Friday, June 27, 2008

The Pitfalls of Focus Groups

...clearly there's a right time and a wrong time for a hug. Judging by the look on the face of the busdriver I'll assume his vote goes in the "wrong time" column.

***

We all love democracy but it clearly doesn't work in all situations. Occasionally the "one man, one vote" approach leads us into situations that should be avoided and would have been in a situation where one reasonable party simply made an executive decision. Case in point a recent focus group utilized by the good folks at Anheuser-Busch to help them come up with a new product. Here's an excerpt of what occurred:


Moderator: "Thanks everyone for helping us come up with a great new addition to our lineup. We'll just go around the table and each of you can tell me what you would like in a new product. We'll start with you (points to first participant)."


Person #1: "Well I'm a pretty normal guy so I'd just like a beer, maybe something not too heavy for the summer".


Person #2: "I'm not much of a beer drinker but I still like the odd drink. Maybe something with a bit of fruit. Did I mention I'm a 16 year-old girl?".


Person #3: "I like to go on vacations and then brag to people about how much better things are wherever I was than at home even if its not true. Can we somehow incorporate an exotic location so I can use the product to remind everyone where I've been? While you're at it, can you bring back Tahiti Treat?"


Person #4: "I'm morbidly obese but don't want to make any real changes to my lifestyle. Surely there's a drink that will trick me into thinking its good for me even though there's no chance it is. These donuts are carb-free right?"


Person #5: "I have a pee fetish. Anything you can do to play to my palette would be appreciated."


Person #6: "Having been at sea for several moons I've got a touch o' the scurvy. This ol' sea dog's fightin' a bit o' the vitamin C deficiency."


Moderator: "Thanks everyone for your input. I think we have a way to make all of you happy".


...and this is how we ended up with this:


Correction

It was erroneously reported yesterday in "Marshawn's Mulligan" that Tom Brady killed 17 migrant workers and buried them in his family's vineyard. That was regrettably a false statement. It was in fact, an apple orchard not a vineyard. We'd like to apologize to Mr. Brady, his friends in the Bush Administration, the Patriots organization, the owner of the vineyard and the families of the 17 migrant workers. We have since dismissed our fact checker. Here is a shot of her receiving the bad news.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Marshawn's Mulligan

...so when someone asks you "do I need to draw you a picture?" in a sarcastic tone I would answer "no", particularly if they're good at drawing. Chances are they're going to draw you something very disgusting. Trust me on this one.

***


Let me first disclose that I am not a completely detached observer when it comes to the alleged Marshawn Lynch alleged hit and alleged run. I must admit that I am a Bills fan. There is a possibility, albeit slight, that my views on this subject are being clouded by my allegiance to the team and to their future hall of fame running back in particular....allegedly. With that being said I do think we need to use a bit of restraint when it comes to how we judge Marshawn.

First let's hear Marshawn's side of the story. As per the report in the Buffalo News Marshawn and his passenger, rookie receiver Steve Johnson, were unaware they hit anything or anyone as it was dark, rainy and they were "distracted" by a woman walking in front of Ms. Shpeley. The reports from eye witnesses that the car never slowed down could back this up (the victim has a different account but her vision may be clouded by the dollar signs in her eyes, not to mention the impact from an SUV and a dozen cans of High Life). The players' story could also be corroborated by the fact that Marshawn made no effort to hide the SUV or clean off the nacho cheese stains on the hood. As for the distraction, here's a picture of the girl. You have to admit that would be very distracting at 3:30 in the morning.



Clearly this may capture your attention even if you weren't high, which of course no one was. I'm not even sure why I brought that up. Forget I mentioned it.


Let's assume however that Marshawn is guilty of something here. It could be nothing more than driving without his contact lenses but is most likely something more serious than that. He has, to some degree or another, made a mistake and exercised poor judgment after the fact. By no means do I want to play down what happened to Ms. Shpeley. I have a daughter, admittedly not one who would jaywalk on Chippewa wearing dark clothes at 3:30 AM in a driving rain storm, but I can still empathize somewhat with how disturbing this could be for her and her family. How then do we react? Do we, as some already have, lump Marshawn in with all the other troubled gun-toting, dog-electrocuting, wife-smacking problem athletes? In short, that seems like a bit of a stretch.

From all accounts Marshawn is not a "bad guy". He's a fun-loving kid who, like most 22 year-old instant millionaires, needs to grow up. I'm willing to give him a pass on this one indiscretion. If, in the future, we see a pattern of behaviour that indicates some more serious character issues then I'll be the first to call for him to be run out of town. For now he gets the benefit of the doubt particularly given that we're just at the beginning of the game here. Think of it like a round of golf. If you're new to the game and hit something fat, errr....out of bounds, you'd get a mulligan. That's what this is. We'll forget about that first mistake, Marshawn. Let's just try to keep it on the fairway from here on in.

Regardless of what I or other fiercely objective commentators may say this will haunt Marshawn for awhile. There is no doubt the fact that Marshawn is young, black, dreaded and grilled will play into perception here. It goes without saying that if Marshawn Lynch from Oakland was Gary Wiseborough from Elmira this incident would be viewed more in the "boys will be boys" vein. Hell, as a teenager Tom Brady killed 17 migrant workers and buried them in his family's vineyard but for some reason no one brings that up anymore. Perhaps we could afford Marshawn just an ounce of the same forgiveness in regards to his first offense.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Happy Pride Week from your Bills Ombudsman

Bills fan are a broad, diverse group. Well, actually that's probably not true but just in case it is your Ombudsman would like to send a shout-out to the Bills fans in the LGBT community (let me know if there are some letters that need to be added to the acronym). Here's a little beefcake to help kick-off Pride Week:


Poz is #51 in your program, #1 in your hearts



Former nose tackle Fred Smerlas still rocks the 'stache



and a couple things for the ladies...


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bills in Toronto: An update from your Ombudsman

Trying to create a true Buffalo Bills experience in Toronto is a lot like trying to recruit people for your ultimate frisbee team with a classified ad that doesn't use the word "bi-curious". It's difficult, if not impossible. That doesn't mean, of course, that we shouldn't try. This is why I previously accepted the responsibility of being the Bills in Toronto Ombudsman.

So far there has been a mixed bag of good and bad associated with the games. In the spirit of the late Tim Russert I will try to accentuate the positive. Here's what I like so far:

The coin toss will not be done by the annoying kids from the Rogers Wireless ads:
The Rogers brass were sticklers about this one . It took a great deal of lobbying on your behalf to eliminate this egregious product placement. I'd almost prefer the Fido dogs or a drunk Norm MacDonald in a beaver costume. These kids get on my last nerve. Look at us, we're such great platonic friends handpicked to appeal to key demographic groups that enjoy good clean fun facilitated by cameraphones. To that I say "puuuuuke". These guys were irritating the 10th time I saw them. By the fourteen hundredth time I'm ready to go Anton Chigurh on them. I can't even take a subway ride now without being forced to look at them doing something extreme, dynamic or extremely dynamic. Besides, since when did two straight normal twenty-somethings go camping just the "two of them"? This isn't some deep woods canoe trek where its two men against the wild. Their car is right there at the site. There are only reasons for such a trip, getting high or getting your manlove on. Either way my guess is that they threw the phone to the bear hoping it would destroy the evidence. Meanwhile with the guys away I'm pretty sure the Indian guy is looking to make a move on the cute blonde while also setting up the mediocre brunette in case he gets shot down. In golf that would be referred to as a "good miss".

The Logo is not as bad as it could have been:
The folks in charge get marks here for restraint. There is no corporate logo included or attempts to bundle in other Rogers services. That's a big step for these people. Sure it's only being created so more merchandise can be sold but I'll forgive them for that understandable bit of greed. You wouldn't ask a chain smoker to quit cold turkey so we'll let this little relapse slip. Most importantly, the charging buffalo is prominently in the foreground, the Bills font is correct and they've utilized the existing team colour palette. That's a solid thumbs up in my books. I just used the term "colour palette". Good for me!





That leaves us with my wishlist. These are the unresolved issues that need to be addressed. In reality this is not my wishlist, rather it is our wishlist:

They'll play Our song:
Hopefully it will soon be been confirmed that the "Bills make me want to shout" will be played after every Bills scoring play (though I'm not certain as to whether or not it will be played after a safety). Presumably the Rogers types in charge will want to play some trip-hop club music in the hopes it will put the fans in the mood for another round of Cosmos. I trust less-douchey heads will prevail. For those of you who have never attended a game at the Ralph it may be difficult to comprehend the importance of this song to the crowd and the experience. This is coming from a guy who couldn't be more anti-singalong. I won't even partake in Happy Birthday but once that extra point sales through I'll be belting it out. Hay-ay-ay-ay! Don't worry about knowing the words ahead of time as you just have to repeat what you hear. Even a Toronto sports crowd will be able to follow along.

The Bills PA announcer, John Gurtler Jr., must announce the games:
Gurtler's voice over the public address system will immediately transport you a hundred and eight miles south (and a little bit east. I looked it up on Google Maps). Hopefully every play and stoppage of play will be brought to us by Cellino & Barnes, Mighty Taco and/or M&T Bank. I also expect John to start every address with "Hey Bills fans...". John can be a bit testy so if he's announcing the games please give him your undivided attention. No one wants to hear "Hey VIPs. Could you take out your bluetooth receivers so I can tell you who the Goddamn ball carrier was, you bunch of self-absorbed Assholes!"

There are two hurdles that need to be overcome for this to happen. First the Rogers brass needs to exercise enough common sense to decide to bring John north. Secondly we have to assume he is even allowed to cross the border after his recent legal issues. He, his wife and his son, John III were all arrested after a grad party at the Gurtler home got a bit out of control. First let me ask one thing: what the Hell is happening in Western New York? When did we start arresting families for serving beer to minors? I guess we've let the terrorists win, haven't we. If a man can't buy a couple beers for his son's friends or bump into a woman with his SUV what have we got left? As Thomas Jefferson once said "A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither". Amen to that Tommy. We need to stand up against this police state. I'm in the process of painting my "John Gurtler Graduates!" sign for the rally. I trust you all will be joining me.

If Donna Martin was allowed to graduate so should John Gurtler III



Music. I trust they will consult with the Bills in-game staff to ensure the right mix of Crazy Train and non-Crazy Train. It's a delicate balance. The Might Taco theme song must also be utilized at some point.

Field Design. There better be a giant charging buffalo on the 50 or heads will roll. You can stick your little series logo off to the side. If there is any mention of the opposing team on the turf the rest of your body will also roll. There are probably some physics and/or geometric challenges in getting a headless corpse to actually roll but don't underestimate what a determined group of Bills fans can do if they put their minds to it. We tore down steel goalposts with nothing but our brawn and elevated blood-alcohol levels.

Tailgating. There have been references to "tailgating" but in the Toronto context this will mean hospitality tents with cover charges, cash bars and mediocre bar skanks wearing t-shirts with vodka logos. Referring to this as a "tailgating" is like being promised you were going to a "party" only to find out you're going to a baby shower. While technically correct it's very misleading. The chances of being allowed to pull your car, truck or bus into a parking lot and crack open a can of beer are slim, Brian Moorman slim. The blame here should be placed squarely on our provincial and municipal governments for their Puritanical drinking laws. Most likely we'll be tailgating in my back laneway or Batavia Party Zone North as it will henceforth be referred to as.

Fat chicks taking their shirts off. Historically this is a staple of Bills games at the Ralph, particularly lopsided affairs (the games not the fat chicks, although now that you mention it...). This one has gone to the league offices and Immigration Canada for an official ruling. I'll let you know as soon as I hear something.

Where are all the characters? Will Elvis, the black guys in the chef hats and Mandy, the blonde who was a 7 out of 10 in 1992 that wears the Tasker jersey (no idea what her name actually is but Mandy sounds about right), make the trip north? Presumably Uncle Ted could spring for some appearance fees to get the most prominent Bills fans here.

Schlock. Regardless of what level they're being played at, most US football games have a healthy dose of heartstring tugging, flag-waving cheese to get the fans going. The formula usually includes a mix of fly-overs, soldier/player's widows, firearms, singing children, the crippled, people dressed as pilgrims, pyrotechnics and old glory. Despite our less "in your face" flavour of patriotism we should at least give Americana schlock a shot while we're hosting Buffalo's team. Right before kick-off I would recommend Kevin Everett standing on top of a humvee carrying Tim Russert's wife above his head with a bald eagle on each of her shoulders. As the Humvee moves towards the 50-yard line a whole bunch of things will explode. The Humvee will be driven by our future: the American Children.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Stadium banners. During the Jays season the outside of the Rogers Centre is adorned with large banners showcasing the stars of the current team. While they could do the same with Bills stars for the Toronto series I have a better idea. The following picture blown up to 75 feet by 75 feet facing the Gardiner will showcase the passion shared by Bills fans of all ages. It may also serve as a bit of a heads-up for opposing team's fans or the indifferent scenesters who are attending the game simply because Toronto Life told them it was the thing to do after brunch on Sundays.

...teach them well and let them lead the way

Now, a quick note on what needs to be changed. The Bills in Toronto website is awful. Despite promises of social media modules (whatever the hell those are), celebrity bloggers and pretty much anything of interest we've been given a heaping amount of SFA. Worse still, that which we have been served up has been nothing but PR at its fluffiest. Reading the "blog" makes Rogers product introductions sound objective. The posts frequently mention NFL fans not just Bills fans which is a potentially disturbing sign as to how much of a "home field" advantage there will be. The obligatory "Go Bills" is delivered with the same awkwardness and conviction of George Bush stumbling through Arabic names.

There's still time to get this thing turned around. Please find someone who's an actual Bills fan to post on the "blog" or at the very least label it "press releases" or "desperate pleas to sell VIP tickets" as to not insult your audience. Even as a pure corporate information site it falls short. Where are the links to press conferences or other media so those of us who are trying to make sure you don't F this thing up can keep an eye on what you're plotting? You're not trying to hide anything from the Ombudsman, are you? That would not be smart. Even if you manage to sneak something by me you must know that Tim Russert is watching and he sees all.

***

We can forgive Rogers for the odd hiccup. We all make mistakes. I once downloaded a Tom Jones sings country album. Lo and behold, it was awful. That being said, I learned from that mistake. Much like Tom Jones, Rogers should stick to what it knows. In the case of Tom Jones it's belting out his cheesy classics whilst dodging knickers tossed by his aging fans. In the case of Rogers its charging as much as you possible can for every last item or service you can get people to buy from you. Concentrate on the gouging and leave the gameday operations to people who now something about football, particularly Bills Football.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Farewell Tim

A sad note to end the week. NBC's Tim Russert, the host "Meet the Press" and arguably the most famous fan of the Bills, has just passed away at the age of 58. Besides having great taste in football teams, Russert, a Buffalo native, was one of the more articulate voices in American journalism. I specifically recall watching "Meet the Press" before one of the Super Bowls where he made no attempts to hide the fact that he would be cheering for the Bills. For some reason that memory has stuck some 13 or 14 years later.


A few of us saw Tim at the Ralph a few years back (that isn't us in the picture).

Anyways, this is terrible. Two days before Father's Day to boot. Not that there's ever a good time for something like this. There's really nothing else to say. He'll be sadly missed.

An Ultimate Waste of Time

Q: What's the best thing about joining an Ultimate Frisbee team?

A: Finally finding a team you won't get cut from.

***

As I've mentioned before Ultimate Frisbee, or "Ultimate" as its apologists refer to it as, is not a sport. It's a bastardized half-game. Think of it as a less masculine version of hopscotch. It is played without the physical intensity of legitimate mano-a-mano team sports like football, hockey or basketball while lacking the casual self-awareness of more established leisurely sports like softball or golf. As such, you can't hit anyone or have a beer while playing. It's the worst of both worlds. It takes itself too seriously without an ounce of justification to do so. The game has no established place in the fabric of society or relevance to anyone outside a small troupe of misfits. As painful as this may be, imagine, if only for a moment, you were someone who participated in this odd game. You surely couldn't go to a sports bar to watch it on the big screen or bring up your perverse fetish in casual conversation. Mention a real sport and you have an immediate ice breaker at the summer office party. Mention Ultimate frisbee and even the creepy IT guys who only discuss sorcery and magic will avoid you. How well do you think Father's Day would go if you brought up how wonderful your last game was? While you're at it you might as well tell him you're dropping out of med school to become a medieval theatre major and then punch him in the throat. Nothing you could do or say after that would be any more damaging than your first comment.


We won! The first round of Champagne Spritzers and Fuzzy Navels are on me!

There are no great plays or players to emulate. Presumably there are no personal achievements to strive for. I highly doubt there's the equivalent of a hat trick, triple double or grand slam. Perhaps changing your headband three times in a game or politely applauding the effort of every opposing player by halftime are the "Ultimate" milestones. I did hear that there's a guy from the Beaches who recently went through his 50th pair of lulelemon pants in one season! That's probably something that deserves some recognition...and by recognition I, of course, mean scorn and derision.

It's a completely contrived and manufactured pastime seemingly created by those, and for those, with a distaste for all existing sports and conventions. What is it that caused these outcasts to forgo the broad range of available sporting options in favour of this perverse activity? What's the point of this apparent pointlessness? No sticks, no bats, no balls, no nets. Just a plastic disc and a bunch of douchebags running around. If that's not subversive I don't know what is. In my mind its an absolute scourge, something destructive to our way of life. Our forefathers didn't fight a couple world wars so we could sashay about a grass field tossing a frisbee around.

***

Q: What's the worst thing about joining an Ultimate Frisbee team?

A: Knowing that your father hates you.

Sorry, but its true. You're a huge disappointment.

Afterword: I really must add this one point which on its own makes the case that Ultimate Frisbee is not a sport. You can buy Ultimate Frisbee Jewelery. That's right. Just in case people outside your inner circle of douches were unsure as to whether or not you are a complete idiot you can put to rest any doubt by purchasing a "Layout" ring or "Thrower" Earrings. The "Listening to Dave Matthews and Indigo Girls pre-game for inspiration" anklet is coming soon. Also, the team pictured above is actually called the "Fightin' Waifs". I shit you not. Apparently their chief rivals are the Battlin' Brians who's name is an homage to the figure skating finals at the 1988 Winter Olympics. That part may or may not be true.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More from Euro 2008

We've got a couple more recruits from Euro 2008 for the Birkenstock and Buzzcut all-stars.


This really will be quite the formidable team.

Monday, June 9, 2008

I'm a 2008? Euro 2008!

..who am I to argue with an asparagus, particularly one that's so articulate?

***

The presence of car flags and the sound of Torontonians exaggerating their accents can only mean one thing...Euro 2008! On Friday it was "My grandpa was born in Portchoo-gall, eh". On Saturday it's "Por-TOO-gull, Por-TOO-gull". I don't recall using the words "Crikey" or referring to beets as beetroot when Australia was robbed by a flopping Italian during the last World Cup but, hey, that's just me. If that sounds a tad bitter well, it is. England, the team I support, did not qualify for this year's tournament. Their failure is, however, quite understandable as this year there are two host nations that received automatic bids. That left only 14 spots for other European squads. Its a lot to ask a team to qualify under such restrictive circumstances. After all, England isn't alone amongst great footballing nations in failing to make the cut. Moldova, San Marino and Luxembourg also fell short. As such, every mention of this tournament is a painful reminder of England's shortcomings and long history of disappointing performances. Watching the games is like being forced to watch your high school prom on TV because you had no one to go with and were too stupid to graduate. So, I will avoid it altogether. If I really want to see some soccer there are two leagues that play at the park near my house. One is for 6-8 years olds and the other is a middle-age lesbian league. While the skill of those two leagues may not be up to par with what is on display at the European championship at least they'll be far less crying, diving and fake injuries. Besides I wouldn't be surprised to see a handful of these players from Euro 2008 at my local field once the tournament ends.



The ladies of Churchmouse and Firkin United will be getting some much needed depth in about a month.

Given that I will probably cave at some point and start watching I should prepare myself. I will need a team to support. Unfortunately its much easier to find a reason to root against most of these teams as opposed to rooting for them. To start with there are the historical/political conflicts to consider. I'm of course looking at you, Spain. Lest we forget the Turbot War in whatever year it was that happened. Then there are traffic considerations. The sooner Greece is out the better when it comes to Danforth gridlock. The same logic could be used to eliminate Italy. Also, I have both a Greek and an Italian brother-in-law so I wouldn't want to play favorites. Its better that I hope they both lose. There are rivalry issues. Portugal has found a way to knock England out of their last two major tournaments mostly through the type of conniving and cheating that fans of 1980s WWF villianry would be familiar with. That being said, Romania has also pushed England out a couple times. In fact, ruling out teams based on them beating England would eliminate most everyone. Choosing a team based on who doesn't dive and whine would leave equally slim pickings. My sister-in-law's boyfriend is Croatian so I wouldn't have been adverse to throwing my support behind them. The flopping and rolling I saw this weekend quickly ended those hopes. The host nations are both awful and have no business being in the tournament so "auf Wiedersehen" to Austria and Switzerland. They are the coach's sons of Euro 2008. Russia doesn't need my help with the price of oil being where it is. I'm sure the Bingsheviks will have a few refs in their pockets and that's not something I can condone. One of my wife's favourite uncles is from Germany and I'd been fine to cheer alongside him but they're the favourites so I don't want to be viewed as an opportunist. There's a friendly Turkish fellow that works in my office but my Armenian uncle would never forgive me if I supported Turkey. Ironically my uncle loves Turkish delight though he's not such a big fan of the Turks. France, thanks but no thanks. It's the summer so I presume half the team will start their 9 week vacations making it difficult for them to compete at this level. That leaves us with Holland, Sweden, Poland and the Czechs. No offense Poland but you're not very good and an I saw an edisode of Real Football Factories about your fans scared the Hell out of me. The Dutch? I never know what to call them. The Hollandish? Netherlanders? Dutch-Americans? Until you can streamline what you call yourself you can count me out. So its down to the Czechs or the Swedes. Hmmmm? The Czechs have the better beer and the Swedes are responsible for weekend trips to Ikea. That's a quick 2-0 lead for the Czech Republic. Unfortunately for my český friends its not enough to overcome this...





Sorry Czechs but Mats beats Mullet every time. Go Sweden!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Please don't be Marshawn, Please don't be Marshawn

...the Yankees look a bit desperate putting Chamberlain immediately into the starting rotation without him doing anything to prove he's ready for that responsibility. Quite frankly, I'm surprised that's something they'd just hand Joba.

***

This Marshawn thing is getting very worrisome. At a very minimum he's ignored the Bills restriction on their running backs owning SUVs. This rule was put in place around 9:15PM on June 17, 1994.


Holy crap, this was almost 14 years ago

Hopefully this is all he's guilty of. In a worst-case scenario he was the one driving and it was he who then made the idiotic decision to not stick around to see what kind of shape the woman he hit was in. At least whoever was driving (please don't be Marshawn, please don't be Marshawn) hit a Canadian so he won't be facing a crippling civil case like that other Bills running back I was hinting at earlier. I know a guy who, like the "victim", is from Milton. He's a great guy so I assume his fellow Miltonian is as well. I'm sure getting grazed by a car at 3:30AM is viewed in the proper perspective back home in the 289. Milton's the type of town where you get up, brush yourself off and keep on keepin' on. I'm sure if the driver had simply stopped and apologized this would have all been forgotten by now. Presumably a girl who grew up with the last name Shpeley has learned to roll with the punches. Please don't be Marshawn, please don't be Marshawn.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What the world doesn't need anymore

...so that gets made out to "K. Shpeley"? Alright, so you jumped in front of the SUV which had no chance to swerve out of the way. That's exactly what happened, isn't that right?

***

Here we are some 6,000 years into human existence (that's a shout out to the JC crowd amongst the readership) and it seems to me we're due for some spring cleaning. As we've evolved (sorry JC crowd, I'm going to have to go with science and logic here) we have developed quite the advanced society with many wonderful things, ideas and institutions. Unfortunately we've also picked up a few things along the way that we could really do without. I'm not talking about war, famine, strife and all that as I'm sure the case against them has already been made. I'm going to focus more on society's lesser evils which individually may not be much but as a whole represent a significant blight on our world. Think of this like The Bucket List except its not a movie starring two aging stars playing out the schedule on what used to be respectable careers.

Birthday Cake and Turkey: I'm sure some of you are saying "But I love both those things why would you ever want to get rid of them". Really? I presume then, given your love affair with these two foods, the last time you went out to a nice restaurant you asked for a drumstick, some white meat and a big slice of chocolate cake with a little bit of waxy residue on top. Of course that didn't happen because you had countless better options. Why are we captive to holiday culinary traditions? Can't we break free from these shackles forced upon us by the Butterball and Duncan Hines lobbies. Trust me, they control everything. Banning birthday cake would not only allow us significantly superior choices for dessert but also put an end to birthday cakes at the office. The accounts receivable and HR staff aren't going to show up at your office once a year belting out an ear-splitting "Happy Birthday" with a cheese plate. The end of the Birthday Cake will commensurately bring about the end of this awful tradition. At my last job I tried to convince people I was born on Christmas Day just so I could avoid this painfully awkward interaction with co-workers.

Engagement planners: Commercialization has taken all of life's special moments and turned them into stressful times where whatever you do (and spend) will likely be inadequate to meet society's ever increasing expectations. The wedding industry has turned the formerly simple event of promising one's self to another into an overly orchestrated spectacle of opulence that in many cases has lost all sight of what the evening is supposed to be celebrating. We can thank wedding planners for that (might as well throw them on the list while we're at it). Now, you can't even get to the wedding itself before the experience is turned into something contrived and without meaning. For a sizable fee you can have someone tell you how to ask that special someone to spend the rest of your lives together. Shockingly people were able to do this on their own for centuries. In a few years people will be amazed that engagements could ever have happened without some woman telling you exactly what to say, when to say it and how many doves should be released coinciding with the question being popped. This is where society is going. As an aside I wonder if there are engagement planners in areas where arranged marriages are common? That would be a pretty sweet gig. Even I could do that.

Groom: How should I ask Parvati to be my wife?

Me/engagement planner: Ask? Dude, get your head out of your ass. Your Dad took care of that. What did you think the goats were for? Just to be nice? By the way, that'll be $4,500.

Personalized license plates: Need I say more. 95% of vanity plates can be paraphrased by "I'm someone who you're completely justified in hating...and I'm hung like a gerbil".


I'm sure he meant this to say "kickin' ass" but that first "K" could be a hard "C"
(and I'm not referring to the word "cooking")


Cornrows: Much like a goatee cornrows are always a bad choice. This cuts across all races and creeds. Black guys, why would you go for the ridiculous looking cornrows when you have so many superior options that aren't available to us white guys. You guys can pull off any number of variations on dreads. I'd be torn between what Chris Bosh has going or more of a Malcolm Jamal Warner/Etan Thomas thing.



Me, as a brother (maybe with a little more working out)

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum black guys can sport a shaved head without looking like their masking premature baldness or serial killers. Us white guys, with the possible exception of Mark Messier (who was masking his thinning hair), don't have that luxury. In terms of everyone else let me just leave you with some visual evidence. This should make the case for the eradication of cornrows better than anything I could write.


At least he has the excuse that he was high at the time.



Don't you like them? All of us on the team got them in Jamaica


Getting rid of the 'rows would only be step 1 for this douche

Monologue Dialog: This is a school of TV writing that first showed up in and around 1997 on the now defunct WB network. The most early example of this was Dawson's Creek. The Monologue Dialog would be characterized by two people technically talking to each other but really just delivering long-winded monologues. These monologues would involve superfluous four and five syllable words, frequent use of the third person and literary references beyond the realistic grasp of the conversation's participants. It is the most uneconomical conversation ever. Here's an example:


Pacey's Mom: Would you like some eggs?

Pacey: Depends on what you are getting at by like. The chorus rings out for one Pacey Witter being defined by whether blah blah blah.. Proust...metaphysical...Waiting for Godot... forlorn ... Pacey Witter... existentialism... Fellini-esque...whatever.

And this would go on for hours, if not days. People talking and talking but not quite saying anything. This style was born out of an idealized vision of how people should talk with no connection to how people actually talk. The genesis was likely a group of frustrated writers who were high school outcasts creating a revisionist history for their own disappointing experience. Oh what a world it would be if people mentioned French satirists in every second sentence and conversations took hours not mere minutes. Later incarnations were seen with the Gilmore Girls, Grey's Anatomy and on the big screen with Juno. There was even talk of TV's first crossover/spin-off involving cast members from Dawson's Creek and the Gilmore Girls. It was to be called "Endless Inane Babbling" and was schedule to air from 7AM until 11PM on Thursdays. Rumor has it that this was at the root of what caused the WB to shutdown. Supposedly the network was faced with a crippling lawsuit after 49% of the focus group committed suicide halfway through the pilot screening. I see no reason to doubt this actually happened.

Well that's a good enough list for now. I'm sure with a little hard work we can get rid of these few things before moving on to the next list. It doesn't seem like much now but when you add these up their combined absence will make the world a much better place for generations to come.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Gowan my way?

...you have to respect his dedication. No other coach in the AFC East would dress up as a woman and jump in front of a moving SUV in the faint hope of taking out a star running back he would have to face twice a season. I highly doubt the coach of the Jets, Dolphins or Bills would go that far.

***

There's awkward, there's really awkward and then there's my experience with a bed salesman yesterday. Everything started off normally enough as we were shown a couple of different models and asked a couple questions about how we sleep, any ailments we have etc...you know, a seemingly typical interaction between interested bed buyer and commissioned bed seller. He struck me as a bit keen but, for the most part, a relatively normal, hard-working young salesperson and, on a personal-level, probably a reasonably cool guy. Then the song on the sound system changed. Not even a half-second into the keyboard intro and his eyes lit up. Inside this young man a fire was immediately ignited. "This" he declared in an excited fashion "is my favorite song ever". At this point I had absolutely no idea what the song even is. In fact I was shocked that he could have identified it given the fact that we had only heard a split second of a fairly generic 80s synthesizer chord. He continued. "Anytime you hear Moonlight Desires by Gowan, you know its going to be a good day". I had absolutely no idea how I was supposed to react to this. Was he kidding? He can't possibly mean that. He was being sarcastic, making a joke, wasn't he?

If he was kidding, however, how did he instantaneously know what song it was? This lightning quick reaction indicates more than a passing familiarity with the song. Maybe he was serious. This guy couldn't have been older than 26 or 27. Moonlight Desires just turned 21! There's no way that song had any role in this guy's life as a new release. Even if he had some sort of mature-beyond-his-years appreciation for music I find it highly unlikely that he would gravitate towards something that most likely debuted on an adult contemporary station. As a young person you tend to look for something that to some degree or another rocks. Gowan clearly didn't rock in 1987, nor does he today. Even if it was something his Mom used to play as a kid he would have surely moved on to something else upon developing his own taste in music. Maybe he came across the tune later in his life. Though slightly more plausible than a 5 or 6 year old becoming a diehard Gowan fan I don't view this as particularly likely either.

Growing up, I'm sure he may have heard the song a couple of times but I can't imagine an environment being created where it would become his favorite song and maintain that status to this very day. As far as I can tell the song didn't have a resurgence at any point that would coincide with some seminal moment in his life. Surely there's no chance he got drunk for the first time, got to second base, drove his first car, watched his favorite team win something or do anything remotely awesome with "Moonlight Desires" cranked on the stereo. That song is the soundtrack to elevator rides and dentist appointments. Picture May long weekend around 1998 or 1999, the time I approximate some, if not all, of this guy's firsts could have occurred. I highly doubt a Gowan CD gets anywhere near this imagined cottage or campground. This is pre-digital downloading so there's no way someone is travelling with a limitless musical library. Someone would have needed to pack an actual Gowan CD or at the very least a mixed tape that had included "Moonlight Desires". I really don't see someone dedicating backpack space to this when that space is at such a premium. Let's see, I'm a 16 year old kid. Let's leave the beer funnel and bong at home so I can rock out to Gowan around the campfire. Wait a minute, no wonder I don't have any friends. May 2-4!


This just doesn't add up.

Maybe its a gay thing. I really doubt he was hitting on me as I was with wife and child. Besides if you're using some sort of gay pick-up code wouldn't you mention something a little less cryptic just in case your intended target was a bit new to the man-love game. "The Pet Shop Boys are my favorite band. Would you like a backrub?" or "I love this song as much as the volleyball scene in Top Gun" would be a bit more clear in getting the point across. Regardless, this guy really didn't seem like a man's man. There really is no ready explanation for this.

Moonlight Desires is a relatively obscure song with no discernible kitsch value, cult appeal or critical acclaim. Also, from my research the song has never been covered by a better/cooler band. If you play it backwards it doesn't talk about drugs or the Maharishi. It's not a rebel song, a fight song, an anthem or an epic. No chaperone has ever admonished a couple of adolescents at a school dance for not leaving room for Jesus while Gowan brought the houselights on. This is a completely unremarkable song from an unremarkable era. Having this as your favorite song is akin to saying your favorite food is iceberg lettuce. I went over the lyrics dozens of times. Trust me, this is pure fluff. Even if you like crap there is plenty out there that's crappier. I have racked my brain trying to come up with a single reason why anyone, nonetheless a guy in his mid-late 20s who sells beds, would chose this as their favorite song and have come up empty.

I'm brought back to his inexplicably quick identification of the song that started all this. Even if I were to assume that this was his favorite song of all time I find it hard to believe that he could have picked it out so quickly. This is not Hell's Bells we're talking about where the very first sound immediately sends a message to your subconscious identifying what's about to happen. It was almost as if it was staged, like he knew what was coming. Maybe the music is on a loop so the salesmen, particularly those who've been there for a while, have the playlist memorized. That could explain the inhuman reaction time in naming the song but why then did he say it was his favorite song when there is clearly no reason it would be? Maybe it wasn't about him. Maybe it was about me. Maybe he saw something in me that said to him "make him think you're a Gowan fan". Why would he want to do that? Do I look like a fellow Gowan fan and this is his attempt to improve his chances of a sale by making some sort of connection with me? I'm not even sure what a Gowan fan would look like but presumably it's not a look one would strive for. Maybe there's no logic to the statement itself and this is all just some technique to put me off. That would be quite a piece of gamesmanship. If that was his intent he's certainly been successful. Here we are more than a day later and I'm still thinking about it. In fact, you could say it haunts me...it haunts me.

Well played Bed Salesman, well played.