Oh. Freaking. Great.
The clowns are back.
That's what I thought after hearing about the local Halloween store reopening for the scary season.
Then I wondered. Is this going to be Year Two of Scary Clown Sightings?
My best guess is yes. There's just too much scary buzz about freaky clowns right now. And it's only August.
Bottom line: If you're scared of clowns, make 2017 the year you hide under a big fat rock. Or gravestone. Whatever. You get the idea.
Make it heavy and wait it out.
To double check my scary clown prediction, I checked out the local Spirit Halloween store.
(Online, obviously. I'm too lazy to drive to Seminole Towne Center in Sanford for Halloween stuff right now. Maybe after the clown threat subsides. For now, I'm just checking out the website.)
So, there they were. In all of their ghoulish glory.
Not one. Not two. Not three.
But a whole family of four -- Mom, Dad, brother and sister -- are decked out in matching scary clown duds.
Pointed teeth. Powered faces. Scary balloons. Yada Yada. You get the idea.
You're going to die a horrible death. And they're going to be laughing in your face as blood splatters everywhere. Gross.
It was only a year ago when we heard story after story about random sightings of evil clowns across the country.
"Clown hysteria has taken the country by storm, fueling both fear and fascination while prompting calls for calm from police departments and even from the master of horrors, Stephen King," Time magazine said in October.
King, of all people, joined the chorus of calm-downers. King! Really?
This is the guy whose rebooted, kid-killing clown Pennywise debuts in theaters September 8. (Next week!)
By then, we will have already been introduced to more evil clowns from American Horror Story: Cult, which begins at 10 p.m. September 5 p.m. on FX.
There's already been backlash from legit clowns just trying to make an honest living -- or as honest as you can get being a clown these days.
"It Movie Causing Legit Clowns to Lose Work," the Hollywood Reporter said in a headline Monday.
Thankfully, I don't have coulrophobia (an abnormal fear of clowns). So I checked out the Spirit Halloween website a little more.
Soon I discovered Grimsli the Great, the nearly $200, 6 1/2-foot animatronic who will be creeping in the woods while you sleep.
"He’s on the hunt to capture any unlucky bystander and turn them into his next freak show star," the website said. "He lurks behind the curtain, waiting for a chance to snatch the next performer. Legend has it he even sews their mouths shut with his bony claws so nobody can hear their screams.'
Lovely. Get yours while they last. Then lock everybody up and pray for sunrise Nov. 1 when it will all be over. You hope.
Hold on to your wallet, folks.
Your government is preparing to sue your government -- again. This time it's Florida school boards -- including Volusia -- gearing up against the state of Florida.
At issue is a state-approved provision for "schools of hope” charter schools that would take away money from local school districts and open without local board approval.
That's unconstitutional, according to Volusia, Orange, Polk and other school districts. They and other districts are prepping for a legal battle -- a showdown funded on both sides by taxpayers in Florida.
It's enough to make your head spin. And it should trigger a gag reflex, too.
After all, participating local school districts are being asked to pony up litigation costs. In Volusia, that's as much as $25,000. And schools are already strapped for cash.
True, $25K isn't a lot compared to the entire school district budget. And you can't blame them for taking a stand. That's what we teach our kids to do.
This battle is hard to define by dollar signs. And, quite frankly, I'm sick of it.
As a parent with three school-age kids, I'm furious local school district leaders are being forced into battle against state leaders who are just trying to ram "school reforms" down our throat.
At the local level, no one is asking for it.
The parents I talk to at school functions are pleased with the quality of education in Volusia County. The teachers are pros. The administrators are savvy and support staffers are hard working and dependable. Sure, there's been bumps along the way. But they've been dealt with promptly and in a professional manner.
And, no, I don't think the school district is perfect. Who is?
On balance, I think I'm getting a good deal for what I spend on public education.
What's frustrating is the distractions from Tallahassee. On one hand, they're complaining to the feds about maintaining local control. On the other hand, they're dreaming up these local "reforms" that nobody I know really wants.
I have yet to meet a parent who says they want their child's education to be an experiment cobbled together by politicians and special interest groups. Not a single one.
I'm open to reform. But I want it done in an academic environment - not a political one.
That said, this conflict isn't anything new. Electing new leaders isn't bringing any new solutions - despite all the campaign promises. It's time to look for new ways to change the system.
If you're game, it's time to step up.
Enter the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.
Once every 20 years, this panel convenes to recommend amendments to the state Constitution.
It's a historic opportunity. But, unfortunately, not a very sexy one. So it doesn't get many headlines. But it's a real shot at reform. So let's take it seriously.
Time is running out. The deadline to submit proposals is Sept. 22. So don't waste time if you're interested.
And, yes, I realize there's plenty of politics at play on the commission.
Members include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and appointees from the governor, Florida Senate president, speaker of the Florida House and chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. But it's also a rare opportunity for ordinary folks to get involved in state government.
Take a moment and poke around the website. They've made it really easy to navigate and inviting.
About 1,000 proposals have already been submitted.
There's even a way to submit proposals directly to the commission in "in plain language."
If you've got a gripe or -- even better -- a solution. It's time to speak up. I know I will.
Hey, eclipse gypsies. You are ruining my fun. Before you came along, this was my once-in-a-lifetime, celestial mega-spectacular.
Must. Must. Must achieve full totality.
Whip out ye olde sitar and pluck a spell. Wrap your head around eternity. Weightlessness is imminent. Prepare to fold time and space.
This is the sobering reality. Hot. Sticky. Sweaty. Late August. National mania. Here come the eclipse yahoos. (That's you). I'm out of luck even if I wanted to place an order of six cardboard eclipse glasses for $79.95. All sold out.
Now I have to tell the kids there's not, in fact, any solar eclipse glasses for them on the horizon - at least in time for Monday's first full-on solar eclipse in, like, a billion years. (You might want to check NASA on that before you retweet).
So, get ready for your retina to flame out. A solar pinhole projector? That's my backup? Really? I can barely open a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Now I need NASA's JPL to DYI a cardboard box to open a portal into the universe? No, thanks.
Anyhow, the point is I've been planning this for months. Months. Now you come along at the last minute and whip everyone into a solar-corona panic. Schools are keeping inside, fearing they will stare at the sun. 'Solar Eclipse Frenzy' is trending off the charts. Pets will wander in confusion. Protect you're iPhone!
Traffic wonks are amping up the pressure, warning about highway congestion before, after and during the spacey hookup. Says the U.S. DOT: "Don’t take photographs while driving!" So, tweeting and sharing all good? Doesn't matter. We won't get signals because of the not-yet-realized solar-eclipse bandwidth blackhole on the highways.
For the record, I've been checking for the next big thing in the sky. I'm staking a claim to the not-so-rare conjunction of Venus and Jupiter at 1:05 a.m. Monday, Nov. 13. You're not invited.
Those words tumbled out of my mouth in a dumbfounded mutter after seeing the amazingly shocking images of Saturday's hate attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. But in this age of instant-everywhere video access, it wasn't the moving images of the Nazi-fueled hate that captivated me.
It was the still images. Chills ran up and down my spine.
The photo of the man punching another man in the back of the head. The pepper-spray attack. The man tossing a newspaper box. The guy making a slashing motion across his throat toward counter-protesters.
Then, of course, there were the gut-wrenching images of bodies flying after the car crash. Sickening. Keep in mind, I'm no stranger to disturbingly violent images.
As a former newspaper editor and reporter, I've seen plenty. But these hurt in ways that I haven't felt in years. It's different to see a body of a war victim overseas. It's quite another thing entirely to see bloodshed on Main Street America.
This was domestic terrorism, no doubt. But I didn't get that feeling from the reaction I saw from President Trump about "many sides" being involved.
Look, I understand it was kind of hard to sort out what happened as soon as it happened. But it became clear shortly into the news cycle that none of this wouldn't have happened if the haters just stayed away.
That said, I was comforted by the tweet from Sen. Orrin Hatch: "My brother didn't die fighting Hitler for Nazis to go unchallenged today." As a Central Florida resident, I also appreciated the tweet from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer: "Terrible to see the events happening in Charlottesville. Violence, racism, and hatred have no place in our nation."
As a former journalist, I've been suspicious in the past of such messages during national or international tragedies.
They seemed self-serving. But in this case, I really appreciated the statements. I wanted to hear more from my elected officials, especially since the one at the top didn't really nail it right out of the box. I need to know where my leaders stand on hate.
Right now. There wasn't any gray area to get bogged down in with this attack.
Denounce it now.
I know I would have been right there, tweeting up a firestorm against hate so there is absolutely no confusion. I'm against it and I want you to stand up against it with me. That brings me to my local leaders, my city council members and county officials.
Maybe you said something and I missed it. But say it again and say it often. When the Commander in Chief can't say or won't say it clearly enough, you need to stand up and say it for them. Hate kills. Say it now. Say it often.
First of all, I want to let you know: I'm a big fan of Orlando Sentinel reporter Stephen Hudak.
In fact, I have a lot respect for journalists, especially former co-workers at the Sentinel. I left the paper a year ago to take a new career path in marketing. It was a great move for me. I'm still friends with folks from the newspaper. That being said, I wasn't a fan of how they played the update about the Sanford Zoo's new bear exhibit.
In fact, I was shocked when I realized how deep into the story I read before I got to hear about the fate of the bear that mauled a Seminole County woman four years ago.
The 271-pound female badass is still alive. She was moved to an Arkansas wildlife refuge last September. And she picked up a pretty name, Popper, in the process. Sounds like a witness-protection plan, almost.
Except it's really more like aggressor-protection plan. The other "witness," the victim, is still probably suffering, either physically or emotionally after the attack in her Seminole County neighborhood off Markham Woods Road. Her attack shouldn't be glossed over or forgotten.
Popper shouldn't fade away, either. I don't think the bear should die. But it should have some role in the new exhibit since the stated theme is to educate us about bears and the consequences of unhealthy human-bear encounters.
We have a lot to learn as a species and as a neighbor in Central Florida Bear Country. Shouldn't we learn from real-world examples, even when they are scary?
Sure, the story of bear siblings Ella and Guignard (named for zoo donors) fits nicely into the theme of the new exhibit at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens on U.S. Highway 17-92. But why tease the story with the headline "Central Florida Zoo opens bear exhibit without infamous bear?" It's puzzling.
I'm not blaming Steve or anyone in particular at the Sentinel. I realize a lot people are involved in making decisions and there never seems to be enough time for everything and everybody.
I'm just disappointed, I guess, that I didn't learn more about more about Popper's backstory. What's up with her personality?
I guess I'll never find out from the zoo, unfortunately. It probably not the kind of news zoo donors want to publicize -- even when it's true and important information for Central Florida residents and visitors. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to visiting the exhibit in the near future.
As a DeBary resident, I'm very appreciative to have the zoo as my neighbor. And I'm proud to say I'm a loyal Sentinel subscriber.