Tuesday, May 25, 2010

That's it and that's all

All across the country, there are college sophomores finishing up their second year of school. Many of them are finally deciding on a major, one they will likely change a couple of times before finally graduating. A good portion of them are also figuring out that, in the words of Dean Wormer, 'Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life,' although if I could find a way to do just that, I'd seriously consider it as an alternative to what I've got going for me now.

These are students who have spent the past two decades living in a world where they can barely remember life without the internet. They've never known a world with two separate Germanys and the Soviet Union was something made learning the countries in Asia much easier for kids in the 80s. They likely have very little, if any, recollection of ALF and Pac Man is that thing that freaked them out on Google the other day.

They've also never experienced life without Law & Order in their lives. Beginning in 1990, the show has been a staple of NBC where it anchored its Wednesday night lineup for more than a decade. Then its effort to show the effects of 'Not Leaving Well Enough Alone' the dumbasses in charge thought moving Law & Order would be a good idea. Even in the era of DVRs and Hulu, it felt weird knowing Law & Order wasn't holding down the Wednesday night at 10 p.m.

And so, on May 24, the last new episode of Law & Order aired. Granted, there's still Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and the new Law & Order: Los Angeles, (airing this fall on NBC) and the ubiquitous reruns, but seeing the mother ship sail off to retirement is a little unsettling. I started watching when I was about 13 when I came across the reruns on A&E. I watched every chance I could, still watch the reruns I've seen dozens of times and have generally made Yes Dear hate the show because it was always on.

So what better way to send the show off that with a running diary. Here's what transpired.

10 p.m. - In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate but equally important groups - the police who investigate crimes, and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories. I assume this is the first thing they teach you in law school.

10:01 - A guy has pictures of girls and guns on his blog. Apparently this makes one a freak, at least to the dad on L&O who has apparently never been on the interwebs.

10:02 - I've long believed that the theme music for L&O should be played at the beginning of every trial or court proceeding. Greatest theme music of this generation.

10:05 - The Bing.com commercial confuses me. I think I'll stick with Google.

10:07 - Olympic skiier Lindsey Vonn is apparently making a guest appearance on the show. She's going to make a fortune in syndication.

10:09 - While I sympathize with the cancer treatments of Lt. Van Buren, one of the great aspects of L&O is that it it never delved into the lives of the characters. The crime was the story.

10:11 - Basic plot so far, blogger has video of pipe bombs on his site, cops think it could be something that may blow up an NYC block. Wild goose chase to ensue.

10:13 -  The potential bomber wants to blow up a school, according to his website. And if there's one thing we all know it's that everything on the internet is true. There are strict controls on the interweb, they don't let just anybody put stuff up on here.

10:19 - The counterterrorism guy just delivered his lines as though he was reading them for the first time. I hope he doesn't make it big or I'm going to look like an (even bigger) idiot for criticizing him.

10:21 - note to self, don't post crazy stuff on my blog, apparently some detectives may think it's a credible threat. (Note to any law enforcement reading this, nothing on here is serious and should not be construed as a credible threat.)

10:24 - A girl met a guy at a skating rink. Do the kids still go to those? I'm so out of touch.

10:26 - Commercial break means I can now say I'm confused by how a posting on a blog is deemed to be a credible threat that takes up the time of two homicide detectives (wouldn't threatening to blow up a school be something for the counterterrorism unit) and two assistant district attorneys. Granted, the postings seem to be focused and determined, but if the police and DAs spend these amounts of resources on the internet, they're going to be spending a lot of time chasing pranks and kids being stupid.

10:29 - The Hamm Hearing Center is run by John Hamm. First he stars in Mad Men, and now he's an ear doctor. This man is incredibly talented.

 10:34 - Still no luck finding the writer of the blog. I miss the days when someone was arrested by 10:30 and the next half hour was spent prosecuting someone. The duality of the show is what made it special. Sadly, as it went on, more and more time has been spent on the investigation and less and less in the courtroom. I can get police dramas anywhere, but quality courtroom dramas are not as prevalent. I learned more about the way the law and trials worked from LO then from any other book, show or class I took, including a law class in undergrad.

10:41 -I agree with Richard Belzer that 'Donk Donk' sound is 'the Dick Wolf Cash Register Sound'

10:42  - Apparently the cardinal rule of teaching is 'you never hit a student.' You need a rule for that?

10:45 - The mysterious blogger may be a teacher, not a student. Not exactly the plot twist L&O has come to be known for.

10:48 - Jack McCoy makes his first appearance in the show. The greatest character ever on the show. I hated when they made him DA. However, he's showing his flair and temper. I want McCoy to be my District Attorney. He's going off. Well worth the 48 minutes to get him into the show.

10:50 - As expected, McCoy gets what he wants, a teacher agrees to give up the name of the teacher they're trying to identify.

10:51 - I couldn't be a cop. They pulled right up to a place where they think a bomb's about to go off. They're running into the school while everyone else is running out. Then again, the teacher's also going with the cops. I'm better off not getting one of those jobs.

10:54 - I know I complained about the lack of a courtroom portion of the show, but this is pretty damn dramatic. The police get the alleged blogger, a former teacher falsely accused of molesting a student.

10:56 - Lt. Van Buren's cancer has apparently not spread. Good news.

10:57 - And we fade to black, thus drawing to an end the show I've watched more than any other show not named SportsCenter. Fortunately, it lives on in syndication for years to come.

11:00 - After reading about the ending of LOST (and I didn't watch the show, so I can't comment on how it ended), L&O ended about how I expected it to. There was no 'end' to the show because there's really no end. Crimes will still be committed, police will still investigate them and the district attorneys will still prosecute the offenders. We just won't hear as many of their stories now.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fab 5 Freddy

Today's lists are brought to you by the number '5' and by all people named Freddy.

Five Words/Phrases I Wish Were Used More
That is factually correct
Do me a solid.
Your money's no good here, Mr. Martin.
Mr. Martin, Ms. Hennessy is here to see you.
Indeed. (instead of 'true')

Five Favorite U2 Albums (from 5 to 1)
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
All That You Can't Leave Behind
No Line on the Horizon
The Joshua Tree
Achtung Baby

Five Teams I Always Cheer Against
Dallas Cowboys
New York Yankees
Nebraska Cornhuskers (Football only)
Furman Paladins (All Sports)
Los Angeles Lakers

Five Television Shows of Which I've Never Seen An Entire Episode:
Beverly Hills 90210
House M.D.
Grey's Anatomy
CSI (any of them)

Five 80's Songs I Still Like
Come On Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners
Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield
Tainted Love - Soft Cell
Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler
Love Shack  - The B-52's /

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Time in a bottle

So I found myself needing to kill 25 minutes this afternoon and a decision to make. I could either go for ice cream and make my son happy (if not messy) or I could wander through a bookstore. Needless to say, I won't be winning any 'Father of the Year' awards after my decision. (Granted, I'd already eliminated myself from contention by failing to take him to the beach or the pool this weekend, which I'm fairly certain is an automatic disqualification for people with easy access to either or both.)

I wander in to a national chain that shall remain nameless (unless they want to pay me for the product placement, I'm nothing if not a sell out) and begin perusing the selections. As you might expect, I wander the store looking for the sports books (particularly the baseball books), and end up missing it on my first trip around the store. In doing so, I inadvertently wandered into the politics section where I, again, realized people who buy books written by political commentators are merely looking for someone to confirm their ideas while attempting to look smart ('Look at me, I read political books even if they're all , I'm smart.') rather than actually seeking well thought out ideas about problems our country faces.

After backtracking a bit, I stumble on the sports section (conveniently not located in the back, where they are in most of the other bookstores I've looked through) where I see several that pique my interest. Among them is a biography on Willie Mays (for my money, the best player who ever lived), a biography on Satchel Paige (which, according to the baseball experts I read online, is supposed to be really good) and a book about a pitcher in 1884 that looked really interesting. And for southeastern North Carolina, there were an inordinate amount of books about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Then again, they do play Yankees games on the local ESPN radio station for some reason.

From there, I wandered over to the North Carolina section. After all, if I'm going to live here for any length of time, (which I have every intention of doing) I figure I should learn about the state I'm residing in. Of course, a number of the books are about the UNC-Chapel Hill Tar Heels, Duke Blue Devils and, to a lesser extent, the NC State Wolfpack and to a much lesser extent, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. There were also books about ghost stories of North Carolina (not really my bag, baby) and 101 places to see in North Carolina, which seemed somewhat interesting. There was also a book on Fort Fisher, which was one of the last Confederate strongholds in the Civil War, that I think I'd enjoy reading. However, as I'm in the middle of one book, another book on deck and a third book in the hole, I figured it best to not get anything at the moment.

After about a half hour, I proceed to exit the store, but with an odd sense of disappointment. I'd spent 30 minutes in a book store, found at least four or five books I'd enjoy reading, another two or three that I probably need to read, all while only looking at two sections. I can't imagine the number of books I'd actually find that I'd want to read if I spent a significant amount of time perusing the selection. I quickly came to the realization that there were far more books that I'd want to read then there is time for me to actually read them.

So alas, I'll continue to plod along, slowly, through the books I want to read knowing full well there is an mountain of knowledge out in the world that I'll never take the time to learn. I'll just keep adding to my list of books I'd like to read much faster than I knock them out. But that's ok with me. After all, there are times ice cream is probably the better choice than a book.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Home sweet home

There are things in life that you never think about. I'd list some here, but I've never thought about them and therefore can't do so without violating my own premise. (I know, it's a terrible joke, but keep reading, I promise this gets better.) Among those things I'd never previously considered was the childhood home of famous people. This may be, in large part, due the fact that there wasn't anyone really famous ever from my hometown. We had a contestant for Miss America one year and a guy who played Major League Baseball, but he wasn't exactly famous.

(When I worked at a newspaper, I was always jealous of the guy (his blog's here, if you're interested) who got to go cover his games in Atlanta. There still seems like nothing better than getting paid to watch baseball and write about it for a living.Well, except for the late nights, the travel, the fact that it would likely suck the enjoyment out of the game as you realize there are only so many ways to tell the story of how a baseball game played out before you just start mailing it in and count down the days until the season ends, much like Cubs fans do starting around July.)

 So upon learning I was moving to Wilmington, NC, I did what anyone who knows next to nothing about the city does. I went to wikipedia to learn about the place I was moving to, sight unseen. After learning the important things (ESPN radio is AM 630, the beach is within biking distance from Yes Dear's office, there is, in fact, a Zaxby's), I proceeded to seek out the local flavor of the town.

I learned, for example, that Wilmington has a sister city in China. I'm not exactly sure what sister cities do other than share stories of traveling pants and gossip about other cities they perceive as less cool then them. I discovered that Wilmington was the smallest city of at least 100,000 people (meaning if someone goes on a killing spree in the city, it'll lose that status.) Matlock was filmed here.

But all that paled in comparison to the fact that the world's greatest basketball player (your results may vary) grew up in Wilmington. Michael Jeffery Jordan, he of the six NBA titles, he of the game winning shot in the 1982 NCAA title game, he of the Air Jordan sneakers, he of the .202 batting average and 3 career home runs for the Birmingham Barons, spent a significant portion of his formative years in the town I'd be living in. Aside from the obvious (my kid can be like Mike, being born somewhere else, raised in Wilmington, becoming the greatest athlete on the planet), this also meant I could try to find out where his house was and go see it.

Fortunately, the local paper published the address on their website, meaning people who like looking at landmarks that don't really have any significance have somewhere to drive by so they can say 'I saw the house Michael Jordan grew up in.' You'd have to be a real loser to do something like that.'

On Mother's Day, Yes Dear decided she wanted to go pick strawberries, which is not a euphemism for anything. She actually wanted to go spend her mother's day picking strawberries. As luck (or fate, or coincidence, or happenstance, or some cosmic force in the universe I don't understand) would have it, the strawberry farm was one mile from Michael Jordan's home. We had no choice but to go see the home. So we drove the extra mile up the road and there, on our right, was the childhood home of my childhood sports hero.

The house was pretty much what I expected. It was a house with a driveway, some trees in the yard and generally no different from any other house surrounding it. Unlike downtown Wilmington where you can't throw a cat without hitting a historical marker denoting some famous person lived in the vicinity, there was nothing to designate this home as an historical landmark. That seems crazy to me since a lot more people probably care about Michael Jordan's home than they do about Johnson Jones Hooper (cut to Hooper's decedent's saying 'hey, what'd we do?'). 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sympathy for the Devil

With apologies to Paul Harvey, I'd like to present to you the rest of the story of 'The Devil Went Down to Georgia.'

Having returned to Hades across the river Styx, The Devil wasn't quite sure what to do. He thought for sure he could beat Johnny in a fiddle-playing contest to meet his quota of souls. But alas, he was bested by the best there ever was, resulting in The Devil having to forfeit his fiddle of gold. Even worse, now his minions were starting to doubt him. 'How could they respect me now?' he thought to himself as he secluded himself in his office on the top floor overlooking Washington DC. 'If I lose my minions, I've got nothing. I can't do all the evil in the world all by myself.'

'What are the odds I'd have picked the world's greatest fiddle player? And in Georgia of all places," he thought to himself. "I thought all great fiddle players lived in Texas, especially after I got them to pass that stupid law requiring all bands to have a fiddle player." 

He thought about offering Johnny a rematch, but that seemed like a bad idea. Even though the Latvian judge had him winning the fiddle-off, he lost by a resounding 8-1 vote. That was even more evidence of his declining power. How was it he could only bribe one judge to vote for him?

Depressed and devastated, Satan went off in search of the minion in charge of research. Someone had to pay for this humiliation, and who better than Oscar. He'd been head researcher in charge of finding easy souls to steal for nearly 400 years. It was Oscar who suggested challenging Johnny to the contest in the beginning. After an hour of yelling, screaming, and threatening to send Oscar to solitary confinement with nothing but Justin Bieber songs playing, Oscar finally figured out what happened. He'd check the box marked 'Fiddle-playing contest' instead of 'fencing contest' on Satan's report. While Johnny is quick with a fiddle bow, he's not quite as good with a fencing foil.

Johnny, meanwhile, had a fiddle of gold that he wasn't sure what to do with. No one would ever believe he beat The Devil in a fiddle playoff. Sure, his friends knew he was good, but not good enough to beat the origin of all evil. Selling it was an option, but how often are you going to have a chance to win a golden fiddle from the Prince of Darkness. Besides, there had to be some way to cash in on this. Exploiting your 15 minutes of fame is what America is all about.

So he made the usual rounds, Today,Good Morning America, Letterman, Leno (where he learned off camera of a deal Leno made with the Devil to get his time slot back).  He showed off his fiddle, played some songs and generally started enjoying life. He traded his girlfriend in for a sexier one, got a new car and lived the high life (as defined by Miller beer.)

At the height of his fame, Johnny even got the Georgia Legislature to pass a law requiring that he be the only one to represent the state in all future fiddle-playing contests (which were apparently more common than I was led to believe.)

But slowly, his fame began to fade. Soon he wasn't headlining shows, but was the opening act for various C-level country singers. Then he began playing county fairs across the Southeast . He knew he hit rock bottom when VH-1 came calling to have him be a panelist on their "I Love Songs About The Devil" series.

Back in Hades, Satan was once again in a bind. He'd fallen behind on his projected soul collection and with the work piling up, he needed a soul or two soon. (His deal with Leno didn't expire for several more years, though he did get Kevin Eubank's soul at a discount.) At about the same time, Johnny was starting to have health problems resulting in his years on the road of hard living.

So once again, Satan approached Johnny, hoping to make him a Godfather offer. There was no reason to try another fiddle contest. Instead, Satan offered Johnny a platinum banjo in exchange for his soul. Only this time, the contest was a game of checkers. An odd choice, to be sure, but one Satan felt confident in. They settled on a best two out of three, with a coin toss to determine who went first in each game.

After weeks of buildup, including a deal to broadcast it on ESPN in return for Chris Berman's soul (he wasn't using it anyway), the big match was set to being. Satan won game one when Johnny got distracted by Heidi Klum in the audience. (Me, use that convenient plot point as an excuse to run one of Klum's pictures? Surely you don't think I'd do such a thing.) Satan swore up and down he didn't pay her to wear her Victoria's Secret outfits to the match. (It was later discovered this was the second part of the deal with Seal to marry Klum. Had she not done it, Seal would be clubbed to death.)

In the second game, it was Satan's turn to be distracted as Pat Robertson sullied Satan's good name by blaming him for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Satan was so infuriated that he set up Johnny for a rare quintuple jump. (Note: I don't know if it's actually rare, but it sounded good at the time.)

The final game drew record ratings. Each jump drew cheers from the crowd (which was evenly split for each combatant.) Every move was scrutinized by checkers experts on television and online. It was almost as though the world stopped to watch the outcome of the game. As each player lost pieces, the tension grew. One move it would look like Johnny had control, then Satan would do something and momentum would swing his direction. After a marathon game, Satan eventually mentally wore down Johnny to the point he made a mistake and Satan seized on it.

Johnny had been defeated. He covered his face in his hands, dejected. How could he have been so stupid? Why did he think he could beat the Devil twice? And why checkers? Johnny reluctantly forfeited his soul to Satan, who gleefully took it with him to Hades. But he knew that Satan would be back one day to try to get his Golden Fiddle back. And when he did, Johnny would be ready.