Lee writes a review on Amazon

I know, can you believe I’ve never written a review on Amazon before?  I wasn’t going to, but my friend asked nicely in her “you will do it!” sort of way.  My friend Bailey designed the cover and packaging Hyde by Vince Churchill from Dark Region Press.  How could I resist erotic noir? (I believe that’s how she pitched — if not, I’m confiscating that term, trademark pending.)  Not only that I got a wonderfully inscribed copy, since you all know by now I collect books, signed books, books that require you to wear gloves to touch and books that shall not be touched.

Here is my review which let’s be honest is the cheater’s way of writing a blog post.  So sue me, its not like you pay to read my drivel and be amused by my outstanding (in my own delusional mind anyway) wit.

 

Redefining Erotic Noir, Emphasing The Noir

Up front, lets recognize that a. this book is not for everyone and b. it is more of a novella than novel. That being said, I could not put it down. Everyone who read or wants to read “50 Shades of Its not really like that” should invest the time to read this. Churchill takes the tired premises of exploring boundaries and twisted (according to some pundits who prefer to keep their proclivities closeted) tastes and repackages them in a neat, digestible treat. It is like have an exceptional, experiment 5-star meal after finally acknowledging that In ‘n Out Burger is THE BEST. Your view-point changes, your tastebuds are challenged and your mind expands. Are you ever really the same after that?

I don’t want to spoil anything, as it is quick rollercoaster ride that I read in 3 sittings. Nevertheless the first twist was predictable, leaving me to wonder if… Nevermind, that was the Double McGuffin. Very little was really predictable. The main character was well fleshed out, believable and interesting. My only complaint was that it was a bit shorter than I liked, with several places where motivations and consequences could have been mined for gold. Gold Jerry! I blame the over zealous editor.

An cheers on the cover and packaging. Everything suited and accentuated the moods that built throughout the read.

Joe Bob gives it 4 stars. Sadly there was no aardvark fu. Check it out. Or be tied up and have it read to you. hmm….

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Its Not Just Me with Black Marks on My Permanent Record – The NFL Joins the Party

Suddenly the news cycle and our vocabularies are filled with domestic violence, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Roger Goodell.  It grew and spread faster than the firestorm that took down the Oakland Hills in 1991.  And then we threw Adrian Peterson and Jonathon Dwyer into the mix and the news cycle exploded all over again.  The only thing that surprised me was the national reaction.

Let me be very clear.  I am in no way excusing or condoning domestic violence or hitting women or children.  If it helps, replace the term domestic violence with “act we can all agree is completely and utterly wrong”.  It just happens to be the foundational issue that brings my focus the news circus.

When Roger Goodell gave Ray Rice a 2 game suspension and fined him an additional game check, there was near universal outcry – except of course from the Baltimore Ravens and their fans – that it was far too lenient.  After all, smoking pot gets you 4 games and it is legal in in 2 states recreationally and medically in many more.  I sat and wondered, really?  Not about the outcry, but about the on-going public reaction.

Early on I realized and I’ve tried to reinforce with my kids the underlying concept of the world:  Life is NOT fair.  The sooner you realize it and work with that, the easier it is get past the frequent disappointments you inevitably run across.  As much as we may hope and want it to be so, life and work is not a meritocracy.  Being born extremely rich can open doors and smooth out rough spots that many others are burdened with.    Money solves many issues.  Especially when you have way more than any one person needs.

In the workplace, it is not about wealth.  It is about connections, politics and perceived value.  Surely I’m not the only one who has worked with people who were seemingly rewarded for acts others were fired for committing?    Or that imbecile running a department or division because she’s someone else’s favorite child, yet continually making bad decisions, running off the talent and seemingly failing to the top.  Surely you recognize someone similar.  Maybe it’s the executive who swears and rudely belittles people in public, but is protected because he holds the key to (what is perceived to be) a key customer.  It leaves you scratching your head doesn’t it?  What happened to the HR policies about respect, diversity and open doors?  Sadly, they are often conveniently forgotten.

Managers generally make decisions and take action based upon what they believe is in their best interest.  People rarely sacrifice their best interests for what’s best for the company, especially now that “lifetime employment” is no longer part of the implied social contract or business topology.  Roger Goodell giving Ray Rice a gentle, $1million slap on the wrist was what he perceived to be in best interests of the NFL.  It definitely benefited the Ravens.  As you recall, there was a lot of hullabullo and vitriol, but nothing changed.

What changed was the leak of the video.  That surprised me, because it showed exactly what I assumed happened.  What really happened is that all the people willing to not care, suddenly looked foolish.  Not because anything changed, but everything changed.  People were forced to confront what they wanted to assume didn’t exist.  It was no longer ok to move forward.  And when people mass, so do the advertisers.  In a nutshell, let’s be honest, societal pressure was going to build on the advertisers.  That is what the NFL caved to, not the public.  Season tickets were sold.  TV contracts are measured in billions.  But the advertisers have clout.  The advertisers saw what could happen and acted.  Anheuser-Busch and Procter and Gamble made moves that may have been telegraphed prior to their announcements.

Whether it was those specific moves of the realization they were coming is what moved the NFL.  Society can make changes, albeit small ones, through the government.  Capitalism is what moves business.  In my experience, and I have worked with several myopic executives, the through process usually goes something like this:

  1. What do I want?
  2. What makes ME the most money/how does it affect the stock price?
  3. Will anyone notice or care?
  4. What is the right thing to do?

To my way of thinking that is the order the NFL thought until people and advertisers noticed.  That is where the income is generated and has the potential to affect the game and its owners.  If the think about it, I’m sure you’ve seen similar reactions in your work environments.  And you aren’t on TV.

We have all seen the sales person who generates sales but lacks in other areas.  Perhaps they are selfish and not team players, putting their success above anyone else’s results.  I was once called to HR I dared to suggest that a sales executive should be able to file, retain and retrieve the monthly production sales report.  It was Wednesday and the report had been distributed on Monday.  She considered this harassment.  Nothing came of it because she harassed at least twice each quarter according to her.  Of course nothing was done to change her behavior.  She was deemed important, similar to Ray Rice and what I can only assume where his jersey sales.

Another time everyone was going out to celebrate the new job the sales manager had gotten and was sad he was leaving.  I was in the minority because I believed that the fact that he had slept with 4 of his subordinates as well as several other women in the company, was sexual harassment and his exit was good riddance.   I was quickly educated that I was wrong and I should get over my tired ethics.  I’m sad to report my ethics have not changed and I fully believe that sleeping with your subordinates is wrong.  Of course there are exceptions and there are processes, but in this case, I always felt like there was a very dirty element in this instance.

And of course there was the VP I worked for that made every decision based on how it made him look.  Because of his tenure and connections, it took wasting millions of dollars and exiling too much talent before his name was presented for a trip to the corporate gallows’ pole.  To my mind that was a form of workplace abuse.  I’m sure it is far more common than we think.  It was when I realized ideals were important, but being right was not enough.  Life was not a meritocracy.  Work was not a test where the right answer got you an A.  Sometimes, you have to purposefully get thing wrong to be seen as successful.

So while what Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, and others in the NFL have done is deplorable, exacerbated by Goodell’s meat -handed handling and been too visible in the news cycle, it has been happening in business for years.  In the past, it was probably even condoned.   After all, cronyism came from somewhere.  I’m encouraged to see the national spotlight moved to domestic problems that we have tolerated for too long.  And while we are at, maybe we continue to improve in other areas, holding people accountable for all of their actions, not just the ones we find convenient.

Trouble in (slow moving) River City

Just a quick update.  I’ve gotten over my sense of loss related to the missing toothpick.  Today I glanced down because we all look where we are going.  (I was talking about transportation — get your head out of the urinal.) Much to my surprise, there was a royal  blue urinal screen.  My first thought was “what happened to the green?”  (Ok, maybe I do go there. Go! Ha!)

After a moment, I had bigger issues to ponder.  I was quickly past the “blue + yellow = green” stage.  The name of the massive screen was Rough Guy.  It’s logo was stylized diamond in the approximate form of a Weeble.  As you recall, Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.  The Rough Guy was more of a top.

Seriously?  You see where all this is headed.  Who thought these were a good idea in an office?  Clearly, they were intended for a night club of sorts.  Or a sex club.  Or both.

Wasn’t it Dr. Seuss who said “Oh, the things you’ll see!” Nope, he said “Oh, the places you’ll go!”   I guess He was right. Although perhaps he should have added, something about the objects, sitting in the places I’ll go.

It was a shitty week.  Hence the toilet humor. <shrug>

It’s an Oak Farm, Maggie

“Oh lord, stuck in Lodi, again,” echoed somewhere in the deeper corners of my consciousness. When someone mentions Lodi – a tiny rural metropolis just north of Stockton – Credence Clearwater Revival’s seminal tune about plans going sideways is always front and center.  These day, if you are paying close attention to the FX hit “Sons of Anarchy” there are several Lodi references per season, but then you are not really looking for that if it isn’t in your back year.  In truth, I live about 45 miles from the edge of Lodi, travelling through the delta.  How do I know this?  I have spent many hours racing the clock and avoiding slow moving trucks and open drawbridges to reach the truck stop there to on time for a child swap.  Good times.

Today was different.  Over the last several years, Lodi has started building a good reputation for zinfandel and other wines.  Though I might be a bit of oenophile, I had not gone tasting Lodi yet.  Today that changed.  My friend Peter was organizing a blogger preview of the new tasting room at Oak Farm and, why yes, I am a blogger.  And I do love my wine.  And I’m social and always up for adventure.   I know, you are surprised again.

I really didn’t need directions, having driven far too often to Jackson (CA) and knowing there are no freeways from Lodi to there.  I was taking the road that runs east, taking longer looks at the grapevines I’d driven by many times in the past 12 years.  Turning left to go north on a well-marked road, I passed vineyards and small farm  Then, almost out of nowhere, l large attractive wooden structure rose to my left.  It was big and clearly my destination.

Oak Farm

Oak Farm

Oak Farm has been around for a while, buying the grapes for their wines, while dedicating most of its estate the rewarding pursuit of growing grapes destined to become adult kool-aid, or as you may know it, white zin.  While it is not my choice to drink, it has a huge market and no one should blamed for making money from a willing market.  I’m a capitalist and I approve this message.

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Chad Joseph, the wine maker, toured a few of us around the facility.    As we approached the new buildings, the older one, lovingly referred to as the “the barn”, looked out of place.    It fit well in with Lodi’s basic bucolic history, but juxtaposed to the new buildings, it reminded me of how people once viewed the changing world as the industrial age reached into the countryside changing transportation, farming and communications.  In this change is about destination.

The new winery and tasting room was stunning.  The court-yard between the tasting room and the winemaking facility would have been appropratiate at an upper echelon Napa winery.  It was stunning with fountains, a reflecting pool and several comfortable places for lounging with your wine and traveling companions.  Of course, this being a preview, I had to imagine the water, but we are in a drought and the water was not on yet.  Luckily for Oak Farm, and you, I have a wonderful imagination.

The winery had new tanks and equipment to go along with the new facility.  I am very interested and excited to see what they do in the coming years as they grow their own fruit.

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The tasting room was magnificent and well laid out to accommodate well over 30, if not 50.  I am not going to pretend to be the expert on the Lodi wine scene, but I can see Oak Farm becoming the destination it appears to want to be.  The room was well-organized and decorated, adding eye-catching details such as the lights without detracting from the main attraction the wine is meant to be.  The room and grounds allow a visitor to feel a bit of luxury without going too far and becoming pretentious.  IMG_3163When the room starts to fill and the wine begins to flow, I think this will be fun place to visit and hang out.  If they didn’t want me to hang out they shouldn’t have put such comfortable lounging chairs outside.

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Oak Farm is also set up for weddings with a wonderful grassy area under a 400 year old oak.  Of course if you are reading this and looking to me for advice on wedding spots, you already know you’ve made a mistake.

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I was able to taste several of the current release wines, paired with some delicious food from the Lodi Airport Café.  The food was as tasty as it looked and paired well with the wines.

Let’s talk about why you are here.  The wines.IMG_3169

The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($20) tasted slightly of apple with a grassy undertone, a bit of butter and a tingling finish. I like this and thought it paired well with the corn and tomato crustini.

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2012 Oaked Chardonnay ($22) had a hint of vanilla, with a good balance of butter and fruit.  It was not overly buttery as many Chardonnays are and had a nice balance of fruit notes which are my preference these days.

The (non-vintage) Tievoili ($24) is a red blend with some oak on the nose and very few tannins.  It has nice round flavor with a bit of a berry component, making me want some salumi and hard bread.  It may not be vintage designated, but all the components were harvested in 2012.  In a move as cheesy as one I might make, the wine’s name spelled backward is “I love it.”

The 2012 Barbera ($32) is dark, warm, and velvety.  It is moderately complex with berries in the middle between mild tannins and the warm glow of your smile.  There is a hint of oak in the nose.  It paired well with the roast beef crustini with a hint of horseradish.  I really want a cache of this for my meals.

The 2012 Dolce Blanc ($22) is a Gewurztraminer based desert wine.  It was not too sweet, a perfect match for a slice of deep dish apple pie with a slice of good cheddar or alternately a hard cheese course.  It reminded me of a perfect pear in a glass, slightly viscous, silky and decadent.  This was my favorite wine of the day which is unusual for me.  Oh, and it is a 750ml bottle, not 375ml.

I should mention that the food was from the Lodi Airport Cafe and was quite tasty.  It even looks good in my picture.

Oak Farm is having its grand opening October 25 and 26.  This is the sort of place that you’ll tell your friends about and build your reputation on for having found it first.  You don’t need to tell them I told you.  The environment is great and I’m excited to see what Chad will do when the estate grown grapes come in the 2017 and 2018 harvests.

This is a farm I want to visit over and over.  No, it is not Maggie’s.

IMG_3164IMG_3162(yes, I finally put me here)

 

 

An Unexpect Reappearance or Yeah, That Happiness Couldn’t Last Could It?

It had been at least 6 months, but the idiotic lady put another note on my car letting me know I may get towed because I blocked a wall that was a loading dock in some previous life.  It’s the same note she puts there all the time, but today I have new questions to ponder.  Why has she just now decided to tag my car with her ridiculous note?  Was I taking the spot she so desperately needed for her dog groomer?  I wasn’t the only one blocking the walls of her office, so were the others some sort of Oakland unicorn? Or perhaps they were her coworkers, given special dispensation to park in front of the imaginary loading dock.  We’ve already decided she’s a bit off her rocker.

I think my next move is to sell her character to TV as the next sitcom villain, a la The Soup Nazi.  I’m starting to think she’s make a great long running foil for Jeff Garlin on “The Goldbergs”.  Of course first we’ll need to address the subtle anti-Semitism on that show. I wonder if half of the country even realizes they are Jewish.  There are no cultural religious references past the traditional names Adam, Barry and Murray.  Did you miss that there was not Christmas episode? Instead there was a hilarious Thanksgiving episode, with no religious overtones, no dreidels and no latkes.

Let’s suppose the Goldbergs are highly assimilated.  That’s not a crime.  My paternal grandparents were.  But there home and their lives were not devoid of Jewish culture.  It is who we are and what we know.  No one is going to accuse me of being overly religious or unassimilated.  Yet if you look, there are religious symbols in the home, a beautiful Mezuzah on the door, a few special pieces of art here and there.  Some things should never be forgotten.  I hope that Adam’s family remember that this season.  I do seriously want Big Tasty to some sort of hardcore rap espousing the virtues of the latke.  Badly.

Murray and Pops from the Goldbergs would have a conniption with my nemesis, the parking Nazi.

<breaking the 4th wall> By the way, feel free to suggest a new name for this bitch.  She needs a more appropriate name for the next note I put in their mail box. </rebuilding the 4th wall>

Much like myself, the senior Goldbergs would ponder what type of company could this crazy parking lady work for?  Why would they let her run hundreds of copies of ridiculous notes off their copier?  Why would they allow her to antagonize the neighbors and local color?  You know that downtown Oakland, much like Philadelphia, has more than its share of nut jobs.  Why would you risk antagonizing them?  Is parking rage about to become the crisis of 2015?  I can see that.

Let’s look at her erratic behavior from a different angle.  Perhaps she pays for the copies out of her own pocket, either making the copies at some local copy shop or on her home printer. As you recall the note is written in 40pt font with a marker.  If you owned that company and you saw your employee doing that, wouldn’t you wonder what else she was doing?  More importantly, I might question what she WAS NOT doing by focusing on parked cars.  Which leads me to my most disturbing realization.

She either owns the company or holds a position of ridiculously imbalanced importance.  Oh fuck.  Imagine the poor souls whose employment depends on her making sound business decisions.  I’m still waiting for her to have my car towed.  I will own that fucking company.  Meanwhile, I guess I will work up a character treatment and see if I can get a meeting in Hollywood.

I’ve seen Episodes.  How hard can it be?