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A MEANINGFUL LESSON
8/17/16

It seems like only yesterday - but was, in fact, decades ago. A young Chris Kamler walked behind his mother, who likely had two or three other children in tow either on her hip or, more likely, inside a full shopping cart. We had a habit of just grabbing things off the shelf and putting them in the cart. Lucky Charms? How did those get in there? A bag of marshmallows? That doesn't seem right.

But it was that particular day I will never forget. In the pocket of my jean shorts (hey, this was the early 80's) were three packages of Topps Baseball Cards. Packages that remained in my pocket until we safely reached our station wagon outside of the Bob's IGA Superstore. (It was called “Superstore” but with four registers and no Chinese deli inside, it wouldn't hold up to the standards of the HyVee that replaced it years later.)

“Where did you get those?” My mother asked as I began to rip open the first package snapping the pink, powdery slab of bubble gum into my mouth.

“From the store.” Now, this is technically correct. My mother's error was not specifying how I obtained the baseball cards although the answer was relatively obvious since I was only seven and did not have a job, nor money to buy baseball cards.

“Did you pay for them?”

“Yes.” This, as some might call it, was a lie. You made a mistake, and now you compounded it by lying. Oh, sweet, innocent little seven year old Chris. If I could go back in time to change that moment and also whisper in your ear to cool it on the processed foods.

What followed was my first and most meaningful lesson about lying. The next several moments were a blur of my mother ripping me out of the car (likely leaving the other kids in the parking lot, which you could do back then) and storming me back into the store. At that point, I met the store manager, Mr. Lemon. I remember his name because he introduced himself to me from behind rimmed glasses pushed down to the tip of his nose. He had exchanged a twinkle wink with my mother and then proceeded to lay into me about the perils of stealing $1.75 worth of Topps baseball cards from his store. “What if we just let everyone take what they wanted? We would go out of business and I would lose my job!”

Easy there, Mr. Lemon. I get it. Don't shoplift. And if you do shoplift, don't lie to your mother about it. Oddly enough, when Bob's IGA did go out of business years later, they said it was that lost revenue of $1.75 back in 1981 that put it over the top.

I was reminded of that story this week, when the whole world was held breathless as Ryan Lochte evaded the long arm of the Rio Police telling lie after lie to get out of the country. Finally, Lochte came clean about his drunken escapades, but has paid the price in the financial losses from a rash of lost endorsement deals.

If my mother had anything to do with this, he'd be yanked by his arm and paraded in front of the American public with a stern “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU JUST DID? NOW YOU GO RIGHT OUT THERE AND APOLOGIZE TO AMERICA.”

Hey, we get it. People sometimes drink a little too much, pee on the side of a gas station and rip down a poster from the side of a building. It happens. Tequila is rough. But you SURE as hell don't lie about it. The old saying remains as true as ever - it's not the deed, it's the coverup that will get you.

In addition to losing the trust of the American people, I'm most concerned that Ryan Lochte has lost the trust of my mother. I hope he's happy and knows he will be going to bed without supper.

(It’s not a lie that Chris Kamler is worth your time on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also breathe in his sex appeal on Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook)

 


BITS AND BITES
8/17/16

Lots of little column ideas this week, but, honestly, I've been working on my triple flip vault in my living room while watching the Olympics. The ambulance driver said I've almost perfected it. See you in Tokyo in 2020!

•Did you catch our esteemed leader on public radio the other day talking about rural journalism? He did a great job. But how is a county with one of the busiest airports in the Midwest “rural?” Just because we have to claim Tracy doesn't mean the rest of the county needs to get drug down with it.

•I spent 600 words two weeks ago telling you all about how I wasn't going to watch any football this year because of what I think it's doing to the players and their health long term. I didn't even last a week. I watched 100% of the Chiefs preseason game. This is probably why I can never stick to a diet.

•I've been giving a lot of thought to this year's election, as we all have. Both of the prospective nominees are awful. Hillary seems like she will stop at nothing to fulfil her destiny and Trump is... wow. I really think he is mentally ill. For real. But when it comes down to the lesser of two evils, I think you really have to look at possibly just having a bad president or a president who could get pissed off at China because of a tweet and blow the country off the map. I guess that's where we are.

•My brother was kind enough to let me borrow his trailer to haul off some brush a few weeks ago. I backed it into my yard and as I drove it out promptly skinned all of the grass about the size of half a tennis court. I bought one of those bags of grass seed and threw down large handfuls of the stuff. Then read the directions like a true man. It said “do not mow for three weeks.” So now the rest of my lawn looks like the Amazon rainforest with a small tennis court in the middle.

•Last week I talked about the psychology behind lines. Yesterday, I had the privilege of going to a local CVS where they corner the market on LANE CLOSED signs. I take it all back. Ten minutes behind three people is enough to drive someone crazy. Give me the false Premium lines.

•That being said, I think I've found a bigger mind screw with regards to lines than the AMC “Premier” line. Papa John's is offering that you can pay $2.50 to have your pizza prepared and delivered “first.” This supposedly doesn't mean that those who don't pay would take any longer to deliver their pizza. And, in the fine print, it says that the $2.50 doesn't guarantee any difference in when your pizza is delivered. It's just an extra $2.50 you can pay and that Papa John's can have.

Kind of like just walking up to someone on the street and giving them a $10 bill.

Way to go, Papa.

•Will this finally be the August and September that aren't like the surface of the sun around here? Or will fall only last about four days before the monsoon ice-pellet rains of Halloween happen?

•Finally, I've been on a bit of a biking kick lately. Not quite ready for the Olympics just yet, unless it's all downhill. But I have been tooling around the Line Creek Trail a good bit. That being said, I'm going to challenge myself to a 35 mile race at the end of September. The bad news is that I've never gone that distance before. But the good news is that BBQ is being served along the route and the proceeds go to help cancer patients and cancer research. If you have a couple of extra bucks laying around and would like to help the cause in my (soon to be dead on the side of the road) name, the link is here:

https://fundraise.tourdebbq.com/thefakened

(Get your Chris Kamler fix on Twitter @TheFakeNed or follow his snaps on Snapchat or his instants on Instagram)

 


LINES
8/10/16

If you've ever been in the armed forces, bought groceries, or voted in a presidential election, you've become very familiar with lines. Heck, if you've ever been to an amusement park, a really nice restaurant, or even a really crappy restaurant - you've waited in a line.

It's something that I can't stand, personally. I hate waiting in traffic. I can't stand waiting more than five minutes at McDonald’s and I frankly don't even like slow internet. I am completely spoiled with getting whatever I want when I want and if that doesn't happen then I go elsewhere.

That being said, I observed something over the weekend that left me wondering if there is any hope at all for humanity with regard to lines.

Let me set it up for you. I had been looking forward for weeks to seeing the new Star Trek movie. Being adverse to lines, I waited until the second weekend to watch it and I also bought tickets at the AMC on Barry so you get your own assigned seat - that way, there's no line, or at least there's no need for a line. (People still lined up, which I don't understand. But I digress.)

AMC has a rewards program called Stubs. Basically, it's a way to get $5 back for every $100 you spend and, in return, AMC gets your email address and gets to send you emails and whatever. It's a decent trade-off if you like to go to movies every now and again.

So inside of AMC Stubs, there are two tiers. There's a free tier - where you get that tracking, you get a coupon every once in awhile for free popcorn and AMC still gets your email. Then there's a “Premier” tier - where you pay $20 a year and you get more coupons as well as you get $10 back for every $100 you spend. Being as how I have a teenage boy and all of us like movies, it's a decent investment.

So we show up to the theater on Friday, tickets in hand and we're ready to go get a soda, some popcorn and see Captain Kirk kill some bad guys. Friday night at the movies in the summer is a MESS. There are lines everywhere, and I mitigated as much as I could, but there was still one line remaining - the line for concessions. If I wanted my Mike N Ikes, I was going to have to wait in a line.

At AMC, you've got five stations. I've only ever seen four of them manned and four were manned on Friday. You had about five people in line at three of the four stations. Given the fact that these stations are manned by 17 year olds, I quickly calculated the best line to get in based on age of purchasers, whether they were overweight or looked hungry, and if they looked like they might take a lot of time ordering. This is what I call the KLWI - Kamler Line Wait Index. Of the three lines in front of me, I began to make my selection. But then... I saw it off to the right. A lighted sign that said: STUBS PREMIER CUSTOMERS ONLY. The line was marked with those fancy red velvet ropes. What's interesting is that there were TWICE the number of people in this line.

Did they hand out hot dogs covered in diamonds? Do they let you meet a member of the Star Trek cast in this line? What prompted people to wait twice as long in this line as compared to the other three lines?

Turns out, nothing. There was nothing special about this line other than it was dedicated to Premier members, who, could have gotten the same perks and coupons in any of the other (shorter) lines. What they line goers did get is a sense of entitlement that they were waiting in a “special” line.

I ended up finding the shortest line (three people with a hyper efficient checkout person - three minute wait) while the “Premier” customers were still eight deep missing the previews.

I guess membership doesn't always have its privileges.

(Chris Kamler gives you privileges on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. And you can search for him on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and wherever else a wisecracker is welcome)

 


 

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?
8/3/16

In the age of social media, there seems to be an overwhelming need to proclaim when you're about to make a change in your life. “I'm going to stop eating dairy!” or “I'm changing auto insurance carriers!!”

Part of that need is the reassurance or arguments you'll get in for that type of declaration. So it is in that spirit that I'm going to announce that I won't be following football this year.

Of course there will be caveats. I mean, it's football. It's the NFL, Monday Night Football, Mizzou Football, High School Football. But my intention is to not actively follow it this year. None of it.

I might catch a play here and there. But I will not be setting an appointment to park myself on the couch Saturday morning starting with College Gameday and finishing after midnight on Monday night following the ESPN game.

I think I really am done with it.

My reasoning? It's cruel and unusual punishment. PBS's Frontline recently noted that “researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University found chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which the Mayo Clinic defines as ‘brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas’ that is “a diagnosis only made at autopsy,” in 96 percent of the NFL players” and that 40% of inactive players suffer from some sort of brain trauma.

When you look at some of the violent crimes committed in the world right now and you look at the crimes being committed by football players against women, I can't sit and support it.

It's going to kill me. I LOVE football. I love covering it and I love watching it and screaming at my television. But I'm also feeding into a system that is producing brain damaged humans. Not just at the professional and high college levels - but brain injuries that start in Pee Wee leagues. Many leagues are choosing to reduce the introduction of true tackle football until 14 years old. Studies have found and lawsuits have been lodged claiming that kids as early as 12 are suffering from CTE related to youth football.

I remember a game I was covering a couple years ago for The Landmark and 810 Varsity. I remember a running back hit at the line of scrimmage and then being knocked out for several moments. I had to do the play-by-play as the circle of players and concerned coaches formed around the player and, later, the ambulance that drove him away.

I think a lot about that kid now every time I see football players - like I will likely see this week as training camp opens up. I can't tell you I won't watch 100% of football this year. But I can tell you that what little I do watch, that kid will weigh heavy on my mind.

So there you have it. I've proclaimed my intentions. Now I'm off to Instagram to send out pictures of my lunch - another social media classic.

(Catch the notorious Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also get pictures of his lunch on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat)

 


ALL WE ARE SAYING IS GIVE POKEMON A CHANCE
7/20/16

There's a piece of sage wisdom that I find myself repeating to friends and family more and more as I get older - control what you can control. Regardless of the carnage that we see nightly on our newscasts there is very little we can do to control these issues. ISIS, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, or just your regular run of the mill shooting in your neighborhood -- there's not much you can do about it. Heck we can't even live in a world where the Kardashians get along with Taylor Swift.

What I choose to do with my energy is twofold - first, I think I'm just stuck accepting the fact that I just have to be a good person the rest of my life. My subconscious goal of riding in a Sons of Anarchy-style biker gang are probably out of the question. So I'd better stop flipping people off in the parking lot of the Hy-Vee.

The second is a little less personal. I'd better start preparing my son to do better than this. He needs to learn that his parents can simply not be terrible people at times - like many of the discussions he hears on television.

With all that being said, I'm voting for Pokémon Go this election season. It seems to be the only way that human beings can interact with each other without being spiteful, hateful and nasty. Oh, and there are very few shootings (although there are some).

Pokémon Go is the new phone-based game encouraging you to walk around (that's what people used to do before rascals became popular) and catch little cartoon creatures. There's a leveling system and it's actually a pretty simple game. The catch is that over 21 million daily active users are playing it. It's gained overnight success in the truest sense of the word and it is also resulting in economic development for brick and mortar stores who happen to be Pokémon Go points. (Brick and mortar stores are where you used to buy food and clothes before Amazon.com.)

Not surprisingly, there has also been backlash from people (on Twitter, go figure) about the game. “You're in your 40's grow up” was one comment when I mentioned that I play the game. But here's where my thesis statement really swells. There are no racial or gender biases in this game. I went to Macken Park last weekend and played alongside a black kid, a white female and fella in a wheelchair to go all over the park and catch these little critters. We laughed, we exchanged game tips and I'm pretty sure nobody yelled or shot anyone.

There needs to be more of this. We're all either too scared to come out of our homes or too comfy in front of the idiot box that maybe a silly little game can push us back out into the humidity and oxygen of the great outdoors.

Maybe also it can help us dialogue with each other face to face again instead of behind the keyboard of a YouTube comments section or a Facebook rant.

Before you dash the efforts of Pokémon Go, give it a chance. Head out to a park this weekend and play. You won't be alone. And you might make a few real life friends. If we're going to get through this election season, we're all going to need to find a way to resolve our differences peacefully - maybe catching a level 300 Pikachu is just the ticket.

(Chris Kamler can be found at your local park playing Pokemon Go or on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book, you know the one, at The Landmark office for just $10)

 


DEFLECTION
7/13/13

It's been a terrible week for this country but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention something that will likely get swept away with all the other news in the world.

On Saturday, our big, dumb, older step-brother the Kansas City Star published (online and in print) an op-ed piece in their “Midwest Voices” section about rape prevention. I'm certainly never going to be critical of how someone writes, except this article was long and constructed poorly. It's thesis statement was that women play a part in rape and rape can be prevented but that when men drink too much, they should be given a pass for making poor decisions.

So that I'm applying the correct context, here is the exact point of the article, “When men drink, their decision-making abilities are also limited. If a woman was too drunk to know what she was doing and should be excused for what happened, then why are men not allowed to be too drunk to make good decisions?”

The author is wrong. Her point is wrong. Her conclusion is damaging and it is a disservice to advancing the discussion on college campuses and in urban cities about how to stop the 250,000 rapes that are reported annually and countless others that are never reported. The column read as if it was defending rapists.
The Kansas City Star issued a retraction within hours on social media and its website. “In hindsight, it never should have been published,” wrote the Star’s publisher.

The point here is simple, the rapist is the one to blame for rape. The person committing sexual assault is the one to blame for sexual assault. The one committing domestic violence is the one to blame for domestic violence. Not the girl in the short skirt. Not the one at the bar who has had too many to drink. And not the mouthy spouse. Apples and oranges to the discussion.

The Star, to its credit, realized its mistake, although the article still went out in print. But I wanted to spend a few minutes explaining my proposal for preventing rapes. It's quite simple.

If you are a man or a woman considering rape, don't rape.

There. Pretty easy, right? This philosophy can also be used in some other contexts as well. If you're considering murder or shooting someone, don't murder or shoot someone. If you're considering committing a violent crime, don't commit a violent crime.

The philosophy becomes a little more difficult when you apply it to carbs and chocolate, but you get the idea. The responsibility and blame is solely on the criminal.

Unfortunately, that's not the way the world works anymore. People rape and murder and steal. And some of the suggestions in the article were valid. Women should learn self-defense and they should practice good “buddy-system” actions when out with friends. But not doing so doesn't make them culpable if a violent crime is committed against them.

To say otherwise is an insult to the victims, it forces them to relive their trauma over again, and The Star should have known better.

(Chris Kamler can be found on Twitter @TheFakeNed and on many other social media outlets. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office for just $10)

 


THAT'S WHAT I MEME
7/6/13

During (one of my several stints in) college, I took a Political Science class. The class consisted of about 20 of us and we had a semester long assignment to fix poverty in the United States. We didn't.

But the process was educational to be sure. We had to study the economic factors, the societal factors and the environmental factors of poverty. We had to brainstorm ideas and we had to come to some consensus on which way to move forward. The class was nuanced and layered. There were hundreds of facets to discuss and learn about.

Last week, I saw a meme that said Donald Trump's solution to poverty was to build a wall. The meme had maybe seven words, had a silly picture of Trump in it and elicited a bit of a chuckle. Then I saw the next meme and the next meme and the next meme.

If you spend any time on Facebook lately, the greatest form of communication there seems to be mean-spirited political memes. They're anti-Trump, they're anti-Hillary, they're anti-just about anything. They are cheap knock-offs of political cartoons and there's no possible way that they can capture the nuance that even a political cartoon would.

This is how we are educated about our political process today. Twenty years ago we spent hundreds of hours debating and researching. Blogs come along and we can rant for hundreds of words. Then Facebook where we add a clever picture. Then Twitter where we are limited to 140 characters. So this is what we get - a seven word picture.

What's next? The title of a thing and a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down? Or maybe we program our remote controls to simply elicit one of only five pre-designed outcomes.

You know where this is going. We're being incredibly lazy and cavalier about the direction our country is going. I love a good meme just like the rest of us but I have a standard rule that if I don't know something about the topic, I keep my mouth and my memes shut.

One of the talk shows did a thing last week where they asked folks walking on a beach about Independence Day. Predictably, nobody could answer that the Declaration of Independence was in 1776, or that Ben Franklin was a founding father. But I'll bet if you put a few of the more popular memes in front of them, that they'd snatch them up.

Crack open a book. Do a Google search. Learn more about both sides of an issue. It shouldn't even take more than five or 10 minutes to learn. There are some incredibly complicated issues out there that deserve more than a .gif to resolve. Guns, mental health, poverty, immigration, and our role in the Middle East. Pick a topic - any topic - and give it a good 10 minute overview (on both sides of the issue) before you post your .jpeg.

Start doing your homework, America. Or keep your meme shut.

(You can catch Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo, in The Landmark office for only $10)

 


LOCK YOUR DOORS
6/29/16

There's too much going on in the world today. Britain is leaving the EU, which I don't fully understand. Do we still get episodes of Doctor Who? Donald Trump is running for president. Will his hair get its own Secret Service codename? This weekend is the Fourth of July. What NFL player will hurt his contract status by blowing up his hand this year?

Listen, there's too much going on, so I'm just going to tell you a story to help you understand how my brain works.

Last year, I bought a cheap surveillance camera. I did this mostly because I'm too lazy and wanted to know when my mailman shows up. I ripped open the box and installed the camera in my window and pointed it at the mailbox.

The install worked brilliantly. I got an email on my phone every day at 3 o’clock when my mailman showed up. The world continued to turn and I maximized my time on the couch limiting unnecessary trips to the mailbox. Life was great.

For those who may not know, I live in the house across the street from my parents ala Everybody Loves Raymond. We live at the end of a very sleepy cul-de-sac. Two weeks ago, my parents’ cars were broken into overnight, sitting in front of their house. Nothing significant was stolen but it still broke the veil that we lived in a “safe” neighborhood. The rest of the world figured this out 20 years ago, but until two weeks ago, my parents still left an occasional cell phone in an unlocked car.

This is where I swoop in and say, “Hey, I have a surveillance camera pointed at my mailbox. I wonder if I caught these intruders.” It is at that time I learned that I hadn't turned on “night mode” and furthermore, “night mode” wouldn't work through my window. After a few hours of research, I learned that the camera would need to be outside the house.

This now became a quest, so I ordered a special enclosure for the camera that is weather proof. I watched videos on how to best mount the camera and how to do the cabling.

Off to Lowe's I run. I purchase a spool of electrical cable and a gigantic drill bit with which to drill through the side of my house. I dug out the ladder and ascended to the roof so that I could mount my camera outside the house. Jump ahead three hours and two sweat-soaked shirts later and I had a camera mounted on the house with no less than four holes drilled into the siding and interior wall.
I was ready for whatever civic violence or attacks would beset upon our neighborhood. It would be documented and, most importantly, we would stay safe. Maybe the mayor or president would give me an award for best use of technology to thwart bad guys.

About an hour later, I got an email from my camera, “CAMERA OVERHEATED - CANNOT OPERATE ABOVE 85 DEGREES.” Game. Set. Match. The thing won't even turn on anymore.

This sums up my life perfectly. Sorry, Mom and Dad. You'll need to lock your car doors from now on. If you need me, I'll be on the couch waiting for the mailman.

(Catch Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Follow him other social media outlets of your choosing, including Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube)

 


BITS AND PIECES
6/22/16

It's been another incredibly busy week in my world. My mother turned 70 this past weekend, so please join me in wishing her another 70 more. In an effort to maximize my word count and minimize my actual work (hey, this IS summer, after all) I'm sending in a bits and pieces column. Rest assured, I'm typing this lying down.

•Somebody left a puppy in a locked car during the Royals game Sunday. The temperature at the time was about 95 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. This means that the temperature inside the car would have reached over 130 degrees. First off, kudos to the folks who broke the dog out of that car. Second off, once they find who did this, they should leave those people in the car for the exact same amount of time and see how they like it.

•I will never understand the fascination with labeling a “mass shooting” as anything other than a mass shooting. Hate crime? Terrorism? Domestic terrorism? A crime is a crime and it seems that no matter what you label it, an AR-15 assault rifle is behind it.

•I saw a stat today that 85% of Republicans support a background check on the sale of assault weapons. The remaining 15% are all Congressmen or board members of the NRA (or both).

•Kudos to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cleveland's first national championship since Jim Brown's Cleveland Browns over 50 years ago. This means that it'll be at least another 50 until the Cleveland Indians become viable again. I'm fine with that.

•LeBron vs. Steph Curry was a pretty compelling story line eight weeks ago when the NBA Finals started. Looking forward to the start of the 2017 season July 1. Those NBA Finals should finish up in 2022.

•Would the last one out of the Donald Trump campaign please turn off the lights? Those Democrats are likely to start taxing electricity after they win with 92% of the vote.

•Speaking of The Donald, it's been amazing to see the list of celebrities endorsing Donald Trump. They include the Duck Dynasty folks, Tom Brady, a litany of white supremacists including David Duke, Hulk Hogan, Scott Baio, Dennis Rodman, Mike Tyson, Mike Ditka, and Lou Holtz. What a reality show that would make, eh?

•I don't care if it's 200 degrees at 6 a.m., if you start mowing your lawn before 10 on Saturday or Sunday, I'm going to hope you are attacked by wolves. Mow as late in the evening if you want to, but if you start so much as a leaf-blower before 10 a.m., it's over. I'm talking to you, neighbor who woke me up at 6:30 last weekend.

•I'm about two-thirds of the way through this column and you could have completed the entire distance of the new KC Streetcar line in the time it takes you to get to this bullet point.

•That being said, I was in Philadelphia two weeks ago and I'd take our two-mile streetcar over two minutes in Philadelphia.

•What event is going to have more couches burning in Cleveland? The NBA Finals championship this week or the Republican National Convention?

•Finally, I'm not going to say it's incredibly hot in Platte City, but I did see Ivan dipping his foot in the water dish outside Main Street Pet Resort to cool off. Have a great week!

(Catch Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed and find him on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and more)

 


 

THE DEATH OF NUANCE IN ORLANDO
6/15/16

We've spoken dozens of times in this space about how the world is becoming a binary society. Issues and opinions are either a “1” or a “0” with no room for gray area or debate.

With the crippling events in Orlando this week, predictably, and within seconds, the discussion on Twitter and social media fragmented like a pane of glass dropped from a 50 story building. Each ripple of debate gravitated towards their polar opposites.

With the target of the shooting being a gay nightclub, there were either calls for inclusion of all sexual orientations or regurgitations of the shuns of the lifestyle in the eyes of God. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, tweeted a Bible scripture saying you “reap what you sow.”

With world affairs, the debate held no middle ground as folks rolled to the extremes of a Muslim extremist shooter repeating calls to deport or “send back” all those of the Muslim faith hours after one of the world's most famous Muslims, Muhammad Ali, was laid to rest. Donald Trump, predictably, renewed a call to limit access to the United States by those of Muslim faith.

With guns, the public still seems unable to get across to lawmakers that while weapons are fine for sport and protection, that a machine gun that shoots hundreds of bullets in moments, might not be a great weapon in the hands of someone mentally unstable. Yet, the actions will likely do nothing to curtail sales of the weapon which could be picked up at a Bass Pro Shop or gun store near you.

Nothing I write in this space is going to likely change your opinion or your beliefs on these issues. My goal, rather, is to give you pause to realize that there are hundreds of facets to this story and this shameful event that you should acknowledge. And, at the end of the day, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was the act of evil. Let the debates fill the air on whether it was an act of terrorism or an act of a hate crime or an act of a mentally unstable person. It was likely all of the above with even more boxes being checked.

The takeaway here is that “solving” these issues won't happen today or tomorrow. But we have to all do one percent better. Hug your kids one percent harder. Pay attention to societal issues one percent better. Be one percent more tolerant of other's opinions on social media and try your best not to jump to the furthest extreme of the argument.

The differences and nuance of our country used to be what made it great. The country was founded on dissent and differences. Now it's what fuels many to turn off contact with the outside world. Facebook is an absolute dumpster fire this week. I was on for 45 seconds yesterday when I saw the quote “hammers kill more people than assault rifles.” Yeah. Goodbye, Facebook. I'll check in with you in another week.

Gay issues, gun issues, religious extremism issues, and mental health issues are all infinitely layered and complex and won't be solved with the retweet of a meme or a LIKE IF YOU AGREE. Take that time to read an article. Take that time to donate blood or money to the Red Cross. Take that time to do whatever you can to make sure you and your children know how to face the hate.

Until these mass shootings equate to legitimate legislation or regulatory action and some semblance of order, it is the only good thing that will ever come out of a tragedy such as this.

(Find Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed or see if you can find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)

 


ROAD TRIP
6/8/16

There are things that everyone needs to experience in life. You need to experience the birth of a child. You need to see the Rocky Mountains. You need to wade your toes in an ocean. You need to eat burnt ends from Arthur Bryant's. The list goes on.

There's also another list. This is the things that you really should never do in your life. You shouldn't blow up a firecracker in your hand. You shouldn't leave your toddler unattended in front of a broken fence with a gorilla on the other side. You shouldn't eat St. Louis BBQ. And you should never have to go on a road trip with a team full of 13-year-old boys to a baseball tournament.

That is the experience I had this past weekend. Twelve 13 year old boys, their parents and a few grandparents convoying up to Des Moines, Iowa for a three day baseball tournament.

First off, I don't know how traveling baseball, basketball, and soccer teams do these traveling tournaments every weekend. There are clubs out there that will travel 20 weekends in the season just going from three-day tournament to three-day tournament. By the third hour with these people, I wanted to see them all shoved out into traffic. No offense to them. But after a little while, you start to see people's true nature. Now. Take that group of 50 of us and stick us in the sun, wind, and dirt for 10 hours. If you didn't hate them all before, you will now. NOW, add 19 other groups of 50 people and put them in the same place for an entire weekend with dirty restrooms, cold hot dogs and non-working water fountains. It turns into human cock-fighting pretty darn quick.

Other things I learned this weekend:

•When you call a restaurant and try to make a reservation for 50 people, there will be one of two responses, the first is “great, that's awesome, we'll have it ready” and the second is just laughing and they slam the phone down.

•Nothing will prepare you for the smell of a car full of boys after playing baseball in the sun for 10 hours. No amount of rolled down windows or Febreze will make it okay.

•It might be Mother Teresa sitting next to you, but if you're in a car with me for more than an hour, I'm going to bite your head off about something.

•In a three hour car ride, I heard that stupid Justin Bieber “Love Yourself” song approximately 24 times on five different radio stations.

•Zombie Burger in Des Moines is legit.

•If you get a team of 13-year-olds and a team of 15-year-olds in the same space for more than 20 minutes, one of the 13 year olds is going to challenge the entire 15 year old team to a fight.

•The three hour drive to Des Moines is nearly as boring as the drive through Central Kansas.

•I'm still thankful I had a boy instead of a girl.

•Key topics of the boys in discussions this past weekend included:

•How “fire” that dude's shoes are.

•Whether you could hit a moving target with a thrown football (you couldn't).

•The new shooting video game.

•Instagram.

•How “lit” the day was. (Answer: It was all pretty lit).

Through the miles and the smell and the baseball, I still wouldn't have traded it for the world. Maybe I have this trip on the wrong list after all.

(Get on Chris Kamler’s list by following his antics on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


ARGUE TO ARGUE
6/1/16

Listen, if we're going to make it all the way through until the November elections, we're going to have to learn how to debate. Whatever we are doing currently ain't working.

Part of the problem is that we now debate online, where you have a relative veil of anonymity (and if not anonymity then certainly a feeling of invincibility.) We don't debate or argue face to face anymore and so there are less and less cues to gauge.
I get it. The point of debate is to win the argument, but online you don't know the full audience, you don't have control over what you say after you say it and you don't know the level of intelligence with whom you're arguing against. And let's face it, our collective IQ's ALL go down 20 points when we check into social media.

I guess we have just come into this as a slow boil after years of watching the talking heads argue every night. At first, it was just CNN with two opposing people discussing the day's issues. Should we fight in Iraq? Should we raise the debt ceiling? Then the double-box became a triple and quadruple box. Then the arguing spilled over into ESPN with their Pardon the Interruption shows. Suddenly, you've got quadruple boxes fighting over whether Steph Curry “has what it takes” to be the greatest player over Michael Jordan and LeBron James. People arguing over a make-believe title. You might as well line people up and have them fight to the death over what shade of blue is best.

But instead of getting better at winning arguments we've just gotten better at arguing to argue. Just last week, I saw an argument pop up on Twitter about whether ketchup was appropriate for a hot dog condiment. Instead of everyone coming to the appropriate answer that, no, ketchup is only used for fries and needs to stay away from all meats, the argument instead devolved into name calling.

The other day, there was a post on Facebook that my wife showed me about a lost dog. What could be more benign than a post about your lost shih tzu? You guessed it, someone decided to shame the owner for leaving their gate open. Then another person defended that person's honor. Fifteen posts later somebody said “that's typical from a Hillary supporter.” How did we get here? How did we get from shih tzu right into the pile of shih tzu in 15 posts?

Think of all of the wasted energy that has now consumed at least a dozen people involved in this dog post. Think of the hundreds of people who chimed in to rightfully shame ketchup on hot dog haters.

What if you took that energy and took a five minute walk, or wrote a letter to a veteran, or hell, just took a nap instead of arguing.

But you and I both know that's not going to happen.

At the end of the day, arguing isn't really going to solve anything. Actions are the only thing that will achieve solutions and actions are the only way you can convince someone to never put ketchup on a hot dog.

(Catch Chris Kamler on Twitter @TheFakeNed or find him on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, among other places)

 


 

TO THE CLASS OF 2016
5/25/16

Great job! Congratulations on your graduation! Listen, I get that most of these types of articles are going to tell you some stark realities about the world you're about to enter. While they are likely right, and while the world is waiting to beat you down at nearly every turn, let me provide a slightly more positive spin.

Here are a few reminders for you as you face off against the world at large. No note taking necessary:

•Save a little bit of money. It doesn't have to be a bunch, but put some in the bank. You're going to need it sooner than you think.

•Seek out the positive. You can't swing a dead cat without finding something negative on the news, the radio or social media. Intentionally seek out that which makes you happy and ignore as much of the negative as you can.

•At your first job, you only need to learn one phrase which will set you apart from everyone else there, “Is there anything else I can help with?”

•At your second job, you can learn about delegation. Hire the kid that asks, “Is there anything else I can help with?”

•Worrying is wasted energy. You can only control what you can control. It's raining. Deal with it. Adapt. Be dynamic.

•QuikTrip sells cheap fountain sodas in the summertime. Enjoy summertime for this reason.

•Write down five things you'd like to do before you die and put that paper in a safe place. My bet is that you're going to have three of those knocked out before the decade is up. You may not think so, but you will.

•Relax, but don't veg. Limit your binge watching and, you know, step outside once in awhile.

•Listen, this next six months is going to be rough on the country, you can spend your time getting caught up in the hatred, or find a way to make your space better.

•Learn five things about a topic before you say “I hate it.” If someone tells you that they hate something, challenge them to tell you five facts about that thing.

•Call your mother.

•Read something every day. No, fantasy football scouting reports don't count.

•Don't be a dick.

You might think many of these fall under the category “common sense” but hey, you just finished four or eight years of school, how much common sense did you see displayed on a regular basis?

Congratulations! Now go kick the world's ass.

(Catch our man Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


NEW SHINY TOY
5/18/16

I hope everyone had a chance last week to ride the new and shiny streetcar! Isn't it beautiful flying down I-29 taking those passengers from their planes all the way downtown?

My day started down at College and Metcalf and I took the 7:45 am streetcar all the way up 635. I changed trains at Park Hill South High School, then rode it all the way to Westport! I caught a matinee at the Midland theater then zipped out to the Independence Events Center on the red line to catch a Mavericks hockey game. It was a magical journey to be sure.

Magical, mostly, because it was made up in my head. I was downtown over the weekend and did see the new shiny streetcar but since my journey took me more than two and a half miles, sadly, I was unable to try out our new, shiny toy.

I get that this is Phase I, but I haven't seen any timetable or funding for Phase II or III or IV other than “construction starts soon.” When will I be able to go from the Airport to Kauffman Stadium? When can I go from Olathe to Lansing? When can I catch the streetcar outside the historic offices of the Platte County Landmark and make my way out to the Legends for a Sporting KC match?

The answer is “I don't know.” So for now we are stuck with a half-baked pie. We have asked for Kauffman Stadium and gotten a water fountain and a baseball bat. We've asked for Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and gotten an 8th grade recorder concert.

Phase II according to the KC ATA website will circle the city as well as criss-cross through it. But it's all up to finding the right funding. If initial numbers of 2,500 riders per day for the first phase of the streetcar are any indication, the demand can be there under the correct circumstances. It's yet to be seen which starts first, but if you're stuck on I-70 right now, you're not getting help any time soon.

The idea, I'm sure, behind building two miles of a streetcar line, is that it may spark the right imagination within the city and to build the desire for a larger people moving system. Anyone who has been to Chicago or San Francisco or any city larger than ours can easily see how it would open up the city.

But for now, we get to open socks on Christmas Eve as we wait for Phase 2 to start construction. And if you want to go from City Market to Power & Light, then you are in luck. If you want to go from Lawrence to Lee's Summit, however, you better get a great Uber driver.

(Get Chris Kamler’s book The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office for only $10. And follow Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


X MEN
5/11/16

While the actual date is debated by historians, somewhere around July 4, 1776, one of the most important documents in our nation's history was signed. The document, of course, was the Declaration of Independence--a document that claimed its sovereignty from England and set in motion the greatest nation experiment in the history of the world.

The document was signed by all of the members of the Continental Congress and its president, John Hancock, allegedly wanted to make a statement to King George. Hancock wanted the king to be able to see his name without the use of his spectacles, so his name appears extra large and is likely the most famous signature in history.

The act is even immortalized in our culture that when we ask for a signature now, we ask for your “John Hancock.”

Last month, I was suffering from a cold and stuck in bed. We were expecting a package but I simply couldn't get up. I asked my 13-year-old son Brett to sign for it when the guy came to the door. We heard the knock. Brett went to the door, but quickly summoned me out of bed because there was a problem.

“The guy wants me to sign for it,” Brett said.

“So sign for it.”

“But I don't know how.”

So there it is. In 230 years, we've gone from the most famous John Hancock to not knowing how to write a John Hancock.

Obviously, this is due to his school emphasizing technology, typing and being online over cursive--which I generally agree with. But the glaring loophole is how we will sign our names to history. What happens when the boy goes to buy a house and has to make an “X” on all 150 documents they make you sign. Does he simply print his name? His handwriting is worse than a two-year-old’s. Maybe there will come a time he could text his signature, but then it wouldn't be a signature at all.

So I made it a mission over the next week to make him sign his name as much as possible. He learned the “B” then the flow into the “rett” and he enjoyed making the slash through the double-t's. And then we waited. We waited for the next time he had to sign for something.

It happened nearly two weeks later when we went to buy something at a local store that was over the $30 limit that required you to sign.

Here's our chance, I thought. Then the woman simply turned an iPad screen around and asked us to sign it. No paper. No receipt. Just an iPad.

Brett had no other recourse but to try to recreate his signature onto a computer screen - with his index finger. The signature looked worse than his printed name.
And then I realized - I can't remember the last time I had to fully write out my signature - nearly every time it's just a squiggle that I write down on receipts at restaurants and the grocery store. When Brett turns of age, he will only need to tap his phone or his car keys to pay for something. Buying a house will be a series of keystrokes.

The signature is dead. Long live the X Men.

(Long live @TheFakeNed on Twitter)

 


LIMITED INTELLIGENCE
5/4/16

After 43 years on this earth (44 in June), I have simply come to terms with the fact that I'm just not very smart. Oh, sure. I wouldn't say I lack intelligence in all things - I seem to be the only one smart enough in my house to know how to replace a toilet paper roll, for instance. But overall, highly academic things like politics, science, social issues - I'm just not very intelligent about.

My calling has always been toward sports. Sports smart is completely different than “real” smart. I mean, I could tell you that Eric Hosmer had a 19 game hitting streak that ended last week. I could tell you that the Chiefs have had winning seasons for the past two years - a feat they hadn't done since the 1990's.

But I can't have an educated discussion with you on why gas prices are inching closer to $2. I also can't tell you who to vote for in the next election - although I will buy stock in Budweiser and duct tape if it's Donald Trump. Also, I can't tell you anything about the stock market. I just don't have that power.

But it's days when my sports world and the real world collide where I have a chance to learn a little more about the world. One of those moments happened over the weekend, when the Kansas City Chiefs drafted a punt returner in the fifth round of the NFL draft. Tyreek Hill, who once played for Oklahoma State, was once labeled “the fastest man on the earth” by Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder.

Hill can't officially claim he hails from Oklahoma State, however, because he was kicked off the team in 2014. His dismissal stems from an incident where he choked his pregnant girlfriend and then punched her in the stomach. Hill was sentenced to three years probation and finished his college career at a Division II football program.

Hill is still incredibly fast and wowed scouts at the combine enough to warrant the Chiefs picking him up in the fifth round. The pick has sparked a great debate among those who feel rewarding a man who would punch a pregnant woman with a $350,000 rookie contract. The Chiefs, who held a hastily called press conference to defend the pick Saturday, disagreed. They asked fans to trust them and that they had done their due diligence.

Through all of this, I wish I were smarter. So I went to the internet and learned that nearly one in three women will suffer from domestic violence in their lifetime. Over 12.7 million people are physically abused, raped, or stalked by their partners in one year. Two out of three homicide cases against females are killed by a family member or intimate partner.

I don't know what the appropriate punishment is or whether Tyreek Hill should've been chosen to play football by the Chiefs. I really wish I did. My “intelligence” is limited in a lot of areas.

But when you boil it all down, I am glad I learned one thing... that's not to hit girls.

Maybe I should focus on supporting organizations that share that level of intelligence.

Editor’s Note: A wonderful local shelter that helps children affected by domestic violence is Synergy Services. You can support them by visiting synergyservice.org.

 


HOLLYWOOD
4/27/16

There's not really a good way to say this without sounding pretentious, so I'm just going to come out and say it. I had Hollywood people at my house this week. There's more news on why they were there coming out shortly. But in the meantime, I have got to share a few stories about hosting folks from the Left Coast.

I've had the opportunity several times to interact with friends from Los Angeles. And they are all lovely people. But let's face it. If you live in LA, your whole world view ends anywhere east of Las Vegas. New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia might as well be combined with London, Berlin and Moscow. It's all the “East Coast” to them.

And Kansas City is basically one giant flyover city combined with Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland and the entire state of Texas. One of the fellas I was with was literally looking at my t-shirt which read MISSOURI in collegiate lettering and continued to call the city we were standing in “Kansas.”

I get it. I do. You're in Los Angeles where you wear winter coats if the temperature drops below 68 degrees. If you have 5% body fat you are hospitalized for obesity. Los Angelenos can't physically comprehend a 12 minute commute to work unless you work from home. So it took them a while for me to explain that yes, 71 degrees was a postcard day in Kansas City. I think they heard me once their teeth stopped chattering.

But I dutifully took my new LA friends around. We stopped by Boulevard Brewery and tipped a few back. I took them to the Negro Leagues Museum. I even got them out to see championship baseball at Kauffman Stadium. Sure, one of our party ordered a salad (this actually happened, and, it turns out, yes, The K does sell a salad.) Sure, I kept having to explain which side of the state line we were on at any given time. At one point, I had to drive up State Line Road which really confused them.

In a way, I'm pretty thankful that there wasn't any severe weather last week because these guys would've just curled into a ball. They were pretty stunned as it was that precipitation fell from the sky for a couple hours. I had to explain that it was called “rain.”

But we did find common ground. We all recognized that St. Louis was an awful city. We all agreed that Kauffman Stadium was beautiful. And we all were in total agreement that Kansas City BBQ is superior to any other cooked meat on the planet (with, I guess, the exception of something called “fish tacos.”)

The only remaining point of clarification that I never fully explained to them before they left was the answer and cadence to “HI, MAY I HELP YOU?” shouted at them seconds after walking into a Gates BBQ.

“Uh. She's talking to you. She's asking you for your order.”

“What? But I'm 12th in line.”

“Yeah. But it's your turn to order”

“Well, I can't even see the menu.”

**sigh**

Maybe the movie version will have them ordering more quickly.

(Chris Kamler writes columns and tweets and books and stuff like that. Buy his book “The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo” for only $10 at The Landmark office. Follow Kamler on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


THE GREATEST JOB IN THE WORLD
4/20/16

Through some error in accounting or something, I recently got a promotion at work. Nothing really to sneeze at, but it does come with a new office and some additional responsibilities. I like the new job and so far, it seems like it will be very challenging and rewarding.

But at the end of the day, a job is a job. Right? Getting up for work every day, trudging into the office. Putting on pants. These are all kind of a drag--no matter where you work.

You can read tons of business books that tell you to find a job doing what you love. And I think, to some degree, I have that in my current role. But for 99% of us, no job is going to make us incredibly happy 100% of the time.

But then there is Gus. I'll explain.

Back in my 20's, I got a job out of college working at one of the riverboat casinos. I tell people it was the best job and the worst job I've ever had. I dealt craps and the job required me to interact with customers, have fun with them and also had some elements of a carnival barker in there as well. My coworkers and I were all in our early 20's and it was the first time we'd all had a little bit of money to spend. It's like going away to college except you didn't have to go to class and didn't have to beg for cash every weekend. On the downside, you worked horrible hours - sometimes getting off work at five in the morning. You had cigarette smoke blown in your face every night and you worked every holiday and weekend.

But I'll never forget Gus. You see, when Missouri originally allowed gambling in the state, they said you could only do it as part of a riverboat cruise. Think of it as an international waters type of deal. Casino companies were so eager to expand into Missouri, you could've made laws requiring everyone to stand on one foot and whistle Dixie and they'd do it. So riverboat gambling was made legal. After about a month, some of the logistical issues with being on a one hour gambling cruise were made evident. Namely, making sure power and communications worked away from shore. The idea of forcing the riverboats to actually sail the river was quickly scrapped and the boats were permanently moored to the docks.

But they were still seafaring vessels that were under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard and that meant they still needed a full crew and a captain. Captain Gus.

Captain Gus was the captain of a boat that never sailed. In fact, they put a concrete wall between the boat and the river so Captain Gus couldn't have taken his boat out for a ride without Harry Potter-like wizard skills. But Gus remained the captain. He wore the hat and the captain's insignias as he led an entire crew who cleaned and maintained a boat that would never sail.

Gus was about the happiest guy on the planet. He always had time to stop and chat with you in the break room, probably because he knew he'd never be late for his next cruise. He always made his appointed rounds with a smile as wide as the Missouri River itself - a river that he didn't really have to be that familiar with since he'd never be on it.

So the next time you think you have a cushy job - one where you think you have it all figured out, think of Captain Gus and realize that you still have work to do. You don't have the greatest job in the world, but maybe someday you will.

(Chris Kamler is kind of the always-happy Captain Gus of Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sungwoo now for only $10 at The Landmark)

 


SUBTRACTION BY AD
4/13/16

In today's society, I fully understand that in order to get a sliver of attention you have to do something flashy - something noteworthy. If you're trying to get the eye of a beautiful woman, you might need to buy a fast car. If you're trying to get a promotion at work, you may need to come in extra early.

When it comes to marketing and advertising, you've got to stand apart from the typical commercials and ads you see every day. If you want to sell a car or a diamond ring, you are competing against a dozen or so other companies who want to sell a diamond ring or a car as well.

So let's say that you are in the market for a new car. Oh sure, you could do exhaustive research on the Internet. You could check out the classifieds or visit dealerships in your area. Or... Or you could just choose the dumbest commercial that stands out.

That's where Shawnee Mission Kia Jenn comes in. You see, this woman has garnered a contract from the Shawnee Mission Kia dealership to create the dumbest, least funny commercials that have got to be designed to cut straight to the hypothalamus (a.k.a. dumb-center) of the brain that controls purchases. That is really the only logical explanation for it.

The plot of these 30-second video masterpieces seems to be Jenn setting up for a terrible joke, wearing a dumb costume, and then forgetting to mention she's trying to sell you a car.

There was an old horror movie I remember when I was growing up - part of the Halloween movie series. The idea was that all these people would wear this particular Halloween mask and then someone would flip a switch and they'd all turn into murderers.

I think something similar might be happening with these stupid commercials. At some point, Shawnee Mission Kia Jenn will say a code word and we're all going to vote for Bernie Sanders or mail order a bride from Russia or do something crazy.

I understand that as long as you're talking about the product then the marketing has worked. But I am so turned off by these dumb commercials, I now remember this Kia dealership specifically because it's the one place I will NEVER buy a car.
What's worse is that they appear nearly 15 times every Royals game, so they just sit there, like a puppy waiting for you to teach it to read.

Maybe it's me, but my guess is that you're of similar mind and can easily mention the one ad that you absolutely hate. Maybe it's a stupid jingle, or that spokesperson that sounds like they have marbles in their mouth. Regardless, it seems like if you're trying to sell us something, a clever way to do it might be to mention the product, mention the price, and then mention your address. Just an idea.

(Chris Kamler doesn’t use any dumb commercials to sell his book, The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sungwoo. You can get it at The Landmark office for just $10. In the meantime, follow the antics of Chris on Twitter @TheFakened)

 


MY KIND OF FAN
4/6/16

It's baseball season once again in Kansas City. Just like football season, basketball season, NASCAR season, and even soccer season, Kansas City continues to show a passion for sports second to none. Sunday's Royals home opener was the highest rated in Kansas City for ESPN in the network's history. Activity on social media continues to set records and you are guaranteed to sell extra newspapers if you have a photo of Kauffman on the front page.

But not every fan is created equal. Not everyone has walked the same path to their allegiance and, therefore, can be easily spotted. There's no wrong way to be a fan, but there are certain levels of fandom to be sure.

The Strong Silent Type - This fan has a hat or a jersey from when they started being a fan, but it's in a dusty box, or in the back of a closet. When asked if they're a fan of the team they say “yes,” but are rarely seen with gear on unless it's the big game. (Example: Rockies fans)

The Bandwagon Fan - I had a friend who lived in Olathe that rotated his fandom between the Yankees, SF Giants, Raiders, and Patriots - depending on who was doing the best. This person talked so much trash because their team was always in first place. Namely because they always picked the first place team to have as their team. (Example: Yankees, Patriots fans)

The Hedger - This person is a fan of a wide variety of mid-level teams. Unlike the Bandwagon Fan, this person keeps their affiliations through thick and thin, but diversifies their portfolio to maybe five teams in each league so one of their teams is likely to be in the hunt. (Example: Indians + Padres + Giants + Angels + Rangers fans)

The Loveable Loser - This person is the glass-half-empty fan. Up until 2014, I'd categorize my Royals fandom in this category. No matter what you do, you always seem to pull for the team that comes up short. (Example: Missouri fans)

The Entitled Fan - This is the fan whose team is in first place but they always seem to not let that be enough. Team in first? Well the coach can never win the big game. Team having an off year? That guy should be fired. (Example: Kansas fans)

The Downtrodden - Your team can't seem to get over the hump. You haven't lost faith, but damn does your squad make it difficult. Maybe you've got a decent team, but your star athlete got a DWI. Or maybe your team has finished in second place for five years straight. (Example: Chiefs, K-State Fans)

The Boogieman Fan - Your team is in first place. Your team has displayed an amazing ability to play this season. But the other shoe has got to drop, right? We're not really this good, right? This fan is always looking for the boogieman around the corner. (Example: 2015 Chiefs fans, 2014 Royals fans)

The Moment Fan - This is the fan who has managed to drink in the moment with respect to the fact that the moment is fleeting. You can hear the birds chirping and taste the dijon mustard on the stadium hot dog. You realize that your moment in the sun is just a moment, but that moment is free to last forever. Even though you know it won't. Gather ye rosebuds, Moment Fan. Enjoy the view from the top. (Example: 2016 Royals fans.)

(Find Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can purchase his book “The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sungwoo” at The Landmark office for only $20)

 


QUIT PLAYING GAMES WITH MY HEART
3/30/16

As I get older, I really do seem to be enjoying those stereotypical things that come when you get older. I have a natural distrust for anyone in their 20's. I tune out my wife and pretend I didn't hear her unless she's talking about food. (Spoiler alert) And I also find myself more and more bitching about these kids today.

For what seems like the last 18 years, I've been traveling every weekend. A couple weeks have been for business, and a couple weeks have been for pleasure. I just got back from a weekend with my son and his two buddies that would be categorized in neither. Three 13-year-old boys just out of the city limits of Columbia along the banks of the Missouri River and the Katy Trail. Peaceful, right? Not to 13-year-olds who spent the entire first day stretching their arms to the sky with their cell phones seeking a single bar of service like they were paying homage to the Roman Goddess of WiFi.

The whole idea was to get away from the grid and spend some time relaxing. Unfortunately, this seasonable weather we have enjoying went away, the cold and rain moved back in and suddenly I was locked in a cabin with three boys who were certain that they'd die if they didn't have cable television and Instagram.
That's when I started rooting through closets and under the beds in the cabin and found paydirt. Board games. The boys looked upon the SORRY! board pieces like they were replicas from the moon landing. I had to explain the rules which took a total of two paragraphs - THREE TIMES to them. Finally, I said, “See that one that looks like the green candy crush button? Yeah. Move that backwards when you get a ‘7’.” We played a full game and argued about who won and shamed the ones that lost.

We ran through the entire closet. Risk. Monopoly. Chutes and Ladders. Boggle. Clue. Each time the box was opened, these kids grew slightly more detached to their devices. Oh sure, they still instinctively grabbed at them after each game like Dr. Pavlov had just run a bell and Fido is expecting a piece of cheese. But it got better and by day three, the first thing they reached for in the morning wasn't the phone but rather some breakfast.

The victory was short-lived as the second we got out on I-70 the devices turned on, the headphones went in, the texts were flying and the eyes were rolled back in their heads for the next two hours as if the heroine needle had tapped the correct vein.

What are these kids going to do if they don't go through the suffering of arguments claiming somebody moved the green piece one past the circle square? How will they learn to cheat their friends if they don't play the banker in Monopoly? How will they endure a lifetime of pain and torment if they never play one round of Dungeons & Dragons?

These kids today with their smartphones and their Snapchats. Give me a Monopoly game where you can't find the lid and you only have seven houses because the dog at the rest and where you have a house rule that whenever someone lands on Community Chest you have to come up with a knock-knock joke. That's how you learn to think on your feet and develop friendships that last.

That's something worth arguing at the youth of America for. These kids today.

(Chris Kamler can be a kid on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Watch for the return of his Landmark feature, K Replay, now that Royals season is ready to roll)

 


DRAWING THE LINE
3/23/16

According to a recent study, Americans spend roughly 37 million hours a year waiting in lines. These could be lines at the bank. Lines to vote. Lines in the drive-through, or maybe just waiting in line for your daughter to get dressed so you can do your business in the bathroom.

There are studies about the psychology of lines. There are ways to make you think you're not waiting in a line when you're actually waiting in a line. Southwest Airlines breaks the line up. That way when you're B57, you don't actually realize that you are 238th in line. Most elevators have mirrored doors so that you can look at yourself while waiting for an elevator to take your mind off the time you wait. Psychologists will also tell you that you will wait longer in a line if you know the reason for waiting. If there is an announced mechanical problem, you don't mind waiting in a longer line at Worlds of Fun for a ride than if it was unknown.

People have devoted their lives in an effort to make you wait in a line and like it.

I have a simple question. Why? Why does the line exist at all? I was in San Antonio this past weekend for four days and spent the majority of my time there waiting in lines. There was a line to get on the plane. An hour line to ride the Riverwalk boat. A 20 minute line to catch the rental car shuttle and to check your baggage and to reserve a table at a restaurant. When we got to the sporting event, there were lines for the bathrooms and concessions. Every single one of them was inefficient - run by ineffective people doing their jobs.

We put men on the moon and we can't figure out how to get people to buy a hot dog in under 25 minutes.

My day job deals with computers. Computers, put very simply, speak in a very simple language. Their entire alphabet consists of two characters. A 1 or a 0. It's called the language of Binary and sequences of 1's and 0's mean certain commands. Computers can only process a single character at a time, but do it at the speed of light. The first computers CPU's (the brain of the operations) were single-threaded. Think of them as a slow line for a hot dog. Then someone got the great idea to add a second CPU to make a computer dual-threaded. The CPU could still only process one command at a time, but could do them twice as fast because there were two of them. From 1956, when a computer could only process one 1 or one 0 at a time until today, the processing speed of computers has advanced one trillion (with a “T”) times.

And yet, we still wait 25 minutes for a hot dog, or to deposit a check, or to get your license plate renewed.

Maybe the hot dog vendor can learn a thing or two from the smartphone in his pocket and turn a zero into a win.

(Stand in line to get Chris Kamler’s book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark for only $20. Follow Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


NUMBER TWO
3/16/16

When you travel, you get a lot of time to think about things. You think about how simple it would be to run the TSA XRay folks through a course on how to smile every once in a while. You think about how no matter what city you're in, a bottle of water will always be $3.50 at the airport. You wonder if you could quit your job and become a full time voice person for airports... “The white zone is for loading and unloading. There is no parking in the white zone.”

In Kansas City, you also get to think about the pros and cons of the airport itself. There are a lot of great things about KCI Airport. While most airports you need to show up two and a half hours before your flight, often times you can roll into KCI an hour or less (getting dropped off right at the curb) and still have time to spare. The airport is relatively well-run, it's mostly clean and easy to get in and out of. Obviously, there are also cons. The decentralized security isn't standard. The airport is very far from frequent travelers in Overland Park, and the offerings at the airport aren't great. Luckily, you don't spend that much time there, so you really don't need a super fancy steakhouse, but would it kill them to put a Gates or Joe's KC BBQ joint in Terminal C?

There's been a buzz the last several years from city leaders about potentially building a new KCI, a single terminal airport that would be modeled after most other airports around the country. The restaurants would be on the same side of the security doors and it would certainly simplify the way people go through security.

The downside is, obviously, that it will cost a billion dollars. That's billion with a “B.” (The 2015 estimate was $964 million dollars, but I'm going to go ahead and round up.) Very little of that money would come from the airlines themselves. They are simply renters and it's not up to them to pay for a new building. No, the cost will come out of your pocket and my pocket to be sure. I don't know about you, but I don't have a billion dollars laying around. I guess if I did, I'd be typing this on a gold-plated laptop. (Full disclosure: I'm not.)

So as I have been traveling the last several weeks, I've had a long chance to debate this idea of a new airport and it wasn't until my trip to Orlando this past week when I realized the greatest selling point - the only selling point, really - for a new airport. I had to fly out very early on a Friday morning and before I went to bed Thursday evening, I went against my wife's and dietitian's orders and had a full-blown turkey sandwich as a bedtime snack. Oh sure, the turkey's expiration date was two days previous, but that's just a con put on by the turkey companies to keep you buying new turkey. The sandwich was delicious and I went to sleep with a full stomach and my bags packed for Orlando.

Friday morning came and I drove up to the airport, checking into the Southwest Airlines terminal with an hour to spare. I had my headphones on and the CCR cranked. All was right with the world and I was ready for a wonderful trip.
And then it happened. The turkey sandwich announced its presence. It turns out those expiration dates had some teeth to them and I needed to find the facilities. Fast.

The Southwest terminal has eight gates in it and stretches nearly two football fields in a long, narrow stretch. Security doors blocked my egress to the large, shiny bathroom only steps away. My gate was at the far end of one side and the only bathroom behind the security doors was on the other side. I did the frog waddle down the two football fields to fine one ONLY ONE toilet and it was in use. After a llittle soft shoe tap dancing, I got my turn and it was as close of a call as I would ever want to have near an airplane. Luckily, everything came in for a smooth landing and tray tables were returned to their upright and locked positions.

It was that moment that I became a flag-waving member of the “New KCI” plan.

Some have called it KCI-2. And for me, the “2” would be absolutely correct.

(Chris Kamler can be found on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


 

NEW AND IMPROVED
3/2/16

Today's column begins my fifth year of the Rambling Moron space here on Page 3. There would be some that could say to just let the achievement go unnoticed but I'm going to take a tip from Madison Avenue and do a complete RELAUNCH.

Welcome to the NEW AND IMPROVED RAMBLING MORON column!! All new! All improved! We've got nouns and adjectives and, occasionally, verbs. Don't let your participle dangle because the NEW AND IMPROVED RAMBLING MORON column will snatch it up!!

Let me fill you in on a little secret, though. This is going to be the same old column - just like you've read for over 200 weeks here in The Landmark. But it's amazing what a little polish and salesmanship will do, right?

I got the idea for the “RELAUNCH” from an article I read recently about classic products getting stale. Take something that works and make it NEW and EXCITING. Like when you see “new” on a roll of toilet paper - something that's been in use since the Adam and Eve days - but Charmin has suddenly revolutionized wiping front to back.

A trip down any aisle of the grocery store will see this in action. Saltine crackers - basically bread that's been left out too long - NEW WITH MORE WHEAT. Apple Juice in a NEW AND EASY TO OPEN CONTAINER!!

It happens in media and sports all the time, too. If your team is crappy, that's the best time to RELAUNCH with a new mascot or a new color scheme. The Florida Marlins redo their look twice a year, it seems and it hasn't done anything to improve their standing in Major League Baseball.

But the product I think that might just take the cake on the “new and improved” bandwagon is a new product by Tangram, a manufacturing company in Korea. They have “REINVENTED” the... wait for it... the Jump Rope.

Now, if you're like me, you probably haven't thought about the jump rope since you were in third grade. And that's likely a problem for companies that make jump ropes. You probably only buy one in your lifetime and once you hit puberty, you get a smartphone, get fat, and your jump roping days are over.

Enter Tangram Corporation. They've taken the same jump rope (they're made of nylon and plastic now) and added LED lights to the inside of the rope. They've also added Bluetooth capabilities (because anything is better with Bluetooth, right? Your car drives better. Your milk tastes better. Your kids are happier with Bluetooth) to the rope so that it interacts with your phone and tells you how many times you've jumped. It even gives you the appearance of numbers and letters as the rope passes by your eyes.

All these inventions to REVOLUTIONIZE something that was perfected the first time a kid picked up a long piece of string. Taking something old and making it new again. Madison Avenue, you've done it again.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some reinventing to do and money to be made - I think it's time... to add LED lights and Bluetooth to toilet paper.

(Chris Kamler can be found revolutionizing Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Summer of Sungwoo at The Landmark for only $20)

 


 

NEW DEDUCTIONS
2/24/16

By this time in the year, I'd like to be able to sit here and tell you that I'm all done with my taxes. I'm not.

For whatever reason, the US Government has decided that I need to pay them some money so that severely impacts my motivation to complete my taxes before April. Maybe if they sweetened the pot a little bit, I might, at least, have a more enjoyable experience.

I'm not talking about a flat tax, or a major reduction in taxes. I know that I'll never live long enough to see something like that--and the government does need to pay for pot holes some way (except in Kansas City, Kansas where they just ignore them.) But I would be willing to offer up a few entertaining deductions that folks can at least smile about when filling out their 1040 this year.

•Mileage deduction for the amount of miles your GPS took you off course. I would've saved about $14 the other day when the thing outsmarted itself and took me through the side roads of Lenexa to get around a phantom wreck on I-35.

•Deduction for all gym memberships purchased the first week in January but only if you went to the gym through at least June.

•Many of the presidential candidates are making promises to include college tuition or free student loans to high schoolers. How about the government pay back student loans if your team with the Final Four or National Football Championship? (Missouri fans would need not apply.)

•You are able to deduct earnings made from the stock market, but how about opening that up to losses in daily fantasy leagues (at least in the states where it's not banned)?

•The Landmark has recently upped its coupon game with some great grocery coupons. How about crediting us for money saved on coupons? Or maybe anything we purchase through the 12 Items or Less register?

•You'd obviously have to incorporate social media into this new tax structure. How about crediting users of Twitter and Facebook if they made a post that didn't yell at someone? It could cut down on us calling people idiots. And then penalize people who posted funny videos of cats.

•In honor of my mother's biggest pet peeve, we should find a way to allow a special $1,000 credit for people who don't check their smartphones at the dinner table.

•I don't know anyone who has donated $1 to the presidential campaigns on their tax forms, but how about the IRS credit us $1 for every presidential commercial we're going to watch in 2016?

•Or what about $5 off your taxes for every day your local weatherman was wrong about the temperature? That could easily offset the days you had to bring an umbrella to work only for it to be sunny and 80.

Let's get on these, IRS. It's not like you don't just sit around nine months out of the year and act busy the other three. Let's get cracking and ease the pain of the US taxpayer--or at least increase our motivation to get them filed on time.

(When he’s not putting off doing his taxes you can find Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Also look for him on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook)

 


WHO'S BAD
2/17/16

Life would be much simpler if we were all computers. You see, computers run on binary. It's an entire language of electrical impulses, but it boils down, simply, to either being a one or a zero. Computers calculate entire strings of ones and zeros in order to get their instructions and take action on those commands. Computers can do anything but it starts with either being a one or a zero.

People are much more complicated, yet my brain still wishes for the simplistic light or dark element that computers have. Humans want people we know to either be bad or good, a one or a zero with no other possible outcome. And humans are NEVER truly plus or minus. They are ALWAYS somewhere in the middle.

A number of news stories right now prove my point. Let's take Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning. The aging quarterback of the Denver Broncos. Throughout his playing career and endorsement career, Manning has been truly a Boy Scout. Please and thank you; buy this pizza because I think it's good; check out this insurance because I can throw a touchdown. Manning has been all over ads and his career is a hall of fame one. Great guy, right?

Jump east and you can see the polar opposite of Manning in the form of “Johnny Football” Johnny Manziel who is the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Manziel was a highly touted prospect out of college but has always had a history of being the party boy and since he has been with the Browns has missed a number of meetings and reportedly shown up drunk at practice. Furthermore, two weeks ago Manziel was involved in a domestic violence incident still being investigated by the police. Bad guy, right?

Well, not so fast. It seems that when Manning was in college at the University of Tennessee, there was a documented incident between him and a former female athletic trainer in 1996. The incident alleged a “hostile work environment” and the incident also alleges that Manning exposed himself to the trainer.

And Manziel, prior to two weeks ago, had steered clear of domestic violence issues and the police originally didn't pursue any charges in the recent incident. True, Manziel likely has a drinking problem but hadn't normally hit women.
So what's the truth? Are they both bad guys? Good guys? How can I sum this up in 140 characters so I can make a binary Twitter post?

Look at the late Derrick Thomas of the Chiefs, who left a lasting impact in the Derrick Thomas “Third and Long Foundation.” He also fathered seven children by several different women. Look at the great Joe Namath who predicted a victory in Super Bowl III but who battled substance abuse on live television, asking sideline reporter Suzy Kolber to kiss him on air. Look at Bill Maas, who was a tremendous Kansas Citian but also caught with a gun at the airport. The list could go on for hours. And that's just football players.

The truth of the matter is that people are complicated and nobody is worthy of 100% praise or 100% indictment. Nobody is good or bad. We're all just people. And as we look at our role models and heroes (and even presidential candidates) it's important to remember that you can't just put someone into one of two boxes.
Life would be simpler if people were computers because you could start and end as either a one or a zero.

(Chris Kamler is a one on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other places, if you dare)

 


THE UNIVERSITY OF MISERY
2/10/16

On the heels of last week's HOT SPORTS TAKE, I'm doubling down and providing you with a second one in consecutive weeks. But this time, it's going to affect me personally in a very important way.

It's not going to be a stretch to say that the University of Missouri has had better days. Since its inception as the first public university west of the Mississippi river in 1839, you can find no years as tumultuous as the past year for Ol' Mizzou. And this is a campus that burnt to the ground, had a public lynching of a janitor and survived the Civil War.

My university is crumbling faster than Truman the Tiger can spray Febreze on his mascot uniform and it's killing me to watch it.

One year and one month ago, my family and I traveled to Orlando on New Year's Day to watch the Tigers play (and win) in the Citrus Bowl. Since that day, the University has been pounded by a series of failures, bad luck, mistakes and outright stupid moves. To recap:

•On campus protests this fall centered around race relations on campus capture the nation's focus when the football team threatens a boycott if demands are not met

•Those demands include resignations by the UM System President and the Chancellor of the university

•During the protests a mass media professor who had joined the protesters allegedly assaulted a member of the mass media

•Gary Pinkel, head football coach, resigned due to health issues

•Around the same time as the protests, two people were arrested in relation to threatening tweets causing an interruption in classes - the threat was to “shoot every black person I see”

•Since 2012, 16 athletes have been arrested which ties Georgia for the most arrests of athletes since Missouri joined the Southeastern Conference - Mizzou sure jumped into the SEC culture (data as of 2014 and now is greater than 20)

•A decline in incoming freshmen for the upcoming 2016 year marks the first decline in over a decade

•The starting quarterback was kicked off the team for an alleged substance abuse problem

•Two Missouri basketball players were arrested last week for being in possession of drug paraphernalia when their roommate was arrested on felony burglary.

Not to mention the overwhelming concern among women on campus that the athletic department has aided or abetted a “rape culture” including rape allegations to Dorian Green-Beckham and a suicide by Sasha Menu Courey who was allegedly a victim of a sexual assault.

It's been a bad year or two, there's no doubt. And it needs to get cleaned up. My time at Missouri was filled with positive memories of a campus that knew how to have fun but also knew when to work hard.

It's safe to assume the campus is only missing a big tent before it's called a complete circus.

So here's my official HOT TAKE on the subject and here's where I put some skin in the game. I own approximately 20 MISSOURI articles of clothing. It represents about 50% of my “loungewear” (a.k.a. the first thing I wear after 5:01 p.m. during the week). My challenge is to not wear any more Missouri clothing until they can go 30 days without making the headlines for something stupid.

It's been four days, Mizzou. Do better. I'm going to start getting cold otherwise.

(Chris Kamler sports loungewear on Twitter as @TheFakeNed and you can also find him on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram)

 


SUPER BOWL 75
2/3/16

There's a phrase in many corners of the Internet and in the media that means making a prediction so bold that it literally melts the plastic sitting around the reader of the viewer. A stance that is so wild it needs to be ridden in a seven second rodeo.

I'm referring, of course, to the HOT TAKE and it is the chosen weapon of talking heads from CNN to ESPN to even VH1. “Donald Trump Hates America” would be a good example of one. Whether or not that's true, it's more about the shock and awe factor. “Alex Gordon Hates Puppies” would be a good one that is sure to start the conversation.

I try to stay away from giving HOT TAKES on the Internet mostly because those takes are typically wrong and typically uninformed. You don't know Alex Gordon's stance on puppies unless you're a puppy or Alex Gordon. You might think Donald Trump hates America but it still can't be said as a fact.

That being said, I'm about to clue you in on the only HOT TAKE that I've ever sincerely given on the Internet. And here it is:

The NFL will not celebrate Super Bowl 75 in its present form.

As you know, this year we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the ultimate sporting event on the planet - the NFL's Super Bowl. (It's that thing that's played between $2 Million Dollar Doritos commercials)

But here's the problem, unless you've been living under a rock the past couple of years, you're aware of the grave danger NFL players are putting themselves in with regard to head traumas and a condition called CTE. Just this week, two high profile players retired earlier than expected- --Calvin Johnson and Justin Tuck.

Johnson, a wide receiver for the Detroit Lion is calling it quits despite being only 30 years old. He is not injured and many speculate it's because of prioritizing long term health over the chance to play in a Super Bowl. Tuck was a hero of two Super Bowls with the New York Giants but leaves the league after only 11 years.

Furthermore, there are now compelling signs that the influx of more players is dwindling in future years. ESPN sites a 10% decline in youth football participation this past year adding to declines the previous years.

But all that doesn't add up to my HOT TAKE. You're still going to find people who will take money to beat each other up.

No, the big chip in my HOT TAKE are fans like kerouac5 from Reddit.com who wrote that he has been a season ticket holder to the Chiefs since 2004. He has, by all accounts, tremendous seats in section 104. He writes, “I am starting to dislike the NFL an awful lot as a business entity.”

The reason the NFL won't be celebrating Super Bowl 75 is that the money is going to dry up. More and more fans like kerouac5 are debating whether to spend their disposable income on an industry built around sacrificing the health of their employees and one like baseball where the players are more approachable and more likely to have their senses at age 65.

Kerouac5 ended our conversation with this, “That's it, 'why am I supporting this?' comes to mind an awful lot.” He's going to find more and more who agree with him. Better watch those commercials while you can.

Watch out. The plastic in your chair is starting to melt.

(Chris Kamler gives his takes, hot or not, on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book, “The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo” at The Landmark office for only $20)

 


THIRTEEN
1/27/16

 An incomplete listing of things I said to my 13 year old this week:

• No

• Stop touching that

• Yes. Cam Newton is a GOAT

• Wait. Why is he a GOAT?

• No. Seriously. No.

• Stop it.

• Turn the station. I'm done listening to that song.

• Does this song play on EVERY station?

• Put on deodorant

• Brush your teeth

• I didn't hear any water running

• I still didn't hear any water running

• Stop it. No.

• Get your feet out of my face.

• What smells?

• Yes. You have to wear pants.

• Yes. You have to wear a coat.

• Why didn't you wear a coat?

• Donald Trump is a rich person running for President

• That's right. He's also a huge jerk.

• Stop playing baseball near the television

• Put your phone away

• Why didn't you get my text?

• No. Not until you put pants on.

• That's great about your grades, but I don't understand why you need to tell me to SUCK ON THAT, PEDRO

• Stop calling me “Fam”

• If I knew what “Swag Daddy P” meant, I'd be better able to understand

• I don't think the smell came out. I washed it twice.

• Stop touching that. Seriously.

• PANTS

• No. You can't shovel snow in just a t-shirt

• Does every station you listen to only play Adele's “Hello”?

• Put more deodorant on

• Yes. You need to take a shower.

• I still don't hear any water running.

• See? That's better. Stop flipping me off.

But there's also one thing I try to say at least once a week:

• I love you.

(Fall in love with Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and who knows where else. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office for only $20)

 


SICK AND TIRED
1/20/16

Right on cue it happened. Two weeks after starting a diet, the head cold moves in. I don't know how and I don't know why, but nearly every time I try to start a diet my body revolts and I get deathly ill for a week or more.

And by deathly ill, I mean probably not that sick except that I turn into an eight-year-ld laying around in my pajamas asking for soup. I'm the worst sick person. I like to pride myself on being pretty independent. I eat my vegetables. I try to clean the toilet seat every once in awhile. But I cannot stand being sick. (I'm sure it is unrelated to the cleaning the toilet seat thing. But I digress.)

If the first two weeks of the year are fitness season, then the next two weeks are cold and flu season. We stock boxes upon boxes of Kleenex in our house all year, and inside of two weeks in January, we're completely out. We're stuck using toilet paper or paper towels or old copies of my Landmark columns.

There are seven stages to a cold for me:

Stage 1: Earthquake - You could be talking to someone and then in midsentence it hits you like a shovel to the back of the head. The aches. The sinus pressure. It's as if someone inflated the Goodyear blimp behind your right eye before you even finished your thought. Stage 1 is about shock and awe. It is short-lived, but it quickly morphs into Stage 2...

Stage 2: I'm Not Getting Sick - You can try the Airborne drink. You can try to sleep it off. You can try to simply mumble quietly to yourself, “oh no. Not this time.” But you know that answer. You have known for hours. You're sick. You're going to be sick for a while. Better update that Will.

Stage 3: Motionless - For me, Stage 3 can last anywhere from 18 hours to 36. The furthest you move is a small hand gesture to change it to the next Netflix episode. Occasionally you'll walk to the bathroom, but all food and drink needs to be delivered and God help that poor, poor person because they're about to get a workout (not to mention they'll be sick next week!) Stage 3 involves doing absolutely nothing except moaning softly to yourself when you're not waterfalling gallons of snot out of your nose.

Stage 4: Maybe Today - It's Day 4 or 5 and your eyes barely open through the crust of the eye gunk that has developed between your eyelashes. You see that the sun has been up for several hours. You've already missed three emails from work wondering if you're alive. Is today the day? Is today the day that the pressure finally relieves and you are able to get out of bed? Within seconds, you have your answer. Nope. Try again tomorrow.

Stage 5: Learning To Walk Again - By Day 6 you don't remember what it feels like to be healthy. Those days feel like years ago. But you seem to be able to stand and you're again out of Kleenex and are resorting to old sweatshirts as a repository for your snot. You begin to debate and negotiate with yourself. Maybe you can make it to the shower? Maybe then you can check your email? Whoa. Slow down. Let's ease into this.

Stage 6: Almost Human - It's been a week. You've come back to work and are faced with 200 emails. You still are draining snot like the Missouri River, but you also know that work stocks Kleenex, so you decide to go in. This is when you realize that the four people who sit around you are only on Stage 2 and you'll need to cover their jobs for the next few days.

Stage 7 only arrives when the temperature outside consistently makes it over 45 and pitchers and catchers arrive in Arizona to start Spring Training. It seems so far away. If there is a moral to the story, it's clearly to never start a diet.

(Sick or not, Chris Kamler can be found if you try hard enough. Catch him on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


ASK A FAT GUY
1/6/16

Stores have had Christmas decorations for sale since October, and as they begin to take them down and put out Easter goods, there's a small sliver of time. Let's say it's about three weeks long, in which it's kind of a dead period in holidays.
That's okay. Madison Avenue has deemed the first three weeks of January to be “Diet Days.” It's like a real holiday, except you can't eat carbohydrates during it and yell at your family. You've no doubt seen the Oprah Weight Watchers commercials and I'm getting Gold's Gym junk mail in my mailbox every day.

The average American is fat. And that is truly a problem. But buying a gym membership or a fancy scale that uploads to your Facebook isn't the answer, folks. And here's the deal - you can spend a ton on books and classes and doctors. But what you really need to do to understand how to diet is ask someone like me. A fat person.

Now, before you laugh this off, just think about it. I am a professional dieter. I know the Atkins Diet, the 21-Day Challenge, the Cleanse, the low calorie diet, the South Beach diet, and even the Cookie Diet. I am the king of dieting. I am personal friends with Jennie Craig. I have Slim 4 Life on speed dial, and I can tell you what a pound of fat looks like. I've done the power hour, counted steps, counted calories, counted waistlines and counted thousands of dollars leave my wallet to snake oil salesmen dressed as dieticians and “weight consultants.”

I've tried pills, and powders, and potions. I've done situps and pushups and treadmills and jogging and even something called “Cross-Fit” which is what people already with 1% body fat do when they get bored. I even bought a FitBit that buzzes every hour and literally tells me “get off your ass.”

Folks, if you need to know how to start a diet, ask a fat man.

The problem comes about three weeks after the diet starts. When the diet commercials give way to Super Bowl commercials featuring Doritos -- the greatest food group on the planet. Oprah leaves my television and she is replaced with Bud Light models and the Burger King. If January is the low-cal month, February is the cheese dip month. March is St. Patrick's Day beers. April and May reintroduce your body to the glory that are Kauffman Stadium hot dogs. June and July are for cookouts. August and September are reserved for more beer on account of how hot it is. October is all about how many Sweet Tarts and Candy Corns you can cram in your face. Then suddenly it's 6,000 calorie Thanksgiving dinners, candied yams, four-layer desserts (see my article from two weeks ago) and Christmas cookies left out for Santa.

Luckily, January is right around the corner where you can renew that 24-hour fitness membership from the hot blonde wearing that thong leotard and spend a good solid two weeks counting steps before you start the cycle all over again.
If you want to know how to start a diet, ask a fat man.

I just can't tell you how to finish one.

(Chris Kamler can be found as a dominating force on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book “The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo” for only $20 at The Landmark office)

 


GOODBYE 2015
12/30/15

Every year after Christmas and before New Year’s, I think about Q-104 and the late Casey Kasem. Before iPods and Spotify, we'd stand ready with our cassette recorders and listen to the American Top 40 replay of the top songs of the year. We'd try to time the beginning of Journey's Don't Stop Believin or Boston's Smokin' and bang down the Record and Play buttons to capture three minutes of radio history for playback at a later date.

Now, within 15 seconds I can have the top songs of 2015 (or 2014 or 2001 or 1982) streaming on my phone or television or probably even my refrigerator. (There's your million dollar idea Frigidaire - Bluetooth freezer!)

Still, I think about my generation and the technological advances that I will see in my lifetime and it pales in comparison to those my parents or even grandparents witnessed. My grandparents witnessed the birth of the automobile, my parents the birth of television and the atomic age. I will witness the birth of the 13-year-old who won't look up from his iPhone.

Maybe my son's generation will see the personalized technology evolve to the greater good, but for now it's insulating instead of accommodating to the greater good. We're developing technology to track our steps and how many cups of coffee we drink instead of how many toxins your car is putting in the air. We're tracking how fast you can download Adele's new album paying no mind to the legislation Congress is pondering to completely monitor all aspects of the Internet.

I know I've complained in this space about not getting my Jetsons flying car or my Star Trek transporter in my lifetime, but on a more serious note I was hoping that technology would've at least worked on some of this extreme weather or leukemia or something. Instead, we can download Adam Sandler movies and watch Pewdiepie on YouTube at lightning fast speeds.

I watched the Steve Jobs movie the other day and marveled at what a visionary Jobs was, but his aim was very, very personal and flawed. He wanted to change the world by empowering the individual but instead he served to separate the individual from the greater good. Why should I worry about Syria when my watch can send a smiley face to my wife?

Our parents got the communal experience that television brought. Our grandparents saw the world shrink as automobiles and airplanes brought people together. My generation is making butt-prints in their chairs binge-watching Jessica Jones on Netflix.

So, on this New Year's Eve, here's hoping that Generation Y or Z or Millennials or whatever you call them now will tilt the tide and come up with the next big thing to fix the world. Maybe it's a pill to cure cancer. Maybe it's an app designed to disable a gun during an active shooter event. Maybe it's a box that goes in your house that will generate electricity off of the flatulance of your newborn child.
It's got to do a better job than the Apple watch and Netflix. In the meantime, I'll be listening to my cassette tape of Don't Stop Believin' while reaching for the stars.

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed and buy his book “The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo” at The Landmark office for only $20)


 

CHRISTMAS PUDDING
12/23/15

My wife makes a dessert around the holidays. Honestly, and I mean this with all sincerity, it's probably the reason we're still married. It's a four-layer dessert consisting of a bed of crushed vanilla wafers, then a mix of cream cheese and cool whip. Then a layer of chocolate pudding with a layer of cool whip to top it off.
It's delicious.

Consider this week's column an homage to my wife's four-layer dessert. Tasty. Tempting. But you'll feel shame for ingesting so much.

•I've been giving last week's column by Landmark columnist Eric Burke a lot of thought. If you missed it, he was held up at gunpoint while waiting to go on air for Channel 5. Frankly, knowing Burke the way I do, I'm surprised he didn't have to change his shorts. That being said, I'd have soiled not only my shorts if this happened to me, but also clean out much of the van and about a two block area. Is it time for me to get a gun? Is that where this world is going? You and I both know that I'd end up shooting off a toe and the robber would get a good laugh.

Glad you're okay, Burke.

•Last weekend, I took three 13-year-old boys down to Oklahoma City for a boy's weekend. The centerpiece of the weekend was Lakers/Thunder NBA tickets. We went there because my son is a huge Kobe Bryant fan and, naturally, Bryant announced he was hurt moments before the game and didn't play. Is there a league that is based more around sloughing off more than the NBA? Nobody plays until the playoffs.

•I've traveled with my son a number of times but never with his two buddies. That's a lot of puberty to cram into a car for six hours. But if you're looking for stock tips, buy AXE Body Spray. The whole car smelled like a mixture of AXE, body odor, farts and cheetos by the time we got to Olathe.

•I did get to see the new Star Wars movie with the boys this weekend, though. What a great movie and how cool it was to see it with kids who really never got a true dose of “Star Wars” mania like I experienced when I was a kid. I remember my dad taking my brother and me to the old Empire Theater downtown to see The Empire Strikes Back. We stood in a line that stretched three blocks long. And it was worth it. This time around, we went to a 12:30 a.m. showing and even as we were wiping the sleep away from our eyes, it was well worth it.

•The Royals should either sign Alex Gordon or let the town start to grieve. Maybe that's an indicator that they're waiting to after Christmas to announce it. I can't imagine the angst around the Christmas turkey knowing that Gordon will be suiting up in a White Sox jersey.

•With it being the holidays, can we just take five minutes to think about how incredible of a year this has been? Kansas City has welcomed a streetcar and 800,000 fans to Union Station. The Royals won a World Series. The Chiefs are barreling toward the playoffs and I even strung enough words together to write a book. (Copies are still available at The Landmark offices, by the way.)

•From my family to your family, thank you for reading this every week and have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holidays and a Joyous New Year.

(Find Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed and find copies of his book “The Silence, The Series, & The Season of Sungwoo” on sale at The Landmark office for only $20)

 


DIVIDED WE FALL
12/16/15

There's a reasonably good chance that I don't like you. There's also a reasonably good chance that I like you fine. There's also a reasonably good chance that both of the previous statements are true at the same time.

I will buy coffee from you, send you a work email, read your Facebook status, and read your autobiography. During which, I will admire you, judge you and make wild assumptions about you based on your height, weight, ethnicity, smell, tone, facial expression, and probably just because I woke up in a good or bad mood.

I will make decisions throughout my day based on these factors and dozens more. You will probably affect the speed in which I drive to work, the radio station I listen to during my commute, and whether or not I stop and get some of that delicious QuikTrip roller food along the way. All the while, I won't give you a second thought.

Somehow, I'll be able to make it through my day even though you are of a different creed or religion or that you conceal carry a gun or even if you are gay.

To date, I have made it through thousands of days on this planet in spite of your stance on abortion, your allegiance to God or Allah or Muhammad, and I've even been able to pay all of my taxes despite your take on “the Jews” or that funny meme you posted on Facebook about how Obamacare wants to take away our guns.

And guess what? You have been able to do it, too. You've probably even paid your taxes on time in the process. Yet, we continue to be suckered into the conversation about what divides us. There hasn't been nearly enough talk in this election season (is it really a season when it takes two and a half years?) and that needs to change.

How about this quote from Ronald Reagan, “The things that unite us -- America's past of which we're so proud, our hopes and aspirations for the future of the world and this much-loved country -- these things far outweigh what little divides us.”

As consumers of media, we need to hold our reporters and pundits and candidates accountable to solving the biggest problems that unite us. Nobody reading this wants to be murdered in a mass shooting. Nobody wants to die waiting on healthcare. Nobody wants to pay too much in taxes but also get the maximum benefit from our government. Nobody wants the climate to get any more unstable forcing Wizard of Oz-type weather. Nobody wants to see the greatest country in the world cut off at the knees because we're arguing over Donald Trump's hair and Hillary Clinton's Gmail account.

Let's focus our energy on five or six of our largest issues. Let's elect the candidate who has the best ideas or the best team to solve those problem. Let's ignore if that person is Latino or smoked weed on college or was rude to someone on the elevator or even if they're a St. Louis Cardinals fan. There are real problems that unite all of us and our leaders should be the ones working towards solving them rather than bitching and moaning about all of the things that divide us - and there are many.

I don't like you. I probably also really like you because you're in this country facing the same problems that I am. The challenge becomes working a little harder to find out those things that unite us - I'll have no problem finding those things that divide us later. But now, we've got work to do.

(Find Chris Kamler on Twitter as the infamous @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and many other social media outlets. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series, & The Season of Sungwoo in The Landmark office)

 


THE NECKTIE
12/9/15

Today's column is a tale of sadness and woe. It is a tale of aching and suffering. It is a tale of sorrow, and angst, and immeasurable pain. Dear reader, today's column is a tale about a thirteen year old boy forced to wear a necktie to a four hour event.

We begin with Stage One... Denial:

“Dad, are you kidding me?” The young man cried out. “I can't find it.”

“It's right here, son,” I had made sure to know where his one single necktie was before I asked. I was 13 once. I knew the tricks. “I've already tied it for you, too. You just need to put it around your neck.”

“But it's too short.”

“Here. I'll fix that. It's simple.” He wasn't getting out of it, no matter what.

Stage Two... Anger:
“Nobody else is wearing one! It's scratching my neck! I'm going to chaff!! I could choke and die!”

And then he stormed off to the other side of the room. I made sure to keep an eye on him to make sure that necktie stayed tied around his neck. The glare from his narrowed eyes could've cut glass. I'm not completely certain as I am not a trained lip reader, but it seems that Middle School has also enhanced his vocabulary as well.

He lumbered back over to my side of the room looking like Rodney Dangerfield telling jokes on the Tonight Show and grasping for air. “Dad, this is ridiculous. Nobody else is wearing a tie except you and I.”

“I know. And don't we look great? This is how gentlemen look.”

And then he began to mumble even more new vocabulary words under his breath.

Stage Three... Bargaining:
“Dad, how long until I can take this off? I think it's cutting off the circulation in my throat?”

Looking down on him, I could easily see that there was nearly an inch of breathing room between his skin and the collar of his button-up shirt. He's full of it. “As long as it takes. That tie stays on until we get into the car.”

“What if I wear it for another 30 minutes, and then I can take it off?”

“No.”

“How about unbuttoning the top button?”

“No.”

“YOU ARE THE WORST FATHER EVER.”

“Yep.”

Stage Four... Depression:
The words “WORST. FATHER. EVER.” hung in the air for a moment and I was certain that I could hear those same words with my voice banging around in my inner ear. My dad was the worst father ever approximately 493 times and each time, he seemed to be emboldened by it. Like he would actively search for number 494. Now I knew how he felt. It's just a necktie. It's only for a few hours.

How is this boy going to go on a job interview and move out of my house if he can't wear a damn necktie??

Sulk all you want, kid. That tie is staying on.

Stage Five... Acceptance:
I never wanted to brush my teeth as a kid. I hated it. I would complain and moan for hours at bed time trying to get out of this five minute activity. Finally, my face lost its willpower and I brushed my teeth knowing I missed out on an hour of sleep.

That same look finally fell across my son's face after stretching out his neck like a giraffe trying to squeeze through a chain link fence. All of the fight left his body and he just looked at me (careful to not actually turn his neck because OH MY GOD HOW BAD THIS SHIRT SCRATCHES MY NECK) and said, “Fine, Dad. It's fine.”

Acceptance. Peace. Yes, it took three and a half hours into a four hour event.

Yes, only Olympic runners have been clocked at faster speeds than when he took that tie off in the car. Yes, I'll have to go through this all over again at the next wedding or funeral. But for one brief, fleeting moment, he looked almost presentable. Almost grown up. You saw him showing up to his first day of college or his first job interview. You saw him standing at his wedding or accepting the Cy Young award. For a brief moment, he was an adult.

It was at that same moment that I wanted him to lose the tie and turn right back into a child starting the cycle of denial all over again.

 


THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS
12/2/15

Guys, I've got to be honest with you. I haven't moved from the couch in four days and I've watched somewhere close to 2,952 hours of football this weekend and eaten my weight in pumpkin pie. Here's a few quick hits for the column so Ivan keeps sending me that pumpkin pie money.

•I need to finally make this the year that I put together a book of my dad's wisdom. His wisdom isn't your traditional wisdom like, “invest in IBM,” it's more tiny life lessons. These include:

•Always buy gas on Front Street

•Cerner employees don't tip very well

•When laying sod, the green side goes up

•Don't worry about the expiration date on the milk, they're just trying to get you to buy more milk

•Don't sweat the small stuff

•There are more, obviously, but the trick will be to compile the whole list which might be several volumes.

•I have found the secret to getting my 13 year old to do what I say. Not that Brett is a bad kid, but sometimes when I tell him to take out the trash, it may or may not get done. Well, I've found the solution - Instagram. I have two or three photos of Brett that, to him, are embarrassing. His eyes are closed in one. He's making a dumb face in another. All I have to do is threaten to tag the picture on Instagram and suddenly that trash is out. Apparently all the kids check each other's feeds and monitor for any chink in the armor. When they find it, they pounce. Bad for peer pressure. Good for getting my trash to the curb on time.

•Just got back from the Chiefs game. I appreciate sports as much as anyone, but if you're standing outside at 8 am in 32 degrees and a hard rain, you really may want to check your sanity. I'm not sure how many thousands of dollars I'd need to spend at Bass Pro Shops on thermal clothing to get me out to the stadium to sit through that. Luckily, I was in the semi-warmer press box.

•Seeing all that miserable cold rain has reminded me that my flannel pajamas are the best thing in the world.

•We keep adding gimmicks to the holiday season. First, it was Black Friday. Then it was Cyber Monday, then Small Business Weekend. But someone has finally gotten around to adding something that isn't completely terrible - Giving Tuesday. Last Tuesday was a day set aside to make sure you donate or volunteer at a non-profit or charity. It's at least a little closer to the meaning behind the season. For me, I made sure to donate to my favorite charity in town - the Bishop Sullivan Center - that serves 300 meals for homeless and poor every day of the year - all 365. I've met the folks running it and toured the facility and it never stops. They are a very kind group and worthy of a few bucks this holiday season. BishopSullivan.org

•Maybe people in Kansas City would complain less about the Starbucks holiday cups if they changed the color to Royal blue?

From my family to yours, a very happy holidays!

(Find Chris Kringle Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also catch him on basically any other social media outlet)

 


THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
11/25/15

Happy Marketing Season everyone!! Thursday may mark the official beginning of Marketing Season, but you can believe it started earlier in the month as the first radio station began playing holiday music and Starbucks changed to their politically correct festive red cups! Marketing Season is my favorite time of year because you get to understand more about yourself and the holes in your life that can only be filled by stuff.

I remember my parents telling me the truth behind Marketing Season when I was a child and asked why Santa Claus was holding up a Coca-Cola, but that never really diminished the magic of the season in any way. Oh, sure. As you got older, you learned more and more about how retailers find what you need. For instance, I think I was 22 when I learned that Alka-Seltzer works with only one tablet on your heartburn, but is able to sell twice as many because someone came up with the “Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz” jingle. It's consistent with the spirit of the season!

I remember when I was a child and saw my first Star Wars action figure commercial during halftime of the Thanksgiving football game. I knew I must “collect them all” just as the announcer told me. Now, thanks to the life cycle of toys, I get to buy them all over again for my son spending thousands of dollars on nearly the exact same pieces of plastic as 30 years prior! Hallelujia!

And today, you have so many more ways to have marketing showered upon you during Marketing Season. In addition to commercials, you've got pop ups on your computer and 30 second ads before seven second YouTube clips telling you all about the shoes or jacket that you need for Marketing Season.

Back in the day, there was more art to it--take the “I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing” jingle for Coca-Cola. Now, Marketing Season has shed itself of all that silly artistic value and just added PROMO CODES for DraftKings and FanDuel. This way, you can pay into Marketing Season AND get no return on your investment. It's truly the magic of the holiday.

We've also added a new day to Marketing Season this year thanks to the North Star geniuses on Madison Avenue. We've added “Friendsgiving” which is the Saturday before Thanksgiving where you invite your close friends over for turkey and stuffing. You get twice the calories this way and grocery stores get to sell twice the number of turkeys! Don't worry, being forced to make a turkey is also a good way to increase your stress level resulting in increased consumption of sedatives and wine.

Every year Marketing Season gets more and more beautiful and there's more and more ways to separate you from your checkbook. Heck, people don't even use checkbooks anymore! Just hand over your piece of plastic on Royals World Series sweatshirts (replacing the World Series sweatshirts you bought last year) and those Chiefs are making it interesting down the stretch. Don't forget them either!

As a general rule, if you've got any money left after Marketing Season, you're simply doing it wrong. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Small Business Tuesday. Sales Saturday. Door Crashers. Open On Thanksgiving. Last Minute Shopping. I won't be happy until Marketing Season starts before Halloween and ends on Valentines Day.

On behalf of my family to your family, have a joyous and blessed Marketing Season. You can check out my Wish List at Amazon.com.

(Check out Chris Kamler on Twitter as the notorious @TheFakeNed and find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and wherever else you think he may be celebrating Marketing Season)

 


STORYTELLERS
11/18/15

I'm taking a departure from the normal oddities and fart jokes that you find in this column weekly to speak to some up-and-coming writers whom I met at Wednesday's Career Day at the North Kansas City School District. I hope I remembered to put on deodorant and that I wasn't too boring.

I wanted to expand on our conversation about “becoming a writer.” First of all, you don't become a writer. That's like if you're a baseball player saying that you want to “be a bat swinger.” Being a writer isn't a real thing. It's a skill. It's a skill that's used in hundreds of professions including journalist, novelist, comedian, accountant, and ditch digger. Anybody can write.

What YOU want to be is a storyteller. This is beyond what you ultimately end up doing in your life. Because whatever you say you want to be when you grow up is likely not actually what you're going to do most of your life. (Sorry future astronauts or Kardashians.) But you can very easily begin success in what that ultimate job is if you learn to write well and learn to tell a story.

Let's take a non-media position such as my day job - project manager. The job is, basically, to plan out a project and make sure it gets done on time. Easy, huh? Not exactly. What the job really is is all about communication. Sending emails. Reading emails. Making phone calls. Managing your time.

My job is MUCH easier because I can fall back on my writing skills to help tell the bigger story of my projects and why we're doing it. People are more engaged when you can tell them a story about what you're asking them to do.

If you do choose a career in media, you'll learn a lot of skills including how to market your story and how to collaborate on social media and how to keep audiences engaged. But don't ever forget that your audience is there for you to tell them a story. This could be a story about the bus fire that shut down traffic. This could be a story about the winning quarterback. This could also be a story about a man who just lost his wife to cancer. Or it could just be fart jokes.

My point here is if you can tell a story, the rest will come. The media is, ultimately, irrelevant. You could do something on radio, television, YouTube or at 140 characters. If you can tell a story, you'll be able to hook your audience.

And it's one of the easiest skills to practice. You can start today. Start writing. Write stories. Write blog posts. Write in the margins of your assignments. Tell stories. Talk about your day and what you ate. Add comments and texture to your Instagram posts - not sure a filter. Write a love note. Just go out there and tell stories.

The other skill you can develop to help your writing is your reading muscle. Read everything. Read newspapers. (This one's pretty swell, for instance.) Read blogs. Read books. Watch the nightly news. Understand when someone is being a lazy writer (see TMZ and the Kardashians) and when someone is writing brilliantly. Understand the difference. Copy what you love. Mimmick what you love. Capture imagination.

The downside is that you'll be smarter than your friends. The upside is that there is no limit to whatever you do - in whatever capacity. Whether it's the anchor of the six o’clock news, the author of a best-selling novel, a manager for a $50,000 project, a guy who works in a sales office or a fella who tells fart jokes in the newspaper.

Tell me a story.

(Tell Chris Kamler a story on Twitter, where he operates as @TheFakeNed, or find him on Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and maybe more)

 


A POUND
OF FLESH

11/11/15

Shylock:
Most learnèd judge, a sentence! Come prepare!
Portia:
Tarry a little, there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are "a pound of flesh."
–The Merchant Of Venice Act 4, scene 1, 304307

My favorite class at the University of Missouri was Introduction to Shakespeare. I took it my second year at school. The professor was fun to listen to. He frequently brought in VHS tapes of Shakespeare plays and used them to augment his lectures. (That's how long ago it was - nearly stone tablets time.)

He was able to make a very difficult thing - the understanding of the phrasing of Shakespeare - easy. He was able to make me more educated because of it.
My university is now knee deep in a challenging crisis. Many students of color feel oppressed and have called for change. They've called for, and received, the resignation of the university system president, Tim Wolfe. Later that afternoon, they also received the resignation of Chancellor Bowen Loftin. They've called for long-term improvements to the numbers of minorities employed by the university. And they've expressed outrage at acts of racism on their fellow students.

But like the Shakespeare passage above, it leaves enough wiggle room for real change to never come to Carnahan Quadrangle - the location of the protests.
By all accounts, Tim Wolfe and Chancellor Loftin were white men in power, but they themselves had very little to do with the specific incidents of racism on campus. True, their inaction fueled the protests and insensitive comments Wolfe made rung sour on the ears of the protestors. But the protests were calling for a pound of flesh and a pound of flesh they got.

Now the work begins. How many protestors do you think there will be on Saturday, when the Missouri Tigers take on BYU? The football game that hung in the balance while Concerned Student 1950 held their protest? How many protestors will show up next week to debate and lobby for change - real systemic change - after CNN and the New York Times have gone? Next month? Next year?

It's easy to show up to a rally. It's easy to send a tweet with a hashtag. It's damn hard to carry it out after the folks pick up the trash.

I learned a lot during my time at the University of Missouri. I learned how much I could drink. I learned how to cut class due to a hangover. I learned a little bit about Shakespeare. Luckily, I never had to face a protest OR the challenging work that comes afterwards. I can tell you this, however - the challenge is up to Every True Son to make that pound of flesh worthwhile. The real work of making a very difficult thing better will be when nobody is watching.

(No protest needed to find Chris Kamler. He’s on Twitter as @TheFakeNed and you can also find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and wherever else social media might take you)

 


THE MOST HATED MAN IN THE CITY
11/4/15

Behind a desk in an office building there sits a man. This man has a very important job. This man needs to decide how to teach 18,674 students. He has to decide what textbooks they read. He has to decide what teachers will teach them. And he has to decide how many chicken nuggets they get fed on Thursdays. This man's name is Dr. Paul Kinder. He is the superintendent of schools for the North Kansas City School District and for two hours on Monday, he was the most hated man in the city. Let me explain.

As you may have seen on the front page of The Landmark today, the Royals (our local baseball team) won the World Series on Sunday night. The game went into extra innings and it was nearly midnight before the contest was decided. (Or 1 a.m. or 11 p.m.-- my body doesn't know what time it is for about three weeks after Daylight Saving Time springs the fall back or whatever.) Anyway, Dr. Kinder woke up Monday morning, like he probably does every Monday, and headed off to work. Maybe he had a smile on his face about the Royals. Maybe he caught that catchy new Lady Gaga song on the radio on the way into work. Maybe he had a really tasty breakfast pizza from QuikTrip (coming soon to Parkville!).

Regardless, Dr. Kinder probably got to his office around 7:30 or 8 in the morning knowing it was going to be a great, low-stress day. And that's when all hell broke loose.

Twitter, which is the bane of all evil, began to circulate plans for a World Championship parade in downtown Kansas City on Tuesday at noon. The news began to advertise this free event. Dr. Kinder probably gave it no mind. Downtown on a Tuesday? Psssh. Besides, the North Kansas City District only goes so far as the northern edge of the Missouri River. They don't even have schools downtown. Silly. I hope there's a cotton candy salesman there. And then goes back to his work of educating 18,000 kids.

Around noon, the unthinkable happened. The Blue Valley School District way over in Kansas sent out a communication that they were cancelling all school on Tuesday so that students and staff could go to the parade. You can only imagine the look on the face of Dr. Kinder as he looked up from his sensible grapefruit lunch to read that news. Maybe they all got great grades on their last test scores, he probably thought to himself, and dove back into the grapefruit.

Then you can tell what happened next. Some parent called central office at NKC and asked if maybe the NKC district would close Tuesday as well. The question was probably carried by the operator into the office of the grapefruit-eating superintendent. “Pish posh. Nah. These kids need to be in school! It's a Tuesday! There is learnin' to be done!” Back to the grapefruit he went.

The district sent out a tweet reminding parents that Tuesday is a regular school day and that all students are expected to attend. But then another school district cancelled. Then another. And another. Park Hill and Platte County decided to close and Platte County only closes if the Pope AND the President join the circus and bring it to Tracy.

Minutes go by. Then hours. The Facebook post was filled with lava takes so hot they'd burn your eyeballs. Mothers angry that their children were being forced to go to school when others weren't. Fathers angry that they can't take their kids to the parade. Venom. Fire. Hatred.

Poor Dr. Kinder. Poor stupid, innocent Dr. Kinder. Man, I get it. I get what you were going for. But you should've asked someone who worked for the school district back in 1985. You should have asked about the backlash when you chose to keep schools open during the Royals parade back then. You should have asked about the phone calls and letters central office received in the era BEFORE social media. You should've asked about what the attendance was 30 years ago when the city last saw a championship parade.

But you didn't. You ate lunch and made a dumb decision.

Of course, two hours later, the district re-decided to close schools for the parade on Tuesday. Of course that was going to happen because that was always what was going to happen. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you didn't make an incomprehensibly stupid decision and instead just wanted to finish your lunch or just wanted to feel what it would be like to be the most hated man in the city.

(Follow the unpredictability of Landmark columnist Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book about the Royals superfan Sungwoo Lee at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


EFFICIENCY WITH TELEVISION
10/28/15

This is my 200th column for The Landmark. I remember my very first one - taking on the tough issues other columnists were too afraid to talk about. I'm pretty sure I wrote about QuikTrip roller food. In that same spirit, I'd like to take a few moments to talk about how inefficient our lives have become and my plan for a better country.

It starts, as it always does with me, with television. Television is everywhere. We watch it all the time. You watch it when you get up and check on traffic. You watch it in the break room at lunch. You watch it for hours and hours on end when you get home.

What if you could get back a few of those hours? That sounds great, right? But there's another problem, you don't want to miss anything. You need to keep up with the Kardashians and you need to find if your myths are busted. If you miss even an hour of television, you might miss out on everything.

Luckily you picked up the newspaper today - because I'm about to blow your mind. Television Mash-Ups.

Here's how it works. You cram all of the goodness or two or three hours of television - including commercials - into one hour of TV. Let's say you're a fan of those do it yourself channels, but you also like the bridal shows: (Kara, I'm talking to you.)

Flip This Wedding House. The idea is that you have a house that needs to be remodeled and then they put a bunch of wedding dresses in the closets. At the end, there's this big reveal and you get the wedding dress of the house you like.

Let's say you like the science fiction shows, but also the dramas. I can give you tons of hours back each year:

Scandal Trek. A rich elderly oil baron is shot into space on a seven year mission to outerspace. Back on earth, his ex-wife will be sleeping with other astronauts who might also be aliens.

Each season has roughly 20 episodes to it, so if you're combining three shows, you're getting back nearly a week and a half of your life.

Finally, let's assume you're a big fan of Breaking Bad but also enjoy those animated shows on Sundays. I've got you covered:

Breaking Bart. Bart Simpson has come to life but is a high school student. He learns to cook meth with his donut eating father. The show also features an appearance from a talking dog who advances the plot through flashbacks to when he was a puppy.

What will you do with all this extra time? Surely you'll use it to take your wife out to dinner or play with your children. Maybe you'll donate time to a charity of your choosing. You'll certainly not spend it reading Twitter or surfing funny videos on the web, right? Let's get these shows into production and make the world a better place. You're welcome, America.

(Chris Kamler knows a thing or two about working Twitter. Follow him there as @TheFakeNed and check him out on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office for only $20)

 


BLUE CITY
10/21/15

Name a large sum of money, now think back to October, 2010. If I were to bet you that large sum of money that the city of Kansas City would be transformed by a baseball team, you'd call me crazy. But just look at where we've been in the last 24 months!

Drive down any street in town - northside to south side. Independence to Overland Park. Streetlights are blue. Buildings are blue. Flags adorn houses and there are more Royals shirts and sweatshirt workers that we should probably be apologizing to some foreign sweatshop for all of that overtime.

Kansas City is transfixed on the Royals.

From barber shops to laundromats. From churches to funerals. You're not talking about the weather or politics, you're talking Royals with complete strangers and lifelong friends.

I have a great friend that I've maybe had one sports-related conversation with in my life. I got a text from him today asking why Troy Tulowitzki was ejected from the game in the eighth inning. That's the kind of passion this team has going for it. Ratings are unheard of. The Royals game on Friday drew a 42 share which means that nearly half of all televisions in Kansas City were tuned to the Royals.

The fever in this town can only rival the glory years of the Marty Schottenheimer Chiefs of the 1990's when tents would pop up around Arrowhead days in advance of a big game. Entire economies of service organizations and restaurants exist today because of those Chiefs teams. Some say the Chiefs were a main reason Kansas City got riverboat casinos. Kansas Citians certainly know how to get behind something.

The stories of passion from Royals fans are now legendary. You know my story about Sungwoo Lee, the Korean super fan last year. But new stories are emerging about fans helping other fans through health crises - Royals reaching out through charity and just folks having fun like worshiping fallen nachos that coincided with a Royals rally.

But the best part of it is the sense of civic pride I see over the past couple of years. This team has allowed us to feel great about our city again. Starting with the 2012 All Star Game, the city has turned back into a baseball town like it was when I was growing up in the 70's and 80's. The night of Game 6 of the World Series, I remember I had choir practice at a church in downtown Kansas City. As I was waiting for my ride, the game was about to start and suddenly, everything in downtown stopped.

I experienced that same thing this afternoon when I was running late out of work. I left work at 6:45 and the game was starting at 7. The highways were bare. Like a ghost town. Only the fast drivers trying to get themselves home to enjoy the game were left.

Kansas City has been and will forever be a baseball town. The signs, the lights and the shirts might change, but Kansas City will be forever blue.

(Follow the unpredictability of Landmark columnist Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book about the Royals superfan Sungwoo Lee at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


SLIPPERY SLOPE
10/14/15

Arguments used to be a time honored tradition in American culture. From barber shops, to coffee shops and church basements - we used to be able to argue with one another. We'd argue about who was the greatest third baseman of all time, Brooks Robinson or George Brett. We'd argue about anything for a short time, shake hands and go about our day. We used to be able to agree to disagree.
But the times have clearly changed. Maybe it's due to all the varying opinions on social media. Maybe it's due to the talking heads on cable networks. Maybe it's just due to us seeing through smoke screens, but we can't just argue about one topic anymore. We have to slide down the slippery slope, past the initial argument and determine the end game of the conflict.

There is no longer gray area - there is only plus or minus; white or black; right or wrong. And it's slowing the country down.

Pick any topic from the news right now. Here's how it goes.

News Item > We should do something about this news item > Oh no you can't because I like this news item the way it is and making any change will jeopardize this news item going forward > good day to you, sir.

See how easy it is? Insert any of the following where the words “news item” is above and try it for yourself. Here's a few to try: mass shootings and guns; extended nets to protect fans in baseball stadiums; tenured teachers; mental health; excessive police violence. The list can go on and on.

Now look at your Facebook feeds and see how a topic evolves. Let's take the guns debate since nearly every day we see reports of another mass shooting. Here's how A leads to Z and so we shouldn't do anything about A.

A. Side A: Semi-automatic weapons shoot a lot of people in a short amount of time. We should probably do something to limit the access of people to get semi-automatic weapons

B. Side B: You're going to take away all of our guns

See how that works? The argument is over because now you're arguing a fundamental Constitutional right instead of a small change that could make an impact. You throw up your hands and walk away.

But important topics need better arguments. Think of drunk driving and all the great progress that has been made taking drunks off the road. That started with DUI legislation.

Think of environmental disasters, you don't hear about a lot of them because smart people got together and made it harder to dump crap into our water.

My whole point is to not fall for the slippery slope. Argue the issue, not the end game. Let's bring positive debate back to the barber shops and churches and coffee houses in our communities. Let's bury the cynicism and let's solve a few small problems in this country.

(Chris Kamler can be found on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


THIRTEEN
10/7/15

Survival is a funny word. You can survive just about anything. You can survive a health scare. You can survive spending the night in the wilderness. You can survive letting your wife drive you to church. But when I tell you that I survived a six-boy sleepover, please understand that I truly mean that I survived.

My son turned 13 last week and, as a teenager and all the rights therein, he decreed that he wanted his entire squad to come over for a sleepover. Six total. My boy plus five of his newly teenage friends. Survival seemed unlikely.

The Saturday started early - at noon - when the first car dropped off the first two children. (I really mean dropped off. The car simply slowed down, threw the kids out with a rolling stop and then sped away. I think I also heard cackling from the driver.) The other three showed up a few minutes later. Almost immediately we ran out of milk. The kids hadn't even come inside and I'm down a gallon of milk.

“Dad, where is the basketball pump?”

“Mr. Kamler, where are the AA batteries for the XBox controller?”

“Hey do you have any paper towels?”

“Hey Brett's Dad, do you have any more milk?”

This was just in the first hour.

At 2 p.m., we went to Jaegers paintball so the children could work out their teen angst aggression with some liquid-filled plastic ammunition. While the children were shooting and dodging, I was thinking about what I had to get from the grocery store to keep these child termites from eating the furniture.

So paintball is done, and we've had the kids about five hours now. They were all piled into my minivan and we started to drive away. Then, from the back of the car, it hit my nostrils. Boy stink. Thirteen year old boy odor. Magnified by six. The windows were rolled down. It was too cold to hose them off in the yard, so I make them go play more basketball. We ran out of bottled water. The kids were introduced to the new invention called “tap” water.

It's now 7 p.m. and we've gone through five pizzas, three two-liters of soda, two entire bags of chips and I've still got one of them staring for food in the refrigerator. They just kept coming like waves against the beach. Wanting food. Wanting water. Wanting toilet paper. Oh crap, are we out of toilet paper? They had the numbers on us and we had no idea what we got ourselves into.

By 11, the kids had eaten a cake plus ice cream and were now settling down watching a movie. They had all downloaded an app to make the iPhone lady Siri say curse words on their phones. In unison, six cell phones exclaimed how their friends' butt smelled.

The next morning, they went through 18 eggs, another gallon of milk, apple juice, orange juice, two pounds of bacon and I am missing a sock.

The parents begrudgingly picked up all five in the morning and I sat back at peace once again until one of them rushed in the door to find his phone charger left behind. As he turned to leave, he pointed his cell phone in my direction where Siri said, “Thank you, Mr. Kamler - butt sniffer.” I survived.

(Chris Kamler can be found on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


ZIPPER HERO
9/30/15

One of the great things about being on Facebook or other social media every day is that you get to learn what “day” it is. Recently, there was National Cheeseburger Day, and National Sister Day. I don't know how they are picked. It is by Congress? Is that what they do all day instead of fixing bridges and the economy? Is it just done that morning? Welp, good morning everyone. Welcome to National Kilt Wearing Day.

I'd like to nominate a day to whomever is in charge of the days. I'd like to nominate National Road Merge Blocker Day. Now, stay with me while I explain.
The merge road blocker is the guy (or girl, let's be honest here, probably a girl) who has taken it upon themselves to control the merging of two lanes of a highway into one as you approach road work. It's construction season, obviously. And you can tell that by all of the orange cones surrounding vacant construction sites on I-35, I-70, and I-29.

Inevitably, this construction requires you to slow down for no good reason and take two or three lanes down to one lane. It's especially fun when it's 4:30 in the afternoon and you're coming up on 635, but are still several miles away. There you see it off in the horizon. The red brake lights of a long line of cars all bunching up like lemmings.

In theory, you have until you actually start hitting orange cones to start merging into the other lane. But somewhere along the line, it has become a tradition of the Kansas City driver to all line up in one lane 10 miles away from the actual construction. Maybe it's because KC Sports Radio is that entertaining what with all of the BBQ and daily fantasy league talk. Maybe drivers enjoy sitting in 20 extra minutes of traffic.

Anyway, back to the heroes of making sure a traffic jam takes every soul-crushing minute - the merge blockers. The two lanes become one lane at the point where you see the cones and the signs to merge into one lane. But the merge blocker likes to sit in both lanes, occasionally even crossing into the open, free lane several miles up the road, in order to keep a line of cars from approaching the merge point in the merging lane.

This American hero keeps order in an otherwise lawless society. They are the Kim Davis of highway driving. They have applied a pretend rule to an incorrect situation, but are passionate in the execution of their rule of law. They're like a modern day Sheriff of Nottingham, except instead of hunting Robin Hood, they're hunting people who just want to get home to watch the 5:00 episode of The Big Bang Theory on TBS.

Merge blocker, you are the one person who has decided that zipper merging is not how it will be done. Not today. Not on my highway. You are a winner at life. Look at how you just park in an open, empty lane to block that one yellow car who wants to zip past the traffic. Look at how you nearly wreck the fast red car pushing him into the shoulder. You've really make a good point. That person is likely going to go straight home (in the exact order in which you have forced him back into the single-file line of traffic) where he'll reexamine his life and stop taking the shortcuts afforded to him. You have decided zipper merging cannot work in your America and for that, I would like to nominate you for your own National Day. (I will celebrate it by staying at home and not driving on your highways that day.)

(Chris Kamler is the zipper hero of Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


LIGHT RAIL NOW
9/23/15

(Editor’s Note: Chris is busy on other Landmark assignments, so enjoy this “Best Of” reprint of one of his columns from earlier this year)

I love Kansas City. It's my hometown. It's a town with tremendous BBQ, fun activities and such a diverse culture. But man, does getting around in this town suck sometimes.

The traffic certainly isn't as bad as Los Angeles or New York, but ask my wife about driving from College and Metcalf to I-35 and Parvin at 4:30 on a Tuesday and you'll get an earful.

It's made worse because the past two weekends I've traveled to towns that seem to have gotten it right. Last weekend I was in Chicago for the Royals/Cubs series and used their extensive “L” train system as well as their Metra (train used for longer hauls to the suburbs) system. It was painless. It was cheap and it was addicting. Of course, the L was literally baked into the city as it has been around since the late 1800's and currently services over 750,000 Chicagoans EVERY WEEKDAY. It is a primary vein to the culture and infrastructure of the Windy City.

Two weekends ago, my son and I went to Denver, where their light rail system is much newer, making its debut in 1998 and helps traverse a more interstate-style of transportation. In both cities, we chose to stay further away from the city's core and take the light rail into town for baseball games which were made incredibly easy.

The entire time on the trains I couldn't help but think what Kansas City would be like if I could take an Evanston to Wrigley Field type of trip. Perhaps from Platte City to Kauffman - which is about the equal distance. A 35 minute car ride would turn into a 45 minute light rail ride and cost about $3 each way. Plenty worth it to save the $11 parking and whatever else you spent on gas.

Imagine my wife's commute from I-35 and Parvin down to College and Metcalf. She could drive her car to Antioch and Vivion and catch the “K” (that's what I'm calling our “L”) as it winds through Northtown, over the Heart of America, cuts through the heart of downtown following 71 Highway into Overland Park.

A rail system like that would fundamentally change the way this city connected to each other and I can't think of a negative other than cost and logistics. And I guess that's been the hold up all along. The cost of any massive municipal project would be staggering. Cities like Platte City or Gladstone or Fairway would have to fund portions of it, as would Kansas City, the state of Missouri and the federal government. But you need only look at I-70 eastbound at 5 p.m. on a Thursday to understand the need for something like this. I'd say light rail would be more needed than a single terminal airport for sure.

Logistics would be another matter. It would take a massive undertaking the likes of which this city--divided by a state line and a ton of socio-economic divisions--has never had to deal with. It would require cooperation.

And so far, nobody has stepped up other than the City of Kansas City to start it. The first KC Streetcar system will only go two miles. From City Market to Crown Center. That's all that we got after decades of listening to Clay Chastain. Two miles.

So here's my plan. We need someone other than the goofball Clay Chastain to lead the charge and that man is Sly James. When he leaves office, he needs to start a regional PAC to build a light rail system that will criss-cross KCI to Overland Park then Lee's Summit to the Kansas Speedway. And why stop there? Why couldn't you go all the way from the Speedway out to Columbia, Missouri or Lawrence? Or heck, a Denver to St. Louis run.

We need to think bigger than just two miles connecting Hallmark with Burrito Bros. It's working for Chicago and Denver. It needs to work for Kansas City.

(Follow Chris Kamler, a Twitter rock star of sorts, @TheFakeNed)


CTE
9/16/15

Friday night, it happened. I saw my first severe on-field injury while calling a high school football game. While fielding a punt in a game against Park Hill, Liberty high senior Xavier Hinkle bobbled the ball and while the kicking team also went to grab at the ball, a knee made contact with Xavier's head and he crumpled to the ground. Lifeless.

While the district is not able to give out medical information, it was obvious to all that Hinkle had suffered a concussion. For 15 minutes, we watched medical personnel tend to Hinkle, strapping him to a backboard and transporting him away via on-field ambulance to a local hospital.

National headlines had come home to Park Hill's Preston field. Social media reports indicate that Hinkle was treated and released the next morning. Thankfully - but your mind jumps to whether he'll play again, or whether he'll want to play again.

Five years ago, nobody had heard of “CTE” - it stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Well, you had, but we called it “getting your bell rung.” Since then, trainers have been trained to look for the signs of CTE and once you start looking for it, you see it everywhere.

A college football player tried to enter the opposing team's huddle last week.
Neil Smith, a professional football hall of famer, said on 610 Sports this week that if he had it to do all over again, that he'd join the Army instead of play football.
Tyler Sash, a popular football player for Iowa University ran out into a field last week and shot himself. Family members claim that he had been suffering from dementia caused by football.

That all happened in the last seven days. Imagine how long the list would be if you went back a year. Or five years.

And here's the problem - there's not much you can do. Concussions are going to happen when you ask two men to run into each other with helmets on. The brain is going to get impacted. It is the modern day gladiator being asked to attack lions when you won't see or feel the lion until years after the impact.

You could do something drastic like change the fundamentals of the game. Or you could just make note of each concussion; each missed memory; each suicidal thought; each anger outburst.

My thoughts are with Xavier Hinkle today. I hope he plays football again. I hope he is cleared to play football this Friday. I hope he runs for 200 yards and six touchdowns. And I also recognize the sacrifice that he left on the ground at Preston Field Friday night.

(Chris Kamler’s book, The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sungwoo, is available at The Landmark office and has published for Amazon Kindle readers. Get details at kamlerbook.com)

 


CYBER SHAME
9/9/15

There have been two pretty visible “viral” topics over the past week that show the best and worst of cyber shaming. If you're not familiar with cyber shaming, it's where an event occurs that, had it just been a story told in a coffee shop or at a barber, would likely elicit some groans or some sighs, but the story would end there.

Yet the Internet is on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So when a story gets told, it grows and grows. Some of those stories you're likely familiar with - one of the most famous is of a woman taking a trip to Africa who made a tweet about getting AIDS when she landed. She turned her cell phone off and took the 12 hour flight to Africa. When she landed, her offensive tweet had gone around the world and she lost her job the next day.

The two stories I'm referring to are both very similar and show the good and probably the bad in both. The first involves our favorite records clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis. By now, you're familiar with the particulars. She refuses to sign marriage licenses between same sex couples. The story has gone viral with the light of the entire Internet focusing on her. There have been memes talking about her hairdo and there's even a popular twitter account in the voice of the woman who sits next to her and complains about her taking up an entire shelf in the breakroom. (Seriously, check out @nexttokimdavis, but not around your children.)

The bright light of Twitter and Facebook has brought national attention to this woman and both good and bad seems to be coming from this. There are calls for Davis to run for higher office (not sure how she'll do that from her jail cell serving out her contempt of court sentence) and there are also those who are personally attacking the woman for standing up for her beliefs. You see... when you open up a story to the entire world, the range of responses is from the entire world. You see the best and the worst of humanity all centered around a single issue.

Let's now take Exhibit B in our examination of the Eye of Sauron that is viral media. And that happened just this weekend at a football game in Manhattan, Kan. The Kansas State Band who, by most accounts, is one of the more accomplished bands in the country, put on their first halftime performance of the year. The performance was a tribute to the music of Star Trek and it included lasers and Borg cubes and K-State's nemesis the Kansas Jayhawk and spaceships and... wait, WAS that a spaceship? By now you've heard that the spaceship, the Starship Enterprise was... well... a little more graphically portrayed as it “attacked” the mouth of the fictional mascot from Lawrence.

Within moments, the “act” was posted to Vine - 18 seconds that were heard around the world in less than 30 minutes. A fan at the game recalls seeing the director pulled aside in the third quarter only to return ashen and fully aware of the controversy that was swirling around the cartoon phallus. The university was forced to immediately issue an apology, but the Internet had ruled already. Guilty. Twitter was the judge, jury and executioner and I'd be surprised at this point if the director doesn't lose his job.

But for what? Why? For every Kim Davis there's a Dr. Frank Tracz. The Internet has become known for being the ultimate jury and an extremely petty and violent one. While there is so much good that can come from this grass roots mission (see #ArabSpring or #BlackLivesMatter) there's some poor schlub going to work today that will be the target of a whitewashing tomorrow for slipping on a banana peel in front of a camera.

And I'm not even saying this is completely bad or wrong. But I am saying to stop and realize that there are real lives taking the brunt of a tweet or post or “like.” Kim Davis reads the Internet. Dr. Tracz reads everything you say about him. You should continue to only post when you're confident you can take the stones to your own glass house from an Internet that has a strange sense of humor.

(Chris Kamler’s book, The Silence, The Series and The Season of SungWoo, is available at The Landmark office and has published for Amazon Kindle readers. Get details at kamlerbook.com)

 


ASK NOT, LOSER
9/2/15

It's a year away and I'm already 99% tuned out of the presidential race. I'm paying more attention to The Bachelor than I am right now to whom will be our next president. (Hint: I'd vote for <insert Bachelor name here>).

I watched the Republican debate a few weeks ago and catch an occasional blurb on Twitter, but what I've seen so far has just been a bunch of people arguing and nobody leading. And that's the major issue for me. I'm not looking for our next president to solve anything. I am looking for our next president to lead us to a solution--and that's a key distinction.

Nobody needs the president that is the smartest kid in the room--we need the president that knows how to get everyone in that room to agree on a direction. Leadership is missing from government and that's the real shame.

Our presidents used to be dreamers and now we look for them to solve a Rubik's cube. President Kennedy didn't build a spacecraft, he threw out a challenge. President Reagan didn't take a sledgehammer to the Berlin wall, he made a speech.

And this year's crop of candidates has been pointing fingers instead of pushing what can be done. They've been insulting instead of inspiring.

Hillary Clinton's campaign is mired in a daily mess about whether she sent state secrets over her gmail account. Where are her speeches about what the 21st century brings? This is the thing she should've learned from her husband instead of how to lawyer your way out of turmoil.

And then there's Trump, who... I guess, is a real thing now. Can you see Trump giving a fireside chat? What would his inaugural address be? “Ask not, what your country can do for you - because you are a loser.” Or maybe “The only thing to fear is those rapists from Mexico, not fear itself.”

Come on. Tell me how the 95% of the country that isn't on the left or right fringe can achieve the American dream. Tell me how the government can make it a little easier to go to college or how you're going to reduce some taxes on my small business. Where is Hillary Clinton talking about her shining city on the hill? Where's Governor Christie talking about... well... anything? Jeb? Anybody heard from Jeb?

When you think back to your “best” presidents (and I realize that's a slippery slope) the best ones are those that made the country feel at ease when they needed it most. Reagan after the Challenger disaster. Lincoln at Gettysburg. Bush atop the rubble in New York. Kennedy reaching for the moon. This is what I want my president to be able to do. I need my president for these moments.

That is the face and voice of a leader. Unfortunately, it seems we're going to choose the complainer-in-chief this go around and I fear he or she might be the one who divides us rather than unites us.

(Chris Kamler talks a little bit of everything on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He has a Royals-themed book for sale at kamlerbook.com. Find him on the social media outlet of your choice)

 


THE ROAD TOO FAR
8/26/15

The class clown knows the phrase well, “One of these days, you're going to take it too far.” I've heard it dozens, probably hundreds of times after some witty comment or some zinger. Comedy is a lot like politics - some might even argue the two are one in the same. But at some point, just being in on the joke might mean changing the course of history.

There's a 15-year-old boy who registered to run for president in North Carolina. This isn't that uncommon. Anyone can file Federal Election Commission paperwork and be “registered” to run. This doesn't mean that you actually get to run and there is a Constitutional Law stating that you have to be 35 years old to be president (Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 to be exact.) But still, you can run, and this is what this young man did. The boy’s name is Brady Olson. He lives in Iowa. But that's not the name he registered under. Rather, he registered under the name “DEEZ NUTS.” And if you live with anyone under the age of 23, you are familiar with the Internet video referencing the call and response. It goes something like this.

“Hi, is Boffa there?”
“Who is Boffa?”
“Boffa DEEZ NUTS”
<laughing>

So Deez Nuts is registered to run for president in North Carolina. Now HERE is where the joke comes in. Deez Nuts is polling at 9% in a race between Hillary Clinton a.k.a. DEEZ EMAILZ and Donald Drump a.k.a. DAT HAIR. One in 10 North Carolinians would like to see Deez Nuts in the White House.

So this got me wondering, what's the furthest someone got in life on a premise that is 100% a joke? Anti-fans of American Idol once voted through a singer who was terrible just to see the show embarrassed. Former entertainers were elected to office including former wrestler Jesse Ventura, former actors Arnold Schwarzenegger and, of course, Ronald Reagan. But all of those folks had some level of legitimacy in their runs.

What if Deez Nuts actually made a splash in the election? He's using basically the same popularity engine as Donald Trump. Shock value + timing + willingness to shake up the process = Deez Nuts/Trump 2016.

The only other thing I could think of is the election of someone who had passed away during the election process - where voters intentionally voted for someone dead. This happened in Missouri a few years ago after former Gov. Mel Carnahan passed away and still defeated John Ashcroft by 50,000 votes in an election for U.S. Senate. There are dozens of other examples like that through history. But those votes are still symbols where you know a successor would be named (as in this case, widow Jean Carnahan was named the Senator.)

So we come back to Deez Nuts (or some of the others who have applied to be president in 2016, including Vuluptuous Buttox, Kenny Rodeo, and Hillary Clinton as those who have no shot). How far is too far? Can the joke spin the Constitution off the rails?

So we've elected dead people. We've voted in an effort to embarrass and heck, we've nearly elected nine Kansas City Royals to start an All-Star Game. I think there's only one thing left to do...

And that's elect Deez Nuts in 2016 as the next president of Dat Bootay. (Got Heem)

(Chris Kamler exposes Deez Nuts on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his Royals-related book at kamlerbook.com. Find him on the social media outlet of your choice)

 


MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
8/19/15

It's going to come as a bit of a shock to you, but I was a pretty lame teenager. I wasn't quite all that with the ladies and the group of friends I hung out with was. . .well, we were kind of dorks. But I'd still trade all the awkwardness of being a teenager then with being a teenager now.

Teens today are facing a lot more stress and strife than we ever had to worry about and in the age of social media, there is no longer innocence with kids being kids.

Teens still have the same pressures on them as they ever had--do good in school, try hard in sports, try not to do any knuckleheaded stuff in your spare time. But these issues seem to be amplified and in many ways, over exaggerated in today's culture. There was a time where you'd want your kid to go out and get into a little mischief--just so they had a good understanding of right and wrong.

In today's teen society, teens are smarter but also have less of an understanding of the results of their actions. One of the largest growing examples of these are cyberbullying or swatting. Both are pretty severe ways to solve what are often playground arguments. In our day, we'd get into a scrape or use some colorful language. Now, if you get in an argument (often via XBox or Playstation because kids don't play outside anymore) kids forego the “I am rubber you are glue” and try to wreak havoc on kids. Look up a few stories about SWATting (where you call in a fake threat to a police station and the SWAT team descends on your enemy's home) and they'll curl your hair.

Sports have become their own level of stress and if you don't believe that, head up to Tiffany Springs some Sunday afternoon and hear how parents yell at their kids in a baseball tournament. “Is that all you got?” “What's wrong with you?” No wonder teen stress, teen suicide and violence at home are among the top 10 issues facing teens today.

There's a ton of reasons for why this is and can be traced in just about any direction you want. Today's generation of parents being educated on television. Today's teens being educated on video games. Medications being handed out to deal with attention deficit disorder when it's mistaken for creativity. You name it.

We could be here all day.

But the muse for this article comes from last weekend's violence at Mayor Sly James's end-of-the-summer youth block party. The Rock the Block was held at Union Station and featured basketball, indoor games and just an evening of opportunity for city youths. Kids don't have a lot of those options anymore since you simply can't be outside for lengths of time.

The time was we'd just get dropped off at Metro North mall for our parents to pick us up four hours later--no cell phone--just a couple of dimes and maybe a few bucks for a slice of pizza. Now you can't walk down the street.

The Rock the Block was interrupted by several fights and was shut down early. Which is a shame. But also goes to how important the event is. Kids need to even have the opportunity to understand how to resolve conflict without violence. With kids these days, everything seems to either be a one or a zero. Light or dark.
In our day, we'd talk a big game. “Meet me behind the middle school and I'll show you...” and then when 4:00 came, you'd understand the gravity of the situation and usually find a way to diffuse it.

Teen violence now is handled with guns and media - not a couple of weak swings and talking.

The theme of the Rock the Block party was reducing gun violence in teens. And I hope the mayor will continue the program.

Because it's simply not the same as it was for teens and they need a chance to learn how to navigate the good and the bad.

The worst thing to do would be to let kids do a lot of nothing.

(Our man Chris Kamler rocks the block on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Spapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Buy his Royals-related book at kamlerbook.com)

 


THE WAR ON STARS
8/12/15

Listen, I'm not going to pull any punches this week. There are a lot of important topics we could cover. We could talk about Donald Trump and his Vegas lounge act of a presidential campaign. We could talk about the societal implications of the one year anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting in St. Louis. We could talk about the start of Chiefs training camp, even. All big topics.

But that's not what we will be talking about today because I am announcing my resignation from this newspaper. I can no longer work for an organization whose chief editor has never seen the movie Star Wars.

Yes. That's what I said. Ivan Foley, chief operating officer and grand poobah of The Landmark--one of the country's oldest continually publishing newspapers--has never seen perhaps the greatest piece of cinema of all time.

Through some investigative reporting, I was able to find this out during last week's “Star Wars Day at The K” where Mr. Foley (if that's even his real name. I don't know what to believe anymore) tweeted that he had never seen a Star Wars movie.

No R2-D2. No Luke Skywalker. No Millennium Falcon. Nothing. A massive piece of American culture is missing from the mind of our fearless leader. What else is missing? Did Mr. Foley skip out on The Declaration of Independence? What about Nixon's presidency? Does ANY of this ring a bell, Ivan?

Listen, I don't mean to be confrontational here. But I'm not sure I want to live in a world where my employer hasn't seen Princess Leia in the gold bikini, or Darth Vader cutting off Luke Skywalker's hand. (Spoiler alert.)

And I guess it's not just Ivan. Mike McCartney, who is the public address announcer for the Royals also tweeted that he'd never seen one second of Star Wars footage. No Han Solo or C3PO. He was joined on the Royals broadcast by Jeff Montgomery, former star closer for the club and now their pregame announcer. Monty made jokes about Jedis and robots that made it clear he had never heard of Tatooine or Yoda.

How did you people make it through the 1980's? Were you just too into Madonna albums? Were you that into Cheers and Dallas?

Can these people be trusted? Clearly they've all achieved levels of great success in their lives. But at what cost? They've never been to that galaxy far, far away.

They've never dreamed of blowing up the Death Star. They've never wondered what it would be like to slice a Sith Lord with a light saber.

These poor people have really missed out.

So here I am with resignation in hand. My robotically repaired hand is prepared to sign and send it via TIE Fighter to The Landmark offices.

But if Star Wars has taught me anything, it is that the path of the Dark Side should be avoided. Maybe that's why I am here at the paper. Maybe I am the Jedi and Ivan is a Jawa, or maybe Jar Jar Binks.

I guess I'll stay writing the column, Ivan.

Surely we can fall back on our shared love of Star Trek, right? Ivan? Right?

(Our man Chris Kamler spews light saber knowledge and fights make-believe enemies in the galaxy known as Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. He has a book for sale at kamlerbook.com) 

 


MR. KNOW-IT-ALL
8/5/15

A happy 75th birthday to my Uncle Fred Kamler. Uncle Fred was one of my favorites growing up. He'd always give my brother and me a quarter if we had our pocket knives on us. He would then be able to tell us the US mint that the quarter came from along with 10-15 other facts about the era of coin that he had just passed over to us. Uncle Fred had a private nickname on our side of the family--Cliff Clavin.

For those of you unfamiliar with Cliff Claven, he was a character on the show Cheers and he made up half of the duo alongside Norm who both always sat at the end of the bar. Norm would shout out one-liners, and Clavin, a postman by day, would spout out random facts. “It's a little known fact that cows were domesticated in Mesopotamia and were also used in China as guard animals for the forbidden city.”

And that's what my Uncle Fred, a noted historian on Poland and Poland's roots in Kansas City, Kansas, was to us--a know-it-all. The funny thing about it is that we always kind of rolled our eyes when he'd explain how Ray Manzarek was the Polish-American keyboardist for The Doors. Or tales of Polish ballplayer (and former classmate) Ray Sadecki. We were idiot kids. We would just shake our heads and go about our day.

This past weekend my son and I had a chance to steal some time and go to Los Angeles for a boys weekend. I love traveling with my kid because we are basically the same mental age and we usually see how many fart jokes we can laugh at for the duration of the trip.

Our trips generally have few rules. Have fun. Try new things. Don't tell Mom about most of them. But during this weekend's trip to L.A., the vibe started to change. Brett is a couple short months from becoming a teenager. His voice is starting to change. He spends his time in the car buried in his phone. I had to make him look up to see the Hollywood Hills. Brett and I have always been very close, but you can start to sense a slight separation. Ever so slight.

Thirteen must also be the year that a person perfects the eyeroll as well, because it was in full force this weekend. “Dad! Why are you so chatty with the hotel check in clerk?? He doesn't care that you're from Kansas City!” <eyeroll>

But I get it. I heard the change in my voice as well as the voice of Uncle Fred began to emerge through the course of the trip.

“See that, Brett? That's the Capitol Records building. It was built to look like a stack of records in a juke box. The light at the top of the building blinks out HOLLYWOOD in Morse Code. Morse Code was used by pilots and ships to talk great distances while traveling before the Internet.” <eye roll>

OH MY GOD. WHEN DID I TURN INTO UNCLE FRED???

The factoids flowed out of me like a beaten and battered pinata. Pasadena is the home of the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is one of the largest arenas in the country. They played the semi-finals of the College National Championship here last year. The Rose Bowl parade is every New Year's day. It features floats made completely of roses.” <eye roll> “Dad. There are no roses on the bushes. Shut up.”

And so we spent the weekend growing slightly more apart. Me toward my inevitable march of being a Cliff Clavin; Brett toward being the man he will someday be. But there is an upside. Some day, he will take his children on a trip across the Mississippi River or the Grand Canyon or maybe even see the Capitol Records building and it will come out of him. And then the eye rolls will commence. It's the inevitable circle of life. Thanks Uncle Fred, and Stolat!! (That's Polish for 100 more years).

(Chris Kamler spews knowledge on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more. Purchase his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME
7/29/15

As a writer, you are taught to look for new ways to say the same thing. You want to find colorful adjectives, similes and metaphors to paint word pictures for your readers. Today, readers, I'm going to explain what a terrible process this is.

It's hot. That's it. That's really all I have to say. I can't think of anything else because there is sweat running down the small of my back into a dark, dark place. It is hot, okay?

It's to be expected. It is July in Kansas City. I guess that 45 days of rain we got earlier in the summer made me think that it somehow wouldn't be swamp gutter hot four seconds after I walk out of my house - but I was again wrong.

There aren't words to describe how uncontrollably hot it is when I get in my car after work. I'm beginning to think that the folks who created those sun shades for our windshields actually are trying to see if we'd notice that our car has turned into the inside of a microwave set to high.

It's hot. That's the only word. Stop trying to make up new words. Steamy. Stifling. Sweltering. Nothing makes me feel any better about the fact that I have liquids dripping off of my body at a rate of a gallon a minute.

And you can take that “feels like index” and put it where the sun won't shine. What is a “Feels like index”? How is that helpful? The weather person tells me, “It's going to be a hot one today. Highs in the mid-90's, but the feels like index will make it feel like 104. Here's Larry with the sports.”

How? Why? Why do we need to append an already bad thing with a worse thing? I don't understand? You don't see people saying, “Well sir, your pizza is going to be 30 minutes late, but that will also make it feel 20 degrees cooler. Here's Jim Bob with your check!”

How about we just have one word for things and that can be all inclusive. Hot means hot. Don't touch that, it's hot. See? That was easy, right? Weather people are infamous for this with their “wind chill” and “radar indicated threats.” How about you tell me to bring an umbrella or call me when I need to get into the basement - and stop lighting up all the sirens in the county for a gust of wind 30 miles away?

I move that we retire the “heat index” and replace it with the GSI - the Genital-Sticking Index. The description of this index is somewhat, um, graphic. So please cover your children's eyes as you read the next sentence, but basically, the GSI is either a YES or a NO and computes the level of uncomfortability with the heat outside. Every morning, I'll step outside and if there is adequate sticking to the inside of my thigh, it will be called a GSI ALERT day. If there isn't, then you're free to relax in the comfort of the weather outside. Think of all the time that'd be saved hearing about indexes and humidity.

This past week, there have been seven GSI ALERT days. So much so, that I am having difficulty walking. But that's another problem for another time.

Let's just cut through the crap, weather people. Stop making stuff up in the dog days of summer and just tell me that it's hot.
Or maybe I should look into buying some Gold Bond powder and get a thesaurus.

(Chris Kamler let’s it fly on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more. Purchase his book The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)


TRUMP CARD
7/22/15

Donald Trump should be the next President of the United States.

There. I'm on the record. Absolutely. Let's elect him to Congress and the Supreme Court, too while we are at it. I guess, technically, you're not allowed to do that--but I'm betting The Donald could swing it.

Quick - name me another presidential candidate not named Hillary. You can't do it! Hillary has basically been running for President for 10 years and Trump has been doing it for one month and has already eclipsed Ambassador Clinton in name recognition, Buzzfeed posts AND calls for public apologies. Beat that!

Remember that time he insulted “all Mexicans” for sneaking across the border and raping people? Oh golly. That Trump. What will he say next? Remember that other time that he called Senator John McCain the opposite of a war hero because war heroes don't get captured? That dude is zany. I'll bet he could really get Congress under control!

Oh sure, I couldn't tell you anything close to a platform of issues he's standing on. But I can't tell you what Hillary or Jeb or <Insert Rich White Guy Here> is running on, either! At least with Trump, we'll get some entertainment out of it.

Politics has finally reached the level where a guy like Trump is almost palatable versus the rum dums and central casting politicians that we've seen for years. If you held a gun to my head, I couldn't pick out Rand Paul or Rick Perry out of a lineup. I don't even know which one is a Republican or a Democrat! But I know Donald Trump. And sometimes the Devil you know is better than the Devil you don't.

Imagine what a knee-jerk Commander-In-Chief could do with ISIS or Iran or Russia. Think of all of the Vegas showgirls you'd get dancing at the State of the Union address. That's ratings! People would be talking about politics again!

People would be interested in the process. (Let's be honest, most would be learning about the impeachment process after he shotguns us into World War III, but still - WE'D BE ENGAGED!)

For decades, politics has been out of reach of television junkies and sports fans like me. We watch NFL pregame shows on Sunday mornings, not Meet the Press. But I'll bet you with Donald Trump in the Oval Office would get me to turn off Terry Bradshaw after he insults the Queen of England calling her a “cheap tart.” THAT would get my attention.

Listen, with all that's been going on in Washington the past 20 years, you gotta admit that things have gotten pretty stale. Politicians are getting settled in. Rarely do you see anything big come out of Washington. We haven't gotten into a proper “on the brink” scrape in decades.

Donald Trump will fix that, I tell ya.

Trump 2016 - Not the leader we want, but the leader we deserve.

(He’s no Donald Trump but Chris Kamler cuts loose on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more. Purchase his book The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


THE LIVIN' IS EASY
7/15/15

What did we do before air conditioning?

I've been trying to think of a better invention than air conditioning and can't come up with one. It's officially swampy hot outside and thanks to all the rain in June, it looks like it'll be swampy hot throughout the rest of the summer. But air conditioning. Ah!

But seriously, name me a better invention than air conditioning. The gas powered engine was pretty cool. It allowed us to create machinery like bulldozers and cars. But it's also, probably, the reason the climate is changing in the first place and the weather feels like the underside of a bull in a steam bath when you step out of the garage.

The lightbulb was neat. Hard to argue that the invention of electricity and the light bulbs weren't key to advancing the human race. It's part of what helps power air conditioning, after all. But electricity also meant the advent of going away from the sun as your primary source of light. Which means you don't get as much sleep. And sleep is awesome. So I'm going to downvote the light bulb as the greatest invention.

How about the wheel? So simple. So elegant. But let's be honest here, the wheel was invented thousands of years ago and it's pretty much stayed the same the entire time. Round. Does well down hill. That's about it, guys. Sure, Firestone puts some cool treads on their wheel, and those huge ones look cool on monster trucks - but it's basically the same invention. There hasn't been a version 2.0 or an Apple iWheel or required updates or anything to it. Boring.

About the only invention that could go up against the creation of air conditioning would be the invention of the Internet. As we all know from history, Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey invented the Internet in 1985 when they were sailing around the world on the Titanic. It has come to be the greatest achievement known to Man for sharing funny cat videos and bitching about President Obama. We only use air conditioning a few months out of the year (well, 11 months if you are my wife, but I digress). We use the Internet every day as the sole means of entertainment when we are going number two in the bathroom as well as when we are supposed to be working at work.

But... if we're being honest here, how much fun would it be pooping with your iPad WITHOUT air conditioning? Your fingers would start to sweat when you're typing out a scathing post about the Confederate Flag being taken off of the Dukes of Hazzard car! It's not workable without air conditioning. Plus, you can't beat the stream of cool air on your face when you walk into a Wal-Mart at three in the afternoon on a hot Saturday wearing only your bath robe and fuzzy slippers. The cool air hits you in places I dare not speak about in such a reputable publication.

Which brings me back to my point - air conditioning - the invention to top all inventions. Without it, we'd be standing outside (or inside) sweating until our sweat pooled below us. We'd be changing our undershorts every two hours. We'd smell like a dumpster married a rotten egg factory. And we'd be unable to complain about it on the Internet because of our sweaty palms.

(Chris Kamler lets himself go on Twitter as @TheFakeNed, often posting from air conditioned comfort but sometimes braving the elements. You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more. Purchase his book The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


ODE TO KATIE HORNER
7/8/15

I miss Katie Horner.

For those of you new to the area or if you're not a fan of Kansas City weather, Katie Horner was a meteorologist for Channel 5 here in town a few years ago. This was back in the NEWS IN YOUR FACE era of local news and Channel 5 was the best at it.

WHAT'S LURKING UNDERNEATH YOUR KITCHEN SINK?? TUNE IN AT 6 TO FIND OUT!!

WE WENT UNDERCOVER AT A SCHOOL CAFETERIA TO FIND OUT WHAT YOUR KIDS ATE AND YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT WE FOUND. TUNE IN AT 10!!!

Holy crap. Yes. Yes, I will tune in. I hope it's not worms. Oh my God, I hope it's not worms.

Channel 5 was aggressive and they consistently won in the ratings with equal parts CNN Breaking News, National Enquirer, Buzzfeed and an air horn. It was spectacular television and the crowning jewel of Channel 5's broadcasts was the weather with Katie Horner.

Horner was brash and loud. The other stations had grandfatherly guys like folksy Mike Thompson or quirky guys like Bryan Busby and Gary Lezak. Katie Horner had bigger balls than all those fellas put together and they were on display night after night. But the greatest nights in television history were when there was a line of thunderstorms streaking across the plains of Kansas heading toward the KCTV-5 viewing area.

This was Game Seven of the NBA finals. This was the Daytona 500. This was Beethoven as it was meant to be played. Horner would rifle off the cities in the path of potential destruction with the tact and grace of a jackhammer. Basehor. Look out!! Take cover!! Horner says you're about to be pounded. Platte Woods? Better get into your bunker. 435 and Metcalf? Prepare to meet your maker.

Katie Horner once famously instructed her listeners to go to the basement and put a helmet on and it was fantastic. Katie was like riding a ride at Worlds of Fun without a safety belt. It was exhilarating and heart pounding.

And then the complaints came and people ruined television in Kansas City forever.

Monday, a strong line of July thunderstorms rolled through the area. I flipped between Busby and Lezak and Thompson and some guy with perfect hair. There was no yelling. There were no helmet warnings. There was a silent list of cities and the “track” of the storm. That's not a track, you dummies. That's a TARGET. That's a BULLSEYE. One of those weather guys even told me that even though the sirens were going off, that it wasn't that big of a deal. HOW IS THAT GOING TO RAISE MY HEART RATE???

Katie Horner left Kansas City shortly after the complaints rolled in. She got a job for a short while in St. Louis as a weather person there. But now she sells plumbing in the Raymore area - once in the impending doom pathway of a storm she screamed out. And now, she is selling PVC pipes and shower fixtures.

I miss you, Katie Horner. On Monday, I went to the basement and put a helmet on until the sirens stopped in your honor.

(Get the unplugged version of Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media outlets. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


IT'S TIME TO DOUBLE DOWN ON FANDOM
7/1/15

It's time to expand the sports universe in Kansas City. We are ready.

With the growing talk of expansion or migration of NHL teams and the always fluid NBA landscape, it's time to pull in an anchor tenant to the Sprint Center and fulfil the destiny of Kansas City returning to status as a four major-franchise town. Adding a basketball or hockey team to the popular soccer, baseball, and football offerings is not only what the city deserves, but what this town has earned.

Arrowhead Stadium is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the loudest stadium in the NFL. Kansas City Royals fans have shattered All-Star Game voting records. Sporting Kansas City has set an MLS sellout record with over 60 consecutive sellouts. Even the minor league franchises of the Missouri Mavericks (hockey) and the Missouri Comets (indoor soccer) have had great success in Independence and the T-Bones (baseball) in Kansas City, Kansas. And you already know about the passion this city has for their college franchises.

But there's still a hole in this town's sports heart. When the Kansas City Kings left for Sacramento in the early 80's, an entire generation has never known an indoor arena sport. I remember going to Kansas City Kings games down at Kemper Arena as a kid. The era the Kings played in was pre-Jordan and pre-LeBron so it can't quite compare. And their owner was famously aloof and bolted the team to California first chance he got.

Hockey has also had a spotty past in this town, and the overall health of the NHL has been shaky in the past decade with work stoppages, but there is no doubt their fans are extremely passionate as well.

Some might argue that there's not enough income or wealth in KC to support a fourth professional franchise. I can only point to the World Series where plenty of folks were willing to spend several paychecks worth of funds to see the Royals take on the Madison Bumgarners.

The whole foundation behind building the Sprint Center in the first place was to draw in an NHL or NBA franchise. We now know that to be a boldfaced lie. But why not now? The Power & Light District has performed great next door to the rotation of high profile concerts, exhibition college and pro games and the occasional circus. It would fit in nicely with 40+ dates with 15,000 folks.

The key here is going to be ownership. Kansas City will only support ownership and a franchise willing to work hard to succeed. Fans stayed away from Kauffman when the Royals went through their darkest days. Chiefs tickets will be awfully easy to find until Andy Reid can take them deep into the playoffs. But I keep going back to the line in Field of Dreams. “If you build it, they will come.”

We've built the arena. We have the fan base. The passion, money and pride is there.

Now all we need is a team.

(Chris Kamler kicks it on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram and any other social media outlet you can name. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo, at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


FLAG OF FOOLS
6/24/15

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
--Mark Twain

One of the best parts of social media is the idiots. We've all gotten somewhat addicted to sharing personal information about ourselves on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. But it is the fools that seem to find the best ways to continually put their backward, poorly thought-out, and inappropriate topics into the public domain.

I was checking out Facebook the other day and stumbled upon a full blown, five-alarm argument between a mother and her teenage daughter. Something about bringing a boy home that they didn't approve of and complete with a “YOU NEVER LOVED ME!!!”

There was another fairly close friend of mine who shared something about the 9/11 “Truthers” complete with his doctrine about how he thought the tragedy in New York and Washington DC was a hoax or started by the CIA. Now I've enjoyed this guy's check-in's at Target and how he's done on his 5k's, but this one had me reaching for the “MUTE” button.

But the debate of the week seems to be centered around the horrible aftermath of the mass shooting in South Carolina and what impact the Confederate Battle Flag may have had on ingrained racism in the south. These are terribly complicated issues layered with emotion. They are not issues that can be solved in 140 characters or a meme on Instagram.

But that hasn't stopped a number of my friends fighting for “FREE SPEACH” and those that would want to “FLY THE FLAG TO HONOR THE CONFEDERATES.”

If you get past the typing in all caps and the multiple spelling errors in just about every post, you'll see the point of my post today. These posts are fabulous. They are exactly what America has stood for since her birth 250 years ago. Free speech. Mark Twain was right. Give these idiots a chance to tell you how they fly the flag of racism. Put it on bumper stickers. Stick it on a t-shirt. I want to know who you are.

I want to know what businesses you own. I want to know what schools your kids go to. I want to know what neighborhood you live in. I want to know all of this because I don't want to be around you. You are providing me all of the motivation I need through your hate-filled posts and your insensitive jokes to never support anything you are associated with again.

And you're making it so simple. It's like you think you're talking in a small group with like-minded people, but you're in actuality speaking into a loudspeaker to a diverse group of folks all looking to support like-minded people. You are helping us out with your racist jokes and your politically venomous tweets. You're giving me all I would ever want to make a decision about you and I'm just fine judging you from over here.

Finding amusement in a family argument or a slightly off-color joke are one thing. But looking into the heart of what you believe in and expecting me to give you a nod is another. Before I mute you, or unfriend you, or block you, I just want to thank you for making it so easy for me.

(Chris Kamler can be found on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo, at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


THE RIGHT TO VOTE
6/17/15

The cornerstone of Liberty is the right to choose your representatives. Of course I'm not talking about the Liberty with bad traffic and the world's record for number of chain restaurants in a 10 square mile radius. I'm talking about the Liberty that was part of one of those Bob Dylan songs in the '60's.

Voting has been controversial since the beginnings of this great country and, thanks to Kansas City Royals fans, voting remains just as controversial 250 years later. By now you've heard of Royals fans' quest to flood Major League Baseball with votes for their favorite Kansas City Royals. All of baseball has been encouraged to vote for their favorite All-Stars to play in the All-Star Game in Cincinnati in July. The only issue is that Kansas Citians and Kansas City fans are voting with such passion and such zeal that they've voted not one or two, but EIGHT Royals to potentially start the game.

If voting ended today, it would shatter every All-Star Game record for starters from a team. And Catcher Salvador Perez could possibly win with more votes than any other player in history.

But this has left much of the country crying foul as they say this is limiting the best choices for All-Stars and that some of the Royals aren't deserving.

This also echoes nearly every sore loser supporter after a traditional election saying that their candidate was more deserving or that the winner won't live up to the ideals of the office.

Americans only love one thing more than voting for something - bitching about voting for something. It doesn't matter if it's voting for President, or All-Star Catcher, or American Idol, or Dog Catcher. Americans love to support who they support and complain about everybody else. It is the American way.

We can't even make rules correctly around voting. There are five different Amendments to the Constitution surrounding voting - who can vote, how they can vote, how much their vote counts. It seems that once folks figure out a way to vote for the folks they like, the other folks come along and change the rules. This will happen, of course, with the MLB voting this year after the Royals turn the All-Star Game blue - but in the meantime, how can you not step back and admire the anarchy and mayhem this voting assault is causing on the other guys?

What if this were to happen “in the real world”? What if the Internet people chose the most absurd, the most ridiculous, the most insane candidate for public office and that person won? Let me give you a for instance. What if America selected Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States? How remarkable would that be? How quickly do you think the laws would be changed the next year?

It would make the voting scandal following the 2000 election with Gore and Bush look like Disney World.

In the end, the complainers will always be out there complaining about the ones who lost elections - whether it's for class president or the starting left fielder. And if you ever get frustrated about the nature of democracy or even just want to start a little trash fire - the best way to do it is to get out and vote.

(Find Chris Kamler ruling Twitter as @TheFakeNed. You can also find him on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Buy his book The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


ODDS AND ENDS
6/10/15

It's a short week and my brain is cooked after sitting in the 95 degree weather at the Royals game today - so we're going to go rapid fire with this baby.

•Good grief. That's enough with the rain. We'll give you Mosby. That's fine. But I think we're good after that.

•It's election season. I guess. I honestly couldn't tell you what election this is for, but I'm seeing signs pop up along I-35. Here's a few quick tips if you are running for an office:

•Go ahead and put what you're running for. Don't just put JONES on your sign, put JONES for TREASURER. Unless you're running for county collector. Then you should just maybe not run.

•Go ahead and put a picture on your sign. That way if you're ugly, I know to vote for you. Ugly people are more trustworthy.

•Tell me when to vote. If your election isn't for another three months, why is your sign in my yard?

•Speaking of yard signs, election season also means it's “stupid yard sign story” season I The Landmark. Last year we had someone stealing signs. The year before we had sign defacing. Let's really get creative this year, people. Maybe collect the signs of the Democratic challenger and put them all in the yard of the Republican candidate. Or put the face of famous actors on your yard signs. Like one that says “VOTE FOR JOE SMITH” and it's a picture of George Clooney.

•The NBA Finals are on which are my least favorite finals simply because they take a month to complete. The Finals will be done, hopefully, by the time my son graduates from college. He's 12.

•Brett, my son, is actually responsible for getting me interested in this year's Finals with the Cleveland LeBron's taking on the other team. Brett doesn't watch live sports. He watches the highlights on Instagram. We're creating an entire generation of people who only watch snippets of games. I think within another generation sports will be shortened to just snippet-sized contests. Maybe a “50/50” or “Pick a hand” game. First one to seven wins the American League pennant. Seriously, kids. Sit down with your dads and actually watch the games.

Your dads will never forget it.

•My son also thinks FIFA is just a video game and not a world-controlling corrupt institution that buys and sells countries for profit and control. I guess, in a way, it kind of is.

•The more I hear about this FIFA scandal, however, the more I can't help but get wrapped up in it. FIFA bribing countries with weapons and kickbacks and control? Damn, it's good to be a gangster. I can't wait to see how Ray Liotta plays the lead in the movie.

•Finally, it's road construction season here in the Northland, which means that the department of transportation tries to do every road construction project all at the same time. This is the same group of rocket scientists that did construction on the 635, Broadway and Paseo bridges all at the same time. So you've got the never ending construction on I-29, construction on I-70, 635 and they are doing stuff near my house where 29 and 35 split off. The fact that the Jetsons flying car isn't yet in my garage continues to anger me every day. Enjoy the orange barrels.

Maybe we can find some of those folks running for office to help us with that?

Nah. I didn't think so.

(Chris Kamler can be found on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo, at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 

 


LIGHT RAIL NOW
6/3/15

I love Kansas City. It's my hometown. It's a town with tremendous BBQ, fun activities and such a diverse culture. But man, does getting around in this town suck sometimes.

The traffic certainly isn't as bad as Los Angeles or New York, but ask my wife about driving from College and Metcalf to I-35 and Parvin at 4:30 on a Tuesday and you'll get an earful.

It's made worse because the past two weekends I've traveled to towns that seem to have gotten it right. Last weekend I was in Chicago for the Royals/Cubs series and used their extensive “L” train system as well as their Metra (train used for longer hauls to the suburbs) system. It was painless. It was cheap and it was addicting. Of course, the L was literally baked into the city as it has been around since the late 1800's and currently services over 750,000 Chicagoans EVERY WEEKDAY. It is a primary vein to the culture and infrastructure of the Windy City.

Two weekends ago, my son and I went to Denver, where their light rail system is much newer, making its debut in 1998 and helps traverse a more interstate-style of transportation. In both cities, we chose to stay further away from the city's core and take the light rail into town for baseball games which were made incredibly easy.

The entire time on the trains I couldn't help but think what Kansas City would be like if I could take an Evanston to Wrigley Field type of trip. Perhaps from Platte City to Kauffman - which is about the equal distance. A 35 minute car ride would turn into a 45 minute light rail ride and cost about $3 each way. Plenty worth it to save the $11 parking and whatever else you spent on gas.

Imagine my wife's commute from I-35 and Parvin down to College and Metcalf. She could drive her car to Antioch and Vivion and catch the “K” (that's what I'm calling our “L”) as it winds through Northtown, over the Heart of America, cuts through the heart of downtown following 71 Highway into Overland Park.

A rail system like that would fundamentally change the way this city connected to each other and I can't think of a negative other than cost and logistics. And I guess that's been the hold up all along. The cost of any massive municipal project would be staggering. Cities like Platte City or Gladstone or Fairway would have to fund portions of it, as would Kansas City, the state of Missouri and the federal government. But you need only look at I-70 eastbound at 5 p.m. on a Thursday to understand the need for something like this. I'd say light rail would be more needed than a single terminal airport for sure.

Logistics would be another matter. It would take a massive undertaking the likes of which this city--divided by a state line and a ton of socio-economic divisions--has never had to deal with. It would require cooperation.

And so far, nobody has stepped up other than the City of Kansas City to start it.

The first KC Streetcar system will only go two miles. From City Market to Crown Center. That's all that we got after decades of listening to Clay Chastain. Two miles.

So here's my plan. We need someone other than the goofball Clay Chastain to lead the charge and that man is Sly James. When he leaves office, he needs to start a regional PAC to build a light rail system that will criss-cross KCI to Overland Park then Lee's Summit to the Kansas Speedway. And why stop there? Why couldn't you go all the way from the Speedway out to Columbia, Missouri or Lawrence? Or heck, a Denver to St. Louis run.

We need to think bigger than just two miles connecting Hallmark with Burrito Bros. It's working for Chicago and Denver. It needs to work for Kansas City.

(Follow Chris, a Twitter rock star of sorts, @TheFakeNed)

 


THE CLASS OF 2015
5/27
/15

Congratulations, graduates of the Class of 2015! All that hard work has finally paid off. I'm not much of a speech giver, so I checked out a few other graduation speeches on YouTube in preparation. Former President George W. Bush told graduates of Yale that even “C” students “can be President someday.” Ed Helms told the University of Virginia that “It is said that with great power, comes great responsibility. Not true. You can coast if you want to.” And Robert DeNiro said in his speech to the New York University's Tisch School of the Arts that “You're F**ked.”

Wow. Tough words for the Class of 2015.

What happened to giving these kids something positive to hang their hats on? Honestly, a graduation speech is as simple as the line from a Modern Family episode. Just throw together a few lines from popular songs and you're done. Like “Don't Stop Believin'” and “Get this Party Started!”

So with that, Class of 2015, I'm picking the top five songs from the Billboard chart and constructing my graduation speech to you. Good luck!

“I'm too hot (hot damn), Called a police and a fireman. I'm too hot (hot damn) Make a dragon wanna retire, man.” --Mark Ronson “Uptown Funk”

Listen, Class of 2015. You're hot. You are on fire. You can do anything you want to. Just remember that it's “the police” not “a police” and try to steer clear of cops at any rate.

“Deep in her eyes, I think I see the future. I realize this is my last chance.” --Walk The Moon “Shut Up And Dance”

You're young. You shouldn't be so fatalistic. Besides, her taking your arm is ultimately a good thing and if you can see the future, remember to put away some savings for a rainy day. These are all great things to do once you graduate. Or, just shut up and dance.

“Cause girl, you're perfect. You're always worth it. And you deserve it. The way you work it.” --Weeknd “Earned It” (Ed: [SIC], it's WEEKND)

Obviously Weeknd is talking about your first job after graduation and that's to clean the coffee machine and unjam the copy machine. Remember to own that job. Work it perfectly. And don't call for service until you've given it the old college try.

“I hit the strip with my trap queen 'cause all we know is bands. I might just snatch a 'Rari and buy my boo a Lamb.” --Fetty Wap “Trap Queen”

Listen, I'm not going to even pretend I know what any of those words mean. But I'll tell you this, don't get trapped after graduation. Stay motivated. Eat right. Snatch a 'Rari or two. And if you can buy your boo a Lamb, well, that means you're on the right track.

And finally, graduates, I just want to tell you all that you're going to face struggles and great successes. Stay true to yourself. Work hard. Play hard. Cut yourself some slack.

And, as the great Wiz Khalifa says in his number 1 hit “See You Again:”

“Let the light guide your way, yeah. Hold every moment as you go. And ever road you take, will always lead you home.”

Congratulations Class of 2015!

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter where is well known as @TheFakeNed. Buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo” at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


JUMPING FENCES
5/20/15

“Hey, can I ask yous guys a question?”

My family and I stopped just inside the right field gate at Kauffman Stadium and I turned to see two navy-blue clad Yankee fans who asked, “Do yous guys dress up like this all the time?”

While the New York accent may be slightly amplified for effect, I was asked that question three times on Sunday during the Dressed To The Nines event at Kauffman Stadium.

I explained to them that no, this isn't an everyday thing. The suit I was wearing along with my wife's sun dress and the reluctant button-down shirt and tie my son was wearing are for a very special occasion. I explained that our clothes were to honor the story of the Negro Leagues and the history of baseball in Kansas City and how that history played a part with the Civil Rights struggle this country continues to fight with.

But mostly, I told the story that I'd heard Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, tell several times about how black churches would change their service times on Sundays so that parishioners could leave church and walk down to the ballpark dressed in their Sunday best to watch the Monarchs play.

“Oh wow. I had no ideas deyz did that,” the newly educated East-coaster told me. He thanked me and then walked into the stadium.

Of course, the longer story is that the reason I was standing in a suit on a 82 degree Sunday afternoon is because of the late, great John “Buck” O'Neil and his passion for the game of baseball and the determination of his Negro Leagues to break barriers throughout his lifetime. Buck relayed the story to the tremendous author Joe Posnanski about the red dress, “son, don't ever walk past a woman in a red dress.” So there were women in red dresses and men in fedoras and children awkwardly wearing something other than basketball shorts. All because of Buck and his Negro Leaguers.

We listened to US Representative Rev. Emanuel Cleaver give a “baseball sermon” prior to the game where he said that the Negro Leagues broke down walls and in 2015, many feel like there are too many walls around them. He recently spoke with youths in Ferguson and he said, “I wish you could've seen the Negro Leagues.” He said that those guys faced impossible odds. They were shunned wherever they went. Segregated water fountains. Specific gas stations they could go to and an institution of racism most places they traveled. The implication of Reverend Cleaver to those kids is, “boys, you haven't seen hopelessness and those men still climbed the wall.”

So whites and blacks and hispanics and men and women and children all dressed up on Sunday afternoon. We dressed up for Buck. We dressed up for Jackie Robinson. We dressed up for Ernie Banks. We dressed up for baseball and red dresses and those magnificent men who, long ago, broke down the unbreakable walls.

Demz is what we wuz dressed up for, New York fans.

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed and buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


BLOWHARD
5/13/15

I'm calling it. It's over. The era of the blowhard has ended.

Your television is full of them - the screamers - the opinion makers - the talking heads. CNN is getting blasted for its coverage of Baltimore's racial tensions and even sparking criticism that they helped fuel the flames. You can't turn on anything news-oriented without hearing yelling and screaming. And tune to either of the sports stations here in town and you're likely to hear bloviating that could curl your hair.

People are fed up and they're starting to vote with their channel changers and their wallets.

The “format” of yelling has got to stop. It's been present for decades on cable news where you get the two boxes on the screen and just have people yell at each other. Nobody is solving anything, you're just picking A or B and then yelling about why you win. The format has seeped into sports media as well, where even SportsCenter is just people arguing about the issues and not telling you scores to games.

It seems that maybe the tide is starting to turn (at least in the sports world) as this week Bill Simmons was let go from ESPN. While not a screamer, he is the type of person ESPN needs to shy away from. He's probably 10th on the list of people who need to be fired--and that list includes Colin Cowherd, Stephen A. Smith and Tony Kornheiser--but it's a start.

I never took debate in high school or college but I think one of the rules in debate is to make your point salient and compassionate. You have to back up your position with something other than just name calling.

It has infected Facebook and Twitter to the point that nearly anything short of a funny cat video turns into a racial/Obama/Guns/TCOT/religious argument. And it's the fault of cable news.

What if after some of these networks cleaned house, they looked for people skilled in moderating discussions and navigating polarizing positions? Maybe something would get done in Washington or on SportsCenter. But that doesn't sell advertising near as much as Kevin Kietzman explaining how Alex Gordon will never be a good outfielder or how CNN Talking Head #72 asks the leading question, “Can America ever be safe again?”

We're all sick of it. So I'm calling it. The blowhard era has ended. Tell the Bob Fescoes and the Colin Cowherds and the Lawrence O'Donnell's that their day has come and gone.

The next guy or gal is going to elicit debate but you're not allowed to just argue a point, you have to have facts to back it up and allow rebuttal of facts. Maybe it won't work, but maybe we'll at least have a more peaceful scan through the television channels.

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is widely known as @TheFakeNed and buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


THE 360 NETWORK
5/6/15

The next million dollar idea is here, folks.

One of the daily annoyances I have is the way folks use social media. Different social networks are used differently, but for the most part, they all display different angles of putting your best foot forward.

LinkedIn is about putting your most professional self out there - like a living resume. Instagram allows you to post your most wonderful pictures and they'll even help hide any of those blemishes with filters. Twitter is where you get to be your funniest and most cynical. And then there is Facebook.

We've talked a number of times about how Facebook life isn't really reality. It's as much reality as Survivor or Real Housewives is reality. You're seeing a slice of a person that they want you to see. I'm as guilty of it as anyone. Check my Facebook and it's always my best days - the days I publish a book, or take a great picture at a Royals game or when someone says something nice about me.
The problem is that you're seeing only about 10% of the real me. You're seeing your friends only in the light that they want you to see them in. And that's ultimately unrealistic. You should see people as they are - a 360 degree view.

That's where my million dollar idea comes in. A social network that compiles all of your social networks as well as your bank accounts, your taxes, your police record, your lawyer's files and interviews with your next door neighbors and your ex-wives.

I call it 360.com and it's going to let the cream rise to the top. Nothing will be hidden - not the good, not the bad. There's Mike Jones. He was arrested for weed in 1989, but also donates 15% to his church every Sunday. He has an ugly daughter, but his wife just got a boob job.

There's Sally Madison. Sally visits the casino four times a week, she walks her neighbor's dog but doesn't pick up the poop and she speeds on Hwy. 152 every chance she gets. Sally tells people she's 36, but is really 42. Her hair color is from a bottle, but thanks to a generous slip and fall accident, she's worth $2.4 million.
I think people would sign up by the millions. The key is that you'd need to give up all the dirt on yourself, but in return you'd get to see all the data from everyone else in your network. Would being spied on be worth being able to spy on your friends and neighbors?

Like I said. Million dollar idea.

Of course, as the creator of the app, I would have full editorial control over my profile and my weight problem, my athlete's foot and the argument I had with my wife last week might not make it onto the profile.

I guess that's the risk you run for the next million dollar idea.

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is @TheFakeNed and buy his book, The Silence, The Series, & The Season of Sungwoo at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


HE STARTED IT
4/29/15

There's only one topic of discussion on the lips of Kansas Citians this week and that's the new Bad Boys of Baseball--those Boys in Blue--the Kansas City Royals. The Royals capped off a week featuring a number of bench-clearing incidents, hit batsmen, curse words flinging in every direction and a bonafide brawl with the White Sox.

As the dust settles, however, the Royals and their fans are left to examine how we got here. How did a team that was the darling of the media and the Cinderella of baseball last October turn into the villain in a Harry Potter book? The answer is simple, as anyone with a child can tell you. He started it.

When you look back to all of the incidents the Royals have been involved in this year--they lead the majors in being hit by pitches--you start to see the reactive nature of what the Royals are going through.

Think back to your first car ride with your parents across country. For me, my family took a long car trip every summer in our Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon. There were four kids and two parents and the car seated five comfortably. It seated six very uncomfortably, or sometimes we had to do ro-sham-bo to determine who sat way in the back in the luggage compartment. The smells and the arm twists and the crying were the stuff of car trip legend. But as Dad would always do when he turned around, he'd ask “Who started it?”

Both my brother and me, as we were the instigators of 99.9% of the trouble in the back of the car, would explain, “He started it” and point to the other one. For some reason, the original offender was an important fact in these backseat brawls. Yet the brawls were inevitable when you place a bunch of snotty-nosed brats in a confined space between Kansas City and Lincoln, Neb.

Such as it is with the 2015 Royals. Nobody in the media picked them to finish better than third. The defending American League champions were laughed away as a one year fluke. Pitchers from other teams taking shots at our hitters. Teams criticizing the Royals for their fun gestures and the fact that they are playing with swagger. All this angst in a confined space for a month--something's going to blow.

And so it did when on two separate occasions last week, the Royals and A's and then the Royals and White Sox rang the bell. And we are left to figure out “Who started it?”

My answer now is the same as my answer then - “who cares? <insert child's name here> won't stop hitting me!!”

Or maybe translated in Royals speak, “Who cares? Just keep winning and it will all take care of itself.”

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is @TheFakeNed and buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo, at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


MOLDY BUT GOODIE
4/22/15

Let's think back for a moment back to your first apartment. Maybe it was in college. Maybe it was the first time you left home. Now jump ahead six months and walk me through what your refrigerator looked like when you opened it. There's that brick of cheese you bought the day you moved it. There, way in the back is a gallon of milk that looks like lime jello. And... hey, where did that burrito go from last weekend? Is it possible it got up and walked away?

You'd expect to see that in a freshman dorm or a few months after the newlyweds have moved in. But you'd likely not expect to see that when you take your family out to Kauffman Stadium. However, one of the quickly buried items from last year's magical post-season Royals run was that the KCMO Health Department found numerous health code violations at Kauffman concession stands following the World Series.

The violations were tipped to the health department, as reported by ESPN's Outside the Lines, by a whistleblower (who was fired a month ago) and included cockroaches, rodent droppings and improperly stored food at improper temperatures.

Yuck. I'm not sure even my freshman dorm included that. Well, probably not.

Chalk it up to the craziness of the postseason. Heck, I might've even forgotten to take a shower or two last October. Surely they got all those problems locked down in the five months since, right? Nope.

The company that manages concessions, Aramark, also manages the concessions of 30 other professional sports venues. It was inspected again on Opening Day and, according to KSHB, numerous violations were found, including more cockroaches and incorrect temperatures for food.

Earlier this week, a fan tweeted me a picture of a hot dog with mold on it from Friday's “Buck Night.” While inspections that night found no impropriety, it does seem that Aramark has some pretty crazy issues - or that they need to add penicillin to the menu.

Aramark was interviewed and a spokesperson said the food is of the “highest quality.” According to KCTV, Neal Ross was one of those who bought a dollar hot dog with mold on it and he admitted that you “get what you pay for.”

Regardless, fans should be plenty steamed that their hot steamin' weenies aren't edible.

It's time to tell Aramark and Kauffman Stadium (and the Jackson County Sports Authority) that enough is enough. Kauffman has a very generous policy about bringing in your own external food as long as it's in soft-sided containers. A quick run to Subway for a couple of sandwiches, or stopping by Hy-Vee or Price Chopper for a bucket of chicken would surely take $30 out of the pocket of Aramark and maybe enact some real change to keep the flies on the field and out of the hot dogs.

If things really get bad, you can always call my old college roommates to help clean the dishes--after they've been sitting in the sink for about two weeks.

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is @TheFakeNed and buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo, at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
4/15/15

There's not much worth remembering about the late 90's. I never really wore chinos or Fila high tops. I wasn't much of a Nirvana fan and, while I really got into the Mark MacGwire/Sammy Sosa home run battle of 1998, it would later be spoiled by the fact that both of them were on more juice than OJ. (The juice, not the murderer.)

One amazing thing did happen in the late 90's - I got my first cell phone. If I recall, I got mine earlier than most - somewhere around 1996. It was a Motorola StarTac flip phone and you had service across about half of the city. This started my love affair with the cell phone. I've been addicted ever since.

The StarTac gave way to the Nokia, the Nokia gave way to my first of several Blackberries. I also had phones that you could hook to your laptop, and later, a “sidekick.”

I became obsessed early with cell phones and one never left my side from the first day onward. iPhones, Androids, texting, tweeting, and even bluetooth. Count me in.

I cared for these little devices like newborns. I'd brush the screens of fingerprints when they got all smushed. I'd charge their batteries overnight so I had plenty of juice for the day ahead. If I would lose the handle on my phone, I'd never let it fall to the ground or cushion it with my foot.

Not once in nearly 20 years as a cell phone user had I ever dropped and damaged a phone. Until last week.

Let's back up a bit. In 2015, I carry two phones. The first is my personal phone - an Android Galaxy 5S. It is where I run my Twitter empire and Snapchat all of the inappropriate things to my hearts content. The second phone is a Galaxy S3 that belongs to work. I carry them both in my pocket most of the time quite easily. No bigger than a wallet, really.

I've walked “double-phone style” (that's not a real term, I just use it to sound cool, does it work?) for over a year without any problem. Just another And then last week happened.

I've been helping manage my son's baseball team. And that means one thing - coaches shorts. Coaches shorts aren't as forgiving as gym shorts and that meant I had to take one of my phones out and set it on the bat rack. Well. You can bet what happened next. Yep, a foul ball hit the fence and my poor work phone fell four feet to the concrete below. Fell down right on its face like it was a cat or a buttered piece of toast.

I looked at the phone. Laying there. And I felt my heart sink. I knelt beside it, wiping away a tear from my cheek and lifted it to my face. Shattered.

Spiderwebbed. It wouldn't even turn on.

My heart shattered along with it. Nearly 20 years and one of my precious cell phones had fallen. It was okay as I still had my personal phone. Wait. Where was my second phone?

I moved a helmet aside and there it was against the fence. Face down. Shattered.
So, how was YOUR week?

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is @TheFakeNed and buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo, at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


THE POWER OF WINNING
4/8/15

The year was 1984. The country was recovering from a decade-old recession and stood in the shadow of the energy crisis of the late 70's. Unemployment was high and consumer confidence was low.

I was a child of 12 and while my memories of the era aren't terribly specific, I do remember the 1984 Olympics changing all of that. Ronald Reagan talked about the shining city on a hill. The Dream Team of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley destroyed the competition and Mary Lou Retton smiled her way into history.

All it took was one magical month.

Winning changes things. The US went on to “win” those Olympics and the next decade seemed to prosper as a result.

Every year, my dad takes “list kids” to play baseball. These are kids who either didn't make it during tryouts for other teams or just kids who might not play very well. He manages to get their brains summarily beaten in during the early weeks of the season, but by the end of the year - during the post-season tournament - he always manages to string a bunch of improbable wins together.

Kids get better. They start stopping balls. They start having confidence in their swings. They start playing like a team. They start winning.

Winning changes things. All it takes is a little effort.

I had a chance last month to broadcast over half of the 31 games of the NAIA Division I Men's National Basketball Tournament and the team that won it all was in their very first year. Dalton State out of Dalton, Georgia had only had competitive basketball for three years. They had to sit the first two years out of post-season competition by NAIA rule and traveled to Kansas City to their first post-season tournament ever.

The team plowed through the early rounds and won the toughest basketball tournament in the country (having to win five games in six days) to become champions. The kids simply said they didn't know what else to do other than win.
Winning changes things. It only took one magical week.

This week, I sat in an overcast stadium along with 40,000 of my closest friends and watched the raising of a flag. On it read “2014 American League Champions.” You surely know the back story behind the flag and the eight consecutive wins to start a playoff and Alex Gordon's triple and Salvador Perez's single in the early morning of Oct. 1 and the thousand of other moments that made up last October.

This team now embarks on its next chapter. Gone are the 29 years of losing. Buried are the ghosts of Neifi Perez and Eduardo Villacis. Ned Yost is now heralded as an “innovator” rather than a “dunce.”

Winning changes things. It only took one magical October.

The point of all of this is that every one of those teams failed and they failed consistently. Dalton State lost over half their games the first two years. The United States was terrible in basketball until the Dream Team and the Royals... well, you know that whole story.

All it took was the belief and a little magic to turn it around. No matter your circumstance. No matter what die has been cast in your name. You're never further than a good few days to turn it all around.

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter @TheFakeNed and buy his book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo, at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


HOPE SPRINGS USA
4/1/15

Baseball season.

Even the words on the page are enough to elicit a chill.

I come from a baseball family. And by baseball family, I don't mean an occasional baseball game and a hot dog now and again. I mean, since I was five years old, my family has completely changed between the months of March and October.
This happened as kids with Mom and Dad both coaching various softball, tee-ball, and baseball squads. Sometimes to championships, sometimes to end of year picnics where “atta boys” were showered.

Days were filled with catch in the front yard and baseball practice, while nights were filled with the Royals on the TV and laundry. I'm not sure how much Spray And Wash Mom had to go through to get four kids through their formative baseball years, but it had to have been a lot.

Once my baseball career was unceremoniously ended by a freshman baseball coach who equated my ability to run (poorly) around Macken Park to how well I could hit a baseball, I began umpiring. That launched its own 25-year career that took me to tournaments and ball diamonds across the Midwest. Machine pitch, tee-ball, softball, baseball. It didn't matter the level or the game. It was so ingrained into my DNA that when the summer sun was up, I needed to have dirt underneath my feet.

After a spinal accident a few years ago, my umpiring career ended and then my family embarked on a new baseball journey--this one through the eyes of my son, Brett. Named, of course, after my baseball hero growing up.

This year I began coaching, carrying on the legacy that my dad began. My assistant coach is that same Dad who took me to Bob's Big Boy Burgers on Independence Avenue after tee-ball practice so that we could play the pinball machine and eat greasy cheeseburgers.

The scouting report on the KC Thunder is still up in the air. The team has plenty of raw talent, but a simple game of catch sometimes devolves into how far you can throw it over your teammate’s head. Both coaches with “KAMLER” on the back of their shirts kind of just scratch their heads and remind the youngsters of their mechanics. Some get it. Some don't.

For over 35 years, Kamlers have patrolled the chalk lines of baseball. This year, three generations will take the field. Clearly because of coaching, my son, Brett, did something that no Kamler had ever done before this past weekend -- he hit his first over-the-fence home run.

Winning or losing never seemed to matter at the Kamler house. Oh sure, there were a few tears after a loss and a few cheers after a win. What mattered then is what continues to matter now... If the sun is high and the air is warm, there is a Kamler on a baseball diamond.

Play ball.

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter @TheFakeNed and buy his book “The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo” at The Landmark office or at kamlerbook.com)

 


THE POWER OF A TWEET
3/25/25

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about Twitter. Now I realize that many people still don't “get” Twitter. I was in line at the grocery store the other day hearing a man behind me say exactly that. “I don't know why people need to talk about their food to complete strangers.”

Well, while Twitter does have a fair amount of chatter about donuts and pizza, the micro-blogging platform has become much more. I've written before about the day I knew Twitter was going to be the “it” thing for years to come when I heard about the death of Michael Jackson back in 2009. A the time, I was brand new to Twitter and I saw how that news spread like a wildfire across the country before CNN or NBC even sniffed the coverage.

Since then, tweets have kept people up to date from Ferguson, Missouri to the Arab Spring riots in the Middle East and even to the International Space station. The Mars Rover even tweets from another planet.

Yet until you really see the power behind one tweet, it's hard to describe.

This past week, a friend of mine was shot in Independence when he came home to find three men robbing his home. Jimmy Faseler, a youth social worker, was shot in the stomach and has been in ICU at a Kansas City hospital. Knowing that the guy doesn't have two nickels to rub together, my friend Dave Darby and I set up a GoFundMe campaign (basically a site to allow donations for a specific cause) to help offset what will likely be a significant amount of medical bills.

From my Twitter account, we launched the #BounceBackJimmy hashtag that raised $8,500 in less than 24 hours.

One tweet.

There are thousands of other examples. A Methacton High School baseball player tweeted at the Little League World Series hero Mo'ne Davis calling her a “slut” on twitter. The player was suspended from the team.

The list of both positive and negative all taking place on the social platform number in the hundreds of thousands. Hashtag by hashtag.

There's the story of Justine Sacco who tweeted something about AIDS before a flight to South Africa and the world took off with it. Sacco landed to find out that her tweet traveled around the world while she was in the air and that she'd also lost her job.

For better or for worse, Twitter is around (or whatever comes next) allowing all of humanity to prove their worth or their idiocy.

I, for one, will be watching intently.

PS - If you have the means and can help my friend Jimmy Faseler with his medical bills after this incident, you can visit pinetarpress.com/bouncebackjimmy with information about the fund.

(Catch Chris Kamler at The Landmark this Friday, March 27 at 4 p.m. with his new book. Follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed and find out more about his book at kamlerbook.com)

 


SCATTERBRAINED
3/18
/15

This is my 170th column for The Landmark, which means I've run out of stuff to say. Plus, this time of year doesn't help my short-attention span. You've got basketball, the start of baseball, the book I'm publishing (you didn't know I wrote a book? Shame on you) as well as your day job and a thousand other things going on.

So we'll keep this short and scatterbrained. Ivan taught me this.

** Please approve the QuikTrip, people. Roller food is the best food.

** Even though they were a little slow on the uptake, Dirks is reopening under new management. Don't pretend like you are unfamiliar with Dirks. Come on. You stumbled into (or out of) that place a time or two on the west outer road of I-29 and Barry behind the In-A-Tub. One of the co-owners is none other than The Voice of Kauffman Stadium, Mike McCartney who spent enough time at the end of the bar that he just bought it to clear off his tab. Good luck, guys.

** We had my book launch party at Dirks last weekend and the place looks amazing. Tons of TV's, great music and the bartenders are pretty easy on the eyes.

** That silly little book I wrote opened up at #28 on Amazon's “Baseball Books” list. I'm struggling between feelings of panic, pride, confidence and nausea.

** I like Kentucky to win the NCAA Tournament - I also would pick them to win the NIT, the American League East and Wimbledon. They're playing at a level I've never seen in college basketball.

** Starting next week (maybe,) the weekly edition of “The K Replay” will return. This will be your weekly (or weakly) look at the Boys in Blue. I think it ended pretty well last year, don't you? Let's make it 90 feet longer this year.

** Speaking of, you'll need to read next week, but I'm a little peckish at the Royals chances this year. I'm concerned about how the team is going to gel and with Billy Butler and James Shields leaving, you're going to need to see new leaders emerge. It'll be interesting.

** How did Platte County go from zero Smoothie Kings to two? Either way, Platte County is now awesome.

** Snake Saturday has quickly become the party to be at in Kansas City. Kudos to all the family and drunks that peacefully coexisted for five hours last weekend. But a three hour parade?

Seriously, let's limit the “Jeep Club” to five of your best Jeeps instead of 50 and let's cut down on the floats with just drunks on top of them. Sorry, lady. I didn't mean to pee on your stroller.

Well there you go. Spring is here. The flowers will soon be blooming and baseball is just around the corner.

Have a great week and I'll probably (not) have something to write about next week.

(Loyal Landmark columnist Chris Kamler will be offering his book for sale and a few for free on Friday, March 27, 4 p.m. at The Landmar. Follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed and at kamlerbook.com)

 


WIFE MATH
3/11/15

Friends, this might be my final column with The Landmark. I've recently come into a little bit of a windfall and am considering early retirement.

Is it the widespread success of my newly published book “The Silence, The Series, & The Season of Sungwoo” that is available at Amazon.com? Nope.

Is it the death of a wealthy relative? Not even close.

No. I've recently come into a gigantic sum of money because of my wife. Well, at least this is what she tells me.

I have often told people I'm the luckiest man alive to have a wife like I do, but only recently have I found out that it's even financially to my advantage to have her around.

Let's start at the beginning. My wife recently started a new job. She left a job last year that had a somewhat... relaxed dress code. So sweatshirts and yoga pants were the norm. Her new job requires a business casual dress so off to the clothes shops she went last weekend with her friend.
They went to this fancy store called Kohls. I've never been, but from what my wife tells me, it's a place with everything.

We had set aside a little money to make sure she looked spiffy for her first day of work, so off she went to the magical Kohls.

Six hours later, she returned with a trunk full of boxes and clothes on hangers and those plastic bags you see from the dry cleaners. I think they're called “plastic bags.”

“Honey!! I'm back!! And you'll never believe what happened!!!”

I perked up and watched as she showed me shoes and blouses and underpants and bras and slacks. Everything my sweetie needed to make a good impression at her new place of business.

But that's not even the best part!

I sat there slackjawed as she explained to me that she used a 30% off coupon and she managed to find the dumbest lady at the register who let her couple that coupon with another $25 off coupon and then she actually bought the shoes because they were 50% off already and the bra was marked down off of the clearance rack.

She started to weave a tapestry of coupons and discounts and knock-offs and bargains that amounted to three times what she actually spent on the clothes.

“And honey. Guess how much MONEY I saved??”

And here's the crux of the shopping trip. My wife went on to tell me the large sum of money that was saved by shopping today. She said she saved nearly $500 dollars AND came home with all these great clothes!!

“You saved $500? Why that's amazing! Let's go put it in our child's college fund!”

“Well, I mean, that's not actually money we can put in the college fund.”

I didn't understand. She told me she saved over $500. That means that we can go out for a nice steak dinner or go to the movies. Yet my wallet was empty and my credit card was returned to me glowing red hot.

“So. Honey. How much did you actually spend?”

“$300. But I saved $500.”

“Well, wouldn't that mean that you have $200? Isn't 500 minus 300 200?”

“What?”

“Huh?”

I was disappointed, but not deterred. There's got to be a way to tap into and reverse the ratio of money saved to money spent. Maybe it's done with lasers or trickle down economics.

If there's anybody that knows how to “save” money with the best of them, it's my wife. Just ask my credit card company.

In the meantime, I guess I'll just have to plan to quit my day job next month. I've got a credit card payment due next week.

(Our man Chris Kamler is excited about his book hitting the streets this Friday. Learn more about his book at kamlerbook.com and follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


ALL DRESSED UP
3/4/15

Facebook is a dumpster fire. We can all agree on that, right? I've talked about it before and you've talked about it and strangers at the coffee shop have talked about it. A clever idea to bring together family, friends, and strangers has evolved into the greatest argument arena in human history.
Where else can you learn that your second cousin on your mother's side said OBAMA SAID BABIES ARE PUNISHMENT FOR SEX. Or that old co-worker you reluctantly friended so he could send you that Kanye West album tells you that McDONALDS IS RECALLING ALL OF THEIR FOOD.

On any given day, 50% of my Facebook timeline is filled with right-wing TCOT nonsense blaming the left-wingers for the ills of the world coupled with liberal hippies blaming the right for guns and wars and Sarah Palin causing mayhem.

Yet one of the greatest days in Facebook's (and its users) history happened last week when a photograph was posted of a tacky striped dress with the caption, “What color is this dress?”
Imagine the scene from the movie “Airplane!” when Leslie Nielsen comes on the airplane radio and asks the passengers, “By the way, does anyone know how to fly an airplane?” The ensuing ruckus, fighting, drama, and catastrophic commotion didn't hold a candle to what my Facebook feed looked like.

Was the dress gold and white, or was it blue and black? It had all of the makings of a perfect storm of an Internet controversy. It was a yes or no question. It was easily decided on with very little educational material. It was something you could believe in your gut even though you could be 100% wrong. And, most importantly, it was a trigger where you could fight with your Facebook “friends” who had views that were different to yours.

This went past religion and politics and societal issues. If you saw a gold and white dress, then to hell with those who saw it as blue and black.

People who saw something as clearly in front of them as one thing were threatening to fight those who said that they saw another thing. The infighting didn't travel among normal party lines and it fractured tight bonds. My wife and I saw one thing while my parents saw another. Even still, others saw colors we did not see. Yet everyone who saw the dress was 100% convinced they saw the color they saw.

It is probably the best example I can think of in recent memory of how binary life online has become. There is no longer a gray area (pardon the pun) to the Internet. There's no longer room for debate or discussion. You're either a one or you are a zero.

In the end, of course, the scientists ruled that several factors contributed to a dress of one color appearing another color. Quality of the cell phone camera. Lighting of the dress. But most of all, the fact that people see the same things differently. The debate continues to rage.

I finally had to admit that the gold and white dress I saw was blue and black. Perhaps we can all find the ability to revisit our opinions on issues we see on Facebook. Or maybe just turn it off all altogether.

(When he isn’t on Facebook, our man Chris Kamler is busy writing a book and being a smartass on Twitter. Follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed or learn more about his book at kamlerbook.com)

 


LEST YE BE JUDGED
2/25/15

Let's face it, being the mild-mannered humor columnist for Platte County's largest, oldest and most successful newspaper empire has its privileges. Maybe the local coffee shop recognizes you and slides you a cup of joe at no charge. Maybe Platte City's finest give you a nod when you blow through their town going 36 in a 35.

But my newspaper and internet celebrity went to its apex this past weekend when I was asked to judge a Miss America local pageant. Now, the first thing they tell you is to not call these beauty pageants “beauty pageants.” No. They are “scholarship pageants.” And then the second thing they tell you is to not feel creeped out about sitting in a high school auditorium in the dark watching 17-24 year old girls walk in front of you in a bathing suit.

No problem. I'm your man. Scholarship pageant it is and turn the heat down in the auditorium. Let's get to work.

One of the most surprising things about my experience was how seriously everyone associated with the Miss America pageant took it. From the judges video by a sternly voiced man explaining the virtues of pageants to the coordinators who want everyone to sit in a correct seat to the fans in attendance whom you're instructed not to talk with otherwise you'll get the implication of impropriety.

The initial event happens early in the morning with the judges interviews. A chance for us to talk to the girls in a panel setting about their “platforms” (their philanthropic endeavors) and get to know them.

I managed to learn the rules to judging relatively quickly. There aren't many. They don't really give you a ton of instruction there. But the pageant is broken into several categories that are weighted differently. The talent portion is weighted the most, yet the man in the intro video said to treat it as a job interview. No job interview I've ever been on has asked me to play the flute to a Jethro Tull song, but whatever.

Then comes the swimsuit competition and folks, let me tell you, it was weird. With my wife sitting two rows behind me, I did my best to look disinterested but also like I was paying attention. The result was an oddly shaped face and an even more uncomfortable chair squirm - like I'd eaten bad Taco Bell. The final event of the night was the formalwear and interview question. Perhaps you've seen other pageants where the girls all ask for “world peace” or can't name the capital of their state. All the judges had to submit questions that were then randomly selected out of a bowl. The girls all did great. There wasn't a “world peace” answer among them.

And that's what I will take away most about the entire thing. Take away the goofy pageant walks and our calls to watch out for too much “jiggle in the wiggle.” Take away the awkward (and I mean awkward) swimsuit event. What you're left with are genuinely nice people who do want to make the world better. Maybe not by bringing world peace, but many of these girls were working to raise awareness of domestic violence or help with suicide prevention. Most of these girls live on college campuses where societal issues are at their most raw. We need leaders in those communities to be role models. The girls were the absolute best part of it and I wish them all well.

In conclusion, beauty pageants - errr - sorry, scholarship pageants are either a time-honored tradition looking for a wonderful role model for young people in America or a dated misogynistic ritual pushing unrealistic stereotypes. I am comfortable that regardless of your views on them, the folks participating are pretty great participants.

So congratulations to Miss Leavenworth County Meagan Johnson and Miss Wooded Hills Haleigh Kierl as well as their anti-domestic violence (nomore.org) and anti-bullying campaigns. Good luck at the Miss Kansas pageant and I'm sorry about that whole swimsuit thing.

(When he isn’t judging beauty pageants, our man Chris Kamler is busy writing a book and being a smartass on social media. Follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed and see more of his stuff at thekcpost.com)

 


TELL THE TALE
2/18/15

Fittingly enough, Saturday Night Live held one of its reunion shows this past weekend. One of my favorite characters from that show was by Jon Lovitz as the Pathological Liar.

If you've never seen the old skit, basically the guy would get into a conversation with someone and then begin to embellish about how he was married to Morgan Fairchild and was a member of Congress. “Yeah, that's the ticket!” he'd say after each lie.

Lovitz was able to accurately convey one of America's most time honored traditions--lying out your backside. A fact evolves into a story. A story evolves into a tale. A tale evolves into spinning a yarn and spinning a yarn turns into something grand. Just add a small little lie and cook at 350 for 45 minutes.

It's a little disheartening to see that Lovitz's network mate on NBC, Brian Williams - the managing editor of the NBC Nightly News - is about to lose his job (after his six month suspension) for spinning yarns about taking fire while on a helicopter in Afghanistan.

You've heard the story by now and you might have even heard one of several versions of the story--depending on the source. Helicopter pilots. Other members of the press and Williams himself--all with varying parts and pieces of the story. But the consensus is that Williams embellished, crowed or just flat out lied about his role in a helicopter shooting.

We do it all the time ourselves. We tell stories. We bend the truth. We edit generously or embellish sparsely. The fact is that our brains aren't built for total recall, so we tend to fill the blanks with the truth that we prefer.

In this digital age, you only see sanitized versions of other people on Facebook. Are those folks who tell you about their perfect children and their wonderful marriage and their extravagant vacation lying? Well, maybe it's more like stretching the truth. If you go to buy a car, are you to assume that the jalopy with 22,000 miles and three bald tires is really a “steal” and “will be with you for years to come” is lying? Or is he just trying to make a sale?

We're holding Brian Williams to a standard that I argue not one of us could live up to. The guy stretched the truth. That's the way I see it. A good newsman is going to lose his job because we aren't able to understand that Brian Williams was telling a banquet story instead of reporting the news. It's going to become that much harder to get real news out because the public is on a witch hunt and smells blood.

And yet, maybe those of us who are calling for him to be fired will wake up tomorrow filled with truth and you'll tell your boss what you really think of him, or you'll tell your spouse what you think of her pasta salad.

Or maybe you'll tell a little fib. Yeah. That's the ticket.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all sorts of things, most of which are legal. Follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed and see more of his stuff at thekcpost.com)

 


ODE TO 152
2/11/15

I had to drive from Platte City to Liberty the other day. I didn't give it much thought at the time. It's like any other trip. You can get to just about anywhere in Kansas CIty in a half an hour and I figured Platte City to Liberty would be even less.

The thing I like about Platte City is the windy two-lane roads. There's a ton of them just north of the airport and they're pretty hilly, too. Great to drive during the fall because you can see the leaves change colors. Terrible to drive in the winter because they're pretty treacherous. But the weather has been extremely nice for winter and I made it out of Platte City unharmed.

That brought me to 152 Highway. “Military Road” used to be the artery between Liberty's artillery stash and Fort Leavenworth. Later, that road was renamed to Barry Road. I can remember when 152 was a windy two-lane road as well. Most of it was tied into Barry Road. Now it is a gleaming four-lane highway for much of the stretch.

The entire west portion of 152 is idle. There's absolutely nothing there up until you hit Maple Woods. That portion will someday be the main road into the new KCI if it's ever rebuilt, but for now, it's a great place to open up the throttle on your motorcycle on a spring day.

That is... until you get to Maple Woods. Then Brighton. Then the east side of 435. Then... Liberty, Missouri.

What the hell happened, Liberty?

There used to be a McDonalds and a Wal-Mart on one side of I-35 and a movie theater and a K-Mart on the other side. Now, every retail chain has vomited on the intersection like a puppy eating rotten eggs. Need a cheeseburger? There's Five Guys, McDonalds, Culvers, Burger King and a dozen others. Want a load of plywood? You can spit and hit a Home Depot and a Lowes as well as Wal-Mart. Nearly anything that you can desire you can find at the intersection of I-35 and 152 Highway. There's a high school, a battery store and three pizza places.

I suppose that's good if you like all of everything right in one place. But that's the problem. From the 291 intersection back west to Indiana it takes nearly as long to travel as it does from 435 to 435. There are nearly a dozen stoplights and whether it's a Tuesday at 10 a.m. or a Friday night at 11 p.m., there's always gridlock. And don't even think about heading up that way on a Saturday at noon. You'd get further if you walked.

The city planners of Liberty and Kansas City should be ashamed of themselves for putting together such a grotesque collection of capitalism without paying any attention to crowd control. It's like putting together a five story shopping mall but scattering it all across two miles of highway.
I remember when I was a kid driving down Noland Road and seeing all the brightly lit signs thinking it might be Las Vegas. Noland Road can't hold a candle to the Libermess along 152 highway.

All told, I did make it from Platte City to Liberty on a Saturday afternoon. It took 45 minutes and nearly a quarter tank of gas. I saw two fender benders and thousands of cars. What I didn't see was a city planner - that guy has probably already been fired.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of weird things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


NATIONWIDE IS ON YOUR SIDE
2/4/15

One of the greatest unofficial holidays of the year is Super Bowl Sunday. Americans never need an excuse to overeat so of course Super Bowl parties have become the norm for early February. My party featured chicken wings, cheese dip, chips and my mother insisted on bringing carrots and celery for some reason.

The game was an instant classic that went the way of the Patriots as this intrepid columnist (and 2014 Landmark Pigskin Picks winner) boldly predicted.

But the Super Bowl itself has begun to erode and it's got nothing to do with the play on the field, although the NFL just completed its most controversial year in history as it licked its wounds from multiple domestic violence charges and a cheating scandal featuring the Super Bowl champions.

No, it's got nothing to do with Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or Marshawn Lynch. It's the commercials. Long gone are the artistically thoughtful commercials like Apple's “1984” commercial that called back to the great work of 1984 to sell Apple computers. Long gone are even the funny Doritos commercials or bottles of beer playing football. We didn't even have a cute little kid ask Mean Joe Green for his jersey.

Nope, that cute little kid was killed in the first half by an insurance company.

Instead of cute little puppies or hot chicks eating cheeseburgers in bikinis, the national dialogue this week will be on Nationwide Insurance running a commercial implying that little Timmy died because folks didn't protect him from preventable household dangers.

Now, I'm as big of a fan of the PSA as anybody. I mean, that KCP&L ad with the metal ladder hitting the electric line still sticks in my brain every time I go to clean the leaves out of the gutter. Yet, I'm not sure the first 30 minutes of the Super Bowl is the appropriate time to remind folks that their little child could die instead of running to the fridge to get you a cold Budweiser.

The ad fell flat on Twitter and was widely panned moments after it aired. Nationwide issued a statement stating that it wasn't trying to sell life insurance, but saw the Super Bowl audience as an opportunity to bring up the issue.

Perhaps, but chicken wings, margaritas and dead children don't really mix and Madison Avenue whiffed big on this one.

The general tone of all of the commercials this year was pretty dour. Even the “best” commercial of the year wasn't a funny talking gerbil or a pratfall. It was the “Lost Dog” commercial from Budweiser that featured Clydesdale horses coming to the rescue of a lost puppy. The ad made my wife cry when she saw it and I'll admit it got a little dusty in the room when I saw it for the first time as well. Still proof that you can try to sell something and not leave the audience running to their therapists.

But I do hope that in future Super Bowls folks will remember that this is a celebration of what we love about America. Football. Chicken Wings. Beer. And leave the lost puppies and dead children out of it.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of mysterious things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at the kcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


BALLS
1/28/15

Balls.

Big ones. Little ones. Elongated ones. Deflated ones. Brown ones. White ones. Orange ones. Even yellow and blue ones.

There's only been one topic on the minds of America this week and it's balls.

For me, this strikes close to home. For over 25 years, I was the man in charge of balls. I kept them in a satchel near my waist. It was my job to control them. Protect them. Keep them free of damage. My daily ritual was to even rub mud on them to before my day even started.

I know a significant amount about protecting balls.

What I don't get is just how this could've happened on such a big stage. We have an old saying about balls that goes, “the bigger the stage, the bigger the balls.” And it's really true. You've got to keep a firm grasp of the situation - and the balls - because you never know what type of nefariousness is out to tamper with said balls.

“I've handled balls my whole career,” one of the participants was quoted in a press conference.

Well, if that was the case, sir, then you forgot the cardinal rules of ball protection:

“Keep 'em out of reach. Keep 'em safe from harm. Keep 'em perfect in every way.”

You are taught it the first days you were given your balls – for some it was earlier than others. But for most, it was as they first became active out in the world. Many were just naturals, but others had to be taught how to properly protect the balls. Some were too firm and some were too gentle. There's certainly a balance – an art – to it, if you will.

Balls are a universal language. Whether they're called “cojones” or “Balle” or “Beitsim” or just “big'uns” – we should all take something away from balls this week.

It doesn't matter if it's in a gymnasium, a coliseum, a stadium or in the privacy of your own home. I don't think the nation will ever disregard the protection of balls again. At least that is my hope and wish. Whether you're married to a super model, or just single and alone in your dorm room – we shall all remember this week. The week where ball handling wasn't given the attention it deserved and demanded. Balls must be the right pressure, the right temperature and coddled in just the right fashion.

Changes will be made after this. I hope that balls will be protected properly. I hope that balls will be handled with the care that balls should've gotten all along. Whether they are basket, base, foot, ping pong, volley, or blue, let the word go forth that balls shall never be treated in such a manner.

It turns out that as the nation has been gripped by news of balls this January, the sad part is that the balls should have been gripped by the nation.

Balls. Learn them. Live them. Love them. Keep them properly pressurized.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of mysterious things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


PREDICTIONS
1/21/15

First, let me apologize. I'm a couple weeks late on this. So please don't get mad. I wasn't cheating. I was actually traveling ahead in time and got the return date wrong.

I've just returned from Dec. 31, 2015 and I wanted to share with you a few headlines of Platte County Landmark news articles that will happen sometime during the year. Now, it's common knowledge that the laws of traveling through space don't allow me to tell you exactly what happens in the future. So I'm only able to give you the headlines. But believe me. When you see them in the pages in weeks and months to come, it'll all make sense.

Here we go:

TRACY MAN HAS SELFIE-STICK SURGICALLY REMOVED - I mean, this one is a little self-explanatory. But you'll need to make sure you read paragraph three to find out how and where it was inserted.

AIRPORT MEETING: TEMPERS FLY HIGH - I mean, who doesn't love a good pun, right? And this one was great as proponents of a single terminal KCI clash with protesters who enjoy everyone flying in and out of Gate 64, Terminal C. Spoiler Alert: Everyone in attendance was “searched” by the TSA.

KAMLER/FOLEY PANTSLESS AT BOOK SIGNING - I can't tell you much about this one - other than it will be in March.

PLATTE CITY STUDENT TALKS LIKE PIRATE FOR 60 DAYS STRAIGHT - What started out as a show of school spirit ended up with him being taken to get a psych eval.

RISS LAKE INSTALLS ELECTRIC FENCE - To combat the urban sprawl of the businesses around it, Riss Lake residents take drastic measures to keep their neighborhood “clean.”

POLICE CHASE THROUGH PLATTE COUNTY FOILED BY DRONE - The Platte City Police Department will finally use their snooping camera eyes for good as a new drone camera they bought to check up on residents accidentally stops a police chase by going into the windshield of the getaway car.

LANDMARK COLUMNIST WINS EVERY AWARD KNOWN TO COLUMNISTS - Hint... Hint... His initials are CK. This also included “Handsomest Columnist.”

PLATTE COUNTY YMCA RENOVATIONS TO INCLUDE STATE OF THE ART SHOOTING RANGE - I don't know how they afford all the renovations, but I don't see what would possibly go wrong with this.

COUNTY JUDGE TICKLISH - This one was on Page 4 of the Landmark. You might not want to see the accompanying picture.

LANDMARK BEGINS 151st YEAR; FIRES IDIOT COLUMNIST

I'll see you in the future. Have a great year!

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter @TheFakeNed and be sure to buy his book that comes out in March)

 


SPACE. . .THE FINAL
FRONTIER

1/14/15

As our esteemed editor, Ivan Foley mentioned last week, I am in the final stages of writing a book. I've never written a book before. Frankly, the longest thing I've ever written has been these short little columns I write for the newspaper every week.

I've read a number of books. Well, that's not entirely genuine. I have read several websites and some fairly thick Fantasy Football magazines. What I've been most fascinated about has been the behind-the-scenes things that surround the mechanics of writing a book.

For instance, you have to purchase something called an ISBN number, which is then translated to the barcode on the back of the book. This immediately reminded me that I needed to write something ON the back of the book.

So, the back of the book is apparently the best chance to get people to buy your book so it's supposed to tell people about the story and then nice things people have said about it. So, I basically had to lie. Because the book is nearly 100% fart jokes.

The next thing you have to do is get an editor to read your “manuscript” (fancy word for “Word Document”) and proofread it. He or she also will make sure the story flows from one chapter to another and make sure there isn't anything really wrong with the look of the book.

For those of you who read my columns here every week, you have probably picked up that I have a relatively “conversational” style in my writing. Editors hate that. “Conversational” means “really screwed up.” I put things in “quotes” too much. I hyphenate words-way-too-much. I also tend to Capitalize things that Don't need Capitalization.

These are all quirks I told my editor about beforehand and I told him to just ignore them. I wanted my story to sound like I was just telling it to you at a bus stop. The editor agreed to ignore all of those and two weeks later I got my word document back.

Word has a feature where you can point out things to change. It's called “track changes” and it puts a little red line under something, kind of like spell check. When I got the manuscript back it was covered in red. But all of my hyphens and Capital letters were still there.

The editor told me, “I only have one change for you in the book. Nobody puts two spaces after a period anymore. You have to go through every sentence and fix it.”

What?? When did that change? You don't put two spaces after a period anymore? That's crazy.

So I looked it up and, sure enough, it changed nearly 20 years ago. Nobody told me. How terrifying to know that you've been living your life under one set of rules when the rest of the world has been adhering to another. It's like when I drive the speed limit on the highway and my wife complains that I'm not driving 10 miles over.

It reminded me of the time Vice President Dan Quayle helped a school with a lesson and misspelled Potato(e) on the blackboard. He had no idea potato had no “e” on the end, but he blew right through the stop sign.

I guess I've gone through life not knowing what I don't know.

That being said, warts and all, I'm really excited to let Everyone see my “book” when it comes out in March. Thanks to all of the Landmark “readers” for-their-support.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of mysterious things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


WINTER'S FRAGRANCE
1/7/15

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of family vacations. Well. Let me rephrase that. That's not genuine. I have many childhood memories of family vacations. I think I've mentioned in this forum before that my family did a vacation a year. There were four children and two parents and a transportation device of some sort. Usually this transportation device was a station wagon that seated six. It comfortably seated two because the back seats were filled with coolers and suitcases and blankets.

But when I look back to vacations the family would take, they were survivable, you know? Nobody died. We made it to Disneyland. We made it to the Rocky Mountains. We made it to St. Louis. It was tolerable.

What I had forgotten... was the smell. The odor. The fragrance of a cross country road trip.

My family just completed a seven day, six state trip to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. We rented a car - just like the old days. Instead of four children, we had only one - our 12-year-old son. We also had the benefit of modern technology including phones, iPads and videos. We had satellite radio and Pandora. We packed two coolers filled with soda and water and I even made these little ham rollup things that were pretty tasty.

I figured I had made just about every adjustment that could possibly be made between 1978 and 2014 in order to make a 20-hour car ride enjoyable.

The problem was that I scheduled the trip during winter. When the windows would be rolled up. And I invited my son and my wife.

Every 20 minutes, it seemed. There it was. Wafting through the cabin of the automobile - like a fog through the Appalachian Mountains.

“Who did it?” Then there would be a mild argument and the inevitable giggling as they realize guilt or innocence was irrelevant. The crime had been done. Then repeat again 20 minutes later.

I live with these people every day. I sleep in the same home with them and buy their groceries. I pay their bills and I make sure they get off to work and school in the mornings. My home doesn't smell like that. My neighbors would have called the city if it did. This was something unholy. Something saved up just for me. A punishment. A penance.

Regardless. There it was. Every 20 minutes for 20 hours there and 20 hours back. I instantly remembered what made those old car rides so uncomfortable. Those drives to “whoever smelt it dealt it” land. I don't know how my parents did it or why they did it. I don't know what it is about the oxygen in a car on a highway with the windows open that makes it possible.

I also remembered what I told myself following my last family vacation as a youth... “I'll NEVER do that when I grow up.”

I guess I forgot that part. Winter's fragrance helped me remember. Next time we are flying.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of mysterious things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


TWO STEPS FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACKWARD
12/31/14

This week we say goodbye to 2014 and welcome in 2015. Just about five minutes ago, I was putting away the lawn chairs from our Fourth of July party. (In my defense, they were in the yard for a long time). But it did seem like 2014 flew by so fast.

The popular thing to do this week is “look back” on the year that was and it was a tumultuous one. From missing planes to the missing common sense in Ferguson, Missouri. It seems that we have more access to learn of the terrible things that are done by Man.

The government continues to turn itself into an HBO drama as it insists there was nothing wrong with the rectal feedings of the terrorists in Guantanamo while at the same time making signing up for Obamacare as painful as being tortured.

The country seems to still be fighting the tide of same sex marriage amendments. Those that still object should only put yourself in my shoes as my family and I are currently on a 3800 mile road trip. After this slice of heaven, you'd be begging for same sex couple to undergo the same pain and suffering that I am this week.

We spent a lot of last year scared. If not of Ebola, then of Bill Cosby. By the way, there were more Cosby victims than Ebola victims if you're keeping score.

The midterm elections were this year and the elephants took back Congress. One thing is certain, the next two years are going to be insufferable as I'm ALREADY starting to see commercials about the 2016 election.

CNN never found that missing plane. And they never indicted that police officer. News is at its best when it's covering what isn't happening.

We met Lee Sungwoo and cheered on the Kansas City Royals while running and hiding as the Chiefs lost to the winless Raiders and the Kansas Football team was “football” in name only.

We lost Maya Angelou, Joe Cocker, Casey Kasem, Don Pardo, Fred Phelps and Alice from The Brady Bunch.

But the loss of Robin Williams is simply the most heartwrenching. If you have someone in your life struggling with depression hug them for a long, long time.

The key question that isn't asked in all of these recaps is, “Did we learn anything?” And I guess the answer to that is completely subjective. But it's unlikely we learned anything substantial. We will still stress over deadly plagues just an ER away. We will always be angry about the actions of those we don't like. We will always envy what we don't have and protect what we do.

As we start out on 2015, I want to challenge all of you to write down three things looking ahead to the New Year. I gave my son three $50 bills this Christmas with the same challenge. One envelope read “To give” - the challenge is to give that money to a charity or cause that you feel is important.

The second envelope is labeled “To save” - Pad or start a rainy day fund. And the final envelope is labeled “To do” - this should be used for something amazing. Jump from an airplane. Climb a mountain. Buy a book. Something incredible.

If we can all do those three things - To save, to give and to do - we'll absolutely be able to say that 2015 was an amazing year.
Happy New Year!

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of mysterious things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


SONY GOT OWNED
12/24/14

I used to argue with my dad a lot about whatever. Just normal stuff, really. But the only big argument I've ever gotten into with him was after 9/11. At the time, I was in charge of the umpires for the NKCA Youth Baseball League and he was the League Director. So we talked every day about the “family business” as it were.

On 9/11, my day job got sent home early. I worked on the 42nd floor of the One KC Place building at 12th and Main and we figured it wasn't the smartest thing to be working in a high-rise building that day. Plus you don't need to give me an excuse for a half day.

So I went home and I'm watching the television just like everyone was that terrible day and I realized that I'd probably need to call my umpires to tell them our games had been cancelled for that night.

When I talked to my dad, he told me that the games would go on as scheduled. There would be no cancellation. I was furious. I don't recall ever being more mad at my father or anyone I've worked with than that day. It was an emotional day for everyone, but I was just beside myself.

He told me, “That's what they want. They want to shut down what's normal. We will be playing tonight.”

Begrudgingly, we played the games but I never forgot that moment and I remained mad for quite a long time. After time, however, I realized just how right he was. After all, this is a man who witnessed the after effects of the Kennedy Assassination where the NFL played the week following his murder. It's not okay to interrupt your normal day to day life because people half a world away hate you and what you stand for. You don't stand for ANYTHING unless you do your daily life. What's ultimately more important to that cause than youth baseball?

I remembered that conversation vividly when this week, we've seen the other side of the coin. By now you know about North Korea hacking into Sony's computers in California over the release of a satirical movie “The Interview.” Bowing to pressure from the hackers and veiled threats of a 9/11-style event at movie theaters, Sony decided not to release the movie and accepted the terms of the threat.

The decision could not have been more wrong - regardless of the threats. Threats are made every day. Dumb movies are made every day. America is about the freedom to pay your $10 and eat your 4,000 calories of popcorn and choose what you want to do with your Saturday night. It's a lot of other things, but some moron half a world away doesn't get to decide that. It's one of the few freedoms we have left in this country.

I hope that this event is part of a larger attempt to catch the hackers that did this or an isolated incident. Because first they come for our movies, then our guns and then our adorable newspaper columnists.

Regardless of the silliness of the content of the movie, and by all accounts it's an awful movie, the most important part of this country is the right to make a terrible movie also known as free speech. It's as the forefathers would've wanted. You've got to stay doing those things that you do.

Sony. You messed this one up. And Dad, I owe you an apology.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all sorts of things, most of them legal. You can keep up-to-date with progress on the book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


HANDS UP, LET’S TALK
12/17/14

This is not a column that is going to solve the mounting racial tensions sweeping across America. This is not a column that can fix the distrust blacks have against police officers or the frustration that police officers have with the criticism of the legal system that rightfully protects them.

I don't have any answers. And guess what? Neither do you. But that's not stopping the mountain of hot takes on Facebook and social media about Ferguson, Missouri or any one of the growing list of examples where police have killed suspects in the course of an arrest.

The hot takes seem to be on completely polar opposites and blame anyone from Barack Obama to the right wing NRA. This is a complex issue and a very complicated problem being solved 140 characters at a time. No wonder this thing is a mess.

Hashtags aren't going to fix this. #ICantBreath was trending nationally last week and it's even got a damn typo in it. In fact, this is only going to be solved WITHOUT social media. Citizens need to take back their streets. Police need to form relationships with their neighbors and those they vowed to protect and serve. Trust cannot be developed on Instagram.

One thing that we all need to get better at doing through all this is taking criticism. Over 30,000 people took to the streets of New York this week protesting the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Several thousand protested in St. Louis. The protests are now seeping into the professional sports world where several athletes have worn shirts in support of said protests.

One of those happened last Sunday in Cleveland as Browns players wore “JUSTICE” shirts. This was met with a harsh rebuke by the Cleveland police department union:

“It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law. They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology.”

Of course the union has every right to its opinion as do the members of the Browns. But the failure here isn't expression of speech, it's a failure to reach across to the other side to understand the frustration.

As a middle-class white guy, I don't know the struggles of those with color or minorities. As a member of a family with law enforcement officers, I have a tremendous respect for those who jump into action in the worst situations. I do think that both sides can stand to turn down the rhetoric--stop blocking traffic and start talking. Police can stop bringing out tanks when people want to express their opinion and start trying to figure out how we can all get better.

This is not a column that is going to solve any of this. But I do know that talking is the road to take for a resolution and not violence.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all sorts of things, most of them legal. For details, follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed and friend him on Facebook)


THE SEVEN PERCENT
12/10/14

Let's get out your pencils and write down the top five favorite things in your life. I'll wait.
Got it? What did you write? Mine are all sports related (if you also include that Hooters girls are also somewhat sports-related.)

Now. What if I took all the sports-related things away. I'll now wait while you go grab a tissue.

There was a recent article at fivethirtyeight.com, which is a fascinating website covering the analytical side of sports, politics and life, about the percentage of men and women that don't watch sports. The definition would be anyone who didn't watch even one minute of a live action sporting event OR a highlight on SportsCenter or anything sports related for seven days after the event concluded. In essence, they watch ZERO sports in their lives.

Grab some more tissues. I couldn't believe it either.

Before I tell you the percentage, let's get out that same pencil and write down the names of thirty people. These can be either friends, relatives, family members or just people you know. Now scratch two of those names off the list. FiveThirtyEight.com estimates that over seven percent of the US population - both men and women watch ZERO sports. I had to read the article twice.

Two out of thirty.

I had a lot of questions at this point, but the first one was WHAT THE HELL DO THESE PEOPLE DO ALL DAY?

Maybe they are very serious people with serious jobs. Maybe they are politicians and they are neck-deep in the issues of the day and can't afford any second to waste on the Green Bay game. Or maybe they are destitute folks. Living on the street and haven't even walked by a television store to see a moment of the Lakers game. (Do they still have television stores with the big windows? I digress.) Or maybe -- and this is the worst theory of all -- maybe they just don't like sports. Shudder.

These folks probably read books and play with their well-adjusted children and drink drinks with spritzer in them. They probably contribute to National Public Radio and vote their conscience.

Maybe they drive a Prius when they're not biking to work but still pay their NRA dues just to keep the universe on an even keel.

Who needs those people in this world? I want my fellow American and human beings to ride the rollercoaster of emotion that only sports can give you. I don't need people who only vote for American Idol candidates and plant gardens. I need someone slumped over a barstool on a Sunday night after the Chiefs have fumbled away their hopes and dreams.

Sports make life better - except when they are making them worse and that is the point of sports. They make you feel. They make you enjoy and hate at the same time. They take you on a 29 year run of futility and then suddenly make a World Series. You're not supposed to understand it. You're just supposed to live it.

To those seven percent of people who don't watch sports I say to you, tune it to ESPN or Fox Sports or Sunday Night Football. You don't know what you're missing.

(Chris Kamler is doing so many things, including writing a book, that we don’t know how to summarize them for you here. To get up to date with what he’s up to, follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


SHOW ME
12/3/14

“Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
--U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, 1899

There's a fine line between skeptic and conspiracy theorist. There's a fine line between Moon Landing wackos and Watergate heroes.

All week, we've been reading on our Facebook feeds and watching on our television about the tensions in Ferguson, Missouri spawned by the decision of the St. Louis Grand Jury that decided not to bring an indictment against police officer Darren Wilson in the aftermath of a series of events that led to the shooting death of Michael Brown. This story has just about every layer you could find in a hot-button issue - race, violence, protests, political bumbling, distrust of the State and a healthy dose of media overload. All that's missing, really, is a good sex scandal and you'd shut down the media cycle for six months.

The most fascinating element is that this is one of the first national moments where Social Media is the leading transportation device for facts and news. Twitter was well out in front of CNN and Fox News with news of the verdict and was on top of the rioting minute by minute thanks for citizen reporters staying tuned to police scanners and local media reports.

The problem came, however, when the “reporting” started to resemble a bad game of “telephone.” Facts became rumors and rumors became facts. Even as the large amount of testimony was released, the truth got even further watered down and warped.

Thanksgiving dinners were ruined as the issue became so polarizing you were either pro-Michael Brown or pro-Darren Wilson.

Whatever happened to that “Show Me” attitude on either side? There were very few actual witnesses to the incident and according to the prosecuting attorney, they changed their stories. But even that was refuted.

There does seem to be a solution to this moving forward. There seems to be a technological way to prevent another Ferguson-style event where witness stories change and a single record of truth can be made. There is a product made by the Taser company called Axon Body. It is a small video camera that mounts inside the uniform of police officers that, according to the website, records a full 12 hours and is proven to “improve behavior of all parties during police interaction. Studies have shown that using cameras can reduce complaints by over 80%. Another UK study showed a 100% reduction in complaints with the adoption of on-officer cameras.”

The cameras retail for $400 and would be much cheaper than purchasing a SWAT team tank. Had a camera been used in the Michael Brown incident, it would have shown nearly all of what is in dispute - whether he was aggressive, charging or had his hands up when he was fatally shot.
Seems to me that we need to get back that “Show Me” mentality so we can stop playing judge, jury and executioner on our Facebook feeds. Or to put it in 1899 terms, we need to take the froth out of our eloquence.

(Chris Kamler does a lot of things. So many we won’t mention most of them this week. He is writing a book. To learn more about that and other things, follow Chris on Twitter @TheFakeNed or find him on Facebook and all kinds of other places)

 


TRANSCRIBING
11/26/14

The following is a word-for-word transcription of three 12-year-old boys this past weekend during an eight minute car drive. I know it was eight minutes because I looked at the clock every 14 seconds hoping it was either over or for death to take me away.

Boy 1: Dude
Boy 2: Dude
Boy 3: Put hot sauce on that chicken
Boy 2: Dude
Boy 1: Jessica is going to be there
Boy 3: Oh yeah?
Boy 2: Yep.
Boy 3: Put hot sauce on that chicken
Boy 1: LOVE THIS SONG TURN IT UP
<music is turned up, awkward dancing occurs>
Boy 3: Dude
Boy 2: Dude
Boy 1: <sings off key to song>
Boy 2: Jessica thinks you're cute.
Boy 3: NO WAY
Boy 1: Ugh. She's gross
Boy 3: Put hot sauce on that chicken
All 3 boys: <giggling for what seems like weeks>
Boy 3: Oh man
Boy 1: What?
<Boy 3 never answers Boy 1>
Boy 2: Mrs. Thomas is giving me more math homework
Boy 1: Math sucks
Boy 3: Math sucks
Boy 2: Math sucks
<channel changes at the first commercial to another station playing the same song as 2 minutes ago>
Boy 1: LOVE THIS SONG TURN IT UP
<music was still turned up from the last time but has now gotten louder>
<more car dancing>
Boy 3: Put hot sauce on that chicken
<we arrive at our destination>

The point of this column was to simply share my pain. This has been every weekend for the past three months. This is why adults age. They don't do it naturally. They do it through the inane conversations of their children and their knucklehead friends. I was that kid when I was their age and now my Dad yells at the television.

So, I apologize for putting you through that. But I haven't been sleeping well at night trying to figure out what PUT HOT SAUCE ON MY CHICKEN means.

Happy Thanksgiving.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


IT'S TIME
11/5/14

It's nearly impossible to get everybody at my work to do something. When it's “casual Friday,” there are still people that wear a suit. When it's ham and bean soup in the cafeteria, only a fraction go with that choice. When I remind everyone to finish their TPS reports on time, nearly nobody does.

It's not just my co-workers. It's the grocery store where you have dozens of flavors of soda pop and enough BBQ sauce versions to confuse you for hours. And yet, twice a year, everyone in the human race does one thing all at the same time - and nobody knows why. Once in the spring and once in the fall, we change our entire timing system by moving our clocks forward and back without so much as a grumble.

Our parents did it because their parents told them to. And we tell the same to our children. Spring Forward!! Fall Back!! Twice a year for a week, we do the post-time change math in our heads. (I would be going to sleep right now if it were last week.) And we all try to remember how to change the clock in your wife's car. (Hint: Hit MENU four times, then turn the knob while standing on your foot.)

The change was originally proposed by a New Zealander; George Hudson proposed it to allow for more sunlight during prime times in the summer and also conserve energy as folks typically eat during the 6:00 hour, for instance. The same would go for those that work the land. If that 6:00 pm is a daylight hour later, you will allow for the sun's rays to light your day instead of coal-powered lights. The practice of changing to allow for more daylight became popular during the energy crisis of the 1970's. It has been argued that DST saves 1% of energy usage in the United States per year.

But we're not just talking about farmers and restaurants - Daylight Saving Time is practiced in nearly every time zone and impacts millions of people. That's millions of people who peacefully execute a command - which is kind of cool on the one hand - but incredibly disruptive on the other. In the spring in particular, the time change steals an hour of sleep from millions of people only to return that hour in the fall.

WIkipedia says that the time change helps those in industrialized societies that follow a clock-based schedule. But in the computerized age, this actually causes more problems. Just this weekend, hundreds of Cerner employees, for example, had to work to monitor their hospital systems to make sure the medications weren't dispensed twice as there were two 1 a.m. hours. Add to that the complexity of areas of the world that do not recognize Daylight Saving Time - including Arizona and Hawaii.

There are efforts underway to eliminate Daylight Saving Time, but it seems they don't have quite the traction as saving the Kardashian's TV show from cancellation. It's all about priorities after all, and humans don't seem that put out by it - except for twice a year - as we all do what our mothers and fathers taught us without much care.

If you ask me, I'd much rather prefer permanently taking that extra hour of sleep rather than spending it on the Kardashians.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


DAD STUFF
10/29/14

Through some sort of glitch at the hospital, I held my son before my wife moments after he was born. She was in labor for what seemed like hours and the doctor finally gave up and said he was going to go to sleep. Of course, once the doc hit maximum REM cycles, that's when Kara decided to give birth to Brett. And she did it FAST. So fast that the doctor never really made it into the room. So the nurse delivered our little boy and while they were working on Kara, they just handed me the slimy little brat I would come to know as my little brat son.

As I held this crying little ball of goo, I found myself running my fingers over his chest in a circular motion, very gently, and the baby stopped crying. When we got Brett home, we would fall asleep on the couch watching the Chiefs or the Royals. Every time I'd be making that same circular motion on his back until he fell asleep.

Through the years the dad stuff stayed rewarding. I taught him to grip a baseball. I taught him to open Angry Birds on an iPad. I taught him to not turn down the pages of a library book. You know... Dad stuff.

Dad stuff is very different from Mom stuff. The old saying goes that Dad is the one to say “no” while Mom is the one to say “yes.” And for the most part that's true. Mom has the extra cookie. Mom has the extra 15 minutes to stay up. But Dad stuff is the questions. “Dad, why is the steering wheel on that side of the car?” “Dad, why is a football shaped like that?” “Dad, why can't I get past this level on Mario Brothers?” “Dad, why do girls sit down to go to the bathroom?”

As a father, I think it's my right to screw with him with those answers. “Well, son, first off, the steering wheel is like that because we won World War II. A football is shaped the same shape as your brain. Let me show you the cheat code for Mario Brothers” and for the final question... “Go ask your mother.”

Last week I talked about what might've been my finest fatherly moment--taking my son to a World Series game in his hometown. But being a dad is so much more than that. It's showing him how to write his name in the snow. It's showing him to respect women by only watching their butt from across the room. And it's teaching him the “child friendly” cuss words when Mike Moustakas strikes out. DAG NABBIT YOU FRACKING PIECE OF SNOT!!

Dad stuff is great. And I think I'm really good at it. It's filled a part of my heart that I never knew was vacant and he has turned into not only my son, but my best friend.

Dad stuff isn't always simple, but it's always special because dad's have that special power.

Dad stuff is letting him jump in the pool less than 30 minutes after he has eaten. It's telling him double entendre knock-knock jokes. Dad stuff is pulling into a vacant parking lot to see if a 12-year-old can take a stab at driving a car even as you have a firm grip on the emergency brake. And dad stuff is also picking him up from school with news that his great grandmother passed away at age 89 and while he is crying on your shoulder, it is moving your hand in a circular motion gently as he cries himself to sleep.

Nobody said Dad stuff was easy.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


BASEBALL
10/22/14

What's the one thing you want to do more than anything else in your life? Is it take a trip to Jamaica? Is it ask out the prettiest girl in your fourth period Social Studies class? Is it to own a ‘68 Mustang?

If you gave me that question, I'm sure I would answer something baseball-related. Like throw out the first pitch at an All-Star Game or play catch with Billy Butler or something crazy like that. Baseball has always been in my blood since I was born. We live in a baseball family.

My dad, Ed, coached my first tee ball team and has helped lead the Northland baseball community for nearly 40 years. My mom coached my sisters' softball teams and bore the burden that all “baseball moms” have-- long weekends, laundry, raspberries and the inevitable pick-me-ups that go with a game where you fail 70% of the time.

Our family photo albums are filled with more baseball photos than Christmas or birthdays. And with my own son, our summers are filled now with little league games on Tuesday, Royals game on Thursday and maybe a trip to Arkansas to catch a minor league game on Saturday. All the while, Kara and the two of us catch every Royals highlight on MLB Network.

As you might imagine, this is a pretty special week for us. But we are a family and we should be doing all of these things as a family. So I was especially torn when a very generous reader of this column and of my @TheFakeNed Twitter account called me this week and offered me a ticket to the World Series. If you would ask me what the one thing I wanted most in this world, I could rattle off a thousand things before I'd ever get to World Series ticket--the idea is just so preposterous. You might as well offer me to travel to Mars.

So I sat there slackjawed on the phone and I told the man, “no thank you.” I told him no simply because I wouldn't be able to experience it with my family. Because not only is baseball part of my family, it's part of the fabric of my family. All those Royals games weren't attended alone. They were with cousins or dad or my wife or my young son.

So I told the guy no and I told him why. And then I hung up the phone and cried. Real man tears. Did I mention it was for a dugout suite? Yeah. I bawled like a baby.

And then the phone rang again. Some people, man. So now I'm going to a World Series game with my son. Brett is the same age I was when I saw my only World Series game and now I'm taking him to one.

When I broke the news to my wife, she helped me through the guilt process of not offering it to her as she told me, “oh, hell, if somebody gave ME a World Series ticket, I'd tell you to go pee up a rope.” We're a baseball family, but with a bit of a sharp edge.

So tonight, keep an eye out for a little boy and his dad cheering on the Royals against San Francisco as we continue the Kamler tradition of baseball.

If you asked me the one thing I'd want most in my life, it would be tonight.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


LEAVING A LEGACY
10/15/14

It's an amazing time to be living here in Kansas City. High-fiving cab drivers. Stopping with people at the bus stop to talk about Mike Moustakas. Soccer fans chanting for the baseball team.

The worldwide goodwill the city is receiving. The national recognition. ESPN did a poll asking what team would win the ALCS and 90% of the entire country picked the Royals. President Obama's approval rating is only 44%.

The fountains are blue all over town. The old Power and Light building has been lit for the first time in years with a blue hue. Kansas Citians are giving out their favorite BBQ recommendations and pointing folks to the Negro Leagues Museum.

But what about when the series leaves town? What about when the final strike is called? What will be left? We saw a similar surge of pride in KC during the 2012 All-Star game. The streets were clean. The sidewalks were swept. All of the construction took a break. But seconds afterward, it seems the city went right back to the isolated “clique” based town that it is. Is there a way to keep this community attitude?

One of the major contributors to this is crime. Folks simply don't like being in parts of town at night. But maybe the Kansas City Police Department is on to something - this time through Twitter.

The @KCPD account caught national attention recently as they asked their citizens to stop committing crimes so their officers could watch the Royals game. The tweet was clearly tongue in cheek, but the account sent out an update days later that they actually saw a decrease in crime.

This change of attitude when things are going right needs to translate when things aren't going right. We're only a few weeks away from our first snowfalls when long lines for snow blowers at Home Depot and long traffic jams are the norm. We need to have the same jovial attitude when you get pulled over by those same KCPD folks who made you smile when Alex Gordon was diving for line drives.

We need to find a way for this attitude to follow us through Kansas and Missouri basketball season or the harsh temperatures of January or when they sell out of the Platte County Landmarks at QuikTrip.

Take one of those Wade Davis strikeouts and put it in your back pocket. Pull it out when school is cancelled and you have to stay home to watch the kids. Take one of those Salvador Perez home runs and tuck it in your pantry when you have to pay your taxes in April. Take a Terrence Gore stolen base and leave it in the glove box of your car for when you're waiting for a parking spot at Kohls on Black Friday.

Remember the next two weeks here in Kansas City. Gather up all of the warm fuzzies and the happy moments. Hang onto them as long as you can.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


RIVERBOAT GAMBLING
10/8/14

This may come as a shock to many of you, but in a previous lifetime, I was a degenerate gambler. One of my first jobs out of college was at a casino here in Kansas City. I tell folks that it was both the worst and best job I ever had. Worst because you were breathing in barrels of cigarette smoke from patrons, working holidays, getting off work at four in the morning and standing for 10 hours a day. It was the best because most of us all started working there when gambling became legal in Missouri (93-94), we were all in our 20's and it was the first time we had a little bit of money in our lives.

Working at the casino meant that you began to adopt many of the lifestyle choices that casino folks are known for. Drinking and gambling foremost among these. It was a lot like college, except you actually had a little bit of money to buy nicer booze. Often times we would get on the “early out” list at work for the simple reason to drive three miles down the street to a different casino and gamble away our money.

I've thought a lot about my days at the casino this week as I've watched the Kansas City Royals go through their impossible run through the playoffs. To anyone who has spent time gambling, you know exactly what's going on - it's “the streak.”

“The Streak” isn't just like winning a few hands. It's much more rare than that. It is a once in a lifetime roll. You'd hear whispers of it in the break rooms or among players at the table. “Yeah, back in ‘87, I had a six hour roll on the craps table,” or “I hit 20 numbers in a row on roulette.”

These are the streaks that become legend and they are the complete responsibility of the universe. Statistically, you lose when you go to a casino. This is cold hard fact. There's a reason casinos put up a million light bulbs. They weren't put there by the Salvation Army. They are lit as tributes to all of the thousands and millions of dollars dropped at the slot machines and table games by those chasing The Streak.

Yet those streaks do happen--as improbable as they are. Flipping a coin tells you that 50% of the time it will land on heads and 50% it will land on tails. But every once in a while, you might get 10 or 15 in a row to land on one side. Call it a fluke. Call it luck. Or call it the improbability of the universe.

The Kansas City Royals are on such a streak and the caught it at the exact right time. For those of us who have watched the team closely this year, we now stand with mouth agape. This team doesn't resemble anything like the team we saw in the regular season. They are hitting home runs. They are playing with a fire and passion that I've never seen before. Their manager is pulling every lever and pushing every button possible and every one of them is coming up spades.

We live in a world where Billy Butler has stolen a base in a playoff game. There is no scouting report or advanced statistic that can account for that. If there were a probability formula that the advanced metric guys could come up with to account for that, it would be the exact equation for fun -- and impossible to ever replicate again.

So I think back to my gambling days which are now long in the past and the stories swapped in only whispers. Respect the streak. Ride the streak. You never know where it will end.

Hopefully, this one lasts a few more weeks.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


CTE KILLING NFL
10/1/14

There are giant sports stories in Kansas City this week, including a Chiefs Monday Night Football game at Arrowhead, a playoff game at Kauffman, activity at Kansas Speedway and Sporting Park. But one story likely was missed in the fanfare--forensic scientists say that Jevon Belcher, former Chiefs player, may have had CTE that could have contributed to him murdering his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins as well as committing suicide in the parking lot of the Chiefs training facility.

CTE stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It is beginning to make itself known to the public as “football disease” because it is beginning to show up in the brains of deceased football players.
Much is not known about this disease, but the research is beginning to show a link between head trauma and concussions with CTE. The disease isn't limited to just football players, of course. Soccer players, baseball players and even soldiers in war who have suffered head trauma are having their brains examined and they are showing CTE.

Those living with CTE seem to be exhibiting incredibly bizarre behavior stretching from depression, suicidal tendencies and gigantic displays of anger and violence. Junior Seau, the great San Diego Charger, killed himself several years ago by shooting himself in the chest so that researchers could examine his brain. And the problem has only grown since then.

Does CTE have a linkage with the increase in domestic violence? Will we find evidence of CTE in college athletes? High school athletes? Is it safe for kids to play football?

These are all questions yet to be truly examined - but one thing is certain - people are playing less football because of it. Pop Warner participation, according to a 2013 ESPN study, has already dropped nearly 10%.

The NFL continues to have an image problem, but needs to get around this CTE issue sooner rather than later. These post-concussion issues may simply be causing a lot of the other issues we're seeing.

What if sports with a higher concentration of head trauma are actually creating violent citizens? The possibility needs further study and the NFL needs to be doing more to find this link.

One thing is certain, mothers and fathers and sons are all having these own internal discussions and coming to their own conclusions on whether they want to play football or rugby or even take a “header” game like soccer. And more and more families are opting out of it. We need a real leader in this area, and the NFL has to be it--otherwise we're going to lose more and more athletes one way or the other.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


TRY TO REMEMBER
9/24/14

It was 1985. I was 13 years old. It was autumn. Since my earliest memories, I was a Royals fan. I mean, why wouldn't you have been? Brett. White. Saberhagen. Otis. Patek. Mayberry. These were my guys. They filled the images of my youth. Willie Wilson signed a glove for me when I was seven and I played with that glove through the sad, bitter end of my baseball career when I was 14. (I peaked too early.) The names are now filling the history books of Royals history--right next to the black hole that was the late 90's and 2000's.

And what a void it was. Decades of poor play, comically inept decision making and monetary decisions to tight, they could vice a phone book into a single sheet of paper. Even through the first seven years of Dayton Moore's five-year “process,” the Royals were laughed at plenty and cheered rarely. And then 2014 happened.

Regardless of where this final week of the season goes, and many signs point to it ending a 29 year playoff drought, it makes me recall the first 10 years I spent as a Royals fan. In that span, the Royals won five division titles, two American League titles and a World Series. My Septembers and Octobers were filled with transistor radios tucked into backpacks, watching the Royals on the NBC Game of the Week and going out to buy something called a VCR just before the 1985 World Series.

This was obviously before the Internet; before Twitter; before Fox Sports Kansas City. You saw your teachers tailoring their lessons to account for George Brett's .390 run in 1980. You saw cab drivers wearing Royals hats downtown. You saw baseball practices and choir practices being rescheduled around key games and playoff baseball. This town was on fire.

And then Dick Howser died. Then Mr. and Mrs. K died. And then the charitable trust ownership years sucked the life out of this team and this town. The Chiefs and Martyball took over as the Royals lay dormant under a blanket of nuclear winter for 29 years.

The signs of a thaw are upon us in Kansas City, however, even as the calendar tells us it is autumn. Fans are making plans for road trips to Cleveland and Chicago to catch the final games of the season. The last Kauffman homestand drew over 110,000 fans. Television and radio ratings are off the charts. The fans are living and dying on every pitch--even though it's through Twitter and Facebook.

This has always been a baseball town--dating back to the Athletics and the Monarchs. The shame of the 29 year black hole is that this town forgot how to act. They forgot to wear blue on Fridays and they forgot to make sure to check the out of town scores to see where Seattle and Oakland are in the standings. But it's all coming back to us now--like riding a bike or kissing an old girlfriend. The feelings rush back in such an emotional fury. Baseball is the lifeblood of this town and if this improbable team can somehow make it back, if they can defy the prognosticators and the experts and even their own fans to make the playoffs, you'll see it. You'll see how crazy this town can become.

And if you're between the ages of 5 and 15, pay close attention--you never know when this might happen again.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


THE NFL HAS FUMBLED
9/17/14

Baseball lost its moniker as the National Pastime in 1994 when a vicious labor strike closed the game down and caused the cancellation of a World Series. Baseball never recovered. It suffered in the wake of the drug scandals of the 80s that included several Kansas City Royals, it suffered in a gambling scandal with Pete Rose and it suffered with a steroid scandal which it continues to fight today.

The National Football League since 1994 has not only grabbed the mantle as the nation's most popular sport, it has thrived. Fantasy leagues, packed stands, their own television network and wall-to-wall media coverage that goes nearly year round has been the story of the rise of the NFL.
Today, you can get 24/7 coverage of the NFL on three networks and games are played on Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. The league is printing money and the future has never looked brighter.

That was until somebody in the NFL cafeteria must have stood up and proclaimed “what's the worst that could happen?” and then this month happened. You know every sordid detail. Ray Rice is arrested on charges of domestic violence. A videotape surfaces showing the exact violent act.

Rice is punished lightly and then, following the videotape, is punished more harshly. The NFL then has one of its most popular players, running back Adrian Peterson, arrested on charges of child abuse of at least one and possibly more of his children as he allegedly beat them with a switch. Beat them hard, apparently. The NFL is now forced into action while other societal issues like gay rights and the relationship with head injuries and football all swirl around like vampire bats.

The first two weeks of the NFL season have been less about football and more about these polarizing and turbulent issues. And Roger Goodell and the NFL front office could not have handled them worse. Spinning and juking out the media like an Adrian Peterson run--only they trip over their own feet. The league has been caught lying and misdirecting blame. Goodell has looked like an absolute buffoon and the “shield” of the NFL looks like it's made out of wax paper.

Here's the thing, though, the NFL has fostered this type of abusive mentality for decades. “A man's game” has also meant a game of violence and exclusion. As baseball had its racial segregation in the 40's and 50's, the NFL looks to leave the status quo in order for SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam, as he didn't make a starting lineup. They look to invoke a culture of bigotry and isolation according to former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, who himself was fired after challenging those notions.

To paint the NFL with a broad brush is to make the same mistake they often do. Each incident must be looked at individually. But incidents that don't pass the smell test, like when Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson stare into the face of indubitable evidence, or when a gay football player has earned a spot on a team, the culture of verbal abuse by Richie Incognito, or when one in three of its former players develop some sort of brain altering Alzheimers or dementia, as was reported last week, you as a league have to do better. You have to step back and understand that as popular as the game of baseball was in the 40's and 50's, it can all go away very quickly. You've managed to isolate women, gays, children of abusive parents and those who care about the long term health of the players. There's not many more left that don't fall into one of those categories.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME
9/10/14

Andy Williams was wrong. Plain and simple. Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year.

Not by a long shot. In Kansas City, the best time of the year is the final days of summer and the first weeks of fall.

How gorgeous has it been in town the past week or so? 70 degree days with just enough chill in the morning to keep you comfortable in bed for a few extra minutes. Your car is warm when you get in it after work, but you can drive around town with the windows down and you don't turn into a puddle of sweat. The weather around this time of year even has enough rain to keep your yard growing but not turn it into a jungle or a desert.

The weather is great for long walks in the park or pickup football games in the backyard. The air is just spectacular through the end of October. Plenty of excellent weather for doing just about anything you need in temperatures that San Diego would be jealous of.

For moms and dads, their little ones are back in school which is AWESOME. Probably a bit less awesome if you're a teacher. Harvest festivals begin to kick into high gear. It's the best time to find something to do on a Saturday and there's even some great outdoor concerts this time of year as well including last weekend's Buzz Beachball and Blue Man Group at Starlight.

But this town makes Andy Williams look like a clown around this time of year for one major reason - SPORTS. This fall, the Royals are barreling towards the playoffs - their first October surprise in 29 years. Fans are wearing more blue than red and it looks glorious. The Chiefs are, well, the Chiefs are in the conversation, sort of. But the real spirit of this town is in its diversity of college teams. Purple, Crimson, Black and Gold. All of these colors mean something around this time of year and they normally mean a spirited discussion when they congregate in the same room. Add to that the Northwest Missouri States and the University of Central Missouris to the mix and you've got the greatest weather, the greatest entertainment and the greatest sports in the entire world. That doesn't even include how dominant my fantasy football team is going to be this year.

At this moment, I've got the windows open, a hard apple cider in my hands and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and NBC Sunday Night Football on two windows on my computer after coaching my son in fall baseball. If there is a heaven, it would be a loop of this month over and over again.
All in September.

Green Day used to sing a song called “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” but quite frankly, Billie Joe Armstrong and Andy Williams haven't spent a September in Kansas City.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


HUMAN BEHAVIOR
9/3/14

Humans are hilarious. Humans are predictable. Humans are stupid.

Sunday night, a series of private photographs began appearing on the Internet. They were photos taken with cell phone cameras, clearly of celebrities in varying states of undress. Details are sketchy on how the photographs became available but it looks like hackers logged into cell phones and lifted the photos from the celeb's storage drives.

The act is illegal. The photographs are the personal property of the owner and it's simply illegal to take those from someone. It's a severe invasion of privacy. But here's the thing. You looked. I know you looked. You searched in Google for “Jennifer Lawrence leaked” or “Kate Upton Verlander pics.” Or maybe they scrolled across your Twitter feed and you didn't turn away. Don't even try to deny it. Maybe you found them. Maybe they'd already disappeared from the Internet.

But you totally looked.

Since the beginning of time, people have been doing stupid things and other people have been fascinated with those people who do stupid things. You've likely done stupid things in your life, like that time you fell through the folding chair at the church picnic. Or the time that you fell off a ladder hanging Christmas lights. Did your friends give you crap about it? Well of course they did. Because that's what they do. They used your stupidity to their entertainment.

Technology has only escalated this process and made it grander. And when technology gets smarter than humans, humans expose just how stupid they are. Technology allows human stupidity to flourish in two different ways. The first is by allowing it to capture all the dumb things we do every day. Most of the time, it's just people saying dumb things about the president or how their inconsiderate kids are inconsiderate on Facebook. But a lot of the time it's people taking pictures of themselves naked. Front. Back. Top. Bottom. You are stupid if you snap that little button when your clothes are off. You know you are. And you know you're stupid the second you do it. And yet, there's something about human behavior that it's unstoppable.

The second thing that technology allows is the ability to not understand how technology works. When you take an image of your ding dong or your ta-ta's with your cell phone that picture is translated into a series of 1's and 0's and BLAH BLAH BLAH THIS IS BORING WHO CARES. See? You couldn't even get through my explanation. You don't care what happens to the picture of your giblets after you take it. Well, that is until it ends up on Facebook or the Internet or Twitter or Rager or Pudding Pop or whatever new thing the kids are using now a days to show pictures of flibberty-bubbles.

And so it goes. Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton and dozens of other celebrities took pictures of their candy-grams, just as you might've once. They forgot about them. And then they got picked off with a wireless scanner and are now just a Google click away.

The good thing is that nothing will change. People remain stupid. Other people are entertained by that stupidity. What's on YOUR cell phone?

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


SOCIAL MEDIA SAVES THE WORLD
8/27/14

There's still a lot of confusion about “social media.” When you hear it brought up in traditional media or among those who are not active on social media, it's frequently referred to in a negative tone. “Those people on social media,” is the term I hear most frequently, like it's some sort of smoke monster that appears as soon as you open up Twitter on your phone.

For those that are active on social networks, you immediately realize that there are as many segments of the population as there are in real life, and every social website reacts like its own suburb to a city. Facebook has its right and its left and they often clash in very raw ways. With even less punctuation. Instagram is a younger skewing group focused on selfies and Twitter has as many colors as a million rainbows.

But over the past two weeks, you've seen the events unfurl in Ferguson, Mo. and with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that proves how integrated these social communities are in our daily lives.

Everyone wants to have a voice and prior to Facebook and Twitter it seemed that people never really had a chance to show that voice. At its apex, Facebook might've had too many voices but it seems like we've all adjusted to the noise of Facebook and Twitter and as a population we're starting to understand great ways to use it.

Let's first start with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. This is a perfect example of why social communities work. A single person doing a simple task and challenging others to do the same. It's the same formula you see in sales organizations, communities of faith or even pyramid organizations. Last year, the ALS foundation raised just over $30 million dollars for the entire year.

In the first two weeks of the challenge, ALS raised over $50 million dollars. It takes a minor sacrifice by the participant and they look good doing it because the videos are posted to Facebook and YouTube. Brilliant.

You see the same kind of critical mass on the other end of the spectrum, with the tensions in Ferguson, MO. Amongst the police in riot gear and the protesters with their hands up you saw an equal amount of bystanders and journalists with cell phones. Those cell phone videos found their way to Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. This citizen journalism is being seen in other hot zones including Gaza and the Middle East.

People want their voice heard. Now that we've gotten past the newness of social media, people are learning to use those tools as forces for change in the world. Yet the monicker of “social media” still seems to travel with it--mostly because of all the political or religious ranting that goes on there. But you're seeing it less and less as people realize Facebook and Twitter are less tools to add your voice to a pile but rather to add your unique point to the conversation. In many ways, those voices are changing the world.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


A NIGHT AT THE MET
8/20/14

It was a crazy week last week, so I haven't really had an opportunity to register and process the death of comedian Robin Williams until this weekend. Like many of you, I was a fan of his work, enjoyed his movies and got a kick out of his lightning-fast wit.

But the tributes and homages I've seen are including movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society and Patch Adams. That doesn't begin to touch when I started enjoying Robin Williams.
It was 1987 and I was an awkward high school freshman. (Let me give you time to try to get your head around it since I appear so well adjusted now.) I was looking for a ride home after band practice and I piled into the back of a station-wagon with some upperclassmen. This could easily be the point where I was offered drugs, or alcohol or cigarettes or Heavy Metal or dozens of other opening scenes to an After-School Special. But, instead, the driver put in a squeaky cassette tape of Robin Williams: Night At The Met.

At first, it was difficult to hear his speech because it was so fast paced. He would start about one topic and then switch to the next. But the rest of the car was rolling laughing and I did as well. That weekend I went out and bought my own copy of the cassette. Through the next several years of high school, I probably listened to that tape a thousand times.

The comedy album was a master class in self-deprecating humor with a touch of heart and more laughs than you can imagine. It was recorded at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in 1986 and it remains one of the top five comedy albums ever. You can easily put it up against comedians named Cosby, Seinfeld, Rock, Carlin and C.K. (That's Louis C.K. not Chris Kamler.)

Through the 53 minute album, Williams riffs on gay football, substance abuse (something he struggled with up until his death), Ronald Reagan, childbirth and puking on your newborn baby.

The album was riddled with profanity and off-color jokes but told from a first-hand account from someone who has lived the stories he's telling. More importantly, the stories he told were funny. Genuinely funny. I would ride with friends and we would play Night At the Met. Later, when I had a car, I would play it for my friends. Nearly 30 years later, I am playing it now and laughing furiously just like I had in that station wagon in high school.

He did an impression of Ronald Reagan thinking that Congress was an old folks home for actors. He riffed on getting stoned and drinking too much and waking up with his car keys in his butt.

Towards the end of the album, he does about 15 minutes on childbirth and conception that, as a 14 year old freshman in high school, actually cleared up a few things for me. It was raw and honest and hilarious.

I am probably the millionth person to say this week that Robin Williams was a genius. He really was. For a person who has been lauded for his movies and television, take a few minutes to pull up Night At The Met on Spotify and appreciate where that genius started.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


MY CITY
8/13/14

Kansas City is constantly being reminded of what it's not. It's not a “big” city. It's not a “small town.” It's airport is too far away (except in Platte County). The most common complaint, however, is that it doesn't have anything fun to do.

Over the past six days, I have had a small part in welcoming a foreign visitor. On the surface, that's really all this was. Showing a guy around the city. But that in no way represents what the past week has been like.

As you may have heard, a fella by the name of Sung Woo Lee has been a 20-year baseball fan. He has also been a Royals fan. He has also been a fan who lives in Seoul, South Korea. He has also never seen a live pitch of baseball.

Royals fans are a battered and bruised bunch. They are weathered and beaten through years of losing and frustratingly baffling decisions. The Royals, as you may also know, hold the title of oldest stretch of a major sports franchise to have not made a playoff. Holding steady at 29 years. So when I tell you that Sung Woo is a Royals fan, you should realize that he has offered himself up into a lifetime of embittered solitude.

But that's never stopped Sung Woo. His refreshing attitude and positivity has soaked into the culture of Royals fans dating back to when message boards and bulletin boards were electronic communities for fans to talk and complain. So when he told us last month that he was coming to town, our small group of friends felt that we really needed to show him the heart of this city and Royals Nation. And then #SungWooToKC became more than a hashtag on Twitter, it became a rally cry for the entire KC region to outstretch its arms and give our little foreign Royals fan a gigantic hug.

Companies asked how they could help. Media outlets latched onto the story. We were even on NPR. But the moments I will take away most from this are the people of my city, walking up to Sung Woo, from Korea, shaking his hand and saying “Welcome to Kansas City.” If there were a hundred then there were a thousand individual folks coming up to him. One after one, they come up, usually with a camera in hand for a Korean “selca” (selfie).

One after one, they walk away with a selca and a smile. This Midwestern hospitality has really never sunk in for me until this week. I guess I didn't either recognize it or didn't welcome it. But it was an outpouring like nothing I'd ever seen before.

Kansas City is a city with a lot of flaws and faults, we all know this. But most of those are just insecurities seeping through. We managed to plan a nine day stretch of activities and events and lunches with Sung Woo with no end in sight at the end. There are museums, world-class restaurants, sporting events and the beauty of this wonderfully goofy city.

It took spending a week with someone who'd never seen her to appreciate her beauty.

I love Kansas City. Thank you, Sung Woo.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


PRESIDENTIAL VISIT WAS A WALK IN THE PARK
8/6/14

There's a funny thing about Kansas City that goes something like this: Nobody that lives here thinks very highly of the city. I know that's a broad generalization, but you hear it frequently. There's nothing to do in Kansas City. The airport is in the wrong place. Everything is in Overland Park and Overland Park is terrible. The State Line ruins the town. Kauffman Stadium is in the wrong place. The city is too spread out. Blah, blah, blah.

Well, here's the thing. That is all garbage. On its own merit, Kansas City (and North of the River) is an amazing place to live, work and visit, you just need to step back and appreciate it.

This was accented by last week's presidential trip with a little help from Kansas Citian (and President Obama's press secretary) Josh Earnest. I've been witness to probably a half-dozen presidential visits and can't remember a one of them. They've usually been in and out trips to a hotel ballroom or a factory or maybe a quick campaign stop. But none of them have really been able to spotlight Kansas City like this last one.

We lose sight so quickly at how even the places we take for granted are special and uniquely Kansas City. Oh sure, we can all argue about which BBQ joint is the best (and the Northland is quickly becoming the BBQ capital of KC rivaling the BBQ strip downtown once you factor in Smokin' Guns and The Hideout as well as Smokehouse.) But President Obama's unscripted stop in Parkville of all places really helped point out what a wonderful area of the country we live in. (Note: How the hell do you run out of cole slaw when the president is in town???? Smokin' Guns wouldn't have run out of cole slaw, I'll tell you that much.)

The president stopped along the tilted streets and narrow lanes of downtown Parkville to have a cup of coffee at Parkville Coffee and several other spots along the river. What the president was able to do was point out exactly what we take for granted every day. This is a town that is in every way a small town struggling with economic pressures. Add to that the fact that every 10 or 15 years it's buried in water. They've literally had train wrecks and they even managed to run off that sexy bed and breakfast on the corner. But Parkville has survived and thrived. They've added a pretty nice dog park, expanded the new section of English Landing and you can still find pretty nice tomatoes on Saturday mornings.

Regardless of your politics, it is still special when a president comes to town, but even more special when he's able to enjoy something extraordinary about your city. There are countless extraordinary things about Parkville - many that we pass right by every day.

We know all this, but still grumble and overlook towns like Parkville and Platte City and Riverside because of the thought that Chicago, Denver or St. Louis does it better.

You know what? Nobody does it better than Platte County and Kansas City. It just took the president and his press secretary to help remind us.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


HANDS OFF
7/30/14

Humans are born to do one thing--learn. We learn how to nurse, then we learn how to walk, then we learn to go peepee in the potty, then we learn to read and from there, the sky is the limit.

I am always fascinated by how intelligent the human race is and how amazing the achievements of humans are. We have landed on the moon. We have harnessed the power of the atom. We have built coliseums and microprocessors. Man has the power to set rules and regulations and we all seem to be able to “get it.” Through these societal norms, we all have the power to learn and conform and abide. If you don't believe me, just try to read a novel in English right to left or drive on the left side of the highway. It won't work because we all were taught how to do those things together. Yet other societies have all figured it out to do it other ways. You read Hebrew right to left and in England you drive on the other side of the street. We all pick it up and figure it out together.

Somehow though, the simplest rules seem to be the hardest for humans to learn. Take, for instance, the simple rule you learned in elementary school -- Don't hit girls. This means, simply, that under no circumstances should you hit a girl. Ever. Period.

Yet, the news was filled this week's with stories of Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice, who allegedly knocked his fiance unconscious and then drug her by her hair out of an elevator. Against any measure, this seems to be outside the simple rule of “don't hit girls.” However, there has been extreme dispute on not just this example, but on the larger issue of domestic violence.

I keep coming back to the simple rule: Don't. Hit. Girls. Sure, you were probably drunk. And sure, the other person was probably being rude, or obnoxious, or a multitude of other reasons. But those are just beside the point. Don't. Hit. Girls. It's really quite easy. Lots of things can lead up to abuse, but the choice is still quite simple. Don't.

ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith was quoted as saying there are some instances where the woman might “provoke” the incident, somehow implying that there are cases where hitting a girl is justified. Nope. See rule No. 1: Don't. Hit. Girls.

The website Safehorizon.org lists the following domestic violence statistics on their website and all seem to be outside the rule of not hitting girls:

•One in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.

•Women experience more than four million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly three million physical assaults.

•Women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men.

•Women ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.

•Every year, one in three women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner.

It seems to me that the same part of the brain that can 100% learn to drive on the correct side of the road also has the ability to learn to not hit girls. Humans are built to do one thing--learn. Hopefully this is an area that humans can improve in.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


TOO CLOSE TO HOME
7/16/14

I never thought it would happen to my kid. That's what I keep telling myself. We speak in hushed whispers at the supermarket about these types of things happening to “bad” kids or “bad parents.” I just never thought I would be one --more importantly, I never thought I'd learn that my kid was one.

Let me back up and try to explain. Let me try to put into perspective the shame my family feels today. I grew up in a very strict household. We were not wealthy, but we never were left without. This upbringing, however, came at a price. There were certain land mines that you never touched in the family. There were certain things that were taboo.

Growing up, the most difficult years of my development were my middle school years. I never seemed to fit in with any crowd, yet the social conventions of peer pressure provided me no protections. I was challenged to try new things, some of them bad things. I had to learn to adapt and respond and say “no.” Most of us did. Some of us didn't. Those kids were quickly labeled the “bad” kids.

This past month, I noticed a change in my son. He just completed his fifth grade year and with that, all the confidence of being the king of elementary school. He had this inner swagger. But after school let out, I began to notice this darkening in his personality. He was changing. Maturing. You could see it in his friends, too. Even his online buddies seemed to be intent on pushing the envelope and testing limits.

I guess the job of a parent is simply to educate and prepare your son or daughter when they are faced with these inevitable choices - and as I look at my son preparing to embark on young adulthood, I thought I had done that. I thought I had gone through all the scenarios. But I guess I hadn't.

Late last week, I heard him from outside a closed door. He was talking with his friends, like he does many nights, on the XBox. Only his speech was different. Older? Warped? Something didn't sound right. I knocked on the door. I was greeted with only silence.

Concerned, I opened it and poked my head into the room. Awash with the glow of the television screen, I saw my son's once innocent face. His eyes were wide. He had a pained look on his face. I looked up to see a sight that no Midwestern “good” parent should ever see in his life. All the years of preparation. All the years of hoping your son would make good choices. All that time in the backyard playing catch and talking to your boy about the man he would become.

And there it was. On the television screen. Red handed.

My son was playing FIFA Soccer 2014 on the XBox.

He is the third generation of Kamler baseball boys. His grandfather has toiled in the baseball community for 40 years. His father, a 25 year baseball umpire. He himself, had been playing baseball since he was three. But I guess you never see it coming.

My son was playing a soccer game. He was convinced to start playing it by his “friends.” He had found the family landmine and jumped right on it.

I'm a horrible parent.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


SIGNS, SIGNS EVERYWHERE SIGNS
7/9/14

“And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply.” --”Signs” Five Man Electrical Band

Oh, it must be political season here in Missouri. As reported on Facebook and in today's Landmark, vandals have struck some politicians' signs throughout the county in anticipation of the August elections. So far, signs for both Robert Boyer and Ron Schieber have been vandalized in the past couple of weeks. I saw the Boyer sign with a “NO” and a circle with a line through it and Ivan Foley reported similar vandalism to multiple Schieber signs. Boyer is running for county clerk as a Republican and Schieber is running for presiding commissioner, also as a Republican.

Solid job, you guys, with the graffiti. Once again proving that the best way to take part in the political process is to vandalize a yard sign. Oh sure, running yourself or sending a letter to the paper are all noble gestures. Heck, maybe even going door to door and stumping for your own candidate who believes in your own political ideals might be a good idea, too. But it doesn't hold a candle to taking a can of spray paint and sprawling “NO” to a yard sign.

I'm really excited to hear that you've graduated past taping the “KICK ME” sign to the back of the fat kid in middle school or writing WASH ME on the hatchback of your neighbor's Pinto. Solid effort.

According to Russ Wojtkiewicz, himself no stranger to political sign pranks, these yard signs could cost anywhere from $5 to $20 for smaller ones or up to $35 for the larger sized, plus the time the candidate is out hanging them and putting them in yards. We've also seen people going by and stealing signs out of yards in years past which is the equivalent of yelling “nanny nanny boo boo” from across the school yard.

When did politics get this way? Were people spray painting YOU SUCK underneath I LIKE IKE posters? Or overwriting WHAT A over the TRICKY on TRICKY DICK billboards? Or is this a new thing? Like something only the cool meth-users do when they're out tooling around in their muffler dragging two-doors?

Here's an idea for you. I'm just going to throw it out there. If you can write in and tell me exactly what a county clerk or a presiding commissioner actually does, I will BUY you your own yard sign and you can go ape nuts with all the spray paint, puffy paint or whatever clever sharpie markers you can find. Of course, you'll need to buy some of those supplies at Hobby Lobby, and they're off limits because Jesus won't let them wear condoms or something.

I'll admit, I'm not the most educated about politics on this page or in this community. But I have enough sense to leave my neighbor's yard signs alone - even if I disagree with them. I also try not to pee on my priest's rosebushes and I make every effort to not spit on cops when I drive by. But that's just me.

Do better, Platte County. Come up with something intelligent to show your disapproval of the political process and those brave enough to run for elected office. Maybe take a swipe at writing an angry letter to The Landmark or ask a pointed question at a town hall or even lobby your own presiding commissioner or legislator to have a bill passed. Or... the most time honored tradition in America... just shut up and vote.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR
7/2/14

As you read on the front page of today's Landmark, the Lifetouch Publishing plant near the airport will be ceasing operations in Kansas City in the coming months. I was proud to work there as their IT Network Administrator for four years through 2012 and was happy to help contribute to the article.

Technology is a funny thing. As we all become more and more addicted to our technology - imagine a world without your smartphone, for instance, or Netflix--we take as casualties of war the real-world cost of the technological advancements. Robots now build cars. Computers simulate operators when you dial “0” on a phone (if you use a phone at all). Currency is emailed around the world and there is talk of shutting down the Postal Service because email has been there and done that.

At one time, telephone company operators, car assemblymen and postal workers were considered the best blue collar jobs you could get. For decades, press operator was among those as well. The culture at Lifetouch was unique because the company was one of the largest employee-owned companies in the country. This also extended to an employee stock option program that was among the best in the industry. Press operators were often millionaires following their tenure at Lifetouch. If you've had a child in a school over the past 50 years, you've likely run across the Lifetouch brand either through a school photo or a yearbook. They once were the best in the business.

And then technology came. At first, it meant efficiencies in the speed of printing and the amount of books and photos you could print. This meant increased revenues and increased stock shares. And then those efficiencies started to really take hold. Entire departments of image manipulators and lightroom techs and manual press operators were let go. Yearbooks were created completely inside of computers and those computers even began to proofread and adjust their own pages.

And then, something Lifetouch didn't anticipate happened. People learned they can do a school photo with their smartphones, and yearbooks themselves with a website. If you've ever made a calendar or a book on Snapfish, you know exactly what I am talking about.

And Lifetouch refused to change. They did one thing better than anyone in the world -- make high quality school yearbooks -- only people didn't want them anymore. This resulted in the two yearbook plants Lifetouch operates consolidating into one and KC came up short. Hundreds of employees will lose their jobs--many friends and former coworkers of mine.

But in its prime, the plant was something to see on a late May afternoon rushing to get jobs out the back. If you've never toured a manufacturing facility like the Harley plant near the airport or the Boulevard Brewery near Crown Center, you really should. The energy of a motorcycle or a case of beer or a yearbook coming off of the assembly line is really something to see. A single product made out of the work of dozens, sometimes hundreds of people all putting their piece in. A sum greater than its parts.

I wish my Lifetouch family well -- and “family” is a word you will hear often when you speak to the men and women there. You don't spend six months locked in a giant printing plant without knowing the name of the guy next to you (and his kids' names and his wife's name and often what he had for lunch.) Good luck, guys and gals. I hope you all land on your feet and find a job that will be more future proof from technology. I'd steer clear of bank tellers, postal workers or other printing companies.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


THE HATER'S GUIDE TO SOCCER
6/25/14

Every four years, our nation is divided. Every four years, those who “believe” are ostracized by those who “don't want it.” I'm not talking about the Olympics or a good episode of American Idol or even the Presidential Elections. I'm talking about the World Cup, or as us American's call it “not the Super Bowl.”

The World Cup is the month-long soccer tournament featuring the best and brightest soccer (or futbol) teams in the world. Soccer is the world's most popular sports, yet it still fails to strike the fancy of the majority of Americans. All you need do is take to the Facebook or the Twitters to see that a war is raging amongst those who have begun to embrace soccer, the Sporting Kansas City MLS Champions and the US Men's National Team and then those who not just dislike or ignore soccer, but hate it with a passion. THESE are the true Americans (in their minds) and they shall not allow a foreign sport to take quality time from their other cherished sports.

Here now, is a primer for you, Joe Six Pack, as you look to bolster your Twitter fights with those trying to push their soccer agendas onto you.

1) Soccer is anti-American. This is a good argument to use for anyone trying to say that soccer is a world's game. America isn't the world. We don't need your kind here. America is a melting pot where everyone is free to love what they love, so long as it's Honey Boo Boo, NASCAR and the Green Bay Packers. Keep your Communist Kick Ball on your side of the ocean.

2) Soccer is slow. Ignore the fact that soccer games come in roughly around two hours and a typical NFL game is stretching past three hours and a Major League Baseball game is categorized as a mini-series in some states. Soccer is soooooooooo boring and slow. You only score like one or two goals and there's a lot of non action (even though everyone is running for two hours.) BOOOOOORRRRRIIIIINNNGGG.

3) Soccer allows ties. Ties are un-American (see rule 1). There's only one winner of March Madness (even though we allow four teams to credit themselves with a Final Four appearance.) There's only one NASCAR winner past the checkered flag on Sunday's, and by God, there's only one Super Bowl champion. (Even though the NFL allows ties, the most recent of which was just last year.) You must determine a winner just as in heavyweight flights (which are commonly ruled a draw.)

4) Soccer doesn't have enough scoring. Americans need scoring. They need quick satisfaction and need to see the pinball machine light up. We don't have time to sit around for 2 hours to watch a 1-1 draw. We need our cheeseburgers in four minutes or less and we need our diet cokes 42 ounces or larger. <shoots air guns into the air> PEW!! PEW!! PEW!!

You'll see some variation of these four themes with soccer arguments the rest of the month. As for my own personal stance, I don't particularly care for soccer for the same reasons as above, but I don't openly argue with people. There's no right or wrong answer to the question “what's your favorite sport?” That's an opinion. We spend too much time arguing opinions and too little time dealing with facts. I can tell you that there is tremendous beauty and grace in many of these World Cup games, and if you spend too much time arguing your points, you'll probably miss it.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


NICKEL AND DIME NONSENSE
6/18/14

My wife and I are preparing for a vacation. One of the things that you know about me in the first five minutes after you meet me is that I am a planner. It's what I do for a living and it's what I do when I'm not working. So a vacation with me is not a vacation, so much as it is an execution of a minute by minute master plan.

Tickets are purchased and printed. An itinerary is published in several drafts and the second I leave work the clock begins. But the planning starts weeks in advance and this week, I began the purchasing process for the events we will be doing.

I love the internet and all the conveniences it brings because it allows the OCD types like myself to have tickets in hand prior to arriving at the event. In the old days, you'd have to walk to a ticket window and interact with a human being. Forget that noise. The event could be sold out. You might not get tickets together or you might have to sit in the nosebleed seats.

The biggest downside of purchasing tickets to anything on the internet is the service charges and “convenience” fees that go along with it. We are going to Chicago for three days and each day we are planning one ticketed event. Friday night we are going to the famed Second City comedy club. Tickets to this event are a very reasonable $25 a person. On Saturday, we are going to a Cubs game. Tickets are less reasonable for this, but it's Wrigley Field, so let's say tickets are $50 for this event. Sunday we're going on an architecture tour because I heard they have beer there. So that's another $25 a person. Three events. Two people. $200. No problem, right? That's a decent vacation.

But no. It's not just $200. Stay with me.

The website for the $25 Second City tickets charged a $3.95 “Processing Fee” AND a $4 “Service Charge” PER TICKET. So that's $16 + $50. $66 for Second City.

The website for MLB.com ticketing is legalized robbery. It's absolutely ridiculous. $50 ticket + $12.95 “Print at home” fee (even though I'm printing the ticket on my own paper and using my own ink). THEN they charge you a $2 “service fee” which is supposed to make you feel better since you're not getting quite as bent over than the $13 fee. Regardless. That's another $15 per ticket. So, your $100 worth of tickets is now worth $132.

The Architecture Tour was $25 a person with a $4 “service fee” but at this point, I just wanted to be done, so it easily could've been $30. Fine. $58 for the tour.

When it's all said and done, by $200 worth of activities ends up costing me $256. That's a 28% markup just for buying tickets on the internet. This doesn't' begin to even include what I paid Southwest airlines for all the crap they start adding on from the base ticket price. Pretty soon they'll be charging you for peanuts and when you crank the little fan thing. Add to that our $100 a night room that'll be more like $140 when it's all said and done.

I get why they do it. They have to pay the credit card companies who have their hands in every transaction. They have taxes and visitors' fees and things to pay for the government and they do have some technology to pay for, such as the servers and the bandwidth that help run their financial systems. But still. Enough is enough.

Your nickels now cost seven cents and your dimes are now a quarter. We have now reached the stage where it's comical to do anything. At least the view from the shore is free. I think.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


HANDICAPPING RNC 2016 HOST CITIES
6/11/14

Unless you've been living under a rock, or get all of your news from online video games, then you are aware that our fair city of Kansas City is one of the finalists to host the week-long celebration of democracy, peaceful protests, Jesus and guns called the 2016 Republican National Convention. KC is running against Cleveland, Dallas and Denver and already beaten out Las Vegas and Cincinnati.

Last week, members of the selection committee visited all four potential host cities to check out their facilities, infrastructure and likely see how close the convention center is to the nearest strip club (Hint: KC is two blocks!)

I could have saved the Republican National Committee and drivers along the Broadway Bridge a lot of money, time and trouble as I now present the handicapping odds for the 2016 RNC National Convention.

Let's start... with Cleveland, Ohio.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - Cleveland is the most populous city in Ohio which is like being the prettiest girl in Middle School. Nobody cares and we're going to make fun of you anyway. Your river once caught fire and you had to draft a miniature college player as your future quarterback. (Johnny Manziel.) You have as much of a chance to host the RNC 2016 as I do to be the 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Model.
ODDS - 100/1

DENVER, COLORADO - Denver already had a reputation as the second-most hippy-est city next to San Francisco. But now, weed is legal there, so look out Grateful Dead tribute bands and Jonah Hill movies because we have a new champion. WAY too liberal for the RNC, but very likely to host the 2016 X Games.
ODDS - 50/1

DALLAS, TEXAS - Now here we go. KC's main competition. While KC may hold the edge in BBQ and drive-by fatalities, Dallas for sure leads in belt buckle size, Big 12 Conference titles in football and egos. Dallas is known best for its oil money and J.R. Ewing but the biggest draw would be Jerry-World, the likely site of the RNC Convention. They call it officially <Corporate Sponsor> Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, but it is a massive barn and one that could fit the conventions of all three cities inside of it. The biggest drawback to Dallas other than its slack-jawed slang would be its heat. It will be hot for a summertime convention and there aren't enough sundresses in the world that could counterbalance a sweaty Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh walking down a hot Texas street.
ODDS - 1/3

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - Our hometown looks to host its fourth major political convention, the first one being back in 1900 when KC hosted the Democratic National Convention and most recent in 1976 when the RNC put forth Bob Dole as its nominee for vice president. A lot has changed in KC since those days. For starters, KC is no longer the home base of the mafia and organized crime. That home has now moved to the Republican party itself. KC has the title of BBQ capital of the world and is one of the more progressive cities in social media, streetcars and sweeping urban blight under the rug. Look for it to go down to the wire with Dallas.
ODDS - 1/2 - FAVORITE

In the end, look for Dallas to edge out Kansas City, not because it is the better city, but because these selection committees LOVE to have their butts kissed and nobody greases a pig like a Texan.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


FAMILY SECRET
6/4/14

Every family has a secret. For some it could be a stress in a marriage. For others, it could be potential financial windfalls or maybe they are secretly broke. One thing is certain, though...every family has a secret. Eventually, they all see the light of day, though. I'm about to tell you ours.
The year was 1993. A first-term Bill Clinton was busy rolling cigars and staining dresses. The Kansas City Royals were only eight short years removed from their last World Series appearance.

A young and handsome Chris Kamler had just enrolled at the University of Missouri - Kansas City after, um, releasing myself from the University of Missouri in Columbia. Beer might have been a contributing factor.

My parents, Edward and Donna, were reveling in the graduation from high school of their third child and that left only one more to go. It was a perfect time for a completely ludicrous decision like buying a hot rod car.

Now, my parents had a wonderfully good run of automobiles through my childhood. There was the Ford LTD - one of the largest four door sedans ever made. There was the white Cadillac - again, one of the largest cars in the history of cars. It might have actually come with an outboard motor. The cake topper in this list was the Cutlass Cruiser station wagon made by the Oldsmobile corporation. The Cutlass was so vast, so large, that every child had their own zip code inside AND you could put the newborn on the floorboard of the passenger seat in an age before BIG SEATBELT forced you to stop putting babies on the floorboards of cars.

My parents drove gigantic, American-made boats with wheels. So, naturally, their major purchase to celebrate the third of four children to graduate high school was a 1993 Ford Mustang convertible. It was a glorious machine. An amalgam of leather and power and speed and, dare I say, sex on wheels. It was a damn fine car. My wonderful sister Catherine, whom I love dearly, gave it a test drive. I also got to give it a test drive. It certainly was a step up from what I had been used to driving. I was happy with my 1981 GMC Sierra Pickup Truck with the stepside. It had replaced my F-150 Ford Truck with a three on the tree and enough rust that the rust had rust.

Water actually splashed my face when driving in the rain because of water coming up off of the front wheel into a hole in the floorboard directly up my nose - but I couldn't help seeing me behind the wheel of that powerful machine cruising up and down North Oak turning all the ladies heads.
My sister and I were both going to UMKC at the time, both commuting from home because we are horrible children and hadn't actually left home.

Now. Listen closely. Here is where the family secret comes in.

As mid-life crisis go, my mom and dad's one was pretty mild. They bought a fast car. But of COURSE that was a short lived decision and that beautiful car would trickle down to the child they secretly loved the most. Me. That car would be MINE.

And that's when my sister stepped in. I don't remember what kind of car she drove, but it suddenly started having “problems.” “Oh, that's okay, honey. Just drive the Mustang.”

I never had a chance. That car was stolen out from underneath me. It was rightfully mine and she STOLE it. She drove that car for years. She knows what she did. Just like the pending Ross Perot Presidency, it was plucked from me and I never had a chance.

NOW you know my family's secret. Anybody want to come visit for Thanksgiving?

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


OUTSMARTED
5/28/14

I guess it's a rite of passage for all fathers with their sons --the day the son finally bests the elder in some way. I just never thought it would come so early.

So let's back up here and let me explain a few things to start. Every year, the boy and I take a yearly “Mother's Day trip” which is code for “Boy's weekend away so Mom has a weekend to herself.”

The boy's weekend normally consists of a trip around Memorial Day weekend, eating junk food, pizza, soda pop, staying in hotels, swimming and watching lots of baseball. We've been to Omaha to see the AAA Stormchasers, we've been to Northwest Arkansas to see the AA Naturals and this year we chose Lexington, Kentucky to see the A league Lexington Legends.

As Brett, age 11, continues to mature, he enjoys the trips less and less. If given a choice, he'd probably enjoy a weekend locked in the basement playing video games. But he will look back on these vacations fondly someday and I absolutely love them. They are the weekend of the year as far as I am concerned.

Brett is growing up so quickly. This will be our final trip before he enters middle school. When I was his age, I hated middle school so I know he'll be in for some challenges. But these three or four days provide a great time to talk, laugh and did I mention eat junk food?

Anyway, we don't have a lot of rules on these trips - really only one - that we try something new every trip. Brett's not the most outgoing at first and he is a finicky eater. He's at the stage where everything on his plate needs to resemble a chicken McNugget AND not touch anything else on his plate. This morning, we went to a diner and ordered two eggs, bacon and a biscuit. We're in Kentucky, so everything was covered in gravy. His head about exploded.

To combat this, I made a rule several trips ago that he HAS to try something new every trip. And on this venture, I upped that number to THREE things. Over four days, this really only meant he'd have to take a bite of grits or a mushroom or, god forbid, a vegetable of some sort. He didn't get a vote, so off we went.

At dinner the first night, I was determined to get this “try something” form of torture a test right off the bat. I ordered crab stuffed mushrooms at the restaurant. Brett, ever the future lawyer or politician, said, “What if I got a veto for these?” This seemed logical, really. So I said, “How many do you want?” Brett had a wink in his eye and said “Three seems right. I'd like three vetoes.”

Okay, so we shook on it and I launched my first salvo knowing that I'd have many more opportunities. “Alright, crab stuffed mushrooms. First bite.”

“Veto.”

And then it hit me. I had three attempts to get him to attempt something new. I had then been tricked into giving him an equal amount of vetoes. I had been checkmated. By an 11-year-old.
I sat there slackjawed. Stupefied. How did he do that? How did I fall for it?

One thing is for certain, it probably won't be the last time I'm one-upped (or three vetoed) by my son. But the trip was still amazing.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 

 


THE SLEEPY CUL-DE-SAC
5/21/14

The cul-de-sac at the end of Carridi Acres has been my home off-and-on for 30 years. It is often overlooked by the city. It's never plowed in the winter and hasn't been repaved in a decade. But in Spring, the cul-de-sac begins to show signs of life, as lawn mowers spray yard clippings into the street and we drive up and down to baseball games.

But even with Spring and baseball, we're still pretty much indoor creatures. Even when I was growing up, the cul-de-sac that I lived on didn't have many kids and had no sidewalks. Sure, there was playing outside, and that's mainly because that was an actual parenting technique ‘back in the day.’ “You kids go outside and don't come in until it gets dark.” That was an actual thing. If you came in for a glass of water or Kool-Aid you were chastised and chased back out of the house.

Today I live in the house next door to that one--at the end of the same sleepy cul-de-sac. Still without sidewalks and even fewer children on the block. There are fewer things for my son to just get up and do nowadays without us driving him to a friend's house or setting something up ahead of time.

The cul-de-sac is still mostly quiet and mostly safe, but this is 2014 when people get snatched out of Wal-Mart parking lots and millions of other stories come true that you only see on the news. So at any given time your security and safety are relative.

That being said, this past Saturday night was one that rivaled any in my 30 years at the end of the cul-de-sac. My sister and her two boys were up from Wichita, and my other sister's three boys were over as well. (There's a lot of boys in our family.) And the two girls from down the street came up. Their parents are moving next weekend because of the lack of things to do in our neighborhood.

The cul-de-sac suddenly sprung to life. Spider webbed whiffle balls and kickballs and footballs appeared from the bottoms of boxes and crates. A game of hide-and-seek formulated out of nowhere. Not one but TWO tricycles appeared. When was the last time we saw a tricycle?

Kickball gave way to some sort of game of catch with two kickballs and a football. And that game gave way to some sort of keep-away/chase/tag type of contest. I honestly lost track of the rules. Oh, and I was out there too, as were other moms and dads. In a modern twist on the “don't come back in until dark,” there still needs to be a grownup present outdoors, just because. But it's okay, at one point I think I became the “all time tagger.” Whatever that means.

The shadows grew longer and the games continued. Nobody went inside for water or Kool-Aid or video games or cookies. The sun finally set on the evening and the cul-de-sac again grew quiet.

The goal for the sleepy cul-de-sac at the end of Carridi Acres is now finding a way to make sure it doesn't remain quiet for long.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


TELL THE TALE
2/18/15

Fittingly enough, Saturday Night Live held one of its reunion shows this past weekend. One of my favorite characters from that show was by Jon Lovitz as the Pathological Liar.

If you've never seen the old skit, basically the guy would get into a conversation with someone and then begin to embellish about how he was married to Morgan Fairchild and was a member of Congress. “Yeah, that's the ticket!” he'd say after each lie.

Lovitz was able to accurately convey one of America's most time honored traditions--lying out your backside. A fact evolves into a story. A story evolves into a tale. A tale evolves into spinning a yarn and spinning a yarn turns into something grand. Just add a small little lie and cook at 350 for 45 minutes.

It's a little disheartening to see that Lovitz's network mate on NBC, Brian Williams - the managing editor of the NBC Nightly News - is about to lose his job (after his six month suspension) for spinning yarns about taking fire while on a helicopter in Afghanistan.

You've heard the story by now and you might have even heard one of several versions of the story--depending on the source. Helicopter pilots. Other members of the press and Williams himself--all with varying parts and pieces of the story. But the consensus is that Williams embellished, crowed or just flat out lied about his role in a helicopter shooting.

We do it all the time ourselves. We tell stories. We bend the truth. We edit generously or embellish sparsely. The fact is that our brains aren't built for total recall, so we tend to fill the blanks with the truth that we prefer.

In this digital age, you only see sanitized versions of other people on Facebook. Are those folks who tell you about their perfect children and their wonderful marriage and their extravagant vacation lying? Well, maybe it's more like stretching the truth. If you go to buy a car, are you to assume that the jalopy with 22,000 miles and three bald tires is really a “steal” and “will be with you for years to come” is lying? Or is he just trying to make a sale?

We're holding Brian Williams to a standard that I argue not one of us could live up to. The guy stretched the truth. That's the way I see it. A good newsman is going to lose his job because we aren't able to understand that Brian Williams was telling a banquet story instead of reporting the news. It's going to become that much harder to get real news out because the public is on a witch hunt and smells blood.

And yet, maybe those of us who are calling for him to be fired will wake up tomorrow filled with truth and you'll tell your boss what you really think of him, or you'll tell your spouse what you think of her pasta salad.

Or maybe you'll tell a little fib. Yeah. That's the ticket.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all sorts of things, most of which are legal. Follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed and see more of his stuff at thekcpost.com)

 


ODE TO 152
2/11/15

I had to drive from Platte City to Liberty the other day. I didn't give it much thought at the time. It's like any other trip. You can get to just about anywhere in Kansas CIty in a half an hour and I figured Platte City to Liberty would be even less.

The thing I like about Platte City is the windy two-lane roads. There's a ton of them just north of the airport and they're pretty hilly, too. Great to drive during the fall because you can see the leaves change colors. Terrible to drive in the winter because they're pretty treacherous. But the weather has been extremely nice for winter and I made it out of Platte City unharmed.

That brought me to 152 Highway. “Military Road” used to be the artery between Liberty's artillery stash and Fort Leavenworth. Later, that road was renamed to Barry Road. I can remember when 152 was a windy two-lane road as well. Most of it was tied into Barry Road. Now it is a gleaming four-lane highway for much of the stretch.

The entire west portion of 152 is idle. There's absolutely nothing there up until you hit Maple Woods. That portion will someday be the main road into the new KCI if it's ever rebuilt, but for now, it's a great place to open up the throttle on your motorcycle on a spring day.

That is... until you get to Maple Woods. Then Brighton. Then the east side of 435. Then... Liberty, Missouri.

What the hell happened, Liberty?

There used to be a McDonalds and a Wal-Mart on one side of I-35 and a movie theater and a K-Mart on the other side. Now, every retail chain has vomited on the intersection like a puppy eating rotten eggs. Need a cheeseburger? There's Five Guys, McDonalds, Culvers, Burger King and a dozen others. Want a load of plywood? You can spit and hit a Home Depot and a Lowes as well as Wal-Mart. Nearly anything that you can desire you can find at the intersection of I-35 and 152 Highway. There's a high school, a battery store and three pizza places.

I suppose that's good if you like all of everything right in one place. But that's the problem. From the 291 intersection back west to Indiana it takes nearly as long to travel as it does from 435 to 435. There are nearly a dozen stoplights and whether it's a Tuesday at 10 a.m. or a Friday night at 11 p.m., there's always gridlock. And don't even think about heading up that way on a Saturday at noon. You'd get further if you walked.

The city planners of Liberty and Kansas City should be ashamed of themselves for putting together such a grotesque collection of capitalism without paying any attention to crowd control. It's like putting together a five story shopping mall but scattering it all across two miles of highway.
I remember when I was a kid driving down Noland Road and seeing all the brightly lit signs thinking it might be Las Vegas. Noland Road can't hold a candle to the Libermess along 152 highway.

All told, I did make it from Platte City to Liberty on a Saturday afternoon. It took 45 minutes and nearly a quarter tank of gas. I saw two fender benders and thousands of cars. What I didn't see was a city planner - that guy has probably already been fired.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of weird things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


NATIONWIDE IS ON YOUR SIDE
2/4/15

One of the greatest unofficial holidays of the year is Super Bowl Sunday. Americans never need an excuse to overeat so of course Super Bowl parties have become the norm for early February. My party featured chicken wings, cheese dip, chips and my mother insisted on bringing carrots and celery for some reason.

The game was an instant classic that went the way of the Patriots as this intrepid columnist (and 2014 Landmark Pigskin Picks winner) boldly predicted.

But the Super Bowl itself has begun to erode and it's got nothing to do with the play on the field, although the NFL just completed its most controversial year in history as it licked its wounds from multiple domestic violence charges and a cheating scandal featuring the Super Bowl champions.

No, it's got nothing to do with Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or Marshawn Lynch. It's the commercials. Long gone are the artistically thoughtful commercials like Apple's “1984” commercial that called back to the great work of 1984 to sell Apple computers. Long gone are even the funny Doritos commercials or bottles of beer playing football. We didn't even have a cute little kid ask Mean Joe Green for his jersey.

Nope, that cute little kid was killed in the first half by an insurance company.

Instead of cute little puppies or hot chicks eating cheeseburgers in bikinis, the national dialogue this week will be on Nationwide Insurance running a commercial implying that little Timmy died because folks didn't protect him from preventable household dangers.

Now, I'm as big of a fan of the PSA as anybody. I mean, that KCP&L ad with the metal ladder hitting the electric line still sticks in my brain every time I go to clean the leaves out of the gutter. Yet, I'm not sure the first 30 minutes of the Super Bowl is the appropriate time to remind folks that their little child could die instead of running to the fridge to get you a cold Budweiser.

The ad fell flat on Twitter and was widely panned moments after it aired. Nationwide issued a statement stating that it wasn't trying to sell life insurance, but saw the Super Bowl audience as an opportunity to bring up the issue.

Perhaps, but chicken wings, margaritas and dead children don't really mix and Madison Avenue whiffed big on this one.

The general tone of all of the commercials this year was pretty dour. Even the “best” commercial of the year wasn't a funny talking gerbil or a pratfall. It was the “Lost Dog” commercial from Budweiser that featured Clydesdale horses coming to the rescue of a lost puppy. The ad made my wife cry when she saw it and I'll admit it got a little dusty in the room when I saw it for the first time as well. Still proof that you can try to sell something and not leave the audience running to their therapists.

But I do hope that in future Super Bowls folks will remember that this is a celebration of what we love about America. Football. Chicken Wings. Beer. And leave the lost puppies and dead children out of it.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of mysterious things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at the kcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


BALLS
1/28/15

Balls.

Big ones. Little ones. Elongated ones. Deflated ones. Brown ones. White ones. Orange ones. Even yellow and blue ones.

There's only been one topic on the minds of America this week and it's balls.

For me, this strikes close to home. For over 25 years, I was the man in charge of balls. I kept them in a satchel near my waist. It was my job to control them. Protect them. Keep them free of damage. My daily ritual was to even rub mud on them to before my day even started.

I know a significant amount about protecting balls.

What I don't get is just how this could've happened on such a big stage. We have an old saying about balls that goes, “the bigger the stage, the bigger the balls.” And it's really true. You've got to keep a firm grasp of the situation - and the balls - because you never know what type of nefariousness is out to tamper with said balls.

“I've handled balls my whole career,” one of the participants was quoted in a press conference.

Well, if that was the case, sir, then you forgot the cardinal rules of ball protection:

“Keep 'em out of reach. Keep 'em safe from harm. Keep 'em perfect in every way.”

You are taught it the first days you were given your balls – for some it was earlier than others. But for most, it was as they first became active out in the world. Many were just naturals, but others had to be taught how to properly protect the balls. Some were too firm and some were too gentle. There's certainly a balance – an art – to it, if you will.

Balls are a universal language. Whether they're called “cojones” or “Balle” or “Beitsim” or just “big'uns” – we should all take something away from balls this week.

It doesn't matter if it's in a gymnasium, a coliseum, a stadium or in the privacy of your own home. I don't think the nation will ever disregard the protection of balls again. At least that is my hope and wish. Whether you're married to a super model, or just single and alone in your dorm room – we shall all remember this week. The week where ball handling wasn't given the attention it deserved and demanded. Balls must be the right pressure, the right temperature and coddled in just the right fashion.

Changes will be made after this. I hope that balls will be protected properly. I hope that balls will be handled with the care that balls should've gotten all along. Whether they are basket, base, foot, ping pong, volley, or blue, let the word go forth that balls shall never be treated in such a manner.

It turns out that as the nation has been gripped by news of balls this January, the sad part is that the balls should have been gripped by the nation.

Balls. Learn them. Live them. Love them. Keep them properly pressurized.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of mysterious things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


PREDICTIONS
1/21/15

First, let me apologize. I'm a couple weeks late on this. So please don't get mad. I wasn't cheating. I was actually traveling ahead in time and got the return date wrong.

I've just returned from Dec. 31, 2015 and I wanted to share with you a few headlines of Platte County Landmark news articles that will happen sometime during the year. Now, it's common knowledge that the laws of traveling through space don't allow me to tell you exactly what happens in the future. So I'm only able to give you the headlines. But believe me. When you see them in the pages in weeks and months to come, it'll all make sense.

Here we go:

TRACY MAN HAS SELFIE-STICK SURGICALLY REMOVED - I mean, this one is a little self-explanatory. But you'll need to make sure you read paragraph three to find out how and where it was inserted.

AIRPORT MEETING: TEMPERS FLY HIGH - I mean, who doesn't love a good pun, right? And this one was great as proponents of a single terminal KCI clash with protesters who enjoy everyone flying in and out of Gate 64, Terminal C. Spoiler Alert: Everyone in attendance was “searched” by the TSA.

KAMLER/FOLEY PANTSLESS AT BOOK SIGNING - I can't tell you much about this one - other than it will be in March.

PLATTE CITY STUDENT TALKS LIKE PIRATE FOR 60 DAYS STRAIGHT - What started out as a show of school spirit ended up with him being taken to get a psych eval.

RISS LAKE INSTALLS ELECTRIC FENCE - To combat the urban sprawl of the businesses around it, Riss Lake residents take drastic measures to keep their neighborhood “clean.”

POLICE CHASE THROUGH PLATTE COUNTY FOILED BY DRONE - The Platte City Police Department will finally use their snooping camera eyes for good as a new drone camera they bought to check up on residents accidentally stops a police chase by going into the windshield of the getaway car.

LANDMARK COLUMNIST WINS EVERY AWARD KNOWN TO COLUMNISTS - Hint... Hint... His initials are CK. This also included “Handsomest Columnist.”

PLATTE COUNTY YMCA RENOVATIONS TO INCLUDE STATE OF THE ART SHOOTING RANGE - I don't know how they afford all the renovations, but I don't see what would possibly go wrong with this.

COUNTY JUDGE TICKLISH - This one was on Page 4 of the Landmark. You might not want to see the accompanying picture.

LANDMARK BEGINS 151st YEAR; FIRES IDIOT COLUMNIST

I'll see you in the future. Have a great year!

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter @TheFakeNed and be sure to buy his book that comes out in March)

 


SPACE. . .THE FINAL
FRONTIER

1/14/15

As our esteemed editor, Ivan Foley mentioned last week, I am in the final stages of writing a book. I've never written a book before. Frankly, the longest thing I've ever written has been these short little columns I write for the newspaper every week.

I've read a number of books. Well, that's not entirely genuine. I have read several websites and some fairly thick Fantasy Football magazines. What I've been most fascinated about has been the behind-the-scenes things that surround the mechanics of writing a book.

For instance, you have to purchase something called an ISBN number, which is then translated to the barcode on the back of the book. This immediately reminded me that I needed to write something ON the back of the book.

So, the back of the book is apparently the best chance to get people to buy your book so it's supposed to tell people about the story and then nice things people have said about it. So, I basically had to lie. Because the book is nearly 100% fart jokes.

The next thing you have to do is get an editor to read your “manuscript” (fancy word for “Word Document”) and proofread it. He or she also will make sure the story flows from one chapter to another and make sure there isn't anything really wrong with the look of the book.

For those of you who read my columns here every week, you have probably picked up that I have a relatively “conversational” style in my writing. Editors hate that. “Conversational” means “really screwed up.” I put things in “quotes” too much. I hyphenate words-way-too-much. I also tend to Capitalize things that Don't need Capitalization.

These are all quirks I told my editor about beforehand and I told him to just ignore them. I wanted my story to sound like I was just telling it to you at a bus stop. The editor agreed to ignore all of those and two weeks later I got my word document back.

Word has a feature where you can point out things to change. It's called “track changes” and it puts a little red line under something, kind of like spell check. When I got the manuscript back it was covered in red. But all of my hyphens and Capital letters were still there.

The editor told me, “I only have one change for you in the book. Nobody puts two spaces after a period anymore. You have to go through every sentence and fix it.”

What?? When did that change? You don't put two spaces after a period anymore? That's crazy.

So I looked it up and, sure enough, it changed nearly 20 years ago. Nobody told me. How terrifying to know that you've been living your life under one set of rules when the rest of the world has been adhering to another. It's like when I drive the speed limit on the highway and my wife complains that I'm not driving 10 miles over.

It reminded me of the time Vice President Dan Quayle helped a school with a lesson and misspelled Potato(e) on the blackboard. He had no idea potato had no “e” on the end, but he blew right through the stop sign.

I guess I've gone through life not knowing what I don't know.

That being said, warts and all, I'm really excited to let Everyone see my “book” when it comes out in March. Thanks to all of the Landmark “readers” for-their-support.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of mysterious things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


WINTER'S FRAGRANCE
1/7/15

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of family vacations. Well. Let me rephrase that. That's not genuine. I have many childhood memories of family vacations. I think I've mentioned in this forum before that my family did a vacation a year. There were four children and two parents and a transportation device of some sort. Usually this transportation device was a station wagon that seated six. It comfortably seated two because the back seats were filled with coolers and suitcases and blankets.

But when I look back to vacations the family would take, they were survivable, you know? Nobody died. We made it to Disneyland. We made it to the Rocky Mountains. We made it to St. Louis. It was tolerable.

What I had forgotten... was the smell. The odor. The fragrance of a cross country road trip.

My family just completed a seven day, six state trip to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. We rented a car - just like the old days. Instead of four children, we had only one - our 12-year-old son. We also had the benefit of modern technology including phones, iPads and videos. We had satellite radio and Pandora. We packed two coolers filled with soda and water and I even made these little ham rollup things that were pretty tasty.

I figured I had made just about every adjustment that could possibly be made between 1978 and 2014 in order to make a 20-hour car ride enjoyable.

The problem was that I scheduled the trip during winter. When the windows would be rolled up. And I invited my son and my wife.

Every 20 minutes, it seemed. There it was. Wafting through the cabin of the automobile - like a fog through the Appalachian Mountains.

“Who did it?” Then there would be a mild argument and the inevitable giggling as they realize guilt or innocence was irrelevant. The crime had been done. Then repeat again 20 minutes later.

I live with these people every day. I sleep in the same home with them and buy their groceries. I pay their bills and I make sure they get off to work and school in the mornings. My home doesn't smell like that. My neighbors would have called the city if it did. This was something unholy. Something saved up just for me. A punishment. A penance.

Regardless. There it was. Every 20 minutes for 20 hours there and 20 hours back. I instantly remembered what made those old car rides so uncomfortable. Those drives to “whoever smelt it dealt it” land. I don't know how my parents did it or why they did it. I don't know what it is about the oxygen in a car on a highway with the windows open that makes it possible.

I also remembered what I told myself following my last family vacation as a youth... “I'll NEVER do that when I grow up.”

I guess I forgot that part. Winter's fragrance helped me remember. Next time we are flying.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of mysterious things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


TWO STEPS FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACKWARD
12/31/14

This week we say goodbye to 2014 and welcome in 2015. Just about five minutes ago, I was putting away the lawn chairs from our Fourth of July party. (In my defense, they were in the yard for a long time). But it did seem like 2014 flew by so fast.

The popular thing to do this week is “look back” on the year that was and it was a tumultuous one. From missing planes to the missing common sense in Ferguson, Missouri. It seems that we have more access to learn of the terrible things that are done by Man.

The government continues to turn itself into an HBO drama as it insists there was nothing wrong with the rectal feedings of the terrorists in Guantanamo while at the same time making signing up for Obamacare as painful as being tortured.

The country seems to still be fighting the tide of same sex marriage amendments. Those that still object should only put yourself in my shoes as my family and I are currently on a 3800 mile road trip. After this slice of heaven, you'd be begging for same sex couple to undergo the same pain and suffering that I am this week.

We spent a lot of last year scared. If not of Ebola, then of Bill Cosby. By the way, there were more Cosby victims than Ebola victims if you're keeping score.

The midterm elections were this year and the elephants took back Congress. One thing is certain, the next two years are going to be insufferable as I'm ALREADY starting to see commercials about the 2016 election.

CNN never found that missing plane. And they never indicted that police officer. News is at its best when it's covering what isn't happening.

We met Lee Sungwoo and cheered on the Kansas City Royals while running and hiding as the Chiefs lost to the winless Raiders and the Kansas Football team was “football” in name only.

We lost Maya Angelou, Joe Cocker, Casey Kasem, Don Pardo, Fred Phelps and Alice from The Brady Bunch.

But the loss of Robin Williams is simply the most heartwrenching. If you have someone in your life struggling with depression hug them for a long, long time.

The key question that isn't asked in all of these recaps is, “Did we learn anything?” And I guess the answer to that is completely subjective. But it's unlikely we learned anything substantial. We will still stress over deadly plagues just an ER away. We will always be angry about the actions of those we don't like. We will always envy what we don't have and protect what we do.

As we start out on 2015, I want to challenge all of you to write down three things looking ahead to the New Year. I gave my son three $50 bills this Christmas with the same challenge. One envelope read “To give” - the challenge is to give that money to a charity or cause that you feel is important.

The second envelope is labeled “To save” - Pad or start a rainy day fund. And the final envelope is labeled “To do” - this should be used for something amazing. Jump from an airplane. Climb a mountain. Buy a book. Something incredible.

If we can all do those three things - To save, to give and to do - we'll absolutely be able to say that 2015 was an amazing year.
Happy New Year!

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all kinds of mysterious things. Keep up to date with the progress of his book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


SONY GOT OWNED
12/24/14

I used to argue with my dad a lot about whatever. Just normal stuff, really. But the only big argument I've ever gotten into with him was after 9/11. At the time, I was in charge of the umpires for the NKCA Youth Baseball League and he was the League Director. So we talked every day about the “family business” as it were.

On 9/11, my day job got sent home early. I worked on the 42nd floor of the One KC Place building at 12th and Main and we figured it wasn't the smartest thing to be working in a high-rise building that day. Plus you don't need to give me an excuse for a half day.

So I went home and I'm watching the television just like everyone was that terrible day and I realized that I'd probably need to call my umpires to tell them our games had been cancelled for that night.

When I talked to my dad, he told me that the games would go on as scheduled. There would be no cancellation. I was furious. I don't recall ever being more mad at my father or anyone I've worked with than that day. It was an emotional day for everyone, but I was just beside myself.

He told me, “That's what they want. They want to shut down what's normal. We will be playing tonight.”

Begrudgingly, we played the games but I never forgot that moment and I remained mad for quite a long time. After time, however, I realized just how right he was. After all, this is a man who witnessed the after effects of the Kennedy Assassination where the NFL played the week following his murder. It's not okay to interrupt your normal day to day life because people half a world away hate you and what you stand for. You don't stand for ANYTHING unless you do your daily life. What's ultimately more important to that cause than youth baseball?

I remembered that conversation vividly when this week, we've seen the other side of the coin. By now you know about North Korea hacking into Sony's computers in California over the release of a satirical movie “The Interview.” Bowing to pressure from the hackers and veiled threats of a 9/11-style event at movie theaters, Sony decided not to release the movie and accepted the terms of the threat.

The decision could not have been more wrong - regardless of the threats. Threats are made every day. Dumb movies are made every day. America is about the freedom to pay your $10 and eat your 4,000 calories of popcorn and choose what you want to do with your Saturday night. It's a lot of other things, but some moron half a world away doesn't get to decide that. It's one of the few freedoms we have left in this country.

I hope that this event is part of a larger attempt to catch the hackers that did this or an isolated incident. Because first they come for our movies, then our guns and then our adorable newspaper columnists.

Regardless of the silliness of the content of the movie, and by all accounts it's an awful movie, the most important part of this country is the right to make a terrible movie also known as free speech. It's as the forefathers would've wanted. You've got to stay doing those things that you do.

Sony. You messed this one up. And Dad, I owe you an apology.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all sorts of things, most of them legal. You can keep up-to-date with progress on the book at thekcpost.com/book. Find Chris all over social media, in particular on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


HANDS UP, LET’S TALK
12/17/14

This is not a column that is going to solve the mounting racial tensions sweeping across America. This is not a column that can fix the distrust blacks have against police officers or the frustration that police officers have with the criticism of the legal system that rightfully protects them.

I don't have any answers. And guess what? Neither do you. But that's not stopping the mountain of hot takes on Facebook and social media about Ferguson, Missouri or any one of the growing list of examples where police have killed suspects in the course of an arrest.

The hot takes seem to be on completely polar opposites and blame anyone from Barack Obama to the right wing NRA. This is a complex issue and a very complicated problem being solved 140 characters at a time. No wonder this thing is a mess.

Hashtags aren't going to fix this. #ICantBreath was trending nationally last week and it's even got a damn typo in it. In fact, this is only going to be solved WITHOUT social media. Citizens need to take back their streets. Police need to form relationships with their neighbors and those they vowed to protect and serve. Trust cannot be developed on Instagram.

One thing that we all need to get better at doing through all this is taking criticism. Over 30,000 people took to the streets of New York this week protesting the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Several thousand protested in St. Louis. The protests are now seeping into the professional sports world where several athletes have worn shirts in support of said protests.

One of those happened last Sunday in Cleveland as Browns players wore “JUSTICE” shirts. This was met with a harsh rebuke by the Cleveland police department union:

“It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law. They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology.”

Of course the union has every right to its opinion as do the members of the Browns. But the failure here isn't expression of speech, it's a failure to reach across to the other side to understand the frustration.

As a middle-class white guy, I don't know the struggles of those with color or minorities. As a member of a family with law enforcement officers, I have a tremendous respect for those who jump into action in the worst situations. I do think that both sides can stand to turn down the rhetoric--stop blocking traffic and start talking. Police can stop bringing out tanks when people want to express their opinion and start trying to figure out how we can all get better.

This is not a column that is going to solve any of this. But I do know that talking is the road to take for a resolution and not violence.

(Chris Kamler is writing a book and doing all sorts of things, most of them legal. For details, follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed and friend him on Facebook)


THE SEVEN PERCENT
12/10/14

Let's get out your pencils and write down the top five favorite things in your life. I'll wait.
Got it? What did you write? Mine are all sports related (if you also include that Hooters girls are also somewhat sports-related.)

Now. What if I took all the sports-related things away. I'll now wait while you go grab a tissue.

There was a recent article at fivethirtyeight.com, which is a fascinating website covering the analytical side of sports, politics and life, about the percentage of men and women that don't watch sports. The definition would be anyone who didn't watch even one minute of a live action sporting event OR a highlight on SportsCenter or anything sports related for seven days after the event concluded. In essence, they watch ZERO sports in their lives.

Grab some more tissues. I couldn't believe it either.

Before I tell you the percentage, let's get out that same pencil and write down the names of thirty people. These can be either friends, relatives, family members or just people you know. Now scratch two of those names off the list. FiveThirtyEight.com estimates that over seven percent of the US population - both men and women watch ZERO sports. I had to read the article twice.

Two out of thirty.

I had a lot of questions at this point, but the first one was WHAT THE HELL DO THESE PEOPLE DO ALL DAY?

Maybe they are very serious people with serious jobs. Maybe they are politicians and they are neck-deep in the issues of the day and can't afford any second to waste on the Green Bay game. Or maybe they are destitute folks. Living on the street and haven't even walked by a television store to see a moment of the Lakers game. (Do they still have television stores with the big windows? I digress.) Or maybe -- and this is the worst theory of all -- maybe they just don't like sports. Shudder.

These folks probably read books and play with their well-adjusted children and drink drinks with spritzer in them. They probably contribute to National Public Radio and vote their conscience.

Maybe they drive a Prius when they're not biking to work but still pay their NRA dues just to keep the universe on an even keel.

Who needs those people in this world? I want my fellow American and human beings to ride the rollercoaster of emotion that only sports can give you. I don't need people who only vote for American Idol candidates and plant gardens. I need someone slumped over a barstool on a Sunday night after the Chiefs have fumbled away their hopes and dreams.

Sports make life better - except when they are making them worse and that is the point of sports. They make you feel. They make you enjoy and hate at the same time. They take you on a 29 year run of futility and then suddenly make a World Series. You're not supposed to understand it. You're just supposed to live it.

To those seven percent of people who don't watch sports I say to you, tune it to ESPN or Fox Sports or Sunday Night Football. You don't know what you're missing.

(Chris Kamler is doing so many things, including writing a book, that we don’t know how to summarize them for you here. To get up to date with what he’s up to, follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


SHOW ME
12/3/14

“Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
--U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, 1899

There's a fine line between skeptic and conspiracy theorist. There's a fine line between Moon Landing wackos and Watergate heroes.

All week, we've been reading on our Facebook feeds and watching on our television about the tensions in Ferguson, Missouri spawned by the decision of the St. Louis Grand Jury that decided not to bring an indictment against police officer Darren Wilson in the aftermath of a series of events that led to the shooting death of Michael Brown. This story has just about every layer you could find in a hot-button issue - race, violence, protests, political bumbling, distrust of the State and a healthy dose of media overload. All that's missing, really, is a good sex scandal and you'd shut down the media cycle for six months.

The most fascinating element is that this is one of the first national moments where Social Media is the leading transportation device for facts and news. Twitter was well out in front of CNN and Fox News with news of the verdict and was on top of the rioting minute by minute thanks for citizen reporters staying tuned to police scanners and local media reports.

The problem came, however, when the “reporting” started to resemble a bad game of “telephone.” Facts became rumors and rumors became facts. Even as the large amount of testimony was released, the truth got even further watered down and warped.

Thanksgiving dinners were ruined as the issue became so polarizing you were either pro-Michael Brown or pro-Darren Wilson.

Whatever happened to that “Show Me” attitude on either side? There were very few actual witnesses to the incident and according to the prosecuting attorney, they changed their stories. But even that was refuted.

There does seem to be a solution to this moving forward. There seems to be a technological way to prevent another Ferguson-style event where witness stories change and a single record of truth can be made. There is a product made by the Taser company called Axon Body. It is a small video camera that mounts inside the uniform of police officers that, according to the website, records a full 12 hours and is proven to “improve behavior of all parties during police interaction. Studies have shown that using cameras can reduce complaints by over 80%. Another UK study showed a 100% reduction in complaints with the adoption of on-officer cameras.”

The cameras retail for $400 and would be much cheaper than purchasing a SWAT team tank. Had a camera been used in the Michael Brown incident, it would have shown nearly all of what is in dispute - whether he was aggressive, charging or had his hands up when he was fatally shot.
Seems to me that we need to get back that “Show Me” mentality so we can stop playing judge, jury and executioner on our Facebook feeds. Or to put it in 1899 terms, we need to take the froth out of our eloquence.

(Chris Kamler does a lot of things. So many we won’t mention most of them this week. He is writing a book. To learn more about that and other things, follow Chris on Twitter @TheFakeNed or find him on Facebook and all kinds of other places)

 


TRANSCRIBING
11/26/14

The following is a word-for-word transcription of three 12-year-old boys this past weekend during an eight minute car drive. I know it was eight minutes because I looked at the clock every 14 seconds hoping it was either over or for death to take me away.

Boy 1: Dude
Boy 2: Dude
Boy 3: Put hot sauce on that chicken
Boy 2: Dude
Boy 1: Jessica is going to be there
Boy 3: Oh yeah?
Boy 2: Yep.
Boy 3: Put hot sauce on that chicken
Boy 1: LOVE THIS SONG TURN IT UP
<music is turned up, awkward dancing occurs>
Boy 3: Dude
Boy 2: Dude
Boy 1: <sings off key to song>
Boy 2: Jessica thinks you're cute.
Boy 3: NO WAY
Boy 1: Ugh. She's gross
Boy 3: Put hot sauce on that chicken
All 3 boys: <giggling for what seems like weeks>
Boy 3: Oh man
Boy 1: What?
<Boy 3 never answers Boy 1>
Boy 2: Mrs. Thomas is giving me more math homework
Boy 1: Math sucks
Boy 3: Math sucks
Boy 2: Math sucks
<channel changes at the first commercial to another station playing the same song as 2 minutes ago>
Boy 1: LOVE THIS SONG TURN IT UP
<music was still turned up from the last time but has now gotten louder>
<more car dancing>
Boy 3: Put hot sauce on that chicken
<we arrive at our destination>

The point of this column was to simply share my pain. This has been every weekend for the past three months. This is why adults age. They don't do it naturally. They do it through the inane conversations of their children and their knucklehead friends. I was that kid when I was their age and now my Dad yells at the television.

So, I apologize for putting you through that. But I haven't been sleeping well at night trying to figure out what PUT HOT SAUCE ON MY CHICKEN means.

Happy Thanksgiving.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


IT'S TIME
11/5/14

It's nearly impossible to get everybody at my work to do something. When it's “casual Friday,” there are still people that wear a suit. When it's ham and bean soup in the cafeteria, only a fraction go with that choice. When I remind everyone to finish their TPS reports on time, nearly nobody does.

It's not just my co-workers. It's the grocery store where you have dozens of flavors of soda pop and enough BBQ sauce versions to confuse you for hours. And yet, twice a year, everyone in the human race does one thing all at the same time - and nobody knows why. Once in the spring and once in the fall, we change our entire timing system by moving our clocks forward and back without so much as a grumble.

Our parents did it because their parents told them to. And we tell the same to our children. Spring Forward!! Fall Back!! Twice a year for a week, we do the post-time change math in our heads. (I would be going to sleep right now if it were last week.) And we all try to remember how to change the clock in your wife's car. (Hint: Hit MENU four times, then turn the knob while standing on your foot.)

The change was originally proposed by a New Zealander; George Hudson proposed it to allow for more sunlight during prime times in the summer and also conserve energy as folks typically eat during the 6:00 hour, for instance. The same would go for those that work the land. If that 6:00 pm is a daylight hour later, you will allow for the sun's rays to light your day instead of coal-powered lights. The practice of changing to allow for more daylight became popular during the energy crisis of the 1970's. It has been argued that DST saves 1% of energy usage in the United States per year.

But we're not just talking about farmers and restaurants - Daylight Saving Time is practiced in nearly every time zone and impacts millions of people. That's millions of people who peacefully execute a command - which is kind of cool on the one hand - but incredibly disruptive on the other. In the spring in particular, the time change steals an hour of sleep from millions of people only to return that hour in the fall.

WIkipedia says that the time change helps those in industrialized societies that follow a clock-based schedule. But in the computerized age, this actually causes more problems. Just this weekend, hundreds of Cerner employees, for example, had to work to monitor their hospital systems to make sure the medications weren't dispensed twice as there were two 1 a.m. hours. Add to that the complexity of areas of the world that do not recognize Daylight Saving Time - including Arizona and Hawaii.

There are efforts underway to eliminate Daylight Saving Time, but it seems they don't have quite the traction as saving the Kardashian's TV show from cancellation. It's all about priorities after all, and humans don't seem that put out by it - except for twice a year - as we all do what our mothers and fathers taught us without much care.

If you ask me, I'd much rather prefer permanently taking that extra hour of sleep rather than spending it on the Kardashians.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


DAD STUFF
10/29/14

Through some sort of glitch at the hospital, I held my son before my wife moments after he was born. She was in labor for what seemed like hours and the doctor finally gave up and said he was going to go to sleep. Of course, once the doc hit maximum REM cycles, that's when Kara decided to give birth to Brett. And she did it FAST. So fast that the doctor never really made it into the room. So the nurse delivered our little boy and while they were working on Kara, they just handed me the slimy little brat I would come to know as my little brat son.

As I held this crying little ball of goo, I found myself running my fingers over his chest in a circular motion, very gently, and the baby stopped crying. When we got Brett home, we would fall asleep on the couch watching the Chiefs or the Royals. Every time I'd be making that same circular motion on his back until he fell asleep.

Through the years the dad stuff stayed rewarding. I taught him to grip a baseball. I taught him to open Angry Birds on an iPad. I taught him to not turn down the pages of a library book. You know... Dad stuff.

Dad stuff is very different from Mom stuff. The old saying goes that Dad is the one to say “no” while Mom is the one to say “yes.” And for the most part that's true. Mom has the extra cookie. Mom has the extra 15 minutes to stay up. But Dad stuff is the questions. “Dad, why is the steering wheel on that side of the car?” “Dad, why is a football shaped like that?” “Dad, why can't I get past this level on Mario Brothers?” “Dad, why do girls sit down to go to the bathroom?”

As a father, I think it's my right to screw with him with those answers. “Well, son, first off, the steering wheel is like that because we won World War II. A football is shaped the same shape as your brain. Let me show you the cheat code for Mario Brothers” and for the final question... “Go ask your mother.”

Last week I talked about what might've been my finest fatherly moment--taking my son to a World Series game in his hometown. But being a dad is so much more than that. It's showing him how to write his name in the snow. It's showing him to respect women by only watching their butt from across the room. And it's teaching him the “child friendly” cuss words when Mike Moustakas strikes out. DAG NABBIT YOU FRACKING PIECE OF SNOT!!

Dad stuff is great. And I think I'm really good at it. It's filled a part of my heart that I never knew was vacant and he has turned into not only my son, but my best friend.

Dad stuff isn't always simple, but it's always special because dad's have that special power.

Dad stuff is letting him jump in the pool less than 30 minutes after he has eaten. It's telling him double entendre knock-knock jokes. Dad stuff is pulling into a vacant parking lot to see if a 12-year-old can take a stab at driving a car even as you have a firm grip on the emergency brake. And dad stuff is also picking him up from school with news that his great grandmother passed away at age 89 and while he is crying on your shoulder, it is moving your hand in a circular motion gently as he cries himself to sleep.

Nobody said Dad stuff was easy.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


BASEBALL
10/22/14

What's the one thing you want to do more than anything else in your life? Is it take a trip to Jamaica? Is it ask out the prettiest girl in your fourth period Social Studies class? Is it to own a ‘68 Mustang?

If you gave me that question, I'm sure I would answer something baseball-related. Like throw out the first pitch at an All-Star Game or play catch with Billy Butler or something crazy like that. Baseball has always been in my blood since I was born. We live in a baseball family.

My dad, Ed, coached my first tee ball team and has helped lead the Northland baseball community for nearly 40 years. My mom coached my sisters' softball teams and bore the burden that all “baseball moms” have-- long weekends, laundry, raspberries and the inevitable pick-me-ups that go with a game where you fail 70% of the time.

Our family photo albums are filled with more baseball photos than Christmas or birthdays. And with my own son, our summers are filled now with little league games on Tuesday, Royals game on Thursday and maybe a trip to Arkansas to catch a minor league game on Saturday. All the while, Kara and the two of us catch every Royals highlight on MLB Network.

As you might imagine, this is a pretty special week for us. But we are a family and we should be doing all of these things as a family. So I was especially torn when a very generous reader of this column and of my @TheFakeNed Twitter account called me this week and offered me a ticket to the World Series. If you would ask me what the one thing I wanted most in this world, I could rattle off a thousand things before I'd ever get to World Series ticket--the idea is just so preposterous. You might as well offer me to travel to Mars.

So I sat there slackjawed on the phone and I told the man, “no thank you.” I told him no simply because I wouldn't be able to experience it with my family. Because not only is baseball part of my family, it's part of the fabric of my family. All those Royals games weren't attended alone. They were with cousins or dad or my wife or my young son.

So I told the guy no and I told him why. And then I hung up the phone and cried. Real man tears. Did I mention it was for a dugout suite? Yeah. I bawled like a baby.

And then the phone rang again. Some people, man. So now I'm going to a World Series game with my son. Brett is the same age I was when I saw my only World Series game and now I'm taking him to one.

When I broke the news to my wife, she helped me through the guilt process of not offering it to her as she told me, “oh, hell, if somebody gave ME a World Series ticket, I'd tell you to go pee up a rope.” We're a baseball family, but with a bit of a sharp edge.

So tonight, keep an eye out for a little boy and his dad cheering on the Royals against San Francisco as we continue the Kamler tradition of baseball.

If you asked me the one thing I'd want most in my life, it would be tonight.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter @TheFakeNed)

 


LEAVING A LEGACY
10/15/14

It's an amazing time to be living here in Kansas City. High-fiving cab drivers. Stopping with people at the bus stop to talk about Mike Moustakas. Soccer fans chanting for the baseball team.

The worldwide goodwill the city is receiving. The national recognition. ESPN did a poll asking what team would win the ALCS and 90% of the entire country picked the Royals. President Obama's approval rating is only 44%.

The fountains are blue all over town. The old Power and Light building has been lit for the first time in years with a blue hue. Kansas Citians are giving out their favorite BBQ recommendations and pointing folks to the Negro Leagues Museum.

But what about when the series leaves town? What about when the final strike is called? What will be left? We saw a similar surge of pride in KC during the 2012 All-Star game. The streets were clean. The sidewalks were swept. All of the construction took a break. But seconds afterward, it seems the city went right back to the isolated “clique” based town that it is. Is there a way to keep this community attitude?

One of the major contributors to this is crime. Folks simply don't like being in parts of town at night. But maybe the Kansas City Police Department is on to something - this time through Twitter.

The @KCPD account caught national attention recently as they asked their citizens to stop committing crimes so their officers could watch the Royals game. The tweet was clearly tongue in cheek, but the account sent out an update days later that they actually saw a decrease in crime.

This change of attitude when things are going right needs to translate when things aren't going right. We're only a few weeks away from our first snowfalls when long lines for snow blowers at Home Depot and long traffic jams are the norm. We need to have the same jovial attitude when you get pulled over by those same KCPD folks who made you smile when Alex Gordon was diving for line drives.

We need to find a way for this attitude to follow us through Kansas and Missouri basketball season or the harsh temperatures of January or when they sell out of the Platte County Landmarks at QuikTrip.

Take one of those Wade Davis strikeouts and put it in your back pocket. Pull it out when school is cancelled and you have to stay home to watch the kids. Take one of those Salvador Perez home runs and tuck it in your pantry when you have to pay your taxes in April. Take a Terrence Gore stolen base and leave it in the glove box of your car for when you're waiting for a parking spot at Kohls on Black Friday.

Remember the next two weeks here in Kansas City. Gather up all of the warm fuzzies and the happy moments. Hang onto them as long as you can.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


RIVERBOAT GAMBLING
10/8/14

This may come as a shock to many of you, but in a previous lifetime, I was a degenerate gambler. One of my first jobs out of college was at a casino here in Kansas City. I tell folks that it was both the worst and best job I ever had. Worst because you were breathing in barrels of cigarette smoke from patrons, working holidays, getting off work at four in the morning and standing for 10 hours a day. It was the best because most of us all started working there when gambling became legal in Missouri (93-94), we were all in our 20's and it was the first time we had a little bit of money in our lives.

Working at the casino meant that you began to adopt many of the lifestyle choices that casino folks are known for. Drinking and gambling foremost among these. It was a lot like college, except you actually had a little bit of money to buy nicer booze. Often times we would get on the “early out” list at work for the simple reason to drive three miles down the street to a different casino and gamble away our money.

I've thought a lot about my days at the casino this week as I've watched the Kansas City Royals go through their impossible run through the playoffs. To anyone who has spent time gambling, you know exactly what's going on - it's “the streak.”

“The Streak” isn't just like winning a few hands. It's much more rare than that. It is a once in a lifetime roll. You'd hear whispers of it in the break rooms or among players at the table. “Yeah, back in ‘87, I had a six hour roll on the craps table,” or “I hit 20 numbers in a row on roulette.”

These are the streaks that become legend and they are the complete responsibility of the universe. Statistically, you lose when you go to a casino. This is cold hard fact. There's a reason casinos put up a million light bulbs. They weren't put there by the Salvation Army. They are lit as tributes to all of the thousands and millions of dollars dropped at the slot machines and table games by those chasing The Streak.

Yet those streaks do happen--as improbable as they are. Flipping a coin tells you that 50% of the time it will land on heads and 50% it will land on tails. But every once in a while, you might get 10 or 15 in a row to land on one side. Call it a fluke. Call it luck. Or call it the improbability of the universe.

The Kansas City Royals are on such a streak and the caught it at the exact right time. For those of us who have watched the team closely this year, we now stand with mouth agape. This team doesn't resemble anything like the team we saw in the regular season. They are hitting home runs. They are playing with a fire and passion that I've never seen before. Their manager is pulling every lever and pushing every button possible and every one of them is coming up spades.

We live in a world where Billy Butler has stolen a base in a playoff game. There is no scouting report or advanced statistic that can account for that. If there were a probability formula that the advanced metric guys could come up with to account for that, it would be the exact equation for fun -- and impossible to ever replicate again.

So I think back to my gambling days which are now long in the past and the stories swapped in only whispers. Respect the streak. Ride the streak. You never know where it will end.

Hopefully, this one lasts a few more weeks.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


CTE KILLING NFL
10/1/14

There are giant sports stories in Kansas City this week, including a Chiefs Monday Night Football game at Arrowhead, a playoff game at Kauffman, activity at Kansas Speedway and Sporting Park. But one story likely was missed in the fanfare--forensic scientists say that Jevon Belcher, former Chiefs player, may have had CTE that could have contributed to him murdering his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins as well as committing suicide in the parking lot of the Chiefs training facility.

CTE stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It is beginning to make itself known to the public as “football disease” because it is beginning to show up in the brains of deceased football players.
Much is not known about this disease, but the research is beginning to show a link between head trauma and concussions with CTE. The disease isn't limited to just football players, of course. Soccer players, baseball players and even soldiers in war who have suffered head trauma are having their brains examined and they are showing CTE.

Those living with CTE seem to be exhibiting incredibly bizarre behavior stretching from depression, suicidal tendencies and gigantic displays of anger and violence. Junior Seau, the great San Diego Charger, killed himself several years ago by shooting himself in the chest so that researchers could examine his brain. And the problem has only grown since then.

Does CTE have a linkage with the increase in domestic violence? Will we find evidence of CTE in college athletes? High school athletes? Is it safe for kids to play football?

These are all questions yet to be truly examined - but one thing is certain - people are playing less football because of it. Pop Warner participation, according to a 2013 ESPN study, has already dropped nearly 10%.

The NFL continues to have an image problem, but needs to get around this CTE issue sooner rather than later. These post-concussion issues may simply be causing a lot of the other issues we're seeing.

What if sports with a higher concentration of head trauma are actually creating violent citizens? The possibility needs further study and the NFL needs to be doing more to find this link.

One thing is certain, mothers and fathers and sons are all having these own internal discussions and coming to their own conclusions on whether they want to play football or rugby or even take a “header” game like soccer. And more and more families are opting out of it. We need a real leader in this area, and the NFL has to be it--otherwise we're going to lose more and more athletes one way or the other.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


TRY TO REMEMBER
9/24/14

It was 1985. I was 13 years old. It was autumn. Since my earliest memories, I was a Royals fan. I mean, why wouldn't you have been? Brett. White. Saberhagen. Otis. Patek. Mayberry. These were my guys. They filled the images of my youth. Willie Wilson signed a glove for me when I was seven and I played with that glove through the sad, bitter end of my baseball career when I was 14. (I peaked too early.) The names are now filling the history books of Royals history--right next to the black hole that was the late 90's and 2000's.

And what a void it was. Decades of poor play, comically inept decision making and monetary decisions to tight, they could vice a phone book into a single sheet of paper. Even through the first seven years of Dayton Moore's five-year “process,” the Royals were laughed at plenty and cheered rarely. And then 2014 happened.

Regardless of where this final week of the season goes, and many signs point to it ending a 29 year playoff drought, it makes me recall the first 10 years I spent as a Royals fan. In that span, the Royals won five division titles, two American League titles and a World Series. My Septembers and Octobers were filled with transistor radios tucked into backpacks, watching the Royals on the NBC Game of the Week and going out to buy something called a VCR just before the 1985 World Series.

This was obviously before the Internet; before Twitter; before Fox Sports Kansas City. You saw your teachers tailoring their lessons to account for George Brett's .390 run in 1980. You saw cab drivers wearing Royals hats downtown. You saw baseball practices and choir practices being rescheduled around key games and playoff baseball. This town was on fire.

And then Dick Howser died. Then Mr. and Mrs. K died. And then the charitable trust ownership years sucked the life out of this team and this town. The Chiefs and Martyball took over as the Royals lay dormant under a blanket of nuclear winter for 29 years.

The signs of a thaw are upon us in Kansas City, however, even as the calendar tells us it is autumn. Fans are making plans for road trips to Cleveland and Chicago to catch the final games of the season. The last Kauffman homestand drew over 110,000 fans. Television and radio ratings are off the charts. The fans are living and dying on every pitch--even though it's through Twitter and Facebook.

This has always been a baseball town--dating back to the Athletics and the Monarchs. The shame of the 29 year black hole is that this town forgot how to act. They forgot to wear blue on Fridays and they forgot to make sure to check the out of town scores to see where Seattle and Oakland are in the standings. But it's all coming back to us now--like riding a bike or kissing an old girlfriend. The feelings rush back in such an emotional fury. Baseball is the lifeblood of this town and if this improbable team can somehow make it back, if they can defy the prognosticators and the experts and even their own fans to make the playoffs, you'll see it. You'll see how crazy this town can become.

And if you're between the ages of 5 and 15, pay close attention--you never know when this might happen again.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


THE NFL HAS FUMBLED
9/17/14

Baseball lost its moniker as the National Pastime in 1994 when a vicious labor strike closed the game down and caused the cancellation of a World Series. Baseball never recovered. It suffered in the wake of the drug scandals of the 80s that included several Kansas City Royals, it suffered in a gambling scandal with Pete Rose and it suffered with a steroid scandal which it continues to fight today.

The National Football League since 1994 has not only grabbed the mantle as the nation's most popular sport, it has thrived. Fantasy leagues, packed stands, their own television network and wall-to-wall media coverage that goes nearly year round has been the story of the rise of the NFL.
Today, you can get 24/7 coverage of the NFL on three networks and games are played on Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. The league is printing money and the future has never looked brighter.

That was until somebody in the NFL cafeteria must have stood up and proclaimed “what's the worst that could happen?” and then this month happened. You know every sordid detail. Ray Rice is arrested on charges of domestic violence. A videotape surfaces showing the exact violent act.

Rice is punished lightly and then, following the videotape, is punished more harshly. The NFL then has one of its most popular players, running back Adrian Peterson, arrested on charges of child abuse of at least one and possibly more of his children as he allegedly beat them with a switch. Beat them hard, apparently. The NFL is now forced into action while other societal issues like gay rights and the relationship with head injuries and football all swirl around like vampire bats.

The first two weeks of the NFL season have been less about football and more about these polarizing and turbulent issues. And Roger Goodell and the NFL front office could not have handled them worse. Spinning and juking out the media like an Adrian Peterson run--only they trip over their own feet. The league has been caught lying and misdirecting blame. Goodell has looked like an absolute buffoon and the “shield” of the NFL looks like it's made out of wax paper.

Here's the thing, though, the NFL has fostered this type of abusive mentality for decades. “A man's game” has also meant a game of violence and exclusion. As baseball had its racial segregation in the 40's and 50's, the NFL looks to leave the status quo in order for SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam, as he didn't make a starting lineup. They look to invoke a culture of bigotry and isolation according to former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, who himself was fired after challenging those notions.

To paint the NFL with a broad brush is to make the same mistake they often do. Each incident must be looked at individually. But incidents that don't pass the smell test, like when Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson stare into the face of indubitable evidence, or when a gay football player has earned a spot on a team, the culture of verbal abuse by Richie Incognito, or when one in three of its former players develop some sort of brain altering Alzheimers or dementia, as was reported last week, you as a league have to do better. You have to step back and understand that as popular as the game of baseball was in the 40's and 50's, it can all go away very quickly. You've managed to isolate women, gays, children of abusive parents and those who care about the long term health of the players. There's not many more left that don't fall into one of those categories.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME
9/10/14

Andy Williams was wrong. Plain and simple. Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year.

Not by a long shot. In Kansas City, the best time of the year is the final days of summer and the first weeks of fall.

How gorgeous has it been in town the past week or so? 70 degree days with just enough chill in the morning to keep you comfortable in bed for a few extra minutes. Your car is warm when you get in it after work, but you can drive around town with the windows down and you don't turn into a puddle of sweat. The weather around this time of year even has enough rain to keep your yard growing but not turn it into a jungle or a desert.

The weather is great for long walks in the park or pickup football games in the backyard. The air is just spectacular through the end of October. Plenty of excellent weather for doing just about anything you need in temperatures that San Diego would be jealous of.

For moms and dads, their little ones are back in school which is AWESOME. Probably a bit less awesome if you're a teacher. Harvest festivals begin to kick into high gear. It's the best time to find something to do on a Saturday and there's even some great outdoor concerts this time of year as well including last weekend's Buzz Beachball and Blue Man Group at Starlight.

But this town makes Andy Williams look like a clown around this time of year for one major reason - SPORTS. This fall, the Royals are barreling towards the playoffs - their first October surprise in 29 years. Fans are wearing more blue than red and it looks glorious. The Chiefs are, well, the Chiefs are in the conversation, sort of. But the real spirit of this town is in its diversity of college teams. Purple, Crimson, Black and Gold. All of these colors mean something around this time of year and they normally mean a spirited discussion when they congregate in the same room. Add to that the Northwest Missouri States and the University of Central Missouris to the mix and you've got the greatest weather, the greatest entertainment and the greatest sports in the entire world. That doesn't even include how dominant my fantasy football team is going to be this year.

At this moment, I've got the windows open, a hard apple cider in my hands and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and NBC Sunday Night Football on two windows on my computer after coaching my son in fall baseball. If there is a heaven, it would be a loop of this month over and over again.
All in September.

Green Day used to sing a song called “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” but quite frankly, Billie Joe Armstrong and Andy Williams haven't spent a September in Kansas City.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


HUMAN BEHAVIOR
9/3/14

Humans are hilarious. Humans are predictable. Humans are stupid.

Sunday night, a series of private photographs began appearing on the Internet. They were photos taken with cell phone cameras, clearly of celebrities in varying states of undress. Details are sketchy on how the photographs became available but it looks like hackers logged into cell phones and lifted the photos from the celeb's storage drives.

The act is illegal. The photographs are the personal property of the owner and it's simply illegal to take those from someone. It's a severe invasion of privacy. But here's the thing. You looked. I know you looked. You searched in Google for “Jennifer Lawrence leaked” or “Kate Upton Verlander pics.” Or maybe they scrolled across your Twitter feed and you didn't turn away. Don't even try to deny it. Maybe you found them. Maybe they'd already disappeared from the Internet.

But you totally looked.

Since the beginning of time, people have been doing stupid things and other people have been fascinated with those people who do stupid things. You've likely done stupid things in your life, like that time you fell through the folding chair at the church picnic. Or the time that you fell off a ladder hanging Christmas lights. Did your friends give you crap about it? Well of course they did. Because that's what they do. They used your stupidity to their entertainment.

Technology has only escalated this process and made it grander. And when technology gets smarter than humans, humans expose just how stupid they are. Technology allows human stupidity to flourish in two different ways. The first is by allowing it to capture all the dumb things we do every day. Most of the time, it's just people saying dumb things about the president or how their inconsiderate kids are inconsiderate on Facebook. But a lot of the time it's people taking pictures of themselves naked. Front. Back. Top. Bottom. You are stupid if you snap that little button when your clothes are off. You know you are. And you know you're stupid the second you do it. And yet, there's something about human behavior that it's unstoppable.

The second thing that technology allows is the ability to not understand how technology works. When you take an image of your ding dong or your ta-ta's with your cell phone that picture is translated into a series of 1's and 0's and BLAH BLAH BLAH THIS IS BORING WHO CARES. See? You couldn't even get through my explanation. You don't care what happens to the picture of your giblets after you take it. Well, that is until it ends up on Facebook or the Internet or Twitter or Rager or Pudding Pop or whatever new thing the kids are using now a days to show pictures of flibberty-bubbles.

And so it goes. Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton and dozens of other celebrities took pictures of their candy-grams, just as you might've once. They forgot about them. And then they got picked off with a wireless scanner and are now just a Google click away.

The good thing is that nothing will change. People remain stupid. Other people are entertained by that stupidity. What's on YOUR cell phone?

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


SOCIAL MEDIA SAVES THE WORLD
8/27/14

There's still a lot of confusion about “social media.” When you hear it brought up in traditional media or among those who are not active on social media, it's frequently referred to in a negative tone. “Those people on social media,” is the term I hear most frequently, like it's some sort of smoke monster that appears as soon as you open up Twitter on your phone.

For those that are active on social networks, you immediately realize that there are as many segments of the population as there are in real life, and every social website reacts like its own suburb to a city. Facebook has its right and its left and they often clash in very raw ways. With even less punctuation. Instagram is a younger skewing group focused on selfies and Twitter has as many colors as a million rainbows.

But over the past two weeks, you've seen the events unfurl in Ferguson, Mo. and with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that proves how integrated these social communities are in our daily lives.

Everyone wants to have a voice and prior to Facebook and Twitter it seemed that people never really had a chance to show that voice. At its apex, Facebook might've had too many voices but it seems like we've all adjusted to the noise of Facebook and Twitter and as a population we're starting to understand great ways to use it.

Let's first start with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. This is a perfect example of why social communities work. A single person doing a simple task and challenging others to do the same. It's the same formula you see in sales organizations, communities of faith or even pyramid organizations. Last year, the ALS foundation raised just over $30 million dollars for the entire year.

In the first two weeks of the challenge, ALS raised over $50 million dollars. It takes a minor sacrifice by the participant and they look good doing it because the videos are posted to Facebook and YouTube. Brilliant.

You see the same kind of critical mass on the other end of the spectrum, with the tensions in Ferguson, MO. Amongst the police in riot gear and the protesters with their hands up you saw an equal amount of bystanders and journalists with cell phones. Those cell phone videos found their way to Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. This citizen journalism is being seen in other hot zones including Gaza and the Middle East.

People want their voice heard. Now that we've gotten past the newness of social media, people are learning to use those tools as forces for change in the world. Yet the monicker of “social media” still seems to travel with it--mostly because of all the political or religious ranting that goes on there. But you're seeing it less and less as people realize Facebook and Twitter are less tools to add your voice to a pile but rather to add your unique point to the conversation. In many ways, those voices are changing the world.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


A NIGHT AT THE MET
8/20/14

It was a crazy week last week, so I haven't really had an opportunity to register and process the death of comedian Robin Williams until this weekend. Like many of you, I was a fan of his work, enjoyed his movies and got a kick out of his lightning-fast wit.

But the tributes and homages I've seen are including movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society and Patch Adams. That doesn't begin to touch when I started enjoying Robin Williams.
It was 1987 and I was an awkward high school freshman. (Let me give you time to try to get your head around it since I appear so well adjusted now.) I was looking for a ride home after band practice and I piled into the back of a station-wagon with some upperclassmen. This could easily be the point where I was offered drugs, or alcohol or cigarettes or Heavy Metal or dozens of other opening scenes to an After-School Special. But, instead, the driver put in a squeaky cassette tape of Robin Williams: Night At The Met.

At first, it was difficult to hear his speech because it was so fast paced. He would start about one topic and then switch to the next. But the rest of the car was rolling laughing and I did as well. That weekend I went out and bought my own copy of the cassette. Through the next several years of high school, I probably listened to that tape a thousand times.

The comedy album was a master class in self-deprecating humor with a touch of heart and more laughs than you can imagine. It was recorded at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in 1986 and it remains one of the top five comedy albums ever. You can easily put it up against comedians named Cosby, Seinfeld, Rock, Carlin and C.K. (That's Louis C.K. not Chris Kamler.)

Through the 53 minute album, Williams riffs on gay football, substance abuse (something he struggled with up until his death), Ronald Reagan, childbirth and puking on your newborn baby.

The album was riddled with profanity and off-color jokes but told from a first-hand account from someone who has lived the stories he's telling. More importantly, the stories he told were funny. Genuinely funny. I would ride with friends and we would play Night At the Met. Later, when I had a car, I would play it for my friends. Nearly 30 years later, I am playing it now and laughing furiously just like I had in that station wagon in high school.

He did an impression of Ronald Reagan thinking that Congress was an old folks home for actors. He riffed on getting stoned and drinking too much and waking up with his car keys in his butt.

Towards the end of the album, he does about 15 minutes on childbirth and conception that, as a 14 year old freshman in high school, actually cleared up a few things for me. It was raw and honest and hilarious.

I am probably the millionth person to say this week that Robin Williams was a genius. He really was. For a person who has been lauded for his movies and television, take a few minutes to pull up Night At The Met on Spotify and appreciate where that genius started.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


MY CITY
8/13/14

Kansas City is constantly being reminded of what it's not. It's not a “big” city. It's not a “small town.” It's airport is too far away (except in Platte County). The most common complaint, however, is that it doesn't have anything fun to do.

Over the past six days, I have had a small part in welcoming a foreign visitor. On the surface, that's really all this was. Showing a guy around the city. But that in no way represents what the past week has been like.

As you may have heard, a fella by the name of Sung Woo Lee has been a 20-year baseball fan. He has also been a Royals fan. He has also been a fan who lives in Seoul, South Korea. He has also never seen a live pitch of baseball.

Royals fans are a battered and bruised bunch. They are weathered and beaten through years of losing and frustratingly baffling decisions. The Royals, as you may also know, hold the title of oldest stretch of a major sports franchise to have not made a playoff. Holding steady at 29 years. So when I tell you that Sung Woo is a Royals fan, you should realize that he has offered himself up into a lifetime of embittered solitude.

But that's never stopped Sung Woo. His refreshing attitude and positivity has soaked into the culture of Royals fans dating back to when message boards and bulletin boards were electronic communities for fans to talk and complain. So when he told us last month that he was coming to town, our small group of friends felt that we really needed to show him the heart of this city and Royals Nation. And then #SungWooToKC became more than a hashtag on Twitter, it became a rally cry for the entire KC region to outstretch its arms and give our little foreign Royals fan a gigantic hug.

Companies asked how they could help. Media outlets latched onto the story. We were even on NPR. But the moments I will take away most from this are the people of my city, walking up to Sung Woo, from Korea, shaking his hand and saying “Welcome to Kansas City.” If there were a hundred then there were a thousand individual folks coming up to him. One after one, they come up, usually with a camera in hand for a Korean “selca” (selfie).

One after one, they walk away with a selca and a smile. This Midwestern hospitality has really never sunk in for me until this week. I guess I didn't either recognize it or didn't welcome it. But it was an outpouring like nothing I'd ever seen before.

Kansas City is a city with a lot of flaws and faults, we all know this. But most of those are just insecurities seeping through. We managed to plan a nine day stretch of activities and events and lunches with Sung Woo with no end in sight at the end. There are museums, world-class restaurants, sporting events and the beauty of this wonderfully goofy city.

It took spending a week with someone who'd never seen her to appreciate her beauty.

I love Kansas City. Thank you, Sung Woo.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


PRESIDENTIAL VISIT WAS A WALK IN THE PARK
8/6/14

There's a funny thing about Kansas City that goes something like this: Nobody that lives here thinks very highly of the city. I know that's a broad generalization, but you hear it frequently. There's nothing to do in Kansas City. The airport is in the wrong place. Everything is in Overland Park and Overland Park is terrible. The State Line ruins the town. Kauffman Stadium is in the wrong place. The city is too spread out. Blah, blah, blah.

Well, here's the thing. That is all garbage. On its own merit, Kansas City (and North of the River) is an amazing place to live, work and visit, you just need to step back and appreciate it.

This was accented by last week's presidential trip with a little help from Kansas Citian (and President Obama's press secretary) Josh Earnest. I've been witness to probably a half-dozen presidential visits and can't remember a one of them. They've usually been in and out trips to a hotel ballroom or a factory or maybe a quick campaign stop. But none of them have really been able to spotlight Kansas City like this last one.

We lose sight so quickly at how even the places we take for granted are special and uniquely Kansas City. Oh sure, we can all argue about which BBQ joint is the best (and the Northland is quickly becoming the BBQ capital of KC rivaling the BBQ strip downtown once you factor in Smokin' Guns and The Hideout as well as Smokehouse.) But President Obama's unscripted stop in Parkville of all places really helped point out what a wonderful area of the country we live in. (Note: How the hell do you run out of cole slaw when the president is in town???? Smokin' Guns wouldn't have run out of cole slaw, I'll tell you that much.)

The president stopped along the tilted streets and narrow lanes of downtown Parkville to have a cup of coffee at Parkville Coffee and several other spots along the river. What the president was able to do was point out exactly what we take for granted every day. This is a town that is in every way a small town struggling with economic pressures. Add to that the fact that every 10 or 15 years it's buried in water. They've literally had train wrecks and they even managed to run off that sexy bed and breakfast on the corner. But Parkville has survived and thrived. They've added a pretty nice dog park, expanded the new section of English Landing and you can still find pretty nice tomatoes on Saturday mornings.

Regardless of your politics, it is still special when a president comes to town, but even more special when he's able to enjoy something extraordinary about your city. There are countless extraordinary things about Parkville - many that we pass right by every day.

We know all this, but still grumble and overlook towns like Parkville and Platte City and Riverside because of the thought that Chicago, Denver or St. Louis does it better.

You know what? Nobody does it better than Platte County and Kansas City. It just took the president and his press secretary to help remind us.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


HANDS OFF
7/30/14

Humans are born to do one thing--learn. We learn how to nurse, then we learn how to walk, then we learn to go peepee in the potty, then we learn to read and from there, the sky is the limit.

I am always fascinated by how intelligent the human race is and how amazing the achievements of humans are. We have landed on the moon. We have harnessed the power of the atom. We have built coliseums and microprocessors. Man has the power to set rules and regulations and we all seem to be able to “get it.” Through these societal norms, we all have the power to learn and conform and abide. If you don't believe me, just try to read a novel in English right to left or drive on the left side of the highway. It won't work because we all were taught how to do those things together. Yet other societies have all figured it out to do it other ways. You read Hebrew right to left and in England you drive on the other side of the street. We all pick it up and figure it out together.

Somehow though, the simplest rules seem to be the hardest for humans to learn. Take, for instance, the simple rule you learned in elementary school -- Don't hit girls. This means, simply, that under no circumstances should you hit a girl. Ever. Period.

Yet, the news was filled this week's with stories of Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice, who allegedly knocked his fiance unconscious and then drug her by her hair out of an elevator. Against any measure, this seems to be outside the simple rule of “don't hit girls.” However, there has been extreme dispute on not just this example, but on the larger issue of domestic violence.

I keep coming back to the simple rule: Don't. Hit. Girls. Sure, you were probably drunk. And sure, the other person was probably being rude, or obnoxious, or a multitude of other reasons. But those are just beside the point. Don't. Hit. Girls. It's really quite easy. Lots of things can lead up to abuse, but the choice is still quite simple. Don't.

ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith was quoted as saying there are some instances where the woman might “provoke” the incident, somehow implying that there are cases where hitting a girl is justified. Nope. See rule No. 1: Don't. Hit. Girls.

The website Safehorizon.org lists the following domestic violence statistics on their website and all seem to be outside the rule of not hitting girls:

•One in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.

•Women experience more than four million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly three million physical assaults.

•Women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men.

•Women ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.

•Every year, one in three women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner.

It seems to me that the same part of the brain that can 100% learn to drive on the correct side of the road also has the ability to learn to not hit girls. Humans are built to do one thing--learn. Hopefully this is an area that humans can improve in.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


TOO CLOSE TO HOME
7/16/14

I never thought it would happen to my kid. That's what I keep telling myself. We speak in hushed whispers at the supermarket about these types of things happening to “bad” kids or “bad parents.” I just never thought I would be one --more importantly, I never thought I'd learn that my kid was one.

Let me back up and try to explain. Let me try to put into perspective the shame my family feels today. I grew up in a very strict household. We were not wealthy, but we never were left without. This upbringing, however, came at a price. There were certain land mines that you never touched in the family. There were certain things that were taboo.

Growing up, the most difficult years of my development were my middle school years. I never seemed to fit in with any crowd, yet the social conventions of peer pressure provided me no protections. I was challenged to try new things, some of them bad things. I had to learn to adapt and respond and say “no.” Most of us did. Some of us didn't. Those kids were quickly labeled the “bad” kids.

This past month, I noticed a change in my son. He just completed his fifth grade year and with that, all the confidence of being the king of elementary school. He had this inner swagger. But after school let out, I began to notice this darkening in his personality. He was changing. Maturing. You could see it in his friends, too. Even his online buddies seemed to be intent on pushing the envelope and testing limits.

I guess the job of a parent is simply to educate and prepare your son or daughter when they are faced with these inevitable choices - and as I look at my son preparing to embark on young adulthood, I thought I had done that. I thought I had gone through all the scenarios. But I guess I hadn't.

Late last week, I heard him from outside a closed door. He was talking with his friends, like he does many nights, on the XBox. Only his speech was different. Older? Warped? Something didn't sound right. I knocked on the door. I was greeted with only silence.

Concerned, I opened it and poked my head into the room. Awash with the glow of the television screen, I saw my son's once innocent face. His eyes were wide. He had a pained look on his face. I looked up to see a sight that no Midwestern “good” parent should ever see in his life. All the years of preparation. All the years of hoping your son would make good choices. All that time in the backyard playing catch and talking to your boy about the man he would become.

And there it was. On the television screen. Red handed.

My son was playing FIFA Soccer 2014 on the XBox.

He is the third generation of Kamler baseball boys. His grandfather has toiled in the baseball community for 40 years. His father, a 25 year baseball umpire. He himself, had been playing baseball since he was three. But I guess you never see it coming.

My son was playing a soccer game. He was convinced to start playing it by his “friends.” He had found the family landmine and jumped right on it.

I'm a horrible parent.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


SIGNS, SIGNS EVERYWHERE SIGNS
7/9/14

“And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply.” --”Signs” Five Man Electrical Band

Oh, it must be political season here in Missouri. As reported on Facebook and in today's Landmark, vandals have struck some politicians' signs throughout the county in anticipation of the August elections. So far, signs for both Robert Boyer and Ron Schieber have been vandalized in the past couple of weeks. I saw the Boyer sign with a “NO” and a circle with a line through it and Ivan Foley reported similar vandalism to multiple Schieber signs. Boyer is running for county clerk as a Republican and Schieber is running for presiding commissioner, also as a Republican.

Solid job, you guys, with the graffiti. Once again proving that the best way to take part in the political process is to vandalize a yard sign. Oh sure, running yourself or sending a letter to the paper are all noble gestures. Heck, maybe even going door to door and stumping for your own candidate who believes in your own political ideals might be a good idea, too. But it doesn't hold a candle to taking a can of spray paint and sprawling “NO” to a yard sign.

I'm really excited to hear that you've graduated past taping the “KICK ME” sign to the back of the fat kid in middle school or writing WASH ME on the hatchback of your neighbor's Pinto. Solid effort.

According to Russ Wojtkiewicz, himself no stranger to political sign pranks, these yard signs could cost anywhere from $5 to $20 for smaller ones or up to $35 for the larger sized, plus the time the candidate is out hanging them and putting them in yards. We've also seen people going by and stealing signs out of yards in years past which is the equivalent of yelling “nanny nanny boo boo” from across the school yard.

When did politics get this way? Were people spray painting YOU SUCK underneath I LIKE IKE posters? Or overwriting WHAT A over the TRICKY on TRICKY DICK billboards? Or is this a new thing? Like something only the cool meth-users do when they're out tooling around in their muffler dragging two-doors?

Here's an idea for you. I'm just going to throw it out there. If you can write in and tell me exactly what a county clerk or a presiding commissioner actually does, I will BUY you your own yard sign and you can go ape nuts with all the spray paint, puffy paint or whatever clever sharpie markers you can find. Of course, you'll need to buy some of those supplies at Hobby Lobby, and they're off limits because Jesus won't let them wear condoms or something.

I'll admit, I'm not the most educated about politics on this page or in this community. But I have enough sense to leave my neighbor's yard signs alone - even if I disagree with them. I also try not to pee on my priest's rosebushes and I make every effort to not spit on cops when I drive by. But that's just me.

Do better, Platte County. Come up with something intelligent to show your disapproval of the political process and those brave enough to run for elected office. Maybe take a swipe at writing an angry letter to The Landmark or ask a pointed question at a town hall or even lobby your own presiding commissioner or legislator to have a bill passed. Or... the most time honored tradition in America... just shut up and vote.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR
7/2/14

As you read on the front page of today's Landmark, the Lifetouch Publishing plant near the airport will be ceasing operations in Kansas City in the coming months. I was proud to work there as their IT Network Administrator for four years through 2012 and was happy to help contribute to the article.

Technology is a funny thing. As we all become more and more addicted to our technology - imagine a world without your smartphone, for instance, or Netflix--we take as casualties of war the real-world cost of the technological advancements. Robots now build cars. Computers simulate operators when you dial “0” on a phone (if you use a phone at all). Currency is emailed around the world and there is talk of shutting down the Postal Service because email has been there and done that.

At one time, telephone company operators, car assemblymen and postal workers were considered the best blue collar jobs you could get. For decades, press operator was among those as well. The culture at Lifetouch was unique because the company was one of the largest employee-owned companies in the country. This also extended to an employee stock option program that was among the best in the industry. Press operators were often millionaires following their tenure at Lifetouch. If you've had a child in a school over the past 50 years, you've likely run across the Lifetouch brand either through a school photo or a yearbook. They once were the best in the business.

And then technology came. At first, it meant efficiencies in the speed of printing and the amount of books and photos you could print. This meant increased revenues and increased stock shares. And then those efficiencies started to really take hold. Entire departments of image manipulators and lightroom techs and manual press operators were let go. Yearbooks were created completely inside of computers and those computers even began to proofread and adjust their own pages.

And then, something Lifetouch didn't anticipate happened. People learned they can do a school photo with their smartphones, and yearbooks themselves with a website. If you've ever made a calendar or a book on Snapfish, you know exactly what I am talking about.

And Lifetouch refused to change. They did one thing better than anyone in the world -- make high quality school yearbooks -- only people didn't want them anymore. This resulted in the two yearbook plants Lifetouch operates consolidating into one and KC came up short. Hundreds of employees will lose their jobs--many friends and former coworkers of mine.

But in its prime, the plant was something to see on a late May afternoon rushing to get jobs out the back. If you've never toured a manufacturing facility like the Harley plant near the airport or the Boulevard Brewery near Crown Center, you really should. The energy of a motorcycle or a case of beer or a yearbook coming off of the assembly line is really something to see. A single product made out of the work of dozens, sometimes hundreds of people all putting their piece in. A sum greater than its parts.

I wish my Lifetouch family well -- and “family” is a word you will hear often when you speak to the men and women there. You don't spend six months locked in a giant printing plant without knowing the name of the guy next to you (and his kids' names and his wife's name and often what he had for lunch.) Good luck, guys and gals. I hope you all land on your feet and find a job that will be more future proof from technology. I'd steer clear of bank tellers, postal workers or other printing companies.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


THE HATER'S GUIDE TO SOCCER
6/25/14

Every four years, our nation is divided. Every four years, those who “believe” are ostracized by those who “don't want it.” I'm not talking about the Olympics or a good episode of American Idol or even the Presidential Elections. I'm talking about the World Cup, or as us American's call it “not the Super Bowl.”

The World Cup is the month-long soccer tournament featuring the best and brightest soccer (or futbol) teams in the world. Soccer is the world's most popular sports, yet it still fails to strike the fancy of the majority of Americans. All you need do is take to the Facebook or the Twitters to see that a war is raging amongst those who have begun to embrace soccer, the Sporting Kansas City MLS Champions and the US Men's National Team and then those who not just dislike or ignore soccer, but hate it with a passion. THESE are the true Americans (in their minds) and they shall not allow a foreign sport to take quality time from their other cherished sports.

Here now, is a primer for you, Joe Six Pack, as you look to bolster your Twitter fights with those trying to push their soccer agendas onto you.

1) Soccer is anti-American. This is a good argument to use for anyone trying to say that soccer is a world's game. America isn't the world. We don't need your kind here. America is a melting pot where everyone is free to love what they love, so long as it's Honey Boo Boo, NASCAR and the Green Bay Packers. Keep your Communist Kick Ball on your side of the ocean.

2) Soccer is slow. Ignore the fact that soccer games come in roughly around two hours and a typical NFL game is stretching past three hours and a Major League Baseball game is categorized as a mini-series in some states. Soccer is soooooooooo boring and slow. You only score like one or two goals and there's a lot of non action (even though everyone is running for two hours.) BOOOOOORRRRRIIIIINNNGGG.

3) Soccer allows ties. Ties are un-American (see rule 1). There's only one winner of March Madness (even though we allow four teams to credit themselves with a Final Four appearance.) There's only one NASCAR winner past the checkered flag on Sunday's, and by God, there's only one Super Bowl champion. (Even though the NFL allows ties, the most recent of which was just last year.) You must determine a winner just as in heavyweight flights (which are commonly ruled a draw.)

4) Soccer doesn't have enough scoring. Americans need scoring. They need quick satisfaction and need to see the pinball machine light up. We don't have time to sit around for 2 hours to watch a 1-1 draw. We need our cheeseburgers in four minutes or less and we need our diet cokes 42 ounces or larger. <shoots air guns into the air> PEW!! PEW!! PEW!!

You'll see some variation of these four themes with soccer arguments the rest of the month. As for my own personal stance, I don't particularly care for soccer for the same reasons as above, but I don't openly argue with people. There's no right or wrong answer to the question “what's your favorite sport?” That's an opinion. We spend too much time arguing opinions and too little time dealing with facts. I can tell you that there is tremendous beauty and grace in many of these World Cup games, and if you spend too much time arguing your points, you'll probably miss it.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


NICKEL AND DIME NONSENSE
6/18/14

My wife and I are preparing for a vacation. One of the things that you know about me in the first five minutes after you meet me is that I am a planner. It's what I do for a living and it's what I do when I'm not working. So a vacation with me is not a vacation, so much as it is an execution of a minute by minute master plan.

Tickets are purchased and printed. An itinerary is published in several drafts and the second I leave work the clock begins. But the planning starts weeks in advance and this week, I began the purchasing process for the events we will be doing.

I love the internet and all the conveniences it brings because it allows the OCD types like myself to have tickets in hand prior to arriving at the event. In the old days, you'd have to walk to a ticket window and interact with a human being. Forget that noise. The event could be sold out. You might not get tickets together or you might have to sit in the nosebleed seats.

The biggest downside of purchasing tickets to anything on the internet is the service charges and “convenience” fees that go along with it. We are going to Chicago for three days and each day we are planning one ticketed event. Friday night we are going to the famed Second City comedy club. Tickets to this event are a very reasonable $25 a person. On Saturday, we are going to a Cubs game. Tickets are less reasonable for this, but it's Wrigley Field, so let's say tickets are $50 for this event. Sunday we're going on an architecture tour because I heard they have beer there. So that's another $25 a person. Three events. Two people. $200. No problem, right? That's a decent vacation.

But no. It's not just $200. Stay with me.

The website for the $25 Second City tickets charged a $3.95 “Processing Fee” AND a $4 “Service Charge” PER TICKET. So that's $16 + $50. $66 for Second City.

The website for MLB.com ticketing is legalized robbery. It's absolutely ridiculous. $50 ticket + $12.95 “Print at home” fee (even though I'm printing the ticket on my own paper and using my own ink). THEN they charge you a $2 “service fee” which is supposed to make you feel better since you're not getting quite as bent over than the $13 fee. Regardless. That's another $15 per ticket. So, your $100 worth of tickets is now worth $132.

The Architecture Tour was $25 a person with a $4 “service fee” but at this point, I just wanted to be done, so it easily could've been $30. Fine. $58 for the tour.

When it's all said and done, by $200 worth of activities ends up costing me $256. That's a 28% markup just for buying tickets on the internet. This doesn't' begin to even include what I paid Southwest airlines for all the crap they start adding on from the base ticket price. Pretty soon they'll be charging you for peanuts and when you crank the little fan thing. Add to that our $100 a night room that'll be more like $140 when it's all said and done.

I get why they do it. They have to pay the credit card companies who have their hands in every transaction. They have taxes and visitors' fees and things to pay for the government and they do have some technology to pay for, such as the servers and the bandwidth that help run their financial systems. But still. Enough is enough.

Your nickels now cost seven cents and your dimes are now a quarter. We have now reached the stage where it's comical to do anything. At least the view from the shore is free. I think.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


HANDICAPPING RNC 2016 HOST CITIES
6/11/14

Unless you've been living under a rock, or get all of your news from online video games, then you are aware that our fair city of Kansas City is one of the finalists to host the week-long celebration of democracy, peaceful protests, Jesus and guns called the 2016 Republican National Convention. KC is running against Cleveland, Dallas and Denver and already beaten out Las Vegas and Cincinnati.

Last week, members of the selection committee visited all four potential host cities to check out their facilities, infrastructure and likely see how close the convention center is to the nearest strip club (Hint: KC is two blocks!)

I could have saved the Republican National Committee and drivers along the Broadway Bridge a lot of money, time and trouble as I now present the handicapping odds for the 2016 RNC National Convention.

Let's start... with Cleveland, Ohio.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - Cleveland is the most populous city in Ohio which is like being the prettiest girl in Middle School. Nobody cares and we're going to make fun of you anyway. Your river once caught fire and you had to draft a miniature college player as your future quarterback. (Johnny Manziel.) You have as much of a chance to host the RNC 2016 as I do to be the 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Model.
ODDS - 100/1

DENVER, COLORADO - Denver already had a reputation as the second-most hippy-est city next to San Francisco. But now, weed is legal there, so look out Grateful Dead tribute bands and Jonah Hill movies because we have a new champion. WAY too liberal for the RNC, but very likely to host the 2016 X Games.
ODDS - 50/1

DALLAS, TEXAS - Now here we go. KC's main competition. While KC may hold the edge in BBQ and drive-by fatalities, Dallas for sure leads in belt buckle size, Big 12 Conference titles in football and egos. Dallas is known best for its oil money and J.R. Ewing but the biggest draw would be Jerry-World, the likely site of the RNC Convention. They call it officially <Corporate Sponsor> Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, but it is a massive barn and one that could fit the conventions of all three cities inside of it. The biggest drawback to Dallas other than its slack-jawed slang would be its heat. It will be hot for a summertime convention and there aren't enough sundresses in the world that could counterbalance a sweaty Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh walking down a hot Texas street.
ODDS - 1/3

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - Our hometown looks to host its fourth major political convention, the first one being back in 1900 when KC hosted the Democratic National Convention and most recent in 1976 when the RNC put forth Bob Dole as its nominee for vice president. A lot has changed in KC since those days. For starters, KC is no longer the home base of the mafia and organized crime. That home has now moved to the Republican party itself. KC has the title of BBQ capital of the world and is one of the more progressive cities in social media, streetcars and sweeping urban blight under the rug. Look for it to go down to the wire with Dallas.
ODDS - 1/2 - FAVORITE

In the end, look for Dallas to edge out Kansas City, not because it is the better city, but because these selection committees LOVE to have their butts kissed and nobody greases a pig like a Texan.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


FAMILY SECRET
6/4/14

Every family has a secret. For some it could be a stress in a marriage. For others, it could be potential financial windfalls or maybe they are secretly broke. One thing is certain, though...every family has a secret. Eventually, they all see the light of day, though. I'm about to tell you ours.
The year was 1993. A first-term Bill Clinton was busy rolling cigars and staining dresses. The Kansas City Royals were only eight short years removed from their last World Series appearance.

A young and handsome Chris Kamler had just enrolled at the University of Missouri - Kansas City after, um, releasing myself from the University of Missouri in Columbia. Beer might have been a contributing factor.

My parents, Edward and Donna, were reveling in the graduation from high school of their third child and that left only one more to go. It was a perfect time for a completely ludicrous decision like buying a hot rod car.

Now, my parents had a wonderfully good run of automobiles through my childhood. There was the Ford LTD - one of the largest four door sedans ever made. There was the white Cadillac - again, one of the largest cars in the history of cars. It might have actually come with an outboard motor. The cake topper in this list was the Cutlass Cruiser station wagon made by the Oldsmobile corporation. The Cutlass was so vast, so large, that every child had their own zip code inside AND you could put the newborn on the floorboard of the passenger seat in an age before BIG SEATBELT forced you to stop putting babies on the floorboards of cars.

My parents drove gigantic, American-made boats with wheels. So, naturally, their major purchase to celebrate the third of four children to graduate high school was a 1993 Ford Mustang convertible. It was a glorious machine. An amalgam of leather and power and speed and, dare I say, sex on wheels. It was a damn fine car. My wonderful sister Catherine, whom I love dearly, gave it a test drive. I also got to give it a test drive. It certainly was a step up from what I had been used to driving. I was happy with my 1981 GMC Sierra Pickup Truck with the stepside. It had replaced my F-150 Ford Truck with a three on the tree and enough rust that the rust had rust.

Water actually splashed my face when driving in the rain because of water coming up off of the front wheel into a hole in the floorboard directly up my nose - but I couldn't help seeing me behind the wheel of that powerful machine cruising up and down North Oak turning all the ladies heads.
My sister and I were both going to UMKC at the time, both commuting from home because we are horrible children and hadn't actually left home.

Now. Listen closely. Here is where the family secret comes in.

As mid-life crisis go, my mom and dad's one was pretty mild. They bought a fast car. But of COURSE that was a short lived decision and that beautiful car would trickle down to the child they secretly loved the most. Me. That car would be MINE.

And that's when my sister stepped in. I don't remember what kind of car she drove, but it suddenly started having “problems.” “Oh, that's okay, honey. Just drive the Mustang.”

I never had a chance. That car was stolen out from underneath me. It was rightfully mine and she STOLE it. She drove that car for years. She knows what she did. Just like the pending Ross Perot Presidency, it was plucked from me and I never had a chance.

NOW you know my family's secret. Anybody want to come visit for Thanksgiving?

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


OUTSMARTED
5/28/14

I guess it's a rite of passage for all fathers with their sons --the day the son finally bests the elder in some way. I just never thought it would come so early.

So let's back up here and let me explain a few things to start. Every year, the boy and I take a yearly “Mother's Day trip” which is code for “Boy's weekend away so Mom has a weekend to herself.”

The boy's weekend normally consists of a trip around Memorial Day weekend, eating junk food, pizza, soda pop, staying in hotels, swimming and watching lots of baseball. We've been to Omaha to see the AAA Stormchasers, we've been to Northwest Arkansas to see the AA Naturals and this year we chose Lexington, Kentucky to see the A league Lexington Legends.

As Brett, age 11, continues to mature, he enjoys the trips less and less. If given a choice, he'd probably enjoy a weekend locked in the basement playing video games. But he will look back on these vacations fondly someday and I absolutely love them. They are the weekend of the year as far as I am concerned.

Brett is growing up so quickly. This will be our final trip before he enters middle school. When I was his age, I hated middle school so I know he'll be in for some challenges. But these three or four days provide a great time to talk, laugh and did I mention eat junk food?

Anyway, we don't have a lot of rules on these trips - really only one - that we try something new every trip. Brett's not the most outgoing at first and he is a finicky eater. He's at the stage where everything on his plate needs to resemble a chicken McNugget AND not touch anything else on his plate. This morning, we went to a diner and ordered two eggs, bacon and a biscuit. We're in Kentucky, so everything was covered in gravy. His head about exploded.

To combat this, I made a rule several trips ago that he HAS to try something new every trip. And on this venture, I upped that number to THREE things. Over four days, this really only meant he'd have to take a bite of grits or a mushroom or, god forbid, a vegetable of some sort. He didn't get a vote, so off we went.

At dinner the first night, I was determined to get this “try something” form of torture a test right off the bat. I ordered crab stuffed mushrooms at the restaurant. Brett, ever the future lawyer or politician, said, “What if I got a veto for these?” This seemed logical, really. So I said, “How many do you want?” Brett had a wink in his eye and said “Three seems right. I'd like three vetoes.”

Okay, so we shook on it and I launched my first salvo knowing that I'd have many more opportunities. “Alright, crab stuffed mushrooms. First bite.”

“Veto.”

And then it hit me. I had three attempts to get him to attempt something new. I had then been tricked into giving him an equal amount of vetoes. I had been checkmated. By an 11-year-old.
I sat there slackjawed. Stupefied. How did he do that? How did I fall for it?

One thing is for certain, it probably won't be the last time I'm one-upped (or three vetoed) by my son. But the trip was still amazing.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 

 


THE SLEEPY CUL-DE-SAC
5/21/14

The cul-de-sac at the end of Carridi Acres has been my home off-and-on for 30 years. It is often overlooked by the city. It's never plowed in the winter and hasn't been repaved in a decade. But in Spring, the cul-de-sac begins to show signs of life, as lawn mowers spray yard clippings into the street and we drive up and down to baseball games.

But even with Spring and baseball, we're still pretty much indoor creatures. Even when I was growing up, the cul-de-sac that I lived on didn't have many kids and had no sidewalks. Sure, there was playing outside, and that's mainly because that was an actual parenting technique ‘back in the day.’ “You kids go outside and don't come in until it gets dark.” That was an actual thing. If you came in for a glass of water or Kool-Aid you were chastised and chased back out of the house.

Today I live in the house next door to that one--at the end of the same sleepy cul-de-sac. Still without sidewalks and even fewer children on the block. There are fewer things for my son to just get up and do nowadays without us driving him to a friend's house or setting something up ahead of time.

The cul-de-sac is still mostly quiet and mostly safe, but this is 2014 when people get snatched out of Wal-Mart parking lots and millions of other stories come true that you only see on the news. So at any given time your security and safety are relative.

That being said, this past Saturday night was one that rivaled any in my 30 years at the end of the cul-de-sac. My sister and her two boys were up from Wichita, and my other sister's three boys were over as well. (There's a lot of boys in our family.) And the two girls from down the street came up. Their parents are moving next weekend because of the lack of things to do in our neighborhood.

The cul-de-sac suddenly sprung to life. Spider webbed whiffle balls and kickballs and footballs appeared from the bottoms of boxes and crates. A game of hide-and-seek formulated out of nowhere. Not one but TWO tricycles appeared. When was the last time we saw a tricycle?

Kickball gave way to some sort of game of catch with two kickballs and a football. And that game gave way to some sort of keep-away/chase/tag type of contest. I honestly lost track of the rules. Oh, and I was out there too, as were other moms and dads. In a modern twist on the “don't come back in until dark,” there still needs to be a grownup present outdoors, just because. But it's okay, at one point I think I became the “all time tagger.” Whatever that means.

The shadows grew longer and the games continued. Nobody went inside for water or Kool-Aid or video games or cookies. The sun finally set on the evening and the cul-de-sac again grew quiet.

The goal for the sleepy cul-de-sac at the end of Carridi Acres is now finding a way to make sure it doesn't remain quiet for long.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 

 


TOO CLOSE TO HOME
7/16/14

I never thought it would happen to my kid. That's what I keep telling myself. We speak in hushed whispers at the supermarket about these types of things happening to “bad” kids or “bad parents.” I just never thought I would be one --more importantly, I never thought I'd learn that my kid was one.

Let me back up and try to explain. Let me try to put into perspective the shame my family feels today. I grew up in a very strict household. We were not wealthy, but we never were left without. This upbringing, however, came at a price. There were certain land mines that you never touched in the family. There were certain things that were taboo.

Growing up, the most difficult years of my development were my middle school years. I never seemed to fit in with any crowd, yet the social conventions of peer pressure provided me no protections. I was challenged to try new things, some of them bad things. I had to learn to adapt and respond and say “no.” Most of us did. Some of us didn't. Those kids were quickly labeled the “bad” kids.

This past month, I noticed a change in my son. He just completed his fifth grade year and with that, all the confidence of being the king of elementary school. He had this inner swagger. But after school let out, I began to notice this darkening in his personality. He was changing. Maturing. You could see it in his friends, too. Even his online buddies seemed to be intent on pushing the envelope and testing limits.

I guess the job of a parent is simply to educate and prepare your son or daughter when they are faced with these inevitable choices - and as I look at my son preparing to embark on young adulthood, I thought I had done that. I thought I had gone through all the scenarios. But I guess I hadn't.

Late last week, I heard him from outside a closed door. He was talking with his friends, like he does many nights, on the XBox. Only his speech was different. Older? Warped? Something didn't sound right. I knocked on the door. I was greeted with only silence.

Concerned, I opened it and poked my head into the room. Awash with the glow of the television screen, I saw my son's once innocent face. His eyes were wide. He had a pained look on his face. I looked up to see a sight that no Midwestern “good” parent should ever see in his life. All the years of preparation. All the years of hoping your son would make good choices. All that time in the backyard playing catch and talking to your boy about the man he would become.

And there it was. On the television screen. Red handed.

My son was playing FIFA Soccer 2014 on the XBox.

He is the third generation of Kamler baseball boys. His grandfather has toiled in the baseball community for 40 years. His father, a 25 year baseball umpire. He himself, had been playing baseball since he was three. But I guess you never see it coming.

My son was playing a soccer game. He was convinced to start playing it by his “friends.” He had found the family landmine and jumped right on it.

I'm a horrible parent.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


SIGNS, SIGNS EVERYWHERE SIGNS
7/9/14

“And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply.” --”Signs” Five Man Electrical Band

Oh, it must be political season here in Missouri. As reported on Facebook and in today's Landmark, vandals have struck some politicians' signs throughout the county in anticipation of the August elections. So far, signs for both Robert Boyer and Ron Schieber have been vandalized in the past couple of weeks. I saw the Boyer sign with a “NO” and a circle with a line through it and Ivan Foley reported similar vandalism to multiple Schieber signs. Boyer is running for county clerk as a Republican and Schieber is running for presiding commissioner, also as a Republican.

Solid job, you guys, with the graffiti. Once again proving that the best way to take part in the political process is to vandalize a yard sign. Oh sure, running yourself or sending a letter to the paper are all noble gestures. Heck, maybe even going door to door and stumping for your own candidate who believes in your own political ideals might be a good idea, too. But it doesn't hold a candle to taking a can of spray paint and sprawling “NO” to a yard sign.

I'm really excited to hear that you've graduated past taping the “KICK ME” sign to the back of the fat kid in middle school or writing WASH ME on the hatchback of your neighbor's Pinto. Solid effort.

According to Russ Wojtkiewicz, himself no stranger to political sign pranks, these yard signs could cost anywhere from $5 to $20 for smaller ones or up to $35 for the larger sized, plus the time the candidate is out hanging them and putting them in yards. We've also seen people going by and stealing signs out of yards in years past which is the equivalent of yelling “nanny nanny boo boo” from across the school yard.

When did politics get this way? Were people spray painting YOU SUCK underneath I LIKE IKE posters? Or overwriting WHAT A over the TRICKY on TRICKY DICK billboards? Or is this a new thing? Like something only the cool meth-users do when they're out tooling around in their muffler dragging two-doors?

Here's an idea for you. I'm just going to throw it out there. If you can write in and tell me exactly what a county clerk or a presiding commissioner actually does, I will BUY you your own yard sign and you can go ape nuts with all the spray paint, puffy paint or whatever clever sharpie markers you can find. Of course, you'll need to buy some of those supplies at Hobby Lobby, and they're off limits because Jesus won't let them wear condoms or something.

I'll admit, I'm not the most educated about politics on this page or in this community. But I have enough sense to leave my neighbor's yard signs alone - even if I disagree with them. I also try not to pee on my priest's rosebushes and I make every effort to not spit on cops when I drive by. But that's just me.

Do better, Platte County. Come up with something intelligent to show your disapproval of the political process and those brave enough to run for elected office. Maybe take a swipe at writing an angry letter to The Landmark or ask a pointed question at a town hall or even lobby your own presiding commissioner or legislator to have a bill passed. Or... the most time honored tradition in America... just shut up and vote.

(Chris Kamler is editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR
7/2/14

As you read on the front page of today's Landmark, the Lifetouch Publishing plant near the airport will be ceasing operations in Kansas City in the coming months. I was proud to work there as their IT Network Administrator for four years through 2012 and was happy to help contribute to the article.

Technology is a funny thing. As we all become more and more addicted to our technology - imagine a world without your smartphone, for instance, or Netflix--we take as casualties of war the real-world cost of the technological advancements. Robots now build cars. Computers simulate operators when you dial “0” on a phone (if you use a phone at all). Currency is emailed around the world and there is talk of shutting down the Postal Service because email has been there and done that.

At one time, telephone company operators, car assemblymen and postal workers were considered the best blue collar jobs you could get. For decades, press operator was among those as well. The culture at Lifetouch was unique because the company was one of the largest employee-owned companies in the country. This also extended to an employee stock option program that was among the best in the industry. Press operators were often millionaires following their tenure at Lifetouch. If you've had a child in a school over the past 50 years, you've likely run across the Lifetouch brand either through a school photo or a yearbook. They once were the best in the business.

And then technology came. At first, it meant efficiencies in the speed of printing and the amount of books and photos you could print. This meant increased revenues and increased stock shares. And then those efficiencies started to really take hold. Entire departments of image manipulators and lightroom techs and manual press operators were let go. Yearbooks were created completely inside of computers and those computers even began to proofread and adjust their own pages.

And then, something Lifetouch didn't anticipate happened. People learned they can do a school photo with their smartphones, and yearbooks themselves with a website. If you've ever made a calendar or a book on Snapfish, you know exactly what I am talking about.

And Lifetouch refused to change. They did one thing better than anyone in the world -- make high quality school yearbooks -- only people didn't want them anymore. This resulted in the two yearbook plants Lifetouch operates consolidating into one and KC came up short. Hundreds of employees will lose their jobs--many friends and former coworkers of mine.

But in its prime, the plant was something to see on a late May afternoon rushing to get jobs out the back. If you've never toured a manufacturing facility like the Harley plant near the airport or the Boulevard Brewery near Crown Center, you really should. The energy of a motorcycle or a case of beer or a yearbook coming off of the assembly line is really something to see. A single product made out of the work of dozens, sometimes hundreds of people all putting their piece in. A sum greater than its parts.

I wish my Lifetouch family well -- and “family” is a word you will hear often when you speak to the men and women there. You don't spend six months locked in a giant printing plant without knowing the name of the guy next to you (and his kids' names and his wife's name and often what he had for lunch.) Good luck, guys and gals. I hope you all land on your feet and find a job that will be more future proof from technology. I'd steer clear of bank tellers, postal workers or other printing companies.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


THE HATER'S GUIDE TO SOCCER
6/25/14

Every four years, our nation is divided. Every four years, those who “believe” are ostracized by those who “don't want it.” I'm not talking about the Olympics or a good episode of American Idol or even the Presidential Elections. I'm talking about the World Cup, or as us American's call it “not the Super Bowl.”

The World Cup is the month-long soccer tournament featuring the best and brightest soccer (or futbol) teams in the world. Soccer is the world's most popular sports, yet it still fails to strike the fancy of the majority of Americans. All you need do is take to the Facebook or the Twitters to see that a war is raging amongst those who have begun to embrace soccer, the Sporting Kansas City MLS Champions and the US Men's National Team and then those who not just dislike or ignore soccer, but hate it with a passion. THESE are the true Americans (in their minds) and they shall not allow a foreign sport to take quality time from their other cherished sports.

Here now, is a primer for you, Joe Six Pack, as you look to bolster your Twitter fights with those trying to push their soccer agendas onto you.

1) Soccer is anti-American. This is a good argument to use for anyone trying to say that soccer is a world's game. America isn't the world. We don't need your kind here. America is a melting pot where everyone is free to love what they love, so long as it's Honey Boo Boo, NASCAR and the Green Bay Packers. Keep your Communist Kick Ball on your side of the ocean.

2) Soccer is slow. Ignore the fact that soccer games come in roughly around two hours and a typical NFL game is stretching past three hours and a Major League Baseball game is categorized as a mini-series in some states. Soccer is soooooooooo boring and slow. You only score like one or two goals and there's a lot of non action (even though everyone is running for two hours.) BOOOOOORRRRRIIIIINNNGGG.

3) Soccer allows ties. Ties are un-American (see rule 1). There's only one winner of March Madness (even though we allow four teams to credit themselves with a Final Four appearance.) There's only one NASCAR winner past the checkered flag on Sunday's, and by God, there's only one Super Bowl champion. (Even though the NFL allows ties, the most recent of which was just last year.) You must determine a winner just as in heavyweight flights (which are commonly ruled a draw.)

4) Soccer doesn't have enough scoring. Americans need scoring. They need quick satisfaction and need to see the pinball machine light up. We don't have time to sit around for 2 hours to watch a 1-1 draw. We need our cheeseburgers in four minutes or less and we need our diet cokes 42 ounces or larger. <shoots air guns into the air> PEW!! PEW!! PEW!!

You'll see some variation of these four themes with soccer arguments the rest of the month. As for my own personal stance, I don't particularly care for soccer for the same reasons as above, but I don't openly argue with people. There's no right or wrong answer to the question “what's your favorite sport?” That's an opinion. We spend too much time arguing opinions and too little time dealing with facts. I can tell you that there is tremendous beauty and grace in many of these World Cup games, and if you spend too much time arguing your points, you'll probably miss it.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


NICKEL AND DIME NONSENSE
6/18/14

My wife and I are preparing for a vacation. One of the things that you know about me in the first five minutes after you meet me is that I am a planner. It's what I do for a living and it's what I do when I'm not working. So a vacation with me is not a vacation, so much as it is an execution of a minute by minute master plan.

Tickets are purchased and printed. An itinerary is published in several drafts and the second I leave work the clock begins. But the planning starts weeks in advance and this week, I began the purchasing process for the events we will be doing.

I love the internet and all the conveniences it brings because it allows the OCD types like myself to have tickets in hand prior to arriving at the event. In the old days, you'd have to walk to a ticket window and interact with a human being. Forget that noise. The event could be sold out. You might not get tickets together or you might have to sit in the nosebleed seats.

The biggest downside of purchasing tickets to anything on the internet is the service charges and “convenience” fees that go along with it. We are going to Chicago for three days and each day we are planning one ticketed event. Friday night we are going to the famed Second City comedy club. Tickets to this event are a very reasonable $25 a person. On Saturday, we are going to a Cubs game. Tickets are less reasonable for this, but it's Wrigley Field, so let's say tickets are $50 for this event. Sunday we're going on an architecture tour because I heard they have beer there. So that's another $25 a person. Three events. Two people. $200. No problem, right? That's a decent vacation.

But no. It's not just $200. Stay with me.

The website for the $25 Second City tickets charged a $3.95 “Processing Fee” AND a $4 “Service Charge” PER TICKET. So that's $16 + $50. $66 for Second City.

The website for MLB.com ticketing is legalized robbery. It's absolutely ridiculous. $50 ticket + $12.95 “Print at home” fee (even though I'm printing the ticket on my own paper and using my own ink). THEN they charge you a $2 “service fee” which is supposed to make you feel better since you're not getting quite as bent over than the $13 fee. Regardless. That's another $15 per ticket. So, your $100 worth of tickets is now worth $132.

The Architecture Tour was $25 a person with a $4 “service fee” but at this point, I just wanted to be done, so it easily could've been $30. Fine. $58 for the tour.

When it's all said and done, by $200 worth of activities ends up costing me $256. That's a 28% markup just for buying tickets on the internet. This doesn't' begin to even include what I paid Southwest airlines for all the crap they start adding on from the base ticket price. Pretty soon they'll be charging you for peanuts and when you crank the little fan thing. Add to that our $100 a night room that'll be more like $140 when it's all said and done.

I get why they do it. They have to pay the credit card companies who have their hands in every transaction. They have taxes and visitors' fees and things to pay for the government and they do have some technology to pay for, such as the servers and the bandwidth that help run their financial systems. But still. Enough is enough.

Your nickels now cost seven cents and your dimes are now a quarter. We have now reached the stage where it's comical to do anything. At least the view from the shore is free. I think.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


HANDICAPPING RNC 2016 HOST CITIES
6/11/14

Unless you've been living under a rock, or get all of your news from online video games, then you are aware that our fair city of Kansas City is one of the finalists to host the week-long celebration of democracy, peaceful protests, Jesus and guns called the 2016 Republican National Convention. KC is running against Cleveland, Dallas and Denver and already beaten out Las Vegas and Cincinnati.

Last week, members of the selection committee visited all four potential host cities to check out their facilities, infrastructure and likely see how close the convention center is to the nearest strip club (Hint: KC is two blocks!)

I could have saved the Republican National Committee and drivers along the Broadway Bridge a lot of money, time and trouble as I now present the handicapping odds for the 2016 RNC National Convention.

Let's start... with Cleveland, Ohio.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - Cleveland is the most populous city in Ohio which is like being the prettiest girl in Middle School. Nobody cares and we're going to make fun of you anyway. Your river once caught fire and you had to draft a miniature college player as your future quarterback. (Johnny Manziel.) You have as much of a chance to host the RNC 2016 as I do to be the 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Model.
ODDS - 100/1

DENVER, COLORADO - Denver already had a reputation as the second-most hippy-est city next to San Francisco. But now, weed is legal there, so look out Grateful Dead tribute bands and Jonah Hill movies because we have a new champion. WAY too liberal for the RNC, but very likely to host the 2016 X Games.
ODDS - 50/1

DALLAS, TEXAS - Now here we go. KC's main competition. While KC may hold the edge in BBQ and drive-by fatalities, Dallas for sure leads in belt buckle size, Big 12 Conference titles in football and egos. Dallas is known best for its oil money and J.R. Ewing but the biggest draw would be Jerry-World, the likely site of the RNC Convention. They call it officially <Corporate Sponsor> Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, but it is a massive barn and one that could fit the conventions of all three cities inside of it. The biggest drawback to Dallas other than its slack-jawed slang would be its heat. It will be hot for a summertime convention and there aren't enough sundresses in the world that could counterbalance a sweaty Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh walking down a hot Texas street.
ODDS - 1/3

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - Our hometown looks to host its fourth major political convention, the first one being back in 1900 when KC hosted the Democratic National Convention and most recent in 1976 when the RNC put forth Bob Dole as its nominee for vice president. A lot has changed in KC since those days. For starters, KC is no longer the home base of the mafia and organized crime. That home has now moved to the Republican party itself. KC has the title of BBQ capital of the world and is one of the more progressive cities in social media, streetcars and sweeping urban blight under the rug. Look for it to go down to the wire with Dallas.
ODDS - 1/2 - FAVORITE

In the end, look for Dallas to edge out Kansas City, not because it is the better city, but because these selection committees LOVE to have their butts kissed and nobody greases a pig like a Texan.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


FAMILY SECRET
6/4/14

Every family has a secret. For some it could be a stress in a marriage. For others, it could be potential financial windfalls or maybe they are secretly broke. One thing is certain, though...every family has a secret. Eventually, they all see the light of day, though. I'm about to tell you ours.
The year was 1993. A first-term Bill Clinton was busy rolling cigars and staining dresses. The Kansas City Royals were only eight short years removed from their last World Series appearance.

A young and handsome Chris Kamler had just enrolled at the University of Missouri - Kansas City after, um, releasing myself from the University of Missouri in Columbia. Beer might have been a contributing factor.

My parents, Edward and Donna, were reveling in the graduation from high school of their third child and that left only one more to go. It was a perfect time for a completely ludicrous decision like buying a hot rod car.

Now, my parents had a wonderfully good run of automobiles through my childhood. There was the Ford LTD - one of the largest four door sedans ever made. There was the white Cadillac - again, one of the largest cars in the history of cars. It might have actually come with an outboard motor. The cake topper in this list was the Cutlass Cruiser station wagon made by the Oldsmobile corporation. The Cutlass was so vast, so large, that every child had their own zip code inside AND you could put the newborn on the floorboard of the passenger seat in an age before BIG SEATBELT forced you to stop putting babies on the floorboards of cars.

My parents drove gigantic, American-made boats with wheels. So, naturally, their major purchase to celebrate the third of four children to graduate high school was a 1993 Ford Mustang convertible. It was a glorious machine. An amalgam of leather and power and speed and, dare I say, sex on wheels. It was a damn fine car. My wonderful sister Catherine, whom I love dearly, gave it a test drive. I also got to give it a test drive. It certainly was a step up from what I had been used to driving. I was happy with my 1981 GMC Sierra Pickup Truck with the stepside. It had replaced my F-150 Ford Truck with a three on the tree and enough rust that the rust had rust.

Water actually splashed my face when driving in the rain because of water coming up off of the front wheel into a hole in the floorboard directly up my nose - but I couldn't help seeing me behind the wheel of that powerful machine cruising up and down North Oak turning all the ladies heads.
My sister and I were both going to UMKC at the time, both commuting from home because we are horrible children and hadn't actually left home.

Now. Listen closely. Here is where the family secret comes in.

As mid-life crisis go, my mom and dad's one was pretty mild. They bought a fast car. But of COURSE that was a short lived decision and that beautiful car would trickle down to the child they secretly loved the most. Me. That car would be MINE.

And that's when my sister stepped in. I don't remember what kind of car she drove, but it suddenly started having “problems.” “Oh, that's okay, honey. Just drive the Mustang.”

I never had a chance. That car was stolen out from underneath me. It was rightfully mine and she STOLE it. She drove that car for years. She knows what she did. Just like the pending Ross Perot Presidency, it was plucked from me and I never had a chance.

NOW you know my family's secret. Anybody want to come visit for Thanksgiving?

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


OUTSMARTED
5/28/14

I guess it's a rite of passage for all fathers with their sons --the day the son finally bests the elder in some way. I just never thought it would come so early.

So let's back up here and let me explain a few things to start. Every year, the boy and I take a yearly “Mother's Day trip” which is code for “Boy's weekend away so Mom has a weekend to herself.”

The boy's weekend normally consists of a trip around Memorial Day weekend, eating junk food, pizza, soda pop, staying in hotels, swimming and watching lots of baseball. We've been to Omaha to see the AAA Stormchasers, we've been to Northwest Arkansas to see the AA Naturals and this year we chose Lexington, Kentucky to see the A league Lexington Legends.

As Brett, age 11, continues to mature, he enjoys the trips less and less. If given a choice, he'd probably enjoy a weekend locked in the basement playing video games. But he will look back on these vacations fondly someday and I absolutely love them. They are the weekend of the year as far as I am concerned.

Brett is growing up so quickly. This will be our final trip before he enters middle school. When I was his age, I hated middle school so I know he'll be in for some challenges. But these three or four days provide a great time to talk, laugh and did I mention eat junk food?

Anyway, we don't have a lot of rules on these trips - really only one - that we try something new every trip. Brett's not the most outgoing at first and he is a finicky eater. He's at the stage where everything on his plate needs to resemble a chicken McNugget AND not touch anything else on his plate. This morning, we went to a diner and ordered two eggs, bacon and a biscuit. We're in Kentucky, so everything was covered in gravy. His head about exploded.

To combat this, I made a rule several trips ago that he HAS to try something new every trip. And on this venture, I upped that number to THREE things. Over four days, this really only meant he'd have to take a bite of grits or a mushroom or, god forbid, a vegetable of some sort. He didn't get a vote, so off we went.

At dinner the first night, I was determined to get this “try something” form of torture a test right off the bat. I ordered crab stuffed mushrooms at the restaurant. Brett, ever the future lawyer or politician, said, “What if I got a veto for these?” This seemed logical, really. So I said, “How many do you want?” Brett had a wink in his eye and said “Three seems right. I'd like three vetoes.”

Okay, so we shook on it and I launched my first salvo knowing that I'd have many more opportunities. “Alright, crab stuffed mushrooms. First bite.”

“Veto.”

And then it hit me. I had three attempts to get him to attempt something new. I had then been tricked into giving him an equal amount of vetoes. I had been checkmated. By an 11-year-old.
I sat there slackjawed. Stupefied. How did he do that? How did I fall for it?

One thing is for certain, it probably won't be the last time I'm one-upped (or three vetoed) by my son. But the trip was still amazing.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 

 


THE SLEEPY CUL-DE-SAC
5/21/14

The cul-de-sac at the end of Carridi Acres has been my home off-and-on for 30 years. It is often overlooked by the city. It's never plowed in the winter and hasn't been repaved in a decade. But in Spring, the cul-de-sac begins to show signs of life, as lawn mowers spray yard clippings into the street and we drive up and down to baseball games.

But even with Spring and baseball, we're still pretty much indoor creatures. Even when I was growing up, the cul-de-sac that I lived on didn't have many kids and had no sidewalks. Sure, there was playing outside, and that's mainly because that was an actual parenting technique ‘back in the day.’ “You kids go outside and don't come in until it gets dark.” That was an actual thing. If you came in for a glass of water or Kool-Aid you were chastised and chased back out of the house.

Today I live in the house next door to that one--at the end of the same sleepy cul-de-sac. Still without sidewalks and even fewer children on the block. There are fewer things for my son to just get up and do nowadays without us driving him to a friend's house or setting something up ahead of time.

The cul-de-sac is still mostly quiet and mostly safe, but this is 2014 when people get snatched out of Wal-Mart parking lots and millions of other stories come true that you only see on the news. So at any given time your security and safety are relative.

That being said, this past Saturday night was one that rivaled any in my 30 years at the end of the cul-de-sac. My sister and her two boys were up from Wichita, and my other sister's three boys were over as well. (There's a lot of boys in our family.) And the two girls from down the street came up. Their parents are moving next weekend because of the lack of things to do in our neighborhood.

The cul-de-sac suddenly sprung to life. Spider webbed whiffle balls and kickballs and footballs appeared from the bottoms of boxes and crates. A game of hide-and-seek formulated out of nowhere. Not one but TWO tricycles appeared. When was the last time we saw a tricycle?

Kickball gave way to some sort of game of catch with two kickballs and a football. And that game gave way to some sort of keep-away/chase/tag type of contest. I honestly lost track of the rules. Oh, and I was out there too, as were other moms and dads. In a modern twist on the “don't come back in until dark,” there still needs to be a grownup present outdoors, just because. But it's okay, at one point I think I became the “all time tagger.” Whatever that means.

The shadows grew longer and the games continued. Nobody went inside for water or Kool-Aid or video games or cookies. The sun finally set on the evening and the cul-de-sac again grew quiet.

The goal for the sleepy cul-de-sac at the end of Carridi Acres is now finding a way to make sure it doesn't remain quiet for long.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


 

POWER FROM THE PEOPLE
5/14/14

Hey listen, I know how it is, I am a parent. I have a child. When he was little, he would want a box of cookies, or a banana or the rat poison from underneath the kitchen sink. It was my job to sift through his wants and needs and help determine what he should and should not get. I knew better because he was just a dumb, snot-nosed kid.

In many ways, government plays that role for us. We want lots of things and it's up to government to help sift through that list and determine what is do-able or impossible. But here's the key difference, government is supposed to do what the people want. We have a vote, and my little young son did not. He couldn't take his request to eat the rat poison to a sub-committee and put an initiative on a ballot then vote.

But lately, Kansas City government is acting more like my small son than allowing what the People want. We've seen it in the past weeks with two new ideas --both seem to be moving without the will of the people.

On the one hand, Lyft, a crowd-sourced ride-sharing program has been introduced to the area. The idea is that if you need a ride to the grocery store or to a concert and don't want to pay $30 for a cab, you can contact the Lyft service and if there's a registered driver near you, you can negotiate a price for a “lift.” The drivers are registered and go through background screenings and it is a new, unique way to make transportation easier. The downside is that it is unregulated, untaxed and potentially dangerous if the driver or passenger has impure intentions.

All of these issues, it would seem, could be sorted out by “The People.” If they use the service, great, if not, it goes away. However, the Kansas City government doesn't see it like that and is taking steps (in closed session) to stop Lyft's attempts to start in Kansas City. “The city believes Lyft's services were and are illegal both before and after this ordinance change,” Chris Hernandez, city spokesman, said in a statement.

So, the city went into private session and changed a law outlawing the way drivers are compensated. The city decided that you shouldn't have the cookie or the rat poison and changed the rules - despite your interest in the contrary.

On the other side, the city has also made another decision with your “best interest” in mind. This one will cost a little more than a $20 cab fare, though. This one could potentially cost over a billion dollars. This one includes the overwhelmingly unpopular reconstruction of KCI Airport to a single terminal.

This is a classic parental move by Kansas City's government saying “we know what's better for you, so we're shoving it through.” Oh, sorry, that's not a direct quote, rather, the direct quote from Mayor Sly James is that the new airport is NOT “being rammed down someone's throat.”

Oh. Thanks, Mayor. That clears it up.

In the meantime, committee after committee are making plans and moving forward with those plans for a single terminal airport. But they promise they'll take it to a vote. Someday. Soon.

In the meantime, your ability to decide when you want a cookie or that rat poison under the sink remains not your decision at all.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and a freelance broadcaster. He is a weekly contributor to PineTarPress.com and 810Varsity.com and active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)

 


REASONS I RUN
5/7/14

Many times, special projects are “kicked off” with big fanfare and hoopla. The beginning of construction on a building is begun with dignitaries shoveling dirt with golden shovels. Projects begin with a “kickoff” meeting. A new iPhone comes out and is greeted with lines around the block.

I can't remember the exact moment I began the biggest project of my life--the project to begin running and losing weight. There was no fanfare, no strobe lights or fog machine--I don't even think there was music the first time. But it started, unceremoniously. It started.

It began with me walking the length of a straightaway at Macken Park. Approximately 200 yards. I remember that my 365 pound frame was sweaty and trembling afterwards. I remember my legs shaking and barely making it back to my car.

The next day, I did it again. Again feeling the same dread and pain and peril as the first day, but I did it again. I did it every day for a week. I felt no better after that week and I had lost no weight. But I did it. Alone. Just for me.

Nearly 75 lost pounds later, I still walk around Macken Park. Many days I will go around three times, or three miles. Sometimes I jog, sometimes I run. Most days I walk, however, just as I walked on that first day. My pace is much faster, but still not fast. My weight is much lower, but still very high. But I keep doing it because it is slowly making a difference.

This past weekend I ran in the Pancreatic Cancer Purple Stride 5K. My time was around 44 minutes. The weekend before, I ran for children with eye diseases. I have run for several types of cancers, testicular, breast, you name it. I've run for global orphans, leukemia, some sort of skin disease, domestic violence and once, because there was beer and a free concert at the end. I ran for all of these causes and all of these wonderful people gave me encouragement and inspiration and t-shirts. But I really only ran for me.

Count me among those who mocked runners in 5K's as they posted their photos in front of the finish line. I was the one typing things like “I couldn't run 5 feet if you paid me!” and “I'm just coming in from a night at the bars at 8 in the morning.” Yet here I am, five years later, chatting it up with real runners and understanding Landmark columnist Greg Hall's articles about running. I still can't run well and I don't run for endurance, yet I have increased my goals this summer to include running the Hospital Hill 5K and my first 10K this year. Runners, as I have found, are insane people.

I even bought underpants that don't make my legs chaff when they rub together while I’m running.

This month, the Platte County Health Department is holding a challenge for people to get active. I would encourage you to find out more information at plattecountyhealthdept.com. Give it a try. It might not mean you'll be a “runner” but you won't regret any minute you spend.

I've still got a lot of work to do, but I plan on keeping on it. Mile by mile. Step by step. And with little to no fanfare. Alone.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com. He is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He is also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)


THE GREATEST VS. THE GOOGLE GENERATION
4/30/14

The name Stanley Kijowski isn't a name that many of us have ever heard but was among those Americans they call “the Greatest Generation.” While that generation was great, and all, I'm certain that I can make an argument that I am also one of those greatest generation Americans 90 years later in 2014.

Stanley was born on Polish Hill in Kansas City, KS in 1924, yet his parents moved to Poland in 1933 just before the start of World War II.

While that might seem impressive and “worldly,” I currently live approximately 10 feet from the house I grew up in. Just because Stanley's apple fell far from the tree doesn't make it anything special.

Once war came to Poland, Kijowski was captured by the Germans more than once. He had incredible upper body strength and escaped Nazi concentration camps twice by climbing a utility pole and walking across the wires on his hands. Beaten repeatedly by the Nazi's, he also spent six months hiding in the forest on the lamb from the Germans. He returned to America after the war and THEN joined the Merchant Marines in 1949.

I suppose that's impressive and all, but I walked an extra 30 minutes on my treadmill this morning and broke a pretty healthy sweat. We'll call this one a push.

Stanley used that upper body strength for show as well. Reportedly, he proposed to his wife, Teresa Ziolo by climbing up the 15 steps outside her home - on his hands.

As for me, I had a pretty good tweet about the Royals the other day and it was retweeted 12 times. Art is subjective, but I'm pretty sure I win this one.

In the world of music, Kijowski played the accordion, banjo, harmonica, violin and trumpet. He played in “The Polka Dots” for decades and they played at the weddings of my parents, my wife and I and Sports Radio 810 personality Nate Bukaty and his wife.

I played tuba in college. Learning more than one instrument is just showing off.

Stanley was a father, a husband, a grandfather, and a community centerpiece. He loved dancing, bowling, soccer, golf and softball.

I have 8,000 followers on Twitter.

Kijowski passed away at the age of 91 this week in Abilene. In addition to the accomplishments above, he was also an author of several songs as well as a book about his experiences in Nazi Germany which also included a stay at Auschwitz.

I almost died when I was 40. Because of water.

Of course I am being completely facetious here. Kijowski was a dear family friend and relative on my mother's side. The Google generation takes pride in follower counts and what type of car they drive.

The Greatest generation lived their lives out of a challenge to live - and live life to the fullest - despite the greatest odds to ever be brought upon humanity.

Rest in peace Uncle Stash, there will, quite literally, never be anyone like you.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com. He is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He also does a bunch of other stuff. And be sure to check out his weekly Royals feature, The K Replay, in The Landmark)

 


BREAK THE NEWS
4/23/14

Nearly one year ago to the day in this space, I ran a column criticizing CNN for their reporting of the Boston Marathon bombings. In the wake of their heavily erred reporting, CNN took responsibility. They promised to do better. A year later, they've become comically inept.

In a small dormitory in Columbia, Missouri in January of 1991, I sat huddled around a tiny television speckled with snow interference as I watched bombs rain down on palaces once occupied by Saddam Hussein in Iraq. These were dangerous times and the images of green anti-aircraft tracers shooting into the sky. The muffled voices of John Holliman and Peter Arnett described the carnage and the beginning of the first war I was old enough to remember. In the lower right-hand corner was CNN and a slide showing BREAKING NEWS.

This was CNN in its finest hour. This might have been television journalism in its finest hour.
Last week, CNN ran a headline under that same BREAKING NEWS moniker that read: “BREAKING NEWS: Titanic sank 102 years ago this evening.”

That was just the beginning as CNN was already embroiled in around-the-clock coverage of the lost flight of MH370, the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared over a month ago. CNN continues to relay every nugget of information under the BREAKING NEWS banner including dozens of false positives of pings and debris and rumors.

Those actual BREAKING NEWS headlines have included:

•BLACK BOX BATTERIES COULD RUN OUT IN 5 DAYS (Posted on Day 25)

•NEW OBJECT SPOTTED IN SEARCH AREA. (It was trash)

•WAITING FOR NEWS FROM SEARCH AREA (Breaking, indeed)

•THEORY: A “ZOMBIE PLANE”

•4 NEW OBJECTS “MOST PROMISING LEAD” (Also trash)

•BOEING 777 WILL STRUGGLE TO MAINTAIN ALTITUDE ONCE FUEL TANKS ARE EMPTY. (Translation: Planes need gas to fly)

CNN is in direct competition with the speed and real-time information of Twitter, yet CNN is constantly battling with whether news is news or just rumor. So they just seem to report all of it. The result is a comedy of inaccuracies, rumors and headlines describing things that are absolutely NOT “Breaking.”

The simple solution is that there's just no news breaking, right? Except that in the past month there have been a hundred, less sexy stories and dozens of them just in our own backyard. Yet CNN refuses to report anything except trash in the ocean. Stories you haven't seen on CNN:

MONKEY ESCAPES FROM ZOO, CONVINCES OTHER MONKEYS TO ESCAPE ALSO

SERIAL HIGHWAY SHOOTER CAPTURED DUE TO HONEST TO GOD POLICE WORK

RACIST SHOOTS UP JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER - SHOOTS TWO METHODISTS AND A CATHOLIC

What CNN is doing on their slow march toward fiction is besmirch the legacy of those who reported the news when it actually was breaking and does a tremendous disservice to those men describing bombs falling from the sky back in January, 1991.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


FAREWELL METRO NORTH
4/16/14

The year was 1979. I was in first grade at St. Patrick's Catholic School and everyone in Mrs. Hayes' class loaded onto a bus. It was my very first field trip and we were all very excited. My best friends Pablo and Tom and I all sat in one of the large, green, cushioned seats and took a trip for what seemed like hours. When we stepped off the bus, we walked into a building the size of the sun itself.

That building was Metro North Mall. We walked into the southwest entrance near where the jewelry store and the balloons were. I walked in and was greeted with gleaming diamonds and lights and shimmering jewels. Then I turned to my left and saw four soaring hot air balloons. Indoors! Their fire lanterns randomly firing lifting the balloons up to the air. Pablo, Tom and I sat on the steps and watched to see which one would go the highest. Could one of them hit the roof? No way, that roof is like a million feet high. Sure enough, the green and blue striped one with the red dots touched the roof.

Amazing!!

In the years that followed, I would return dozens, maybe hundreds of times to buy video games, clothes, jewelry for girlfriends, an engagement ring for my wife and more than a few cookies from one of two cookie stores. I saw The Empire Strikes Back there - three times, in fact. And my brother took one of the velvet rope posts in the eye on a summer evening requiring a number of stitches.

My weekends were filled, like I'm sure many of yours were, with looking at the dirty cards in the back of Spencers Gifts giggling when we saw the coffee mug shaped like a butt with “BOTTOMS UP” on it. We congregated around the arcade when a group of more than three kids could congregate in a place without the police being called. Our parents dropped us off at six, and picked us up at 9:30 before you had to fear being abducted or shot.

The waits for Santa were really long at Metro North. (Even though everyone knew the REAL Santa was at Antioch.)

Love was never more pure when walking hand in hand with your best girl down the long hallways and getting an Orange Julius. I had an Orange Julius the other day. For the first time in decades. It was terrible. How did we drink those? It's probably filled with gluten or carbs or something that you aren't allowed to eat anymore.

Our family would pull up in our station wagon, Mom and Dad would head in one direction, probably toward the boring Macy's. Cathy would head toward the fancy store with the expensive jeans. Angie would head for the record/CD store or ice cream. Bobby would head toward the store that sold painted mirrors and wood carvings emblazoned with “Life's a Bitch” painted on them. And I would head towars Babbages where they had all the best video games for my Commodore 64 or drop a few quarters in the arcade. We'd all reassemble at the balloons after 30 minutes and get Topsy's popcorn.

Nary a care in the world.

But back in 1979, we would lay on the steps and watch the balloons for hours. Never once did I check my phone for updates on Twitter - because Twitter and cell phones hadn't been invented yet. We learned the meaning of charity by throwing dimes and pennies into the fountain water at the base of the balloons. Sometimes, we'd roll quarters from the top step down to the water. Entertainment in the time before video games. Metro North was childhood. Metro North was those balloons.

Tuesday, Metro North closed its doors for the final time. For many years, the mall had been empty, the balloons long since taken away. A newer, smaller mall will take its place, but surely it won't have the same look and feel of Metro. The mall with the indoor hot air balloons has simply outgrown its place in the world.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


FIFTEEN YEAR ITCH
4/9/14

Next week, my wife, Kara, and I will celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary. There are three folks who sit near me at work that are either newlyweds or getting married in the next few weeks. They're driving me crazy.

They don't even know anything about marriage. Their lives are all “let's try that new restaurant around the corner” and “let's have sex before and after we try that new restaurant around the corner.” One of them came up to me the other day and asked me, “hey, you've been married for a long time, do you have any advice for us?”

Well yes, actually. I do.

Have you ever seen two really old married people at anything other than a wedding or a funeral? No.

Do you know why? It's because they've learned a word called “boundaries.” Think of it as a yellow stripe down the middle of the floor in a home. The truly great married couples respect that line. They also know when to cross it to do something together - like attend an event celebrating a friend's death. And when not to cross it - like when Dancing with the Stars is on and you would rather be alone with that Jennifer Lopez website your friend sent you the link for.

Marriage has very little to do with being together. In fact, marriage, in my experience, has more to do with understanding how to still be you while working inside of an “us” configuration.

It also has to do with learning and knowing every detail of your partner until death do you part. In the first year or so, those things are adorable - like when she sleeps, she makes this cute little fluttering sound. Until about year three, when that fluttering sound has kept you awake for the past four nights and you're starting to hallucinate the cast of Game of Thrones throwing her off of a cliff. It's a two-way street, of course. Like when you burn the toast for breakfast and your partner looks at you with the fire of a thousand suns.

Marriage doesn't just mean holding hands walking along the Plaza on a spring day. Marriage also means understanding what every stain on his underpants means and that he should probably ease up on the Indian food.

Marriage isn't about simply speaking vows in front of friends and relatives. It's about how strong those vows are. Over half of all marriages end in divorce, and I'm guessing a significant number of those have some sort of language in their final papers attributing cause to which way the toilet paper roll is supposed to go--over or under.

Marriage isn't about today. It's about tomorrow, and next year, and 15 years from now when you're trying to decide whether to put on a bra to pick up Carside to Go from Applebees because you're behind on laundry, but your husband is still bitching about eating something.

Marriage isn't just making love for hours on the kitchen table, it's also eating cereal on that same table years later wondering what you might have to sacrifice if you took that table and made it a sweet centerpiece for your podcast studio where you dissect every episode of Boy Meets World.

Marriage isn't about what you do, it's about doing it with someone - the same someone - every day - every hour - every minute for years. Fifteen years, to be exact. Choose wisely. I think I did.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


KU'S TEAM COLORS CHANGING TO YELLOW
3/26/14

Basketball season is upon us. More specifically, college basketball season. The tight window between the Super Bowl and baseball season. “March Madness” it is called around the country, but the stars beam even more brightly here in the mecca of college basketball, Kansas City. And the biggest dog in the kennel around here is the University of Kansas. Justly deserved, as the billboard said last year, this is KANSAS City when it comes to basketball.

Say what you will about the second tier of hoops around here including Missouri, Wichita State and the incredible competitiveness of the NAIA Tournament which I had the privilege of calling for 810Varsity.com this past weekend, but KU rules the roost. However, they're being awfully stingy about keeping it that way.

Time and time again, Kansas has rejected invitations to play Wichita State and Missouri in basketball. These games could be epic windfalls for college basketball and also for Kansas City, since they would likely be hosted here, but KU's crimson and blue team colors turn to yellow when they are asked to play.

For Wichita State, the Missouri Valley upstart, their intentions are to knock down the tallest tree in the forest and finally beat the big brother. The past two years, the Shockers have impressed with their program which includes a Final Four appearance and a one-loss season this year, yet the Jayhawks won't take their calls.

For Missouri, the willingness to play KU once again is always festering just beneath the surface. After having moved to the SEC conference two years ago, the administration of Kansas vowed to never allow “Rock Chalk” to be uttered along side chants of MIZ... ZOU ever again. But the rivalry and hatred runs deep between these two Civil War rivals and the longer you wait, the longer KU looks like they're simply ducking.

Kansas and Bill Self know the best way to never lose at poker is to not play, and they have no interest in pulling up a chair and being dealt in. They've not nothing to gain by accepting the invitations. Any paydays couldn't possibly overshadow the risk of taking a single non-conference loss which could jeopardize a potential #1 or #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. And yet, Kansas didn't' make it past the first weekend anyway this year, so what would it have hurt?

The child that's hurting the most because of the three-way divorce of MU, KU and WSU? KC, as it has plenty of interest in seeing amazing college basketball. An earlier Kansas-Duke game this year was the highest rated television program in Kansas City. Every seat at Sprint Center would easily be filled, as well as most bars along the P&L District. Money from across the Midwest would pour into Hoop Town. The city would become electrified and KC is never more beautiful when lit up for center court.
Yet Kansas remains the super hot cheerleader who turns her nose up at the “nerd” when they ask her to prom. Kansas might be named after the fictional bird, Jayhawks, but this move is pure chicken.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


BUSTING BRACKETS
3/19/14

Once again, it's bracket season and once again, The Landmark is offering the greatest bracket challenge in the history of the world. Beat our esteemed editor, Ivan Foley, and you win a one year subscription to the newspaper that is above all the rest - The Platte County Landmark. There's still time to get your bracket in. (But not much, Foley needs it by 11 a.m. Thursday--email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or fax 816-858-2313).

There are over nine quintillion possible brackets (that's a nine with 18 zeros.) And for the first time ever, I'm going to give you the tools on how to win. But for all the possibilities, there are basically only three types of strategies for picking NCAA Brackets.

STRATEGY 1) Pick Chalk - Picking chalk is basically picking every higher seed and picking no upsets. This is a flawed strategy because there are always upsets and sports sucks that way. Games aren't played on paper for a reason. But there is some chalk. This is a terrible strategy.

FINAL FOUR PARTICIPANTS: Florida, Virginia, Wichita State and Arizona

STRATEGY 2) Pick Upsets - Picking upsets means mixing in about 40% upsets. A 12 always beats a 5. Usually one or two 1-seed falls before the Elite 8, that type of thing. This is a flawed strategy because there are an infinite number of possibilities. Usually only one 12-5 upset happens per tournament, so your chances are 25% right there. And then picking the weakest number one seed means that team might win it all. You're pretty screwed.

FINAL FOUR PARTICIPANTS: Wichita State, Oregon, Stephen F. Austin, Harvard.

STRATEGY 3) The Secretarial Pool - For the umteenth consecutive year, your secretary or the nerd in the IT department who wears sweatpants to work will win your bracket contest. This strategy has largely been hidden from the public, but today, for readers of this newspaper, we will unveil the strategy that has picked nearly every bracket correctly since the beginning of time. That strategy is a complicated formula including a mathematical median of:

•Team Colors +
•Team Mascot factored by how closely that mascot matches their grandma's pet cat +
•Fun Name -
•Stephen F. Austin because your secretary once went out with a guy named Stephen and he never called her back divided by
•Time to complete (the shorter the time, the more likely it is you will win)

FINAL FOUR PARTICIPANTS: Pittsburgh (because Ben Rothlisberger is hot and also, ew, Stephen F. Austin), Baylor (because neon uniforms and I like bears), Harvard (because Facebook was invented at Harvard), Wichita State (because my sister lives in Wichita and she bought me a nice present at Christmas).

There you go, Kansas City. Free money. Pick one of these strategies (or one of the other nine quintillion) and clean up. Also, you only have to beat Ivan Foley, so that's nearly as easy as a 2-seed beating a 15* (unless that 2 is Missouri in 2012).

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


THE VOICES IN MY HEAD
3/12/14

Do you hear that? Wait. You don't hear that? Must just be the voices in my head.

In what will surely be used at my commitment hearing, I will now submit the following article admitting to hearing voices in my head. It's actually more of a running dialogue. Some of it is fairly benign where you hear “I'm hungry,” or “Time to go poop!” But lately there's been more of an argumentative discussion going on, all between my ears.

I've started a number of personal projects that either haven't worked out or haven't gone according to plan. When I've explained the progress to others, I've used the phrase “well, it sounded like a good idea at the time.” The “sounded” portion of that was my inner self screaming, DO IT!! DO IT!!!

He's the same guy that used to tell me to have one more beer in college or to order the double cheeseburger at the fast food place, but go ahead and get the Diet Coke to balance it all out. I know his voice very well.

Since the invention of Twitter and Facebook, I've been able to give a tangible voice to my inner dialogue. Much of the stuff my Twitter account @TheFakeNed comes directly from that inner dialogue - which is Exhibit A on why my inner dialogue is a horrible, horrible human being and never to be trusted.

Yet, here we are, having a daily argument with my inner-self. Sometimes the voice wins, sometimes I win, but there is always that struggle.

This past month I've started on a “Do-et” which isn't really a “diet” so much as it is an adjustment of eating and exercise habits designed to just do better. Getting the grilled chicken sandwich instead of the double bacon cheeseburger, for example. Parking in the back row of the parking lot instead of right next to the door to get a few more steps in - that type of thing. My inner voice is not pleased. His idea of a good day is watching 18 hours of Doctor Who on Netflix while moving as little as possible - oh, and there are also a lot of Cheetos.

I also heard from him over the weekend as our family celebrated a big achievement by my son at Cascone's restaurant. I was trying to be good but still ate too much and THEN the voice ordered a bowl of 1200 calorie bread pudding - which he ate all of.

Maybe “normal” people don't have this inner dialogue. Maybe “normal” people are able to reason with their inner voice. There are days when the voice and I have a productive dialogue, but they are too few and too far between. Every morning, there he is, telling me to stay back in bed.

In the Bhuddist religion, the “inner monologue” is a thought process that improves our lives. In the Christian faith, the inner dialogue is attributed to the Holy Spirit designed to bring us closer to God.

I just think my inner self is an executive at Burger King trying to improve profits.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


THE WEATHER
3/5/14

Forty-two years I've lived in Kansas City. That's 42 Summers, Autumns, Falls and Winters.
Screw this. I don't want to see winter number 43. This one has done it. I'm done. I'm finished. This winter just won't end. I want to see green grass. I want to see baseball being played in my backyard. I want to see the SUMMER Olympics.

I don't want to see snow plows and Facebook photos of people's car thermometers reading -2 degrees and I certainly don't want to see any more news reporters sticking rulers in the ground telling you how much snow you got.

It's March. Let's go.

If I have to watch my son and my wife watch the same reruns of TV shows on the same couch one more night, I might scream. I want to walk the dog without putting on 45 minutes of clothes. I want to eat ice cream non-ironically.

But no. For the foreseeable future, we are stuck with forecasts of 23 inches of snow (that turns into 3”?? WTH??) and we're stuck with sleet and sub-zero temperatures. We are stuck with morning radio hosts telling us that it's colder here than in Nome, Alaska. And most of all, I'm stuck driving my wife's stupid ice skate car.

When it snows, Kara, bless her heart, can't drive in the snow. She tried it a few months ago and $300 and a new front end alignment later, we decided that I would drive the ice skate while she drove my giant, gas guzzling, American-made SUV.

So, for three or four days after a snow, I have to wedge my fat butt into her little car filled with empty water bottles and power bar wrappers and change all the presets to sports talk and drive to work.

Meanwhile, she is wrapped in the comfort and luxury of my car, all the while changing the rear view mirror and moving the seat around. Then I must drive that little curling puck out of a neighborhood that is literally the last on the list to be plowed by the city. It really is a recipe for destruction.

I want to be able to get out of bed in the morning instead of feel the vitamin D leaking out of my body with each gray, cloudy, sunless day.

I want sundresses to come back. Is that so much to ask? Sundress season?

Oh sure, there have been a few signs that Spring is near. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, the NFL Combine and even the opening of Spring Training.

But I spent all day Sunday on the couch watching BBC America because my back was out from shoveling my driveway. My knees hit the steering wheel in my wife's car and I would absolutely murder someone for a properly grilled steak.

Forty-one winters. . . I have almost survived 42. Almost. Please get here soon, Spring.

(Chris Kamler is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


HONEST ANSWERS
2/26/14

Last week, I had a chance to go to a pitching clinic for elite high school pitchers. These pitchers aren't just your normal, garden variety varsity kids - these kids will be drafted by MLB teams or play at Division I NCAA programs. These are the cream of the crop.

I was invited there by an organization that wanted to help coach them on the soft skills of baseball. I was there to conduct mock media interviews. My challenge was simple - get an honest answer.

These kids were good. Many of them had already learned the art of the non-answer. “I faced a really tough opponent out there,” one told me. “Preparation and believing in yourself is key,” another told me.
Athlete interviews are among the worst interviews and rank right there among coaches interviews and politicians interviews. And there's a simple reason why - people are so starved for true honesty, we devour it and usually crush it.

So we settle for non-answers and platitudes. These kids reminded me of the scene in the movie Bull Durham where Crash Davis is coaching “Nuke” LaLoosh on how to answer the media. He instructed him to be charming, but never give a straight answer. So, we get “I'm playing it one game at a time” from our athletes and our coaches.

When we do get honesty, like a Jim Boeheim meltdown or a Hal McRae blow up, they are replayed on SportsCenter over and over again.

Just once I'd love to hear an athlete answer a question with “Well, I got in a huge fight with my girlfriend before the game after she found out I haven't left my wife yet. That was really going through my mind when I missed those free throws. Honestly, I just had a good cry at halftime.” The Internet might explode if that were to happen.

But then again, maybe honesty isn't always the best policy. Take Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Here he comes out and admits that he smokes a little crack. No big deal. Just a little crack and he drinks a lot. And that sometimes impairs his ability to govern. Okay. Maybe too much honesty isn't always best.

But we've got to work to find a happy medium. My goal with those kids was to try to get an honest answer.

“Where are you committing to play college?”

“Well, I've got a lot of great choices out there and I hope to make the best decision when the time is right.”

“You buried a few curveballs there, was it a mental or mechanical issue?”

“I just got to keep working and keep grinding and those things will take care of themselves.”

“You seemed to lose focus during the middle innings there. What was going on?”

“Well, you see, I had a missed call from my girlfriend. And we had a huge fight last night. I think she's going to take that internship in Paris and I just love her so much... <sobbing>”

Okay... maybe we all have more to work on. But let's hope we can find a happy medium between TMI and honesty.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


CURLING--THE SPORT OF KINGS
2/19/14

Like most of you, I've spent the past week watching the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia. Every two years, I say I'm not going to watch and then I am sucked in. It's not the ice dancing or the moguls or even the hockey. I can't get enough of curling.

I tend to be drawn to sports that I think that I, if not for a series of fitness choices on my part, could play at a high level. This doesn't leave me with a very large list. In fact, the list is only occupied by curling and competitive wing eating on Coney Island.

What's not to love about curling? It's shuffleboard...on ice... paired with housework. And it also looks like the kind of sport that's made for drinking beer while you do it. Oh, sure, you won't see the Olympic athletes drinking but I'll bet wherever curling is really popular, they have plenty of beer. Just like bowling and darts.

Of course I admire those athletes who do the speed skating and the triple salchow (yes, I had to look up how to spell it - why don't they just spell it SOW COW?) And it's always amusing to watch Bob Costas's eyes turn 14 shades of red, then pink, then purple. But my heart belongs to curling for the next two weeks.

The best part about it is that I don't know any of the rules! I could quote chapter and verse of the obstruction rule in the rules of Major League Baseball, or what constitutes a football move in the NFL. But I have absolutely no idea what a point is, what the strategy is or the level of skill behind curling - I just... can't... stop... watching.

So here, to the best of my ability, are the rules of Olympic Curling:

1) You get 10 innings and inside of those innings you get eight or nine or maybe 10 stones.

2) You take turns sliding your “stones” down the length of a sheet of ice to the bullseye thing at the end. Much like shuffleboard, you have to chug a beer if you get it in the center.

3) You can knock out the other team's stones, which is kind of a dick thing to do. You don't see ski jumping being interrupted by teams throwing rotten eggs at the skiers in mid-flight. But maybe that's why I like curling.

4) The sweeping. You have two people with brooms that look like lint brushes who will sweep the ice in front of the oncoming stone. These brooms either speed the stone up or slow the stone down or make the stone curl. I honestly have no idea. Oh, and the captain of the team SCREAMS at the top of his or her lungs “SWEEEEEEEEEEEEP!” It's intoxicating.

5) The team with the stone closest to the center of the bullseye wins... something... a point, maybe? Two points? A years supply of Turtle Wax? No clue. But they win, and then move onto the next inning.

That's it. That's curling. Try to not spend three hours on your couch watching it screaming at the television, “DAMMIT NORWAY!!! YOU DIDN'T SWEEP NOW YOUR STONE IS BLOCKED!!!!!” It starts to sound like you're getting a very painful prostate exam after a while.

So, thank you, curling. It's nice to see you every four years. Just think, in two years, I get to watch Olympic Trampoline. (Real sport.)

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)

 


MISSOURI HANDSHAKE
2/12/14

There are days that the stupid rains down like the snow on a February morning here in Missouri. Last week, there was a blizzard.

Let's start with the bill introduced in the Missouri Legislature to make the “High 5” the official greeting of the State of Missouri. Congratulations, Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis, D-Berkeley. It takes a lot to get elected to the state legislature. It takes money. It takes intelligence and it also takes stones. But for you to spend your precious few years serving the people, offering to help them with funding for homes and businesses and roads and official greetings, well, you are a special, special man. (Note: Don't ever Google “Missouri Handshake.” Don't do it. I warned you. You have been warned.)

Nominee number two goes to Cynthia Newsome of KSHB TV-41 here in Kansas City for striking while the iron is hot. Late last week, parents were on edge when they were notified that Linden West Elementary School in Clay County was in lockdown. The lockdown was due to a man who had refused to surrender to police nearby the school and was a precaution. Newsome, the anchor of the 41 Action News 5 p.m. newscast, sent out the following tweet, “Linden West Elem on N. Wyandotte on lockdown after shots fired nearby. Tweet me if your child goes to Linden.”

Stay classy, Cynthia. How's about you let parents locate their parents and maybe help by tweeting them information instead of trolling for good bait for your newscast? This is now the second example in the past few months of reporters and journalists taking to Twitter effectively ambulance chasing for stories. Reporting comes from “to report” and not “to leach.”

Fittingly, she sent out this tweet later in the day clearing up the matter, but also raising one additional question. (sic) “Linden West students in Gladstone are reunited with their parents after a shooting and school lickdown.”

Finally, our third nominee is a group of folks associated with a basketball game played in Texas Tech against Oklahoma State. In that game, a fan said something that caught the attention of Oklahoma State player Marcus Smart. Smart alleged it was a racial comment, the fan denied it was racial. Anyway, Smart immediately confronted the fan and pushed him. Both the fan and the player were in the wrong, but this set off a firestorm of debate across the country about race. Naturally, my Twitter feed was filled with Kansas fans and Missouri fans hating on each other. Because anything can set those two fan bases off.

The only thing worse about ambulance chasing while reporting is reporting hearsay or something incorrectly. Enter the Twitter feed of WDAF Fox 4 in Kansas City. Nobody from Fox 4 was in Lubbock, Tx. and therefore didn't report on this event, however they still tweeted the following: “We haven't done the total CSI type analysis, but it appears this is what TTech superfan Jeff Orr says to Marcus Smart: “go back to -----”.” (Dashes added by Fox 4)

As Deadspin.com accurately pointed out, KC is 700 miles from Lubbock and Fox 4 did no interviews of anyone at the venue. They just guessed and it was then picked up as factual news by other outlets across the country. But nonetheless, Fox 4 is now credited with reporting something the man may or may not have said.

This all brings to light the dangerous power the media has in the Twitter age. One false move and you can easily insult worried parents or confuse idiot fans. But, you can rest assured that we'll be giving you a Missouri Handshake on the way down.

(Chris is the editor of ramblingmorons.com and also the station director for the sports station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com)


YOUR MAMA
2/5/14

We have crossed into dangerous times. No, it's not because of nuclear proliferation by North Korea or climate change. It's because my Mom was excited to Bruno Mars was supposed to belong to the young people. Halftime shows are supposed to belong to the young people. The older folks are supposed to complain about how the music is too loud and “why can't they have that wonderful young boy Frankie Avalon singing at halftime?”

Now it's over. Our relationship is broken now. Beyond repair.

And it's not just me. Moms are ruining America. Samsung made a claim earlier in the year that only old people own iPhones now. Mom's ruined the iPhone. Think of your friend. Now what kind of phone does he or her have? Is it an iPhone? Are they an old person? Case made.

The latest proof is that Princeton University researchers recently published a study predicting that Facebook will lose 80% of its user base over the next three years? Why? That's right. Moms have ruined Facebook.

Facebook used to be the place to go for college kids to pick up other college kids. Then it became the coolest place to post pictures of your drunken Friday nights. Do you remember when your Mom friended you on Facebook? It's probably right up there with the day the Space Shuttle crashed or the day you found out about Santa Claus. It's a moment you never forget. Forever changed.

After that, you started to get posts about making sure you eat your vegetables, and questions about who that blonde was in the picture from last weekend. It stopped being fun. So everybody went to Twitter. Mom is headed there next. Now people are ejecting off of Facebook faster than the Denver Broncos chance to win the Super Bowl.

It's not Mom's fault. She doesn't mean to buzzkill the party. She's only looking out for you. And it's not the first time. Remember your first boy-girl party when you were 14? Remember when she brought out the pictures of you in the bath tub? Remember your graduation party when she showed the video of you after you got your wisdom teeth pulled out and couldn't say “potato for an hour?” These things are adorable to Mom, but they're humiliating to you.

Moms even ruined blue jeans. Blue jeans used to be worn by James Dean and Elvis. Now “mom jeans” are an actual thing worn by Michelle Obama and... your mom.

Now Mom is going after Facebook and Bruno Mars. Something must be done. The line must be drawn here. You can have Bruno Mars, but leave me Daft Punk and Twitter.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts baseball-themed radio shows. More importantly, he hosts the YouTube hit that is the Rambling Morons videocast. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)

 


IMAGINE
1/29/14

“You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.”
--John Lennon

There's a new billionaire out there, folks, and it's a 44-year-old woman. Her name is Sheryl Sandberg and she joins the roster of 1,426 billionaires worldwide, according to CNN.com. Only 138 of those are females.

Sandberg made her billion by becoming the chief operating officer of a little company called Facebook. Before that, she worked for another startup called Google. Both companies were born out of meager beginnings, by dreamers.

Dreaming is a tricky thing. For every one dream that becomes a reality of any success, thousands of dreams fail to net any substantial value. America prides herself on being a country that fosters dreamers. Land of the free. Home of the brave. McDonalds, Apple and Coca-Cola were all born by dreamers right here in America. But so was Paul Silvio's Pizza and Lemonhead's Attic.

Those two companies are, sadly, not common household names. Paul Silvio's was a pizza shop that gave me one of my first jobs. It was a small pizza place just off the I-35 ramp at Parvin Road. I was their first driver. The pizza was, simply, the best you've ever eaten. Light years ahead of Pizza Hut or Domino's, our primary competition. But we were the little guy, and never seemed to take hold in the neighborhood. It also didn't help that the owner went to jail for a short time, but I digress.

Paul Silvio's Pizza was a dream, and a damn good one. It just didn't take. Pizza Hut was the same dream, with different circumstances. This Sunday, when you'll be sitting down watching the Super Bowl, you'll likely be eating Pizza Hut and not Paul Silvios.

Lemonhead's Attic was an eBay business I started in the early 2000's. The company was named after my favorite candy, Lemonheads. And the idea was that I'd sell stuff from my house and also the “buy crap low, sell crap high” philosophy. Predictably, this company didn't take off and make me rich contrary, to the three books on eBay selling I read that made the respective authors rich. One guy bought pool tables because he knew a guy that sold pool tables, then sold them for a profit on eBay. Why couldn't I replicate the same success selling DVD's of Star Trek The Next Generation?

So, why was Lemonhead's Attic not the next Facebook? Why is Sheryl Sandberg a billionaire and Paul Silvio out of business? The truth of the matter is that most of it's luck. Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Warren Buffett put their pants on the same way we do--by hiring servants to put them on for us--or something like that. There's not much different. Sure, they might have a little higher IQ, or been born into some pretty fortunate families, but the point of all of this is that I'm not going to stop trying to find that brass ring. I might not be a billionaire at age 44 like Mrs. Sandberg, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to quit.

First order of business... order some pizza.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts basseball-related radio shows and the Rambling Morons podcast that you can find on YouTube. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)

 


I HEAR THAT TRAIN A COMIN'
1/22/14

It takes a lot to surprise me. And I'm not just talking about the occasional sports upset or getting a large fry when you ordered a medium kind of surprise. I mean genuine surprise. But this weekend it happened.

My son and I embarked on our yearly “let's leave Mom the hell alone - she's getting that look in her eyes that she might murder us” weekend and we headed up to Chicago for a guys’ weekend. Trying to be thrifty, we booked travel via the MegaBus. If you've never ridden the MegaBus, think Southwest Airlines mixed with a cattle car and throw in a couple of unknown odors that just randomly waft by. And repeat for 11 hours.

The MegaBus is not something you enjoy, but rather something you survive-like marriage or an IRS audit or testicle surgery. Though that's not the surprising part.
We enjoyed our guys weekend, taking turns farting, eating junk food, visiting landmarks and walking around the Windy City checking out the prostitutes on the sidewalks. (It was about 15 degrees, so we only saw about a dozen.) And we spent three days living like men - in that we ordered room service and left the door open when we took a crap.

The surprising part of our journey was the commute home. About three minutes after we left the MegaBus, I decided that there was no way in hell we were going home that way. Short of walking, I found a cheap ticket on Amtrak. Neither of us had taken the train before but it was recommended by a friend and the odor couldn't possibly have been as bad as the bus.

So, on Sunday we headed down to Union Station in Chicago and boarded the train. Riding the rails, we called it, as the conductor looked at us funny. Additionally, he didn't seem pleased when I asked to blow his train whistle. But I digress.

What followed was the most relaxing journey I never expected. I fly Southwest Airlines a lot and I sometimes have to drive my wife's dinky car - so I know about being cramped. The seats on Amtrak are like walking onto a boat. They fully recline. They had leg rests. It was heavenly. Where has this been my whole life?

There was an electric plug for my iPad and a lounge car with booze for my liver. I was in heaven for seven hours. Along the way, however, I started to get pretty angry that my parents loaded the four children into the station wagon every summer during my youth to drive to California or Nebraska or Florida. All of those fights, all of those “accidents,” all of the threats to turn around and go home from the front seat. Those could've all been swept away by riding on the cloud that is Amtrak.

But Amtrak is constantly in the news saying that they are near bankrupt and continue to drop offerings around the county. I'll tell you, after one ride, I'm hooked. I'm a train rider now. But Amtrak is doing nothing to help their own cause. They're really missing out on their target demographic - fat guys.

Those seats are so comfortable, all they'd have to do is install WiFi and a television and you'd get five million fat guys traveling from KC to Chicago in no time.

But the surprising thing about it is how much my son enjoyed it. “This was awesome, Dad.” And that, at the end of the day, is what it's all about.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts baseball-themed radio shows. He also hosts The Rambling Morons podcast. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)


CHEATERS ALWAYS WIN
1/15/14

I've gotten it all wrong.

Thank you, Alex Rodriguez, Chris Christie, Lance Armstrong, and a host of others for reminding me about a valuable life lesson... Throw out that “liar, liar, pants on fire” nursery rhyme and let's go with “cheaters always prosper.”

Lying is in. Cheating is the new black. I think I'm ready to learn from my mistakes in the past and finally embrace the dishonest lifestyle that will put me on top.

Alex Rodriguez continues to remind us that cheating always pays off. Oh sure, he's facing a little bit of trouble in the way of a 162 game suspension from baseball for taking steroids, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the $300 million he's made playing baseball over his career. All the while, denying he ever took any performance enhancing drugs even though evidence suggests the complete opposite. A-Rod even has folks coming out of the woodwork who admit to injecting him with things. No matter. Deny, deny, deny.

But Chris, you say that Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France titles. Yeah, but HE GOT TO HAVE SEX WITH SHERYL CROW. The man only had one testicle. Do you think he's going to bag a hottie like Sheryl Crow without some PED's? Another victory for cheating.

Jump ahead to politics--oh there's never any lying in politics. Let's look at the latest scandal, this one featuring New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who denies any involvement with creating traffic jams on the George Washington bridge. A bridge named after, ironically enough, a man who could not tell a lie. What does Christie do? Denies any involvement in the face of mounting evidence that he caused the problem. Christie might be the next President, hell, he might be elected King or Pope or something. Brilliant move, Governor!

Just think what I can accomplish with a new slate--one where I'm dishonest. I could start taking performance enhancing drugs, which, for a newspaper columnist, is really just black coffee and Red Bull. But those are two things I don't currently drink. Doesn't matter. I'm heading for newspaper glory.

Maybe I should just start copying columns out of The Pitch and turning them in. Oh boy, let the money start rolling in! All those “good” manners and traits my parents taught me like never telling a lie and respecting others -- garbage. Daddy needs him some moolah!

I can start lying. Oh boy, this is going to be great. Sure, Mr. Editor, I fact checked every one of my quotes, like the one where the mayor said that all police cars will soon be equipped with a stun gun that shoots Skittles at pedestrians. Nope, got the quote myself. Just print it. BOOM. COME ON PULITZER!!

I suppose I could continue to tell the truth and be kind to my elders and make complete stops at traffic lights. Naaahhhh... Look out world, you've got one lyin', cheatin', dopin', druggin' newspaper columnist about to raise some hell in 2014--A-Rod style.

Now, can somebody get me Sheryl Crow's number? I need a date to the Newspaper Awards.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts some baseball-themed radio shows, as well as the Rambling Morons podcast, voted the Internet’s best podcast by The Landmark. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)



LOSERVILLE
1/8/14

Loserville. Welcome back to Loserville.

You thought winning a soccer trophy was the turning point? Nope. Kansas City, you are the pits.

It's our fault, really. Not the fault of the Chiefs defense, who gaked away a 28-point lead. This one is on us. We should've seen it coming. I mean, for goodness sakes, even our mascot spent the last two months in the hospital. Was it really any surprise that Jamaal Charles left the game injured five minutes in?

This one felt like a punch in the gut after about 25 kicks in the groin and dropped a city right back into the squalor that is Loserville: Population Kansas City and Cleveland. At least Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Every year we hope and we pray and we squint and we cheer and we invest money in shirts and hats - and what do we get out of it? A 28-point swing and a 45-44 loss to extend the Chiefs winless streak in the playoffs to 21 years. The last time the Chiefs won a playoff game, NBC's Friends was eight months away from airing its first episode and Joe Montana was the quarterback.

This one is on us. We absolutely should've seen it coming. Kansas City is the home of Andrews McMeal, the publisher of Peanuts. Peanuts is the famed comic strip by Charles Schultz and features a recurring gag where Lucy repeatedly convinces Charlie Brown to try to kick a football only to pull it away at the last second--over and over and over again. There is no more perfect metaphor for Kansas City sports fandom.
Kansas City tried to dye a frozen fountain at North Oak and Vivion to show its Chiefs pride prior to their first playoff appearance in a decade. The scene looked like something out of an episode of CSI or Dexter. Rivers of red dye painted the white ice unevenly, prompting the KC Parks Department to issue a statement saying it was the first time they tried it. Ya think? Well, at least we have that haunting reminder of failure to drive by every day until March when it thaws.

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? If I offered you to be a Kansas City fan and repeatedly watch our teams puke in times of clutch for over 20 years, or, smack yourself in the face one time with a hammer and never be smacked again--wouldn't you take the hammer?

And yet, we'll line up again for tickets when they go on sale in a few months. We'll continue to buy Chiefs shirts as birthday presents and put Royals bumper stickers on our cars. We are Kansas City. We are Loserville.

At least we can put aside our pain over a 21-year playoff drought and focus on the upcoming Kansas City Royals season--a team with a 29-year playoff drought. I'm sure this will end up better. I can sense it.

I'm going to run out and buy my season tickets, right after I kick Lucy's football.

(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. He hosts baseball-themed radio shows. And he hosts the award-winning Rambling Morons podcast. Reach him through his website, ramblingmorons.com)


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