Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Physically Uneducated

I’m the first to admit the health advantages behind a rousing game of pickleball, but my physical education class in high school taught me jack squat about living a healthy lifestyle after I had graduated and was no longer required to wear the same moldy, malodorous gym shorts five times a week while avoiding body checks in floor hockey from kids about three steps further down the puberty line than me.

While it’s probable that I did learn some tips about eating and exercising properly from health class, all I can remember from that experience is The Slide Show, which consisted of cauliflower-shaped adult genitalia completely ravaged by sexually transmitted diseases. It’s why I don’t eat my eggs over-easy.

But physical education for me was just a different game every single day, with an occasional mile or fitness test sprinkled in. I remember sophomore year when the administration told the P.E. teachers they had to give tests, and we’d get one-page diagrams asking us to label all the marks on the basketball court. How physically educational!

Physical education actually started with the ancient Greeks, who’d have their children do all kinds of physical tasks to prepare them for battle. During the World Wars, the modern version of the class was instated to keep young men in shape in case there was ever need for a draft.

If kids today had to be drafted for some reason, the only fit muscles in their bodies would be in their thumbs—from playing Halo 3 on Xbox 360. I guess they’d at least be prepared for war mentally.

We’re a country of fat people who are giving birth to fat children and feeding them greasy pizzas, Krispy Kremes, and unhealthy hamburger-like substances from fast food restaurants. When we actually are convinced we’re eating something healthy, like a salad for example, we end up dumping six pounds of ranch dressing on it, unaware that ranch is like one step away from dumping frapped bacon grease on our greens. Delicious!

So we should try something new with our physical education classes. Set up contests amongst kids to lose percentages of their body weights, a la “The Biggest Loser.” Find ways to get those chunky kids moving, and ways to keep the skinny ones skinny. I, for example, am the same height I was at age 15. The only difference is that I weigh about forty pounds more ten years later. Games, challenges, competitions… all with real prizes. Wouldn’t this be the best solution for our country’s obesity crisis? Start with America’s P.E. standards and work from there. Teach them a good diet, good exercise habits—and make them excited about it—and we’ll see tangible differences.

People need to take responsibility for their actions. Except me. I’d rather just blame my P.E. education for the forty pounds I’ve put on since 1997. That’s really at the heart of all this. Anybody with me?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ho Ho Ho? Ha Ha Ha!

I read that somewhere in the UK, people are asking faux Santa Clauses to laugh with a rousing “ha ha ha” instead of the more traditional, “ho ho ho.” You can guess the reason why, can’t you? Because “ho” is an unkind term for “prostitute,” and these United Kingdomers don’t want their young ones taking Santa’s trademark chuckle as forceful advice in terms of what they should be choosing for their future occupations.

Forget for a moment that four-year-olds have no idea what a prostitute is, let alone any American derivations of the word. Isn’t it ridiculous to think that a kid could be tainted in any way whatsoever by hearing Santa laugh out “ho” when the word isn’t being used in an inappropriate context? In truth, jolly old Saint Nick’s barking chuckle could hardly be considered words, anyway. It would be like taking offense to someone sneezing because it sounded like they were screaming, “A jew!”

And hearing Santa laugh “ha ha ha” would be like other great icons modifying their own trademarks. Consider:

South Park: “Oh my God, you injured Kenny very badly! He really looks hurt, someone should call an ambulance.”

White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson: “He looks up. You can put it on the booooard… alrighty then!”

Emeril: “Then we can add a little garlic—Kablooey!”

Tony the Tiger: “They’re Grrrrrrrrrain and wheat lightly dusted with sugar. Not too much sugar, though. It was never our intention to rot your kids’ teeth out.”

Bart Simpson: “Eat my shirts, man.”

It’s just not the same, right? Would “The Simpsons” have ever gotten off the ground with this bastardization of Bart’s famous shorts-devouring trademark? If Homer had said “Whoopsie-Daisy!” instead of “D’oh,” or “Yummy…” instead of “Mmmmm…”? Would Hawk still have a job with the Sox? Would Emeril still have his own Food Network Show?

The answer to these questions, is no, no, no (notice that “na na na” doesn’t work here). Part of building a brand and being an icon worth remembering is having that trademark. If it weren’t for Santa’s particular laugh he never would’ve made it in the business. No Santa means we’d have to settle for using Jesus as the icon for Christmas, and everyone knows the true spirit of the season is waiting in line overnight to buy a Nintendo DS for $45 at Best Buy on Black Thursday. Without “ho ho ho” we wouldn’t have any of that.

All sarcasm aside, these people are messing with a good thing for no reason. I understand the values of being politically correct (I’m a teacher and a journalist, for goodness sake), but too far is too far. Did you know the correct PC term for drunk is “spatially perplexed”? Up until now, that was the most ridiculous example of political correctness I’d ever heard of. Altering a childhood icon’s laugh to protect a child’s innocence is even dumber.

The sad thing is, the same people worrying about hearing the word “ho” in Father Christmas’s laugh are probably the same people buying their kids Halo 3 as a stocking stuffer. “Don’t learn and use an offensive term for prostitute that you probably don’t even understand in the first place, but take this controller and pretend like you’re shooting people in the face.”

The hypocrisy of this planet is often comedic, but mostly disheartening. More evidence that we’re all going to die in the next 50 years. Add this to global warming and we’re all doomed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Victory for the Purse-Holding Men of America

Men of all ages have been submitted to the painful request of women asking male counterparts to hold their purses. Men loathe this.

Maybe it’s because purses are so distinctly feminine that we can’t feel like real men if their on our person. Maybe it’s because we know that the purses we hold are filled with things like lipstick and sanitary lady products. Or maybe it’s just because the word “purse” oozes with dainty, flowering, pinkish connotations that we men want nothing of.

Whatever the reason, it’s time for me—on behalf of the men purse-holders of the world—to establish rules for this abhorrence. And so, without further ado…

Instances when it is NOT okay to hold the purse:

  1. Any time you’re in public and people can see you, except for in certain rare instances (see below for more details on this).
  2. When a woman is going to try on clothes in a department store and wants you to hold the purse while she does. This is absolutely unacceptable. She takes the purse into the changing room with her.
  3. When she wants you to hold the purse so she can root through it to find what she’s looking for. This is what tables are for.
  4. When she’s putting on her jacket and wants you to hold it until she’s wrapped up. The purse should have no problem sitting on the floor while she does this. Let her know you have no problem watching the purse during this period, but that you will not hold it.
  5. Without exception, a man may NEVER hold a purse, under any circumstances, if the purse is pink or has Hello Kitty anywhere in its design.
  6. Sometimes at the line at the grocery store, she’ll remove her billfold from her purse and expect you to hold it while she roots through the wallet to find the proper credit card. The purse should remain in the shopping cart at this time, not in the man’s hands.
  7. At a wedding reception, prom, charity auction, or other such formal event in which a woman carries a decorative bag of some sorts, you may not hold the purse when the woman goes to use the bathroom. If you’ve been out on the dance floor and she wants you to hold it until she gets back, walk her back to the table so that she can place the bag there, and sit and watch the purse until she returns.
  8. The only woman’s purse that should ever be held for any reason whatsoever, is that of your wife or girlfriend. Unless you’re under the age of eight, you should never be asked to hold your mother’s purse. Sisters’ purses fall under this rule as well. This is what fathers are for—and their discretion in holding said purses should follow these same guidelines.

Instances when it is okay to hold the purse:

  1. First and foremost, in any acceptable purse-holding venture, a man must know the proper way to hold it. Holding it by the strap is unnecessary. Place a hand (two for bigger purses, but one is always preferable) underneath the purse. By punishment of death, a man should never pull the strap onto his shoulder.
  2. When you and a woman are the only two people in a building with windows closed and blinds pulled, and you only have to hold it for five seconds or fewer. This same scenario is not acceptable in public.
  3. When a woman falls down and hurts herself, dropping her purse in the process, it’s okay to pick up the purse for her while she dusts herself off.
  4. When a woman hands it to you to set down somewhere—as long as the man goes directly from the woman’s hand to setting it down in one fluid motion. Hesitation for any reason in this instance is frowned upon.
  5. When a woman is breastfeeding your child in an unorthodox location, and she can’t physically hold the purse while doing so. The woman gave birth to the child and now offers a raw teat to the baby several times a day. You can hold the purse for a few minutes in this instance, lest the woman divorce you and/or eat your soul.
  6. If you work in a store that sells purses and you are asked to stock them. But this is only acceptable if you make a face like you’ve just eaten horse vomit the entire time you’re doing the task.
  7. If a woman, any woman, gets her purse stolen by a mugger and you are witness to the robbery, you may chase down the mugger and retrieve purse, as long as you don’t hold it by the strap.
  8. If the girl you’re dating is clearly out of your league—like WAY too good for you—you should disregard this entire column and hold her purse whenever she asks you to.

Fair enough, right? Look, men feel ocky holding your purses, handbags, etc. because they make us feel womanly, and feeling womanly is not the M.O. of our gender. Do men finish a great pickup game of basketball and then say to their wives, “Here honey, can you hold my sweaty jockstrap for a minute while I put my coat on?”

Why not? Because we know you’d find that gross. So try putting yourselves in our shoes and see the other side of things before you call the act of purse-holding “no big deal.”

It is a big deal, but starting today the lines have been drawn. Let’s solve this sad, worldwide problem once and for all and move on to something more important, like AIDS or global warming.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Obsessions for Men

My good friend Jesse has issues with food because his stomach doesn’t always do its job correctly, and as a result he can only keep down certain victuals. He understands that this limits his diet to a pretty bland smorgasbord of unseasoned breads and tall glasses of water, and he’s at peace with this arrangement.

Sometimes, however, Jesse bumps into a genuinely delicious, succulent morsel of something his stomach will actually accept, and then over the next three weeks he’ll eat almost nothing but that one delicious food (And who can blame him?). For example, senior year of college it was these apple muffins, which I’ll admit were pretty stinkin’ yumtastic.

The point is that Jesse’s food isn’t the only example in history of someone growing temporarily obsessed with something. We all do it, and the following is just an assemblage of a few of my own current obsessions…

Paper Back Swap

You can ask Amy; in a lot of ways I’m a cheap S.O.B. I unplug the Nintendo Wii all the time because even when it’s off the little yellow light still shines, and that’s energy that could be saved. I’ll say no to cheese on my Whopper at Burger King because it banks like 20 cents a burger. I even saved money on Amy’s engagement ring by just turning a quarter in one of those little jewelry dispensers in the Wal-Mart lobby.

So when something comes my way touted as “free” when I normally would’ve spent money on that something, I get incredibly happy. Like REALLY happy. Sometimes I even pee a little.

And paperbackswap.com made me pee a little.

Basically what happened is that I joined this site (it’s free) and sent out all of my old crappy books to people who inexplicably wanted them, and in return I got several “new” used books from other members for free.

I’ve been reading like a fiend of late, tearing through the new novels that arrive in my mailbox with faithful regularity. Let’s face it—nothing is more fun than getting a package in the mail, even when you know exactly what it is. And now I’m getting packages in the mail all the time. FREE packages!

This is my website du jour, and I highly recommend any of you bibliophiles out there to check it out. I know I’ve suggested this to many of you before, but I mean it this time. Go trade free books.

Oops… Amy plugged the Wii back in. Be right back…

Dexter

Let me drop this premise on you and see what you think. There’s this serial killer who’s been jacked up his whole life, but because he was raised by a good cop who could tell the kid had issues, he was taught to kill only bad people to satiate his urges, and also how to avoid being caught.

So this kid grows up killing all these people who deserve it (a la “The Boondock Saints”) while also working as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami forensics department. He uses his knowledge as a serial killer to help catch other serial killers for the city, and he uses his resources at the precinct to help him track down his next victims.

That’s the premise of the show “Dexter,” which sadly appears on Showtime but which non-sadly can be rented on DVD at your friendly neighborhood video store. Season one is out, while season two is just getting started back up on Showtime. Amy and I are infatuated.

The greatest thing about this series is that it’s based off of books written by Jeff Lindsay, who is a pretty fun author to read. Season one of the show was based off of “Darkly Dreaming Dexter,” and I can only guess that season two will be based off of “Dearly Devoted Dexter.”

The new book, “Dexter in the Dark,” comes out in a couple of weeks, and I want it. If anyone feels like purchasing me a gift for no reason at all, that would be a great place to start for ideas.

Home Videos to DVD

Thanks to Kevin Clark—a friend whom I have worked closely with over the last few weeks to defeat the Crystal Cup on “Mario Strikers,” an awesome arcade-style soccer game for Wii—I now have use of a DVD recorder, which is basically a VCR that uses blank discs instead of blank tapes.

So I’ve begun the process of transferring Amy’s and my old home videos to DVD. I could easily just record each tape and leave the disc as is, but I want fancy menus and chapters, so the technological hoops I’m jumping through right now are keeping me nice and dizzy.

The end result will be worth it, because the tape of my first birthday is one I don’t want to wear out. I smash cake in my face and get it all over the place, a habit I have yet to break to this day.

There’s also the classic in which four-year-old Amy sings the alphabet, coming to the climactic part of the song where instead of “L-M-N-O-P,” she strings together, “M-N-L-N-O-O-P.” It’s just the cutest damn thing. But not as cute as me smashing cake into my face at age 12 months. We’ve got to keep things in perspective, here.

Jonathon Safran Foer

I watched “Everything is Illuminated” a couple of years ago, which stars Elijah Wood, and I did not like it. I think this was for two main reasons:

1. I loathe, detest, and abhor Elijah Wood as both an actor and a human being, and:
2. The book “Everything is Illuminated” is so thoughtful and descriptive and complex that turning it into a movie could only bastardize the poetry of the original version. Since I hadn’t read the book before watching the movie, I absolutely didn’t get the point of the film.

Of course, once I finally did read the book I felt so much more involved with the characters and wrapped up in the story. It was almost mythological, fable-like—but also funny and thoughtful and prosaic.

The author is my age, which perhaps helps me relate to him more, but for whatever reason I finished the book bewildered. In a good way. Like when you were a kid and you’d spin around and around in circle for twenty minutes for no other reason other than when you finally stopped, it would feel cool.

More recently I read “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” also by Foer, which follows the sad adventures of a child prodigy named Oskar Schell. It got me thinking about life and family and love and fortune, and by the time I finished reading it I felt emotionally cleansed. I can’t wait to read it again. And “Everything is Illuminated,” too, for that matter.

Foer is young, but he’s a great author, and I can’t wait for the next one to be written. I’ve actually considered writing him a letter to thank him for such great work—something I’ve never done before—but that seems kinda fruity.

Besides, why spend the 41 cents on a stamp? I’d need to skip the cheese on my next two Whoppers to afford that.

Monday, September 10, 2007

On Your FM Dial

It’s not that I’ve never done radio before, because I have. Over the last couple years doing my work for HOOPSWORLD I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in spot phone interviews with sports talk radio stations in Indianapolis, Dallas, and Tampa (You hear that? It’s the melodious tooting of my own horn—what a delightful timbre!), but I’ve never been “The Guy.” I’ve just been a guy adding two cents here and there, and those who know me understand that I’ve usually got more like eight or nine cents to throw around.

Starting today, however, I got a scrum-diddly-umptious taste of the radio red carpet here in Bloomington-Normal thanks to my good friend Cole—now known over FM waves as “Coleman Edwards.” I’ve earned a brief spot every Monday morning with the usual sunrise crew at Cities 92.9, the new talk radio station here in town.

(Note: I thought about coming up with a cool radio name for myself, but I decided to stick with “Joel Brigham.” When Kyle did his personality work for The Eagle he went by the moniker “Tank Turner,” and I just can’t compete with that.)

Don’t worry—my head isn’t big about this or anything. I only get a ten-minute spot once a week, but the experience was a frickin’ blast. More fun than a gaggle of giggling babies. And that’s all I’m trying to say here.

First and foremost, my deepest sympathies to all the early morning show DJ’s across the country. Waking up at 5:45 am to do the show, followed by a normal day of teaching teenage children with flowering hormones and expensive, offensive, and boisterous garb, was truly exhausting.

Crawling out of bed when the moon is the only thing lighting your silent apartment is comparable only to being given half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when you’re hungrier than a hostage. And maybe getting thumped in the privates. Maybe.

On the bright side, however, there’s virtually no traffic at 6:30 in the morrow, and starting your day chatting with genuinely funny people more than makes up for the early rise. There’s worms to be caught, right? Might as well be me who catches them. At least on Mondays.

Scott Robbins, the lead DJ, is my dogg (please note the extra “g” as Exhibit A for how much Scott Robbins is, in fact, my dogg), and Dennis Miller and Maria Henneberry are both genuinely nice and funny people as well. They took me right in as their own, asked me a few Bears questions (which I answered with zeal), and then the whole thing was over before it even started. Ten minutes go by quickly in radio minutes. Think of it like dog years.

If things go well for me, I could be asked back after football season to chat about the Bulls (my specialty, obviously) and baseball, which in these parts covers the Sox, Cubs, and Cardinals. Actually, if I’m being truthful, baseball in these parts covers only the Cubs and Cards, but so what?

Great, now I’m thinking about the White Sox. I cried the last time this happened. But today’s not a day for crying. It’s a day for celebration because I have yet another awesome professional opportunity. Sometimes I just have to wonder why I’ve been so blessed. To avoid this sounding like another Joel-Horn tooting, let me just say that I’m thankful for the break, and somewhere deep down I feel like I don’t deserve to be enjoying life as much as I am.

But I am enjoying life as much as I am, and how much can I really complain about that? Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you all every Monday at about 7:10 on Cities 92.9 in Bloomington-Normal. This is Brigsy McBriggerton signing off.

Nope, “Tank Turner” still sounds cooler.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More Than Just a Fantasy

What’s the one thing women hate more than forgotten anniversaries, broken Tivos on E! Hollywood News marathon day, and jeans that make their butts look big? Easy: football.

And what’s the one thing that confuses women even more than men’s love for watching this great American game? Playing fantasy football.

It confounds them. When I told Amy about my fantasy draft last weekend she smiled at me politely with an “Oh, neat” kind of look (notice the absence of the exclamation point), so that officially she showed support but deep down was thinking, “I have no idea what the hell that is, let alone why he’s so excited about it.”

But those of us who have allowed ourselves to drift deep into the mesmerizing, seedy underbelly of the fantasy sports world know that a live draft is something worth getting very excited about. If one allows himself (or herself, in rare cases) to indulge fully in the activity, it can be more fun than, say, playing in the children’s playsets at your area McDonald’s.

Yet so many entirely capable sports fans let the opportunity to join leagues with friends slip right on by year after fantasy-less year. Why, you might ask? Because like Amy, they aren’t exactly sure what participating in a league would entail.

Let me break it down for you quickly:

After joining, you draft real NFL players to your team. Everybody in the league takes turns picking, just like in a real draft (except unlike the Detroit Lions, you usually don’t take a wide receiver in the first round), so the talent is as evenly dispersed as possible.

Each player on your squad earns points for the team based on the stats he puts up in his actual, real-life game that week. For example, Peyton Manning = good, and Brett Favre = very, very bad. After all the games have been played that week the computer adds up your points and your opponent’s points, and a winner is announced. Your wins and losses over the course of the season get tallied like a real team, and there are playoffs towards the end of the season, when a fantasy champion is crowned.

The strategy of the game comes in picking up sleeper guys off the waiver wire, making smart trades with the other managers (a.k.a. “your friends”), and deciding which guys to play and which guys to bench each week (only the ones you play earn your team points).

Most importantly, with each victory you’re able to talk smack to those friends of yours with inferior fantasy sporting talents. Men are especially good at this. Embarrassing those you love is key to the fantasy experience.

It’s one of those Don’t-Knock-It-Until-You-Try-It scenarios. Think of trying fantasy football like sampling a new interesting restaurant for the first time. On the ride home you’d be like, “Wow, that was very delicious and awesome. I can’t wait to go back.” Except with fantasy you don’t have to eat it and it’s free.

Not so confusing now, is it?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Video Game Idiots

For years I’ve been significantly behind the video gaming curve. As a child, when the original Nintendo Entertainment System was released and kids across the world were boinging away through levels of Mario and up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-select-starting their way through Contra, the Brigham family was not allowed to have the electronic bringer of joy. We, instead, were forced to do things like play outside. Lame, right?

It’s not that Kyle and I didn’t want the NES; we really, really did. We begged our parents for one with the fervor of starving French Revolution Era peasants grasping onto the boot-strings of nobility for food. But time and again our guardians turned us away, denying us that food (in a metaphorical sense, of course).

Eventually a compromise occurred and my grandmother bought a Nintendo for use at her place, about which my folks didn’t argue. When this happened, my brother and I began a lifelong split that still exists to this day: he was very, very good at video games, and alas, I was not.

From that point on, Kyle’s affinity for gaming grew in leaps and bounds as the technology got significantly more impressive with each passing year. He learned to love the Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox like children, watching them grow up and become increasingly more violent and sexual.

I, however, got more and more frustrated as the games grew progressively more complex and the system controllers kept getting more buttons. The good ol’ NES pad had a four-way movement control pad, an “A” button, and a “B” button. The modern incarnation of the Xbox—affectionately named “The 360”—has more buttons than China has single-child families.

So even though I used to love playing the simplistic Tecmo Super Bowl on Nintendo, I’ve had a hard time for years adjusting to the most recent Madden games. There’s too much to do, too many buttons to push, too many things to watch and colors to consider. And I understand I sound like my grandmother when the original Nintendo came out, but I don’t care. These games have been too hard to be interesting, so I quit on them. Just like that.

The only way anyone could get me to play a video game was by a.) blowing on the back of an old NES cartridge and getting the Nintendo to actually work, or b.) the newfangled system supported an NBA game so I could dingle around with the rosters.

Video gaming life as I knew it changed a few weeks ago, however, as a Nintendo Wii remote was placed into my hand for the first time. There were simple buttons, simple games, and no headaches/seizures/aneurisms. Bowling was fun. Baseball was fun. Golf was fun. Tennis was extremely fun. By the time I was done running around and swinging that remote back and forth for a couple hours I had sweat pouring down my face in fat, streaky droplets

I thought, why don’t they hand out these things to fat kids who don’t want to exercise, yet still desire playing video games? It would be revolutionary! (And in fact, studies have shown a number of health advantages to playing the Wii).

Anyway, the moral of the story is that Amy and I chipped in and bought a Wii. Now, she finds herself struggling with the Wii Sports games while I have excelled, especially in Tennis and Baseball, where my point levels have classified me as a Professional.

You read that correctly. A Professional.

We’re well aware that there are some really hard games out there, too, but we like that some things—Monkey Ball, Mario Party, and many others—are easy enough for any old idiot to figure out. That’s what Amy and I are. Video game idiots. I love my Tecmo Super Bowl, and she’s a Tetris Attack savant, but the next generation of consoles has always intimidated both of us.

Until now.

Does this mean my brother and I have a point of bonding now, after years of separation on this front of life? Absolutely. Does this mean that I’m back “in the game,” so to speak? Darn tootin’. Does this mean that Amy might rescind her “yes” and decide not to marry me because of jealousy spawned from the fact that I’m a professional Wii tennis player and she’s not? It’s very likely. Video games caused a rift between Kyle and I for years; I assume Amy and I are next.

Until then, though, we’re enjoying our internet-equipped Wii. We have the option of downloading all those old games we used to play, so even if this system gets as goofy and difficult as all the others, we’ll have something to fall back on, with plenty of old NES games downloaded to our Wii hard drive.

And we won’t even have to blow into the cartridge to play them.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Buy Me Some Peanuts

Team loyalties are an interesting thing (for example, check out Bill Simmons’s rules here, #’s 18-20), and after a week spent enjoying some of the finer baseball seats of my life, I can confidently say that I’m so very glad to be a White Sox fan.

Amy and I decided that, with the summer running out faster than Julio Franco’s career, we’d spend our remaining days enjoying some live professional baseball. The fragrant summer breezes at the ball park carry fresh cut grass and warm steam from the centers of all-beef kosher hot dogs, while eager kids point out their favorite players and pleadingly offer their baseballs for autographs.

It’s just such a positive, relaxing experience, lounging in the stands two hours before the first pitch just to watch the guys shag balls and hit batting practice, and that’s exactly what Amy and I did last Wednesday when we drove up to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago to take in a Sox game.

But we got way more than we paid for.

The following is a list of awesomeness that occurred during our White Sox experience. Allow me to indulge:

1. We received free vintage White Sox t-shirts.
2. Amy got her new pink Sox cap signed by Chicago third basemen Josh Fields.
3. Our seats were awesome.
4. The game went thirteen innings.
5. I was inches from snagging a foul ball. For the record, an older broad to our left ended up with it after it bounced off my hand. Amy could’ve snatched it, but she ducked. Mostly, I blame her.
6. In the eighth inning, some guy ran onto the field in flip-flops like a streaker at a soccer game and waved his free t-shirt over his head, except he actually did have clothes on. But he was drunk and funny and dodging all the security guards, so it was immensely pleasurable.
7. Two for the price of one hot dogs.
8. Amy is awesome to watch baseball with because she knows what she’s watching, she’ll cheer because she appreciates the game, and she can even throw a ball like a dude. I should probably marry her or something.
9. A walk-off home run by Juan Uribe in the bottom of the 13th for a White Sox win.

Need I say more?

The not awesome part of the experience was these two extremely annoying Latina preteens sitting right behind us. They kept yelling at Scott Podsednik (Ray Liotta? Does anyone else see it?), either to get his attention or to try my patience, not sure which. Their voices were so piercing and frustrating that Amy and I kept looking back at them to give stern teacher looks. Whenever we did though, they’d just giggle and start making fun of us in Spanish. Amy probably would’ve slapped one of them on the mouth if she were guaranteed not to lose her job as a fourth grade teacher.

Otherwise, though, it rocked. Sox fans are rowdy, blue collar people from an extremely diverse cultural palette, which makes the experience enjoyable for a guy like me. Patrons yell at the players during the game as if they know them: “Come on, Bobby! You can put these idiots away! Send these jerks back to Cleveland!” When the team loses, the concourse on the way out of the stadium may as well be a morgue. Everyone’s extremely bent out of shape and crabby, and the visiting team’s fans better not say anything taunting lest they be shot by gun or crossbow. I seriously love the south side of Chicago.

That Friday, Amy and I continued our baseball exodus by heading south to see her team of choice, the St. Louis Cardinals. We sat 12 rows behind the visitors’ dugout, easily the greatest seats of my life.

Once again, there were free t-shirts (tremendous), but this game ended with the home team losing in rather dramatic fashion, and the food was about 40% more expensive. Also, there wasn’t an awesome Mexican guy running out onto the field in flip-flops, alluding security.

But hey, you can’t win ‘em all, right?

The biggest difference I noticed was that while White Sox fans are a very eclectic collection of white people, black people, and Latinos, Cardinals fans are primarily of Caucasian descent—and they aren’t as verbally angry as Sox fans, either. They also take losing incredibly well; as we left the ball park after the game, everyone heading out the gates was still ho-humming and moving on with their night. I didn’t even see a kid that looked mildly disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong. Cardinals fans are die-hard people; I just think they’re a little calmer, probably because they’ve won the second-most World Series in MLB history. So many other teams have had much worse success over the years and are therefore significantly less patient. (The Cubs would be a good example of this. Remember that time the Cubs didn’t win a World Series in like 100 years? Remember that? Amy and I do. Ah, the memories). Plus St. Louis is still on its honeymoon from winning the 2006 title, so how can anyone be all that angry?

The bottom line is that I like my fiery, blue-collar White Sox better than the uppity, expensive Busch Stadium atmosphere, though I will say that both experiences were pretty sent me home deeply content with my evenings. It’s hard not to love baseball, no matter who you cheer for. Deep down though, I can only really put my full heart into rooting for the Sox. That’s just where my loyalties lie.

And now I’ve got a craving for more two for one hot dogs—anyone up for a game next week?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Summer Movie Preview

During the summer months, the smartest profession to be is a teacher, since you don’t have to do anything. At all. Seriously, all I’m required to do this summer is go to bed when I feel like it, wake up when I feel like it, and watch a ton movies. On a scale of one to ten, I’d rate summertime for teachers as “frickin’ sweet.”

So while you’re assembling your voodoo dolls of me to stick pins of spite into, read this blog about some of the bigger summer movies I’ve seen so you can either attend them or avoid them, depending on the movie. I’ve had the time to preview them for you, so at least I’m doing something productive for those of you still spending a majority of your time in an office and/or cubicle.

For those of you that haven’t seen one of these flicks and would like to, I promise I’ll keep major spoilers to a minimum. How about this—I’ll only talk about things that could be deduced from the trailers. Deal? Deal.

Knocked Up

Amy and my parents hated this movie, as did a lot of other people because of the profanity-laden dialogue that runs constant over the course of the film. In all honesty, this movie could’ve had about 60-70% less cursing and still been just as funny, but hey, who am I to judge a professional screenplay writer when I’m at home writing a blog?

Actually, I rather enjoyed the film. It had some really funny quips and interchanges I found to be witty, and Kristin Wiig of SNL was absolutely hilarious. If you haven’t seen any of her from Saturday Night Live, you should.

Mostly, though, I think I liked this movie because I’ve followed Judd Apatow’s other TV projects really closely and loved them a lot. “Freaks and Geeks” is still one of my favorite shows of all time, and “Undeclared,” though short-lived, was also really underrated. The best part is that these shows used a lot of the same actors in “Knocked Up,” so it was cool to see them all grown up. Of course because the shows were on network TV instead of big screen, the amount of foul language was minimal, which honestly is my one complaint about Knocked Up. If you can stand it, go for it. If you’re offended by a barrage of F-bombs, stay home.



Evan Almighty

Steve Carell is one of those guys you expect to watch and laugh at unconditionally. Anyone who’s a big follower of “The Office” or “The Daily Show” should know exactly how funny Carell can be. Expecting anything less than hilarious in this movie would be a disservice to him.

But despite Carell being hilarious as Evan Baxter in “Bruce Almighty” opposite Jim Carrey several years ago, “Evan Almighty” really wasn’t that funny. Carell’s character is, strangely, the straight man in this movie, and most of the jokes are Morgan Freeman’s one-liners as God and really unfunny quips by Wanda Sykes’s character.

The movie has its moments, but overall it’s absolutely unhilarious. Meaningful, sweet, and refreshing, but unhilarious. While “Bruce” was a movie for comedy’s sake, “Evan” is a movie for global warming’s sake. There’s a message in this one that’s extremely positive presented in a fun way, but this movie is not a comedy. Don’t go for laughs, go for a pick-me-up and maybe some reflection.

Like I said, I enjoyed the movie, but hardly laughed. Take that for what it’s worth.



Transformers

I know we’re getting out of hand with the ‘80s re-tread movies, but visually, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like this before in my life. The special effects in this movie are on some other worldly level, and that alone is worth the price of admission. That, and Megan Fox is a reasonably attractive young woman.

In terms of plot I wasn’t very moved, and I found the dialogue to be cheesy at times. Extremely cheesy. Limburger, baby. But I say that not having followed Transformers when I was a kid. I knew of Optimus Prime and the Decepticons, and had some friends with a handful of the toys (which were always pretty cool to play with) but I went into this movie not really knowing the deal. For that reason the whole outlay of the movie was pretty unrealistic, but that’s how the story of the Transformers goes I guess.

I’ve heard it said that this movie is 2007’s computer graphic equivalent of Jurassic Park, and I’d call that pretty accurate. JP wasn’t the greatest scripted cinematic achievement of all time, but it revolutionized CGI and made for an extremely entertaining summer blockbuster. Transformers won’t disappoint if you know why you’re going to see it. Optimus Prime isn’t winning a Best Supporting Actor this year or anything, but any time Steven Spielberg is involved you’re probably in for a fun ride, which this one totally was.



Harry Potter 5: The Order of the Phoenix

Shame on you if you still haven’t read these books, but what better way to hype up the seventh and final novel of the series than to release the fifth movie just over a week in advance of Harry’s conclusion?

The movie leaves a couple of hints about that final book if you’re able to catch it before “Deathly Hollows” comes out in about a week, but the real treat of this movie comes in the final battle scene of the movie. Without giving away too much, just know that every Harry Potter movie has given me at least one moment of jaw-droppingness, and the big fight at the end of this one filled that role for me this time around.

Otherwise, this movie will be what you expected—an accurate translation of the book onto the screen. They always do so nicely with these films, and Order of the Phoenix was no different. If they don’t hurry up and film the final two, however, Harry’s going to start getting liver spots and a beer gut. Maggie Smith, the actress who plays Professor McGonogall, looks like she’s 117 years old.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the final book now. It’s been a long wait. Anybody else feel like a nerd for being such eager anticipation for a children’s book? Anybody?



The To-See List

Summer’s not even close to being over, and there are still a number films I’d like to see, though I’m not sure I can justify spending much more money on movies. Some of the ones I’d be interested in seeing before the end of ’07 include (click on the movie titles for trailers):

The Bourne Ultimatum – Before the Bourne movies I never would’ve guessed that Matt Damon would be one of my favorite actors. I love this series and thought “Identity” and “Supremacy” were action movie classics. Can’t wait until August for this.

The Simpsons Movie – What red-blooded American isn’t waiting to go see this when it comes out in a couple weeks? Have you heard about all those 7-Eleven’s that were turned into Kwik-E-Marts? I want one.

License to Wed – It’s got Jim from “The Office,” Robin Williams, and that little Andy Milonakis mini-me, so it’s got to be worth watching. I’m saving this one for DVD, though. It will make a great stay-at-home date movie.

Ratatouille – My brother’s the big computer animation buff (Ice Age is like his favorite movie of all time), but I love Patton Oswalt and think this should be fun. Probably another rental.

American Gangster – A Ridley Scott flick starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe (what Ridley Scott flick doesn’t star Russell Crowe?). It’s not out for a few more months, but if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you should. It looks awesome.

J.J. Abrams’s new untitled movie – This ran before Transformers and Kevin Clark and I had no idea what the heck was going on. The first-person camera thing is cool (but then again, I actually liked the Blair Witch Project), but withholding the title is even more interesting. Any theories, anyone?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Great Student Quotes '07

The beauty of high school students is that they really want to say smart things. Kids say the darndest things and all that, but only when they're seven. When they're fifteen, they try to say super-intelligent things but just end up sounding like goofballs, and it's these innocent mistakes that cracks me up so much about high schoolers. God bless them, I love these kids, but you can't help but laugh at some of the things that come out of their mouths...

(When you see reference to "Becky," she's another teacher I work with who also keeps track of silly quotes. Hers were too good not to share, as well.)

Me: “Do you guys know what capiche means?”
Avvetta: “Isn’t that like, something Jewish?”

Jeremy: “Yeah, well at least my handwriting is eligible.”
Hailey: “You mean legible, you moron.”

Some quotes from Becky’s Columbus papers:

“The whole time he was trying to reach India, and actually landed in the Bahamas. From my personal knowledge, it seems like the Bahamas and India may have very different geographical features."

"I think he liked history because he lived a long time ago."

"The chain represents the people he tortured. It represents everyone who suffered for him. All the people he beat sensually just for the heck of it."

"He is from over seas in England such as Great Britian."

"He seems to be interrupted from his work by an uncooperative wig."

Landon (trying to think of a flattering compliment for a woman in a Shakespeare exercise about wooing): “You are as beautiful as my Snap-On tools.”

Me: “And whoever makes the best booklet, both in visual loveliness and in the quality of sentences, will win a cool prize.”
Aaron: “Is it actually something cool, or is it cool in the way that your mom says, ‘Hey, I’ve got this really nice girl I want you to meet. She’s got a really good personality.’ ”

“All the students were very worried about their big testes on Friday.”
- An honest mistake. I think she meant “tests.” At least I hope she meant “tests.”

“Timothy Treadwell tried to prove that bears have a genital side.”
- Freudian slip from an English 2 paper about the Grizzly Man.

Me: “Avoid using clichés in your poems. Do you know what a cliché is?”
Nicole Price: “Isn’t that like when people pull out their swords, they say Cliché!
Dylan Phelps: “No, Nicole, that’s touché.”

Christian, in the midst of setting up a Dada (art that purposefully has no purpose) sculpture for class: “This thing doesn’t even have a point.”
Me: “That’s the point—it’s not supposed to have a point. That’s what Dada is.”
Christian: “Yeah, but there’s not even a not-theme to it.”

Me, trying to help a student: “Okay, what does a musician do?”
Nicole: “Magic tricks?”
Me, sighing: “No, that’s a magician.”

“When I went into the superhero business I needed an alias, but my mind was blank. So I asked my mom and she suggested Rampage.”
- One student talking about a superhero character he created; I wonder if Superman’s mom picked out his name, too?

Nicole: “Do step-sisters count as siblings?”
Me: “Yes.”
Nicole: “Do dogs count?”
Me: “No.”

“Is Madagascar by China?”
- Overhearing a student asking a question in a classroom as I roamed the hallways during my prep time.

Some failed similes and metaphors by my creative writing students:

“You are like a tape worm, because you eat all of my food.”
“You are like a fat guy, because you are so lazy.”
“You are strong, because you work out.”
“You are dumb, because you don’t study or try.”
- Ryan

“You are a wizard, always surprising and you go to Hogwarts and all that.”
“Like State Farm, you are always there.”
“You are a VCR, hard to program, but you record FOX.”
- Brooks

Kandace Blake: “Where is Virginia Beach? Like, what state is it in?”

“Transcendentalists still exist today. There are many, like the conversationalists, who protect lands so that companies won’t knock the trees down.”
- Garrett, on chatty environmentalists

Q: What is the purpose of the Berlin Wall?
A: To separate England and China
- An old question on one of Becky’s cultural literacy quizzes.

A question on a worksheet I handed out to go along with a documentary about slavery: “What do you notice about the way the slaves talk in the movie?”
Derrick’s answer: “The slaves all talked about work, and their English ain’t very good.”

“I thought there were only 24 words in the alphabet?”
- Hailley. Oh Dear Lord.

Me: “Here, the slave mother says that her blood was coursing through the boy’s veins; what do you think she means by that?”
Travis: “Did the kid get a transfusion?”

Hailley: “Mr. Brigham, can my character be a black person who got kicked out of her home for the Trail of Tears?”
Me: “That idea is fine, but there weren’t any black people on the Trail of Tears. They were Indians.”
Hailley: “Indians aren’t black people?”

“Haikus are awesome,
But sometimes they don’t make sense.
Refrigerator.”
- One of Landon’s many witty t-shirts

“I’m lactose intolerant; I don’t eat meat.”
- Billy

***

Yup, I'm going to miss these kids. Have a great summer everybody!

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Sex Screamers

Raise your hand if you enjoy listening to strangers make loud, guttural sex noises as clearly as if it were a digitally re-mastered track sold on iTunes for 99 cents.

No? Anybody?

Not surprising, especially considering “listening to strangers make loud, guttural sex noises” ranks just below someone vomiting and just above teenagers whining, It’s not fair on most people’s List of Annoying Sounds. Unfortunately, I have been living with these noises for six months. It’s what I fall asleep to most nights. Like a twisted pornographic lullaby.

You’re wondering how this is possible. My neighbors in the apartment above are a frisky 50-something rock ‘n’ roll couple with a penchant for classic rock loud enough to register on a Richter Scale and, of course, the all-hours love-making. Little did they know that one day they would get what was coming to them. Now this day is quickly arriving, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, you need the details of this situation to fully appreciate the depth of Kyle’s and my frustration.

There was one night, for example, when Kyle was rousted from sleep to the tune of “Witchy Woman” by the Eagles, which repeated at full volume three our four times at midnight on a Thursday before finally switching to something else, which was no quieter.

There have been times when I’ve fallen soundly asleep, only to wake up to the woman above literally screaming in the heat of whatever it is they’re doing up there. She sounds exactly like a tornado siren. This is not an exaggeration.

I’ve also been shaken from slumber as early as 4:30 a.m. to the exact same noise, which in that deep a sleep can be frightening. You know how when you fall asleep while watching a DVD, then the menu eventually pops back up and cycles the same thirty-second clip of music over and over again, then that music eventually becomes the soundtrack to whatever dream it is that you’re having? Imagine that, but instead of soft legato violins, the sounds worming their way into your noggin are passionate moans and screams. I’m telling you, these were not pleasant dreams.

The music upstairs is almost as ridiculous, as the male occupant, slightly unshaven, adorned with a small gold earring in one ear, and covered in leathery skin (an obvious rocker in his day) can literally rock out non-stop for hours without a single break in the music. Throw in the occasional visit from the grandkids (who I assume were born with freakish elephant feet for the way they stomp around up there), and you’ve got a pretty frustrating situation.

I know I shouldn’t complain, especially considering that when I lived at Ironwood the kid below me came to visit literally daily to tell me I was stomping around above him, waking him from sleep and keeping him from studying, etc… But the difference here is that I actually tried to accommodate him. For months I don’t think the heel of my foot touched the carpet in that apartment a single time.

Still, though, every day he’d saunter up, knock on my door, and tell me it sounded like thunder was coming from his ceiling. I swear to you I was trying; he was just extra-sensitive.

I, however, contend that I am NOT extra-sensitive, and that these people are NOT trying to better the situation. They received five—FIVE—letters of warning from the Brookridge offices asking them to keep down the music and the sex, please. The fifth one even said something to the tune of “You have ten days to comply or you will be evicted from the premises.”

Four days later it all happened again, for the eight-thousandth time, and that was that. Eviction notice. Hip, hip…

Hooray!

This happened on Saturday, then, “You have ten days to move out because you’re jerks and nobody likes you.” The man, who reportedly has hidden said notices from wifey in the past, called the offices today and said, “We really don’t want to move. We promise we’ll never do it again. Can we please have a second chance?”

So I get a call from the offices today asking me if I believe the Sex Screamers (my affectionate nickname for them) deserve this second chance.

At first Kyle and I both had the same feeling—maybe he really will be good this time and the frustration and sleepless nights will end once and for all. Then we quickly realized that this is exactly how abused spouses manage to talk themselves out of leaving their husbands.

With that in mind, I told the friendly people at the Brookridge office that they should stand behind their eviction notice. These people were warned fairly and given plenty of opportunities to behave themselves, yet they still chose to make life miserable for us. There are consequences in this world for making the choices we make, and sometimes that includes eviction.

I asked the woman at the office how many people are set free on that “To Catch a Predator” show, even though they swear they’ll never do it again? I asked her what kind of precedent it would set in their complex to evict someone, only to immediately rescind the eviction because the people promised to be better. Why couldn’t they have gotten better after warnings one through five?

In other words, it’s over. They’re being asked to move out, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve had too few good nights’ sleeps in this apartment, and now I’m anxious to remember what R.E.M sleep feels like. I bet it’s orgasmic. Almost worth screaming over. But not quite.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My Soundtrack

Once every month of Sundays I give my students an assignment that makes me wish I could’ve had me as a teacher in high school. Please don’t read this as an arrogant statement; I would never under any circumstances want to teach me because I’ve had students who reminded me very much of myself at that age, and they’ve driven me bonkers. No, I’d hate me as a student. What I really mean is that I’m a huge nerd who occasionally does his own assignments.

In this case, I gave my Creative Writing students the task of arranging the soundtracks for their lives, giving them a few guidelines and basically free reign too narrate their lives with whatever music was most important and meaningful to them.

The idea behind this is that music has a way of bringing you back to a different epoch of your life. Oh come on, you know how it is, digging through your closet and finding that box of tapes you spent hours by the radio assembling by recording your favorite songs straight from the broadcast. It’s exactly the reason why couples pick specific ditties for their weddings, because of the feelings and memories certain music immediately invokes.

So I did it, too, even providing links to the music so you can listen to it and try to hear what I hear. If you care, that is…

Boyz II Men, “On Bended Knee”

You’re at a junior high dance, and scores of burgeoning adolescents have separated themselves according to gender in a dark gym dampened with the humid, sweaty air of active pre-pubescents. For me this time occurred in the mid-90s, so the music playing is pretty diverse, ranging from Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” to Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It,” and up to this point in the evening I’ve had a very nice time doing a manly mosh-pit ballet with my guy friends and just sitting out the slow ones.

I spent most of junior high sans girlfriend, partly because I was a huge wuss and partly because the girl I liked always had some beau on her arm. Mostly because I was a huge wuss, though. Despite that, I built up the nerve at one dance to ask this girl to dance, even though her card was pretty much full every other dance I’d been to that year. I want to say it was seventh grade, but I don’t exactly recall. All I remember is Boyz II Men’s “On Bended Knee” blaring sweetly over the speaker system and me dancing about three feet away with the girl of my dreams, fingertips resting slightly on her hips, her hands laying platonically on my shoulders. It felt like heaven.

Then again, I was twelve, experiencing hormones for the first time, so even a simple brush in the hallway from a member of the opposite sex was heaven. Take that for what it’s worth, I suppose. The song still feels magical to me, if only because it reminds of what puppy love feels like. Things get so much more complex when you’re an adult, so to have things be as simple as they were back then, even if just for the duration of one song, is a pleasant stroll through yesterday.



Nine Days, “If I Am”

Speaking of more complicated love, this one pretty much represents all the horrible, horrible luck I had the wiles of the heart during my tenure at Illinois Wesleyan University. Things did not go well for me there as far as the ladies were concerned, and I somehow managed to get my heart broken time and time again. This, in case you hadn’t already guessed, sucked immensely.

Somehow this song managed to both cheer me up and bathe in sorrow and dejection with me, and to this day I couldn’t tell you if the lyrics to this song are about a guy who refuses to give up on the girl of his dreams, or a guy who tried dating the girl with his dreams, screwed it up, and is now mourning over the blown opportunity knowing he’ll never get how badly he fumbled the whole ordeal. I was able to use the song for both as I went through all kinds of 18- and 19-year-old drama.

There was, for example, the time I foolishly told a girl I really cared about that I had feelings for despite the fact she was dating someone else (and had been for some time). Luckily for me, things went sour with Other Guy, and said girl relayed mutual feelings for me, which at the time made me feel as though I were filled with awesome. Shortly thereafter, however, she decided to give Other Guy a second chance, leaving me in the dust with a shattered heart.

From there I dated the girl that went home for a weekend and did the dirty with an ex-boyfriend, which was bad. Then there was the girl I dated only because she really liked me, and she ended up getting really hurt because I failed to deal with it properly. Also bad. There was the girl I dated long-distance for way too long, who, as it turns out, was the paradigm of The Wrong Girl for Joel. Bad, bad, bad.

And then, as a senior, I busted out this song and remembered the girl from freshmen year wondered what if would’ve been like had we dated, which ended up working out briefly, and then not working out shortly thereafter, leaving me in a bit of an emotional tissy. In retrospect, I look at this song and hear the line, “Never let the sun set on tomorrow before the sun rises today” and still see the wisdom in it. That little line, and this little tune, really got me through a lot of bad luck with my previous gal-pals.



Frou Frou, “Let Go”

At the end of that senior year of school I was pretty much at my low point in terms of self-confidence. I’ve never been a guy who gets too down on himself since I usually have a lot of good things going on, but in that last month or two of my college career there were no indications that my life would be of much value to anyone outside of my immediate family and closest friends.

The girl problems speak for themselves, but I was also spending something like five hours a day researching William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” for my senior seminar research paper. I felt no passion towards this subject and found the days long and grueling. There’s nothing worse than writing 35 pages about a topic you have less interest in than something like snail respiratory systems or igneous rock structures in dry, temperate regions of coastal South Africa. Plus, I knew I’d never publish it, so my audience was my professor at the time, who thankfully, mercifully, awarded me a “B” on a paper with less passion than a Sanjaya Malakar performance on “American Idol.”

Worst of all, I think, was that I couldn’t seem to secure a job in the teaching profession, despite several interviews, many of which got me very close to employment, but none of which took me the whole way. We’re talking like ten of these things where I’m driving hours to chat with administrators and potential colleagues, only to get a callback within days to tell me I didn’t get the job. Let me tell ya, the more job interviews you fail to nail, the more you feel like a giant D-bag. And that’s what I felt like in the spring of 2004. A giant bag of D.

Which is where this song comes in. The line du jour here is, “There’s beauty in breakdown,” and I eventually got to a point where I didn’t care if my life had direction or not, or if I’d be a contributing part of American society. I just wanted to take my failures, throw them into my bag of life experience, and start having fun again. So with a month left before graduation, thanks to some very good friends, I got myself back on track and started really feeling happy again. It might be a little cornball, but this song always makes me think of feeling so insecure, but it also makes me think of the sunrays I started to feel towards the end of that era of my life.



Dave Barnes, “Night Like This”

The story today ends here, with this gorgeous song by Dave Barnes. It’s only a couple of minutes long, but it just makes me think of those first few times I slow-danced with Amy, and how it got my heart beating with the same intensity as it did when I was twelve years old with Boyz II Men serenading the gym at the Friday sock-hop.

The smoothness of Barnes’s voice and the gentleness of the piano really make this song a true ballad, and when I hear it I feel all the love in the world for the girl at the end of a really stressful and uncertain journey. Of course when I slow dance now, I do so a little closer than I did in seventh grade, and even though the girl’s dance card is still full, this time it’s filled top to bottom with my name.

All things considered—ALL things considered—I’m a pretty lucky dude.



(Note about the clip here: The best quality version of this song I could find is laced over a montage from "The Office," though I promise I loved the song long before this fabulous show debuted, and my love for it has nothing to do with my love for the show.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Of Baseball and Bunnies

I couldn’t help but notice how little fanfare Easter Sunday had this year, and it made me think about how reared up I used to get over the inevitability of oodles of candy on Easter Eve, barely sleeping in anticipation of what The Bunny was going to bring me. Chocolate has never really been my thing, but I have distinct memories of coveting Cadbury Cream Eggs, which just looked delicious on TV (remember the clucking rabbit?) but as I’d find out as an adult, are essentially like eating three pounds of solid fudge and caramel.

Anyway, with the thunder stripped from the big spring childhood holiday, I have to find my adult excitement in other avenues. Like the start of baseball season.

Sports have unofficially become the new Christmas/Easter for me, as I lose more sleep the nigh before the White Sox opening day or the night before the NBA draft than I do on December 24th or June 15th (the night before my birthday). What were once important “me” days have gone from being uber-exciting to being about as entertaining as watching a ceiling fan make its turns.

So my “me” days come in the form of White Sox and Bulls games these days, with by Bullies making a strong push for a high playoff seed, and the Sox getting off the ground in the league’s toughest division to try and make me as happy as they did two years ago when they won The Series. (You’ll notice the Bears are absent from my happy time list right now because I’m refusing to have even one football conversation before the draft. I need time to heal.)

The problem with baseball season starting in April is that it makes me antsy for the summer, even though the summer is still two months away for me. I suppose that’s better than all of you out there who are still working from June to August, but try and sympathize here for a minute.

Baseball season also brings to mind the Benedict Arnold I once knew as my sister, Jenna, who since attending DePaul and moving about a mile north of Wrigley Field on Sheridan Avenue, has shunned everything we Brighams stand for and aligned with Cubs Nation. It’s worse than when Nina on “24” turned out to be bad and betrayed Jack Bauer, but then Jack later kept having to face her anyway. My sister is a Cubs fan, and it breaks my heart, but what can you do?

The sad thing is that the Cubs might actually have a better shot at making the playoffs this year than the White Sox do. Where the Sox play in a freakishly difficult division, the Cubs’ is the most posh in the majors. New management, tons of money spent, and a removal from under the thumb of the Tribune Company all will do that team well. Which pisses me off.

Meanwhile, the Sox are off to a 2-3 start and are as frustrating as ever. That’s the thing with sports—they bring you up, then they tear you down. I don’t remember Santa Claus ever doing that, but I suppose that’s kind of how sugar highs work on Easter Morning. See, baseball is like the holidays!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Chicago Hilton

Let me tell you one of the simple, basic truths about the relationship between NBA players and the media: they don’t particularly enjoy talking with us, not usually at least.

It’s a fact that has pretty much shown itself to be true over the fifteen or so Chicago Bulls games I’ve attended this season, and over all the professional basketball players I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with. Don’t get it twisted; there are a lot of really nice guys in the league: Jermaine O’Neal, Derek Fisher, P.J. Brown, and the story I’m about to tell you is about one of those really nice guys.

But there are a ton of players who are either just too busy to chat with media, or who don’t have the necessary charisma and patience to conduct a cordial interview with me. Of course, if I was rich and/or famous, the novelty of it all would probably wear off very quickly and I’d grow bored and impatient with reporters, too. Can’t blame them, I guess.

The point is that usually I feel like I’m imposing on a player when I ask for a few minutes of his time before the game, just to chat a little so I can meet my needs for the company I work for. Last night, when I covered the Bulls-Hornets game, I had one of my best interviewing experiences of my young sports journalism career.

The way I do things is by first heading into the visitor’s locker room, since I can interview the Bulls whenever I want and only get a chance to see the guests maybe once the whole season. In this case it was the New Orleans Hornets, an extremely young team on the cusp of playoff contention in the Western Conference. They’ve got their studs—a former rookie of the year, a dunk contest winner, and so on…

But the team also has a couple of rookies on the squad, one of whom a college teammate of Ben Gordon named Hilton Armstrong, so I had him on my list of guys to chat with. I generally enjoy talking to rookies because they don’t have that cocky feeling of entitlement yet, so they’re pretty easy-going about interviews. It’s all still pretty new, so they’re excited. Plus, they’re younger than me, unlike most of the other guys I talk to, so I end up feeling like I’m in the driver’s seat, which is a nice change of pace. Makes me less nervous.

Anyway, Hilton’s this huge kid, kind of lanky with a baby face, and I caught him chatting with a couple of teammates as I moseyed into the visitors’ locker room. I said what I always said when I initiate contact, “What’s going on man? Joel Brigham, nice to meet you. Got time for a few questions?”

To my surprise, however, Mr. Armstrong looked at me with an flabbergasted expression and gave me a rather unexpected response: “No one’s ever interviewed me yet.”

I sort of laughed, thinking he was feeding me a load of crap because come on, we’re 2/3 of the way through the season, this kid’s a lottery pick, and no one’s talked him at a game? But then I started to think about it. The kid hardly plays at all, he’s averaging something like 3 points a game, and with all the other media darlings and stud muffins on the team, I very much doubt he’s someone the Oklahoma City papers are dying to track down.

He’s just sitting in his spinny ergonomic chair looking at me like a little kid who’s just heard his father say, “Hey sport! I’ve got a surprise for you!” He’s giving me that “What is it?!” look.

So I conduct the interview, and though his answers were pretty stock and not particularly enlightening, he answered every single one of them with the fervor of a first-time interviewee. He was in the moment, loving every second of it, and I had a really nice time watching him love it.

See, so much of this sports writing this is hurried and cut-throat and political and fast, that it can surely be frustrating at times (as all jobs can be), but it was in this little poetic moment that I found a moment of peace. Just to think how cordial this young man was, how excited he was to be interviewed. He didn’t even get into the game last night, but at least in one way it was a special night for him.

I guess it’s the teacher in me to have found this so nice, but it was a cool thing. I wish more of this was like that, but I can assure you that Kevin Garnett was nowhere near as nice. Confident, funny, and informative, but not particularly nice. Like I said, though, if you’ve been that famous that long, you don’t have to be.

When you’re a rookie getting hardly any playing time, you do. And Hilton Armstrong was.

Hoopsworld.com interview with Hilton Armstrong

Monday, February 26, 2007

Top Ten Unconditionally Funny Characters from TV and Film

I was sitting on Amy’s couch the other night watching South Park, and because of Eric Cartman I found myself laughing uncontrollably for about ten straight minutes. By the time the commercial break finally hit I was light-headed from breathing so frantically and gasping for air in between muffled chortles. Amy, I think, just was going under the assumption that I had flipped out and turned simple on her.

But I didn’t turn simple, I was just happy because that’s what Cartman does to me. He’s such an unapologetic prick trying to act so mature, yet falling so completely short. I wouldn’t want that kind of kid in my life, but my goodness is he funny to watch on television.

It got me thinking about other TV/movie characters that make me laugh frenziedly for the duration of their time on their screen. Like the chorus of a good song, or the dessert after a good meal, I find myself desiring the company of these characters, waiting on baited breath for the time that they finally pop onto the screen and deliver their hysterical lines. The following is a list of my Top Ten Unconditionally Funny Characters from TV and Film, and you best believe Cartman’s on it…

***Warning*** Some of these clips contain adult language. Parental discretion is advised. Clips that are not safe for work will be labeled “NSFW.” Enjoy the clips!

10. Fez, “That ‘70s Show”

In real life, Wilmer Valderrama is about as funny as drying wallpaper glue, and to prove this I submit his gig hosting that crappy MTV show with all the “yo mama” jokes, in which he basically hops around like a jumping bean on Flubber yelling inaudible retorts like “Oh snap!” etc.

On “That ‘70s Show,” however, Valderrama rocks the house as foreign exchange student Fez, whose ignorance of American culture and broken English combine for some extremely funny moments on the show. It’s a great sitcom on it’s own, but there’s hardly anything funnier than when Fez calls someone a “son-of-a-bitch” in his rapid-fire accent.



9. Vince Vaughn, “Swingers”

Vaughn, in my opinion, is the successor to Dennis Miller as the King of the Rant. He goes off on these never-ending, angst-laden tirades about all kinds of things, and it’s the anger, the fast talking, and random details thrown into the fray that make what he says so funny. He goes so quickly sometimes that it takes a minute for the rant to register and for the jokes to really set in.

He’s got his moments in “The Wedding Crashers” and “The Breakup,” but probably my favorite Vince Vaughn performance is in “Swingers.” The Vegas pep talk, his trailer park re-hashing of an acting gig he failed to nail, and the NHL ’94 match at a buddy’s place are all Vaughn classics. They’re all laced with “F-bombs,” but hilarious once you get past all the profanity.

Then again, what’s so wrong with profanity? NSFW.



8. Rod Farva, “Super Troopers”

“Super Troopers” is kind of a cult movie hit made by the same group of guys that recently put out “Beerfest.” However, where “Beerfest” is tailored almost exclusively to a college, alcohol-obsessed audience, “Super Troopers” is a little more diverse, and a little more timeless. Plus, it stars Brian Cox—a real, live, credible actor—as the highway patrol captain, so it’s got to be good, right?

Farva is sort of the idiot guy on the squad—a meathead cop who is part of the profession for all the right reasons, which is part of why the other lazier guys hate him so much. However, Farva has a really short temper, which leads him into all kinds of ridiculous predicaments, including one ambiguous incident involving a school bus full of children. The “Large Farva” scene below is cult comedy classic. NSFW.



7. Gary Busey

An underrated comedic genius/completely insane person, Busey starred in a show for Comedy Central early in my college career called “I’m with Busey.” The premise revolved around a completely nerdy kid named Adam learning life lessons from one of the battiest people on the face of the planet.

Most of the show was improvised, and these two guys had real chemistry together, but unfortunately I can find no video from the show, no DVD for sale, not even a stinkin’ audio clip. You’ll just have to trust me that it was extraordinary. If you’re dying to see for yourself, and you can get a hold of the “Entourage” DVD’s, there’s an episode in which Busey almost kills Turtle for breaking a piece of Busey’s weird art. The man is completely cocked, which is fabulous, because it also means he’s funny.

6. Sarah Silverman

Noticeably the only woman on my list, because she’s probably the only female comic in the entire world who makes me laugh. My girlfriend Amy is funny, I have a friend from college named Ashley who’s always been a big hoot, and then there’s Sarah Silverman. Outside of those three, I feel like women’s humor is too tailored towards other women for me, a manly man, to fully appreciate it.

I’ve always found Silverman to be a riot, making her much more attractive than she actually is, and her new show, “The Sarah Silverman Programme” is genuinely hilarious. (Ex - In talking to a class of first graders about AIDS awareness, she says, “You think you’re invincible, huh? I was that way once. I knew it all! Nothing could touch me! Sure, I did some drinkin’, some druggin’, tried it in the butt one or nine times. Just have fun. Or so I thought…”). Who knows how long the show will last on the air, but the gal’s got a gift. A special, special gift.



5. Dwight Schrute, “The Office”

It’s hard to choose only one representative from the office because Michael Scott (Steve Carrel’s character) is also one that makes me laugh with regularity. However, I think Dwight’s here instead of the World’s Best Boss because Dwight’s on screen with less frequency, so I miss him more.

Rainn Wilson (the actor that plays Dwight) said once that “There’s a lot of comedy in taking yourself too seriously,” which is exactly the kind of character Dwight is. He’s tough guns, loves what he does, and truly believes he’s superior to everyone else in every possible way. He’s also extremely gullible, making Pam and Jim’s prank scenes that much more pleasant.



4. Tobias Funke, “Arrested Development”

Since “Arrested Development” is my favorite show of all time, I could list almost anyone in the cast. GOB is a favorite, as is Buster, but Tobias is the guy that gets me tittering with more habitually than anybody else. He’s a former psychiatrist who quits the medical profession to pursue an acting career. Going nowhere under the tutelage of Carl Weathers (of “Happy Gilmore” fame), he drives his wife and daughter absolutely mad with his constant failures. He truly sucks at acting, which makes for some entertaining auditions (also that he sends studios headshots marked with his own lipstick kisses in bags filled with glitter and confetti—just one of many vague hints that Tobias is a homosexual).

He then later tries to join the Blue Man Group to no avail, but for the rest of the show’s life you can see blue body paint in the background on pretty much every wall and major appliance in the house. It’s the small things like that which make “AD” the greatest of all time. If you haven’t watched this show yet, you must. You absolutely must.



3. Jiminy Glick

Martin Short’s still got it in so many ways, but none of his characters has been more enjoyable than faux talk-show host Jiminy Glick. Glick is a fatso who drives the interviews more towards discussion about himself than towards the celebrities he’s working with (Stephen Colbert basically ripped off and watered down this interviewing style for the “Colbert Report,” which is coincidentally one of the funniest shows currently on television). He’ll rip on his guests, mispronounce their names, and go on wild, off-the-cuff tangents that last for minutes at a time.

Some of the guests play along, some get angry, and some can’t help but laugh the entire time. No matter how you shake it, it’s high-shelf humor. Some of the best you can get.

VIDEO LINK HERE

2. Ali G

The world’s on a bit of a Borat trip right now, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s best character is that of Ali G, an idiot gangster wannabe from a suburb in England who somehow manages big-time interviews with people in high political and social standing. The interviews are always very well-planned, as Ali G asks only questions certain to rile up or confuse the person he’s interviewing. In one instance I swear Andy Rooney was going to kill him. You almost feel sorry for the guests because they try so hard to explain things rationally to Ali G, but he’s just not rational. Not at all.

But irrationality leads to great fun, and nearly every single Ali G interview is a scream the whole way through.



1. Cartman, “South Park”

When I started writing this I had no idea who’d be my number one, but I guess it all comes back to Eric Cartman of “South Park.” He’s my fave for the reasons listed above, and I guess it’s just because I never grow tired of him. The show’s been on for years, and I have yet to tire of the fat little jerk. But that’s how great comedy is supposed to work, right? Timeless… NSFW.

So there you go! Comedy at its best, people! Who is ranked too high? To low? Who was left off of the list entirely (because I’m sure I’m forgetting somebody)? Hopefully, at the very least, you got a few laughs at home or at work, because let’s face it: We all need a giggle here and there, even if laughing at the evil of Eric Cartman feels totally wrong. If finding this stuff funny is wrong, then baby, I don’t want to be right.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Colors of the World

So I found out late last week that I have a neurological disorder. Cool, huh!

I’ve tried explaining this weird thing my brain does probably a million times, and every time I do people end up looking at me like a freshly-shorn Britney Spears. But it’s completely true; there’s something special going on in my noggin. I swear I’m not making any of this up.

I should probably first clear up the fact that although this thing I’ve got—technically referred to as synesthesia—classifies under the category of “neurological disorder,” there’s nothing unhealthy about my brain. What I’ve got is no more or less than dangerous than color blindness or perfect pitch.

With that little caveat taken care of, allow me to delve into what exactly this whole phenomenon is (which might be hard because I’ve never written about this before).

I see/associate colors with absolutely everything—days of the week, letters in the alphabet, numbers, personalities, rooms, temperatures, music, names, and even situations. Before I figured out that these were called synesthesiae, I always called them “auras,” because there are literally colors enveloping everything I see, hear, and experience.

These colors aren’t physically there; so I don’t look at a person and actually see red or blue around their bodies, but in my mind’s eye, and in my gut, that person feels red or blue (or yellow or green or whatever). People have colors, and those who I know better and are more comfortable around tend to be warm colors like red, orange, or yellow, and those I do not know as well, or with whom I’m not as easy around, I tend to feel green or blue.

With music, more upbeat, full-sounding songs are warm. The more I like it, and the more it energizes me, the closer to red the aura is. Ballads are without fail a cool color, and the more emotional the song makes me feel, the closer to blue it will be.

Letters are a crapshoot, but every character has a color. Red always seems to be for things I like most, and as a result the red letters are B, R, M, and J. It’s probably no coincidence that these are the dominant consonant sounds in my own name.

Days the week and months of the year are wrought with color, too. Some make sense (October is orange, November is brown), while others seem to have no real rhyme or reason (April is yellow, June red).

In school I always used my colors to help with me things like tests. For example, I’d tackle multiple choice questions by lining up possible answers with the question until the colors matched. I’ve always studied for tests, but it was this method that made me absolutely sure even more so than just knowing the answer. I knew the answer because the colors were right, if that makes any sense. I guess it kind of worked like photographic memory.

I’ve also let color dictate a lot of my social interactions as well. If a party had a bad, weak, or muddy color, I wouldn’t go. If it were vibrant and warm, I’d be there. Bars around town that have cool colors associated with them are ones I tend to steer clear from, and ones that are warm are more enjoyable for me. I even had a couple of instances in high school where a situation felt great (red), but would change colors very quickly, so I’d bolt. Sure enough, Gates (who I’d be roaming the halls with during homeroom) would get caught doing something stupid minutes after I headed back to class. He called me “Angel” because I managed to do this so many times over our homeroom wandering careers.

It’s definitely made my life simpler, and it’s also why I enjoy simple organizational tasks. It’s sort of like fung shui, but actually based off of real feelings that I’ve got, and not some stupid commercial book that tells you were to put stuff (some of their suggestions I agree with, others not).

I probably don’t sound any less crazy than before I started writing this, but I swear that synesthesia is a real thing. See, even MIT acknowledges it! Besides, you shouldn’t call me crazy. I’ll use my super powers on you and douse you in magical colors. Mwoohahahaha!

Sorry. That was just the neurological disorder talking.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

So Refreshing

In the category of live musical performances, this one was certainly… unique. I’ve got Kyle to thank for the tickets, since he’s able to get his hands on pretty much anything he wants here in Bloomington-Normal through his connections with the radio stations. They provide him with promotional access to everything—John Mayer this weekend, Ron White last week(had to turn that one down), and tonight, it was Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

I’ve been to my fair share of rock concerts over the years—the kind where you go in with perfect hearing and healthy ear drums, and come out with the auditory freshness of a 90-year old war vet with his Beltone turned all the way down. I’ve also been to a handful of rap concerts, which are about as musically enriching as a symphony of garbage can lids being knocked over by cats in a dark alley.

These concert experiences (for the most part) have been energetic, flashy, and commercial, but there’s no real substance to them. Kids aren’t going to these shows to hear a prophetic artist speak his/her mind on a controversial subject, or to spread peace and love to the people sharing the music with them. Quite the contrary, actually—most rock concerts involve a thrashing throng of inebriated teens with tattoos and pink Mohawks whose main objective is to sever any flailing limb within a ten-foot radius of their bodies.

Mambazo, however, was peaceful and positive and uplifting. The group is based in South Africa, and was started by a man 46 years ago who literally dreamt the harmonies that would become his group’s signature style. Now the man’s an ordained minister and professor of music with 12 Grammy nominations and appearances at Nobel peace ceremonies.

The music itself is a droning meditation of harmonies and African improvisations. The songs are about the condition of the world, and what all of us can do to help make it better. Smiling and waving with both hands throughout the concert, the singers seem like genuinely nice people. To be truthful, I would absolutely love to hang out with the fellers from Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I have no doubt it’d be a night for the ages.

I’m not saying I’m going to burn all my Incubus albums or anything, but tonight’s show was a different kind of musical experience—one that took me to a new place. I’m too tired at this hour of the night to really give it much deeper thought than this, but I know I enjoyed it thoroughly and plan to resurrect the Paul Simon “Graceland” CD to get the rest of my fill of these guys.

Just remember that even though the general state of modern popular music is in serious decline, there’s still some worthwhile positive stuff out there. At the very least, you’ve got to love that old Life Savers commercial they did, right?

"So refreshing…"

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Following the Trail Wherever It Leads

So I’ve spent the better part of the last two days’ lunch hours playing a little game you might have heard of—it’s a little something I like to call “The Oregon Trail.”

As I child I remember playing this game at school (along with the also fantastic “Number Munchers”) with absolutely zero success. To be completely honest with you, I can’t remember a single childhood incident that involves me getting to Oregon. I couldn’t have even told you what the “Congratulations, You Win the Oregon Trail” screen even looked like, though I’m guessing there’s some Champaign involved, and maybe some dancing bikini models in fabulous 8-bit color graphics.

That said, the game’s journey was oddly entertaining despite its sober simplicity and complete lack of anything exciting or flashy. The highlight of the game is the “hunting” option, in which you fire little bullets at albino deer and buffalo. The only problem is if you shot a particularly large animal you could never carry all the food back with you in the wagon for some reason. It’s a state law; you can look it up.

Another of the game’s personalized options tickled me to no end, as your wagon-mates could be named after anybody you want. I always got a kick out of seeing in what fashion my dearest friends would die: “Sam got dysentery!” or “Patrick has cholera!” There was also some enjoyment to be had in typing monikers for human waste instead of people’s names, a la “poop” and “boogers.” These were truly the prime years of my life.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that as an adult, I finally beat the stupid game. Apparently there are little things you can tweak during your journey to insure a safer passage through the mountains, etc… With a little more practice, I could be the best.

So watch your backs all you eight-year olds out there who think you’ve got something to prove. Mr. Joel Brigham is coming through town to rough you up, show you how it’s done. I’ve even brought my posse with me: Sam, Patrick, Boogers, and Poop.

Prepare to meet your demise, you stupid trail.

***

If you haven't already, check out my friends' satirical news website, The Giant Napkin. They do really funny stuff, and I recently started helping (just an iddy bitty bit) write some stuff. I won't tell you which is mine, but I will say that Chase Thunder has been a great friend to me. I love that kid.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I'm Gonna Blow Your Mind

Over the course of the last couple weeks, there have been several times in which I’ve had to stop and regroup because my mind has been blown.

Now, I blow my students’ minds all the time in American Literature class by droppin’ knowledge on these foo’s like bombs on Nagasaki. I break it down how Chris Columbus cut off people’s ears and hands for not providing enough gold—how he and his crew made things so miserable for the native tribes living on the Caribbean Islands at the time that pregnant women would either crudely abort or abandon newborns in attempts to flee slave catchers.

Or I’ll fill them in about how some irresponsible Jamestown colonists wasted the planting season searching for gold, and as a result had to either sell themselves to Indian families as servants, or in some extreme cases were forced to dig up and cannibalize recent corpses to fill their hungered bellies.

But that’s the knowledge I impart upon them. The following was information bestowed upon me.

1. If ingested by a small child, Purell hand sanitizer can be absolutely lethal. This anti-bacterial gel is great for dissolving germs and their other evil contaminated cronies, but it’s 63% alcohol. That’s well over 120 proof, people. To put that into perspective, a beer is usually somewhere between 4.5% and 6%.

I learned about this reading a story about a two-year old child who was discovered by his mother in the bathroom with the sterile scent of Purell upon thine breath. The kid's eyes were all glassed over and he kept falling down, so mom took him to the emergency room. His blood-alcohol level was 1.0 (Adults can’t legally drive with anything higher than 0.8). Poor kid was hammered.

He didn’t die (though I bet the hand sanitizer hangover made him wish he had), but the doctor said he could have if more had been ingested. How much did the kid actually get into his system? About an ounce. Looks like the idiots that throw the occasional Nyquil party to get wasted have found a new Jungle Juice: 1 part orange juice, 1 part purple Kool-Aid, 1 part Purell hand sanitizer.

2. We all know about Komodo Dragons—those giant lizards inching closer and closer to extinction as the years roll on and they become less and less common in the wild. Well, somewhere in England a Komodo Dragon recently gave birth to five little goombas without ever having come into contact with a male of her species!

I have this vision of a giant lizard angel wearing a white robe with dragon wings and a halo giving a vision of God to the virgin Komodo. “Be not afraid,” the reptilian angel would say. “You will bear the five children of our lizard lord.” And then she’s all, “Awesome. I can’t wait to freak out the zookeeper.’

Apparently there are a number of lizard species that can reproduce asexually, but before this year there had never been a recorded incident of a Komodo Dragon doing it. This blessed virgin lizard birth was the second time it happened in the last twelve months. Personally, I blame global warming, but I’m sure there are spirits of Dodos somewhere trembling with jealousy.

Upon being asked if he would reproduce asexually if given the opportunity, bloggist Joel Brigham responded, “Hellz no… haven’t you ever seen ‘Junior’?”

3. Turns out two snowflakes CAN be exactly alike. A snowflake is just a collection of crystals, formed together in a unique pattern, hence the urban legend that each one is entirely original. It’d be highly unlikely to get a complex grouping of crystals to show up in the exact same pattern twice. Allegedly.

What if the pattern we’re looking at isn’t particularly complex? What these scientists are claiming is that simple patterns of crystals are mathematically more likely to occur more than once. So in their simplest forms, snowflakes can be extremely similar to one another—over and over and over again.

If this holds true, doesn’t everything our parents told us about being unique go directly down the flusher? I know that I’ve been compared to a snowflake on many occasions (I’m also often compared to diamonds, chocolate cake, and Brad Pitt, for the record), and to think this comparison actually means “You’re exactly like somebody else—perhaps even many people,” instead of “You’re so unique and special” bothers me greatly.

So don’t you dare call me a damned snowflake. I’ll punch you right about the face, neck, legs, arms, and nape. “Brad Pitt,” however, I will still accept.

It’s crazy what you can learn about the world if you just read a little bit and keep your head up. How’s this for a mind-blow: Amy’s and my two-year anniversary was this last weekend. We’ve been dating for two years already, which is a new personal best for Most Consecutive Days Dated without Being Unjustly Dumped, though I think Amy’s the one who deserves the award. It takes a special girl to deal with the likes of a moron like me.

And anyway, if things don’t work out between her and me, she can just ask a female Komodo Dragon for dating advice.