Saturday, May 31, 2008

World's Largest Confederate Flag...

...will be in the Tampa area.
Next year, a giant Confederate flag may tower above the tree line near the junction of Interstate 75 and Interstate 4.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans wants drivers in the Tampa area to see the massive flag — 30 feet high and 50 feet long — atop a 139-foot pole, the highest the Federal Aviation Authority would allow. It would be lit at night.

With the pole already in the ground and building permits in hand, the group is on its way to having what it calls the "world's largest" Confederate flag in place by mid 2009. The group just needs about $30,000 more, said Douglas Dawson, Florida division commander.
I don't want to pass judgement, but as a guy from Jersey I don't get this. Also, this site is along my carpool route to work, so if I have the same employ next year I will be seeing a lot of this.
Fly, I hope this makes up for missing the nude maid story.

Of course, they are within their rights legally..

... but is this a good PR move?
America's favorite pastime is knocking heads with its second-favorite pastime in a dispute including baseball and money.

According to a report published in Southtown Star, a Chicago-area newspaper, Major League Baseball is cracking down on the use of its 30 professional team names and logos by America's Little League teams as an infringement on its trademarks.

MLB is suing uniform vendors who use names such as the Phillies or Braves without paying licensing fees, prompting one Chicago Little League team to swap uniforms for a generic Bulldogs nickname this year.
Am I missing something? Or are the few bucks MLB is going to squeeze out of little leagues worth the public perception that the Lords of Baseball need every penny to pay A-Rod's salary?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Moving tribute

Via the Judge, an absolutely fantastic (and true) story from RJ Lippincott. (Check the comments.)

The woman's voice at the other end of the line was slow, sounding like my call had just roused her from a deep sleep. Of course, that was impossible, she was the one who called me. "No request, I just wanted to thank you for announcing my dog. He's a good dog, he needs a good home."

"I'll keep announcing it, but we haven't had any interest yet. But I'm confused, there doesn't seem to be any way for someone to get in touch with you. Can I have your name and phone number?"

"No. When you have someone who wants the dog, you announce it on the air. I'm listening. I'll call you."

"OK. Do you mind if I ask why you're giving the dog away?"

"I'm dying."

Read it all. Tremendous.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thrill und der Çhåszt

update, 5/28 - at Dawn's blog, commenter "Andy" suggested the blog title "Safety Gdansk." Wish I'd thought of that, darn it.

Ms Dawn Eden continues to conquer the book-publishing world - in fact, she's doing it so well she only needs the one book:

Now is time on Sprockets when we dance!
In English, it's called The Thrill of the Chaste. Clicking on the picture will take you to a place to purchase the book in English, and please do so. Clicking the link above will take you to the caption contest that Dawn's running for that cover, which is the Polish translation of her book.

My contribution is as follows:

Lolspeak is officially dead. Sorry everyone.
True story: I have a good hockey buddy who is native to, and currently in, Poland - he's getting married in a couple of weeks. Coincidence?

Yet another mush

So he was kidding, but the joke is on me. The Penguins are down two games to none against Detroit, and have failed to score a single goal.

However, I note that Sid Crosby has played well despite the constant attention from the Red Wings, and the ratings for the Finals are up 157%. People are tuning in and this will help the league as long as the games are interesting. He also has at least two games to really turn it up - more, depending on how far up he turns it.

In other news, maybe I should use my jinxing powers for good --

It's not Omar Minaya's fault! The poor guy is saddled with a terrible bullpen, first baseman, and bench! Mike Pelfrey needs another 25 starts to turn it around! The Mets will go 65-97 and the new stadium will burn down, so it's pointless to trade for some help for this season! Under no circumstances should they attempt to sign Mark Teixeira, his name's too hard to spell anyway!

Do you think it will work?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Need Something To Do in Tampa This Weekend?

How about gay country line dancing?
If you happen to be in Ybor City this weekend, expect to see cowboy hats. Expect to hear music involving trucks and hound dogs. And expect the unexpected.

Pink fringes. A line dance step reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz. A man doing a cartwheel off another man's leg.

"In the gay circuit, you dance with a man, you dance with a woman, it doesn't matter," Roger Bell said. "Nobody turns their head twice."
"Unless," Chris Kilburn added, "they think you're hot."

Through Sunday, hundreds of gay cowboys and cowgirls will compete at the Tampa Marriott Waterside for the Tampa Bay Yo Ho Hoedown, the annual convention of the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs.
You just can't make this stuff up.

It's ladies night

Sorry to gang up on the Lord's Own Hockey around here, but this is pretty big news - three women (Cammie Granato, Geraldine Heaney and Angela James) will be enshrined in the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. (Note that this is not the same outfit as the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.)

This is especially interesting since the Puck Stops Here featured a couple of conversations on this topic two months ago. After the initial to-and-fro (check the comments), PHS posted a follow-up with his reasoning.

Manon Rheaume is not one of the three women to be inducted. Of course, neither is Danielle Goyette, whom I mentioned as a good candidate, so I suppose we're all square. And there's always next years' inductions. As of right now, however, I stand by my earlier position - Rheaume was very well-known and thus a key to developing women's hockey, but actual Hall of Fame enshrinement as a player should be reserved for those pioneers that kept with it the way Granato, Heaney, and James did.

This guy is kidding, right?

Damien Cox writes for the Toronto Star, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt on his hockey knowledge. His article yesterday for ESPN, however, did not demonstrate any of this. Or, to be more accurate, I have to disagree with his conclusions - to the effect of, what the heck is he thinking?

The headline is "Some expect Crosby to elevate NHL in first Cup finals, but is that fair?"

The expectation mentioned is that Sidney Crosby, the über-talented Pittsburgh forward, will be a huge asset to the NHL as it tries to capitalize on his first visit to the Stanley Cup Finals. The answer, in short, is that he's the public face of hockey in the US and it can't possibly hurt the league any. But first, I have to quibble - to wit, the media itself is one of the major sources of this expectation, and nowhere in the article does Cox mention that.

He does mention that the media are "infinitely more complex" today (and really, "infinitely" more complex?), and that Pittsburgh is only the 22nd-largest media market in the US today. But he doesn't mention the impact of the media on such a prediction, except to say that since the markets are smaller, the impact also will be. But if the markets are smaller, shouldn't the expectation be as well?

Of course it isn't, because the games will air and be covered in much larger markets than Pittsburgh - including Detroit, the other team in the Finals (currently the 11th-biggest TV market), and Cox's own market, Toronto, currently #1 in Canada.*

OK, moving on.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it's the most significant chance for the NHL's Great Leap Forward since the New York Rangers snared the Stanley Cup in 1994, an opportunity squandered through a host of problems, including a deadly boring style of game, labor issues, reckless expansion and an inability to cement a major U.S. television presence.

I think one other problem to mention is that the league is terribly marketed, which Cox (to be fair) notes later. If the NHL doesn't make hay on this series, it won't be Sid's fault unless he gets held scoreless and generally plays like crap.

Poor kid, just 20 years of age. Labeled the next Wayne Gretzky before he played an NHL game, he's already been asked to save the Pittsburgh Penguins from insolvency and be the flag bearer for the "new NHL" as it emerged from the destructive lockout of 2004-05.

I will pause here to note that this is an incredible amount of hype - and for the most part, he's lived up to it. He was the league's leading scorer and MVP last season at the age of 19. His team is in the Finals.

Now, with the Penguins about to face the Detroit Red Wings in a glitzy 2008 Stanley Cup finals filled with marquee names and intriguing story lines, Crosby, as the league's top individual marketing tool, is being asked to deliver a virtuoso performance that will somehow vault the NHL into a new level of success and profitability Oh yes, and be a humble, unselfish teammate at the same time while figuring out a way to outfox the Red Wings, merely the NHL's best team this season.

But here's the thing - he isn't being asked to do this for the league's sake. The primary thing is that he and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins want to win the Stanley Cup, probably the most famous and revered trophy in sports history. Every hockey player on Earth dreams of holding it someday, and having his name engraved on its base. Nobody sits around thinking, I don't give a rat's ass about the Cup, but the league needs me, so I'm gonna score a hat trick for Gary Bettman!

Just over four months after providing the NHL with a wonderful Kodak moment -- his shootout winner in a snowstorm at the feel-good Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the suburbs of Buffalo -- Crosby arrives at his first Stanley Cup finals as the youngest to captain a team this far and the first NHLer with a national presence in the U.S. and Canada since, well, Gretzky.

It's funny how Damien Cox is coming up with dozens of reasons why Crosby may be able to deliver in an article in which he eventually concludes that he won't.

Some even suggest that having Crosby in the Cup finals could give the NHL the same enormous boost in popularity the NBA received way back in 1984, when Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics met in that league's championship series. ... Asking Crosby to provide an equivalent push over the next two weeks is, well, probably wholly unrealistic.

Now, the media effect is one, underexplored reason in the article. A second entirely unmentioned reason is that the games are so widely spaced out. This series doesn't even start until tomorrow, despite both semifinals having ended last week. It's not like the Red Wings and Pistons even play in the same arena - and the Pistons were in Boston the past three days. Wouldn't that have been a good time to hold at least Game One?

For starters, he's only one player. Bird and Magic had each other to double the impact.

This would be a great chance to mention Crosby's teammate Evgeni Malkin, and the terrific Detroit pairing of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetteberg. It will be incredible to watch these guys getting after each other.

The NHL in 2008, meanwhile, isn't the NBA circa 1984. Then, the NBA was a largely untapped mine that needed organization, discipline and clear vision. Today's NHL has a veteran commissioner, an international presence and 12-18 solid franchises, yet its roots seem to go barely below the surface in the South and Southwest of the United States, salary costs are again on the rise and Detroit (an Original Six team and "Hockeytown" to some) has seen thousands of empty seats in the playoffs.

No argument from me. Also - none of this is Sid's doing.

Bird and Johnson, meanwhile, played a sport in which their excellence could be celebrated with noteworthy statistical achievements; Crosby labors in a league that, after an explosion of scoring in the first year after the lockout, has slowly gone back to a game in which defense trumps offense.

There was a fine discussion of this over at The Puck Stops Here. The upshot of that conversation was that it's not necessarily goals that keep the fans involved - it's the quality of play, whether or not it results in a 2-0 game of a 6-5 game. If the defense and goaltending is strong, the game can still be a tense thriller, where each thwarted opportunity and each great save, becomes another indelible moment. I watched the third period and all four OTs in the Dallas/San Jose series-ender, and it wasn't because there were a dozen goals. "Noteworthy statistical achievements" is relative, after all. If Sid does get ten points in this series it will be as noteworthy as a 30-point average from a basketball star. It's not that basketball has more noteworthy stats; they're just better-known.

I have the sad feeling that there's a much better article here that Cox managed to squander.

In other words, the ability of any NHL player to stir the imagination is, to some degree, limited by the nature of the modern game itself; -

That's sort of like saying that triangles are limited to some degree by the nature of geometry. Even if everyone were scoring 40 goals a year like the go-go 80's, Sid would be a cut above that. Besides, Sid's got a Gatorade commercial - he seems to be doing well in the modern game.

- the sport is still hidebound by the "Slap Shot" attitudes of those who prefer broken teeth and runnin' the goalie to speed, gorgeous goals and exhibitions of superb skill.

WHAT?!? OK, totally off the rails. Fighting, as was reported on the same day as this appeared, is well down from twenty years ago. (The quote: "According to unofficial statistics at the Web site, fights per game are down from an average of 1.29 per game in 1987-88 to 0.40 last season.") What's even dumber is that the mid-80's also featured the highest scoring in the league's history, so the "Slap Shot" attitude obviously doesn't preclude gorgeous goals and exhibitions of superb skill. Part of the unique appeal of hockey is this juxtaposition - that such great skill can flourish in a game where anyone may come along and knock you clear into next week - or just into your own player's bench. This is both a skilled AND a rugged game.

Meanwhile, this gem of a Cup finals comes at a time when television ratings for the NHL, always strong in Canada but usually minuscule on a national basis in the U.S., have shown some significant upward trends in these playoffs on both NBC and Versus.

You're right! Everything's looking up! WE'RE DOOMED!

Crosby fits nicely within the hockey culture, one in which loudmouth Sean Avery of the Rangers is seen as boorish and self-promoting.

Wasn't Cox just talking about the hidebound Slap Shot mentality - which Avery personifies? Where did that go? Oh, and there's Datsyuk, who's twice won the NHL's Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play at a high level. How do these guys fit in nicely with a culture he just decried as the opposite of their standard? I suppose Cox is trying to say that Crosby and Datsyuk won't appeal to this mentality because of their skill, and thus their potential to raise the league will be diminished - but wouldn't it be easier to type that instead of wandering back and forth?

Believe me, I live in the Northeast and I see it - Avery is the most popular Ranger on the roster, at least to the fans. And he's the most reviled Ranger among the Devils, Flyers, Isles, and etc. In other words, he's the guy everyone loves (or loves to hate). He is hugely popular. Neither is he a talentless goon. He's good enough to score 15 or more goals a year while centering a checking line (and thus also shutting down the opposing team's top threats), and he sees penalty kill and power play time. He could probably do more if he could stay out of the penalty box a bit. Most fellow players don't like him, I daresay, since he demonstrates little or no class on the ice - but he's not just a skating pair of fists.

But in 2008, will Ozzie and Harriet manners and throwback decency (Crosby still lives with Lemieux and his family, for goodness sakes!) be enough for the NHL to get what it wants out of this terrific Stanley Cup finals matchup? Probably not.

And why not?

It's extraordinary to consider what someone so young has already delivered to a league, particularly a league that in so many ways has been almost self-destructive over the past 15 years. Crosby helped save the Penguins. He helped save the NHL from its own greed and stupidity.

Yeah, great reasons why, but why not? Why is this guy writing the exact opposite article he wants to write?

Leaving aside that he could get hurt just like anyone else, there's three reasons. One, his teammates could outshine him. This wouldn't hurt the league all that much if the games themselves were exciting. Second, he could lose, as Gretzky did his first trip to the Finals; we all know how that hindered The Great One. Third, he could get utterly shut down by Nicklas Lidstrom and company - and Cox never mentions Lidstrom at all, only that the Wings were very good this season.

Maybe he could be permitted to celebrate his 21st birthday (on Aug. 7, for those of you scoring at home) before being asked to deliver the NHL to the promised land.

Lay off the kid, he's only the most marketable indivdual in the league playing for the greatest trophy in sports! Or maybe the league should hold off on the games until August 8? Come on - he's here NOW. If the media and the league took this advice, they would be ignoring a golden opportunity to promote the sport as well as the individual, once-in-a-lifetime talent that Sidney Crosby possesses.

The only hindering factor is the league's tendency to stomp itself in the boot. Sid is already doing wonderfully despite that, and there's no realistic reason to fear that he won't continue to do so, simply by keeping up what he's already done.

*Nor does he mention (or link) his source, which I suspect is the same as mine - it lists Pittsburgh 22nd in TV. FWIW, Arbitron's radio ratings have Detroit at 11th and Pittsburgh at 24th. And Toronto? Number one in the Canadian market.

Cadet Happy uncovers the truth

SarahK's co-blogger at Snark Raving Mad has discovered the secret behind Randy's wardrobe on the Wednesday finale:

For all we know, Simon was Mr. Green Jeans

McCain dumps Hagee..

..and Pastor Garnish.

After enduring criticism for weeks, John McCain broke Thursday with two controversial televangelists whose endorsements he once trumpeted in a bid to win support from religious conservatives.At a late-afternoon rally in Stockton, McCain said he rejected the endorsement of John Hagee after learning of a recording in which the San Antonio pastor portrayed Adolf Hitler as being sent by God to force Jews "to come back to the land of Israel.

Now, McCain didn't sit in this guy's pew for 20 years, but he did actively seek Hagee's endorsement. So this criticism is fair. While it is lawful for a pastor to personally endorse a candidate, it is unwise to do so.

But this hightlights a greater issue in Evangelicaldom: end times prophecy. Now between you, me and the blogosphere, Jesus showing up sometime this afternoon would solve a lot of my problems. But we must be wary of what some call headline eschatology; that is, trying to force current events into the book of Revelation. Twenty years ago, Saddam Hussein was the Antichrist, seventy years ago it was Hitler, many times it was the Pope (Some though that when JP2 was shot back in 1981 that was the fatal injury that the Antichrist survived).

My pastor preaches about this occasionally. However, unlike pastors who endorse McCain he is not given into kookery. He plainly points out what we know and what we do not know.

But we all know Hillary is the Great Harlot of Babylon, right?

No wait! Obama's the Antichrist!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We're brothers forever! AI season 7 finale

It’s David vs. another, slightly larger David… not exactly worthy of the Biblical buildup we’re getting here. Twelve seconds into a two-hour show and already my eyes hurt. Let’s get on with it.

Here are your top twelve, singing “Get Ready, Here I Come” (to a venue near you). Heh, David Archuleta looks so detached. “Just give me my million dollars already.” Mostly good. However, The Love Guru looks lousy. Jeepers, that was unfunny. When did Mike Myers turn into a flea-market version of Robin Williams? This is terrible. He can’t need the money that badly, can he? At least he had the grace to cut it short and get the hell out once he realized he was bombing.

Syesha teams with Seal for a very good “Waiting on You.” I wish she’d made the final. Then Jason revisits “Hallelujah,” and does well – not quite the revelation he was his first go-round but still fine. I wish he’d made the final.

Hybrids for the Davids!

The top-6 girls are up next to mangle some Donna Summer – Carly and Brooke were easily the best of the six. (I wish they’d made the final.) Well, strike that, say best of the five since Syesha didn’t take a solo. Biker Nurse was dreadful, the poor thing. She probably hasn’t sang seriously since getting the vote-down and now she’s out here with all these practiced singers, getting eaten alive.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret: it just so happens that Donna Summer her ownself has a single out, called “Stamp Your Feet.” I know this because earlier tonight I was watching ESPN and they waylaid me with a WNBA promo that used Donna’s new single. I bet she’s going to come out and sing with the contestants! See, I’m C-A-T smart. Sadly, the performance is not all that. Donna’s face looks a little over-finished – not quite Joan Rivers territory but a little scary – and she is way off key on “Last Dance.” She seems even to be having trouble holding notes. How can this be the same woman who out-diva’d the mighty Streisand on “Enough is Enough”? Is she OK? Syesha is taking her solo now, and outsinging her. Did you ever think that Donna Summer could be OUTSUNG by an American Idol? My childhood just died a little.

Carly Smithson and Mike Johns (IWTMTF) rock “The Letter,” using the Joe Cocker model. Well done.

Even Ryan is joking that they’ll get to the results eventually. Poor guy is still a little dazed from his ride on the Guru’s mobile cushion – the funniest part of the segment, and boy is THAT bad news for Myers’ vehicle. Instead they bring on Jimmy Kimmel, who is loads funnier than Myers, even though he is as stiff as always. “I valet-parked. How much do I tip Sanjaya?” Heheheh. (Oops, he’s actually in the audience. Funny aside – I saw Sanjaya on one of those “It’s 10:00 – do you know where your children are?” spots on the local channel the other night. It was rather odd.)

The top-6 boys are next, out to sing some Bryan Adams. (I guess he’s got an album too.) “Summer of ‘69” wasn’t bad until Trent Dimas sucked on his verse – it got much better when Chikieze (Like Sunday Morning) kicked in. The Davids come out to sing a little smidge of “Heaven” before turning the stage over to Bryan himself for a couple of forgettable tunes, which I have forgotten already.

Thankfully it’s David Cook’s turn for a solo number – he plays and sings “Sharp Dressed Man” with ZZ Top. They don’t do the guitar spin, which would have been really awesome to pull off, but still trés bién. (I would have done “Cheap Sunglasses,” but I’m old and boring.)

Raise your hand if you hate the remote segments. I have both hands up and am typing with my toes. These are tremendously bad and the hosts are atrocious.

Brooke White and Graham Nash are next, singing “Teach Your Children.” I’m eh on this. I like the song but this performance is quite flat. Of course they can’t help not having Jerry Garcia around on the steel guitar, but they themselves seem disinterested. I’m sorry, but if you guys aren’t going to try to sell the song, why should I buy? Pass. The Jonas Brothers show many times more life and energy. I don’t know the song at all, but that was much more fun. All the tweeners just forgot the Crown Prince’s name, face, voice….

Yay! The montage of misery! Who are they going to show with so many possibilities? Milo was already on last night. They don’t show the “American Idol’s Biggest Fan” dude – probably for the best, they tend to kick these guys when they’re down. There’s Tracey’s pal – “Let mah pipplllll goooooo!” There’s the “Take It!” chickie who’s going to go for actressing. Hey, the Asian Liberace! I love this guy. Awesome, he’s coming out on stage! This guy both cracks me up and makes me smile, if that makes sense. Of course, having the USC marching band and everyone come out makes what was a genuinely touching moment a little corny, a little less heartfelt. It’s like they’re making fun of his earnestness. But I don’t care. Renaldo Lapuz – bless him. (IWHMTF.) (On second thought – he just did, didn’t he? Beautiful.)

One Republic. Never heard of them. Back Door Slam was on the radio the other day, though, and that’s sweet. (I told you so.) Ladybug wants to fast-forward, and it’s a good call – as we start scooting forward we see the Crown Prince pop out, apparently this is his solo. You know, the thing of it is that he is a good singer, he sounds just fine, but alas, something about the kid just riles one, don’t it? I actually feel bad for him a little because I’m so mean. This is really getting involved and I may need to seek help after this post goes up.

They bring out Jordin Sparks. Now remember, the last two “pick a group” contestants – Taylor and Jordin – wound up winning, so Archie’s got the omens on his side. Moreover, I’m pulling for DC and that means BIG TROUBLE. I am the Ultimate Mush. I should get Kiss of Death tats – maybe K-I-S-S and D-E-T-H across my knuckles.

Gladys Knight and the Pips from 1972, sweet – except they’ve erased the pips and replaced them with Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. (Ladybug – “Where’s Chikieze?” BWAHAHAHAHA!) OK, now I’m bored. Is there a “mute” for the picture instead of the sound? And is it my imagination or is Robert Downey Jr. the funniest out of the three? Oh well, it was a vintage Gladys Knight performance anyway.

Next, Carrie Underwood. She don’t even know his last name. She also don’t know where her pants is. Yipes, that was nearly the end of family night right there. The poor kids in the front are getting more show than they bargained for. What was she thinking? Typical “I gone done wrong” twanger rock, and mostly forgettable. Like some ghastly honky-tonk in the back-wuds, with chick-un wi-uh across the stage. Sowry!

Will this ever end? Is one of these guys going to actually win this week?

The top 12 does another medley, this time of George Michael, whom I must conclude has an album due out. The girls sing “Faith.” Golly, Amanda is just horrible. It’s like she forgot even how to pretend to sing – like she knows before she starts that she’s doomed, and has just given up on trying. The boys do “Father Figure.” Trent Dimas gets the “warm and naked” line and predictably butchers it. Otherwise decent. They all do a little bit of “Freedom” (gee, that’s a lot of F’s) and then the man himself comes out, dressed like Neo and wearing Bono’s sunglasses. It looks goofy, but the man can still flat-out bring it when he wishes. It’s a new song – a Message Song, which somehow doesn’t surprise me – but it’s much better than the standard of the genre. He did very well but I’m beginning to tune out, it’s just going on too long. Help.

OK – it’s results time. I guess the winner will do the Craptacular Single Contest winner. Hurry, we’re running out of DVR here. Simon goes back to last night – he says he went home and re-watched it and it was not nearly as clear-cut as he said on the night – he apologizes to DC. That’s cool. That’s why I dig Simon. We really should have invited him to the wedding, just for kicks. (“That whole sequence on the third dance was uh-tuhly forgettable. You’ll have to do much better to make it to the bouquet toss.”)

Here’s the envelope. “Ladies and gentlemen…” AND THE DVR CUTS OFF.

Friends, at this point, I just want to point out that my wife is MADE OF AWESOME and also recorded the news so we can pick up where we left off. You can’t has, is all mine. Sowry.

OK, so there’s cheering and hugging and I still know nothing – it didn’t pick up cleanly. The missing 14 seconds are the important part. Somebody start singing, please. YES! It’s DC! He stands alone. Take that, middle school America! Holy cow, I didn’t mush him. Hopefully I haven’t killed the album sales.

Sweet, now I can watch season eight. The “song” is called “Time of My Life,” and it seems like the result of an explosion in a cliché factory. All these first singles are “look at me, I won a contest” songs, and it’s blecch. Come on, we want to take this guy seriously and you’re making him perform this turd sundae? I can always gouge out this part of the CD. Great moments with his brother and mom, though, and that’s what I’ll remember. That and the big-brother shoulder hug he just gave David Archuleta. That was a nice touch. All is forgiven, Crown Prince. May you be ever earnest, and may you never be short of gum.

Myamnar gets its priorties straight...

..With the UN's help.

The United Nations will send nearly a quarter of a million condoms into cyclone-hit Myanmar to help needy survivors with no access to contraceptives, a UN official says.

So far, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said it had sent 72 800 condoms to survivors struggling to maintain their family planning after the storm hit in early May.

A total of 218 400 condoms would be delivered, UNFPA aid advisor Chaiyos Kunanusont said.
"We don't want regular use of contraception disrupted. An emergency usually damages the health system, so people don't have access to condoms and contraceptives," said Chaiyos.

I may be homeless, starving and have dysentery, but I'm partying Saturday night.

"One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster..."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Touch gloves, come out singing! AI final

Michael Buffer stretches out the intro this time around; still didn't quite get out as long as Ryan, but he held the note better. I like that they used the actual fanfare from the Creed/Balboa fight, and not just "Gonna Fly Now."

It's 180-pound David Cook against the flyweight David Archuleta. (I said 92 pounds, but Buffer said "About a hundred." Heh. He wore the heavy socks tonight.) Simon says that they have to hate each other, and Archuleta spoils that instantly by saying that DC is awesome. Cook wryly notes that he can't say anything now without sounding trite.

Clive Davis and Andrew Lloyd Weber are the cornermen for this. Clive picks "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2. He does pretty well, albeit not quite as dynamic as the original. Randy is going to call him DC (just like I did, yo, but I typed it first, dawg), and is happy about the performance. Paula says there's no need to keep looking (show's over! Drive safe!). Simon calls in phenomenal.

Now we all get to worry, because the Crown Prince gets to sing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," and it's a great pick for him. He gets to be emo and offer us all as much gum as his fellow Oompa-Loompas can deliver. He's even doing it while he's sitting down! Randy is shrieking that the whole stage is lava; Paula says that everything is bright and sunshiny. Simon says it's very easy to be overexcited, but that tonight's performance was possibly his best so far, calls round one to the Crown Prince. He doesn't look happy that he's said it, either. Tweeners are holding up signs asking for his sweet gum-bearing hand in wedlock. Crrrreeeeeeepy.

ALW says that DC may have a little doubt in his voice. We'll see now; the song is "Dream Big," one of the songs from the Putrid First Single Competition they held this year. DC is done with this waltzing the stage. He's got his guitar and leather jacket, and is rocking the tune, as best it can be rocked. The chorus is eh, lyrically, but a bit better than the usual AI standard. The judges are basically saying the same thing: the song didn't live up to the performer. Agreed.

Archuleta is coming up. "In This Moment," probably another Putrid Contest entry. "Reflection/perfection," heh, ALW is right - who wrote this? Holy crap, the Crown Prince is using Kristy Lee's step/crouch move! He has anchors all over his ugly jacket. And they show a long shot of the whole crowd, confirming my suspicions: it's only the front couple of rows doing the slow arm wave; it's all designed to get themselves camera attention. Nobody else cares. Thank goodness. Why is his face such a dull mask when he's hitting the big notes at the end? It's horrible. It sounded very good, but it looked weird. And again, the song was blecch. "Fantastically self-centered lyric," Simon says, but says it was a better choice and he takes round two. DC is going to have to knock him out - or Archie's gonna have to huck up a hairball on Ryan's lapel.

Finally, the contestant choice. ALW says to pick something with a cry of passion, so DC goes with "The World I Know" by Collective Soul - a song he's never performed before. Hope this pays off. Archuleta will sing "Imagine." AGAIN. $$#^%$! That miserable Marxist dirge. Little snot. "If anyone needs me, I'll be in the Angry Dome."

I don't even want to listen. DC is singing far the better song, but the "hug the puppies" kumbaya crowd is going to fall for the Crown Prince of the Politburo. DC absolutely nailed the final song, though, and is actually tearing up here. It's a terrific job, and brilliant choice: he sang an Archuleta song, only it had balls. Magnificent. Randy thinks he should put it on the album and sell it now, Paula applauds him, but Simon thinks he should have gone with Billie Jean or Hello. "Why do something I've already done?" he replies. Hot damn! Twist that knife.

OK, the Commie bunk. "Imagine no possessions." Imagine no record contract, kiddo. He is doing a different arrangement of it, acoustic with strings, but he only sang the one verse and chorus, and that's it. ...the hell? He's showing some actual emotion this time, but "the world will live as one" is, strictly speaking, CRAP. If we all took this song's advice, the world would die as one.

I can't believe what I'm hearing. The judges fell for this! He wasn't even that good this third time. He barely sang any of the song. I am so irked right now. DC showed range, emotion, and wasn't a repetitive tool. He will sell so many more records than the Crown Prince.

Hey, Ruben's here! They're recapping the season's big moments. "No Sex Allowed!" There's the glee club kid, and the Asian Liberace! Good times. Jason Castro! Danny Noriega! I will try to forget the horror of this final hour and think of David Cook owning the Billboard.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Spider's Weekend (Prologue)

This weekend I was on our church retreat We Christian soldiers retreated to a place about 25 miles north of Tampa called the Word of Life Conference Center in Hudson, Florida.

This is the place to go if, like me, you have the attention span of a gnat. And I needed to keep my attention because we always invite a speaker to teach us something out of the Bible. Over the weekend our church gathered together in a conference room to hear four sessions of pretty intense stuff.

Sometimes I read the Bible and wonder why certain parts are there. For example, Exodus chapters 25-40 are instructions for the recently-departed-from-Egypt Israelites on how to build the tabernacle, the tent which housed the Ark of the Covenant.

Now I don’t want to show disrespect for God’s Word, but Exodus 25-40 isn’t exactly riveting prose. A modern editor would have helped Moses chop five chapters out of it. And one can wonder why it is in the Bible anyway. What does it tell me? Many of us can think of verses in which the importance is self-evident. (John 3:16 is an obvious one.) But 16 chapters of detailed instructions on making tents and gold objects and altars and priestly garments?

Our speaker for the past few years as been a gentleman named
Dan Hayden. Over the weekend he told us of the importance of these chapters. I am sure he has a doctorate in something because when he started translated the Greek and Hebrew I realized that I was not in the entry-level class anymore.

This week I am going to briefly summarize these four sessions. I know that there are many of you who are Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran or otherwise unaffiliated, and I can use this as an opportunity to explain evangelical theology. Or at least to the best of my feeble abilities.
Cussin', fussin', and discussin' are greatly encouraged. (Well, maybe not too much cussin'.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ever listen to a sermon....

...and you're sure the pastor/priest is talking about you!
ABC News' Eloise Harper Reports: When things couldn't be looking worse for Sen. Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency in 2008, as her rival Barack Obama closes in on gaining enough delegates to secure the nomination, the former first lady attended a church service in Bowling Green, Ky., Sunday featuring a sermon about lust and adultery.

The hour-long sermon focused on the sin of committing adultery -– as outlined in Mathew 5:27-32.
Long ago I went to a friend's church, mainstream Lutheran, and the pastor preached David & Bathsheba. Later. my friend told me that some in the congregation were none too pleased with the subject material. The guy kept it clean; he wasn't humping the pulpit like Jeremiah "Ridin' Dirty" Wright. My theory was that some of these good Christian folks were doing or thinking about doing something and their guy was hitting a little too close to home.
Your guy shouldn't be telling you what you want to hear. He is supposed to be telling you what you need to hear. And some days you may not like to hear it.
My pastor would never preach an whole hour. He knows my attention span.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hey Nineteen from the Spider

I know I’m late to the party, but here are my nineteen. Nineteen favorite etched in stone are hard to come up with; these are my nineteen as of now. Not in any particular order.

Kid Charlemagne - Steely Dan. Any talk of the steriod era in baseball and this song pops in my head.

Don’t Take Me Alive - Steely Dan. For the guitar intro alone. News stories of serial killers and child molesters cause this song to pop in my head.

Song For America - Kansas. I have three versions of this song. I love the Ragsdale violin solo on Live at the Whiskey (1992) but the one on Two for the Show (1978) is my favorite in its entirety.

That’s Why I’m Here - Kenny Chesney. Yes, I listen to both types of music. This song is about a guy’s first visit to an A.A. meeting. Any similarities to real persons or events…..

America - Rich Mullins. There is much to criticize about current Christian music. No gravitas, theologically squishy, too many songs where your boyfriend can replace Jesus in the lyrics. If you were to listen to Christian pop, I would recommend this guy and the next.

Jim Morrison’s Grave - Steve Taylor. Meditations on the death of the Lizard King.

The Night the Lights Went Out on Broadway (Miami 2017) - Billy Joel. I’m a sucker for the piano intro.

Didn’t I - Montgomery Gentry. From the We Were Soldiers soundtrack. About returning Vietvets. Eddie Montgomery has a rough voice suitable for this song.
Overture- Handel’s Messiah. Forget Jesus Christ Superstar. This is a rock opera. Every December it’s done live in a big Catholic Church in Tampa (a friend would translate the Latin on the ceilings and walls) and every December I’m there.
Mohammed’s Radio - Warren Zevon. I appreciate the lyrical quirkiness.
Freewill - Rush. I hear that Atlas Shrugged will be filmed soon. Will they get Rush to do the music?
Madman Across the Water - Elton John. The version live with the Melbourne Symphony.
Drink, Swear, Steal & Lie - Michael Peterson. More country music. This song is a parody of C & W stereotypes.
Sometimes By Step - Rich Mullins. (I may falter in my steps/ But never beyond Your reach.) Amen to that.
Freedom’s Child - Hootie & the Blowfish. From the musical The Civil War. Single middle-aged guy who listens to Broadway musicals. Hmmmmmm.
Little Rock - Colin Raye. Both types of music. About a guy who is sobering up and trying to get back with his wife. Any similarities….
Jerusalem - Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I absolutely love singing this.
Miracles out of Nowhere - Kansas. I was asking the same questions Livgren was. And I got the same answer.
Stomp - Kirk Franklin. When I first heard this song I realized that my beef with hip-hop wasn’t the music itself, but the B word, the H word the F word the N word, heck the whole alphabet. Kirk Franklin does it right.
I cheated in one way. I currently do not have a recording of ELP's Jerusalem. I like that tune so I need to buy the CD.

Slow blog day

Sorry about the gap in posts right now. Busy everywhere. I can't even bridge the gap with a meme or something. But you can have fun with global cooli er, warm (crap) climate change (whew!) in the comments here. (Language alert)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The American League East...

...has a new team in first place.
Gabe Gross delivered a game-winning single in the 11th inning, scoring pinch-runner Jonny Gomes, as the first-place Rays beat the Yankees, 2-1, on Tuesday night. The win marked Tampa Bay's 11th straight at home, and the first time the club has been in first place this late in the season.
It looks like this:
Rays 23-16 - .590
Bos 24-18 .5 .571
Bal 20-19 3.0 .513
NYY 19-21 4.5 .475
Tor 19-22 5.0 .463
Last August I was up in NYC, proudly wearing my Rays hat in downtown Manhattan. Boy, did I get stares. I wish I could do that today!!!
This is no fluke; these guys are for real. This team has stunk on ice for 10 years - 10 years of Yankees and Bosox fans filling our stadium and cheering on the enemy. Well now the worm has turned, and it is such a joy to watch these slubs go home (They live down here! They haven't lived in Nuuu Yawk in thirty years!) with their heads hanging down.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The craze that’s sweeping the Internet

Get this, folks – a fun game you play at home, on your interactive computing device! One person posts a bunch of questions and then other people copy their own answers onto their personal Internet pages!

Yeah, I’m already snarking it and you haven’t seen a single question yet. Well, maybe you have, since the meme is all over the place – Tracey, Sheila, Kate, Cullen, Maggie, land o’ Goshen but it’s everywhere. Like those new fast-twitch zombies from the modern movies. (And as an aside, how annoying is that? It seems plain to me that death is rather a handicap to getting stuff done, but no – lately in horror movies dying is just a prerequisite to being awesomely powered. In the old days, you had to spend $6 million to get a skill set like that.) There isn't even enough time to read all of this.

Am I supposed to be answering questions?

1. ONE OF YOUR SCARS, HOW DID YOU GET IT? I have a scar from my appendectomy, a permanently-crooked pinky finger (not technically a scar), and best of all, a scar on my knee – I cut it open helping to dispose of a broken toilet bowl.

2. WHAT IS ON THE WALLS IN YOUR ROOM? Paint, a mirror, a cross over the bed, and a big picture of a lavender field. (PS, I’m married.)

3. DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME YOU WERE BORN? 4:10 pm. It was a Tuesday.

4. WHAT DO YOU WANT MORE THAN ANYTHING RIGHT NOW? Superpowers, without having to die first. Or maybe time to finish the Mother of Unfinishable Stories.

5. WHAT DO YOU MISS? The list is vast – my cat, most thrown baseballs, soft pretzels from the counter at TSS, good Islanders teams…

6. WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRIZED POSSESSION? Good question. I own a number of things I’d miss greatly, but the real answer is, I own far more things that I wouldn’t even notice were gone, except that there would be more room in the house.

7. HOW TALL ARE YOU? A smidgeon under six feet.

8. DO YOU GET SCARED IN THE DAY? There was the one time the zombies tried to overrun the office. They were the slow kind, though, and easily shootable.

9. WHAT’S YOUR WORST FEAR? A lot of the really bad stuff can be fought through, even stuff like going blind. So the worst would be stuff that I couldn’t ever remedy, such as if lost my marbles while having a healthy body – forcing my family to care of what was left, that wasn’t really me anymore. And topping the list would be getting to judgment and finding out that I was really a total selfish bastard at heart, who didn’t bother trying. I suspect that I don’t try nearly as hard as I ought to on that last one.

10. WHAT KIND OF HAIR COLOR DO YOU LIKE ON THE OPPOSITE SEX? Shrug. I’d rather they had brains inside than a particular hair color outside.

11. WHAT ABOUT EYE COLOR? My wife’s.

12. COFFEE OR ENERGY DRINK? Coffee. Since coffee during games is impractical, I go with Vitamin Water then.

13. FAVORITE PIZZA TOPPING? Sausage, black olives.


15. FAVORITE COLOR OF ALL TIME? I like blues and greens.

16. HAVE YOU EVER EATEN A GOLDFISH? It’s been many years since my one and only Filet o’ Fish; put me down for “maybe.”




20. WHAT KIND OF CAR DO YOU WANT? Wrote a post about this already.

To be more realistic, there are two answers: first, a car I already have owned that I would have loved to been able to keep and restore, a 1980 Honda Prelude; and second, a genuine right-drive 1960’s British taxicab parked in the driveway at one of the buildings I used to live in, that I would have loved to buy and restore. I’m not necessarily a car enthusiast, but I love older stuff to fix and show for the neat-o factor. These just happen to be car examples of that larger mania.

21. WOULD YOU FALL IN LOVE KNOWING THAT THE PERSON IS LEAVING? Everybody leaves eventually, including me. How could I selfishly demand others to love me without giving love? What a stupid question.

22. HAVE YOU BEEN OUT OF THE USA? Once. I’d love to go back.

23. YOUR WEAKNESSES? Plural? Do you have a few weeks? OK, here’s the big one up front – I get easily engrossed in what I’m doing to the exclusion of other things. This is not necessarily bad, but I also lack the discretion as to the proper time for such focus, which is dreadful. As a result I throw off plans by losing track of time, or say horrid things without noticing that I’m offending or horrifying everyone else.

24. MET ANYONE FAMOUS? Yes, though she wasn’t at the time.

25. FIRST JOB? Ocean County Library, main branch… I worked in the AV department, mostly shelving and checking out our collection of vinyl LPs and Beta videotapes. (They had some cassettes, too.)

26. EVER DONE A PRANK CALL? No, but I’ve been in on a few practical jokes.

27. DO YOU THINK EVERYONE OUT THERE HAS A SOUL MATE? I’m not sure I dig the concept. It tends to lead to a lot of mooning about for the fairytale ending instead of going out and living one's life, and meeting someone great that way.

28. WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU FILLED THIS OUT? Noticing it everywhere I looked. I fully expect to see 56 Questions bumper stickers on the way home tonight.


30. WHAT DO YOU GET COMPLIMENTED ABOUT MOST? It’s probably for the best that I don’t keep track of that sort of thing; it would either be too egotistical, or too depressing.

31. WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY? Eh, I’ve already got too much stuff.

32. HOW MANY KIDS DO YOU WANT? OK, this is way personal. Even at Pre-Cana, they wanted us to discuss it amongst ourselves but NOT share the answer.


34. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST TURN OFF WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX? Please don’t be an immodest floozy. Oh, and please don’t smoke either.

35. WHAT IS ONE THING YOU MISS ABOUT GRADE SCHOOL? Recess. I wish we got recess at work, with a swingset and jungle gym and those rubber dodge balls. Why wouldn't this work?

36. WHAT KIND OF SHAMPOO DO YOU USE? These memes are beginning to overlap. I know I told the Internet this just last week.

37. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? I do, but I also confess that it’s henscratch if I am in a hurry.

38. ANY BAD HABITS? Occasionally rude to impertinent memes. :::flips bird:::

39. ARE YOU A JEALOUS PERSON? Not really, but I am a grammatical person, and this brings up a big one for me. Jealousy and envy are NOT the same thing! NOT! Jealousy means that you fear someone will take something from you, and envy means that you desire to take something from someone else. They may each lead to a third thing – that you rather nobody had it than the other person – but it’s all in who had said thing first.

40. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Not sure. I’d probably forget to keep in touch with myself, and of course myself wouldn’t notice. You can see the difficulty.

41. DO YOU AGREE WITH FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS? Hells no. I mean, “We can still be friends” is a dubious concept already, right? So how is it even possible to give “benefits” and maintain the friendship? It's a colossal exercise in fooling yourself. Dumbassery is still dumb no matter how many new, clever phrases you describe it with.

42. HOW DO YOU RELEASE ANGER? Poorly. Hoping to do better sometime.

43. WHAT’S YOUR MAIN GOAL IN LIFE? Heaven. If I don’t get there then I can consider my life to have been wasted on me, even if it wasn’t wasted on anyone else.

44. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TOY AS A CHILD? Legos. They still are my favorite, actually. I also had a lot of GI Joes and Star Wars dudes (the old-school Kenner guys), but they usually wound up playing football.

45. HOW MANY NUMBERS ARE IN YOUR CELL PHONE? Ten of them - 0-9 - just like everyone else’s. (Unless you have a hexadecimal phone, which would be awesome.)

46. WERE YOU A FAN OF BARNEY AS A LITTLE KID? Barney was a little kid?

47. MASHED POTATOES OR MACARONI AND CHEESE? Mashed with spicy gravy, like at Popeye’s – though they do all right with the mac and cheese too.


49. DO YOU HAVE A COMPUTER IN YOUR ROOM? Not unless Ladybug lets me use the laptop.

50. PLANS FOR TONIGHT? Sorry, meme… you’re nice and all, but I don’t think it would ever work out between us. We can still be friends!

51. WHAT’S THE FASTEST YOU’VE EVER GONE IN A CAR? Not quite fast enough to fire up the flux capacitor.

52. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO? Actually, the radio isn’t on right now, so I’m only listening to my own angst.


54. REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT? Little use for either of them right now – this is like asking “Punch in the face or kick in the groin?” Plus, I live in New Jersey, so I may as well light my ballot on fire and toast marshmallows; it’s the most possible good I can get out of it.

55. DO YOU HAVE A LOW SELF ESTEEM OR A HIGH SELF ESTEEM? Whoa, they really want more Ranty Nightfly, the Internet Crank Nobody Reads. Well, then. Self-esteem is usually a lame, flavorless substitute for actual self-worth, based on the inherent dignity of a person as a work of God, however damaged by the Fall of Man. Self-worth means that we have an obligation to live up to the dignity given us as a gift, and that we are capable of overcoming our problems and making a positive contribution to those around us, in gratitude; self-esteem means whiny little snots who expect that everyone else will bow to their every whim, because otherwise it’s mean and not fair *snif* and why can’t anyone else see how great I am *blub* right now?

You want healthy people, you go with self-worth every time.

56. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING? Breezing through a couple of the Bond books right now.

And that’s it. One question short of a full Heinz – which makes me wonder if this is somehow a defective meme that fled into the Web prematurely.

I Called Mom Yesterday

She lives in Albany NY with my brother's family. It's not health issues; she was living alone in a house and some prowler was looking for a way in and eventually gave up. Which was good for the prowler because Mom comes from midwest Pennsylvania country stock and is much like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, and she was waiting for him with a Louisville Slugger. So the prowler lives to prowl for another day, and Mom is no longer living alone.

Mom asked me to look for retirement places for her down here in Tampa FL. She told me she is looking into moving down here.

And I don't believe her. I knew she wasn't going anywhere the day her great-grandbaby was born. The little girl is now 1 1/2 years old and Mom babysits every Tuesday & Thursday. The way she talks about the little sweetie I doubt Mom is going anywhere until the kid turns 18. But we will see.

That's right, folks. I have a younger sister who is a grandmother.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Only in San Francisco...

...can you have street yoga.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is attempting to find a way to close a major stretch of roadway to allow residents to do yoga in a wide open space.
Newsom said by closing a 3 1/2-mile stretch of road, residents would be able to indulge their yoga, bicycling or dancing hobbies in the Bay Bridge's shadow, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday.
"The closures would all take place on Sundays in either August or September and would only last for four hours, but nonetheless Newsom said he knows the plan will be controversial.
Yet Newsom feels the temporary road closures would allow San Francisco to join the ranks of Paris or Bogota, Colombia, cities that close off major thoroughfares for humanistic pursuits.
"If we're a world-class city, then let's act like a world-class city and create a sense of city pride and take advantage of our unique character," the mayor told the Chronicle.
Surely this city has greater priorities than outdoor yoga on the weekends. Consider the reaction to this if it was proposed by the mayor of Tampa or Jersey City.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A gift from the comedy gods

My wife called me from the supermarket on the way home from work, and told me what wonders she'd just found in the freezer case.

Thankfully, this is the Internet - it's really unlikely that any of you are driving or operating a band saw or something while reading this post - but you should sit down and make sure that you have comfy pillows around you when I tell you this. My brain is still running in circles yipping like a schnauzer on meth. Be prepared:

Edy's is making American Idol-themed ice cream.

I may pass out from laughing. Heaven help me if the Ladybug actually brings home a quart of the stuff; I could burst a vessel. The flavors -

Mint Karaoke Cookie - I can hear Simon now: "Honestly, Edy's, this was like some ghastly soft-suhve from a gloumy bouth in a smoll-town cahnivul. Sowry!"

Cookies N' Dreams - oh, Randy? "American Idol is not about dreams! It's about finding a great ice cream flavor!" Like One Million Percent Blazing Molten Bomb! Sadly, that flavor only tastes aight.

Cheesecake Diva - apparently one of the flavors wandered over from America's Next Top Model Ice Cream.

Most Orange-inal - I bet you Paula could rhyme "orange" with something. ("Uhhh.... 'door hinge'? Naaah.")

One Split Wonder - These names are the dregs, aren't they?

Let's do better for them. (My choice: "Paula's Beautiful Rainbow Soul Crunch" - tastes like vodka and demerol!) What flavors would you like to see?

My capshun

Let me show you it!

And how long has this tennis ball been up here?
Yup, one of mine - I missed it yesterday, but ricki didn't. First time I've ever gotten off the voting page. This is as close as I'll ever get to winning an Oscar or something.

Of course this means that I have to print it and put it up on the refrigerator.

Catchers wanted

The Spider and I like to joke that if only we were left-handed, we could both be pitching in the major leagues. There will always be room for any lefty pitcher who can retire a single lefty hitter in a key moment. (There’s even a catchy nickname for such pitchers, “looguy,” which stands for “Lefty One Out Guy.”) It’s why Jesse Orosco pitched until he was about 70.

Of course, I can throw a mediocre knuckleball, which is almost as good. Charlie Hough used a much better version of that pitch to stick in the majors until he was about 115 – the Spider and I actually saw one of his last games, against Cincinnati. Kevin Mitchell hit a home run off of him that landed somewhere in Georgia, and a couple of weeks later he announced he was retiring. “I could probably throw other pitches,” he once said. “The only reason I don’t is that I love pitching in the major leagues.”

But the real money’s in catching. (Except when you have to catch Hough; as Bob Eucker famously said when asked how to catch a knuckleball, “You wait until it stops rolling, and pick it up.”) The Newark Star-Ledger’s Dan Graziano wrote an excellent article on it the other day. Basically, nobody likes “the tools of ignorance.” Coaches have a world of trouble convincing good players to go behind the plate, where their bodies will be pounded and their offensive stats suffer as a result. It means a premium on good catching prospects.

In fact, a number of catchers are converted from other positions in the minors; there are also a lot of guys who come up as catchers but who are moved elsewhere, with Craig Biggio as the most prominent recent example. It probably added years to his career, and it is little wonder why many other catchers, when they age, seek to move to first base or DH to keep going a while longer.

So, that’s the article. The sidebars, however, are another story. Under “Next Generation” the paper lists Victor Martinez of the Indians, who is already 29 years old. They could have gone for a bunch of younger guys – Houston has JR Towles (24), Seattle has Kurt Suzuki (24). Texas has Jarrod Saltamacchia, who just turned 23 (and who may wind up at first after all). The Angels have Mike Napoli (26) AND Jeff Mathis (25), plus a kid named Bobby Wilson (25) tearing up AAA [link]. In fact, those guys plus the other four they listed (Russell Martin, Joe Mauer, Geovany Soto, and Brian McCann) make for a fairly decent talent pool.

But “Old Reliables” is where it gets really kind of odd.

Jorge Posada, sure. Jason Varitek, of course. Ivan Rodriguez, definitely. Now that Mike Piazza and Javy Lopez have retired those are probably the best remaining old guard guys – all of them 36 years old. The other two guys on the list are pretty funny.

1. Paul Lo Duca, Washington. Identified as an “Offensive catcher whose bat is slipping.” I’d like to think that this is actually a great pun, because for years the only kind of offense LoDuca has given is the “affront to civilized behavior” kind. His first full season, he was 29, and it was the only time his OPS has topped .800. He hit 25 of his 80 career homers that year.

2. Jason Kendall, Milwaukee. “Still a high OPB guy who can handle a staff.” Now, Kendall’s thing was that, like Biggio, he was a fast guy: his first four years he swiped 71 bases in 87 tries, a fine success rate of 81.6%. He also got on base very well – over 40% of the time from 1996 to 2000, his first five years. This helped make up for his relative lack of pop (fewer career homers even than Lo Duca), but he has been worse since then: only a 60% success rate on steals, a lot more outs, and an OBP of about .357. This is still above average but he has slugged .400 only once in all of that time.

Among catchers with at least 300 at bats, here’s how Kendall has ranked the past seven full seasons in slugging (stats from

’01 – 16th of 22
’02 – 15th of 22
’03 – 14th of 28 (he slugged .416)
’04 – 20th of 27
’05 – 25th of 26
’06 – 21st of 24
’07 – 28th of 28

From 2001-2005 he led all catchers in plate appearances four times while being in the bottom third in slugging; he once managed to scrape into the top half. This is dreadful. The nadir had to be 2005, when he was outslugged by Jason Phillips, Mike Matheny, Brad Ausmus, Greg Zaun, and both Molinas. The only guy he out-hit, Chris Snyder, has made up for it by slugging over .400 in every other season. Even last year, when Kendall was below replacement level in Oakland, picked up a bit when he went back to the National League.

The question is, since catchers traditionally suffer in performance at an earlier age, shouldn’t the cut-off for “old and reliable” be something like 27? Martinez would switch sides, and you could include the Molina brothers or AJ Pierzinski. Kendall is only reliable at making outs right now.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

New Jersey.. going to H-E-double hockey sticks.

It's like watching a car wreck in slow motion.

What the Democrats are doing to the state's economy, I mean. Pieces are flying off in all directions. In terms of taxes and regulation, New Jersey was once a relative haven, a cheap place to do business. But for most of this century, we've been slowly losing high-income residents and high-income jobs. James Hughes and Joe Seneca of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers have been documenting this in a series of depressing reports about the state's economy.

"When business decisions for expansion are made, they're just not being made in New Jersey," said Seneca when I spoke to him yesterday.

The primary source of job growth in recent years has been in government, not private industry. And that represents a death spiral. Public employment creates higher taxes, which in turn discourage private employers from locating or expanding in New Jersey.

Corzine is running your state into the ground.

Come to the light, my NJ brothers and sisters! We may have our problems in Florida, and our governor may be just as gay as your previous one, but there's a reason why Tiger Woods and Rush Limbaugh and countless other rich celebs live down here, and it's not just the weather.

I haven't filed a state income tax form in twelve years. Come to the light, my NJ brothers and sisters!

AI, five to - nah, I got nothing

Well, not nothing, but SarahK has snarked, and I'm pretty much going to just second that emotion.

Although my favorite part of all of it? The shot of Jason Castro singing next to the Asian Superhero dude.

We're brothers forever!

PS - you wouldn't like him when he's angry.

I Need To Get Out More..

..because this is news to me.

It's prom season. Got your dress, tickets, corsage? Got your date's criminal background check?

If not, you may wind up going solo.

Most students in Hillsborough County are required to fill out a form with their date's name, address and phone number when purchasing a ticket to the big bash, if the date does not attend their school.

Some schools have gone further, requesting photocopies of student IDs, drivers' licenses and — in one case — the date's Social Security number.

The high schools here in Tampa will do a criminal background check on your prom date! How long has this been going on?

I personally prefer the Rodney Atkins method of dealing with your daughter's date.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Yup, I'm busted

I'm pretty sure that my wife drew this.

(Hat tip to Wunder for turning me on to the joys of xkcd.)

Speaking of bright bulbs

Apparently the San Diego State University campus is experiencing a brown-out.

On Tuesday, authorities announced that 96 young men -- including 75 students -- had been arrested on a variety of drug charges as a result of Operation Sudden Fall, which infiltrated seven fraternities on Fraternity Row and Fraternity Circle.

The cops just recruited several young officers to serve undercover, and within a matter of months they were tapped into the whole scene.

One of the alleged drug dealers is 19 and recently had been praised as a model student in a university publication. Another was just a month away from earning a master's degree in homeland security and had worked with the campus police as a security officer. ... A criminal justice major was arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine. As he was being arrested, he asked officers if this would hurt his chances for a law enforcement career, officials said.

Nah, you're cool, man.

One suspect, Kenneth Ciaccio, 19, a member of the Theta Chi fraternity, sent out a mass text message early last month to "faithful customers," saying that he was traveling to Las Vegas and would not be able to make his normal cocaine sales, the DEA said.

Mr. Ciaccio is the aforementioned "model student" from the university publication, since taken offline. I love the text message bit, too.

o hai
in LV for wknd
no coke til Mon

On the bright side, he and his fellows can look forward to working the other side of the aisle.

Although the investigation was widely praised in San Diego, the nationwide group Drug Policy Alliance blasted it as "sensationalistic" and futile. The group believes in the decriminalization of marijuana and favors increased drug education and treatment over mass arrests.

They must have missed the part about the cocaine, meth, and Ecstasy.

I think it's time to run off some appropriate t-shirts for these upstanding citizens.

The frat guys gave them to me!

(Hat tip to Tracey for the story.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Our American Dream, let us show you it

It was a few weeks ago that we finally got to go sit in the attorney's office with about a half-dozen other people from both sides. There was a literal ream's worth of legal paper to thumb through and sign (and sign) (and initial).

We agreed to any amount of fair dealings and full disclosures. We confirmed that the sun still rises in the East and that water is wet. I can't be sure, but we also may have opened diplomatic relations with a small Eastern European country.

It took almost an hour and we didn't get to keep the pen. But in the end, we slid an inhumanly large check in one direction, and they slid the keys in the other direction, and now we have a house.

Wells Fargo may own it for the next 30 years, but it's all ours.

It's in the water

COPIAGUE, N.Y. (AP) - A Long Island man who flipped his finger at a police cruiser and then popped a wheelie on his motorcycle is recovering from injuries after crashing.

These folks from Lawn Guy Land, they ain't the brightest bulbs in the marquee.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Poor Nina

I was only kidding in my comment about writing a paper in txtspk. Turns out that I was somewhat tardy with my quippage.

And this is why satire is dying - it's too hard to stay ahead of the idiot curve.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Your Number One

This website will tell you the #1 song in the country on a specific date.

#1 on the day I was born: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by the Platters.

#1 on the day I graduated from high school: I'm Your Boogie Man by KC & the Sunshine Band.

Gosh, I'm old.

I Should Have Watched AI

Last night, after it became clear that The Rays were going to hammer the O's, I surfed over to CBS to see what the TV show Criminal Minds was up to.

In this episode, the feds were after a killer who was meeting other guys in gay bars, taking them out and killing them. So the feds visit the killer's father to talk to him. When Dear Old Dad started talking about the importance of his Christian faith, I knew where this was headed.

And CBS did not disappoint. Bible-thumping homophobic father turns his gay son into a psycho killer. Gee, like I haven't seen that on TV before!

I did what everybody else was doing and went to AI in time to catch Neil Diamond's great performance.

Next week on Criminal Minds: Islamic father suspected in honor killing. Yeah, when pigs fly.