Saturday, July 30, 2005

Eternal Sunshine of the SPJ Mind

(**Post-post McEditor's Note (8/1/05): "Minority Report" as seen on my journalistic jedi master's chalkboard, Woody Paige, on the Monday edition of ESPN's Around the Horn - after repeated pesterings by your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger-Man! I feel so dirty... Hey, at least NOW when people are stealing my material and passing it off as they're own, they're stealing from me on a NATIONAL level... So I got that going for me! Yeah ...right. It's ironic in SO many ways... Don't worry, folks, I won't be asking Woody Paige to join me for a beer down at The Rascal House... Thanks for the shout-out anyway, Master Obi-Woody! And, now, back to our show already in progress...**)

Minority Report

So I was out at the opening day of Cleveland Browns training camp on Friday. Not much of interest to report, just tripping over the 19 Action News crew who were giving major shout-outs to all their trailer park target demographics and the such. Nothing new there.

Outside of Action News stalking defensless pedestrians and unassuming Browns' fans with a microphone, hopping on them like a dingo in search of a stray baby, and screaming: "We're the official home of the Cleveland Browns! Say it! Acknowledge our sorry existence, mere mortals! WE ARE the official home of the Cleveland Browns ...SAY IT OR DIE!!!", there was not much else to report.

Sure, Trent Dilfer still could throw a pretty pass now and again, but I found myself waxing philisophical for a moment on the state of current affairs in Cleveland. Like some sporty Cuyahoga County version of Carrie Bradshaw, I stood in the bright summer sunlight and pondered: "Have we, as a society, slipped so far down the cultural ladder, and become so consumed with our own selfish lack of self-esteem, that we are obsessed with public notoriety at any cost...?"

And then I wondered as well: In my own semi-shallow pursuit of a "creative career" had I become nothing more than a modern-day version of Roger Brown slinging salacious cyber-tidbits at every possible turn? (Sidebar: Has anyone else noticed that Roger Brown always seems to seductively cheerlead for local minority reporters with every opportunity? Roger, I know that the 1950's mentality and "Thankful Thursdays" for The Meal on Wheels crowd prevails and plays well for now, down at the The Plain Dealer, but take a moment to actually look out the window and embrace the 21st century - fawn over a lipstick lesbian or somthing! I mean, I'm not prejudiced or anything. Hell, Jason Whitlock of The Kansas City Star, Michael Wilbon of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, and John Saunder's of ESPN's Sports Reporters are some of my favorite sports journalists - so that's not it. But Brown just goes overboard on the pursuit of praising every - and any - minority journalist in the local Cleveland market regardless of talent. I mean, come on: Does anybody remember Charlie Minn???)

Regardless, I was soon disrupted from my own thoughts by a mutual friend attending training camp. Jeremy, a food broker, who often frequents the store I work for during my day job, popped me on the shoulder and said "hi."

To make a long story longer, we got to chatting about a mutual interest of ours - comic books - and he let slip that he used to live next door (in South Euclid) to Brian Michael Bendis (Bendis, by the way, is the hottest thing going today in Marvel comic books). Sure, we were nerds - but we were nerds in nice wrapping. Bendis had given Jeremy several autographed pieces of artwork - before moving on to bigger and better things. Anyway, when I asked Jeremy if he still keeps in contact with Bendis, he stated: "Oh, I got his new phone number after he moved out of state, and I called it several times just to talk to him - but he's never returned my calls since he made it big."

So that got me thinking further - why is it fame always overrules so-called friendship in the end?

That threw me back further into a time warp to a period when my co-workers and I were sitting around and listening to morning radio. One fateful day, local media maven, Carol Chandler, was hosting a drive-time show in Cleveland and happened to interview Nicole Kidman for her latest lame-duck film. Kidman was "blah, blah, blahing" for the required amount of time as Carol Chandler kept playing "the circus seal on a mission" during the faux interview. And then, as the entire office grimaced with despair, it happened...

McMemo to Carol Chandler: Oh, girlfriend, don't go there!

To paraphrase the next ridiculous statement, Chandler went on to break these chains of love and invited THE Nicole Kidman - Academy Award winning and international film star, Nicole Kidman - to "join her for cocktails down at Shooter's ...where we could chat about girl stuff."

Nicole Kidman, who wouldn't know Shooter's from one of Tom Cruise's lovers, shuddered and blew off the invitation with irreverant style and grace. Nonetheless, Chandler (not the Friends character, mind you!) went on to pester Kidman to join her for apple martinis down in the now-defunct Flats. To no avail, Nicole Kidman managed to slither out of the invitation and the rest, as they say, is sad, tragic history (perhaps she had experience to guide her with this after The Moss Man invited her to prom??? I just don't know!).

"We grew up way too fast, and now, there's nothing to believe - and reruns all become our history. A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio and I won't tell no one your name. And I won't tell 'em your name..."

This got me thinking (again) to my own shallow shelf. Sure, I had a few scant brushes with greatness in my time. The most noteworthy was Steve Burton. Steve went by another last name at the time, a product of a broken home himself. But after high school, he moved out to California to live with his dad - and went on to star in General Hospital as Jason Quartermaine. Jason Quartermaine went on to become Jason Morgan, a hitman for the Port Charles mob, after a drunk-driving accident courtesy of his brother, A.J., left him brain damaged. But this is just the fodder of a college student who typed his term papers with noise in the background during his half-drunk, semi-informative college years...

Steve grew up with me in an apartment complex in Richmond Heights, Ohio (my own personal Twin Peaks!) that was home to divorced families. I didn't know Steve that well to start - he was a few years younger than me so, subsequently at the time, beneath me. But when my friend Sam and I were busy playing Dungeons & Dragons in my modest apartment, Steve used to sneak down the hall and stand at my doorway. It was there he would fold up M&M's candy in a piece of notebook paper stating: "Please be my friend" and slip it under my door in a rather unassuming fashion.

Many summers went by and we eventually obliged Steve with his ego-inducing request by inviting him to many pool parties and the such. After all, he wanted to be my friend, so this kid must have had something on the ball, right...? Steve later went on - to some acclaim - to mimic advertising and screach out in home room without warning: "It's the best country sausage ever, the best you ever tried take hoooooooome a package, a package of Tennesse Pride!" Blind fools that we were, who knew this would lead to a leading role as Sonny's main mob henchman on General Hospital...?

I often spend my lackluster carefree days now envisioning my fateful reunion with Steve Burton. I picture us meeting at the LAX airport where I toss down my carry-on luggage and exclaim: "Steve ...Steve Burton! It's me - your old pal, Chris McVetta! Remember? Remember me - the M&M's under the door back in Richmond Heights? Remember...???"

And it's just then that Steve walks by me - without making eye contact - as his slew of bodyguards take me down in a severe submission of a chokehold.

"Steve! Steve! Damn you, Steve, acknowledge my existence, you fucking fuck! I read once that you said Tony ("Luke" of Luke and Laura fame) Geary was the Shakespearean equivalent of soap opera actors! Hah! You might think differently if you ever saw Anthony Geary in Penitentiary 5, you maggot! Penitentiary 5 - remember him in THAT??? The Razzie Awards sure did, fella! Where's your Messiah now, you bastard! Where's your Messiah NOW...???"

Well, uh, I suppose we all have our Cleveland crosses to bear. In the meantime, I will retreat to my hidden lair and wreak havoc as Dr. Victor Von McDoom - playing a nice game of Cuyahoga County chess with my Cleveland psuedo-celebrity action figures...

As an obscure rock journalist once told me (before he drank the Kool-Aid): "Chris," he told me. "Keep your feet on the ground - and keep reaching for the stars..."

To that I can only respond with this: "Bah!"

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


RULE #1 of Cleveland Fight Club: "Journalists don't play nice together in the local sandbox."


I really only have a few scant memories of "Pop Culture poet" Chuck Klosterman before he comes blowing back into town tomorrow night for his book tour stop at Legacy Village promoting "Killing Yourself To Live: 85% of a True Story."

Several years ago, when I was searching to "expand my horizons" outside of the Cleveland market, I attempted to get a freelance job with the Akron Beacon Journal writing movie reviews and the such. When "a friend in the business" gave me a copy of the Arts section to look over, he asked me out of curiousity - from one hack to another - my opinions on Mr. Klosterman and his prose.

The only words I could manage to slur from my mouth like some Society of Professional Journalist stroke victim were these: "Oh, my God - he's such a shitty writer."

I never got the job - and never gave Chuck Klosterman and his "verbal diarrhea" much more of a passing thought (after all, I had my own semi-but-not-really-unique brand of "Cleveland communications crap" to digest and craft, out under the sort-of-intense srutiny of the public eye over Public Square).

And then, about a year ago, I ran into the newly-appointed arts editor of The Beacon Journal who just happened to have the same cravings for buffalo wings and beer that I did at a local tavern. Yeah, go figure! He was also an old Cauldron alumni, so that connection had got us chatting about journalism, Cleveland, and the non-existent CSU football team - well, that and many beers.

As you can probably guess (unless you're hooked up to life support), the subject sooner-or-later swung around to our dear old sourpuss, Chuck Klosterman, and the ABJ's arts editor had this to say on him: "Oh, Chuck - yeah, I knew Chuck - he was a good guy. And I was a really big fan of his writing."

It was right about this time that my face wrinkled up like I had just swallowed a chicken bone, choking, and was subsequently praying for the sweet release of death. All I could manage to say, with the few gasps of air I had left, was this: "Oh, my God, really? But - he's such a shitty writer."

The arts editor from ABJ didn't hold it against me - nor I him - as we all have our meaningless, sometimes biased views on these things that go bump in the journalism night. We expensed our checks - citing we talked "business" - and went on our befuddled ways.

The final chapter in my three-ring Klosterman circus trilogy occured one winter night when my friend Alicia and I were curled up watching an episode of "the o.c." - a guilty pleasure prescribed only by a doctor to be taken in small doses to combat the seasonal disorder effects of the Cleveland winter blues, mind you!

It was on this fateful night that one of the character's on the show, uber-nerd Seth, picked up a copy of "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" and proclaimed Klosterman "a literary genius" and "visionary" to Alicia, myself, her rather obnoxious cats, and the entire viewing audience encompassing the FOX broadcasting community.

"What-? What is it?" Alicia asked, responding to my non-pizza-overindulgence groan. "Do you know that guy-? The guy that wrote the book he's reading-? Did you work with him or something-?"

"Yeah, I know him," I whined like I was being nailed to the Orange County crucifix for wayward writers. "I know him-"

"So, what's the problem?" Alicia asked like a modern-day Bambi right before the shotgun blast. "Don't you like him-?"

"Oh, my God," I stammered, doing a head-first swan dive into the nearest pillow to muffle my anguished moans. "He's such a shitty writer."

Obviously, to the untrained eye, this appeared (on the surface) to be a bad case of the ugly green-eyed monster - and over time, and many published Klosterman books, it was! But I decided - being the lesser man in this equation - that I might owe it to Chuck Klosterman to actually read one of his books, before passing judgement on him as a full-fledged author ...just this one time anyway.

But that's the problem. When I read excerpts from "Sex, Lies, and Cocoa Puffs" it was as intolerable as I imagined. His chapter on why "The Empire Strikes Back" was the best film in the Star Wars trilogy was stolen right out from under Kevin Smith's characters in "Clerks." And, worse, Kevin Smith (and his characters) did it BETTER - and funnier!

To defend his thesis, Klosterman goes further to sound like some neurotic nerd stammering away at a local Star Wars convention as he explains that "the Ewoks ruined The Return of the Jedi" ...period ...The End!

Hey, I am as guilty as being a "pop culture pagan" as the next Klosterman, so I would be a hypocrite to fault him for his "Saved by the Bell" essays - but at least have some kind of point if you're prose is going to be written on the 5th grade level!

So, to wash away my fears that I was just some rambling, jealous idiot - blinded by my own half-hatred for Klosterman's success - I was actually happy to be intrigued by the premise of his latest book, "Killing Yourself To Live" about traveling to the final resting places of deceased rock gods. That was ...until I read a few more pages.

Look, the bottom line is this: I used to think I resented Chuck Klosterman in my own little harmless way (and world) because he waxed poetic on the beauties of pop culture and other subjects "about nothing." But the REALITY of it is - after you close the book or shut off the television and grow up just a little bit - there's a lot more to life than these insignificant ramblings - his, mine, or otherwise...

So, hey, I wish Chuck Klosterman the best of luck with his writing career (not that he needs it) because he's fortunate to enjoy the success of being a published author and he deserves all the presitge that brings (whether I like his work, or not - because who really gives a shit!).

Meanwhile, I think I'll give Alicia a call, maybe a few more of my friends, grab some frosty Hoegaardens, and we'll go hang out in a graveyard or something (um, minus the nasty cocaine habit). Perhaps I can read them a few of my well-documented "retarded ramblings" from over the years - hey, it may not be Thomas Pynchon ...but it'll do in a pinch.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Me Scalp 'em Indians Good!

Larry Dolan: Killing Me Softly With His Song...

Okay, okay, I now what you might be thinking: After the moron that is me proclaimed to the world that The Chicago White Sox would take a tumble (after the All-Star break), and the Cleveland Indians would overtake the baseball equivalent of the "red-headed stepchild" to the Chicago Cubbies in the second half of the season, I might have, um, a bit of a reason to go off on some tiresome tirade about the Tribe, right-?

Well, you couldn't be more wrong! I'm going to (for once) take the high-road over The Detroit-Superior bridge and simply brush off any negativity towards the post-All-Star slump on display down at The Jake. That's right, you heard me: "It's only a game."

I'm not going to lose control like some cyber-tempestuous toddler (this time) and go off on some half-cocked Bill Bixby rampage - "Hulk smashing" any puny humans who get in my horrific way.

AND, if you're expecting me to go off in some sophomoric Second City sketch-like fashion, with myself portraying some psuedo-journalistic Jedi who suddenly shows up on the doorstep of The Larry Dolan Death Star - where I thusly go on to verbally "strike them down with all my hatred" - um, both Lord Dolan ("The Emperor") and Darth Shapiro. Well, sorry to disappoint you this time, kids, but you couldn't be more mistaken!

To quote Kevin Bacon in "Animal House": "All is well - ALL IS WELL!!!"

The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and The Cleveland Browns are only another month away, so let's all just ...let's all just ...remain calm. Let's all just remain calm ...and collected. Take some deep breaths and - and - did I mention the part about remaining calm yet? OH, SCREW IT!!!!

McMemo to The Cleveland Indians' front office: "What The F@%k Are You S*#theads Doing!?!?!"

Okay, I'm not going to be a hypocrite here because the 2005 Cleveland Indians - for all intensive purposes - are still in the wild-card hunt. Mark's Shapiro's "maneuverings" - to this point - have produced productive results. Namely: Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee. And much to even my pre-season dismay, when I felt banged-up closing pitcher, Bob Wickman, was just a bargain-basement band-aid with a bad elbow. Wickman later turned out to be the only Tribe guy selected for the All-Star game (and deservedly so!).

But Shapiro is too quick to "take a bullet" for his Dark Master, Larry Dolan. For the last year or so, Shapiro and staff have promised this town "a contender" by - and no later than - the 2005 season (anybody got a calendar handy?). Dolan, himself, made NUMEROUS public proclamations that he would "spend money" if the Indians were "in contention" during the 2005 season. Well, the future is now!

And old Irish proverb: "Please don't piss in my face and tell me it's raining..."

So what is going on with the Cleveland Indians - besides owner Larry Dolan holding out his empty pockets in dismay like that Monopoly guy on the "pay $15 poor tax" Community Chest card? Well, short of me running down to Jacob's Field and dangling Mr. Dolan by the legs off the upper deck to secure some "loose change" for high-priced free agents ...not much.

The Indians' organization got lucky with Kevin Millwood, so-so support from Aaron Boone, and a kamikaze kick in the injured groin from Juan "going, going" Gonzalez. Trading Jody Gerut for Jason Dubois is a lateral move for the moment - nothing more, nothing less. But unless this team pays some semi-serious money for a few ready-for-primetime players, the Tribe is never going to go anywhere, anytime soon.

Okay, like most, I despise the Yankees and the Red Sox, so I'm not supporting throwing money at the problem. And the Detroit Tigers - even with their $75 million dollar baby payroll - are treading water to keep up with us. But until Larry Dolan decides to "fill in the blanks" around his nicely-priced newbies, you are putting too much pressure on the up-and-comer's to succeed with this self-imposed string-cheese salary cap.

I'm not advocating to "break the bank" - but it wouldn't hurt to open up the safe once in a while and roll around naked in a pile of money. "Whispers in the wind" are telling me that the Indians are set to trade Millwood and (possibly) Bob Wickman this year for, uh, future considerations. Sure the Tribe is slumping, but they are still within a couple games of a playoff birth - are Dolan and Shapiro ready to blow it up to mortgage the future?

I sure hope not. Like some sorry satiricial scene out of "Planet of the Ain'ts," I don't want to be wandering down the Lake Erie shoreline one day only to stumble upon the tarnished statue of Bob Feller buried waist deep in the sand, with me crumbling to my knees and sobbing big Wahoo tears: "You blew it up, you maniacs! YOU BLEW IT UP!"


Chris McVetta is the Cleveland Browns/Indians "taking a (beat)ing" writer for NorthCoast Voice magazine and co-founder of "The Whacked-Out Wahoos" support group who meet bi-weekly at Panini's for grief support, Cleveland salary cap-counseling and a beer (or two) to cry in.

Belloq to Indiana Jones: "Do you know what the Ark is, Jones...? It's a transmitter for talking to God!" (That's right - but The Id and I is NOT! So if you need to give us a jingle, or just hurl dung in our general direction, contact us at: )

Special Thanks to our Cleveland "shout out" from our friends over at ESPN2's "Cold Pizza."

NEXT UP AT BAT: "Wedding Crashers," I Wish I May, I Wish I Might, I Wish To Be a Local Playwright Tonight ...and we're LIVE for opening day at Cleveland Browns Training Camp!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Eggers Over Easy

"In this world of change, nothing which comes stays, and nothing which goes is lost." - Anne Sophie Swetchine

I keep having flashbacks of one day that happened to me several years ago. Maybe it's the John Mayer CD playing in the background that's bringing this bullshit bubbling back up to the surface, but nonetheless...

I remember when I was working as an Editorial Assistant for The Free Times, one of the alternative weeklies here in town. My editor at the time wanted me to revamp one of their current columns called "Off The Rack" and put my own personal spin on it. Actually, it was their spin they wanted to come sputtering out of my Charlie McCarthy mouth, but it's all good when you're a bright-eyed Bambi-like-newbie in the world of funky psuedo-journalism, I suppose.

Fortunately, my "Sarcasm in the City" stance eventually won out over their Jane Fonda feudalism font, and I soon found myself reviewing the "lastest and greatest" in underground magazine journalism from across the land. I don't remember the names of these mags - except that they were a nice blend of cultural consumerism that would be held in high regard from "the Kucinich crowd" to the finest frat houses our drunken North Shores had to offer. One article, "101 uses for Mr. Klennex" was especially pleasing to my pop-culture saturated mind and my "hungry like the wolf" Atari appetite - so I wrote about it with great glee.

Anyway, my attempt at "contemporary counterculture critic" only lasted about 2 columns, before the editors decided to send "Off the Rack" ...back to the cleaners. Much to the dismay of my ten-second time-delay mentality but, hey kids, that's why Batman now works alone...

Yet The Universe works in wacky ways, my friends. This experience did me give something new besides yet another batch of photocopied clips to toss upon my own boxed-up bonfire of the vanities. It gave me the opportunity to read something new, something fresh, something outside the lines of my own banal banter - beyond my well-cherished "Cauldron clips" of Pete (who later changed his name to "Peter" for effect) Chakerian's "CSU Flintstone Art: Yabba, Dabba, Don't!" and John Teubert's cult classic column, "Terror and Psychosis." It gave this bumbling buzz-monger a chance to read some other "slathering of the po' boys" prose, well-written by other brutish Bumble Bees over on The West Coast.

My mangling of metaphors aside, this Holy Grail of zany 'zines I stumbled upon was called "Might Magazine."

To make a long story longer, I was awakened one morning from a self-induced "Corona coma" with someone's undergarments still hanging off my sorry head (It was a turbulent time, those nineties!) to the screaming, shrieking, air siren of my phone. Needless to say, my body felt like Stretch-Armstrong after being shoved into the microwave and set on "Mega Melt" for far too long and I never reached that fateful call. But they reached me.

"Hi, Chris, this is Dave - I'm the editor from Might Magazine here in San Francisco. Listen, man, we received some of the clips you sent us, and we think they're hilarious. We really like your idea on the Bigfoot piece, and we want to run with it. Write it up as soon as you can and send it off to us - looking forward to hearing from you - thanks, bye."

I'm not sure of the timeline now, but I think it was right after I wrote my "Mission Statement" and "Jerry Maguire'd" my sorry-self right out of a job at The Free Times, if my MGD memory serves correct. It seems I sent Might Magazine (much to the chagrin of my dead brain cells) some clips of my college "What is a Communications Major?" columns - along with my Times review of their own magazine - in search of some "higher calling."

Anyway, I trotted around my down-trodden apartment like a "Lord of the Dance" loser until my limbs lost all feeling. When I finally got the nerve to call back this 'zine, I got one of their staff members on the phone.

ME (Stammering): "Hi, this is Chris -uh, McVetta. I - some guy - some guy named 'Dave' called from your office about some articles I sent to your magazine for submission."

GUY ON PHONE: "Oh, yeah, hi Chris. Yeah, we got 'em. They're really good. You probably talked to Dave Eggers..."

ME: "Who-? Uh, yeah. I think that was his name-"

GUY ON PHONE: "Yeah, that would be Dave. Anyway, we talked about you in our staff meeting and Dave really wants you to submit something for our next issue, if you can. Your stuff was just our speed. That Bigfoot thing sounds like something we could use-"

ME: "Uh, yeah, no problem! I'll get right on it and send something off to you-"

Anway, the moron that is me, sent off a Bigfoot parody piece to "Might Magazine." And I waited - and waited - and went to a couple of happy hours - and then waited some more. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, I called the phone number which never answered again - and went on to subsequently find that "Might Magazine" had gone belly-up before that "next issue" ever hit the stands - or the ground running.

Needless to say, and this was the mid-to-late-1990's at the time, that I later learned who that "Dave" was on my answering machine - as unbelievable as it sounds (and I still don't believe it).

But this should be a lesson to all the talented and aspiring writers out there in Cleveland who struggle for acceptance or even an oft-appreciated nudge: Don't binge drink!!!

Uh, also, that we have had our fair share of writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Chuck Klosterman, Mark Winegardner, Marc Jaffe and Harvey Pekar who have passed though (or stayed in) town. So don't give up so easily! You, Cleveland, might have more talent than writing "scenic Ohio travel guides" or other people's propaganda (You down with O.P.P.? Yeah, you know me!) than you realize...

"We just can't seem to get you on that plane, can we? You're like Dustin Hoffman in 'Rain Man'..." - Joey Potter to Dawson Leary on "Dawson's Creek"

I love Cleveland - it is a great, fun place to live. But, still, it's frustrating to have a "creative career" here on the banks of the mighty Cuyahoga (And at times, to quote one of "The Gilmore Girls," it feels like running in place while passing by the same background scenery - over and over again - in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon). I've been busy sending off my "stuff" ("The Ten Commandments of Scientology") to things like "MAD" and "McSweeney's" and maybe something will come of it - or not. In the meantime, I've been busy saving money to take a flight to Oahu, Hawaii - the location where they film "Lost" on my next journey into the unknown in late August. It seems they let random dwellers roam around the set while they are filming (and I hear the cast likes to "party hard" - so I've got that going for me - or not).

But, hey, whatever will be, will be. I've had a good run and I'm lucky for it (in my own way). So stay tuned... (or not). I'll just keep riding that wave of wacky mayhem in the meantime.

"It was a beautiful day. Don't let it get away..."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Midnight in the Hoegaarden of Good and Evil

Meanwhile, True Believers, at "The Fox and Hound" All-Star Game Party...

Comma McOsborne: "A toast! A toast to the success of Comma, Inc.!"

McFlunkie #1: "No, Comma - DON'T! Don't drink the Hoegaarden! It hasn't been properly tested yet on the masses! We don't know the effects...!"

Comma McOsborne: "Bah! Damn your tests! Stocks of Comma, Inc. have been plummeting! This secret blend of Belgian Ale, hops and orange slices is the only thing that can put us back on top!!!" (McOsborne chugs the Hoegaarden to the utter horror of the other party guests.)

Sometime later, after several Hoegaarden secret potions have been consumed, at the Executive Suites of Comma, Inc.

The Hoegaarden mask (hanging on a chair): "Goblin, come out and play...!"

Comma McOsborne (stumbling into the room): "The voices! Those voices are speaking to me again! Damn it, what do you want from me...?"

The Hoegaarden mask (hanging on a chair): "You know what I want, Comma. You KNOW what must be done! WE have to set things straight!"

Comma McOsborne (in his well-stitched silk pajamas): "No, stop it! You know I can't! Stop speaking to me! Damn you, stop tormenting me!!!"

The Hoegaarden mask (hanging on a chair): "Look at you! You're worthless and weak! They're all laughing at you - LAUGHING!"

Comma McOsborne (crumbling to his knees): "No - NO! They're laughing WITH me! Why can't you see that-? What do you want from me...?"

The Hoegaarden mask (hanging on a chair): "I want you to do what's RIGHT! What MUST be done, you sniveling Society of Professional Journalists' reject! Unless, of course, you want to wind up like Gib Shanley! Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!!"

Comma McOsborne: "Noooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!"

Later, at the offices of "The Daily Futile"...

Peter Chaqer: "Mr. Mulready, sir, I've got some great pics of my good friend, Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger-Man!"

J. Jonah Mulready (chomping on a cigar): "Blogger-Man, huh-? Sounds like a menace!" Surveys the pictures. "Pics, huh-?" Throws them in Peter Chaqer's face. "These are crap, kid! Bring me something I can use!"

Peter Chaqer (slumping): "Yes, sir..."

J. Jonah Mulready: "Wait, kid! I changed my mind. I'll give you 300 bucks for them..."

Peter Chaqer: " Really-? Well, sir, I was kind of hoping for a job..."

J. Jonah Mulready: "No jobs! FREELANCE! Just the thing for a kid your age..."

Just then, The Green With Envy Goblin comes bursting through the wall of "The Daily Futile" riding his goblin glider with glee.

The Green With Envy Goblin: "Ah, ha, ha, ha! Hello, my pretties! Sorry to interrupt your staff meaning - but I'm on deadline! I'm going to get you - and your little Dufala too!"

J. Jonah Mulready: "Hah! I KNEW it! The Green With Envy Goblin and Blogger-Man are in cahoots together - trying to take over our fair city!"

Peter Chaqer: "No, it's not true! Green With Envy Goblin - What are you doing here? You've been downsized!"

The Green With Envy Goblin: "Downsized, huh-? I'll give you DOWNSIZED!"

The Green With Envy Goblin throws one of his patented Pumpkin "bombs" into the lap of Peter Chaqer.

Peter Chaqer: "(Gasp) Tell - tell Julie E. Washington I loved her, middle initial and all...!" (KABOOM!!!)

J. Jonah Mulready: "The Green With Envy Goblin - he's mad! Mad, I tell you!"

The Green With Envy Goblin sweeps through the offices of "The Daily Futile" on his glider amidst screams of well-staged fright. Columnist Connie Shultz stands and screams in horror, "My baby, my baby! Somebody save my baby!!!" as The Green With Envy Goblin swoops in and grabs The Pulitzer SurPrize right out of Connie's tightly-clenched fists: "I'll take THAT, Toots!"

Connie Schultz (shrugging): "Ah, well. Easy come, easy go."

Dick Feagler: "Balderdash! This sort of thing would have never happened at The Cleveland Press!"

The Green With Envy Goblin grabs Dick Feagler by his goiter and carries him off into the dark, Cleveland night: "I'll give you a full-court Press, Feagler, my fiendish friend! Right up against the side of The Sally Struthers School of Journalism building! Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

Will journalism go completely gonzo in Cleveland? Will Dick Feagler be saved in time to write his next column on The Great Depression? Does anybody even care? (Nah, it's Cleveland - we get our "comedy" on the outside...) To be continued in "The Amazing Sphincter-Man # 36"

Sunday, July 10, 2005

"Brand X" Generic Rant

"He's such a great writer, I don't even know if I can talk to him. Frankly, I prefer the company of nitwits..." - Jerry to Elaine on "Seinfeld."

Okay, Cleveland (and beyond) - what do you want from me?

No, seriously, what do YOU want? I know what I want - I'm much more comfortable being "Larry David" or "David Letterman" than a "Larry King" or "Dan Rather." But, nonetheless, do you want me to give you some false hope written on an engraved cyber-Hallmark card that says, "This hug's for you"? Do you want me to give you "THE answers" to all the problems our city - and world - face? So what do you want...?

You know, I sat in the BP Office Building (which I affectionately referred to as "The Black Tower of Living Death") for almost 5 years while working at Arthur Andersen. By the last 2 years, I was so miserable at my well-paying, "secure," corporate cubicle job that I would march down to the conference room at the end of the hall - on cue - to call my friend, Pete Chakerian, on a twice daily basis. "I can't take it anymore," I would moan on a contiuous repeat "Lost" loop. "I've got to get out of here - I can't take it anymore. I've got to do something with my life!"

And then one fateful day, "it" happened. "Hey, why is it raining accountants outside my office window?" I asked innocently that day. And then the news came over the wire about the Enron scandal - and Arthur Andersen's "involvement." To make a long story short, Arthur Andersen - an international company over 100 years old - was going out of business. Poof! Gone.

So, huh, I guess I got my wish. I was free! Free to pursue my passions - but at what price?

"Even the best fall down sometimes. Even the wrong words seem to rhyme. Out of the doubt that fills my mind. I somehow find, you and I, collide.."

Do you want me to tell you I fell ass-backwards into "The Second City" branch in Cleveland - and that it was one of the greatest experiences of my life? Do you want me to tell you that I was proudly the member of the first, last and only graduating class of writers that successfully completed the Sketch Comedy program before The Universe (unmercifully?) shut the doors on it? Do you want to know that after I (and five fantastic others) produced our graduation show, "Six Pens None The Richer," and then the core group went on to form "The Public Squares" and produced our first independent show, "We Apologize in Advance..." (with much-needed help from Second City alumni, Nathan Cockerill) - that the impatient Poltergeist sucked The Second City Improv Theater up into oblivion and spit it's crumbled remains onto Bob Hope Way...? Is that want you to hear???

Do you want to hear that the scattered remains of "The Second City" gang ended up leaving for greener pastures in Chicago (and beyond) depiste anguished cries of "Why are you giving up so easily?" and "Why are you abandoning Cleveland when things are JUST starting to happen here...?" (McEditor's Note: "No, not just, Clarise ...something set you off. So what was it...? Quid pro quo.") The same tired cries I have heard over and over again in the Cleveland world of journalism - and business - and comedy - in an atypical "Groudhog Day" fashion?

Do you want to hear that everything's going to be alright? Is that what you WANT to hear...?

"And now for something completely different..."

Do you want to hear that I spent Saturday night "bonding" with a group of best friends from my youth and some fabulous free-thinking strangers at a party - and who have no idea that this blog even exists? That we argued about the sad state of current comedy movies and my best friend, Jeff, implored me to watch "Monty Python's Holy Grail" because it's the best comedy - from beginning to end - ever made? And that I said I felt the same way about "Young Frankenstein" - riffing lines so funny our sides split as we sat, drank and laughed? Do you want to hear that?

Or do you want to hear how the conversation slipped into sports - and, more importantly, the sad state our home town of Cleveland was in? People who now have kids and were raising them here despite the fact Cleveland is deteriorating right before their very eyes - and how it broke our collective hearts. Do you want to hear that?

Or do you want to hear how I sat in horror on the 17th floor of The BP Building on the day of September 11, 2001? How a few of my terrified coworkers and I watched in silent shock as The World Trade Center crumbled before our eyes? And how as I watched in frantic fashion out the window overlooking Cleveland Browns' stadium - watching for a plane that thankfully never came - to come crashing into our very own building, which was later found out to be a very real possibility as one of the terrorist planes U-turned right over Cleveland on route to another target - is that what you want to hear???

Do you want to hear as we raced down the building stairwell - shaking in terror - as air sirens blared in the background? Do you want to hear how I begged my coworkers to get away from the building (and they replied: "I want to wait for my friends so we can all head over to Starbucks") in case it came crumbling down around us? Is that what you want to hear?

Do you want to hear how I ran away in a "War of the Worlds" like fashion amidst my fellow Clevelanders in a horror movie that was all too real? Or how I shook uncontrollably for hours as I took shelter in my friend Jeff's house as we watched the terror unfold on his television screen?

Do you want to hear how I later sat and listened to an ex-CIA specialist on cable news who declared that a nuclear device will be detonated within our U.S. borders by twisted terrorists some time in the next 10 years - and I, sadly to my dismay, agreed with him - and, sadly, nothing we do in regards to "security" will change this fact? Do you want to hear that?

Do you want to hear how my other good friend, Frank, and I sat in a bar on the night of the Iraq invasion and shook our heads in utter disbelief - because this was an unnecessary - yet "justified" - pre-emptive strike by our government? And how every one else in the bar cheered on our troops to "victory" because FOX News (as well as most of the mass media) informed them it would "unpatriotic" to do otherwise? And how Frank and I trembled in disgust because our brave men and women in the military would lose their lives and limbs - in an utterly unselfish fashion - defending our freedom in the process? And how much - despite our protests to this "war" - we thanked them for doing so? Is THAT what you want to hear?

Do you want to hear that now I - a college graduate - work in retail (and writing) to survive day-to-day? And how lucky I am to work in a "union store" that pays me "above-average wages" in addition to medical benefits and a pension - despite the fact our company would love to join Wal-Mart and go "non-union" at every possible turn - (and most likely will when our current union contract expires in September)? Is that what you want to hear me say?

Do you want to hear that I follow the advice of Suze Orman now - and take financial matters into my OWN hands by eliminating credit card debt and investing in the stock market? Because other financial gurus STRESS the importance of reinvesting every penny of my income - into something other than PlayStations, Best Buy trinkets and McDonald's Super Size "meals" - that will bring me financial freedom - and peace of mind - in the turbulent future?

Do you want me to tell you how much I secretly admire my old boss, Cindy Barber, after a successful run in journalism, turned the corner - in a "Flashdance" stance of "take your passion, and make it happen" - and followed her OTHER dreams by owning and running an independent and highly successful rock'n'roll club - that has all of Cleveland buzzing?

Do you want me to tell you that all television shows are "idiotic" and "beneath you" when in fact, like any art form, many are not? Do you want me to tell you that "Rescue Me," "nip/tuck," "The Shield," "Lost," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Alias" and "Gilmore Girls" have more substance, style, and HEART - than most junk you would visit on a movie screen ...independent, art house or otherwise?

Do you want me to tell you that when my new nextdoor neighbor asks if I mind that his American flag - hoisted on a mast - occassionally blows onto my side of the outdoor patio, I proudly proclaim: "Hell no!" at ever turn?

Is that want you want to hear, Cleveland? Because I don't HAVE all the answers as you stare at this blog in "a deer in headlights" stance hoping I can give you the rhetorical required responses - YOU have to come up with some answers on your own sweet time.

So, just like the "ABC After School Special" always states: Don't judge a book by it's "cover." The one thing I have learned on my journey is that there are many sides to many people (Even I just NOW learned something in the process) - and tonight, hopefully, you got a "sneak peek" at a side I usually reserve for only close friends - that eclipses any "King Kong" trailer.

I may write in the cyber-world, but I LIVE in the real one. In the meantime, I'll be out in the sunshine enjoying my freedom: living, laughing, and loving with my friends - just as I always have done to this point.

P.S. - Thanks to The Plain Dealer's "PDQ" for their "shout out" to this poor man's blog - I found out about it after the fact, but appreciate it, nonetheless.

No Hoegaardens were harmed in the making of this post. We now return you to our regularly-scheduled program already in progress...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Choosy Curmudgeons Choose Id! (We're "Topps" in the Toxic Dept.)

Vince Vaughn to Jon Favreau in "Swingers": "I don't want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's really hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated-R movie, you know? The guy you're not sure whether or not you like yet. You're not sure where he's coming from..."

I have a confession to make, folks ...I'm in pain. The kind of pain that rips a guy up inside - like drinking Drain-O. This Indians' losing streak is tearing me up emotionally - and it's obviously having a frustrating effect on C.C. Sabathia too.

Wednesday night, my friends and I were sitting behind the Tribe dugout after C.C. got yanked from the game (to a chorus of boos). Some jerk - but a paying fan entitled to his opinion nonetheless - yelled out to Sabathia as he moped off the field: "Hey, C.C., aren't you supposed to be our #1 starting pitcher...?"

Well, needless to say this sent our (other) young hothead, Sabathia, off - he rattled off a verbal barrage of "bombs" to said fan that would make your dear old grandmother blush. And it got me fired up as well. Maybe it was the sun, the sudsy fun, or the frustration of a losing slide (again) in C-Town - but I was on the war path that night.

Hey, I can be sarcastic, irritable like a bowel syndrome and sometimes a tad too toxic for my own dumb good at times, too. But I sympathize with C.C. on this occassion - this kid is under an amazing amount of pressure to be really good, really soon (not that he's not well-compensated for it). But a "great pitcher" takes years and years to hone their craft - and not to make excuses for him, because, yes, he should be coming into his own by now - but the fans, at times, can be brutal on him. However, that being said, I think C.C. would be better served - as a professional major league ball player - to grow a thicker skin and rise above the scrutiny and cat calls in Cleveland. He has a job to do, so "just do it."

And now a word from "Plastered Peanuts"...

The other night I was flipping thru the channels, because that's what we "shallow" people do afterall, is watch television until our crying eyes bleed - blood, sweat and tears. Anyway, I'm not into all the hype produced by "The Food Network Nerds" - because hearing these psuedo-celebrity-chefs make inane comments like "ice cubes make a tasty treat, so I like to have several trays on hand when friends stop by unexpectedly" is as fascinating to me as watching paint dry...

But, regardless, I'll give the Food Network folks credit for once: They had a great special on the history of Wacky Packages! My Peter Pan complex be damned, these were one of the great inspirational memories of my Gen X youth! (Listen to me gushing and waxing nostalgic on the past: Dare I shudder to say it - I sound like the young, ever mighty morphin' Ewan McGregor version of Dick Feagler!) And the good news is, the Topps corporation is re-issuing Wacky Packs (a blend of the NEW and the old) for a new generation - and Charlie Sheen "sad sacks" like myself who (sigh) can't seem to let go of the past.

That reminds me of another post I've been wanting to make: Why doesn't Cleveland have a Pop Culture Museum here in town? I mean, Bowling Green University has the first (and only?) official "pop culture department" 2 hours away right here in the Buckeye State, right? And Cleveland was the hometown of "Superman" co-creators, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, who I believe both met at Glenville High School - so there's something tipped in our town's favor. I mean, it's something more than naming a street after someone like Bob Hope who passed thru town for like 5 minutes, anyway.

Race you to the lighthouse at Fairport Harbor!

Earlier today - and just like U2 promised, it was a beautiful day outside - I went cruising in the car with the windows down and blasting Coldplay's "Speed of Sound" in the background. After all the ugly turmoil going on in the world, as cowardly as it may sound, I needed to get away from the news - I needed "an escape." And a stroll along the Lake Erie shoreline at Mentor Headlands beach on a picture-perfect sunny day was just the what the doctor ordered (ohmigawd, is the lake actually blue now???)

After that, a late matinee showing of "Fantastic Four" - which was a bit of a disappointment, especially after the brilliant, complex character study of "Batman Begins." F4 is flimsy fun at best, but comes off a bit shallow in contrast to Christopher Nolan's comic masterpiece (did I actually just criticize something for being too shallow?) The guy who played Johnny Storm ("The Human Torch") actually stole the show, and Michael Chiklis was pitch-perfect as "The Thing." But if the guy playing Reed Richards ("Mr. Fantastic") was just adequate in his role, Jessica Alba was horribly miscast as Susan Storm, spewing her lines like some B-list soap opera star. Dr. Doom was a delight before he donned "the mask" - becoming a watered-down version of one of Marvel's most beloved villians - a Darth Vader Lite, if you will. Hopefuly, F4 will learn from the original "X-Men" movie and sharpen the script, like the producers did for "X2".

"Hey, don't write yourself off yet. It's only in your head you feel left out - or looked down on. Just do your best, do everything you can. And don't you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say..."

Okay, enough "geek shop talk" for now - I've gotta run. Meeting friends out at "Pickle Bill's" in Grand River for dinner and drinks. If you've never been there, complete with an "island bar" in the river - and an upstairs/outdoor Tiki patio that has old-fashioned rope swings for chairs around the bar it's a helluva cool place to check out sometime. Ah, it's the "little things" in life that amuse me, and I wouldn't have it any other way...

I love me just the way I are!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Kibbles and T(id) Bits

The Id and I - We put the "fun" back into dysfunctional!

Moss Man: "So, are you passionate about 'Dawson's Creek'?"

Comma (on Cruise Control): "Moss, yes - yes, I am! But - but I am also passionate about life..."

Moss Man: "But what do you say to those people who get better by watching 'Everwood," or even "One Tree Hill." What do you say to them....?"

Comma (on Cruise Control): "Moss, I'd say, you don't need those things to - to feel happy. Journalism is - Moss, it's a psuedo-science."

Moss Man: "But, Comma, isn't there a chance that people could feel better by watching 'Everwood'? Why is "Dawson's Creek" the be-all-end-all in personal therapy? Maybe 'Everwood' or 'One Tree Hill' works for some people..."

Comma (on Cruise Control): "Moss - Moss! You're glib - you don't even know what you're talking about. Do you even KNOW the history of 'Dawson's Creek' - because I do. I know the whole history..."

Moss Man: "But I know people who have actually gotten better by watching 'Everwood'..."

Comma (on Cruise Control): "Moss, Moss - why don't you go do the entire research on 'Dawson's Creek' - and then, and only then, maybe we could have an intelligent discussion on this subject..."

Moss Man: "But you won't even admit that there is a POSSIBILITY that people have gotten better - if not by watching 'Gilmore Girls,' then by at least watching 'Everwood' - they've gotten BETTER! I know people who have..."

Comma (on Cruise Control): "Moss, Moss - you don't know the subject matter you're speaking on - and, Moss, you look foolish. Moss, do you know that 'Grams' and 'Van derBeek' are actually street drugs now...? Did you know that, Moss...?"

"Girlfriend" and "Dawson's Creek" recruit - Katie Pollack - cheers her man on from the sidelines (as if her floundering broadcast career depended on it) - as Scientology Centurian Guards by her side nod in approval with stun guns aimed appropriately at her abdomen.

A little bit of 'dis and a little bit of dat

I just got back from the Indians' loss to the Detroit Tigers - I had primo seats, the second row behind the Tribe dugout - and they lost! See, this is what happens when The Golden Goose does not get his personalized Grady Sizemore jersey, people! Bad things happen when you start to anger the Universe - don't say I didn't warn you!

You know what the problem with this town is - and it's a great town on the surface! But the problem with this town is that the tired old media inhabiting it has a severe strangehold on it - devoid of any creativity or new ideas. They're too busy trying to find friends by throwing lame parties for themselves, instead of trying to create "something new" that they haven't pawned off the national attention span in a "quiet crisis" of hushed desperation - like some self-involved, delusional, geeks overestimating their powers in the Audio-Visual club. (Jack and Jill hint: Go out and talk to some REAL people in the community who aren't intent to proudly suck on your psuedo-celebrity teet!)

Because the REAL problem is the people in the Cleveland media have no original thoughts (other than tired, rehashed ones) and, despite what they say, would bolt in a New York minute if they had the talent to do so. They like to use the excuse, "Oh, I could go to a larger market, but I love this town." The sad fact is, they could never compete in a larger market, and they know it, so they cling to their safety net of a convenient excuse that soothes their savage egos (and, hey, I - loser boy - will even throw myself into this sad mix to be fair).

Here's an example: The morning radio shows ("Motormouth and Monkey Man" or whatever the hell they call themselves, I don't know) are constantly broadcasting mindless "Paris Hilton" and "American Idol" updates because they read about them in the national tabloids and don't have the brain power to know any better. But, hey, it keeps them on the radio and local television in hopes of one day landing "a date" outside of their own Cleveland Mass Media Communications' fishbowl.

Memo to local morning radio: I want to listen to music! In other words, people outside the box who have shown some faint flash of artistic creativity. If I wanted to listen to mindless "blah, blah, blah" dribble, I would print out the pages of my own web blog and read it aloud to myself in the morning!

So that explains Denise Dufala authographing her own self-portrait and passing it off as some crappy Christmas gift (complete with her Tina Fey glasses because she can't figure out what's "cool" on her own, or without the help of her inept producers) to impress all of her friends back in North Olmsted. And when some psycho goes on a local shooting rampage at Case Western, she's the first one down there shoving her face in the camera lens in a vain attempt to gain exposure on CNN (sorry, Ms. Dufala, Kelly O'Donnell, you are not!)

I guess the moral of the story is this: If you ever see ME appearing in some lame "Big Chuck and Lil' John goes Vegas with Dick Goddard" sketch - please have me promptly put to sleep!

Monday, July 04, 2005

July 4th, 2005: God Bless This Mess!

The Fighters of Foo: "I - I'm a one way motorway. I’m the one that drives away - Then follows you back home. I - I'm a street light shining - I’m a wild light blinding bright, burning off alone. It’s times like these you learn to live again. It’s times like these you give and GIVE again. It’s times like these you learn to love again. It’s times like these, time and time again...."

Thanks everybody for your feedback on my last post(s)! Holly, what a nice surprise! I didn't forget you, sweetheart! (Hangin’ round, downtown by myself. And I had so much time, to sit and think about myself. And then there she was: Like double cherry pie! Yeah, there she was - Like disco superfly! I smell sex and candy - here (At least I thought that smell was "sex and candy" upon entering the basement offices of "The Cauldron," either that, or it was the stench of stale MGD and Rascal House pizza!) . Who’s that lounging in my (sports editor's) chair? Who’s that casting devious stares in my direction? Mama, this surely is a dream...)

I didn't write my last post as some "Psuedo-Hardy Boys' Adventure in Indie Journalism: The Search for Fool's Gold in Smuggler's Cove" (as if anybody really reads this crap, or cares about the random ramblings from "the nobody from Queens"). If anything, I truly look back on those times with fondness - good and bad. I'm just in a place where I needed to get my thoughts together, "'cause if you don't know where you're going, then you don't know where you've been."

Alfred the Butler: "So, Master Bruce, why do we fall down...?"

Bruce Wayne: "To learn how to get back up."

Anyway, Holly was a vital contributor to our little rag of a paper - she was a supporting cast member, but an important cast member nonetheless. She was like the "Lilith" to our "Cheers." She showed up late in the series, but her spicy wit kept us all in check - and we were all better for it! She got the laughs at the expense of the other "main cast members" - and, as you can tell by her post, big laughs abounded. Anyway, hon, you are not forgotten - and you will go down with the rest of this Dido ship!

"Don't want to be an American idiot. One nation controlled by the media. Information age of hysteria. It's calling out to idiot America."

So, a lot of fun was had this weekend, but I won't bore you (as usual) with the details. I'm just wishing for the best for our troops over in Iraq. I wasn't one of the "Bible thumpers" who voted for George Bush (because they don't want to see 2 dudes, or 2 chicks, be happy - unlike their own woeful lives), but we're all in this mess together, kids, and let's just hope it all ends soon and successfully - and "all those responsible" are brought to justice.

And for all you "desperate housewives" out there - I like the sultry sass of Eva, but damn if Nicolette Sheridan doesn't own the deed to my funny bone every delicious time!

I've been invited back to the Indians games versus the Tigers on Wednesday night (McEditor's Note: The Golden Goose is still waiting on that Grady Sizemore jersey, team Tribe! Please don't anger The Golden Goose - or suffer the universal karma-like consequences!!!) And, hey, how is Travis Hafner not invited to partake in the All-Star Game??? (Cough: "Bullshit!")

And to truly tolerate the madness that is war, rent the first 3 seasons of M*A*S*H on DVD: A brilliant ode to the maudlin and manic, portrayed with zany satire and sadness by the greatest character in pop culture post-modern history: Hawkeye "Benjamin Franklin" Pierce.

"I can take umbrage, I can take the cake, I can take the A-train. I can take two and call me in the morning, but I cannot take this sitting down!" - Hawkeye