Sunday, March 26, 2023

love for sale

I suppose today's post on It's Been a Slice is the equivalent to an infomercial. For however long this blog has been raging on (it's been thirteen years, but who's counting?), I have referenced Mrs. Pincus's eBay store and the many places that have been my employer. Today, however, I offer a blatant plug for a little side hustle I got going. Perhaps you have seen it on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook if you are one of the tens of people who follow me and my internet antics. For those of you in the dark but still reading this far, I'll fill you in.

My first sale!
(No longer available.)
For the past few months, I have been selling t-shirts on a great website called TeePublic. I have been sitting at home, watching TV of contributing to my blogs (yes, that's plural. I have two) and wondering how I can make a few extra dollars from my silly little drawings and my slightly off-kilter sense of humor. I began to explore some options and decided that TeePublic's set-up made the most sense for me. One Sunday afternoon right around Thanksgiving, I created a few designs and selected a few drawings from my illustration blog (see? I do have another blog!) and uploaded them to my newly created storefront on the TeePublic website. Because I have a background in advertising and marketing, I also created a few graphics to promote my new business venture on several social media outlets. Almost immediately, I made a sale... giving me a false sense of security. It turns out, my first sale was to someone I knew. Nevertheless, a sale is a sale! I thanked her for her purchase and sat back, waiting for more sales to roll in.

They didn't.

However, I did get an email from TeePublic, that one of my designs was taken down for copyright infringement. A day later, I received a similar email and another one of my designs was removed. TeePublic is rampant with non-licensed designs of copywritten properties, yet I got busted right out of the gate. Still determined, I added a few more designs to my storefront. I chose designs of recognizable images and characters, trying my best to be discreet.

A few days after my first sale, I made two in one day. I began to think this little endeavor was gonna be great! Both, I found out later, were to someone else I knew personally.

Then, my entire store was pulled by TeePublic. Just four days after I "opened for business," I received this sad little email that began...
This is to notify you that, as a result of a violation of our terms and conditions, we have removed or disabled access to the material that appeared at Pincus and have deleted your account.

I stewed for a little bit, but I was determined. I rethought my approach and, with a different email address and a slightly altered name, I boldly relaunched my business as "JPiC Designs" on TeePublic. I scoured my website for drawings that I had done that were not overtly recognizable or could be altered so movies and names or references if they too drew much attention to a particular celebrity, movie or the like. I also began a series of illustrated song lyrics. Sure, that sounds like trouble in the making, but I was careful to select lyrics that did not mention a song's title. I figured these would appeal to true fans of a particular band. I also mixed in some famous movie quotes, again, careful not to use the actual title of the movie, but slyly employing recognizable typefaces and using images that could be.... well.... anything.... nudge, nudge.

I launched my TeePublic store 2.0 a week or so before Christmas. I made my first sale in the early weeks of the new year. I started the reboot with about two dozen designs and slowly added more each week. I have not bee sticking to any particular theme or style. I try to create what I think will sell, not necessarily what I like... but what the people will like. You know... give the people what they want! If you visit my storefront, you'll find movie quotes, song lyrics, goofs on famous works of art, silly drawings featuring both Jesus and Satan and a lot of designs depicting food.... because everybody like food. There are even a few designs aimed to please my fellow Philadelphians. Besides t-shirts, TeePublic offers a wide variety of other products, including hoodies stickers, buttons and mugs. Everything can be emblazoned with your favorite Josh Pincus created design.

So, there you have it. A word from our sponsor. Go take a look at what I have for sale. At last count, there are 240 different designs available. Some are drawings you may have seen on my illustration blog. Others are unique to TeePublic. I add new designs fairly regularly. Maybe there's something to fill that hole in your life you didn't know needed filling.

Or something like that.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.


Sunday, March 19, 2023

I'll still sing you love songs

When I was eighteen, the legal drinking age in New Jersey was eighteen. Yeah, I lived in Pennsylvania, but the Garden State was just a short drive over a 10¢ toll bridge and I was rolling in cheap beer and dive bars... legally. And South Jersey was filled with dive bars, most of which offered moderate entertainment at no additional charge. The entertainment to which I am referring was cover bands. Cover bands were an interesting entity. They were comprised of wanna-be "rock stars" who figured the only way to get their "big break" was to play exact, note-for-note recreations of the top hits of the day, along with a generous portion of classic, timeless tunes from the annals of (what is now known as) "classic rock." On any given weekend evening one of a dozen different area "cover bands" could be seen and heard at such alcohol-soaked venues as Dr. Jekyll's, Cherries or the ever-popular Penalty Box, a huge establishment with a dozen bars, all serviced by guys in referee's uniforms. Today, they would be mistaken for employees of Foot Locker, but in the late 70s, in Pennsauken, New Jersey, those jerseys meant someone was headed your way with a big, frothy pitcher of Rolling Rock. All of these places featured a rotating bill of the area's most beloved cover bands, each playing the same popular and familiar songs and some even specializing in the songs of one particular band. Witness did a full set of the music of Jethro Tull. Wintergreen did a set of The Beatles. Crystal Ship, as mentioned sarcastically in the Dead Milkmen's epic "Bitchin Camaro," presented their take on songs by The Doors. There was even an all-female band  — Rapture — that offered the best of Blondie. Of course, no group of cover bands would be complete without one who performed songs by The Grateful Dead. As a matter of fact, there were a couple in the greater Philadelphia area. There was Mr. Charlie and a few others — all trying their darndest to sound like Jerry Garcia and his tie-dyed pals. And for the price of a couple of beers, it was a pretty good few hours of entertainment until the real Grateful Dead made it to town. But everyone knew that these bands were just a bunch of guys playing songs by bands they liked for the enjoyment of drunk folks who also liked those songs.

But something happened.

Somewhere between 1977 and now, "cover bands" became "tribute bands" and the rules changed. These bands now play legitimate venues — the same stages that host actual, original bands. There's The Musical Box, a Canadian ensemble that recreates the heyday of Genesis. They have been together, touring internationally, for over thirty years. There is the unimaginatively named Australian Pink Floyd that offer a sonic and sensory experience surrounding the music of  — you guessed it! — Pink Floyd. In the Philadelphia area (and I assume other comparable-sized cities) several venues regularly present tributes to U2, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Queen, ABBA and, of course, tribute staples like Neil Diamond and Elvis.

I know I am in the overwhelming minority, but tribute bands make me very uncomfortable. More specifically, the people who go to see tribute bands make me uncomfortable. In past years, Mrs. Pincus and I were given free tickets to see a Neil Diamond tribute show. I emphasize "FREE TICKETS" because there is no way I would ever, ever pay for tickets to a tribute show. The show was fine. The guy had a good voice and did a pretty good Neil Diamond impression... but the audience! Oh, sweet Caroline! It was embarrassing. These folks thought they were at a Neil Diamond concert. Afterwards, they were clamoring to pose for photos with the singer, who, up close, didn't really look like Neil Diamond. But the audience members — in their sparkly shirts — all acted as though he was the real thing.

I was a very avid and devoted Queen fan when I was in high school. While I still appreciate their musical catalog, my tastes have waned since the passing of charismatic lead singer Freddie Mercury and the subsequent cringe-worthy statements from the previously-silent Brian May. Again, my wife and I were given FREE TICKETS to a Queen tribute show. My wife, a non-Queen fan, was non-plussed about attending and I, a one-time Queen fan, felt the same. The majority of the audience (mostly around my age) felt otherwise. As the lights dimmed and one guy screamed "FREDDIE'S IN THE HOUSE!," I knew I was not going to enjoy this. Queen has a large musical catalog and a plethora of popular songs from which a "tribute band" can choose. Why they selected a version of "Ave Maria" as the centerpiece of the their show still has me scratching my head. But, once again, the audience ate this up.

A few weeks ago, Mrs. P and I went to a Flyers game on the occasion of "Grateful Dead Night." This was the Philadelphia hockey team's attempt at filling their venue in the midst of a dreadful season. The event, however, was postponed, due to an Eagles game at the stadium right next door. Because of the inconvenience, we were given tickets to the rescheduled game later in the year, featuring a pre-game performance by local Grateful Dead tribute band Splintered Sunlight. Last Sunday we arrived on the new date, three hours before puck, drop to see Splintered Sunlight, along with a large group of over-sixty, tie-dye clad "hippies" who were sure — nay, positive! — they were going to see the actual Grateful Dead.

Splintered Sunlight have gained a decent fanbase in the Philadelphia area and have a standing monthly gig at a local venue. Bottom line... they play Dead songs. And Deadheads like to hear Dead songs. I am not a Deadhead. I don't mind hearing Dead songs, but I like to hear other songs too. I am married to a Deadhead. She likes to hear Dead songs. A lot. All the time. She likes to hear other songs, but not as much as she likes to hear Dead songs.

Jerry Garcia, the venerable leader of the Grateful Dead, died in 1995. I don't believe that news has reached a lot of Deadheads. When they hear Grateful Dead songs, some of them think the spirit of Jerry is still strong and is being channeled through the members of Grateful Dead tribute bands... or at least that's how it appears to me. This crowd — in the seating area of a multipurpose arena in South Philadelphia, three hours before a hockey game — believed instead that they were actually among the swaying bodies at San Francisco's Fillmore circa 1968. Some of them, I believe, have not bathed since then.

For two hours, these faithful, if delusional, fans swirled and swayed and twirled to the mid-tempo beats of... oh, I don't know.... all the songs sounded the same to me. They were having a good old time, singing along and pantomiming the lyrics. I was having a time. I could hear clips of conversation around me, referencing "Jerry this" and "Bob that" as though those two were actually on the stage. (They were not.) There was hugging and dancing and, at one point, a balloon bounced its way across the tops of patron's heads, just like at a real Dead show, maaaaaaan! It was a sight.

Honestly, I don't mean to be mean. I'm joking. I really am. It was an interesting experience... that I would not care to experience again. And it was a far cry from the dive bars of South Jersey. Well, maybe not that far a cry,

I still don't like "tribute bands," but I got a blog post out of the experience.

This guy had a good time, though, and that's what's important.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

i started a joke

I think I'm a pretty funny guy. It doesn't matter if you don't think I'm funny... as long as I think I'm funny, because my humor is purely for my own amusement. If you happen to think the things I say are funny, well, that's just a happy by-product of me amusing myself. As a matter of fact, when someone doesn't "get" my humor, that makes it all the more funny. And if they get angry at the "playing dumb" sarcasm, which is the tone of a lot of my humor, well.... it just gets funnier. For me, anyway... and that's what's most important.

Since I hopped on to Facebook, I have had a great time amusing myself by posting silly pictures with sillier captions or leaving slyly sarcastic comments on other people's legitimately earnest posts. I just sit back and marvel at how many people don't get that I am joking. I laugh at how many people will "mansplain" a topic of which I am clearly making light. Well, clearly to me, anyway, and, as we have already established, that is the goal. The people who have known me personally (IRL, as it were) usually know when I am joking... which is always. The folks who only know me through an internet connection should figure things out within a few posts. C'mon, did I really think that Dennis the Menace found Mr. Wilson dead on the sofa... no matter what the screenshot of my television depicts? Do I need someone to explain that George Reeves was not wearing his Superman suit under his Civil War-era garb in his brief appearance in Gone with the Wind? It's a joke! I'm joking! They're all jokes!

A few days ago, MeTV, the retro television network I spend an inordinate amount of time watching, posted a little quiz about the final episode of M*A*S*H in which the character of "Radar O'Reilly" appears. A brief intro was followed by a series of multiple choice questions aimed to test readers memories about details of the show. I discovered the post through a Facebook link under the headline: "How well do you remember the ''Good-bye Radar'' episode of M*A*S*H?" It was accompanied by a photo of actor Gary Burghoff in character as the na├»ve company clerk with suspect extrasensory powers. At this point, there were just a few comments from readers, mostly affirming their sentimentality towards the series and that  episode in particular. This was the perfect — perfect! — scenario for a little of that patented Josh Pincus "smart-ass" humor that I've come to know and love (I cannot speak for you.) 

I have been a fan of M*A*S*H for years. I watched it in first-run and have watched reruns dozens — possibly hundreds — of times over the past forty years. (That's right, M*A*S*H had its final original episode broadcast forty years ago.) I like some episodes, I dislike some episodes. I like some characters. I dislike some characters. Overall, It's a show I will watch and one with which I am very familiar. Heck, my favorite all-time television episode is a 1974 episode of M*A*S*H called "Adam's Ribs." (I even wrote about it HERE.) Eventhough I like M*A*S*H, I will gladly make fun of it, because I make fun of everything... because everything is funny. So, injecting a little bit of sarcasm in the otherwise staid comment section was something that was custom-made for ol' JP. Here is my comment:

Of course M*A*S*H fans will recognize this as a deliberate misquote from the poignant 1975 episode "Abyssinia, Henry," that marked McLean Stevenson's swan song as the befuddled commanding officer "Lt. Col. Henry Blake." The line was delivered by Gary Burghoff to an unsuspecting cast and the tearful reactions in the episode's final scene were real. But, the internet is a relentless, humorless place, fraught with serious people who feel it is their self-appointed duty to keep the internet honest. Instead of putting their focus on inconceivable concepts like a child sex-trafficking ring operated by a former US senator under the cover of a Washington DC pizza parlor or the gubernatorial appointment of a religious zealot to a municipal board of directors, after he claimed that the public water system is responsible for turning men gay, they choose to put their time and energy into setting me straight on my confusion over a four-decade old sitcom. This is the battle they choose to fight. This is the hill they choose to die upon. The responses to my comment came in thick and fast.

It was hysterical! Do these people really think I was being serious? Let's analyze this for a second... First of all, if I can post a comment on Facebook, then I have access to the internet. If I have access to the internet, don't they realize that I can look this quote up in a matter of seconds? And, if they are such experts and bound to uphold the good and decent legacy of M*A*S*H, don't they see that the quote is spot-on accurate, except for the substitution of Radar's real name for that of Henry Blake's? And, most of all, don't they realize that this line was delivered by RADAR HIMSELF?!?! The whole thing is stupid, obviously comical and far from serious. 

At last count, ten people had made some attempt at correcting me, either with a brief "No" or "Wrong" to some actually taking the time to explain why I am wrong. These, of course, are the same people who enjoyed seeing the added request of "show your work" at the bottom of a lengthy word problem in seventh-grade math class.

A few responses were phrased as though I had just revealed an extramarital affair at a memorial service for Grandpa. How dare you! How dare you sully the legacy of the greatest achievement in the history of broadcast television! M*A*S*H stands for all that is good and decent in this world and making a factually incorrect statement about any aspect of the series is akin to blasphemy... even worse. A couple were written as though M*A*S*H was a documentary, Radar was real person and I flunked the final exam. The more self-righteous responses to my stupid joke were posted, the funnier it got.

I recently began selling t-shirts on the website TeePublic. A recent addition was this one, prompted by my regular response to those who don't "get" me. Perhaps you'd like one too. They can be very helpful... and they come in a wide variety of sizes and colors.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

my city was gone

I believe that the greatest invention in the past ten or so years is the GPS. Sure, GPS technology has been around for a lot longer than ten years, but recently I have become aware of just how helpful and indispensable it really is. Years ago, a trip to AAA was the necessary first step in planning a family vacation to some distant destination. I would order a "Triptik" from the auto club well in advance of our departure date. My wife, who loves to drive, would sit behind the wheel of our packed car and I would man the passenger's seat — or in this case the navigator's seat — as I announced upcoming exits, turns and rest stops as highlighted on our custom, multipage roadmap, as prepared by the good folks at Triple A. The GPS has eliminated this service. It has also eliminated stopping a stranger on the street to ask (or clarify) directions. The ungodly procedure of asking a gas station attendant in an unfamiliar locale for directions has also been eliminated. (Actually, are there even gas station attendants to ask?) Yes sir! with the GPS that is available on nearly every cellphone or downloadable app, directions to anywhere are as easy as plugging in an address. Using your phone's location, directions are calculated in seconds and a nice lady with a pleasant (if sometimes insistent) voice will guide you to your destination. I have even used my GPS to locate a particular gravesite on my various cemetery adventures.

I was born and raised in Philadelphia and I have lived no where else. (Technically, I live in the Philadelphia suburbs, but that's splitting hairs.) I am a Philadelphian and I identify as such. Every morning, for the past two years, I take the same route to work, I drive a short distance through the suburbs to the Philadelphia city limit, crossing into the "Great Northeast" where I navigate my car towards the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge and cross into New Jersey (which is also, technically, a suburb of Philadelphia). It is approximately a forty minute drive that I have compartmentalized in my mind, taking note of where I am on my route, so I know if I am making good time and estimating my arrival time at work. Depending on the traffic, I will sometimes adjust my route — a block here and a block there — to avoid jams, construction, school crossings and other inconveniences that might hinder my commute. Every so often, I turn to my trusty GPS if I find myself on an unfamiliar street, just to get myself resituated.

One day last week, there was an awful lot of construction on a major thruway right at the beginning of my drive. I could see cars slowing down and up ahead, I could make out flashing lights and large, stationary construction vehicles. I quickly turned into the smaller streets of the adjacent neighborhood, hoping to take a parallel street and find my way back to my regular route. Apparently, every street in this neighborhood was blocked with maintenance vehicles from the Philadelphia Water Company. The further I drove, the further I got from the idea of backtracking to my regular route. When I finally came out to a street I recognized, there was a large fenced-in government building smack-dab in the middle of the neighborhood grid. Unhappily, I headed further and further south. I would have to forgo the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge and take the less-traveled Betsy Ross Bridge instead. The Betsy Ross Bridge was constructed between 1969 and 1974, though it did not open to traffic until 1976, due to protests from the neighborhood regarding proposed access routes. It was a beautiful bridge with no way to get on it. The Betsy Ross Bridge — almost fifty years later — is still surrounded by temporary roadways and changing access ramps. I don't take the Betsy Ross Bridge too often (if I can help it), so I needed a little help from my ol' GPS to get me to it. I typed in the name of my place of employment and the GPS sprung to life, instructing me to make various lefts and rights onto streets that, despite being born in this city and living here for 60 years, I was unfamiliar. I was even more unfamiliar with the neighborhood. It was a run-down, obviously working-class area with plenty of boarded-up businesses and grungy-looking auto repair places every five or so feet. I drove fairly slowly as I took my car over heavily potholed streets and past a number of abandoned vehicles. At one point, the GPS voice directed me to "turn left" down a narrow street lined with garages. A woman in her twenties was staggering across the street, reeling like a boxer trying to avoid getting socked in the head. She was unsteady on her feet, but had an enormous grin on her face. She also paid no attention to my car or the fact that it was moving towards her. I touched my brake pedal and waited for her to make it to the crumbling sidewalk, after which I left her in my rearview mirror. My next turn brought me to a large intersection where the street became six lanes. Huge shopping complexes filled with national brand stores rose up on all four corners... just a few feet from an area that looked like a battlefield. Just ahead, I was told to make another left. I did and I followed the street a short way to a giant municipal sign pointing to the entrance to the Betsy Ross Bridge — an entrance I had never seen before. As a matter of fact, I hadn't seen any of these surroundings before. I was a little embarrassed that, as a proud Philadelphian, there I was... driving around whole sections of my fair city that were as foreign to me as if they were in another country.

The next day, things were back to normal. Construction had ended and I was, once again, crossing the good old Tacony-Palmyra Bridge

If this happens again, luckily, I have my GPS to guide me... like an electronic Jiminy Cricket.