Friday, October 16, 2009

Men: Forget about getting a good job or being a nice guy. Just start doing crunches. (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 36)

You know all that stuff about how women just look for a sense of humor, or a guy who's a good provider, or nice?

It's all bunk, as Sweetie's 36th Hunk of the Week, Jesse Williams, proves.

What have you go to look so smug about?
Just because you're good-looking, and rich,
and now famous, and my wife has a crush
on you...
Fine, look smug. Jerk.

You don't know him without you have
... um... I don't know how you'd know Jesse Williams. I don't know how Sweetie knows Jesse Williams. He showed up as the background photo on our computer at home yesterday, and Sweetie said he was her Hunk of the Week. When I asked how she knew him, she held up her hands and looked baffled, and then stammered "I just read an article about him in People Magazine." She then explained that she "thinks" he might be going to play a doctor on Grey's Anatomy "or something." So clearly Sweetie really read that article. Or should that be "read" that article?

In case you weren't mesmerized by his looks in People Magazine, "or something," you might also know Jesse Williams if you were an 8-year-old girl without any taste in movies at all, since his biggest (?) role to date has been to play Leo in The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2: Electric Pantsaloo.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmm About Him: Actually, this is a thing that makes me go Hmmmm about Sweetie, since in looking into Jesse Williams' background, I found out that he also played "Kwame" on a 2006 episode of Law & Order, which makes me think that Sweetie's whole "Um... I guess I read about him in People or something, quit asking me questions I plead the Fifth!" story might be just a cover, and she's actually been thinking Jesse Williams is hunky since 2006. That's three years of pent-up hunkiness... and yet, she knows nothing about him. Doesn't know whether he's got a good sense of humor, or is a good provider, or is a nice guy, or anything.

You may doubt, too, that Sweetie could remember a guy who played a bit role in a 2006 episode of Law & Order, but you shouldn't. Sweetie has a categorical memory of every single person ever to appear on Law & Order and all of its spinoffs, even the short-lived Law & Order: Express Checkout Lane Enforcement, which featured ripped-from-the-headlines tales of cops busting people who claimed that three tomatoes are one item. Not if they're not packaged together, lady!

Sweetie once pointed out that a minor lawyer on one of the Law & Order shows had previously been a maid or something on a prior show. If you show Sweetie a picture of someone, anyone, she can tell you exactly how many episodes of Law & Order they've appeared in, what their roles were, who the detectives and DAs were at the time, and whether or not they actually killed their wives or if they were just lying to protect their daughters, who had killed their second wives because they (the daughters) were jealous of the second wives taking Dad's attention away from the daughter's own marriage to a serial rapist who was trying to turn his life around with the help of an well-meaning but ultimately overburdened psychiatrist who moonlights as a convenience store clerk to pay the bills for his son to attend law school... in order to defend the dad. Wait, where did I start?

I don't believe I've ever seen a shirt that color before.
Is there some kind of special store where the
good-looking people get to shop for clothes
that can't be bought by people who eat pizza for breakfast?

Speaking of which, I'm going to go get another slice.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him:
I've stopped kidding myself. Sweetie likes him because he's good looking. He's more than good looking. He looks like the kind of guy who would be cast in the role of a Greek God that comes down from Olympus to mingle with humans and see what life is really like, only to fail at mingling because he's just too perfect, and because all the women fall in love with him making the men suspicious of him and more and more angry, until they all turn on him and try to kill him and run him out of town at the same time, only to have him finally learn a lesson about what it means to be human, and that lesson is humility.

And also the lesson is to not be like, 10,000 times more good-looking than certain people's husbands, husbands who can't help that their hair is thinning and who wouldn't have those bags under their eyes if their Babies! would ever just sleep, and husbands who really are trying to get in shape only then their wife makes them a pecan pie for Sweetest Day, and they can't help but eat about 1/3 of it in a single night because it's really good.

Also, I've got dibs on that story idea about the Greek God. Don't steal it.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: Color me surprised, because when I asked Sweetie why she liked Jesse Williams, she said: "In that article I read, they said that he's really good with orphans and that he writes lyrical poetry in his spare time,, but that mostly he devotes all of his time to playing with his kids and volunteering at Church."

Ha! Ha! Just kidding. What Sweetie actually said was: “His eyes. His pretty eyes. I don’t know anything about him, I’ve never seen him in anything, nothing.”

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him:
Look, I'm doing my best here. But you made that pecan pie, so you share part of the blame.

Boy, he's really let himself go, hasn't he?

Also, don't have your cats be part of the wedding party.

Okay, people, time for me to lay down the law here. I, like you and everybody else in the entire world, have now seen that one wedding video where everyone dances down the aisle. We've all seen it, even if some of us only saw it because some of us have wives who looked it up after some of us saw the parody of it on The Office.

Either way, it's over. It's done. Don't do it. Don't dance down your aisle, and don't, for that matter, get married on a boat like Jim and Pam did. In fact, don't get married like anyone else ever got married. Just because an idea was cute, or fancy, or dramatic, for someone else's wedding is no reason to take it for your own.

Your wedding is your wedding, and should reflect you and your life. Take my and Sweetie's wedding. It fit us perfectly: We got married in the church we attend, and then had our wedding reception at a park across the street from our apartment, a beautiful little park with a pond and trees and a little shelter, and we served not a sit-down dinner but a variety of hors d'ouevres, and encouraged our guests to dress informally for the reception.

That's us. Your wedding should be you. From the moment it starts until the moment it ends, make sure that every aspect of your wedding is about the way you want it to be, not copied from someone else.

Start with the invitations. Don't just get generic, cookie-cutter invites from the card shop near you. Instead, begin with personalizing your invites using the cheap wedding invitations available through

123Print lets you customize and personalize a variety of wedding invitations and do so affordably and quickly. Whether you want the cute and stylish "Sweet Embrace" print drawing of a bride and groom hugging, or the dramatic, shadow-print of "Night Out," the invite will show your personality, and will be personalized, too, without any extra effort.

Taking the time to think through what you want your wedding to be will make your big day far more memorable than any number of cousins spinning around in the aisle at the church. Do your wedding right: do it your way.

the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes (Friday's Sunday's Poem 36)

Annabel Lee
Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;--
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
She was a child and I was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love--
I and my Annabel Lee--
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud by night
Chilling my Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me:--
Yes! that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of a cloud, chilling
And killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we--
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in Heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:--

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea--
In her tomb by the side of the sea.


I'm kind of leaning more, lately, to the idea that poetry must rhyme to be poetry, that if it doesn't rhyme, it's just a very very short story. Then I read poems that don't rhyme but which are very good poems and not really stories at all, and I start to change my mind, but then I go back and think "But what is it that makes something a poem, not prose?" and the only thing I can really think of is that poems rhyme.

So I've presented
Annabel Lee as today's poem to highlight that question: What makes something a poem, because Annabel Lee is almost a short story: two children, fated to be in love and spend their lives together, but one dies young and is buried by the sea, dying because the angels in Heaven were jealous and took her away, but even in death couldn't destroy the sad love the poet has for Annabel Lee.

Almost a short story, but not quite, because it only hints at a plot and because all of the details of the two people's lives are entirely invented in the reader's mind; your Annabel Lee and mine will look and act very different, I expect.

I'm not ready, today, to answer the question of
what makes a poem a poem, but it's worth thinking about.

These Things Didn't Happen... (3 Good Things From 10/15)

Today, I'm going to focus on 3 Good Things from yesterday by picking out things that weren't...

1. Mr F and Mr Bunches were not the Balloon Boy. Hoax or not -- and I'm betting it was a hoax or publicity stunt -- I'm glad that I did not have to worry that my Babies! were floating 10,000 feet up in the air clinging to a balloon like grim death.

2. The car brakes didn't go out before we had them fixed. I thought it would be a simple brake job to fix up the car, based on the fact that we'd only just heard the brakes grinding for the first time Monday. But our mechanic, who I really do trust, said the brakes were almost gone and also our tires were bald, which means that we caught it just in time.

3. An appointment canceled at my work, giving me extra time during the day. It's strange to think that sometimes doing my job leaves me not enough time to do my job, but that's the pickle I'm in occasionally, so when a hearing or deposition or trial cancels, I welcome the absence of things to do, because it lets me do other things to do.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ninety-Four, Part Nineteen: Wherein I Compare An Ex-Girlfriend To Formerly-Famous Pandas (But Not In A Mean Way).

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. Once a week, I'll recap that year. This is part 19; click here for a table of contents.

When I was in Washington, I had a girlfriend, of sorts, although it's hard to say she was my girlfriend, at least in the year 1994.

It's hard to say she was my girlfriend in 1994 first because I only saw her rarely that year. I left for Washington in early January, and she remained home in Wisconsin. She came to visit for a few days on spring break, staying in the "guest rooms," which were actually otherwise-unused dorms.

Following my stay in Washington, then, I went to Morocco just a week or two after I got back to Wisconsin, and stayed there until early August, and I didn't see my sort-of-girlfriend, whose name was Laurie, during those two weeks at home or during the 8 weeks in Morocco.

Then, when I finally got back to Wisconsin, we didn't see each other for the better part of a month until school started up again; we both attended UW-Milwaukee, but she lived around Green Bay and I lived in Milwaukee. Each summer she would return home to live with her parents and I wouldn't see her.

So although we dated for about 2 years, at least 1/3 of that 2 years was spent in different states (and on different continents on different hemispheres), and another part of that two years was spent in different cities. Somewhat strangely, maybe, a part of that two years was also spent living almost directly across the street from each other, a proximity that didn't impress her on my memory any more firmly.

That's the second reason I call her a sort-of-girlfriend: I can't remember, very clearly, what we ever did as a couple. I recall, once, going to a bar with her and her friends and one of my friends, but I don't recall many dates beyond that. I can't remember going out to dinner, or movies, or... anything.

I certainly can't remember what we did or said or talked about when she came to Washington, D.C. As I sit here on a cold, rainy, wet, splattering day in October, I can recall about her that she had longish, brownish hair that was straight, and that she worked in the cafeteria at UW-Milwaukee for extra money, and I can recall the "date" when we broke up.

We went to the "Coffee Trader," a restaurant located on the East Side of Milwaukee, and a restaurant that I worked at very briefly, sometime after I got back from Morocco and she got back from Green Bay and we were both in Milwaukee, attending the same school and living across the street from each other. I recall that, but probably mostly because the Coffee Trader fits into my memory at several different junctures: It makes an appearance, in my life, both as the site of the break-up with the sort-of girlfriend (whose name was Laurie) and as the site of the place where I worked for a while as a dishwasher, and as the place where one could buy, when I was younger, a coffee called something like "Jamaica Blue" or "Jamaica Blue Mountain," which coffee was supposed to be the world's rarest, most expensive, or best coffee, or something, costing, as I recall, around $35 a quarter-pound.

I knew about "Jamaica Blue Mountain," if that's what it was called, because my mom would occasionally want fancy coffee when we were younger -- 17 or 18 or 19 -- and we would occasionally go get fancy coffees at the Coffee Trader. The Coffee Trader was an almost-unheard of restaurant/shop back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was a restaurant that focused primarily on coffee, which was very unusual: so unusual that it was the only such place I knew of for decades.

That seems strange, now, when there are about four coffee shops within two miles of my house, and only one of those is a Starbucks, when there is an entire aisle devoted solely to coffee at the grocery store, when The Boy works in a sandwich shop that sells about 7 different kinds of coffees, and McDonald's sells, or sold, gourmet coffees, and coffee has become something more than just "that stuff Dad drinks that smells weird in the morning." My mom, in buying "Jamaica Blue Mountain" periodically was at the forefront of a massive shift in consumer tastes towards fancier coffees and places to sell fancier coffees and places to sit and drink fancier coffees in comfort and faux luxury, towards a time when bookstores would have coffeeshops right inside them and would invite you to buy a coffee and then browse among their books and then sit and read their books for free while drinking coffee.

This shift has come at the exact same time as people have become less likely to actually sit down and drink that coffee, to actually go someplace and sit and drink coffee, as opposed to sitting in their minivans (now equipped with DVD players and televisions and swiveling seats and pop-up tables, and equipped, in advertisements, with families who spend their family-time playing board games in the minivan, an advertisement that makes me sad and angry at the same time, because of all the things it represents that I hate: Families on the go more and more, families with the money to burn to buy vans with tables and DVD players, families who don't understand that if the best you can do to spend time with your children is play a quick game of Trouble with them in the parking lot while waiting for soccer practice to begin, then you're not doing a very good job of parenting), all those changes have come and gone since the early 1990s, and since 1994, when I sat down with Laurie to break up with her in an amiable way.

The Coffee Trader, too, has come and gone, closing in 1998.

I am thinking about Laurie and how I don't remember anything about her because I was beginning to write about one of the specific days I do remember in Washington, which was the day I bummed around the National Mall with my roommate, Rip.

I remember spending a couple of specific days with Rip. Two, to be exact. The first was when we went to watch the Superbowl at the bar, and the second was when we walked around the National Mall, towards the end of the semester.

That puts Rip, a guy I shared a room with for about five months, ahead of Laurie, a girl I dated for about two years, in terms of actual times I can remember spending with them. Laurie, in fact -- and I mean this not at all disrespectfully or in a mean way -- is tied with Hsing Hsing, the formerly-famous panda.

Is it possible to be formerly-famous? Or, once famous, are you famous forever? It seems possible to be just formerly famous, if once people everywhere knew who you were, and now nobody knows who you are, or a far lower percentage of people know who you are. At one time or another, there were probably people, and pandas, who were the toast of the world and who have now slid into obscurity, and Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling are two of those.

Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling lived at the National Zoo, and were the pandas that China gave the U.S. as a gift after Richard Nixon visited in 1972. Hsing Hsing was the boy (although, first, who could tell, and second, that seems strange, to speak of a male panda, since all pandas seem kind of female to me, the way koalas seem female to me, too, and parrots fall into that category of animals which seem to have no males in them. I can't picture a male parrot. It seems they all should be female.)

I saw Hsing Hsing in the zoo on the day I went to the National Zoo and the National Aquarium -- workdays, again, that I'd taken off from "working" as an unpaid intern at Pinkerton to instead go walking around Washington D.C. and take pictures and eat giant cookies and listen to music on my clunky Walkman. I'd heard about Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling for years and wanted to see them in person, but I'd missed Ling Ling by two years; she'd died in 1992.

Hsing Hsing didn't look that well when I saw him, and certainly didn't look impressive; quite the opposite, the day I saw Hsing Hsing the panda was sitting in an indoor enclosure with whitish, institutional walls, separated from a completely-non-curious public by thick glass that appeared unnecessary, as Hsing Hsing seemed immobile, possibly dead. There was some sad straw sprinkled around the enclosure, but I couldn't tell if that was for Hsing Hsing to eat, or to sit on, or maybe if it was just an effort to make the cage seem less obviously a cage, the equivalent of putting a plastic plant into a goldfish bowl.

A sign informed those who cared to read -- I was the only one I saw reading it -- that Hsing Hsing was ill with something-or-other, and would be going back outside when he felt better. He must have felt better at some point, because he didn't die until 1999. I hope he felt better, because I don't want to think of even a panda lingering for five long years in that space, ill and hoping for death.

The lack of a crowd outside Hsing Hsing's cage surprised me, though, because these were famous (formerly famous) pandas, and I expected a group of gawkers, like the ones that had always been around Samson's cage back at the Milwaukee Zoo.

Samson the gorilla was a highlight at the Milwaukee Zoo when I was growing up. He was, as I recall, the world's largest gorilla, or maybe the world's largest gorilla in captivity, or possibly just the Midwest's largest gorilla. Whatever his status as the World's Somethingest, he was a draw at the zoo despite moving so rarely that he might as well have been stuffed.

About once every 2 or 3 years, as kids, our parents would take us to the zoo, and the highlight of the zoo was always going to see Samson, who sat in a boxey enclosure (not unlike the one that Hsing Hsing would be in years later) and stared out at the crowds of people staring back at him doing nothing.

Doing nothing for the most part, at least. Samson sometimes picked up a banana and ate it, or another piece of fruit. Once, he moved to the other side of a ledge. Any such activities would set off a murmur and talk in the crowd.

We never got up to the front row of people looking at Samson, so in my mind, when I picture Samson (who I can picture far more clearly than the last, break-up date with Laurie), I see heads of adults and kids in front of me, my Dad lifting me up to look over the top of the crowd at the giant gorilla sitting in the back of his cage, looking at me.

Samson had a scale in his cage, but I never saw him get on it. The scale was there, I suppose, to verify to the crowd that Samson was the Somethingest gorilla around. I don't know if anyone ever saw him get on the scale. Probably someone did, someone who waited around more than the five or so minutes that we'd stay there before Dad or Mom would say "Okay, ready to go?" and we'd grumble and pout but we'd go.

Hsing Hsing's cage was smaller, and there was no scale, and there was no crowd of people to frustrate my efforts to see whatever there was to be seen. That's one thing that sticks out in my mind about Washington: The fact that it's possible to get right up close to everything, from the Vietnam Memorial (which you can reach out and touch) to the Holocaust victims' shoes (again, touchable) to the Washington Monument you can stand in, to, back then, the White House, which you could walk through without an appointment or background check at all.

Everything in Washington is right there in front of you, waiting to have its hand shaken or stairs climbed or fountain walked through or, in this case, to be looked at sadly as you wonder "What's the big deal about pandas?" and then try to tell yourself that the panda would be more impressive, maybe, if it was outside and not sick and not surrounded by tile and straw.

Or it was. Back then, in 1994, I could walk up to almost anything in Washington D.C. and be an arm's-length from history or news. I stood against the rail watching Hsing Hsing do nothing, as people walked by without paying attention to the National Pandas at all. I'd stared at the Hope Diamond and Old Glory and I'd toured the White House and I'd even been mere feet away from then-Vice President Al Gore as he'd jogged by.

That happened, the Jog-By, on the day that Rip and I bummed around the National Mall, a day that came after my White House tour and after visiting Hsing Hsing, near the end of the whole internship. We'd decided, Rip and I, to spend the day just hanging out, which was a rare move for me, as I generally don't like hanging out with other people. I very much preferred, back then, to go it alone, to walk through all those sights and embassies and monuments and cherry blossoms with just my backpack and Walkman and Marlboros -- I was still smoking at that point, still telling myself that I would quit but not ever actually quitting -- and seeing all that with just my own thoughts and my camera.

But every now and then I'd cave in to vaguely social impulses I had, and agree to do something with others. The bumming around the Mall day was just such a day, and Rip and I headed down to the Mall, home of the Smithsonian and Vietnam Memorial and Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial and Capitol, and sidebar to the White House, with not much in the way of plans beyond "let's just walk around."

Which we did, seeing the Lincoln Memorial and the rest for a second time, at least for me. I'm not sure if Rip had gone to see them himself or not. Rip was a more social person than I was and was, I think, less likely to have gone on his own to see those things, plus Rip worked in Washington both as an intern and as a waiter at a fancy restaurant, helping make ends meet by working 3 or 4 nights a week doing that for tips.

I didn't work in Washington, not really as an intern and certainly not at any other place. For a day or two I was employed by a movie theater, but I decided I didn't like it and didn't want to work there, and quit, living off of student loans and some money my family sent me, strictly budgeting myself and making the most of all-you-can-eat buffets and student meal plans. I could eat a phenomenal amount of food at one meal and then skimp the rest of the day, something that didn't really hurt my physique -- I was down to 162 pounds by then -- because I ran and smoked a lot, running probably 50-60 miles a week or more, and smoking 7-10 packs of cigarettes.

That all seemed like a good idea at the time. 15 years later, 70 pounds heavier, and thousands more in debt, I would like to go back in time and tell my younger self to do things a little differently, but I probably wouldn't have listened to me.

On the bumming around day, Rip and I went to a fish market near the Mall. I've always kind of liked fish markets, even though I don't like fish, or even the smell of fish. Fish markets are colorful places, though, full of life and energy and people with fish, places that seem made to be visited by people who don't live there, or even necessarily belong there, people like me, interns in Washington with a camera and a backpack and a fascination with things that look like postcards of places I wanted to go. We walked through the fish market and got a free sample of a new kind of soda they were trying to market, a soda called Fresca, which we both found interesting but didn't particularly like.

(Fifteen years later, I buy Fresca whenever I can, so that's another thing I could tell younger me: Don't just write this off because it's got grapefruit in it. Give it a shot. I don't think my love of Fresca now is nostalgic. I don't drink it because I like to recall Washington, or because it reminds me of Washington. I drink it because I kind of like the grapefruity taste, liking it in Fresca even though I don't like it in real life, on its own, the way I can like fish when they're sitting in a fish market but not when they're sitting on my plate.)

We saw some of the monuments, and chatted about whatever would have seemed important to us back then, probably a lot of politics, probably most of it very conservative, as Rip was conservative and I was kind of sure I was, too, at the time. That was the day that Al Gore went jogging by us, Rip pointing him out to me and me leaping up to photograph him, Al Gore making only about as much of a stir, drawing as much attention, as Hsing Hsing did; the vast majority of people went on with their business as though the Vice President was nothing more than a slowly-fading panda in a cage, looking at the sky or the grass or the buildings but not at him.

There are ways, I guess, for things to become less important, or to never gain the importance that they seem they should have. If one is surrounded, constantly, by history and news, as you are in Washington, if the things that you see on the news that night are the things you rode the Metro with that morning, if the stuff you read about in class is now hanging on a wall in front of you, it becomes less significant in your mind, it can fade in importance to be jumbled in with all the other memories and slowly but inexorably replaced by other images, other thoughts. Eventually, those memories, so vivid at the time, those experiences, become just a collage, a few moments from a whole day: a fish market, a soda, a Vice President jogging, maybe three minutes out of a day that took hours.

That day, like my visit with Justice Scalia, is preserved in a photograph on my wall, too, a picture taken by someone else at the end of the day. Rip and I stood in front of the U.S. Capitol. Rip is wearing tan shorts, a blue shirt, and sunglasses. He stands like Captain Morgan, hands on his hips and leg to the side. I am taller and stand straighter, legs slightly apart, hands on my waist and elbows out, wearing a pair of purple shorts and a Calvin & Hobbes t-shirt. We look serious, like people in old-fashioned photographs do, and like interns in Washington D.C. probably thought they should look, standing in front of history and surrounded by news: Slightly frowning, brows furrowed, impervious to the effect our comic-strip t-shirts make on the tableau.

Unaware that eventually, this moment will be remembered with the exact degree of detail, and with the same level of importance, as the time we stood in front of a panda cage and wondered what's the big deal?

Probably, the onion rings should be number one. (3 Good Things From 10/14/09)

1. Mr F and Mr Bunches accompanied me to the Mall with no trouble. I had to pick up Sweetie's Sweetest Day present yesterday -- she was smart enough to remind me, last week, that Sweetest Day is this week -- and I took Mr F and Mr Bunches to me, through the mall, with no stroller, figuring It's about time I tested these Babies! to see how the effort to civilize them is going, and it went great. They walked through the mall, without holding my hands, didn't run off, didn't break any Faberge eggs or anything, and only once tried to break into a changing room. I awarded them each an A for the day.

2. I got to have fresh, restaurant onion rings for lunch. That's all I need to say about that, right? No further explanation is needed as to why fresh, restaurant onion rings for lunch is a good thing.

3. I got Sweetie's Sweetest Day presents, and they're good ones. Plus, I was early on them. Ordinarily, I'd be heading out about 9 a.m. Saturday morning hoping there was a store open.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

There is a girl in New York City who calls herself the human trampoline (3 Good Things from 10/13/09)

That title doesn't have anything to do with anything, it's just the part of the song Graceland that was playing as I'm writing this. Here's my 3 Good Things from yesterday:

1. "Learning time" rapidly devolved into "Blanket rides." Sweetie and I do 15 minutes of "learning time" with the Babies! each night, teaching them words and letters and numbers and drawing. Last night, Sweetie wasn't around, so it fell on me to teach the Babies! about "common household items" and "parts of the face" and "throwing and catching," and then "Getting Mr F's big green blanket and flopping it on them," and then "laying on the big green blanket and getting pulled around the house while Daddy sings a version of Magic Carpet Ride that goes "you don't know what/you can find/why don't you come with me, Mr Bunches/on a green blanket ride."

2. The Boy solved level three on the "Magic Pen" game, the level that had been stumping me. It's embarrassingly easy, too, as he pointed out to me in solving that level in about 3 seconds. In my defense, nothing in my life trained me to solve problems using a crayon.

3. The kitchen faucet started to work again a little, which raises hopes that I won't have to fix it. It stopped working on Sunday night, leaving us to use the spray nozzle until I could fix it on Monday, but Monday night I got stuck in a meeting until 7, so I couldn't fix it that night, and then last night I was home with the Babies! and no carseats, so I couldn't start fixing it because if I take it apart, and can't get it back together, I've got to go get a new faucet, and how am I going to do that without car seats? So I didn't try to fix it, but late last night, I noticed that instead of no water from the faucet, we're now getting a little water from the faucet, leaving me hopeful that whatever the problem was, the faucet is capable of working through it on its own. Come on, faucet, you can do it!

The Bangles lighten up a blustery morning.

When I went outside to get the paper this morning -- and how did that become my job, I wonder, since it's been The Boy's job for the entire time that The Boy and the morning newspaper have both existed? -- it was freezing rain with a slushy, crummy mix of leaves and wet forming on the sidewalk and driveway. That same mixture will be on the roads, the sidewalk, and grass, and in my shoes, too, not long after that.

I do two things to combat the onrush of slush: One, I get out my old "Bangles" cassette tape, and two, I get out my Frye Boots, the ones from Sterling leather. They're tough, they're sturdy, they're comfortable and warm and waterproof and have good grip, and they look great when I walk like an Egyptian.

If you want your own, check out the entire selection at Sterling Leather -- -- and get a pair for the wife and kids, too. After all, doing a proper Walk Like An Egyptian takes four people. And they'd better be able to whistle.

I'm not sure if we have a company policy about this or not (I Get Paid For Doing This 6)

I was just now walking past our receptionist's desk, and noticed her pulling out, from under the desk, a large, long Tupperware food container filled with water. She was showing it to one of the paralegals, who said something about "putting a tank here." While I'm not 100% sure, I believe there was a fish in there.

I just kept on walking.

I don't get involved.

I hope I didn't give it away with the clue... (3 Good Things from the past couple of days.)

Some days, the 3 Good Things are more important than ever. This is one of those days:

1. I won the football pool this week, so Sweetie and The Boy owe me $5 each. Unfortunately, I owe Sweetie $29, so I'm not going to see any profits from that.

2. Sweetie and I had a really good conversation on Saturday. Driving up to Oshkosh to visit Middle, we talked for about an hour-and-a-half about topics ranging from health care to celebrities to kids to family, and, while all conversations with Sweetie were good, near the end of our drive, it occurred to me that this had been an especially good conversation: lively, interesting, funny. I even told her: "This has been a really good conversation."

3. I was able to fix the Babies!'s DVD player last night. Sweetie emailed me that the DVD player was broken, and then emailed me that she and The Boy had been unable to fix it. So when I got home, we went to the store to get a new one for them -- we should probably buy them in lots of 12, now. Upon getting home, before I opened the new one, I examined the old one to see if I could work out what was wrong, and I was able to diagnose and correct the problem. To avoid any unnecessary embarrassment on the part of Sweetie or The Boy, I won't say exactly what the problem was. But it rhymes with "the cord was unplugged."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A surprise AL Playoff winner, artists who work in crayon, Miss Classy New England, and more in this week's Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!

Undaunted by the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals have
already washed out of the playoffs, I this week present for your amusement and edification, the NonSportsmanlike Conduct 100% Accurate, Never-Fail, Always-Right, Sure-Fire System For Picking The Playoff Winner, American League Edition, the only system guaranteed to pick a winner, every time (+/- four teams, remember.)

I will note that if you're thinking Oh, this is going to be a lot of the same stupid stuff like last week, well, you're dea
d wrong. Remember, the operating ethos of my Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! is to separate my sports thoughts from others' -- other sports writers are boring and repeat the same stuff over and over again. I, I, am different, and each blog post is different, too, so don't worry -- the jokes will be entirely new, entirely lame jokes.

As I write this, we're already 37 games into the first round of the American League playoffs, but, as they say, There's a lot of baseball left to play, and there is. There always is. Baseball has 32 teams, and each plays 162 games a year, so there's 5,184 games in the regular season -- or, this year, 5,185, because Minnesota and Detroit played a 1-game playoff to get into the postseason for the right to lose to the Yankees.

In the postseason for baseball, there's a Best-of-5-game first round, then a best-of-7 second round, then a best-of-7 World Series, so there could be 40 first round games, 14 second-round games and 7 championship games, or 61 postseason games in all. There are a possible 549 innings of postseason play.

That final game of the World Series, if necessary, will be played on November 5. The 2010 Major League Baseball season begins April 5, 2010, which means there are only 150 days from the end of this season until the beginning of next season... but preseason training camp actually begins in February, generally (Spring training now beginning a month and a half before spring itself begins), which means that, at any given time, there is, quite literally, a lot of baseball yet to play.

Which makes the
NonSportsmanlike Conduct 100% Accurate, Never-Fail, Always-Right, Sure-Fire System For Picking The Playoff Winner, American League Edition absolutely necessary today. Let's see who The 100% System says will face down the Cardinals in the World Series (and let's forget that The 100% System predicted the Cards would make the Series, which is easy to do, because, let's face it, it doesn't matter who the National League sends to the World Series, they're not going to win.

True fact: Only twice in the entire history of baseball has the National League won the World Series, and one of those years was the strike year when the Series was cancelled.

True-er Fact: I made up that last fact, but it seems plaus
ible, doesn't it?

As always, I'll examine the four categories to break down th
e intangibles that separate the winners (Yankees) from the losers (all the other teams in the AL playoffs.)

1. Best Mascot/Nickname: I'll start this category with the Yankees, who carry on the proud American tradition of "taking a derogatory term and turning it into a ... um... what's the opposite of derogatory? Rogatory? Is that a word? Really? It is? But it doesn't mean what I want it to mean? It's not the opposite of derogatory? Well, who's going to know that? ... turning it into a rogatory term.

The Oxford English Dictionary -- the only dictionary written by a madman -- says the origin of the word "yankee" is unknown. Some, including H.L. Mencken (the man who invented the slam dunk) say it stems from Jan Kaas, which translates as John Cheese, a slang term the Flemish called the Dutch. That term then was applied to Dutch pirates by the English, which can only lead to one conclusion: There were Dutch pirates? Rea
lly? Did they have a skull-and-tulips on their flag?

Whatever the origin of the word, yankees began its life as an insult, only to be turned around, in typical American fashion, and held up as a label of esteem, only to be turned around again, again in typical American fashion, and used as an insult because now it was the New York Yankees, the team it's fashionable to hate because they spend a billion dollars per player and win a World Series about every five minutes, and because all of their players have to go through an initiation rite of sleeping with Madonna.

Sleep with Madonna?
What's so bad about that as an initiation rite?

Oh. Oh. I see.

But the Yankees just go on being the Yankees and winning all of their games and winning all of the World Serieses, and not caring if you hate them, not caring if you despise them and curse them in your sleep, not even caring if they have to sleep with Madonna.

Well, they care about
that. I'm sure they'd rather not. But it's a small price to pay, being a Yankee and sleeping with Madonna, if it means being super-rich and playing a game that, let's face it, requires very little in the way of athletic ability.

Before you get mad over that last comment,
keep in mind that the above is a major league baseball player.
will make more this year than you will in your lifetime.
And he will spend half of what he makes on doughnuts.

The Yankees don't have a mascot (other than Madonna), but they clearly lead the other teams in terms of nicknames. The other three AL teams have nicknames like Twins, Red Sox, and Angels. I'm downgrading the Red Sox, for two reasons: 1. You spell your name with the "x" to make it seem extreme, and 2. Your nickname is a sock.

sock. I understand that it comes from Red Stockings and that it's an old-fashioned-y name and that back then people sucked, but... really? A sock? I mentioned last week how dumb it is to name your team after the geographical feature you're near, but naming your team after something you wear is even more stupid. Frankly, given how grossly lame people in the 19th century were, I'm amazed that we were able to evolve from them.

As for
Twins and Angels... pleh. Twins is just more geographical features, because of the Twin Cities, and the Twin Cities concept itself is dumb. They're not really twins, you know. They're not even kind of identical.

These are twins.

This is not.

The Angels, like the Yankees, don't have a mascot, and I wonder why? Can't someone dress up as an angel and do the Chicken dance and shoot t-shirts into the stadium? Is there something sacrilegious about having an angel moon the opposing bullpen? Okay, I guess maybe there is. Still, it'd be cool to see-- only we'll never see it because the Angels don't have the guts to spit in the face of organized religion. Beyond naming their team "Angels," that is.

The remaining two teams have mascots, at least.

Minnesota has "T.C. Bear," and I'm told the "T.C." stands for
Twin Cities, so, lame.

Boston has The Green Monster, and, as new editions, "Lefty" and "Righty." Lefty and Righty are...
socks with arms.

lame. Extra lame. Like, Diablo Cody dialogue lame. And that is bad. Or salty. I don't know which. Whatever, it sucks.

Because Minnesota's mascot didn't inadvertently remind me of Diablo Cody, and therefore didn't inadvertently make me also vomit in my mouth just a little, they get the Mascot by default.

Score: Yankees, 1; Minnesota 1.

2. Craziest Fan: We head off to Youtubeville, population us, to review what passes for Crazy Fans in the American League. For Boston, there is this video, which is supposed to be about a Crazy Sox Fan selling chowder (or, as they say in Boston, phlegm) outside of Yankees stadium. But more fascinating than a guy who will eat boogers-in-cream-soup is the woman who makes an appearance at 0:27, then again at 0:47, and again at 1:13. Watch closely...

Wow! Who'd have thought the Emily Post would attend a Sox-Yankees game? Obviously, she took time out from her high-powered career as a "cocktail waitress," to do up those nails, before heading off to the game and turning the whole thing into the most pathetic
Girls Gone Wild ever. I want her to have her own show. Or at least a guest shot on The View.

Crazy Angels Fan shows up in this video:

It's hard to understand what's so "crazy" about that, though -- is the cameraman saying it's crazy to eat an entire bucket of fried chicken in one sitting? If so, then call me crazy, and also, I need a napkin.

You wouldn't expect much craziness out of Minnesotans, and
Crazy Twin Fan proves that point:

Running onto the field? That hasn't been "crazy" since...
ever. I guess Minnesotans used up all their crazy when they first voted for Jesse Ventura, then elected Stuart Smalley.

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough,
and doggone it, we need universal health care!

No, seriously: We need universal health care,
and Al Franken said that in his campaign, so go to his website
and tell him to you're going to hold him to that promise

And, finally, we finish with Crazy Yankees Fan:

Come on. If you're going to remake a song, at least bring something new to it besides a canned disco beat.

I've got to give this one to
Boston -- but not to Chowder Guy. No, I'm going with Miss Classy New England 2009. Someone pull her head out of the puddle of her own vomit and let her know she helped out her team. Then find her pants.

Boston, 1.

3. Politicians' Bets: This was a disappointing category last week, as for the 233rd consecutive year in American history, politicians let down their constituents by having lame (or nonexistent) bets.

In the Minnesota-New York pairing, New York Mayor Billionaire Bloomberg has put up "an assortment of urban produce" and a case of beer, while Minneapolis Mayor R.T. "Rybak" has bet some apples and a case of beer on the Twins.

St. Paul, the
other "Twin City," serving as Ashley to Minneapolis' Mary Kate, didn't have its mayor put up anything.

Meanwhile, in Angels-Red Sox, as of October 1, the Mayor of New England hadn't made up his mind on whether or not to bet yet. But he did serve some trash talk at L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa, who has to bet not only on the Dodgers, but also on the "
Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Omaha." Said New England's only non-Kennedy elected official:

Well, we have a lot of things to give him, from our lobsters to our clam chowder to some of the great theater works, some of the great art we have in Boston ... but Los Angeles, they (just) give us congestion.

Ooooh, no he

And: There's great art in Boston?

I was going to make a joke here about Boston art, and went looking for a child's picture of Boston drawn in crayon. I couldn't find one, which just means that Miss Classy New England 2009 hasn't let her kids out of the trunk of her car long enough to draw one. She'll get around to it, I'm sure, once she washes the Marlboro smell out of her "fancy" coat.

On that subject, though, has there ever been a famous artist who worked exclusively in crayon? I wondered, and so I investigated for you by Googling that question. And the answer is:

Yes. I give you the work of Christian Faur:

The Wind (2007): actual size, 19.5" X 58.5"

The Dance, I (2006): 19.5" x 19.5"

Above the Waves, 2007: 19.5" x 19.5"

Christian Faur makes those pictures by handcasting crayons, then standing them on end in pre-made frames to make a pixel-like effect. As if that's not cool enough, Christian says this on his site, too:

Further, I have developed a mapping system that translates the English alphabet into twenty six discrete colors and I use these crayon “fonts” to add words and language to each of the pieces in the show... the direct representation of language in each piece further imbues the works with meaning and brings an aspect of color into each composition reminiscent of DNA coding. The alphabetic key at the lower left of each panel allows the viewer to interpret the individual words written throughout the various panels.

Making Christian Faur the only major artist I've ever heard of who makes Crayon pictures with DNA-embedded code. Visit his site here, and, like me, you'll be amazed.

Score: Christian Faur, 1.

4. Weirdest Thing For Sale In Their Shop... Make That eBay: I told you I'd keep this fresh. I'm not content to just make fun of skanky baseball fans...

You thought I was going to put a picture
of Ms. Classy New England 2009?

Not when I can go above and beyond that to make fun of people who buy and sell things on eBay, too. So instead of going to the pro shops of the teams, I went to eBay and checked for the weirdest things I could find for auction there.

Anaheim Angels Memorabilia, we find the Anaheim Angels MLB Stickers Scrapbooking Item#14:

There's no description, so I'm not sure what it's for, but I do know that the asking price has been reduced from $1.05 to $0.89.

Is it really worth it to auction something on eBay
for eighty-nine cents? I've tried to sell stuff on eBay -- with no success, because people didn't believe that it really was a rare, genuine Beatles' album worth $15,000, so screw you, people, I'm hanging onto it and someday you'll see just how wrong you were -- and I know that it takes at least a little while to set up the auction and get everything going. Then, if it sells, you've got to go mail the thing at the post office, and wait in line, and all that... all for eighty-nine cents?

Then again, if that seems like a lot of effort for a little profit, consider the Minnesota Twins' fan/seller who's auctioning off the "
Chuck Knoblauch Rookie Cards and More," a set of six Chuck Knoblauch cards.

That the seller is selling for six cents.

With free shipping.

The minimum cost of mailing something in an envelope is $0.44, so the Chuck Knoblauch fan is losing 38 cents on this deal. He's literally paying to get rid of those cards. The auction doesn't say what the "and more" is, but I think it's friendship. This guy strikes me as the kind of guy who, as a kid, would give you his favorite toys if only you'd play with him. (i.e., he strikes me as me.)

Red Sox fans aren't so cheap: Nothing goes for just six cents in New England (except a back-room dance from Miss Classy
New England 2009!)(ba dum bump!)

No, if you want, say,
a piece of cloth from one of Curt Schillings' jerseys, you'll have to pay a lot more, like, $15.00, to get the "Curt Schilling Sweet Swatch Memorabilia" . And $3.00 shipping. Maybe what you should do is get that Twins' fan to buy it for you, then sell it to you at a loss. Just tell him you'll be his buddy.

If you're a baseball card collector, then you already know what a "Sweet Swatch" is... and you're a loser. If you're
not a baseball card collector, then you have value in society and you need a bit of an explanation: These swatches of cloth are cut out of game jerseys and inserted into baseball card packages, so that the two remaining people in America who still buy baseball cards can buy them, and then try to auction them to each other on eBay.

And they don't just stick to game jerseys, either; upcoming packages of baseball cards will have pieces of a Miley Cyrus headband in them, courting that unique demographic of guys who like baseball cards
and Miley Cyrus:

Actual quote from his arrest:
What? I only like her for her music!

If your sport has to court fans by giving them teenage girls' clothing, it's about time to call it a day, isn't it? That's only one step above selling underwear from a vending machine.

This is where that guy above
spends all his money, when not
buying baseball cards.

There is, sadly, no piece of Madonna's clothing for sale on eBay -- I checked, doing you that service while mucking up my browser history on my work computer, which is filled with enough weird searches by now to guarantee that I'll never make partner (and to guarantee, too, that I'll eventually be deported, since any search history that goes
creepy guy, miley cyrus, underwear vending machine, piece of Madonna's clothing is just asking for trouble).

But I did find a baby outfit featuring an S&M Madonna on it,

and if that's not cute, I don't know
what is. Why should baby clothes be all filled with little pink unicorns and little blue toy trucks? What about babies that are into bondage? Don't they get their own unique clothing line? Now, they do, and thank God, because I had nothing to match the spiked dog collar I was going to give to my niece.

That, technically, is not a "Yankee" item, though -- really, Madonna dressed as an East German Cabaret
Les Boy is for everyone, coast-to-coast -- so I checked again, and found this: You can, or could, buy "Madonna's Erotic Phone Calls," the entire set of them, auctioned off this past summer by The Gotta Have It! Auction House. The description of the set:

Madonna faxed love letters to her then-boyfriend Jim Albright and left naughty messages on his answering machine in the early 1990s. The messages are on two micro-cassette tapes estimated to sell for up to $40,000.

Wow! That makes me wonder how much those sexy e-mails I used to send to Sweetie will bring
her at auction one day, when I'm famous, e-mails like this:

What was it you wanted me to bring home again? Cookies? Because I don't have any money, and we don't have any cookies.

I hope Sweetie doesn't mind my invading her privacy to print that.

If you go to the Gotta Have It! site, you'll see that Jim Albright wasn't just selling off his faxed love letters and answering machine messages. He also put up "Madonna Personal Video Given To Jim Albright," which sold for $12,000 and contained, according to the label "
Wife Swap Footage."

Jim Albright's letters, by the way, didn't
quite make it to $40,000. They sold for $2,400, which is probably why he had to put up the "Wife Swap Video." He must have been even more disappointed when the "Erotic Answering Machine Messages" went for... zero. Nobody bid.

Scoring: Let's just say,
nobody's a winner here.

Total Scores:

Yankees: 1
Red Sox: 1
Angels: 0
Twins: 1
Christian Faur: 1.

four-way tie? That's unprecedented. To settle it, I will have to revert to the longstanding tiebreaker that I just now invented, which is this: Which one has a better Online Flash Game vaguely associated with them?

For the Yankees, there's the Madonna Online Flash Game, found here, which lets you first dress Madonna up and then vote for your most favorite dress! I chose to dress Madonna as Harem Girl, with kicky sandals:

But I didn't know how much I had scored...
just like Madonna (Ba dum bum!).

Crayon Games, I found this game, Magic Pen,

which lets you draw stuff to move a little red ball around to a flag, and is about the coolest thing I've ever seen, at least since
Sand Game, and so I'm not even going to fool around anymore: I'm awarding the tiebreaker to Christian Faur.

So there you have it:
The NonSportsmanlike Conduct 100% Accurate, Never-Fail, Always-Right, Sure-Fire System For Picking The Playoff Winner, American League Edition, has definitively chosen, as the American League representative in the World Series, Christian Faur.

The World is the Totality of the Facts, 2001

This week's Good Luck Charms:

Jenna Fischer, better known as Pam on The Office; her wedding made Sweetie cry, and Jim made us normal guys look less romantic by comparison -- but as I pointed out to Sweetie, Jim has both a television show budget and writers; I've got just my chutzpah.

Mark Sanchez, former USC/Current New York Jets' QB, and Sweetie's favorite NFL player. She doesn't know which team he plays for, or what position he plays. But for some reason, she keeps saying "He's really great."