Well, not a great week for reader participation in the mailbag. What is wrong with you people? I’m pretty disappointed with everyone. What’s your excuse? Christmas shopping? NBA fantasy drafts? It must be something. Anyway, I can carry on without you. The mailbag…
Q: Is it still possible to make a PG-13 rated comedy? Meaning a successful one, and not one that evaporated from theatres in 45 seconds. I feel like people see PG-13 now and they automatically think—unfunny. Junior Hughes, Hollywood, CA.
A: So, Harry Potter isn’t a comedy? Is that what you’re telling me? Because I’ve seen people “playing” that broom game in real life that they play in Harry Potter and it’s hysterical. But, seriously, I know what you’re saying. Back in the day, there were scores of great PG-13 comedies, but now the lowest common denominator has been lowered much further. If you make a comedy now you need: drugs, stripper boobs, people doing bathroom activities in their clothing, possibly a stray donker shot, something strange happening to an animal and enough profanity to float the Spanish Armada. Does Spain still have hundreds of wooden warships? I hope so. To finally answer the question, YES, it is still possible to make a PG-13 comedy, but it’s going to take a genre shifting movie to get it done with any regularity. Just like how Old School (or whichever movie was first) jump-started these so-called adult comedies, someday a comedic genius (WHO MAY NOT EVEN BE BORN YET) will again figure out how to send people into fits of laughter without the benefit of a guy OD’ing on Ecstasy making time with a sheep.
Q: Every time I buy liquor/wine or beer at a retail store I get a little angry about the mark-up on alcohol at bars and restaurants. I understand that I can’t be offered copious amounts of drink at wholesale prices, but this feels like price gouging. Isn’t this illegal with gasoline? Why not with nature’s gasoline? I.P. Ale, Elkton, MD.
A: The first thing that hits me about alcohol mark-ups is how difficult it must be to have a successful restaurant. Here you are, making money hand over fist on the booze and they still go out of business all the time. It is tough to swallow, especially if you are a frugal gentleman. I picked up a case of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale a couple of days back. It’s my Christmas present TO MYSELF for the season. Nurse that case right through the holiday. But, anyway, it was 37 dollars. If you bought those 24 beers at a bar, you’d probably pay between 120-140 dollars. So, call the mark-up 300% from retail—which is mind-boggling. Back in my shirt selling days, we had a pretty standard 100% mark-up, and that felt like ripping people off. I’m afraid the demand for drink, much like gasoline, is far too high to ever bring about any change in this area, though. There are always enough rich people in Manhattan and L.A. setting the gold-standard at $25 for a G&T and then the price trickles down in radiating circles from those hubs of awesomeness. You want cheap drinks? I’d suggest rural Idaho.
Q: Do you have a Christmas tree manifesto? I saw you mentioned cutting one down the other day, is this the preferred method of arboreal acquisition? Should my tree already be up? Fraiser Fuhr, Bend, OR.
A: I don’t have a manifesto. I could probably work one up, but I can’t quote from anything right now. You know, I haven’t had a live Christmas tree of my own since I moved into my current apartment, so I can’t get all high and mighty on anyone about tree etiquette. If you are going to be home on Christmas, I do think some type of tree is important. What else are you going to put the gift cards under? If you can, you should try a real (formerly living) tree. THEY SMELL NICE. And, I’d suggest filling up as much of the room as possible. Challenge the limits of the ceiling. It’s also certainly more satisfying to cut the thing down yourself, or if the situation calls for it, digging it out of the ground with your bare hands. For many, those 60 seconds with the saw could be the manliest thing you do all year. Just be aware that erecting a large tree is a two-man job. And, my best tip is to put the stand on loosely, have one person steady it, and then tighten the stand while it’s upright. If you put the stand on full-bore while the tree is still horizontal and try for the perfect stand-up, the thing is going to be epically crooked—if it even stands at all. And, of course, cutting the binding is always the last step.
Q: Do you still like Bryce Harper? I found out today that he has his own name tattooed on and about his ribcage in elaborate script. Combined with his Yankee fandom, what else does he have to do before you realize this kid is a total clown? Chad Mottolla, Flushing, NY.
A: Oh, you’ve gotten wrong impression. I’ve known Harper is a clown from day one. EVERYONE knows that. He’s such a donkey that I can’t even think of a comparison anywhere else in the world of sports—maybe like 19-year old John McEnroe? But, what I like about Harper is the intrigue. It’s the same reason I’d love for the Phillies to sign that Cuban guy who could leap over Ken Rosenthal from a standstill. You’d be riveted to his every action from day one, and that’s the story with Harper. The fact that he cheers for the Yankees while being employed by the Nationals is all part of the persona. He’s a heel, and he seems to be embracing it. But, all it takes is one flash of his epic, light-tower power and you are drawn back in. He struggled once he was promoted to AA last year, but check out this walk-off bomb to dead center (2 min mark). As Tiger would say, “On a String.” You don’t have to be friends with the guy, or offer up your daughter’s hand in marriage, just enjoy the show.
Q: When playing board games, how competitive is too competitive? Amber Singletary, Chadds Ford, PA.
A: If someone is in tears? That’s probably over the line. Unless it’s a young child. In that case, screw them. ALL THEY DO IS CRY. An interesting thing about board games is that almost everyone who plays them is overly competitive. If you aren’t competitive–you don’t like board games. So, this isn’t like gym class where some kids are swooping in to block your lay-up while others stand in the corner picking at their butts. I feel like when playing a board game you always give it the full effort. As far as junk talking, overly smug celebrations, and things of that nature go–you’ve got to gauge your crowd. If someone is looking a little sensitive, scale it back a bit. Don’t ruin the evening for the whole group. Also, it’s perfectly acceptable to start the game like a normal person, but then ramp up your intensity to rabid levels if someone else is calling you out, or making you the butt of all the game’s jokes. Then, you make it personal. Cut to the quick. See if they’ll squirt a few.
Q: What would make you more uncomfortable? A significant other that was undeniably smarter than you, better looking than you, or made WAY more money than you? Joseph E. Harmony, Medford, NJ.
A: I’m pretty sure I put that on Craiglist at one point. Seeking rich, supermodel, genius. I got A LOT of responses, but people don’t do a great job of assessing their own looks and intelligence. That’s a tough question. I don’t think I’d mind the money thing, but that might be the most common response from the populous. Your average carny is better off financially than me, so that kind of puts me out of the running for that one. The attractiveness is an interesting debate, because no one wants to be the person who people think lost the prettiness war. Couldn’t he/she do better? You don’t want people saying that, but you don’t want to be like Rob in High Fidelity either, where he’s convinced C. Zeta Jones is too hot for him–self-fulfilling prophecy. Personally, if everyone thinks my significant other is better looking than me–no problem. That leaves the intelligence thing, and I guess if I was forced to pick, this is what I’d have to pick. I value my intelligence over my looks and money-making ability. So, it’s a natural response. If you’re a slave to the dollar or the mirror, you’d probably think otherwise.
Q: Dear Kindle Hater, My only follow-up to our spirited debate is please go ahead and knock the thing, tear it to shreds, I’ll just be much more accepting of your opinion once you’ve actually tried the thing. No I don’t own one, but I’ve tried and liked. My question for you this week is regarding baseball contracts. Do the size and length of these contracts surprise you still? I just can’t think of another major sport where the athletes get paid as much and for so long. I know baseball plays by far more games in a season than any other sport, but does this translate into more revenue? I just don’t see how a contract like Werth’s or even the offers Pujols is getting make sense. Is Albert really going to be worth the huge number when he is 41 years old? I mean he’s in the national league where he’s got to be in the field every day. On the other side of the coin I think well the teams wouldn’t be making these offers if they weren’t profitable for the team as well. It just seems way out of whack when compared to the other professional sports. Perhaps you can shed some light on this. Kindle Conrad, Conshohocken, PA.
A: Well, the NBA just shutdown for several months, in part because their salaries were totally out of control. I think you could argue that they have equally ridiculous contracts to MLB. And, the NHL is structured so guys are getting 8, 9, 10-year deals. I don’t think it’s a problem unique to baseball. Baseball does create a ton of revenue thanks in part to its schedule. If you think about it, the Phillies draw over 3.5 million fans down the park each year and have upwards of 90 dates to sell everything else at the stadium. The Eagles draw probably, what, a shade under 700,000 people on 10 dates? And, the difference in ticket prices doesn’t account for that huge difference. So, that’s how baseball makes up a lot of the advantages that football has with its ridiculous TV deals and revenue sharing. Do the contracts surprise me? Not anymore. It’s been what, 10 years, since A-Rod signed that 252 million dollar deal–and we haven’t really gone past that. If Pujols got 10/300, I’d say, OK that’s out of control, but it seems like the numbers are based in some reality. Is he going to be worth 20 million dollars at 41? No, but that’s become the cost of doing business. It’s like a depreciating luxury car. No matter how rich the players are, the owners are better off (save the McCourts), and these teams make money. Owning a baseball team isn’t a labor of love. I think the bigger problem in baseball is the disparity in spending between teams. Their revenue streams are so different that you have 150 million dollar discrepancies in payroll. You can trumpet Moneyball all you want, but that’s a system that seems destined to eventually implode.
Q: Do you think tow truck drivers get a sense of satisfaction when they haul off someone’s car from a tow-away zone, knowing full well that the poor bastard is going to appear later that day to find his car missing and then a few hundos missing as well when he pays the fees? Vanessa Abel, Chester Springs, PA.
A: I guess it depends on what kind of tow-truck driver you are. Personally, I’d just be hoping for no confrontations. I’d want the car to already be moved, or for me to make a clean getaway with said vehicle before the driver shows up at the scene. People are crazy. I don’t want some lunatic threatening me, and I don’t want someone begging me not to tow the car. That has to be exhausting. And, while you can be a welcome sight in some situations, in the scenario you describe, the tow truck driver is the most evil person on Earth. Some people embrace that, though. They’re probably thinking, I hope this poor mope walks out of the building just as I start to pull away–I want to see the look on their face. I bet some drivers take their old sweet time hooking up the car, just in case someone wants to challenge them. Then they say, “Look Buddy, I’m just doing my job. PS–I accept bribes.” But, in summary, there are no doubt tow truck drivers out there that LOVE ruining your day.