Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays

I have emerged from the dark cave in which I have been living for a few months, sans internet, and I thought I would use the opportunity to give a special Merry Christmas (or whatever holiday you might be celebrating) to everyone who might be reading this.

Christmas used to be my favorite time of year. When I was a kid, Christmas Day was always bittersweet, because although it was the day I had most waited for all year long, I knew that on Christmas evening, I was a full year away from the next one. There are so many great Christmases in my past that kind of blend together into one long strand of great memories, like a string of pearls. And though when I was a kid it was about the presents each Christmas morning, I realized long ago that it's really about spending time with your family. And though the people who used to be here have come and gone (I still always half-expect my grandpa to walk through the door every year), they are always going to be a part of the lifelong Christmas experience.

The exciting thing is that I know that my Christmas tradition is only going to grow. In the last few years, we have added a lot of people to our extended family that have been part of the fun. And down the road we are only going to add more. I am thankful that I have my family here in Monroe county, and my extended family back home in Syracuse and elsewhere.

As much as I complain about how Christmas season starts way too early, and that I can't stand that there are really only maybe 20 Christmas songs (fine, Phelps, you convinced me there are more than just 8) that are played over and over, I am not a bah-humbug guy. I guess I just prefer to squeeze all my Christmas spirit into about 3 or 4 days.

So I will try to enjoy those I have this year. For those I won't get to see for Christmas this year, you are with me in my heart, and I hope that maybe down the road we will be able to find ways of sharing part of our Christmas together. Christmas isn't about gifts, it's about surrounding yourself with those whom you care about.

Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, celebrate the holiday, and each other.

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I Have Writer's Block: Here is my Christmas List

I was thinking of posting something about how I love Christmas, but how over the last 15 years or so they have started so early that it wears me down, blah blah blah. I will probably get to this point at a later date, after I hear the phrase "puhhh-rumpa-pum-pum" for the 492nd time.

For now, I'm going to get into the holiday spirit, in an albeit selfish way. I'm putting out my Christmas list. Here goes:

    Things I need:
  • button up shirts (the kind you would wear with a tie), 16 1/2, thin vertical stripes are good, i'm about 32/33 right now
  • sweaters, but thin ones, not the bulky kind ... something i could wear under a jacket
  • everyone knows i look good in blue
  • fleeces and/or winter vests (i'm a Large)
  • a pair of nice, trendy sneakers (i wear a 12) .. they can be cheap
  • Rogaine
  • bookshelves that you can nail to a wall
  • a coffee maker (simple, doesn't have to be all fancypants)
  • some fancy pants
  • something that can go up on a wall, but not like a poster. something that could go in a living room.
  • a handgun and a bottle of pills
  • gift cards to just about anywhere
  • cookbooks (with simple recipes, nothing i wouldn't eat in it)
  • books are always good; you guys know what kind of thing i like (football, movies, beer)
  • a pint glass
  • my iPod to be fixed
  • (fill in the blank)

    Things I don't need:
  • knick-knacks
  • things that take up surface area or are for decoration only
  • tools ... i have plenty
  • your lip, sassymouth

Actually I'm a pretty simple boy. I don't need much this year. There's only really one gift I want and Santa can't bring it. Who knows, maybe the Easter Bunny will.

I miss you all, my friends. And in case I don't get another chance to talk to you until then, sincerely, have a Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays. 2007 is right around the corner and it could be a very exciting year. I am looking forward with excited apprehension, or maybe it's apprehensive excitement. The snows will thaw, the sun will come back out, and we will all find that pot of gold we've been looking for. I can feel it. After all, '07 is my lucky number.

Let's make it happen.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Kicking Down the Door (or, A Housecleaning)

I am kicking down the door, baby! Well, I'm opening it a crack to peek my head in for about three minutes since I'm at Will and Jaime's computer (I don't have my cable or internet up yet) and I just wanted to drop a note to all my cult members that I am doing fine. I have moved into my new place and am getting ready to commence the Mother of All Housecleaning.

For those who don't know me, I am what we call a "pack rat." Imagine a person who collects item they have ever accumulated throughout the course of their life and has not thrown out a damn thing.

Imagine that person has done so for a full three decades and can't throw anything out. That's me. And there are two reasons I can't get rid of anything:

1) Sentimental value. I always say to myself, "What if I get rid of that Wegman's receipt from the day in 1999 when I got that postcard in the mail from my doctor confirming my follow up to my first prostate exam? What if I miss it?" I am realizing that I will not miss these things.

2) The What-If-I-Need-It Factor. That wallet I got in 9th grade? The one with the cigarette burn holes and that mildewy smell? What if I need that someday? I won't. I'm starting to get it.

So what you have here is a massive undertaking. Taking 30 years of little knick-knacks, all packed into shoeboxes and plastic grocery bags, and weeding out the things I know I will never need again, but thinking that someday I may. It's daunting, but dammit I am gonna do it. My new place just doesn't have enough room to not do it.

Speaking of cleaning house (yes, this is the greatest segue in the history of segues), I also must make a brief comment on the Midterm Elections. I am incredibly proud of this country for the first time in a long time. People saw that the country was/is going to hell in a handbasket and decided to oust the majority. Yes, I did go straight down the line for Democrats. And no matter if John McCain or Abraham Lincoln had run, I would still have voted Democrat. This election was that important. The hubris of the Republican Party and President Bush in particular was brought crashing to earth. The wanton misuse of government and the bullying of the Neo-Conservatives was roundly rejected. Religious people finally figured out that the Republicans are using them. People who supported the war in Iraq initially (yours truly included) swallowed their/our pride and decided that we were led down a path that was untrue.

Now, it's time for the Democrats to earn what we've given to them. I hope to God they don't screw it up. It's time to rebuild this great house that has been trashed by an erstwhile cokehead frat boy who has used the country as his own personal Barbie Doll House. It's time that the adults took over, Dubya. Maybe we can finally start to get some semblance of national pride back.

Okay, that's all. See you in a few weeks.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Dave's still got it.

Movin' Out

I am moving to a new place this weekend, and since my computer/internet situation is a bit tentative, this may be the last time you see me for a while. I'm hoping that I can continue my streak of at least one blog per month, so hopefully November will allow me to get in at least one entry until things get situated.

Until then, please feel free to go back through the archives. I think you'll find that my words of the past ring as true today as they did way back in 2004. I know. It seems like we were different people then. We were young and full of hope (until that year's election, that is). It was an age of innocence. When the Miami Heat had not yet won a championship, and we would still count on Horatio Sanz making us laugh for hours upon end every Saturday night.

But it's a new era. Nothing is promised anymore. Will I ever blog again? Who knows. Will I survive the arduous trek 0.6 miles away from my current house to my new apartment? Doubtful, especially on a shitty, rainy day like today. But if I don't make it, you'll always have this: my manifesto, my doctrine. You can always count on my glorious, shining, sesquipedalian prose. Combinations of letters and sometimes numbers and some punctuation, meticulously cobbled together to form stunning words. Those words arranged in an orchestral menagerie of compelling thoughts and ideas -- known as "sentences" -- that burst forth with such gusto that the monitor can barely contain them.

No, dear reader, twas not some bad cathode ray tube that ruined your monitor: it was me.

So in my absence, please go back in time through the years and marvel at what verbosity, wit and, yes, brilliance I have provided for not only you, but for anyone with a computer and a broadband and/or dial up internet service provider. You don't have to say thanks.

You are welcome.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Opposite of Sluggish

Say what you want about the new Sabres' uniforms (I like the colors, the logo is still way too abstract for me) but the Buffalo Sabres tied an NHL record tonight by winning their first ten games of the season. Now, granted, this might not be quite as impressive as the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs (whose record they tied, but who lose points for bad grammar) because it's not possible to have a tie game anymore, and the Erie County Assassins have won a few games in shootouts.

But this team -- named after a blade from the city where William McKinley was assassinated in 1901 -- are dominating all their opponents. It's only 1/8 of the way through the season, but they have it all. Four solid lines on offense and defense. Speed. Finesse. Toughness. Penalty killing. And a solid one-two punch at goaltender. Goalie Ryan Miller is becoming a breakout star. And he's an American for Pete's sake!

They are so deep. They don't have one major star (although Chris Drury should be one and Maxim Afinogenov is possibly the most electrifying player in the league at the moment), but they are so full of talent that they could be hard to stop if they stay healthy. According to today's ESPN Fantasy Hockey tracker, they have 5 players in the top 40 in the league. (#6 Miller, #13 Drury, #29 Thomas Vanek, #32 Daniel Briere and #37 Afinogenov).

It just makes me that much sadder that their entire defense went down in the Eastern Conference Finals this past summer. I'm hoping they bring the City of Good Neighbors (and those of us fans in the Flower City and the Salt City) a sorely needed championship.

Personally, I have led sort of a sad-sack life. I know, I know. You would think that I'd be on top of the world. Well, it's true that many areas of my life along the way have been lacking. But the area that has been the most bone-dry is my sports teams. There have only been three championships that any of my teams have won in my waking memory: the 1986-87 and '95-96 Rochester Amerks, who won the Calder Cup, and the 2003 Syracuse Orange(men), who won the NCAA Tournament. The Bills will clearly never win one in my lifetime, no matter how hard I hope and pray for them to.

But this year, the Sabres actually have a shot. Let's bring home the hardware, gents...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Random Videos (Malkmus, Zero 7, The Shins)

Here are a couple of cool videos...all of them computer-generated it turns out.

"Destiny" by Zero 7
is one of my all-time favorite songs. I could literally listen to it over and over and never get sick of it (and I have). And the video (with the rotoscope/rotoshop visuals) just sells the sadness and otherworldliness of the song. It's one of the saddest and yet most hopeful songs I know.

I don't understand any of the lyrics of "So Says I" by the Shins, nor do I completely get the cold war/penguin imagery. But I think it's an awesome video and I love how rollicking the song is.

This is an awesome video for "Jo Jo's Jacket" by Stephen Malkmus (formerly of the ├╝ber-indie band Pavement). Is it about Yul Brynner or Moby? The song is kinda poppy, but the video is just cool and wacked out.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sick T.O. Death

I have fucking had it with Terrell Owens.

Enough already. What once was a skilled NFL wide receiver has become a punchline. He is a silly, pathetic nothing. He is a cipher. A shallow, sad, lonesome man who would probably kill himself if it weren't for the national spotlight. (And some still contend he tried.)

Athletes with super-sized egos are nothing new. For every Barry Sanders or David Robinson, there are twenty Deion Sanderses and Ricky Hendersons. Athletes often make the mistake of reading their own press, believing that just because they make large salaries and have their names in the newspaper, they can be assholes to everyone they meet. It's not a new phenomenon.

And the wide receiver position in football has become a hotbed of super-sized egos of late. They go from the fun-loving (Steve Smith, Chad Johnson) to the megalomaniacal (Keyshawn Johnson, Randy Moss). But none can touch the man cleverly nicknamed "T.O."

Terrell Owens
is everything I hate. Not only in sports, but in humanity. There is nothing redeeming about him. He is a stupid, inarticulate, arrogant prick with six-pack abs and mediocre hands. He parlayed one great play (The Catch II, video here), some semi-creative touchdown celebrations and a heap of offensive stats into a "persona" that transcends football and puts him in the mainstream media.

But why? Why is Owens (I refuse to cave to his lame "T.O." self-moniker) so popular? Is it because he's a great intellect? Because he is witty? Because there is something fascinating about his character? He would certainly like you to think so. But the truth is, he's a dumb hillbilly who hoots and hollers. And simple-minded sports media like ESPN positively eat it up.

Owens has a penchant for hijacking the news. Whenever things are too quiet around the "T.O." camp, you can count on him doing something outrageous! Though he is widely regarded as being one of the elite receivers in the NFL (despite a season and a half of mediocrity), he constantly claims disrespect. Yet, this man who commands respect for himself everywhere he goes is so quick to act disrespectfully to everyone who dares not kowtow to his every self-promoting act. The man who once stood mockingly on the Cowboys' star in the middle of Texas Stadium yearns for all the respect he wouldn't pay to any other human being.

Greg Knapp. Donovan McNabb. Jeff Garcia. Andy Reid. Hugh Douglas. Steve Mariucci. You could start an expansion football team with the roster of people Owens has crossed in his 10.5 seasons in the league.

There are three things you need to know about Owens, and thereby demystify him.

1) He grew up a lonely child. Boo hoo. Oh poor little Terrell. He grew up in Alabama to a strict grandmother who made him come straight hom from school. She didn't show him love or affection. Put on your fucking helmet and get over it. Does Owens think he's the only one to grow up through a lonely childhood? Is he the only one who ever got beaten? Is he the only one whose parents were strict? Most people learn from this and grow out of their woe-is-me phase and learn to live. Besides, Owens's grandmother, Alice, is the one who made his life a living hell. Yet to this day he swears by what a great grandmother she was and that he would do anything for her. Pick one, Terrell, pick one. Not all of us who felt lonesome as children have thousand-dollar bills to dab away the tears. You poor, poor sad little bitch. Oh, and not all of us make our childhood traumas national media events when we feel we are not getting enough attention.

2) His so-called "T.O." persona was created by ESPN and other sports media. How many of us remember our first real glimpse at Owens being that time he was miked up and kept yelling "Who can make a play? I CAN!" and "LET'S GO, T.O.! LET'S GO T.O.!" When I saw those videos, I realized that this wasn't just someone who is beating his chest. This man is pathological. Whether it is the phony suicide attempt (and yes, I sincerely believe he wanted it to look like a suicide attempt so he would be on the front page of the papers again) or exercising in his driveway while shouting "no comment," the man is simply miserable if he doesn't have a camera on him. But rather than being an interesting outspoken athlete like, say Jim Brown, Muhammed Ali or even, say, Darren Daulton, Owens comes off like an ignorant negro, keeping stereotypes of chest-thumping, collar-popping young black men alive. He has never offered a shred of insight, intelligence or non-Owens related commentary to the national dialogue. He is an empty vessel, and yet sports media constantly spelunks through his psyche, searching for wisdom, finding cobwebs and tired cliches.

3) He's not even that good. Yes, I said it. He's good, don't get me wrong. But he's not a modern day Christ. Here is a list of receivers that I would take over him right now: Marvin Harrison, Steve Smith, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, Lavernues Coles, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Jerricho Cotchery, Roy Williams. Owens (as of this writing) is ranked 28th in the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards. That is not an elite ranking.

And put stats to the side for a moment; he is simply just not as incredible as they say. Just last night in the Cowboys' loss to the Giants, Owens dropped a crucial fourth down pass. Before this play, Owens was visibly berating his teammates, coaches and everyone else within earshot because he wasn't getting the ball (a common custom with this idiot). But on a key play where they needed him, he dropped it. And then proceeded -- after that pathetic drop -- to laugh it up on the sidelines as if to say, "Well, we all make mistakes." Meanwhile if he were open and the pass wasn't thrown directly into his solar plexus, smoke surely would have puffed out of his ears.

Even on his best days, he can't quite get it right. In Super Bowl 39, Owens had an excellent statistical game, but proceeded after the game to thump his chest a little more, chastising those who didn't think he could do it. You would expect him to be sad for losing the Super Bowl, but he was just glad he proved his doubters wrong. Even in his best game, where he caught 20 receptions against the Bears in 2001, his defining play was the pass that bounced off his shoulder pad in overtime, causing the Bears to intercept the ball and return it for a game-winning touchdown. A statistical machine he is (or was); a champion he is not.

I'll bet Owens doesn't have five friends in this world. So calculated, so self-conscious is he that I'll bet he can't trust anyone, save for his beloved grandmama who locked him in a closet and beat him with a belt. Anyone who has taken a chance on him has paid for it (you're next, Jerry Jones). He is the poster boy for the spoiled, arrogant athlete. I'm sure he worked very hard to get to where he is now, but he has burned more bridges, and used up more goodwill along the way than our current presidential administration. And he will never win a championship. Write it down.

So much potential. So much opportunity to be great. Instead, he's a walking tabloid. And after this stop in Dallas, he may have used up his chances.

Get walkin' Terrell. We've had enough of you.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Herbdome: Enjoy Your Baseball While It Lasts, Suckers

It was quite a week. And by quite a week, I guess I could mean quite a shitty week. But I hope it wasn't shitty for you. Don't let my shittiness somehow reflect shittily upon you. Aw shit, let's just see what my crew is up to...

  • The Landlord thinks if you think Dennis Green's meltdown after performing the choke of all chokes, you should check out Lee Elia's infamous meltdown when he was with the Cubs in the 1980s. Nothing quite compares. Danny even included a transcript!
  • Willie Moe previews Week 7 of the NFL. Take a drink every time you see the word "Kitna."

    The Arts:
  • Electric City Paul digs deep to find his inner Keanu. (And a fine 53-week anniversay to you sir!)
  • Call him Willie Swordplay, cuz he's bringing some Silly Wordplay. Willie Moe brings some class to this motley bunch with his '80s Baseball Book Club.
  • And looks like Danny is doing some writing of his own. And getting paid for it????!?!?!?!?!!!!??!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
  • Don C. takes on Boogie Down Productions and Mobb Deep for lyrical content.

    Both Danny and Javen wrote of delicious beer.
  • Danny speaks of the Flossmoor Station Brewing Company in Illinois, and boy does it sound like a great place to derail. I haven't taken a "derailment day" off from work in a while.
  • Bojangles continues the Midwestern theme with a post from the Chicago Tribune (aka. The Trib) about Wisconsin brew road trips. I'll bring the High Life!
Just a note, completely off-topic. As of today, I am getting about 97 hits a day on this very website, which is an ungodly, astronomical number considering I update it maybe once every two weeks, can't write and don't even own a computer. Anyway, the search words that have been leading people to my blog are "Buffalo Sabres" and -- for some reason -- "Cat Stevens." In fact, I would say that "Cat Stevens" gets more readers to me than anyone. This is fascinating to me for three reasons.

First, I only have a small picture of Cat Stevens in the sidebar on this blog, and I don't think I've ever mentioned anything about him elsewhere.

Second, isn't his name Yusef Islam now?

Third, when the hell did Cat Stevens make a comeback among internet users? I have at least four of his albums and even I never look up his name.

I made a mix cd tonight. Below is the track listing. I don't have a name for it yet. It might be my most eccentric CD yet, due to the fact that there is no theme and I added a bunch of weird-ass songs. Here's the track listing. I know this is not at all intersting, but I'm doing it for posterity.

  1. "Pro Football In America" by John Facenda (NFL Films)
  2. "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" by Spoon
  3. "Los Angeles" by the Rosewood Thieves
  4. "Everybody is Someone" by Lifehouse
  5. "You Can Bring Me Flowers" by Ray LaMontagne
  6. "Never Did No Wanderin'" by the New Main Street Singers (from A Mighty Wind)
  7. "Blue Diamonds" by the Long Winters
  8. "My Heart" by The Blow
  9. "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" by Billy Joel
  10. "The Avalanche" by Sufjan Stevens
  11. "What To Do With Michael" by Mike Viola/Candy Butchers
  12. "Pyramid Song" by Radiohead
  13. "Learn to Live With What You Are" by Ben Folds
  14. "Holiday In Cambodia" by the Dead Kennedys
  15. "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" by Gordon Lightfoot
  16. "Lonesome Road" by the Rosewood Thieves
  17. "Superstar" from the Jesus Christ Superstar Original Recording
  18. "Winding Road" by Bonnie Somerville

Maybe some of the songs do have thematic similarities. Huh, go figure.

I just watched the Cardinals beat the Mets in the NLCS. I want to send out my sincere condolences to my Metsfan friends. Tough loss. I would have liked to see them in the World Series again. But now I will root whole-heartedly for Detroit.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dear Departed

I haven't used this forum in quite a long time in praise of a movie I've seen, but I have to put something out there about The Departed, the newest Martin Scorsese film that is drawing rave reviews for its dark, hard-boiled plot, deep cast and nuanced performances. I love this movie so much, and it's possibly the best movie since The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Let me just throw out a couple of tidbits about my thoughts on the man himself. I consider Scorsese to be probably the greatest American director, and I'm pretty sure the greatest living director. When it comes to intensity, use of dialogue and violence, I'm not sure any director comes close. (Only Stanley Kubrick, Joel & Ethan Coen and Quentin Tarantino, respectively, can compare in each category.) In my very humble opinion, you could make the case that Marty made the best movie of the 1970s (Taxi Driver), the best movie of the '80s (Raging Bull) and the best movie of the '90s (GoodFellas, which I think might be the best American movie I've ever seen).

The last decade hasn't been as transcendent to Marty, as he's contributed flawed (but still often compelling) cinema like Bringing Out the Dead, Kundun, Gangs of New York and The Aviator. All the films were interesting, and some had some exhilarating moments (the opening of Gangs of New York, the flight scenes in The Aviator), but none felt like a Scorsese flick. The last true Scorsese movie was Casino.

I can say with authority that The Departed is a Scorsese movie. It has all the elements. Of course, for those of us who know and love old Marty, those elements are:

  • A blazing rock soundtrack (usually involving the Rolling Stones for some reason)
  • Crackling, profane, vulgar dialogue
  • Lots of bloody violence
  • A sweeping cinematic scope, both in visual presentation and in narrative
  • A flawed (blonde) female protagonist
  • Slow motion, freeze-frame and tracking shots

It's the movie Scorsese fans have been waiting for. Instead of New York's Little Italy, it takes place in the Irish neighborhoods of Boston. In the great tradition of Scorsese villains (Jimmy the Gent, Nicky Santoro, Max Cady, etc), Jack Nicolson's Frank Costello might be the most terrifying yet. He oozes nihilistic power, a portrait of someone with nothing to lose, but the bloodlust to get everything he wants. He is funny, but horrifying; repellent, but charming. I think it's one of Jack's five best performances, and that's saying something.

The movie does what the best Scorsese movies do: it grabs you by the throat in the first five minutes and never lets go. The first scene shows Frank Costello recruiting a young Boston boy to learn the ropes of his gang. Costello is a menacing, intense presence, and you could see how a working class boy could easily be sucked in. But there is no let-up. The movie doesn't simply have a riveting beginning and then settle in (like Infernal Affairs, the excellent but slightly inferior Hong Kong movie upon which The Departed is based). It starts intensely, and then just builds upon the intensity, with no break, no pause, no indication that "we are going to start the real movie now." It's simply relentless.

If you don't know, the plot of the movie in a nutshell is this: Matt Damon is a member of an Irish gang who goes through cop school to become a mole for Costello's Irish gang. Leo DiCaprio is a straight-arrow cop from a working class (i.e. violent) family who is coerced by the cops to become a plainclothes undercover cop. Neither young cop knows about the other, and the film is a cat and mouse game wherein each cop must try to not get caught.

Scorsese's brilliance is exhibited in the contrast between the ivory-tower, white-collar police big shots, and the dirty, low-level Irish hoods. The cops live in high rise apartments with balconies, and work in pristine metal buildings with views of the entire city. The hoods hang out in townie bars, burst into unsuspecting drug dealers' filthy apartments, and kill with impunity. In some ways, they couldn't be more different. But in other ways, they are identical. Both groups go through ethical crises, yet both have a certain working integrity about them.

Something has to be said about the acting in this movie as well. Every single performance is perfect. Matt Damon is a flawless mix of detached malice and conflict. DiCaprio's character falls apart at the seams but in some ways relishes his role as a good guy who has to play a bad guy; as if somehow his "id" is allowed to sneak out a little at a time. Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin steal the scenes they are in. Every performance is essentially flawless. And Scorsese, the virtuoso that he is, somehow finds a way to mix the horror and the humor of death in several scenes, many of which are both shocking and funny simultaneously.

Essentially, if you love Marty Scorsese's movies, you will love this one. It's a return to his days of glory. And while I'm not quite ready to anoint it as the best movie of the 2000s yet, it's possibly the best movie of the year, and certainly merits attention as a prime example of excellent movie making for the decade.

Welcome back Marty.

By the way, here are Scorsese's ten best movies, in order:

  1. GoodFellas
  2. Raging Bull
  3. Taxi Driver
  4. The Departed (I don't care if this is premature)
  5. Casino
  6. The Last Temptation of Christ
  7. Mean Streets
  8. The Aviator
  9. Gangs of New York
  10. The King of Comedy

Rent all of them.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Herbdome: Baseball and Such

I am totally stealing this from Deadspin, (which, bee-tee-doubleyou, is the best site on the internet) and I readily admit it. It's a cross section of some of the topics some of my boys have been blogging about. Most of it is baseball related. Ick.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Beer Enlightenment

I don't have any beer, and it makes me sad.

There was never a time in my youth that I thought I would ever become what I am, which is a Beer Advocate. I never thought that I would ever even like beer, let alone love it. Let alone find not only a sense of community, but an unusual serenity in enjoying it.

It used to be that when I thought of beer, I thought of a foul smelling mug of some foamy, malty concoction that my dad would drink at one of his parties which I could scarcely bear to look at. It was usually Genny Cream Ale, the flagship brew of the commonwealth of Rochester, New York, the jewel of the Genesee River.

My father, while not strictly a drunk, was a fan of the alcohol. He has been sans-spirts for about 6-7 years now, and though I still love him, I miss the nights he would come home from work and gently drift away on the couch after work with a deep snore and a divine calmness on his face. In his later years, he was a screwdriver man, but early on he was a fan of beer, as I remember. In fact, there were many times when my parents would host a Casino Night or some such spectacle, and a beer-ball would be present. (In this case of course, "casino night" meant a night my mom and dad would invite a bunch of their friends over and dad would somehow always end the night wearing nothing but an undershirt and holding a handgun. I miss those nights.) Ah, the beer ball, what a relic of the 1980s.

But given this pandering to mass consumption, my first and formative impression of beer was of a stale and smelly yellow liquid, bitter to the taste buds and nearly impossible to choke down. (I think my dad snuck me a Genny Cream back when I was about 7 or so. Sorry mom. I didn't want you to find out this way.) But given the questionable element with which my father was associating at the time, I assumed beer was for nothing but low-lifes and hooligans. At any rate, my initial impression of beer was unimpressive.

But things change. And when one goes away to college to live on ones own, one tends to experiment. So one William H. ended up going to school and was exposed to beer. The beer, I believe, was Keystone. Or maybe Rolling Rock. What do I remember about it? I remember that I had to choke it down and that it had almost no redeeming qualities other than it made my face feel numb and made me all giggly. Its qualities as a social lubricant far outweighed its qualities as a delicious elixr. Many of my best male friends have been gained with the assistance of beer.

But even to this point, beer was the means to an end. It was never something consumed for pure enjoyment; it was a conduit through which to get inebriated. Sloshed, bombed, ripped, tanked, wasted. It was a vessel by which you would start slurring your words and end eating Doritos at 3AM and watching some crappy late night movie back at the dorm with a dozen of your most wasted friends. Beer was not the destination, it was just the path.

For years I treated beer as such. It was a fizzy yellow liquid, about $15 for a case. It was usually about 5.5-5.9% alcohol, with little deviation between the Buds, Millers and Coorses (or BMC as we Beer Advocates call it). Basically, back then, I would look at the choices available to me in the local Wegmans, and then maybe look at the unit price of each one, and decide which was the best value. Whatever would give me the most beer for my buck would be my selection.

Brief aside: it is amazing how the palate operates. On one hand, most people can identify great food vs. mediocre food. When we are babies, we eat whatever we are given, but when we grow older, we can tell the difference between good beef and mediocre beef. We can tell if the food at a restaurant is simply passable, or mouth-watering. We do not have the same sophistication with beer. Maybe it's the fact that we are not "allowed" to enjoy beer until we are 21, but many people tend to stunt their growth beer-wise early on.

One day -- and I'm not sure what day it was -- I grew up. I realized that all beer was not the same. I realized that the purpose of beer was not to get tanked, but to drink beer. I realized that I had been drinking the beer version of McDonald's my whole life, but had been missing out on the gourmet beers on the menu.

It was an awakening.

Because now, and over the last year, I no longer drink to get drunk (which, let's face it, was the only reason to do it in the first place). Now I drink to enjoy. I drink to find out whether a beer has dominant malt or hops. Whether beer has a fruity flavor or if it's bitter. Whether it's smooth or "chewy." Just tasting a beer and immediately identifying the style is a strangely satisfying sensation. Being able to tell the difference between a Belgian White and a Hefeweizen, or between a Pale Ale and an IPA, is such a pleasure. Yes, I do make notes of the different properties of beers as I drink them. Yes, I do sniff the inside of the pint glass. Yes, you could consider me a bit of a "nerd" when it comes to beer. I've been called worse.

But much as a hungry man has a hankering for a porterhouse, I too have the almost constant yearning for delicious beer. This does not, I submit, make me an alcoholic. Because whether or not I actually get drunk off of beer is purely inconsequential. (Although try telling that to a State Trooper.) The beer is now the thing. If it should happen to give me a slightly light-headed sense of euphoria, so be it. I could do without it. If you put ten delicious beers in front of me and told me I would not feel the slightest buzz, I would gladly sip each one down with the exuberance of Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend, but with the fervor and meticulous eye of Paul Giamatti in Sideways.

Mr Bohall and I have had this discussion, and I would have to agree with him. Though wine has its place, with its foreign names and fancy looking vineyards, beer is just as majestic, just as refined, and just as well-crafted. Wine, with its sweet or dry fruitiness, may be a more palatable to delicate or uninitiated taste buds, but beer (in my experience) has just as many various styles, just as many deviations in ingredients, and is made with just as much care. (Plus, President Jimmy Carter made it legal again to brew beer at home in November 1978. No wonder he's considered our greatest president!) Beer also ages, just like wine; it's just usually better to let the heavy-alcohol beers age longer.

Yes, I have drank beer with a pen and a pad. Yes, I know what IBUs are. Yes, dammit, I do believe in the tenets of the Reinheitsgebot! Well, plus yeast, and other stylistic exceptions. (And no, that doesn't mean I'm a white supremist.)

We are in the midst of an American brewing revolution. In the last decade alone, the United States microbrewing industry has given us some of the finest beers in the world. I would have to say that to my taste, Americans are leading the way in high quality beermaking. If we could only get people to shell out the extra couple bucks for a six pack of Dogfish Head (instead of a half-case of Bud) or a 22-oz of Middle Ages 10th Anniversary. Even the middlebrow selections, like Magic Hat, Long Trail or J.W. Dundees are a good step up.

Even if you are a person who doesn't like beer (a.k.a. a "wuss"... just kidding), there is at least one beer style for everyone. Once American society starts embracing beer as a dignified beverage, and not just an excuse to show stupid Bud Light commercials, we may finally pull ourselves out of this lowest-common-denominator culture and into an age of true enlightenment. Of course we'll have to add fine arts, good music, thought-provoking literature, innovative humor, important films, appreciation for history, political awareness, work ethic, conservation and dexterity in math and science. But beer's a start.

Finally, a Shannon Kid Makes Good

Many congratulations and 'nuff respect go out to my little sister, Eileen, who just got her first "real" (her words) job. She will be teaching a communications course at RIT this coming Winter Semester. By a stroke of good luck, she will be finally using that damn Master's degree she is always talking about. (Don't worry, the other three of us won't let it go to her head.)

Good job, Beans. Now finally you might be able to beat me in Trivial Pursuit: College Communications Course Edition. Maybe.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

9/11: Loose Change

This is long, but totally worth it.

It's about 1 hour and 20 minutes, and it's a blow-by-blow analysis of why 9/11 may have been an inside job, used to instill fear in Americans and give our president and his co-consipirators power. I am not one who usually falls prey to conspiracy theories, but this is one of the most compelling and convincing documentaries I've ever seen.

If you have the time, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Three Quarters Through 2006

In this, my 31st year on this planet (yes, I am only 30, but I am currently in the midst of my 31st year), a lot has occurred in my life. But how do I assess it? I think I would say that things have gone down in the same manner as why my dentist told me I should brush my gums.

My dentist, Dr Sveen -- thanks for the straight teeth, and my parents say "you're welcome" for the yacht -- told me that I should always floss and brush my gums. Because, you see, if you brush your gums, they will bleed a bit at first, but in the long run, they will be stronger and provide a better foundation in which one's teeth could rest comfortably. Now, I am not a vain person, but I must say that with the exception of a small gap between my right maxillary second premolar and my right maxillary first molar, my teeth are breathtakingly straight. Due to the uncertainties of life, I am very much aware that I am one fistfight or car accident or corn on the cob hazard away from having my stellar fronts removed from their status of quasi-perfection. But boy am I beside the point.

My point was this: though we go through some hard times and rough changes, we learn to be stronger. And not in a calloused, cynical way, but rather in a way that makes us stronger and more apt to handle all the twists and turns that life gives us. And I have found more twists and turns in my life in the last half-year than ever before.

2006 has been a year of transition for me, and though I may have bled a bit at first, I am finding that it is only making me stronger. I have found that I am capable of existing in a plane that is befitting me. I have rediscovered the importance of friendship, my appreciation for delicious craft beer, the importance of introspection, and perhaps something even more special. I have allowed a lot of special people into my life, and though they might not realize it, they have all left a trace of themselves upon me.

I'm in a good place right now. I have been able to travel to visit some old friends with which I have had varying degrees of contact, but keep a solid home base. Though I have left Syracuse several times in the last few months, my heart is always back here waiting for me when I return. I have learned that it is better to put myself "out there" rather than be safe all the time.

I have been able to explore my inner self. (Yes, I know this all sounds very Buddhist, but it's the truth.) I am finding that certain flaws I have are not really flaws at all. And that the flaws I do have are not all my fault. I am at a point where I can pinpoint the negativity that has befell me over the last several years and overcome it. I have rediscovered my self-worth and realized that yes, dammit, I am a good person, and worthwhile. And that my flaws, while numerous, do not relegate me to second-class status. I know that I have a lot to offer anyone willing to look hard enough. Sure, you have to look really really really hard to see it, but I am worth the effort.

I've dropped over 20 lbs since April. Not bragging, just a numerical fact.

Most importantly, I have learned that sometimes the unknown -- while terrifying at times -- can be wonderfully exciting as well. Unlike before, I would rather take a chance on something and fail than never explore it at all. But I will continue to try my best to make everything fall into place.

No matter what the following weeks, months and years bring, I know that I am on the right path. I am supported by a wonderful group of people who have all unwittingly banded together to lift me up like a crowd surfer of a decade ago. To all 143,000 of you that have been there to hold me up, I say thank you. You know who you all are, and you have helped me rediscover the Me that was missing for so long.

Things are looking up. And maybe happiness isn't so far away after all.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

David Brent: Microsoft Management Consultant

This is a promotional video that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (creators of the original British version of The Office) created for Microsoft. I think these two are brilliant, but you have to like British humor to get it. The first video is 20 mins, the second video is 17 minutes. And it's gold.

They actually showed these videos at a Microsoft employee meeting. If only my company could pull these guys to make corporate training videos.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Buffalo Bills 2006: Good Lord Could They Actually Be Any Good?

Cautious optimism be damned! This video got me so pumped up for the Bills this season. Even if they tank, I am feeling pretty good about them right now.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I Have Nothing to Blog About

My copious fan base has been begging me to come up with some sort of topic to blog about, but let's face it, I have nothing. And no one gives a shit what I have to say anyway (to paraphrase the title of this very blog you hold in your hand).

So I'm going to simply spout out some arbitrary type stuff that I've been thinking of. Wanna hear it here it go...

  • I think it's kind of hilarious that Muslims are getting all bent out of shape about the Pope reciting a 600 year old bit of text by Manuel II Paleologus, that Pope Benedict XVI recited. Let's remember folks: Muslims refuse to take any of these Islamofascist terrorists to task for carbombing, suicide bombing, and hijacking. Oh but Allah forbid that the Pope recite something from six centuries ago, or that someone draw a picture of the prophet. Oh, then suddenly the protests come out hot and heavy. (Come on, do these people have anything better to do with their time than stand in crowds and burn things? Do they????) These people who stand up against words, images and dialogue, yet refuse to condemn carnage and the loss of innocent civilian lives at the hands of their terrorist brethren are simply cowards. Take a look in the mirror and the culture that those who have hijacked your religion has brought you.

  • I am a little leery of people who are dead-set against all immigration to this country. To me, it is a form of racism, due to the fact that it is mostly people with brown skin who are moving into our country through the southern border. These are the same people who embrace California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and want to actually add a constitutional amendment to make him -- A FOREIGNER -- eligible to run for president. Oh I get it: it's okay for a white person to come into our country and lead the nation, but if someone with brown skin wants to come in and clean toilets for a living, that's not okay? Makes perfect sense.

    I'm not saying we should have all-out barnstorming through our borders, but let's look at the people who are so adamant against these laws. Most of them are white Republicans. And they hold onto this ideal of some pure American way. Do you know what they are really afraid of? They are really afraid of Mexican (or other Latino cultures) infiltrating their pure southern ways of life. They are afraid of races combining. That is the truth; but they won't say it. They don't give a shit about jobs; these migrant workers do jobs that none of us would be willing to do. It's a matter of wanting to keep the brown people out of our country, plain and simple.

  • I love beer. I love beer so much. And it's not because I'm some stupid fratboy who just loves to get drunk. I love knowing about beer. I love being a beer "snob." I love being able to take a sip of a beer and identify what style it is. I love paying over $8 for a six-pack. I love calling Javen and Bruce and asking them to give me suggestions. I love seeing a wall of beer at a beer store and being totally overwhelmed by what to get. It's the same feeling I used to get at record stores when I was in high school. I love rating beers at Beer Advocate. I love looking in my fridge and seeing an IPA, an ale, a Wit, a double IPA, a bitter, a winter ale, a stout and a porter, and knowing I can choose any one I like. But why? I can't quite figure it out.

  • I watched that show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip the other night and I have such mixed feelings. (It's that show about a Saturday Night Live-type show where everything goes haywire and they have to revamp everything.) The show started off with such a bullshit, ripped-off premise: the head of a late night sketch show goes crazy one night and starts ranting about how horrible television is, how bad networks have gotten, art vs. commerce. It's a total rip-off of the movie Network, directed by Sidney Lumet. In fact, in the pilot, all the so-called news organizations reporting the exec-producer's meltdown all mention Network and the movie's screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. As if simply knowing that reference puts the show in some rarified air. (Yes we have resorted to TV shows referencing other movies.)

    The creator of the show, Aaron Sorkin, is a thorn in my side. I want to like his stuff. He wrote the movies A Few Good Men and The American President, as well as created the TV shows "Sports Night" and "The West Wing." On one hand, I really want to like his material. He really seems to want to advance the art of dialogue. But every time I sit down and watch any of his shows or movies, they turn into the same preachy, didactic drivel that I hate. He wants so badly to teach all of us how to think and how to be. And also, all his shows are fraught with all this high-falutin' dialogue, and then someone saying something so dramatic that everyone else in the room has to stop and stare in awe, and then those same people being inspired to do something important and great.

    Listen folks, I don't need Aaron fucking Sorking to tell me how to think. If I want someone to tell me how to think, I will look to David Mamet, Paul Thomas Anderson, Charlie Kaufman, Richard Price, Mitchell Hurwitz, Matt Groenig, Marshall Rawson Thurber, Joel and Ethan Coen, Billy Wilder, Larry David and/or Vincent Gallo. These people can set me straight. Aaron Sorkin is a hack.

    Oh, and by the way, the best show on TV right now is "How I Met Your Mother." It's the best show now that "Arrested Development" is off the air. Although they ARE showing it on the cable channel G4! Check it out! In a way, maybe it's good for me that "Arrested D" got cancelled. When it was on, every other show looked like crap by comparison. Now that I am forced to try out other shows, it's making me a little more tolerant.

  • I am very happy that my Bills are 1-1 right now, considering most preseason "experts" (notice the ironic use of quotations marks) picked them to win a maximum of like four games. But if there is anything we football fans know, it's that you don't know a goddamn thing at the end of Week Two. I would love to see my Herd rip through the next fourteen games and come out with a winning record and [gasp] make the playoffs. And some people have noticed that "our" defense is playing really well. It's true, but let's not forget back in 2003 when Buffalo started 2-0, and everyone was calling them the best team in the league, before they shit the bed and ended the season 6-10. I am all about unearned optimism, but we have a lot of season left; let's not get carried away. (However, I must confess that if they do win the Super Bowl, it will probably wipe away 30 years of heartache across the board. I don't think any one player on that team can possibly fathom how much their successs means to me, psychologically.)

  • I wonder if there has ever been an epidemic I have been less worried about than the E.Coli/Spinach situation.

  • Your boy "W" will go down as one of the five worst presidents in our country's history. Put it on the board. I trust our government so little that when I hear that they condemned the recent coup d'etat in Thailand, I'm starting to wonder if it's a good idea.

  • Here is a list of people I currently hate: Terrell Owens, Oprah, Pete Dougherty, Drew Rosenhaus, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Hugo Chavez, director Kevin Smith, Paris Hilton, Dick Vitale. Add your own!

So that's about all I got. I hope you enjoyed the smattering of bullcrap that I was able to spit out there. I'm sure you don't give two shits about it, but it's the best I can do.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Buffalo 16, Miami 6

Pretty much the only thing that's made me smile since Tuesday afternoon...

One of Culpooper's multiple fumbles

LB Angelo Crowell with a huge "inner" before halftime

T.McGee denying Dolphins asshole receiver Randy McMichael

Willis pounding away

Oh, and thank you boys, for rockin the white pants with the blue jerseys, instead of that monochrome eye-sore bullshit. It looks so much better.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Buffalo Slugs?

Few on this earth can hang with my love of the Buffalo Sabres. Javen for one. My little brother Mike is another. But other than that, not many.

I am not so sure, however, about my feelings on the new logo they are going to be unveiling. [Note: they say this is only one aspect of the new logo, which they are unveiling on September 16, so this may be a tad premature, but you know I'm always on the cutting edge.]

It would be a cool secondary logo, actually, as it is indicative of a certain style. But as a primary logo -- the one to be worn on the front of the jersey and on all the merchandise, the identity of the team -- it is a bit too abstract and doesn't actually look like a buffalo. People on certain message boards are calling it the Buffaslug.

What makes things even harder to swallow is that the logo below has been floating around for about three years.

It was proposed by a guy named John Slabyk who is a logo designer. He brought the idea to Tom Golisano and the Sabres organization, and they balked for whatever reason. I think this design is great. It's classy, has a nice color scheme, and is a sharp update of their classic uniform from 1970-1995, shown here:

I have mixed feelings about their last uniform, known to many of us as the "Goat Head."

Ultimately, though, it became a symbol of a team that was very good for a long time (except for a few years) and nearly made the Stanley Cup Finals last year.

One thing I do like about the new logo is that they keep the buffalo/buffaslug's trademark red eye, which all the logos have had. I'm not sure why I like that, but there's something nice about the continuity there.

It's not like I'm gonna stop rooting for the Sabres if their uniforms suck, but with all the great concepts and options I've seen out there, I would think that they would think long and hard about it, and hopefully listen to the fans. It's worked before, when the Islanders got rid of their Gorton's fisherman logo after one season due to fan complaints, and the 49ers scrapped their infamous and godawful "One Day Helmet" after (take a guess) only one day, due to public outrage. Tom Golisano, who is a billionaire and owns the Sabres, did not become a billionaire by being unsavvy. I am hoping that he does the right thing and makes the jerseys and logo aesthetically pleasing.

[Update: There is video of the ice rink painted with the new logo below.]

Horatio Show-Blower

I read on Wikipedia today that Horatio Sanz will probably not be returning to Saturday Night Live this year. And I have to say, I am thrilled.

A lot of people think SNL sucks, and I can kind of see why sometimes. A lot of the skits are less than hilarious, and some entire shows are just subpar beyond belief. There are too many recurring characters, too many impressions of famous people. I've heard it all. But I have always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Saturday Night Live. Just when you think it's past its prime, it will reinvent itself, usually with a massive talent like Eddie Murphy, Dana Carvey (and yes, he was amazing on that show) or Will Ferrell.

It's still hit or miss; any 90-minute live show is going to be. But they will evenutally pull something hilarious out like "Lazy Sunday" [Note: sorry for the link, NBC took it off the internet, greedy bastards] or "Bill Brasky" that will be really great and transcendent. Remember, the history of SNL writers includes Conan O'Brien, Bob Odenkirk, Robert Smigel (aka Triumph the Insult Comic Dog), Stephen Colbert and Adam McKay (writer/director of Anchorman). So the show is still a breeding ground for talent.

Also, I think they have really upgraded the talent (if not the writing) over the last few years. I think that the four newbies from last year (Jason Sudeikis, Andy Samberg, Bill Hader and Rochester native Kristen Wiig) are all very talented performers. The writing was definitely not up to snuff last year overall, but there were really funny moments here and there.

But for the life of me I have never understood why they kept Horatio Sanz around. I don't know if it was a diversity thing, being that Horatio was the first Latino cast member of the show, or that he's just such a nice guy and they couldn't bear to let him go. Those are the only two options I can think of.

Horatio -- and how can I put this lightly -- is the single unfunniest comic actor I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot of bad comedy. I have a very high threshold for comedy, because I know how hard it could be. But Horatio took bad comedy to a high art form. His performances are so one-note, with very little actual humor accompanying his acting. There are so many elements that contribute to his startling mediocrity.

Firstly, he is always laughing at himself and his own jokes. This is not like The Carol Burnett Show where the cast members were genuinely trying not to crack up; this is a case of Horatio mugging for the camera and trying to act extra "wacky" to get the other cast members -- notably the since-disappeared Jimmy Fallon -- to just laugh it up during the skits. This became such an epidemic that it ruined nearly any skit that Sanz and his tittering monkey-boy Fallon were in together. It even seemed to me (with no confirmation) that exec-producer Lorne Michaels even separated the two of them, or moved their skits to the end of the night (when they are usually sub par anyway). But it was such a predictable and forced diversion that it smacked of desperation. Whenever Jimmy Fallon and Horatio were the two main players in a skit, you could bet that there would be some unplanned giggling. Oh how amusing! To see people crack each other up by smiling at each other!

Horatio's diversity as a comic actor is also limited. He typically plays one of two characters: a waddling fat stone-faced (or stoner) type (Chubb Hotty, Frankie) or the over-the-top screamer who would often laugh at himself in character (Carol, Gobi). He rarely deviates from these types. If they wanted a fat guy to basically play two characters, they could have hired me. I could use the money.

In addition, Horatio is a mediocre-to-poor impressionist. The main reason for this is that he is so fat. Not that I am against fat folks, I count myself among them. But how can you do an impression of Elton John or Ozzy Osbourne or Saddam Hussein or (one of his worst) Billy Joel when you are 300+ lbs? You can't exactly disappear into character when you have five chins. When SNL had Chris Farley, they at least gave him characters of fat guys and limited his impressions. Chris Farley was a bit limited too in his comedy, but he had a lot more authenticity.

Horatio to me is like the guy or gal at work who is lazy and generally incompetent, yet keeps getting promoted. In the course of the show, they let go much more compelling talents than Horatio (notably Robert Riggle and Jeff Richards) and yet made Horatio a featured performer. But the guy single-handedly ruined more skits than I can even count.

There are lots of rumors saying that Horatio may or may not be gone. Lorne Michaels has confirmed that he is firing four cast members, and I swear to all that is holy that if he gets rid of Fred Armisen or Will Forte and keeps Horatio Sanz I will boycott the show for at least like five episodes. (I'll catch them in reruns.)

Mr. Show - Founding Fathers

From one of the great comedies of our time.

Ever wonder why it's impossible to defecate on the flag? Swearing in the video, might not be safe for work. Or "NSFW" in internet geek talk. Also, the guy who plays Lincoln in the video is Syracuse native Tom Kenney, whom many of you may know as the voice of Spongebob Squarepants.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Okay, this sounds like a really pretentious and stupid thing for a fat guy to say but ...

I joined a gym.

I got tired of being round and would rather be oblong and I decided that if I was paying actual money, it would motivate me to use the facilities and equipment I paid for. It's a very modest gym, close to my work. And it's nice because it's nothing but old guys and teenagers just looking to work up a sweat. No vain people just trying to get checked out or pick up chicks or whatever. At least not that I've seen. So it's great, I run in, I run a little, I lift a little, I check out some CNN to see what went to hell today, I shower and I'm out. Oh, and then of course I blow it on the weekends by eating my face off, but that's beside the point. I am not posting this to brag about being in a gym.

Mostly my experiences in the gym have been positive, but let me just relay two negative things, and maybe they are minor, but they are irritating.

1) Old guys walking around naked. Now, maybe I am just weird about this. Maybe I should be at the age where it's not abnormal to see another grown man in the nude. But I am still freaked out by it. I don't know why. It's not like I'm some prude or afraid I'll turn gay or anything. It's just off-putting and disorienting to be in a common area, and suddenly see some overweight 60-year old's wrinkly man-parts dangling in plain sight, all while he pretends there's nothing weird about it. (Mind you, I have never made direct eye contact with anyone in the locker room, nor will I ever. And I certainly haven't checked out any dude's wedding tackle. But dammit, I know it's there.)

What ever happened to towels? Do you know what I do? I will wear the sweaty boxers that I wore to work out in allll the way to the shower, carrying my towel and clean boxers. Then, right at the very precipice of the shower area, I will then remove the sweaty unmentionables, put them on the bench outside, then walk into the shower area and mastur....uh shower myself. Shower myself off and get clean and all that. Then I dry myself, reach around and grab the clean boxers, and walk into the common area with my dignity intact. It's the least I can do.

2) Talky gym rats. It seems that every time I go into the locker room area, there is some old dude there just talking and talking and talking. It's usually a situation where some poor guy is trying to change and get the hell out of there, and another older guy is just yapping away about something or other. All the while, the talker just blathers, and the talkee just says "mm-hmmm" and "yup" and other dismissive responses, all while trying to not feel violated by the talker's uncomfortable proximity.

Most of these guys are just good-natured old timers who just like to chat and it's all very harmless, although it's one of the reasons I am loathe to befriend anyone there. I don't need to be talked-at. There was, however, an incident today where a guy was very boorish and irritating. First of all, I walked into the locker room, and there is a big biker-looking guy, probably about 58 years old, long hair, beard, denim vest, bandana on his head. He is just standing around, blocking walkways, in front of the mirror, and in front of the old-school scale, which I like to check to see how much weight I haven't lost.

I am ready to get changed and get a move on, but this guy starts talking and is very rude. He's complaining about something to some other poor guy who couldn't care less, and everything out of his mouth is "fucking-this-fucking-that." I get it, you're a big tough biker guy who likes to swear. Tough guy. Don't wanna mess with you. Message received. Now shut the "fuck" up and get away from the hair dryer. (I can dream, can't I?)

Moreover, the guy is just sitting on a bench. He is not changing. He is not getting ready to work out. He is not in exercise clothes. He is just walking and standing in a men's locker room. I almost said something to the effect of "Hey, how can a homeless guy afford a gym membership?" but then I ran the risk of getting into a scuffle where I would have inevitably been picked up and thrown directly into some senior citizen's testicles. Wisely I kept my witty barb to myself.

So I go and do my workout for about an hour (y'know, run 15 miles, 10 sets of 30 reps, 400-lb dead-lift, the usual), and when I come back into the locker room, biker-boy is still there. And this time he's complaining about something totally different. ("Those fucking people at the fucking fair are so fucking rude. I'm not gonna be fucking pushing and shoving to get on a fucking bus to the fucking fair. They don't have any fucking class." I swear that last sentence is a direct quote.) Does this guy have his head so far up his ass that he doesn't realize what a buffoon he sounds like? Or is he doing it for effect? To exhibit some sort of oratory dominance? I don't know and I don't want to find out. I just don't want him to be there next time. At least he wasn't naked.

Tossin' Around the Pretend Pigskin

There is a difference between fantasy and life. Fantasy football is fantasy, and football is life.

This is why I am a little scared to enter my first foray in about five years into Fantasy Football. I have played before, but this year I think I am going to get sucked into it more than usual. My friend D. Blakes invited me to join a fantasy football league, and at press time the kinks are still being worked out. (Three teams in the league have a bye week every week, which means they don't play, which means they can't win. But we'll get it all worked out, don't worry Willie.)

I have always like fantasy football, because it gives me a reason to follow games I would not normally watch. For example, if for some reason I end up watching the Atlanta/Carolina game this Sunday (the opening day of the football season, i.e. my own personal Christmas), I normally would not have a vested interest. But with fantasy football, I have Alge Crumpler on Atlanta, and both Steve Smith and DeShaun Foster from Carolina, so I have a lot riding on it. Points-wise.

I have always kept fantasy football at arm's length, and that is where I'm a little scared. I have what doctor's call an "obsessive personality" which means that when I find interest in something, I tend to become completely attached to it for several weeks, often overloading. (See previous examples with blogging, Star Wars, Arrested Development, Iron & Wine, craft beer, etc.) I am the poster child for why people say there are "gateway drugs." Luckily, NyQuil is still as hardcore as I get, and that's only if I'm on vacation. Regardless, this lack of perspective and control is not something I want fantasy football to elicit from me.

And it's not that I don't want to get into it; I really do. But my problem is that I don't want to lose the forest for the proverbial trees. I am a football fan, first and foremost. I have been watching football for about twenty years, mostly following my star-crossed Bills through every wretched miserable season. But I always want to be a fan of football, not of "my players." I do not want to switch allegiances every year. Perennially, there will always be teams I will hate (Dallas, Miami, New York Giants) and teams that I kind of like (Philly, Seattle, Kansas City). And with each year, those teams, and the players on those teams, will have a firm place in my own personal universe of football.

But that's where fantasy football clouds the senses. For example, what if the Bills are playing the Dolphins, but I have the Dolphins defense on my fantasy team (this is strictly hypothetical as I would never pick the Miami Defense or any player from Miami ever). When game time comes, what do I want? Do I want my Bills to roll up yards and light up the scoreboard? Or do I take some sort of solace in the event of a defeat that at least the Bills lost, but hey, I got 6 fantasy points out of it!

Bullshit! Never! There will never be any joy in losing (especially to the goddamn Dolphins). And certainly no measly amount of points in a fantasy game should take away the sting of a loss. If I ever catch myself saying, "Well, the Bills lost, but at least the four interceptions that Losman threw are good for my fantasy D," I will repeatedly open a window and then slam it down on my own head. That's a Bill Shannon promise.

Quick story: A few years ago, I was at work, and there was this guy who worked in my department (he was canned shortly thereafter). And this guy was fat, I'm talking Orca fat. So anyway, I am walking around and I notice that this guy has a Buffalo Bills helmet on his computer. So I figure, hey this guy's alright. So I asked him, "Hey, you like Buffalo, huh?" to which he replied in the affirmative. So I said to him, "Big game this weekend huh?" I still remember, they were playing the Raiders. And this fat house of a man said, "Yeah, but I need them to lose because I have [Raiders quarterback] Rich Gannon on my fantasy team." It took all my inner strength to keep from taking his head and repeatedly slamming a window down on top of it.

Bottom line: if I ever turn against the Bills -- no matter how unrequited my love for them may be -- because of a fantasy player, please get me some help.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Fast and Furious"

I am an eternal optimist, especially when it comes to the Bills. They could have no shot at winning 3 games all season, and I'll still pick them to make the playoffs. That's what nearly a decade of AFC East dominance does, even ten years after the fact.

BUT (and I know it's only pre-season), the Bills looked good on Thursday night in their 20-13 win over the Detroit Lions, especially on the opening drive. Quarterback J.P. Losman was 5 for 5 to start the game, marching the Bills 85 yards down the field to score on the opening drive. And it's not just that his passes were accurate: he was confident. He looked like he knew where the ball was supposed to go at all times. He was not dancing in the pocket, he was not looking left and right. He was in control. I know, things could fall apart in the regular season, but Jonathan Paul Losman, the Adam Sandler lookalike, was clearly the best QB on the team. I also like the change in offensive philosophy. New offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild seems to be using the Mike Martz school of offense and spreading the field out. Not only are they utilizing the outside speed of wide receivers Lee Evans and (welcome back) Peerless Price, but they are having Willis McGahee run more to the outside. They could be a fun offense to watch; seem to have some precision.

Also (and again, I know this is all pre-season), they committed zero penalties and no turnovers in the entire first half (which is when the first and second strings play the most). No major mistakes. This is a good sign, and maybe a sign that new head coach Dick Jauron is getting through to a team that was heavily penalized over the last five years. Maybe I'm being way too optimistic. I know they aren't going to make the Super Bowl. Heck, the chance of them even making the playoffs this year is a longshot, but if they can make some strides, I think they are about 2-3 years away from being a very good team.

I'm really digging the new Tampa-2 defense they're running now too. There is clearly a lot more speed on the line and on the ends, which is something they didn't have with 300-plus lb linemen Pat Williams and Sam Adams over the last few years. Now they have guys who can disrupt the inside lanes and plug the gaps, but who are also fast enough to get to the quarterback. And all those who said the Bills reached too high for Donte Whitner and John McCargo in this past year's draft should realize that Whitner is going to be the starter at strong safety, and McCargo is making nice strides in camp. Plus, apparently this kid Kyle Williams out of LSU is a bit of a steal. I like the defense very much.

I know that this year will likely be a crushing disappointment, as every year since 1965 has ultimately been. But you gotta have hope. Otherwise, what's the point?


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Happy 2nd Blogoversary To Me!

I just realized that today is my second Blogoversary! It seems like only 730 short days ago that I first wrote my very first blog, musing as only a genius like myself can on the Olympics. Ruminating on such controversial topics as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Making a prediction that the Seattle Seahawks would be good one season too early. Am I clairvoyant? Perhaps. Am I eloquent. You tell me. Do I have a lot of free time on my hands? Without question.

Since many people remember everything I write down for the rest of their lives, this part will probably be superfluous, but for the rest of you, it's essential. Exactly one year ago today, I created a list of the many topics I would cover over the coming year. Well, the year is past, let's see how I did.

  • Football (check)
  • Stupid shit that I did (check)
  • Pictures of my newborn toddlers (nope, they ran away)
  • Bad things that happened to me (um, yeah)
  • Embarrassing things that happened to me
  • Celebrities I hate (check and check)
  • How much weight I've gained (keypad won't work, dammit)
  • My iPod (check and mate)
  • Ju-jitsu (and other forms of self-defense)
  • Celebrities I think are hot (are your ears ringing, Jude Law?!)
  • The boys my twin teenage daughters are dating (I killed them, sorry)
  • How to get one side of the Rubik's Cube (almost got it!)
  • Sneaking food into a movie theater (two words: big pockets)
  • Which baseball cards will appreciate in value over the next five years (baseball cards are dead)
  • Movie quotes ("you're fired Ed, bing-bong-bong")
  • An "irreverent" look at religion (maybe?)
  • Nutritious dishes you can make in under 40 minutes (I prefer to eat out)
  • A tribute to Lance Bass (seriously, I had no idea)
  • Cats (The animal, not the musical, silly!) (nope)
  • My soon-to-be annual pledge drive (still waiting for your donation)
  • World leaders Pat Robertson wants to assassinate now (not enough bandwidth)
  • Rants against the evils of corporate America and the way that big business runs our country (been done)
  • Crossword puzzles I've actually finished (hasn't happened)
  • Rappers to which I give mad respect (check)

(Kidding aside, I never intended to blog about any of those things, and haven't read that post in a year, but hey, I keep my promises, even when it's unintentional.)

I'm not going to be so bold as to predict the topics for 2006-07, but let's hope the next 12 months bring all of us everything we want and more. Happy blogging!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Herb Deluxe®

I know what you're thinking.

You're thinking, Sure, a guy like Bill Shannon is good to have around every once in a while. He's loud, he doesn't pay for anything, he'll finish what's on my plate when I can't have another bite. He's alright by me.

But [this is still you thinking], somehow there's something missing. And I can't quite put my finger on it. Is it his lack of hygiene? His unjustified arrogance? His unnecessary use of large words in incorrect context? No, that's not it.

Oh! you finally exclaim, I've got it! As adequate as that William Herbert is, he's just not diverse enough. Let's face it, the boy is white-bred.

Well I have read all your emails and letters and faxes and telegrams, and I have listened to all your concerns about my lack of diversity. And -- are you ready for a bombshell? -- you were right! I have been far too slow to embrace diversity in my own physical self. Every time you see Bill Shannon you see the same thing. White face, white face, white face, pasty, pale white face. Name another place you go where you see that much white? Besides the North Pole! Right? Am I right or what?

This is America. And whether you want to call it a melting pot, a fruit salad or a national mosaic, you can't go anywhere this day and age without seeing people of so many great and diverse ethnicities. I, much like the Boston Red Sox, have been reluctant to integrate myself.

So with the help of some focus groups, including some leading multiculturalism and anti-defamation organizations, I have come up with a Bill Shannon for the new millennium, a Bill Shannon that you can count on to represent not only fellow caucasians, but sundry other ethnic groups as well.

And as a special bonus, we have also had some well-known artists come in to give their own renditions of what a Bill Shannon might look like in their eyes. I think the results will surprise you.

Well enough pomp and pageantry, I would now like to unveil the Twenty-Ought-Six-and-Beyond version. The Herb Deluxe, if you will.

First, the control group. This is the Original Bill Shannon you have all come to know and tolerate.

Pleasant, timeless. It gets the job done, no questions asked. The slacked jaw, the poor eyesight. All your favorites are there. That's three decades of mediocrity all up in your grillpiece, son. Recognize!

But you've probably had enough of that. Let's take a look at something a little more dangerous. I mean, have you ever wondered, I wonder what a Bill Shannon would look like as an East Asian?

Wonder no further, simply cast your eyes just inches upward and enjoy the Bill Shannon that comes from the Land of the Rising Sun. Sure, the Original Bill Shannon has wee eyes that obscure his breathtaking baby-blues. But East Asian Bill Shannon's eyes belie a sort of exotic (perhaps dangerous?) effect, one that says, Konichiwa! Ichiban! Domo Origato, Mr DiGiacomo. (That is literally the only Japanese I know, and I don't even know it. East Asian Bill Shannon is going to need some tweaking.)

But let's say that language barrier is too much for you. Let's say your name isn't Mike "Beach Justice" Shannon, but you still would like Bill Shannon to be a "brother." I've just the thing.

Afro-Carribbean Bill Shannon does not mess around. You can tell by the look in his eyes that he is determined and ready to throw down. But he's not a bad guy, he's just misunderstood. That look on his face is not anger, it's the pain that generations of oppression and injustice have brought. Afro-Carribbean Bill Shannon is not interested in messing a brotha up, but he does demand your respect. And notice, that even the Afro-Carribbean Bill Shannon does not come with eyebrows. (Ratzin-fratzin-googly-moogly...)

West-Asian Bill Shannon is one of the good ones. You can let him on the plane. Trust me. He's with me (leather).

Let's say you're appreciative of the diversity I've provided (and with the copious examples I have provided, you should be!), but you are still not satisfied. Why don't we fire up the ol' Flux Capacitor and jump in the TIME MACHINE?! Once that Delorean hits 88, you will see the inexorable march that Bill Shannon has made (and will continue to make) through time.

There are five distinct stages of a Bill Shannon in his lifetime. I hope you enjoy all of them. I only really enjoyed two of them.

First there is Baby Billy. You just want to pinch his face and give him $5, don't you? This is apparently right after baby's first beard-trimming.
Then Pre-Pubescent Bill (and no that is not like five years ago, haters!). His whole life ahead of him, and a trail of bodies behind him. Forget I said that last part.

The Original Version (see above). Unbelievably handsome, sure, I mean scary handsome. But let's not forget that has a very efficient notecard filing system. (Boy I really wish I hadn't brought that up.)

And Old-Timer Bill. If you call him Gramps you're bound to get a rap to the kisser, wise-guy!

But what's the fifth stage? Ah-HA! It was a trick! For the fifth stage, we go not back in time, but back in the evolution of man! (This one is for you, Tracie my dear.) I present to you, Half-Monkey-Half-Bill-Shannon!
Note, even in his primitive homo habilis state, he is still wearing eyeglasses. That's a commitment to good vision.

Now, it's a sad fact that Bill Shannon is not going to live forever folks. I know I know, you don't even wanna think about that. Trust me, neither do I! Ha ha ha ha ha, ahhhhh.... But anyway, when Bill Shannon is no longer here in a physical sense, he will always be here in physical essence. His spirit, his aura, will always be with you. No matter what. Bill Shannon is like Obi-Wan Kenobi in that way, except if Bill Shannon saw a mofo like Darth Vader coming up to him with a lightsaber, Bill Shannon would get the **** outta dodge, yaknowwhatumsayin?

But when Bill Shannon's physical being isn't here on earth for others to enjoy, we have to with the next best thing: art. Now many have debated what true art is. Is everything art? Is nothing art? Who decides what art is? Whatever your opinion, I don't think there will be any doubt that the following creations are not only works of art, but works of exquisite art. Mainly because of the subject matter.

Since we couldn't afford any real, living artists to create a tribute to Bill Shannon, I had to create some myself, using the styles of artists of the past. For example, had you ever wondered what Bill Shannon would look like if he were painted by the immortal Botticelli?
Well we'll never know, of course, because Botticelli has been dead since the early 1500s, but I am confident that the master couldn't do any better than the above.

What about Modigliani?
Sure Bill Shannon looks a little, shall we say "priggish" in this picture, but he has been known to be that way in real life as well.

And the great El Greco wanted to have a crack at Bill Shannon, and I don't think anyone could have asked for anything better.
Plus I look skinny as hell.

There is only one more version I'm unleashing at this time, which doesn't really fit into any of the other categories, and that is Drunk Bill.

According to some sort of complex mathematical theorem, the above picture is a hypothetical approximation of what Bill Shannon would look like had he consumed a few alcoholic beverages. Is this what Bill Shannon might look like in that state? I guess the world will never know. (Apparently when it happens though, he will be using a mouthguard.)

So there you have it. I'm hoping that this, my mandatory sensitivity training and my 360 hours of community service will finally silence those who say that Bill Shannon doesn't represent them, and only caters to his own interests. Nothing, friends, could be further from the truth. Next time you say, Bill Shannon is two-faced, just remember: it's more like eight or nine!!!!!!!