Sunday, September 27, 2020

make your own kind of music

I started writing a long rambling post about my musical preferences. Yeah, I know, I know.. which of my blog posts aren't long and rambling? Anyway, I scrapped that post in favor of one that is shorter and more to my point.
Maybe.— JPiC 

I love music. I have always loved music. As a kid, I listened to the radio. I bought 45s and albums. I had an 8-track player in my car. I went to concerts. (I went to a lot of concerts.) I sang with friends who played guitar. (I couldn't carry a tune if it had handles on it it, but that never stopped me. I was having fun.) I just love music. But, like most things in my life, I don't take music too seriously. There is music I like and there is music that I don't like. Those who know me "in real life" (IRL, as the kids say), know me to be pretty outspoken and opinionated... especially about music.

I have seen numerous concerts from a wide variety of artists. I've seen Alice Cooper and Donnie & Marie. I've seen a dozen or so Grateful Dead shows, and I'm not even a fan. I saw teen heartthrobs Big Time Rush and four days later, I saw former teen heartthrobs The Monkees. Once, my wife and I went to see legendary crooner Tony Bennett. Just before the show started, I leaned close to my wife and whispered: "How many other people in this room have also seen The Clash... besides us?"

I try to keep up with current trends in music, but it's pretty tough. There are waaaay more outlets for music availability than when I was a teenager. There are current artists I like and current artist I don't like.... just like when I was a teenager. When I was younger, however, if I didn't like a band or a specific genre of music, I dismissed it with a very finalizing "this sucks!" I was the first person in my high school to wear a "Disco Sucks" t-shirt, as a result of the burgeoning trend bolstered by the film Saturday Night Fever (which I did not like.) A few years earlier, I was the first person in my high school to wear a KISS t-shirt, a mantle of which I am not particularly proud. When I displayed the slogan "Disco Sucks" in glittery letters across my chest, I was met with jeers from the silk-shirted, coiffed-hair cliques and with "thumbs up"s from the denim-and-flannel set.

Now, forty-something years later, I have taken a kinder and gentler view of music. First of all, I do not have a favorite band. I just like the music I like. Second, I have found that I am open to nearly any type of music and I have found something I like and appreciate in nearly every genre. Third, and most important, I have learned that no music really sucks. Sure, there is music that I don't like, but someone likes it. And if someone likes it, it can't possibly suck. So, I will no longer proclaim that a song or a band "sucks." I will simply say, "I don't care for it" or "This is not for me."

Or "Ugh! Not the fucking Dave Matthews Band again!"

Sunday, September 20, 2020

in the jailhouse now

Way back in 2008, I was at a concert at Philadelphia's grand old Trocadero, a beautiful former vaudeville theater that, over the years, served as a movie theater, strip club and concert venue. After the show, I ran into my friend Kasten, who I had not seen in a while. We started talking and she asked me if I was on Twitter. At first I thought it was some illicit drug with which I was unfamiliar. I answered, "I don't think so. What exactly is it?" She briefly explained the basic concept and encouraged me to join in. (Remember, this was twelve years ago. I was 47 years old and this "social media" thing was still kind of new to me.) So, I went home and signed up for Twitter. Kasten, my dear friend.... this is your doing!

By nature, I am a smart-ass. And my "smart-ass-ness" seems to find its way into all aspects of my life — my drawings, my writing, my conversation. Sometimes, I will admit, my being a smart-ass has gotten me into trouble. It appears that not everyone understands, identifies nor appreciates sarcasm. Of course, my sarcastic nature spilled over into my Twitter presence. Under the protective guise of "Josh Pincus," I got myself into heated exchanges with the likes of strangers, fans of my illustrations, co-workers, former co-workers, national companies, local religious fanatics, city transportation authorities and even Dick Van Dyke's wife. Sometimes, I just don't know when to shut up.

Recently, I have discovered the vast time-suck that is Facebook. I realize I am very late to the party, but Facebook has offered a new outlet for me. It's kind of like an added benefit of starting a new job — your new co-workers have never heard your jokes. Well, since I joined Facebook, Twitter has kind of taken a back seat... even behind Instagram. Even with over 72 thousand tweets, I have seriously cut back on my daily Twitter use. I will still post links to my illustrations and my daily celebrity death anniversaries.  But,, that pretty much sums up my recent Twitter activity. Instagram, which is definitely a more visual platform, allows automatic linking to Twitter. So, I can post to Instagram and Twitter simultaneously, with a single click. I try to stay away from political content, so that has cut down considerably on my Twitter usage. Sure, I still tweet here and there, but  not nearly as much as I once did. 

Yesterday, however, I was one of those times I should have stayed away from political tweeting, but sometimes, a knee-jerk reaction gets the best of me. While scrolling through my Twitter feed, perusing the nearly 400 accounts that I follow, I stumbled upon a video clip from a West Coast news broadcast that had been retweeted by someone I follow. The clip was brief — under two minutes — but it infuriated me. A group of protesters had assembled in a small community in (I think) Oregon. They were screaming about their God-given and/or Constitutional rights to not wear face masks. Now, I don't want to get into the controversy surrounding the wearing of a mask in this cautious time of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am unwavering on my position, so don't try to convince me otherwise (just like I won't try to convince you). Here's my belief: I will wear a face mask when I leave my house (which, these days, isn't often). I think everyone should wear a face mask when they leave there homes and come in contact with other human beings. I believe if you don't wear a face mask you are a narrow-minded misanthropic science-denier who doesn't care about anyone but his or herself. That's my stance. Let's move on. The news clip featured groups of people shaking their fists and screaming about God or the government or the Constitution as though they were well-versed experts in theology, political science and Constitutional law. All while coaxing their small children to scream "We shouldn't be told to wear masks!" and "COVID is a hoax!" (A few of the children tripped over the word "hoax.") When the clip was over, I was prompted to respond. I know. I know. I shouldn't have, but I did. I already admitted in Paragraph Two that I don't know when to shut up. Jeez! Ten years of this stupid blog is evidence of that!

I typed a single sentence comprised of just five words. But they were five carefully chosen words. Chosen for impact and conciseness. I tweeted: "I hope they all die."

Evidently, you can't say stuff like that on Twitter. I soon found that out.

Within seconds — seconds! — I received this message from the guardian angels at Twitter Headquarters, sitting behind a bank of monitors and racks of servers in a seven-story blond brick building at 1355 Market Street, San Francisco, California and keeping you safe.
So, there I was. Caught. Singled-out. Punished. Restricted. In "Twitter jail" for 12 hours, as a first-offender. ("Hey... whaddaya in for?" "I wished some assholes would die." "Ha! Lightweight!") I wasn't upset. I really didn't even care. I had two other social media outlets with which to ply my Josh Pincus brand of opinionated mischief. The first thing I did was to post a screenshot of the Twitter message on Facebook. My friend Robbie — who has been banned from Twitter so many times he's lost count — called me a rookie. I wore that like a badge of honor.

So, no, I didn't sit for twelve hours and watch the clock tick down as I atoned for my transgressions. I went about my daily business — I watched TV. I drew some pictures. I posted to Facebook and Instagram. I actually forgot about Twitter. Until I remembered. And then little Josh Smartass reared his ugly red head. This found its way to my Facebook page in the form of another screenshot:
...along with this sentiment: "I have an hour and 25 minutes left on my sentence. Brace yourself, fuckers!" That is what we smart-asses call "poking the bear."

As my reprieve loomed closer, my wife and I watched that evening's DVRed episode of Jeopardy! and leisurely ate our dinner. Finally, the virtual warden rattled his virtual keys and unlocked my virtual cell (not that I had any plans for a poster of Rita Hayworth in my future). I was given the "all clear," but I still felt any tweets in my post-punishment era would be closely scrutinized by the good folks at Twitter.
No matter. According to the latest message, I was once again free to tweet to my hearts content. Y'know... within reason. Ahh... who am I kidding? I know what I'm capable of. Next time, it probably won't take twelve years.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

your racist friend

A few days ago, Mrs. Pincus had to make a drop-off at a local UPS Store, something she has done countless times as a part of her eBay business. (I said 'NO!' She will not sell your stuff for you! Please stop asking!)

The closest UPS Store to our suburban Philadelphia home is just a short drive away, but it is situated as the end store in a strangely-configured strip center. After delivering the bulk of her thrice-weekly shipments to the post office, my wife will drive to the UPS Store and enter the parking lot through the more convenient back lot entrance. You see, the front parking lot — the one accessible from busy Old York Road — employs a one-way cattle chute, allowing cars to only enter from the busy four-lane highway. The narrow entrance is flanked by high cement retaining curbs and sort-of lazily snakes into the parking lot to insure that drivers maintain a single-digit speed limit. There is a small parking up in the front and a larger one behind the building. Once patrons are ready to leave the lot, the only exit is in the back. It is still a bit tricky, as all exiting vehicles must turn left (onto Wyncote Road)  and towards Old York Road. 

Here's a map so you can follow along....
The exit to the street labeled "Wyncote Road" is sometimes blocked by a trailer truck  (as the red circle indicates) unloading new automobiles for the car dealership across the street. So, navigating your way out of a routine stop at the UPS Store can become an ordeal. The day that Mrs. Pincus was there most recently was an ordeal, all right... but not for logistical reasons.

As she was coming up Wyncote Road, she spotted  a car attempting to exit via the cattle chute roadway at the front of the building. Sometimes, drivers try to buck the rules and sneak out this way, if there are no other cars around. It's wrong, but people do the wrong thing all the time. In this case, however, another car was coming in to the parking lot, correctly using the cattle chute. Since the road was constructed to purposely allow just one car to use it, a problem was occurring. Mrs. Pincus pulled into the parking lot at the rear, grabbed her shipment from the cargo area of her car and approached the building. She could hear some horns honking and the sound of arguing, though no actual words were discernible.

In these current days of social distancing, Mrs. P took her place in a queue line that had formed outside the rear door of the UPS Store. Soon, she was joined by a man who fell into formation six feet behind her. The man began to speak out loud, to no one in particular. He was complaining about the drivers in the small parking lot. Soon, it was revealed that he was one of the two drivers involved in the standoff in the cattle chute at the front of the building. ("Standoff in the Cattle Chute" sounds like the title of a 1940s Western from the John Ford canon.) The man exhibited his frustration at the driver going the wrong way and his difficulty in getting the fellow to understand he was going the wrong way. My wife nodded her head in approval, adding something like "Yeah, I know..."

Suddenly, the man ended his angry rant with "Y'know, Black Lives Matter and all that crap..." before trailing off.



My wife blinked and, if her mouth wasn't covered by a cotton mask stretched between two elastic bands secured around her ears, her jaw probably would have fallen to the ground.

"What does someone's poor driving habits have to do with the 'Black Lives Matter' movement?," she asked the man.

He readily answered. "Well, y'know, they all want their rights now and they all do what ever they want. The whole 'civil rights' thing has been blown way out of proportion. Once they got their rights in the 60s, things have been going downhill. And now this whole 'Black Lives Matter' thing.... awful. Just terrible."

Mrs. Pincus was speechless. This is 2020. In the United States of America. She finally said, "I didn't see if the other driver was a man of color, but it doesn't matter."

The man, who was Caucasian, replied, "Well, he was and they think they can do whatever they want now." This guy wasn't letting up.

Mrs. P announced, "This conversation is over." It was her turn to move up in line. She dropped off her package and headed to her car. The man called out to her, "Stay safe!"

I have no conclusion to this story, except that our society still has a long way to go. Sadly, it's a very long way.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

favorite waste of time

Oh Jesus! Not another blog about television!

Very recently, I saw a post on Twitter asking "what's your favorite episode of a television program?" Not necessarily of your favorite television series, but one episode that stands out among every single television program you have watched in your life. For me, that's a wide open field from which to make my selection. I watch a lot of television. Way more than the average person. Way more than the average avid TV watcher. Way more than anyone should be watching.

While I don't have a single favorite show, there are several shows that I hold dear. I really can't pinpoint why I like them. I just do. There's The Andy Griffith Show, a show I can turn on any episode at any point and begin watching... even the later color episodes which are often cited as subpar by even the most ardent Mayberry fan. The characters on The Andy Griffith Show actually evolved as the series made its way through eight seasons. Town sheriff Andy Taylor started off as a conniving, stereotypical Southern "good ol' boy" until his character was transitioned to "the voice of reason" among a town filled with nuts. Eventually, the show took on a very surrealistic Green Acres vibe as it moved into later seasons, with townsfolk residing on one level — one of unpredictable absurdity — and Andy residing on a more level-headed reality. Andy's relationship with his son Opie was responsible for some of the series most tender moments, whereas Andy's interactions with Barney were often maddening. I'm not as fond of Don Knotts as most Andy Griffith fans are. I am pretty sure that Andy doesn't carry a gun because, if he did, he'd probably shoot Barney.

I enjoy The Donna Reed Show as much as I dislike Father Knows Best. These are essentially the same show. They debuted within a few years of each other and each ran for eight seasons. But the kids on Father Knows Best were annoying and the kids on The Donna Reed Show were sweet and endearing. Plus, Donna Reed herself was adorable and, for some reason, given the role of "All-American Mom" after winning an Oscar for playing a prostitute. Robert Young appeared to be constantly befuddled. And Jane Wyatt's put-on voice affectation was like nails on a blackboard.

I like Leave It to Beaver (which I have written about) and Family Affair (which I have also written about), two shows that could be classified as "guilty pleasures," if I felt any shred of guilt for liking these shows. I don't like that label because if I like something, I don't feel the least bit guilty about it. There are shows that I do not like, although I do watch them — like Hazel and I Love Lucy (I love the entire cast of I Love Lucy - except Lucy). I suppose I'm a glutton for punishment.

We want something else!
So... what is my favorite television episode? Well, it's the Season 3 Episode 11 of the long-running Korean War comedy M*A*S*H entitled "Adam's Ribs." I love this episode and I have seen it so many times, I can recite the dialog along with the actors. It's a treat for me to see the scenes unfold, each one a priceless gem in storytelling. This is perfect situation comedy execution — a preposterous premise, an implausible scheme, improbable stumbling blocks and a surprise conclusion. It's filled with classic lines that my family and I have been quoting for years. Plus, it features Wayne Rogers as "Trapper John McIntyre" in a rare co-starring role alongside and equal to the scenery-chewing Alan Alda. Curiously, it does not feature "Frank Burns" or "Margaret Houlihan" and their absence is never explained nor referenced. I could watch this episode over and over again. As a matter of fact, I have. I never tire of it.

It's funny because, although I have seen every episode of M*A*S*H, I don't consider the series one of my favorites. There are a lot of episodes that I do not like. The show, because it ran for 11 seasons, changed and evolved and explored new ground as the years went on... and not always for the better. Some cast changes were good, some were not so good. I like the first three seasons with Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson. I liked Harry Morgan as Stevenson's replacement, but I find Mike Farrell's "B.J. Hunnicut" insufferable. I also didn't like the abrupt personality change in Klinger, going from cross-dressing psycho who wants out of the Army to confident, wheeling-dealing company clerk. 

But, watching "Adam's Ribs" is pure pleasure, like a visit from an old friend (well, an old friend that I like). Sure, there are some nit-picky inconsistencies, but there are flaws in every television show. (Jeez! In the Brady Bunch, another of my stalwart favorites, actors are called by their real names instead of their character names, but I hold no grudge.) It's a good, well-written, well-performed 22 minutes of classic television. And it's my favorite TV episode. 

Want to see what I'm talking about? You can watch the episode right here.

What's your favorite?