Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reader appreciation feedback survey comment thingee day!

This week, we here at So, Do You Like … Stuff? are not posting any real content—assuming anything we ever post is real OR content—because we don’t feel like it. But, I’d like to take this opportunity, and thus the risk that it will go completely ignored, to solicit feedback.

First though, a sincere and heartfelt "thank you" to every single person who visits this blog by intent or accident, or who has purchased the book by intent or accident, or who enjoys what is written here on any level. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now ...

We—and by “we” I mean I—are wondering if the classic cards should proceed as usual throughout the immediate future. Since I’ve been writing for the fabulous (as recognized by Google!) The Baseball Card Blog, and doing card writeups for them, I’ve been wondering if the cards here have worn out their welcome or become stale. Some of the followers of this blog are obviously card enthusiasts, and I certainly don’t want to alienate them, but the issue is two-fold: 1) lack of response has left me curious as to the enjoyment the posts are intended to inspire, and 2) I am actually running out of cards to post.

So … do you want the cards to continue, or would you prefer to simply head over to The BBC Blog for that and have me begin posting something different each week in addition to the column? If the former, I need some new cards in which athletes are looking very silly and fat and dumb and/or which contain writeups that make no sense and are grammatically incorrect. (Just writing that sentence has left me with the feeling I should be writing about more important things. Aaaaaand …. that feeling has passed. Whew!) If you own such things, and are willing to share, holla atcha boy (me) at

If the latter, cool, but I still need advice. Any funny/dumb theme we can explore on a weekly basis? The estimable Jason Silverio once suggested “Smell of the Week,” which I thought was a fantastic idea, but … I ran out of smells after like two weeks. Does anybody know a lot of and/or exude a lot of smells? Or somehow have a different idea?

I just figured, what better time than the New Year to consider expanding upon the pointlessness this blog has become not famous for! Please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section, which is reserved for comments by commentors.

Also, Happy New Year!



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Classic card of the week

Dominique Wilkens & Kevin Willis, 1991 Skybox "GQ"

We have been fashion-heavy here of late, and that is okay by me. Here we have another installment of GQ’s “NBA All-Star Style Team,” because, sure, anyone can spin 360-degrees in the air and dunk a basketball, but not everyone can do that and also manage to dress well with all the money they make dunking basketballs.

Today we present Dominique Wilkens and Kevin Willis. I’m not sure where exactly this shot was taken, but let’s assume they just de-boarded a very formal evening hayride. But what everyone really wants to know is, “Who are you wearing?”

“Two guys who’ve got the jump on style.

Hey, basketball players jump a lot, so this terminology works well!

Wilkens sports

Hey, basketball is a sport, so this terminology works well!

his own suit, while Willis wears clothes from his own company.”

: Get a load of this guy. Where’d you get that suit, the Salvation Army?

Wilkens: Pfft. Stop trippin’. This is MY suit. Nobody dresses Dominique Wilkens except Dominique Wilkens. Believe that! And I got this baby in Italy. It’s Italian. And look at you! Looking like Jeffrey the butler …

Willis: Oh please. This isn’t just my suit—it’s from MY company: “Kevin Willis’ Clothes, Co.”

Wilkens: First of all, you don’t call it a “company.” It’s a line. Everybody knows that.

Willis: Pfft.

Wilkens: PFFT!

Willis: (Looking around …) I’m sorry, where’s YOUR (air quotes) “line?” I don’t see it. I only see a sucka with a flattop who paid way too much for a suit that doesn’t even fit leaning against a car that ain't his like he knows something but he doesn’t know JACK.

Wilkens: First of all, get your big forehead out of my face. Thank you. Second, I want to know—who’s walking into JC Penney and saying, “Excuse me, can you please point me in the direction of Kevin Willis’ suit collection? You know, the power forward for the Atlanta Hawks basketball team?” Please, get real. What you shoulda done is come out with a line of headbands for people looking to cover up their humongous foreheads.

Willis: Well, for one thing, my collection isn’t available at JC Penney, Sir Worthington the Fifth. I mean really. My collection is available at stores where real men shop who want to look their best whether they're in the board room or out with a lady or something.

Wilkens: Is that your motto? “Kevin Willis Clothes: Available at stores for real men who want to look their best whether they're in the board room or out with a lady or something.” That’s con-CISE!

Willis: I don’t know. Maybe! Haven’t settled on a motto yet. But I know one thing—it’ll be better than your motto: “I bought this in Italy. It’s Italian.” Re-DUN-dant!

Wilkens: Pfft.

Willis: PFFT!

Did you know?
Formal hayrides are coming back in 2012, and you heard it here first.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Soundtrack to Christmas on shuffle, not repeat

Note: This column appears in the 12/22 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/23 issue of the Peoria Times. Also: SAP ALERT!

Before I could drive to school and received the keys to the ol’ Dodge Spirit—provided I dropped her off and picked her up from work—my mom often had to pick me up from high school basketball practice.

I attended an all-boys Catholic high school that was about 35 minutes from our house, even though we lived in a reputable school district and I could have attended the local high school, which was literally within walking distance, for free.

Most of those seemingly long rides home in the dark in which I was filled with teenage angst have blended together into an indecipherable blur. Except for the ones in December.

On those rides home during the Christmas season, my mom had playing, on a constant loop, Stevie Wonder’s Christmas album. The album is from 1967, right before the zenith of his creative prime, and it existed largely under the radar until recently, as a few songs have been featured in major films. Every note of that album reminds me of those rides home, the warmth of the car—she always left it running in the parking lot; the Spirit of that particular Dodge was mostly exhaust fumes—in contrast to the cold outside, the lights of the passing houses, the often reassuring conversation, and the simple comfort of being on our way home.

It’s on my iPod as opposed to a cassette player, but I still have the album, and nobody can convince me of its equal. Every time I listen to it, and I have listened to it a zillion times, it takes me back. It is and always has been more than the album itself, although it is fantastic musically; it represents for me everything wonderful about growing up. It’s part of the soul of my childhood.

I do believe that we all reach a point where Christmas becomes a desperate exercise to recapture the past, the quality of each passing holiday defined by how well it indulged our nostalgia. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may blind us to the fact that we are playing a crucial role in developing lifelong Christmas memories for those around us.

I barely remember any Christmas gift I received as a kid—minus the He-Man Castle Grayskull, which was, obviously, a watershed moment—regardless of how many mall-fights my parents may have initiated in our honor. What remains embedded is the soundtrack to those occasions of my mom just being a mom, and driving her son home from basketball practice; my dad bringing the tree in the house and the smell of pine filling each room; my sisters and I waiting anxiously at the top of the steps on Christmas morning ... and then me threatening them with physical harm should they touch my Castle GraySkull.

This past Monday afternoon, my daughter and I went holiday shopping and then had a pizza date. She probably won’t remember it, because she is two, but that doesn’t mean I can’t influence her subconscious. I don’t have to tell you what was playing in the car.

Merry Christmas.

Someday at Christmas, we will have a better car.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Classic card of the week

Michael Jordan, 1990 NBA HOOPS/Inside Stuff

Here is an exciting basketball card featuring Michael Jordan standing around in front of a camera. This card is part of NBA HOOPS cards collaboration with NBA Inside Stuff, which was a television show that aired on Saturday mornings after Saved by the Bell and Hang Time, a realistic show about a co-ed high school basketball team that played its games in a gym the size of a utility closet. The basketball court from Hang Time made the basketball court from The Fresh Prince look like a football field. I watched too much television as a child.

As amazing as this sounds now, with the exception of daily highlights on CNN Sports or ESPN, Inside Stuff was essentially the sole link between the NBA and its young fans. Mostly it consisted of host Ahmad Rashad conducting “interviews” through which he asked softball questions and laughed hysterically at the players’ responses. But there were some in-depth features. I remember one episode in which the show followed Shawn Bradley to a restaurant, as he explained how he needed to gain weight, and we then watched him eat an entire turkey club even after he was already full. Riveting.

But Ahmad Rashad was at his best when it came to Jordan, with whom he was downright smitten. And really, who can blame him? I think the most difficult question Rashad ever asked Jordan was, “What does it feel like to fly?” It seemed like Jordan was featured every week, and relative to his dominance of the league which the show “covered,” I had no problem with that.

Want a sneak preview of Michael Jordan’s new home video?

That this question isn’t immediately followed by, “Then visit,,” is a harsh reminder that this is 1990 we’re dealing with here. This—this piece of cardboard—IS the sneak preview. Also, before we read on, I highly doubt this is a “home video,” unless Jordan does actually have a graffiti-filled asphalt court with an absurdly dirty backboard in his home. Besides, knowing now what we’ve come to learn about Michael Jordan, I’d rather not see a leaked home video of gambling-related domestic arguments.

NBA HOOPS takes you behind the scenes.

You showed me a picture from literally behind the camera as this video was being shot, so yeah, I guess you have. I look forward to obtaining the VHS copy of this video, and then using this card for additional reference in case I become confused at any point during the viewing.

“Michael Jordan’s Playground” is not a typical sports video; it goes beyond interviews, film clips and features. It’s Michael in his first appearance as an actor!

Oh, so it’s going to be one of those videos that is … horrible. I take back my sarcasm re: the importance of this sneak preview.

The story revolves around a kid who gets cut from his high school basketball team and begins to give up on himself. Michael Jordan appears in a vision


to encourage the boy to keep on trying.

For someone who watched “Come Fly With Me” approximately 8,457 times, I myself am amazed I have never seen this. But I imagine the pivotal scene plays out at follows:

Boy in bed, tossing and turning, can’t sleep due to anxiety of giving up on his dreams. Suddenly, above his bed appears a cloudy vision of Michael Jordan dressed in street clothes and holding a basketball.

Jordan: Wake up, Billy. It’s me, Michael Jordan.

Billy: (rubbing eyes) Whoa, Michael Jordan?! Are you dead?

Jordan: What?! Pfft. No, I’m not dead, dumbass. I’m just appearing as a vision because it’d be super weird if I physically walked into a young boy’s bedroom who I don’t even know while he was sleeping in order to console him.

Billy: Oh.

Jordan: Anyway, Billy, listen—I understand you were cut from the team and you’re thinking of giving up. But let me tell you a story. I once knew a kid who was also cut from his high school basketball team, but he didn’t give up, and worked hard every day, and eventually he set the league on fire and dunked on the heads of all the haters who ever doubted him and—dang, I’ma rain blows on Detroit this year, I swear …

Billy: …

Jordan: It was me, Billy. Damn, do I have to spell it out for you? The boy was me. Anyway, (squinting to read cue cards) keep working hard and … don’t give up, and uh, one day you’ll be in the NBA or a scientist or something.

Billy: Thanks, Mr. Jordan!

Jordan: Oh, and meet me on the playground tomorrow. I’ll be there in my physical form and I’ll let you beat me off the dribble ONCE so you can impress your friends. But after that I will dominate you and I will shred any lasting hope you have ever had of playing bask—I’m sorry. Just meet me there, okay?

“Playground” also features an MTV-style music video starring Air Jordan.

First, I can only imagine how awesomely awful the accompanying music video is to “Michael Jordan’s Playground.” Second, I thoroughly enjoy the gratuitous MTV name drop so as to appeal to the kids. Third, that wouldn’t have helped someone like me, who wasn’t allowed to watch MTV. Fourth, because I watched it anyway, I imagine the MTV-style music video that went with this film featured Air Jordan, pointy bras, Alicia Silverstone, MC Skat Cat, and several spandex-clad dancers.

Seriously though, if anyone has this video, please call me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lost in stores that smell really good

Note: This column appears in the 12/15 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/16 issue of the Peoria Times

I do almost all of my holiday shopping online. There are, however, rare instances whereby unnecessary shipping costs or in-store-only coupons force me against my will to venture out in public and shop in human form.

These instances always involve shopping for my wife because—let’s be honest—she’s the only person I have to shop for. These instances also usually involve me having to enter the unfamiliar and intimidating realm of the female-centric store.

My knowledge of what my wife actually wants from these stores is typically limited to, “I know she shops here, I think.” As a result, upon entering the store I immediately seek out an employee from the all-female staff, which is not difficult as they usually spot me first thanks to the glazed look of bewilderment on my face and also because I am blocking traffic.

I always preface these conversations by specifying that I am shopping for my wife. I honestly don’t know if I do this as some sort of subconscious, machismo defense-mechanism, like, “Don’t you think for a second I’m shopping for myself!” If so, that is dumb, and I imagine each female employee has thought to herself upon hearing this, “Oh really? You, with your t-shirt that reads ‘Fantasy football legend,’ are not here to buy strawberry-scented foot lotion for yourself? What a surprise.”

The next question is, “Well, what does your wife like?” This one always gets me. I mean, I know what my wife likes, but it’s usually better if she tells me first. So I will say something like, “She likes television a lot. She has dark brown hair. She’s a woman. Does that help?”

This past weekend I ventured yet again into foreign land, into what is my least favorite female-centric store. I have been in there several times before with my wife and have always dreaded it. There is nothing I can do while she looks around. There is nothing I can even look at without thinking, “If someone saw me looking at this, they would think I am a weird person or not a man.” I literally have to stand in the middle of the store staring at the exit until she’s ready to go.

But at least this time I knew what I had to get. My wife, who had astutely spotted a coupon from a different female-centric store that we received in the mail and that I had set aside to use, told me not to go there, as there was nothing she wanted from that store. Instead, she specifically told me what she wanted from this other store and even gave me a coupon and her rewards card so she could earn enough points for free bath lotion or whatever. Sure, this part of her Christmas gift wouldn’t be a surprise, but it also wouldn’t disappoint.

Of course, just because I knew what to get didn’t mean I knew where it was. Also, I had forgotten the coupon my wife had given me at home and left her rewards card in the car. If my whereabouts had left me uncertain, my idiocy was a deft reminder that, yes, I am a man! My desperate pleas for mercy at the register earned me all the necessary discounts and rewards. Also, in my wanderings I was reminded that this store carries a face wash I use. More rewards!

Yeah, I use a particular face wash. My wife found it for me years ago after she realized I was using bar soap on my face, which is apparently not good for your face since, as she pointed out, you also use it on your butt and armpits. She’s the best. She has dark brown hair.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Classic card of the week

Karl Malone, 1991 Fleer

If I ever get the chance to be depicted in cartoon form for a series of cards featuring obscure bloggers, remind me to call whoever did this one here. I don’t believe Karl Malone has ever looked better … a full, lush head of hair, trim waistline, the sheer glow of invincible youth. If I were Malone, this card would have been blown up into a humongous portrait that sits above my bed, or my fireplace, or the fireplace in my bedroom, and the frame would have feathered tassels to match the horse saddles that rest on my floor because again, I am Karl Malone.

Granted, I remain slightly confused by the basketball crashing through the glass sky. It seems like Malone lives in some Truman Show-type universe, and a comet basketball from a distant cloud has just revealed that Malone only exists in his own self-centered world, outside of which is only outer space, so I guess Malone’s world isn’t that much different than the real world, except for the glass sky and randomly emerging comet basketballs. Anyway, I think I speak for everyone when I express my sincere hope that all of the oxygen doesn’t get sucked out of Malone’s world as a result of this accident. He doesn’t seem overly concerned though, so let’s move on.

Karl Malone is pure thunder wrapped in flesh.

This is the greatest lede in the history of the backs of sports cards. It reads like a passage from the Book of Genesis, when God, dissatisfied with Adam’s lack of dominance in the paint, grabbed a handful of pure thunder—the pure stuff, not the synthetic kind—wrapped it in flesh, and said, “Go forth, and play basketball! Thou shalt be called, ‘The Mailman.’”

Karl Malone has simply had his way with the NBA,

That sounds inappropriate Also, does the NBA you speak of not include Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, or Michael Jordan?

using his 6’9”, 256-pound, chiseled frame to thrash and crash his way through confused, helpless defenses for six seasons running.

This part reads like an overly dramaticized infomercial that is selling protection against the dominance of Karl Malone. Has THIS ever happened to you? (Cut to black and white footage of Malone knocking over awkward, skinny high school kids like bowling pins.) That’s why YOU need the Thunder Flesh Protection Bubble!

I mean, why are the defenses confused?

“I want more for this organization, more for these fans than we’ve given them. My wish is to win the whole thing.” When you watch No. 32 perform, you know it’s just a matter of time.

Still waiting. Why do I get the feeling that Phil Jackson came across this card in the early 90s and held on to it just so he could read it to Michael Jordan before the ’97 and ’98 NBA Finals? I can’t prove it, but that definitely happened.

Did you know?
If you buy the Thunder Flesh Protection Bubble right now, we'll throw in this Thunder Flesh Protection Bubble cleaner, that you absolutely need anyway if you're going to own this thing because it gets really dirty, FREE!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Training days in a small world

Note: This column appears in the 12/8 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/9 issue of the Peoria Times

We are currently in full throttle potty-training mode.

Not for ourselves—let me clarify—for our daughter.

I have to admit that this is one instance where foster parenting truly afforded me valuable experience. The first occasion of me, by myself, having to enter the bathroom with our first foster daughter, who we also potty-trained, was one of the most frightful occasions of my life. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, where to stand—should I crouch?—and most importantly, how to enact the wiping process. Somehow, someway, by only the grace of God, I got through it. By the time that little girl returned home, after months of being able to notice the subtle behaviors that required an all-out rush to the bathroom by which I carried her like a football as she insisted she didn’t have to go, I’ll be darned if she wasn’t potty-trained. I’ll be darned.

It wasn’t easy though, and as we approached that special time for our own daughter I became anxious. Our daughter, you see, is like her mother in many ways, but one trait they share in droves is stubbornness. She will fight us to the end on the smallest thing, so I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to this Battle Royale. Because the thing is, kids are frustrating and utterly confounding in many ways, but never more so than when it comes to their incessant opting to go to the bathroom in their clothes rather than in an actual bathroom.

We still have a long way to go, but the early results are shockingly positive. A rewards system and positive reinforcement have seemingly worked well. Our experience, too, has paid off, although I still haven’t settled on the correct father-daughter terminology, so my reminder to “Wipe … down there,” feels like it needs work.

My wife, however, recently decided to take this thing to the next level. She is frequently getting new ideas from the families she works with, and last week she came home with something more than an idea. It’s a small device that you place in a young child’s pull-up that plays a song—in this case, “It’s a Small World After All”—when the pull-up gets wet. When you hear the song playing, you rush to the bathroom.

I don’t really understand this thing on a multitude of levels. For starters, I don’t see how “It’s a Small World” really connects to the urine theme at hand. Second, when you hear the song, isn’t it too late? Third, being rewarded for urinating in your pants with a joy-filled song seems like it would obviously backfire. Fourth, what happens when something surpassing urine is involved? Does it kill the battery? Fifth, who is washing this thing?

At least one of my concerns manifested itself the very first time we tried it, when our daughter happily exclaimed as we rushed in vain to the potty, “I play a song, Daddy!”

I thought we were doing fine, so I am against the introduction of this device. But it doesn’t matter. My wife, like her daughter, will fight to the end for the smallest thing. In this case, the smallest, urine-soaked thing that plays music.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Classic card of the week

David Robinson, 1992 Skybox

Remember college? Wasting away the days sleeping, fully clothed, in a comically small bed for your size … Oh, no! I almost overslept for my voluntary Aeronautics study session in the quad! Ha, ha … those were the days. David Robinson reminds me a lot of myself at that age, the only difference being that he is taking a brief, well-deserved rest from being awesome at basketball and serving our country, while I was most likely passed out at some off-campus apartment I had wandered into at four in the morning, and had also probably urinated myself.

I do hope that David Robinson is posing for this shot, and if he is, add “being awesome at pretending to sleep” to his long list of talents and personal accomplishments. But if he is actually sleeping, then Skybox is a weirdo stalker.

David Robinson: (Turns over, opens eyes, rubs them, startled) What the—?

Skybox: Shhhhhh! Go back to sleep, David! It’s just me, Skybox.

Robinson: What are you doing in here? (Furiously picks up emergency phone.) How did you get clearance?

Skybox: Just documenting your college life, David. No worries … pretend I’m not here. (Whispers … ) Rock-a-bye, Davey, on the Navy ship, when the bow breaks, he’ll win the championship …

: (Puts down phone, goes back to sleep.)

When Robinson entered the Naval Academy, he was 6-foot-7, an inch over the height restriction.

Me, from an honorable Navy family: Well, Dad, I got bad news. I’m 6-foot-7 now! Looks like I won’t be able to join the Navy after all. Man, and I was really looking forward to waking up absurdly early every day and doing hard labor and depriving myself of what you and grandpa call luxuries but I call essentials. Oh well. I think I AM actually gonna continue playing bass in the band. Anyway, I’ll be in my room if you need me. Whoa, that was close! Almost hit my head on the door frame. Ha, ha! (Whistling as I walk up the stairs …)

The Academy makes exceptions for up to 5 percent of the incoming students as long as they are not taller than 6-foot-8.

I’m sure the U.S. Navy knows what it’s doing, but I don’t understand this. If I’m another country, and I’m glancing across the sea at a boat full of 5-foot-11 schmos from West Hempstead, I’m like, “Pfft.” But if I’m looking across at a squadron of 6-foot-8 David Robinsons, I’m like, “Howdy, Americans! Just passing through! No problems here! Thank you!” (My country speaks English.)

By his senior year, he was 7-foot-1, a circumstance that banned him from duty

Duty. Heh.

on ships, planes or submarines.

I remember how Robinson gained a reputation for being soft, or too nice a guy, in the NBA. I highly doubt that was true. Regardless, David Robinson was in the Navy. The Navy! And not only that—he had every conceivable excuse to not be in the Navy, but was like, “Screw it, I am serving my country no matter what.” I mean, could you imagine Shaq (one of Robinson’s critics) in the Navy? It would be a reality show like that time Tommy Lee went to college. His hat would be on crooked, he’d be trying to convince the other guys to stay up past curfew, and the captain would tell him he’s too tall for the submarine, and then the camera would cut to Shaq eating a foot-long, and he’d be like, “But he didn’t say I couldn’t eat one!”

Soft? Please. Oh, and David Robinson was built like a super-hero. And he kind of was.

So then I said, "We're gonna need a bigger submarine!"

Did you know?
Did I say that part about urinating myself out loud? I hope not.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It’s never too early to celebrate Christmas

Note: This column appears in the 12/1 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/2 issue of the Peoria Times

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I know, weird, right? I’ve always been different, I guess.

I’ve been looking forward to this particular Christmas season more so than any since I was a kid. That’s because of our daughter, who is at an age now where she is starting to get it. Granted, she is convinced she is going trick-or-treating on Christmas morning, so I’m not saying she’s a genius, I just mean she’s at the point where she understands that Christmas is something to be excited about.

Sure, a part of me is living vicariously through her. Last year when Santa got her a miniature baseball set, I immediately redirected her to her other toys so I could play with it, and became legitimately upset when it told me I had hit a “single” after I crushed the ball so hard the entire thing fell over. I’m sorry, but if that’s not a home run, I don’t know what is. More so than that though, and corny as it may sound, watching her eyes light up for everything related to Christmas is a better gift than anything I can even imagine, with the possible exception of a larger, more accurate baseball set.

I also feel like Christmas is come and gone before we even know it, and so I have always been a proponent of starting early. I mean, it all leads up to the day, of course, but it’s really a season, and should be celebrated as such.

However—and this brings me to my point—what in the heck happened this year? Are you kidding me with how early Christmas started!? Absurd. ABSURD.

The commercials, the advertisements, the terrible Lifetime movies, the neighborhood lights, the music … it all started immediately after Halloween this year. I was sitting at the Kia dealership in Peoria getting my oil changed Nov. 5 and they were playing Christmas music. It’s the music that really gets me. Every year I look forward to hearing Christmas music and getting myself in the holiday spirit, and after 20 minutes of hearing the same three songs I’m ready to drive my car into an embankment. If you’re starting with the music on Nov. 5, I am never going to make it. I am never going to make it.

Word on the street is businesses started early this year to jumpstart the economy. Now, I’m not naïve to the commercialization of the birth of Christ, and I really don’t want to get on my soapbox here, but if you’re marketing this religious holiday super early for the sole specific purpose of making sales, you—capitalist society—have truly missed the point.

This has been under my skin since Nov. 1, but I didn’t want to comment because I felt if I complained then about Christmas starting too early, I would actually be contributing to what I was railing against. But here it is: Christmas starts after Thanksgiving dinner, and traditionally after a family viewing of "A Very Gaga Thanksgiving." No sooner. This is non-negotiable. I am not opposed to legislation specifying this.

Because it won’t be just this year with the economy excuse. You can’t go back; you’ll only keep stretching the limits to the point we’re roasting our chestnuts at Labor Day barbeques. No wonder our daughter thinks she’s trick-or-treating on Christmas morning. At this point, she might as well be.

So everybody stop it. Thank you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to watch Fa La La La Lifetime movies.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Classic card of the week

Kennan McCardell, 1999 Topps Gold Label

Here we have a sample from Topps’ super-exclusive “Gold Label” collection. Presentation of a Topps Gold Label card at any participating outlet can earn you up to 3-percent off already marked clearance items and VIP access to the fitting room. I doubt this comes across over the Interwebs, but this card is two inches thick and has enough gloss to … gloss a horse? I wasn’t really sure how to finish that sentence. It’s a lot of gloss.

So, according to this card, Keenan McCardell plays football. Let’s find out more about Keenan McCardell, football player:

McCardell conducts himself with style on and off the field.

This is best evidenced by McCardell’s brash-yet-stylish backwards hat that sits slightly askew. This hat is supposed to go this way, but I’m gonna wear it this way! = style. I mean, it’s not like he’s breaking new ground here—Griffey was the first athlete of note to wear his hat backwards during non-game activity, and it looked awesome, AND that hat was fitted. McCardell is wearing a hat with a Velcro strap, which, were he not playing for the team featured on it, we could safely assume came out of the bargain bin at Marshalls. What? Yeah, I said it. I watch Project Runway.

Also, we like to poke fun at the descriptions of various athletes as gritty or throwbacks or hustlers and what not around these here parts. Those terms don’t mean anything and are stupid. But I must say, a player who “conducts himself with style on and off the field” has to be considered the exact opposite of gritty, right? Say what you want about Eckstein, but that guy would play shortstop wearing nothing but a barrel with suspenders, and he wouldn’t hesitate to get that barrel dirty. Warrants mentioning.

An aspiring financial professional,

According to Wikipedia, McCardell is currently the wide receivers coach for the Washington Redskins, a job for which we can assume Redskins owner Dan Synder is paying him $12 million annually. Kudos to you, Kennan, for realizing your dream.

He was named to Mr. Blackwell’s 1998 list of Best Dressed Athletes in Sports.

“Athletes in Sports” is redundant, no? Anyway … I don’t know—I’m not saying Keenan McCardell was not/is not extremely stylish; I just have a hard time believing that Mr. Blackwell paid enough honest attention to sports, where people wear uniforms, to notice. I mean:

Ugh, what was she thinking? Madonna was a polka-dotted nightmare on the red carpet for the opening of “Evita.” Cry for her, Argentina … you too, America! That tragedy of a dress was worse than anything either country has faced since World War II. Was Argentina in that one? Who knows. The point is, get some new Material, Girl! … Equally offensive was Michelle Pfeiffer at the London Benefit to Cure Infectious Disease. Honey, you’re not 28 anymore, and brown knee-high boots do NOT go with that color sequin belt, mkay? You look like the end result of a fight between a hooker and Paul Bunyan. The Baker Boys are fabulous, but they shouldn’t be styling you … On the bright side, wide receiver Keenan McCardell of the Jacksonville Jaguars looked stunning as he emerged from the locker room after a tough divisional loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Classic fit black suit with a lavender tie that pops? Mmm, mmm, mmm. It won’t be long until this wide receiver finds his tight end, or whatever happens in football.

Did you know?
I also watch "Fashion Police."

Did you know Part II?
The Redskins have wide receivers?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lost in translation

Note: And edited version of this column appears in the 11/23 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/25 issue of the Peoria Times

I began taking Spanish classes in seventh grade. I had no idea what was happening.

This confusion continued throughout high school, where Spanish remained my most difficult obstacle to a well-balanced intelligence. I could understand and translate certain words, but I simply could not grasp tenses and the fact that words had genders. The library is a lady but a book is a man? I'm sorry, but that's not what the Bible says.

I remember those rare occasions when I felt I was kind of getting it, and the teacher, sensing my newfound confidence, would begin speaking at a normal pace, and my head would explode and I would run out of the classroom holding my ears. Were it not for -- I'm not proud to say this -- a particular high school Spanish teacher who was not very adept at monitoring the classroom during testing, I never would have graduated.

In fact, six years of study be darned, I bombed the Spanish portion of a test entering college and was forced to start from scratch. That I could say "Me llamo Miguel" earned me an A-plus in Spanish 101, but the next three semesters were a downward spiral of ineptitude that finally, mercifully culminated in the most joyful D-minus I ever received.

I have always preferred to use clichéd excuses for my failures at another language, like, "Some people get it and some don't; I don't, and it's not my fault!" and, "If I just spent like two weeks in Spain, they'd be asking ME "Donde esta la biblioteca?" But the truth is, I honestly wish I could speak Spanish, especially now, living in Arizona, which is closer to Spain.

I'm not one of those people who is offended by Spanish because this is America and bald eagles and what not. I'd rather be able to broaden my horizons and communicate more effectively. My attempts to do so, however, often fall flat.

Last weekend we installed new flooring in our living room. Rather, I should say we had new flooring installed, since I have never properly installed anything besides iPhone apps in my entire life. Instead, two fine gentlemen of Mexican descent did the installing, and I tried my best to make them feel at home.

When attempting to communicate with those who speak Spanish, I rarely use words like, "Si," and "Gracias," because I feel it only exposes my inability to grasp Spanish. Instead I use English slowly and loudly, as if I am talking to a two-year child of any nationality, with exaggerated hand movements: WOULD YOU (pointing) LIKE (rub heart) SOME COFFEE (awkward motion of bringing a mug to my lips; Ouch, this pretend coffee is hot!)?

Wanting to get further on their good side, I offered to play some music for them as they worked. Spanish music, perhaps? Of course! I went to the Spotify program on my laptop and searched "Spanish music," because that was as specific as I could be. A group called Mecana came up. Click! The music began playing and, even for someone unfamiliar with the genre, it sounded awful. I looked at the guys and shrugged, "Is this okay?" They gave me a sheepish and unconvincing thumbs up, which is Spanish for, "Not really, but please go away."

I was fairly certain I was playing for them the Spanish version of Celine Dion, especially after I later researched Wikipedia, which said, "Spanish music critics do not consider the band one of the most representative ensembles of the aforementioned cultural wave." Also, one of the members of Mecana is named Nacho, which seems offensive even to me, and I am Caucasian.

Making matters worse, Spotify links to Facebook, so in the feed for all two hundred of my supposed friends was the news that "Mike Kenny is listening to Mecano on Spotify." So this choice of music was embarrassing for everyone involved.

I could have simply asked them for a more specific recommendation, but I was paranoid that further attempted communication would make me look like more of an idiot. This situation is what eight years of Spanish study had earned me.

The next morning the men returned to finish the job, but this time my wife's cousin was with us, who speaks Italian, English, and Spanish. She took over, speaking to them fluently as I looked on in awed, jealous wonder. She discovered many things about their personal lives, including that, sure, they'd love a bagel! Then she was off to work, and I worried that the guys thought we had actually hired someone to come over and communicate with them for a few minutes.

Nevertheless, armed with that perceived street cred, I handed them their breakfast as they walked out the door, saying, "Here are los bagels!" They were very happy and impressed. They probably thought I was Spanish or something. I just may get this language yet.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Classic card of the week

Jermaine O’Neal, 1998 NBA Hoops

If you’re like me, you’re not missing the NBA that much at all, but you are kind of missing the 1998 set of NBA Hoops basketball cards that feature down-to-earth street talk and other helpful tidbits about various NBA players.

That said, here:

Yeah, we’re feeling you.

Was there any question we were feeling Jermaine O’Neal? OF COURSE we’re feeling you, Jermaine. If we weren’t feeling you, we probably wouldn’t have created this basketball card featuring your image and statistics. Our feelingness of you is therefore implied. Nevertheless, I would be overjoyed if, during the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, each person who speaks on behalf of his party’s elected candidate begins his speech, “Yeah, we’re feeling you.”

Sidebar: Jermaine O’Neal’s hair is blonde on this card. Remember when stuff like that happened in the late 90s? Frosted tips for white guys and blonde hair for black dudes? If anything can finally bring our two races together, I think a collective acknowledgement that stuff like that never happened is a decent start.

Youngest player in the NBA, no doubt!

See, this is where NBA Hoops cards really separated itself from your run-of-the-mill sports card. Traditionally, cards would just list a fact. Like, “Molitor led league in runs scored in ’82 with 136.” BO-ring! But when you add the “no doubt” moniker + exclamation point, you’re speaking to the kids:

"Yeah, we’re feeling you. Led league with 136 plates in eight-to-the-tiz-oo, no doubt!"

See? More:

We’re not fooled though;

Many people with no background on him who first saw the 6’11” Jermaine O’Neal on an NBA court wearing an NBA uniform were like, “Who is that child running up and down the court and WHERE ARE HIS PARENTS??!!” But NBA Hoops cards was like, “Chill out, home-slices. Don’t be fooled by the rock that he got. He’s just Jermaine; Jermaine on the block.”

we know your game is straight up MAN sized.

I remember when my own game finally finished the pubescent cycle, and all of sudden my game’s voice had deepened and it had acquired old-awkward-man-at-the-park strength and I was grabbing rebounds and throwing outlet passes and calling timeouts because someone had lost his contact lens on the court.

If the random, uninformative words on the back of this card did not fulfill your appetite for Jermaine O’Neal, please visit his Wikipedia page, which is longer than “War and Peace” and features information like, “At that same time, O’Neal’s mother met a new man, Abraham Kennedy …”

It’s a good read, no doubt!

Did you know?
Ryan Seacrest once challenged the singer Sisqo to a blonde-off. Sisqo won.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Forever isn’t two cents away

Note: This column appears in the 11/17 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/18 issue of the Peoria Times

I recently purchased stamps at the post office. This somehow caused a minor argument between my wife and I.

You see, I did not specify what type of stamps when I verbalized my order of “Stamps, please,” and thus I received “forever” stamps. A few years ago, when the post office was raising its rates every two weeks, I intentionally purchased several books of forever stamps at the market price, confident that in 2041, when envelope postage is a robust $2.90, we will be laughing all the way to the bank, retroactively profiting from what few envelopes we actually send out, as everything by then will be communicated telepathically. This is, of course, assuming we have not lost our forever stamps.

Anyway, the reason I had purchased stamps was because we were out of them and had a few items that required mailing, which is the most exciting sentence I have ever written. My wife, however, upon discovering the new stamps I had purchased were forever stamps, refused to use them in this, the year 2011, and instead demanded I add them to our present stash of forever stamps in the fireproof box that also includes our passports and a $50 Michael Jordan basketball card, which is my sole contribution to our retirement fund.

I disagreed, arguing that it didn’t matter they were forever stamps, as I could simply use them as regular stamps for now and if some impending rate hike were revealed, I could easily purchase additional forever stamps then. The cost of gas alone to go back to the post office was not worth the investment. Well, you can guess who emerged victorious from this battle of wills. I debated secretly mailing out items with the forever stamps anyway, but figured if she found out, which she undoubtedly would, it would cause a much larger argument about stamps, but really about trust, which I simply wasn’t ready for.

So I went back to the post office. Luckily, my previous order was not extensive, but this time I intended to not return to the post office for at least six years, so I bought an entire roll of stamps. I also decided I better get Christmas stamps then, too. I asked the postal employee if the holiday stamps were in, and he pointed to a display in the far corner of the room that I could not have seen with a telescope, and I worried if I went over there to browse, he would have called up the next person on line and I would be there for another 20 minutes. So I asked, “Do you have any religious holiday stamps?”

His response was, “Pfft. Depends what religion you are.” Frustrated with myself for saying holiday instead of “Christmas”—although I’m sure his response would have been the same—and frustrated with how political correctness has hijacked religious observance, I was tempted to tell him I was a Scientologist looking for stamps honoring evergreen trees. But I didn’t want to offend a government worker.

I spent almost $100 on stamps. Although I had hoped to avoid the post office for several years as a result, I am sure I’ll be back again when they raise their rates to purchase stamps that account for the difference. Even though we will be swimming in forever stamps, I highly doubt there will be a time when my wife will find it fiscally appropriate to use them, and so for us, their very description will ring true. We will have them … forever.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Classic card of the week

Steve Sax, 1989 Diamond King

This is the second artist’s rendering of Steve Sax we have examined around these here parts. Which one is better? Difficult to say. Purely subjective. For me personally, the colorful lines randomly zig-zagging in the background really take this one to another level. Do those lines represent the unique yet aimless nature of our very existence? Prolly. Or, it could have just been like:

Donruss executive: Background’s too white on this Sax.

Diamond King artist: I could put some lines on there, all different colors, going this way and that. I’ll make it look like the background of an 80s grade school picture.

Donruss: This is the 80s. Why are you referencing this current era?

Diamond King artist: I don’t know. I’ll go get my ruler.

However those colorful zig-zaggy lines speak to you, they leave no doubt that Steve Sax was a baseball player.

But what kind of baseball player?

Steve Sax is one of the rare players who made the transition to playing for the New York Yankees without a hitch.

Indeed, the majority of players who were not originally drafted by the Yankees but instead brought to the organization from somewhere else experienced hitches. I think we all remember the time that crop of ’90 free agents and trade acquisitions all simultaneously began wearing their gloves on their feet and wore helicopter beanie hats instead of baseball hats. Quite embarrassing. I don’t know what it is about the bright lights of NYC—especially during the Sax years, when the Stadium was half-filled and there was zero postseason pressure—that made lesser men cave, but the evidence is undeniable. It sort of makes you wonder why the Yankees even bothered bringing in outsiders, and how they were able to compete amidst the complexities of so many hitches. This all begs the question—how did a guy like Sax do it?

He did it by playing well.

Bucky Dent, Mgr, 1990: C’mon in here, Jesse. Have a seat.

Jesse Barfield: Sure, what’s up skip?

Dent: Jesse, you’re pressing out there. I can see it. Ever play in New York before?

Barfield: Well, yeah, last year—

Dent: See that’s the thing. You can’t handle it. It’s obvious. Too many lights, too much media, too many accessible corner shops with cheap vegetables. You got a hitch in your thingamagig.

Barfield: I don’t know what that means.

Dent: Jesse, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to be more like Sax.

Barfield: How so? You want me to play second base and hit five home runs?

Dent: I want you to play well.

Barfield: I am playing well. I have a 127 OPS+ to Sax’s 80.

Dent: You’re talking gibberish. Just get out there and play well, okay? Like Sax.

Sax, a former Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers in 1982, was the most consistent player for the Yankees last season.

Steve Sax, 1989: 158 games played, .387 SLG / .751 OPS / 113 OPS +
Other guy, 1989: 158 games played, .477 SLG / .828 OPS / 133 OPS +

But go ahead, please continue:

If the Yankees can acquire more players with Sax’s skills and attitude, they’ll be on their way to winning again.

I’ve done the math, and I’ve determined that a team constructed entirely of Steve Saxes would hit 40 home runs and win 39 games, but lead the league in attitude. That would be much better than the five World Series titles they have won post-Sax. Because of all the hitches.

Did you know?
The Saxian philosophy of "playing well" has been adopted by several current Major League Baseball players.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Homecoming and coming home: an account of grievances

Note: This column appears in the 11/10 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/11 issue of the Peoria Times

Punch me in the face if this column ever takes on a “kids these days!” or “when I was young, things were like this!’ tone. I never want to be the one making sweeping generational generalizations out of frustration and a false sense of nostalgia. I’m sure the 1720s witnessed its share of ungrateful, punk kids who lazily ditched the intricacies of word-of-mouth to play on their fancy newspapers all day.

That said, allow me to be specific about my angst. There are several groups of kids in our neighborhood who roam free of the restraints of parental supervision. Recently, united by their brute incivility, they have joined forces. Some of their accomplishments have included setting the local plant life ablaze—in order, I assume, to send a smoke signal to airborne local law enforcement to save the rest of us from their wrath—and washing the street of debris with their own urine. I wish I were joking.

The father of three of these children—the ringleaders—can often be seen working out shirtless in his garage, oblivious to the surrounding chaos, as if the in-street fisticuffs and free-flying curse words are par for the neighborhood course, or less important to address than the military press.

As a result, the remaining sane ones in the neighborhood have been forced to parent the various roaming children, if only to protect our own property and way of life. While one of my neighbors has taken an active role in becoming a feared yet respected father-figure disciplinarian, I myself have responded by trying to think of various ways by which to avoid destruction and also passively teach harsh, painful lessons. For example, an invisible electric fence for humans was a purchase I openly considered making. I also look forward to the day I can use the air horn I purchased to ward off coyotes while running to make children fall from the branches of the tree in our front yard.

We complained about such matters to each other as my wife and I waited in the car with our daughter in my in-law’s driveway last weekend. Next door a group of dressed-up high schoolers took pictures in the front yard, a preface to the night’s homecoming dance. My mouth was left agape by several of the outfits these young girls donned, and I half-jokingly demanded that my wife cover our daughter’s eyes.

By then, my mother-in-law had joined us in the car, and she laughingly warned us to just wait for the day when our daughter wants to dress like that. We, utterly confident in our ability to ward off such potentially requested attire with proper parenting, shunned the thought. From the driver’s seat, I assured my daughter that she’d never be the girl dressed like that, just as in my mind I assured myself she’d never be the neighborhood Denise the Menace, nor be influenced by kids like that.

Our daughter, who is 2, still intently staring at the glitz and glamour across the way, responded to my bold prediction thusly: “Wow, look … boys!’

I swear … kids these days.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Classic card of the week

John Franco & Bobby Thigpen, 1990 Fleer

I want to point out that here it appears as though John Franco is smelling a nasty fart, and that Bobby Thigpen is trying to be sly about having dealt it. Franco’s “Who farted?” face pales in comparison with the greatest one, but still, I commend it. And Thigpen? You’re nasty. It smells like you ate a day-old egg and sulfur sandwich. Get a hold of yourself, man.

Enough with the fart observations though. I can do other things.

Relievers Bobby Thigpen and John Franco had one thing in common in 1990,

They were relievers? They were the TOP GAME SAVERS as you pointed out on the front of the card? They played baseball? They enjoyed “Cats?”

but it’s likely neither one was thrilled about it.

Hmmm, this is getting tricky now. Let’s see … they both had bouts of diarrhea? They enjoyed “Cats?” I am stumped.

Thigpen, the American League save leader, and Franco, tops in the National League, wound up on teams that finished second in their respective divisions.

Man, that is the dumbest lede on the back of a baseball card that I have read all morning. That they both pitched for second place teams should be a side-note on a card paying them homage for their skills at acquiring lots of a dumb statistic, not the introduction. Also, you can do a lot worse than second place. It’s all relative. In college, I once placed second in some drunken cross-dressing beauty pageant event whereby I dressed like Britney Spears and danced on stage by thrusting my groin in the direction of a crowd that included at least some faculty, and I was thrilled. So let’s not go making assumptions.

(By the way, unfortunately, that story is absolutely true. The guy who came in first place swept the talent portion of the event by gracefully roller-blading through the crowd while dressed like an ice skater. It was pretty amazing, actually. My subsequent efforts reeked of desperation.)

Thigpen helped the Chicago White Sox to the third-best record in baseball by notching a Major-League record 57 saves. Bobby shattered the previous mark of 46 established by Dave Righetti in 1986. In fact, Thigpen and Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley (48 saves) both broke the mark. Righetti placed fifth in the AL in 1990 with 36 saves.

Even for a dumb stat, 57 saves is a lot of saves. Way to go, Bobby! How about you, John?

… Franco captured the save title, 33-31, over Myers.

Thirty-three saves? Wow, that is … only 24 saves less than your co-champion over there. If saves could be converted into public shame, that is the roughly the difference between 1st and 2nd place in the aforementioned college beauty pageant. And now that I think about it, that may be less of “Who farted?” face on Franco than a “How did I get here?” face, with Thigpen being like, “Pfftt. Yeah, how did you get here, dude? Also, I farted.”

Thigpen’s mark would be broken by Francisco Rodriguez, who Franco’s Mets later deftly acquired, and who paid back the organization by assaulting his would-be-father-in-law at Citi Field. You see, it all comes full circle … ?

So today we covered farts, diarrhea, cross-dressing beauty pageants, and would-be-father-in-law physical assault. Next week we will cover other, different things. Who knows, maybe even baseball. Hope to see you here!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The man in the garlic tuxedo

Note: This column appears in the 11/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/4 issue of the Peoria Times

We traveled back east recently for my brother-in-law’s wedding. A great time was had by all, although we did experience our fair share of minor stresses.

For starters, my father-in-law wasn’t feeling well. This was cause for concern, because it takes a major bout of sickness for him to even reveal he’s not feeling 100-percent. He could be battling the bird flu and he would still go spinning at the gym in the morning and then claim he had thrown up afterwards due to “bad water.”

As in all cases of sickness involving my father-in-law or his family and friends, the solution was simple—garlic. He boasts an entire menu of garlic-based, home-health-remedies. He once had me chew straight garlic cloves for a severe sore throat and also famously forced my wife to ingest a garlic-lemon-honey concoction to treat a scorpion sting. There is literally no ailment, in his mind, that could befall a human and not be adequately treated with garlic. For his own purposes he had developed something in liquid form, although the ratio of garlic to liquid was at least 10-to-1. He consumed a shot of this, it seemed, every 20 minutes.

Also, my brothers-in-law, including the groom, had rented tuxes that didn’t fit, and the new ones were slated to get in the day we were leaving for the upstate NY wedding weekend. By the time my father-in-law and I had time to go try on our tuxes, they needed to fit because we’d be leaving the next day.

The car ride to Men’s Wearhouse, though he had proudly warned us it would, reeked of garlic like nothing I could have imagined, and I could almost see the fumes penetrating out of my father-in-law’s pores from the back seat. I was praying the tuxes fit for the sake of both the wedding and the Men’s Wearhouse employees, who would have had their hands full with my healthy perturbed father-in-law, much less my sick, breathing-hot-garlic-fire father-in-law.

It was a battle before even entering the fitting room, as my father-in-law, by just looking at the bagged tuxedo shoes prepared for him, expressed his disdain for them and claimed he’d be wearing his own. The workers pleaded with him that he should take the shoes just to be safe. One helpful employee reminded him that most brides prefer everyone in the wedding party to look the same, to which my father-in-law responded, “What bride? Pfft. I’m the father of the groom.” He then kindly added, “I don’t like your shoes,” and that was that.

My tux fit okay, but when I walked out of the fitting room, my father-in-law was standing outside of his, rolling his eyes, with tuxedo pants that ended around his calves. The workers insisted it could be fixed with some minor tailoring. I imagined how pleasurable it must be to do on-the-spot tailoring for a skeptical, annoyed, Italian man protruding garlic fumes, but such was the predicament they had placed themselves in.

The tailoring sufficed—in retrospect, they were lucky he wasn’t feeling well, because if he were on his game, he would have made them tailor him a new Armani suit at no cost for his troubles. We all eventually managed to receive tuxedos that fit, and my father-in-law bravely forged through his sickness to the point where he was eventually dancing with a small plunger-like device on his head during the wedding reception. He danced in his own shoes.

After the festivities he reluctantly made it to the doctor, where he was prescribed some actual medicine. This was good, since he and my mother-in-law were traveling with us back to the Valley. One of their first stops upon getting here was Albertson’s for some fresh garlic. After all, among the litany of people my father-in-law doesn’t completely trust are tailors and doctors.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How long you had that problem?

I fully realize this sounds like a sorry excuse to revisit another old, bad rap song. However, the truth here is lamer than fiction—the other night I dreamt I was in the Positive K video for “I Got a Man.” I had no role in the video other than to watch what was happening, and everything took place inexplicably near my work, in front of Bank of America—traditionally not a place for rappers to annoyingly seduce women. God only knows where this came from; it’s possible the song briefly played on my wife’s clock radio alarm (she has an iPad, by the way, which I’m sure could gently nudge her awake with pleasant ocean sounds, but she still opts for the frightening static blast of the F.M. station on her clock radio) before a quick hit of the snooze button. Regardless, the song has unfortunately been in my head since, so

Aiyyo sweetie, you’re lookin’ kinda pretty

I wanted to sarcastically say that there might be a better way to approach a woman than to say “Aiyyo,” and then describe her as “kinda pretty,” but I honestly couldn’t think of one. Touché, Positive K. Touché.

What’s a girl like you, doin’ in this rough city?

“A girl like you” seems to imply that by her stature, demeanor, and manner in which she carries herself, this girl rises above the gruff predictability of inner-city life. In the video though, she is wearing a skin-tight, bright orange, full-body running suit ... and also carrying dumbbells, for what it’s worth.

I’m just here trying to hold my own ground

1) For anyone who has actually heard this song, her voice comes in as smoothly and delightfully as a squawking parrot unfolding an ironing board, and is enough to make a lesser man (like, say, Negative B) immediately cease his line of questioning and move on. 2) It is indeed much easier to hold one's own ground when one is carrying dumbbells.

Yeah, I think I like how that sound

Here, Positive K reacts as if this woman has responded, “I would like to take you back to my apartment and rip off your multi-colored Nike Air windbreaker and make sweet love to you,” and not the cliché of trying to hold her own ground. It’s almost as if Positive K is just hearing whatever he wants to hear.

What you say we gets to know each other better?

How many long-lasting and fruitful relationships have begun with these exact words, first uttered by Shakespeare himself via Romeo in the famous play, “’Sup Whichu, Boo?”

That sounds good but I don’t think that I can let ya


I don’t know, tell me is it so
Do you get a kick, out of tellin’ brothers no?

Ah, the ol’ misogynistic approach. It certainly can’t be Positive K's fault—he’s Positive K!—but rather this particular girl must get cheap thrills from rejecting various handsome and charismatic suitors. The paradox, of course, is had she simply agreed from the outset to “gets to know” Mr. K, she would eventually attain a much harsher label in subsequent rap songs by Too $hort. It's a no-win situation.

No it’s not that see you don’t understand
How should I put it,

You got a man? That almost rhymes.

I got a man,

Okay, cool. Understood. Sorry to bother you, miss! Have a pleasant afternoon, and enjoy your workout!

What’s your man got to do with me?

“Ummm, well, I’m not sure how to respond to that particular question, but it is indeed relevant that I do already boast a significant other, and as a woman intent on remaining monogamous, I theretofore officially rebuff your advances.” Let’s see if she goes with that response.

I told ya’

Or that. Let’s see how that steadfastness holds up.

I’m not trying to hear that see

It surely is true that Positive K only hears what he wants to hear. However, he is nothing if not persistent.

I’m not one of those girls that go rippin’ around

?. I am unfamiliar with that expression. According to Urban Dictionary, “rippin” has several slang definitions, so I suppose we can safely safe say that this girl does not “get down with the ladies” or “pull mad horizontal g’s on her Skidoo while roostin’ down a snow covered trail in western NY.” Man, I love the Internet.

I’m not a dog baby, so don’t play me like a clown

A) dog = clown, b) dog baby (puppy) = clown, or b) “I’m not a dog baby, so don’t play me like a dog” is redundant and doesn’t rhyme with “around.” Another word that doesn’t rhyme with “around” is “clown,” but I don’t want to get too involved here. It’s just a silly rap song, after all. Or, also: d) "I'm not an animal who chases women/mailmen, so don't treat me like a person who makes people laugh at the circus." Five points to Positive K for originality.

I’ll admit, I like how you kick it

MIXED SIGNALS! Also, really? You like being called “kinda pretty” and “baby” and being generally haggled into sexual relations? Man, I am starting to side with Positive K is this romantic tug-of-war.

Now you’re talkin’ baby, dats da ticket

You see, I mean … have fun telling Positive K to go away now. Sheesh.

Now don't get excited and chuck your own in

C'mon , baby. Get realz here. Who doesn't want to chuck their own in after being told he kicks it well? Of course, I am kidding. I have no idea what this means.

I already told ya, I got a man

I think I know what's coming.

What's your man got to do with me?

And so on and so forth. Personally, I believe this young woman should try, "I am spoken for," as an alternate response, if only to witness her counterpart's free-styling ability. Example:

"I'm spoken for"
"I'm not trying to hear that see yo for"

Now you can persist to play Don Juan all day
But ain't nothin gonna change
Yeah baby, sure you're right

The clever and subtle A, B, C, D, E, F, G, etc. rhyme scheme. Brilliant!

I'ma break it down and do whatever I gots to do

I sincerely hope "whatever" doesn't include rape. I'm just saying.

I'll tell you now, I got eyes for you.

"I Only Have Eyes ... For Your Booty," was Positive K's contemporary take on Sinatra, and reached No. 112 on the Billboard charts in '93. He was later sued for copyright infringement by R. Kelly, but only because R. Kelly was upset he didn't think of it first.

You got eyes, but they not for me
You better use them for what they for and that's to see

I don't want to get too technical here, but urging Mr. K to use his eyes to see -- good advice, don't get me wrong -- does not necessarily dissuade him from doing just that to see you, and need I remind you that you are wearing a bright orange skin-tight leotard. You have made no progress here in your endeavor.

You know what's the problem, ya not used to learnin

Ha! Boom, roasted! You uneducated broad! Why don't you try learnin something every now and then? Quick, what rhymes with "learnin?"

I'm Big Daddy Longstroke, and your man's Pee Wee Herman

A, ha! Few things make a woman melt more than the classic, "my penis is bigger than your man's, who I do not know, penis." Gets 'em every time, amiright, ladies? I should also mention that I have never heard of this fabled Big Daddy Longstroke, but using context I find it safe to assume that his children's television show was much better than Pee Wee Herman's.

Now seems about as good a time as any to end this thing. This song goes on forever and most of it involves Positive K not trying to hear dat.

I should probably stop drinking coffee before bed.

Is that Bank of America?
I told you, I got a bank.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dog barks + owner shrugs = gavel slam?

Note: This column appears in the 10/27 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/28 issue of the Peoria Times

We’ve finally reached that point of the year where we can turn off our air conditioners and go to sleep soundly with the windows open, the gentle cool breeze blowing in and comforting us as we dream of unicorns jumping over rainbows, or whatever it is that you dream about.

And then, if you’re like us, you can be violently awoken by your dog, who jumps up to start barking back at a neighborhood dog who has been left outside and began barking wildly, at something, like nothing, for some unknown reason.

This has always confounded me—say you have a dog, right? And you love your dog so much that you’re like, “You know what dog? You’re gonna stay outside like, forever. Summer heat? Coyotes? Bobcats? Scorpions? Deal with it. You’re a dog. You can handle it. I love you. But I must set you free.” That makes no sense, right? I mean, why even have a dog?

But hey, everyone’s different, I guess. I just would figure that the least a person can do, for both his dog and the betterment of the entire neighborhood, is bring the dog in at night. It’s bad enough to hear the howling sounds of the coyotes, and the accompanying mental imagery of them surrounding a poor, defenseless baby unicorn somewhere in the nearby desert. But the cacophony of barking induced by coyote-howling and much lesser sounds, like wind, from dogs left outside is just too much.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this. Glendale City Council recently considered the issue of public noise, especially from dogs, and they also touched on the sensitive topic of public smells, for which I firmly believe there is not nearly enough legislation.

Judge Elizabeth Finn, based on how things proceed in Peoria, recommended that three unrelated nearby property owners must sign a complaint in order to achieve prosecution for an owner with an annoying dog. Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs was not a fan of such a definitive required number, stating that some homes in Glendale feature large acreage, so finding nearby property owners to concede would prove difficult. Now, I would argue that if you live on a large chunk of land, and you are hearing a dog bark at night or smelling a foul odor, it is probably your own dog and own odor. But whatever. The point is that city council is finally addressing barking dogs and random odors. Also “squawking birds.” Some people have problems with that, too, apparently.

My problem is that I am still unsure from which houses these dogs are barking in my own neighborhood. I therefore run the risk of approaching my neighbors to sign a complaint and discovering that they are actually one of the culprits.

“Hello, neighbor. Would you mind signing this complaint? Dude over there keeps his dog out at night and it drives me crazy.”

“I keep my dog outside at night.”

“Oh that’s cool. Did I say ‘dog?’ I meant, the dude over there smells bad. Just sign here.”

I already have zero or a negative relationship with the majority of my neighbors, so this should work out well. I miss the old days when things didn’t have to pass through city council, and if you had a problem with your neighbor you got a bunch of other neighbors to help drag that person into the street and publicly spank them with a humongous wooden spoon. It used to happen like that, right? Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Classic card of the week

Joe Girardi, 1994 Upper Deck

Hey, I have an idea. Get up.

Seriously. Get. Up. You’re embarrassing yourself, writhing away in the dirt like that. It’s your own fault. You thought you could run through the brick wall that it Joe mo’ freakin’ Girardi? Pfft. Hold on, let me flick this bug off my shoulder. There. That was more difficult for me than blocking the plate from you.

Get up.

How did you even get over there? I honestly don’t remember. I think I fell asleep there for a second. I remember yawning when I saw you rounding third with a full head—your head is huge, by the way—of steam, but I don’t really remember much after that. Was there contact? My uniform looks like it just came out of the wash. Man, I am bored.

Get up.

Did somebody shoot you from the stands and I didn’t see it? If so, apply pressure to the wound. If not,

Get up.

Do you see a white light? Move away from the light, man. That would cause a massive delay here, and I got a family to get home to. Speaking of families, you are embarrassing yours right now. And mine. And America. So please,

Get up.

No? Okay. Might as well tell you a little bit about myself. Grew up in Peoria, Illinois. Ever hear of it? Thought so. Played sports, obviously, excelled at them all, obviously. Just for poops and giggles—I don’t curse, that’s another thing about me … it’s so, predictable—went to Northwestern and got a degree in industrial engineering. I could pretty much design a skyscraper that’s also a rocket ship if I wanted to, but I prefer to teach harsh life lessons to pretty boys like you. What did you major in, not going to college? Prolly. Oh, and by the way, I was the first freshman ever to be elected president of my fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, which is Latin for ... something. Sorry, don't speak Latin. Too busy being an industrial engineer who is awesome at baseball. Anyway, yeah, a freshman president. My hazing was that the seniors had to bow down before me and wash my baseball spikes with their saliva. It was tough, but I came out a better man, if that’s even possible. It’s not possible. I came out the same. Also, I was forged from steel.

Get up.

We’re friends now, right? Cool. Between you and I, I’m sick of this Colorado biz. My game-calling skills are unmatched, but infield flies here are three-run ding-dongs, ya’ know? I can’t do anything about that. I used my industrial engineering expertise to construct and then recommend to the front office a humidor for the baseballs, but no one was feeling me. I patented the idea anyway, just in case. Anyway, think I’m gonna head somewhere else, win a bunch of titles. What about you? Gonna lay there? Cool. Let me know how that works out.

Get up.

Definitely gonna manage eventually. When I do, tell the world how I inspired you on this day. It’ll make for a great story, a precursor of sorts. Media loves that sort of thing. Oh, hey, I almost forgot—you’re out. Figured that went without saying, but you seem a little dazed, so thought I’d let you know. Here comes the trainer. Do me a favor and dust off the plate before they put you on the stretcher. It was nice talking to you.

Did you know?
Joe Girardi was surprisingly unable to tell Alex Rodriguez to "get down," in the batting order, of the 2011 playoffs.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Classic card of the week

Steve Hosey, 1993 Pinnacle

Here is a 1993 baseball card in which Pinnacle introduces a member of its forecasted “Team 2001.”

Why 2001 as opposed to a Conan-esque “in the year 2000?” Well, in 2000, Pinnacle figured, the instant future would be weird and messy. “Forget about baseball—how do I operate this flying robot dog?!” is what people would undoubtedly be saying very frequently. But by 2001? Everything would fall into place and make sense and be more established. Hence, that will be the perfect time for America to unleash its sole athletic team on the rest of the unsuspecting world. Wait, not world—universe. According to its schedule, Team 2001 faces the Jupiter Juggernauts on a neutral space field the second weekend of August. Best of luck, guys! Bring home the Galactidoid!

The Giants envision Steve as part of a super outfield in the not-too-distant future.

Da-da-da-da-daaaaaaaa! Introducing your SU-PER OUTFIEEEEELD! Picture it—2001. Giants versus Dodgers. Dodgers trot out their civilian outfield. Dudes jog out of the dugout, hang out in the grass for a little while, scratch their respective groins, chase after balls hit in the gap and stuff. Pfft. Embarrassing. Bottom half of the inning? BAM! Super outfield to the rescue! Steve Hosey, Barry Bonds, and some other guy—let’s call him, “Future McFutureson” (right field)—literally fly out of the dugout! They’re wearing capes that feature their faces. Also, the bottom of their spikes are on fire—rocket booster spikes! They fly around in a figure 8 to the delight and amazement of the once hostile crowd before slowly allowing their rocket booster spikes to drop them into position. Uh oh, first pitch, looks like an upper deck home run for the Dodgers … not so fast! Steve Hosey flies high into the sky and grabs the ball with his bare hand! PLAY OF THE CENTURY! Then, while still in midair, Hosey grabs, out of nowhere, a baseball bat, then throws the ball up to himself, and hits it into the stratosphere! That’s 38 trillion galact-o-runs for the Giants! Game over! Season over! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!

Phew. Man, I can’t wait for the future! Where was I?

Steve is big, fast, powerful, and agile.

Four tools. Other tool is a shrink ray gun, which Steve also has. Unsure why they didn’t mention that one. Kind of important.

Wikipedia, anything to add?

Hosey's half brother is Boston Celtics basketball player Paul Pierce.

Paul Pierce was unceremoniously left off of Team 2001 because he did not play baseball. Had he made it, Pierce and Hosey would have made headline news as the first half-brother superhero tandem in the brief history of cosmic baseball.

Did you know?
Future McFutureson once tore his ACL after falling down the dugout steps. It healed itself immediately, but he was still placed on the 15-day DL for “embarrassment,” as the future is much more sensitive to emotions.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The sporting life

Note: This column appears in the 10/13 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/14 issue of the Peoria Times

Our daughter, who just turned 2, had her first soccer practice last Saturday.
You may be wondering, as I was—how does a 2-year old play soccer? Well, it’s complicated. For a young girl like our daughter, who is not that much bigger than the required soccer ball, there are obstacles, the least of which is the size ratio of foot-to-ball.

We had signed her up through the City of Peoria’s website for this Toddler Tots six-week soccer practice thingee. As parents, it was strangely exhilarating to say things like, “Sorry, can’t go. Our daughter has soccer practice.” The whole situation enabled me to excitedly forecast a future when I am escorting her to more advanced sporting events of which she is a participant, and I can actively complain about the coaching and/or officiating and openly lobby for her All-Stardom.

In that respect, we’re off to a rough start. The practice began with positive encouragement from the coach for all the kids to begin stretching by holding your arms out like this and twirling them around! Simple enough, it would seem. But something about these encouraging instructions caused our daughter to break down, wail loudly, and then cling to me, the parent chosen to assist her in this practice so that my wife could patrol the sidelines with the Flip video. Up until that very moment—literally the first moment of the whole thing—all the kids seemed happy and excited. But our daughter’s wailing set off the familiar domino effect, with other young ones following suit. Sorry, coach!

Not helping matters was the fact that it was like 105-degrees out and very humid. Only in Arizona can the first October morning of fall feel like the Peruvian rainforest. (By the way, is it me or have the last two summers been very humid? I was promised dry heat. What gives, God?) After five minutes her face was flush red and my wife was running over with a water bottle like our daughter was a boxer in the corner of the ring, while lamenting that one of us had neglected to put sun block on her. Sports!

The practice proceeded as such, with me holding her hand as we attempted to execute simple soccer drills. Many times she opted to fall to the ground in a heap of crying despair, leaving me in that compromised state of having to choose between tough-love parent or coddler. I straddled the line for a bit, but by the end I was simply holding her while dribbling the ball myself and knocking other kids out of the way so I could she could score.

She did have fleeting and encouraging moments—mostly, for some reason, when my wife briefly took over—of participation whereby she exhibited a skill level on par with any popular one-named Brazilian. I think she’ll do better as the weeks go on, and both the weather and immense pressure of living up to the glory and tradition of Toddler Tots soccer cool off.

My wife later described the practice to her mom, which prompted my mother-in-law to ask what color the uniforms are, as if this is a traveling team sponsored by Best Buy that challenges the best 2-year olds from in and out of state. The contrast of that question to the reality of the day was awesome.

Maybe she will wear a uniform one day. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Right now, I am a soccer dad with the loudest kid on the team, and it feels pretty good.