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I’m a freelance interactive content strategist and copywriter in Austin, TX. See my work here.

I post about whatever geeky stuff interests me. Sometimes I post funny stuff that I make up. About once a week I post videos of my cat Yeti ignoring me. I welcome reader suggestions and feedback. I seldom get any.

Oh, yeah. I’m also the recording artist currently known as ManChildATX.

Monday
Mar312014

RIP Eddie Lawrence, aka the Old Philosopher

Have any of these things ever happened to you:

  • You got chapped lips and paper cuts and your feets are all swollen up and blistered?
  • Your shoelace just busted?
  • You open a big cut on your cheek trying to even out your sideburns?
  • 60 yards of barb wire hits you right smack in the puss?
  • You fall down in the mud and a wild animal runs off with your shoes? 

If so, you’ve lost a champion. Eddie Lawrence, the creator of the Old Philosopher character, died recently at age 95.

I was surprised he was still living, quite frankly. The Old Philosopher has been a very durable piece of nostalgia, perhaps because it sounded dated when it was new. The entire gag consisted of Lawrence, in a pathetic, sadsack voice, reading a litany of imagined indignities that had befallen his listeners, and then suddenly, with the backing of a loud Sousa-playing brass band, exhort his listeners to, “Lift your head up high! Take a walk in the sun with that dignity and stick-to-it-iveness, and you’ll show the world, you’ll show them where to get off. You’ll never give up, never give up, never give up — that ship!” Odds are you’ve heard some variation of it somewhere, sometime. 

According to Eddie Lawrence’s obit in the Times, he was pretty much able to build a career on the routine. I became familiar with the Old Philosopher as a kid because the character was often used in commercials (though often it was someone ripping off the character). As a kid, I always wondered where the hell it had come from. The woes he enumerated—like broken radiators and tweed suits for winter—sounded dated even back then. It was that weird sensation you get when you know something is playing off a cultural referent, but your only knowledge of the referent is from the things that refer to it.

Play this video to hear the original recording that launched a thousand schticks, most of them variations on the same theme. And be happy for Eddie. He made out OK in the end. 

Friday
Mar282014

5 Simplifications in the 2013 Tax Code

Old, complicated code, left; new, less complicated code, right

We have made changes to the tax code that should make submitting your tax return even easier. Here are just a few of the highlights:

 

  1. The filing requirement for Form 309Q, Businesses That May Conduct Certain Transactions with Formerly Bankrupt Entities Now Under the Supervision of the Federal Bankruptcy Master, has been reduced from 352 pages to 323 pages. NOTE: most businesses may now need to supplement this filing with Form 309Qi, Why I Left Out 29 Pages from My 309Q Filing.
  2. For couples filing individual returns, there may no longer be a need to file Form IRS19INDIV, Reassurance of Marital Solidity for Married Couples Filing Individually (Commonly known as the “We’re good, we’re tight, don’t worry” form). Couples considering filing separately should use new Worksheet IRS19INDIVWKSHT to determine whether filing IRS19INDIV is necessary. Instructions for the new worksheet may be obtained only in quantities of 500 or more.
  3. Certain individuals earning less than the estimated minimum their mothers would have expected them to be earning by their age may no longer need to file Form 716PRNTS, Why I Am Not a Tax Deadbeat, But Merely an Underachieving Failure. Instead, they can file Form 716PRNTS-EZ. Please do not use fingerpaints to fill in this form.
  4. A certain subset of degenerate gamblers can waive filing Form 7CUM11, Complete Listing of My Bad Beats for Tax Year 2013, IF AND ONLY IF they attach a brand new $500 bill to their Form 1040. Do not use staples. And do not tell anyone else about this. Seriously.
  5. Individuals earning less than $75,000 per year can now check a box on their return to indicate their guess as to how much greater a percentage of their gross income they are paying in taxes than the super-wealthy. Those guessing correctly can expect to receive Informational Mailing IM-TAXEMPLOY, How To Supplement Your Income With Seasonal Work Opening Envelopes at the IRS Service Center Nearest You

 

 

Thursday
Mar272014

Ask a Pathological Liar: Bieber Fever

Dear Pathological Liar:
My mom promised to take my brother and me to the Justin Bieber concert. As things turned out, she could only get two tickets, so she said that she would take whichever one of us had the best report card, which came a couple of days later. Of course my brother, the nerd of all things, got better grades than me. He always does. The thing is, he hates Justin Bieber. From the beginning the only reason he wanted to go was to act snarky the whole way through the concert and make fun of girls, because he’s dork who will never get a date. Now he has the added bonus of being able to punk me out of going. He’s happy, I’m miserable, and my mom’s a total beeyotch. What do I do?
Signed,
Leave it to Bieber

Dear Biebe:
Wow, man, that sucks. I can totally relate. Back in the 90s, I missed out on a chance to see the Black Crowes and I was really, really bummed. But my dad cheered me up and we decided to make a father-son project out of it. So together, we invented computerized ticketing software. Eventually we sold it to Ticketmaster. To this day, we get 1/10 of a cent from every ticket sold in North America. You might think that this would mean I have a lot of money, and it’s true—I do. Unfortunately, my dad put my money in a trust in an offshore bank. My lawyers are suing my dad to try to get the PIN number for that account, which my dad claims he gave unseen to late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. It’s gonna be tied up in the international courts for months. But there’s an upside: I still have my old Tandy computer and it’s still wired into a backdoor to Ticketmaster’s original network. So I can get you a ticket to any concert you want, so long as it isn’t sold out, like the Justin Bieber concert you wanted to go to. Sorry. But, hey, I hear Taylor Swift may be touring in your area in early 2015. Gimme a shout if that appeals to you.


Dear Pathological Liar:
My brother was traveling on business to Beijing on Malaysia Air Flight 370. Last year, he split with his loony-tunes wife and was given full custody of their two kids, whom my wife and I were looking after while my brother was traveling. The kids keep asking when daddy will be home. What do we tell them?
Signed,
Clueless in Canton

Dear Clueless:
What do you tell them when they ask when their dad is coming home? “Soon.” But dude, you really gotta sell it.

Dear Pathological Liar:
I am dating a girl who I am very much in love with. In fact, I want to ask her to marry me. There’s just one problem: early on, when I was trying to impress her, I told her I was an anesthesiologist. In reality, I’m just an anesthesiology assistant. If we get married, she is going to find out. So I feel like I should tell her sooner rather than later. But how?
Signed,
The Sandman’s Assistant

Dear Sandman:
I agree you should tell her sooner rather than later. I was in a similar situation once. I was working with a guy and we invented the iPod together. Like you, I was trying to impress him and win his favor, so I told him that I patented it in both of our names, when in reality, I excluded him from the patent filing altogether. Then, when I got an insider tip that Apple was going to sue us to try to steal our patent away so that they could claim that they invented the iPod, I amended the patent filing so that my friend was listed as the sole inventor. When he found out, I told him it was because I had made so much money from inventing Teddy Ruxpin that I wanted him to reap all the benefit from our iPod work. He was amazed that I would be so generous. In fact, he was happy for me that I was not named in the lawsuit. Poor broke bastard. Anyway, maybe you can work something like that out. I hope so, because, man, is your lady going to be pissed.

 

Tuesday
Mar252014

“Charlie Victor Romeo” a timely dramatization of cockpit crises

 

Screen shot from http://charlievictorromeo.com“Charlie Victor Romeo” is the radio call sign for cockpit voice recorder, or CVR. In 1999 an ingenious stage drama of the same name debuted, written by Bob Berger and Patrick Daniels. The play is basically a series of blackout scenes wherein actors in a barebones cockpit set dramatize the final moments of six major airline emergencies by faithfully recreating the dialog of their crews, as recorded on recovered CVRs.

In 2012, Berger and Daniels raised money on Kickstarter to fund a film version of the play. The film debuted at festivals last year, to generally very positive reviews.

I first heard about the play from my sister. A healthcare worker, she and her hospital colleagues were assigned to attend a daytime staging as a sort of mini-seminar in crisis management. As I recall, she said that some of the scenes depict cockpit crews whom are hopelessly oblivious, but some depict cockpit crews whose calm under crisis prevents bad situations from becoming much worse. She said it was one of the most gripping things she’d ever seen in her life.

I’ve got a morbid fascination with this stuff. Of course, we may never know what happened, exactly, with Malaysia Air flight 370, but that real life slow motion drama reminded me that I need to see this film. Trailer follows.

 

 

Monday
Mar242014

The Latest from My Neighborhood Listserv

HI THARe NIEGHGBORS! I’M AM SELING MY EGGS11!!111!!!!! MANY OF WICH ARE FRETILE!!! COME BY!! AND GET YOU!!! SOME!
BERTHA ON HOLMES AVE

Hi, we’re new to the neighborhood. We live over by “the old abandoned railroad tracks,” as our real estate agent called them. We’re just curious, about eight times a day there’s a really loud rumbling noise and a very loud horn honking and it seems to be coming from the direction of “those old abandoned railroad tracks,” as our real estate agent called them. Any idea what’s causing it? Our real estate agent says he doesn’t know what it is.
Candy and Mark on Railyard Ln

I just want to let it be known that I will beat the living shit out of anyone who comes near or even so much as looks at my azaleas this spring. I don’t do all that hard work just so my wacko neighbors can ruin them. Or look at them.
You have been warned.
Gary on Ridgely St.
PS: Yes, my dog bites.

CHICKEN’S’ EGG’S, NIEGHBGHBORS!! SOME OF YOU!1! GOT CONFUSED!!!
BERTHA ON HOLMES AVE

Hey, y’all. We just wanted to let everyone know that we’re going to have a big blowout of a party tonight. So if we don’t answer the door at 3am, don’t worry, we’re OK. It’s just that we won’t be able to hear your knocking because the DJ we hired is blasting the tunes too loud. Just didn’t want anyone to be unduly concerned for our well being.
Lisa on Cravat St.

ALTHO I MIGT HAV E SOME OFF THE OTHER KIND!! IFF YOU NEED M!!! IM’ DONE WITH MY AVIARIES!! HA! HA!
BERTHA ON HOLMES AVE

Hey, does anyone know who owns the little house with the stained glass windows and the tall pointy roof feature? I’ve been by during weekdays and no one ever seems to be home, although they always seem to have a lot of company visiting on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. At any rate, my development partner and I are interested in buying that property. We have a client who would very much like to tear down that quaint old structure so that he can cover the entire lot—up to the legal limit, of course—with an enormous monolithic steel box of a home that he plans to use once or twice a year on his visits to town. It’s actually a good deal for the neighborhood, because most of the time the house will just sit empty and looming. So any leads on tracking down that homeowner would be appreciated.
Marlon on Alder Cir.

NEEIBGHBORS, HOW DID I KNOW SOME PEPLE WOOD BE OFF ENDED!!?? BECUAUSE THEY ARR TYRING TO HAVEA BABY!!?? AND CANT’!!!??? I DIDNT’ KNOW!! THAT! THERE JUTS EGSS!!!!!
BERTHA ON HOLMES AVE

 

Friday
Mar212014

Cat thinks he got better deal at cat sitters' place

Wednesday
Mar192014

True Crime, False Justice: Texas Monthly’s Epic Exposé of Murder and Travesty

Mike Hall’s Energizer bunny of a magazine story just keeps going and going and going

Old-fashioned reporters were said to build their stories with a lot of shoe leather. In the case of Texas Monthly contributing editor Mike Hall, a good friend, it’s more like sneaker rubber. No matter. After a year of reporting, Hall has delivered a masterpiece of criminal justice journalism that leaves little doubt that six men were falsely convicted for the murders of four people—in two separate, but incredibly entwined cases—in Waco, Texas in the early 80s. Three of the six men were ultimately exonerated. But one died in prison, one still languishes there, and one, David Spence, was executed by the State of Texas in 1998.

Spence’s conviction rested entirely on the testimony of compromised jailhouse snitches and a so-called human bite mark expert whose work was dismissively discredited by the forensic scientists who later reviewed it. After after examining some human remains in another case, this same expert also famously and definitively claimed that they belonged to a missing woman—who later turned up very much alive. And his testimony was the linchpin that cinched Spence’s execution.

This is a story where a relative of one of the victims shouts “Just die!” at a condemned man strapped to the lethal injection gurney, and is then haunted in the following decades over the uncertainty of the executed man’s actual guilt. And with good reason. It’s an incredible—and at 25,000 words—a massive read. Texas Monthly will be releasing it online in four parts, starting today. But if you’re lucky enough to live in the Great State, you can head down to the store, buy a copy of the magazine, and read it all in one mind-blowing whack.

Tuesday
Mar182014

Thanks to Cabinas Los Cocos for another great beach vacation in Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica

Look close and you can see me keeping the hammock from flying away.My dedicated readers—and I mean both of y’all—know that the preceding “live blogging” beach vacation posts were facetious. They were my not-so-subtle way of parodying a certain kind of privileged, spoiled brat attitude we see so often online, and I had fun with it. 

Because the fact is, you’d have to be pretty damn jaded to go to Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica, where those photos were taken, and not be humbled by its beauty, solitude and tranquility. I’ve gone there almost half a dozen times, and every time I’m leaving to return home, my overriding thought is, When can I get back here? It takes a little effort to get there, but it’s so totally worth it. 

We usually rent a little beach front cabina (pictured above) from our friends Susan and Andrew, who for over 30 years have owned and operated Cabinas Los Cocos, a Zancudo landmark. They are really dedicated to helping people access and enjoy this little out-of-the-way slice of paradise, and they do an excellent, excellent job of it.

Here’s a video Andrew made. It will give you some idea of why Playa Zancudo is one of the best ways to experience the easy-going allure of Costa Rica, best expressed in the phrase, “pura vida.” 

Friday
Mar142014

Live blogging our beach vacation, #9

Surf’s up. NOT!

Friday
Mar142014

Live blogging our beach vacation, #8

Sunset, smunschet. 

Friday
Mar142014

Live blogging our beach vacation, #7

They say the dolphins here last week were smarter and more photogenic. 

Thursday
Mar132014

Live blogging our vacation, #6

Little savages! Can’t turn your back on ‘em for a second. So much for those dacquiris I was going to have the boy make us tonight. What am I saying? As if the blender would actually work!

Wednesday
Mar122014

Live blogging our beach vacation, #5

Hey, I thought these rainforest frogs had all gone extinct! What a goddamn load of bullshit. Disappointing. 

Wednesday
Mar122014

Live blogging our beach vacation, #4

 

 

For the love of Christ, where can a bro rent a Wave Runner up in this bitch?!

Wednesday
Mar122014

Live blogging our beach vacation, #3

 

I bet it’s nicer over on that side. Or at least there’s a cabana boy to bring you a chaise. Goddammit. 

Wednesday
Mar122014

Live blogging our beach vacation, #2

 

I have been waiting seven minutes for someone to come by and take my mojito order. Seven minutes!

Tuesday
Mar112014

Live blogging our beach vacation, #1

 

This place is dead. There’s nothing going on. FML. 

Thursday
Mar062014

No new content this week, because I suck. 

Or else I’m just very, very busy and moving in a million directions at once. Or probably both. 

In the meantime, you can amuse yourself with this blog, which is full of the blogger’s apologies for not posting frequently enough. Get it? I’m being all meta. 

Friday
Feb282014

Culture Creepiness: Real-life news people on Netflix's House of Cards

 

Roll over, Paddy.Score one for Paddy Chayefsky. Make that yet another one. Television news continues to approach a reality that more and more resembles the self-interested corporate free-for-all pitched at the lowest common denominator that Chayefsky foresaw in his prophetic screenplay for the 1976 film Network.

Nowhere is this more evident, to me, than in the increasing number of cameos by real-life TV news personalities (notice my avoidance of the word “journalists”) in movie or TV fiction. Where once this was a novelty, it is becoming more and more common. It’s reached critical mass in season 2 of Netflix’s irresistible political thriller House of Cards, showing how topsy-turvy this trope has become.

I mean, it’s not like this is something new. But now the floodgates have opened, and TV news men and women seem to be more eager than ever to play themselves in works of pure fiction.

For instance, it was only when I was “doing research” (read: Googling) for this post that I realized that the woman playing the insipid interviewer of the vice president’s wife in episode 4 was an actual TV journalist, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield (whom I’d honestly never heard of before). At the time I saw the episode, I thought no respectable TV news person would ever really conduct themselves the way Banfield’s “character” does in the interview with actress Robin Wright’s character. Now I’m not so sure.

Overall the effect of these appearances is to reinforce a feeling that many have already had for a long time: that these people are more interested in pursuing and purveying sensationalist drama than information. Once it was easy to think these cameos were mostly intended to boost the verisimilitude of the host productions. Now it’s obvious that these TV pundits see them as opportunities to promote their own shows and “personal brands.”

The fact that they aren’t worried that these appearances harm their credibility, that they are just as eager in these shows to discuss fictional events with the same “gravitas” they reserve for actual current events, reveals their stark cynicism about the discernment of their viewers. The attitude seems to be, “Everyone already knows we’re just phony gasbags trying to earn ratings, the truth be damned.” How else to explain the prideful glee with which Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow—who devotes almost four minutes of screen time to it—trumpet their appearances in the clips below?

The last clip is a montage of House of Cards cameos from 12 real-life TV news people. Paddy would be too disgusted to gloat.

 

Thursday
Feb272014

Cat offers to replace Lady Gaga on Doritos stage at SXSW

Courtesy of the good folks at Doritos. Hopefully.

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