Monday, July 31, 2006
In 500 years, whomever is still around will see this film and they'll fully understand why our civilization is no longer on the planet. "Benchwarmers" is one of the most inane movies I have probably ever seen. If every single copy of this debacle is destroyed it would be a favor to mankind. I could spend some time telling you what it's about, but I've already wasted almost 2 hours of my life watching it and frankly I'm numb. This mini-review is my way of saying thanks for reading my blog. Hopefully I can spare you the pain of sitting through this fiasco. I can usually stomach movies like this if they have a few good scenes in them, but this piece of human excrement isn't even worth talking about. Rob Schneider is a funny actor. I actually did standup comedy with him back in the late 1980's. He's done some funny stuff and he was great on SNL. David Spade is also fun to watch. Jon Heder was excellent in "Napoleon Dynamite", but the poor kid will always be typecast as a dumb misfit after that film, which is a shame. Put them together with a halfway decent storyline about little league baseball and unfulfilled dreams and you could have had a decent film. "Benchwarmers" doesn't even come close. It's a rancid stew of titty twisters, boogers, farts, and spit jokes, complete with racist humor and heartless gags about midgets and nerds. Adam Sandler produced this one and although I've enjoyed a couple of his movies in the past ("Happy Gilmore", "The Waterboy", and "Anger Management")the fact that this thing was ever made in the first place shows the general state of Hollywood today. Some people have referred to Sandler as a modern-day Jerry Lewis, which is like saying Nicole Ritchie is a modern-day Katherine Hepburn. Movie producers don't give a damn about quality anymore, they only care about making money. And if this thing makes a penny (which it already obviously has, because I rented the DVD for around three bucks!) it just shows that people are willing to tolerate drivel like this, which is sad. I feel like a total idiot for watching "Benchwarmers" -- please heed this warning and don't make the same mistake!
To find out what piece of garbage Adam Sandler will be serving up to the American public next, visit his own personal web site at: www.adamsandler.com.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
One of the things I love about living in Lower Pacific Heights (I used to call the area “The Lower Pac”, but my fiancée says that’s like calling SF “Frisco” or Las Vegas “Vegas” – it’s cliché and hackneyed and sounds like I’m not from here, which I’m really not) is the Victorian houses. I love these old dwellings for their history and their beauty.
Like wise old men and women wallowing in the fog and basking in the sun, the Victorian mansions and homes of San Francisco are more like people than structures. Every time I wander through Pacific Heights, the famous Cow Hollow commercial district, the Western Addition, the Outer Mission or the Haight, I marvel at these architectural masterpieces. If these buildings could only talk, I always think to myself. What would they say? I’m sure it would be things like, “Look at my decorative features”, or “Why do tourists keep taking my picture?” “Please wash my windows” or “Man, am I expensive!”
Victorian architecture, known for its huge embellishments and overall complexity, initially became popular during the reign of Queen Victoria in England. Most of the Victorian houses in this country were constructed between the mid-1800’s until about 1915.
Every country and culture eventually got into the Victorian picture in San Francisco. The Italians brought their flamboyant architectural flourishes; the French used many of the elements we see in their majestic palaces; the Turkish offered their towers and the Russians brought the vodka.
Victorian homes and mansions are called “painted ladies”, because many of them are painted in multi-colors and feature incredible decorative embellishments. The most famous of these are the “painted ladies” of Alamo Square on Steiner Street. This row of ultra-famous Victorians is also referred to as “Postcard Row”. They have been used in numerous movies and TV shows throughout the years and attract thousands of tourists to their doorsteps.
Most Victorian homes and mansions were originally painted in earth tones, until after the Civil War when people began to paint their Victorians in as many as 4-5 different colors. For the most colorful or these, visit the ones along California Street.
The styles of Victorian houses can be put into several categories. The most prevalent are called the Italianate Victorians (A good example being the Sherman House in Pacific Heights); Gothic Revival (Ex.: The Westerfield House of Alamo Square, also known as the “Russian Embassy” – and home to one of the very first hippie communes in 1968); Queen Annes (characterized by steep roofs, shingled insets and slanted bay windows); the Stick/Eastlake style (Ex.: the Charles Dietle House at the corner of Page and Laguna); and the Second Empire Victorians (Built primarily between 1855 and 1885 and distinguished by their mansard roofs and multiple balconies).
San Francisco’s Victorians are like glimmering jewels set against the hillsides of this beautiful and amazing city. If you would like to go on a tour of these architectural gems, visit these web sites: www.victorianwalk.com; www.sfcityguides.com or www.sfheart.com.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Here's an excerpt from an article I saw on AOL:
"Babytalk is a free magazine whose readership is overwhelmingly mothers of babies. Yet in a poll of more than 4,000 readers, a quarter of responses to the cover were negative, calling the photo - a baby and part of a woman's breast, in profile - inappropriate.
One mother who didn't like the cover explains she was concerned about her 13-year-old son seeing it.
"I shredded it," said Gayle Ash, of Belton, Texas, in a telephone interview. "A breast is a breast - it's a sexual thing. He didn't need to see that."
Gayle Ash is obviously a really uptight and possibly sexually frustrated woman. If her 13-year son old can't handle seeing a breast (sans nipple and arreola, for that matter) the poor kid is in trouble. I've seen more sexually explicit stuff in Sports Illustrated (swimsuit issue) and National Geographic (usually photos of naked African women, ex.: The Ubangi Tribe)
What is offensive about a woman breast feeding her beautiful child? I used to get offended when I saw women out in public breast feeding, but eventually I got over it. Hey, it's nature. I don't see how this photo can be interpreted as obscene in any way. If you ask me, the people that were quoted saying they were upset about this cover are milking the whole thing for publicity. It doesn't offend me and I'm lactose intolerant! I'm certain there will be more controversy over this issue, so I'll be sure to keep you abreast.
Friday, July 28, 2006
My old high school just got a real baseball field. With natural grass and a manicured dirt infield. A landscaped, completely level field -- free of rocks, underbrush and assorted small animals. I hear it even has a fence in the outfield, over which hopefully the home team will hit a plethora of four baggers over many successful seasons.
Yes, my alma mater, St. Michael’s Preparatory High School in Silverado, California, just built itself a baseball field. And although it’s been almost 30 years since I played for the Pioneers, I must say I am proud as can be of the school for stepping up to the plate and installing a genuine baseball facility they can call their own.
When I played baseball at St. Michaels, all of our home games were played at public parks and other high schools’ fields. And we practiced on campus on a field that was, even by minimum standards, atrocious. It was on a hillside, with home plate at the bottom; so that ground balls slowed down as they rolled uphill and fly balls flew over your head as you chugged up an incline. The ground was hard packed dirt that hadn’t been tilled or weeded since the Paleolithic Era. There were small chasms everywhere, and a large crack in the earth that stretched from third base out into left field, which we affectionately named “Nobody’s Fault”. The foliage in both the infield and outfield (there was really no distinction between the two) consisted of thistles, tumbleweeds and poison oak. The backstop looked so old we speculated that it had been donated to the school by none other than Alexander Cartwright himself.
One time during a particularly error-filled practice, I made an errant throw from shortstop to first base, beaning a poor little squirrel in the process. He lived, but limped slightly from then on, which, of course, made me feel terrible. Another time we had to call off practice because someone hit a ground rule double into a hornet’s nest. Roadrunners, hawks, wolf spiders, gophers and lizards all got into the act at one time or another.
Even with all these issues about the field – from our frequent encounters with the local wildlife, all the way to the simple fact that we were playing in conditions similar to those on the Planet Mars – it never seemed to get in the way of us always having a really good time practicing on our makeshift baseball field at St. Michael’s Prep.
Some people might think that a high school getting a baseball field is no big deal. Well, then they don’t know St. Michael’s. St. Michael’s is an all-male Catholic boarding school with a student population of approximately 60-80 kids in grades 8-12. It is known for its academics, not for its sports programs, which, when I attended in 1975-1977, consisted of just basketball and baseball. Now the school has cross country, soccer and 8-man football as well. Since the school was so tiny, we played in the lowest of leagues, in the “small schools” division; (known as Division VII today) the absolute cellar of the CIF as far as athletic talent was concerned. Our league schedule consisted of a menagerie of borderline educational institutions.
First there was Desert Sun -- a progressive, ultra-liberal high school in the mountains above Palm Springs where rich parents took time out from saving manatees, skiing in Aspen and summering in Santa Barbara just long enough to deposit their problem kiddies there. Think of spoiled brats with American Express Cards and mouths that would make longshoremen blush. When we played them in baseball, they smoked cigarettes in the dugout and made out with their girlfriends as if that would impress us. (As a sophomore who had never even held a girl’s hand -- it sure did!)
Then, there was Nimitz Military Academy -- the decaying military school in Lake Elsinore, where the basketball court was in a hangar with rats and sewage problems, and where none of the cadets’ uniforms matched. We were told that the school had once held great prestige. From the look of the campus, I estimated that its legendary days probably came to an end right around the time of the Civil War. The corps of misfits at Nimitz saluted our departing bus after one game once with an assortment of gestures that I’m sure aren’t acceptable within any branch of the military. To say that these kids were trying to be all they could be was more of a threat than anything else.
Then to top it off, we also played special “schools” with names like Twin Pines and Los Pinos. These institutions can best be described as juvenile work camps. Prisons for kids, essentially, although most of these guys couldn’t be considered children by any stretch of the imagination. Traveling to play them at their facility was always an adventure. We’d have to drive for hours to the middle of nowhere, and when we finally reached our destination, we were escorted through this series of gates and fences to the basketball court or baseball field. The baseball field was hard clay, without a single blade of grass in sight, and there was a big sign in the dugout that said, “Do Not Leave the Dugout: Rattlesnake Danger.” The entire field was on a huge plateau, so any foul balls that were hit went down into a deep canyon -- souvenirs for the snakes and rodents and who knows what else. The outfield had towers along both foul lines, manned with “youth counselors”, prison guards basically, there just in case someone got a bright idea and tried to make a run for it.
In basketball, these youth camps would always have one great player who would dominate the entire league for the first half of the season. They would have four average white players and one 6 foot 9 black guy with a beard. We would try to defend against this man among boys, and we must have looked like a bunch of Chihuahuas yipping at the heels of a Great Dane in doing so. As the basketball season progressed, their phenom would behave himself just enough to get released, and without their big star the work camp team was just another group of semi-coordinated, ridiculously slow white boys with bad haircuts. Just like us, actually, but not as smart or well coached. The end result was that we would usually win the second half of the season and invariably capture the league title. Don’t knock it. Winning is winning no matter how you look at it, and to us at that time it was everything.
But, winning in the classroom was more important than anything you could accomplish on the court or diamond. Because at St. Michaels in the late 70’s, studying wasn’t just something…it was the ONLY thing. At most schools, the jocks are always more popular than the eggheads. Not at St. Michael’s. The guys we all looked up to in my class were the ones with 4.0 GPA’s and near-perfect SAT scores. We weren’t interested in things like batting averages and shooting percentages. We were more concerned about getting good grades and performing well in the Orange County Academic Decathlon, a scholastic statewide competition in which we consistently trounced schools 50 and 60 times our size.
Since we didn’t have much of a sports program, there was no room for big heads or jock attitudes at St. Michael’s. Plus, it was an all-boys school, so there weren’t any women to try and impress. The two nuns who cooked in the school’s kitchen were Hungarian, and could have cared less about sports, unless you were talking European Water Polo.
And if your performance in the classroom faltered, you found yourself off the team. Every week, we would lose a player or two due to bad grades. It could be really frustrating at times, because we were already short of good personnel, especially in baseball, where we had to field nine players. You’d go to a game, and half your infield wouldn’t be there. “Where’s our second baseman?” “He flunked his Geometry quiz.” “Our shortstop?’ “Latin Exam.” “Third base?” “English Paper.” “Oh.”
At the time I was mad, because I am so competitive and I didn’t want to lose any games. But, I realize now that St. Michael’s was the primary reason a lot of my fellow students ended up going to college and building great careers, instead of living at home and working at Arby’s or Jiffy Lube. I was also well aware of the fact that none of these guys I played for with the Pioneers had any future in baseball whatsoever, unless they became an agent or ended up making enough money to buy a team. So, if missing a few meaningless games back then in high school got my fellow ballplayers where they are today because they studied a little harder -- well, I figured that’s pretty cool.
St. Michael’s was a wonderful experience in many ways for me, but practicing on that sorry baseball field was surely not one of them. To be honest with you, I still have occasional nightmares about that poor little squirrel. And a few scars where wildly thrown baseballs hit dirt clods or rocks and nailed me in the shins and ankles. That’s why I’m so pleased that the school now has its very own baseball field.
I’m sorry I won’t be able to attend their alumni game this year, but my chiropractor won’t. 47 years is the time in life when old ballplayers step aside and let the youngsters play the game. And hopefully this is the year that baseball dreams start coming true for St. Michael’s Prep and its brand new “Field of Dreams.” Congratulations, Pioneers. And good luck!
(I am very proud to announce that the 2006 St. Michael’s varsity baseball team (pictured above) got into the quarterfinals of the Division VII CIF playoffs this year. St, Michael’s Prep is a great school, so if you’re Catholic and want to put your kid in an incredible learning environment, check out the school on their web site: www.stmichaelsprep.org.)
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
I recently saw Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man's Chest and to say it was mediocre is being nice. The first movie in this series did very well because it had 1.) Characters we cared about 2.) A story that moved along and made sense and 3.) Really incredible special effects. This sequel has the latter going for it and that's all. The special effects in this one are awesome. The story and the acting and everything else is just okay, nothing spectacular.
Davey Jones' crew (see sketches above) is a rag-tag bunch of the strangest and grossest creatures you've ever seen, and they're fun to watch. I wish I could say the same for this movie. How many Disneyland rides are they going to turn into feature films anyway?
If they come out with an "It's A Small World" movie, with all those little kids chattering away non-stop, singing that same lame song over and over -- I just know I'll kill myself.
I give it 1.25 (out of 5) stars.
Without the great special effects, I'd give it a .50.
I know that 2006 isn't even over yet and most of these albums aren't that new. I always seem to be one or two steps behind the times. I'm going on my annual houseboat trip to Lake Shasta and every year on the trip they have this tradition of asking you what your Top 5 albums are for that year.
So, here are my Top 5 albums for 2006:
1.) Hot Fuss (The Killers)
2.) Culahoma (The Black Keys)
3.) Youth & Young Mankind (Kings of Leon)
4.) Wolfmother (Wolfmother)
5.) Stadium Arcadium (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
On a foggy July night in 1956, the Italian luxury liner Andrea Doria was on its way toward New York on the last leg of a trans-Atlantic crossing when it collided with a passenger ship and sank, killing 51 people.
Half a century later, the Andrea Doria is still taking a toll as it rests on its side about 200 feet down in frigid waters south of Nantucket, Mass.
At least 14 people have died while exploring the wreck. The latest fatality came July 8, when researcher David Bright suffered decompression sickness after making his 120th dive to the Andrea Doria.
"It's called the Mount Everest of diving. It's such a dangerous depth, but it attracts a lot of interest," said Capt. Robert Meurn, professor emeritus at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island and, like his friend Bright, an expert on maritime history and the Andrea Doria in particular.
Why do people do really dangerous things? Aren’t there enough other shipwrecks out there to explore that aren’t quite as scary or difficult as the Andrea Doria that would still satisfy these adrenalin junkies? I used to think the people who perished attempting this treacherous dive were amateurs and rookies who wouldn’t know a regulator from a vibrator. But, this guy who died on July 8th was an experienced professional making his 120th trip! It just goes to show that anything can happen at any time and that means you have to be able to deal with the worst. What happened to David Bright is extremely unfortunate. But, hopefully this story will keep other people out of that wreck. It’s obviously really dangerous! Maybe people who were considering the dive will now settle for watching the whole thing on the National Geographic Channel instead of stupidly risking their lives.
Monday, July 24, 2006
After a respectable first half, the Los Angeles Dodgers are now officially the coldest team in baseball. (1-9 last 10 games) What a shame! Walter Alston must be rolling over in his grave!! I heard that Steve Garvey is so upset he stopped dating 20-year-olds. Tommy Lasorda is so shaken he hasn’t eaten in an hour. Swept by the Cardinals again this weekend, the team from Chavez Ravine has seemingly rolled over and is playing dead. The pitching staff has been decimated by injuries, they’re not getting the timely hits they were earlier and for the first time this season, pitchers are dominating them. But wait, fear not blue bleeders – there is possibly good news here. The collapse may actually be a blessing in disguise. Maybe now GM Ned Colletti won’t trade away a bunch of the team’s young talent to make a run at a playoff spot this season. The young kids – guys like Kemp, Billingsley, Martin, Ethier, Broxton, Loney and a bunch more – are going to be the nucleus of the Dodgers in the next decade, so why trade them for a player that may or may not get you to the playoffs? Why give up a couple of youngsters for a Soriano, Willis, Maddux or Smoltz if they’re just going to sign with another team after the season is over? I say the Dodgers stick with what they have and try to develop it. They will reap the rewards down the line and life will once again be happy in Dodgerland. But, right now – I have to tell you – my dog Kaido could play better. (See photo).
For some great Dodger stuff see: www.dodgerdugout.com.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
It’s Sunday and I miss the Sopranos. I can’t believe that we actually have to wait until January for the rest of the episodes. To be honest, I don’t know why I even like the show anymore considering how far it has fallen. Season one was just amazing. The show broke new ground and managed to stay clear of the stereotypical gangster films of the recent past. It was well-cast, the writing was fresh and it just worked.
Since then, the Sopranos has suffered a gradual death, in my opinion. David Chase, the show’s creator, has a style of writing where he doesn’t worry about wrapping up storylines or pursuing conflicts between characters. Take this last 2/3’s of a season (season six). First, Tony gets shot by Uncle Junior (played by Dominic Chianese) and goes into a coma. So, the next few episodes we have to sit through these silly “parallel universe” coma dream sequences. What is it with this guy and dream sequences? Every time he can’t come up with a way to finish a storyline, he concocts some dumb, meaningless dream sequence. To be honest, I think the show lost a lot of its appeal when Mama Soprano (the late Nancy Marchland) died. She was the glue and the soul of the show. Ever since she died the show has lost its momentum. I just hope David Chase pleases his many fans by wrapping up loose ends in January. A lot of questions need to be answered.
Will Christopher Molisanti (Michael Imperioli) kick heroin and become Tony’s heir to the throne? Will Tony’s kids, Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) and Tony Jr. (Robert Iler) get involved in the family business? Will Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent) continue to annoy Tony enough to get whacked? (Or will Tony get whacked for that matter?) Will they find Andrian’s (Drea De Matteo) body? When will the feds decide to indict Tony and his buddies? And what the hell are they waiting for? Surely they enough evidence by now! And from what we learned in season one, I know there’s old Sopranos $$ in that house. Will they find it? Will Tony finally get caught screwing everything that moves? Will Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore) come back from the dead?
It doesn’t seem like Chase will have enough time to answer all of these questions if this is indeed going to be the show’s last season. I have a feeling it won’t be – I’m betting this Chase guy will end up retiring more times than Sugar Ray Leonard. The Sopranos will be back for season seven – count on it. I just hope it gets better, because otherwise I'll have only Entourage (one of my other favorite shows) to watch on Sunday nights.
David Chase just wrote a book called “The Tao of Bada Bing”, which in a nutshell, explains the philosophy of mobsters, which basically says “That which confounds us gets whacked.”
Here is an interesting stat on the show: The season-by-season body count:
Season #1: 15 bodies
Season #2: 7 bodies
Season #3: 10 bodies
Season #4: 7 bodies
Season #5: 12 bodies
Season #6: 14 bodies (so far)
For a great fan site about the Sopranos, visit: www.the-sopranos.com.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
(Please Note: I wrote this article for the Western Art Directors of California (WADC) quite awhile back. But, it's funny because a lot of what I wrote here still rings true. For those who don't know me, I've worked 20-plus years as an advertising copywriter, and the last 15 years in a freelance capacity.)
They asked me to write an article about freelancing. Well, it used to be called freelancing, back in the 80’s. Now it’s called contracting. Which, in a way, shows how much things have changed.
Freelancing conjures up visuals of flip-flops and Vaurnets, back in the days when you needed a typesetter. Things were much more mellow back then. You could get away with playing the distant, quirky, creative type. It was okay if you dressed casual, and slept in your car the night before. I told my parents back home that I had hit it big in the mid-80’s and was living at the Fairmont. Actually, I was living in the back seat of a 1968 Fairmount. In the 80’s, you could be late for a brainstorming session and it was no big deal. If you couldn’t make it, you’d call and say you were somewhere you weren’t, and they couldn’t catch ya because they didn’t have Star #69 or Caller I.D. back then.
It was a time of super- soft deadlines, vague budgets, open purchase orders with “not to exceed” prices, working with totally laid-back clients who said “cool” a lot. All our ideas were brilliant. All of our designs fine art. Boy, were we full of it, or what?
Contracting is the accepted term of the 90’s , and it’s much more formal. It connotes people in suits, shaking hands a lot, videoconferencing, tons of memos and e-mails and painfully long downloads. Six people needing to approve a single data sheet design, one at each corner of the globe. Telecommuting from Starbucks with two cellulars, a laptop, a Newton, a beeper, and enough pepper spray to quell a San Quentin prison riot.
Contracting has a more ominous sound now, too. You are under contract, so you better meet the deadline and do a good job or you and your project, and possibly your fee, will be whacked, downsized or eliminated altogether. Heaven forbid your contact decides to take three months “mental health leave”. Yes, it’s more complicated being a freelancer now, there’s more competition, but it still beats the mourning commute and a boss that makes Rasputin look endearing.
Clues to Working With Artistic Types
Even though I am a copywriter and not a graphic designer, I think I have a few interesting things to share about designers that I’ve worked with, most of them contractors like myself. Most of the time, I’ve enjoyed the relationships that I’ve established with artists of all kinds. I wish I could say the same about those people on the client side. Some of them have been pure delights. Some have not, and have surely helped to age me well past my 40 years. I have enough gray in my hair to put Grecian Formula on the NASDAQ, most of it attributable to problem clients.
There are great clients or horrible clients. If you don’t get Mr. Rogers, you get Attila the Hun. There doesn’t seem to be any in between. And that’s if there’s only one client to deal with on a job, which nowadays is rare. With a two-headed client, it’s even worse. Dr. Jekyll likes your work, but why is Mr. Hyde vomiting? And heaven forbid it’s a team effort, in which case you get to deal with more personalities than Sybil.
Another thing I can’t stand is when clients adopt these stringent requirements when they are looking for a contractor to work on a particular project. “We’re looking for a designer who has experience doing annual reports for small porcelain thimble manufacturers in the Midwest. They must also know Framemaker, Pagemaker, Excel, C++, Cobol and SQL. It would also help if the person likes Viagra jokes and knows the words to “Muskrat Love”.”
These people will search and search for the right candidate, conducting interviews and viewing portfolios, making everybody jump around like circus chimps, hopping dutifully through these ridiculous hoops they’ve concocted. All the while knowing that they’ll eventually end up giving the job to somebody’s son who is taking art classes at De Anza and couldn’t operate an etch a sketch with both hands. One time a big-time creative director told me that he didn’t think I was qualified to do an ad for a homebuilder because I had never personally bought a new home. I told him I’d never been pregnant either, but that I did one helluva brochure for Planned Parenthood.
Rule #1: Let Artists Create
I learned something long ago about working with artists, and that is don’t tell them what to do. The less direction the better. Let them do their job. Why is it that everybody thinks he or she is a designer? I mean, when your plumber gets under your sink, do you get down there to advise, you and him, the sweat and Drain-O and acres of butt-crack? Of course not.
When Michaelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, did they say, “Don’t you think that cherub there should be smiling more?” Did they tell Warhol to junk the soup can and go with a milk carton? Mr. Van Gogh, we love the self-portrait. We’d just like you to add one ear, that’s all. You went to school, studied real hard to become a graphic designer, you’ve done a lot of incredible work and everyone really, really likes you. You’ve won all kinds of awards, you’ve earned respect in the industry and from your peers. So, why shouldn’t it bug you just a little when some receptionist who slept with the right CEO and is now the marcom manager tells you how to layout a brochure? We’ve all been there.
It Takes All Kinds
Many of the designers I have worked with seem to find a niche and stick with it. You see their work, do projects with them, and after awhile, you realize all of their stuff looks a lot alike.
I have been able to categorize several types over the years. First, you have the hypoglemics. They just have to bleed everything off the page. If it’s still breathing, let it bleed. They can’t work with borders, oh no. Bleed it! Bleed it onto the next page! Bleed it onto the floor! The walls. If there isn’t something like a graphic tourniquet for these poor souls, there should be! On the other end of that spectrum are what I call the “White Space Cadets”. Rather than lots of solid color running off in all directions, they promote the stark, the understated, with lots of free, loose, empty, white space. Less is more, these artists feel. Until they realize that people aren’t going to fork over the big bucks for the cover of the White Album anymore. It’s been done. Throw some type in there, or something. And put some clothes on.
Other types of artists I’ve encountered over time include font junkies and what I call crockpotters, those artists that want to use every little trick they’ve learned on every single project they do. Hey, even Houdini saved a couple for the next show.
I shouldn’t talk, really. I myself have an arsenal of copywriting tricks I implement, sometimes way too much. I guess we’re all guilty of it, but if it works, why not?
Well, those are some of my thoughts. I have more, but I know you realize that.
Freelancing. Contracting. What term they will use in the new millenium is anybody’s guess. It’s not a bad gig, though. It has allowed me to exercise a lot of free time. It has allowed me the luxury of writing this article. For all the downside I still love it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to meet with Attila for lunch. Right after I finish Mr. Rogers’ brochure.
(If you're a graphic designer, advertising copywriter, photographer or just want to network with a bunch of creative types, you might want to consider joining WADC. It is a great organization and they probably have a chapter near you. Their web site is: www.wadc.org. Also, if someone needs ad copywriting services and is looking for someone who is fast, creative and very affordable, my web site is: www.smartercopy.com.)
Friday, July 21, 2006
As you can see, I've been posting a lot, almost 3 times a day, and I know I can't keep it up forever. I think some of my readers are suffering from what's called "Content Overload". So, today is Friday and I'm going to just chill. Maybe I'll go on a long walk down to the Palace of Fine Arts. Maybe I'll go swimming at Aquatic Park. Maybe I'll go to the DeYoung Museum or to the Zoo. Or maybe I'll do absolutely nothing!
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Ratdog got into the large dog food bag in the kitchen and pulled a major Babe Ruth with the Science Diet. He gorged himself at lightning speed, promptly overdosed on the stuff and eventually projectile vomited all over my office floor. Prior to that he looked like a snake who had just swallowed a baby deer or a large bird. He had a belly like Idi Amin after eating a few folks. Right now, he's on his pillow directly behind me giving me the evil eye. Like somehow it was my fault. I'm sure he'll use this as an excuse not to come to work tomorrow.
In public school, where I was always certain the administration would have more easily grasped my unique style of satire if given the chance, physically assaulting disruptive students as a way to keep them in line was discouraged and, in fact, illegal. The Catholics, however, had no problem with it.
My parents realized early on that public school was not going to be the solution to my varied range of behavioral problems. I needed the discipline of the Catholic school system. In public school, hooliganism was rampant – in parochial school, it was just as bad, but Catholic kids over the years had learned to hide it better.
It wasn’t like my parents were Catholic. My folks sent me to Catholic schools for the discipline and nothing else. These nuns and priests who had essentially made my life a living hell for a good portion of my life didn’t know it, but they had been hired for their disciplinary muscle, and that’s all. Bodyguards in habits and collars, basically.
Conversely, every adult in authority at St. Basil’s the Venerable -- where I matriculated during my elementary and middle school years -- all the way from the bearded cafeteria lady to the blind crossing guard, to the grizzled old alcoholic janitor who was later fired for drinking all the holy wine, had free rein to smack me when provoked. They were not only permitted to do so, but encouraged, and, in fact, this aspect of the school was one of the primary reasons my parents had sent me there in the first place.
It was a reign of terror and violence that would shadow me throughout my schooling. It was a basic lesson -- open your mouth, get whacked upside the head. It was a simple process of association, a sick experiment not unlike the horrible things Pavlov did to his poor dogs. At least the pooches got fed every now and then. All I got was pummeled. I was hearing bells, all right, but I wasn’t salivating. The ringing in my ears was from the quick lefts and roundhouse rights I was on the business-side of almost hourly at St. Basil’s.
It’s amusing in a way to think that of all the things that happened to me in Catholic school, both good and bad, the only times I can clearly remember are the numerous instances where I got whacked around for some silly prank I pulled or some smart-ass remark I made. Like a punchy old boxer long retired from the ring, the countless beatings I took; those fleeting instances of extreme discomfort and humiliation; appear in my mind just like they happened only yesterday. They play themselves out in slow motion sometimes, blow-by-blow, blood and pieces of flesh flying everywhere, just like those great fight scenes in “Raging Bull".
Initially, during the pre-confirmation years, the nuns were the ones who took on the arduous chore of administering to me the discipline I was evidently so much in need of. Over time, their forms of torture evolved as they became more sophisticated and increasingly frustrated by my antics.
The first form of this was the old wooden ruler over the knuckles routine. This hurt considerably, and could have been a marvelous deterrent if it wasn’t so logistically impractical. For example, you couldn’t perform it on an unwilling victim without dragging them kicking and screaming. And then good luck trying to subdue someone long enough to crack ‘em a good one. Anyone who was dumb enough to stand there while they got whacked with a piece of wood with a metal rod in the middle, like the newer rulers had, was deserving of such a punishment anyway.
The simple truth was that this once reliable behavior modifier may have worked in the past when kids were more in awe of authority, but in the seventies, it was passé. Like trying to get the country to switch over to the metric system, it was a noble gesture, they gave it a solid effort, but in the end, it was unsuccessful. The priests and nuns eventually abandoned the ruler method of punishment, and began to look elsewhere in pursuit of the perfect deterrent for smart asses like myself.
The second method of retribution I encountered was the flying blackboard eraser, familiar to anyone who has ever gone to Catholic school. About the size of a small brick, I soon learned that this missile made of cloth and wood, when thrown by a seasoned professional, flew across the classroom with amazing speed and accuracy. And, upon reaching its destination -- which, in most instances, consisted of my large, crew cut head, and enormous, fan-like Alfred E. Neuman ear lobes, -- consistently inflicted extreme pain.
Eventually, I was made aware of the fact that the blackboard eraser was the sisterhood’s primary weapon of choice at St. Basil’s. Each and every nun threw it well, like it was something they taught in the convent, right along with the classes in chastity and the scriptures.
There wasn’t a slouch in the bunch--all of them, from Sister Astor to Sister Gertrude (though she was a little older and nursed a bad case of bursitis), could throw the thing fast and true.
To this day, I still hold one particular nun, Sister Sandy Koufax, in total awe. Her real name was Sister Sandy, but the Koufax was added many years before I came to St. Basil’s. And it was certainly well-deserved.
Sister Sandy had all the qualities of a truly great eraser thrower, natural abilities you can’t teach, like dead-on aim and the kind of velocity they can only gauge with a speed gun. But, the most amazing thing about Sister Sandy was her incredible stamina. She finished better than the great Cy Young, never wavering or showing a hint of fatigue.
Heat, cold, rain, wind, sleet, hail, old reliable Sister Sandy was rock solid and undeterred day after day, from the moment morning bell sounded, all the way through after-school sports. She seemed to get stronger rather than tire after lunch. I always felt that she relished the competition I provided, and I was prepared to test her at every turn.
Sometimes, if they got lucky, students could take control of a classroom late in the afternoon when it was hot and humid and they sensed that a young, rookie nun’s arm was tiring and concentration waning. A couple of limp, errant throws of the eraser told you that this particular nun could be had – that she was vulnerable and you could get away with any misbehavior you fancied. Like an injured gazelle being subdued by a pack of hungry lions, the prey was yours.
On occasion, as an extreme measure, Sister Superior would call for a reliever, like a novice priest or a nun-in-training, to stop the barrage of unruliness that always took place when some poor nun couldn’t throw strikes anymore.
But, even a steady stopper knew that by then it was too late. The convicts were in charge now. The suddenly harmless erasers sat helplessly on the ledge below the chalkboard, untested and about as intimidating as Bambi.
Chaos reigned supreme during those rare sweet moments of childish revolt, the air filled was with freedom and a sea of spit balls, sticking to anything and everything, including the crucifix above the door and the traditional picture of the Last Supper, making it appear for a moment as though Christ and the twelve disciples were dining on wet clumps of notebook paper instead of bread and wine.
Mischievous little boys snapping the girls’ bra straps amid shrieks of horror, giving each other melvins in a huge, out-of-control snuggy frenzy, finally turning on the fat, sweaty, kid with the glasses, just like poor “Piggy” in “Lord of The Flies”.
That never happened in Sister Sandy’s class, though. Not with Koufax. She was a closer, a workhouse, and because we knew she’d be sharp every day, she was always unquestionably in charge.
Just when you thought you’d gotten over on her, she’d fool you. Sister Sandy had a curve just like Koufax, a sneaky pitch that looked like it was going to hit someone two rows of desks over, when suddenly, it veered viciously in your direction , and “whap”, you got it!
Her accuracy was uncanny -- she reminded me a lot of Jim “Catfish” Hunter that way. Her strike zone went from the base of the neck to the top of the cranium. But, her favorite target was right in the middle of the forehead, which left a white chalky circle that looked kind of like the ash spot they gave you in the same location every Ash Wednesday.
It was her signature move, and when it was done just right, she got you precisely between the eyes. You’d leave the mark there on your skull as long as you could, even though it would disgrace you with the good kids, like the big “A” they used to give to adulterers in the early days of the American colonies.
But, the goof offs and cut-ups thought it was neat -- like a tattoo that said, “Bad to the Bone” or something. But, you wouldn’t wipe it off as a show of respect to Sandy, as if to say begrudgingly, “I got nailed by the very best.” Because when Sister Sandy hit you with a blackboard eraser, it was like striking out against Bob Feller -- there was absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
Sister Sandy had little things she’d do when she’d throw too. She’d hide Vaseline under her nun’s hat and sneak some onto the eraser, causing it to dip and hop just like Gaylord Perry’s legendary spitball. She’d stare you down with that petrifying scowl, like Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale used to do in the sixties.
You see, Sister Sandy was an avid baseball fan and borrowed many the idiosyncrasies of all her favorite pitchers. She fidgeted and stalked around the podium at the front of the classroom and talked to herself, the same way Mark “The Bird” Fidrych used to act out on the mound.
During her windup, she turned her back to the class and briefly faced the blackboard, her bare, unshaven, vericous vein-riddled leg emerging from under her habit and hanging suspended in mid-air for a split-second. Then, suddenly she’d spin around and throw heat, just like Luis Tiant.
Sometimes, late in the afternoon when the shadows grew long on the walls and floor of the classroom, it was virtually impossible to pick up the flight of a pitched eraser, especially as it emerged at mach one from a background of black and white robes and flailing rosary. That’s when you kept your mouth shut and paid attention in Sister Sandy’s class, knowing full well that that was when she was at her most dangerous.
Sister Sandy took the best moves from all her baseball heroes -- she had Marichal’s high kick, Valenzuela’s eyes-to-the-sky, and even incorporated some of Satchel Paige’s tongue-in-cheek word of advice. And with Clemens’s fastball, Wilhelm’s knuckler, Spahn’s scroogie -- she even had a split-finger pitch -- Sister Sandy was a worthy opponent, a relentless competitor and a pleasure to watch.
She was so good at firing erasers, that most of the time you overlooked how very hard Sister Sandy was on the eyes. She was blessed with a great arm, and was a more than adequate history teacher, but she looked like Ernest Borgnine in a dress, and I’m being kind. It didn’t matter. To me, she was something really special, and I honestly believe that if she had been born a man, she would have made it all the way to the show, most likely as a middle reliever.
As you progressed at St. Basil’s, you got used to being bombarded by blackboard erasers, and it lost its effectiveness after awhile. A puff of chalk dust, some nervous laughter from your classmates, a moment of mild embarrassment, and it was over.
The nuns would quickly have to devise a more potent form of punishment if they ever hoped to break me. For about two weeks, I was actually convinced I had them on the ropes, but they were simply re-grouping quietly, behind the chapel, methodically re-assembling their troops secretly in the rectory while bringing in a couple of specialists from the Vatican.
Those crafty penguins were not fazed one bit, and had only just begun the process of breaking and muzzling me. Sister Sandy would soon seem as formidable and tough as a wrinkled, shrinking Mother Teresa, when compared to the ball breakers I’d be butting heads with at St. Basil’s in the days to come.
Eventually I found out there were many much more drastic forms of control within these nuns’ repertoires of discipline and pain, and naturally I was destined to be on the receiving end of all of them more than once.
I look back now and I realize I never even had a chance. After all, these holy warriors battled daily with the Ultimate Evil, The Big Bad One, Beelzebub, Satan Himself. Do you really think they felt even mildly threatened by a sixth grader whose entire arsenal consisted of the fake-fart-under-the-armpit gag, a few dirty limericks, an old routine of bad knock-knock jokes, and whose best comeback line was “I know you are but what am I?”
I was seriously outnumbered and overmatched, on the verge of a Holy War I could never win. I had a few more tricks up my sleeve, sure, but hey -- they had God on their side. Did I really think I had a chance?
Well, I made it out of St. Basil’s alive and the damage those erasers ultimately did to me is debatable. I heard many years later that Sister Sandy died in 1999, after living a good long life. I’m told she could still throw those erasers better than any nun who ever lived right up until the day she died, and you know what – I believe it.
A couple friends of mine are big Lauryn Hill fans. Personally, I'm not one of them. I mean, I can listen to it, but I would never buy one of her albums or go to one of her shows. I am very eclectic when it comes to my musical tastes -- I like rock, jazz, classical, some rap and even conch bands -- but Lauryn never made my list, for some reason. So, I'm not totally bummed out to hear that Hill is in the process of having a Mariah Carey/David Chapelle/Rush Limbaugh-type meltdown.
From what I'm reading (in both blogs and reviews of her most recent concerts here in the bay area) the woman is losing it. For instance, one night during this current tour, when Lauryn was preparing to waltz through the backstage area, everyone present was told they had to immediately vacate the premises. Those people who had to be backstage and couldn't leave (security, etc.) were told not to look at Lauryn and they had to line up facing the wall to avoid eye contact with this spoiled little diva. Like criminals being searched by the police, these professionals had to face a wall while this woman walked by. Who does she think she is, The Virgin Mary? Christ Herself? Mother Teresa? Those people (or entities) deserve that kind of respect. Hill does not. But, wait, there's more. During one of her recent shows in the bay area, the concert was scheduled to start at 8 pm and there was no opening band. Guess what time little Miz Lauryn decided to take the stage? Midnight! Then, she sounded terrible and all the reviews I read about the concert said that it was really awful. At one point, she even made her band stop a song and start over. After about 45 minutes of bad music, people almost crushed each other stampeding out of the place. I NEVER wish anything bad on anyone, absolutely not. But, let's put it this way -- I'm not shedding any tears when celebrities I could care less about meltdown. I always love to hear about Tom Cruise's sofa hopping, Anne Heche knocking on someone's door in Fresno and telling them she's being pursued by aliens, or Lindsay Lohan sticking her fingers down her throat. It's fun to talk about and there's so little fun stuff to talk about anymore.
1.) Batman really doesn’t have any super powers and isn’t invincible. He’s a real person like you and me. Bullets don't bounce off his chest and he cannot fly. I mean, Superman can just about do anything, unless of course you have some kryptonite, which is about as easy to get as Paris Hilton’s phone number. (bad example)
2.) Batman has an intriguing dark side. “The Dark Knight” comics of recent years have brought out this side of Batman a little more. Having a mysterious, unknown personality makes him more interesting. Superman is about as interesting as a Dr. Phil marathon on TV.
3.) Batman fights the best villains. Superman has Lex Luthor. (lame), Spiderman has the Gremlin (isn’t that a car?) while Batman has a long list of legendary bad people to battle, like the Joker, the Penguin, the Cat woman, the Riddler, Mr. Freeze, the Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, the Scarecrow and King Tut. Can anyone even tell me one of Wonder Woman’s or The Flash’s nemeses? I can’t!
4.) Batman is also a detective. Batman uses his brains more than any other super hero. He takes advantage of the latest technology and his top-notch sleuthing techniques to catch the bad guys, unlike Superman, who relies primarily on his brawn.
5.) Batman has the coolest outfit. Superman looks like he’s wearing Underoos. Wonder Woman looks like a 1970’s disco reject and the Green Lantern looks like a pirate from the Castro. Throw in his incredible utility belt; containing everything from a bat boomerang to white-out, and Batman wins the costume contest hands down.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Ten DC Comics super heroes will be saluted on “DC Comics Super Heroes” stamps next summer. Half of the pane of 20 will be portraits of the characters; the other half will show individual comic book covers devoted to their exploits. The characters include Aquaman, Batman, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Plastic Man, Supergirl, Superman and Wonder Woman.
I've always been partial to Batman myself. And I've always been a big fan of the late Will Eisner and his incredible comic book series, "The Spirit". Eisner died a while back. The man was a great writer, cartoonist and teacher and is considered by many to be the originator of the graphic novel. I got to meet Eisner and Jerry Robinson (who drew a lot of the first Batman comic books and is recognized as the creator of the greatest comic book villain of all time, "The Joker") in 1978. To hang out with these legends and talk comics was a big thrill!
Whatever happened to the old comic books? Today's books are all either bloody as hell (like "Sin City" which I think is way too violent and poorly written -- although I have to admit it's well drawn. I should also add here that the recent film was one of the most unwatchable pieces of garbage ever produced by human beings) or sci-fi. Whatever happened to real characters with real problems? Whatever happened to super heroes like the ones on the stamps, who had character and smarts and didn't slaughter everyone they saw? I want them back!
For a web site about Will Eisner, visit www.willeisner.com. For information about the "old school" Batman, the Caped Crusader's comics from the 40's, 50's and early 60's, see: www.goldenagebatman.com.
In those years, living in Connecticut, we were obviously Yankee fans. No one I knew rooted for the Mets, except one strange little girl in my fourth grade home room. Being a Mets fan was like being a Jets fan. It just wasn't done.
But, much to everyone's surprise, the Mets won it all in 1969. We moved to the Los Angeles area that summer, and watched the Amazin's from NYC shock the Baltimore Orioles on our new color TV with a 16 inch screen, which at that time was considered enormous. The five-game dismantling of the mighty birds of the American League was fun to watch, although I still don't believe it happened. Baltimore took game one easily, beating Tom Seaver, the Mets' ace. Jerry Koosman shut down the big Baltimore bats in game two, and I thought to myself, well, it least it won't be a sweep. I never imagined that the rag-tag crew from Shea would win the next three games. Met pitchers Gary Gentry and a very young baby-faced Nolan Ryan combined for a 5-0 shutout in game three, Seaver pitched a complete game in contest number four, and Koosman went all the way in five, winning 5-3, after trailing 3-0 early in the game. Previously unknown guys with names like Swoboda, Agee, Al Weis, and Don Clendenon beat the dominators of the American League, handcuffing the greatest hitters of the time, household names and Hall-of-Famers like Frank Robinson, Boog Powell and Paul Blair. Brooks Robinson made the plays at third, the staff of Palmer, Cuellar and McNally pitched spectacularly all season, but the end result was that the Orioles lost to the better team during 1.5 weeks in October, 1969.
It was a classic example of the simple fact that the most talent doesn't always prevail. The Orioles tried too hard, pressed too much and gave the Mets a chance to walk through the door. When it was all over, I learned a valuable lesson. There is no such thing as a sure thing. The Jets with Broadway Joe would prove that again to me just three short months later, when they embarrassed another sports powerhouse of the period, the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl. I don't know if it was a full moon, or if mercury was in retrograde, but those have to be two of the biggest upsets in professional sports, both played by two teams from the same city, with Baltimore playing the heavy favorite in each, only to screw the pooch. Another fun fact is that the NY pro basketball Nets won the ABA that same year.
By late 1970, we were comfortable in our new West Coast lifestyles. We were now Los Angeles Dodger fans. But, like with the Yankees in 1968 and 1969, the Dodgers were still far away from getting anywhere near the Fall Classic. The transplanted Bums had performed well after moving from Ebetts Field to Chavez Ravine, winning the whole thing in 1959, 1963, and 1965, but hadn't done much since.
Baseball was fun for me to watch, even if I couldn't hit. Some of the kids I played with and against went on to become stars at the high school and college levels, but none of them made it to the big show. It's one of the toughest things an athlete can ever achieve. People don't realize how extremely difficult it really is to play in even one game at the MLB level.
Life in L.A. was good for a rambunctious 12-year old. But, things were about to change. A person who would radically change the way I thought about a lot of things was about to enter my life. She was a nun. A tough nun. And her name was Sister Sandy Koufax.
Little did I know that the you-know-what was poised to hit the fan.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I want a monkey bad. I've never had one, but I bet they're a blast. Monkeys are like dogs, only smarter. I don't think you can legally have them in California, although it doesn't say anything about no monkeys in our lease. With 3 dogs already, I don't think Angelina would go for it! My friend had a chimp way back when, but I wouldn't want a chimp. All they do is play with themselves and fling poo. No, I want a spider monkey or something smaller and less obnoxious. Why did I post this useless information? Was it because I wanted to get the fact that I desire a monkey as a pet off my chest? Or was it because I found this cute picture of a monkey and I wanted to put it on my blog? I'll never tell!
Well, I've been doing this blog for 2 weeks now, and the reviews are coming in. And, as a whole, they are less than positive. Here they are:
"Why on earth would anyone want to read it? It seems really vain to me to have a blog about your life. Who cares?"
-My supportive MOM
"Reading someone's blog is like reading their bad poetry. Tedious and boring."
-My even more supportive BROTHER
"What's the matter? Did you quit drinking?"
-A supportive FRIEND
"Just keep my name and my picture off it, and we won't have any problems."
-My supportive FIANCEE
You know, what, screw you all! I love my blog and I'm not doing it for anyone but me. I have tried to make it more than just a diary, with articles and jokes and stories, but the critics are hovering in the blog shadows, hatin' and dissin'. I'll get famous from this blog you'll see. I'll get a movie deal or a book deal or I'll trade a big red paper clip for a house, and then you'll all be sorry!!
If nothing else, blogging occupies my free time, helping to keep me out of the Bus Stop (a great bar on Union Street, precisely 2 blocks or 188 steps from my house -- I highly recommend it, but you have to go in there on weekdays. That's when the bartender is Paulie, an incredible guy! ); away from the racetrack (Bay Meadows or Golden Gate Fields, wherever they're running at the time); and clear of any other trouble I might decide to get myself into while idle.
If you happen to like my blog, I am really down right now and need your support more than ever. E-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you honestly think of this blog.
Monday, July 17, 2006
These players were power hitters that knocked in runs in large clusters. They were tough, hard-nosed competitiors, not little singles-hitters. I would be interested to know how many bunts these guys laid down in their careers. I would think very few.
Hank Greenberg, a two-time American League MVP for the Tigers who hit 58 home runs in 1938. He hit 331 homers over his 13-year career as a first baseman and outfielder, despite missing several years while in the military during World War II.
Mickey Mantle, the Yankees' switch-hitter who hit 536 home runs over nearly two decades as one of the game's biggest stars. He was AL MVP three times.
Roy Campanella, the Brooklyn Dodger who hit 242 home runs during his 10-year career, cut short by a car accident. A catcher in five World Series, he was named National League MVP three times.
Mel Ott, remembered for a powerful high-leg-kick batting stance. Ott, an outfielder, distinguished himself with the New York Giants for 22 seasons and was the first NL player to hit 500 home runs. Ott finished with 511 homers, then became a Tigers broadcaster in 1956-58.
Speaking of great baseball sluggers, the Louisville Slugger Bat Company has a great web site with all kinds of information about the most famous bats in the world. It's www.sluggermuseum.com. I've also heard that if you're ever in Kentucky (heaven help you!), they have a great tour at the Louisville Slugger Factory & Museum.
The NY Mets are for real. Last night against the Cubs they scored 11 runs in one inning. Cliff Floyd and Carlos Beltran hit grand slams and David Wright added a 2-run blast all in the same inning! This team is hot! Forget about the Tigers, the Mets are THE team to beat in major league baseball right now. They need a little more pitching (Which I am sure they will trade for in the next couple weeks. I read somewhere that NYM GM Omar Minaya is interested in Oakland's Barry Zito, San Francisco's Jason Schmidt, Florida's Dontrelle Willis, Washington's Livan Hernandez and Chicago's Greg Maddux.), but other than that, they are solid, solid, solid! I really don't see anyone beating them in the NL playoffs right now. The Cardinals are shaky, no one has stepped up in the NL West, and the Braves, for once, are out of contention. So, the Shea Hey Kids are back and ready to roll. All I can say is: Watch out for dem Amazin' Mets!
If you're a true Mets fan, you already know about these popular blogs. If you're just now hopping on the Mets' bandwagon (shame on you for being a frontrunner!) some very cool Mets' blogs are: www.amazinavenue.com and www.metsblog.com. The ghost of Marv Thronberry is rejoicing!
Sunday, July 16, 2006
I realize 2006 isn't even close to being over. But, I know that when I think about this year in the future, there will be 2 things I will remember -- my enra-, I mean engagement, and the fact that I found a long lost friend this year. He said I could use his real name, so I will. His name is Kelly and he was probably the most important and dear friend I've ever had. We grew up together in the 70's, he lived in La Crescenta and I lived in La Canada, and together we did all the crazed things teenagers do, and a little more. Our specialties included throwing eggs at everything that moved, some minor vandalism, doing prank phone calls (See my story, "The Call" on this blog), singing filthy song parodies and drinking any type of alcohol we could get our hands on. We never got arrested, which is a testament to the times more than anything else. I moved to San Jose in 1977 to go to college and Kelly stayed in La Crescenta to coach baseball and work as a service manager for car dealerships, but we stayed close and saw each other whenever I went down to LA for holidays or Dodger games. The bottom line was that Kelly stopped calling because he quit partying in '94 and felt like our relationship in many ways had always revolved around doing copious amounts of drugs and alcohol (which was true). So, he stopped calling me and drifted away. I guess he didn't feel like I would understand or be able to hang out with the new sober Kelly, and at that period in my life he was probably correct. So, the years rolled by, and every so often I'd try to find Kelly without success. I would call around to other people with the same last name living in the same vicinity, but I could never find him. It was frustrating, because I knew he had my parent's phone number and that he could call them at any time if he wanted to get ahold of me. Finally, earlier this year I had had enough. I began to imagine that Kelly was dead. I hated the idea that I would possibly never see him again. I was now ready to do whatever it took to re-find my friend. So, I hired an investigative service through a web site called www.peoplefinders.com. Another good site I used as part of my search for Kelly is called www.batchmates.com. They referred me to a local detective who helped me track down Kelly. When I realized I had his phone number, I almost lost it because finally I had found my buddy! When we talked on the phone for the first time in 12 years, I was so happy! I got in my car that weekend and drove all the way down to LA just to see him. He's been married three times, and life has been a little rough on him as it has for all of us, but he's still the great guy I knew and I'm sure I will enjoy the process of getting to know him all over again.
After this whole experience, I thought wouldn't it be great to produce a reality show where they help people like me re-find old friends? Then I found out Oprah is already doing it. It figures!
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Man, I love Koi. They are the coolest fish. They're essentially really big goldfish. They live in backyard ponds all around the bay area, and it's a huge business. Whenever I think of Koi, I can't help but remember this poor guy I knew whose life was ruined by Koi. For purposes of privacy, let's call him Scooter. Well, I met Scooter when he was working as a bartender at the Cheesecake Factory near my house. He was an amiable sort, if not a bit cocky, but he made great drinks and good conversation, so we quickly became casual friends. Anyway, this guy was a college student who went to the University of Santa Cruz (home of the banana slugs), and at the time MTV was doing a reality show about his fraternity. Well, one night when they were all hammered, they went out to a Koi pond on the Santa Cruz campus, caught a 12-lb, Koi, cooked it and ate it. The MTV crew got it all on tape and when they showed it on TV, people were understandably really upset. Scooter was arrested and sent to jail for Koi homicide. He and one of his frat brothers were looking at some hard time in a fishbowl known as the Santa Cruz County Jail. What must have been going through these poors saps' minds as they sat with the vomiting drunks and stinky homeless types, knowing the entire time that they were there because of a fish? The national media took the story and ran with it, and pretty soon Scooter had a lot of the kind of attention he could have done without. The local rag newspaper in town wrote a long piece about the incident, and actually disclosed the location where Scooter worked in the article, which I thought was extremely uncool. Sure, the kid screwed up, but c'mon -- he deals with the public in his job because he's a bartender, so why don't we tell the whole world where he works so that Koi lovers can go down there and harass him? (Which they did, by the way.) One of the funniest things happened one day when Scooter was working, and one of the television sets at the bar was on CNN. All of a sudden, the tracker thing that scrolls along at the bottom of the screen read, "Frat boy kills Koi in Northern California". Everyone gave Scooter a hard time after that. We'd ask him things like if the fish special was fresh. Angelina even asked him if people were giving him carp about the whole incident! Instead of Scooter, his name was now Koi Boy. Well, the case eventually went to court, which meant a whole new barrage of media attention for poor Scooter. The judge wasn't pleased over the fact that Scoots wasn't showing any remorse. Scooter had already expressed in the media that he thought the whole incident had been blown way out of proportion. He tried to compare it to hitting a squirrel with your car or the old school frat boy swallowing a goldfish routine -- he made it clear that he felt it was much ado about nothing. Consequently, Scooty got the shaft while his frat bro walked away fairly unscathed. The judge didn't see it Scooter's way, so he got a ton of community service and had to pay a hefty fine. The funniest part of the story -- the community work that the judge assigned him involved stoop labor down at the Japanese Tea Gardens in San Jose's Kelly Park -- cleaning carp's crap out of an enormous Koi pond. Hopefully, Koi all over the world are laughing at the Scootsman. It must be like a story Koi tell other Koi and laugh about at Koi bars.
If you're interested in Koi and/or Koi ponds, visit these web sites:
www.koi.com, which has a cool Koi encyclopedia and talking dictionary about Koi; and www.koiusa.com -- a very in-the-know Koi web site by the people who publish Koi USA magazine. If you want to buy some Koi for yourself or talk to someone about Koi ponds, Bob Akins is an expert. He's one of the owners of Superior Koi, located at Concord Feed & Fuel in Concord. Their phone number is: (925) 940-1200. Give them a call. A Koi pond will relax you and make you live longer, and that's a fact!
Here is a story you like to see. Make-A-Wish is an incredible group, and from what I've heard this kid Mark is a really amazing kid. When people get together and do these kinds of things for other people, it really makes you proud to be a member of the human race.
MAACO Collision Repair & Auto Painting in San Jose, in conjunction with the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation, assembled a group of local businesses to help refurbish a hand-me-down 1997 Ford F250 truck for Mark, (last name withheld for reasons of privacy) a 15-year old high school student from Los Gatos who is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The truck was presented to Mark and his family on June 22 at the MAACO Collision & Auto Painting facility on 80 Pullman Way in San Jose. MAACO Manager Tony Amarante and representatives from the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation were on hand.
After Mark received his grandfather’s white long-bed work truck as a gift, he decided his wish would be to have the vehicle completely refurbished to reflect his style as a teenage boy.
MAACO donated 75 percent of all the labor and materials involved in the project, and also got local vendors to get involved. After Market Plus replaced the truck’s wheels, rims, and tires; Auto Sound put in a brand new stereo; Custom Auto Upholstery installed new leather seats, and Midas Muffler installed Flowmaster mufflers and pipes.
Photo: 15-year-old Mark of Los Gatos and his 1997 Ford F250 truck completely refurbished by MAACO Collision Repair & Auto Painting of San Jose and presented to Mark by the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Make-A-Wish is an awesome group and a solid charity. I would recommend that if you happen to have a bunch of $$ laying around that you should give them a hefty portion. Visit their web site at www.makeawish.com.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Like I said in my profile description, I am just a large (280-lbs. 6'1") child. What makes me different is that I know it and I'm not afraid to admit it. There are a lot of guys in my same age-range (we're Sputnik babies!), and many of them try to act all serious and business-like all the time. I find them BOR-ING! I believe that there's a time to be serious and a time to let go and have fun, and the sooner these drab downers realize that the happier they will be. How can someone take this life seriously? I mean, if you were from another planet and you read about this country and how most of us live in this world today, you would think it was BAD FICTION! In 100 years (more like 20 for me) we'll ALL BE DEAD (pretty much.) So, why be so glum, so focused, so driven? For what? So you can have a nice house, car, boat, lots of $$ -- all of which you can't take with you after you're gone. My attitude has always been have a little fun. Do what I do -- walk your dog for a couple hours and let him pee on anything he wants to. Go to a museum or a zoo or a movie in the middle of the week for no reason. Skip out from work and go to the beach or the park and have a picnic. Drive up to the mountains (if you have any nearby) and hike some trails. I love things like slip and slides, yo-yo's, silly putty, superballs, nerf footballs, silly string, whoopie cushions, those huge squirt guns and hula hoops. I love to play games like Marco Polo, hide and seek, kick the can, red rover, monkey in the middle, slide football (which I invented, by the way -- more on that in an upcoming post) capture the flag, steal the bacon, tag and hide the kelbasa. Take the time to do something meaningless, frivolous and care-free; without your boss or teacher or supervisor around to spoil your fun. Happy people live longer and are healthier overall. Getting all stressed out about things is so meaningless. It reminds me of when I see hamsters running on those treadmills in their cages. Like little ants in a colony, we get in our cars and go to our jobs everyday, and before we know it, we're old and creeky and ready to die. So, seize the moment, my friends. Go fly a kite today, a really big one -- like the ones in these pictures. I saw these recently at MLK park in Berkeley. Kite clubs from all over the bay area go out there every weekend and fly these babies. Now these are kites.
If you're looking for a cool kite, visit either of these fun kite web sites: www.worldwidekites.com or www.funwithwind.com.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
The 3 finalists for the ugliest dog contest were announced yesterday. There were 11 nominees (all of them pictured above) but only the three most truly repulsive mutts made the final cut! And heeeeeeeeeeeere they are! The one in the top row, far left, is Ouch. He is a really hideous runt with a degree in interior design from Canine U. His interests are long baths, sunbathing and humping buckets. His turnoffs are dogs that scoot on carpets or bark at the wind. The one in the center of the middle row -- the one that has the bouffant hairdo going on -- is Damn!. Her owner says that people will see the pooch sometimes in public and blow chunks. Damn! has a laid-back attitude and likes chasing shadows, scaring cats and making folks vomit. Her turnoffs are crosssing guards and the big sweaty blind neighbor lady who always wants to pick her up. Our third contestant is pictured in the third row, far right, and his name is What Happened?. What Happened? is a rescue dog that works with the Coast Guard chasing drug traffickers throughout the SF bay. He loves to eat fish heads, sniff coke and scratch his hey-nanny-nanny. His turnoffs include velcroix, miracle whip and Steven Segal movies. Pick your favorite and make your ugly comments below.
The Grand Prize is a complete mutt makeover, courtesy of the fab 5 from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
What is it about the American League that causes the National League players to quiver in their cleats? Why does Bud Selig look confused in this photo? And why is he wearing a rain pancho? Did anyone see it rain? I think maybe time has caught up with 'Lil Buddy, and it was probably way past his nap time when this picture was taken. Maybe it's time to ramp up on the meds, I don't know. Every year it's the same old story in MLB baseball's NL vs. AL controversy. Actually, it's no longer a controversy at all -- the American League is dominant for a reason -- they're just plain better. Tough, hard-nosed NL stars turn into sniveling little leaguers every time they go up against the American League. When it comes to recent all-star games, interleague games and world series championships, the AL makes the NL look null and void. This evening's all-star game in Pittsburgh's PNC Park played true to form. With the AL down to its final strike, Michael Young (Rangers) hit a two-run triple off Trevor Hoffman (Padres) for a 3-2 victory that kept the Americans unbeaten for the past decade in all-star play. Behind David Wright's (Mets) homer and some risky,old-school baserunning, the NL took a 2-1 lead into the ninth and brought in Hoffman to close it out. But, the San Diego Padres' reliever, closing in on the MLB career saves record, failed to put this one away. He gave up a two-out single to Paul Konerko, (White Sox) who was replaced by pinch-runner Jose Lopez (Seattle.) Then, Troy Glaus hit a ground-rule double, which looked like a bad break for the never-say-die AL team when it bounced over the fence and they were unable to tie the game. But, Young came through in the clutch and delivered the big hit when it was needed most. When Mariano Rivera shut down the NL all-stars in the bottom of the ninth, it was all over, and the AL was victorious once more. This has to be getting old for the NL, because now the AL will have the home field advantage in this year's World Series once again. So, they've already set thesmelves up, in a way, to lose in October.
For a great blog about this year's All-Star game, visit: www.rubberarm.net. It's a well-written and highly entertaining recount of the entire affair.
"Rocky Balboa", the newest Rocky movie, is coming out. Like a drunk at a party who hasn't yet figured out what a fool he's making of himself, Sylvester Stallone must be high to do another bad Rocky sequel. At least in the last fiasco he was a trainer, which was somewhat believable. But, in this one he fights? Are you kidding me? Is it a comedy? Is it a musical? In the film, a brittle, spent and puffy-faced Rocky Balboa comes out of retirement, intending to fight a few low-profile local wannabe fighters. Why? What motivates him to do this? Couldn't he have just taken up Taebo or pilates? Eventually Rocky is approached to fight the reigning heavyweight champion, (Played by Antonio Tarver -- an actual fighter who in real life would make Sly his houseboy in ten seconds. Sly would last in the ring with Tarver in real life about as long as it takes you to say "Oh, sh..!" ) Anyway, Rocky's comeback sets off a media firestorm -- Howard Cosell even comes back from the dead for an exclusive interview. I'm sure the fight finale will be a doozy -- with both pugilists beating the crap out of each other for a good half-hour. I haven't seen the film yet, but I've heard that it ends with the loser being forced to watch "F.I.S.T", "Oscar", "Over the Top" "Judge Dredd" and "Stop! Or My Mother Will Shoot!" back-to-back. I mean, the original Rocky movie was so well-done -- I saw it with my first and only girlfriend in high school as a junior in 1976. Like most 16-year-old hormonal males I was so horny in 1976 that our cat was in trouble and didn't know it! I had never even french kissed a girl. I tried to get her to go with me to the drive-in, but her parents vetoed that idea, so we went to some theater in Pasadena. I tried to kiss her on the lips after the movie and she turned her head so that all I got was cheek. I will remember that film and that evening forever. Rocky was the ultimate underdog and Appollo Creed was the ultimate hot dog, so it made for a great fight at the conclusion of the movie. One of the best things about the story was that it paralleled Stallone's real life in so many ways. He had to do porno to survive in Hollywood, he worked as an usher at a movie theater and he was really poor. After watching the Ali-Bugner fight on TV in 1973, he wrote a script about a fighter who beats all the odds. Several studios were interested in producing the movie, but they wanted actors like Robert Redford and Ryan O'Neil to play Rocky. Stallone refused, because he wanted to play the part himself. It took major juevos for him to hold out until he found a producer to make the flick with him in the lead role. The message is that even the little guy can become a hero. It became a theme we saw in so many films after Rocky came out. I hope the original Rocky is considered a landmark movie, which I think it must be. That's why it's so sad to see a great actor and writer like Stallone making a film like this. Does he need the $$ that bad? Brace for really bad reviews, Sly! Here they come. I don't even have to see it to know it won't be as good as "Dude, Where's My Car?"
Some really excellent web sites about boxing are: www.laterounds.com (a boxing blog); www.thesweetscience.com or www.boxinginsider.com. If you're a Stallone fan and will always love him even when he makes bad movies like this one, visit: www.stallonezone.com. There's even a blog dedicated to the movie, it's: www.rockybalboablog.blogspot.com.
(I've decided I will pick a "Loser of the Month" every month on my blog. I imagine I will never run out of people to pick, because there are always lots of losers out there. This month's winner (or loser) is Matt Moline. He beat out a strong list of candidates, including Starr Jones, Barry Bonds and Zinedine Zidane, the French soccer player who lost his cool and may have cost his team the 2006 World Cup)
I used to find comedienne Kathy Griffin ("My Life on the D List", "Suddenly Susan") very annoying, but now she's kind of grown on me. I still think she's obnoxious in a major way, but I also think she's funny and I like the fact that she doesn't care what people think of her. Some of her comedy is so irreverant and off-the-wall that it's cutting edge. Anyway, Angelina and I have really enjoyed watching her reality show, "My Life on the D List". One of the people we liked on the show was her husband, Matt Moline, who Kathy married in 2001. He's funny and witty in his own right, and acts as a perfect foil and straight man to Kathy's zaniness. Well, after the first season, word got out that Matt and Kathy were getting divorced. I was shocked. I was thinking, "Where else is this woman going to find someone to schlep her DVD's in the lobby while she's doing a comedy show (which Matt did) and do her hair? (which he also did regularly). For awhile they reconciled, but now I guess the marriage is really kaput. Why? Well, the other night Kathy went on Larry King Live and told everyone the reason for the breakup -- Matt stole over $72,000 out of her personal bank accounts! He probably thought it was the least he should get for peddling her DVD's and doing her hair! $72,000? What did he use the $$ for? It must be gambling, because at one point in the series, Kathy says to Matt -- "Go play your fantasy sports on your computer!" Well, honey -- he wasn't playing fantasy sports, he was betting on actual sports and playing with real money -- YOURS! What a jerk this guy is. He was married to a cash cow and he milked her a little too hard! LO-SER!! I would just like to take this opportunity to tell my lovely fiancee that I will NEVER steal from you. I will also NEVER sell DVD's for you or do your hair either!
If you want to see a really funny web site that deals with losers on the Internet, visit: www.losers.org. It's a very well-done site where you get to peek into the lives of losers throughout the world by reading all of the pathetic stuff they've put on their personal web sites.