The Sportsbook Dilemma

When I was a freshman in high school, my social studies teacher, Mr. Stiegler, recounted a story to our class about lifelong sports fandom triumphantly rewarded.  For years, including every pathetic campaign during the 1970’s, he placed a five-dollar bet on the 49ers to win the Super Bowl.  It was a symbolic gesture: he rooted for the team, and naturally wanted to see them win the title, even if in his heart he knew the gesture really only amounted to flushing an Abe Lincoln down the toilet every August.

When Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, and Dwight Clark stunned the country in 1982, Mr. Stiegler was five hundred dollars richer.

The story was inspiring.  My good friend and classmate Nelson Wong was likewise intrigued, so as soon as we turned twenty-one, one of us, sometimes both, would place five bucks on the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series.  On occasion the bet was a bit more (we were both in possession of five-dollar heartbreaks in 2002, but Pudge Rodriguez’s ’03 fistpump in my face cost me twenty bucks and a shot at two hundred), and the bet location often had a lot to say about the odds.  Most of my money was dropped in Tahoe, but the odds were generally better during Nelson’s formerly regular treks to Las Vegas. Continue reading The Sportsbook Dilemma

T-shirts that Show You Care

Texting “redcross” to 90999 is certainly an easy way to donate ten bucks to the American Red Cross and its relief efforts overseas.  As Stephen Colbert pointed out on his show last night, however, iPhone users need to prevent the overzealous autocorrect function from turning the well-intentioned “redcross” into the somewhat snide rejoinder, “reactors.”  Colbert: “In which case I believe all the money goes directly to the radioactive leaks.”

The community-driven online t-shirt company, Threadless, in addition to being responsible for a good portion of my wardrobe, offers a chance to help the cause and promote awareness at the same time.  Jason Yang’s design, “Rebuild Japan” is just twenty bucks and 100% of the net proceeds goes directly to the Red Cross.

Snag one for yourself and one for your significant other. The only time wearing matching anything isn’t tacky is when it’s all about solidarity.

2010 in Music

It’s the signature Idle Time event, the annual tradition that started this whole beautiful mess: The List.  After deliberations and discussions, roulettes and rancor, The Institute is happy to unveil our Favorite Forty for 2010.

props to PiedPica

This is a bit of a first for our collective.  Since 2002, the year-end Best Of has always been shared primarily via print media, whether in jewel case booklets or the short-lived Idle Times zine.  Now the rankings and rambling blurbage are presented online first, which means the requisite what-we-missed and what-were-you-thinking comments can fly unfiltered straight from your keyboard to our ears.  Feel free to call us assholes if you’re still into that; but rest assured that our calloused hearts have long ago been rendered immune to insults.  Besides, anything rude you have to say about our musical tastes (I’m looking at you, Dizza), has more than likely already been exchanged amongst the five of us.

On behalf of Will (WH), Isey (MI), Rex (RF), Donno (DH), and myself (MDG), thanks for humoring our obsessions all these years.  Or thanks for checking us out for the first time. Let’s make some mixtapes.

40-31 / 30-21 / 20-11 / 10-1

(P.S. We haven’t abandoned the cover mocks..! We need to leave something for the physical artifact exchange. Stay tuned!)

This Used To Be My Playground, Part 4: Kryptonite and Stomach-Aches

Upon returning to high school for my junior year, I found myself in the unique (to me) position of being something of a known commodity. I had spent two years maneuvering my way up from being a friendless and awkward nobody from a nowhere middle school to rubbing shoulders with folks in letterman jackets and cheerleader skirts. I was by no means a member of the elite, the inside circle, but the elite knew me. I was no longer a cipher. In dramatic moments of adolescent self-pity, I still thought of myself as the neglected outsider, but I could no longer really play that card, even to myself. In the brutal high school social strata, I now outranked the morbidly obese, the harelipped, the bad-skinned. I had bit and clawed my way into the comfortable middle. Enough acceptance to keep me from slitting my wrists or experimenting with auto-erotic asphyxiation, but enough angst to keep my edge and feed my growing cynicism.

I was secure in a fairly tight circle of friends, I had a conspicuous (read: ugly) vehicle that announced my presence with noise and color, and was meticulously putting together some emotional armor thanks to some hard lessons. Shelby? I was one of about fifteen boys that she expressed an interest in that month. Virginia? She liked reform school boys. (May eventually have stopped liking boys altogether, if her mullet and Toyota 4X4 were any indication.) Amanda? Didn’t like me. Never did. Never would. But liked the fact that I liked her, and shamelessly played upon that for over two years whenever she was bored with the thousands of other things she had going for her. She was my Ideal Girl, from the first week of high school when I saw her in Introduction to Physical Science (IPS) to halfway through junior year, when I met…well, wait for song #41 in the next installment.

#36. “Litte Miss Can’t Be Wrong” – The Spin Doctors

We all have our Ideal Girl. The one who epitomizes everything we want in a mate. Physically, at least, I had had an Ideal ever since Christy N. in elementary school. (Wanna get treated like Superman treats kryptonite? Just be me attempting to talk to Christy N. in 6th grade. That girl avoided me like the plague.) Light brown or red hair, perhaps with a bit of permed or ironed curl. A slight dusting of freckles. Pale to the point of luminescence. Blue or green eyes. This was the Ideal. I was young and dumb enough not to let personality or intelligence interfere with the Ideal.

Although The Spin Doctors’ Pocketful of Kryptonite album was released in August of ’91, it had no impact on me (or the general listening public) until almost a year later. When I heard it, I was reminded of my sense of relief and the weight off my shoulders when I finally gave up on Amanda, and simultaneously, the dream of a physical Ideal. Been a whole lot easier since the bitch left town/Been a whole lot happier without her face around…

But there were others. Oh, Lord, there were others. I had girl-fever, and I had it bad. The sheer size of my stainless-steel balls as I introduced myself and chatted up lady after lady is a thing of wonder to me now. Who was that confident guy? Sometimes I was able to play out the string for a few weeks, other times I was cut dead in a moment. No matter. On to the next doomed attempt. If any of you Gentle Readers out there feel I treated Mushroom Girl somewhat shabbily, rest assured, my sins were revisited upon me tenfold. No one can cut you dead like Marla Berry declining your invitation to the Christmas dance. (But I get ahead of myself…)

Much like the new Death Star in Return of the Jedi, the armor I was donning was piecemeal and incomplete. Unlike the new Death Star, it was in no way “fully armed and operational.” In short, under a thin veneer, I was still kind of a needy open sore. But I had learned much, and would continue to learn.

Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 4: Kryptonite and Stomach-Aches

Bravo, DC

From the DC Comics website:

Beginning January 2011, DC Comics will implement a line-wide pricing adjustment, lowering the prices of all standard length 32-page ongoing comic book titles currently priced at $3.99 to $2.99.

“This announcement reaffirms DC Comics’ commitment to both our core fans and to comic book store retailers,” said Jim Lee, DC Comics Co-Publisher. “For the long term health of the industry, we are willing to take a financial risk so that readers who love our medium do not abandon the art form.” Continue reading Bravo, DC

Loving the Funnybooks

Originally published in Justifications on December 10, 2007:

This past Saturday night I was huddled near an electric spaceheater in a makeshift room of a live/work loft in the Vulcan Studios community in Oakland, just off San Leandro. Charlie was clinging to a vanishing pang of nostalgia, something he remembered loving about being a boy… something about growing up and the way things were. Unable to properly recollect the memory, he resorted to a description of a typical day growing up with two brothers and a sister: wake up, fight, read comics, fight… “it was so great.”

He asked me if I read comics growing up. Sherice: “He still does.”

My love affair with comics is similarly rooted in those carefree days of youth. Both of my parents worked when I was growing up, so, during my elementary school years, my grandfather would often pick me up after school and take me to his house in Cow Hollow. At least once a week we would walk down to Chestnut Street – a place decades removed from today’s trendy nightspots and Apple stores – and wander into Jack’s, a magazine and tobacco store between Scott and Pierce. Nonno would set himself up in the back, elbows on the counter, and talk to whom I can only imagine was Jack himself, leaving me at the entryway of the store to peruse the comics racks. Continue reading Loving the Funnybooks

2010 in Books, Part 2: Music Edition

You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Break-Up by Peter Dogget

Beatles books have come in phases. First was the “authorized” biography, The Beatles, by Hunter Davies, published all the way back in 1968, before the group had even split. There was a relative lack of written work on the band in the 1970’s. Apparently, many people were hoping that their story as a band wasn’t over, and a reunion would occur. The scant handful of 70’s books seemed to take a sociological approach, focusing on their impact on popular culture. After John Lennon’s murder in 1980 ended reunion hopes for good, the floodgates opened, and Beatle-related books abounded in the 80’s, including a new “definitive” band biography, 1982’s Shout: The Beatles in Their Generation by Philip Norman, the gossipy “insider” tome The Love You Make by former Beatle assisstant Peter Brown, and the first major biographical works on the individual band members (Ray Coleman’s 1985 doorstop Lennon, Chet Flippo’s glib Yesterday.)
The Beatles books of the 90’s and early 2000’s assumed everyone knew the “story of the band,” and tended to be technical, encyclopedic break-downs of their live appearances, recording sessions, and equipment. And now, we’ve come full circle, with the basic story being laid down again, with new research and perspectives, for a new generation. There has been a new band biography, once again entitled simply The Beatles, published by Bob Spitz in 2005, an excellent recent bio of John Lennon by Philip Norman (again) in 2008, and now two new McCartney bios. Continue reading 2010 in Books, Part 2: Music Edition

Gather ’round while I tell a tale of great men…

It’s Man of the Year award season again, and while the also-ran’s are busy preparing for the conclave to determine the 2010 winner, it’s time for the rest of us to look ahead to the potential events for 2011. Man of the Year. MOY. These phrases combined comprise 30% of my daily vocabulary. For the unenlightened, check out some bold words from the co-founders, inaugural year Viceroy, and perpetually disappointed-in-the-rest-of-the-field MOY 2008 champion:

http://www.manoftheyearcompetition.org/about/dfInterview.php

The short of it is, we have right here in the SF Bay Area a year long competition amongst the upper tank of manly men to prove who had the best year. The core of this competition being the individual events. We’ve had some hits like the paintball gun duel and the human corn maze, but in an effort to avoid flops I’m asking you readers to vote on your favorite. I submit mostly my own ideas or overheard gems because the 2011 kick-off banquet and gathering has yet to be held, so prepare for some updates in the near future.

Continue reading Gather ’round while I tell a tale of great men…

2010 in Books, Part 1

Comic books and video games are all very well, but those of us who aren’t terrified of aging — desperately clinging to our skinny jeans, cool scarves, bedhead and taste for juvenalia beyond all propriety and decorum — may want something with a little more heft. So here’s some non-picture books for your consideration. (Full disclosure: There’s usually a little section of pictures in the middle.) Pipe and slippers optional, but recommended.

BOOK OF THE YEAR for 2010:

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Unlike the last noteworthy Washington bio, Joseph J. Ellis‘ brief 2004 His Excellency, Chernow’s work is not a cover-the-basics summary for the casual reader. (Not a criticism. That was the book’s purpose.) Chernow delves into amazingly rich detail, while never losing his grip on the forward momentum of the narrative flow. Interested in Washington’s famous dentures? Chernow provides lengthy paragraphs on not only the materials used in their construction (not wood, you simpletons), but how they affected Washington’s appearance and interactions, and deep background on his relationship with his dentists. (Washington was very ashamed of his dental deficiencies, and the letters to his dentists are in kind of a code language, to spare him embarrassment if his correspondence was ever made public.)
Continue reading 2010 in Books, Part 1

2010 in Video Games

Here are the video games I played in 2010 with mini-reviews.

New Super Mario Bros

Possibly the best four player cooperative game I have ever played. But players have to watch out for each other, or else they will end up bouncing off their team members’ heads and knocking them into pits. The difficulty curve works well, starting easy, but by the end the game is extremely difficult. 5/5

Spelunky


Definitely the best free/downloadable PC game I have ever played.  It’s a run and jump cave exploration platformer with 16 levels, pixely graphics and catchy chip-music.  The cave layout is randomly generated every time and there is a lot to discover.  When you first start playing this game you’re going to die a lot, but the pleasure comes from knowing how to avoid that trap/monster/layout next time. There are a lot of powerups, weapons and useful items you can dig up, purchase or steal from cave-dwelling shop keeps. Originally made by just one guy, an X-Box Indie Arcade version of Spelunky is in the works. 5/5 Continue reading 2010 in Video Games