Friday, January 31, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate West Virginia Water

If that chemical spill in West Virginia had happened anywhere else in the country (with maybe the exception of Mississippi), the heads of Freedom Industries and the government officials scrambling to protect special interests would have their heads on pikes as residents danced in the streets dragging the decapitated bodies behind them.  Substitute “Charleston” with “Boston” or “New York”, and CNN would be broadcasting around the clock burrowing into the lives and business practices of all the players.  60 Minutes would be doing full hour specials dedicated to the event.  Hollywood actors would be testifying before Congress that Something Must Be Done.  A gigantic relief concert would be constructed with Jay-Z, Rascal Flatts, and Daft Punk joining on stage to sing “America the Beautiful” disco style while a website took in millions of donations towards a shadowy “relief  fund”.  We might all be told to tie blue ribbons around trees, or something equally pointless.  However, since it happened in a place that most people don’t think about, it has already moved into the back pages of the news cycle.

For those not following the story, a company that specializes in chemicals used for “washing coal” kept giant storage tanks right next to the river that provides water to the 300,000+ residents of the area.  Why they kept giant drums of a chemical as toxic as you imagine it would be right next to the region’s water supply is sort of beyond comprehension.  Why those big rusty tanks had not been inspected by anyone since allegedly 1991 is a little concerning as well.  "Hey Earl!  We haven't had the tanks checked in 22 years!  Should we look at 'em or wanna go to Nitro and bet the dogs?  Yee-haw!"  Let's keep our expectation s realistic.  It is West Virginia and fucked up things happen all day every day.  The coal industry has a complete stranglehold on the state.  It’s not like the State is expecting to become a major tech hub or healthcare provider anytime soon.  The hand West Virginia has been dealt is coal, and that’s the one they are playing.  As coal and chemical concerns have the money, coal and chemical concerns dictate the politics.  That is why no one that lives in the area can get a straight answer on the scope of the spill, and the possible side effects to exposure to it.  No one knows, and if they do, they sure as hell aren't saying.

When the spill happened, officials told residents to flush their systems with water they had treated with God Knows What  other chemicals they added to it to counteract with the MCHM that leaked in.  While at the time it sounded like they knew what they were talking about, when people followed instructions they received chemical burns if they took a shower.  I would think that if you wanted to actually drink the water, you’d need a bit more than a Britta filter.  That’s just my guess though.  I’m no scientist.  Now, weeks later, people are still complaining about a formaldehyde smell from the water.  The good news is that West Virginia’s public health commissioner, Letitia Tierney, called these claims “totally unfounded,” saying formaldehyde “is ubiquitous in daily life and produced by the body in small doses, and that it could not logically have originated with the spill”.

Oh.  Well, that explains it.  Drink up!

At this point the lobbyists are in full spin mode, doing whatever they need to do to continue to allow their clients to rape the land at their target profit levels.  It is crystal clear that no one has any real idea of the potential effects of having thousands of gallons of “coal cleaning” chemical dumped into the water supply.  These guys are all winging it, and they are willing to put the lives of the 300,000+ people that need to use that water at risk so they won’t be under the microscope of any real inspection or regulation.  It is all about maintaining their profits.  Fuck everyone else.  By the time the cancers start multiplying, and children start dropping dead from mystery illnesses, the companies tied into this chemical spill will have been dissolved and re-built as “new” companies that can’t be held libel for anything that happened before incorporation.  Hell, Freedom Industries, the company that owned the tanks and allowed this to happen has already declared bankruptcy.  They are essentially already off the hook.

While these poor people try and figure out how to live in poison, perhaps it is time to start considering a different tact for chemical spills like this one, or the Gulf Oil Spill.  Now is the time to pursue criminal convictions for corporate negligence.  If a company makes unimaginable wealth by taking from the environment, they also have the responsibility to maintain that environment.  Despite the fact these companies are always eager to shout how they are able to “police themselves”, the track record points to the exact opposite conclusion.  Real accountability isn’t a fine that won’t actually curtail recklessness.  That’s just an inconvenience and a business expense.  Real accountability is going to jail for a decade.  That’s when safety starts to become a major concern.  Which will get a corporate CEO's attention?  His writing a check and explaining to stock holders why profits are down on a conference call, or his going to prison with real criminals for a ten year stretch?  I'm guessing prison, though I have been on some unpleasant conference calls...

The PR pros will now try to dilute this chemical spill with too much technical information, and confuse the public.  There will be studies and jargon and advanced chemistry.  No one will be able to make heads or tails out of it.  They will offer up paid opinions saying the danger is over and all is well.  Sage looking scientists from impressive sounding groups will go on TV and confidently provide information that benefits the chemical companies.  Lobbyists will introduce some toothless legislation that will appear to offer solutions, but will actually have no effect thanks to the small print.  The national news media has already tired of the story, ready to breathlessly watch Olympic half pipe and ice dancing.  More chemicals will be quietly dumped into the water in an attempt to figure out a way to make the water passable.  West Virginia is once again on its own, left to Big Coal. 
God help them.    


Monday, January 27, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Grammys

Something I almost never do is watch awards shows of any kind.  This is probably because I don’t really care who wins a Golden Globe or a Grammy as I generally find that the awards celebrate the ordinary and predictable.  The other reason is that I also begrudge the wild success of many of these artists for creating works of such blandness.  This is what happens when you create a world for yourself where you believe Roky Erickson should receive a lifetime achievement award, and you have no idea of who Sara Bareilles is…  I literally have no idea who many of the people are when the telecast does the “celebrity crowd shot reaction”.  The first time I heard three of the five “songs of the year” was when the award was being presented.  I have slowly slid into being the almost completely out of touch old man. 

Watching the Grammys was in many ways like being an unfrozen caveman, or a visitor from another culture.  I can see that people are very excited about the two guys in the space suits, but I’m not exactly sure why.  As far as I could tell, those guys don’t actually do anything.  They sort of move around in their outfits, which I can see as being entertaining, but shouldn’t they actually play an instrument or sing or do something tangible?  I know not everyone is Bob Dylan, but repeating “We’re up all night to get lucky” is setting the bar about as low as possible.  That makes the Ramones first record seem like Dostoevsky.

I saw Beyonce’s big opening number with Jay-Z.  I had never heard the song before, but people seemed to go apeshit.  Of course, they may have been going apeshit because Beyonce essentially performed a table dance while lip syncing with an outfit that said, “I’d like to introduce you to my thighs and ass.  Please note them while I lip sync this poorly conceived song about me riding a surfboard, which you may notice is a thinly veiled sexual allegory.  When I talk about grinding on my surfboard, I am actually talking about grinding my genitalia on a male partner of my choosing.  You can tell by the way I am dry humping everything on this stage”  That’s when Jay-Z walked out and started rapping about the same thing.  As far as I can tell, every song involving a black female vocalist now by law must include a part in the middle where some guy talks over the melody as some sort of male counterpoint.  I think Usher and John Legend are the only black guys on the planet that still sing, but as you may have noted, I am pretty out of it.  I would also like to note that for being a big superstar, Jay-Z has almost no stage presence and appears very awkward in his movements.  He’s a great businessman though.  I know this because he tells everyone about this fact on talk shows.  I don’t know what it is that he manufactures though…

I saw the Best Country album awarded to some girl that wore a dress that looked like a lampshade.  She had really long legs too.  The hit, which seemed awful, was called “Same Trailer Different Park”.  It was probably written by some super talented guy that writes shit like that so he can make pillowcases filled with money.   He knows they are shit though.  It’s like writing advertising jingles.  Every one of the country songs that are big hits now all appeared to be about having a lot of fun in your truck here in America with your best girl by your side while a train goes by as you drink beer.  While every R&B song is about fucking, every country song is about “good folks getting’ by”.  The contemporary country fan base is without a doubt, the biggest group of morons in any room.  They are the same people that like the comedy of Larry the Cable Guy, Tim Allen movies, Wal Mart and Transformers 2.  Like it or not, they are what most Americans are to their core.  It is incomprehensible to me that they don’t pay enough attention to those songs to notice their woeful content.  I can't wrap my head around why anyone would like any of these utterly predictable pieces of shit.

Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson played with Blake Shelton on some of their old hits.  They sounded awful, except Shelton who looked and sounded like a caricature of what a “country star” is supposed to sound like.  Merle Haggard looked surprised the whole time like he was suffering from dementia.  Kris Kristofferson did that move where you are laughing at the good fun you’re having up there with the boys while pretending that you don’t care how bad it sucks.  They all tried to sing along with Willie nelson, which is impossible.  There was a crowd shot that showed Sean Lennon clowning on the country songs.  I would like to see the roles reversed and see a crowd shot of Willie Nelson watching Sean Lennon play his music.  Willie should get really high first.  I mean really, really high.  That stuff is terrible.

Out of the five songs nominated for “Best Rock Song”, I had only heard one of them, that weak Stones afterthought tune “Doom and Gloom” they tacked on to yet another of their Greatest Hits packages.   Black Sabbath and Paul McCartney nominated?  I’m not saying that the Grammys are out of touch because I don’t have to.  That says it all right there.  The Grammy nominated rock categories are always embarrassing, like when you check out somebody’s record collection and find Def Leppard and the Top Gun soundtrack.

I almost fell asleep before that really odd moment where Macklemore and some big girl with tatted doughy arms played some song I never heard before about gay rights.  A quick aside, if you are only talking the lyrics like this Macklemore fella, are you still considered a musician, or are you something else like a poet or public speaker?  What’s the difference between Macklemore and William Shatner’s incredible body of work?  That was when Queen Latifah married a bunch of gay couples in the middle of the song, and then Madonna hobbled out in a cane wearing a white cowboy outfit.  I thought the Madonna part was a put-on and then she would start dancing around, but that never happened.  I know how important it is for her to look young a vibrant.  A cane is probably not the best prop for that, though better than a walker or wheelchair.  Then all the gay couples paraded through the venue, many of them crying as they came to grips with the fact that Madonna had played their wedding.  The crowd all applauded themselves for how liberal they were, pretending not to notice how terrible the song was or how opportunistic and exploitative the whole episode had been.  Had Lady Gaga shot across the room on a unicorn, it would have been the best.
I fell asleep after that.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Browns Again

January 18. 2014

Joe Banner
Cleveland Browns
76 Lou Groza Blvd.
Berea OH  44017

Dear Joe,

  One year ago I generously offered to assume the mantle of head coach for the Cleveland Browns.  It came as a great surprise to not even be offered an interview for this position.  I think we can all say, now that the dust has cleared, that this was a major mistake for the organization.  Some things were said in haste last year, as I mentioned I would entertain offers from the San Diego Chargers.  Let me assure you that I did not pursue that position with any real gusto.  While I would certainly enjoy the fruits of an NFL head coaching job, the move to San Diego would have been a hassle and the constant grind of being surrounded by the "brahs" of SoCal would have been taxing.  Do you have any idea how many guys there are in their late 50s wearing Vans and skateboard shorts?  I don't even like Operation Ivy or NOFX.  How am I going to fit in there?  I dig that "age appropriate" look that you and Mr. Haslem rock over in Berea.  I think you guys are more my speed, and I'm not just saying that to ingratiate myself.

  So let's get to brass tacks...  I have noticed that you fellas have been having a Dickens of a time finding a coach.  I don't know if you have put your finger on it yet, but The Culture of Failure that has been carefully cultivated over there certainly puts potential candidates off.  There is a belief that you just can't win in Cleveland.  Of course, that is because no one has ever actually won.  I've seen some grainy black and white film from the mid 1960s of the team winning, but I believe that is a myth like a unicorn, Bigfoot, or Utah.  So let's assume that you won't win.  Ever.  The good news is that these fools will keep coming to the stadium no matter what, so the key is to just keep the team interesting.  This is where I come in.

  No one in the national media will ever see this move coming.  "Browns Hire Some Guy As Head Coach"  Now, there's a headline.  The common man rises to take control of his hometown football team.  A man so off the radar that sports editors will be clamoring to find out more about me as I confidently guide the team to another 4-12 finish just like whoever else you are foolishly considering hiring.  I am a man that will stand at the podium and answer the tough questions.  "What happened with Davone Bess?"  We thought we could get him on the cheap because he was crazy, then it turned out he sucked AND was crazy, so we cut him loose.  "Why should the fans believe the team will be any better this year?"  They shouldn't!  We suck every year, and we are going to suck this year too.  Let's not worry about that, and go knock back some cold ones at the stadium.  It'll be a good time.  C'mon out!

  I would like to mention that I have been in the Playoffs 5 of the last 6 years in my fantasy league.  Let me allow you a second to soak that in.  5 of the last 6.  That is the kind of winning culture I will bring to the Browns.  While we carefully temper the public expectations with a losing team and drunken fun at First Energy Stadium (note how I seamlessly worked in the sponsor mention), I will work with you gents to see if we can maybe pull off 6 or 7 wins.  We go 8-8, they'll have parades for us.  We won't pay for a drink in this town.  Look, how tough can it be?  We draft that Johnny Football kid and let him run around, and see what happens.  It will be a helluva ride.

  I will call you on Monday to see when we can get together and hammer out the details.  Let's get together at that Alladin's off Bagley Rd.  I dig that V Nine soup and hummus falafel roll.  Til then...

  I remain,

  Greg Miller


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Nashville Brunch Table Sunday 11:17 am

Keegan stared blankly at Piper, his worn oxford shoes absentmindedly tapping out the rhythm of a Cat Power song being played in the restaurant.  He had his long dark brown hair pulled back into a pony tail meant to ape the look of the Spanish waiters he had seen that summer while backpacking through Europe.  Instead he looked like an effeminate version of one of the Kings of Leon, his beard perfectly trimmed to the “slightly scruffy” setting on his clippers that he kept in his well-appointed bathroom.  In his messenger bag at his side was a used volume of Charles Bukowski poetry he would pull out when he was killing time at local coffee shops.  He believed the choice made him look dangerous while at the same time vulnerable, the ideal combination for the thrift store targets of his affections.

Piper sat across him and whined on about the delays in finishing her installation at the pop up art gallery that had for two decades been a wig shop.  This was, of course, until the recent gentrification of the area.  Though Piper and her equally trendy friends had made the rents sky rocket out of affordability for the working class black families that had lived there since the 1950s, she often lamented about the “grit” that was being whitewashed from her neighborhood.  Keegan had great difficulty following Piper’s line of conversation, as instead he had zeroed in on a remembrance of that night two months ago when they had clandestinely “hooked up”.  After numerous Yazoo Pale Ales, he had lured her back to her apartment where he had spread her pale white thighs on her roommate’s futon.  With his underwear caught between his hairy knees, he had humped her quickly like a high school boy.  Her eyes opened slightly in surprise as he quickly started to come.  He buried his face into her hair as his spasms slowed.  He slid himself and the full condom out of her, the rubber sliding out like a slippery fish.  After a few moments of awkward clean-up, Keegan invented a reason to leave with a quick peck on Piper’s thin lips and an even thinner promise to “call ya later”.  He could feel her texting criticisms of his performance to her friends even before driving away in his battered Volvo. 

They saw each other several days later at the bar where “everyone” hung out.  They both pretended nothing had happened, a wordless mutual agreement that spared them both from having to offer up flimsy explanations for what each one of them regretted.  Quickly they fell back into their normal social arrangement as if the episode was a dream.  It could be difficult for Keegan to pretend that he didn’t care about Piper or his overwhelming desire to go back into time, make love to her with film star confidence, and feel her melt into him like a candle .  Instead he reassumed his role of sounding board to hear her struggles to “evolve” and shoehorn herself into prominence in the Nashville art scene.

Eventually Piper would purge all the details of her life, and only then would she ask about Keegan.  Exhausted she would reach for her skinny vanilla latte and prepare herself for the impossible task of giving someone else attention.  The tables turned as Keegan would speak with growing animation about the difficulty in finding a reliable drummer and the intellectual decision to minimize his band’s “sound”.  Piper would try to be engaged, but frankly found his band boring as did most of Nashville.  She looked over his head to see if someone more interesting would walk in.  Eventually the conversation lulled.  There was an art walk later.  Keegan did not want to go, but the promise of her dark red bra showing a slight shadow against the thin veneer of her American Apparel t-shirt was too much.  He would get to the Bukowski book later. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Manti T'eo Story Revisited (I told you so!)

While watching the Chargers v Broncos game on Sunday, I saw Manti T’eo get shaken up when someone smashed into his temple at 40 mph.  I had almost forgotten about T’eo as he has maintained an amazingly low profile since that imaginary girlfriend story captured my attention like no other story in the past year.  I maintained at the time that the most likely scenario in this entire episode was that T’eo was a homosexual that did not want to be outed, and then spun what may have been the most ridiculous cover story in history to cover his tracks.  I had made a bunch of totally uninformed guesses about what had really happened when The Spin was in full force here:

I had predicted that his “current girlfriend” was a plant by a public relations firm.  The woman, a 20 year old junior at the time named Alexandra Del Pilar, was a public relations major at St Mary’s that I had guaranteed was being given a job and financial inducements to pretend she was T’eo’s girlfriend.  The goal of this farce was to secure T’eo’s monster NFL contract and try to reel in all the wild speculation about his personal life.  As I sat watching T’eo woozily walk off the field yesterday, I wondered how all of that had shaken out.  I went to the phone and made some Google searches…

You might be surprised to learn that after Alexandra Del Pilar “broke up” with T’eo after their relationship became “long distance” due to his needing to train for the NFL combine in Florida (uh-huh…  That must have been it.  The distance.  Um-hm…). She then moved to Manhattan to spend four months working at Hitzik Strategies.  Hitzik Strategies is a high powered public relations firm that specializes in high profile clients that need to call in the cavalry.  If you are a big celebrity and you really fucked up, these are the guys to call.  Hitzik Communications refers to this in their press releases as “crisis communications”.  Their client list includes Justin Bieber, Glenn Beck, Ryan Braun, Alec Baldwin, and… Manti T’eo.  Well, that’s odd…  To think that a small 15 person office in New York that makes problems go away for enormous superstars like Justin Bieber needed a 20 year old college girl from Indiana without any experience to work in their office.  I would think that would be a difficult place of employment for a seasoned shark to land, much less a fresh faced kid that wasn’t even out of school.  And what an amazing coincidence that the firm handled Manti T’eo’s “crisis communications”!  Well, they were probably just so impressed with her after meeting her that they knew they needed to bring her into the office to handle things like Alec Baldwin punching photographers in the face.  It appears that after her “internship” ended, she went back to South Bend where she now is (surprise!) a reporter for Notre Dame Sports on 360TV.  Isn’t that just nice and tidy!

It’s a shame that our collective attention spans are so short.  For my money, the behind-the-scenes story of how the T’eo story was managed and how the pawns were manipulated is much more interesting than what the hell is really up with T’eo.  It was all swept under the rug with startling efficiency.  Kudos to Hitzik Strategies.  You pulled it off.


Update:  The State of Illinois has dropped all charges on me from the EZ Pass transponder debacle.  I have re-established normal relations with the State of Illinois and The Tollway Authority.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Nurse the Hate: The Horrible Zit Story

The worst blemish I ever had was in my freshman year in college.  It was an odd confluence of dermatological disasters that somehow came together at the exact same time, a Pimple Perfect Storm if you will.  On the left side of my nose sprouted a zit.  I recall it being especially painful, really attention getting. This was similar to the old seafarer’s adage of “red skies at morning, sailors take warning”.  There was a storm brewing under my skin, and I was going along for the ride.

By mid afternoon of that day, the entire tip of my nose had begun to turn red.  I was like a pointy nosed W.C. Fields, or a small time Bozo.  Come to think of it, I was almost like Rudolf.  If there had been a coach standing around with a whistle and clipboard, he most certainly would have said, “And we won’t let him play any reindeer games!”.  This would have been accurate, as I began to feel very self-conscious.  The last thing I wanted to do was play reindeer games.  I just wanted this thing to go away.  The bad news was that it was Tuesday, and I would have several days of intermingling with the fellow student population.

By the time dinner rolled around, my very empathetic and soft-spoken roommate noticed me from across the room upon getting back from class.  “Jesus!  You’ve got a real monster crawling up your nose!”  He was sort of like that character Stiffler in the American Pie movies, but even less sensitive.  We both went to our bathroom to take a closer look at the situation under the harsh light of a dorm bathroom sink.  I will admit great concern by this point, not so much because he had noticed this growing blemish from across an entire room and felt compelled to scream out.  No, the real concern I had was that the pain level was actually ratcheting up.  By this point, the entire left side of my face sort of hurt with the nose almost impossible to touch.

Upon closer inspection, it appeared that the situation was not really one zit forming at the bridge of my nostril, but three very large zits that were somehow merging into one sort of SuperZit.  Each of them on their own were to be feared.  To think that they might all actually merge into one was beyond comprehension.  Though they had not yet quite merged yet, three individual red mounds could be noticed upon the overall surface of the overall swelling and redness of the general area.  As various members of the dorm sifted though, almost everyone could agree that they had never seen anything like it.  It was akin to being a circus oddity.  “Jim!  Jim!  Get over here!  You gotta take a look at this!”  It was really more of a boil than anything else that could hoped to be combated by creams from a pharmacy.  It was really bad.

When a problem of this magnitude rears its ugly head, you can count on everyone to weigh in.  Opinion was split.  Some suggested radical amateur surgery.  Get in there and lance that thing man!  Others were more pragmatic.  You gotta wait it out dude.  It’s not time yet.  While this was a curiosity to all, it was a Level 3 Trauma for me.  I was becoming increasingly concerned that I would become known on campus for the next four years as “That Zit Guy”.  I quickly played out scenarios in my head involving getting my transcripts and attempting to gain admission to the University of Alaska to hide my shame.  In the end, I took a cautionary approach.  No need to freak out now.  Maybe the whole thing would subside by morning.  I went to sleep hoping that the magic of a new day would offer a cure.

When morning came, all was lost.  The threat of the SuperZit had been fully realized.  It was something that was about the size of a dime.  It must have protruded out a quarter inch.  If it opened and an eyeball started to look out, it would not have surprised me.  I was stunned.  It was like waking up and discovering you had a Siamese Twin squirming out of your face.  I decided to get in there and attempt to pop the damn thing.  It was a failure.  It wasn’t “ready”.  All it did was anger The Beast.  It now achieved a deep red color and almost throbbed.  It was a zit that could truly be called “angry”.

I had a class that morning with mandatory attendance.  As I recall it was an entry-level English class, something I could have passed in my sleep.  However, if you missed just two classes over the semester, they would flunk you and you would be doomed to repeat it with various flunkies in some sort of remedial version of the class.  I would have to spend 13 weeks with people that could barely read just because I was too freaked out to walk around with a major deformity.  I can do this.  I had to do this.  I will do this.  Bottom line?  I had to go. 

I decided the best course of action would be to sit far left by the window, minimizing the exposure of The Boil to the others in the class.  If I maintained a rigid posture and faced forward like an Army cadet, perhaps no one would notice.  The key would be to get there before anyone else and never move my head.  I tried to rationalize my way through it as well, thinking, “It’s only you.  You just think it’s huge.  It’s not that big.”  I then took a last glance at myself in the mirror before walking out of my room and almost recoiled in horror.  It was, in fact, much worse than I had thought previously.

Of course on my walk to class I ran into every single person I knew or wanted to know on the campus.  I felt like The Elephant Man walking to class.  “Do not look at me!  I am a monster!  A Monster!”  My technique of wearing a baseball hat to help draw attention away from this boil did not appear to be very effective as I could see people’s eyes stray to the nose, their expressions betraying their true feelings.  “Good God.  That is so gross.  Thank God it’s not me.”  It was as if it was written on all their faces.  I should have worn a wrestling mask.  Then I would have been “the wacky guy” instead of “the gross guy”.

I was shaky by the time I reached class.  Sweat poured down my pits.  I sat in the third seat back on the far left.  I hoped to sit there, and later wait everyone out after it was over until I exited the room, alone in my shame.  It would have worked perfectly if I had not written such an excellent paper for the last assignment.  For the first time ever, a student would read their work in front of the gathered students.  I would be that student.  It was a disaster.  If I didn’t know better, I would think the instructor was fucking with me.  Maybe she just wanted a closer look at what was going on under that baseball hat.  Who knows for sure, but my cover was blown.  I remember walking up there in front of everyone.  The boil glowed proudly, daring someone to touch it or gaze directly at it.  It was like a skin disease medusa.  To gaze upon it with your naked eye was to flirt with the Will of the Gods.  You could have just as easily stared at the sun for an hour.  I started to read.  After that, it’s all just sort of a blank.  I retreated home to my cavern of shame afterwards.

It took two more long days to turn the tide.  There were many false alarms in trying to get this thing under control.  Medicated creams were a joke.  Touching it even slightly only got it angrier.  It had to be approached with respect.  It wasn’t until the next day that I was able to gain the necessary traction on the situation.  I applied enough pressure and suddenly a massive amount of pus and blood shot from the side of my nose with a “Thook!!!!”.  The mirror looked like it had been hit with a forkful of mashed potatoes.  I swear I could hear a “hisssssssss” as the pressure released from the side of my head.  I had begun the long path to recovery.  It took weeks before I was whole again.  Even now the mental scars have not fully healed.

Today I saw a kid who was about my age at that time with a horrible blemish on his forehead.  I could tell how self-conscious he was.  That’s what being 18 is all about, isn’t it?  I almost stopped him and said, “Hey, I’ve been there.” but I didn’t.  This was his journey.  It was his road to take alone.  Only he would know the pain and ultimately the satisfaction when that thing eventually burst.  Only then would he have a blemish to judge all others by.  What I had to offer him were only words.  He needed something more tangible.  Something like a class schedule with optional attendance.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Wild Card Weekend Part 2

Yesterday came together as I knew it would.  The 21st Amendment Bitter American session ale strategy coupled with the improbable Colts comeback allowed me to stay in my shoes and provide me with a false sense of confidence rolling into today’s games.  I kept it together while others talked openly about "killing myself with a pen" and "stringing myself up in the garage for my family to find me".  While this was mostly sour grapes combined with dangerously alcoholic beer choices, it points to the rapid change in fortune with NFL gambling.  It's almost impossible to succeed.  I was able to resist the urge of making that sucker teaser bet on the totals.  I stayed the course, going with my gut.  This is really a perfect storm situation.  Sitting flush with my winnings, I will now probably give them all back in one fell swoop in the early game.  I have such confidence that the Cincinnati Bengals will win today I cannot begin to tell you.  This will be my undoing…

As I discussed yesterday, I look for one flimsy piece of evidence to stake my wager on.  I will wave my hand at all other factors and choose to focus in on this one trend that in my mind will provide irrefutable evidence about the events that are about to unfold.  In this case, it is Wild Card road teams that are underdogs by more than 3 points are 4-33 straight up.  That does not suggest that the San Diego Chargers have much of a chance today. 

While placing all emphasis on past events, we are discounting the “Bengal Factor”.  At any time Andy Dalton is capable of turning in a "Weedenesque Minor" game (only “minor” as no one can hope to perform like the true maestro Brandon Weeden).  Marvin Lewis will be totally outcoached.  The Bengals will have a terrible gameplan.  They will not even attempt to get the ball to their best players.  The defense will take wild chances and fail.  They will get big penalties at key times crippling the team.  The “Ohio Factor” of general doom and failure will float over the stadium like a mist.  These are all very real concerns.  However, I am going to go right ahead and take Cincinnati on the money line despite the horrible price of -270.  4-33 is a trend that I think we can all get behind.   

The Green Bay/San Francisco game has everyone convinced that the Packers have no chance.  I don’t know why that is the consensus as the shitty Green Bay team down the stretch had no Aaron Rodgers.  His return immediately moves Green Bay into the category of “a real football team”.  The weather forecast today, from what I can see on The Weather Channel, is “Cold As Fuck”.  This is a term that isn’t just bandied about normally from respected news sources like The Weather Channel.  When I see “Cold As Fuck”, I expect to see a lot of running plays, mid range passing and turnovers.  This leads me to believe that the Packers can hang in there.  To keep it interesting, I’m going to make a small play on Green Bay +3.  This will only happen if I am smug about winning the early game and decide to toss dollars at this complete coin toss of a game.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate the NFL Playoffs

There are a few things you need to know about me.  I like to travel.  I like fine wine.  I like craft beer.  I have an extensive record collection (and I did say "record').  I can never understand what Bruce Springsteen is singing.  Elvis Costello either.  Or Eddie Vedder.  I like Bob Dylan, even his 80s records.  I have a weakness for the Crypt Records catalogue.  I love artisan cheeses.  I like to take my kayak out just before sunrise when the water becomes momentarily calm and like glass.  I like tea more than coffee.  However, what I might like more than anything else is the NFL Wild Card Weekend playoffs.  What other weekend provides such an opportunity to sit by a comforting fire, drinking "session" microbrew, staring at an enormous high definition TV, and gambling wildly on outcome of the games?  If I turn off the sound of the blithering idiot commentators and throw music onto my powerful sound system, I have combined almost everything I like in one package.  All I need are a few like-minded souls, and I really have one of the finest weekends of the year.

The NFL Playoffs are an even bigger Wilderness of Mirrors than the regular season.  Each game has been sliced and diced by sports talk trying in vain to create relevant content.  Seriously, how many ways can you talk about how bad the Saints suck on the road?  There is no edge to be had.  The betting lines have been set razor thin by men that have somehow traveled into the future in some time machine that was created by the people that built the Billagio and Mandalay Bay.  It's the only rational explanation.  The men that set these lines are the best at their jobs on the entire planet.  They never make a mistake.  Ever.  If they are on point when they make a line for Bowling Green vs. Marshall, do you think they will miss on Philadelphia vs New Orleans?  No way.

Now that I have given myself over to the fact I am essentially betting on a coin flip, I will cling on to any piece of information that has even the shadow of relevancy.  Give me the thinnest shred of a reason to gamble on these games, and I am taking it.  Oh, I'll bet the over/under just for the action, but the real key is to bet a team to win.  I feel that I need to have a dog in each of the fights.  I need to be all-in on a team that I have otherwise paid almost no attention to until this moment.  I need a reason to care as I knock back 21st Amendment Bitter American Session Ale while I tend the fire.  What?  The Colts are 5-1 ATS at home?  KC has lost 5 of their last 7 games?  The Public has jumped on KC so hard that the line moved from Indy giving 2.5 to them now getting 2.5?  That's all I need. That's why I am on the Indianapolis Colts +2.5.  Where can I get a Colts hat by 4:30pm?

This late game is tricky.  The Saints are really terrible on the road.  I know this because every media outlet from ESPN to Dr. Phil has mentioned it to me all week.  The Saints are 0-6 ATS on the road.  They are 1-4 ATS in Playoff road games.  It's going to be cold and shitty in Philadelphia.  I just can't get it out of my head that Philadelphia's 32nd ranked pass defense is going to get lit up, and a bunch of vile Eagle fans are going to get their guts ripped out on national television.  Please note, I don't think this will happen, I just feel like it is going to happen.  I keep coming back to the image of a city full of fat greasy guys in Wilbert Montgomery and Reggie White jerseys that are going to be all lit up and coming home to beat their kids, dogs, and wives after being let down by their beloved Eagles as it has always been and will always be in the City of Brotherly Love.  Despite this evidence that has come to me from this vision, I am going to take Philadelphia -2.5.  This is why I am sick and need help.  I may also tease both games on the over/unders just to be completely irresponsible.  How about UNDER 53 in the Indy game and UNDER 61 in the Philly game?  That wager will only depend on how much of the fever I catch by kickoff...

This is the best day of January.  Enjoy it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Illinois Tollway Part 2


Jeffrey Redick
Director Illinois Tollway
2700 Ogden Ave
Downer’s Grove Illinois  60515


I am writing you with the hopes you can deliver me from what has become a bureaucratic hell.  Let me bring you up to speed…  In June I was driving through the Greater Chicago area with my EZ Pass.  As an Ohio resident, I often travel the turnpike to Illinois through Indiana, and appreciate the convenience of the system.  I appreciate that I don’t have to stop in Gary Indiana, and risk being decapitated for six dollars and a travel mug by area hoodlums.  I had to stop there recently for gas, and noticed that much of the area around the exit had devolved into a Mad Max type wasteland.  I think in real estate parlance, these structures are called “fixer-uppers” or “handyman’s delights”.  Regardless, I like being able to motor through at a brisk speed.  Kudos to all those involved in the fast pass system.

The problem was that on this particular June day, one of the toll booths did not pick up my transponder signal, and I was sent a fine asking for the $6.00 toll and an additional $80 fine for blowing through the gate.  As soon as I received this notice, I called the Tollway Authority and paid for my toll.  I’m not trying to dodge paying my toll.  I’m just a guy trying to stay on the right side of the law.  I was told to fill out the “Non Liability for Fine” forms, which I did and sent back.  I was told that I did not have proof my EZ Pass account was active at the time of the infraction.  My task was to then provide documentation that my pass was active.

I’ll level with you.  The State of Ohio could really use some help in the area of customer service in their EZ Pass division.  I couldn’t log onto my online EZ Pass account as I had set it up initially as a “paperless” account.  Who knew that such a selfless decision would prove to be so disastrous?  I had no idea what my account number was as I never received any correspondence from EZ Pass, therefore I could not have access to log into my account.  No account number, no way to log in.  I was like a dog chasing his own tail!  One would think my account number would be on the side of the transponder, but it’s not.  That number is only the transponder number.  I can’t do the “Forget your password?” option because I don’t have the option of just using my email address.  I mean, who set up this system?  What sort of Fool’s Errand had I set out on?  I was left with no other choice than to call the 800 number and speak with a representative.  This proved to be a challenge…

No one ever answers the 800 number to the Ohio EZ Pass office.  I even tried that trick of entering random extensions, or hitting the button for emergencies only.  You know that move where you hit the emergency number and then try to play it off like you had no idea you hit the wrong number?  “Oh, I’m sorry!  I don’t have a seventeen car pileup to report.  I was just trying to reach an Ohio EZ Pass representative.  Could you transfer me?”  No dice.  They have every loophole closed.  I believe the descendants of George Orwell were involved in the setup of this office, though this might just be a wild internet rumor. 

I became interested in how long it would take me to actually speak to someone, so I kept a record.  I made 17 calls, each averaging 32 minutes on the automated hold system.  Sometimes it just hangs up on you.  It’s maddening.  It became a quest to me.  I would not be deterred.  I would speak to someone.  Anyone.  At last I spoke to a world weary voice, a man so obviously beaten down by his impossible job that the feeling of defeat oozed through the line.  He provided me with the online account information I needed.  I printed out every single screen that is available on the website, as well as making a copy of my actual transponder, and filled out the Non-Liability forms once again.  I felt confident that my name would be cleared and the State of Illinois could move on to larger projects.  After all, you are the people that put on the World’s Fair!  A center of commerce and art!  The hub of the entire Midwest! 

Weeks later I received a form letter as a response to my requested paperwork.  “After review, my request for non-liability had been denied.”  I recall staring at the letter, blinking in disbelief.  How could this be?  I had provided all the information that was available to me.  I had initiated the contact between us.  How could this be?  My good feelings for the State of Illinois began to wane.  I hoped this was just some sort of misunderstanding between a low level government employee, perhaps over eager to prove they should be promoted up the ranks of the State of Illinois Tollway’s pyramid of power.  I reached out again to try and clear this issue up.

I was told I needed to provide a document that to my knowledge did not exist.  Well, it wasn’t accessible to me on the website anyway…  In my experience in dealing with government, I knew this could prove to be a problem.  While I am an “Ends justify the means” guy, it became evident that everyone I came in contact with at the Illinois Tollway was more of a “means justify the ends” type.  I think this makes me more of a “dog person” and they “cat people”, but this is just a theory that we can perhaps discuss at another time over brandy and cigars.  I set out on the suicide mission of attempting to once again contacting the Ohio EZ Pass office and get a copy of my full participation in the Ohio EZ Pass system.    

Making another long story short, I acquired the necessary documents.  It took weeks.  At last I had the documents that were my key to escaping this trap.  It should be noted that during this process, the Illinois Tollway sent me over to a collection agency.  These people began calling me from an 800 number, leaving messages that said “return this call to Mr. Scott at the law offices of Blah, Blah, and Blah and only speak to Mr. Scott.”  The interesting thing about this is when you call back and ask for Mr. Scott, they become very agitated when you actually ask for Mr. Scott.  I thought that The Mr. Scott Ruse was interesting in that they deliberately set up their painfully untrained operators to immediately be on the defensive.  Why leave a message to speak only to Mr. Scott when there is no Mr. Scott to speak with on the return call?  Personally I like to think of Mr. Scott as a balding heavy set late middle aged white man in an ill-advised Tommy Bahama outfit enjoying a gin and tonic in the Dominican Republic, with beads condensation on his glass.  I also picture him with one of the more attractive women from the call center he has culled from the herd to act as his “personal assistant”.  She is dressed in a sundress that would be illegal in the States, and she hands Mr. Scott the occasional report from the call center in a bored fashion.  There is some sort of distasteful “arrangement” that has been made there, but Mr. Scott has had this type of hustle going so long he doesn’t even notice the glances from onlookers any longer.

 Obviously I have spent much time considering the elusive Mr. Scott…

 After the documents arrived at the Illinois Tollway HQ, I was feeling positive that this would be the end of the matter.  It had been a real struggle, but I made sure to see this thing through.  That’s when I received a call on Christmas Eve where I was informed that they had received my documents, agreed that I had an active EZ Pass at the time of the infraction, agreed that I had paid the toll which had not been collected and now were in a position to offer me a settlement on my fine.   The position the Tollway has taken is that although I had an EZ Pass, the amount of time it had taken me to wade through the bureaucratic muck had exceeded the random amount of time allotted when the fine was assessed, and I still owed the fine.  My understanding is that I owe a late fee on a fine that I never should have been assessed in the first place.   While I can appreciate the black comedy of this, and might even refer to it as “Kafkaesque”, I have taken a position that I should not owe any money to the good people of Illinois for something that I didn’t do.  Unfortunately, I cannot seem to get anyone on the 800 number to agree with me on this.

As a learned man, I am sure you agree with my position conceptually.  While looking online for your address, I noted you went to college in Charleston IL, one of my favorite small towns in America.  By God, any person that spent four years in a place that hosts a “Turkey Testicle Festival”, and attended a school where Graham Lewis taught literature and poetry must be good people.  I feel confident that a man of your position can call off the dogs, feel secure in the knowledge that I paid the Illinois Tollway what it was due, and now both parties can move on with their lives.  I ask you this… Can you and will you help me resolve this matter?

Best regards,


Greg Miller