The Top Five TV Comedies In No Particular Order

I was channel-surfing and locked onto a binge of Scrubs and settled in to watch a few episodes and was reminded that there were, over the years, some outstanding comedies. Not many. The vast majority of sitcoms were populated with things like Laverne and Shirley and One Day at a Time; you know, laff track wretchedness. These, though, were gems:

1. Scrubs. Lightning fast repartee that requires you to rewind the DVR from time to time to catch everything said, this series was hee-larious. Doctor Dorian and his dream-world cutaways were comedy gold, simply gold. The series ended perfectly, too, that last show putting everything in its right place. And then some idiot tried to revive the show on another channel and another venue and, uh uh, uh uh.

2. Community. Even faster and funnier than Scrubs, with so many jokes coming at you from so many directions that a half-hour show became an hour from all the rewinding. For the first three or four seasons, that is, until the writers decided to turn it into the Abed show. Why’d they do that?


3. That 70’s Show.  This was my teenage life. My best friend, Don, was Forman; I was a combination of Hyde and Forman, and the Third Musketeer, Drew, was a combination of Hyde and Kelso. We all hung out in Don’s basement. Who were Donna and Jackie? Various girls who came and went. The stuff they do in the show? It was the stuff I did. You had to be there.


4. Frasier. The thinking man’s Cheers. Don’t get me wrong, Cheers was great, but Frasier was a step-up.

5. Newhart. The one where he’s running the inn, not being the psychiatrist which, itself, was pretty funny. But the oddballs in the later show put it in the win category. This is my brother Darrel.

Silicone Valley is a definite top five, it’s just I only  had five slots.

What, no Seinfeld? Nah. Too meta.

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10 Reasons Cats Are Better Than Dogs, Kids, and Wives


1. Dogs: “What are we doing? “What are we doing?” “What are we doing?” “What are we doing?” “What are we doing?” “What are we doing?”

Kids: “What are you doing for me?” “What are you doing for me?” “What are you doing for me?” “What are you doing for me?” “What are you doing for me?”

Wives: see “Kids”

Cats: “Hey, howya doin’? Thanks for breakfast. See you at dinner.”


2. Dogs: crap everywhere and anywhere at anytime.

Kids: crap everywhere and anywhere at anytime up until about two years old, with relapses.

Wives: won’t leave the damn toilet seat up

Cats: bury their crap


3.  Dogs: take over the bed and steal the blankets

Kids: take over the bed and prevent other activities

Wives: kick you out of bed

Cats: warm the bed up


4. Dogs: bark at the neighbors, the postman, and friends, never at burglars or Jehovah’s Witnesses

Kids: introduce potential burglars

Wives: swear every sound, especially at 2 in the morning, is a burglar

Cats: You kidding? Get a dog


5. Dogs: are disgusting.

Kids: are disgusting

Wives: say you’re disgusting

Cats: are disgusting but you don’t know it


6. Dogs: steal your food off your plate

Kids: steal your food out the refrigerator

Wives: buy food you do not want

Cats: bring you food


7. Dogs: eat revolting glop

Kids: want revolting glop

Wives: buy revolting glop for kids with your money

Cats: their glop could be tuna


8. Dogs: Slobber

Kids: Slobber

Wives: never slobber, dammit

Cats: Hairballs, but you can vacuum those up


9. Dogs: rolled up newspaper, lots of yelling, obedience school

Kids: rolled up newspaper, lots of yelling, boarding school

Wives: forget it

Cats: teach you, you don’t teach them


10. Dogs: constant licking

Kids: constant whining

Wives: see “Kids”

Cats: purring. That’s nice  


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My Son Got Married on Saturday

Everything you need to know about marriage you learned in kindergarten:

The sand ceremony:

I had no idea what that was. I kept expecting these guys to show up:

The reception:

Everyone who claimed some kind of parental responsibility for either bride or groom:

The best man:

The better women:

My two other sons:

They’re not really my sons, but I bought them enough pizza in high school to count.

Uncle Ralph and Aunt Brenda and Chris and Sidney showed up: 

So did the Germans:

Uncle Ralph meets the Germans:

Uncle Ralph meets Diesel and Luna:

Moms getting sloshed:

Moms getting danced:

Congratulations, son. Welcome to the family, Ashley. Watch out for the cat. She plots.

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Acknowledge Mints

I’ve been noticing lately that acknowledgments are popping up in novels. Huh? Aren’t novels fiction? What’s the deal?

Acknowledgments in non-fiction, sure. All the time. Downright required because of all the research that goes into a non-fiction book. Simply can’t pull up a Wikipedia page, ya know; gotta visit dozens of Podunk libraries and repositories and museums and sift through relevant papers and letters with the assistance of Podunk archivists, which is a lot of work, a lot more than sitting in a dark attic in front of a laptop making crap up. An extensive Acknowledgments section is definitely in order, at the very least thanking the Podunkians and, more importantly, listing the many places where critical documents and information are located, should some future reader contend with the non-fiction book’s conclusions and wish to refute. Or do further research. Or avoid re-doing research already completed. Serves quite an important purpose, these acknowledgments. Lends an air of credibility, too.

But in fiction?

It’s puzzling. Fiction writing indulges a conceit, not adds to the body of knowledge like, oh say, providing a minute-by-minute account of the Normandy invasion or explaining the succession of English kings. Even if your novel concerns a sergeant minute-by-minute at Normandy or some lowly peasant musing about the succession of English kings, it’s still fiction, it’s still you, just you, writing a story. A story. Not a report. And, yes, many novels require Podunkian research to get the settings and slang and milieu (NOTE: one of my goals this week is to use ‘milieu’ in a sentence) correct, BUT…understand, it’s still self-referent. A note or two listing source materials or explaining how much you’ve deviated from true history might be in order. In “Notes.” Or an appendix. Not Acknowledgements. We readers know its fiction. You made it up, cupcake, no matter how accurately you’ve rendered the setting.

Yes, yes, all of us authors believe that every word that drips from the end of our pens heightens world peace and brings humanity that much closer to Utopia. It does take an abnormally inflated ego to believe one can sling words together in a pleasing enough manner that other people might enjoy it. Most of us know that (at least, I hope most of us do) and try to maintain at least a facade of humbleness…hold on while I admire myself for my humbleness…and try not to take ourselves more seriously than I ought. Try.

But these ever-lengthening fiction acknowledgement sections are evidence to the contrary. Much gushing, there is, about how great it was that I, Mr. Author, experienced this wondrous thing called Writing a Novel, and I wish to mention the Liddle Peepul who rendered me a service, like my agent and my editor and my publisher and the typesetter, all of whom performed acts of agenting and editing and typesetting unlike ever done in previous instances of novel publication and who are the most brilliant and effective and wonderful people in the entire world and let’s not forget my wife and children who provided So Much Support…TRANSLATION: these people are lucky I bestowed the wonder that is me upon them, allowing them an opportunity to bask in my brilliance. You peasants.

Dudes, knock it off. Write a short, mysterious dedication like you’re supposed to. And shut up.


NOTE: (Hey, see how that works?) While I was writing this screed, I idly wondered if anyone else was irritated by this trend and, wouldn’t you know?

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Jell-O Fist

My all-time top favorite Marvel heroes are:



with Cap being the top of the top. Why? Because they’re regular guys, not god-like, nigh-on invulnerable ubermensch such as Superman and Thor. Unless you had some kryptonite or Loki’s staff handy, fighting them was pretty much suicide. The Marvel guys, though, could be beaten, even by regular schmos like Gladiator

or Tarantula;

heck,  they could be killed. Cap has been killed, or so I’ve heard. By Crossbones,

or so I’ve heard. Daredevil actually has a handicap, a radioactive muffler (we had radioactive car parts in the 60s, doncha know) taking his sight while giving him bat radar while martial arts training gave him badassery. And Iron Fist…oh, c’mon, plunging his hand into the fiery heart of Shou-Lao the Undying?

Now what 1970’s era martial artist like moi didn’t want to do the same thing?

So when Netflix announced an Iron Fist series, I was all atwitter. After all, they’d done a bang-up job with Daredevil (maybe not so much in Season 2, except for the best Punisher ever

), Jessica Jones (with the most terrifying villain ever,

except for maybe Doctor Doom), and Luke Cage…

well, two out of three ain’t bad. I settled in, popcorn in hand, to watch and…

What? The? Hell?

I mean, seriously, Netflix, what the hell? I don’t know what this series is, but it’s definitely not Iron Fist. Jello Fist, more like it.

Foist of all, Danny Rand’s not some naïve waif-like barefoot hippie spouting Zen koans and bewildered by The Real World. Danny Rand is a badass, with badass attitudes. After all, he marched out of Kun’Lun in full Iron Fist regalia and yanked Rand Enterprises out from under the legless Harold Meachum (if you know the original comic books, that’s funny). With the approval and encouragement of Lei Kung the Thunderer.

What’s this “guardian of the pass” crap?

Second, Iron Fist is a master martial artist. This guy Finn or Swede or whoever is a green belt. Colleen Wing is a green belt. Both are getting their clocks cleaned by other green belts. About the only one who looks like he knows what he’s doing is Davos.

I’m beginning to back his claim to the Iron Fist.

And who wrote this thing? Because, seriously, the Big Reveal about Colleen Wing?

Amateur hour.

One more question: where the hell is the Iron Fist? I think we’ve seen it once or twice. Maybe.

I vote for an immediate reboot.

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Verizon is the Devil

Yesterday, I got a bill in the mail from Verizon for $66.99. This is odd because all of my Verizon accounts are prepaid; in other words, I do not receive bills through the mail. Especially bills that are for more than my pre-paid accounts, and especially when, the day before, I got the monthly text from Verizon thanking me for my pre-paid account payments. Perhaps I should inquire.
Any of you who have Verizon know that making a telephone inquiry into billing matters is somewhat akin to the Bataan Death March: you have to grimly hold on and hope to God you reach the end of it without some screaming guard bayoneting you in the back. So, forget the 800 number; go for the Chat on the Verizon website. So I did.
I got a bright cheerful customer service rep named K (no names will be used in this) who was very excited and happy to help me. So I said I got this bill through the mail and I had no idea what it was for, and K was very excited and happy that I told her that, and was very excited and happy when I (a) got my secret code right and (b) guessed which of my secret questions was currently in force. I can’t really blame her for being excited and happy with every correct response. No doubt, up to 50% of persons querying through the website are not quite sure what their own names are, much less secret codes and questions.
So she checked my account and noted no such bill was there, and I told her yes, I know, because I checked my account, too, before initiating the Chat and saw no such bill and I am now Chatting to find out what exactly this bill is, which made her happy and excited. Is the bill for phone service or internet service? Don’t know, K, because it does not say what the bill is designed to pay, only that I am to pay $66.99. Is one of your cell phone numbers listed on the bill? No, K, they are not; there is an account number listed on it, though, which made K very happy and excited and I gave it to her. A few minutes later, a puzzled K advised the account number was not for any pre-paid account but appeared to be for a postpaid account, like a landline. I don’t have a postpaid account, K, nor a landline. Okay, K said, all happy and excited, so you will need to go to Chat for the postpaid accounts.
Uh, what?
Turns out there are different chats at different levels in Verizon world. See, you thought that Verizon, being this technically sophisticated organization, could simply get someone from postpaid onto the same Chat that I was currently enjoying with K. Oh, you peasant you. Turns out that getting onto the Postpaid chat is a little more complicated than getting on the mere prepaid Chat. You have to log off prepaid, click Device, then Contacts, then hit Chat and then you will be talking to postpaid. Intuitive, right? All of this K happily and with great excitement explained to me, although she did not call me a peasant. That was implied.
So, I clicked through the Verizon universe until I was on Chat with another K, who I suspect was the very same K I was talking to in the bourgeois prepaid Chat because this K was just as happy and excited to help me as the first K. Got through codes and security questions and I explained what the issue was and K2 was concerned as well as happy and excited because she did not show me having any postpaid accounts. Ah, the same sheet of music at last, so she asked me what the bill was for and I said I did not know and did it show what telephone number the bill applied to and I said no it only showed an account number and then she asked if it showed an invoice number and I puzzled over the bill and located five digits next to the amount I owed but that turned out not to be an invoice number so K2 checked the account number and, waddya know, it not only does not show up as a postpaid account, it’s in the wrong format for any Verizon account, post or pre. Aha! Progress! So, K2, am I getting scammed here? Is this a fraud? Can I scan the bill to your security department?
Well, no, let’s try something else first. Why don’t you, peasant, call one of the 800 numbers listed on the bill while I stand by here and then you can tell me over Chat what they said?
As previously mentioned, I am not one to willingly enter the Death March of Verizon Customer Service over the phone, so I typed more or less the following back to K2: “Next to being boiled alive in skunk oil, calling a Verizon Customer Service Representative is one of the worst experiences a human can endure. Do I really have to do this?”
At which point, an alert popped up on my screen saying that I had been on Chat far too long for Verizon’s liking, and they were now logging me off. Which they did.
I looked around for someone to strangle but the only thing in reach was the cat and, well, not her fault, so I logged on to postpaid Chat again. After the usual protocols, I got another perky young thing named H, and I told H that I had been this close to getting this mystery solved when Verizon decided to log me off. He said he was really sorry and mournful about that and couldn’t send me back to K2 to resume where we left off, but he’d be real happy and excited to start the whole thing over again. I told him no, forget it, I was going to go waste another couple of hours at the Verizon Store downtown which would probably get me right up to the point the mystery was solved, then close for the evening. I then logged off.
So today I went over to the Verizon store, bill in hand, and was met with immediate hostility. The hostile guy tried to tell me it was a landline bill and got more hostile when I told him I didn’t have a landline. So he starts doing some stuff on his handheld and then on the PC and, ya know, it’s not a landline. So he called the Bataan Death March. However, him being an employee, he knows all the secret call signs and handshakes to keep the guards from bayoneting him, and got through to an actual, half-hostile person. Turns out it was a bill for my internet service which, funny enough, was no longer on autopay. See, back in December, I called the Death March and changed my card and made a payment with the new one, but, unbeknownst to me, in order to continue autopaying on the new card, I had to agree to the terms and services, which cannot be done over the phone when making a payment. Instead, they sent the terms and services agreement to…an Email I haven’t used in five years. An Email, incidentally, that, whenever I went to my Verizon Wireless Internet account, I noted as still being listed as my Email and, after saying a few choice words, I would change to my current Email. Every single time I went there. For about the last two years. Which is why I did not get the terms and services, which is why the new card was not listed on autopay.
I got half-hostile person to change the Email…again…and verify, over the phone, terms and services so my autopay is, allegedly, now fixed. As for the bill, I said go ahead and pay it using the new card…at which point, her system shut down.
I am going to find a Gypsy and put a curse on the Verizon CEO and the entire board.
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Can’t Hang

I’m a bit late getting to this, but, two weeks ago, I was at Lost Weekend VII, the semi-annual film festival held at the Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester, VA. Yes, there have been six previous Lost Weekends (capitalization of those words necessary to designate them from normal lost weekends where you sleep in or binge watch Netflix or something) and yes, I have written of them before. But, this time, I did not spend the entire Thursday through Sunday night huddled in the back row as movie after movie spun by.

Couldn’t hang. Just couldn’t.

Didn’t help that I spent most of Sunday in the ER for my friggin’ back (a syringe of Dilaudid turning it into a different kind of lost weekend), but, even without that, I can’t hang. Certain of life’s inevitabilities have kicked in, making continuous film watching problematic. My wife hung in there, but she’s always been tougher than me, and yes, yes, several other old farts endured, but, not me. I’m done.

Because this is not actually a film festival, it’s a film marathon. Lost Weekend started in 2013 with eight films over three days and now, now…twenty-three films over three-and-a-half days. Doing the math, that translates to oh, say, twenty-seven minutes to eat and sleep over four days.

Can’t hang.

So I didn’t.

I went home after the next-to or next-to-the-next-to last movie of the night, crashed, made a leisurely breakfast and then a leisurely trip back to Alamo and queue up the next movie, stay until my brains started flowing out of my ears, rinse, repeat. Which means I did not see all twenty-three films, but I did see quite a few, of which I thought three were outstanding:

a. Buster’s Mal Heart:

This is a movie so good it could easily have gone another 45 minutes to an hour of its rather short hour-and-a-half and suffer absolutely no ill effects. It was vignette after vignette of three distinct story lines, two of which may, or may not, be the result of the real story line, which may, or may not, be the real story at all. I’m not going to say much more than that, but this movie will blow you away. Oscars for Rami Malek as Buster, DJ Qualls as Brown, and Best Director for Sarah Adina Smith.

b. Toni Erdmann.  

This movie is so good that its over-two-hours run time might actually be a little short. I could have stood a couple more of Toni’s practical jokes with little complaint. In this German film, an apple falls very far from the tree, almost out of the county because daughter Inez is a humorless, stick-up-the-butt corporate apparatchik in contrast with her certifiably insane Dad, practical-joking  Winfried, who has practically joked himself into an old age of isolation and loneliness. Guessing that his stick-butt daughter is as isolated and lonely as he, Winfried pays a visit to her office in Bucharest and, well, you just gotta watch. Things get progressively out-of-hand as daughter, suddenly the apple, tries to match him prank for prank and, you know, you’re going to have to answer the door naked to see what happens. Rumor is that Jack Nicholson has been picked for the American version.

c. The Invisible Guest:

A locked-room Spanish murder mystery originally released under the title Contratiempo from Mexico (or not. Lineage is not certain on this film), there is a point in this fascinating story where you go, “Wait a minute. How can that happen?” And you think you’re some kind of Sherlock because, aha! You have discovered the flaw in the movie! But you haven’t, because the thing that you thought happened DIDN’T happen, and you won’t know that until the last few minutes. Very cool.

Some of the other good ‘uns were the amazing Colossal; I, Daniel Blake (which should pretty much cure you of your socialist enamorings); and the freakin’ hilarious The Young Offenders. That’s about all the ones I actually saw and remembered.

If the trend continues, then the next Lost Weekend will be 23-24 films over the same time frame, and I will see about eight or nine because I can’t hang. Be nice if Lost Weekend became an actual film festival where all the movies are listed and you buy, say, a five-movie ticket to see the ones you want, you know, like Cannes or Sundance.

Not Boston.

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Done. I mean, really done. Sort of.

Col’m, I mean. Again. But, really, this time, I mean it, it’s done.


I still have to run the macros to find words and phrases that I use to the point of annoyance, like “just.” I just use the word ‘just’ just about every other word or so. Just can’t help it because I just like it. And ‘pretty,’ which I use for ‘very,’ pretty much just about all the time.

You get the point.

So, right now, Col’m is coming in at 99, 900 words or so. Once I’m done with the macros, it’ll probably be about 99 even. Then it goes to my editor, Genghis Jane, who will do her own fair share of word slashing, so figure anywhere between 85 -90k in the word count, which, to me, is a little light. If you’re gonna read, read.

There are 46, count ’em, 46 characters in this book so it’s approaching Russian novel status but I’ve thrown in short biographies of everyone, including the briefly mentioned, in an appendix for easy reference. Seemed the best thing to do. If I’d back-storied every one of them, Col’m would be close to 200k words.


No, no, that’s enough. So, given editing and formatting and the creation of a cover, think maybe…April? Yeah, that sounds about right.

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Monkeys Throwing Poo in Space

This past Monday night, the Alamo Drafthouse here in Winchester held an advance screening of Syfy Channel’s The Expanse: Season 2.

Wow. Just wow.

First, Alamo Drafthouse is a national treasure. Just is. It’s a movie chain owned by people who love movies and anything that looks like a movie, heck anything that tells a story via film. A TV series on the big screen? For free? With free popcorn and a beer, to boot? Man. And NO ADS!!!!! Suck it, AMC.

Second, there is nothing better than well-done scifi. Blade Runner, Gattaca, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both versions)…you know, scifi where the story is more important than the special effects, which rules out everything done by George Lucas.

And The Expanse is well-done scifi. Set centuries ahead, there are now three distinct human civilizations in the solar system: Earth, Mars, and the Belt, asteroid belt, that is. Earth is Rome, Mars is Sparta, and the Belt, well, they’re Dickens’ London. All three of them are ready to go to war with each other over anything at all and they might just have that ‘anything at all’ when a Belter salvage ship is nuked by what can only be a Martian stealth ship except, maybe the ship was built by a shadowy terrorist group that has about fifty different factions wanting to kill everybody else for a hundred different reasons and maybe Earth is using them to start a war with Mars and then again, maybe it’s something else entirely.


Season One ended with one of the most terrifying weapons tests ever. Season Two begins right after, and the nature of the weapon…Ho. Lee. Crap. And the implications. And the double dealing and things not what they seem. This is Game of Thrones in space. Complete with dragons.

Great characters. My two favorites: Joe Miller (played by Thomas Jane)

is a Belter detective employed by a private police agency on Ceres. He has seen it all. All. And he is jaded and sardonic but still willing to find some truth and to be surprised by justice. He conducts an act of pure sanity at the end of the Season 2 premier. Chrisjen Avasarala

(played by Shohreh Aghdashloo, whose hand I seek in marriage) is UN Assistant Undersecretary of Executive Administration…read “Gestapo.” She is cruel and murderous and she knows something is going on, she knows they are being played, and she is going to do whatever necessary, including hanging a Belter or two up by their clavicles, to find out.

Special effects? Oh sure. Marvelous ones, especially the rail gun battle between the spin station, the stealth ship and the Rocinante; the beer can breach of the station wall; and that weapons test. Man, that weapons test. The effects are right, as if somebody took the time to ensure the science matches the scene. F’rinstance, sitting inside a ship laced by rail gun slugs, you’re not going to hear Pew! Pew! and the sounds of tie fighters growling like Chewbacca’s pissed-off girlfriend as they go racing by. No, it’s going to be rather tranquil because you’re buttoned up in a pressure suit because, you know, rail slugs breaching the hull and look at all those fireflies shimmering and dancing all through your crew compartment, ripping everything to shreds in zero gravity and sound. Lovely.

If I have a beef, it’s the introduction of an outside-the-solar-system element. In other words, BEMs.

Too bad. IMHO, it lessens the story somewhat. The intrigue and the savagery and the backstabbing among the humans is fun enough and aligns rather nicely with my own view that, no matter how advanced our tech gets, we’re still monkeys throwing poo at each other.

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Hey! Look What I Got!

A YouTube channel!

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