Monday, March 30, 2009

Ah...The Smell of It!

Reading about bacon-flavored vodka got me thinking. I know...not a necessarily good idea. With all this lamenting the current state of the economy, why not come up with a distilled spirit that could cash in on our national a very literal sense?

Offered for your consideration: LIQUID A$$ET. The world's first (and, as far as I know, only) premium vodka infused with genuine, U.S. One Hundred Dollar Bills. Just think of the promotions!
  • "Finally! An intoxicating beverage that will really help to piss away your money!"
  • "You think it's expensive? Just wait until you taste it!"
  • "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."
  • "Common sense for your common cents."

I know. The possibilities are endless!

Makin' Bacon.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Exhibit A: Bakon. A bacon-flavored vodka. That's right...a bacon-flavored vodka.

It looks as if science has solved that age old dilemma: how to get your pig belly fix and drunk all at the same time. Bakon. It lubricates without the greasy side effects.

And dig the use of the "K" in the logo. It fetches your attention in a way so "Kountry Kitchen". The producers happily play up the fact that theirs is a potato-based, bacon-infused vodka. I guess this means that all you need do is drop a raw egg in a shot glass, pour in the Bakon and you've got the makings of a healthy breakfast to start your day!

Now, don't get me wrong...I love bacon. I love bacon. But I find America's preoccupation with bacon a bit...well, weird. I'm predicing a quick boom-and-bust life cycle for Bakon (and bacon, for that matter) similar to that other bandier of the 11th letter of the English alphabet: Krispy Kreme.

That's right. Bacon is now in my dead pool. Oh, I'll still eat it (and really enjoy it...especially if it's Benton Farms' Bacon!). But Bacon is far too trendy for my tastes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tone Deaf.

I've always felt that GOP Minority Whip Eric Cantor was a bit of a tool. The guy's been harping on Obama should he do anything that remotely looks as if the President is taking his attention away from the economic crisis has himself found the need to spend last night pondering - ahem - different assets.

That's right. Cantor went to a Brittany Spears' concert.

Hmmm. A coulda been watching a has-been. In one evening Cantor has proven he has neither an ear for music or the American people.

There's a joke in there somewhere. Feel free to come up with your own punchline.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The View.

My family and I enjoyed a very relaxing Sunday, thank you very much. Early in the morning I took a long walk around the neighborhood. It was sunny and VERY windy, and reminded me for all the world of walking around the Mountains of Morne in Ireland. Here's the view I enjoyed:

Not too shabby, eh?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Watching & Waiting.

From the moment Jack and Thom leave for school until the moment they return, this is usually where you'll see VIVI. Watching and waiting for her brothers to come home and play with her.

Boy, does this Dawg love those boys!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Someday My Prince Will Come.

And, when I say, "Prince" I mean "Job". Oh, and when I say, "Someday", I really mean "Today". And it goes without saying that when I say "Will", that really means "Better".

There. Are we clear now?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Kids Aren't Alright.

It's true. In the end, we usually become that which we use to rail against becoming. Call it the caving in, call it joining the establishment, call it growing up. As you progress through life, you mellow. It's not that you refuse to acknowledge your inner just come to that point in your life where you finally realize that the cause needs to be worthy of your rebelling against.

And, when you've finally reached that point, it's easy to view members of the younger generation as something that was spawned from parents not even remotely human.

About a week ago I received an invitation to become a Facebook Friend of someone named "Alan Wine Merchant". Not knowing who this person was, I was hesitant to connect. My research found that this was actually a wine merchant in the UK. Over the course of my career, I've sold a lot of my wines to a wide number of British merchants, and figured that this individual may have known me through a visit. Seeing no harm in the offer, I accepted their invitation. And, in the course of our short, one-week friendship, I received three separate offers from my new friend on wines he wanted to sell me. Ugh.

Yesterday I wrote to this chap (like how I can slip into the vernacular?) and politely explained that, if his sole purpose to be on Facebook was to spam his 'friends' with such offers, then I would appreciate him removing me from his list. Short, sweet, and - I thought - polite. Within a few hours I received the following response:

F*CK OFF! Get a life old man and stop leaving rude comments on my wall you obnoxious old bastard!!!!

Really? Am I really that old?

There certainly is a disconnect between the "Gen Xers" and me. On the whole they exhibit an enormous disconnect with both reality and civility...especially in the professional world. The overwhelming sense of entitlement that pours from their mouths is both amazing and sad.

Yesterday's encounter reminded me of another encounter with the younger generation. There is a magazine called Wine X, an allegedly hip, trendy wine publication designed to capture the attention of similarly allegedly hip, trendy wine drinkers. It's painful to read, all posturing, posing fluff (and badly-written fluff at that) that has little or no substance. Obviously, enough people shared this opinion, and the magazine soon fell off the radar.

Anyhow, shortly after its launch, I was contacted by the publisher, a one Darryl Roberts, who asked if I would help him on an article they were preparing on Viognier. At that time I was on a one-man crusade to take this hip, trendy grape from obscurity to mainstream, and would have talked to any media type about it...including one who represented his rag. Of the course of our meeting, I provided Mr. Roberts with a number of handouts I had prepared on Viognier. Imagine my surprise when I read the finished piece and found that a large percentage of their 'report' was comprised of verbatim transfers from my handout.

I soon contacted Roberts and expressed my concern that what he had committed was, basically, plagiarism. This hip, trendy publisher immediately responded with, "You should feel lucky that we even bothered to print your stuff!" When I explained that he was perhaps unaware that his actions were not only unprofessional but legally actionable, he decided to print a corrective acknowledgement in the very next issue.

Amazing, but true.

Perhaps my encounters with the self-absorbed, disconnected from reality, 'me-me-me' generation has provided me with a cause worthy of rebelling against? Nah. They're not worth the time and trouble...and it is fun observing their whiny-baby antics.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Quick, Robin! To the Bat...Elephant!"

Over the course of his career, Adam West has subjected viewers to some truly bad theater*. My buddy Efrain found this publicity doubt taken at some po-dunk state fair. I don't know who was suffering more humiliation, West or the elephant? Given his body of work, I'm betting on Jumbo. If those blue tights could talk.

Sorry for the sparcity of posts, but I have been busy searching for gainful employment. Hmmm. Perhaps there's a state fair in need of entertainment?
*Insert obligatory, vague Leonard Pinth-Garnell reference here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

From Our "Pissing Away Taxpayer's Money" Department...

For those of you unaware, the state of Pennsylvania serves as the primary retailer of alcoholic beverages within its borders. And, like most business better suited to private enterprise, the PA government does a horrifically bad job as a liquor retailer. And, while you normally get what you pay for, the fine citizens of the Keystone State sure don't. They actually get to pay higher prices for such crappy service.*

The whole shebang is operated by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB for short). The PLCB recently announced that it was spending more than $173,000 to spruce up their nearly 650 stores. Better selections? New signs? Cleaner stores? No, no and no. The money is being spent in hiring a consulting firm that will train store employees to be more courteous. It would appear my belief that PA drinkers pay too much would be right: even in these scant economic times, the PLCB can just piss their (uh...if you live in PA, your) money away!

That's right. Some bright bulb at the PLCB feel that these government employees need to learn to be nicer! They want to make sure clerks are saying "hello," "thank you" and "come again" as they stick it to their customers. Having encountered more than my fare share of these dairy cows masquerading as retailers, I can tell you that - on its face - it's not a bad idea. The ones that I've met have a fairly fatalistic outlook on their career choice. Like most ineffectual governmental employees, these members of the PLCB must have as their motto, "Sure I'm dead wood...but you can't fire me!"

Let's see...there are about 4,000 PLCB employees. $173,000 divided by 4,000 is $43.25. Hell, pay me $20 per employee and I'll just kick 'em in the ass and say, "Smile and be happy you're living off the state teat!" Should affect the same results. I can pretty much guarantee you that the terms "gracious customer service" and "government employee" are mutually exclusive. ..or at least are to the point that no amount of money spent on training will change things. Here's just a suggestion - and I'm just spit-balling here - why don't you just DISMANTLE THE WHOLE DAMN PLCB SYSTEM?!?

Now, to be sure, there have been a few candidates for Governor in PA who have voiced agreement that the whole PLCB should be abolished. That's before they've assumed office. I can only guess that no sitting Governor wants to be remembered as the one who gave 4,000 employees (read: voters) their pink slips. Well, don't you think being made redundant has become en vogue these days? Everyone employer is doing why not add a few more to the ranks in Pennsylvania?

In my experiences selling wine around the globe, there's only one state that surpasses Pennsylvania for sheer ineptitude and idiocy in its regulations and selling of alcoholic beverages. That state would be Utah. But, hell, at least they have an excuse: their state is linked pretty intimately with the Mormon faith. What's PA's excuse?

Do yourself a favor: find ANY excuse not to buy your booze in the state of Pennsylvania. Even if the clerk does smile and say, 'have a nice day'.

* "How crappy?" you ask? So crappy, that Philadelphia residents took to the roads, and were driving over to nearby Cherry Hill, NJ to buy their booze from cheaper, privately-owned and operated retailers. And, in a flourish of typical governmental efficiency, the state of Pennsylvania found a, not in lowering prices and increasing service, but by staking out NJ liquor stores and pulling over anyone driving a car with PA plates as soon as they crossed the border. THAT'S how crappy!

30-Second Movie Review: Bottle Shock.

Is the kind of movie that results when you take the posing pretentiousness of

And the self-aggrandizing romanticism of a fairly unromantic industry like, say

And mix it all into the cinematic version of a

Creating, in the end, something that is a lot like

(Face)Book of Lists.

I joined Facebook almost a year ago, but really have only been actively participating on it within the last two months. This activity came about after I had received three messages from old friends, none of which I'd heard from since my college days. Those three contacts have since spread into hundreds of old friends and acquaintances...from high school, college, extended family and various work-related businesses.

It seems that everyone my age has decided to sign onto Facebook. It's akin to salmon swimming upstream to spawn, or the Swallows returning to Capistrano. Perhaps we're all just feeling that we're sliding into the last half of our lives, and are interested to know how old friends are fairing on their rides.

One of the unintended consequences of being a member of Facebook is that I've received literally hundreds of 'list requests' from fellow members. These request basically consist of a friend sharing with you their - say - Top 10 favorite movies, or their Top 15 favorite albums. The idea being that you will learn something about your friend...and, of course, they want you to reciprocate. It's as if all your friends now think of themselves as self-appointed James Liptons, and wanted to get to know the real me.

Well, if you share such aspirations, let me share with you now one such list that I actually responded to:


25.) I tend to be a fairly impatient person. It’s my worst trait, but I’m working on it.

24.) If I see something that needs to be done I all too often jump right in with both feet and take on the task myself. That’s lead to countless great (and a few really stupid) adventures.

23.) Usually when people ask where I’m from I say, “Georgia.” That said, I’m actually from Chicago, Illinois. By the time I turned 14, my family had moved five times (Chicago, Cherry Hill, NJ; Tustin, CA; St. Charles, IL; Dunwoody, GA). Georgia is where I truly grew up. It’s where I went to high school and college, it’s where my parents, most of my siblings and my oldest friends live.

22.) If I could live anywhere in the U.S., I’d love a big house on the coast, somewhere South of Charleston, SC, and North of the Georgia/Florida border. If I could live anywhere in the world, it’d be in the middle of a vineyard in the French appellation of Bandol.

21.) My wife and I were born on the same day - November 4th, yet seven years apart. As I’ve a twin sister, it means that I’ve always shared my birthday with a woman.

20.) The best birthday present I have ever received was when I was seven years old. I didn’t actually receive this present until I was 36.

19.) We have a Bulldog named “VIVI” (pronounced “viv-vee”). Her daddy was UGA VI, and her brother is UGA VII. As much as I love her, I am much more inclined to have an Airedale as a pet. But my boys love UGA, and you can’t say, “no thanks” to Sonny Seiler.

18.) I’ve four siblings…three older brothers and a sister. Of the five of us, I’m the one with the most gray hair. I attribute this fact that I’m the only one who started their own business.

17.) I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I could go for months on end without something sweet…but if there’s a cheese course on the menu, lookout!

16.) I lived on a houseboat for nearly three years. Winters on a houseboat really helps to clarify who your real friends are.

15.) For most of my youth I planned to make my living as a Naval Aviator. Then I had the opportunity to learn first-hand that there was very little flying involved. I still love to fly, but I’m glad I didn’t choose that as my career path.

14.) And, while I like the career path I choose; namely, the wine business, I cannot abide the level of pretentiousness and entitlement that pervades the industry. Far too many of my contemporaries have entered the wine business for lifestyle, not livelihood.

13.) I’ve been to my share of Tailhook Association conventions, and you shouldn’t believe everything you’ve read about them.

12.) When I was younger, I was somewhat obsessed with Star Wars…so much so, that I actually saw it over 70 times when it came out in 1977. I never knew that being a geek would serve me so well…until I became the father of two young boys.

11.) I have an amazingly large head, literally speaking.

10.) For someone who has made his living speaking in front of large audiences, I really don’t like public speaking all that much.

9.) Before I can begin to cook the family dinner, I need to ensure the dishwasher is empty. In this way, I can clean as I cook. Some people would call this obsessive behavior. I prefer to call it ‘being organized’.

8.) But I know it IS obsessive behavior.

7.) Every serious relationship that I have had with any woman prior to Amie has ended with that woman eventually becoming a lawyer. I don’t know what that means, but there you have it.

6.) I have two scars on the top of my right hand. These are the result of accidentally putting my hand into a mechanical box sealer while working at my father’s aerosol business.

5.) I’ve had the good fortune to play golf on some of the world’s greatest courses. Every time I’m golfing, I think to myself, “Why don’t I play golf more often?” It’s only when I enter the receipts for green fees, cart rental and the bar tab into my checkbook that I remember why.

4.) If granted the opportunity to start a new career, and money were no object, I’d be hard pressed to choose between being a writer or the curator of a real good aviation museum.

3.) If I could change one thing about me physically, it would be to cure myself of allergies. Cosmetic dental work would be a close second.

2.) I really don’t understand the attraction of horror movies. The idea of spending good money to get the crap scared out of you makes no sense. To me, movies should either make you laugh or make you think.

1.) In my wife I’ve found the embodiment of true happiness, commitment, and unconditional love. I try each day to prove worthy of her.

There. Do you feel that you know me any better?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"I Got a Rock."

As if dispel any doubts that the United States is pinching its pennies, President Obama's choice of parting gifts to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown surely put the world on notice of this fact. As is customary when a visiting head of state pays a visit to the White House, Prime Minister Brown presented the President with some thoughtful tokens of his country's esteem and appreciation. Custom dictates that our President reciprocate in this gesture.

The Prime Minister of England saw fit to present President Obama with a penholder carved from the oak timbers of HMS Gannet, a Victorian-era ship which spearheaded the Royal Navy's fight against slave trading. This present was especially thoughtful in light of the fact the desk which Obama sits behind in the Oval Office was carved from oak salvaged from the Gannet's sister ship, HMS Resolute. In addition, Brown - on behalf of the people of the United Kingdom - gifted the President with a framed copy of the commission for the HMS Resolute, as well as first-editions of the seven-volume biography of Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Martin Gilbert. All in all, some very fitting, very thoughtful gifts.

And how did President Obama reciprocate? With a "special" collection of 25 "classic" American films. Yes, you read right...with a box set you or I could have easily obtained by by giving a large enough donation to any PBS station, or by going down to your local Blockbuster's! Come to think of it, Blockbuster's is on the ropes these days...perhaps these gifts are a sign of yet another economic bailout in the works?

Looking over the list, I have to agree that there are some true cinematic treasures there, but I wouldn't say these represent the best, all-time, Top 25 movies made in America. To begin with, City Lights needs to go, as does any movie starring Charlie Chaplin...the cinematic definition of 'overrated' if ever there was one. And as much as I love Buster Keaton (a real talent of the silent screen, unlike Chaplin), I don't think The General should have made this list. Although I'm quite a fan of science fiction, he gifted 2001 and E.T.? Honestly?? And how could you include just one installment out of the six in the Star Wars' franchise? Not that any of them rates Top 25 status. It is interesting to note that the one he did include is entitled, The Empire Strikes Back. Now there's a Freudian slip if ever there was one! And two Hitchcock films? And one of them isn't North by Northwest? Give me a break.

And the gifting only got worse: the Browns presented the Obama girls with dresses from the stylish UK Topshop stores, as well as six books written by British authors whose works are soon to be released in the U.S. In return, the Obamas provided the Browns with two models of the "Marine One" presidential helicopter for them to pass along their two sons. Whoopie!

Given the paltry presents, something tells me that Obama's staff forgot about this little act of gifting protocol until the Browns were just hours away from departing. And, after the staffers voiced a collective "DOH!", some poor underling hoofed it over to the gift shop at the Smithsonian and bought the first things they saw.

I'm thinking that - if he knows anything about popular American culture - Gordon Brown has now got to feel a little like Charlie Brown. Especially Charlie Brown on Halloween night. You remember the scene...Charlie and his friends go out trick-or-treating, and at each door all of the other kids get great candy, and Charlie Brown looks into his bag, and says, "I got a rock."

When it comes to gifts of State, Gordon Brown got a rock.

With gifts as thoughtful as the Obama's, I'm thinking I know what Brazil's President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva has to look forward to on his March 14th visit to Washington:

Compliments of the United States, Luiz! Don't spend it all in one night.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Guess it Could ALWAYS be Worse.

All this blogging about how bad the job market might make you believe that I don't realize how good I've got it. I'm married to the woman of my dreams, have two great sons, and a smelly, semi-famous Dawg. I could always have followed my original career plans of being a server at a Hooters. Thankfully I didn't. The wings suck and the customers don't tip...with the exception of John Daly. And he just tips over...


Thursday, March 5, 2009

SLO Going.

In my life the question, "How's the job search going?" has become so commonplace that it's replaced, "How's the weather out there?" I anticipate hearing it from everyone I talk to, including complete strangers. In case you were wondering, the job search is going just fine, thanks for asking. It's the finding of the right job that's a bit more problematic.

Yesterday I read that one in ten Californians are now out of work. Good to know I'm in such plentiful company.

Nearly every night Amie and I review prospects, and make determinations on (and changes to) our gameplan. One startlingly obvious thing we recognize - besides the fact that the entire global economy sucks right now - is that we may be victims of geographical undesirability. San Luis Obispo, known its friends and admirers as "SLO", is in all other ways a seemingly desirable place to live...unless you're an executive looking for gainful employment.

It's odd. A national organization of realtors recently ranked SLO as the #2 most expensive place to own a house. New York City took the #1 spot. I blame this bit of dubious distinction on author Garrison Keillor. In one of his books Keillor proclaimed San Luis Obispo as his absolute, most-favorite city to perform in. And, as we all know, residents of Minnesota are looking for any excuse to move...just point them in the right direction. The bastard.

The naked truth is this: you need to have made your millions outside of SLO to live in SLO. Residents (myself included) relish the fact that it's far away from the maddening crowds of LA and San Francisco; in fact, we're nearly smack dab between the two. No traffic, no crowds, no noise. And, as I'm finding out, no jobs. At least no jobs that don't require my mastering the phrase, "Do you want fries with that?"

Being so far removed from a major hub of industry, has me wondering: do we need to move to a big city to even be considered for a job? Given the fact that an ever-increasing number of the nation's working class is no longer working, there are plenty of qualified execs closer to major markets than I am. This fact does give one pause.

When I contemplate such a possible necessity, I can't help but be reminded of the lyrics to one of my favorite Style Council songs, Homebreakers:

"Move around...if you can't find work in your hometown."

That, and one of my favorite works of literature:

Call me Joad.