Guess Who I’m Talking About Today

ImageThe Cheeky Diva. Do you remember her? I miss Julie. Her blog was one crazy place to hang out. Her hilarious haiku was the best around. She hasn’t been blogging lately due to a move and a change in jobs – both good reasons, and I’m happy for her.

I bring her up today, because it’s her fault I met Adam Sendek. Yes, folks, we are still talking about Adam Sendek. In case you’ve been living under a rock, I lost a baseball bet to Adam. The loser had to highlight the other on their blog for a week. You know who lost.

Julie mentioned Adam to me a few times. She encouraged me to check him out. She was quite fond of him. I finally dragged myself over to his blog – only to find him Freshly Pressed! Art Blogging vs. Conversational Blogging. Here is our very first exchange: ImageAt that very moment, a friendship was born

His posts cover a variety of topics, and his blog seems to be evolving. It used to be called My Right to Bitch, but now it’s Chowderhead. Don’t let the name fool you; he is one smart guy.

You can thank me for boosting your stats today, Adam. I was digging around through some of your old posts. I looked at your very first post, 5 Creative Ways to Avoid Small Talk. There have been 58 likes (59 now – I pushed the button) and 96 comments on that post. Who gets that kind of mileage over time from a first post? You do!

One of my favorite posts was when we role-played on his blog. We had to address him as Drill Sergeant, Sir! He was going to instruct us in the ways of car buying. I showed up and reported for duty. ImageI came back later looking like this:ImageIt’s never a dull moment at Adam’s blog. His comments are always as much fun as his posts.

I recently listened to a podcast by Peter DeWolf. Adam was his guest, and they were Two Dudes Chatting about Chicks. The conversation confirmed my overall opinion of Adam. He’s caring, kind, and has a soft heart. He admits he’s a hothead, but I think that rounds out his personality in a good way.

He’s a good man, and I haven’t minded at all highlighting him on my blog this week.ImageBut I’m not placing any more baseball bets. And don’t even try to discuss the Super Bowl with me!

Leave a comment! If you know Adam, share something great about him.

Long Awkward Pause

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Christopher De Voss. Nice guy who writes some pretty cool stories and makes me laugh with his blog. I’m a fan since June of 2012.

Are you wondering why I’m mentioning him, when I’m supposed to be yammering about Adam Sendek? (Baseball bet. I lose. Talk about Adam for a week.)

Because Christopher started a new humor blog last July, and I want to highlight it today. It’s Long Awkward Pause, and it’s billed as a Humor Mag of Sorts…  “This is a humor magazine devoted to answering your questions or writing on the topics you, our dear readers would like to read.”

They have a very cool feature, TALK TO US HERE, where you can make requests (or leave comments or complaints or just say hi). Fill out the form, and voilà, one of their writers will cover your request in a post.

I was delighted to see that my favorite Imageadorable chimp who shaves his head, Monk Monkey, is also a contributor to the blog. He and I go way back to last year. We even send emails to each other. (Hello, you cute little primate!)

I know Mike Calahan a wee bit. He’s not a complete stranger to Imageme, but I must admit, I don’t know the other writers. I hope as I have more time in the coming year, I’ll be able to read their work and get to know them, too.

Oh wait.

I know one more person who contributes to Long Awkward Pause. Are you ready for this?

Adam Sendek. Yep! He’s a contributor, and Christopher recently mentioned he was instrumental in the new look of the website. Nice job, Adam!

I asked Adam to write a few words about Long Awkward Pause. So without further ado, here is Chowderhead himself:

ImageLAP is a collaborative comedy team put together by Chris “The Boss” De Voss.  If I were to create a simile for it, LAP is like a monster truck that is being recklessly driven around a mall parking lot on a busy shopping day, destroying mini vans and running over pedestrians walking small dogs.

It’s Chris’s brainchild. I only take orders.  After taking his orders, I usually request new ones, or else edit them until they barely resemble the original orders, and then I order Chris to carry out those orders.  In other words, Chris doesn’t really do much except take orders from me.

The Boss comes to me daily with these grandiose ideas, and then projectile spews them all over the place without really thinking about the cost and implementation end of any of it.  That’s where I come in.  I’m a staff writer first and foremost, but secondarily, I also serve as a consultant to the CEO.

To give you an idea of the typical dynamic, here’s an excerpt taken from a conversation we had last month:

Chris:  hey, I need to ask a favor.
Chowder:  Shoot.
Chris:  I just bought us a blimp, and I need you to call around town and find me a graphic artist that can draw our logo on it.
Chowder:  Whoa whoa whoa, wait a minute…you bought a what?
Chris:  A blimp.  You know, like a hot air balloon, but with propellers.
Chowder:  I know what a blimp is.  How much exactly did you pay for this thing?

Chris:  I bought it off of some guy on Craigslist for $250k.
Chowder:  *spits out coffee*  What!!!
Chris:  Every other blimp I found online started off at $300k.
Chowder:  Would you mind opening up that window?  I’m feeling extremely lightheaded at the moment.
Chris:  Sure.  *opens window*
Chowder:  We have to be a little bit more frugal about our spending.  We’re now officially $250k over budget, and it’s only the 2nd of the month.

Chris:  I saved 50k on it.  It was a steal!

Chowder:  How did you even pay for this thing, and where exactly do you plan on storing it?
Chris:  I took out a business loan, and my mom said I could keep it in her backyard until we can afford a hangar for it.
Chowder:  Does your mom live on a football field?
Chris:  Condo.
Chowder:  Jesus Christ.  Ok look, I’m gonna need you to call around town and find out if anybody wants to buy a blimp.

Chris:  Right.  You want another coffee while I’m out?
Chowder:  No, but pick up some Rum and a couple of cokes.  I think there’s a few bucks left in the petty cash jar.  And don’t tell Calahan that we have a petty cash jar.
Chris:  Great.  I’ll report back at lunch.
Chowder:  *shakes head*

*****
Long Awkward Pause is constantly evolving and expanding its concept and brand.  This month we’re excited to welcome in our brand new podcast team – Joe Jewett and Jack De Voss – and our newest staff writer, Aussa Lorens of the website Hacker Ninja Hooker Spy.

Here’s the current lineup under the current format:
BrainRants:  Rantology 101 – Rant Column
Blogdramedy:  That’s Entertainment!  – A Satirical look inside the Entertainment Industry
Mike Calahan:  From the Moderately Cluttered Desks of Mike Calahan – Spoof Journalism
Aussa Loren:  Hacker Ninja Hooker Spy – Espionage Parody
Chris De Voss:  On a Side Note – Funny, Satirical Interviews
Chowderhead:  On this Day in Pop Culture History – Insignificant Pop Culture Events
Justin Gawel:  Confessions of an Adult Child – What it sounds like
Omawarisan:  So Anyways – Random Funny Thoughts
Monk Monkey:  The Comedic Scriptures of a Funky Monk Monkey – Anecdotes by a Religious Monkey
Cordelia:  Culinary Clutz-Ups – Food that belongs on the “Ban List”
John Atkinson:  Original Web Comics
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For more Long Awkward Pause, visit us at www.longawkwardpause.wordpress.com

A Last-Minute Gift

ImageI’m delighted to have this post up before midnight on Christmas Day. I hope your holidays have been lovely so far.

But first things first … Baseball bet. Me loser. Mention Adam Sendek. Yada yada yada.

With that out of the way, I’m doubly delighted to show you the cover for my new Susan Hunter book. You will be happy to see I restrained myself – a Sasquatch does not appear on the cover.

ImageI’m triply delighted to tell you I have a holiday gift for you. Head on over to Smashwords, and use the following coupon code at checkout to grab the book for free. The coupon is good for at least 48 hours, so there’s plenty of time to get yours.

Coupon Code:

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And finally, lest you think I was unkind to Adam up above, the post about his Great-Grandmother was originally intended to be the Christmas Day post, but he requested it be shared on the 19th. If you haven’t yet read his tribute to his grandmother, it’s lovely. You can read it here.

Noir

Noir (nwär)
adj.

1. Of or relating to the film noir genre.
2. Of or relating to a genre of crime literature featuring tough, cynical characters and bleak settings.
3. Suggestive of danger or violence.

I love movies and books in the noir genre. They are often gritty, dark in their settings, and have Imagehardboiled detectives in leading roles. A femme fatale is also a mainstay in the movies/books.

The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity are two classic movies that fit the genre. The more recent Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is a Steve Martin comedy-mystery that is both a parody of, and homage to, film noir and pulp detective movies of the forties.

I always love the part where the narrator tells us of the dame who walks into the gumshoe’s office. She has a tale to tell. There are cigarettes and alcohol involved. We see it in black and white, and the music sets the tone.

ImagePulp fiction magazines of the thirties and forties also fit the bill. Those writers sure knew how to turn a phrase, and some of them are classic (although many are now politically incorrect). I’ve recently read several of Robert Leslie Bellem’s stories. He was a master at using slang and impact words. Typical fare for him would be – “I spooned him a helping of knuckle tonic.” “She slapped me a stinger across the chops.” “Moon’s kisser sagged open and his optics bulged like oysters being squeezed.”

Isn’t that last line so much better than my standard, “Her mouth hung open, and her eyes went wide.”

Ahh, the joys of the genre.

So, all this is a lead up to that guy. You remember him. Adam Sendek. By losing a baseball bet, I must talk about him on my blog every day this week. And I’m happy to do so!

What you might not know is that Adam blogs interesting topics and humor, but he also writes stories. One of my favorites is one he wrote that fit the noir genre well. Here’s the beginning:

“…so I’m sitting in this cafe, slumped over a (bleep*)-warm cup of dark roast coffee, casually tossing ashes into the tray at the end of the table.  The lighting is inadequate where I’m seated, making it difficult to study the entrees on the menu.

I pick up on a one-sided conversation coming from the booth adjacent to me, involving a pig-headed suit and tieyammering into a phone about a stock deal gone sour.  The woman seated in front of the man appears emotionally detached, which is indicated by her body language.  She ignores the man and blankly stares off at a young female clearing the surrounding tables.

I’m overcome with remorse for the woman and her situation, finding myself privately analyzing the dysfunctional correlation between the two. Clearly, she’s numb inside; another wandering soul, financially bound to some corporate meat head

The murmur throughout the diner adds to the endless chatter taking place in my head, but the humming is abruptly halted when, without warning …” GO HERE to read the rest of the story. It’s short, and the comments are fun, too. Add yours to the list!

What about you? Do you like the noir genre, whether it be movies or books? What about pulp fiction? Did you ever read any? Tell me what you think!

(*bleep – It’s a Maddie bleep. My blog is rated PG-13, and even though I probably could have allowed the word to stand, I opted to apply the bleep. Hop on over to Adam’s blog for the more colorful phrasing.)

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It’s December. Let’s talk baseball!

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Yes, Susan Hunter is a Detroit Tigers fan – for one week!

Last March, I wrote a silly blog post about insects. Later that evening, Tim Dittmer and I were having a conversation in the comments section. Some of it went like this:

Me:  Btw, the Indians have a team this year, so methinks your team will not have another crack at the series this year. I’m just sayin’.

Tim:  Oh jeez. Everybody wants knock the Tigers. They sure did go down in flames last year, though.

Me:  I’m not knocking the Tigers. Just setting the stage for some friendly competition this year.

The next day, Adam Sendek showed up and added this comment below our conversation:

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
Did I read that correctly? The Indians taking the Central over the Tigers??? Hang on a second, I’m laughing so hard right now that I just might hurl! I’ll be back!
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

And just like that, a bet was born. Please take note: I have an 81-year-old mother who is a diehard Cleveland Indians fan. She had been telling me for weeks how excited she was for the new baseball season. Terry Francona was the new manager of the Indians (and was named AL Manager of the Year for 2013, I might add), and the team had some bats. If they could pull the pitching together, they would be contenders. It wasn’t until after I made the bet with Adam that she told me the Indians wouldn’t win the AL Central over Detroit. Thanks a lot, Mom.

Through emails to Adam, I tried to guide the bet. I offered Imagethese options for the loser to pony up:
$100
$50
$20
A blog post extolling the wonderfulness of the winner.
Mailing something wonderful from the loser’s city to the winner.

Somewhere along the line, Adam suggested a week of blog posts highlighting the winner. I accepted those terms, and alas and alack, here we are today – on my blog, not his.

ImageSo without further ado, I present to you Adam Sendek. Chowderhead himself.  We’ll find out more about him as the week goes on, but for now, let’s ask him about baseball!

What sports did you play as a kid?

Oh the irony…

Well, I always wanted to play baseball as a kid, but I ended up a soccer snob instead.  It ended up being a pretty great experience, however – one with a lot of traveling throughout the state of Michigan, and as far south as North Carolina to play in tournaments.  I still got mad skills too, Maddie.

Don’t make me bust out the YouTube camera to prove it.

At what position would you excel in baseball?

I don’t mean to boast (yes I do), but I was a pretty exceptional softball outfielder for a couple of summers.  I’m talkin’ like, go grab your pom-poms Kevin Griffey Junior while the big boys play some ball.  I did also have a brief stint at Short Stop but didn’t last long at the position.  I quickly realized that my teeth were more valuable to me than making an out.

If you played for the Tigers, what would your nickname be?

“Snarky Anderson”

Only a Tiger’s fan will understand that one.

Have you ever done the wave?

Yes!  \m/  It happened often at the old Tiger Stadium, and occasionally at Comerica Park too.  It’s one of those events that promote a certain kinship among a lot of other really drunk people.

Do you sing along when they play Take Me Out to the Ballgame? Image

Yes.  It’s one of the only two songs that I will sing outside of my vehicle or the shower.  The Birthday Song is the other one.  In both cases, I’m glad there are plenty of people around to prop me up and help drown out the illusion that I can carry a tune.

What do you do during the 7th Inning Stretch?

Whiz.
Grab a beer.
Grab another beer.
In that order.

What are your top five baseball movies?

Well, I would have to say:

The Sandlot is my all-time favorite because Squints wears the same glasses as me and Calahan.

Moneyball is a close second, and an extremely well-done piece of cinema work.

Major League because Charlie Sheen is a goof ball, and I need goofballs to keep me inspired.

Rookie of the Year, because that was the flick responsible for coining the phrase, “funky butt-loving.”

And anything but A League of Their Own for number five.  Even Field of Dreams.

Share with us one memory from the ballpark.

My all-time favorite memory from any ballpark experience was Imagewatching the 2003 Tigers win the last game of the season, keeping them out of the history books as the worst team in MLB history.  They were the worst team in American League history that year, but ended up being one win better than the ’62 Mets.

I can still remember it:  the entire stadium was packed with suburbanites ready to witness another inglorious piece of Detroit history.  It was the only meaningful game played all season.  After the last out you would have thought they just won the World Series…

I’m glad I got to experience it firsthand.  High five!

How many games did you watch this past season, while I was watching the Cleveland Indians play and sweating over our bet?

Sweating over our bet, she says!  Thank you, by the way.  It was the easiest money I made all year.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I saw more than 2 games this year.  My cable package sucks, and I’m still waiting on the maintenance guy from the front office to stop by (at his convenience) to drill a hole in my wall so that I can proceed with my upgrade.

Normally I watch about half the season on TV.  Comerica Park is an insanely cool venue too, and I try to get down there at least a couple of times every summer for a live game.  I start getting burned out with all of it by about July though.  It’s a grind to have to sit there every night and watch baseball unless I’m at bar or playing fantasy baseball.

Yes, I play sometimes.  And yes, I know.    

ImageGreat answers, Adam! See you tomorrow!

A Christmas Gift

ImageChristmas is a wonderful time of year for most people. There are parties, festivities, gifts, and treats. Christmas is also a time of remembrance.

At Christmastime, it’s only natural to think of loved ones who are no longer with us. The holiday is an especially poignant time of year for my family. My father passed away one week before Christmas. My grandmother passed two weeks later. Grandma didn’t know Dad had died, and I always thought she must have been so surprised to get to Heaven and find him waiting there to greet her.

My friend, Adam Sendek (Chowderhead to many of you), has a special remembrance of his Great Grandmother. I’m honored that he has agreed to share his story here with you today:

A Christmas Gift

It was three years ago on this date that I received a Christmas gift that I’ll never forget.  The present was a collection of memories wrapped in modest paper with neatly tucked edges – the box obscuring the contents inside.

My Great Grandmother was the matriarch of our family.  She was the glue that held together a dispersed group of people that were reunited each and every holiday because of her.

She was a Romanian born immigrant, relocated to Austria, and the mother of four small children during the Second World War.  My Great Grandfather served for the German Army during that time, and she was left behind to find a way to keep her unit alive and fed.

I was fascinated by the stories that she told about her time in Austria during the war; the anxiety of having to hide out in a basement with the lights off, sitting quietly with her young family, without her husband, and waiting for the American Bombers to pass over.  The instructions were very simple: don’t turn on the lights.  If the lights were on, that was the signal for the American planes to drop their payloads.

At any moment, life could have ceased at the mere flick of a switch.

They didn’t have the luxury then of indoor plumbing either.  Some of the people in that communal living space would become so terrified during the raids that they’d have to run to the outhouse during the flyovers.

She told me about the times when she would sneak bread through the POW camp fences to my Great Grandfather after he was captured.  She described how all of the grass around and inside the fencing was missing – the captives using it for sustenance by making soup out of it.  Apparently anything feeds a stomach that’s hungry enough.

She told me stories about her peasant upbringing, and about the modest food that they would make out of virtually nothing more than cornmeal, milk, eggs, flour, cabbage, and if fortunate enough, a chicken.  They made and repaired their own clothing, and walked wherever they needed to go, because they didn’t own a car or any other means of transportation.

Christmas was a modest tradition as well, but a very important one.  Homemade gifts and oranges were about all that was ever to be had on the morning of the holiday.  It was a religious holiday – a time for thanks and prayer.

She never went to college, never drove a car, and never had a ‘real’ job per se; but she was a nurturer, a protector, and a provider of so many things to so many people.  Despite her lack of experience in many life categories, she was as sharp as a tack – even at the age of 96.

She spoke four languages, memorized all of her recipes, she was knitter, and surprisingly hip to the American culture, even if she didn’t practice much of it herself.  She was up on politics and current pop culture happenings of the day, yet one would never assume it at a mere glance.  To any outsider she was probably just some little old immigrant lady that needed to assimilate better and work on her English-speaking skills.

She always made something for me to eat whenever she knew I was coming by to visit, and we’d sit together over a half shell of beer and talk.  She was tickled by the little bit of German that I picked up from listening in on the adult conversations over the years.  It was effortless to make her laugh, and she adored me in every way possible – always commenting on how handsome, smart, and charming she found me, and always making a note of our height differential.

She would always tell the same stories about us from when we were little kids.  I knew the stories by heart, and I knew when they were about to happen, because they were always told in the same tone with the same delivery every time.  Even after hearing them so many times before, it never got old because I knew that they were memories that she very much cherished.  Her family was her life.

It was after the War had ended, when she and her family made the long boat trek to the States to start a new life.  They’d been sponsored by family friends that had already moved here – friends from the old country.  She regularly sent care packages consisting of canned food, clothing, and money to friends still living overseas who were surviving on much less.

Life was different now, and the abundance was never taken for granted.  There was so much, and at times it overwhelmed her.  She cried often about the simplest things – the simplest gifts or experiences – and she was grateful for everything she had: a car, a home, a place to earn a living and modest pension, and personal safety.  It was just a simple life built around food, family gatherings, and God.

As I watched her lying there quietly in her hospital bed three years ago today, I remembered all these things.  I recalled the stories and the sacrifices that were made, and all the times that she sent me packing with a hug, a lot of kisses, and some kind of German dish or canned item to have later.  I remembered how much unconditional love she gave to me and the rest of her family throughout her time spent here.

Spending the holiday in the hospital with her wasn’t ideal, but I’m glad I was there with her as she quietly passed away.  It was a time for me to remember her life and the impact that she had on mine.  I didn’t recognize it as a gift at the time, but it turned out to be a gift that was far more important than anything I’d ever gotten any Christmas prior.

On this day a candle is lit to remind us of the place she holds in our hearts.

Thank you, Oma.  You’re a gift never forgotten.
~Adam

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Social Media and Twitter

ImageI’ve previously admitted I’m quite the social media dolt.

Even though I have a Facebook page to promote my books, I don’t post to it very often. Forget my personal Facebook page; a Christmas ham from Australia in 2012 is still on the front page.

I’m comfortable doing my social media thing here with my blog. I can bloviate about my writing and my books, but I can also just be myself.

For some reason, I’ve been terrified of Twitter. I made a tweet once, but I deleted it a few months later. Quite a few of my fellow bloggers encouraged me to give Twitter a whirl, but I always resisted.

This past September, I finally made a couple of tweets. I hyperventilated a little, but nothing bad happened. I figured out how to get someone’s attention via a tweet, and I think a *favorite* is like a blog *like,* so that’s how I’ve been using them. I’ve even retweeted a few times. After almost four months, I’m now following a whopping 39 people, and I have a whopping 33 followers.  Woohoo! Image

I’m following a few people who tweet about writing. I follow some blogging friends. (A huge thank you to Carrie Rubin and Tim Dittmer for engaging me. You kept me from feeling as if I was floundering.)

However, I’m still trying to decide what to do with Twitter or what to take away from it. I’ve made a few tweets when I’m writing or editing, but I don’t want that to be my main focus. I simply don’t want all of my social media to be about books or writing.

Then I remembered there are celebrities on Twitter. Image

When Rich and I started drinking fruit smoothies this past summer, it was because I found Jessica Seinfeld’s recipes. These smoothies are awesome! I started following her on Twitter, which then led me to Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Rich and I love watching this series!

One evening while editing, I was listening to Mary Lambert sing. Her voice is beautiful. I promptly ran over to follow her on Twitter. She’s lovely, and her tweets make me smile.

In October, I discovered Hugh Laurie had just started using Twitter under the name of jlumbrozo, because the name Hugh Laurie was taken. I thought it was hilarious when he finally realized he was the scoundrel who had reserved the name years ago. I get a huge kick out of his tweets. He’s a funny man.

The show, Kirstie, starring Kirstie Alley, recently premiered on TVLand. I’m a Kirstie Alley fan from way back, and I was tickled to see Michael Richards and Rhea Perlman in the cast, too. The new show is funny (I’ve had sink cake before!), and I was especially surprised by Eric Petersen. He plays such a lovable character. I’m following him and Kirstie both now – because they’re fun and they’re funny! I was thrilled when I responded to one of Eric’s tweets, and he favorited it! (Ok, he favorited everyone who responded, but still …)

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What a great cast! This picture of Eric makes me smile every time.

I’m just getting such a kick out of looking in on what other people say and do. And OH.MY.GOSH William Shatner. I love him! He is everywhere these days, and I love his tweets. What a character!

Forget this book/writing stuff on Twitter. I want to tweet John Travolta and ask him if he remembers meeting me in Cleveland at the Keg & Quarter in 1976 when his song Let Her In debuted.

There’s no denying the internet has made the world a much smaller place. You no longer have to write a fan letter. Simply tweet!

I’ve thought about people who are no longer with us. I would have loved to read tweets from Frank Sinatra. Swoon! And Walter Matthau! I bet his tweets would have been epic.

I admit it. I’m a fangirl at heart.

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Boston Legal is on my wish list for Christmas this year!

How are you using Twitter? Who do you like to follow? Do you follow celebrities?