Thursday, August 31, 2006

We Had Joy, We Had Fun,
We Had Seasons In The Sun

(I don't know who sings that song, and I'm too lazy to google it, but that's the first thing that popped into my head when I came to the title bar of this post.)

(OK, I lied. I'm not too lazy, cuz it would have bothered me for a while. It's Terry Jacks. I thought maybe I had it on one of my "Super Hits of the '70s" discs, of which I have nine or ten. But it's not on any of those. I do, however, have "Kung Fu Fighting" on one of them. Aren't you jealous?)

The entry title struck me, because tomorrow is the lead-in to the three-day event that is summer's last gasp. As I wrote in my column for next week, it's time to put away the bikinis and board shorts, and pick up the backpacks and chinstraps.

A new school year, and more importantly...a new football season! I don't know why I get so excited about football season every year. I mean, c'mon...where are the Lions gonna go, anyway? Just exactly what does third place in the NFC North get you? A front-row seat on the couch for the playoffs, that's what. Truth be told, I'm just slightly more optimistic than in past years, but I've gotten so used to whining, I couldn't stop myself before all that negativity spilled out.

For the record—and I'd like very much to delete the record—after much thought and painstaking research, and a couple coin flips...I came up with Denver beating Dallas as my prediction for Super Bowl XLI.

However you're planning to spend the weekend of summer's farewell, enjoy. I believe mine will include a lake, a pontoon boat, and a beverage. (make that...multiple beverages.)

— • — • —

You're humming "Seasons In The Sun" to yourself right now, aren't you? And you want to know the rest of the lyrics, I bet. What if I told you I found a page that has not only the lyrics, but some lame-ass, elevator-musicky kinda xylophone rendition that starts playing whether you want it to or not. You probably couldn't stop yourself from clicking here to hear it for yourself.


"France has neither winter nor summer
nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks
it is a fine country."
—Mark Twain

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Colbert, or Stewart?

Is it just me...
(...and, most of the time when someone starts a question that way, isn't the answer usually, "it's just you!")

...or were the Emmys unusually funny this year?

Conan O'Brien—who I rarely find funny on his own show and I think is something of a mistake to replace Leno in a few years or whenever Leno said he's going to retire—did a remarkably good job in his monologue and throughout the show, and his little song-and-dance number at the beginning was pretty entertaining.

Tony Shalhoub, who I haven't seen in "Monk," reasserted why he's probably the right man to win for lead actor in a comedy series when he showed his dry, subtle, perfectly timed comedic talents in his acceptance speech as he picked up his second consecutive trophy and third in four years. I should attempt to catch that show at least once, so I can say I've seen it.

— • — • —

Quick side note: CBS's "Two and a Half Men" was nominated for all the big categories, including comedy series, lead actor and supporting actor. And it came away empty. That's not surprising, seeing the company it kept in each of those categories. But I might have jumped up off my couch and done a handstand if it would've won any or all of them. That show is so well written and so well acted.

— • — • —

"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" won for variety, music or comedy series, and in his acceptance speech, Stewart admitted, "...this year I think you've all really made a mistake," hinting that perhaps one of the other nominees, "The Colbert Report," was more deserving.

It was great comedy to see Stewart and Stephen Colbert come on to present an award later. Colbert spent much of his time throwing a fit that he'd lost an Emmy earlier in the night, "to frickin' Barry Manilow!! I lost to Barry Manilow!!" (individual performance in a variety or music program.) And Stewart spent a good part of his on-stage time cowering and letting him rant.

— • — • —

Which brings me to my entry title, and the question(s) of the night. If you'd have a vote for best variety, music or comedy series and could choose between "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report," which would it be?

And who do you think is a better deliverer of fake news...Stewart or Colbert?

While I don't watch either of them on an all-too-regular basis, I've seen enough of both of them to be qualified to cast a ballot in each category, and I'm gonna look like something of a fence sitter here, but...I think Colbert might be the funnier of the two individuals (close race), but "The Daily Show" probably gets the nod for best substance. (how can you argue with a show that has a "moment of Zen" at the end of every episode?)

Let me know which way you sway.


"You can't make up anything anymore.
The world itself is a satire.
All you're doing is recording it."
—Art Buchwald

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Is He...Subliminably Brilliant?

In a recent story on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country," Joe Scarborough was kicking around the idea of whether or not our president is an idiot.

I don't usually spend too much of my TV time tuned to MSNBC, because it's hard to give any credibility to a "news" network that gives a show to the likes of Rita Cosby. (although I'm having a more difficult time defending CNN after seeing Nancy Grace's show once or twice. maybe the two of them should form their own network that nobody will watch.)

But I digress.

The banner across the bottom of the screen as I channel-surfed past it said "Ronstadt: Bush Is An Idiot." What a concept. An actor or a musician bashing Bush? Never been done before!

However, Linda Ronstadt apparently called our president a name, and Scarborough decided to run with it, to see where the debate would lead. And for that, he was chastised by some for publicly asking the question of whether or not the president of the United States is dumb.

Let's face it...it's not the first time that someone has suggested that Dubya is two peas short of a casserole. And it won't be the last. Scarborough was merely questioning how important it is for the president to be super-smart, if he or she (practicing my political correctness early, just in case) surrounds himself with the right people.

Scarborough blogged about it, if you're interested.

It's a tough question to ask, isn't it? Is Bush really dumb? Or are we, umm...misunderestimating him?


(oh my, the selection of quotes I had to choose from
for this post could have kept me typing until the '08 election!)

"There needs to be debates, like we're going through.
There needs to be town-hall meetings.
There needs to be travel. This is a huge country."
—George W. Bush

"I want the folks to see me sitting in the same
kind of seat they sit in, eating the same popcorn,
peeing in the same urinal."
—George W. Bush

Monday, August 21, 2006

Everybody Wang Chung Tonight

I think I've discovered where some of the has-been musical groups disappear to.

While some one- or two-hit wonders legitimately fade away after their 15 minutes of fame are over, recent research suggests that other singers or bands might in fact run into legal troubles that are the cause of their musical careers being cut short.


Case in point: Wang Chung

Before the biggest hit of their career, "Everybody Have Fun Tonight," in 1986, the group had a minor hit with "Dance Hall Days," in 1984. It was while listening to this song on the radio recently that I came to the conclusion that the group probably had to disband due to incarceration.


Look at how the duo described their recollection of a good night at the dance hall:

Take your baby by the hand
And make her do a high handstand
And take your baby by the heel
And do the next thing that you feel

And after an upbeat chorus, they come back with more of the same:

Take your baby by the hair
And pull her close and there, there, there
And take your baby by the ears
And play upon her darkest fears

Not content with hair-pulling and psychological torture, they continue:

Take your baby by the wrist
And in her mouth an amethyst
And in her eyes two sapphires blue
And you need her and she needs you

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but that's not really dancing, is it? Isn't that...

...assault?

If they could have kept it simple with a little innocent bump and grind, or maybe some freak dancing, who knows how many albums Wang Chung could have turned out? But nooo...they thought since they were rock stars that they could cross the line and resort to ear-grabbing.

No wonder some '80s bands disappeared. Do you think maybe Dexy's Midnight Runners are in the cell next to Wang Chung?



"Either heaven or hell will have
continuous background music.
Which one you think it will be
tells a lot about you."
—Bill Vaughan

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The 'Wurst' Display Of All

Our little corner of the world became a bit more famous recently, during Sheboygan's annual Brat Days, which brought all the biggest names from the International Federation of Competitive Eating (it's true!) to Kiwanis Park to see who could stuff the most bratwurst in their faces in 10 minutes.

This display of gluttony attracted nearly 4,000 spectators, who stood on a hill and watched these superhuman eaters gorge themselves on what's probably a summer staple on most grills in our area, but is virtually an unknown menu item only a couple states away.

While a simple eating contest alone might not have drawn a whole lot of attention, the initials E, S, P, and N, and the best eater ever to stand in line at a buffet gave this year's event a little extra street cred. Yes, ESPN's cameras and reporters were on hand for the event, to cover Takeru Kobayashi, the IFOCE's top-ranked eater. Those two names brought the likes of eight more of the world's top 12 eaters to have a little lunch on the Lakeshore.

Yahh, hey!! Sheboygan's gonna be famous, en so??

While I should never admit here that I have so little couth that you'd find me smack dab in the middle of the cheering crowd at such a disgusting display of piggishness, I will say that the photos in this entry come from my very own camera, and not from the IFOCE's Web site. Hey...it was ESPN! And bratwurst. I wasn't gonna pass it up for anything.

The world's top three eaters appear to be a study in concentration as they start the competition. Joey Chestnut (from left) is ranked second, and Sonya Thomas is third. Takeru Kobayashi is the world's most famous eater, and the record holder at Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest held every Fourth of July in New York. Earlier this year he ate 53 3/4 hot dogs (AND buns) in 12 minutes to hold off Chestnut, who ate 52.

The brat-eating contest was sans buns, and last year's record was 35, set by Thomas. With Kobayashi in the mix this year, though, no one really knew where the record would end up. My guess was somewhere in the 40-41-42 range, but as you can see below, he rather obliterated that modest total. He wolfed down 58 brats in 10 minutes, leaving Chestnut in a trail of brat grease in second place with 45.

When Kobayashi signed up to participate in this event a couple months ago, he'd never heard of a bratwurst before, but in his post-gorge interview, he said through his interpreter that he liked them and wanted to take some home with him. And that he also plans to come back next year to try for 60 or more.

I won't deny that I had a great time seeing the spectacle of it all, and while I don't understand how they can shove all that food in and where it all goes, I can't say that it turned me off of food for very long.

I found my way over to the food tent not too much later and got myself a double brat.

If you'd like to see some of the IFOCE's other records, check out this page. But be sure to do it on an empty stomach, because the baked beans and the hard-boiled eggs and the oysters and the cheesecake might cause a slight rumble.


"One of the most wonderful things about life
is that we must regularly stop what we are doing
and devote our attention to eating."
—Unattributed

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Pigs Fly...Hell Freezes Over

Driving home the other night, I had my XM Radio tuned to the "Hitlist" station, and heard a song come on that sounded like a spot-on match for Gwen Stefani.

Reaching to change the station, as I'm relatively indifferent to the career of the former No Doubt lead singer, something caused me to push the button, which brings up artist and title information for the current track, rather than turn the button, which would have spared me a revelation for which I was completely unprepared.

While I would have placed a small wager that the voice I was hearing was that of Gwen Stefani, I would have lost, because the name that appeared on my radio display was...

...Paris Hilton.

Note, I didn't say that the voice I heard was Paris Hilton's, because if that's Paris Hilton, then I'm her next boy toy.

Whoever was working the sound-mixing board in the studio the day that "Stars Are Blind" was recorded deserves a big BIG raise. I bet Paris didn't even have to be in the building for that song to be made. She probably just attached her name to the project and voila...a music career was born.

Should you care enough to let your voice be heard.

(I didn't care enough to vote, but I did take the time out of my life to search for and provide you with the link. Shame on me.)


"Singers come and go, but if you're
a good actor, you can last a long time."
—Elvis Presley

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Big Brother Is Tracking You

A news item was recently published by the Wisconsin Public Radio news service, stating that Ohio has just become the fourth state to introduce a bill that would ban the mandatory implantation of microchips into someone's body to track their movements.

While you take a few seconds to let that sink in, let me tell you in this paragraph that Wisconsin was the first state to pass such a law. A $10,000 fine would be imposed on any employer or government agency that forces a worker to be implanted with a radio frequency identification chip.

Is this actually how time is being spent in our state legislatures? On the crafting of laws to determine how best to avoid having microchips installed into humans?

The chip makers state that they'd be best used for storing medical information, and would be well-suited for use in military personnel. But opponents of the technology argue that employers could use them to track employees during their off hours. (They'd find that I visit my local Wal-Mart on a far too frequent basis, and who wants that to be public knowledge, hmm?)

The head of the Florida-based Verichip, however, claims that the chip doesn't send out a signal itself, that it must be read by a scanner.

All I can envision if this technology reaches the mainstream is a conversation like this at work someday...

Micro-Managing, Power-Tripping Bossman: "Smith, why don't you turn your attention today to the Johnson account, and get a handle on that. Oh, and don't forget, Thursday at 10 am you've got your microchip implantation surgery. Don't be late."

Bewildered Yes-Man of an Employee: "Yes, sir! Yes, sir! And would you like to date my wife and have your own copy made of the key to my house as well? Right away, sir!"

Freak.

Anybody that requires me to "implant" anything in myself in order to work for them certainly won't get the professionally accepted two-weeks notice before I head for the door.

"There are some ideas so wrong
that only a very intelligent person
could believe in them."
—George Orwell

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Greatest Doctor

I work for a small-town newspaper and printing company, and each year we print the local high school's graduation program.

Being something of a quote whore, I always look forward to reading what the grad class's motto is...what words the student body has chosen to represent itself as it achieves one of life's great milestones.

One of these years I'd love to see a class with the cajon├ęs to print "Kegger tonight at Brandon's!" or "My sophomore science teacher stole my neutrons." on the front of the grad program. But that might not make it past the advisers, huh?

Most classes are usually quite restrained, and offer words of wisdom by Hemingway or Honest Abe, making reference to the great big world out there and all there is to conquer.

One class a few years ago stepped just slightly outside the box, and I thank them for that, because this quote has been with me since the first time I read the words:

"Be who you are, and say
what you feel, because those
who mind don't matter, and
those who matter don't mind."
—Dr. Seuss

Words to live by, don't you think?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My Barbaric Yawp

I've spent a lot of time considering whether or not to start a blog...what to call it, what I'd put in it to draw readers in, and whether or not I'd have the discipline to stick with it and put up some posts on a consistent basis. (that one we won't know the answer to until a few months from now. but so far I've got one in a row! I'm on a roll.)

I stumbled upon what I thought was a great blog title several weeks ago, but found myself deflated when I did a little research and learned that a couple others in the blogosphere had already tripped over the same idea.

The great American poet Walt Whitman wrote perhaps his most widely recognized work, "Song of Myself," a 50-page autobiographical introspective that covered topics ranging from social to political to personal.

Probably the most famous reference to Whitman's poem was in the movie, "Dead Poet's Society," when Robin Williams' character, John Keating, used a quote from "Song of Myself" to motivate students in his English class, telling them they needed to follow in the footsteps of Whitman, who wrote, "...I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."

That crept into my brain a while back, and I thought, "That's it! Now I can start my blog...and I'll call it 'My Barbaric Yawp'." Guess what? Other people read Whitman, too. And other people have seen "Dead Poet's Society." Who knew?

Unoriginality — 1
Gregg — 0

I didn't want to be like everybody else. In fact, I didn't even want to be like two or three or five somebody elses. (yeah, like having a blog is the most original idea in the world to begin with, isn't it? how many are out there? 30 million??) So I reached again for my thinking cap.

I've always been a bit of a Zen enthusiast, and Buddhist ideas intrigue me. The brief tale of the Zen archer who learns mindfulness and becomes present in every moment, effortlessly sending arrow after arrow to the center of the bullseye, is one that I've read several times, several different ways. And I'm a dart shooter (English darts...gives me something to do between the time I put my beer down and the time I reach to pick it back up again), so I understand the part about shooting for a bullseye.

In the dart game of 301, the object is to shoot at numbers on the board and score exactly 301 points before your opponent does. Sounds simple enough, right? And it is. But a perfect game of 301 is five bullseyes and a triple-17, shot in two rounds of three darts each...called a six-dart-out. And that's not quite as easy. I've been in the position to feel the "effortlessness" of hitting the bullseye, as on some occasions the circle in the middle looks and feels about as big as a pancake.

I've also been in the position with five bulls behind me, and that last dart in my hand, staring down the triple-17. And it's surprising how much less "Zen" the feeling becomes when you're aiming for the triple ring and a chance at perfection, than when you were willing the darts into the center circle to get to this critical juncture in the game.

I've run the gamut of results with that final dart: sticking it in the triple about 20-ish times in my dart "career"; missing by a hole more than 20 times and getting a pat on the back for a good effort; and forgetting completely about dart release and follow-through, and dropping it three or four inches below the triple on the board, and wanting only to erase the memory of that effort with perhaps a shot of Southern Comfort. (It's a good thing darts is a game played in a bar, and not among church groups.)

What all of this blabbering leads me to is the title of my blog. In darts a round of 100 or more points is called a ton. A hat trick is three bullseyes, or 150 points. A ton-fifty, if you will. What I'm searching for is the key to unlocking the secret of consistently mastering the 151-point round that follows it...the ton-fifty-ONE.

The bullseyes I've got down, but...can I get a little help with the trip-17, please?

(Whew! Aren't you glad you read this far, so you're not staring up at the top of the page and asking yourself, "What the heck does that mean?" Let me guess...you stopped reading 42 paragraphs ago, didn't you? Sorry.)

So in tribute to Whitman, I'll still fill these entries with my share of yawps, and as he wrote "Song of Myself" at 37 years of age (coincidentally, guess how old I am?), I'll do my best to give this "Blog of Myself" a good go-round, and see what I come up with.

Ton-Fifty-ONE. Open for business.

Expect more tasty goodness blathering idiocy to follow.


Or not.



I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse
and stuff'd with the stuff that is fine.
—Walt Whitman, Song of Myself