Friday, December 31, 2010

Boy, I'm glad HE'S gone.

Of course, I speak about the year about to pass us by, which, every year around this time, gets treated like the party guest that stayed too long. Think about it -- one year ago, 2010 was going to be the best year ever. And now, we cannot wait to flush it down the drain. Ooh, a shiny new year is just twenty-four hours away!

Hey, 2010! How about you eff off?

We're such New Year Whores.

Moving on: For those interested in the publishing game, this coming Monday, the "So You Want to Write a Novel" video will be featured on the excellent publishing blog, Pimp My Novel. Blog runner Eric works in the sales department of a publishing house, and does a brilliant job on the blog explaining the business end of publishing. He's also a very funny writer, which makes the whole package as tasty as Smuttynose Brewing Company's Old Brown Dog Ale.

And of course, Happy New Year, everyone. Except you, 2010.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

June, July and August

We're approaching the time of year when I look at my mom and sister, who are both teachers, and seethe with jealousy. They're about to get two solid weeks off, two glorious weeks to sit around, watch movie marathons, and sleep late. Not that they actually do any of this, but they COULD.

When I give them a hard time about it, they look at me like I'm the folksy gas station attendant from No Country from Old Men and they're Anton Chigurh, looking for their pneumatic air gun.

So without further ado, I dedicate So You Want to Be a Teacher to them, to my kids' teachers, to my old teachers, and to all the other teachers about to get a well-deserved break.

And I'll sit here seething with envy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

DefCon 1

It's time for Episode 5, the season finale of So You Want to Go to Law School -- The Series. Click here to watch.

Staring down the gun barrel of finals, Carrie-Ann and her friend Will look back on a long semester and plan their final assault on their impending exams.

Including the original video, this is the sixth, and for now, the final episode in the Law School series. It's been a lot of fun writing these little movies, and I hope you enjoyed them. That being said, I don't want to overstay my welcome with the series, and so I'll quit while I'm (hopefully) still ahead.

Please keep voting in the Huffington Post's Best Book-Related Video contest. As of Sunday night, So You Want to Write a Novel was in 2nd place, only trailing novelist Tim Dorsey's video about his new book. (UPDATE: As of Thursday, December 18, the video is in first place with an average score of 8/10. Dorsey's video is in second, 7.5/10).

Also, check out the Media/Blog Coverage tab and see all the places my videos have popped up in the last few weeks. I particularly enjoyed talking to novelist Caroline Leavitt about how "So You Want to Write a Novel" came to be (in no small part because she was kind enough to let me ramble on and on in my very special way). Check out her great website here.

I plan to post at least once more before the end of the year while I work on some new ideas for The Corner in 2011.

The last two months have really been great, and I thank you for coming along for the ride.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Best Book Video of the Year? It Could Be.

Quick mid-week post.

The Huffington Post has "nominated" 19 videos for the best book-related video of 2010, and "So You Want to Write a Novel" is in the group.

Please vote and help bring the gold back to The Corner!

Click here for the link. The "Rate Video" button is on the right side.

Thanks!

David

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Episode IV -- A New Hope(lessness)

A really, really important part of law school is getting some real-world experience.

I largely skipped that part until after my second year, which, as it turns out, was a really smart move by me. I'm thinking that had I started down that real-world road any earlier, I might have run for the hills before finishing law school. If I had done that, I wouldn't have met my wife, and I wouldn't be sitting here watching Spider Man 2 with my son. The true irony of the entire series is that my kids are the biggest fans law school has ever had, because without law school, they would never have been born.

In Episode 4 of So You Want to Go to Law School - The Series, Carrie-Ann has gotten an internship at the same firm where the whole saga began, and her supervising attorney is our old friend Oscar.

Click here to watch.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So You Want to Write a Novel

As I've written about in this space, I'm an aspiring novelist. In other words, it's my dream to get paid to sit around and make sh*t up.

When I'm not writing, or more accurately, when I'm looking for ways to avoid writing, I spend a lot of time reading about the industry, about agents, about the publishing process, other writers' blogs, and so on. It's amazing how many people are either writing novels or want to write novels, and out on the Internet, there are as many different views on writing as there are people. The vast majority of writers I come across are friendly, supportive of one another, understand the process, acknowledge how hard it is, and yet, they wouldn't dream of doing anything else.

And then, every once in a while, you come across someone like this....

Click here to watch my newest video.



And honestly, given all the "So You Want to...." videos that have popped up in the last month, I couldn't believe no one had done this one yet (at least, I couldn't find one...).

Hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Heartache, Mitch*

As many of you know or are quickly learning, law school lays waste to relationships. The stress, the workload, the isolating and foreign nature of studying law, they all contribute to piss off the significant others in your lives. And when those relationships collapse, who's waiting to make it all better?

In this week's episode, Carrie-Ann's boyfriend Josh comes to visit. It does not go well.

Click here to watch.

*This week's title is taken from The Firm, the movie based on John Grisham's novel of the same name. Good book, decent movie, but Wilford Brimley's turn as DeVasher, the firm's security chief, is one of the most spectacularly hilarious things I have ever seen on film. There's a scene where he's confronting Tom Cruise's character, Mitch, about the compromising photos the firm has of him with the girl on the beach. The quotes from that scene have entered the stuff of lore and legend with my college buddies.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

National Unfriend Day

Jimmy Kimmel has declared today National Unfriend Day, based on his belief that Facebook is cheapening the sacred institution of friendship, and he's encouraging everyone to unfriend those people who aren't really "friends."

And in honor of National Unfriend Day, I'm reposting the link to my Facebook video.

Happy National Unfriend Day!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Battle Stations

Hi everyone,

A new episode of "So You Want to Go to Law School" is now available. This week, Carrie-Ann comes face-to-face with her new nemesis, the diabolical Professor Walker, and battle lines are drawn.

Please continue to share any (or all) of the videos. The original Law School video broke 800,000 page views on YouTube during the week (and is closing in on 90,000 hits on Xtranormal). Thanks for all your support.

David

Saturday, October 30, 2010

So You Want to Go to Law School -- The Series!

Short Version of This Blog Post

Thanks to everyone for making Law School such a huge hit. Here's a link to the first "episode" in a new series starring Carrie-Ann as she heads off to law school. Enjoy.

Long Version of This Blog Post

Every unpublished writer dreams of getting a response like the one I got to the video. It's been the most exciting moment of my writing career, and I have all of you to thank for it. Every person that forwarded it on Facebook (almost 80,000), every person that watched it, every person that commented on it, and every person that visited The Corner since seeing the video -- I cannot thank you enough.

That said, I think my job as a writer is to keep improving and to keep entertaining readers (or 5-minute video watchers), and so I think the time has come to move forward and hopefully build on "So You Want to Go to Law School."

To that end, I present you with the first episode of a weekly series following our law student that could, Carrie-Ann Fox, as she enrolls in Hunter University Law School. Click here for the link to the new video.

Today we catch up with Carrie-Ann as she meets with Will Graham, her law student advisor and a battle-hardened but friendly 2L (hey, they can't all be jackasses like Oscar, right?).

I hope you like it. All I ask is that if you do like it, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, by e-mail, Digg, Reddit, and any other format you can think of. This video was created using Xtranormal.com's brilliant animation website and is presented on YouTube.

Thanks,
David

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How a Video Goes Viral...

On October 3, I posted a column called "This Used to Be My Rock-and-Roll Fantasy", a column about fantasy sports. It generated about 175 hits, a fairly low hit count for a blog that was already struggling to draw new readership and was starting to lose its regular readership. I was sort of at a loss about the direction of the blog and even considered dialing things back a bit, if not shutting the blog down entirely, to focus again on fiction.

On October 10, I tried something somewhat different, wrote the 5-minute script for So You Want to Go to Law School, and posted it to the Xtranormal website, where it drew a few hundred hits over the next few days. All in all, it was shaping up to be a normal week. Then on October 14, the traffic started climbing rapidly on the xtranormal website, hitting about 1100 by Thursday night. Honestly, at first, I thought it was because I kept clicking on the video myself.

By Friday morning, October 15, the hits had climbed to about 3,000 (and I knew it wasn't me, because I was asleep for most of that time). Whatever the reason, I was happy to see something I had created was finally making some waves. I then posted the video on YouTube, and again, the hit count started to grow.

Over the weekend, the video picked up some speed. By Monday, it had gotten picked up by the Above The Law legal blog (which I only learned about from a friend). Over the next couple of days, the hit count went from 17,000 to 100,000, and then things got weird.

Friends of mine were finding out about it without realizing I had written it. I've had some interesting discussions to try some new things (but none are set in stone yet, and none are of the "quit my day job" variety - maybe someday).

On Friday night, the video broke 500,000 hits, and I even had garnered some official YouTube rankings. Things have started to slow down a little, as to be expected, but I can always hope that it will continue to make its way through the law profession until the Internet is no more.

Biggest lesson learned -- when it comes to the Internet, people like funny videos.

So, for the time being, I am going to work on these animated films -- with the same goal I had when I started this blog -- to try and make people laugh.

So look for a new video later tonight or tomorrow morning starring Oscar Truman and Carrie-Ann Fox, The Corner's two little knights in shining armor.

Thanks for all the support and especially for turning this video into the Sarcastic Little Video that Could.

CURRENT YOUTUBE COUNT: 553,418

Sunday, October 10, 2010

So You Want to Go to Law School...

OK, I lied. I said I was taking a break this week, but here I am. I am a lawyer, after all, a fact that allows me to transition seamlessly into next week's Very Special Event, which I have moved up a week.

I graduated from law school 11 years ago. I'd say the results have been mixed. On the plus side, I met my future wife and made a good group of friends that I still hang out with. We discuss weighty topics, like how much grilled meat we can consume during a trip to a Brazilian steakhouse. We also quote Eastbound and Down and Stepbrothers.

On the down side...

Well, I wrote this short movie using the addictive xtranormal animation website.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This Used To Be My Rock and Roll Fantasy

The other day, I did a Google search for the loneliest job in the world and came across a list sporting some interesting career choices, including a few that don’t seem very lonely at all (bartender, waiter), and some that seem inappropriately lonely (ship’s captain -- hey, maybe that Titanic captain should’ve been doing a little less lonely tea-drinking and a little more social boat-drivin’, but whatever). Then again, this list could’ve been prepared by some college kid who’s all hopped up on his dad’s Vicodin. You just never know with the Internet.

Putting aside the list’s authoritativeness (let’s not get into the Internet’s accuracy – did you hear that U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell used to be a witch?), at the very least, it gave me a good transition into this week’s column, in which we address what I’ve concluded, unequivocally, to be the loneliest job in the world. I know it’s the loneliest job because I perform it alone (take it easy, you sickos), and literally, no one else on Earth cares what happens.

I’m talking about my job as owner and general manager of the Mustache Farts (derived from a joke on Family Guy) fantasy sports franchise. Mustache Farts, LLP, currently owns and operates three franchises, participating in three different fantasy sports leagues. You may have a similar job, and you may similarly annoy the ever-living crap out of your friends and loved ones with tales of bad beats.

For those of you not familiar, fantasy sports play like this. A group of people get together before a season starts, and, in one manner or another (usually auction or draft), divvy up the players from a professional sports league according to the particular league’s roster requirements. Once the season starts, teams accumulate points based on their players’ real-life statistical performances. There is some strategy involved (moreso in baseball, whereas football seems to be much more of a crapshoot), but it’s more or less a form of gambling. Basically, you’re rooting for an individualized group of statistics over which you have absolutely no control.

A brief rundown of my company’s assets, you know, before you become so dizzyingly bored with my story that you start looking for a bottle of scotch and a handful of Ambien:

1. Mr. Chow (currently 2-1 in the Prime Pigskin Football League): Named after the villain in The Hangover

2. South Beach Talents (struggling at 1-2 in the AMB Fantasy Football League V -- Must Be Some Kind of Hot Tub Time Machine). Named after Lebron’s famous quote, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach…” quote from The Decision.

3. Mr. Chow (2010 season of the Prime Baseball League now complete). Still named after the villain in The Hangover.

My condolences to the 98 percent of people I’ve already bored to death. The rest of you, before you seek the sweet release of death so you don’t have to hear a single millisecond more about my team’s fates, bear with me. I’m not going to regale you with stories about how if it hadn’t been for Matt Forte (RB - Chicago) fumbling and costing me two points, and I lost by 1.6 points, I would’ve made the playoffs last season.

No, today my interest is in the lifecycle of fantasy sports. Let’s start with the first unassailable truth, the bedrock principle of fantasy sports. Although millions of people play, no one on this planet cares about your team but you. Even if another fantasy player in another league in Iowa or has the same exact roster as Mr. Chow, he doesn’t care about my team -- he only cares about his team. Has there ever been another hobby like this? For example, if we were both rock climbers, we’d be talking equipment, cool climbs, that kind of thing. But his fantasy league is different than mine, with a different scoring system, different opponents; he may have won this week, where I might have lost, and each of us couldn’t give a crap about the other’s team.

The first time you play fantasy sports, you invariably think that it’s the greatest thing ever, up on Life’s Medal Stand with sex and Sam Adams’ fall variety pack. First, you get together with a bunch of your buddies to draft, drink a bunch of beer and eat giant sandwiches. Second, every NFL game instantly becomes interesting. You immediately conclude that you’re a virtuoso at the draft, and that it’s simply not possible that any of the other 7, 9 or 11 teams in the league have a team that can carry your team’s statistical jockstrap. It’s not like you think your team is going to go undefeated, but you wouldn’t be surprised. You love Greg Gumbel’s cut-in from the studio to see what just happened in the Cincinnati-Kansas City game.

Then reality sets in. The early games are ending, and your running back has rushed for 26 yards and lost a fumble. Your two wide receivers have caught a combined total of one pass for 12 yards, and your tight end didn't even play. You start muttering, and your mood darkens considerably. For the first and only time in the history of your fantasy managerial career, the spouse asks what’s wrong, and you unleash a profanity-laden diatribe about the West Coast offense and how the Rams’ coach deliberately sabotaged your team -- you’re not sure how -- but he did, because did you see how many times that guy was open and he never threw to him once? Your spouse’s eyelids start twitching like she’s having a seizure, and in fact, she might be, triggered by an almost inhuman level of disinterest, the kind of dissociation that’s typically only experienced once you’ve spent several years in a supermax prison like the Unabomber.

Yet somehow, venting doesn’t make the fantasy owner feel better. You just get more revved up because there is no escape valve, no one to commiserate with. If the Washington Redskins lose today, there are literally millions of fans I can share the misery with, and hundreds of inches of copy that columnists will pump out, wondering if the Redskins are any better with Mike Shanahan at the wheel than they were with Jim Zorn. But when Mr. Chow loses, I stand a lonely vigil. And you’ll do just about anything to make the vigil worthwhile.

A few years in, and you realize fantasy sports’ spot on the medal stand is in jeopardy. Other things in your life are vying for the spot, like finding a quiet hour to watch Mad Men, or maybe the changing-jersey girl from the NFL Red Zone Channel commercial. Even the draft, which was once a sacred holiday, gets squeezed in on a Tuesday night via the ESPN Draft Room and you’re reading Goodnight Moon to your kids in between draft picks while the commissioner threatens, via instant chat, to kill everyone in the league for not understanding the unilateral rule change he implemented two hours before the draft.

And then you’ll hit bottom. You’ll root against your own team, the team you’ve rooted for since you were seven years old, the one you watched win three Super Bowls growing up, because you own Tony Romo. It’s like that scene in Heathers, when Heather No. 1 is staring at the mirror in the bathroom of the Remington University party and spits water on her reflection (incidentally, I thought that was the strangest scene in the whole movie, clumsily stuck in as a way to develop Heather No. 1’s character). You’re disgusted with yourself, but you do it again and again, and it gets easier and easier because just once, you want to lift the Cup just one time, maybe even order Mr. Chow championship hats. Well, just one hat, because no one else cares. You know you’ve finally hit bottom when you find yourself yelling at the television during the Bills-Chiefs game, which has fewer television viewers than game announcers.

So what do you do then? Is it possible to keep fantasy sports fun? Strangely enough, I think they can, as long as you don’t care. This year I had a fellow league owner who recently moved to town over for one of my drafts this year, and it was the first time I’d seen a living soul during a draft in probably six years. We ate chicken wings and drank beer, and finally, fantasy sports were fun again. Mainly because I don’t care.

I finally realized that for fantasy sports to be fun, you have to stop caring. You have, at best, a 10 percent chance of winning the title in your league (12.5 percent in one of those sad little 8-team leagues). That means there’s a 90 percent chance you’re going to lose. It’s important to keep these stats in mind, but here’s the most important stat of all: a 100 percent chance that win or lose, no one else is going to care.

Now, all that being said, if I ever win a fantasy championship, I am totally sleeping with the league trophy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shoot the Hostage*

During my first semester in college, I had a calculus instructor who began every class by writing a problem on the board and then flipping a coin. If it came up heads, the problem on the board became our quiz. If it came up tails, no quiz for the day. It made Tuesdays and Thursdays extremely stressful, especially since the class started at 8:00 a.m., and I was usually hungover until 10. Probably why I stopped going after the third week.

Me, I’m just going to give you the quiz straight up. No coins. That’s because my son commandeers all my spare change and deposits it in his piggybank. On a side note, it's a freaking miracle I passed that calculus class. Word to the wise -- unless you plan on calculating the trajectory for NASA's first manned mission to Mars, or, I don't know, teaching math, you're probably safe skipping calculus in college. I wish I could go back in time 19 years and sit with 1991 Me while that moron selected his classes for the first time.

OK, then, I hope you’ve been paying attention to current events. Let's get it on.

1. Where was President Obama born?

a. Hawaii. I may not like him, but I am not certifiably insane.
b. Kenya. I firmly believe that 49 years ago, the Hawaii Department of Vital Records joined forces with the Democratic Party and then-19-year-old Nancy Pelosi to begin laying the groundwork to groom a randomly selected toddler born in a tiny African village to become President of the United States. I mean, that TOTALLY makes sense.
c. 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, England. Wait, maybe that was Harry Potter.
d. Venusville, the red-light district on Mars from the movie Total Recall. "Quaaaaaid. Start the reactor. Free Mars."

2. Where is the controversial so-called “Ground Zero” mosque being built? 


a. On Ground Zero. Inside that big hole. Those sons of bitches. 

b. Two blocks away, a bit farther away from Ground Zero than a mosque that is already there.
c. I’m not sure. I move my lips when I read.

3. How many colleges did Sarah Palin attend before earning her bachelor’s degree?

a. One 

b. Two 

c. Three 

d. Eleventy billion

4. Who would win in a fight to the death between Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann? 


a. Keith 

b. Glenn 

c. America

5. Do you accept Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as indisputable scientific fact?

a. Yes. 

b. No. I’ve got a better handle on this thing than scientists who are way, way, way smarter than me. Get me another Coors.
c. Do you like my new Calvin Peeing on Jeff Gordon sticker?

6. Do you pay too much in taxes?

a. Yes. I believe that roads, bridges and sewer pipes will fix themselves. 

b. Yes. I have never used any government service or government commodity in my life. I am 100 percent self-reliant. Glenn Beck says I am a real American.
c. Yes. I work 20 hours a week at Jiffy Lube, but I strenuously object to any tax increase on people making more than $250,000 a year.

7. (DEMOCRATS ONLY) Are you a vegetarian?

a. Yes. I went to Berkeley and listen to Annie Lenox and don’t accept my biologically assigned role on the food chain. I believe in evolution, I just choose not to help mankind evolve.
b. No. I’ve got these effing teeth for a reason.

8. (REPUBLICANS ONLY) Assuming you oppose a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, do you also oppose the death penalty?

a. Hal? Hal?
b. You’re trying to trick me. When I said “all human life is sacred,” I didn’t mean garbage like murderers. I meant babies.

9. What is Afghanistan?

a. The capital of Iraq 

b. A small, unstable nation in Asia where the September 11 plot was hatched and planned and where, and I know this sounds crazy, but maybe, just maybe, we should have been focusing our military efforts for the last nine years.
c. President Obama’s middle name

10. (ONLY IF YOU VOTED FOR OBAMA) What grade would you give President Obama for his first two years in office?

a. A (I think he’s doing a fantastic job) 

b. B (Making some progress. Once we get these midterms behind us, he can really focus on the work of America).
c. C (Starting to get annoyed)
d. D (Can I change my vote to Hillary?) 

e. F (We’re screwed in 2012)

11. (ONLY IF YOU DIDN’T VOTE FOR OBAMA) What grade would you give President Obama for his first two years in office?

a. F: (Told you so!)
b. H: (Apocalypse is at hand!) 

c. Double Q: (For Christ’s sake, I’m actually thinking Palin might do a better job).
d. Z (I saw something on the Internets that says he helped plot the 9/11 attacks)

12. Do you believe in the phenomenon of climate change?

a. No. It’s like totally ludicrous to think that burning fossil fuels and pumping out a jllion cubic tons of carbon monoxide every single day for the last 100 years would have any effect on our planet. Did you see how much snow we got last winter? We’ll be fine.
b. No. Those e-mails from Switzerland prove it’s a gigantic hoax! So what if the polar icecaps are melting faster than a McDonald’s soft-serve cone?
c. Yes. I think Al Gore is sexy. I hear he’s single. And “handsy.”

13. (True or False) Vaccines cause autism.

a. True. Jenny McCarthy says so. 

b. True. I believe this even though the chief author of the study, Andrew Wakefield, M.D., has had his medical license revoked, the study linking vaccines and autism has been retracted, the authors of the report have withdrawn their support for it, and multiple studies have proven that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Oh, and Wakefield’s study was funded in part by an autism drug manufacturer. But whatever.
c. True. Despite having no medical training whatsoever, I am suspicious of vaccines even though their development constitutes one of mankind’s crowning achievements. I also enjoy watching deadly childhood diseases stage a comeback.
d. False. I’m pretty sure it’s false. Like 90 percent sure. Maybe I should space out the kids’ vaccine schedule just to be sure. F**king Internet.

14. (FOR DEMOCRATS ONLY) Do you think Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is doing a good job?

a. Shaking my head sadly, looking around in case any Republicans are pointing and laughing.
b. How the eff did we get stuck with her again?
c. So let me get this straight. The Presidential line of succession is currently (1) Biden and (2) Pelosi? Oh, my God, I just soiled myself.
d. All of the above

15. (FOR REPUBLICANS ONLY) Do you think Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is doing a good job? 


a. Giggle.
b. Pop quiz high-five! 

c. Seriously, I don’t know what we’re gonna do without her. 

d. I mean, really, she’s their Sarah Palin minus the charm and awesome hair

16. (FOR DEMOCRATS ONLY) The most embarrassing thing about the Democratic Party is:

a. Nancy Pelosi 

b. Vegetarianism 

c. The federal budget deficit

17. (FOR REPUBLICANS ONLY) The most embarrassing thing about the Republican Party is: 


a. August 29, 2008, the date the Palin machine was unleashed upon us like one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
b. The fact that every single hate group in America votes Republican
c. That when we win back Congress in November, we’re going to eff things up just as badly because we haven’t got the first effing clue on how to fix things.

18. The immediate aftermath of another Islamic terrorist attack against the United States would be:

a. Palin 2012 bumper stickers
b. All of us suddenly realizing we’re living in one of those near-future science-fiction movies on Sy-Fy where America has become a police state.
c. Having to buy my hummus in the Arab-American Relocation Zone (Mid-Atlantic)
d. All of the above

19. What is the primary reason that the U.S. economy continues to struggle?

a. My cable company charges $200 a month for service for a bunch of channels I’ve never watched, leaving me little money to spend in the marketplace. FIOS actually stands for F*ck, I Owe a Sh*tload
b. No one knows what’s really wrong, but I saw my college economics professor hoarding canned spaghetti and bottled water and muttering to himself.
c. Paris Hilton keeps getting arrested and doesn’t have time to inject capital into the gross domestic product.

20. How often do you check your e-mail?

a. Once or twice a day.
b. So often that I sometimes check it while I’m checking it.
c. What up, Gramps? You still use e-mail?

EXTRA HARD EXTRA CREDIT QUESTION
1. The primary cause of the American Civil War was: 


a. The debate over slavery 

b. The debate over states’ rights vs. the power of the federal government 

c. The collapse of the two-party political system.

Hang on, let me count up the political parties in America right now. Democrats, one. Republicans, two. 
Two. 

Whew.
[Phone rings]
Hello? Oh, hey. Really? A third party? Growing stronger? A little militant? Awesome.

Update on Facebook Status Updates

In light of last week’s column, I’ve implemented a moratorium on using Facebook. Other than the five or so minutes it took to post the link to this week’s column, I haven’t been on Facebook since last Monday afternoon. Lest you think I have superhuman willpower, I am not gonna lie to you. I had Mrs. Corner change the password for me, in essence locking me out of my own account. In my defense, I could request a new password, but I haven’t done that.

If any combat veterans are reading this, they’re thinking, “My eight-man squadron held off 300 Taliban soldiers for fourteen hours in Kandahar and you’re proud of yourself for not logging onto Facebook? I just threw up in my mouth.”

Aaaaanyway… some astute readers have identified a few additional Facebook status update categories worthy of derision. Let’s make fun of them (the categories, not the readers), shall we?

The Weather Observation
Here’s the deal. If I live in the same city as you, then I know what the weather is like. If I don’t, well, your weather situation is pretty low on my priority list.

The One-Worder
So-and-so is pondering.... Thinking… Worrying…
Hey, here’s a two-word update for all your friends who’ve been subjected to your update. “Not caring.”

The Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe
Not real woe, like illness or foreclosure or anything like that. Just your basic FML woe that happens to everyone, except that most everyone else just shuts their pie hole and moves on. Except you. Because you’re special. Look, I’m sorry your dream of becoming an astronaut fizzled out when you got a D in high school physics, but as Drew Carey said: “You hate your job? There’s a support group for that. It’s called ‘everybody.’ They meet every day at a bar."

*This week's title is taken from Keanu Reeves' 1994 movie Speed. As you may recall, there's a scene early on in which Keanu's partner (played by Jeff Daniels) tests him with a pop quiz about the best way to save a hostage from a terrorist who's using him for cover to make his escape. Ten minutes later, Keanu puts a bullet into his partner's upper thigh to save him from Dennis Hopper's mad bomber. One of my many problems with that movie is the scene where the bus crashes into the unoccupied cargo jet and explodes into a huge fireball -- what if it had been a loaded passenger jet taxiing out onto the runway? Now that would have been a dark ending.

Looking back, Speed was an average movie at best and pales in comparison to the brilliant Point Break. Don't tell me Ben Affleck didn't come up with The Town without a few late-night viewings of that revolutionary piece of filmmaking. Hey, guess who directed Point Break? Kathryn Bigelow, who won Best Director for The Hurt Locker. It's OK. You don't need to be ashamed anymore. I get it. I love Point Break too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Biting the Hand That Feeds Me

Look, I’m the first to admit that I probably spend too much time on Facebook. I’m not sure why I do, but there you go. On the one hand, I can rationalize and say that for a fiction writer, Facebook provides tremendous insight into people’s quirks and personalities, which I can then use to help develop richer, more three-dimensional characters in my work. On the other hand, I can admit that that is a steaming load of crap. Virtually every one of my status updates has been a throwaway thought, and I’d say that description applies to approximately 99 percent of all Facebook updates that have ever been posted.

Collectively, there is comfort in seeing tangible evidence that your friends’ lives are not all that different than yours. But is that really all that surprising? That’s probably why you were friends (in the real world, that is) with them in the first place -- you had stuff in common with them. That must be the draw – a constant reminder that familiar life is buzzing around you, even when you’re just sitting in bed, your laptop slowly roasting your thighs like a county fair turkey leg.

Granted, I suppose it’s nice to catch up with people you haven’t seen in years, but truthfully, once that initial high of reconnecting wears off, how much more Facebook contact are you going to have with that person, let alone face-to-face contact?

Anyway, in my two years since joining the site, I have noticed certain patterns emerging, namely that most status updates fall into one of approximately twelve neatly defined categories. Even more interesting is that each of these categories provides surprising insights into the author’s state of mind. Let’s take a look inside our collective psyche and find out what posting in a particular category says about us, shall we?

Full disclosure No. 1: I’m guilty of writing posts that fall into at least four of these categories.

Full disclosure No. 2: I’m aware I use Facebook to draw readers to The Corner.

The Song Quote
You are hip and trendy because you know this really obscure lyric from a really obscure song from a really obscure band no one else has ever heard of. You’ve heard of them because you are really, really cool, and you wish it was still 1990 because nobody made mix tapes like you. YOU HEAR ME? NO ONE!!

Do people pass around iTunes playlists the way my generation did mixes? Was there anything sadder than using a mix tape to woo a member of the opposite sex?

The Cheesy Inspirational Quote
You’re rapidly approaching 40, and you have serious self-esteem issues. Despite the plans you scribbled in your BFF’s yearbook in 1992, things haven’t gone exactly like you envisioned way back when. Look, just because you’re addicted to Vicodin and your visits with your kids are supervised doesn’t mean you’re a failure! You’re desperately hoping someone will click Like so you’ll get a quick rush of dopamine that will make you feel better for a little while until you can get your next dose of Wellbutrin.

The Announcement of Minutiae
Really? You’re going to bed? How novel. Thanks for sharing.

You’ve just spent about 30 seconds crafting an announcement that, on a Reasonable Person Would Be Interested In This scale of 1 to 10, registers a minus-26. You’re one Pabst Blue Ribbon away from making your status: is getting ready to go poop and two away from announcing that you are watching Internet porn.

If there were no Facebook, can you imagine calling 253 friends to tell them you were going to bed? I think that would be a spectacular development in personal human interaction. Probably the end of your friendships, too.

The Facebook Game Achievement
You have a GED and you like Fox News. You lack the mental firepower to play video games on an actual video game system or, you know, to maybe read a book. Level 1 of Tetris continues to confound you.

You want everyone to think you are a loser.

Former President George W. Bush says: “Mission Accomplished.”

The Personal Conversation
You are enjoying this very arm’s length conversation with this person but deep down, you don’t want things to get any closer. You don’t think they’re good enough to warrant a private conversation via e-mail. Finally, you like to talk loudly on your cell phone while in line at the grocery store.

The Big Announcement
You have become too lazy to actually tell people important to you about significant moments in your life, and so you’ve taken to the social networking equivalent of dropping propaganda leaflets over Baghdad.

The Religious Text Quotation
You’re positive that everyone who doesn’t agree with you 100 percent is going to hell. You know, because you’re perfect and everything, and so your interpretation of said quote is undoubtedly flawless. No, no, the guy who taught you the interpretation -- his interpretation is flawless, and you’ve interpreted his interpretation correctly. No, no… you know what, screw it. America kicks ass!

The Breaking News
Your desire to have people respect you is inversely proportional to how much people actually respect you. It has apparently slipped your limited intellect that virtually everyone else owns a smartphone, and they probably checked an actual news site before they read your Facebook post, so take it easy, Walter Cronkite.

The Facebook Status Copy and Paste Repost
You believe everything you read on the Internet. You have no interest in distractions like “facts” and “evidence.” You frequently use “your” when you should be using “you’re.” You are incapable of forming a coherent independent thought, but you don’t care, because you love America.

The Vacation Announcement (complete with profile pic of your flip-flop covered feet)
You are mean-spirited and kind of a dick. It’s not enough for you to finally take some well-deserved time off with your friends and family. Oh, no, you’ve got to rub it in to everyone you know, including your former high school basketball teammate who can’t take a vacation this year because he lost his job. You are secretly hoping someone breaks into your house and steals all your stuff so you can file a large insurance claim and get the LCD television instead of the plasma this time. Effing Circuit City salesman didn’t say anything about this freaking glare on the screen.

The Foursquare Check-In
You rooted for Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984. The Ministry of Magic, too. Fourth Amendment, Schmourth Amendment! You recently ordered a new comforter, imprinted with the complete text of the PATRIOT Act, and you simply cannot wait to sleep under the secure warmth it provides. That you don’t find it creepy that your whereabouts are being constantly monitored and recorded is creepy for the rest of us.

The Like
You’re not sure who clicking Like is for. Is it for you, so you can reveal, a layer at a time, the dark mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma that is … you? You’re so complex. You like Arrested Development and Darjeeling tea! Or maybe Like is for the Like-ee? Gives you the chance to see what life is like for an insecure teenage girl.

This paragraph is really close to my own Like option over on the right side of the page, isn’t it?

So … this is awkward.

Look! A new iPhone!

The Happy Birthday
You mechanically and ritualistically wish all of your friends a very happy birthday. You give this person’s birthday approximately 3.4 seconds of thought, the time it takes to tap out happy birthday! The truth is that you barely give your own birthday much thought. You know, because you’re not 7 anymore.

The Sunday Morning Link to Your Own Blog
You are a desperately unpublished writer, and the crisp musk of your Old Spice deodorant is failing under the crushing stench of failure. You unashamedly use the word blog, despite the fact that it’s one of the worst words in the history of vocabulary. You will toil away in obscurity for the rest of your life. Your kids will beg you to stop writing it when they get older.

So there it is. I still can’t figure out the mystery behind Facebook’s siren song, but I guess 500 million people can’t be wrong.

The Corner is ready for a snack and a beer.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

You Are Here.

The die is cast.

Roughly 48 hours from now, my son will board a school bus and head to his first day of kindergarten. That means that whatever preparation for kid-dom and formal schooling my wife and I were going to do is now complete. He seems really bright, but naturally, part of me wonders whether I think that because he’s my kid. For all I know, his 17 new classmates can all perform basic calculus. Either way, we’re at the gates, and, as the Violent Femmes once crooned, “I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record.”

Which brings me to the point of this week’s column. According to author Robert Fulghum, my son is about to learn all he really needs to know. You know, because he wrote a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (named for the first of many essays that comprise the book), first published in 1986. As I recall, it was a colossal bestseller, a journey that began when, as he describes it, his famous kindergarten essay made its way into the backpack of a kid whose mother was a literary agent.

I first read this book when I was about 16, back when I was still hammering out my special brand of cynicism and I was 15 years away from having kids, closer, actually, to being a kindergartner than having one. It seemed awfully sappy at the time, written by an aw-shucks kind of guy that you’d want to smack around a little if you ended up sitting next to him on an airplane. Still, It’s one of those books you read and end up liking largely because it’s pretty soothing and you think, “man, I wish my life was this peaceful and easy.” I bet Fulghum wears sweaters and has a beard and lives in a house with a woodstove.

Personally, I have very little recollection of kindergarten. I vividly remember my first day of first grade and the fact that I spent much of the following nine months in the corner for running my mouth too much. My memories of kindergarten, on the other hand, are an amorphous stew, many of which I may well have imagined.

Now that I’m about to dispatch my offspring to his kindergarten, I find myself thinking about that book again. Do you, in fact, learn all you really need to know in kindergarten? If so, I’m not going to be happy because that means I could’ve saved myself about $80,000 in law school tuition. So let’s take a look at each of the lessons and find out if I could’ve ceased my formal education in 1978.

Share everything.

I’m guessing he probably didn’t mean needles. Now that I think about it, there’s a whole bunch of stuff you don’t want to share. In fact, the list of things you don’t want to share is probably longer than the list of things you do. This one probably needs a little more in-depth study than what you’re likely to accomplish before you turn six.

Don’t hit people.

Unless they make fun of you because you’re short. Then you have to do something to save your street cred. Otherwise, elementary school is going to be a long haul. If I ever go to prison, I’m going to try to beat the crap out of someone the first night.

Put things back where you found them.

Especially if it’s a troubling bit of information about someone you (thought you) knew pretty well. There are so many things I wish I could un-hear or un-see. Being an adult sucks sometimes.

Clean up your own mess.

And make sure you have the rights to the oil underneath 56 other rigs, so it doesn’t sting too badly when you have to pay $8 billion to clean one of them up after it explodes in the Gulf.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Basically, this rule applies to you and it always will. However, in certain circumstances, this rule doesn’t apply to everyone. Here is a list of exceptions, not intended to be exhaustive.

TAKER
Internal Revenue Service

THING
Your money

TAKER
The Tea Party

THING
Your intelligence

TAKER
Cleveland Indians

THING
Your dignity

TAKER
Lebron James

THING
Cleveland’s heart

TAKER
Alcohol

THING
First your sadness, then your judgment

TAKER
Children

THING
Every last effing thing

Say sorry when you hurt somebody.

Unless you’re a police sharpshooter. Then I guess it’s OK. It must be a hell of a thing to blow out the back of someone’s head for a living. Just think. All those snipers were kindergartners once, too.

Wash your hands before you eat.

First though, make sure there are clean paper towels. Use one of them to turn off the water. Second, use another paper towel to open the door before leaving the bathroom. Don’t even think about touching the trashcan … on second thought, screw it. Use the sanitizer in Mom’s purse back at the table.

Flush.

And then run like hell, because when you’re five, you’re pretty sure one of two things is going to happen: either the toilet is going to overflow, or you’re going to be sucked down into a swirling vortex of poop.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Just make sure you bake the cookies all the way so you don’t get salmonella poisoning from the eggs. And milk is delicious, as long as you’re OK with the growth hormone added to it, triggering puberty in your kids at the age of seven. And don’t eat too many, because you’ll become the “1” in the 1-in-3 American children who's obese and become a staggering drain on the health care system for the rest of your natural life.

That said, I could go for a cookie right now.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Some call it balanced. Others call it a psychotic break. You say tomato. I say to-mah-to. Better get the drawing and painting and dancing out of the way now, because unless you’re really effing good at these activities, doing them past the age of, say, nine, is going to cause people to think their is something (I got you again, you grammar ninjas!) wrong with you.

Take a nap every afternoon.

I was initially going to write: Like I have a choice in the matter. However, I sit under an air-conditioning vent at work that keeps the temperature at a comfortable 48 degrees. I’m afraid that if I fall asleep, I’ll freeze to death like I was trapped in a storm on Mount Everest and just wanted to lie down and rest for a minute.

As for your basic kindergartner, I’m pretty sure you’ve lost them at this point. Given the choice between taking a nap and having all his toys vaporized in the incinerator from Toy Story 3, my son would have to think about it.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

In this post-9/11 world, you pull a stunt like this in Times Square, and you and your fellow hand-holders are going to be shot dead by an undercover CIA agent, who will later claim that he thought you were a group of suicide bombers.

Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Nobody really knows how or why? Come on, Bobby! I’m pretty sure we had scientists and everything that figured this stuff out by 1986! Hell, by then, we’d put men on the moon! It’s this kind of attitude that keeps the U.S. ranked so low in science education.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.


Great, thanks, Bob. Wanna come over and tell my kids about Santa Claus, too? Jerk.

This reminds me of a joke Dennis Miller told many years ago. It went something like this: little boy and his mother are doing bedtime prayers, and they recite, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake…” Kid looks up, terrified: “IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE? Mom. Get cable. I’m up.”

The goldfish, hamsters and white mice are pretty pissed, too.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Wait a minute. EL. OH. OH. KAY. That’s four letters. I know a bunch of words bigger than that! Like sarcasm. Or cynicism.

So there you have it. A bunch of rules that your basic kindergartner would stop listening to after about three seconds.

Really, all he needs to know is this. And he will never believe me, until it’s much too late.

It doesn’t get much better than kindergarten.

(And if there happens to be a bully on the bus, kick his ass the first week. You’ll be a folk hero).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

QUARANTINE

UPDATE No. 2: So get this. Early in the week, a fan attending a game at the previously discussed minor league baseball stadium threw back a foul ball that he'd caught, which hit an opposing team's player in the leg. The team banned the fan from the facility for life. No, I have no idea how a minor league team plans to stop him from attending a game next spring, hell, next week, since it's not like they ask for ID or anything. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig described the absence of any straws or lids at the scene as "ominous" and immediately banned the use of baseballs at minor league games. (No, he really didn't say or do that. I made it up. It's called satire, you jack-booted thugs from the MLB Office of General Counsel. The rest of it, however, is true).



At 6:00 p.m. Friday, things were looking pretty rosy in my neck of the woods. The kids were in a great mood, we were headed for dinner with friends, and I had plans to meet a few buddies at a friend’s river cottage on Saturday for the night.

Fast forward six hours. All plans in the crapper. This would be like the beginning of I Am Legend, right after Emma Thompson’s character announces that she’s discovered the cure for cancer, and the scene cuts to a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, Will Smith’s character stalking the empty streets, hunting for his dinner. By midnight, my son had spiked a fever of 102, and I had developed a bad sore throat. Sorry, Friday night dinner hosts. Um, this is awkward. My daughter was on the tail end of a cold, but she had her own surprise in store for us on Saturday.*

These are the times you dread. When it comes to the Gigantic List of Things that Suck, Seeing Your Kid Sick is this week’s No. 1-ranked team in the country. Amazingly, it’s been the No. 1-ranked team in every USA Today/CNN poll ever released and will continue to be the top-ranked entry for eternity. And truth be told, we’ve been fortunate to avoid any major illnesses, outside my oldest kid’s very scary bout with a stomach virus a while ago.

But seeing them in any pain or discomfort makes me want to vomit. Sometimes, depending on the particular microorganism, it actually does make me vomit. Hey, guess what? Not only do you get to see your kid suffer, we’re going to toss in some personal suffering as well. It is undoubtedly the worst part of being a parent, and unfortunately, it’s the price of admission.

I’ve frequently wondered what the point of getting sick is. I’m currently reading a fascinating book by David P. Clark called Germs, Genes and Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We Are Today. I’ve been reading it for a couple weeks, but I’m only about halfway through it -- namely because (1) it’s not a Stephen King novel and (2) it is non-fiction and contains many, many long words. Lest you think I’m sort of literary snob, please see Point #10 from my Random Thought Patterns column. Anyway, I used my massive intellect to deduce that the author’s hypothesis is that epidemics shaped who we are today.

Basically, the point is this: if you are healthy enough to read this column, you are one lucky S.O.B. – not because you’re reading this column, but that you’re even here at all. For you to be born, every ancestor you have ever had to be fortunate enough to not die before reproducing. And that took a hell of an effort for both your mother’s and father’s ancestors. Because it sounds like there was a damn union of infectious agents – with representatives from the International Brotherhood of Viruses 228, United Bacteria Workers 138 and Fungi for a Democratic Society – all skipping around the early and middle ages just thinking up with ways for us to bleed to death internally and feel every ounce of pain in the process.

So the next time you watch Cops, just remember that dude wearing the dirty t-shirt is a freaking miracle of evolution and luck, his entire lineage having been selected to survive and ultimately produce him. Somewhere along the line, one of his ancestors likely survived an outbreak of pneumonic plague that wiped out 90 percent of his village. And then ten generations later, another one of his ancestors survived smallpox. That blows my mind. It’s a funny thought – that guy on Cops, his face blurred because he is, in fact, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law (as opposed to a Wal-Mart, I suppose), missing a handful of teeth, suspected of beating up his girlfriend, is a towering biological achievement.

Also mind-blowing is the author’s theory that disease allows civilizations to flourish by withstanding outside assaults – the reason being that bands of invaders have rarely built up the same disease resistances that urban population centers have (because disease spreads quickly and becomes more virulent in dense populations), and so those Vikings will all die of diarrhea before they breach the city walls.

Granted, the price of this disease resistance is the fact that every once in a while, the entire civilization is going to be wiped out by some pathogen, so nature can select even MORE disease-resistant generations. The lesson is that evolution might care about all of us, but it doesn’t care about you. Think about that the next time you catch a cold. This must be why infectious disease specialists don’t sleep much. They must have been pooping themselves in the early days of the swine flu outbreak in 2009. Or breaking out the good scotch.

So really, in the end, when you cut out Facebook and summer vacations and Fox News and minivans, does it really come down to this? That some of us get sick and suffer and die so that the rest of us can propagate the species? I gotta tell you, that is a harsh truth. This is why I sort of envy the non-human members of the animal kingdom. They don’t sit around dwelling on this stuff. Granted, a Canada goose doesn’t necessarily want to die of bird flu, but it’s not flying around looking for hand sanitizer. If it makes to Canada for the summer, great. If not, well, it did all it could.

In the meantime, someone get me some effing Purell.

*My daughter was diagnosed with a sprained knee. She’s 2. You haven’t seen anything more pathetic than a 2-year-old limping around the house, using the wall for support. I have no idea how she pulled that little stunt off. I’m putting her on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Wednesday.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Any Room on that Bandwagon?

First, an update on the Dumbest Thing I Heard All Week situation from last week's column.

A couple of readers chimed in with their understanding that the lid/straw ban prevents people from chucking full drinks onto the field. OK, fine. Riddle me this, Minor League Baseball. I was at another game last week, where I witnessed the sale of 32-ounce frozen fruit drinks, complete with straw AND convex lid, presumably so you can pump some extra frozen goodness in there. It’s like a rainbow slushy dirty bomb.

Quite a safety measure. It’s like finding out that the Department of Homeland Security scans only about two percent of the shipping cargo entering the United States.

Wait a minute…

Moving on to this week’s column.

One of the strangest byproducts of the Obama presidency has been Hillary Clinton's service as Secretary of State. Incidentally, if, back in 1993, I had gotten a visit from my 2010 self, and I told 1993 Me that Hillary Clinton had become an effective Secretary of State, I'm fairly certain 1993 Me would have been terrified, convinced that the Terminator movie franchise had actually been a prophecy, and Skynet had, in fact, taken over. What's more amazing, I hear very little Republican criticism of Clinton’s performance as America's top diplomat. Either the Republicans hate President Obama even more than they hate Clinton (possible but once unimaginable that Republicans would hate ANYONE more than Hillary Rodham Clinton - although this may have more to do with the fact that those eager little beavers at Fox News only have 24 hours in a day in which to broadcast), or they actually think she’s doing a decent job (astonishing). Or maybe they’ve actually forgotten she’s Secretary of State. I can’t decide which of these is the weirdest reason.

Whatever the case, it's like the Republicans just lost their passion for hating her.

As a fan of the Cleveland Indians (manager change -- October 2009), the Washington Redskins (coaching change -- January 2010), and the University of Virginia (basketball coaching change - March 2009; football coaching change - December 2009), my feelings about sports sort of mirror the Republicans' toward Hillary. I haven’t had a lot to root for in the last decade. I used to get all kinds of riled up about each team’s game, cussing, perhaps taking it out on a defenseless remote control, but eventually, the losing took its toll. I stopped caring. I watch, they lose, I go on with my life.

I halfheartedly root for these teams these days, but I’m having a hard time putting up the front anymore. I am a U.Va. alum, and so that connection is hardwired. But my loyalty to the two professional teams stems from arbitrary and capricious choices I made nearly three decades ago, which makes it even harder to care about professional sports.

Honestly, if I could change one thing about my childhood (that cold gust of wind you just felt is my parents leaping out of their chairs, yelling, “what did you have to complain about, we gave you everything!”), it would be to have grown up in a city with a professional sports franchise, preferably baseball or football (at ease, Parental Units). Even now, my hometown remains one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country that still doesn’t have one of the four major sports. There are a number of reasons for this, all of which are boring and hard to make fun of. But the bottom line is that I wish I’d had a default team that I would be obligated to root for forever. I’d have others to commiserate with when they sucked. I could pass it on to my kids, imbue their DNA with it. And if that team did suck perennially, well, you don’t get to pick your family either.

I do have vague memories of my dad rooting for the Yankees and the Cowboys in the 1970s (he also roots for antibiotic-resistant bacteria), and so early on, I rooted for them too. Danny White and Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones were my favorite players, and the first short story I ever wrote involved me playing for the Cowboys. At some point, sometime before the 1983 season, I switched my football allegiance to the Redskins, for whom I have rooted ever since. I don’t know why I did this, but I imagine it has something to do with the fact that I was a gigantic pain in the ass as a kid, and it seemed like a good way to get on my dad’s nerves. Sometimes, I wish I had just stayed a fan.

About the same time that I ditched the Cowboys, I started playing Little League baseball, and my first team was the Indians. Hence, I became an instant fan of the Cleveland Indians, which was sort of like buying stock in Enron after Moody’s downgraded its stock to “soggy Nilla wafers” status. No one could ever accuse me of being a bandwagon fan, even if I didn’t know what that meant. That being said, did they even HAVE bandwagon fans back in the 1980s? That seems like more of a recent development. Anyway, I was beyond thrilled by the mid-1990s, when the Indians had become the class of baseball and beyond devastated when they blew a 9th-inning lead in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series to the Florida Marlins. (It’s been seven years since the Marlins won the Series – how can their fans stand to go on?). In the 13 years since, the Indians have been back to the playoffs only twice, including their 2007 implosion when they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Red Sox (BANDWAGON ALERT!).

Now that I have kids of my own, I wonder what I should do about guiding their pro sports allegiances. Like I said, we have no hometown team, and it’s not like I’ve got any Redskins or Indians championship gear lying around to brainwash him with. On his own, my son has become a big Steelers fan and loves watching Big Ben (now THERE'S an awkward conversation we’re going have to have someday). He’s not crazy about baseball, but he has gravitated to the Boston Red Sox. Hmm. I’ve been to Boston! Once. He has become a big fan of my alma mater. Unfortunately, because the football and basketball teams have been so wretched for the last few years, joining the team’s fan base is about as happy an occasion as being assimilated into the Borg collective. If that’s the way he goes, if our house is plastered with Red Sox and Steelers gear, I’m not going to do anything to stop it.

I was probably well into my 20s before I could accept the fact that players sometimes left the teams they came up with or that you identified them with. I once believed that players should stay in one place for their entire careers because they got to play a game for a living, and that really should’ve been enough. (Mr. Corner, Mr. Corner, please pick up a white courtesy phone in Concourse A and use it to smack that idealistic nonsense out of yourself). On a related note, now that we’ve had six weeks to digest it, when it comes to players changing teams, will we ever see anything like Lebron James’ handling of his decision to leave Cleveland? I suppose the only betrayal to top it would be if the greatest player of his generation was actually born on the court to a miraculously virgin mother, later took that team to the NBA Finals, intentionally scored the winning basket in the opposing team’s basket with no time left on the clock in Game 7 (or whatever the appropriate football or baseball equivalent would be), and then took a dump on the court. Wouldn't it take something of that magnitude to top The Decision?

That said, if you don’t come from a city or state that has a team, you’re left adrift, like Sawyer, Jin and Michael in the Season 1 finale of Lost. My son rooting for the Steelers and the Red Sox makes as much sense as my rooting for the Tribe. Seriously, why the hell not? Like Jerry Seinfeld joked back in the 1990s, we really don’t root for the players, we root for the uniforms. It was true then, and it’s even truer now. Virtually every superstar in every sport has changed teams – some more than once – and, so what is it I’m rooting for? I don’t know squat about Cleveland. I lived near D.C. for a year, but it’s not like it’s my hometown or anything.

Why shouldn’t I direct him or my daughter to the teams with the national followings and the big-spending owners, the teams that might actually win a championship? Am I supposed to feel all hip and trendy because I’ve rooted for the Indians since 1985? That I'm somehow a real-er sports fan? Because you know what that’s been worth for the last 25 years? Zip! Zilch! Nada! If you’re into sports, you’re going to be disappointed more often than not, so why would you pick a team that all but assures misery for the rest of your days? I read that the Indians could be a decade away from being competitive again. Are you freaking kidding me? I’ll be pushing 50 by then!

Sports are entertainment, right? Well, I don’t read books or watch movies that suck. Do you? (obviously, the Indians’ suckage is an objective, quantifiable fact, whereas you may question my subjective opinion that Will Ferrell is the greatest comic actor of the last twenty years). So if sports are entertainment, don’t you want to pick a vehicle that will allow you to enjoy them?

It’s too late for me. I’ll lukewarmly root for the Indians and Redskins for the rest of my life. If they don’t deliver a championship, whatever.

Or maybe, just maybe, 2027 Me has some good news for me.

Although it'll probably be something like Lindsay Lohan has become the fifth woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Random Thought Patterns

Look, I’m going to be perfectly honest. I had a hell of a long week, and I briefly considered announcing that I would be taking a week off from this column. But the idea actually made me feel like a slacker, and so I went to work. I am totally saving this one as an example of “work ethic” to use with my kids. I can just see how that conversation will go.

Me: Blah, blah, blah, and I stayed up late to come up with a new column for that Sunday morning.

Kids: Dad, your blog sucks. And it’s embarrassing us. Please stop.

Me: Oh, and there’s something else about the Internet you need to know. It’s forever.

Kids: Terrific.

Anyway, in my eternal quest for interesting topics, stumbling around my subconscious like it was my fraternity house circa 1993, I will often come across random thoughts in the corners of my mind that, while interesting, may not initially support a 1,000- or 1,500-word column. I collect these and wait to see if any will grow a pair and give me an entire column’s worth of material. To date, these have not. Although they may be things you’ve thought as well.

First, let's start with the Dumbest Thing I Heard All Week. In fact, this is a frontrunner for the Dumbest Thing I Heard in 2010. I was at a minor league baseball game last week, and while getting our food, I asked for a straw and lid for my soda. The cashier told me and my friend that straws and lids were banned at minor league baseball games because of an apparent epidemic of people throwing them on the field. At first, we gave her the understanding head nod; as we made our way back to our seats, we realized how stupid that sounded, because if I were inclined to throw something on the field, wouldn't I go with something a little more aerodynamic than a f-cking straw? Like maybe the CUP? The more we thought about it, the more perplexed we became. If anyone has further insight on this, please email me immediately.

1. The thing that bothers me about Giada de Laurentiis from Food Network is that, as sultry as she is, she has a disproportionately large head and she over-enunciates every word she utters. And yet I can’t look away -- I once found myself making fried polenta on a Friday night because she convinced me about how LighTTTT and TAYS-TEE it would be with a PATTT of BUTT-TERRR.

2. I find it very unsettling to hear about the end of a friend’s or acquaintance’s marriage. It’s not just sadness for the people involved, even if it’s best for all involved, although that’s part of it. It also has to do with the fact that divorce seems very grownup, very adult, and no matter how old you are, you still see yourself as 16 with your whole life in front of you. That's probably why they call it adultery.

3. I remember thinking a few years ago that it would shatter my faith in humanity if it came out that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs en route to winning all those Tours. Think of all those Livestrong bands! Now I just don’t care. I never thought that we’d get to the point that we wouldn’t care about the fact that the greatest athletes of our generation were juiced up. No, seriously, I don’t give a crap. And, I’m guessing, neither do you.

4. I figured out why the last hour of sleep is so fantastic, and I can attribute this revelation to my college economics class. Let’s say you plan to go to bed at 11:00 and wake up at 6:00. For the most part, at 11:00, you can probably come up with something you’d rather do than go to sleep -- maybe you’d rather eat a bag of Doritos and watch Family Guy, perhaps try and woo the spouse, perhaps both simultaneously -- even if rationally, you know should go to bed because the kids will be up at 5:00, or you need to be at work by 7:30 or whatever.

At 11:00 p.m., the night’s supply of available sleep is at its peak, and you’re not as tired as you will be three hours from now. So your demand for sleep is at its lowest. Fast forward to 4:58 a.m., when you’re suddenly awakened by the dog barking. You get up to pee and crawl back into bed, and suddenly, there is nothing better than hunkering down for that last 62 minutes of sleep. Because the supply of sleep now mirrors that of, say, the available iPad inventory, and because you can never have enough sleep on weekdays, demand for sleep suddenly shoots through the roof, thus making the last hour of sleep an extremely precious commodity. You should be able to buy and sell sleep futures.

5. The city of Richmond made a poor showing on its episode of Man v. Food. Honestly, it didn’t look like Adam Richman really had that tough a time with Caliente’s Stupid Wing Challenge. Sort of made our fair city look weak in the spicy-wing department, even with the cleverly named “Container of Poor Judgment.” For God’s sake, in one spicy wing challenge, where the wings were coated with sauce derived from something called the Ghost chili, Richman couldn’t make it through one wing. I was a little embarrassed for us.

6. Boycotting BP gas stations is an exercise in futility for a reason entirely unrelated to the fact that you’d be hurting the local franchisee and not BP Corporate. I was getting gas the other day and was halfway through filling up my tank before I even realized it was a BP station. And the fact that it was a BP only registered because every other sentence I hear on television or read in the news includes the initials “BP.” I don’t know the corporate name of any gas station that I frequent. There’s “the one up by Panera Bread,” there’s “the one up near Food Lion,” and there’s “the one by my kids’ preschool.”
6(a). On a related note, is there any stranger descriptor of a natural resource (or, for that matter, any other tangible or intangible item in the universe) than describing oil as “light, sweet crude?” I always picture maple syrup.

7. If a car passes me on the highway, and I notice it’s got a bumper sticker, I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’m probably going to speed up so I can read the sticker, and I’m going to be annoyed if I miss my chance. I have no rational explanation for this.

8. There is no stronger evidence of malevolence in the world than the existence of the Little Einsteins. We're going on a trip all right. I hope there are ice picks I can poke into my eye when we get there.

9. For years, the concept of living in the suburbs with two kids and a dog was the ultimate cliché. Recently, I’ve noticed that that cliché has been subsumed by the cliché of being aware of the cliché that is your own life. I will sometimes perform suburban tasks and think, “man, this is some clichéd sh*t I am doing here.” I then drive over to Starbucks and get a big-ass coffee to soothe my jangled suburban nerves. You didn’t know “big-ass” was an actual Starbucks size option? Yeah, it’s not on the menu.

10. I have downloaded, and will continue to do so, a number of books for my Kindle that I will never, ever read. Because they were free.

11. I really don’t get the worldwide fascination with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is not a good book. For a while, I worried that my contempt for the novel stemmed from the fact that I’m an unpublished novelist and Dragon Tattoo is one of the biggest publishing phenomena of the last decade. Then again, Stieg Larsson has been dead for six years.

So, I guess the lesson in all this is: if I kick it prematurely, someone please get my manuscripts to an agent and help pay for my kids’ college.

12. I’m unnecessarily proud of myself if I make it to the end of the day and I have not used the Internet. Somehow, you feel all superior because you don’t know what’s been going on in the world, like it takes some sort of intellectual or moral firepower to not log onto CNN.com. That is f-cking strange. I’m not sure what this says about me, the Internet, or the world.

13. I own a number of movies on DVD that I have never removed from the case. However, if I stumble across one of these very movies on television, commercials and all, I’m watching to the end. A Few Good Men and The Shawshank Redemption, I’m looking in your direction.

14. I confess that I’ve rooted against my favorite professional sports teams (the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians) because it would benefit my fantasy football and baseball franchises. Because let’s be honest, since I started playing fantasy sports in 1998, neither team has had anything to root for. I’m a little ashamed of this, and so with all due respect to the Mustache Farts franchises, I won’t do it again. Because it’s hard to pass on the glory and splendor of sports to your son when your favorite team’s logo is a screenshot of Peter Griffin with Brian the dog affixed to his upper lip as a mustache.

This concludes this week’s tour through my subconscious. I’ll be back with something more focused next week.

I hope.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

And Now ... A Word from Our Sponsors.

OK, I don't really have any sponsors, unless you count the alphabetical and numerical monoliths that have sponsored every episode of Sesame Street ever made. Anyway, this week, I'm trying something a little different and bringing you a little commentary on a segment of American culture that permeates almost every aspect of our lives – the Palin family.

No, not the Palins. I mean advertising. We'll save Sarah for another day.

I'm confident that I’m the right guy for this job because I’m pretty sure I'm immune to the power of advertising, that I've got a bit more intellectual firepower than someone whose will is bent by the forces … ooh! A new iPhone!

See?

Also, a new season of Mad Men is underway, and watching our anti-hero Don Draper stumble around like a common drunk is really unsettling, given that his polish, his cool are the things that drew us to him in the first place. I have a feeling it's going to get ugly for Don.

I have a tiny sprinkling of advertising experience -- in the summer of 1994, I worked as the advertising manager for my college newspaper, which was published weekly over the summer. Basically, I called local vendors and begged them to buy advertising space in the paper. I remember that being quite a trick, given that most college kids are broke (if you’ve ever withdrawn $5 from an ATM machine, you know what I'm talking about), but somehow, we filled that paper with advertising every week. I don’t recall having a full bar in my office like Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but I do remember one night working until dawn to get the advertisements laid out on the page before the paper went to the printer. Good times. I miss college sometimes.

So anyway, I thought it would be interesting to review a couple of hours of primetime television and comment on the ads that we’re constantly subjected to. The whole concept is fascinating; advertising’s sole purpose is to brainwash you, and it usually elicits one of two reactions: either visceral anger and/or the embarrassing desire to watch it again. Admit it, you've rewound a commercial just to see it again.

This series of advertisements aired on NBC on Wednesday, August 4 between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. I watched them over the weekend, when I wrote this commentary.

Lastly, this column is almost 3,000 words, so I apologize for the length. I had no idea that this many commercials aired in a two-hour block of primetime television – and I even left out the movie commercials (with one exception), the promos for NBC’s own shows, and duplicate commercials from the same vendor. The good news is you can snack on this one a little bit at a time.

HOUR 1

Vendor: Subway
Product: Steak & Bacon Melt Sandwich


Voiced over by a Barry White knockoff, this delightful offering is hawking a steak-and-cheese calorie bomb via some sort of urban marketing approach. When they film these commercials, do they have to tie Jared up and leave him in a closet? Is he even allowed to order one? What would happen if he got loose in the test kitchen?

Vendor: Downy
Product: A bottle of Downy


Downy is like the crazy old man of commercials, unafraid to bring it old school. That bottle looks the same now as it did 30 years ago. Anyway, they're pushing the idea that your sheets can smell great all week, not just the first day, because of something called “scent pearls.” I don’t know much, but I do know that Scent Pearls sounds like the name of an adult entertainment website.

Vendor: Sprint
Product: Evo 4G


This is the one with the evolutionary game of dominoes – a stone wheel knocks over the steam engine, which crashes into a phonograph, and continues a journey through a continuum of America’s technological advancement up until we reach the pinnacle of human civilization – a gigantic wireless phone that doesn’t fit in your pocket.

Vendor: Mars
Product: Pretzel M&Ms


I’m thinking if you need an advertisement to convince you to buy M&Ms, you didn’t have a very happy childhood. Although I guess I can’t give them too much grief – they are pushing a revolutionary new product that no one has ever thought of before – chocolate-covered pretzels.

Vendor: McDonald’s
Product: Frozen Mocha Frappe/Frozen Caramel Frappe


You ever get the feeling that every time McDonald’s rolls out a new product line, an entire specialty chain just files bankruptcy papers? Ordinary folks enjoying an 800-calorie coffee drink as they trudge through the monotony of their workaday lives. It’s like an Upton Sinclair novel in thirty seconds.

Vendor: Samsung
Product: Galaxy S


Cue scene of Gladiator-like battle, revealed to be occurring on a mobile phone screen. Hey! You know what sucks? Watching movies on a screen the size of a credit card! Has anyone actually watched a movie from start to finish on their phone? Yeah, neither have I.

Vendor: Wendy’s
Product: BLT Cobb Salad


I get it. You sell healthy salads.

Vendor: Nabisco
Product: Wheat Thins


The good people at Nabisco apparently operate a Mobile Incident Response Team command vehicle, which arrives at the door of a young woman who, it’s revealed, has Tweeted that her life is over because she is out of Wheat Thins. A forklift drops a pallet of Wheat Thins in her driveway.

Look, I’m craving an Oreo Blizzard right now. It doesn’t mean I want 600 of them in my kitchen.

Vendor: Taco Bell
Product: Cantina Taco


The best part about running the Taco Bell test kitchen is that you can create a whole new menu using items you’ve already got on hand. The Cantina taco has steak, lime and cilantro. Really reaching there.

Full Disclosure: I worked at Taco Bell in college. And after college. That foreign affairs degree sure came in handy.

Vendor: Toyota
Product: A terrifying ride down the interstate after the brakes fail


Woman stands in front of holographic images (picture the Department of Precrime from Minority Report) selecting options for her new Camry, intimating that buying your car can be done via the magic of the Internet. Not that I would want to test-drive it or anything like that.

Vendor: Honda
Product: Vehicles that aren't Toyotas


Honda has been riding this cartoon Mr. Opportunity campaign for much of the last decade. I can’t help but think about Roger Rabbit when I see these commercials. It doesn’t make me think I want to buy a Honda.

Vendor: Crest
Product: Crest Pro Health Toothpaste


I love how they make this sound like’s it’s the special stuff the dentist keeps in a safe.

If you put a gun to my head and told me my life depended on correctly identifying the brand of toothpaste in my bathroom, there’s a thirty percent chance you’d have to kill me. I’m pretty sure it’s Colgate. Could be Crest. But go ahead and keep spending $10 million a year on advertising, toothpaste guys! It’s totally working!

Vendor: Shout
Product: Color Catcher


Apparently, this product, which looks like a sheet of fabric softener, lets you run whites and darks together the same load. You know where else you can do this? College. On Cold.

It must take a hell of a leap of faith to use this product for the first time.

Vendor: Dunkin’ Donuts
Product: Jalapeno Cheddar and French Toast Twist Bagels


Young guy in a corporate cube getting work dumped on him from, as they say in Office Space, “eight different bosses.” Takes a sip of his coffee and confidently declares, “let’s do this.” The twist ending is that this is the trading floor at Lehman Brothers the day before it filed for bankruptcy.

Incidentally, I’ve never understood people who pick a side in the Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Krispy Kreme debate. It’s like announcing you like the new version of the $20 bill and refusing to have anything to do with the old one. Personally, I love all the colors in the doughnut rainbow.

Vendor: Oral-B
Product: Toothbrush


Because you need somewhere to put all the super-secret toothpaste.

Blindfolded woman walking aimlessly up and down a grocery store aisle, bathed in white light, of row after row of toothbrushes. Then … nirvana! Sharp-looking dude in a suit somehow makes his way across the River Styx-like aisle of endless toothbrushes to the wonder and terrible majesty of the Oral-B.

Not sure what the lesson is: Either men know more about toothbrushes than women, or women who go to hell are doomed to spend eternity shopping for toothbrushes.

Vendor: Applebee’s
Product: Sizzling Entrées


The Maplewood softball team is doing its postgame at Applebee’s. The players are gathered around a table, obviously recounting what I am sure was just a spectacular display of human achievement. A server goes by carrying a Sizzling Entrée, the enticing sizzle of which immediately silences the team. Because nothing says appetizing more than Applebee’s.

Vendor: O’Charley’s
Product: Two meals for $14.99 deal


By God, this plan is so crazy it just might work! Narrator explains the deal quickly and clearly. OK, I have nothing really bad to say about this one. This is in part because I got super-excited about the next commercial in the lineup, which started while I was still writing the last sentence.

Vendor: Nationwide
Product: Insurance


Insurance is really nothing more than legalized, heavily regulated gambling. You, the customer, are betting something bad is going to happen, whereas the insurance company, is betting that you’re gonna be just fine. Granted, if your bet really pays off, there’s an excellent chance that you’re dead.

I’m very excited about this commercial because I think Nationwide has hit on perhaps the dumbest advertising campaign of the last decade – “The World’s Greatest Spokesperson in the World.” Allstate’s Mayhem guy would totally kick his ass.

Vendor: Pizza Hut
Product: $8/$10 pizzas


On an old episode of The Office, Kevin described a local pizzeria’s pie as a “hot circle of garbage.” I tell you this for no reason whatsoever.

Vendor: McDonald’s
Product: Happy Meal


Because parents don’t have enough to worry about, those devious little bastards at McDonald’s are marketing the old school Happy Meal boxes in the hope you will happily recall your own childhood, pack your kids into the old minivan and toddle on down to the Golden Arches.

Oh, and one more thing: McDonald’s also wants you to know, via the voice of an adorable six-year-old, that “some of the money” from every Happy Meal is going to the Ronald McDonald House. Funny how Junior is vague about how much money. I can tell you how much – whatever their tax lawyer says.

Vendor: Uncle Ben’s
Product: Ready Rice


I think this commercial may actually be trying to hypnotize me. Concentric circles of rice, alternating between a ring of unopened packages of rice and a ring of bowls of rice, spinning all psychedically.

Unexplained 18-minute break…

I have forty packages of rice in my pantry.

Vendor: ACT
Product: Restoring mouthwash


You think it’s possible that in some version of hell, you have to rinse with mouthwash for eternity, never able to spit it out?

Vendor: Target
Product: Back to school crap


Showcasing Ella, Elisabeth and Emily, adorable triplets whose lives are made immeasurably better by applesauce, safety scissors and nail polish. I don’t know what the hell kind of private school (my assumption based on their identical uniform-looking outfits) these girls are attending, but I didn’t see a single second of actual learning going on.

Vendor: SC Johnson. A Family Company.
Product: Swiffer sweeper


It’s 2010. Anyone else feel weird that women are always the stars of the cleaning product commercials? I’ve swiffed the ever living piss out of our kitchen floor.

HOUR 2

Vendor: Orville Redenbacher
Product: Popcorn


Oh, the old family-in-an-RV-someone-makes-popcorn-and-Dad-gets-up-from-the-driver’s-seat-while-the-RV-is-still-moving gimmick!

Classic! Just textbook stuff right there!

Vendor: Burlington Coat Factory
Product: Back to school


For reasons that I cannot articulate, I’ve always been a bit leery of the Burlington Coat Factory. For starters, I’ve never set foot in one, nor have I ever known anyone who’s been to one. That just strikes me as strange. Honestly, you could tell me that the Burlington Board of Directors was made up of an extraterrestrial advance team, here to prep the human race for colonization and enslavement, and it wouldn’t surprise me.

Vendor: Kmart
Product: Back to school


The jingle, sadly enough, is the Go-Gos’ We Got the Beat. Every time I hear a song from my childhood in a commercial, part of me dies. Really Belinda? Not making enough off the residuals?

Vendor: Kohl’s
Product: Kohl’s cash


Ha. This is actually pretty funny. Cashier gives customer a rewards card, and then the customer is accosted by a lawyer type who tells her that her rewards points can’t be used on anything she might possibly want because of exclusions. You can thank a lawyer for every exclusion ever written in the history of the universe.

Vendor: AT&T Wireless
Product: AT&T’s dignity while Steve Jobs makes a call from his Verizon Droid


Orange silks rippling everywhere. On trees, dams, streets, telephone poles, coffeehouse music playing in the background. At the end, a disclaimer advises that “the artists Christo and Jeanne Claude have no direct or indirect affiliation or involvement with AT&T.”

Question 1: Who in the hell are Christo and Jean Claude?
Question 2: Do the silks belong to them? If so, did AT&T just borrow them for a couple days?
Question 3: Am I correct that Jean Claude and Christo are artsy hippie types who wouldn’t know what the f--- a wireless phone is and will likely never see this commercial?

Vendor: Yoplait
Product: Yogurt


Yogurt reminds me of soccer. People who love it, love it. For the rest of us, no commercial is ever going to convince us to buy it.

Vendor: Kroger
Product: Groceries


In my area, it’s just all out grocery store war. Kroger just detonated a funkadelic bomb, opening the largest Kroger in the state about 5 minutes from my house.

Vendor: SunTrust
Product: Banking services


This commercial pisses me off. The narration starts with this little gem: “Once, money was simple. Then, it got more complicated.” And by complicated, SunTrust means that they bankrolled a truckload of $300,000 mortgages for people making eight bucks an hour, and then acted all surprised when the borrowers, who themselves were surprised when they discovered their debt-to-income ratio was 450 percent, started defaulting,

The commercial wraps up with this platitude: “SunTrust is here to help you better understand money.” Gee, thanks, Giant Bank!

Live solid. Bank solid. Get evicted solid.

Vendor: Alcon Entertainment and Warner Brothers
Product: Lottery Ticket (In wide theatrical release August 20)


This is a movie, starring L’il Bow Wow, about a guy in the projects who’s discovered he’s won a gigantic lottery jackpot and then, after word gets out in the neighborhood that he’s got the ticket, having to survive a long holiday weekend before he can cash the ticket.

Those of you who've been kind enough to read my most recent manuscript will understand why this movie may well drive me insane.

Vendor: Verizon
Product: Droid X


This new Droid is going to have mobile hotspot capability, which is a really cool feature. If only there was a way to get this capability on my iPhone!

No, I've never been to jailbreakme.com. Why do you ask?

Vendor: Chili’s
Product: Handmade Burgers and Fries for $5.99


You could take your family of four to Chili’s, have everyone order the $5.99 burger special and walk out an hour later having dropped sixty bucks. This astounds me.

Vendor: Kia
Product: Sportage


Don’t you just want to give Kia a big hug? Look at their cute little SUV!

Vendor: Unknown Movie Studio
Product: Diary of a Wimpy Kid DVD


Awesome. Just what my kids need. Another DVD.

Vendor: Dairy Queen
Product: Mini Blizzard


Like I’m getting the Mini Blizzard. If I were in the CIA and I was captured in the field, the North Koreans could just ply me with a medium Cookies-and-Cream Blizzard and I’d be telling Kim Jong Il the nuke codes.

You know, if I were in the CIA.

Which I’m not.

Hey, look, a new iPhone!

Vendor: Procter & Gamble
Product: Bounty


Bride plops her wedding dress on a white countertop, presumably more interested in showing off the fact that her Bounty paper towels can keep her countertops operating room clean. As Mrs. Corner just asked, who in the hell puts their wedding dress on a countertop anyway? And I don’t know about your kitchen, but in mine, the paper towel is the first of about four steps I take to get the kitchen counter clean.

Vendor: Ford
Product: Fusion


Guy in baseball cap noting that the Fusion is going to hold its value better than the Toyota Camry. Not impressed. These days, Wile E. Coyote’s ACME rocket pack holds its resale value better than Toyota.

Vendor: The Dump
Product: Furniture


Yet again, those crazy guys at The Dump … wait for it… bought more mattresses than they have room for! Do they even have Orientation there?

Vendor: Red Lobster
Product: Crabfest


How has humanity not exhausted the supply of shrimp and crabs?

Full disclosure: As I've previously discussed, I have a sordid past with Red Lobster.

Vendor: Macy’s
Product: Housewares


I considered leaving this out because I can't think of anything snarky to say about Macy's. When the holiday season rolls around, who's pulling your ass out of the fire? At ease, Macy's.

Vendor: Verizon Wireless
Product: Verizon Wireless


We’re not AT&T! Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap! We’re not AT&T! Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap!

Vendor: Mexico
Product: Traveling to Mexico


Come visit Mexico! The odds that you won’t be killed by drug gangs are really good!! Like 90-95 percent