Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Stop me before I destroy another seeming NFL dynasty (not that I was necessarily doing so before)

I admit it’s gotten kind of tired for me to keep claiming roundabout responsibility for the outcomes of sporting events based on whether I held any belief in the winning team ahead of time—that is, as long as I didn’t think a team had a chance (genuinely convinced of that, not just pretending) they would win, or if I did think a team was going to win (again, genuinely convinced of that) they would lose—so I won’t say that I necessarily had anything to do with the Colts not making it to the Super Bowl. I will lay out the facts and allow you to decide for yourself.

We start a little over a year ago. The co-worker who sits next to me runs a playoff pool (which, for the purposes of any law enforcement personnel who may see this, is done only for entertainment purposes… uh yeah) which works thusly: Prior to the start of the NFL playoffs, you select which teams you think will win, all the way to the Super Bowl. Yes, you pick all your teams for four weeks before any games have been played. For each team you pick that wins, you get a certain number of points. In the wildcard games , each is worth 5 points (20 total possible); in the divisional games, each is worth 10 (40 total possible); in the championship games, each is worth 20 (40 possible); in the Super Bowl, the winner is worth 60. Whoever gets the most total points wins (the tie-breaker’s based on picking the total points scored in the big game), and with the increasing points as weeks progress it is possible to miss some early on but still have a chance, but without getting the Super Bowl winner it’s tough.

However, the trick with a system such as this is to try to pick some upsets, to guess at some teams that most of the other players wouldn’t pick. It’s more a matter of sneaking into victory by going against the grain, so your teams not only win but you’re the only one who has your particular set of winners.

Last year, to try to find that balance of unlikely winners, I went with the Packers and the Colts. That’s what I consciously chose as the two teams to advance to the Super Bowl. However, on a lark, I also went game by game, flipping a coin (heads for the home team, tails for the road team) to decide. The coin, by seeming random chance, selected (and I am not kidding) the Patriots and the Eagles, with the Patriots winning. A rather obvious way to go, and one many participants chose, which was partly why I didn’t do it.

For those of you who don’t remember last year’s playoffs, the Packers were out the first round, and the Colts were out in the second round, so I had no chance of winning the pool before it was even half over. The coin, however, got both teams that made it to the big game, and even “chose” the winner.

So I wasn’t even close to being as good as dumb luck.

This season, I’d been predicting the seemingly invincible Indianapolis Colts would win the Super Bowl as early as October; not a risky bit of prognostication, but what I really thought. Regarding other teams in the post-season, I really didn’t have a strong feeling, so I started out with the coin-flip method to see what results it gave. Its match-up in Detroit: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Seattle Seahawks.

Now, much like I believed the Colts would win I believed the Jaguars would not—they wouldn’t beat New England, nor Indianapolis, nor Denver. The entire NFC selections I could live with, and the other games in the AFC I was okay with the coin’s choices, but I did consciously change the games to having the Colts go to the Super Bowl. I’d touted them for some time, and was sticking with that.

Everything else was not my choice, other than choosing to go along with what the coin flips determined. The Colts were the only team with my real support. (I wasn’t, per se, rooting for them; I was merely believing in them.) So when I turned in my selections, it was more the coin’s just with my name on them. Many of the games the coin picked involved home teams (it was a heads-heavy period), which were usually the favorites, and which were ones that many of the other participants also chose.

Thus, my choices were largely the popular ones, and with three road teams winning (in what some consider upsets) in the opening wildcard games, I got only two of the four right. The Colts, having an opening week bye, hadn’t even played yet. However, I was already eliminated from winning.

Someone else in the pool had the exact same picks that I did for the remaining three weeks, but she (yes, a woman—and not a football fan at that) had gotten all four right the first week, so no matter how I’d do from then on, I’d end up 10 points behind her. So from the standpoint of wanting the Colts to win to keep my chances alive, I didn’t care. My “faith” in them was not based on whether they would win me anything, just they seemed really strong.

As you’re probably aware, the Colts lost their first game of the playoffs. Of the four games in that second weekend of the playoffs, I again got only two (Seattle and Denver), but really, the coin got those. (The coin did lose with the Bears; it wasn’t perfect even when I didn’t change its picks.)

When I went in to work the Monday after that game, my co-worker running the pool (whose Cowboys I’d kept out of the playoffs) looked at me and said I had jinxed the Colts by actually choosing them—although every other participant except one did the same. (It is true that about 75 percent of those in the pool had the Colts to go all the way.) I’m not saying that I did or did not jinx them. You decide for yourself.

I take some consolation in knowing that had I stuck with the coin’s picks with no alterations, I would have done even worse (I’d have gone only one-for-four the first week) initially. However, winning it all, the coin ultimately had… the Seahawks. Thus, although the poor showing early on probably would have put me in too much of a hole to come back, at least I’d still have a team that was in the game selected as the winner.

(Several participants did choose Seattle, and of them there’s two in the lead who’ll end up tied should that team win; only one, out of 40, chose Pittsburgh to go this far, but due to bad picks in prior weeks, even if the Steelers win, he’ll only end up tied with those two in the lead. Yeah, ain’t that a bitch.)

I’m reluctant to go on record with endorsing either team, because although I think the Steelers look strong, I am sympathetic toward the Seahawks. I’m not sure whether I’m “supporting” Pittsburgh while “rooting” for Seattle. Thus, if I do really jinx one team or another, it could go either way here; I fear this will be too confusing for whatever power it is that uses me as the reverse-basis for determining who gets to win. But more likely I don’t have any influence, and it’s all been coincidence—an uncanny amount of coincidence—thus far.

So no matter what happens on Super Bowl Sunday… it isn’t me.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Big Brother is listening... finally

Mere moments ago on tonight's episode of "The Daily Show" they were doing a story about the censored version of Google that launched in China, and here was the introduction to the piece:

"Tonight the Daily Show looks at information, and the latest bold attempts to keep it from spreading. First up... Google. Long the world's most popular way to get news, do research, and find out that your entire 38 years on this planet can be summed up in 17 hits..."

Very funny. But how did they know I just turned 38? I mean, they could have selected any age, but they chose the one I am now (as of 4 days ago--and this is the first episode since then).

While the government may be wire-tapping our phones, I fear that the writers of "The Daily Show" are keeping tabs on me to be the focus of their viewer references.

Actually, that would be pretty cool. So, I suppose I only fear they'll move on to someone else for this sort of thing, and my time in the spotlight (not that anyone else would recognize it) will end.

Egad. I really need to make something of my life, don't I? Let me do a Google search on myself to see what I am. Oh wait. I don't need to have my ego decimated that much. "17"? I wish...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Thomas Crapper Day

My Simpsons 2006 calendar notes today is the birthday of Mozart and of Lewis Carroll, but it also highlights today as Thomas Crapper Day, to honor the man some consider to be the one responsible for our modern toilets, but apparently he really wasn't. But he was instrumental in promoting sanitary conditions, or something.

If nothing else, even though his name is not from where the term "crap" is derived, it's fun to walk around wishing everyone "Happy Thomas Crapper Day" without getting in trouble--well, not too much trouble.

(There's even e-cards you can send for the day. Seriously.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Such great heights

Looking up at the towers of the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown L.A.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I owe you this

I can't lie to the three of you who read this without me exorting you to do so: Despite what I wrote in the last post, there may or may not be more real posts any time soon. I just don't freakin' know.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

And now, this

More posts will be coming soon. Really. In the meantime, please feel free to peruse the archives, and perhaps pick up some souvenirs from the gift shop. As soon as we get a gift shop. Remain seated until the post comes to a full and complete stop.

Okay, now you can exit to the driver's right. No, the other right. Thank you. Come again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Drinking water during a day of wine tasting in Temecula.

(Consider this the sorbet to cleanse your mental palatte after the last posting.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Deep in the heart of football: another tale of cosmic intervention

Again I find myself faced with evidence of my inadvertent influence over sporting events. (Review this posting from last year.) Before I get into that, however, allow me to say to the fans from/of the state of Texas: I’m sorry, and you’re welcome.

Backing up a bit, I should mention, in a act of full disclosure, that I am, at best, a mediocre fan of sports. I am not an avid follower of any team or any sport. I don’t have a fantasy football team. At most I catch Sports Center when there’s nothing better on TV, but I rarely sit through an entire game.

Sure, this all seems worth deserving of those who really treat sports not merely as games but as a lifestyle, who treat family as those things that occupy time during time outs. Perhaps they are too close to it. I don’t know. I didn’t ask for this, nor would I wish for it. The thing that keeps life interesting is lack of foreknowledge of the days to come.

As with the deal with the Angels last year, I have no idea how or why I got this, but unlike that situation, this one affected teams I was not a fan of in the past, nor even from an area where I lived. However, like that situation, now that I’ve mentioned it the power has undoubtedly left me (at least until the next time).

One of those people who are much more rabid fans of football (the American kind with the oblong ball) sits next to me at work. In fact, he even produces a weekly podcast about the NFL. I probably keep up with football more to have something to talk about with him than for any other reason.

For most of this past NFL season I would appease him each week by making picks of that weekends games. We wouldn’t put any money on the picks, nor was it picking against the spread; it was just going through the 14 – 16 games and trying to predict which team would win. And the method I employed for this involved more looking at the match-ups on the piece of paper and trying to see which team gave me some kind of intuitive signal. I knew which team had the better record, sure, but mostly it was just going on feeling.

What’s kind of sad, for him, is that there were quite a number of Monday mornings where when I got in to the office he greeted me with a statement declaring he’d beat me next week, indicating my only semi-informed choices prognosticated better than his more-informed selections; I’d gotten more right. I didn’t keep the slips of paper from each week, but I recall the best I did was going 13-3 one week. I didn’t always best him with my picks, but think if I had kept all the slips and compared our records for picks over the season, I’d probably be pretty close to him, and perhaps might even have done slightly better.

Anyway, the fellow is a big Cowboys fan (hailing originally from the Lone Star state). I’ve never been either a supporter or a hater of Dallas. (I’ve only spent 30 minutes in that city, and that was merely how long it took me to change planes at the airport.) He tended to pick the Cowboys each week, out of loyalty. I understand that. I picked the Cowboys some of the time, and picked against the Cowboys some of the time. I didn’t have a team to which I was loyal; there was no team I picked every week (although I did take Indianapolis every time except one week—when I took Seattle, which proved to be the right choice in that matchup). For a while I kept picking the other team from Texas, the Texans (an awful name, in my opinion, but I don’t have the money to buy the team and rename them—and yes, it was an awful name when the Chiefs were the Dallas Texans before), only because I figured they were due for a win (they won two games all season, only one of which was a week a picked them), but eventually I gave up on them.

As I noted, I didn’t keep the slips showing the picks, so I’m going on memory. What I do recall, because they were his team, is how I picked in the games involving Dallas from Thanksgiving until the end of the season.

Than span stretched over their last six games. On Thanksgiving, I picked the Cowboys, and they lost to the Broncos. I then stuck with them the next week, and they lost to the Giants. Following that, I picked the Chiefs, but the Cowboys won in a squeaker. I then threw my support back to Dallas against the Redskins, and they were embarrassed in Washington. The next to the last week, I thought the Cowboys didn’t have much chance against the Panthers, but they pulled out another comeback win.

Five games in a row I had unsuccessfully selected the winner of the game involving the Cowboys. Okay, an interesting coincidence. I wasn’t trying to pick them or against them to screw with my cubicle neighbor; I was just picking them either with intent or due to that feeling.

In last weekend’s final game, the Cowboys were up against the not-so-good Rams. The losses had put the Cowboys in a poor position for making the post-season, but with a win they had a chance of getting to the playoffs. Despite my co-worker’s pleas to pick St. Louis, I took Dallas, because that’s what both my conscious and sub-conscious mind told me to go with. He’d seen the pattern of the past five games, consistently picking the loser, and although we both knew on some level it was coincidence, being a sports fan he was superstitious enough to offer me actual bribes to change my pick. I said, “Well, this week will prove once and for all whether it’s been me who’s been controlling the outcomes of the Cowboys’ games; if the Rams win, it’s my doing.”

Although Dallas had been eliminated from playoff contention before they started their game, they were still much better than St. Louis. They still played their starters, and from the highlights I caught, appeared to be trying to win nonetheless. However, when the clock wound down to :00 at the end of the fourth quarter, the score was Rams 20, Cowboys 10.

So, uh, sorry about that Cowboys fans. I really didn’t know.

As I mentioned, he’s from Texas, so you could guess for whom he was actively rooting in the college football national title game at the Rose Bowl. And unless you didn’t look at a newspaper headline, website, or TV news program, you saw how that game turned out. I didn’t attend either USC or Texas, but I tend to root for the underdog. (Apologies to my friends who attended USC.) I also have some future in-laws in Austin, so I hoping the Longhorns could pull off the upset. But how does that explain that I had anything to do with them actually winning? With the Cowboys it was when I didn’t support them (so to speak) that they won; how could I sorta root for Texas and have them come out ahead at the end of the game?

Simple: I didn’t believe Texas had a chance. Even as they marched down for what proved to be the game-winning score (which was about all of the game I watched), I kept thinking, They’re going to blow it. And due to my utter lack of faith, they didn’t.

I had no real vested interest in the outcome, and that was exactly what was happening with the Cowboys, so it’s too much to be coincidence (in light of what happened there).

Again, I didn’t know I would have this influence on the big game, or that I could in this roundabout way give something back to the fans in Texas. I am reasonably certain that even had I picked against the Cowboys more (thereby giving them enough victories to make the playoffs) that they wouldn’t have made it to the Super Bowl (as noted, the power ends now that I’ve talked of it, so in the post-season they’d be on their own). And then I’d have nothing left for the big game. Thus, I presume the folks in Texas would much rather have a Longhorns’ national championship (and an end to the Trojans vaunted win streak) than have the Cowboys lose in the first round of the playoffs.

If ever Fate (or whatever) granted me this kind of influence over my own life, I’d never be able to take advantage of it. Not only would I realize too late, but I couldn’t actively hope for bad stuff to get good stuff. It doesn't work that way. I'm not sure how it does work, I just know I'm not in control of when I'm in control... and it all kind of balances out in the end.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee, I'm over on CMT

As I type this, CMT (that's right: Country Music Television) is airing the movie Grease (that's right: the 1978 musical starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travola) on a feature they're calling "Cowboy Cool Theater" (that's right: Cowboy Cool Theater).

At first I thought: This is troubling on many levels.

(That I'm home on a Saturday night is not one of them, however; I am not, as anyone who knows me or reads pretty much any other entries here, an exciting person.)

That I was flipping around the channels and could come across CMT is somewhat troubling. I do not mean to suggest the programming on CMT is bad; I will say only that the channel does not tend to appeal to my viewing tastes with much of it airs.

That a doo-wop laden tale of greasers was something they'd play on CMT (with elaborate choreographed dance numbers, and including the line "She's a real pussy wagon"--it's in the song "Greased Lightning", if you aren't familiar with the number, or haven't paid attention to the lyrics that closely) certainly stretches what I considered country music. While I know that contemporary country music appeals to more than just the "Blue Collar TV" viewer, and that (thanks in large part to Cowboy Troy) there's even ethnic diversity, I must admit, as I tried to determine a connection, I fell back on the notion of stereotypical country music audience, and alas, thought, Apparently they've run so low on shows to fill a 24-7 schedule that now anything that has very few black people qualifies.

(I know. I'm ashamed of how crass my mind can be in its initial reactions.)

Then it occurred to me: This is not a sign of some impending apocalypse. This is genius on the part of someone in charge at CMT.

Let's face it: there's very few actual cowboys left. It's just not a lucerative occupation. I'm sure there's plenty of CMT fans who fancy themselves "cowboys", and that's their prerogative. I will not say any more about that, except to suggest that if the title "Cowboy Cool Theater" appeals to you, you're probably not a real cowboy. Thus, they're not trying to appeal to actual cowboys with this feature.

To expand viewership and increase ratings, the network has to adapt to the times. And what is the biggest association with the word "cowboy" these days? That's right: Gay cowboys. Brokeback Mountain is, whether the stereotypical CMT viewer likes it or not, what the mainstream media is mentioning when using the term "cowboy" of late. Grease may not necessarily appeal to that stereotypical CMT viewer, but those who did see Brokeback may very well be open to a musical that has no horses. Also, those who saw Brokeback but were not previously CMT viewers might be more open to checking out the channel, especially if it's showing a musical they already know and like.

This could be the start of a chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter/peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate moment that brings two worlds together.

And we've known for 27 years that Grease doesn't have that many black people in it. If it's not offensive as one of VH1's "Movies That Rock" then it's not fair to chastise CMT.

Anything, no matter how seemingly unlikely, that can make people a tiny bit more open-minded is something to be lauded. (Even if it does contain a slight irony: The movie adaptation of the original stage musical was censored of much of its sexual references--other than the aforementioned "pussy wagon" line, the only thing that stayed in, in a vague allusion, was Travolta rubbing plastic wrap on his crotch in a quick moment in the "Greased Lightning" number. Think about it.)

(What's truly troubling is that I knew that Grease trivia without having to look it up. Perhaps it would be in my best interest if this is some harbinger of the Apocalypse.)

Friday, January 06, 2006

NaCl and the cinema

On Sunday afternoon, the first day when the calendar had a 6 at the end, my girlfriend and I went to see a matinee showing of Brokeback Mountain at the local cineplex. At the refreshment counter, I passed on overpriced popcorn for a snack and went instead with an overpriced pretzel. When identifying what kind of pretzel to the young woman in the polo shirt who took my order, I noted, "Salted." No cheese sauce or anything, just pretzel with salt on it.

When she returned from retrieving the requested item, she handed me the pretzel in a plastic bag and the little packet shown above. Apparently it was too much overhead to stock pre-salted pretzels, and they chose to carry plain pretzels and consider the salt to be an add-on.

Okay. Bit of a challenge to sit in the surprisingly crowded theater and get the salt only on the pretzel and not all over myself, but I managed. I am, after all, a college graduate.

What piqued my interest, more than salt being separate, was what is shown on the packet.
It's "pretzel salt" that contains "salt". Only salt.

I found that comforting. I'm not sure why exactly. Just did. And that sodomy scene between Heath and Jake: really not that big a deal. Perhaps that had nothing to do with the salt, and was merely the maturity to appreciate the story, but if the salt had included other ingredients, who knows?

All I know is this: The next day, we went with another friend to see Memoirs of a Geisha. (Yes, the desperate and futile race to see all the movies before the awards ceremonies.) And at that show our friend got the mondo tub of popcorn with whatever's in that butter-flavored topping.

I'm not saying that unidentifiable goo on the snack was what made me think Geisha, while a beautifully shot film, was not as good as Brokeback. All I'm suggesting is it's worth looking into whether theres' a connection between what is on what one eats during the movie and one's enjoyment of said movie.

Up to this point I figured one preferred art that reflected one's beliefs back, but perhaps it was just the lack of real butter.

(Yes, I did hold on to the packet, rather than throwing it away, with the intent of making it an entry here. It's not right. I know.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Grin and bear it--err, wipe it

The current ad campaign by Charmin features cartoon bears who wipe their ursa bottoms with toilet paper. They have a catchy little jingle in the commercials employing the aphorism "Less is more" which is demonstrated in the on-screen animation: the mommy bear convinces the baby bear to use fewer sheets of the feted product because the new Charmin is more absorbent than the other leading brand (cut to live-action shot of side-by-side test).

Okay, I can accept cute, anthropomorphic animals selling us products--it's been a staple of TV advertising for decades. And the song, despite its strained attempt at rhyming "sure" with "more", is catchy. However, I cannot help but think their attempts to tout the economic benefits of the greater absorbancy of the product misses the point.

I'm not using that much toilet paper because what I'm wiping back there requires it to soak up the moisture (I'm trying to be delicate here, folks); I'm using that much toilet paper because I want a solid layer of protection to keep my hand away from what I'm wiping back there, even though it is excessive for the absorbency needs of what's being wiped. Because it is excessive. It's not fecalphobia; it's just... you know.

If you want poo on your hand, that's your prerogative; it's a free country. Please wash your hands when using public restrooms--I guarantee you they're not stocking those stalls with this Charmin. Which means it's a haven for fecalphiliacs... I'm going to hold it until I get home.

Uh... think of the cute bears. Yeah, cute bears.

Wow. I have a new respect for those who have to try to sell products dealing with bodily functions. Just because everybody poops doesn't make it easy.

However, if I were to give it a shot, I'd probably start with: "Charmin: It keeps poop off your hands."

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Demote this promotion

I'm not one to promote unnecessary violence, but I really think use of the tag line "They put the 'fun' in dysfunctional" should be punishable by the death penalty. (I'm looking at you, ABC and those responsible for the upcoming soon-to-fail sitcom Crumbs.)

If you are employed in the voice-over business and that's what it says on the script, find the producers and tell them how stupid they are, then walk out of the recording studio. No amount of money is worth your dignity (and, if my plan is enacted, your life). Make it your New Year's resolution. Please.