Last Post Standing: The Mailbag.

It's Lime!

It’s Lime!

Did everyone enjoy the official start to the summer season?  I saw several posts across the social medias of people bundled up at the Jersey shore.  Today, it’s 90, last weekend–no such luck.  When the shore calls, though, you have to answer.  It’s one of those things about Memorial Day.  It triggers an impulse.  One of my favorite staples of Memorial Day weekend, something you might not immediately think of, is the music countdown.  What are the top 300 songs of summer?  Of All-Time?  Memorial Day feels compelled to delve into this topic.  So, I will now list the 300 best songs of all-time: Please feel to discuss.  

#1: “Shoop”–Salt N’ Pepa

#2.  “Gangsta’s Paradise”–Coolio

#3.  “Welcome to Miami (Bienvenido A Miami)”–Will Smith

I wonder how long I could keep that going with a straight face.  I think I could list 40 or 50 songs, IF PRESSED, but what I really wanted to say about these countdowns is: how do you decide between the 230th best song and the 231st best?  Aren’t we pretty much flipping a coin after the top-10? It’s like the NBA draft.  I’m fairly sure any GM picking in the 2nd 10 picks is like, “honestly, who cares, just pick someone.”  Anyway, the moral of this is all lists with an unreasonable number of items are crap.  Happy Memorial Day–the 17th Best Day of the Year.

Q:  Who do restaurants think they’re fooling with those french fries that have the fake “extra crunch” on them?  Why not just put a neon sign out front that says, “Our Fries Come from a Bag!”  Pam Frites, Columbus, OH.

A:  They’re fooling no one.  When I get the fake crunchy fries I get so aggravated and then I eat ALL OF THEM anyway.  That’s what the restaurant knows that you might not want to admit to yourself.  You probably can’t even verbalize too many complaints about your fries, because you are busy shoving them into your gorge hole.  Well, these are terrible, but they still hold ketchup.  Not EVERYTHING is lost.  I think the fake crunch originated in the grocery aisles.  Nothing is limper than an Ore Ida crinkle cut that’s been barely thawed in a conventional oven.  The french fry people had to do something, so they invented the fake crunch.  WHAT IS THAT STUFF?  Is it potato?  Potato byproduct?  Sand?  KFC breading?  I DON’T KNOW.  All these fries offer is extra TEXTURE.  Not extra crunchiness.  The difference is akin to the difference between chocolate and carob.  Not that I’d know really.  So, my final suggestion to you is to create a spreadsheet documenting mediocre chain french fries.  This way you can temper your disappointment at the table.  

Q:  If you have a terrible waitress/waiter do you actually adjust your tip?  I hear people say things like, “There goes her/his tip,” but I’m not sure if I could bring myself to do it.  Serving is a pretty rough job.  Noah Substitutions, Memphis, TN.

A:  I think I made a post once about my general tipping policies, or my tipping questions/concerns.  It’s such a difficult and SENSITIVE area.  Plus, the behavior can be mostly learned.  If your father peeled off a crisp 11% through your entire childhood, there’s a good chance that is how you will tip.  Unless, of course, you ever worked in a position where you relied on tips, in which case you will always over-tip to the point of barely being able to afford your extravagance.  When I lived in Michigan my roommate dated a waitress (server? I don’t know) and she would throw down like $40 for a 23 dollar pizza PICK UP.  It was startling.  Anyway, my general policy is to tip in reverse proportion to the meal’s cost.  Six dollar breakfast–I’m generous.  One hundred dollar dinner, you’re going to have to really impress me to go above 20%.  Is this fair?  Appropriate?  I DON’T KNOW.  I generally don’t take off for poor service, though I do occasionally tip a bit less for a poor attitude.  Space cadet?  OK.  Prick?  Not so much.  I don’t want to get a server down, either.  What if they just started, and they think they spent the whole meal blowing their tip?  They could be thinking that this job isn’t cut out for them.  WHAT ELSE IS THERE?  So, maybe you surprise them with a real solid tip and it settles their nerves a bit, smooths things out for the next table.  I’m really about helping people.  

Q: Did people ever actually blow things up with their mouths?  Like various inflatable objects?  Rafts and the like.  I don’t see how it’s physically possible.  Deap Breths, Boston, MA.

A:  Inflation is funny business.  I think I remember things needing to be blown up at the beach, or possibly by a pool.  I could BARELY float as a young child, let alone swim.  Blowing up swimmies is a task that would typically fall on the grandparent.  Grandpa’s got time.  WHAT ELSE IS HE GOING TO DO?  Not only is blowing things up with your mouth a taxing experience, but it’s wildly inefficient.  You have to blow and then try to plug the hole, repeat that 4,000 times–and those little rubber nipples (?) nozzles (?) were designed to stay open.  THAT’S THE RUB.  I’ll tell you how bratty I am–I never even liked blowing things up with a pump.  There are few heartbreaks as a child that can match going out to grab your basketball and finding it flat.  That can throw you off kilter for hours.  Of course, we had a pump, but that didn’t mean we had a needle.  Why must this all be so complicated?  And then of course, there was the even graver realization that your basketball was leaking and therefore you could pump until you could no longer lift your arms above your head but your ball was going to have the spring of your average bean bag.  Even in the air compressor era, things go wrong all the time with inflation.  What is the average number of nights you sleep on an air mattress before it pops, or the cat puts 57 holes in it?  .8?  I think it’s POINT EIGHT nights.  

Q:  What athlete who is no longer with us would you like to see play their sport again.  Someone you never saw when they were alive.  Mine would be Babe Ruth.  He seemed like a character and did not look like a professional athlete.  Cy Tobb, Dallas, TX.  

A:  I think The Babe would be a popular answer to this question.  I also would like to get a look at his dimensions.  You hear that he was actually PRETTY FAST, and yet the video of him running looks so odd.  Was he just bigger than everyone else, or was he actually overweight?  We’ll never really know, I guess.  While Babe is tempting, I think I’d pick Mickey Mantle for baseball.  I think one of the reasons we watch sports is to see people do things we cannot do, and can hardly fathom.  This is why people get so enamored with talent.  Sure, great players and great teams are compelling, but the talent is what you watch you watch because it’s so unique that you can hardly comprehend what you are watching.  HOW?  How do they do that?  And, just from a mythological perspective of talent and natural gifts, I don’t think there is anyone who could top Mantle.  The reverence that other baseball players had for him is enough in itself to convince me.  People get compared to Mantle all the time.  From Mike Trout to Bo Jackson, and maybe seeing the Mick in person would ruin the myth, but I’d be willing to take the chance.  Other guys I’d like to see–Wilt Chamberlain, Ben Hogan (I can’t tell if I would have been a Hogan fan or not) and maybe Reggie White?  I saw Reggie play, but when he was most dominant and still in Philadelphia I was too young a fan to really know what was going on.  

Q:  What percentage of business cards do you think end up in the trash within 48 hours of being handed out?  Patrick Bateman, Miami, FL.

A:  Not as many as you might think.  In my experience, people tend to hold onto these cards or put them somewhere–just in case.  It’s like the business card turns us all into hoarders.  Who doesn’t have a place somewhere where they throw odds and ends?  The problem with a business card is that it’s difficult to throw out immediately.  If there was a trash can sitting right there and the person giving you the card wouldn’t cry, you’d probably just usher that card right into the trash.  You might not even close your digits around it, but no one is that rude.  So, you tuck the card away for a bit and then it has a hold.  You think, well, I taxed myself carrying this around all day–let’s put it in this container with a 9-volt battery, my old swatch, a cell phone charger from 2003 and dinner mint.  And, maybe people sometimes remember how important they felt when they got their first business card.  Even if they made it with their own dot matrix printer and it said, “Nintendo Coach,” it’s still a very big deal.  Let me try to answer the question.  I say 23% of the cards end up in the trash within 48 hrs, 100% eventually end up in the trash, and .46% lead to actual business.  In fact, they may only exist these days so people can drop them into bowls trying to win lunch.  FREE PANERA!

Q: Is Jell-O the worst dessert item?  Can you serve just Jell-O in a dessert situation? What the f*ck is Jell-O? Grace C. Passedawaythirtyyearsago

A:  I have no idea what Jell-O is.  I mean, it’s gelatin.  What’s gelatin?  I DON’T KNOW.  We probably don’t want to know.  I can’t remember the last time I had Jell-O.  In middle school I had to do a project where we put Jell-O in a petri dish, opened it up for a while in various rooms and then had to document the mold that grew on them.  SCIENCE.  So, this was supposed to be about a 3-4 week project, but I didn’t have that kind of time.  I started a couple of days before it was due, and to speed up the process I coughed on a few of the dishes.  The results were pretty terrifying.  It’ll change the way you look at Jell-O forever.  Anyway, I can’t think of a worse dessert than Jell-O off the top of my head.  We are talking about desserts.  They’re mostly good.  I’d eat Jell-O before I ate carrot cake, but I don’t want to anger the carrot cake Nazis.  And, you’d never see me eating a cookie with a raisin in it–VOMIT.  But, for most people Jell-O probably occupies a very low rung in the dessert hierarchy.  The slogan kind of tells the tale, doesn’t it?  Think of your favorite food.  Does the phrase, there’s always room for ______ apply?  There isn’t always room for a steak.  What if you just had a steak.  So, in this regard, Jell-O is like celery, or air, or a HOT TEA.  Jell-O will never die, though, because it’s an alcohol delivery system and people eat it in hospitals–I think.  But, don’t ever serve it in a social setting.  Just…don’t.  

 

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Monday Mailbag Momentum

But No Kandy Apples.

But No Kandy Apples.

So I’m driving down the road last night sometime after late dusk.  It’s not completely dark.  I’m not on a highway, but on a pretty well-traveled thoroughfare.  Suddenly the car behind me puts their high beams on.  Not a flash, the signature move of all assholes, but they were just driving with their high beams on–right behind me.  The light hit my rear view mirror and went directly into the center of my eyeball.  I was furious.  So, I’m wrestling with the rear view, trying to flip it into that less reflective position and then the high beams go off.  Then, back on.  As someone who spends a good portion of time judging other people’s driving, I’m not sure I ever encountered a more frustrating scenario.  Finally, the mongoloid banged a left and I was free of their reign of terror.  Of course, when I went to re-adjust my rear view, it fell off the windshield and rattled around in my cup holder.  Great times.  

Q:  When I was kid I had a friend who would eat dog biscuits.  It was kind of like his party trick.  I was thinking about him the other day.  Do you think he made it?  Milque Bones, Boston, MA.

A:  I assume you mean IN LIFE and not as someone who eats dog biscuits professionally–as an adult.  I’m sure they’re doing just fine.  They probably haven’t even had the urge to eat a dog treat in years.  I’ve never sampled dog food, which is a bit surprising considering my extensive exposure to it, but then isn’t surprising considering I rarely sample anything.  My junior year of college my roommate and I housed a dog illegally in our apartment for a few months.  In our cupboard we had a package of really fancy dog cookies.  They were decorated, looked like real cookies, etc.  One day they were just gone, and I’m fairly sure the dog didn’t eat them.  Someone rummaging through our place for snacks CRUSHED them, and they probably never knew.  One time I gave my dog a Frosty Paws (dog ice cream) and I almost licked the lid out of habit.  GAH.  And, there always is a chance I have eaten a dog dessert without knowing, but I try to eat things made for humans.  I’m not typing this with a bowl of Snausages sitting next to me.  As for your friend, I think dog food has really come a long way.  I’m thinking no lingering effects.  You can eat dog biscuits and go on to lead a RELATIVELY normal life.  

Q: Please rate the following carnival foods: Sno-Cone, Cotton Candy, Corn Dog and Funnel Cake.  Carny Landsferd, Aston, PA.

A:  It is carnival season.  A bit of surprising news:  I’ve never really gotten into The Corn Dog.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever had one.  I guess I would like them, but it’s a bit of an unsettling VISUAL for me.  The only thing I really eat off a stick would be dessert pops.  Your basic Dove Bar, a Firecracker Popsicle–things of that nature.  I’m just such a traditionalist with my dog intake.  I like my bun, etc.  So, I’m going to have to abstain from rating Corn Dogs.  In last place, I’d put cotton candy.  It’s OK, but maybe too much sugar at this point in my life?  I don’t get quite the same satisfaction when the stuff crystallizes in my mouth?  Is that a valid point?  I like Sno-Cones a little more, because Sno-Cones know they are ghetto.  From the cheap paper cup, to the huge bottles of “syrup,” this a low-rent operation.  Eating a Sno-Cone is a roller coaster of emotion.  It looks so good for the 1st four seconds.  Then all the syrup drains and you’re basically eating plain ice for 5 minutes, but then it’s pure glory when you can CHUG the syrup at the end.  It’s nutritious.  Kids today are probably too fancy for Sno-Cones, they want water ice.  The funnel cake really dominates everything on this list, though.  It’s fried.  AND, it’s topped with sugar.  When you eat something and the paper plate it was sitting on has all but disintegrated beneath it?  That’s your Winner!

Q: Is it more dangerous to navigate a busy highway at rush hour or a parking lot of a Super Wawa at lunchtime?  Hamilton Shortie, Newark, DE.

A:  I’m going to amend your question, because if we’re talking rush hour–it’s not even close.  Stop and go traffic is a walk in the park compared to Wawa.  How about driving in Connecticut on I-95 with traffic flowing vs. Wawa?  Connecticut, by any reasonable measure or observation, the home to the worst drivers in America.  People come over from India and are a little unsettled by some of these moves.  In terms of chance you’ll get into any type of accident the Wawa parking lot is going to win.  I avoid the Wawa from 11:30-1:30 if I can, because it’s just too trying of an experience.  There are gas lines, food lines, checkout lines–it’s just lines.  I wonder how they staff Wawa, because during the lunch rush they need about 11 people at the deli, but what do they do for the rest of their shift?  Anyway, Wawa parking lots are also oddly designed.  You have the ILLUSION of plenty of room, but there is always someone pulling out, in, cutting across–nightmare.  There are stop signs, but no one pays any attention.  But is any of that really dangerous?  I think the highway is more dangerous, but the Wawa is more likely to have you taking snapshots of your bumper with your iPhone.  

 

Q: Do you ever have a correction dinner?  Like one day you are out and maybe you order a burger or something and it’s pretty awful so the next day you have the exact same thing to rectify that experience?  Charl Broiled II, Chicago, IL.

A:  That’s an interesting concept.  I’ll have the same dinner two days in a row on a fairly regular basis, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever had this particular motivation.  Sometimes I just remember a dish is very good, so I make it again.  Haven’t had Mac N’ Cheese for a while, have extra supplies left over–BOOM.  I can see this happening, though.  I’m picturing a cook out.  You are PRIMED for the occasion and then your host breaks out the frozen Bubba Burger patties and that part of your brain that produces joy just dies ON THE SPOT.  Maybe they don’t have your favorite kind of rolls?  Maybe the center of your hot dog is “chilly?”  A lot of things can go wrong at a cookout.  Maybe the Bubba Burger was just enough inspiration for you to go out and get some fresh ground beef for the next night.  I can tell you one thing I will do that is similar to this.  If I go to a restaurant and maybe they have small portions, or I am at a dinner event and it’s all odd little finger foods or something and you can’t sit down and properly FEED yourself?  You can bet your ass that I will bury myself in dinner the next day.  Two days in a row with small dinners is borderline starvation.  

Q:  What would you make of an adult who said their favorite book was “The Cat in the Hat?”  Are they being intentionally cute?  Have they never read a novel?  What the hell?  Sam Eyem, Whoville, FL.

A:  I love looking at lists of people’s favorite books.  Will they list all the Twilight books or just say, “The Twilight Series?”  Will they leave out one of the Harry Potter books?  How can you make these tough decisions.  Every book is part of a series now.  A Jack Kingslover Mystery #36, or Sloane Peterson Romance #412.  Anyway, if someone said their absolute favorite book was The Cat in the Hat, I might have to conclude that they aren’t the biggest reader.  It’s perfectly OK to like the Cat in the Hat, but for it to be your favorite book?  Something isn’t quite adding up there.  That’d be a bit like saying your favorite food was some delectable offering from Gerber.  It is a clever thing to say, though, if you haven’t read a lot of books, because it will throw the person asking the question off guard.  A more standard answer, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” or something along those lines could lead to follow-up questions.  EXPOSE YOU.  What if they ask about something that isn’t in the movie?  No one is going to be like, “Oh, The Cat in the Hat….what’s your favorite part?  Tell me about the symbolism.”  The conversation is pretty much over from the get-go.  Dr. Seuss–moving on.  I’d rate a Seuss fan above a Twilight fan, though.  OK, you don’t read, but maybe you like good movies–or something.  

Q:  I have a theory that the downfall of society can be traced to the vending machines in the entrance ways to grocery stores.  When America was really thriving, you could get yourself a real prize, now it’s just crap.  Helen Ahandbasket, West Chester, PA.

A:  Nothing quite matches the disappointment of getting the wrong thing out of a vending machine.  You want that Phillies helmet SO badly, but no, PADRES again.  It’s a great life lesson.  Do kids even care about this stuff any more?  Do they look up from their video games long enough to even notice the vending machine?  In my opinion the holy trinity of vending machine toys are: the Super Ball, the Plastic Helmet, and the Fake Tattoo.  That’s the elite merchandise.  I haven’t checked out the machines lately. Can you no longer get super balls?  The last thing I remember seeing on a regular basis were Pokemon stickers.  Is that from this century?  What does it cost for a sticker now–$2?  When I was a kid I was keenly aware of the machines.  I wanted ALL the baseball helmets.  I needed them for THINGS.  If you gave a kid a mini-helmet right now he might flip you off.  That’s my first guess.  I think several problems can be illustrated through the vending machines including the following: We are no longer easily amused and more importantly, we can’t even get cheap sh*t cheap any more.  I’m not sure I’m ready for a world where you can’t placate your dipsh*t kid for the ride home with a quarter.  That used to be a bargain.  Now you probably have to buy them a new app to keep them from choking you out with your seat belt.  

 

How Long is the the Perfect TV Series?

Say Goodbye to The Office (Finally?)

Say Goodbye to The Office (Finally?)

Tonight is the last episode of The Office.  In its second year without Steve Carell, the show (never the most watched) has become an afterthought.  But when things end, people always take notice and tend to reflect on the good times.  Personally, I still enjoy an occasional episode of the show, but I acknowledge that it is a shell of its former self.  When the series debuted, with the famous “Diversity Day,” episode, it wasn’t like anything we’d seen on American television.  Forget that it was an almost carbon copy of the British episode.  This was way before anyone in the States gave a bleep about British TV.  The overwhelming feeling I had when I watched the show at the beginning was it made me uncomfortable.  You wanted to look away, or turn the channel at some of the jokes, but it certainly produced a reaction.  Of course, it eventually become cool to watch The Office, precisely for that reason.  It wasn’t your typical sitcom.  

But nine years can really dull your edge.  Especially when the inherent drama has all been resolved.  Jim and Pam are together.  Michael is off in Colorado.  Even Creed is becoming more normal.  There’s no question that The Office overstayed its welcome, almost every successful show does, but the question is, how long is too long?  How long is not long enough?  This fall, we’ll see the return of Arrested Development–a show that many people would say ended far too early.  But you could debate that, considering the show never got passable ratings.  

So, I’m going to try to figure out the perfect number of years.  A sampling…

TWO YEARS–TOO SHORT.  Example:  Party Down.  

Party Down was an amazing show.  Too bad it only lasted two seasons and a robust 20 episodes.  Part of the problem?  It was on Starz.  The show may still be on the air if it had started on HBO, but its cancellation has allowed Adam Scott to move on to Parks & Rec, Jane Lynch to Glee, and Lizzy Caplan to any number of things.  More proof that it ended to early?  A movie version is allegedly being written.  

FIVE YEARS–TOO SHORT.  Example: The Wire.  

The Wire churned out sixty episodes.  Which isn’t a ton, but if you consider that each episode was usually a solid hour, you’re talking about the viewing equivalent of about 150 episodes of a sitcom.  What The Wire was able to do was to keep introducing new characters and story lines.  For the most part, any episode of The Wire could have been the last one for your favorite character.  While some people might say that they’d happily watch 12 seasons of The Wire, I think they got it almost right.  

NINE YEARS– TOO LONG.  Example: Seinfeld.  

I guess you know a series went on to long when they produce a finale like Seinfeld.  Does anyone like this finale?  It has some value, but to me it was always like they just ran out of ideas.  I will still watch a Seinfeld in syndication–unless it’s the finale.  It’s not a terrible episode, but you just feel like a show that good should have ended better.  Or at least it should have ended sooner.  

TEN YEARS–TOO LONG.  Example: Two and a Half Men.

Can I admit that I watched and (kind of) liked this show in the beginning?  I might lose the last of my seven readers with that statement.  I don’t know, when the show started Charlie Sheen was less crazy, the kid was chubbier–it wasn’t bad.  But Two and a Half Men has violated a major rule.  You can’t change the cast.  As soon as you replace a character–TOO LONG.  There are plenty of examples:  Three’s Company, Fresh Prince, Roseanne.  It just tells the audience, “We’re milking this.”  

As I go through a list of shows, it seems like many died in that 8-10 year range and most were past their prime.  The Cosby Show?  Was Theo even in the last season?  Was Cockroach?  It may have been all Olivia.  I just watched the 1st season of Cheers (Great), but that went on for 11 seasons.  NO.  Are you a Friends man?  10 years.  Too long.  

So, my conclusion is this.  The perfect length for a TV show is six or seven years.  I guess I’ll decide after Mad Men season 7 next year.  Oh my god, there are only about 20 Mad Men left.  The horror.  

 

In Honor of Alliteration, The Monday Mailbag.

Level of Correctness.

Level of Correctness.

I’ve never really gotten into cold pizza.  It’s just so…cold.  The toppings don’t look right.  I know that many people love it, though.  I admit it confuses me.  I wonder how much of the appeal is borne out of laziness.  Everyone knows you cannot microwave a piece of pizza, so to actually warm it back up—it takes several minutes.  Is this love of cold pizza just a love of being able to eat something instantly?  Is cold pizza a different meal for a different time of the day?  If cold pizza is so fantastic, why don’t places sell it that way?  You know, pickup or delivery, hot or cold?  I think these cold pizza people might be lying to themselves a little bit.  Just a thought before we delve into the mailbag. 

Q: All signs point to the new Great Gatsby movie being awful.  The question is why can’t they make this book into a solid film? West Egg, Hartford, CT.

A:  It’s my understanding that the first version of Great Gatsby to hit the screen (sometime in the 40s) was decent.  I’m sure it would be unwatchable today, but perhaps that first adaptation was the best.  The one most people know, the one you sit through in English class when the teacher got tired of discussing the book, stars old Bobby Redford and comes out flat.  It’s not terrible, but when you are making a movie out of what is widely regarded as one of the best novels ever written, the bar is set awfully high.  I think this is part of the problem. The expectations are just too high, especially since almost no movies really live up to their books regardless of how good the book happens to be.  The other problem might be that the movies tend to focus on the wrong things.  The parties, or the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy.  The Great Gatsby isn’t a love story and I think some people want the movie to be.  The version that opened last week looks almost comically superficial.  They’re showing it in 3D, and it’s pretty clear the story works best in two dimensions. 

Q: What do you think about people who get militant about meat temperature?  Is well-done something to get angry about?  Is it really? Red Center, Omaha, NE.

A: Probably not.  I read the occasional article on cooking and one question that comes up time and time again is, HOW DO I COOK THIS STEAK?  The answer is always the same.  Sear-Roast.  And, that is fine advice, but the advice is always for a medium-rare steak—at the most.  This is what we’ve all deemed to be the correct temperature, but I don’t think it needs to come with so much judgment.  When you read these tips for cooking it will often include something like, “feel free to leave the steak in the oven longer IF YOU WANT TO RUIN IT.”  And, I think that’s the angst you are talking about.  I guess chefs and amateur cooks get OFFENDED when an ingredient isn’t treated properly.  I feel this way on occasion, but it’s mostly when I have to eat the dish.  If you want to make something well-done, or f’ing raw for yourself—go right ahead.  If you are cooking for others, you should at least make an attempt to be aware of their temperature preferences.  I can say, that if I was a guest, I’d rather slog through something that was overdone than something that was raw.  If I come over and you set down a pork chop in front of me that’s pink and mushy in the center—I MAY VOMIT.  Sorry.  Guess I like my pork “ruined.” 

Q: Do you think parents get nervous when their kids give them a present, thinking, “oh my god, what is this going to be and I’ll probably end up having to wear it.”  Mack Aroni, Denver, CO.

A:  Well, I’m not a parent, but I think I can take a reasonable stab at this just through my observations.  I can say with certainty that parents (especially Moms) like getting SOMETHING from their children, because when presented with the opportunity or the need to make a comment, they can chime in with, “Oh, MY Frederick got me the cutest…” and then you just fill in the blank with whatever.  I overheard a couple of these conversations on Mother’s Day.  You don’t want to be the mother that didn’t get anything.  That might say something about YOU as a mother and not about your unappreciative kid.  But in terms of the actual present?  My guess is that parents would always prefer something they can display.  When you are five years old and you come home with a mess of construction paper, or a pasta wreath, or one of those drawings where the sun takes up 84% of the page, your parents can just throw that on a wall somewhere.  Most parents will proudly show this type of thing off, and even insinuate on occasion that their kid is MAYBE not completely terrible at art (he is)?  But, if your mother had to wear that pasta around her neck?  Or your drawing was stenciled onto a T-shirt?  I’m thinking we’re talking about a drastic decline in enthusiasm.  You probably have to be an adult to start getting decent adult gifts for your parents.  Otherwise, it’s “I’m getting Dad this Harry Potter Lanyard!”  Well, Dad’s not going to like that unless it’s sticking out of the ignition of a new car.  

Q:  What do you think is worse, striking out to end a game, or giving up a home run to end the game?  Kenny Wahlkoff, Pittsburgh, PA.

A:  Here’s how I’ll answer.  I assume at some point in my life that I struck out to end a baseball game.  Even though I was Rod Carew like with my contact skills, I bet it happened.  More than once.  The thing is, I don’t remember it happening.  It didn’t leave an impression on me.  I remember the home runs I gave up and none of them were of the walk-off variety, so if that had been the case they would probably be seared into my brain.  I’m approaching this with a Little League mentality, but I think how we look at things in baseball is shaped by our younger years.  From the moment they remove the tee, people start striking out ALL THE TIME.  But, the home run becomes a mythical achievement.  Since most six and seven year old kids can’t go YARD, when someone finally does hit a home run, it is a HUGE DEAL.  That awestruck reaction to a home run sticks with you for your whole life.  The sight of a home run can still cause professional athletes to act like children.  So, because of the joy the home run causes for the offensive team, the gloom it causes for the other team is proportional.  The other thing about home runs?  People always let you know about them.  I heard what’s his face took you DEEP yesterday?  Yeah, yeah, yeah–you’ll be hearing that for the rest of your life.  

Q:  I was driving by a XXX video store the other day and I was pondering to myself, how the hell are these stores still in business in the internet age? P. Eeepshow, Carlsbad, CA.

A:  The old “drive by” question, huh?  The short answer to this question is people are a bit pervy.  For the long answer, I may have approach things a bit more delicately.  I’m no XXX video store regular.  I don’t have the courage.  I remember back in the day when regular video stores had the adult rooms and I would always be SO CURIOUS, but I never went in them–even after I was of age.  You get the feeling that you are going to walk out with your bit of TASTEFUL porn and all of a sudden your grandmother is going to be sitting there knitting you a new Christmas stocking–or something.  That wouldn’t happen, but that’s how it makes you feel, plus the looks from other customers.  At an XXX store you don’t have that concern, no one is in there picking up Toy Story 3 (At least not the animated version), but you could always run into someone YOU KNOW, which would be devastating for both of you.  I think I’m dancing around things here.  Bottom line, XXX video stores usually sell MORE than just videos.  There is a market for these items and there is a group of the population who doesn’t associate any stigma with strolling into the Pleasure Hut, or whatever locale it was you had in mind.  I imagine some of these places have regulars, foster a real sense of community. Can’t get that online.  It’d be like having a happy hour over Skype.  

Q:  Why don’t professional golfers have their swing coaches caddy for them.  Wouldn’t they be better at giving advice, or making a small correction during a round?  Hank Hainee,  El Paso, TX.

A:  There are a few players, among the lesser known golfers, that use their coaches as their caddy.  I just read this morning, that Casey Wittenberg, who played with Tiger this weekend has his swing coach ON THE BAG.  It does make a certain bit of sense, but golf is such a delicate game.  You are so sensitive out there.  It’s tough to make changes mid-round, and you probably don’t really want to be thinking about your swing when you are trying to shoot a score.  Like the old, grumpy, tour pros with the homemade swings like to say, “We’re playing golf, not GOLF SWING.”  There are other stumbling blocks as well, though.  Most guys have multiple students, so who would you caddy for?  Sorry, Tiger, gotta go loop it for Justin Rose today–he’s hitting it left of the world.  And, let’s not forget the monumental egos that these coaches have on tour.  They probably (definitely) consider themselves above the caddy profession.  You also don’t want to tie yourself too closely to one player’s fortunes.  It’s all well and good until your prize student “Goes Duval,” and then all of a sudden you are coaching and caddying for the guy who can’t keep his ball on the property let alone on the fairway.  

Q:  Do you think the Phillies should sell high on Kyle Kendrick right now, and if he keeps this up, what kind of contract is he going to get in the off-season?  Is Kendrick a 100 million dollar pitcher?  Will he out-earn Tim Lincecum?  Are we still on Earth?  Boris Scott, Tampa, FL.

A:  He’s going to get more money than Lincecum.  That can definitely happen.  Kendrick is 4-1 with a 2.47 ERA and has been one of the brightest spots for the Phillies this year.  He has vastly out-performed any ceiling that I would have put on his career.  Kendrick is the original Happ, the original Worley.  In 2007, Kendrick won 10 games and people got excited.  While Happ and Worley have gone on to have their struggles, Kendrick has rebounded over the last year from his own extended bout with mediocrity.  What he has going for him is that he’s still just 28, and the league will always be starved for pitching.  Should the Phillies trade him?  Probably.  If it gets to that point.  After a decent road trip, the Phillies are still bouncing around on the fringes of wild-card contention.  They’ve got a lot of issues, but it’s still too early to put them squarely out of it.  I think that’s where they are headed, but for now, Kendrick has to keep pitching and keep winning.  If they sell off pieces, Kendrick would be a logical choice, because part of the appeal of having Kendrick is having him at a cheap rate.  Can the Phillies even afford to sign him after the season if this keeps up?  Is that where the Halladay money would be best spent?  Probably not, but I can say that if this was three or four years ago Kendrick might already have his extension.  What would KK bring on the open market?  I’m not sure he can keep this up, but assuming he ends up with an ERA around 3.00 and stays healthy–he’s in for a big pay day.  The market will cool slightly because of a lack of track record, but again–he’ll be 29.  You could give him 5 years without going too deep into his thirties.  He won’t get 100 million, though.  Kendrick doesn’t have the raw stuff to support that total, but 5/70 might be on the table.  I can’t believe I wrote that.  But, we’re in a world where 34-year old Kyle Lohse was a bargain at 3/33.  Trade him tomorrow.  

You Can’t Spell Phillies Without…

Without Oh My God Are They Frickin' Terrible.

Oh My God Are They Frickin’ Terrible.

In the short term, Roy Halladay’s latest DL stint may help the Phillies.  That is how bad things have gotten.  Cloyd, Morgan, the pitcher the Phillies call up will likely perform like a bottom of the rotation starter.  This means, they could at least keep you in the game, something Halladay failed to do in four of his seven starts.  And, things were only getting worse.  The last two times out, the game was over by the 3rd inning.  That wears on a team’s psyche.  That it is the former ace getting hammered probably makes things all the more uncomfortable.  At least the other 24 guys won’t have to watch Halladay get rocked any longer.  It’s something no one wants to see.

The 2012 season fell apart with a Halladay trip to the DL.  The offense was just good enough last year to win some games and solid pitching through May had the Phillies over .500 at the start of June.  But then Halladay went to the DL, the Phillies went in a prolonged slump and didn’t bottom out until they were 14 games under .500.  This DL trip won’t cause that kind of damage, but the Phillies could be looking at a similar record come the All-Star Break.

Somehow, even with the addition of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Michael Young–the Phillies offense has gotten worse.  A good bit worse, actually, as they average 3.5 runs a game and rank near the bottom in almost every offensive category.  How did this happen?  Well, Utley’s solid start hasn’t offset Ruiz’s career year from 2012.  Ryan Howard has been good for only 1 of 5 weeks.  Michael Young is hitting for no power, which magnifies the loss of Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino.  Between CF, the corner OF spots and catcher, the Phillies have been historically bad offensively.  Roy Halladay has nothing to do with that.

The problem for the Phillies is that while the offense will likely get a little bit better, it’s certainly not going to be good enough to win games on their own and it won’t be enough to cover for a rotation with two AAA guys in the 4 and 5 spots.  Throw in the still pitiful middle relief and the Phillies have no formula to win.  They can’t out-hit you, and it’s much harder for them to out-pitch you than it used to be.

Yes, the Phillies have gotten off to some average starts during their playoff streak and of course last year (when they were an identical 14-18), but they arrived at 14-18 in a different manner this season.  There is a different look about them, and they’ve done it against mostly inferior opposition.  Good teams have completely handled the Phillies to this point and as they embark on a stretch where they’ll face SF, Arizona, Washington, Atlanta, etc., you have to believe that their current win pace, as troubling as it is, might not even be sustainable.  This team could easily tumble to 10, 12 games under .500 in the next six weeks.

The question is, if they get there, what will be the course of action and do the Phillies have the proper personnel in place to carry out a plan that could re-shape this team?  Without a quick turnaround, the Phillies will have to break their commitment to the status quo.  One of the first posts I ever wrote about the Phillies talked about how I hoped fans liked this group of players, because they were stuck with them.  That has certainly turned out to be the case as Ruben Amaro has shown only minimal amounts of creativity as he tries to escape the burden of his own contracts.

To execute a reversal of fortune, the Phillies are going to have to shed a lot of payroll.  I don’t think they can pull of a trade like Boston did with LA, but you see how that salary dump has been a reset button for that franchise.  The Phillies look like they have had the Roy Halladay decision made for them.  That’s 20 million dollars of relief.  Chase Utley to an AL contender?  That’s 15 million more.  Carlos Ruiz?  Five million.  Could you move 50% of Cliff Lee’s deal?  I think Ryan Howard’s contract is the only one that you are truly stuck with.  You probably hold onto Hamels because of his age, but other than that, if the Phils become sellers they must really sell.  S

Strip it down and find someone else to rebuild it, because Ruben Amaro has proven already that he’s not the right guy to spend 160 million dollars.  The Phillies need a player development guy and someone with a better feel for putting a team together.

 

It’s The Mailbag People.

Oh, He's Probably Just Nosing Through the Trash.

Oh, He’s Probably Just Nosing Through the Trash.

Chris Kelly, one half of the rap duo Kriss Kross, passed away yesterday and it has a lot of people of my generation reminiscing about their music and their influence on style.  Kriss Kross was known for wearing their clothing, a lot of overalls and jerseys, backwards.  Tons of kids copied this move.  Did I ever wear my clothes backwards?  Absolutely not.  I was not cool enough.  I was less aware of pop music than any kid in America.  I never had a WALK or DISC man.  I didn’t watch MTV.  I didn’t care at all when “Eagle” 106 FM changed their format to jazz(?).  I had to endure my friends talking about bands, albums, etc. and I would just sit there and have NO IDEA what they were talking about.  This, of course, was better than actually trying to participate in the conversation, which would inevitably lead to me embarrassing myself quite thoroughly.  The moral of all this, of course, is that the children of the 90s lost one of their cultural icons AND I was a very strange child.  Onto a strange mailbag…

Q:  What’s a more ideal roommate situation?  Someone you don’t really know who is quiet and clean, or living with one of your best friends who is a slob and a general train wreck?  Tank Franklin, Pittsburgh, PA.

A:  I guess it depends on how much of a neat freak you are and whether or not you want to be watched in your sleep.  It’s tempting to go with the quiet roommate, because silence really can be golden and cleanliness is nice too, because nothing is worse than opening your door and getting laid out by the stench coming from your kitchen.  What’s in the sink?  I DON’T KNOW.  But, here’s the thing with those quiet roommates you don’t know so well–do you ever really know what they’re up to?   Sure, they aren’t making any noise, but they could be up all night photo-shopping themselves into your family album.  NOT NORMAL.  So, I think if you have the chance you should always try to live with a friend.  It can be dicey, but most friendships can survive a roommate situation.  It’s not like going in halves on a Blockbuster Video franchise.  I lived with friends throughout college and I was the messiest of the group, but none of us really cleaned the common area with much vigor.  There were times when I’d get up, sit down in front of the TV to play some Grand Theft Auto, my feet would sink into a puddle of keg juice and I’d want to LOSE MY MIND.  But you get over it pretty quickly, because the day before you probably did something UNSPEAKABLE in the bathroom–or whatever.  Just the cost of doing business.  

Q:  If a television station suddenly wanted to make a sitcom about your life, or based on your oeuvre, if you will, would you want to play yourself in said sitcom ala Seinfeld, or would you take the Larry David route and turn the role over to a mutt like Jason Alexander?  Elaine Benes, Baltimore, MD.

A:  I really don’t have any desire to see myself on television, but if you are the real STAR, you don’t have a choice right?  Larry David, whether he’s really George or not, wasn’t the main character.  They didn’t hire, oh I don’t know, PAUL REISER, to do Seinfeld’s comedy, right?  That wouldn’t make sense.  An important part of comedy is delivery.  Seinfeld’s jokes need to be delivered by Seinfeld.  First, because he’s the best one to deliver them, but also because if he’s behind the show he’s going to want to make sure the product is how he wants it to be.  If you are asking me to put myself in a position where I am famous and funny enough to have my own TV show then you can bet your ass I’d stumble in front of the camera every week.  I’d probably have the wardrobe department fired every week for, “PUTTING ME IN THAT SHIRT,” but I’d give it a shot.  

Q:  If it were guaranteed to be friendly and docile and never attack you in any way, would you rather have a monkey, a tiger or a bear as a pet?  A real pet, not just in a cage outside.  Dr. Dewey Little, Boise, ID.

A:  I wouldn’t want a monkey–NO OFFENSE, Mr. Chimpanzee.  Monkeys are too similar to humans with their mannerisms.  Can you imagine sitting on the couch watching TV, maybe picking a rogue shard of Tostito out your teeth, maybe fiddlin’ with the iPad and you look over and your monkey is DOING THE EXACT SAME THING.  I’d sh*t myself.  I couldn’t handle that.  For a proper pet/owner relationship to occur you have to maintain some of the time-honored guidelines.  There’s hanging out with your pet and then there’s sitting there with your monkey with nothing to say.  Awkward.  So, that leaves us with Tiger and Bear.  I was about to say that a bear would be way too big, but I’m seeing here that Tigers can hit 650 lbs.  That kitty condo would take up a lot of space in the living room.  I’m not even going to get into the litter box scenario.  You’d have to fill the entire East Wing with kitty litter.  But I just can’t get past how cool it’d be to have a tiger in the house.  Just relaxing, basking in the sun, scaring away the occasional mouse?  I’ll go tiger.  

Q: Do you ever wonder what curiosity did to the dog?  Fran C. Feast, Humble, TX.

A: Wow, a lot of pet questions this week.  Are dogs curious?  The dog doesn’t destroy the trash can because he was CURIOUS about what was inside the can, he did it because there was a paper towel in there with a drop of bacon fat on it and they wanted to EAT THAT TOWEL.  I’ve seen dogs that are “curious” about why you aren’t paying them attention, but again, I’m not really sure that counts.  I think dogs are mostly content with their lives and so they are fine sitting on the floor next to you and don’t feel the need to see if they can jump up on top of the bookcase just because it’s there.  I think we need to get rid of this saying all together, because from my experience curiosity doesn’t kill the cat.  It may drive you to a mental institution, but the cat is going to come out just fine.  Standard cat behavior is them eyeing up some impossible jump, wondering if they can make it, attempting said jump, landing awkwardly (knocking over everything), one millisecond of self-awareness as they steady themselves and then they just saunter off–FULLY ALIVE.  Meanwhile, you surround the scene in crime scene tape while you sweep up the shards of glass, spilled drink–whatever.  

Q: Since it’s allergy season, what do you think about people who sneeze and it comes out as “achoo?” Is achoo a word?  I find it all very annoying.  Pet Dander, Coatesville, PA.

A:  Achoo is a word.  As I write it there my spell check is perfectly comfortable.  No issues.  A sneeze is a very personalized thing, much like a laugh.  And you can drive people crazy with both.  When it comes to sneezes, I prefer to let nature take its course.  Just release.  Don’t try to hold it in, don’t do any necessary muzzling–cover your mouth of course, but don’t be ashamed.  Don’t conform to what society thinks your sneeze should sound like.  I think some people modify their sneeze just to better set themselves up for the “bless you.”  They want that attention.  HEY, sneezing over here.  So, maybe they exaggerate it, I’m sure you’ve heard the unnecessary syllable at the end of a sneeze?  Also annoying.  As far as the “achoo” people go?  I guess they must live out their lives like a children’s book.  Achoo is one of those words that is a close approximation of a sound.  So, in these people’s minds maybe that’s what a sneeze is supposed to sound like?  They read Suzie Suffers from Sniffles at age 4 and it made a HUGE IMPRESSION?  They probably think all dog barks sound like “woof,” and horses go “nay,” etc. etc.  I agree, this is an annoying habit, the abbreviated, “choo,” sneeze being even worse.  

Q:  Let’s say we ended the war on drugs.  Not that we won it, we just gave up.  All of a sudden the government was like, you know what?  WHATEVER.  Do what you want.  Are there any drugs out there you’d be tempted to try?  Drugs Delaney, Pawtucket, RI.

A:  Oh yeah, PASS ME THE BLOW.  I don’t know.  I’m not in a real experimental phase in my life right now.  I’m not sure that I ever was.  I don’t want to be addicted to anything, with the possible exception of sugar, so I can say honestly I have no interest in any of the harder drugs.  CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES.  No thanks.  Drug intake would be a stumbling block for me.  Even if it was around I wouldn’t want to smoke anything, or snort anything.  I don’t even like swallowing pills.  Maybe this is why about all I ever do is drink some beers.  Drinking is SO EASY.  So natural.  The only chance you’d have of getting me to do anything would be marijuana in some type of edible form.  I don’t want to take massive bong rips, but if there were no consequences I might try a laced dessert.  MAYBE.  But, like I said, I’m not really feeling too experimental.  And, I spent plenty of time observing stoned people in college.  It didn’t look like I was missing out on a whole lot.  I get my food cravings naturally.