Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Burden to keep the Coyotes in town falls on you, me*

Note: This column appears in the 7/2 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/3 issue of the Peoria Times

As the Phoenix Coyotes mess moves steadily along, I am reminded of a paradox that has always fascinated me.

Last week U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Redfield T. Baum (that is a name just begging for a daytime judge show) expressed that fans of the Phoenix Coyotes, if they want to keep their team here in Glendale, need to show their support with “their pocketbook and presence.”

Though I doubt the majority of hockey fans carry pocketbooks, this warning seems to place the blame for the Coyotes’ woes and the pressure to retain them squarely on the fans themselves.

And part of me agrees with this. As a little kid growing up in New Jersey, I was (and still am) a Yankees fan. (Sorry.) It may be difficult to remember now, but my formative years of baseball fandom involved rooting unconditionally for a team that was just not very good. Most of the games I watched on TV featured an array of available seats, and on those fantastic occasions that my Dad was able to take me to The Stadium in person, I knew that the tickets weren’t that hard to come by.

Four championships, infinite sellouts, and a new stadium later, I’m still left wondering where everybody came from.

There are people here in the Valley who scoff at the idea that the burden is on them to keep this hockey team around. They will come out and spend their hard-earned money when the franchise puts a quality product out on the ice. And these people, like out-of-the-woodwork Yankees’ fans, have a point, too.

The Coyotes have not had a winning season since the 2001-02 campaign. A decent ticket is about thirty bucks. One trip to the concession stand can cost more than that. Throw in a recession and the team’s almost imminent departure and it’s justifiable to seek something better or to ignore it altogether.

Or is it? Is it not enough to root for the hometown team because they’re the hometown team, or should we demand success as well?

Though I haven’t settled on this issue, I am getting closer to knowing where I stand, and a big part of that involves being a sports fan in general. For me, the joy of your team’s success cannot be fully experienced if you did not endure the hardships as well. The Coyotes have not been around here long enough for fans to feel so jaded by front office missteps and player shortcomings. This team is not yet the Clippers. I imagine that, should this hockey team experience some kind of Disney-movie-like turnaround –- propelled by the sudden burst of support -– any true fan would be proud to say that they had been there from the beginning.

Wherever you stand on this issue, in the case of the Phoenix Coyotes one simple reality remains, and it proves that Judge Redfield T. Baum –- or J-Red, as I like to call him -- is a wise man.

If we do not support the Phoenix Coyotes because, and –- judging from their 2009-10 forecast -- only because they are the hometown team, there can only be one result: no hometown team.

So fellas, grab your purses.

* mostly you. I’m not a big hockey fan.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Classic card of the week

Ozzie Guillen, 1991 Score All-Star Team

Nothing says “I take my baseball card collecting seriously” quite like owning a cartoon picture of a bobble-headed Ozzie Guillen. This looks like something Ozzie had done at the Seaside boardwalk, after which he publically berated the artist and called him “a homo” for making his ears too big.

From a technical standpoint, this card leaves a bit to be desired. For one, I am trying to figure out the stadium that this game is being played at, which features no buildings or obstructions beyond the outfield seats. Also, the crowd looks like Fruity Pebbles floating in milk. I do however, enjoy the baserunner who appears to be covered in a force field of Saran Wrap, and who is either a) running the bases in reverse, or b) performing abdominal exercises.

But back to Ozzie:

Ozzie, who hustles and chatters all the time

Ozzie, who runs hard to first base on his frequent groundouts and who is also annoying…

had plenty to talk about in ’90.

Didn’t we all? The Hubble Telescope went into orbit, A Tribe Called Quest first hit the music scene, and the Clean Air Act was passed, among many other conversational topics.

A much more disciplined hitter than in the past

Ozzie Guillen’s OBP in 1989: .270.
Ozzie Guillen’s OBP in 1990: .312.
That is 42 extra percentage points of discipline, which, unfortunately, still = awful.

he put some nice numbers on the board.

1 HR, 13 SBs and 17 CSs (43%!!!), .341 SLG. That is nice, I guess, for a person who hates baseball. Also, Ozzie: Stop trying to steal bases.

For the month of May, Ozzie batted a league-high .383 and at mid-season was hitting .319.

In an interview after leading the 2005 White Sox to the WS title as manager, Ozzie held steadfast that his proudest achievement remained winning the coveted “May Batting Title Award” back in 1990. He finished the year at .279, so June, July, August and September probably weren’t as productive. But really, who cares about those months anyway?

The White Sox co-captain, he is better known for his top-notch fielding at shortstop.

As this cartoon reenactment can attest.

Did you know?

When Ozzie Guillen originally discovered that the Clean Air Act had been passed, he went into a 20-minute, profanity-laced tirade that ultimately concluded with him flatulating emphatically in protest. He then went 0-for-4, ironically, keeping the air clean of any well-hit baseballs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A tale of two cities and their utility systems

Note: This column appears in the 6/25 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/26 issue of the Peoria Times

Note II: If THAT title doesn't grab your attention, then nothing will

There are few things as exciting to discuss as utility bills. Nevertheless, two cities seem to be moving in opposite directions when it comes to energy efficiency and waste management.

It was revealed last week that the city of Glendale will be raising rates beginning in October, and that the typical family –- that is, the family that uses water and produces waste –- will pay around $86 more per year on their water and sewer bills.

The reason for the price hike is simple. The creator of water –- God –- has decided to charge the city of Glendale more to distribute His product, due to, ya’ know, the economy and all. Plus, sewage is gross and smells bad.

Besides these factors, most Glendale residents are confused and upset about the rate hike, especially those on a fixed income. At this vulnerable time, it seems as though “the economy” can become an excuse for almost anything. The reality is that people and companies are adjusting, and the costs of many things are lowering, not increasing. In turn, the timing of this rate hike -– with so many people out of work as it is -– is curious at best. If the city were honest, they would have released this explanation: “We are unsure what will happen to our hockey team in the long run, and have therefore made the difficult decision to raise sewage costs.”

On the contrary, councilwoman Joyce Clark had this to say: “Unless we become geniuses in water distribution, the cost is going to go up.”

And there you have it. Until the city of Glendale has –- either by birth or through the hiring process -– a water distribution genius, the cost will go up. Never mind being proactive about improving the process. They will instead raise costs as they wait for the Albert Einstein of water distribution to make himself known.

Meanwhile, the city of Peoria is getting money back.

That’s right. APS (Arizona Public Services) has provided the city with an almost $55,000 rebate in recognition of the Development & Community Services Building that opened almost three years ago.

The building itself has been an energy efficiency model, with advances in heating and cooling systems, as well as lighting. To boot, the city itself has been extremely proactive in taking energy efficiency measures, which have included the installation of LED lights at municipal facilities, advanced airflow systems, and thermostat adjustment.

All of these ideas and measures were enacted by Peoria’s resident heating, cooling, and lighting genius, who is actually the brother-in-law of the city’s resident water distribution genius, who has been busy in her own right.

For example, Peoria also recently made the decision to replace the water fountain in front of City Hall with two new towers as its main source of cooling energy. The towers, according to Design and Construction Manager Ed Striffer (not a genius, but close), will result in water savings up to 80 percent.

So while Peoria is at the forefront of energy efficiency, Glendale is raising utility costs with little to no explanation other than a shrug of the shoulders and “the economy” as a convenient scapegoat. One can only hope that after a day of explaining away increased costs amidst a period of deflation, that the leaders of Glendale remember to, at the very least, turn the lights off.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Ice, Ice Baby" explained III: The finale


For VERSE 1 explained, see here.

For VERSE 2 explained, see here.

Take heed, cause I’m a lyrical poet

Take heed, ye’ merry gentlemen. For I am a lyrical poet. I do not use other mediums for my poetry, such as paint, or steel, or birds, or whatever. I use words, or, in my case as it pertains to hip-hop specifically, lyrics. For example, earlier when I rhymed “bikinis” with “Lamborghinis,” that is what we in the literary field call: poetry.

Miami’s on the scene just in case you didn’t know it

Miami is on the hip-hop scene, thanks in large part to me, Vanilla Ice. I have made Miami proud.

My town, that created all the bass sound

As Wikipedia can attest: "Miami bass (also known as booty music or booty bass, a term that may also include other genres, such as dirty rap), is a type of hip hop music that became popular in the 1980s and 1990s." You can have your emotionally charged blues, Memphis -– I’ll take my booty bass and sexually perverse rap, thank you very much!

Enough to shake and kick holes in the ground

I cannot walk two feet in this town without falling into a hole that was caused by booty bass.

Cause my style is like a chemical spill

My style, which is to say my persona, mannerisms, clothes, the way in which I rap, etc., is similar to a scenario in which a giant canister of chemicals is accidentally spilled, causing much damage physically, emotionally, and financially to anyone who may be in the surrounding area. I need not elaborate on this simile, as I think it speaks for itself.

Feasible rhymes that you can vision and feel

My rhymes are feasible. Earlier when I rapped about being involved in a Miami gunfight, and driving past attractive sex-crazed women, and cooking people like bacon, I was being very feasible. Besides that, the listener can also vision and feel my rhymes. A lot of people say to me, they say, “Ice, I listen to other rappers, but I can’t vision their rhymes, ya’ know?” And I’m like, word. That’s what makes me special. Not only have I created rhymes that you can vision, I have also made vision a verb. But you can also feel my rhymes as well. Go ahead, touch them…they don’t bite!

Conducted and formed, this is a hell of a concept

My rhymes, besides being a) vision-friendly, b) tangible to the touch, and c) feasible, are also conducted and formed. Imagine that, I ask sarcastically! I firmly believe that if many of today’s rappers took the time to conduct and form their rhymes, instead of just like, saying them whenever, that we’d all be better off as a society because of it. I mean, it really doesn’t even take that much time to conduct and form your rhymes. All you need is a train engineer’s hat and a protractor.

We make it hype and you want to step with this

You would so love to join our team of hypeness. Unfortunately, we are no longer accepting applications.

Shay plays the fade, slice like a ninja

The good news? Shay is back. He was unharmed in the gunfight that occurred in the second verse. However, I question his loyalty, as he was nowhere to be found when shots were ringing out like a bell. Regardless, he is my DJ. An integral part of djing is working the fader. Shay plays this instrument –- which is less an instrument than it is a thing that you just slide back and forth -– very well. He also “slices” records –- or, like, spins and scratches them and stuff -– like a ninja would slice his or her opponent in a ninja battle. And I should know, because I appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. So please, do not question my street cred or my knowledge of ninjas in general.

Cut like a razor blade so fast, other djs say damn

Shay also cuts records, which is pretty much the same thing as slicing them. I apologize for the redundancy of metaphors as they relate to Shay’s ability to DJ, but I should mention that other, lesser djs are impressed with his professional skills. But enough about Shay.

If my rhyme was a drug I’d sell it by the gram

If I could convert my rhymes into illegal narcotics, my preferred unit of mass for distribution purposes would be the gram. I thought you would like to know this. For those of you who may naively think that rhymes, due to the laws of physics, cannot be molded into like, crack or something, take heed: One time my buddy Fred converted a fart into a laser printer and we pawned it for $30.

Keep my composure when it’s time to get loose

Some people think that “getting loose” and keeping one’s composure are mutually exclusive. I beg to differ. When it’s time to get a little crazy on the microphone while on stage and for the purposes of entertainment, I will often sit down and take 10 deep breaths in order to regain my composure. The crowd typically applauds.

Magnetized by the mic while I kick my juice

Here –- as I have throughout this entire song -- I am taking great liberties with what qualifies as slang. “Juice,” which is slang, albeit for respect, does not mean “rhymes.” But I am trying to force new slang via context. I could very well have said “while I kick my goose,” which would have made just as much sense, and which rhymes better with “loose” anyway. So, to recap, you cannot take your eyes off of me when I am doing something that makes no sense.

If there was a problem, yo I'll solve it

I will solve nothing.

Check out the hook while D-Shay revolves it

I have combined the word "deejay" and the name "Shay" to form one, better word: D-Shay. Not only does this term help to retain the original sound of both words, but Shay actually IS a deejay. When I originally thought of this, my brain became so overloaded that I blacked out for three days, and woke up on a banana boat in the Gulf of Mexico. But obviously, it was worth it.

Yo man -– let’s get out of here

Shay, let us leave. These people disgust me.

Word to your mother

Please say hello, or, "word" to your mother for me. I do not actually know your mother. But I am hoping to play on your insecurities by making you think that I have a pre-existing and sexual relationship with her. Please buy my album.

Classic card of the week

Domingo Ramos, 1985 Topps

Domingo Ramos choked up sooooo much –- crowd: How much did he choke up??!! -- that the bat needed the Heimlich maneuver. Uncontrollable laughter, wild applause, standing ovation. Thank you, thank you very much!

I hope you enjoyed the Domingo Ramos comedy minute. But like, for serious Domingo -– what the heck are you hoping to accomplish here with this batting stance? Even if you were able to line up a 90-mph fastball right down broadway, there is 0% chance that ball will leave the yard, and a 3.7% chance that ball will leave the infield. Your only hope of actually reaching base safely is a swinging bunt and/or a throwing error. But if you do swing, that bat handle is going to hit you in the chest. Why don’t you just use a smaller bat, Domingo? Why are you so stubborn?

In 1996, Domingo Ramos was inducted into the 1980’s Light-Hitting Middle Infielders Who Are Known Only For Their Defense And Who, If Baseball Used Lineups of 32 Players Instead of Nine, Would Bat 32nd Hall of Fame. During his speech, Domingo reminisced about his time playing defense in the Yankees’ minor league system:

Domingo & his close friend, Jays’ Damaso Garcia formed DP combination in Yankee chain, 1975-78.

Ramos & Garcia were one of the deadliest -– yet friendliest -– double-play combinations in Yankees’ minor league history. A short-lived sitcom was made based loosely on their efforts and relationship, and it was called Double Trouble. It starred Corey Hamos and Corey Feldos.

Anyway, let’s get to the “baseball trivia quiz” on this Domingo Ramos card that has nothing to do with Domingo Ramos:

Who had 2 singles & 2 triples in his first game in the majors, to tie the major league record for 9 inning game?

The answer, obviously, is Willie McCovey, who is most famous for tying the record of being the person who had 2 singles and 2 triples in their major league debut during a 9-inning game. Though this is one of baseball’s most coveted records, many people mistakenly believe that Jay Buhner tied the record as well, though his debut occurred during a rain-shorted 7-inning game, rendering his achievement worthless.

Did you know?
In 1984, Dale Murphy set the major league record for having the most RBI on a Tuesday for the Atlanta Braves during a road game in 1984.

Local resources prevent foster parents from losing minds, wallets

Note: This column appears in the 6/18 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/19 issue of the Peoria Times

Every day, it seems, we are discovering more and more about foster care. I have been amazed by the resources available to us.

No matter how many training classes you have taken, and no matter how prepared you think you are to be a foster parent, the fact of the matter is that one day a child –- or maybe two –- will arrive at your door, and then you will be left wondering what the heck you are supposed to do. By the time you are giving one child a breathing treatment while the other child is pooping in her pull-up in the corner and the dog is barking and the phone is ringing, it becomes that much more difficult to find the clarity to hearken back to your training days for guidance.

You feel like you’re on an island sometimes. And you’re always three seconds away from sending out a smoke signal.

But you do settle in. For us, it’s been during this settling in process that we have –- mainly through the invaluable help of our foster parent friends –- discovered how much support we really do have. Like, right here.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how we took our foster daughter back east to NJ with us. Not only did we want her to experience the thrill of a plane ride and the chance to meet new people and to see the ocean, but we also did not want to leave her behind in yet another unfamiliar environment. But we weren’t quite sure if we could afford the airfare.

It was then that our friend told us about Arizona Friends of Foster Children, a non-profit organization that helps fund activities to enrich the lives of the 10,000 foster children right here in Arizona. I reached out to them –- they have an office right here in Glendale -– and, after filing the necessary paperwork, they paid for our foster daughter’s trip. All they asked for in return was a “thank you” letter from her, and for us to spread the word about what they do. We were happy to oblige.

Besides physically and emotionally, being a foster parent is often financially exhausting. Of course, this is true of all parents, but never being parents ourselves, we needed everything to get going. Combine that with the cost of daycare, the gas and mileage for family visits, and important items like scrapbooks, and things were getting scary.

Little did we know that all foster children in Arizona are eligible for WIC services. WIC –- Women, Infants & Children –- is a federally funded program that provides residents with nutritious foods, education, and referrals. They too have offices right here in Glendale, and after one meeting with Gracie over at the Thunderbird Road office, we had formula, milk and juice for the next six months.

It amazes me sometimes that we live in a country not only where a thing like foster care exists, but where it thrives, thanks to the government programs, non-profit organizations, and generous donations of so many private citizens.

So yeah, sometimes, as a foster parent, it does feel like you’re on an island. But when you take the time to look around, you realize -– it’s a big island, and the locals are pretty darn helpful.

To donate or to find out more about Arizona Friend of Foster Children Foundation, visit www.affcf.org; to learn more about WIC visit http://www.azwic.gov/

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Ice, Ice Baby" explained II


For VERSE 1 explained, see here.

Now that the party is jumping

We are at a party now. And get ready because I am going to tell you what is about to happen because we are at a party that is jumping.

With the bass kicked in, the vegas are pumping

“Vegas” are speakers. They are pumping because the bass has kicked in. Also, as I had previously mentioned, the party we are at is jumping, in large part due to the fact that the speakers are pumping. Now get ready for what is about to happen as a result of these indisputable facts.

Quick to the point, to the point no fakin’

Okay, so nothing happened. But let’s move past that, because I would like to inform you of something: When I make a point, I am quick about it. I am to the point about making a point. Also, you can rest assured that I will not fake any point that I am trying to make, as that would defeat the purpose of the quickness with which I made said point. That’s the whole point.

I’m cooking MCs like a pound of bacon

If I am feeling particularly frisky during a rap battle, I will place my opposing MC in a giant frying pan and cook him. I will literally cook this person, with Crisco and everything, because, to my knowledge, “cook” is not slang for symbolically defeating another person lyrically or even physically. I will cook this MC with the same culinary techniques that I would use to cook a pound of bacon, which is a lot of bacon. I like bacon.

Burning them if they’re not quick and nimble

Indeed, if you are not quick and/or nimble enough to remove yourself from the gigantic frying pan I have placed you in, then yes –- you will indeed get burned. Such is the nature of being cooked like a pound of bacon.

I go crazy when I hear a cymbal

One time, at band camp, this kid clashed the cymbals at the end of our symphony and I totally flipped out. Started throwing instruments and stuff. I had to go home three weeks early. So yeah, you pretty much don’t want to mess with me around cymbals.

And a hi-hat, with a souped up tempo

Or a hi-hat with a souped up tempo. Many people believe that a hi-hat is merely a complimentary piece of musical equipment, unable to create and therefore sustain a souped-up tempo on its own merits. I, however, disagree. I once recorded an entire smooth jazz album using only a hi-hat and a pair of scissors.

I’m on a roll and its time to go solo

I have made the difficult decision to –- based on the obvious roll I am currently on lyrically –- to break away from the group “Vanilla Ice & The Ice Machines” and embark on a solo career. Fingers crossed!

Rollin in my 5.0

I have a car. And I am driving it right now. (We left the party. Did I mention that?)

With my ragtop down so my hair can blow.

I’m sorry. Have you seen my hair? It can do a lot of things, but blowing in the wind is not one of them. My hair actually stopped Hurricane Andrew. True story. I mean, yeah –- my hair blows figuratively, but still. Anyway, I didn’t write this line. Let’s move on.

The girlies on standby, waving just to say hi
{Did you stop?}

Who asked that? Seriously?

No –- I just drove by

I am so good at rapping that I cannot be bothered with attractive females that are interested in having sexual relations with me.

Kept on pursuing to the next stop

I am doing some serious pursuing right now. Exactly what I am pursuing is undetermined, but one can assume that I am pursuing more females that I can arrogantly and inexplicably drive past again.

I busted a left and I’m heading to the next block

I turned left. I was going to turn right, but I turned left instead. Isn’t this awesome?

The block was dead

On this particular block, nobody was around to watch me drive my car. I should have turned right. I am disappointed.

Yo –- so I continued to A1A, Beachfront Avenue

Beachfront Avenue is a popular street here in Miami. Its technical term is State Route A1A. I will go there.

Girls were hot wearing less than bikinis

We are now driving down Beachfront Avenue. The girls walking along this street are hot both figuratively and literally, as evidenced by the fact that they are wearing less than bikinis. Also, less than bikinis is naked. These girls are naked. I am going to drive past them.

rockman lovers driving Lamborghinis

There are people here who love men that rock. I call them the rockman lovers, obviously. Anyway, they are driving Lamborghinis.

Jealous ‘cause I’m out getting mine

These rockman lovers –- who are driving Lamborghinis –- are jealous of me and my 5.0 something or other. They are also jealous of me because I am out getting mine. I am out here with a purpose. What, exactly, I am getting is for me and only for me to know, but trust me -– I am going to get it. These rockman lovers, on the other hand, are just driving around like idiots.

Shay with a gauge and Vanilla with a nine

Did you guys meet Shay? He’s my friend. But watch out –- he is carrying a 12-gauge shotgun. And I have a 9-milimeter. These are weapons that I will undoubtedly use to get mine. This song has taken a violent turn.

Reading for the chumps on the wall

I am reading the wall for chumps. Oftentimes a helpful local will spray paint “Chumps over here!” on the wall with an arrow pointing downward in the direction of the chumps. That is what I am looking for. If I find any chumps, I am going to wax them.

The chumps are acting ill because they’re so full of eight balls

I found the chumps. They are acting ill, however, because of all the cocaine they have ingested. Because “ill” has positive connotations in hip-hop, I’ll leave it up to you to decide if the chumps are acting awesome, or if they are physically ill from all the drugs.

Gunshots rang out like a bell

People are shooting. If it’s the rockman lovers and I going to be pissed!

I grabbed my nine, all I heard were shells falling, on the concrete real fast

I do not even hear the gunshots. All I hear are the shells falling to the ground. Weird. And where the heck is Shay? Whatever. I have grabbed my gun, and it is on!

Jumped in my car, slammed on the gas

I changed my mind. Instead of becoming involved in this shootout, I am going to escape. I have jumped into the car I was already in and I have slammed on the gas pedal.

Bumper to bumper the avenue’s packed

I have caused an accident by slamming on the gas pedal in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I’m trying to get away before the jackers jack

Those jackers are always jacking! Granted, even after I leave Beachfront Avenue I will be in my car, and thus, subject to a car-jacking. However, I am currently in an "extreme jacking zone," and I am trying to leave. This traffic is not helping. And now that I think about it, where would a jacker even go should he choose to jack in traffic? Still, I’m not taking any chances.

Police on the scene, ya’ know what I mean

The police are here, partly because of the accident I have just caused by slamming on the gas in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and partly because of the wild, wild west shootout that just randomly occurred. I am sure that my listening audience is all too familiar with dealing with the police in these situations. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

They passed me up, confronted all the dope fiends

Ignoring the accident, the fact that I am carrying a gun myself, and the fact that there was just an all-out gunfight in the middle of a crowded Miami street, the police pulled aside some crackheads and asked them where they got their crack from.

If there was a problem, yo I’ll solve it

Contrary to the array of problems I myself just endured –- none of which I was able to resolve, except by removing myself from the situation altogether -– I will definitely solve any other problems you can throw at me. Promise.

Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it

Again, enjoy the chorus. I have to call my car insurance company.

This stage isn't big enough for the two of us, Shay!

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Ice, Ice Baby" explained


All right stop, collaborate and listen

Everybody stop what you’re doing. Then find a partner and work on a project together that has yet to be determined. Then listen to me.

Ice is back

This is my first single.

With a brand new invention

This invention is called “horrible rap.” Take that, Benjamin Franklin. To the rest of you: you’re welcome.

Something grabs a hold of me tightly

Songs such as this one are not entirely my doing, but partly the result of an otherwordly force that urges me to rap about stuff.

Flow like a harpoon daily and nightly

The manner in which I rap “flows” similar to the flow of a harpoon, which is, according to Wikipedia, “a long spear like instrument used in fishing to catch fish or other large marine mammals such as whales.” I flow like this everyday. And also every night, which is different from the day. I do not sleep.

Will it ever stop? Yo, I don’t know

Sometimes I will ask myself a question and then immediately and condescendingly dismiss that question as stupid. Regardless, I have no idea if or when my flow will ever cease.

Turn off the lights and I’ll glow

I am so good at rapping that I literally glow in the dark.

To the extreme I rock a mic like a vandal

On the microphone, I rap just as well as a person who damages property. This is something that I do in the most extreme manner possible.

Light up a stage and wax a chump like a candle

To “wax” someone, in this context, would mean to out-rap them, on a stage, that I have lit up with my immense stage presence. A “chump” is a person who is stupid and cannot rap. I will frequently wax a chump in the same fashion that one would wax a candle, which is something that is made of wax, but that can also be waxed, according to me.

Dance, go rush to the speaker that booms

This is self-explanatory.

I’m killing your brain like a poisonous mushroom

My music is so enjoyable to listen to that it will kill your brain. Your brain will die from listening to my music. This process is similar to the experience of consuming the ever-so-dangerous and brain-killing poisonous mushroom, which is found exclusively in remote areas of South Dakota. Brain-killing poisonous mushrooms are the number two cause of brain death in the United States, behind only: my music.

Deadly when I play a dope melody

Ya’ know what? If you value your life, you might want to stop listening like, right now.

Anything less than the best is a felony

I always give my best. Should I ever fail to give my best, I will arrest myself on felony charges of “not giving my best,” which has a minimum mandatory sentence of six months probation.

Love it or leave it, you better gain weight

I don’t really care if you love my music, or if you’re indifferent to it. The point is: you need to eat more.

You better hit bull’s eye, the kid don’t play

This is a literary device called symbolism. I am “the kid.” Also, I do not play, meaning that I do not lollygag when it comes to rapping –- I remain focused and vigilant at all times and work hard to succeed. In order to defeat me, you must “hit the bull’s eye,” meaning that you must, like…also do your best, or something. Should you succeed in doing your best, it is implied here that, yes –- you could beat me. Take that.

If there was a problem, yo I’ll solve it

Thankfully, there are no problems currently in the world, besides, of course, brain-killing poisonous mushrooms, which are obviously out of my control. But if there were a problem, hypothetically, I could and would solve it. If anyone should hear about a problem, just call me. My name is Vanilla Ice.

Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it

Enjoy the chorus. This song won multiple awards.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Classic card of the week

Eric Plunk, 1987 Donruss

I always thought that Eric Plunk had a funny name. Then this card came out and I realized that there was more comedic value to Eric Plunk than I had ever previously imagined.

Believe me I have been thinking about this for way longer than I ever should have, but nevertheless, this is what this card looks like to me: Wait, are you ready? Because here I go. Right now: This card looks like Dave Grohl was asked to star in “Dazed & Confused II.”

There. That is what I came up with. Did you like it? No? I hate you.

Anyhoo, back to Plunk’s name. Isn’t it funny? Plunk. As a kid I could never get over the fact that there was a pitcher named Plunk, and that if and when he inevitably hit a batter, I wondered how an announcer could possibly resist the urge to say “he plunked ‘em.” This was one of the reasons I always wished I could announce a baseball game.

Eric Plunks hits Mike Pagliarula with a pitch...

Me: (emphatically) He plunked ‘em!

Tim McCarver: On an 0-2 pitch, Plunk comes inside. But it’s too inside. Pags –- take your base.

Me: He plunked him bad.

Tim McCarver: Pagliarulo shakes it off. Let’s see if the Yankees can shake off...the rust…of a three-game losing streak.

Me: Got him right in the plunker.

Tim McCarver: ...

Me: Now Plunk, working from the stretch, looks back at Pagliarulo at first, as if to say, “You’ve been plunked, bitch!”

Tim McCarver: Okay, we get it! His name is Plunk. And you can’t say “bitch” on the air…

Deion Sanders walks into the booth and we both pour a bucket of Gatorade on McCarver’s head and yell that he’s been plunked.

Now that THAT’S over…to the back of the card!

Promoted prematurely to the majors last year when the A’s starting pitching rotation was riddled with injuries…

As the old saying goes, “It’s difficult to plunk when you’re a victim of premature promotilation.” Or something like that. And I'm out.

Did you know?

Tim McCarver once famously noted that "even Eric Plunk couldn't plunk like Bob Gibson."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Three summers and melting

Note: This column appears in the 6/11 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/12 issue of the Peoria Times

Somebody once told me that you can only be considered a true Arizonan once you’ve survived five summers. I am unsure if this is accurate –- both the number five and the term “true Arizonan” seem fairly arbitrary –- but I believe in this sentiment, mainly because I will believe anything anybody tells me if it sounds cool. This is called “journalism.” Look it up.

But this is only one of many, many clich├ęs that pertain to the Arizona summer heat, which include, “it’s a dry heat,” “100 days of 100” and “it is so hot outside that I literally cannot breath.” The reality is that the summer here is hot, oftentimes unbearably hot. And in 2009, we’re just getting started.

I have been thinking about this recently as my wife and I are currently embarking on our third summer here. Judging by the aforementioned guidelines as it pertains to our quest to become true Arizonans, this would be our “hump summer.” (Please do not misinterpret that. Remember, it’s too hot to do anything.)

I wonder if we are truly adjusting to the summertime here (if that’s even possible), or if we counteract the heat through mental warfare. I am leaning towards the latter, as we often find ourselves saying things like, “It’s really not so bad –- you just stay inside!” and “What’s the difference between 100-degrees and 112, ya’ know?” Well, staying inside all day is great if you can do it, but for those of us who actually have to go places, the simple act of getting in your car during the summer is enough to break a man. Also, the difference between 100-degrees and 112 is the difference between getting sunburn and calling an ambulance.

Of course, there are actual physical things a person can do to stave off -– in vain –- the heat. One of those things is something I never thought I would do: use a windshield cover. Back east, the only people who used a windshield cover in their car during the summer were 80-year old ladies, and the windshield covers had dancing bears and butterflies on them. Now I actually use one myself, though it’s a plain old aluminum one that reflects the sun at five-times its normal power and that burns my hands every time I take it down. Another thing you can do if you have to venture outside is use an umbrella. If you should ever see me using an umbrella to shield the sun feel free to punch me in the face.

Our simple philosophy so far has been this: do the little things –- like never wearing a grey shirt unless you have three shirts on underneath -- to counteract the heat, tell yourself that it’s not so bad, and when it really is so bad, which is always, wear it like a badge of honor. When that badge melts, start over.

I’m not going to lie –- the summers are tough, especially considering that summertime is generally a happy time throughout most of the free world. Luckily, we have the other eight months to gloat.

Nevertheless, I am prepared for summer number three. My windshield cover is up, I’ve been wearing sun block just to go out and get the mail, and I’ve stopped eating in order to pay the electricity bill. Should I eventually make it through five summers, I will let you know. I imagine a certificate is involved.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Classic card of the week

John Hope, 1994 Topps

Where were you when John Hope lost his bid for a no-hitter?

This is the question that every baseball fan of my generation –- “The Greatest Generation…of Baseball Card Collectors,” as we have been popularly referred to –- has been asked a million times, give or take. Personally, I was in the second hour of a marathon three-way phone conversation, in which I was trying to get Rachel to admit that she liked my friend Alex, who sat silently on the other line, unbeknownst to Rachel. Man, I was cool back then. Anyway, I distinctly remember my dad bursting into my bedroom and yelling, “Mike! Get downstairs! John Hope is working on a no-hitter! The game is not on television, but we’ll watch TV until the news comes on at 5 o’clock, and hope that they mention it during sports, even though the game is not local!” I could barely contain my excitement.

The results, however, were disheartening:

John’s hopes for a no-hitter were ruined on 9-16, when he had to leave his hitless game against Florida after 4 IP with leg cramps.

John Hope –- seen above after mysteriously waking up in the middle of the infield with his uniform on –- was dealing that afternoon. After two innings of no-hit ball, nobody was talking to him in the dugout. Then three innings. By the fourth inning, people were wondering whether or not this was the greatest pitching performance ever in the history of the world. And it was. But then the fifth inning rolled around…

Leg cramps.

John Hope: Sorry, skip. Can’t go back out there. Leg cramps.

Manager Jim Leyland: You better be freakin’ joking, because if you don’t get out on that mound this very second I am going to put my cigarette out on your thigh and then you can tell me how your legs feel.

John Hope: But my legs already hurt.

I can sympathize with John Hope, as this instance is reminiscent of that time in grammar school when I was forced to leave my basketball game even though I was en route to a 50-point performance –- I had already scored four in the first quarter, so you do the math -- because of a Charlie horse.

Did you know?
A 1995 University of Delaware study revealed that 96% of three-way phone conversations, in which one party is pretending not to be on the other line, backfire.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

You can go home again…but hurry up

Note: This column appears in the 6/4 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/5 issue of the Peoria Times

We decided to make a last-minute trip back east over Memorial Day weekend to see our families. We even brought along one of our foster kiddos. To say that this trip was amazing and well worth it is an understatement.

The major influence behind us returning home for a few days was that we discovered some of my wife’s relatives from Italy would be there for her cousin’s graduation. On top of that, this was also the weekend of an annual popular Jersey Shore road race that we used to take part in. You may recall that this was the race I collapsed at due to dehydration two years ago. Therefore, this trip served two purposes: 1) see the Italians, and 2) redemption.

First up was the graduation party, where we got to see my wife’s Italian relatives, henceforth known simply as “Italy.” Italy was indeed thrilled to see us. But it was our little one who stole the show, and who, due to all of the attention, had assumed that the whole affair was her birthday party. It might as well have been. The night ended with a wet pull-up and a “timeout,” which is how most of our family functions end, with or without kids.

The next night we went to my sister and brother-in-law’s house to hang out with everyone again, and to spend more quality time with Italy. That is, until we discovered that Italy had opted to go down to Atlantic City instead for the evening. Couldn’t really blame them. And besides –- we’d see them again in 15 years. Also, we needed our rest, because the next day was race day.

The following morning we surprised the rest of our family who had yet to be surprised by showing up to the annual pre-race gathering at my aunt and uncle’s house. Hugs and kisses all around. My wife tried to take a picture of everyone, but half of the family had already left for the starting line. Then everyone was gone, leaving me, my wife and my cousin to walk alone, while I carried our squirmy 32-lb question machine the whole way. Only our family races to a race.

We finally caught up to everyone near the starting line. It was at this point when my father-in-law asked if we could run together. I said sure, and was comforted that I’d have a running partner, considering that, ya’ know, the last time I ran in this race I finished in an ambulance. When the gun went off I looked to my left and my father-in-law had sprinted 50 yards ahead of me. I never saw him again.

We had now been officially ditched by everyone in our immediate family and the entire nation of Italy. Quite humbling, indeed.

Nevertheless, I finished the race without collapsing, thus accomplishing the second goal of our trip. Afterwards, as our family shuffled off to the post-race party, my wife and I took our foster kiddo to the beach so she could see the ocean for the very first time.

I sat there in the sand, thankful for this time with our family and marveling at their go-go-go lifestyles. I wondered if that used to be us, and if we’ve settled into a more “laid back” Arizona lifestyle. I watched our little one challenging the waves to catch her feet, and I quickly realized that this trip had a third goal. So we stayed for a little while.