More Than Meets the Eye

Cujo received a Transformers Bumblebee action figure for Christmas, and he absolutely loves it. As a result, he asked to see the new Bumblebee movie, but after some thought, I decided that it might be a little too advanced for a 4-year-old. Instead, I was going to show him the animated movie from the ’80s, since that seemed more age appropriate. Then I realized that I couldn’t make the movie his first exposure to the Transformers.

Optimus Prime famously dies in the movie (Sorry for the spoiler) which was quite the traumatic experience for many people of my generation. It wouldn’t be right for him to watch that without first watching the two seasons and building up an emotional attachment to Optimus (as well as the other characters who die). Otherwise, his death won’t carry the proper gravitas.

Fortunately, I found the cartoon series on the Tubi app, and allowed the kids to watch the first few episodes this morning. Cujo was quite enthralled, and he girls also seemed to enjoy the show, although not having accompanying toys, I’m not sure if they were quite as into it.

Hopefully his Bumblebee figure doesn’t meet the same fate as my Optimus Prime figure. Years ago, when my parents sold their house, I donated most of my old toys. Yet, I couldn’t bear to part with Optimus, which was one of my most beloved childhood possessions.

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Optimus Prime – in happier times

Unfortunately, a few years ago, the Cutlet had some friends over, and despite knowing that it was supposed to be off-limits, they played with Optimus. Inevitably, they broke off his leg.

Don’t worry, this story may have a happy ending yet. On Christmas Day, seeing Cujo playing so happily with his Transformer, I decided to check EBay to see if I could locate a replacement Optimus. Fortunately, there was a re-issue of the original 1984 toy listed at an affordable price, so I bought myself a present. He should arrive in a couple of weeks, and my nostalgia fix will be sated.

I’m just going to be sure to keep him on a higher shelf this time around.

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Deja Vu for the Eagles

Ten years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles were in a desperate situation. It was week 17, and not only did they need to win their game against the Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs, they needed about three other games to go their way as well.

Naturally, all of those things happened, rendering their game a “Win and in” game in which the winner would make the playoffs, and the loser would stay home. What followed was one of the greatest games in Eagles history:

The Eagles not only made the playoffs, but they won two games before eventually falling in the NFC Championship Game.

Ten years later, and the Eagles were once again in a desperate situation. As of this morning, in order to secure a playoff spot, the Eagles would not only need to beat the Washington Redskins, but also have the Chicago Bears defeat the Minnesota Vikings.

Beating the Redskins was the easy part. The Redskins were eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago, and had a quarterback who was unemployed when the season began. The game was played in the Redskins’ stadium, but hordes of Eagles fans made the journey, making it a virtual home game.

The Eagles dominated throughout, and came away with a 24-0 win. While watching the game at the bar, as an Eagles win became more certain, my attention began to wander from the Eagles game to check in on how the Vikings vs. Bears contest was progressing. To my delight, it was progressing well.

The Bears had opened up a lead on the Vikings, and the Vikings looked incapable of making a comeback. As the minutes wound down, and it became clear that the Vikings were going to lose, I celebrated with my fellow Eagles fans. The dream of back-to-back Super Bowl titles remained alive for another week.

The path back to the Super Bowl is going to be tough. Unlike last season when the Eagles had to only win two home games, this year they’ll have to win three straight on the road. It certainly won’t be easy, but its’ not supposed to be easy to win a Super Bowl. Besides, I’ve got plenty of time to worry about the Eagles’ playoff game. Tonight, I’m just going to go to bed happy that the team is (miraculously) still alive.

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ZooLights

Every December, the National Zoo in Washington DC holds a ZooLights event where they decorate the grounds with Christmas lights and allow visitors to walk the grounds after sundown. We had never attended before, but with the weather looking nice on Saturday night, Mrs. Cutter and I decided to take the family for a holiday treat.

Zoo1

Unfortunately, it seemed that just about everyone else in the DC area had the same idea. We couldn’t find an open parking lot, and for a few precarious minutes, it looked like we might not even make it out of the car. Fortunately, we came across a nearby California Tortilla where we were able to both park and get dinner.

Once we endured the several block walk to the Zoo entrance, the kids were happy. They enjoyed seeing the various lights, and they were completely transfixed by a laser light show display. Unfortunately, the majority of the things to do were located at the far end of the zoo which was a downhill walk. That wouldn’t have been so bad, except that every step we took downhill meant an uphill step on the way back.

Zoo2

Despite the crowd, and not being able to see everything the zoo had to offer, it was a worthwhile trip. The lights were beautiful, and the kids were entertained with a minimum of whining or complaining. If we go again next year, we just may have to try to go during the week.

Zoo3

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No More Scarves

My herniated disc has caused my life to change in several ways. Perhaps the most significant of those changes is that I no longer wear a scarf every day. (Dramatic pause as you all gasp in shock.)

I believe it was 2005 when Mrs. Cutter gave me a hand-knit powder blue scarf as a present. It was a nice scarf so I began to wear it. And by wear it, I mean, that during the colder months, I would wear it every day. While most people would only wear a knit scarf when they were going outside into the cold weather, I would keep mine on all day long. (Except when cooking – I almost had a scarf catch fire on the stove a couple of times.)

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Scarves no longer adorn my neck. (Image source)

Over the years, my collection increased as people either made or gave me a few additional scarves. I would generally choose that day’s scarf based on its color and how well it matched the outfit I was wearing. (And people say I don’t have a fashion sense!)

This past November, as the weather got colder, I once again broke out the scarves. However, after a few days, I started to notice that my neck and back were feeling worse than usual at the end of the work day, and I felt palpable relief when I took my scarf off. I suspected that they were causing poor posture which was putting extra strain on my neck.

As sad as it was, I realized I had to stop wearing the scarves. I will still break one out for the occasional social event, but my day-to-day life is generally scarf-free. I’ve generally been okay with the change, although my neck does feel somewhat naked at times.

It’s just one more reminder than getting old sucks.

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Ad Pundit: Fat Boys and Swatch

If you didn’t grow up during the ’80’s, I’m afraid today’s commercial will not make much sense. On the other hand, if you were coming off age during the Reagan years, it will likely fill you with a strange sense of nostalgia that you didn’t know you were capable of feeling.

You may remember Swatch watches. They were cheap and colorful, and just about every pre-teen and teenager had at least one. I recall them being especially popular Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts. (In hindsight, I should have gotten one for my nephew.) They’re still around today, but as far as I can tell, their popularity has fallen, at least in America.

As for the Fat Boys, they were over-sized rappers from the ’80’s who had a few hits like “Wipeout” and “Are You Ready for Freddy?” It only made sense for these two to team up for a Christmas commercial.

We start out at a boring dinner party. Nobody is having fun, and that’s apparently because they’re all wearing old, boring watches. Thankfully, a few large visitors are about to show up and change all that.

The Fat Boys jump down from a plane, arrive at the party and start turning that mother out. Some of the guests are clearly excited by these new arrivals, and have proceeded to get their groove on. Others are not as thrilled, like the glass-dropping woman here:

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Well I never!

Overall, I’d say the Fat Boys and Swatch have had a net positive effect on the party. Sure, a few old people were offended by the arrival of minorities, and a few glasses got broken, but we also got a group pose:

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As for those of you who have no idea about anything that’s gone on here, I apologize.

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Nuts and Gum

After being called out by Michael Bublé for not writing about anything substantial, I think it may be time to discuss a political issue. Now that 2018 is just about over, I think it’s fair to say that the year was quite a shit show when it came to American politics. Rock bottom may have come during the whole Brett Kavanaugh affair, when a man who was credibly accused of committing sexual assault was placed on the highest court in the nation.

There was outrage on both sides. Reasonable people Liberals were upset because there was enough evidence against Kavanaugh to think that maybe they should have found a different nominee. Others were concerned because if a seemingly respectable white man like Brett Kavanaugh could be accused of misdeeds, then anyone could be accused. These people used these accusations as evidence of a continuing war on white men in America.

It seems that there’s a sizable group of white people who think there’s some sort of campaign against them. They hear stories of minorities receiving welfare and the benefits of affirmative action, and they think it’s a sign that white people are falling behind. They hear things like “Press 1 for English” or see the #MeToo movement, and wonder how things changed to the point where white men were treated so unfairly.

It’s all bullshit of course. White men don’t want equality. White men want nuts and gum.

I’ve written before that America has basically turned into the Springfield of the Simpsons. For example, remember this clip?

The “best” part is that this works for white men all along the socio-economic spectrum. The well-to-do crowd doesn’t want things to change, because like Homer said, it’s nice to have all the advantages, no matter how stupid or otherwise unworthy you are. If you’re used to having all the advantages, an equal playing field can seem unfairly tilted against you.

For the less fortunate, they’re wondering why they’re not feeling the effects of this supposed “white privilege.” If white people are supposedly so well off and powerful, then why are they struggling to make ends meet, and why does the government seem so determined to help everyone else?

Unfortunately, this sentiment is – and remains – strong enough that a thoroughly unqualified and incompetent man was clever enough to tap into it, and used it to win a presidential election. If you happen to be one of the people who voted for it, all I can say is: I hope your nuts and gum taste good.

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Yet Another Christmas Day Interview with Michael Bublé

Since this blog made its unheralded return on December 1st, I’m sure there’s been one question on the minds of all my longtime readers: Would there be another interview with pop singer Michael Bublé on Christmas Day? And the answer to that question is: Yes!

Back once again to talk about Christmas and a variety of other topics is everyone’s favorite Canadian pop singer Michael Bublé!

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Another year of sitting down with Michael Bublé on Christmas (Image source)

Cutter: Hey, Michael! It’s been a couple of years. How have you been?

MB: Sigh…I’ve been fine.

Cutter: Just fine? It seems like your family has had a lot of good news lately.

MB: Yes, we have.

Cutter: Okay then what’s wrong?

MB: Nothing’s “wrong,” I’m just wondering why we’re doing this.

Cutter: This interview? We always talk on Christmas.

MB: Except that we didn’t the past two years. You know after we had our goodbye talk and you wrapped up your blog with a satisfying conclusion?

Cutter: You may remember that I always said I might bring the blog back again one day?

MB: But why? What’s the point? I’ve been reading some of these posts, and at the risk of being especially blunt, you haven’t exactly been writing world-changing stuff here. Maybe if you had brought back the 2015 version of the blog, I could understand. But that’s has been more like the 2011 version.

Cutter: Is there a huge difference?

MB: Yes. In 2015, you actually tried to write interesting posts that a general audience might want to read. In 2011, it was a glorified diary with limited appeal. And that’s what the 2018 version has basically been.

Cutter: You’re saying you haven’t enjoyed reading about my stomach illnesses or back pain?

MB: Oh yeah, that’s been super riveting. Let me tell you, I wake up early every morning anxiously awaiting to hear about your next physical ailment.

Cutter: Okay, I get it. I’ve had some “deeper” posts planned, but they take time, and if I want to get something up each day, it’s usually got to be short and quick.

MB: Even then, why are you doing this?

Cutter: I guess part of me just missed writing. I got nostalgic for the days of writing a blog post every day in December, so I decided to try it again. I’ll admit that it hasn’t been as much fun as I hoped.

MB: If you missed writing, why didn’t you work on your novel like you said you were going to do last year?

Cutter: I tried. It didn’t work. For whatever reason, I couldn’t do it. I’ve resigned myself that it’s never going to happen.

MB: You’re just giving up?

Cutter: Yes, I’ve given up! I tried a bunch of things to get myself to write the novel on a consistent basis, and none of them took. Maybe in a different life, I’d figure out a way to actually write the damn thing, but in this one, I’m simply not going to be a novelist.

MB: That’s sad.

Cutter: It’s not all bad. I am getting paid to write about the Phillies again, and that’s been fun.

MB: Congrats on that, I suppose.

Cutter: Well, since we apparently don’t have anything else to say to each other, is there anything you’d like to say to the readers?

MB: Just hope everyone out there is having a joyous and wonderful holiday season.

Cutter: Well said. Merry Christmas to all my readers!

 

 

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2018: The Year in Back Pain

If you know me in real life, you probably know that I injured my back this summer. You would know this because that’s pretty much all I talked about for two months or so. I didn’t want to be constantly whining about it, but when you’re in constant pain or discomfort, and can’t really sleep at night, it tends to consume your thoughts. For those of you who are unaware of the story, or just like to read about the pain and suffering of others, here’s a relatively brief summary of what happened:

I’ve had issues with my upper trapezius area of my back for years. While I’ve had the occasional flare-up, for the most part, I’ve been able to manage the problem with stretching. That changed in July.

The 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was in Washington DC, and to coincide with that event, they put on a FanFest event at the DC convention center. I have to say, this was an awesome event, with player meet-and-greets, batting cages, and all sorts of other cool exhibits. If not for the fact that I may have permanently impacted my health, I would give the event a very high grade.

FanFest

I took a turn in the batting cages, and based on the video I saw, my years away from playing baseball or softball have left my swing in sorry shape. Despite coming away from that activity with a slight twinge in my back, I also decided to participate in the Under Armour athletic challenge which included performing physical feats such as push ups, standing jumps, and a sprint. It was in the final few meters of the sprint that I felt the unfortunate sharp pull in my back.

I figured that like the previous times I had felt such a pull, it would be better in a few days. A few days later, I convinced myself it was improving and it would be okay to play kickball. It was not. The kickball game might not have made the problem significantly worse, but it sure didn’t make it better.

Not only was my back in severe pain, but I was getting shooting pain and numbness down my left arm. Between an inability to get comfortable while lying down and a variety of medications (they didn’t do all that much to help the pain, but they did screw up my sleep cycle!), I went through a three-week period where I didn’t really sleep at night. It got so bad that I considered six consecutive hours of sleep to be a good night.

The pain was so bad that I even saw a chiropractor. That’s kind of amazing due to my long-standing distrust of chiropractors ever since my mother took me to hers as a child. He turned out to be a quack who did something strange to me and slowed down my aging process. (This theory has never been officially confirmed.)

She diagnosed me with a cervical herniation. This meant that one of the discs in my spine was bulging, and putting pressure on the nerves in my back and arm. Eventually, this was confirmed by an MRI, but it took a while to get that test done. (Further discussion about that may come in a future post about opioid abuse.)

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A little spinal herniation goes a long way. (Image source)

For a while, it seemed like the problem wasn’t getting better, and I even had to visit an orthopedic surgeon to explore surgical options. Thankfully, I started to improve, because spinal surgery didn’t seem like an especially appealing option.

Eventually, I improved to the point where I could sleep through the night. Oddly, the biggest jump in my recovery came when I got sick. One morning I woke up feeling feverish and crappy overall, but my back felt the best it had since the original injury. For the most part, the numbness and tingling in my arm was gone. I suspect that I contracted a virus which caused my immune system to kick into high gear and as a side effect, my body finally started to attack the herniation in earnest.

Since then, I’ve undergone physical therapy which has helped me get to as close to 100% as I’ll probably ever get. I’ve been able to go back to the gym, however, my routine has been curtailed, and I have to be especially careful that I always use good form. Unfortunately, this means that I can no longer do a single pull-up, which apparently are a lot harder to do if you use correct form.

Considering that a few months ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d ever be able to sleep normally again without surgery, I think “not being able to do a pull up” is a completely acceptable place to be.

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Ad Pundit: NFL Shop

You may have seen this NFL Shop commercial with the Eagles and Cowboys fan in the elevator:

The Cowboys fan is portrayed accurately, as 99% of their fans are awful people who engage in anti-social behavior. But I can assure you that the Eagles fan is not an accurate representation of the Eagles fan base. He’s far too polite and nice.

This is a better indication of how an Eagles fan would react in that situation:

While I don’t often jump into people’s faces with my middle finger extended, I’m also not quite as gracious as elevator guy. I’ve found myself in similar situations many times before: I’ll be wearing a piece of Eagles clothing (I have a lot of Eagles clothes. When people can’t figure out a good gift to buy me, they usually just get me something with the Eagles logo printed on it. They’re not wrong), and a rival fan does not like what he sees.

My cockiness in responding to them often hinges upon how the Eagles are performing that particular season. The current edition of the team is 7-7 and struggling to make the playoffs. Normally, that wouldn’t merit a particularly cocky response. However, the Eagles did happen to win the Super Bowl back in February (Did you see the game? It was awesome!) and by my count, that makes them the reigning Super Bowl champions.

So when one of these rivals says something to me, I usually hit them with a, “Oh, don’t you like winners?” They usually don’t like this, so I follow up with, “Hey, did you happen to watch the Super Bowl this year?” They often don’t like that much either.

Presuming the Eagles don’t pull off a miracle finish to the season and capture another Super Bowl, I’ll soon have to retire that particular taunt. That’s sad, because I’m not going to lie to you: It’s been really fun.

 

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Holiday Clips: Kiss Saves Santa

Remember the time Santa was kidnapped, and the only ones who could save him were the rock group KISS?

I’m disappointed that Guns ‘N Roses never made a Christmas special of their own. I think they really could have done something with that.

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