Oct 10

and then he slipped on a banana peel and died. the end.

There’s a movie out in theaters now called, “Conviction.” It tells the true story of Betty Anne Waters (played in the film by Hillary Swank) a working mother who spent over a decade educating herself so that she could become a lawyer just to prove her brother was not guilty of a murder that sent him to prison for life without parole. With the help of attorney Barry Scheck’s Innocence Project she was able to show through DNA that the blood found at the murder scene was not her brother’s and then after 18 years in prison, her brother was finally declared innocent and set free. It is an amazing and uplifting human story with a heartwarming and satisfying ending.

Here’s what they don’t tell you in the movie: six months after being released from prison the brother fell off a wall and died. Yep. You heard me right. Six months after being released from prison the brother fell off a wall and died. He was walking home from dinner with his mother and his brother, he took a short cut home that involved walking on a wall, a wall that he fell off of, and then died.

Can you imagine? This woman spent over ten years putting herself through school! She got a GED, then a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in education, and then a law degree! She passed the bar exam! She spent eighteen years of her life to get him out of prison! And she did it! She got him out! Against all odds she got him released! And then…he fell off a wall and died.

Gee, I wonder why they left that part out? Oh, I know. It’s a huge bummer. It’s the ultimate anti-climax, and Hollywood sure does hate an anti-climax. Oh, Hollywood.You can just imagine the ensuing argument between family members, “He was doing just fine in prison, Betty! He was taking correspondence classes and making belts!”

Can you imagine if all of our favorite movies had an anti-climax?

“Rocky is a smalltime boxer who gets a chance to fight against the heavyweight champ. On the night of the big fight, Rocky badly stubs his toe walking into the arena and has to postpone the fight. The End.”

“Believing that they are meant to be together, Meg Ryan travels thousands of miles to find Tom Hanks in ‘Sleepless In Seattle.’ She looks everywhere but they never meet and she goes back to Baltimore. The End.”

“Billy Elliot is the son of a coal miner, who loves to dance. With support from the miners in town, Billy and his Dad finally make it to London for the big audition. They return home to anxiously await the ballet school’s decision. He doesn’t get in. The End.”

“After hearing a voice telling him, ‘If you build it they will come’, a man builds a baseball field in his backyard so that “they will come.” He waits for a long time and they don’t come. The End.”

“Keanu Reeves plays ‘Neo’ a unsuspecting hero who must fight the forces of evil to save the world in ‘The Matrix.’ Just as he is about to realize his potential he changes his mind and decides that he doesn’t feel like it.”

Come to think of it, I’m glad they left it out. Who wants a bummer ending? Not me. When I go to a movie I want to feel uplifted, inspired and transported. Without a Hollywood ending I’d feel let down and disappointed. It’s not important that after struggling for 18 years to get him released he fell off a wall and died. It’s really not about that at all. It’s about about the love of family and one woman’s determination. What it’s really about it is the meaning of life. And the meaning of life is…darn, I had it written here in front of me but I think I misplaced it. Oh well. The End.

Oct 10

halloween costumes i’d like to see and not see this halloween

Costumes I’d Like to See on Halloween

Classic. Can’t find salt-and-pepper whiskers or moth-ball odorous suit? I’ll also accept wolves Teen, Big Bad, and Steppen.

Oysters are aphrodisiacs.

Not because it’s a good costume. I just like pastrami on rye.

Costumes I’d Like to Not See on Halloween

I don’t care that oysters are aphrodisiacs. I don’t care!

No. No! No one wants to see a saucy infant. No one! Save it for TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras” (and then definitely DVR that trainwreck).

Actually, that could be quite interesting.

Costumes I’d Like to Nazi* on Halloween
*where Nazi is the verb meaning “to exert brute force and authoritarian dictatorship on, particularly in a racist capacity”


Jul 10

Thoughts on Lebron

Shame on Lebron James for wanting good teammates! The nerve of this guy! Speaking personally I want to work with all of the most mediocre people I can find. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do! It’s the only thing to do! Why is it the right thing to do? Uh…I don’t know! Leave me alone! It just is!

If given the choice between working with the best people or working with mediocre people I will always chose to work with mediocre people because then I will be way less successful at doing the thing I love the most and have worked my whole life to succeed at! It’s such a no-brainer!
“Hey Mike, you can either have the best co-workers ever, or slightly lame co-workers. What do you chose?” Duh! I chose the slightly lame co-workers! Why would I possibly want the best co-workers? In what way would I benefit from that? Does having the best possible co-workers allow me flourish? Allow my business to flourish? Of course not! It’s absurd! How can Lebron James not see the error in this decision he’s made to work with the best possible colleagues?! It makes absolutely no sense! It is a farce and an outrage!!!
If everyone did what he’s done we’d have successful, happy people everywhere! What a travesty this would be.
I mean could you imagine if great actors chose to work with great directors? What’s next Leonardo DeCaprio making movies with Martin Scorcese? (Editor’s Note: Yes.) Or even worse if great actors actually had the audacity to choose to work with other great actors?! A movie like “Wedding Crashers” could never have worked if the both of the leads had been big movie stars! (Editor’s note: they were.) Or what about politics? Try to imagine if President Obama chose someone like Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State?! It would be crazy!!! (Editor’s note: he did.)

I’m an astronaut. I need a really good engineer to fly to the moon with me in case something goes wrong. Give me the worst guy! I don’t want the guy who knows what he’s doing?! It would be an insult to all of the crappy engineers of the world to chose the best engineer. It’s painfully obvious and Lebron should be embarrassed.

I’m a really good schoolteacher. I want to prove how good I am by surrounding myself with less good teachers. It’s good for me. It’s good for my students. It’s wimpy to be like, “I’m a good school teacher and I want to work with other good school teachers.” Any schoolteacher that doesn’t have the guts to want to be at a school where there are no other good teachers is a coward!!!

Furthermore, Lebron should be embarrassed for wanting to live in Miami and not Cleveland! Why anybody would choose to live in a tropical climate where the weather is nice all the time versus a city that is grey, freezing cold and slushy most of the year!



Who, given the choice, would ever make such a short-sighted, selfish decision!? Not me! If you said, “Michael, you can either live in Cleveland where it’s grey, cold and slushy, and work with crappy co-workers, or, you can move to Miami where it’s beautiful all the time and work with the best co-workers.” I would, without hesitation, chose to live in the cold, grey, slushy city with the crappy co-workers. Most people would and Lebron James is a terrible person for choosing to live in the city with the perfect weather and the great co-workers. It’s an outrage!!!

Ultimately, I think Lebron will learn the error of his ways. One day he will regret having chosen to live in a city with a beautiful climate, with great co-workers. And we who have vilified him will rejoice! Because none of us would ever make such a foolish decision.

Jul 10


It’s been a long cold winter but spring is finally here. How do I know? I know because, just like last year at this time, it’s a beautiful day outside and I’m trapped at my desk trying to figure out how to do my taxes. Let me amend that last statement: I’m trapped at my desk trying to figure out how to use the computer program that is supposedly there to help me do my taxes. You know what? Let me amend that statement too: I’m actually trying to figure how to use the computer that is supposedly there to help me use the computer program that is supposedly there to help me to do my taxes. It’s a lost cause.

I wish it was the medieval times and some guy would ride on horseback to my house and demand money for the king and I’d just give him a little bag of gold coins, or a box filled with spices, or maybe just a goat would suffice. That would be so much less complicated. They barely ever worried about how to use TurboTax in those days.

And why do I always wait until the last minute? Oh, I know! Because it’s a horrible experience that I want to avoid at all costs. I mean not that filling out forms and giving away your money isn’t fun. It’s a blast!

I know I should just cave in and take my taxes to an accountant but you’ve got to understand something – I won’t even ask a stranger for directions! I once drove from Delaware to Philadelphia and wound up in Albuquerque, New Mexico because I wouldn’t ask for directions. I knew I was completely lost but for me it was a pride thing. By the way, Albuquerque is a great city.

See, I’m a do-it-myself kind of guy. Paying some “trained professional” just doesn’t sit right with me. I mean it’s not like these guys went to school for this or anything. (My girlfriend has just informed me that they do go to school for it.) So fine, they went to school for it.

Look, I built that birdhouse in our backyard myself so why can’t I do this myself too? Wow. I just had a thought: If I could somehow convince the IRS to let me build a birdhouse instead of filling out these forms I’d be golden. That would be a walk in the park! Note to self: write my senator a letter and ask him if sending Uncle Sam a birdhouse instead of doing my taxes is a cause worth fighting for in congress. Another Note to self: Find out who my senator is.

Maybe I’m bad at this because I’m right brained. That means I’m creative. Sadly though, last time I checked they don’t give refunds for being good at drawing pictures of boats. Maybe I’m bad at this because I blew off math in high school. Then again, I blew off European History too and I’m not being audited for that! Thank God, I don’t have to write a big paper by April 15th every year on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire otherwise I’d really be in trouble. I know that Caesar has a salad named after him, and I know that Marc Antony is married to J-Lo but other than that I draw a blank on the subject.

Now I’m wondering, what classes didn’t I blow off in high school? Well, I didn’t blow off my English classes but I don’t remember much about them either. I mean I know we read Old Yeller but I don’t see how that’s supposed to help me with these W-2 forms. I definitely didn’t blow off the karate classes I took in that strip mall after school. I busted my butt and I still have that yellow belt as proof.

Okay, I give in. I’m calling a CPR for help. They’re great because they’ll do your taxes and give you the Heimlich maneuver if you choke on a sandwich when they tell you what you owe.

Jul 10

Seven Suggestions For the Next Winter Olympics


1. “Mixed Pairs Shoveling The Car Out Of The Snow” In this event, couples would be given a shovel, an ice scraper, a parked car and three feet of snow. The first team to get their car out of the parking space, and drive to work on time wins. Using your arms to push the snow off the hood of the car is legal but any team caught cursing the snow or paying a next-door neighbor’s son to help them with the shoveling would be disqualified immediately.

2. “Combined Cross-Country Trudging Through The Snow To Run Errands & Help Their Kids Make A Snow Fort” In this event, Olympians must trudge ½ a mile through the snow to pick up the dry-cleaning. Players may wear only standard rubber galoshes or work boots, no snowshoes or walking sticks allowed. Any player caught accepting a ride from a friendly passerby with four-wheel drive will be disqualified. After picking up the dry-cleaning, players must return home, drop off the dry cleaning then go out to the front yard and help the kids with their snow fort. Strategy includes deciding whether or not to eat a snack when you get home or save time by going directly outside to get it over with more quickly.

3. “Team Snowball Fight” Each country assembles a team of its five most tireless, vicious, and aggressive snow ball fighters. Most countries will find themselves with teams compromised of teenage boys. The Team Snowball Fight will take place in the middle of a crowded street. Teams must roll their snowballs by hand. Extra points will given for hitting opposing players in the face, knocking an opposing player over, or catching a snow ball that has been thrown at you and throwing it back without crushing the snowball. Judges will give demerits for hitting innocent bystanders, or cars passing by. Judges will give double demerits and possible disqualification if either team hits an old lady with a snowball by accident.

4. “Team Pursuit Forcing Your Kids To Wear A Scarf Relay” In this event, parents are given the task of trying to convince their children to wear a scarf to “keep their necks warm.” Success at this event will depend entirely on how well behaved and eager to please the children are. Popular tactics in this event include telling your child that if he doesn’t wear a scarf he’ll “catch a cold” or worse “get the flu.” After one child has successfully been forced to wear a scarf, players can then move on the next child.

5. “Men’s Combined Checking The Weather Report & Looking Outside To See If It’s Started Snowing Yet Slalom” The winner in this event is the man who can check the weather report and look outside to see if it has begun snowing yet the most amount of times in a two-hour period. Players may utilize all forms of information to check the weather: Internet, TV, radio, or almanac. Players will be given extra points for checking the weather report on more than one source simultaneously.

6. “The 30K Drag Your Child Through The Slush On A Sled At 7 A.M. Run” Each player will be given one sled, one child, and 30 kilometers of slush. Great physical and mental stamina is required for this grueling event. Strategy includes talking to friends on your cell phone while you drag your child, bringing a thermos filled with coffee to stay awake, and occasionally trying to see if your dog is capable of dragging the sled while you take a breather.

7. “Outdoor Free-style Taking Pictures Of How Much Snow There Is Medley” Players are given a digital camera and thirty minutes to go outside and document how much snow has fallen. After the pictures have been taken players will then email the pictures to friends and relatives with captions saying things like, “Can you believe this?” “The Abominable Snowman!” and “Ugh!”

Jul 10

The World Cup


I love sports. And I’m really easily to please. I’ll watch anything. Full disclosure, I’m one of those guys that got into curling during the Winter Olympics. I was on the edge of my seat going, “Swiffer that ice faster! Swiffer that ice faster!”

Sadly, in spite of my heroic efforts, I just can’t get into the World Cup. It hurts me to say it but I think it’s…kind of lame. Futbol fans of the world you may send your hate mail to my website: www.michaelshowalter.net.

Where to begin? Well, let’s start with the goal scoring, or should I say “not-goal” scoring. I thought these guys were the best in the world. Why can’t they score a goal? I mean, I’m not much of a soccer player myself – and to boot I’m very, very slow – but I’m pretty sure that if I was out there I’d be scoring goals left and right. But these guys couldn’t hit the side of the barn!

My suggestion: Make the goals bigger. How much bigger? Slightly bigger than the side of the barn.

And what about all the acting out there? Whenever one of them falls down they clutch their legs and roll around on the grass like they’ve been shot. The acting performances in the world cup give the cast of “Mad Men” a serious run for their money.

My suggestion: They should give out acting awards in addition to trophies at the end of the tournament: “Best Faked Injury in Soccer Game”; “Best Clutching of the Ankle”; “Best Cry of Pain”.

And what about the officiating? There are barely any goals scored as it is and whenever one is scored the officials call it off! To make it worse, they’re never right. They have giant jumbo screens on the field and everyone in the stands can see when the referees have a missed a call but the referees themselves won’t make a correction. Even with 80,000 drunken Brits screaming at them. I heard that’s what The Revolutionary War was like: 80,000 drunken Brits screaming at you.

Apparently, FIFA, the world cup governing body, is opposed to using technology in their officiating. I can totally understand that. I mean if they used technology, then what? Robot uprisings? Invisible cloaks? 3G phone reception in an elevator?!

My suggestion: This is VERY RADICAL but my suggestion is that they have a referee who sits behind something called a “television” and watches the game. When a controversial call is made this referee looks at his “television” and if the incorrect call is made, he corrects it. This is VERY RADICAL I know, but part of me thinks that maybe it’s so crazy it just might work. Futbol fans of the world you may send your hate mail to my website: www.michaelshowalter.net.

Then there are the announcers – as soon as one goal is scored, no matter how early, they start saying the game is out of reach for the other team. Can you imagine if they said that in any other sport? “The Bengals have kicked a field goal! It’s over! The next three quarters are an afterthought.” “The Cubs have such scored a run on a sacrifice fly. The Phillies can just pack it up now. These next 8 innings are meaningless.” “Kobe Bryant made a lay-up on the Lakers first possession. Let’s go home. It’s a blow out.”

My suggestion: Don’t say that.

And finally, can we talk about the coaches? Is it just me or do they all kind of look like mob hit men? These guys stalk the sideline in black suits, scowling, and leering at their players. It’s scary. And all the assistant coaches wear black suits too. I’d hate to play for these guys. I can imagine the speech during halftime, “Hey Mike, you missed a head ball in the 33rd minute, let’s go take a long walk to the docks.” Thanks but no thanks.

My suggestion: Smile? Be less scary? A funny hat couldn’t hurt.

In conclusion: I want to like soccer and I’m going to watch the next world cup too, but if there’s some curling on at the same time? I’m changing the channel.

Jun 10

Turning 40 (Chicago Tribune)

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