Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ari Shaffir A-Hole Extraordinaire

On March 13, 2015 Comedy Central aired a comedy special by comedian Ari Shaffir called "Passive Agressive". I hope you NEVER see it.

Why? Because in it he makes a personal attack against a relatively unknown standup comic Damienner Merlina. He specifically calls her fat, annoying and makes fun of the fact that she has only one arm.

I have taken to the microphone on my various podcasts The Green Room, The Mentorist and The Spew many times stating that a comic should be able to say whatever they want. In the next breath I have also stated that while you can say whatever you want, be prepared to be held accountable for what you said.

I've also written my share of snarky blogs about celebrities and made bad jokes about said celebrities on my podcast. I tell you this so you understand I am no saint. On the other hand, while maybe not done in good taste my comments regarding celebrities were about their public life. If you're going publicize your life (Kardashians, Hiltons, etc) and use that publicity to generate income, you become fair game.

Damienner Merlina does not meet that kind of acid test. What I know about her is that she is a standup comic working on "making it" in Los Angeles. What does that mean? Since I don't know her I can't tell how she's doing or you how good she is. I can only tell you that she is a standup comedian and that in a cursory Google search I can't  find out much about her. I didn't find a web site, didn't find any mentions of her in comedy clubs and I didn't see that she has a podcast. I can only assume she has the same dream that most (if not all) of us that had when we entered in to world of standup comedy. We want to be noticed. We want to work on a stage in front of a crowd that wants to see us. We want to be heard.

Why Shaffir attacked her is beyond my comprehension. It's not like they run in the same circles. They don't compete for the same gigs and from what I can tell MAYBE have met in passing a few times.

As far as I'm concerned what Shaffir did was heinous and here's why.

It's a common thing in the comedy world for comedians to "bust each others balls" but that's not what this was. It was a very personal attack on things he knows will emotional hurt her. Why do I say/know this? Because all comedians have issues with their self esteem, it's a part of what drives us to the stage. It's ours and ours alone to comment on. We own it and we decide on how it is to be used. Shaffir knows this as well as anyone. He knows that what he said would be extremely hurtful, but he didn't care. He had no right to speak about her in that way.

He also is way farther up the comedy ladder than she is. He is pretty well known in the comedy world. He's done some TV, has 13,000 YouTube subscribers (a healthy number) and 110,000 Twitter followers. His podcast "The Skeptic Tank" is pretty popular. He's working pretty regular.

In comparison, I already told you about Damienner Merlina but here are her numbers, 91 YouTube subscribers and 361 Twitter followers.

Yet Shaffir goes on a comedy network and trashes her. We're not talking about a one off comment made on a stage in some club. What he said will be played over and over again. People will BUY this DVD. How is she supposed to fight back? She can't tap into a large network of people that are supporting her to defend herself.

The worst thing about this in my opinion is that this as a standup comic Shaffir like all of us should honor the brotherhood we are ALL in. It's tough to make it in this business no matter what level you are at. He has a clear understanding of that yet still did something that HE KNEW would be personally hurtful to her.

I can only hope that there will be some sort of call to action when it comes to Ari Shaffir. I've have been in the business since 1992 and like everyone I have comedians I don't like, I would never take a shot like this against any of them. There is no room for this kind of behavior in the comedy community. Shaffir should be held accountable.

Watch the video below. It is Damienner Merlina's response to what was said about her. It includes a clip showing what Shaffir said. If it doesn't make you angry, I don't know what will.

Then contact him on Twitter @arishaffir. If you're a subscriber to his podcast, quit downloading it and if you follow him on Twitter, unfollow him. It's the ONLY thing he will understand.

I never thought I'd say this about another standup but he deserves to have his career dragged down. He needs to be made an example of.

Something like this should NEVER happen again ...

Friday, March 27, 2015

You Have a Friend in the Fitness Business

I am constantly amazed by what is available on the Internet. I've been connected with the computer industry since the late 70's.  When I started you paid for nearly everything. Nothing was inexpensive, especially software.

These days, software developers are perfectly willing and able to give you something for free. They work a numbers game that can pay huge dividends if worked correctly. The best example out there right now is Facebook. The company is valued at over 200 BILLION dollars. When was the last time you paid anything for the use of Facebook? Even Microsoft is jumping on the bandwagon. They are planning to release the Windows V10 upgrade to users of Windows 7/8 (legal or not) for FREE. A move no one would have even thought possible as little as 4 years ago.

It used to be when software was "free to me" it was substandard. That you were giving up on the quality of the software or it's features because you weren't paying.

Not any more.

Let me introduce to you a tool I can't live without now that I never thought I needed. I thought an application like this would be too hard to use

A web site? How can a web site, something you need to access with your computer be of any help? Because .com doesn't necessarily mean you can only access it with a computer any more. Right now I have the MyFitnessPal app installed on my Android phone, Ipad and use the web site. There is also an Iphone app (which I used when I had an Iphone) and a Windows mobile app. The only thing there is no app for is Blackberry. Does anyone even use those anymore?

The beauty of MyFitnessPal is how easy it is to use.

I put some screen shots on the left so you can see for yourself how straight forward it is. I started with the app on my phone. The app is free and once downloaded it takes you through a very simple setup process. In the process you put in you overall weight goal.

My starting weight was 309lbs and I set a goal of 200lbs. Then I was asked how many pounds a week I'd like to lose and here's something that says a lot about the program. You can't select more than 2lbs.

That's smart. Slow weight loss means lifestyle change and that's what this app does. It helps you think about what you're eating and how it's going to affect you.

Once you get your information in it is simply a process of entering the things that you eat into the system. That's what I thought would be the hard part. That's the part I never thought would NEVER work for me. What I found was it's actually incredibly easy.

First off, just about anything you can eat is already in the system. Whether you're having a cheeseburger at McDonalds or Green Giant Steamers Baby Brussel Sprouts in Butter Sauce out of your freezer it's already in the system. You can either look it up or point the camera on your device at the bar code on it and it will automatically find it for you. It then pulls up the screen giving you all the information. You tell it how may portions you're eating and it's added.

Here's how extensive it can go.

I happen to be a fan of Mullins Cheese Curds. Mullins is a small cheese company based in Mosinee, Wi. Never heard of Mosinee? I'm not surprised, it's in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. You can't even buy their cheese online. Go to their web site they only sell in their store or wholesale to stores in Wisconsin. Yet when I scanned their label, all the information on the product came up!

If you look at the screens on the left you'll see that you can keep track of your progress. All you have to do is "feed" the system. It even tracks your exercise and give you credit.

It integrates with the Fitbit, electronic scales and all kinds of other devices. All for NOTHING. There are a few ads but nothing really all that annoying.

Another way to explain it is ... think Facebook for healthy living. That's what they're going for. You have your own profile. You can link to your friends. You can even copy the meal you shared from or to your friend so you don't have to re-enter the information. My wife and I do it ALL the time.

I'm not getting paid for this blog and I get nothing for referring you to them. But I have to say if you are serious about getting your health in order, you need to be using MyFitnessPal.

It's been an integral part of the adjustments I've made in my life. I set my goal at 2lbs a week and have not missed a week yet. February 1, 2015 my weight was 309lbs. As of March 21, 2015 I weighted 294lbs.

Truthfully I've learned so much about what I can, should and shouldn't eat. I can even go big at times. Last Saturday I did an extra hour in the pool, cut down  on my breakfast and a few snacks by just a little and had enough calories for a Little Caesars Bacon Wrap Deep Dish Pizza to literally fill me up!

And I didn't even go over my calorie limit for the day!  That is the way to live my friends!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Back in the Water

I'm not a young man. As much as I hate to say may age (older IS NOT better in the entertainment business), I'll be 58 sometime this year. I grew up in the Midwest and while I my memory has never been great, I can't ever remember not being in the water when I was growing up.

As a child all our vacations revolved around going to a lake. In my earliest years it was in Minnesota, starting in the early 60s it became Big Manistique Lake in Curtis, MI. There is still a boathouse with my name scrawled on one of the old wooden locker doors. Below it every year from 1963 to 1975 is listed. It was 2 weeks in the water every year.

My family home from 1970 - 1978 had an in ground swimming pool. It was 20' x 40' and 8' deep, complete with a pretty good diving board. I hated cleaning that thing ...

But I DID like being in the water and I've always felt very comfortable in the water. In 1968 we lived in Chicago and my parents had the good sense to send me to the High Ridge YMCA every Saturday to take swimming lessons. I was 11 years old and went by myself, my how things have changed.

I would get on the #96 Lunt Ave bus every Saturday morning and ride it for 15 minutes to the YMCA. My mom didn't take me to the stop, I just walked down to the corner and waited for the bus to get there. I can remember a couple times when I was a little late and since the driver was the same every week he actually waited a minute for me while I ran up the block to make it.

Can you imagine letting your 11 year old do something like that today? In Chicago?

Those lessons at the YMCA made me a very proficient swimmer. I never used those skills for exercise, I just was able to "handle myself" in the water. I spent a lot of my free time in the water until I went into the work force. For the most part, my time in the water ended. I spent very little time in the pool for the next 35 or so years. Until the beginning of this year.

I had been in an auto accident March of 2010 that left me in a pretty rough state. Unable to exercise I gained weight which exacerbated my issues. I finally got to a point towards the end 2014 where I felt ready to start exercising. Walking was out of the question and even though I had run marathons before the accident, that was out too. So my only option left was to head to the pool.

My wife and I joined the local YMCA and made the commitment to go 3 days a week. We started in the middle of January and have continued ever since. To my dismay, I was really unable to swim. My issue was not the mechanics, I still could do that. My big issue was breathing. Aside from having to exert myself because of my size and poor physical condition, I was unable to properly breath when I was doing the crawl. My neck is still so stiff I have a difficulty turning my head far enough and fast enough to get enough air to keep going. I couldn't swim half a length of the pool.

So I ended up starting out treading water for 45 minutes at a time. I chose treading water because I had done some research and was surprised to find out that treading water burns a lot of calories! Treading water at a moderate rate burns the same number of calories as  running at 10 minute per mile pace. That meant my 45 minutes was equal to running 4.5 miles! That was the kind of running I used to do daily.

While treading water got me started my goal is to swim laps. At the end of every session I would try to swim a length and by the end of a month and a half I was able to get all the way. It was very frustrating. I felt if I could get my breathing under control I would be able to start swimming. I just couldn't figure out how to get that right.

Click on the image to see more information

Then I found the Finis snorkel! It's actually made for competitive swimmers. They use it to work on their form.

I am no competitive swimmer but what it does do for me is allows me to do the crawl without having to turn my neck to breath. In addition to that I can breath regardless of where I am in my stroke which is also very helpful.

It had an immediate effect for me. I was able to go barely being able to swim 1 length of the pool to getting in 2 1/2 laps.

That may not seem like much to you but if a person in might shape can make a leap like that ... image what a person in decent shape could do.

I'm also going to admit that I did feel a little foolish when I first started using it. I had those feelings of "everyone is looking at me". Those quickly faded away as it has become easier for me to swim laps.

I'm very confident that using this snorkel is going to help me get into shape much faster. Once I get to a point where I'm not struggling so hard to breathe I plan to wean myself off the snorkel. It's a means to and end for me.

So right now I'm spending an hour in the pool at least 3 days a week. I tread water for 55 minutes and swim laps for 5. My plan is to stay at an hour but increase the amount of time I do laps. So far it seems to be working. Today I was able to get 5 laps in without really losing my breath.

My time in the pool along with getting control of my eating is showing some results. On February 1 I weighed in at 309lbs. Last Friday I weighed in at 296lbs. I have had a steady 2lb a week loss since I've been tracking it.

Next blog I'll tell you how I got control of my eating ...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Why You Should Listen to the Spew (Why I didn't quit)

"Squeaky Chicken" from the the first Mentorist Podcast
next to the microphone I use for Podcasting.
The first episode of The Spew was Nov 11, 2010. I had been doing The Green Room since April 2008. By then I felt like I had a pretty good grasp of podcasting. On The Green Room I made sure I was not the story. It was always about the comedian being interviewed.

I felt like it was time to start speaking about myself, that maybe my story might be of interest.

I should have known better, at times my life could be pretty boring. Plus back then I was really not in a great place. I'm sure I was clinically depressed, my finances weren't good and my comedy career was slowly circling the drain. Add to that the fact that I'm actually a pretty private person and can't start any of my stories with "I'd been drinking all day"; I really didn't have much to say.

Just the same I started and have been doing my best to put out something weekly. To some of your credit, you've managed to stay with me ... at times. The journey has not been an easy one. I've floated all over the place with the podcast. At times I did it when I shouldn't. I've even fallen asleep while doing it, all of which I left in. Why? I don't know. "Keeping it real" sounds a little contrived. The truth is I'd rather someone be able to see me for what I am flaws and all. It also gives anyone that's truly interested the chance to see how I got here.

I have to say, here (right now) is a pretty good place.

I'd like to tell you I can remember when the podcast took the turn to where it is today but I don't. It has been over a year now. It wasn't anything that I had planned, it just happened. As the weeks went by, it continued to increase in frequency until it became a regular part of the show. Never planned or scripted, it just happened.

What is "it"?

"It" is the voice in my head or "The Voice" as I call it. "The Voice" among other things is my critical side, my negative side and my angry side.  "The Voice" believes it's my pragmatic side too. The reason is he thinks he's the "smart one". He's a bit of a "know it all" and a "back seat driver". He has an opinion on everything.

The Spew is an "unscripted" podcast, I do very little to prepare. Over the course of the week I write down topics that I want to talk about.  An example would be the topics for this weeks Spew:

Status of The Green Room and The Mentorist

What's going on with this podcast

Mason City
- Open Mic night
- Regular show

Rock & Roll Roulette

- When things go wrong
- Turning up the uncomfortable

I may or may not talk about all of those things. I don't write any scripts or great "one liner's". I sit down in front of the microphone and start talking.  The reason being I want the listener to feel like I am speaking with them. I don't want my words to sound prepared or contrived.

The same thing goes for "The Voice". There is no plan for what he's going to say. It comes out as I'm speaking, there is no preparation. No lines are written or scripted and nothing is pre-recorded. Think about the times in your life when you're doing or saying something and the voice in your head says "this really isn't a good idea"? That's what "The Voice" would say to me out loud.

By allowing "The Voice" to speak on the podcast, I give the listener a look at my fragile side. It's humorous and done without explanation as it happens. It's well worth the listen.

That's how I feel about doing the podcast. In all fairness, I feel like you should also hear from "The Voice". At least then you'll have a better idea of what to expect.

So for the purposes of why you might want to give The Spew a try what follows is what "The Voice" has to say about the podcast.

From "The Voice"

If you read this far I don't know how I can help you. Any normal person would have tapped out by now. I've always said the Vilmos has no business podcasting, now I can say that blogging is not for him either.

While Vilmos would like you to believe that I am a mean busy body know-it-all I can tell you that what I really am is the voice of reason. Let us not forget, I have to hear every single thing that goes through this man's mind. Someone has keep things in perspective. At times telling the truth is difficult but it's something I feel I must do.

So if you do decide to give The Spew a try remember, I'm here for you. It's a thankless job but one I feel needs to be done.

Your welcome!

The Voice

In conclusion.

I've been saying for some time now that The Spew is the most unique podcast on the Internet. No one else is doing what I am. That in itself should be enough of a reason for you to give it a listen.

Thanks in advance if you do!

Listen to The Spew episode this about here

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Just When I Thought I Was Out

Last week on my podcasts The Green Room and The Mentorist I announced that I would be ending both those podcasts along with my personal podcast The Spew. It was something that I had been thinking about for months.

In the 2 weeks leading up to the announcement I had not done my personal podcast The Spew. When the time came to record, I just didn't have it in me. I didn't realize it at the time but I had been pushing through The Green Room and The Mentorist for a while. Mostly because my cohosts Paul Curtis and Super Listener Scott Walker were expecting me to show up. Both have become friends and are very capable podcasters.

If I'm going to be honest, for those 2 weeks I hadn't done The Spew I was done with the other two; even though I didn't realize it at the time. Once that moment of clarity came to me, I thought I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I contacted Paul and Scott and explained what was going on. They were both extremely gracious and while they were both disappointed,  they understood. So we made the announcements on this past weeks episodes; next week both podcasts will have their final episode.

Which left The Spew, how was I going to end that?  Or was it already ended? Should I do a final show? I wasn't sure what to do, maybe I should just let it drift away, having no final show.

Since I was ending The Green Room I felt like I needed to get in touch with the other hosts on GreenRoomRadio web site. I didn't want them to think I was going to close down the site. When I talked with Geno Bisconte the (host of Geno's Pics) he voiced his disappointment in the ending of The Spew. Geno has alway been a fan of the show and didn't want to see me quit doing it. I had also received the same sentiment Scott Walker.

While I appreciated the sentiment, it didn't change my mind. I went about the business of doing the 2nd to last episodes of The Green Room and The Mentorist. Both shows went like they normally do and I'll admit I'm looking forward to the final shows this week. Not because it will be over. They will both be a little difficult, what I'm actually looking forward to is doing some reminiscing.

Then this past weekend I started thinking ... maybe I shouldn't quit doing The Spew. I'll tell you why in my next entry.