Midnight In Paris Syndrome

MIPS, or Midnight In Paris Syndrome (a syndrome I just made up) is a hell of a thing. Named after the movie, Midnight In Paris, it is a syndrome that affects all of us at one time or another in our lives. If you haven’t seen the movie, I suggest you give it a watch. In my opinion, it is one of Woody Allen’s best films and I say that as a fan of Allen’s work. Not the work he did with his step-daughter, that’s just nauseating. But the man can make a movie. In a very brief nutshell; the film is about a man named Gil, (Owen Wilson) who travels to Paris with his fiancée (Rachel MdAdams) and her stuffy, wealthy, boorish-American family. While there, Gil is magically transported to the Jazz Age each night at 12, where he meets and mingles with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali and many more. Gil is enamored with this time period and when he eventually falls in love with a girl from the seemingly time-stuck parallel universe, he decides he would rather live that life in that universe rather than the life that he had in daylight reality. One of the most interesting conversations in the entire movie comes near the end. He and the girl he has fallen for are magically transported to late 19th century Paris or a time referred to as, La Belle Époque. This happens to be his new love’s favorite time period from the past. She makes it clear to Gil that she would rather spend the rest of her life there, rather than the 1920’s or the Jazz Age, which was Gil’s favorite time from the past. It is at this moment when the truth dawns on Gil and he realizes that people will always be nostalgic for the past, regardless of what generation they belong to. Again, excellent movie.

This idea became very apparent to me a couple months back while having a conversation with one of my students. For some reason, this particular student is interested in the music of my generation. Namely; grunge and alternative from the early to mid-nineties. It is fun to talk music with him and dig up names, songs and ghosts from the past that I haven’t thought of in years or spoken of in ages. It is almost flattering to hear him speak in such glowing terms about the bands that became part of my everyday existence when I was his age. Flattering insofar as it is nice to know that someone appreciates the generation for what I love it for; the music of the time. For the entire lives of Gen Xers and millennials, we have had to endure endless hours of circle jerking and tearful remembrances of the 1960’s from our parents. Let me be clear; I enjoy the music of the 1960’s. I am not saying that the decade was not an incredibly important time in American history. As for the pop-music, I absolutely love a lot of the songs, bands, groups etc. that came about in that almost insanely talented and musically innovative decade. However, I couldn’t give a rat’s about the ‘movement’ that went along with it. Honestly, it just seems like everyone decided to become a whiny little wimp for a while until the harsh realities of looming adulthood eventually forced them to grow a few more layers of skin. For some, it was unfortunately too late and that is why we still have to endure people like Jerry Brown. So, it is nice to receive some credit for my generation’s contribution to pop-music for once. Even if it is from a kid who isn’t legally old enough to vote.

As life seems to have a twisted sense of irony, it was ’90’s weekend’ on a popular radio station out of Hartford a couple days ago. The wife and I had a few errands to run which gave me about an hour in total to annoy her with my off-key singing to such gems as ‘Big Empty’, ‘Plowed’, ‘Sex and Candy’, ‘Backwater’, ‘The Distance’, ‘Peaches’, ‘About A Girl’ etc. I should mention; she is 4 years my junior and so while she remembers the majority of the songs that I caterwalled to, she was a little too young to really embrace the spirit of the music at the time. Most 7-year-old girls aren’t interested in being sullen and telling their mothers and fathers that they don’t “understand the pain of this generation.” At least I hope they don’t. Strolling down memory lane was fun as it usually is but as it always seems to do it led to the dull ache of nostalgia. Which led me to think about the conversations about the 90’s and pop-music that I’d had with my student. It was sort of eye-opening in a bizarre and relatively harsh way. I realized that once I removed the sentimental hooey from my analytics of the time period and thought about some of the passing comments I had made to my student, it became clear; my generation was dangerous.

When I first started talking to my student about the 90’s and grunge, it was because I had made a passing reference in class to a Nirvana song which only this one particular student recognized. At first, I found myself being the preening generation groupie that I used to loathe. I gloated about how great the music was, how it was a time of rebellion and breaking cultural expectations and how for the first time kids got the idea that they were more than robots operating solely out of hormones and stupidity across to their parents. Yeah, pretty much a bunch of bullshit. The kid was eating it up. MIPS in full effect, he said something along the lines of, “I wish it was still like that.” I swelled with pride. The 90’s meant something to me. They were the decade in which I found music and more importantly, my own music. For the first time, driving around in the backseat of my parent’s car didn’t mean that I had to endure hours of their music whether I liked it or not. Now, when flipping around the dial, every once in a while I would yell, “LEAVE IT!” from the back of my dad’s Oldsmobile. I was officially plugged into the scene and I was hooked. I would watch hours and hours of MTV by myself or with friends because I was in the transitional time of life between watching cartoons and discovering sketch comedy like MTV’s The State. I knew more about pop music at 12 years old than Duke Ellington knew about Jazz at 30 years old simply because I was inundated with it. It was the only form of entertainment we had. Or at least that is what I thought. Clearly, I was aware of the existence of TV and movies and comic books and video games and blah blah blah, but none of them seemed as important to me. To illustrate this point, years ago, I was talking to a friend about shows that we used to watch when we were kids. He was absolutely astonished when he heard me utter the words, “I’ve never even heard of Thundercats.” I had no idea what the hell a Thundercat was nor could I tell you literally anything about WWF but I could tell you what the cover art for STP’s Core was and the songs that I liked and the songs that I disliked from Siamese Dream. I thought he was going to have a stroke when I told him that I had never seen The Goonies. Whoops.

I have friends my age who absolutely know what a Thundercat is and could tell you how much oil was used to make those WWF wrestlers as shiny as they were and they know a hell of a lot about music also. I pointed to the fact that I was borderline obsessed with the music of my generation and how oblivious I was to everything else to illustrate how proud I was when discussing those days with my student… at first. I say at first because after a few more chats I found myself saying things like; “yeah man, it’s good stuff but I mean… don’t listen to too much of it” or, “I don’t know dude but if you start to get depressed, put Incesticide down for a while and play some Blind Melon or something.” All I could think of was this poor kid going home and staring at his wall until his eyes started to bleed while listening to ‘Runaway Train’ by Soul Asylum. And that is what I ultimately mean when I say that the generation and its pop music were and could still possibly be dangerous. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason we only have Eddie Vedder and Billy Corgan left of the ‘big’ frontmen is because when you peddle bleakness, hopelessness and depression for the better part of 25 years and throw in a healthy heaping of drugs there is a good chance it’ll all come back to string you up one day. Literally.

This is partly the reason, I think anyway, why my generation sort of skipped over the 90’s nostalgia and for some reason decided the 80’s were the end-all be-all of ironically cool fashion, music, movies etc. When I was in college (early 2000’s) there were a plethora of 80’s themed parties. It was almost like you couldn’t escape it. It grated on me. I was not the biggest fan of the decade for a number of reasons.

  1. I didn’t give a shit about being in the first grade nor do I look back on it and say, “those were the days.”
  2. The music overall was crap. However, my favorite band is still Tears For Fears and I have a robust library of 80’s songs and groups that I think are fantastic.
  3. I don’t really remember them other than … nah I don’t really remember them.

So there I was, in my early teens / late twenties surrounded by people pining for the days of Flock of Seagulls. I never understood, perhaps because I simply didn’t want to, the fascination with the 80’s and the nostalgic game of leapfrog my generation played which completely cropped out the 90’s. It is much clearer now. No one want’s to recreate being miserable whether it is genuine or ersatz misery. Case in point: arguably the worst episode of the Simpsons ever created was the flashback episode where Homer and Marge were supposed to have gotten together during the 90’s. The, ‘Sadgasm’ episode. *Shudder* Talking to my student for a few weeks about the 90’s put things in a much clearer perspective for me when it came to being honest about my generation and the music I loved. I find myself now thinking; I am glad that the 90’s are over and they need to stay over.

I am not going to attempt to lay out all the positives and the negatives from that decade or explain why I loved it as much as I did. That is not the point. The point I suppose I am trying to make is that MIPS is a real thing. Real enough to seduce a normal, modern teenager. Unfortunately a serious case of 90’s MIPS can produce more than just someone wearing outdated clothes and blasting music their parents like. It can produce a longing for a time when everyone was absolutely miserable for one reason or another. Even if you weren’t miserable, you had to pretend to be. Sullen was the name of the game and we who played it were fucking masters at it. A very real possible by-product of that mock misery is real misery. Make no mistake, the aftershocks of the 90’s can still be felt in our modern social justice warrior legions. We all need something to be miserable about or at least that is what the 90’s convinced us of and the parents of the college kids you sneer at for needing safe spaces are the people who grew up listening to the morbid shit we shoved in our ears constantly in those days. The only difference between the unchecked misery of the current generation is that they have to put some effort into finding music that fits their attitudes seeing as how pop music seems to have reverted to a modern version of Frankie Valli-esque, bubblegum crap. We were lucky. Our anger-fueling music was spoon-fed to us on a daily basis by major media confirming our right to be depressed and justifying our anger at a world that hadn’t done a fucking thing to harm us yet. What a time to be alive.

I found myself trying to sell the 90’s short in subsequent conversations with my student. Not because I dislike the music now and not because I have the power to dissuade him from heading down the 90’s rabbit-hole. I never once said to him, “well I was there, kid” in an attempt to sound like an expert or belittle his interest in the music. The fact of the matter is that I was there. They represent a special time in my life for a number of different reasons and that is why they will always be special to me. Remove those reasons and all I see is a bleak, pretentious, depressing, annoying, violent and kinda stupidly serious decade. My parent’s generation wanted to run away to San Francisco. Mine wanted to run away to Seattle. ‘Nuff said. I end up selling the generation and decade short now on purpose because of those awful aspects of it. There is no reason under the sun to fondly desire a time when if you didn’t tell people you hated your life, even if you didn’t, you would be ostracized for being, “lame.” Unfortunately, in true 90’s fashion, the more I shit on the decade the more my student seems to be interested in it. Eventually I am going to shake his hand at graduation and look him dead in the eyes and say; “it’s been awesome knowing you and talking to you about some of my favorite music. Now please go live your life and don’t kill yourself.”  If that isn’t a stinging indictment of my generation, one which I never thought I’d make, then I don’t know what is.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go watch Seinfeld and listen to Greta.

Advertisements
Midnight In Paris Syndrome

Let’s Talk Turkey

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching I thought it would be prudent to teach you uncouth rubes the proper way to celebrate the holiday. Surely, there are many traditions associated with this wonderful day that we as Americans… and for some odd reason Canadians, although theirs falls on a different date I think, set aside to thank God for everything we have been given the previous year. Or, if you are some Godless, heathen POS, a day that is set aside for you to thank yourself for being you much like the other 364 days of the year in your calendar. Whomever you are thanking, it is a nice day. The traditions range from familial, to neighborhood, to municipal, to statewide, to regional and finally to national. That being said, some traditions are better than others. Namely; mine over yours. So I figured it would be a mitzvah if I were to educate you on how to truly squeeze all the drippings from Thanksgiving and make it a day worth looking forward to all year. Without further ado, let’s get started. To make it a bit more quaint… I will be using the traditional 17th century spellings of the foods and activities I will be listing for you.

  1. Turky (Turkey) – The honored guest! Now, I know most of you reading this are probably saying; ‘ummm I know how to cook a turkey, J.M.’ and you probably think you do, which is swell. But you don’t. First of all, how many of you are buying organic, farm raised, truffle-fed turkeys for your feast? I would wager not many. You are content with the frozen ball of meat in the plastic body bag and yellow nylon stocking that you heft out of the cooler at your local market for the plebs. Pathetic. You need to up your game, literally. Your bird should be treated as royalty while alive on earth and then, if the farmer is even halfway conscientious about the bird’s feelings, put to death in a gentle manner. Preferably in its sleep or mid-orgasm so the poor thing has no idea what hit it. Speaking of hitting it, if you are a real man like me, you hunt your own turkey. Now I know some of you hippie types and beta-males are going to call me a monster for hunting such an impossibly stupid, slow and easy-to-kill semi-flightless bird. But you have no idea what it feels like to be one with nature. To respect the land, the vegetation and the prey itself. To know that the animal you are about to kill is going to be used to feed a family and that the bird is going to be killed quickly and humanely is truly wonderful. To hunt as our ancestors did. To hunt as the noble native people of this land once did. To understand the primacy of nature and man’s place in its plan. It is truly transcendent. So when I raise that small homemade flamethrower to my shoulder and slowly pull down the welder’s mask that I’ve painted to look like the face of the Cookie Monster and take careful aim at that bird, the feeling I get is more of reverence than excitement. Murdering your own turkey will make the day feel so much more wholesome and dare I say, holy. Prep is the next step. Some people choose to brine their birds for periods as long as five to six weeks before the big day. That seems excessive to me. In fact, the whole brining process seems a little odd. I have never sat down to dinner with anyone only to have them turn to me and say; “mmmmmmm have you ever had something so viscous and slimy? It’s like heaven slithered right onto my plate!” Nor do I put much stock into any method of food prep which exists to essentially destroy the natural flavor of whatever it is that is being prepared. So skip the brine. Unless you want to brine your bird. I mean, I don’t care because I don’t plan on eating whatever dreck you are cooking that day. Moving along, we need to discuss the most important thing; cooking the bird. Again, there are a lot of different opinions on the best way to cook a turkey, but they are all mostly wrong. So I will tell you how to do it. Get a roasting pan, coat the outside of the bird in Bell’s seasoning, bring 9 pounds of butter to a boil and slowly dip the turkey in the butter for no longer than 3 1/2 to 4 seconds at a time, pulling out rapidly to allow to cool and drip for about 10 seconds. You will repeat these steps at regular intervals for about an hour or two, depending on your desired level of frustration. After the arbitrary dipping of the bird which the original Puritan colonists referred to as; “the most egregious example of frustration and the wasting of tyme carried out by mankynd, that Heaven itself cries out for the blood of the entire werld“, you are to place your bird in the roasting pan and cook at 170 for four to five hours a pound. You may want to start cooking your bird a few days after Halloween just to be sure it will be ready for your guests! Trust me; murdering your own bird, boiling it in butter and then slow cooking it to a carbon cinder is the only way to go and if you don’t believe me, try it for yourself! And if you are still not convinced, fuck you!
  2. Pyes (Pies) – I have decided to forego instructing you on the proper methods to cook your sides. Mashed potatoes, creamed onions, stuffing, sweet potatoes, gravy etc. all of that stuff is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. However, if you do not know how to mash a potato or buy a packet of Knorr turkey gravy, you should probably check and see if either your local YMCA or homeless shelter is handing out food that day. I couldn’t, nay, I wouldn’t dare skip over the fan-favorite of this glorious day; the pies. Can you smell them now? Baking in the oven or cooling on a window sill? Which brings me to an observation I would  like to make. Who out there has ever cooled a pie on a window sill? By the way, why was this a thing? What genius thought that exposing freshly cooked pastry dough filled with macerated fruit to bugs was a good idea? You only ever see it done in cartoons. Old cartoons, at that. Were there no flies in the thirties and forties? From what I remember from high school, didn’t wild packs semi-ferrel hobos roam the streets looking for food because it was the Great Depression? Didn’t something like four out of every five kids either die or get polio by the time they were three? You’d think that people would have wised up and thought better than to expose their food to the elements in such an uneasy and truly dangerous time. But, I digress. Ok, back to pies for now. There are a few that are staples and by staples I mean we can’t seem to get away from them no matter how hard we try. The first is probably the crowned king of the Thanksgiving dessert table; the pumpkin pie. Which, like all things flavored with pumpkin, tastes nothing like pumpkin and is an affront to God. If you had no idea of what pumpkin pie was and I offered you a pastry shell filled with custard that had the color and texture of puppy shit which was supposed to taste like a gourd, would you eat it? Of course not. Let’s leave that one in the dust. The other two pies which make their appearances are the traditional apple and sometimes, if you are down south or are lucky, pecan. Apple pie is good because it’s dreadfully uninteresting. It is the vanilla ice cream of pies. Apples? Ok. Pastry crust? Ok. A sweet, cinnamony flavored binding sauce? Ok. Nothing wrong with apple pie. Good with ice cream and I am told that some people, probably communists, put a slice of cheddar cheese on it. Next is pecan. Pecan pie is good but after three bites your teeth start to hurt, your insulin levels do things that nature never intended and you start to feel the first pangs of diabetes. If you manage to finish the pie, which from what I can tell is plain gelatin, 9 sticks of butter, four sacks of sugar reduced and studded with pieces of pecan you can plan on losing a foot or hand to the gout within the next few days after the holiday. Pie is essential for the Thanksgiving table. It is easier than making a cake.
  3. Spirited Drink and Wyne (Alcohol) – Let’s face it; if you do Thanksgiving right, you probably shouldn’t remember it the following morning. However, the holiday is a marathon, not a sprint. This means that it would be in your best interest to start slowly and then work your way up to shots of whatever brown liquor you hide from your wife and keep in your car. Start with beer. Beer is delicious and most importantly, your stomach can hold a lot of it. It is a good sipping drink and if you buy only one kind of beer your guests will never be able to tell if you’ve had twenty or are still nursing the same one you were holding for dear life when you opened the door to grant them entry to your sublet. As for wine the question of what to drink with turkey is something that is thrown around a lot. Turkey is gamey and the foods that accompany it are so rich that you are probably safe with a bright, crisp Sancerre or white Bordeaux in order to cut through all the fat. That being said, if you have guts, instead of contrasting your meal, complement it with a heavier (Oregonian) pinot noir. Luckily for you, good wine is expensive and most people know that so cheaping out and just buying a box of something won’t garner too many sneers and derisive chuckles. Some folks like to have a signature drink in a punch bowl waiting for their guests to enjoy. This could include, spiked cider or… well… spiked cider. Not a bad way to go if you want to get your guests loaded relatively quickly and on the cheap. The punch bowl strategy works wonderfully because it allows you to buy bottom shelf everything. From “US GOVT. CIDER, RECIPE 3C”, orange juice you found at the bus stop and rum that “some guy that works with my cousin’s friend makes” you can pretty much hide the fact that you are a cheap bastard by blending a whole bunch of stuff together and diluting it with sugar and cinnamon. Don’t forget to hide the good stuff. Coming home after a long day of metal detecting on the beach or freelance crime-scene photography can only be made much worse by heading to your kitchen, grabbing your favorite wax, Daisy bathroom cup and reaching into your cupboard only to see that you only have a microscopic amount of Old Harper left. This would be positively life-shattering. If your family and friends are anything like mine, they will sniff out your liquor and demolish it within seconds of entering your lair. This fact has forced me to discover some ingenious methods of hiding liquor which I will disclose to you now. Old Faithful – Hide your liquor in the bowl of your toilet and tell your family that they have to use the bathroom at the 7/11 down the street because yours, “broke today and won’t flush and I only figured that out this morning AFTER I went.” Pennywise – tie a string to the neck of the bottle and lower it into a sewer grate. Tell your guests that your neighborhood has been recently terrorized by a gang of ornery teens in clown outfits and that you’ve been selected by your neighbors to periodically head outside to check and see if the coast is clear. Molon Labe – simply hold your liquor with you at all times and defiantly dare your loved ones to, “come and take it” whenever they start to salivate whilst spying the bottle in your pocket, hand, wherever.
  4. Gaiymes Uv Shportsh (football) – I don’t like football so I don’t have a rule or tip for this one. I will say that football is good for one thing on Thanksgiving; giving people excuses not to have to talk to each other. It’s impossible to watch a sweet pass or rush or wicked pick-6 or testicle tingling field goal or asshole puckering punt and talk to someone at the same time. Any red-blooded American male knows that or should know that and if they don’t then they should be politely, yet firmly be asked to leave and never return. Women who break this rule should be taken politely, yet firmly, into the kitchen and be made to apologize to the gravy for no longer and no shorter than 45 straight minutes, tears preferred.

Well, folks… That’s it. I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with joy, thanks and most importantly, giving. Because without thanks we have nothing to give and without giving no one would be thankful. Without the thankfulness of those we give to, we would never even begin to be thankful or even endeavor to give thanks, to those who have given us so much to be thankful for.

Thanks!

J.M.

Let’s Talk Turkey

Everyone Is Sorta … Icky.

I used to think that there was nothing more skin-crawlingly icky than watching an industry known for vice and debauchery feign surprise when said vice and debauchery got exposed. That was a long time ago. About two weeks ago. A simpler time. I have since learned that I was dead wrong. There are far ickier ickies out there in the world. Namely; the arrogant enablers.

I am not going to say anything in this post that hasn’t been more eloquently said already by far more interesting and accomplished blowhards than myself. But I feel compelled to express how absolutely disgusted I am by the behavior of Hollywood in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations. So why now? What was the catalyst for my unquenchable desire to write about this? Three words, dear reader. Three words.

Kevin. Fucking. Spacey.

Not because he tried to seduce an underage actor. That isn’t enough to inspire me to write. That is enough to inspire me to want to see Kevin Spacey castrated with a broken whiskey bottle, not write. I was inspired to lose my mind in a few hundred words because of the absolutely vomit-inducing arrogance of a man who believes he can cover up the fact that he is an enormous pimple with a receding hairline who happens to have a history of trying to sexually abuse kids with the excuses: ‘I don’t remember, I was drunk and oh yeah, I’m gay.’ But where does that arrogance come from? Truly, if Spacey decided that these excuses were his best bet because there wasn’t already a solid safety net of media-types and blind eyes, he would be the stupidest son of a bitch to ever walk the earth. However, that was not the case. Fun fact; if you google search, “Reuters Kevin Spacey” you will see a link about five clicks down entitled, “Actor Kevin Spacey declares he lives life as a gay man” but if you click the link it takes you to an article entitled, “Kevin Spacey Embroiled in Hollywood Sex Scandal”. The initial post is from a day ago. The newly updated re-route from the link is from 8 hours ago. It took a lot of pressure from being called out on their deflection in order to force Reuter’s to forget about the fact that Spacey is gay and focus on the fact that he’s currently in a lot of trouble over being a disgusting asshole.

The truth is; Spacey was totally fine with throwing the entire gay community under the bus and reenforcing the antiquated and awful stereotype of the gay predator not because he doesn’t care about his own community… but because he was relatively certain the deflection would work. And why wouldn’t he be? He exists in a world where the perception of oppression means more than moral virtue and where women have to face the prospect of legal pressure and career ruin before they can even think to open their mouths about being treated like pieces of meat by beta-male losers. The guys who got the ever-living shit kicked out of them in high school but got lucky enough to get high-paying and more importantly, high-powered, jobs in the entertainment industry after years of dorm room masturbation between spirited games of Dungeons and Dragons. He exists in a world where being a member of a seemingly marginalized group makes you a martyr without having to ever spill a drop of your own blood. It is the world in which he lives that deserves the blame for the horrific excuse of sexuality as a cover for pederasty. It is gross, annoying, infuriating and most of all it is painfully transparent. That is how stupid media elites think their customer base is.

Luckily most Americans are smarter than Hollywood thinks we are and hopes we are.

At least I think we are.

 

Everyone Is Sorta … Icky.

Last Post Before Summer, the Fishing Calls

Well, it is that time of year again. When I hang up my teaching shoes and pick up the … summer shoes. I guess. I also take a hiatus from this blog which I admit I have been neglecting. The neglect stems from a number of reasons but the most glaring I suppose is what I can only describe as a sense of political malaise that has washed over me. I do not mean to say that I no longer care about what our elected officials do or how they lead our great nation. I just find it mind-numbing these days. The left would claim that this attitude was a product of the ineptitude and bewildering piffle released daily from the President and his staff. The right would claim that it is a product of the never-ending political witch hunt and attempted character assassinations carried out daily by a news media which solely exists as a Marxist propaganda outlet. In reality, it may very well be a mixture of both coupled with the ebbing of the lunacy tide after the general election. Whatever the main cause of the dampening of my enthusiasm to write about anything political may be, it’s immaterial. The fact is; jimmy-crack-corn and I don’t care.

So, to end another school year and another blog year, I’ve decided to talk about something I truly love yet am dreadfully unsuccessful at; fishing. 

Yes, that is correct, dear reader. Yours truly is quite the avid angler. Yet, despite his numerous attempts his yield would make St. Peter weep. There have been days, nay, weeks of time where I have gone nearly everyday and have not even come close to bringing something home to eat. However, living on Long Island Sound, that might actually not be such a bad thing. I am going to discuss four different types of fish and the correct ways to catch them. Hold on to your seats, it’s mild excitement time!

Striped Bass / Striper / Shiny A**hole Fish that Doesn’t Bite for Sh*t : (Pescado douchebago) This absolutely delicious fish can be caught from mid-Spring to early Autumn in Long Island Sound. They go south in the warmer months much like half of the geriatric population of this state. They have a firm, white flesh that makes chicken taste like gutter water. It is my favorite fish. So good. I want some now. Problem… is that they had a meeting three years ago and decided to leave me out of the loop. For too long have I toiled at landing one of these delectable beasts. I have used striper rigs, fish finder rigs, I’ve done bottom fishing, jigging, surf casting, I’ve tried going for them at the mouths of rivers in brackish water, up the rivers during the right time of year, from the beach, along sea walls, from boats, in high sun, under clouds, during the incoming tide, slack tide, using bunker chunks, mackerel chunks, clams, sand worms both synthetic and real, surface lures, bottle poppers, bucktails… Kids, I have done it all. These little awful bastards mine as well be unicorns. They are my white whale. That being said, plenty of people do catch them and my best bet is to offer to buy them once caught. However, I feel that this year I may get lucky. Why? I don’t know but without hope the fisherman is just a dope with an expensive stick swearing at the water on the beach. Best Rig: prayer

Bluefish / (pesce oily-disgusto-matic) Don’t really give a damn about catching these. When they are snappers, they are fun as all get out to catch. They put up a fight and it’s not unheard of to catch 10+ snappers in a single fishing session. Tailors and Cocktails (juvenile blues) are fun as they put up more of a fight and I am told they are delicious. Big blues put up an enormous struggle and are really fun to fight once you get a good set with your hook. Problem; is that they have teeth like Jaws and will bite the ever-living shit out of you if you don’t have a decent hook extractor. Also, they taste like what low-tide smells like. Oily, dark and fishy. Blech. The people who love the taste of bluefish make me laugh. Every one of them starts their personal bluefish recipes with the following statement: “you have to soak it in lemon juice or buttermilk overnight to extract that fishy taste”. Boyos, if you have to nuke your protein to make it edible, I’ve got news for ya; It sucks. Best Rig: bottom fishing with a fish finder and wire leader, chunks of mackerel / bunker. 

Summer Flounder / Fluke (pesce swimming-dinnerplatus) These little jerks like to hang out at the bottom of the Sound and go after whatever falls off of rich dude’s boats. They nail the bait quickly and take off so if you’ve baited your hook correctly, you won’t need to set the hook as the little moron does the job for you. Fluke tastes like nothing. It is basically a big, flat, ugly cod. But buying fish isn’t a cool thing to do for super studs like me, so basically what you’re going to need to do is get yourself a nice, shiny flounder rig. Get some minnows and go nuts. Unlike all other types of saltwater fish that I attempt to catch (only one basically, the shithead striper) I have actually had decent luck going for fluke. If you are on a boat, or even from the shore, your best bet is to string a leader off of the bottom of your rig and set up a good 1-2 ounce sinker and bounce it off the bottom gently every few seconds. If this method doesn’t work, then re-rig for something that is biting. Bluefish, blackfish, weakfish, sea robins and stop complaining. Best Rig: I already told you.

Trout (pescado this-is-a-waste-of-timo) Living where I do, I have the blessing of being within walking distance to saltwater fishing and if I am feeling particularly saucy, I can take a five-minute drive and do some freshwater fishing. Freshwater fishing is a different animal altogether and while patience is a virtue in all types of angling, you really need to have a basic mastery of zen in order to maintain sanity while freshwater fishing. Trout have their big months in the Spring but you can catch them all Summer if you follow these basic steps. 1. Get yourself a freshwater pole and setup a rig so you have a small weight holding your bait in place and set your bait about a foot off the bottom. 2. Get Powerbait trout eggs or dough bait. Stifle vomit from the smell, pinch your bait to your hook, let it sit in the water for a minute to harden around the hook, cast that sucker and prepare for boredom. I have found, that usually the best method of trout fishing is to give up after about a half hour, re-rig with a shiny bucktail and go for pickerel or bass which are fun to catch and I actually do pretty well on. The only problem is that they swallow the lure each time and trying to extract the hook usually takes surgery-like precision. I have not lost a chainsides yet, and I’ll be damned if I will this year. You see… I have a rule: If you kill it, you must eat it. Which sounds noble but in practice sucks because sometimes you end up killing some pretty unappetizing stuff. I would rather not chow down on a long, green tube of dinosaur-fish meat and that is why I am careful as hell not to hurt the fish when I land a pickerel. Best Rig: wait, for trout or for pickerel? I forget. 

So, dear reader, I bid you adieu for the summer. I hope you catch lots and lots and lots of fish. But no more than me. Because, seriously that would anger me. I am off to search for the elusive white whale yet again. And if I don’t catch one by August, then … I’ll order one from Stop and Shop.

Be well.

J.M.

Last Post Before Summer, the Fishing Calls

Writing For The Sake Of Writing

As this school year mercifully limps towards the finish line, I am beginning to feel the first bits of excitement for the long, hot Summer ahead. Having the Summers off is one of the big draws to becoming a teacher. In fact, for many it is their first draw. Then by the end of their first or second year the new teacher will either fall by the wayside and come to the conclusion that the “life” isn’t for them and pursue other interests or they will realize that connecting with kids and at the very least, attempting to make a difference for said kids is one of the most wonderful ways to make a buck in this increasingly confusing world. Then the Summer vacation clause becomes the cherry on the sundae. So here we are; a mere few weeks away from the final bell of the last day of school and everyone is getting antsy. Poor us, right?

Like last year, I plan on taking a hiatus from this blog for the Summer to explore other ways of voicing my thoughts and opinions to the ether. Which leads me to the point of this post; when you write a blog that very few people read, the best you can hope for is to make someone laugh, smile or think out there in internetland. The only weapon you need against the idea that your efforts are futile bordering on laughably narcissistic at best and a horrible time waster at worst; is the ability to understand and be OK with the fact that you’ll never know if anything you’ve written will actually make someone smile, laugh or think. It is an odd feeling. Odd insofar as that once you have that support infrastructure in place, you are able to write freely with little concern about if only one person reads what you have scribbled down or in fact anyone for that matter. Writing is an exercise. It can change the course of human history as in the case with the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence. Or, as in the case with this blog, be little more than an outlet for an ornary, opinionated, kinda funny, incredibly attractive in a classic archetypal-hero sense, guy to vent his frustrations and talk some smack.

So as I look to shut this Hindenburg of a blog down in a few weeks, I feel it important to reminisce over the previous year. However, I don’t want to. That is the best part of having your own blog. You don’t have to do anything at all other than sign up for the account if you dont want to. One thing that sticks out though; every once in a while I ask myself, “if no one is reading this thing, what is the point”? Again, you must have armor at the ready, which once put on, allows you to slough off the slings and arrows of frustration when endeavoring to partake in amateur punditry. The answer to the, ‘what’s the point’ question is a satisfying albeit safe and relatively self-aggrandizing idiom: if you are writing to make other people happy, you are writing for the wrong reason. So while that is self-serving and exists to offer the individual writer a self-made pedestal of stolen artistic integrity, it doesn’t destroy the truth that writing is really only important when the author thought it important enough to write what they thought was an important story to tell and stayed true to their own honesty. In a perfect world, measurable honesty. Very Hemingway, I know.

I will post a couple more times before this school year crosses the finish line and the white checkered flag is waved. Maybe. Right now, I am enjoying my writing over at Premier Punditry. Sports writing offers me an outlet in which I can test out whether or not I have the chops to type out some words that aren’t based solely on ideology (the politics of this blog) and actually write something about results, both good and bad. It remains to be seen what happens with this blog or with whatever I churn out and whoever decides it’s worthy of note. That’s what makes it both fun and tedious, equally.

You may be asking yourself; what kind of guy writes about his pseudo-second career as an amateur blowhard in this kinda way? Who cares about this dude? The answer to that is: the kind of guy who has his own barely-read blog and still tries to post regularly. And I like me. So, poo on you.

J.M.

Writing For The Sake Of Writing

First Thoughts on Last Night’s Strikes

“A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.” – Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton’s famous quote is as true now as it was then. Last night, the USS Porter and USS Ross, both Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyers fired a total of 50 tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria. Intelligence reports allegedly claim to show that this base launched the chemical attacks on Tuesday that killed 70+ people. I will lay out a couple of first thoughts here as I continue to read as much as I can on last night’s strikes.

  1. A lot of Americans are unhappy with this course of action. Namely; liberals who will oppose Trump no matter what he does and the alt-right or alt-right types who see isolationism as the best course of action for the world’s preeminent super power. Lets focus on the alt-right. They view this as a betrayal for a number of reasons. First, because they love Putin and see him as a person for our president to emulate. Which is funny, because the alt-right has adopted an isolationist ideology that would make Woodrow Wilson incredibly proud and Putin just sort of invades stuff when he gets bored. Assad just got bitch slapped by the United States. God forbid we insult Russia’s pal. Second, because they are naturally dubious of any US interaction into any conflict at any time anywhere for any reason because at their core, they are a bunch of cowards. They are the Alex Jones, tin-foil hat crowd. They are the, “I mean I’m not saying shes right but my sister did seem pretty convincing when she was describing the ‘squatch she saw chasing her dog to the cops” crowd. Don’t believe me? Take a look at their twitter avi’s. How many use their actual pictures? Next to none. Its easy to be a doofus when no one can call you out on it.
  2. Liberals have no idea how to spin this. They will focus on the constitutionality of ordering the strikes without Congressional approval. Fair enough because that is a fair enough concern. However; one can’t help but chuckle at them desperately trying to figure out how to respond to a strike which crippled an airfield from which attacks were launched that gassed children. They will all cry, “WAR, WAR!!! HE IS LEADING US INTO WORLD WAR III!!!” All the while, none of them will cop to the fact that we wouldn’t be in the current situation with Syria if it wasnt for the inaction of President Obama and the now infamous, “line in the sand”. Obviously, the problems in the Middle East boiled up way before Obama came into office but that doesn’t change the fact that the current situation with Syria has a lot to do with his administration sitting on its hands. So how do they counter that argument? “THE GOP CONGRESS WOULDN’T ALLOW HIM TO DO ANYTHING!” This is true. And considering Obama’s long, noble resume of procedural fortitude and absolute disdain for unilateral decision-making, this particular argument is clearly air-tight. (My eyeball fell out of its socket on that roll.)
  3. America has to ask itself the question; what is worth fighting for? Every American needs to examine their conscience for that answer.  Liberals who call everyone and their pets, “racists” these days have to ask themselves why they don’t care about brown kids being gassed to death across the globe. Is it because you are war-weary? Fine. Your war-weariness isn’t a global ‘time out’ to nefarious regimes and dictatorships. If you are going to be a liberal and extol the virtues of the global community, cite Christianity or a lack their of in the principles of modern American conservatives who claim to be Christian, then you’d better have the juevos to nut up or shut up when the time to put your activism to work shows itself. Or is it because you just don’t like Trump? If it is the latter: you are incapable of separating action, policy or initiative from a person. Which means you have brainwashed yourself. Which means you are a complete jidrool. Conservatives who constantly bemoaned Obama’s lack of action in the Middle East and our diminished role in the world need to either decide they have the guts to back the play or keep their mouths shut. They should also remember that at the core of any sort of military intervention there are American business interests at play. To what degree they shape the actions of this particular administration when it comes to focused foreign policy remains to be seen. That could simply be my cynicism coming to the forefront of my thinking on the matter. However; we don’t shoot unless there is some sort of payday in it for us either financially or politically. In this instance however, bloodying the nose of the world’s biggest POS outweighs whatever business concern is currently licking its choppers watching the oil it bought cheap shoot through the roof today.
  4. This is a win-win for Trump. He has shown the military community that he is willing to listen to the Joint Chiefs and act swiftly. He has shown the American people, at least partly, that his ties to Russia aren’t binding enough to move him to a position of inaction. He has gut-punched a dictator. How he maneuvers the rest of this course is a mystery as of now. Luckily, the unfunny reincarnation of W.C. Fields, the gin-blossomed buffoon, Steven Bannon isn’t sitting on Daddy’s lap anymore. That’s about the best I can say for the policy portion of this situation moving forward.

To reiterate the point which I believe to be the most important. America; what do you believe is worth fighting for? The answers to this question tell us a lot about ourselves, and most frighteningly, what we will become.

First Thoughts on Last Night’s Strikes

Approaching Holy Week

Each year, millions of Catholics make promises of personal sacrifice during Lent. Most of us keep to these promises but some of us break down and decide to give something up that is less important to our daily lives. This is natural, unfortunately. Our sacrifices which are intended to help keep our focus squarely on Christ and His sacrifice usually become nothing more than minor inconveniences for us during the course of Lent. There are ways to combat this. I find the most effective method of combating what can only be characterized as spiritual malaise is to steel yourself against it by going through some spiritual training. By fully engaging in Holy Week, not only will you give yourself a support infrastructure for the rest of the year but you will finish your Lent with a profound insight into Jesus’ last week before His crucifixion. So here are a few suggestions for the Catholic who feels that he or she may have fallen a little short in their Lenten sacrifices or for the Catholic who simply wants to be with Jesus during that last, sorrowful yet hopeful week before the salvation of humankind was attained on the Cross.

  1. Go to Confession: I can’t stress this one enough. Cleaning the window between you and the Holy Spirit is the only way you will be able to see through it more clearly. If you are trepidatious about going, remember that Christ was trepidatious about accepting the Cross. Holy Week is the one week during the year where we see Christ’s humanity magnified and we see our fears and anxieties reflected in His. Go to confession. Don’t trust me on it; trust Christ on it.
  2. Say the Rosary: Especially on Good Friday. The profound suffering of the Blessed Mother is sometimes overlooked during Holy Week as the suffering of Christ which is on full display is so absolutely horrific. However, Blessed Mother’s heart broke repeatedly that Friday and it broke because for one reason she knew that her Son had chosen this fate for the very same people who were nailing Him to the cross. Praying the rosary can show Our Lady how grateful we are for that sacrifice and how much we love her Son. It isn’t much, but it’s the least we can do to show her that, yes, we do care. We can tell her; “it hurts me too, Blessed Mother. Today we can cry together if you’d like.”
  3. Go to Holy Thursday Mass: Everyone has memories of a farewell. Maybe it was a dinner, a party, a small get together, whatever. All masses are uplifting. This one however, is sad and it should be. The disciples, who by this time most assuredly knew something was up, were still largely in the dark. Literally and figuratively. We see Christ installing the Sacrament of the Eucharist as a way to stay with His friends and with us after He is gone. John lays his head on Jesus’ shoulder. They go off to pray. Yeah, they knew something was up. Two thousand years later, we as modern disciples know what the following day brings. It is a small gesture in contrast to the gravity of the memory of that night but we are given the chance to stay with Jesus. We are given the chance to say; “I know what tomorrow is. I will stay with you while you pray in the garden and I have learned from the mistake of the disciples; I will not fall asleep.”
  4. Go to Good Friday service: Tradition dictates that Mass is not celebrated on Good Friday. At three o’clock, the time when Jesus gave up His life for us, at every Catholic Church we commemorate His passion and death. It is a tough service to get through. It is exceedingly sad and the Gospel reading is long. Think Palm Sunday long. The veneration of the Cross is very moving and the entire service is designed to teach the person there that not only should be sad about what happened to Jesus, but to also be sad about the times in our lives when we put Jesus out of our minds and relegated Him to secondary importance. All of this for us… and we still don’t appreciate it at all times.
  5. Tenebrae Service: A Tenebrae service is an intensely personal and focused devotion. I can’t do it justice so I am posting a link which better explains what it is at the end of this paragraph. Pro Tip: be prepared to cry a bit. Tenebrae. 
  6. GO TO MASS ON EASTER!: Don’t skip it because you’ve, “already been so much this week.” Remember, while the crucifixion saved us from sin, the resurrection assured us eternal life. Lent, the triduum and everything the church asks of us during this time are all in preparation for Easter Sunday. That is the focal point of our religion and the focal point of the purpose of humanity. Don’t. Skip. Mass. I don’t care how many people you have coming over for the egg hunt, or if you want little Mortimer to open his basket and get his chocolate in the morning, or if you have an early reservation for brunch, make time for Mass. DO IT. Sorry for yelling. Another option if your Easter Sunday is hopelessly hectic; attend the Easter Vigil. I personally go this route. This fulfills the Mass obligation and quite frankly, it is awesome. Exultet, the blessing of the fire, the lighting of the paschal candle, the vigil by the tomb anxiously awaiting the triumph of the risen Christ, the ringing of the bells and the burst of light that erupts when the church is re-illuminated, the removing of the dark cloths from the statues, the flowers, the lighting of all the candles… It is absolutely amazing.
  7. Try to Be Nice: Do something nice for someone you love, someone random and then yourself. Jesus died for us because ultimately He wants us with Him in Heaven. Not because He wants us to be miserable. While it is important to be adequately bummed during this penitential season, I believe that Jesus would stop us if we were going too far to say, “ya know… I did this so you’d be happy in your life.” The thing is; He can stop us. It is up to us to be open to Him. So yes, mourn His death, mourn your sins but counter that with MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF LOVE AND JOY! That’s the whole point.

Make Holy Week, not just Good Friday, the focal point of your Lent and I guarantee you will not be sorry.

Make Easter the focal point of your life and not just the Springtime and Jesus guarantees you won’t be sorry.

Approaching Holy Week