Monday, October 31, 2005

My Heart Is The Bums On The Street

I hate it when I'm right.

Last week, I told anyone who would listen my beloved Cleveland Browns would lose to the winless Houston Texans on Sunday, something of an odd statement considering that I am a die-hard Browns fan and the Texans are by far and away the worst team in the National Football League.

Fundamentally, I believed Cleveland's scrappy defense should ransack Houston's woeful offensive line and the Browns plow-ahead running game should win the time-of-possession battle. But I knew better. This was the kind of game the franchise was born to lose.

This is Cleveland, a town cursed since the day Art Modell fired Paul Brown in 1964.

While I think coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage are moving the team in the proper direction, they are not immune to the Cleveland Curse. As predicted, it struck again in a 19-16 defeat at Reliant Stadium.

The thing about the Browns is, it's not only the fact they lost. It's that they go about losing in the most goddamn, painstaking way possible.

This has been occuring for decades, and only the fools among us still fall victim to hope each week. But like Charlie Brown repeatedly kicking air from Lucy's hold, there are plenty of masochists who come back for our weekly dose of abuse.

Sunday was no different. Holding a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Cleveland opted to punt on 4th-and-inches from its own 40-yard line. Kyle Richardson promptly shanked the punt, and Houston tied the game with a field goal after taking over at its own 49.

It was the start of the demise. On the ensuing Cleveland drive, Antonio Bryant appeared to catch a 20-yard touchdown pass on the left side of the end zone. But officials ruled him out of bounds. They made the right call.

Replay showed the toes on Bryant's left foot landed two inches out of bounds. The play foreshadowed the tragic comedy ahead, and the Browns settled for a field goal that Houston quickly matched.

With 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining, Kris Brown kicked another Texans field goal to give Houston a three-point lead. Quarterback Trent Dilfer gave us all that a glimmer of hope by quickly marching the Browns 40 yards in the next minute without using a timeout.

Then, in classic Cleveland style, the Browns self-destructed.

On the Houston 40-yard line, Dennis Northcutt dropped a quick out pass on 2nd-and-8. It would have turned a 57-yard field-goal attempt into a 49-yarder. But it wasn't a huge deal, considering there was more than a minute on the clock. And hey, at least the Browns had two more downs, right? Two more chances to embarrass themselves.

On 3rd-and-8, Dilfer commited the Cardinal sin. With the urgency of the moment apparent to kindergartners across Ohio, he takes a sack on a play when the only absolute necessity was not losing yardage. Field-goal range becomes a distant memory.

Fourth-and-17 seems like a death sentence in any other situation except against the inept Texans. Dilfer uncorks a 40-yard cannon shot to Bryant, who is remarkably in single coverage and one step ahead of his defender.

But the throw, perhaps Dilfer's cleanest of the afternoon, is nonetheless a nanosecond behind the receiver. Houston's defensive back tips the ball.

The pass deflects upward into the air, hanging like a pop-fly in the infield. Again, any kindergartner would have had a reasonable shot at the catch. Bryant stumbled toward the ball with all the grace of a retard chasing a balloon.

It falls harmlessly to the turf, three inches beyond his outstretched arms.

This is how it ends each and every week. The Browns play up/down to the level of their opponent. Hope is stirred among the faithful. Fate intervenes.

Names may change and the script may vary, but this is how it ends.

And by the way, you can find me in my usual seat at Jackson's Sports Bar next Sunday when the Browns host the Tennessee Titans.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Interview: funnyman Drew Weisholtz

Longtime comedy writer Drew Weisholtz believed his return to the stand-up stage after a three-year absence would draw little more than a shrug from his old fans.

Instead, he is dumbfounded by the uproar his comeback has created.

"I've been stunned from the outpouring of support," he said. "A lot of friends I haven't seen in a while, family, people who had long given up on my return to the stage, they all seem excited."

Weisholtz is booked to play two upcoming shows, one Dec. 1 at The Improv on West 53rd Street in New York City followed by a Dec. 7 date at the New York Comedy Club on East 24th Street. Ticket information is available at 212-757-2323 and 212-696-5233, respectively.

The Hoboken, N.J.-based comedian is mining fresh matieral and mixing it into an act he says will also contain old stalwarts. He took time out of his busy schedule for an exclusive interview with Squawking VFR.

What has been the response from your fan base since you announced your return?
Let me finish laughing first. (pause). I would have to say it's been overwhelmingly positive.

Why now?
No reason. There was no one single impetus that I can cite that this was the time. I would say that I just thought it would be a fun thing to do again.

I had gotten so far away from it for a long time, and I wanted to go back to my roots. It had a been on the back burner. It wasn’t anything I took seriously, but then I thought that I did it for fun. Whether it's good or bad, there's really no pressure in it.

You were never bad before.
Many would disagree.

Aside from getting a job writing comedy at ABC radio, what drove you away from stand-up in the first place?
It's a very taxing profession, Pete. It's a lot of travel, and at the level I was at, a lot of driving. It was time away from friends and loved ones. I'm not knocking it by any stretch, but I prefer writing to performing. So for me, it wasn't worth it to drive to a bar in Pennsylvania or Connecticut and perform in front of eight drunk people. That's how you get better. But for me, it wasn't worth it.

Now you can do it on your own terms?
Yes, that's a very good way to put it. This is all about me having fun, and having my friends and family come out and have a good time.

How often will we see you on stage?
That's an excellent question. Beyond the two dates set up, I really don't know.

You have a growing fan base. We'd encourage you to schedule shows in Colorado.
Does that include the Wilsons?

That's so disturbing. They're very nice people. Bill and Katie, right?

Katie is pregnant, you know.
So any chance Kevin had with her is out the window?

He never had a chance. Back to your return. Have you likewise given any thought to reviving your cinematic career?
(Laughing). That's a ridiculous question.

What was it like working on the set of "Comedian" with Jerry Seinfeld and Orny Adams?
It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Orny is interesting. I didn't get to speak to Jerry. But following Orny around is very interesting. You get to see what it takes to make it to that top level.

In a sense, is that the sort of thing that turned you off about stand-up?
In all seriousness, there’s something to that. I don’t know how to verbalize that. Orny is a deranged maniac. That’s exactly what he’s like in real life. And you have to go through all sort of shit to get to even Orny’s level. Not for me.

Will you be relying on old material or throwing it all out and writing an entirely new set?
You know, when you hit the stage after a long hiatus, there's definitely safety in old material. So I will have to use some tried-and-true material. But there will be some new stuff.

How far along are you in writing that new stuff?
I don’t know if I can put a number on it. I have an idea of what I want to say, but I have to get the wording down. I have good ideas, but I'm having trouble articulating them. It’s the comedians' curse.

What is your creative process? How do you find your material?
It's different than what it was, I can tell you that. When I was a green comedian just out of college, everything was funny to me. Now, a lot of things aren't funny anymore. I'm a little more sensitive to things around me and a little more thoughtful. So now, something has to really strike me. I'm much more discriminating.

Once you have that idea, how do you go about refining it into a joke that fits in your act?
Again, it’s a matter of finding the wording. Right now, I have good ideas, but I'm not happy with the wording. I have a joke about air hockey and sombreros, and it’s just a matter of finding that combination of words. Right now, you don’t think that’s funny. You think it’s ridiculous. It's a matter of getting those words down to make it funny and make sense, and I enjoy that process.

Do people take comedy seriously?
Some people do and some don't. Some people think it's easy. Comedy is hard. It is really hard. It's an art, and you have to develop it.

What I'm driving at is the general public sees you on stage and thinks it's all natural talent, but there's so much work that goes into being funny on stage.
Oh God, yes. You know, Michael Jordan is a natural talent at basketball, but he works hard. You have to be diligent. Anybody can be funny with their friends, but it takes talent to be funny in front of strangers. That's where the craft comes in.

Are there certain topics you won't joke about or other boundaries you don't cross? You can't really make fun of black people, being white. I certainly wouldn't try to make fun of 9-11. You can make fun of terrorism, but not that incident. But midgets are funny. Disease is funny. Death can be funny. I always thought death is funny to some degree. People have to understand that if there's a joke, someone has to be the butt of that joke. So there is always room for someone to be offended.

Cursing has always been off-limits in your act.
That's one of the changes that has taken place. I think there will probably be some cursing. I don't condone it, and sometimes it can be a crutch. Drew Carey does it and Jerry Seinfeld doesn't. It depends on the person. I tend to think I'm funnier when I do, but you can't just use it for shock value.

What sparked that change in approach?
I was trying to go out of my way to be clean, and I think that might have hindered me. Sometimes the act can be stronger with cursing.

This might be a cliche in the world of comedy, but your comedy seems to fit the style popularized by Seinfeld known as "observational humor." Would you consider this accurate?
I think some of it is, but again, some of it doesn't conform to that. I don't think Jerry would do the air hockey and sombreros joke.

So what is your style?
Mostly, it is observation. But a lot of it can be quirky. And I always liked the ... comedy is good when you are saying something that no one else would have thought of, which is very hard to do. They say everything is done. Relationships and parents, we can all relate to that. But it's putting a fresh spin and different angle on it that separates it, and that's what I strive for.

Does taking that cerebral approah limit you in any way? Do you receive different reactions when performing in New York compared to, say, the Carolinas?
Oh boy, well, New York is a sophisticated crowd. They're smart. They're not as smart outside the city. Sometimes in New York, they will go with you. At a bar in Pennsylvania, they won't be with you all the time if you're working on something smart. They like hick jokes.

So do you prefer New York?
There are pros and cons to each. You might only get seven minutes in New York, but get 20 outside the city. Those 13 extra minutes are so essential. The only way to do it is to be a comedian, and you need that experience. There have been plenty of incidents where I had more minutes than material. That's a very scary thing, but that's how you get better.

At times, your comedy was very self-deprecating. How does that dynamic change now that you are a successful man with an enviable job and lovely girlfriend?
That's an excellent question, Pete. It really is an outstanding question, and you're commended for even hitting on that. I don't think I'll be as self-deprecating as I would have been in the past. I do feel a little bit more secure in my own skin, whereas a couple of years ago that was a totally different dynamic. I had a total routine before about having a girlfiend. Having a girlfreind isn't that much of a shock for me anymore.

If I remember correctly, you did an impression of a woman flirting with you. The answer was something like, "Welcome to Bennigan's, may I take your order?"
Ahh yes, you have a good memory. That was a feast-or-famine joke. People either laughed or stared at me.

Speaking of other changes since your departure, on a sad note, your mentor Mitch Hedberg passed away last year. What influence did he have on your career?
When I mentioned before, the idea of writing material that no one would have thought of, that's where that came from. He would do things where, so many times when I was listening to him, I would say 'That makes so much sense. Why didn't I think of that?' That, to me, is great comedy.

Is it more difficult for you to continue now without that role model in place?
I don't think so. I've heard so many of his jokes. I can say to myself 'That's in the Mitch Hedberg mold.' What made him unique was that his persona was so honed -- and so good. That's what separates him from everyone else. I could do a Mitch Hedberg joke, but it wouldn't be that funny because my delivery is 100 percent different than his.

Not to generalize, but it seems a lot of comedians, like Hedberg, for example, have personal problems and insecurities. Why does a field like comedy attract people, ironically, with darker sides?
An age-old question, Pete. A lot of people feel that going up on stage is a way to get pain off their chest. Humor is a wonderful defense mechanism and way to cope with your problems. A lot of people like that. You seek approval in laughter. You have to ask yourself 'What's the reason you're going on stage? To make yourself feel better or to make the audience laugh?' That's a fine line comedians have to walk.

Would you say you had a darker side?

Let's get one thing straight. I have problems. But as you get older, your problems change and things are different. I'm 30 now and I started this when I was 23. Then, it was I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life and I was right out of college. At 30, it's 'Do you want to get married and have kids?' So I still, while not married or have children, have different problems than the ones you don't deal with as you mature more. When I go up on stage now, I know I am going up there to make other people laugh, not to make myself feel better.

Did you ever toe that fine line?
To some degree, I did. I did a lot about my relations with the fairer sex, and you feel better doing it. But now it's 100 percent, 'Hey, let's have fun and laugh together.' When I do that, there's no pressure. If they don't laugh, who cares?

Will that make you a better comedian?
I would have to say it will. You don't want to go out there with the audience as your enemy.

One more question. You started your career under the stage name of Drew Diamond. Will you be using Weisholtz, your real name, upon your return?

Weisholtz will be my stage name. I'm embracing the roots. I'm proud of who I am, finally.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

art of the angry letter

A new restaurant is opening next week down the street from my apartment called "Rosati's Authentic Chicago Pizza."

A short conversation with the management confirmed my suspicions that the pizza is not actually imported directly from the Windy City to Westminster, Colo., nor are its ingredients. Thus, the food is neither from Chicago nor particularly authentic.

Idiotic, misleading advertising like this has become far too rampant in this country. So has crappy customer service. What's most disconcerting about this is most seem content to accept these conditions.

The less resistance we offer, the more this sort of nonsense proliferates. And the bigger the business, the more likely its leaders take their customers for granted. Corporate America believes, and often correctly, that we will sit back and bend over for them.

We, the consumers, have only one recourse. The angry letter.

A well-crafted missive can thwart this general malaise and spur the offending company to action -- or at least get you a refund. A good letter gives you room to present your grievances in an organized fashion. It also gives you the chance to be a legitimate thorn in the side of your much larger corporate adversary.

A couple of pointers when typing your grievance:
  • Be specific. Note the time and date your gripe began and the names of employees you dealt with.
  • By sending your letter directly to the CEO via the U.S. Postal Service rather than calling or sending an email, you can bypass the typical customer-service losers who have little authority to refund your money or solve a problem.
  • CC the letter to everyone imaginable. When I write an angry letter, I generally send copies to The Better Business Bureau, the state Attorney General's office, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Consumer Affairs. That's for starters.
Typically, the offending company finds it cheaper to offer some recompense for your troubles, rather than deal with the mere possibility of regulatory action. Even better, some will offer a genuine apology.

Take my friend Erik. I advised him to write a letter after receiving substandard service at a new restaurant. The manager apologized and offered a $100 gift certificate.

Here is one angry letter I wrote to United Airlines after a woeful trip. This netted me a $150 gift certificate for use on a future flight. I've used angry letters to receive complete refunds and extra certificates at places like Foley's, Hyatt Hotels, Avis Rent-A-Car and Boston Market, among others.

The point of this exercise is not necessarily for financial gain, although that's certainly a beneficial and reasonable byproduct. It's to fight the good fight against flawed products and shitty service.

I will post the response from my letter to Rosati's if and when it arrives.

Angry letters are not limited to consumer problems. My old college roommate Matt has effectively used them to resolve roommate problems. Right now, he is busy creating a angry-letter archive on his Web site, which should be a great resource for us all.

Since that portion of his site is still under construction, I will post here one of his finest letters ever. This concerns another roommate spurned by the sale of laundry equipment at our college home, and should whet your appetite for things to come:

From an e-mail from Dominic Guerrini:
There is one other thing that I would like to talk to you about, and it
regards the washer and dryer. To my knowledge, no one has called you
on the
carpet on this one, but I really don't like what happened. I do
however see
a way for you to ameliorate the situation. You put this ad in the
without consulting us. Now you gave Keith and Laci and I your
but in my mind, it was no sufficient enough reasoning to stiff your
Things would be much easier on both you and us if the appliances just
remained where they were. I was hoping that you would just tell the
that you sold them to, that the washer and the dryer broke and that you
unable to sell them. We would be more than happy to buy them for at
as much as you say you sold them to this stranger. Now these are your
appliances, and as much as I would like to, I cannot force you to sell
to us. I just think that it would be the nice thing to do for your
while still making out well for yourself. Let me know what you think
this. I guess that we can talk about this tonight too.

My response:

March 12, 1998
Plainsboro, New Jersey

Dear Dom,

Since you are the first to approach me in any manner about my washer
dryer, I will tell you precisely the evolution of circumstance
regarding my
decision and my transaction, and set the issue firmly and finally to
rest. I
had, for a long time, been meaning to charge the tenants of the house
the services of the laundry machines, and as Laci can attest, I decided
drop my pursuit of the issue for the 1996-97 term of the lease. When
year began, I was doing fine financially, so again I dropped suit about
issue. I thought, after all, that since we were friends, I would bear
burden of the $700 I paid for the machines and continue to let them be

One of the greater factors influencing this decision was the idea that
if I
were to charge for the use of the washer and dryer, I would be unable
claim sole proprietorship if the question arose as to how exactly I
that money. To remain singular in my ownership of the machines was
my prerogative, as is the right I exercise in choosing to sell them to
third party.

Where your questioning catches in my throat, as it were, is the idea
that I
am somehow cheating my friends out of the common courtesy of
One of the things I’ve discovered about living at Duke Street is that
is almost no quarter given for courtesy. Laci’s courtesy in doing the
has been repeatedly overlooked for the past two years, perhaps the best
illustration of exactly what I mean. Truly, the tenants of 55 Duke
have gone beyond friends in my mind, some transcending the boundaries
friendship, while others have damaged irreparably my relationships with
them. Laci and I will most likely remain merely as acquaintances, but I
wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t speak once we moved out. Jeff and
are perhaps a more poignant example, in that their departure from the
was more like the secession of an unwelcome province from an estranged
mother country.

Since I have distanced myself from the proceedings at the house largely
to the circumstances of my schedule, I have found that the cushion
makes our
relationships far more comfortable. Without the tension that arises
friction, it’s hard for me to have anything to squabble about with any
you. But I will not have my business affairs tied into that house
because I
simply don’t trust that all parties have ever acted in complete good
towards each other. Quite honestly, I believe that every single person
has lived in that house had staunchly defended his territory to the
point of
uneasiness, and my response to that is to withdraw as much involvement
as is

I had originally been planning to move out of New Brunswick and into my
parents’ house during this year, but extenuating circumstances such as
desire for independence and the commitment to a lease to which I had
signed my name overrode my wish to do so. However, I will not become
embroiled in dealing with the members of the house in any significant
ever again. I simply refuse the emotional baggage that has
accompanied any involvement in the affairs of the house, and that also
applies to all the things I own. As a matter of convenience, I had
the pickup of the machinery until well after the date of sale (one of
reasons I agreed to the discounted price), but I will not even venture
far as to ask the members of our house to provide a storage space for
me one
day beyond the term of my lease.

I take a great deal of umbrage at the idea that I have in some way
any of you by doing this. Perhaps it would have been wise to understand
the entire convenience of several of the appliances in the house was
predicated on the generosity of others. The washer and dryer are not so
great a matter that alternatives can’t be sought. But in the larger
scope of
things, it would do you all well to take stock of what other items you
be left without. For example, the kitchen table, the kitchen chairs,
microwave and the toaster are all departing the premises at the end of

I also take umbrage at the suggestion that I dishonor a commitment that
have made in faith. My name is the entire range of the honor that I
and I will not debase that in the name of preferential treatment,
of whether I may have done so in the scope of your recollection. You
argue that it was dishonorable that I withdrew my dealings from the
realm of
the tenants of the house, but I would return the arguments that it was
volitional choice to do as I pleased with my property, and that the
of the constancy of any appliance in the house has had no root beyond
he who provided the appliance gave it.

I am well aware of the vindictiveness and subterfuge particularly that
Laci and I have exhibited in carrying out portions of our personal
in the past two years, and I think it’s deplorable that we have
resorted to
such childish and wanton disregard for the territory of others as we
stood so firmly in defense of our own. But because I am thus aware, my
concern has been raised that this reality, which you and the other
of Duke Street are unable to change, may give you the impetus to turn
vendetta upon me and my property. Be advised that I am not retaliatory.
accept that if it exists in the nature of others to disrespect me, my
are tied. I am no crusader, and I am no vigilante. But neither am I
ignorant. My action and my decision, as upsetting and annoying as they
be to you, should elicit no response from you beyond your displeased
acceptance. You may slander me and libel me, you may break that which
represents the ground that I will not surrender and the code by which I
live. This, too, will I accept with the full realization that it is not
but those who wrong me, who have made the mistake.

Furthermore, if you seek to hold a discussion with me at the point of a
I will not provide you with my energy or my assistance in any way,
shape, or
form. I find it reprehensible that so dedicated a student of history
and of
the law would resort to such meager logic and thinly-veiled threats as
have. I resent your assertion that I in any way deserved a “call to the
carpet” or that your interpretation of my reasoning was intended to
your hunger for validity, when our concepts of what is valid are at
loggerheads. If you don’t understand it, then there is a gap that must
bridged in order for you to be able, but I have made my decision, and
will be accepted. And it is utterly unpalatable that you could contend
things “would be much easier on both [me] and [you]” and that you are
to force me “as much as [you] would like to,” as if to suggest that
manner of harm might come to me or mine. Those who seek to force logic
diplomacy will find that the ultimate result of their search is death,
death is a code I do not live by. If you wish, within the range of this
primitive reasoning, to destroy that which you cannot possess, you will
yourself in a void, because ultimately, the will of others is not
subject to
your restraint.

Thank you for your suggestion, but I do not appreciate it, and I do not
choose to exercise it. I will not resort to diplomacy to resolve this,
and I
will not beg your indulgence and understanding. I have given you my
and more of my reason than you asked for. There is simply nothing left


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Monday, October 17, 2005

update on the worthless "Today" show

If you recall my first-ever entry here, you'll remember I was aghast at the embarrassment the television show "Today" had become.

It has gotten worse.

Not only are the knuckleheads at NBC producing stench-filled programming, they are again lowering the standards of journalism to new depths. This time, the creative devils are making up news stories.

They must have hired Mitch Albom as a special consultant for the show.

(Ahhh, that one was too easy).


Friday, October 14, 2005

spinning class

For the better part of the last five years, a good portion of my flight training has been devoted to practicing stalls and avoiding spins. The idea that spins should be feared is drilled into every student from day one, and consequently, I am terrified of them.

I had never even come close to entering a spin until last Friday, when I deliberately entered one with my grizzled flight instructor on board. Spin training is one of the final requirements for my own flight instructor certification, and also the coolest thing I have ever done in an airplane.

Which is why I'm subjecting you to a rudimentary spin-training lesson.

Before we begin, I need to do some explaining and improve your aviation savvy. A spin -- what some of you might consider a death spiral toward the ground -- results from a stalled condition of the plane.

What the hell is a stall, you ask? You'd probably be surprised that you already know the basics.

Contrary to what it might sound like, this is not akin to your car keeling over on the side of the road. An aviation stall has nothing to do with the engine dying; it's a consequence of airflow separating from the wing.

You know when you're driving down the road, stick your hand out the window and follow the grooves of the wind by moving your hand?

This is similar to how a wing generates lift. Smooth airflow around the wings produces lift. As you probably noticed with your hand out the window, if you tilt your hand upward, it rises. If you tilt it too far, your hand flops down.

The same thing happens in the airplane. If we pitch up too high, past what we call the critical angle of attack, that smooth airstream across the wings gets broken and we lose lift. Still, our wing is better-equipped to handle the recovery than your hand.

Generally speaking, when the plane can no longer sustain flight past the critical angle, the nose falls forward. But once we are back under that critical angle, our wings start producing lift again and with some help from a pilot, we recover from the stall.



This is going to get a little complicated next, so feel free to take a break now if I've put you to sleep so far.


OK, welcome back.

The above recovery is predicated on the airplane being in coordinated flight while we go through the stall. Much like a car, an airplane can skid and slip through the air.Much like in a car, these things are bad.

Allowing slipping and skidding conditions to persist results in uncoordinated flight. And flying uncoordinated in a stall is what can turn our ordinary stall practice into the much dreaded and feared spin.

Why does uncoordination causes a spin? I'm thrilled you asked.

Go back to our example of the hand out the window. Now imagine you have one hand out the left window of your car and one out the right window. Yes, you have really long arms. Because of the slip/skid, the lift-and-drag forces acting on each wing are different.

Although both wings are stalled, they are stalled to different extents. The plane rolls and yaws in the direction of the more-stalled wing.

For the sake of example, let's say we've created uncoordinated conditions so our left wing is more stalled than our right wing.

The right wing, less stalled, is producing more lift than its counterpart. So it rises. This rolls us toward the left while the other wing falls. At the same time, the more-stalled left wing produces more drag than the right side, and this yaws us to the left -- think of sitting in your office chair and turning.

Simultaneously, we are sharply rolling and pitching to the left. We seemingly roll onto our back, start screaming like lunatics at a full moon, shit our pants and then spin toward the earth with a windshield filled with nothing but terra firma.

If you go down to No. 4, this video shows an aggravated stall followed by a one-turn spin. Seeing this picture will hopefully make what I've written more sensible and also give a good visual picture.

For the record, the dude in the video only does a one-turn spin. My instructor and I did three four-turn spins, which is a bit more lengthy and exhilarating.

And my pants are still in the washing machine.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

i'm glad i'm a guy

With my girlfriend stuck in bed with a miserable cold this past weekend, circumstances dictated I accomplish tasks that normally fall outside the scope of my guy-related responsibilities.

First came a trip to the dreaded Target.

As a matter of principle, I generally stay away from any store that induces vomit. And that's exactly what happens when I hear girls call this particular establishment "Tar-shay." It's as if they are deluding themselves into thinking they are shopping at an upscale French boutique instead of a crappy discount outfit.

On Friday, however, there were several items I needed to purchase in a limited timespan. Since one of these giant, cookie-cutter boxes sits a quarter-mile from our apartment, it was time to take the training wheels off and make my first solo voyage to Target.

I immediately notice I am an outsider. Upon arriving in the parking lot, I observe no less than five women loading purchases and children into their respective SUVs -- it is apparent the minivan is an extinct form of vehicular transportation for the suburban housewife.

Once inside, my minority status becomes clear. I am the lone male customer in a sea of moms with snot-nosed urchins in tow. Whiny kids demand treats and attention from their mothers in every aisle.

As with any shopping experience, I decide my best course of action is to grab what I need and get the hell out.

I had the remarkable luck to be standing near the "hot cereal" section of the grocery area when I arrived, so finding the oatmeal was simple enough. With wanderlust in my eye, I next set out in search of greeting cards.

After five minutes of futile roaming, an employee must have spotted the bewildered look upon my grill. He asked me, "Can I help you find anything?" Naturally, I responded, "I'm fine" with a tone of mock annoyance.

Then I proceeded to scour the store for another five minutes searching for greeting cards.

It took a while, but I finally compiled the oatmeal, milk, greeting cards, batteries and humidifier filter on the shopping list and arrived in the express line, where the teenage employee had far more interest in her cell-phone conversation than assisting me with my consumer-related needs.

I reached my car, cranked up the volume on the Marah occupying the tape deck, and started to breathe normally again.

My second experience in foreign territory came Monday when I briefly sat down with my girlfriend on the couch. She was watching "Oprah."

Look, I could sit here at the keyboard and write reams of copy on the digustingness of this show and its host, about the time "O" took credit for buying poor people cars when the cars were really donated by auto companies, about her embarrassing-yet-successful book club, about any number of social blunders committed in the name of television ratings.

I'm not going to do that. At least not today. For now, let's just say Oprah is geared toward a certain female, brain-washed demographic I clearly do not fit.

What I will rip her for is the inane conversation she had with Monday's guest, Reese Witherspoon, the once-talented actress.

Reese and O enjoyed a spirited discussion about the plight of young women in today's world. Reese lamented how young girls today feel pressured to dumb themselves down, how smart women are regarded as outsiders or bitches, how the media sets poor role models and equates stupidity with popularity.

All of these are valid points.

But I'm listening to her say all this and cannot help but think, "Aren't you the one who made the cinematic atrocity "Legally Blonde," a film that makes the very traits you purport to abhor the central personality components of the character you played, you stupid, hypocritical twit?"

Thankfully, my girlfriend is feeling better these days, which means my exposure to future mindlessness will be limited.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Back to school

This may be old for those of you who have seen this on my Web site. For those of who have not visited that defunct page, I am reprinting here my Ultimate Back To the Future quiz.

Answers relate only to the original movie.

We go by the honor system here in Colorado, so no cheating via Google assistance.

Section 1. One point each. (If you can’t get these, you have no business taking my test).

1. What makes time travel possible?

2. What kind of car is the time-travel vehicle?

3. What electrical voltage is necessary to facilitate time travel?

4. How fast must one go to achieve time travel?

5. What time did the lightning strike the clock tower?

6. What date did Marty McFly travel back in time to?

7. What country did Doc Brown steal plutonium from?

8. What city and state does the movie take place in?

Section 2. Two points each. (Breeze through the first set of questions? Now is your chance to prove you really paid attention during the movie).

1. What department store is in the background while Marty McFly and Doc Brown prepare for the first time-travel voyage in the parking lot?

2. What is the name of the mall in that scene? Why does it change later?

3. Who owned the land that the mall was built upon?

4. What is the name of Doc Brown’s dog?

5. How did Doc Brown come up with the idea for the device that makes time travel possible?

6. Upon arriving in 1955, what two drinks does Marty order at the soda shop?

7. What is the name of the development in which Marty McFly lives in 1985?

8. When Marty is eating dinner with Lorraine and her family after he is hit by the car, what television show do they watch?

9. What planet does “alien” Marty McFly tell his father he resides on?

10. In 1955, why does Doc Brown believe a problem develops with the earth’s gravitational pull in the future?

11. What is the more common name for the event described by Doc Brown as a “rhythmic ceremonial ritual?”

12. What is George McFly’s favorite television show in 1955?

13. What actor, who later starred in Titanic, is a member of Biff’s posse?

14. Who is the principal of Hill Valley High School in both 1955 and 1985?

15. What is the name of Marty McFly’s band?

16. Who is mayor of Hill Valley in 1985?

17. The last name of Marty McFly’s girlfriend, Jennifer, is _______.

18. Marty McFly advises his parents to go easy when punishing their eight-year-old son after he does what?

19. The poster of what album is hanging in Marty McFly’s bedroom?

20. The name of George McFly’s first novel is ________.

Section 3. Three points each. (Graduate from Hill Valley High School with honors if you can get these questions right).

1. What is Doc Brown’s address?

2. What is the name of the band playing at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance?

3. What day of the week is it when Marty McFly arrives in 1955?

4. The middle name of actor Crispin Glover is ________.

5. Who is Marvin talking to on the phone while Marty is on stage playing Johnny B. Goode?

6. What is the license plate on the time machine?

7. Lorraine’s maiden name is _________.

8. What are the first names of Lorraine’s parents?

9. What is the name of the company that owns the manure truck that Biff hits?

10. What was the cost of the damage to Biff’s car in the manure incident?

11. What organization does the woman who shouts “Save the Clock Tower! Save the Clock Tower!” represent?

12. What is the area code in 1985-era Hill Valley?

13. In future time travel, what device replaces plutonium as the energy source in the time-travel vehicle?

14. While Marty and Jennifer are sitting on the park bench early in the movie, what movie is playing at the cinema across the street?

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Monday, October 03, 2005

Freedom Park

I'm getting a little tired of hearing how American soldiers are dying in Iraq to protect my freedom. This is a ludicrous notion.

No, they're not.

They're dying to bring freedom to the Sunnis and Kurds -- and that's if you buy the best-case justification produced by the United States government for our little war in the sandbox. For the sake of argument, let's say I believe that logic. Still, the war has nothing to do with my freedom.

I don't buy into the idea that a country gives me freedom. I was born free. I have free will. More likely, a government will attempt to curb my freedom. (Especially here in the post-Ashcroft United States, but that's an entry for another day).

Therefore, I take umbrage with the belief that I owe my government something in exchange for my freedom.