I’m not a little kid anymore!

I need to buy some finger paint for my nephew.Yesterday, Danielle and I were in “The Teacher Store”. Why it’s called that is obvious, but that’s not its name. It’s Hammett. While browsing, I came across the true joy of The Teacher Store: finger paint. I know kids love to use their hands and get dirty and let their imagination run wild, but perhaps a little more thought should be put into the marketing because, as much as kids like to use their hands, they’re usually using their hands to put things in their mouths. That’s why finger paint shouldn’t look like peanut butter and jelly.

I’m sure Danielle won’t put it next to the paste.

Blow the whistle, not the game.

Last night’s game was disappointing, but tremendous fun. There were Hokies everywhere. The atmosphere was lit up, just like the fans. We didn’t win, but we showed that we’re a better team than most people believed. Today, that is some consolation.

There are two quotes that explain the game better than I can:

“You can’t blame the officials,” [Coach Frank] Beamer said. “I thought it was kind of questionable. I thought it was a great play.”

When the officials call the game the way they did, it’s reasonable to blame them, but it’s not a complete explanation. This is the final piece:

“They played like the number one team in America in the sense that they capitalized on every mistake we made,” tailback Justin Hamilton said.

Turnovers or penalties, it didn’t matter. When we made a mistake, we paid for it. Usually we paid in points, but we always paid in some way detrimental. Against great teams, that leads to losing. Last night we didn’t have the killer instinct and USC did.

I still wore a Virginia Tech t-shirt today. Go Hokies!

Hokie football is back!

Now that the Phillies have nose-dived into oblivion, I’m turning my attention to football. Today, specifically, is about Hokies football. Tonight we kick off the college football season against #1-ranked USC.

I have no prediction for this game, but I’d like to consider one important point. USC is 2,700 miles away from Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. Blacksburg is 270 miles away. I wonder how that will impact the ratio of Hokies to Trojans among the 90,000+ fans expected to attend? Hmmm…

While we all ponder the glory that will be Virginia Tech football in 2004, I’ll fade out with Tech Triumph:

Tech Triumph

Techmen, we’re Techmen, with spirit true and faithful,
Backing up our teams with hopes undying;
Techmen, Oh Techmen, we’re out to win today,
Showing “pep” and life with which we’re trying;
V.P., old V.P., you know our hearts are with you
In our luck which never seems to die;
Win or lose, we’ll greet you with a glad returning,
You’re the pride of V.P.I.

Just watch our men so big and active
Support the Orange and Maroon. Let’s go Techs.
We know our ends and backs are stronger,
With winning hopes, we fear defeat no longer.
To see our team plow through the line, boys,
Determined now to win or die:
So give a Hokie, Hokie, Hokie Hi,
Rae, Ri, old V.P.I.

Go Hokies!

Because Golden Retrievers aren’t delicate

Tomorrow I have a team lunch with my fellow computer-programming nerds. This is typically an anticipated joy for most working stiffs, but not me. I hate them. First, I’m asocial. I scrub-up well, but that doesn’t mean I want to hang around with people. I’m a solitary creature more often than not, so team lunches mean the nightmare that is the group outing.

That would be survivable except for problem number two. I’m always singled out as the difficult person because I’m a vegan. Ignore that I understand how distinct my dietary habits make me and that I adapt to each new menu. I accept that I’ll have the pasta or the pasta at most restaurants, but that doesn’t prevent others from placing upon me the challenge of finding a lunch spot for the group. I would enjoy that if my choice of Indian didn’t get nixed immediately every time. Picking without being able to pick is stupid but that’s what happens. Since I have a team lunch tomorrow, it happened again.

“I” ended up choosing a mexican restaurant since I can get veggie fajitas. Except I can’t. The menu doesn’t list veggie fajitas as an option. It seems that uppity, chic restaurants believe that the hip urbanite likes to shove dead animals down his throat, but only when it’s covered with cheese. Vegans are those disgusting leeches on society who want to save all the trees and hate capitalism. So I’ll adapt.

However… I have to worry about a restaurant that includes chihuahua cheese on its menu. I don’t know what chihuahua cheese is, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting it. To understand, I had to look it up. According to the Food Network, chihuahua cheese is “see asadero“. What? If it’s called asadero, why not put asadero on the menu instead of chihuahua cheese? Since that didn’t answer my question, I clicked over to asadero.

Definition: [ah-sah-DEH-roh] A white cow’s-milk cheese of Mexican origin that’s available in braids, balls or rounds. Asadero, which means “roaster” or “broiler,” has good melting properties and becomes softly stringy when heated–very similar to an unaged monterey jack cheese. Other names for this cheese are Chihuahua and Oaxaca. See also cheese.

Note to all chefs: say what you mean and mean what you say. Why do you have so many names for the same cheese? A rose by any other name…

That doesn’t help me decide what I’m going to have for lunch on Friday, but it does raise another thought. Recently, Paris Hilton’s chihuahua was missing for a week. Which poor chef had the task of milking Tinkerbell?

When good shoes go bad

After the entry I wrote on Monday about Jessica Simpson’s hideous version of “Angels”, I assumed that I’d be safe from more horror for at least a few weeks. Not so. I read this article and nearly cried. Celebrities get a ton of free stuff because kids tend to buy the same brands that celebrities enjoy. If Converse applies this theory and sends a pair of “Peace Chucks” to Jessica Simpson, we’re screwed. Written on the toes of the shoes are the words “Imagine All The People Living Life In Peace”.

I speak on behalf of the world when I beg of Converse, please don’t send her a pair. She can’t be trusted to respect the lyrics. I’m telling you in advance, she just can’t. Please.

It’s a Zen thing, like how many babies fit in a tire.

Last night, Danielle and I watched the first episode of season 1 of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I rented it from Netflix around the same time I rented Purple Rain, so I definitely needed to watch it. Wasting money renting movies I don’t watch is stupid. So we watched it last night.

Our goal was to enjoy it. If it was good, we’d stick it out and rent more episodes. That was the plan, but the first episode didn’t live up to its hype. Fifteen minutes in, neither of us cared enough to continue. It made us laugh a couple of times, but only random laughs. The show seems to be more about presenting a joke, then presenting another, without the comedic hilarity of situational buildup. Take away the bluster and it’s simple. The show didn’t grab us and refuse to let go. If the creators can’t hook me with the first episode, I’m not going to bother with more.

Throughout the first episode, I thought the show failed because it didn’t make me care about it. That’s true, but too shallow. It didn’t make me care because the show wasn’t honest with me. Improv is good comedy, but it has to be honest. The actors must play it straight or the gimmick fails. Curb Your Enthusiasm felt as if the actors’ egos couldn’t wait to get confirmation that they were funny and brilliant and hilarious and brilliant. They were too needy.

For an example of how the improv process should be done, they should’ve rented Waiting for Guffman. As Corky St. Clair, Christopher Guest is honest with the audience. He is Corky. He embraces Corky’s exuberance over community theater. He makes Corky’s story about his wife Bonnie believable. As the viewer, I trust that the residents of Blaine are sincere in their acceptance of Bonnie’s existence. I care whether or not Mr. Guffman will appear at “Red, White, and Blaine“, even though I know he will not. Literally and figuratively, Corky dances as if no one was watching.

Corky St. Clair is Corky, not Christopher Guest as Corky. That’s what every actor must strive for in his performance. Where Waiting for Guffman succeeds in treating its pact with the audience with proper respect, Curb Your Enthusiasm fails to honor its pact. Perhaps it tried to write a different pact, but I don’t think so. When the actors ooze superiority, that creepy expectation that the audience should be honored to be in the vicinity of their genius, involvement in the farce isn’t possible. Fiction is illusion, not lies. Where Waiting for Guffman is magic, Curb Your Enthusiasm is a con.

Like a fine wine, wait 20 years, then enjoy

On June 16th, I requested Purple Rain from Netflix. Danielle and I watched it last night, more than two months after it arrived in my mailbox and it was worth the wait.

Who knew that Apollonia could demonstrate the multitude of subtle variations on the standard smile, that simple exercise of facial muscle that burdens mere mortals? Who knew that an earring could have so much symbolism? Who knew that Prince falls asleep in the exact spot where anything dramatical has just happened to him? I’ll tell you. You knew, because you’ve probably seen it. Me? I’m 20 years late to the party, but what a glorious party it is.

I’m delirious that I saw Purple Rain at 31 instead of 11. Last night, I was nostalgic enough for 1984 to enjoy the movie but smart enough to know how bad it is. Terrible acting, a ridiculous plot made worse by sloppy editing, and an oiled-up Prince aren’t a good mix. Throw in nasty fish-kissing between Prince and Apollonia and the result is cinematic disaster.

I know that a lifetime of looking at Apollonia’s many smiles is worth any obstacle, but winning her would mean listening to Apollonia 6 and having to say “That’s fantastic” without breaking into wailing sobs. That isn’t possible. Granted, without that struggle, Purple Rain wouldn’t be nearly the movie that it became, but since the writer did nothing to make a strong movie, other than letting Prince create the soundtrack, I say “so what”?

At 11 years old, I wouldn’t have known that. At 31, I can appreciate the relation it has to its era. (When did the 80’s become an era?) Knowing that the movie would be horrible made it fun to watch. As a corollary from On Becoming A Novelist, John Gardner writes about bad fiction and the writer’s response:

The kind of fiction that makes good writers cross is not really bad fiction. Most writers will occasionally glance through a comic book or a western, even a nurse novel if they find it at the doctor’s office, and finish the thing with no hard feelings. … What makes them angry is bad “good” fiction…

As bad as it is, Purple Rain is good “bad” fiction. I can revel in that when I watch in that context. Enjoying it doesn’t mean I long to imitate its dialogue or editing or that I will accept that in every movie I watch. Low-brow is better than uni-brow.

One despair remains, though. I fear I may never be able to listen to the Purple Rain soundtrack again without imagining the fictitious cinematic stories behind the songs. But I still love the 80’s in an excessive, criminal manner.

That’s why England is better than America

Robbie Williams. If I mention him to people, odds are good that I’ll get a blank stare. But if I say Jessica Simpson, even a 2-year-old will know who I’m talking about. Outrageous, if you please.

Why do I mention this? Because Jessica Simpson’s singing is proof that Satan exists. How else could she get a recording contract with so little talent? Because I didn’t care, this didn’t occur to me until I heard the singles for her new album. The first song was forgettable, since I can’t remember the title and can’t be bothered to look it up. I know the video had rampant hilarity as she poked fun at her “stupid” image, but it doesn’t matter. Her songs after that first single are the problem.

Her remake of “Take My Breath Away” annoyed me. Considering that Mrs. Lachey has none of the range of Terri Nunn, someone should’ve taken the microphone away from her when she hinted at singing that classic. I imagine the producer commanding her to “Emote. Emote. Emote!” during that recording session, but the important lesson that her fans need to learn is simple: screaming does not equal emotion. So I said “Ugh”.

That “ugh” was a minor whimper compared to the violent tantrum of obscenities I spewed when I heard single #3, the current release from her latest album. Not only has she botched an 80’s classic from my youth, she’s butchered a new 90’s classic from my early adulthood. She covered the brilliant Robbie Williams song “Angels“. When I write “covered”, I mean “tortured the life out of it“.

When will the madness end? When will the talented musicians be popular? Every parent who has purchased her new album for their kid(s) should be sent to remedial parenting classes as punishment. Allowing a child to believe that Jessica Simpson is talented because she made an album is equivalent to teaching a child that placing her hand in fire is good because it leaves a cool scar or that not stabbing himself while running with scissors is the entrance exam to Harvard. It’s a fucking travesty. I pray she never finds the lyrics to “Imagine”.

17 years? How can it be 17 years?

Today is the 17th anniversary of the first Major League Baseball game I attended, an epic battle between the bottom-feeding Pittsburgh Pirates and the bottom-feeding Atlanta Braves. I was excited at the time because I finally saw Dale Murphy play in a game that counted. I’d seen him play in exhibition games in Richmond, but that wasn’t the real thing. So I was excited.

I was also excited to see Tom Glavine pitch that day. He’d made his major league debut on August 17th, a game he lost to Houston in the Astrodome. When the game started, I thought maybe, just maybe, he could win his first major league game, the very game I was attending. Nine innings later, Jim Acker threw the last pitch to finish off Glavine’s first win. That was cool.

With 258 additional wins since August 22, 1987, Tom Glavine is still pitching, putting the final touches on his Hall of Fame resum&#233. On the day he is inducted, I’ll tell the nearest snot-nosed, unappreciative kid who lacks a sense of history that I saw Glavine’s first win. That kid won’t care, but I’ll enjoy being the grumpy curmudgeon. I may even mumble. If I were that guy today, I’d probably mumble that I can’t believe it was 17 years ago.

No one cares about this but me

John Kruk wrote a column for ESPN’s Page 2 in which he mentioned the main challenge for the Phillies:

The Phillies? They don’t rip anyone’s heart out. They never go for the jugular. As a result, they aren’t feared by anyone. So when they take the field against the Marlins, the Brewers or the Rockies — everyone thinks they have a chance to win.

I agree with that. As a Phillies phan, I’ve seen this in action over the last few years. The talent has been there, but the desire to do whatever it takes to win is non-existent in the Phillies.

In the spring of 2003, Bowa proposed using Abreu as his leadoff hitter. I’ve never been a huge Bowa fan, but I always felt that idea was brilliant. Abreu does everything a leadoff should do at the plate. He’s agressive but willing to work a count and take a walk. He hits for average and steals bases when he gets on. His power is a bonus for Abreu. His homers are more accident than effort because he’s a hitter, not a slugger.

Bowa knows this and realized that Abreu could set a great tone for the lineup. Abreu vetoed it because it would hurt his production. I don’t believe he was worried about his numbers, as much as he felt that he could be the impact guy to drive in runs for the team. That’s a great thought, which has validity, but what if there are no runners on because the 1 and 2 guys aren’t up to the task? Rollins has become a better leadoff hitter, but he still swings for the fences too much and isn’t patient when necessary.

The best contrast to the current Phillies team is Lenny Dykstra. The Dude could work a count at the beginning of a game to let the rest of the lineup see the pitcher’s repetoire. He forced the game to conform to his intention. Think back to the ’93 NLCS. He dominated that series against the more talented Braves. His team wasn’t supposed to be there, but he wanted it. When the game was on the line, he “went for the jugular”. And with Dykstra, the Phillies knew they were never out of a game.

The current version of the Phillies don’t have that and, until they get it, they won’t win according to the expectations of their talent.