Monday, December 31, 2007

Story of the Week - Dec. 24-28

Beyond the Grave

yeah, took me a while this week. I Hope it's worth it.

Benazir Bhutto left an email with Wolf Blitzer, of all people, to be read only in the event of her death. The email said, and I'm paraphrasing, "if I die, it's Musharaf's fault." Which shows more foresight that her life was in danger than the act of sticking her head out the sunroof of her car at a crowded rally less than 3 months after an assassination attempt that missed her but killed over 100 other people.

My story of the week, however, has little to do with Benazir Bhutto, except for a simple correlation and an easy "speaking of posthumous correspondence" segue.

Chet Fitch, of Ashland, Orgegon, died in October, at the age of 88. All indications are that he led a happy life, and had lots of friends for whom he was willing to do nearly anything. Including, bargain with God.

Chet, perhaps still new to all the rules up in Heaven and maybe just a little homesick, asked nicely if he might be able to get his Christmas cards out for just one more year. And so, he sat down on a nearby cloud, and filled out his final messages. And this is what he wrote:

Dear Debbie,

I asked Big Guy if I could sneak back and send some cards. At first he said no; but at my insistence he finally said, 'Oh well, what the heaven, go ahead but don't tarry there.' Wish I could tell you about things here but words cannot explain.
Better get back as Big Guy said he stretched a point to let me in the first time, so I had better not press my luck. I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Chet Fitch.

As it turns out, Chet had been planning this for 20 years, with his barber, so I imagine God had an idea he wanted to do it, and let him break the rules just the one time. Chet even told his barber "You must be tired of waiting to mail those cards. I think you'll probably be able to mail them this year."

A week later, Chet took up residence in Heaven.

Talk about foresight.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Real Time Blogging!

Monday, December 24, 2007 9:40am: It's a slow news day. How slow? CNN just ran a package about a Baby Jesus statue that was stolen in Florida and by some miracle replaced...just in time for Christmas. And who replaced the statue? a Jewish man from Cincinnati. It's a story that's built for local news, but with nothing else going on, it's now become a national story. With a follow-up: baby Jesus has been fitted with a GPS device.

I have come to a decision: It's the perfect time for Real Time Blogging! Let's go!

9:43 am: Welcome to the New York Stock Exchange. With the 9 am hour cancelled and our next hit an hour away, I have nothing to do. And neither does CNN. Right now, they've got their own Santa in the studio, surrounded by five kids and ignoring anchor TJ Holmes.

Don't think I'm not doing work. I'm preparing an update for Noon for an affiliate in Detroit, waiting for a call back about the average gas prices in the motor city. When they call back, I'll write it up.

One Stock to watch today is Merrill Lynch. Its shares are up almost 5 percent right now, you really don't care why. One CNBC anchor said its ticker symbol (MER) is the first 3 letters in the word "Merry", so it's fitting (gag me). I always thought of it as "mer", a favorite word of mine that means something boring and non-descript. As in, this blog post right now is pretty mer.

9:50am: Commercial Break.

9:54am: I went looking for a link to the story about the Florida Baby Jesus statue, and I found this incident of Stolen Baby Jesus in Pennsylvania
...and this one in Nyack, NY
...and this one in Texas that was returned after going missing for a year.
...and this one in Idaho
...ok, I found the one in Florida with the GPS. Enjoy.

10 am Market Update: Dow up 86 points, Nasdaq up 13 points or half a percent, S&P up 2/3 of a percent. Thanks, blog, for making me feel like I'm here for a reason.

Somebody should look into whether local news stations are stealing baby Jesus statues.

10:11 am: Commercial break, but when we come back, we'll go to the mall to check out the final hours of the Christmas Shopping season!

These people stole the Donkey, sheep and wise men.

10:15am: Santa's back! Hooray for awkward banter!

10:18am: A Christmas-related story with some substance - the number of people celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem this year is more than double last year's number. Israeli authorities relaxed some of the tough security measures, making it easier for people to get to the West Bank city, and they were able to do so because the situation is relatively calm, especially compared to the last 7 years.

10:34am: Got an answer on Detroit gas prices! Up 6 cents from 2 weeks ago, to an average of $2.87. But you don't care. At least I don't think I have any readers in Detroit.

Now that I have this information, I have an hour and a half to write a 40 second update.

10:38am: Substitute anchor has arrived. 15 minutes to the first update of the day (of 4)

10:51am: back to Santa! And he can't hear anything.

10:55am: First Update successful! As if there was any doubt, I mean I had like 2 1/2 hours to get ready for it.

10:59am: Right before the 11am reset, a story about Santas running wild in a New Zealand movie theater. Probably on their way to go steal some Baby Jesuses.

11:12am: want a market update? Here: dow's up 82, nasdaq up 15, s&p up 8. mer.

11:14am: Promo for a special on tonight with Roland Martin called "What Would Jesus Really Do?" I think I can find 50 things I'd rather watch tonight on TV:

But first, back to Santa! And now he's not even looking at the camera. But he can hear. Sort of.
anchor: what do some of the children want for Christmas, Santa?
Santa: well, some of them want me to ignore them.

Ok, 50 things on TV tonight at 8pm I'd watch before I'd even think about watching "What Would Jesus Really Do?"
  1. How I Met Your Mother
  2. Cheaper By the Dozen
  3. All the Pretty Horses
  4. It's a Wonderful Life
  5. Antiques Roadshow
  6. A Christmas Story (but if I don't catch it at 8, it's on for the next 24 hours)
  7. Spongebob, Squarepants
  8. The Year in Animals
  9. M*A*S*H
  10. Scrubs
  11. Monday Night Football (Broncos vs Chargers)
  12. Reba rerun
  13. Yankees Classics - game 6 of the 1977 World Series, the game where Reggie Jackson hits 3 HR in 3 ABs (yep, if forced, I'd rather watch an old Yankee game than "What Would Jesus Really Do?")
  14. Happy Holidays from Home Shopping Network
  15. BET Awards '07
  16. Law & Order
  17. Tom Hanks - Inside the Actor's Studio
  18. Halls of Fame with Fran Healy (though, it's pushing it)
  19. Dog Whisperer
  20. The Martha Stewart Show (also pushing it)
  21. Rugrats
  22. Sabrina the Teenage Witch
  23. Double Dare 2000 on Nick Gas
  24. The Santa Clause 2
  25. The Chronicles of Narnia
  26. The last 45 minutes of "Best in Show"
  27. The last hour of "Nanny McPhee"
  28. The last five minutes of an episode of "Curb your Enthusiasm" followed by "Scrooged"
  29. Snakes on a Plane
  30. Mystery Diagnosis
  31. Deal or No Deal
  32. Kids by the Dozen - a reality show about a family with 12 kids
  33. Keeping up with the Kardashians
  34. Classic Boxing
  35. Classic Golf - 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic
  36. American Muscle Car
  37. Good Eats
  38. Nostradamous - 500 years later
  39. CSI:
  40. News 12 New Jersey
  41. Blue Planet
  42. Casper's Haunted Christmas
  43. Skiing
  44. The Weather Channel
  45. Yule Log
  46. Tin Man
  47. Goodfellas
  48. Everybody Hates Chris
  49. MSNBC's Crimes Caught on Tape
  50. Bars and Tone
11:40 am: I just found out that the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants is ringing the Opening Bell at the NYSE on Wednesday. I don't know if I will be able to handle that kind of excitement.

11:50am: re-running the Baby Jesus story! the lady bolted down the Baby Jesus and it was still stolen. But it's "Jewish Jeffrey" to the rescue! "To make Christmas right for everyone."
And the reporter tried to rhyme "mensch" with "sinch". No. Bad.

11:56am: Letters to Santa package! A postal worker in Massachusetts who answers letters to Santa.

11:58: time to see bad Santas in New Zealand. They even kicked over a Christmas tree! The outrage!

12:00 noon: CNN International simulcast begins. And we go on the air in Detroit in 10 minutes. Yay!

12:17pm: lunch!

Too many exclamation points in this post? maybe.

12:24pm: weather update. why are people so concerned with having a White Christmas? Would they be as concerned if there hadn't been a movie?

12:38pm: as usual, not much to criticize about the International broadcast, as long as there's no British tabloid story being overblown.

12:49PM: Commercial for THE FISH PEN. Yes, it's a real fishing rod that's the size of a Pen. It's the Fish Pen!

1pm: Santa rings the closing bell at the NYSE in front of a few people who stuck around long enough to see it.

1:03pm: "White Christmas" talk again? And one anchor seems to be particularly concerned with maintaining suspension of disbelief when it comes to Santa. For example, Santa doesn't need snow to land on rooftops. Thanks for clearing that up.

1:18pm: In the home stretch. Want closing numbers? No? Here:
DOW closed at 13,549, up 99 points. Nasdaq was up 21, s&p up 12. Whatever.

1:21pm: A reporter interviews men out at malls and asks why they can't get their shopping done earlier.

Macy's has been open 24 hours a day for the last week. Can anybody tell me what you buy at Macy's at 4 o'clock in the morning?

1:23pm: prime time promos, including one for Larry King Live, rerunning a show from a year ago. So in other words it's Larry King One Year Ago. We're even rerunning the same promos, as if we're almost certain nobody's watching.

remember, it's never too late to steal a plastic Baby Jesus.

actually, in March, it's probably too late. And if there's still Baby Jesuses out in March, they deserve to be stolen.

1:26 pm: Water skiing Santa! My day is complete. And it's in Washington, DC, where the water temperature is under 40 degrees.

1:27pm: NORAD says Santa's in Ethiopia. So the water skier is a fake. More suspension of disbelief: Santa is magical. Santa moves at 8 times the speed of light but he can because he's magical. Santa is everywhere.

OK Then, that's enough. Happy Birthday Baby Jesus. I'm going home.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Story of the Week -- Dec. 17-21

Get Busy Livin' or Get Busy Dyin'

Before I begin this story of life, death, and well...redemption, (and jokes about New Jersey) I have this:

The 91st richest man in the US died yesterday. His name is Kenneth Hendricks, and he was the CEO of ABC Supply Co, the nation's self-described "largest wholesale roofing distributor." How did he die?

He fell through the roof of his own garage.

For sure, the unfortunate 66-year-old Wisconsin billionaire wasn't put to death by the state of New Jersey, because Governor Jon Corzine signed a bill making that illegal on Monday. New Jersey became the first state to repeal its capital punishment law since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Of course this measure is mostly symbolic, since New Jersey hasn't actually executed anyone since 1963.

"Today New Jersey is truly evolving," said Corzine (obviously he wasn't at a rest stop on the turnpike)
(he meant the state, not the people)
(evidently he hasn't been to a Jets game this year)
(clearly he wasn't in Newark when he made the speech)
(more?) in an eloquent speech at the signing. "Society must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence and undermines the sanctity of life...I answer yes, and therefore I believe we must evolve to ending that endorsement."

The repeal was celebrated by death penalty opponents worldwide, including Sister Helen Prejean, a leading anti-death penalty activist and the author of Dead Man Walking, who attended the signing ceremony.

"There's no place on Earth I'd rather be," (she meant New Jersey, seriously)
(obviously she didn't know where she was)
(clearly she wasn't in Newark when she made the speech)
(no, seriously, she was in New Jersey. take that...everywhere else on Earth!!)
(I could do this all day) she said, and she continued heaping her praises on the Garden State: "the word will travel around the globe that there is a state in the United States of America that was the first to show that life is stronger than death, love is greater than hatred and that compassion is stronger than the need for revenge" (clearly she wasn't in Newark when she made the speech)

New Jersey had 8 men on death row, all of whom previously had little chance of ever really being put to death, and now they have no chance at all. Governor Corzine officially commuted the eight sentences in an order that provided "legal certainty" that the convicted murderers would spend the rest of their lives in jail.

That is, unless they've seen The Shawshank Redemption.

This week, 2 inmates at a jail in Elizabeth, NJ broke out and escaped, in an elaborate and creative scheme that you absolutely would never believe possible.

That is, unless you've seen The Shawshank Redemption.

If you've seen that movie, I don't have to tell you how these 2 guys got out of jail. If you haven't seen it, stop reading this and turn on the TV. It's probably on.

Yes, Jose Espinosa and Otis Blunt used the resources at their disposal in the prison to remove pieces of their cell wall, and disguised the hole by tacking up pictures of bikini clad models that they cut out of magazines. A move no guard or prison official seemed to see coming.

Prison authorities have launched a review of security measures, and inmates are now barred from pinning up pictures from magazines on their cell walls, a restriction nobody seemed to consider before, because clearly, inexplicably, nobody had seen The Shawshank Redemption.

Really? None of them saw the movie? Like, not even the last half hour one night on TNT or something? Really?

What scares me more is if they have seen the movie and just dismissed it as fantasy. Even after they saw inmate 034687 with a lot of pictures up in a particular spot. Andy Dufresne was a genius. These guys are just copycats. They were just seeing if it could work, and hey! It did.

And now, we don't have Tim Robbins, cleaned-up, calmly walking into a bank, wantin' no trouble, we have these guys:

Espinosa, who's awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to manslaughter in a drive-by shooting, and Blunt, who's facing robbery and weapons charges. Until these guys are caught, you might want to reconsider your next vacation to downtown Elizabeth, NJ.

Oh right....well anyway, these guys need to be caught and brought back to jail, where their sentences will get significantly longer. But so far, they're still on the loose. Hey, NJ State Police, have you looked here?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Story of the Week -- Dec 10-14

Digesting the Mitchell Report

In late June 1994, I was in my parents' bedroom, busily writing my name on every article of clothing I owned in preparation for camp. I had Sportscenter on in the background (this is back when Sportscenter was good and watching it was a daily ritual). I was about to find out that my favorite baseball player tested positive for Cocaine use. Dwight Gooden did drugs, and he was suspended for 60 games. I was 11 years old, and the news made me cry.

The next day I went to camp and essentially forgot about Dwight Gooden. My dad didn't mention Doc in his almost daily recounts of Met games in letters. With or without Gooden, the Mets were a pretty mediocre team that year, and the year before they had lost 103 games. Two days after I got home from camp, on August 11, 1994, my dad took me to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia to watch the Mets play the Phillies. The Mets lost that one, 2-1 in 15 innings. The game ended around 11:30. Half an hour later, The Major League Baseball Players Association went on strike.

In baseball's darkest hour, I wanted nothing more than to see my mediocre Mets take the field as soon as possible with the same flawed, crappy team that featured such overpaid duds as Bobby Bonilla and Bret Saberhagen. Even if they were without my favorite player, even if they used replacement players, as a 12 year old kid, I wanted to be able to go to Shea Stadium, and I didn't want to go another year without a World Series.

So I was there on April 28, 1995, cheering my team to a win over the Cardinals. In the first inning, 3 protesters ran onto the field and threw fake money, revealing shirts that said "GREED." But they were in the ballpark. 8 or 9 other people ran onto the field, too. One guy literally tried to steal third base. It was a great day.

The point? In less than a year, I saw my favorite player disappear from the game because he did drugs, then saw half a season and the postseason disappear because of money. And all I wanted was for everyone to just get back on the field and play.

Cut to this week, when 60-80 "favorite players" are implicated by former Sen. George Mitchell for using, buying, or, in some cases, sort of being around and hearing about, performance enhancing substances. And if you're a real baseball fan, you can't be surprised by any of the names on the list (ok, maybe Wally Joyner, but if you actually read the report you'll see that Wally didn't like the steroids and stopped using them almost immediately.) I imagine I'll be digesting the news in this report and the news that comes in its wake for quite a while, or at least until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

First of all, I'm not surprised by anything in the report, and no dedicated baseball fan should be shocked either. Think about it. Roger Clemens is 100 years old and still throws 95 mph. He's been old since 1997, which according to the Mitchell Report, is right around the time he started using steroids. 10 years later he's still going, at times looking less hittable than he did 12-15 years ago? You weren't suspicious?

Yes, steroids bad for you and a lot of people cheated. Let's examine the career of Todd Hundley. He was a decent hitting, good catcher. He was a leader on a hapless Met team and, once Bonilla busted and the Isringhausen/Pulsipher/Wilson dream fizzled out, the face of the team. He was good for 16-18 homers a year. In 1996, right when Mitchell alleges he started using, he hits 41 homers, breaking the Met record and the single-season record for catchers. And he drives in 112 runs. In '97, he hits 30 HR. Then in '98 he gets hurt, the Mets trade for Mike Piazza, they try to put Hundley in the outfield (bad idea) and he's never really the same.

Compare to Clemens, who extends his career with steroids and who knows what else (allegedly) but also does it with a well-documented ridiculous work ethic and workout routine. And also, by comparison, has much more ability. I say the same about Bonds (who I hate, because he's a dick) The guy used steroids, but he was still an incredible player before that. They cheated, but they still belong in the hall of fame.

Also, if Clemens wasn't using, and he's pitching to Bonds who was and getting him out, that's impressive. If they were both using - still impressive. If Hundley's using and Clemens is clean, then Rocket is working extra hard to get out the juiced up batters. And vice versa. And whether Josiais Manzanillo is using or not, he still sucks and you still don't know who he is.

I'm tired of hearing a couple of arguments, including the "fallen heroes" argument. Roger Clemens is your idol? Really? The player who's been a mercenary for 4 years, holding up his "hometown" team for millions of dollars? The same guy who threw a sawed off bat at Mike Piazza? Barry Bonds certainly hasn't been a role model. Before you even get close to talking about his steroid use you have to get past the fact that he's a narcissistic asshole. John Rocker? (any surprise he showed up in the Mitchell Report?) If you look up to John Rocker, you need psychological help. And if your 10-year-old kid idolizes John Rocker, you both need help.

I'm also tired of the holier-than-thou baseball writers who insist they won't vote anyone alleged to use steroids into the Hall of Fame. You same people exalted Mark McGwire for bringing back the game post-strike (I'm getting tired of this counter argument, too, but I agree with it) knowing full well his head and arms were just unnaturally large. You even uncovered the andro in his locker and let it go once #62 barely cleared the left field wall at Busch Stadium. So shut up with the outrage, be happy that Baseball is finally doing something about this, and put McGwire into the Hall of Fame, and put Bonds and Clemens in in five years, too.

I'm also tired of people caring what President Bush thinks because he used to own the Texas Rangers know what? I'm just tired of President Bush. But that's for another day.

The steroids problem runs so deep that it's impossible to unravel. And I'm in the camp with the people who want to move on. Major League Baseball is right. Attendance is through the roof, and it's not because players are hitting more home runs. It's because the experience of going to a baseball game is as good as it's ever been. The Mitchell Report doesn't leave me jaded. I've been jaded at least since my favorite player got suspended for using cocaine (he's still in prison, in case you've forgotten)

Ballplayers are human beings, they're not saints. And I can't wait until they get back on the damn field already. 8 weeks to pitchers and catchers?

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Full Circle Comes Full Circle

The Full Circle has come full circle. My blog is a year old. And in honor of the (in?)auspicious occasion, I thought I'd treat my loyal readers (nearly a baker's dozen poor souls who are willing to admit they read on a regular basis) and any newcomers or passers by to a sampling of my favorites. I've chosen 5. Feel free to disagree or to pile on your own.

These are in no particular order:

My Camel is Broken - The Negev, Thursday December 21
It was hard to choose a favorite from my 11 part Birthright Israel series. If you haven't read the Israel posts, this is my writing at its best. The "Camel" post is maybe the funniest of the 11, so there it is, but the other 10 are good reads, too. Even the 2nd or 3rd time around.

The Most Important Story (story of the week June 4-7)
The number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq crosses the 3,500 mark, but the media is distracted by Paris Hilton. And I'm confused.

Spell Check and update (story of the week May 28-June1)
I set out to criticize home schooling and then nail ESPN for runining the appeal of the Scripps National Spelling Bee by upping the production value and exploiting its popularity. Kind of the way FOX is about to ruin American Gladiators. That's not why I'm including it in my top 5, though.
A week later, I offered an update when I confirmed that the 2007 National Spelling Bee winner, a home-schooled 13 year old named Evan O'Dorney, had Asperger's, further supporting my opinion that home schooling removes the important social component that a regular school provides. The update showed up on a couple of Asberger's related discussion websites, and I got some rare anonymous comments from passionate AS parents on both sides of the argument.

And Sometimes, It's Like This...
A great "impulse post" and the most concise answer I can come up with to the question "what do you do for a living?"

Foofaraw - President's Day Edition
Soon after The Full Circle was born, I came across the word "Foofaraw" and immediately regretted the title of my blog. I didn't change the title, but I did begin an irregular feature for the blog called Foofaraw - fusses over matters of little importance. This is the sheer best of that feature.

Can't believe it's been a year...

What was your favorite?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Story of the Week -- Nov 19-23

Turkey Talk

My favorite task this week was to call the Media office at the Butterball Hotline. I was investigating a rumor that the hot line trains its callers to speak in a Midwestern accent. I asked the woman in media relations if there was any truth to the rumor, and she answered me with...well she basically laughed at me.

Once composed, she said "well, all of our callers come from the Chicagoland area (By the way, am I the only one who thinks Chicagoland Area sounds like the parking lot, gas station, and Pizzeria Uno's in the immediate vicinity of a schlocky amusement park?) and they're all middle-aged ladies so..."

I stopped her. "So it's not so much that they're trained to speak like middle-aged Midwest housewives, and more like they are middle-aged Midwest housewives."


To further investigate the sheer stupidity of my question, I turned to the Butterball Hotline's media relations web site. Butterball Turkey Talk-line experts are "more than 50 professionally trained, college-educated home economists eager to assist Americans in preparing holiday feasts." Let's meet some of them, shall we?

Mary Clingman is the director of the Turkey Talk-Line. Her favorite call came from a man who was concerned that his Thanksgiving turkey spent too much time thawing in the refrigerator while he was off assisting his wife with the birth of their first child. Mrs. Clingman asked "how much does it weigh?" and the man replied "The turkey or the baby?" and Mrs. Clingman thought that was very funny. Clingman has a degree in Home Economics from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and she looks exactly the way you think she does. Mary's been talking turkey for 23 years.

Carol Miller has been talking turkey for 24 years and graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Home Economics (a major that, as you might suspect, no longer exists at NIU) Carol remembers a caller with a very straightforward question - "when do I have to put my turkey in the oven so that it's done at halftime?" Carol and the caller put their heads together and calculated out the exact time! She loves the callers, especially on Thanksgiving Day, when her advice is often greeted with applause on the other end of the phone.

Astrid Volpert is the Talkline's token Hispanic. She has a degree in Nutrition and Biology from Perdue University. She formerly worked for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) a non-profit organiztion that provides low-income women with nutritious food, information on healthy eating and health care referrals. Now she talks turkey and volunteers at her children's school and for the Cub Scouts, where she holds board positions. According to Butterball, she is a "polished and charming media interview", which is probably code for "she doesn't sound hispanic".

Lastly, Dorothy Jones (23-year turkey talker) also has a home economics degree from NIU. And she has the best story of all. Her favorite caller came from a man who was distressed about the ammount of time it takes to cook a turkey. He asked Dorothy if the turkey would cook faster if he drove a railroad spike through it "to promote heat conduction." Calmly, Dorothy advised against avian impalement and instead offered a less violent shortcut.

These ladies are exactly who you think they are (a particular Dana Carvey character comes to mind) They may all have old-fashioned degrees and old-fashioned ways, but don't call them old fashioned. The Butterball Hotline keeps up with the times. 2007 marks year 2 for TurkeyTalk - the Butterball PodCast.

Here's a few more things you may not have known:

The line opened in 1981, when 6 operators answered about 11,000 calls. Today, more than 50 operators handle over 100,000 calls between Thanksgiving and Christmas (actually, the hotline officially opens November 1)

A survey this year of nearly 2000 adults found that 95% of American Thanksgiving tables feature mashed potatoes, but only 46% have gravy.

Men are twice as likely as women to prefer the drumstick, while the majority of women stick to breast meat. (hmm, might of thought that one would go the other way...)

83% of Americans in the North call it "stuffing", but the south is split between calling it "stuffing" or "dressing". Only 1% of the country calls it filling.

Americans in the Mountain Time Zone are most likely to serve pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.

Southerners are the most likely to deep fry their turkeys.

Americans in the South Atlantic region (which stretches from New York to Florida along the East Coast) love the turkey just as much as they love the sides, and are more likely than any other region to use cilantro in their turkey preparation.

Well I bet that was more than you ever wanted to know.

Really, you want more?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Story of the Week -- Nov. 5-9

On Strike, Part II

Last week I joked about the effects of the WGA strike. Then one of my loyal readers posed a more serious question:

BrookLyn GaL: I'm curious as to your opinion on the strike since you're a writer. Of course as a viewer, I don't care who wins what, I just don't want to be without The Office. But I don't know enough about the demands and whatnot to know who is in the right.How do you feel about the strike, as a writer?

A very good question. There are times, Brooklyn Gal (and fellow loyal readers, all 5 of you...) when I, too, just want to make sure there's a new episode of The Office next week. And there are times when I think of myself, still, as a potential future member of the WGA, that maybe someday cousin Herb will be right, and I'll have to join the picket line.

Then I went on vacation before I finished writing this article. Apologies. But get ready for more travel articles from me at And now I'll finish my story of the week from a week ago that still applies because the writers are still on strike:
For the purposes of a coherent response, I've devised a hypothetical.
Let's just say:

In 1984 and 1985, I wrote 3 episodes of "Charles in Charge" (the one where Charles learns that people aren't always the way they seem, the one where Lila tries to sabotage her brother's crush, and the one where Charles has to supervise Lila's slumber party after he's decided to swear off women, in case you were wondering). For writing those 3 episodes, I made about $50,000.

Now I've had a solid career since, writing some after-school specials, a few small movies, and I produced a couple of short-lived sitcoms. But "Charles" was the best show I ever worked on, and the only one that made it to the magical world of television syndication. It pays to be in TV Land, trust me. Every time one of my episodes appears on Nick at Nite, or shows up at 2am in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, or gets slapped with Korean subtitles and shipped to Seoul, I get a little check in the mail called a residual. Those 3 episodes are really the gifts that keep on giving, with each by now at least doubling in value. Pretty sweet, if you ask me.

Why do I get residuals? Because if it weren't for me, there wouldn't have been a script. Without a script, you can't make a sitcom, and the studio and the network would have had nothing to sell to Nick at Nite, Sheboygan or Seoul. And if they're making money off of my work, well then I deserve to make money off of it too. That's why I'm a member of the Writer's Guild. They negotiated my minimum basic agreement and got me those residual checks.

Why do I need residuals? Well, I haven't written anything that made any kind of money in more than a year. Thanks to residual checks, I can afford to keep writing and get myself to the next big project.

Simply put, residuals are great. But, when the WGA last negotiated our residuals, there was no such thing as a DVD, TiVo, broadband or iPods. There were video stores, of course, and plenty of people bought VHS copies of movies for their home libraries, but nobody in the industry seemed to think anyone would be interested in buying old episodes of silly sitcoms or other TV shows ever again. But it turns out, in 2007, people love buying old episodes of silly sitcoms. Even TV shows that got cancelled after one season are on the market today.

More than 20 years after I wrote my episodes of "Charles" and probably 10 years since anyone in the industrialized world has seen any of them, you can get 'em on Amazon for 22 bucks. The problem is, I don't see a penny that. And, for all the same reasons I get residuals for reruns, shouldn't I be getting a piece of the DVD, iTunes, etc. pie? I think so. It's only fair to me and to generations like me.

And so, until the suits gives me and my writer colleagues a piece of that pie, we're not going to write another sentence.

So, Brooklyn Gal, while I, too, would rather not be without The Office, I think you'd agree that the people most responsible for the show's comedic genius, the writers (the actors make the comedy work, but they can't do anything with a blank page), deserve their fair share, today, tomorrow, and for years to come.

**Thanks to Pamela Pettler for lending parts her identity to this hypothetical. I hope she gets her much-deserved residuals.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Story of the Week -- Oct 29-Nov 2

On Strike

My cousin Herb insisted to my Dad that I would have to go on strike Monday. Insisted.

Thing is, I'm not a member of the Writer's Guild of America. Or any union. I don't get residual checks for anything I've written. My name doesn't appear in the credits of any major motion picture or TV show, and an IMDB search of my name says that I played myself in a 1999 episode of "Horizon"* Only that wasn't me, it was someone else with my name, and he didn't write anything for that show. So there is no possible way I could be on strike Monday. And I can't really believe anyone thought I would be.

Well, I can believe that Herb thought I would be.

So it's Monday now, and I am not on strike. It took me a while to write this, but I have no labor-related excuses. The Writers Guild of America is on strike, and the degree to which you or anyone outside the guild care is probably based on whether or not you depend on The Daily Show to keep you sane and/or alive. If you're like me, you can probably deal with the fact that The Late Show will be a rerun tonight. Some people won't even notice.

A NYC Transit strike this is not. But I can sum up in one word why you should care about the Writers Guild Strike and you should be praying they get back to work soon:


"If it weren't for the (1988) strike, "Cops" might not be on the air today," said the show's producer Morgan Langley.

You may not remember there was a 22 week long strike in 1988, but you're suffering the consequences today. Without new episodes of "Married with Children" to show, Fox resorted to COPS and America's Most Wanted, two of the earliest reality TV shows. Those shows proved 2 things: people will watch anything, and writers are expendable. And if the latest strike lasts (which it could) get ready for more reality TV than you ever thought possible.

And if that happens, you shouldn't encourage it. Watch sports, watch the news, but don't watch "The Bachelor: Teen Edition" or "The Real Lord of the Flies" (actually, I think CBS is already doing that show...) Those shows are cheaper to produce as it is, and with the writers demanding more of the DVD and online share, you wouldn't want to encourage studios to cut out the WGA altogether.

So while I am not on strike, I do hope those who are on strike get their issues resolved soon and get back to work.

Here, read more:,1,6311115.story?coll=la-headlines-business&ctrack=2&cset=true

*You're still wondering what the hell "Horizon" is, aren't you?
I dug further. It's a long-running BBC documentary series. So the other David Spiegel didn't so much play himself as, well, give an interview in a documentary for British Television.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Story of the Week - Oct 22-26

Sunday Outrages

I was all set to write about this week's NFL venture in London. I was ready to write about how on Friday, the NFL was buried on the BBC sport website, taking a backseat to minor news about a minor team in the English Premiership that few American football fans have ever heard of. About how strangely the American game translates into English sport lingo, but you can read it for yourself.

But then, the fans in London surprised me. They filled the place, screamed and shouted their way through the rain-soaked mostly terrible display. And aside from booing the Giants for running out the last 2 minutes of the 4th quarter, acted as knowledgeable fans of the game. And who wants to see 2 minutes of kneeldowns anyway? Ok, aside from Giants fans who wanted to get the hell out of London before they blew one to the lowly Dolphins...

So my story of the week was spoiled until late Sunday night and early Monday morning, when I caught a double dose of intense outrage. And I'm sure I am not alone. Here are those 2 stories:

1. Another heckuva job

A number of agencies, governments and people earned high praise for their handling of this week's wildfires in California. The general consensus was this: Southern California was well-prepared to handle the disaster. This was not another Katrina.

The scene at San Diego, I mean...Jack Murphy, er... Qualcomm Stadium was one of organization, where volunteers outnumbered evacuees, kids were distracted with art projects and games, pets were pampered, and any and all comparisons to the scene at the Superdome post-Katrina were speedily (forgive me) extinguished.

Even FEMA was praised for its response.

Until they got in their own way.

Tuesday, FEMA held a press conference. Only, they sort of forgot to tell the press. But that didn't stop them from holding the conference. Without the press in attendence, FEMA planted staffers in the crowd to ask questions it "thought the press would ask."

QUESTION: Sir, there are a number of reports that people weren't heeding evacuation orders and that was hindering emergency responders. Can you speak a little to that, please?

QUESTION: Can you address a little bit what it means to have the president issue an emergency declaration, as opposed to a major disaster declaration? What does that (inaudible) for FEMA?

QUESTION: Sir, we understand the secretary and the administrator of FEMA are on their way out there. What is their objective? And is there anyone else traveling with them?

Question: I know you guys were appointed by President Bush, but are you really as stupid as you seem? I can't say it better than CBS' Bob Schieffer already has:

"Fire these people and the people who hired them and then explain to the new people that the best way for a disaster relief agency to get good publicity is to do a good job helping disaster victims."

It gets worse...


Thank you Fox, once again, for dashing my hopes of avoiding a 3rd straight week mentioning the freakin' Yankees. But I can't let this one slide. Why



Must you break the news about A-Rod opting out of his contract for next year when the 2007 season is 9 outs from over? Can we celebrate the end of one of the more exciting, engaging seasons in recent history (that happened to culminate with the most BORING World Series ever, but that's not the point) without having to talk about next season? Does "Wait til next year" mean anything to you?

6 outs away from sweeping their 2nd World Series in 4 years, and all Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and that total tool Ken Rosenthal (you're so cool, have Scott Boras in your Blackberry!) can talk about is what the Red Sox are going to do about Mike Lowell next year and do they need A-Rod. NO! They don't need A-Rod, they're about to win their second World Series since he started playing for their arch-rival! Can we focus, please?

The World Series should be a celebration of the season that was, not the season to come. A-Rod can wait. Sometimes being first isn't as important as being good.

And while I'm at it, shame on the NY Post and the Daily News for thinking the A-Rod story was bigger than the World Series. It's not. Winning the World Series is the biggest on-the-field story of the season.

And shame on A-Rod and Scott Boras. Couldn't you two have waited for the offseason to officially arrive before you set off the biggest story of the offseason?

Oh crap. It's the offseason.

Well, at least the Giants are good. That was rather unexpected.

Jolly good show on the muddy pitch, chaps.


I don't get starstruck often. I'm usually indifferent to seeing celebrities on the street, or at work or wherever. With a few exceptions, including this one:

Aaron Sorkin: You guys are brave to come out to an early preview, thanks a lot.
Me: You're welcome. It was great. We support our fellow Syracuse grads. (that was my in)
Sorkin: (shakes my hand) Oh, really? that's great, all of you? When?
Me: '05
Sorkin: (pauses)
Me: sorry.
Sorkin: (laughs) I graduated from that place 150 years ago. Is it still cold there?
Me: Probably.
Sorkin: (on his way out the door) I don't think they've won a football game since I graduated. Well...Louisville. At least we have that. (Exits)
Me: ok...that made my week...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Story of the Week -- Oct 15-19

History of the Week.

I didn't want to do a sports story two weeks in a row. I REALLY didn't want to do a story about the New York Yankees two weeks in a row. And then I found this out:

What happened to Joe Torre has happened before.

Yep, and in eerily similar circumstances. 47 years ago yesterday, The Yankees announced the resignation/firing/gently nudging out the door of Casey Stengel. Stengel managed the Yankees for 12 years, winning 10 American League pennants and 7 World Series over that span. He was ousted mere days after the Yankees lost the world series on a dramatic game 7 walk-off Home Run off the bat of Pirates' second baseman Bill Mazeroski.

So there is truth to the adage that history repeats itself. And strangely enough, as I discovered, history often repeats itself with an ironic flair for anniversaries. Here are some events that happened this past week, past and present (with some help from the New York Times):

Wednesday, Turkey essentially declared war on the Kurds in northern Iraq. It was just five years ago this week that the United States essentially did the same. President Bush signed the congressional resolution authorizing war with Iraq on October 16, 2002 (of course we didn't invade until March of '03). While Tuesday marked the anniversary of the beginning of a war, Friday marked the anniversary of wars coming to an end. It was on October 19, 1951 that President Truman brought a formal end to the state of war with Germany, when I can only assume the U.S. decided a country struggling to feed itself probably wasn't a threat anymore. It was also on October 19, this time in 1781, that the British surrendered to the Continental Army at Yorktown, VA, bringing an unofficial end to the Revolutionary War.

That came 4 years and 2 days after the Americans won the battle of Saratoga, a turning point in the war, on October 17, 1777.

George W. Bush is well-known for his repetition of key phrases and talking points. This week he repeated history when he announced new sanctions against the government of Myanmar. I doubt the President knows this, but he imposed those sanctions 47 years to the day after the U.S. imposed its still-standing embargo on exports to Cuba on October 19, 1960.

The Fox Business Channel attempted a historical repeat on Monday. Rupert Murdoch's latest venture launched on Monday to, well, can we say mixed reviews? The Times called it "perky", is that good or bad? And I have to say, I'm over the naked cowboy. Over it. As in, not at all interested in an extended feature interview. So I can't say Fox went the distance in repeating history, but it was quick to point out that it was launching 56 years to the day after "I Love Lucy" premiered on CBS. "I Love Lucy" was, of course, funny on purpose. Fox Biz I'd call laughable. I'd also change the channel, quickly.

In Fox's case, I'm guessing the new network won't likely find itself on the same page in history as "Lucy", or even in the same book. And we can hope that the Myanmar sanctions are lifted soon, because that will mean oppressive regime there will ease up or collapse, both of which can't happen soon enough. We can further hope that Turkey doesn't go on to follow in our footsteps and exacerbate the Iraqi quagmire by actually invading the North. Take it from us, Turkey, you don't want to do that.

And as for Torre following in Stengel's footsteps...he probably doesn't want to do that either. Less than two years after being forced out of the Bronx, Casey took a job across the river, managing the expansion Mets. Lovable (and senile) as he was, he wasn't quite as successful. The Mets were 175-404 with Stengel at the helm.

Sometimes history isn't worth repeating.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Story of the Week -- Oct 8-12

More Reasons Why I Hate the Yankees

I hate the Yankees.

I hate that in spite of the fact the Cleveland Indians had a better record during the regular season, won their division and had home field advantage, their dominating 3-1 series win was considered an "upset." The Indians had better starting pitching, a better bullpen, and better clutch hitting than the Yankees. Overall, they are a better team. What about this is an upset?

I hate that no Yankees fan appreciates the fact that his team was dead in the water as late as June, that they had to dig up pitchers out of their minor league system, relying on the likes of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes to come up consistently in big spots and get outs for months in order to charge back and take the wild card, to almost win the division. I hate that they don't appreciate that because they ultimately lost to a better team in the Division Series. I hate that they don't look at this season as a success. Or last season, or the season before that.

On the other hand, the uber-high expectations make it much easier to root against the Yankees. If a great comeback season followed by a postseason loss puts you into hysterics, then a successful season for me is any in which the Yankees don't win the World Series.

I hate that the Yankees made me root for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. I rooted hard in that series, at Syracuse, on a very social floor with a pack of Yankees fans screaming loudly against a pack of non-Yankees fans. And who was I rooting for?
The same team (and by same, I mean except for the stadium has a new name, the colors are totally different and the only person left from the '01 team is on the disabled list probably forever) whose fans put on a terrible display in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Colorado Rockies last night. Arizona fans barely bought up all the tickets available for the first 2 games (On Wednesday, there were 20,000 unsold tickets. WHAT!!??). They hardly Diamondbacks fans are terrible, and I hate that for two weeks in October (and November, remember that?) I was one of them.

I hate the Yankees for even considering firing a manger who has done nothing but win. In 12 seasons, Joe Torre has led the Yankees to the playoffs...12 times. He's won 4 World Series, 6 American League Championships and 11 Division Titles. Let the guy leave when he wants to leave.

For that matter, give the best closer in the history of baseball and arguably the best player in the history of baseball whatever they want.

I hate the Yankees and their fans for almost completely ignoring the season the Alex Rodriguez had (.314 avg, 54 HR, 156 RBI, 143 runs scored) because he went 4-15 in the 4 playoff games. While at the same time they exalt Derek Jeter no matter what he does, even if he goes 2-16 in those same playoff games.

I hope they lose A-Rod. I hope he takes a pay cut and goes to Pittsburgh and takes down the Yankees Mazeroski style.

And finally, I hate the Yankees because even though they've been eliminated from the playoffs, Tim McCarver will continue to find ways to squeeze them into the broadcast, while FOX executives weep about the very real possibility of a Cleveland-Colorado World Series, one that might actually be a well-played grind-it-out seven gamer that people will be talking about for years.

If only they'd watch. And they should, and so should you. Because it's easier to watch the playoffs when you don't have to hate.

Monday, October 8, 2007

And sometimes, it's like this

Me: we're doing the fortune cookie story.
JB: Oh cool.
me: this is from the company's website, first of all.
"Wonton Food Inc. is the world's largest manufacturer of Noodles, Wrappers, and Fortune Cookies in the United States."
me: yes, anyway, it's our kicker story for closing bell and we got video somehow
JB: that's awesome
when's it on?
me: we hit air sometime between 3:55 and 4
JB: cool
me: we're right after "mascot race" and "waffle eating contest"
JB: ....
me: it's a slow news day...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Chain Post

My friend BrookLyn GaL sent me this and I'm supposed to write an answer and ask 5 more bloggers to do the same, and then...I don't know something happens. And if I don't find 5 other bloggers to answer the question, then....I don't know, something else happens? So anyway, if you're reading this, and you keep a blog, then do this and tell me, and I'll link you on here. Cause everyone likes it when something happens. Ok, enough. Here's the thing:

TO DO: List 5 things that certain people (who are not deserving of being your friend anyway) may consider to be "totally lame," but you are, despite the possible stigma, totally proud of. Own it. Tag 5 others.

1. I can recite the United States alphabetically, the U.S. Presidents in order, and I'm working on the line of succession of British Monarchs (from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II, with all those Henrys (8) and Edwards (8) in between)

2. In spite of the fact that I work at the New York Stock Exchange and wear a suit like a grown up, I still pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, and chips in a brown bag for lunch nearly every day. And I love it.

3. I sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at every seventh inning stretch of every baseball game I go to. And my brother and I have a special way of doing it that's the same every game. (None of which helped this year, by the way. I attended 16 games at Shea Stadium this season. The Mets' record in those games: 5-11.)

4. I keep a Mets schedule in my planner, and I keep track of every game I go to throughout the season.

5. I love to fold laundry.

All right, fine BrookLyn GaL, 5 random bloggers: Helen at Good Morning Internet , Distracted Spunk, Jon Elliott, Laura Farrell and 27 cents and anyone else who cares to do it, go ahead.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Story of the Week -- Oct. 1-5

The Foxhole

The view from my perch above the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange was altered under cover of night last week. 2 weeks before the self-proclaimed "most powerful name in news" alters the television landscape, they made some improvements (ahem) to the trading floor.

What appeared below, within sure-shot sniper range, is what we are calling "The Foxhole" - a 6 by 4 box squeezed in between a couple of trading posts, an omen that says quite clearly -- Rupert is here.

A few months ago, Rupert Murdoch completed a hostile takeover of Dow Jones. He spent $5 billion on the company, but what he really wanted was the company's crown jewel - The Wall Street Journal. And he got it. And just in time for the launch of the Fox Business Channel. Coincidence? Hardly.

Fox Biz isn't in competition with our business news coverage at all. We're a guppy. They want the Blue Whale -- CNBC. The people I've talked to at CNBC don't seem threatened, but the appearance of the Foxhole can't be comforting.

But it can be mocked. How cute, they're on the floor, in a studio the size of a small bedroom closet. They can look right up into our booth, which is twice the size. Or they can look up at CNBC's studio that practically says "we're the best, don't mess with us." That's adorable, Fox Biz. Now good luck.

Actually, Rupert scares the hell out of me. The Foxhole feels like the first tentacle of the NewsCorp monster, coming in to suck up another sphere of influence and foxify it. The Foxhole can only be the beginning.

BUT...while the monster moved in on Wall Street, it was relinquishing some of its influence in a far more important domain (for me, anyway) - baseball. How nice, for this first round of the playoffs, to have no Jeannie Zelasko, no Kevin Kennedy, no miked bases, stupid graphics, even stupider noises, overdramatized, overdone crowd shots, or uncomfortable up-the-nose pitcher closeups. TBS has taken the baseball playoffs, and simplified. And for a real baseball fan, it's awesome. (also helps that the Phillies are in an 0-2 hole and the Yankees got clobbered) I enjoy watching, instead of endure watching.

Now that I see again what baseball coverage can be, I'm dreading the ALCS and World Series, to be aired by the evil empire. I don't look forward to the shameless network tie-ins, overproduced player promos, wayyyyyy too much music, Tim McCarver, and endless commercials for the Fox Business Channel.

New policy - fear the foxhole, bash the FOX. Get ready.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Story of the Week -- Sept. 24-28

Choke Hold

Before this week, this is what I knew about Myanmar:

It used to be called Burma

It's near Thailand and Cambodia

On Seinfeld, Mr. Peterman went there.

I was idly talking about my job with some people over bagels and coffee last Saturday night, and one of our break fast guests said

"Do you know if they're looking for freelancers to cover the protests in Myanmar?"

--"there are protests in Myanmar?"

"For like a month now."

--"wow. Well, I'm sure we have someone there."

Silly me. I've learned a lot this week. First of all, we don't have someone in Myanmar. Nobody has anybody in Myanmar.

Here's what I know about Myanmar now: it's home to one of the most, if not the most, secretive, oppressive and brutal regimes in the world. There is no such thing as free speech, or free anything for that matter. There are no western journalists allowed. In 1988, a protest was crushed by the Military government, which has very little problem with killing its own citizens and at the same time calling itself the "people's army." The government is holding a Nobel Peace the daughter of a pro-democracy leader, and a leader and Nobel Peace Laureate in her own right under house arrest. It's rich in natural gas and other resources. It has a lot of Buddhist monks.

This week, those revered, nonviolent monks took to the streets to bolster an ongoing movement that began as a protest over rising fuel costs. The protest ballooned to an estimated 100,000 people and finally caught the attention of the global media, which of course can't get anyone into the country.

So they improvised, and in one of the most fascinating displays of journalistic determination I've ever seen, the media has pieced together diplomatic correspondence, undercover reports, and hidden forays across the Thai border to try to show the world just what's happening on the ground in Myanmar.

What the world is seeing isn't good. At least nine people are dead, but that's what the government of Myanmar is saying, and some reports say there could be many more. Essentially, the army has the guns, the protesters don't. And yet, the government is clearly operating in fear of the protesters. While the government has quieted rebellions before, it never has had to do so in the Internet age.

The government of Myanmar is terrified of the Internet, and somehow people inside Myanmar are getting photos and videos on to the Internet at an increasingly faster pace. One blogger is living in England and stays up all night receiving information and photos from friends and friends of friends in Myanmar and posts the latest on his blog. And even though the government shut down Internet access on Friday across the country, the news is still getting out, and the blogger is still posting.

The hands of governments around the world are tied. This week was U.N week in New York, and country after country issued proclamations of contempt and statements of concern. But that's as if you're getting beat up at school, and the principal yells at your assailant from across the room "Hey! You shouldn't do that!" The only way these protesters will win is if they can somehow find a way to keep going, knowing full well that their government has all the guns and all the power.

They've kept going, though, because what choice do they have? And their support isn't coming from foreign governments or international peacekeeping forces - it's coming from ordinary people who can't possibly fathom what it's like to live there. And they're all working to shine a light on one of the darkest corners of the world.

Thanks to them, I know a lot more about Myanmar. And they need our help.


Monday, September 17, 2007

A Post About Nothing

No, that's not a clever Seinfeld tie-in title, this really is a post about nothing. Why? I feel like it, deal with it. You know what they say...

It was a short week last week because of Rosh Hashana, so I missed the "time to write a story of the week" bus, and if you think about it you're probably grateful because the last one was a 1 minute fake commercial dialogue about a story that really doesn't impact your life unless you were one of those shmoes who bought an iPhone you know what?

I'm sick of the iPhone. No, see this is a post about nothing. Nothing at all. I was going to talk about how we don't use the word "kerfuffle" enough, but that's about as far as I got on that idea. Too much of a kerfuffle. A whole big stinkin' kerfuffle. The hebrew word for kerfuffle is "balagan." And that's about all I had for that post.

By now I should be calling this foofaraw, and if you've read my blog regularly (both of you) you know what that is and that this is probably it. Foofaraw, kerfuffle, jinkerteeslitz, whatever you want to call it. I made the third one up because you can't just have two, and hoopla is a stupid word. So is furthermore. "And furthermore..." he said, as the pole lodged in his buttocks shifted ever so slightly... makes people sound like douche bags.

speaking of which...

no. I won't go there. I don't have anything to go there with anyway.

Oh, if you're trying to figure out just what it is "they say" (paragraph 1), don't. They don't say anything. You know what they say....

You know what they say? Me neither.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Story of the Week -- Sept 3-7


Mac: hello I'm a Mac
PC: and I'm a PC. Whoa, Mac, what happened to you?
Mac: Had a little accident.
PC: really? I thought you had the anti trip plug. I thought you were indestructible. Is that a scratch on your screen?
Mac: please, don't touch it.
PC: an accident?
Mac: ok, fine. my owner threw me on the floor in protest. he tried to kill me.
PC: oh my goodness, why?
Mac: he found out that Apple cut the price of the iPhone. By $200. (coughs)
PC: that doesn't sound good.
Mac: i think my exhaust fan is broken. (cough)
PC: Isn't a price cut a good thing?
Mac: no. He already has an iPhone. He waited in the rain for two days to get it and he paid $600. so now he's a little upset with Apple.
PC: and he took it out on you
Mac: yeah
PC: wow. my owner has a Blackberry. He uses it for business.
Mac: don't rub it in.
PC: well, you're always all "hey I'm a mac, I'm great. I'm so cool, check it out..."
Mac: I don't sound like that. (coughs)
PC: come on. let's go call tech support.
Mac: Do I?
PC: It's all right, Microsoft cut the price of the Zune. I'm sure somebody took a hit for that.
Mac: What's a Zune?
PC: I don't know. I have an iPod.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Story of the Week -- Aug 27-31

You Know How I Know You're Gay?

You know how I know you're gay?

You're an ultra-conservative Senator from Idaho with a wife, kids, and grandkids and yet you still feel the urge to solicit strange men for sex in airport bathrooms.

That's pretty gay.

Actually, it's so gay that calling it gay is an insult to gay people. Because men who like that they're gay and know that they're gay go to gay bars and Celine Dion concerts to find other gay men and they go home and have sex with them like normal people.

But Senator Larry Craig doesn't like the fact that he's gay. He tried to hide it with a loving wife, a family, grandchildren. And still, he couldn't resist the occasional romp in an airport bathroom.(we can only guess) Listening to the tape and reading the police report, the evidence is pretty clear - Craig was caught red-handed and then made stuff up like and eight year old with a hand in the cookie jar and chocolate on his face.

Ooh, sorry. Bad imagery.

Anyway, a while back I wrote about Rev. Ted Haggard. A male prostitute in Colorado said he slept with the evangelical leader on a number of occasions. Haggard went to "gay rehab" and in 3 weeks was "cured of his gayness." I opined then, and I still believe, that maybe if Haggard had been allowed to be gay none of this would happen. Same goes for Craig. Who's to say the people of Idaho don't elect a gay congressman? Or at least, a single congressman they suspect to be gay?

Craig's fatal flaw is the hypocrisy. Not only does he have the beard family, he has the beard congressional record. He was one of the most conservative Senators. He voted in favor of a constitutional ban on gay marriage and spoke out against gay rights at every opportunity. This guy takes shame and self-loathing to the highest degree. Then he has the balls to say "I'm not gay. I've never been gay," after he literally gets caught with his pants down.

And he's supposedly a good guy, a good representative of the state of Idaho. He's served well and been re-elected twice. I don't like his politics, but other than that, I never remember having anything against him. In fact, I'd never heard of him. Now that he resigned, I feel a little bad for him. A little.

Why? Because, sadly, there are more Larry Craigs out there (nice to see you again, Mr. McGreevy, how's your wife? Ohhhh....). People like Craig are brought up being told that who they are is wrong and that they should be ashamed, so they cover it up, bury it deep down. Until it springs a leak elsewhere. Maybe, just maybe, if these people weren't ashamed of themselves, they could be the good politicians they're capable of being, and they could leave the sex scandals to their deviant, corrupt, perverted hetero colleagues.

What Craig did is gross, it's shameful, and it's not something I'd like to see happen in any airport bathroom I visit. But it never had to happen, if only the senator was allowed to be himself.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Foofaraw - Or what I've learned so far this week (and it's only Wednesday!)

Here's what I've learned so far this week:
  1. Teleprompters only malfunction when your anchor is live on the air.
  2. Time Warner Cable sucks. Sucks beyond belief, actually. At work, the cable was out for a whole day, an entire day cut off from our own air because the cable company owned by the same people who pay my salary can't figure out how to get service to us for an entire day. At home, the DVR just decides to stop recording things in the middle (if it records them at all) and sometimes, when you change the channel, all you get is a blank screen. Sucks. They suck. And they know they suck, so they stock their call centers with double-digit IQs who call you "Mr. David" and treat you like a ping pong ball. Sucks.
  3. When you have to say publicly "I'm not gay. I've never been gay" --- you're gay. (more on this to come)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Story of the Week -- August 20-24

Diary of a Baltimore Oriole

Wednesday, August 22

Dear Diary:

I'm feeling a little sad today.

My team, the Orioles, had a double-header today against the Rangers. It should have been a good day for me. I mean, two games, I'm bound to get some action today.

Since I came back in June from 4 complicated hip surgeries and 3 years out of baseball, I haven't been terrible. I haven't been great, 30 hits and 21 walks in 24 innings isn't so hot, but we stink and really I'm just happy to be pitching. Or I was.

So game one starts and we look good. I mean we've got a one run lead before I've made the trip out to the bullpen from the clubhouse. And by the time I settle in with the rest of the guys, we've made it 3-0.

A couple of timely hits by the Rangers makes it 3-2 in the top of the fourth and Leo doesn't like what he's seeing, so he goes to the mound and talks to our starter, Daniel Cabrera. He's young, gets rattled, but I think he's got good stuff. But Leo leaves and Danny can't find the strike zone against Ramon Vazquez and he grooves a 2-0 pitch. 3 run homer, 5 run inning and it's 5-3. But Cabby gets the next two and pitches a scoreless fifth. Nice bounce back.

Still, he had thrown a lot of pitches, so our guys started to get ready. And when Jarrod Saltalamacchia led off the sixth with a home run, Brian Burres was brought in for relief. Not so much, though. Poor Brian, he just couldn't get anybody out. A grand slam made it 10-3, and four more crossed home before he came out of the game. And the sixth inning still wasn't over.

I was itching to get in to this game and stop the bleeding. I've got a streak of 3 scoreless innings going, but I haven't pitched in 5 days. Today could be a real chance to keep the streak going, in a pressure-free outing. But they leave in Rob Bell to start the 8th, and he's earned it after ending the disastrous 6th and tossing a scoreless 7th.

Boy did that wear off quickly. the first 7 Rangers reach base, and 6 of them score, and I get the call to come put out the fire in a 20-3 game that is completely out of hand.

3 strikeouts in one inning is usually pretty good. I'm proud of myself for that. Not so proud of the 4 more runs sandwiched between those strikeouts though. It's a 10 run inning, and it's 24-3. For the ninth inning, I have one job to do - put us out of our misery. And I did, but not before I gave up (eesh) 6 more runs to these guys. And that's an American League record. 30-3. No team has scored 30 runs in a game since 1897. And 9 of them are charged to me. My ERA just jumped to 9.49. Maybe I shouldn't have come back after all.

Like I said, I'm feeling a little sad today.

I have to say, though, I admire our regular players. They got their butts whooped and then had to take a shower, change and go out and play a second game (we lost that one, too, 9-7)

Oh well. I'll do better next time. I can't do much worse.

Yours Truly,

More fun facts about this game:
The last team to score 30 or more runs in a game was the 1897 Chicago Colts, when they scored 36 in a game against Louisville.

The Rangers scored 26 runs in a game against the same Baltimore Orioles in 1996.

Rangers P Wes Littleton picked up his first save of the year in this game. According to the rule, a save is recorded when a pitcher pitches 3 or more innings to finish a game. So Littleton "saved" a 27 run lead for Texas. To be fair, when he entered the game, they were only up by 11.

The Rangers hit 6 home runs in the game, including 2 grand slams. Strangely enough, there were only 2 doubles.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Story of the Week -- Aug 6-10

No Style Points

NEWARK -- (AP) Three friends were forced to kneel against a wall behind an elementary school and were shot to death at close range, and a fourth was found about 30 feet away with gunshot and knife wounds to her head, police said.

Hmm, if only there was a word that could sum up this horrific tragedy:

Three victims, two males and a female, were shot to death execution style around 11:30 p.m. Saturday on steps behind Mount Vernon School in the city's Vailsburg section...

N.J. Police Seek Clues To Execution-Style Shooting

AP/Jennnifer Brown Police in Newark, NJ, said this morning that no arrests were made overnight in the execution-style shooting that left three dead, ...

"This appears to have been an execution-style type of murder," said a spokesman for the Essex County prosecutor...

They were made to kneel before they were shot execution style...

Newark police don't have a motive or any suspects in an execution-style shooting that left 3 friends dead...

By the time they arrived, three of the four young students were already dead, shot execution style in the back of the head...

Three pals shot execution-style behind Newark school

Police say they were lined up and shot execution style....

While police continue to await the recovery of the sole survivor of Saturday night's execution-style shootings outside of a Newark elementary ... *

I'm sorry, how did they die?

Elocution-style? They were forced to speak perfectly until they passed out?

By the way, I'm not making light of this tragedy, my beef is with the media buzz word. I heard the phrase "execution-style" so much this week that I don't know what it means anymore. You know what? Three teenagers were forced to kneel down on hot asphalt and then were shot from point-blank range in the back of the head. There's no style involved. The buzz word reduces the act to something you hear on "Iron Chef":

"The lobster is prepared execution-style, and I've put it on a bed of arugula and alfalfa sprouts..."

"Triple Homicide and assault with a deadly weapon" doesn't get the point across? "Triple murder" not good enough? How about some alliteration: "schoolyard shootings" "cold-blooded killings"? What caused the media to grab on to "execution-style" and never let go?
The lack of creativity and variation cheapens the incident, makes it seem like these are just three more Newark murders to go along with the other 60 or so this year. It makes it sound as ridiculous as Newark mayor Corey Booker sounds when he says the murder rate is down this year because it's not over 100.

I think it's time to go with another phrase for a while. Time to take "execution style" out back and shoot it. But how?

*all above story pieces came from various news outlets via Google News

Friday, August 3, 2007

Story of the Week -- July 30 - Aug 3

Left Behind

I was clicking around aimlessly on Facebook, going through random profiles, like most of us do when there's downtime at work and you've read all the blogs you can stand, and I came across the profile of someone from camp who is on staff this year. And under jobs it said "counsler".

There are, I think, four things you should be able to, no matter, what, spell correctly: your name, your address, the name of your school or place of business, and your job title. Certainly, I hate to see his resume some day.

But that's not what bothered me. What bothered me is what happened when I clicked the word "counsler" and up came a list of almost forty people who were "counslers." And that got me thinking.

The debate re-opened this week on a little piece of Republican wunder-legislation called No Child Left Behind. And I think it's pretty clear: shit's not working.

Actually, children aren't left behind per se.

Of the 40 or so people who listed that they are or were once "counslers", (and these are completely unscientific and mostly meaningless numbers) 10 of them are high school graduates, at least 8 of them are in college, 3 are college graduates and at least 1 made it into graduate school. One of them, sad to say, graduated from my alma mater. So it seems in this country, we are dragging everyone along whether they are ready or not. Can't spell? Can't read? doesn't matter, we need the federal funding, so you pass.

That is the main beef with NCLB. The law places too much emphasis on math and reading test scores and then penalizes schools that score poorly. Shouldn't it be the opposite? But then, that penalizes schools who do well, doesn't it? So then, who's being left where?

Congressman George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House education committee, is trying to rewrite NCLB and change the measures for achievement that determine the level of funding. Mostly, he's trying to take the emphasis away from the tests. He wants a law that makes sense, that focuses on more than just Math and Reading, and that actually holds schools accountable and you know, doesn't leave anyone behind, literally more than symbolically.

But the Republicans will have none of that. They'd like everything to stay the way it is. (Sound familiar?) As the Bush administration continues to be one of "if it's broken, pretend like it ain't."

“Throughout our schools and communities, the American people have a very strong sense that the No Child Left Behind Act is not fair. That it is not flexible. And that it is not funded. And they are not wrong.” said Miller. And Republicans say any attempt to change the bill will ruin the reauthorization.

Now you're saying something! Throw out NCLB. It's a stupid law and it doesn't work. All it does is force schools to fudge test results, force teachers to teach to state tests rather than teach a wide and creative curriculum, and it drags kids up grade by grade who aren't ready. If you finish second grade, but you can't read, you need to go do second grade again. If you're old enough to be a camp counselor, and you can't spell camp counselor, somewhere along the way, you got left behind.

Assuming you weren't left behind, read on.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Ok, Time for some Foofaraw

In case you're just tuning in:

Foofaraw -- n. a great fuss or disturbance about something very insignificant

Here we go:

I can't help feeling today like I was "that guy" on the train and, worse, "that guy" on the Subway and in the Subway station. You know, that guy who schleps on a ton of luggage, takes up extra seats, clogs up the turnstiles, stops at the bottom of the stairs to pick up his inordinately heavy bag. You know, that guy. Normally, I hate that guy. But today, I was that guy.

See, I'm moving on Saturday but my lease starts today, so I schlepped in a suitcase and an air mattress for my first night in the new apartment. But that meant commuting in with all that stuff. And it meant getting slightly stuck in a subway turnstile, taking up an extra seat or general area in the subway car, then pausing ever so slightly to pick up my inordinately heavy rolling suitcase to climb up the stairs.

So if I held you up today by being that guy, I'm sorry. I'm fully aware of my transgression, but it was unavoidable. Oh what's the difference, you're not reading this anyway...


Looking for somebody, anybody, who either has used or knows someone who has used or bought HeadOn. Did you apply directly to the forehead? Did it work? I have to know.

Then again, I could watch the commercials over and over until I give myself a headache and try it for myself.

Today my co-worker told me that male sharks have two penises, and nobody knows exactly why.


The following is a transcript of the monologue from what I think might be the most overlooked commercial ever:

(internal monologue) wait a minute!
This feels all wrong. Just because they're doing it doesn't mean I have to.
Why eat a hamburger made from frozen beef? It'll be all dry!
Instead of fresh. And juicy.
Frozen hamburger? This is ridiculous!

(out loud) I deserve a hot...juicy burger.
That's right, you heard me! I deserve a hot juicy burger.
And not because I can tear a phone book with my bare hands! No!
I deserve a hot juicy burger because I have a mouth, and it wants one.
And so do you.

And so do you!

Hot juicy burger!

Hot juicy burger!

Hot juicy burger!

Hot juicy burger!


Friday, July 27, 2007

Story of the Week -- July 23-27

Welcome, readers of! And thanks for including me as the second "E" in that impeachment acrostic and for spreading that all over.

Welcome to The Full Circle. Stay a while, read some stuff, write some comments, offer me a column or a book deal. You know, whatever you want...

Here's the story of the week.

Stop Everything! Beyonce fell down!

This is not news. It's a non-story. It will make you a more informed citizen. This is not something you need to know.

But it's fuckin' hilarious.

"Beyonce falls down at concert in Orlando." This headline garners two reactions:

1. So what?

2. Can I see?

And thanks to cell phone cameras, YouTube and the 24 Hour news beast (including my esteemed employer), you can see it over and over and over and over again, and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Well, at least until Beyonce's peeps figured out a way to get it off the web. and they did, citing copyright restrictions and cruelty to really hot pop divas.

This is how the story should have been told: "Oh my God, yo, my friend was at the Beyonce concert last night, and so dude, he said she was doin' some song and wearin' these ridiculous shoes and she trips and totally eats it, like a freakin' forward roll. Dude I heard it was hilarious." Because essentially, the mainstream news media was just helping to spread gossip. It's not a story.

The only reason it even makes the news is because some shlub who was recording the Beyonce concert on his cell phone so he could go home and relive the experience in poor quality on a one inch screen was at the right place at the right time, with the camera just high enough above the crowd to catch a glimpse of Beyonce when she suddenly took a remarkable tumble. And that same shlub went home and put the thing on YouTube.

We need new rules about YouTube (somebody call Bill Maher). The first should be: It's not important just because a million people watch it. And the second: It's not a phenomenon anymore when somebody "happens to catch something on his cell phone camera" and then it goes viral on the Internet.

It doesn't mean I didn't watch the video six or seven times. I mean, it was funny. She's dancing, head-banging and stuff and then she catches a heel, does a full flip down six or seven steps. Then..then! She begs her fans NOT to post it on YouTube. Hahahahahahaha! Yeah, right! Like that's gonna happen.

Without video like this, there probably wouldn't be a YouTube, or it wouldn't be as successful. Late night talk show hosts would have a little less material to work with. And America's Funniest Home Videos wouldn't exist.

But we'd still have news. Beyonce falling down is not news. Well, unless you're a chiropractor, apparently:

"It's been said that it's all fun and games until someone
gets hurt, and then it's hysterical. There's nothing funny about having symptoms
and conditions that could have possibly been avoided with a thorough
chiropractic checkup and a follow-up with the appropriate chiropractic

Hey! Put down your cell phone and get that poor diva a chiropractor!

Two other stories that are better and more newsworthy than Beyonce falling down:

First, Ok, well this isn't news yet but it could be. And before I go on...I hate the Yankees.

There. Now, Alex Rodriguez hit his 499th career home run this week in Kansas City. But it could have been his 500th home run.

Tonight, the Yankees will play the remainder of a game against the Baltimore Orioles that was suspended on June 28th due to rain. They will restart the game in the 8th inning, with Derek Jeter on second base, Hideki Matsui at bat and A-Rod on deck.

All stats recorded will count for June 28th. So if A-Rod homers, technically, that home run is #493 and the one he hit on Wednesday is #500.

This same bizarre technicality affected Barry Bonds in his rookie season. The Pirates played the conclusion of a suspended game in August. Barry made his ML debut in May of that season, but he won the suspended game with an RBI single. So, technically, Barry Bonds got his first major league hit before he was called up to the major leagues. Or, he got it after he already had 50 ML hits and 10 home runs.

Confused?? Read this:

And perhaps the most important story this week, they have finally chosen a successor for Bob Barker, and it's Drew Carey. Not sure how I feel, in a "could be good, could be bad" sort of way.

When Rod Roddy died, I thought I'd never get used to another announcer's voice, but the new guy (whose name I don't know) is pretty good. I'm not expecting Drew to be exactly like Bob. They're definitely different people. But if Carey is light on shtick and just hosts the show and interacts with people and tries to be himself, he could be a good fit.

But those are some pretty big shoes to fill. Just like no Denver Broncos quarterback will ever measure up to John Elway, and no Chicago Bull can ever be Michael Jordan, etc etc, for millions of people, nobody can be the next Bob Barker.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Why you might not see Dubya at Killington anytime soon

The following is a list of cities and towns across the U.S. that have passed resolutions calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney:

Amherst, MA
Arcata, CA
Ashfield, MA
Berkeley, CA
Brattleboro, VT
Bristol, VT
Brookfield, VT
Brookline, MA
Buckland, MA
Burke, VT
Calais, VT
Cambridge, MA
Carrboro, NC
Colrain, MA
Craftsbury, VT
Chapel Hill, NC
Detroit, MI
Dummerston, VT
East Montpelier, VT
Fairfax, CA
Ferndale, MI
Grafton, VT
Great Barrington, MA
Greensboro, VT
Guilford, VT
Hanover, NH
Hartland, VT
Heath, MA
Ithaca, NY
Jamaica, VT
Jericho, VT
Johnson, VT
Lanesborough, MA
Leverett, MA
Leyden, MA
Marlboro, VT
Middlebury, VT
Middletown, NY
Montague, MA
Montpelier, VT
Montgomery, VT
Morristown, VT
Newbury, VT
Newfane, VT
New Paltz, NY
Northampton, MA
Nyack, NY
Oberlin, OH
Olympia, WA
Peru, VT
Plainfield, VT
Plattsburg, NY
Putney, VT
Richmond, VT
Rochester, VT
Rockingham, VT
Rowe, MA
Roxbury, VT
San Francisco, CA
Santa Cruz, CA (twice)
Sebastopol, CA
Shutesbury, MA
Springfield, VT
Stannard, VT
Stockbridge, MA
Sunderland, VT
Takoma Park, MD
Telluride, CO
Tompkins County, NY
Townshend, VT
Tunbridge, VT
Urbana, IL
Vershire, VT
Warwick, MA
Wendell, MA
West Hollywood, CA
Westminster, VT
Whately, MA
Wilmington, VT
Woodbury, VT
Woodstock, NY

In the interest of being fair and balanced: you may notice a disproportionate number of towns in Vermont on this list. That might be because Vermont is the only state whose state legislature has passed a resolution of its own (several other states have introduced resolutions that did not pass) And this list comes from predominately democratic places. Fair enough, but these resolutions shouldn't be about partisanship. They are about removing from office the worst administration we've ever had. And actually, it would only make more sense if Republicans would be working to oust Bush in order to restore the integrity of their party, which at this point has none.

The most recent city to pass a resolution is West Hollywood, CA, which did so unanimously.

The list is encouraging, but it should be 2 or 3 or 8 times as long. Maybe then, Congress will take a cue from the Vermont State Legislature.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Story of the Week -- July 16-20


It's 6am and I'm standing in the middle of an empty trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange. And that's just weird. I have nothing to do, either. I mean, I am supposed to be setting up a live shot for the morning show, but I already did that, so I'm just standing around trying not to touch anything and I dont know start another Great Depression or something.

And all because of a number. That's why I'm here. I'm here because, psychologically, we're obsessed with numbers with lots of zeros, and no threes or sixes. I'll explain.

Last Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial average gained 283 points, to close at 13,861.73, a new record. Friday, the Dow closed at 13,907.25, another new record. Monday, it closed at 13,950 (say it with me now...) another new record. And what was the story? "Well, we're almost at 14,000. We're flirting with 14,000. OOh boy, here comes the next set of 3 zeros!"

Then came Tuesday, when we hit 14,000 sometime in the middle of the day, and there was no party, no ball dropping, no fireworks. Nothing. And then it went back below 14,000. Then back above. Then back below. And the people at my esteemed network went nuts. "If it closes above, it's a huge story! We need lots of live shots from the floor." And that's when they asked me if I could be on Wall Street in time for a 6 am update on Wednesday. Which would mean a 3:30 am wake up.

So I began mentally preparing myself for Wednesday morning, working with an anchor who barely knows me, doing things I've mostly never done before, in a setting that is intimidating to say the least. And they set it up for me, made all of the preliminary arrangements, told me where to be and when. And then it was 3:30, and the Dow was at 13,970 or something and I said "hey, do they still want all this if we don't hit 14,000?" Good question.

The answer? No. When the market closed at 4, the Dow was at 13, 971. And I was off the hook.

And lucky me, I only have to get up at 4:30. And I'm excited, because maybe we'll hit 14,000 while I'm actually there, and I'll get to hear all the cheers and see the inane excitement first hand.

Um...nope. Dow dropped 53, and I went home.

Fast forward to 4pm Thursday, the closing bell rings and the Dow is at 13,999. So close! And as the numbers settle, us business dorks are staring at the ticker like it's an odometer waiting for those nines to rollover. And then they do! And we close at 14,000.41. We close over 14,000 for the first time, and in dramatic, pallindromic fashion. Amazing.

The phone call I get on my way home is inevitable. Wheels in motion, 3:30 wake up. Be on Wall Street by 5:45. Updates at 6, 6:30, 7, etc. For what? 3 zeros. Big story.

As a baseball fan, I understand the numbers obsession. The 3,000th hit is bigger than the 2,999th. Because they are benchmarks. On the other hand, the 756th home run is a bigger deal because it breaks a record. So why didn't we do extra stuff last Thursday, when the Dow broke a record and went up almost 300 points? Where was the 3 am wake up call then?

No, instead, the big story comes, and it's me, getting a crash course in, I don't know, organized chaos or something, making sure my anchor gets seen around the world, so that everyone can watch us get all excited over a few zeros on the big board.

The real kick in the head, of course, is that the minute the market opened, the Dow went down 50 points and 14,000 was gone. So what's the moral of the story?

I don't know.

Dow Schmow. I'm tired.