Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm A Wuss...and So Are You

There is little doubt about the fact that there are degrees of toughness. There is also little doubt that most of us think we're tough to some degree based on the obstacles that we've overcome. As a competitive runner, I've had my share of Mazlow's "peak experiences," run the Boston Marathon (pictured), and I've ridden a bike 100 miles in a day, raised four kids (with a LOT of help), and managed not to get fired by George Haffeman who threatened to do so at least four times in fifteen years...definitely not an easy thing for me to accomplish. I've gotten up for work at 5 a.m. and survived as a construction worker and a night janitor at McDonald's. And that's just me. I know you have also done many things which might qualify for an award as a world class tough person. But frankly, we're nothing.

I've always thought the the Tour de France was an event that tested competitors more than any other competitive event. Then there are the ultramarathoners who routinely race for 100 miles...on foot. Parents of triplets probably have an equally difficult task, but now I see we've all been, well, sissies.

I just read today an account of an event called Racing the Planet's 4Deserts, and I am truly humbled. I might as well have been using my WiiFit for the last 40 years. Inexplicable in hardship, this event, which lures hundreds every year, defies my ability to explain it to you. Follow this link:

Be prepared to be humbled.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

An Epicure's Guide...of Sorts

Want fries on that?

"Go to Manny's...really!"

It's college football season again. I know because my son Ryun sat on my couch in the basement all day today changing channels on the remote so fast that the cable went out briefly! His only respite came when the Cubs game was on, and he had to watch it for more than three minutes at a time. He remains ensconced on the couch for Mizzou/Illini, checking his laptop with regularity for the Oklahoma score (delayed by lightning), and we're hoping he'll get up to eat though I would not count on it. That reminds me...I'm hungry and have been all day.

Andy Staples of Sports had an article which listed twenty or so of the best places to eat around major college football towns, and this immediately reminded me of my buddy Dan Lukes who had his own top ten list of must-stop eateries published recently by the crack reporting team of the Press-Gazette. Dan's expertise is well documented: he's eaten in places from South Dakota (Philly Ted's in Rapid City)to Lake Placid and refuses to eat at chains (obviously a gourmand!), preferring "ma-and-pa" type places. Occasionally, he's into a more refined experience so he goes to Pasquale's International Cafe (in DePere, I think). He's still trying to get me to go to Manny's steakhouse in Minneapolis: "It's the only place where I could not finish my steak, probably because the mashed potato portion was as big as the state of Idaho and the smoked bacon appetizer was more like a bacon steak." At least, that's the way I remember the quote. The bacon reference is what triggered this post.

Staples mentions as #2 on his list of places to eat in football towns a place called Wando's on University Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin. The elevated ranking is due to a promotion on Tuesday nights which would draw me in every time: all the bacon one can eat before a seizure! Seriously! In addition to buck draft beer, a feature like all-you-can-eat bacon must draw customers like flies to a hog killing (an interesting simile, if I do say so myself).

While I have not been to Wando's (but I will sounds better than all-you-can-eat steak on the lunch buffet in Chippewa Falls), I have tried the sandwich pictured above at Primanti Brothers in Pittsburg, also on Staples list of places to strap on the feedbag. Not only is cole slaw stacked on every sandwich, but french fries and a tomato are applied just before the top slice of bread (onions by request)! When I saw this featured on the Food Channel, I was a bit skeptical, but I did get a chance to try it when visiting the Steel City recently...of course, this is a city which has turned a church into a brewery/restaurant with the vats sitting where the altar used to reside...with fabulous pierogies and pizza. At $5.99, the kolbassi/cheese sandwich or the double egg/cheese sandwich left me looking at the knockwurst, settling for the Pitts-burger cheese steak. Honestly, I took the fries off and most of the cole slaw, but my sweetie loved all the gooey stuff. Everyone else but son Blaine loves it, but the fact is that it was just too much for me all in one sandwich...

Try to put ketchup on fries that are INSIDE the bread!

Still looking for that best meal ever, comparing all to Chili John's. The ice cream concoction at Curly's inside Lambeau Field still ranks as the best dessert ever, though, according to my brother Fred.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

With an apologetic smile to Yogi Berra, I really had that sense of days gone by today. It was move-in day for freshmen and UW-Green Bay, and I was entrapped to help with the lure of free meals. There's still something about the words "free lunch" which get me every time, in spite of the fact that I know such a thing is non-existent. Walking back into the past:
We dropped four kids off at college over the course of our lives, and it was simply uncanny how our experiences mirrored those of the people I watched today (mostly from under a heavy load of boxes, refrigerators and futon frames).
Exasperated mothers "tsk"ed at kids who couldn't find the paperwork they were supposed to have in order to check in. Moms spent time photographing everything and everyone as if this would be the most enduring memory of "the best years of your life." Those selfsame mothers were vacuuming a dorm room (probably for the last time this semester) and putting together shelving units while the kids chatted amiably with new roommates and made sure all the Mountain Dew made it up from the car.
Dads, the workhorses of the family, shouldered all the heavy burdens even though there were many of us there to offer assistance. They were a lot more amiable and relaxed about the whole thing, and I had fun with them.
Kids were in a big hurry to get Mom and Dad on the road: "It's a long drive, and you were up early," though we all saw through that. The memories flooded back, and I smiled all day, remembering those days and being glad not to have to relive them.
In fact, were it not for all the heavy stuff (most of it clogging rooms to the degreee that the students will have to sleep in the hallways!), it would have been thoroughly enjoyable.
The free food was good...very, very good, but sleep will come easily.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let Leon be the Lesson

We were all afraid of Leon. He just seemed bigger, stronger and faster than all of us. I think his dad owned a grocery store and Leon was eating up the profits. I also think he was a year older than we were, but nobody actually had the courage to check his identification. (the fact that he drove to Little League was a clue) Heck, the kid was shaving already (it seemed) and our voices hadn't even changed yet. Perhaps that's what made him such a dominant pitcher in Little League: no fancy stuff, just heat. We would swing weakly three times and sit down, breathing a sigh of relief. Word was that he'd seriously maimed some kid who wanted to "take one for the team" on an inside fastball.
Thus it is that I usderstand the New Haven, Connecticut, parents who don't want their children facing Jericho Scott in Little League. Getting hit by a baseball really, really hurts, and it could scar a kid literally and figuratively for life. OK, I get that's the rest I don't get, and Leon will help explain why I don't get it.
In case you missed it, Jericho's Little League team was doing very well against the competition because he is a very good pitcher: nothing fancy, just heat. And that, according to parents, is why their children should not have to face him: he's just too good! So good, in fact, that he had NEVER hit a batter all year. This 9-yr. old in a 8-9-10 yr. old league was blowing everyone away...mind you, it was the parents who were upset. League president and ownmer/manager (I suspect) of Carlito's Barber Shop team insisted that Jericho could play only if he did not pitch. For one game, all was well, but it didn't seem fair to Jericho's coach, so two games later, Jericho was back on the which time the other team left the field and went home (presumably without the post-game ice cream). Within a week, Jericho's entire team was banned from further league play, and the only game they could get was against their parents.
Shame on you, New Haven helicopter parents. Let Leon prove how wrong you are.
We faced Leon throughout Little League and into Pony League (the stop before American Legion). WE didn't whine...our parents didn't protest. They said things like, "You'll get him next time," and "Maybe he'll be on vacation when you guys play again." But we continued to whiff away...until I figured it out. As a baseball-crazed kid, I watched big leaguers give tips, read insatiably about the game and came to understand something very important: Leon really didn't throw that hard. He had a menacing look and a very demonstrative windup, but if I watched the ball all the way from his hand like the major-leaguers said, he was actually VERY hittable. So much so that I got three extra base hits off his pitching in one game...this infuriated him so much that he actually threw his glove on the ground and made faces at me. I merely smiled. I knew that he would never, could never dominate me again, and it was a highlight of my baseball career. Those kids in New Haven will never get to have the satisfaction of overcoming their parents' fears. Every Leon (think global economy!) they ever face will dominate them, and they will never understand why. There are no more Leons in my life, and I have the real Leon to thank.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nuns in Bikinis: WWJD?

I must admit that now I've almost seen everything. After all the bloopers and "most funny" videos shows and, yes, "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" ideas, this has to be the topper. Most surprising? This is not an idea created by the geniuses on Comedy Central or the execs of Fox: this idea emanates from the Reverend Antonio Rungi, a priest in Italy. Rungi has decided that Roman Catholic nuns have long been overlooked for their contributions to the Church, so he's developed the "Miss Sister 2008" online beauty pageant...for nuns. His desire is to showcase the work and images of that particular group of religious servants by soliciting entrants to an online contest. Hey, if I can vote on the best college mascot or "Titletown U.S.A." online, this isn't so far fetched.
Entrants are asked to submit a photograph, either with or without the traditional veil in place and complete a questionnaire which highlights their life's vocation, goals, etc. Rungi is quick to point out that there will be NO bathing suit photos featured and, contrary to what many people think, being ugly is NOT a requirement to being a nun or entering the contest.
As bizarre as it sounds, I think his idea has some merit. I have or had six aunts who were nuns, and, quite frankly, I would not have been able to live the life of service and dedication that they did. Any one of them could easily top the ballot for devotion to duty. Maybe it's time all of them got some props.
Of course, not everyone else is pleased with the idea. The association of Catholic Teachers has voiced protest, saying it cheapens the notion of sisterhood. As of yet, the Pope has not weighed in on the subject.
Look for the online poll to begin in September and run through the month. I have no link for it yet, but I'll certainly let you know when I find it. At the very least, we can be certain of one thing: there will be no YouTube video of these women tripping on their evening gown and falling to the floor a la the last two Miss America contestants.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

As the Mud Hits the Fan

The preliminaries are over, and all the posturing is complete. Now things will start to, not the Olympics. They are over, but I will return to them in a day or so for the wrapup. I'm talking serious "bidness" (as they say down home) here: that part of politics in which a candidate gets down and dirty trying to make his or her opponent seem an unlikely choice...or worse. Lest you think this custom which has become as frequent as it is effective is a new tack, it is not. Like so many other portions of American culture, this hallowed tradition dates back to our founding fathers. In fact, it dates back to the only time a president was pitted against his vice president in an election for the nation's highest office! "Who were these combatants?" I hear you ask. None other than President John Adams and his vice-president Thomas Jeffereson. Oh yeah, the gloves came off for that one, and the Marquis of Queensbury was NOT consulted.
President Adams was villified by Jeffereson as " a hideous hermaphroditical character," while Adams retorted with a description of his opponent as "mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father."
Jefferson was referred to as a "weakling, an atheist, a coward and a libertine" by the first president ever to have a son also become president (and how has THAT tradition worked for us?)
Matha Washington chimed in to insist that Jefferson was "one of the most detestable of mankind." No word on how George felt.
Jefferson, though, showed a political savvy beyond anything previously seen (before VP candidates became hatchet men). He hired James Callender to slander President Adams as a "fool, hypocrite,criminal and tyrant." Callender did such a fine job of besmirching the Adams name that a) Jefferson won the election and b) Callender was jailed for slander.
In an ironic "turnabout-is-fair-play" moment, when Callender was released from prison, he felt that Jefferson still owed him some sort of compensation for his work. Being denied by the President and having no cousin involved in organized crime, Callender then broke the story that Jefferson had fathered five illegitimate children in France with a slave Sally Hemmings. Of course, it was not until 1998 that DNA testing would prove how right Callender was, but the story definitely eroded Jefferson's moral high ground.
And, in a message to all those starring in ongoing conflicts: the Russians and the Georgians, the Pakistanis and the Indians, the Tibetans and the Chinese, the Americans and just about everybody else (it seems), I want to note that Adams and Jefferson eventually reconciled and regained their friendship, being so close that both died on the same day: July 4, 1826, on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
See? We CAN all get along; however, just to be sure, I'm wearing old clothes until the election is over and I plan to be vigilant for all the mud that will be flying my way.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Laying Eggs in the Bird's Nest

Dropping it like it's hot, the US men's 4x100 relay fail to qualify for the finals in Beijing: continuance of this year's trend.

The women's relay team would follow suit less than 30 minutes later.

We're not China: we didn't spend billions of dollars training people as young as three just so we could brag about our gold medal total in the Olympics then possibly lie about their ages to get them in the Games. On the other hand, we are a nation with a sophisticated sports program, and we have usually performed well on the big stage. This year, however (and for reasons as yet inexplicable), the results have been less than scintillating in track and field.

Oh, I suspect we'll regain world domination in men's basketball and continue it on the distaff side, but we've always been a "playa" in track and field, especially in distances up to the 800 meters. Ah, the halcyon days gone by. Now even the equestrian horses have been discovered doping! This year's story is not the Chinese but the Jamaicans who won seven of the twelve medals possible in the men's and women's 100 and 200 (winning both). The USA managed a paltry four medals: two silver and two bronze. This is a country of less than 3 million people, folks, and they are handing it to our athletes with ridiculous ease. True, most of them prepare at American universities, but, I'm just saying...

Sweeping the men's 400 and 400 intermediate hurdles seems small consolation to the men's team, and it seems we may be on our way to a record low total number of T&F gold medals: 6 were won in both 1972 and 1976. As of this moment, even Russia has more track gold than we do. "Where have you gone, Michael Johnson, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you"...oh, wrong athlete in the song...never mind.

Serious props to Usain Bolt of Jamaica, though. He simply destroyed the competiton in the 100 and 200. I would struggle more racing my grandson than he did trouncing elite sprinters. If Michael Phelps is a god, Bolt is certainly worthy of having people bow to him as well.

China will win the most gold medals, as expected. They will begin to dominate the world in ways nobody thought possible, and not just in sports. They will also probably continue to paint with lead-based paint, deny human rights and suck up all the fossil fuels and natural resources in a power-hungry frenzy. I cannot castigate them since that's how the West came to dominate the world as well. Maybe our failures on the track are merely a harbinger: the king is dead. Long live the king.

I'm going to watch the replay of the women's gold medal soccer match.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yellow Tornado Dissipates: Project 119 Still Alive

Many of us who are a bit older can remeber those Ajax cleaner commercials in the early 70s which featured a white tornado swirling over the sink or through the garage cleaning everything to a sparkling shine in no time. If you missed seeing those, too bad for you...they were entertaining.
This year, we have the Yellow Tornado and Project 119. Sure, the East Germans and Russians are gone from the Olympics: proof could be seen in the Romanian gymnasts who were more interested in texting friends than in perfect scores; their results showed the distraction. That's my theory: bring down the Commies with Western decadence in the form of video games, Britney, Madonna and McDonald's.
Anyway, the most recognizable face in Chinese sport these days is not Yao Ming (a surprise) but Liu Xiang, a competitor in the 100 meter high hurdles and China's first real gold-medal threat in track and field. He is, in fact, a former world record holder out to defeat his arch riveal Dayron Robles of Cuba (who hasn't discovered decadence yet) who currently holds the world record at 12.87 seconds.
Xiang is one of thousands of Chinese athletes who are products of Project 119, a government program designed to create gold medal Olympians following abysmal performances in the 90s games. Children as young as three were identified by scientists who measured prospective growth rates, achilles tendon lengths and feet size among other things; these kids were sent to athletic schools in order to prepare to be champions: not just good athletes or world record holders, but OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS. At any point during the process at which progress hit a plateau, the youngsters were cast aside in favor of more potentially gifted children. This was SERIOUS business for the last 20 years, and it seems to be working in some respects.
Of the 119 possible gold medals in the past Olympics, China won 28 in Sydney, 32 in Athens and currently have garnered 43 in the Beijing Games...and not by "ripping off Americans" as was claimed by Bela Karoli. The Chinese have always dominated in sports like table tennis, badminton, diving, weight lifting and gymnastics, but were determined to excel in ALL other sports as well (hence the number 119)in order to show how well communism has succeeded in the East.
That's where Xiang comes in: he is NOT the typical Chinese person. He is 6'2" and weighs 185 pounds. He is also a famous hurdler, and Chinese people have long considered themselves "genetically disadvantaged" in sports like track and field...size being the issue, I suspect. Anyway, during the past year, Xiang promised that Chinese track was on the ascent and that there would be a "Yellow Tornado" in Beijing. Not so much...but not for lack of effort: China entered 70 athletes alone in the T&F competition, but the focus was clearly on Liu Xiang who is so popular in China that he cannot even walk on the street. He lives with other athletes during the week and sees his family only on weekends. He was not allowed to get a driver's license: he is driven everywhere, and giant posters herald his every accomplishment. He shills for Nike, Cadillac, Coke, and Lenovo laptop computers. He made $23 million last year, making Yao just a poseur!
Sadly, though, he did not even run a race this week. A heel injury prohibited him from getting off the starting line. Millions wept (unabashedly!) including his coach who openly sobbed at the post non-race news conference, and seats at the Bird's Nest emptied quickly amid a serious pall.
While Project 119 seems to be bearing fruit during this Olympics, for one athlete upon whom the weight of the entire country rested, the fruit was rotten, indeed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Please Wait To Flirt

You know how it is with arguments: you only think of the right thing to say about thirty minutes too late...after you've slunk away the loser. There's always the desire to call or email that person and let him or her know just how clever you can be, but there was no way to do it without getting personally involved. Until now.
Erik Riesenberg once got an email that noted his need to trim his nose hair, and that sparked an idea. Why couldn't he make such messages available to everyone...anonymously? The creativity inspired by the internet took over, and now anyone can send an anonymous note covering one of eight categories. The sender has to select from a list (no personal messages which might include profanity and REALLY hurtful messages) and off it goes. Categories range from Office Etiquette: "Please don't disrupt other cubicles;" "I really like your new haircut;" "The added weight makes you look more healthy" and a host of others. One category supplies basic phrases of praise, but most offer "suggestions" for improvement though none has an aggressive tone. For example, in the Sports Etiquette category, one can send the following suggestion: "Please wait to flirt until after the game is over." On and on it goes. I will leave it to you to discover the rest.
Not everyone is impressed with the potential of the sight. Justin Kruger, a marketing professor at NYU suggests that anonymity "...leads to deviant, socially irresponsible behavior." Peter Post, grandson of the famed etiquette maven Emily Post, suggests that not everyone would be thrilled when he said, "How would YOU feel to get a message like this?" I'll admit that I would be taken aback a bit if someone sent me the message "Please refrain from slapping people's buttocks" especially when, according to experts, people can provide the correct interpretation of emails only 50% of the time. Putting a constructive comment into a context would be much easier if one were given voice inflection and body language clues. However, one might also be the recipient of a knuckle sandwich under such circumstances as well, so maybe anonymity isn't bad after all.
Want to check it out? Go to More than a hundred thousand have done so already, including me. Look for a helpful message soon!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Saving Ed...Heeeerrre'ssss Donald!

Ed McMahon's house in Hollywood
Last month in this country, one in every 464 households was under the threat of foreclosure. July foreclosures were up 55% over the same period last year, and home sales fell by more than 16%. Of the 4.5 million homes for sale in this country, 750,000 of them were under pressure from foreclosure. The states of Nevada, California, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Georgia and Michigan featured the most foreclosures, and there were increases in such an action in 42 states nationwide. OUCH! That's a lot by any standard and conjures up images of deadbeats who overspend on luxuries, maxed out ten different credit cards and generally aren't very smart. Maybe that describes Ed McMahon, and maybe not. The fact is, however, that his Hollywood house was about to be foreclosed on recently.
The 6-bedroom, 5-bathroom home which he purchased in 1992 for 2.6 million dollars was on the block...and the asking price had dropped precipitously from 7 million to its final price of 4.6 million. Wow!
It seems that Ed, 85, had defaulted on a 4.8 million-dollar loan from Countrywide Financial Corporation and was desperate. Due to a recent injury, he was unable to work and faced the humiliation of losing his home. His reasoning was simple: "I spent more than I made." He's been on various talk shows lately telling his story and putting a face to this crisis...lucky for him. Donald Trump has come to the rescue.
It seems that Trump heard about Ed's plight and came through with the needed cash to buy the posh digs in L.A. In a moment of philanthropy, Trump has even agreed to let Ed live in the house. It seems all those nights of watching "The Tonight Show" when he was attending Wharton Business School made an impression.
Now, how about the other 750,000 folks?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Funny? or Not So Much?

Spain's Olympic basketball team posing for "humorous" photo

Sometimes I think our sense of what's funny gets distorted. We are rolling merrily along telling "blonde" jokes and making ethnic groups the butt of stereotypical "humor" (e.g. Polish jokes). "Little moron" jokes were popular when I was a kid as well as the "how many __________s does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Nobody really thought about them, I guess, mainly because we were not the ones on the receiving end of these attempts at humor...nor did we KNOW anybody who might be associated with the punch lines. Thus, they seemed rather harmless...until somebody (maybe Tipper Gore) awoke one day and penned the term "politically correct." At that point in history, things changed dramatically.

For the better or for the worse? I guess we all have to decide for ourselves. Millions of people thought "Borat" was the funniest movie of the year, but I kept squirming in my seat, just as I always do when someone approaches me with, "Hey, did you hear the one about...?" Perhaps I'm more sensitive now that I've lived long enough to know a wide variety of individuals who do not conform to any of the stereotypes and who I would be loathe to offend. Maybe, like Title IX and Affirmative Action, the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that we're all just afraid...all except Larry the Cable Guy and every "ethnic" comedian on TV. Maybe it's just the WASPs who feel uncomfortable. In fact, I read today that by 2050, caucasians will make up less than 50% of this country's population. Anyway, there are two examples that show we haven't all begun to feel embarrassed about denigrating others.

The men's Olympic basketball from Spain (pictured) along with its women's team, posed for a publicity photo (to be used in Spain only) pulling their eyelids back to simulate being Asian. The furor has erupted throughout the world, and the Spaniards are truly nonplussed. "It was all in fun," one team member said. Espoused another, "Hey, I have Asian friends. This is not a racist statement." Not to Spaniards, probably, but there seem to be many others who feel differently.

The about-to-be-released movie "Tropic Thunder" is another example of our callous use of stereotypes. The comedic effort by Ben Stiller portrays a group of Hollywood actors filming a war epic who really get caught up in a jungle conflict. Funny? Hilarious, some say. For me, there are two things that will prohibit my watching this film.

1. I still remember Viet Nam and all the military conflicts since then. I find nothing humorous in the setting.

2. The word "retard" is used extensively throughout the movie to describe an individual who is deemed less than capable. Perhaps this is meant to underscore our sensitivity to mentally challenged individuals...or perhaps this is another example of junior high verbiage which can do incredible damage. Either way, count me out.

This is not an effort to moralize on my part ("let he who is without sin," etc. etc.) but with the world becoming smaller and smaller, there are enough problems to be solved (like how to make an inexpensive latte) without tossing a gauntlet of elitism out at every opportunity.

Now I'm hoping that the furor over the photo will distract Pau Gasol and his teammates so much that the Redeem Team will hammer them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Playing with the Giants


I have always harbored a secret dream of matching up with the major players in any given sport. Intially, the dream took the form of playing shortstop with the Yankees, and that may still happen if I can ever save up enough money to make it to a fantasy camp with the Bombers. I suspect everyone would like to rub elbows with famous people from time to time. While I will never get the opportunity to play golf with Tiger Woods, I DID recently get to play "Tiger Woods Golf 2008" on a Wii system with real giants...golfers were at leat nine feet tall, as one can tell from the illustrations.

The occasion was a visit to my son's house in Pittsburgh. He and his neighbors decided that outdoor Wii was more fun than the living room version, so with the help of a projector and the side of Blaine's house as a screen, we spent most of one night hooting and hollering as we hit great (and disatrous) shots magnified by the sheer size of the house-as-a-screen.

Beer flowed rather freely, and, at some point, chips, hot dogs and brats were served, so the matches went on until the wee hours of the morning. There was no neighbor to complain since all of them were part of the action. Much hilarity ensued, but as the temperature dropped into the upper 40's, enthusiasm for a continuance of play 3 a.m. all had departed the nineteenth hole for home.

The only difficult part was getting up by 8 a.m. to continue the landscaping project we had begun earlier in the day. Playing with giants was a LOT more fun than trying to dig 35 holes in hard clay...with no beer and brats in sight.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Who Can We Trust Anymore?

Once again, it's time for the Olympics, the event held every four years that unifies the world, bans politics and has everyone competing within the rules...well, it IS held every four years. I'm sure of that.

Yang Peiyi and Lin Miaoke

Granting the Olympics to China was supposed to show how much that country, so long closed to just about everyone by a big freaking wall, had evolved into "mainstream" life. While there are hints of politics and perhaps shady dealings (see boxing judges and Chinese passport documentors), nothing has assured me more completely of the imminent fall of The People's Republic more than the opening ceremonies.

Spending 3 billion dollars on the extravaganza was both fascinating and scary. It was almost as much as the candidates here will spend on the coming election! Having 2008 people employed in every different facet was interesting, and the display of the original printing press which turned out to be manipulated by people was genius. However, the evening was marred by chicanery reminiscent of Hannah Montana and those of her ilk: lip synching. It's true! (pause to remember the Hannah Montana concert where she even used a body double while she went to change costumes...during a musical number!)

Lin Miaoke, the cute Chinese girl who appeared singing "Ode to the Motherland" was actually NOT singing the song for the audience. In fact, Yang Peiyi, a friend of hers was responsible for the beautiful song stylings we heard. It seems that Peiyi was not considered "perfect" enough to be seen, and Miaoke's voice was not considered "perfect" enough to be heard so officials dubbed in a voiceover while Miaoke "performed." What next? Tabloid sensations in China? Sex tapes on YouTube? It is a sure sign of China's decline that in a country of 1.5 billion people, there was not a cute enough kid who could sing. Sure, they have hundreds of Yao Ming wannabe's over 7' tall, but can't find one singer? Soon those three-year-olds will be asking for agents and demanding TV breaks from incessant training as well as their own cell phones (internet included) and designer clothes. I tell you, China is headed downward.

Then, there's the Chinese version of Miguel Tejada with regard to ages. Tejada, you will recall, finally admitted to being several years older than originally thought. His agent thought being younger would help him get a professional contract...and it may have. I understand fibbing about a player's age is typical in emerging baseball countries...Satchel Paige notwithstanding.

Anyway, the Chinese gymnasts are NOT all 16, and I don't care what their passports say. The government has trained these kids since they were three years old (actually, probably one year old) and has "proof" that they are old enough to compete. Looking at Deng Linlin, though, one HAS to wonder, and not just Bela Karoly who absolutely went nuts over the matter. The fact that the Chinese girls average more than three inches shorter and 30 pounds less than their American counterparts can be easily explained: it's eating rice instead of wheat as a basic least that's the theory my son Ryun discovered while working in Cambodia. Asians eat different things, and this is the lynchpin of their theory for the size difference. (I say the gravity must be more significant in that part of the makes as much sense).

Anyway, controversy will continue to reign in the "purest" of competitions. Boixers will continue to get robbed, and the Chinese will continue to excel in "sports" nobody cares about. World leaders will continue to debate the greatness of their nations on the world stage...all the while invading other nations' land space.

It's good to have a couple of weeks in which we only have to worry about how many gold medals one guy will win. Sex tape to surface soon after, no doubt.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Do You Feel Lucky, Punk? Well, Do You?

I have to admit that I don't feel so lucky...yet. I mean, today was the end of the line for Brett Favre here in Green Bay, my right knee hurts like hell, and I have not caught another rabbit in days. However, I do believe that's about to change. All I have to do is be Cantonese, or pretend to be one, or stand next to one...or eat off the good china...or something. And I have only two more hours to get all of that done because it is almost 08/08/08: considered to be the absolute luckiest day in China (where the Olympics will start on that day, despite the soccer games already being underway).
This is a bit convoluted, but let's see if I can explain it. In Cantonese, the word "fah" means "eight" but it also sounds exactly like the word which means "make a lot of fortune." The Cantonese people (most likely the Tong) excelled at making money, hence the connection. I know, I're thinking that in China, the national language is Mandarin, and you're right. However, the Chinese know a good (or lucky) thing when they see one so they have exploited this thing for all it is worth. Nouveau-riche in China will pay big bucks to make certain that their telephone number has a large number of 8's in it, or their address. Just imagine the billions that are going to buy a lottery ticket or take the ultimate chance and get married on August 8th.
Since Beijing is 13 hours ahead of us here in Green Bay, I don't think the lucky part has gotten to me yet. However, I will be flying on an airplane twice tomorrow so I hope the luck gets here by then.
This might also solve forever the question concerning whether it is better to be lucky or good? The Olympics should tell us.
Bon Chance!
BTW: props to Coach Dan Lukes and the DePere American Legion baseball team for winning the state championship this week. Definitely some "good" and some "luck." I'm still waiting for something quoteworthy from Venci.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Lever Brothers, et al. Missed the Boat Here

The term "soap opera" as applied here in the United States is defined as "a metaphor applied to any narrative that appears to be excessively laced with emotion and contains unlikely dramatic twists." That according to Wikipedia (not necessarily the best source, but good enough for this post)
Such programming has existed in the national consciousness for a long time. Sponsored by Procer and Gamble, Coplgate-Palmolive and Lever Brothers, the dramatic serial presentations dominated the TV airwaves and continue to do so today though the audience has changed somewhat. Time magazine featured "The Days of Our Lives" on its cover 'way back in 1976.It used to be aimed at housewives stuck at home and longing for any kind of excitement in their lives that did not involve poopy diapers, vomit or hundreds of loads of wash...which, I admit, CAN be exciting, but not on an everyday basis.
Each story line involved an open-ended narrative with stories spanning several (and sometimes many) episodes. This was designed to keep folks coming back for the next installment, I suspect, though most people knew the programming was merely fiction. I got a little creeped out when my father began referring to a particular program as "my show" (as in, "I've got to be home by one to see my show.") Fortunately, retirement has been somewhat more interesting for me in that I don't have my own show yet, but I do have Wendi Nix. And that's why it's been so amazing to me that the soap manufacturers have not picked up on the potential goldmine that exists for them here in Green Bay.
One cannot watch any kind of programming here without a minute-by-minute update on the continuing saga that is the Brett Favre vs the Packers storyline. Wendi Nix has been here representing ESPN for the last week, and she was here again today, repeating virtually the same storyline every half hour. So, it stands to reason that advertisers could make a killing over the next few months (if you think this story is almost over, you have not been watching daytime TV).
Think about it: open-ended, long-running (3 years and counting) narrative episodes, almost vitriolic emotion involved, daytime (and nightly) programming, and definite unlikely dramatic twists.
You can see I'm right, can't you. If we can see it, why haven't the soap manufacturers seen it and capitalized?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Open Wide, Now!

Global warming...nuclear holocaust...good news, bad news..."uh-oh"...recession...acid rain...No Child Left Behind...greenhouse gases...
You get the idea. These are phrases which immediately make one think bad things are on the way, and they probably are. For me, however, there is very little that I've experienced that seems worse than those two dreaded words: "root canal." Obviously, those other thigns are worse, as I was reminded today, but they don't cause the same kind of clammy skin galvanic skin response for me like a trip to the dentist. I know I shouldn't be such a Sally, but I can't help it...mainly because I know what doesn't hurt in the chair will hurt like hell later. So today, while I was white-knuckling the arm rests as my dentist bored to the center of the earth in my head, I tried to calm myself by thinking of situations which could arguably be considered worse to me. But first:
Why does everyone in the office ask me how I'm doing when they first see me? I'm going to the damn dentist, for God's sake! I'm doing LOUSY or I wouldn't be there. They all pretend it's like going to, say, the optometrist, but it's NOT EVEN CLOSE! Total strangers are far more in tune with how I'm feeling than those people at the dentist's office. However, if you were surrounded by screaming cowards every day, maybe you, too, would get a perverse pleasure out of smiling brightly and asking people how things are going.
Also, why does the dentist say, "You'll feel a little pinch" just before he jams a nine-inch needle through my skull? Does he think just because I have my eyes closed that I don't know what he's up to? I'd appreciate a little honesty: "I'm about to jab you several times with a pointed needle, and it will hurt, but you'll forget all about it until you get home, stop drooling on yourself and the novacaine wears off." That, I could take.
I don't generally enjoy listening to the dentist ask his assistant to make a massage appointment for his wife or hear their conversation about how rotten his son is doing...though it IS somewhat better than having them ask me stupid questions like "Why do you have that "G" on your shoes? Are you a big Packers fan?" To which I could reply, "mmnhpph aarghhh!" and swallow a mouthful of saliva which has leaked out due to their inattention ( I said "suction, dammit!)because I have all this crap and a couple of hands in my mouth.
Today was, however, even worse than that. It seems that I have several problems on the horizon that will require their expert touch to remedy...and my insurance has already been used. Talk about adding insult to injury!
I'm going to floss now. What's even worse than today will have to be covered at a later date.