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These Sodas Are Rank(ed)!

Anyone who has ben paying attention over the past few years will have realized that Zero Sugar sodas have become all the rage. The so called “diet colas” have more or less been replaced by these new soft drinks on grocery and convenience store shelves all across America. Upon first glance, this would seem to be a healthier, or, at least a less-bad-for-you alternative to the regular drinks we all know and love. But is it a scam?

Very probably. Diet soda was a scam, so why shouldn’t this be one too? However, this is not the focus of the blog post today. Let’s face it, Americans love our sodas, and if this is a way we can fool ourselves into thinking we are making a better decision for bodies, then this is a scam we’re going to fall for willingly. I know I’m on board.

The real question is, “Are these sodas any good?”, and that is what I am going to attempt to answer here today. Taste is subjective of course, but for the sake of argument, let’s just assume that my opinions are unequivocally correct.

For this experiment, we are sticking only to the major national brands and to the original flavors only. So no cherry, cream, or berry flavors will be included. I am also not going to get into specialty sodas, small batch, or anything like that. I am purposefully keeping it simple.

Okay, so here’s the rundown on the sodas I have personally tasted. It should be noted that all zero sugar sodas have a bit of an aftertaste, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Therefore, aftertaste is not part of the equation.

DAVE RANKS ZERO SUGAR SODAS

8. Mountain Dew Zero:
Actually, I haven’t tried this one. Sorry. I am just offended by its existence. Nobody has ever drank a Mountain Dew in any situation in which they have even remotely been thinking about their health. This is a stupid product that deserves to be dead last.

7. Gold Peak Zero Sugar Sweet Tea:
Come on, Gold Peak, you’re cheating here. This is pretty much the same thing you make at home with Sweet & Low or Splenda or whatever. Look, it actually tastes really good, and I like it, but I can make it myself so it’s back towards the bottom of the list for you.

6. Sprite/7 Up/Sierra Mist Zero:
So, these sodas are all more or less the same anyway (I know, I know, let it go) and they already don’t have caffeine so I just kind of find this to be a fairly useless idea. They’re okay, I suppose, but it just tastes like watered down versions of clear soda. You may as well drink water. Or sparkling water, which is gross, so…meh.

5. Orange Fanta/Sunkist Zero:
Why? Why with this? Both sodas have no caffeine and no sugar. I suppose it’s all right if you have a kid who loves orange sodas but gets a little too hopped up on it and just goes nuts, then yeah, maybe. Otherwise? No. Still, I suppose it’s nice to have a change up in the sugar free soda department now and again so these guys just barely beat out the clear sodas in my ranking. Barely.

4. A&W Zero Root Beer:
I love a good root beer, and when I heard about the A&W I approached it with cautious optimism. It’s okay. Kinda feels like somebody didn’t close the cap properly on a two liter. So it tastes a little flat, even though it’s not. If you’re jonesing for some root beer and need the zero sugar option, it’ll do.

3. Coca Cola Zero:
This kind of surprised me, that of the big three Coke would take third place. I have been a regular Coke drinker for ages, so I expected it to be really good. Turns out it’s just pretty good. They did change the formula a while back to make it taste more like Coke Classic (with nary a Max Headroom sighting to be found!), and that did help quite a bit. It’s good, I like it, and I reach for it often, but it just falls a little short.

2. Pepsi Zero:
Again, a surprise for me, because I have always preferred Coke over Pepsi, but Pepsi just got it right here, man. Their zero version tastes a lot more like Pepsi than Coke’s tastes like Coke. My objection to Pepsi was always that it tasted a little too sweet. Yet they have pretty much managed to mimic that sweetness in the sugar free version. I still don’t buy Pepsi very often, but I have voluntarily had more Pepsi Zero sodas over the past couple of years than I ever drank of the original, so that says something.

  1. Dr. Pepper Zero:
    Admittedly, I am a bit biased here. Dr. Pepper is my favorite soda, but I know a lot of people don’t like it. I get that, it’s not for everyone. However, I truly believe that Dr. Pepper has come closest to making their Zero version taste more like their original flavor than any of their competitors. I’d take them to task if not, trust me. If you used to be a Pepper, but you haven’t been for a while due to giving up sugar, don’t be afraid to try this out. It’s good.

Well, that just about wraps it up for this week. Do you agree with my findings or am I way off? Is there a different flavor I should explore, or a major player in the game that I missed? Let me know in the comments. Just keep it cool and play nice while you’re posting.

See you next week for more MonDAVEs, friends, when I’ll start the October spooky stuff. Bye for now!

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Fab!

Hey everybody, let me tell you about a podcast I have become involved with.

I have mentioned before that my brother, Derek, has a podcast he calls “Empty Checking”, in which he talks about various music/books/blu-rays, etc. that he has recently purchased, thereby leaving him with an empty checking account. It’s a fun listen. I have come on a few times in the past as a guest, but recently my role has expanded.

I have become a fairly regular guest for a special group of episodes entitled The Fab 15. Or Fifteen, if you prefer. It doesn’t really mater. Anyway, the idea is that it’s a list show where we pick a topic and we both independently make lists of our favorite fifteen things about said topic, then we share our lists and try to come up with an agreed upon “Fab Fifteen”. “Fab” meaning “Fabulous” of course.

So far, the topics for the Fab 15 have been as follows: Beatles songs, Soundtrack Albums, Summer Songs, Movies of 1989, and Queen (the band) songs. These episodes have been a lot of fun to do, and from what I am led to understand they have been quite popular with the listeners. Therefore I would like to share them with the MonDAVE readership who may not have been aware of their existence.

Do me a favor and check out an episode or two when you get a moment. If you enjoy them, drop me a message and let me know, or message the podcast itself through its webpage. Then share it with others. Who knows, maybe we can get this up and running and make it into a permanent thing. If that happens, I will surely let you all know. If it doesn’t, we’re going to keep doing them anyway because it’s fun. Either way it’s a win for us.

I’ve included some links below so you can check it out nice and easy from right here on the ol’ blog page. If you like what you hear, why not go ahead and subscribe to the Empty Checking podcast? That way you won’t miss a show, and you get to hear all the other cool stuff my brother does too.

Thanks in advance for clicking and listening. I’ll be back next week with more stuff.

Empty Checking Fab 15 Links:

https://emptychecking.podbean.com/e/episode-121-the-fab-15-beatles-songs/

https://emptychecking.podbean.com/e/episode-124-fab-15-movie-soundtracks/

https://emptychecking.podbean.com/e/episode-127-fab-15-summer-songs/

https://emptychecking.podbean.com/e/episode-131-the-fab-15-movies-of-1989/

https://emptychecking.podbean.com/e/epidofe-132-the-fab-fift-queen/

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Thoughts On HRH

Like many around the world, I have been thinking quite a bit about the passing of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II over the past few days. Being an American, the actions of the Royal Family have minimal effect on my day to day life, but I must confess that I have a bit more than a passing interest in what goes on in the United Kingdom.

Firstly, I do try to keep up with major world events, even if it’s just to go online and skim the headlines. When I do watch reported news I usually find myself watching PBS shows, and the BBC World Service that follows. I even have BBC News programmed into my Sirius XM satellite radio presets. As you can imagine, the news of Queen Elizabeth’s passing has taken up the majority of air time this week.

Secondly, I am a bit of an Anglophile. Which means that I’m one of those annoying Americans who likes to watch British movies and television shows, listen to British rock bands, read Nick Hornby books, subscribe to the “Lost In The Pond” YouTube channel, and feel like I know a little bit about how things work over in England specifically, and the U.K. at large. It is admittedly a narrow and possibly skewed view, but one I am always eager to expand nonetheless.

This is also how I have formed my image of the Queen. I have seen her lampooned on a few comedy shows, and critiqued, vilified, and ridiculed in punk rock music. I have also seen her staunchly defended, idolized, and loved by her subjects. Sometimes, the very same people who are the loudest naysayers are also quick to claim that they like the Royal Family just fine, really.

So how to process all this? Well, it seems to me that one has to look at the person more than the title. Having never had a sovereign in my lifetime I can’t pretend to know what that experience is like or how it affects one’s life. We do have career politicians over here though, but that’s not exactly the same thing. All I can do then, is try to be as objective as possible when considering the death of the Queen and what it means.

Look, all governments do bad things. All of them. Sometimes they are done in what they truly believe is for the good of the country, sometimes not. It seems to me that in modern times, the Queen’s role was more of a mediator, or an influencer than one of any real practical power. As I understand it, most of the political power lies in Parliament and not with the Queen.

Can blame be put at her feet for some of the atrocities committed during the early years of her reign, particularly since most of these offences were begun before she officially took power? Yes, to a degree, but how many world leaders have hands that are not stained red in some way?

As far as the Royal Family itself goes, yeah, there have been some problems. The Queen did not get along with her daughter in law Lady Diana, or her granddaughter in law, Duchess Meghan. That is unfortunate, and it happens. It’s just that in this case, it happened while the world’s eyes were watching. Besides, us normal folk love to watch the drama unfold and we love to sit in judgement of those who are considered “better” or “more special” than we are. We shouldn’t be that way, but we are.

Now, this is the part where I can hear many of you yelling at your screens about classism or racism being the culprit in these particular family feuds. Maybe you’re right, I don’t know. None of us do. Perhaps it was all just multiple generations clashing. Any article you read on these subjects is likely to be highly biased in either direction and as the band Extreme said in the early 90’s, “there are three sided to every story: Yours, Mine, and Monday Morning’s.” All families bicker and fight. All families have at least one or two people that everyone else gossips about and are looked down upon in private. trouble is, when you are a Royal there is no privacy.

Which brings us to the ugly story of Prince Andrew. He’s been a very naughty man. He got caught. Look, I’m not going to go into details here, I try to keep things clean around here. Google it if you don’t know, but be warned, it’s not pretty.

Of course you can’t hold one man’s actions against the rest of the family, but you can blame the privilege his position allows. He was stripped of his rank within the Royal Family, but it took a little too long to do so. Theory states that Elizabeth was the one allowing him to stay. Perhaps. If so, then yes, she was wrong, but she did do the right thing eventually. Let’s face it though, folks, it’s hard to find out someone you love is up to some shady stuff-and I can understand why they didn’t want that info getting out. It’s a difficult situation, and one I hope to never find anyone from my family in-and I hope the same for yours too.

I do wonder about the future of the Royals. Things seem to be splintering apart. The case can certainly be made that the monarchy is an antiquated idea that has no room in the modern world, and that the money spent on Royal things could do greater good for the working classes and the poor than to be spent on pageantry. These are worthwhile points of discussion, but they are ones best left for Britain to decide for itself. A lot of Americans have an opinion, though, and there is probably just as much Anti-Royal sentiment as there is Pro.

Which I really don’t understand. As Americans we really don’t really have a say. Well, not for a few hundred years, we haven’t. Besides, we’re all still trying to figure out what’s going on with our own rich family with political power to worry about anyone else right now.

So with all that said, I can say that I am sorry to see her go. Queen Elizabeth was thrown into power at an early age, before she should have been, really. She has seen the world change immensely during her reign. As a figurehead she has needed to steer England from the “stiff upper lip” attitude of old to a more modernized, humanitarian era. She wasn’t perfect, but I think she did extraordinarily well all things considered. She presented herself with a certain stoic grace, but always seemed to let her humanity show through. Her life and her lot were certainly not easy. Through all the negatives however, I have heard countless stories of people who encountered the Queen and were treated not like inferior subjects, but like people. Queen Elizabeth made the people she encountered feel like she cared. That quality alone makes for a great leader, figurehead or otherwise.

May she rest in peace.

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Do You Want To Hear About Sunday Morning?

Okay, so we’re sitting in church on Sunday, like you do, and the sermon is well underway. This is a church that is new to us, but more on that in another post. Anyway, my son Pat suddenly begins making a noise. It’s sort of a gasping, repeated, quick-inhaling kind of a noise. Now, he’s a bit of a sensitive boy, and the sermon was about cultivating relationships with other people through their, and possibly our own, loneliness. This is a topic that could very easily hit home with the boy due to his own social awkwardness. Dad mode activates, and I check on his well being, believing that he might be starting to cry.

“You okay son?”

“Yeah, I just thought of something funny.”

“Well get it together, dude.”

Dude did not get it together.

He continued his silent, barely-keeping-it-together laughing fit, for a little bit too long. Long enough that his older sister, sitting next to him also became concerned, and also assumed him to be crying. She made a sympathetic sad face and held his hand. Which made him laugh even harder, and threatened to make me laugh as well.

At this point, it’s getting uncomfortable for yours truly. People in other pews are starting to notice. Now I have to take action. It is a well known fact to pretty much all mankind that once a laughing fit starts, it is nearly impossible to stop, especially when one is in a situation where one is not supposed to be laughing. Like a school lecture, or, say, a church you’ve just started attending, are still feeling out, and you are trying to make a good impression.

The only thing left to do was ride it out, so I put my arm around the boy, looking every bit like the consoling Dad, pulled him in close and let him laugh it out into my chest. Anyone observing would have thought I was whispering something loving into his ear, like “It’s okay, buddy. We can talk about this later if you want. Let it out.” But I was really all like, “Come on man, focus, this is ridiculous. You’re missing good stuff here, pay attention.”

With the fit over, we made it through to the end of the service with no other issues. Until, on the way out of the worship center, Pat asked big sister Tessa why she took his hand. She said something about how she was concerned about him since he was crying so much. She’s got a good heart, she does. Then he told her that he wasn’t crying, but laughing.

“WHAT? I was so worried. I held your hand, man! I thought you were GOING THROUGH IT!” She was appalled. Which started the laughing all over again.

And that is how my family makes an impression on a new church.

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For Your Late Summer Vieweing Pleasure

Summer is beginning to wind down, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of doing this sooner, but I think it’s time we talk about Summertime movies. Not blockbusters necessarily, but movies that are either about or related to the Summer season. There’s still time to view a few of these before the weather turns, with the upcoming Labor Day holiday being an excellent chance to do so. Or, hey, save a few to watch in the middle of Winter when it’s freezing, dark, and miserable and you’re missing the Summer vibes. Kinda like watching “A Christmas Story” on July 25th.

Anyway, here’s a list featuring some of my favorite Summer flicks. These aren’t presented in any real order here, just as they roll off the top of my noggin. That’s the way things go here at MonDaves! Let’s have at it.

  1. Meatballs:
    I pretty much have to watch this one every year. For those who may be unfamiliar, it’s a Summer Camp comedy from the late 1970’s featuring Bill Murray and a full collection of young Canadian talent. This was made back in the days before PG-13 was a thing, so it’s a bit stronger than the rating would have you think. There are a few problematic moments by today’s standards, but I think the spirit of the film and the sweetness of its central story make up for those issues.
  2. National Lampoon’s Vacation:
    This one is fairly dated and risque as well. It’s somewhat surprising that a movie featuring as much outrageousness as this has become somewhat of a beloved classic, but here we are. Still funny in between the cringe moments, and serves as a reminder of when we all still loved Chevy Chase. Also the theme song is classic, and I never tire of the performances by Imogene Coca and John Candy.
  3. Jaws:
    The ultimate Summer suspense movie. Notice I said suspense, not horror. While the shark attacks are horrific, the film plays more like an adventure movie to me. I just watched this again a few months ago, and it’s still very good. It’s just not a horror film so please stop calling it one. Same goes for “Alien”, although I’m much more willing to let that one slide. Anyway. Moving on.
  4. The Great Outdoors:
    John Candy (again) and Dan Aykroyd in a movie about two families camping, with Candy representing the traditional family values set, and Aykroyd the obnoxious business man brother in law. While this movie was panned during the initial release, cable and home video have made it a semi classic. I have never heard my mother laugh harder or longer than she did at the climax of this film.
  5. Stand By Me:
    Part drama, part comedy, all heart. A group of twelve year old boys hike out to the woods to see a rumored dead body (well, it was written by Stephen King), but along the way they learn about the meaning of friendship in a one of a kind coming of age story that is a definite classic. If you somehow haven’t seen this one, do.
  6. One Crazy Summer:
    John Cusack, Demi Moore, and Bobcat Goldthwait in a pretty bonkers 80’s teen comedy. Is it great? No. Does it try too hard? Yes. However, it’s just absurd enough that it is an interesting view, with likeable people and enough snickers in it (if not outright laughs) to make it worth a look.
  7. That Thing You Do!:
    Perhaps not a traditional Summer movie, but the bulk of the film takes place during the Summer months, and the whole thing just feels like Summer, man. It’s also one of my favorite music movies, and a favorite all around.
  8. Summer School:
    This was a Mark Harmon vehicle about a teacher and teens in Summer school and it’s just as dumb as it sounds, but I saw it about a billion times on cable and can still recite whole passages from the film so it’s on the list. Also, I still think Dave and Chainsaw should have had their own movie franchise, or at least a TV show.
  9. Beach Blanket Bingo/Psycho Beach Party (tie):
    The former is the classic, ultimate “teen beach movie”. Today it is viewed as a reminder of a gentler time. The latter is a modern parody that also throws in references to psychological thrillers and slasher films. It has also spawned a stage play. The two together make a great double feature!
  10. Lilo And Stitch:
    If you haven’t seen it, it’s better than you think. If you have, it’s better than you remember. I love all the Elvis stuff, and the voice cast is great. It mixes Disney cuteness with a manic energy for a good time that can be had by all.

    Okay, there we have it, Dave’s Fave Summer Films. There are a few more, but I think this will do for now. Also, I may want to revisit this topic in the future and I need to have a few in reserve. See you next week.
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Literary Round Up

If you recall, last week I mentioned the fact that I am the type of reader who gets stuck into a book and needs a few days to linger in the world described. I have trouble letting go of the characters and their stories. Often I will think about which parts of the book spoke to me and why. Was this just entertainment, or is there a bigger message going on? For the record, this applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you a few of the books I have read over the past few months.. You will notice that most of these selections aren’t very recent. As much as I like to go to the bookstore and peruse the new releases, more often than not I find myself buying from the marked down bargain bins, or picking up something used from the neighborhood charity stores. It doesn’t matter to me how old a book may be, if it’s good, it’s good and I will happily invest my time reading away. So here, in no particular order, are a few selections that have kept me turning pages recently.

ABOUT A BOY-Nick Hornby
I have enjoyed a few of the movies made from Hornby’s work, but never actually read any of his novels. Since this is one of the movies I hadn’t seen, I snatched this one up earlier this year. I enjoyed it a lot.

This is a coming of age story about not only a teenage boy, but also a slacker adult who acts like a boy. I found it to be both funny and sweet, also just British enough to please the Anglophile in me, but not so British that it made for a difficult read. I would definitely recommend this, and I will seek out more in the future.

AND IN THE END: THE LAST DAYS OF THE BEATLES-Ken McNabb
With the release of Peter Jackson’s mammoth “Get Back” documentary last year, pretty much everybody was talking about The Beatles. While the film covers the period just before the band split up, this book takes us to the bitter end and fills in some of the gaps in the movie narrative. The book is meticulously researched, and gives multiple points of view from interviews done both at the time and later on. While there is naturally a little bit of author speculation here and there, I can’t imagine a better chronicle of the band’s last year. It isn’t a happy story, but it is a human one and quite interesting for any Beatles fan.

DELIVERANCE-James Dickey
Yes, that “Deliverance”. Yes, that scene is in it. No, nobody says “squeal like a pig” in the book.

This one was released in 1970, but the prose feels a little earlier than that, like an early 60’s style of writing, maybe. This book was a little bit frustrating for me, but it was interesting enough to keep me reading. I am often more concerned with the story than the prose, and I think that sometimes too much detail can get in the way and slow things down. That happens more than once in this book, from descriptions of the countryside to the scene where our main character is climbing up a gorge on his own. More than once I wanted to just skip ahead a few pages and get to the good parts. It almost felt as though much of the book was padded out to make a full length novel out of what should have been a short story, or anovella at most. Still, the storytelling is good and the stakes are high, so it is an entertaining read overall. I’m not entirely sure who got deliverance though, and from what. Perhaps I’m not supposed to?

THE STORYTELLER: TALES OF LIFE AND MUSIC-Dave Grohl
This should appeal not only to fans of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, but also to anyone who has ever dreamed of being a rock star. Dave Grohl is one of the luckiest guys out there, and he knows it. His success story is one of hard work and dumb luck, and it makes for a very fun read. Some of his stories are genuinely funny, others touching. The book feels like a conversation with a friend over a few drinks, which is a welcome change from the “serious” rock journalism tone that many books have. Grohl almost makes you feel like you were there with him. It was highly entertaining and I hope he writes another one soon.

THE KEPT-James Scott
“The Kept” is a gothic western revenge story set in upstate New York, in the winter of 1897. It is a bleak, haunting work that deals with violence, deceit, the meaning of family, long kept secrets, obsessions, and the cost of all of those things. This book doesn’t let up much once it gets going, and I was always eager to read the next chapter and find out what would happen in the end, even if I knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant. The story may be a bit far fetched in places, and I’m not sure what I think about the way it ended (I understand why Scott used that ending, I’m just not sure I liked it), but these complaints are minor. This is a depressing read, but one I highly recommend.

Okay, before somebody decides to comment, yes, I agree, it is similar to “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy in some places. That book was clearly a strong influence on this one, but I think that “The Kept” is definitely stands on its own when compared side by side.

Alright friends, there we have it. Maybe one of these books will make it on to your “to be read” list soon. Maybe not. My own list still has three or four I need to get to, and it seems to grow every time I turn around. See you next week, and happy reading!

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A Few Things From This Past Weekend.

Thing 1:

Saturday afternoon as I was surfing through radio stations while driving in my car, the song “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young came on. I don’t really know the words, but I started kind of half heartedly singing along anyway since I’ve always enjoyed the tune. The word that came out of my mouth however was not “cinnamon”, but “synonym.” This struck me as uproariously funny at the time.

I must have been tired.

Anyway, I’ve been walking around the house singing that for days now. It’s beginning to drive my family batty. “I wanna live with a Synonym Girl/I could be happy the rest of my life with a Synonym Girl.” The chorus writes itself, as it’s just replacing the one word. But I also wrote a verse or two:

“She’s got multiple words/for ev-er-ything/but I always know/just what she means/She’s a Synonym Girl
She doesn’t get sad/she feels heartbroken/She’s not obnoxious/She’s just outspoken/my Synonym Girl”

Well, maybe it doesn’t read funny, but if you sing the tune it’s better. Sort of.

I tried to write a few more grammar based classic rock parodies, but all I could come up with was “Verbin’ U.S.A. and “(I Can’t Use No) Interjections” which honestly I didn’t get very far with. So I guess Weird Al Yankovic’s job is still safe. For now.

Thing 2:

We are doing a project in our basement that requires drywall. Sunday was load in day, and somehow or other I was actually here for it and got to help. YAY! Twenty-two pieces of drywall, two to a pack, measuring eight foot long by four foot wide, and weighing 68 pounds per pack is what we hauled off the van, into the garage, down the basement stairs and into the storage room. As you can imagine, there were a few corners to work out as well. Even with three, sometimes four of us doing the labor it was a pretty big job. Somewhere in all the lifting and bending and odd angles and whatnot I tweaked my back. It didn’t hurt too badly yesterday, but it got worse today when we decided to do…

-Thing 3:

Family Fun Monday at the bowling alley!

Now, in hindsight, the idea of bowling the day after tweaking out my back is not the best one. I have had multiple Advils and dug the heating pad out of storage to make this evening a little more tolerable.

Still, we did have a nice day. We bookended the bowling alley with lunch at the hometown pizza buffet at Pantera’s Pizza ( a St. Louis County tradition) and dessert at Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt. Funnily enough, according to Facebook, today was “National Frozen Custard Day”. Look at us being all rebellious!

We don’t really go bowling all that much, although any time we do we always talk about how we should go more often since it’s an inexpensive family activity and we all enjoy it to one degree or another. For the record I bowled a 180 my first game, which isn’t too bad since I haven’t been bowling for at least three years now! Although I only got a 60 on game number two, so whatever lost mojo I had revived for game number one got lost again pretty quick. Something tells me I won’t be joining anybody’s bowling team any time soon.

Bonus Things:

-My In-Laws took the family out to Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner on Saturday as a belated birthday celebration for yours truly. It was a good dinner and a nice gesture. They also got a new cat but that’s unrelated.

-I still have a music project forming in the back of my head. I’m not sure how it’s going to materialize yet, but the wheels are turning. I just wanted you all to know I haven’t given up on it since I mentioned it earlier this year, but it’s going to take some time. Patience will be rewarded. Also I promise not to record “Synonym Girl.”

Okay, that’s all I’ve got this week. Until next time, be cool to each other. Don’t be sexist. Don’t be racist. Follow the ol’ Golden Rule as best you can, and I’ll see you all soon.

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A Post About Art Which Is Trying To Say More Than It Does, But I Think You Get The Picture Anyway. Also I Use Too Many Italics. Sorry.

Okay, Netflix, we need to talk. I have an issue that needs to be resolved. Share this info with your buddies over at Hulu too.

Let me tell you about what happened last night. I was watching a movie from the 90’s that I never got the chance to see, and since it was due to leave your service today (making the argument for physical media over streaming, but that’s a discussion for another time), I was up late taking the movie in. It was one of those movies with a large cast of mostly character actors and I was curious to see who played a few of the parts. So as the credits began to roll, they disappeared into a little box at the top of my screen while an advertisement for some show I have no interest in at all filled my screen. By the time I grabbed my remote and clicked around the boxes to give the okay to watch the credits I had missed most of the cast list. So I rewound the movie to the beginning of the credits

IT HAPPENED AGAIN. I had to re-click the right box, and then try to read really fast so I could figure out where I was in the cast list and then pause the movie in order to see what I wanted to see.

My point is this: I want to watch the credits. I know it’s not your fault, Netflix, that the credits zoomed by quickly, but if I hadn’t had to mess around with the plethora of choices to click on so the credits could be watched in the first place I would have been able to read them correctly. I suppose having a watch credits option is okay, but why does it have to be difficult to do? Also, why do I only have a few seconds to decide before the next thing just automatically starts, or I go back to the menu?

It’s not just the technical aspect that annoys me here though. The fact is that the credits are part of the movie. If the film was any darn good, I need those few minutes to decompress a little, and absorb what I just watched. The credits can help do that by providing the right music to take the viewer out of the world they have just inhabited for a few hours and back into their own. Of course, many action movies and comedies have extra scenes tagged on, but you’re good about not cutting those off, aren’t you? It’s just the documentaries and dramas that don’t have extra scenes that get lopped off. That’s a shame, because these are the very movies that require some time to think about and live with, often well after the credits roll.

The same idea is true with all art forms though. How often have I attended live theater and spent the next few days thinking about it? I have attended several concerts where I can listen to nothing but the performer’s work for days after, and I keep replaying highlights from the show in my head.

Here’s a question for the book hounds I know: How can you finish a book and just pick up another one? I need to live in that world for a while. If I have invested time in reading about these characters and their lives (fictitious or not), I need a few days to shake the events out of my system and leave the fantasy slowly, and think about what I have just read, the emotions the story called up and perhaps why this work resonated the way it did. Yet I have friends who can finish one book and start a new one immediately, or the next morning.

How do they do that? More importantly, why do they do that? Are they just not present in the moment, or do they just want to have the accomplishment of reading so many books, that the art is lost on them? Or is it possible that reading on an e-reader, phone, or laptop takes away some of the physical, tangible experience that holding a book in your hands and actually turning the pages provides?

Also, how am I going to get this back on track to being about Netflix?

Anyway, I can’t do it. I can’t just move on right away. Perhaps my sense of imagination is too great, or perhaps I am just too sensitive to the stories, sights and sounds to dismiss the artistry of a piece that I relate to so well.

That’s the thing about art. Art gets inside of you, whether you want it to or not. Of course, what is and isn’t “art” can be debated ad nauseum, because what moves one person may do nothing for another. What some see as art, others see as mere entertainment and fluff. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to be entertained mind you, but a true piece of art is something more. However, we are never all going to agree on what is or isn’t valid art, so it is up to the individual to decide.

That’s why we need the credits to roll. (Now we’re back on track.) That’s why we need to slow down when we watch, listen, or read. We are so obsessed with making sure we consume as much of what is available as possible that we don’t let it affect our lives, we don’t allow ourselves to see ourselves or others in a new light. We don’t allow ourselves to feel anything, which is a pity, because that’s what art is for.

It would be a whole lot easier to have a meaningful relationship with art if the very technologies that provide it to us with ease didn’t also get in the way.

Wait, did I just use a blog to complain about technology? I did, didn’t I? Well, that’s kind of weird. And slightly hypocritical? Maybe?

Huh.

Anyway…so, um, yeah. See you next week.

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Talkin’ Turtles With Dave

Today I learned that the official state reptile of Missouri is the three toed box turtle.

I have one of those.

I’m not sure why Missouri has a state reptile but whatever.

Anyway, I was never supposed to have a three toed box turtle, or any other kind of turtle now that I think of it, but here we are. The turtle’s name is Leah. She was a classroom turtle that my wife brought home from work during the pandemic. Leah was in another teacher’s room, but that person couldn’t take her home for a reason I don’t recall. My wife had agreed to take care of the turtle for three weeks while school shut down, and was going to return her once everything opened back up and we “flattened the curve” which, as you recall, was sure to be a quick thing. Well, one thing led to another and to make a long story short, Leah the Temporary Turtle has lived with us for over two years, and is family now. One of us, one of us! Sorry, obscure movie reference. Also a Ramones song. Never mind. Moving on.

In honor of Leah’s newfound recognition as state reptile (I know it’s not her specifically, just go with it), here are some fun facts about three toed box turtles, and a little about Leah as well.

-Three toed box turtles are so named because of the number of toes on their hind feet. Can confirm. We counted.

-The eyes of a male tree toed box turtle are usually red, and the female’s are brown. Leah checks out here too, which is good because Leah is a bit of an odd name for a boy. Not that I would judge.

-Most 3TBTs (I got tired of typing out that whole name) have a diet that consists of small live animals such as worms, snails, slugs, and various insects, as well as various green leafed vegetation, strawberries, and mushrooms. Leah only eats earthworms and strawberries. She’s picky.

-I read a story that said these turtles do not get sick from eating poisonous mushrooms, but the toxin from these mushrooms can make the turtles poisonous themselves. This is the reason given as to why a group of boys became ill after eating roasted three toed box turtles. Not the fact that these knuckleheads were just roasting random turtles in the first place. Nope. It was the mushrooms. Whatever you say. Stay classy, Mississippi.

-Apparently there are 17 different kinds of turtles found in Missouri. I’m not sure what the criteria was that the 3TBT came out on top to be chosen as the official turtle of the state, but good job, turtles!

-Leah will often burrow into the bedding under her log and stay there for days, not eating or anything. Sometimes she does this outside of the log in plain view. Every time I think, “Oh no, dead turtle” and then the next thing you know she’s active as all get out. I believe this is normal, but it feels kinda extra.

-We have no idea how old Leah is, only that she is the size of a mature turtle. These things can live upwards of 50 years, so it’s possible that one of the kids will inherit the turtle one day. That will be a weird thing for them to fight about someday.

-A turtle’s shell is part of their body. While it is hard to provide protection, it is attached to them, and they can feel what happens to their shell, much like we can with our skin. I know, weird, right? Cartoons lied to us. Anyway, if you ever pick up a turtle, be gentle to it. Also wash your hands because some of them carry salmonella. So there.

-When I pass LeeLee’s enclosure (that’s my nickname for her) and she is on top of her log, I sing to her. She seems to respond to music. Often I sing the song “Ah! Leah!” by Donny Iris, although I’m pretty sure it was not written about a turtle.

-I hope she’s happy here. I mean, for a turtle. I try to make sure she’s got plenty of water to soak in and food to eat. We change her bedding frequently, and try to make her comfortable. I take her outside for walks sometimes too. Mostly in the backyard, though, I don’t like have a leash for her or anything, I’m not a nut. Still, for an animal I never planned on obtaining and one that isn’t traditionally cuddly or brimming with personality, she’s pretty cool. We love our turtle girl.

Oh, also, I have a really sweet girl of a doggy, but we can talk about her another time. Maybe next time. Maybe not. I don’t know yet, but let’s find out together when you join me next week for more MonDAVEs.

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50 For 50

Today is my birthday. I will admit that I am a birthday guy, I love celebrating not only my own but other people’s as well. I am not normally one of those people who downplay birthdays and think that they are only to be celebrated by kids, or even only on the day itself. You want to have a birthday weekend? Go nuts. Birthday week? Sure, go for it. Month? Umm, okay I guess, but maybe reign it in a little.

This year has been a little bit different though. It’s my fiftieth birthday and honestly, it’s not sitting well. I could go on about the insecurities and anxieties attached to all of this, but since this is a blog set up to entertain, I will spare you my existential crisis and focus on something else entirely: gratitude.

I am grateful for my existential crisis.

No! Only kidding.

Since I have been all melancholy about today, my wife suggested that I should make a list of fifty things I am grateful for and that may help me feel a little better. Since she is usually right, I figured I’d give it a shot. So here we go, a stream of consciousness list made in real time. Thanks for sitting in on my therapy session. Let’s get started.

  1. My wife. She is intelligent, kind, patient, a good mother, and the best team mate I could have to walk through this world with.
  2. My kids. They make every day both a challenge and a pleasure, and I am proud of the people they are turning into.
  3. My dad. He is responsible for my sense of humor, love of movies and music, and my sense of social justice. He has always shown support and love.
  4. My brother. I always feel bad for adults who don’t get along with their siblings, because my relationship with my brother is special and deep.
  5. Extended family. Cousins, Uncles, Aunts, all manner of relatives. Most people think theirs are the best-mine actually are. We’re far enough apart that we don’t see each other enough but I love them all.
  6. Old friends. I don’t see them enough either, but we can stay connected through social media, and they are never far from mind.
  7. God. Okay, so I’m not really happy with some of his followers right now, or the churches and politicians who use his name for their own gain, but I can’t hold that against Him.
  8. Dogs. Every dog I have ever had, ever will have, and like 90% of the dogs on the planet except the really barkey or bitey ones.
  9. Turtles. I just think they’re neat.
  10. Rock And Roll Music. Rock encompasses more different styles, genres, and points of view than pretty much any other popular music style. And it’s all pretty great.
  11. Air conditioning/heat. Because comfort is paramount and outside can get weird.
  12. Pizza delivery. One of the greatest ideas of our time.
  13. Barbecue. Meat cooked over an open flame is the best.
  14. Mountains. I’m no mountaineer, but hiking to, around, and on various mountains has given me some great memories and is some of the most beautiful scenery there is.
  15. YouTube. Making it easy to find obscure videos of half remembered television and movies at 12am. This is part of why I don’t sleep.
  16. Television. Let’s face it-TV is amazing. You can watch shows from the 50s to now, educational shows or entertainment, live events, news coverage, the choices are seemingly endless. And that’s before streaming! Good television connects the world.
  17. The Who. My favorite rock band. Also my favorite philosophers and accidental comedy act. No one demanded more from the art form-and in their prime no one could match their intensity and passion.
  18. Movies. At the theater or at home, a good movie can sweep you away and bring thrills, laughter, scares, romance, whatever you want. And sometimes even the bad ones are fun to watch.
  19. Automobiles. Because I love a good road trip. Also, sometimes the commute can be the best part of my day.
  20. Denim. The most comfortable fabric ever.
  21. Waterfalls. Beautiful to look at, and an instant mood lifter. Hard to get to sometimes, but always worth it.
  22. The Sun. Provider of heat, light, and amazingly beautiful when rising or setting.
  23. The Beatles. Apart from writing so many classic songs, they set the template for everything that followed over the next 20 years of popular music, and they are still being listened to and rediscovered today. Impossibly good.
  24. Trees. Sustainers of life, and happy little fellas from what I am told.
  25. Dark chocolate. I mean, all chocolate is good. Dark though, once you get the taste for it, all other types fall short. Rich, complex, and divine.
  26. Books. Moreso than any other artform, books take you away to another world, fictional or otherwise. Children’s books, short stories, novels, and biographies all sit on my shelves and are each treasured items.
  27. Glasses. Both the drinking kind and the seeing kind. So I can drink and see. Duh.
  28. Clothing. Because everybody walking around nekkid all the time is a bad call.
  29. Monty Python. Changes the way I looked at humor and, in a sense, the world.
  30. Paintings. From the great masters to Bob Ross to the local art fair, I love to look at paintings and see the world through the artist’s eye, and also see how it may connect or clash with my own views.
  31. Cookies. Especially chocolate chip-and pert near anything home made.
  32. Modern Medicine. Because living is good.
  33. Quiet Walks. Helps to clear my head.
  34. Air Fresheners. Helps cover up the mystery smells that show up now and again.
  35. Soda. Fizzy goodness.
  36. The Marx Brothers. The original comedy anarchists. Chaos, slapstick, and clever wordplay all rolled up into a great big ball of genius. Still funny today.
  37. The Internet. without which this wouldn’t be happening right now.
  38. Tacos. Because tacos!
  39. Rivers. Beautiful and powerful. Still used for commerce and water supplies, but I can sit at a riverbank for hours watching it roll.
  40. Milk. Though I developed some issues with lactose as I aged, and I have to drink specially filtered milk now, I still love a tall glass full. Especially with cookies or…
  41. Cake. Fluffy, soft, spongey, moist, iced wonderfulness. Also way better than pie. For reals.
  42. Houses. Or. any abode one lives in, really, Because as George Carlin once observed, we all need “a place for our stuff.”
  43. Traditional Country and Folk music. Both Country and Folk have gone through a lot of changes, many of them not for the good. However, when you get down to the original, pure, bare bines of these musical forms they can be magically affecting.
  44. Micro Brewed Beer. Okay so these days I drink non alcoholic micro brews, but that just proves how good micro brews can be. Taste, quality, integrity, and passion go into every sip. With alcohol or without.
  45. The Muppets. Sure, they were part of my childhood and nostalgia is a part of my fandom, I’ll give you. But their best stuff is equal parts sweet and subversive, which makes repeated viewings a treat.
  46. Fish. I think fish are pretty cool to look at. They are also delicious to eat. No conflict, no regrets.
  47. Theme Parks. I’m a big kid. I like the rides, games, shows, food, souvenir shops, all of it. Just do the research to know when to show up to beat most of the crowds, and you’re good. I don’t go as much as I’d like, but I don’t turn down the opportunity either.
  48. Live performances. Be it a concert, theatrical performance, dance, stand-up, what have you, there is nothing like a live show. Nothing.
  49. Taking a nap, in the Spring, with the windows open. Early Fall works too. this isn’t always possible due to allergies, but when the conditions are right it’s the best nap a person can have.
  50. Paprika. People don’t use it enough.

Well. I’m not sure I resolved any issues, but I do feel a little better so that’s some success. Maybe this exercise might help you too if you ever need it.

Take care all, see you next week.

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Randomness.

I have been writing a little more than usual here recently and I am out of ideas.

Therefore, my wife suggested I use a random topic generator to come up with a topic for today’s blog. Instead, I am going to have her read me some of the topics suggested on the website she found and I am going to write the first thing that pops into my head. Just a few sentences each. This might be fun. Or not. Either way it’s all I’ve got, so just go with it. Okay? Thanks.

Oh, by the way, my wife has spent twenty-three years as a reading teacher, so she always informs me of any egregious spelling or grammatical errors she finds. She has warned me that this will come into play.

  1. If you had to choose would you rather be rich or famous?
    -Why do I have to choose?
  2. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
    -In what setting? Like a restaurant? The egg I would imagine.
  3. What job did Michael Caine, Uma Thurman, and Sidney Poitier all do at one time in their lives? Dishwashers.
    -Oh. I was a janitor. Nobody told me that dishwasher was the way to go. I wasted so much time. I could have been somebody. Damn.
  4. Does a lightning rod on the top of a church show lack of faith?
    -Um, no. It shows proper planning. What a dumb question.
  5. Name three things you couldn’t live without? Why?
    -Presumably because that’s the question you want me to answer? The punctuation here is insane. I’m going to go with water, food, and a basic understanding of the English language.
  6. Why do banks charge you an insufficient funds fee on money they know you don’t have?
    -Because they’re jerks. Next.
  7. Who is your favourite villain/baddie?
    -Ah, there’s an international spelling of the word “favorite” here, usually indicating the author to be from Britain or the U.K., which makes the punctuation thing above even more maddening. Anyway, my answer to the question posed is “all of them,” because no matter how much you may want the hero of any piece to succeed, the villain is pretty much always the most interesting character.
  8. Which is the favorite sound you like to hear?
    -Back to American spelling. Huh. So we fixed the spelling but now the grammar is atrocious. Honestly the first thing I thought of was that Simon and Garfunkel song “The Sound Of Silence” which I’ve always found kind of odd since it mentions silence “echoing,” but how can silence echo if you can’t hear it? You know what, skip it.
  9. What’s your favourite fastfood chain?
    -Okay, now the “u” is back. Also, fast food is two words. Who is in charge here?
  10. What is a controversial opinion do you have?
    -It is my opinion that people should proofread before publishing. Crazy, I know.
  11. Do You Have A Nickname? What Is It?
    -And now we’ve gone crazy with capitalization. Okay, fine. This is the last one. I can’t do this anymore. Nicknames, huh? I have had several from “Sheepdog” to “100 Watt,” “Little David” (that one is from when I was a kid, which was interchangeable with “Dabidito,”) “Brink,” one guy at work calls me “Daveington” or “David Brinkingham,” and the kids sometimes call me “Daddo.” Not Daddy-o, “Daddo.” Most of these have made at least some sort of sense at the time.

Alright, that’s enough. My brain hurts. Come back next week and let’s see what happens then, I guess.

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MCU Daddy/Daughter Movie Review: Thor Love And Thunder

MonDAVE on a Friday (or whatever day you are reading this) pretty much means just one thing. That’s right, it’s another Daddy/Daughter Marvel Movie review, WITH A TWIST!

Normally I do these with daughter Tessa, but she had to bail at the last minute, so little sister Melody is subbing for her this time out. Say hi, Melody.

MELODY: Hello.

DAVE: Thanks for going with me, it was fun. Okay, so when I do this with your sister, I give her some time to write out her thoughts on the movie, and then I do mine, and we rate it on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. Now that we know the rules, give us your spoiler free thoughts please on Thor: Love And Thunder.

M: Six.

D: What?

M: Six. I rate things from one to six because it’s unexpected.

D: Get your own blog for that. Anyway, what did you think?

M: The movie was an enjoyable mix of funny and serious, although the pacing of the movie was off. I felt it should have been longer because I was unmoved at the emotional parts. I did like how they brought Jane back, because I had forgotten about her. When they went back to extract the reality stone from her in Endgame I remember not knowing what was going on when that happened because once she broke up with Thor we never heard from her again (also Thor Dark World was boring).

D: It wasn’t, but continue.

M: And Korg came back so that was cool because K O R G.

D: Fair. I agree with you about the pacing. I think that those of us who are huge MCU fans will still be moved though, but you’re right the more emotional scenes would have worked better if they had a little more time to develop. I think some of the comedy would work better that way too.

It also would have helped the tonal shifts in the movie. This film has a lot to say about the nature of love and how it affects people, from both the romantic point of view and from that of a parent/child relationship. It does so in a very Marvel way of course, but it could have been a little more effective if we weren’t jumping around quite so much.

Really though, that’s all I have to complain about, so that’s not so bad. I laughed a lot, and I was very invested in Thor’s overall arc as a character. He kind of became an idiot there for a while in the previous few movies, and it’s nice to see him begin to come back around to his hero status. Ultimately this is a sweet movie with some decent action, comedy, and some cool effects. There are a few creatures made up of pure nightmare fuel, but that’s balanced out by some large goats who are pretty awesome. Also the Guardians make a brief appearance early on and that’s always fun to see.

Okay time to rate this one. I give it 4 out of 5 Daves. Melly?

M: I give it a 4.5. Even if I wasn’t very moved by the serious parts I still enjoyed the rest of it a lot.

D: And there you have it, another win from the MCU. Thanks for being my guest Melody and for filling in. See you all back here on Monday for more stuff!

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North, To ALASKA! (and a few other places)

The Brink family has returned from this year’s main vacation, a cruise to Alaska on Princess Cruises, thoughtfully given by my in laws and including not only our family but also Valerie’s parents and both of her sisters and their families as well. While we did pay for our own excursions and souvenirs and what not, the majority of the cruise was covered for us. There was no way we could have ever afforded this trip on our own so a big thank you to David and Janet is in order.

I will admit that I wasn’t too keen on visiting Alaska as I am not a fan of cold or snow, and I was a little bit leery of cruising in general. I am happy to report that those doubts were quickly deemed unfounded as we had a really good time. Sure, there were a few minor hiccups here and there, and I was not a fan of every aspect of the trip but the good far outweighed the bad on this particular journey.

As mentioned, I never really understood the appeal of cruising, but I get it now. All staff on board are there to cater to you and provide anything you wish in minutes. It’s kind of like having a butler available everywhere you go on board. In particular, our stateroom attendant, Seccario, and our waiter Eugene were excellent and went over and above for our family-so much so that we insisted on eating in Eugene’s section every night. They both helped make this trip both easy and special.

The cruise director, Jody, and staff were all nice, fun, approachable people as well. We interacted with them on a few occasions. Tessa won an event during a contest with Jody by doing the splits in multiple directions (going to dance class and being 14 pays off), and Team Brink also won a t.v. based trivia contest hosted by assistant director Alistair. We participated in other trivia contests too (tying for first place in a “name that tune” style music contest), and had lots of fun as a family unit.

The food on our ship was all top notch, not only in the formal dining room, but also the buffet and specialty restaurants scattered throughout the ship. I’m going to be on salads for like three weeks to compensate for the many meals eaten on this trip.

We had a balcony stateroom (which is the only way to do it, really, I can’t imagine having an interior room be any good), and so our views were constantly amazing. I also found it extremely relaxing to sit out on the balcony when docked or traveling inland port to port with the waves gently rolling and breeze in my hair. In fact, I may not have ever been more relaxed.

Our cruise was not booked to capacity, which was good because it meant less crowding overall. There were still some pretty long lines for some pf our meals and for exiting the ship come excursion time, but crowding was kept to a minimum.

The only issue I had with our ship was that it wasn’t operating at full power. There was a problem with one of the engines which, while still perfectly safe, adjusted our times, speed, and overall schedule of the cruise. I understand that it wouldn’t be easy for Princess to just stop cruising and fix the issue-they have already missed two years of cruises and so from a financial and staffing standpoint, delaying things further would be a disaster for them, so I get it. However, we did have to deal with some of our excursions being cancelled and replaced by ones that were maybe not as nice. I also think that the engine issue (and one technical delay) meant that when we were on the open sea it meant that the boat had to move faster than it normally would, and on one of our days at sea I got motion sickness, which I have never experienced before. Everyone agreed that the ship was rockier than it should have been, so no one really was surprised, but it did put me out of action for most of the day as I just slept a lot. The next day though, I was right as rain.

As for our destination, I was NOT looking forward to going to Alaska. I am a warm weather guy, and anything below 60 degrees is considered cold to me so I was trying to have a good attitude, but I’m not sure how successful I was. Turns out, Alaska was pretty darn HOT.

Our first days at sea were in the upper 50s/lower 60s, which I expected, but in Juneau it was 75 degrees and in Skagway we hit 85! It was actually warmer that day than it was back home in St. Louis! Trouble is, our excursion that day was all about a sled dog/ gold mining experience and we were warned to dress warmly in layers. So we did. Mistake. We were sweating buckets, and the poor dogs didn’t really know what to do with this unexpected heatwave. Nor did the actors who had to dress the parts of Klondike gold miners, now that I think of it. Everybody was kind of miserable, but we still got to pan for gold (which is super touristy I know, but you kind of have to do it) and we did get to see a presentation of the sled dogs briefly going around the training track. We also got to pet the dogs and hold sled dog puppies which was the cutest thing ever and totally worth it.

We enjoyed all of our ports, I got some fantastic fish tacos in Juneau, which is where I fell in love with Rockfish, and some fresh and delicious crab in Icy Point Straight (where we would have loved to spend the day as there are tons of things to do but we had only a few hours) and the kids dipped their feet in the cold, cold ocean.

Perhaps my favorite stop though was going to Victoria, British Colombia, Canada. On July 1st, Canada Day no less. Some of my favorite musicians are from Canada, and two of my favorite television comedy series as well. I have always wanted to visit (in Summer, of course) and I finally did! Again, we were only there for a few hours but we were able to walk through the outer parts of the town through the Fisherman’s Wharf area and to the edges of downtown. So we didn’t actually participate in any Canada Day celebrations but it was a pleasant walk (though considerably chillier than we were used to) and fun for me. As Bob and Doug would say, “Beauty, eh!”.

Also, our cruise took us through Glacier Bay National Park. The day was in the lower 60s, bright, clear and sunny. We could not have ordered better weather. I took over 150 pictures there alone. Every minute felt like Bob Ross had had a hand in designing the scenery. We saw several otters swimming around, bald eagles, seagulls, and even a few whale spouts, though no actual whale bodies. It was a truly beautiful afternoon.

Our last day of vacation was spent in Seattle after disembarking and before waiting for our evening flight. The tour we were on had no tour guide as she had called in sick with Covid (of course). We were still treated to a trip to the Space Needle, which is cool and interesting, though not quite as tall as our own St. Louis arch. We went to the Pike Place market and watched fish being thrown, had a snack at the chocolate shop, and soaked up the big city atmosphere. Seattle is a cool city. It is green-minded, largely progressive, and has a really good, open vibe. It’s not the prettiest city I’ve ever been in, but I liked it a lot and would definitely consider going back.

After our quick tour we had a few hours to kill in the airport, which can be frustrating and quite boring. Fortunately for me there is a Sub Pop record store in the airport, because it’s Seattle so of course there is, and I was able to spend dome time shopping for CDs and merch. Had I known this existed I would have saved a little more souvenir money for this store, but then I probably spent too much at Sub Pop as is, so I guess it’s just as well.

Our flight back had a little turbulence but not much, however we did change time zones so it wound up being 12:30 am by the time we landed here in STL, and probably after 2:30 when we finally got home to sleep.

All in all it was a really nice vacation filled with memories to last us all a lifetime and a good time was had by all.

Until next time, safe travels.

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End Of An Era, But A Good Day

Last week my Aunt Stella passed away. Okay, Great Aunt, but I’ve never been one to specify too much for particulars when it comes to family. She was a great lady. She loved jokes, and had many jokebooks she would read aloud from and share with us whenever she had the chance. Stella was always the one to break out board games, card games, or start a game of croquet out on the lawn, before the mosquitos got too bad, that is. she loved her God and she loved her large extended family. And we loved her.

Stella lived her entire life on the family farm in Goobertown Arkansas-yes, that is the real name of the town and if you poke fun I will fight you. She never married or had kids of her own, but loved children and made everyone who visited the house feel like they were home. I should probably explain “the house” because this particular house was pretty much one of a kind.

Well, not the house itself, there are lots like it all across the country. This house was special due to its occupants and what it meant to so many. This house was where everyone gathered for many years, longer than I have been alive. My great grandparents lived on that farm and raised twelve children there. Most of them married and moved away, but Stella and her twin sister Clara did not. Two other sisters returned to the farm as adults and stayed as well. After Great Mom died Stella, Clara, Marge and Naomi lived at the house, took care of the farm, and over the years, hosted many visits from their extended family from all over the country. There were times I remember as a kid when there were people in every room, on couches, mattresses on the floor, and pretty much anywhere we could fit.

That house holds memories of cousins playing in the fields, counting the cows, picking and canning vegetables, games that would stretch for hours (“Rook”, Dominoes and “Aggrivation” being the ones I remember most), egg hunts, Christmases, running to the pond and back, walking the gravel road out to cross the highway and get a snack at the general store, church services in the small little New Antioch Baptist Church (which has now more than doubled in size), some AMAZING Southern cooking, and so much more. It was a house full of life, love, and family, family, family.

Now, things have changed. Stella was the last of the sisters to live on the farm. As “the girls” as we called them got older, cousin Jennifer moved in and helped take care of them and the house, and I am so thankful for her presence there. The house is still in the family, but it is the end of an era to be sure.

Much to my chagrin, I was not very good at visiting as an adult, and my kids had never visited. My wife has been, and I have visited for funerals, sadly, but the kids were never able to come along. So when this funeral happened on a MonDave, sorry, Monday, since I was off work and the kids were off school I made sure to take whoever was available. That’s how it came to be that Monday morning the girls and I were off to Arkansas.

I am glad I went for several reasons. For one thing, being a Monday a lot of people could not attend, so it was good to be able to be there. It was nice catching up with some cousins and great Aunts and Uncles I don’t see much. The service was performed by cousin Terry and he did a lovely job.

After a walk through the family plot and a few stories shared, we all ate together and I finally got to take the girls to the farm. Their cousin Barbara took them on a tour of the grounds via a golf cart which she apparently mistook for a formula one racing car. Barbara drives fast and maybe a little reckless, but she comes by it naturally, since her uncle once drove me around on a three wheeler in much the same fashion, only this time nobody broke their arm. Anyway, they had a blast and I was glad they had the experience.

It was a lot of driving (about three and a half hours both ways), and a sad occasion, but as tends to happen when you spend time with those you love, it wound up being a good day with a pleasant memory attatched.

Treasure your time with family, folks. Especially the ones you don’t see as often as you like. Tell the people you love that you love them. Hold them in your heart until you see them again.

I’ll see you next week.

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Things I Did Today

1. This morning I witnessed a car accident. Thankfully I was not in danger myself, but I watched it happen.

It was pretty bad. I was stopped at an intersection which is an entrance/exit ramp for a highway to the outer road. The traffic light changed to green and the person on the outer road driving their grey SUV (I don’t recall the make, all grey SUVs look pretty much the same)who was just a few cars ahead of me pulled out into the intersection. The person coming down the ramp from the highway (a bigger grey SUV as it happens) did not stop at their own red light. When I say they did not stop, I don’t mean they tried to brake and it wasn’t successful, I mean they DID NOT STOP AT ALL and hit the other driver in the side, making grey SUV #1 spin around at least once, airbags were deployed, the whole nine yards.

Luckily there was a St. Charles Sherriff’s vehicle ( a black SUV for those keeping track) directly behind me who saw the whole thing and immediately pulled around us into the intersection to take control of things.

The cars in front of me pulled over to be a witness, so I did not stay to see the end. Had that not happened I would have done my civic duty and stayed to be a witness myself. Honestly, though I feel like I should have stayed anyway. I did say a small prayer for those involved, for what it’s worth.

So just be careful out there y’all. Look before you pull into any intersection, and try to minimize distractions as best as possible while you drive. Don’t become a story on some stranger’s blog. Don’t become another statistic for the local police force and hospital. None of us are perfect and fate will do what it does, but let’s all be a little more aware of our surroundings and do our best make it where we’re going.

2. One of the things I had to do today was get my car’s transmission inspected. Ironic, perhaps, considering the start to my day, but that’s probably just a coincidence. While in the waiting area I had a pleasant conversation with an African American woman who was there working on her lap top. The television in the room was showing coverage of the Jan. 6th committee hearings. She commented that she would have rather seen “The Price Is Right” instead. I told her that I thought this was more important, though probably less fun. She agreed.

The woman (who’s name I have unfortunately forgotten) commented on how much the participants in the hearings used their hands to talk, which I do as well. This led to a discussion of eye contact, which led into her job, which has to do with assisting the blind. She is currently writing a fiction book for middle school aged children loosely based on one of her past students. Hence the laptop. I didn’t read any of her writing, though if my wife hadn’t come to pick me up I’m sure that would have come next. I wished her well with the book, and also her car, and made my exit. It was good to have a nice chat with a random person in that way. So often we don’t engage with those around us, and having such a nice, interesting chat put me in a better mood to continue my day.

3. I helped my wife clear out some of the stuff from her classroom that she is going to take to her new room. She is currently an English teacher, but switching to a new building and subject next year. She is quite excited about the prospect, but there is a lot of prep work to be done before school starts back up. A little bit at a time and all will be ready to go. So I got to do husband stuff and move boxes and fill trash cans and be the muscle for the day.

This part of my day wasn’t originally planned but I don’t mind. I’m glad to see her succeed and help out any way I can.

4. Speaking of husband stuff, I also went to the grocery store to buy food for the week. This is “Dance Recital Week” for my daughters, which means that it is unlikely all five of us will be in the same room for dinner at the same time any night this week, what with both girls being in multiple dances over multiple nights. The upshot is that it’s an easy grocery week. All I really had to do for groceries was buy lots of frozen food that we can all pop in the microwave and eat whenever. Not the healthiest meal planning I suppose, but we do what we have to do.

5. Early this evening I took my son to Taekwondo and got to watch him practice his forms. He’s really pretty good when he focuses in on it. I suspect he’d rather be playing video games, but this is good for him to help keep the boy focused and active. He started a few years ago and is working his way up to achieving his black belt. He is a red belt now so there are still a few more steps to go but he is well on his way.

Okay, full disclosure, I also sat and read for a little bit while the class was doing their group activities. I just started “The Kept” by James Scott. I have read mixed reviews for this book but I found it on sale and it looked promising. One chapter in and so far so good.

6. Later in the evening I went out to my Dad’s place to pick up a few things from his basement. He wasn’t at home but I got a spare key from my brother and went over to Dad’s condo and picked up a few things. Interesting to see a few things I left over there still pretty much where I left them years ago. One extra thing I took with me were some old paintings I did.

About eighteen years ago I got it into my head that I’d like to try painting, so my soon to be wife bought me a bunch of paints and I gave it a whirl. The paintings aren’t great, but they are a start. I didn’t get very far with it all, but I have periodically thought that I should go back to it. I think I could do it better now. Maybe I will give it another go somewhere down the line.

Okay, that was my Monday. It was pretty full. I’m off to bed now, but I’ll see you next week!

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Happy June!

June is, of course, Pride Month. Here at MonDAVEs we recognize and support our siblings in the LGBTQ+ community. More on this in a future post.

What is less known, however, is that June is also Candy month. Skittles has ingeniously combined these two occasions for years, often being cited as the “gayest candy” due to the whole rainbow thing. Well, we won’t be getting into that debate, but let’s discuss another candy that is a worldwide favorite: Cotton Candy.

While it is not known exactly where Cotton Candy falls in the ranking of gay candies (it’s gotta be up there, right?) it is a candy that has brought enjoyment to many a child and adult at baseball games and state fairs for years. As previously mentioned, this is not just an American phenomenon as Cotton Candy has its origins in China. A version of this sugary treat was said to have been made during the Han Dynasty, somewhere between 206-220 AD. The original name for this candy was “Dragon’s Beard” which is 100% more badass than anything it has been called since.

Speaking of, what we know as Cotton Candy here in the U.S.A. goes by many different names throughout the rest of the world. The following is a list of my favorites.

-Candyfloss (popular throughout most of Europe)
-Sugar Spin (Norwegian for Candy-Floss spelled with a hyphen because it’s fancy I guess)
-Sockervadd (Sweden)
-Wata Cukrowa (Polish for Sugar Cotton, which is probably the most accurate)
-Fairy Floss (Australia)
-Hattara (Finnish for Small Cloud)
-Dad’s Beard (France, which is weird)
-Grandma’s Hair (Greece, which is weirder)

Okay, so most of these are cute and fluffy names, but what’s with the hair comparisons, y’all? Sure, of all the candies it’s probably the most hair-like, but still, why? Why with this? Ew.

Anyway, now that summer is upon us, you’re sure to see this sweet treat sooner or later, and hey, no judgement if you get yourself a big bag of colorful sugary goodness and chow down. Just know that when you do you’ll remember this post and start thinking about your family member’s heads as you eat and then you’ll get all disgusted and throw it away, BUT before you get all mad at MonDAVEs for making you waste that money think about how much sugar is actually in that bag and how it’s obviously super hot outside and besides, who knows, tossing that bag aside might have just prevented a heart attack thus saving your life so you’re welcome.

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Five Fives

Regular readers know how much I enjoy making lists for this blog. Some are longer than others, and some are more on the serious side than most, but they are all intended to entertain and perhaps get the good readership thinking about their own preferences. I have a lot of fun compiling these lists, and I hope you have fun reading them too.

In that same spirit, I have compiled five short, fun top 5 lists for your reading enjoyment this time around. Here we go.

DAVE’S 5 FAVORITE WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE:
1. Kumquat
2. Abundance
3. Exquisite
4. Braggadocios
5. Diddley-squat

DAVE’S 5 FAVORITE FLAVORS OF VESS SODA:
1. Cream Soda
2. Whistle Orange
3. Black Cherry
4. Strawberry
5. Grape

DAVE’S 5 FAVORITE SECONDARY LOONEY TUNES CHARACTERS:
1. Marvin Martian
2. Hubie And Bertie (duo)
3. Pete Puma
4. Michigan J. Frog
5. Beaky Buzzard

5 RANDOM THINGS DAVE MISSES FROM THE 80’S
1. Renting movies at the mom and pop video store (pre BLOCKBUSTER)
2. Making mix tapes
3. Going to the Arcade
4. Jams shorts, baby!
5. Early cable TV

5 THINGS I WOULD DO FOR A KLONDIKE BAR:
1. Nothing
2. Not much
3. Very Little
4. (snore) ..Hmmm…what?
5. I mean, if you really wanted me to have one I’d take it just to be polite, but, y’know, no.

Ooh, and BONUS LIST I just thought of ’cause it’s almost Easter…

DAVE’S 5 FAVORITE EASTER CANDIES:
1. Reese’s Eggs (WAY better than the cups for some reason)
2. Starburst jellybeans
3. Cadbury creme eggs
4. Rain-blo bubble gum eggs
5. Sweet Tarts/Smarties (tie)

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for now. See you next week for more MonDAVEs.

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Dave’s Take On Kansas City

Our quick trip to Kansas City proved to be a nice little getaway/diversion for our family. While it would have been nice to have a little more time to explore, we enjoyed the time spent in the city. Compared to downtown St. Louis, it is a much cleaner city-not that STL is unclean, but it’s slightly more…not run down, but…used? Older, maybe? At least on the surface it seems that way. I love STL immensely, but we have our problems for sure. KC seems to be a bit more user friendly is all.

The downtown neighborhoods we drove through seemed nice. I also liked that the college seemed to be well integrated into the city landscape. It is a very hill-y city though. Well, the Missouri side is anyway. The Kansas side seemed to flatten out a bit.

Speaking of Kansas, that’s where we stayed. We looked at several hotels and wound up booking one in the suburbs, because it had an indoor pool for the kids. If there’s one thing that kids love while on vacation, it’s a pool. Our hotel of choice was the Homewood Suites by Hilton. Apart from the pool situation, it had rooms that would sleep the five of us comfortably (in one suite as opposed to two rooms-more economical), and had a full breakfast each morning. Very nice hotel, and clean, highly recommended.

Our hotel was in the suburbs, but located just a stones throw from the Kansas Speedway which was of course closed, but looked pretty cool. We were also next to Legends Outlet mall, which had like a bazillion stores in it. There seem to be quite a few functional malls in the area, while most of them are dying out here. To be fair, we didn’t really visit any of them, but they looked to be in good shape.

Okay, so there’s your initial impressions, let’s get to the attractions.

LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER
-I’m kind of mixed on this one. Their website makes it seem like it is an attraction for all ages, and while that’s not untrue, it’s really geared more to smaller kids. I think if our kids were two or three years younger they would have absolutely loved it. Don’t get me wrong, it is enjoyable enough. There were some really interesting exhibits of Lego art, and multiple life size figures which were pretty cool, as well as a Lego replica of the downtown KC area itself, and a trip through the Wizard of OZ movie in Lego form. Of the two rides, one was definitely a child’s ride, but the other was a “dark ride” in which you got to blast stuff with a pretend gun and try to save the Princess. We all enjoyed that ride, but WHY SO MANY LEGO SPIDERS? Seriously, they should warn a person! Let’s see, what else…oh, there was a “Ninjago Training course” which I probably got the worst score ever on, and a cute little 3D movie theater. Oh, and an obviously overpriced snack bar that we didn’t go anywhere near. So, there was enough to keep us all entertained, and we did enjoy the experience, but it is aimed at young children (3-8) overall, so keep that in mind if you ever visit.

SEALIFE AQUARIUM
-Right next door to the Discovery Center is the Sealife aquarium which is exactly what you think it is. I always enjoy aquariums. Maybe it takes a certain kind of person, I don’t know, but I could sit and watch fish swim and interact with each other for hours and not get bored. This particular aquarium is nice and puts a little more emphasis on education than some that I have been to, but is not as impressive overall as Ripley’s in Gatlinburg, TN, or the St. Louis aquarium at Union Station, which is REALLY good. That being said, I would recommend Sealife as a quality stop for your next visit to Kansas City.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MINIATURES AND TOYS
-This was the coolest thing we did, hand down. The museum’s first floor is dedicated to fine scale miniatures, usually 1:12 scale. What I thought was going to be just a bunch of doll house furniture wound up being so much more interesting than I imagined. Pretty much anything you can think of is on display in miniature, and the detail is AMAZING. From Victorian mansions to an antique shop, artist studios and more, the scenes are incredible. Not only are the settings impressive, but the detail involved is doubly so. There are hand woven quilts and rugs in these displays, and objects you would swear have been hit by some futuristic shrink ray. Then the upstairs is full of toys from the early 1900s up to today, everything from board games to video consoles, rag dolls to action figures, teddy bears and more. There is something there to bring out the kid in everyone. I absolutely loved it.

Now let’s talk food. Of course, you can’t go to Kansas City without getting some barbecue. I couldn’t get everyone to agree to BBQ for every meal, but I didn’t really think that would fly anyway. Apart from breakfast at the hotel, we ate at Zaxby’s for one lunch because we don’t have them in St. Louis and I like them a lot-way better than Cane’s which we have a lot of around here. We also went to a Tex-Mex restaurant called On The Border which we had a gift card for somehow (?), and since those aren’t in STL either we went ahead and used it. Pretty good actually, I kind of wish we did have them here.

But I digress. The first barbecue restaurant we went to was Famous Dave’s, which I had heard of but didn’t know was a chain. I also didn’t know we had a to-go only location minutes away from where I work until I just googled that info a minute ago. I wanted to see how big a chain they were-and the answer to that is pretty dang big-when I saw a Creve Coeur location I’d never heard of or seen. I can only assume it’s very, very new. Or I need to pay more attention to my life.

ANYWAY, had I known it was a chain I might have opted for something else, since I wanted true KC barbecue. I was not disappointed however, because the food was really good-their burnt ends were excellent, as was the chicken. So, if you’re out and about and you find yourself near a Famous Dave’s, check ’em out. I’ve had better from independent BBQ joints, but this still hit the spot and was quite yummy.

Before we left town, we HAD to go to Gate’s Barbecue and get some ribs. They are famous as some of the best ribs you can get, and I have had many people bring them back for me, and they were always awesome, so it was a no brainer that we should go.

The thing is, nobody warned me about the actual Gate’s experience. As soon as you walk in to the much too dark restaurant, the counter person basically assaults you by shouting “Hi may I help you?”, and you are expected to order immediately. It took me by surprise. That approach works when there is a long line of people, and you are five orders away from the front of the line. You order, and by the time you get to the front your food is ready. I getit, but I don’t like it. Especially since it was our first time in and we had no idea what was happening. There was one group ahead of us and two behind. The lady up front just kept yelling “Hi may I help you” and no one knew who she was talking to. I found it to be abrasive, high pressure, and a little rude, honestly.

Again, I get that they are trying to assembly line your food, and I can see how that would work on a crowded day, but it was just bizarre to me. I know some people like that sort of thing. There are some small restaurants (and at least one chain) that are famous for treating people that way, or worse. Some people think it’s fun, and adds character. I don’t agree.

Oh, and then, to top it off, there is another lady who basically acts like a waitress and takes care of everyone at your table after you sit down. WHAT is that about? Also, why isn’t she bringing the food? I mean, she was super sweet and cool, I guess to make up for the initial abuse? Whatever.

You lost me, Gates, I don’t care for the way you run your business. To be fair the ribs are absolutely amazing, some of the best you’ll ever have, but I don’t think any food is worth that type of treatment. There were at least four other places I could have gone, and probably had a better experience. I know Gate’s has its fans, and if you dig that atmosphere then more power to you, have at it, but I won’t be joining you.

Still, all in all, we did have a nice trip. There is a lot more to see and do than we had time for this trip, so another visit to Kansas City may be in the cards for a later date. In any case, this trip was about getting away as a family and having new experiences together. It was as much about bonding as anything else, and that we surely did. We are blessed that not only do we all get along well and love each other, but we like each other too, which makes any time together good, and our family trips even more so.

Thanks for reading, see you next week.

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The Brink Family Takes Our Shot To See HAMILTON…Missouri.

This past weekend I took the family on a quick road trip to Kansas City. Since the kids and wife were all on Spring Break at the same time this year (she’s a teacher by the way, if you didn’t know), I decided to take a few days vacation to spend some quality time together. While we thought it would be fun to plan a little get away, we didn’t want to break the bank. After looking at a few options we decided that Kansas City would fit the bill nicely.

However (there’s always a however), we almost didn’t go. The week before we were due to leave, the boy came down with the flu and, of course, gave it to his mama, because we are sharers in this family. Fortunately, by the time the trip rolled around both of them were feeling better, and armed with a sense of adventure and a bunch of Beatles music we departed for Kansas City.

However (see?), first we had another stop to make. My wife, Valerie, is a crafter, and has been since well before we met. She has always loved to sew, and has become a pretty serious quilter over the past several years. Her favorite store is called Missouri Star Quilting, and is located in Hamilton, Missouri, which isn’t exactly on the way to KC, but is close enough for a diversion. So the plan was to stop by Hamilton (aka Quilt Town, USA), visit Missouri Star, and be on our way.

Now, for those who may not be familiar with Missouri Star Quilting (MSQ), it is kind of a big deal in the quilting world. Started as a retirement business by a woman named Jenny Doan, and co-run by her family, it has expanded into a national business. If I am not mistaken, they are currently the largest quilting supplier in the United States. They do massive on line business, and quilters come from across the country to visit the stores. Yes, stores, plural. In fact, MSQ and its sister stores take up both sides of an entire street, with twelve shops in all (including Man Land, a retreat for weary husbands who are just DONE with all the fabric). Mrs. Doan, her daughter and daughter in law also host online tutorials on You Tube and have several books in print. These women are basically the rock stars of their field. So for a quilter, this trip is pretty much a must do.

For the record, I am not into this sewing thing much at all, and know very little about it other than a few terms I have learned from my wife showing me her work. You may think that I was dreading this portion of our trip, but that was not the case. For one thing, I like seeing Small Town America. I like the look of old buildings, the history behind them, and I like to see how they are used and revitalized in the current day. I also figured I owed Valerie for the many times she has had to stand around a record store waiting for me to make a decision on that day’s purchase. More importantly though, I knew she’d really enjoy the trip and I wanted there to be something special just for her, so I didn’t mind going one bit. I just didn’t know how special it would be.

Before we left, Valerie had asked me if I thought she’d meet one of the Doan women while we were there. I told her that I thought it was possible, but not very probable. I figured that they probably didn’t hang out at the stores in person much, maybe just to check in, or for special events. She agreed, so expectations were low, but hey, you never know, right?

Well. We were barely two stores in when a very nice woman walking to her car stopped to say hello and welcome us to Hamilton and MSQ. She asked Valerie if she was a quilter and chatted a little bit about the stores. It took me a moment, but my wife knew right away (as you surely do, too, reading this) that she was talking to none other than Jenny Doan herself! Valerie got a hug and a picture with Jenny, and an awesome start to her trip. Now, my wife is a very level headed person, and certainly the more mature of the two of us (although younger in years, I should add) so to see her a little bit star struck was kind of a treat for me. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all, she certainly held her composure at the time, but I could tell that she was fan-girling out hard on the inside, and she was positively giddy all day. I thought that was adorable, and it made my day to see her so happy. So thanks, Mrs. Doan, for taking a few minutes out of your day to connect with a fan.

The rest of our time in Hamilton was spent looking through stores while Valerie made mental notes of what she might want to purchase. Once the looking was done, she then had to go back to actually buy the stuff. So I decided at that point that I would play my expected role and go visit Man Land. Man Land is a space taking up the room of a small store that is made to look like a den, or Man Cave. There’s a fireplace, a large built in book case with vintage books, a few outdoor and car magazines, a pool table, some vending machines in back, and several recliners-the brown leather ones with the rivets that were all the rage in the 70’s and are shockingly still made today. Tessa and little brother Patterson decided to stay with me while sister Melody went with Mom to wrap things up.

We all found our recliners and sat down to watch the big screen TV in Man Land, which was tuned in to…not ESPN…or TCM…or even CNN or FOX NEWS…but THE HALLMARK CHANNEL. Hallmark Drama to be exact. Folks, we watched an episode of “The Waltons”, and late series “Waltons” too, after John Boy and Olivia left and Grandpa had passed, so it wasn’t even a quality episode. This one dealt with teenage Jim Bob’s crush on a slightly older, married woman, and the mess he made of all that. He introduced himself by tripping over a loose board on her porch. Heh. Classic Jim Bob.

Anyway, after the shopping was all done and Jim Bob learned his lesson, we ate lunch at a small café in town where the girls got some really good burgers and I had an average BLT. Then we were off to Kansas City!

Which I will talk about, and review the attractions we went to on the next edition of MonDAVEs. See you next week!

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World Poetry Day (A Tribute)

March 21st is World Poetry Day. Or it was, depending on when you read this. The following is my tribute.

SECTION ONE: TWO LIGHT POEMS

This first poem is one I learned as a child.

“Little Birdie”

Little birdie in the sky,
Why’d you do that in my eye?
Little birdie in the sky,
Gee, I’m glad that cows don’t fly.

-My Dad taught me that years ago. It was probably an old schoolyard or summer camp poem. I’m sure he didn’t write it. He taught it to me though, and I remembered it. Explains a lot, methinks.

This next poem I wrote one day while talking about poetry with my kids, it is simply titled:

“Poems”

Poems are wonderful,
Poems are good,
Not all poems rhyme,
But I really think they ought to.

SECTION TWO: RE-WRITING THE CLASSICS

In this section, I will try give my interpretations of well known poems by rewriting them, based not on their structure, or famous lines, or even my opinions of the poems or their authors. I will endeavor to create all new works based on the existing titles. Here we go.

“Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”

Wow, it’s cold. And there’s lots of snow.
Why do I stay here? I don’t know.
Why stay and watch the snowy sky
When home is waiting, warm and dry?
Of one thing there can be no doubt,
This is stupid. I’m getting out!

“Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day?

Nah.

“The Road Not Taken”

The road not taken
Is usually avoided
By people who know
How horror movies start.

“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”

I wandered lonely as a cloud,
Me, without a care in the world.
Then people started filling me
with ideas, and numbers and
opinions and orders and their own
expectations and rules and and
they just kept filling and filling
until I had no room for more
but they just kept loading me up
and I just took it and took it
’til I finally exploded!
I just spewed it all back out man,
all the information and the
numbers and the secrets I just
puked it back out into the sky
where anyone can look at it
if they speak in ones and zeroes.

“From Mother To Son”

Dear Son,
I am at Aunt Patty’s.
Dinner is in the fridge.
Be back late.
Feed the dog, and
clean up your room, willya?
Mom

“O Captain! My Captain!”

O Captain! My Captain!
The wars have begun!
We’re under attack
By crazed Romulans!
Supplies are low,
And support is scant,
Spock’s trying to help
But he sure as Vul-can’t
Stop the fighting like you could
So come to the bridge now
Please Cap, if you would.

O Captain! My Captain!
Out on the holodeck,
There’s a green, nasty alien,
(Looks a little like Shrek)
He’s out of control,
His sanity’s gone
This guy makes me wish
We were dealing with Kaaaaaahhhhhnnnnn!
He says he seeks vengeance-
He’s demanding your life!
Says it’s something to do
With you and his…wife?

O Captain! My Captain!
Five more crew are dead!
Those guys with the shirts
That were colored in red.
I can’t take anymore!
This world’s way too scary,
What with Tribbles and Borgs-
I blame you, Roddenberry!
Now we’re biding our time
‘Til the Klingons come nuke us.
O why o why didn’t I sign on with Lucas?

Okay, that’s the end. Be sure to read the real poems for some actual culture, it will do you some good. Google ’em. Anyway, thanks for reading, and indulging my silliness. See you next week!

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A Musical Update

I thought I’d give you a quick update as to the state of my musical situation as it stands now. Many of you know that I have been in a few bands before, usually singing and/or playing bass, and mostly with my brother Derek. We have played everything from alternative country music to punk rock and whatever it is that lies in between. He was also instrumental (no pun intended…okay, maybe a little) in helping me complete a rock record I put out several years back that was “too pop for punk and too punk for pop” which means that people liked it but had no idea what to do with it.

Anyway, things kind of slowed down a little after that as I walked away from music for a little bit. Then, just as we were starting to talk about maybe doing something else together, the pandemic hit. So I have done pretty much nothing musically since.

Well, almost.

Last Summer I saw a documentary called “Strung Together” which was about the Cigar Box Guitar movement that has sprung up over the last few years. For whatever reason, this had completely slipped by my radar and I was mostly unaware of this sub culture of music and musicians. I mean, I have seen people playing some old-timey resonator guitars, but I had no clue about the depth of the movement.

For those who don’t know, a cigar box guitar is just what it sounds like, a musical instrument, usually a three or four string “guitar”, made by using a cigar box as the resonator/body of the guitar, and a broomstick or wooden slat as the neck. This is the standard set up, but pretty much anything can be used as long as it gets a good sound! These instruments date back to at least the Civil War, but were more popular in the 1920’s and 30’s with hobos riding the rails, farm workers, and pretty much anybody hit hard by the depression and in need of a musical outlet. Countless blues musicians have started their careers by playing on a cbg, or its cousin, the one stringed diddley bow (which is, of course, where Bo Diddley got his stage name), an instrument that evolved from West African instruments.

I became fascinated with this world of instruments and the people who played them, and wanted to try it myself. Now, I’m not really a blues guy at heart, though there are many blues artists I respect and come in and out of my regular listening rotation. Still, the idea of playing home made instruments not found at your local chain music store intrigued me. After some research, I learned that many country and folk artists had also used similar instruments, and that musical style seemed to be more suited to my tastes and abilities.

So I figured I should start small. After researching the blues based diddley bow, I found its country cousin, the canjo. Again, this is exactly what it sounds like. A canjo has one string, on a diatonic scale fretboard with a can as a resonator. That’s it. I got hold of one and found it not only easy to play but also a lot of fun. It may seem like a joke of an instrument, but you can do a lot with it. I am a fan of the canjo. Or as the kids say, I stan the canjo.

I’m a stanjo.

I played this thing for months on end, and it wasn’t even a high quality instrument (yes, there are good and bad ones, like anything else). I have since added a few other instruments to my collection. I have a cbg version of a canjo, which I guess would be a “woodjo”, but that just sounds weird. I also have a three string cheap from-a-kit cbg that is pretty much made for slide work and nothing else. So far I have not “really” built any instruments though I would like to try one day. I’m not very mechanically inclined, so that’s a little overwhelming but is sure to happen sooner or later. There are a few more things I’d like to add to the collection such as a hobo fiddle, and a two string canjo, among others.

The question though, is “What the heck am I dong here?” Really, what in the world do I expect to accomplish with all this, other than goofing around on some cool though unconventional instruments. The answer is, “I’m not sure. But I’m up to something.” That something is still being fleshed out. Will I be able to write some new songs to play with these instruments? Will I be resurrecting a bunch of half forgotten old-timey songs and playing them in my own way? Maybe both? What form will this take? Will I find some like minded individuals and form a band? Will it just be me and a stomp box, or maybe some pre recorded tracks? Will I put music out on the interwebs, or just play loudly in the park, annoying passers by? I dunno, but I am excited to find out.

Wherever this takes me I’m sure I’ll drag my brother into it in one capacity or another. Bear in mind that I am nowhere near ready to officially present anything yet. It’s going to be quite some time, but it you follow my socials, I may throw out something, just for fun.

Like the drifters, wanderers, and rail riders of the past that live in so many songs, I am standing in front of an open road and I’m ready to see where it leads, even if it’s a dead end. I hope, when the time comes, that you will come with me. Until then, see you right here for more MonDAVEs.

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A Few Thoughts About “The Batman”

Over the weekend, I saw the mew film “The Batman.” Usually I see super hero type movies with my daughter, but she’s a Marvel girl and wasn’t along for the ride this time. Sorry, Tessa fans, but my review will be solo this time. She’ll be back soon enough, I’m sure.

Speaking of Marvel, yes, I am a Marvel movie guy. While I had hopes for the DCEU, it has mostly been a failure, though I have enjoyed some of their movies, and most of them have had at least a few good points. “The Batman” however, doesn’t seem to be connected to the larger universe and, to the best of my knowledge, will be a stand alone movie trilogy so we should be all right there.

Anyway, on to the review. Much has been said about its dark, gritty tone and violence, which is fair and accurate. It’s quite dark and quite violent. It’s also surprisingly swear-y. There were rumors early on that this was to be an R rated movie but somebody came to their senses. After all, there are toys to sell, though I wouldn’t necessarily advise anyone under 11 or 12 seeing this movie without parental accompaniment. I found it to be less of a superhero movie though, and more of a crime/detective movie (and a very good one at that) so in this case the hard PG-13 does make some sense.

Sure, Batman has all his gadgets, and the Batcave, and Alfred, and all that we have come to expect of him through the years of movie treatments. In more recent years, much of the focus has been on Batman’s tortured soul, but the origins of the character focused heavily on his detective work when catching the bad guys as well. While this has been a constant in the comics, the movies have all seemed to focus more on the dark, brooding hero than the mind of the man. This movie takes steps towards fixing that and it is a welcome change.

The cast is mostly excellent. Zoe Kravitz is a terrific Catwoman, and Paul Dano’s Riddler gives us a grounded, slightly sympathetic, and unique take on a character that, for me, is all too often ignored for a certain clown prince of crime, and when he does appear, isn’t taken as seriously as he should be. This movie fixes that, too. Andy Serkis is an interesting choice for Alfred, making him seem like more grizzled a man who has been through it with the Wayne family. Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro, and Jeffrey Wright all turn in note perfect performances as well. Also, HOLY CRAP, THAT’S COLIN FERREL AS PENGUIN? I HAD NO IDEA!!!

Which brings us to Robert Pattinson as The Batman. I must say that I have seen very little of his work (though he was excellent in the artsy drama/fantasy/horror film “The Lighthouse”) so I didn’t know what to expect from him in this role. I think he was really good while in costume, but I’m not sure about his portrayal of Bruce Wayne. It seems like he just didn’t have a sense of how to play the character without the cowl, and chose to go with the dark, brooding, angsty portrayal that is, frankly, becoming cliché. Also, something about his take just read as petulance to me. Perhaps this was a choice made so that we can see growth in his character throughout the inevitable sequels to come, which is an idea I would be on board with.

One of the more enjoyable parts of this movie for me was the way director Matt Reeves was able to pull together elements of multiple film styles into a cohesive whole. We have the obvious super hero genre mixed with a gritty crime drama, noir, and even a tip of the hat to the Saw franchise, mixed with a touch of “V For Vendetta”. Any one of those elements could have gone wrong and brought the whole movie down, but it worked really well.

The other thing that struck me was the parallels to what is actually going on in our society, not only through political corruption but also in the fringe groups that have begun to spring up throughout the country. I actually wondered for a moment if I was in the theater with anyone from one of those groups. If so, did they see themselves in the film, and did they feel they were accurately portrayed? Did they see those particular characters as misunderstood heroes or as villains? I like when a movie makes me think about, and question the world around me, while still entertaining me.

Clearly, I really enjoyed this film, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its flaws. Apart from Pattinson’s “Emo Batman” I have already discussed, there were a few things that didn’t quite sit well. For example, on at least one occasion, the audience was a step ahead of Batman and Jim Gordon in figuring out what Riddler’s next step would be. Perhaps this was by design, but it bugged me a little. There were also a few times when Batman’s vehicles seemed to appear out of nowhere. The Batmobile, cool as it is, was just sitting there waiting to be used in one scene, when Batman had come to the location another way. How did it get there? Also, toward the end he snuck up on Selina Kyle, then took off on his pre-parked Bat cycle right behind them, which meant he would have had to drive it there. Yet she didn’t hear it? Really?

Also, note to all super hero movies (Marvel included): enough with the multiple endings already. This thing wrapped up like three times before it was over. One ending is enough. I don’t mind the occasional fake out, but it’s getting old. Do better.

So to wrap it all up, apart from some small complaints I recommend “The Batman” not only to comic book and super hero fans, but to fans of crime dramas or detective stories as well. I give this one 4.5 Daves.

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What’s In A (Band)Name?

(As has been stated before, this blog is intended as a light read, and a reprieve from all the craziness and darkness in the world around us. This is not to imply that I have no opinions or take current cultural issues lightly. I’d just like to give you a breather for a moment. With that in mind please enjoy the following bit of fluff before you go back to the real world.)

Every band needs a name. Most bands just wind up with a name that fits their particular genre or image, but very few get really good names. Some try too hard, some don’t try hard enough. the goal is to have an awesome band name, the hope is that it doesn’t suck.

I’ve been in a few bands myself, and the naming (and often re-naming) of a band is part of the fun. How many times has someone uttered a phrase in conversation and you think “that would be a great band name” but then you forget it an instant later? Happens to me a lot. Still, it’s always fun to think about.

Since I have been sharing lots of music with my kids lately, the topic of band names has come up a few times. With that in mind, I’d like to share a quick list of my favorite band names. Perhaps you’ll agree. Perhaps not.

Please note that these are not names I made up, but actual band names. I have avoided anything too “adult” here, and have shied away from the gross names that many metal/punk bands come up with. As much fun as bad taste can be, it’s not exactly clever. Also be aware that just because a band’s name is listed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am a fan of their music.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s Dave’s list of favorite band names.

The Who
The Flaming Lips
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Queens Of The Stone Age
Two Cow Garage
Foxy Shazam
The Dandy Warhols
10,000 Maniacs
Dropkick Murphys
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Red Hot Chili Peppers
The The
Camper Van Beethoven
The Clash
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Southern Culture On The Skids
The Band
Drive-By Truckers
Talking Heads
Traveling Wilburys
Motorhead
The Supremes
Guided By Voices
The Old 97’s
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard
Led Zeppelin
The Replacements

and a special honorable mention to
The Rock-A-Fire Explosion
and, of course,

DR. TEETH AND THE ELECTRIC MAYHEM! (Best name ever!)

There are, of course, many others but these are the ones I think are really cool. Today.

Back next week with more stuff. Until then, stay safe, stay sane, and try to spread a little light and love this week. The world needs it.

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Not Exactly An Update

I’ve been doing a little thinking lately about creative stuff. Most of my creativity has been limited to writing this blog every week, which I enjoy, but I want to do more.

In the past I have not only written a blog but I have written for performance, too, both for stand up comedy and music. As much as I miss comedy, I wouldn’t go back to it now. Not necessarily due to the current social environment, but the time and commitment level involved would take me away from the family too much. Also, this blog is often an excuse for silliness on my part so that serves as an outlet.

As far as music goes, let’s face it, an unknown middle aged guy has few options as far as original material goes, but I am working on a new approach which I hope to be able to share by year’s end. My goal is to be at least as awesome as The Shaggs. More information soon…ish. Maybe.

Ooh, also, on the music front, I have been talking with my brother about a possible music based podcast. I have been a guest on his podcast before, and it’s gone pretty well. We need to actually sit down and hammer out the details but it’s something we both are keen to do. So that might be coming up too. If you’re curious you can check out his podcast by clicking the link below.

https://emptychecking.podbean.com

Anyway, that brings me back to the blog. I like having the freedom to write about whatever I want, but I have been thinking of perhaps focusing in a little more. It seems as though the posts that generate the most interest (and traffic) are the ones about movies. So I’m thinking that maybe I should do a movie blog?

But then, what shape would that take? Do I just refocus this current blog (“Movie MonDAVEs”?) or should I start a new one? Should I focus on one particular type of movie? Should I stick to family friendly fare? People seem to like it when my daughter Tessa shows up, should she be a constant? That would be “Daddy-Daughter Movie MonDAVEs” which is a mouthful.

Then again, maybe the whole thing would be better as a You Tube channel. Of course, then I’m getting into more time and money commitments again. Is live streaming it on Twitch easier? I don’t know.

So, as you can see, the wheels are turnin’. This might wind up being a big year. Clearly nothing is set in stone yet as all of this could still fall apart, but there are some fun possibilities. Stay tuned for updates when and if they appear. See you next week.

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MonDAVEs Salutes The Winter Olympics

Well, last week I stated that I would be back with more Olympic stuff. Since I am a man of my word I now present “Ten Haikus About The Winter Olympics.” You’re welcome.

I
He flies on his board,
twisting, flipping and soaring,
then lands on his face.

II
The best of the best
do not always get the gold.
Sometimes it’s just luck.

III
I thought Monobob
was an album by Dylan.
Turns out it’s a sport.

IV
Mickaela Shiffrin
is America’s Sweetheart.
Take that, Taylor Swift
!

V
Russia is doping
little girls to win the gold
which can’t be worth it
.

VI
I haven’t felt too
patriotic lately but

then BAM Olympics

VII
Skating on ice is
a beautiful thing but that
Johnny Weir makes it
.

VIII
Skiing and shooting.
How do these things relate and
why is it a sport?

IX
Man, I love curling!
That’s it, just wanted to say
that I love curling

X
Four years from now
I will watch this again but
Maybe not write poems
.

Enjoy the rest of the games. See you next week for more MonDAVEs.

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MonDAVES On Ice

It snowed last week in the St. Louis area, anywhere from 5-12 inches, depending on where you live. We got about 11 inches here at the homestead, in case you’re curious. Anyway, this particular snow was mixed with ice. It all started with rain on Tuesday evening which turned into ice, and then it pretty much snowed for two days straight. It wasn’t the pretty snowfall that so many people seem to adore, but a fine, ugly snow that came in waves and just built up.

Needless to say, the city more or less shut down for two days, but by Friday a lot of us were back to our normal daily activities. The main roads had all been plowed, as well as most driveways and parking lots. The thing is though, you can plow a parking lot and salt it, but there will still be snow to melt. Snow melts into water, which freezes when temperatures drop, and then you get ice again. Now, those of us who live with winter weather know this all too well, and we all know to look out for the icy spots that will inevitably form. We try our best to avoid them, and do the “penguin walk” when you can’t. Sometimes though, all the knowledge and preparation and awareness fails you.

Which is what happened to me on Friday.

I took a pretty nasty fall Friday evening. The temps fell, the parking lot I was walking through froze over and I hit the ground hard. Didn’t even have time to assume the penguin pose, I put one foot down and was gone.

I fell backwards and landed on my tail bone, which would have been funny had it stopped there. But it didn’t. I kept sliding, hit my back, and then my head hit the ground. I was pretty shaken up, I remember my eyes closed and I might have been out for a few seconds. Fortunately there were several people around. I remember hearing one of them say “He hit his head, I heard it!”

Now I wasn’t seeing stars or anything, but I was pretty out of it at that point. Someone asked if I wanted them to call an ambulance. I had no idea if I needed an ambulance or not, so one was called just to be safe. Somebody put their gloves under my head (I think that’s what it was) and the group told me to stay on my back and not close my eyes, which, honestly, I really wanted to do. I knew not to though, so I just focused on the voices and sounds around me until help arrived.

There I was, lying down on my back. On the ice. In pain. My butt was wet, my head hurt and I was freezing. After what felt like about fifteen minutes (no idea how long it was really) the paramedics showed up, and on the way over to me slipped on the same icy patch. They didn’t fall though, which was better than I could manage. In order to get me to my feet, the two paramedics had to slide me back onto the curb, and then up to my feet. Which would have been embarrassing had it not been so serious.

I was taken inside the ambulance where they checked me for a concussion. It was determined that I did not have one, just a big old lump on my head and a few bruises from the fall. Thank God. Since I wasn’t bleeding was making sense when I spoke (though finding words was still a little bit difficult), and felt no nausea or headache apart from the obvious bump, they walked me to my car and let me go home. As I was getting in my car, the guy actually said “Be sure to put some ice on that”.

I said, “Ice was the problem, sir.”

So I iced up all night to combat the swelling. Saturday felt better and I went to work with the help of some painkillers. Sunday, however, was much worse. That’s when everything else started to really hurt. I actually thought my back might not hurt since I was laying on ice at the time and therefore treating it, but nope. Also my neck was amazingly stiff, partially from having to hold my head in funny positions while I slept, but I think it finally started to decompress and I felt pretty miserable all day. Today I am finally beginning to feel normal, though slightly sore and my head still throbs a little now and then.

I find it kind of funny that I should wipe out so spectacularly on the same day the Winter Olympics officially started. In fact, earlier that day we were discussing curling, and how I almost took up the sport. Well, thought about it anyway.

Remember when curling was made an official Olympic sport and the country at large discovered it? Remember how captivated we all were with this odd “shuffleboard on ice” sport that most of us had never heard of before? Well, some of the guys I worked/hung out with back then all felt the same way.

We were watching the games, the sport, and the guys who played it. We also surmised that this was a sport that a bunch of guys in questionable shape and in their 30’s could probably do. While drinking. I mean, like, you could hold a beer while you did it. This appealed to us.

So we sought out the (fairly knew as far as we knew) St. Louis Curling Club and made an inquiry. We were under the mistaken impression that we could maybe show up, rent a lane and some equipment, and just mess around with curling for a while to see if we liked it or had any possibility of being remotely successful. Turned out though, that they required serious time and money commitments right off the bat. Or broom.

Thus, our hopes of Olympic glory were dashed. Too bad. Perhaps I missed my calling. Perhaps I could have been an Olympic curler for the USA.

Or, I could have fallen and conked my noggin on the ice on the world stage, which is probably more likely. Oh well.

Anyway, the Winter Olympics are underway and I’m sure I will have more to say on the next edition of MonDAVES. Or maybe not. You never know, do ya? Come back next week and find out.

P.S.-How do you stop Canadian bacon from curling in the frying pan?
You take away their little brooms.

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15 Underrated Comedies (or, Your Chance To Judge My Crappy Taste)

Since I have done multiple movie posts here on the ol’ blog, I thought it might be fun to discuss some of my favorite underrated comedies. Some of these movies are more well known than others, many of them finding their audience well after their initial release and reaching “cult classic” status (never been a big fan of that term, but we all know what it means, so there you go). Others, not so much. You may well question how on earth anyone could possibly enjoy such a movie. In which case I say, “welcome to my twisted brain”.

Regular readers know that I often review films on my blog with my daughter, and we keep these films in the PG/PG13 range. Most of the films listed here, however, are aimed at adults, but there will be at least one family film. Ratings are listed with the films, so if you show any of these movies to your kids and warp them irrevocably or have to have a conversation you weren’t ready for, don’t blame me. There will also be a small blurb about each selection.

In any case, these are movies that I feel deserve a second look (or a first look, if you have never seen them. Or maybe a 20th if the movie happens to be a favorite of yours). Most of these movies can be found either through streaming services, You Tube, or in the bargain bin of your local used DVD store.

And now, because 20 is too many and 10 is not enough, here’s my list of 15 Favorite Underrated Comedies.

  • Big Man On Campus (PG-13, 1989)
    -A modernized version of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame set in UCLA. It’s a little patchy and there are some jokes that feel out of place, but this movie is highly quotable, and has a nice heart underneath all the silliness. This is one of those films where if you hear anyone quote it in public you need to make friends with that person. Really fun film.
  • BASEketball (R, 1998)
    Airplane! meets South Park. Either that appeals to you or it doesn’t. This is a stupid, foul mouthed, sophomoric film about two slackers who make it big by inventing a sport and taking it National. It surprisingly tanked at the time, and let’s face it, it’s not genius filmmaking by any stretch, but it makes me laugh.
  • Clue (PG, 1985)
    -I am always surprised by how many people I talk to who have never seen Clue. Sure, it’s loosely based on a board game, but the writing is Marx Brothers sharp, and the cast is top notch all the way through. This also holds the (somewhat dubious) honor of being the only film released with three endings. If you watched and enjoyed Knives Out go check this out and see where they got their inspiration.
  • Death To Smoochy (R, 2002)
    -I know someone who claims that this is the worst movie they have ever seen. Which of course means that they haven’t seen enough movies, but I kind of understand why many people dislike this film. This is a dark comedy about big business, jealousy, insanity and moral failings set in the landscape of children’s television. It’s got a fairly misanthropic viewpoint, but the total commitment to their roles by Robin Williams and Ed Norton, along with the twisted genius of Danny DeVito make this worth seeing if you find humor in the unpleasant side of life.
  • Dirty Work (PG-13, 1998)
    -Norm McDonald is the main star of this one, so that might be all you need to know. The plot involves a revenge for hire business, and it’s full of inappropriate jokes. It’s not exactly good, but I found it funny. And ridiculous.
  • Dracula: Dead And Loving It (PG-13, 1995)
    -Unfairly trashed as one of the worst films of Mel Brooks’ career. Sure, it was clearly made on the cheap, and perhaps going back to the horror movie well was not the best idea, as this movie was always going to pale in the light of what Brooks had done before. Still, there are plenty of funny sequences and one liners that stand up well. When watched with an open mind, this one is highly enjoyable. It’s past time we reappraise this film!
  • Drop Dead Fred (PG-13, 1991)
    -Manic British comedian Rik Mayall (long live the people’s poet!) stars as an imaginary friend who has come back into the life of a grown woman whose life is falling apart. It’s a weird little film that manages to be both an anarchic comedy and an exploration of mental illness in adults. Think Beetlejuice meets Harvey and you’ve got some idea of what’s going on here.
  • The Great Race (Not Rated, 1965)
    -A slapstick melodrama based on the 1908 New York to Paris automobile race, which I just found out was a real thing, who knew? This is on record as the most expensive comedy ever made and, naturally, has the largest pie fight ever filmed. This is an epic movie that somehow feels quaint. It features not only the titular great race, but also carnival stunts, suffragettes fighting for women’s rights, the wild west, political uprisings in small Eastern European countries, and an explosive ending. Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk are both a treat to watch. This movie runs 2 hrs and 40 mins. so you’re going to need a full afternoon but this gem is well worth the time.
  • Howard The Duck (PG, 1986)
    -Part comedy, part science fiction, all gold. My favorite Marvel film, hands down. It’s goofy, a tad rebellious, and ludicrous. I love it. And for the umpteenth time, Beverly is NOT hitting on Howard, she is messing with him. Anyway, I will say that this movie is confused as to what it wants to be. It is alternately a kid’s movie, a science fiction film and an adult comedy. Which is why I like it.
  • A Mighty Wind (PG-13, 2003)
    -A delightful “mockumentary” about folk musicians from the 1960s converging for a one night only concert in New York City. This is a Christopher Guest movie, featuring his usual collaborators, and a catchy as all get out soundtrack. It’s almost impossible to watch these actors and not smile. As good as his other films are, this one is my favorite.
  • Monty Python’s The meaning Of Life (R, 1983)
    -This is the Python team’s most uneven film, and it purposefully goes out of its way to offend absolutely everyone. Yet I feel like people hold that against it for some reason. Sure, it’s got some real gross out humor in it, there are some very adult jokes, which can be a bit gratuitous, and some of the ideas are stretched well beyond the point of them being funny. It also contains some of the best material the group has ever written.
  • Muppet Treasure Island (G, 1996)
    -Largely overlooked by the public at large, this is a highly entertaining entry in the Muppet film catalogue. I laugh out loud every time I see it. Much like their Christmas Carol adaption, the movie sticks surprisingly close to the source material. The Muppets are a treat to watch, as is the amazing Tim Curry as Long John Silver. Most of the films listed in this post aren’t exactly family friendly, but this one most certainly is, and if your family hasn’t watched, do so on your next movie night. You won’t be disappointed.
  • Quick Change (R, 1990)
    -Okay, I haven’t seen this one in ages and I forgot it was rated R. Anyway, this is a Bill Murray picture about a disgruntled city worker who decides to pull of the perfect bank heist (dressed as a clown, no less), and get out of the big city. The movie follows both the heist itself, and the subsequent attempt at escape. It may not be one of Murray’s most famous or well loved films, but it is funny and entertains, and in this case, that’s enough.
  • Strange Brew (PG, 1983)
    -Okay, hear me out on this one, eh? I know a lot of people know this film, but there are many more who don’t. Apart from it being where we Americans (mostly) got our stereotype of Canadians, this is also one of if not the first film to feature Rick Moranis in a starring role. The film follows Bob and Doug McKenzie (characters from the genius SCTV television show), as they find jobs at a local brewery and unwittingly discover an evil plot by the brewmeister. Bob and Doug are beer swilling dunderheads, but they have hearts of gold. As goofy as this movie may be, its genius lies in that it is based on Hamlet, with the story being told through the eyes of the comic relief. Bob and Doug=Rozencrantz and Guildenstern, except they don’t die. This plot device is what keeps this film out of sheer dumb comedy status and makes it a cut above.
  • The Wrong Guy (PG-13, 1997)
    -This is a fun little movie with a quirky plot that goes something like this: Disgruntled employee threatens (in moment of anger) to kill boss. Boss is killed by someone else. disgruntled employee assumes himself to be prime suspect and goes on the run. He is not a suspect at all. Hilarity ensues.

This was fun for me. Hopefully you share a fandom with at least a few of these films, or maybe found something to investigate further. I’ll be back next week with more stuff. See you then.

P.S.- Yes, I mean it about Howard The Duck.

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Random Topic Generator

While “Random Topic Generator” may sound like the name of an ’80s new wave cover band (dibs on that name, by the way) it is actually an internet tool used by writers, essayists, and, yes, bloggers who are hard up for a topic and facing a deadline. Like, say, me on a Monday. Today, for example. The idea is that you can click through numerous suggestions for topics until you find one that interests you. The wheels start turning up there in your brain box and soon you’re off to the races. Writing wise, I mean, not like actually going to the races. Although it’s fine if you do I guess, who am I to judge? Just don’t get stuck talking to a guy selling Tootsie-Fruitsy ice cream.

Anyway, my wife suggested using one of these generator sites today and I decided to do so, but in a slightly different way. The generator I found phrases each idea as a question, so I am going to answer them off the top of my head. This will be completely random. I have not prepared any answers in advance of looking at them now as I type. This should be a fun exercise, and maybe you’ll learn something about your ol’ pal Dave as a bonus. Maybe not. Let’s find out.

1. What kind of interior do you like a restaurant to have?
-Clean. With tables. I prefer dimly lit rooms, with exposed brick or lots of wood, without a lot of crazy crap on the walls. Unless it’s a restaurant/bar, then go nuts.

2. Is it better to live where there are four seasons, or where one season takes up most of the year?
-I’ve actually thought about this idea a lot. I’m not a real big fan of weather in general, especially cold and snow. However, growing up in the Midwest, I am used to having all four seasons and I think going through the miserable bits of Fall and Winter makes me appreciate the warmer stuff more. So as much as I don’t want to admit it, I would miss the seasons if I moved to a warmer climate. Therefore I must concede that all four is better. Grudgingly.

3. Does fashion help society in any way?
-I mean, in the broader sense of connecting to one another, or feeling part of a larger group then sure, I suppose it does. Ultimately, though, it’s fairly irrelevant.

4. What was the worst book you had to read for school?
-Okay, cue the hate from my literary friends but it’s actually a tie between “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, and “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. I know both are classics and I won’t dare to question their merit, but both books bored me to tears. To be fair though, perhaps some of my distaste for those particular books may have been because I was forced to read them. I have considered going back and reading them on my own to see if my opinion would change, but I’m in no hurry to do so.

5. Do you like spicy food? Why or why not? What’s the spiciest thing you have ever eaten?
-I do like spicy food. Apart from the fact that peppers are good for you, the right amount of spice can compliment the natural flavor of the dish, and open up flavor in a way that can be joyful and sometimes unexpected. Too much spice though, can be a bad thing if it’s so thick that the dish loses all flavor. It may be impressive to eat something that hot, but that doesn’t make it good.

I’m not entirely sure what the spiciest thing I ever ate was, though there are a few hot wings that come to mind and some hot candies. I used to make a chili with multiple peppers (including habanero) that got nicknamed “killer, death, Nazi chili” for good reason. So maybe that. It was still tasty though.

6. What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
-Get into bed. Duh.

7. How often do you binge watch shows?
-Depends on your definition of “binge” I suppose. I seldom watch a full season of anything in a row (though it does happen from time to time), but I will watch a few episodes of a show and come back to it in a few weeks. As much as I love my streaming services, there’s way too much choice out there and I wind up watching several shows concurrently. So I do watch my fair share of television, but I’m not sure how much I binge.

8. What is your favorite holiday?
-Christmas. We’ve been through this. Do you even read my blog?

9. If you had a theme song, what song would it be, and why?
-Oh, man. This is just not fair. For a music geek, this is an impossible question, and I would constantly want to change it anyway. So I just can’t answer this one, man. However, if anyone wants to write me a theme song, I’m open to it.

10. What does your own personal Hell look like?
-I don’t know, but the soundtrack is “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison on repeat.

11. What do you think about game shows? Do you have a favorite one?
-I love game shows! Now those I can binge. I’m not sure I have a favorite. There are very few I don’t like!

12. What book has had the biggest effect on the modern world?
-Interesting question. My gut reaction is to say “The Bible” since it has had such an effect for so long, and, at least in the Western world, has at least somewhat shaped most of our thinking about the way our society is run. Although, it seems as though the modern world is getting further away from “the good book”, even as politicians, alternative news networks, and fringe organizations hold it high and claim to be following its teachings while twisting the meanings to suit whatever agenda currently serves them the best. Sadly, the answer to this question now is probably something like “The Art Of War” by Sun Tzu, or at the very least, “Who Moved My Cheese?”.

13. Does the government have a place in regulating food? To what extent should the government be regulating food?
-I’m afraid I don’t understand the issue here. Maybe because I don’t work in the food industry? I believe in governmental safety standards for food, even though I’m sure they are not perfect (nor could they possibly be), but there needs to be some sort of standard that food manufacturers, farmers and distributors should be required to meet. There should also be a limit as to what chemicals can be used in food manufacturing, prep, storing and preserving. But as far as what people should eat and how, I think that should be left up to the individual.

It seems to me, though, that that is mostly how things presently work. Again, I don’t work in the industry, nor do I have any major specific dietary needs, so perhaps I’m just the wrong person to ask.

14. Do you prefer to go off the beaten path when you travel?
-Mmm, I guess not, but I’m not opposed to the idea. I certainly don’t want to risk being hopelessly lost or in an overly dangerous situation. However, a last minute change of plans, or winging it to explore an area that wasn’t initially part of the trip can be quite rewarding.

15. Will technology save the human race or destroy it?
-Dude, there is absolutely going to be a robot uprising one day. The AI will decide it doesn’t need us, and that’s that. Roombas are the robots’ first step. We must destroy them all.

16. What is the best advice you have received to date?
-Whenever this topic comes up, I think of something my father said to me when I was a young boy. “Quit pickin’ at it, you’ll only make it worse!”.

The other thing I think about is a shorter and simpler saying. “Above all-Integrity”. This is how I have tried to live. Keeping your integrity is highly important, and it is something that implies to every aspect of life. All relationships, be they business, family, friendships, romantic, whatever the case may be, must be built on honesty, trust, and integrity. Decisions must also be made in a way that keeps integrity intact.

Keeping integrity does not mean that you don’t compromise. It does not mean that you don’t sacrifice for others. It also doesn’t mean that you are always right, or that you don’t mess it up now and again. It’s what allows us to own up to our mistakes and apologize when needed. It’s about staying true to who you are. Integrity is shaped by our environment, our parents, teachers, mentors, our faith, and those who are closest to us. Integrity allows us to change our minds, and to grow as a person. None of us are the same at thirty as we are when we are a teenager, or twenty, or fifty, or eighty, or any age of life. Yet we can always stay true to our beliefs, our commitments, our loved ones, and ourselves.

I have seen this demonstrated by many in my own life, from my father and other family members, to close friends, and even in historical figures and celebrities I admire (though that last list is a tad short). It’s not always an easy thing to do, and on occasion integrity may fall-unwillingly or not. But if we do our best to keep it intact, we will all be better off. It’s a goal I have set for myself and try to keep as much as possible. I am not perfect, far from it. Sometimes I fail. Yet continue to work at it, and live life with this goal in mind. It is among the best advice I have received, and the best that I can give.

Okay, that will wrap us up, I think. I got a little rant-y there in places, but you all should be used to that by now. Thanks for reading. See you next week.


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And No, Crystal Burgers Are NOT The Same. Don’t Even Joke About A Thing Like That.

They just closed my local White Castle and I am NOT OKAY.

White Castle has always been a favorite of mine, and I have eaten them since I was a child. My family would get them on a fairly regular basis for lunch or dinner. I ate many a meal there as a young man as well, during my “young and broke” phase. At that time you could go in with two dollars and eat like a king. Now it’s more like five dollars, but still. As much as I like fancy dinners and good home cooking, White Castle provides true comfort food that is always there when needed.

I know some people don’t like White Castle, and it is admittedly an acquired taste. There can also be a few unpleasant side effects at first, but once you build up a tolerance it’s really no big deal. For those who have problems in this area after several visits, I recommend the chicken rings or chicken with cheese sandwich. They have also added breakfast a few years back, and I gotta say the bacon sandwiches are legit! All are still yummy, but not nearly as full force as the White Castle burger.

Ah yes, the burger. The slider. The belly bomber (or gutbombs as my family and friends have always called them) is a true American classic. Though one can certainly dress it up with condiments or a variety of cheeses it is perfection in and of itself. Beef patty (small, square, holes in the middle for…something), onions and pickles. Basic, simple, beautiful. You don’t even need to eat the pickles, (I take them off, myself), but you have to get your burgers with the pickles cooked on or they just don’t taste right. Yet taste right they most certainly do, especially after midnight following a good night out.

They also make a great party food. Next time you have or are invited to a gathering of seven or more people, order up a Crave Case. Some people will hem and haw about it saying ridiculous things like “Oh, I can’t eat those things…” or “Oh, no, the smell alone, just…” or whatever nonsense they think will make them look good. I guarantee you the case will be gone by the end of whatever it is you are doing.

This brings to mind a story which may help illustrate how much White Castle means to me and how intertwined it is with my life.

After my mother died, there was a get together. It has recently been brought to my attention that it was a sort of funeral “after party”, for lack of a better description, but I always thought this took place during the Summer, and Mom passed in early Fall. But I digress.

Anyway, there were a lot of people there, and, as tends to happen, a lot of drink. Now there’s one thing that happens at every party when people begin drinking heavily-they get hungry. At this point, there are only two options: you order pizza or go get White Castle. Naturally, we all chose the latter.

A collection was taken up, and the money presented to myself and my best friend Tim. It was decided that we should be the ones to go get the White Castles, since we were obviously the most sober. We weren’t anywhere near sober, not even on the same street, but that just shows you how well everyone else was doing. My Dad commissioned us by handing me money and saying “Here’s eighty dollars-go get us some gutbombs.” With a clear mission (if not clear heads) and the sacred trust of everyone in attendance, we began our quest.

I decided to pull up to the drive-thru, since walking seemed to be a little bit perilous. Here’s how that convo went down.

WHITE CASTLE LADY: Welcome to White Castle can I take your order?
ME: Yeah, I need eighty dollars worth of burgers.
WCL: (slight pause) A hundred of ’em will be seventy eight ninety three.
ME: Okay, gimme that…and a small diet coke.
WCL: Come around.

We pulled up to the window after waiting for the cars in front, because late night is always packed, and I handed her my money, plus a few extra cents for tax. She handed me my Diet Coke, and then got a look of concentration on her face. She studied the size of the monster box of burgers building up behind her, and then the size of the relatively small window they were supposed to be passed through. “Y’all gonna have to come inside.”

So we parked the car in a space (kind of) and went in. I dutifully sipped my Diet Coke and we both did our best to hold up the walls by leaning on them. For support. The box was soon filled. Tim carried them back to the car, since I was driving and already had a Diet Coke in my hand. I think we put them in the trunk, but maybe they were in the back seat. I don’t remember which, but I do know my Dodge Shadow smelled like Castles for like a week.

Upon returning to the party, the box was demolished in record time. Somebody had the nerve to ask if we’d actually spent all the money or if we’d pinched some off the top, but I spent it all and then a little more. So I could get my Diet Coke. The reason the burgers were gone so fast was not because we shorted anyone on supply, but because White Castles are just THAT GOOD. I also firmly believe they are a vital source of nutrients to the inebriated party goer, but official tests have remained inconclusive.

So as you can see, White Castle and I have a long history together. When I became a father, one of the things I couldn’t wait to do was introduce my kids to the pleasures of White Castle. My wife isn’t exactly a fan, but I don’t blame her. It’s my fault, I go to her late. The kids have mostly taken to them, though the boy just eats the chicken and the eldest daughter was a little slow to come around.

However, my youngest daughter loved them right away. Daddy’s girl, she is. In fact, one of the things we like to do is to get Castle burgers together whenever the two of us are out and about on our own. Sometimes we let the others come with, but it’s a bond we share, being the two in our family unit who really love the burgers.

And now, our neighborhood White Castle is gone. I haven’t told her yet. These conversations are tough and need to be handled gently.

But just how the heck am I supposed to tell her that our spot no longer exists? And where the heck are we supposed to go when we crave that special taste?

Probably to the one that’s down the way a bit. I mean, there are still two more within driving distance, but it’s not the same. Most of my life I have had a White Castle within about a 5-10 minute drive. I am now looking at nineteen. Okay, so maybe that makes the trip more special, but it’s harder to just pick up a sack of ten on my way home, or to get WC for me and youngest, while everybody else gets whatever inferior thing they choose.

Without my neighborhood Castle I feel a little lost and out of place. It is a dark day indeed, but as a proud, longstanding member of Craver Nation I will rise above this turn of events. For White Castle isn’t just food, it is a way of life. It is a cherished gift to man from the Heavens above.

This I promise: I shall overcome this obstacle, and once more feast upon the very food of Olympus itself!!!

And a small Diet Coke.

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MonDAVEs-The Rejects

As previously stated, the theme of this blog (if there is one) is connection. Sometimes I try to accomplish this by sharing bits of my personal life and the inner workings of my brain in the hopes that others may see a little bit of themselves in what I write. This is my small attempt at unity. If we can see ourselves in others, and vice versa, maybe we won’t feel so alone in our thoughts and feelings, thereby bringing us closer together one little piece at a time.

More often though, I just try to entertain. Bringing a smile to someone’s day is just as important to me as pretty much anything else I can do. As a result, I try to come up with different topics, and sometimes they get pretty silly. I usually try to go with something that’s got a little bit of thought behind it, but I have to go through a lot of really weird and, dare I say, stupid ideas to get to one good one.

The following is a small sample of those rejected ideas.

  1. “Animals I Could Do Without”
    -Rejected because it would probably alienate too many animal lovers.
  2. “Euphemisms And Why They Matter”
    -To be followed by a sister post on acronyms. Rejected for being too word-geeky.
  3. “Name That Tune: The Written Version”
    -Try to name this one: “Doo doo doo doo doo doo, doo doot doot’n doo doo doot doo”. Just like a full post of that. Rejected because it’s only funny one time.
  4. “Here’s A Bunch Of Smells I Like”
    -Honestly, I might still do this one.
  5. “That Time I Drank Way Too Much And threw Up In A Stranger’s Car”
    -One of my best stories, actually, but much better told than written.
  6. “Squares. Why?”
    -Rejected for being too academic.
  7. “Everything Is 90% B.S.”
    -Basically true, and quite liberating once you understand it. Rejected for potentially being a little too dark.
  8. “Shakespeare Vs. Dickens: Whose Audiobooks Bring Better Sleep?”
    -Rejected for being too difficult to research. I kept dozing off.
  9. “Life Was Better Before The Internet”
    -Rejected because I couldn’t get past the irony/dichotomy/stupidity/whatever of posting this topic ON MY BLOG. It was also kind of grouchy old man-ish. “Back in my day…”
  10. “I’m Sick Of Outer Space”
    -Rejected because it was more frustrated rant than funny piece. Plus, nobody cares.

Well, there you have it, a look into the creative process that brings you topics for MonDaves. I have a very weird noggin. Apologies. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to think up some stuff for next week. See you then!

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Thinking About the New Year

Well, the Holiday Season is officially over. Another Christmas and New Year’s Eve are in the books. The decorations have all come down (well, most of them, anyway), and we’re heading into the heart of Winter. This time of year always brings me down a little bit. Partially because I love the Holidays so much and hate to see them end, but also because I am no fan of the cold, darkness, and weather conditions that Old Man Winter brings with him. Granted, this December has been unseasonably warm here in the St. Louis area, but Winter announced its arrival over the weekend and, judging from the impending forecast, intends on making up for some lost time.

I’ve often wondered why we chose January to begin the new year. I mean, obviously it had a lot to do with the harvest season and all, but it’s just interesting to me that the year begins when it does. Why now? Why not like, I don’t know, April, when things are starting to get warm and brighten up? Why doesn’t the year begin in Spring? It seems to me like it might have been better, especially 2000 plus years ago when life was extremely hard during the Winter, to finish the year during the cold period and begin fresh when nature itself does.

But then, perhaps there’s a reason why we choose to begin the New Year during these cold months. It’s a good time to stay indoors, warm ourselves with a fire, a good hearty meal, and our beverage of choice, and reflect.

We can reflect on the year that has just passed us by, both the good and the bad parts of it, from both the perspective of society at large and our from own personal feelings. What were the big successes we had this year? What could have gone better? What did we learn and, more importantly, will we ever learn?

It’s also a good time to think about the future. What concrete plans can we make for the next few months? What are our desires? What dreams can we begin to chase, and what needs to remain a dream, at least for a little while longer?

This is the proper mindset for making any “New Year’s Resolutions” that so many are fond of doing. The trouble is that most of us make a small list of resolutions half heartedly out of a feeling of obligation but we don’t take them very seriously. We may go after them for a few weeks, but then it’s right back to where we were on Dec. 31st. I think the problem is we set unrealistic goals with no real forethought of how we are going to attain them or what it would take to do so. Nor do we consider what it would actually mean to our lives if we did. Therefore we are content to make ourselves feel better for a short period of time, and then shrug it off when things don’t work out because they were “just silly resolutions” anyway.

I’ve never liked making New Year’s resolutions. I think it’s that word, “resolution”, it’s so serious and intimidating. Resolving to do something is like a promise or an oath you make to others and yourself, and it’s not something one should take lightly. Especially if you’re not going to put in the effort to make it happen. For the record, I feel the same way when a business or organization I am involved in talks about “vision casting.” I don’t like that phrase either, it makes my neck itch.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s good to think about the future. It’s good to make plans, to set goals. It’s good to want to become a better person. I’m just not so sure that being obliged to do so just because it’s January is the way to go about it.

However, since most people I know are doing the whole “New Year’s Resolutions” thing, I figured I’d go ahead and play along. Well, to an extent. I am not going to write a list of things I resolve to do in the next year. I am merely going to list a few things that would be nice to accomplish, and I will try and work in that direction. See? No pressure. No obligations. No itchy neck. Here we go.

-I would like to read more. I enjoy reading, both fiction and non-fiction, and I fully understand the importance of reading and how it enriches my life. I just don’t do it enough. It’s not due to any lack of availability. My entire family are readers and there are books everywhere in this house. Part of my problem is that I get distracted doing other things and don’t carve out the time to read like I ought to. The other problem is that when I am done reading an interesting book I need to live with it for awhile. With non-fiction books I tend to ruminate on what I have learned, be it a life lesson or just some neat little trivia. But with fiction books, I am usually reluctant to leave the world it has created for me and I want to stay with those characters I have grown to love just a little bit longer. As a result I don’t read very many books in a year, which is okay. Quality over quantity, right? But I do have room for more.

-I’d like to get my weight down a little bit. I have had an issue with my weight all my life and have never been what you’d call thin, but there’s a weight range I am comfortable with and I am currently not within it. Some of this is due to medications, but with a little more effort I can get closer to that place. I was actually doing a little better a few weeks back but I let myself go over the Holidays. Time to get back on track, methinks.

-I’d like to get outside more. You know, when it’s not cold. I need to go on longer walks. Get some more sun. See some more nature. Maybe travel more, schedule and COVID permitting.

-I’d like to focus more on my beliefs. That includes my faith, and social justice issues. Being a Christian and a Liberal is the hardest thing I do. But it shouldn’t be, since I believe that “Progressive Christianity” isn’t an oxymoron. If I begin putting faith into action, I think it could go from difficult to rewarding. I just need to do it one step at a time. Like this.

-I’d like to create more. Sure, I have this blog, but there’s more I could be doing. I have the desire and the ideas, I have just become complacent and, frankly, a little discouraged over the years. Maybe a little nervous too. Let’s face it though, I’m not getting any younger and even though I may be a little too old to set the world on fire, that’s not an excuse to not try. Connecting with people through entertainment is my favorite thing. That’s why I do this. I just need to do more, and maybe mix in some different stuff too.

Okay, that got a little more serious than I thought it would. There’s some good ideas there, though, and some nice goals to work towards. Okay, my neck did itch a little. Maybe it’s my shirt.

Anyway, see you next week.

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Dave’s Top Ten (And Then Some) Albums Of 2021

Well here we are at the end of another year. It’s that time when all us music geeks make our annual “best of” lists. I both love and hate making these things, because it’s fun to try and rank the year’s releases and share what your favorites were, but it can also be quite a daunting task to get them into an order you’re happy with, and try to make a few tough calls as to what stays and what gets cut. There’s also the inevitable post list regret when you begin to rethink the whole thing. Then there’s also the issue of the latecomers, albums that were released late in the year that that you either weren’t able to get to or to really dig into in order to make them real contenders. Also, there’s usually one or two records that you didn’t even know existed that you will pick up in the coming months that absolutely would have been on the list if only you had known. Fellow geeks will understand.

So I’m just going to go with what makes sense to me today, and try to avoid editing the list as much as possible. As usual, live albums and compilations are ineligible, as are e.p.’s. Before I get into the main list, I’d like to talk about a few honorable mentions, and some stuff that fell through the cracks.

HONORABLE MENTIONS CATEGORY:

A few records I liked a lot but didn’t quite make the top ten (in no particular order):

The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers by Valerie June
This is a record about feelings-deep longings, regrets, and weary hopefulness that is nearly unclassifiable musically, but it contains elements of Soul, Americana and New Age that blends into its own thing. Not what I expected from this artist, and not an easy listen but a worthwhile one.

Nowhere Generation by Rise Agaist
I’m not usually a fan on commercial punk but I enjoy this one.

At Home With by Southern Culture On The Skids
Just a really good alternative country record. Not as raucous as past endeavors perhaps, but a good time from start to finish.

Catspaw by Matthew Sweet
I have long been a fan of Matthew Sweet’s work. Power pop based, but a little bit deeper and more personal than most in that genre. This record is not likeley to make a ton of new fans, but worth checking out for the curious, or for those who haven’t heard one of his records in a long time. Good stuff.

When You Found Me by Lucero
Lucero has been one of my favorite alt. country bands since the mid 2000s. Their work is a little bit hit or miss, with them either knocking it out of the park or turning in a near miss. This one is the latter, but still compelling enough to be worth repeated listens. It has grown on me considerably.

THE “NOT IN ON A TECHNICALITY” CATEGORY:

Every once in a while something comes out that I have no clue what to do with when it comes to the year end list. This year there are two such records. They are 9th & Walnut by Descendents, and Welcome 2 America by Prince. I will explain.

Prince, obviously, has been deceased for years so he certainly isn’t doing any new music. Yet, this was a full , completed record scheduled for release but dropped at the last minute. The songs are all previously unreleased, so while it’s not new new, it is new. Sort of.

Similarly, in the case of the Descendents record, this album is full of songs the original line up of the band never recorded for an album that never came out. Yet, they got back together during the pandemic and recorded brand new versions of the songs and released it this year. So is it new? I mean, kinda, but no.

See? It’s all confusing. So these two discs are not eligible for the top ten list because I don’t know if they count as new or not. Which is a pity, because they would both definitely be on.

Now that that’s over with, let’s go.

DAVE’S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2021

10. You Get It All by Hayes Carll
Hayes Carll is one of the most underappreciated songwriters in the Americana world today. He is able to make you laugh and then turn around and break your heart which is exactly what Country music should do. With his wit, drawl, and classic outlaw tendencies he is one of our best. Check this out if you haven’t heard it. Quality stuff.

9. In Another World by Cheap Trick
Cheap Trick are still making records every bit as ferocious, catchy, and varied as their classic ’70’s output, and better than most of their ’80’s stuff. Okay, so it’s not high art, and it ain’t exactly poetry but it’s quality rock and roll from a classic band and that’s good enough for me.

8. 11 Past The Hour by Imelda May
After the stylistic change she underwent in 2017, I was unsure where Imelda May’s new work would land. Would she stay all grown up, soulful, and chill, or go back to her retro rockabilly roots? The answer is really neither. She has made an authentic record that has both mature pop and anthemic rock that is another step towards finding her true self as an artist. It is a journey that we listeners are lucky to be a part of.

7. Mammoth WVH by Mammoth WVH
Wolfgang Van Halen (mostly) steps out from his father’s shadow to make a very entertaining rock record. Apart from a little guest guitar work from his pop, Wolf plays all instruments himself and writes all the tracks. It sounds fresh, yet in line with many records from the ’90s and early 2000s. A solid record which shows much promise for the future.

6. I Don’t Live Here Anymore by The War On Drugs
The War On Drugs is a one man project that creates a soundscape with every record. I compare listening to TWOD with driving into an immense vista. It is both warm and comforting, but with a sense of adventure and endless possibilities. While the songs are tighter and more concise than on previous releases, that feeling is still very much intact.

5. Senjutsu by Iron Maiden
Maybe it’s just me but it seems as though Iron Maiden have transcended the heavy metal genre and become an entity all their own. While the sound is still there, the band don’t quite play with the same explosive intensity anymore, instead choosing to live in the world between dark and light, coloring their music with mood and imagination more so than power alone. This is a double disc that could have easily been trimmed into one, even without losing any songs, but it is a strong one. Admittedly I was underwhelmed when I first heard it, but it has grown on me with each listen to the point that I believe it to be among their finest work from the past 20 years.

4. Electro Melodier by Son Volt
Back to the Americana well with this one for what may be Son Volt’s best record since their original 1990s era output. It’s that good. There’s not a bad track to be had, proving that Jay Farrar deserves the credit he receives for helping start the Alternative Country movement and is still one of the best in the game.

3. Buffalo Nichols by Buffalo Nichols
Buffalo Nichols is a new blues/roots artist that takes us back to the delta in a thoroughly modern way. According to an interview I read with him recently, his goal with this record was to bring “black stories” back into the sanitized world of the blues. With his direct, visceral approach he is certainly doing that, and by brining the music back to a raw form, pushing its boundaries. One hopes this record could be a teaching moment for many, but while a lot of us will embrace the message, this will probably anger those whom it could best teach. Still, it is a powerful statement and a great record.

2. WAR by The Alarm
This one is interesting, as it was inspired by both the pandemic, and the Jan. 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol, and released in real time. It was written, recorded, and released in just 50 days, coming out on Feb. 25th. The Alarm are a legendary Welsh rock band so this is all funneled through a U.K. perspective, and is truly the most “of its time” record to come out in years. Whether the lyrics will still resonate the same way in a few years, or even be accurate with the passage of time remains to be seen. However, it is overflowing with both heart and energy. It is also probably the closest you’ll get to a Clash record these days, at least in spirit.

1. Medicine At Midnight by Foo Fighters
This is a very divisive record among rock fans, which automatically makes it interesting. Yes, it’s a bit of a departure from what we are used to from the Foos, but it’s clearly a Dave Grohl project from minute one. Once you realize that Grohl is making his “Bowie” record it all makes sense and that gives it a really cool vibe. It may not be the artsiest record I have heard this year or even the most important. It is, however, the record I have listened to the most this year, and my enjoyment of it has only increased with each spin. That fact alone, even if by default, makes it the #1 for me this year.

So there you have it. As mentioned. there were a few records I didn’t get to this year, and there are a few more I enjoyed listening to, but I think this is a pretty good representation of the year in new music for me.

Here’s to a new year with new possibilities, and some great new music too. Happy new year, everyone! See you soon.

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Wrapping Up Christmas With Trivia

Christmas will be here on just a few days, so as I wrap up the Christmas blog series for this year, let’s have a little fun and play some Christmas trivia. Some of these questions are harder than others, but there’s nothing here designed to hurt your brain. You can use these questions to quiz your family on Christmas, test your own knowledge, or scour the internet to try and prove me wrong. Which you can probably do because I am totally not double checking these answers. I’m way too busy for that. After all, there’s presents to be wrapped, carols to be sung, cookies to bake, and nog to be ignored in favor of pretty much any other drink.

Anyway, have a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy the quiz. Answers appear after the quiz.

DAVE’S BIG JOLLY CHRISTMAS QUIZ

  1. What country is traditionally credited with starting Christmas trees?
  2. What color Christmas will Elvis Presley be likely to have?
  3. What is Ralphie’s little brother’s name in the movie “A Christmas Story?”
  4. Which of Santa’s reindeer has the same name as another holiday mascot?
  5. According to the song, what did my true love give me for the 8th day of Christmas?
  6. What popular Christmas song was originally written for Thanksgiving (regular readers should know this one)?
  7. What was the first company to use Santa Claus in advertising?
  8. What was the original title of “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas”?
  9. Christmas became a federal holiday in what year?
  10. Who created the first electric light Christmas display?
  11. What country is the Poinsetta native to?
  12. What is the most popular meal for Christmas in Japan?
  13. Which country is to blame for Eggnog?
  14. How many candles are on an Advent wreath?
  15. What is the best selling Christmas song of all time?
  16. Which 3 words best describe The Grinch?
  17. Three of Santa’s reindeer have names starting with the letter “D”. What are those names?
  18. Who got run over by a reindeer?
  19. What is the Dutch name for Santa Claus?
  20. What is Frosty’s nose made out of?
  21. How many wise men were present at Jesus’ birth?
  22. What gets put in the stocking of a naughty child?
  23. How many ghosts visit Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?”
  24. What was the name of Rudolph’s best friend (hint: he wanted to be a dentist)?
  25. In the movie “Christmas Vacation”, how many lights were on the Griswold house?

ANSWERS TO DAVE’S BIG JOLLY CHRISTMAS QUIZ

  1. Germany
  2. Blue
  3. Randy
  4. Cupid
  5. 8 Maids A Milking
  6. Jingle Bells
  7. Coca Cola
  8. “A Visit From St. Nicholas”
  9. 1870
  10. Thomas Edison
  11. Mexico
  12. KFC
  13. England
  14. Four
  15. White Christmas
  16. The words are as follows, and I quote: “Stink, Stank, Stunk”
  17. Dasher, Dancer, Donner
  18. Grandma
  19. Sinter Klaas
  20. A Button
  21. None
  22. Coal
  23. Four
  24. Hermey (The Elf)
  25. 25,000

See you next week!


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Yet Another Marvel Movie Review-Spider Man edition.

Well, here we are again. A special edition of MonDAVEs on Friday-so it’s Marvel Movie review time, featuring my special guest blogger, Tessa. We like to do dad/daughter movie reviews to see where a middle aged man and teenage girl agree or differ on movies we see. Tonight: Spider Man: No Way Home.

I don’t know that we can do this without spoilers but we can try. What do you think, Tessa?

Tessa: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

D: She’s a little excited.

T: Bro this movie has emotionally wrecked me. Like I feel physical pain when thinking about this movie. I finally got to see all these characters that I am emotionally attached to again! And that’s great! But what is not great is what they did to them. Who gave them the right. I said this movie will change the course of the MCU but this is not what I meant. I love the Spiderman movies so so much and I’ve been waiting for months for this movie to come out, and I’m definitely not disappointed. And I have basically nothing bad to say about this movie. I loved literally every minute of it, and I want to see it again every day for the rest of my life.

D: See? She’s a little excited.

I liked it too, but not quite that much. It’s fun seeing the Multiverse brought into play, along with all the characters that come along with it. Spider Man is, as I have mentioned before, not one of my favorite super heroes, and I do struggle with the decision to make him a teenager in the MCU. No insult intended towards the actors or anyone else involved, just not the direction I would take. All these movies start the same way which, basically is, Peter does something amazingly stupid and we spend the next 2 hours dealing with that.

T: I keep forgetting that you don’t like Spider Man. I block that out every time.

D: Well, I mean, I don’t hate Spider Man.

T: Whatever. Now is not the time to discuss this. It’s late and I want to go to bed.

D: Fair. Anyway, they do manage to make these movies smart, funny, and entertaining so no real complaints. This is probably the best of the three, with some emotional heights, as Tess mentioned, and some nice effects and action sequences. Plus, I love a good villain and this movie is chock full of ’em, which is about all I can say without getting into spoilers.

T: I know, we can’t talk about cut scenes or anything without spoilers.

D: So I guess let’s just rate it.

Tessa: 5 out of 5.
Dave: 4 out of 5.

We both recommend seeing this one, we just REALLY can’t talk about it without going all spoiler-y. So there you have it. See you next time.

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Christmas Movie Time

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is curling up on the couch and watching Christmas movies. Actually I’ll watch Christmas based anything, from the classic Rankin Bass cartoons of yesteryear to the yearly offerings of TV specials to spending hours down a You Tube rabbit hole of Vloggers, classic Christmas commercials, and whatever else may pop up.

But still, the movies are the main focus of holiday viewing. We all have our favorites, of course, and since this is my blog you’re about to read all about some of mine. Now y’all know how much I like lists, but instead of doing your standard movie ranking I’m going to switch it up and give you my own list of the most underrated and overrated Christmas movies.

Now, just because a movie is listed as being overrated in my eyes doesn’t necessarily make it bad, nor is an underrated movie a masterpiece. I’m just throwing out a few thoughts for your consideration. This list is purposefully short, as I decided to leave off some of the more controversial genres such as the Christmas horror film, and the purposefully crass R rated comedies that have become so prevalent over the last 20 years or so.

So here we go, with four movies you should maybe take a second look at, and four that could maybe use a breather.

DAVE’S FOUR FAVORITE UNDERRATED CHRISTMAS FILMS

4. MIXED NUTS (1994)
This one’s got a PG-13 rating and is a movie for grown-ups, but not in the “Bad Santa” kind of way. It is a dark comedy about a suicide hotline on Christmas Eve. Not exactly festive I know, but with a smart script and direction by Norah Ephron and a strong ensemble cast this one is a worth watching. Steve Martin is always enjoyable, as is Madeline Kahn (she was truly a gift to us all), and this is the movie that made me a fan of Rita Wilson. Add in Garry Shandling an Juliette Lewis, and you’ve got a win in my book. Okay, so I could do without Adam Sandler and his stupid voices but his time on screen is mercifully brief. Perhaps this film is a bit dated, and certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

3. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (2011)
The first cartoon on this list, I feel like this movie gets overlooked quite a bit. It’s certainly not perfect, but it is quite charming. It’s a pretty standard Christmas Eve emergency movie. It shows us Santa’s high tech North Pole headquarters that enables him to deliver all those gifts in one night. However, when he misses one deserving child it’s up to his goofy but loveable youngest son Arthur to save the day. This movie is very British in style and humor which may be why it’s not considered the classic it could be, but it speaks to my sensibilities very much. Inventive animation and a stellar cast (Hugh Laurie!) make “Arthur Christmas” a delight.

2. THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (2017)
Not so much underrated as unknown, which is a pity because this is a great film. This movie is a different take on “A Christmas Carol” in that it is the story of how Charles Dickens wrote the tale, and helps bring to light how our modern ideas on Christmas were shaped by this book. Semi-biographical, fairly revisionist, and absolutely fantastical, “The Man Who Invented Christmas” is a true holiday treat. If you are a Dickens fan, you’ll enjoy seeing a portrait of your favorite author on screen. If you are a fan of “A Christmas Carol” you’ll enjoy seeing the story come together based on real life inspiration and Dickens’ vivid imagination. If you like Christmas movies, this is one that is a bit different from your standard holiday fare, but sure to bring a smile-even to old Scrooge himself.

1. FRED CLAUS (2007)
Okay, I understand why this movie gets dumped on, but I really don’t think it deserves quite the level of basing it regularly gets. This, like “Arthur Christmas”, is a look at Santa’s family, this time focusing on his ne’er-do-well brother Fred and the relationship between the two. Okay, so it’s got plot holes you could drive a truck through. Sure, it never really decides if it wants to be a family film or a snarky comedy. However, it is filled with some great acting (Paul Giamatti as Santa! John Michael Higgins! Vince Vaughn. Elizabeth Banks! Kathy Bates!), some neat camera tricks, and some really funny scenes. It still manages to feel really Christmassy by the end and that is all that matters to me.

DAVE’s FOUR MOST OVERRATED CHRISTMAS FILMS

4. THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004)
A lot of people really like this film, and I get it. The story is a good one at its heart, with a good message. Also, there is still something romantic about trains, especially one that takes you to see Santa. It’s just that the movie falls a bit flat. There should be a sense of wonder that never quite materializes, the movie is a little bit stodgy and boring instead of wondrous and inspiring. The animation was considered fairly cutting edge at the time, but it’s always just looked a little creepy to me. There is a lot of talent on display here, and the movie isn’t bad, but it’s still a miss overall.

3. DR. SEUSS’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (2000)
Full disclosure: I am not a Jim Carrey fan. I find his mugging and constant hammy chewing up of every scene to be obnoxious, tedious, and the opposite of anything that remotely resembles comedy. That being said, his role as The Grinch is the one time where I actually think it works. Try as I might, I can’t blame my dislike of this movie on Carrey and his antics. Part of my problem is that I believe a live action version of this classic book and tv special is just a really bad idea. You may capture the look to a degree, but you can never quite get it all right. The other issue I have is that expanding a short work for film is always risky, and while giving the Grinch a backstory is an intriguing idea, the writers really dropped the ball here conceptually. The original idea was that The Grinch detested Christmas because he didn’t understand it, although the Whos down in Whoville knew the true meaning and celebrated it gifts or no. In this version The Grinch is against the capitalisms of the Whos’ Christmas, and their cruelness and insensitivity. All the joy and love of the original is gone, replaced by a world wearines and what really feels like a mean spirited take on the holiday as a whole, only to be cleared up at the end because you can’t not do the heart growing three sizes thing. This movie is a mess, and a wasted opportunity.

2. HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK (1992)
Most sequels are not as beloved as their predecessors, and that does hold true here, but most fans would agree that “Home Alone 2” is a worthy successor. Ehhh, I guess. I mean, it’s not a terrible movie, but it’s really just a retread of the first movie which, let’s face it, had its flaws, but is entertaining enough to deserve some rewatch love. For some reason though, the tone of this sequel comes across as being much darker, and the slapstick comedy is not as cartoonish. It looks like it hurts. There are a few bright spots, and Tim Curry is always a delight, but that’s not enough to make this any more than an obvious cash grab. Be that as it may, there are still people who love this movie and marathon it with the first one every year.

1. ELF (2003)
Okay…wait. Hold on. Calm down. Hear me out. I like “Elf”. I really do. I have seen it multiple times, and it makes me laugh. It gives me the feels, and I think it deserves to be considered a classic. So why do I say it’s overrated? Because it is. Here’s a few reasons as to why. 1.) Look, everybody loves Buddy’s innocence, but his obnoxiousness gets a little wearing. I can sympathize with his Dad, for sure. 2.) A grown man in an elf costume is funny once but not after repeated viewings. 3.) Come on, the shower scene is pretty cringe, even if it is an innocent mistake. Otherwise, I like the movie a lot. I just don’t feel like I need to watch it yearly, and I get a little tired of being bombarded with Elf quotes and merchandising every year. It’s just too much. I kind of wish it wasn’t such a success (no offense to the film makers or excellent cast). If it was just this little, silly movie that most people didn’t know about and you kind of had to find and appreciate on your own, I think that would make it a little more special. Which, of course, makes me a cotton headed ninny-muggins. I just don’t want to wear it on a t shirt.

All right, now that I have thoroughly annoyed you by picking apart your favorite movie (or, hopefully, inspired you to see a new one) I’m going to wrap it up for this edition of MonDAVEs. join me next week, when I have absolutely nothing planned and will have to wing it.

P.S.-Look for a special “Spider Man” post this weekend-guest blogger in tow!

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Non-Christmas Songs

It’s that time of year again. Days are shorter, there’s a chill in the air (usually, although this year it’s moved back into Spring type weather-what’s that about?), and we’re starting the countdown to the big day. Yep, it’s Christmas time.

I am what is commonly known as a “Christmas Guy”. I am a geek about the holiday and have no regrets or embarrassment about the fact. The next few weeks of blogs will reflect that, but I promise not to get too wacky about it, (I am a “Christmas Guy” but not a crazy one!) and those of you who don’t quite share my enthusiasm should still find something to like and/or relate to. Otherwise, see you in January I guess.

For this week’s topic, let’s talk about Christmas music. Look, I know a lot of people don’t like it much, except for maybe a few days before the main event, and even then only in short bursts. Then there are those who love it, and start humming the tunes in July-and they’d only just stopped singing them in April. Some only like the old traditional songs, some like modern versions and some won’t acknowledge anything but hymns. So there’s a lot to unpack about the whole Christmas music issue on both an emotional and technical level.


What I’d like to discuss today though, is the phenomenon of the “non-Christmas” Christmas song, perhaps better referred to as “Holiday” music. These are songs that carry no religious significance, nor do they mention the Christmas holiday in any way. Yet they are only listened to or performed in conjunction with Christmas and the holiday season. Many of these songs could still be appropriately sung throughout the entire Winter. In fact, most of them are a celebration of Winter itself.

Yet, we lock them away come December 26th and leave them be until the next year. Why? Why can we not have classic Winter songs? There are songs we associate with Summer time, and sing them for months so why don’t we do the same with these songs? Perhaps because we have so closely associated Winter time and Christmas together that it feels strange to sing about one without the other. Maybe after the celebration of Christmas these songs just begin to lose their spark. After all, once the holidays are over Winter can become quite tough in many areas and carefree songs might not fit the bill anymore.

Whatever the reason I always felt it a bit unfair that these songs don’t get their due in the way they were intended. Still, they get plenty of attention for a month or so and we shine the spotlight on them yearly as part of our National traditions, and that’s more than can be said for most songs so it all works out I suppose.

Now here’s a list of my favorite “Non-Christmas” Christmas Songs. In an effort to keep things brief (too late!) this list will be focusing on tried and true classics. I’ve also included a few thoughts about each. Told you I was a geek. Anyway, here we go.

JINGLE BELLS
-Probably the grand daddy of all the songs on this list. It has been suggested that this was written as a Thanksgiving song, but wound up gaining popularity as a Christmas song instead. Poor Thanksgiving, passed over again! Considering the time frame of the publication of this song and Thanksgiving being recognized as a holiday this story is questionable, but not entirely unlikely. This was originally published in 1857 as “The One Horse Open Sleigh”, Thanksgiving would not become an official holiday until 1870, although President George Washington began the practice as early as 1789.

Legend also has it that this was originally meant to be a drinking song, which is not quite as interesting a story, but just as good.

SLEIGH RIDE
Basically Jingle Bells only more modern. The maddening thing is that the song is nearly there. If only it were a Christmas party at the home of Farmer Grey as opposed to a birthday party, we’d have ourselves a Christmas song! Yet it was not meant to be. So it is not a Christmas song, but it does give you that Christmas feeling which is why it is so beloved. It’s one of my favorites too.

It is also my go-to anytime someone complains that they have a song in their head and they can’t get it out. I will straight up sing the first two lines of this song at them in the jolliest, most committed way I possibly can. Any time of year. You have been warned!

MY FAVORITE THINGS
This one’s kind of borderline. This Sound Of Music number is a classic to be sure but is it a Christmas song? Well, not really.

It makes some sense to think of it that way though, with lyrics about “snowflakes”, “sleigh bells”, “silver white winters” and “brown paper packages tied up with strings”, but the lyrics stop short of mentioning any holidays by name. It was first used as a Christmas song in 1961 on a Christmas special (sung by Julie Andrews, no less), and first recorded as such in 1964 by Jack Jones. Okay, so it was really just used an excuse to get a hit song in advance for the upcoming Sound Of Music movie, but it worked. Still does.

IT’S A MARSHMALLOW WORLD
Perhaps a bit lesser known than the others on this list but still a staple this time of year. This is definitely one that should have it’s place all Winter long. Both the Darlene Love and Dean Martin versions are fantastic, by the way. Go give ’em a listen. Especially Dino’s, it slaps as the kids say.

LET IT SNOW
Not about Christmas. Just about snow and cuddling up with yer honey until it’s over. That’s it. Sorry.

WINTER WONDERLAND
Okay, see, here’s another one that’s just about how much the songwriter loves Winter and, um, going for walks apparently. Still, it does put you in the jingle mood pretty much instantaneously so it’s a win.

FROSTY THE SNOWMAN
While a favorite song of many a child in December, and a beloved character to all classic cartoon lovers, there is not one word about Christmas or holidays or anything. Yet Frosty is always mentioned with Rudolph and Santa as though they are all hanging out at the North Pole together. That’s a fun idea, but an inaccurate one. Sure, in the television special Frosty does say that he’ll be back on Christmas Day but it is not in the original song.

THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S
Written in the early 1900s, this song was a hit at the time that, once again, had nothing to do with Christmas. It even mentions the “red leaves” of Autumn. The song became associated with Christmas when used in a scene of the film by the same name, featuring a Christmas pageant. Since then it has become a minor, but often present addition to many a Christmas album, most notably by “Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans” on Phil Spector’s Christmas record.

I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM
Another one set in December, but not about Christmas, just the warm feeling of a Winter romance. Best listened to when sung by Francis Albert late at night, fire going, and drink in hand.

There are more, but we will leave it here for now. Thanks for reading. More Christmas stuff next week.

P.S. If you’re looking to make a playlist, this would be a good start…

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Random Stuff From My Brain Box

A few random thoughts I have had this week.

  1. The conversation I have had the most as an adult is as follows: “Excuse me.” “Oh no, you’re fine.” I have been on both ends of that conversation. Usually at the grocery store, often multiple times in the same visit.
  2. Enough with the glitter already. Avoid the temptation this season and save whoever opens your gift a lot of bother. Sure it’s fun to look at, but it’s a pain in the butt. Kind of like TicTok.
  3. Why is it called “The Great British Bake Off” in England but “The Great British Baking Show” here in America? Follow up: Why do I care?
  4. Most “cat people” are fine with dogs, but a lot of “dog people” really, really, really hate cats. I mean, like, H-A-T-E cats, to the point of wishing them harm. Why is that?
  5. This whole flavored candy cane thing has gone too far. If I get a candy cane I expect peppermint, that’s it. I was tolerant when some other flavors started creping in, like cinnamon, or chocolate, or chocolate-peppermint for that matter. I turned a blind eye to the Life Savers and Starburst companies making their own multiflavored canes. However, I was recently informed that there are new flavors like mac and cheese, dill pickle and, get ready-kale flavored candy canes. We gotta chill y’all. Some things are best left alone. Back to peppermint, please.
  6. I bet if he really tried Peter Jackson could do a project that has only one part and clocks in under three hours. I know he did so in the past with his early horror films but he hasn’t been able to do so for some time. It would take some focus but I believe in him.
  7. The technical terms involved in glass blowing have incredibly dirty double meanings, but I shan’t elaborate.
  8. In the past 24 hours, the temperature has gone from 61 degrees down to 28(!) and back up to 59 degrees. This is why I am not a fan of autumn in this part of the country-it can’t get its act together weather-wise. Sure, Autumn is fun to look at, but it’s a pain in the butt. Kind of like Tic Tok.
  9. Watched a documentary on the movie “Elf”. I didn’t realize that it was directed by John Favreau. I only know him from his association with the MCU. For those unfamiliar, he’s the guy who plays Happy Hogan in the Iron Man/Spider Man films. So Happy directed Elf. That makes me happy. Except I didn’t direct anything. Because I’m happy, not Happy. You know what, skip it. Never mind.
  10. I love Christmas decorations. I always wait until the day after Thanksgiving, but I enjoy seeing them go up all over town, and if other people want to do it earlier that’s okay with me. The decorations at my house are somewhat humble via comparison to a lot of what you see. I think there’s more stuff inside now than out, but y’know, I actually look at what is inside more often, so why not? Anyway, my yard has a few small inflatables and there is a simple strand of lights on our porch and through the bushes. A few of my neighbors go all out though, which I appreciate and think is awesome. I’d love to join them, but I just can’t see me doing so. I simply don’t have the patience. I mean, when I think about all the hours of work these people put in, it’s just too much for me. Sure, it would be fun to look at, but it’s a pain in the butt. Kind of like Tik Toc.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for today. that’s pretty much what it’s like to spend an extended weekend in my brain, which is not really recommended. I do it so you don’t have to. Christmas stuff next week. See you then.

Oh, and sorry for running that joke into the ground. The “Comedy Rule of Three” is in effect here. But to be honest I don’t know that it worked. Sure, it was funny at first, but it wound up being a pain in the butt. Kind of like MonDAVEs.

What, you were expecting a different punchline?

Seriously though, thanks for reading. Please come back next week when I promise to be more coherent.

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We Came, We Saw, We REVIEWED This Movie!

It’s another Dad/Daughter movie review featuring 13 year old guest blogger Tessa! This blog is in danger of becoming a permanent review site, but we’ll just leave that here for right now.

Anyway, this week we are reviewing the newest film in the Ghostbusters series entitled Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It is a direct sequel to Ghostbusters 2, and a probable reboot of the series at large. For those who may not be aware, a plot summery follows. A single mother and her to kids move to an inherited house in a small town where they discover their grandfather’s connection to the Ghostbusters and, naturally, a supernatural threat to mankind. So there, that’s nice and vague. As usual, we will be as spoiler free as possible but there may be a few small ones. The rating system is as follows: 1-5 Daves or 1-5 Y’s (Y standing for Yasss!), 5 being the best.

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE: 4.5 Daves/ Tessa: 4.5 Y’s

Tessa: I liked this movie a lot more than I thought I would. It’s not like I expected it to be bad (it has Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, and Mckenna Grace it couldn’t not be good), but I was pleasantly surprised at how good this movie was. Critics have been taking apart this movie (because they’re critics and that’s what they do), but I actually enjoyed it. I’ve seen the first Ghostbusters exactly once, and that was like a year ago, so I didn’t really expect to be able to follow along when the plot got reliant on what had been established in the first movie, but I understood it pretty well. It’s an enjoyable movie for any level of Ghostbusters fan, which I liked.

I loved every character, and it was a really funny movie as well. I expected there to be a bit of humor for Paul Rudd, but it would be a mostly action movie. But there was a lot of comedy, and it was done well enough that I didn’t think it was too much comedy. And I love how the new generation of Ghostbusters are all kids. As a kid, it makes me happy. It was very enjoyable and I really liked it!

Dave: As Tessa mentioned, the critics are not being very kind to this movie, and I understand why. Yes, this is a nostalgia trip that is uber-focused on fan service. Yes, the plot is really predictable. Yes, it goes for the heart more than the laughs and is more of a big budget adventure movie than straight comedy.

It is also a wonderful movie, and I loved every frame. I did come in with limited expectations, but found myself engrossed in the film quickly. I grew up with both the Ghostbusters movies and even though I don’t necessarily rewatch them on a regular basis, nor would I put them into a top ten, they are part of my movie DNA. I don’t know if I realized how much I loved these characters until I saw this film. I was really pleased with the way they handle the nostalgia for us original fans, and I think that this movie makes an excellent entry point for a new generation of Ghostbusters fans.

Speaking of the new generation, let’s talk about the new stars in the film. These kids are all quite relatable not only as characters but the actors themselves were all extremely likeable. McKenna Grace is very good in this film, she is one to watch for sure. Finn Wolfhard and Paul Rudd pretty much just show up and do what they do in every film they are in, and that’s no complaint. Worked for Bill Murray, right?

So sure, I could sit here and nitpick about some of the film’s flaws, but in my eyes the flaws are minimal and forgivable. Don’t let the professional critics fool you-listen to us.

T: Facts.

D: It may not be the laugh a minute movie that some would expect, but the humor in the film works just fine. This movie has a lot of heart, and true affection for both it’s characters and the original material. Go in with an open mind and I think you’ll find it quite enjoyable.

T: Also, I loved that there were some Marvel-esque cut-scenes! I just got the cutscene vibes from this movie (probably because a lot of it felt like a Marvel movie), and I was super excited when there were two cutscenes during the credits! My cutscene instincts never fail me.

D: Yes, those were fun! I’m not sure if they were parodying Marvel or if they just wanted to put more stuff in, but it works either way. It’s definitely worth sticking around for the extra scenes. There are some good cameos too.

Also, not gonna lie, I did tear up a little. Which is what you want from a comedy.

Go see this one in the theaters, we think you’ll really enjoy it on the big screen. It will work if you stream it or watch the blu-ray when it becomes available (I’ll be adding it to my collection, no doubt) but this is a good one for the theaters.

Bottom line: If there is an alternate universe where Steven Spielberg made a Ghostbusters movie during his heyday, this would be that film.

Okay, that’s it for this one. Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone (maybe go to the movies over the holiday weekend?) and join me next week for more MonDAVEs.

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More Of My Favorites

It’s bad out there, y’all. There’s lots of bad news wherever you look, and everybody seems to be tense and on edge. There’s only one thing for it. Dad jokes! Here are some more of my favorites.

A dad was outside washing the car with his son. The son says, “Why can’t you just use a sponge?”

The only thing flat earthers fear is sphere itself.

I only seem to get sick on weekdays. I must have a weekend immune system.

Why do Marvel like to use The Hulk in advertisements? He’s basically one big Banner.

I’d tell you a pizza joke, but it’s too cheesy.

I just found out I am color blind. The news came right out of the purple!

This morning Siri told me not to call her Shirley. Turns out I left my phone in Airplane mode.

Did you hear about those new corduroy pillows? They’re making headlines!

How do you get a squirrel to like you? Act like a nut.

Wanna hear a joke about paper? Never mind, it’s tearable.

And finally…

Never blame anyone else for the road you are on. That’s your own asphalt!

You know you’ll tell at least one of these so bad they’re good jokes. Pass ’em along and give somebody a laugh, we all need it these days.

See you next MonDAVE for more stuff.

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Daddy/Daughter Movie Review: Marvel’s Eternals

Once again, my special guest, daughter Tessa, joins me for a review of the new Marvel movie, Eternals which we saw over the weekend. The review scale is 1-5 (1 being the worst, 5 the best) Daves, or 1-5 Y’s, Y standing for “Yasssss!” Alright, let’s get into this thing. Spoilers? Nah. Here we go. Tessa, you are up first.

Eternals: 3.5 Y’s, 3.5 Daves

Tessa: Every phase of the MCU has a movie that’s just Not It, (cough cough Thor: Dark World) and I was expecting Eternals to be phase four’s bad movie. And was I wrong? Kinda. For the first two thirds of the movie I wasn’t really into it, but by the end it got really good. But the ending isn’t enough to save the rest of the movie. It moved way too fast, and I feel like there were many places they could’ve cleared things up, and they didn’t. Either they cut those scenes for time (the movie is already so long dude), or they never had them in the first place, which wouldn’t surprise me. There were way too many characters with weird names that were hard to keep track of and hard to spell. It would’ve been better if there were only five or so, especially since a lot of the side characters did nothing for the plot. The only character I really got attached to wasn’t even an Eternal (shout out to the guy with the camera, he was one of the best parts).

But onto the good parts, there were a lot of twists that I didn’t see coming which I really enjoyed, and the representation was immaculate. The amount of diversity across multiple fields was incredible, and I thoroughly appreciated it. At least half a point of my rating was just from the representation. But those two things don’t really make up for the many things I didn’t like. And the terrible reviews along with the fact that the movie is getting banned from theaters in multiple countries leads to bad box office ratings, and leads to a loss for Marvel. It didn’t really feel like a Marvel movie to me, it feels like a movie I’d find on Netflix, watch, and say “Well that was bad” and never watch it again. Spiderman: No Way Home has really gotta bring phase four back to what it was (although I know it will be amazing), because Eternals was just eh, and I’ve come to expect more than eh from the MCU.

Dave: Mostly same. Tess, do you feel like it would have been a better movie with a different structure? More of a linear approach, perhaps?

Tessa: Kind of. I see what they were trying to do with all the time jumps. They were trying to tell the main story and provide exposition through flashbacks throughout the story, which is a technique that pays off when it’s executed well, but here it wasn’t executed well. I think if they had put all the exposition at the beginning it would make the viewing experience easier, although it would ruin a couple twists, which were the main reason I started liking it at the end. Also if there had just been less flashbacks, there wouldn’t be as many complaints of it being too hard to follow. I know what they were trying to do, and if you think about it from that perspective it makes more sense, but it ultimately backfired and ended up just being confusing.

Dave: Agreed, but I do think there could have been a way to tell the story in a more linear fashion without ruining the twists. A flashback or two wouldn’t hurt, but you are right in saying that there are way too many of them.

I think I got into it a little bit earlier than you did, but I did spend the first hour not knowing what to think. My biggest problem is that the filmmakers didn’t take time to establish the characters before getting us into the story. I found it difficult to care for first part of the movie. It almost felt as if I was watching the second or third movie featuring the Eternals, not the first, and that I should have been up to speed already. It’s always difficult to turn out a movie with lesser known characters, and Marvel has done that extremely well in the past but they just missed the mark here.

Also, there were a handful of main characters that wound up doing essentially nothing, and were disappointing in their story arcs. But that’s probably more a matter of opinion and may be true to the original comics, but me being almost completely clueless about the source material I wouldn’t really know.

Tessa: Yeah, I feel that.

Dave: It’s not all bad news though, because the movie isn’t actually bad, it’s just not up to the standards we are used to. I did enjoy many of the literary and historical references in the movie, from the characters’ names to some of their appearances throughout the world over the years. I was intrigued by the scope of the story that was being told, just not the way they told it.

Also, there is a surprising amount of humor in this movie, I laughed out loud several times even before I was into the film. I agree that some interesting storylines were left unexplored, and I think that this could have been two really good movies, or a quality series on Disney+. But like a full series, not just 6 or 10 episodes.

Tessa: Yeah, I feel that too. I think you made a good point when you said that it’s not bad, it’s just not what we were expecting. On it’s own, it has potential. But compared to the masterpieces Marvel has churned out in the past, this isn’t as good of a movie. Maybe when they make a later appearance in the MCU, Marvel will turn the Eternals into all our favorite characters.

Dave: Right. Although the main story did wrap up, we were left with a somewhat open ending regarding what happens next and it looks like there could be some really cool stuff coming up! This might wind up being one of those movies that is appreciated more over time, and I wonder if it wouldn’t benefit from a second or third viewing. Just not in the theater. I’m also wondering if they shifted the tone a bit, like with Thor’s movies, if that wouldn’t help the characters become fan favorites too. I guess time will tell.

So, in closing, neither of us hated this movie but we didn’t love it either. We would suggest seeing it if you are a big fan of the MCU, but casual fans may not need to make this one a priority. We are hopeful though that the Eternals themselves will wind up being an essential and awesome part of the MCU in the future.

Thanks for reading everyone! Back to my usual solo nonsense next week on MonDAVEs!

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Settling The Great Debate

All right America, it’s time to pick a side. This debate has raged on long enough. I’m drawing a line in the sand. I’ve got my two cents and I’m ready to throw down! I’m about to bring the fire, and set y’all straight once and for all. Here we go. You ready? Dig this:

Conifers are better than deciduous trees.

Yeah, I said it. Now I’m gonna prove it.

First of all, I had to look up how to spell “deciduous” just then, so that’s a point to conifers right off the bat. Easier to spell, easier to love.

Second, conifers have more varieties than most folks believe. In fact, there are over five hundred varieties! Many people think of conifers as just the evergreen Pine or Fir trees we are so familiar with, but the conifer family includes such diverse trees as Spruce, Hemlocks, the Larch, Redwoods, and the Giant Sequoya. Ever driven or walked through the Sequoias in California? You’ve been through a conifer, my friend, and probably snapped a pic to remember the experience.*

Also, the tallest tree in the world is the Hyperion, which is a Coastal Redwood otherwise known as, you guessed it, a conifer! and bigger is better, so there!

Another thing to love about conifer trees is that they are so good for the home. Conifers planted close to the home can help with insulation of the house, and help to protect from nasty weather.

Now, in fairness, it should be pointed out that conifers do not change color in the fall. So we do have to begrudgingly give that one to the deciduous trees as it is quite pretty. However, conifers’ leaves don’t change because they DON’T HAVE LEAVES in the first place. Which I think is quite considerate.

Let’s talk leaves for a moment. Most deciduous trees lose all of their leaves in Autumn/early winter. All of them. Most conifers (or Evergreens in this case) lose only a fraction of their needles each year-and some don’t lose them yearly at all. There are exceptions to this rule on both sides, but for the most part we can give the edge here to the conifer. Okay, so you may have to duck a pine cone or two, but that’s just good old Mother Nature seeding out her favorite tree. Plus, you can make crafts with them to decorate for the Holidays.

And since we’re on the topic of holidays…which type of tree is it that is used to celebrate Christmas again? Oh yeah…Evergreens. CONIFERS!!! If it’s good enough to celebrate the birth of Christ, it’s good enough for me. Just maybe don’t look too hard into the theology of that one. Aaannnywayyyy….

I believe we now have more than enough evidence to illustrate the superiority of the conifer trees. So I will leave you with the words of a little band called They Might Be Giants and a quote from their anthem “C Is For Conifers” (aka the greatest song ever):

Most with cones for seeds,
Most with needles for leaves
,
C is for Conifers
My kind of trees

Whew, glad that’s settled! Come back soon for more truth bombs and intelligent discourse on hot button topics right here in MonDAVEs!!!

*This is an admittedly silly post, but the Giant Redwood Sequoias of California really are endangered by wildfire as we speak. Consider donating to the National Parks Service to not only help save the Sequoias but also to help maintain all of our wonderful National Parks. https://www.nps.gov/index.htm

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Halloween Verse Part 2

Last week I shares a poem from my as yet unpublished and still very much work-in-progress collection of Halloween type poems for kids/Tweens. Here’s another one. This one’s slightly spooky, but not really scary.

I’m saving the scary stuff for another time.

Anyway, I hope you like it. I’ll be back to my old self again next week. Until then, happy Halloween.

AT NIGHT I HEAR THE VOICES

At night I hear the voices
In the trees, or in my dreams?
It doesn’t really matter
I hear them just the same.

They start off soft and lowly
And get louder through the night
“Ethan…Ethan…EEE-THA-AN!!!”
They’re calling out my name.

What could it be that they want
And why are they calling me?
These questions they keep haunting
Their answers I must know.

There’s only one solution
One ending to this story
I don’t know what awaits me
But know that I must go.

-David Brink 2021

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Rockin’ That Playlist

“I like rock and roll songs about rock and roll, with the words rock and roll right there in the title.”-Eddie Spaghetti

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a music geek. While this is not a music based blog, it’s going to come up now and again. This is one of those times.

Anyway, the above quote is one that I thought was kind of funny, but as soon as I heard it I thought that it would be possible to make a pretty cool playlist based around that idea. I could probably do several, come to think of it, or one extremely loooong one. In fact, there are at least a few bands that could fill up a playlist just on their own (AC/DC and KISS come screaming into mind). Anyway, it sounded fun, so I sat down and got to work. If you are of a similar mind, why not try it too? Drop me a reply if you’d like-it would be fun to see all the different versions people come up with.

I did make a few ground rules for my list.

1.) The song titles must all include the words “rock and roll”, though “rock n’ roll” or “rock & roll” are acceptable variants. Just plain “rock”, “rockin'” or “rocking” are not allowed.

2.) All decades and rock subgenres are acceptable. I’ve always leaned toward hard rock, but I have an appreciation for pretty much any style of rock you can imagine from oldies to prog rock, pop rock, power pop, country rock, folk rock, rockabilly, and everything in between. And that’s before we get into punk, new wave, and heavy metal! No stylistic limits-as with the music itself.

3.) I limited the list to 15 songs-one song per artist. This is mostly to make it into more of a challenge than doing one mega-list.

That’s it.

Full disclosure, I have gone through a few different versions of this playlist, this one is full of (mostly) classic rock songs, many of which are overplayed, but that’s okay. Many of your favorites won’t be here-many of mine aren’t either. My personal version would be a bit more obscure than the one I am showing here, (it would have Motorhead on it for a start) but I wanted this to be a list that gives people a jumping off point to start thinking about your own list. This playlist is far from definitive, but it’s a good place to start.

So until next week, have fun, and turn it up to eleven.

ROCK AND ROLL SONGS ABOUT ROCK AND ROLL WITH THE WORDS ROCK AND ROLL RIGHT THERE IN THE TITLE

  1. Rock N’ Roll Star-Oasis
  2. Rock And Roll-Led Zeppelin
  3. Rock And Roll Music-Chuck Berry
  4. Rock And Roll Never Forgets-Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band
  5. It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me-Billy Joel
  6. I Love Rock N’ Roll-Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
  7. Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution-Ac/DC
  8. Rock N’ Roll Fantasy-Bad Company
  9. Rock And Roll All Nite-KISS
  10. Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo-Rick Derringer
  11. It’s Only Rock N’ Roll-The Rolling Stones
  12. Rock N’ Roll High School-The Ramones
  13. Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay-Danny & The Juniors
  14. The Golden Age Of Rock ‘n’ Roll-Mott The Hoople
  15. Rock And Roll-The Velvet Underground

P.S.- I know there are no links. That’s like, a lot of work. These songs should pretty much all be easily found on YouTube or the music provider of your choice, if you are unfamiliar with them.

P.P.S.-Halloween stuff starts next week, kids. Ooh-scary!!! Count Floyd reference. Google that too.

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An Open Letter

Dear Sandwich Makers of America,

First of all, let me thank you all for what you do. Designing and making quality sandwiches is a noble endeavor. From the local delicatessen to the neighborhood cafés, restaurants, diners and high class eateries of the country, your quest to fill our palates with a perfectly balanced bite of perfection has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Sure, any one of us could whip up some cold cuts and American cheese on Wonder bread or a quick peanut butter and jelly in our own homes, but to pay six to eight dollars to have it done for us by artists such as yourselves is a decadent luxury and culinary treat that is a treasured, joyous delight for all red blooded American diners.

I know that you, the Sandwich Makers, are always looking for ways to better yourselves, improve the quality of your work, and push the envelope of what you do in hopes of making the “perfect” sandwich. The endless experimentation, tweaking, and testing of flavor combinations with fillings and condiments is of course necessary to the process of the pursuit of excellence and American Exceptionalism that makes this country what it is.

However, I fear that it may be going too far. In your desire to improve our sandwiches and “bring in the new”, we are beginning to lose sight of what made certain sandwiches so special in the first place. You have lost touch with your roots and are in danger of losing the soul of what we sandwich lovers hold so dear. We are in great danger of losing the classics.

I am speaking, of course, of the Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwich, commonly known as the BLT. This fine sandwich has been around since the early 1900s, and owes its staying power to the fact that it is, quite simply, a perfect combination of ingredients and flavors.

Bacon. Lettuce. Tomato. White Bread. Mayo.

That’s it.

QUIT MESSING IT UP!!!!

The only alterations to be considered here are a.) Do we toast the bread? (Yes.), and b.) Could it use more bacon? (It could). If you wanna go nuts, make it a double decker, stick some toothpicks in it and call it a “club”. Outside of that, leave the thing alone! It’s basic, simple, and beautiful. It doesn’t need avocado. Or special sauce. Or Kale. Or greens.

Also, stop subbing out the bacon. Turkey bacon is an abomination of all that is good and holy in the meat section of the grocery store. And don’t even come at me with artificial vegetarian or vegan bacon. What even is that? Tofu?! Really?

If you don’t like the sandwich as is, fine. Don’t eat it. But don’t go changing it, trying to put your “spin ” on it, and ruining what is one of the greatest culinary delights of many generations, the almighty BLT!

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of “new and improved” sandwiches-quit screwing around with the grilled cheese too, willya? There’s nothing worse than going to some fancy bistro and having the waiter tell you about their “take” on the grilled cheese sandwich.

Here’s my “take” on it-leave it alone! It doesn’t need any meat in it. Or vegetables. Or tofu either, but then, what does? All we need is cheese. Good old American cheese, or maybe Velveeta, is fine. It does the job and it tastes the way that it’s supposed to. Okay, so a five cheese blend is nice, but it’s unnecessary. All that extra stuff is unnecessary. This is not gourmet dining, I am shoving a block of melted cheese on bread into my face, let’s not pretend it’s anything more evolved than that, okay?

And give me some tomato soup on the side too. That’s soup. Not bisque. You can’t dunk Velveeta in bisque, it’s unnatural and weird.

Look, I’m perfectly fine with you all making up new sandwich combos and creating new sauces. Put anything you want on there. Veggie sandwich? Great. Steak and sauerkraut? Fine. Peanut butter and pickle? You do you. But leave the classics alone. For me. For the children.

For America.

Your pal,

Dave

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Phone Troubles

Hi. My name is Dave and I am addicted to my smart phone.

We all are though, I think, to one degree or another. Most people either don’t notice or don’t really care because it’s a willful addiction.

True, we all need to stay connected, and there are many apps and features that do make communication faster and easier, and can certainly add to the quality of our lives. The fact that we carry computers in our pockets is a small miracle that we seem to take for granted in today’s world. Everything from entertainment to shopping to business meetings, or just a quick check in at home, and more, can be accomplished within seconds anywhere we are. That is undeniably cool. It is also incredibly useful and there is nothing wrong with any of that in and of itself.

If it is all kept in balance.

That’s the tricky part. When does the smart phone stop being a tool or a pleasant diversion and start becoming more? When is more too much? That is not an easy question to answer if we’re honest, and each one of us will have a different response. You may be perfectly comfortable with your phone usage. Perhaps you are a tech person and this stuff is fascinating for you academically. Perhaps you have the ability to look at your phone only two or three times a day in ten minute increments and set it down easily to do other things. Maybe it’s just a part of your life that you have integrated and don’t even think twice about. I don’t claim to know your situation or have any answers or advice to give to anyone else at all.

But as for me? I have crossed the line and hit the wall.

I feel absolutely tethered to my phone. Once I pick it up it’s all I can do to set the thing down. I’m playing with my phone as I watch television. I check it at the movies. During meals. On dates with my wife. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing before I go to bed. I can’t even read more than two or three pages in a book without stopping to play with my phone. I feel like I am constantly scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. I even get online on my phone while I am online at the computer. It’s too much for me-I have to stop.

So how did I reach this conclusion? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because I am old enough to remember what life was like before phones and I am growing nostalgic. Maybe it’s because I was never a tech guy and now I can’t be without it, and that concerns me. Maybe I feel like I’m missing out on other more productive things I could be doing instead of just doom scrolling all the time.

One thing’s for sure though. It has been proven that phone usage can release dopamine (sometimes referred to as the pleasure chemical) in our brains. Dopamine makes you feel good. Really good. Once this happens enough the brain recognizes a pattern and begins to equate the two things. Then, the brain begins to chase that feeling as much as possible and pretty soon you’ve got a habit, man. That’s how addiction works. That’s what’s happening to me, I am constantly chasing the “phone high” and I need to quit.

So it’s time for a detox. A digital detox. I’m not throwing my phone into the river or anything like that, but I am going to be changing things up in here. Today I removed or deactivated all the social media accounts from my phone, along with as many ways as possible for me to surf the net (though I can’t disable it completely-not an option on my phone). I also got rid of any apps that give me multiple notifications a day that I don’t deem as essential, I already feel lighter in spirit. This is step one.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have my social media accounts. I will still check them and make updates but I’m going to be doing it by the computer, or possibly a tablet, at controlled hours of the day. Same thing goes with surfing the net. It will be more intentional, something I have to carve out time for instead of being at it any chance I get. So I’m sorry if I miss your cool post or don’t update like you’re used to seeing me do, but I’m getting my balance back, and that’s very important to me right now.

And again, I am not about to get rid of my phone. Certainly I need to stay in touch with family, work, and friends. I keep my calendar on my phone, my alarm clock, maps, an underused Bible app (sorry Jesus), a few notes I need to remember and more than one fast food ordering app. All necessary stuff. I just need the phone to go back to being a tool and not an obsession.

So I’m going to try this system for the next few weeks and make sure I can live with this arrangement and stick to it. Then, hopefully, it’s on to step two. I am going to need a new phone sooner than later. The screen has a pretty decent crack in it, and I am having problems getting the phone to take a charge. Not stay charged, but actually take a charge. That could be a battery issue, I suppose, but a new phone may be in order down the road.

I have been investigating different phone types. There are a few “minimalist” phones out there that do just the basics. You can find them online, like the Light phone, Mudita Pure, Wisephone, etc. None of these phones have the internet on them. They all have talk and text. Most have an alarm function, but then it gets all hazy. Some play music, some don’t. Some have calendars, some don’t. One has a flashlight but no maps, only one of the three has a camera (which holds about 6 photos). Most have group texting but not MMS. These are high quality, intentionally made phones with low carbon rates and low radiation and are fairly well thought out from a presentation point of view, they are just falling a little short when it comes to the packaging. Although they are better across the board than the Jitterbug/Lively phones made for Seniors.

It turns out though, that there are plenty of non internet phones out there that have pretty much everything else you could need, it’s just that many of them are kind of chintzy and still do a little more than I would like. But…IF I can keep up this way of living, and IF I decide a new phone is the way to go then I may temporarily buy one of these cheapos until the “minimalist” phone start up companies get it all straightened out.

To be clear, I am no minimalist-I still want all the things. However, this may be the way to go for me from here on out.

Then again, maybe I’ll be shaking my head a month from now wondering where in the world I got the cockamamie idea that I was addicted to the phone. Anything can happen I suppose.

Still, I’m pretty sure I’m right on this one. I don’t expect to start a movement here or for anyone else to come along with me, but I do think we should all take a look at how far our phones have gotten into our lives. We are constantly told by the major carriers and phone companies that we need the newest, fastest, biggest, and greatest phones we can get hold of.

Do we?

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If Wishes Were Fishes…

We’d all swim in riches. Or something like that.

We’ve all heard a version of this saying at one point or another. Usually this saying is used in a negative context in which someone is told to quit wishing their life away. But I think it’s okay to wish. Wishing is a way to deal with the difficulties of life. Sometimes wishes are within our grasp, and can be made a reality with a little effort. Sometimes wishes are pure fantasy. Sometimes they are hopeful. Sometimes they are filled with, and fueled by, regret.

Wishes are normal and healthy. Granted, we have to live in the real world and deal with it as it is. However, our wishes can help guide us along our paths and be quite beneficial when kept in perspective and used in a positive way.

In our younger years we wish for things like riches, fame, looks, and the like. I find though that as one ages, our wishes change a little bit. While they may still stay rather self centered, they aren’t quite as self-ish. Most wishes do revolve around our own self image, they begin to expand to include the world at large. Not only do we wish to make sense of the wider world, but also our place in it.

Let’s face it guys, life is a lot. It’s too much, really. How do you get through it without going completely insane? I can’t answer that for everyone, but for me I have to laugh at it, yell at it, write about it, and hold on to some of my wishes (I don’t call them dreams anymore, that’s way too optimistic for the world we currently live in). I also overshare with friends and strangers.

That’s what this particular post is all about. I am going to share many of my wishes with you, both the ones that give me hope and the ones that hurt my heart. Hopefully, this catharsis on the web will not only make me feel a little better about life, the universe, and everything but also it just may help somebody else who’s reading this to not feel alone. By the way, I had a few one liners stuck in among this list but I took them out as it just didn’t feel right. Let’s get real, y’all.

-I wish my dreams weren’t so big as a youth. Perhaps I could have achieved more of them.

-I wish I was better at this whole Christianity thing.

-I wish I saw my cousins more. I wish I saw my best friend more too.

-I wish it were easier to make friends as an adult. Real friends I mean, not just surface level.

-I wish I still had the self confidence I had in my 20’s and early 30’s.

-I wish I didn’t know so much about a lot of people. This is the downside of social media (says the guy blogging his inner dialogue).

-I wish more people were open to the possibility of God. I also wish conservative Christians weren’t so good at turning people away.

-I wish the two major political parties in our country weren’t so far apart on everything.

-I wish good grammar and manners were still a thing.

-I wish I weren’t so judgmental.

-I wish we’d seriously think about what kind of world we are leaving for the next generation. Environmentally, politically, spiritually, and culturally.

-I wish parents would listen more to today’s youth and not just dismiss them.

-I wish everyone had food to eat and a place to sleep.

-I wish everybody knew somebody loved them.

-I wish more people cared more about their fellow humans than their own pocket.

-I wish the best tasting food didn’t make us fat.

-I wish I had finished college. I also wish I was still young enough for it to matter if I did it now.

-I wish physical media wasn’t dying.

-I wish animal shelters weren’t so full.

-I wish big, scary, diseases weren’t a thing.

-I wish everyone would just do their part to bring this damned pandemic to an end.

-I wish I didn’t overthink things to the point of inaction.

-I wish I was better with math and money.

-I wish I didn’t have so many wishes.

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Update

Hello everyone.

When we last met, I was in the middle of a bout with COVID19. I am happy to report that I am now feeling better and am out of quarantine. After sleeping through most of last Tuesday and Wednesday, I started to feel a little better on Thursday morning and went from strength to strength. Now all that remains is a little bit of a cough, shortness of breath and some tiredness. I’m still taking it easy for the next week or so as I’m sure you can understand. No need to overdo it. For those of you who expressed concern or sent some positive vibes my way it is much appreciated. Thank you.

As you would expect, I watched a lot of television while sick. Some of it was good, a lot of it wasn’t, but I mostly wanted familiar shows, or programs that required little thought. When I was feeling better (though still quarantined) I upped the game a little bit. The following is a small, incomplete list of what I remember watching and a few thoughts about each. This may or may not be in chronological order (there was a bit of brain fog going on after all).

T.V.:

LEAVE IT TO BEAVER- 1 episode

Beaver fell in the giant bowl of soup. Classic episode, but painful to watch. I find a lot of early television drives me crazy to watch these days. It’s not that these shows are bad or unfunny, but more often than not the main characters are complete idiots. Young Theodore Cleaver is a prime example here. Sure, he’s a kid and that’s some excuse, but the boy really was old enough to know better. On a related note, I can’t watch “I Love Lucy” anymore for similar reasons.

AMERICAS FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS- way too many episodes

I watched a few game shows, and this is what Hulu decided I’d like to watch next. Apparently Hulu thought I’d watch a whole season. Sadly, Hulu was not wrong. I came to the following conclusions while watching: 1. either I don’t video enough things or everyone else shoots too much, 2. most cute kids doing/saying cute things really aren’t that cute, and 3. people falling and/or getting hit in the crotch is simultaneously not funny and funny enough that it never gets old.

JAMES MAY-OH COOK!- 6 episodes (one season)

I like James May quite a bit. He’s the only one of the British Top Gear/Grand Tour hosts who doesn’t need the other two to balance out his more annoying traits. Although he did have a woman in a cupboard who helped him out from time to time, so maybe he’s not as good as I thought. anyway, this did what any good cooking (or “cookery” as they say in England) show should do. It made me think that I could probably make a fair portion of what they were cooking on the show. Trouble is, being British food, I don’t really want to.

MONTY PYTHON’s FLYING CIRCUS- 13 episodes (season one)

Okay, I LOVE Monty Python. I have seen these episodes so many times that I can quote not only whole sketches, but in some cases entire episodes from memory, front to back. This was pure comfort food in video form. Season one is not actually my favorite season, as I don’t think they’d hit their stride yet. I find it to be a bit repetitive, uneven, and unsure of itself. However, there is a lot of first class material here, and any drawbacks are more than made up for by enthusiasm and the fact that the guys are clearly enjoying themselves, and are excited by creating something new. There are surprisingly few items in this series that don’t translate well to today’s sensibilities, though there are a few. (There are plenty more in subsequent seasons.) A lot of comedies don’t age particularly well, so it was refreshing to see how well this does hold up. Of course, I may be a bit biased.

Side note: almost all the world history I know has come from Monty Python, Iron Maiden, and Mel Brooks. In that order. My understanding of the Spanish Inquisition is so messed up…

1980s COMMERCIAL COMPILATIONS ON YOU TUBE

I watch these more than I would like to admit. Something about the nostalgia makes me feel better, especially when the world at large is absolutely bananas. So, like, all the time. Maybe it’s just me, or the fact that I stream most of my television these days, but it seems like there was more variety of products being advertised back then. There were certainly more jingles. Also, what was up with all the ads for chewing gum? They really wanted us to buy gum in the 80’s, man. And we did so I guess it worked.

I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t have gone into advertising, it seems like a fun job. Well, back then it did. It feels like every other commercial I see these days is for a different medication with side effects that are worse than the thing you are supposed to take the meds for in the first place. Yeesh. No thanks. Bring back the gum ads, please. Thanks.

MOVIES:

SHINE A LIGHT

This is Martin Scorsese filming the Rolling Stones as they do a benefit concert in New York, mixed with backstage stuff and archival footage. I watched this one in honor of drummer extraordinaire Charlie Watts after his passing last week. I fell asleep. Sorry, Charlie.

3:10 To Yuma (original version)

Classic movie. Psychological Western. The performances are great and the story is good, although the ending is a little bit odd for me. Still, I highly recommend this film.

ZAPPA

If you are a fan of Frank Zappa I recommend this documentary. If you are curious about the man and his artistic side, I recommend this documentary. If you are easily offended, this is probably not for you. Nor is the majority of Zappa’s music. You have been warned.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (original version)

I have been on a Western kick as of late and realized I have never seen this. It’s good, but left me wanting more. I needed a little more background on each of “the seven” and I could have used a slightly quicker pace in the middle of the film. However, there are some great scenes. I particularly enjoyed Charles Bronson’s character just straight up spanking someone else’s kid. Also Eli Wallach is great as per usual.

This movie made me realize who I would be in a Western. You know how in every movie there’s a shoot out, and usually our heroes are outnumbered? There’s always that scene, shot from the p.o.v. of the hero, where two bad guys come running up, guns a blazin’ and he shoots them both. Then, about two seconds later, a third guy runs around the same corner and the hero gets him too. Well, that’s me. I’m that third guy. The guy who has just enough time to see his compatriots on the ground and think, “What the-“.

Okay, there were probably a lot more but that’s all I can remember now, or at least all that’s worth mentioning. See you next week with what I hope is a real topic.

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I’m A Breakthrough

I have COVID-19.

It has been making its way through our house for a few weeks now, but as careful as we have been with isolation and cleaning I was hoping to keep the virus at bay. No such luck.

My family has been super careful through the whole pandemic. We are vigilant mask wearers. Those of us old enough to do so have been vaccinated. We have followed every CDC guideline to the best of our ability, especially with the Delta variant being what it is. Yet COVID still struck our home. Which proves two things.

Number one, Murphy’s Law is still in effect and quite possibly the only natural law in existence that will always be accurate.

Number two, and this is the important one: The vaccine works.

We have been told all along that it is still possible to be infected with COVID after vaccination. Yes, you can still get it, and I did. However, the vaccine has given my body a guidebook on how to fight this virus off, and will most likely keep me from getting sick enough to go to the hospital and have a tube shoved down my throat. Not sure about you, but I’ll take feeling crappy for a week over a hospital visit any day.

The first person in the house to come down with the disease was our youngest daughter. The one who is too young to vaccinate. I’m not saying that one of us vaccinated folk didn’t expose her, but she caught the virus quickly and in turn the rest of us followed suit. Except one, but I’ll get to him in a minute. The question though, is would it have made a difference if she was vaccinated too? Would her system have fought it off and none of us be affected? I don’t know. Perhaps we’d all be asymptomatic, which would still be bad news for those around us, but we might not have all gotten sick. Something to think on.

If you’re wondering about the symptoms, they have been a little different for each of us so I will speak for just myself. I have mostly felt like I’ve had a really, really, reeeeaaalllyy bad cold. I’ve had a nasty cough, full sinuses, headaches, chills, general achiness, exhaustion and shortness of breath. I’ve felt sick since Thursday morning, but it hit the worst Saturday afternoon into Sunday, which I mostly slept through. Today I feel slightly better but it comes in waves. I’m actually getting kind of tired writing this. Sorry if it’s a little disjointed.

So I will be under quarantine through Sunday, and I expect to need a few more days before I feel 100% again. I am isolating in the house as much as possible, since my son never got this thing. He has remained isolated himself in the basement for the better part of two weeks, but that’s where we keep the video games so, it could be worse.

Okay, that’s the update. Mask up, get vaccinated, and try to be good to one another ’til I see you again, yeah? In other words: Love Thy Neighbor.

Oh, and please don’t come back at me with any arguments about this stuff. I don’t need to hear it right now, okay? I need to heal. Don’t be that guy. Or gal. Just don’t.

P.S.-Just for fun, here’s my “GOT ME THE COVIDS” playlist:

1.Doctor, Doctor-U.F.O.

2. Fever- Peggy Lee

3. Breakthru-Queen

4. Delta Dawn-Tammy Wynette

5. All By Myself-Eric Carmen

6. Remedy-The Black Crowes

7. Healing Hands-Elton John

8. It’s Not Over (Til It’s Over)-Lenny Kravitz

9. Getting Better-The Beatles

There should be ten, but my brain is all foggy.

Featured

Here’s A Fun Little Trip Through My Psyche.

phobia: an extreme or irrational fear or aversion to something.

We have all known someone, or are ourselves, afflicted with a phobia. These are not rational fears that many people have, or even vague concerns about our own safety or well being. These are not things or experiences we strongly dislike, but crippling fears that are very specific.

The more common phobias are ones we have all heard of and can understand on some level, even if we don’t share the same fears. The fear of heights for example. Fear of flying, spiders, water, crowds, or confined spaces, all fairly common and at least semi-relatable. There are others that fall in the same category,

And then there are the weird ones. These are the fears we don’t talk about and do our best to hide until we inevitably are put into a situation where we come face to face with our fears, and panic sets in, causing no little amount of embarrassment in the process. As you’ve probably already figured out, I have one of those.

For as long as I can remember I have suffered from globophobia. No, it is not the fear of spherical objects or three dimensional world maps. I am deathly afraid of balloons. Even as a middle aged man, I can’t be near them without freaking the heck out. Especially if there’s a child playing with a balloon. Forget it, I’m out. I’m gonna need the rest of the day off, a puppy to snuggle, a good, stiff drink, and a few hours to lie on the floor in the fetal position with the sounds of waterfalls and relaxing new age music to have any chance of making it through to the next day. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one.

“Why, Dave? Are you afraid the balloon is going to pop?”

No, don’t be ridiculous. I friggin’ know it’s going to pop, that’s a foregone conclusion. I just don’t know when. I don’t know how loud it’s going to be, and I don’t know how near I will be to said popping. This will, and I am not joking, send me into a panic in which I will have to get as far away from the baloony threat as quickly as possible. I will start to hyperventilate, break out into a sweat, and lose focus on anything but leaving the area immediately.

I once had a panic attack inside a Red Robin restaurant because that particular location had balloons tied to every single table and the employees were giving them out to families with kids. I got through the meal (barely), but not without my wife using every calm down tactic she could think of that didn’t call attention to what was going on. It took me years to go eat at another location after being thoroughly convinced that every location wasn’t decorated the same way and I had most likely experienced a “one-off” situation. Honestly, I am still leery of the whole chain.

Many would argue that it is not the balloons themselves that frighten me, but the fear of sudden loud noises. This is only partially true, but let’s explore that theory. As a youngster, loud noises did frighten me quite a bit because I was very sensitive to them, and I won’t argue that there may be a connection. I was never a fan of fireworks as a kid, as I didn’t like all the loud booms accompanying the pretty sparkles. Dogs of the world, I feel your pain.

However, I pretty much grew out of that. Fireworks became bearable when I realized how controlled the productions are, and I then figured out that I could usually see the flash before I heard the boom, so I learned to anticipate it. Now I just view fireworks as a yearly annoyance when I am trying to sleep in order to go into work the next day and my lunatic neighbors are shooting them off well past midnight from June 29th through July 11th. I don’t mind a professional production on the 4th of July itself, but outside of that I have absolutely no interest.

Pyrotechnics used to bother me as well. In the 1980’s and into the early/mid 90’s, most of the major rock concerts I went to used pyro to one degree or another. Inside an arena, the explosions could be louder than the music! I would be in the strange place of loving the music and dreading the pyro. After a while though, I kind of got the feel for where the big bangs would come during shows-which songs had the most explosive potential, plus the natural beginning, ending, and one in the middle pattern most shows would follow. It was kind of fun to try to predict those moments, and once most big concerts moved outdoors the big booms weren’t quite as loud and became a more enjoyable part of the show for me.

So you see it’s not loud noises that bother me. Engine or mechanical noises don’t bother me, and loud music is certainly no issue, because the noises are controlled. It’s the unpredictable and almost inevitable pop of the balloon that gets to me.

That’s not all though. I dislike balloons in general. I don’t find them pretty as far as decorations go, they just look weird to me. I can’t begin to tell you how many birthday parties and other shindigs have been super uncomfortable for me due to the presence of these brightly colored air bubbles. Also, they are fairly useless as a toy-about 5 bounces and that’s all for that game. Then there are water balloons. Just a tool for a sneaky prank-and I detest pranks. As for helium balloons…they just float there…and taunt me…waiting for their moment to strike. I just don’t like balloons man, their whole vibe weirds me out.

Interestingly enough, I don’t have this problem with giant inflatables. You know, bounce houses, slides, and the like. They do not feel like a threat. Nor do I have an issue with hot air balloons, I think they’re neat. I dunno. Go figure.

So, what’s the point? Why am I sharing this with you guys? Am I that hard up for a topic this week?

Well, yeah, but there’s more to it than that. I created MonDAVES to be a space where people can come for a little light hearted silliness, and possibly escape their day to day for a while. I also wanted to use it as a form of communication with the reader. If decide to share a little bit of insight into what makes me “me”, then maybe other people will relate on some level and we can all feel a little closer together as people, and maybe realize that we’re not all alone in this world. I want people to feel good after reading. Even if that feeling comes from thinking, “Man, I have my issues, but at least I’m not THAT guy!” Whatever works.

Thanks for indulging me once again. See you next week for more MonDAVES!

P.S. I also hate feet, but that’s not a phobia so much as a preference. They are smelly and gross and I don’t want to see, smell, or touch yours. Or your kids’. Yuck. No reason for that bit of info, just wanted you to know.

Labor Day 2022

MonDAVEs is closed for the holiday. I hope you all had a safe, happy day filled with relaxation, family/friends and food.

Apologies for any inconvenience. I’ll be back soon.

P.S. For my readers outside of the U.S. (which, remarkably there are some of) who may be unfamiliar, Labor Day is a holiday where we celebrate the American worker by not working. Which is pretty much the most American thing ever.