Saturday, October 24, 2009

(Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 37)

Sweetie's hunk of the week is a blast from the past, but not in the sense that he's some kind of old guy; just in the sense that he hasn't actually done anything that anyone's heard of in about 20 years. This week's hunk is

James Marsden!

And to make things more interesting, I'm going to give you another behind-the-scenes look at how these get written, because really I can't think of anything to say about James Marsden.

Here's the picture I chose to use of James Marsden:
James Marsden. (Probably a profile)

I chose to use that picture because I needed to distract Mr Bunches from what he was doing as I sat down to write this post. What he was doing, in order, was this:

1. Sitting on my lap, periodically pressing the "+" key, so that you would have read: S++++weetie'+s H+unk+++++of the+Week, which would have caused the FBI to think that I was writing in some sort of code, which would in turn have caused the to perform a daring daylight raid on what they would believe to be a band of suspected terrorists but which would really be not our house, but the other house with almost our exact same address, the one that gets all our pizzas and, probably, those lottery checks from that Nigerian/Microsoft Lottery I entered via email the other day.

All I had to do was give them my credit card number, and if it matched the numbers drawn, I'm rich!

2. Then, he was shaking the Only Living Plant, the sole plant we have in our house, a plant that he knew would get him in trouble for shaking it because he saw Mr F get in trouble for that yesterday. Only I didn't give in to him, and ignored it. So he went and

3. Hit the grandfather clock, which doesn't work and needs to be fixed, but that's no reason to hit it. So he got a time out, and then I told him: Here. Sit here. Daddy needs you to draw something. I gave him paper, and then was going to give him a marker when I remembered that he and Mr F were already grounded off markers for the day because they were throwing them (it was only 8:45), so I gave him a pen and said: Draw James Marsden, at which point he quit complaining and went straight to work.

So I gave him pointers. "Draw his little boy smile," I said. Then: "Draw his abs." Then: "Draw his hair," and each time Mr Bunches obliged. Since he was Picasso-esque in his representation of James Marsden, I took the step of providing you a "James Marsden Viewer's Guide:"

James Marsden: A Viewer's Guide.

With that, I set out to begin scanning in the photo, at which point Mr F decided to press all of the buttons on the printer at the same time, causing the printer to (in technical terms) not work.

That's the problem with having my computer in the same room as the Babies! Or, given their level of destruction, that's the problem with having my computer in the same state as the Babies! From here on out, I will be posting from Nebraska.

Sweetie then took the Babies! for a car ride "to the Bank." I helped her load them into the car and came back upstairs to do this post, secure in the knowledge that I'd get some uninterrupted time to write it, and began writing:

You don't know him without you have: But I would not immediately get a chance to decide what James Marsden has been in, besides being the vaguely-bad-guy in The Notebook, and also I think he was in X-Men, but I can never watch that movie, so I'm not sure. (See this for the only emotions I have about X-Men: The Hopelessly Boring and Name-Mispronouncing Movie), because The Boy had risen from his cavelike room and come downstairs, and while I tried to get to work posting this, he wanted to talk.

The Boy "talks" in the morning via pronouncements, not conversation. I still feel obliged to interact with him because I don't want to end up sitting on Dr. Phil one day on an episode entitled You Didn't Talk To Me Over Breakfast, Now I'm A Meth-Crazed Bank Robbing Punk Rocker. But interacting is limited to fending off statements designed to goad me into an argument. As I tried to look up James Marsden, The Boy fired off this salvo:

"God, I'm so sick of the Swine Flu." This week, The Boy has been sick of coverage, already, of Balloon Boy and Brett Favre, and, now, apparently, Swine Flu had drawn his wrath. When I didn't immediately respond, he said "I don't see what the big deal is for something that's just a really bad cold," a bit of misinformation that I think he got from reversing what I had told him, which was that many people refer to what they have as the flu but they don't have "the flu," they just have a really bad cold, and that there's a difference between a "cold" and "the flu." The Boy had taken that and decided that everyone who says they have the flu just has a cold.

I'd given up, meanwhile, on finding out more about James Marsden's background and instead moved on to

Things That Make You Go Hmmm About Him: Which I then got distracted from by trying to explain to The Boy that it hadn't, actually, taken that long for "them" to come up with a swine flu vaccine, and that people know perfectly well how to make vaccines for almost every virus-caused disease, at which point The Boy changed the subject and said: "Stupid Bob Dylan."

"Stupid Bob Dylan,"

which threw me for a loop, at first, as I didn't see how Bob Dylan was to blame for Swine Flu, or vaccines, or even Balloon Boy, but I then realized that there was a Bob Dylan song playing on my iTunes. Before I could defend Bob Dylan, The Boy had retreated downstairs to begin his preparations for watching football, which consists of sitting on the couch watching people prepare to play football, and, probably, thinking of things to be irritated with. ("Stupid 50-yard lines.")

By then, it was time to move on to:

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: And, by then, too, Sweetie and the Babies! were back from the Bank, and the Babies! were crowding around me wanting to hang out, a situation that was made worse by the fact that the Dylan song had been followed by "Part of Your World," from The Little Mermaid. Yeah, I've got both Bob Dylan and The Little Mermaid soundtrack on my iPod. That's what makes me cool.

By this point, I was hard pressed to even remember what James Marsden looked like, so I went back to check on it and see what I thought it was Sweetie would like about him, reviewing his picture:

James Marsden. (Naked!)

But that wasn't very helpful. I distracted Mr Bunches and Mr F by showing Mr Bunches how he could drop my Froot Loops into my coffee... don't ask... and by putting Mr F on the chair behind me where he could amuse himself by sticking his fingers in my ear ... not as distracting as it sounds, which really says something about my life... and looked up the first picture I could find of James Marsden on the Internet:

James Marsden: The 13th Cylon.

And I decided, as Mr Bunches got mad that he couldn't take the cushion off the rocking chair and opted to climb the cat tree, instead, that what Sweetie liked about James Marsden is... something or other, and Mr Bunches, get down!

Which brings us to

Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: "He's got a little boy smile, and he's sexy." Note: As I typed that, Mr F is lying on the floor kicking randomly. Mr Bunches is sitting up on the cat tree again, and The Boy has come back into the room to do his homework that he has to have finished before watching football, and has a look on his face like he's going to say something. Probably something like Stupid school, teaching us stupid things that'll let us have stupid jobs and earn stupid money. And also Stupid Bob Dylan.

Although, to be fair, I asked The Boy what he was thinking about just now, and he said: "Spanish?" He actually said it as a question, though, as if he wasn't exactly sure he had been thinking about it, something I'd have brought up to him except Mr F wandered off and is crying, and I don't know where Sweetie is. Probably Nebraska.

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: Sweetie just happened to walk in as I found the picture below. And the cookie jar's broken.

Stupid James Marsden.

It's non-negotiable. Unless you were to replace it with something better, like 3 a.m. Cheetos?

If you're like me, you've probably tried everything imaginable to get rid of cellulite.

Well, okay, if you're like me, you've tried everything imaginable except "Stop eating pizza at 3:00 a.m." But give me a break: some things are just a deal breaker.

Beyond giving up what is clearly a necessity of life, I've done more or less everything I can to look my best, and you probably have, too, trying to get rid of cellulite that despite your best efforts just stays there, implacable and unmoving, like Mr F when he doesn't want to get out of his crib in the morning. (He's been there for 3 days straight.)

But you only think you've tried everything. Because you haven't tried the new, topnotch, A-#1 Cellulite Cream on the market.

Which one is that? I don't know. But I know someone who does:

Cellulite creams can help against the tough persistence of cellulite, reducing cellulite and firming skin at the same time, but there are a lot of different brands on the market, and not all of them are right for you. Or right, period. That's where comes in. is made up of nothing but reviews of cellulite creams. They get the products, they test them, and they tell you which ones work and which ones don't, making life easier for you because you don't have to spend tons of money on things that don't help the problem, and can get the best one right out the door.

And, if you're feeling down about yourself, they've even got a little area to perk you up, showing you stars with cellulite, so you can feel a little less alone and even remind yourself that the beautiful people have the same problems you do -- and fix them the same way.

A few minutes on that site will, I'm sure, save you money, and time, and probably work a lot better than giving up 3 a.m. pizza -- which is good, 'cause I'm not doing that. I told you: Deal breaker.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Extra Good Things [Meaning "More Good Things," Not "The Same Number of Better Things."] (3 Good Things From 10/22/09, and also from this morning)

Since I usually don't post my good things from Friday until Monday, I'm going to lump in some good things from today before I forget about them.

So, from yesterday, there were good things like:

1. The helpful guy at the store
, who got me right to the part I needed to fix the downstairs toilet, so that I didn't waste time wandering around Home Depot looking for the part, and so I didn't get distracted and meander into the part of the store where they sell outdoor Christmas decorations and end up buying a bunch of inflatable yard decorations and forget what I came in there for in the first place.

2. The fact that I fixed the toilet so quickly. It wasn't very complicated, although I didn't know that when I started. I just needed to replace the part that gets the water from the main water line in the house into the toilet tank; only, I didn't know that the part I was replacing did that, so I began to unscrew it only to get sprayed by a blast of water, which led me to also turn off the water very quickly, too, and

3. A non-toilet related one, Watching Sweetie and Mr F play his new game, which is kind of like Solitaire with DVDs: Mr F takes the DVD folder, opens it up, points to DVDs and has Sweetie remove the DVDs he points to. He then takes them and puts them back into the folder in new locations, and then continues. I assume he'd continue forever; we made him quit at 8:30. (He won't let me play at all. I guess I don't do it right.)

And 2 extras from today:

1. Mr Bunches sharing my Froot Loops. While I was eating this morning and reading the paper, Mr Bunches climbed on my lap and took a Froot Loop out of my bowl and ate it. When I took a couple and put them on the side for him, he wouldn't eat those: he only wanted the ones right out of my bowl.

2. The wild game of Superbabies! versus Daddy we had, in which I'd chase Mr F and Mr Bunches around, and, if I caught them, would spin them around before tossing them onto the couch. That lasted forty minutes or so, before devolving into a game of Make Mr F eat his own toes while tickling Mr Bunches.

24/7 parts is like a superhero, only it's not a real person, or even a person. But it is saving the world.

Last week, we had to get new brake pads and tires on our car, and, coincidentally, Middle had to get new brake pads and tires on her car. This was not long after The Boy needed new tires on his car, and then, yesterday, Oldest asked if she could borrow $30 because she needed to get her car repaired.

I thought this might all just be random luck, until I realized that the common thread here was that I either drove the cars in question, or taught the drivers in question how to drive, which means I may myself need a refresher course before I teach Mr F and Mr Bunches how to drive.

Although, by the time I get around to teaching Mr F and Mr Bunches, we'll probably all have personal jetpacks to get to and from where we're going, and, honestly, I can't wait. It is going to be so sweet to jetpack to work.

Provided that there's still a world to jetpack around in, that is, because all those tires and brake pads and vaguely-defined car repairs needed by Oldest got me to thinking about all the stuff we're throwing out when we get our cars fixed up, and all the resources that go into making the new parts for the cars, which led me to think: A-ha! That's my newest business idea: Recycling car parts, because it's greener and more sustainable and people will love it and I'll save the world, and also I'll get rich and maybe win a Nobel Peace Prize, if they give those away for recycling.

So I did my research, googling used car parts and recycled car parts and green car repairs and the like and the more I searched the more I kept seeing the same company come up over and over: Whether I checked into Car Parts.Com or searched for "Green Car Repairs" or tried to find Car Parts, all I kept seeing was this company called 24-7 Spares.

24/7 Spares, I found out, already does what I was going to get rich doing: They sell used car parts for almost every make and model of car, on an easily-searchable, easily-orderable website, and they sell them supercheap. Seriously ridiculously low prices, which made me not only realize that my latest get-rich-quick scheme was not going to work for me, since they're already doing it, but also made me realize that if I'd ordered parts for all these repairs through them, I would have saved about half off of the cost of the fix-up.

All that, and by using recycled parts, 24/7 Spares is helping save the world -- seriously, because they're reducing waste in car parts, and they're reducing fossil fuel use by not having new parts manufactured, so just by doing business the way they do, they're making the world a better place.

So I've learned my lesson. I've bookmarked 24/7 Spares for the inevitable next time my car breaks down, and I've moved on to different business ideas (A live action television show based on pretzels) and I've decided to pin my hopes on getting not a Nobel Prize but a Grammy, instead.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Half evil, half genius... that's the secret recipe for success. Also: add a pinch of oregano for luck. (3 Good Things From 10/21/09)

1. The Boy took really good care of the Babies!, and then even voluntarily went to school. I was supposed to be spending the day at home with the Babies!, but had to take care of a court hearing that took nearly a half-day, leaving The Boy out of school and in charge of Mr F and Mr Bunches for that time. When I got home, at 1, he had the house clean, the Babies! in bed and sleeping, and everything more or less in order (except for the new, extra blue marker on the Babies!' wall). Then, even though I'd have let him stay home, he voluntarily went to school for the remainder of the day.


2. I won the court hearing and not just won but really won. The issues are complicated, and it was a long hearing, and it's probably only interesting to me and the people whose house is safe for a little while longer. But what you need to know is: I won.

3. There was a new Web Soup on the DVR, one I got to watch uninterrupted after the Babies! went to bed and Sweetie went to work out, although I'm not sure, after all, that it was totally new. Sometimes I watch them and think I' ve seen this one before, but then I'm not sure if I have seen it before, and then I think What if they're mixing in old clips with new clips to create a half-new show, something I suspect "Robot Chicken" does, too, which on the one hand is genius, and on the other hand is really, really evil because it makes me think that I'm losing my mind, and that's not a nice thing to do, Chris Hardwick and Seth Green, even if it does make you more money by re-using old clips. You don't see me re-using old blog posts and calling them new ones, do you?

Except for this, I mean. But that's different, because I tell you upfront.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Forty-Five.

I know it's been a while since I put one of these up. I've got the full 1001, more or less, but I also have to adhere to my self-imposed schedule for when I post things, and also I sometimes have to work and earn a living. So if you want to see more of these, send me, say, $2,000,000, and then I can retire and just post them all one after another.

(Sending me money is numbers 1 through 1001 on a different list, the list of "1001 Ways to Make Me Happy.

45. Create an Internet Superhighway, giving high-speed Internet access to everyone, everywhere.

One key role of government is to facilitate the exchange of information. Digging the Panama Canal, building the transcontinental railroad and then the Interstate Highway System, and other efforts like the US Postal Service and that cable across the Atlantic that carried telegraph communications that went something like Hello Stop This is America Stop What's Up Stop: all serve as examples of good programs fostered by government to equalize access to information and share communications across the country.

Now, though, the growth of the Internet has been largely left up to private companies, wiring up offices for cable and providing internet services through satellite or cell-phone efforts, in a patchwork of efforts that in some cases make it possible to get 3 or 4 different access points to the Internet in one location, while in others people are actually using something a little worse, seemingly, than dial-up. (Mail-In Internet: Coming to a rural route near you.)

Infrastructure is a valid thing for the government to concern itself with, and the Internet is infrastructure. More and more services are being offered online, more and more information is available online, more and more communications are taking place online, and fostering that can help reduce consumption of fossil fuels (why deliver letters when email is available) and natural resources (no need to print photos for Grandma, on paper, when you can email them and have them stored on her computer), and lower transactional costs. (Lawyers, inmates, judges, and clerks can all communicate via teleconference, reducing transportation costs and increasing efficiencies, for just one example.)

It's possible for some people to do almost everything online -- but in other places, it's difficult or impossible.

I'm not just talking about America, either. Access to the Internet in other countries should be a priority not just for those countries, but for America, too, which should be promoting the ability of everyone to get online. If blue jeans and Walkmen could bring down the Soviet Union, imagine what free access to social networking sites, online news sources, the ability to post communications and videos, and otherwise share will do to repressive regimes and poor people around the world. Giving them an outlet to the world, and giving Americans access to that world, can only help shape things for the better.

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

His ostrich goes something like "Wroolooloo!" (3 Good Things From 10/20/09)

An entire day with the Babies!, and almost nothing to do. I don't know where to begin with my 3 Good Things:

1. Reading the book Hop on Pop to Mr F during "learning time," that 15 minutes each night that we set aside to try to teach the Babies!. Mr F actually likes being read to, and he kept giggling and smiling at the various word combinations.

2. Mr Bunches' Ostrich impersonation. The Babies! like an online "Alphabet game" where they can press keys and get the computer to say a letter, an animal that begins with that letter, and the sound the animal makes . I'm skeptical of some of the animals and animals sounds, but the Babies! like them, and we all like to hear Mr Bunches imitate the Ostrich.

3. The Chicken Caesar Salad I made for dinner, which I kind of got from Rachael Ray, only I didn't make my own dressing like she instructs people to do: that's what prepackaged salad dressings are for, I reasoned. But I did, from scratch, make the Chicken-cooked in- Olive Oil, handmade bagel-piece toasted croutons, chopped lettuce and tomatoes and peppers, and, to top it all off, orange-strawberry smoothies.

Then I had to clean up the mess from all that. But I was on a chicken-and-smoothie high, so it didn't matter too much.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille! (3 Good Things From This Past Weekend)

1. I totally fixed our kitchen sink, and I did it under the most impressive circumstances you can imagine: listening to The Decemberists' new album with my head jammed awkwardly under the counter, and periodically having Mr Bunches walk over and jump on my stomach. If you're going to fix something, do it the manly way. That's what I always say.

2. I got BBQ Fritos. We took a road trip to visit Mom on Saturday, and on the way home had to stop and get gas, which meant two things: First, stock up on lottery tickets ('cause I'm gonna win it, this time) and second, BBQ Frito Twist chips, the snack I only get when I'm driving to or from someplace. I don't know why I only get them on road trips. I just realized, one day, that the only time I bought BBQ Frito Twists was when I was on a road trip, so I decided to make that my thing. I make a lot of things "my thing," like the time I read how people who had signatures that had a lot of flourishes in them were more optimistic and outgoing, so I taught myself how to sign with a lot of flourishes. Or the time I heard that fidgeting burns a lot of calories, so I decided to become a fidgeter. Or the time I took back the ice cream maker I'd given my brother for his wedding, and began trying to invent new ice creams.

3. I'm going to be on TV. Friday, it was confirmed that I'm going to be on TV soon. pecifically, The Dan Potacke Show, which will be filmed live before a studio audience (just like Herman's Head!) on Monday, October 26, at the Frequency in Madison. I'll be getting interviewed about what it's like to be so awesome, and also about my book, Eclipse!

Violins haven't been this cool since that Revenge of the Nerds skit. Remember that song? It was pretty great.

I run the very risk that you will think I'm way too cool for revealing this, but I'm thinking about getting violin instructions and learning to play the violin.

Whooosh! That sound you heard was James Dean getting pushed off the Pedestal Of Cool he's (inexplicably) occupied for decades, and Ermf! Ugh! Geez, how much do you weigh! Eph! That's the sound of me being put on the pedestal.

I know, I know, it seems unfair that I should get to be so awesome; I mean, I can already play piano, and juggle two objects, I'm recognized as probably the best Herman's Head fanfiction writer in the Midwest, but I can't resist the siren song of the violin.

In all seriousness, I've always wanted to play the violin, and what held me back was (a) my almost criminally-short attention span, and (b) I didn't know where to take violin lessons. But now I can remedy that second part, at least, through the video lessons offered by They've got DVDs of violin lessons, including a one-disk DVD for basic techniques, an then a set of beginning-to-intermediate disks that'll help improve on those basic skills and teach various violin techniques. They even have a holiday series, so I could learn to play some Christmas carols and impress the family this year.

And it WILL impress the family, way more than the time I took that home hair-cutting course and made myself the first subject. (I was going for mullet, but ended up with "accident victim," which I attribute to faulty scissors and the fact that in mirrors, everything's backwards. Stupid mirror world.)

The DVDs come from The Academy of Music Performance, a studio that gives private lessons combined with a school that specializes in Violin and Viola. The Academy has been around since 2000 and teaches up to 50 kids a year; with their DVDs, they'll expand that reach.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Importance of Things That Don't Matter (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)

Sometimes I forget what I'm wearing, and I forget, at the same time, that what I'm wearing can cause other people to react to me, so that when they do react, I have no idea what they're talking about and appear to be crazy, or rude, or both.

That's what happened to me, three times today: People reacted to what I am wearing, and I had no idea, at first, what they were reacting to, causing me to be confused and a little lost, and also, at one point, to lose my grip on Mr Bunches, who then began climbing into the sour cream display.

I'm wearing a Denver Broncos Terrell Davis jersey. You may remember Terrell Davis, or you may not. This is Terrell Davis:
He looks a little confused, doesn't he?

But you may remember him better from this angle:

He's the guy in the middle. With the ball. The little one.

That's Terrell Davis in Superbowl XKRILRBD +38°3238III, waltzing into the end zone for the winning score, the score that got me the Terrell Davis Denver Broncos jersey I'm wearing today, the one that's causing so much confusion.

When Terrell Davis scored that touchdown (causing no small amount of consternation among Packer fans, who were expecting a goal-line stand and an attempt to win the game, and who instead were shocked to see then-Coach Mike "Mike" Holmgren throw in the towel), I more or less won the jersey I'm wearing today, because that was one of the years I bet my brother Matt on the Superbowl, and I had Denver, so when they held on to win that game, I got $50 and a Denver Broncos jersey.

That game, Superbowl RIX00084+2905III, had some meaning for me, because it meant I was $50 better off in my life and had a jersey to wear for the next eleven years or so, and it meant (although I didn't know it that day) that one day I'd be walking through a grocery store on a Sunday morning, trying to get some milk and sour cream to make a Bundt cake that night, and trying also to corral two overtired 3-year-olds, and that I'd be interrupted in that by a guy who would say to me: "Hey, they gonna win?"

As he said that, and I looked up to see a guy in a New York Yankees' cap and shirt, smiling at me, and as I tried to lift Mr Bunches off of the floor while holding on to Mr F so that he didn't climb into the milk cooler, I tried to figure out who might be going to win. The Babies!? That seemed the most obvious, and maybe a joking thing from this guy: Hey, are [those Babies! you're clearly not in control of] going to win?"

But then I thought: maybe he means the Yankees? He was wearing Yankee stuff, after all, and the Yankees are playing the Angels in the American League Championship Series (a/k/a "The Neverending and Terribly Boring Story") and I've got the Angels, and The Boy has the Yankees, in our bet... but how would he know that? And, I then asked myself, why would some Yankees' fan just stop me in the dairy section to ask me if the Yankees are going to win? How rude are New Yorkers, anyway?

Then I remembered I was wearing a Broncos' jersey. Technically, at that point, I was wearing a Broncos' jersey and Mr F, who I'd picked up to keep him from getting away, as Mr Bunches had by then flopped onto the floor to frustrate my efforts to hold his hand. Mr F had responded to my picking him up by lolling over my shoulder.

The last time I was in public and someone stopped me out of the blue to comment on a shirt I was wearing, I'd had on my Florida Gators sweatshirt that I'd also won in a bet, "winning clothes in a bet" being the most common way I get my new outfits. That time, when a large man in the same grocery store had commented on my shirt by saying "Florida! Yeah! Go Gators!" and giving me the thumbs up, I'd tried to explain how I wasn't really a Florida Gators' fan, how I'd simply ended up with them as my team in a bet on the College Football national championship, and how because of that, and their winning, I then had a Florida Gators' sweatshirt... and the guy had looked confused and deflated and the conversation (which I hadn't wanted to be a part of in the first place) ended very limply and with me feeling guilty for not being a Florida Gators' fan.

So this time, I didn't wreck Yankee Fan's day, but simply said "I hope so." He looked at me and nodded and appeared to expect more, so I said "I like Kyle Orton," a strange phrase that really probably only makes sense if you know who he is, and if you like him.

He looks a little confused, too.

Kyle Orton is the Denver Broncos' new quarterback, a former Bear, who I do kind of like. I like him because I made fun of him all summer long, with The Boy, making fun of him being a bad football player for the same reason most guys make fun of "bad" football players: because we can't play football even 1/1000th as well as they do, and because they make $35 billion a second to play a game, and so they should just shut up and let us make fun of them, but then Kyle Orton began winning games (five in a row, so far) and I began actually liking Kyle Orton, and making less fun of him and being less sarcastic when I'd say things like That Kyle Orton, he's a pretty good quarterback, which I used to say with a smirk but now I say in all seriousness.

(Kyle Orton, by the way, will make $2,800,000 this year for playing a game. That's $175,000 per game, if the Broncos don't go to the playoffs [players get extra money for the playoffs], or $43,750 per quarter he'll play. $2.8 million works out, also, to $7,671 per day, or $319 per hour, every hour of every day of the year, or $5.30 per minute, every minute of every hour of every day in a year. So when the game breaks for commercials and you go get your generic soda out of the refrigerator and come and sit back down, in the time it took you to do that, Kyle Orton made $5.30. That's money that's paid for by season tickets you buy, Denver Broncos jersey I wear, and other stuff football fans spend money on. Don't tell me we don't have enough money to provide free health care to every man, woman and child in America.)

Pop quiz time. This is:

(a) The amount of money football fans spent on foam cheeseheads last year,
(b) the amount of money it would cost to pay for everyone in America to get free health care,
(c) it doesn't matter that both (a) and (b) are the correct answers, because Americans are only going to do (a), not (b), because if you say (b) then some stupid Republican is going to shout "Socialist Death Panels!" and we're all going to get scared and say there's no money for health care reform,
(d) all of the above, plus the money that was spent on pre-orders of that one book by Lauren Conrad.

I told Yankees' Fan that I liked Kyle Orton, hoping that would end the conversation, but it didn't, because Yankees' Fan went on to say something about Phillip Rivers and how good he is, about which I simply nodded because I had to go get Mr Bunches out of the sour cream bin, which ended that conversation.

From that talk, I gathered that the Broncos were going to play the Chargers, because that's who Phillip Rivers quarterbacks for, and I used that knowledge a little later when another guy in the store commented on my jersey by saying "They going to win tomorrow night?" and pointing at my chest.

Even then, I wasn't really sure what he was talking about, until I looked down and said "Oh, the Broncos," and then said "I hope so, but San Diego can be tough," and then moved on, using my new knowledge that the teams were playing on Monday Night to gloss over the fact that I didn't want to talk to that guy and wasn't really a Broncos fan.

I have to be careful about that kind of stuff, anyway. I ended up being a Buffalo Bills fan by accident, and that led to years and years of watching a team lose, of being asked Are you from Buffalo? and of being asked Did you make your wife go to Buffalo on your honeymoon just so you could see the stadium? (No, I didn't!), and that all came about unplanned. If people keep acting like I'm a Broncos fan just because I'm wearing the jersey, and I have to keep acting like I'm a Broncos fan because that's easier than explaining to them why I wear the jersey even though I'm not a Broncos fan, then I might end up accidentally liking the Broncos, after all, and I really don't think I can squeeze another thing into my life to like. I'm pretty full up, what with Sweetie and the kids and Cool Ranch chips and Glee!.

Then, at the checkout, the cashier guy, too, asked me about the Broncos, and I gave him my now-full-of-information answer: Well, I hope they'll beat San Diego on Monday night, and then wrote out the check and moved on to settle a fight between Mr F and Mr Bunches, a fight that had broken out because Mr F wanted some cheese puffs, but they weren't our cheese puffs, they were in someone else's cart, so I'd had to pull Mr F away from that cart, and he'd blamed Mr Bunches for it and tried to pull his hair.

Those three encounters got me thinking about the jersey I had on, and how maybe I could pad out those three encounters into a story that might make a larger point, and then, as I got out of my car later on at the parking garage to go into my office and "work," the parking attendant said "I sure hope they win tomorrow night" and I gave him a jaunty wave and said "Me, too! Go Kyle Orton!," adding that latter completely unsarcastically.

What I was thinking was this: First, I was thinking There sure are a lot of Denver Broncos fans in Madison, Wisconsin. Second, I was thinking Sports have zero importance overall, but they sure are important, overall.

Which makes no sense, except that it makes all the sense in the world.

Sports don't matter. They don't matter any more than any other form of entertainment matters. Sports are entertainment, and that's all. Getting all worked up over sports is fun, but needs to be kept in perspective.

People do get all worked up over sports. Watch a Packers game with The Boy and you'll see what I mean. Watching the Packers-Vikings game the other night, I saw The Boy get overwhelmed by happiness, frustration, anger, and an emotion that seems to exist only in The Boy, a sort of surliness-mixed-with-sarcasm: Sarcasliness, maybe. And he experienced all of those emotions, even sacrasliness, all in the span of minutes. He was up, he was down, he bit his lip, he stomped his foot, he cheered.

Over a game.

Think about this: When was the last time you saw someone react to a movie, or tv show, with the kind of visceral emotion that they use to react to sporting events?

Well, never, you say, but that's because TV and movies aren't real. To which I respond, first: you've never seen The Boy watch the Academy Awards, and second, Sports aren't real, either.

The Boy gets all worked up over the Academy Awards, too, if there's a movie he likes. He cheers them the way he cheers his teams in sports, and tries to raz me about them even though I don't really care. When The Return of the King won Best Picture, he jumped up and down and barely slept that night.

But more importantly, sports aren't real. They're just a show. Sure, they're taking place live (mostly) and the outcome may be in doubt (mostly) but that doesn't make them any more real than, say, Rock Of Love, which also takes place live (at least, it does when it's being filmed) and is a competition (?) in which the outcome is in doubt.

So if you think about it that way, these people are all
high-caliber athletes, no different than Michael Phelps or Annika Sorenstam.

If taking place live before a live audience is the mark of what's real, then Charles In Charge is real, because that was filmed before a live studio audience. If the outcome being in doubt is what makes it real, then For The Love Of Ray J is a sport, because nobody knows in advance which form of VD will end up sweeping through all the cast members.

Also athletes. Practically Olympians.

So sports, including the NFL and baseball and things that are obviously rigged and not sports, like the NBA, aren't any more real than anything else you can watch on TV, but people take them far, far more seriously. Nobody gets bent out of shape wondering if Neo is going to turn out to be The One and fight Agent Smith, but people bite their nails and hang on the edge of their seats wondering if Scott Norwood's kick will go through the uprights. People debate, for a while, whether the ending to The Sopranos was lame or not (it was, as was the entire series) but people never ever ever forget to mention that the "Music City Miracle" was no miracle, it was instead a forward lateral, which should have been ruled illegal and ended the game so that the Buffalo Bills advanced in the playoffs and not the Tennessee Titans.

I used to be one of those latter kind of people, the kind of guy who would mention, for years and years and years, how it was obvious that the refs blew that particular call, and go on and on about it (and I was right), but then one day, I just... stopped caring.

I forgave the Titans, and kind of even rooted for them, them and their coach and his lame moustache, and moved on, because, I realized, what did it matter?

It's just sports, and being upset over sports is dumb. It's as dumb to be mad, years later, about whether or not that guy threw a forward lateral (FYI, he totally did) as it would be to be dumb, years later, about Frank's decision not to go to Paris with April and the baby -- a decision, and result, after all, which had far more shocking consequences for all involved, consequences which were every bit as real as the consequences for those Bills and Titans involved in the Music City Miracle.

For Frank and April, Frank's decision not to go to Paris meant the end of their lives, or at least their lives as they'd known them. (And also, at least one of their lives.) But not really, because Kate Winslet didn't die, but instead also starred as a sexy Nazi (?) in The Reader and will appear as a sexy lady named Mildred (?) in the upcoming Mildred Pierce, so in the long run, not going to Paris didn't change her life at all.

And the same can be said for the Bills and Titans in the Music City Miracle. The Bills didn't get to go on in the playoffs. They went home for the season. The Titans did get to go on, ultimately losing in the Superbowl to the Rams in a game that, in the long run, didn't matter, either.

I was excited when the Titans lost that Superbowl, back in 2000; I thought it was their just desserts, having advanced by (in my view, and in fact) cheating, but now, years and years later, I can barely remember the game and I can only dimly remember feeling excited that they lost that game. I have a much better recollection of the cartoon Bugs' Bonnets than I do of that game, even though Bugs' Bonnets is a Bugs Bunny cartoon that I saw maybe 2 or 3 times as a kid, back in the 1970s and early 1980s, and the Rams-Titans Superbowl I watched as an adult only 9 years ago.

Bugs' Bonnets, by the way, is the cartoon where a hat truck bursts open and hats drift around and Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd take on the personalities of the hats that land on their heads:

I loved that cartoon as a kid, but until today I hadn't seen it in probably nearly 3 decades. But I remembered that cartoon better than I remember any football game I've ever watched, ever.

I'm not saying all this to say, only, that sports don't matter. They don't, in the long run, matter, or at least they don't matter the way people think they matter.

Sports don't matter in the sense that people believe they matter, because it doesn't matter who wins or who loses, or how "your" team does or how your favorite player plays. All those things are as transient and unimportant as any entertainment. So your favorite player has moved on from his old team to a new one, and then to a new-er one. So what? Charles had one family replaced by another with no questions asked, and Darren kept being Darren even though he was clearly a different person one season, and you'll develop another new player to love, and another new player to hate. If you're upset because your team lost, don't be, because people lose all the time in entertainment, and they come back the next week and play again, just as characters come back in the next movie. Sometimes that field goal is wide right, and sometimes Darth Vader strikes down Obi Wan Kenobi while Luke just stands there and watches. In either case, neither is gone for long.

But sports do matter in another sense. I, long ago, listed the Important Things in life, and those were: Love, Politics, Science, Art, and Sports. Four of those things are noncontroversial, I think. Their importance can easily be recognized.

Sports I included as its own category because it differed from the others while being equal in importance. Sports is the gravity that prevents the others from forming a Unified Theory of Everything; sports are the outlier that don't fit in with the rest and yet they exist and must be accounted for, just as gravity exists and must be accounted for.

Sports don't matter. Not in the real world, real life sense of changing things, or having the ability to affect the world.

Love matters. If you don't love anyone and nobody loves you, you're going to end up climbing the bell tower and shooting people who approach. Conversely, if we loved others the way we say we should, we probably wouldn't send troops to other countries, we'd send food, and we wouldn't get all bent out of shape just because people can't come to our houses for the holidays; we'd want them to be happy whether or not they were with us.

Politics matter, because if we don't pay attention to politics, we end up with a health care "system" that nobody likes but nobody wants to change, while insurance companies buy off our representatives and our president gallivants around the world, ignoring the people who elected him to pay attention to things here.

Science matters, and I don't mean science like "velociraptors" and "crashing things into the moon," but real science, science that develops cures for cancer and helps people have babies and builds cars that run on water , cars that would revolutionize the world but which for some reason aren't being produced yet.

Art matters because art is the mirror we hold up to the world and show ourselves what we really look like, with and without makeup.

But sports don't matter, not like that. Sports don't change anything, ever. We've had the "modern Olympic games" for 213 years, and during that time we've had war upon war upon war, with genocide and nuclear weapons and death marches and terrorism. Sports aren't improving the world, and they don't tell us anything about anything, and they don't reassure us that there's a reason for our existence.

Sports don't matter, not in the grand scheme of things. But they do matter, on an individual level, just the way that gravity matters to you even though you don't think about it, and just as the net effect of gravity adds up until it controls the entire universe, the net effect of sports adds up until it becomes apparent just how important it is, these things that don't matter.

Sports matter because, first, they are something we believe we can do, and try to do, even though, for the most part, we can't. "I could have made that catch," we say, but the odds are we couldn't have, and if there was even a slim chance that we could have made the catch, we would not be sitting on our couch in our Terrell Davis jerseys, we'd be on a field somewhere, making that catch.

Anyone can pick up a golf club, swing it, and probably hit the ball. But very few people can do that well enough to shoot 18-under-par over four consecutive days in a golf tournament, as Tiger Woods did. But the fact that we most likely will not ever do that well at the game of golf does not prevent many of us from picking up those clubs, anyway, and becoming so many Carl Spacklers:

Even the athletes themselves are not immune to this. So many of us watched Michael Jordan, the greatest athlete the human race has ever seen, and thought to ourselves I could do that but we couldn't, and we knew it, deep down inside, a knowledge that didn't keep us from pretending we were Michael Jordan when we played The Boy in basketball -- but then, so many of us watched Michael Jordan say to himself, about baseball, I could do that, only he couldn't, either.

But he didn't let that stop him from trying, and that's the first most important thing about sports: It makes us try. It makes us believe we could be better, it makes us challenge ourselves.

We may not be able to throw a 50-yard touchdown pass in a Superbowl, but we can throw a 50-yard touchdown pass to our friends while playing in a pickup game in law school. We many not be able to win the Tour de France seven times (while displaying a total lack of sportsmanship), but we can hum classical music while we race our friends around Hartridge subdivision as kids.

We may never run in the Chicago Marathon, but we can raise our hands in victory when we finish a run around the nature trail, raising our hands even though there was nobody around to see, and nobody else was in the race.

Sports do that for us: They make us dream and try and believe, believe in something that doesn't take years of specialized knowledge to master, doesn't require us to be a Senator first, doesn't involve oil paint and canvas, and, in the end, needs nobody else around to take part in: little kids throwing a pass to themselves in the backyard prove that. Maybe not everyone can pitch Game 7 of the World Series -- but everyone can throw a baseball and dream that they are.

Because of that, sports also bind us together. Sports create a bond between us, a bond that we easily and unashamedly wear, literally, on our chests and our sleeves. We put on our Broncos' jersey and our Yankees' hats and go to the store, where we have a shared moment amongst the sour cream and cottage cheese and scrabbling babies. We wear red on Badger Saturdays and honk as we go by Camp Randall stadium, we buy shirts proclaiming our love for some teams or our hatred for others, and share those emotions with each other, binding us together in a way that is at once weak, and amazingly strong. Weak because at the end of the game, we will get up from the sports bar and wave to the people we've momentarily been friends with and say See ya when we know we won't, but strong because for those three hours that the game was on, we sat next to each other in the seats and watched as "our" team pulled it out, or almost didn't.

Sports is a universal force of nature, as important as love or politics, because it matters despite its complete lack of meaning:

Tripper was right, in part, and wrong, in part. It doesn't matter how good or bad you are at sports, it doesn't matter who wins or loses, who is the home team or the away team, how many championships your team has, or doesn't have. It doesn't matter if you get the big free agent, if the guy you're rooting for makes that long putt, none of that matters.

What matters is that sports exist, and in existing, encourage us to try, and to share that trying.

It just doesn't matter.

But it does.

With all that said, let me introduce a new feature this week. Instead of doing the Arbitrary Picks, which were getting boring for me, I'm going to try out, for a bit, What To Watch & Why, my advice to you on the sporting event (or almost-sporting event) for the upcoming week that you should be watching, and... of course... why I say you should watch it.

This week's What To Watch & Why is Game 5 of the American League Championship series. Playing at 7:57 p.m., Thursday, if needed, Game 5 of the ALCS promises to be everything a sports fan like you could want: A game that might not take place, but if it does, it'll likely be the final game of the series, so you'll get to watch the most exciting parts of the ALCS. The Yankees lead 2-0 as of right now, with the next two games in Los Angeles. The odds are that the Angels will win one of those, so New York will return home with a 3-1 advantage and a desire to finish things up before the weekend. That means, too, that C.C. Sabathia will probably pitch; just like the Brewers last year had Sabathia pitch more or less every inning from August 1 until their season ended in the first round of the playoffs, the Yankees will likely work Sabathia as often as possible until they win their 373rd World Series.

But, most importantly, if you set aside time to watch Game 5, and it's not needed, you'll have that time marked off anyway, and you'll suddenly have it free to do something fun (i.e., not baseball related) with, like watch Parks & Recreation.

This week's Good Luck Charms are:

Kate Winslet: you got the references to Revolutionary Road, right? Come on! I think it's great that I can reference Bugs Bunny, Rock of Love, and Revolutionary Road all in one post!


Tiger Woods, who's first Masters' victory inspired me to take up golf again (but not to actually practice golf. Just to play it) and whose bicep inspires me to want to do push-ups, but I'm not falling for that. Not again. That's what they would like, but I'm no sucker.

A chicken named Batman.

Here's the question I'm pondering right now: I wonder what Sweetie would do if I just took the boys this afternoon and adopted a couple of chickens?

I'm guessing she'd be okay with it. I mean, I haven't ever run the question by her, but I don't need to check on her for everything, do I? I have to have a little freedom to run my life the way I want to, and if adopting a chicken out of the blue is what I want to do, then I should be allowed to do it.

That question arose because I discovered "," a pet adoption site. Anyone looking to adopt a pet needs to check out I went on there and was just looking around at the pets and came across the aforementioned chicken, which goes, cool-ly enough, by the name "Batman."

Petango provides you with a searchable database of homeless pets across America, linking animal welfare organizations together to put pets in touch with the people who love them and want them. The goal of the website is to help those organizations match up pets and prospective owners, easing the burden on shelters and providing a loving home for cats and dogs and other shelter animals.

It's easy to use. Say you want to adopt a cat. Simply go to, click on the "Cats" link, type in your zip code and how far you're willing to travel, and you'll get a listing of adoptable pets in your area. I just did that, and found "Goblin," a cat in Dubuque who needs a good home and who might not have as good a chance of finding one without Petango.

What's even neater than the cats and dogs is the "Other Pets" tab. That's where I found that chicken to adopt, alongside over 1,344 different "Other pets" waiting to be adopted, from ferrets to rabbits, to more, all photogenic and demanding that I hop in the car, right this minute, and go pick them up and bring them home.

Which I'd do, except I'm really just after that chicken.

So if you're looking for a chicken, ferret, dog, cat, parakeet, cockatiel, mouse, gerbiel, or other pet, go to - Adopt a cat! today. It's a great idea to help out some great organizations and get some great pets.