Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Local blogger thanks guy in Pittsburgh for boosting hit count

MURRAY, UT—A local blogger went out of his way Wednesday to thank some fellow in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for boosting his monthly user statistics on

“I don’t know who this guy is,” said Josh from behind his desk at the USU Salt Lake Center, “but the guy spent like an hour and a half looking at my stuff, and that’s really going to boost my average visit length numbers for December.”

For the past eight months, Josh has been regularly updating The Wounded Mosquito, a free blog he started through Over that period, his own routine checks have represented about half of his total visits.

“I’d estimate that I’ve got a regular readership of about four people,” Josh says. “I know my friend Brad reads regularly, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got some family in Oregon that’s reading this thing every once in a while. That’s about all I can gather from my site stats.”

Thanks to a recent enlistment on, Josh has been able to track certain traits of his visitors, such as where they are reading from and how long they are spending on his site.

“The site meter thing works pretty well,” Josh says, “but it’s not always accurate. Sometimes it will only register one hit for zero seconds, even when I know they’ve looked at more than that. I know because the reader was me.”

Ever since graduating from Utah State University in 2004, Josh has struggled to build the consistent readership he had as a columnist for USU’s Utah Statesman.

“I kept updating my own personal site,, but I don’t think anyone was reading it anymore,” Josh laments. “I guess I’m just not all that good at the marketing end of things.”

Which is all the more reason Josh is overjoyed at the efforts of the unnamed visitor from Pittsburgh.

“Yeah, this guy was on Google looking for stuff about Elder Anthony Perkins, the General Authority. Not the ‘Psycho’ guy,” he says. “Anyway, the Google search led him to my site, cause last week I posted the priesthood lesson I gave on his General Conference talk. So he reads my site for a half hour, then links over to my Planet Venison site and reads a bunch of that, too.”

“The article he read was one of my better ones,” Josh continued, “you should check it out.”

The extended reading session is expected to boost the average visit time on by about three seconds per visit. It is not expected to impact the daily visit average, which remains in the 4-5 range.

Josh’s membership on has helped to satisfy a longstanding curiosity he’s had regarding his readership, even though there are limitations on the data.

“Funny thing is,” Josh says, “I keep calling this person in Pittsburgh a guy, even though it really could be a girl. I doubt it, though…the sitemeter listing said the visitor had connected through a Hilton Hotel network, which means it was probably just one of my four regulars on a business trip.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Anatomy of a power lunch...

For many of us working stiffs, the lunch break is one of our only sources of peaceful refuge, where we might escape the rigorous toil of our day-to-day jobs. Or, in my case, the irresponsible net surfing of our day-to-day jobs. How you spend that break is critical to your spiritual well-being, for a lousy lunch can put baby in a poo-poo mood all day if he’s not careful. I often opt for the power lunch, myself.

Now, since I’m not really “in business”, I don’t follow the rules of the typical “Power Lunch”, where a bunch of high rollers gather to discuss big market deals. I go for more of a lower-case “power lunch”, where two friends get together to talk about why everyone else in the world is stupid and how they are vastly underpaid to deal with them.

Here are some critical items to consider for your next power lunch:

Location - Choosing a location for your power lunch is the most critical element of the entire exercise. I don’t care if you cover the check, wear a three-piece suit, and discuss the insightful subtext of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” in the company of the girl of your dreams, if you do it at Beto’s you’ve blown your hour. Similarly, you could show up naked at Red Iguana at noon and talk about bullion cubes with your ex-wife and still have a spectacular experience. At least until the cops come.

Recommendations: Fortunately, picking a good location in Salt Lake is easy. There are many to choose from. You could go for the Chile Verde at the aforementioned Red Iguana, the calzones at Gepetto’s, or the best gyro’s in the state at one of three valley Greek Souvlaki locations. The best option of all might be the lunch special at the Thai Siam at 14th and State. For seven bucks, you get your choice of two different entrée items, each one generous enough to cover a meal on its own. Just be careful about asking out your waitress, ‘cause if you actually do take her out, it becomes very awkward to bring another date to eat there later.

Wardrobe - The vast majority of my power lunches are with guys with straight jobs, so they always have to come in business casual, often with ties. I go out of my way to dress as casually as possible, to reinforce the fact that while they may be making considerably more money than I do, I can at least dress like a slob at work. Viva the ivory tower. The exception is my buddy Ben, who manages to work in the law field in a half-buttoned shirt and corduroys. Truly the best of both worlds.

Recommendation: Hot lunch spots will be filled with urban professionals in khakis and business suits. A floor-length white fur coat and a purple three-piece suit will make a statement they will remember.

Timing - I have many friends and colleagues that favor an early start time in these cases, often around 11:30ish. While I understand the desire to avoid the lunch rush, it makes more sense to me to wait until after said rush, say about one to two in the afternoon. The rationale is that the more work you get out of the way before lunch, the less you have to deal with when you get back.

Recommendation: Go around 1:30pm, and if your friend gives you grief about it, tell them you’ll buy them a souvenir shot glass and to stop griping.

Guest - Here we have everything from the old friend you haven’t seen in five years to the blind date you aren’t sure you can hack a whole evening with. Either way, picking the right location will ensure a good time. Most often I use the power lunch to stay in touch with my elaborate network of kindred spirits, but sometimes I’ll actually use the meeting for business or more intimate personal purposes, inasmuch as a blind date can be considered an intimate personal purpose. When you consider the fact that you will likely be hugging the person you are on the blind date with, in my book that is more intimate than the old buddy you give the handshake/half-hug/back slap thing to, even if the latter is more meaningful in the long run.

Recommendation: If he’s available, I’d call Don King.

To Drink or Not to Drink? - I’m not referring to alcohol, here. What I’m getting at is do you or do you not order anything besides water at a meal. If someone else is picking up the tab, probably not. If I’m paying, probably not. So when do you? When you’re at a place like Iggy’s, that has great custom lemonades that are almost worth the three bucks. Or when you just don’t give a rat’s, so you blow $2.50 on a Sprite.

Recommendation: Go with the water. You may contract any variety of microscopic illnesses, but at least you won’t have to endure the additional shame of having paid for them.

Conversation Topics - 99 times out of 100, conversation topics will be based in either the “catching-up” field (how is work, have you been on a date in the last six months, was the operation successful) or the “Seinfeldian” field of “topics that bear no relevance to our daily lives” (will Jack Black be dead within five years, a la Belushi and Farley). On the odd occasion I have a more business/progressive intent to the lunch, I may try to engage the friend into some sort of formal commitment, such as “if I e-mail this 214-page manuscript to you, will you read it?” or “if I show up at your office on Monday, will you pay me?” but these types of power lunches are few and far between.

Recommendation: Any topic that will attract the uncomfortable attention of neighboring tables is always a score. “Really, Bob? How long do you think you can get away with keeping that Amway salesman in your basement?”

Bill Coverage - My experience thus far has fallen into four categories:

1. Split the check. This one covers the lion’s share of get-togethers, and also creates the biggest hassles for our servers.
2. Trade-off. This is the mutual good faith gesture, where one friend takes the load off the other’s back for every other lunch. In some ways, it is used to prioritize an effort between the two friends to try to get together frequently.
3. I’m on a date, so I gotta pay. Self-explanatory.
4. Josh is really poor, so his friend picks up the tab every time and refuses his offer to chip in. Self-explanatory.

Recommendation: Go to the bathroom as soon as your server delivers the check. Stay for thirty minutes. If your guest gets annoyed, they will suppress their anger, assuming that “it must have been the food”.

Careful attention to the above categories can result in a pleasant experience for all involved. Careful attention to other inconsequential categories, like shoelace color and obsessive menu manipulation can result in confusion and/or revulsion for all involved. The important thing is that we show love and compassion for our fellow man, be it through unbridled zeal or those subtle gestures like a kind word or a touch to the elbow. And always tip at least 15%.

We salute you, Al...

I don't know...after hearing all this in the news about Allen Iverson's trade demands, I decided to look up the old "practice" clip from a couple of years ago. If you don't know what I'm talking about, enjoy it here.

Hugs and kisses, AI.

And while we're at it...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Would someone pay me to do this?

I wasn't planning on sticking this on the blog, but then last night I had a dream that I was talking to three birds in my friend Brandon's garage in Kaysville, and one of them kept taunting me by calling me by my last name in the same voice the blue and pink unicorns use to mock Charlie in the above video. Thus it belongs.

Monday, December 04, 2006


(The following is adapted from a recent lesson I gave on a chosen General Conference address...)

Pop quiz time: Which current General Authority has the same name as the actor who portrayed butcher-knife wielding Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic “Psycho”?

The answer? Elder Anthony Perkins of the Seventy.

Elder Perkins gave a talk in the most recent General Conference entitled, “The Great and Wonderful Love”. His talk dealt with the myths Satan uses to distort our understanding of who we are and what we are capable of. At the end of his remarks, Elder Perkins made a comment that applies directly to people in our stage of life:

“You will experience greater joy in life as you eradicate adult-onset pessimism and substitute childlike optimism.”

So what is “Adult Onset Pessimism?” Let us first identify the problem…

Adult Onset Pessimism (AOP) can be brought on by a number of life factors. Some of the issues that induce AOP include School, Work, Dating, Taxes, Kobe Bryant, people who drive too slow in the fast lane, and PC to Mac compatibility. Here are some common symptoms of Adult Onset Pessimism (AOP):

1- Slouching posture

2- Excessive drooling

3- Declining grooming standards—only washes “visible parts”

4- Stops wearing pants

5- Refers to self in third person, as in “Ricky don’t feel good tonight.”

6- Fails to move for long stretches of time in public situations

7- Only buys gas $5 at a time because “they’re gonna nuke us soon, anyway”.

8- Regularly explains low grade point average by pointing out that “grade assignment is a tool of modern class warfare whereby the Bourgeoisie continues to suppress the Urban Proletariat. And Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard”.

9- May or may not be breathing

10- Constantly makes negative comments, like “she’s out of my league”, “I could never do that”, or “watch me lie down in front of this bus”

So why do these issues make us feel pessimistic? What is the deeper fear/problem? Some might suggest that discouragement, fear of failure, despair because of past failure, unfulfilled expectations, and a lack of faith might be possible causes. Elder Perkins suggests that Satan uses three snares to perpetuate AOP:

1. The Snare of False Inadequacy—you are neither good-looking or smart enough to succeed.
2. The Snare of Exaggerated Imperfection—your best efforts are insufficient.
3. The Snare of Needless Guilt—the hole you have dug is too deep.

Have you fallen into one of these three snares? Here is a handy Multiple Choice Test you can take to find out:

Do you suffer from Adult Onset Pessimism?

1. The local gym advertises a special no-money-down, $9.99 a month six-month membership. Do you:

A. Sign up immediately after consulting your monthly budget.

B. Hesitate, wondering if the same gym will lower its rate to $7.99 if you wait a month or two.

C. Talk yourself out of it, figuring you’ll probably go for a week or two and then give up.

D. Go down to the gym and laugh in their pretentious, plastic faces, cause you would never stoop to working out with a bunch of shallow thick-skulled macho beefcakes and their surgery-enhanced groupies who wouldn’t talk to you if you paid them.

2. Your boss tells you he will give you a 20K a year raise if you complete a special one-year Executive MBA program. Do you:

A. Register immediately, grateful to finally have the chance to move up the corporate ladder.

B. Chuckle at your boss behind his back because you thought he said “NBA Program”, and is obviously a horrible judge of talent.

C. Pass on the opportunity, citing an obscure article you found online that claims MBA grads are going out of style, and that a degree in Hotel Managment is the new hot credential.

D. Go back to your cubicle and spend three hours surfing, because even if you did sign up for the stupid program, it would just prolong the already infinite amount of time you’ve been stuck in this pointless, go-nowhere black hole of a job.

3.A woman from your mother’s home ward that you met one time six years ago calls you and tells you she wants to set you up with her returned missionary daughter, who is really shy and doesn’t date much but can cook enchiladas like the Devil himself. Do you:

A. Go on the date. After all, who is to say when good fortune will come?

B. Go on the date, even though every blind date you’ve ever been on has been a catastrophic disaster, but because your parents met on a blind date, you always feel this sick obligation to give it a chance.

C. Ignore the invitation, make some kind of vague excuse, take the phone number but conveniently forget to take it out of your pants before washing them on an extended hot cycle.

D. Tell the woman to e-mail you a photo of her daughter and you’ll get back to her.

4. The 13th Ward weekly e-mail announces a joint Friday mingle with the 32nd Ward for the upcoming weekend. Do you:

A. Go to the mingle and dance like you’ve never danced before.

B. Show up to the mingle at 10pm after calling three different friends to find out if there are any hot chicks there, then leave after twenty minutes of routine conversations with the same three friends you talk to at every ward activity.

C. Blow off the mingle, disgustedly telling yourself that the girls in the 32nd Ward think they’re too good for you anyway.

D. You never saw the e-mail because you blocked 13th Ward messages from your inbox six months ago.

5.Your boss gives you tickets to the upcoming Brad Paisley concert. Do you:

A. Call up your fly honey and say, “Woman, it’s time for a night on the town.”

B. Debate endlessly whether to call your number one option at the last minute, and finally call option number six because you know she probably doesn’t have anything else going on.

C. Call your roommate, cause there’s no way you’re wasting a concert ticket on some girl who will probably stop returning your phone calls next week.

D. Wait a minute, why would anyone want to go see Brad Paisley?

If you find yourself answering mostly A’s, you’re doing pretty good. But if you find yourself drifting closer to the D range of each question, you might be suffering from a nasty bout of AOP.

So now that we’ve identified the problem, how do we cope with it? Elder Perkins provides the cure for AOP—five suggestions to apply to your daily life. “For as a man thinketh, is he…”

I: See Yourself as a Precious Child of a Loving Father in Heaven

PERKINS QUOTE #1: Our children with confidence sing, "I am a child of God, and he has sent me here." Little children feel and know what perhaps you have forgotten. You are the beloved son or daughter of Heavenly Father, created "in his own image”, and of immense value—so much so that Jesus Christ gave His life for you.

We need to understand that, contrary to what the world might suggest, we are the offspring of divinity, with wonderful potential. It might help to memorize this convenient little mantra:

"I am a valuable son of God with good prospects and a lot to offer despite the superficial misdirected social values perpetuated by the so-called ‘standards’ of reality television that inform me otherwise."

And here it is in French:

"Je suis un fils valable de Dieu avec les bon avenir et beucoup a proposer nonobstant le superficiel mal oriente valeurs sociale perdurer by chez pretendu ‘critere’ de realite television qui informer me autrement."

Or you could just memorize an actual scripture. That works nice too.

II: Place Your Burdens on Jesus Christ

PERKINS QUOTE #2: The Savior promised, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." As you "cast [your] burden upon the Lord," you will feel the peace of the Spirit.

This is a statement we hear often, but like the typical “pray and read your scriptures” response, I wonder if we’re getting deep enough. Exactly what does it mean to “place your burdens on the Lord”? I’m not sure it’s an idea that can really be put into words, but I know that one must come to the point where they are willing to let go of their worries—to stop dwelling on them, over-analyzing, fretting, pushing, demanding—and put themselves in a place where they are willing to accept the Lord’s will on the matter.

III: Forgive Yourself of Sins and Imperfections

PERKINS QUOTE #3: Jesus said, "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." Start with yourself, and forgive others as well. If God will not remember our repented-of sins, then why should we? Avoid wasting time and energy reliving the past.

IV: Sustain Hope of Eternal Life

PERKINS QUOTE #4: If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder. Referring to his younger years as an immoral priest for the wicked King Noah, Alma admitted, "I myself was caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance." Yet Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life. As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ.

Suggestions 3 and 4 are closely related to a concept I’ve been pondering lately. It seems that a lot of discouragement comes from the notion that the “present is permanent”, that any trial we are currently facing, or any fallout from sin we are dealing with, is a permanent condition. It is not. The present is not permanent. That’s the whole point of the Atonement. We may not necessarily be delivered from these trials, but even if we must pass through them—as is frequently the case—the point is that WE WILL PASS THROUGH THEM. They will end.

V: Find Joy Each Day

PERKINS QUOTE #5: One source of joy is service, for when you are busy helping others, you will have less capacity to agonize over your own shortcomings. The Savior wisely taught, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it."

Adult Onset Pessimism prevents us from recognizing many of the wonderful opportunities of life. Years ago in Logan, I was given the opportunity to play drums for a Neil Diamond cover band at the USU Valentine’s Dance. I really wasn’t a very good drummer, and I didn’t know if I would be up for the task. Whenever I had performed with bands previously, I was pretty ragged at best. And yet, I wanted to feel the sublime power of “Shilo”. I wanted to share the eternal truths of “Forever in Blue Jeans”. I wanted to embrace the horrible reality of “Love on the Rocks”. So instead of succumb to pessimism and doubt, I thought, “nuts to it; If I go down, I might as well go down in flames.” Patrick Henry, one of the heroes of the American Revolution, said, “If this be treason, then let us make the most of it”. So I did. At first it was really hard to learn Neil’s songs, cause he just seems to write from a planet all his own. But eventually I caught on, and playing the Valentine’s Dance was one of the highlights of my time at Utah State. It even helped me meet this really cute violinist, who later rejected me, but at least I took a shot.

I think that the key to fighting discouragement and pessimism is to realize that when the Lord challenges us with an opportunity, He’s not really asking us to do it by ourselves. If we understand that we can let the Lord work through us, then there is nothing we cannot accomplish through His infinite capacity. Nephi said, “for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” We hear that scripture all the time; but if we truly believe it, then there is no reason we should ever let discouragement, doubt, or adult-onset pessimism cloud our vision.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wounded Mosquito Jazz Update #2: The Fish and Whine Festival


I was getting a little worried there for a second. After two lopsided losses and a quarter and a half of Wednesday night’s game against San Antonio, I thought the Jazz might be headed for one of those “rough stretches”. Losing to Golden State was just a pressure release from high expectations. Losing to Orlando was eyebrow-raising, but easier to take because they had Dwight Howard. (The “best record in the East” thing is a mirage…that’s like saying “Ernest Goes to Camp” is the best “Ernest” movie).

But when the Jazz got down ten to San Antonio in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game, and only had about thirty-odd points of their own at the time, I was worried that we might be in for a rude awakening.

Not so.

Thirty-two game time minutes later, we had beaten the one team in the league that we’d truly be judged by, the team that always seemed to have our number even when we were playing well. Thirty-two game time minutes later, I thought this thing might actually be real.

Of course, if you ask the right people, our 13-3 record is nothing more than evidence that league refs are conspiring to let the Jazz beat up on everyone else in the league. You know, because seeing Utah do well is such a boon to NBA marketing. I’m sure Boss Stern has been awake nights trying to figure out how he can keep the Jazz competitive.

Last week Zen Master Phil complained that the refs were too hard on Laker rookie Andrew Bynum, and that they let the game get too “roughhouse”. Funny coming from a guy who kicked back on the sidelines while Shaquille O’Neal’s butt and elbows brought him three titles. You’d think nine titles would put a guy beyond whining.

Then after Wednesday’s game, Tim Duncan complained about getting manhandled down low. I guess there had to be a reason he went from ten points in the first quarter to zip in the fourth. It couldn’t be that Carlos Boozer is playing with a chip on his shoulder this year. Of course, if you look at Duncan’s foul tally, you’d think he was standing still in the paint and just letting people float by him. The disappointing thing is that he whined at all. I expect it from the Zen Master. Not from Duncan.

According to Thursday morning stories in both the D-News and the Tribune, Derek Fisher flashed a little championship bling-bling at his teammates to motivate them before the game, and gave them a nice speech about how they need to beat teams like the Spurs if they want to be taken seriously. It just confirms what I’ve been suspecting for the last month or two: Fisher is the biggest pickup the Jazz have made in a long time. For the first time since Stockton-to-Malone, the Jazz have an honest-to-goodness leader that can stand on more than energy and enthusiasm. Fisher has no reason to be intimidated by anyone in the league, because he’s beaten them all…multiple times.

Now that the Jazz have beaten the Spurs, Lakers, Pistons, Clippers, and Rockets—plus the Suns twice—all within the first month of the season, it looks like his attitude is rubbing off.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"Are those W-2's all around, or are they in my head?"

“Stranger than Fiction”
2 ½ stars out of 4.

In this topsy-turvy world of ours, can a button-down IRS agent find love with a hippie baker? According to “Stranger than Fiction” they can. At least if you’ve got Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal filling the roles. In a movie that toys liberally with the line between reality and fiction, their relationship might be the strangest feature of all.

“Stranger than Fiction” narrows its focus to a basic idea: somehow the lives of a struggling writer (Emma Thompson) and a boring audit agent become crossed, and the agent winds up a character in the writer’s new novel. To put it in more concrete terms, Will Ferrell starts hearing Emma Thompson’s voice narrating his life.

It wouldn’t be such a bad thing—Ferrell’s character clearly needs the company—but Thompson’s narration helps him realize just how mundane and boring his life really is. And how much nicer it would be if he could get involved with the hippie baker he’s auditing.

Over in her own end of the space-time continuum, Emma is fighting a ten-year bout with writer’s block. Seems she can’t quite figure out how to kill off her newest protagonist, and is completely unaware that he exists in reality as well as in her manuscript. To fight the block, her publishing company brings in Queen Latifah as her “special assistant”, because obviously the best way to deal with unproductive clients is to bring in ex-rappers. I personally am waiting for my visit from the Diabolical Biz Markie.

Admittedly, it’s hard for me to give an objective review to a film that is centered around a guy who’s dissatisfied with a redundant life and a neurotic writer. To make things worse, Ferrell seeks out help from, of all things, a literature professor, played by Dustin “I go shoeless because it makes me look laid-back” Hoffman. There’s a point where you relate to a good story, and then there’s a point where a movie hits so close to home that you feel like someone in Hollywood is channeling you…which is kind of the point of this whole movie.

Another point is to help Will Ferrell continue down the trail blazed by fellow eccentric-comedian-turned-understated-heartwarming-everyman Jim Carrey. Ferrell’s IRS agent, astounding as it may seem, is a lot of fun to watch, and like Carrey, becomes very likable once he turns off the over-the-top stuff. He actually makes you believe that he and Gyllenhaal are made for each other.

Aside from a great soundtrack and Ferrell’s inspired performance, the thing I enjoyed most about “Stranger than Fiction” was that it was innovative, quirky, and experimental without feeling compelled to inject all of the usual R-rated material such “edgy” directors usually use. Now that CleanFlicks has gone the way of the Dodo, “Fiction” is all the more refreshing.

At the same time, “Stranger than Fiction” still earns its PG-13 rating for old dude butt shots, some Ferrell/Gyllenhaal make-outs, the obligatory solo F-bomb, and the mental stress of having to observe the life of an IRS agent up close.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Unauthorized History of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the Jan Brady of holidays. Unfairly jammed between Halloween and the annual Christmas Juggernaut, poor Thanksgiving barely draws enough interest to get the family together for a turkey-fueled afternoon of football. And when the Detroit Lions are playing the football for you, how big can the celebration really be?

The marginalization of the Thanksgiving holiday is the culmination of a long conspiracy of misdirection, misinformation, and outright deception. These days, the accepted Thanksgiving myth is nothing more than a twisted aberration of half-truths and irresponsible, fill-in-the-blanks journalism. Here then, is a complete deconstruction of our forgotten national holiday…

It is wrongly supposed that the first Thanksgiving dinner was a mutual celebration of two neighboring cultures, but nothing could be farther from the truth. For one thing, the identities of both cultures are deeply flawed. Years after Columbus became the first man in recorded history to achieve immortality by refusing to follow directions, a group of religious exiles and cultural misfits arrived on the shores of what is now New England in search of precious freedoms like the right to worship, the right to assemble, and the right to return any item within thirty days if you are not fully satisfied with our product. These settlers were called Capitalists.

The Capitalists went through tremendous trial on their way to the New World, not the least of which was having to wear samples from a line of clothing designed by Frenchman Pierre Mullet, whose obsession with shiny buckles took his outrageous design sensibilities from common belts to hats to men’s footwear. Unable to nullify a contract signed by Capitalist Minister of Fashion Hans Jacobensenson, and fearing the legal repercussions of a breach of contract, the Capitalist settlers were obligated to wear their buckle-heavy clothing for years after arriving at the New World.

The first meeting between the Capitalists and Native Americans, who then went by the name “Chowds”, so named for their love of clam chowder, was hardly amicable. In fact, Capitalist ships came ashore during a celebrated annual Chowd tradition called Spring Break, and rudely interrupted the wildly popular loincloth competition. A full account of the conflict can be gleaned from several first-hand accounts recorded in Capitalist and Chowd journals. Here are some examples:

First, from Capitalist cook Christian Christiansen:

“It wath clear that we had wreaketh havoc on a thacred tradithun, and tho we dethided to thet up camp theveral yardth down the thore. As the company had bethum thired of my thandard mealth, which were largely conthructed on theeweed and theewater, I approathed the nativeth and athed them if they knew of any local takeout resthauranths that might provide thusthenance for 4-600 people on thort notith. I wath directhed thoo a man with beuthiful black hair and deep brown eyth, who generouthly provided me with enough corn to feed the entire company.”

From Capitalist quartermaster Christian Christianhansenson:

“The corn was a most fascinating variety, quite unlike any I had ever before seen whilst backpacking through mid-sixteenth century Europe. The natives called it ‘Maize’, which must be some special strain indigenous only to this land of plenty. It was multi-colored, with yellow, brown, and white kernels, and when we tried to cook it over our open flames it exploded into a wonderful little snack the natives called ‘popcorn’. At least, we think they called it ‘popcorn’. You see, we didn’t share the language with these natives, and had to communicate mostly through sign language and massage therapy. When they saw us cooking the corn, several of them laughed and chatted back and forth in their native dialect, repeating the term “popcorn” over and over again.”

And from native Chowd Nutana-Cho-Watanasee, which being interpreted, means “The Great Spirit has given me a runt son with no future”:

“Spring Break Year of the Winged Eagle 2245 had been the best ever, then in the middle of the loincloth contest, these massive canoes come rolling up and all these weirdoes in buckles come pouring out. Most of them looked terribly ill, and so we waved them away from our beach because we had just been through a bugger of a bout with the flu and didn’t want to have to cancel school for another week. So all these people wander down the beach and try to build some fires, then one of them comes up to us and starts jabbering and making all these strange motions. Eventually Dave figured that the guy was hungry, cause he kept chomping his teeth and rubbing his stomach, so we asked around and finally Mike says, ‘Hey, let’s just give them some of that irregular corn that Andy grew last summer, that funky-looking stuff that tasted like rotted wood.’ So we rounded it all up and took it over, and they started cooking it for waaay too long, and when it started exploding on them they were thrilled, and actually started eating it, and on the way back we couldn’t stop laughing. We just kept exclaiming, ‘they’re eating that crap!’ over and over, cause it looked so funny. Then five months later they helped us build a casino.”

This first Thanksgiving dinner led to an awkward relationship between the two cultures, who never successfully broke their communication barrier in any satisfying way. For years the Chowds assumed the Capitalists were only passing through the area, much like the Viking clans who had passed through in times of yore (not to be confused with the Del-Vikings, whose mid 1950’s Doo-Wop hit, “Come Go With Me” has become a staple of Time-Life Oldies collections everywhere). Initially the Chowds preferred the Capitalists, whose tendency to rape and pillage was considerably less frequent than the Norsemen, but by the time the Capitalists began to install the first street lights in Boston, the Chowds began to suspect that their neighbors might be putting down more permanent roots. During this time the now-annual dinner conferences between the two cultures became less and less attended, until finally the only official communication came via bulk holiday e-mails.

In the time since, various special interest groups, industrial powerhouses, and the National Football League have conspired to alter our understanding of the holiday to accommodate their own specific needs. The addition of the Turkey to the Thanksgiving myth didn’t come about until 1947, when unionized turkey farmers demanded accommodation for the surplus they had generated to support the European war effort. Up until then, traditional Thanksgiving dinners had been built around a staple of corn, seaweed, and clam chowder. The holiday itself wasn’t even made official until 1982, when NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle demanded an official holiday so he could justify adding additional games to the standard Sunday/Monday night schedule. In fact, Thanksgiving wasn’t even an American holiday. The first Thanksgiving feasts were held in ancient Egypt after a tremendous dust storm fended off foreign armies seeking to desecrate the pyramids by building coffee shops for tourists, and those feasts featured corn, seaweed, sweet potatoes, and virgin sacrifices. All we are really left with today is a mutt of a holiday that will be consumed by a pair of pagan celebrations inside of a decade.

And now you may ask, “Josh, what is to be done? Now that you have shown us the light, what can I do in this oppressive world of digital domination and faceless anonymity?” My answer, dear friends, is to embrace history, to fend off the tide of the incoming Christmas season, and set aside your devilish pagan witch brooms long enough to celebrate true Americana by preparing a feast appropriate to our first settlers, a feast of bad corn and seaweed, and wrap the whole thing up with a traditional loincloth competition. Fear not the rebuke of the mindless sheep that want to gorge themselves on the mistaken symbols of a perverted holiday, watching their silly football games and pretending to know what it means to be an American. Don’t give in to the revisionist peer pressure that comes with slavish obedience to a flawed culture. Stand up for the Capitalists and Chowds that built this nation on their awkward, well-intentioned but disillusioned backs!

“If this be treason, then let us make the most of it!”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Met the new bosses...same as the old bosses

Right before ripping into Monday night’s “Pinball Wizard” encore, Who guitarist and longtime leader Pete Townshend paused on stage and swayed back and forth, his red Fender Stratocaster hanging at his waist, aimed at the audience like a rifle. With a weary smile on his face, he seemed to be saying, “are you sure you want to drag this old man back on stage again?”

Pete seems a lot happier these days. For one thing, he only dropped a pair of F-bombs in between songs. Down in Houston six years ago, “Mr. Windmill” went on a number of tears, only some of which were musical. But on Monday night, I caught more than a few genuine smiles from one of Rock’s legendary “angry young men”.

Seeing Townshend and Daltrey in action again was a bittersweet experience. They sounded great, but even though the backup musicians were fantastic—especially drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo’s kid)—there was a feeling of emptiness on the stage. The new bass player managed to hold Entwhistle’s stoic posture, and his bass licks were fine, but having him stand in the back with the other “backups” made it all the more obvious that these days The Who is one Ox short. Starkey does a better job of filling the void left by original Master of Mayhem Keith Moon, partially because Zak is a great drummer, mostly because the fact that his dad was Moon’s best buddy gives his presence an almost nostalgic appropriateness.

Of course, no one is aware of the absence of his old friends more than Townshend, who has always struck me as the 60’s icon most aware of his peer’s mortality rate. I’ll never forget his point that while Hendrix and Moon were our icons, they were his (expletive deleted) friends. I doubt there’s a time he takes the stage that he doesn’t (expletive deleted) think about them.

What has remained is the music, and on Monday the crew pulled out all the stops. From the opening licks of “I Can’t Explain” through the epic encore medley from “Tommy”, Pete and the boys nailed all the high points, and convinced me that “Baba O’Reilly” is indeed my all-time favorite Who track, even if I still don’t know what the title means. “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “My Generation”, and “Who Are You” are as anthemic as ever, and even the stuff off the new album sounded very Who-ish.

Thanks to the generous help of my inside man Micah, I was able to score tickets right across from the stage about ten rows up. We were close enough to believe that Pete could actually see us when he waved goodbye at the end of the show. I shared the event with my old friend Josh Christensen, fellow Who enthusiast, and in fact, the same guy I saw the Houston concert with.

This time around, The Who brought The Pretenders as the opening act. The Pretenders also managed to make the most of the Delta Center sound system, grooving through favorites like “Back on the Chain Gang” and “Don’t Get Me Wrong”, and I couldn’t help but smile when I realized that the woman singing on stage once had a child with Kinks frontman Ray Davies.

What a weird life.

That’s what’s so strange about going to concerts like these. Something tells me that I’d probably never be real tight friends with most of these guys, aside from sharing common artistic drives. As I look around the arena at the aging hippies, the beer-toting Salt Lake socialites, and the guy in full leather and pompadour wearing the “BEFORE ELVIS, THERE WAS NOTHING” T-shirt, I realize I’m not your typical Who fan.

Yet, the music they make still hits—sorry—a power chord with me every time. “Who Are You” might have been written after a drunk Townshend ran into the Sex Pistols at a New York bar in ’78, but it means something else to me. “Teenage Wasteland” might remind some people of lighting doobies in their parent’s basement, but it applies equally to 1993 Davis County behind my blue-green eyes. Most music is vague enough to serve those multiple functions.

It served them Monday night, even if the band was only at half-staff.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Is it real? Or is it Bowie-Time?

“The Prestige”
Three stars out of four.

Best thing about “The Prestige”: casting David Bowie as inventor Nikola Tesla.

Worst thing about “The Prestige”: not casting members of the band Tesla as his assistants.

“The Prestige” is centered on the rivalry between two late-nineteenth century magicians, played by Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman and Christian “Batman 2005” Bale. Anything beyond that summary has to be considered a spoiler, so read on at your own risk.

Director Christopher “Batman Begins” Nolan has taken a page from “21 Grams” and even “Slaughterhouse-Five” in constructing his first major film since returning the Batman franchise to the big screen. “The Prestige” unfolds out of sequence; there are so many flashbacks it’s hard to say there is any kind of chronological storyline. It’s a movie to be felt and examined rather than observed.

The plot follows the back-and-forth rivalry and vindictive/vengeful actions of the two magicians as they vie for performer supremacy.The film “opens” during a tragic “accident” at Wolverine’s big performance, where he “dies” and Batman gets fingered for the job. For the next two hours, you learn about the circumstances surrounding the murder/accident itself, the history behind it, and the similarly enigmatic circumstances that emerge after it.

That’s why it’s so hard to write about this movie: it’s so built on the idea of illusion and plot twists that it’s hard to put down a concrete explanation of what is actually happening.

Introducing the supporting characters is equally problematic. You’ve got Scarlett Johanssen playing the mistress/sidekick/co-conspirator/lover/double-agent/whatever, then you’ve got Michael Caine, who plays a mentor/co-conspirator/magician/insert random role here while working either for or against Batman and Wolverine simultaneously. Then you’ve got some wives and kids and side characters, and of course Mr. Space Oddity himself as the exiled inventor living in Colorado. (Why Colorado? Was Tesla a closet Broncos fan?)

It sounds confusing, but it’s actually a lot of fun. It’s also satisfying in a distorted kind of way, because in spite of the secretive nature of magicians and their tricks, Nolan manages to explain most of the tricks you see over the course of the film. In that way, the audience is both an observer and a privileged insider.

Regrettably, the only questionable element of the film is the one trick that is never explained, because supposedly it is real. I won’t go so far as to spell it out explicitly, but I will say it involves that guy that used to dress up as an orange-haired space alien androgynous rock hero back in the 70’s. Plus I think Michael Keaton already made a movie about the subject back in the 90’s.

More favorite tidbits from the movie:

*According to the film (which must be accurate if it came from Hollywood, right?), Thomas Edison employed a stable of spies that not only scoured the countryside in search of rival inventors and their work, but also burned the rival facilities to the ground in order to quell the competition. Who knows if that’s right, but I can’t get over the idea of the inventor of the light bulb sitting behind a mahogany desk stroking a cat while he tells his goons to “make Nikola Tesla an offer he can’t refuse.”

*My childhood was either blessed or scarred by Bowie’s performance in “Labyrinth” as the bad guy after Jennifer Connelly’s baby brother. It’s good to see him on screen again for the first time since his brilliant cameo in “Zoolander”, especially because he isn’t Bowie. Other than the off-colored eyes, Ziggy Stardust does a great job of looking like a regular guy. Well, as regular as an eccentric exiled Serbian inventor can look, I guess. Nolan should have called this movie “Ziggy Tesla and the Magicians from Colorado” and left it at that.

“The Prestige” is rated PG-13 for violence to little birdies, Scarlett Johanssen’s lips and that spooky feeling you get every time you see the kid from “Empire of the Sun” all grown up. Side effects may include dizziness, confusion, headache, and comments like, “hey, how come Tesla’s eyes are different colors?”

Monday, November 06, 2006

Wounded Mosquito Jazz Update #1: On the quest for an unbeaten season...

Well, we're three games into the regular season, and the Jazz are on pace to finish with a solid 82-0 record and at least a second seed in the playoffs this April. Pretty nice way to break the streak of three straight lottery-years, I'd say.

Seriously, if the first three games are any kind of legitimate indicator, it could be a fun season. I've attended both of the home games, and each one was encouraging for different reasons.

1. The Jazz are deep and athletic: In the season-opener against the Rockets, Kirilenko barely even showed up, and Okur hit about .250 on the night, yet the Jazz stayed ahead throughout. They did it because guys contributed all over the place. CJ Miles opened the game with twelve points, Boozer took down ninteen rebounds, and even the rookie threw down a couple of nice dunks.

2. Fisher and Williams took charge: After leading for the whole game, the Jazz let their lead slip down to two against Dominique and the Rockets as the fourth quarter wound down to crunch time. But instead of roll over, Williams quarterbacked with confidence and Fisher stepped up to hit a couple of clutch jumpers. It's exactly what we need: Williams maturing and Fisher stabilizing.

3. No one died: Sure, there are 79 more games to go, but it's at least a little encouraging that three games in we haven't lost anyone to a hamstring pull, broken foot, broken wrist, bad back, or harpooning.

4. We clobbered the chump team: I've been watching the Jazz for twenty years now, and one of their major shortcomings all through that time was a tendency to play the tough teams hard and let up on the dogs. Not Saturday. We should have squashed Golden State--with or without Don Nelson--and we did.

5. Deron Williams put his hand over his heart for the National Anthem: Call me a purist, but it's good to know that Williams is following Stockton's example in multiple ways. Unless that wasn't Williams--my seats are pretty far up. It could have been Frank Layden.

6. We have lots of foreign guys: The US team got trashed last summer, so the way I see it, having guys from Croatia, Russia, Turkey, Brazil, and North Hollywood can only work in our favor.

There was also that thing about beating the Suns in Phoenix, but I didn't see that game, though I hear it was a swell time.

To be fair, there were some concerns as well:

1. Attendance is still low: This one is on us. Larry dropped all the prices, and we honestly look like a good team, but if we want to have that home court dominance we had back in the 90's, people are actually going to have to show up for the game. And that doesn't just mean in the upper-bowl; that means all the lower-bowl season-ticket holding bigwigs, too.

2. We have male cheerleaders: I don't care if they can bench-press Buicks or if they're only there because of the proximity to the female cheerleaders, guy cheerleaders should be legally confined to remote college alcoves, only periodically released to show up and get mocked at home football games.

3. Delta Center acoustics still suck: I say this mostly because I'm going to see The Who next week, but I also say it because I'm concerned that the players on the court can't hear me when I yell at them from row 15 in section 127. And if they can't hear me, then we're going to have to rely on Kirilenko's Tazmanian Devil-style defense almost exclusively.

4. Billy Ray Cyrus sang the season-opening National Anthem: I'm happy to report that Billy Ray has foresaken his trademark mullet for a more surfer-grunge shag with highlights, but this is still the man who punished us with "Achy Breaky Heart". You think I'm just going to forget about that? (Some Osmond guy sang the anthem for the Golden State game).

Three games down...79 to go. So far, so good. I think I'll send Sloan a case of champagne...just for fun.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Spontaneous Human Combustion Rocks USU Salt Lake Center

MURRAY—Citizens across the globe are still in shock today after yesterday’s news that beloved son, brother, cousin and legal counsel Joshua met with the infinite.

Joshua Twentysomething was working at his office job at the Utah State University Salt Lake Center when, according to advisor Steve Geyer, “he just kind of went, poof!”

Circumstances surrounding his death are still in question. Geyer’s official testimony indicates that while showing him photos recently shot on a hike up Waterfall Canyon in Ogden, he simply slipped off into thin air. However, due to an expanding list of mortal enemies and a laundry list of well-known substance addictions, rumors of foul play have not been summarily dismissed.

“Sure, Josh had enemies,” said friend and colleague Lloyd Frandsen, “but you’re not really living if you’re not stepping on toes.”

Other co-workers were less inclined to provide information.

“Did he work here?” asked Sandy Miller, another USU advisor. “Oh, he was that guy across the room that’s always on the Internet! Sure, someone might have killed him.”

Josh was only 10 years old at the time of his death. He is survived by his parents, Alan and Karen, his sister Katie, and numerous other family and friends. He is preceded in death by his two brothers, Joshua Adolescent and Joshua Teenage, both of whom expired at the young age of ten.

“Josh was a great brother,” says sister Katie, “but he had an almost inhuman addiction to Red Iguana salsa. I’ll bet that stuff just ate him from the inside. I lost a whole quarter in that stuff once.”

Joshua was born in Octoberth, in Freeport, Illinois. At the time of his death, he was employed as an adjunct instructor for Utah State University. Joshua loved to write, and made regular postings to his blog, The Wounded Mosquito, which managed to develop a loyal cult following some have estimated at five members.

During his short ten years, Josh managed to earn two college degrees and accumulate four and a half years of college teaching experience. He also won a recent salsa contest.

“The only thing I want to know is how we’re going to divide up his Jazz tickets,” said night manager Troy Shoop. “That jerk got Cleveland in our office draft. I want my Bron-Bron time! I want to be a witness!”

A viewing has been scheduled for this weekend at the Red Iguana on South Temple and 8th West in Salt Lake City between 6-10pm. In lieu of a body, guests will be invited to pay their respects to a life-sized stuffed dummy named Patsy that Joshua left in his parent’s shed several years ago. Chips and salsa will be complimentary.

On a brighter note, the family also reported the birth of the newest member of the family, Joshua Thirtysomething, a bright young boy weighing 175 lbs, 4 oz.

“We’re going to miss our son a lot,” said Karen, matriarch of the family. “But you know, he left a lot of crap in our basement that he never bothered to clean up. Maybe this new kid won’t be such a pack rat.”

Star Trek meets Monty Python

When I saw this my jaw dropped. Unbelievable. Whoever is responsible for this is a genius.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hey, thanks for coming down to see us today...

Last week I was informed that I would be on a committee to review applicants for a new position at the office. Just in case, I thought I should write up a few interview questions:

  1. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  2. Where do you see me in five years?
  3. What am I thinking?
  4. Are you a sock-sock-shoe-shoe guy, or a sock-shoe-sock-shoe guy?
  5. Have you ever peed with no hands?
  6. If I asked you to perform the same task twice in the same day, would you tell me? How about if I asked you five times? How about if I asked you five times?
  7. Tell me your life story in thirty seconds. Ready, go!
  8. If I got in a fist-fight with another employee at our monthly staff meeting, would you try to break it up, or would you have my back?
  9. I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 100. Have you ever dressed up in women’s clothing?
  10. How do you feel when I pour this fish-chum in your lap?
  11. Do you now, or have you ever owned an album by Neil Diamond?
  12. What is the best solution to the immigration problem?
  13. Did Saddam have weapons of mass-destruction?
  14. A student runs into your office on fire. Do you try to help them, or do you page the TA’s, since they are responsible for classroom management?
  15. How do you feel about inter-office dating? Do you find me attractive?
  16. Suppose you get a call every day for three weeks asking for a person that doesn’t work in our office. Suppose you tell them every time they call that that person doesn’t work here, and they need to take our phone number off their list. At what point do you stop being polite, and when you cross that line, do you A) Just hang up on them, B) Swear at them, C) Pretend to be the person they are looking for?
  17. Suppose a center regular tries to establish an unofficial residence at an available desk in your office, and proceeds to kick back and make calls and do random tasks even though you have no professional connection to them whatsoever. What do you say when they try to get you to take messages for them?
  18. Is it ethical to spend more than ten minutes trying to roll a stress ball down a hallway, through the student break room, across another hallway, and into the office of your staff accountant in one throw?
  19. When the plant lady comes in to water our foliage and she asks you for the master key so she can get into the director’s office, do you wait by his door until she finishes or do you let her do her thing unsupervised, cause no one would want to steal a bunch of books about business theory anyway?
  20. You are going to lunch with the student advisor, the night manager, and the director. The student advisor is driving, so do you give the director shotgun? Even if the night manager has been sending you e-mails threatening to stick you with a letter opener if you don’t stay at least ten feet away from him at all times?
  21. One of your coworkers is a test-tube baby, and thus has no true birthday. How do you choose to celebrate around the office?
  22. You suspect that one of your co-workers is lighting doobies on his smoke breaks, but you also notice that your supervisor seems to be a big fan of Bob Marley. How do you address the issue?
  23. One of the TA’s confesses that they are a secret plant from the University of Utah sent to research and sabotage the Alternative Route to Licensure Program. Do you blow the whistle, or use the info to blackmail the spy into getting you season tickets to U of U athletic events?
  24. The copy machine has been making a suspicious ticking noise for the past ten minutes, but you don’t know if you’re just suffering the after-effects of the rock festival you called in sick to attend yesterday. Do you call attention to the noise, and potentially save the center from certain terrorist annihilation, or do you keep your mouth shut and make a mental note to bring earplugs to next year’s festival?
  25. Six months from now, while using the restroom, you overhear a conversation that informs you that you are in stiff head-to-head competition with one other co-worker for a major promotion. Twenty minutes later, that same co-worker calls you from a vacant lot in Springville, Utah, incoherent and asking you to cover for them until they can find their clothes and make it in to the office. What do you do?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Time to get the "Eye of the Tiger"!

The time has come to repair our nation’s image at home and abroad. For too long we have slaved under the unjust weight of critical oppression, but at last we have a solution: we change our National Anthem to Survivor’s immortal classic, “Eye of the Tiger”.

Who better to turn to than Sylvester Stallone when we need to repair our national image? Who better to trust with the pulse of America than the man who single-handedly won the support of millions of Americans with “Rocky III”, “Rocky IV”, and “Over the Top”? “Eye of the Tiger” was the greatest of all the great Rocky songs, and will be the key to restoring America’s place atop international approval polls.

So-called “purists” may call this idea heretical, but do we really want to listen to those that would have us roll around in wagons and burn witches? How can we hold our heads high on the world stage when we sing a national anthem written by a guy named Francis? Our insistence on using the Star-Spangled Banner at sporting events has given us Roseanne Barr and Carl Lewis. This cannot continue.

“Eye of the Tiger” is a superior rock anthem because it features more electric guitars and drums. All of my friends think “Eye of the Tiger” is a much more inspirational song, and I have no doubt most Americans feel the same way. Remember, it was only after “Eye of the Tiger” that Communism was defeated in Eastern Europe!

We should also heed the example of another American hero: David Hasselhoff. Europeans will never embrace us until we go with what we know, and what we know is that David Hasselhoff can move Germans in a way Francis Scott Key never will. He already moved the world with “Baywatch”. Now tell me: who is more likely to do a cover of “Eye of the Tiger” for the European market, Francis or the Hoff? Clinging to stodgy tradition is clearly not the way to go in this case. We must embrace the juggernaut that is our popular culture, and satisfy the needs of our people. You can’t tell me that if “Eye of the Tiger” went up against “The Star-Spangled Banner” on “American Idol” that “Tiger” wouldn’t wipe the floor with the Banner. Plus it would fit with today’s all-important retro trend.

If we don’t make this adjustment, the world will continue to hate us and view us as a sad relic of the past, just like Al Davis. Kim Jung Il will have no choice but to blow us away with that nuke of his, and by the time that happens, we will be caught with our knickers down because we will be bopping around in our powdered wigs trying to get the blacksmith to fix all our wood-burning stoves.

You still may be hesitant to leave behind such an American icon as our out-dated anthem. Well let me tell you about the time the lead singer of Survivor saved my life. One time last year I was walking down the street listening to “Eye of the Tiger” on my iPod, and while I was in the middle of my air-guitar solo, I almost stepped in front of an ice cream truck. But this guy reached out at the last second and tapped me on the shoulder before I stepped off the curb. The guy was the lead singer from Survivor! I could tell because he had on a Survivor T-Shirt from their world tour in Africa. He was just pushing a shopping cart around picking up garbage, doing his patriotic duty to keep America clean. And when he turned around, I saw that his jeans had big holes in the butt, so you could see this huge tattoo of the American flag on his cheeks. I ask you, who else but a true patriot would tattoo Old Glory on his buttocks? Complete with all fifty stars and thirteen stripes, eh?

If we want America to survive, we have to go with Survivor.

Monday, October 16, 2006

An Open Letter to my Ex-Credit Card Company

Dear DMBA,

I am writing this letter to formally request that you terminate account # XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX. I have met another credit card company that is much better at meeting my needs, and no longer need your services.

I do not wish to be rude, but after nearly twelve years together, I feel I should explain my reasons for terminating our relationship. In fact, it is the longevity of our relationship that makes some of your recent policies so frustrating to me.

Here, then, is a list of the reasons I have left you. I list them not to be vindictive, but in the hope that such feedback will help you to better adapt your services for your future relationships.

  1. I find it irritating that after twelve years of loyal service, I have found my interest rate steadily rising, not falling, over the last six months. While I may have a variable-rate policy, my credit record with your company should more than allow for some sort of benefit.
  2. I find it even more irritating that you insist on charging me $15 every time I try to make a payment by phone in order to come in under my deadline. Every other company I do business with allows these kinds of services at no charge.
  3. On the few occasions I have had to make a late payment (never more than a week, mind you), I have been served with a $40 late charge. There has never been a grace period, and $40 is usually more than the minimum payment on my balance.
  4. Speaking of my balance, it seems strange to me that my interest rate would continue to rise when my balance remains such a small fraction of my limit. Now, I do appreciate having a generous limit—enough to pick up a BMW if I were a more frivolous spender—but wouldn’t that in turn suggest that I have been a reliable customer, deserving of a lower rate?
  5. It also disturbs me to find that while my interest rate continues to climb, my bill due date continues to move earlier and earlier in the month. With all of my monthly bills and obligations, it would be nice to rely on the same date each month, thereby ensuring that I get my bill mailed to you on time. But when you factor in your heavy fine toll, this circumstance makes it look as if you are deliberately trying to increase your revenue through late fees.
  6. This is a small complaint, but nevertheless one you should heed: I have come to expect a number of throw-away ads to be enclosed with my bill, but the perforated ad slips that are attached to the return envelope DRIVE ME CRAZY. Please do your customers a favor and discontinue them. If they want to redeem the coupon and get their free clock radio/throw pillow/commemorative Iwo Jima dinner plate, they will mail in the other slip stuck in the envelope.

While transferring my account to my new company, I paid off my balance to MBNA in slight excess in order to compensate for finance charges, and I should have a small credit on my account of about eighteen dollars. I assume you will send me a check for this balance along with my notice of account termination.

Again, I hope this letter proves useful to your customer service department in altering your future policies. For the most part, my time with DMBA was very workable, but the culmination of policies like those listed above leave me no choice but to find greener pastures. Please do not try to get me to re-commit to future membership; I’ve found that in these situations, it’s better to give the other party plenty of space.



Thursday, October 12, 2006

Official Wounded Mosquito NBA Preview

Your source for second-rate hearsay journalism…

Atlanta Hawks: Does anyone know who owns these guys now? Do they even have any players? Do you think Michael Vick’s little brother could get a tryout at the point as a personal favor?
Prediction: At halftime of their March 3rd head-to-head matchup with the Knicks, Isiah Thomas trades Renaldo Balkman and 15 million dollars to the Hawks for twelve boxes of smores-flavored granola bars and a weekend stay at a day spa in some town in Mississippi.

Boston Celtics: Is Red Auerbach still alive? Is Robert Parrish still available? Are there really twelve jersey numbers that haven’t been retired by this team?
Prediction: The Patriots go in the tank cause they don’t have Vinatieri to bail out their butts with cheap field goals.

Chicago Bulls: Dennis Rodman insulted my people, and Michael Jordan stole two NBA titles from the Jazz by telepathically causing Karl Malone to miss his free throws and then pushing off of Byron Russell the next season. Karma is real: just ask the Zen Master.
Prediction: Ben Wallace dies in a tragic plane crash with John Mayer and The Big Bopper.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Current marketing campaign for LeBron: the “I am a witness” thing. Yeah, I was a witness. I witnessed The Drive, I witnessed The Fumble, and I witnessed Art Modell steal one of sport’s most beloved franchises and win a Super Bowl with it under the guidance of a guy who may or may not have stabbed two people to death that same weekend.
Prediction: 2nd Round, with a heartbreaking Game 7 loss after a shot by a fellow who in the right light looks just like Michael Jordan.

Charlotte Bobcats: How many bobcats are there in Charlotte? Does any NBA mascot/logo make any sense anymore? Oh well, I think Charlotte has a really good rebounder. Oh, wait...that’s Orlando. Charlotte drafted the other guy.
Prediction: Team leaves Charlotte at end of season…again.

Dallas Mavericks: My old roommate looks just like Dirk.
Prediction: Mark Cuban is abducted by aliens, and somehow profits 2.3 billion dollars off the experience.

David Hasselhoff: The days of “Baywatch” fame are long gone, but Hasselhoff is still a solid perimeter player with serious upside. Plus he may have the potential to become Dirk’s toughest defender.
Prediction: The guy became an icon hanging out with a talking car, entertaining Germans, and building the greatest international TV hit of all time by splicing together shots of lifeguards running on the beach in slow-motion. How could we possibly know what is going to happen next?

Denver Nuggets: I really, really, really hate those baby blue uniforms. I really, really, really hate the fact that Andre Miller blew us off three years ago and signed with these guys instead of the Jazz. And I really, really, really refuse to say anything good about a team that plays in the same town as the Broncos.
Prediction: John Elway roasts in the fires of Hell.

Detroit Pistons: These guys were great, and then they lost the guy with the killer ‘fro. Sounds like the folks are gonna have to listen to their Smokey Robinson records this winter if they want to stay warm.
Prediction: 0-82, good for fifth place in the Eastern Conference Standings.

Golden State Warriors: Back in 1988, I braced myself for the first ever run to the finals by my beloved Jazz. Then they got swept by Don Nelson’s Warriors in the first round. In spite of this, I find Nellie to be an oddly appealing figure, almost Santa-like.
Prediction: Nah, screw him—Warriors won’t break .500.

Harlem Globetrotters: The outlook is pensive after some marginal free agent signings and a weak draft, but the Globetrotters should still manage to put together a decent season, since they play the Washington Generals 75 times.
Prediction: One appearance on “The Simpsons”, two on “Oprah”, and their own reality television show on FOX as a mid-season replacement.

Houston Rockettes: If Tracy McGrady can coax some more wins out of the Rockets, he might avoid becoming the Dominique Wilkins of his generation. If Jeff Van Gundy grows a moustache and picks up a nice new toupee, he might stand a chance at becoming the Gomez Addams of his.
Prediction: Yao Ming grows five inches, and his scoring average dips to 11.3 points per game.

Indiana Pacers:
Larry Bird can rest assured that Stephen Jackson is committed to doing his darnedest to fill the Ron Artest void.
Prediction: Bird brings back the nasty moustache and curly mullet-thing by mid-season, thus erasing that meddling Adam Morrisson from existence completely.

Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe just changed his jersey number from 8 to 24 so he can show people he’s on his game 24 hours a day. Or maybe that’s his commercials.
Prediction: You hate Mamba because he’s arrogant. You hate Mamba because he’s rich. You hate Mamba because he has hundreds of fans that live in your home state and come to your home facility and cheer for the opposing team in pansy yellow jerseys.

Memphis Grizzlies: Kirilenko may have gotten the pimp daddy press last year thanks to his wife, but Pau Gasol’s got the swingin’ beard to put him on top of the “foreign dude” list this season.
Prediction: Grizzlies go in the tank after Kirilenko brings back the Mohawk.

Miami Heat: In spite of winning his fourth ring, no one really believes Shaq’s crew was the best team in the league last year. That might have made Shaq mad back in the day, but this year he’ll probably blow it off and buy a private island somewhere in the Manhattan area.
Prediction: 2nd round loss to someone that isn’t as good as Wade.

Milwaukee Bucks: I went to the University of Utah, but even I had trouble putting the name Bogut up there with Kareem, Wilt, and Russell. My vote is they try to get that sausage race thing going at halftime.
Prediction: -75 with the wind chill, flurries but no real snow.

Minnesota Timberwolves: It’s just wrong for Kevin McHale to be heavily involved in a team other than the Celtics, just like it’s wrong that Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid ever split up. Kevin Garnett suffers from both of these trials on a daily basis.
Prediction: With his children on the brink of starvation, Latrell Sprewell returns to Minnesota in time to boost them to a 24-58 record.

New Jersey Nets: I read this article that said New Jersey had one of the highest average salaries in the United States. All the more reason for Toronto to send assassins for Vince Carter’s head.
Prediction: .500 season until All-Star break, when Jason Kidd decides to go Jim Brown and pursue an acting career.

New Orleans/Oklahoma City Saints: Sorry folks, but Reggie Bush doesn’t play basketball.
Prediction: Chris Paul makes the All-Star team, the rest of the team leaves in the first round.

New York Knicks: As unbelievable a ride as it’s been, kids, it’s just about to get even better. The Knicks still have Marbury and Francis in the same backcourt, and Isiah just took over as Head Coach.
Prediction: On a cold night in February, the cast of “Spamalot” takes the court in place of the team, and no one notices.

Orlando Magic: People used to think JJ Redick was just another jerk from Duke. But now with a DUI on his rap sheet, he’s got the street cred he needs to be a leader in the NBA.
Prediction: Florida is sold back to the Spanish in November, and Dwight Howard averages 56 rebounds a game in the European leagues.

Philadelphia Sixers: It must be interesting to be Allen Iverson these days. You’ve spent your entire career being the feisty, short underdog punk for one team, and after they spend the summer trying to trade you, you’re back with them for another season.
Prediction: Iverson averages 79 points and 133 attempts per game, Philly goes 15-67.

Phoenix Suns: See Detroit Pistons. You lose iconic hair, you go down the tubes.
Prediction: 38-44, and Arizona residents continue to use rocks for their front lawns.

Portland Trailblazers: Years ago these guys were the overpaid bad boys of the NBA. Years before that they had the classiest non-bad boy backcourt in the league. Years before that, Lewis and Clark hit the Pacific, and had nowhere else to go.
Prediction: 20-life with a possibility of parole.

Sacramento Kings: Last year he went AWOL to promote a rap album and shaved his recording label into his head. The year before that he led the greatest sports riot of all time, unless you count every weekend in Oakland between September and December. All I know is that Ron Artest aims to please.
Prediction: By early December, Artest shows up at midcourt naked brandishing a pair of M-16’s while the stadium PA plays “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”.

San Antonio Spurs: As impartial as he seems to be, one would expect Tim Duncan to have walked away from the sport Barry Sanders-like already, not to pursue an acting career, not to pursue a baseball career, just to pretty much do nothing. But he’s still around.
Prediction: Tony Parker hooks up with Jessica Alba in early January, propelling the Spurs to an 80-2 record, and a nation holds its breath in anticipation of another boring finals.

Seattle Supersonics: There’s no ingredient for winning quite like playing out your last games before leaving town in front of an apathetic, coffee-chugging crowd that’s still bent that the grunge era is over.
Prediction: 20-62, and the Mariners lose another future All-Star

Toronto Raptors: Once I went to the Canadian side of Niagra Falls and ate at the Hard Rock Café. I was confused about whether to tip in Canadian dollars or American dollars, but when I asked about it, my waitress was offended. If that’s the kind of service you get in Canada, how good can their basketball teams be?
Prediction: Eastern Conference Finals, based entirely on Charlie Villenueva’s continuing rage after his draft day humiliation.

Utah Jazz: I spent $168 to go in with two co-workers for season tickets at the Delta Center up in the cheap seats this year. So Larry, your boys had better produce. And I’d better start finding some dates.
Prediction: Back in the playoffs for the first time in four years, then probably swept by Don Nelson’s fantasy team.

Washington Bullets: I was just in DC last weekend, and they’ve still got signs around town that give you directions to the MCI Center, even though it’s been renamed the Verizon Center. Can you hear me now?
Prediction: Republicans take a hit in November, but Demo’s fail to take charge because none of the new representatives can figure out how to get in from Dulles.

And finally…

Los Angeles Clippers: Sam Cassell is the corollary to the Pistons/Suns hair woes of 2007: preserving your shaved head by consequence preserves your alien-like mystique, and that little dance you do, while considered borderline obscene by most communities, seems to work for Billy Crystal.

Prediction: The secret love child of Kurt Rambis and Hulk Hogan leads the Clippers to the 2007 NBA title.