Aug 28, 2012


I knew there was something that I forgot to mention in my 1970's post from last week. Something that I wanted to run by y'all.

Source: Wikipedia
Does anyone remember hearing that it was illegal to kill a praying mantis? Maybe when you were a kid?
Or is it a regional thing? I know that it was something that I heard many times when I was a wee child. "Don't you ever kill a praying mantis! The cops will find you and throw you in jail!" The crime was accompanied by a fine anywhere from $50 to $1,000 or so. It's something that everyone I have ever asked also "knew" about.

But here's the thing. There is no law against killing them. There has never been a law against killing them. I don't know how that rumor started. Maybe it's because they are an attractive and beneficial insect. Some organic farmers use them as a form of pest control, but they will eat pests along with other beneficial insects as well so I don't know how well that works. But, regardless of their use, they aren't a pest. They don't destroy crops. And they are kinda noble looking.

So maybe farmers told their kids a long time ago that it was illegal to kill a praying mantis. Or maybe it was a religious thing. Some cultures revere the praying mantis. Whatever it was, the insecticide rumor was passed down from generation to generation. I remember hearing about it vividly. I even remember a friend of mine from the neighborhood capturing one and telling him that he better release him because the cops were gonna put him in jail if it died. I think I scared that dude straight because he let it go.

Is this something you heard about when you were a kid? Or is it just a regional Northeast thing? Inquiring minds and all. 

Aug 23, 2012

Steroids in baseball...briefly

Briefly* because so many others have spent so many words on the topic already. But with the second major 50-game suspension in the past week handed out today, and yes...Bartolo Colon's suspension is a big deal to the A's, I figured I would quickly mention how I feel about it all.

Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon are two prime examples of why a player would consider using performance-enhancing drugs to improve their game. Cabrera was an under-performing 4th outfielder type who was looking to move his game up a notch. Colon was a pitcher coming back from years of injury and facing the end of his career. Neither one, as it turned out, made a very good decision when it came to steroids. A 50-game suspension for each. Many, many millions of  lost future salary for the free agent-to-be Cabrera, and probably the end of the line for Colon.

Then again, maybe (probably) Cabrera wouldn't be in position to make uber-bucks in the free agent market had he not used some illegal supplements. Maybe Colon wouldn't have pitched at all this year, helping the A's to a surprising winning season that currently sees them a half-game back in the Wild Card standings. Hard to tell, but it seems fairly obvious to most that their performances this year were aided greatly by whatever it was that they were taking.

So the question on a lot of folks minds is "Is the punishment enough?" I think it is. 50 games for the first offense, 100 for the second and a lifetime ban for a third. I'd probably skip the middle step and make it a lifetime ban for a second failed test, but that's splitting hairs. The only player dumb enough to try to come back from a second failed test is Manny Ramirez. Not a brain surgeon, by anyone's standards.

I think most people have a problem with the severity of that first sentence. 50 games. Especially since that means that Melky Cabrera will be technically eligible for the SF Giants in the second round of the playoffs should they make it that far. I would question whether the Giants WOULD make that decision considering he was off for 50 games and how bad a public relations move it would be. But that's another story.

For me, 50 games is about right. Colon is the 5th MLB player suspended for a failed drug test in 2012. One of those 5, Guillermo Mota, failed his second test and was given a 100 game suspension. 50 (or 100) games is a long time for a player. A significant (nearly a third) portion of the season is missed along with a corresponding loss in salary. And just because the timing of the Cabrera suspension would allow him to play in some post-season games doesn't make it a light sentence. It is significant.

Now, certain folks like Victor Conte claim that up to 50% of MLB players are using some form of PED, and that MLB's testing policies aren't effective enough to catch them all. Especially those using masking agents. I don't necessarily agree with the percentage of players, but I would assume that there were more than 5 guys this year. That there are probably dozens of players who have gotten away with it. At least in my opinion. Hundreds though? I have a hard time believing that.

I do think that maybe MLB needs to work on the testing. More frequent, more stringent, I don't know. Something. Make the guys who are using sweat a bit more about getting caught. Because when they get caught?'s pretty much over.

But still, some fans to say that 50 games isn't enough of a punishment to stop others from using PEDs. I think that's crazy talk. Just look at these two examples. Maybe Melky Cabrera will sign a qualifying offer someplace and try to re-kindle his career. Maybe on the re-kindling bit. But I highly doubt he can expect to earn as much as he would have had he not been suspended 50 games for a failed test. Maybe not even as much as a veteran journeyman 4th outfielder type would have made over the next 5 or 6 years. Those guys get paid more than you think. And Colon? He is done as a major-league pitcher. Done.

I think, especially in these two cases, the punishment and the lasting effects of those punishments fits the crimes.

*Sorry about the "briefly" warning. I obviously wasn't so brief here.

Aug 20, 2012

That 70's Post

A couple of recent blog posts about growing up in the 1970s from a couple of my favorite writers (Erin O'Brien and Josh Wilker) really struck a nerve with me. Growing up as a kid in the 1970s was actually kinda fun! I mean it.

Sure, we didn't have all the fun that game with home video-game consoles, the internet or 935 cable channels (with nothing on). But what we did have was goofy and fun. And we dressed really awful, so we had that going for us as well. And the end of the Vietnam War, Watergate, Billy Carter, Nadia Comanici and all kinds of stuff that was just as fun. Or something.

That Josh Wilker article mentioned a television event that all of us children of the 1970s will recall with fondness. Battle of the Network Stars. This series debuted in 1976 with airings in May and either November or December for the next few years. As the title describes, this was an athletic competition between the stars of CBS, NBC and ABC. I believe they actually played for money, as opposed to current celeb-reality shows that play for charities, mostly.

 I don't really remember much from this show after the first couple of years, but oh how wonderful those first two years were! Telly Savalas (chain-smoking, gold chain-clad, red tracksuit) captained the CBS team, Robert Conrad the NBC team and Gabe Kaplan the ABC team. Believe it or not, these cats all wanted to win. Badly.

If you remember television from the 1970s with any fondness at all and you have 10 minutes to kill, please do yourself a favor and watch the video below. You won't be sorry. This is one of the dominant memories of my childhood. I'm not sure if I'm proud of that, but it is what it is.

Here's the setup: Telly Savalas protests an early baton handoff by the NBC team in the relay race on behalf of his team and the team from ABC. What follows is pure ridiculous. Robert Conrad loses his shit. Even throws in a joke about being of German ancestry and how his people want to kill Telly Savalas' and Gabe Kaplan's people (a Greek and a Jew). Nice going, Bob! The whole things winds up with Conrad and Kaplan settling the score in a man-on-man 120-yard sprint. It's incredible television.

My favorite moment? "Farrah baby, I'm not in charge of the rules committee!" - Howard Cosell (6:13)


Aug 16, 2012

The State of the Blog Union Address

Fellow Citizens of the Blog World:

I come to you today with the tale of a conversation between myself and a friend of mine. A friend in real life (no abbreviation necessary), and a friend on-line. My friend is a dedicated reader and follower of my blog. He has no blog of his own, but he has his own internet presence that he is fiercely proud of. I'm proud of it too. He is a great, great friend of mine.

My friend, lately, has been choosing to comment on my blog posts via text messages to my mobile phone. I chastise him occasionally about it, asking him to comment on my blog instead. You know, just to make me feel like somebody is reading the drivel that I irregularly write here. But he is a smartphone guy, as many of us are as well. Not that you are all guys, but you know what I mean. And, in his case, he uses Flipboard to view my blog. It's a great viewing tool, but it's not a great interacting tool. For him to comment on my blog would require him to pass through 2 or 3 screens and then, if he hasn't been attached to Google for a while, log in to leave a comment. That would now be 4 or 5 steps to leave a pithy, mostly sarcastic comment. Much too much, if you ask me. So he just texts me.

That makes sense to me.

It also worries me.

Here is the issue. I'm not sure why I'm doing this anymore. I'm not sure why anyone is doing this anymore. I look to my last several posts and I find one or two loyal commenters that will acknowledge that they are reading the drivel I am posting.With a pithy, mostly sarcastic comment generally. And I appreciate them and those pithy, sarcastic comments. It does make me a bit sad to see that the discussion that I so looked forward to in the past is now mostly gone. And that so many of my beloved blog friends have either given up, gone private or have made a decision to post less often.

All of that saddens me. Because blogging is something that I love. And I don't mean to use the word "love" lightly. Blogging has been an important part of my life for seven or eight years now. It is something that has given me a great deal of pleasure, sometimes a great deal of pain, sometimes it has introduced me to new friends. I wouldn't give up those last seven or eight years for anything. I cherish them. Blogging has been an outlet in more ways than one for me that has been massively positive in any way that I choose to think about it.

I don't know what my blog traffic statistics are. I never look at them. I wouldn't know what a page view meant if it woke me up in the morning, slapped me on the ass and gave me a hand-job. What I do feel like I am aware of is the community.  The blogging community. You and I. And that is something that I feel is slipping away. I'm a part of that decline, I readily admit. I rarely visit or comment on any other blog than my own. Feed readers, Twitter, smartphones and tablets have conspired against our great union.  I'm as much to blame as anyone. Worse, most likely. It is so much easier to flip through blog posts in my reader and occasionally interact on Twitter than to take the time to actually visit a blog and comment. And there is that word again.


Such an important word.


That's why I got into blogging. At first, I was merely a commenter on various blogs. I probably left anonymous comments on many of your blogs before I created my own blog-identity. For me, that was the fun. And starting my own blog was a natural progression of that fun. I wanted a place to tell my own stories and interact with those who might find them interesting. As I found their stories and lives interesting.

I still find all of your stories interesting. But I haven't been keeping up with my end of the bargain. Interacting with you to let you know how much they interest me. Or just to make a wee bit of fun of you. Either way, it's the process of walking down the internet road and shaking hands with you for a job well done. Or poorly done. That part of it doesn't even matter. It's the effort that makes it all worthwhile.

I'm here to tell you that I'm not giving up. Never.

I'm going to try to be a better blog-friend from here on out. I'm going to attempt to be a little bit more interactive with the rest of you. I'm going to try to put my smartphone and my tablet down and pick up my laptop when going through my feed reader. Because it's easier for me to type on that/this, you see. And I'm going to try to visit your actual blogs more often. And, gasp, maybe even comment every once in a while. That would be something I really want to do once again. Because, like I said, that's why I got into the game in the first place.

I hope you don't read this and feel guilty about not visiting my blog and commenting more often. Well, 94% of me feels that way. A part of me yearns for that interaction. A part of me needs it. I'm just trying to express how I feel about the state of our union and the steps I want to take to bring myself back to what drew me here in the first place.

I want to interact with you. I want a discussion. I want silliness and seriousness and everything in between.

I want you, and I hope you want me.


The Earl of The United Nations of Blogwhateveryouwanttocallit

Aug 15, 2012


Last night in our abode. I'm in the kitchen preparing dinner while Gia is reading in the living room with some crap celebrity gossip/news show playing in the background on the TV.

TV: Coming up: Are the pregnancy rumors with Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux for real this time?
Me: I thought that guy was with Drew Barrymore?
Gia: No...Drew Barrymore is married to someone or other.
Me: Wasn't she with him for a while though?
Gia: I have no idea.
Me: Doesn't matter. Justin Theroux could walk past me in the kitchen right now and I would have no idea who he is or what he has done.

TV: Coming up: A new reality show featuring primordial dwarfs.
Gia: Ooooh....primordial dwarfs!
Me: Primordial dwarfs. Always fun.

Exciting, eh? Go back to what you were doing.  Nothing to see here.

Aug 14, 2012

In Spite of Ourselves

After all theses years (it will be 6 years next week!), Gia and I have finally found our song. Should I capitalize the OUR in that phrase? I dunno. We've had songs that we've connected with before. "Romeo and Juliet" by Dire Straits. "Please Call Me Baby" by Tom Waits. Stuff like that. But those songs, awesome as they are, are about doomed/twisted relationships that don't really work out.  Not so with this one.

And what's really interesting is that we both found it separately within about three months of each other. I heard it first one day while working with Pandora playing in the background. Several times a day, I will lift my head from my laptop and spreadsheets and stop to listen to a song that might not be new but is new to me. "In Spite of Ourselves" by John Prine with Iris DeMent was one of those songs. I'll then jot the song and artist down on a e-stickynote I keep open in the background. Usually to either share with Gia, buy on iTunes or post on this here space sometime in the future.

Then Gia was watching this movie with Billy Bob Thornton called Daddy and Them. A labor of love for the man who wrote and directed the film. He got his friend John Prine to take a supporting role in the film. And he got him to write a song for the film as well. This one. Prine talks about that a bit at the beginning of the video below.

So she purchased the song on iTunes and one late afternoon while we were enjoying a Summer Ramble, it popped on. I immediately started singing along. She was a bit confused because she thought she was going to introduce me to my new favorite song. I was confused because I had thought I had introduced it to her months ago. I'm still not sure that I hadn't. Maybe I did, but she didn't really "hear" it until she watched that film. Hard to say. Doesn't really matter because we proceeded to listen to it 5 or 6 times in a row that evening. And we fell in love with it and each other all over again. Music can be incredibly powerful that way.

This song makes us ridiculously happy. Because it's a ridiculously happy song. And because we found it separately yet for each other at the same time. Or something like that.


Aug 13, 2012

Weekend Bullets

I haven't been doing a lot to keep you up-to-date on the ins and outs that make my life so spectacular. Or the boring details of every day life might be more apropos. I'll let you decide with some sexy bullet points. So let's have at 'em!
  • We've been watching the appropriate amount of the XXX (hehehe) Summer Olympics these past two weeks. What's appropriate? How the hell should I know what's appropriate for you? What's appropriate for us is very, very little. In primetime anyway. I work from home so I'll have the Olympics on during the day with the sound down. But it's usually water polo or handball or platform diving or some other sport I don't really give a crap about. Can you name the five events in the Modern Pentathlon? Liar!
  • I am going to watch a bit of the closing ceremonies on Sunday night. Just to see The Who perform. Not The Spice Girls. Seriously. Zig-a-zig-aah! UPDATE: OK, I watched just about all of the closing ceremonies. I'm a sucker for lip-synching.
  • We've actually been watching a lot of HBO lately. A LOT OF HBO. I signed up with the idea that we were going to drop it as soon as we finished Season 2 of A Game of Thrones, but the content available on HBO GO is amazing and we may keep it for a while. We've caught up on Season 3 of East Bound and Down (amazing) and we are well into the second/last season of Rome (also amazing). With every episode of every season the majority of their shows like The Wire, Deadwood, Carnivale, Tru Blood, Treme, etc... available, well...we might keep our HBO subscription for a few months. If it weren't for HBO GO, we'd shit-can it right now. But that service is pretty damned amazing. Even if the interface for our Roku player sucks. Did I use the word "amazing" enough in that bullet? #overkill
  • Egg salad made with Trader Joe's Wasabi Mayo is fucking incredible! I was going to say it was fucking amazing, but that last bullet put me over my amazing limit. Now I'm seriously over. Crap. But the egg salad? Amazing!
  • We had the worst ribs of all-time over the weekend. My fault. I purchased some ribs already vacuum-packed in a dry rub at a local supermarket, figuring they would be decent. They were far from it. Tough and fatty...pretty much the worst combination every any BBQ. I shan't make the same mistake twice. 
  • Went to go see The Dark Knight Rises on Saturday. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was the perfect final chapter in the trilogy. Leaning heavily on the events of both the first two films instead of a direct sequel to the second alone. Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard all brought their A games. Very well done Batman flick all-in-all. Very well done.
  • Went to see it at an IMAX theater in a large shopping center/outlet mall, and when we got out there was a live performance of a band called Boys Like Girls going on in the large outdoor center portion of the outlet. We had no idea who they were. In fact, the only we we did know who they were is because my buddy asked a female security guard "Who the fuck are these guys?" She laughed before letting us know. There were hundred and hundreds of people in the audience singing along to every word of each song (or the two we heard). I have no words. This is music? I don't get it.
  • Spent most of the day on Sunday at the beach. We have a lovely little beach about 3 minutes from our home and it was a really perfect day. Mostly sunny with some clouds and a nice breeze to cool us off. I, of course, spent most of the time under a large beach umbrella covered with SPF 9000. I'm a delicate flower. Afterward, we headed out to a local joint for some fresh seafood appetizers, summer salads, bbq pulled pork sandwiches and ice-cold beers. Pretty much the perfect Sunday, if you ask me. 
So, what have you been up to?

Aug 9, 2012

Happy Birthday, Wade Garrett*

Sam Elliott turns 68 today. To celebrate, The Washington Post dug up this sexy picture of him from a 1976 issue of Teen Beat. Yeah...Teen Beat.

Source: The Washington Post

That tank top is probably enough to make you want to start drinking right away today. Or if you want to wait, you can start in during our very special Booze episode live in the Cornfield tonight at 9PM EDT. You know you wanna...

*I just read an article on pro-wrestler Kevin Nash. Back when he was in his Big Sexy phase, his hair was turning grey so he grew it long so he could wear it like Wade Garrett in Roadhouse. Yup. If you listen to our radio show at all, you will know why I think that's cool.

Aug 8, 2012

We are talking booze

Well, when aren't I talking booze, amirite?

But this time I mean we are hi-jacking our weekly baseball program, Just Talking to the Cornfield, to specifically discuss (and imbibe) booze. And, since it's a "very special episode" we decided to move it to a very special day and time. We will be going live at 9PM EDT this Thursday night. So you've got a few days to prepare your liver. Especially for those of you who consider Thursday night to be the beginning of the weekend. And for those of you on the left coast, the start of the show should coincide with Happy Hour. So join us and drink up! And we'll probably go on for a couple of hours, so join us mid-show if you can't handle the start time.

What, specifically, are we going to discuss?, beer, liquor.  Maybe some interesting and/or embarrassing stories that involve wine, beer and liquor. I'm hoping this one will bring some of the chat-room attendees out of their shells for one evening and join us on the call.

So pop open that bottle of expensive booze that you've been saving for a special evening and join us for a night of libations in the Cornfield.  Because what's more special than that?

(Don't answer that last question)

Aug 7, 2012

Hell Broke Luce

New Tom Waits video of his song "Hell Broke Luce" hit the internetz today.

That is all.

"Hell Broke Luce"
by Tom Waits

I had a good home but I left
I had a good home but I left, right, left
That big fucking bomb made me deaf, deaf
A Humvee mechanic put his Kevlar on wrong
I guarantee you’ll meet up with a suicide bomb
Hell broke luce
Hell broke luce

Big fucking ditches in the middle of the road
You pay a hundred dollars just for fillin’ in the hole
Listen to the general every goddamn word
How many ways can you polish up a turd
Left, right, left, left, right
Left, right
Hell broke luce
Hell broke luce
Hell broke luce

How is it that the only ones responsible for making this mess
Got their sorry asses stapled to a goddamn desk
Hell broke luce
Hell broke luce
Left, right, left

What did you do before the war?
I was a chef, I was a chef
What was your name?
It was Geoff, Geoff
I lost my buddy and I wept, wept
I come down from the meth
So I slept, slept
I had a good home but I left, left
Pantsed at the wind for a joke
I pranced right in with the dope
Glanced at her shin she said nope
Left, right, left

Nimrod Bodfish have you any wool
Get me another body bag the body bag’s full
My face was scorched, scorched
I miss my home I miss my porch, porch
Left, right, left

Can I go home in March? March
My stanch was a chin full of soap
That rancid dinner with the pope
Left, right, left

Kelly Presutto got his thumbs blown off
Sergio’s developing a real bad cough
Sergio’s developing a real bad cough
Hell broke luce
Hell broke luce
Hell broke luce

Boom went his head away
And boom went Valerie
What the hell was it that the president said?
Give him a beautiful parade instead
Left, right, left

When I was over here I never got to vote
I left my arm in my coat
My mom she died and never wrote
We sat by the fire and ate a goat
Just before he died he had a toke
Now I’m home and I’m blind
And I’m broke
What is next

Aug 6, 2012

The Greatest

Once I wanted to be the greatest
No wind or waterfall could stall me
And then came the rush of the flood
The stars at night turned deep to dust
 - Cat Power

That quote has nothing to do with this post. I just dig the song and the artist, so there ya go. Nope, I'm talking the greatest movie of all-time! Sorry, let me repeat....THE GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL-TIME!!! And genuflect when you read that if you will, dear readers. No, I'm not talking about Roadhouse, although it is a perfect film (except or Patrick Swayze's silly dancing martial arts kicks). I'm talking about the new king on Sight and Sound's annual survey of critics, academics and distributors. And for the first time in 50 years, it isn't Citizen Kane.

  1. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock) - I'm a fan of Hitchcock. Not a die-hard fan, but I generally enjoy his films. Mostly because I generally enjoy suspense, and Hitchcock loved him some suspense. It might not be my favorite Hitchcock film, that's probably North by Northwest, Rear Window or Dial M for Murder, but Vertigo is a fantastic film. Certainly deserving of the top spot on many critic's lists.
  2. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles) - Or Second-Citizen Kane, amirite? Feh. So I remember the first time I saw this film. It was in a High School film class in 10th grade. After the credits rolled, our teacher jokingly asked the class what Rosebud was. I wasn't quick to answer simpleton questions, so I looked around the class and saw 25 or so completely blank faces. The teacher started to look worried, so he asked again. Finally, I raised my hand and answered the question. At which point he started to freak out that so many kids couldn't answer the most obvious question about something that they had seen 5 minutes previously. I hate people.
  3. Tokyo Story (1953, Ozu Yasujiro) - I love foreign films. Even more specifically, I love Japanese cinema. But I have to admit that this film never came close to making it onto my radar. Probably because my Japanese cinema phase came in my early 20's, and I wasn't really into dramas about family and loss back then. I'm still not really into those kind of films, so it may be a while before I check this one out.
  4. La Règle du jeu (1939, Jean Renoir) - I've seen several Renoir films, and I honestly couldn't tell you if this was one of them. I just wasn't into French cinema from that period. I dig the current Horror flicks coming out of France, but that's because I'm a child. So there.
  5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927, F.W. Murnau) - Going back to me being a child, how does one select a Murnau flick and it isn't Nosferatu? I'm beginning to think this list sucks balls.
  6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick) - OK, I get it. I understand why so many people would pick this film over so many other masterpieces that Kubrick produced. It was ground-breaking and it actually still holds up pretty well as a science-fiction piece. And of all of his films, it probably is his greatest technical achievement. But is it as good as Dr. Strangelove or A Clockwork Orange? I dunno about that.
  7. The Searchers (1956, John Ford) - Here is one that would probably be a bit higher on my personal list, but I ain't complaining. John Ford's greatest film and John Wayne's greatest performance. How could you go wrong with that? Maybe I'm just a silly fan of Westerns and John Ford, but for me it doesn't get any better than this.
  8. Man with a Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov) - Honestly, I've never heard of this film before. Never. Ever. I have absolutely nothing to say about it. Moving on.
  9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1927, Carl Dreyer) - What's with all of these films from the 1920's? I call bullshit. I'm sorry. Sure, I'd love to see me some baseball from the 1920's, but cinema? Not my bag, man. Not my bag at all.
  10. 8 1/2 (1963, Federico Fellini) - Here's a little Verdant Dude trivia for ya. For the longest time, probably until 1 minute ago, I thought the dude's first name was Fredirico. Ahem. So yeah, this was a good one. I think I've realized the greatness of just about every Fellini film I've ever seen. Satryicon freaked me out a little, but then again I think it was supposed to do just that. So I get why it's on this list. It just wouldn't be on MY list.
So there you have it. 10 films, of which I've seen 5. Maybe 6. I'm just not sure about that Renoir flick. And here's the thing. I don't really want to see any of the films I haven't seen yet. I think this list is way too snooty by wide mile. In the wake of the release of this new list, a bunch of elite filmmakers were also asked to submit their Top 10. Directors like Woody Allen and Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola. You can see all those lists here. And many of them are as snooty as the list above. Not all, but many.

My two favorite lists in that article? South Korean director Boon Joon-Ho and Quentin Tarantino.  Their lists, while they wouldn't match mine, are at least reflective of my tastes. Sean Durkin, Edgar Wright and David O. Russell have some fun lists as well. I was going to say Michael Mann too, but he picked Avatar and that calls for immediate ridicule. Great achievement? Sure. Great film? I don't think so.