Saturday, July 28, 2007

Yahoo, summer's almost over

Yahoo's home page is running a little animation at the top of the screen. Kids and a dog running are around doing something that I can't quite figure out.
When I clicked on it (which was the idea of drawing attention to it I suppose) it opens up a screen touting some Back to School crap sponsored by Target, with shopping and games for freaks and weirdos who can't wait to go back to school. It's July 28, for Chrissakes. I guess they'd better get this out of the way so they can start pumping Christmas shopping the day after Labor Day.
I can hardly wait [that's sarcasm] for the day (before Hallowe'en) when I walk into the mall and see the festive Christmas lights and the Hallmark store display of tiny little ornaments and a rack full of Christmas cards. That will be followed shortly by news stories about how the merchants are whining about the horrible Christmas shopping season that used to start the day after Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, it's 90 degrees and we're pumping backpacks, lunch boxes and calculators. Merchandising has taken control of our lives, and we seem to like it.

free music

Friday, July 27, 2007

I'm Simpsonized!

This is supposed to be me if I were a character in The Simpsons. Go to their site, find a photo of yourself and upload it. It takes a little while, but maybe you'll enjoy it. You can even add your cat or dog.

free music

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sometimes, there just ain't nothin'

And to prove it, here's a fascinating little anecdote about my day today.
I had lunch at this little pizza/sandwich shop in Glassboro that has great salads, too. I had my eye on the Antipasto salad, since I love anything that is "anti" anything else. There were two sizes - small and large. Since they are subjective terms, I had to ask, "How big is the small?", which I realize sounds odd, but I wasn't being graded on it, I was merely trying to order lunch.
The reply: "It's big. You can't finish the large." At that point, he made it clear to me that I should order the small. Small it is. I didn't finish it. It was like someone filled a trash can lid with salad and said, "This is small."
It struck me as odd that they would have something on the menu that you couldn't finish. Why have 'large' when 'small' is large? They should have made the 'small' a 'medium', and made a real 'small'. The whole process made me curious about the size of the 'large'. I'm not going back.
Meanwhile, the Tour de France (pronounced Tour day France) is returning to its formerly held status as a minor sporting event. After Lance Armstrong brought the bike race to its highest status a few years ago, the current crop of jackasses are proving that what goes up must come down. The French may hate Lance and all he represents, but if it weren't for him, their little bike race would have stayed little. Now, they are throwing riders out so fast that the only major competition left is whether the race will finish before they throw everyone out. Mercifully, it will be over on Sunday. As a rider, I am completely disgusted, but as a cynical sports fan, I am not at all surprised.
And this is exactly why my TV stays off until the evening. It's Morgan Pressel hanging out with some joker on the CBS Morning Show. The host clearly has no clue who she is or perhaps even who he is, but he trudges on. And, that's right, he said, "...she has a crazy impressive list of accomplishments." Crazy impressive. Who are these people and why are they on television? I love 'ya Morgan, but you're hanging around with some real clowns.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When Worlds Collide

There’s an old axiom in sports that says, "if you notice the referee, he’s doing a bad job". You don’t get any more notice than Tim Donaghy is getting these days, and his shadow is falling over referees and umpires in every sport regardless of their innocence. This particular shadow is being cast through allegations that he participated in fixing games and has ties with organized crime, as opposed to unorganized crime which, by virtue of its name, acts randomly and with no governing body.
Tim, it seems, has a gambling problem. That’s a coincidence, because professional sports has a bit of a gambling problem too. Some enterprises, like horse racing, owe almost all of their popularity to gambling. How many people would show up to watch horses run in a circle if they couldn’t bet on who would win? I’m not even sure you could get horses to watch.
Sports will turn its back on gambling until it becomes an issue. Then, they are mortified and seek to discipline the people involved. It’s sort of like a guy who eats a lot of pie. When the pie habit gives him a disease, he blames the pie. Sports has a gambling problem, and it’s hard to blame the people when the leagues area feeding them the pie.
Point spreads are published in newspapers every day for every major sport. The NFL issues an injury report every Thursday to let the public know whether key players are going to play or not. Television devotes huge blocks of time to what are called Tout Services, where supposed experts tell you who to bet on every week. The NCAA championship basketball tournament (called March Madness for a reason) openly promotes bracket pools. Broadcasters routinely ask their viewers to “check your brackets” so often that the word 'bracket' becomes annoying through repetition.

Last year, about $100 million was wagered legally on the Super Bowl (America’s biggest secular holiday), which owes at least part of its popularity to gambling. Then, there’s the phenomenon of Fantasy Sports. If there is money involved, that’s gambling too, folks. And of course, there is Las Vegas, where you can bet on just about any sporting event – even soccer.
That isn’t to say that if we changed our attitude on gambling that it would go away, because it won’t. It’s human nature to want to gamble.
It might, however, serve the professional sports leagues well to acknowledge the fact that they are at least partially responsible for feeding the problem. They like to promote gambling when it serves their purpose, and then act stunned when gambling creeps into the contests.
It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Smoke 'em if you got 'em -- Outside.

Governor Rod Blagojevich signed legislation Monday making Illinois the latest state to ban smoking in public places — including bars, restaurants and work places. The law goes into effect January 1, 2008. And now, two idiots speak their (alleged) minds:
"I feel like it's the Nazi regime coming in here, talking away all of our rights", said Tim Main, as he cleaned up Mike's Ten-Pin Lounge in Alton. "First they make it so you have to wear seat belts, and now they want to put a stop to smoking. What's next?"
Chicago carpenter Rob Nelson saw a chilly future. "It looks like I'll be spending a lot of time outside," he said.
Here's an idea: Quit smoking. Oh, that's right, you can't because you're weak and addicted. The alternative is that you won't blow your foul-smelling junk in my face and make my clothes smell like the inside of your lungs when I get home from a night out. What a pleasure it was to go out last Saturday night and return home without the disgusting stench of stale smoke. In New Jersey, the only public place where one can smoke is a casino floor - and we all know why. I don't feel the least bit of sympathy for the smokers who huddle around the doorway in the winter puffing away. Keep smoking. Soon, there will be more room for the rest of us. It's tobacco-induced Natural Selection. I know, we're all going to die of something, right? So, you may as well take the guesswork out of it.
And stop throwing your Goddamned butts out of your car window. I'd like to light it up and toss it back in. They don't disintegrate on impact, you know.
Legislation makes it harder on smokers, but the constant refrain is "they're taking away our rights". I don't hear too many of them say, "I guess I'll have to quit now", which would make sense. They keep smoking and keep complaining. It seems to me that the best way to stop complaining is to stop smoking. They must enjoy the complaining as much as they enjoy the smoking.
They do enjoy it, right? They must, for all the sacrifices they make - including their health. It sure looks like fun. There's nothing I would enjoy more on a 90-degree day than to hold a burning ember 3 inches from my face. Woo-hoo! And, why stay inside and hang with your friends in a climate controlled room when you can stand outside in rain, cold, heat and snow? For nearly six bucks a pack, they're surely getting their money's worth.
Since our government is full of tobacco-lobbied pussies, they will never ban cigarettes, so the next best thing is to restrict the smoking to the privacy of your own home. I suppose that's a compromise to the rest of the world, but if they are really interested in getting people to quit (rather than paying it the lip service that they do), then they would do the right thing and ban cigarettes. Whenever government is powerless to fight for our best interests, they make a law to turn people into criminals for doing something that they shouldn't be allowed to do in the first place.
Ask yourself, if cigarettes were a brand new product up for approval by the Food and Drug Administration, would they be allowed to be produced?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Strange days have found us

"Wow! I never thought Dwight would go postal. It's always the person you least expect and I always thought Dwight would go postal."
- Michael Scott, The Office (deleted scene from "Conflict Resolution")
Sure, it's always the person you'd least expect, unless it's the most obvious one. In pro sports, the most obvious people are the ones who are the lowest-paid. Referees and umpires. Athletes make too much money to be worthwhile targets for gamblers who want to fix games. They can't pay them enough. Worse yet are referees with gambling problems, and Tim Donaghy is one of those. The last thing we heard about Tim was that he was getting death threats and was threatening to go to the FBI with names of other refs and/or players who may also be involved in the point-shaving effort. Expect Tim to be the next member of the Witness Protection Program.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, has ordered Michael Vick not to report to the Falcons' training camp pending the completion of his indictment. It's tough to be a sports fan these days. I think it's 12 players on the Bengals roster that have been in trouble with the law, Pacman Jones (the name speaks for itself), Barry Bonds, Rick Toccett, Floyd Landis ... the list goes on and on. It's strange because we are paying these mesomorphs more money than ever, yet they continue to find new and different ways to spend the money.
Either they are so bored with life as a professional athlete or they are mentally deranged - or both, since it seems as though the thrill of the game is not enough for them to fulfill their competitive desires. They feel the need to involve animals, illegal gambling, drugs and gunplay to satisfy their urges.
Fortunately for me, I have a cynical viewpoint of pro athletes and, thanks to my father's infinite wisdom, I treat everyone the same regardless of their station in life. As a result, I am disappointed by the actions of my sports icons, but not surprised. Even though they earn more money in one year than I will during most of my life, that does not predispose them from acting like either children or asses - or both - and in the meantime, they make the front page of the newspaper because we have placed them on a pedestal. The pedestal, we have found, has a false bottom. It's hard to find a historic point in sports that has a worse overall public relations problem than right now. The bigger problem is that it gets worse every week.
None of us will look at pro sports the same way again. The integrity of the games have been sacrificed and the participants have been exposed.
Strange days have tracked us down.
They're going to destroy
our casual joys.
We shall go on playing,
or find a new town.
- Jim Morrison
I think it may be time to find a new town.
All this nonsense has pushed to the back burner the fact that Drew Carey is replacing Bob Barker as host of "The Price is Right".
Strange Days, indeed.

free music

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hold your breath while you're in Manhattan

NEW YORK - New York City officials assured worried residents, workers and visitors Thursday that the air was safe and free of asbestos a day after a steam pipe explosion rocked Midtown Manhattan. "Every single test we did of the air showed there is no asbestos in the air," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Whew. That's a relief. Of course, if they had tested the air and found asbestos (or some other contaminant) they would be honest with the residents, thereby creating a mild panic and leaving the city liable for medical costs and possibly open to a lawsuit. So, of course the air is safe. They wouldn't lie, would they?

So, it's a good thing that New York got their restaurants to stop using trans fats, because that stuff will kill you.

"The building started shaking. There was steam and smoke billowing out of the ground ... Everybody panicked. You know what it's like now. We grabbed our stuff and ran."
—Bryan Kohler, an accountant who works from a seventh-floor office on Third Ave.

"People were running and screaming down the street. We didn't know what happened ... It was like a volcano."
—Evan Peterson works at 44th St. and Lexington Ave.

Volcanoes and smoke coming from under the street. I'm sure everything is fine. Take a deep breath and relax.
For a while.