Posted by Steven on August 23, 2012
First off I’d just like to establish that your eyes–which are undoubtedly bleary, bloodshot and fatigued from spending hours surfing the net for personal and professional reasons and the stress that comes with trying to ward off the monotony of everyday life–do not deceive you. This is my first blog entry in nearly a year and therefore I figured my rabid, impatient fan base deserved some kind of explanation for my prolonged absence. One of my online etiquette pet peeves is when the author or creator of a blog or YouTube channel I enjoy suddenly stops producing contest, either altogether or at a reduced rate, and just expects the audience to accept this new reality without explanation, figuring people who truly appreciate their work at an artistic level will eagerly consume whatever they write or put to video without question. However I’ve always been a person that asks “why” before anything else and tried to be as open as possible on here.
With this in mind , I haven’t been able to give much thought to writing here because since November I’ve been preoccupied doing some freelance writing on the web and I’ve been reluctant to post any creative writing I have done of late because I’d like to eventually publish it in a book of some form (along with expanded versions of some of the entries currently in this blog.) Thus from this point forward I suspect the blog will focus more on reviewing various things that I think haven’t been dissected to death on the internet, as well as short random musings more suited for the blog format in comparison to I’ve done in the past. This isn’t meant to suggest that the overall tone of the blog will be radically different, but rather that I’m looking to put my best creative writing in a book and won’t consider this blog as my main outlet.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: blogging, creative writing, eyestrain, freelance writing, sabattical, seo, stress, web content writing, YouTube | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steven on August 24, 2011
Last month McDonald’s went angling for positive publicity when it announced that apple slices will be a mandatory component of their Happy Meals starting in 2012, the first step in a calorie and saturated fat reducing program designed to make their foods healthier by the year 2020. This makes 2020 the equivalent of December 21, 2012 in the minds of fast food consumers, the year in which the Big Mac they knew and loved–while driving home from work every day with one hand on steering wheel in the midst of a hellish gridlock on the expressway–will be destroyed forever.
One could argue that McDonald’s self awareness began back in 2004 when Morgan Spurlock decided to take a page out of Michael Moore’s playbook and bring a camera along as he played a self aggrandizing and manipulative joke on a major corporation, slowly transforming himself into a living confirmation bias in an attempt to win cheap praise for bringing the tired topic of America’s growing obesity epidemic forcibly back into the light. The scheme worked, as people were shocked by the idea that eating McDonald’s every major meal of the day for a month could lead to rapidly deteriorating health and the brink of death .
McDonald’s responded by removing the now infamous Supersize option from their menu, appeasing the masses, but according to the ultimate resource for the intellectually lazy, McDonald’s competitors have managed to escape scrutiny and still serve up giant burgers, fries, and drinks by getting rid of marketing words that draw attention to size, instead selling them under the more neutral sounding small, medium, and large labels, thereby leading customers to think they got a bargain when the item happens to go beyond their perception of what a given size should be.
I was reassured after reading this, since I was under the impression that all fast food chains had caved in to external pressure and were therefore busy working on the next infuriating salad conglomeration and turning their once plump, jovial mascots into weekend warriors who are now depicted in active poses and as having fully embraced a healthy lifestyle, with Ronald McDonald himself at the head of the parade–looking as though he wishes he’d gotten a padded seat before taking up endurance cycling. An eternal penance forced upon these characters by their very creators as they try to shed the image brought on by the food that made them significant in the first place.
For every movie like Super Size Me that tries to push the obesity pendulum into the “this is a major problem with potentially catastrophic implications on future generations if we don’t put down the Triple Whopper and act!” zone, there’s always a study that contradicts whatever dire statistics were generated by the aforementioned study, pushing things back into the apathy zone for those people who don’t happen to be overweight.
With the success of Man vs. Food, the pendulum has swung completely in the opposite direction to the point where people now appreciate those who are willing to attempt consuming the 72 oz Big Texan Steak Dinner for public amusement, because hey, the eater presumably knows the risks going in, and as long as the outcome doesn’t impact their own health, everyone in attendance wants to see that steak go down. They want to collect on the bet they made with the bartender.
In the Happy Meals article referenced above, McDonald’s senior director of nutrition claims the decision to include both apple slices and fries was prompted by consumer demand. Yet the very same article mentions that only 11 percent of customers were ordering the apples when given a choice between the two, so going the conservative, politically correct route in spite of the facts seems to have won out here.
This won’t save a select group of parents from succumbing to the the occasional bout of drive thru rage after their kid, expecting only fries in their Happy Meal, starts throwing a fit upon seeing apple slices in the box.
“I specifically asked for only a burger, fries, and a drink in my child’s Happy Meal and you throw in apples?! Corporate may have told you to put a little gift from Johnny Appleseed in here, but why don’t you go back to not thinking so much about your job and assume I’m coming to McDonald’s because I want, and expect, an unhealthy meal! Now give me a second order of fries and get rid of these fucking apple slices!”
“Sarah, what did you get as a toy with your Happy Meal? Why it’s a snow globe that features Morgan Spurlock writing an apology letter to McDonald’s that is signed… ‘Without you I’d still be a nobody with a camera.’ How nice!”
Posted in humor | Tagged: Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me, documentaries, Ronald McDonald, Grimace, Hamburglar, Morgan Spurlock A Day in the Life, Hulu, Whopper, Quarter Pounder with cheese, Burger King, new happy meal, Man vs. Food., food challenges, Adam Richman, Travel Channel, Michael Moore, A&W, Taco Bell, White Castle, happy meals, apples, snow globes, McDonald's, Big Mac, the golden arches, fast food, road rage, experiences at the drive thru window, dead end jobs | 2 Comments »
Posted by Steven on May 3, 2011
The sprinting chef
I’ve always thought this logo to be unrealistic. How often have you seen a chef running from table to table in his restaurant carrying both a gigantic steaming bowl of pasta and a pizza, with a look on his face like he’s about to win the Boston Marathon?
Posted in humor | Tagged: calzone, canadian bacon, cannolis, cannolo, canolis, chef, Chicago style deep dish pizza, dine in and carry out, infidelity, Italian beef, Italian food, Italian sausage, Maciano's pizza, manicotti, mushrooms, pizza, resturant logos, sausage and pepperoni pizza, steaming entree, third degree burns | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steven on March 23, 2011
During recess periods I would methodically trudge around the playground watching groups of kids play four square, kickball or basketball. They were most inflexible, sticking to one sport year round. My first year of grade school happened to be at the tail end of the Chicago Bulls’ first three peat run and consequentially, basketball was seen as the sport to play if you wanted even a remote chance at skipping college to join a league in the NBA that would pay you millions in guaranteed money before you warmed your first bench.
The basketballers never bothered to run any set plays, they would just attack the rim. High arcing shots would clank off the rim followed by a mad scrum for the rebound, and whoever came up with the ball would shoot a heavy jumper. Shots would bounce of the rim repeatedly, each one a reminder that perhaps the shooter should take up another sport, but these kids were too busy throwing their elbows around and trying to get enough air on one their rebound attempts for a put back jam to ponder such things.
Once I happened to be sitting with a small group of them during lunch and I tried to steer their thoughts in the direction of other sports by suggesting they play baseball. After all it was spring and the season in which a sport is played is a small but important part of its overall appeal. There was just something weird about playing basketball nonstop when they could’ve been taking advantage of the warmer weather by playing baseball. A girl speaking for the entire group looked at me like I’d just asked her to summon lightning from the sky.
“Why should we play baseball when we’d just embarrass ourselves? You may not be able to recognize it because you’re not a professional scout, but we happen to be good at basketball.”
“I’ve watched you guys and it seems like all you do is miss jumpers and curse as your fighting for loose balls. How much can you really be enjoying the game when you all suck?”
“We play basketball because we like it. Now shut up!”
With that they went off to play another mindless game of playground basketball and I had learned a valuable lesson: Never question whether another person can derive any fun from what appears to be a boring or difficult activity for them. Should you see your friend wincing as she tries to jump through the hopscotch course, don’t assume she has a torn ACL and go alert the nurse. She is having fun, and contrary to popular belief being skilled at something isn’t a necessity for enjoyment. If she wants to hobble along in total denial–let her.
Kickball is another playground game that’s remembered fondly by adults before the topic quickly changes to dodge ball. Women recalling how all the guys used to gang up on them at the end of gym class and pound them relentlessly with dodge balls, even when one hit was sufficient enough to knock a player out of the game, and guys claiming that they didn’t really throw the balls that hard, women just have a lower pain tolerance than men.
The only kickballs that seemed to be available on our playground were these scratch and sniff kick balls stylized to look like whatever fruit corresponded with the smell. There were cherry, grape, lemon, and apple variations, each sporting a wide mouthed toothy grin. They would magically materialize out of a old blue drawstring bag which sat out unattended off to one side of the playground, always positioned perfectly so they’d be grinning right at you when you opened the bag.
Do you want to play with a regular kickball or do you dare to tempt fate by reaching into the devil’s fruit basket? Just one kick and you’ll be hooked.
Other kids probably didn’t have time to develop up an irrational fear of the kickballs because they were able to exert some control over them. If the ball was creeping them out as it rolled towards them, they’d simply kick the crap out of it. I, on the other hand, could do nothing to combat the ball’s paralysis inducing stare. Every time I looked at it I could feel the eyes boring into my soul and always tried to kick it feebly in the other direction whenever possible.
It wasn’t uncommon to walk on the playground during a typical day and have the silence interrupted by the cacophony of four rubber kickballs being launched into the air simultaneously. As I passed underneath them, I always thought one would divert from its gravity path–and the last thing I would see before being knocked unconscious was the ball’s horrible grinning face.
PS: I initially wanted to do a whole post on the aforementioned kickballs since they’ve managed to burn so brightly in my memory for all these years, but apparently I’m the only one who remembers them. When I started writing this I put the phrase ” scratch and sniff fruit kickballs”, and every conceivable variation thereof into Google and got no relevant hits. I thought for sure as soon as I hit enter on the keyboard I’d get a hit from one of those websites that chronicles every aspect of 90′s nostalgia, which would give me not only the brand name of the balls but also I picture to go with this post that would prove to doubters that these kickballs were as demented as I claim. Alas, the only image I’ve found online that closely resembles them is this Bounder from the Commander Keen series.
If any of my readers know the line of kickballs I’m referring to or could provide a picture, please comment below.
If nothing comes from this plea for information I will regard the above paragraphs at the very least to be a fitting homage to Stephen King’s short story, The Monkey. A story far scarier than it has any right to be.
Who said kickball is for socially inept people who just like to kick things?
Posted in comedy | Tagged: 1993 NBA Finals, 3D Realms, Blake Griffin dunk, Bounder, Chicago Bulls dynasty, Comander Keen The Armageddon Machine, Commander Keen, Commander Keen Aliens Ate my Babysitter!, Commander Keen Goodbye Galaxy!, Commander Keen Secret of the Oracle, cymbal banging monkey toy, Doom, DOS games, four square, fruit kickballs, Gallery Magazine, Horse basketball rules, Invasion of the Vorticons, John Paxson game winning shot, Keen, Keen Dreams, Keen Marooned on Mars, Keen Must Die!, kickball, Kickball rules, kickballs, NBA, NBA Jam, playground basketball games, playground games, Quake, shareware, Skeleton Crew Stephen King, slam dunk, The Devil's Gift, The Devil's Gift Mystery Science 3000, The Monkey Stephen King, WAKA, WAKA Kickball, World Adult Kickball Association | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steven on March 17, 2011
Today the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins anew. I’ve never been a ardent bracketologist due to the fact that ANYONE can fill out a bracket and do well thanks to random chance and a few lucky upsets, which which really devalues the entire experience. The tournament itself is nothing more than a crapshoot designed to draw in as many casual fans as possible, and by the time it’s over you wonder why they even bother to play a regular season at all. I’m willing to bet 75% of all sports fans, myself included, don’t even bother to watch the college game until the tournament starts. This is not to say I’m above filling in a bracket every year just for the hell of it. I mainly just want to prove to myself and others that I put more thought into it than those people who advance teams because of their nicknames, mascots, or the attractiveness of their cheerleading squad.
The NCAA decided to jump the gun a long time ago and give their tournament a nickname, March Madness, in keeping with the alliteration theme that is featured in the other tournament rounds. I think a more appropriate name for this event is Generic Nicknames Royale, as there seems to be a limited amount of creativity among college athletic directors and they end up copying the bland nicknames of other teams: bulldogs, panthers, wildcats etc. It’s nauseating.
If you are determined to fill out your bracket by going against the often cited rules of picking 12 seeds over 5s and never trusting a low ranked team beyond the Sweet Sixteen, Nostradamus just spoke to me in a vision and said he likes Morehead State over Temple in the championship game. The Eagles Will not be denied!
I actually filled out 3 brackets this year but I chose to post this one because one of my Final Four picks hasn’t been mentioned often by the experts.
My Final Four
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament, Billy Packer, bracketology, Bucknell, Charles Barkley, Clark Kellog, Demonte Harper, ESPN, Final Four Houston, Jay Bilas, Jim Nantz, Juan Fernandez, Kenneth Faried, Kevin Harlan, March Madness, Morehead State, NCAA on CBS, One Shining Moment, Richmond, Temple, tournament pick 'em, Utah State | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steven on March 17, 2011
Growing up I don’t remember being envious of many obvious talents possessed by friends or family members; only being keenly aware that I didn’t seem to have any overt skills that I could use to readily earn friends within even the most obscure niche groups of people on the playground, including the group of kids that chooses to remain ignorant of, either by choice or parental conditioning, advances in technology and team sport. They are content to play the games of yesteryear . A teacher stands guard in the shadows, making sure nothing more modern than a Mattel electronic football game is allowed to be introduced into their native environment. This is where I come in and make a general inquiry.
“Hey guys, so how exactly do you play tiddlywinks?”
“You play in teams trying to propel your chips into the center pot using a squidger while squoping your opponent’s chips in the process. There’s so much more I could explain to you but it’d probably be better if you just watch Dario here. He has a killer squop shot that obliterates everybody else’s winks and before ya know it he’s totally rabbit bashing the rest of us. Show him Dario,” a kid named Reed says.
Dario, playing with the red winks, eyes a lone green wink some distance away from a larger wink pile and delicately places his squidger towards the end of the wink, angled for distance purposes. Sweat drips off his forehead and threatens to obscure his vision as he tries to calculate how much force is needed to cover the wink. He closes his eyes and fires. With a minute clicking noise the wink leaps forward and bounces up and over the green wink, finally coming to rest near the cup.
“Oh God, I talk you up like that and then you up like that and then you turn into a first class choke artist with a total feeb shot,” Reed moans.
You can’t expect to become a professional winker if you can’t learn to keep your squidger straight when you attempt this shot How many times have I need to tell you that need to fire it from a high enough angle that the wink bounces off the ground twice and lands on the target?”
“I was trying to do that, you idiot. My finger just slipped because I’m hot as an overcooked turkey in this custom made ‘Winks Club’ letter jacket that you insist we all wear. It’s 80 degrees out today!”
“My mom paid good money to have those jackets made and with yours there was a surcharge because she ended up having to go to a big and tall shop and it took her forever to find the right material for your requested Rocky Road color scheme.”
“You leave my favorite ice cream out of this or I’ll pound you into the asphalt.”
“Hey Steven where are you going?” Reed calls out “Next week we’re playing this new game called pickup sticks, you don’t want to miss out.”
Like many around the age of 5-6, my initial belief in what my strengths were came from my parents, who were always quick to point out that I already had a well defined sense of humor at a young age and could read above grade level. I agreed with them for the most part, knowing that the areas in which I could show potential in were severely limited by my physical disability. There was no childhood spent playing a multitude of sports at my parents urging, with the silent hope that I’d develop enough athletic ability to earn a scholarship to a prestigious university. I’ve always had my sense of humor and my writing ability–and that’s it.
Having a high level of reading comprehension really isn’t anything to brag about either. After the first couple of grades teachers stop caring so much about how well you’re reading, assuming of course that you’re not borderline illiterate, and the act loses its qualitative value. According to the statistics generated by this test, most people read an average of 200 WPM and stop trying to improve their reading speed after age 12, so everything evens out in the end. No one wants to watch you employ speed reading techniques to blast through Atlas Shrugged.
My thanks to both The North American Tiddlywinks association and English Tiddlywinks Association (ETwA) websites for giving me a general overview of tiddlywinks jargon and explaining the rules of the game. Between the article on squoping by Larry Kahn and An Introduction to Tiddlywinks by Andy Pervis, Charles Relle and Mapley (both of which can be found on the ETWA’s website), I was almost convinced that Tiddlywinks is engrossing and complex enough to be worthy of my time.
Nothing pushes an issue closer to irrelevancy more than a meaningless Facebook group
Posted in comedy, humor | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Charles Relle, childhood games, English Tiddlywinks Association, ETwA, Facebook groups, kickball, Larry Kahn, Mattell electronic football, North American Tiddlywinks Association, old time games, playground games, Rocky Road ice cream, rules of tiddlywinks, squidger, Tiddly Winks, Tiddlywinks | 2 Comments »
Posted by Steven on May 12, 2010
The latest Chicago team guilty of generating false hope around here is the NHL’s Blackhawks. For much of this decade no one even paid attention to the Blackhawks because their games weren’t on TV and owner Bill Wertz refused to invest any of his money back into the team. Ever since Wirtz died in 2007 and his son Rock took over the team, however, the games are back TV, they’ve been winning thanks to a strong nucleus of young players, and people have taken note by flocking to the United Center in droves. Even my dad has even gotten into the Blackhawks playoff run, and until now I’d never seen him watch a hockey game in my life. I don’t think he understands all of the rules, but he’s been clapping and yelling at the TV out of joy whenever the Hawks do something right, so you can’t accuse him of trying to ruin everyone’s playoff high by not getting on the bandwagon.
The Hawks newfound popularity has proven to be a problem for the local sports radio and TV stations because they now have to tell their sports staff to act like they care about and understand hockey.
Out of all the sports media members in the city, only Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman of The Waddle and Silvy show on ESPN 1000 seem to acknowledge their bandwagon loyalty on a regular basis and wear it as a badge of honor. They’re regularly criticized for trying to talk hockey by the Squawks, a nickname given to a vocal minority of longtime Hawks fans who complain either that the Blackhawks aren’t talked about enough on Chicago sports radio or that if they are talked about, the hosts are too general and sound uniformed if they don’t use hockey terminology. The media’s general hockey ignorance extends to the Blackhawks post game host Jim Memolo, who Steve Dahl has lambasted on his podcasts. Dahl says Memolo doesn’t really react to what he just saw and instead just repeats the same facts and interview questions to different guests and callers, trying hopelessly to get through his timeslot without sounding completely clueless.
I’d like to strike a balance between hockey expert and bandwagon jumper, so I’ve tried to get a better understanding of the game by reading the rules multiple times, but it all still seems unnecessarily complex, mainly due to the ice being divided into so many subsections. Before you can watch a hockey game and truly feel like you understand everything, you have to learn about red and blue lines, various zones, substitutions, penalties, creases, and faceoff circles. This all of which sounds fine when being described in print, but when you’re watching a game trying to figure things out, the players move so fast it’s hard to see when they’re in the sanctioned off parts of the rink that are so damn important. There’s also a constant string of substitutions, making it hard to identify a player with a certain position on the ice.
Basically the game is like soccer, a sport where two teams go up and down the plying area trying to get rid of, within the rules of course, any player who prevents them from controlling the object that is used to score points. Parents like to watch their kids play soccer since it gives the kid chance to exert all that pent up energy, but more often than not all a kid gets from a career in youth soccer is a bunch of lame tophies and a higher risk of developing knee arthritis by high school.
I made a promise to myself in the fall that I wouldn’t get caught up in Blackhawks fever no matter how well they did this year and so far I’ve succeed. After obsessing over the Cubs failures in recent Octobers it’s nice to watch a Chicago team progress through the playoffs as an impartial observer who doesn’t have to worry about the team being one catastrophic mistake away from becoming another sad footnote in the history of Chicago sports.
As I write this the Hawks are playing the Vancouver Canucks on the road in game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals after losing game 5, and their first opportunity to close out the series, at home on Sunday. They’re scoreless after one period but should they end up losing this game and the series, I want it known that this series of blog posts was in no way responsible for their demise. It was simply another case of a Chicago team looking too far ahead and being unable to win series clinching games
Posted in sports, Uncategorized | Tagged: 2010 NHLplayoffs, bandwagon fans, Chelsea Dagger, Chicago Blackhawks, Dahlcast, ESPN 1000, Jim Memolo, Pat Foley, podcast, Sports Central, Steve Dahl, Tommy Hawk, Troy Murray, Vancouver Canucks, Waddle and Silvy, WGN Radio | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steven on May 11, 2010
Bandwagons for Chicago sports teams are rare and when one of the city’s perpetual losers or mediocre franchises actually manages to get into the playoffs, fans that decide to get on the bandwagon do so with a sense of trepidation. They’ve been suckered into hopping on a bandwagon before only to be let down by the team of the moment. They may have a friend sitting with him on the bandwagon who is trying to convince him why this team has that special and often elusive combination that allows them to overcome any adversity they may encounter in the playoffs and win it all.
For every fact the optimistic bandwagoner throws at the skeptic, the skeptic can point out an example of a Chicago team that was supposed to go all the way but came out short: (The ’06 Bears, The ’84 Cubs, The ’89 Cubs, the ’92 Blackhawks etc) Clearly the Cubs have been the most glaring example of this through the years, but no Cubs collapse and bandwagon disaster was as demoralizing as the ’03 team’s near miss. In 2003 I’d been following the Cubs diligently since ’98 when I was 12 years old and up until that season I’d had to hear from White Sox fans and casual sports fans that the Cubs had fans with a weak understanding of the game and only showed up to Wrigley Field to watch Sammy Sosa hit homers during his juicing days. As I found out later, most of those people reside in the bleachers.
Once the Cubs won the division title suddenly those people that were neutral and usually enjoyed mocking the team decided to hop on the Cubs bandwagon. The wagon took off and soon the Cubs were leading the NLCS 3-1 against the Marlins, needing just 1 win against to reach the World series, but then they lost 3 straight just like the ’84 team did against San Diego and people couldn’t believe they’d been naive enough to think a Chicago team could win a championship. Outside of the Bulls 6 championships in the ’90s, no Chicago team has had a period of sustained success where they actually lived up to fan’s expectations. This is why Chicagoans hold on so dearly to one year wonder teams such as the ’05 White Sox and ’85 Bears. They’re desperate for a winner and don’t really care if they’ve been watching for years waiting for the team in question to turn into a contender.
Posted in sports | Tagged: 1984 Cubs, 1985 Chicago Bears, 1998 home run race, 2003 Cubs, 2003 NLCS, 2005 White Sox, bandwagon fans, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls dynasty, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs, Fans, Michael Jordan, NFL, NHL, Ozzie Guillen, Sammy Sosa, Scott Podsednik, steroids in baseball, Steve Bartman, wrigley field | Leave a Comment »