw and a mean disposition.

Also, the Grinch will have to depart with it all, as I took great care to conceal hidden compartments for gifts. I kept a treasure map, but I’m not certain even I was diligent enough to note them all.

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If anyone looks at this and wonders, “Is that ME?” – the answer is probably “yes.” And, you are welcome. Several hundred pictures used in this project makes it likely that if I know you and have shared any levity in our lives that you are part of this.
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Christmas quotes, ornaments, pictures from my life, pictures of iconic Christmas scenes, vintage Christmas ads, crayons, bows, ribbons – if it is interesting or unusual, I tried to find a way to include it in this.
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The above picture is of the column containing the cat bed on the bottom. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one hidden gift in this column I forgot to take note of during the initial stages of building this.
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Here’s a link to a previous post I did, one describing the last time I did this on a really large scale: 2011 Christmas Craziness2011 Christmas Craziness
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The above was taken from the reverse side of the decorations. Note the dollar bills. Here’s a link to explain what the dollars mean: Christmas Dollars Each Year
I didn’t take as many closeup pictures of the tree this year, even though we added several fantastic ornaments. Some of them I ordered and had custom-made, some were whimsy from different stores and events from our lives this year. I’ve met many people who’ve adopted a motley approach to their Christmas tree ornaments but I’ll be ornament-to-ornament that none shares a breadth of diversity like the collection my wife and me have. People tend to look closely at our tree and shout, “THIS can be used an ornament?!” and laugh, filing away the idea for later use.
Now that it’s done, I can look at the pictures and lights, and wonder about my year and the future which follows. Another Christmas, another year.

I Forgot To Post This

At 4:21 on a recent Sunday afternoon, I was walking the trail towards the declining sun. I’d just begun my walk and I was already anticipating the random thoughts and observations that would inevitably come.When I exited my vehicle, I was surrounded by at least 7 dogs, all of them vying for my attention as I crouched and rubbed their ears. The owner of a very large white dog kept saying, “MuffinTin, calm down!” in a weird, high-pitched voice. MuffinTin was as big as a small foreign car. If someone had a saddle at hand, we could have used him as a horse. By the way, I can also report that MuffinTin did not, in fact, ever calm down. He was galloping across the field with wild abandon as I walked along the wide curve of the trail. I could hear his owner shouting at him with her exotic and strange voice.

I cut through the serpentine portion of the trail, the section I love. I smelled the pungent smell of marijuana. It was a very strong odor, not a lingering one from someone who had toked with abandon and then abandoned the trailside. I imagined that the smoke was coming from someone in the thinning Autumn brush, someone who was hiding away from prying eyes. I looked around with curiosity but I couldn’t see evidence of anyone crouching in the brush, nor the obvious waft of smoke in the air. Out of amusement, I shout, “Dude, where’s my car?” one time with the faint hope of startling someone in the bushes.

As I exited the far end of the serpentine path and I noted a patrol car parked diagonally across multiple spaces in the parking lot. The lot is the one which faces a wide expanse of field, and the water park on the opposite side of the acreage. A sunglasses-wearing officer sits in the front seat, probably doing paperwork or swan origami. Who knows what police really do in these situations? I laughed to myself because I would have loved to run up to the policeman, tap the window and watch his expression as he cautiously lowered his window, listening to my incredible story of someone smoking pot probably within 30 yards of where he was sitting. I, of course, didn’t do this and not just because my walk is more important than ruining a cop’s lazy Sunday afternoon but also because I assume whoever is out there is an adult. If the policeman wanted to chase someone, I wish he’d come to my neighborhood and chase the guy who thinks urinating near the side of his house is a brilliant choice during daylight hours. Also, I’m pretty sure that guy wears superhero underwear.

On the return leg of my walk, I decide to return the same route. I pass the patrol officer, still sitting stoically in his patrol car diagonally across the lines. I noted that the license plate indicated _ _ _. I cut through the trees but saw no evidence of people, much less billows of smoke in the air. Just because I was feeling like it, I said, “There’s a policeman sitting over there in the parking lot, if you’re still here. PS: Anyone can smell what you’re smoking 100 furlongs away.” (Furlongs sounds more personal, doesn’t it?) No one answered my words, of course.

Even though it is not relevant to the story, I have noticed people drinking and smoking in strange places. Most of the time, I think they have forgotten they are visible from strange angles, much like when people argue without realizing their voices can carry through multiple hallways or across yards and fences. It would be fairly easy to write a book titled, “Things Overheard In Public.”

As I walked out of the denser part of the trail, a very large dog confined by the fence barked and howled at me. I ran up to pet him, half hoping he’d take a finger with a hungry growl and snap. (It’s always been a goal of mine to have an odd number of fingers.) Getting a finger torn off would be a great story, especially for the dog.

I asked the owner the dog’s name and he told me. I then ask him if the dog speaks English or Spanish. After looking at me as if I had morphed into a large snake, the owner said, “Both, of course,” and laughed.

I sometimes amuse myself by adding “Leave potato chips by trail” on my to-do list. Whoever was smoking probably had the munchies. They won’t put vending machines by the trail, and not just because the cord would have to be at least 6,034 furlongs in length.

Adventure In Marketing

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Adventure In Marketing

As many of you know, I often do work for other websites, usually satirical, and often hare-brained. Most of it I do without credit, which works out favorably for all concerned.

Recently, I had the chance to apply for an unpaid ‘think tank’ for an unnamed major U.S. pizza chain. When I first interviewed, I was certain I wouldn’t be chosen – as one of the hurdles was an IQ test. Since anyone who knows me knows that I find these things to be ridiculous and without merit, I finished mine in less than 4 minutes, using a system I call ‘random.’

When I slid it back across the oak table to the person conducting the IQ tests, she said, “Sir, you have 25 minutes to complete it all.” Without missing a beat, I replied that I already knew my IQ score.

“Really? What’s your score?” she sneered.

“Low oxygen level,” I replied, without daring to crack a smile.

I went home and almost forgot about the application process. Three weeks later, a welcome packet arrived in the mail, along with a website login and a credentialing packet. I had been accepted despite my interview antics.

By sheer coincidence, I had recently tried to treat myself by ordering home delivery pizza. I had eaten healthy for a week and thought that a celebration was needed to keep my motivation.

It was a disaster. The cardboard box tasted better than the pizza. I was hoping to throw up, just to get the taste of that pizza out of my mouth.

The next day, I logged in to the marketing website to start an assignment. Lo and behold, the subject was the very same company which had reminded me how low the bar could be set for edibles.

I weighed the pros and cons of each option: submit great work and possibly be rewarded OR write the best food review possible.

This is the result: the new logo and motto for Pizza Hurt. Look for it at a location hopefully very far from where you are.

Freedom of Discussion

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The truth is that I would love to be in a position to write freely about any topic in my heart and mind.

I know what you’re thinking: “You can can do that already.”

It’s not true, though.

Like so many others, I have a list of masters, each with a thumb pressed against my ability to speak freely.

More than luxury cars, a mansion, or the ability to travel the world, I’d like to be able to sit down and follow ideas to any destination.

The bizarre thing is that there are times when I am convinced that if I would just abandon all pretense and start writing this way without any guarantees that I probably would achieve independence.

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And Now, A Word About Complaints

Among those frustrations we share in common as humans, perhaps none is as deeply pernicious as the specter of inaction in the face of a pattern of misbehavior. Each time the feeble question of “what could we have done” cuts deeper. It is difficult enough for an intelligent person to come forward at his or her own risk when silence is the easiest choice among glib options. In part, this is the major justification for pausing to listen attentively when someone steps forward with a complaint – even if no one else does. Silence, as we know, is just as likely to signify fear and distrust of the process as it is the absence of truth in the allegations. In the face of being ignored when speaking the truth, I am more surprised the table is not only pounded on with greater ferocity and frequency but also that the table is not overturned. Ignored complaints fester and make all of us lesser people.

While my post is personal and not born of any specific or recent event, I think it applies to current events as well. (P.S. Don’t ascribe motives or scenarios.)

Someone I am close to reluctantly got dragged into a lawsuit decades ago, one in which allegations against a prominent public figure were labeled as ridiculous. Those who came forward suffered a barrage of insults and distrust. As a result, the wrong side won and we will never know how much damage was done to other people.

Imagine the spectacle of that first person daring to come forward, knowing that her word was going to be questioned. Every scandal starts with an unsubstantiated allegation. Every truth starts as a heresy.

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