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April 20, 2012

Drop a Nickel in the Can and Pull Up a Stool …

A dusty room in a grimy building. A group of people sit on folding chairs, tightly packed into a circle. The smells of burnt coffee and cigarettes fill the air …

One man stands and looks at the group sheepishly. “Hello, my name is Stan, and I’m … I was … a blogger.”

(group, enthusiastically) “Hi, Stan!”

(group leader, with weary, knowing smile) “It doesn’t matter that you haven’t blogged lately … you’ll always be a blogger”

(heads nod around the room)

Yes, once upon a time, I ran a little thing called the MarlinBlog. For four and a half years, the words flowed from my fingers like wine from a vineyard, and tens of people reveled in the unique combination of snark and humor it served up daily. But time takes a toll on creativity, and in December of 2010 the MarlinBlog went dark.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, even when it seemed a chore, so I knew I’d come back to this space one day – it would just take the right combination of time in my life to fill and angst/frustration at the world around me to serve as fuel. Looking at my life today, the work project I’ve been driving forward for the last few years has gone into production, the live-in girlfriend has moved out and I’ve received my first AARP card. As you might imagine, there’s a lot for me to work through. So, much like the recovering alky who is always a sip away from his next bender, I’m raising the bottle to my lips and taking a hearty swig. To the joy of some and the chagrin of many, we’re back – welcome to the resurrected MarlinBlog.

As before, look for the ol’ MB to be my unique, sometimes twisted look at life and the people who make it so damned interesting. One thing I learned long ago remains true now. While Daryn Kagan may be able to make a happy blog work, mine runs smoothest – and gets the most visibility – when I’m probing into the darker corners of society, looking for seams and cracks and voids where something might be hiding … and then dragging it into the light to poke fun at. Politicians, celebutards, even the common man aren’t safe from the rusty yet rapier-sharp wit of your humble host. We’ll find the silly and nonsensical and laugh at it together – and then drop in a serious-as-a-heart-attack post just to see if you’re paying attention. It should be fun …

Back in the day, we had regular features we’d run, such as the Monday Sports Rant and the Weekend Eye Candy, but I think for now we’re going to be a little more organic and avoid anything so predictable. That said, if I feel like bitching about the Marlins or sharing a picture of some hot little number I will, not because I have to but because I want to. Same goes for the regularity of posting – when I have something to say, I will, but I won’t bore you with crap. You can always visit Ariana Huffington for that.

So that’s it for now. If you’re excited, let me know. If you’re terrified, let me know. If you’re bored, well, you can just go in the corner and nod off. For now, we’re back – older, wiser but no less pithy. Tell a friend …

November 30, 2010

Nothing To See Here, or Your Tax Dollars At Work

With all the hoo-haw about body scanners and overly personal airport searches, the Transportation Security Administration has been in the news quite a bit lately. Formed knee-jerk style in the aftermath of 9-11, the TSA is responsible for maintaining security on all forms of public transit in America – although nowhere are they as visible … or reviled … as in the departure terminal at your local airport.

Frankly, I don’t understand what the big deal is – you pass through a scanner that has no camera and no way for the operator to connect the image on the screen to the person being scanned, and you get cleared with no one having to touch you. Seems like a win-win to me, but like everything in our post-9-11 world, it needs a little tweaking.

There are protests and boycotts and petitions going around in an attempt to do something … anything … to improve the system, but I prefer my favorite weapon in such times. I therefore bring you an advance look at the 2010 Girls of the TSA calendar …

I’m sure that’s got your junk tingling … either that, or you’re standing too close to the scanner again. This particular meme has been rolling around the internet in email form for the last few days, and I figured it was time it made it into the blogosphere – props to the guy … and girl … who made it happen.

November 29, 2010

RIP Leslie Nielsen

They say that somewhere between birth and death, if you can make people smile you’ve done a good thing. If that’s true, then Leslie Nielsen did a very good thing, and he’s now come to the end of his journey.

Nielsen came from his native Canada to Hollywood in the fifties, and was cast as your typical leading man – check out his performance as the heroic lead in the classic sci-fi flick “Forbidden Planet”. By any measure, he was very successful, with dozens of films and hundreds of television episodes on his resume’. But it was his turn as the straight-laced doctor on a doomed flight in the comedic disaster sendup “Airplane” that introduced a different Neilsen to a new generation.

Dr. Rumack (Nielsen): Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious.
Rumack: I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.

“Airplane” was followed by the short-lived series “Police Squad,” where Nielsen’s Rumack was reborn as Detective Frank Drebbin. The series may have tanked after 6 episodes, but it begat three “Naked Gun” movies, and a whole new comedic career for Nielsen.

Leslie Nielsen died of complications from pneumonia in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He was 84.

November 11, 2010

Good News On The Sands

I was born and raised at the beach and, while no one would confuse me for an athlete, I have a deep appreciation for beach sports. Thus it was with a heavy heart that I reported back in August on the demise of the AVP, the professional beach volleyball tour. Those of us who care for the sport feared we were entering a dark decade, but it appears that the light at the end of the tunnel is a lot closer than we had feared.

When the AVP collapsed the week before the iconic Manhattan Beach Open, the California Beach Volleyball Association stepped in, allowing the event to proceed – albeit in a much smaller version. That was a one-time deal, however, and the rest of the season was cancelled. That left the tour players – among them, the defending Olympic Men’s and Women’s champions – with no domestic options to ply their craft or hone their skills. Worse, the only Olympic-qualifing events would now be overseas as part of the FIVB tour, meaning the best American players would play in Europe, and the rest would be unemployed. By the time a new domestic tour could be organized and financed, the current generation of players would be long retired – and no one would be there to replace them.

I’m happy to report that the Doomsday scenario described above might just be avoided. USA Volleyball, the governing body for the sport in America, has partnered with event management giant IMG to form a new professional beach volleyball tour – and it starts next year!

The Beach Championship Series will consist of four to six events and include tournaments in Hermosa Beach, Huntington Beach, Chicago and Belmar, NJ. In addition, the USAV will operate the Olympic trials for the first time since 1996.

“This represents USA Volleyball’s continuing commitment to and investment in beach volleyball,” said USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal in a statement released Monday. “This partnership will allow us to promote the beach game while giving U.S. beach volleyball teams the opportunity to compete at a high level as we move toward London in 2012.”

There’s more good news associated with the announcement. Dave Williams, formerly the VP of Operations for the AVP and they guy who produced over 150 of their tournaments, has been hired as the Managing Director for the new USA Beach Volleyball, meaning there’ll be an experienced hand at the controls.

Personally, I think this is great news. It’s nice to see USAV working on the beach side of things for a change, and bringing the right people into the mix to insure success. It’ll be interesting to see if they integrate Manhattan Beach into their series – key to long term success – but this is a big step in the right direction for fans of the sport.

November 10, 2010

Lovely Cruise My Ass

There’s wind in our hair
And there’s water in our shoes
Honey, it’s been a lovely cruise

– Jimmy Buffett, “Lovely Cruise”

I have a hunch that very few people onboard a Carnival Cruise Lines week-long trip down the Mexican Riviera are waxing poetic about their cruising experience right about now. As I write this, the CARNIVAL SPLENDOR is under tow somewhere about 120 miles off Ensenada, slowly headed towards San Diego. An engine room fire on Monday left the ship powerless and adrift, requiring intervention by both the Coast Guard and Navy, as well as a small fleet of tugs hired to drag the disabled ship home.

Engineers were not able to restore power to the ship, which was operating on auxiliary generators, a Carnival statement said. As of Tuesday, “several key hotel systems, including air conditioning, hot food service and telephones are not available,” the cruise line said.

Engineers were able to restore toilet service to most cabins and all common-area bathrooms, as well as cold running water, the line said. “The ship’s crew continues to actively work to restore other services.”

Guests are able to move about the vessel and children’s activities and entertainment are being offered, Carnival said.

The Navy aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which was training nearby, was dispatched to provide water and food to the 4400 passengers and crew. This may have provided some excitement not on the schedule of events, but unfortunately the menu is currently limited to Spam and Pop-Tarts …

This being America, I’m sure that as soon as the ship is in cellphone-range of the US, passengers will be hiring lawyers to help compensate them for the “emotional distress” they faced. It’s worth noting, however, that Carnival has been more than generous in their compensation package for the stranged passengers – each will receive a full refund for their trip, including any transportation costs associated with reaching the departure point of Long Beach, as well as a voucher for a free future cruise.

Of course, back in the day, Captain Stubing would have sent Gopher and Doc down to the engine room with some paperclips to fix the problem, and had Isaac fire up the frozen concotion maker … and all would have been well … :-)

November 2, 2010

The Fatal Flaw of American Democracy

As Americans, we love to tell people how things should be. More often than not, we think the way we do things is the right way, and your way is backward/primitive/wasteful/wrong/fill in here. That’s particularly true when it comes to our own form of democracy, which we’d franchise like KFC and export to the world if we could (which more than one pundit would argue is exactly what we’ve tried to do with every war we’ve been involved in during the last century). In America, anyone can aspire to any leadership position they desire, and if they can convince their fellow citizens to elect them, their desires can become reality. That’s a really good thing, because it means that no matter who you are or what your background, you can rise as high as your powers of persuasion will allow – and you have to look no further than the current President to see just how far one can go.

But there’s a fundamental problem with a system where the people select who should represent them as the leaders of the government – you have to select one of the candidates. That’s been a real problem for most voters lately, since more often than not they don’t really like any of the candidates that are presented for selection. As today is Election Day in America, millions of registered voters will hold their nose, enter the voting booth, and select the candidate who least offends their sensibilities – very few will actually vote for someone they really want to see represent them. There’s a lot of reasons why we have no decent candidates, from a vetting process that effectively eliminates anyone with real-life experiences (which, more often than not, includes the mistakes of life from which leadership is forged) to the genuinely qualified candidates being smart enough to stay away from politics and the mudslinging catfight that it all too often becomes, but the net result is an election that is really a selection of the lesser of a number of evils.

That’s certainly the situation we face today in California as we head off to the polling places. As I look at the options I have, from top to bottom I see little to get excited about:

– For governor, I can select between a burn-out we chased out of Sacramento three decades ago or a gadfly businesswoman who’s thrown over $100 million at the election.

– For lieutenant governor, my choices are a NorCal mayor who was unwilling to face the personal scrutiny that comes with running for the higher office or a hold-over who was given the job as a reward for betraying his party.

– For senator, there’s the current senator who’s done little but lap up the perks of office for 20 years versus a fired former corporate CEO with no political experience.

You can see why I get less than enthused by the prospects.

Of course, being California, we also get the joy of the ballot propositions – a unique experience so violently abused by interest groups that it’s the fodder for late night TV. Among the highlights this year are one that would decriminalize marijuana use (rather pointless, considering narcotic control and enforcement is a federal issue) and another that will try to force the state government to actually do its job by stripping their salary and benefits if they fail to pass an on-time budget. We wouldn’t need that last one if we could just vote the bastards out of office, but there’s that whole “no viable candidates” thing interfering again.

Even my local city election isn’t immune to the silliness – there’s a proposition on the ballot in Redondo Beach that’s so long (180 pages) that Los Angeles County forced the city to foot the bill to print the voter information pamphlets … er, booklets … er, tomes.

Did my part ... such as it is

But we do what we can and I will vote for the best that is offered – or, more accurately, have voted. I, like the majority of my fellow Californians, vote as a permanent absentee voter, giving me the time to leisurely review the voting materials, wipe the vomit from my lips and fill out my return-by-mail ballot. It’s convenient to not have to find time to visit the polling place, and nice to be able to swear like a sailor at the ballot without the guy in the next booth complaining. As more and more voters follow my lead, it’s going to make the process of predicting winners harder to do, and that just adds interest to the process, in my opinion – we’d all love to see a modern-day version of the “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment …

As for the big picture, it sounds like the typical off-cycle election backlash against the party in power is going to be bigger than usual, although I suspect it will be smaller than believed. Republicans are likely to regain the majority in the House of Representatives, stripping the gavel from Nancy Pelosi and handing it to John Boehner, whose avowed goal is to spent the next two years undoing the legislative activity of the last two. In the Senate, the gap betweent the parties is going to close, although the Dems will probably retain their majority. Who exactly will lead that majority is in question, however, as Senate Majority leader Harry Reid is in a tight battle with a Republican/Tea Party candidate and may not survive the fight to lead again. The whole Tea Party phenomenon will have its first noticeable effect with this election, and I suspect it’s not going to be the one they hoped for. A lot of Democrats who might otherwise have lost their seats will find themselves pleasantly surprised tomorrow when they win elections they ought to have lost. Too often, Tea Party and traditional Republican candidates are fighting each other for votes, effectively splitting the electorate. Also, the dogmatic sniping between the camps is distasteful to many in the middle, and many of the uncommitted voters who might otherwise have voted Republican are being pushed to the left.

Either way, it should make for some interesting prime time viewing tonight – and that in itself is a rare thing … :-)

October 20, 2010

You’re Not Really Surprised, Are You?

The internet is a-Twitter (sorry, bad pun) with the news that most of the games offered on the social network Facebook – including the 10 most popular – sell information about their users to third-party advertisers. Privacy advocates are screaming that this is one more example of Facebook’s ongoing lack of respect for their users, and Facebookers are organizing boycotts.

I’m a frequent Facebook user, and I maintain a FB fan page for SCMO. I consider myself reasonably security-savvy on both Facebook and larger internet, and I have only one thing to say about this:


As is often the case, the truth isn’t nearly as exciting as the hype. It’s true that the game companies are passing along information about their users, but all they provide is the userid for their customers – nothing else. Now, having the userid does allow an advertiser to look up information about a specific user on FB, but they’ll only see what that user allows outsiders to see via their privacy settings – and by now, everyone should be well-versed on how to control those.

Beyond that, people need to take a step back from the keyboard and realize where they are. From the moment it stopped being a government-run tool, the internet has been all about one thing – making money. All that stuff you do online for free – do you really believe it comes with no cost? What you do is financed by advertisements, and website authors – remember, Facebook is just a big website – are all looking for better ways to target ads to their visitors.

Larry Flynt, who was one of the first people to use the internet as a business tool (remember, porn helped the internet as we know it today), sums it up pretty well:

“The minute you sign onto the Internet you are being watched, not just by our government, but also by our major corporations. They know where you go, what you buy, what your interests are and what illnesses you have. This is powerful information that can be used in any number of ways, not all of them to your benefit.”

My basic philosophy is to treat any information you enter anywhere on the internet as public, and never publish anything I wouldn’t be willing to see spammed across the net. Whether this blog, my forum posts or my Facebook wall, I assume the worst and that it’s all out there. There’s an entire generation of camwhores who haven’t figured that out yet, and will come to regret it one day, but that’s for another rant. For now, never lose sight of the fact that the internet is only as private as everyone wants it to be – and not everyone wants it to be private …

October 15, 2010

The Old Girl’s Still Got It …

Once upon a time, the Big Three networks ruled the airwaves. A group of upstarts at FOX wanted to change that, turning to edgy programming skewed to a younger demographic to establish their place on the dial. It worked, as shows like “Married … with Children” and “The Simpsons” paved the way for Fox to join ABC, NBC and CBS as a permanent television network.

Amazingly enough, The Simpsons are still with us today, rolling on twenty years after graduating from a series on short skits on the “Tracey Ullmann Show”. Today, it is the longest-running series in the history of television, and showing no signs of ending anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t getting a little long in the tooth – what was once edgy and daring can with time seem stale and stodgy … just ask Jerry Brown.

The good folks at Gracie Films understand the criticism, and despite the long run are capable of bringing the heat when necessary, as we saw last Sunday. One of the long-running gags on the series is the opening credits, where we get a thumbnail view of the Simpsons world, often spiced up with topical references. Last night, though, it was a little spicier than normal, as British street artist Banksy provided his perverted spin on the credits – complete with a look inside the Simpson merchandising process … and the seemingly deplorable conditions therein:

Now, on one hand it’s nice to think that the Simpsons can still be edgy after all these years, willing to bite the hand that feeds them. But we can also invision Rupert Murdoch’s FOX minions chuckling as they count the money, secure insiders to the gag. We’ll leave it to you to decide …

October 13, 2010

The Best Of Us All

As I write this, Luis Urzua has just stepped from a small metal cylinder onto the rocky ground above the San Jose Mine in the Chilean desert. Urzua, foreman and leader of the 33 miners trapped for nearly 70 days after a collapse sealed the only exit to the mine, was the last of the miners to be rescued – like the captain of a ship, he refused to leave until all of his charges had preceded him. As he exited the Fenix 2 rescue capsule that brought freedom to the trapped miners, he was bathed in the bright lights of media cameras and washed over with the loving embrace of a world of rapt witnesses.

Like the rest of the world, I was unable to turn away from the coverage. Cynics and conspiracy theorists will decry the tight control and choreography of the event by the Chilean government, who dictated everything from where the media could be to the t-shirt-and-custom-Oakley-sunglasses wardrobe each miner wore to the surface, but even the harshest critic was stunned when the government began to stream live video from within the survival chamber deep underground – just as the first rescue capsule arrived. Over the next day, miner after miner made the ride to the surface to be met with fresh air, family members, and the Chilean president. Some cried, some prayed, some exalted – all were elated. It was human theater on the grandest of scales.

We salute you, amigo ...

Commentary and coverage of this event can be found everywhere, so I’ll spare you the same talk of the heroic miners, their stoic families, and the hard-working team (including American drillers brought in from Afganistan to dig the escape tunnel) – all of which is true. To me, everything that is right and good about this wonderful outcome is personified by Manuel Gonzalez. A mine rescue expert, it was Gonzalez who first strapped himself into the untested rescue capsule for the first ride down 2,000 feet to the miners below. At a time when so much was being done to bring the miners out of the mine, it was Gonzalez – much like the heroic FDNY rescuers of the World Trade Center – who volunteered to take that ride into the unknown. Imagine for a moment what that must have been like – 15 minutes in a metal tube scant inches wider than your shoulders, surrounded by millions of tons of rocks with no control over your descent. It’s the stuff of nightmares – and hero tales.

To say the miners’ lives will never be the same is the silliest of understatements – hell, there’s already discussion about who should play them in the movie version of the rescue – but all of us who joined together in this worldwide event are changed forever. I was too young to appreciate the enormity of the first footsteps on the moon, but I have no doubt that this rescue will resonate through the ages in much the same way. It showed what can be done when everyone puts aside the petty issues of the day and brings all they have to bear on a challenge of momentous proportions. We are reminded once again that there is no issue that cannot be resolved, no problem that cannot be solved, no challenge that cannot be met if we apply the best of us all.

One last image for the ages:

September 27, 2010

Hot Enough For Ya?

And it's only partly sunny ...

You know, if I didn’t know better (or at least, hope better), I’d think Al Gore might be right.

We went all summer without anything that resembled summer, and now in the first week of fall we have the hottest day in the recorded history of Los Angeles. It hit 113 degrees this afternoon at the recording station downtown – so hot, in fact, that it broke the station … it may have been even hotter! Out in the San Fernando Valley, where it’s objectionably hot on even the most pleasant of days, it got even warmer. It was so hot today in Los Angeles (“How hot was it”), you could have cooled off by driving to Palm Springs … :-)

Those of us who pay extra to live at the beach do so to avoid such unusual occurances, but as you can see from the graphic we didn’t avoid the heat even here at the Home Office. Partly sunny and 98? Miserable … just miserable.

I’m thinking this afternoon would be a perfect time to curl up in a hammock under a couple of shade trees with the one you love. Now if I only had some trees, a hammock, and a one … :-\