January 28, 2009
People Who Were Around a Lot Later than You Thought
Historical Figure: Herbert Hoover
Peak Moment: 1929-1933, aka “The reason your grandparents stole Sweet N’ Low packets from Denny’s”
Lived Long Enough to See: The Beatles in “A Hard Day’s Night”
It’s unfortunate that our greatest Presidents generally never had the chance to bask in their glory. Lincoln and FDR died in office. Washington lived less than three years after leaving office, Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower all less than a decade. Kennedy wasn’t a particularly great President, but damn!, think about how much action he would have gotten in the late 60’s and 70’s? Imagine being freaking JFK during the free love era!
Meanwhile, the opposite holds true, as our most bed-shittingest leaders seem to hold on forever. Martin Van Buren and Millard Fillmore lived more than 20 years, Nixon more than 25. Gerald Ford almost 30 years with Jimmy Carter approaching that. And which President lived the longest after leaving office?
That’s right, Herbert Freaking Hoover, the man synonymous with the Great Depression. Remember the parties trying to quietly include Carter and GW at the national conventions? Well, imagine a speaker who made most delegates remember surviving on twigs and sawdust, a decade so awful that by the end a disease-ridden Lou Gehrig was actually the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. Hoover kept showing up at conventions, with the Republicans repeatedly holding please-take-the-hint farewell ceremonies; in 1960, Hoover joked that "Apparently, my last three good-byes didn't take." Nothing like showcasing Herbert Hoover when you’re running against JFK.
Hoover survived JFK and even lasted until the 1964 convention, though he was too sick to attend; Barry Goldwater mentioned him during his acceptance speech. At the 1968 convention the delegates must have been thinking, “Thank God we never have to deal with that kind of embarrassment again.” Then they nominated Richard Nixon.
January 27, 2009
Athlete: Dick Shiner
Not everyone can be an all-star, but even the mediocre can usually find their place in the sporting world. Maybe you don’t have the fastball to be the closer, but you can still get plenty of innings in middle relief. Maybe you’re stuck behind Kobe or Lebron, but you can come off the bench when they get into foul trouble or need a rest.
There are a few positions, however, where you’re The Man or you’re nobody, like goalie and placekicker. Chief among these is NFL quarterback. Sure, you were the greatest athlete in the history of your hometown, and you got to bang every cheerleader at your college over the last four years, but that’s Eli Manning out there, son, so get used to holding this clipboard.
Which brings us to Richard E. Shiner, or as he was known throughout his career, Dick Shiner. There have been backup quarterbacks with longer, less distinguished careers, but none who combined them with a name that’s practically synonymous with “masturbator.” Shiner was a college star at Maryland, with Sports Illustrated writing that he “resembles Mickey Mantle, and is regarded with similar awe.”
That was pretty much the high point for Shiner. He was drafted by the Redskins in 1964 (he was actually also picked by the Jets in the AFC draft that year, where he probably would have still been awful but could have hung out with Joe Namath). He spent three years in Washington, suiting up for 29 games, starting one (he lost) and throwing a total of 71 passes. He went to Cleveland for a year, throwing a total of nine passes. At least his arm wasn’t getting tired.
Then the big break every backup waits for. The Pittsburgh Steelers acquired him to be their starting quarterback, a job he would hold for two years. In 1968 and 1969, Shiner started 20 games and went a combined 3-16-1, being benched after an eight-game losing streak. He hung around for five years after that; maybe he was always nice about picking people up at the airport, or he had compromising photos of the Commissioner wearing lingerie. Maybe the NFL just wanted to make things easier for hecklers. In any event, Shiner played a total of 11 seasons with six teams, starting 28 games with a lifetime record of 7-20-1.
Shiner is actually a member of four different regional Halls of Fame, and will soon join a fifth once we open the Hilariously Suggestive Name Hall of Fame, where he will be a charter member with Dick Pole and Rusty Kuntz.
Athlete: Ed Nealy
Longtime coach Phil Jackson once said about Ed Nealy, “It's guys like Ed who make coaching a pleasure. If you give me a reason to put him into a game, he's going to find a way to contribute." Ignoring the fact that Jackson only found 11 reasons to put Nealy into games in his final season, the lesson for our young readers is if you have no discernible talent, then be sure to have a positive attitude. Who knows, you might end up making $800,000 for about five hours worth of on-court time, just like Ed Nealy.
Nealy was drafted in 1982 by the Kansas City Kings, a team that may not have actually existed. Nealy started 61 games for the Kings in his rookie year, almost 80% of the games he would start during his ten-year career. He averaged about 12.6 minutes per game, scoring 2.7 points. To put his 1451 career points in perspective, Kobe Bryant has scored more points than that every single full season since he became a starter.
So yes, cultivate that positive attitude. Sure, Nealy won’t be in the Hall of Fame, but playing alongside Michael Jordan for a few seasons beats about 99.99% of the jobs out there. And a sense of humor wouldn’t hurt either. Nealy once called his Mom to brag that he and Jordan had scored a combined 72 points in a game. Jordan scored 69 of them.
Athlete: Rob Ducey
Every baseball team has a man on the roster who can usually fill in at a few positions, come in as a late defensive replacement, and is the first to be sent to the minors when a spot is needed. Usually, a player will fill this role for a year or two, either moving up to become a regular or heading back to the minors on their way out of the game.
Then there’s Rob Ducey. Ducey played 13 seasons in the majors, not counting a two-year mid-career stint in Japan. This is a fairly impressive number – players become eligible for the Hall of Fame with ten seasons – especially considering that Ducey never once did anything that anybody would possibly remember.
His consistency was impressive, though it’s the same kind of consistency shown by a homeless man who vomits and passes out drunk in the same alley every night. During his first seven years, mostly spent with the Blue Jays, Ducey never had fewer than 48 or more than 85 at bats in a season. He got between 15 and 17 hits for five straight seasons, and six or seven RBI’s for four straight. Usually a player with this kind of record is a defensive specialist or can be used as a pinch runner, but Ducey was an outfielder who didn’t steal more than two bases until his ninth season in the majors.
Ducey was born in Toronto, so maybe the Blue Jays had the same kind of rules as Canadian radio, where a certain percentage of all songs have to be performed by Canadian artists; he also later played for the Montreal Expos. Still, four U.S. teams (plus the Nippon Ham Fighters!) let Ducey hang around with them. He finally rewarded the Phillies in 1999 with his breakout season: A .261 average, 8 home runs and 33 RBIs. In other words, don’t bother searching for Rob Ducey under Steroid Abusers in the Mitchell Report.
Ducey finished his playing career in 2004, playing for the Canadian Olympic team which finished 4th. He was the oldest player in the tournament, which is probably the most impressive line in his career. Well, except for the time he was basically traded for himself.
January 25, 2009
The Seattle Mariners locker room. Plenty of elbow room, TVs. Much, much nicer than the visitor's locker room.
Anybody can wear an Ichiro or Jeter jersey, but what about a broadcast-worn sports jacket of Hall of Famer Dave Niehaus? "Entering the 2008 season, Niehaus has broadcast 4,817 of the 4,899 Mariners games played, missing just 82 contests in the team's 31-year history." The locker behind me also had his 2008 scorebook, with notes and full scoring for every game. Very cool.
Though the Korean-born pitcher was traded last year from the Seattle Mariners to the San Diego Padres, where he is pencilled in as their #3 starter, he will live on at Safeco Field in 2009 thanks to...
this sweet game-worn jersey I picked up dirt cheap yesterday at the Mariners FanFest. See you all in April.
January 21, 2009
I'm working on a long article (featuring the term "bed-shittingest"!), so here's the best links that have passed through my in box.
Via The Consumerist, Men's Health presents the Worst Foods in America. Topping the list this year: a 2600-calorie Baskin-Robbins milkshake!
The Playmobil Security Check Point.
The woman traveler stops by the security checkpoint. After placing her luggage on the screening machine, the airport employee checks her baggage. The traveler hands her spare change and watch to the security guard and proceeds through the metal detector. With no time to spare, she picks up her luggage and hurries to board her flight!
Forget where I read this, but in the making-me-feel-old category: Gabrielle Carteris is older than Barack Obama.
From the Baseball Card Blog: Ernest Thayer's "Casey at the Bat." And on a related note: "Billy Ripken Fesses Up to 'Error' Card." Back when I was 17 this was a huge deal. I remember going to the local candy store and buying up boxes of Fleer, then selling off the RIpkens to the neighborhood Dads for $25 each, keeping the rest of the cards. Good times.
January 20, 2009
Paramount recently re-released 40 of their titles on DVD in a special "I Love the 80's" edition, with a bonus CD of top 80's hits including "Lips Like Sugar" and "Need You Tonight." The collection features the classic, fun 80's hits "Top Gun," "Pretty in Pink," "Footloose," "Grease 2," and...ummm..."Reds." Becuase when I think of INXS and Echo & the Bunnymen, my thoughts instantly turn to the Russian Revolution and the founding of the Communist Labor Party.
And when I hear "Take on Me" and "Need You Tonight?" Probably not this one.
January 19, 2009
Things that Never Taste as Good as They Sound on the Menu
- Stuffed Seafood Dishes. These always get me in a moment of indecision when I can't decide between three or four things, and then I'm like, Wow! Salmon stuffed with lobster and crabmeat! That's three awesome things! Then there's some big mess on my plate and I realize I should have just gone with the salmon or the lobrster or the crabmeat.
- Fancy Macaroni and Cheese. It's made with lobster or some five-year old Vermont cheddar and it's $18, and it's fine until I realize it's not quite as tasty as a 69-cent box of Kraft.
- Any Burger Costing More than $10. I have nothing against these in theory, but the two or three times I've gone all burger-fancy they've ended up collapsing in my hands, out of the bun and onto the plate, so I was no longer even eating a burger but an expensive, dry sloppy joe. Some things don't need to be fancy; it's like buying a $1500 sterling silver tennis ball can.
- Dessert. Specifically, dessert after a large, expensive meal. One minute I'm feeling warm and satisfied and happy, figuring what the heck, some cake sounds nice. Then one bite of triple-rich-fudge-brick-deluxe later all I want to do is vomit and pass out. Yay.
January 18, 2009
Dear Present-Day Reviewers:
How it does my heart proud to see that the kids of today haven't completely given up on the traditions of the past, still endeavoring to get their hands dirty with the old newsprint and ink. When I received your missive I went up to the nether regions of my attic and pulled down a dusty wooden box containing several dozen issues of The Rutgers Review in which my writings appeared. Ah, the memories, how they come flooding back to me, reminding me of the happier, simpler salad days that were the early to mid-early 1990's!
I remember the day when I first climbed those soon-to-be-familiar stairs in the Student Center looking for the offices of The Daily Targum so I could offer my services as a Society Reporter. I knew that I needed to start at the bottom rung of that illustrious organization -- covering sorority events, costume balls at the President's mansion, fancy-dress pig roasts -- before I could work my way up to a position such as Style Editor or gossip columnist. Full of anxious excitement I wandered around the Fourth Floor of the RSC, asking passers-by where I might be able to find the newspaper offices. Finally, somebody pointed me in the direction of a rather unpromising looking room. With trepidation I made my way towards the office, slowly opened the door, and made my way inside.
Ah, that first visit to that strange universe! I think that I will always remember the...well...stench is really the only word that could describe what greeted visitors to the Review office. A strange mixture of sweat, fear, marijuana, pheromones, fried food and livestock, it let strangers know that wherever they may have come from, they had arrived in an entirely different world, where the rules of so-called civilized society no longer applied.
Posters of Chairman Mao and Andy Gibb lined the walls, illuminated by a single bare bulb dangling from the ceiling from a precariously frayed wire. Three writers were huddled together over a rusty Tandy computer, possibly for warmth, ignoring the pained moans emanating from the passed-out fraternity pledges sprawled on the couch. Hunched over the layout table was a bearded, naked man working furiously, while in the center of the room three people engaged in a heated argument over whether worldwide socialism would arrive immediately or if it would take at least a year. In the far corner of the room, some sort of cockfight was taking place. I felt like I had finally found home.
This was The Rutgers Review of the early to mid-early 1990's, a wonderful place during a completely unique time. In those days the streets were ripe with the heady feeling of revolution, and we at the Review were filled with a sense of purpose, of being right, of magic! Sure, the Daily Targum may have had the money, equipment, experience, advertising, professionalism, administration backing, alumni support and high-paying job offers, but we had more than that! We had...well, now that I look over that list I realize that we, in fact, had much less, but it sure seemed like we had more, though that might have been the peyote talking.
Still, even with our limited resources and intermittent consciousness we managed to put out an excellent paper, week after week, taking what had previously been a money laundering scheme for the Genovese crime family and turning it into the best damn college publication in the country. Late at night, when I lie in bed silently weeping, it is that thought that makes me smile, at least until the tremors return.
We proud veterans were asked to write down memories of our time on the paper, and while I must still insist that I know nothing about the dead body that turned up in the supply closet in 1994 I will say that those years were, without a doubt, the most wonderful of my life. I met and worked with amazing people, and got to write about whatever I wanted. Never will I forget the furious deadline crushes, the passionate arguments, and the drunken revelry. Jesse, you and your compadres should treasure these days of freedom and purpose, and should know that the rest of your lives will only feel pathetic and pointless in comparison. May God bless you all.
January 16, 2009
So last Thursday there was a job posting, a website seeking a editor/proofreader/writer. Not great pay, but the kind of work I enjoy doing, interesting subject, and very close to home (I really want to avoid one of those three-bus, two-hour commutes I've been threatened with). So I send off my resume, but how to make it stand out (unlike the other hundred or so times when it apparently didn't)? Along with my resume and a brief note I include a list of suggested edits to their homepage. Nothing too drastic — rewriting some phrases, a few usage inconsistencies, that sort of thing.
So I send it off on Friday and wait. Nothing that day, Monday, Tuesday...when I decide to check the website, in case they have some other positions listed. And when I do, I see that they have implemented about 90% of my suggested edits. Well, fantastic, I thought. Now I'll just sit back and wait for them to call...
Which brings us to late Wednesday. Still no call, e-mail, nothing. I'm not a huge fan of the follow-up but I figure what the heck, and write asking if they've begun scheduling interviews, reminding them of the obviously helpful edits I sent along. Even if, for whatever reason, they decided not to even call me in for an interview, I was hoping for at least a brief note thanks-but-no-thanking me. Least they could do, right? *CricketCricket*
That brings us to the end of the workweek, happening right about...now.
January 15, 2009
Well, other than having some fun times with a cute duck, I've been trying to build up some creative energy to break through the overcast skies.
I've restarted the blog (though, so far, quietly), am going to try to do some stand-up and see where that goes (I did my first Seattle open mic here this past Monday and it went pretty well; obviously Seattle is much smaller comedy than New York, with far fewer open mics; more on this subject later), and I've started all over with Improv 100 classes here; actually, we just got back from seeing a show at the theater. So here's to a promising 2009.
January 14, 2009
They're going to talk a whole lot about Rickey's flashy stolen bases, but the man holds what might be the most important record in the book: most runs scored. Heck, what else is baseball about? Scoring runs. He has held baseball's all-time records for walks (since passed by Barry Bonds), stolen bases and runs scored, and that was Rickey's game for 25 major league seasons and a handful of minor league ones after that. I'm especially happy to have seen him play with the Newark Bears a few years ago, a true sign that nobody was going to tell him that he couldn't play any more.
From back in 2005, The New Yorker's profile of Rickey, from the week in 2001 Rickey broke the runs scored record, Allen St. John of Salon's appreciation, his debut box score, including his first stolen base, and The Onion.
[Just to cut in here, you have no idea how freaking awkward the whole punctuation thing was in that paragraph. I originally wrote it with an ellipsis, you know, to try to build some suspense. Like...boo! Like that. But then there's that whole quotation mark situation. I mean, it just looks pretty stupid to write "#1 Google site for "Illuminated Donkey..." but for how long?" Great, now that looks dumb because of the whole internal/external quotes thing. Let's try..."#1 Google site for 'Illuminated Donkey...' but for how long?" Ugh. Maybe I should just follow the British way. I think they put the punctuation outside of the quote marks, which makes so much more sense , especially if you write something like "Do you like Wham!"? How would you even write that in the U.S., "Do you like Wham!?" That sounds absolutely crazed. But I wouldn't want to go along with all of the British rules, like not putting periods after abbreviations like "Dr." and "Mr." Or "St." Yeah...dammit. Now I'm reminded of this job I'm waiting to hear back from...hopefully. That's the whole damn problem, you just don't know if you're going to hear back from them or anybody. Even if they would just write back to say no, that would be fine...ugh. I don't want to get into any details just in case...I don't know, in case they do a search for my name (down to #6 or so on the ol' Google) and take something the wrong way. Maybe I'll tell the story later, either in a bitter sort of way, or an amused, hey, remember those anxious unemployed times kind of way? Ugh. It's just so frustrating, you know?]
Anyway, there's a band in Oregon called Illuminated Donkey (and not The Illuminated Donkeys, which is what I would have gone with). Skynyrd. Creedence.
January 13, 2009
Threats - Caller's 15-year-old son is threatening to kill her
Alarm - Audible residential alarm, front door triggered
Narcotics - Several people doing drugs under the bus shelter
Shoplifting - Adult male in custody at QFC
Narcotics - Men selling drugs on the caller's front porch
Shoplifting - Adult male in custody at QFC
Accident - Two car accident, unknown injuries
Narcotics - Three people selling drugs
Disturbance - A group of men are refusing to leave the property near the post office
Disturbance - Group of males refuses to leave a business
Distubance - Caller says a known man who has warrants is banging on her door
Trespassing - Intoxicated man is trespassing at a business
Written by Ken Goldstein, and performed by Improv Asylum in Boston on June 27, 2008
January 12, 2009
Let's start with a hypothetical situation: say...a certain person quits his job to move across the country almost simultaneously with one of history's most dramatic economic crises. And just for the sake of argument, let's say that he moves to an especially hard-hit city, where the number of unemployed has risen over 36% since April, with more to come, very soon, and where even some braindead phoning/filing temp job feels like a crazy pipe dream. I mean, that lousy gig about ten years ago, opening and sorting tens of thousands of incoming electric bills? The one a monkey could have done except it would have been considered cruel to the monkey? Well, that job wouldn't sound all that terrible right about now! And we probably have to add that a certain lovely gal is having absolutely none of the plan (using the vaguest possible meaning of the word) to grind out the $8/$16 Texas hold-em game over in Renton.
Well...it's time to sell off some crap!
Because when you have no steady income and you're surrounded by piles of books and CDs, and when bars only accept cash money in exchange for alcohol (an absolute necessity in this town, because as much as you logically understand about the rain and lack of sunshine and the occasional foot of snow that shuts down your part of the city for nine freaking days, that's very different from actually living it day after day after day, which is why dive bars here are packed on early weekday afternoons), well...it's time to exchange that crap for some spending money. And for me, that's involved way too much time spent on Amazon, hoping somebody will buy my forsaken discs.
It's a fascinating world, the Amazon Marketplace, pure up-to-the-second capitalism in action. I can think of half-a-dozen related topics worth writing about, such as the often-cutthroat battle for "Low Price." (Like how for the past six weeks I've been leapfrogging with two guys on this one CD, going from $16 down to about $8, a nickel at a time; it would scare me to figure out what my hourly rate will be if I ever actually sell this apparently completely unwanted CD.) But what's really been on my mind lately is the search for the most resold CD on Amazon, looking for one that's passed the magical 1000 figure.
So what does it take to rack up massive resales on Amazon, for hundreds and hundreds of people to offer to sell a CD at a price as low as one shiny penny? The first step towards an album being unwanted is that, at one point, it must have been wanted. For example, you're probably not familiar with the Kevin Rowland album "My Beauty," having lost track of him after Dexys Midnight Runners disbanded. Well, apparently by the late 90's Mr. Rowland decided that the world had had its fill of incredibly catchy Celtic folk/soul songs, and was dying for an album of covers including "The Greatest Love of All," "Daydream Believer," and "You'll Never Walk Alone." And if that wasn't enough, he would appear on the album cover and in subsequent concerts in heavy makeup and horrendous drag, barely wearing a dress and showing off acres of nipples.
Well, that album sold about 750 copies in its first three months of release and sales probably didn't pick up much after that. It's fairly unlikely that everybody who owns one is will simultaneously decide that they must have that that thing out of their house right this second and put it up for resale. In fact, "My Beauty" is somewhat of a collector's item, and you could probably pick up at least $30 if you had one.
Of course, it's not the opposite either, as many of the most popular CDs remain popular. CDs by artists such as The Eagles The Beatles, Nirvana, Radiohead, etc. tend not to be as often resold for the obvious reason that people want those. What I'm looking for is the list of the most dumpable, the ones that people are looking to get practically nothing in return and still think that's a fair deal. So what follows is my very possibly incomplete Top 15 list of popular music's orphans, the most currently resold CDs as of right now.
- "Cracked Rear View" by Hootie & The Blowfish: 958
- "Monster" by R.E.M.: 754
- "Titanic" Soundtrack: 724
- "Ricky Martin" by Ricky Martin: 681
- "Pieces of You" by Jewel: 651
- "Backstreet Boys" by Backstreet Boys: 645
- "Big Willie Style" by Will Smith: 637
- "Pocket Full of Kryptonite" by Spin Doctors: 608
- "No Strings Attached" by *N Sync: 588
- "Bodyguard" Soundtrack: 587
- "Tubthumper" by Chumbawumba: 575
- "Come on Over" by Shania Twain: 567
- "Supernatural" by Santana: 562
- "Yes I Am" by Melissa Etheridge: 560
- "The Sign" by Ace of Base: 528
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