Friday, July 30, 2010

Don't Put My Face on the Milk Cartons Just Yet!!

Peeps,

Sorry I haven't gotten a chance to post this week. It's been a rather long one and I just haven't been myself...

I was planning on something special for this past Monday -- would have been my mom's 55th birthday -- but I wanted it to be a tribute of sorts and couldn't get it quite right (read as "exceptional, because she deserves nothing less").

(A little backstory: My mom was a cancer victim. It's been over ten years now, but I still tear up a lot when I think about it, like right now. She was awesome and I miss her.)

So that's what I was going to do. But this evil week had other plans. It managed to suck away all my time and positive emotions and left me as only a sliver of the writer I usually am. I've been a bundle of anger and frustration and depression... and I am not about to pass those along to anyone who happens to read my little blog. (I firmly believe that negative emotions are contagious viruses.)

The massive time suck resulted in a lack of posts more than anything emotional, though. It's just been an insanely busy week. That probably compounded the stress and fatigue I've been feeling...

Fortunately, this week is over and maybe I can recharge a bit this weekend. I'll be back next week.

I hope you have a terrific weekend!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Skimming the Surfaces

The post that was actually intended for today will be put up tomorrow. Sorry about that peeps, but I'm taking this particular one rather seriously and want it to be "just right." In the meantime...

Got this from espn.com's The Sports Guy's most recent "mailbag" -- the dude gets mail from fans and then answers them (but this actually is part of a fan's email and not his response...) -- and thought I'd share with you:

"Dr. Drew has a theory about the impact of reality TV, and that it has created a generation of people who want to be famous, but don't want to put in the work to develop the skills or talent to be famous. Why study or practice or go to acting school or music school, etc., when you can just get on a reality show and be famous instantly?"

You know what I have to say to that? Amen, brother. We are picking up what you're laying down here at the Ducks.

Anyhow, I love the quote and felt it was share-worthy. (So I shared it.)

In other news, we have an oil pipe leak here in Michigan and it's making me sick. Well, I'm not sick from contact or anything like that, but we, as a human race, are being incredibly irresponsible.

Seriously, are we going to learn?

Now, I'm not the smartest man around -- heck, I'm probably not even the smartest person here at this blog -- but I think there are a couple of fundamental problems...

You know what, I have too many thoughts on both of these particular issues -- fame and oil -- and will have to revisit them at a later time. But not tomorrow! Tomorrow's post is altogether different.

Good night, the world!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Keepin' It Short

I know that I can be, um, rather liberal with the definition of "quick," but today's post is actually going to be a quick one. (Just wanted to acknowledge that upfront.)

Semi-related note: So I was going to say that today's post will be "short," right? Well, I was just walking back from the fridge and it dawned on me that some days I feel taller than others. I'm not sure how/why that happens. I started thinking that my jeans are rather long and maybe that has something to do with me not feeling as tall today as I probably did yesterday.

Of course, I also have days where I'll think "Huh, I'm feeling kind of tall right now." The weird -- "weirder" (let's be honest...) -- part is that it's never in reference to being around other people. So I really don't know where that comes from.

(I'm a fairly average height and don't worry about size like some shorter dudes -- Skee Lo, I'm looking in your direction -- might.)

Whoa, that was rather random. Anyhow...

Today's post just isn't "all that." If you're looking for something better -- of the "mine" variety -- check out last Friday's post (if you haven't already).

If you're looking for something better -- of the "someone else, but I could totally see John writing this, too" variety -- check out Kathryn's take on procrastination and group therapy. (Simply a fantastic post. As noted in the comments, I gave it five stars... which is something I rarely do.)

If you're looking for something better -- of the "not even close to anything John would write" variety -- check out Missed Period's take on a lot of words used for the same thing. (Her writing is so much more focused than mine. Plus, she has a lot more to offer education-wise than I do. She has a fabulous way of mixing that in with her humor and it’s always brilliant.)

Monday's post is going to be rather significant. That's all I'm going to say about it for right now, though.

p.s. I'll reply to comments from the previous two posts this weekend. I promise!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On Inescapable Prison; Facebook

I love being out and about.

(You have no idea how tempted I am to just leave it at that, walk away and keep you guys guessing.)

Anyhow, it's a great activity for someone like me, someone who thoroughly enjoys people watching. I would most likely enjoy that activity even if I didn't fancy myself as a writer. I think people are fascinating. (Well, not all people. I mean, some are complete dullards. Not you, of course.)

But people-watching, by itself, really only incorporates one of my sensory abilities. I am a man of many -- and let's consider five to be "many" -- senses. (Impressed and intrigued, aren't you?)

Now, people-tasting, I've discovered, is not socially acceptable. (Or legal.) Someone probably should have told me a while ago that you can't just start licking people at the store. Would have been super helpful to know…

Uh, same goes for people-touching. Some of it is illegal; some is just awkward (random high-fives, as an example). (What? I thought the cashier did an exceptional job of ringing up my groceries. I felt that was a suitable occasion for a high-five.)

Smelling people is okay -- as long as you aren't sniffing too closely or obviously -- but it's generally better when you can't smell people, unless they are wearing cologne or perfume in a subtle (read as "not gag-inducing") amount. So no issues there, I suppose.

That leaves one last sense for me to talk about... the ability to detect and interpret sound. (I'm totally going to put that on my resume. "So it says here that you can "detect and interpret sound?" "Yep, that's right. So when do I start?") (Note: That's a little funnier if you picture me as Norm MacDonald imitating Burt Reynolds from the classic Saturday Night Live "Celebrity Jeopardy" sketches, especially wearing a giant-sized cowboy hat.)

Editor's note: His note contained a little too many pop culture references in the same sentence. We'll try giving him a shorter leash.

Writer's note to Editor: Shorter leash? Ha! Never!

Actual note to Readers: I apologize for not including a link to the Celebrity Jeopardy sketch. I searched NBC's website, but they don't have one available. Nothing on YouTube, either. (That seems to be the case with most SNL material.) Now, as a thought, I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it's terribly inconvenient. On the other, our society feels as though we should be entitled to watch/read/listen to anything at no cost. We want it... we want it now... and we want it for free. (That is our new motto, I believe.) So I respect NBC's right to control its own property and fight against that increasingly prevailing attitude. Sure, having a link to that clip might make my little blog better, but the whole "free content" concept screws over a lot of artists. I don’t think that is right. At least, that's my take on it.

Where was I? Oh, that's right... hearing people in public.

The other day, while having a prescription filled, I was fortunate enough to hear two old ladies talking about Facebook. Quite frankly, if you haven't heard a conversation between two senior citizens talking about Facebook, well, then you simply have not lived.

I wasn't around for the start of the conversation, but was still able to quickly ascertain that the one had a male relative or friend or booty call (just making sure you’re reading!) who was involved with "the Facebooks." She was talking about the pictures on there (he apparently showed her how someone had put up unattractive-looking ones), the amount of time people waste doing it and the fact that "once you're in, it's impossible to escape." (Just like prison.) (How fantastic would it have been if she included that?)

Now, this poor old lady believes there is no possible way to leave Facebook. Well, actually you can, but they try to guilt you out of it. ("These people will miss you if you go!" Um, if they don't have any other means of contacting me, then how close were we in the first place?)

I know this to be true because I've looked into it. One of these days, I'm going to get around to cancelling my Facebook account.

I am not a fan of that particular service and only signed up in the first place over some misguided notion that I could use it to help foster a new freelance writing career for myself.

(Yeah, it hasn't been helpful for that purpose in the least. I'm convinced that my friends and family either hate me, or cannot see my messages. Whichever, Facebook is proving to be an epic fail.)

Anyway, I intelligently inferred that the old lady is an avid Ducks reader.

Note to old lady: Yes, Virginia, there is a way to leave Facebook. (I didn't catch your name in the conversation, but you kind of looked like a "Virginia.") And your friend/relative won't have to attempt any Prison Break-style escape, either. He just needs to prepare himself for Facebook's impassioned plea to stay. Tell him to stay strong. Tell him it is, in fact, possible to leave Facebook. And tell him to spend his newfound free time here at the Ducks! Thank you.


(Well, I'm considering that my good deed for the day. I should probably get a merit badge or lots and lots of cash for that.) (Hopefully not the merit badge.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Facebook: The Musical

This past weekend I saw "Inception" and one of the previews beforehand was for "The Social Network." I'm not sure why they don't just call it "Facebook: The Movie." (Seems like it would break things down for those with simpler understanding of things. Those who would decide to take a donkey parasailing, as an example.)

The tagline for "The Social Network" is something along the lines of "You don't get 500 million friends without making a few enemies." Now, that's a great tagline. I mean, it conveys significance -- 500 million friends!! -- and conflict in one fell swoop. Love the tagline... except that rather liberal use of the word "friend."

Relevant segue: An important part of life for me is authenticity. I'm not going to use the term "friend" unless I mean it. Actually, this was a point of contention with some former co-workers of mine once upon a time.

Quite a few years back, I was working third shift and had been on the job only a couple of weeks. I called my sister to see if she would be willing to pick me up food from a fast food place for my lunch break. (She was.) After I hung up the phone, my two colleagues questioned "What about us?"

Admittedly, I did feel a tad guilty about not checking with them. (I had just figured they were set, food-wise, for the night.) So I called my sister back and said "Would you be willing to pick something up for my co-workers, too?" (See anything wrong there? No? Neither did I.)

When I hung up the phone, the guys were still upset.


"Oh, so we're just co-workers now, huh?" (Uh, yeah, that is exactly what we were.)
"What do you mean?"
"Why didn't you say 'friends from work?'" (Because I had never hung out with them outside of the facility.)

I didn't think about it at the time, and probably wouldn't have said even if I did, but I don't use the term lightly. I have about 120 people on my Facebook right now. Minus family and acquaintances, I'd say I've got about a dozen true friends on there, give or take. I'm just fine with that.

(So why all the acquaintances? Well, I was having a hard time saying "no" to people for a while. It's not on account of some weird obsession to have as many "friends" as possible, which I swear is the motivation behind some Facebookers out there. Maybe I'll call those people Facebookhookers. Anyone who has 900 friends is a Facebookhooker. Feel free to use the term, but -- much like a
bo staff -- use it responsibly.)

Note: If you are using Facebook for business/marketing purposes and have a gajillion friends, that is totally cool with me. If that's the case, you are not a Facebookhooker. You are something else... but I don't have a term for it at this time. In the event I come up with one, I'll be sure to share. You have my word.

Anyhow, I'm thinking about adapting the Facebook story into a musical. It will be awesome.

In other news...

Lindsey Lohan is heading to jail. (I feel safer already.) Robert Shapiro has apparently quit on her. What does that say, you know? I mean, the dude defended O.J. "Clearly Guilty" Simpson. Let that sink in for a moment...

Editor's note: He means to say "Clearly Guilty in Civil Court." (Our legal department was freaking out, but this clarification should cover it.)

How sad is it that he took a look at LiLo and said "Unlike O.J., you are a real mess. I can't handle this. Call F. Lee Bailey." (From whereabouts unknown, F. Lee Bailey's ears pick up, catching that final bit. "Damn you, Shapiro," he says to the moonlit night sky, fist pumping menacingly. "Damn you!")

I'm currently -- and I mean that in the most literal meaning of the word -- listening to Phish's "Joy" (from the album of the same name). I cannot recommend this song strongly enough. It is beautiful from both a musical and lyrical perspective. Just thought I'd share that with you, my favorite peeps. Definitely worth a buck or whatever to download from iTunes or any reputable music source.

Actually, once the song is done, I'm going to play it a second time! (Not often I do something like that.)

Now, the whole "Joy" album is really good. There might be one or two tracks that make me shrug a bit, but how many albums don't have songs like that? (Answer: Not a lot.) Worth checking out if you have the funds and interest. If you're conserving money, the buck for the song "Joy" is still money well-spent.

Final thought: So, uh, does Mel Gibson just want everyone on Earth to hate him? (He could certainly use George W.'s "Mission Accomplished" banner.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wasn't Sure About This One, but I'm Posting It Anyhow

So I tried maintaining two blogs for a while. To be polite to, well, myself, that was an ill-advised endeavor. (If you aren't polite with yourself, who can you possibly be polite to?)

Maintaining one blog is a lot of work as is... but I didn't know that. I figured I'd just write brilliant pieces for both blogs and readers would flock from everywhere. (Uh, not exactly. I'm not actually delusional... but hopefully you see the point.)

Then I started to learn how things actually work in the real world.

Quick digression: Talli Roland has a blog I rather enjoy following.* Today she talks about things you really should consider doing if you want to have people follow/read your blog. I think all bloggers who are honest with themselves should openly admit to this being quite important. I mean, we write so people will read, correct? (If your answer is "no," I don't know what to possibly say in response. So let's just assume you said "yes" for the sake of moving along...)

* Since I'm not opposed in the least to pimping a blog I support, please find a link to her page here (for after you are done reading this much-belabored post). And be sure to follow, since you're already there. (It is, after all, the polite thing to do.) You have a Ducks-guarantee that you will not be disappointed!

Anyhow, I've basically turned off my J.M. Neeb blog. Sure, it's technically still up, but that is because I had left a note -- much like a shipwrecked, nautical disaster survivor might stuff into a bottle (Where does the bottle come from, though?) -- for anyone who did follow me there to come on over to the Ducks... if they want to do so. (Far be it from me to tell anyone else what to do.)

I decided to focus my efforts on the Ducks.

"So what was the difference between the two blogs," the ever-inquisitive (and always impeccably-dressed) Ducks readers ask in unison. (Yes, in my mind you are all reading at the same time. I also figure you coordinate this mass-reading via telegram, pigeon messengers and smoke signals.)

Excellent question, my favorite peeps. Well, J.M. was supposed to be more of a look at my journey (not the band Journey) into becoming a full-time writer (whether by freelance corporate writing, short stories, humor, whatever.) See, I am a writer. It is in my blood and I can't conquer it. I can try fighting it, but my nature will win every time. (My nature is kind of like the New York Yankees, except not evil.)

What I found was that it didn't seem to be rather exciting for anyone who isn't me, which happens to be most of the world. (Who would have guessed?)

Ducks Out Of A Row was supposed to be more like my "column," and it really has been. This presents more of an opportunity to be humorous and provide my thoughts on random things (Taliban monkey soldiers, for example). I figured, hopefully "rightfully so," that there would be more interest in this blog and it won out over J.M.

(By the way, those are my first two initials. No one actually calls me that, but I'm terribly private. Of course, I have my name listed somewhere in the About Me section, so I'm not sure how much it matters.)

"Okay, all this rambling has to come to some kind of conclusion or point, right?"

Right. My point today is that I'm a writer. I don't talk about it much here, well, because I'm busy writing the actual posts. But I write quite a bit beyond this blog. I have short stories and future novels in various stages of development. And I think about writerly stuff -- like, just because "writerly" isn't a word, is there any reason why I couldn’t use it if the readers will know what I mean? (See what I did there? Pure genius.)

And I want to see the craft thrive, which is something I worry about in this day and age of the Internet and text messaging and “The Dumbest Generation.”

"Alright, now he's picking up speed."

So I just wanted to put something out there for my fellow writers. I don’t have any affiliation whatsoever to this publication, but I’d like to encourage you to take a look at at Glimmer Train and consider subscribing.


The sisters (Susan and Linda) who run this particular literary magazine are, in my opinion, doing a tremendous service for writers. Anyone who publishes literary fiction, and hosts contests, to help writers deserves recognition by the community they support.

To be honest, I intend on submitting either for publication or a contest with Glimmer Train at a later date, but do not think for a moment that this will either help or hurt my chances. (I never do the whole “brown-nose” thing. Ever.) (Well, I’m a man of principles when you get down to it.)

According to their About Us page, Susan and Linda launched Glimmer Train in 1990 and haven’t broken even. Which means they are clearly doing it for the love of writing and that inspires me. That kind of passion for the written word is simply awesome.

Anyhow, this was important for me to mention, so that’s what I’m doing. My budget doesn’t allow for a subscription at the moment, but that will change in about a month, and so will my non-subscribing status at that time.

Just something for you to think about, I guess.

That’s all I got for now.

Editor’s note: Yep.

Monday, July 19, 2010

How to Cause an Upset Stomach (Even If You Don’t Already Have One)

I'm going to keep this short today, peeps. You know that's not my usual style, but I'm not feeling my usual self. (My stomach usually doesn't feel like it's full of rusty nails agitating like a washing machine.)

Truth be told, I was going to forgo posting altogether, but a certain headline caught my eye and I had some thoughts -- as I'm prone to do -- and figured I'd share.

Upon logging out of Hotmail, MSN.com presented me with the following gem -- "Report: 'Jersey Shore' cast goes on strike."

(Why couldn't those sadists at MSN know that I am already sick to my stomach?)

Apparently, the "stars" -- and I use that term in the loosest possible context (think Pauly Shore) -- believe they are underpaid.

(Now, I don't know the going rate for: working out, tanning and laundering dirty clothes, but if it's more than $10k/episode, then I am clearly in the wrong profession.)

The problem with fame is that it gives people an inflated sense of self-importance. Sure, entertainment serves a somewhat important role. Life is stressful and hard, and the temporary escape it provides can help keep us sane.


But let's keep things in perspective, people!

Does anyone really think the Jersey Shore crew serves a more vital purpose to society than doctors, teachers or firefighters? (Well, I mean "anyone besides the cast of Jersey Shore themselves.")


Given the choice, would anyone really pick "being able to watch Jersey Shore" over "having my garbage removed?" (As long as people are using their heads, they are choosing garbage men as being more important than Jersey Shore cast members.)

Perhaps I shouldn't get hung up on something as trivial as "talent," but what possible talent do these people have to offer, exceptional tan-ness aside? (None.) Why should I care about them? (I don't.) And why can't that one guy keep his shirt down? (Note: I'm in excellent physical condition, but I don't feel the need to constantly pull up my shirt in public.)

According to Wikipedia -- the most reliable source of information ever created -- there were 9 episodes of Season 1. At $10,000 a pop, that's... well, you can do the math. Is the service they provide really that valuable?

No, no it's not.

Editor's note: He'll do better next time, folks. The stomach issues have not been a lot of fun.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Of Monkeys and Men

You guys probably know by now that I love seeing what topics people are looking up online. A major part of my interest lies in the fact that people only look up things which are real. Clearly, no one is perpetuating rumors, hoaxes or anything along those lines on the Internet. So we can be certain that everything found in Cyberspace is legit.

(This World Wide Web is nothing, if not a place for human responsibility in the face of faceless anonymity... right?)

Recently, I've noticed that China is seeing UFO's, the Taliban is using monkey soldiers and California may need a new state rock. (So everything is pretty much par for the course.)

First things first... Monkeys.

As a guy, monkeys are a subject of great fascination to me. Probably because my gender is closer to the simple-minded simians than the fairer sex happens to be. The humor element of monkeys goes without saying. (Naturally, that means I'm going to say it.) Birthday cards, Clint Eastwood films and America's Funniest Home Videos are always funnier when monkeys are involved. It's a scientific fact. (Pretty sure Einstein proved that in his famous E=MC-squared equation, where E is "Even funnier," M is "Monkeys" and C-squared is "Concepts.")

If something is scientific, you just can't dispute it.

But now those dastardly evil-doers in the Taliban are training our beloved monkeys to shoot coalition forces in a foolproof plan to win The War on Terror (or, as they call it, "The War Against Civility").

Wait a second. This is their plan? Monkeys? Does the Taliban not realize that, even in a down economy, we are a nation of great resources? And, do they further not realize that bananas only cost $0.44/pound? I'm pretty sure we can buy a whole lot of bananas, during healthy economic times or lean.

So I think we've found our "Patriot missiles" to the Taliban's "Scud monkeys."


(For my younger readers, which I'm sure there are probably hundreds of millions, this is a reference to the first Gulf war. Sadaam Hussein had Scud missiles to use, but our Patriot missiles were capable of shooting them down, out of the air. Now get back to sleeping in late and enjoying the summer, you whippersnappers.)

Or what we could do is recruit some of those aliens who are apparently making contact with the Chinese.

Admittedly, I'm not sure who would win in a war of monkeys versus aliens... assuming the aliens do not have access to either bananas, or the money needed to buy them at $0.44/pound.


(Note: That is really not a lot of money. All the aliens would need to do is find some empty soda cans and turn them in. Although, I don't know if they would know this is an option, being aliens and all.)

What I do know, however, is that this totally sounds like the premise for a Michael Bay film. I can just picture the trailer now...

Black screen. Appropriate titles flash in white lettering as they are read.

Voiceover: From the producers of "Jason vs. Freddy" and "Aliens vs. Predators" (the first one, not the second) and "Monsters vs. Aliens" comes a new picture directed by Michael Bay.

Shot of Mars. Aliens are loading up a spaceship with luggage, pets and weapons. They are clearly headed to Earth. Oh, and they look mean and conquering-like.

Voiceover: Earth finds herself under a threat it hasn't seen since "Independence Day" or "War of the Worlds" or "Signs" or "Men in Black," etc.

Shot of jungle.

Voiceover: From within the sacred jungles of Canada, a new brand of hero emerges.

Camera pans in on a monkey, eating a banana. Monkey looks serious.

Music: Twisted Sisters' "We're Not Gonna Take It" fades in.

Various shots of: Monkey b*tch-slapping an alien. Alien b*tch-slapping a monkey. Justin Bieber. And a monkey jumping out of a plane, pulling the parachute string with one hand and wielding a firing M-16 in the other.

Music: Twisted Sisters' "We're Not Gonna Take It" fades out.

Screen goes back to black. "Monkeys vs. Aliens. May 26, 2011"

Voiceover: Don't mess with our monkeys. Or try to invade Earth. Or both.

Quick parting shot of monkey grinning.

Fin


Note to Michael Bay: I've got this screenplay all typed up. Just have your people give my people a call and we can do lunch, baby. Ciao.

Alright, the California state rock issue is a little more legit than the, um, completely-legit other subjects du jour. But I feel that it needs to be discussed, so I am discussing it. ("The Official Office of Redundancy and Excessive Explanation" is quite pleased to read that sentence.)

So apparently people are up in arms about the state rock of California. (The rock is "serpentine," for all those keeping score at home.) The reason for the public outcry? It contains asbestos.

Yes, asbestos is not particularly healthy for people. (I suppose that's a bit like saying "bullets are not particularly healthy for people," but let's go with it.) I understand that part of it.

But just because serpentine is the state rock doesn't mean people need to inhale it. I mean, it's more of a symbol than anything, right? If people were forced to rub their faces in the official state rock, then the Ducks' official position would be to abolish that practice. (It doesn't make sense.) Failing that, the Ducks' official back-up position would be to change the state rock.

That isn't the case, though. No one is being forced to face asbestos exposure as a result of serpentine being "the official state rock."

When you get down to it, this really only serves to detract us from larger issues. Like Taliban monkeys, Chinese alien encounters and Michael Bay*.

*Seriously, Mike, have your peeps call mine. "Monkeys vs. Aliens" will be the greatest movie since your last one, which I (probably) loved.

Writer's note: If anyone steals my movie idea, I will be very upset. Unless you give me some of the royalties. Then we'll be cool again.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Even-More-Award-Winning Ducks

I meant to write about this Monday, but got distracted (as you are probably well-aware that I'm prone to do). As the weekend was winding down, I took some time on Sunday night -- after watching True Blood (yes, I'm hooked on that show...) -- to check out the blogs I follow and see what was new since Thursday.

(I generally keep away from the Internet during the weekends, and all day last Friday was a sabbatical of sorts for me.)

Imagine my delight -- Seriously, imagine it. I'll wait. -- when I saw that two of my fellow bloggers decided to bestow awards upon my little blog!

Anne, over at
Piedmont Writer, has given Ducks the following award:



She presented this to a handful of us who are "newer" to this blogging universe. (Thank you, Anne!!)

Lindsey, over at
The Write Words, gave Ducks the following award:


Lindsey apparently likes the humor over here and that means a lot to me. (Thank you, Lindsey!!)

So that gives the Ducks a total of three awards presented by fellow bloggers! I'm not going to lie, that makes me feel good. It's always nice when someone appreciates something you're doing... especially out here in Web 2.0. I mean, there isn't a lot (read as "any") financial gain, so blogging really becomes centered on connecting with readers and trying to make them smile or learn about something new.

Generally-speaking, my intent with this blog is to provide humorous content. I figure that you guys recognize my lack of seriousness when I touch base on topics such as
Justin Bieber being pregnant or the timeless measure of the greatness of sliced bread.

I think of this blog as like having a column, which is something that has always appealed to me. Well, maybe not "always*." When I was three years old, the thought of having a column did not interest me nearly as much as bright colors, shiny objects and toys.

*Check out Missed Periods
fantastic post on the use of absolutes. (Her blog is always brilliant.)

But having a column has appealed to me since I was in my early teens and started reading Dave Berry's syndicated column. Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly and espn.com's The Sports Guy are two others who I have admired/envied through the years. (I wonder how often admiration and envy could be paired together.)

So now Duck Out Of A Row is kind of like my own little column. Sure, it's not appearing in any newspapers or magazines, but that's okay with me. I'm having fun writing and hopefully you're having fun reading.

Awards note: I think I'm going to hold onto the awards I receive and hand them back out in an annual "event." I know that sometimes they are expected to be passed on to multiple bloggers, but I'm going to do one blog per award. (That's just how I roll.)

Some random thoughts:

The-Dream and Christina Milian have apparently broken up. I didn't even know they were together. Heck, I don't even know who The-Dream is, or, more importantly, why he opts for the hyphen. (Seems unnecessary to me, but what do I know?)

I'm not sure if Christina Milian is a singer or actress, but you just have to know she's famous if she is -- or "was," as the case apparently is -- with someone who calls himself "The-Dream." I mean, that just doesn't happen in real life. Can you imagine being at the doctor's office when the following happens:

Nurse Stevens walks through the door and into the waiting room. "Is Jason Reynolds here? Mr. Reynolds? No?" To herself, she says "Okay, Jason Reynolds must have bolted or been taken away by the appropriate authorities," while crossing off a name on her clipboard. Then Nurse Stevens looks back up and announces "The-Dream? Is The-Dream present?"

"Yo, The-Dream's here. That's me."

"Alright, The-Doctor will see you now about that rash."

Or how about this:

"The-Dream, when you take out the trash, remember to close the lids tight. We had raccoons going through there and... Oh, no. No, you DID NOT just roll your eyes at me! Listen here, The-Dream, you keep giving me attitude like that and you'll be sleeping on The-Couch!"

I really need to come up with my own name... one that starts with an article. "Why, hello there. I'm The Man. I keep people down." (Note: Obviously, I would not choose the “hyphenise” route, myself. But please don't misconstrue this as me judging The-Dream for doing so. Free country and all...)

(Another note: It's not often, or ever, that I say "Why, hello there." As such, I'm not sure why I wrote it like that. Could I delete it at this point? Yeah. Am I going to? No.)

Okay, maybe I don't need to come up with a name like that. I had almost forgotten that I'm not an arrogant d-bag, which people would probably think of me as being.

Unrelated to The-Dream... I just read that Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston are engaged and not having sex. Not sure why I needed to know that second part, but I'll store it away in case it's ever life-saving information... which it probably will be. (You have no idea what kind of life I lead.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Various Offices Here at the Ducks

Many people think that Ducks Out Of A Row is a one-man operation. Well, those people severely overestimate my abilities. (Ha!) We are a multi-national conglomerate that is comprised of many offices. [See note at bottom. Sincerely, the Ducks Editing Staff] Today, I'd like to fill you, the loyal readers, in with news and musings from the various offices. Enjoy!

From the office of "We'd Better Produce This Show Before VH1 Does"

Apparently, ABC is taking a bunch of ex-Bachelors and Bachelorettes and cramming them (not literally) into a house, where they can presumably shack up with each other. There is no word yet as to whether Bret Michaels, of "Rock of Love" fame, will be in the house, too.

The question I have to ask, though, is “Aren't all those Bachelors and Bachelorettes married?” Isn't that the point of the show? If they aren't, then why do they keep having the shows? I mean, clearly their process doesn't work.

So why do people even bother watching? It's not like the stakes are all that great. Heck, they might as well call it "The Engagement That Will Only Last for a Couple of Weeks or Maybe Months." (Admittedly, that's not quite as catchy as "The Bachelor," but we'll work on it.)

From the office of "What is Justin Bieber up To This Week?"

Not giving birth, apparently. (Maybe next week??)

From the office of "Best and Premier Office of Redundancy"

So I was watching ESPN the other day and they had a segment that, I believe, was called "Coors Light Cold Hard Facts." Not too much out of the ordinary there. I mean, corporate sponsorship and sports go together like peanut butter and something that goes well with peanut butter.

But what made me take notice was the fact it was announced as such: "Coors Light Cold Hard Facts, brought to you by Coors Light." Didn't anyone script that out ahead of time? Or even the guy saying it must have practiced beforehand, right? So why didn't it occur to anyone how unintelligent that sounds.

My theories: 1) Too much Coors Light drinking leads to too much "Coors Light" saying. 2) The dude gets paid by every word he reads. 3) Too much underestimation with regard to the backlash they would receive from the Ducks!!

Actually, #3 is not theory... it is truth.

From the office of "espn.com Headlines That Give Me a Moment of Pause"

"Tiger, red-hot Rose grouped for British Open."

After his well-documented troubles, shouldn't we all be doing our best to keep Tiger away from anyone who is considered to be "hot?" Just sayin...

From the office of "Kids Who Are Too Smart for Their Own Good"

The "Barefoot Bandit" has finally been caught. If you haven't heard about this (or even if you have, I suppose...), there was this kid, Colton Harris-Moore, from the Northwest who has stolen planes, cars and at least one boat. His claim to fame, besides previously eluding capture, is that he allegedly committed his crimes in bare feet.

Harris-Moore apparently managed to fly planes without any training whatsoever. Not that I condone criminal behavior, but that absolutely astounds me. I'm a reasonably bright guy, but learning to fly a plane without instruction? No way. (I did fail my driver's license road test twice before getting it on the third try.) (Well, they didn't tell me that running over old people was against the rules.)

Unfortunately (for him, not others), he wasn't smart enough to realize that he would eventually be caught.

From the office of "Octopi Who Are Too Smart For Their Own Good"

Paul the Oracle Octopus did his species proud and perfectly predicted the outcome for the entire World Cup.

Unfortunately for him, the other octopi will now mock Octopus Paul behind his back and make up pregnancy rumors. (Hey, it all comes with the price of fame.)

Editors’ note: We have absolutely no idea where he got that "multi-national conglomerate" bit from.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Last Blogger Standing

As established the other day, I'm not a fan of reality tv shows.

What wasn't established was the fact that my least favorites are ones in the vein of -- as examples -- The Hills, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of [insert random city] and The Kardashians (not sure if that is actually the name of the show, but let's just go with it...).

See, I already have crazy/insane/eccentric friends and family. I don't need to care -- and I use that term in the loosest possible (think "Lindsey Lohan") definition -- about strangers who are just concerned with being famous. Some people, unfortunately, would think I'm weird for this, but I care more about people I actually know than those I don't. ("I knew he was strange.")

If you're wondering why I'm beating this dead horse, I'll address it in one second.

If you weren't wondering, I'll bet you are now! [How's that for piquing audience interest? Ha!]

So those reality shows really don't do it for me. [Cue the non sequitur.] In order to bolster that previous sentence, we could totally redefine "do it" as "keep the contents of my stomach down where they belong," but I'd advise against the redefinition. I mean, all husbands the world over would be totally screwed.

Guy: "Hey baby, let's, uh, keep the contents of my stomach down where they belong... if you know what I mean." *suggestive winking*
Gal: "I'm quite tired, so stop touching me already. Not. Gonna. Happen."
Guy: *weeps silently in the face of rejection*
Wolf: *howls in the distance*

Note: "Guy" was played by Dawson (of "Dawson's Creek" fame), "Gal" was played by Lady Gaga and "Wolf" was played by Justin Bieber.

Justin Bieber jokes never get old.

Speaking of jokes -- ("Wherever does he come up with those genius segues?" - Justin Bieber) -- there actually is a reality show that I thoroughly enjoy.

Didn't see that coming, did you? Neither did I, but I was reminded of it the other night.

Being a stereotypical straight guy, I'm not all that interested in stars dancing.


Being a sensitive, 90's type of guy (who is trapped in the 00's... which happens to be the plot of the screenplay I'm currently working on*), I don't like any show that calls overweight people "losers."

And being out of touch with pop music, I am not terribly intrigued to watch/listen to a bunch of wannabe idols butcher classic songs or warble through contemporary fare.

Seeing a bunch of stand-up comedians over the span of two hours from the comfort of my own couch, though? Sign me up!!

If you don't know what I'm talking about -- which I could actually see being the case for most of my posts ("Where'd the juggling monkey reference come from? I just don't get it. He IS weird.") -- NBC's Last Comic Standing pits comedians against each other to see who wins.

I enjoy stand up comedy and am not going to apologize for it. The comedians on the show need to have more talent than the Kardashian girls do when they go shopping. They aren't just getting drunk and shacking up with one another. And none of the contestants, as far as I can tell, have had even a tenth of the work done that Heidi Montag has.

So I like the show. Now let me tell you a quick story from a couple seasons back...

In the 5th season of Last Comic Standing, there was a comedian who I thought was absolutely brilliant. His name is Gerry Dee and the man had great material. Really funny stuff.

Now, for those who feel that I've been harsh on Canadians -- and I'm not one of those people... I have absolutely nothing against them (how could anyone?) -- Gerry Dee hails from the Great White North. So here is definitive proof that I'm not biased against the good people from Canada: Gerry Dee is my favorite stand up comedian.

Anyhow, the man is incredibly funny and made it to the final three. He was up against a white redneck who told "white redneck" jokes and a big black man who told "big black man" jokes. Basically, it was Gerry Dee versus two stereotypes, who were playing into their stereotypes, which I find to be rather lazy and uninspired.

Well, he lost and one of the other two won, but I don't know who did. I watched the show the entire season... except for the finale because I was that mad about it. So I have no idea if it was the redneck or the guy who should probably go on America's Biggest Loser (or Dancing with the Stars).

I could probably google it, but that seems like it'd take a lot of effort.

* Steal my award-winning (in all likelihood) movie idea and there will be consequences. Like, I won't go see it in the theater, but I MIGHT rent it when it comes out on video. Take that!

Monday, July 5, 2010

When I Define Tuesday as "Monday"

To: The (probably) billions who were expecting a Monday post
From: The writing and editing staff here at Ducks Out Of A Row
RE: Temporary schedule change

Peeps, sorry about no new post today. I know the (American) holiday was technically yesterday, but it felt like today. [Perception is reality, folks!] As such, the Monday post will be tomorrow.

Also, it has been brought to my attention (by myself) that I've pretty much been slacking with regard to commenting back to your comments. [I hate when I bring my shortcomings up to myself, so you know I'll be working on that.]

I hope you all had a fun, safe holiday weekend! I'll be rappin' at ya tomorrow.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Time to Stop Being Nice and Start Getting Real

Disclaimer: I'll probably post about this more thoroughly at a later date, but I have zero interest in becoming famous. Yes, I want my words to be widely read -- which, I'd imagine, is the case for every single writer who is honest with him or herself -- but I'm not interested in having people "know" who I am. As such, please don't misconstrue anything in this post as being a case of "jealousy." These are just my thoughts and opinions on the current state of entertainment.

Recently, I touched base on the daunting topic that is the vast suckitude of NBC's "100 Questions." Well, this got me thinking...

There is a lot of crap out there in the entertainment world. (Let it never be said that I am averse to using understatements.)

You know what else got me thinking about this -- and this is where I surely alienate some readers -- a beautiful, unnamed female (who may or may not be the wife) is going to drag me to see the most recent Twilight movie this weekend. ("He did not just go there!")

Yeah, I just went there.

I'm sure they are good, upstanding people in real life, but Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson really should consider taking acting lessons.

[As mentioned the other day, when critiquing the "acting" of the cast of "100 Questions," I can't act. I never claim to have that ability. At the same time, I'm not earning millions to do so, which means it's okay for me to be a less-than-mediocre actor. Stewart and Pattinson have no such excuse.]

Before I forget, I should, in all fairness, point out that we are going to see two (2) movies and I get to pick the other one. So don’t cry for me, Argentina (or any other nation which feels like weeping at the thought of their beloved Ducks Out Of A Row guy being “forced” to see a movie he’s not particularly into… which is probably most nations).

Now, as much as I dislike such tripe as the aforementioned tv show and cardboard-caliber acting in a certain popular movie series, the true bane of my existence is reality tv.

GTL

If you know what those three letters stand for, raise your hands. No, raise them ALL the way up so everyone can see.

For those who don't, it's from "Jersey Shore” and stands for "Gym, Tan, Laundry,” which is, I believe, the daily regiment for one of the Jersey Shorers. (Apparently, he is taking full advantage of everything life has to offer.)

With “Jersey Shore,” MTV managed to take yet another group of "normal" people, put them on a tv show and turn them into pseudo-celebrities. [Anytime I read the term “reality star,” it makes me want to vomit.]

From the network's perspective, why not? In the term of finances, a reality show costs barely anything in comparison to producing an actual series. There is zero creativity involved, so no need to pay writers. And there is also no need to evaluate talent. All they have to do is find controversial, physically attractive people who they think will party a lot and hook up with each other (i.e., practically any young adult).

Why do people watch a show that boasts neither creativity nor talent? Well, having been young once, I think there is a fair amount of "that could be me" mentality when seeing these regular folks become famous, and that enthralls those who aspire to having fame.

"If I could just get on The Real World, people could see how great I am at acting."

"Have you ever acted before, or taken any classes?"

"No, but how hard can it be? Besides, why would I take time to try and perfect a craft when I want fame and money now?"

Here's my complaint: If I want to see real people living life, is turning on the telly (that's for my British readers...) really the best way to do it? I mean, what's wrong with just living my own life and interacting with normal people?

“But real life is so boring” whines the hundreds of millions of teenagers who avidly read Ducks.

“Have you considered the possibility that if you can’t find interesting things in this world then you are the ones who are boring?” asks the guy who avidly writes Ducks.

Score: 1 for old guy, 0 for youth. Ha! [Fortunately, the young will grow in time.]

Sure, the people I know are not prone to acting like drunken buffoons (well, at least not all the time...), but the interactions with them are at least genuine and reciprocated. Maybe I can’t do it from the couch (unless they either come over or I install cameras in all their homes…), but shouldn’t life be about “getting out there” and experiencing the world?

Although, I suppose if you’re merely concerned with GTL, maybe it’s not.*

I understand the value of periodic escapism. Sometimes it’s okay to turn the brain off for a bit and unwind.** But why settle for something which is clearly created to pander to the lowest denominator?

It’s almost as if all networks have the George Costanza response from when he was asked -- by “the head of NBC” in the tv show "Seinfeld" -- as to why people would watch the program Jerry and he were pitching.

Head of NBC: “Why will people watch a show about nothing?”

George C.: “Because it’s on tv.”

Yep. That seems about right.

* Full disclosure: I go to the gym and take care of laundry. I just don’t consider either to be a focal point of my life.

** I’m not being critical of watching television as a whole. When performed in moderation, it’s certainly an okay way to relax a bit. Of course, the “moderation” part is key.

Monday’s post: Further exploration of modern entertainment… handled in a hopefully entertaining manner.