The Thursday Rundown Before Halloween

It is the Thursday Rundown before Halloween! Unfortunately, none of the topics tonight have anything to do with October 31. Hope you still enjoy…

Apple Fries – This past weekend, Sidney and I went to an Oktoberfest celebration in Myrtle Beach. It was what you would expect with music, vendors, and good beer. But there was one anomaly. A certain tent was set up selling an item called apple fries. Once you saw a person walking off with an order you immediately understood what they were. I went to go get some for Sidney and I. Each serving is made to order meaning the wait can be a little long. Once I put my order in, it took about 15 minutes. But it was worth it! After the lady took the freshly deep fried apple strips and shook them in sugar and cinnamon, she asked if I would like whipped cream, caramel, or both. Was that even a question? She poured hot caramel in a compartment on the serving tray and then sprayed whipped cream on top of it. Sidney and I then sat on the curb and enjoyed.

These were the apple fries we enjoyed last Saturday.

These were the apple fries we enjoyed last Saturday.

Newest Social Circle – My mom texted me earlier this week and told me that the Social Circle she had just watched was her favorite of all-time. With that type of recommendation, don’t you just have to watch it? I got to focus on the creativity of our students for this latest segment. Make sure you watch the full two minutes though, the ending is silly. Click here to watch.

I enjoyed filming this Social Circle segment.

I enjoyed filming this Social Circle segment.

Joe Moglia Speaks – This week our Wall College of Business here at CCU held an annual event called Wall Connections. Each year, guest speakers come and speak to the business students about a certain theme. One of the speakers this year was no other than head football coach Joe Moglia. For those who don’t know, Coach Moglia is a legendary business icon who served as the CEO of TD Ameritrade. The multi-millionaire left his high profile job to get back to coaching football and eventually ended up here at CCU. Since I have arrived at Coastal, I have heard him talk about football over and over. Don’t think it gets boring though, he is an extremely talented and engaging speaker. With that said though, it was extremely interesting on Tuesday to hear him talk about his life story and his career in business. He has a way of thinking and a way of living that makes it so obvious on why he has been so successful.

A photo I took of Joe Moglia speaking at Wall Connections on Tuesday.

A photo I took of Joe Moglia speaking at Wall Connections on Tuesday.

Food For Thought – Every now and then I like to share a quote from my Life’s Little Instructions calendar. I thought the advice for Wednesday was right on. First off, deferring satisfaction builds discipline. It also helps you to grow and test your limits. But what I like the most about deferring satisfaction is rewarding yourself with it (whatever it might be) later down the road after you have proven that you are strong enough to go without.

Some good food for thought.

Some good food for thought.

Wedding Update #11 – Last night, Sidney and I attended our third Pre-Cana meeting. The past two weeks we talked mostly about family and where our influences came from. At this latest meeting, we touched on different subjects. Sex, money, and communication were prominently discussed! Don’t think it was awkward or difficult, though. As I have said before, our sponsor couple is absolutely incredible and obviously these issues are critical to a strong marriage so it is very important to talk about.


I ask that you all have safe Halloweens. Watch out for Count Brentula and reward trick-or-treaters with the immediate satisfaction of premium candy (they can wait a few years before deferring to it). Don’t Blink.

Learning More About the Teaching Profession

I am always trying to learn more about the teaching profession. Not just because I will be marrying a teacher soon but because I am just so interested and appreciative of what they do. Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to grow my understanding of the profession a little bit more.

Our Spadoni College of Education here at CCU hosted the State of Education in South Carolina Educational Forum on Tuesday night. Sidney and I attended. Organized by Edward Jadallah, the dean of the college, it was pretty much an all-star event. The forum brought the state superintendent to campus to headline the evening. Two powerful players joined her on stage as well including the superintendent for Horry County Schools (the district that Sidney works in) and the superintendent for Georgetown County Schools. A couple more folks also added a lot to the event and I will get to them soon.

Dr. Edward Jadallah opening up the forum last night.

Dr. Edward Jadallah opening up the forum last night.

One thing you have to understand is that South Carolina is poor. Many students in the state’s schools come from families living way under the poverty line. Much of last night’s discussion centered on this issue.

The evening started with a keynote address from State Superintendent Molly Spearman. New to the job, she made her top goal very clear. She wants to implement more after school programs and summer programs for students in the state. She said it is crucial that these programs are available for the state’s poorest students. When the school year ends and summer begins, the progress that has been made by students coming from financially troubled families dissipates. While kids who are better off go to camps or on vacations, the ones without these advantages stay home and do very little. They gain no “life experiences” (phrase used over and over last night) and their progress shrinks. When school starts back up in August they are behind.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman was the keynote speaker last night.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman was the keynote speaker last night.

During Superintendent Spearman’s speech, she also briefly touched on the shocking video of the South Carolina resource officer manhandling a female student in a Columbia classroom. She called it “embarrassing.”

When she finished her address, the fun part of the night started. Spearman went from the lectern to a panel where she sat down with the district superintendents. Joining this powerful three was a teacher from the Georgetown County district and a teacher from Horry County. However, the latter teaching representative wasn’t just “a teacher”…he was Joey Trail, the 2015-16 Horry County Teacher of the Year AND a Coastal Carolina alumnus. Only a teacher for three years, I was excited to hear him speak.

Last night's panel was made up of (L-R) State Superintendent Molly Spearman, Horry County Superintendent Rick Maxey, Georgetown County Superintendent H. Randall Dozier, Georgetown teacher representative Kristi Kibler, and Horry County teacher representative Joey Trail.

Last night’s panel was made up of (L-R) State Superintendent Molly Spearman, Horry County Superintendent Rick Maxey, Georgetown County Superintendent H. Randall Dozier, Georgetown teacher representative Kristi Kibler, and Horry County teacher representative Joey Trail.

Much of what was said went over my head. Lots of teacher jargon and acronyms. With that said, I was able to pick up two certain points that were communicated with relative ease, mostly because of Joey Trail.

The first issue was teacher accountability. The panel all touched on it but when the discussion got to the very end of the table where Joey was seated, I truly learned what it meant and the controversy that surrounds it.

“Teacher accountability is synonymous with standardized test scores,” the teacher of the year stated.

So much weight is put on assessments blindly pushed to the multitudes that other metrics that should be used to gauge how a teacher is doing go unchecked. What about bringing culture and relevancy to a student with no life experiences? What about making a positive impact on a kid’s life? What about teaching a student to think critically? Why are these things overlooked? Well, Joey explained, it is to be expected when the people in charge of defining “teacher accountability” have never stepped inside a classroom to teach a lesson themselves.

Joey Trail spoke passionately and clearly about teacher accountability.

Joey Trail spoke passionately and clearly about teacher accountability.

Immediately this made sense to me. We all have past examples from our own professions and experiences where people who have no idea about what we do and the challenges we face try to dictate the best way to do our jobs or what constitutes success. However, it sounds like teachers have it especially rough. I now have a good understanding of the current climate of teacher accountability.

The second point that was communicated loud and clear to me is that students need love. As I mentioned, South Carolina schools welcome thousands and thousands of students from impoverished and broken homes. These are the kids, explained members of the panel, that need love the most. We aren’t talking a distant, metaphorical type of love either. They mean real love.

Echoed by the state superintendent down through Joey, last night wasn’t the first time I heard about teachers actually loving their students. Sidney tells me all the time that she loves and cares for the kids in her classroom. So while the concept isn’t entirely new to me, I am still trying to get used to it. I had fabulous teachers growing up but did I ever think they actually loved us? Hardly! If I became a teacher do I think I would ever be able to genuinely love my students, especially the ones with behavioral problems? I doubt it.

I really think this might be a Southern component of the education system. Like I said, I just can’t think of any of my past educators having this type of personal love for me or other students. It is definitely a very beautiful thing.

By attending the forum last night I walked away with a better understanding of education in South Carolina. I learned more about the perspective and challenges of Sidney while gaining even more respect for her. God bless our teachers. Don’t Blink.

Brent’s 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Sidney

This past Sunday, my fiancé took over my blog and wrote a terrific post titled “25 Things You Didn’t Know About Sidney.” It was very well-received and garnered a large amount of views. I have since decided that I want a piece of that pie and tonight I will also write a “25 Things” post.

Before you start groaning let me put you at ease…I am not writing about me. Rather, to ensure that my audience receives every opportunity to really become acquainted with Sidney, I thought I would contribute an additional 25 things you didn’t know about her as well. Consider this post “Brent’s 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Sidney.”

1. Sidney has the talent of perfectly rapping every lyric to Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” like nobody’s business.
2. She saw her first substantial snow of her life when she visited me in Spokane last December.

While in Spokane last year, Sid got to see her first real snow.

While in Spokane last year, Sid got to see her first real snow.

3. Everyone in her family has nicknames. For example, she goes by Ninny. Her middle sister goes by Pookie and her oldest sister goes by Noopy. Her niece is Sissy and her nephew is Brother.
4. A container can be found in Sidney’s room that contains the cards I have given her, the tickets to movies/shows/sporting events that we have attended, wrist bands from festivals that we have enjoyed, etc. etc. She started collecting the contents when we started dating and she named it the “Boo Box.”
5. You won’t find Sid trick-or-treating this week. She hates Halloween and scary things.
6. However, she probably wins the prize for cutest Halloween costume ever. During her younger days she dressed up as a bunny.

How cute is this?! This is Baby Sid dressed up as a bunny.

How cute is this?! This is Baby Sid dressed up as a bunny.

7. The kids who have Miss Mathis as their second grade teacher are very fortunate. She genuinely loves and cares for each student and thinks about them constantly out of school hours.
8. Speaking of teaching, this is Sid’s all-time favorite teaching meme.

This is Sidney's favorite teaching meme. It makes her laugh quite a bit.

This is Sidney’s favorite teaching meme. It makes her laugh quite a bit.

9. Sidney has a talent for cooking. I eat very well. Some of her specialties include Marlboro pasta, macaroni & cheese, and chicken bog.
10. What is her favorite food? French fries!
11. Sid bought me a Curious George stuffed animal but it stays at her house and is her second best friend.

Sidney loves George.

Sidney loves George.

12. While she might not like ghosts and demons, my fiancé loves a different type of scare. She is a roller coaster and fair ride fanatic.
13. If you turn on the radio in your vehicle, Sid will sing.
14. Like reality TV? How about trashy reality TV? Let me introduce you to Sidney, you will soon be good friends.
15. Last week, Sidney swam with sting rays!

Sidney swimming with sting rays at Ripley's Aquarium last week.

Sidney swimming with sting rays at Ripley’s Aquarium last week.

16. Sidney is a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl.
17. The one liquid that powers the body of Sidney Mathis is Diet Coke.
18. No social media drama between us! Sid is not a big social media user.
19. When Sidney and I first started dating, the F-bomb would slip out of her mouth every now and then. I stated that I really didn’t care for it and now she never says it! What a girl!
20. She was born in a small town called Marion, S.C.
21. We are polar opposites on this one…Sid loooooooves dogs. She asks me constantly if we can get one.
22. The early bird gets the worm. On a typical school day, Sid rises at around 4:30 a.m.
23. She once had a roommate that would push a cart around campus to transport her books and other school supplies. Who needs a backpack?
24. Because my family always has lasagna as a Thanksgiving dish, Sid promised me that she would make lasagna for Thanksgiving weekend this year (I am spending it with her family).
25. Sidney is the most kind, loving, selfless person you will ever meet.

You now know 50 things about Sidney that you probably didn’t before this past Sunday afternoon. By this time I am sure you probably want to meet her if you haven’t yet. Lucky for me, I get to spend the rest of my life with her! Don’t Blink.

Terror Under the Bridge Haunted House in Myrtle Beach

It wouldn’t be Halloween for me if I didn’t go through a haunted house attraction. Thus, last night I drove out by my lonesome to Terror Under the Bridge, a haunted experience hosted at the X Sports Mall off of George Bishop Parkway. This particular haunted house is overshadowed by the marketing efforts of Dr. Screams, another spooky experience in Myrtle Beach, but surpasses it in tradition. Terror Under the Bridge has popped up in some form in different Myrtle Beach locations for the past ten years.

The Terror Under the Bridge logo.

The Terror Under the Bridge logo.

Because I visited and reviewed Dr. Screams last year, I wanted to give the competition a try this year. When I arrived at the location, it seemed a tad bit sketchy to me. The X Sports Mall is not an actual mall per se, it is a warehouse type structure. Besides a couple sandwich boards with handwritten messages of “tickets” and “line,” the entrance to the attraction had no storefront or marquee. You just walked through a door. I loved it! The sketchier the better when it comes to haunted houses.

This is what Terror Under the Bridge looks like from the outside. I loved the rustic feeling I had as I walked up to the entrance.

This is what Terror Under the Bridge looks like from the outside. I loved the rustic feeling I had as I walked up to the entrance.

I paid $12 to the lady in the cage for my ticket, a low price compared to the $20 that Dr. Screams is charging for admission this year. On a Sunday evening around 9 p.m., about 20 people stood in line in front of me. After about 5 minutes had passed, it was almost time for me to enter. The group in front of me and the group in back of me each asked if I was there by myself. Hiding no shame I bravely said “Yes I am!” Believe it or not, both parties seemed to respect the fact that I came to a haunted house solo as opposed to thinking I must be a loner psychopath. This was confirmed when each group asked me to go through with them.

My ticket for Terror Under the Bridge.

My ticket for Terror Under the Bridge.

I entered with the first group because the woman controlling the line counted me off with them. We entered through a tarp into a dark room with a large door. The lady told us the rules and while doing so she said one thing that is not the norm for haunted houses…the actors would touch you! Most haunted attractions will utter the standard line of “You don’t touch them and they won’t touch you” but Terror Under the Bridge doesn’t follow the norm. Again, another thing that might put off some people but that got me even more excited!

Me standing in line a few minutes before I entered the holding room.

Me standing in line a few minutes before I entered the holding room.

Last year I led the group. However, because I was the last person counted with the five other people in the room with me, I was in the back. The lady told us to put our hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us. I decided to save the guy in front of me the awkwardness and just followed closely behind. After about five minutes of waiting in the holding room we could see eyes looking at us through the wall that bordered the attraction and the door opened. A bloodied, ghoulish looking medical professional motioned for us to walk in. It was time to be scared!

The Terror Under the Bridge theme for 2015 is Horror Hospital. I found this a little strange just because Dr. Screams pretty much goes with this theme each and every year but I know the operators of this attraction knew what they were doing.

For those who hate the feeling of claustrophobia, don’t worry about Terror Under the Bridge. The tarp type material was neatly erected to form a maze that gave you plenty of room to maneuver and plenty of direction on where to go. Since it is a warehouse, ceilings are high. One of the first scenes encountered utilized strobe lights. If I made my own haunted house I would cover the whole thing in strobe lights. I absolutely love the disorienting and spooky effect they give off. A single actor, not saying much but getting right into our faces, weaved through our line as the lights flashed. I liked it.

Comprised of cool customers, my group held it together. I had no wisecracks or loud screamers. with me This was a good thing because the haunted house, in a similar way to Dr. Screams, centered more on the actors as opposed to gruesome scenes. If I had folks who tended to overreact to everything, it could have been a long tour thought the maze. Because the attraction was more centered on the “haunt” as opposed to the aesthetics, it meant that Terror Under the Bridge would produce more “shock” as opposed to “awe.”

But before I address the actors let me be clear, I am not criticizing Terror Under the Bridge for terrible props and displays. They did a decent job of creating some hellish hospital scenes but some of what I saw was a little hokie. Since I was in the back of the group I looked long and hard at everything I saw.

One of the displays from this year's haunted house. This photo is courtesy of the Terror Under the Bridge Facebook page.

One of the displays from this year’s haunted house. This photo is courtesy of the Terror Under the Bridge Facebook page.

So while the haunted scenes weren’t the best I ever experienced, I would say the actors were! They seemed to have it down. Of the numerous demented souls lurking in the maze some would yell at you, some would plead with you, some would hysterically warn you, and some would just stare at you. And yes, some would touch you.

I encountered a tormented girl that seemed to have no legs withering on the floor. Hospital workers covered in blood and guts could be found in many corners. No less than a half dozen creepy clowns made their presence known throughout the maze. In one room an evil preacher hooked up to a public address system yelled at us. You had the chainsaw maniac at the end. But my favorite was the grotesque girl in the wheelchair that followed me from one section of the maze all the way to the other! Even for someone like me with a great haunted house stamina, that particular part freaked me out just a little.

The length of the attraction was great. I went in at 9:10 p.m. and exited at 9:25 p.m. For those who might not be aware, 15 minutes for a haunted house is very good. I framed it this way in my head: I was spending less than a dollar per minute while inside the maze. Just the flow itself was great. I had plenty of time to walk through without feeling rushed and I was freely able to set myself up for scares (yes, I like to position myself in a way that will ensure I receive the brunt of actors jumping out at me).

After I exited the Terror Under the Bridge haunted house one of the actors took a photo with me.

After I exited the Terror Under the Bridge haunted house one of the actors took a photo with me.

Terror Under the Bridge is a classic, well-done haunted house. It might not have vivid scenes and special effects but it has great organization with an exceptional crew. It also might not have an ambulance ride or haunted trail (like Dr. Screams) but I felt like the value was still better than its competition. I would recommend Terror Under the Bridge to all in the Myrtle Beach area looking for a scare. Don’t Blink.

25 Things You Didn’t Know About Sidney

NOTE: Once again, Brent’s fiance, Sidney, takes over Don’t Blink for a Sunday. Enjoy today’s post where Sidney offers up some info you probably didn’t know about her.

I got the idea for this month’s blog takeover while partaking in one of my favorite weekly pastimes; reading People magazine. Yes, I admit it. I am a sucker for keeping up with anything and everything celebrity. But this blog isn’t about my mild obsession with the rich and famous. Instead I’d like to focus your attention on my favorite regularly running column in the magazine. It features a celebrity (last week was Amy Schumer and this week was Rod Stewart) and a list of 25 Things You Didn’t Know about them. Simple concept , but nonetheless interesting and entertaining.

Brent writes about me a lot but there is more than meets the eye.

Brent writes about me a lot but there is more than meets the eye.


Although my name appears quite frequently on this site, I realize that most of you Don’t Blink readers may not know much about me. Yes, from reading most of his posts from the last year and a half, one can gather that I am Brent’s fiancé and sidekick in most of his adventures. However, there’s a lot more to me than what meets the eye (blinking or otherwise—ha!).

In an effort to let all of you get to know me a little better, I decided to rip-off one of my favorite magazines weekly columns and tell you all 25 Things You Didn’t Know About SIDNEY.

1. I am named after my Dad. Yup. He, too, is Sidney Mathis (as well as his father and grandfather). This makes sorting the mail and Christmas presents a little complicated.
2. I can’t whistle. Never have. Never will.
3. I’m a damn good SNAPPER (a skill I developed to counteract my whistling disability)
4. In 8th grade, I won 1st place in the Sandhill’s Regional Science Fair. My project was to find out if a dog’s mouth is really cleaner than a human’s. (The answer would be a big-fat NO!)
5. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis when I was 8 years old.
6. I wasn’t a very good student. I talked too much, and could never stay focused. I think this helps me be a more tolerant teacher.
7. My favorite TV show is Sex in the City, even though the first episode aired when I was a kid. Gotta love syndication!
8. When given the option, I would much rather write in pencil over pen.
9. I punched a nurse in the hospital once. Coming out of anesthesia, I thought she was one of my sisters holding me down, so I cold-clocked her.
10. I’m not a morning person. I am also not a night owl… so please catch me in the middle of the day.
11. I am definitely an extrovert. I could have a conversation with the wall if the opportunity ever presented itself.
12. I had my tonsils removed when I was 21. I wouldn’t recommend it to adults.
13. I love to read. My favorite author is Emily Giffin.
14. In my childhood years, I hated to read. Mostly because my sister Courtney won tons of awards for reading. I never thought I could amount to her success, so I decided to hate it instead.
15. I applied to Clemson University, and was rejected. It was a devastating blow to my ego.
16. My favorite color is purple.
17. As a kid, my grandmother always let me cheat when we played games together. So I blame her for making me the very undignified -poor-sport that I am today.
18. I gave myself a haircut when I was in pre-school. The only remedy for the horrendous hack-job I’d done to my hair, was to shave my head completely. So with the name Sidney and a buzzed haircut, people often mistook me for a boy.
19. I am a nail-biter. I bite them when I’m feeling stressed.
20. I’m also a hair-twirler. I twirl my hair around my fingers when I start to get sleepy.
21. I have perfect vision. It was confirmed by my doctor last week.
22. Although my eyesight is phenomenal, I am slightly hearing impaired. A result of tubes put into my eardrums when I was toddler.
23. I’ve seen every episode of “Full House.” My favorite is the episode where Stephanie drives the cement truck into the kitchen and then runs away to Aunt Becky’s house.
24. I’ve seen The Princess Diaries probably no less than 300 times. I can recite every line by heart.
25. I knew that I wanted to marry Brent after exactly 46 days of dating. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

So there you have it! 25 new (and hopefully interesting) facts about me. Until next month, thanks for reading. Don’t Blink.

Enjoy Your Thursday Rundown

Good evening to you all. I absolutely love these late October days. How about we get right to my latest Thursday Rundown?

Lee Brice Concert – Last Friday I worked the Lee Brice concert here at Coastal Carolina University. Although Brice has put on some pounds, he performed as best he could. I took some sweet photos and enjoyed listening to a couple of his major hits but it didn’t stop me from leaving early. I was tired from the week and the energy in the venue just wasn’t enough to keep me until the encore. After I had gathered enough content for our social media outlets I bolted.

This is one of the photos I took at the Lee Brice concert on Friday night.

This is one of the photos I took at the Lee Brice concert on Friday night.

Happy Birthday, Chauncey! – Tomorrow night the Coastal Carolina community will celebrate Chauncey’s (our mascot) birthday. We are holding the bash to coincide with the Chanticleer volleyball game that evening. April Betsch offered me the opportunity to work on this project with her and for the past couple months we have put the program together with Nathan Marcus, the marketing assistant for Chanticleer Athletics. Pre-match there will be a tailgate for students and a birthday party for children. At halftime of the contest there will be a special birthday skit. Of course the whole evening itself will be a birthday celebration devoted to our favorite mascot. If you live in the area please come out and eat some cake with Chauncey.

You are invited to Chauncey's birthday party tomorrow night.

You are invited to Chauncey’s birthday party tomorrow night.

Count Brentula – I am always looking for an excuse to dress up. This past Monday I stretched that excuse just a little bit as I decided that I needed to get in costume for my monthly #CCUSocialMedia Dream Team staff meeting. The night before I bought the cheapest vampire costume I could find at Wal-Mart. It did the trick as I was the cheesiest Dracula on the Coastal Carolina University campus that morning. Of course I was caught on social media…

I was Count Brentula on Monday.

I was Count Brentula on Monday.

Boomerang – Thanks to a counterpart at the University of Arizona, I was alerted about Instagram’s brand new app that was released today. Called Boomerang, it is a bare bones service that creates one second GIF-like videos…yes…ONE SECOND. You press the main button and the app will take a burst of photos and mash it into a video. Although the app didn’t take my breath away upon playing with it for the first time, I won’t write it off just yet. I need to think about how Boomerang’s super short videos could possibly enhance the experience of #CCUSocialMedia users. (Make sure to click on the below image to see what Boomerang is all about)

Messing around with Instagram’s newest app, #Boomerang.

A video posted by Brent Reser (@brentreser) on

Wedding Update #10/Golf Update – Sidney and I enjoyed our second Pre-Cana class on Tuesday. We talked more about our upbringings and family traditions. It is important that two of us understand how we were raised and how that has shaped us into the people we are today. The main takeaway lesson is that we can’t focus on changing each other, rather, we need to concentrate on changing ourselves.

Golf wise, we hit the Par-3 again. We went to the same course but played a different nine holes. On a gorgeous morning I played much better than the previous week and pulled out the victory over Sidney.

Me swinging the club this past weekend.

Me swinging the club this past weekend.


That is all I got for you tonight. Remember to wish Chauncey a happy birthday tomorrow. Have a terrific weekend. Don’t Blink.

Christopher Lloyd’s Best Film

I have never seen any of the “Back to the Future” movies before. However, I can’t help but laugh and nod along with the popular joke circulating around on social media that it seems like it has already been “Back to the Future Day” several times over the past few months.

Not only have I never seen the triliogy, I also have very little knowledge on what the movie is actually about besides the obvious. However, the little that I do know is that the second movie takes place in the present time of 1989 and that Christopher Lloyd stars in the films. Ah yes, Christopher Lloyd. When I hear his name I don’t think about time travel, though. Rather, I think about one of my favorite movies from my childhood.

To me, the name Christopher Lloyd is synonymous with “Angels in the Outfield.” The 1994 Disney version, a remake of a different version made in 1951, pulled me in hard. I saw the movie in the theater and then probably saw it a hundred more times at home. The way Lloyd portrayed the character of Al, the head angel, was in my mind a stellar performance.

I think sometimes “Angels in the Outfield” is overlooked in this modern era by other family baseball movies that came out at the time like “Little Big League,” “Rookie of the Year,” and “The Sandlot.” While I enjoyed these three movies quite a bit, I do wholeheartedly believe that “Angels in the Outfield” is the best of them all.

What did I like (and still like) about “Angels in the Outfield”? It was easy to watch but it had a powerful story. It was funny but also extremely touching. It introduced many of us young boys and girls to the reality of foster families. Danny Glover turned in a powerful performance. It humanized baseball players. It had one of the best nerd characters of all time with the public relations dude. It no doubt had the best villian sports announcer ever in film. It had an incredible scene with the entire stadium making the angel motion. It had a tearjerker but inspirational ending with Glover adopting the kids. It also introduced some great catchphrases like “It could happen” and “We’re always watching.” It also had magic…

That magic I speak of was mostly because of Christopher Lloyd. He played an angel that was charismatic, sympathetic, believable, and FUNNY. As a kid, I knew the scenes he appeared in would be the best. He hit his cues perfectly, whether it meant he had to be humorous or whether he had to be serious. It always seemed to work. Perhaps if I had seen “Back to the Future” before “Angels in the Outfield” I might have thought that Christopher Lloyd playing an angel was a little awkward but to me he seemed perfect. In my mind, Lloyd was just Al.

So go ahead and watch “Back to the Future” today and go crazy on the references. However, plan a couple hours in the near future to sit down and watch “Angels in the Outfield.” That my friends, is Christopher Lloyd at his best. Don’t Blink.

Eliminating Fake Reviews (thank goodness)

I watched with interest the NBC Nightly News last evening as Lester Holt reported about a big lawsuit. Amazon is making giant waves by suing over 1,000 people for offering to write fake product reviews on the site in exchange for monetary compensation. This is the first time a website that relies on this type of user generated content has ever done such a thing.

Over two years ago, I wrote extensively about how much I appreciate crowd-sourced review sites, especially TripAdvisor and Yelp. Now 30 months later my gratitude has not changed. Although I reference Yelp much more these days, I still hold both sites in high regard. The service provided is just so useful and relevant when it comes to everyday decisions.

I applaud Amazon for making the move to sue these folks who write fake reviews. For those new to this story, these review posers are running their scam on Fiverr. Yep, that other site that I also still hold in high regard. These people are so bold that on their Fiverr accounts they straight up say they will write a fake review for $5. Actually, saying the word “write” is giving them way too much credit. Often they will just ask the other schmuck scheming for fake praise to write the review on his or her own. The scammer will then just copy the content and paste it from his own account.

The main reason why Amazon is making this move, and the top point of joy for many users, is to prevent against fraud. It is unfair for sellers, businesses, destinations, etc. to enhance their presence on crowd-sourced review sites via bogus reviews. It is unethical to trick folks into buying a product or booking a hotel room because of scribble that someone wrote who had never used the watch or stayed at the Comfort Suites in Greensboro. Unfortunately for the cheats trying to make $5 at a time, the major company is coming after them instead of the groups who actually pay to have the deed done.

I personally don’t care who Amazon is going after, both sides are dishonest. However, I have a different source of happiness from the lawsuits, one that is different from what the media is glorifying. For me personally, I am ecstatic that spam on these sites is about to be dramatically reduced.

For people who check these websites frequently or who just have a good degree of common sense, the fake reviews stick out like a sore thumb. Last night on the Nightly News Report, Lester Holt gave some guidelines on how to spot a fake review. It was Stating the Obvious 101. If you visit Yelp or hop on Amazon you can pretty much tell after glancing at the structure of the comment and reading the first sentence whether it is garbage or not. The vague language, lack of voice, and broken language always give it away. It can work the other way too. I laugh at the comments that are so descriptive they practically name every member of the hotel staff or recite full conversations with the waiter. Immediately you know it was someone from the inside who wrote it.

It is not that I will ever be tricked by these pathetic reviews, it is just that they are popping up more and more that it becomes very annoying. These fake testimonials (which I just call spam) can give someone just looking for an honest appraisal a headache. I am glad that Amazon is going to begin the big clean up. I hope the other sites do the same. Don’t Blink.

Just Leave Them Alone

When you have almost lived on this world for three decades, you start to notice the same type of stories retold by the media. The only difference is that the names and minor details are changed. I have written about these rehashed stories before such as someone turning a really old age or a restaurant server receiving an enormously large tip. The news outlets will make it seem like a rare occurrence but in reality it happens all the time. Oh well, at least the news is good.

However, this isn’t always the case.

There is one certain scenario that always plays out several times each year. It has to do with sports. It has to do with exploiting someone’s worst possible moment. It has to do with taking something way too seriously.

Do you know what I am talking about? Well, here is a hint…it happened in Ann Arbor this past weekend.

I am so sick of hearing the horror stories about athletes who make an error on the field or on the court that costs their team a victory and the brutal backlash that ensues. The poor athlete who makes the mistake, usually at the collegiate level, is subjected to social media cruelty and, yes, that two letter phrase….death threats.

This scenario makes me mad for a few different reasons.

First off, no athlete should ever be tormented on social media or have his or her life threatened because of performance on the field. Do I really need to say much more? This isn’t really even a cliché argument, it is just a no-brainer. The absurdity and stupidity of even thinking about doing something like this upsets me a great deal.

Secondly, just the thought of the actual people who make these threats gets my blood boiling. As I said, the principle of it all is maddening enough, but then thinking about the low-lifes who actually make a decision to lash out at these young people in the worst possible way drives me insane. Who are these folks who think acting like this is in any way acceptable? How selfish, dark, and aloof must you be on the inside? As I said, having the thought cross your mind that someone deserves to die because of a tough break on the field is bad enough; but to actually go through with the threat is atrocious.

However, the third reason that upsets me might not be so obvious. I become frustrated with how the media reports on these stories. I get it that they have to show the replays over and over. But what bothers me is how the press spends so much time and energy on the backlash. They crave how these young people become stomping mats for delusional fans and take great lengths to report on the tweets, message board posts, and death threats. Don’t get me wrong, they try to convey the information in a sympathetic way but it is completely counterproductive.

When the media reports on all the hateful acts, they just keep the episode on everyone’s minds and the wounds fresh. They delay the time period for the athlete to compose himself. How can someone begin to move on when media outlets are still talking about how he is the most hated person in the state? I think it becomes overkill.

Unless an athlete personally tells a member of the media that he has received death threats, I would like to see this information go unreported. Leave it up to the police to find the losers and arrest them. Also, once the weekend is over and the focus turns to a new opponent, just let the incident go. No more need to debate how bad the athlete screwed up, no need to cut up a montage of 20 different replays of the error, and no need to show countless “trending” social media posts.

The “suffering athlete” story is old. I think it is time we leave these people alone and let them get on with their lives. Don’t Blink.

A Birthday Tradition With the Mathis Family

While my family might be almost 3,000 miles west of where I live, I am very thankful for my new family. Today was another reminder that I am truly part of it.

Sidney has a large portion of her dad’s extended family living in the Myrtle Beach vicinity. Every month a pretty cool tradition takes place. The Mathis family members make it a point to get together and celebrate the birthdays for that particular month. The gathering usually consists of a delicious lunch, birthday cake, and presents for the people born that month. Today was the October celebration and I was one of the family members of honor!

The lunch today consisted of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, potatoes, brown rice, butter beans, green beans, corn, and rolls. The biggest challenge was fitting it all on your plate. Of course I was up to the task and loaded up on the food. As 18 people attended the meal, we had to spread out a little in the beautiful new house of Sidney’s sister and brother-in-law. I sat at a table with Sid, her dad, her cousin and his girlfriend, another cousin, and her niece.

A look at the food spread on the left and then my own plate on the right.

A look at the food spread on the left and then my own plate on the right.

After we ate the men watched football, the women talked at one of the tables, and the kids played on a jumpy castle that was set up outside. Once the food all settled, it was time to open gifts. Over a week since October 8, it was just like a second birthday for me! I was showered with gifts and cards from Sid’s family. Luckily I had her niece and nephew to help me open it all!

I was very thankful that I had Russell and Harrison to help me open up gifts.

I was very thankful that I had Russell and Harrison to help me open up gifts.

My future in-laws gave me a rain jacket and cash. One of her aunts gave me a Yeti koozie with my personal motto on it! With her family knowing that I had picked up golf and got clubs for my birthday, I received THREE Dick’s Sporting Goods gift cards! Sid’s cousin and girlfriend capped off the “afternoon of spoiling Brent rotten” by giving me cash.

On the left is me wearing my new rain jacket and holding my koozie. On my left are my birthday cards and Dick's Sporting Goods gift cards.

On the left is me wearing my new rain jacket and holding my koozie. On my left are my birthday cards and Dick’s Sporting Goods gift cards.

I was trying to organize all my gifts when I was called up to the front of the kitchen. It was time for the family to sing happy birthday to the October birthday people. Steph (Sid’s sister), Rhonda (Sid’s aunt), Dylan (Sid’s cousin), and myself all had the honor of listening to everyone sing to us. We then blew out the candles on the cake (with the help of a couple people who didn’t have October birthdays haha).

On the left was the birthday cake. On the right the October birthday folks plus Russell and Sidney) help to blow out the candles. The photo is courtesy of Carla Edwards Shelley.

On the left was the birthday cake. On the right the October birthday folks plus Russell and Sidney) help to blow out the candles. The photo is courtesy of Carla Edwards Shelley.

Not that I needed any cake after the tremendous lunch but I still had a slice with chocolate ice cream. This time I sat at a table with Sid and her Aunt Martha.

A look around at the birthday celebration today.

A look around at the birthday celebration today.

The November birthday celebration will coincide with Thanksgiving. How fitting! What a great time it will be for me to truly be thankful for both my family back home and my new family down here. Don’t Blink.