Mid-Week Mailbag.

You Want me to Get in What?

How about some lighter fare?  I think it’s the perfect time for the mailbag.  Remember this is advice you’d be paying tens of dollars for in the open market, so if you want your issues solved for free, write in.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Q:  You know what annoys me?  Jewelry commercials.  They’re all terrible, but the ones I dislike the most are when there is some kid taking partial credit.  “Oh, it’s from me too!”  “Oh, I helped pick it out!” Shut up you little runt and get to bed.  Daddy’s trying to execute a game plan here.  Am I right?  Grover Hunt, Litchfield, SC.  

A:  You’ve wedged me into a tight spot, here, Grover.  I’ll concede the point that jewelry commercials are frustrating. Especially considering I imagine most people who can afford nice jewelry do not need a commercial to be reminded of that fact.  The kid thing is a dicier issue.  I do not have kids, but since I once was a kid, I know that children are incredibly annoying.  They drive people crazy to the point that they make concessions.  Like the “little runt,” in the commercial was probably hounding his father for days, if not weeks about the gift.  I want to give something to Mom too, blah, blah blah.  So, the Dad just acquiesces before he snaps and hangs the kid from the clothesline for an hour or something.  When I was a kid my Dad told me about a secret present he got my Mother.  It was a pretty big present and my Dad trusted me not to blow the whole thing.  I’m sure he told me because I was being super NOSY and ANNOYING about it.  I just can’t believe I didn’t blow the surprise.  

Q:  Depending on my morning schedule, I sometimes see these two business looking gentleman arriving for their daily carpool at a local parking lot.  Hooray Environment!  But, what catches my eye is that one guy drives a giant Nissan SUV and the other drives a tiny Saturn sports car (?) that resembles a Miata.  Do you think the guy in the Nissan regretted his decision to carpool the first time he had to squeeze into the passenger seat of that matchbox car?  Are there carpooling rules, and do guys think about masculinity when making car purchases?  Temple Thompson, Temple, TX.  

A:  Is Saturn still in business?  But, hmmm, the carpool question.  Personally, I hate driving, so if someone wants to drive me somewhere, I don’t really care too much about their whip.  And, I was never the 13-year old that pored over Road & Track, either.  I imagine that Mr. Nissan knew what he was getting into.  Considering he has the SUV, I’m going to assume that saving gas and money was the idea of Senor Saturn, but he’s a well enough adjusted guy to ride shotty in a convertible with another dude at the helm.  I don’t know what cars are left in terms of being looked at as predominately masculine.  It’s certainly not SUVs.  Plenty of women drive sports cars.  Perhaps the full-size luxury sedan?  A 7-series BMW probably still more likely to be helmed by a guy than a woman, but the lines are blurred.  Even with pick-up trucks.  

Q: Will there ever come a time when idiot college kids don’t display their empty liquor bottles somewhere?  I feel like the only consistent thing about college is the empty bottles of vodka on top of the fridge, mantel, cabinets, etc.  Jac0b Stoli, Fresno, CA.  

A:  The short answer is, “NO.”  This is what college kids do.  They’re morons.  They display everything.  Parking tickets. Liquor bottles.  They’ll paper their wall with cases of beer.  They’ll throw their D+ paper on the fridge.  Anything they couldn’t get away with at home, they’ll jump into at college with both feet.   My favorite thing about this phenomenon, though, is that the kids don’t discriminate.  Perhaps if you got older and had a great bottle of champagne at a special moment you might hang onto it, but as long as the thing contains any alcohol a kid will display it.  Oh, handle of Parrot Bay?  Straight to Display Case!  What is that Goldschlager?  CLASSY!  If you’re lucky the kid will realize at some point before he/she graduates how idiotic this is and not try to transport their empties back home with them.  

Q:  I jog at a park occasionally and when I get close to one of the boundaries, I usually take a nice soft and generous turn.  Sometimes I see someone else out there and they run all the way to the furthest possible point, make a 90 degree turn and keep hugging the boundary like if they didn’t get in those extra 8 strides their workout would be useless.  Annoying.  Felicity McQueen, Upper Darby, PA.  

A:  I know exactly what you are talking about.  I call these people corner runners.  My gut-reaction is…they’re____. Wait, first let me give them the benefit of the doubt.  I suppose this could be a tactic.  Like, if they don’t run to the absolute border of the property they cannot trust themselves to make a reasonable turn.  They’d be cutting off more and more every day.  Now, that said, is that what I think is happening?  No, not really.  They’re just show-0ffs.  They’re more likely to do this if someone like you is watching them, I bet.  And, I’m a corner-cutter.  Does this say something about my life in general?  Do I sometimes fail to go the extra mile?  Maybe.  I’m OK with that.  The next time this happens though, you could always one-up them.  Wherever they break off for their turn you PUSH THE ENVELOPE.  Woods?  Go charging right in there.  A fence?  HOP THAT BITCH!  Then your goody-goody runner will be thinking to themselves, where is that animal going?

Q: How do you like to be served condiments in a restaurant?  Preston, Heinz, Pittsburgh, PA.  

A: Liberally?  I assume you mean the delivery system.  Condiments either come in bottles or dipping cups, I suppose. They both have their pros and cons.  Bottles can get nasty.  Plus, apparently you aren’t supposed to combine ketchups and things of that nature.  WHY?  Who knows.  And, nothing is worse than having an empty bottle of ketchup on the table.  Will the server ever return?  I DON’T KNOW.  The problem with dipping cups is that they’re fine for some things (spicy mayo for a sandwich), but totally inadequate in other areas (ketchup).  DO NOT RATION MY KETCHUP.  So, then you have to pretend like you don’t like ketchup that much, or tell the waitress to just keep them coming.  Another problem with cups is, you don’t really know what you’re getting.  The source could be ungodly, generic muck.  So, I think ideally, I’d like to be presented a little chest chock-full of room service size bottles of pristine condiments.  

Q:  So, it looks like Ryan Madson is going to be headed back to the Phillies (if you believe Twitter).  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 years/44 million.  Good deal?  Ed Waid, Houston, TX.

A:  Yeah, the way people were tweeting yesterday, I thought this deal would be over by now.  Secrets are hard to keep these days.  My initial reaction is, I didn’t do a double-take when looking at the terms.  The Phillies can’t afford to go into this season without a proven closer, so they were going to have to pony up for someone.  If you’d rather have Papelbon, you can probably make that case, but Madson is home-grown talent and appears to be growing into the role.  I’d rather give a contract to a closer on the rise than a guy who has likely peaked (with the exception of Rivera).  The Phillies dumped a higher annual value on Lidge, and he had more experience, but you could argue that Madson has equally good “stuff” at this point.  And, the Phillies do gain a lot more financial flexibility in ’12 and a ton in ’13, so if the contract ends up being a little back-loaded it could help them this season.  I’ve always felt that Madson would come back, so if it goes through, not surprising.  And, I think the only thing that could concern you would be the 4th year.  

Q: Would you rather be famous for inventing something universally loved that you made no money off of, or be rich for inventing some mundane product that no one cares about?  R.J. Springs, Berwyn, PA.  

A:  So, what if I invented the iPad or something, but Apple took all the money or you couldn’t copyright it and someone stole the idea?  I get that or I invented some vacuum filter and get 25 cents every time someone plugs in the old Hoover. Classic fame or fortune question.   I’d say, there’s nothing stopping you from trying out the first scenario.  If you didn’t get any money for the invention, then there’s no reason why you can’t be some broke a-hole who walks around talking about how they invented the touch screen or something.  Give it a try, see if that works.  I’d take the money all day. Because say you’re sitting around talking about the day you invented Drano and people are slipping into comas all around you, do you know what will make them wake up and take notice?  When you start pulling thousands of dollars in CASH out of your pocket.  

Q:  I’ve got a problem with Indie Movies.  Nothing ever happens.  They cut the trailer to make it look quirky and fun, and then you rent the thing and it drags on forever.  The whole story could have been told in 15 minutes and they’re always open-ended, fade to black atrocities.  Do people actually like this crap?  Oh you won Sundance?  Great, I’ll use that DVD to prop up my wobbly table.  Timmy Acton, Maple Shade, NJ.  

A:  I agree that a lot of indie movies are very slow.  To paraphrase the great Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, I think a lot of these movies want to be “think pieces.”  They want you to slowly drink it all in, ask questions, wonder what’s going on. Why is it shot this way?  Why did they just sit in silence for 30 seconds?  Things of that nature.  Sometimes indie movies can’t get out of the way of their own intellectualism.  The bottom line is, you still have to be entertaining and a lot of indie movies, comedies especially, get bogged down in the darkness.  Like, if they are too funny, or play to a certain audience they’ll be selling out.  The thing about mainstream movies is, they’re mainstream for a reason.  That’s what the majority of people want to see, so it stands to reason that’s what you’ll want to see.  Don’t feel bad if you think some indie movie is AWFUL.  It probably is.  

Joe Paterno Retiring After The Season–Update: Paterno Dismissed.

Paterno Couldn't Escape the Scandal at PSU.

Earlier this year I wrote that Joe Paterno needed to go as head coach at Penn State.  This certainly isn’t the ending I envisioned.  I’ve purposely not commented on the Jerry Sandusky scandal, because I didn’t think it was necessary for me to be one more person calling this a sad, regrettable and tragic situation.  I didn’t know all of the facts, and frankly I don’t want to know them all, and so I can’t speak as a Penn State insider, or as someone with even an educated opinion.  I’d just be another person on the fringe with their two-cents.   But, I guess as it looks like we’re moving toward some definitive conclusions here, it’s time to offer a thought or two, or at least have a place where people can discuss.

It was interesting to me that the debate evolved in some ways into a battle over whether Joe Paterno should keep his job. As with many things Penn State, I suppose, it was possible to boil this down to a football decision.  Should the coach stay or go? Maybe this is a more comfortable question to discuss than the larger issues?

I’ll say that getting rid of Paterno will accomplish nothing other than finally ending his long tenure.  It’s not going to create any goodwill among those calling for his head, it’s not to going to offer any real relief to the victims or their families, it’s just an old guy losing his job, really.  Losing his chance to go out on his own terms–something that seemed to be very valuable to him.   And, for that, I do feel slightly bad for Paterno.

For me, the biggest part of this case is that it is another indictment against college athletics.  I hope that there isn’t a Jerry Sandusky scandal at every major university out there, but this gives you an idea of how it probably would have been handled at most places.  The culture at these Universities that are major athletic players is something that needs to change.  We see that from tiny scandals over players getting tattoos to a giant and horrific mess like the one that has engulfed Penn State.  The common thread is that the first impulse is to cover it all up.  The first thought is, how can we get away with this?  How can we get past this without any harm to the football program?

That would be the most embarrassing aspect for me if I was associated with one of these schools.  How do you explain to someone that all this occurred because they were trying to shield the football program from any scandal?  Not only that, but how sad is it that we’ve gotten to a point where I can say I honestly understand why Mike McQueary didn’t do more. You think a grad assistant wants to get labeled as a snitch?  As a whistle-blower?  Sure, you can try to separate this horrible crime from something minor like a recruiting scandal, but the bottom line is, you would have had a young coach who was known as someone who ratted out the old coach.  Yeah, he did the right thing, but does he always do the right thing?  If we hire him here is he going to turn us in for throwing a little money around, fudging some academic records, what’s his threshold?

So, McQueary passes it up the line, and then Paterno does too.  JoePa probably had the standing to do something about it. He could survive, because he’d never need anyone else to hire him, but he chose to pass it up the line as well. And, from there, the decision was made to try to keep the program clean.  And from the very first moment Penn State made the choice to try to cover this up, from the very first allegation, they made their bed.  Any future allegation would have to get the same treatment, otherwise the original cover-up is exposed.  Now, it’s been exposed anyway and years of negligence have been piled on top.

Am I saying this was more likely to happen, in this manner, at a big-time division one sports school?  I guess I am.  It’s certainly not a situation unique to that environment, but how they do business and where they place their priority creates an environment, doesn’t it?