Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday Scramble!

Thursday Scramble is when I post an entry from one of my blogs onto all the other blogs.  This one comes from Thinking The Lions. For just over a year, every week I would ask Sweetie to name a "Hunk of The Week," and then discuss that Hunk.  Hunk Number 57 has, for nearly two years, been the highest rated post on that blog.  Here it is:



He may have abs and cutoffs, but I have a new nickname for underwear... (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 57)

Each week, I sit down to do this with but one thought in mind: should this be the week that I write about a Hunk in entirely limerick form?

Then I answer that thought this way: "Mr Bunches, put your pants back on!"

The 57th Hunk of the Week is:
Robby Benson!

You Don't Know Him Without You Have... man, I don't know. For the past two weeks or so, we've had Beauty And The Beast more or less on continuous play; it's Mr Bunches' favorite movie right now, and that's probably why Sweetie had Robby Benson on the brain, but you can't really say you know him from a cartoon, especially a cartoon where he looked like this:

Which, come to think of it, kind of looks like Robby Benson, now:

And even a little bit like Robby Benson then:

But even if he kind of looks like the Beast, if the Beast were to play Michael Landon in a TV biopic, you can't really say you know Robby Benson from Beauty And The Beast. You might know him from Ice Castles,

But, first, who would admit they watched Ice Castles, besides Sweetie, who considers that one of the top movies of all time (ranking it right up there with Miss March and That One Movie Where They Use A Motorcycle In A Ballet), and

Second, why is that picture of Robby Benson in his underwear just about the only picture you find when you search for "Robby Benson Ice Castles?"

Is Ice Castles some sort of slang for underwear and nobody told me? Are "tighty-whities" now called Ice Castles?

Because they totally should be.

When I asked Sweetie where I might know Robby Benson from, other than those two movies, she said "Ode To Billy Joe," which I heard as Ode To Billy Joel, and I immediately thought "Billy Joel had a movie made about him? And nobody has ever made a movie about Piano Man? Or about Scenes From An Italian Restaurant? I mean, I know nothing about Billy Joel's actual life, other than that for a while there I thought he had married Princess Leia, only that was Paul Simon, but aren't either of those songs better source material for a movie than Billy Joel's actual life?"

Then I realized I misheard her and thought "Who's Billy Joe?"

Robby Benson was also in The Godfather Part II, which I never bothered to see. I saw Part III back when it first came out to theaters, and didn't like it or hate it. Then I finally saw The Godfather on DVD a couple years back, and it was bad. Aside from [SPOILER ALERT BUT UNLESS YOU'RE A FILM BUFF OR 75 YEARS OLD YOU WON'T WANT TO SEE THE MOVIE SO IT DOESN'T MATTER] the part where the guy gets shot at the toll booth, it really was slow-moving and boring. And I couldn't understand Marlon Brando at all. That's not acting; that's talking with your mouth full.

So we're back to you don't know about Robby Benson unless you're Sweetie.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: This is an actual fact Sweetie shared with me about Robby Benson yesterday:

His full name is Robin.

To which I said:

"That's kind of weird."

We then had this exchange:

Sweetie: "I know. I thought so."

Me: "It's kind of a girl's name."

Sweetie: "Yes, it is."

Me: "I know about Robin Williams, and Robin Hood, but still... Robin is a girl's name."

Sweetie: "I know."

So you can see that the romance has not left our marriage.

Also, Robby Benson has been married for 27 years and has two kids, Lyric and Zephyr. I thought for a second there that those were names of the muses, which I would then say was okay because Robby Benson is in the arts, but they're not. They're just words he liked.

Celebrities: Just name your kids regular names. People named "Zephyr" start out a couple steps behind the rest of us in achieving things in society, you know. People named Zephyr, and Kal-El, and other weird names.

Addition: Sweetie also reminded me, after she read this, that she'd mentioned that Robby Benson auditioned for the part of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. That would've made for an interesting kind of movie: Luke leaves Tatooine and heads off with Han to deliver Artoo to the Princess, only to get sidetracked by an ice-dancing competition three parsecs from the Kessel Spice Run, and then wins by batting his eyes a soulful manner.

Reason I Thought Sweetie Liked Him:

Because of this:

Which is a picture of Robby Benson taken back in the 1970s or something, when it was totally cool to take what were essentially child-porn pictures, like that one, or like this one:

Which is the picture that comes up when you Google Ice Castles, so what I assumed is this: Sweetie, having watched Beauty and the Beast 100 gazillion times since we bought it, got nostalgic for the time when she was the only person, ever, who watched Ice Castles, and googled it, got Robby Benson in his underwear, and fell in love all over again.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "When I was little I liked him, and Randolph Mantooth and Mark Spitz... I've always been a sucker for guys with dark hair and blue eyes. Plus, Robby Benson just has that innocence about him."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: I am notably lacking in the departments of (a) blue eyes, (b) dark hair, (c) hair, and (d) being named Mantooth.

But that latter one is actually a plus on my side. Also a plus? I've never worn anything like this:

On the minus side of my scoresheet are that I've also never worn this:

or this:

But I'm thinking of breaking out that outfit for our anniversary next month. Rrrwowr!

Click here to see all the Hunks of the Week, ever. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hey, remember how everyone was "horrified", etc. by how the Saints were targeting players? (Football)

... it certainly didn't take long to go from mock outrage over bounties in the NFL to making jokes about taking senior citizens out via unnecessary roughness:

Why do you suppose it was out of bounds (puns always intended) for Gilbert Gottfried to joke about Japan earthquake victims, but it's perfectly okay to write a comic strip in which the fragility of the elderly is mocked in a manner that casually alludes to attempts to cause brain damage in NFL players simply to win a game?

Yes, to cause brain damage: The Saints were reported (as were the Super Bowl Champion Giants) to have deliberately targeted players with a history of concussions.

Mind you, I'm not saying it's okay to make fun of earthquake victims.  But it's equally not okay to only pretend to care about what happens to athletes.  If you want to have a sport in which it's okay to attempt to kill someone from the neck up, that's your choice.  But let's not pretend that's not what's going on.  The fact that a cartoonist can, only one month after the story broke, make a joke about deliberately injuring opposing players and face zero outrage shows that nobody, really, cares what happens to NFL players (or other athletes, for that matter.)

And by "nobody" I mean including especially the NFL, which has yet to penalize even one single player who took part in the bounty scheme.  (But, to be fair, the NFL is promising to look into doing just that.)

If you want to see what society cares about, make a joke about it. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

And now here's something we hope you'll really like. (Baseball)

With 162 games in a season, and only about 81 of them counting, there's really no reason to watch most baseball games, let alone every baseball game, let alone every Milwaukee Brewers game.

(Although, having said that, Ryan Braun fans would be better off watching the Brewers' regular season games, as MLB's collective bargaining prohibits random drug testing during the regular season, so there is a greater chance of Braun-style heroic athletic achievements in the regular season, while in the offseason, as we know, there is, when it comes to Ryan Braun, a greater chance that alchemy will occur and will change the chemical structure of urine into something more... sinister.)

But one man wants to watch all 162 Brewers games, and the Milwaukee Brewers have helped him out by giving him tickets to all their away games and upgrading his season tickets to their home games, and even giving him a per diem for food.

Why would the Brewers do that, besides the obvious fact that paying fans to come to games is the wave of the future for baseball?  Because the man, Ben Rouse, is on a mission from God.

Or from himself.  Or something.  Ben Rouse was diagnosed with leukemia after cutting his leg at a Brewers' game years ago, and although with that leukemia in remission now, he feels the time is right to complete a longstanding goal of his, that goal being (did you already forget?) to watch all 162 Brewers games in a single season.  He figured it would cost about $11,000 and quit his job to take on the challenge, and Brewers management decided to help him out because Ben is doing this to help raise awareness for "The Match Registry."

Here is how Ben discovered he had leukemia, told as a true baseball lover would, by linking it to baseball games:

In February 2007 I attended the Brewers Arctic Tailgate, where fans camp out at Miller Park to purchase single game tickets. Opening week coincided with Spring Break during my sophomore year at UW-Madison, and I was planning on attending the first 6 games of the season, against the Dodgers and Cubs. Brewers on Deck took place on Sunday, April 1st, the day before the season began. I attended the event and spent some time chasing baseballs in the right field loge bleachers, which Prince was littering with home runs. I happened to bump my leg on one of the bleachers in the process, and acquired a small gash on my left inner thigh, just above the knee. I didn’t think anything of it and went about my business.

Opening day came and went (my first Opening Day), and the Brewers easily dispatched the Dodgers 7-1. Ben Sheets pitched a complete game 2-hitter, and retired 22 straight batters at one point; what a way to start a season.That night, after watching Florida beat Ohio State in the NCAA National Championship Game, I became ill. I wasn’t able to even keep water down. My fever swelled to 105.7 degrees, and I just thought it was some sort of nasty stomach virus. After talking with a nurse on Tuesday, I was going to try and attend the Brewers game that was scheduled for that night. I went to my scheduled haircut that day but wised up and didn’t go to the game, even though I desperately wanted to. I was afraid of throwing up at Miller Park and being ridiculed for being drunk, but I obviously had not been drinking.

That led to the discovery of his disease, and ongoing treatments while Ben looked for a bone marrow donor.  But with only 10,000,000 people on the list -- that sounds like a lot but there are more than 300,000,000 people in America -- there were no matches until he found someone on the cord blood registry.

So now Ben wants people to register for The Match Registry to help facilitate life-saving transplants of bone marrow.  And he is willing to sit through 162 baseball games to raise awareness, which is a sacrifice not many of us would make; have you seen a baseball game? They're really slow.

You can follow Ben's travels on his blog at Brewers Mission 162.  And you can get directions on how to join The Match Registry by clicking here.  I ordered my swab kit; you'll have to click that link to find out what that means.

BY THE WAY: So far as anyone knows, only one other fan has ever attended every game in a season, a guy named Steve Melia who did 167 games for the Yankees.  So if the Brewers can go 168 games -- barring any unfortunate completely random chemical occurrences that in no way reflect what anyone did or did not do to improve their performance -- Ben might break the record.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hot Tamales! And Other Things Sports Reporters Don't Like To Think About.

I'm not even going to pretend that I really knew or cared who Bobby Petrino was until this week.  Frankly, when I first read a story saying that Petrino had been in a motorcycle accident, I thought this exact thought:

Bobby Petrino? Isn't he a basketball coach? Or is that Rick Pitino?  They can't be the same person, right? Probably not, as they spell and pronounce their names differently.  Ha! I liked that episode of The Simpsons.  Too bad that show ended up being so boring all the time and constantly just doing parodies of movies in which Bart loosely substitutes for Leonardo DiCaprio's character in The Departed.  I wonder why that is, that animated shows so often just end up parodying movies and other shows.  You don't see the great TV shows, like Three's Company, just doing that.  Then again, I'm not sure whether maybe Three's Company didn't just parody big pop culture things from the 70s.  I was only, like, 8, when it was on TV, so what would I have known?

And with that, I'd moved on to other sports stories like how UW basketball coach Bo Ryan was getting support from a local sports columnist after Bo held up a redshirt freshman's transfer to another school for a couple of days, then pleaded ignorance, saying that he was unfamiliar with transfers and that's why it took him so long to let the kid go, that it wasn't petulance or anything like that.  Ryan told Mike & Mike, to ESPN radio broadcasters who feel like it's okay to electrocute puppies if you can give the Eagles a decent shot at the playoffs, that he wasn't as familiar with transfer rules as other coaches, so he called some other coaches who he didn't bother to name and nobody asked him, and asked what they would do, and then did it.

The first rule of journalism, as espoused primarily by Dan Savage, is that whenever a public figure says something about an anonymous group of people, you should immediately ask for names.  Dan Savage says that about politicians who claim they have gay friends that support their gay-bashing policies: ask them to name one, Savage says, and he's right.

So when Bo Ryan says "I talked to these college coaches and they said block this kid from going to another school in the conference" which MARQUETTE IS NOT IN THE BIG TEN, Bo, did the other coaches mention that? reporters should immediately say "Which coach(es) said that, exactly?" and then call for confirmation.

But that would require journalism, and athletes know how to respond to journalism -- if they don't like what you're saying about them, they won't speak to you and they may block you on Twitter, as J.P. Arencibia, who is apparently a terrible baseball player, does to reporters who mention that he is a terrible baseball player.

(When I read that, I went and followed Arencibia on Twitter, with the intention of getting blocked.  He hasn't blocked me yet.)

Without bothering to read any more of the articles than I had to, I can say that I (a) know Bo Ryan to only be kind of petulant, and not totally so, and (b) I don't believe for a moment that he was unsure how to handle a transfer or called other coaches.

I know Bo Ryan to be kind of petulant because I met him once, and asked him for an autograph on a basketball for my father-in-law, who is a big Badgers fan.  Bo looked at me incredulously, and said "You've got to be kidding me," at which point I realized that I was wearing my North Carolina shirt and the Tarheels had just kicked the Badgers out of the NCAA -- as in it had happened only about a week before.

Worse yet, although I didn't tell Bo this, was that I'd won the shirt in a bet on that game. (I took the Tarheels.)

But he signed the basketball, after giving me some grief about it, which seems symbolic to me now that I look at it.

Bo's been a coach for a long time.  He knows the rules for transfers like this college freshman asked for.  And if he didn't, he could surely have asked someone at the UW Athletic Department to give him a heads-up on what he was required or allowed to do.  Pleading ignorance and saying you turned to competitors for help strikes me as disingenuous, especially when Bo also makes a point of saying as much as possible that the freshman (who I am deliberately not naming because I don't want to help Kanye him to more fame than he deserves) didn't even bother to tell Bo that he wanted a transfer, not personally.

In other words: "You've got to be kidding me."

Despite that, a local sports columnist bravely leaped to the defense of his bread-and-butter, choosing not to really think much about who was right or who was wrong here and instead just blindly support athletic department of the local university because if he gets banned from covering that athletic department he's out of a job.  The columnist, Tom Oates, declared all controversy over the decision to be over, "just like that," because that's what journalists do, right? They don't cover controversies, they simply declare that there is no controversy any more.

All's well that ends well, more or less declares Oates, in his column, and decides that the story of whether the local basketball coach, who Oates must have access to or he will lose his job, acted arbitrarily or petulantly is not a story at all, not a controversy, because, Oates notes, it's over and so there's nothing to investigate.

Remember:  Bo Ryan at first blocked lots of schools for this freshman, then blocked only some schools, and offered varying explanations for why he did so.  That's not worth investigating, Oates decides, possibly because Oates knows that if he asks tough questions of Bo Ryan, he will eventually not have access to Bo Ryan and therefore will lose his cushy job reporting on Wisconsin athletics.

Such is the power that athletes sometimes wield over columnists and reporters, power that waxes and wanes.  Sterling Sharpe famously refused to talk to Wisconsin media -- and (possibly) as a result, Sterling is not really famous at all anymore.  Arencibia tried not to talk to sports reporters, and got ridiculed by one site for it, but not by every site.

Oates' actions or lack thereof in covering Bo Ryan are instructive in that sense, because, remember, there's some reason to think that Bo wasn't acting forthrightly -- so one would expect a reporter to investigate and report on whether the local coach acted vindictively towards a player who'd changed his mind and wanted to go elsewhere.

But Oates doesn't cover that, at all -- he declares the controversy over because in the end the Coach changed his mind, kind of.  "All's well that ends somewhat less arbitrarily than it started out," is Oates' message, an odd sort of conclusion for a reporter to make.

Imagine this:  Suppose you tell your wife "I'm thinking about having an affair with this hot girl at the office."

And suppose your wife reacts badly and says that would be a horrible idea, and others around you hear about it and say that they, too, think it would be a bad idea.

And suppose you then get defensive and say "Look, I'm not going to have an affair with her at all, I'll just sort of ogle her from afar and imagine what it would be like to make out with her, and anyway, a bunch of guys at the office back me on the original plan."

But, in the end, you more or less didn't have the affair, right?  CONTROVERSY OVER, as Tom Oates would say.

But Oates would go one step further and distract you from the controversy and also attack you a bit, as Oates did in his column defending Bo Ryan's ill-explained actions.

Oates begins with a suggestion that Ryan would have been justified, and the media criticism from everyone but Oates (who basically is on Ryan's payroll, when you think about it) is unjustified, because college players make commitments, you know?

Meanwhile, the holier-than-thou national media are patting themselves on the back for saving Uthoff from the evil Bo Ryan and for helping to free college athletes from the perils of having to honor a commitment.

YEAH! This guy committed to playing for UW! And UW therefore cannot possibly cancel his scholarships during his athletic career, and must play him a certain amount of time per game, and certainly Bo Ryan could not retire or leave the UW while this guy is there because DIVISION ONE SCHOOLS HONOR THEIR COMMITMENTS (in Tom Oates' mind).  So because no D-1 coach or school ever in any way backed away from any commitments they'd made to an athlete, no athlete can ever rethink his end of the deal.

Nobody knows, by the way, what promises Ryan made to the freshman to get him to come here and whether they looked to be fulfilled after his redshirt year.  Oates didn't ask.

Anyhow, that's not important because what's important is that Tom Oates doesn't need to ask Bo Ryan what's going on in his mind because Tom Oates is a telepath:

Most coaches block players from transferring within the conference (the Big East even has a rule preventing it). Others, including Michigan’s John Beilein, prevent them from going to schools that are on future schedules. Some also prevent players from going to schools they think may be guilty of tampering. All three of those appeared to factor into Ryan’s thinking on Uthoff.

So. Um.  You didn't ask him what was on his mind? NO NEED TO! Tom Oates has this one covered.  He knows what Bo Ryan was thinking without even having to be told it.

But maybe Tom Oates didn't have to ask those questions, either, because there were bigger questions to ask, and answer, without asking anyone, questions like "Will this hurt the University?" (Oates says no) and "Could this have been worse?" (Oates isn't sure!)  What IS certain is that this was really just a simple twist of fate:

What if Uthoff’s letter of appeal hadn’t sat unopened in the mailbox of associate athletic director Justin Doherty for days? That led Uthoff to go public to say he was left in the dark on his case.

What if Ryan hadn’t added the entire ACC to the list of schools Uthoff couldn’t talk to, a move that was seen as piling on? What if Ryan hadn’t gone on national radio and added fuel to the fire by giving what were widely viewed as evasive answers?

All those actions escalated the story to where it was the national topic of the day Thursday. Overnight, Ryan and UW had become the unsuspecting faces of a much larger issue — freedom of movement for athletes. The tidal wave of ridicule on the airwaves and the Internet unfairly cast Ryan as a villain.

In journalism, there are five Ws -- the who what where when and why.  Oates' column is short on why, so maybe Oates never attended that day in Journalism School.  Why did the letter sit? Why did Bo add on the ACC schools?  Why did everyone in the universe except Bo Ryan and his best-bud-Vulcan-Mind-Melded Reporter Sidekick Tom Oates think this was such a big deal?

Oates, in the end, declares that the "shame of it is" that Ryan's program has been exemplary -- in that he wins and hasn't been totally vindictive to other players.  But this looks bad for UW, which is bad for UW, Oates says, sympathizing with his shadow bosses and the unfair predicament they find themselves in, where they have to ANSWER to MEDIA for decisions they have made that look caprcious.

But the shame of it is that a local reporter can't bring himself to question the local authorities -- the UW Athletic Department is as big an authority in Madison as there is -- about a decision they made that seems to have been made for arbitrary reasons at best, and the bigger shame of it is that a local paper then allows a de facto UW Employee to write an op-ed piece defending the decision on the basis of assumptions and sleights of hand: don't look there look here I bet Bo Ryan thought this.

THAT is sports reporting these days, almost always at the local level and largely at the national level: Reporters and columnists must increasingly toe the company line, the "company" being the athletes and the leagues that employ them.  Reporters are not free to criticize the athletes and coaches they cover 99% of the time, and only when someone does something that's so far out of bounds that everyone in society says that's wrong do we get reporting that acknowledges the negative aspects of human behavior -- and even then, we're in for shocking reversals like when Mike & Mike on ESPN urged people to look past Michael Vick's dog-slaughtering because Vick was really good on the field.
How much, I wonder, of Mike & Mike's sudden decision to let Vick's past go was brought on by their really deciding Vick needed a fresh start, and how much was brought on by ESPN saying "Vick is a big deal and you're not going to insult him because we want him on our shows"? 

If Tom Oates was an internet blogger who'd once had Bo Ryan mock him for wearing a North Carolina shirt, would he feel more free to question whether Ryan's explanations hold water?  Would he maybe have investigated whether a major university's athletic department had decided to attempt to destroy a young man's athletic future simply because he didn't want to play for them?  
We don't know if that's what Ryan was thinking -- and we might never know, because nobody seems much interested in finding out why.  And the vast majority of Badger fans, who get their information from local sources that are less independent from the UW than Pravda was from the Politburo, won't even get that. 

Which is why I didn't know much about who, or what, Bobby Petrino was: I don't read much in the way of sports reporting, because what's the point?  I read the news to get more information about what's going on around me; I don't care if my coverage has a bias so long as the coverage provides me information and allows me to learn things.   Most of sports "reporting" has jumped that shark, and did so long ago:  it provides little to no analysis or news, instead falling into one of two categories, mocking the way Deadspin does or sucking up to athletes the way ESPN does.  

There is very little in the way of actual sports reporting going on, and so little way for me to be informed about the world of sports.  There are a few sites or reporters that I think get it right -- Grantland does a good job of being fun and informative, and Deadspin, despite the overload of sarcasm, at least investigates things sometimes.

But beyond that, there's not a lot of reason to read sports "reporting" of the sort that Oates, and pretty much every other sports reporter, at least until they prove that they want to be more than public relations hacks for whoever it is they're covering now.

Or, to put it another way and make the whole article come around: The deepest investigative reporting I've seen in sports in the past year or so has been the discovery, by sports "reporters," that Bobby Petrino lured his mistresses in by using "Hot Tamales" candy.  And they only discovered that  because Petrino got into a crash and they finally felt like they could start raking him over the coals.  It seems impossible to me that nobody in the world of sports, especially the local reporters, would have known about Petrino's affairs and malfeasance... but it only got reported once Petrino got in an accident and got fired, and therefore became fair game for negative reporting.

So the world acts shocked that a college coach could have used candy to lure a young woman into a job where he could pay her for sex and nobody knew, but the far more shocking story is that lots of people knew and nobody reported it because sports reporters work for the athletes and coaches.  

This can be shrugged off, because sports reporting isn't the most important thing in the world... until it is.  While it may not matter in the long run whether Arksansas beats Alabama or whether a freshman from Wisconsin transfers to Creighton, what does matter is that these are huge institutions through which hundreds of young men and women pass on their way to professional careers, and through which billions of dollars annually flow.  These institutions wield power, sometimes in indirect ways and sometimes in direct ways.

And we trust the reporting on all that money and power and influence to a bunch of hacky fat guys in polo shirts who are too afraid of their real bosses to even ask them questions about what they were thinking when they decided to punish a freshman for wanting to transfer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

St. Peyton gets a buddy. (Updates on God.)

You may think I am a bit rabid in my ever-increasing dislike of Saint Peyton Manning, patron to all who believe that you can never make enough money, but I am nothing compared to an actual Man of God (or should that be in quotes?) such as Pat Robertson, who believes that God is going to, or at least ought to, injure Saint Peyton as retribution for costing Tim Tebow his starting job. Said Robertson, on the 700 Club recently:

"OK, so Peyton Manning was a tremendous MVP quarterback, but he's been injured. If that injury comes back, Denver will find itself without a quarterback. And in my opinion, it would serve them right."

So that's not quite the story that Yahoo! headlined as follows:

Pat Robertson believes Peyton Manning should get hurt this year.

But close enough, right? Saying an injured player may be injured again is the same thing as wishing that player ill, and who really pays attention to what religious guys say, anyway?  Stuff Jesus said once ended up in a landfill, after all.*

While Pat Robertson, and possibly God, were upset that Tebow was sent packing, one guy really is grateful that St. Peyton landed in Denver: Brandon Stokley.

Stokley, who had one catch last year in two games played before sitting out the year with an injury, signed a one-year contract with the Broncos, a contract that Deadspin suggested was a "thank-you" either to Stokley for luring St. Peyton to Denver or to St. Peyton for agreeing to play for $18,000,000 per year and thereby proving that he is a selfless hero to the common man.  Either way, the Broncos have committed even more salary cap money and mortgaged their future as they attempt to buy a quick Super Bowl title by renting a past hero from another team, the way Minnesota would have finally been able to do had the Saints not been authorized by the NFL to take head shots at pros for just one more year because the NFL desperately wanted to keep a team in New Orleans and manipulating the draft to get Reggie Bush there hadn't worked.

There was a lot of information and innuendo in that sentence. Take a moment to soak it up, then go back to pondering this:

Which will happen first, Tim Tebow starts a game for the New York Jets or St. Peyton misses a game for the Broncos?  I'm going to say both happen simultaneously.  In Week 7. 

Also: I'm not so sure the Broncos are the Super Bowl caliber team they seem to think they are.  When Favre signed with the Vikings, the Vikings had gone 10-6 the year before and snuck into the playoffs with Tarvaris Jackson as their quarterback.  But they did that in a division full of relatively tough teams and in an NFC that was pretty tough, too -- 12 teams had 8 wins or more that year.

The Broncos last year went 8-8 in a weak division and only 10 of the 16 teams posted 8 wins or better.  Then they barely beat an aging, wheezing Steelers team before being soundly defeated by the only good AFC team last year.  There's no reason to think that the 2012-13 Broncos will be the 2010 Vikings, but that is obviously what Elway & Fox are assuming. 

*True story: Excavating an ancient landfill, archaeologists found not only sayings that were attributed to Jesus, but also ancient porn.  So they had televangelists back then, too!

Can't decide what to wear? I've got a suggestion. (Thursday Scramble)

On Thursday Scramble, I take something from one of my blogs and repost it to all of them.  This appeared first on The Best Of Everything, a blog about pop culture and stuff I think about that stuff.  
There's an old saying that there are only a few basic storylines which form the essence of every novel, movie, short story, or other literary work.

(Those storylines are: (1) Someone comes to town,  (2) someone leaves town, and (3) It's really hard to be the assistant manager of an aquarium.)

I've commented before that if you're going to boil everything down that far, then we only have, say, three different meals, too -- because at its heart, a taco, a steak, and a hamburger all contain some of the same basic ingredients. (And, of course, if you take it down further then everything is composed of pretty much the same elements, which means that if you push the "few basic storylines" to its logical extreme, everything in the universe is identical, and we are all in fact made of stars.

Even Todd Bridges.

But today, I'm not talking about writing.  I'm talking about art.  Or, as is more apropos for this feature, Art?  And, even more apropos of this blog, the kind of Art? that begins with pictures of a naked woman painted to look like Van Gogh's Starry Night:

That is someone named "Jennifer Nicole Lee," and she is posing "topless in body paint" (I use the quotes because that way you know I am being a serious person and not just doing numerous google searches for women in body paint for no good reason) for PETA.

The connection between PETA, and treating animals ethically, and topless-models-wearing-classic-paintings might have escaped you.  I missed it, too, which is why I had to spend hour after hour looking at that picture and at this one:

To try to figure it out, but I still wasn't able to.  Was Van Gogh noted for his ethical treatment of animals? I wondered.  Is PETA saying that remembering not to be cruel to animals is akin to a troubled night in which the entire world seems to be in motion?  I asked myself.  Could there be any way that I could convince Sweetie to do this to herself?  I questioned.  (No, was the answer to that last one. No, with a side of no.)

I had nothing but questions -- including "Who is Jennifer Nicole Lee?" which, let's face it, was the least important question.

So I began at PETA's site, trying to figure out what this Jennifer Nicole Lee person, Vincent Van Gogh, and body painting had in common with not being mean to bunnies and other cute animals (because I have never heard PETA standing up for the rights, of, say, jellyfish)

(Has PETA stood up for the rights of jellyfish?  A google search suggests no.  I know PETA fights animal testing and fur and something about vegetables, too, but I believe that PETA's record on the rights of jellyfish, hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, and okra, which may not be an animal but which is disgusting, is pretty slim; so PETA actually should be "People For the Ethical Treatment Of Animals We All Agree Are Not Gross.)

Anyway, PETA(WAAANG)'s site had no mentions that I could find of Jennifer Nicole Lee or her bodypaint, which was supposed to be part of a PETA(WAAANG) ad campaign.  So I searched, instead, for "PETA Starry Night Ad Campaign" and found nothing.

Which kind of put me in a bind because I really felt it very important to get all the facts involved with this almost-Jennifer-Lopez-y looking woman with a Van Gogh painting barely covering her naked body, if only to justify this all to Sweetie, who is getting kind of suspicious of my Google history.

I ended up at Jennifer Nicole Lee's website itself, where I found out she is a fitness expert, who wants you to live "your best life," and that didn't mention PETA(WAAANG) at all, either.

So a lot of sites say that this Jennifer Nicole Lee person did a topless/body paint/Starry Night photo shoot for PETA, but none of those sites has a source for this information and PETA(WAAANG)'s site didn't mention it and Jennifer Nicole Lee's site didn't mention it, so I was left with but one conclusion:

I'd better look to see if anyone is painting naked ladies out there.

And if you don't see how b follows from a, there, well, I feel sorry for you.

The first person my brave/definitely not something to get mad at me about, Sweetie, because it's for research purposes only search led me to was a guy named Danny Setiawan, who has one of those kinds of names that always makes me think it's an anagram.  Remember in Lost when Tom Cruise's little brother playing one of the Others arrived at the site of the crash survivors and said his name was "Ethan Rom?" Remember how silly it seemed that anyone would believe that someone was named "Ethan Rom?"  I remember that.  I also remember thinking "Ethan Rom sounds like an anagram" and despite hating anagrams I am always drawn to them like a moth to flame, almost literally except that there is very little chance that an anagram will end up burning me alive.

Still, you never can tell.

Ethan Rom, by the way, I decided was an anagram for "More Than," which I used early on to convince myself that The Others were some sort of supernatural people and that the island was purgatory.  Only later did I realize that was way off and that the island was supposedly real and that Ethan Rom probably stood for Other Man, making it still an anagram but a lot more silly.

"Still this one thing but sillier than you thought," by the way, turns out to be the driving idea behind every single J.J. Abrams movie or TV show ever, which makes me both hope for and dread seeing The Cabin In The Woods.

I am free, by the way, to talk to you about Lost because not only did I finally finish watching it, two years after it stopped airing, but also because Nathan Fillion has decreed, in his B-list-celebrity-ishness, that after 1 year you cannot spoil something anymore.   As quoted on Gawker in their weekly roundup of stupid things celebrities say because they want you to think they are clever (they usually are not):

See what I mean?  I kind of like Nathan Fillion, although I won't watch Castle because how many unsolved crimes are there, people? Not that many.  But then Nathan Fillion goes and posts that on Twitter, and I now have to have a grudge against him for several valid reasons:

(1) It still can be a spoiler, Nathan: I started watching Lost on DVD at the same time as my wife gave birth to twin boys who are now 5 years old.  Which meant that for the past 5 years my total free time per week has been about 7 minutes.  (Somebody has to buy them a bow and arrow at the Dollar Store and teach them how to use it, after all, and that somebody by God is going to be me.  I will not have a nanny teach my boys how to hunt imaginary Dollar Store game.)

(2) You said "you be behind da times." What's that about? You know who sounds funny talking in a fake vernacular? Nobody.  -10 points for you on the imaginary point system I invented the other day to be even better at secretly judging people.

(3) Also, I DVRd every episode of Firefly because I thought you were a cool actor and was going to watch them in order but now I find out that you might just tell me what happens because it's more than a year old, and you won't even feel guilty about it? Screw you, Nathan Fillion. Maybe I'll just watch The Big Bang Theory.

So where was I? Oh, yeah: Danny Setiawan and his anagrammatic name and his pictures of naked women.

According to his bio,

Danny Setiawan started creating art as early as he was able to make a mark. It was his way of understanding the world around and inside of him. 

Born and raised in Indonesia, a strategic country that absorbS influences both from the Eastern and Western societies. Danny absorbed a wealth of visual vocabulary that ranges from Indonesian traditional aesthetics such as Batik and Wayang, Japanese anime/manga, to American and European visual styles that were dominant in fashion and entertainment. 

Right before the monetary crisis that happened in 1998 hit South East Asia, Danny was given the opportunity to come to the United States for higher education. The hardshipS that he experienced under the harsh financial condition shaped the way Danny sees the world. The image of a lone struggle contrasted with hope becomes a theme of Danny's art even today.
That lonely struggle was, for a time, expressed by having naked women pose for him as he painted them into classic paintings, like

Moulin Rouge After Toulouse-Lautrec


Dance After Mucha

He also did a Starry Night:

 So that seems a popular choice.

All art has a message, right? That message, when I do art, is "Man, this guy cannot do art." But other artists may have a different message.  Although Setiawan is available for private parties assuming that you go to the kind of parties where people get naked and get painted, those being the kinds of parties I imagine that I would have wanted to go to at some point in my life only really I didn't, because I'm not a partying kind of guy and I certainly don't want to get naked in front of other people, whether or not I'm going to end up painted as "Naked Guy With Dogs Playing Poker," Setiawan's real message in painting naked women is "Make art relevant to the people again," as he told Brooklyn Exposed:

As a medium, painting is dead, because people look at it, but the masses are not really engaged. A lot of people consider the high art thing are people who are really into art history, go to galleries, or art museums—but I’m not that. So the relevance thing is this: I want to bring it back to the people. 

He also revealed in that interview that  he got started in the body painting business when he was in LA and a bunch of women asked him to paint their bodies, so everything you ever imagined about artists, and LA, is absolutely true and that's why you shouldn't study engineering no matter what the amount of your student loan debt is.

Danny Setiawan isn't the only artist trying to make you pay attention to stuff by putting naked women underneath it; I also found an artist named Alexa Meade, who gets around what I assume is the awkwardness of painting on a naked person standing in front of you by mostly painting herself to look like an oil painting. All of these:

are actually real people who were painted to look like paintings; the lower right corner is the artist herself.

Her website says:

Alexa Meade is a 25-year-old artist whose work lies at the intersection of painting, photography, performance, and installation.

Rather than creating representational paintings on a flat canvas, Alexa Meade creates her representational paintings directly on top of the physical subjects that she is referencing. When photographed, the representational painting and the subject being referenced appear to be one and the same as the 3D space of her painted scenes becomes optically compressed into a 2D plane. 

True story: I once got into a three-way car accident at the intersection of painting, photography, performance, and installation.  The other driver? James Franco.  Since then, they've installed a Stoplight Of Artistic Critique and a Crossing Guard of Bourgeoisie Indifference to slow things down a bit.

 While there's a lot more of what seems like art to me in what Alexa Meade does -- the more you work something, the more artistic it is, right? That's how art works?-- there's certainly a lot less "visibly naked women," so it's hard for me to judge how art her stuff really is.  What she does (in her own words, again) is:

In my current work, I construct and then photograph ephemeral installation sets that feature an assemblage of found objects and live models, which I have covered in layers of acrylic paint. I paint the surfaces of the human subjects, the material objects, and the architecture of the installations so as to collapse the subject, foreground, and background into one continuous plane. I present my ephemeral portrait/performances as both live, interactive installations as well as permanent photographic indices of these experiences.

That leads to art like this:

 which really is quite amazing.

And we finish with "Swiss Artist Dave",  who created this:

Says Swiss Artist Dave,

"There is no such thing as a flat surface."

Give it some thought and you will realise that this somewhat unusual statement is nothing but a simple truth – everything that we usually consider to be flat turns out to be a three-dimensional relief when sufficiently magnified. A flat surface is an illusion, a mere misapprehension – one that illustrates perfectly the fact that the world around us is often completely different than we imagine.
 And that thought is best translated to the masses by having a Group of Obama walk around a hill while a guy throws fire at them. 

The verdict:  ART.  This trend has all the essential ingredients of art: Naked people, and... and...  where was I? I got distracted there.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

You had me at "less work."

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Scotts® for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I have never, to be honest, understood the appeal of a lawn.  When I was a kid, we had a big, nice lawn, and all our neighbors did, and everyone including us kids spent hours, if not DAYS, working on that lawn.

So when I finally bought my OWN house, I thought “I’m not going to have a big lawn,” and then I thought “and I’m not going to spend hours or days working on my lawn.”

MISSION: Accomplished. Our lawn is a reasonable-sized, small lawn with lots of trees in it, cutting down on the amount of work, and thus far, in the 10 years we’ve owned our house, I haven’t spent that much time working on the lawn.

Nirvana! Or you’d think, because our lawn looks terrible. It’s the second-worst lawn in the neighborhood, and over the past year or so I’ve had to start spending more and more time working on it just to keep from being the absolute worst.

Now this year I was thinking I’m going to have to spend even MORE time working on it, until I found out about the Scotts® Snap® Spreader System.

The Snap Spreader System is an apparatus and set of fertilizers and such from Scott that lets me treat my lawn with the proper additives easily, with no mess or improper amounts.  Weeds? I have ‘em, don’t want ‘em, and the Spreader System will let me walk weedkiller around my yard easily.  Fertilizer? I need it – our soil is 98% sand, 2% “secret government plant-killing experimental dust.” The Spreader system lets me snap in the fertilizer and feed the grass and plants easily – popping in a bag, rolling it around, and being done. Or, like Scott says, “just Snap, Lock and Go!  To get a great lawn in a ---- Snap®!”

That’s good enough for me – but Scott makes it even sweeter to try out the Spreader System by giving away prizes in their Scotts® Snap perks on Facebook.  Just hit "like" on Scotts ® Facebook page for the chance to win some great prizes and make your spring a little better.

Less work, better yard, AND prizes? I’m sold.


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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

God favors cleavage, is the moral of THIS story.

I was going to do an "Update On God" and mention how Tim Tebow had addressed a crowd of 30,000 on Easter Sunday (the "Super Bowl of Christianity," as some people who obviously misunderstand either Christianity, or Super Bowls, or both) said, and probably make a joke about how Tebow was still falling a little short of the mark; when Jesus addressed an unexpectedly large crowd, he managed to feed them, too.

Either Peyton Manning or Mark Sanchez is Jesus in that analogy.  Your choice.

But bigger things than Jesus (?) are afoot, in that the European Chess League has taken a strong stand against anyone ever paying attention to chess again by banning cleavage.

Well, that's the headline on the story, anyway.  The details, unlike cleavage, are not nearly as sexy.  According to the New York Times,  the ban is instituted because the Tournament in question, the European Individual Women's Championship (which was apparently played March 1 through the 14th, and was thus 2/3 over when the Times got hold of this story), was being played in Turkey, resulting in this code:

Players who wear dress shirts can only leave the top and second buttons undone. Headgear, except for religious reasons, is not allowed. Players must be “free of body odor.” Clothing should be free of holes and have “a pulled-together, harmonious, complete look.” And only jewelry “coordinated to the outfit may be worn.” 

The Times duly noted that dress code flaps go back, as all things in chess do, to Bobby Fisher, who embarrassed the United States by wearing flannel shirts, corduroy pants, and sneakers when he won the championship at age 14.

I think, though, the coverage as usual overlooked some other equally-compelling parts of this story, namely there was no ban on how short skirts could be.  From's interview with the head rule-maker:

What do you think, is it acceptable to wear short skirts or open décolletés in the playing hall?
Décolletés are partly covered in our regulations, which state that in respect to shirts the second from the top button may also be opened, in addition to the very top button. But, nothing is written in our rules about the length of skirts or dresses. There are several special rules in some companies which put restrictions on the length of skirts and dresses – no shorter than 5-10 cm above the knees for example. I can see that there are many players here who wear very short skirts. It's nice to see chess players with short skirts – they are very pretty girls. But I believe there should still be some limit.

That answer was given by the General Secretary of the ECU,  Sava Stoisavljevic,  not pictured below:

And she's right: It is nice to see chess players with short skirts:

Although actually that girl in the brown looks a little young and I feel creepy now. 

Let's make me feel better by making someone else feel worse.  Remember how I said Tebow talked to a crowd of 30,000?  Turns out maybe it wasn't that many: Cardinal Timothy Dolan said it was 25,000, but NY Daily News said it was more like 15,000. However many people Tebow spoke to (let's agree to say it was about 17), he chose to take the moment to praise players like Albert Pujols for "put[ting] Christ first."

Albert Pujols, remember, had his wife call out God for punishing Albert and Mrs. Albert by having Albert make only double his 2011 salary, which I think we can all agree was very unfair of God to do, since everybody else in the entire world got more than a 200% raise in 2011 and also everybody else in the world makes more than $11,000,000 per year to play a game the way Albert Pujols -- who puts Christ first, according to Tebow -- does.  So Albert had every reason to be mad at God and Tebow had every reason to celebrate Albert's now-legendary devotion to Jesus.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

This seems mean, and yet also a little hot... (Quotent Quotables)

"I just like seeing cheerleaders cry."

-- Comedian Roy Wood, Jr., talking on The Bob & Tom Show about why, when watching the NCAA Tournament, he doesn't root for teams, but against them.

Hey, it's better than watching NASCAR just for the crashes. You know that's why you do it.



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