Monday, December 06, 2004

Immutable Laws of the Universe, Part One.

Even if you give your annual income to the public radio or television station, the pledge drive will not stop. The announcers will not say, "Whoa, hold everything now, we just got a contribution from Mr. James Lyden, and we now resume your regularly scheduled programming."

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, there will be a TV report from the airport.
On the first snowfall of the season a reporter will be outside.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, there will be a reporter at the mall.
On April 15, there will be a reporter at the Post Office.

Nothing said in any of the above examples will be remembered by anyone by the time of your next meal.

The food on the airplane is lousy, the seats are cramped, the service is desultory-just as it would be at anyplace else you paid the cheapest price possible. If you hate it so much, there's always Greyhound. I rest my case.

Why yes, the stand-up comedian does know some Lorena Bobbitt jokes, and we're all so glad you asked.

No one has never responded with anything other than "Sure" to the question "you got a second?" and not been thought of as an arrogant prick, if only for a moment.

Monday, November 15, 2004

James Lyden explains it all for you.

An occasional series in which the author tries to explain the mysteries of life. Admission is free. Advice is priced accordingly.

Today's topic: Media and sport.

1. How come there are so many goddamned reality TV shows on television?

Here's why. So the next time you're watching "Fear Factor" and you hear Joe Rogan say to the contestant, "It's fifty thousand dollars!" realize that he's NOT saying, "It's $950,000 less than we had to pay David Schwimmer!" When the winner of a whole season of "Survivor" makes less than Matt LeBlanc did saying "how YOU doin'?" for two hours, and more people watch, well, it kind of answers itself, doesn't it? TV shows are spending jillions less on production costs and pocketing the difference.

2. How come a baseball game takes four hours and Monday Night Football takes four and a half, even after they got on the pitchers for taking too long and shortened the 45-second clock to 40 seconds?

Because the goal was never to shorten the games, even though that's what they said. What they were able to do with these adjustments is to sell even more commercials. And they have to, because the amount that they're paying for rights has continued to go up while the viewership hasn't. That's why everything within a game is also brought to you by a sponsor. Most games are money-losers, particularly in football if they're late in the season and they're on Monday night. Of course, would you rather see more of According to Jim?

3. Why are there the X Games and the Outdoor Games and all of these other pseudo-sports all over TV instead of a baseball game?

See above. Telecasts that the networks don't have to pay big rights fees for, even if they draw one-tenth of the audience, are how they make their profit. ESPN was the ONLY portion of The Vast Walt Disney Corporation to make money last year. At the end of a day, a goofy kid on a skateboard or a dog jumping into the lake don't ask for salary, and if another kid or dog is on next year, you probably won't care what happened to the last one.

4. What about "Dream Job"?

Even more obvious. Not only do they use their own facilities, but it sends a very obvious message to the part of the business that typically asks for the most money-the talent. "Not only can we replace you, but I can show you every Tuesday night the thousands of Americans who will HUMILIATE themselves for a chance at your job, willing to work five times as hard at one-tenth of the price."

5. So is this what the whole hockey strike is about?

Yeah. Fox, ABC, and ESPN have tried to make hockey work, and due to strategic changes in the game and the makeup of the American marketplace, it doesn't. I wish it did. But there was a time in the early 90's where all of the cable stations thought that the problem would be, "We won't have anything to show, so if we have something that even a few people watch, that'll be better than nothing." Well, thanks to the Internet and other diversions, people stopped watching television. So fewer people watched, but the hockey owners had all this money, so they spent it like drunken sailors. (Insert your own Bill Wirtz yacht joke here.) Now there isn't any more money because there aren't any networks left that want to televise hockey, but the players still want to be paid like there is, and who could blame them? What's happening in hockey will happen next with basketball, then baseball, then football.

6. How'd you come up with that order?

Expansion patterns. Basketball has had franchise relocations and explosive salary increases. The number of readers of this blog and the number of people who think Carlos Boozer is actually worth $68 million are about the same. Hockey had a number of franchise relocations and is now on the verge of falling apart. Baseball has had only one, but it's seen the most explosive growth in salaries. Football has cost containment, competitive bidding on its rights package, and is scarce enough that people will watch.

7. So why are the Olympics such a big deal?

Because women watch them. That's why Olympic coverage focuses on events like the Gymnastics Gala, which I mentioned a while ago, and not actual sports. Men will watch sporting events that are 30 years old and which they already know the outcome-hello, ESPN Classic-but women will not. Men will also watch weird sporting events-hello, World's Strongest Man-but women will not. And since the Olympics are every four years, there's a familiarity-rediscovery thing going on. The kinds of things that people will watch during an Olympics do not translate into devoted followings-hello, WNBA and WUSA.

8. What about ticket prices and skyboxes?

It's a factor, but I'd presume it doesn't account for as much as the TV rights fees. The thing is, the one constant across all leagues is that the national TV rights fees are divvied up amongst the teams. Next are local broadcast rights. This is what Bud Selig's really crying about-the fact that there will never be as many people who want to watch a Brewers game as a Yankees game, and he'll never get the same local broadcast money. Steinbrenner could charge less for tickets and skyboxes, and he'd still make more money on account of the market he's in.

Skyboxes become a big deal because they're (generally) leased on a per-season basis, and are usually purchased by corporations, which then deduct them as an entertainment expense. They're willing to pay quite a bit for these. The owners in stadiums that don't have them are then missing out on an important source of revenue that doesn't correlate to on-field performance, which, usually, they're required to pay for.

9. What authority do you have to know any of this?

None, really. It's a guess. But you know how it always comes down to "follow the money"? You don't even have to follow it very far to figure it out.

10. So how to we get sporting events to be shorter?

Everyone would have to stop watching. And we're getting there. The only surefire event that people will watch, year in and year out, is the Super Bowl. Even the World Series is off the table if small-market teams are the only ones in it.

11. How about reality TV shows?

Same thing. When "America's Funniest Home Videos" came out, people raved about it. Said it was brilliant. And the brilliant thing about it was that the show had next to no production costs. Hell, people sent in the tapes for free! Then it got redundant, and people got tired of grainy pictures of moppet kids picking their noses and people getting hit in the crotch with golf balls. Pretty soon, people will get tired of it, but the shows are so cheap, it's not like they're going to get a quick hook. Look at MTV's "Real World."

12. So where does it end?

It ends with the video-on-demand pay-per-view special of celebrities being dragged by horses. One can only hope the Hilton sisters will be prominently involved.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hey Pacers season ticket holders!

"I've still got my album coming out Nov. 23. After the album comes out, I'm going to make sure all of my time is focused on winning a championship."

-Ron Artest, explaining his request for time off to promote his rap album

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Random musings

  • I've had enough of Joe Buck. First off, I'm tired of the long, lingering shots on the Budweiser logo at both stadiums, even in the damned skyscrapers with the Go Cards signs. I thought that the commercial about a home-run call was funny until I saw pre-printed signs with the slogan at Busch Stadium...and Fox showing them on purpose.
  • I'm amazed that some sort of protest hasn't occurred yet regarding Leon, the selfish athlete caricature now featured with the aforementioned Mr. Buck. Never mind that he's modelled on Barry Bonds, Terrell Owens, Deion Sanders, Joe Horn, and other real-life people; I'm just surprised. I guess hiring Jesse Jackson's sons as beer distributors buys you all kinds of favors.
  • Go Red Sox.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

This man must be stopped.

Ever been at a movie where some asshole had a laser pointer?

This is worse.

Sure, he says he'd never, ever use it in a sports bar. The guy who invented the laser pointer never wanted it used in a movie theater, either. And at $14.99, this is just the right price for some loser who watched "Fight Club" in his mom's basement to cause real trouble.

Think about it this way. You're in a sports book. There's people with money involved. Then, without warning, during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, all of the televisions turn off.

Bedlam. Panic. Danger.

This man must be stopped. This is like the Asian carp which jump into boats. They were originally to get rid of a pest fish on a fish farm in Arkansas. They were never supposed to get out. There was a flood. Now Chicago has to build a zillion-dollar electric fence to keep them out.

This is madness. It needs to stop.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Enough is enough!

Many of you just might possibly have heard of the slogan, "What Happens Here, Stays Here." What you may not know from not living here is that it's been reappropriated by pretty much every business in town. Including:

Hooters, selling T-shirts with the slogan on the back.

Cheetahs, a strip club undergoing an interesting ownership struggle, has billboards with "What happens in Vegas Happens at Cheetahs." (Someone with a snide sense of humor could add, ...and can cause lots of trouble in San Diego."

The Palms, running billboards saying, "What happens at the Palms...never happened." (Does this apply to Mrs. Federline's first wedding?)

It's also on pretty much on every T-shirt for sale. As a local, I've yet to come up with an effective response. Such as:

"What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, and We're Hoping Your Cash Does the Same."
"What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, but Expedian and TRW are EVERYWHERE."
"What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, Except for Whatever That Street Hooker Gave You."

There's also a larger number of stupid people in the valley than ever before, particularly those who are all upset because some of the billboards in town are-get this-sexually suggestive.


Apparently when they read all the magazine articles about the New Las Vegas, they were told that the old Las Vegas was kept in a hermetically sealed dome, and its inhabitants entertained the masses and kept taxes low while the rest of us whiled away the hours in Sandville Paradise.

The Hard Rock Hotel had billboards that said, "We Sell Used Dice." The dice were held up at a very precise angle in front of a topless woman's nipples. They had another one that ran during the rodeo, "Get Ready To Buck All Night." A group called American Mothers Incorporated, which presumably just heard about Las Vegas two months ago, was all upset.

Look. You better learn how to explain it to your kids, because that's the town. I grew up next door to Lyons, and drove past scores of topless bars on my way to my grandmothers. Maybe in my mind it's just part of the landscape. To assume that this place is family-friendly is to ignore the 95% of cities in America that are friendlier.

If it really bothers you that much, there's a couple solutions. They're called "15" and "95." Your house has probably appreciated enough in the past year that you could easily afford to live somewhere else, and there's probably not a cash register in town that isn't giving you change untouched by those eeeevil casinos.


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

America. You couldn't make this up.

In a surprise announcement, Stewart -- convicted in March and later sentenced to five months in jail and five months of house arrest -- said through tears she hoped to be a free woman by March, so she can plant her spring garden.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Frenzy Begins

Writing has been light, as my goal has been self-inflicted pain for the past several days. You see, I completed a triathlon once, and decided it would be a swell time to start training again. The race I want to do is a little less than a year away, and I have an intermediate run coming up in six weeks. Here's what the training plan has looked like so far:

9/6 (Labor Day) Spin class at 6 AM.
9/7 11 AM walk on treadmill at work, 1 mile.
9/7 5 PM jog on treadmill, 2.5 miles.
9/8 11 AM walk on treadmill at work, 1.25 miles.
9/8 Spin class at 5 PM.
9/9 11 AM walk on treadmill at work, 1.25 miles.
9/10 5:30 AM, 750M swim.
9/10 Spin class at 5:30 PM.
9/11 6 AM, 5 mile run/walk, Valley of Fire.
9/12 Weight training, 20 min. bike, 20 min. treadmill.
9/13 5 AM, 4.7 mile run/walk, Spencer/Pyle to Las Vegas Blvd.
9/13 11 AM walk on treadmill at work, 1.75 miles.
9/13 50 min cycle ride, ab workout.
9/14 5 AM, 750M swim.

The intermediate run is a 4.7 mile run through Valley of Fire State Park on October 23. I'm training at the distance now and doing all kinds of supplemental cardio to keep myself loose. Today is a "rest" day, so there's no afternoon workout, but I will be walking again at lunch. If I can pile up the miles over the next month or so, I won't be as sore.

I'll keep you posted. I'm at about a -4 right now, but it's a transformation thing more than weight loss at this point.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Who's coaching this team?

Dave Barry writes on the joys of watching a team coached by Dave Wannstedt. Does this sound familiar?

Say I'm lying on the sofa watching pro football, and my team, the Miami
Dolphins, have the ball, and it's third and four, a situation in which the
Dolphins, after considering all 3,487 of their offensive plays, always decide to
send the running back into the middle of the line for a gain of 2 yards.


So as the Dolphins line up - with the opposing team's entire defense
bunched around the middle, holding signs that say, "WELCOME, DOLPHINS RUNNING BACK!" - I'm thinking this would be the perfect time for the Dolphins to - just once! - try something different, maybe an actual forward pass. But sure enough,
when the ball is snapped, the Dolphins ... send the running back up the middle
for a gain of 2 yards!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The insanity resumes

I've taken the summer off. I've eaten lousy food, haven't sat on a bicycle, maybe I ran twice, and swimming and the snooze button have collided. Well, with the passing of Labor Day, summer's over, and I have a year to prepare for next year's triathlon.

I got an unexpected surprise last weekend. Nat said, "If you do the Olympic distance tri in Chicago, I'll do the sprint." Knowing what I went through just to do the sprint last year, I was impressed. So now, there's focus.

The next step is preparation. We got personal trainer sessions as part of our membership. My goal was to find someone who could work with MY goals-finishing the race in Chicago. I've been going to gyms enough to see what kind of trainer you can get if you don't pay attention. If you want to bulk up, there's a trainer for you. If you want to do kickboxing, there's a trainer for you. If you want to just lose weight, there's a trainer for you. The problem is that I want to do some of that and more, and I don't need the person standing there every workout.

In addition, those of you who read my account of the sprint tri I did last year know that I had several problems that could be averted by experience. Having no stamina for the bike ride, for instance. Swimming erratically. Unbalanced training. These are things that somebody else could tell me I was doing wrong.

The woman I found after a spin class at 6 yesterday morning had that background. She ran a triathlon club previously, participated in several races in Berkeley and has not only raced in the event I did in April, she has another race coming up in two weeks. I was excited. I told Nat she had to meet her, and all appears smooth. She's trained people for these sorts of races before.

I told her what my milestones were: same leg of the Brass Challenge on October 16, Olympic distance at Lake Las Vegas on April 26 of next year, Olympic distance in Chicago next August. Nat explained she'd like to do the two sprints.

We agreed on a philosophy of exercise, on the timing of what we're doing, and a fee schedule. She also pointed out that if we were looking to do activities outside the health club, such as swimming or cycling, she could schedule that as well. She agreed that of all the events in triathlon, there's no simulation for open water and no simulation for the cycling.

This might just work. I tried a spinning class yesterday morning at 6 AM, which ironically would be too late in the morning on a workday because it's an hour-long class. I need cycling legs if I'm going to get where I want to go, and a spinning class will get me there. Then, maybe next week, the mornings start in the water. I set my alarm 15 minutes earlier today, and will add on fifteen minutes tomorrow, and by the end of the week, I should be ready for mornings.

By Christmas I hope to have lost thirty pounds. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Watching the RNC convention...

I imagined the following.

A soldier slain on the beaches of Normandy walks into my garage, which has a Volkswagen Passat and a Nissan Xterra. He then walks through my front door, where on my Japanese television, Arnold Schwarzenegger is whipping the GOP delegates into a frenzy.

"Dammit. We lost."

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Sedona Part 1

So a couple of weeks back, Nat and I take a look at the computer and decide that the best way to deal with Vegas' blast-furnace summer is to get out of town. Fortunately, when you live in one of the hottest places in North America, lots of other places look appealing.

In our case, that place was Sedona, Arizona, a former artist's colony and now Phoenix vacation getaway. Chicago has Door County and the Michigan shore. New York has the Hamptons. Vegas has...well, Vegas has Mesquite, which is two gas stations and a hotel pretending to be a getaway, and we were up for some driving.

We found a resort offering a $99 weekend stay. Whole weekend, under $100. Normally, if you want to stay someplace at those kind of rates, you have to wear one of those bunny suits like they did in Outbreak and hope that you don't find any hair in the sink. But every impression we got of this place, the Los Abrigados Resort and Spa, indicated that they knew what they were doing. It was discounted because one, it was off-season, and two, all we had to do was attend a 90-minute presentation for timeshare opportunities.

Now, as a typical American consumer and resident of Las Vegas, I twitch when I hear the words "timeshare opportunities." What it means is that you're going to sit in a room featuring guys like Alec Baldwin in "Glengarry Glen Ross", and instead of buying something like a car or a home, you're going to be buying the chance to take a vacation in the same place for the rest of your natural lives. This is not a tangible product. No one will hand you keys. You get a deed, yes, but even as an owner, well...the whole concept seemed pretty nebulous to me. Not for nothing was my old hotel's timeshare program referred to as "vacation ownership." "Timeshare" is right there with "Amway" and "Scientology" as simple words that can turn out to be very expensive. They're also code words to friends that you've been snared in some kind of pyramid scheme and will try anything, anything to get out of the pit of snakes you've fallen into.

So we left Friday afternoon on the drive to Arizona looking forward to sleep. That's the great thing about vacationing as parents. We used to go on vacations and look forward to cycling, or food, or copious drinking, what have you-usually all in the same vacation. This trip, we wanted to sleep like coma victims. Combinations of sickness and late nights had led to a situation where we were willing to give 90 minutes of our time for a good night's sleep.

We've taken this drive before, back when we were using free nights at my company's hotel in Scottsdale. One of the things that I liked looking at were the saguaro cactus-those big ones that are about fifteen feet tall and which little kids draw with the tepee when they mean "desert." Apparently, though, they all exist south of Kingman, because I didn't see any along I-40.
I was surprised to see that much grass, that much green. Cattle grazing. A minimum of signs, much less than you would expect to see parallel to the former Route 66, and a lot of very empty highway, which of course means very fast driving. I wasn't; I was the passenger on the way out.

We hit US-17 once we got to Flagstaff and knew we were close. There's more pine trees than you can count, and the temperature dropped down to 70 degrees as the sun disappeared on the other side of them, but the sky remained bright. There's a junction for the next highway we needed to be at, and the directions that the hotel provided were in the opposite direction. We smartly elected the direction going towards town instead of the direction to "nowhere," as both towns would have required a turn in the opposite direction.

We got ourselves to town at about 7:30 and checked in. The first room had a gorgeous view, but the wall near the vanity sink was riddled with ants. While they did not appear to be of the fire variety, I didn't wish to find out. We were able to get a similarly garbed room on the opposite end of the complex-not bad for a busy weekend.

The room was kind of a mini-suite, with a pullout sofa and coffee table, and a balcony overlooking Oak Creek Canyon, which has those big red rocks covered with shrubbery. It was impressive. We elected to head out and walk around.

Sedona looks like the Wisconsin Dells but about 90% less kitschy and less stuff for kids. There's lots of art galleries and New Age-y things there, which I fervently disbelieve. I mean, when the Crystal Castle and the Center for the New Age are right next door to each other, and there's a "Metaphysical" listing on the map, what can you do?

That said, it wasn't over the top. I mean, they were selling the same sorta-Indian stuff you'd see in any store west of Missouri-Kachina dolls, pottery, dream catchers. Even real Indians know this is bullshit; the real Dream Catchers are the IGT slot machines, or as I saw them referred to elsewhere, "Custer's All-Night ATM." But it gives the hippies something to gawk at, the ones convinced they're part Cherokee or something.

We looked at food options, as we'd been on the road since noon. We wound up at Oaxaca, which had all of the decent Mexican restaurant visual points in place-premium tequila, Dos Equis and Carta Blanca on draft, and a waiting list. Granted, there were nothing but white people seated inside, but I figured that was Sedona. We were quickly seated.


There were bottles of ketchup and mustard on the table. Every table. No Cholula, no homemade scary-looking salsa bruja. Heinz ketchup and mustard. Oh dear. Name me ONE Mexican dish where you've said, "What this could use is a little ketchup." If you need either of those because you ordered a cheeseburger, the Heinz products are kept in the back, like a crazy relative with Tourette's.


They don't have carne asada on the menu. Usually this is a good safe order when you go to an unfamiliar Mexican place; flank steak usually has its own taste and if they spice it right, it can be terrific. It's a decent markup and a moneymaker for the restaurant; flank steak is about a $2 cut of meat. It's hard to overcook and usually comes with soft tortillas, which are also difficult to mess up. This place, however, had ribeye, which isn't much more expensive but struck me as an odd choice.

There was an extensive margarita listing, so I grabbed one that was blue. It wasn't bad. Nat ordered the "pollo fundido," which sounded all right, and I got a chicken chimichanga, a real aura-of-mystery dish when it comes to the sauce.

The food was hideous. Nat's had curry in it. Her dish was free because she refused to eat more than two bites of it. Mine was so unimaginably bland that the ketchup had apparently been used prominently in the sauce. I ate about half of it.

Never again, we said. We found out in the morning that the restaurant's owner was a registered dietitian. Great, we said, Mexican food from people trained to make hospital food. No wonder. We went back to the room and fell asleep.

One of the nifty prizes that they gave us here was $50 in ILX money. Great, I thought. Typically these things are like funbooks; profoundly worthless unless you plan meticulously. Here, though, the cafe right outside our door took them, same as cash. The caveats: They couldn't make change and couldn't be used for tips. They gave us a twenty and three tens. Breakfast was three muffins and two bottles of orange juice; that was $13, or $3 in actual cash.

We went to Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tuh-LAH-kuh-PAH-kuh), an artist's colony next door to the resort we were there to browse. It's been here a while; filled with trees, it looked more like the giant cement buildings we saw in New Orleans. Nat said it reminded her a lot of Portugal. There were glazed-tile street signs and cobblestone roads. There were lots of old hippies taking pictures of each other by the fountains.

They're here, too; they're behind the counters. The only way most of the salespeople could be any more laid-back, they'd be upside-down. We spent some time in a music-box shop and found out the owner's life story; ran a limousine business in LA for 12 years, then retired here and opened a shop. Sounded like fun. I didn't want to know what his rent was, or his vacation, or the difference in movements in Italian music boxes, but I found out. We got a nice discount.

We saw candles and incense and little twee purses. Lots of knick-knack crap, but some nice contemporary stuff; we found a piece that would fit one very specific area of our house exceptionally well. We saw terrific paintings and more Old West faux Indian crap than you can shake a stick at. I was not allowed to get a wooden box with a skeleton band inside of it, in a Mayan "Day of the Dead" theme. I was also not allowed to get a Roy Lichtenstein-like print that showed a grinning, blond-haired couple in a convertible being pointed by Jesus towards "Las Vegas", as the sign in the other direction said "Heaven"; I thought it would have been perfect for the house. The title of the print was "The Promised Land."

And then, with visions of peace and art and insanely overpriced scarves in our heads, we were off to the timeshare presentation.

That comes next.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Beautiful Downtown Las Vegas

On my way back from lunch I overheard the following conversation snippet between two disheveled types:

"You can't go to court smelling like beer. You got any gum?"


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

There's been enough to aggravate me about Olympics coverage this year that it will certainly cover me for the next two before the next Winter Games, which, come to think of it, I have no idea where they're taking place. (Runs to consult all-knowing reference.)

Turin. Torino, as it's known. I guess once they finally got that shroud thing out of the way, tourist trap B had to be put into place at once, huh? Anyway. I'll get annoyed about that when the moment comes.

My main gripe about Olympic coverage is that NBC's prime time lineup takes place when it's somewhere like 4 AM in Athens. Therefore, every one of these events could be shown in their entirety, on several different television stations. Instead, we get skips, breaks, excerpts, pieces, and usually nothing that doesn't relate to Americans.

Let me clarify that last complaint. I'm not one of those people who runs around saying "Oh, whyyyy don't you cover any of the other countries? All you care about is Amerrrica, and how can we be proper citizens of the world if we root only for the big, bad, United States?" And the answer is, Kiss my ass. You're watching an American television station, and the reason that the Canadian television station can show the Cameroonian sport-fishing delegation is the Canadian sprinters got their asses handed to them in the preliminaries. If you want to be a citizen of the world, get a big-ass satellite dish. Americans want to watch Americans.

That said, I like watching cool sports. I'm all for water polo, even though the US isn't very good at it, or badminton, where they play like your backyard game would be if everyone were on meth. If I have to watch exclusively non-Americans to appreciate this, no problem. I can understand that there's not much of a badminton-on-meth presence here in the States, and how else will we get the slug-colored children off of the skateboards and onto their feet?

Anyway, one of the events that was predetermined that we NEEDED to see last night was the "Gymnastics Gala," which consisted of all the medal-winning gymnasts performing their routines to spotlights and music for no points, "just because." So that means that there's no competition whatsoever. Now you know what this means to Olympics organizers: 18,000 more asses in the seats to the usually popular gymnastics events (though at this Games, that translates to about 4,000) because, well, we set up all the stuff.

Number one. If this gymnastics stuff is so damn popular, why don't they show it instead of the macabre "Father of the Pride" if people are willing to watch it so much? Number two, there's enough actual competition going on that we shouldn't waste time on the flippy youths. They aren't even performing the same routines they won the medals with; I watched an elfin Romanian jump up on the pommel horse and clap his hands. He did no dismount. Then, we went back to the decathlon, where we got to see an American and a Kazakh throw a javelin apiece.
The commentators sit there mute, so that you can hear the music better. Never mind we only got to see bits and pieces of other events so that we could see this. We just couldn't pass up a chance to see those adorable little sprites again, couldn't we?

Umm, no.

I'll leave it to others to expand this argument, but most of the gymnasts I've seen were alternately sullen or pouty, with faces that, once the obligatory smile had been given to the judges, resemble those of someone being marched to the gas chamber. I blame this on the victory of the Eastern European sports system in gymnastics, which says that you essentially have to train from the time you're an infant and ignore debilitating injuries and get hollered at in several languages. People pretend to be offended by this for 3 years eleven months at a time.

In addition, if non-scoring events are deemed worth are time during the Olympics, why not add in such zero-scoring non-achievement hippie sports like juggling sticks, hacky sack, and staring at a Jimi Hendrix poster on acid?

Tsk, tsk, tsk. But you don't understand because you're a MAN. The profiles, the gymnastics, the weepy piano music, the inexplicable decade-long presence of John Tesh, these weren't for you, a man who'd watch televised lacrosse. They're for women who don't care who threw what ball through which orifice. You get ESPN the rest of the year. Can't women have the Olympics?

No. The Olympics are about sports. That's the whole point. The years that the Olympics were really, really interesting were the years in which Hitler or the Communists wanted to kick everybody's ass, and pumped their athletes full of drugs to do so. (Germans in the '36 Games were on stimulants.) Cities don't bid on World Checkers Tournaments. You ask Doug Collins about being rooked out of a medal in 1972 and he probably still gets so upset that he loses count of how many possessions it will take to erase a nine-point deficit (it's three to tie and four to win, and that's what it takes to make the tall dollars as a broadcast analyst these days, apparently) It's "our guys can beat your guys." And the means they choose to do it aren't via gunfire (though we're pretty skilled at that part as well) but through sport.

"Ohhh, but it's not about winning, but the spirit of competition."

Bullshit. That thing on the front page says medal count, not "true moments of sportsmanship" or "heartfelt expressions of true joy." I've done a triathlon and there were both, but it ain't the Olympics. (I also did a training run using EAS KickStart, which has 199mg of caffeine and an unusual flourescent green glow, and rationalized my taking it with the same sentence.)

Lifetime, Hallmark, and Oxygen are not showing any Olympics coverage. And if they want to amp up the Olympics coverage a little and create an event such as Drunken Beach Fencing, that's fine by me too.

And please, after all this Olympian excitement, what do we get next week? Why, the Republican National Convention! It's enough to make you want to take your toe off with a belt-sander.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

It's Thursday. You're bored.

Remember what August used to be like at this time of year? You knew that there was a finite amount of fun still to be had, and you had to make the most of it. Instead, today, you're sitting at work, being productive.

So don't go here. My best time so far is 20 seconds.

Or here. I got 22 meters. The trick is to move your mouse left and right. You'll get it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Entrante part 2

I started this blog after the untimely death of ex-coworker Michael Tata. At the time, it was inconclusive what had caused his death.

It's not any more.

It's unclear if there's going to be any further investigation on this. Another column referred to the drug he was taking was a thousand times more powerful than street heroin. They're calling it an accident; they're also not sure/won't comment if he had a prescription.

So what do we know at this point? Nothing. Some might say it's an accident, other might wonder what an apparently healthy 33-year-old man needs with medicine that's prescribed to terminal cancer patients.

A terrible shame...

The people want to know

A commentor in the last post wanted to know what exactly a "breadless turkey sandwich" was, as apparently that's what Oprah Winfrey was searching for at 26th and California yesterday.

Notwithstanding that food cooked in a correctional facility is more dangerous than anything, allow my carbohydrate expertise to be put to good use.

Oprah may have tried ordering a "wrap," which would be a turkey sandwich served on a tortilla, which has less carbs than bread. She may also have wanted the sandwich on lettuce, or maybe she wished to order it "Flying Dutchman Style." It's a way to avoid those eeeeevil carbohydrates.

Glad to help...

The downward spiral

"So I get up in the morning and my girl's taken all her shit out of the house, then I look and see that she took all the furniture, and then I try to turn on the stereo and the electricity's out, and then I leave the house and it's COLD out, see, and when I turn back to the building the landlady starts bitching about the rent, so I tell her that I've got some of it, and I'll have the rest later, so then I have to run the other way before she hits me with the broom, and I realize I'm hungry, and I've got to get a coat, so I'm headed to the mall, and I see this guy with a big smile on his face, and he goes, hey, got change for this fifty? and I go, naw, man, all I gots is forty, and he says, no problem, I need a twenty for the vending machine, and hands me the fifty, and I'm thinking, day's getting better, huh? and then I feel the bill and it's kind of funny, and I look at it and it's like, waxy, like he did it with crayons, and I'm damn sure SpongeBob ain't on the fifty. So I see him, and I go, "What the fuck, man?" and he starts running, and then I tackled him and beat his ass, and then I grabbed my piece and capped his fool head. I'm in the cop car and I realize that, shit, vending machines don't TAKE twenties, and now, after my ass has been in jail for six whole months, fuckin' OPRAH'S gonna give me the chair."

Friday, August 13, 2004

Happy trails

Julia Child died peacefully in her sleep at 91, three days shy of her 92nd birthday.

"I think these fake foods aren't worth eating," she said in 1992. "Either have
the real thing and a little of it or have something else. I like real hamburgers
and real meat, real butter. Eat everything. Have fun."

I want you to think of every pale-skinned, tofu twink, hemp-shirted hardcore vegan you've ever seen in your life, and then I want you to ask yourself if all of them combined has ever had as much fun as she did.

Then, think about when her show first came on, in 1963. Remember what American food consisted of? Meatloaf. Steak. Potatoes. The strongest spice in the kitchen was ketchup. A lot of people, including my parents, bought her books, watched the show, and learned and taught that there's a lot more to the world than McDonalds and Kraft singles. Could you imagine a Williams-Sonoma without Julia Child? Cooking classes for the hell of it? There wouldn't be celebrity chefs. She was the first.

Eat everything. Have fun. God bless.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Government efficiency crisis SOLVED

Your mail will now be delivered faster than FedEx, construction projects can be finished in a week, and no need to worry about lines at the DMV, because the tranquilizer darts are coming soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Highly personal news day

So the big story when I turn on the television today is a fuel spill at the Clark County Detention Center, and I get to see several familiar faces walking around and frowning. Streets closed for blocks. They mention it was caused by a "power glitch." Even though I'm now based out of City Hall, my first reaction is, "This does not bode well for a good day."

And then I'm listening to NP-Ahhh, which sounds as such because the normal announcer is on vacation so instead we get an uppity Brit who can't pronounce her R's correctly (she also happens to be the station manager who ran off most of the original voice talent, it's from their news accounts that I get the uppity part) and the top story on the national news is that Las Vegas officials knew about the terrorist videotapes for two years and didn't say anything. They deny they didn't say anything because it would hurt the tourist industry.

National news. Oh dear.

Look. I haven't seen the videotape in question. I know that there were things said on there that were supposedly troublesome. I know that if something bad were going to happen, they would tell us (and by "us" I don't mean "every blinking inch of America," I unfortunately mean "me, in my professional capacity, and my immediate family") and they have told us to watch for stuff, but not anything specific.

If we start hammering every yokel with a video camera on the Strip, they won't come back. If they don't come back, that's a problem. If we scare the bejeebers out of people for no reason, like when we tell them, "Did you know the 9/11 muscle hijackers stopped here after every reconnaissance trip?" they start wondering why. So do we; we don't know. There were snipers on the rooftops on New Year's Eve. There were weird things that National Guard types told me about. Did anything happen? No. America had a swell time.

I can't offer any more specifics. I have a nice little history of getting hired for jobs that require some degree of confidentiality, and I intend to keep it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

One of the few things I know about

Perhaps you saw the AP story referencing the terrorists' tape found in Detroit, which is being bandied about our fair city this morning. The Mayor has denied any knowledge of it, as have various police officials, and said that when the tape was found, no one told them. Essentially, the line has been that we have done everything we can to notify everyone to keep residents and visitors safe.

As someone behind the smoked glass, I can tell you that's absolutely true. I can also look at the following quote and raise an eyebrow:

When FBI supervisory agent Paul George flew to Las Vegas to show the Detroit tape, "the FBI, casino representatives, Clark County Sheriff's Department and the JTTF (joint terrorism task force) declined to attend," Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Corbett wrote."No one showed up except for two Metro officers," Corbett added.

"Indeed, the casinos informed Agent George that they did not want to show up because of concerns about liability."

Here's why I can raise that eyebrow. There is no "Clark County Sheriff's Department." Metro is a combination of Las Vegas City Police and the Clark County Sheriff and it's been that way for 31 years. If they sent "two Metro officers," those guys worked for the Sheriff, and I don't know from the article what bureau they were with, but they passed that stuff on.

And, knowing what I do about hotel security, the assertion that there would be a liability concern if they were educated about the process is insane.

Am I 100% confident that Las Vegas is safe from a terrorist attack? No. We're a transient city connected to other major cities by highway and a lot of empty desert. Am I confident that everything is being done to prevent an attack that can be done? Yes, I am. I know this from firsthand experience.

If I find out any more, I'll let you know...

Monday, August 09, 2004

Tidying up the files

Several issues have been raised over the past couple of days that are a little closer to resolution. To review:

Music choices for Jarren's video: We're looking at "I'm On My Way" by Rich Price, from the "Shrek 2" soundtrack, and "Where Are We Running?" by Lenny Kravitz. Odds are we'll be using both of them together, one after the other, for a video of about six minutes. Last year's John Mayer song was about four and a half minutes, but this year we've got a lot more video. I'll need to spend some time playing with sound levels, because while last year there wasn't a whole lot of need to use the video's audio track, this year he's actually talking somewhat.

Soon I'll be scanning in the still pictures, which took up the bulk of the time last year. I'll also need to get a raw-feed videotape together to send home.

Working out: We're redoing Phase One of the South Beach diet starting today, and I'm hoping to be in the water tonight to resume my swimming program. The Fall Brass Challenge is set for October 16, and I'll be running again, so I've got to get myself into shape for that, and what better time to start an outdoor workout program than August in Las Vegas? If I wear my sweats I could probably lose a good ten pounds in an evening! Or die! I think I'm still at -2, but that should change this week. You lose weight fast on the South Beach thing. You're also not allowed to even look at a piece of toast, a glass of orange juice, and a can of Coke could kill you.

Writing: I haven't touched the novel in a couple weeks, because there's been so much other stuff still going on.

Food recommendations: Those of you in the Las Vegas area seeking some terrific quick Mexican food can begin and end your search at Zaba's, which just opened a new location here in Silverado Ranch. Not only are their fish tacos better than Rubio's, but their burritos are eons better than Chipotle, and not nearly as salty. Plus, with all this diet hullabaloo coming up, Zaba's is very no-carb friendly. You'll note that I said "quick Mexican," I still haven't found a Lalo's equivalent for carne asada or a good sit-down Mexican meal, and haven't tried Viva Michoacan, which I head is the way to go.

Food recommendations for Chicago? There's an excellent new Italian restaurant in Forest Park, La Piazza, which I got to try during my recent sojourn back. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

So let me get this straight...

Intelligence that is three years old is bad if we didn't tell people sooner. Intelligence that we DID tell people about sooner is bad because it panics people. They don't give us enough intelligence and that they do give out is too specific and makes people panic. They shouldn't have killed any terrorists because that will make the undead ones angry and we should just let them be because then they'll ignore us. It's Israel's fault that they don't give more to the Palestinians and the Palestinians would stop blowing themselves up to kill Israelis if we gave them more. The Arabs all will hate us if we kill them and they'll hate us more if they see that we abandon them.

Egyptians hate us and we give them $2 billion a year.

The gallon of sarin that they found in a roadside bomb is not proof that there were WMD in Iraq. No other countries would have helped Saddam hide them and the whole idea that he had them was all a harmless practical joke, for which Saddam was glad to lose power and have thousands of his countrymen killed. All of those people in Jordan during the First Gulf War who chanted "Use the chemicals, Saddam" were just kidding, as were all of the Palestinians who danced on 9/11, and all of the people burning flags everywhere else. The people in America who held up signs saying "we Support Our Troops When They Shoot Their Officers" were just kidding, too.

Crazed Islamists wanting to blow up shopping malls isn't the problem, but some meatball politician who can't pronounce "nuclear" is the real enemy, and he just ginned up all of this other stuff to make money for his oil buddies, which is interesting because he didn't make a dime when he was an oilman himself. It makes more sense to search my one-year-old son at the airport than every single person who can pronounce Allah Akbar.

The meatball politician is a wire-puller extraordinaire but too dumb to tie his own shoes. He won't listen to anybody but is enmeshed in a worldwide conspiracy, and his opponent apparently thinks that the reason we don't have allies in France and Germany is we didn't have the ability to ask them in German and French.

Just checking.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Nearly clairvoyant!

In the last post I said that the set list for the concert was 12-15 songs. It was 15 songs, and they were:

  • Bennie And The Jets(Stagecraft: Letters modeled after casino signage dropped down from the ceiling, spelling out "Elton". Elton John's piano is on a red star with white neon acrylic underlay.)
  • Philadelphia Freedom(They broke out the video screen and used video effects last seen on "The Electric Company", early pictures of Elton John in nutted-out 70's regalia. Also, lots of neon-graveyard effects on both sides of the stage.)

  • Believe(Video screened movie of male dancer in black-and-white pirouetting around black-and-white hotel lobby. Giant inflatable roses on the stage.)
  • Daniel(Essentially a farewell-teenager-sent-to-Vietnam montage on the big video screen.)
  • Rocket Man(Aforementioned video.)
  • I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues(Black and white photo montages of alternately happy and sad people.)
  • Tiny Dancer(Giant heart medallion drops down near piano.)
  • Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me(Video of male and female dancer alternately arguing and seducing each other.)
  • I Want Love(More neon graveyard stuff. I don't remember if they used the video wall for this.)
  • Candle In The Wind(Marilyn Monroe montage on video wall. He played the original version of this, and left the stage briefly.)
  • Pinball Wizard(Here's where it got pretty crazy. He came back in a different pair of shoes, and the neon on stage went insane. 2-foot balloons are dropped from the ceiling. There was a hilarious video featuring pinball machines, but more specifically, slot machines, casinos, lap dancers at Treasures, crowds on the Strip, and a stone-faced blackjack dealer with huge mall hair whose expression never changes as people fly past. If aliens arrived and needed a quick explanation of Las Vegas, I would have gotten them front-row seats to this thing, told them to watch the movie, look at the performer, look at the people surrounding you, and that's all you need to know.)
  • The Bitch Is Back(Giant inflatable legs clad in fishnet stockings inflate stage left. A bubble machine starts up. The video is Pamela Anderson in stripper attire, gyrating around a pole. On stage by the end of this number: giant inflatable lipstick, cherries and bananas arranged suggestively, the giant inflatable breast above stage right.)
  • I'm Still Standing(Another 70's montage video that was difficult to see because there was still a good deal of inflatable objects on the stage.)
  • Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)Ushers move down into the front rows in the orchestra pit. As soon as he starts playing, he gestures for people to come up. My first thought is, "Plants or fan club types." This is not stuff that a headlining performer does. But then I remember that we had to go through metal detectors at the front gate, and this would apparently be why.
  • Your SongGiant L-V-E letters inflated on stage. Stage workers put up a fight with "O" and drag it off stage, but the heart neon thing is perfectly placed. I'm not sure if that was supposed to happen or not, it seems too coincidental to NOT be faked. Coming down on the top of it is a standing figure in a chrome, feathered outfit, bowler hat. The crowd goes nuts. John walks out stage right, looks up, and says, "Who's that guy?" The flashback Elton is hoisted into the rafters.

We also hit Tangerine, the latest bar-of-the-moment at Treasure Island, excuse me, the TI. For me the TI is always going to be the blue calculator that drew me parabolas when I was 14, but the Treasure Island folks are doing their damndest to make you forget that this was Mirage Resorts' "family-friendly" outlet.

I don't know why I bother to go to these places, and neither does Natalie, but she said that some students of hers were working there and said it was impressive. So for a little while, we'd play along. We don't get out as much as we used to think we did and have a tendency to grab as much fun as we can as fast as we can.

The whole entrance is covered in white linen, not unlike a biohazard tent, and lit with orange lights. We walked through the rope lines, which weren't full, and I promptly forked over a $20 cover charge. We walked in and the second thing that I noticed was that the bar was sunken, so it looked to be staffed by midgets. The other thing that I noticed is it gave you no place to sit down. We headed out to the back, where there were places to sit down. There were bar stools all along the lagoon where the pirate ships fight. The show started about 10 minutes after we stood there. All of the bar stools were taken, but there were some sumptuous leather couches that had little "reserved" signs by them.

No seating available, so we stood and watched the show. They changed it in February to "The Sirens of TI." Here's what this means: One of the crews is now made up of women in PG-13 outfits. There's singing and semi-seductive dancing. You will stand in line longer and there are more fireworks. That's it.

The area cleared out afterwards, including a couple of barstools! Joy! We sit down and look at the throngs of people clearing out across the lagoon. An employee comes up and says, "We need to move these chairs out." They have just removed the last non-reserved seating from the establishment. We look around the place; big room, deejay, small stage where the performers might be. Cigars for sale. Finally, we've had enough; we've been here for only a half-hour. As we're leaving, I ask a bouncer, four inches taller than me: what's it take to get a reserved table?

"Bottle service," the bouncer replies.

I roll my eyes. He goes on: "$150 for a bottle of wine, all the way up to $750 for Courvosier. Skyy Vodka's $350. It usually works best for a group of four to six people." Yeah, and it works really, really good for a club that charges $37.50 for a glass of wine that's not even that hot. And if Skyy's going for $350, that's about $348 too much.

Nat and I ran the math. So there's women in lingerie dancing on the bar. Okay. But for $150, I can waltz right into Sapphire, pay the same cover charge, be assured of a place to sit, and the women in lingerie are dancing a lot closer than the bar. And I didn't happen to ask what a bottle of Bombay Sapphire would cost at Tangerine, but if Courvosier's $750 and Skyy's $350, I'd anticipate around $400-for $400 at Sapphire I'd be carried out in a smoke-and-baby-powder coma. And it would be DAWN.

Perhaps I'm too old and married to appreciate the Vegas club "scene," but I've now been to ghostbar, Tangerine, and Club Rio, and didn't like any of them. I paid $75 for VIP at Texas Station's Armadillo Lounge and had all-you-can-drink, and THAT was fun. I'll go see Darby O'Gill and the Little People at GVR and that's a $3 cover (!) and that's always fun. And to be told that you couldn't dance at ghostbar-in short, you had waited in line to stand around, drink, and admire the view, invited unflattering comparisons to places like Images at the John Hancock Center in Chicago. At least there were chairs to accompany the view there.

We headed back to Caesars, where we'd parked, and passed an oxygen bar in the corridor. We had always been intrigued by these places; I've seen them at several of the hotels. We decided, what the hell. "If you've been drinking oxygen intensifies the buzz and you won't have as bad of a hangover," the chipper young woman told us, and we were certainly ripe candidates for that. Then again, I don't get hangovers unless there's cheap wine or extreme intoxication involved, and if you're asking "how extreme?" it's somewhere past six or seven pints of G&T. She unwrapped sets of nose clips for us and off we went.

I chose Sublime, because it had limes in it, and spent most of my time fiddling with the knobs. The oxygen bar is right near the exit, and the dopey and curious were looking at us strangely. I pointed out loudly that you're not really having fun until there's tubes stuck up your nose, and eight of the people looking at us left. I tipped the sales staff to alleviate any discontent about chasing away the curious. Those weren't customers. They were morons. The additional oxygen didn't have much effect on anything, as far as I could tell.

And that was the end of our evening. We were offered scalp massages and various homeopathic gewgaws, we politely declined.

Guess we're not Strip people.

So where the hell have you been?

Oh, I've been around. Here's a recap of the recent events...

1. Writing was nonexistent last week as we had various cataclysms befall the office environment, and I'm hoping today for a cataclysm-free day.

2. Part of the cataclysm was the result of work performed at the end of Thursday maintenance, which had begun at 2 AM. The maintenance went great, but at 6 AM, the standard server reboot resulted in a blank screen.

3. I'm compiling in my head the first phases of Jarren's Year Two video and trying to figure out a good song. Many people applauded last year's effort, which used John Mayer's "Bigger Than My Body" for its audio track. I am stuck for a song that fits the following criteria:

  • Has to be released in Calendar Year 2004.
  • Has to be cheery and upbeat, having no lyrical references to death, overt sex, or anything that would seem wildly inappropriate to accompany still pictures and video of a little kid.
  • A good bass line for me to cue the pictures to would be nice.

4. Saw the Elton John show at Caesars Palace this weekend. In terms of sheer concert spectacle, this was beyond ridiculous. When the last song before the encore concludes with confetti shooting out of an inflatable breast that's twenty feet tall, you're a shade over the top, huh? The set list as I can remember it had about 12 songs on it, maybe 15, and the wife felt this was a shade light considering the $175 ticket price.

I was marveling at certain ironies in the production. For those of you that don't know, the Colosseum at Caesars Palace is home base for Celine Dion, the hollering Canadian songstress who got herself a permanent gig here so that she could raise her kids ensconced in Lake Las Vegas. One of the features of the venue is a video screen, roughly the size of a Jumbotron and with incredible clarity. It's apparently a huge part of Celine's show. Well, Elton John's incorporated it, too. A lot of the video ties in well to the songs, most memorably when a 40-foot high Pamela Anderson is cavorting on a stripper pole during "The Bitch Is Back". But during "Rocket Man" he chose to show the video from "That Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore." You may have seen it a year or so ago; Justin Timberlake looks like late-70's Elton John, walking through corridors backstage before he gets to the stage door, lip-syncing the song. Elton John does not appear in the video. Paul Reubens plays his agent/assistant. There is the usual assorted cast of freaks that you would expect at a late 70's event; there's a Liza Minnelli look-alike, satin jackets, running shorts. The only thing that wasn't visible in the video was a pile of cocaine the size of a basketball. Well, Justin merely walked during this version, probably so he could get accustomed to the giant jewel-encrusted sunglasses.

We had seats in the front row of the first mezzanine on the far right side, so I had a good view of the audience, and more of them appeared to be paying attention to the giant television, watching some dumb pop star pretend to be Elton John, then the actual Elton John, who had the Red Piano at stage left. I think at this phase in his career, that's how he wants it. Music and spectacle, and he doesn't have to run around in the Donald Duck costume anymore.

Overall, I was impressed. I mentioned to Natalie at the end, "All we have to see now is Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, and we will have seen all of the great rock piano players of all time." Forgotten from that list was Ray Charles, who would have been a good show, but left us sooner than I could see him. And Little Richard, who we saw for free, played a four-hour show, and he's about 20 years older than Elton. That was one of the most impressive shows I'd ever seen, and it was well past the time when he was a hot ticket.

More later, and it won't take over a week this time. Honest.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

I'd have written a whole bunch

...if the fucking water heater hadn't burst open this morning, causing me to miss three meetings, drive crosstown on three separate occasions, and spend damn close to twelve hours fixing a corroded valve, waiting on professional help to do so, and generally trying to get to the evening with a potential of hot water.

Today included the sentence, "I will have hot pizza awaiting your plumber if he can get here within the hour." I had to explain that a free-lunch bribe was the only way to get someone here at 10:30, because the overnight and 7 AM terror-in-the-aisles jobs were first in line.

Good night.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Come on in, the water is fine

I've been told that it might be a swell idea to open up the "Comments" section. Now lots of other blogs that I've seen, this usually ends poorly. So, in keeping with a summertime tradition as old as parenting itself, if this doesn't work out, I'll turn this car right around and go home. All I need to do is turn the little slider-box thingy to "Comments only from registered users."


Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Jesus, you read all these together, and it's a killer. I looked at it today and thought that I was Elton John or something. "I'm sick. I'm fat. Woe is me. I'm tired. See you tomorrow with more of the same." All I'm missing is the coke addiction and the Boy Scouts jumping out of the cake.
It'll get better, I promise. More to come.

Back to normal...

Back at work, after a weekend that ranked as rather somnambulant. When everything you do is accompanied by a need for sleep, including a flight of stairs, you give in to sleep. Then the next thing you know it's Tuesday and you're tired of being sick, sick of being tired, et cetera. No fun.
Even less fun was when I finally decided to bite the bullet and step on the scale yesterday. Oh, dear God. When you're looking for an answer to, "I look and feel lousy," it's always nice to have a number to quantify it. I was so mortified by the experience that I mentioned it to the wife, who repeated the number at least once or twice over the next couple of hours.
I haven't done any serious working out since the triathlon, which was at the end of April. There's resting, and then there's taking the summer off, and then there's the food-and-drink-bender-of-mythic-proportions, which is what I've done. I have plenty of time to get ready for Chicago and enough time to be ready for the full distance next year in Vegas, but if I don't start doing something soon I'll wind up getting hurt before I get fit. There's another Brass Challenge supposedly coming up in October, and I need to be there; our team's lost one runner to resignation already, and the coordinator is now in my chain of command.
So now it's water instead of soda, no booze, salads, sure, no croutons, plenty of vegetables, and probably back to the lab-rat workout-crazy Myoplex days, where I managed to lose 30 pounds with no regard to what I ate. If I put it all together now I should be where I want by Christmas, just in time for another trip to Chicago. And as soon as I stop sneezing up disgusting things, I'll get back in the water and swim again.
Every post at night, while I'm thinking about it, will have a +/- at the end of it, which is where my weight will be compared to that god-awful number I saw yesterday. When I feel ready to disclose that number, I'll let you know, but for right now, let's count progress as progress, hmm?

Monday, July 19, 2004


I didn't make it into work today, and am fully aware of the irony that I'm spending my time at HOME sitting in front of a computer. (You check E-mail, then think of writing something, then wind up over here.)  See, I got up, took a shower, and felt like I was going to pass out. So I made a few calls, and next thing you know, I'm asleep. Until 11 AM. Yipes.
My cell phone has been sitting in the truck's center console all weekend, and I'm not going to look at it. Under any circumstances. In fact, the battery's probably dead. But I don't care. Anyone who needs to get a hold of me knows my home number, and they'll call here.
Inaccessibility is the ultimate power.
When Michael J. Fox took his honeymoon, he was in Bali on the other side of the world. I took mine in a resort where most of the guests spoke only French and the women all sunbathed topless. There wasn't a soul who could get a hold of me. Even if the Presidnet wants to blow up the whole world, there's another guy with a briefcase that's got the codes.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Yes, it's been quiet.

I left the office early Thursday after having caught Nat and Jarren's cold. I've been asleep for all but 15 hours since. Writing has slowed to a crawl, as have I. More when things get back to normal.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

It's coming together

Tonight's writing is a scene-setting chapter in the story and includes the following:

...from everything from the pages of Travel and Recreation magazine, where the content gets crowded out by the ads for BMWs and weekend Botox retreats, to the noted lyrical stylings of MC Skandal, who could last be heard bellowing on his new single “Bitches Got Mine” Security in your face, damn I’m fearless/Cristal in the Presidential Suite at the Peerless.”

Shame I'm coming down with a cold. That line took 45 seconds. I'm on a roll, but feeling lousy.

Last night's writing

Last night's writing kicked off the writing process in earnest. One and a half hours led to two-plus pages. I'll obviously look at it today and hate it, but I need to march forward. I got me a protagonist and one of them there antagonist types, but the rest needs some shaping up.

I have about six different directions that the story could go in right now, and I may try to take it in all of them, but I may have to draw maps before I write it for all of it to go right. If there's a murder, and I think there's going to be, I have to make the sequence real.

I'll keep you posted as to how it goes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The idea mill's running dry when...

...the best idea you can come up with walking through Downtown Las Vegas' 4th street is a cut-rate sex rehab clinic with the slogan "No Lips, Glands, or Butts."

God, that's horrible. Sorry.

High Concept #1

So you're looking for an interesting restaurant concept that will have people coming back? Have no fear.

Among my many areas of expertise, which I'll summarize in a future issue (included are luxury hotels, fine dining, casino gambling locales, and the ins and outs of exotic dancing ordinances in four separate states) is restaurants.

Here's the idea:


Featured on the menu will be rodizio-grilled meat, such as that available at rumjungle or Sal de Corvao. But the key is in appetizers and desserts. Appetizers will include Greek saganaki, and dessert? Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee.

You guessed the common piece.


Hell, we'll have tiki fire jugglers, just because. Unbelievably spicy food. And a slogan like "Better pay attention or we'll burn the place down." Or something a little less macabre. I mean, who wouldn't want to eat in a place where every ten minutes or so, something's bursting into flames? Besides the insurance agent, of course?

I'd go. You'd go too.

Sunday, July 11, 2004


"Our time here is short. We weren't meant to spend it this way."
Peter Gibbons, "Office Space"

I had a lot of ideas for how I was going to start this out once I got back. I figured I could talk about Chicago, or trip tips for little kids, or any of the various home repair and clutter negotiation processes I handled so expertly over the past couple of weeks.

Then I hear in my E-mail this morning, and confirm with some looking around a few minutes later, that Michael Tata, and ex-coworker seen most recently on "American Casino" was found dead in his home. He was 33.

I had told a number of people about this show, in both my E-mail circles, back home, and around town, because of Michael. I worked with him at the hotel and didn't like him. I don't think he liked me much either. We ran into each other after both of us weren't working there and said hello. He was pleasant, I was pleasant. He was making six figures a year at a job that my crowd at the hotel figured he wasn't very good at and didn't deserve. Michael ground his heels into people, just chewed them up, and was the classic example of someone who gets asked loudly for favors all day and then loudly asks for something himself. Some people sacrifice courtesy in the name of expedience, but others do it as a matter of practice. He was the latter. Michael complimented me once on something and I told my superiors, "To welcome his praise would validate his criticisms. I will do neither."

It's one thing to heap criticism on somebody when they're alive, and to do so from personal experience. I laughed that the show made him look shorter (he was something like 5'4") and about the fact that the show made him out to be a tyrant, which was certainly my memory of him. It's another to wonder if that criticism, amplified nationally, may have led to his death.

I remember now that he spent a month back home in Buffalo one Christmas to "get his head together about things." I wonder if he was prepared for what the show would do. His work was his life. His social circle was work. He may well have had friends out of the office, but I can think of several occasions in which the gist of his explanation for something's importance was that if he was there, I should be too. We were both there a lot, him more than me.

So, with my armchair expertise of these things, one of two things happened: Either stress killed him or he took his own life. Michael was one of the more tightly wound people I've ever met, and those of you that have known me personally know that's saying something.

I watch a lot of the Discovery Channel, and there's a few of these "American"-type reality shows that I've seen. American Chopper, American Hotrod, and this one. In the first two, the resultant publicity made the affiliated companies even richer than they'd already been. The Teutuls on "American Chopper" have very clearly parlayed their on-screen personas as bickering divas into significant riches. But none of these opportunities would await Mr. Tata. His reputation would precede him thanks to television and videotape, but the attendant riches would go to the hotel, not to him personally. Maybe he did see himself as a perfectionist instead of someone who seemed to be governed by "in the absence of genuine leadership capabilities, bitch about the smallest details, to the detriment of the bigger picture."

I popped over to the show's website to find his web page had been removed, viewer comments had been taken away, references to him at other pages was gone, et cetera. I fear that the show, which I haven't been watching, will make no references to his death; he was in a lead role and the show finishes its run August 9. And that's a shame. Michael was a cartoonish character to work with and came off as such in the parts of the show that I've seen, but he was still human. To deny him his reality is to trivialize a man's life, a life that is just as much a part of "reality" as the show.

"One owes respect to the living; to the dead one owes only the truth." -Voltaire