Monday, December 31, 2007

Johnny Cash meets Forrest Gump

Dewey: Edith, I am starting to think that you don't believe in me.
Edith: I do believe in you. I just know you're going to fail.
After I finished telling a co-worker about my latest experience with "Charlie Wilson's War", he told me that I was on "quite a roll" with the movies lately. True, I haven't seen many dogs over the past couple of weeks, but it's easier this time of year, when the studios roll out the Oscar contenders. That's precisely why I hesitated (slightly) in seeing the film I saw tonight, "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story."
A sign outside the theater said its capacity was "367 patrons," which left us with only 364 more people to fill the place. That's right, after being shut out on Xmas day, I found that New Year's Eve was a perfect time to see a film. Me and two strangers sat through the 5:05pm showing of a film that probably cost the theater more to show than the three of us paid.
I'd read some good things about the film, but since comedy is an odd thing to define, I wasn't entirely sure that my consecutive good movie streak would continue. The first thing you need to find humor in is the fact that Dewey's personal struggle comes as a result of cutting his older brother in half with a machete. Not only does the film find the humor in it, but it contributes to one of the movie's running gags. Come to think of it, pretty much the whole film is a running gag.
If you haven't yet seen the Johnny Cash bio-pic, "Walk the Line," you will not appreciate about half of the jokes in "Walk Hard," so if you're planning to see this one, rent the other one first. You'll thank me later. There are so many "Walk the Line" references that knowing the material is almost essential to finding the humor in "Walk Hard".
We follow Dewey from his brother-killing in 1946 to the present day, through his trials and tribulations, re-invention of himself, re-marriages and several hysterical songs. In particular, his Bob Dylan-esque folk tune ("People say I sound like Bob Dylan - why doesn't anybody say Dylan sounds like me?") his duet with Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer) that turns a phrase, to say the least and a tribute song to help the little people.
There's also a spot-on John Lennon impersonation by Paul Rudd that, for us boomers is as funny as anything in the film. To get to that, though, we have to forget that John Reilly played a similar southern character in "Talladega Nights." I couldn't help but summon memories of Kyle Naughton, Jr. every time Dewey said something ridiculous or called out the obvious, as he does several times, or during the reflective rehab scene where his cohorts come to him as he lies in bed.
Another running joke of the film is that he feels it is necessary to alert viewers that he is talking to "George Harrison of the Beatles" or Buddy Holly (Frankie Muniz). It's funny to someone my age, but he may feel it is necessary when the audience is anyone under the age of 30 who may need a bit of prodding.
Even though most of the film is chuckle funny, there are enough laugh out loud moments to make it worthwhile. You may find yourself shaking your head at times or thinking that the humor is so odd that it's funny by not being funny - which is sort of the idea behind "Talladega Nights." The constant references to the character's name and it's related anatomical synonym are a bit tired, but interspersed almost as afterthoughts, so I forgave most of them. But it isn't nearly as funny as "Talladega Nights" which is a tribute to Will Ferrell and not a dig at Reilly.
Reilly is helped by Fischer and Tim Meadows, who plays his drug-addled drummer. He introduces Cox to several recreational drugs before getting to cocaine, which Meadows advises him is "the next logical step." You'll also recognize Jack Black, Harold Ramis and brief appearances by Jenna's Office-mates Ed Helms and Craig Robinson.
So, you should see "Walk Hard", especially if you've seen the Johnny Cash film. It's a worthy parody. There's enough humor to make it worth at least the matinee price and songs that are good enough to make it believable as a fictional account of a musical "Forrest Gump" without the shrimp, and I'm guessing, the Oscar nominations.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

One for "Charlie Wilson's War"

I don't pay too much attention to World news. As far as I'm concerned, the peoples of the world can take care of themselves and sometimes, the less we know about them, the better. Regular readers know that I rarely write anything about what goes on outside our borders, mostly because I am not politically worldly and partly because I don't care all that much.
As I was driving over to the local art house multi-plex to see "Charlie Wilson's War" early Sunday afternoon, I had a little panic attack. I wondered, "What if this movie totally loses me and I have absolutely no idea what's going on, because I don't pay much attention to these kinds of things?" After all, I was going mostly because it's Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in a film by Mike Nichols, and I'd probably watch paint dry if the three of them were somehow involved.
Early in the attack, I reasoned that the movie wouldn't be as popular as it is if it was a sophisticated study of politics, so my fears were allayed by the ignorance of the general public.
Even if you are as ignorant of world affairs as I, you will enjoy this film, as did I. It starts out in that puzzling fashion that political stories often do, but if you hang with it through the first 30 minutes or so, it will come into sharp focus. The only thing that remains is how is Charlie going to get this accomplished, which I suppose is the point of the thing.
The film shows us how sometimes (or maybe most of the time) oddly unethical or seemingly inappropriate behavior can take place while people accomplish great things. Since the film is based on a true story, and a book by George Crile, we are left to suppose that this is how it happens more often than not.
Tom Hanks has moved into the third phase of his career. He started as a goofball TV and movie actor, transitioned into adulthood and won a few awards along the way. Now, he is the sort of elder statesman of fine film actors and is able to pull off the understated comedic aspects of a complex character with dignity. Julia is ... well, Julia. She is perfect for this role, and we are left wanting more of her, which is good. Philip Seymour Hoffman is perhaps headed for another Oscar nomination, this time as Best Supporting Actor. He is the film's light, and every scene he is in is the better for it. The byplay between him and Hanks is fun to watch. Fans of "Talladega Nights" will no doubt recognize Amy Adams, who does a fine turn as Wilson's assistant. Mike Nichols is one of Hollywood's best story tellers.
There is a reason the film has received such critical acclaim. There is a reason it's usually sold out, and even today, I had to get there a half hour before the start time to ensure a seat that wasn't ten feet from the screen. The reason is that it's a great story told by great entertainers. The moral, as it is, is as timely as today's headlines. The film relates to the current situation in Iraq as well as it relates to 1980s Afghanistan or 1970s Vietnam. The participants change, but the moral is always the same. In the end, it is the point of the film. Those who want to point to Charlie's indiscretions or the methods he uses are missing the point. Don't take you eye off the ball.
Don't worry about the political aspects or the idea that it is about war. It's more a cautionary tale about the effects of war and how the public sees what they want us to see. It is superbly acted, as you could imagine, and the story is craftily told. That didn't prevent the guy behind me from telling his companion, "It isn't as good as the book. You have to read the book." Of course you do, nitwit. How can you tell a 560 page story in 97 minutes? The book ... the book ... you have to read the book. Get back in your Lexus and drive back to suburbia. Book snob.
The downside of the art-house movie experience is that it is often populated by pompous asses who think that they have to state the obvious. Hey, jackass, it's a movie. If I wanted to read, I would have bought the book.
The movie experience is a beautiful aspect of modern society. Don't let this one pass you by and don't read the book unless you want to.

The machine rolls on

I'm always looking for the angle. I'm always looking for the swindle or the scam. Deep down, I don't think there are too many people who do things out of the goodness of their hearts - especially when it comes to sports or entertainment. I'm cynical that way.
Last night, the Patriots' record-setting game against the Giants was televised on three networks. CBS, NBC and The NFL Network, which is a network by name only. Since The NFL Network is only available to 40% of households, it meant that the biggest event of the season so far would not be viewed by a majority of football fans, so the NFL signed up two real networks to help.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went on TV last night and told America that the game was on network television "for the fans." He stressed it and said it a few times. He kept repeating it, as though the more he said it, the more he would believe it and - hopefully - the more we would believe it.
Mr. Goodell: Did you invent The NFL Network "for the fans"? How about all those Thursday and Saturday nights when fans wanted to see a game, but couldn't because it was on a pay-cable channel? Are you in a war with cable companies "for the fans"? Did you hire Bryant Gumbel (the world's worst play-by-play man) "for the fans"?
It was in the best interests of the NFL to show America that game. Forget all that "for the fans" nonsense. It's for the NFL. It doesn't do them any good if the Patriots won (which was a foregone conclusion) and a majority of America didn't see it. Click around the Internet today and you'll see.
When I visited NFL.com and clicked on the game story, my computer was locked up for 30 seconds while a Sheraton Hotel ad loaded. On Yahoo Sports, there's a Glaceau water ad "congratulating" Tom Brady for a perfect season. There is "perfect season gear" on the web. It's all designed for money, and the more people who saw the game, the more saps will want some trinket or dopey t-shirt commemorating their three hours in front of the TV. I'm guessing that fans were being sold crap on their way out of the stadium last night, too.
The teams pay these guys millions of dollars, and in an effort to recoup some of that money (and make more for the players) they need products to sell. There's a limited time in which to sell this crap, since the playoffs start next week and the "Perfect Season" stuff will go into storage when the AFC Champions stuff goes on sale. Then, the Super Bowl Champions stuff goes out. Thankfully, that's the end of the product cycle - for this year.
It's always about money, and you're always being sold something even if it's disguised as a goodwill gesture by some big corporation who is only looking out for your best interests. The ones who get screwed the hardest are the loyal fans. The ones who make signs and dress in goofy outfits are the real targets. The NFL knows that they have a built-in customer and all they need to do is feed them. So, congratulations suckers.
These are the people who feel superior today because "my team" is 16 and oh. Your team? I'm old enough to remember when the Patriots were laughing stock. They were 2-14 in 1981 and they were 1 and 15 in 1990. Sports is funny that way.
They didn't make any shirts for those seasons.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Isthmus be my lucky day.

While separating some laundry tonight, I felt around the pockets of my jeans (something I encourage) and came across $48 in cash in the rear pocket (my favorite pocket). So that was a good thing. I should have missed the money, since it's been in those pants since Tuesday.
I find a lot of spare change and dollar bills, but I don't generally find anything larger than a $5 bill.
As you can no doubt reason, I don't carry a wallet. God knows where that thing would wind up.
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It's probably a good thing I don't have wads of disposable income. I'd own every gadget in the world. I've already been through the GPS window shopping, and I'm not wildly enthusiastic about them. I don't do enough random traveling to make the thing worthwhile.
One of my young co-workers got a new PSP for Xmas, and he has been bringing it into work. It packs quite a lot into a little package, and the "Gadget Guy" in me got a little twinge. Naturally, I started the window-shopping process. They're around $200 and once again, if the money didn't matter, I'd be all over it. However, I'm not much of a gamer, and between the 8 gigabyte chip on my cell phone and my 20 gigabyte Dell mp3 player, I can load up every song I own, so the music isn't the issue. Maybe if I do 3 more loads of laundry I can find enough money to just buy the thing?
I'm not sure I'd want to watch movies on the tiny screen. If I'm not at work, I'm at home where there is a full-sized LCD screen for that. I don't frequent Starbucks or other WiFi hot spots, so the Internet surfing isn't a selling point. I like movies, but I like them on the big screen. I don't do enough sitting around to make it a worthwhile investment.
I guess I could hook it up to my TV and play on that, but why would I want to use the PSP if I was already in front of the TV?
Still ... why do I want one?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Don't drink and drive or drink then drive.

Rebecca DeMornay was charged Thursday, December 27, 2007 with misdemeanor drunken driving stemming from her arrest two months ago.
So, uh ... Rebecca ... just in case ... I mean ... if you need a ... ride or something ... my e-mail is in my profile.
All this drunken driving stuff makes me remember how it was when I started driving in 1975 (when dinosaurs roamed the earth). You'd be out, completely hammered, driving home from a club someplace and forget to signal a turn, or have a brake light out. Behind you lurks the local law enforcement.
They pull you over and shine the flashlight in the car, see the half-opened six pack or Smirnoff bottle rolling around the back seat, and ask you to "step out of the car."
Then, they'd grab the beer and look at you with the stink-eye, send you on your way with a Reckless Driving citation and remind you to "be careful" as you weave your way home, wondering how you're going to pay the $40 fine.
Now, it's a misdemeanor with jail time and a Permanent Record. I think it's the same beer, though. It just shows you what societal pressure can bring to bear. I'm pretty sure people were driving into trees and ditches and other people in 1975, because the conditions haven't changed and people haven't changed. Generally, laws change because someone's ox is gored, and in the case of the drinking and the smoking, oxen have been gored.
Historically, it's a relatively short span of time in which you were once able to go to a bar, smoke a cigarette and drive home without the worry of second-hand smoke cancer or misdemeanor charges stemming from your activities.
I'm not saying it's a bad thing (necessarily), just that it's a lot to ask of people who were once 18 and are now 50 (or 48) to have to adjust their learned behavior because society has gradually become intolerant of what was once completely acceptable.
So, anyway, Rebecca, if you need a ride...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I don't know my Olathe from a hole in the ground.

I don't want to stir them up again, but suffice it to say that the mere mention of The G-word yesterday was enough to get a visit from corporate HQ in Olathe, Kansas - a place that most people would need a GPS unit to find. What a coincidence.
I wear a silly grin when I check the old Statcounter and find a corporate hit from this nonsense. I'm guessing that companies have entire departments checking on Google Reader for mentions of their name. Knowing that they're reading is part of the fun.
Sometimes, it's all of the fun.
A Haiku for you:

I asked you for help,
and you told me to get lost.
Thank God for Garmin.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The stuff I call thoughts.

Somebody stop me. I'm looking at GPS devices and thinking about buying one. Partly because I'm a gadget guy and partly because I'm an idiot. The two wouldn't seem to work together, but when it comes to direction-finding devices, they're a perfect fit. The reason you have to stop me is because they're still kind of pricey and I'm not altogether sure I'd get the full usage out of it. I mean, what would I do - roam around the countryside aimlessly with this thing in my face telling me which way to turn? Pointless.
What I would like is an LPS. A Life Positioning System. Something to tell me which way to turn when things really matter. When Garmin makes one of those, you'll drop me a line and let me know.
Meanwhile, local law enforcement is hot and heavy against distracted drivers using cell phones in their cars, eating and drinking, smoking and otherwise looking at something that isn't the road ahead. I'm seeing a lot of these GPS deals on the dashboard of the cars ahead of me, and I'm usually looking for an escape route. How long do you think it will be before we see laws against these things? Maybe never, since the auto makers are putting them in cars now. Somebody tell me the difference between using a GPS in your car and talking on the cell phone.
I didn't think so.
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Another zoo animal escaped its holding cell and attacked some people in San Francisco Zoo on Tuesday. This one was (past tense) Tatiana, a Siberian Tiger, who inexplicably jumped its grotto and attacked three visitors, killing one; before being shot to death by local law enforcement.
Anthropomorphism is the assigning of human characteristics to animals. We lose sight of the fact that animals are ... well, animals. Tigers are carnivorous predators who take up great expanses of land. They're my favorite animals to see at the zoo, but it makes me sad to see them penned up pacing in a circle or sitting idly waiting for some keeper to throw food at them. They're hunters and I imagine that they don't like being held in a pen any more than we would. They prefer wild boar and deer, but when given the chance they will attack anything that moves.
They're not cuddly cats or stuffed play toys. They're beasts of the wilderness, and when we cage them it goes against their primal instinct to roam and hunt. OK, so one of them killed somebody and maimed two others. It's a tiger. That's what tigers do. It wasn't the first time that Tatiana attacked. Last year, she tore the right arm off one of the keepers who was trying to feed her. The zoo was fined $18,000 for inadequate safety precautions, but tigers don't place any value on money.
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And now, here's a little video for my friend from Ohio, who could use a laugh after dealing with these people all day ... It's Brian Regan.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My blog is open all day on Christmas.

Today is Christmas, the largest exercise in Groupthink in Western Civilization.
It's quite the holiday. Last night, the local news led with the story of hordes of Christmas Eve shoppers frantically pacing the stores for that perfect last-minute gift or (as one man was doing) his entire shopping list - including his wife. I hope she was watching.
This afternoon, I ventured out to a local multi-Plex to catch a film. I'm generally not too picky, and I decided to take pot luck with whatever was playing as I pulled up to the theater.
I've never been to a movie on Christmas, and as such, I had no idea it was such a secular pastime. The parking lot was almost full, and hundreds of families were forking over money to see the "Chipmonks", "Alien vs. Predator" or "Juno", which was sold out. I figured I was safe with my choice, "Charlie Wilson's War". Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, P.S. Hoffman and Mike Nichols. Hard to screw that up, right?
As hard as it is to believe, the 2:40 showing sold out while I was waiting in line for the families in front of me to sign the credit card receipts. It's just as well, since I'm not a fan of packed theaters. I figured all these people would be at home cooking their Christmas Beast, and the movies would be packed later. Since nothing else was playing besides kids movies and sci-fi destruction, I decided to bag the theater and went off in search of sustenance and write myself a note to buy my movie ticket online next time.
Good luck to me. The only businesses that were open were gasoline stations, a few convenience stores (hence the name) a couple of drug store chains and the standard Eat-out Xmas fare - the Chinese restaurant.
The big one around here is buffet style, and I was greeted at the door by a skinny Asian woman who apparently doesn't eat her own cooking. "Since it's Christmas," she said, "we're only serving dinner today."
"OK," I replied, and my inner voice was asking what the difference was between a buffet dinner and a buffet lunch. My outer voice remained silent. Isn't it the same food? It's not like there are lunch portions and dinner portions. It's a buffet. Of course, as soon as I heard the "Since it's Christmas" part, I figured that I was going to get screwed - in a bad way - by this deal.
Since it's Christmas, you'll have to eat while wearing these festive decorations. Since it's Christmas, we will be serving your dinner with a garnish of evergreens. Since it's Christmas, we can charge you whatever we want because you're desparate and we're the only game in the state.
So, no movie and a $14 lunch (since it's Christmas, dinner) got me to thinking. Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year, we can agree on that. It's also the holiday where practically everything is closed. Other holidays have "Holiday sales" so the retail stores are open or are centered around food, so restaurants are open. At Christmas, I suppose the stores figure they have squeezed the financial sponge to the point that there isn't any water left, so consumers are left to sit at home and contemplate their huge bills or use their remaining credit to buy four movie tickets. I think the technical term is, "Fuck 'em and run."
That's interesting to me, because Christmas is supposed to be a religious holiday, even though you and I know it isn't. Other secular holidays like Veteran's Day and July 4 are the sort of Retail-Optional Legal holidays that, to me, should be National Holidays. After all, they honor real things like people and country.
Days like today show you who is really in charge. Religion and the retail industry. They've convinced people that it's somehow "disrespectful" to be open on Christmas. You can't even hit a liquor store or a supermarket today. How many other holidays can you say that about? Even on Easter they're open a half-day. Wouldn't you figure that enough businesses would be owned by non-Christian types that there would be at least a few options?
I suppose the bigger end of the equation is that there aren't enough people like me who would welcome a few open doors, so they don't feel badly about having me drive around for two hours looking for food and entertainment.
It's nice to be reminded how much different I am.

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's almost over.

Pretty soon - as Jack Crabb said to General Custer in "Little Big Man" - "There won't be nothin' left but a greasy spot."
Xmas 2007 will be glorious history and the Goyim can go back to their lives of humdrum normalcy for another 11 months, when it will all certainly kick up again, worse than last year.
I'm one of the goons at work today, and compounding the issue is the fact that last night, I spilled half a glass of Southern Comfort & cranberry juice in my computer keyboard, rendering it either useless or drunk, I'm not sure which. Whatever; it isn't working, so I'm filing this in absentia, lest I go a day without writing something and you think I've suffered a horrible death or worse - decided to stop altogether.
The nice people I work for give us a half-day off and pay us for a full day, which is nice, but I think I'd rather sleep in and be spared the phony "Merry Christmas" wishes from management types who spend the other 364 days avoiding me.
My wish in haiku:
"Merry Christmas to you too,
you fat tub of goo."
Actually, what I normally say is, "Same to you." That way, if their wish isn't genuine, I can feel like I'm throwing it back in their face. Seriously, we know it isn't genuine, don't we?
On my drive in this morning at 7am, the local mall was already at normal weekday capacity (judging by the parking lot) and the local grocery store was booming. I don't know what they could possibly be buying at this point. Computer keyboards?
The sad part for me at least, is that I will need to find a Staples or some other out-of-the-way store where I can find a keyboard. Really, I'm more upset about spilling half a glass of fine beverage mix which would have fit much better in my stomach than in the intricate inner-workings of a computer keyboard.
So, if I don't see ya, try to make it through the day tomorrow. I'll be feasting on Chinese food and probably watching "I Am Legend" at the local cinema, or whatever other recent blockbuster is playing.
Remember to drink responsibly.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Juno what I did today?

Saturday was more interesting than some days and less interesting than others.
It started with a two-hour spin session over at the local fitness center. I know what you're saying (I do), "Who wants to spend two hours on a spin bike?" Not only that, but I paid $6 for the privilege. The good news is that my heart rate stayed between 140 and 160 bpm for pretty much the entire time. It's lower now.
After a short nap (really) it was off to the city to see the latest high-end critically acclaimed film, "Juno". It was playing every 45 minutes in one of those multi-plex theaters where, if the rooms were a little bigger it wouldn't have to run in three theaters. I suppose they hedge their bets by making the rooms small in case they accidentally book a loser. This one is close to selling out every show, so they wind up wasting three theaters where one bigger one would do.
It's a clever story with lots of pithy dialogue. Think M*A*S*H (the TV version) with kids in Minnesota. The kind of dialogue that is so clever that it sounds written, because regular people would have to be set up with it ahead of time to speak so cleverly.
Juno MacGuff: You should've gone to China, you know, 'cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.
The film stars Ellen Page as 16-year old Juno MacGuff, who is one of those movie-typical high school outcasts, street-smarter than most of them and she's supposed to be ugly or something. I would call her "movie ugly", which is a far cry from real ugly. Supposedly, the boys in school find her unattractive which, to me makes her all the more appealing. She will surely be nominated for an Oscar, since the film carries her character's name and if we don't buy her, we aren't going to buy the film. She is compelling and as an audience, we like her and feel sympathy for her, which is key to carrying the movie.
There's a nice supporting cast, including J.K. Simmons (Dr. Emil Skoda, Law & Order) as her father and Allison Janney (The West Wing and Ricky Fitts' mom in "American Beauty") as her mouthy stepmother. There's also a despicable role by Jason Bateman (every movie needs a despicable character) and Jennifer Garner, who narrowly avoids bimbo and moves straight to compassionate with one key scene at a shopping mall. If you're a fan of Rainn Wilson and you have seen the movie's trailer, you have seen his entire role in this film. He's pretty much Dwight Schrute with a pharmacist's coat.
It's a little different, in that a teenage girl gets pregnant and her parents support her. That's different in a refreshing way. There's an odd, too hip for the room soundtrack and ten tons of convenience store snack food references - everything from orange Tic Tacs to Super Ropes - but mostly, there's a great story and a film that somewhere between the snappy dialogue and the great acting finds a heart, and the unexpected affection that a young girl can feel for two people she doesn't know and one that is growing inside her. I give it two thumbs up - because I only have two thumbs.
At one point, when asked what she was doing, Juno tells her mother, "I was out doing something way beyond my maturity level." That pretty much sums up the film. It's one of those stories where the kids are more mature than some of the adults, so take your kids to the theater. They can help explain the dialogue, too.

Friday, December 21, 2007

My "Eureka" moment.

I can picture a young Arthur Fry, sitting around his office at 3M, wondering how he can improve the world, when "Eureka!" he comes up with a piece of stationery with a re-adherable strip of adhesive on the back, designed for temporarily attaching notes to documents, computer displays and so forth.
"Why didn't I think of that?" you wonder quietly to yourself. Why indeed, dumbass. It's a piece of paper with some glue on the back that isn't quite sticky enough to really stick to something. A triumph of bad materials and a ticket to early retirement.
So, there I was hanging out with the 5:05 Club (a drinking organization co-sponsored by Anheuser-Busch) wondering why it takes so long to order something as simple as a bottle of Yuengling beer. Once I realized that the bartenders specialized in not making eye contact - a clever rouse designed to rid themselves of the nasty necessity called "customer recognition" - I stumbled onto an idea whose time has apparently come.
A beer vending machine. Simple in concept yet clever by thought. Inspired by alcohol, as are many ideas - the Bush/Cheney ticket, seat belts and the Phillies hiring Charlie Manuel to manage the team.
Why wait for busy bartenders when you can swipe a credit card or (God forbid) insert cash and almost instantly be served a fresh can of pilsner beer. This is it, I thought. My Post-it note. My Velcro. My cell phone tower disguised as a tree. My great idea. My name, synonymous with beer in vending machine form. What more could anyone want out of life?
More, apparently as it seems that the Japanese have once again beat us to the punch. Much like the attack on Pearl Harbor, they have come up with the perfect system and have even come up with a name for it. Liquor House Mini. The bastards.
That doesn't mean it wasn't a good idea, because it was. Once Bush gets out of office and the Clinton's are back in, I'd say the road is cleared for the nationwide distribution of the beer vending machine. No more waiting for bartenders or nursing warm beer. Simply remove the jibberish Japanese characters and replace it with standard English and it's a done deal.
We should use the power of numbers to get this idea off the ground. Write to your legislator, call your municipal planning committee and get this thing moving. It works in Japan, and 127 million Japanese can't be wrong.
The sons of bitches.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Clash of the TV Trash

Oh God, in Your imaginary heaven, hear my prayer ... Settle the writers' strike, please. I'm begging ya. Clash of the Choirs was on for two freakin' hours tonight. To make matters worse, I overheard some workplace nitwits discussing this show. Discussing it. They were talking about a show where Michael Bolton runs around picking up singers and they ... compete ... in some sort of singing game with judges and (my God) viewers. I'm sure this nonsense was resurrected from the trash bin at whatever network it's on, since they can't think of anything else to run. Add in the Xmas season and you get ... Clash of the Choirs. Egad.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: Jesus, we're out of shows.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 2: Really? I thought we had five more World's Most Amazing Cheese Molds in the can.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: No, we ran them during the Super Bowl.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 2: We could run that American Gladiators show.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: Isn't that like, 10 years old?
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 2: Who's gonna know? Are you going to tell them? People love to watch other people beating each other up.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: What about that choir show we paid for?
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 2: Oh, you mean the one with Bolton? What did he do with his hair?
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: He lost it when he lost his career.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 2: How about if we let people beat Michael Bolton up?
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: If they can do it while he's singing, I think we've got a winner!
My guess is that there will be another baby boom, right around August or September of 2008 from all the bored couples who have been turning off the TV and doing something else. For those of us without that luxury, we thank our imaginary God for radio and the Internet.
In an effort to give you something to watch on something resembling a TV (your computer screen) this might entertain you. It's a band called Back Door Slam:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A golden shower from Catholics for "The Golden Compass"

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Wednesday condemned the film "The Golden Compass," which some have called anti-Christian, saying it promotes a cold and hopeless world without God. "In Pullman's world, hope simply does not exist, because there is no salvation but only personal, individualistic capacity to control the situation and dominate events," the editorial said.
Wow, only "personal control"? That sounds positively wonderful! So, let's see if I have this straight ... In Pullman's World we don't have to hold out in hopes that some mystical creature will satisfy our needs and wants. We have control over our own destiny without the outside influence of something that may or may not be (in quotes) real. We have the power to dominate events and not some other-worldly faith-based invention that controls our thoughts and deeds.
The U.S.-based Catholic League, a conservative group, has urged Christians not to see the movie, saying that its objective was "to bash Christianity and promote atheism" to children. The Vatican newspaper called the movie "the most anti-Christmas film possible" and said that it was "consoling" that its first weekend ticket sales were a disappointing $26 million.
Let me tell you, I played in that Catholic League and they're full of players that couldn't cut it in the real world. They're such a stuck-up bunch that they rejoice in the failure of others. That sounds anti-Christian to me.
I think I've said it here before, but it bears repeating. What kind of faith is it that can be so threatened by a movie? Is Christianity that flimsy a concept that a film about personal control and ... dare I say it ... anti-Christmas sentiments can shake up the movement? Apparently it is.
I don't know about you, but I just moved "The Golden Compass" to the top of my MUST SEE movie list.
And, don't look now, but the concept of Christmas is about as anti-Christian as you can get. Can someone at The Vatican tell me what is Christian about lighting up your house, decorating a dead tree in your living room, exchanging expensive gifts that wind up being mini-competitions and parading a fat guy around in a red suit with a fake beard telling children that "I'm watching you" and (basically) scaring them into being nice so that they can get stuff.
Tell me, please, because that's what Christmas is and I don't think it's Christian at all. It's drawn from Paganism and Druid beliefs that happen to fit in with the worldly viewpoint that greed is good.
I think, what The Vatican is really frightened about is that people might start thinking for themselves and making their own decisions about their lives. As far as organized religion is concerned, that's about as threatening a concept as anyone can teach.
Merry Christmas, pagans.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A jab at Alycia

At first, I wasn’t sure I had much to offer on the latest Alycia Lane brouhaha, but after careful consideration, I decided that it didn’t matter whether or not I had anything substantive to add. I owe it to the hundreds of Google searchers that come here in search of Alycia Lane stuff. So, here’s my two cents.
THE STORY: Anchorwoman Alycia Lane's future with KYW (CBS3) is uncertain after her arrest early Sunday on charges of slugging a plainclothes New York City police officer. She is also accused of shouting obscenities at the officer and calling her a "dyke". Observers say her return to her $700,000-a-year anchor job hinges not only on her legal case - a felony charge of second-degree assault that could take months to resolve - but the court of public opinion.
Alycia’s latest dust-up with the NYPD isn’t strike one. It isn’t even strike two, and for those of us who are old enough to remember when television had real journalists, it isn’t all that shocking, either.
The early days of television news had field reporters and anchors that cut their journalistic teeth covering World War 2 and later, the turmoil of the 1960s. Men like Edward R. Murrow, Charles K. Smith, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite. They were men who wrote their own copy and conducted themselves with the dignity befitting the job. Recently, television news (especially the local end) has degenerated into a promotional device for the network and a feeder for the evening’s programming. It features one beautiful face after another at the anchor desk, where it appears that the only qualification is nice hair and smooth skin. As we know, once the standards are lowered, they are not going to return.
At this point, Alycia is little more than a local news version of Britney Spears – a celebrity by virtue of having no virtue. That is, she draws unwarranted attention to herself. She sent provocative e-mail photos to a married man-friend and appeared on Dr. Phil’s dopey show twice to discuss her divorce. She clearly lacks the common sense necessary to be a responsible journalist, if you believe that news anchors are journalists to begin with. Odd behavior is a great promotional device, but when it involves the police and arrest records, the entertainment angle is gone.
That isn’t to say that it is necessary to be steadfast and stodgy as a news anchor, but it does mean that you should comport yourself with dignity, since you are asking people to trust you enough to allow you to tell us what’s going on in the world. When you become the news, worlds collide.
Whether or not the allegations of Alycia’s most recent rumpus is true is irrelevant. What matters is that she found herself in such a situation to begin with, and it points to a general lack of understanding of both her position and her obligation to it. She claims innocence, but let’s face it, when it’s your word against a police officer we know who is going to win.
At least the people in charge at KYW (CBS3) have had the good sense to relieve her of her duties, lest the broadcast become even more of a circus than normal. For those of you who need your Alycia Lane fix, you’ll have to try YouTube or your stash of video tapes, because it appears as though she has read her last story for a while … or ever.
The best perspective comes from Tom Petner, the director of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab (whatever that is) who said, “The personality is in danger of overtaking the content.”
It happened a long time ago, Tom. To be frank, there wasn’t much content to begin with, which is where the trouble always starts.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bereft of ideas, I turn to random thoughts and non-sequitur photos.

Here in the Delaware Valley, we escaped the tragic snowstorm that pummeled the northeast last weekend. We'll pay for that one, I'm sure. If I can put in a request, make it a Saturday night, so I can sleep until they clear the streets. Thanks.

Meanwhile, the TV writers' strike is doing two things. First, it's saving me a ton of money on my electric bill, since the TV is mostly in the "off" position; which has a downside since it's new and I'd like to enjoy something besides football games on Sunday afternoon. Second, it has created even more dopey "reality" shows with names like Choir Challenge and game shows with rules that probably take longer than the show to explain. Any time you do a show where Michael Bolton is rounding up singers to compete in a choir showdown, you know that there aren't any writers left in the world.

Michael Vick had a "deathbed" confessional last week, where he wrote an impassioned letter to his judge, saying that he was "sorry" he ever got involved in dog fighting. Sure, now he's sorry. Before he got caught he was fine with it. I don't know what he expected to accomplish with such a letter. His lawyer probably wrote it, since I didn't notice any misspellings or grammatical errors.
 
By this time, I expected that a dark horse presidential candidate would have emerged from the shadows to overtake the gathering of boobs that the good people of Iowa will have to decide on soon. Obama and Clinton will spend the next year sniping at each other, while John Edwards will continue to tell us that he is the most qualified, citing some "empirical evidence" that he is the most popular Democrat. Stop saying empirical, John and you'll have a better chance.

On the Republican side, they seem to take turns saying something stupid in a sort of political circle jerk. The Mormon, the Christian and the generally uneducated leave no stone unturned when it comes to goofball ideas and beliefs that will no doubt meld the party into one giant ball of hypocrisy until they disappear up their own mouth holes. Is it over yet?

My free trial of HBO and Starz ran out during the day on Sunday. Horrified, I ran to the web to find out how much it would cost to bring them back. $89.50 a month. Jesus. I listed some more Ebola stuff in a futile effort to drum up the money to bring back the twentieth showing of Talladega Nights and the ten HBO channels that show the same programs in different time zones. I think it's mostly that I hate jumping over those blank channels and partly because I was all set to watch AC Hookers on Sunday night, only to find out that the HBO deal stopped during the Eagles game. GRAPHIC LANGUAGE, NUDITY, STRONG SEXUAL CONTENT, ADULT CONTENT. I don't think it was a coincidence.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fisheye Fun

As you recall (I'm assuming) I promised I would post some photos I took of my day in Washington on Friday. I decided to travel light and use only my 14mm fisheye lens. It has a 180-degree field of view and (as you can see) distorts the images, hence the name. One of my favorite things to do is photograph the METRO, Washington's wonderful subway system. It takes you just about anyplace, and I think the innards are particularly interesting. This is the train coming into L'Enfant Plaza. The flashing red lights on the platform tell us the train is coming. The only problem with doing these photos is that I usually miss my train. The sacrifices I make for my art. Geez.
It's a short walk from the L'Enfant Plaza stop to the East Building of the National Gallery. It's at the end of the Mall, near the Capitol building.
Don't be fooled by the Smithsonian METRO stop. It isn't as close to the gallery as some other stops. The original Smithsonian is at the other end of the National Mall.

That's the Calder mobile hanging from the glass panel roof that greets visitors when they enter the East Building. There are more Calder works in the museum, but we aren't allowed to photograph them. Downstairs, there is a small Rothko exhibit (below) that we are allowed to photograph.
From there, it was off to the Air and Space Museum, where they have the original 1903 Wright Flyer as part of a great exhibit all about the Wright Brothers and their historic airplane.

My favorite museum on the Mall is the Hirshorn, directly across from the Air and Space place. The exterior looks a bit like a space vehicle.

During the summer months the fountain is running, but I think it's just as interesting in the winter. This is where the fisheye lens comes in handy.

The featured exhibit at the Hirshorn is a collection of Morris Lewis works. He used a thin acrylic called Magna and drew it across the canvas to make some compelling paintings.

Downstairs, there is a coathanger sculpture by Dan Steinhilber.

Down at Mall lies the original Sminsonian buildings, where this little fountain rests, filled with some sort of blue material to simulate water.

For my Canadian friend, this is the building where all those screwy American laws are made. We call it the Capitol. Last year, they cleaned the exterior. Maybe soon they'll clean up the inside?

OK, so I cheated for this one and broke out the 50mm and cropped it. Sue me.
That's pretty much the photo album. As much as I love my good old Nikon N70 film camera, I might have to get me one of those new-fangled digital ones soon. I wasn't too happy with the CVS photo disc, although I did get a comment from the "inspector" at the CVS Photo Center that said, "These pictures were sweet!"
But not as sweet as you, my friend. Don't-cha just love the fisheye lens?

Friday, December 14, 2007

A 130 mile drive for a $20 lunch

Today I took my final vacation day of 2007 and spent the majority of it cruising around the Mall at our nation's capital. I took a lot of photos, but I'm still on the film standard, so the pics will have to wait until tomorrow at least.
Usually, I take Amtrak, but that option is getting expensive, so I did the drive today. It's 130 miles straight down Interstate 95 to the New Carrollton METRO stop, then a 20-minute train ride into the city.
The first stop (as usual) was the East Building of the National Gallery. I love that place. It's good for my tortured soul. They have some new exhibits since the last time I was there, including a fine exhibition of Edward Hopper, who you may not know, but I'm sure you have seen Nighthawks.
The gallery is free, but lunch is far from it. For the record, that turkey sandwich was on pumpernickel bread, so it is kind of special. If you go by weight, the Tiramisu is more expensive than silver and the water is more expensive than gasoline. On the bright side, I got $2.01 change.
Then, with a full belly and empty pockets I was off to the Air and Space Museum, which at first glance appears to be an entire building dedicated to nothing, but it's really about airplanes and spaceflight, but they call it air and space for short.
My favorite of all the joints on the Mall is the Hirshorn Museum, which features work by modern artists and artists that are actually alive. There is always something interesting going on, and today was no exception.
There is a great exhibition of Morris Lewis' works (OK, he's dead) and a cool film by David Weiss called The Way Things Go. I posted the YouTube version at the bottom, but the full-length version is a half hour. I think Netflix has it.
The place was eerily empty. One of the guards told me that it's like that on weekdays before the holidays. I've been there on plenty of weekdays and it was much more quiet than usual, so I guess I picked a good day for a visit. There were some schoolkids at the East Building and the Air & Space, but they were in little tour groups being lectured. I couldn't tell if they were there because they wanted to be there or because they had to be there. Either way, it was nice to see grammar school-aged kids at a major art gallery, and I suppose they enjoyed it once they got off the phone.
The drive to and fro was a circus. I-95 is a mish-mash of jackasses, truck drivers and speeders that makes white-knuckle driving look like a test ride. Traffic was bad coming home, but that didn't stop the weavers from crossing 4 lanes of traffic in front of tractor-trailers so that they could tailgate the guy in the left lane. What did they think all of those red brake lights were?
I think I'm going back to Amtrak.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Mitchell Report

The Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball came out today in a blaze of ... um ... glory shortly after 2pm EST. It named 85 current and former major league players that either used or helped obtain performance enhancing substances as far back as the 1990s.
It's 409 pages long, if you care to read it. I do, but I haven't read the entire thing yet. I might need some amphetamines to get through it. All I've done so far is to search out the names of players and teams I was curious about. Otherwise, I've heard Bud Selig's news conference and I was unimpressed. Bud used to own the Milwaukee Brewers and now he is the commissioner of the league.
Picture this. You have a professional sports league with a commissioner who is a former owner of one of the teams. Do you think he would always act in the best interests of the game or do you think he would be interested in helping his (former) fellow owners make as much money as possible? Remember when Dick Cheney was chosen as Bush's running mate and we figured there would be impropriety because he was CEO of Halliburton and owned a ton of stock? He claimed that, since he sold his stock that his influence-peddling days were over and he was going to act in the country's best interests as Vice President of the United States. How did that work out for us? The Selig thing is just like that.
Bud held a press conference today after Senator George Mitchell presented the report and said that he would take care of the present and future, and was satisfied that the report took care of the past. That's like, if you robbed a liquor store in 2005 and nobody found out about it until the police looked at some incriminating evidence and decided to let you go because they'll be watching you from now on. The 79 athletes named in the report apparently have nothing to fear from the fish commissioner, since he doesn't want to hurt the owners by taking away some of their best players and ... oh, I don't know ... maybe sending them to trial and possibly to prison.
As you know, players make millions of dollars, so they're not treated like us. Part of the reason they use drugs is because they make millions of dollars and stand to make millions more for every extra year they can squeeze out of their bodies. Major League baseball turned its back on something it knew about because there was money to be made. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa helped save baseball's popularity with their drug-enhanced home run race in 1998. Anybody with eyes in their head and pictures of young and slim McGwire and Sosa figured it out, but the TV revenue flowed in like water, so it continued.
The team trainers knew, the team owners knew, the front offices knew, the sportswriters knew and worst of all the commissioner's office knew. None of them did anything to try to stop it until Barry Bonds' head became so huge and his numbers likewise that it finally started to blow up in their faces. Formerly average players were having 50 home run seasons and even the most ignorant fans wondered what in Hell was going on.
Pitchers were throwing 100mph and breaking down faster than when pitchers threw twice as many innings. If you were surprised to see Roger Clemens' name among the violators, you really weren't paying attention.
When there are millions of dollars at stake, people (not just athletes) will do things that they wouldn't normally do in order for the money to keep coming in. They're called performance enhancing drugs for a reason. If they didn't help, they'd be called something else. We're supposed to be trying to keep our kids from using them, but they're being used in high school and college now because they enhance ones performance. The better they perform, the greater the chances are that they will sign a lucrative professional contract. When one player uses them, as Sosa and McGwire did, it encourages others (like Bonds) to use them so that they can keep up. The drugs create a bigger chasm between the great players and the scrubs, so the scrubs start using them because there are plenty of lousy players in the minor leagues who would love to play in Philadelphia or Houston, so the lousy major leaguers use the drugs so that they can keep their jobs. It really isn't all that complicated.
So what happens now? Nothing. Players have turned from steroids to Human Growth Hormones because there is no reliable urine test for HGH and baseball can't prove that players are using it unless they are stupid enough to write checks and talk to their teammates. Today, we found out that 85 of them are that stupid. The smart ones didn't get caught.
There likely will be no retroactive punishment, no records will be expunged and since many of the players are retired, they will return to their giant tract homes and reflect back on the days when they could hit a ball further than anyone or throw faster than anyone. They'll remember how the fans cheered and how it seemed like they were kids again, playing a game for more money than they ever knew existed. They may have thought, at the time, that what they were doing was "cheating", or they may have thought they were merely surviving in a sport where competition is fierce and fame is fleeting.
After all, they just gave the people what they wanted.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Today's admonition

My company had its annual Xmas party last weekend. My Cal Ripken-like streak of not going continues at 17, mostly because there is more downside and almost no upside. This year, they published “Do’s and Don’ts” on our inter-office web space, so right away you know that there is a decided advantage to skipping the party altogether. Yesterday, a collection of photos from the party appeared on the space, and one overriding thing occurred to me.
Obesity is a real problem. I’ve taken notice of the general increase in girth of the people that have been working here as long as I. Almost none of them are lighter than they were 15 years ago, and not only are they heavier now, but the increase is dramatic. There were probably 200 people at the party, and finding one that is too thin is almost impossible, but finding one that is too fat is sometimes just a matter of moving to the next photo. Looking at one photo after another really drove the point home. There are a lot of fat people running around. They're not running too fast, but they're around.
I’m not talking about 5 pounds. Almost all of us could stand to lose that much weight, and it doesn’t show up in photos anyway. I’m talking about 50 or 100 pounds, or more in some cases. It’s striking and sad that people can allow their bodies to deteriorate to such a condition. It happens so slowly that they hardly notice it, until they have to buy new pants or their back starts to hurt. A pound a month. Ten pounds a year for ten years. Before you know it, you can’t see your shoes, but they probably stay dry when it rains.
I guess it’s because they continue the lousy eating habits they developed as teenagers through adulthood. It’s nice to eat cheeseburgers and French fries for lunch when you’re 15, but eventually it’ll catch up with you. Does every lunch have to come with fries? How about some green beans or a side salad? You’d have a better chance of finding Goerge Bush at a Pro-Choice rally than a hunk of broccoli on their plates. I suppose it’s all part of that “food as a reward” deal that we’ve conjured up. “I deserve this chocolate cake,” but the heart attack that follows is uncalled-for.
We lean on the health care industry a little too much. Pills for cholesterol and the assorted conditions associated with our sedentary lifestyles have conditioned us to “talk to your doctor” when we really should be looking in a mirror. There was a news story on Yahoo today that said the nationwide average cholesterol reading was down to 199, which is below the acceptable range. Well, of course it is. Half the people in this country are on some form of prescription medication and most of them are on some sort of cholesterol blocking pill, so it stands to reason that the number would be lower. They’re still eating the same crap, but their arteries are clean.
On the inside they’re fine. It’s their outsides that are a train wreck. And while we’re at it, what’s with the missing teeth? Reasonably intelligent adults with full-time jobs and (I might add) a dental plan, and a lot of them are missing one of those top-side teeth that shows prominently when they smile.
Fix that, will ya?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What's in Santa's sack?

Mary Carey's breast implant bags have hit the wall at $15,100 on eBay. There are, however, still almost two full days to go, so any dumbass thing is possible. Another Christmas miracle? Somewhere in America, a family (or 15,000 families) could use a nice hot meal on Christmas. Meanwhile, some jackass is going to Paypal 15 grand to Mary and her charity for this nonsense. Sorry, there I go, off in my perfect world again. I'm back now.
DON'T ANGER THE GODS OF CHRISTMAS:
PLANT CITY, Florida - A 9-year-old boy died after being run over by a church float in a Christmas parade. Jordan Hayes was walking alongside the float, handing out beads and candy, when his foot was caught by a wheel and he fell under the float Friday night, said Police Chief Bill McDaniel. Parade watchers shouted at the driver to back up, but the pickup truck pulling the Greater Heights Family Worship Center float ran over Jordan a second time. "This is a tragedy that defies words," McDaniel said. "This was supposed to be a time of celebration and joy, but it has turned into a terrible tragedy."
My first question: What's a church float doing in a Christmas parade?

HOW ABOUT A LITTLE FIRE, SCARECROW?
Hampton, Virginia - Hampton Police are searching for whoever set a restaurant's Christmas tree on fire. Around 6:30 a.m., police say someone broke into The Ritz Gold at 2000 W. Mercury Blvd. and set fire to the tree. "They just broke in the backdoor, popped the lock, set my Christmas tree on fire and left," said owner Darell Corbett. "It's nuts," said Corbett. "Someone crazy enough to break in and set your Christmas tree on fire at the holidays."
It sounds perfectly reasonable to me. The only time you could set fire to a Christmas tree is during the holidays. Use your head, Chief.

Good news for bargain hunters:

U.S. retail sales rose 2.3 percent last week as stores discounted items to attract customers for what may be the worst holiday shopping season in five years, Bloomberg News reported today.

"The consumers, as always, have the upper hand because they make the purchasing decisions," Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, said in a statement Monday.

I'm sure Britt went to some high-end college (or university) and learned all about retail sales and marketing, so don't scoff at his knowledge. Consumers make the purchasing decisions. Get your pens out and jot that one down.

Maybe they should count Mary's boob baggies in with the retail sales numbers?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Persistence

Like a dog with a bone, I kept at it. The Virtual Waiting Room be damned. There's baseball in Boston and I'm going. Section G26, row 8. It isn't until Labor Day, so I'll probably have to put one of those post-it notes on the calendar, but I'm going. Red Sox vs. Orioles. Sure, I could go to Camden Yards (and I will), but yes Sparky, I need Fenway. I need an old ballpark that really is an old ballpark, not one dressed up to look old.
In the 1970s, stadiums were multi-purpose, because people figured (rightly at the time) that if they were going to spend $40 million to build a stadium, it's more efficient if you can play football and baseball in them. They all looked the same - geometrically they were octorads - nearly circular, but not quite. Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and Veterans Stadium here in Philadelphia. The only one I never got to was Busch, but if I closed my eyes in one of the other ones, I could imagine I was there.
Three Rivers was a dump, plain and simple. The lower concourse didn't go all the way around. Start walking at third base, toward home plate and you'd have to turn around and go back when you got to right field. At least Veterans Stadium had the sense to let you make a complete circle. Riverfront was a little nicer, but it rained when I was there, so I can only vouch for part of it.
Now that money rules sports and they have enough to put on their own games, it doesn't matter that an expensive stadium sits vacant for half a year. Football is played in a football stadium and baseball is played in a ballpark - like it used to be. But just like the 1970s, they all look the same now, too. Camden Yards was the model, and it's been tweaked by Coors in Denver, Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Citizens Bank in Philly and a bunch of others. Most of them were designed by the same architect, so it stands to reason. It's difficult to be different, and once people started to flock to Baltimore, the blueprint was copied.
Places like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field in Chicago and Yankee Stadium are not only places where they play baseball, they are a piece of American history. I went to Fenway and Yankee Stadium in 1997, but I've never been to Wrigley. I need to go back to Yankee Stadium this year, before they tear it down to build another one of these blueprint ballparks. I couldn't care less about the Red Sox or Yankees, but I do care about places and history, which is why I'll get a little chill when the wrecking ball comes down on Yankee Stadium next year.
We'll see whether these new places inspire the same sort of feelings when they are torn down. They might, but it won't be for the same reasons. When they tear one down, there will be another one someplace else that looks just like it.
Plus, Babe Ruth, Ernie Banks and Ted Williams never played there.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Another ordinary weekend.

A few years ago, tickets to sporting events became a cottage industry. With the advent of the Internet, people can buy tickets to games that they have no intention of attending and sell them at exorbitant prices, often from a link at the team's web site. Ticket brokers and sports teams are corporate partners now, and it's an odd pairing, especially to someone as cynical as I.
I spent part of the weekend waiting online for a ticket to a Red Sox game. They put about twenty games on sale starting Saturday. They have this thing called the Virtual Waiting Room (which, oddly describes my life) and ticket buyers are asked to wait there while the "random process" opens up a spot for us to buy a ticket.
Eventually it opens, although I gave up on Saturday, after allowing the computer to cook for about 8 hours, refreshing automatically every 30 seconds. Finally, I just shut it down. I tried again on Sunday, only to find the only tickets remaining for weekend games were standing room or General Admission, meaning I would drive 4 hours to not have a seat.
More games went on sale on Sunday, so I tried again. This time, the process was a little quicker, but when I was asked to type in the mysterious number combination that would prove I wasn't a robot, the space was blank. No ticket for me. I'm sure there are some at StubHub, which is probably where they want me anyway.
The rest of the weekend found me pondering some odd events at work, which I am not at liberty to disclose, lest someone find out who shouldn't.
What I discovered was that, from late Friday until now, I have only spoken to store clerks and my cat. It's not all that unusual for me to go entire weekends without human interaction, but it still amazes me when I realize it has happened. I could have gone out and watched the Eagles game today at the local joint, but strangely, I find that I enjoy my own company and that of the cat to some drunk strangers.
I got one of those food cravings. Ice Cream. Have to have ice cream. I waddled over to the local convenience store (it's close, which is why it's convenient) and picked up some. I blew through the pint like Sherman through Georgia, and oddly, I didn't feel all that satisfied. I felt bloated and disappointed, as I did when I started eating my Quiznos Baja Chicken Sub lunch, which started out with an aftertaste. So, I'll be crossing that one off my list.
So, it's back to work (for now) on Monday. I'm taking my final 2007 vacation day on Friday and I need something interesting to do that doesn't involve shopping. I'm thinking D.C. or NYC.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Win your next bar bet.

Charles Woodson in 1997. That's the last time somebody besides a running back, quarterback or wide receiver won the Heisman Trophy, the award that is supposed to go to the outstanding player in college football. He beat out some quarterback from Tennessee named Manning. Whatever happened to him? The 9 runner up's were all QBs, RBs and a WR. Guys named Moss, Williams, Enis and Leaf. Before 1997, it hadn't happened. So, once in 70 some years.
That's your bar bet question: In 72 years of Heisman Trophy awards, who is the only non-RB, QB or receiver (they were called Ends in 1936) to win the Award? Charles Woodson from Michigan, Cornerback, 1997. I don't remember, but it must have been quite the upset.
Tonight, the grand tradition continued as Tim Tebow, the sophomore quarterback from Florida took the trophy home. And the fraud continues.
I'm not saying that Tebow doesn't deserve the award - maybe he does. However, I find it odd that the award for "Most Outstanding College Player" (their words, not mine) would be given to an offensive "skill position" player 71 times. It seems kind of narrow-minded to me. Of course, I wouldn't call Miss America the most beautiful single woman in this country either, so maybe it goes with the territory?

While I'm waiting...

As I while away the minutes (turning into hours) in the Red Sox "Virtual Waiting Room", waiting to purchase tickets to a game, I popped up the news to see what's happening in the world, and I saw this little tidbit of info:
OMAHA, Nebraska - With extra security on hand and holiday shoppers waiting at the doors, the Westroads Mall reopened Saturday morning, three days after a gunman killed eight people and himself at the mall's Von Maur store.
Extra security. I suppose they were there to make people feel safer about going shopping, but what is it for, really? Are they anticipating a rash of depressed loners stalking the mall and waiting for their opportunity to pounce? Are they concerned about the classic "copycat" crime spree? Are they merely overreacting because it's the Xmas shopping season, and they have already lost valuable shopping days? Your answer depends on how cynical you are.
Extra security implies that there was insufficient security there to begin with or that any security officer could have stopped a nutty bastard with a gun concealed in his coat. He got in the elevator and opened fire long before any mall cop could have done anything or even recognized an issue. Providing more of these people is a knee-jerk reaction designed to make people feel safer, when in fact, they were never less safe than three days ago when they knew nothing of his fiendish plot.
I couldn't tell you when the last time a copycat crime took place, unless you count the hoards of troubled loners who run into public blasting their weapons. Those are all copycat crimes, but they take place months or years apart. Protect us against them.
The value of the Xmas shopping season is immeasurable to the tiny stores that populate the mall. I'm guessing that there were a few Merchants Meetings over the past couple of days and that they decided that "In the best interests of the community" the mall should re-open with heightened security so that shoppers will not be deprived of the ability to over-spend on gifts that people either don't want or don't need. Tis the season for feeling secure. Rest assured shoppers, Xmas in Omaha will not be cancelled.
Meanwhile, I'm still in the virtual waiting room, but safe in my home while lone nut jobs roam the streets. Xmas here, however has been cancelled.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Please remember to drink responsibly.

Alcoholic beverage technology has taken another giant leap forward. 100 proof Absolut. That's 50% alcohol, for those of you scoring at home.
I suppose there's a market for it, or else the evil geniuses at Absolut wouldn't bother printing up a bottle, but ya gotta wonder...
Most states already have the .08 BAC (Blood Alcohol Level) in place and it appears to be headed lower, so it's likely that soon you'll be legally intoxicated at .06, which to me means you'd be better off drinking at home or not at all.
And another thing: If they can sell this stuff (and other high percentage alcoholic beverages) why can't they sell marijuana legally? I don't have the time or energy to get into that argument.

Speaking of which, energy has been lacking for this endeavor lately, as you regular readers no doubt have noticed. I hardly noticed myself that it had been since Wednesday that I posted something. Time flies.
I'm not in the newspaper business or the news business in general, so maybe my opinion doesn't matter - or maybe because I'm not it matters more - either way, I don't appreciate the fact that this Barry Bonds story keeps showing up in the Sports section. It isn't a sports story.
Sports is about games and people talking about games. This story is far removed from the game. Unfortunately, it's just beginning and we'll be treated to it for (as Eeyore said) "days, weeks, months ... who knows?"
He'll contend his innocence right up to the point where they throw his ass in jail ...
... wait
He's a celebrity. I forgot. He'll be found guilty and serve some cockamamey sentence that makes him a special case, like those nitwit girls who go to jail for DUI for two hours or Mike Tyson, who practically had the jail cleared out so he could serve his ridiculous sentence.
We're supposed to be a nation of laws, not men; which means that regardless of our station in life we are to be treated the same in the eyes of the law, but we know that doesn't happen.
If you can hit a baseball or otherwise turn yourself into a celebrity your road is paved and your papers are stamped long before you make your first mistake.
Which makes me wonder if any of them feel any real remorse, as you or I would. When one of us screws up it means we either lose our job or take enough of a financial hit that we spend most of the rest of our lives making it up. For these people, the financial hit is generally small and short-lived and their job doesn't suffer, since they frequently are in greater demand than they were before they were arrested. Go figure.
Bonds made countless millions playing baseball and he'll spend a few of them in his legal defense, but there will remain the lucrative post-conviction career of writing books and signing autographs for money that awaits him.
His shame will be short-lived.