Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Things We Do For Love. And Football.

College football season is nigh upon us. Lynda understands that no minute of Notre Dame football is to be missed, and even watches the games with me at the Notre Dame Alumni Club game watches. However, should I turn on another game at home, her reaction is comparably negative to that of which I would get if I had just tuned into Best Damn Hooter’s Bikini Contest. She will announce that “We’ve already watched football today!”, apparently overlooking 2 things:

  1. She and I are not, in fact, the same person – ‘she’ may have had enough, but ‘I’ haven’t, and it is not necessary that ‘we’ do the same thing at all times.
  2. Unlike the NFL, each college football regular season game is meaningful in the sense that one loss can knock a team out of national championship contention.

However, as self-evident as those two facts are, Lynda still does not seem to be able to grasp them. Therefore, I had to devise a system by which I could earn the time I wish to spend watching my favorite sport. Simply doing chores around the house won’t cut it, because she expects me to do these things. I have to go above and beyond to earn my time credits.

Hours That May Be Claimed Once Per Season

+4 Hours - I Don't Play Golf

As a general rule, I try to stay away from things I see other people get addicted to, and golf is like crack to men in their 40’s. They will play at least one round on the weekends (if not two), and possibly work one in during the week. They will spend hundreds of dollars to get the latest “Steel Pull-Face Fairway Wood”, sure to enable them to lower their score from 87 all the way down to 86. They will spend large portions of each vacation on the links. Worst of all, they will spend an additional few hours each week recounting every stroke on every hole to their spouse in greater detail than can be found in the US tax code (and about as interesting to listen to). So, honey, you owe me for all the additional time I could have spent ignoring you, like other terrible husbands do to their wives. Aren’t I awesome? And it could be worse, but....

+6 Hours - I Don't Play Poker, Either

At least when someone talks about their previous round of golf, you can understand what the hell they’re talking about. Poker has a veritable wealth of ‘lingo’, and guys that play poker LOOOOOOOOOVE to work in as much of it as they can into each and every sentence:

Well, I had a bad beat when I drew a pocket Broderick Crawford and the flop had a Cowboy and an Aggie Slick. Anyone with a pocket Bachelor’s Hand or even a Gorillas in the Mist I wouldn’t be able to crack, no matter what came in the turn or the river. I couldn’t even go for a Gun Shot and I didn’t want to be a Calling Station, so I mucked it…

-1 Hour - I Watched "The The Making of the Dallas Cowboys’ Cheerleaders” last season

EVEN THOUGH she watched every episode also AND EVEN THOUGH she actually got mad at me because I didn’t record the season finale last year, I lose an hour because, in watching this, I acknowledged that other women besides Lynda do, in fact, exist.

Hours That May Be Claimed Weekly

½ Hour - Every Hour We Watch “The Dog Whisperer”

Good Lord, how I hate watching this show. Let me count the ways:

  1. The ‘Whisperer’, Cesar Millan, usually wears a pink polo shirt with the collar popped up. Hey, Dog Genius, turn off Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and change your shirt. When you buy a collared shirt, it comes with the collars folded over exactly how they should be. Leave them alone. You look ridiculous.
  2. The show could conceivably work as a drinking game: just down a shot every time Cesar says the word “energy”. I say ‘conceivably’, because unless you have a few guys with cast-iron stomachs, everyone would be passed out drunk in under 15 minutes. He absolutely loves that word.
  3. He’s ALWAYS successful in turning whatever nutcase of a dog he’s been consulted to help with into a suburban Lassie. Just once I’d like to see “Well, I hoped he would change his energy by reacting to my positive energy, but he used some negative energy to gnaw off three inches of my butt…”
  4. Despite the three or four “Do not try these techniques at home.” warnings, nothing seems to be able to stop folks who watch this show (ahem, Lynda) from feeling that they have been handed some kind of Rosetta Stone for understanding each and every action their dog undertakes and how to correctly respond. Lynda now isuues out commands to the dog, who stares at her quizzically for awhile as Lynda repeatedly barks out the same word over and over, then eventually figures out whatever it is Lynda is trying to tell her to do, and then does it, less out of a response to proper training than the desire to get Mrs. Bossy Britches to finally shut up.
  5. Lynda considers every word that comes out of Cesar’s pie hole to have come from Christ Himself, no matter how many times I’ve told her the same thing. Example: When I take a nap (the best way to spend a non-football Saturday afternoon), Tipper will lie on the bed with me the whole time with her butt up against me, and facing toward the door. I have told Lynda about Tipper doing this many times, saying that the dog is “guarding me”. Then a few weeks ago, Lynda walked in to the bedroom, saw Tipper laying down with her butt up against me lying on the bed, and announced “Cesar Millan said last night that when Tipper does that, she’s guarding you.” You don’t say! Wow, I would have never deduced that on my own! What a font of knowledge he is! Quick, run outside and tell me what color Cesar Millan says the sky is!!!
I only get a half hour because I, as is my God-given right as a male, control the remote.

+1 Hour - Going To Oliver’s With Her

Oliver’s is neighborhood eatery here in north Dallas that Lynda absolutely loves, to the point that she would eat every meal there if she could. It’s a chick place, meaning the food they serve is either chick stuff like salad and “guilt free” pasta - whatever that is - or stuff that would be guy food if the folks who run the restuarant could stop themselves from gussying it up so much that no self-respecting man would touch it. Cheeseburger? Sounds great. What’s that? It’s spiced with oregano and cumin, and served with goat cheese over a rice pilaf? Pass.

-1 Hour - Every Hour I Spend Watching The Cubs In The Playoffs

The fact that a) the Cubs have sucked for most of my lifetime, b) they have a realistic shot this year at going deep into the playoffs, c) former Notre Dame football wide receiver Jeff Samardzija pitches for the Cubs, d) it has been 63 years since they last went to the World Series, e) this is the 100 year mark since they last won a World Series, and f) should the Cubs fail to win the World Series, they will lose in the most excruciating way possible, which will give us Cub fans more bad memories to wallow in, which we love since that’s all we really have besides a nice ballpark to watch the Cubs in – all of this means nothing to Lynda. An hour watching one non-Notre Dame sport counts just as much another.

+1 Hour - Buying Gossip/Celebrity Magazines

Lynda has far too much dignity and intelligence to buy these rags herself, but if I were to, oh, say, buy 3 or 4 of these at Walgreens, she will read every one I buy cover-to-cover. Finding the little lady something to read has the added benefit of the fact that while she’s catching up on how Jake and Reese are doing, I can watch whatever I want.

+ ½ Hour
- Every 2 Hours We Watch “Deal Or No Deal” Together

Deal Or No Deal is a game show for people who think Candyland is a game of strategy. There has not been a single contestant who has not failed to grasp the simple math it takes to make at least a somewhat intelligent decision whether to take the ‘deal’ or keep going:

  1. Look at the amount being offered.
  2. Count the number of amounts still left in the cases that are less than the amount of the deal. We’ll call this number A.
  3. Count the number of amounts still left in the cases that are more than the amount of the deal. We’ll call this number B.
  4. If the ratio of A to B is greater than 3 to 2, keep going. If not, take the deal.

Instead, the contestants jump around a lot, wave their arms, pull out divining rods and/or chicken bones, consult with their ‘advisors’, none of whom apparently understand math any better than they do, and then go by ‘gut feeling’. I truly wonder at times how these folks get through life operating anything more complicated than a toaster. But I only get a half hour for every 2 hours of 'Deal' because there are hot chicks holding the cases, and I can get away with ogling them by saying things like “She looks just like you, honey” and “No, I don't think her boobs look natural at all!”. Ogling aside, I have to pretend that I really hate the show, so that it appears I’m sacrificing my precious time to watch it with her. Oh yes, I’m just that evil.

I'm ready for some football!!!! Honey, bring me a Diet Coke! Honey?


Monday, August 25, 2008

From "Bad Idea Toys"....


I can only imagine the instructions:

"First, remove the plug from Batman's rear end, and use your hose to fill with liquid...."

"For maximum satisfaction in operation, squeeze pump (located below Batman's waist) repeatedly until liquid shoots out...."

OK, I'll stop now.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Sham And Shame Of The 2008 Olympics

Medals aside, the Chinese gymnastic situation amounts to child abuse.

Even if three of these girls are only 14 or 15 – and an AP report today says one girl is 13 – and it is true that Asian girls are, on average, smaller than Western girls of the same age, there is something seriously wrong with what the Chinese gymnastic association is doing with their female gymnasts.

Shawn Johnson is 4’9” and weighs 90 pounds, and is the smallest and lightest girl on the US team. Standing next to half of the Chinese gymnasts, she looks like she could play linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Three of the Chinese girls weigh under 75 pounds, with one checking in at 68 pounds. That is ridiculously unhealthy, and appears to be a result of malnourishment.

What makes it worse is that it is likely being done deliberately.

Such malnourishment in female gymnastics was common in the 1970’s and 1980’s among the gymnastic teams of the Eastern Bloc countries. The purpose of malnourishment among female gymnasts is two-fold: Number one is that the smaller a girl is, the more easily she can spin, twist, and tumble. However, it goes much beyond that. Number two is to “beat back nature”, intentionally undernourishing female gymnasts to prevent the female body from entering puberty, to avoid the development of hips and breasts that impede spinning, twisting, and tumbling. It is common among these gymnasts to not have their first period until they are in their 20s, a condition known as amenorrhea. This delaying of the onset of menstruation wreaks havoc in a woman’s body in regards to hormonal balance, lean muscle density, skeletal development, and bone density. According to numerous medical studies, women who experience amenorrhea are five times more likely to develop osteoporosis, and are likely to do so at a relatively young age.

The ’72 Olympics and ’76 Olympics were bell-weather meets that would shape women’s gymnastics for years to come. In ’72, the star was 13 year-old Olga Korbut from the USSR. Small and lithe, she was able to do skills that hadn’t been seen before. She did one skill on the beam that was so new that there were no guidelines how to score it. Four years later, though, her body had matured into a 17 year-old’s, and the new star was 14 year-old Nadia Comaneci, coached by Bela Karolyi. The contrast between the two was evident to both the viewing public and, more importantly, to the world’s gymnastic coaches: small, lithe Nadia left now-somewhat-curvy Olga in the dust. And the American team? They looked like normal, if somewhat small, teenagers: they averaged about 20-25 pounds heavier than the Soviets and Eastern Bloc countries. They did not win a single medal.

By the time the next Olympics featuring the US occurred in 1984, Bela Karolyi had defected to the US and brought his training methods with him. He definitely does produce champions. He also produces a long string of girls that develop numerous stress-related injuries and eating disorders. Nadia Comaneci developed an eating disorder between ’76 and ’80, during which her weight fluctuated by 40 pounds. She and Karolyi managed to get her into shape by the ’80 Moscow Olympics, and she won a few medals, but she was no longer capable of doing the skills she had done in ’76. Since the US boycotted those games, those in the West did not see Nadia become just another over-the-hill-at-18 gymnast; she would be forever the little girl who scored perfect 10s.

The ’84 US Olympic women’s team looked remarkably different from the ’76 one, with their average weight about 10 pounds lighter. While Mary Lou Retton was pretty healthy (and naturally small), over the next couple of years, a number of her teammates developed eating disorders and/or suffered a wide range of stress-related injuries. America’s premier sports magazine at the time, Sports Illustrated, took notice: "Turning our teenage girls into skinny little automatons isn’t beating the Russians, it’s joining them." Such complaints fell on deaf ears, though, as the team won silver, and Retton won gold in all-around. This, plus Nadia’s ’76 success plus the judging controversies of the ’88 games, gave Bela Karolyi the stature to impose his blueprint for the ideal gymnast on US women’s gymnastics for the foreseeable future.

The ’88 US team featured some rather "developed" female bodies in 16 year-old Brandy Johnson, 17 year-old Melissa Marlowe and 21 year-old Kelly Garrison, and finished 4th. Individually, they took home only one medal, a bronze in the balance beam by Phoebe Mills, the skinniest girl on the team. The girls were very toned athletes and performed well (Johnson finished 10th in the all-around), but still looked like giants compared to the Russian and Romanian teams, and the opinion (widely championed by Karolyi) was that the US girls didn’t "look the part" of the international elite gymnast, and it affected how they were scored.

The ’92 team was put together explicitly to meet this standard. Kim Kelly, who finished 6th in the Olympic Trials (the top 6 made the Olympic team, and the 7th place girl would be the alternate), was replaced on the team in favor of injured (but small and skinny) Betty Okino of Karolyi’s Gym - primarily, it would seem, because Kelly alone of the US gymnasts had the mature curvy body that the US coaches were trying to move away from. Kelly wasn’t even named as an alternate; that spot was given to another small and skinny gymnast, Michelle Campi, who had a stress fracture in her hip. Nevertheless, USA Gymnastics got the women’s team they wanted: the ’92 US team took the floor in Barcelona looking very much indistinguishable from the wan and sunken-cheeked girls from the former Soviet bloc, and Okino competed despite stress fractures in her spine and a pin in her ankle.

The team finished third, and 15 year-old Shannon Miller won 5 medals, but the reaction among the US media was anything but enthusiastic. In short, they were horrified at what they saw. Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe (when he was real journalist, and not the ESPN blowhard he is today) even called for the sport to be abolished. Reaction was strong enough that US gymnastics made nutrition a major part of their program for 1996. Compare pictures of Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes, and Kerri Strug from the ’92 and ’96 games: they were allowed to mature into women (albeit very toned and athletic women) and the US team won gold. One thing about that team bugs me, though: is it any coincidence that Karolyi’s two protégés, Strug and Dominique Moceanu, were the most often-injured of the group? I think not.

Most of the gymnastics world followed suit, and the old Eastern bloc methods appeared to die out....with the notable exception of China, the lone remaining communist country of sufficient size to field an elite Olympic team. Not only does this Olympics’ team contain a few members that are reportedly underage, they also look rather obviously undernourished and underdeveloped.

There is precedence to the suspicion that China's Olympic program copied the old Eastern bloc methods. In the 1970's, East Germany came out of nowhere and dominated the women's swimming medal podium. There had never been a country that had an Olympic team come so far so fast. Once the Soviet bloc collapsed, some interesting medical records came into Western hands: the 1976 East German swimmers (primarily, it should be noted, the women) had been a team of walking steriod containers. Some of the US women's 1976 lockerroom anecdotes about the abnormally deep voices and excessive body hair of the East Germans went from "sour grapes" to "supporting evidence".

In 1988, the Chinese women's swim team came out of nowhere to win a host of medals in Seoul. Though the country did not fall apart, some Chinese swimmers did come clean (about 8 years ago) to Western journalists about their institutionalized steriod program (much like the East Germans' of 1976), particularly once they started to bear some of the long term effects of steriod abuse. The Chinese Olympic swimming organization was exposed and abandoned their swimming steriod program, and have disappeared from the medal contention almost as quickly as they appeared.

In addition to this precedent, I have my own two eyes, and all the facts I have mentioned above. I have followed gymnastics closely since 1976, and was on the Notre Dame gymnastics team for awhile until I concluded, after falling asleep studying for the 2nd time during midterms, that engineering and gymnastics don't mix. Should anyone suggest that this post is just American sour grapes, I'll suggest a little comparative viewing: Spend a little time on youtube watching clips from the 1988 women's gymnastics team final (there's about two hours' worth available). Tell me honestly if either the Soviet or the Romanian team (the Gold and Silver medal-winning teams), of which there is evidence that they were being fed little in order to delay the onset of puberty, has more than one (let alone 3 or 4) girls that are as skinny and underdeveloped as the girls on the Chinese team. If you can honestly say "yes", I'll make an appointment with my eye doctor first thing in the morning to correct my vision.

This Olympics was supposed to be China’s "Coming Out" party. From the perspective of women’s gymnastics, it’s a disgrace.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A little David Mamet for Friday....

Of all the directors in Hollywood today, there's only one of whom I can say that when I see "Written And Directed By _______" on a movie ad, it is guaranteed that I will see that movie: David Mamet. Here's a sampling of his work:

Wrote And Directed:
House of Games (1987)
Things Change (1988)
Homicide (1991)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1993)**
Oleanna (1994)**
American Buffalo (1996)**
The Spanish Prisoner(1998)
State And Main (2000)
Heist (2001)
Spartan (2004)
Redbelt (2008)

** - Wrote original play, too.

Wrote Screenplay:
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)
The Verdict (1982) - Screenplay nominated for Academy Award
About Last Night (1986)
The Untouchables (1987)
The Edge (1997)

Wrote Stage Play:
American Buffalo (1975) - Won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play
Glengarry Glen Ross (1984) - Won Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Nominated for Tony Award
Speed the Plow (1988) - Nominated for Tony Award
Oleanna (1992)

Mamet is also the creator of the TV series "The Unit".

I saw Heist again the other night. I had considered it behind House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner, and Spartan on my mental list of favorite Mamet productions, but after another viewing, I am reconsidering. I had forgotten how entertaining the dialogue was in Heist. To wit:

Scene: Bobby Blane (played by Delroy Lindo), a veteran thief, and Jimmy (Sam Rockwell), a mobster's nephew on his first heist, are sitting in a van, about to initiate their roles in the job. Jimmy taps his lighter on the steering wheel.

Bobby: Sometimes adrenaline gives people the shakes...
Jimmy: I'm alright, man...
Bobby: No, I'm just saying sometimes, adrenaline gives people the shakes. Some other people mistake it for cowardice, maybe you'd want to pray about it.
Jimmy: I'm not a religious man.
Bobby: There's nothing wrong with prayer.
Jimmy: You think so?
Bobby: I'm in this fire fight, this trooper who always carried a bible next to his heart, we used to mock him. But that bible stopped a bullet.
Jimmy: No s--t?
Bobby: Hand of God, that bible stopped a bullet. It would’ve ruined his heart. And had he had another bible in front of his face, that man would be alive today.....

I laughed out loud at that last line. Woke up Lynda and everything.