A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

22 June 2010

Cougar? I Didn't Even KISS Her!

CougarA Cougar is a female, usually between thirty and fifty years-old, who enjoys the sexual company of younger men. Cougars are only usually interested in men under the age of twenty-five.

Well, I guess I could possibly fall into that category if: 1) I was attracted to 20-year-old guys; and 2) I'd enjoy sexual company of them. As it stands I'm about as asexual as I am apolitical. (I know...line forms to the right, guys...what a catch, huh?)


...the male equivalent, I'm guessing , would be the "dirty old man" or "that creepy old dude".

Now, I know it's nothing new for older men to have younger girlfriends, but in my opinion:

1) If you are the guy - other than sex, what's the point? It's not like you can reminisce about the "good old days". But maybe that IS the thing. It's that age-old problem: "My husband/boyfriend never talks to me." Well, this is an excellent way around that, isn't it, guys? Hmmmmm...there might be some logic in this thinking after all.

2) Why would any hot, young chick want to see an old naked guy? I've seen one. Trust me, it's not that pretty...nor is it remotely comical enough to lend itself being seen on a routine basis. Face it, even the best joke gets stale if you hear it a couple times.

But, while I can't relate, personally, with a man's point of view, I can relate to a woman's. There's a couple things I'd like to get off my non-plastic chest (the last of which would be my bra) about this whole "Cougar" phenomenon.

No, seriously women. Think about it. We are vain creatures...you can fess up...it's true. The guys all know anyway. They're worse than us...but that's another blog.

As vain creatures we buy all sorts of things to make us look attractive. We endure 3 and 4-inch heels, that only a handful of people can actually gracefully walk in. C'mon, you know what I mean...and those of you who can't, you know who you are. If it weren't for the fabulous outfit you got at the mall and the impeccable nails you just had done, that hunched over bent-kneed walk you're sporting looks less than runway and more like "run away!" It's a pretty spot-on impersonation of that large striding Bigfoot sighting caught on film...and walking like that or a mountain goat coming down off the cliff side isn't that becoming. If you're doing that, you might want to rethink that heel size.

But I digress once again.

Lipsticks, hair dye, haircuts, manicures, tanning beds, facial creams, eyebrow and bikini waxes, palates, thongs, and push-up bras...are only a small sampling of the things we do to keep up our appearance...but it's inevitable, we WILL age. Gravity happens. "Perky" is not a word you will ever hear describing anything about you once you are on the "slide down side" of forty, unless you are Katie Couric - and even then it's said in a condescending tone.

Why then...WHY...would you subject yourself to the humiliation of some 20-year-old guy seeing you "sans" clothing?

You girls all know you play a certain game when you get in the bedroom and it's not the one the boys think. You've practiced it in countless mirrors...you got it down to a science...it is a science - the science of looking better than you do. You pose yourself in certain ways in certain lights...candles and darkness are your friends...and a couple well-timed Martinis don't hurt, either.

And when you're alone...you have another game you play: you lift your head and angle your face just so in order to take all those photos you take of yourself. You experiment until you get it right. You might even have collagen or Botox injections in all the right grooves...you might even have a boob job, but do you want to see something which will stop you right in your Jimmy Choo Cougar-tracks? If you don't have some surgical interventions...go grab a couple tissues.

Now go and grab a hand mirror outta the bathroom. If you have one with the regular mirror on one side and the magnifying one on the other side...all the better. Now hold it up to look at your face - you still look pretty hot, right? Now, holding that same exact mirror - bend forward at the waist so your face is now facing the floor.

Scary, huh?

Now, take that same mirror and lie, face-up, on the bed. Whoa! Instant face lift...a good 10 years shaved off without any surgery...maybe 20 comes off if you HAVE surgery.

But, unfortunately for all us ladies, there's not too many legitimate jobs which require you to lie flat on your back all day. So, this is why my next piece of advice is one I'm sticking to.

I don't know about you, but I certainly would rather be the better looking naked one out of the pair of us. Maybe that's why I was never attracted to those Chippendales guys...I don't want to compete with someone whose body looks better than mine. I already have a complete lack of self-esteem...give me the most out of shape guy (well, maybe not THE most out of shape guy) with a brain. Sixty? Fine. 40? Eh. 20? Hell, no! I'm not incredibly vain but I'd also like to keep those last three shreds of confidence that I do have.

So, me...a Cougar? Nah, more like a gray panther.

(Originally written, but not published, approximately three years ago.)

18 June 2010

WSFA's Reporter - Eileen Jones

Eileen Jones interviewing Governor Bob Reily.

As there's no way to comment on the ongoing and unfolding story regarding WSFA's reporter, Eileen Jones (at least not through AOL's browser), I have decided to make a blog about her...or at least what I know about her.

I have been a big fan of Ms. Jones since I first noticed her on the news here in Montgomery many years ago. She's an incredible reporter and I have written to WSFA over the years voicing my opinion that I don't think they use her to her own and the station's utmost potential. I think she's one of the most underused and overlooked reporters they have on staff.

She's eloquent, classy, and always extremely professional in my opinion. I've read her biography years ago and I hold nothing but admiration for this woman...or should I say person -- as I would say the same about anyone, male or female, who impressed me as much as she's done...time and time again. She's an exemplary reporter and I hold her in such high regard I can't even begin to convey it.

I've run into her around town, repeatedly, typically in a grocery store and clothing store I won't divulge the names of...as I want to respect her privacy.

I've gone up to her...giddy with delight...she probably thought I was just bonkers and some crazed maniacal fan...and she was always extremely genial, remarkably gracious and tolerated my unending compliments. In fact I ran into her just last week again...and she, as usual, thanked me for my kind words...which were totally true. As far as reporters go in this town, if someone quizzed me about which one I put on a pedestal and nearly idolize...it's no secret -- I wouldn't have to think about it once, let alone twice -- it's Eileen Jones.

While I don't know the full circumstances which took place and I cannot comment on anything regarding her alleged "assault and escape"...I just wanted everyone to know what I've born witness to over the years...on television and in person.

I certainly hope and pray this doesn't hurt her career. I wish Montgomery, the whole state, and the country...had more reporters of the caliber of Ms. Jones.

13 June 2010

Of Ripples of Butterfly Wings

I decided I would re-run this blog because someone told me earlier tonight they always liked this one...and over the years I've gotten many compliments about it. Perhaps the majority of you haven't read it (as my friend pointed out)...so here it is again - originally posted 30 March 2007. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Daily things that are within our ability to do...yet we don't do them...and wonder what would have happened had we gone out of the way, if but for a minute, to take the time to do them...

Things whiz by my car window as I drive my daughter to school, they whiz by when I go to Fresh Market to buy food, things whiz by everyone on their daily day-to-day doings. We must look as bewildering and complicated from above as an ant colony looks to us from our perspective as well. We all have our destinations...we are determined to get there, our aim is predetermined...we shouldn't waver from it...we must be good scout, soldier, and worker ants...don't deviate from our mission. "Git 'er done!"

But at what cost? Is there a cost...is there just a tiny little butterfly effect that we might cause if we alter our daily doings...just how far would those ripples be felt...and most of all, would it be worth it in the end?

I was driving my daughter to school this morning, down Congressman Dickinson Drive...and right before I passed the Montgomery Humane Shelter on the right side of the road, there was a dog sitting on the side of the road...a big dog...a brown mastiff-looking lug of a dog...the canine equivalent of those not-so-bright mugs that protect the corrupt bosses in those old 30s/40s black/white films. But he wasn't a mean-looking type...he's one of those lovable mugs - just out of his element. I could tell he was lost...but I had to get my daughter to her school...she couldn't be late and I can't look up the shelter's number and drive at the same time. I COULD...but I refuse to drive that way...everyone should refuse such things.

I made it to her school - just in time and exited out of the parking lot - I take a different route back, so I don't know what became of that dog. Had I made a call and let them know about the dog...had I flapped my wings a little...they would have flapped theirs...and a whole other outcome would have come about. But I don't know the outcome...not that I would have known the alternate outcome. It's unlikely I would have called back to check on his status at the shelter..."don't ask...you might not want them to tell". But...I won't ask here as well...I might not want to hear it either. My choice to remain out of it...to step off that mental platform that calls each of us to do more than we do...called to me stronger than the one which would have gotten me involved.

The dog is now a blur as I go past, continuing on to my journey...my journey which is set, in mental concrete...that shouldn't have cracks in it. There must be no cracks...continue looking...but don't touch...don't make waves with those wings. I turn left onto Coliseum Blvd...there's a man, looking sad, a white plastic grocery store bag in his hand...bending down picking up trash from his yard. You can tell this is a daily stop on his personal journey...his that is also probably set. No verbal exchanges I'm sure from any passersby...do any of the littering culprits ever drive by to catch him picking up THEIR stuff they threw in his yard because they didn't want to clutter up their own cars? Do they drive by and snicker? Do they repeatedly throw the stuff in his yard all the time? Perhaps they work at the same store his grocery bag, now used as a trash bag, is from. I thought of that all in that millisecond time-frame that seemed to freeze-frame and then speed up again, like it does in films. As with the dog...my first and final contact with him. I'm almost to my destination - I'll not be late after all...keep it all in the parameters of my initial plan...don't get sidetracked.

I drop my daughter off...a few kids are being let out of their parents cars and running toward the school...you aren't supposed to do that - they are supposed to be accompanied by a parent when they are in the parking lot...they aren't being good ants...they aren't helping their colony. The small children are oblivious to the fact that the majority of the cars dashing in and out of the parking lot can't see them over the top of their hoods...let alone a rear-view image...but they still scurry. The cars, seemingly having their own agendas, must get to the next destination...a series of stops...move along...next station...move along again...and nothing is supposed to slow them down. But there are tiny little delicate cogs that can throw that system totally out of whack...these children, who probably have heard that old proverb..."children should be seen and not heard"...don't realize they are neither seen nor heard in a parking lot among the massive metal giants. Giants that can squoosh a child like a bug. So, I've decided today...I will be their champion...I will come to their aid...I will notify the school about these goings on before I hear what we all don't want to hear. I will pick up my phone, I will get online and write an email, I will dare to be that ripple that happens when I start to flap my wings...I will alight on my mental platform...I will take the time and I WILL be heard. It's only just a whisper I know...but a whisper can stop an accident, save a dog, or the person's life who might end up swerving to avoid hitting it. Whispers have started and stopped wars...whispers are much stronger than you can imagine.

Just think if we all spoke up from a whisper once in a while and beat our little wings until they made ripples...and if you ever saw ripples in water when you toss in even the tiniest pebble, you know they just keep going out further and further. I believe even a seemingly inconsequential phone call, intervention, deviation from our set norm...can set things in motion we've never dreamt of...and perhaps a deed we do will soar...even without anyone even knowing it.

07 June 2010

"Hey, let's talk about sex!"

Give me any woman and ten minutes...and it will lead to sex.

Well, not actual sex, mind you, but the conversation will eventually end up with us talking about some facet of sex. I'm almost convinced I've had more sex talks than Dr. Ruth and Dr. Laura Berman have...COMBINED.

There's something about complete anonymity which people seem comfortable enough about, to start spilling out their most private details right there at the card, produce or coffee section in the supermarket.

These are women of all ages - all ethnicities and all social statures. For some reason I must come across as a great sex therapist, as this has been going on with me for ages. Maybe it's my talkative nature, maybe it's my ease to listen and actually pay attention at the same time...maybe it's just that a whole lot of women like to talk about sex with complete strangers. Who knows?

All I know is that 98 percent of women out there (based on my "research in the field")...are not at all satisfied with their sex lives and/or their partners. Oh, they all go home and act like they are...or maybe they don't; but if it's any indication of the information I've been told, women clearly aren't in happy relationships...sexual or otherwise.

"Why do these anniversary cards have to say, 'You're the best thing that ever happened to me?' or 'You make my life complete.' or 'You're the best husband a wife could ever wish for!' ...why can't there just be generic 'Happy Anniversary' cards without any sentiment on them, whatsoever?"

Oh yes, I've been privy to that conversation a zillion times. Do you know how incredibly hard it is for these women to actually pick out a card? There's not many "un-sappy, un-gushing, un-laden with sexual innuendo" cards to choose from. And the ones that do fit that bill...look like "Here, Bob...you shoulda bought this yourself and saved me the trouble." Nothing in between. But I guess Hallmark wouldn't make too many sentimental brownie points if they had the "Andy Rooney Line of Anniversary Cards"...

"Whatever happened to our marriage? How come you don't do anything nice for me anymore? You don't think socks just pick themselves up DO you? Oh yes...all the waitresses in the best restaurants LOVE to be reminded that you could BUY the whole bottle for the price they charge for two glasses. Class like yours only comes with age...and we've been married HOW LONG, again??"

Those Hallmark gems aren't in the aisle you'll be looking thru. You'll be finding couples who look nothing like you holding hands, hiking; in a yacht, cuddling beneath a starlit sky, and for some reason - worshipping the game of golf.

Pay attention next time you go card shopping...on the surface it looks like it's only a sea of blank faces faced with the daunting task of choosing "just the right card". But...look closely...their apparent blank gazes twitch and grimace...and do that "eye roll" thing...and if you're very quiet, you can even hear a little whimper sounding like "yeah right" spoken under their breath. And these are the people I speak to because you can always spot them...they are there, and by the third or fourth card (like that third or fourth drink)...they're willing to open up to anyone who will listen.

It's really quite disconcerting when you come to think of it -- a whole slew of people so dissatisfied with their lives, secretly confiding in someone they know they'll never see again about a topic they probably rarely ever talk to anyone else about. It's sad that they're pouring their hearts out to someone who really doesn't matter to them...about something that...really does matter.

Apparently it also matters to over 50 percent of Americans...as they wind up divorced. Many get divorced, directly or indirectly, because of sex: the lack of it, the incompatibility over it, the infidelity because of it...the list is literally endless. And the stigma attached to talking to someone in a clinical setting about it...is most likely the key factor as to why so many women are tight-lipped about it.

Except, of course, when they run across a talkative perceptive stranger in some beauty salon, TJ Maxx, the doctor's office, Fresh Market, or any store with a card aisle.

(Originally written, but not published, about three years ago.)

02 June 2010

Write On

A few of you might know that I passionately entertain the thought of one day being a "real" writer. That being said, I like to extol the virtues of writing...or at least using your imagination once in a while and writing something with it. I also believe there should be a lot more writing in school, especially in the elementary grade levels.

A few years back I talked my daughter's (name withheld because I'm like that) English teacher (also name withheld because I'm like that) into allowing me into her classroom to talk about my limited (but still very special to me) writing experiences. Some of the things I touched on were my methods of undertaking various aspects of writing...and how I hoped they'd embrace writing instead of being scared of the whole entire process.

This is that talk I gave to my daughter's 6th grade class...and, as such, you have to remember I tried to appeal to a year 2007 6th grade English class. Also, I ad-libbed a LOT as I tend to talk a LOT...and that's not in this basic outline of this "speech".

By the way, last year I was invited to speak at AUM (Auburn University at Montgomery) to a group of English students regarding my 2003 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest win...and if you're interested, I'd be more than happy to share my limited "life-long" writing experiences in other settings (classrooms, auditoriums, etc.) as well. All you have to do is ask me.

Allow me to introduce myself - I am Mariann Simms...Mrs. Simms...but most of you know me as my daughter's mom.

The reason I'm here today is because I talked your teacher into letting me come here and tell you that you should all WRITE some more. LOTS more!

A little about me...when I was young, about your age, I wanted to be a writer...then I grew up not knowing what I wanted to be until I realized, not too long ago, that I still wanted to be a writer. Imagine my disappointment knowing how much further I might have actually gotten had I just listened to myself years ago.

I have an online interactive humour website that I've been doing since 2001 that you shouldn't go to and I've also won tons of prizes, including a TiVo, by entering "funny" and or "writing-type" contests online. But my biggest claim to fame to date was winning the prestigious Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest in 2003. For doing this, I was interviewed by CNN...American, Australian and Canadian radio and television programs, and had a front page write-up at the Montgomery Advertiser. I was on the front page of USA Today...and was literally (and I Googled myself, so I know for sure) mentioned in newspapers from Algeria to Zimbabwe. Yes, my name was mentioned in the Zimbabwe Times...or whatever they call their paper.

How many of you have ever heard of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest? (Excluding my daughter.) How many of you are now somewhat impressed by the fact I won it? Professor Scott Rice, the man who came up with this contest back in 1982 and still judges it, asked all the previous winners the other month (for his upcoming Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest book) what, if anything, did we notice that changed or happened to us since our winning it.

I told him I found that people whom I've told about my winning this contest seem to look upon me with an amount of admiration and respect...ESPECIALLY those who hadn't a clue what it was. Who here ever heard of the saying "The pen is mightier than the sword?" Well, the man who wrote that saying was Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who lived back in 1803-1873. He also wrote a novel entitled "Paul Clifford" which has the distinction of having, possibly in all of history, the worst opening sentence ever written and printed. How many of you have seen those "Peanuts" cartoons where Snoopy is typing and starts off..."It was a dark and stormy night..."? Well that was how Bulwer-Lytton started his novel...but then it went on and on and on and on...and really ended up getting worse by the word...only I'm sure he wasn't trying to do that intentionally. What I did was intentional. In 2003, I was judged to have come up with the "worst opening line to a fictional novel"...but keep in mind...I was the BEST at writing the WORST. It's not easy to write badly well...or is that badly good? Anyway, here's my winning entry:

They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white . . . Mozzarella, although it could possibly be Provolone or just plain American, as it really doesn't taste distinctly dissimilar from the orange, yet they would
have you believe it does by coloring it differently.

Seventy-one words...yep, 71 words...in one opening sentence; many different forms of punctuation, but only one period allowed. And I did this all on my first attempt ever at sending in an entry...and I only sent in the one entry. Yes, I had to throw that in for posterity.

This brings us to one of a writer's most annoying, perplexing, head-banging, paper-crumbling, pencil point breaking event: Coming up with that "stupid" first sentence to anything you write. Face it, after you get that part written, the rest usually comes a lot easier, right?

My advice to you...is to write the way you speak. How would you say it if you were just telling your friend? Just write the way you'd say it. Try it...it works.

Most of my favourite authors don't write to baffle and impress - sure, some do - but I find it most annoying to stop every 8th word to go look it up. Ray Bradbury, a science fiction writer who wrote such classics as "The Martian Chronicles", "Farenheit 451", "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit", and countless other stories...writes extremely simplistic...but since it's told WELL, it captures you and draws you in. You WANT to keep reading to find out what's going to happen next and he hardly ever gets all "super intelligent" with you. Not that writing with big words and expanding your vocabulary isn't a good thing...I just don't think most people talk like a scientific journal reads...so, especially when you have characters in a story having a conversation...it's best they talk the way they would if they were real people.

My second piece of advice...get a good dictionary and thesaurus - a REAL one, not one of those online ones...and just keep it handy when reading or writing. How many times do you just skip a word that you read but you don't know its meaning? LOOK IT UP! When I was a kid or when I worked, during lunchbreaks, I would read the dictionary. No, seriously, I would. Sounds kinda spooky, huh? One of the most fun things to do with a dictionary is to just open it up on a random page and look at a word you don't know. You really can't do that kind of thing with an online one...so invest in a real one.

Now on to the "flow" of words...how they are strung together...how they sound. Are you redundant...using the same word over and over again? At the risk of sounding redundant here...get a thesaurus! Altho, sometimes redundancy is called for...as one of my favourite movie lines of all times from "The Shawshank Redemption" (which was a short story written by Stephen King...you know that scary guy?) shows. Bear in mind the word "hope" itself is used throughout the movie in many scenes...and it's used again toward the end of the film by the character Morgan Freeman plays, a man who's just been released from prison after serving about 40 years. As he's sitting on a bus that will ultimately take him to see his former-inmate friend, he thinks to himself:

I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.

Anyone know a quote from a film or book? What would have happened if it were strung together differently...think about that when you write...does it flow...does it sound nice when you say it? Does it have the impact you want it to have? How about if you change it around? Would it lose or gain something?

Coming back to myself here...I also write a blog at the Montgomery Advertiser's online site...only if any of you have seen blogs, they are all like "Oh my cat jumped on my car today and I think I have to get it washed...bummer." In other words, I don't think they're very interesting. Well, I write a blog there, but I like to think of them as "blogumns", or better yet, very short stories. But I'm not talking about newspaper-type stories...let me explain...

When you read a news story in a paper, there's a format journalists are supposed to follow. How many of you read the paper or have ever read an article in the paper? How far down in that article do you usually get? Do you read the whole thing...or stop after the first couple paragraphs?

Now, how many of you read books...like the Harry Potter ones? Did you read the whole thing or stop after a few pages? You read the whole thing, right? Did you ever stop to wonder...WHY?

You see, in the paper they have this thing called the 5 W's. Who, What, Where, When, and Why? They typically put all the most interesting and important bits in the first two paragraphs. The rest is just incidental stuff, filler, and probably some back history, quotes, and biography work-ups.

What would happen, say, if JK Rowling would have said ALL her interesting ideas in the first couple pages...or even the first couple chapters and then just dwindled off into "filler" the rest of the story? Wouldn't be much of a story, would it?

And don't get discouraged if it doesn't come out right the first time...JK Rowling took six years to write her first book...and she was turned down nine times before someone signed her. And guess how many times Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket was turned down for his first book? Thirty-seven times!

My last piece of advice to you would be the next time you sit down to write a STORY, keep in mind you need to capture AND HOLD the reader's curiosity to get him to turn that next page. Remember not to cram ALL your good stuff in the first sentence...or else it just might end up being a worse sentence than even MINE was...but probably not intentionally.

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness." --Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)