In Like Lion

Let me take a moment to explain the title. Yesterday was the event that really kicks off the Salem Film Festival; the sketches. But the first week of the festival begins on March 2nd. We all know the classic phrase: “March goes in like a lion, out like a lamb.” And coincidentally one of the movies being shown at The Cinema Salem is The Lion, featuring Dev Patel.

The sketches were not shown in the same theater. But, there you go. That’s why I went with this title.

Just like before, the sketches are little windows into the parts of Salem that most of us take for granted and the outside world doesn’t even know about. Sketches about the Black Picnic, about the Community Impact Unit that takes care of homeless addicts and discusses importance of Narcan, even Steve’s Market finally got a sketch and I’ve been going there for about six years. It’s amazing how little I know and how much I learned from these three to five minute sketches.

What I hope most visitors to Salem take away from these sketches is that Salem isn’t just a tourist city. We’re not just a place that’s known for a tragic event in history. If all of the “witch shops” and the “psychics” and the kitschy and over-the-top stores that capitalize on the success of others were to disappear tomorrow, Salem would still have stories to tell.

The Mark Watney Diet

I read a little story that you may have heard of called The Martian. I think it got some small amount of publicity before fading into obscurity in the far gone epoch of 2015 AD. Within the flow of the story, Mark Watney, stranded on Mars, has to figure out how to grow potatoes in order to extend his considerably limited rations.

I may not be the only person who has gone on to refer to this as the Mark Watney Diet. But this is meant to be as ironic as the concept of the paleo diet. Watney didn’t eat potatoes as his main staple because he was trying to lose weight, he ate potatoes in order to maintain the teensy bit of weight he had. By the end of the story, he was suffering from the kind of malnutrition you could expect from someone who has lived primarily on potatoes and faith for the better part of a year.

In Penn’s latest book, Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales, Penn Jillette tells readers about a time when he was caught between a rock and a hard place: Stomach sling, or losing 100 pounds fast. The first two weeks of his special diet, herein called The CrayRay diet involved what he loving refers to as a potatoes famine. Except instead of a famine resulting from the lack of potatoes, the only thing Penn’s crash diet allowed him to eat for two weeks was potatoes. Also, he could drink coffee as long as it was black.

Both the author and publisher throw out the disclaimer: Do Not Do This Without Consulting Your Doctor!

Personally, if I ever told my doctor about some of the undercooked and raw things I’ve eaten, he’d have me committed. Fortunately, extreme dieting is not in my future as of yet, since the last time I weighed in I was just over 200 pounds. I’m no where in the neighborhood of being physically and emotionally healthy, but I’m not in danger of having to have a life saving (yet risky) operation.

But I did learn one thing as a result of reading this book: Potatoes are easy to cook in a microwave. Good thing to know if I ever get stranded on Mars but if I do ever get to the point where losing weight could be the only other life saving option available to me, I also have Penn Jillette and NASA buddy Ray Cronise, to thank for at least pointing me in the right direction.

The Salem Film Fest Kicks Off Again

Yesterday was kick-off for the 2017 Salem Film Festival. A pizza party at Far From the Tree, which is located right near the Salem Police Station. That’s especially appropriate in the event someone enjoys the cider a little too much.

If you go to Far From the Tree and you’re not a fan of crowds, I’d recommend checking them out on a school night. There’s a soft atmosphere, low pressure, and during the school week it’s just as busy but not quite so crowded.

I think their main secret of success, aside from their sweet and tasty offerings (just cider, no food), is being so far from the heart of Salem. Getting away from the tourists and the “undesirables” qualifies it as one of Salem’s best kept secrets.

I hope to have pictures of the new shirt on this coming Monday. Keep an eye out for more and if you’re in the area, be sure to say hi.

A Disclaimer

I should clarify something. When I said that reading about Penn Jillette’s experience with Clay Aiken, a fellow contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, cemented my already waning opinion of Clay Aiken, I meant just that.

I did a brief review of Penn and Teller: Bullshit, which I was able to binge watch thanks to X-Finity and Showtime On Demand. In the very books written by Penn Jillette, that I also made comment on, he has mentioned that some of what he talked about on that show he simply didn’t know enough about. He has gone on record to say that he’s changed his mind about some of the views he share don that show.

But those shows are still available. They may cement some viewers opinion or they may change them. Penn is no more responsible for how someone reacts to the information presented on a show that he and Teller co-hosted than he is for my own lack of respect for an American-Idol runner up he happened to write about in his book. Likewise, he doesn’t have to apologize to anyone for what was said in the past, any more than I am required to apologize if my point of view offends anyone at any given time for any reason.

Penn and Clay maybe the best of friends. Heaven forbid something should happen to Teller, Clay might go on to become Penn’s new partner in crime (Hear me heaven? I said you better forbid that from happening) . But Penn’s new experiences with Clay does not, nor should it, have any effect on my own feelings.

But hey, if you want to be the unsung champion for the Cause of Clay, then by all means. If my fifteen minutes of fame is becoming a flavor of the month for not liking an Ex-American Idol then so help me, I’ll take that enema for my art.

Coffee Jello: Day Four

I now have two unique flavors of coffee: Candy Cane and Pecan Pie.

Okay, maybe not so unique, just not the standard morning roast that I normally drink. They may be too sweet for the average morning cup, but they’d be great for Coffee Jello.

Now my goal is to see if I should dissolve the Knox in the boiling water while it’s on the stove, as opposed to taking it from the stove and then trying to dissolve it. This may seem like a no-brainer to some but remember, I live in a constant state of awareness that I will never impress Gordon Ramsay.

I can barely impress the die hard fans of Clay Aiken when I admit to the world that I’m not as crazy about him as I was when he was starting out.

Second Place Idol Contestants and First Place Magicians

Everyday is an Atheist Holiday starts off as a deconstruction of popular misconceptions over certain holiday songs and traditions. In the Jillette Household, there is no special holiday for treating your family and loved ones with love and respect and showing them such with gifts and gestures: Because they do that everyday.

I got the audio CD  because quite frankly, Penn’s voice is like butter on toast. I could be tied up in a basement with Penn Jillette telling me in the most graphic detail about all of the Hostel-esque things he is going to do to me and my only response would be, “Can you read the phone book to me?”

Whether you listen to the audio, or read the text-only version of the book, Everyday is an Atheist Holiday is just as entertaining and informative. The story that remains fresh in my mind is Penn’s recounting of his time on the Celebrity Apprentice with the man who would go on to become the star of a very different kind of reality; but enough about that.

Penn is a performer. His chosen profession is based largely on word of mouth and his ability to remain in the spotlight. So naturally, he does things that he wouldn’t ordinarily do if he had a choice. The least of these things is getting a heart-to-heart lecture from Second Place American Idol contestant, Clay Aiken.

People who knew me in the early 00’s know that I once had the biggest obsession with Clay Aiken. That obsession has faded and now that I’ve had time to analyze the lyrics for Invisible, I don’t even know if I’d consider myself a fan. I certainly lost all sense of respect for him when he decided to give Penn, a self-made man, a lecture about how he should behave towards the other members of his Celebrity Apprentice Team. I had been on the receiving ends of similar “Come to Jesus” chats my whole life and while none of them would make for great reading, I felt Penn’s pain as he regales the reader with every detail of that fateful afternoon. Hearing his voice as he read the book only made it more special and it made me just as glad that he didn’t decide to jump. (Read the book, all will be explained)

Thank You, Penn Jillette

I first learned about this wonderful treat from reading God, No by Penn Jillette.

God, No is a collection of anecdotes following the theme of the chapter, which is titled after one of the Ten Commandments with an accompanying Atheist Suggestion that improves upon the former. This was probably one of the most well thought out and reasonable explanations for one man’s conversion to atheism that I have ever read.

For the record, I have no plans to discuss my own spirituality here. But to people who are put off by the idea of atheism or people writing about it, the coffee jello is meant to give you a reason to read it beyond your misconceptions.

As someone who has always walked the line as to where I am on the subject of spirituality, it’s a refreshing change of pace to listen to the ideas and belief systems of another. And yes, even not believing in something is a belief system.

Even if you’re a hardcore Christian, Catholic, or person of Jewish or Muslim faith, reading this book won’t necessarily convert you. You may wind up learning more about a man who has been one half of a major cultural phenomenon in the United States, or maybe you’ll see something that reinforces your belief system.

Penn doesn’t try to change your mind or insist that by not doing so, you’re less of a person. And hey, whether or not my own sense of spirituality has been changed or converted, the one definite plus I have gained from reading this book is a treat that I will spend quite a bit of time trying to perfect: