Posts Tagged ‘buffalo’

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 55: ‘Ellipsis’

January 11, 2019

6b26ead1-867f-48c8-a60e-814be3021dc5

Co-host Terry Kimmel was proud of how far I’ve come with the local film community in the last few years.  From knowing nothing about to to branching out bit by bit (and with some of his guidance), I feel like I have a basic understanding of what’s going on and which projects are under development.  Rick Masi was a man who’s projects I’d heard spoken highly of (‘Tales Of Darkened Light’, in particular) and the awards and the feedback weren’t wrong.  He is a highly motivated, positive and professional writer/director, and it was a lot of fun to binge on ‘Tales’ prepping for his episode.  Check out the show HERE:

Thanks to Masi, Terry Kimmel for being a perennial punching bag and obviously producer Richard Wicka for putting it all together.

#BigWordsVideo shall return.

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 54: ‘Minutiae’

December 7, 2018

6E4550E2-CD4E-4A71-ADCC-F02771254C3A

One thing I learned about Rochester comedy was that all roads lead to comic Woody Battaglia.  The man is a powerhouse, hosting multiple weekly open mics, an FM Variety Show (‘Almost Tuesday’ on 104.3 WAYOFM) and an iTunes podcast with a very peculiar twist (‘My Minute With Andre’).  I’m not sure if he’s okay with being referred to as an alt-comic, but his standup stemmed from his love of ‘90s alt comics Eddie Izzard and Patton Oswalt.  The man is accomplished, and it’s intriguing how the flavors of Rochester comedy are just a little bit different than Buffalo, but equally entertaining.  I was, and am, impressed by the volume and consistency of Woody’s comedy.  It made for an informative show.  See for yourself:

Thanks to Battaglia, returning Co Host Henry Gale and of course to producer Richard Wicka for producing the show.  Big Words already returned, I’m just further behind than usual keeping up with it.

Tom

 

 

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 53: ‘Deja Vu’

October 4, 2018

3A6B00AC-A607-4E7F-91F1-2260EED60815

Back when I did the Big Words Radio podcast, many references were made to the ‘Big Words Poltergeist’.  It was the big bad wolf I could blame for mistakes, mistapings, lost audio material, etc.  Well, you could say that the Big Words Poltergeist struck again last month and it struck more than once.  Or you could just chalk it up to bad luck, or a series of unfortunate events.  During the sound check, my producer accidently did not hit record for the show taping.  I wish I could say it was the first time it’s happened (see also: ‘Mulligan’, my Season 2 episode with Public Editor Geoff Kelly).  Regardless, it’s a testament to guest Shawn Essler and perennial co-host Jason John Beebe’s professionalism that, when we were informed, their knee-jerk response (without a beat or any hesitation) was: Let’s shoot it again.  So we did.  The exact same episode remixed with some questions I didn’t ask the first time and some different responses with a little more foresight.

Was the first taping better or was the second better because we all knew each other better?  You will never know.  And to top things off, all of the outtake publicity photos were purged.  In the aftermath, I thought the entire situation was a shit show.  But you move on and look at the end result.  Shit happens.  Watch it yourself:

Thanks are in order to director, writer and producer Shawn Essler for trekking out from Rochester and going into overtime with us, and to Jason John Beebe as well for becoming a truly solid co-host who made the show better by being a part of it.  I should also thank Richard Wicka for the four years of the podcast that he recorded perfectly, and the five years of this video show that he’s endured with a near-perfect batting average.  So that’s about all I have to say about this one.  I hope the episode was entertaining because it was hell on me to go through it.

#BigWordsVideo shall return,

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 52: ‘Luminosity’

September 6, 2018

C93621A9-0200-4C9A-989C-C0694E65CB06

The nice thing about having a room full of comedians is that I don’t need to be funny.  I’m not even sure if I was on this episode, but Guest Don Johnson and returning Co Host Jesse Winterhalter Jr. brought their A game.  Between the two, they’ve been entertaining Buffalo audiences no less than three times a week for no less than two years at their open mics, featured gigs, headlining gigs, special engagements, and so on and so forth.  The sense I got researching Don Johnson as well as talking to him is that he’s not only a comedian, he’s also one of the biggest boosters for the scene around.  See for yourself:

Thanks to Don, Jesse and of course to producer Richard Wicka for tying a bow around it.  These are two guys to keep an eye on because they keep getting better and they’re not going anywhere.  Here’s the part where I ask you to SUBSCRIBE to the show.  So do that.

The show goes on,

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 51: ‘Intelligentsia’

August 14, 2018

7D190816-8EC9-407A-8F8C-B1B67206784C

This episode marks the ten year anniversary (give or take a few days) that a) I walked into producer Richard Wicka’s Home Of The Future for the first time (for an interview on Susan Marie’s ‘This Is Not The Apple’ podcast) and b) that Richard and I have been great friends.  In all that time, he’s been many things to me: a friend, a mentor, a creative, an intellectual, and someone who I look up to.  So it was only a matter of time before I had him on the show.  He was a lot more open and at ease in the Guest chair than I expected.  And his pal Julia D (whose last name I wouldn’t even try to spell) helped to take the pressure off of the studio environment we thrive in for the show.  See for yourself:

 

Thanks to Richard for the show and for ten fascinating years with Think Twice Radio as a podcaster and in the Home Of The Future for our discussions, meals, bonfires and video shows.  Thanks to Julia for bringing her West Coast sensibilities to the room.  I’ve still got some catching up to do on this site, so we’ll talk soon.

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 51.1: Richard Wicka-‘Notes From The Ground Floor’

August 9, 2018

6ED676B2-D0A8-49BD-9858-5015C823FA81

I’ve been a very bad blogger.  It’s been some time since a new show and an update of any kind on the site, so this is me catching up.  While this show and Bonus clip were originally posted two months ago, if this is the first time you’re reading about it, it’s new to you!  Below you will find a quick link to Richard Wicka’s very personal, funny and insightful take on the Bonus clip, ‘Notes From The Ground Floor’.  We came up with the title after a discussion regarding the actual translation for the book ‘Notes From The Underground’.  Check it out.  More to come soon.

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 50: ‘Licentious’

June 7, 2018

898DBA72-8268-4504-8205-DF42DCF44C70

Before I say anything else, it needs to be said that the above crotch grab was real.  I didn’t think that guest Rick Matthews was really going to go for it during pictures, but it actually happened.  In addition to everything else about the comedian, he is committed to his craft.  He’s in it to win it.

I’m very late in posting this (having just wrapped Episode 51), but I’d been hearing about standup comic Rick Matthews since the first season of the show.  He’s a Comedian’s Comedian: dirty at times, painfully honest and very, very funny.  Having never met him before, I wasn’t sure how he’d interview, and this was one of the shows where the Guest and Co-Host (Kevin Thomas Jr.) took the baton and ran away from me with it.  I didn’t keep up that well, but it doesn’t matter, because it was a great show in spite of the host.  Judge for yourself:

Thanks to Matthews, Kevin Thomas Jr for circling back around to Co Host and, as always, Richard Wicka for housing us, editing and producing the show.  We ran out of time before I got to talk to Rick about his time onstage with Dave Attell (one of my all time favorite comics), but that’s no big deal.  There is no Bonus clip for this episode because one wasn’t supplied.  That’s been a dangerous trend for Season Four, so we’re going to have to work on that.  There’s another show coming up as soon as it posts, so I’ll talk to you all real soon.

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 49: ‘Scoville’

March 31, 2018

B844880D-8FFD-4AA4-BAE5-849183329650

Wing King Drew Cerza was originally on the boards all the way back in 2014.  There was a massive scheduling issue though, as Drew had a press conference the same day.  So we finally got around to making it happen this month and Cerza did not disappoint.  The founder of the National Buffalo Wing Festival was a real sport with my line of questioning, he was charming and he was genuinely as interested in chicken wings as I am.  As someone who’s had chicken wings every single week since I was 17, Drew’s Festival is right up my alley.  Co Host Matt Sampson also saved the day by filling the Hot Seat on short notice, so it turned into a pretty damned entertaining episode.  And for those who don’t know, ‘Scoville’ is the official heat scale for spicy foods and peppers named after the man who researched it.  Here it is:

Thanks to Drew, Sampson, and of course producer Richard Wicka for holding it all together.  #BigWordsVideo is taking the month of April off, so have a Happy Easter and we’ll see you in May!

Tom

 

h1

Big Words Video 49.1: WingFest Promo Teaser

March 30, 2018

BC1C4D0F-893F-443D-84DE-6D0A3371F8AA

This Bonus clip is really just a glorified ad, but it’s a really tantalizing montage for WingFest.  I’m not really sure what else to say about it.  I’ve gone, I’ve eaten and I’ve had a great time.  If you want a sampler platter of WingFest or if you’ve never been, this should answer all of your burning questions:

Henry Gale was originally cast to Co Host for this episode, and we had a really neat idea, but things fell through and thankfully Matt Sampson came through in the interim.  Some day we might still try that idea, although I’m not sure how it would work with a different guest.  At any rate, KINDLY SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube Channel for bonus clips, every single episode in the order it was intended for and other bonus content.

#BigWordsVideo is taking the month of April off, but we’ll see you at the beginning of May.

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 48: ‘Certified’

March 3, 2018

16938E98-2195-4684-B8C0-A3B86005FB92

Up until the show, Frank Pusateri was someone I’d travelled in the same circles with (even rubbed elbows with), but never officially met.  During my time writing bar reviews for Night Life Magazine (2000-2009), I’d been to more than my share of Night Life Music & Club Awards.  Simply put, it’s the biggest night in Buffalo for the local music community.  Everybody who’s anybody is under one roof.  This year it’s at The Cove on Thursday, March 8th.

Having just released a book (‘Only Gambling’) about a lucky streak on casino slot machines, Frank popped up on my radar again, so I took the opportunity to book him.  On top of that, he won an Emmy Award and he’s received 25 different Buffalo Music Awards including Top Pop Bassist three times in a row along with an induction into the Buffalo Music Hall Of Fame.  Frank’s written what happens to be a really entertaing read, and I told him as much.

This episode also marks the fourth time Night Life Publisher Ed Honeck has been on the show.  As I told Ed, he’s always welcome.  Between his plugs and Frank’s plugs, we had a tough time fitting them all in and even left some on the table (literally).  Check it out HERE:

Thanks to Frank, Ed and as always, producer Richard Wicka for housing my three ring circus.  Frank whipped up some great Bonus clips, so check those out further down this page.

Don’t adjust your set,

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 48.1: ‘Only Gambling’ & 48.2: ‘Leaf In A Storm’

March 2, 2018

6ADD4F4B-75B5-42FC-A007-1D5EB521EECD

I normally ask an upcoming guest for ONE video clip to supplement the show.  Poor Frank got propositioned for two.  He’s promoting his new book ‘Only Gambling’, but I didn’t want to ignore his rich history on the Buffalo music scene.  So there you have it.  Frank’s homework was more complicated than guesting on the show!  He came through with flying colors, though.  Big Words Video 48.1 is a quick forward to Pusateri’s book complete with fancy graphics and a ticker-tape banner along the bottom read by the author.  You can get a taste for the stream-of-consciousness writing style in the book right HERE:

The flip side of the coin is an original song written & performed by Frank’s band Only Humen.  Check that one out right HERE:

A sincere thanks goes out to Only Frank for putting the time in to create two great clips.  A sincere thanks goes out to YOU when you FREE SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube Channel.  I may have said this before, but if you’re not subscribed, you’re missing more than half of what the show has to offer.  Find out what you’re missing by seeing the show in the order it was intended for, bonus clips and other additional SECRET content.

#BigWordsVideo returns in March!

Tom

 

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 47: ‘Maquette’

February 15, 2018

A22C2E3F-B4D1-4F47-B29E-77DB3076F63C

It’s better to have too many questions and not get to all of them than not enough and too much time left on the show clock.  That’s exactly what happened with this episode.  During show prep, I usually don’t feel ‘comfortable’ going into the studio until I have roughly three pages of questions in a 14 point font including the intro paragraph and the outro plug (which, by the way, I haven’t used for quite a few seasons).  With practical Special Effects producer, writer, actor, director and Craft Services point man John Renna, I’m not sure if we even got through ten questions.

The man was larger than life both in stature and excitability.  I can see why he’s an excellent pitch man for investors and movie distribution companies.  I had to pick my spots to interject and jump in on the conversation, which is just fine by me.  This was former guest Michael O’Hear’s 3rd time in the Co Host Hot Seat, and I found him to be confusingly cordial with me whereas he was a bit prickly and grumpy last time on.  That could have had more to do with a full day on set over the summer, but whatever the case, I still find him fascinating.  See how it all shook out right HERE:

Thanks to Renna, O’Hear, and the ever-ready Richard Wicka for producing the show.   Due to last-minute licensing logistics, there is no Big Words Video Bonus clip to accompany this episode, and that’s all I’ll say on that matter.  What I WILL say is that you should SUBSCRIBE to my Channel (bigwordsmailbag@yahoo.com) to show your free support for the show and to check out all of the other cool bonus content.

#BigWordsVideo shall return this month with author and Emmy-award-winning musician Frank Pusateri along with the Honorable Ed Honeck as Co Pilot.

Don’t you touch that Internet Dial!

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 46: ‘Impresario’

January 1, 2018

IMG_2765

One of the most difficult parts of the job as a host with a guest like Sabrina Pena Young is wondering which parts of her varied career to touch down on.  Maybe I’m a little too OCD with my research, but as a mixed media artist (films, music and books), there was a lot of ground to cover.  So we started with her ‘New Genre’ award-winning virtual opera ‘Libertaria’ and worked our way out from there.  Perennial Co Host Terry Kimmel made a great addition, not to mention the fact that both of them are part of the Buffalo Movie and Video Makers (BMVM) together.  We had a lot of laughs and touched a nerve when it came to ‘Trolls’ while we were at it.  Check it out:

Thanks to Sabrina, Terry and, as always, producer Richard Wicka for producing and encouraging.  For all the knocks I give Terry, he’s been incremental to the show, and his help and advisement about the Buffalo film community (in which he’s very active on all fronts) has been monumental.

It should also be noted that Facebook has labeled this clip as ‘Unsafe’, so the link has been erased from their algorithm.  Going forward, I will no longer be able to promote the show on FB that way that I used to, so please do the show a favor and SUBSCRIBE (Richard Wicka’s account) to it on YouTube along with subscribing to my personal account on YouTube (Big Words I Know By Heart) for the compendium clips.  No one involved with the show makes any money off of it and it’s going to stay that way.  I made a conscious decision not to run ads for the bonus clips because it annoys me personally when I’m watching videos on YouTube.  So please SUBSCRIBE for free and show your support for the show.  We do it for the artists and the Views.

Thanks for watching and we’ll see you in a month!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 46.1: ‘Behind The Scenes’ and 46.2: ‘Spiritus’

December 31, 2017

IMG_2763

I’ll say this about filmmaker, composer and author Sabrina Pena Young.  She came prepared.  Not only did she have two professional Bonus clips to round out the show episode, but she chose to share an exclusive sneak peek at her upcoming virtual opera ‘Spiritus’ with my viewers.  I continue to be surprised and amazed by the variety and the quality of the show’s compendium clips.

Young’s first clip, ‘Behind The Scenes’ is a riveting retrospective of her work with voiceover narration.  It can be seen HERE:

Sabrina’s second clip is the standalone teaser trailer for ‘Spiritus’.  That’s right HERE:

Thanks to Sabrina for putting the time and the work in.  She’s got a very impressive body of work between her films, music and companion novels and she did an awesome job of summarizing all of it in her retrospective.

#BigWordsVideo shall return in January!

 

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 45: ‘Verisimilitude’

December 2, 2017

A0437D70-7650-481A-9444-AFC90CF3C252

As soon as I saw Arnold Palmer in Rhonda Parker’s uproariously funny speed-dating film gone horribly wrong ‘Lonely Bananas’, I knew I had to get actor Brad Spiotta on the show.  He brought the character to life with his own wardrobe choices, mannerisms and speech patterns, and the results were a riot.  Spiotta was a solid interview: humble, charming and quick with his responses.  I got a little frustrated wth Brad and Rhonda because my usual pop culture references weren’t catching with them, but it still made for a great episode.  Decide for yourself:

Thanks to Spiotta, Parker and of course Richard Wicka for supporting and enduring my nonsense.  We’ve got another stellar line-up for December, so don’t you touch that internet dial!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 45.1: Brad Spiotta-‘Past Hauntings’

December 2, 2017

064D2D01-F14C-49DC-BCDA-DBAEEF23C38D

Maybe I hammer too hard sometimes on the importance and choice involved with each guest selecting a Bonus clip, but actor Brad Spiotta provided a really good one, and the timing couldn’t have been any better.  With a half hour to shoot each episode, there’s barely enough time for the interview, let alone the time to set a clip up, roll it and then react to it.  Hence the Bonus clips.  Compendiums to each episode where the guest can do whatever they wish.  Hot on the heels of his ‘Best Actor’ win at the Halloween Short Film Festival, Spiotta decided to share the short film that earned him the gold.  Here it is:

Solid cinematography, good pacing, great acting.  Thanks to Brad for taking it seriously.  Oh yeah, and would you mind FREE SUBSCRIBING to my Channel already?      100 clips on the Playlist and a few more Followers would sure put a spring in my step.

I’ll see you all in a month!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 44.1: Gary Earl Ross-‘Afterward’

October 28, 2017

EC4ED5B9-DAE0-4E65-917D-E5B7DB39B784

I was almost entranced watching Gary Earl Ross read for this Bonus clip.  There are authors who don’t give readings at all in public, authors like me who stammer through their work and don’t rehearse ahead of time, and then there are authors like Gary, who reads in a calm, cool and collected manner, pacing himself, reading for an audience and hammering on the right passages for dramatic impact.  I’m not sure if he picked up that talent during his years as a professor, throughout all of his years at scheduled readings, or if he’s simply at peace with himself and his finished products.  It made for a great clip, though.  Here goes:

To give the man one more plug for good measure, you can find out more about Gary’s books, plays and career at: garyearlross.net

#BigWordsVideo shall return…

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 43: ‘Exuberance’

September 30, 2017

B6A648D7-4259-4672-9336-E5230BE962A8

I stumbled onto Rochester comedienne Madelein Smith’s standup about a year ago.  After seeing her Julie Andrew’s singing Lil’ Kim bit, I knew I had to at least try to get her on the show.  She has a, well, an exuberance on stage that’s outstanding.  Her on-stage persona is strong, theatrical, charismatic and very, very funny.  This was a strong episode, and Mark McElligott is a perennial co-host who can roll with the punches no matter who the guest is.  Check it out:

Thanks to producer Richard Wicka, Madelein and McElligott for helping to make a solid show.  Thanks are also in order to musician Roger Pleasant of UpRise studios for a new show theme rendition that, unfortunately, didn’t come through on the sound boards.  We’ll try harder next time.

See you in a month!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 43.1: Madelein Smith-‘Crowd Work’

September 29, 2017

BD506385-5AA1-4DA7-B885-445EADCCABE0

I can honestly say there’s no Bonus clip quite like this one.  While Madelein has a lot of slick, polished and professional clips from her long, varied and award-winning standup career, this one is something else.  This particular clip is any stand-up comic’s dream.  Madelein has to deal with a heckler at a small bar in Tonawanda who won’t shut up, so what does she do?  She lights the guy up.   For about seven straight minutes.  Check it out here:

 

 

Thanks to Madelein for the unique footage.

#BigWordsVideo returns in October!

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 42: ‘Nepotism’

September 7, 2017

IMG_2510

Almost a decade ago (when I was just getting the audio podcast off the ground), I somehow hit stride on the time frame and the level of wrongness by Episode IV lacing into my Uncle Dick.  Out of over 100 shows and clips, Episode IV and V remained as fan favorites because they were brutal, unforgiving and ferocious.  You can still listen to them on the Internet Archive.  There’s also a quick link to the right of this Home Page.

Now that we’re four years into #BigWordsVideo, I’ve been taking some calculated risks with the guests and getting around to guests that I’ve wanted to have on since the planning stages.  Dick was at the top of the list.  I’m always going to be harsher on family and friends than I would ever be out of the gate with people I’ve never met before, or that I don’t have a personal relationship.  My Uncle Dick is the champ.  He didn’t flinch and I didn’t expect him to.  Diabetes Dave has a quiet intensity that lends itself well to the show too.  Feast your eyes on THIS:

HEY!  Kindly SUBSCRIBE, will ya?!

Thanks as always to producer Richard Wicka, ‘The Other Richard’ Dick Lobdell and Diabetes Dave for coming through in a pinch.  Season 4 is off to a good start.  No end in sight.  Yet.

See you at the end of the month!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 42.1 & 42.2: Dick Lobdell-‘It’s Hard To Be Humble’ & ‘Angel’s Song’

September 5, 2017

jobaselevatorrepairman[2]

Growing up with my uncle, we got a lot of campfire concerts on demand, so it wasn’t difficult to throw a few requests out for the Bonus clips for this episode.  ‘It’s Hard To Be Humble’ by Mac Davis is just a really funny song that Dick made his own.  ‘Angel’s Song’ is an original composition of Dick’s that he prefaced with a touching story about his granddaughter’s wedding ceremony.  Check them out right here:

I WISH I could tell you there was more music, but you’d have to be a SUBSCRIBER to the #BigWordsVideo Youtube Channel to figure that out.  I still want to capture one of Dick’s bonfire concerts on video.  There’s always next year.

#BigWordsVideo shall return!

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 40: ‘Transference’

July 14, 2017

IMG_2398

In the midst of all my movie-related research for the past three years on the show, actor Alexander Sloan McBryde has popped up a lot.  The guy’s a natural.  I’m not an actor, so I’m not sure what techniques he employs and I don’t care.  He’s got ‘it’.  Whether it’s a bit part or a feature role, he lights up the screen every time I’ve seen him, so it was only a matter of time before I landed him on the show.  He was a great guest: animated, lively and intelligent.  We were lucky enough to get Jason John Beebe back in the Co Host Hot Seat and master thespian Michael O’Hear scored special guest status.  It made for a solid show.  See for yourself:

A big thanks goes out to Alexander, Jason and Michael for making a phenomenal episode.  And as always, thanks to producer Richard Wicka for orchestrating behind the scenes.  #BigWordsVideo returns in two weeks with comedian Daniel McArdle, so don’t touch that…internet?

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 40.1: Alexander Sloan McBryde-‘Inside The Actors’

July 7, 2017

IMG_2404

Episode 40 and the companion Bonus clip were exactly what I needed after Episode 39.  Meeting actor Alexander Sloan McBryde and seeing him riff with fellow established actors (who often share the same IMDB credits) was fantastic.  The vibe in the studio was great, the chemistry was perfect and the talent level was off the charts.  I handed over the Sony PJ340 to McBryde literally seconds after the episode was over and he kicked into high gear grilling Co Host Jason John Beebe (pronounced Bee-Bee!) and interviewing Buffalo institution Michael O’Hear.  Here were 3 men who didn’t take themselves too seriously comfortable enough with their level of talent to let that translate on the silver screen, the small screen and all parts in between.  Roll that clip!:

Season 3 of Big Words Video is drawing to a close with one more episode to shoot.  Do us all a favor and SUBSCRIBE to the show for FREE on YouTube.  A few Likes and Shares wouldn’t hurt either.

Seeya soon,

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 39: ‘Agrarian’

June 22, 2017

IMG_2381

To be completely honest, this was an episode where I was relieved when it was over and done with.  It’s no fault of the band’s, but the Big Words Poltergeist reared it’s ugly head, we got off to a really rough start on the episode and the chemistry was all wrong.  The two main cameras that I rely on during the show were set on Demo Mode right out of the gate.  My co-host (who had a calm demeanor and would have been terrific paired with anyone else) didn’t really mesh with West Of The Mark.  West Of The Mark didn’t really mesh with me.  I’d rather not dissect and extrapolate what and how many things went wrong, but just about everything went wrong.  At the very least, we got some laughs in and nobody died.  See for yourself:

Thanks to West Of The Mark, Joe and producer Richard Wicka for getting me through this.  There’s a new episode rolling out next week and even by accident, it’s bound to go smoother than the one that preceded it.

Tom

 

h1

Big Words Video 39.1: ‘My Church’ & 39.2: ‘Wagon Wheel’ w/West Of The Mark

June 8, 2017

IMG_2378

After a lot of misunderstandings, miscommunications and technical difficulties, we filmed the Big Words Video Bonus clips with country supergroup West Of The Mark before the episode of the show as opposed to afterward.  The less said, the better.  They’re a great band and a great group of guys with amazing talent, so please don’t try to read between the lines here.  This is one of those cases where I feel as if the Bonus clips will hold up better over time than the episode itself, though.  Their harmonies are incredible, their timing as a band is really impressive, and to think that they’ve been playing together in one iteration or another for as long as I’ve been a professional writer is miraculous.

Their cover of ‘My Church’ was their pick.  ‘Wagon Wheel’ was a request for my son Benjamin, who loves the Darius Rucker version as well as the original recording by Old Crow Medicine Show.  I was shocked to find out that Bob Dylan co-wrote the song, and that I didn’t know that until I was crediting the clips.  You learn something new every year.  Please enjoy:

 

A big thanks goes out to West Of The Mark for lugging their equipment into the studio, lugging it out and then lugging it in again.  Thanks also to producer Richard Wicka for being patient with the show’s production in the summer when our friendship is strained and we only see each other on the way in and on the way out of each show.  Rich has a strict ‘No Drums, No Bass’ rule that I wasn’t aware of.  I’ll have to remember that the next time I’m crazy enough to shoehorn an entire band into a shoebox.

Do me a favor and SUBSCRIBE to the Channel already, will ya?  Nobody gets paid, we do this for Views.

#BigWordsVideo shall return this month….

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 38: ‘Contingent’

May 4, 2017

IMG_2336

Despite rumors that pop up once in awhile, I have no plans or desires to be a standup comedian.  Writing humor and hosting a comedy talk show are not the same thing.  However, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for standup comics who are good at what they do and I’m always trying to figure out how their thought process works.  Kevin Thomas Jr and Jameel Key are very, very good at what they do but they approach standup from completely different directions.  Kevin has a down-to-earth humility to his delivery and his material paired with the approachability of a college instructor.  Jameel works best when he’s working blue, and his anecdotes and his jokes are so personal that they can’t possibly be anyone else’s.  Getting both of them in the same room for the same show was a case of the stars being in alignment.  This was an episode where I sat back and let these gentleman do what they do best: riff.  See for yourself:

Thanks to Kevin and Jameel for bringing their A game.  Thanks always to producer Richard Wicka for letting us barrel into the studio and hammer out the show.  #BigWordsVideo will be back in 4 weeks with country supergroup West Of The Mark!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 38.1: Kevin Thomas Jr.-‘Afterglow’

May 2, 2017

IMG_2338

Returning guest and Co Host Jameel Key and I shot the breeze before the episode and  I handed over the Bonus Clip camerawork to him.  We both agreed that Jameel’s clip from Season 1 was bad.  Really bad.  Back then, I had Rob Bender ask Jameel about the evolution of a joke.  It was awkward and starchy.  So I figured I’d let him decide when and how to film Kevin Thomas Jr.  He started rolling right after the episode, which is typically when we all get up, stretch and breathe a sigh of relief.  The three of us had a really good dynamic during the show and Jameel ran with that.  Here’s the result:

Thanks to Jameel for circling back, Kevin for coming on and as always, producer Richard Wicka for having us.  You know how I mention SUBSCRIBING to the channel on YouTube?  For updates, new episodes, that kind of thing?  You should do that.

#BigWordsVideo will return this month with award-winning country band

West Of The Mark!

Tom

 

h1

Big Words Video 37.1: Van Taylor-‘Ain’t No Thang’

April 8, 2017

IMG_2304

Van was kind enough to share an exclusive live performance from the ‘UB On The Green’ concert series at (obviously) the University Of Buffalo.  I told him before the show that I’m a very piano-driven person when it comes to music, and Mr. Taylor does not disappoint.  There’s a reason why he’s been a driving force in jazz music on the front lines and off around the world for over 30 years: he’s that good.  See for yourself:

If you want to see the sheer scope and variety of bonus clips for the show for the last 3 years, SUBSCRIBE to the Channel.  Oh, and you’ll get an update every time a new episode drops.

#BigWordsVideo shall return,

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 36: ‘Sequence’

March 31, 2017

IMG_2296

I went on the hunt about a month ago to find some good writers to guest on the show.  Italian novelist Gaia B. Amman came highly recommended and made it to the top of my list.  Her writing style is sharp and colorful, she’s not afraid of the camera and she’s got a great sense of humor.  Her Italian Saga series of books have a cult-like following and she’s very positive and nurturing with her fan base.  I was tying up loose ends on my research before the show and my co-host cancelled an hour and a half before taping.  Heh.  The behind-the-scenes anecdotes for the show are almost as good as the show, but I’m not going to start dishing now.  Terry Kimmel shuffled some personal engagements around in order to co host the show at the eleventh hour.  Here’s the end result:

Big thanks go out to Gaia for jumping through all the pre-show hoops and delivering a really professional #BigWordsVideo bonus clip, and for being a truly entertaining guest.  I owe Terry a large debt of gratitude for showing up under duress and bringing his A game. And as always, thanks to Producer Richard Wicka for wrapping it all up and putting a bow on it.

Please FREE SUBSCRIBE to Richard Wicka’s YouTube as well as mine (bigwordsmailbag@yahoo.com) for updates on new episodes, bonus clips and other hidden content!

That’s all, folks.

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 36.1: Gaia B. Amman-‘Blame It On Nico’

March 30, 2017

IMG_2288

Often before the studio episode I’ll give my guests the option of shooting their own Big Words Video Bonus clip in advance to save time in post-production in the studio.  Once in a blue moon, they do just that.  Author Gaia B. Amman did a great job with her Bonus clip and I joked with her that her title credits and bumper ad at the end of the clip were more professional than anything the show has ever done, and she humbly admitted that she did everything on iMovie.  Check out her reading of Chapter 1 of An Italian Adventure HERE:

One of the many things I was impressed with about Gaia was that she seems to have her marketing, publicity and audio/visual plan all figured out, so thanks to her for prepping a clip ahead of time.

#BigWordsVideo will return NEXT WEEK with jazz great Van Taylor.

Seeya soon,

Tom

 

h1

When Severed Ears Sing You Songs by Justin Karcher

March 14, 2017

IMG_2265

 

“Trying to create miracles for all us dumb fucks

Who just want to see one curse reversed

Before our muscles betray our bones”

-from ‘I Want Michael Fassbender to Hold My Hand and Tell Me Everything Will Be Okay…’

Chapbooks have traditionally been a signal flare or a forerunner for a larger body of work. Sometimes the flare peters out on the way down, and there are other instances where they are strung together before being combined into a bigger collection of poems. When Severed Ears Sing You Songs (2016, Ghost City Press) by Justin Karcher is more of an about-face or a stylistic sidestep after his longer Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell (2015, Ghost City Press).  Fast, funny and philosophical while simultaneously walking the tight rope between timely and timeless.

The city of Buffalo is Justin’s muse. He creates mirth and magic and wonder out of the sub-mundane, the poverty class and the lost souls in a lost city. The phenomenon to Karcher’s poems is that I wrestle cognitively with whether or not they are clever non-sequiturs strung together to suit or if all of the poems are one patchwork diatribe touching down on distinctive benders, evenings we’ve all regretted or dark corners of the city and our scarred psyches at the same time. I’m not sure I want the answer anymore, but I enjoy struggling with the riddle. And there’s a wry gallow’s humor to his work that connects with the reader in a way I haven’t seen in poetry for some time. Too often we’re weighed down with a sort of 18th-century morose self-importance in 21st century poems that shouldn’t exist.

This chapbook strikes me as a writer becoming comfortable with his style, easing into his poems like you’d slide your heel effortlessly into a pair of formal shoes. He has his voice and now he’s checking off every octave. The age-old polarities of sex and death have gotten wonderfully muddy within the pages of ‘Severed Ears’. Now we’re venturing into the ache, the loss, the regret and the existentialism of half-remembered love and the sorrow and sometimes-dread of being alive. Somehow in all of this Karcher gives me hope for the city because if it can cause so much pain, then it means more than Post-Industrialism, decline and decay.

-Tom Waters

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 35: “Virtuoso”

March 3, 2017

img_2279

John Valby really is a living legend.  More specifically, he’s a Clarence legend.  Growing up in Clarence, everyone either knew him, knew of him, or knew about him.  With over 40 albums and 40 years of wildly offensive songs, limericks and ditties, he’s not only talented and funny, but he perserveres.  I was a little worried about him last year when he came on the show, but this year, he had a spring in his step.  It sounds like his career and his life have hit a new crescendo.  As the only guest on the show who gets a return ticket every season, it was good to see him again, and the same goes for my old editor from Night Life magazine Ed Honeck.  There’s a lot of history with those two.  That sort of comfortable dynamic between the three of us made for another (I hope) entertaining episode.  See for yourself:

Thanks as always to producer Richard Wicka for being the glue that holds the show together, Ed for popping in with less than a week before he’s being pulled in 100 different directions for the Night Life Music & Club Awards, and last but not least Mr. Valby.  May your career reach dizzier heights in the next year, and may your health continue to stymy a host who’s no stranger to the dangers of excess.

#BigWordsVideo will return in a month with young adult author and molecular biologist (you read that right) Gaia Amman.  Do yourself a favor and SUBSCRIBE for bonus clips, alerts for new episodes and other additional content.

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 35.1: John Valby-‘Topical’

March 2, 2017

img_2273

Yikes.

As an ardent defender of free speech for my own selfish purposes for many, many years, I found myself in a position yesterday where I had to take a dose of my own medicine.

John Valby’s unique brand of comedy is not for everybody.  For the uninitiated, he can be a bit…prickly.  This is in the grand tradition of Lenny Bruce, Don Rickles, Andrew Dice Clay and a lot of other comedians whose delivery and comedic timing far outweigh the bombastic nature of their content.  With all that said, there was a moment or two during the taping of the Big Words Video bonus clip where I thought, “This is gonna be trouble.”

Regardless, the entire point of the Bonus clips is for the guest to showcase their talent in any way they deem acceptable.  So there was a brief moment where I hesitated while we rendered and prepared the clip, and then that moment passed and I hit the Upload button.  Check it out for yourself:

I’m not about to start censoring anyone else’s right to free speech and free artistic expression, and when I start looking for inoffensive, politically correct or safe comedy for my entertainment purposes, that’ll be around the same time that I can the show and stop writing books.  YouTube is just like a television set.  You can always turn it off if you don’t like what you see.  If you do enjoy the show, though, SUBSCRIBE for FREE for additional episodes, bonus clips and other exclusive content.

Onward and upward,

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 34.1: Greg Lamberson-‘Fun Bags’

January 28, 2017

img_2234

Coming hot off the heels of the runaway success of ‘Killer Rack’ and toiling away at post-production on ‘Johnny Gruesome’, I wasn’t sure what kind of Bonus clip guest Greg Lamberson cooked up.  He didn’t disappoint.  What follows is the musical sequence for the song ‘Fun Bags’ from the aforementioned ‘Killer Rack’ featuring Troma legend Lloyd Kauffman.  Fun fact: I interviewed Kauffman while he was on location in Buffalo for the movie ‘Poultrygeist’ for Night Life magazine way, way back in 2004 or 2005.  I’m pretty sure he’s still got the print interview on his web site, and if you can’t find it there, it’s still ricocheting around on Acid Logic.  At any rate, ROLL THAT CLIP!

Thanks again to Lamberson, Co Host Henry Gale and the frequently delightful Richard Wicka for producing our episode.  Oh yeah, and SUBSCRIBE to my channel on YouTube for more bonus clips, more bonus content and a lot of delectable secrets you won’t find any way else.

#BigWordsVideo shall return.  In two weeks.  With Taylor Made Jazz musician Van Taylor!

Seeya soon,

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 33: ‘Farcical’

December 31, 2016

15724989_10154657923371014_2218423576871149579_o

There’s something about stand-up comic Clayton Williams that I’ve liked from the second I saw him hosting at Mr. Goodbar some two years ago for their ‘Uncle Jerry’s Comedy Showcase’.  He’s got a comedic style and a completely off-the-wall delivery that I’ve never seen around here.  I couldn’t wait to get him on the show and I knew he was going to be great, but I had no idea how great.  By contrast, Co Host Becca Barnum has been on my radar for one reason or another for the last year.  When I had someone in film on the show, she just so happened to be in some of the movies, when I had someone with a cosplay background, she just so happened to be in the same cosplay groups, and so on, and so on.

The dynamic was so magical and the conversation was so fluid while we were filming that I barely scratched the surface on my questions, and that’s okay.  We kept on talking after the show and they both got an invite back at a later date and time.  Oh yeah, here’s the show:

Thanks to Clayton and Becca for doing such a great job and thanks as always to Producer Richard Wicka.  We wound up with what I’m sure will go down as one of my favorite show memories, but there’s still a lot more to be made.

Happy New Year!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 33.1: Clayton Williams-‘Photogenic’

December 29, 2016

img_2207

It’s good to have a backup plan.

I tell every guest about the idea behind having a Bonus clip to complement each episode of the show.  Some bring one, some have a great idea that we do in or outside the studio, sometimes things just fall through or people run out of time.  I asked producer Richard Wicka what he thought of rolling the camera during the post-show photo session and he thought it was a great idea, very “Cinema Verite” (sp?).  In the 3 years that I’ve been doing the show, this was the most fruitful photo session we’ve done to date.  Clayton and co-host Becca Barnum were camera gold, and they came alive during the show as well as before and after it.  If you Instagram, you can see ALL of the photos in the next few days @tomfoolery444.  I’ve been trying to get away from just dumping all of the outtakes in one payload.  Or you can ‘Like’ @bigwordsvideo on FB and see all of the photos there.  Here are the results of the live video feed from the session:

A big thanks to Clayton Williams and Becca Barnum for their enthusiasm, their comedy and the terrific dynamic in the studio.  You’ll see them again soon, but I’m not telling you when.  Here’s the part where I beseech you to SUBSCRIBE to the Channel on YouTube for notifications on new episodes, ALL of the bonus clips and extra incentives that I’m not going to spell out at this juncture.

#BigWordsVideo shall return next month!

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 32: ‘Prima Facie’

December 10, 2016

img_2175

…which is a legal term for ‘on the face of it.’  I thought it was a good fit for a title because a) Guest Michael Bly is a litigation attorney in addition to being a musician and b) There’s a lot more to him than his party-loving rockstar facade.  This was an episode that was originally scheduled back in November of 2014, but Mike had to cancel at the last minute due to traffic coming home from a Bills game in Michigan or something like that.

I’ve known Michael Bly since somewhere around 2005.  Recollection is hazy because I drank quite a bit back then, but I’m pretty sure longtime pal Gregg Sansone introduced me to him at The Hidden Shamrock (now shuttered) in Depew during a Night Life magazine assignment.  We just keep bumping into each other.  Mike was kind enough to do 2 hours of the Big Words Radio podcast back in its’ heyday and even circled back for the Big Words Radio Finale Roast that was supposed to be a joke but actually came true.  For those of you who want to hear the podcasts, you can click the link to the right on the page here or just search it on the Internet Archive.  Not sure if this is too much backstory, but again, I’m trying to do a bit more than just ‘Here’s the episode, please watch it.’  He’s a charming person, a talented musician and yes, he’s a really, really nice guy.  I met Co Host Jason Garra during a Buffalo News review assignment at Woody’s Pub in Lackawanna when he was with band-in-residence Helicopter Pilot.  It made for a cozy, hopefully entertaining show:

Thanks to Bly, Garra and producer Richard Wicka for another enjoyable outing.  Now that I’m don’t hit the bars anymore, it’s good to find an excuse to catch up with old friends who are still on the circuit.  For the love of God and all that’s holy, SUBSCRIBE for new shows, bonus clips and additional unlockable content!  Comedian Clayton Williams will be joining me at month’s end along with actress/comedienne/cosplayer Becca Barnum.  Don’t adjust your laptops, monitors and tablets!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 32.1: ‘This Love’ & 32.2: ‘Buffalo’-Performed by Michael Bly!

December 9, 2016

img_2177

I’m always at a loss for how to present the #BigWordsVideo Bonus clips here above and beyond ‘Here’s the clips.  Click here.’  This time, I’ll share a little story behind the clips.  Unfortunately, Michael Bly’s favorite guitar was stolen a few weeks ago, so he brought a new-ish guitar (make and model already forgotten) to the studio with him.  We were unsure if his acoustic would even work if we plugged it into producer Richard Wicka’s sound board, so we improvised by placing one of the headsets in front of the guitar and Mike kept his headset on his head.  The sound came out incredibly well, but if you watch the videos, you’ll see a foam microphone sticking up from the bottom left corner of the screen.  It all worked out in the end.  Hence we have Big Words Video 32.1 with a very entertaining rendition of Maroon 5’s ‘This Love’ (from their Songs About Jane album over a decade ago) and Big Words Video 32.2 wherein Michael performs his original song ‘Buffalo’ from his second album, Stay True.  

I’m always amazed when we have a musician in the studio and they bring their A game under less-than-ideal conditions, so thank you to Michael for that.  We’ve been friends for a very, very, very long time, and I have to say that his vocals and his guitar-playing have improved by leaps and bounds from our days back at the Hidden Shamrock in the stone ages.  Thanks as always to Richard Wicka and to Jason Garra for bringing his A game in the Co Host Hot Seat.

And please, pretty please, SUBSCRIBE to the CHANNEL for updates on new shows, more bonus content and other miscellany!

#BigWordsVideo is doubling up for December, so I’ll see you in less than 3 weeks!

Happy Holidays,

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 31: ‘Emanata’

November 28, 2016

Comic writer/artist Jason Yungbluth and I share the same twisted mindset.  We originally met back in 2002 for one of my very first ArtVoice print interviews (back when I was freelancing) and hit it off right from the jump.  His ongoing comic Deep Fried stands next to Reid Fleming: World’s Toughest Milkman as one of the funniest, most off-the-wall comics I’ve ever read.  His art isn’t the weaker end of the bargain either.  Going back through his issues to prep for the show, I picked up some strong shades of R. Crumb, a little Bill Wray and his own distinctive style, which is just…fully realized.  As co-host Mark McElligott put it, ‘He’s got IT.’  After the interview, Jason moved to Rochester to blaze his own trail and find a larger comic market.  This was the first time we’d been in the same room together since ’02.  It was more fun than I expected.

Thanks to Jason, Mark and the ever-present producer Richard Wicka for a great episode.  I’ve got a soft spot for the comic book industry, and I wish I could land more local talent in the field.  Oh and hey, SUBSCRIBE to the show for updates, bonus clips, yada yada.  A thumbs up wouldn’t hurt, either.

#BigWordsVideo is doubling down in December, so don’t adjust your monitors.

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 31.1, 2 & 3: Trilogy of…?

November 28, 2016

I was trying to come up will some alliteration there, but I’m at a loss for words at the diversity and ingenuity of the following 3 Bonus clips.  Guest Jason Yungbluth was kind enough to provide a dark, gritty, gruesome trailer for his incredible 400 page Weapon Brown graphic novel as well as a holiday-themed stop-motion festive pancake clip that’s also wrong on a number of levels.  Check ’em out:

Conversely, perennial Co Host Mark McElligott brought something to show, too.  His lifelong project and character Starchy is almost a reality.  You can check out one of his animated cartoons to promote the project right HERE:

Thanks to Jason and Mark for bringing a level of professionalism with their videos that is heretofore absent from most of my proceedings.  I like the variety and the breadth of their humor showcased in these clips.

#BigWordsVideo shall return.  Sooner than you think.  Please SUBSCRIBE in the meantime.

Tom

h1

Travesty & Mockery iBooks/Pulp 716 next Saturday!

November 4, 2016

travesty cover jpeg

I figured it was time to join the ebook revolution.  While studies have shown that a lot of readers are switching back to print books, I personally prefer to read digitally.  It takes up less shelf space and the books are cheaper.  In addition to designing the layout and interior for the print copy of Travesty, Bill Dyson quietly worked on the ebook editions for both Travesty and it’s predecessor, Mockery.  You can find them both for $9.99 and $6.99 (respectively) right HERE:

Travesty

Mockery

And finally, I’ll be signing books next Saturday afternoon, November 12th at Pulp 716 in Lockport along with cover artist and pal Mark McElligott.  Due to old age and other obligations, I won’t be promoting Travesty as actively as I used to, so this may be your only chance to get a signed copy of it before spring.  I hope to see you there!

Sincerely,

Tom

 

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 30: ‘Grand Guignol’

October 28, 2016

img_2137

So here’s how this episode went down.  Last year, when Rhonda Parker was on, she name-dropped Michael O’Hear and Jason John Beebe.  In the heat of the moment (and because I think it’s funny to quip back while we’re rolling) and, to be honest, I said ‘Never heard of ’em.’  I still don’t know much about the film scene, but I felt like and asshole, and afterwards, I figured it would balance out my karma to have them both on down the road.  Michael O’Hear came on back around…January and Jason and I finally coordinated our schedules this month.  He was a great interview: quick, funny, and just a super-nice guy with quite a list of film credits for…whatever age he happens to be.  Here’s the episode:

Fun fact: ‘Grand Guignol’ literally means ‘large puppet’ in French, so I felt that the title worked on two levels.  Thanks to producer Richard Wicka, Beebe for fitting us in during his ‘Crossbreed’ location shoot in Buffalo, and perennial co-host Terry Kimmel for enduring a Herculanean amount of punishment.  SUBSCRIBE, LIKE, SHARE, RT…do whatever you’ve gotta do to get the word out!  We don’t do it for any money, but we do it for your love and admiration, so spread it around!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 30.1: Jason John Beebe-‘Uber’ (Rough Cut)

October 27, 2016

The actors and directors who’ve come on the show so far have continued to amaze me with the quality and diversity of their Bonus clips.  ‘Uber’ director Mick O’Donald was kind enough to give us permission to share the web series he’s working on with Beebe.  It is a ‘rough cut’, so it still needs a soundtrack, editing and a lot of other production-type things that are out of my realm of experience, but it looks promising.  The first episode is a fun blend of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ meets ‘Taxicab Confessions’.  Give it a look-see:

Thanks again to Mick O’Donald for the assist and the upcoming series!  For those of you who enjoy the Bonus clips (or #BigWordsVideo in general), there is no Indie Go Go.  We don’t even have a Kickstarter.  It’s not about money.  So do us a solid and SUBSCRIBE to the show for FREE!  You’ll get updates and notifications when new episodes hit!

#BigWordsVideo will return in November with Rochester cartoonist and Buffalo native Jason Yungbluth!

See you in the funny papers,

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 29: ‘Aberrant’

October 9, 2016

img_2098

Why are we always so cruel to the ones we love?

I’ve got nothing but love for Jesse Winterhalter’s brand of stand-up comedy.  It’s personal, it’s uncomfortable and he forces you to question your deeply held truths.  His podcast (‘Doing Nothing Is Art’) is one of the most professional podcasts I’ve ever heard, his stream-of-consciousness delivery is incredibly honest, and he’s smart.  Can you tell I like the guy?  He made for a great guest.  Roger Pleasant, it turns out, is a lot slicker when he’s behind the camera rather than the front of it.  Give it a watch:

Thanks are in order to producer Richard Wicka, Winterhalter and Pleasant for a solid episode.  I’m rooting for guys like Jesse.  Buffalo needs more of them.

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 29.1: Jesse Winterhalter-‘This Is A Comedy Show’

October 7, 2016

About a year ago when I was shooting video for Heather Stack’s appearance on #BigWordsVideo at the Tudor Lounge, I saw Jesse’s stand up act for the first time.  He’s got this magic combination of intellect, hilarity and…a very dark place.  His set was fantastic.  With everyone else who was booked, it took a year before he could come on the show.  Thankfully, Jesse got Roger Pleasant, Roger’s four duffle bags of cameras and myself in for his headlining stint at The Tralf for ‘This Is A Comedy Show’.  It made for a great Bonus clip:

This is the part where I beseech you to SUBSCRIBE to the show for more Bonus clips, behind-the-scenes footage and other surprises.  So do that.  #BigWordsVideo will return this month with actor Jason John Beebe!

Seeya soon,

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 28: ‘Oracle’

September 9, 2016

image

Lou Fasolino (a.k.a. Lou Forecastolino, a.k.a. WLou) was someone I instantly wanted to book as soon as I saw his weather forecasts.  He’s naturally funny, I could tell he’d be great in an ad lib scenario, and he’s likeable.  He was slated for next March, but after a cancellation for the Season 3 Opener of #BigWordsVideo, I asked and he accepted.  He’s even more likeable in person.  It was a well-rounded show with Brian ‘The House’ Platter returning to the Co Host Hot Seat.  Even with a month’s notice, Lou’s producer failed to supply a bonus clip, so this episode shares the unique distinction of having no complementary or supplemental material.  That’s all I’ll say about that.  Here’s Episode 28:

Please make sure to ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ as if your life depends on it.  Thanks to producer Richard Wicka, Fasolino and Platter for filling in in a pinch.  Even with two years under our belts it feels like I’m just getting warmed up.  Stand-up comic Jesse Winterhalter strikes later this month for Episode 29, so #BigWordsVideo will return…

Tom

h1

Travesty Now Available!

August 19, 2016

image

I’m pleased to announce that Travesty, my 12th book, has been released!  After five years of writing it on and off (before and after Icarus On The Mend, my limited print run memoir), proofreading, polishing and then collaborating with Mark McElligott on the wraparound cover art as well as graphic designer Bill Dyson on the interior, fonts and book design, Travesty is live and ready for purchase.  You can buy the book direct from lulu.com HERE:

Travesty

There’s also a permanent Quick Link on this site’s ‘Link Section’ for return visitors.  For reasons having mostly to do with my work schedule, I will not be actively promoting the book until late October, so you can buy BEFORE the official launch on lulu. Amazon.com, B&N.com and other fine retailers in the mean time.

This book was a direct sequel to my 2011 humor collection Mockery, so if you enjoyed it, you can get more of what you loved here.  Every book evolves in some unpredictable way while I’m working on it, and this one went from my trademark psychotic rage-based rants into more of a throwback silliness that I had when I initially started writing in my teens.  It’s also the first collection that was laid out according to theme instead of a chronological table of contents.  Three essays were cut, the proofreading process was rigorous and the final edition underwent a font size expansion for those of us who don’t like to squint.  I’m very proud of it, and McElligott and Dyson both did a terrific job with the small suggestions and concepts I bounced off of them.

In addition, this is the first Doubt It Publishing title to be launched with it’s own ISBN number.  That may not mean much to you, but that’s a serious sea change in the way I’m doing business and the way the book is distributed.  At 40 years old with 12 books behind me, I’ve started making an effort to preserve what I have while planning for the future.  Travesty is not my final book, but I’m taking a break before I chart a new course.  I hope you enjoy it.  This won’t be the last time you hear about it.  Please help spread the word by Sharing the link on your social media, ‘Like’ the book on Facebook,  List the book if you’re a Goodreads member and by all means, tell all your friends!

Sincerely,

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 27: ‘Monarch’

August 13, 2016

image

It’s been a busy summer!  Between polishing and preparing Travesty and wrapping up Season 2 of #BigWordsVideo, I’ve been remiss in posting this last episode.  I booked ‘Persona’ writer/director Charlie Simmons back around September of 2015 and he rode out from Rochester last month to tape the show.  Actress/model Airy Nikohl came up from Niagara Falls.  To make things even more interesting, I hadn’t met or spoken to either of them until we got in the studio.  The results were pretty cool.  Find out for yourself:

Find the time to SUBSCRIBE to Big Words I Know By Heart on YouTube.  Thanks are in order to Charlie, Airy and, as always, Producer Richard Wicka for indulging us.  Season 3 rolls out at the end of the month and we’re just hitting our stride.

Stay tuned,

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 27.1: Persona Web Series Teaser

August 6, 2016

This Bonus clip is pretty self explanatory.  Director Charlie Simmons has been working overtime to make his Persona project perfect.  How’s that for alliteration?!  He was kind enough to bring a really slick teaser in with exclusive content for my viewers.  You can see the results below:

#BigWordsVideo will return this month for the Season 3 Home Opener!  We’re just getting warmed up…

Tom

 

h1

Travesty Inbound!

July 20, 2016

travesty cover jpeg

Hey all!

After five years of working on the book on and off, rigorous rewrites, edits and scrubbing for typos, #Travesty, my eleventh book of humor, is almost ready!  It clocks in at a respectable 204 pages and it’s going to retail at $19.99.  Above, you’ll see the gorgeous wraparound cover with art by Mark McElligott and fonts William Dyson II.  I’m really excited about this book.  I’ve put a lot of myself into this book.  I can’t wait to share it with all of you, but not yet.  It’ll be ready this fall from Doubt It Publishing!

Stay Tuned,

Tom

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 26: ‘Matriarch’

July 13, 2016

image

This was an episode I looked forward to taping for a very long time.  I saw Heather’s standup back in September (see below) and, from talking to her on and off, knew she’d be a lot of fun in the studio.  She’s a natural comedienne, she’s funny, off-the-cuff and incredibly clever.  After two co-host hopefuls dropped out, I tapped Brian Bogucki at the last minute and it turned out that he had a Buffalo Comedy connection! Six degrees of Buffalo, indeed.  We all had a great rapport right off the bat before the cameras started rolling.  Some shows are painful to watch afterwards and this wasn’t one of them.  I thought the pacing was great, the jokes were organic and the conversation just flowed.  I wish every comic was this ‘on’ when they came on.  There’s a lot more coming down the pike, too.  In the mean time though, see for yourself:

Thanks to Heather, Brian, and of course producer Richard Wicka for allowing all this insanity in his home every single month.  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE!  #BigWordsVideo will return in roughly two weeks with Rochester director Charlie Simmons!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 26.1: ‘Lewd & Lascivious’ & 26.2: ‘Lysergic’

July 5, 2016

Comedienne Heather Stack is self-assured, conversational, and yes, really funny on stage.  Since she was originally booked for #BigWordsVideo back in October of 2015, I met her out at her open mic at The Tudor Lounge the month before to shoot some footage.  What follows is her opening set as well as a bonus bumper clip between other comics.  As Heather (and Tyrone Maclin) have explained to me, one of the host’s duties while running an open mic for other comics is not to run too long.  It was fortunate that Heather got a good opening set in before an evening of other great comics.  See for yourself:

 

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 25: ‘Dramaturgy’

June 23, 2016

image

I’ve been a bad talk show host.

Here we are a week away from the next episode and I’m just posting the previous episode now.  Chalk it up to procrastination, call it the aftermath to my comeuppance, call it whatever you want, but here’s last month’s episode.  I felt ill-prepared and intimidated by my guest Donna Hoke, a playwright, staffer for Buffalo Spree magazine, children’s book author and a lot more.  Maybe I read too far into her personality, maybe not, but it threw me off guard and it was noticeable.  That’s okay, though.  The two questions I ask myself after every show are 1. Was it entertaining? and 2. Was it funny?  I can respond affirmative to both for this show whether it was at my own expense or not.  Justin Karcher was terrific in the Co Host Hot Seat.  See the whole big hot mess for yourself:

 

Thanks are in order to Hoke, Karcher and the always-lovely Richard Wicka.  I’ll see you all back here in approximately one week.  Approximately.

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 25.1: Donna Hoke & Justin Karcher-‘Hamilton’

June 2, 2016

I got the sense that either Donna and Justin hadn’t seen each other in a long time, or that you could lock them both in a room for three days and they’d still be pontificating and arguing when you opened the door.  Quips and gossip and barbs were flying and they downshifted to a delightful debate about Buffalo theater once the camera started rolling after the episode.  See for yourself:

#BigWordsVideo will return later this month with a long-awaited guest spot from award-winning comedienne Heather Stack!

Don’t you touch that dial.

Tom

h1

Wardrobe Malfunction

May 2, 2016

image

Author’s Note:  The good news is that the rough manuscript for my next book Travesty is finally complete.  The downside to is that I’m completely exhausted, so I didn’t write anything new this month.  As a result of that, I’m re-running this popular rant about my lack of fashion sense.  It originally ran on BuffaloComedy.com in early 2015.  Enjoy!-Tom 

I have never been mistaken for a peacock.

My fashion sense makes no sense whatsoever. Throughout my life I’ve been clueless as to what’s hip, what’s sensible or even what’s practical where my wardrobe is concerned. I got off to a very rough start. Early childhood photos feature our hero wearing hand-me-down plaid bellbottoms (long after they were trendy and before they made a comeback), soccer jerseys (which, if memory serves, I only played soccer for a week until a girl kicked me in the shins and I discovered a lifelong disgust for orange rinds) and a candid middle school church play photo where I’m wearing loud orange dress pants with a rayon/polyester flannel. All of these pictures have been destroyed so that no boy ever makes the same mistakes that I’ve made. In 40 years, my dress style has improved at more of a slight geological pace.

Our grammar school Phys Ed coach nicknamed me ‘Tommy Shoelaces’ because I could never be bothered to tie my shoes. There’s a rare First Communion photo with a light gray dress coat and elbow patches, for godsakes. In high school, I accidentally bought a woman’s trench coat from Burlington Coat Factory and wore it for months before somebody pointed it out to me. I didn’t wear jeans until I was about 26 because I thought it was a sign of conformity and now they’re almost all I’ll wear. They’re easy, comfortable and hold up in hardworking environments.

The story goes that Einstein had five identical suits because it saved him from wasting valuable problem-solving when it came time to pick out an ensemble every day. I have also never been mistaken for Einstein. Tim Burton always wears black because it’s an easier wardrobe choice. This hasn’t helped his directing choices as of late. Most men are inherently too lazy to bother figuring out what they want to wear every day. This is a running theme.

It was brought to my attention just this year that turtlenecks are not cool, that they’ve never been cool and that no man should be caught dead wearing them. I never received this alert when it originally aired. What’s wrong with turtlenecks? They worked for Steve Jobs! An entire generation of beatnicks ran with them and they did okay. All of a sudden some fifty years later they’re not ‘hep’ anymore? That’s the problem with fashion trends: they’re so fleeting. I can’t keep up even if I tried or paid attention.

On a sunny day a month ago I notice that a lot of men were wearing soft, almost effeminate pastel plaid short sleeve shirts. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one of those. It seems to me like there’s an upper echelon of pretty men who are on the crest of what’s in and what’s out and then there are the great majority of middle-aged men who just grab whatever passes for the new style that happens to come off the rack at Target or J.C. Penney’s. I literally just figured out in January that a ‘Moto’ leather jacket was short for ‘Motorcycle’, which explains why the cuffs are shorter. Perhaps someone pointed that out to me, too.

The women in my life are either very tolerant, love me anyway (with the exception of my ex-wife) or they’re content to make small, subtle suggestions as to what I should or could wear. Or they just assume that I’m stubborn, resistant to change and generally cantankerous. They’re right on all counts. The bulk of my closet (which could never be remotely misconstrued as resembling a wardrobe) consists of free videogame vendor t shirts from a prior job, bizarre impulse purchases from high school that I don’t even fit into anymore but tell myself I may fit into again some day, a few eclectic sweaters that would have made great stand-ins on ‘The Cosby Show’ and comic book themed shirts riddled with cigarette burns from my part time job at a comic shop that’s been closed for at least two years. So to summarize, if you took a cursory glance at my shirts and pants you’d assume that I’ve never gotten laid, will never get laid, and have no plans to get laid even by accident.

Some people want to stamp out world hunger and others aspire to a Pulitzer, but it’s my lifelong dream to have a tailored suit sculpted to my hairless and misproportionate gorilla-like-carriage that I can wear for all of the weddings and funerals that I don’t get invited to. A year and a half ago I stumbled onto a really comfortable $8 cotton shirt. I bought four of them in four different colors. There’s a cargo shorts drawer that’s more of a graveyard for shorts that are destroyed as well as jean shorts, which no one has ever deemed to be in season for any season that occurs on this planet. It would take me three or four incarnations just to be looked down upon by a metrosexual, and I guess I’m okay with that. It’s easier to accept that you have no clue how to dress than to try really hard and fail miserably. Are feather boas coming back around? That’s okay, I don’t have any yet anyway.

I can pull off capri pants, right?
Tom Waters

h1

Poetry Month: Pleasures Of The Damned

April 25, 2016

image

I still had a few lingering thoughts about Poetry Month, so I thought I’d run my 2008 review of Charles Bukowski’s Pleasures Of The Damned.  It was the poet’s final and mammoth posthumous publication.  Bukowski’s impact on free verse cannot be overstated, and without his influence, there would be no Breathing Room(s).  This review originally ran in Buffalo Rising. -Tom

As far as Charles Bukowski’s work is concerned, you either enjoy his work or you don’t. As far as I’m concerned, any artist who can pen 54 books is worth looking into. Almost two years ago, a friend of mine read a poem of his aloud, with a roaring campfire in the background, during a summertime couple’s cocktail get-together–and I was hooked for life.

I’d rather read books, listen to music or watch films from an artist who’s consistently above-par than fixate on the tiny visionaries who knock one or two dingers out of the park and then disappear. It’s a testament to the poet’s already extensive and prolific career that he passed away in 1993, and Ecco books has been publishing uncollected volumes of his work practically every year since. Even death couldn’t shut Bukowski (aka: ‘Henry Chinanski’) up. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and The Pleasures Of The Damned: Poems, 1951-1993 (Ecco, 2007) marks the final note in a swan song the dead, drunken lout has been singing for fifteen years beyond the grave.
The final note plays like a familiar variation on an old jazz standard because a lot of work previously published in other collections makes a return visit in the pages of this fanatic-magnet of a hardcover. Bukowski’s heirs must have scoured the final drawers in his writing nook for one last run at the residual checks, as a smattering of new, previously uncollected verse can be found peppered throughout.

It doesn’t help that I just recently tore through The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems 1946-1966 (Ecco, 2002) along with The People Look Like Flowers At Last: New Poems (2007). Make no mistake, I don’t regret the purchase, and jump at the chance to buy any hardcover from a writer I’m enthusiastic about. It’s just a bit of a letdown to find out that I’ve already read more than seventy percent of the work within.

If you’ve read Bukowski’s work and you don’t own much of it, or if you want something literary and high-minded to show off on the coffee-table nook for your pretentious cocktail guests or in the bathroom for quick laughs and heartwarming forays into the fragility of the human soul, buy it at once. If (like me), you are systematically collecting everything the author has written and you’re starting with the larger volumes first and working your way down to the slimmer collections, you might want to hold off. There are better posthumous selections out there and they’re all marked up at boutique prices in whichever eccentric local book retailer or soulless conglomerate you can find them.

And for the uninitiated, Buk’s work is certainly worth reading. He was a champion of the underdog and an anti-elitist in the best possible sense of the term. A drunkard, a womanizer, a socially challenged citizen and a compulsive (and mostly successful) gambler at the race track, but a genius just the same. His work truly appeals to poetry lovers who think that they hate poetry. That’s how I got sucked in, and two years later, I’m still voraciously devouring every last verse in whichever books I haven’t bought yet.

Many critics bemoan the fact that his work was more structured, honest and true in the poetic sense before he become an underground sensation among skid row types, loose women and those who aren’t afraid of five to ten stiff drinks. While this may be true, the testament and the sheer weight of his own Akashic library will live on forever. His style of free verse has left a generation-spanning cacophony of enthusiasts, acolytes and derivative hacks. Present party included.

h1

Poetry Month: (homesick) ryan inlet

April 21, 2016

breathing room vol.I cover

I’m going to close out this little exercise with a final poem about a place that’s very dear to my heart: Rushford Lake.  Fun fact: The cover image for Breathing Room Volume I: Free Verse was a picture of my boat dock from our cabin in Rushford.  This poem found its way into Poke The Scorpion With A Sharp Stick (2011, Doubt It Publishing), my third and, in all likelihood, my final book of poetry.  I had a few lingering thoughts about the month that I might entertain next week. 

Thanks for reading!

-Tom

 

(homesick) ryan inlet

cold feet padding past

freezing linoleum

morning fog rolling down

the channel

red embers from the previous

evening’s bonfire cooling

crows caw cacophonously

carp flop out of the water lazily

coffee drips deliberately

quietly counting out the

remaining days of a vacation

my Love shifting

snoozing

tossing/turning

beautifully

first cigarette stings

delicious pang of an

a.m. buzz

1950’s space heater

kicking into first gear

near my toes

lean back into a plush

leather chair that’s been through

three or four generations

three or four different families

ashtray precariously balanced

upon the arm

smoke curling up from a green

mug with coin insignias etched

into the clay

(grandpa’s)

duck’s diving in for a landing

on the middle of a placid

liquid landing strip

curtain’s down at the folk’s cabin

crack another comic book

drop another on the stack of the

finished pile

the start of another perfect day

four left.

h1

Poetry Month: ampersand

April 21, 2016

Here’s another poem from breathing room vol.II: rhymes & relics (2008, Doubt It Publishing).  I’ve always been pretty fond of this one because I love the ampersand icon, the word itself and the repetition throughout.  I hope you like it too.

 

ampersand

with a twinkle in your eyes

& a spring in your step

& the way you smile (lips pursed at the corners)

& your laugh when you can’t hold it in

& the tiny hairs on the small of your back

& the little noise you make when i rub you just right

& how you fit just right in the crook of my arm

& the way you smoke your last cigarette before bed

& your scent next to me when i’m waking up

& watching you naked coming out of the shower

& into the bedroom to get your cotton pajamas

& the quick breath you take coming out of a nap

& the um-hmm you tell me when we’re sharing ice cream

& your body in my arms when you jump up and hug me

& your hair through my fingers when we’re driving home

& holding your tiny hand when we walk through the park

& how you shuffle around in the kitchen when we cook dinner together

& our cat who melts around you and can’t stand me

& the perfect fit we make on the love seat

& the other noises you make with me

& how you can eat a whole bowl of popcorn

& the quick kiss you give me when you just get home from work

& your language with your horses

& when you hog the bed

& spending hours playing computer solitaire

& shuffling bills around

& when you pop in and wrap your arms around me when i write

& how you get goofy after one mixed drink

& your jokes with your immediate family

& the way you look in a formal dress

& when you put up with my friends

& how you make omelet’s better than me

& the two cds you own

& somehow you knew it would all work out

& how you get fired up over the same things i do

& the face you make when i surprise you with a candy bar

& when you cry something breaks inside of me

& you can tease me when no one else is allowed to

& how my friends call you mrs.waters

& your big fluffy bath robe that feels like astroturf

& how bright & professional you look in ten minutes before you leave for work

& how you got me hooked on drinking coffee every day

& here you are & here i am

& you’re part of everything i do & see and i wouldn’t have it otherwise.

h1

Poetry Month: regardless

April 20, 2016

I’m not a fan of overly long introductions for brief poems, so I’ll make this short and to the point: I’ve always enjoyed the idea of starting out with a rigid structure thematically and then breaking it down on the page.  This poem, ‘Regardless’ from breathing room vol. II: rhymes & relics (2008, Doubt It Publishing) does exactly that.  I hope you like it.

regardless of who I am

regardless of what you say

regardless of what This is

regardless of how we feel

regardless of what happens

regardless of the war, the economy, gun control, abortion rights, the stock market,

the flight navigation of endangered birds, the way the wind blows, the trajectory of rockets, the preponderance of lint in pockets, what goes on in the mind of the timid schoolteacher and the fourteen year old boy, the death of the automobile, the death of human thought, the death of good manners, the death of organized religion, the death of a decent conversation, the death of the nuclear family as a concept, the ‘life of the mind‘, the life in the tiniest of all living organisms, the life of random interconnected & almost unseemingly impossible events & the living breathing embodiment of

 

(hope)

 

above all else

regardless of that

& the other thing

 

yet

 

&

 

still

 

here we are.

h1

Poetry Month: Lonely

April 19, 2016

Here’s another little ditty from Breathing Room Vol.I: Free Verse (2008, Doubt It Publishing).  While I am my own worst critic, I don’t hate this one.  We’ll hop over to a different book tomorrow.

Lonely

more often than not

we do it to ourselves

in quiet rooms

silence roaring

watching the sun

slowly race

from one end of the room

to the other

 

stretching the distance

between ourselves

and everyone else

paying more attention

to the buzzing sadness

between our ears

giving in to the little

voice of indecision

screaming itself hoarse

hiding out from

inner peace.

 

h1

Poetry Month: Stealing Their Spirit

April 18, 2016

In honor of poetry month, I thought it would be fun to post five poems in the next five days.  This one (‘Stealing Their Spirit’) originally appeared in ArtVoice in 2007 under the wrong title (‘Prize Fighters’).  It’s from my first book of poems Breathing Room Volume I: Free Verse (2008, Doubt It Publishing). 

 

stealing their spirit

i used to take photographs

of the girls I wanted so desperately

to sleep with.

 

there are albums filled with their

quizzical wonder

impromptu smiles

forlorn profiles

in dim lit bars

as the flash

took them by surprise.

 

these were shortly

followed by landscape

scenarios

with the muse in question

somewhere in the foreground

taken with the camera

and the man behind it.

 

then bedroom motifs

ruffled hair

morning breath and no makeup

dark sunrises where sex hid

in dawn shadows

in black & white

 

turn the page and they are gone

not a trace

no hint as to what transpired

the blossoming subject

vanished;

replaced by a new lass

a new love

as long as the 35 mm rolls contended.

 

no sign of a fight

nor glimpse of hurt feelings

drunken fumblings

discovered cheating

just rolling pastures, crisp monochrome profiles

& the sweeping ephemera

of neon bar signs, snowscapes,

bedposts, apartments in

dissarray

shortly followed by their replacement.

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 24: ‘Ahimsa’

April 13, 2016

image

I’m always more ferocious on the show with my friends because I know they can take it.  Longtime pal and one-man-band Gregg Sansone is certainly no exception.  The kid gloves came off and the laughs broke out in the studio for this explosive, no-holds-barred episode.  Gregg knows how I operate.  Diabetes Dave stepped up to the plate for a return trip to the Co Host Hot Seat.  The chemistry between the three of us was near-perfect.  See for yourself:

Thanks are in order to producer Richard Wicka, Sansone and Diabetes Dave for bringing their A game.  If you like what you see, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE!  And don’t miss the bonus clips below!

Tom

 

h1

Big Words Video 24.1: ‘Me & Julio’ & 24.2: ‘Wandering/High Time Again’

April 13, 2016

Musician Gregg Sansone threw me a curveball in the studio when it came time to record the #BigWordsVideo bonus clips after the episode: He brought his Breedlove guitar.  While I know and love the man for his piano-playing, he’s also an incredible guitarist.  So Gregg pulled up a stool, plugged in and performed Paul Simon’s classic hit ‘Me & Julio (Down By The Schoolyard’ for the first clip and a double header of the James Taylor/Charles Grean song ‘Wandering’ and Gregg’s very own country composition ‘High Time Again’.  Feast your eyes and ears right here:

Now I’m not sure if I’ve said this before, but LIKE & SUBSCRIBE for additional episodes, bonus clips and updates!  We’ll see you all in a month!

Tom

h1

The Ballad Of Gregg Sansone (Uncut)

March 28, 2016

image

Author’s Note: This interview has been on a wild ride in the last ten years.  A shorter edit originally appeared in Buffalo Spree magazine, the longer format ran on Acid Logic and the version you’re about to read finally found its way into my fourth book If They Can’t Take A Joke (Authorhouse, 2007).  Gregg’s been a dear friend of mine for more than 15 years and with his 55th birthday approaching, I thought I’d revisit this interview.  

If you’ve participated in (or just enjoyed) the Buffalo music scene for the last six years, Gregg Sansone is a pervasive, melodic, keyboard-driven entity. The two-time Buffalo Music Award Winning Solo Artist Of The Year plays out at clubs, bars and other venues over 300 nights a year (when he’s in peak physical condition), and his cover shows run the gamut of Steve Winwood to Elton John to Stevie Wonder. Dabbling in rock, jazz, blues and classical standards, Sansone has become a local icon and a national underground phenomenon. I saw Gregg play (or channel, to be more accurate) Elton John covers at Route 66 in downtown Buffalo four years ago, and I’ve been a Sansonite ever since. His two and three hour shows are lousy with fans, electric in their intensity and craftsmanship, and brilliant to witness. I had the opportunity to sit down with Greg at my apartment in Lancaster while he was recovering from major back surgery (he had a disc removed).

TW: You haven’t had a drink since you were 15. Why is that, and do you find it surreal to play out at clubs and bars for the majority of the year in the company of people who are soused out of their minds?

GS: No. Alcoholism runs in my family. I’ve got a huge family. Eight boys and one girl. Some people put down meat and become vegetarians. I had the hindsight as a fifteen year old to say ‘You know, I’m addictive as hell. I have a real addictive personality. I’m just not going to do this. Otherwise, I think it could be a problem, and it just stuck through college and everything else. Like anything, I stuck with it and it developed and it’s been years and years. I have a blast (at the shows). People come up to me and say ‘Man, you were hammered because you were dancing on the bars!’ and I say, ‘No, but awesome, thanks man.’

TW: How does your strongly held belief in Buddhism inform your singing and songwriting?

GS: Songwriting and instrumental writing are different. They’re along a spiritual line, but my performances are an extension of what I believe in anyway about myself. Buddhism isn’t a religion as much as it is a philosophy. They didn’t invent being honest and they didn’t invent being good people, they just do it well. So you can apply it to any faith that you have and for me, it just helps me to not want to kill everybody. Or when someone is drunk and they fall into my keyboards and everything, now I don’t want to drag them into the parking lot. Before (Buddhism) I did.

TW: Do you think the era of disposable pop/porn performers like Britney Spears and Ricky Martin is nearing its end, or is it more of a popular music cycle?

GS: I think human nature is human nature, and within music, I’m no expert on anything. I’m just an Italian from Buffalo. Before them when Madonna got really popular, they produced people like Jody Watley, and-

TW: Rick Astley.

GS: People like that, that’s exactly right, but specifically female singers to sound like her (Madonna). Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, so it does go in cycles. I think the American people, we’re a disposable society. There’s a huge portion of the population that buys into that, and they just go into whatever’s popular. But there’s this undercurrent of people like us that-

TW: Observe?

GS: Observe and evaluate and say, ‘This is good, this doesn’t work for me, that’s kinda bullshit. I know that you love Elton John for instance, as do I. People like Elton John, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and even Madonna, and I’m not a Madonna fan, but she’s stood the test of time. They’re not a flash in the pan, and for good reason. If we didn’t have those people, it would be a sad, sad world with the boy bands, although Justin Timberlake has broken from that and has really made a name for himself. I mean, I don’t think he’s going anywhere.

TW: And Mark Wahlberg-

GS: Mark Wahlberg is kinda cool in the movies, though! When he was Marky Mark it was a different story.

TW: Your best one night stand story after a show:

GS: Um, my best one night stand story after a show-because I have one night stand stories during a show.

TW: That sounds like the better story.

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Bat To The Future

March 21, 2016

image

Author’s Note: With BuffaloComedy.com having gone the way of the dodo (where this piece originally appeared in January of 2015) and Batman Vs. Superman just 5 agonizing days away from its theatrical release (which I’m not laying any bets on until I see it), I  thought now might be a good time to revisit my reflections on the 75th Anniversary Year of the Dark Knight Detective.  This is an essay from the upcoming book Travesty.   

By the time you read this, the year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics (in 1939, for those of you who don’t have a calculator nearby) will have come and gone. He’s a character who has endured the test of time, and you may know Detective Comics by their abbreviation: DC. I caught hell some years ago for defending the cultural importance of the impending theatrical release of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). It was a week-long troll battle in a lesser publication and I hate to be the guy who said I told you so, but I was right, Buffalo. That film changed the superhero film forever and demolished most (if not all) box office records. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. What follows is a personal recollection/celebration of the mythos. Dates and citations have been left out, messed up or guessed at because the author is lazy.

I’ve been a Batman fan almost all of my life. As a child, I got into the comics around the same time that I caught the syndicated reruns for the high-camp television version with Adam West, three separate Catwomen and the famed ‘Bat-usi’. This led of course to Batman:The Movie, which we have to thank for the ‘Bat Shark Repellant Spray’ incident. The utility belt can only hold so much. The Caped Crusader has gone through a lot of incarnations over the decades he’s traveled through, which may be one of the secrets behind his staying power. While it was corny and cheesy (‘camp’ is an ironic form of comedy that borders on being an endangered species), the tv series hit home for at least a few seasons.

The ’80s was a great time to get into comics since the medium was growing up in terms of maturity and readership. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns made such a gritty impact on the pulp multiverse that college courses are still taught dissecting its importance. The story zeroes in on Batman coming out of retirement in order to stomp out the threat of a mutant gang, subvert government opposition to superheroes and to square off with Superman. Miller followed this up with Batman: Year One, a mini-series that focused on the roots of billionaire Bruce Wayne’s lifelong war on crime.

Toward the end of the decade, comic icon Alan Moore applied his craft to The Killing Joke, a one-shot story where the reader is taken through a retelling of The Joker’s origin, Commissioner Gordon’s daughter is crippled by same, the Commissioner’s sanity is tried by The Joker and Batman’s is questioned at the close of the arc with a punchline and a recurring pattern of raindrops. The Joker postulates throughout the book that the difference between sanity and insanity is just one bad day. Batman tries to prove him wrong.

In the early ’90s, mainstay Grant Morrison took a turn with Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth. I re-read this book almost every year and always come away with something new in this layered psychological examination of the aberrant psyche. Batman infiltrates the asylum (which the inmates have taken control of spear-headed by the Joker) and tries to keep his head while everyone else’s is long gone. This is interspersed with the story of how Arkham Asylum came to be, which is quite haunting to say the least.

Meanwhile, in the single issues, there was the groundbreaking A Death In The Family, a story arc that was revolutionary because DC set up 1-800 lines so that readers could vote on the fate of Robin at the hands of (you guessed it) The Joker. For you younger readers, people used to have phones in their house attached to the walls that we called ‘Land Lines’. A 1-800 number was a ‘toll free’ number that residents could ‘dial’ on said Land Lines. Spoiler alert (not sure if it’s a spoiler alert twenty five years later): the readers killed off Robin. Luckily, nobody ever stays dead in comics for some reason, and that particular Boy Wonder (there have been around four) came back in Under The Red Hood.

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 23: ‘Schadenfreude’

March 16, 2016

image

The Buffalo standup comedy scene is on fire, and Allie Brady is one of the comics who’s right at the center of it.  After interviewing 3 comics so far (with more on the horizon), it’s fascinating to explore each of their individual voices, styles and, by extension, their acts.  Brady has this slight pause before she delivers a brutal politically incorrect punchline that I really admire.  In the studio, she was fast, relentless and hilarious.  To top it off, her website (stilltoosoon.blogspot.com) is one of the funniest projects I’ve read online in a very, very long time.  Britney Hoffman was a little deer-in-the-headlights in the Co Host Hot Seat, but I thought she rounded out the dynamic quite nicely.  Roll that clip!

A big thanks goes out to Brady, Hoffman and the always-lovely Richard Wicka for putting it all together.  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE for new shows, bonus clips and other additional content.

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 23.5: ‘Irish Spring’ & 23.6: ‘Shitty Girl’

March 16, 2016

I’m starting to think it’s a better idea to send someone out into the field to get these Big Words Video Bonus clips.

I don’t enjoy being out in front of a crowd scene anymore.  There was a time where my ego insisted on it, but these days I’d rather hang out in the background and let the star be the star of the show.  Harvesting these clips with a consumer camera demands that the ‘director’ get right up on top of the action.  Music production man Roger Pleasant of Uprise Studios went on location to Magruder’s in Lancaster for Green Gorilla Comedy’s ‘Irish Spring’ showcase a few weeks ago and came back with two really solid clips from standup comic Allie Brady’s act.  See for yourself:

Using the same Sony PJ340 I’ve been using, Pleasant got a great angle, sound and lighting in HD.  Allie’s comedy speaks for itself.  Putting someone else at the helm of the camera does too.  If you like what you see, SUBSCRIBE!  We’ll be back at it next month with longtime pal and journeyman pianist/performer Gregg Sansone.

See you then,

Tom

h1

Dante’s Double

March 1, 2016

image

You could fill Lake Erie with the amount of hot sauce I’ve ingested.

Nothing would live, grow or thrive there, so basically, it would be the same lake. I’ve been eating chicken wings at least once a week since I was around 17. Technically, chicken fingers were my gateway poultry. My buddy Ron and I got together every week to play video games and we commemorated the event with chicken fingers. And hot sauce. When I got my first apartment, I got my first fryer. Shortly thereafter, I gained about 40 pounds. Studies show that those two events were interconnected somehow. With no self control and the understanding that I was too lazy to deal with the mess of making wings at home, a new tradition was born: wings once a week. This is the point where I could say ‘A hero is born.’ or ‘This is the stuff of legend.’, but my artistic license expired yesterday. It’s best in this situation to borrow from the poorly named 1980’s Fred Ward star vehicle Remo Williams and go with ‘The Adventure Begins’. Cinephile Note: The adventure began and ended with that horrible movie. Let’s get back to the wings…

There are a lot of things that Buffalonians lay claim to: losing at football, losing at hockey on a technicality, losing on ‘Best Places To Live’…you get the picture. Chicken wings really did originate in Buffalo though, at the famous Anchor Bar in the city. Chicken wings happen to be the one thing about Buffalo I embrace. In the rest of the country they travel under the nom de plume of ‘Party Wings’ (makes sense), ‘Hot Wings’ (I like to use that one because it drives my boss into a fit of rage) and yes, ‘Buffalo Wings’. Hot Tip: If they’re listed as ‘Buffalo Wings’ on a menu, you’re probably at a chain restaurant that doesn’t have the faintest idea how to make chicken wings and you’ll end up with a soggy, buttery embarrassment in a plastic basket. ‘Buttery Embarrassment’ also happens to be how I refer to the loss of my virginity. Chicken wings are deceptively simple in their execution. Cook until crispy, douse in hot sauce with a fire hose and mix with butter for those with indigestion.

Around here, the base hot sauce is Frank’s Red Hot. I was not paid for that endorsement, but would like to be. Most places use Frank’s. In the rest of the country I’ve seen diners that give you a 2 oz. shooter of Tabasco for 30 chicken wings (I’m not sure how that would even work), Sriracha (which I’ve never had but would like to try) along the southern border and a lot of sad kitchen-made pastes that were more ketchup than anything else. Spoiler Alert: Ketchup does not resemble hot sauce in any way, shape and especially not form. My palate is so accustomed to Frank’s Red Hot that I’ve gone off in search of other strains of sauce. As a hot sauce enthusiast, you build up a tolerance to heat over time. Useful Factoid: A unit of heat with peppers is measured in ‘Scovilles’, whichb were named after the inventor of the system.

Unlike the rest of my family, I have the constitution of a billy goat. My older brother gets an upset stomach after oatmeal and my younger brother chews on Tums like they’re Tic Tacs. I was not paid for either of those endorsements, but would begrudgingly accept payment in the form of check, money order or chicken wings. By the time I was 25 or so, I’d worked my way up from Medium wings (half butter, half hot sauce) to hot wings (all hot sauce) to more explosive options. Sauces that incorporated jalepeno peppers (they deliver that extra mule kick to your mouth at the end of every bite) habanero peppers (which add a very distinct flavor to the sauce while incinerating your insides) and eventually, ghost peppers. Ghost peppers are no joke. On the Scoville scale, ghost peppers reside somewhere in the vicinity of Dante’s final circle of hell, if that circle included screaming, crying and praying on the toilet all at the same time.

Many argue that the hotter wings that are available aren’t enjoyable. While there is a small subsection of guys who feel the need to prove their masculinity by devouring wings they normally can’t handle, often can’t handle during their demonstration, and definitely won’t handle ever again without a medical staff on standby, some of us have worked our way up to it. Crying is a factor. It’s more of a chemical reaction than an emotional catharsis. It also takes place if you happen to wipe your eyes with the same napkin you used to wipe your sauce-spotted hands with. Or if you don’t wash your hands and scratch your eye hours later. Don’t do this with ghost peppers. Ghost pepper sauces will make you their bitch. Plain and simple.

I hate to say it, but I may have reached an age where I have to start traveling down the heat index. My endurance with the hotter sauces may have reached its apex. For every cause there is an effect. That, and I can’t imagine carrying an IV of blue cheese around with a stainless steel diaper when I’m 50. It’s time to put on the brakes a bit. Blue cheese is for punks. It’s an easy way out of the heat that serves to mask or neutralize it. Milk neutralizes the pain, too. I prefer soda. My Buffalo brethren insist it is called pop. They’re wrong. That’s neither here nor there, though. I like a nice cold glass of Diet Dr. Pepper with my wings. I was not paid or coerced by the good people at the Diet Dr. Pepper bottling plant, but would feign refusal and quickly accept large monetary gifts in the form of gold doubloons or solid ingots stacked in a triangular fashion.

Nowadays, I order a double (20) of wings every Thursday because you get a price break per wing at 20 and I can always finish them off for an additional meal time. The additional meal time may take place before I get up from the table the first time. There’s a great debate between drums (drumsticks) or flats (the actual wings) with solid arguments for both. Drums are easy to eat in public and they tend to crisp up better if you prefer yours crispy. I’m a flats man. My dad was a flats man and his father before him. We’re flats people. Honestly though, I like flats because they’re more tender, they soak up more sauce, they taste better on the reheat and they don’t have as much gristle as the drums. Believe me, I’ve done the research.

By a stroke of luck (and the one good genetic card dealt to me), my severe height has cancelled out any blood pressure issues that might accompany someone who eats a double of wings every week. It’s right on par. If I were a superhero, that would be my super power: Slightly Average Blood Pressure. Villains everywhere would tremble at the sight of my triage. I’ve been training for this all my life. Now I just need an outfit that’s stain resistant to the corrosive concoctions I crave.

Fired up,
Tom Waters

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 22: ‘Balladeer’

February 24, 2016

image

John ‘Dr. Dirty’ Valby is pretty close to my heart.  His sense of humor and his career are ideal for the show.  The man really is a living legend, and I’m pretty honored that he promised to come back on the show every year for the long haul.  So far, I’ve tried to avoid a ‘swinging door’ policy for guests, opting instead to let former guests circle back to co-host or welcoming good co-hosts back.  John Valby is the only exception.  He’s funny, he’s talented and he’s the opposite of politically correct.  Again, he’s perfect for the show.  With a last-minute drop-out in the Co Host Hot Seat, Night Life Publisher (and longtime pal) Ed Honeck came through in a pinch.  They have some shared history together which helped with the overall dynamic and comfort level.  You can watch Episode 22 of #BigWordsVideo right HERE:

Thanks are in order to Valby, Honeck and Richard Wicka for being so accomodating.  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to the Big Words I Know By Heart Channel on Youtube for bonus clips, new episodes and other associated buffoonery.  This was a fun episode to shoot.  I look forward to having John back on next February.

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 22.5: ‘Medley’

February 24, 2016

Producer Richard Wicka got such a good sound from Tom Sartori’s clips over the summer that we decided to utilize the same set-up for John Valby by wiring him to the Home Of The Future.  John (who brought a satchel overflowing with lyric notebooks, stray notes and even lyrics written on the back of crossword puzzles) treated us to a medley of some of his classic favorites with updated verses as well as some material from his newest album Keep Calm And Valby On.  See for yourself right here:

Thanks are in order to Richard for his enduring patience and Valby for indulging us.  If you like what you see and you’d like notifications for new bonus clips as well as the history show…PLEASE SUBSCRIBE!  #BigWordsVideo will return in March with award-winning comedienne Allie Brady!

New rant next week!

Tom

h1

The Divine Pop Comedy

February 8, 2016

image

Author’s Note: With the release of Wonderful Crazy Night (Elton and Taupin’s 33rd album), this seemed like a good time to revise and post this excerpt about the ‘aught’ albums from ‘Reg Soldiers On’, a 50+ page long-form essay about Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s lives, careers and their discography from my 2009 book Slapstick & Superego.  I’ll be posting a new essay this Friday about the three studio albums that followed once I’ve had a little time to digest the newest release.-Tom

Composer/Performer/Legend Elton John and longtime lyricist and classical poet Bernie Taupin’s trio of studio albums from 2001-2006 were a fruitful, fascinating journey, and I’m sure that there’s more to come. From a fanatic’s standpoint, Songs From The West Coast would have made a perfect swan song for the performer. I don’t regret that he’s lived and recorded since, but the album is so perfect, and so close to the roots of Elton’s glory days in the ’70s that it’s near-impossible to trump a second time in his career.

Elton even claimed in his classic bridge-burning interview style that this would be his final studio album. Listening to the tracks, it’s no surprise that this was the first series of songs in ages where Elton and Taupin composed the album together in person. It brilliantly refers back to the roots of his success while avoiding all references to such. ’Emperor’s New Clothes’ (a Billy Joel homage), ’Dark Diamond’ (with Stevie Wonder on harmonica), the sublimely simple and existential ’Birds’, and the retrospective yet hopeful ’This Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore’ stand out as hallmarks to the late musician’s career. Taupin draws from a reserve of inspired lyrics for this album with stunning skill, and drives it home with ’Original Sin’ and ’I Want Love’, a song that shows us the team is still capable of sucker punching us into a state of romantic catharsis: /A man like me is dead in places/Other men feel liberated/I want love on my own terms/After everything I‘ve ever learned/.

Elton’s boyfriend future husband David Furnish was photographed for the album cover as the cowboy. Director of Operations Bob Halley was captured for the shoot as the man being handcuffed to a squad car outside of the diner. This series of videos was nothing short of astonishing, with Robert Downey Jr. lip synching Elton’s vocals to ‘I Want Love’ to Justin Timberlake portraying an uncanny ‘70s Elton in ‘This Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore’ to Liz Taylor and Mandy Moore showcasing the video to ‘Original Sin’. With a small handful of duds, it’s a shame that ‘West Coast’ came out a week before September 11th, 2001 in the States. It could and should have fared much better on the charts if it wasn’t for the deep psychic and socioeconomic impact of the terrorist attacks.

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 21: ‘Anthropomorphic’

February 5, 2016

image

This may be the funniest episode we’ve done so far.

I’ve been tracking creator Stephen Nawotniak and artist Jeff Perdziak’s Mubu The Morph children’s series since the release of the first book last spring.  I went to Clarence High School with Stephen over 20 years ago and (up until shortly before the episode) hadn’t seen him since.  The books have a positive message and when I ran into them, told them I’d love to have them on the show but wasn’t sure if it’d be a good fit considering their source material.  Boy was I wrong.  We had a rip-roaring good time filming this episode and returning co-host Mark McElligott rounded out an inspired cast.  Once we got moving, I had a tough time keeping it together when I’m normally pretty good at projecting a starchy talk-show-host-like persona.  Episode 21 was a lot of fun, and very, very funny thanks to everybody involved.  See for yourself:

Many thanks to producer Richard Wicka, Mark McElligott for the never-ending abuse, and especially Stephen and Jeff for rolling with the punches.  This is proof positive that children’s book authors (and illustrators) have a good sense of humor.  The heavy show rotation is coming to an end, so I’ll give you all some time to get caught up on the backlog.  Stay tuned to the website because I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve this month.

Tom

 

h1

Big Words Video 21.1 & 21.2: Jeff Perdziak’s ‘The Menagerie’

February 5, 2016

image

These two Big Words Video bonus clips were a cinch.  I was really pleased with the over-the-shoulder artist’s perspective we got with Graham Nolan for 18.5.  Let’s face it: It’s cool to watch an artist at work.  This time (to avoid shaky-cam), I posted a tripod behind artist Jeff Perdziak while he fleshed out two of the central characters from his upcoming creator-owned graphic novel ‘The Menagerie’ (which is coming out this fall from the Visions Comic Art Group).  See both installments for yourself:

You know, if you like this sort of thing, it’s twice as nice to ‘Like’ it on YouTube.  You can also take it one step further and PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to the Big Words I Know By Heart Channel on YouTube.  Just putting that out there.  #BigWordsVideo will return on February 23rd along with ‘Dr. Dirty’ John Valby!  We’ll see you then!

Tom

h1

Breath Of A Salesman

February 1, 2016

image

One of the first things I learned about fine-tuning my pitch was a little trick called ‘clearing the mechanism’. No matter what I’m in the middle of when an Up (my turn on the sales rotation) comes in to look at *Widgets*, I’m trained to take a step back, clear my head and check my breath before I give a couple or a One-Legger (husband or wife flying solo without their significant other) my undivided and complete attention. Let’s face it: Nobody wants to buy anything from someone who smells like they stumbled into a garlic clove patch for lunch, stuffed an entire can of spinach between their teeth or a salesman with pretzels and coffee breath issuing from their word-hole. I take a moment, focus on the journey we’re about to embark upon together and roll into it.

Paunch is a dead giveaway for a good salesman. I’ve met a few energetic, wiry, skinny types, but on the whole, you can spot a top earner by the love handles spilling over his belt. A guy who’s a top performer is also a guy who’s putting food on the table, eating well, or splurging his Spiffs (cash incentives for upselling) on fancy dinners out. The gut also has a lot to do with avoiding real work. Born salesmen are noticeably absent when manual labor is going down, electing instead to follow up on Leads, Prospect a fresh Up, ride a desk, smoke a cigarette, decide to get lunch or play with their phones. While I don’t own a smart phone, I still know how to play Scrabble, troll *Social Media* and check the weather. Go figure.

I never thought I’d wind up in sales. Some children can tell you by grade school that they want to grow up to be a lawyer, a fireman or a claims adjuster for a multinational corporation. Those kids were boring then and I find them boring now. At last count, I’ve had 38 jobs. Maybe not that many, but I’ve got a desk drawer full of name tags, personal business cards for companies and stores that don’t even exist anymore, lanyards and other assorted company memorabilia that hold no resale value except as mementos of associate positions and career paths that have been derailed, stunted or emergency ejected. If you take a cursory glance at my resume from five years ago, you’d find that I have a strong background in management, customer service and retail. I’m surprisingly happy, fulfilled and neither pressured nor coerced to admit that I’m good at it. We’ve all had jobs that we suck at where we drag our feet in every morning, count the minutes, keep our heads down and do our best to barrel through it. At least I have. This job isn’t that for me.

Salesmen get a bad rap. Most people conjure up a stereotypical used car salesman in their heads: Insincere, cheesy, and sleazy. I am none of those things. While I have a great fondness for cheese (especially ALL the Jacks), it has never rendered me cheesy. When I’m deep into a pitch selling *Widgets*, I try to find the warm, fuzzy place in my heart where Empathy resides. When I’m at the top of my game, it’s because I found that sweet spot. I wear my heart on my sleeve, which is shocking considering that I’m such a sarcastic asshole the other 98% of the time that I’m awake. From what I’ve gathered, all of us save the very best of ourselves for that window of opportunity when we’re making money based on our personality. It’s the nature of the beast.

Developing a pitch is like crafting your own lightsaber or finding your own spirit animal, take your pick. It’s a fine-tuned dress rehearsal tailor-made to the customer you’re dealing with and spun from your best attributes. For me, it’s equal parts empathy, customer service, humor (naturally), informal interview, body language and honing my listening skills. Hearing what people are saying and giving them ample time to talk are easier said than done. We’re conditioned to run our mouths and take what we hear on the surface, so it’s taken some time to be more considerate and to keep my word-hole shut. People love to talk about themselves, so in a lot of scenarios, just letting a couple or a person open up and actually listening when they do will seal the deal.

We all follow a Process where I work. I’m not going to tell you what that process is. There are blood oaths involved, animal sacrifice, full moons…just kidding. I’m just not going to reveal the mystery. My best analogy is that our Process is similar to a classic symphony. We all have to hit on the same notes, but the way that we play them and the inflections we give them are our own. Ego gets in the way once in awhile, and when that happens, I typically start to misfire. Whenever I think that my way is better I start tanking, and it takes a painful reappraisal of what I’m doing wrong to get back to the basics. Admitting that I don’t know everything and that my style or my opinion can sometimes be wrong. This is earth-shattering stuff to accept if you’re an old dog who’s reluctant to new tricks.

We are an impulsive, flashy and cynical lot. My boss collects watches. Another boss plays tennis and skis like there’s an Olympic medal at stake. I collect dress shirts, computers, movies, essentially anything pop culture that isn’t nailed down when my commissions come in. Most of the salesmen I work with treat golfing like it’s a religion. Golfing’s not for me. Like most sports, it takes too much time, there’s too much open exposure to the sun, I’m not a patient man, and as an Irishman, I’m a sore loser. And a sore winner.

I could pen a motivational manual about our cynicism. ‘Buyers are liars’ is a common mantra in sales. People will say whatever they can to get out of a closing scenario and skate out to ‘think things over’, ‘talk to the wife’ or ‘sleep on it’. All of those excuses are bullshit. I’ve learned to look for the real reason behind the Stall and dig for an honest answer. If an Up walks out the door, I’m trained to react emotionally as if they aren’t coming back. Let it go and move on to the next one.

One of my favorite lines out of all the training sessions, webinars and philosophical tracts I’ve attended, watched and read is this: Life is interesting, so be interested. I couldn’t agree more. The people I meet and talk to come from all different walks of life. They all have their own families, stories, hopes, dreams and aspirations. Like I said, when I’m deep into a pitch and really nailing it, it’s when I’m diving into who people are and what makes them tick. Following up on what they’ve told me and finding out more. And it always helps to pop an Altoid after we’ve all had fried blooming onions. You may not know this, but they’re curiously strong.

Second prize is a set of steak knives,

Tom Waters

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 20: ‘Cognitive Dissonance’

January 27, 2016

image

Alan Bedenko is a great writer.  As I said in the intro, I might not always agree with his political leanings, but I love the way that he gets his point across and I usually learn more about topical issues by reading his columns in The Public or his posts on BuffaloPundit.com.  As a guest on the show, he had a well-thought-out response to every curveball we threw at him, he was funny, witty and most importantly, he doesn’t take himself too seriously.  This was a great chance to pull out all the stops and work in some political jokes that wouldn’t have landed on any other episode.  Everybody involved did a great job including my co-host, ‘The Mighty’ Matt Sampson.  The two questions I ask after every show are 1) Was it entertaining? and 2) Was it funny?  We fired on both cylinders and more in this one.

Please make sure to ‘Like’ and ‘Subscribe’.  Thanks are in order to Alan, Matt and producer Richard Wicka for knocking it out of the park on this episode.  We had a lot of leftover questions at the end of the show, so there’s a distinct possibility that Alan could return down the line.

h1

Big Words Video 20.5: Alan Bedenko & Matt Sampson-‘Rogue’s Gallery’

January 27, 2016

After twenty episodes, I can honestly say that Matt Sampson came to the table as a co-host with more preparation than anyone who’s filled the Hot Seat thus far.  He had a full page of typewritten, double-spaced questions, a genuine enthusiasm for politics locally and globally, and when he chimed in he was intelligent, entertaining and inquisitive.  He still had a lot of questions left after the episode, so I gave him free reign for the Big Words Video Bonus Clip.  See for yourself.  Oh, and before I forget, Like, Share & Subscribe while you’re at it, eh?

h1

Normal Consciousness Will Be Resumed: Lucifer Creator Mike Carey In His Own Words

January 21, 2016

lucifer

Author’s Note: Everything old is new again.  With ‘Lucifer’ hitting the small screen next week on Fox, I felt it was appropriate to dust off my print interview with creator Mike Carey from my 2007 book If They Can’t Take A Joke (Authorhouse).  Nine years later, Lucifer remains my favorite comic series of all time.  Fox better not fuck it up.  -Tom 

For the uninitiated, comic writer Mike Carey is the second coming as far as Neil Gaiman’s fantasy masterpiece Sandman is concerned. After the Sandman library ended its epic run, he resurrected Samael, also known as the Morning Star, better known as Lucifer. The Eisner Award-Winning Vertigo title has gone on to a great deal of financial and critical success and, never one to rest on his laurels, Carey has kept busy writing a number of inspired story arcs for John Constantine: Hellblazer, Batman, and the one shot hardcover The Furies.

Lucifer: The Wolf Beneath The Tree (DC/Vertigo) explores the series roots while rushing towards its sad but inevitable conclusion. Writer/Creator Mike Carey and artists Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly, P. Craig Russell and Ted Naifeh delve into a fable behind the construction of the kingdom of heaven and what happened to Lilith after her exile from the garden of Eden. Furthermore, the volume follows Lucifer’s continuing struggle to escape the grip and shadow cast by his father and his battle for universal autonomy.
For the uninitiated, the series is a high watermark for quality in adult graphic fantasy, chronicling the Morning Star’s resignation from the duties of Hell and subsequent dealings on the earth and beyond. Over the course of the series, Lucifer has double crossed God, created a world in his own image, battled the heavenly host on his own terms and tangled with more than his share of adversaries while somehow managing to come away stronger with a clever remark in tow. The dialogue is incomparable for the medium, and the series is a lightning rod for some of the most talented artists in the business. In terms of fantasy, there are no substitutes for Lucifer.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mr.Carey on an overseas call from his London home regarding his writing, his love for comics, and his obsession with myths, fables and fairy tales.

TW: Have you put a great deal of research into the occult and demonology in order to write Lucifer, or is it part of a life long fascination with myths and fables in general?

MC: It’s more the second than the first. It’s a lifelong fascination. I do specific research for specific storylines, but I was a lit major at university (Oxford) and I did Latin and Greek at school, so I’ve always been sort of interested in myth. I’ve always been saturated with the myths of certainly Mediterranean cultures. As I’ve sort of gone through my first degree and my higher degree I continue to sort of revisit the themes I was fascinated by.
To some extent, it comes from my weird background. I was born in Liverpool, and my dad was Catholic and my mom was Anglican and this is in one of the most sectarian cities on the British main lands. Mainly second and third generation Irish immigrants. So religion was a big part of my childhood and yet I was slightly detached from it because I came from this family where there was a kind of religious truce going on. And this was a city that was experiencing a religious Cold War. It was a part of my upbringing without my ever being a believer.

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 19: ‘Recluse’

January 18, 2016

image

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have a bucket list of guests in my head for the show.  While I’ve been apprehensive about doing two shows a month this winter for fear of the law of diminishing returns in terms of viewership, three is absolutely out of the question.  In spite of this, forces converged on the Home Of The Future studios this afternoon and I ran into my old pal Jim Pray.  He’s not a celebrity per se, he doesn’t have anything to promote, and he’s sworn off doing any radio or video spots for the last four years.  He’s in my Top Ten on the bucket list.  I’ve been wearing him down and it took a lot of coaxing to get him to sit down and do a show with me.  It was worth it.  I’ve met a few people in my life who are hilarious because they’re being hilarious when they don’t know it.  Jim’s one of those people.  I’m glad to count him as one of my friends.  We did a show with no script, no co-host…no net.  Give it a watch right HERE:

 

 

So yep, three shows this month.  Just like that.  Buffalo Pundit and Daily Public commentator Alan Bedenko is coming on in about a week.  Do you know at the end of the movie credits how they say ‘007 Will Return In’?  That.  That all over.  Tom Waters will return in #BigWordsVideo 20!  Subscribe and Share, folks, Subscribe and Share.

See you soon.

h1

Big Words Video 19.5: Jim Pray-Spock & David Bowie

January 18, 2016

The above title is 100% clickbait.  It’s also relevant to the discussion we had after the episode, so it’s justified.  And funny.  And topical.  So there.  Jim Pray remains a fascinating specimen and a really interesting guy to me.  I’m glad that he broke his four year media blackout and made an exception for me.  You won’t regret watching him in action.  Here’s the Bonus clip:

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 18: ‘Mythos’

January 14, 2016

image

Graham Nolan has been on my bucket list since I started Big Words Video.

He’s a phenomenal artist, a veteran from DC Comics and the man co-created Batman’s Bane, for god’s sakes.  Delving into the research and prep for the episode, I gained an even greater appreciation for his career.  A 6 year run on Detective Comics, 6 on ‘The Phantom’ comic strip, 12 years on ‘Rex Morgan: M.D.’, a creator-owned web comics (‘Sunshine State’)…the list goes on and on and on.  I saw this a lot, but it was an honor to sit down at the same table with Nolan.  We take for granted that we have such an artistic visionary in our own back yard.  Michael Hoffert Jr. was a natural fit for the Co Host Hot Seat on this one because he knows more about chapter and verse in the comic industry than I ever will.  Just watch the episode for yourself, will ya?

A huge thanks goes out to Mr. Nolan for not only making the time to do the show, but braving some pretty gnarly ‘Lake-Enhanced’ (the new buzz term the meteorologists are using this year) snow on the drive out and back.  Thanks are also in order to producer Richard Wicka and Michael Hoffert for knowing the biz back to front.  If you want, did you know that you can SUBSCRIBE to the Big Words I Know By Heart Channel on YouTube?  For FREE?  Well you can.  I’ve also heard that it’s possible to LIKE & SHARE these clips on the YouTube interface.  You should try it.  You really should.  There’s another episode en route in less than two weeks, so we’ll all see you soon!

Tom

 

 

h1

Big Words Video 18.5: Graham Nolan-Batman

January 14, 2016

image

Okay, so this was really, really cool.  As a Big Words Video bonus clip, this is something that was in the back of my mind for a long time.  We did an over-the-shoulder shot with Graham Nolan while he went from a blank slate on his IPad Pro to a rough finished sketch.  The entire process took about seven minutes while we peppered the clip with some follow-up questions.  Just a really, really cool way to complement Episode 18.  Check it out right HERE:

Thanks again to Nolan for doing the show!  And for those of you reading, SUBSCRIBE to the Big Words I Know By Heart Channel on YouTube already, will ya?

 

h1

Creature Of Habit

January 4, 2016

image

‘I’m still waiting on my Fruity Pebbles.’

This is not a sequence of words in the English language that any grown man should ever say to another human being. Hearing that line at an e-cigarette purveyor made me seriously reconsider the overall manliness of the guy who uttered the line, my own masculinity, and the choices behind my decision to join the e-cigarette demographic. Vapers at large are a douchey and superstitious lot. I have a serious issue identifying or comparing myself with them.

They fall into the same camp that subscribes to unemployable and scary homeless derelict beards and their accompanying beard oils, effeminate pastel flannels which I am also not a fan of, and sturdy combat/work boots worn by those who will never see combat or gainful employment. The term ‘e-juice’ is also a phrase that I’m uncomfortable with. It sounds disgusting. And the hundreds of different flavors are often embarrassing to say aloud. Pink Kiwi Dildo, Green Tea-Bag and Root Beer Ball Sac spring to mind. I’m a creature of habit (clearly), so I stick with Peanut Butter Cup (not exactly an affirmation of my Man Card) during the day and Cuban Cigar at night.

Over a year ago I decided to quit smoking because I couldn’t bear the thought of dressing my son up and taking him outside during the winter to feed the monkey. That was my line in the sand, and I felt like I’d be the worst father in the universe if I did that. It was not a conscious choice to avoid cancer or take better care of myself. After smoking between a pack a day to two packs for the better part of twenty five years, I gave it up because I was unwilling to make my boy an unwitting accomplice to my habit.

Little did I know that to many people, it’s a lifestyle. There are accessories, a level of mechanical aptitude for advanced e-cigarette smokers (rigs, mods, and erector set bongs), and a practiced and self-entitled pretentious sense of cool that accompanies blowing billowing clouds of mist into the atmosphere. When I was a kid, most corner stores had candy cigarettes for kids. They were bubble gum sticks packaged to look like cigarettes that let off puffs of powdered sugar when you blew on them. It was a great way to teach kids how to smoke before they were allowed to smoke. Looking back, I can’t believe that something like that would make it past the marketing phase, but they were different times.

Cigarette smoking (and e-cigarette smoking, by extension) aren’t any more sophisticated, cool, hip or European than the candy cigarettes were. We’re all blowing cancerous candy clouds of smoke. When I see a kid crossing the street with a tricked out brick contraption billowing great goddamned plumes of vapor, it doesn’t look terribly cool to me. I won’t argue for or against electronic cigarettes, but the logic behind it makes sense to me. Rather than ingesting a few thousand poisons, I’m taking in the one that counts: nicotine. The devil I just met is better than the devil I know.

When I initially went into a shop and made my first point of contact, my only request was for something small. Size doesn’t matter to me, and it didn’t seem practical to put my mouth around some monstrous metallic cock in public. I don’t understand how we live in a post-Industrial culture that can cram a computer into a wristwatch, but the technology hasn’t come far enough along to create a nicotine dispersal unit that’s smaller than the candlestick in Colonel Mustard’s Den or a box of Cracker Jacks. Many devices are built to house a pair of batteries that would outlast five nuclear winters; I just wanted something small that would fit into my pocket and make it through a typical day. Three devices later, I found a rig without serious structural flaws that did just that.

Somehow I have more paraphernalia now than when I was a pothead. Instead of pipes, one-hitters, roach clips and rolling papers I have miniature e-cigs, medium rigs, small droppers, larger bottles, ‘wicks’ (which aren’t really wicks per se, but metallic cylinders or ‘atomizers’ that are referred to as wicks) and battery chargers. Every component, part and parcel has a ‘No Garbage Can’ logo on it, so the unused garbage may be as difficult to dispose of as uranium, old prescription drugs, guns, porn or E.T. cartridges. Not that I’m speaking from experience…moving on, then.

I know too many people who have tried to quit cigarettes cold turkey only to go back to it. There are more still who turn to e-cigarettes after decades of smoking thinking that they can step down and quit within a few weeks. I’m giving myself a few years to gradually wean myself off of nicotine. There are actually days when I forget that I have my device with me, or I realize that I haven’t puffed on it for a few hours, which is pretty incredible considering that I used to smoke every hour on the hour like clockwork. Unless I’m stressed, it’s often an afterthought. Or when I’m in the mood for the infused flavor blast of Pink Kiwi Dildo.

Vaping in the boy’s room,
Tom Waters

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 17: ‘Thespian’

December 24, 2015

image

Back in September, I found out just how much I don’t know about the Buffalo film community after a few short questions with Rhonda Parker.  In that time, I’ve discovered that Michael O’Hear is the soft candy center to the entire scene.  He’s had an astounding career that’s reaching another crest with all of the festival hoopla surrounding Killer Rack.  And that’s just one feather in an already-crowded cap.

O’Hear was a genuine delight to research, watch on screen (he’s a scene stealer to be sure) and interview.  He has a quiet intensity that’s very arresting and charming all at once.  He made for a fantastic guest.  And we must have done something right in the studio, because most of the people involved in the Buffalo Film Community have been kind enough to tell us how much they liked the show!  Thank you for ‘getting’ it.  Enough gushing, though.  Here’s the episode:

Thanks are due to Mr. O’Hear, Buffalo Charlie for making it through the spanking machine not once, but twice, producer Richard Wicka and also Rhonda Parker for the great recommendation.  I book primarily on guest referrals, because who’s a better judge as to who can handle the format or not?  Don’t forget to LIKE & SUBSCRIBE on YouTube!  I feel like I may have said that before…

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 17.5: Outlaw-The Living Comic Book (Teaser)

December 24, 2015

Guest Michael O’Hear was kind enough to supply me with a really sharp looking teaser trailer for the Outlaw web and DVD series that’s currently in production.  Again, if it were up to me I would never shoot another Bonus clip at the Home Of The Future again, so this was an extremely inventive case of my guest thinking outside the box.  Check out the sharp black and white trailer right HERE:

As always, you can SUBSCRIBE to the Big Words I Know By Heart Channel to see all of the Big Words Video bonuses as soon as they’re posted, get updates on new shows and other related nonsense.  Please take the extra second to Like the show on YouTube!  We’re ramping up production for the next two months, so stay tuned!

Tom

h1

On Dasher, On Dancer, On Prozac (Updated)

December 14, 2015

 

prozac light pic

Author’s Note: This little ditty is from my 2008 book If They Can’t Take A Joke (Authorhouse).  I think about this one every time the holidays come around and it deserved some rewrites and revisions.  This is good practice as Travesty approaches the finish line, because I’d like to rework every essay in the manuscript one final time before its release in the Fall of 2016. 

Happy Holidays!

Whelp, I’ve survived the holiday gauntlet. From Thanksgiving until January 1st, there is no reprieve. No sanctuary, no shelter, no quarter from family, family meals, stress, anxiety, depression, aggravation, noise pollution, and hustle and bustle on a scale of mental exhaustion. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Why not celebrate the holidays by running your immune system into the ground, gaining weight, drinking like a fish, and maxing out your credit cards? Holidays are hell on adults, always have been, always will be.

I didn’t really notice it until this year, but more people collectively lose their shit this time of year than any other. I don’t know how I kept mine together aside from the fact that everyone lost their mind around me while I watched. I’m reminded of the relationship between Hunter Thompson and his trusty sidekick in the film/book Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas; one of the two always kept their wits about them while the other loses them. They took turns. I made it straightaway up until three or four days before New Year’s before commencing into total collapse.

My grandfather died five days before Christmas, a fact which never escapes anyone in my family. It’s been six years, but deaths in the family are like cattle brands. Nobody mentioned it this year, but I’m sure we all thought about it. Looming like the ghost of Christmas past, memories of my grandpa and his subsequent passing left an indelible mark on our holidays forever. It seems as if the good ones always go around the really important occasions. That, or there are too many holidays to count, and it just appears that way. Maybe that’s the end result of old age and the stress of the season. I felt my age this year, and perhaps the burden of Christmas shopping and card sending and table settings will put me six feet under when I get older, too.

I’m so sick of shopping and hunting and gathering that I’m considering moving to another country next year between the months of November and March. Maybe I’ll move to Iceland, where they still believe in faeries, Bjork’s music career, and where they have a holiday that celebrates and encourages adultery (I’m not making this up). I’m not a big fan of standing in line on Black Fridays. Leave that to the fucking soccer moms. I don’t chase down bargains or make the six a.m. toy runs the stores like to torture us with. It’s complete madness. Nothing will get me out of bed before eight o’clock (unless, of course, I’m still awake from the night before). By December, people get a glazed, psychotic look in their eyes standing in the checkout lanes. Desperation, exhaustion, and materialism bear down on their tiny brains. Stupid people are much more likely to lose their minds around the holidays because they have less of it to go around. You see them screaming at cashiers, elbowing their way through toys, and clothes-lining Christmas carolers.

One expends a lot of energy participating in family meals, get-togethers and holiday jaunts. Entire days off are chewed up driving to a destination, sitting and talking with loved ones, having a meal, exchanging gifts, toasting champagne, and so on. This leaves you with the feeling that not only don’t you have any free time, but there’s a microverse of frenetic activity that’s taken its place. While I prefer to nap frequently and laze about on days off running the occasional errand, these become a thing of the past in the winter months.

Nothing makes you feel more alone than holidays, especially New Year’s Eve. We’d all like to picture ourselves kissing our intended at the stroke of midnight rather than basking in our own solitude. This is one of the many factors that pushes people right over the edge into insanity. Seasonal violence has a cause and effect. It’s modus operandi is the surmounting pressure that drives people to drink and play bumper sleigh ride with their new luxury sedan, strip the Christmas lights off the tree and hop off of a chair, or gobble up that bottle of sleeping pills like a tender morsel of Christmas ham.

Let’s not forget the big two stressors, either: finances and weight. The average American gains twenty pounds between November and January. So many holiday snacks within reach; fruitcake, turkey, Christmas cookies, egg nog, and scotch. One month on the lips, a new year’s resolution on the hips. Most people worry year round about their budgets, and racking up gifts on multiple credit cards doesn’t help. It’s a holiday recipe for a breakdown.

It’s a good thing the holiday triathlon only comes once a year. It’s probably not any one factor that freaks people out so much as the sum of all of them. That, and the end of another year and the realization that we didn’t do nearly as much as we wanted to in the months preceding it. Expectations for the coming calendar combined with disappointment over the previous one. The thought that we’re getting older at the speed of light, and that another year has gotten away from us. Should old acquaintance be forgot….just give me one solid day off. And let me hide out from family, friends, and shopping centers.

Checking the expiration date on my NA eggnog,

Tom ‘yuletide’ Waters

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 16: ‘Convoluted’

December 6, 2015

image

Sterlace and I have been pals since sometime in 2008.  He just happened to be at The Home Of The Future while an episode of Big Words Radio was recording.  I didn’t know who was in the Green Room while we were doing the show, but I could certainly hear the uproarious laughter.  The rest is history.  I’ve been on his show, he’s been on mine, and this is his first appearance on Big Words Video.  Producer Richard Wicka was a natural choice for the Co Host Hot Seat because of his innate ability to frustrate and stymy Sterlace at will.  This show was a rollicking good time and I hope you enjoy watching it.  Here’s the link:

Thanks are in order to Sterlace, Wicka and guest board operator Tom Windsor.  As always, if you haven’t yet, please SUBSCRIBE for FREE to the Big Words I Know By Heart Channel on YouTube for upcoming episodes, bonus clips and other additional content.  Actor Michael O’Hear will be joining us in the studio in two weeks as we’re doubling down for December.  See you then!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 16.5: Greg Sterlace-‘Exploitation’

December 6, 2015

We shot this clip all the way back in August in the library portion of the Home Of The Future when I did a guest spot on The Real Greg Sterlace Show.  It was originally titled ‘The Big Beatles Heist’, but (in an effort to be consistent with the Big Words theme), we retitled it as ‘Exploitation’ right after the studio show.  Greg discusses his master plan to bilk Beatlemaniacs out of their hard-earned money.  Check it out right here:

Please take a moment to ‘Like’ the clip on YouTube.  Kindly SUBSCRIBE to the Big Words I Know By Heart Channel on YouTube for updates on new episodes, bonus clips and other original content!

h1

Parrots & Pigeons

December 1, 2015

image

Every time I sit at the tables I’m reminded of standup comedy. There are people with thirty years of sobriety, people with a week of sobriety and everyone in between, and it seems like all of them have a routine, or a bit. They share for five or ten minutes. Their life story, their material, goes from raw to refined to polished (distilled probably isn’t the best word to use when talking about sobriety, so I won’t). Their history, their trials, struggles, tribulations and triumphs get buffed out, refinished and reformatted until they have a tale suitable for mass consumption, approval and replication. And in many cases, they tell that story again, and again, and again.

My great fear is that I’ll end up like that, spinning out the exact same ten minute yarn with the same ups and downs and inflections and pauses and punchlines the same way for the next twenty years. I don’t say much at the tables unless I feel compelled to, or if it seems like I can add something to the conversation. There is no shortage of people with nothing to say and plenty to say about it inside and outside the rooms and I refuse to be another one. I suppose that’s my gift to the Program: my brevity. I’ve shot my mouth off enough in my drunken past, so the least I can do for my brothers and sisters is pick and choose my contribution to the rolling dialogue that takes shape in the meetings.

I’ve heard it said that the Program only has two kinds of birds. There are Parrots, who recite what they’ve heard by rote. I’ve met plenty of them, proud of their ability to memorize passages from the book and spew them out when appropriate. Pleased as punch to regurgitate a line or a saying that was told to them. And then there are Pigeons, who carry the message. Given a choice, I’d rather be a Pigeon. There’s more room for improvisation there, don’t you think? It seems nobler to me to find my own spin on the message, but at the end of the day (when you think about it), you’re going to get shit all over the bottom of the bird cage either way. Kidding.

I didn’t stop drinking to be some kind of puppet. There’s a lot more freedom in recovery than that. Saying the same thing over and over would be a kind of hell for me. In two years, I’ve found out how to live. And there isn’t much that any of us can’t do with the notable exception of one thing: We can’t drink. It’s pretty hard to believe that I’ve been sober for two years, but it works 100% of the time if you follow it to the letter. I won’t get preachy with you though, since you’re an innocent bystander.

I’ve discovered a lot more about the Program as time goes along. There is a dark side, but that’s to be expected with any cross-section of the populace. One of the few guidelines we follow is ‘Principles Before Personalities’. Chew on that for a little while. One of my friends says that we’re all sick people trying to get better, and some are sicker than others (I guess I do have a little parrot in me, don’t I? *Squawk!*). There’s a pecking order, whether we honor it or not. There are a few climbers, ‘career daters’ (which is putting it kindly, on the inside we call them ’13 Steppers’), politicians and melodramatic evangelists peppered throughout the groups. I didn’t stop drinking to be a politician, or the grand Poobah of the organization. I don’t need a title, and would prefer to travel in the middle of the herd. I’m also thankful that I didn’t date anyone my first year in (a commonly-held suggestion), because now I’ve got enough sense to see that the women are just as nuts as the men are. I also don’t need any disciples doting on my philosophical prognostications. There are actors and actresses. There are quite a few different kinds of people from all walks of life in every shape, color and creed. It’s a powerful thing to give someone a voice to a room of 60 people, or a table of 20. We all adjust to it differently.

My buddy Mike has a really good point when he tells me that we don’t know what these people were like when they were out drinking, and that their recovery most likely mirrors their drunken debacles to some degree. Bullshit artists. One-night-stand studs. Loud mouths. When I first came in, I looked at anybody with two years or more as some sort of Jedi Knight. There’s a glaring problem with putting anyone on a pedestal, which is mainly the loud crash when they fall off of it. We’re all painfully human, and we’re all on the same broad highway to getting better. For the twenty-odd years that I was ‘out there’, I was grandiose, psychotic and angry. Your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how far along I was on my drunk that night. That problem has been removed.

Even with two years in, I have a sober history now but I’m proud of my blank slate. I’ve tried very hard to avoid drama when I used to be a magnet for it, to strive for something close to humility when pretension and pomposity used to be the order of the day, and to share a kind word with everyone and look for the good in all of them. Everyone’s heart is in the right place, but there are a few with poor execution skills.

So now I have a sober history to build. I have a few steps left out of twelve to follow, but it’s a clear slide to home plate from here. As someone who’s not exactly a joiner, I feel a kinship with a special brand of fucked-up miscreants, malcontents and rejects eager to reform. I’m where I belong with my other dysfunctional family and their endless supply of interesting stories, rehearsed, polished and otherwise. It’s a big dysfunctional family tree. I’m going to take root, stay for awhile and save my applause for the natural punchlines.

Counting my blessings while lining the cage,

Tom Waters

 

h1

Sly Waters & The Thievius Justinius (Updated)

November 23, 2015

sly shirt pic

Author’s Note: With the holiday season coming up, I’d like to kindly remind you to spend your video game shopping dollars anywhere besides Gamestop.  They are an evil, soulless corporation that doesn’t care about their employees, their customers or their stockholders.  I strongly recommend Oogie Games.  They’re local, they’re friendly and they’re competitively priced.  I thought I’d kick the holiday shopping season off with a little ditty about my time at Electronics Boutique from my third book First Person, Last Straw (2004, Authorhouse).  Enjoy!

I fear for the future of our country. I’m horrified of the children of tomorrow. They are barely literate simpletons with attention deficit disorder and poor social skills. Easily excitable and incapable of focusing on any one thing for more than five minutes. I worry about where their attention span will go (or how far out the window it will go) by the time they’ve reached my age. Lord knows mine is shot, but I used to be sharp. It happens some time during your reluctant box step into adulthood. You’re sitting at a traffic light dwelling on credit cards, romance, or a sitcom from the night before and bubbling up from your subconscious you think, “I believe I’ll have a grilled cheese sandwich today”. I’m father to a million children, and they are all addle-brained simpletons lacking in manners. I know because I’ve worked at a video game store for a year now, and it breaks my heart.

It’s not just a freak occurrence or a problem with the local water. One of my saner customers told me that he’d traveled far and wide and ran into the same character no matter what gaming store he’d been to. The most annoying scamps who won’t take a hint. Kids from 6-17 who come into the shop wide-eyed and making a mess in their pants over the fantasy land laid out before them. To them it’s a paradise filled with a million delights. Portly plumbers leaping through the air in raccoon suits, robots blasting the hell out of each other, cars running down hookers; a total sensory overload. And with no cue of body language or encouragement on my part, they shamble up to the counter and start speaking in tongues.

They relate every gaming experience they’ve ever had, rich with adjectives and spittle. Games that are coming out. Games out that they haven’t yet played. I despise these demon seeds. They don’t go away. They don’t take a hint. Shit tumbles out of their mouth whether you listen or not. I walk away from them, turn my back to them, flat out ignore them, snap at them, and they don’t notice. They go on uninterrupted, neurons popping off in their tiny little brains like stove top popcorn. And I hate them. I stop talking to them to concentrate on my work and they continue. I’ve learned that there’s more to life than the conquests and victories you’ve achieved inside of a television. One day I hope that they will too, and piss off somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. Right now, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, but in the words of Randall in “Clerks”, ‘This job would be great if it weren’t for the fucking customers’. There’s a lot of things that the corporation neglected to tell me during the interview. Before this, I had a cushy office job with a security company. They installed and serviced home alarm systems. It was 9-5, Monday through Friday. I had my own office, my own desk, and I learned to drink coffee and talk on the phone a lot. I handled the bad psychic end of the business, fielding customer complaints and cancellations across Western New York. I was the company punching bag. A lot of people would consider it the perfect job, but not me. I’m not cut out for 9-5. I really mean that. I’m terrible with free time. I’d been courting Electronics Boutique for a year and a half. I was a loyal follower. I hope I wasn’t as annoying as the bastard children of Ms.Pac Man, but I can’t be sure.

They started me off at a new store in Niagara Falls. I’ve worked in Orchard Park, Cheektowaga, Clarence, and Amherst. I’ve worked in three different malls. I’ve been in music, toys, security, pizza, books, movies, phones, carpet, and outside sales. I’ve never been to Niagara Falls. The people who live in Niagara Falls are a delicious blend of crazy and poor. I don’t know if they’re crazy because they’re poor or poor because they’re crazy, but it makes for an interesting mix. Every five feet there’s a hotel, motel, outlet store or buffet. The traffic is like nothing I’ve ever seen. People drive eighty five miles an hour in all speed zones and come to a screeching halt before turning into a plaza. It’s my theory that five people live in Niagara Falls and the other motorists are zipping into and out of town to get the hell somewhere else. I don’t blame them.

The second day I closed at the new store, someone wandered by outside asking us if we wanted to buy razor blades. The musky smell of poverty is thicker than the trash that rolled onto our lawn outside from the motel next door. This is when the job was still a dream come true. The manager who hired me got pregnant and moved to Florida to be with her family two weeks after the store opened, leaving me clueless, confused, and without an authority figure to report to. I’m an assistant manager by the way. Curt, the gentleman who took over, was a welcome relief. Curt was a soft spoken, semi-balding guy in his ’30s who did DJ work on the side. We both loved redheads, salt and vinegar potato chips and sarcastic wit. We made a good team. He came over from the downtown Buffalo store where I trained, so we already had a good rapport.

The first three months were like paradise. I love video games. I’ve been playing them since I was 6 and it’s been a constant hobby. It was like a dream to walk in every morning and have the store to myself, turning on the demonstration units and processing mountains of interesting titles I’d never played along with old classics that reminded me of simpler times in the industry. The business has grown up a lot in the last thirty years. It’s exploded. To think that we’ve gone from quarter-operated Pong units making millions in bars overnight to a multi-billion dollar a year market with 20 Playstation 2 units worldwide and Super Mario representing the 2nd most recognizable icon next to Mickey Mouse is amazing. To be a part of that machine is pretty interesting. It’s evolving at the speed of light, and it’s probably only a matter of time before 3 dimensions give way to 4 in the console market, and the next big game is a bigger deal than the next movie sequel. In a world full of stale ideas, all the fresh ones are arriving via polygons, cel-shading and bump-mapped Xanadus. But there’s more to life than games. And forty hours a week inside of a peripheral hobby can be trying.

Nobody in retail enjoys the holiday season and if they tell you that, they’re lying. After Thanksgiving, the flood gates open and torrents of vicious, greedy, obnoxious customers issue forth breaking against your point of sale like a sea of assholes. They all want personal attention, the lowest price in five states, and to take out all their seasonally related stress out on you. You see the worst of people during Christmas season in retail. Short tempered, short-changed, and short-sighted, they push your limits to the breaking point. Mantras of interpersonal wisdom like ‘The customer is always right.’ and ‘Treat every customer like your only customer.’ wear thin by December 24th. In my business, it is a war, and we’re on the front lines with no reinforcements arriving.

Following the wave of grandparents and parents seeking the object of their children’s affection are the children themselves. This job has made me hate kids. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate all kids, just other people’s kids. Watching them scurry around for twelve months unattended and neglected, I think it would be more humanitarian for me if their makers put them in a cage before they left the house. I babysat for years when I was younger. I worked at Toy’s ‘R’ Us later on and still managed to tune annoying rugrats out. As of today, my paternal instinct is gone. Snip the rip cords and stomp on my balls because I don’t want any children if they’re going to grow up like the ones I’ve seen. Crying, whining, simpering little shits who are given every comfort under the sun to shut them up. Ill-behaved adolescents who haven’t been raised to say please and thank you or keep from wigging out in public. They’re like a cloud of Tasmanian devils, swirling through the front door and leaving a path of destruction in their wake for us to clean up and arrange so that the next half-witted offspring can trash it all over again. We go to great pains to alphabetize everything for easy reference and parents feign ignorance and focus on something else while their demon spawn rearrange whole sections into a case study in entropy. Poor people should incinerate their eggs and buy pets. Stupid people are better off taking a bullet for humanity and pulling out during sex. If that’s too blunt, walk a mile around one of the stores I’ve worked at.

In January, I was asked to take over the store in downtown Buffalo. They’d been robbed at gunpoint. One of the managers was robbed making a deposit. Before they put a security gate in, someone drove through the front window. The store opened on September 11th, 2001. If it was built over a sacred Indian burial ground, I wouldn’t be surprised. Ever the corporate whore, I declined the promotion but agreed to transfer over and help pick up the pieces. Nobody else in the district wanted a piece of this location, so it was worth beucoups brownie points.

Instead of me, they gave the store to Tony, my current boss. Tony worked at the store and had a knack for not taking shit from the customers. If someone threatened to kick his ass (which happens pretty often at the store, to all of us), he’d agree to take it outside and show them his black belt degree. We’re roughly the same age, and, while we don’t have much in common, we’ve worked well together. We took a store that was on the brink of disaster, cleaned it up, and ran it like professionals. Why the past tense? Because I’m leaving in a few months. I’m getting my own store. And it’s a relief, because the downtown location is a living nightmare, every day.

In Buffalo (not the concept of Buffalo in the whole Western New York togetherness sense of the word, but the city of Buffalo itself), there are good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods, invariably right next to each other. There are sections that you just don’t drive through, get near, or talk about. The city itself is a dying metropolis with no jobs that’s driving its residents slowly mad. It’s a poor, run-down, depressed city. And like a rain gutter, all the trash runs downhill. So where do they go to buy their games? My store. We’re at the epicenter of the city bus route. We’re the heart of the city, located near a Target and a score of other discount stores for the financially impaired. Give me your poor, your tired, your white, black, and hispanic trash. Give me your humble bottom feeders and generations living off of the system.

The first of the month is like a holiday in our store. It creeps up on us and one day, you come into work wondering why it’s so busy for a Tuesday or a Wednesday and it hits you. Oh shit, it’s the first of the month again! But of course! People come tearing into the store throwing money around like George Soros, frittering away their allowance from Uncle Sam. These are the same people who trade their games in at the end of the month, or try to scam us and get their cash back so that they can pay the rent because they blew all their money on the first of the month. Don’t get me wrong, though, we get a lot of people who blow their Social Security Disability checks, too. Crazy people deserve our tax dollars, too, don’t they? Why get a job when you can get a prescription and sit on your ass at home playing video games and talking to your other personalities?

The bottom of the financial ladder contains every stereotype you can fathom. I’m not a prejudiced person, but working at my store has really strained that viewpoint. The majority of the black people who come in to shop smell like they rolled around in a marijuana sauna, or they reek of cheap gin and beer. At eleven o’clock in the morning. Some of the black guys who come in pay for their games by peeling a few twenties from a wad held together with a rubber band, and they don’t look like business analysts. I’ve never seen a hispanic person come in alone. They always seem to roll up in a beat-up, rust-eaten conversion van and pile out of the vehicle family reunion style, in packs of thirty seven. Like a hive mentality, they’ll rip the store to shreds in fifteen minutes and leave having spent ten dollars. The white trash is no better. Three hundred pound mothers with three teeth, hair that doesn’t look like it was washed this side of the century, and a white t-shirt with more stains than rolls of fat smack their ill-behaved kids off the walls when they whine for games. I saw an Italian mom put her twelve year old boy in a half nelson this summer and slam him against the hood of her car because he was throwing a tantrum. It’s pretty disheartening stuff. This must be what talk show audiences do with their free time.

And it turned out that the one black guy we had on our staff was behind the store robbery. That was a real blow to the team morale. Not only did he rob our store, he robbed two other stores within the company and the deposit mugging happened a month after he got hired. Our sewage system has backed up and flooded the back room with shit three times since I got there. So it’s no wonder that the other stores think of us as the hemorrhoid of the region. The first manager who took the store was led out in handcuffs for stealing (along with the rest of the staff) and the second manager up and quit because he was too pissed off with the clientele. My boss and I have made a go of it longer than any other management team since the store opened. What’s our secret? We’ve been through a lot.

Management is a case study in stress and tolerance. How much can you take before you flip out and start breaking things? I smoke a lot of cigarettes. That takes the edge off a bit for me. When I have an absolutely horrific day at work where my face is beet-red and I want to scream against the back of my hand, I go home and sit down in front of the t.v. with a stiff belt of whiskey or bourbon. Not the healthiest way to cope. Plus I’ve got a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m paid very well right now, and when I leave and get my own store I’m certain to get more. Playing career leap-frog is exhausting, and I’m sick of starting over and working my way up through the ranks. It’s a great company with a lot of perks. Health, dental, 401K, employee discount, and lots of freebies. You could fill a closet with all the promotional t-shirts the game companies give out. The majority of them come in black and extra large. The companies assume that most gamers are overweight and like to hide it. They’re right. We’ve got a lot of lofty sales goals and expectations, but I’m not worried about them. We’re a great team that’s been through a lot and whatever doesn’t kill you gets you through another day at our store. Or rather, if you get killed, you can start again from a save point.

Tom ‘Power Up’ Waters

h1

The Real Greg Sterlace Show #102

November 22, 2015

 

imageBeing out of the hosting seat can be a lot of fun sometimes.

I had another cameo on ‘The Real Greg Sterlace Show’ last night and being on the show was a riot, as per usual.  Producer Richard Wicka told me afterwards that I was ‘on fire’ for the taping.  Truth be told, I try to play myself for ‘Big Words I Know By Heart’, only moreso.  The handful of times that I’ve been on Greg’s show, I can be whoever I want to be that day.  Co-Host Tim Saracki christened me as ‘Tony Garlic’ when we started taping, so I ran with that.  See for yourself:

 

 

Thanks are in order to Greg, producer Richard Wicka for the show and the lovely meal beforehand and the rest of the cast and crew that added to the chaos and general insanity of the program.  Greg’s coming on my show December 5th, so the shoe will be on the other foot in two weeks!

h1

‘Breaking Dad’ (Revised & Updated)

November 16, 2015

image

Originally appeared on Buffalo Comedy.com September, 2014.

Imagine that you’re made responsible for a meth addict in your own home. Said meth addict trashes everything in your house on the regular, doesn’t get the memo when his entire body is running on empty and it’s time to go to sleep, and he can’t ever be distracted when he has a goal in mind (which is usually some insane directive like opening and closing a cabinet eighteen hundred times in a row or throwing all of your clothes on the floor to climb into a laundry basket and hang loose). Oh, and he makes a B.M. about five times a day and laughs directly at you making eye contact while he’s pissing on you. These are the beginning stages of parenthood.

I have a fifteen month old little angel named Benjamin. His favorite hobbies are: yelling at the top of his lungs while he barrels through the kitchen at warp speed 5, pulling all of my diet soda out of the fridge, throwing it on the floor and then yanking the shelving out, squeezing blueberries between his thumb and forefinger and grinding them into the carpet, and light napping. He has two speeds: psychotic hypomania and unconsciousness. His interests include: spinning wheels to figure out what their general deal is, terrorizing my rescue cat Morris and shitting out pigments that are as yet undiscovered by our standardized color wheel.

I love him more than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything combined and cubed. This has to be with the help of some strong evolutionary failsafe programmed into any parent’s DNA sequence. We protect and nurture our young so that we can maintain and occasionally further our species. You have to love them because they’re nigh-impossible to appease. Note that ‘nigh’ is the key adjective in that previous sentence.

I’m the first parent ever who thinks that their child is the cutest thing that ever scampered, scurried or scuttled. I’m the first parent ever who takes ten thousand pictures of his child blinking with snot running out of both nostrils, apple juice dribbling down his chin and the remnants of his lunch molecularly fused to his clothes like a hybrid Jackson Pollock painting and finds the photos to be adorable. I’m the first parent who thinks that when he pulls his own socks off, shoves a round peg into a trapezoid hole or monkey punches his fists into a xylophone that these are the early signs of genius. I can’t help it. I’m proud of my boy. There’s no avoiding the wave of emotion symbiotically associated with this tiny little perfect facsimile of myself.

I wrote a long time ago (‘March Of The Diapered Soldiers’ from First Person, Last Straw) that I didn’t know how to deal with newborns. If you can identify with that statement, let me make this small suggestion: practice, practice, practice. All it takes is the patience of a saint, the endurance of an Olympic athlete, the medical training of a Home Health Aide, the innate psychic abilities to determine how said newborn feels without verbalizing their emotions or even sending corresponding facial signals, and the olfactory knack of blocking out most of the smells that you’ll encounter around the clock. That’s it. If you can get the hang of that whole situation, you’re good. If you haven’t mastered some, any or all of that, there’s plenty of on-the-job training.

Caring for a child that you had a fairly substantial role in creating is the best way to comprehend the philosophy of living in the moment. You’re forced to mirror your baby, you can see the cogs and wheels and lights and buzzers going off in their head and because everything is new for them, everything becomes new for you again. Laying on the floor and looking sideways changes your perspective on the world so much that you want to do it again. Studying a toy in a way that you truly want to know what the object is inside and out and what it’s purpose is in your life helps you to understand it completely. Seeing other babies, meeting other human beings for the first time and marveling at animals, trees and motor vehicles are all experiences that you cherish and appreciate. Every second of every day is new and fresh and exciting. I haven’t lived in the moment like that since, well, since I was a child. Zen masters urge their followers to see the world through the eyes of a child. There’s a reason for that. It’s so you won’t take the world and everything it has to offer for granted.

If you asked me sixteen months ago or more, I would have told you that most stand up comics lost their edge and stopped being funny once they had kids. That might still be true. I can’t be objective about my life. No one can. Now, though, I get where all of those comics were coming from. They refined their demographic and started appealing to a different audience, mainly people who took the next step in their lives and decided to have children. I’m not saying it’s selfish not to have kids or that it’s a nobler decision to have them. Don’t even try to pull me into that debate. If you have them, though, you better love ’em with everything you’ve got. Go out, procreate and see if I’m wrong. If I am, you can piss all over me and laugh at the same time. I already went through the training module for that one.

buying up stock in Gerber,
Tom Waters

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 15: ‘Siren’

November 6, 2015
Publicity Still by producer Richard Wicka

Publicity Still by producer Richard Wicka

As far as bucket lists for Buffalo celebrities guests go, Alison Pipitone was at the top of the pops.  She’s incredibly talented, she’s got ten albums under her belt and she’s never compromised her artistic integrity.  Her talents as a songwriter/lyricist are inspiring, she’s amazingly humble for someone so accomplished and her ear for production in the studio is the best I’ve ever heard around here.  Enough gushing, though.  Here’s the episode:

Don’t forget to Like, Share and Subscribe!

Thanks (as always) to producer Richard Wicka for being the man behind the curtain, longtime pal (and one-time employee) Brian Platter for co-hosting, and Alison Pipitone for earning another lifetime fan.  She was a great interview and I can’t wait to buy the rest of her ten albums!

h1

Big Words Video 15.1-15.5: The Pipitone Sessions!

November 6, 2015

I had the good fortune (and foresight) last month to take a road trip with co-host Brian Platter to see The Alison Pipitone Band perform at Mulconry’s Irish Pub in Fairport, NY.  The video clips resulting from that show were really great audio-wise (I’m tinkering, and will most likely continue to tinker with the video), and there were a lot of them.  Brian Platter even filled in between sets with a cover (‘No Diggity’ by Blackstreet, which NO ONE could have predicted) as well as an original from his newest album in production.  So long story short, you have a super-sized cavalcade of Big Words Video Bonus clips to watch and choose from this month.  I will also say (hint, hint) that there has NEVER been a better time to SUBSCRIBE FREE to the Big Words I Know By Heart Channel on YouTube.  Being a member has special and secret-handshake like advantages.  Here are the FIRST 5 (hint, hint) clips:

h1

There Will Be Piss

November 2, 2015

Elmo

“I can do anything I want!”
-Benjamin (whilst flying a cow riding a Jeep and wearing a Batman costume)

My son could grow up to be a serial killer or the President Of The United States, but I’d rather he grew up to be a decent person instead. Raising him is a soft touch. It’s my job to keep him grounded without crushing his dreams at the same time. I don’t want him to turn into every Only Child I’ve ever met, an entitled little shit, a schoolyard bully or another kid from the post-Millenial generation who gets trophies for failing. Everyone tells me that the Terrible Threes are a lot worse than the Terrible Twos. Right now we’re somewhere in between. Developmentally, it’s an exciting and frustrating time. He’s learning the power of Please along with the crushing realization that No is also a possible response. We’re learning and doing a lot of things for the first time (or some cases, the first time in a long time) together.

Here’s the thing about potty training: You’re going to wind up with piss everywhere. Piss on the bathroom floor, piss in the bed sheets, piss on the couch, piss on the ceiling, piss on the cat…in a nutshell, piss everywhere but the potty. To the best of my understanding, the goal of potty training is to eliminate all the variables and piss on absolutely everything until the only option left is the potty. Make friends with piss because there’s going to be a lot of it. I also strongly recommend a foam-based antibacterial agent. In every room.

Eventually, there’s a golden shower at the end of the rainbow. Or is it a light at the end of the urethra?  You know what I mean.  After months of urine-soaked pets, irreplaceable collectibles and all-weather indoor carpets that aren’t covered for Acts Of Juice, you can look forward to upending a concave race car with piss sloshing around in it into the actual toilet. Or some other officially licensed movie/cartoon/toy-inspired miniature commode. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds, but it’s my duty as a daddy. There was a ‘doody’ pun that could have been utilized there, but I fucking hate puns, so I sidestepped it.

And for the record, I really, really hope that Freud was wrong, because I don’t want to mess my kid’s entire life up by either rushing him to the toilet or telling him to take his sweet time. Sigmund Freud was a cokehead with a cross sampling of kinky Austrian housewives, so he was probably wrong. In the unlikely event that he knew what he was talking about, I’ve chosen to stop using a flare gun when my son sits down on the toilet. I have a distinct memory of crapping my pants in Kindergarten and getting sent home, so I would not be classified by Freudian standards as ‘Anal Retentive’. Subsequently, I grew up to be a portrait of perfect mental health (plus or minus three neuroses). I had a small amount of psychological blowback that stems from getting sent home from Kindergarten for crapping my pants, though. At least it didn’t happen last week at work.

There’s a bittersweet realization every day I’m with my son that he will only be two years and four months old once, or two years, five months and five days old once, and so on. This age will never come back around and no matter how I try to slow it down or wring every second out of every day, it goes by too quickly. I understand why couples keep having children now. They want to go back. They want to hang on to it. This sweet, bear-hugging cuddly age will only last so long and then it’s gone forever. I’m going to be the daddy blowing his nose into his shirt sleeve the first day of Pre-School. Possibly the dad who kisses his son on the cheek dropping him off at middle school. I’ll be the old man blubbering in the back of the auditorium at his high school graduation. But I’m projecting. I really do love him to pieces, even when he’s being a little monster. On those days, he takes after his mother.

I’ve learned to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally enjoy or do by myself. We’ve been to every park, nature reserve and playground in a five mile radius. Helpful Hint: Most playgrounds that are structurally engineered for three foot persons are not also suitable for those who are six foot three. We’ve been to a number of petting zoos. Helpful Hint: Wear durable shoes. You’ll know why later. We’ve been to ice cream parlors, toy stores and donut shops. That’s where the word No (strongly, firmly and with conviction) comes in handy along with a predesignated exit strategy in the extremely likely event of tantrums.

Being a parent means training a tiny life form what it is to be a human being. I’m still wrapping my head around what that means, but I’m doing the best I can. It means saying sorry after you bomb a long pass into someone’s foot with a five pound musical snail. That it’s not acceptable to eat microwave popcorn at 8:30 in the morning. Or that it’s not okay to watch the feature length motion picture The Incredibles immediately after watching the feature length motion picture The Incredibles. What’s great is that I got sober shortly after he was born, so we’re both finding out how to adjust to the world together at the same time. To be quite frank, my peeing aim is only slightly better.

Signing our name in the snow for our postgraduate semester,
Tom Waters

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 14: ‘Facetious’

October 24, 2015
Publicity Still for Episode 14 by producer Richard Wicka.

Publicity Still for Episode 14 by producer Richard Wicka.

Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, we had to do a last-minute guest shuffle for Episode 14.  Luckily, veteran Buffalo comedian Tyrone Maclin was already on the boards for June and he was available.  He’s a consumate professional, evidenced by the fact that he agreed to come on the show the day before the studio taping after getting a tooth root pulled and going something like 3 days with no sleep.  I was impressed!  He was a great guy to meet, really funny, and he’s at the heart of the entire comedy scene that’s in full swing right now in the region.  Co-host Henry Gale was our wild card, and he did a great job with that role.  Enough yakking though, here’s the episode:

Thanks are in order to Tyrone, Henry and producer Richard Wicka for inviting this insanity into his home and his studio on a monthly basis.  Please take the time to Like and Subscribe to The Big Words I Know By Heart Channel on Youtube for updates on new shows, bonus clips and other exclusive content!  I’ve got a rigorous shooting schedule for the next month, so you’ll hear from me a lot sooner than you think.  Musical legend Alison Pipitone is coming up in less than two weeks!

Excelsior!

Tom

h1

Big Words Video 14.5: ‘Unrequited’

October 24, 2015

If it were up to me, I would never film another Bonus clip at The Home Of The Future again.  It wasn’t my intention to buy a $400 camera just to film more footage from the same location.  That being said, guest Tyrone Maclin and I were both behind the 8-ball, so I went with a behind-the-scenes conversation we had at the round table right before Episode 14 started rolling.  Tyrone shows his softer, more vulnerable side as he talks about a fresh breakup at the end of one of the worst days of his life.  Please take a moment (ON YOUTUBE) to Like and Subscribe to the Big Words I Know By Heart Channel (ON YOUTUBE) for notifications on new shows, bonus clips and anything else I can fill the channel with!

h1

‘Shotgun Start’-Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell Review

October 19, 2015
Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell by Justin Karcher with illustrations by Michael Biondo (2015, Ghost City Press)

Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell by Justin Karcher with illustrations by Michael Biondo (2015, Ghost City Press)

‘The rust born in my blood anchors me like a shipwreck
And it’s only through self-destruction
That I’m able to float freely.’-Virginia Isn’t For Lovers Like Me (pg.50)

Here’s the thing about being a mad bastard: you can always recognize another one. On some instinctual, primordial, reptilian, old-brain level, you can spot someone else who’s mad as a March Hare. Justin Karcher is out of his mind. In a good way. The best kind of way. In the poetic sense of someone who’s veins are on fire with passion and prose. The words are exploding out of this man and we’re all lucky enough to be on the other end of it. Trust me, I’ve been in his shoes and it’s a scary, exciting, unpredictable place to be. Real poetry…real poets? They’ve got the world pouring out of their fingertips and there’s no way to stop the flood. Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell is not your grandmother’s Condensed Best Of Safe and Inoffensive American Poetry Primer. Nothing inside of it will ever make it’s way onto a knitted sampler or the bumper sticker of a lily-white compact SUV. Thank God for that.

This is just the beginning. This is a Poet announcing his entrance into the ring. There’ll be more. A lot more. There’s no doubt of that. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that we’ll have a whole bookshelf reserved for Mr. Justin Karcher in no time flat. While the housewife poets and armchair poets and tourists are working on economy of line and flash poetry and happy insipid nonsense, Justin is firing off submissions and hat-tricking acceptances while the rest of the sane world sleeps. Not because he wants to, but because he has to. This is how he makes sense of a milquetoast planet lost in its own slumber. He’s writing his way either out of or into a rubber room depending on his point of view that very second. Or both. Depends on the poem, the girl, the state line in question and a lot of other variables.

Karcher’s poems obey their own laws of reality, space-time and sexuality. He creates his own vernacular as he goes, hammering out his own alliteration-laced glossary off-the-cuff, and it makes for damned good reading. The adjectives and expletives click into place like the best kind of bedfellows. A chapbook was too small for his first shot across the bow, and Michael Biondo’s illustrations serve the subject matter well, almost like cocktail-napkin sketches about two drinks past last call at the bar on the wrong side of town after the first eight dives, juke joints, crashed parties and speakeasies. There’s an interlocking narrative as you make your way through the book, a man grasping at the identity of country, self, sex and the illusion of sanity. Salvation through self-destruction. It’s a tune that’s not too distant for me, so I recognize the melody, and Karcher’s rendition is a real barn-burner.
 

Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell is just the shotgun start. Mark my words. This is the good stuff. Distilled, refined and fired right at you with staccato sincerity. From one mad bastard to another, Justin, well done.

Chewing through my restraints again,
Tom Waters

h1

Like A Yo-Yo-ing Hole In The Head

October 1, 2015

I lose what little sanity I have left every time I’m behind the wheel.

Ten years ago I got a speeding ticket for going 55 in a 30 past a police station. My bad. I’m thankful for that though, because I learned in the mandated driver safety course that police only target motorists who speed in excess of 11 miles over the limit. From that point forward I’ve driven ten miles over the posted limit, no more, no less. Life is too short to go 30 miles an hour and I really wish everyone would incorporate this philosophy into their subroutine. As a result, I’ve become more aggressive when driving than I was to begin with, and I was pretty angry before that particular ticket (which is not to be confused with the citation
I got for going 50 through a 30 mph school zone in the summer).

I scream at people in front of me knowing full well that they can’t hear me. I have entire one-sided dialogues with them whether they know it or not. I get that from my mother, who (fortunately for everyone else on the road including passing deer) retired from driving fifteen years ago after a long and illustrious career of vehicle-totaling mishaps that were usually her fault. If I’m stuck behind a slowpoke for five minutes I will pass them out of spite and give them the ‘Thumbs Up’ gesture when we make eye contact. Giving people the middle finger when driving is now officially passe’. It is no longer fashionable. I was a passenger in someone’s car when they gave a neighboring driver the Thumbs Up and loved it instantaneously. It’s insulting, sarcastic and really conveys your dissatisfaction in the quality of their ability to operate a motor vehicle. Shaking your head at people in disgust is good too, but you have to make sure that they see you doing it. I usually pair my Thumbs Up by verbally telling them (or mouthing the words) ‘You’re doing a great job!’ I don’t have road rage. I have road psychosis. I am not a patient man, even less so when I’m trying to get somewhere in an expedient manner, which just so happens to be all of the time.

We’ve all taken the same permit test when we were kids so we’re all on the same page with the notion that the fast lane is located in the left hand lane. That’s an established rule of infrastructure, right? As a result, I am infuriated by anyone’s flagrant violation of this rule. Same thing with turning signals. We all have them. We all know what they do. So fucking USE them. And try using them for longer than a quick blink right before you turn. I blow my top when people are going under the speed limit and cars to the right of me are lapping us. I don’t have any desire to street race or show off my car’s ability (or inability) to go from 0-60 in five seconds, but again, ten miles over the speed limit is legally acceptable, so why wouldn’t you do THAT? These three things short circuit my brain. I flip my shit. I lose my mind.

What’s really challenging for me these days is self-censoring my automotive hate speech in real time for my son. He’s at an age now where he repeats everything he hears and that’s no bueno. All it took was one blasphemous obscenity parroted from the back baby seat before I started making a concerted effort to alter my snappy insults for an All Ages Audience.

‘Move it, F&$K-face!’

-has turned into:

‘Move it, Yo-Yo!’

and:

‘Real nice, you @$%&*!#ing c*&%$#-s#%&ing m@#$%er-@#$%!’

-has been replaced with:

‘I need to get to work, Yo-Yo!’

That is my new go-to when Little Pitcher is strapped into his miniature regulation seat behind me. The last thing I need is reports from Day Care or (even worse) his mother that he’s demonstrating and reciting a College-Level swearing proficiency. I need that like a yo-yo-ing hole in the head.
There’s a small risk that what I’m about to say is controversial, but I’m going to say it anyway. If you’re over the age of 60 and you can’t drive the speed limit, use your blinker or remain within the clearly marked boundaries of any one lane while puttering forward in a straight line, do the rest of us a favor in three easy steps:

1. Pull over to the side of the road.
2. Dig a shallow hole.
3. Climb into it.

Again, that may not be the most politically correct viewpoint, but it’s mine and I’m going to own it. Old people should get the Ever-Loving Yo-Yo off the road. Most of them. And stay off. Furthermore, if you’re going to buy a Buick, be the one person who doesn’t perfectly illustrate the stereotype. Drive faster than 32 miles an hour during rush hour traffic. Use your turning signal to tip fellow travelers off to the fact that you’re going to cut through three separate lanes because you forgot where your poop doctor was located until the last minute. Buy some sunglasses that don’t make you look like Cyclops from the X-Men. That’d be a good start. Or if you don’t fit this demographic, buy a Buick and prove me wrong.

Navigating traffic is a combination of simple math and prejudgement for me. If one lane out of two has forty cars to my immediate front, I glide into the other lane. Statistically, more cars equals more people driving slower than Mr. Magoo on Quaaludes, so the lane with the least cars is least likely to contain idiots. Or more likely to contain less idiots. The fast lane isn’t always fast, and it’s less likely to be fast if there are forty cars ahead of you. If I see a school bus, a garbage truck, a Buick with a miniature mummified corpse operating it, an F150 truck with a short bald guy driving it or especially a minivan (a vehicle and subculture of driver I’ve written about at great length elsewhere) I get into the other lane.

Does everyone with an F150 truck have a quarter inch cock or just the guys? Why does every gargantuan ginormous truck owner have to be a four foot bald man packing a shriveled and flaccid Vienna sausage? Why is that? The simple answer is overcompensation, and the simplest solution is typically the correct one. I see more F150s in Buffalo than you would reasonably expect and it makes no sense. I have never seen anyone in Buffalo using their oversized truck to scale the side of a majestic mountain like they do in the commercials. I have never seen anyone in Buffalo hauling half a forest full of logs in their sterling silver flatbed. I have never spotted a ‘Hemi’-powered vehicle maneuvering through a mud-caked field in some grand off-roading excursion adventure getaway.

What purpose does it serve to drive a gas guzzling behemoth? Is your pee-pee so small that you can’t bear to leave the house unless you negotiate a step-stool or repel into the cavernous cab of a truck? Do you have so much disposable income that you need a higher monthly payment on the vehicle that gets you from Point A to Point B? Do you enjoy hanging out at the gas pump so much that you need an excuse to be there more often because your motorized carriage flash-fries fossil fuels? I’m not a carbon footprint worry wart, but show me any practicality behind that buying decision because I can’t find it. Why is it always a tiny bald guy with a chip on his shoulder driving a truck or a silver-haired septuagenarian hunched over the wheel of a Buick? That’s either brilliant marketing on the part of automotive manufacturers in targeting their core demographic or a case of life imitating stereotypes.

I’m not a ‘car’ guy at all. I have a visual deficiency whereby they all look like boxes to me. Literally. I couldn’t tell you a make or model by looking at it to save my life. They are mostly steel carriages that transport us from one spot to another in my mind, no more, no less. They are holes that we dump money into until they reach the point where they’re more expensive to repair than they are to replace. That’s it. I don’t even wash my car anymore. I used to take it to the car wash once a year when I got my tax return, but I don’t even do that anymore. It’s not that important. Passengers have pointed out that I need to clean the inside of my windshield due to excessive tar buildup and I quit smoking a year ago. I cannot change my own engine oil. I have no interest in learning how. I’ve seen the steps leading up to changing a tire, their sequence and the reasons behind them, but probably couldn’t do that either if the scenario presented itself.

The last time I popped a flat, my girlfriend came over and changed it for me. This is how inconsequential cars are to me. So I don’t grasp how many grown men have created a culture out of classic cars, muscle cars, souping up their cars, souping up their sound systems, racing their cars, working on their cars in their garages and so on and so forth. One of my best friends is a car guy. He even works at a car dealership. We never talk about it. On the occasions that it crops up in conversation, my brain glazes over or taps out until he pulls me back into it. I cannot identify a piston, a carburetor or a flux capacitor in a lineup. I don’t know what they do, nor do I care. We’re from two different worlds, but we still get along. It would probably make for a good sitcom pilot that no one would ever watch.

I’m trying to become a better person, but my driving persona will be the last aspect of my psyche to get an overhaul. All of my worst character defects are on full display like a dashboard hula girl with Tourette’s. Presently, I’ll take a partial progress grade of Thumbs Up.

h1

Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 13: ‘Auteur’

September 24, 2015
Big Words Video 13 Publicity Still by Producer Richard Wicka.

Big Words Video 13 Publicity Still by Producer Richard Wicka.

At the end of Season One, I came to the shocking conclusion that (out of 12 episodes), I only had one female guest on.  That didn’t make sense, because there are a lot of talented women in and around Buffalo. We’re going to make up for that in the next three months starting with writer/director Rhonda Parker, whose first feature length film Friends Don’t Let Friends Date Friends really won me over with its wit, wisdom and pure heart.  Co-Host Terry Kimmel got a return ticket into the Co Host Hot Seat and all was right with the world.  I’ve done away with the roman numerals for the second year of the show not because I can’t count past twelve, but in order  make it easier to find on YouTube.  Here’s the new show:

Thanks are in order to Rhonda, Mark, Terry and as always producer Richard Wicka.  As always, please take the time to Like, Share, Favorite, Retweet, +1, etc. for the show.  Entertainment does not exist in a vacuum.  I’ll see you next week, right here with a brand new rant!

Don’t you dare touch that dial.

Tom