Friday, December 24, 2010

Damn You, Steve Martin

It may be too soon, and perhaps a tad excessive, to blame the downfall of Western civilization on Steve Martin, but we reserve the right to say “I told you so” if and when the time comes.

Steve Martin is, by any account, a tremendously gifted comedian, actor, musician, and writer, having won an Emmy Award (in 1969, for his work on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour), four Grammy Awards (for his 1978 and 1979 comedy albums Let’s Get Small and Wild and Crazy Guy, and 2002 and 2009 musical albums Foggy Mountain Breakdown and The Crow), and a best actor award (from the New York Film Critics Circle for 1984’s All of Me). His novellas Shopgirl and the Pleasure of My Company have sold pretty well and been well-received, as have his humorously offbeat collections Cruel Shoes and Pure Drivel.1 

His sense of humor ranges as wide as his other talents, too; he’s equally at home with goofiness (note the bunny-ears photo above, or his King Tut music video from Saturday Night Live), satire (L.A. Story, Bowfinger), or sociopolitical analysis of race relations and wealth stratification in pre-recession 1970s American society (The Jerk).2 

For all his valuable contributions to society, though, Steve Martin may eventually be best remembered—or perhaps vilified—for popularizing, if not actually creating, a hand gesture more offensive than the fig, the bird, the arm of honor, or even the legendary Belgian Elbow: 

Air quotes.

Except for Chris Farley—who is only playing a character here3—what
looking at is an awful mix of smarminess, insanity, and
ill-advised mustaches.
Don’t be like these fuckers.

Steve Martin, according to author David Frum, used air quotes extensively in his early, wildly successful stand-up routines.4 Had Martin been less funny, less famous, or less likeable, the gesture may have died a quiet and well-deserved death, but, sadly, he was not.

It was hoped that having a roundly disliked public figure of approximately equal stature adopt the same gesture could counteract Martin’s influence and kill the air quote, but, regrettably, the ideal choice for the job lacked the motor skills needed to correctly accomplish the gesture.
“Blast these damned arms! That’s it, you bastards, I’m putting you both on my list.

Despite our noble Nixon’s best efforts, air quotes not only survived but thrived in post-Watergate America. More recent attempts to defame the air quote, involving increasingly despicable participants on a global scale, have met with spectacular failure for much the same reasons.

“Is this right? No? Shit. I really suck at this, but it’s Israel’s fault.
I’ll figure out why once
my anti-psychotics wear off.”

It would be reasonable to worry that air quotes are here to stay. Most troubling about this is that not only do people use them too often—especially in cases where regular human voice inflection and facial expressions do a better job of conveying meaning than extraneous pseudo-punctuation ever could—but also that the damned things simply get used at the wrong times.

There is a proper time to use what are called scare quotes: when you want to change the meaning of a given sentence. Here’s how it’s done. We’ll start with a straightforward sentence, explain it, and then show how scare quotes alter its meaning. Stop us if you get dizzy:

  • Billy is a smart guy. This perfectly normal sentence implies (by which we mean “states”) that Billy is a smart guy.
  • Billy is a “smart guy.” This implies that Billy is actually not a smart guy.
  • “Billy” is a smart guy. This implies that the smart guy’s name is not actually Billy.
  • Billy is “a” smart guy. This implies that Billy is actually multiple smart guys. You’re not likely to run into this state of affairs all that often, either in grammatical or interpersonal situations.
  • Billy is a smart “guy.” This implies that Billy is smart, but that we know something you don’t about “his” gender.5

If your aim is to imply any of the above, use the quotation marks accordingly and you’re all set. Unfortunately, though, most people use air quotes for emphasis rather than to change the implied meaning of a sentence, which means that they’re unwittingly saying something far different than what they mean.

For example, let’s say you run into your all-time favorite singer, Bono,6 and want to tell him that you think he’s great. What you want to say is this:

I love your CD!

But instead, because you didn’t keep your hands in your pockets, what you said was this:

I love your CD!

Congratulations, jackass, you just told Bono that his CD sucks, that you hate it, and that you’re willing to go way out of your way to let him know. You’re the worst fan ever. He’s going to go home and cry himself to sleep on his huge pile of money, and probably throw away the macaroni-shell portrait you sent him.7

So the power is in your hands. It’s up to you to choose whether to begin to undo the damage done by Steve Martin and his wacky hands, or continue to follow his most misguided footsteps—acting like a smarmy prick, an musclebound asshole with a bad mustache, or a space alien masquerading8 as a pop musician—butchering unoffending English and making Bono cry. It’s all on you now. Don’t screw this up.

1. I thought they were pretty damned funny, anyway. I don’t actually know if anybody else on Earth actually liked them, or even read them.
2. That’s what that movie is about, right?
3. I realize that Mike Myers is technically playing a character as well, but I would argue that Goldmember puts him safely in the “smarmy” list, and The Love Guru suggests insanity.
4. According to How We Got Here: The ’70s: The Decade That Brought You Modern Life—For Better or Worse, 2000.
5. Did you pick up on what I was doing with the scare quotes around “his”? Nice.
6. You want us to believe it’s Bono, but it’s not. It’s actually Tiny Tim. Seriously, what’s wrong with you?
7. Yeah, we know all about that.
8. Until recently.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why You Won't Find Us on Twitter

Because Twitter is stupid.

One of the many reasons why you should be embarrassed
to be associated with Twitter.
While I haven't paid much (any) attention to Twitter since its creation, my hunch is that the majority of what goes on there falls into one of two general categories: (1) events in which you are (or were, or will be, or want to be) involved, or (2) thoughts you’ve had, or heard from others, that you’ve decided are worth sharing.

First, the events: if anything that happens to you can be satisfactorily summed up in 140 or fewer characters, what chance does it have of being genuinely worth telling people about? Answer: very slim. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but the odds are good that most of the details from the average life that are worth broadcasting to total strangers are either completely made up or stolen from a movie. The following are some completely-true examples from my everyday life:
  1. I once beat the Queen of England in a belching contest. She was kicking my ass until she got a bit overconfident and barfed a little.
  2. I am in a ballroom surrounded by hundreds of monkeys in tuxedoes. I can’t tell which ones are millionaires and which ones are butlers. 
  3. The penguins, surprisingly, are dressed quite casually.
  4. I ate a whole lot of fiberglass insulation. It wasn't cotton candy like that man said. My stomach’s itchy.1
Be honest, how often does a mundane detail of somebody else’s humdrum life really interest you? Probably not many. Your mundane details aren’t likely to be any more interesting to anybody else.
    Second, thoughts: if anything you think can be satisfactorily summed up in 140 or fewer characters, odds are good that you’re a profoundly shallow thinker or just straight-up stupid.2 There are notable exceptions to this, of course; some very clever people were also quite pithy:
    1. I think, therefore I am. (R. Descartes)
    2. The needs of the many far outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. (Spock)
    3. If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you. (O. Wilde)
    4. C is for cookie; that good enough for me. (C. Monster)
    The obvious problem here is that you are not Rene Descartes or Oscar Wilde, and neither is anybody you know. (For that matter, I’m no Oscar Wilde either, although I do have this nifty blog and he doesn’t.3)

    Thanks in part to the recent death of Mark Twain,4 the quality of wit in this country has fallen to the point that we’re apparently willing to believe that bumper stickers are clever. That probably helps explain (to some degree) the success of Twitter. And it’s not surprising that, given our country’s obsession with even the most run-of-the-mill celebrities, that plenty of people out there are just dying to know, say, whether Ashton Kutcher’s jock itch has cleared up yet. But those two still-pathetic reasons aside, I have a hard time understanding why we believe that it’s anything but embarrassing to circulate statements like, for example, “he might be f—— you but he’s thinking of me.

    . . . although that may be a bad example. The more I think about it, the more sure I am that it’s probably a direct quote from Oscar Wilde.

    1. Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, 2004.
    2. For the record, this shallow and straight-up stupid post weighs in at exactly 2,926 characters, not including the title or spaces. That’s way more than 140—put that in your ass and smoke it, Twitter fans!
    3. Also, he’s been dead for 110 years, and I have not.
    4. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, b. 1835, d. 1910.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    More Evidence—as if You Needed It—that the World Isn't Fair

    1. John Lennon, a flawed and often self-contradictory but sincere advocate for peace, love, and kindness, is dead.

    2. Fred Phelps is not.

    A world without war and a God that despises His own creations and even revels in their destruction may both be products of their particular creators’ imaginations, but it should be pretty clear which one is an admirable dream and which is sick, cruel, and blasphemous.

        Thursday, December 9, 2010

        Separated at Birth: V and the Burger King?

        Clones, stunt doubles, or long-lost evil twins? And how are we to tell
        which one is actually the evil one?

        Geneticists and conspiracy theorists have long speculated on the possible relationship between V for Vendetta’s mysterious masked antihero and Burger King’s über-creepy masked, uh, Burger King. We may never know if these two are indeed evil twin brothers—or, if so, who we should thank for separating them so many years ago and sparing the world the horror they surely would have wreaked had their strengths been combined—but I’m not convinced that’s even the most important question to ask.

        The crazy ones always get the girls.

        More important is this: If you had to choose to be doggedly pursued to the ends of the Earth by one of these two, which would you pick? The verbose but violent, vengeful, potentially psychotic and mercilessly murderous anarchist V, a master of explosives, edged weapons, and poisons, with both the will and the ability to kill you in any of a dozen creative and probably ironic ways if he’s convinced you’ve wronged him . . . or the Burger King, a creepy dude with a ridiculous frilly collar, who wants only to sneak into your most private spaces, hand you a hamburger, and then leer at you with his fucked-up plastic head?

        I don’t know about you, but I’d take my chances with the guy who’d probably plan to kill me. I’m pretty sure that once the Burger King is done with you, he takes your soul.

        Monday, December 6, 2010

        Peyton Hillis: Best Peyton (or Payton) Ever?

        No, of course not. But he’s not bad.

        Among Denver Broncos fans’ biggest complaints about the very recently ended Josh McDaniels era is the dismissal of running back Peyton Hillis, who in 2008 led the team’s injury-stricken running corps with 343 rushing yards. After barely touching the field in 2009, he was informed that he “didn’t fit” the Broncos’ system1 and was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a highly-touted clipboard holder and a sack of moldy jockstraps.2

        We couldn’t find a picture of Brady Quinn anywhere,
        but Saturday Night Live’s Colin Quinn has seen just
        as much of the field for the Broncos this season, so we
        figure he’s close enough.

        Since then, the Broncos’ running game has enthusiastically sprinted to the bottom of the league, while Hillis has flourished for the Browns. At the beginning of 2010 training camp he was approximately 423rd on the depth chart, but thanks to a tragic photo-shoot accident, every other Cleveland running back was electrocuted, and Hillis ended up with the starting job.3 Through twelve games of the 2010 season, Hills has generally been between solid and spectacular, amassing 1,376 total yards (962 rushing, 414 receiving) and 13 touchdowns (11 rushing, 2 receiving),4 and has helped transform the perennially struggling Cleveland Browns into a team that’s actually not totally crappy all the time.

        More important than the Browns’ ride to near-mediocrity, though, is Peyton Hillis’s continued rise up the short and half-distinguished list of all-time greatest Peytons.5 For your entertainment, the thoroughly researched and comprehensive list is as follows:

        Greatest Paytons/Peytons of All Time
        1. Walter Payton, running back, Chicago Bears, 1975–1982
        2. Peyton Manning, quarterback, Indianapolis, 1998–
        3. Walter Payton. Yes, again. He was that good. Running the ball, to Walter Payton, was “like makin’ romance.”6
        4. Eddie Payton, kick returner, Detroit/Cleveland/Kansas City/Minnesota, 1977–1982
        5.  Peyton Hillis, Denver/Cleveland, 2008–
        6.  Leo Payton, running back, Rochester Jeffersons, 1923–1924
        7.  Jarrett Payton, running back, Tennessee, 2005
        8.  Payton Williams, defensive back, Indianapolis, 2000
        9.  Sean Payton, quarterback, Chicago (replacement player), 1987
        Football enthusiasts across the nation have one question on their minds: will Peyton Hillis end his career at the top of the list?

        The universal response to this question is a confident no—he remains some 19,000 total yards behind Walter Payton, and has done at least 250 fewer stupid commercials than Peyton Manning—but one thing remains clear: if the folks in the Broncos organization aren’t kicking themselves for letting Peyton Hillis go, there are plenty of folks around here who’ll be happy to do the kicking for them.

        1. From what we’ve seen so far, the Broncos’ primary objections to Hillis were his tendency to fumble and his insistence on crossing the line of scrimmage. Remaining Broncos backs do not seem to have these problems.
        2. I stand by the absolute truth of this statement, except the part about the jockstraps.
        3. My sources inform me that I may have confused the Cleveland Browns’ training-camp results with the introduction to the John Goodman movie King Ralph. You’d be surprised how often this happens.
        4. By way of comparison, the Denver Broncos—including the statue of Kyle Orton—have combined for 1,034 yards and 8 touchdowns rushing, and are averaging almost a full yard less than Hillis’s 4.5 yards per carry. Knowshon Moreno’s impressive 161-yard effort in Game 12 put the Broncos ahead of Hillis in total yards for perhaps the first time all season.
        5. Also included: Paytons.
        6. “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” Lennon/McCartney, 1985.

        Sunday, December 5, 2010

        Fun Facts about Sangria

        Sangria: Amazing.

        After having returned safely from a housewarming party, warmed by conversation with good friends, plenty of food and drink, and loads of general pre-holiday cheer, I am happy to report that I have learned the following things:
        1. Triple sec has alcohol in it. This probably isn’t news to most people, but as a mostly-beer-drinker, I didn’t know. I had always assumed, despite somehow ending up with a couple of bottles of triple sec in my liquor cabinet for several years, that it was just an alcohol-free mixer, like 7-Up, tonic, or Miller Lite. However, Mrs. Some Guy was pretty sure that triple sec—an important ingredient in sangria, which was served at the housewarming party—was indeed alcohol, so I looked it up when we got home, and she was right.
        2. Sangria is amazing. I learned this particular lesson forty-six times as I drove home. Sangria, as it turns out, has several kinds of alcohol in it.
        3. Amazing, believe it or not, can be pronounced as a seven- or eight-syllable word.

        Sunday, November 7, 2010

        Some Guy’s Adventures Through the Pint Glass, Part 7

        Day 7: “It is something that man was not meant to disturb. Death has always surrounded it. It is not of this Earth.”

        The Beer Mystery Case (artist’s conception)

        The Beer Mystery Case, like the fabled Ark of the Covenant (which, incidentally, mimics the Case’s design), is steeped in history yet shrouded in secrecy. Its power is both mysterious and mercurial, oftentimes granting its users wondrous gifts, other times inflicting upon them nothing but incomprehensible face-melting terror.

        This is why I don't drink Coors Light.
        One would be right to wonder, then, if the world might have been better off had the Beer Mystery Case, like the Ark, stayed buried in the Egyptian desert forever. One would be right to wonder the same thing about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, too, but that’s neither here nor there.

        Frankly, to rightfully question the motivations of the Beer Mystery case is far beyond the scope of mere human understanding. The mere notion of it is as laughable as, say, questioning the wisdom of Ryan Spilborgh’s beard. As some famous long-dead English guy once wrote, ours is not to question why, ours is but to drink some shitty beer and possibly barf.1

        So I, with this essential truth in mind and my fate clearly out of my hands, reached into the Beer Mystery Case and pulled out

        Miller Genuine Draft, Miller Brewing Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.2

        There’s a scene in the mock-rockumentary Spinal Tap where one of the fictional titular band’s albums, Shark Sandwich, is said to have been given a scathing two-word review: “shit sandwich.” Funny though that scene was, rest assured that we here at Bowling in the Dark would never stoop to such cheap, easy vulgarity to make a point.3

        Miller Genuine Draft, ready to return from whence it came.

        Our biggest complaint about Miller Genuine Draft was not its flavor (which was both thin and displeasingly bitter) or its color (which, as can be seen in the photo above, is unappetizingly similar to certain fluids that nobody in their right mind would contemplate drinking4), but that the Mystery Case saw fit to give us four of them.

        Disappointing though Miller Genuine Draft is—and despite the red flag that comes up whenever something insists on being advertised as “Genuine” (much like a seedy used-car salesman inserting “honest” into his name)—there are, we have to admit, times where a cold MGD might prove to be welcome. For example, it would serve well as a chaser if you’re in the midst of a Nepalese drinking contest, and drinking an MGD would definitely be preferable to being trapped underground forever in the dark, surrounded by thousands of poisonous snakes. And we’re willing to admit that other good reasons to drink Miller Genuine Draft may indeed exist, but at the moment, none come to mind.

        Some Guy’s rugged and adventurous rating for Miller Genuine Draft, then, consists of 1 (one) roasted Nazi henchman and 1 (one) smarmy exploding French archaeologist.

        Naughty henchman (l), haughty Frenchman (r).

        1. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” 1854. Quoted verbatim.
        2. Because the Miller and Coors breweries merged in 2008 to become MillerCoors—a name suggesting an almost total lack of imagination—Miller Genuine Draft is, technically speaking, a MillerCoors product. But its creation long predates the merger, and Coors already has plenty to answer for, so I will refrain from blaming them for MGD.
        3. We will do it, however, just to be jerks.
        4. That is, Coors Light.

        Sunday, October 31, 2010

        German Military Begins Massive Buildup

        Reliable European sources indicate that the German military, after decades of peaceful dormancy, has roared once again to life and has laid a greedy eye on Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and possibly Karelia S.S.R.

        Germany is also suspected to have invested in four infantry, three tanks, and is debating whether to produce a fighter or opt for a couple of die rolls.

        A worried United Kingdom, and indeed all of Europe, waits breathlessly for its turn.

        Tuesday, October 26, 2010

        Relief Has Come to the Football Fan

        As a longtime Colorado resident and sports fan, I always get a bit excited when autumn comes, and it’s not hard to understand why: the NHL’s regular season begins in October, which gives grateful sports fans a reason to ignore the smoldering wreckage that used to be the Denver Broncos organization, and instead focus on a sport that’s superior in most ways anyhow: ice hockey.

        Ice hockey lacks football’s long stretches of commercials, simplistic TV analysis, and brief blinks of actual game play; NASCAR’s hours of predictable high-speed tedium (go straight, left turn, GOTO 10); baseball’s lasseiz-faire approach to physical fitness; or basketball’s general unfamiliarity with teamwork, defense, and physical contact; so it’s not hard to see why the sport hasn’t fully captured the American imagination.

        No, seriously, we’re athletes. Really! We mean it! We get uniforms and everything!
        I prefer to believe, though, that this is mainly because casual fans of the game aren’t watching it quite right. Sure, casual hockey fans look forward to fights (often to the point of ignoring the actual game), and usually can identify when a goal has been scored, if only because they notice the flashing red light and the accompanying arena-shaking horn blast. Casual fans do appreciate goals (as they should) and admire and even idolize goal-scorers (which is cool), and that’s a good start.

        What the casual fan is less likely to pick up on, though, is how often it’s a passer, rather than a shooter, that makes a goal happen, and by missing or disregarding this fundamental facet of the game, they’re missing out on much of the excitement the sport has to offer, and a great deal of the skill it puts on display.

        Without the puck movement that sets up the goal—without players who can draw defensemen and goaltenders out of position —scoring would be virtually nonexistent, rendering the game of hockey slow, pointless, and boring . . . like some other sports I could mention.

        And while it’s almost surely true that a good shooter will make his linemates look good, it’s as or more often the reverse, that a first-class passer will turn a middling player into a good one, and a gifted player into a star. To show the importance of the playmaker, let’s take a look at five shooters—one flash in the pan, two All-Stars, and two Hall of Famers—and see how they’ve done with and without the first-class passers with whom they’ve played.

        Jonathan Cheechoo of the San Jose Sharks was officially crowned the Luckiest Guy in the World when Joe Thornton joined the team as Cheechoo’s center early in the 2005–2006 season. Cheechoo won the Maurice Richard Trophy—awarded to the league’s top goal scorer—that year, probably postponing his return to the AHL by at least a couple of years:
        Jonathan Cheechoo Games Goals GPG
        With Thornton (2005-2006) 82 56 0.683
        Every other year:
        419 114 0.272

        Milan Hejduk, a three-time All-Star for the Colorado Avalanche—and perhaps the team’s best-ever player to look just a tiny bit like a ferret—had his best year in 2002–2003 as a right wing for Peter Forsberg—not just one of the league’s best setup men of the last two decades, but one of its best overall players. While the two played together for several seasons, Forsberg’s struggle with injuries limited his playing time—at one point he played only 56 regular-season games in a three-year span—so the 2002–2003 season is the best example of Forsberg’s effect on Hejduk’s production.

        Milan Hejduk
        Games Goals GPG
        With Forsberg (2002–2003) 82 50 0.610
        Every other year:
        765 289 0.378

        Simon Gagne followed Milan Hejduk as the winner of the Forsberg Lottery when the Swede joined the Philadelphia Flyers for the 2005–2006 season. While Forsberg missed just over twenty games that year, he skated with Gagne most of the time he was healthy, and it shows in Gagne’s career-high total of 47 goals.

        Simon Gagne
        Games Goals GPG
        With Forsberg (2005–2006) 72 47 0.653
        Every other year:
        598 212 0.355

        Jari Kurri’s 601 career goals are good for eighteenth in league history, and he was the first Finn to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Wayne Gretzky assisted on 364 of Kurri’s goals, or right around 60% of the total. While Kurri may have made it into the Hall of Fame with somebody else as his center, it’s safe to say that Gretzky—not just the league’s all-time leading goal scorer but also its most gifted playmaker—helped nudge him in that direction. The two played together for the Los Angeles Kings for several years, but their chemistry and Gretzky’s playmaking effect were most evident in their years with the Oilers:

        Jari Kurri
        Games Goals GPG
        W/ Gretzky (Oilers) (1980–1988) 600 397 0.662
        Every other year:
        651 204 0.313

        Brett Hull ended his career known for more than just his big mouth, which is in itself a hell of an accomplishment. He retired with 741 goals in nineteen seasons (1,269 games), more than all but two players in league history. However, nearly a third of those goals (228, to be exact) came in just three seasons, from 1989 to 1992. In those seasons, Hull’s center was Adam Oates, one of the most gifted passers of his era, and Hull’s 86 goals in 1990–1991 set a league record (which still stands) for goals by a non-Gretzky.

        Brett Hull
        Games Goals GPG
        With Oates (1989–1992) 232 228 0.983
        Every other year:
        1037 513 0.495

        Without Oates, Hull still scored just under a goal every two games, a pace that likely would still have gotten him into the Hall of Fame. Had he played a couple more seasons with Oates, though, and maintained anything approaching that ludicrous .983-goals-per-game pace, he could have finished his career as the league’s all-time leader.

        Based on this admittedly very small sample—in a half-assed study that is almost certainly rife with illogical assumptions, mathematical mistakes, and incomplete or misused data—these truly gifted playmakers appear to be able to add somewhere around one third to one half of a goal per game to a good shooter’s scoring average. In a sport where one out of every seven or eight games ends in a tie—and probably nearly as many end with a one-goal difference in score—an extra one-third to one-half goal per game is a huge.

        So the mostly mundane and fairly obvious point I’m trying to make here is that the next time you’re going wild about the goal your favorite player just scored, take a good long look for the guy who got the puck to him, because he’s doing a lot of work to make that favorite player look good. Not to mention adding a couple of zeros to the end of the guy’s next contract.

        . . . the other point I’d like to make is that Adam Oates looks a little bit like Ray Liotta. Like if you were to take Regular Ray Liotta and make him about 90% less intense and scary, you’d have Adam Oates:

        Left: the Ray Liotta of the NHL. Right: The Ray Liotta of pretty much everything else.

        Friday, October 22, 2010

        Some Guy’s Adventures Through the Pint Glass

        Special Aloha Edition

        There comes a time in nearly every married man’s life when he realizes that he’ll eventually have to cave in to the relentless pressure, pack his bags, and take that Hawaiian honeymoon his wife has been badgering him about ever since they got married two days earlier.

        That time finally came for me not too long ago, and I return with good news: you, too, can make it through the interminable weeks in this hellish tropical paradise if you’re properly prepared. A good way to start is by bolstering yourself against relentlessly pleasant weather, horribly clear water, and nauseatingly beautiful scenery by familiarizing yourself with local customs and, if possible, popular slang terms. The following is far from a comprehensive list, but the terms below—coupled with the fact that everybody down there speaks English anyway—should be enough to get you through the day:

        Ohana: family. I didn't actually hear this phrase in Hawaii, but it’s used a lot in Lilo & Stitch, and it seems safe to assume that Disney is as dedicated to accurate portrayal of languages as it is to authentic depiction of alien/islander interaction.

        Mahalo: thank you.

        Aloha: used interchangeably as both a greeting when arriving and a farewell upon departure. Renders any translation of the Beatles’ 1967 hit song Hello, Goodbye nearly meaningless.

        Holy shit, check out the albino: I’m not convinced that this phrase is actually Hawaiian, and I don’t have any idea what it means. For some reason I heard it a lot, though. Usually when I had my shirt off.

        Howzit: Hey; hello; what’s up. If you stand there and wait to hear “. . . going?” you will wait for a good long while, and look pretty stupid while you're at it.

        Mai tai: Tahitian for “Fuck you, brain, you can’t tell me what to do anymore!!”

        Ono: delicious.

        This last one will come in handy if you decide to eat or drink anything while you’re in Hawaii, for example,

        Primo Island Lager, Primo Brewing Company, Honolulu, Hawaii.

        This beer was good, and the book was even better. Can’t say
        I’d recommend the forty-five-dollar airport sandwich, though.

        Primo Island Lager is, according to the Primo Brewing Company’s own website, ono-licious. Oddly, because ono means delicious (see above, again, if you have the worst memory on Earth), onolicious therefore translates rather clumsily as deliciouslicious.1 I’m not going to dwell on that here, though; if you feel the need to read an asshole’s opinions on language use, check here, here, here, or here.1

        Know your Onos. From left to right, Oh no; Ohno; Ono; Ono-licious.
        Primo Island Lager is not the heavy, thick kind of beer you might drink on a cold snowy night with your hands wrapped around a steaming bowl of hot chili. This is a good thing, of course, because it’s brewed in a place where the temperature rarely dips below the mid-60s. The visionary who brings his meaty, paint-thick winterbrau recipe to the Hawaiian islands is nothing less than a big fat idiot who’d better be prepared to accept failure.

        Seriously, though, who really gives a shit how this beer tasted? This is where I drank it:

        So without further ado, and at the risk of short-circuiting the positronic brain of any robot who happens to be reading this column, Some Guy’s carefully considered but somewhat logically-circular rating for Primo Island Lager is: Three (3) bottles of Primo Island Lager. High praise indeed.

        For more of Some Guy’s Adventures through the Pint Glass, check here: Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5  Day 6

        1. Linguistically speaking, this makes as little sense as the half-octopus, half-platypus creature known to science as the platypustopus. You’ve never heard of this animal before, but I know you want one.
        2. Wow—looking at it right now, I realize that’s an awful lot of links to me being an asshole about language use. I’ll be happy to point you to a moment when I’m not being an asshole, as soon as one actually presents itself.

        Sunday, October 17, 2010

        Hubris and the Indestructible Plastic Car

        At the risk of sounding like an After-School Special or an early South Park episode, I’ve learned a valuable lesson today, one worth sharing with as wide an audience as possible.1 I’ve learned that if you’re willing to brag about how durable your car is—aloud, in writing, or even just smugly to yourself—you should be prepared to have it fall apart on you, Bluesmobile-style, almost immediately.

        My list of suspects for this poetically just but financially shitty piece of automotive vengeance is long and not particularly coherent—I don’t know whether to blame karma, the Car Gods, fate, the Underpants Gnomes, or simply some harsh and unyielding cosmic force that specializes in cruelly expensive comeuppance.

        Some might say that I’m blowing this out of proportion—that it’s not out of the ordinary for a fourteen-year-old car with a mostly spotless track record to eventually break down, that it’d be unrealistic to expect to hit 300,000 miles without every once in a while having to spend a few hours waiting for a tow truck on the side of a busy highway.

        Bullshit. I don’t want to hear it.

        So now, one week and several dollars later, my once-indestructible plastic car has two new shifter cables and a shiny new corrosion-free head gasket. As an added bonus, I got an oil change that was probably 4,000 miles overdue. I prefer to believe that I got a free head gasket and shifter cables, but had a four-digit bill on the oil change. Whether that’s denial or just plain stupidity I will leave up to you to decide.

        An example of a healthy, happy head gasket.
        My head gasket (artist’s conception)

        Take a lesson from me—if you have a great, durable little car that doesn’t give you any trouble and costs you very little, shut the hell up about it. Don’t tempt the mystical forces of comeuppance unless you’re prepared to pay the consequences.2 The engine you save could well be your own!

        1. Given how little I know about marketing a blog, and how little time or money I’m willing to spend on it, the widest possible audience is right around six people. Thank you for your support, by the way.
        2. By which I of course mean “mechanic.”

        Friday, October 15, 2010

        One of These Things is Not Like the Others

        Literally1 trillions of American adults in their twenties to thirties grew up watching Sesame Street, and most will easily be able recall the short sketch in which viewers were presented with four items accompanied by a bouncy little tune that informed us that one of those four things was not like the other. And, sure enough, after several seconds, the car with only three wheels, or the single square among the three circles, or the kid who didn’t like sports was singled out for mockery.

        Yes, that’s exactly right: Cookie Monster is the only one without a nose. Well done!
        With that common memory firmly in mind, I humbly present my own version of the Sesame Street game:

        Q: Can you tell which one of the following is different from the others?

        1. Sasquatch
        2. The Dungeon Master
        3. The Denver Broncos’ running game
        4. The Loch Ness Monster.

        A: Ha ha! If you said “The Denver Broncos’ running game,” you have my gratitude for refusing to believe that I’d go with the dumbest and most obvious joke available—but you’re wrong. Nice try, but this was a trick question. In fact all four of the above things are exactly the same, in that none of them actually exist.

        1. No, not literally. Remember the First Rule of National Football League Broadcasting: “ ‘Literally’ is literally never to be used to literally mean ‘literally.’

        Tuesday, October 12, 2010

        Mangled English

        Part 2 of a Potentially Infinite Series

        If you live in the right part of northern Colorado, once or twice you may well have driven past an establishment called Fantastic Cut’s, nestled away near that store that sells all the used sporting goods and the other place that’s full of all sorts of hobby crap and has been getting remodeled for the last fifty-six years. The sign outside of Fantastic Cut’s—which was established in 1998 by local entrepreneur “Fantastic” Ernie Cut1—is easily recognizable, right down to its unfortunate apostrophe, to anybody familiar with Fantastic Sams, a chain of haircut salons with over 1,400 locations across the United States and Canada. 

        Whether these two organizations are actually associated with one another, I don’t know and won’t bother to find out. They do, however, have one thing in common2 in that their logos—probably their most noticeable and effective means of advertising—don’t tell us what they’re intended to.

        I described that apostrophe as “unfortunate” because, as any snotty English graduate3 will tell you, apostrophes used in this way indicate possession,4 which means that you don’t have any way of knowing, from the sign, what kind of Cut one would receive from Mr. Cut at Fantastic Cut’s . . . but you sure do know who owns the place: the sign tells you that the store is owned by Fantastic Cut.

        Fantastic Sams has a similar problem, except in reverse and compounded by inconsistency. Fantastic Sams was founded in 1974 in Memphis, Tennessee, by a guy named Sam Ross.5 Based on the nationwide success of his hair salon franchise, Sam was indeed fantastic, and was, before his recent death, almost certainly wealthy enough to buy a lifetime’s supply of proper punctuation.

        Judging by the company’s website and the majority of official graphics, coupons, advertisements, and storefront snapshots found in a half-assed web search, however, that wonderfully appropriate apostrophe has been or is being phased out in favor of a mistake, for reasons we can’t quite figure out.

        Top: Hooray! Bottom: You suck!

        This suggests either the marketing or the accounting department determined that making the company look illiterate would be good press or a money-saver. The newer signs suggest that you go to Fantastic Sams to buy a fantastic Sam.6 What it doesn’t tell you is who owns the place, or after whom it’s named.

        This isn’t the first time I’ve griped about dumb misuses of English, and it’s not likely to be the last. And the next time I get called a “Grammar Nazi”—an awfully offensive phrase, in my opinion—will not be my first. But before you chime in with the name-calling, please consider that I’m not criticizing people for failing to grasp something extremely complex, like aeronautical engineering or quantum physics, or some other field that requires years of experience and usually multiple advanced degrees.

        Instead, I’m criticizing people for failing to grasp or refusing to care about a simple and direct concept that was first introduced to them in grade school. Concepts that are taught in grade school are introduced because grade schoolers can understand them. If you haven’t figured out something as a grown-up that you were taught when you were eight—tying your shoes, simple math, thorough wiping, how to eat with utensils, or the simplest and most fundamental rules of a language that you've been reading, writing, speaking, and hearing nearly every hour of every day for the vast majority of your life, shouldn’t you expect a little criticism?7

        1. All historical and biographical information made up on the spot.
        2. In addition, that is, to providing haircuts, shampoos, and waxing; presumably stocking similar magazines; and having the same basic floorplans—so they actually have several things in common. But I’m not talking about any of the rest of these, because I can’t find a good reason to complain about them at the moment.
        3. Like me.
        4. Mathematically, when P = possession, P = Law x 0.9.
        5. This part is actually true.
        6. If you want to get technical—and I usually do—it suggests that you can buy multiple fantastic Sams. But it’s not implied anywhere that you need to buy more than one. And if you really need more than one, how fantastic can they really be? They’d have to call the place “Barely Adequate Sams.”
        7. Yes.

        Monday, October 4, 2010

        How to Fail at Marketing, Lesson 1

        Unless I’m looking at it wrong, the central message of this commercial—the fundamental truth that it wants to deliver to us as potential buyers—seems to be this:

        People who eat Jack Link’s Beef Jerky are assholes.

        I don’t work in advertising, so I guess I never realized how important it was for marketing departments to target the asshole sector of the population. Still, I can’t help but yearn for simpler, more dignified times, when our dried beef treats were willing and able to promote themselves with a decorum that, sadly, seems to no longer exist.

        The good old days are gone, and they'll never come again.

        Saturday, September 25, 2010

        A Sincere Apology to our European Friends

        It has been brought to our attention that our previous post, “How to Correctly Negotiate a Roundabout,” with its clear and narrow focus on distinctly American right-side driving, may inadvertently insult our vast European readership, many of whom are described provincially1 over here as driving on the “wrong side of the road.”

        We meant no offense, and sincerely apologize if any was taken. We here at Bowling in the Dark are big fans of Europe—“where the history comes from”2—and certainly don’t want to alienate some 830 million potential readers, even if most of them probably speak some sort of funny foreign language instead of American.3

        To make things right with our potential European readers, and also to the kind of Americans who insist on being easily offended on behalf of complete strangers, we have rewritten “How to Correctly Negotiate a Roundabout” to be more inclusive and international, not only redesigning the graphics from the ground up—a staggeringly expensive process, we might add—but also carefully translating the text into a tongue more familiar to a Continental audience. It is with pride, then, that we present to you

        How to Correctly Negotiate a Roundabout: European Version

        Wir können uns nur ein paar Deutsches Wörter von unseren Sekundärschulenklassen erinnern. Heutzutage sprechen wir nur einen begrenzten aber nützlichen Dialekt bekannt als Amerikanischer Film Deutsch, der besteht hauptsächlich von Phrasen wie—zum Beispiel—“Ruhe, bitte! Wir sind in einen Unterseeboot,” “Autsch! Kugeln von Amerikanische Gewehre!” und “Warum sieht dieser Archäologe wie Han Solo aus?”

        Vielleicht sind Sie auch bewusst, dass Deutsch auf der richtigen Seite von der Straße, anstatt der linken Seite, und treiben, dass unsere Übersetzung dieser Spalte in Deutsch besonders nutzlos ist. Wir hoffen, dass Sie finden dieses lustige; wir sicher gemacht hat, aber unser Humor ist berüchtigt verdächtig.

        Sowieso hier ist die Bilder, die wir Ihnen früher versprochen haben. Sie würden nicht glauben, wie hart es war, diese zu schaffen. Für alle Sie nicht-boshaft unfähig dadraußen, das Kegeln im Dunkeln Grafikdesign Abteilung überreicht stolz den Folgenden zwei-Teil, detailliertes Anweisungshandbuch auf wie richtig, ein Verkehr umständlich zu verhandeln:



        Das ist alles.

        1. But, of course, accurately.
        2. 2002, Eddie Izzard, Dress To Kill. How about that—after eleven months, finally a legitimate footnote. I’ll be damned.
        3. Our friends from the United Kingdom, of course, speak a somewhat comprehensible version of American. Philologists believe their dialect descends from the style of American spoken by migrants to England from Australia, which is, of course, the Forty-Eighth State, just southwest of California.

        Monday, September 20, 2010

        How to Correctly Negotiate a Roundabout

         If This is Actually Informative, How Did You Get Your License in the First Place?

        One of the main benefits of the traffic roundabout—also known in some places as the traffic circle, rotary, or those goddamned things they have in France—is that it often replaces a four-way stop intersection, thus decreasing congestion by allowing drivers to maintain speed through the intersection when safe, and calling for slowing or stopping only when traffic dictates.

        The roundabout is a relatively new concept in some parts of the United States, dating back only to 1990, so I suppose I should allow for the possibility that after barely more than 175,000 hours’ worth of practice, perhaps American drivers just haven’t quite gotten the hang of it.

        The other option, of course, is that the kind of folks who don’t work their way through the roundabout properly do so because they’re self-important assholes who find that the five to six seconds they save far outweigh (1) endangering other drivers’ lives in a head-on collision and (2) ensuring that every other driver on the road realizes that you’re a self-important asshole. I’m inclined to bet on this particular possibility, but Napoleon Bonaparte (unless it was somebody totally different) once advised us to “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence,” and that seems like good healthy advice.

        So for all you non-malicious incompetents out there, the Bowling in the Dark Graphic Design Department proudly presents the following two-part, in-depth  instruction manual on how to correctly negotiate a traffic roundabout:



        That is all.