Monday, April 30, 2007

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown"

About once a month, I run across a news story about some place that may be "the new Napa." This means a place that has beautiful vineyard views and great wine, I guess, but also maybe spas, incredible restaurants, ballooning? I'm not sure what criteria writers use when coming up with the proposal that a place may be "the new Napa." Maybe by looking at some of these stories we'll understand.

The New Napa Valley? Idaho wine region receives national grape-growing designation
"Marketing wine works fine for southwest Idaho vintners, but will work better as word spreads about the area’s new nationwide designation. “The name Snake River Valley gives us that distinction,” said Neil Glancey, winemaker and general manager at Carmela Vineyards near Glenns Ferry. Carmela Vineyards has won national awards for its wines. Some people at the competitions would express surprise when they find out the wine was grown in Idaho, Glancey said."
Mendoza, Argentina: The New Napa Valley
"Mendoza, to me, is the new Napa Valley. I know...Mendoza doesn't look a bit like Napa Valley. It is one gigantic high plateau, gradually becoming higher as it approaches the majestic Andes Mountains in the west. No hillsides on each side, like Napa Valley. No hillside vineyards..."
The Livermore Valley: The New Napa?
"Anguishing in line and suffering a delay that seems utterly unreasonable, then elbowing your way to the bar in order to pay an outrageous fee for a smallish taste, followed by another endless lag for a refill – all too common the scenario at Napa Valley wine tasting rooms. What happened to the old days of unconditional free pouring, enhanced with enlightening and engaging wine discussion?"
Is Brainerd the New Napa?
"Everyone, please: Strip off your waders, empty the duck-pocket of your hunting jacket, kick back and rest your hiking boots on the nearest barrel of wild rice, and ask yourself, is Brainerd the new Napa Valley? I didn't think so. Well, how about you run through a bottle of Canadian Club for me? Is it the new Napa now?"

Well, I don't think we have to worry that Brained, Minnesota will take away our tourism, but you can see why some people are nervous about the future. When you've got so many people trying to be you, how does that affect your sense of self?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tinfoil hat people make a fashion statement

Here's what the in-style deluded people will be wearing this summer.

For ten years or more, I have heard people ramble on about electromagenetic fields from power lines causing cancer and nuking your brain by using your cell phone too much. Now we have this woman from the UK claiming she has some kind of general allergy to energy in the air. She is particularly bothered by wireless networks, she says, and she claims she can feel it if there are electro-magnetic fields in her vicinity. She calls it electro-smog.

As you can see from the photo, she has fashioned this sort of tinfoil hat extender, this veil that protects her from all the bad stuff. And if you read the article, you will learn that she has a layer of tinfoil under her wallpaper and special metal curtains to block stuff from beaming in the windows.

Far be it for me to suggest this woman is some kind of nut case, whack job, loony, addled-pated, screw loose, fuzzy headed, psychosomatic case study. I would never say such things. Besides, it should be easy to set up an experiment to see if the people, like this woman, who have these symptoms can actually tell when they are in the prescence of a device generating the so-called electro-smog. Oh, wait a minute, they already did that test:

In one "provocation" study, a number of people who claimed to have electrical sensitivity were placed in a room with a mobile phone and not told whether or not it was switched on.

Asked by a researcher how they felt, they failed to establish any link between physical symptoms and the alleged trigger.

Oh well, what do studies mean anyway? There's always another study to refute the first study. And it seems like most people believe the studies always come out the way the group paying for the study wants it to come out. Please do not challenge my preconceived notions.

Funny though. If you had all these nasty symptoms, and you were sure it was modern technology that was doing it to you, would you like your walls with Reynolds Wrap and wear a metal burkah? Or would you just go off and live in some primitive place where the modern world wouldn't bother you? There are still plenty of places like that. Then you wouldn't have all these news reporters, and internet chat, and people's attention focused on you, and ....wait a minute...

Friday, April 27, 2007

I love this so much, I can't wait till it's over

I was at a lunch meeting yesterday, and someone made an announcement about a trip the club had sponsored to take needy kids to a baseball game. The report was "We had a great time, took a whole bus load of kids to the game, and it was the shortest game in a long time - an hour and fifty-seven minutes." It strikes me that this is a common approach to evaluating one's baseball experience. We want to go to the game, we love the game, but we don't want the game to last too long. Even the announcers will once in awhile say something like "This one is really moving along!" If we love it, don't we want it to last forever?

Seems a little like a love-hate relationship - take me out to the ballgame, but good grief, don't get me stuck in a 14-inning nightmare than will scar my psyche. Doubleheader? You must be insane, sir.

Does this translate to other aspects of life? Something we look forward to and enjoy, but on which we impose an unspoken time limit? I propose the following standard scale of enjoyable activity matched with the allowable time spent before it's just going on too long.

Golf....................................2.5 to 4.5 hours
Soaking in a hot tub........15 to 20 minutes
Jogging..............................6 to 7 minutes, or once around the block, whichever comes first
Baseball game/Little League.............70 minutes precisely.
Baseball game/Professional...............2 hours, 20 minutes optimum time. Everything after that is agony. They stopped selling beer in the 7th inning (an hour ago) and now they're on the fifth pitching change. Just shoot me.
Eating a muffin....................................5 minutes. Any longer, it's too big or too gooey. Or maybe I'm chewing the paper.
Any card game or board game..........1 hour. At the 61st minute, dump the table, or fake a seizure.
Movie................................2 hours. There's no reason for a movie to be more than 2 hours. They make a lot of 3 hour movies these days. They are 50% too long.
Sex/Regular.....................9 minutes
Sex/Special occasion.....12 minutes
Sex/Tantric.....................21.7 hours

Follow these time tested guidelines for maximum enjoyment. If you discover you have gone overtime and are still engaged in one of these activities, simply make a graceful exit by saying something polite like "I'm bored now" and go. (Note: do not use this exit strategy during sex.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Of F-bombs and piss in boots

WARNING: Mildly offensive terms used with the best intentions.

I worry that our language is suffering. Yes, there's the degradation that comes with the race and gender slurs that have become part of everyday conversation, the kind of thing that got Don Imus in trouble. And there's the overuse of the f bomb ad nauseum. (A friend long ago would offer a one-word comment when someone reeled off a particularly good swear - "crisp," he would say. But you could only keep it crisp if you didn't pull it out of your pocket every five seconds. Overused, it became stale.) But my greater concern is the loss of color in everyday language as all our great colloquialisms and figures of speech fade away.

For example, I'll bet it's been awhile since you heard someone say "He doesn't have enough sense to pour piss out of a boot." Or " it's colder than a witches' tit." Or since we're on the subject, someone with their "tit caught in the wringer," which would be a good description for what happened to Imus actually. Back in my days on the radio, I once got lambasted for describing a heavy rain storm as "what we might have called, back in the Ozarks, a real turd floater."

All of these vividly descriptive terms, and ever so many more, were things I heard my Daddy say when I was growing up. People knew how to put some style in their dialogue back then. But today, most of the references don't make much sense. People don't piss in boots in the night to avoid going out to the privvy, nothing gets caught in the wringer because we all have washing machines, and you don't have a problem with floating turds after a storm when you have indoor plumbing. If the pitcher is wild, you won't be likely to mutter that he "coudn't hit a bull in the ass with a handful of sand" because the size of a bull's ass is not a contemporary reference point, no more than the side of a barn would be. Your friends would just think you're weird and you talk funny.

So little by little, we're loosing all these vivid, if coarse, images as we lose the people whose heads are full of them. My Daddy would drop these jewels of descriptive language into every other sentence, they flowed out with no effort. He never searched for the right phrase, it was always there. His skill with the sayings, as he would have put it, "stands out like a diamond in a goat's ass."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Nerdvergence achieved

My son recently said, "Dad, you're such a nerd." To which I reply, "Thanks, son." High praise indeed. Maybe someday he will call me an early adopter. That would really make my day. But I'll settle for nerd today.

You see, I have reached a new level of nerdvana with the successful connection of my PC to the HD plasma screen in the living room. I am at this moment viewing my post in a full 42-inch 16:9 aspect ratio, riding on my wireless home network, of course. O bliss, technology is thy name!

(In fairness, I must credit David, my uber nerd guide in all things digital, for getting me perfectly set up. I am low on the Nerdlichter Scale, maybe a 3.7, but David is a plate-shifting 8.2. Thanks, pal.)

What's that? The big dealio? Well, this means I can watch worthless You Tube videos from the comfort of my easy chair. And when the Next Big Thing comes along, I'm ready.

There's truly something to ponder here. I have the power to access more information than 99.9% of all the people who have ever lived could have accessed in their lifetimes, and I can do it with my feet up and a handful of Fritos. And in glorious 16:9, did I mention that?

Gotta run, there's a universe of ones and zeroes out there to explore....

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What is and what isn't Kansas

There's been a flap in Napa lately over a high school that wants to require freshman to take a geography course. The required class would cause some kids to lose the option of an elective, or have a longer day of classes. Some people have pointed out how rotten we've gotten at knowing where things are on the map. About once a year you get the news story on how kids can't locate their own state on a map, or can't locate the map in the glove box, or can't remember where they parked the car. Actually, those last two problems are about me, not about kids today. But don't try to distract me.

This relates to today's problem: the town of Jericho in the CBS TV show appears to be somewhere in California. (Relax, this will all tie together in the end.)

I put this show in my "guilty pleasures" category, because it is badly acted and kind of soap-opera like, but I dig the post-catastrophe scenario and it has a little currency to it what with the terrorist nuclear strike aspect. And you know there's nothing more fun than gathering the family around the tube for a rollicking good show about nuclear terrorism and societal collapse.

The problem, though, is that every time they show an exterior shot on location, the terrain is ever so certainly not Kansas, it's laughable. "I knew Kansas, and you, sir, are no Kansas!" It's the same thing you see in most of the TV shows and movies - southern California standing in for the rest of the country.

This is particularly poignant for me. Growing up in Missouri, I devoured all the Gene Autry and Roy Rogers shows I could get, not knowing all that wild west racing by under Trigger's hooves was southern California - not knowing the Ponderosa would have been a lot dustier if they were really in Nevada - not knowing that little pond where Andy and Opie did their fishing was on the back lot at Universal. I thought the whole world outside of Missouri had rolling hills covered in golden grass and spreading oak trees, and rocky escarpments with graceful pines. Later, watching the John Ford westerns, I would be lulled into believing every great character of western fame did all their business in Monument Valley.

This is why I believe kids need geography, and they also need to travel around and see the real world. There's a whole industry down there in SoCal that is trying to make everyone feel terrain envy. Today's kids need the reassurance that their own terrain is just fine the way it is.

Save the children! Teach geography!

Monday, April 23, 2007

No need to think about it anymore

There's nothing that puts me on the defensive more than hearing someone say that "the debate is over." If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it's that the debate is NEVER over. Consider that we still debate whether Napoleon was poisoned, the real causes of the Civil War, who killed JFK, and countless other things that have been researched, studied, written about and discussed for decades. Yet still there is disagreement. For those whose brows reside at a lower altitude, there's endless post and riposte over who killed Anna Nicole and what's really happening with K Fed. There are a precious few things in life that are black and white (and I think that's one of the reasons people like sports - you get an outcome every time. There's a topic for another day.) With that in mind, how can one suggest that there is no debate over something that is occuring in the present and may continue to occur in the future?

So you can imagine my chagrin when attending a conference last week, during which there was a presentation on climate change, and we were told there is no longer any debate - human-caused global warming is a fact, plain and simple, and if you don't agree with that you will be ignored. This is a common experience when you have discussions or do some reading on global warming - eventually someone will come out with the statement that there are hundreds of scientists who agree that global warming is caused by human activity, and the debate is over. Detractors should not be acknowledged.

Beyond being astonished by that attitude, I am astonished by the failure of memory and imagination that it involves. Since when has science spoken with a single voice? Since when has there been a unified "Voice of Science" press office? Since when has it become healthy to stifle debate? This mindset scares the beejeebers out of me. It's one thing for a business, or a political entity, to spin a story to meet their objectives. It's something else entirely when those who supposedly subscribe to the tenets of objective reasoning are willing to publicly state that "the debate is over."

Makes my hair stand on end.

Friday, April 20, 2007

New phrase: "To go Baldwin"

In our marvelous living English language, there is always some new word or phrase being coined, and today I nominate for inclusion in the lexicon, "to go Baldwin."

This, of course, is due to the widely publicized message Alec Baldwin left on his little daughter's cell phone, in which he goes off on a tirade, calls her names, insults her mother, etc. Hear it here. Sounds like he is dressing down some go-fer who forgot to put two sugars in his tea - classic Hollywood ass-ism on display.

So to join the terms "go postal" (which carries a more physically violent subtext) and "get agro," we now have "go Baldwin." Sample usage: "He got all up in my grill and started in to go all Baldwin on me."

Way to go, Alec, it takes a real man to stand up to an 11 year old girl like that. Don't let her push you around. (Stand by for the meaningless public apology - and perhaps it's rehab time?)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Why the media is responsible for the next rampage

Any good parent or teacher knows that when you have a kid who is acting out, throwing fits, making a scene, you just play into their hands if you give them too much attention. That's what they're after, your attention. By getting drawn into their world, you let the tantrum-thrower take control. I remember one parenting expert who advised the best way to deal with a kid throwing a fit is to simply walk out of the room and deny them your attention. In other words, you will not get what you want by engaging in this behavior.

So the Virginia Tech shooter, whose rampage is just another form of throwing an "I'm not getting my way" tantrum, is now trying to draw us unto his world and control us with his calculated acting out. The package of photos and videos that he sent to NBC are clear evidence of not just a twisted mind, but of his goal to perform the ultimate "look at me" act. Unfailingly, the media does exactly the wrong thing in almost all of these cases. By endlessly airing the photos and videos, by turning this nutjob into the anti-hero he longed to be, the wheels keep turning to crank out more and more of these fame seeking sociopaths. Isn't it obvious that this guy knew just what would happen with those images? That he would then become known, we would all look at him, know his name, hear his complaint? Are not all the media accomplices after the fact?

How is it that we have figured out that it's not right to keep the camera on people who run out onto the baseball field during a game, but we can't figure out that we should not aggrandize the whining grievances of crazy people with guns? We don't want to reward the drunken fence jumpers, but we give hours of airtime to the killers. Where is this story angle - the media's role in creating the next massacre - on Primetime, 48 Hours and all the rest? Don't hold your breath...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech made all the wrong moves

If Virginia Tech was a company and its stock was traded on Wall Street, there would be a lot of selling going on today. You can expect about 30 wrongful death suits to be filed, based on the way the college responded to the first shootings yesterday. This quote from the SF Chronicle nails it:

"I think the university has blood on their hands because of their lack of action after the first incident," said Billy Bason, 18, who lives in the dorm. "If you had apprehended a suspect, I could understand having classes even after two of your students have perished. But when you don't have a suspect in a college environment and to put the students in a situation where they're congregated in large numbers in open buildings, that's unacceptable to me."

The university president and campus police chief said they decided not to cancel classes after the first shooting because the initial indication at the dorm, based on interviews with witnesses, was that the attack might have been a domestic dispute and that the shooter probably had fled the campus.

Might have been? Probably? Haven't there been enough school shootings to convince every school to have a lockdown policy if there is even the whiff of violence on campus? Granted there haven't been a lot of colleges massacres, and granted a large college can be the size of a small city compared to a high school campus - but what other response can there be? Two people were dead at 7:15am, no one had been arrested for the crime, and no kind of warning went out to the rest of the campus population for two hours. The lawyers must be climbing over each other to get there.

Reports this morning are that they have found a note written by the shooter. Today's news cycle should bring us the interviews with people who knew him, questions about immigration since it appears he was a resident alien, interviews with sociologists about our violent society, an examination of lax gun laws, perhaps some insightful questioning of violent video games (which the shooter will probably turn out to have been addicted to) - and unless it turns out he was a radical Muslim (not too likely for a South Korean) then by Wednesday we will likely be on to something else and trying not to worry about the next random rampage. Let's be careful out there, people...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Legendary Sober Novelists for $200, Alex

If you're looking for a movie that will spoil all the joys of drinking, try Factotum. We viewed this little slice of seamy life this weekend. Nicely acted by Matt Dillon, and the director succeeded in keeping it cohesive - cohesively depressing.

If you're not familiar, this movie is based on the life and stories of Charles Bukowski. He was highly prolific, tons of stories, poems and novels. (You might recall another film for which he wrote the screenplay, Barfly.) I haven't read any of his work, but you only have to glance at one of his pages to see he had a powerful and direct style. I admire that. But it saddens me to think that only the whisky sodden can write tight prose. Is there no severability of talent with words and talent with the bottle?

Today's challenge: name three great sober writers.

This portrayal of a small part of Bukowski's life did not inspire me. It seemed most of his misery was self-inflcited. And in some ways the film glorified an "honorable bum" stereotype. It's almost enough to give boozing a bad name.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Is a Target suit suitable?

Having earlier admitted that I have questionable taste (see the post from March 18) I feel I can launch into this topic without further disclaimer.

You see, I have a suit that I bought at Target. And I really like it.

I discern there are two basic types of people when it comes to clothes. There are people who try to look good while spending the least amount of money, and there are people who think they can only look good if they spend the most amount of money. (The latter are the people who buy those ridiculous sweaters like Bill Cosby used to wear on his TV show. You look like you're wearing a rag from Jackson Pollock's studio, but you can brag about how much you spent.) Then there are the people who don't seem to care at all and would probably wear a Hefty bag to work if you cut a neck hole in it. And there are the people who are glad they have to wear a uniform so they don't have to think about this issue. Wait a minute, now I have four basic types of people. Guess I have to start over.

I discern that there are an unknown number of types of people when it comes to clothes. One type I know of is the type that tries to look good while spending the least amount of money. I fit into that category, as does my friend Art Chang. Not long ago, Art was all decked out in this nice looking suit and we all said "Hey, why so dressy?" and he told us (with pride) that he was wearing his new suit from Target. Now, I wouldn't think twice about buying socks or t-shirts at Target, but the idea that Target now sells suits, and what's more, people are buying them, seemed kind of laughable. All the same, I was intrigued, and eventually I had to see for myself. So I checked out the merchandise, and today I can (with pride?) say I have my own Target suit now. I think the whole thing cost me $90 or something.

I am no cheap-suit virgin. I bought my first on Times Square in the 70s, in the good old seedy Times Square days. There were all those shops selling cheap, sweat-shop clothes from Asia. I think I spent $35 or $40 (in 1977 dollars, so today that would be equal to approximately $657,439.37) The difference is, that was a really cheap suit, the kind that just hangs on you like a...well, like a cheap suit. My new Target togs are veritably Milan runway by comparison. It's one of those things where you come away thinking you might spend $90 at Target or $500 at Macy's and get exactly the same thing. Keep in mind, of course, that I have questionable taste. Your mileage may differ.

So the moral of our story is this: (1) never laugh at trend setters like Art Chang. (2) We should all give thanks for third-world labor, because when they all catch up to us in wages we'll have to drink cheap wine all the time to afford clothes, and (3) "Thrifty" is a much nicer word than "cheapskate."

Friday, April 13, 2007

Imus: Did the little bell go off?

When you're on the radio doing a talk show, things happen fast. You've got a caller, or a partner, or a room full of people, and everyone is bantering and making wisecracks and trying to top each other and get a laugh. Somedays it's all flowing and somedays nothing works. But you keep doing it hour after hour, day after day. In my experience, there were the moments when I knew we had just done something really funny or poignant, and when we had been really sucky. And now and then, a little bell would go off in your head that the thing you just said might have been over the line, and you would probably be getting some blowback.

If you're Don Imus, I doubt the little bell goes off when you say the phrase "nappy headed hos." This is a show that probably delivered 59 tasteless remarks every day. People expect this level of quasi-edgy standup comedy with a lot of stereotyping, juvenile insult humor, and a general sense that anything goes. I'd bet that Imus is in a state of shock that his great broadcasting empire has crumbled over what he considered a tossed off laugh line. I don't think Imus deserves a star on the "Hollywood Walk of Celebrity Racists" next to Mel Gibson and Michael Richards - those guys showed some real vitriolic, deep-seated hatred with their infamous words. Imus was just making a little joke. Maybe a bad joke, a tasteless joke, but nothing compared to what you'd see in a nightclub or on an HBO special. So in that sense, I think he got "ho"sed, as it were.

There was a lot of talk on the talk shows about all this yesterday. On Ronn Owens show on KGO, a caller suggested it was a plot to take down Imus because he doesn't like Hillary Clinton. Get him off the air before the campaign heats up and he is taking shots at her every day. But I think there might be more traction in the idea voiced by Bob Agnew on the Armstrong and Getty show on KNEW. He suggested MSNBC and CBS might have been looking for an opportunity to cut loose from a big ticket item on their payroll. Knowing a little about how the business works, I wouldn't be surprised if they have somebody in mind to move in and rebuild the audience. Despite all the talk about the influential politicos who listened to and guested on the Imus show, I think they were mostly talking to each other, and it's likely the overall ratings were not that great.

I won't shed any tears for the I-Man. He's got plenty of dough, the nice place in New Mexico, and if he wants to keep working he can join Stern on the satellite radio and call women as many derogatory names as he wants. They probably have a whole daypart devoted to insulting women on the satellite.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The How-To Guide for a severe groin pull

If you've seen the new James Bond movie Casino Royale, you know there is a supercool stunt scene at the beginning (de rigeur in Bond movies) where the guy Bond is chasing does all these crazy Jackie Chan kind of moves. When I watched it, Jackie Chan-like was the only description I could think of. As it turns out - sacrebleu! - there is a whole sport dedicated to this running-jumping-flipping-bouncing-rolling thing that most of us could only experience trying to get from the car to the house after a particularly jovial party.

It's called parkour, and you can read all about it here. Of course, it is only a matter of time until this new thing becomes much more well known, which will happen when some kid gets killed doing it. Wait, some kid already got killed. That didn't take long. That angle is here in a Time article. And you can find lots of videos on YouTube if you search for parkour.

I suggest you spend the remainder of the week watching these people do all these insane things. It might put a little spring in your step and thoughts in your mind next time you pass a fire escape or stairwell.

And in closing, let us salute France for being the birthplace of this diversion. Mon dieu, it's got to be the best thing the French have come up with since they invented laziness.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Circus peanuts - Why? Why? Why?

You would think that the fat kid would have liked every kind of candy, but it just wasn't true. And it seemed like there was a mandate that the Easter basket was filled with weird stuff, candy I never saw the other 364 days of the year. Peeps, for example. "What the &%#$ are Peeps?" I would ask myself, pawing through the polyester grass. Being willing to experiment, I took a bite of one of the Peeps, and learned that it is a candy product that is made of colored sugar and marshmallow and, after they are manufactured, placed in a drafty warehouse for 19 months to ensure they are fully stale before making their way to my Easter basket.

Even with the the dismay that is the Peep clinging to the roof of my mouth, I was still able to shape words of horror at the sight of an even more appalling candy - Circus Peanuts. So atrocious as to have been included in the list of the worst at What torture is the Circus Peanut! From it's abhorrent shape and color, to its pasty, gritty chewiness, it is clearly the candy of Satan.

Why would the fat kid be subjected to these frightening mutant sweets? I had heard no news of a Baby Ruth shortage, a rationing of Snickers, or production problems at the Butterfinger factory. Why was the Easter basket devoid of the staples? This crisis, combined with ceaseless letdown of searching all over the yard for a bunch of hard boiled eggs, which just yesterday had been much easier to find in the refrigerator, led me to an unavoidable conclusion:

Easter Bunny, you are no friend of mine.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Why freezing is better than a bash in the noggin

It never fails - once you're at the ballgame in SF you always wish you had worn one more layer. Or that you had a blanket, or a pair of electric socks. You wish the guy in front of you would spontaneously combust to generate a little heat. Last night at the game (Giants 5, Padres 3) I considering asking the hot chocolate vendor to how much he would charge to drench me in the stuff. Freezing is just part of the Phone Company Park baseball experience, along with the big Coke bottle, $8 beer, and loving/hating Bonds. And drunk people, of course. Always drunk people, somebody wants to fight, somebody gets tossed. All part of the experience, and mostly harmless. True as well with the NFL. Even Raiders fans, as scary as they may be, are a lot of bark and very little bite.

But there's something extremely different going on across the pond. This week, more reports of outrageous fan violence and blood in the streets. It's becoming the norm that any major soccer match, whether between league rivals or in international play, may include riots, racist chanting, even Fascist reactionary politics. I've heard about people who can't go out on a Saturday night without ending the evening with a fistfight, but what's happening in Europe is more than just a few of the boys having a good time. This is tribal warfare we're witnessing, at its base no different than genocide in Uganda or ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Hate based on national origin, religion, and race, acted out with the sporting event as the stage. As the frequency and intensity of the fan violence grows, you begin to see stronger police response, and then you have the fans battling the cops.

Bottom line, there are many disturbing currents swirling under the surface of these frequent stories. Why are so many young men in Europe so angry and lusting for violence? Last night we had a 9-month old baby with us for the Giants game, and I had no hesitation (although if they were playing the Dodgers it would have been a different story.) Can you imagine people taking their little children to see Man U vs. AS Roma? Not bloody likely, mate, and that's sad.

More reading on this topic: How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Kick out the jams, man!

The internet, invented by my man Al Gore, is rife with rifeness. In other words, you can find a website about anything you can think of, except of course for the particular thing you're looking for. So I was not surprised to stumble on this site that is all about nostalgia for cassette tapes. is a project of, built to showcase the amazing beauty and (sometimes) weirdness found in the designs of the common audio tape cassette. There's an amazing range of designs, starting from the early 60's functional cassette designs, moving through the colourful playfulness of the 70's audio tapes to amazing shape variations during the 80's and 90's. We hope you enjoy these tapes as much as we do!
At first I thought, as you may have, somebody's got way too much free time. But as I perused the wide array of lovely, crisp photos of cassette tapes, each meticulously captured and labelled, I became certain that somebody's got way too much free time.

But I did have a nice flashback moment to 1979, riding around with my friend Les Lowry's 240Z and blasting The Cars and Cheap Trick at about 400 decibels, stopping in at the Sonic for some limeade and onion rings, driving around for the sake of driving around. We had way too much free time.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Dolphins are real smart, people not so much

In honor of one of my favorite days of the year, I invite you to join me in the Wayback Machine for a trip to the land of April Fools' memories.

Back in the radio days, I learned that "funny phone" was an activity that could consistently yield results. Get somebody on the line, get them talking, and it might turn out good. April Fools Day was an opportunity to get some funny phone action going with a broader purpose - pranks.

One way to do it was to ask the listeners to give me a setup - somebody they wanted a joke played on. The best of those came from some people at the local Fish and Game office. I called the victim and told him I was from PETA, and we had heard there had been a wine spill into a local creek. I got gradually more outraged as I told him about how all the wildlife was drinking from this creek and getting sloshed. He was so professional and sincere, he didn't even bat an eye when I mentioned "reports of drunk skunks and tipsy squirrels."

The simpler approach was just to come up with some plausible yet outrageous announcements, something that would make the listener say "What the $%#* did they just say on the radio?" You could always score with something related to schools. "We're told that the School District is about to release an official statement that spring break has been cancelled." That'll get some response.

But the all-time champion of April Fools gags for me was in the late 90s. Just a few miles down the road is an amusement park that at the time was called Marine World Africa USA. One of their most popular shows was the performing dolphins. We announced on the morning show a reminder that "today's the day when the trainers from Marine World are bringing their show to Napa. The free performance is at 10:30, and the best vantage point will be Veterans Park downtown where you can see the dolphins performing in the Napa River." It had just enough plausibility to get the average person to say "That's cool, I didn't know that - hey, wait a minute..." I'm not sure how many people showed up, heeding my advice to get there early due to the big crowds expected. But I sure got some calls later in the day. I almost felt guilt when one mom told me about taking her kids out of school and all - almost.

But April Fools Day comes but once a year. Who am I not to celebrate it?