#groundhog

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Aside from Mickey Mouse and Rudy Giuliani, Punxsutawney Phil is probably the most famous rodent in the world. Since 1887, the chubby groundhog has emerged from his burrow every February 2nd to give a super-scientific weather prediction. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter… if he doesn’t, there will be an early spring.

Due to the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, the event has gained a nationwide following. This morning, The Today Show broadcast the event live. I watched it, transfixed. It was folksy and quaint… I hadn’t seen that many old white guys in one place since Rex Tillerson’s Senate confirmation.
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Hundreds gather each year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to witness this event. They drink lots of beer, wear weird top hats, and hoist poor Phil in the air triumphantly like baby Simba in the Lion King. When he did that this morning, a large part of me hoped that the groundhog would pee on top of the man’s head. Now that would be good television.

According to Phil’s prediction this morning, we will have six more weeks of winter. After seeing his shadow, he returned to his burrow— his job complete.

Time will tell if the groundhog is correct…

On this day…

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I knew this would be one of those weird days— the kind you look back on and think, “What the #%$& was that?” You know the feeling? That hallucinatory haze between dreaming and wakefulness… the confusion that comes when you watch a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio… or that uneasy feeling in your stomach when you eat too much queso.
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When I woke up this morning at 7am, it was pouring rain. The kind of rain that Californians only dream about— right before we go buy some hipster coffee and an inflatable raft at Home Depot. As the water filtered down the rain gutters like tinkling wind chimes, I lay in bed with one question in my mind: “Should I turn on the TV and watch the Inauguration coverage?

I fiddled around on my iPhone for a while and played Words with Friends. This is how I procrastinate. I had a momentary burst of excitement when I was able to use the letter X on a double word score. 32 points, baby.

Now, I felt ready to face the day. Girding my loins and feeling like Donald Trump on Cialis, I reached for the TV remote. I clicked it on…

…and was met with a big blue error message on the screen: “COMPLETE SIGNAL LOSS.”

It was raining so hard that my satellite dish was literally unable to get a signal.

I suddenly knew this was a message from a higher power. A higher power that didn’t want me to watch TV. It was like Morgan Freeman had come down from the heavens to warn Jim Carrey to stop being a selfish dickhead. I had seen Bruce Almighty— I knew what this meant.

I turned off the malfunctioning TV and had some breakfast. While eating my fiber-tastic English muffin, I decided to do the one thing that used to help me process things when I was a kid. To write out whatever fact was bothering me— ten times in a row. It used to work really well, even back in 1990 when Disney cancelled my favorite-television-show-of-all-time, DuckTales. So, this morning, I tried it again.

Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.

And so it is.

The Surreality of 2016

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As I sit at my keyboard, I try to think of a word to encapsulate the year 2016. I do my best thinking while consuming coffee or sugary dairy products, so I had decided to combine the two and make a homemade eggnog latte.

Before I continue, I’m fully aware that eggnog can be controversial. It’s something that people either love or really, really hate. Much like Hillary Clinton. There’s no middle ground. But I’m one of those people that adores eggnog. I don’t care if my cholesterol takes a 15-point hike during the holidays, I’m still gonna drink it.

Sipping my beverage, I find out that dictionary tycoon Merriam-Webster already announced its Word of the Year – “surreal.” An adjective, it describes something “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.” From happenings in politics, sports and culture, to local news around Patterson, it seems like an apt summation of 2016.

In national politics, we began the year with roughly 14 presidential candidates from the two major parties – among them former governors, U.S. senators and even a brain surgeon. Yet, of all those candidates, the eventual winner was a wealthy former reality television star with a questionable haircut.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games were the sport highlights of 2016. When the world descended upon Rio de Janeiro, we were treated to many feats of athletic prowess. Our local Paralympic hero Danielle Hansen earned a silver, while superstar Michael Phelps brought home 6 medals – including 5 golds. We haven’t seen that much gold pillaged out of South America since the 16th century.

If that wasn’t enough excitement, we also got to witness four-time Olympian Ryan Lochte’s performance as a drunken and idiotic man-boy destroying a Rio public bathroom. Good times.

Anyway, in terms of pop culture, I would like to discuss the dominance of superhero movies and why the hell we need so many television shows featuring zombies. I’m sorry to break it to you, but superheroes and zombies are fictional. There’s more of a chance of me leaping out of my wheelchair and dancing the Macarena than there is of anyone getting attacked by a zombie. I don’t care what you read on the internet.

Speaking of fictional things, this year we also had folks roaming around looking for cartoon Pokemon on their smartphones. While the popularity of the game has waned, the surreality of it has not.

Finally, in less time than it takes to find Pikachu, the new Flying J truck stop on Sperry Avenue was completed. I’m not sure what kind of super-fast wizard built that structure, but they were clearly in Slytherin House. That’s some dark magic happening right there. I wasn’t aware that something could be constructed that quickly. I think someone should refer those folks to Caltrans.

While 2016 may have been surreal, here’s hoping your new year is not. Wishing you a happy and healthy 2017!

The Day After: A Digital Reckoning

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The frenzy of a newsfeed. The thrill of an iPhone screen full of notifications. Getting the news AS IT HAPPENS. Arguing with a random stranger online over an issue that both of you probably don’t know enough about as you should.

In this world of digital immediacy, we live life in a moment, within a tweet and a text message. This adrenaline rush is intoxicating, addictive and damn fun. I mean REALLY fun. Who doesn’t want to feel like the entire world is within the small coveted device that we can’t seem to pry from our hands?

But, like all addictions, we seem to need more and more. We click “share” without much thought, without verifying the truth of the statements we send out into the world in our name. And in this digital world, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. But, we don’t seem to care. If we believe it to be true, than it is. Facts and accountability have no place here.

Some say the media is to blame, and that may be partly true. But, the media can’t sell their product to an unwilling audience. And we’ve all been oh-so willing. From Huffington Post to Breitbart… from FoxNews to MSNBC, they have all been guilty of giving the biased viewpoints that we long to hear. This is not because they are necessarily trying to sway us, but because they want to please us— their customers. As the old adage goes, “The customer is always right.” And they want us coming back for more… and more.

But, we have seemed to be okay with that. Frankly, in the last months, we’ve relished in it. Reveled in it. Every opinion can be justified with a “fact” that we find on our little miracle devices. Making us feel vindicated. Making us feel heard.

But, really, who is hearing us? The select few with which we choose to associate? The like-minded folks and trolls that haunt the comments section of the specific sites where we collect our news? Who’s to blame for the memes that make us laugh in glee to cover the meanness and spite that we try to hide from view?

In this new world, we all do this— Republican and Democrat, Liberal and Conservative. And, for the sake of all of us, it needs to stop. This horrendous election season has taught us that… taught us what can happen when these habits run amok. These hellish months are the result of our own collective hubris. The idea that our reality is the only reality.

So, what are we going to do about it? It starts with each of us. We have a choice to make. Can we disconnect from the opiate, digital stew that dulls our senses and makes it harder to see what is true… what is fair… what is just?

Can we do that?

Can we?

Fall To-Do List

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pumpkineverythingSome folks like the spring, while other yearn for the summer. For me, Autumn is the best season of all. I can feel its arrival in the air— the crisp mornings, later sunrises, and the stench of rotting leaves. I like to attack the season with vigor and purpose, which, for a Type-A person like me, means that I must make a list of all the things I’d like to accomplish. It’s no secret that I love lists. So, I just pulled out my favorite notepad and scribbled out the first three things that came to mind.

The first item on my to-do list is a perennial fall favorite— the Fantozzi Farms Corn Maze. Here in Patterson, we’re lucky to have this fun, family-friendly destination right at our door step. Each year, they select a unique theme for their corn maze design. This time, they’ve etched the US Capitol Building, along with the heads of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump into their massive corn field. While it’s difficult to tell which candidate has the most inflated head, Trump’s hair, alone, should at least cover a couple of acres.

As always, there are lots of other fun and spooky activities for kids of all ages at the Fantozzi Corn Maze. You should check it out this October. After all, who knows when we’ll get another opportunity to run around in these candidates’ heads? I can imagine what kind of scary stuff we may find lurking around in there. Perhaps the thousands of Hillary’s lost emails and the remnants of Trump’s sanity? Who knows!

This leads me to the second item on my autumn to-do list— voting in the 2016 Election. Voting is our civic duty and responsibility. When I turned 18, I was so excited to vote in my first election— which turned out to be the historic 2000 Presidential Election. With all the Florida recounts, ‘hanging chads,’ and Supreme Court hearings, that election had more drama than an episode of the Real Housewives.

While voting at the polling stations on Election Day is more atmospheric, I’m personally a fan of mail-in voting. I like sitting in the privacy of my own home and wearing my favorite pajama pants while I vote. Being an informed citizen is key, so while filling out my ballot, I like to have access to Google and Facebook. These resources are our main sources of super-factual information. After all, everyone knows that everything you read on the Internet must be true. I’m pretty sure that Benjamin Franklin once said that. And, he should know since I once saw online that he also invented Wi-Fi.

Anyway, I suspect my voting experience this time around to be a much more somber affair. After I fill out my ballot, I plan to sit in a corner and cry.

To make myself feel better, I plan to start my Christmas shopping early— which is the 3rd and final item on my impromptu to-do list. I collect online coupons the way some people collect baseball cards, ceramic frogs, and if you’re Donald Trump, staggering business losses.

It’s a compulsion, and nothing makes me happier than getting 25% off my purchase with a coupon code that I found online. It’s the best feeling. So, I find that holiday shopping is best tackled when I’ve collected a varied assortment of coupons. As the old saying goes, ‘the early bird gets the coupon for free shipping!

Whatever your own personal fall to-do list entails, I hope you have fun with it. Just don’t get lost in that corn maze— there are just some things from which we can never recover…

#onthisday

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On this day, 50 years ago, a baby boy named David William Donald Cameron was born to somewhat posh parents in a somewhat posh part of London, England. Baby David would grow up to serve as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2010 until this July. In order to secure his political future and the future of his political party, the Conservatives, Mr. Cameron had the grand idea of allowing the British people to vote on whether to remain as a member of the European Union (EU). This brilliant plan was supposed to appease the discontented white folks that hated EU immigrants, distrusted a globalized economy, and wanted to go back to the good ol’ days when the British Empire controlled most of the planet. Ahh, those were the days. Nothing like the smell of brewed tea & biscuits served by assorted caramel-colored servants to make middle-aged white folks feel better about themselves.

Anyway, Cameron’s “Brexit” referendum ended up biting him in his posh ass when the British people actually voted favor of leaving the EU. *gasp* Chaos, confusion and tears ensued— and not all of them were from Mr. Cameron.

Instead of staying to clean up the mess he made, David decided to resign as Prime Minister, paving the way for Theresa May to become the new PM. Frankly, it’s not surprising— men throughout history have been making messes that women are forced to clean up.

Nonetheless, I wish you a very Happy 50th Birthday, Mr. Cameron. Good luck to you… I think you may need it…