The Gospel According to Lebowski

Peter’s denial of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke is one of the Bible’s best known passages, so to read it in front of the whole church on Palm Sunday was humbling.

But it was hard to keep a straight face.

I occasionally serve as a lector at my church and over the weekend was assigned to read part of the Passion, the section where Peter claims not to know Jesus. But the voice that rang through my had when I practiced the reading wasn’t the apostle Peter’s.

The servant says, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.”

And Peter replies,  “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!”

Peter sounds like the Dude.

No matter how I said it, it kept coming out in various shades of Lebowski. Hmmm. Let’s place the emphasis slightly differently and… it’s still the Dude. Wait — let me try it like this. No. His Dudeness.

It’s weird, yes. And by coincidence, there’s a character named Jesus in The Big Lebowski. 

I’m pretty sure a few people in the crowd picked up on this, for I could tell by the look on their faces that they heard the Dude when they were supposed to hear Peter.

Maybe it was just my imagination, but I don’t think so. And if you disagree, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

Patty Wagon

If you want to convince an Irishman that you’re an eejit, call March 17 “St. Patty’s Day.” Let’s be clear: Patty is short for Patricia, and Paddy is the nickname for Patrick.

Period.

A quick survey of the news reveals that there are a lot of eejits out there in the media using “St. Patty” — too many to count. To make matters even worse, the misuse of St. Patty is disrespectful to another saint.

St. Patricia was a 7th century noblewoman who gave everything to the poor, took a vow of virginity and devoted her life to the Lord. St. Patty ended up near Naples after being shipwrecked during a voyage to Jerusalem. She later died and is now the city’s patron saint. Her feast day — which one might call St. Patty’s Day — is celebrated on August 25. According to Wikipedia, people believe that the dried remains of her blood turn to liquid on that day — and on “every Tuesday morning.” The Tuesday part seems to make it less special.

So, let’s not mix up our Pattys with our Paddys. Do it once and you can be forgiven as a simple eejit. Do again? Then you’re a feckin eejit.

Me and My Mummy

People still ask me if I miss my old job. Not really. Well, yes and no. Yes, it was always interesting and it was work I excelled at, but do it today? No thanks.

But allow me to reminisce.

Lon Chaney Jr. as The Mummy

Early in my career, I produced cheap local commercials and we were doing a spot for Halloween Hall in Ballston Spa. We’d done a lot of shooting in the store, but this season they had a unique new item they wanted to show off: an elaborate mummy costume. This would require a special shot that could only be done back in the studio.

Our plan was for the mummy to emerge from the darkness into a beam of light — and to make it extra dramatic, we rented a smoke machine. Nothing makes things look cooler than a smoke machine.

We were all set — but someone would have to swaddle themselves in this mummy suit. Normally, I’d persuade an intern to do this, but that semester we didn’t have one, so I wrapped myself up and went to work. It looked terrific — exactly as planned — and with the studio full of smoke, I got out there and lurched around doing my best Lon Chaney Jr.

That’s when the station’s chief engineer ran in screaming.

“What is this smoke? Do you have any idea what it can do to these cameras? The PARTICULATE MATTER in this could corrode the circuit boards! Destroy the optics! How are we going to do the news in three hours with no cameras?”

Oh, shit.

Yes, we were in the same studio as used for the newscast, and in moments, a crew from engineering started disconnecting the hulking cameras and dragging them into the hallway.

It should have been funny, me standing there in a mummy suit getting yelled at, but my blood ran cold. I skulked off to my office and waited to be fired.

Later in the day, my boss, the director of sales, called me to his office. He said something like, “Hey, no more smoke machines in the studio,” and sent me on my way.

That’s the day when I learned a valuable lesson: TV stations are not run by the engineering or news departments, they are run by sales. The only media literacy lesson you need is this: it’s a business — and if you think the media is biased, you’re right. They’re biased toward making money.

Guns and Drugs

Petersburgh, New York is only about four miles from both Vermont and Massachusetts. If it weren’t for the road signs, you might not know where one state starts and the other one ends. But even if the borders are invisible, there are profound differences when you cross them.

Two examples.

People in Vermont are very much like the people in Petersburgh, except they can very easily buy guns. In fact, Vermont has fewer gun laws than most states in America, and Vermonters can buy as many handguns as they like with no license, permit, or waiting period. Then they can carry concealed with few restrictions.

In the time it takes you to buy a gun in Vermont, you couldn’t even complete the application in Petersburgh.

A short way south, in Massachusetts, ordinary people can walk into a store and buy marijuana. Recreational sale is still in it’s infancy, so it’s not quite as easy to buy weed in Massachusetts as it is to buy a gun in Vermont, but give it time. People are standing in line to buy pot in Mass, but there are no lines for guns in Vermont.

In Petersburgh, marijuana means you need to know somebody —- or know somebody who knows somebody.

It’s true that there are more important measures of freedom than guns and drugs, but to many people, these are meaningful symbols of personal liberty. Both can be misused. Guns, sometimes, in terrible ways.

Petersburgh, so close, yet so far. If the wind is blowing right, you can smell the marijuana, and hear the sound of gunfire drifting over the hills.

Rolling Boil

Dominick Purnomo grew up around the work, stress, and pain that comes with carrying the weight of a restaurant. His parents, Chef Yono & Donna Purnomo are local legends in the food world, so he saw the business at its best too, with all of its triumph and joy. It’s a tough game. Restaurants are a place of great successes and epic failures. 

Dominick’s parents may have tried to steer him away, but he jumped in with both feet.

On Thursday, he tweeted a copy of a letter he was sending the Times Union, setting off a skirmish on social media where food and journalism collided.

You can read Susie Davidson Powell’s review here. To say she hated Boil Shack is understating things, for her review wasn’t just negative, it was gleefully nasty.

It’s fair to say that some people find Powell’s reviews annoying. When she started at the Times Union, her pieces were thick with Britishisms, so full of pip-pip-cheerio nonsense that they sounded like parody. Not so much now. Thank God for editors.

The president has taught us that Twitter is a great place to show how thin skinned you are, so Purnomo’s post drew a tart response from several prominent TU folks, like managing editor Casey Seiler.

Maybe Purnomo will get a polite and reasonable response to his letter from a senior manager at the paper, but that time isn’t now.

I don’t completely agree with Dominick Purnomo on this. A restaurant can have a bad night and fix it the next day, but your bad night may have ruined somebody’s special occasion. Or maybe you took the $100 bucks they put away for a nice dinner and you didn’t deliver. There’s no taking that back. 

As for Susie Davidson Powell,  her schtick is unfair and unprofessional. She may have been right, but she was not just.

Blackout

So, Governor Ralph Northam’s of Virginia had a tough couple of days.

Interesting, because it brought back memories of painting my own face on Halloween. Wore a robe once, too. As a matter of fact, painted the face and wore a robe on the same day.

But unlike with Governor Northam, my face was painted white and my robe was black.

The getup was supposed to be some sort of phantom druid or something, who the hell knows. What do you expect from a weird teenager who’d seen too many 60s British horror movies.

But it’s easy to remember doing it — and that’s why this Ralph Northam thing’s so strange. It seems to me that you’d recall wearing blackface or a Klan robe on Halloween when you were in college.

Fast forward to 1986. The Mets had just won the World Series, and the legendary Mookie Wilson/Bill Buckner play in Game 6 was a very big deal. So this guy — a friend of mine — showed up at work on Halloween in his Mookie jersey and his face painted as black as coal.

Think about that, walking into work in blackface. Pretty crazy. And I don’t think the boss did anything about it, except maybe tell him not to go see any clients dressed that way. He was in sales, and God forbid his Mookie costume cost the TV station some money.

Today he’d be fired on the spot.

Halloween’s a funny thing.  How far is too far when it comes to costumes? Or is Halloween like stand-up comedy, where anything goes and no topic is taboo or too offensive?

Either way, it’s a different world out there. If pictures of me in whiteface emerge, I could be in hot water with the phantom druids.

Faux Hawk

The Times Union Center is looking good. They’ve made a number of improvements lately, including a grand new atrium and giant electronic signs that make South Pearl Street look like Times Square. Heck, they even got rid of their most unsavory tenant, Talk 1300.

But there’s one problem that’s hard the fix: the pigeons.

Downtown Albany’s pigeon population is thriving, and they seem especially drawn to the arena’s nooks and crannies — so much so that a maintenance worker is outside every morning scrubbing pigeon shit off the sidewalks and walkways.

I noticed recently that the TU center was taking measures to scare off the birds, by fighting fire with fire. Ladies and gentlemen,  I give you the faux hawk.

You’d think this bit of fakery might have some effect, but I’m guessing the faux hawk is a flop. It’s covered pigeon poop — and in fact, the day I took this picture, several of the birds were roosting just above it.

What to do next? I’d suggest using REAL hawks. Every day when I walk from my parking lot, I see pieces of dismembered pigeons scattered about. One time I saw an entire set of wings still attached in the middle by a chunk of pigeon spine. The rest was completely gone. These hawks mean business.

So, you don’t need to be an ornithologist to figure this one out: bring more hawks to the arena and your problem will be solved. Maybe they could try releasing rats to draw in the hawks. That may sound unpleasant, but hey, it’s Downtown Albany. Nobody would notice.

Mugged

Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to end the free release of mugshots and other booking information, and the media is freaking out. Cuomo says it’s to preserve privacy and to squelch sleazy websites that extort money from people who want the pictures to disappear from the web. News outlets like the Times Union say it will lead to abuse and “secret arrests.”

It’s hard to take newspapers and TV stations seriously on this since they exploit mugshots just as shamelessly as the websites Cuomo is fighting.

Today it’s worse than ever. Local TV and newspapers don’t just use the mugshots as part of the regular news coverage, but they plaster them all over social media. That’s when the fun begins, as people get to leave comments about the depraved/evil/corrupt/contemptible/ugly person in the photo. It’s open season, and it doesn’t matter that the person has only been accused, they are dragged through today’s town square — the internet — and locked in the pillory.

In Canada and the UK, mugshots are not released unless there’s a compelling reason to do so, like in a matter of public safety. Some countries go even further, like Ireland, where it’s flat out illegal to release the identity of someone accused of a sex crime. You may not like that, but it protects the rights of someone who may be wrongly accused.

Yeah, so tell me again how this is about transparency and the public’s right to know. Could it also be about selling papers, boosting ratings, tallying clicks, and counting shares and likes? Either way, the media is complaining loudly — so loudly that I can barely hear the cha-ching of their cash registers.

A Bit of Puffery

The morning began with computer problems as the SD card reader was not reading. Hmph.

There were a lot of solutions online and none of them worked — until this one turned up: blow air into the slot. With your mouth. OK, why not? It only took one sharp puff into the SD reader for the card to work when it was reinserted.

Fixing this trouble impressed me so, that it was hard not to imagine spending my retirement working at the Apple store. That would be my specialty, blowing air into the openings in people’s computers. One could do worse. 

Fast forward 13 hours.

The Beatles White Album has been on my turntable since Christmas. The new remastered version was released in the fall, including my vinyl copy, a double album that’s nearly identical to the original release’s packaging.

This evening, side one sounded odd, and after a moment of Back In the USSR it was obvious that a big old clump of dust was clinging to the stylus. So, what did it take to fix this tech problem? One sharp puff of air directed at the needle. Bam — fixed.

How fortunate is it to be a master of the machines, both digital and analog? And it was just a burst of breath that solved their troubles.