Writer’s Workshop: These Made Me Laugh

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’ve been watching a lot of videos the last couple of weeks since there isn’t a whole lot going on. Some of the things are pretty funny. Here are several.

First, we have this Little Caesar’s pizza commercial.

One of my favorite old shows is The Dick Van Dyke Show, and one reason is the way Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) would insult Mel (Richard Deacon) ad how Mel would come back at Buddy, a sort of pre-Internet flame war. KJ Ricardo has made a number of videos showing some of the exchanges between them. This from the first season.

Finally, the News Be Funny channel has assembled several videos showing their favorite local news bloopers from the 2000’s.

I think it’s good to keep our spirits up during this difficult time, don’t you?

Writer's Workshop: What Quarantine?

Image by methodshop from Pixabay

We’ve been stuck in the house for the better part of the last week. Mary’s managed to get out a few times to run to the store, and has found the stores out of a lot of things, but we haven’t starved yet. She had been doing a lot of bulk cooking, where, for example, she’ll make a big pot of chili or soup and pour it into freezer containers, so we have a few meals pre-made. All we have to do then is put the frozen stuff in the microwave or the Instant Pot and heat it up when we’re ready to eat.

We spend a lot of time at home, anyway, so being self-quarantined hasn’t been an issue. When we would go out, it was typically to the Starbucks about five minutes from home. She’d knit, crochet, watch videos or read, I’d spend the time writing blog posts, reading other blogs and commenting on them, or watching YouTube videos… in short, nothing that we couldn’t do at home, anyway.

I’ve had plenty to do on the blogging front, with the rapidly-approaching A to Z Challenge, as well as blog posts that I need to write for the Challenge blog. And just because I’m doing the Challenge doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop doing all the other blogging I do (including Song of the Day, Song Lyric Sunday, Share Your World, Monday’s Music Moves Me, Two for Tuesday, One-Liner Wednesday, Writer’s Workshop, The Friday 5×2, and Stream of Consciousness Saturday), so I’ll spend a lot of time on the desktop and the laptop writing blog posts.

Mary always manages to have a lot to do. My handicap means that the bulk of the housework has fallen on her shoulders, but she still has a lot of time to read, knit, crochet, check Facebook, watch videos, and shop online, all of which she does with great alacrity (that’s a great word; I think I’ll use it more frequently). Molly, our last cat, spends half the day in bed and the other half on Mary’s lap.

In short, life at Chez Holton is pretty normal, self-quarantine notwithstanding.

Writers' Workshop: Keeping On Keeping On

Image by Alexey Hulsov from Pixabay

Week 2 of Corona-madness finds us all hanging in there. There are some folks who are temporarily out of work, so I’m hoping that this unplanned hiatus is a short one. I’ve heard that some employers are paying their employees, anyway, which is a good thing.

All the restaurants in the area have closed their dining rooms, but most are still open for carryout and delivery. Our parish still has Sunday Masses according to schedule, but parishoners fulfill their weekly obligation by streaming the Mass over the Internet. At Costco, when we went to pick up my glasses, the woman at the counter told us that she could give them to me, but I’d have to come back later to have them adjusted. Actually, they fit really well, even without adjusting.

I was scheduled for a colonoscopy yesterday, but they called and rescheduled it for June. At least they called before I had started the prep. Personally, I’d be more than happy to live in blissful ignorance of what’s going on in my large intestine, but both the doctor and the insurance company are getting a little insistent.

From our perspective, this hasn’t made that much of a change in our lives. We don’t go too many places to start with, we have no kids in the schools, and I’m retired, so I don’t have to work from home. I check the CDC’s website daily to see how quickly things are emerging, but aside from that, I don’t waste my time with the media’s reports. We’re keepng our hands clean.

Writer’s Workshop: A Few More Faves

My five most recent faves:

Image by Gary Ross from Pixabay

The harmonica I’ve talked about this plenty, but have been beset by my inability to decide whether I want to focus on the diatonic (a harmonica that plays in one or two different keys) or the chromatic (a harmonica that has a button on the side that shifts all the notes up a half step, allowing me to play in any key). So I’m going to buy both kinds and let them fight it out.

The Best of The Ed Sullivan Show Ed, who was a Broadway columnist for The New York Daily News, had a legendary variety show that ran on Sunday nights from 1948 to 1971. He had lots of different acts, including just about every kind of music you could imagine (Big Band, Rock, Jazz, classical, Opera, you name it, he had it), comedians, circus acts, magicians, Russian dancers, the pipes and drums and regimental band of The Black Watch, elephants, bears… if it fit on his stage, he had them on. Some of the most memorable acts have been gathered together into half-hour shows that run on the Decades network (one of those that you can get with an antenna) at 6:00 and 6:30 Eastern time, right about when Mary and I are having dinner.

YouTube channels YouTube is pretty much what I do around here, as you’ve probably observed with all the videos I post here. I’ve added an example of what you can expect on the News Be Funny channel, namely local news anchors and reporters (and occasionally the camera crew) having a hard time looking professional and occasionally losing it on live TV. Another good channel is Raw & Real Retail, which takes us on tours of shopping malls (mostly in the Northeast), setting the video to some excellent production music. Of course, there’s The Oddity Archive, one of my all-time favorites for oddities and weird stuff that only people like Ben, who runs the Archive, want to hear about (I’m one of them, by the way). Its sister channel, Archive Annex, where he posts supplemental videos.

Lemonade Last year, I talked about V-8 Splash and how good it was. One not-so-good thing about it was the price. Mary had been buying lemonade to mix with her iced tea, and asked if I could live with lemonade. I’ve been drinking it with dinner in the evenings, and it’s had an unexpected benefit: I don’t get the indigestion or reflux I had been getting. She usually buys the house brand from either Kroger or Publix, but occasionally Country Time is on sale and she gets that. By the way, "Grandpa" from the Country Time commercials is a character actor named Harry Holcombe. Occasionally we see him as the presiding judge on old episodes of Perry Mason, and he also played a scientist in the movie King Kong vs. Godzilla, one of our favorite movies.

A new washer This is more for Mary, because the laundry room is in the basement and I can’t get down there. Last week, Mary came up and announced that the washer we’ve had for close to 20 years had bitten the dust. She had been talking about wanting a top-loading machine, because it was getting hard for her to bend over to put stuff into and take stuff out of the front-loader we’ve had, so it was a good time to replace it. It’s a Maytag, like the one it replaced, with as few electronics as possible (and therefore no mother board to be replaced in case the electronics conk out). Our laundry requirements have changed considerably with the reduction in the cat population (we’re not washing blankets, towels and throw rugs like we used to), so this should last us (not to get too morbid) the rest of our lives.

So that’s what I have. What are some of your faves?

Writer’s Workshop: Covid-19

I thought this was an interesting prompt, and though I tend to stay away from controversial topics I think I’ll say something about this.

What are your thoughts about the Coronavirus? Are [you] preparing for the worst or do you think it has been overhyped?

The answer to the second question, which those of you who know me best will say is just what they expected me to say, is "yes." In other words, we are prepared for the worst, and I think it’s been overhyped.

Mary has ensured that we have sufficient supplies of food, paper products, and cleaning supplies so that, if we’re stuck in the house for a week or more, we will not only survive but thrive. She always does a great job of that, mostly because that’s what she learned at home. My father-in-law lived by the principle of "I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it." The basement of the building where we lived was always well-stocked with soap, toilet paper, paper towels, aluminum foil, dishwashing liquid, and other necessities. You might say that being prepared is what we do.

As to the issue that I think it’s overhyped, I think that’s a byproduct of the ever-increasing focus on the news, not only by the news networks (the CNN’s, the NBC twins [MS and C], the various Fox News networks, RT, Al Jazeera, and the local news networks like NY1 in New York and CLTV in the Chicago area, though I’m not sure it still exists, etc. ad nauseam) but by the old networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) which have discovered that news is a relatively cheap way to fill 168 hours a week, obviating the need to go out and spend millions of dollars on scripted television. Likewise, by spending 51 hours a week running news and news-like programming, local TV stations need spend less on the likes of Judge Judy, Divorce Court, Maury, Jerry Springer, Wendy Williams, reruns of Third Rock From The Sun, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, South Park, and The Cleveland Show.

With all that news programming going on, soon any possible thing that might happen becomes a major event. My friend Ben Minnotte, who runs The Oddity Archive on YouTube, recently did a video in which, during the first four minutes, he goes on a rant about how cable news networks label everything as "breaking news," even if it’s neither breaking nor news, most likely for the ratings. (It is, by the way, an excellent video.)

Notice that I haven’t even said a word about the Internet, social media, "dead tree" news (newspapers and magazines), or talk radio. Add those to the obsessive TV news, and pretty soon you want to climb under a rock and wait for the end of the world. Or, simply, tune it all out.

Remember, too, this isn’t the first time that we’ve had a virus that threatens to become an epidemic, or worse, a pandemic. This century alone, we’ve had SARS, the bird flu, H1N1, Ebola, HIV etc. etc. In each one of those cases, we were advised to do the following:

  1. Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer frequently.
  2. Stay away from sick people.
  3. If you’re sick (e.g. coughing or sneezing), stay home until you aren’t. Even if you don’t have Coronavirus, you’re still sick and can make others sick.
  4. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough.
  5. Wipe down counters, cellphones, and anything you touch with disinfectant (Clorox or Lysol) frequently.
  6. Don’t touch your face with dirty hands.
  7. Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer frequently.

It seems to me that these are things we should be doing anyway, whether or not there’s an impending pandemic. Sad that it takes a situation like this to remind us. Doing these things isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get sick, but they increase the chance that you won’t, which is the best you can hope for.

Mother Teresa said that if every person swept his own doorstep, the entire world would be clean. The people closest to you — your family, friends, neighbors, the people you work with, and the people you go to church with — are your doorstep. Tend to them. That’s more than enough for anyone.