Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fire Andy Rooney part III

Andy Rooney's December 3rd piece is about Christmas catalogues. It is a pile of stream-of-conscious nonsense and he should be fired for writing such drivel. His words in italics:

"I get a lot of catalogs at this time of year. I never buy anything in any of them but that doesn't seem to discourage the people who send them to me because I keep getting catalogs from the same companies year after year.

I'm no marketing expert, but the fact that you are holding them up on your show that gets millions of viewers may actually be a pretty good reason for companies to continue to send them to you.

"There's one word that's never mentioned though - not once in any of these. You know what the word is?


"The word "Christmas" is nowhere in any of these 27 catalogs I have. The word they use to replace "Christmas" is "Holiday."

I think they're actually using the term "Holiday" to encompass all of the holidays that fall in December so not to be exclusive, so they have a larger group of buyers. It's called "capitalism."

"It's funny you never hear anyone say "Merry Holiday."

And you never hear people say "Happy Christmas, while you do hear people say "Happy Hanukkah" but not "Merry Hanukkah." And of course, people do say "Happy Holidays." I don't see how the adjective we attach to a particular holiday well-wish matters one bit.

"he "Circuit City" catalog looks as if it wants to sell you a car for Christmas but the ad isn't for cars - it's for a television set. You save $300 instantly, the ad says. Does anyone really believe they save $300 instantly on anything?

My guess is that the sale price is $300.00 less than the regular retail price. So yes, if you buy the TV during the sale, you save $300.00 in a sense.

"All the prices in a lot of ads still end in 99 cents. $29.99, $49.99, $129.99. They've been doing that for years. Do you think that 99 cents stuff still works? Are we really that dumb? We don't realize that $129.99 is really $130?

The marketing people have data that suggests that yes, we are that dumb.

"The Sharper Image" offers 50 percent off on two units. What they don't tell you until down here is that one unit costs $499.95.

Are you worried that consumers will go to the store before verifying the price?

"I wonder how much they paid this nice-looking woman to stand here in her underwear while they took her picture? She probably got more this guy got for lying there in bed, pretending to be asleep.

Whatever it was, they deserved it a lot more than you deserve making whatever you make to spout this ridiculous nonsense.

"Solutions" has 162 gifts for under for under $30, in case you want 162 gifts for under $30.

Or in case you want any one of those 162 gifts for under $30.

I personally like a present better than I like a gift. A gift is apt to be something I take back.

"Gift" and "present" are synonyms. They are not different in any way.

"Monitor The Weather From Your Own Backyard." Well, I do that all the time. I stick my hand out and if it gets wet, I know its raining.

Some people would prefer to know more than what the weather is currently doing.

"1,001 Movies You Should See Before You Die." The average movie is around two hours long so I multiplied it out. It would take you about 83 24-hour days to watch all of these. That's without ever getting up to go to the bathroom, too.

Perhaps their target audience for such a list isn't cantankerous old men? I guarantee you I will watch 1,001 more movies before I die. If I live for 40 more years, that's only 25 per year.

"I don't want to sound negative about all the catalogs I get though. I look through them and really enjoy all the money I save by not buying anything from any of them.

As Martin Sheen said in Wallstreet, "money is only something you need in case you don't die tomorrow." And for you Mr. Rooney, that might not be a bad motto to start living by.

Fire Andy Rooney Part II

A while back I fisked an article Andy Rooney wrote about baseball. That post gets a lot of hits from people searching for "Andy Rooney baseball" or "Andy Rooney douchebag." I just tried to track down the original article on CBS's website and found an article that is a-a-a-a-almost the same, but a lot of the stuff I called him out on had been changed. For example, the original column said:

"Baseball has never been my game. I never liked it as a kid, probably because I could never throw a ball very well. My friends said I threw like a girl and that's enough to put any young boy off a game. As I've probably told you — after over 4,000 columns it's sometimes hard to remember what I've said before — my father took me to a Yankee game when I was about 10 years old and Joe DiMaggio struck out three times.

"My disinterest in baseball as a kid has lasted all my life. I'm still not interested in the game. I don't watch it on television or follow it in the newspaper. I know all about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, but today's baseball stars are all guys named Rodriguez to me."

The emphasis is mine. But the version on the CBS website says:

"This is the big time of year for baseball fans. I've never been much of a baseball fan myself. My father took me to a Yankees game when I was young and Joe DiMaggio struck out twice. I think that's what cooled me off on baseball. I know all about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig but today's baseball stars are mostly unknown to me."

Emphasis mine again. So he, or CBS, took out the lie about seeing Joe D. play when he was ten (DiMaggio was first brought up to the majors when Andy Rooney was 17 and probably never struck out 3 times in one game) and the racist bit about guys named Rodriguez. Maybe he did it to cut down the word count, but I doubt it.

This just bugs me. This guy has no sense of decency.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Man Man

On Sunday night I went to the Modest Mouse concert at the Eagles Ballroom. I had some of those "free" tickets where you get in free but have to buy two drinks for $25. Awesome deal. I enjoyed the show, but I'm getting too old to be going to [indie-] rock concerts on Sunday nights. For me, the highlight of the whole night was the opening band. It was this punk band called Man Man. They were like nothing I'd ever seen before. If I had to guess, I'd say their major influences include David Bowie, Blue Man Group and Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem.

These five dirty guys come out, all wearing plain white t-shirts and unusual hair and beards. One looked like a tennis player from the 1970's, another had a giant scruffy hipster beard, stuff like that. They were all clearly on really good drugs. Nothing was conventional about this band. Each member played a bunch of different instruments; from keyboards, guitars and saxophones to steel toms, kazoos and milk jugs. Every member had some sort of percussion instrument. And they jammed. Go see them next time they're in your town. Until then, here are some Man Man clips on youtube:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tell me what's in the envelope.

Criss Angel is cooler than I ever would have guessed. There's this new show on NBC called Phenomenon. It's basically American Idol, but replace the singers with "mystics" and "mediums" and crap like that, and replace Simon, Randy that tubby Laker girl with goth magician Criss Angel and spoon-bending douchebag Uri Geller. When I first saw ads for this show I had very low expectations. One thing that drives me nuts is pseudoscience. I can't stands that guys like John Edward (The A-hole that hosts Crossing Over, not the A-hole that's running for president) can become gazillionaires by manipulating vulnerable people.

From the ads, two things struck me as troubling about Phenomenon. The first is that they never described any of the contestants as Magicians. This implies that the contestants are suggesting that what they are doing (reading minds and shit) is not a trick, when it should be obvious that it is just a trick. The second problem with the show is Uri Geller.

Uri Geller came to fame in the 1970's by performing various psychic tricks, bending spoons with his mind, dousing and stuff like that. It's obvious that many Americans are not familiar with Geller or have forgotten his downfall since he has a job. Geller has been debunked time and time again. Perhaps the most famous incident occurred when Geller appeared on The Tonight Show in 1975. Prior to the show, Johnny Carson, an amateur magician himself, contacted friend James Randi, a well-known debunker of pseudoscience. He told them to provide their own spoons and other props. As you might have guessed, Geller couldn't do any of his tricks. Here's a video:

But now Uri Geller is back on network TV propagating his bullshit. Luckily, his co-host is Criss Angel. I was unfamiliar with Angel prior to seeing Phenomenon, but apparently he's a very popular street magician similar to David Blain. He's hosted several specials and a TV show called Mindfreak. Although Angel has been the subject of some controversy, he admits that his act is all trickery and doesn't claim to have any supernatural powers. He's one of the good guys.

On the second episode of Phenomenon, a contestant named Jim Callahan did a performance in which he claimed he was in contact with a dead guy named Raymond who told him what object was in a closed case. Uri Geller ate his performance up. Criss Angel didn't:

Angel took a page out of the James Randi playbook and made Callahan look like what he is, a phony.

No Geoff, thank you.

Geoff Jenkins is a really classy professional athlete. The Brewers have decided not to pick up his option so his ten year tenure with the team has come to an end. Today he took out a full page ad in the sports section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in which he thanked the Brewers, the fans and the city for supporting him. I wish I could link to it, but it's only available in the print version. I have never heard of any player on any team doing something like this in the past and it strikes me as a very classy move. Word is, that that's the kind of guy Jenkins is.

Last year, my 11-year-old cousin lost an important little league game. Afterwords, he and his team went to Kopp's for frozen custard. Jenkins was there with his family. He took the time to hang out with my cousin's team. He took the time to ask a bunch of star-struck little leaguers what team they're on and what position they played and that sort of thing. It seems like everyone I know has a story about meeting Jenkins and they are all very positive. Milwaukee was lucky to have him.

When he joined the team ten years ago, he was "that kid on the Brewers that looked like Brett Favre." Here's a clip from Jenkins's rookie season of him and Favre joking about their similar appearance.

In this state, #4 enjoys god-like admiration. But #5 has made a name for himself over the last ten years as well. Jenkins was the brightest spot in some dismal Brewers seasons and it kills me that we couldn't get him to the playoffs in his last season with the team. He hit 200 home runs for the crew and has a career average of .278. He's been streaky for the last few years but he's still an outstanding defensive player. I'm sure some team will pick him up and I wish him the best of luck. I hope that if Jenkins ever returns to Miller Park, we give him the standing ovation he deserves no matter what color his uniform is. Thanks Jenks.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

For Art's Sake

I spent the better part of today sitting in a conference room that overlooks the sculpture garden on the roof of The Milwaukee School of Engineering's new Grohmann Art Museum. The museum and the collection were donated by Dr. Eckhart Grohmann, an MSOE regent and area rich dude. The collection is titled "Man at work" and features sculptures and paintings from a wide range of styles and time periods that all focus on industry and labor. It strikes me as fitting for an art museum at an engineering school. I haven't visited the museum yet but I'm pretty sure that a lot of the paintings in the collection used to hang in MSOE's library. A while back, I was researching some shit about welding for a fire case I was working on and I noticed that the paintings on the wall at MSOE's library were really great. I spent a half hour walking around looking at paintings there. Lots of glowing molten stuff and people swinging hammers and axes and shit. Don't worry, I didn't bill that time. I'm anxious to check all this stuff out in it's new home at the museum.

Recently this completely private museum that is opened to the public and charges no admission fee and was built due to a multi million dollar gift from a generous man has come under attack by some crusty old art snobs. It started with this old lady named Whitney Gould who chastized the museum because the building is a refurbished warehouse and because the collection contains a bunch of paintings that were commissioned by the Third Reich. She starts with this:

But not to point out its shortcomings would be dishonest. Those shortcomings start with the building itself: a remade garage and former check-processing facility now capped with a heavy, Kaiserkopf dome and a ring of monumental bronze statuary perched along the roofline. The effect is rather like Old World Berlin as reinterpreted by Walt Disney.

And continues:

As my colleague Mary Louise Schumacher and I reported recently, one of the artists most heavily represented in the collection, with 81 works, is Erich Mercker (1891-1973), who was commissioned by the Third Reich to record its muscular infrastructure: bridges on the Autobahn, one of Adolf Hitler's proudest achievements; shipyards building U-boats; factories churning out steel; quarries producing stone for the Chancellery in Berlin, seat of the power in the Reich. At least two other artists in the collection also had Nazi ties. And, according to one of the art historians whom we consulted, some of the figures portrayed in paintings from the war years likely were slave laborers.

What a snotty bitch. She basically says that the Museum has some sort of duty to explain every painting in its historical context or some crap like that, as if a reasonable person couldn't guess that a German artist painting U-Boats being built in 1938 couldn't guess that the commission had some sort of tie to Hitler. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board echoed this sentiment too.

Ms. Gould and the MJS editorial board strike me as being tremendous tools. I'm admittedly a left-brained person so I really don't "get" art in the same way that many people do. I definitely try to pay attention to art and get some culture now and again, but this kind of thought process--that the meaning or the context needs to be known for the artwork to be enjoyed - drives me bonkers.

I few years ago I read an article about this artist named Christo, who is famous for doing these major outdoor art projects. For example, he wrapped the Reichstag in plastic and placed like 2000 yellow umbrellas along the California coast line. At first I thought Christo sounded nuttier than a squirrel turd, but after I thought about him a little more, I thought he was pretty cool. I'm obviously no expert on Christo, or art in general, but what I liked about him was that whenever he was pressed to explain why he created a particular work, he seemed to respond by saying something like, "because it's beautiful." Nothing pretentious. No cause or symbolism or reason. Just because he thought it looked cool. And usually it did.

I think this bird from the MJS needs to lighten up a bit. When people see the Great Pyramids at Giza I assume they say something like, "Holy shit, that's a big, cool, old building. Nobody says, "there should be a plaque explaining that these were built by slave labor." Just like nobody made Christo put up a sign explaining his umbrellas. This is a museum at a school of engineering. If she wants to be a useful art critic, she should tell us whether or not the collection looks cool.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Uh oh, th Vikings just signed Koy Detmer

Hah. As much as I was looking forward to seeing Brooks Bollinger start for the Vikings this weekend, Koy Detmer might be even more entertaining. Remember last time he tried to take on Favre?

I don't remember the exact circumstances, but I know Koy (Ed. Who names their child "Koy"?) threw a late TD pass, and thinking he had the game wrapped up, did a celebration dance in which he mimed pulling his junk out and swatting a girl's/guy's (Ed. which do you think he was imagining?) ass as he mimed doing her/him. Very classy Koy. Very classy. So then Favre gets the ball back and.... the Packers win.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"If it could happen to Steve it could happen to anyone"

I'm watching Access Hollywood while I'm folding my laundry and they're interviewing Terry Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter's wife. She has a new book out in which she discusses Steve's "sixth sense" about his death. Apparently, Steve "somehow knew that he would go suddenly." She added "if it could happen to Steve, it could happen to anyone." Huh? Not to speak ill of the dead, but the man spent his waking hours in the jungle catching snakes and wrestling with crocodiles. And he was kind of a spaz. The only sense it would take to predict that Steve Irwin might meet his end at the hands (or stinger?) of some wild animal is common sense.

Save water, drink beer.

My old cross country coach always used to say, if it takes more than two beers to get drunk the night after the race, you didn't run hard enough. Apparently, he was on to something.

Having a beer after exercise could do you more good than drinking water, a new study suggests.

I'm not going to quote the rest of the article because it's really poorly written and I want to continue thinking that beer is good for me.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Some off season baseball notes

I just finished reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis. It was awesome. For those of you that aren't familiar with the book, it's about Oakland A's GM Billy Beane and how he fields competitive teams with a low payroll by figuring out which stats are undervalued. Since I'm a pretty frequent reader of Baseball Prospectus and Fire Joe Morgan, I had a basic understanding of Sabermetrics before reading Moneyball, so I'm not going too get into why old-school baseball conventional wisdom is retarded and OBP is the shit. What I do want to know is when are Billy Beane and/or Michael Lewis going to apologize to Prince Fielder?

You see, there's this section about the 2002 draft. A's GM Billy Beane is creaming his jeans over a slugger named Nick Swisher, but he's not sure whether Swisher will be around by the time Beane gets his first pick. In order for that to happen, according to Beane, either the Brewers or the Tigers will have to make a stupid pick. According the Beane, the Brewers did make a stupid pick. They took Prince Fielder. You know, that all-star that became the youngest player to clout 50 dingers this year and was like 3rd in the NL MVP voting. Lewis recounted how Beane mocked the Brewers because Prince Fielder is too fat to be a good baseball player. Beane says he's too fat even for the Oakland A's! [Now I wouldn't go so far as to call the brother fat, I mean he got a weight problem. What's the nigga gonna do? He's Samoan. Or the son of Cecil Fielder]. Whatever. The point is that the whole purpose of Moneyball is to explain that you can't pick players because of how they look. Stats tell you what scouts can't. And Prince Fielder is a prime example. Because he's really really awesome, even if he's built like Babe Ruth. Wait, he was pretty good at baseball too. If you're going to suggest that it's important to judge a player by how he plays rather than how he looks, Prince Fielder was obviously a pretty good pick.

Speaking of baseball, an interesting possibility has recently entered into the consciousness of the Brewers' front office and fans. Blogger/starting pitcher Curt Schilling announced on his blog that he was filing for free agency for the first time in his 21-year career. He also put up a list of teams that he wanted to play for:

The list of teams that our family has talked over, that we think would be a fit for next year, should we not come back, are pretty much teams in cities we agree would be ok for our last year, and teams I think have a legitimate shot at being in the post season and/or World Series. Teams we didn’t include aren’t for any one reason. There are a million little things that go into this from stadiums to school districts to travel to spring training to etc. etc. etc. but the list represents the teams after Boston that have some of the off the field things that are big to us, plus the potential to go into October next year.

Cleveland, Detroit, Anaheim, New York Mets, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A., S.D., Arizona, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis, Milwaukee

Huh? Milwaukee makes your list due, in part, to it's chances of making the post season? This is outstanding for a number of reasons.

To begin with, it speaks volumes about what Doug Melvin, Mark A and the rest of the Brewers organization have done with the team over the last few years. A big ticket free agent is looking at us. Granted, he's in his forties, but he just won a bunch of post season games and I think he's got another good year left in him. The fact of the matter is that if Curt Schilling thinks we're good, we just might be.

Secondly, I really hope we actually sign him! He's looking for around $12 to 15 Million for a one year contract. That's pretty spendy, but rumor has it we're considering throwing that much at Cordero and he's a closer. Now, I love CoCo, but if Billy Beane was wright about one thing, it's that closers are overvalued. They're main stat, "saves," is easily faked and they usually have short shelf-lives (is that the plural of "shelf-life?"). A kick-ass SP is a better use of $15 Million than a kick-ass RP.

Update: And like that *poof* he was gone.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

getting hurt, watching foreign flicks

Last night I sprained my ankle big time. It totally blows. I was playing a little bit of ultimate frisbee, went up for the disk and just landed wrong. I herd a snap and it hurt like hell. I thought it was broken for sure but that sound was just the sound of ligaments snapping. I'm on crutches now. My insurance company bought some crutches for me for like $48.00, which strikes me as a little pricey. I bet Walmart has the same ones foe a few bucks. I also broke my dining room table by leaning on it too hard as I was trying to walk without my crutches. So I made it a short work day today. I think I deserve it. I meant to do some work from my couch while I elevated, iced and applied compression, but the drugs situation made that difficult. I watched two foreign flicks instead. They both made me feel helpless because I can't walk, but they were both totally awesome too.

The first one was called The Flying Scotsman. It's an English biopic about Graeme Obree, a Scottish cyclist that broke the Hour record in 1993, and again in 1994. Most people, and most Americans in particular, aren't familiar with the Hour record in cycling. When we think of cycling, we think of stage races like the Tour de France. The Hour is exactly what it sounds like. Whichever cyclist can ride the farthest distance in one hour owns the record. Cyclists that attempt the Hour do it in a velodrome, and usually by themselves. One of the main reasons why Lance Armstrong isn't the greatest cyclist of all time is that he never did anything but the Tour. He never even tried the Hour. Eddy Merckx, on the other hand, held the Hour record for 12 years on top of his 5 Tours de France.

The Flying Scotsman focuses on Obree's life from just before his first attempt at the Hour in 1993 to just after his second Pursuit title in 1995. Obree was a very good cyclist, but he was great at the Hour. Part of the reason was that he designed his own bike an riding style, and part of it was that he was tough as nails. Prior to his first attempt, he built his bike out of spare parts, he even took the main bearing out of his washing machine. He narrowed the bottom bracket to make the foot position more natural and streamlined the bike to reduce resistance. He also rode in a "crouch position" in which his chest touched his hands.

He made his first attempt on a professionally designed bike that incorporated all of the new ideas that he put into his original prototype. He didn't break the record. Then he tried again on the actual prototype with the washing machine bearing. This second attempt took place less than 24 hours after his first attempt. He broke the record.

Obree ran into a lot of opposition from the UCI, cycling's governing body. After his first Hour record, they banned his riding position (for "safety" reasons) by making it illegal for a rider's chest to touch his hands. In response, Obree started riding like this:

Ultimately, this position was banned (for "safety" reasons) too, after Obree had retired. Anyway, Obree's story is pretty fascinating and The Flying Scotsman tells it pretty accurately. Obree himself even stands in for some of the cycling scenes.

The other foreign flick I watched was called District B13 and it was fucking awesome. District B13 stars this dude named David Belle that invented this shit called parkour. You know that first scene in Casino Royale when Daniel Craig is chasing that dude that runs and jumps all over buildings and construction equipment? That's parkour. It's basically like martial arts geared towards the "flight" reaction instead of the "fight" reaction. Here's a video of David Belle doing some parkour:

District B13 takes place in a near future France in which ghettos have been walled off and left to their own, with no police or schools or anything like that. The "plot" revolves around Bell's character, a resident of one of these ghetto's that teams up with a cop, also proficient in parkour, to take down the gang of dorky wigger (is that word un-PC? I really don't know. If it is, and it offended anyone, I apologize) thugs that run District B13. Awesomeness ensues.

Okay, that's all I got. I'm going to go ice, elevate etc.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Does anyone know how to get vomit out of suede?

Last week my buddy J threw a late Oktoberfest party. Lots of friends came from out of town, lots of German beer was consumed and former roomie B's fiance C threw up all over my jacket at a bar. The next morning I made breakfast for 16 people. Luckily I was still drunk [ergo not yet hung over] when I started cooking so I was able to pull it off. I started feeling sick around 4 or 5 pm and was asleep by 7:30. I'm still dead-tired from all of this and I have heartburn. What a drag it is getting old. Besides the hangover, I also feel old because my friend Local Celebrity Dan brought his new baby over to the breakfast. My friends have babies = I'm old. Local Celebrity Dan's baby is pretty frickin cute, but it sure looks like a lot of work. I think I'll hold off on making babies for a while. I've also been swamped at work, which is part of the reason I haven't posted in a while. [The other part of the reason is that I'm totally boring and have nothing to post about]. So today's post is going to just be a couple links about some former Packers.

The JS is reporting that Milwaukee's new arena football team named its new head coach: Gilbert Brown. This strikes me as a move to put buts in the seats, not to win games. Maybe that's not fair to Gilbert. Maybe he's a genius, but I don't think so. A friend of mine once got Gilbert's autograph at a Hardy's. This friend has a hyphen in his first name. It's French. When Gilbert asked him to spell his name, Gilbert looked dumb-founded when my friend said "hyphen" and then he proceeded to make a comma instead of a hyphen. It's probably the awesomest autograph I've ever seen.

In other Green Bay news, Packer legend Max McGee passed away on Saturday. The 75-year old fell off his roof as he was cleaning out the gutter and I can't think of a worse way for a guy like McGee to go out. Max McGee wasn't your typical straight-laced Lombardi era Packer. He was a party animal. His most well known tale involves his Super Bowl I performance, and more interestingly, the night before. John Wiebusch at AOL Sports has a fantastic article about the night and the big game.

The morning sun was peeking its nose over the palm trees on Sunset Boulevard and the still-lit neon lights of the Whiskey-a-Go-Go were almost surreal in the early morning glow of Jan. 15, 1967.

Max McGee, wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers and man about town in every town he passed through, was saying good night and/or good morning - it all depended on your point of view - to three full-figured stewardesses, two in the fashion rage of the day - hot pants - and one in a mini-skirt.

"Ladies," McGee went on, "it’s been a festival, as always. You are all too beautiful for words. I only hope that I more than made up for the disappointment of Paul Hornung not being here."

"Oh, Max, you were just WON-derful," said the one in pink leather hot pants.
They hugged him and he squeezed back as three cabs arrived - one to take one of the stews to her day job in the friendly skies, another to take the other two home. McGee slipped $20 bills into the cabbies' hands.

The third cab would take Max McGee back to his day job, momentarily operating out of the Hilton Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard, near downtown Los Angeles and a 10-minute ride from the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the pro football team for whom he played, the Green Bay Packers, would meet the Kansas City Chiefs that afternoon for bragging rights in pro football.

Forty-five minutes later, Max McGee was running a screen pattern through the lobby of the Hilton, using potted plants and pillars as his cover to avoid the one man he did not want to see - head coach Vince Lombardi...

Read the whole thing.

Tax Rally

Which of these two gentleman do you think is making the more profound argument?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Nobody knocks off an old man in my neighborhood and gets away with it.

Last Saturday, as I was recovering from last Friday, I watched this flick called Disturbia. Disturbia is somewhat of a remake of the classic thriller, The Burbs. In this incarnation, Tom Hanks's everyman character Ray Patterson is replaced by an angst-ridden teen named Kale, played by Transformers star Shia LaBeouf, while Hanks's Burbs detective associates, the bumbling Art (Rick Ducommun), and the paramilitary nut Rumsfeld (Bruce Dern) are replaced by Asian stereotype Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) and really really really hot chick Ashley (Sarah Roener).

In Disturbia, Kale is sentenced to a summer of house arrest and passes time by spying on his neighbors. He becomes convinced that one of his neighbors is a mass murderer and attempts to investigate with the help of Ronnie and Ashley. Like The Burbs, Disturbia attempts to make you question whether or not the neighbor is really a killer, or is the protagonist just crazy. There's nothing particularly new or brilliant about Disturbia, but it was a solid popcorn flick. LaBeouf is actually a pretty good actor and I bet we will see him in bigger and better roles in the future (well, obviously not bigger and better than Transformers). And Sarah Roemer is really really hot and she has cute freckles. It's worth seeing just for that. If you like hot chicks with cute freckles. Like I do.

Also, I heard it's similar to some other movie called Rear Window too, which I can only assume is another remake of The Burbs.

But What About the Herfindahl Index?

The big news of the day 'round these parts is that American brewing giants Miller and Coors will be joining forces to combat the evil empire, Anheuser Busch. When I was a kid I remember asking my dad a lot of questions about business. And about the beer he drank (Miller). I was a weird kid. Anyway, I remember him telling me that Anheuser Busch had about a 50% market share in America while Miller had about a 20% market share and Coors had about a 10% market share (these numbers ave been substantially rounded). So even if Miller and Coors combined, Busch would still be the dominant player when it comes to watery American beer. This was an actual dinner conversation that took place during my youth:

Me: But Dad, wouldn't they be more competitive with Busch if they did combine?

Dad: Actually Danny, according to the government, they wouldn't be allowed to combine because the government would figure out the Herfindahl Index and find the merger to be anti-competitive. Currently, the Herfindahl Index would look like this [writing: (.5 * .5) + (.2 * .2) + (.1 * .1) = .29] But if Miller and Coors merged, the Herfindahl index would look like this [writing: (.5 * .5) + (.3 * .3) = .34] When the concentration is already over .1, any merger that would raise it more than .025, is presumed to be anti-competitive.

Me: Oh, so because there are already three major companies, it has a high concentration as it is. And since the market share would be concentrated into fewer companies, it's not allowed?

Mom: How did my family end up like this?

So now I'm confused. The illustration I've always used to remember how the Herfindahl Index works is happening, and there doesn't seem to be a problem with it. I better go call my dad...

In other beer news, an "editorial" in the paper last week "argued" that Milwaukee Should Have a First-class Beer Museum. I whole-heartedly agree. Duh. Apparently, there's not one, but two competing groups attempting to get the ball rolling on a beer museum in Milwaukee.

Two groups in the city are working to create a museum. The Museum of Beer & Brewing, headed by Jim Haertel, hopes to open a museum in one of the buildings he owns at the old Pabst Brewing works. The other group, the Milwaukee Beer Museum, has a storefront on S. 5th St. Both groups have memorabilia and a dream. But it will take a major backer to create such a museum.

Each of these groups have a museum of sorts already, but they are both trying to get the funds to make their beer museums "world-class." I salute them both and wish them luck in completing that task. From the Milwaukee Beer Museum's mission statement:

The Milwaukee Beer Museum is a collecting museum and educational organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich history and positive cultural impact of beer and the brewing arts.

The positive cultural impact of beer. Awesome. I'm on board. Where can I make a donation? Also, why don't these two companies combine and make one world class beer museum together. If Miller and Coors can do it, why can't The Museum of Beer and Brewing and the Milwaukee Beer Museum? I'd even calculate the Herfindahl Index for them.

Monday, October 8, 2007

This Majik Moment

I'm totally worthless today. Yesterday I made a pilgrimage to Lambeau Field to watch the Packers get beaten by an obviously inferior Chicago Bears team. Losing games like this really blows. A loss is one thing. A loss to a rival is a little worse. But a loss to a rival that you completely outplay is just painful. I went to college close to the Wisconsin/Minnesota border so the Packer/Viking rivalry began to take precedence over the Packer/Bear rivalry. Now that I'm back in south-eastern Wisconsin, I'm starting to remember how much I hate the Bears. Although the game pretty much sucked I did have a pretty fun time, all things considered.

I rolled into The Bay Area around 1:00 and met up with my buddy J. J is a Detroit native and a Lions fan. Seriously, he likes the Lions. But since he moved to Green Bay, he's become somewhat of a Packer fan and has attended several Packer games. We watched football and drank beer for a while at his place. God refused to help John Kitna and the Lions win. Interestingly, Kitna did not attribute his loss to God in the same way he attributes his victories to God. But whatever. I'm sure God had his reasons for screwing the Lions. After the Lions game, J and I left for Lambeau Field. We met up with one of my honorary uncles for a few beers, and you'll never guess who was tailgating right next to us...

Don Fucking Majkowski. The Majik Man himself. Majik Man left before I could get a picture with him, but one member of our group happened to be wearing the classic "After further review... the Bears Still Suck" t-shirt [referencing Don's famous overturned forward pass play]and Don signed it. Nice.

After a few more beers, we headed into the stadium to watch the depressing game. The Pack actually looked good in the first half and if not for two key fumbles by a rookie reciever, we would have run away with it. That's all I'm going to say about that.

After the game, we decided to get some food at Hooters to wait for the crowd to die down. As we were waiting for our sandwiches, our cute waitress Megan pointed out that Al Harris had just walked in. Al was sporting a three-piece suit with pinstripes and was escorted by three rather unattractive women. Megan told us that a lot of the Packers would probably be stopping by. She added that Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were in town for the game and her manager was told that they'd be stopping by as well. This set off my bologna detector. Seeing Al Harris was one thing, but what the hell would Justin Timberlake be doing in Green Bay... at Hooters? I don't know if they ever showed up at Hooters, but I did learn this morning that JT and Jessica Biel were indeed at the game. But that's fine. Seeing Majik Man was enough for me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Book, a Movie, and a TV Show

Baseball season is over so it's time to entertain myself in other ways. So here's brief list of stuff I've been reading, watching, and.. uh... watching. Maybe I'll try to do something like this periodically.

Book: More Sex is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics, by Stephen Landsburg. This is one of those pop-economics books that have been popping up since the success of Dubner and Levitt's Freakonomics. Like Freakonomics and Landsburg's earlier book, The Armchair Economist, it's a collection of essays that discuss the underlying economics of everyday situations. In particular, it explains why "conventional wisdom" in many situations is wrong. The title chapter argues that the spread of STDs would decrease if people that have no sex, or very little sex would have more sex. The argument goes like this: Say that if you're a woman (You can switch the genders around in this example if you want to. You can even just switch one if you're into that.) on the prowl and there are 4 dudes in the bar that you're willing to bed. Two of them are very promiscuous and the other two only venture out once a year. Assuming that the two man-whores are more likely to have herpes, your odds of finding a safe mate are around 50%. Now assume that you could magically make every dude that only bones once a year into a dude that bones twice a year. Then, on any given night, there would be twice as many of these relatively safe dudes out on the prowl, including our hypothetical evening. Your odds of safe sex mating would go up to 66%. And there's like a multiplier affect because then when you go bed some other dude, you'll have less chance of spreading herpes yourself. Get it? Increased activity by sexual conservatives, according to Landsburg, would slow down the spread of STDs.

But Landsburg's point in this chapter, and most of his other chapters, is that the benefits of doing something like this are mostly for others, not for the sexual conservative choosing to get it on more often. He'd obviously receive the benefit of getting laid more often, but he'd only be sharing the benefit of a safer pool of partners with a jillion other people. It's this problem that he really analyzes. If the only good that is caused by a particular one of my actions is a benefit to everyone else rather than a benefit to me, what motivates me to act that way? Here's where I started to get a little uneasy with some of Landsberg's ideas. He pretty much wants to subsidize everything. That's not something you hear a lot of economists saying, but he things the government should pay sexual conservatives to have sex (and pay them with condoms), pay jurors to find verdicts, and fine them for bad verdicts, and it should buy every patent and put it into the public domain. This stuff all sounded crazy to me at first, but Landsburg has a way of almost convincing you that these are great ideas. Whether or not you buy into anything he says, it's an interesting read and a great way to see how an interesting mind works.

Movie: Children of Men was a pretty heavy movie. It was really well made if you're into artistic shit like cinematography and "style." It's got some Citizen Cain style newsreel stuff in it, and a single shot action battle sequence that is really really cool. All this stuff was secondary to the story about a post-apocalyptic future in which nobody can have babies and everyone has lost hope and gone bonkers. Great Britain is the only functioning government left and it's being torn apart by a flood of refugees and terrorist groups. Clive Owen ends up finding a pregnant chick and trying to escort her... somewhere. It doesn't really matter where because this is one of those road movies where the journey is more important than the destination. It was a solid movie, but I have a hard time with movies where the journey is more important than the destination. I'd rather the story teller finishes their story than leave it up to me to interpret. But it's well worth watching regardless.

TV Show: Season two of Dexter started Monday. Before I talk about Dexter, I need to say that Showtime is the best network on TV and those bastards at Time Warner totally sold me on it by giving it to me free for 6 months. I know HBO generally defines what constitutes great television drama, or "dramady" in some cases, but with the [non-]death of the Sopranos, Deadwood, and that show with all those ugly chicks in New York City, Showtime has a stronger overall lineup right now. Showtime's lineup now includes one outstanding show in Weeds, and at least four very very good shows in Bullsh!t, Dexter, Brotherhood and Californication. Bullsh!t was great in it's first two seasons but has declined somewhat due to the fact that they're running out of bullshit. That's good for society I suppose, but bad for TV. But I digress.

The hero and title character of Dexter is a serial killer. That premise alone is just so interesting. In Silence of the Lambs and it progeny, they made us a little sympathetic to Hannibal by having him find respect for Jodie Foster and kill that weaselly vice principal dude from Bostin Public. But we still all knew Hannibal was a bad guy. Dexter is actually a pretty good guy, despite the fact that he's murdered tens or hundreds of people. The premise is that Dexter was raised by his stepfather, a cop named Harry. Harry realized pretty early that Dexter was crazy and would probably end up a killer. So Harry trained him to control his urges using what Dexter refers to as "the code of Harry." He still kills, but he only kills bad guys. He finds out who the bad guys are through his work as a forensics cop specializing in blood spatter analysis. This skill also helps him make his own crime scenes perfectly clean. At first I found this premise a little too far fetched, but as I watched the show, I got into it. It helps that Michael C. Hall (the dude from Six Feet Under) plays the part so well.

This season begins with Dexter unable to kill, but he doesn't see this as a good thing. Which is kind of weird. Meanwhile, and more intriguing, some divers find the place where Dexter dumps all the bodies of his victims. That's about all we got in that story line, but I'm interested to see how the public reacts when they start identifying Dexter's victims, who are all really really bad guys.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

I try to avoid talking about politics on this here rag. As I stated in my first post, I get kind of ornery when I talk about politics. Some people say that I "push buttons" when I debate politics. I don't try to push buttons. I just think that my mind works a little differently than most people's minds do. This post is not about politics. It's about cognitive dissonance. If reading this post makes you want to argue with me about global warming, you are missing the point, which would be fitting for a post about cognitive dissonance.

I'm a big fan of Scott Adams, the guy that writes the Dilbert comic strip. He also wrote several awesome books, including a "thought experiment" called God's Debris. [I highly recommend God's Debris. One friend of mine described it as philosophy porn. He meant this to be an insult. But I think it's a fitting description, which is one reason it's awesome.] Scott Adams wrote a great post on his blog a few days ago about cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is basically the misconstruing of information that conflicts with what you already believe in order to ignore that information and reinforce your beliefs. Adams suggests that people that study economics are immune to cognitive dissonance. He states:

I studied economics in college. One thing I’ve noticed is that other people who have studied economics tend to think a similar way. Some of the similarity is probably because it takes a certain kind of person to be interested in economics in the first place. But I’m convinced that the study of economics changes brains in a way I can identify after about five minutes of conversation. In particular, I think the study of economics makes you relatively immune to cognitive dissonance.

The primary skill of an economist is identifying all of the explanations for various phenomena. Cognitive dissonance is, at its core, the inability to recognize and accept other explanations. I’m oversimplifying, but you get the point. The more your brain is trained for economics, the less it is susceptible to cognitive dissonance, or so it seems.

The joke about economists is that they are always using the phrase “On the other hand.” Economists are trained to recognize all sides of an argument. That seems like an easy and obvious skill, but in my experience, the general population lacks that skill. Once people take a side, they interpret any argument on the other side as absurd. In other words, they are relatively susceptible to cognitive dissonance.

My degrees are not in economics [but I did set the curve in the handful of economics classes I took, because I'm totally fuckin awesome] but that's the way my mind works too. This is why it's a bad idea for me to talk about politics. I almost never speak from the point of view of either of the popular parties, so I end up pissing off people that do see things from the point of view of either of the popular political parties in the U.S. For example, people that are in favor of regulating cigarette smoking often note that an individual's smoking habit doesn't just affect that individual because health care costs are often shouldered, at least in part, by society. I will respond that health care costs of smokers are not always higher, in fact many studies show that they are lower, than health care costs of non-smokers. [Because smokers rarely get old. They die before Alzheimer's sets in or before nursing homes are needed, but after they have done their primary earning and tax-paying. In other words, dieing is cheap, living is expensive.] When I say stuff like this, people almost always assume that because I think that the costs of health care for smokers that are shouldered by society might not be a good reason to regulate smoking, that I must think that there are no good reasons to regulate smoking. Or that the people dieing is good because it saves money. Sometimes people even assume I smoke when I say stuff like that. Or worse, that I'm a member of some political party. But really, I try to look at each argument on all sides of every debate. Sometimes there are strong arguments coming from all angles, even if most people won't listen to them. Just because I agree with one point, doesn't mean that I agree with the whole Seurat. And just because I hold a particular view on a topic doesn't mean all of the counter-points to my view are wrong.

Adams points to a particularly compelling example of cognitive dissonance on Bill Maher's HBO show. The show featured Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician that wrote a few books about global warming. Here is a clip of the show:

Adams breaks down Lomborg's argument like this:

The economist made the following points clearly and succinctly:

1. Global warming is real, and people are a major cause.

2. When considering the problems that global warming will cause, we shouldn't ignore the benefits of global warming, such as fewer deaths from cold.

3. The oceans rose a foot in the last hundred years, and the world adapted, so the additional rise from global warming might not be as big a problem as people assume.

4. Developing economical fossil fuel alternatives is the only rational solution to global warming because countries such as China and India will use the cheapest fuel, period. If only the developed countries who can afford alternatives change their ways, it’s not enough to make a dent in the problem.

The Danish economist’s argument doesn't fall into the established views about global warming. He wasn't denying it is happening, or denying humans are a major cause. But he also wasn’t saying we should drive hybrid cars, since he thinks it won’t be enough to help. He thinks we need to make solar (or other alternatives) more economical. That’s the magic bullet. His views don’t map to either popular camp on this issue, and it created a fascinating cognitive dissonance in Bill Maher (a fan of hybrid cars) and his panelists.

Maher (who I think is really great most of the time) even says, "...20 years later, this guy is going to say, 'You know what? Yeah, there is global warming." But Lomborg did say "yeah, there is global warming" just minutes before! It's astounding really. But the cognitive dissonance doesn't end there. Adams's post was clearly about cognitive dissonance. It clearly was not about his position on global warming. Fittingly, a dude named Richard Bell, a writer for a weblog called The Daily Kos, commented on Adam's post in one of the most remarkable displays of cognitive dissonance I've ever seen.

I love Dilbert. But after reading Dilbert creator Scott Adams' recent blog entry on Bjorn Lomborg (author of Cool It: A Skeptical Environmentalist Looks at Global Warming), I can see that Adams doesn't necessarily share Dilbert's wonderful skepticism when it comes to evaluating a salesman like Lomborg.

Adams saw Lomborg on Bill Maher's show, where Lomborg was appearing via satellite. [...] As per usual, Lomborg ran through his grossly misleading arguments about polar bears, and the like, all the while insisting that he brought "a sense of proportion" to the debate over climate change.

Writing on the Dilbert blog, Adams finds Lomborg entirely reasonable, swallowing the Mythical Middle argument hook, line, and sinker:

"The Danish economist's argument doesn't fall into the established views about global warming. He wasn't denying it is happening, or denying humans are a major cause. But he also wasn't saying we should drive hybrid cars, since he thinks it won't be enough to help."

Notice how easily Adams slips into equating climate change deniers with people who promote driving hybrid cars, as if both groups were equally extreme, while Lomborg's analysis places him above this ignorant clash of armies in the night.

Since Dilbert the comic character usually keeps his wits about him, I can only conclude that, in one of those obscure signs of the true glory of human creativity, it's possible for a comic character to sometimes be smarter than his own creator.

Adams clearly did NOT equate climate change deniers with people who promote driving hybrid cars. He was just saying that Lomborg's position is different than that of climate change deniers and different than hybrid car promoters. That does not make them equal positions. Adams was only saying that Maher et. al. were wrong to characterize Lomborg as a climate change denier because he isn't a climate change denier. The very first thing he said in the interview is that climate is changing and that we are causing it.

This Daily Koss writer totally missed the point. All Adams said was that he gets Lomborg's argument, not that he agrees with it. Bell's cognitive dissonance prevented him from seeing that Adams wasn't talking about global warming. He was talking about people like Bell. A commenter pointed this out and Bell tried to "clarify" by showing even more cognitive dissonance. Seriously, this guy is so so so wrong it's ridiculous. He states:

Here's the problem with Adams' description of the interview: Adams adopts a position which unintentionally leaves the reader with a false understanding of the nature of the scientific debate about global warming. The reason I use the term "false" is because Adams (and Lomborg) presents the debate as if there were two more or less equal sides, when there are not:

Here's the quote from Adams' thoughts on the Lomborg interview on the Maher show, with the "equal side" phrase in bold:

"The Danish economist’s argument doesn't fall into the established views about global warming. He wasn't denying it is happening, or denying humans are a major cause. But he also wasn’t saying we should drive hybrid cars, since he thinks it won’t be enough to help. He thinks we need to make solar (or other alternatives) more economical. That’s the magic bullet. His views don’t map to either popular camp on this issue, and it created a fascinating cognitive dissonance in Bill Maher (a fan of hybrid cars) and his panelists."

There is only one popular camp, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (
IPCC). Yes, there are climate scientists who disagree with the conclusions of the IPCC....

Bell states that there is only one popular camp. But given the fact that this is a debate, there must be at least two popular camps, regardless of whether one of them is objectively right on some aspect of the debate. And there are many views that don't fall into either popular camp, like Lomborg's. All Adams was saying is that Lomborg is not on the "global warming is a hoax" camp. Early on in the interview, Lomborg stated that he got his data from the IPCC, that he agrees with the data, and that global warming is real and that we're causing it. He's not relying on scientific data from scientists that disagree with the IPCC.

Bell clearly detests Lomborg and isn't willing to entertain any positive critique of him, even if that critique is simply that Adams gets his argument. Bell's attempt to "clarify" should be used as an example of cognitive dissonance in schools. This is something we all need to be aware of because studies show that cognitive dissonance will cause more deaths in the next 50 years than global warming.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I'm sure glad he didn't say goodbye.

NFL - It's Hard to Say Goodbye

Posted Feb 04, 2007

For some football fans, it's very hard to say goodbye.

Seasons change

Baseball season is officially over for my Brewers. After starting off 24 and 10, they faltered and lost their division lead to the evil Cubs. Many fans are looking at this season as a disapointment. And in a lot of ways it was. We started out hot as frickin Africa, and ended up very mediocre. We lost a lot of games due to poor management. We had a few key injuries. We made a lot of errors. Many fans showed their disapproval in unrpoductive ways. But in the grand scheme of Milwaukee baseball, it was a great season. Although I was ready to cut my wrists last Thursday and Friday, I feel a lot better today. Although we were out of the playoffs, they played toughthis weekend. And we posted our first winning season in 15 years. We're going to come back a year older and a year wiser. With the team we have, that year means a lot. A lot of people don't want to see Yost come back. I'm not sure what to think about that, but I do think, that if he does come back, he too will come back a year older and a year wiser and we won't see nearly as many mistakes next year. Perhaps in the off season he can finish reading Managing a Professional Baseball Team for Dummies and learn that you shouldn't have position players bunt with two strikes or keep your best relief pitcher on the bench when there's a fire burning on the bases. I'll be sad to see Jenkins go if he does in fact go. He gave a lot to this team. He was a shining light in some pretty dismal seasons. It's sad that we couldn't get him to the playoffs. I'd love to give him another chance but it's probably not in the cards with his contract up. But we do know that next year the team will have Weeks, Hardy, Braun, Fielder, Hart, Hall, Gillardo and Villanueava. That's a group that can only improve when you raise the average age a year, up to 15 or 16 or whatever. We'll have to be on the lookout for some relief pitchers and maybe a corner outfielder. I'm looking forward to next season, but I definitely want to thank my Brewers for this great season. To quote some country western music singer; I could have missed the pain, but then I'd have had to miss the dance. I'm not sure that good 'ol boy was talking about baseball, but this season was a great dance. Thanks Brewers!

Now it's time to concentrate on the undefeated Packers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

...and never, ever feed him after midnight.

Well, the Brewers are just about done for the season. I haven't totally given up as long as we're mathematically still in it and chasing the chokingest team that ever choked. Last night's game was a disaster and it didn't have to be. I like Ned Yost, but he's shown all year that he can't manage a bullpen. Last night, after Yost was ejected, we learned that Mike Maddux and Dale Sveum can't manage a bullpen either. Everyone in the bar I was at knew Turnbow was done after two batters. I knew before he even went in. When they finally did pull him, they brought in Brian Schouse, a true LOOGy (Lefty One Out Guy), to pitch to two right handed batters and then pulled him to let Spurling, A righty, pitch to a left handed batter. This is precisely the opposite of what a competent manager would have done. A competent manager might also have let the best relief pitcher in the National League put that fire out. All the news this morning is about McClung beaning Pujols, but I refuse to believe that the loss of McClung and one base runner should make for a situation our bullpen can't get out of if you use them right.

The first mistake was breaking the Turnbow Rules. Turnbow is a very talented pitcher. But he's also totally bonkers. There are certain situations in which he dominates. There are other certain situations in which he loses games big time. After watching him pitch for a few seasons, it's pretty clear what these situations are. I really believe that Turnbow could be a useful tool out of the bullpen if our coaches followed these three simple rules:

1) Never pitch Turnbow two days in a row. Yost likes for him to be the 8th inning guy when we're ahead. The problem is that if we're ahead two days in a row, Turnbow pitches two days in a row. And he usually blows it one of those times. Turnbow's ERA on no rest is 8.72 (in 27 games). His ERA on one day of rest is 1.05 (26 in games)and on two days it's 0.00 (in 7 games). Turnbow should pitch every other day or so regardless of what the score is.

2) Only put Turnbow in in the beginning of an inning. Do not let him inherit any runners. They will score. Turnbow's opponent average when he starts an inning is .088. With runners on it's .241. With runners in scoring position it's .345. Opponent OBP in those situations is 323 and 424 respectively.

3) If Turnbow walks even ONE batter, pull him. You shouldn't walk any batters if you're the set up man. And Turnbow is most certainly not the kind of pitcher that takes a while to warm up. He's either on or off. And when he's off, he is OFF. When that levy cracks, the flood is coming unless you minimize the damage by pulling him.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Packers, Brewers, and what about Ralph Malph?

It's been a while since I updated this rag, and for that I apologize. I've been busy lazy. I have a few things to tell you jerks about though, so here's a random list of stuff.

Pilgrimage. On Sunday I attended the football match between the Chargers from San Diego and the Packers from Green Bay. My brother got the tickets sort of last minute so we didn't get a chance to go all out tailgate-wise. We rolled into "the bay area" around 10:15 and headed up to Curly's Pub. Curly's is a great alternative to tailgating. It's a cool bar right inside Lambeau Field, and remarkably, it's usually not that crowded. The bro and I each got a few beers and a pulled pork sammich and headed into the decidedly unfrozen tundra. The 85 degree weather was a rare treat since I usually end up at mostly December games (I have both the Raiders on 12/9 game and the Lions on 12/30 on my calendar this year). Another rare treat (at least rare in recent years) was the dominant performance of the Pack against a tough Charger team. I love the pass-happy west coast offense and I LOVE Brett Favre. I really do. Nothing beats watching that ol' gunslinger complete a sweet pass and then jump around like a kid on Christmas. Except maybe watching him run the ball for a first down. As great as the Jennings TD was, my favorite play of the game was when they lined up with two backs, shifted them both two receivers while the Charger's D geeked out, and then had their 50-year-old QB run the ball. Awesome stuff.

Brewers. On Monday I went to the Brewer game. The Brewers basically need to win out if the Cubs play .500 ball for the rest of the season. It's a daunting task, but the way we've looked the last few nights, it just might be possible. Last night, Prince clouted dingers #49 and #50 making him the youngest player ever to hit 50 in a season. Nice.

The Fonz. VisitMilwaukee, a group that promotes tourism here in Milwaukee, is hoping to erect a bronze statue of Fonzie on the corner of Wisconsin Ave. and Water St., right by my office. I like this. Because what's Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda what's Fonzie like? [Cool?] What? [He's cool.] Correctamundo. And that's what we're gonna be.

Lots or people that are not from Wisconsin automatically think of Happy Days when they hear mention of our state. And hey, that's better than Dahmer, right? There's a bronze Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicolet Mall in Minneapolis, and the Fonz defines us to the same degree MTM defines the Twin Cities. Additionally, Milwaukee is a tourist destination for few people. But if there's one group we can count on, it's bad-ass Harley riders. The Fonz statue will be a nice additional stopping point for these motleys when they come for the Harley museum and stuff like that. Also, given the proximity to Water St., it will be a prime target for drunk people hoping to put garbage cans on the heads of statues. And who doesn't like that? So all in all, I like the idea. I just wish it was Ralph Malph instead.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Cubs are not the underdogs; they're the Yankees, but without the pennants.

There was a pretty solid article by Mike Hunt in today's JS about the Cubs' underdog image.

While it's true that no culture loves an underdog quite like Americans, how then to explain the general sentiments attached to the exhilarating National League Central race?


Strip away the mythology, and they are Goliath. Massive market. Big payroll. Big-name stars and free agents. A marquee manager who earns more than the entire Brewers' 100-plus-homer infield combined.

Yet, as Hunt notes, the national media appears to be rooting for the Cubs in the National League Central race. Well, to be fair, the national media is openly mocking the ineptitude of the NL Central as a whole first, and rooting for the Cubs second. The Cubs have done quite the job of defining themselves as cursed underdogs and lovable losers. But the truth is, this pennant race has the makings of a true underdog story, but the Brewers are the underdogs. The Brewers are David to the Cubs' Goliath; App. State to the Cubs' U of M; Rocky to the Cubs' Clubber Lang (I'm not sure they have a trainer either); 300 Spartans (and some Thespians) to the Cubs' million river-drinking-Persians; Honey Roy Palmer to the Cubs' Buck Holland, Slim Busby, Billy Hargrove (played by a young James Caviezel), Sam Lester, Hambone Busby, Sunny Hawkins, Robby Gillon, Frank Mangrum, Tank Miller and Hammerhead Haggan. Make no mistake, if you want to root for the underdog, you gotta root for the Brew Crew in the NL Central. Here's why:


The Cubs' have a payroll of $100,000,000.00.
The Brewers have a payroll of $70,000,000.00.

And although a difference of $30 million is significant, it's actually more drastic than that. If you look at the key players on the Brewers, most of whom are younger than me, they make close to the league minimum. For example, a typical Brewers starting infield would look like this:

Braun @ $395,000
Fielder @ $415,000
Hardy @ $400,000
Weeks @ $400,000

The Cubs' key players -- Lee, Soriano, Ramirez, Zambrano -- each make around $10 million.

This is clearly a big money team vs. a small money team.


The Cubs play in a market of 9,157,540 people (shared with the Whitesox I suppose).
The Brewers play in a market of 1,689,572 people, the smallest in Baseball.

This is clearly a big market team vs. a small market team.


The Brewers have 17is players on their roster that they drafted and developed within the franchise.
The Cubs are made up mostly of high priced free agents.

The Brewers are the little guy in this fight, and there's nothing any goat or any Bartman can do about it. All that said, I fully believe the Brewers will come out on top. As Mike Vick would say if he were more articulate and up to speed on cheesy cliches, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Eating on $21 per week

In today's paper there was this article about a woman and her daughter who are trying to spend under $21 per week each on food (That's about $1 per meal if you can't do math and eat three meals per day). I guess the reason is that they are trying to get more funding for the federal food stamp program. $21 per week is apparently the average allocation. I think that this woman probably didn't understand that because this was the average, the people who are most dependant on food stamps (i.e. pay for most or all of their food via food stamps) probably get more than a buck per meal. But whatever. It still sounds like a fun game.

I spend waayyy too much money on food. I eat out for lunch almost every day. My primary lunch places are Jimmy Johns and The Waterfront Deli, due to their proximity to my office. I probably drop about $7 for lunch at Jimmy Johns, and close to $10 at Waterfront. That's like $40 or $50 a week just on lunch. If I wanted to get by on $21 per week, I'd probably have to start brown-bagging it, which I've been meaning to do anyway. I also go out to dinner on most Fridays and Saturdays. This often involves booze. But other than that, I think I'd be alright. So this Sunday, I am going to go shopping and spend just $21 and try to go all week (or at least until Friday night) eating only that food. What would you buy if you had just $21 to spend on food for a week? Here are some of my ideas:

1) Twenty-one 8oz bottles of Vitamin Water, pack of gum.

2) Seven Wendy's Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers, Seven Wendy's cup of chili, Seven Wendy's Frosty Dairy Deserts (those things are awesome). Do you think it's a coincidence that they have a dollar menu?

3) Bottle of Jack, Flinstone vitamins, nerves of steel.

4) 14 Power Bars, 7 Slim Fast shakes, 2 liter bottle of Diet Pepsi.

5) Dozen Eggs ($1.50), Gallon of Milk ($3.50), Loaf of Bread ($2.00), Jar of Peanut Butter ($2.00), Half-pound of Turkey deli meat ($2.50), 5 store-brand frozen pizzas ($7.00), OJ ($2.50).

That one doesn't sound too bad, does it?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

5 Things: Miller Park Edition

I've been spending a lot of time at Miller Park over the last few months. It's a great place to watch a baseball game. It really is. I've only been to three baseball stadiums in my life (the other two being Milwaukee County Stadium, which has obviously been torn down, and Wrigley Field, which obviously should be torn down). But there are a few additions/changes I would like to see at Miller Park. Here are 5 of them:

1. Bring back Bernie Brewer's giant beer mug and lederhosen.

I think I may have mentioned this before, but the attempts to make Bernie Brewer less beer-oriented are really really stupid. After all, his name is Bernie Brewer, he's the mascot of a team called the Brewers, who play at Miller Park. This team has everything to do with beer. And beer rules.

The Bernie Brewer's legend began in 1970. The Crew was still a new, bad team and they were having trouble drawing crowds. In June of that year, a brilliant nutcase named Milt Mason climbed on top of the scoreboard and pledged to stay there until the Brewers drew 40,000 for a game. He was there for about 40 days, like Jesus. Mason became the original Bernie Brewer. In 1973 a chalet was built for him in center field, and each time a Brewer hit a homer, he would slide down a slide into a big mug of beer, and balloons would fly up into the air for seagulls to choke on. This version of Bernie remained until the Mid-1980's when the chalet was removed to make room for a sound tower. Bernie was brought back by popular demand in 1993, complete with large foam head and mustache. He still wore lederhosen, and his routine was about the same. But when the Crew moved to Miller park, they decided to ruin Bernie. They took away his chalet and replaced it with a "dugout." A "dugout" that sits 15 stories above the ground in right field. They replaced the giant mug of beer with "home plate." And worst of all, they replaced Bernie's lederhosen with a Brewers uniform. I can't fathom why anyone would support these changes. Here is what Bernie's chalet looked like at County Stadium:

And below is his "dugout" at Miller Park. Can't you just see a giant glass of beer sitting at the end of that slide?

When you think about it, getting covered in beer is what cheering for the Crew is all about. And as the team's biggest cheerleader, there's no reason Bernie shouldn't end up in beer every time Prince Fielder goes yard.

2. Bring back the two-fisted slobber promo.

The two-fisted slobber was a character that appeared on the county stadium scoreboard. His purpose was to discourage bad stadium etiquette. He looked like typical trailer trash; thin, but with a big gut, wearing a wife-beater t-shirt, carrying two beers, and totally drunk. The ad was designed to make a mockery out of such behavior. But we Milwaukeeans embraced the two-fisted slobber. After all, he was funny. I've scoured the interweb for a video of the ad, or even a picture, but I can't find one for the life of me. There are a few websites selling t-shirts that say "two-fisted slobber," but the man depicted on those shirts is an imposter; a horrible monster.

3. Less Filling/Tastes Great cheer.

I have a great idea for a cheer that would be perfect for Brewer games. Normally I hate organized cheering at baseball games. Baseball crowds just can't pull off the wave like college football crowds can. One of the most endearing cheers you'll hear in the student section at Camp Randall stadium is the Eat Shit/Fuck You cheer. This cheer usually starts when several fans from, say, Section N stand up and point to, say, Section O and start yelling "Eat Shit! Eat Shit! Eat Shit!" Within moments, the rest of Section N will be on their feet joining along, and Section O will be on their feet countering each "Eat Shit!" with a "Fuck You!" Simple as that. Although this is perfectly appropriate for a college football game, it's probably not appropriate for Brewers baseball. Fortunately, the good people at Miller Brewing Company designed a reasonable substitute for us back in the 1980s with their "Less Filling/Tastes Great" Miller Lite advertising campaign. So if you are ever at a Brewer game and a bunch of guys in the section next to yours stand up and start pointing at your section and yelling "Less Filling! Less Filling! Less Filling!" please rally your section and start responding to each "Less Filling!" with a "Tastes Great!" That would be totally awesome.

4. Fans that are more versed in when it is appropriate to boo.

On the subject of cheering, a lot of Brewer fans have been real tools lately when it comes to booing. You will never ever hear me boo my own team. I love my Brewers like I'd love my children, not because they are good, but because they are mine. If Turnbow is throwing wild pitches, the last thing I want him to do is throw more wild pitches. He's obviously not trying to play poorly. So I'm not going to boo, I'm going to say "c'mon T-Bow, throw some strikes buddy!" Now there are obvious exceptions to this rule--if Gary Sheffield were on my team I would boo him. But generally speaking, booing your players is bad for your team. If you want to strengthen their home field advantage, get behind them as much as possible when they're at home.

It's okay to boo the other team sometimes. If their pitcher throws at one of our our guys, boo him. Last night when Asstros' manager [and former Brewer great] Cecil Cooper asked the umpire to inspect Cordero's hand for Eddie Harris-style substances, it was cool that we booed him. It's also okay to boo Carlos Lee because he left our team for more money. It was a good decision on his part, but it's cool for us to boo him. However, I was at one game early in the season when Brady Clark was playing for the Dodgers. When they announced his name, some people booed him. That was NOT okay. Brady didn't leave for more money. We traded him. When he was here, he was a mediocre talent that gave everything he had and performed well for us. We should applaud him if he ever returns to Miller Park. And if I ever hear a Brewer fan boo Jeff Cirillo when he returns to Miller Park with the D-Backs or anyone else, I will promptly punch that Brewer fan in the face. Booing is just so mean.

5) A new version of "Beer Barrel Polka."

At Miller Park, we sing "Roll Out the Barrel" after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch. They play this old organ version of the song. It's hard to hear and it's boring. I want to hear an oom-pah band with tubas and trumpets. I also want a little ball bouncing on the words on the score board as we're supposed to say them so the 45,000 of us can get the timing right. Is that so much to ask?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's like "It's a Small World" only seven feet tall.

The Bucks just added a seven-foot tall Chinese man to their front court, which already included a seven-foot-tall Aussie with a terrible haircut, a seven-foot-tall Dutchman of Serbian descent and a seven-foot-tall black American with no eyebrows.

After Bucks owner Herb Kohl made a trip to Hong Kong to conduct personal negotiations with Yi's representatives, the young Chinese star signed a multiyear deal with the Bucks, ending a saga that began on draft night when he was selected with the sixth overall pick by Milwaukee.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Best Drink Special Ever

Friday night, I had plans to meet some friends at The Old German Beer Hall, a Haffbrauhaus bar on Milwaukee's Old World Third Street. I was the first of to arrive so I took a seat at the bar to wait for B & C and J & S (As I've mentioned before, I'm a tremendous third wheel, or 5th wheel... or Xth wheel where X = any odd number). I noticed that the specials board behind the bar said, "Friday Special: Free Beer." Free beer? There had to be a catch. I asked the bartender what the catch was. He said there was no catch. They tap a keg of Hoffbrau Original at 6:00pm every Friday and it's free until it's gone. Also, whoever gets the last glass from the free keg drinks free all night. So I ordered a beer. And, as luck would have it, it was the last one. What I had intended to be an easy night, turned into a pretty rowdy one. Although it could have been worse considering my history with German Beer. Maybe it's the polka. Or maybe it's the giant containers that German bars are in the habit of serving beer in.

Or maybe it's that I'm pretty "good" at the boot game. [In the boot game, you pass a three litre glass boot full of beer around a group of people. You can drink as much as you want, but if the person that drinks after you finished the boot, you have to buy the next one. I didn't buy too many boots in college.]

And that's basically free beer too.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I wonder if "Two Scoops" will be back?

NBC is bringing back American Gladiators. I think that this is totally awesome. American Gladiators was one of my favorite shows in my youth. It came into popularity just as Hulkamania was becoming sort of cliche. For those of you that don't remember American Gladiators, it was a syndicated game show in the early 1990s in which amateur athletes competed against spandex-clad behemoths and she-males, with names like Laser and Nitro, in strength and agility contests (some of which involved giant q-tips). I think that a new generation is ready for American Gladiators.

I've mentioned before that professional sports should make steroids legal. One of the criticisms is that pro athletes on steroids would be bad role models for kids. I don't think this has to be the case. I think we could learn something about role models from American Gladiators. American Gladiators placed the steroid-free everyman in head-to-head competition with gigantic steroid freaks in athletic contests, and fans rooted for the competitors! The steroid users were the bad guys. To your average 12-year-old or idiot, steroids make you look like Gemini, not like Lance Armstrong. [In reality, there's a PED for basically every kind of athlete. But who says we can't embrace stereotypes for the good of the children?] So when fans of the show watched, they could ask themselves, "do I want to be more like Gladiator or competitor?" Since the Gladiators were all bulk, it was only a matter of time before a competitor came along and utterly destroyed the juiced-up Gladiators. And that competitor was Wesley Berry. Yes, big muscles couldn't hold down Wesley "Two-Scoops" Berry. Not by a long shot.
I have said before on this here rag that no other athlete has dominated his sport more than Michael Phelps, with only Tiger Woods and Roger Federer coming close. Well, I forgot about Two Scoops. Two Scoops, named for the inclusion of Kellogs Raisin Bran in his diet, came into gladiator stadium and basically leveled it to the ground. It wasn't too often that a competitor bested one of the gladiators, especially in games like "Break Through and Concur" or "Joust." When they did it seemed almost lucky. But Two Scoops would march right up to those meat-heads and throw them out of the ring (or off the pedestal or whatever the case may be). He owned the Gladiators. He was faster, stronger, more agile, and he could jump over a car (seriously). He was like the Wilt Chamberlain of obstacle courses and Nerf guns. He broke just about every record on the show (although his eliminator record is marked with controversy because he was first down the zip-line but took the inside track). On top of all this, he preached staying in school, not doing drugs, and giving anywhere from 120% to 1000%. Two Scoops, I salute you. It's too bad you're in jail now.

Update! I just found some clips on youtube of Two Scoops kicking ass. Here his is winning The Gauntlet on International Gladiators:

Here he is jumping over a car: