There are so many intelligent and articulate people covering the hard-hitting
issues in our country these days, that I felt it was my duty to cover the
rather inconsequential bullshit that tends to make up the vast majority of
our lives. Actually, I'll just be griping a lot which, if you weren't aware,
doubles as a synonym for complaining, and as a descriptor for
a sharp pain in the bowels.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Note to Cheaters: The Truth Tends to Come Out

No, I'm not talking about this Cheaters, but that was a pretty sweet show to watch about six years ago. The host in that link is a totally different guy than I remember, which isn't surprising since the original host, Tommy, got stabbed by an exposed cheater during one of the more outrageous episodes.

The cheating I'm referring to comes back to sport and, more specifically, the sport I follow the closest: track and field. To be honest, a lot of my focus in track is on high school performances because I feel like they have the greatest likelihood of being completely legitimate — that is, untainted by drugs. Drugs is rarely far from the forefront when discussing athletic performance these days and in endurance running it's no different. Today (or a couple of days ago to be completely accurate) that man is Rashid Ramzi. This isn't the first time I've talked about Ramzi being a potential drug cheat, but with this recent revelation my claims are a bit less unsubstantiated. Still, they will test his B sample of urine to see if that also tests positive for CERA, a supplement boosting erythropoietin levels and thus red blood cell production in the body. And if that comes up negative, I will still consider Ramzi a cheater, which might not be fair, but it's hard to ignore along with his accelerated progression in performance. The truth is in the urine.

As much as I want to single out the suspect 2008 Olympic 1500m champion, the ugly truth is that this is just everywhere. I would like, for once, to watch someone do something completely amazing in athletics and not have to be thinking, "I wonder if he's on drugs." Take two groups of four kids running 7:31 and 7:32 for the 4x800m relay, now that is amazing. Could some of those kids be on drugs? Sure, I mean Hell, allegedly A-Rod took steroids in High School and I certainly know kids at my own school that used, and some weren't necessarily athletes. But, and it's a big but, the chances are much more remote and I'll continue to view those performances with a bit of awe.

Switching to a more somber tone, there was a tragic development in my hometown as a high schooler dropped dead today at track practice. Given the time frame in that article I find it even more strange and unsettling as I was out on a run at the very same time this kid was. These things happen what seems like far too frequently so I'll just take a moment to pay my silent and [relatively] anonymous respects here.

I already do cherish every run and I suggest you do the same, but aside from that, as clich├ęd as it is, we really must try to remember to cherish every day, even if it's only just a little something here and there, like the amusing manner in which children move like miniature humans and sometimes speak with wisdom we feel is supposed to be reserved for those advanced in years. It's the little things people, it's the little things...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Proposed Beer [S]Ad Campaigns

Not too long ago I was heavily considering a career in advertising. "I spontaneously produce so many puns and idiotic word associations," I told myself, "Why not get paid to do it?" Forget my tale of disillusionment though, and let's just say I hate a lot of ads I see with a passion (take those new Snickers' ads for instance). The problem with hating is that, well, sometimes you have to respect what other people do. I mean life is all about timing. Being the first to do something, no matter how idiotic or terrible, it often gets you remembered. So you can say, "I could have come up with that," or "I could do better," but it mostly just amounts to empty threats. The thing about ads too is that, as much as we want to give ourselves self-congratulatory pats on the back for being clever, the idea of an ad is to garner attention to a product or cause, and so some compromise can often be necessary to appeal to mass audiences.

So I like to go halfway from empty threats about my advertisability and taking action and float ads through my head when the mood catches me. As I like to have a beer from time-to-time, I always like to come up with catchy little taglines (redundant perhaps as it goes without saying that a tagline should be catchy). So I present to you, five beer ad campaigns I've come up with that will never be realized (nor should they be).

Spaten: Remember that movie 300? Yeah, I only saw a little bit of it, but a lot of people love it. Whenever I see or order a Spaten beer, all I can think is, "This...is...Spaten!" Think those Capital One "What's in Your Wallet Commercials" only way better. Retarded? Probably. Guaranteed to sell more beer? Possibly.

Red Stripe: Hetero? Homo? Bi? Bi-curious? No matter your flavor, there should be a beer that unites us all because America is about diversity and unity. Now, this would call for Red Stripe to roll out some new packaging and rebranding, but I think it will be worth it for, "Rainbow Stripe: Hooooraaaayy Queer!"

Budweiser: The folks at Budweiser, now InBev have actually anticipated this move and have two ad campaigns waiting in the wings, both quite simple, and both immensely superior to current concepts of drinkability. The first is a punchy, "Budweiser: King for Queers," but leery about using that term due to its expected association with the new Rainbow Stripe brand, geniuses at ad giant Ogilvy & Mather have prepared the subtle amendment to "Budweiser: King for Queens."

Heineken: Ah yes, Heineken. Not that any of these are much of a stretch, but when a beer tastes like ass and is affectionately referred to as "Heinie", advantage must be taken. So here it is: "Heineken: A taste true to its nickname since 1873. Go on, grab a cold one. When's the last time you really tasted Heinie?"

Miller High Life: The goddamn "Champagne of Beers." If you thought the other efforts were poor, this one will disappoint even further, but I had to pay homage to one of the more influential beers in my life.


Your best legal option for living the high life.

Long overdue tales of Sonic and Chi-town coming soon...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Only Things Certain In Life

Right right, so I'd been meaning to discuss taxes ever since I did mine, oh, three or four weeks ago now. Now, I'm not sure why, but I decided that when I filed my taxes I should do them on paper, the old-fashioned way, rather than use any of that e-file, TurboTax, etc-type technology. I mean, I understand that software is developed to make life easier for those of us who don't have the need, the funds, or the inclination to use an accountant, but why do taxes need to be so complicated anyway? Just seems like another way of giving the average American the shaft, with loopholes that only the wealthiest tend to exploit. It's somewhat unrelated, but when I think of exploitation I think of this horrible case in Jersey a few years back. And, as I looked for it, I came upon this recent case in Florida. Sorry, tangents, my bad. So taxes, I mean, I like to think I'm a reasonably intelligent guy and if I'm reading through these pamphlets saying "what the fuck?" I think we've got problems. Throw in the fact that I have been a bit of an insomniac zombie of late, which may be slightly impeding my brain function a bit, and I spent a good four-to-six hours of what I remember doing my taxes.

I did make more trouble for myself by forgetting a small W-2 (or three...ha, no, just one) for my Jersey and federal filings. I also had to file New York state non-residency tax, and a self-employment tax form. For a guy who really doesn't make that much money in the grand scheme of things, it was a lot of work I tell you. And when that work is to tell you that you owe the feds a g-and-a-half and even owe your state a benjamin or two, the incentives are low. But I'm a firm believer that you have to look for the humor in things, and there are certainly some ludicrous or simply obscure things written on the tax forms and in the instruction booklets. And hell, I already checked my bank statements to see that NJ and the Feds cashed my checks already, so I'm good to go; who knows when New York will give me my refund, though. Checks always get cashed a lot quicker than they're written. Lucky us. Plus, I'm sure the feds hated having to read through my paper garbage, so they probably just said "fuck it" and cashed the check.

Now, one area where there is the potential for great fun is filling out the deductions portion of the self-employment form. You can do itemized deductions on your regular tax form as well, but it's got nothing on the self-employment form. I feel as if this is where a lot of people take great liberties, but I was feeling pretty uninventive, so I just did legitimate things like health insurance payments.

So right, the humor in the tax forms. I mean, look at it as a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Of course, it should probably fall under the category of Choose Your Own Adventure Novels That Never Quite Made It. As a prime example, I jotted down this gem from Line 42 of the federal 1040: if line 38 is over $119,975, or you provided housing to a Midwestern displaced individual, see page 36. Otherwise, multiple $3,500 by the total number of exemptions claimed on line 6d. Kudos to anyone who provided housing to a displaced Midwestern flood victim, you are a better person than I, for sadly I didn't even know there were any flood victims (let alone a flood) until I googled it after reading the tax form. I do like to think of people doing that deed solely with the prospect of an additional tax write-off for the upcoming year.

And that's more than enough on taxes. As for that only other thing certain in life, this is going to take a turn for the melancholy (even taxes are uplifting by comparison) with this list of Shocking and Tragic Sports Deaths. While trying to compare what is a worse loss or circumstance seems silly, that link goes right to Bison Dele's story, the details of which stood out to me for, well, being both shocking and tragic.

Since I'm all about the links today, I'm going to flip it back to an uplifting note with these Mathematical chart and graph representations of rap. Um, yes. And finally, for those who think Barack Obama is tight, don't sleep on Hazel McCallion, Mayor of Mississauga. Sure she's mayor of a Canadian city as opposed to Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful country in the world (are we?), but you gotta spread the love.

Happy penultimate tax day everyone and yes, I did just want to say penultimate.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Matzoh Do About Nothing

Passover kicked off Wednesday night and while I've been seder-free since college, last year's reprisal made it a little odd not to have one this year. My family never did the long and involved "official" seder, but still had the plate and the accoutrements. Actually, "accoutrements" is inaccurate as apparently that pertains only to additional items worn by soldiers, but initially I was thinking I'd heard it used in other situations. I mean, the word is meant to be used in only very precise situations it appears, which is why the English language can be pretty silly sometimes; that, and it can also be spelled "accouterments." Why have two very similar spellings for the same sparingly used word? Is it meant to make things harder or easier on dyslexics perhaps? Don't know. Just another sign it's time for me to learn a new language.

Also, not sure if a certain jazz or pop has been missing in my more recent posts, but it gets that feeling sometimes since my mind has been preoccupied a bit of late. But that is neither here nor there and is the typical blogger's remorse that periodically rears its ugly head. That's the thing, no matter what, it's still a personal blog, so no matter what ends up dropping down, it's me.

Right so last year I thought I'd covered a lot of my beef with the commercialization of Passover and the establishment of a whole new "Kosher for Passover" industry in the past few years, probably even decades. I did a quick look back and could not find said post, but I know it's got to be there somewhere because, in particular, I know I have discussed the virtue of Kosher for Passover Coke over traditional market Coke, that being the use of cane sugar versus high fructose corn syrup. So it's no wonder that, as USA Today just reported, KFP Coke is selling like hotcakes to Jews and Goys alike. I'm also quickly realizing that a lot of my KFP rant might just have been delivered in the non-cyber world and that it's so ingrained (which I was going to type as engrained as, again, both are permissible...seriously English language, seriously) in my brain that I think I've written it down.

So let me tell you about something that I don't think is Kosher for Passover, and that is some of the clothing being worn by the teenage female Jewish population in my neighborhood. I already made note of this in an email to a couple of friends, so I'll hope they're not reading because I hate repeating myself, but this can go ahead and be a brief anecdote I will lie and say is worth hearing twice.

So there I am (and, incidentally, I say "so" a lot) walking back to my house after toiling in retail sales. Now it was a beautiful day. I never see people out in my neighborhood but couple the weather with it being a Jewish holiday and we are talking vampires smelling blood. Quickly I come upon two Jewesses, one in conservative early Spring attire and a pair of flats, the other wearing this sexy spring dress and black hooker boots (2-3 inches below back of knee). It was making her hips sway. I can't imagine she was much older than 16, certainly not over 18, and you never know with the hormones in milk these days. All I could think of was, "now that is how passover should be." The moral of Passover is clearly that you've gotta look sexy even when celebrating the suffering of your ancestors that helped get you to where you are today.

In honor of that I ran shirtless in my newest pair of shorts that, when the wind flaps, expose the side dimples on my buttocks. So get out there and rock your bod...for Passover's sake, and don't ever forget to Borei Pre Hagafen...

Monday, April 6, 2009

The City of Brotherly Love

Though I've lived in close proximity to Philadelphia most of my life, I've never really taken too many visits there. There's this dichotomy in Jersey where, if you're from the North you're an extension of "The City" (aka New York) and, if you're from the South, you're an extension of Philly. But I'm from central Jersey, a region about which their is some dispute as to actual existence. Still, if the NJSIAA says there is a central section, that's good enough for, um, something.

So this past weekend I made my second trek to Philly in as many months, this time in the company of some old college chums that I hadn't seen in what I would realize was too long. As my man Dave Matthews likes to say, "turns out not where but who you're with that really matters." Yes, I just called Dave my boy because aside from everything else, I used to put on "Crash" to go to bed for probably the better part of eighth and ninth grade (replacing Metallica's "And Justice for All" no less). But alas, I digress as usual.

After a dinner of cheesesteaks and forties and some leisurely boozing we would settle into an evening of salsa dancing, but not before awkwardly walking into an "uninvited" party somewhere on the Haverford College campus. Admittedly we were just looking for a place to hang out (and keep warm largely, it was a bit chilly) before the salsa kicked off at around midnight. Not much compares to walking into what you expect to be a crowded party to see about eight people wondering who in the hell you are. Me and Danny G. are getting too old for this shit. In retrospect and even in the moment, it really was funny over anything else. And once we entered the house of salsa, all order was restored. Now I am not a good dancer mind you, but I enjoy dancing, and I like to think that that carries over well. I mean, I got ladies to dance and groove, and whether it means you're laughing at my moves or you can absorb some of my enthusiasm, or both, let's just call it win-win.

Post dancing things took a mild turn for the destructive along with some failed attempts to borrow golf carts at Bryn Mawr, but nothing a little late night Mickey D's couldn't cure. They even still had the Shamrock Shake available, but alas all McDonald's ice cream machines "break" after 11pm. I don't know why they have to turn the machine off then, but I wish they wouldn't lie to me and say it's broken. Next time I will ask them, "Oh it should be fixed by 10am or so though, right?"

The real highlight of the trip, for me, was the morning after. I think I've discussed in here before the manic glory of sleep deprivation and lingering booze in the veins, but it really does work wonders. Now, as much as the AgBat and I were outsiders briefly at our uninvited apartment gathering, I couldn't help but feel like more of an outsider on the sunny morning streets of Ardmore. I was waiting for someone to say, "You boys aren't from around these parts, are ya?"

So for a truly bizarre interaction, I really can't top our IHOP experience. It was Sunday at 11am, so prime time, and I expected a crowd. I walked up to put my name down for a table for four. "Can I get a table for four please," I asked. "Name," asked the host. I gave him my name, which he followed up with, "You'll have to be sure to watch your language around here. As you can see there are little children behind you." No, wait, really? I literally said nothing besides my name. There was a pause and I said, "Do I look particularly susceptible to using foul language?" Sometimes I speak in such an archaic and scholarly fashion, especially when I'm thrown for a loop [in reality I said nothing]. I interrupted the ensuing silence after his bizarre comment by asking how long the wait would be. He told me twenty minutes. I opted to have us walk around outside while waiting.

There were some further classic moments once we returned and were seated but I'm running out of steam and you, dear reader, might be running out of interest. Remind me to remind myself to talk about taxes and losing my Sonic virginity because I've been meaning to do both of those things. Oh shit, it's almost Passover time...
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