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The Casual Observer



Random musings by a Lehigh Valley resident



Last Build Date: Sat, 06 Dec 2008 0:24:22 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2016
 



Program Note

Sat, 06 Dec 2008 00:23:37 UTC

2008-12-06T00:24:22Z

Hello everybody! I apologize for my lengthy absence, but I'm back now from my failed bid for the White House. I don't know what I was thinking. Anyway, back to regular life. I just wanted to do a little bit of advocacy for the cause and let you all know about a great movie that's coming up this Sunday on...

Hello everybody! I apologize for my lengthy absence, but I'm back now from my failed bid for the White House. I don't know what I was thinking. Anyway, back to regular life. I just wanted to do a little bit of advocacy for the cause and let you all know about a great movie that's coming up this Sunday on CBS.

The movie is called "Front of the Class," and it's based on the book of the same name, by Brad Cohen. Brad is a young man who grew up, like me, with Tourette's Syndrome. Brad has it considerably worse than I do, and had a very tough life as a result of it. But through it all, he never lost hope, and he grew up to become an award winning teacher. It's an inspirational story for everyone, not just those with the disease, and I'm sure it'll be a great tool for educating the masses on Tourette's syndrome. The movie is on Sunday, December 7th at 9pm on CBS. Watch it, Tivo it, watch it again with friends and family. Spread the word. That's what I'm trying to do here, do my part to help get the word out about a movie that positively reflects the true story of living with Tourettes. I read the book, and it was very good, and I'm anxious to see the movie.

But as far as advocacy goes, Brad is a much stronger man than I. I've found it actually quite difficult to spread the word about this movie. I think it's because I kind of have a hard time talking about my tourettes in general. Sure, I can pour my heart out in these blogs about it, but that's different than actual face to face interaction. I noticed myself getting a little worked up when I told people at work about it, almost scared or ashamed to bring it up. I guess it's because I don't want to feel like I'm forcing it on people, like Tourette's is all I'm about or something. Because it's definitely not. Tourette's is just something I have to live with. But I tend not to talk about it. It's always just the 800 pound gorilla in the room. People know I have it, and I know they notice it, but they never say anything, and neither do I. I know that's probably not healthy, but that's just always the way I've been. I guess if they don't say anything, then I feel like maybe my Tourette's isn't a big deal, and maybe people don't notice as much as I think they do. But on the rare occasion someone does bring it up, I'll be the first to tell them all about it, but I do admit, it makes me feel kind of exposed, like "oh, it's out there now." It's a very awkward disease.

But, I have done my part here, and I have forwarded the email reminder from the Tourette's Syndrome Association to many of my family and friends, so hopefully some people will tune in, and maybe get a little better understanding of what it's like being me. You know, without me actually having to talk to them.




And now, A Toast...

Thu, 03 Jul 2008 22:44:47 UTC

2008-07-03T23:05:47Z

My best friend since third grade got married last weekend, and I was the best man. This of course, meant that I had to deliver a toast before dinner. Being a professional blogger, you would think that writing the perfect toast would be no problem for someone as clever and witty as myself. But I must say, I found it... My best friend since third grade got married last weekend, and I was the best man. This of course, meant that I had to deliver a toast before dinner. Being a professional blogger, you would think that writing the perfect toast would be no problem for someone as clever and witty as myself. But I must say, I found it quite an unenviable task. There's a lot to think about when writing a wedding toast, and I thought I'd share a few pointers, since I have certainly seen my fair share of them done week in and week out, and of course, mine went over quite well... The first thing to remember is not to go overboard. Sure, you've known the bride or groom for 25 years. Great. But we don't need to hear about every little amusing anecdote from that lengthy span of time. Keep it simple. Try to find one, maybe 2 stories that you can tell that won't take all night. Next, make sure it's universal. Don't tell some inside jokes that only you and your buddies are going to get at. Wink wink nudge nudge doesn't work when literally everyone and their mother is in the room. Tell stories that everyone can relate to, and that everyone would approve of. Don't get too racy or disgusting. A good thing to remember is that the bride and groom's grandparents will be there. Keep that in mind, and don't tell any stories that you wouldn't tell to a grandmother. Third, have a point. Try to pick stories or anecdotes that follow a pattern or story, relate items that lead up to something. This something should be your big final toast. If you can relate a story that can somehow be incorporated into your final toast, this is always good. Fourth, don't forget the bride. Just because you're the best man, and the groom's like a brother to you, don't forget the real star of the day, and that is definitely the bride. Be sure to relate a story about the two of them together along with your countless tales of the two of you together. Wrap it all up with a genuinely nice toast, congratulating them and wishing them well, while if possible, still keeping it funny. Of course, that is my method. This brings up a good point. Some people are just not that funny. If you know you're one of those people, then don't try to be funny, because it most likely won't work. Just go up there and be honest and forthcoming with your genuine feelings about the couple, and everything will be fine. Just relax. It's just a toast. And if worse comes to worse, we live in the age of google, where there are countless websites out there that would be glad to help you come up with some good one liners, or a nice toast, or even write the whole speech for you. Look around, take what you like, and make up the rest. Now, for your reading pleasure, I would like to present, in it's entirety, my wedding toast from last weekend, which went out to rave reviews. Feel free to use this as a template if need be. I won't tell. Hello everyone, for those of you who don't know me, my name is Bill, and I'm the best man. I'd just like to thank everyone for being here today to share this special day with Jess and Seth, and I'd like to thank their parents for putting together this great reception and having us all here. When I met Seth, it was 1986, and we were starting 3rd grade. We were just a couple of goofs who were into pro wrestling, Transformers, GI Joe, and playing guns. My how things change. Or do they? We still watch wrestling every week, we went to see the Transformers movie together last summer, Seth got a bunch of GI Joe's for his 30th birthday, and just last week we played paintball for his bachelor party. But there was one thing from our childhood that never got fully resolved[...]



Time keeps on slippin....

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 23:28:16 UTC

2008-06-13T00:00:49Z

I know, I know. And I'm sorry. I fell into a huge helping of my now habitual hiatuses. I must admit though, part of it was pure writers block. I went through a bit of a tough period there, adjusting to some curve balls life decided to throw. But mostly, it was a complete and utter lack of a commodity... I know, I know. And I'm sorry. I fell into a huge helping of my now habitual hiatuses. I must admit though, part of it was pure writers block. I went through a bit of a tough period there, adjusting to some curve balls life decided to throw. But mostly, it was a complete and utter lack of a commodity more valuable than even the $4 per gallon we now pay for gasoline. I'm talking, of course, about time. I can hardly believe how much time has slipped away since I last had an opportunity to sit here and compose one of these trivial diatribes. But I literally feel as though this is the very first instance that I've had a chance to do so. For those of you who know me, you know that I am a wedding videographer on the weekends. And, with wedding season now in full swing, it has been chaotic to say the least. I have this saturday off, and then I think I might have another one sometime in August, and then that's it till November. I shouldn't knock it though, I love to do it, and the extra money certainly comes in handy. Besides that, I've been trying to get my own business off the ground, and constructing that website was a labor of love to say the least. But now it is done, and I must move on to phase 2: advertising. But I shall digress from the cheap plugs and move on to the issue at hand: Time. I've come to realize that I already have run out of time. The amount of ideas I have and projects I want to accomplish, coupled with the normal day to day activities that make up the bulk of my life, should pretty much take me up until my final days. And that's sad. I have so much stuff that I want to do, some of it so minuscule and insignificant, yet I still can not feasibly find the time to get them all done.Day after day goes by, and all I have time to do is wake up, go to work, come home, eat, and sleep. So much time goes by while I'm tending to the mundane details of everyday life, that I often wonder if the imaginary period known as "When I have free time" will ever truly come. Like the multitude of dvds I have: movies, complete seasons of TV shows, unopened, unwatched. I'll watch them when I have the time. A website I've been working on for months, just a dumb little record label thing I've been wanting to put together - I'll work on it when I have free time. The plethora of skits and projects my friends and I have dreamed up- we'll get to it when we have free time. That book I've been meaning to write - will that ever really happen? All those little things that need to be done around the house - I'm sure I'll have time next weekend. Finally getting myself back into some kind of better physical shape - I'll do it tomorrow. And this blog, which actually garners some attention from my public when I don't update, has even suffered due to my lack of free time. Someone very wise once said something along the lines of "Life is what happens while you're making plans for the future." I'm coming to see that this is very true. I don't really have a solution for this problem, if anyone out there does, please feel free to post it here. All I can do is try to plan my days better, make baby steps, take on one project at a time. And as for this blog, all I can do is promise that I will make more of an effort to write as often as I can, at least once a week. Even if it is just filled with mundane details of day to day life. Although, lets face it, my views on day to day things don't tend to skew mundane. I'm sure I can manage to find something silly about a week's worth of this crazy world. So, if you're still here, thanks for the support, and if your friends or family have abandoned me, tell them that I'm back. And if you're plan[...]



In case you're still wondering if Wal*Mart is evil...

Thu, 27 Mar 2008 01:19:41 UTC

2008-03-27T02:28:01Z

Nearly eight years ago, a Missouri woman was in a terrible car accident that left her severely brain damaged, and unable to work or care for herself ever again. It just so happened that this woman was a Wal*Mart employee. Eventually, the woman was awarded about $1 million in a lawsuit against the trucking company involved in her accident. After... Nearly eight years ago, a Missouri woman was in a terrible car accident that left her severely brain damaged, and unable to work or care for herself ever again. It just so happened that this woman was a Wal*Mart employee. Eventually, the woman was awarded about $1 million in a lawsuit against the trucking company involved in her accident. After paying the legal fees, the rest of the settlement was placed into a trust to pay for her medical care for the rest of her life. That was, of course, until Wal*Mart came knocking. Apparently, the fine print in Wal*Mart's health insurance plan dictates that the retail giant may recoup any money that they put out for health care on an employee who wins a settlement for their accident. And so, Wal*Mart proceeded to sue a severely brain damaged woman for all of the money that she had left to pay for her medical bills. And what's worse, they won. When the family appealed the case, they lost again. Then, a week later, their son was killed in Iraq. The family has appealed once again to the supreme court, but last week the high court refused to hear the case, essentially leaving the family with no more options other than to hand over what's left of their trust, about $277,000 - to the retail giant, who could earn that much money in less than a day. If that story isn't enough to make you think that Wal*Mart might be evil, I'm not sure what would. But this theory is really nothing new, we've been hearing these kinds of stories for years now. As a former employee, I can relate to a lot of the gripes against them, but I can also see some of the good things that Wal*Mart does. It's a strange mix, a company that could do something as terrible as that to an employee, and then the next day donate millions and millions to charities. There really is no black and white picture that anyone can paint about this company. They do too much for communities and disadvantaged people to be considered pure evil, but at the same time, they ruin too many small towns and businesses to be considered good. And we're all left wondering what to do when we hear about things like this. A classic response would be to boycott Wal*Mart. Sure, lots of people do it. I think we can all find a good reason to do it. But really, are we going to make that much of a difference that Wal*Mart will notice? And if we did, wouldn't it in turn only be hurting the people in our community? If enough of us stopped shopping at Wal*Mart that their sales went down significantly, the first thing our local Wal*Mart would do is cut their employees' hours back. That is the way it works. If profits go down, they cut hours to raise the profit margin. And, in turn, the people who depend on those paychecks, possibly because there's nowhere else to work thanks to Wal*Mart; will be struggling to pay their bills. Meanwhile, the Waltons would sit in their mansions and not notice any difference at all. One argument I found interesting in the article was that the lawyer for Wal*Mart said that he wished they could make an exception to the rule, but that wouldn't be fair to the employees who pay into the plan. I find that quite odd. I highly doubt the employees were consulted as to whether or not Wal*Mart should pursue getting their money back. And if they were, I'd be willing to bet that 99% of them would have answered with a resounding "No." These are the same Wal*Mart employees who rallied together after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina to raise millions and millions of dollars of their own money to donate to the causes. Wal*Mart employees are good, honest, hard working people w[...]



One Miscalculation does not a Third Reich make.

Tue, 18 Mar 2008 23:16:31 UTC

2008-03-18T23:47:46Z

A Few days ago, I stumbled upon an article in The Express-Times, the Lehigh Valley's fastest growing newspaper, about a retirement home in Alabama that was getting some flack for it's unique shape. You see, unbeknownst to the developers, they had built the home for senior citizens, some of whom may have been in World War II, in the shape...

A Few days ago, I stumbled upon an article in The Express-Times, the Lehigh Valley's fastest growing newspaper, about a retirement home in Alabama that was getting some flack for it's unique shape. You see, unbeknownst to the developers, they had built the home for senior citizens, some of whom may have been in World War II, in the shape of a swastika.

I thought this was a pretty amusing story, as of course there was no malice intent in the design, it was a simple oversight. So I decided it would be a funny thing to point out on my blog. So I searched for the story, only to find that this was not the only time this had happened. Indeed, if you google "swastika shaped building" you will find not just the talk of this Alabama mishap, but also a tale of a building in Cornando, California that suffered the same problem. What's amazing about the 2nd story, is the fact that the giant swastika was actually a US Naval Base.

Apparently, when the shape of the naval base was discovered, mostly by people fooling around with Google Earth's satellite imagery, there was so much uproar from the public, that the US government is spending $600,000 to alter the shape of the building. The Base was built in the 60's, and the shape had been discovered early into construction, but the Navy decided not to waste money changing it. The base is located in a no-fly zone, so no one saw it from above until the onset of site like Google Earth. The Retirement home in Alabama is suffering the same fate, planning on spending a lot of money to change their shape.

Both cases were clearly mistakes, and in no way intentional, but of course that doesn't stop the outcry of conspiracy theorists across America. The google search turned up tons of these nutjobs spewing their ideas of an American conspiracy to fund Nazis. Anti-defamation leagues from all over protested, ranted and raved about a building blunder they were repeatedly told was not in any way shape or form intended to offend. I understand that the Nazis were terrible. I understand that Nazis are nothing to joke about (Except Hogan's Heroes). But some people really need to lighten up a bit. Or at least stop messing around on Google Earth all day looking for things to offend them. I might find that the Las Vegas Strip spells out "Bill Sucks," but I'd still hang out there. They're probably talking about some other Bill anyway.




Time Traveling

Tue, 11 Mar 2008 22:46:02 UTC

2008-03-12T02:46:48Z

If you're wondering why I haven't posted a blog in a while, the answer is quite simple, yet extremely complicated. Physicists have been trying to figure it out for years, to no avail. The question isn't where I've been, but rather when I've been. You see, I've been time traveling. If you're wondering why I haven't posted a blog in a while, the answer is quite simple, yet extremely complicated. Physicists have been trying to figure it out for years, to no avail. The question isn't where I've been, but rather when I've been. You see, I've been time traveling. When my alarm goes off each morning, I instinctively hit the snooze button. I do this about 3 or 4 times, giving myself a little more peace in 9 minute intervals. But I know when the clock says 7:40, I have to get up, because it's really 7:30. You see, I set that clock ahead 10 minutes to try and fool myself into getting up earlier for work. As you can see from my earlier statement, I am not fooled, and it does not work. I then proceed to get up and gather my things to go down to the shower. I look at the clock on the stereo, and it's better than I thought, it's only 7:20, and I'm ahead of schedule! On my way to the steps, I glance at my wife's alarm clock, and it has somehow taken me 7 minutes to to walk 5 feet from the stereo to the steps, as it is now 7:32. I go downstairs to the bathroom, and I'm relieved to see on the bathroom clock that it is now only 7:27, and I'm ahead of schedule again. After my shower, I glance at the bathroom clock as I dry off, and see that it's 7:37, and I'm right on schedule. I go back up to my bedroom to get dressed. As I walk towards the closet, I panic for a minute, as it's 7:52 and I'm late. But then I remember the 10 minute trick, and know I'm ok. I glance at the stereo to make sure. 7:35, I've actually made up some time. I emerge from the closet with my wardrobe choice for the day, and directly ahead of me is my wife's clock, letting me know that it's 7:49, and I better get moving. I dress as quickly as possible and glance at the stereo as I put on my watch. Only 7:39, I'm doing great. I walk towards the steps, and it's 7:53 on my wife's clock, better get moving. I rush downstairs to comb my hair, take my vitamins and brush my teeth, and I'm feeling good, because it's only 7:48 in the bathroom. I finish up an head downstairs, where it's 7:45 in the kitchen, and every thing's fine. I pack my lunch and get ready to head out. I go into the living room to put on my coat, and it's 7:59, I have to get out of here! I kiss my wife goodbye, grab my lunch, and head to the car. I turn on the car, and breathe a sigh of relief, because it's only 7:54 in the car. I head to work, arriving early as usual at 8:25. By the time I get into my office, it's 8:32, and I'm slightly late. I quickly hang up my coat and get to my desk to sign on to my phone. Luckily, it's only 8:22 on my phone, so I'm safe. I boot up my computer, and now it's 8:40 It didn't seem like it took 18 minutes to boot up, so I glance at the wall clock. Just as I thought, it's only 8:34. And so my day begins. Later in the day, I call a customer from the spreadsheet on my computer at 10:35. We talk for about 5 minutes, and when I hang up, it's 10:30 on my phone. Time for a break. So I get up and walk into the break room, a mere 10 feet from my desk, to get a snack. By the time I arrive in the break room, it's 10:45 on the break room clock. Wow. That's further away than it seems. I quickly get a drink and go back to my desk, only to learn that it's only 10:33 on my phone, so I still have 7 minutes left on my break. So I look to my computer, perhaps I'll check my email. No time now, that sideways glance took 10 minutes, and now it's 10:44 on the computer, and I have to get back to work. As my day goes on, my hunger grows, and I can't wait for my lunch break. I con[...]



A Stirring Tribute to a Fallen Friend

Wed, 20 Feb 2008 23:47:28 UTC

2008-02-21T00:50:25Z

I'm sure I've mentioned this before on this blog, but I can be a bit of a sappy son of a gun sometimes. I'll be the first to admit that I often tear up during sad movies, or get chills down my spine during inspirational ones. Basically, I guess I'm a sensitive guy. This was apparent this past weekend, when... I'm sure I've mentioned this before on this blog, but I can be a bit of a sappy son of a gun sometimes. I'll be the first to admit that I often tear up during sad movies, or get chills down my spine during inspirational ones. Basically, I guess I'm a sensitive guy. This was apparent this past weekend, when I had to finally say goodbye to an old friend, my 1994 Chevy Cavalier. I bought my Cavalier in 1997, it was the first car I ever bought from a dealership and actually had to make payments on. My previous car, my first, was a hand me down from my uncle, which I got for only $500. I got a real deal on the Cavalier, as it had just been traded in about an hour before I came looking for a new car, and was just sitting in the back, waiting to be inspected, priced, and put out for sale. But somehow it caught my eye, and I knew I had to have it. I had to literally wait for them to look it over and come up with a price, and it came in right around what I was looking to spend. Thanks to a generous, albeit foolish, "Push Pull or Drag" sale; I was awarded $2000 for my barely mobile 1987 Dodge Colt, and the deal was made. I loved that car. It seemed so fresh and new, as it only had about 20,000 miles on it. It was the closest I'd ever come to having a new car. I showed it off to my friends, and kept it in pristine condition. That, of course, didn't last long. It soon became the garbage can on wheels typical of a young college student, but I loved it nonetheless. I commuted to and from Philly on the weekends for 2 years in that car, and never once did it leave me stranded, or give me any trouble. I took great pride in the "Punk Rock" attitude of my car maybe not being the prettiest, but always getting the job done. As the years went on, the car's engine stayed as reliable as ever, although the body was starting to fall apart. I got sideswiped by a tour bus in a McDonald's drive through, banging up my rear end pretty bad. The driver didn't want to get the insurance involved, so he just sent me a check to cover the damages. But I had a down payment on a house to make, and so the car went unfixed. The body started to rust, and pieces would fall off. Some tiny, like little plastic edgings. And some not so tiny, such as my driver's side door, which fell off the hinges on me when I was in the Poconos doing a wedding video. My windshield had developed a rather large crack, and it was growing with each day. And this winter, my heat stopped working. It was at this time, that we got an offer we couldn't refuse from my wife's parents. They were getting a new car, and would give us their old one, which was still in pristine condition, free of charge. And so, I waited out the process of my mother in law looking for a new car. A few months of very cold drives to work later, she had picked her perfect car, and the old car was ours. Now I was faced with the task of saying goodbye to my trusty blue friend. I made arrangements to donate it to a reputable charity, so that my car could continue helping people, even after it was gone. And this past Sunday, I had to go out for the final clean out of the car that had been with me for so long. As I cleaned up all the empty soda bottles, various fast food wrappers, and God knows what else, I started to think about all the monumental events that this car had been there for. It was there for my entire College experience. I had taken my wife out in that car for every date we had ever been on, and eventually I brought her home on our wedding day in it. I was overcome [...]



Back from the Picket Lines!

Fri, 15 Feb 2008 00:15:12 UTC

2008-02-15T00:56:45Z

Well, the writer's strike is finally over, and I'm back behind the keyboard to enlighten the masses with the madness that is my mind. I thought I'd ease back into it, so here's a few bits and pieces for you, just some things I've been thinking about during my WGA Sympathy strike. Well, the writer's strike is finally over, and I'm back behind the keyboard to enlighten the masses with the madness that is my mind. I thought I'd ease back into it, so here's a few bits and pieces for you, just some things I've been thinking about during my WGA Sympathy strike. First up, a little bit of opinion on some recent events in the news. Now, I know I'm turning the big 3-0 this year, and I guess that makes me out of the loop with high school kids nowadays. But when I was in school, if you didn't want to go to school on a particular day, you did one of two things. You either did your best Ferris Bueller impression and tried to play sick, or you just acted like you were going to school, and just didn't. One tactic we never would have thought of was a bomb threat. It seemed that we had a bomb threat at a local school at least once a week lately. And none of them were based in any amount of reality. Just some dumb kids trying to get out of that pesky algebra exam. All I know is, putting the thermometer on the light bulb doesn't come with the risk of serious jail time. These kids are trying a little too hard. Work smarter, not harder, kids! I don't care how crazy she might be, or what she does to her body, I'm still an Amy Winehouse fan. There. I said it. I completely understand how bad steroids are, and how they make sports unfair, and tarnish player's accomplishments. But I don't understand why the government has to spend tax payer dollars investigating it on national television. There has to be better ways to spend their time and our money. Another thing the government may be looking into is the alleged cheating done by the New England Patriots. This is being referred to as "Spygate." Seriously. Watergate was over 35 years ago. I think it's about time we retired the whole "______gate" gimmick for every scandal that ever happens. I still contend that if I were blind, and just listening to Barack Obama speak, I would not be positive that it was not former WWE wrestler The Rock. And as a person who is not blind, I have yet to see them both in the same place at the same time. If you're like me, and enjoy completely weird, kitchy art, be sure to go check out www.brandonbird.com. I just picked up a few of his pieces, as well as the Law & Order:Special Victims Unit valentines for my wife. They were of course a big hit. And lastly, if you're in my age bracket, and grew up on Nickelodeon, be sure to check out this video by The XYZ Affair, for their song "All my Friends." It features the band trying to practice in their apartment, but their angry neighbor, Double Dare's Marc Summers, keeps banging on the wall for them to shut it off. So, the band calls in some reinforcements in the form of Big Pete from Pete & Pete, Furgeson from Clarissa Explains it All, and Budnick from Salute your Shorts. The gang finds a way to sneak into Summers' apartment, and put on a rock show, much to the dismay of Marc, who returns home to find a wild party going on in his living room. So, he goes to his fridge, and pulls out some buckets of trusty green slime, and proceeds to slime the dancing kids. But lo and behold, the kids love it, and continue partying in a heartwarming fashion. If you have no idea what the heck I'm talking about, maybe you'll just like the music at least. Check it out Here. That's all for now, it's great to be back, America! (At least until the Screen Actors Guild strike) [...]



Not my American Idol

Wed, 16 Jan 2008 22:37:49 UTC

2008-01-16T23:37:53Z

Well, it's that time of the year again, for the good people at Fox broadcasting to start parading out their circus freak show known as "American Idol." I have never been a fan of this show, never really watched any season all the way through. I usually just watch the first couple episodes, to see the funny ridiculous auditions, and... Well, it's that time of the year again, for the good people at Fox broadcasting to start parading out their circus freak show known as "American Idol." I have never been a fan of this show, never really watched any season all the way through. I usually just watch the first couple episodes, to see the funny ridiculous auditions, and then once the real show starts, with the generic soulless wannabe pop stars, I'm done. But after Tuesday night's premiere, I think I realized that I'm officially done completely with this show. This is American Idol's 7th season on the air, and if you ask me, that's about 4 seasons too many. Sure, it was cute at first, but I think after the initial novelty wore off, and any actual talents were discovered in the first 3 combings of the country, the show has run it's course. As I mentioned before, I usually just watch the audition episodes, for the goofy ones, but this year I realized just how absurd this show has gotten. It seems as though at any given audition site, the mix is about 5% actual talented people with a real shot, 25% average singers who are good at karaoke and that's about it, and 70% lunatics looking for their 15 minutes of fame. And the problem is, that last group grows each year, because the producers pander to these people more and more. They are now actively seeking out the weirdest freaks to exploit on national television. The show has turned into a Jerry Springer show for the new millennium. Some of these people, like I said, are just goofballs being silly and just trying to get on TV. I can live with the inevitable eye rolls from watching a dude in a princess leia costume try to sing. But another part of the bad auditions are people who may be a little slow mentally, and are viciously exploited for laughs. This is disgusting, and what really turned me off Tuesday night. There was a really nice young man from Philly, who seemed to be a little slow upstairs. In his interviews, he talked about how all his coworkers tell him he's a great singer and that he should audition for the show. He seemed like a very sincere, trusting person, and so he auditioned for the judges. His singing, quite frankly, was ridiculously bad. There was no way anyone would have even considered this guy for a legitimate singing contest. But there he was, in front of Simon, Paula, and Randy. Now, if you're not familiar with how the audition process actually works for this show, contestants must first audition for the producers, and only certain people make the cut to actually audition for the main judges. This means that this person was picked purely for the ridiculousness of his singing, and so that they could make a mockery of him on national TV. The man obviously believed in the hype, and thought he was a good singer, which made it even sadder when Paula and Randy had to cover their faces because they were laughing so hard at the poor guy. It honestly made me feel ill. Luckily, the guy took it in stride, and was as nice as could be, even saying that he'd be back next year to try again. I sincerely hope he doesn't come back, because it's just plain mean the way they made a fool out of him. One person who made a fool out of them self with no help whatsoever was a young lady named Alexis Cohen. And, how lucky for us, she's from Allentown. Yes, if you missed it, you can check it out HERE. The Lehigh Valley has a new ambassador to the world, and she did a fine job of representing us. Fine,[...]



Year-End Accolades

Mon, 31 Dec 2007 01:54:39 UTC

2007-12-31T02:57:44Z

I'd like to thank everyone responsible for naming The Casual Observer "2007 PennLive.com Best Blog written by Bill Duane." It is truly an honor and a privilege. I promise to continue on into 2008, holding myself up to the high standard that I set this year. With that in mind, I'd like to take a quick look back at... I'd like to thank everyone responsible for naming The Casual Observer "2007 PennLive.com Best Blog written by Bill Duane." It is truly an honor and a privilege. I promise to continue on into 2008, holding myself up to the high standard that I set this year. With that in mind, I'd like to take a quick look back at 2007, my first year of blogging. First off, I'd like to admit that I more than anyone tend to dread the 1,000 "Year in Reviews" that pop up this time every year, but I thought since this was my first year of blogging, I'd take a quick look back and see how I've done. So I found some spare time between holiday hangovers, and re-read all 39 entries. The result was a trip down memory lane that yielded some interesting facts. I started my blog on February 11, with a simple blog, basically introducing myself and examining the idea of how beginnings are looked at later in someone's career. I thought this was interesting, because here I am, almost a year later, doing exactly what I talked about, and looking back at my beginnings and judging them. I'd have to say my beginnings were humble. I like to think that I am getting better over time, and didn't start out great and fizzle out, which I think is good. I ended my premiere blog with a quote from none other than my all time favorite movie The Goonies. In fact, in going through all my blogs to date, The Goonies tends to be a running theme. Not that there's anything wrong with that. When I started this blog, I had no intentions of touching any hot button issues like politics or religion, mostly because I realize I'm far from an expert on either, and didn't want to start any big debates. I found it funny then, that my 2nd ever blog was titled "On Politics." There went that idea. I immediately started running my mouth about things I had no idea about, and was immediately corrected by other bloggers and readers in the comments section. My first taste of my virtual foot in my mouth. I touched on politics later, in June, after watching a democratic debate. I think I made a little more sense by then, and actually got some very nice feedback on that particular blog, which was mainly about being an independent during the primaries. I touched a little on the religion topic more recently, in a November 14 blog about a Ben Stein quote I had received via an email forward. Yet again, I went where I shouldn't have, and posted a misquote of Mr. Stein. I don't know what compelled me to think that an email chain letter is a trustworthy source. But, of course the comment police set me straight on that one. Oh well, live and learn. It was nice to read some of the blogs just about general things that were going on in my life. This past year was also my first full year of being a homeowner, and it was nice to see how I progressed over the year. I'd like to think I grew a lot as a person over the last year, and it's nice to have some documented evidence. One thing I didn't grow this year, was a beard. Another year, another failed attempt. But I thought the 4 part "Beard Blog" was a pretty humorous read looking back. Another set of blogs I thought were pretty good were "The last 2 weeks part 1 through 5." This was a little blogging mini marathon I did after and extended absence, in which I had a lot to say. I just kind of exploded creatively one night, and ended up writing so much I decided to break it into 5 parts. I particularly enjoyed part 3, where I exam[...]



An Open Letter to the person who stole Baby Jesus

Fri, 21 Dec 2007 01:05:38 UTC

2007-12-21T01:19:19Z

Hello. First of all, congratulations. If getting publicity was your aim, Mission Accomplished. I'm sure you're real proud of yourself. I'll bet you think stealing a statue of baby Jesus from a nativity scene is a pretty cool crime. Real cutting edge stuff. Well, you're wrong.

Hello. First of all, congratulations. If getting publicity was your aim, Mission Accomplished. I'm sure you're real proud of yourself. I'll bet you think stealing a statue of baby Jesus from a nativity scene is a pretty cool crime. Real cutting edge stuff. Well, you're wrong.

The fact of the matter is, it's been done. It's played out. Wow. You stole the baby Jesus statue. Real original. I'm sorry to inform you, but if you think you're real edgy and controversial, you're wrong. People have been pulling that one for years, and besides that article, no one cares. Sure, they want their baby Jesus back, and they think it's a shame that you did what you did, but no one is horrified beyond belief by your heinous actions. You're a dime a dozen. A two bit hack who can't come up with anything original or worthwhile to do with their time. Based on your entirely unoriginal crime, I'd have to guess that you're one of those people still wearing clothes that went out of style 10 years ago, and you probably walk around telling people to "Get Jiggy with it," or yelling "Hey Macarena!" or other such outdated references. We're not impressed.You haven't shocked the world. You just annoyed it. So, please, stop wasting our time and bring back the baby Jesus. Then you can get back to your boring, unoriginal life, and maybe Santa will bring you a clue for Christmas.

Merry Christmas,

Bill




Holiday Snacks, Tracks, and Knick Knacks

Thu, 13 Dec 2007 20:02:52 UTC

2007-12-13T20:41:01Z

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with everyone a few ideas for that perfect last minute stocking stuffer. These are just a few completely unrelated things I've come across in the last 2 weeks that I've enjoyed, and I thought perhaps some of my fans out there in internet land might too. So,... With the holidays fast approaching, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with everyone a few ideas for that perfect last minute stocking stuffer. These are just a few completely unrelated things I've come across in the last 2 weeks that I've enjoyed, and I thought perhaps some of my fans out there in internet land might too. So, if there's a particular dorky junk food loving dude in his late twenties on your shopping list, then listen up! Kellog's Gingerbread Pop-Tarts I picked these little treats up at the grocery store not too long ago, mostly because I'm a sucker for gimmicks. I couldn't tell you how many ridiculous gimmicks I've fallen for over the years. Some were good, some not so much. But this one in particular turned out to be pretty good. You've got your classic Pop-Tart formula, but the outside is made of gingerbread and the inside is made of frosting. Plus you get a little drawing on the outside. The result is a delicious treat that definitely put me in the Holiday spirit. They are quite sweet, though, so I'm not sure if this is really a good idea as a breakfast food, but as a mid-day snack, it was very tasty. The Brian Setzer Orchestra - Wolfgang's Big Night Out Brian Setzer has made a habit of bringing back forgotten musical genres. He started with rockabilly in the 80's with his band The Stray Cats. Later, in the mid 90's, he began fiddling with Swing music, and helped launch a huge swing revival in America. Now, Brian has done it again, reaching back further than anyone would have imagined, and reinvented classical music. On this amazing cd, he takes 12 of the most famous classical pieces ever, and revamps them into swinging numbers worthy of Count Basie or Glenn Miller. I had the pleasure of seeing this band live not long ago, and it was an incredible concert. This is where I first heard about this new cd, as he played some songs from it that night, and I immediately went out and procured it. And I'm glad I did. This really is an excellent cd, perfect for that music lover who has everything. The Goonies Action Figures I just recently found out that these exist, and let me tell you, I am super excited. This is one of those items I wish I knew about before I already told everyone what I want for Christmas. Regardless, these will be mine in the very near future. The Goonies is one of my all time favorite movies. In fact, when The Goonies came out on DVD, that was the reason I bought a DVD player. So, needless to say, I'm a bit biased. But you can see by the picture above that these are some really high quality toys. These are some of the best looking action figures I've ever seen in regards to looking like their human counterparts. I would have to say that these are THE gift to get this year for that 80's movie geek on your list. I haven't seen them in any stores yet, but it won't take One Eyed Willie's treasure map to find them. Just Google them, and you'll find plenty of site selling them for about $15 each. Well, I hope that helps those of you still scrambling for last minute gift ideas. Good luck, and when you're out shopping, don't forget about Santa outside ringing the bell. Because if you can drop $15 on a Sloth figure, perhaps you can spare a little to help out those in need this Holiday season too. Good luck, and Godspeed. [...]



The Backbone of Suburbia

Mon, 10 Dec 2007 22:52:54 UTC

2007-12-10T23:30:04Z

Recently, I was looking through The Express-Times, The Lehigh Vally's fastest growing newspaper (Cheap Plug!), when I came upon the obituaries section. I always think it's fate when I come upon the obituaries, because I don't often read them, but when I do happen by them, I always stop and read, as if some force had guided me there, and... Recently, I was looking through The Express-Times, The Lehigh Vally's fastest growing newspaper (Cheap Plug!), when I came upon the obituaries section. I always think it's fate when I come upon the obituaries, because I don't often read them, but when I do happen by them, I always stop and read, as if some force had guided me there, and I was supposed to read them that day. This phenomenon actually is accurate more often than not, as usually when I do read them, there is someone I once knew in them. Well, this particular time was no exception, as I read that a neighbor of my parents had passed away. She was a sweet older lady, who was always a big supporter of me when I pounded the pavement as a middle and high schooler, pushing my various fund raisers for the band on all my unsuspecting neighbors. Not a close friend, but not a complete stranger either, as it turned out her daughter had attended high school with my mother. Regardless, she was just a sweet old lady, and as I reflected back on the time I knew her, I realized that sweet old ladies were a huge part of my childhood. As I mentioned, this particular sweet old lady was a big supporter of my musical pursuits. There were many of these ladies throughout my suburban Bethlehem Township neighborhood. I knew they didn't have much money, but I would continually give their doorbell a ring, and see if maybe they might want to buy just one more hoagie. And they always would. With a big smile, they'd greet me, and welcome me into their homes, and even after my high school years were done, they extended the same courtesy to my younger brother. I don't know if I fully grasped how much I should have appreciated that back then, but looking back now, I definitely do. If it weren't for these loyal supporters, I wouldn't have had any of the great times I did on our numerous band trips all around the country. I remember writing out a lot of thank you cards when I graduated, which I'm sure I did begrudgingly, but I'm really glad my parents made me do that. Because now, in most cases, it's too late to thank them. Plus it would probably seem kind of weird to show up at their door 12 years later saying thank you. Then there were the sweet old ladies that supported me in other ways. One gave me one of my first "jobs" doing errands and running to the corner store for her. This was a great thing because I earned money that I could actually spend on all the dumb stuff I wanted as a kid, not money that had to be given over to the band for airfare and boring stuff like that. Sure, the pay wasn't much, but it had the added bonus of making me feel good about helping out a nice old lady. And what neighborhood would be complete without the sweet old lady who's a genius with a sewing machine? We had one on our corner, and she would fix everybody's clothes. It was a regular routine, any time we got new suits or slacks, or even band uniforms, we'd head over there so that she could alter them for us. And she'd do it all with a smile, except for when you tried to give her a little something for her trouble. Then it was very serious, as she would always refuse. But we'd always find a way to repay her, be it shoveling her snow or cutting her grass. Nice old ladies are the backbone of any good suburban neighborhood. Unfortunately, it's often not until we stumble upon their [...]



Attention: Iron Pigs

Wed, 05 Dec 2007 23:37:24 UTC

2007-12-07T03:39:52Z

Recently, there was a little controversy involving the Lehigh Valley's newest minor league baseball team, The Iron Pigs, and their newly named mascot. Apparently, the Iron Pigs, a Philadelphia Phillies triple A affiliate, held a contest to name the mascot, who is a cuddly looking pig in a baseball uniform. What could possibly go wrong with that? Recently, there was a little controversy involving the Lehigh Valley's newest minor league baseball team, The Iron Pigs, and their newly named mascot. Apparently, the Iron Pigs, a Philadelphia Phillies triple A affiliate, held a contest to name the mascot, who is a cuddly looking pig in a baseball uniform. What could possibly go wrong with that? Well, A 5 year old girl submitted a name, "Porkchop," which turned out to be the eventual winner of the contest. A nice enough name for a character. Of course, the 5 year old's intentions were 100% pure, but that wouldn't stop everyone from assuming the worst. Apparently, "Porkchop" is a derogatory name for people of Puerto Rican decent. So, the Iron Pigs Management, upon hearing this, quickly scrambled and came up with a new name within 24 hours after the original name was announced. Now, I understand not wanting to offend anyone, and I can see why they did what they did. It was just odd to me, because I had never heard of this term before. In fact, no one I talked to about this had heard of it either. Granted, they were mostly people in my age group, so perhaps it's an older term that may be falling out of favor with the racist community. Not that anyone I talked to were racists, it's just that they had never heard anyone using "porkchop" in that capacity either. But, nonetheless, apparently someone is still using it out there, and so the team management was informed and made the change. At least the little girl is still getting her first place prize. The name the team chose to replace Porkchop with is "Ferrous." Not something on the tip of most people's tongues when they think of Iron or Pigs. But, it does in fact mean "of or containing iron." It's derived from the Latin word "Ferrum", and if you stop and think back to your periodic table, you might remember that the symbol for Iron is Fe, which is derived from the same Latin word. So, it makes sense, but a lot of the people I spoke to about this think it's not as catchy a name. So, I was thinking of a few advantages to this new moniker, and I've come up with a few ideas that I'd be glad to let the Iron Pigs borrow. 1. His name is Ferrous, which obviously, when you say it, will have most people thinking "Ferris," as in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. SO, the obvious thing to do is to give him the theme song from the aforementioned movie. Then every time the crowd at Coca-Cola Park hears the trademark "Chic-a-chikaaaa!", they'll know Ferrous is coming out for some wacky antics. 2. Ferrous is derived from Latin, and Ferrous is a pig, so he could teach all the kids to speak pig latin at the games. "O-Gay Igs-Pay!" 3. And finally, returning to the Ferris Buller references, they could do skits in the games where Ferrous gets kidnapped by the opposing team's mascot. Then the jumbo-tron could encourage the kids to "Save Ferrous." They could sell "Save Ferrous" shirts, similar to the ones in the movie. (I admit this one is a bit more of a stretch as far as obscure references go, but it looks so much better to present ideas in groups of 3 rather than 2.) So there you go. A few ideas to help get the public on board with the new name. By the way, if anyone from Iron Pigs management really does read this, and uses my ideas, you can pay me in free tickets. [...]



The Awkward Disease

Mon, 19 Nov 2007 23:10:31 UTC

2007-11-22T02:12:24Z

I have a disease. It's a disorder, really, a syndrome to be exact. It's not life threatening, it doesn't cause me any physical pain or trauma. I don't have to go through chemo or intensive physical therapy. I don't have to be constantly monitored or report regularly to a special clinic for treatment. As diseases go, I guess it's really... I have a disease. It's a disorder, really, a syndrome to be exact. It's not life threatening, it doesn't cause me any physical pain or trauma. I don't have to go through chemo or intensive physical therapy. I don't have to be constantly monitored or report regularly to a special clinic for treatment. As diseases go, I guess it's really a pretty good one to get stuck with, considering the alternatives. Although, my disease has no cure. And it doesn't even have one treatment known to work for everyone. And as far as awareness goes, I'm the only one I've ever seen who has a fashionable colored bracelet to support my cause. There's no telethons, no bake sale fund raisers. The general public knows little to nothing about my disease.The little they do know is a ridiculous generalization based on movies and TV that isn't true with the majority of people with my disease. I have Tourette's Syndrome. For those who don't know, Tourette's Syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes a person to have involuntary vocal and/or motor "tics." These tics can range from very mild to very severe, and based on that can be either a slight annoyance or a severely disabling force in someone's life. The stereotype I mentioned earlier that people have about TS is that affected people will randomly shout out obscenities. While this is something that can happen with TS, it is actually very rare. Most people with TS have very mild symptoms, usually something involving a motor tic; like facial grimaces or movement of the limbs, or a vocal tic; like a grunting or clearing of the throat. TS has been around a long time, but as with any mental disease, many more cases have been diagnosed in recent years due to a better understanding of the disorder. Tourette's Syndrome usually starts in childhood, and reaches it's peak in adolescence or late teens. It usually diminishes, in most cases entirely, by adulthood. There are, of course, exceptions to that rule. And I would be one of them. I was never diagnosed as a kid, but looking back I'm sure I had it. When I was in late elementary/early middle school, I started getting a few tics. The main ones were cracking my neck repeatedly, or rubbing my chin on my shoulder. We didn't really think much of it, my family just dismissed it a nervous twitch that I'd grow out of. Which, eventually I did. And I was virtually tic free for most of my young adulthood. For some reason or another, my TS came back with a vengeance about 5 years ago, when I was away at College. It was at this time that I started doing some research, and figured out that TS may have been what was making me do what I did. So I went to the doctor and told him my story. He said it sounded like TS to him, but I should see a neurologist. And so, the search began to find a neurologist in the Valley who treated TS. Eventually I found one, and was indeed diagnosed, and then the games began. As I mentioned earlier, there is no one treatment known to be effective against TS. And so, people like myself are often subjected to a trial and error approach to treatment. The neurologist I went to basically referred to their medical books and treatment guides and prescribed drug after drug, hoping to eventually find one, or a combination of several, that worked. Un[...]