Saturday, December 20, 2014

'A Funeral Story'

Jason Offutt’s first novel, “A FuneralStory,” is here.

Flirting with the bereaved isn’t easy Deever Dickson is a normal guy. He has friends, mows the lawn, bowls on Saturday, and hates his job. But Deever has a secret. A secret that rates so high on the Creepometer he can’t tell anyone – ever. Deever Dickson has sex with strangers at funerals. Deever’s adept at keeping his sex life hidden. What he never anticipated was meeting Marissa, a woman with the same hobby, and falling for her – hard. When someone close to Deever dies at the biggest science fiction convention of the year this is one funeral Deever and his new relationship are not prepared for. Filled with romance, funerals, beer, bowling, and a time machine, A Funeral Story chronicles the love of Deever Dickson, a normal guy with an abnormal secret.

You can find “A FuneralStory” at

Saturday, July 05, 2014

It's a phone, it's a computer, it has too many buttons

The telephone, to me, has always been a tool. You know tools. Like that woogly one you bought 10 years ago to replace the faucet in the bathroom and haven’t used since.
I’ve never like telephones. I’ve always figured anyone who wants to talk to me badly enough to call must have some sort of separation anxiety and should probably work on that in therapy instead of bothering me while I’m on the toilet.
So it really bothered me when I realized I traveled enough it would only make sense to invest in a cell phone for safety reasons. That was eight years ago. I got the cheapest I could, a stone box you probably saw on “The Flintstones.” The one with the bird inside who carved the telephone conversation into granite and flew it off to whomever Fred was trying to call.
My cell phone was marvelous. I could call people on it. Period. I couldn’t text, I couldn’t take pictures, and if I ever wondered who played the oldest Von Trapp kid* in “The Sound of Music,” I could just wait until I got home to look it up. Seriously. It wouldn’t even bother me.
That phone was the size of a deck of cards that was missing most of three suits, and hardy as a Scotsman. I dropped it into a lake in 2008 and it still worked fine.
Of course, the day came when I had to get a new one. I held on as long as possible, but it was as hard to find parts for my talk-only phone as a 1946 DeSoto. When the battery went, I knew technology had past me by.
So my wife and I went to the phone store. It wasn’t called the phone store, but it was a store that sold phones, so it should have been.
Walking around the phone store was like walking around the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise. There were more screens flashing, chirping, and warning us we were approaching the Klingon Neutral Zone than should have been possible in such a small room.
With any of these telephones, the user could text, email, IM on Facebook, Tweet, update their blog, watch “The Walking Dead,” order pizza, and maybe – just maybe – place a telephone call. I bet any one of them could solve that Von Trapp kid problem if I’d bothered to touch one.
I’m not anti-technology. I love technology. Hulu is fantastic, I’m still somewhat humbled by the microwave, I like wiping a thermometer across a forehead instead of having to, uh, you know, and I appreciate, although am somewhat terrified by, the fact that I can see the outside of my house from my computer screen without ever having to get up from the couch.
So I was more than happy when my wife and I made it out of the store with a brand new cell phone each. Ones that we can call people on.
I’m surprised a company still makes them.

*Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich von Trapp) played Peter Parker in “The Amazing Spider-Man” TV series from 1977 to 1979. I don’t really care about “The Sound of Music,” but I do care about Spider-Man.

Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An epic beer run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at The Daily Forum.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

You’re advertising what now?

The ad was out of place
My wife and I were watching a BBC teen comedy raunch-fest about a group of mismatched first year college students forced to share a house, when we noticed something odd.
“I noticed something odd,” my wife said in an amazing display of knowing precisely what I was going to write the next morning.
“You mean the commercial?”
She nodded. “It doesn’t really fit, does it?”
No, it did not. All the previous commercials for birth control and pimple cream went along with the theme of the show. Especially the birth control disclaimers, which, if these won’t keep young people from having sex, nothing will – symptoms include blood clots, sudden high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, liver tumors, high blood pressure, headaches, depression, weight gain, acne, and I believe your gall bladder explodes.
The odd commercial was for erectile dysfunction, and it was played during a program that’s core demographic were people who still get I.D.ed buying cigarettes. Why would a company run a commercial during a young person’s program featuring people who were basically Abe Vigoda and Olivia de Havilland getting frisky? By the way, both actors are still alive, and in their 90s.
A poll I’m not making up (I actually did read it, I just don’t remember where) shows 60 percent of Americans believe advertising is out of control. With ads on things we wear, an 87,000-square-foot KFC logo in the Nevada desert that can be seen from space, and erectile dysfunction commercials during what is basically the British version of Beavis and Butthead, I’m not surprised.
Astronauts love the DoubleDown.
The same poll showed 61 percent of Americans, who must have seen the Abe Vigoda/Olivia de Havilland commercial, have a negative opinion of advertising. Every time a lapful of cologne-scented cards falls from a magazine, I get the same feeling.
Of course, we can do nothing but deal with it.
Ad space makes up 50 percent of a magazine, and 60 to 80 percent of a newspaper. Radio stations run about 28 minutes of advertising every hour, and television runs 13:52 minutes an hour. Of course, that doesn’t take into consideration the 7:59 minutes of product placements within the programs themselves. The Internet? Pfft. Every web page looks like a NASCAR driver’s uniform.
Yeah. Deal with it.
I listen to sports talk in the morning while cooking breakfast for the kids before I shove them out the door to the school bus and go back to bed. No erectile dysfunction commercials. No, not here. Just commercials for testosterone replacement therapy (the Girl hasn’t asked what that is yet. Phew), and beer.
Beer commercials? At 6:30 a.m.? Who are they trying to reach? Sure, Bud Man has been hopelessly unemployed for decades, but I’d hope he has something more constructive to do than drink beer before 7 a.m.
I’m not against advertising. Heck, it paid my salary for almost 20 years. I just want it to get out of my face. There, I’m taking a stand. I won’t spend money on obnoxious advertising.
And ... I’m wearing a Kansas City Chiefs T-shirt. Wow. I’m part of the problem.

Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An epic beer run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Take me out to the old bounce house

It was the perfect night for baseball. Sunny, with temperatures in the mid-70s and my family was there.
Oh, yeah. My family. We were at a baseball game and I’m the only person in my family who likes baseball.
I take that back. I’m the only person in my family who likes sports. The Boy enjoys watching football with me for the cheese dip and chili at halftime, but once the food’s gone, so is he. When attending a sporting event comes up, my wife tells horror stories of childhood baseball games.
So why aren’t I going alone?
Oh, yeah, the bounce house.
The May 28 St. Joseph Mustangs game versus the Rossville Rattlers* was “Life’s a Beach Night.” Dollar nachos, $2.50 margaritas, and a bounce house to keep the kids from asking for food between every pitch. Perfect.
With nachos and enough napkins for everyone – seriously, everyone in the ballpark. Offutts are messy – we found our seats just in time for the first pitch.
First Inning: “Hey,” the Boy said. “She got more nachos than me.”
The Girl, whose eating methods can best be described as the Pick and Giggle, is always the last person eating. Her plastic bowl was half full. The Boy’s was empty.
“She didn’t get more than you,” my wife said. “She just eats slower. Now calm down.”
He stared at his mother for a minute, looking for any loophole that would lead to more nachos. Situations like this make me wonder if he’ll go into law.
Second Inning: The Girl tugged at my wife. “I want to go to the bouncy house.”
Bottom of the Second: “What are they doing?” my wife asked.
One of the beautiful things about having a nine and seven year old is they’re big enough we can parent without standing, or walking.
“I don’t know,” I said. He’d stood with his sister by the bounce house for half an inning. I got up to check. It’s not like I wanted to watch the game or anything.
Third Inning: “The bounce house costs a dollar,” I told my wife when I got back to our seats.
“That’s (colorful expletive),” she said, and got up to complain.
Bottom of the Third: My wife sat down. “She can bounce all night for free.”
I don’t know what she said or to whom, and I don’t want to know.
Fourth Inning: “Can we get peanuts?” the Boy asked.
“Not now,” I said. “I’m trying to watch the game.”
Fifth Inning: “Can we get popcorn?” the Boy asked.
“Not now. I’m trying to watch the game.”
Sixth Inning: “Do you want to split a chili dog?” my wife asked.
Really? Am I the only one who realizes there’s a game?
Bottom of the Sixth: The Girl showed up, her hair matted with sweat. “They told me I had to take a break from bouncing.”
She complains about family walks yet can bounce for three innings.
Seventh Inning: We bought ice cream and went home.
Yep, we lasted until the seventh inning, which is a record for us. My family was asleep before we hit the interstate. My goal is to see an entire game one of these days. Maybe.

*Rossville, I discovered, is a city somewhere in central Kansas. Town motto, “Wheat.”

Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An epic beer run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I'd Like a McTerrifying, and a Diet Coke to go, please

McDonald’s has a new mascot for its Happy Meals. You know the Happy Meal, a hamburger/French fry/soda/toy combo that used to come with a cookie (cheapskates), that’s now a hamburger/cheeseburger/McNugget/French fry/apple slices/soda/milk/toy combo (although no child would order apple slices and milk on purpose).
That mascot is Happy. We’ll talk about Happy soon enough.
The McDonald’s corporation has always mystified and somewhat frightened me.
Mystified in the sense that I know what I’m eating is bad for me, and I know what I’m eating is probably taking years off my life, so why I’m I still eating it? And why am I making “nom nom nom” noises?
Frightened in the sense that McDonald’s is so good at selling these addictive, fatty hamburgers it has 35,000 locations worldwide, nearly half of those in the United States. Urp.
Oh, and there’s the clown. Clowns scare the hell out of me.
The first McDonald’s mascot was Speedee, an overweight little man in a chef’s uniform, who had a hamburger for a face. This wasn’t an advertising gimmick; it’s just what McDonald’s employees looked like in the 1950s.
In 1962, McDonald’s replaced Speedee, who was at least friendly and didn’t want to swallow your soul, with Ronald McDonald, who did. What the McDonald’s corporation didn’t take into consideration with Ronald is that 15 percent of the population suffers from coulrophobia, a fear of clowns. The percentage of the population that is left-handed is only 13 percent. This means absolutely nothing, except for the fact that there are roughly 6.28 million more Americans terrified by the McDonald’s mascot than are left handed.
That’s a lot. I’m just saying.
However, the terror didn’t stop there. In the 1970s, McDonald’s unveiled McDonaldland, an entire world of terrifying mascots; hamburger-headed politicians and police officers, a purple shake-gulping blob, French Fry Goblins, and dancing McNuggets. There’s a rule on the farm, “Don’t give livestock names. Nobody wants to eat a hamburger named Suzie.” Or, in this case, Mayor McCheese.
Now there’s Happy. An animated Happy Meal box with blue eyes (although only eight percent of the world’s population has blue eyes. Hmm), cartoon appendages and a mouth STRAIGHT OUT OF A NIGHTMARE.
This thing’s gaping black maw has a tongue the size of a human foot and more teeth than a dinosaur.
Little Johnny: “Why’s it smiling like that, Dad?”
Dad:Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes …”
Little Johnny: “This is McDonald’s, Dad. Not Jaws.”
Dad: “Don’t be so sure, son.”
You’d think a $97 billion corporation could afford to hire someone to, oh, I don’t know, keep their main Happy Meal demographic from wetting themselves in terror.
A good mascot makes people say, “Awe. How cute. I want one, too.” Like Gidget, the Taco Bell Chihuahua.
A good mascot does not make people cover their eyes screaming, “Oh, for all that is holy. Kill it. Kill it with fire.”
Thanks, McDonald’s. I may not sleep tonight.

Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An epic beer run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at