Archive for June, 2008

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Man-cation

June 28, 2008

Starting tomorrow night, I will be at (you guessed it) Rushford Lake and then Derby/Angola wherever the hell that is out near Sunset Bay resting, relaxing, imbibing, reading and eating as much red meat as my colon can withstand.  This is my final week off before our wedding in September, so I plan on enjoying it to the hilt.  Subsequently, there won’t be a Monday update this Monday.  You’ll just have to get by without me.  This Monday, Night Life will be running a summer repeat performance of ‘Wife Beaters & Rollerbladers’ a favorite categorical about the rules of summer enjoyment.  It seems fitting considering that I’ll be living the high life while you suckers are out there in the hustle and bustle with your nose to the grind!  Ha!  Have a great week and I’ll drop you a line from the funny papers,

Tom Waters

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Taking The Super Right Back Out Of Superintendant

June 25, 2008

Author’s Note: This was an assignment from Buffalo Rising ( www.buffalorising.com) that may or may not see the light of day. My esteemed associate editor informed me that she ‘got more than’ she asked for. I truly enjoyed writing this piece, though, and feel that it deserves to see some publication as an explosive take on the McKinley High School issue. Please let me know what you think, Buffalo. Sincerely,

Tom Waters

 

Taking The Super Right Back Out Of Super-Intendant

-or-

A Great Gaggle Of A Beautiful Mind-F*%k

 

Over the course of the last six months, the names Jayvonna Kinccannon, Crystalanne Barton and James Williams have become household names in Buffalo. Symbols of a classic struggle, bastions of discussion around the water coller (has anyone honestly had a conversation around a water cooler?), and key players in an argument that’s gotten people stirred up enough to forget about their own conflicts for at least a little while. A student who’s been railroaded by disciplinary action. A principal who’s gone mad with power. A school superintendent who’s too busy tucking his tail between his legs to accept the blame who passes the buck until no one else will take it in the hierarchal cluster-f&*k that this PR catastrophe has turned into. It’s become a chance for everyone to weigh in on the Buffalo Public School system.

-Let’s stop a second. Take a breath. Are you ready? Here we go:

I side with the Buffalo Public Schools. Yep. And this isn’t a ‘take the opposite stance on the issue for the sake of being different’ situation. Normally, I refuse to weigh in on politics, religion or sports. When my new handlers at Buffalo Rising pitched the op-ed concept to me, I backed away waving my hands in the air comically. But then the issue sat and festered with me for a day. And one unrelenting bitch of a workday hammered it home into my bourbon-soaked brain that wait a minute, I’m actually qualified to give forth my two cents on the issue. After every living radio broadcaster, popular-opinion whoring columnist and left-leaning alternative pundit has proffered their opinion (and possibly past the point where anyone is still listening), this scribbler has some small degree of experience regarding the topic of education in downtown Buffalo.

-I worked downtown for over three years. Front and center on the tarmac of the blast radius of the colossal cluster-fuck of cyclical socioeconomic stupidity, ignorance and arrogance that the core demographic of the city youth project.

I’m siding with Crystalanne on this one. After seeing the majority of Buffalo’s, how shall we say?, less privileged or pampered youth grow up, drop out and/or work their way into the streams of their desired revenue streams, I’ll stand right behind the principal. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that, competent or not, James William is a spineless jellyfish with all the administrative prowess of a pet rock. That’s a losing battle. Yet here we have a tenured city school principal who (while she perhaps went too far and then some) is living with the 1,000 mile combat stare of dozens of generations of mostly impossible odds.

This is the death of the nuclear family. This is the lack of some strong father figures in the household. This is the weight of years of cynicism, a blind and near-incomprehensible mob mentality in urban youth and a next to invisible presence in the crucial upbringing of our city’s children. This is poverty, famine, addiction and a near-suffocating set of less than idyllic value systems being passed on to impressionable off-spring.

We don’t know all the details on the McKinley High fiasco. We probably never will. As a creative writer with a few journalistic instincts, it’s problematic at best to make sweeping statements about a situation that’s been bandied about as a study in absolutes.

Perhaps Ms. Barton over-reacted just a smidge in her disciplinary duties as a figurehead at McKinley High. But I’ve seen first-hand what the onslaught of stupidity, the total lack of grammar and enunciation, the mindset that ignorance, willfulness and petty threats can do to a person. I know because I’ve been in the belly of the beast on that one. I’ve talked with Buffalo Police for years and heard their jaded souls crying to make a small dent in the powder-keg that downtown Buffalo often is. There are some stupid, stupid children in Buffalo.

And the majority of the blame falls on the parents (or lack thereof).

You don’t agree? Fine. Someone had to say it, though. I’ve known genuinely altruistic numbered-school educators beaten down by the weight of their humble task of trying to get through to the handful of kids who showed up, didn’t cause trouble and who genuinely wanted to learn. I’ve seen dozens of children day in and day out on the weekdays skipping school just to wander aimlessly, beat up older residents, work a small con or resort to petty theft. When does the blame stop? When do we stop looking everywhere to vent our anger and start coming to the revelation that children (ideally) should be getting more of their interpersonal and educational skills from the home?

I’ve known teachers who have died inside after seasons of trying to make a difference who become so burnt out from the constant assault of pure idiocy that they shut down inside and drift through their workday, through their careers. I’ve known children who grew up too fast and turned into armed felons, repeat offenders and drug dealers who peel off stacks of fifty dollar bills tied together with a rubber band. I’ve watched every season of The Wire in mute fascination at what a poignant mirror it holds up to the Buffalonian politic in the light of day. Sure, pretend it’s not true. I’m not talking a black and white issue here. This isn’t blacks. This is black, white, gray, calico and otherwise.

Drugs, poor parenting, and a melting pot boiling over at the seams and eating away at the burner. A perceived lack of career options and a ‘why try’ mindset in the cauldron of hate and ignorance in the young mind. I side with Crystalanne more than most citizens. I’ve worked in the heart of the city. A city that’s going slowly mad that practically took me with it. A city where guns go out of the back of convenience stores and wind up in the Police blotter mere weeks afterward. A city where teachers are terrified of small-minded children a fraction of their age because they can’t understand what motivates them or because they’re suckers for a style of intimidation that their small-town values and high-priced education never prepared them for.

I’m not here to hand out solutions, but a great deal of the children in the public school system are misunderstood monsters who need to have their sense of entitlement ripped away from them along with a swift kick in the ass before they fall into a lifelong cycle of either violence, suckling at the teat of public funding or becoming the patriarches and matriarchs of another splintered nuclear family.

Show me the families that sit with their children to review their homework. Show me the parents who reward their children for good manners, good behavior, respect for their elders or a commitment to learn and a hunger to climb the educational ladder beyond basic education. They’re one in a million. I’ve met these families, but they are so few and so far between that it’s heartbreaking.

Exposure to the truth of the matter for prolonged periods can have long lasting and life-altering effects. It’s all well and good to throw concepts and ideals and pie-in-the-sky scenarios together from the cushy comfort of the suburbs or if you have no clue what you’re talking about from the hallowed, privileged desk of a newsroom or an AM radio station. Get real. I’ll say it again. Grow up and get real. The public school system is only a fraction of a larger puzzle, and family (or the lack of family) is at the heart of the issue. Public schools need work, but family planning, positive reinforcement, and an added emphasis on coaching in the home take precedence before any of these other issues can be looked at.

This can’t possibly be what my handlers were looking for at Buffalo Rising, but it’s one hell of a way to introduce myself. Hello, Buffalo. You’ve heard everyone else’s two cents in the din of frenzied voices crying out at the top of their lungs to be heard on this issue and now, begrudgingly, you have mine. Work with your children. Break the cycle. There’s only so much our educators and administrators can do with an eight hour day, a five day week and a school year that’s woefully getting whittled down year by year because the faculty would rather take a ‘mid-spring recess’ after Easter and design a few other days off than deal with the nightmare they look square in the face every week. Good luck, Buffalo. You’ll need that and then some. I’m just glad I’m not confronted with it anymore.

Tom Waters

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Too Cool Review hits BRO (Buffalo Rising Online)

June 24, 2008

     After a week of punching up graphic novel reviews and one poetry collection review, Buffalo Rising has posted my first piece on Alex Robinson’s Too Cool To Be Forgotten.  According to my editor’s reports, the author interview will be hitting stands in the print issue of Buffalo Rising around the 1st of the month.  To read the book review on Too Cool, surf yourself over to:

http://www.buffalorising.com/story/the_mulligan_life_too_cool_to#sca

     Two or three other publications had a chance to run this review, but they didn’t get back to me in time.  It’s a good thing, because this new partnership with BR is turning out to be just the creative kickstart I needed.  And trust me, there’s a lot more where that came from.  So far they’ve been very accomodating with my work and tremendously helpful with feedback.  With a few exceptions, that’s a rare commodity in the WNY area. 

 

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Monday Big Words Update! Week 83 (‘Kicked In The Monthly Mailbag’) Simulcast!

June 23, 2008

     I’m still riding high from yesterday’s Think Twice Radio show.  If you haven’t listened yet, click your butt over to:

www.thinktwiceradio.com

-and click on my ugly mug for some really funny stuff.  Don and Ian made great guests and my buddy Ron and I were practically wetting our pants listening to the show last night during our weekly guy’s night.  Yet here it is a Monday again which means that the new print issue of Night Life magazine is hitting stands all around Buffalo and the lower Canadian regions with a Big Words installment of ‘Kicked In The Monthly Mailbag’, a severely tongue in cheek response to the fact that I begged, pleaded and cajoled for some letters or suggestions from readers and got ZERO responses.  Thanks a lot, folks.  Since I’m still aggravated about that, I’m going to run today’s column right here for you bastards as well.  Take a hint!  My ego needs constant care, feeding and nurturing, so send me some goddamned mail already!  The address (in the event that you haven’t been beaten over the head with it enough already) is: bigwordsmailbag@yahoo.com .  If you want to hear me read your letter on the Think Twice radio show, put ‘Radio Show mail’ in the subject heading.  If you want to see portions of your letter in print, write ‘Print Column’ in the heading.  After lowering my expectations and still getting let down on reader mail, I’m not expecting much.  Thanks for nothing. 

     So that’s all I’ve got.  If you haven’t been checking the site, last week was a busy one, so scroll down if you want to get caught up.  Seeya in the funny papers,

Tom ‘rain, sleet and snow’ Waters

 

  Kicked In The Monthly Mailbag
 
 Last month, I begged and pleaded with all of you to send me some mail so that I could see what you had to say.  I encouraged everyone who read this column to direct their comments, questions and suggestions to: bigwordsmailbag@yahoo.com.  Here’s what I found in my email box.  I will try and answer each email respectfully and pleasantly:
 
 Michele Hanah writes in saying that I can ‘Expand my male organ with infinite inches running on the best therapeutics.’  Thanks for writing in Michele!  While I appreciate your suggestion, my male organ is doing just fine.  I don’t like to brag, but I sometimes knock furniture over with the length and girth of my male organ.  I’m not sure how you can guarantee infinite inches of measurement (as that’s scientifically impossible), but I guess I’ll never know, because I’m not going to buy your product.
 
 Adela Martinez writes to notify me that ’I am looking for a foreigner who will stand as the next of kin to MR.Ruben Martin. After processing the paper works that will reflect you as the next of kin to our late client you will henceforth become the new and sole beneficiary of the total funds.’  She also claims that I can stand to inherit ‘US$30,000,000.00’While this could be a lucrative proposition, Adela, I was really looking for something along the lines of feedback on my articles and rants that run in the pages of Night Life magazine.  I’m impressed that you found an outlet that distributes Night Life magazine in Berlin, Germany, and even I didn’t know that they had such a wide swath of newspaper distribution.  While I could find some good uses for ’US$30,000,000.00’, I highly doubt that you have those sort of funds to give me.  I could buy a lot of drinks for myself and a few for other people with a couple of million.  You’ll just have to find another rube for your ’Spanish Prisoner’ scam.
 
 Nanchang Kyber emailed me with a subject line that read ’You can achieve the whole world with Viagra Pro’, yet her email itself had this to say: Leaving the assistants to clean up and hide the wreckage of the alloy-resonance generator, he gathered all their lab notebooks “for security reasons,” and later destroyed them. The famed inventor liked Co think he was in control of his life.
“Or do you simply miss our fascinating company?” Juno inquired with an abrasive snort. “Perhaps you grew lonely after so much time by yourself.”
She grinned. Selim had taught them how to live by the most austere means, yet whenever they captured supplies from their enemies, the outlaws celebrated. Within an hour, the festivities would begin.’  While I consider myself something of an outlaw, I’m not sure how this is relevant to my recent rants on rules about women (‘Perpetual Estrogen’) and the value of silence (‘Quiet Time Or Else’!).  And while I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, I have no goddamned idea what an alloy-resonance generator is.  Thanks for writing in, though!
 
 So what have I learned from my repeated attempts to get a once-a-month mail column going?  Theory A)With the miracle of the internet, there are still idiots out there who think that some poor sap will fall for buying snake-oil boner fuel and get-rich-quick schemes.  Theory B)Nobody reads this goddamned column in Night Life magazine.  Theory C)There IS a readership for this column, but the readers are too goddamned lazy to interact with said author.  Theory D)There IS a readership for this column, but the readers are either too cheap or don’t have access to a computer, and therefore, the email capabilities offered by the World Wide Interweb.  Theory E)Don’t ask for readers to email you because it’s a waste of time.  Theory F)You’re reading this right now, and you have no idea what I’m talking about and I’m astonished that you’ve read this far. 
 I could go off on a blind rampage here and swear never to do a mail column again, but I never say never.  If you want to send me an email, great.  If not, then go fuck yourself.  I will say that I’m never going to beseech my readership to write in again but I will respond to any emails sent to me.  On to other matters.  A massive announcement!
 Starting in July, Big Words I Know By Heart will be expanding to the realm of a radio show.  I’ll be hosting my own pod cast under the same name online with special guests including Buffalo musicians, artists, writers, businessmen etc as well as reading some of my tirades in the hopes of reaching a larger audience.  My hope is that I can draw more people to the print column and draw the print column people to the pod cast radio show.  Look for the Big Words I Know By Heart radio show online starting next month on www.thinktwiceradio.com.  And as always, you can find out more about my work by clicking on over to www.tomfoolery4.wordpress.com.  Thanks for reading, damn you for not writing, and I’ll see you all next week in the pages of Night Life!
 
  Wondering if Buffalonians even know how to type,
   Tom ’disgruntled’ Waters  
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Big Words I Know By Heart Radio Episode I! Don’s Atomic Podcast!

June 22, 2008
Heyo!
 
    After a fantastic day in the studio at Think Twice Radio and a photo shoot for the dashboard pic, myself and the boys from Don’s Atomic Comics came up with some podcasting gold!  Big Words I Know By Heart Radio is now a reality.  There’s an ‘opening shot’ from the pages of Night Life this week with ‘Double Barrell Diplomacy’ (about visiting Canadians) along with a protracted discussion with Don and Ian about Guinness, comics, Alan Moore, porn, and a few other topics.  Give it a listen or a download at:
 
http://www.thinktwiceradio.com/tom-waters/tom-waters.html
 
    What a great day!  After what we got away with for the first episode, I can’t wait to see how much further Uncle Hal and I can push the envelope for Episode 2 in August!  Thanks to Josh, Rich and definitely Susan Marie for getting my foot in the door.  And keep in mind, this is DEFINITELY a Hard R-rating on Episode I.  If you’re easily offended, don’t bother.  Enjoy!
 
Tom ‘Guinness’ Waters
 
p.s. I’ll be popping some of the studio pics up on Myspace and YourHub later today.  Now it’s time for a nap.  Let me know what you think!
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Buffalo Rising Contributor Bio Up…

June 20, 2008

     Earlier this week, I announced that I’d be joining the team of upstart visionaries in the pages of Buffalo Rising in their monthly print publication as well as online.  Since then, I’ve been ferociously penning some book reviews, shooting the bull with Elena Buscarino (the associate/managine editor?) and conducting and transcribing the Alex Robinson interview (‘Good Grief and Tremendous Flops: Alex Robinson Off The Cuff’).  It’s been a very productive week.  As far as I know, the Robinson interview should be hitting BR in print for the July issue, so keep your eyes peeled for that.  And it may seem like a little thing to you, but I’m excited to see a contributor bio with accompanying picture up on the Buffalo Rising Online web site (complete with Think Twice Radio plug).  If you want to check it out, click on over to:

http://www.buffalorising.com/pages/contributors/

-I’m all the way at the bottom.  The photo is a pic from the morning co-host session on the episode 58 of the Pissed Off World Of Uncle Hal.  Let me know what you think! 

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Why So Serious? Heath Ledger Joker Trifecta/Countdown To The Dark Knight

June 20, 2008

     It’s far from a well-kept secret that I’m a Batman super-freak.  And thank god that we’re less than a month away from Christopher Nolan’s new visionary masterpiece, ‘The Dark Night’ which, as reported, is the only Batman film without ‘Batman’ in the title because, amazingly, Nolan wants it to be a ‘darker’ departure from the last film.  Darker?  Fantastic.  As if ‘Batman Begins’ was a rosy kaliedoscope of happiness and rainbows.  I’m so psyched about the new film (and the accompanying animated film for simultaneous release on DVD via the marketing wizards at Warner Bros.) that I can’t contain myself.  It’s eating away at me that the new feature length live-action film hasn’t been released yet, and I literally cannot wait.  The promos, viral videos and bumper ads on Myspace are eroding what little patience I have regarding the new movie.  On the one hand, I don’t understand why they waited this late in the summer blockbuster season to release what is obviously going to be a cultural event on par with ‘Titanic’, but then again, I can see why WB wouldn’t want to go head-to-head with ‘Iron Man’ or ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (the latter of which I have a mild interest in’. 

     As far as I’ve always been concerned, The Joker is the main star of the show.  I’ve got two and a half short mylar boxes stuffed to the rafters with Batman comics, one-offs and graphic novels and in my humble opinion, The Joker has been the real star of the show the entire time.   Super-hero stories are defined by their villains.  I’ve also had the recent pleasure of reading Batman: Monsters & Madmen (which I was so bowled over with that I wrote a gushing review on for Buffalo Rising) and the impulsive delight of picking up a Batman: The Killing Joke anniversary figurine pack with a delectable vacation Joker, Batman and a trade copy (in whichever iteration or printing, most likely the seventh or eighth or ninth) of The Killing Joke, which is without question one of the top five Batman/Joker stories of all time.  Top this off with a handsome anniversary hardcover of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke and you’ve got a recipe for impatience.  Why isn’t it July 18th yet, goddamnit!  Agh!

     And it doesn’t take a psychologist to determine why I’m so attached to the mythos.  A sociopathic clown who was a former standup comic with anti-social tendencies and a flair for the theatric.  Hmph.  Love it.  Love it, love it, love it.  I’ve seen every single film in the theater (which is a big deal considering that I see about two movies a year on the big screen), I’ve got every copy of Paul Dini’s animated series, a handful of Batman Beyond seasons and a few of the animated films (Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm being the jewel of the crop). 

     Every sign points to Heath Ledger’s performance as being nothing less than once-in-a-lifetime.  The hype factor over his recent death is going to make this the movie of the summer, bar none.  Nicholson (also a hero of mine) is furious that he wasn’t even considered for the role of the Joker, but give me an f-ing break, Jack.  The new series is a re-boot, and there’s no place in the continuity to explain bringing back a 60-something who defined the role eighteen years ago. 

     They say that Ledger spent a month holed up in a hotel room getting a feel for the role reading tomes including The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum while keeping a notebook so that he could record thoughts that the Joker would find funny.  Good on ya, Heath.  I’m not going to pounce on the bandwagon and pretend that I gave the vaguest shit about his other work, because I don’t.  A Knight’s Tale and Brokeback Mountain?  Couldn’t care less.  Just from the clips, though, it’s clear that he fell hook, line and sinker into the role and knocked it straight out of the ballpark and right into the pantheon on the way out of this mortal coil.

     Plus there’s the collectible factor, which is eating away at me.  After combing the web to find a new action figure that never even APPEARED on store shelves, I discovered that there’s not one, but three new Ledger facsimiles.  I’ve got a small pumpkin patch of Joker figurines at home (the crown jewels being an ’80s era Justice League figure and not one, but two Dark Knight returns Jokers, one in box, one outside the box) so there was no way in hell that I was going without one of the new ones.  Apparently, Mattel came to the shocking conclusion that a likeness of the homicidal lunatic from the new film in Ledger’s visage was too scary for children, so they decided to render the 6 inch figure ‘Collector’s Edition’.   Bullshit.  No company is that stupid.  They’re driving the values up.  It doesn’t take a criminal mastermind to figure that one out.  So aside from a chilling 6 inch figure, they’ve released a watered down 5 inch figure.  And another company has released an 11 inch that’s a spitting image of Heath walking down the middle of the street with a switchblade licking his lips like a rabid dog in the trailers for the film.  It retailed from DC Direct as a bundle pack with Batman (like anyone cares about him).  The Joker statue alone is starting at $125 on Ebay.  While this is slowly eating away at me, I can’t justify spending $125 on a toy that’s going to sit on my shelves of curios in my study. 

     The Joker (as a collectible) has always remained a hot item.  When cases of new figures come out, he’s a variable, he’s a rarity, and he’s the first to dissappear from big box toy retailers before he even make the sales floor.  I’m not a big toy geek, truly.  But I’ve been amassing a small collection of Joker figures here and there that could be the envy of any collector come early August.  I have zero intention of selling any of them, but in all likelihood, I’ll snap like a rubber band and buy the new 11 inch stature.  Along with seeing the new film five or six times in solemn fascination in theaters.  Less than four weeks to go.  Why so serious?  Because I can barely contain myself, that’s why. 

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