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Monday, March 28, 2011

Grocery Store Rant

I see more and more women pulling away from the stereotype of being shoppers.  I have never been a shopper…ok; a man shopper…what I mean is that I shop like a man.  I go in, get what I came for and leave.  I have no desire to look at and feel everything in the store.  I get online and do my homework then find the store nearest me (if I can’t buy it online with little or no shipping charges), go in, buy it (if it hasn’t been delivered to the store in advance) and get out.  Very efficient, I might add. 

The grocery store has been my least favorite places to shop since I have been an adult.  I believe the entire process is for Neanderthals. 

We have all this technology at our fingertips and we are still bothered by those carts with square wheels on them…and everyone in the store is having a different issue with the cart.  The carts seem to have a mind of their own.

We all play dodge ball, bumper carts, or some other child’s game in the store with our cart.  The cart we think we can control.  Never mind the people that leave their carts in the middle of the aisle…women use to be able to tell when men were shopping as this was their trick but now women are doing it too.  You know who you are.  You get a cart to take with you, not to leave in the aisle.

We start at the approximate same spot in the store each time.  We take the freshly stacked packages from the shelves and put them in our cart and we go through the entire store.  We cart all those packages to the check-out aisle and wait while being entertained by the headlines of the magazines or for some, the entire magazine. 

We unload the packages we just loaded in the cart on the gross rubber belt to aid the less-than-friendly cashier with their o-so-glamorous-job.  The cashier gets to wear gloves to keep the fluids from getting on them, but unless you bring your own gloves, you get to endure the mess of liquids on your hands, body and on the rubber belt.

After all that another o-so-sweet person puts your packages in plastic bags without ever asking what type of bags you like.  You can’t choose paper because no one knows how to actually pack groceries anymore.  The pride of grocery packing is ancient history.  So should grocery shopping this way be!  

We cart those purchases to our vehicle to unload them in the trunk/backseat then find a cart gathering place in the parking lot to place the used cart. It seems that we make it easier for the people working in the store than they make it for the consumers.  Then we drive the purchases home and again have to remove the bags from the trunk/backseat, unload the food into our kitchen and put the food away in pantry or refrigerator and do it all over again the following week.

THERE has to be a better way for our technology savvy society to get food.  Why is gathering food lagging so far behind?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Technology: Are We Over Connected

Do you ever wonder where the time goes in a day?  We are all so connected with our big screen TV’s, cell phones that are mini-computers, laptops with an extra screen, and of course our iPads, and iPods for music to pass the time, or some equivalent thereof to communicate with the world or… are they to shut off the world?

We go into any restaurant and are immediately faced with a big screen TV.  Once we sit down, we pull out our cell phone to see if we have an email, newsfeed on Facebook, or IM’s (even though we checked right before we got out of the vehicle.)

Are we really connecting when we can’t be “present” in what is currently happening in our life?  Is this the type of life you envisioned for yourself 5 years ago?

It is tough to fight the new technology gadgets that come out almost monthly in our world. I have to always ask myself if the gadget is going to make life easier or more complicated…here is my vision for the new gadgets:

I buy one and am elated as I feel my status in life has just gone up a couple of notches.   I walk straighter and feel taller.  The new gadget is HOT!  I am walking on cloud 9.

I am confused as to how to get the new gadget to do what it was advertised to do.  I pull out the instructions which tell me that the new gadget needs to be charged for 14 hours before use.  Ugh!  I plug it in and forget it for a while.

I get online and find reviews of the new gadget that tell me there are software issues and I conclude it was a bad purchase and is “limited” due to software issues. I return the purchase to the store and get a full refund minus a 20% restocking fee.  I state my case to the manager, which points out that their return policy, is right on the sales receipt.  What tha…? 

Now, I am frustrated and lighter in the pocketbook too.  My status deflates a few notches.

I realize that my life is great without the gadget and vow to keep upgrading my computer software and let the other gadgets come and go without any money changing hands…consoling myself with the words, “been there, done that.”

Haven’t we all?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Travel Humor: Thank God I'm a Country Boy

Guest post written by Seymour O. DeSytes, a serial vacationer with over thirty years of timeshare experience and know-how. Touting the benefits and budgetary savings of timeshare rentals, Seymour sniffs out the best deals and reports back with fun stories "from the road".

I guess I'm actually more of a city slicker, but when you find yourself in Music City U.S.A. (a.k.a. Nashville) you just gotta hunker down and cowboy up! And if you think Nashville is just for country music fans, think again. Tennessee's capital is home to NFL football, NHL hockey, the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson's home), many Civil War sites, the Tennessee Museum, the Nashville Zoo, Vanderbilt University, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, and so much more. Did you know that they even have a replica of the Parthenon here? Full scale, yet. I thought I'd taken a seriously wrong turn when I ran across that thing.

And talk about good eatin', the Nashville's restaurant scene is as varied as its music. From sushi to tapas, barbecue to fusion, they've got it all here. But by far, the "meat and threes" are the most popular. That's meat and three sides for you greenhorns out there. And if you haven't had southern sides, you are in for a treat: collard greens, black-eyed peas, succotash, sweet potatoes, grits, hush puppies, baked beans, okra, and many more. And if it can be held down long enough to be battered and fried, you can bet you'll find it here. You know they even deep-fry pickles? Are you kidding me?! Good thing you can do lots of walking in the historic downtown area.

But if music is your thing, they've got it coming out of the cracks in the sidewalks in this town. And if country and western doesn't butter your biscuit, don't fret. They've got jazz, blues, rock and roll, bluegrass, and a fantastic genre-bending scene that culminates annually in the Bonnaroo Festival (June 9-12 in 2011 with everyone from Emenem to the Scissor Sisters).

But really, no trip to Nashville is complete without hitting the Country Music Hall of Fame, The Ryman Auditorium, and the Grand Ole Opry. From Hank to Willie, Dolly to Loretta, Nashville and the Opry have played home at one time or another to nearly every performer in the history of "American Music." Ya'll come!

Well, I am off to take a wild and crazy tour of Nashville with the Juggs sisters and their hot-pink school bus called the Nash Trash Tour. It's a BYOB, bawdy affair, where the gals serve up cheez-whiz hors d'oeuvres, and dish out dirt on the local music celebrities. I hope we see Mylie Cyrus, or maybe Hannah Montana. I can never keep those two straight.

For more from Seymour O. DeSytes, visit Seymour posts new stories every Monday.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dead People Want Real Flowers

Do you ever wonder what a dead person may think of what we do at the cemetery?

I find amusement in seeing people walk around looking for their loved one.  Shouldn’t you know where they are buried?  Can you get a map at the care takers office?  Your loved one didn’t get to “take the better view” from the last time you were there.  They wanted to but got voted down.  If you could actually see your loved one in their casket year after year, would you hang out longer? Tell them how much they have deteriorated?  Or how much better they look now that their skin is gone?  Leave sooner?  Never visit?

Another odd thing humans do is give the dead plastic flowers.  What is that about?  Are the dead supposed to be grateful for THOSE ugly things?  Didn’t you love them?   Are you so cheap, you can’t get one real flower instead of going to the dollar store and getting a bunch of plastic flowers?  You should be ashamed of yourself!  That is pitiful.

When we drive by the cemetery do we think, “Hmmm…looks like that person had a real nice family…look at those colorful plastic flowers…they must be new to the cemetery as the sun hasn’t faded the flowers yet.” 

These people are dead, in the ground, buried and will not be coming back to life.  What are we thinking as living human beings? 

If you believe in the afterlife, why would you put flowers on their grave?  Don’t you believe they will be back?  Think of your loved one looking down from heaven at PLASTIC FLOWERS on their gravesite.  Tisk, tisk, tisk.  Is there no help for you?

What is the graveside service all about?  The dead person is thinking how horrible you look in black (or you finally look like a human) and how your tears don’t resemble Demi Moore in Ghost one little bit, when you cry!  But they are happy to finally get fresh flowers after all these years!  Too bad, you had to wait so long.

The first night in the cemetery has to be brutal since everyone wants to know every detail of what your life was like and what happened when you found out you were really dead…questions like, "how did that make you feel" come up...but then, it quiets down and you FINALLY get a good night of sleep! Then morning comes…the honeymoon is over; the noise is excruciating!  The lawnmower cuts the grass incessantly and if they weren’t dead already, the noise from that trimmer would put them out! 

You have to wonder how many of the dead people wanted to be cremated but someone in the family decided the burial was the wiser idea.  Why aren’t the dead allowed to have their wishes carried out?  Is anyone going to bring charges against them?  Will the dead ever find out?

Were you or are you afraid of cemetery movies?  No?  Then why don’t you visit your loved one after dark with those pathetic plastic flowers?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tickling Funny Bones: 8 Tips for Writing Humor

Welcome, a humor writer with some helpful hints for writing funny stuff...
What makes something humorous?  Responses vary, but “humor” usually involves unexpecteds, unforeseens or exaggeration.  Humor breaks the routine and whisks us into smiles and silliness.  Think Lucy and Ethel in the bon-bon factory.  Abbot and Costello and Who’s on First?

When I was young and foolish I decided to try my hand at writing humor.  Folks cheered me on, insisting that mine was a truly wry – if not wicked – sense of humor.

I crashed and burned.

After weeks of staring at the computer, all I had to show for my efforts was a headache that’d give the Marquis de Sade cause for pause.  I not only hadn’t written anything that could be dubbed “humorous” by any charitable extreme, but the only “funny” ideas I came up with wouldn’t outlast the expiration date on a milk carton.

Sound familiar?  If so, take heart.  If not, kindly quit reading this piece and order out for dessert.
Well.  On my way to publishing a couple humor books and some side-splitting, insanely funny and Pultizer-Prize winning  articles (I made that last one up), I learned a lot about humor writing.  Since I’m such a nice lady, I’m passing these tips along for free:

1. Is Joke-Writing Different from Writing Humor?
Is the Pope Catholic?  Is rain wet?  Is Obama running for re-election?
There may be some “spill over,” but writing jokes and writing humor are two different genres.
A joke writer pursues the “ta-da!” moment followed by a canned laugh track.  Writing humor is more of an art form.  It’s a sustained chord as opposed to a tympanic crash.  Humor is to writing what a seven-course meal is to cooking.  Jokes are a quick trip to the drive-thru.  Comprende?

2.   Write what you know.
Doesn’t this sound like an echo from your long-lost junior high English teacher?  That’s because she (or he) was right.  Don’t try to impress people with how funny you can make an unfamiliar topic or event.  Start with your own experience and stamp it with your own brand of kooky.  (You can take that any way you like.)  If you get really good at charting the hilarious in territory you know nothing about, run for Congress.

3.  Put yourself in your story.
Unless you’re dull as dirt – and you know who you are – your readers want to

hear from you in the first-person.  If you don’t think your stuff is funny, chances are no one else will, either.  So unsheath your rapier wit, trot out your droll conviviality and craft your magnum opus like it’s the best thing since raspberry white chocolate cheesecake.  Try this: Tell your story as if you’re sharing it over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table with an old friend.  You could also picture yourself sharing your story with a new enemy, but I won’t be responsible for the consequences.

4.  Write in the first-person whenever possible.
Related to the incredibly incisive and sagacious advice above, use “I” in your story, vignette or article whenever possible.  Inject some of your personality into your writing. Find your “voice.”  Keep it active rather than passive.  This may take some tinkering and experimenting.  That’s alright.  Questions to ask along the way:

What are you passionate about?  Where do you like to go, spend your time, invest your day?  What makes this incident or event funny to you?  Who else will relate to this topic?
Give people a chance to get to know you.  Write from the heart.  This doesn’t mean sharing every minute detail of your life.  If you do, readers will doubtless expire of boredom by or before the end of your story.  So use your best judgment.  (This tip is null and void if you’re a felon on the lam, oyster eater, or cat lover.)

5.  Study the Masters
Stroll over to your local library and take a gander at some established humor authors.  Skim some books.  Are you chuckling wildly after a chapter or two?  What makes that chapter, paragraph, person or topic humorous?  How did the author construct his or her plot, characters, setting, tempo, and transitions?  Sometimes an ordinary occurrence can turn into an adventure in hilarity if the author tells it that way.  (Sometimes it can wind up a wrong turn down a one-way street, but let’s not go there.)

6.  Double check everything!
Thoroughly proof your manuscript before sending it out.  Nothing screams “amateur!” like typpos, missspeld werds or pore grammur.  Ask a  family member or friend to read your work.  They may catch mistakes you haven’t.

Read your piece out loud.  U’d bee soo-prized howe meny “oopses” yul find wen u reed yer werk alowd.  You’ll also get a better “feel” for important elements of humor writing such as pacing, dialogue, and voice.

7.  Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
How long did it take me to write my first humor book, Guys and Other Near-Humans? Or my next, how I got to be fifty and other atrocities?  (Subtle plug here, in case you missed it.)  Do you want the whole nine yards or the condensed version?  Okay.  Condensed version: about four years.  Each.  Just keep at it and be sure to pack a lunch.

8.  A final tip: Be patient with yourself.
Don’t take rejection letters personally.  Learn from them and those kindly acquisition editors - yes, there are one or two - so you’ll avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Keep writing and learning.  Keep an eye out for new material.  It materializes in the most unusual places: dead of night, while driving, in the shower, or arguing the nutritional merits of broccoli with an eight year-old.  Keep submitting and practice, practice, practice.

Humor writing is hard work.  What?!  Do you think I was born this funny?  So if you’re warming up your funny bone and planning to join the literary luminaries of the humor world, good for you!  Now stop reading and knock out some silliness and smiles!  Lord knows we can use more of both – and lots more dessert!
(This article apepars at the author's blog,, and also appeared in the December issue of A Long Story Short.)