July 31, 2002

A good workout, a nice swim, then a big bowl of macaroni and cheese while watching the gorgeous red sun setting beyond the industrial paradise of Hudson County. Can life get any better than this?

July 30, 2002

I'm not sure when exactly it's coming out, but Despite Everything will apparently be the ultimate Cometbus collection, over 600 pages of reprints from the 20-year history of the greatest zine ever. If I knew when or where it was being sold I would camp out for it, and I'm so excited I might just do it anyway.
Nature Quiz: Read the following excerpts and then answer the question that follows:
Biologists said the five males and one female were showing a typical mating pattern, common during the summer.

Biologist Penny Husted said from two to 20 males will follow a female for days, sometimes weeks, until she is receptive. [During this time] "She will hide her genital regions and basically rest," Husted said. "It's important that people leave them alone when they do this so she can get the rest that she needs." Husted said the female will typically return to deeper water once she has rested.
Were the preceding excerpts taken from:
  1. A story about six mating manatees which washed up on a Florida beach, or
  2. A Trentonian feature about the singles scene in Seaside Heights, NJ?
Click here for the exciting answer! (Okay, it's the manatee one. Thanks, Christine!)
"Others bemoan the lack of Smurfs."
This is not a democracy, people! Apparently, due to my special position as the sponsor of the oft-praised-round-these-parts Girls Are Pretty, several loyal GAP readers have written to me wondering what has become its beloved message boards. Each day, dozens of fine folks gathered in the GAP boards exchanging polite greetings and clever comments about...well, really, it was more like scatological references and blatant come-ons from near-psychopaths, but at least the board kept that sort isolated in one place.

Anyway, about a week ago, the boards disappeared, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The instructions were still updated daily and the YACCS link stayed up, but the message boards were gone. There was no explanation, of course — the Pretty Girl never explains herself — so the masses turned to me for guidance.

And..um...I have no idea. Sorry.

July 29, 2002

Check out Matt Labash's terrific Weekly Standard series uncovering the real reasons behind the rise in automated enforcement technology — those red-light cameras becoming too common in major cities.
Snapshots from the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction.

And direct from the first batch of postcards, the text of Ozzie Smith's Hall of Fame plaque:
Osborne Earl Smith

"Ozzie" "The Wizard"

San Diego, N.L. 1978-1981

St. Louis, N.L. 1982-1996

Revolutionized defensive play at shortstop with his acrobatic fielding and artistic turning of double plays. The 13-time Gold Glove winner set six major league fielding records among shortstops, including most assists, double plays and chances accepted. An effective offensive player, he accumulated 2,460 hits and stole 580 bases. Named to 15 All-Star teams. His relentless pursuit of perfection helped lead the Cardinals to three World Series, including a 1982 championship. His congenial personality, consummate professionalism and trademark back flip made "The Wizard" a fan favorite.

Who's on tap for next year? Certainly Eddie Murray, probably Ryne Sandberg and Lee Smith, hopefully Gary Carter. There looks to be some fairly lackluster inductions on the way (2004: Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor; 2005: Wade Boggs; 2006: Um...nobody? Catchup on guys like Bert Blyleven, Jim Rice and Goose Gossage?) until 2007, when Tony Gwynn, Mark McGwire, and Cal Ripken, Jr. become eligible. That should be quite the show.

July 27, 2002

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging. I couldn't work it into Skee-Ball Week, but New York's Museum of Natural History is hosting "Baseball As America"through August 18, an exhibit featuring memorabilia and artifacts never seen outside of Cooperstown. It's a strange place for the exhibit, especially considering that Cooperstown is only a few hours north of Manhattan, but it's pretty darn good.

What is especially cool, though, is that the museum's food court will have a kind of companion exhibit: "Hot Dogs As America," with a selection of ten classic dogs direct from the regional suppliers. For the first time, I'll be able to try a storied Fenway Frank or Dodger Dog, as well a bunch of other tasty dogs. Mmmmm....hot dogs.

Speaking of the closeness of Cooperstown, my brother and I will be driving up there tomorrow morning to check out Ozzie Smith's induction. It should be a lot of fun, especially if the rumors are true and Ted Williams' head makes a rare appearance. See you on Monday.
Dammit, I've never even been to Morocco!

July 26, 2002

Roll Closing Credits! Cue the Theme Song!
In Skee-Ball Week,
We’ve talked of many things.
Of love, and death,
And plastic spider rings.
It’s all felt really nifty,
Like rolling a 50.
We've had a lot of fun

We’ve laughed at Spats,
A roller much maligned,
We’ve shared some tales,
And been told we’ve lost our minds.
But now our time has passed,
It's a shame it went so fast,
Can’t wait for the next one!
Good night, everyone! We love you! Drive home safely!

July 25, 2002

Skee-Ball Week Continues! Click here to go to the beginning of the story.

[Editor's Note: Unfortunately, we here at The Donk have been unable to locate the May or June 1938 issues of Happy Boy Magazine despite countless phone calls, e-mails, and time spent searching the microfilm and periodical departments of several university libraries. There is a lack of any real collector's market for magazines like Happy Boy, making them extremely difficult to find (it would actually be easier for us to locate them if they were considered rare and valuable!). If any of our readers can provide us with these elusive issues, you will have our eternal gratitude.

That being said, we were, at last, able to locate the July 1938 issue of Happy Boy (our eternal gratitude goes out to Dick Gibson, the Skee-Ball Hall of Fame's Director of Research, for his patience and diligence), featuring the climax of the Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion storyline. We hope you enjoy it.]

From the July 1938 issue of Happy Boy Magazine: For Boys Like You!

Episode 15 of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!

When we last saw Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion, he had defeated Jehoshaphat Smith, Adirondack Al Acres, and Buck D'Lish (not to mention a nefarious German Agent attempting to infiltrate the world of Skee-Ball!) to reach the final round of The Championships. His opponent: the mysterious, bearded Joe Doe. Guy and Joe Doe had each won one game in the finals; the winner of the third game would become the World Skee-Ball Champion.

Guy Sterling put down his glass of lemonade, walked over to the alley, and put his nickel in the slot. He heard familiar metallic whoosh of the resetting scoreboard and the clack of the nine wooden balls as they reached the bottom of the chamber. Guy was getting ready to play a game of Skee-Ball, something he had done thousands and thousands of times.

There was one small difference, however. In none of those thousands of times had a whole dome filled with screaming fans been watching Guy roll, and in none of those thousands of times could a good game make Guy the Skee-Ball Champion of the World. Thinking about all that wouldn't help, Guy thought, so he just kept reminding himself that it was just another game of Skee-Ball: the balls weren't any heavier, the lanes weren't any longer, and the 50-point hole wasn't any smaller.

The bellowing voice of the announcer broke his concentration. "Ladies and Gentleman, the final game of the 1938 World Skee-Ball Championships! Let's hear it once again for both of our finalists: Guy Sterling and Joe Doe!"

Guy looked over at his opponent, the mysterious Joe Doe. Guy had never heard of Joe Doe, and neither had any of the other rollers in the tournament. Nobody even knew where he came from, since he refused to talk to anybody. Even when Guy tried to wish him luck, like his Ma had taught him to do, Doe just grunted and walked away, tugging at his bushy beard. He hadn't seen anybody that mean since the time Barkeep Billy kicked a pig in the middle of Main Street!

Well, he might have been an unfriendly son-of-a-gun, but he sure could play some Skee-Ball! After losing the first game by more than 50 points, it took all of Guy's nerve and concentration to fight back and eke out a win in the second game. Now it was time for the final game, and Guy was tired. It had been the busiest, craziest, most exciting week of his whole life, and one way or the other it would be all be over in a few minutes.

"Gentlemen, start yer Skee-Balling!"

Doe rolled first, another 50. Gosh, Guy thought, this guy sure is good. How can it be that somebody this good would just appear out of nowhere? The way he was rolling he would have won a whole bunch of trophies, or at least come close! And if he had been in tournaments, surely somebody would recognize him, what with that big, bushy beard. Still, Guy thought while watching Doe roll, something about him seemed awfully familiar...

Guy threw his first ball: it hit the lip of the hole but banked in for the 50. Whew! In a match like this, even one little mistake could be the difference. Guy knew he had to stop worrying about this Joe Doe character and just worry about his game.

The two rollers went back and forth, trading 50's. Both seemed to know that it was going to take nothing less than perfection to win this title. 150-150. 200-200. Like 50-making machines, the two rollers were both throwing perfectly. 250-250. 300-300. The tension in the Skee-Dome was growing thicker with each roll. 350-350! 400-400!

Joe Doe got up to throw his last ball. Though he had thrown nothing but 50's, Joe Doe was looking a lot more tired and nervous than he had at the beginning of the match. That nervousness, combined with the heat inside the packed Skee-Dome, was causing him to sweat something fierce. He was wiping his hands on his shirt and furiously scratching at his beard. He looked like he needed a nap and a tall glass of ice water, but that would have to wait. Doe rolled the ball.

Like his previous eight throws, the ball banked off the right wall and up towards the 50. But this one seemed to be moving a little faster than the others, and rather than sailing into the 50-point whole it bounced off the top of it, rebounding into the 40. The crowd gasped, and now Guy could win the whole thing with his last throw. The 40 caused Joe Doe to utter his first word of the tournament: "Geesmackit!" he screamed, then stomped back to his chair, still pawing at his face.

As excited as he was about the chance to win, Guy couldn't help but notice that something strange seemed to be happening as Joe Doe scratched his face, that his beard seemed to be...shifting a little! That was something that never happened to Gramps' beard! And that "Geesmackit!" sounded awful familiar! He ran over to Joe Doe and grabbed his beard. Gosh, Guy thought, I sure hope I'm right about this. Guy grabbed tight, gave a yank...and the beard came off in his hands!

The crowd was stunned into silence, broken only when a man in the mezzanine screamed "It's Spats Muprhy!" And it was! Reviled by the sport and booed mercilessly at tournaments, Spats had adopted this cunning disguise to compete in the Championships. Immediately, NSBA officials ran over to Guy and Spats, screaming that the tournament was over, that Spats was disqualified, that there would need to be new matches, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

And, of course, it was Spats screaming loudest of all, screaming about how he was being framed, how some gamblers were forcing him to wear the fake beard, how he just wanted to beat the damn punk kid.

"Wait a goshdarn second," Guy screamed, silencing everybody. "Spats might be a sneak and a liar and a jerk and an all-around terrible man, but near as I can tell he didn't cheat here today. He may have done it in a real funny way, but he won a bunch of matches to get here, and he was rolling real good today." Guy turned to Spats and looked him straight in the eye.

"But you know something, Spats? Today, you just ain't good enough."

With that, Guy turned and walked over to the alley, a smile on his face. Like it was the easiest thing he was ever going to do, he reached down, picked up the ball, set himself, then rolled it down the lane. And like his little brother jumping off the rope swing into Critters Creek, the ball sailed through the 50-point hole quiet and pretty as can be.

And with that 50, Guy Sterling was the Skee-Ball Champion of the World!

July 24, 2002

I interrupt Skee-Ball Week for the following anecdote:

During my lunch break today I walked over to a nearby restaurant to play a little Golden Tee 2002. The Golden Tee machine is located next to the jukebox, and while I was playing two high school kids, a boy and a girl, came over to pick out a few songs. When the boy pointed to the Bob Marley CD and suggested one of his songs, the girls looked confused and asked, "That's Bob Marley? I thought he was a fat white guy. Are you sure that's Bob Marley?"

I decided not to respond since, after all, what can you really say to that? After about a minute, though, the girl turned to her friend and said, "Oh, wait, I was thinking of Chris Farley."
Celebrate Skee-Ball's Most Memorable Moments!

The history of Skee-Ball is truly the history of America. Over nearly 100 years, Skee-Ball has delighted and enraptured millions of fans, and etched countless moments onto the American tableau. To help celebrate this remarkable legacy, Discover® and the National Skee-Ball Association® invite you to be part of history by voting to determine the most memorable moment in Skee-Ball history.

A panel of experts including rollers, executives, and sportswriters have selected ten moments for our ballot. Simply use the ballot box to your left to select your most memorable Skee-Ball moment. We'll announce the winner at a special ceremony during this year's Atlantic City Championships.Skee-Ball: It's not just a sport — it's our lives.

July 23, 2002

Skee-Ball Week Continues!

Welcome to Sports Corner, with your host: Buck Woolley!

This week's question comes to us from Mo-Skee, obviously quite the little Skee-Baller. She asks, "What advice might Spats Murphy have given regarding the elusive 100's?"

Well, Mo, that's quite the question. Just what would have that legendary roller and noted scumbag have said about the 100-point targets? First, though, a little background: As I'm sure you know, the 100's weren't introduced into National Skee-Ball League play until 1978, long after Spats' death, in an attempt to liven up the game and boost sagging ratings. While originally rollers were only allowed to go for the 100 on their last ball, that rule was relaxed by the mid-80's to allow unlimited shooting. Who among us will ever forget Jock Casey's record 810 in the 1993 Finals, missing that perfect score by less than a millimeter? I know I sure won't.

Anyway, Spats Murphy was a man who didn't believe in doing anything halfway, whether it was Skee-Ball, stealing another man's wife, or selling nuclear secrets to the Italians. If Spats were alive today, I think he'd say to go right for that 100, and whether you make it or not you can cash in your tickets with your head held high!

This has been Sports Corner, with your host: Buck Woolley!
Skee-Ball Week Continues, with a Brief, Scholarly Interlude! [I’ve received a lot of e-mail this week indicating that the vast majority of you were not previously familiar with either the Guy Sterling stories or Happy Boy Magazine. I guess that most of you weren’t fortunate enough to grow up in the Goldstein household, where winter evenings were spent in front of the fire, with Gramps reading to us kids from the latest issue of Happy Boy. Ah, those were wondrous days.

Anyway, I thought that before I continued with the Guy Sterling reprints, I’d get you all caught up to speed, so to speak, with the following excerpt from Scott Scoglio's article "Magazines for Adolescents in the Pre-War Era," which appeared in the American Library Association publication Periodicals Quarterly.]

Though largely forgotten today, Happy Boy Magazine enjoyed a relatively lengthy period of success, especially compared to the many other boy's magazines that collapsed in the wake of the Grit/Boy's Life tandem juggernaut of the 1930's and 40's. Originally a giveaway produced by the Happy Boy Dairy Corporation to increase margarine awareness and sales among ten-year-old boys, the magazine soon outgrew its original purpose to include a wide variety of non-dairy features and serials. [Happy Boy's origins were well represented, however, by the long-running comic strip Oleo Joe, the adventures of a mischievous boy who each month used his beloved margarine to get out another tight scrape. Reports that Joseph Heller and Jack Kirby collaborated on some of the later Oleo Joe strips have proven to be only rumors.] The magazine began newsstand sales in June 1936, with its familiar tagline — "For Boys Like You!" — appearing shortly afterwards.
The most popular feature in Happy Boy Magazine was, by far, the Guy Sterling series, in its many incarnations. What made the Guy Sterling series unique was that its many writers never allowed it to lapse into a familiar formula or routine, as was the unfortunate practice of the time. Because of this character growth, readers followed the exploits of Guy long after they tired of many similar serials and, oftentimes, long after they had stopped reading the rest of the magazine. Towards the end of Happy Boy's run it would not be unusual to see men in their twenties and thirties reading the latest issue on the bus or subway. It was certainly responsible for a large share of the magazine's success.

The first year of the series, Guy Sterling: Farmboy, was standard rural fare, notable only for the relatively graphic, sometimes twice-monthly, descriptions of livestock birth that peppered the text. The characters were sweet, and the storylines ran to the sappy.

The series didn't really take off until 1937 with the introduction of the "Skee-Ball Champion" storyline. At the time, the Skee-Ball craze was sweeping the country, and the Happy Boy editors no doubt saw this as a way to cash in its popularity. It soon became much more, due to some crisp writing, exciting storylines, and an innovation that would become a hallmark of the series.

While other serials had occasionally featured real-life celebrities in cameo roles, the Guy Sterling serial was the first to actually use them as full-fledged characters, interacting as part of the storyline. Some of the nation's top Skee-Ballers, including Brinks McGillicuddy, Bobby Knowles, and Ray Rayberg, were signed to licensing contracts and became major players in the Skee-Ball Champion storyline. During a time when the sports press was much smaller and the personal lives of athletes were far more private, these stories gave many young fans the idea that they were seeing the men behind the legends.

In most cases, for obvious reasons, the athletes were presented as strong, noble, and near-invincible, despite their inevitable defeats at the hands of Guy Sterling. In a few cases, these Skee-Ballers had some input into their characters and storylines. There was, however, one unfortunate exception: Joey "Spats" Murphy.

At the time the Skee-Ball Champion series began, Spats Murphy was on the downside of a long, illustrious career, but was still immensely popular. Befitting his stature, Spats was introduced as a near-mythic figure, brave and beloved. To Murphy's lifelong dismay, this characterization only lasted a few brief episodes, and while the reasons for the editorial shift have been lost to history (the most persistent rumor revolved around a girlfriend supposedly shared by Spats and the series' lead writer), there can be no doubt that the animosity was genuinely felt. To a nation of boys the name Spats Murphy would soon became synonymous with sniveling, cheating, lying, and other unsavory acts.

While Murphy wrote letter after letter begging to be let out of his contract, his character continued to appear, even long after the Skee-Ball storyline and craze had passed. And while he died a broken man, hated by a nation of men and boys, a pariah to his own family, Murphy could take some solace that the April 1942 installment of Guy Sterling: Air Force Flyboy, consisting of seven pages of Guy savagely beating Murphy interspersed with scenes of Murphy begging for more and declaring that he wanted to kiss Tojo, is said to be largely responsible for the strengthening of America's libel laws during that period. How many of us can say we made such a difference?

July 22, 2002

Please join us here at The Donk as we continue to present these delightful, exclusive reprints of the 1930's favorite sports/adventure tales for lads. Check out the previous installment here.

From the April 1938 issue of Happy Boy Magazine: For Boys Like You!

Episode 12 of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!

When we last saw Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion, his boyhood idol, the legendary Joey "Spats" Murphy, had joined Guy in the locker room of the Atlantic City Skee-Dome, moments before the National Championships were to begin.

"The name's Spats, son, and you look like you can use a little advice."

Guy couldn't believe what was happening. Here it was, a few minutes before the biggest tournament of his life, and Spats Murphy was standing only a few feet away! Still, Guy couldn't help thinking that the whole thing was a little funny. Imagine, Spats Murphy introducing himself, like Guy wouldn't know who he was! Why, it was almost like if Guy's Ma had come to Atlantic City and introduced herself!

"Gosh, Mr. Murphy, I'm sure any advice you'd give would be terrific! But what are you doing here?

"Well, Guy, I've heard a lot about you, and I've been watching you. You remind me of another young roller I once knew, a roller with a golden arm and a headful of dreams. A roller named Spats Murphy. By which I mean you remind me of me, only when I was your age."

Guy Sterling's eyes opened wide, and his smile lit up the whole locker room. "Gosh, Mr. Murphy, do you really mean it? Wow! That's the gr—"

"And that's why I felt like I had to come and see you here today." Spats turned away from Guy. For a moment, Guy thought that Spats might be — no, could it be?! — wiping a tear from his eye.

"Skee-Ball's a great game, Guy — maybe the best darn game in the whole darn country. Maybe nobody knows that more than the two of us. And that's why it breaks my heart to see what some folks are trying to do to this great game."

Guy was on the edge of the bench. "What folks, Spats?! Who are they, and what are they trying to do to Skee-Ball?!"

"Gamblers, Guy. Rotten, stinking gamblers." This time there was no mistaking it; there were definitely tears in Spats' eyes. "It's chiselers and cheats and the whole thing makes me sick."

Spats turned and walked over to where Guy was sitting, putting his hand on Guy's shoulder. "You see, son, it was some of those rotten gamblers that got to me a few years back, right here in this locker room, forcing me to throw the championship. It was the worst thing that's ever happened to me."

Guy looked up at the hunched over figure, now definitely looking a bit older and more tired than he did in those old magazine photos. "So you're telling me that gamblers and tough guys made you throw the big championship?"

"Yeah, it was a bad break."

"Because I always heard that you just kind of fell apart that day."

"Nope, it was gamblers. I'm sure it looked like I just fell apart, but that was just because I was being forced to throw the big match."

"Yeah, I was talking to some of the old-timers here, and they say that you started babbling about some cockamamie shakedown story almost immediately after blowing your first three games. Seems like an odd thing to do, really, especially if you're trying to keep the whole thing a secret."


"So it was gamblers, huh? Who were these gamblers, exactly? I mean, how did you know they were gamblers?"

"Look, goshsmackit! I don't have to take this! I'm telling you the truth! They came at me in the dark with guns and knives and sticks, and one of those things that kind of looks like a porkypine at the end of a stick! They weren't wearing nametags for Pete's sake!"

"Okay, okay, it was gamblers, knives and sticks, took a dive, yeah yeah. So, anyway, you said you had some kind of big advice for me? Though, frankly, I'm not sure what kind of advice..."

"You be quiet! I got plenty of A-plus advice for ya!"

"Okay, like what?"

"Um...you should try to throw 50's in the big tournament."

"As opposed to?"

"40's. You definitely want 50's instead of 40's. 30's are even worse. And 20's and 10's are right out."

"Well, gee, that sure is some top-quality advice right there, Spats. I never would have figured that whole 50 thing out, me being an idiot and all. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I just heard them announce my name."

Guy stood up, shook his hero's hand, and walked out the door into the noisy arena. It was the moment he'd been waiting for his entire life.

Will Guy take Spats' advice? Who will Guy face in the first round of the big championship? And what about the German Secret Agent disguised as a popcorn vendor? Be sure to keep an eye out for the next exciting installment of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!

What the heck! Let's just declare this Official Skee-Ball Week here at The Donk, and present this loving history of the game, as well as the official history.

July 21, 2002

[As long as we were talking about the great game of Skee-Ball, I thought I'd share one of my favorite childhood stories.]

From the March 1938 issue of Happy Boy Magazine: For Boys Like You!

Episode 11 of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!

When we last saw Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion, he had overcome remarkable odds to defeat the evil Hans Schleppingham and win the Pigdirt County Fair Skee-Ball Tournament. More important than any trophy, though, was the pride of representing Pigdirt County in the National Tournament in Atlantic City! As we rejoin our hero, Guy is in the locker room of the legendary Skee-Dome in Atlantic City, waiting for the tournament to begin.

Gosh, thought Guy Sterling. Gosh, gosh, gosh. Gosh. It was all so exciting and dizzying. Ever since he had picked up his first handmade wooden ball he had dreamt of the National Championships, and now here he was, in Atlantic City, waiting to hear his name called. It was really a dream come true!

But it was also very scary, being all alone in a big town like Atlantic City. Not only was it the farthest he’d ever been away from home, but it was only the third time he’d ever been out of Pigdirt County for longer than a day (the other two times were on family trips to visit his Gramps and Grans, who had left Pigdirt for Scurville during the great varnish scare of aught-four). He missed Ma and Pa and Sis and Little Timmy something fierce, not to mention his friends and neighbors, and Old Man Pepper who ran the hardware store, and Happy the Mailman, and especially Becky Ann Susie, who he was starting to feel awfully sweet on. He even missed mean old Principal Leaf, and he wouldn’t have thought he’d ever miss him! Guy knew that he couldn’t just mope around missing everybody, though — he had a tournament to prepare for!

And what a tournament it was! Anybody who was anybody was there, rolling his wooden balls. Guy thought that he was a big deal for winning his little tournament, but now he was in an arena filled with big deals, and he was just a little deal. Last year’s champ, Chuckie Packard was there, as was Jehoshaphat Smith, the famed one-armed roller from Topeka. Mickey Merkin, Flip Young, Al Galvin — who was a small-town fish like Guy against such legends?

Guy sat wearily on the bench, resting his now achy head in his hands, when he heard somebody enter the locker room. Before he could look up, a strong, clear, voice shattered the silence of the room.

“You seem a bit worried, son. Maybe I can be of some help.”

Guy looked up, and a huge smile creeped along his face. The man in front of him was a little older and grayer than the man familiar from dozens of photos ripped from magazines and taped to his walls, but there could be no doubt that it was Joey "Spats" Murphy, Guy's boyhood idol, once the greatest champion of them all. And here he was, in the very same room as Guy!

Guy remembered evenings in front of the fire, listening to Pa Sterling tell tales of the great Spats Murphy. Spats was the first real Skee-Ball star, and legend had it that he learned the game on that first alley built by J.D. Estes back in aught-nine. He criss-crossed the country in those early days, going where the road took him, to the fairs and boardwalks, taking on the local talent and hightailing it when things got too rough. The legends grew with the sport, from every part of the nation: how up in Racine he threw a 450 blindfolded, that time in Salt Lake when he played two alleys at the same time, both lefty and righty. He'd spot the local champ a free 50 and leave him weeping. There was money, championships, women, and then...silence. Word of a scandal back in `35, and then nothing.

"The name's Spats, son, and you look like you can use a little advice."

What is Spats doing in Atlantic City? Where has he been all these years? Will he help Guy in the big tournament? Keep an eye out for the next episode of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!

July 20, 2002

Well, my boasts of Skee-Ball prowess have gotten a few other folks to stick their heads out over their cubicles here at United Blogocorp Industries (see the Comments in the previous post), but I still ain't running scared. Lane's boasts of a 320 at Coney Island, which is reasonably impressive if it's the lanes I'm thinking of (a stand-alone booth with instant prizes, as opposed to ticket colelction), but I've actually broken the once-mythic 450 on occasion (with the use of the relatively recent 100-point targets), and can hit the 40 at will).


Anyway, Justin reports on his beer-glass winning siblingly exploits (though, frankly, boasting of prizes won seems a bit...gauche; Skee-Ball's really more about the pure sport, man), though doesn't say where he Skeed. I'm afraid I can't help him with that game where you try and use your quarter to leverage the Indiana-Jones-like contraption to push some of the big pile of quarters into the abyss (um...no...I don't know the real name of this, why do you ask?), I can offer a few tidbits from my years of money-pissing-away experience.

You may or may not have noticed that the top netting of the standard alley usually has a wire strip running across it. If you ever find one with this wire missing, get a roll of quarters and settle in for a ride, babycakes. When the top netting is untorn and wire-free, it can act as a slingshot shooting the balls right into the 50. To achieve this effect, simply roll the ball at a high speed towards the corner of the alley.

On a more conventional alley, the advice I usually give to newcomers is to focus on getting 40's instead of the more riskier 50's, and to try and bank the balls off the side of the lane, giving more control. If you do end up with a pile of tickets, my advice is to ignore the bigger prizes that are still pretty worthless, and instead get as many of the smallest prize as you can. My friend Keith once won about 1000 plastic spider rings and spent the next hour handing out handfuls to all the little children. Oh, what fun we had!

On a non-Skee-Ball-related note, the surest way to win a decent-sized prize on the boardwalk is at the water balloon race (where you shoot your water pistol into a oscillating clown's mouth). Simply choose the pistol of the last winner, which will have a fresh balloon on the clown. As the balloon has not already been stretched out, it will burst a second or two sooner than the others, assuming that your aim is true. (Note: don't pull this trick against a bunch of eight- and nine-year old opponents, or else you'll go straight to hell.)

July 18, 2002

It's summer in New Jersey, and that means just one thing: Skee-Ball! There might be bloggers out there who are better writers, who have more devoted fans, or who get more traffic, but I'd be willing to bet a half-dozen finger traps and a bag of one-point plastic spider rings that none of them can touch me in the sport of kings.

July 17, 2002

I picked up the coolest pet this past weekend in Chinatown, a rare fish to put in my long-dormant tropical tank. It's called a snakefish or snakehead or something, and it's a weird-looking little fish with a lot of personality. It's on the small side, but the shop owner said it'll grow a lot bigger and do cool tricks.

Hmmm...hold on a second, somebody's knocking on my bedroom door.

That's strange, there didn't seem to be anybody there. Well, back to work.

As I was saying, I've decided to name it "Sparky," which I think captures the — hey, what's that noise. Oh, it's...you...Sparky, how the heck did you get out of your tank. I mean, wh—AAAAHH!!!! Why, Sparky, why are y—OHMYGODTHEPAIN!!!! WHYWHYAAAAAWHY!!!! AAAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Secrets. You probably already know this, but OpenSecrets.org is an indispensible guide to money in politics, letting you see exactly who is giving how much to each candidate. Its donor database is fairly addictive, featuring Federal Election Commission records of everybody who has donated $200 or more since 1990.

Of course, if that ain't your bag, you might want to check out the Open Secrets page of Confideinme.com, which features a fresh batch of anonymous confessions and declarations, updated daily.
Mike Whybark has directed me to the blog of Seattle-area cryonics advocate Richard Gillmann, a rare John Henry Williams supporter in the whole weird Splendid Splintsicle battle. He's been covering the story pretty closely, with a level of interest perfectly suited to a man who has signed up for his own frozen adventure.
Gillmann of Issaquah recently held what he calls a Cryofest--the first regional gathering of cryonicists. A dozen showed for the potluck supper. "It was great to speak to others," says Gillmann. A major concern, all agreed, is sudden death. Die slowly, and a cryonics team can be at your side to begin the freezing process. Die suddenly, family and friends will have to put you on ice ("plain ice cubes") until help comes, Gillmann says.
As for Mike's wondering why the situation didn't make my current baseball poll, I tried to limit the candidates to more-or-less active players and situations, and besides, this case barely compares to when Goose Goslin's family had the Hall of Famer stuffed and mounted, then put on display for a ten-cent admission charge.

July 16, 2002

The Smoking Gun presents the latest of Zacarias Moussaoui's court motions, this one with strange bin Laden allusions and declarations that Judge Leonie Brinkema is "mentally sick."

And in a related story, will somebody please tell Frank "My son loves America" Lindh to just shut the hell up?
The Los Angeles Times today reported on an apparently leaked memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, warning that the continuous leaking of Pentagon information "is damaging our country's ability to stop terrorist acts and is putting American lives at risk." ["Rumsfeld Says Leaks to Media Aid Al Qaeda"]

The article focuses on Rumsfeld's anger over a New York Times report on plans to invade Iraq, based on classified Pentagon documents, but fails at any point to acknowledge the obvious irony in reporting on a leaked memo about leaked memos, though perhaps they're saving that for the next article.
Yawn, another attempt by Major League Baseball to get us to forget about the sordid present and instead focus on the glorious past. But while they try and get you choose Baseball's Most Memorable Moment (it's Bobby Thomson's homer, obviously, followed by Gibson, Fisk, Larsen, and Gehrig), be sure to check out my new poll down there on your left. It ain't all green grass and blue skies, ya know.

July 15, 2002

And now what you've all been waiting for: the possibly (okay, likely) spurious inspiration for the Looking Glass hit Brandy!

I am happy to pass along the touching story of "The Final Parking Space of Mary Ellis," courtesy of Weird NJ Magazine (but more importantly my friend Little C-Za, who first took me to Mary's lonely, oddly elevated, gravesite). Folks, this story has everything!I was a little embarrassed to admit that I had never seen the Mary Ellis grave, especially considering the countless hours I spent at the market buying up discounted copies of Margaret Ann Rose's classic, out-of-print "Rush: A Girl's Guide to Sorority Success," not to mention the fact that my brother is a manager at the movie theater that currently hosts the site. (My brother actually knew a lot about this, but he's kind of hard to link to.)
Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom wins the backhanded permalink header of the month award for the classic: Added Because I Met Them At The Blog Bash, So Now I Feel Compelled To Link Them, Although Evidently Some of Them Don't Feel The Same Way. But That's Okay. Because I'm Magnanimous. And They'll Just Have To Live With The Shame. Jeff lists me as a "Vintage Blog," which makes me feel a little creaky.

Speaking of permalinks, Ravenwolf and Paul Frankenstein are officially part of my posse! Saddle up, kids!
Hey, Scott, you see this yet? For some reason Thurman Faulk sent me this link to Fat Guy Pillows, and I'm not sure whether to become righteously indignant or just clear out some space on my floor. The pillows come in Regular, Mega, and Sumo sizes, and all look perfect for some floor-sprawling.

And as long as we're here, The (Other) Fat-Guy presents his Big Apple Dining Guide, his well-researched guide to the best eating in the New York area. Be sure to check out his favorites, then send an e-mail to treat me to a free meal. I'm pleasant company! (Speaking of which, you think if I were to start dating that would increase my traffic? That seems to be the latest hot blog trend. Hmm...maybe I shouldn't have asked this question in the "fat guy" post.)

July 14, 2002

Looking for that next hot meme? Well, look no further than Seattle's Capitol Hill, courtesy of (who else?) Mike Whybark!

July 13, 2002

Posting will be light until next week, as I'll be out having some summertime fun. It's sure nice out. Check out one of those fine folks over there to your left, unless they're also out catching some sun.

July 11, 2002

Is my Blog HOT or NOT?

Final notes on my trip. Jeez, you'd have thunk I went to the frigging moon or sumpin', so let me wrap it up with a few choice links. WQZY has started posting pictures of the 2002 Games, including some fine mudflopping and pigs-feet-bobbing shots; unfortunately I don't seem to be in any of `em as yet (warning: these take longer to download than my actual trip). Protein Wisdom directed me to this Macon Telegraph wrapup of this year's event. And finally, an episode of Road Rules apparently took place at the 2000 Games, so it ain't like I've been breaking new ground here.

July 10, 2002

I am very nice.
Boy, when things aren't going well... Baseball simply couldn't be in a bigger slump right now. The offensive fireworks of the past few years have been obscured with suspicion of steroid abuse. The Yankees have decided to quiet all those large-market/small-market arguments by acquiring Raul Mondesi for a sack of rosin bags and later picking up Jeff Weaver. Not that his death is a good thing, but what could have been a celebration of Ted William's life has instead degenerated into an ugly squabble between his children over whether to cremate him and scatter his ashes over the Florida Keys or freeze him in order to later sell his DNA. And baseball's midseason showcase ended in bottle-throwing embarrassment when the game was called after 11 innings (by the way, in the writing business we call that foreshadowing).

July 09, 2002

Um...now we're just getting a little silly.

July 08, 2002

The Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, and the Intimidator. During my trip it gradually dawned on me that the near-ubiquitous #3, in commemoration of Dale Earnhardt, had almost entirely replaced the cross as the pendant of choice in the South. Now, in the long tradition of Virgin Mary sightings, an Earnhardt miracle has occurred.
Goat Born With White '3' On Its Side: Dale Earnhardt Fans Flock To See Animal

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A four-month-old goat with a curious birthmark has fans of the late racing star Dale Earnhardt flocking to a north Florida farm to get an up-close look.

The brown goat has been named Lil' Dale. It was born with a distinctive white number-three on her right side. That just happens to be the number of Earnhardt's race car. Lil' Dale's owner, Jerry Pierson, said that he's seen people "take pictures and get tears in their eyes." He said that one woman told him it gave her "chills."
(Via Fark.com)

For all of you who checked out the pictures from the Summer Redneck Games and wanted to get to know those fine folks a little better, I present the WQZY Dateline, starring Heather from Milledgeville!
Howdy Yall
Well lets see I'm 15 going on 16 and I'm 5'5 120 lbs long light brown hair blue eyes I have that real southern accent and i love to HUNT!!! and FISH!!! and did i mention HUNT hehe well i'm a big ol redneck been raised that way i love Fords but i got a Chevy, I like to hang out at the river ride 4 wheelers go mudd boggin LOVE the RODEOS And NASCAR DALE JR baby !!!!! and i love the GEORGIA BULLDOGS , Falcon, and of Course the BRAVES!!!! So if yall likin whatcher readin email me and i got some pictures i got msn messanger so add me to your list well hope to hear from yall fellers oh yeah ages 16-18 or 19 Please.

And im lookin for a guy that will be nice and caring and lovin and faithful to me and i love me some countryboys with some meat on em and muscles and of course a ga bulldogs hat Thanks!
Ah, to be 12 years younger and a whole lot drunker...
Regarding Mike Whybark's latest Ken Goldstein of the Week: Good Grief!

July 07, 2002

Be a Donkey Travel Buddy! As I mentioned below, I bought a bunch of stuff at South of the Border to go along with the rest of the trinkets I picked up in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. It's more than I really want or need, so anybody who e-mails me at kengoldstein@hotmail.com, with the subject "I want to be a Donkey Travel Buddy!" and their mailing address in the body of the mail, will receive their very own souvenir of The Donk's journey to the heart of America. It's our way of saying, "It's good to be back."
2175 miles to home. Of course, no trip to America would be complete without a trip to South of the Border, and I dutifully stopped by. No matter how many times I've been there it's always a thrill to see the giant sombrero appear on the horizon, much as the Statue of Liberty was to millions of Ellis Island immigrants. It was always a highlight of my family's annual trip to Florida, with the billboards marking time and space for me better than any odometer could.
South of the Border!
As anybody who has traveled I-95 knows, billboards featuring the ubiquitous Pedro begin appearing about 100 miles before the site, and grow more and more frequent as you approach Dillon, SC. [Though the classic Pedro billboards, with their delightful broken English and bad puns, came down about five years ago after years of complaints.] By the time you reach S.O.B., it feels almost like an act of subversion not to actually stop in.

As for what awaits you when the billboards end, suffice it to say that if Louis XIV had decided to build a tourist emporium rather than the Palace of Versailles, it would be South of the Border. What I remember from my childhood as a few giftshops and weird statues has now grown into a massive complex which included an amusement park, a couple of bars, a half-dozen gift shops, motels, restaurants, and anything else weary drivers might spend a buck on. Unfortunately, I didn't get to S.O.B. until shortly after midnight, by which time all but a gift shop or two is closed. Knowing that it would be the last big moment of my trip, I lingered in the gift shop, picking up a sackful of logoed crap, and it felt damn good.

From South of the Border it was another 100 miles before a motel room, followed by a tiring day of northwest traffic jams, and finally home. And now, to sleep, this time for free.
The Blogger Went Down to Georgia. The unpleasantness of the previous night behind me, I found myself happily cruising down Georgia's I-441, the radio blasting Baptist sermons (by the way, if the message boards outside of churches are to be taken as a guide, they ain't none too pleased about that whole Pledge of Allegiance Ruling) and gospel music, sacks of peaches and boiled peanuts in the passenger seat next to me. I stopped off in Athens for a quick lunch, and made regular stops for peach ice cream and gas, but nothing was keeping me from my destiny: East Dublin's 7th Annual Redneck Games.
Don't miss the arrival of the "PROPANE TORCH" carried by Middle Georgia's best known Redneck as he lights the ceremonial BBQ Grill that will kick-off this years incredible FIREWORKS SHOW on Saturday night!

You'll also enjoy the one and only REDNECK GAMES!!! Mudpit Belly Flop, Bobbing for Pigs Feet, Hubcap Hurl, Seed Spitting Contest, Armpit Serenade, Dumpster Dive and other outrageous games! Prizes awarded for each event!
I know what you're all thinking: why the hell didn't anybody tell me about this! That sounds awesome! And you would be completely right to think that, because it COMPLETELY KICKED ASS! Words cannot describe the sheer BBQ-eating, beer-drinking, mudpit-diving, Confederate-flag-waving, skinny-ass-dancing, shit-kicking, NASCAR-loving, rising-again-real-soon-now FUN that was being had out there in that dirt patch.

Of course, my New Jersey plates got some looks as I pulled into the lot, and I avoiding talking to anybody, lest my Yankee accent be revealed (these folks are still really bitter about that whole Civil War thing, and might be up for a rematch on a moments notice, especially if they though that I represented the whole Union attacking force), but once I got over the fear of being attacked I had a ball. I ate fried crocodile and shark on sticks, homemade jerky, and drank me a beer. I heard a cover band follow a heartfelt, fist-pumping, sing-along rendition of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A" with a twangy version of Pink's "Get This Party Started" that rocked the house. I may have even danced a little.

As for the crowd, let's just say it was Grade-A, 99.99% pure redneck. It was beautiful. About two-thirds of the crowd were wearing Confederate flag, Civil War, or NASCAR-themed shirts, with the other third shirtless (unless a bodycast of red mud counts as a shirt). The King of the rednecks wore overalls with no shirt, and waved his Confederate flag for about two hours straight. There were dozens of those real skinny, as-seen-on-Cops guys, the hard, angry type that you try and keep about 50 yards away from, lessen you remind them of somebody who pissed them off ten years ago. While waiting on line for my crocodile I overheard a serious conversation among three of these guys which culminated with the reflection "Well, if I gotta do the time, I'm gonna do my 30 days like a man and get on with it." And all of these guys seemed to be dating women no less than twice their size, like there was some Redneck Combined Dating Weight Law. As I said, it was a beautiful sight to see.

As much as I was enjoying myself, the road soon called again, so I trekked back up the path to my car and headed east on 16. My journey to the heart of the American South was reaching its high-water mark, and I needed to begin the trip back north. "God bless you, East Berlin, and God bless your rednecks!" I yelled while driving off, as the tears began to well up.
Logged off, to look for America. Oh, how cute and innocent I sound at the end of that last post: "I'm off to look for a hotel room." I'm in a resort town on Friday, July 5th, and I'm just gonna waltz off and find a lovely little suite at the Ritz. Hello, my name's Ken. This is my first day in this country.

But just to pick up the story where I left it: Gatlinburg and Pigeon Force are a pair of towns in the Great Smoky Mountains that pack more cheesiness into two strips of road than anyplace I've ever been (and that includes Vegas, Niagara Falls, and Kissimmee, Florida!). Pigeon Forge is famous as the home of Dolly Parton's Dollywood, and is also the home of the Lee Greenwood and Louise Mandrell theaters, not to mention Elwood Smooch's Hillbilly Hoedown! Oh, and about a billion or so tourist traps. I walked around for an uneventful hour, except for when I found myself in the opening movements of a bar brawl. For the most part I enjoyed my solo trip, but it ain't no fun playing miniature golf alone.

So off I went, in search of the aforementioned hotel room. "There might be some vacancies over in the Cherokee Reservation," I was told. "It's just on the other side of the park." Well, that park was the Smoky Mountains, and the drive involved over an hour of white-knuckled scaredy-catness as I winded my way over a mountain on dark, winding roads. I finally reached the Cherokee Reservation, which looked pretty damn cool, but there were still no rooms to be found. Nor were there in the next town. Or the next. Or the next. Et-freaking-cetera until I finally found one in northern Georgia at four in the morning. Yeesh. Definitely the low point of the trip.

July 05, 2002

The Night I Drove Down to Old Dixie. Greetings from Gatlinburg, Tennessee! It appears that I won't make it to my planned destination of Nashville, but that's simply due to the sheer action-packedness of the land between there and New Jersey. To recap briefly, so far I have: taken a quick peek at The Miniature Village of Roadside America, toured the battlefields at Gettysburg (very cool; I'll have to head back there when I have more time and when the temperature dips into the double-digits), heard Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." about a dozen times, watched the fireworks while driving on I-8, driven the Blue Ridge Parkway (stopping for some biscuits and gravy in Floyd), enjoyed a beer at a minor league game (the home team won 8-3), and cruised the strip of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (which, to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, is what Vegas would look like if the South had won the Civil War). Whew.

I'm off to look for a hotel room, and tomorrow morning I'll begin to circle back north. Thanks to all of you who wrote to me with invites for free dinners and guest rooms, but it looks like I'll have to take a collective rain check. I love you all, though (especially you, Trixie! Kisses!).

July 03, 2002

Back, just in time to leave again. First of all, I have fully recovered from the aforementioned Sour Milk Incident with no lasting ill effects. Thanks to all who sent flowers and get-well-soon cards, as well as to the few of you who wrote suggestions on how I can avoid this problem in the future. You are to my life what the pretty angels are to the clouds in heaven.

Anyway, since my company was nice enough to close down on Friday as well as tomorrow, I have decided to use this rare extended break as an opportunity to find America. I’ve got a 2002 Rand McNally atlas in front of me, and tomorrow morning I’m gonna get in my car and head on down the road. My general direction, I think, will be towards Kentucky and Nashville, but that can all change at a moment's notice in this beautiful world. If you see a blue-greenish Ford Escort tooling down the road with a smiling man in the driver's seat singing along to the radio, why not give a little wave? What does it cost?

Before I finish packing, I wanted to leave you with this little note I got today from my friend Val. I think it sums up a lot of what's happening in this crazy old world, and gives us all a little hope for the future:
Yesterday I watched a man put a sausage and cheese calazone into a blender. He added about a cup of beef broth and made soup. His stomach is stapled (to lose weight) and he can’t eat solid food.
Makes you think a little, doesn't it? See you in a few, folks.

July 01, 2002

Um...it seems that the tangy flavor in my cereal was not, in fact, the dried fruits, but rather milk that expired ten days ago. Posting will be rather light tonight as I sit here waiting to explode. [Great...Matt Welch and Ken Layne take extended blogging breaks to start a daily newspaper, while the only reason I can find is dairy products gone bad.]
Happy Canada Day! Damian Penny, the official Canadian of The Donk, writes about what Canada Day means to those in Newfoundland. The Happy Fun Pundits have a slightly less scholarly view of things, which is shocking.
Patchouli! My friend Jessica has a new daily comic strip running over on the Angry Naked Pat site. It's buckets of funny, and promises to provide you all with two months of daily hee-larity. Go check it out right now!
Now that I've had some time to think about The Air Conditioner Incident, I still think that the guy was a goddamned prick. Bastard.

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