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".

31 December 2009

It's "Auld Lang Syne" Time!

It's no big news that it's New Year's Eve tonite...and that, since it's also heralding in a whole new decade, sites all over the Internet have been doing their "biggest headlines of the past ten years" stories. I swear one guy wrote this up on his little-read blog a month ago...and all the bigger entities just copied his story, changing a word or two. Internet is after all...the school bully's ultimate wimp he can target. Any blogger or reporter can just go sign on and steal an idea or two...or three...or four...hundred thousand. Ah...the days when someone had to know things and be imaginative and come up with their own words...in the order they put them in. Gone are those days I'm sure...as those "end of decade" lists all have the same things in them...

...so, naturally, I'm going to do something else...

...but...I'm going to copy off a master. ;)

I was lying in bed before I got up at much too late an hour to actually confess to...thinking about a task that has been placed upon me. My friend, Chris, who is an awesome writer (one of the best I've ever read, dammit) - has bestowed upon me a great honour...and a great burden.

He invited me to be one of ten bloggers he thinks very highly of as far as writing goes - to do a "Blog-Off" of sorts. He gives us a list of topics, one per week...each week we do a blog within the specifications of said topic...we post them up...and readers are to vote on which they like the best. This, of course means that each week...a couple will be "voted off the island"...the remainder get to write again another day - until the final winner is announced and they will have major bragging rights and a gift certificate provided by the mastermind behind all this...aka Chris.

But, while I had that dilemma looming in the back of my brain...another one zapped to the forefront: I can't leave 2009 - the whole decade...without putting up a blog about New Year's Eve (whine whine boo hoo...chalk up yet another dateless event for me)...or doing some sort of list - but that's been done too many times and who wants to read what some lonely, depressed cat-lady in an Alabama living room is thinking anyway.

So...I had an idea.

There in my depressed state I likened myself to Capra's protagonist, George Bailey, who also was pretty darned distraught...distraught enough to entertain thoughts of taking a leap to end it all...and to wish he hadn't been born at all. Now, everyone knows George, in the end, finds out that he did indeed have "a wonderful life"...and all was right in the world and Clarence got his wings.

But...how would my ordinary life...clearly not written and rewritten by Hollywood's finest...stack up against George's?

Let's find out, shall we? Just what would it have been like had I never been born?

Other than the obvious...I wouldn't have had my two children...let's take it systematically...main character by main character:

Harry Bailey: I never saved anyone from the frozen pond. I did once drive on the ice going to work...did a 180...and nearly smashed the back-end of my car into a tree...and upon realizing I was now pointed in the direction of my house and not my workplace...I decided to take it as an omen...and went back home that day. Perhaps, by not going into work...I unknowingly saved someone's life. Yes...yes, I did. I saved two people's lives actually. (Hey...I'm writing this "script" - I am allowed to have "writer's embellishment".)

Mr. Gower: We had "Mr. Bowen" as the druggist in the town I grew up in...but I never worked there - and as hard as I'm thinking...I can't see any other similarity here than their name's sounding remotely alike. But...I did once look at my son's pills in his vial when they handed them to me at the drug store...and they weren't his pills. Upon asking - the pharmacy clerk who filled it...put my son's pills in some elderly man's vial and my son ended up with his heart medication. So...there ya go! Another life saved by me! (Sssssh! You aren't supposed to point out the anachronism that my son wouldn't have been born, therefore the man wouldn't have gotten his pills anyway.)

Ma Bailey: My mother never ran a boarding house...altho when she would get frustrated she would remark, "This is NOT a restaurant I'm running here!" Now, granted my mother always said I was her guardian angel...so, I guess in a way...this also takes care of Clarence. I'd figure that my life did indeed make a difference to my mother as she would say I was the one who "kept her young". She was quite old when she had me...and kids have a way of making you run after them...and running is an aerobic activity...so, in a way, I helped my mother in that regard as well.

Violet: Let's see...I never helped a loose woman as far as I know. But when I was working at the school, after school...a woman let her daughter back out of a parking space when she didn't have her license yet...and she hooked up her right front bumper with my left back one...and she begged me not to call the police as this infraction was an automatic "can't get your license until you are 21" kind of thing. So, I ended up jumping up and down on my Volkswagen's bumper while they did the same on their car until we managed to get them loose. (For the purpose of this blog...I'm going to heretofore refer to this girl as "Violet"...I mean, I have no proof that wasn't her name anyway.) She was very appreciative and I changed her life for sure. (Again...ixnay on the anachronismway - if I wouldn't have been born she wouldn't have entangled her car in mine...I KNOW this...ssssh!)

Mary: Oh, I'm sure my husband would have loved me never being born. This is not a good character to look at from any POV...so, I'd have to write him out of the script. But, on a positive note...he would [undoubtedly] have had a wonderful life if not for me.

Okay...enough with the Capra-corn...I just got myself much more depressed and pissed off and I'm feeling like Mr. Potter right now.

But that's not the way I want to feel....so, I think I'll go sign onto Facebook to find out if I have an "Uncle Billy" out there somewhere. We can both get drunk and forget everything we did...and isn't that the way you really want to "remember" New Year's Eve, anyway?

Happy New Year, everyone!

(Chris' blog, btw, is listed as "Knucklehead!" in my sidebar to the right...seriously, he's a fantastic writer - you should check his blog out.)

24 December 2009

A Message To All

Merry Christmas!

As you are now [undoubtedly] reading this, I'd also like to take this opportunity to convey a personal "thank you" to you. And to all who have read my blog this past year -- especially those who took the time to comment (good, bad or anonymously)...you have all made me feel special...and you have made my day on more than one occasion.

Lastly, I sincerely hope each and every one of us (and our families) have a wonderful 2010!

20 December 2009

Getting "Progressive"ly More Annoying

It's no big secret that I'm perturbed by the fact that I'm not a paid writer in some capacity. I'm not saying that I'm the greatest writer who ever walked the face of the Earth...heaven knows I'm not even in the stratosphere...but I don't think I'd end up in the "bottom 100", either.

And one of the things which always irks me - is the advertising industry. I watch commercials on television...I hear them on the radio...and I sit here in astonishing amazement over the wanton lack of creative ability...over and over and over again.

Surely some advertising firm out there knows these commercials are utter crap...and their ad execs have got to be laughing and laughing...all the way to the bank.

What absolute morons they must think the company heads are...to actually approve the inane pabulum they lay out before them...and gobble up.

And again I sit...knowing full well I can write better ad material, better scripts, better movies, better dialogue, better...well, "stuff" in general. Yes, I'm whining...get used to it...I do it well...and since I'm a year older as of the 15th, I'm entitled to be a bit curmudgeonish...hell, someone pays Andy Rooney to do just that! And, yes, I wish they'd pay me, too.

And, as if it weren't bad enough, the commercials have writing which makes my whole body cringe...they employ the most annoying people to get their message across. Case in point, as was pointed out to me today...the "Progressive Insurance" chick.

Now, I must have voiced my displeasure about this topic before here on my blog or in a comment...as, well, it's another tidbit which I've told to practically everyone: I abhor those commercials. I hate them with every fiber of my being...and I hate this "chick" with every neuron in that fiber.

I dislike her so much...I'm just going to refer to her as "chick"...and, yes, it's with derogatory contempt...unlike saying, "I'm a chick from Jersey"...just so those of you who think I think all "chicks" are thought of in a derisive manner...they aren't. Just this one.

Okay...and a few others...but that's not my point. My point is...she annoys the bejeebies out of me.

"But, Mariann, I like her."

You, good sir or madam, are whack.

Plus, you aren't me - and I'm the one writing this...you can voice your opinion by commenting...and then I will say something like, "Is, too" to your "Is not"...and we will go back and forth in a pointless "for/against Obamaesque" diatribe until finally...one of us ceases to do so.

First off, I know advertising which gets on your last nerve serves a purpose. If something is very irritating you tend to remember it...and what is the main point of advertising: getting your product remembered.

Now, you can get it remembered by having a catchy jingle, "I'd like to buy the world a Coke...and keep it company...", a catchy slogan, "Please don't squeeze the Charmin", a shocking slogan, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins", a celebrity endorsement, "I'm Tiger Woods for Viagra" (oh, c'mon it COULD happen), or a myriad of other things...ranging from cutesy to bizarre. But the powers that be over at "Progressive Insurance" - decided glaring stark white interiors with an obnoxious raven-haired banshee was the way to go.

The contrast alone between the clinically white surroundings...which, ironically match her skin tone...and her dark hair and that candy-apple red gobhole of hers which never ceases to shut...well, makes me almost want to walk up to the television and adjust the brightness knob. But by the time it would take me to find it in the inner workings of my remote...the commercial is over. The only proof I have that I've seen it - is the reverse image colouration of retinal fatigue when I look on a blank white wall (green...where did green come from?) and the droning on and on of her grating voice piercing deep into my cerebellum or cortex...or wherever something that annoying goes to when it burns into your brain...so you can conjure images of it back up again when you need a trigger for that "fight or flight" reaction one day.

Oh...geez...can you tell that commercial leaves a bad taste in my mouth? And I think that taste is bile.

Furthermore, I think some watchdog site should investigate...because if "Progressive Insurance" is also the same entity that sells "Bumpits"...well, things like this should not be allowed to happen in these United States.

And people thought Billy Mays was annoying...

...but, hey, for the right amount of cash, I'd be more than willing to come up with the next odious script for her to read.

(This blog was specifically written in response to a comment on my last blog at the Montgomery Advertiser...someone asked if I was ever going to get around to do the "Progressive Insurance" blog...so I did.)

12 December 2009

Sorry, I've Got a Code

I refuse to eat dinner at 4:00 or 5:00 in the evening -- we didn't do it when I was growing up...I'm not going to start now.

But there's one thing that's been sticking in my craw for ages: Food Codes

Oh, you've seen them - they look like secret war communiqué - some long-forgotten code guy from WWII was surely employed to come up with these things - and some long dead code-breaker is probably sitting, still on his chair in the kitchen; a can of tomato paste clenched tightly in his lifeless hand...even though his skin has long since decayed.

The can? No one is sure if it or the man expired first - face it, "T09538P1 1182" doesn't give you much to go on.

Is the "T" a month? No months start with "T" - hmmmm...is it code for a month? "09" - is that 2009 - or does the "8" at the end of the first set mean "08"? What the heck's that "P" doing in there? What's with the four digits in the second set?? Dammit, when does this expire? I'm hungry and I want to eat!

Oooh...I know what I'll do -- I'l go to their website - surely expiration dates will be addressed somewhere in the FAQ portion..which looks kinda like this:

How do I open my can?
Can you tell me once and for all...is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?
My boyfriend doesn't like the skinny long spaghetti noodles...can I use your product with penne pasta instead?
I saw an old film the other day and someone made "tomato aspic"...do you know what that is? Do you also sell cans of "aspic" so I can make it?

Oh yeah...that's helpful. Well, I'll show them...I'll just call the company and ask!

"You've reached our office, but it is now closed. Normal business hours are Monday thru Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time...and Saturdays until noon. Thank you for calling. Good-bye."

Great! Not only am I supposed to eat dinner at 4:00 - but, with the time difference, I'm doomed begin cooking it before 3:00! Don't even get me started with having to start dinner on Saturday before I even get up.

I am under the impression companies do this on purpose...stay with me on this here. Here's my theory:

First off, they can sell things past their expiration dates. When I go to the store and read "G187B716" vs "PQ21883W" I have no idea which one is fresher...so I grab one of them off the shelf and buy it. Then I put it on my shelf at home and it stays there, right next to the other one I didn't think I had already...for, oh, I have no idea...a month...a year...three years? Okay, which one was the newer can I just bought? They both look the same...P comes before R - oh geez...is there a Julian Date here somewhere? Is that 02 in the front - the year or the month...or the factory that made it? So, if I throw them both out to be totally sure...I just go to the store and buy more, putting more money into their coffers and more indecipherable coded cans into my cupboards.

And speaking of Julian Dates...forgeddaboutit -- I Googled...and most companies have their own coding system. I've called up various companies and heard all kinds of cockamamie reasoning behind those cryptic combos.

"The 'P'? It stands for the plant in Akron, Ohio, which manufactured it."
"Yes, 'P'."
"Ummm...okay. How about the 'I' in back of it? Is that a lower case L or a 1 or an I?
"Oh, that's the time of day...'1' equals 3:00 p.m."
"So, '2' would be 4:00?"
'2' is 7:00 a.m."
"Uh...ohhhhkay...the 'T' in the front?
"That's the month...that's April."
"Why a 'T'? April has NO 'T' in it."
"Exactly...but August, September, and October do, so those are 'Q', 'W', and 'I', respectively.

Oh, I give up. All the other months have equally cryptic letters assigned and are equally frustrating.

I swear, sometimes I'm ONLY going to buy things with a bona fide "readable" date on it...but I always cave in when I see a yummy product, like those "California Kitchen" pizzas...and end up buying them anyway.

What exactly is so hard about an actual expiration date? And, nowadays, to top it off, they not only have those...but "use by", "sell by" and "manufactured by" dates as well. Then to make it even more technical and confusing...some products have an added addendum...even though their expiration dates are wayyyyyy in the future: the "after opening, consume by" date.

You know, I don't have the time (nor desire) to read the nutritional label...now I have to search all over the jar for their "if you opened this...all dates printed on here are null and void" literature. So, let me get this straight...I have to make a mental note each and every time I open that and that and THAT?

And THAT'S exactly how they "getcha".

The law of fridge physics states that the further a product is eventually pushed to the back of the shelf is directly proportionate to the "use by" or "opened on" date. Why that is -- I don't know. And if you don't believe me...open up your refrigerator right now -- and peruse the recesses of it.

Perfectly good items mysteriously gravitate to the back of the shelf without you ever putting them there. It's like that "missing sock and the dryer" conspiracy. No one knows why these things happen...they just do. And even if you went thoroughly through your refrigerator just six months ago...and tossed out everything expired...I bet you'd still find something in there that expired two years ago.

Again, it's an enigma; I think there's some inexplicable "wormhole theory" at work here. All dryers and refrigerators are connected somehow...

...and somewhere, some guy in Berlin is wondering how he got an expired bottle of Paul Newman's "Two Thousand Island" dressing and some woman in China...

...well, let's just say I swear I can't remember ever buying...what looks to be...pickled radish?

04 December 2009

Huntsville Here I Come!

Me? Getting a job working for NASA?? Smells too good to be true, right?

"No," you're saying..."you silly thing...it's supposed to be 'sounds' to be good to be true".

Oh, but I beg to differ. And I would be right. Let me ramble for a bit, i.e., explain.

I can smell things. Yes, not that great an accomplishment - we were all pretty much born with that ability.

No, but I can REALLY smell things. I smell things before anyone else does...sometimes they don't ever smell them at all. And the things I've smelled have helped others.

Long ago, I smelled a natural gas odor in an open field once across the street from a development. After reporting it to the police, he informed me that area was where the "odor release tubes" were located. If you didn't know, the "natural gas smell" is actually made and added to the odorless product so people can detect it...as without it, you couldn't smell a gas leak...and, well, that could be catastrophic. The pipes out in the field dispersed the odor...and that's what I smelled. He then remarked that I "certainly must have some nose"...as it's really not that discernable.

Well, I do.

I also told a gas meter reader once that there was a "gas smell" in the area where I lived...and sure enough, he checked and it turned out there was indeed a break in the underground line...and they were promptly fixed.

My nose is SO good in fact...that I can "smell" books from across the room. Don't believe me...go smell a book...it has a distinct aroma. I can even detect the faint smell of ink IN an uncapped pen from about 10 or so feet away. Not marker ink, mind you...regular pen ink...just lying there on the table. And I can smell it.

I can locate small dead animals my cats dragged into the house. Sure, I probably look pretty silly down on all fours sniffing about - but I can find EACH and every dead thing here. In fact...I just located a dead bird next to the cat litter box...that hadn't been there for more than a couple hours. Death...has a specific smell...and I'm good at honing in on it...fortunately...or unfortunately.

An aspect of my whole life seems to center around my being able to smell things which most people don't smell...or smell "eventually". But, just as a shark has his olfactory nerve underwater - able to detect a drop of blood in all those gallons...miles away...I am, on a much smaller scale, the equivalent of him on land. Yes, I am the "land shark" of my species.

But what good does possessing an astute nasal appendage, a prodigious proboscis, or a special "scent-sational power" like this really get you in life...except perhaps a heads up notice on when the bread is going bad or if that cream in the fridge is still good beyond its expiration date?

Apart from becoming a "drug sniffing" or "bomb sniffing" dog in the airport - seriously...what smelly job is lurking out there for me?

Well, testers at perfume companies rely on people with great noses...and I am sure the whole "aroma" factor is invaluable in a whole realm of tasting jobs - but, are there any in this area which actually need a "sniffologist" as it were?

So, by the time all those thoughts had gone through my mind, I decided to employ Google to help me find (betcha thought I'd say "sniff out") some "nosy jobs". The one I liked best was "NASA Sniffer"...oh, to be NASA's "Master Sniffer" one day. Boy, if my friends ever caught a whiff of that one -- they'd surely get their collective noses out of joint.

Sure, it's not an astronaut nor a rocket scientist, but, c'mon..."NASA Master Sniffer" isn't exactly a job to turn your nose up about.

(Did anyone else notice that "NASA" is one letter away from "NASAL"? Okay...well, maybe it's just me, then.)