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Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Real Crap on CT Light and Power's "Tree-Trimming Program"

April 28, 2012:  How ironic it was to return home on Earth Day to find a representative of CL/P (Connecticut Light and Power) tagging trees in our neighborhood for take-down. (CL/P apparently hires local "gardening" businesses to do this sort of work, and I have to assume -- it only makes sense -- that the more trees they cut down -- the more they tag --  the more money they can make.)

So it shouldn't have surprised me that he was suggesting a beautiful, large healthy tree at the corner of our property -- at least 12 feet off the lines, and in no way presenting a danger -- be given the ax (or chainsaw, as it were).

What was also hysterical (and frightening) was that the CL/P flyer -- entitled "You Can Help Prevent Power Outages" -- ONLY talked about PRUNING trees, and referenced their "tree-trimming program." But on the enclosed permission sheet -- the empowering written consent form that CL/P NEEDS to do their dirty work -- they had a little line checked for "taking down," with the numeral "1" next to it.

Were you to see the tree, you'd laugh that CL/P (or in this case, its paid assassin) would even TRY to argue this lovely lifeform should be taken down. But what's so scary is that -- and I have no doubt -- many people throughout the town, throughout the whole state, are going to quickly sign these consent forms without even realizing it means they're going to kill a healthy tree simply because 1) the tree killers will make more money and 2) it may save CL/P trouble in the long run.

The carelessness with which people take axes to healthy trees -- ESPECIALLY so-called gardeners and tree caretakers, ironically -- is pitiful. Modern housing construction starts with clear-cutting lots, rather than trying to design structures that work in tandem with the natural world (meaning big, beautiful trees). Homeowners consider fine landscaping cutting down everything that makes shade and grows on the ground, planting the most artificial-looking chemical-saturated grass money can buy, and surrounding it all with woodchips, woodchips, woodchips -- the stinkier, the better!

On a parallel note, the state is taking great steps to cut down as many trees as possible along the scenic Merritt Parkway. Apparently everyone is feeling paranoid because of some lawsuits involving trees and death and storms, so the logic is to always blame the trees (because we can't blame the state, or the drivers), and so they must be cut down en masse, and scenery, nature and trees be damned ...

(I know, I know! You don't care any more than the state does! You just want to hear about the progress of SPACE CASE -- my nonfiction novel about what might have happened if the Lorax had LIVED -- soon to be available in hard copy form, if you know what's good for you.)

On a positive note -- and please forgive how disjointed this is, for I'm simultaneously watching "Don't Drink the Water" on a loud TV, and it's really much more awful than I remember, despite having Jackie Gleason and the great Ted Bessell -- I found some good tree-related news in my toilet today. Apparently Marcal, which makes my dye-free toilet paper, has been making great efforts to save trees. Not only do they use recycled paper for their products, they encourage people to use their toilet paper, which is made from recycled paper and leads to tree-saving.

After that disheartening Earth Day encounter from that CL/P stoogie, it was great to -- once again, dare I say it -- find hope in my toilet. It felt so good, in fact, I'm thinking seriously about writing a letter to Marcal, telling them how -- while I was wiping my ass -- that encouraging information on the back of their package really made a difference for me ...

And remember, when you look out your window at a lovely tree, when you recycle, and when YOU wipe with recycled, dye-free, fragrance-free Marcal -- YOU too can make a difference!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In Search of Lee Steele

April 24, 2012: Before we did anything else, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the righteousness of Lee Steele. This talented individual was kind enough to plug my book Space Case on his website ...

Now, I intended to just mention this in passing, but then I suddenly realized I wasn't entirely sure Lee was a male. You see, while we're on a comfortable first-name basis at this point, it's all been by way of email, and I don't think I've actually seen a specific reference to his (or her) sexuality. (Is that the right word? Somehow it seems so dirty seeing it right up there on the screen like that.)

So, like a good reporter, I decided to search the web -- I'm too lazy to search anything else, after all -- and I didn't think it would be complicated anyway ... but as these things tend to do, it opened up a whole can of worms, and now I'm forced to force you to have to consume them.

For starters, did you know there was a homophobic British footballer named Lee Steele? (At least I think he's British. I should probably look it up, but one can of worms is enough for one day.) Fortunately, HE was canned, following his twitter, or his tweet, or whatever the hell it is people do nowadays, and so there's one less homophobe trotting the soccer fields of the U.K., and that's probably a good thing. (At least I assume he's a soccer player. Hell, he may be a South African nose guard for all I know, but he's giving the name Lee Steele bad associations, and the fact that he met sound justice is all we gay celebrants really care about.)

Meanwhile, another Lee Steele in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, was apparently making $182,853 in total compensation for the year 2010 in his capacity as technology director at Mercury Computer Systems, including over $55,000 in stock rewards. (He's 61, and has been a Financial Leadership Partner with Tatum, LLC, among other business-related things I couldn't even begin to understand.) But learning this, I've become quite sure my time would be better spent in the technology field, and had I known of all the opportunities in Chelmsford, I would have relocated to Massachusetts a long time ago.

INTERESTING NOTE: I think Massachusetts -- or the Nutmeg State, as it's sometimes mistakenly referred -- has a long-standing reputation as either a state for gays to vehemently fear, or a prancing homosexual haven. I'm really not sure which and can't take the time to look it up right now. Irregardless, I know the Irish in Boston really hated blacks in the sixties (or at least some of them did) and I don't think that's right, (although to be fair, it might have been the Italians who hated the Jews; it's sort of confusing at this point, which is another good reason why it's so much easier when we all get along).

Getting back to Lee Steele and her (his) many guises, it's odd for me to think that the supple Katonah, NY, pilates instructor -- inventor of the accredited Steele Pilates Mat Certification Program -- could be the same woman kind enough to do me and my wonderful book this turn. (I do, however, adore her picture, and if anyone is worthy of a "Steele" moniker, it's got to be THIS woman.)

It's a great name, after all -- Lee Steele -- and if I were Ian Fleming and decided to start a new spy series (short of the inconvenience of being dead 50 years), I'd call my main character Lee Steele. But as we see, Lee Steele comes in many guises, and while I might see him as the next James Bond, or the hard-working Stamford Advocate writer who knows a great book (SPACE CASE) when he comes across one, others will know Lee as a sexy pilates contortionist, an overpaid techno-suit heading toward retirement, or a big-mouthed Limey homophobe whose recently found himself on unemployment.

There's probably a lot more I can say on this subject, but just how many worms can we turn in one Blah-ugh! entry?! For my part, I remain grateful for Lee Steele's support, and hope the rest of you can learn from his (or her) example and try to get this stupid book (Space Case) moving.

My new favorite friend Kathy G., by the way, has gone to great lengths to help support my worthy cause, and at this point I'm giving some serious consideration to renaming my Blah-ugh! (or perhaps daughter) after her.

NEXT TIME ON THE BLAH-UGH!: Jarret will either share about his great love of sleep, his ever-increasing affinity for butter and butter-related products, or his new novel SPACE CASE, which is indirectly available through Lee Steele's main website.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring in the Air; Fall in the Lake

April 17, 2012: Hurrah! Huzzah! Good Morning! ... The season, like the worm of proverb, has soundly turned! Spring is here! Yes, I'm almost sure of it. And while I detest insects, motorcycles, hot weather and idle chat about the prospects in the Bronx, I love that flowers are out, women are in heat, and I have all this extra daylight with which to watch television.

(Excuse the interruption. My vitriolic daughter is sassing me about making her breakfast. "I'm working," I explained. "I'm trying to make the world safe for democracy!" She just doesn't get it. It's cereal for her!)

With the disturbing thunderous ponderance of tiny, fueled engines -- leaf blowers, lawn cutters, chainsaws -- has come the proliferation of little, square, yellow signs sneakily situated on the corners of the properties around my neighborhood, (which is clearly bug-infested for one reason or another). These signs indicate the spraying of chemicals, mainly to kill bugs. Hurrah! It's bug killing week, and the armies are out in force. Spring is here! The wasps are rallying and those giant centipedes think this is THEIR year to finally reign ... but we'll show them otherwise, won't we! This is, after all, America, and we're not about to let any creature without a backbone come into power.

The trees are another matter. They're like Ghandi-esque buddhists in their benign protests against modern humanity. A fast chainsaw will take care of them. These once-noble giants are now known to be the vicious killers I've always suspected them to be. (We all know about the woman who was attacked and KILLED by a tree just two seasons ago during one of their virulent storms; try and tell me that was an accident! Just try!)

It's good to see that the CT State Highway Department is taking brave steps to abort their operations BEFORE they can get started. More and more trees are being tagged along the Merritt Parkway (which ironically is an "historic" highway, owing to its breathtakingly beautiful bucolic vistas and all -- the concentration of trees, I guess). Well, the state is seeing that this folly gets reeled in, because any one of these trees could reek havoc at any time -- along the Merritt ... Route 136 ... or IN YOUR VERY HOME!

I've long been suspicious of trees, as many of you know. Like certain dogs, and even some people, they've clearly got mysterious ulterior motivations brewing in their bellies. And while they may come off like gentle giants all full of druid kindness and solemnity, they're really little more than a renegade motorcycle gang operating on silent wheels.

This is why it's always a practical exercise to start each spring by cutting down as many trees as possible, if only to show the others who's boss. The same is true for the bugs. For while it's true that we NEED some of them for RESOURCES, like flies making honey and crickets making hors d'euvres, in fact, owing to mankind's smart resourcefulness, we don't NEED any of these slippery little fiendish creatures sneaking into our homes and laying eggs in our ears and brains and giving us welts and heebie-jeebies.

Yes, the season of rebirth is upon us (or birth, depending on your religious affiliation). Time to get out and show the world how pale your upper torso is. Time to start sneezing and rubbing your eyes. Time to stay up late and watch the spring constellation come into sight, like so many tiny stars that form random little pictures in a creative man's mind ... And speaking of stars, don't forget that Space Case is still available at Amazon, to make wrong those of you who actually thought I'd go through an entire Blah-ugh! entry without mentioning it ...

Ah, spring! We hardly knew ye!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jarret's Frank Film Forum Reloaded

April 11, 2012: Many of you still write asking that I reinvigorate one of the Blah-ugh!'s most talked about features -- Jarret's FFF (or Frank Film Forum). As part of my ongoing pathological effort to make others happy, despite how much it drains me, once again I demurely succomb in a fruitless effort to please and make new friends (who STILL won't plug SPACE CASE, no matter how often I ask them).

Heavy-breathing readers will remember my concentrated analyses of such cinematic variables as Catherine Zeta-Jones's precarious dancing ability, Sean Connery's symmetrical chest hair, and of course Anne Hathaway's inability to act altogether. Toward that end, while I don't have one specific movie I'd like to laud or skewer at this time, I thought I'd catch you up on a few of my most recent filmagraphilogical experientialia.

To begin with, if you've never seen "Death Wish V: The Face of Death," you're closing yourself off from one of the more remarkable offerings in viewing pleasure (and I'm not just talking about the breast scenes). I won't directly speak to the production quality, directing or acting -- although the great Lesley-Anne Down (or is it Lesley Anne-Down?) holds her own -- hands down (or is it hands-down?), and Robert Joy takes a vibrant turn as the demented Freddie 'Flakes,' and appears far more comfortable in drag than I ever could.

More importantly, this is a movie that satisfies on a gut level, especially when bad guy Tommy O'Shea is thrown into a vat of what is either fabric softener or lye, and sizzles to death. Charles Bronson, who plays the legendary Paul Kersey, is clearly exhausted by the role -- he delivers his lines like he's ordering Chinese take-out at Wong Fu's -- yet his stone-carved face -- like a cigar store indian at a poker game -- does most of the acting for him, especially when he actually manages to visibly move a feature (like in the remarkable scene toward the end when he blinks).

All in all, this was a most enjoyable watch, and provided me with all the kinetic film satisfaction of rubbing a double-chocolate brownie on top of my head.

Another recent return to movie magic was my ninth viewing of "The Matrix," which I love very much, even though some of the acting is highly suspect -- I mean, what's with that guy Mouse?! And, of course, Keanu Reeves would be the first to rip his own precarious stylizations, which make even his most intense, intelligent and multi-faceted characters turn into benign California surfer dudes (NOTE: he's still in some of my all-time favorite movies, including "The Devil's Advocate" and "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," and I love him dearly.)

But what a great movie is "The Matrix," beginning with the fact that it's all bathed in green. (I love green, and I especially love when people and foods are green, unless they're supposed to be green, or it's envy-related green, in the case of some people, and certain vegetables.) The best scene, of course, is the kung-fu fight, with that awesome music, but my favorite shot will always be the sexy Carrie-Anne Moss (or is it Carrie Anne-Moss?) elf-like in mid-air before she karates everyone and goes running around the side of the walls like a Bugs Bunny cartoon character ...

Needless to say, the two sequels were rotten, but I didn't see them in the theater, so maybe that might have helped make them better. (Although we both know it wouldn't have.)

Speaking of which, I rarely get to movie theaters these days. I used to think it was because I didn't have time -- (what with marketing SPACE CASE, my new alternative experiment in quality fiction, which still could experience the runaway success of that new movie with the kids who kill each other, providing my hapless "friends" start doing THEIR job and talk up the stupid thing! (I want that review, Holly!)) ...

But truth-be-told, I really can't stand sitting next to people in public places (let alone private places). I simply won't go to a movie or theater if I can't have an aisle seat to begin with. Worse, being cramped near strangers (or friends, for that matter) just gives me the heebie-jeebies. (Blame my mother, if you must, who taught me the myriad cautions relating to soiled humanity.)
So I'm more than happy to stay at home, open up a can of Clamato, and watch an uninterrupted (albeit skipping) DVD of my next film, wherein I can pause during naked shots (like in "Death Wish V: The Face of Death") and savor the quality.

Once again, I see I've gone on too long, so I'll put off the rest of this until later ... On a separate note, a special thanks goes out to all the daring individuals who took the time to offer support to this debacle I call SPACE CASE via FB.

Remember -- without your ongoing support, I'd be nothing, and I'm not even that much WITH your support, so imagine how important you are to me! God go with you, but moreso with me ...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Short Essay on Planned Hopelessness

April 3, 2012: Owing to the abbreviated Connecticut winter, everyone's coming forward with their new and strange predictions for the coming summer. My neighbor, who I don't really know and who I'll certainly take steps to avoid throughout the warm weather, was recently -- just last week, in fact -- expounding on the great number of deer ticks we can expect in the coming months.

"It's gonna be a bad year," she said, eyeing the automobile in our driveway as if she were considering how well it might serve her to develop a relationship with our family.

The thing is, nobody ever seems to predict GOOD years. It's never going to be a great year for people who dislike bugs, or a mosquito-free season of sunshine. These amateur prophets all seem to operate with a Nostrodamus-like leaning toward doom and hopelessness, and never offer portents of positive possibilities.

It's the same with cold seasons and flu. People love to declare, "Something's going around" and "Everyone's sick!" but no one ever observes, "Gosh, have you noticed how well everyone seems these days?!" Aren't there ever times when things AREN'T going around?!! Can we ever marvel at how healthy our community is feeling?

Meanwhile, I'm trying to decide how aggressively I should continue the marketing of my new e-novel SPACE CASE, which as you know is dirty and violent and the perfect book for our disturbed, voyeuristic culture. A friend suggested that I create a "page" on Facebook, and saturate all my "friends" with postings, as this is the way of the present. It all seems terribly rude and intrusive to me, and yet -- as I'm growing more and more fed up with mankind and its failure to save trees, halt text-messaging, and stop making movies with Will Farrell -- I'm beginning to think my noble, self-conscious efforts to save people trouble and intrusion are being wasted on the wrong species.

Interestingly, it may just be my own negative projection that's making this so hard for me. Perhaps I need to stop assuming my marketing scheme is riddled with the tick-like parasites of importunity. Perhaps I should let go of looking darkly toward the future and trust in the process ... and E.J. ... and these in no particular order ...

Hmmm ... Perhaps I'll just go and make another chocolate cake. Ticks and success have waited this long ...