Thursday, July 15, 2010

Remember When.....?

The News was The News? Something was always happening in the world, or seemed to be, and journalists had the integrity to REPORT the story, not DISTORT the story. There were few issues with coloration or bias in news reporting: "Just the facts, Ma'am," and thank you very much. Walter Cronkite and that sort of thing. Today I saw a headline on CNN. Front page. Center Top. "Oil crisis leaves puppies homeless." Now I hate this oil debacle as much as the next guy (unless the next guy is a Senator from Texas), but can we quit playing the heart-string game here CNN? I'm also a big-time animal lover, but I'm more concerned about the people whose lives have been so adversely affected by the spill, that they can't keep food on the table for their families, or a roof over their head, let alone be able to adopt a puppy. C'mon, Media! I prefer mine Media-Well, not Media-Rare or Raw. What's tomorrow's headline gonna be?
"BP spill causing depression among Latvian orphans." There you go! Don't be depressed because you're an orphan, or that you live in Latvia, but because there's a leak in the containment cap half-a-planet away. People in this Country worry about CREATIONISM being taught in schools, but they need to worry more about it playing across the newspapers and TV screens all across the USA. Creation of whatever truth or half-truth seems to sell in America. Ah yes, I remember America. Big place. We all used to be Americans. Not any more. The Media (or TheM for short) have seen to it that blue people hate red people, and all people hate some other people, for reasons no people really understand but are told BY GOSH YOU'D BETTER!! TheM sure do rile things up. TheM used to be called a "circus", and if you ask me that's only partially right because both are filled with clowns. Regardless of who I'm supposed to hate, I've made my decision....I hate TheM!

Customs and Border Protection Officers in Buffalo, New York had a strange case come before them this week. Eugene Todie was crossing back into New York from Canada July 9, and was asked to step inside for further discussion when it was discovered he was using someone else's passport. The investigation also found Mr. Todie is on probation in NY State, and was not supposed to leave the country under any condition. Then one of the Officers noticed Mr. Todie was wearing an ankle bracelet, and questioned him about it. Mr. Todie seemed to get a frog in his throat (sorry, couldn't resist), then replied that a probation officer-friend gave him the bracelet, to wear as a show of support for actress Lindsay Lohan. She too had to wear an ankle monitor for alcohol abuse, and like the suspect she didn't allow something as insignificant as a Court order keep her from traveling outside the US, if she darn-well felt like it. Records show the Buffalo man was on probation for criminal contempt already, and when he appears in federal court July 20th, on charges of misuse of a passport and lying to Homeland Security Officials, he's likely to get significantly more cage-time than the 90-days Ms. Lohan received. Lohan behold, I believe Mr. Todie done found himself a SOUL-mate. "Todie went a-courtin', he did ride!"


Speaking of New York, there was an interesting story in the NY Post recently, concerning the Education System in the Empire State. State school officials had promised to crack down on soft-test-grading to end the near-automatic advancement of students who REALLY were unprepared for promotion to the next grade. Personally, I had never heard of the phrase "soft-test-grading" until reading this, but as it turns out there's an even more peculiar name attached to the issue: HOLISTIC RUBRICS. That's apparently some New Age garbage-speak for
"NO CLUE HOW TO REALLY FIX THE PROBLEM." The newspaper found that grading guidelines had been relaxed, so that if you missed a test problem, you could at least get partial credit if you were "close." Among examples cited by the Post, from a 4th-grade math test:

How many inches long is a 2-foot-long skateboard?

Correct Answer: 24

But here's where insanity crept in. Students were given "half-credit" if they answered 48, I guess because both numbers are divisible by 2 and maybe you could multiply twice if you were shooting spitwads while trying to answer or something. Another question:

If you have 35 book boxes, and each contains 10 books, how many books are there in total?

Correct Answer: 350. But you still "earned" half-credit if you answered 150 or 250, because, well, I guess because at least you got the last 2 numbers right. However, if you were foolish enough to put down just 50 as your answer, it was ruled out for half-credit. In the words of a wise school official, "50 is just too far away numerically from being the real right answer."

So by New York school logic, if you had put 450 or 550 as your answer, wouldn't that entitle you to CREDIT-AND-A-HALF?!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Top 10 Things The World Cup Taught Me

I'm catching some flack for my comments on FUT-ball. Seems it really is the greatest game in the world, like brussel sprouts is the greatest vegetable and roadkill is the greatest source of free protein (and not half-bad with garlic mashed potatoes and a slice of pie). But in fairness, there are some things I learned from the World Cup.

1) Paraguay doesn't mean 2 Guays

2) Nobody does a fist pump or a V (peace sign) for victory. When players get excited, they either rip off their shirts, slide to their knees and cry, or they throw both arms in the air and look around at every human within eyeshot, with a "How can you do this to me?" look on their face. Neither option seems particularly manly. Brandy Chastain has done both and looked WAY better doing it.

3) Unlike the NFL, you never hear anyone chanting "DEE-Fense!" Good Golly Moses, if there's one thing this sport could not possibly handle, it's more defense.

4) Goalies have the hardest job in soccer: staying awake when they only face about a shot an hour. Makes you appreciate what NHL hockey goalies go through, by a mile.

5) Soccer uniforms have somehow found a way to make small men look smaller. We're used to tough-guy colors like silver-and-black of the Oakland Raiders. Steelers' black-and-gold. Yankee Pinstripes. Cool uniforms! I mean, these guys in the World Cup -- how tough can you look wearing pink, puce, lime or fluorescent orange? Those guys looked more like scoops of Italian Gelato than star athletes.

6) People in the stands don't give a rat's you-know-what about the game going on. It's very similar to going to a Carolina Panthers game, actually.

7) Some countries should be combined. Slovenia and Slovakia. Just make them Slovaknia. Paraguay, Uraguay, I'm-aguay, We're-all-aguay. Maybe I was right after all, they should combine the teams and call them 2 Guays (reminiscent of 5 Guays Pizza). Both Koreas should be made to play nice for a change, unite on the field, and if it takes making Kim Jung Il the coach, so be it.

8) When a "free kick" is called, nobody on either team has the slightest idea what to do. They jockey around endlessly, trying to form some kind of Rube Goldberg crooked line, pointing at each other while the goalie screams instructions that nobody listens to, and eventually somebody gets tired of it all and kicks the ball 50 yards out of bounds. FABULOUS!

9) No soccer analyst or commentator has ever, at any point in his life, smiled.

10) Shakespeare wrote "All the world's a stage" and with this being the largest and most visible stage possible, FIFA decided to do a live theatrical version of Plan 9 From Outer Space. Next time this Grand Event rolls around, you can find me tuned in to the Knitting Channel.

Kathy Myers, age 41 of Niles, Michigan recently found herself out of work and uninsured, like too many Americans out there. She had been suffering from an increasingly painful shoulder injury, but had been turned away from the emergency room time after time, because of her uninsured status and the condition itself not being considered life-threatening. At the end of June, and at the end of her rope, Ms. Myers took a gun and shot herself in the shoulder, hoping that would finally get her into the E.R. for treatment. Apparently she could have used some shooting lessons from the NRA, as her self-inflicted gunshot missed all major arteries and bones. She was briefly seen, but again sent home, this time with some bandages and antibacterial ointment, in more excruciating pain than before. Hopefully she won't try severing a limb, as she'd likely get a Monty Python and the Holy Grail response:

"It's only a flesh wound!"

Monday, July 12, 2010

Attention Good People Of The World -- Get A REAL Game!!

Got me again. While I didn't have World Cup Fever, and in fact didn't even break a World Cup Sweat, I did try my best to follow the "action" this time. For the last time. Team USA was hype and hoax, the officiating was worse than the SOAP-OPERA ACTING of the players, and the culmination of it all was the World Cup Final. It was supposed to be the peak of everything good about "Fut-ball", but if you watched the fans in the stands, they weren't excited. They weren't filled with nervous anticipation. They were bored out of their minds, just like those of us at home who watched Le Grande Snooze-Fest, while trying to keep the volume low to avoid those insane vuvuzela sounds. You can take the worst Super Bowl in history, or the lousiest World Series or NBA Finals or virtually any other sport ever, and they'll look like The Wizard Of Oz In Technicolor compared to this horrendous unwatchable non-sport non-event. This is what you wait 4 years for? Zero goals for over 2 hours (over and over again, like so many of the matches). Sorry planet Earth, get a REAL game - this one is pathetic. I've blogged before about how you could "fix" this thing, but the way it stands now there are a few truths to be told.

1) You fooled me once, but I'm done. Forever.
2) Watching fishing on ESPN is more fun and exciting than Fut-ball.
3) You'll find better acting on NBC's "Chuck"
4) Soccer Refs and WWE Wrestling Refs are identical. "You say ONE MORE THING, and I'm know...write your name down on this little yellow card, and tell the teacher when she comes back." Maybe it would be more entertaining if one of the players snuck up behind the Ref and hit him over the back of the head with a folding chair, and he could lay there pretending to be unconscious while the game goes on around him. Vince McMahon, where are you when we really need you?

According to an ESPN report, in the midst of the World Cup people may have missed Germany's win over Barbados, in the Woz Challenge Cup. This was an eight-team "polo" tournament, but with a twist. The players were not on horseback, but instead rode Segways. The sport is said to have been created by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, whose team the Silicon Valley Aftershocks competed again this year in Barbados, though in a losing effort. Wozniak told that his own polo skills are fading, but the San Jose Mercury News reported in May that Woz's fearlessness on the Segway seems hardly diminished. He's still one of the more feared competitors, if in fact ANY of the participants can be called "feared." The people of Barbados took things in stride, and when asked about the level of athleticism and the sporting skills of the participants, most enjoyed the motorized polo but described the athletes themselves as "nerdy, pudgy and pale."

After watching soccer, I'll give the Woz Cup a try next time!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The King James Version

Biblically speaking, last night's decision turned the Cavaliers into a pillar of salt. LeBron James, former pillar of the community, has opted out of Cleveland for one simple reason, and I quote:

"Miami gives LeBron James the best chance to talk about LeBron James in the 3rd person, because most people there don't understand the language anyway."

Sorry big man, Ali you're not. And Elvis was the King. You may take over Miami as Archbishop or Archduke, but right now you're the arch-enemy to a lot of former fans. Your massive talent seems to only be eclipsed by your massive ego. For all the fans you gained last night, you lost a thousand-fold more. The LeBron James Comedy Hour proved to be as unwatchable as 8-hours of Super Bowl lead-in. Redundant, self-serving, and all in the name of stacking the deck (your opinion) against the league. People rooted for Mr. James in the past because he seemed like one of the good guys, but his self-interest in being bigger than the game and bigger than the average beat was pathetic. There's no "I" in Team, but there's no "LBJ" in Team either. Mark it down, the infighting will begin sooner rather than later. I suddenly find myself a huge fan of, eh, EVERY OTHER NBA TEAM! Correct that, I actually hate the NBA but now I have reason to watch if only to see Mr. Big slip from the mountaintop. Somewhere, P.T. Barnum is smiling.

A Canadian film-maker is trying for a new perspective in the movie business, trying to have a REAL eye for his subject matter. Rob Spence lost his right eye when he was 13 years old, in an accident playing with his grandfather's gun. The now 36-year-old Spence had the eye removed in 2005 after years of deterioration, and had a prosthetic inserted. Now he's replaced the prosthetic with a wireless video camera that runs on a tiny 3-volt battery. The camera has a wireless transmitter that allows him to transmit what he is seeing directly to a computer. It's reportedly a weak signal right now, but he's working on a stronger transmitter. Spence says he's hoping to use his camera eye to record "truer" conversations than what would be possible with a handheld camera. The only down-side he's experienced so far is that whenever he goes to speak, only two sentences come out:

"Where is John Connor?" and "I'll be baaaaack!"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Got Passports? HURRY!

In case you have delayed getting a passport, you're just about to cost yourself a healthy chunk of change - unless you move NOW! Effective Tuesday July 13th, U.S. Passport fees are going up, and in some cases way up. The basic adult passport fee, when combined with the acceptance or processing fee, is going up to $135 for ages 16 and over (1st time passport holders). Renewals are going to $110 for an adult passport, and 1st time minor passports will be $105. Some people who travel a lot need additional pages for visa stamps, and previously the State Department would give you more pages free. BON VOYAGE, free pages! Now they'll still add pages to your passport for you, but there is a processing fee of $82. Talk about a whopping increase! Pessimists look at this and say "Well, I'm not paying it. I'll just stay closer to home where I don't need a passport." Personally, I think that's the wrong way to look at things.
Here's my take:

God created a BIG WORLD, and gave us the ability and resources to see it. One of my favorite sayings is "The world is a huge book. Those who do not travel get to see only one page." How true that is! Even if there are parts of the world that don't interest you, we are fortunate enough to have some great countries very close to us, with wonderful people, great food, sights to see, and the potential to broaden your personal horizons to make you a more complete person. The reason the State Department is raising the passport rates is so they can update anti-counterfeiting technology, and help pay for the expanding role of Homeland Security is allowing ALL OF US to live and travel as safely as humanly possible. Right now, you can still get a passport at the current rates, before the increase. Do it! Every other country in the world requires it, and as advanced as the US has been in some areas, we've been 3rd- or 4th-world when it comes to our own domestic security and background checks. Here's another thought for you pessimists: Even at the new price, $135 for a passport, that is still an unbelievable bargain to be able to travel anywhere you want. An adult passport is good for 10 years - so breaking that down, increasing National Security and allowing you to travel for the next DECADE is only going to cost you $13.50 per year. That's less than $1.13 per month. Are you kidding me? Get an empty coffee can. Instead of buying that Snickers bar at the 7/11 every morning, or if you cut out one Big Mac large combo meal per week, and drop that money into the coffee can, it will pay for itself in no time. We'll all be safer, you'll get to experience things you never dreamed of, and you'll be helping to add to the security of the United States even if only in a small way. Do your part and become a traveler. NOW!

Sponge Bob. Mount Everest. Space Shuttle.
We've all seen those 4-story giant "bouncy slides" at different amusement parks or playgrounds, where kids slide down into a sea of rubber cushions, and often into a sea of other kids. Hygienically, they've got to be a parent's worst nightmare, but kids love 'em! A new one in Switzerland is causing some controversy though. The 40 foot high slide is a replica of the ill-fated luxury liner Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1912, drowning 1,517 passengers and crew. Pictured on the slide is the crippled liner sinking, with its keel raised high in the air as if it is just about to disappear under the waves. Kids slide down into a bouncy, watery grave. FUN FOR YOU AND YOUR WHOLE DANG FAMILY! Nothing like playing in a graveyard, eh? The slide's owner defends it as a new innovation in slide art. "The Titanic accident happened years ago, and those emotions have been dealt with a long time ago. It's in the past. Now people are just having fun with it." I'm guessing his next project is Captain Quint's boat The Orca, from the movie Jaws. Kids can slide down into the waiting razor-sharp teeth of a Great White Shark, while smiling parents snap a few pics of the wholesome adventure...

Remember as a kid, on the back of comic books there were always ads for novelties, such as garlic-flavored gum, fake vomit, and the ever-popular X-Ray Specs? How many boys ordered those stupid plastic glasses, thinking they could see right through (insert whatever you were trying to see through here)? My guess is it was in the millions. But alas, the Special Spectacles had the visual penetrating power of, eh, 2 plastic lenses and a boy's vivid imagination, and that was about it. WORRY NO MORE, YOUNG MEN! Now you can have the REAL DEAL! At a recent auction, a set of 3 X-rays of Marilyn Monroe's chest and pelvis, taken on a trip to the hospital in 1954, sold for $45,000. The winning bid was 15 times the original estimate, when the memorabilia auction was held at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. No matter how old they get, I guess boys' imaginations are still on a level unmatched by any other species.

Friday, June 25, 2010

There's a MOUSE in my house (yeah, we know!)

Some folks are Disneyholics. They visit there, honeymoon there, take their babies there, have family reunions there, all because of the Righteous Rodent his-own self. I'll admit, I've always had a soft spot for theme parks and thrill rides, but for me I can walk away without feeling a "Jones" in my veins. Not some folks. Nothing is enough. CONGRATULATIONS! Disney has something just for you!

It was just announced that Disney World in Orlando is planning to open the Golden Oaks community in 2011. And you can be part of it, for a mere $25,000 down. Is it some kind of hotel? Time Share? Nope - for the Disneyholic it's WAY better. Disney has set aside just under 1,000 acres of land to develop a luxury residential community of some 450 homes INSIDE DISNEY WORLD, which will range from about $1.5 million to $8 million apiece. That's right. Disney World no longer has to be your "home away from home" - it can really be your HOME! The initial design has the homes built to look like a Mediterranean village (minus, well - the Mediterranean). Residents will have a private clubhouse, a full-service spa...treatments not included, of course...concierge service, access to a golf course, and BIG MICE, DUCKS AND DOGS walking around nearby. Pretty much what every American family needs, don't you think? I know it's my dream. Even though this formula might not work for everyone, it should be perfect for rich people whose main goal in life is to see their daughter grow up to be, eh...Cinderalla?

Planet (Hollywood) Of The Apes?

Scientists in Switzerland have completed a study they claim proves that monkeys enjoy doing one of humans' favorite activities. The study, published in a Swiss online scientific journal, looked at the behavior of a 3-year-old male rhesus monkey, using technology to examine the blood flow of the monkey's brain when watching TV. The claim is that the monkey's frontal lobe became very active when watching a video of a circus elephant, giraffe and tiger performing. That activity is similar to what happens when a human baby sees its mother smile. Personally, I think the study is flawed. The monkey should have been made to sit through thousands of "coming up next" promos, an endless stream of Geico commercials, about 20 minutes of Fox News (if he could stomach it), some mixed martial arts and WWE wrestling on "Spike", a few dozen episodes of Dr. Phil, Oprah, South Park, Hell's Kitchen and Antiques Roadshow, and THEN measure his brain scan. If they did that, they'd receive a certain activity pattern, which would roughly translate into "Yow -- and I thought MY species was screwed up!"

A Wisconsin couple who met in Aisle 9 of the Copps Grocery Store in Wautoma last year, decided they would be married there this past week. Marty Czarnecki says he was working in the store's liquor aisle when Denise Irvine came in to buy wine. He said they just "got to talking" and one thing led do another. Ms. Irvine says she doesn't do anything traditional, so she really liked the idea of a grocery-store wedding. Members of the wedding party and invited guests shouted, "cleanup on Aisle 9" after toilet paper streamers flew through the air, over the newlyweds. When asked where the reception would be, the groom smiled and said "3 aisles over, in Bakery...of course."

The most important part of that story should not be overlooked -- they have a LIQUOR AISLE in the grocery stores in Wisconsin! Mable, where's my hat?!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Excitement That Is Soccer

Everybody's on the edge of their seats this morning, as the powerhouse Team USA tackles the pesky "Remember that time we scored a goal?" Algeria team. Quick: name any Algerian. Ever! Me neither, though that probably says more about our educational system than it does about the fame and fortune of the good people of Algeria. I know I'm supposed to have my face painted red-white-and-blue, and be all energetic, but soccer is its own beast and that beast has a hypnotic eye and a squalid breath that frankly puts me to sleep. The fact that soccer translates to TV with all the excitement of checkers or badminton, doesn't do it any favors either.

So how do you fix soccer? EASY-PEASY! Just let The Guru be in charge of the World Cup, and I'll make it all better and stuff.

Here's what you do: For you non-soccer-aficionados, there is a goalie (keep him or her). There are 2 forwards (keep them, but tell them to quit taking acting lessons from the WWE's Vince McMahon). Now we're getting somewhere. The issue with soccer is you have 4 midfielders and 4 defenders. Too many humans in one place to produce action. If the middle of the field is where you funnel action, the action is clogged with a hairball of players! Time for my Roto-Rooter solution. You emphasize to every player that there is NO LONGER ANY SUCH THING AS A TIE. Is there a tie at Wimbledon? The Super Bowl? The World Series? The Masters? No, because those are SPORTS, and SPORTS DON'T HAVE TIES for Heaven's sake. So again, you tell the players there are not going to be any more ties. If you guys can't settle the tally by the time 90 minutes are up, we're not going to go with that lame "shootout" that's in place. Nope. Ancient history, and it doesn't tell who is the better team at all. It only says who is better (luckier) at doing a point-blank shot. That's all.

Here's the BIG FIX: After 90 minutes, if there is a tie game, each team must remove a midfielder and a defender. 5 minutes are added to the clock. If neither team scores, you remove another midfielder and another defender. Another 5 minute period, and so on. Eventually, it would come down to a goalie and a forward for each team, until somebody scores. Ladies and gentlemen, I have just fixed soccer to the point that an American audience would not only tolerate it, they could get behind it!

You're welcome.

A woman from Portsmouth, England has an unusual way of marking every day of her life, but it's not quite a "Dear Diary" moment. Patti Gaal-Holmes has collected more than 32,000 used tea bags during her life, as a way of documenting her existence. The 44-year-old Gaal-Holmes says, "I adore drinking tea, and I save the teabags as a way of reminding me the differences between one day's experience and another." To save them, she dabs the used bag on some paper and then numbers it, noting who she drank tea with, and anything interesting they talked about. She then dries the bag in the sunshine or on a radiator, before storing it in one of three large suitcases. Patti notes there is a somewhat dusky smell to her apartment, but she finds it quite comforting. Her collecting quest began more than 11 years ago,and some of her used bags have been displayed at a local gallery.

I'm sure Ms. Gaal-Holmes also likes soccer just the way it is, but I say it's time to turn over a new tea leaf. Bag it, Patti.