Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Best Joke, Ever

I didn't invent this joke, but I see that it's picking up some momentum as a funny joke, and I posted it first. I put it in my first blog back in February of 2005, so more than a year ago. Since then, at least two more have picked it up. I won't belabor why it's so great. It's the joke that speaks for itself although I will say that I've always always always gotten a great reaction out of this joke. The Boy is still mad about it. And, in telling it, the longer you go on and the more mysterious you make it (within reason) the better it is. Without any further ado, here is the Best Joke Ever:


A man was driving in the middle of nowhere down a secluded country road far from any cities. He got a flat tire, and got out to walk for help.After walking for some time, he came to a small stone monastery. He knocked on the door and roused the monks. "I've got a flat tire. Can I use your phone?" He asked.

The monks said they were sorry, but they did not have a phone. "If you stay tonight, you can get a ride on our wagon into town tomorrow," they said. So the man stayed the night, and they put him in a small room in the monastery.

In the middle of the night, the man was awakened suddenly by a noise. Not just any noise, but the loudest, most wonderful, most terrifying, most hair-raising noise ever.

He sat there, his heart beating for a few minutes, and he heard it again!Getting out of bed, he went running in the direction of the noise. It came again, making the hair on the back of his neck rise and his skin crawl. Finally, he came to a large door where the head monk was standing. The door was at least 15 feet tall, and made of solid-looking wood and metal. It had chains and bars and locks and a deadbolt on it, and was the most formidable door the man had ever seen.

"What was that sound?" He asked. "What made it? Is it behind that door?"

The head monk shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said. "I can't tell you; you're not a monk."

As the man turned away, he heard the noise again. "You have to tell me what it is," he begged.

"I'm sorry, I can't tell you, you're not a monk," said the monk.

The man tried to sleep, but couldn't get the noise out of his head. In the morning, as he was getting ready to leave, he heard the sound again. It made his ears ring and his mind whirl."Please tell me what made that sound," he said.

But the monks wouldn't. "I'm sorry, you're not a monk" was all they said.

The man left, and eventually got his car fixed and went back to his life. But he couldn't get the sound out of his mind. After a few months, he got in his car and drove and drove until he found the monastery again. He got out of his car and found the head monk. "I can't forget that sound from that night I was here. Please, please please tell me what made that sound." The head monk just shook his head.

"I can't tell you; you're not a monk," he said."Then tell me how I can become a monk," the man said.

The head monk said "It's very difficult. Are you sure you want to do this?"The man said "I've got to. I have to know what made that sound."The head monk said, "To join us, you have to perform several tasks. Your first task is to count all of the stars visible in the sky."

The man thought about how hard that would be, but he had to know what made that sound. He sat up every night for a year, counting the stars over and over until he was sure how many stars were visible in the sky. He went to the head monk and told him, and the monk nodded.

"Very good. Your next task is to count all of the grains of sand on the beaches around the world."The man knew this would be even harder, but he could not get the noise out of his head. He had to know what, what kind of animal, could make that terrible horrible mind-bending sound. So he left on his journeys. He crawled the length and breadth of every beach in the world, counting the grains of sand, and he returned to the monastery years later.The head monk heard his answer and nodded.

"Excellent. You are almost done. Your final task is to climb to the peak of the highest mountain in the world, and see yourself in relation to the rest of creation." And the man knew this would be hard, but he outfitted himself, and he went to the highest mountain in the world, and he climbed to the top, and returned months later, older and wiser and more tired than years before when he had first heard the noise, the noise that would not leave his mind and that echoed in his every waking thought.He returned, and the head monk saw that he was wiser, and said "At last, you are a monk. Come with me."

And they walked through the monastery, its twisting and turning halls, and as they went the man heard the noise again, over and over, and he was no longer sure if it was the noise or merely his memory of it.And finally, finally, he stood in front of the door and the head monk opened it up, and the man saw what had made the noise.

That's where you stop telling the joke. And your listeners, if you've told it right, will go crazy, and say "What was it?" And you look at them, and you say:"I'm sorry, I can't tell you. You're not a monk."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Best Football Team Ever

That should be all the argument I need. But I'll explain further, and make it more specific: The 1990-1993 Buffalo Bills are the greatest team ever, and their greatness carries over to make the Bills the best ever.

In 1990, I made my first Superbowl bet ever, against my brother. We bet a team jersey, and I let him pick the team he thought would win. He took the New York Giants. So I got stuck with a team I barely knew, the Buffalo Bills. I watched that Superbowl by myself at my crummy apartment in the ghetto (watching football without other people around is my preferred way) and saw Scott Norwood's kick go just...this...far...wide right. It was a great game and a terrible but exciting ending, when Superbowls had not really been known for that.

The next year, the Bills made it again, so when the Brother and I bet, I took them again. And they lost, but I liked their style.

I followed the Bills the year after that, and they made it again, and I was hooked. They made it again the fourth year and by then there was no turning back. I love the Bills. I always will. I rooted for them through four straight Superbowls, the only team ever to do that (yes, I know they lost but they still went four times!), I rooted for them through the Flutie and Mr. Glass era, I watched Alex Van Pelt gamely try to take on the team, I saw the return of Marv Levy. I have a Bruce Smith jersey and a Drew Bledsoe jersey. I nominated myself for the ultimate Bills fan.

I made my wife go to their stadium, and then ditched her while I toured the locker room. On our honeymoon.

But it's not just about me being insane. Why are they the best team ever? Aside from the Four Superbowls? Aside from the greatest comeback ever, down 38-3 and winning 41-38? Aside from having Jim Kelly running the K-gun offense to perfection, scoring in seconds? Here's some stats:

They won 49 games in that time span, losing only 15. They were 27-5 at home, including losing zero games at home in 1990. Dallas, which beat them in two of those Superbowls, won only 43 games. The Redskins won 37. The Giants won 38. They've already got three people from that era (two players and the coach) in the Hall of Fame.

And they have that intangible something that means more than anything else. They have guts. It would have been easy to go into the tank after losing one Superbowl. Or two. Or three. But they went back for four.

Sure, Dallas beat them twice. But Dallas didn't go to four in a row (and one of those wins was against a backup QB.) The Redskins beat them once, but where have they been since then? And the Giants? Don't make me laugh. They "won" because Scott Norwood didn't hit a long kick perfectly, and have stunk since then.

Only the Bills were there year after year and continuing to be great and exciting. They should've won. They didn't, but that doesn't keep the Bills from being the greatest football team ever put together.

Friday, April 21, 2006

50,000,000 Fans Can't Be Wrong About The Best Major Rock Band/Star, 1950s-60s

There really can't be any dispute about this one, right? I'm going to break the music down to categories and ultimately from the winners in those categories an overall best-ever will be chosen.

But there can't be any dispute about this era. Say what you will about the Beatles, the early Stones, Eric Clapton, or any of the lesser stars that orbited the supernova that is my nomination in this category. Whatever you say about anyone else from this time, it all adds up to the same thing.

None of them are Elvis.

You don't even need the last name. And he was, to my knowledge the first of the no-last-name's in pop music, and maybe the first since the major stars of earlier, pre-pop pre-modern era's (e.g., Beethoven).

I remember when I was a kid, and Elvis died. My mom cried. She cried for days. She saved the newspaper that broke the story to her.

When I was in law school, and feeling down one time, I hopped into Zippy (my Ford Festiva) and drove to Graceland just to tour it.

When I was even younger, in elementary school -- what you kids would call "middle school" now but it was elementary then -- they showed movies on Friday nights, and the one I recall, the only one I recall them showing, was "Blue Hawaii."

But all of that is secondary to the music. The voice. The stage presence. The cool.

I'll take them in that order.

The music. How can you not love the music? I know he didn't write everything he sang, but the music was timeless. Even something as silly as "Hound Dog" still rocks, still has a better driving beat behind it than most of the things you hear on the radio (including anything released by Ashlee Simpson.) But when you get to the real Elvis music, you get even better. "Suspicious Minds?" Awesome. "Viva Las Vegas?" Perfection -- a rock & Vegas roundup that should be their theme song (if it isn't.) And Elvis can be updated. Check out the Paul Oakenfield Remix of "Rubberneckin'" (which I'm listening to as I write this. Elvis' songs get your foot tapping and you humming and rapping your hands on the steering wheel and ultimately singing along.

And part of that is the stage presence, the look, the way he handled himself. I've seen that dance he does, the twisty-foot sort of thing. It's dumb. That is, it's dumb if I do it, or you do it, or Justin Timberlake does it, but it's not dumb when Elvis did it. Whatever he did on stage, from that dance to putting on a scarf and then taking it off, it was great because Elvis did it. You can't teach that. You can't edit that into a film. You're born with it (Elvis) or you're not (me.)

And that's part of his cool, but not all of it. Elvis somehow made everything he did cool, because he was a combination of a super-big rock star (mansion, airplane, giving away pink cadillacs) and a country boy (recording songs for his mom) and a humble person (singing gospel music) and, even a little, a dork (recording "The Battle Hymn of the Republic.") What made him cool, then? What made him so cool he had his own Cabbage Patch Doll modeled after him? Because he did what he wanted and didn't care about us. Because he had that lip sneer that didn't seem calculated like Billy Idol's always did. Because the legend is that he didn't even set out to be a rock star.

It's hard to describe why Elvis had a hold on the nation. Why he captivated kids and scared parents, and still does, to an extent. There's something more sexual about a lot of Elvis' moves and songs and phrasings than even Beyonce could get. Rock and roll would not exist without him, which means that pop music would still be caught up in the Andrews Sisters "Three Little Fishies." He's got to be the consensus choice for best rock star of the 50s and 60s.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Best Movie Line Ever

My latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (which is redesigned, and like all redesigns I don't like it now but will probably get used to is) has a Q&A thing in it where they ask one of the reviewers various questions about movies. This week the question was what the EW writer thought the best movie quote ever was, and after reviewing a few of them, EW settled on "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," from Gone With the Wind. Now, I've never seen the movie and I thought the book was not all that great -- a little slow moving, and the fact that there was a guy named Ashley threw me off a bit -- so I can't agree with that.

To me, a great movie quote is not just one that sticks in your mind, like that one. It's not just one that's iconic ("Nobody puts Baby in a corner!") It's not just one that's catchy or used in other contexts ("Ask yourself: Do I feel lucky?") (Which is not the quote people remember!) It's one that sums up not just the plot twist in a movie, not just the movie itself, but an entire generation.

And there is only one quote that meets that definition. There is only one set of movies that was created by one generation and spanned two others. There is only one set of movies that revitalized an entire genre. There is only one set of movies that spawned so many characters that cannot be forgotten, that crossed boundaries into politics, that set a new standard for evil. And the fun, the thrill, the passion of those movies, the reason that people still watch them and will watch them in 20 years, critics be damned, is summed up in this one quote, the best movie line ever:

"I am your father."

It doesn't get any better than the embodiment of evil in the 21st century telling the embodiment of innocent heroism that they are related, that they are father and son. For a generation of kids who pretended to be Luke Skywalker, this was the ultimate betrayal. It was a twist, a cliffhanger, an earth-shattering revelation of the kind we always suspected our own parents would tell us and feared they might actually do-- worse that "you're adopted," it was "you're the son of evil!" It represented, and still does, what it feels like to grow up: You want to get out in that world, or another, and when you finally do, nothing is what you thought it was and your preconceptions are shattered.

I am your father!

That's the best quote ever, right there.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Best Ice Cream (Store Bought)

Back when I was in college, and after I first lost all the weight (dropping from 270 to 170!), I had a ritual on Fridays my senior year. My classes ended at 11, and I didn't have to tutor on Fridays, so I had an unaccustomed amount of free time. I also had a little extra money (something that's really rare.) So I would go after class and get a copy of the then-afternoon local paper (a thicker edition than you'd see nowadays), then to the grocery store and a gyro place near my apartment. I'd pick up some ice cream at the grocery store and then let it soften while I'd eat my gyro and read the paper. Then I'd eat the pint of ice cream and go on with my day.

You have to remember that I could eat a pint of ice cream because back then I was running 5 or 6 miles a day (even though I smoked then) and so I could afford the 1300-or-so calories I'd get doing that. And the ice cream each week was the same: Ben & Jerry's "Wavy Gravy." If you've never had this ice cream, you wouldn't believe how good it is. Caramel, cashew, Brazil nuts, chocolate hazelnut fudge swirl, roasted almonds... my mouth is watering now. It was like eating Heaven. Literally. The mixture was impossible for me to describe, is impossible, except to say that it came together in a way that nobody could have anticipated and that, I guess, few could appreciate.

I did that almost every week for my senior year in college, and never looked back. All the extra running was worth it. At some point, though, Ben & Jerry stopped making it, and I fell out of the habit of eating a pint of ice cream at one sitting. I still thought about it, though. Some people will try to remember an old girlfriend, or go visit their old high school. I wondered about Wavy Gravy.

And last year, they opened a Ben & Jerry's shop in our city! We stopped there after a college football game and they had Wavy Gravy! And I got a cone of it and it was every bit, EVERY BIT as good as I remembered it. So it wasn't just the heady freedom of a Friday afternoon in college. It was the best ice cream ever. It IS the best ice cream ever. But they've only (apparently) brought it back on a temporary basis and only at the shop. Please, bring it back. And everyone in the world should go eat it.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Best Ending to a Romantic Movie

I'm not a big fan of Romantic Movies as a general rule; I find them kind of sappy. My idea of romance is not the drippy "Ice Castles" version; I like a little zing in it, a little humor. But from the first time I ever watched Green Card I loved it, and I loved it because of the ending. SPOILER ALERT, although if you haven't seen it by now it's not much of a spoiler since the movie is 16 years old. But here's the spoiler: You know all the way through that Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell are going to fall in love. You know that they're going to get tested by the INS. And they do, and Gerard screws it up, and he's going to get deported. And at the end they let Andie see him one more time, and he's being led away, and she yells "No," and throws herself at him.

And they lead him away! They don't take the easy way out and have the INS guys look the other way and take his cuffs off and everyone goes for pie. They take him away, and that's what makes it the greatest romantic movie ending ever. Because it's so bittersweet, so sad, and so happy at the same time. You walk out happy that they fell in love and sad that they were torn apart, and hopeful that they'll work it out (sometime after the cameras stop rolling) and fearful that they won't. And that is what love feels like, happy and sad and hopeful and fearful all at once.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Best Candy

Best Candy Ever? My nomination: The humble "Chick-o-Stick."

It somehow manages to improve on the Butterfinger, although it would probably be more accurate to say that the Butterfinger tried to refine the Chick-O-Stick. Any candy with peanut butter in it gets a leg up on the competition, and while I'm not crazy about candy that doesn't have some chocolate in it, Chick-O-Sticks get past that hurdle with the toasted coconut and the way they start out crunchy but become chewy like peanut butter. I've liked Chick-O-Sticks since I was a kid, when my brother and I used to ride our bikes "into town" every Saturday morning with a dollar, and go to Jackson's (a local department store that had only one floor in our small town. It was like an old-time JC Penney's) which had a nickel candy counter. We'd buy a bag of candy each -- a little white bag like you get popcorn in at the circus, ride home, and, at the end of the day, we'd pull out our bags of candy, get out our sleeping bags, and camp out in the family room. Just when you think that sounds too old-timey, I'll add that we'd watch "Don Kirschner's Rock Concert" on TV while camping out. It was the 70's, after all.