Another visit from the Wienermobile leaves me feeling inadequate

Maybe it’s because I’m a man, but when I see a giant wienermobile approaching from behind in traffic, I tend to drive a little more defensively. Such was the case this morning when I noticed the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in my rearview mirror. Though it’s been two years since the last time I was assigned to cover a big wiener (not counting election season), the sight of it immediately caused a flashback from 2012… [cue harp music and begin gauzy dream sequence…]

image After more than a decade of working in the high-pressure environment of our newsroom, where at any given moment you could find yourself surrounded by as many as two other journalists all typing at once, it takes a lot to get our adrenaline pumping. In fact, we have been at the epi-center of the national spotlight three times here in Florence. Sure, two occasions came after being singled out as having the nation’s highest rate of … (yawn) … retirees.

But the third time involved REAL explosives.

And a dead whale.

And quite possibly an unlicensed demolitions expert going through a divorce. This would explain using half a ton of dynamite to dispose of a rotting whale carcass that washed ashore, and how one onlooker literally chewed the fat after being struck by a piece if flying whale blubber. Continue reading

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Out of sheer frustration, I made a meme

I don’t know why, but this always chaps me: Carts left within arm’s reach of the corral. Parked 100 yards away and it’s too far to walk? I get that. Or maybe you’re an old smoker and you only have so much air left in your oxygen tank? I understand. Or possibly you’re meeting your wife at home and don’t want to waste a single second because the kids are gone until tomorrow, and walking an extra 50 feet could mean the difference between another round of “naughty airport security pat-down” or the sound of teenagers whining about dinner?

I totally understand.

But this… THIS!

You’re so close! Why not go the extra mile?

So when I saw this in the parking lot yesterday, I had to work through it by taking a photo and dealing with it in my own way…

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My rant is now officially over. Thank you for listening. And if this was you, let’s give another 10 percent and actually get that cart into the corral next time, huh? Because you’ll be the first one whining when your car gets dinged by a runaway cart.

Or runaway humor columnist…

Let’s face it, scientists: Some genes are meant to be folded

image It was 14 years ago this week that the bucardo mountain goat became extinct after a tree fell on the last of its species in northern Spain, prompting scientists to ponder the age-old question:

If a tree falls on a goat in the woods, does it make a sound?

To that end, U.S. and Spanish researchers are now collaborating to utilize cells preserved in liquid nitrogen to create the very first clone of an extinct species — beginning with the bucardo, whose scientific name is goatus stupidus. While I can appreciate the enormity of this scientific milestone, it also raises a fundamental question about our genetic science capabilities:

Should we duplicate an animal that wasn’t smart enough to avoid its own doom by moving a couple of hooves to the left? Continue reading

Six provocative doodles worth a Long Awkward Pause

It’s Saturday morning and time for The Saturday Six! No, that doesn’t mean a six-pack of PBR. It’s when I and the rest of the staff at Long Awkward Pause offer our thoughts on six unique items which — much like the Kardashians — are loosely related. This week’s subject? When provocative doodle-pad doodles go way wrong.

For example…

1. Doodle Provocative Ninja!

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Omawarisan: “Everything was going well. None of them looked up. Not a one. And then, I fell.”

Ned: “And night after night, as the Seven Dwarves slept, Snow White continued her double life as a blood thirsty killer within the Enchanted Forest…” — From “Snow White, The Lost Years”

Chris: One thing I have noticed is that you can’t be an out of shape ninja. Their clothes are too tight.

Jack: That reminds me, I have to take Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon back to the Redbox.

(Because “doodling” only sounds inappropriate, it’s OK to see more at LAP…)

Active descriptions are key to believable characters; Activia descriptions are not

image Around here, Fridays are reserved for my Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I take the literary landfill of experience I’ve gained from 15 years as a newspaper columnist and break it down into handfuls of writing compost that Publisher’s Digest has called “…writing tips that are completely full of [fertilizer]…”

Or what The Master of Horror® Stephen King heralded as, “…literary soil that could bring back a dead cat…”

But enough accolades!

This two-part NWOW is about earning a reader’s trust through effective character dialogue and active description — and how earning that trust means the difference between a reader taking a leap of faith or a flying leap. Here’s a brief re-cap from the first part of this post, which focused on three forms of dialogue: Narrative dialogue, fictional dialogue based on a real person, and “real” dialogue from a fictional character… Continue reading

As you might expect, I’m celebrating this milestone with a face-plant

image I know it’s Thursday, a day I don’t normally post. But WAIT! I can explain! Yes, I know I probably should’ve called first. But sometimes things happen that are out of our control. Like three pregnant Kardashians. Or when the dog rubs his butt on the carpet when we’re not home. In this case, however, what has happened is actually a happy thing. An exciting thing. And something that, for the most part, won’t leave a stain on the carpet or the next generation.

Back on June 7, this blog celebrated a milestone of picking up its 4,500th follower. After the party (My thanks to all of you for staying to help clean up, by the way), I set a goal of seeing if this blog could reach 5,000 by Aug. 16, when I turn 38 40 45

FINE Then: 48!

I felt it was a bit of a stretch, but stretching is something I’m trying to do a lot more of lately, especially since it’s getting easier to throw my back out or pull a groin muscle. Over the last several weeks, I’ve watched in amazement realizing there was a good chance I might actually make that goal. When I woke this morning and saw this blog had actually surpassed 5,000, I sprang up out of my chair and hollered “OWWWWWW!” because I had pulled a groin muscle. Continue reading

In the event of a Sharknado, find the nearest catfish noodler

(This morning I’m over at Long Awkward Pause, where my assignment was to offer an informative piece on Sharknado survival. It’s a Public Service Announcement of sorts, minus the “service” part…)

Yes, Minnesota, even you have reason to fear a Sharknado.

Yes, Minnesota, even you have reason to fear a Sharknado.

We all know it’s only a matter of time before “The Big One” hits the West Coast, probably somewhere in California first because, let’s face it, they get everything first. The aftershocks will then spread north along Oregon’s coastline, which is exactly where I happen to live. I’ve prepared myself for The Big One as best I can but the truth is: How much can you really prepare for a Sharknado?

Earthquake.
Tsunami.
Volcano.

No problemo.

But you’re going to need more than a survival kit of granola bars and toilet paper when faced with a giant tornado full of hungry Great White sharks. Although the toilet paper will probably come in handy. (Read more at LAP!)

My tips for Tim McGraw on how not to excite women

This is just like most of my public appearances, except without the women. Or security. Or anything, really...

This is just like most of my public appearances, except without the women. Or security. Or anything, really…

As I watched the recent footage of a female fan clawing at Tim McGraw’s pant leg, causing him to shove her hand away in an attempt to avoid being dragged into a sea of crazed women, I silently nodded my head in understanding.

Being that my job has kept me in the public eye for more than a decade, I have some advice for the country superstar when it comes to avoiding overzealous women trying to get their hands on you:

Become a humor columnist.

In the last 15 years, the closest I’ve come to having a strange woman grab at me was during a fundraiser dinner, when part of my pulled-pork sandwich went down the wrong way and a nurse in the audience gave me the Heimlich Maneuver. Continue reading

Six headlines worth a Long Awkward Pause

As some of you know, I spend Saturday mornings chiming in on the Saturday Six with the rest of the staff at Long Awkward Pause. You can think of it as Hollywood Squares, except with everyone crammed into the middle square. And speaking of awkward, I’m getting a little uncomfortable with where Adam and Chris’s hands keep ending up. Anyway, the subject of this week’s Saturday Six is “WTF Headlines”, which is something I’m familiar with as a newspaper journalist. For example:

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Calahan – She then donated the reward money she received for finding herself to someone chosen randomly out of the phonebook. That was her, too!

Chris – Woman 1: Who are we looking for? Woman 2: You. Woman 1: Oh, have you tried my cell phone? Woman 2: Yes, it says your lost. Woman 1: That’s weird, I don’t feel lost.

Katie – Crashing your own search party? Even I have better manners than that.

Ned: One month later, she is abducted by a serial killer but is able to sneak a call to the police from the back of his windowless van. “Officer O’Reilly speaking. Who is this? Oh, JENNIFER WELLS! What is it THIS time? Psychopath got you tied up in his van?” *makes jerking off motion* “Oh sure, Jen. We’ll get right on that!” — click…

Omawarisan – Everyone loves a good party.

BREAKING NEWS! Join me and the rest of the LAP staff for five more WTF Headlines here

If you’re a writer without a rejection letter, you’re doing something wrong

Let’s face it: It’s hard to forget Jack Nicholson when he’s coming at you with an axe. Or even a pick-up line, right ladies? So I won’t pretend that this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing isn’t a repeat from a while back. But I did bring a note from my fire captain, which reads:

Please excuse Ned from this week’s NWOW. He was up most of the night fighting a house fire. He looks like hell and smells like smoke. Usually he just looks like hell.
— Capt. Warren.

That said, my apologies for the repeat. However, I chose this piece because, as often as a writer (and even Jack Nicholson) deals with rejection, I think the message bears repeating. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled NWOW next week, during which I’ll apologize again — but not because it’s a repeat…

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It’s time for this week’s edition of my Nickel’s Worth on Writing, which Editor’s Weakly recently called “…something that has become an integral part of our screening process whenever we hire a proof reader.”

High prays in deed.

But enough accolades!

Let’s get to this week’s NWOW, which I’d like to open by sharing a few passages from the many rejection letters I’ve received over the years:

“You are a gifted wordsmith. Try somewhere else.”
(Were they saying I was overqualified?)

“We don’t publish new authors.”
(If all publishing houses felt that way, there wouldn’t be any new material since The Book of Genesis) Continue reading