Posts Tagged ‘USPS’

Random Friday Thoughts — November 24, 2017

I hope you’re enjoying your Thanksgiving and had plenty to eat.

With many out shopping or visiting with family, I’m not sure how many will check out my “Random Friday Thoughts”, but here they are.

CHRISTMAS CARD DILEMMA

I’m still one of those people trying to keep the postal service in business by buying 49-cent stamps and mailing out Christmas cards!

While I personalize each card, I started sending out a Christmas letter to recap my year for those that don’t follow me on Facebook or read my blog! (The horror!)

Last year, at the end of my Christmas letter, I shared the photo with Hillary Clinton and I wrote that it was “the highlight of the year” for me.

Hillary AP

And, I added, “Sadly, we all know how that turned out in November!  Regardless of how you voted, I was very dismayed.  But, I hope for the best for the U.S. and the world over the next four years.”

I thought that was diplomatic and it expressed my sadness.

However, I was appalled by a response from, I guess, a former “friend” and co-worker.  On the outside of the envelope, she wrote:

Christmas Card Dilemma

Now, I spent my only Maryland Thanksgiving with her and her husband.  She was my drinking buddy and my confidant.  I still considered her a friend even though at some point in 2016, she unfriended me on Facebook!

So, I was torn.  Do I not send a card this year?  Do I send a card and ignore the comment?

Or, do I send a card and say, “I was already living in a stronger ISIS-free America prior to the election.  As for a “new found security”, I wasn’t insecure.  When I’m in a large crowd, I’m aware of my surroundings, but I’ve never felt threatened or insecure.  But, as one of your LGBT friends, I feel more insecure of my future now –with the current administration — than I did prior to the 2016 election!”

What would you do?  At the end of the blog, I’ll tell you what I did. 🙂

STAMPS

By the way, I chose these fun stamps this year.

Stamps 1

I’M NOT IN THE MIDWEST ANYMORE!

As the winter season moves closer, I know I’ll miss the Midwest snow.  However, I won’t miss the bitterly cold air!

I smiled the other day when I saw this on an area National Weather Service Twitter feed.

Here in northwestern Florida, it only takes 2″+ of snow and/or more than 1/2″ of sleet (or a combination) in a 12-hour period for a “Winter Storm Warning”!

Capture1

Back in the Quad Cities, it would take 6″ of snow in a 12-hour period or 8″ in 24 hours and/or more than 1/2″ of sleet (or a combination) for a “Winter Storm Warning” to be issued!

GOODBYE, “AHS: CULT”

This season of “American Horror Story: Cult” was incredible.

While the subject matter — the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election — brought back many painful memories, it was presented pretty realistically (although the violence was highly over exaggerated for dramatic effect!).  There were things as a Hillary or a Trump supporter that you may not have wanted to hear.

So, as I say “thank you” Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk for a great season, I want to share two crazy late season scenes.

TV reporter and eventual cult member Beverly Hope tells cult leader Kai Anderson what she thinks of him and his cult as she tries to break away.

BH: “Your promises are sh*t.  You’re a fake.  You don’t stand for a goddamn thing.”

KA:  “I’m standing up for millions of people who are finally being heard.”

BH:  “Nothing is bigger than your ego.  You don’t know what the f*ck you’re doing from one minute to the next.  You’re an incompetent guy — just another media whore.”

And, for this next one, I won’t set up the scene because I don’t believe in complete spoilers.  But, it was my favorite line of the season!

spoiler-alert

Nasty Woman

And, how can I move on without sharing this hilarious one again from earlier in the season!

lesbians-were-under-attack-billy-eichner-ahs-cul-scared

WINTER FINALE — “HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER”

With all of the craziness of the past 3.5 seasons, you know when you get a special warning beyond the typical “Viewer Discretion Advised” in the last 20 minutes that it’s going to be over-the-top!

Well, this winter finale had a W-T-F ending that you couldn’t tear yourself away from –even as you cringed!

Without giving it anything away, it was the most painful and heart-wrenching scene I’ve seen on television — maybe ever!

911

This scene made the accidental deadly gunshot to the head and the blood spatter earlier in the episode register only as a “wow”.

“How To Get Away With Murder” returns on January 18, 2018.

NOW THAT IT’S THANKSGIVING…

Maybe people will be a little less touchy about seeing Christmas decorations and hearing all Christmas, all the time on the radio, now that they’ve had some turkey.

However, if you’re decorating this weekend and you live in Florida or in a tropical area, be careful with palm trees and lights! 🙂

Palm Tree Lights

PRICIEST CHRISTMAS TREE

Last year, the Christmas tree at the Emirates Palace Hotel, a seven-star hotel in Abu Dhabi, was valued at $11.4 million!

The-Emirates-Palace-Hotel-Decorated-Christmas-tree

Emeralds, diamonds, and pearls enhanced the 43-feet high tree.

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING FOR KIDS

Since many of you will be heading out Christmas shopping, here’s an interesting tidbit:

“U.S. children make up just 3.1% of the global world population, but American families buy 40% of the world’s toys.”  (“Time” — March 23, 2015)

Cash Register

JON STEWART SAID WHAT???

Former “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart tells “Rolling Stone” in November 2014 about Fox News and Christmas:

“They truly feel the loss of absolute power is the same as persecution.  Like, watch them do their “War on Christmas” stuff.  It’s real, man.  There’s no bullsh*t.  They are in the middle of Rockefeller Center talking about “They won’t let us put up a Christmas tree!”  Meanwhile, they’re standing next to a 60-foot Christmas tree in a place with so much Christmas stuff up it looks like Santa’s balls just exploded.”

HOT JANUARY TELEVISION

Two highly anticipated television shows (at least for me) will be warming up my DVR in January.

Back in June, I wrote about the upcoming Ryan Murphy series, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”.

EW verace

The 10-episode series will premiere on January 17, 2018.

It stars Edgar Ramirez as Versace, Oscar winner Penelope Cruz as Versace’s sister, Donatella, Darren Criss (“Glee”) as Andrew Cunanan, the man that killed Versace, and Ricky Martin, as Versace’s boyfriend, Antonio D’Amico.

Here’s the official trailer.

And, the 10-episode eleventh season of “The X-Files” returns even earlier on January 3, 2018, on Fox.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson return as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully!

“WIND RIVER”

Jeremy Renner plays a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who stumbles upon the body of an a teenager in the cold, wintry Wyoming tundra on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The woman’s death isn’t a simple case of hypothermia and frostbite.  The FBI is called in and rookie special agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) has to determine if this is a murder case.

Olsen is incredible in this very intense and, at times, brutal movie.

“Wind River” cost $11 million, but it went on to gross $40 million at the box office.

GRADE:  A-

A DIFFERENT “THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS”

I feature this very different version of the “The Twelve Days of Christmas” every year because it’s so funny.

I hope you find it humorous, too.

CHRISTMAS CARD DILEMMA — MY SOLUTION

I took the high road and I didn’t send a card.  I decided to vent and share my disappointment here.

If she hadn’t unfriended me on Facebook, I would have addressed it to her privately.

My thought is that if that’s how she approached the subject — on the outside of an envelope last year — her friendship isn’t worth 49 cents!

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

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Random Friday Thoughts — September 23, 2016

Fall is here and summer is officially over!  It’s time to trade in those fruit smoothies for everything apple and pumpkin!

Even the USPS is getting into the act.  Check out these cool stamps.

halloween-2016

As always, thank you for checking out my random thoughts. Let’s get started!

SHUT YOUR MOUTH HATERS!

It’s old news now because news travels fast, but Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are getting divorced and he’s being investigated on child abuse allegations!

Brad Angelina.jpg

Reactions:  no surprise, sad, Jennifer Aniston is smiling somewhere, and Jolie is a “f***ing lunatic”.  What?

Comedian Chelsea Handler, who’s friends with Pitt’s ex, Aniston, holds nothing back, “There are rumors that part of the problem was that Brad was allegedly drinking and smoking too much weed. I wonder why he would need to self-medicate.”

She goes on to say, “Maybe because he could have been spending the last 12 years at Lake Como hanging out with George Clooney and Matt Damon, instead of being stuck in a house with 85 kids speaking 15 different languages. Oh yeah, because he married a f***ng lunatic, that’s why.”

However, Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, who stars with Pitt in this November’s “Allied”, is shutting the rumor mill down in a lengthy Instagram post with a big announcement of her own.

marion.jpg

Cotillard says, “Firstly, many years ago, I met the man of my life, father of our son [5-year-old Marcel] and of the baby we are expecting.  He is my love, my best friend, the only one that I need.” (She’s referring to French actor and director Guillaume Canet.)

And, she adds, “Secondly to those who have indicated that I am devastated, I am very well thank you. This crafted conversation isn’t distressing. And to all the media and the haters who are quick to pass judgment, I sincerely wish you a swift recovery. Finally, I do very much wish that Angelina and Brad, both whom I deeply respect, will find peace in this very tumultuous moment. With all my love, Marion”

Burn!

MY LITTLE SISTER TURNS 50!

My little sister Tammy reaches a milestone birthday this weekend — she hits the big 5-0!

Tammy1

I wish her the very best as she begins a new era in her life.  As we slowly move toward the “golden years”, I hope she makes the most of it.

She moved to Quad Cities five years ago and has gotten herself back on solid financial ground, but I know she doesn’t want to stay here forever.

She’s been talking about moving back to our hometown!  While I couldn’t imagine doing that, if that’s what she wants, I say “go for it”.  And, why wait?  Do it now since we never really know how much time we have left.

Our own mother, Dessie, died at the age of 47.  Since Tammy has already survived two heart attacks and hasn’t changed her unhealthy habits (mainly smoking), I’m truly surprised that we still have her!

Tammy

This beautiful picture is from a Caribbean cruise we took in 2012.  She definitely loves to get dressed up and we’re looking forward to doing it again this December!

Happy Birthday Tammy!  Enjoy life, don’t let the bitches get to you, and live it up!

“SWEETBITTER”

I’ve stated many times that I mostly read biographies, autobiographies, or books about real events.

When I venture in fiction, I find some real gems like “The Girl on the Train” (Paula Hawkins), “Dietland” (Sarai Walker), and “Day Four” (Sarah Lotz).  Now, I can add Stephanie Danler’s superior debut, “Sweetbitter” to the list!

stephanie-danler_0.jpg

“Sweetbitter” is fiction, but it’s based on real life Danler experienced as a waitress in New York City.

It was the food and drink service industry angle that attracted my attention in this coming-of-age novel because I’ve been there.

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or bar, you know how demanding it is — the hours, the hard work, smiling back at ungrateful and demanding customers (oops, guests), the insane amount of readily available cash, and if you worked at the right (or wrong) places, the partying after shifts with alcohol and/or drugs.

But, most of all, it’s the incredibly diverse people you work with “on the floor” and “in the back of the house” that make this business unlike any other I’ve ever been a part of.

Some will make a life and career in this high stress and burnout line of work.  Some, like me, are just passing through on the way to other professions.

Danler perfectly captures all of this.

Her vast experiences — from the people keeping the plates and drinks on the table and the guests coming back, the intrinsic knowledge of food and wine that make the book a beginner’s guide to gastronomy, to living an empty life in a nowhere place and then taking a chance to make it in the big city with a cast of characters wanting more and really wanting nothing — make “Sweetbitter” such a delight.

A must read!

EMMY WINNERS

I’m very happy that Rami Malek of “Mr. Robot” won for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” at Sunday night’s Emmy Awards!

MR. ROBOT

And, it comes as no shock that “The People v. O.J. Simpson:  American Crime Story”, the 10-part miniseries that aired earlier this year on FX, won big.

In addition to four Creative Arts Emmys it recently won, the show picked up five more awards Sunday night, including “Outstanding Limited Series” and three for acting – Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie (Sarah Paulson), Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (Courtney B. Vance), and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (Sterling K. Brown).

Sarah Paulson looked beautiful making her acceptance speech for the much deserved first Emmy win (out of six nominations since 2012) and the shout-out to the real Marcia Clark was outstanding!

She ended her speech by telling Holland Taylor that she loved her!

sarah-paulson love.gif

What gets me is all the chatter over the more than 30-year age difference (Paulson is 41 and Taylor is 73).

Earlier this summer, Paulson told a magazine, “You should be able to love whomever you f***ing well please.”

Paulson Taylor.jpg

Amen, sister, I wish you and Holland the very best.  Life’s too short not to find and enjoy love at any age.

People need to get real and work on their own love lives, relationships, and marriages.

MARK RUFFALO WILL SHOW IT ALL FOR THIS!

This year’s presidential election is now just a little over six weeks away.  It can’t get here soon enough!

However, there are still some people that are undecided and there are others that may not even vote.

Many celebrities are using their fame to get people to vote and to take this election seriously.  They are even volunteering one of their own to give you his all for the cause!

But, on a more serious note, it’s also about “a racist, abusive coward who could permanently damage the fabric of our society.”

Warning:  contains adult language and situations!

Vote on November 8th.  If you don’t do it for Hillary Clinton, then do it for Mark Ruffalo! 🙂

CHRISTMAS IS NOW JUST THREE MONTHS AWAY

My annual tradition is to drop off my Christmas cards at the post office on Thanksgiving Eve and let the cards make their way across the country as people feast on turkey!

Here are the new Christmas stamps being offered by the USPS.

Christmas 2016.jpg

Since they’re “Forever” stamps, they’ll always be good even if the price of stamps goes up in the future.  So buy up and keep Christmas going as long as you want with your mailings.

HALLMARK CHANNEL GEARING UP FOR THE HOLIDAYS

The “Countdown to Christmas” kicks off on the Hallmark Channel on October 28th this year with around the clock original television holiday movies.

It’ll start with classics over the years and then on November 5th, the new original Christmas movies debut.

Lacey Chabert is back (sadly without Mariah Carey, but you can catch Mimi on the October 5th episode of “Empire”!).

I’m excited to see “My Christmas Dream”, which debuts November 19th, because it stars Deidre Hall of “Days of Our Lives”.

DeidreHall

I’ve been a huge fan of Deidre since childhood watching her on “Days” and “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl”, a short-lived 1976 series.

There’s no official trailer yet for “My Christmas Dream”, which simply sounds like the work of Satan! 🙂

possessedmarlena

Oh, come on, you loved that “Days” possession story line as much as I did!

In all, 22 new movies are being prepped for your holiday enjoyment for the Hallmark Channel.

“NOW YOU SEE ME 2”

I really enjoyed the 2013 original.

In a November 2013 blog, I wrote, “If you love magic, suspense, and action, this summer caper is the movie for you.  The $75 million motion picture made $351.7 million and a sequel is in the works and is expected to begin production next summer.”

Well, that sequel came this summer and it did rather well.  The $90 million production made $331.4 million and a third installment is on the way.

My teenaged daughter, Gretel, saw this one twice in the theaters, so she’s partly responsible for its success.  I waited to see it on DVD and that’s a good thing.

I was bored for much of the two-hour movie.  The first lavish card trick and magic act was hokey and unbelievable.  The final reveal had slightly more appeal.

It’s great to see Jesse Eisenberg in anything!

Jesse

It’s funny because I commented on liking his hair in the first movie three years ago.  Well, his hair in this movie was one of the highlights, too.  You can see it in this still image of the trailer.

GRADE: C

SPEAKING OF MAGIC, HOW ABOUT A “PERFECT ILLUSION”?

Lady Gaga is back with new music without her good friend Tony Bennett.

Earlier this month, she released “Perfect Illusion”, the first single from her upcoming fifth studio album, “Joanne” (named after her late aunt, who died of Lupus at the age of 19 in December of 1974, a little over eleven years before Gaga was born).

“Perfect Illusion” is already Gaga’s biggest hit at Top 40 radio since 2013’s “Do What U Want” with R. Kelly, which reached #7 on the radio airplay charts.

It’s an upbeat rock song and we’ve seen her rock out before, but this one has a different sound thanks to Mark Ronson (who’s biggest credits to date are “Uptown Funk” with Bruno Mars and working with Amy Winehouse).

Gaga Las Vegas

I’ve seen Gaga in concert twice (three times, sorta) and she’s an incredible singer, piano player, and dancer — an all-around amazing entertainer.

She’s an artist with an emphasis on “art”.  There’s no way you’ll ever forget the “meat dress” and the many outlandish and bizarre outfits and stage productions we’ve been blessed with over the past eight years.

Can you believe it’s only been eight years?

Now, back to the art (and the spectacle, the show, the dance moves, the club beats).  After the somewhat commercially disappointing (and uneven) “Artpop”, she’s all about the music this time.  To me, that’s evident after her high profile performances at the Grammys and the Oscars and singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl.

There’s no glamour in the new video to “Perfect Illusion” and there’s nothing over-the-top and envelope-pushing with the artwork for the new album.  It’s classy and clean.

joanne

It looks like it’s all about the music on “Joanne”, which comes out October 21st.

I admit that this whole new chapter of Lady Gaga is taking some adjusting for me, but I have a month to get there!

Lady GaGa on stage at the KOKO club in London

I just hope that there’s some “Mother Monster” left somewhere on “Joanne” and in Lady Gaga.

Now, where did I leave that “disco stick”?

50 YEARS OF PRIDE — CHARLEY PRIDE

In 2012, Darius Rucker, of Hootie & The Blowfish fame, was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.  He bacame only the third African-American to achieve that honor.  The first two were harmonica player Deford Bailey and singer Charley Pride (inducted in 1993).

The 82-year-old Mississippi-born Pride has enjoyed quite the country music career.

Pride.jpg

From the 1960s through the 1980s, he charted an incredible 52 Top Ten Billboard Country hits.  Of those, 29 went all the way to #1!

Pride has also topped the country album charts twelve times — that’s more #1s than Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson!

As he celebrates his 50th year in country music, Pride tells “Billboard” that little has changed in country music when it comes to black artists.

He says, “Promoters were reluctant to book me. When you ask why things haven’t changed, I just say, “How far do you want to go back?” Do you want to go back to 1817? Once someone in the industry said to me, “I don’t mean no harm” — you know, just throwing that in — “but I want to ask: How come every time we let y’all in, you just take over?” I told him, “See that barrel over there? Go peek in it. Oh, look, there I am, down at the bottom! Now where is there for me to go?”

As a kid, I loved Charley Pride.  So did my grandmother Helen.

Here’s one of our favorites from 1971.

“Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'” spent five weeks at the top of the country charts and became Pride’s first crossover hit.  It peaked at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the Top Ten on the Adult Contemporary charts.

Happy 50th Anniversary Charley!  Thank you for all of the wonderful songs and memories.  Best wishes for the future!

By the way, let’s get Charley to perform here in the Quad Cities!

WELCOME FALL 2016!

Fall

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

Christmas, Did You Know????

The leftover Thanksgiving feast will likely be served many times this weekend and you’re probably gearing up for Cyber Monday if you didn’t finish your shopping on Black Friday.

Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Kwanzaa.  If those don’t fit what you celebrate, happy holidays and Happy New Year.

House

While we haven’t put up our tree inside yet, our outdoor decorations are bright and festive.

Here are a few interesting holiday thoughts to dazzle your friends at parties this season.

Santa Stamps

The next time you buy Christmas stamps and get your cards ready to mail, you’re helping out a very financially stressed United States Postal Service.  At Christmas, I usually mail out more than 150 cards and that’s really the only time I use the USPS except when packages arrive that I order online.

It’s ironic that the USPS is about to go under because as early as 1822, the postmaster in Washington, D.C. wanted to limit the number of cards people could send at the holidays.

People were sending out so many homemade cards, since commercial cards weren’t available then, that an extra sixteen postmen had to be hired in the nation’s capital to handle the extra mail.

The Postmaster General would be ecstatic if that was the case today!

I guess this is my chance to say once again, stop Saturday mail service and save yourself a lot of money!

christmasdinner2011

That is our Christmas dinner from a few years ago.  While some cook ham, some turkey, and some make duck, a traditional Christmas dinner in early England was the head of a pig prepared with mustard!

Sorry, early England, I’ll stick to my current traditions.

RayPhotoAnthonyGretelTree2012

The National Christmas Tree Association reports that Americans buy 37.1 million real Christmas trees each year.  And, of that number, one out of every four are from the country’s roughly 5,000 choose-and-cut farms.

I did that back in 2000 and 2001 for Miss ABBA’s (my late golden retriever) first two Christmases.

ABBA's First Christmas 2000

And, since I’m talking about freshly cut trees, for every real Christmas tree harvested, two to three seedlings are planted in its place.

I asked Ray and Gretel if they’d like to do that this year, but I didn’t get an overwhelming yes or a resounding no, so I’ll ask again sometime in December.

RayGretelTree2012

California, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are the top Christmas tree producing states. Oregon is the leading producer of Christmas trees – 8.6 million in 1998.

And, while it isn’t one of my favorite holiday songs, crazy town’s Janice Dickinson’s version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” is over-the-top fun.

However, the song was written to help Catholic children, in England, remember different articles of faith during the persecution by Protestant Monarchs.

Now, I found this online and didn’t take the time to verify it, but it’s still interesting.

In the song:

The “partridge in a pear tree” = Christ.
2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity– the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”, which relays the history of man’s fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of Creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

This was so much fun, I’ll share more facts before Christmas.

Bushes

Happy Holidays!

Anthony

It’s Not Too Early For Christmas Thoughts

So, Christmas is now less than three months away!

That should come as no surprise because I saw Christmas decorations in the “seasonal” aisle at Walgreen’s with the Halloween costumes and candy this past weekend!

notchristmasyet

The good news is that we’re going to be seeing very warm temperatures for this first weekend of autumn in the Quad Cities and across much of the country.

But, now that I’ve mentioned Christmas, I want to talk about my favorite holiday of the year!

Christmas Outside

The first thing I do is look ahead to see what new Christmas albums I want to buy for the season.

Erasure Snow Globe

Last year, my favorite Christmas album was “Snow Globe” by Erasure.

Erasure is my favorite band and this week, they just released a fantastic new dance album called “The Violet Flame” and I’m excited to see them in concert in Chicago next weekend, October 4th.

My other two favorite Christmas albums last year were “Wrapped In Red” by Kelly Clarkson and “Christmas, With Love” by Leona Lewis.

Idina Holiday Wishes

Idina Menzel, who had huge success last year with the motion picture and soundtrack, “Frozen”, and the hit “Let It Go”, is releasing her first Christmas album in mid-October.

It was produced by Grammy Award-winner Walter Afanasieff, who has worked with Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Mariah Carey, Josh Groban, and so many more.

The track list reportedly includes “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, “A Holly Jolly Christmas”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and many more classics and non-traditional songs.

seth-macfarlane-holiday-for-swing

Seth MacFarlane is behind some of the biggest shows on television (“Family Guy” and “The Cleveland Show”), the blockbuster movie, “Ted”, and, in 2013, he hosted the Oscars.

He also sings!  In 2011, he released “Music Is Better Than Words”, an amazing jazz album and on September 30th, his first Christmas album, “Holiday For Swing” comes out.

It’ll feature holiday standards like “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, plus many other classics.

MacFarlane gets some assistance from Norah Jones and Sara Bareilles (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”).

jim-brickman-on-a-winters-night

Jim Brickman is one of the best-selling pianist of all-time and he’s collected 27 hits on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts!

Not only is he his getting his latest collection of Christmas songs ready for release on October 7th, but he’ll be playing at the Adler Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, on December 28th!

“On A Winter’s Night” features appearances from John Oates and Kenny Rogers and holiday classics like “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, “Blue Christmas”, and “Away In The Manger”.

Also, the album will have many less familiar tunes.

ABBA Christmas Card 001

I also love writing out Christmas cards to my friends across the country and I always look forward to the new Christmas stamp selections.  This year, the United States Postal Service will celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” with a stamp.

hermey-rudolph01

But, the ones that I’m going to purchase are called “Winter Fun Contemporary Christmas”.  Those definitely look fun!

14-WinterFun-4designs

And, I’m still deciding on what flavor cheesecake to make this year.

A couple of years ago, I made a red velvet cheesecake for Christmas.  While it was beautiful and tasty, I want something new and exciting this year.

Red Velvet 2

Finally, my Christmas shopping list is smaller this year because Ray, Gretel, Tammy and I are getting away before the holidays for some fun in the sun and on the high seas.  That is our gift to each other this year.

So, in honor of that, here’s a little less wintry-sounding Christmas song.

Merry Christmas!  Oh wait, that’s still about three months away.

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — October 4

Another weekend is here and I’m taking advantage of this one to relax.

While it will feel like summer Friday with highs in the 80s, storms Friday night and Saturday will cool us off.  By Sunday, highs only in the 50s and morning lows in the 30s to around 40° are likely.  This will be the coolest day in the Quad Cities since Memorial Day weekend.

So, I’m thinking a big pot of chili for comfort food, popcorn, watching the first season of “Bates Motel”, and enjoying a nice fire in the fireplace with champagne!

champagne

Here are my random thoughts this week.  Whether you agree or disagree, let me know!

POSTAGE STAMP INCREASE… AGAIN?

To my friends that work for the United States Postal Service (USPS), I hope things work out for you.  With that being said, I’m on the verge of cutting my last ties with the mail service!

The USPS is proposing ANOTHER first-class stamp increase from 46 to 49 cents in January 2014 to try to offset its loss of $6 billion dollars this year.

USPS

I only use stamps once a year at Christmas when I mail out about 150 holiday cards.  I love sending Christmas cards and wishes each year and I wouldn’t mind paying the extra three cents for a stamp if I felt the USPS was serious about trying to save its floundering business.

Why do we still have Saturday mail delivery?  Think of how much money could be saved without that service (The Postmaster General has even asked that Saturday mail delivery be cut for most customers, which would save an estimated $2 billion per year)!

If people really needed to mail something on Saturday, there are substations in many grocery stores and other businesses.

So, if you’re on my Christmas mailing list, this may be the last card you get from me!  And, if you haven’t seen them yet, here are two of the new Christmas stamps for 2013.

2013 Poinsettia Stamp Christmas Cleveland MOA

ERASURE CHRISTMAS ALBUM UPDATE

Three weeks ago, I blogged about Erasure’s first Christmas album, “Snow Globe”, coming out in the U.S. on November 12th.

Erasure Snow Globe

Here’s a first listen to Andy and Vince on “Silent Night”.

ANOTHER EMMY AWARDS THOUGHT

If you, like me, were not one of the 17.6 million people watching the Primetime Emmy Awards two Sundays ago, you missed Michael Douglas winning the Best Actor award for playing Liberace in “Behind The Candelabra” (if you want to read more about the movie from my blog last week, type in “Liberace” in the blog search engine in the top right).

Douglas Emmy Awards

In his acceptance speech, Douglas looked down to his co-star, Matt Damon, who was also nominated, and said, “You really deserve half of this.  So, you want the bottom or the top?  Top?  I figured that!”  Too funny!

If you’ve seen the movie, you know what he’s talking about since it’s part of pivotal scene.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, it wouldn’t take much to figure it out. 🙂

COULD THERE BE EMMY CONFUSION NEXT YEAR?

The hit Netflix series, “Orange Is The New Black” is a critical and fan favorite.

The series focuses on Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a Connecticut woman living in New York City, who is sentenced to 15 months in a women’s federal prison for transporting a suitcase full of drug money for her former lover ten years ago.

Orange is the New Black

The series also stars Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset.  Sophia is a transgender woman who’s in prison for credit-card fraud and she’s the hairdresser for many of the inmates. Outside of the prison walls, she has a son with her wife, Crystal.

Laverne Cox

Cox, the actress that plays Sophia is also transgender in real life.

If Cox gets the attention of Emmy votes, would they be progressive (and educated) enough to nominate her in the right category of Outstanding Supporting Actress?

ACRONYMS & LABELS CAN BE CONFUSING

Back in the day, there was the “gay community”, which covered both gays and lesbians.  But, then as society began to educate itself on sexual orientation and sexual identity, a couple more terms, bisexual and transgender were added to that community.

LGBT

So, when you see “LGBT”, it refers to people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (those who deviate from their assigned gender at birth, including transsexuals, cross-dressers, drag queens and kings, genderqueers, and others).

In the coming months and years, there will be more and more court cases and publicity around transgender men and women.  Advocates are working harder to ensure that someone born with a penis, but has always identified as being female, is not discriminated against and called a “man”.  This blurs lines and it’s not cut and dry or one or the other.

I’m bringing this up because I was reading an article last week and it was about a person that was identified as “genderqueer trans masculine person”.  While it would take some thought to figure that one out, I have a simple solution.  Just refer to this human as a “person” and love them just the same.

While it’s easy to label someone, the shoe doesn’t always fit.

As for me, you can call me “gay”.  However, I don’t like the term “homosexual”.  To me, that sounds like a medical term from before 1973 when being gay was still considered a “mental disorder.”

MOST POWERFUL 5 MINUTES TO SIMPLIFY MY LAST COMMENTS

While those terms I just described can label a person, it does so with class.  As we all know, there are other hurtful terms that people use to identity people in the LGBT community.

Check out this incredible, heart-wrenching video, “Define Me”, from New York City singer and songwriter, Ryan Amador, along with Jo Lampert.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Black Sheep Crazy Ass Eat Well

EUROPE IS ONLY TWO WEEKS AWAY NOW!

With that last “Food For Thought” in mind, Ray and I have to work very hard over the next two weeks to get to a chosen, acceptable weight as we embark on our first European cruise to celebrate Ray’s 50th birthday this past August.

Sound of Music Cruise

When Betty was here recently, I had five buffets in four nights and then last week we celebrated my sister’s birthday by eating out and having cake!!!

Our goal is to lose five to ten pounds before October 18th, which is also the date of my annual physical.  I guess this means other than a pizza buffet for my upcoming birthday, all buffets will be put off until November. 🙂

“WORK BITCH” OR “WORK WORK”?

Britney Spears is racing up the chart with the first release from her new studio album that comes out on December 3rd.  The video debuted earlier this week.

Britney Las Vegas

Two versions of the song were serviced to pop stations across the country.  One changes the title, which is said many times in the song, from “Work Bitch” to “Work Work”.  Here in the Quad Cities, one station is playing the “Bitch” version (my preference) and one is playing the sanitized “Work Work” version.

KHHM program director Pattie Moreno says, “Britney, can you please put out a record out without the word ‘bitch’ in it?  Please, can you help a girl out?”  (If you recall, her last hit, “Scream & Shout” with will.i.am, featured Brit Brit saying her classic line, “It’s Britney, Bitch”.)

However, WNOW New York PD Gillette is playing the original version and adds, “‘Bitch’ is not a dirty word. “No complaints so far. Plus, it’s a great dance track.”

I have one to say, “you’d better work”.  Oh wait, that’s another song!

The bottom line is “It’s Britney, Bitch”!

“PRISONERS”, “DON JON”, & “LOOSE CANNONS”

Two new big movies hit theaters this weekend.  There’s “Gravity”, which already has Oscar buzz for star Sandra Bullock.  The sci-fi thriller also stars George Clooney.  Also, “Runner Runner”, a thriller with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, makes its wide release debut.

If those movies don’t appeal to you, I have a couple of suggestions.  We saw a double feature last weekend of “Prisoners” and “Don Jon”.

Prisoners

If you want a psychological thriller that will make you cringe and eat your popcorn nervously, check out “Prisoners” with Academy Award nominees Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, and Terrence Howard, along with Oscar winner Melissa Leo.

The movie focuses on the disappearance of two little girls on Thanksgiving Day and what lengths one desperate parent (Jackman) would go to get a confession out of the suspect, Alex (Paul Dano).

In a weaker Oscar race year, I think that Jackman would have a chance for a nomination.   But, with many buzzed about performances coming up before Christmas, I’m thinking he’ll just have to relish his nomination last year for “Les Miserables”.

However, I think Melissa Leo could get nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for her portrayal of Alex’s religious aunt.

GRADE:  A-

Don Jon

This directorial debut of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote the screenplay, is a solid effort.  While porno movies and masturbation play an integral part in the comedy, it’s really a love story!

In no way am I a prude, however, the first part of movie made me think that I was watching some “adults only” site online and it started out as a strong “R-rated” movie that bordered on “NC-17”.

In the movie, Gordon-Levitt plays Jon Martello, a New Jersey bartender that loves God, his family, his apartment, his car, his boys, his girls. and his porn.  He’s totally satisfied with one-night stands and fulfilling his sex life “alone” until he meets the perfect woman, Barbara, played with perfection by Scarlett Johansson.

He loves his movies (porn) and she loves her movies (romantic comedies).  Once they start spending the night together, she discovers that he likes to, um, be alone in the other room after they have intimate time together.  She gives him an ultimatum — her or the porn.

Again, it sound very adult in nature and it is.  But, the bottom line, it’s a comedy that has heart and it’s a love story.

While entertaining, you could definitely wait and see it on DVD.

GRADE:  B

Loose_Cannons

“Loose Cannons” (Mine Vaganti ) is a critically acclaimed 2010 Italian comedy that is just now coming out on DVD in the United States.

It focuses on the Cantones, a pasta making family in conservative southern Italy.  At a family dinner one night, the youngest son, Tommaso, is going to “come out” to his family.  Before he does, his older brother, Antonio, who runs the factory announces to his family that he’s gay!

Their father has a heart attack at the table and he kicks Antonio out of the house and the business.

While there’s plenty of secrets and drama, this is a comedy.

It’s also an award-winning movie.  It was nominated for 13 David di Donatello Awards (the Italian equivalent to the American Oscar), including Best Film.   The film picked up two awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

GRADE:  A

PICK HIT OF THE WEEK

Okay, this week, today’s selection is more of a featured song than a pick hit.  It’s from the movie, “Loose Cannons”.

I fell in love with the song, “Una Notte a Napoli” by the Portland, Oregon, band, Pink Martini, featuring vocalist China Forbes, who is the cousin of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The song was featured on their second album, “Hang On Little Tomato” from 2004, which is sung in seven different languages!

I’M FINALLY READING A BOOK!

For years, my magazines have been stacking up.

I finally organized all of the “Rolling Stone”, “Time”, “Men’s Health”, “Details”, and “Boston Magazine” issues and read the stories that appealed to me.  Since those subscriptions expired, I only get “Entertainment Weekly”, “The Advocate”, “Instinct”, and “Out”.  (I just ordered “Time” again!)

Since I’m totally caught up on magazines until the new “EW” arrives later today, I grabbed the book, “Golden Days:  Memories of a Golden Retriever” by Arthur Vanderbilt to read.

Golden Days

I bought the 1999 book shortly after its release when Miss ABBA, my late golden, was just a puppy.  I think it’s finally time to read it!

Since I haven’t read a book in five years, I don’t think the 143-page story of Amy, a New England golden retriever and the bonds she formed with her people, will overwhelm me!

Actress Betty White says of the book, “Once someone has had the good fortune to share a true love affair with a golden retriever, one’s life and one’s outlook are never quite the same again. A warm afterglow remains that lasts a lifetime. The author is fluent in that language.”

PEEPS’ ’80s FRIDAY FLASHBACK

The Beatles’ John Lennon would have turned 73 next week on October 9th.

Outside of the Beatles, Lennon, as a solo artist, scored 13 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.

John Lennon NYC

Of those hits, two reached the top of the charts:  1974’s “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” and “(Just Like) Starting Over”, which was released in October 1980, but it reached #1 three weeks after Lennon was murdered outside his apartment in New York City on December 8, 1980, at the age of 40.

“Nobody Told Me” reached #5 on the Hot 100 in 1984 more than three years after he died, marking his last Top 40 chart appearance.

Happy Birthday, John!  Your wisdom and your humanity are greatly missed in today’s world.

“BATES MOTEL”

Have yourself a great weekend and make the most of it.  We’re spending it with Norman and Norma Bates.

Anthony

The Postal Service Is Losing Billions! Is It Worth Saving?

Do you still mail letters to family members across the country and if so, how often?  Do you still get a paper copy of your utility and credit card bills mailed to you?  The answers to both of those questions are most likely to be  “no” or “not very often”.  That is the problem facing the United States Postal Service (USPS).

An increasing number of Americans and people around the world can pay their bills, send pictures, notes, and letters to friends and families with just a click of a button on a computer.

Earlier this year, the Postal Service released its five-year business plan to Congress asking for help with its financial problems.  The USPS recorded a $3.3 billion loss, that’s BILLION, in the final three months of 2011.

The proposed plan would save the USPS about $20 billion over the next five years, but it needs Congress’ help.

Last week, the Senate voted 62-37 to give the near bankrupt agency an $11 billion cash infusion while delaying some changes the Postal Service asked for in its proposal.  That money will be used to keep the USPS out of bankruptcy and fund buyouts to 100,000 postal employees.

However, the USPS is not happy.  It wanted to close several post offices (3,700) and mail processing facilities (up to 252), which the USPS says would save $6.5 billion a year.  The USPS also wanted to do away with Saturday mail delivery.

The Postal Service’s board of governors says, “It is totally inappropriate in these economic times to keep unneeded facilities open. There is simply not enough mail in our system today.  It is also inappropriate to delay the implementation of five-day delivery.”

The Senate approved bill will only close 125 mail processing centers and it will allow more locations to keep overnight first-class mail delivery for at least three more years. It would also protect rural post offices for at least a year and forbid cuts to Saturday delivery for two years.

The issue now goes to the House.

Now, here’s my take on this matter.  I don’t want anyone to lose their jobs, especially in today’s economic climate.  However, I disagree with some of the Senate proposals and I agree with some of the proposals made by the USPS.

The Postal Service is becoming more and more obsolete.  While I know there are many, especially older people, that still send letters, mail their bills, and still write checks (that’s another pet peeve of mine — use a debit card!!), most people use their computers for these services and it’s much faster.

Now that I’m not sending out resume tapes, the only time I use the post office is to send an occasional birthday card and my Christmas cards.  I love sending Christmas cards and I usually send out around 140.

In the new plan proposed by the USPS, it wants to raise the price of a first-class postage stamp from 45 cents to 50 cents!  It says by doing that, it would generate $1 billion a year in new revenue!!

That’s a lot of new money.  However, I know that if the price of a stamp goes up to 50 cents, it will likely lose me as a customer sending out Christmas cards.  While I know that’s just $70 from little old me, I also know that the number of people sending out Christmas cards over the past few years is also declining.  And, the Christmas mailing season is usually a profitable period for the Postal Service.

And, finally, this is for the Senate.  STOP SATURDAY MAIL SERVICE NOW!

If I don’t get my “Entertainment Weekly” until Monday, I will survive.  If a business is losing money staying open longer hours, then maybe it should cut hours.  That’s why Saturday service needs to go and not wait two years for that to happen.

That’s my two cents.  Actually, I may need those pennies to pay for the first-class stamp increase when it happens.

I’ll leave you with this look at the price increase of first class stamps, on this date, over the past 50 years:  1962 (4 cents); 1972 (8 cents); 1982 (20 cents); 1992 (29 cents); 2002 (34 cents); 2012 (45 cents); ??? (50 cents)

Anthony