Thursday, January 29, 2009

Introducing... Whodathunkit?

Whodathunkit!? now also appears on Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!

Stop the wedding, save the planet: The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About The Royal Wedding.

Steal This Post: The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About the 83rd Academy Awards.

WHODATHUNKIT!? 2010: The Year In Bests; The First-Ever TBOE What You Were Told, And What You Should've Been Told Instead Best Of The Year List.

The Three Best Things You Want To Know About Valentine's Day

Flaming Turkeys & PB&J in a can: The 2010 Thanksgiving Whodathunkit?!
The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want to Know about the World Cup.

The 64 Best Things About the 2010 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

The Three Best Things You Want To Know About the 82ND Annual Academy Awards.

Whodathunkit? -- Superbowl XVLEIRALVERHIII: The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About the Superbowl
Whodathunkit? -- The Oscars: The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want To Know About the 81st Annual Academy Awards.

The 64 Best Things You Want To Know About The 2009 NCAA Tournament.

The Three Best Things You Want To Know About the 135th (Really? Apparently So!) Kentucky Derby!

State of the Union Edition: The 9 Best Things Ever Said By A President.

The Three Best Things You Want To Know Abou
t Thanksgiving!

The Three Best Things You Want To Know About Super Bowl 2010.

What's Whodathunkit? When I used to do my sports blog (which I don't do anymore; now it's this) I came to realize that for all major sporting events, the newspapers, tv shows, and blogs were all saying the same things. Predictions, analyses, interviews with ex-jocks... all boring. I can watch the game. I can (and did) prove that expert predictions are no better than arbitrary and random picks. I don't want to hear anymore about a linebacker's mom getting a house.

So I didn't talk about those things. Instead, I talked about the things I wanted to know, and since wanted to know about them, I assumed everyone else did, too. Thus was born Whodathunkit? , a compendium, for every major sporting event, of a couple of facts that nobody else was bringing up, but which would be endlessly entertaining while watching the event.

Whodathunkit? was too good an idea to let die, so I've imported it here, and now Whodathunkit? will periodically give you The Best __ Things You Want To Know about major events -- sporting and otherwise -- in life.

The first one?

Whodathunkit? -- Superbowl XVLEIRALVERHIII: The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About the Superbowl

Once again, America's got Superbowl fever, although this year there's a bit of a twist to our obsession with watching a game that starts too late, is frequently too boring, and also should be played on a Saturday.

I could tell things are different this year because when CNN/HLN-- why the change to initials on "Headline News?" Was saying Headline News slowing down the actual delivery of those headlines? And doesn't it take just as long to say "HLN" as it does to s
ay "Headline News?" Maybe a little longer, because "HLN" is full of soft sounds that make me sort of pause between them, or they sound slurry, the way "Saturday" sounds slurry if you pair it with another word. Try that: Say Saturday, and notice that you hit all the consonants. Then say Saturday Night Live. Unless you concentrated, I bet you said something along the lines of Saerday because you were rushing through Saturday to get to Night Live.

Unless you are Chinese, and spoke in Chinese, in which case you said:


Also, do the people at CNN realize that "headline" is one word? So "HLN" should be "HN."

Anyway, this morning on CNNHN, they did the now-common story about Su
perbowl ads, and I was about to react the way I do with all now-common stories they put on the news, and say that the Superbowl ads and their costs and stories about them are no longer news. There are certain things that have happened so often that they're not news. I won't round those up right now, because I'll use that for filler someday, but Superbowl ads and their costs are not news anymore. Yet, they are still talked about on the news, and for one reason: the only reason the stories are put onto news networks like CNNHN is because they have to kill time, and they don't have the luxury of putting three or four introductory paragraphs about something that (seemingly)(<<<note: foreshadowing!) is unrelated to their topic.

This morning's CNNHN story on Superbowl ads was, I guess, news, because the story was about how NBC hasn't yet sold all their ad time for the Superbowl, because of the economy or Obama or something. I don't know; I stopped listening and went back to doing my morning stretches as soon as I realized that they'd shown all the clips of previous ads they were going to show.

But while the story was news, it was clearly filler news, not headline news (or, as CNN would apparently spell it, not Head Line News.) And it was more of what we've always heard over and over about the Superbowl. Every year, it's the same things, repeated over and over. The underdog team, the overbearing team. Defense this, offense th
at. The ads! The ads! Pizza deliveries up! Chicken wing shortages looming! Analysis that is not analysis at all but is merely blather!

On that last note, consider this submission from Don Banks of Sports Illustrated. Don gets paid to say stuff like this, and that alone is proof that our economy is not so bad. If enough money exists to pay Don Banks to shut off his brain before going on the radio and talking, then we're all going to be just fine. Here's what Don Banks, "expert" "sports analyst" had to say about his prediction for this game: While I'm picking the Steelers by seven, I wouldn't be shocked if Arizona wins it.

I listened to that and had to stifle the urge to ram my car into the one ahead of me in rage -- misdirected rage, because I wasn't mad at that guy, I was mad at Don Banks, mad because I can't believe what he said passes for analysis. It's not. It's not. Here's why:

First of all, 7 points is a pretty big margin, and Don Banks thinks the Steelers will win by a pretty big margin. But he wouldn't be surprised if Arizona overcomes that big margin he thinks the Steelers will win by? Let's apply Don's thinking to other areas, for a moment: That mountain looks to be about a mile tall. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's actually flat ground.
If Don Banks had come on the radio and said that, wouldn't everyone be amazed that he can survive in the modern world?

Moreover, saying I think one thing, but I wouldn't be surprised if the other is true, instead is not analysis, it's not a prediction, it's nothing. It actually detracts from the level of discourse. And the sole purpose of it is to allow Don Banks to claim some sort of expertise that the rest of us don't have. If the Steelers win, Don Banks will say I told you so. But if the Cardinals win, Don Banks will say I told you so.

Don Banks was on the radio, and CNNHN had the Superbowl ads on, as I said, for filler. With two weeks between the Superbowl, and more airtime and tv stations and websites to fill with content than ever, networks and magazines are desperate for something, anything to take up time. That's why you get, over and over, the same stories and the same "insight" and Don Banks rambling on like he mixed his medications up today.

I don't know why they bother with that. They could do what you've done, smart readers: They could come to TBOE for the first-ever TBOE installment of

The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About Superbowl XKRISLV

, it's Whodathunkit?, the beloved feature making its TBOE debut, that listing of facts that you want to know about a major event. Let others cover the offensive formations. Let others make predictions-that-aren't. Let others once again talk about Superbowl ads. Here at TBOE, I will skip that and I will provide you with those things you want to know about the Superbowl. So when you go to or have your Sup
erbowl party this Sunday and things are dying down in the third quarter as Arizona takes a 42-0 lead (something that wouldn't surprise Don Banks, I'm sure), try laying some of these facts on your fellow Superbowlians:

(Also, see how I was foreshadowing this? That's literature, baby. Take that, Steinbeck.)

The Romans Couldn't Have Had A Football Team Go Undefeated: Last year, everyone was abuzz about the 18-1 Patriots* and how they almost won-- people hoping or fearing that they would go 19-0 and become the only undefeated NFL team in the 16-game era. As it turns out, that didn't happen. But had the NFL used Roman numerals to show the records of teams, instead of Arabic numerals, nobody would have had to worry. Why?

Because the Romans had no symbol for zero. The Roman numerals everyone knows and loves, I, V, X, L, C, M, and that little fish:

Do not include anything for a "zero." So if the Patriots* had played in ancient Rome, they never could have made a run at perfection-through-rules-violations. At best, they coul
d have gone XVIIII- ... and... and... and what? See how that works?

Roman Numeral Related Party tip:
If your Superbowl party gets a little boring as the Cardinals go ahead LII - ... well, let's say the Steelers will have III, try this: See if you can come up with a more ridiculous explanation of how Roman numerals came into existence than these two:

This guy says that Roman numerals came about because shepherds needed to count their flocks and scratched marks into their staves. He claims that the "V" came at the end of a row of IIII, so that "5" was IIIIV, with "10" getting an extra slash-through. He doesn't, though, explain how these marks would be made on what was presumably a thin staff, or why the rest of society would adopt what shepherds were doing. Typically, societal trends are not set by guys who
spend 98% of their lives huddling on a hillside surrounded by sheep.

This guy, on the other hand (anticipatory pun intended), says that Romans were smart enough to invent numbers but not smart enough to do so without counting on their hands.

They're both wrong, of course. Roman numerals were invented as a secret code to communicate messages about the human rebellions against the aliens who'd landed in Egypt and built the pyramids, marking the dates and locations of major rebellions to be led by the Illuminati and the Knights of the Temple. It worked -- we drove off the aliens, but must remain vigilant. That's why the NFL uses the Roman numeral system for Superbowls -- to send the message through its broadcast: We remember, aliens.

You're nothing until someone can put mayonnaise on you...

How does America celebrate it's real heroes? By naming sandwiches after them. Maybe you've walked on the moon. Maybe you're the first African-American elected president. Maybe you've won the Nobel Prize. If you're one of those people, you might think hey, I've really done something here. But have you? I think not... unless somebody's named a sandwich after you.

By that standard, the only noteworthy person in this Superbowl is Ben Roethlisberger, who has his own sandwich, the "Roethlis-Burger," served at Peppi's Restaurant in Pittsburgh. It weighs in at more than a pound, and includes ground beef, sausage, scrambled eggs, and grilled onions. It costs $7 -- but american cheese on it is 7 cents extra. It's served on a portuguese roll, for some reason.

Having a sandwich named after him, as I noted, puts Ben Roethlisberger (career accomplishments: (1) not losing a Superbowl, (2) being tall) ahead of Neil Armstrong (career accomplishments: Successfully fooling America into believing he'd walked on the moon), Barack Obama (career accomplishments: singlehandedly restoring hope to America, one person at a time; smiling)(there are, reportedly, 9 sandwiches named after him, but further investigation reveals that none of the sandwiches are, after all, named after him) and ahead of David J. Gross, H. David Politzer, and Frank Wilczek, who shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for "discovering asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction."

In fact, they don't even serve a Neil Armstrong sandwich at the Neil Armstrong Middle School. How could they miss it? Wonder bread (for the wonder of walking on the moon), swiss cheese (because the moon is made of cheese, and the holes are the craters) and bologna (because it was all done on the same soundstage where they filmed The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis).

Wouldn't it be excellent, though, if you could order a "Gross, Politzer & Wilczek Asymptotic Freedom" sandwich?

Note: Those of you who have been sitting around through this whole article wondering What kind of sandwich best symbolizes Garry Shandling? Wonder no more. It's ham, munster cheese, cucumbers, and tomato.

It can't be long until we see this turned into a movie, too, right?
Movie producers continue to plumb the depths of comic books in hopes of capitalizing on the Superhero craze (hint to Hollywood: It's not the SUPERHEROES that are the draw, it's the fact that the movies are GOOD. So if you make GOOD movies, we'll come see them even without superheroes in them. Just make GOOD...oh, never mind. I'll look forward to "Bat-Mite: The Revenge" starring Tom Hanks.) So it can't be long until they realize that the NFL not only easily captures the public's attention once a year, but also has its very own super-hero. I give you:

NFL Superpro!

NFL Superpro was mild-mannered Phil Grayfield, a wannabe-football player turned reporter who happens, one day, to interview an eccentric football memorabilia collector/billionaire inventor -- isn't that pretty much a stock character these days? I remember a guy like that in The Great Gatsby -- an inventor/fan who has invented a $5 million dollar indestructible football uniform.

Apparently, judging by that cover up there, a uniform that is indestructible and can fly. But that's not clear.

Heedless of the fact that the NFL isn't even willing to require its players to wear readily-available concussion-resistant helmets, the inventor has actually produced this suit, only to have something happen involving thieves burning "priceless" NFL memorabilia, a turn of events that requires Phil Grayfield to (reluctantly?) put on the NFL Suit and become... NFL Superpro, thereby guaranteeing himself both an award for the worst superhero name ever (narrowly beating out Super Emeril LaGasse's BAM-Man) and also a lawsuit from the NFL, which won't even let me print a picture of Tom Brady getting sacked on a t-shirt. (Secretly, I did just that, though. Take that, Steinbeck!)

Through 12 thrilling issues of a comic book created for the sole purpose of getting its creator NFL tickets (honestly), NFL Superpro battled villains like "Quick Kick," a place-kicking ninja, (honestly!), and "Instant Replay," an assassin who can cut through time -- a cool power, but not a cool name -- and the most-feared villain in his rogues' gallery...

... Bennings:

And now there's a winner for worst supervillain name. So remember, no matter how boring the game gets this weekend, no matter how far ahead the Cardinals are in the IVth Quarter, no matter how little that surprises Don Banks, it could be worse for you, because instead of watching the Superbowl, you could be reading NFL Superpro.

Bonus: The world's computing power is constantly put to the test with applications that clearly benefit humanity, not by curing cancer or developing new virus-resistant crops, or, God forbid, finding a way to test peanut butter for salmonella; no, it's put to use by the Supervillain Name Generator, and I've done the hard work for you by not only linking to that site, but by generating these names for Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger in the event that either of them becomes supervillains:

Kurt Warner: (Color: red; attack: air-related ('cause, passing); time ('cause he's old)): Best name: Breezeo.

Ben Roethlisberger: (Color: Black. attack: Earth/stone related; Size: Giant): Best name: Obsidian Master.

So that's your matchup for Superbowl XIER&EKXIII: Breezeo vs. Obsidian Master. Bonus points for anyone who at their Superbowl party, upon seeing Warner make a good play, yells Go Breezeo!

Update: Some Guy At Work suggested that Roethlisberger be Rocko The Obsidian Hornet. I like that, so we'll go with that: Breezeo vs. Rocko The Obsidian Hornet Master.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The 10 Best Songs That Make You Feel Good (And Then Feel Bad About Feeling Good.)

Have you ever been driving along, enjoying yourself (enjoying yourself as much as you can on the commute into work, that is) and humming along with the pleasant, bouncy, upbeat song playing on your iPod, and all of a sudden you remember that this song, the song that's putting you into a good mood and making you hum happily and look forward to the day ahead of you, the song that's actually helping you enjoy your day just a little more, is about Oedipus' mother, and also that the first stanza is, so far as you can tell, about feeding a stillborn child to the wolves?

Music's funny that way. It works on a bunch of different levels on us, revving us up and calming us down and using the complex interplay of melody and lyrics and rhythm to create sometimes not one emotion, but several -- which may or may not be the point of the musicians were trying to make. Maybe they were trying to confuse your emotions and create a sort of meta-feeling in you, maybe they weren't. Maybe, after all, they were just writing a song and didn't give any thought to the complicated way that song would make you feel when you tapped your foot to it and sung along with it and then suddenly realized that you're tapping your foot and singing along with a guy whose heart is breaking.

That's the kind of music that's on my mind today. Not purely happy songs. Not purely sad songs. No, I'm thinking about songs that are both, at the same time, songs that use their own internal structure to set off all kinds of feelings in the listener -- maybe actively applying the My Aunt's Dog Theorem to the music in hopes of stirring up something even more complicated. Songs that don't just sing about the time the person was on the dance floor wanting some more, but instead delve deeper into the human psyche and create not just something lasting and memorable and thoughtful, but lasting and memorable and thoughtful and you can dance to it.

Songs, in short, that make you feel good, and then feel bad about feeling good. That's why I call this list...

The 10 Best Songs That Make You Feel Good (And Then Feel Bad About Feeling Good.)

1. The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism, (by New Pornographers.)

Why it'll make you feel good: The bouncy beat, the strummy guitars... this is a happy song! Look, my toe's tapping!

Why it'll then make you feel bad: The singer is slowly descending into alcoholism. Didn't you get that from the title?

Lyric that should have tipped you off and made you hang your head in shame: The title. Remember? How'd you miss that?

2. American Girl (by Tom Petty)

Why it'll make you feel good: That opening guitar riff -- it's ringing out with the grandeur and glory of the American landscape, urging you to put the pedal down and speed on down the highway into a glorious future.

Why it'll then make you feel bad: So far as I can tell, the American girl is going to commit suicide. Or she's just really depressed and alone. Is that any better? Maybe just a little.

Lyric that should have tipped you off: "She couldn't help thinking that there was a little more to life somewhere else." If that's not enough, how about "If she had to die/trying she/had one little promise she was gonna keep."

3. Scar That Never Heals (by Jeremy Fisher).

Why It'll Make You Feel Good: This song sounds like summer! It's got a reggae-like feel to it without being actual reggae, so you don't have to feel like some kind of poser or deal with people wearing knit berets and smoking Pineapple Express.

Why it'll then make you feel bad: Is it really about a woman that runs guns? Sure seems like it.

Lyric that should have tipped you off: "She runs guns everyone wants guns." But this one seals the deal: My self is broke and bandaged/her love is a scar that never heals. Hey, how's your summer going now?

4. Long Long Time (by Guy Forsyth)

Why It'll Make You Feel Good: Hey, it's nostalgia! Everyone loves nostalgia! Kids drawing jet planes, Luke Skywalker, comic books! Why, I'm remembering my own childhood right now and things were pretty good, weren't they? Rambling guitar, Star Wars. This is great!

Why it'll then make you feel bad: What's that he's saying? Wait, aren't things really good? I missed his last comment. Is he becoming a downer?

Lyric that should have tipped you off: No one lyric really serves as the tipping point -- I hope I'm using that right -- but instead, the song slowly tilts down hill a little at a time as your heart sinks. It starts to dawn on you around "Living life according to the TV set..." that maybe things aren't so great after all. Where did I put those comic books? Then, that final line drives the point home... like a stake into your heart.

5. The Man Comes Around (Johnny Cash)

Why It'll Make You Feel Good: I've mentioned this song before a couple of times. Hear that guitar? I love acoustic guitar. The version I chose there omits the intro that Johnny used sometimes.

Why It'll Then Make You Feel Bad: Because it's about the end of the world when the Lord comes and calls the good into Heaven and damns the evil. Didn't you skip church this week? And didn't you just flip off that other driver? And come to think of it, you don't do a whole lot of good in the world, do you?

Lyric that should have tipped you off: "'Til Armageddon, no shalom, no shalom. Then the father hen will call His chickens home. The wise men will bow down before the throne." Why don't you just find that guy you flipped off and apologize, quick -- and maybe donate some money to a charity.

6. Guess Things Happen That Way (Johnny Cash)

Why It'll Make You Feel Good: Johnny Cash really is a master of this genre; virtually any of his songs could have been put on this list. But this song serves as one of the early-Cash songs that demonstrates his mastery. Bouncy beat, ba-doom-ba-do chorus, plucky guitar. The beginning sets you up for a 50s-style rockabilly romp. Poodle skirts all around!

Why It'll Then Make You Feel Bad: I kinda think maybe the girl is dead. But maybe she's just left him and he's so despondent that he doesn't think he can go on and needs help from God simply to keep living. Yeah, that's better, right?

Lyric that should've tipped you off: It's right in the beginning, but subtle: "Well, you ask me if I'll forget my baby/I guess I will someday." In retrospect, I shouldn't have been snapping my fingers to that, should I have?

5 Years Time, (Noah & The Whale)

Why It'll Make You Feel Good: Noah & The Whale's Jocasta set me off on this journey of musical discovery, but "5 Years Time" is the pinnacle of their work. The whistling at the beginning calls to mind "The Andy Griffith Show" and then there's talk about wandering around the zoo in the sun. Can't you just see the grainy home movies these two will be watching as they reminisce about all the fun fun fun they had?

Why It'll Then Make You Feel Bad: Umm... is this really happening? Could this happen? Did the singer actually meet someone and is now thinking about how things might turn out well with this person? Or is the singer thinking about someone he maybe hasn't even met yet?

The lyric that should've tipped you off: "In five years time/I might not know you/In five years time/we might not speak." That ices it. But the first clue was a little earlier, actually: "Although maybe all these moments are just in my head."

Fidelity (Regina Spektor)

Why It'll Make You Feel Good: The speaker in "Rush" by Big Audio Dynamite II says "rhythm & melody" are important, and this song proves that. The synocopated little beats, almost like a heart skipping here and there as it feels the first flushes of love, quietly lure you into a romantic, happy mood.

Why It'll Then Make You Feel Bad: Hey, this isn't a love song at all -- it's a song about wishing people hadn't fallen in love! That title, that's meant to be ironic, isn't it? I hate irony when it's mixed with romance.

The lyric that should've tipped you off: "And it breaks my heart." Yeah, I guess I should've caught on a little earlier. But that little music in the background! It's so cute and sweet!

Why Do You Let Me Stay Here (She & Him)

Why It'll Make You Feel Good: It's got that 60's wall-of-sound feel to it, strumming up to more and more emotion, building up and up with guitars and layers of music and background singers and crescendos.

Why It'll Then Make You Feel Bad: It's all kind of minor-chord music, though, isn't it? And there's a touch of sadness in Zooey Deschanel's voice that becomes more prominent as the song goes on, until you replay the song and think I've got to hear that again, and then, yep, you were right: she's in love and he's not coming around.

The lyric that should've tipped you off: You can't really be blamed; they don't tie it up until the end: You make me feel like I am just a child/why do you end it? But like any relationship gone sour, there were hints earlier on. You just didn't want to notice them.

10. The Underdog (Spoon)

Why It'll Make You Feel Good: It's got a good propulsive beat, right at the start, and, of course, acoustic guitar, and it picks up steam as you go. This is a good song for warming up for your jog -- gets the blood pumping!

Why It'll Then Make You Feel Bad: It gets the blood pumping in the manner of a servant or messenger who's apparently gearing up to overthrow the powers that be or maybe just kill a rich man who's done something wrong.

The lyric that should've tipped you off: "You got no fear of the underdog/that's why you will not survive." Telling people in song that they will not survive = warning sign that this is not a happy song. But maybe the listener had it coming? Or am I the listener? Could Spoon be outside my house right now, ready to chastise me for not backing up an inch ever? If so, then I swear -- I'll talk to the waterboy! I'll invite him right into my leather room! He can have my pipe and slippers...

UPDATE: A reader nominates "Always Summertime" for this list.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Five Best Best Pictures (And How They Could Have Been Even Bester!)

It's a SemiDaily List!

The latest Academy Award nominations, as you know, came out yesterday, and people expressed the usual surprise and/or lack of surprise -- depending on how cool the person was trying to be -- at the usual inclusion/exclusion of a movie that everyone thought/didn't think would be on the list of Best Picture nominees.

Not me, though. I wasn't surprised/wasn't
not surprised at all, since I don't pay much attention to what gets nominated for Best Picture. I never cared much in the first place, and I started drifting further and further from caring as, each year, it became more and more apparent to me that the "Best Pictures" weren't all that great and weren't, in general, picked because they were "The Best."

The first hit was from the fact that "Pulp Fiction" wasn't selected as Best Picture. A movie that spawned an entirely new style of movie making and energized movies for years to come wasn't selected as the "Best Picture" in 1994? Is there some criteria of "Best" that the Academy uses that is not used anywhere else in the entire world for any purpose whatsoever, some criteria that has nothing to do with originality, caliber of talent acting and directing, dialogue, storytelling, innovation, and the other great qualities exhibited by that movie?

In a word,
yes. That year was the first year I realized that Hollywood was not selecting movies based on being "The Best" at all; they were selecting them based on arbitrary or happenstance criteria, spur-of-the-moment decisions backed by flimsy rationalization, as we'll see. Look through a list of "Best Picture" recipients, and you'll see a whole lot of terrible movies that nobody liked in the first place, and that nobody likes now. The English Patient? The Last Emperor? Dances With Wolves? Really?

By the way, did you know that from 1962-2002, the award for the "Best Movie" was actually titled "Best Picture," but then, in 2003, the Academy changed it to "Best
Motion Picture," apparently to prevent confusion on the part of people who were tuning in hoping that Red Yellow Blue might finally get the recognition it deserved? (That change, of course, was prompted by the scandal that erupted when, in 2002, the Academy accidentally gave the "Best Picture" award to this drawing by Steven Spielberg's daughter:)

A little trivia about that picture: After his daughter showed it to him, Spielberg optioned the rights for $40,000,000. His daughter now runs her own production company through a tax shelter in Germany.

After "Pulp Fiction" was bypassed, the Academy continued taking steps that only I, and Robert Downey, Jr.'s "Tropic Thunder" character, recognized as being designed to continue to reward pictures based on the exacting criteria of "Whatever is On The Academy's Mind At The Moment," instead of "Actually Being The Best Motion Picture Released That Year." They created the category of "Best Animated Feature," to make
very clear that animated movies aren't "real" movies and could never be recognized as such. They bypassed entirely the movie "The Matrix" even though the effect that movie had on the movie industry was the cinematic equivalent of the effect Columbus' discovery of the New World had on Western civilization. They nominated and rewarded only "The Return of The King," out of that trilogy (in obvious recognition that the first two in the series were absolute crud but somehow Peter Jackson pulled it all together at the end, right?) and they also gave a "Best Picture" award to "The Aviator" even though nobody, to this day, has ever sat all the way through that movie.

So with that in mind, I didn't worry that
The Dark Knight wasn't nominated for Best Motion Picture this year; it was obvious that the Academy only refused to nominate it because they didn't want the Oscar ceremony overrun with sweaty fat guys, pale from sitting in their mother's basements watching The Dark Knight With Director's Commentary on their Blue-Ray/Plasma hookups, lining the red carpet in hopes of touching Christian Bale, or, barring that, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Picture this on Oscar Night, 2009:

Besides which, the Academy had to make room to recognize movies about things that they happened to be thinking about that day, right? So,
Slumdog Millionaire: Isn't that about India or something, and wasn't India in the news a while ago for something great or terrible? We'd better recognize it. And Benjamin Button: If we nominate that, Brad might finally have enough money to finish rebuilding New Orleans, after which the NFL won't have to feel guilty about relocating the Saints to Los Angeles. And Milk: That's what we poured on our cereal this morning, right? I liked it this morning, I'll like it in February!

But despite the Academy's vigilant efforts, a few
actually good movies slipped through and were-- surprise! -- named "The Best Picture," or "The Best Motion Picture," or, in 2010, "The Best Motion Picture You Saw In A Theater, Thereby Keeping Our Jobs Going One More Year Before That Internet Thing Manages To Tear Open The Movie Industry Entirely."

And while those movies were pretty good, they each could have been better
. Given that the Academy didn't nominate them based on quality in the first place, it may be spitting in the wind, but I'm still going to do what I can to give some tips on how those movies could have been better, because I don't care what the Academy nominates. I just want to see good movies, and maybe some of you do, too. So consider this my gift to movie lovers:

The Best Best Pictures (And How They Could Have Been Even Bester!)


No Country For Old Men: (2008 Winner): Plot: A hit man searches for money and kills everyone in his path, including Tommy Lee Jones (thereby doing what Harrison Ford should have years ago instead of just running.)(And Ashley Judd, for that matter.)(Have there been any Tommy Lee Jones' movies in which he wasn't chasing after a fugitive? He even did that in Men In Black!)

Why The Academy Actually Picked It: "No Country" was seen as an allegory for our times -- the violent new society taking over the old society of laws and rules, with the storyline a carefully-layered, nuanced diatribe against such power-grabbing measures as the Patriot Act and military tribunals. The Academy hoped to send a message to the Bush Administration and the American people, warning them where they were headed.

Ha, ha! Had you, didn't I? The Academy didn't even watch the movie! They were told it was a Michael Moore documentary trying to get Dick Cheney to move abroad.

One Reason It Was Great: That scene with the service station and coin flip? We all wanted to just run away, and we were sitting in our houses on our couch holding our Skittles, but we still thought maybe Javier Bardem was going to actually kill that guy for real.

How It Could Have Been Bester: Seven word: Tommy Lee Jones. Javier Bardem. Fist fight.

2. Platoon. (1986 winner.) Plot: A guy goes to Vietnam and a lot of people die, plus Tom Berenger is creepy.

Why the Academy Actually Picked It: Actual quote from one voter, summing up the thinking that went into this selection: "That's Martin Sheen's boy, isn't it? He seems like a nice boy who will never do anything to embarrass Hollywood."

One Reason It Was Great: "Platoon" was among the first of the very-realistic war movies of the modern era, clearing the way for filmmakers to say war is hell and then prove it. In the past, war was reputed to be hell but it actually looked kind of fun. (Note: that sentenced is based entirely on viewing a 2 minute clip of "Gomer Pyle, USMC.")

How It Could Have Been Bester: Add into the plot Robin Williams' character from Good Morning, Vietnam; have him immolated by napalm.

3. Titanic: (1997 winner.) Plot: You don't actually have to be told this, do you? Not only has everyone in the history of creation seen this movie so far, but they've seen it so often that the storyline has been embedded into the human DNA. Future generations will be able to act out this movie using only their instincts.

Why The Academy Picked It: They liked Kate Winslet's boobs.

One Reason It Was Great: Aside from Kate Winslet's boobs? How about that scene where the old man and old woman cling to each other and decide to go down together, in love? How about when the band decided to play as the ship went down. How about when Jack slipped away into the water... aw, jeez, now I'm crying onto my keyboard. It's just dust in the air. Leave me alone a minute, will you?

How It Could Have Been Bester: Did we really need the Bill Paxton framing device and the little question about what happened to the Heart of the Sea? And weren't there about a zillion better choices to sing that song than Celine Dion? It was letting her do that song, after all, that is responsible for her still having a career. So everytime you see her imitating a robot on Rachael Ray and think My god, why do we let her go on existing?, you have the producers of Titanic to thank.

4. Rain Man: (1988 winner.) Plot: A selfish man learns to love by kidnapping his autistic brother and using him to try to become rich. (Seriously!)

Why The Academy Picked It: Thought Tom Cruise was Charlie Sheen and thought Dustin Hoffman was Robert de Niro, voted on this picture to try to anoint a new era of Hollywood royalty.

One Reason It Was Great: It portrayed in a very human, realistic, sympathetic but honest way, an unusual and debilitating mental condition in such a way as to make it seem more like a loveable personality quirk. To this day, if you say "fifteen minutes to Wapner," people will chuckle and repeat it and be completely unaware that they are making fun of a mentally disabled person whose condition afflicts millions. Remember that the next time you're tempted to say "K-Mart sucks."

How It Could Have Been Bester: We were all a little uncomfortable when Susanna kissed him, weren't we? I think that technically what she did was a crime in almost every state.


Why The Academy Picked It: They didn't realize that Leonardo diCaprio was in it, thereby accidentally breaking their vow to never, ever give him any recognition of any sort until he tells them where the fountain of youth is. I mean, come on! The guy is what, forty? And he looks 16? Plus he's rich? And probably funny? I bet he's funny in person, too. Talented, funny, rich, good-looking and he also never ages. God's got some explaining to do.

One Reason It Was Great: Have you seen this movie? It's impossible to pick just one reason. But I'll try. Here goes: The scene when Leo smashes a glass on a guy's head? That's the most realistic sound of a glass breaking in a film, ever. It's exactly what I always imagined what it would sound like, and it put to shame all the scenes of glasses breaking on people's heads that had come before it.

How It Could Have Been Bester: Actually, it couldn't have been. There is not one way that this movie could have been any better than it actually was. It was perfect. Well, okay, maybe it could have had a little more of Kate Winslet's boobs. It did great even without that, but isn't everything a little Bester with Kate Winslet's boobs in it?

I certainly think so.

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It'd be like a John Hughes movie, and I might be the cool guy this time!

I feel like I would be pretty good at school if I were to try it again.

Not at the academic part. Not that at all. Helping Middle and The Boy study for exams this week has shown me that -- I barely understand how to read their textbooks, let alone the information contained in those books.

No, I mean I would be pretty good at the social part, because the extra 22 years of experience I've gained since high school has left me with the ability to do what it takes to succeed in high school. If I went back, this time, I'd be cool and funny and hip and guys would want to hang around with me and girls would actually go on dates with me...

... Oh, who am I kidding? It'd be the same this time around, wouldn't it? Just entering a high school makes me realize that. All I have to do is hear my shoes making that little squeak on the kinds of tiles that only high schools have, and I'm done; I regress back to the same person I was in 1986, only with less hair (which is not all that bad, as less hair prevents unfortunate hair styles.)

If I did go back to school, though, the academic part might be easier because the schools might have better equipment. Back then, school technology was limited to those uncomfortable plastic chairs and whatever secret cooking device burnt the top of the pizza and kept the dough raw. Now, though, with, any school can have top-of-the-line educational technology. is an authorized reseller for educators. sells Office 2007 and Vista to students and schools -- libraries, research labs, colleges, if it's in education, they sell to it. They can get educators and students Microsoft products at great academic discounts: as low as $99 for Microsoft Office 2007, or as low as $89 for a Vista Upgrade.

And unlike high school students, is friendly and available with customer service. All you have to do is prove academic eligibility and you're on your way to great software at at great prices. They even have gift certificates, so if you're shopping for an early graduation present, hit up

"Hit up." That's a modern slang term. See? I might do okay if I went back...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Best Best Way To Listen To Music

Even as we speak, I am engaging in one of the few hobbies that I still engage in.

Or do I have only a few hobbies left? I'm not sure, since I'm not sure what counts as a hobby and since I don't keep track of all my 'hobbies.' I went running at the club last night -- well, jogging, on the treadmill -- but that doesn't count as a hobby because I don't like to do it, and a hobby is supposed to be something I like, isn't it? The only thing I like about running is when it's done. Specifically, I like to raise my hands in victory as I complete my goal, which may look silly if I'm running on a treadmill, but when else am I going to get to raise my hands in victory as I complete something?

Actually, I do that quite a bit. Among the many things I try to factor into my life are the rules 1. Treat life like a vacation: take lots of pictures and enjoy a snack now and then, and 2. Raise your arms in victory when you reach a goal. It works, too: As un-enjoyable as it may ordinarily be to have to vacuum up the torn-up newspaper and cookie crumbs that litter our living room after dinner, it becomes slightly more enjoyable if, after completing the vacuuming, I lift up my arms in victory. Try it yourself. Whatever you're working on right now -- or whatever you should be working on while you read this, when you're done with it, raise your arms up in victory as though you've just crossed the finish line in the 100-yard dash. I bet you'll feel a little better about yourself.

So: Hobbies. My hobbies these days are generally writing, running (I guess), occasionally cooking pizza, and playing various versions of what is essentially the same game with Mr F and Mr Bunches. But to those hobbies, I can now add:

Trying to turn one Pandora Station Into Another.

"Pandora" is the internet music service that lets you customize your music listening by putting in a song you like or an artist you like, and it then plays a lot of songs by that artist and other songs that it decides are musically or thematically similar to the song/artist you chose.

Which is to say: If you type "Christmas Is A Time To Say I Love You" into the box that tells you to choose an artist or song, you'll be creating a random playlist that will give you a lot of rockin' Christmas songs and will generally avoid the whole "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire" style of song.

So that's good, good enough to have Pandora be The Best Way To Listen To Music, but Pandora goes a little further, and I go a little further yet.

Pandora lets you vote on the songs you hear then, after you create your "station." By clicking thumbs up or thumbs down, you can shape the radio station yourself, make it better and more focused by getting rid of, say, every single version of "Jingle Bell Rock" off of your "Billy Squier Christmas Song" playlist, while adding in songs that you like even though you didn't think that you'd like them.

And that's better, because just simply typing in a song on Pandora is good -- is the best, in fact, way to listen to music because you can spend all day listening to music that's going to be pretty close to what you want to hear that day. If you like, for example, "Noah & The Whale," and create a radio station based on them, you get a lot of "Noah & The Whale" and you get a lot of "Noah & The Whale" type music. But you'll have some stuff, inevitably, slip through and irritate you, jog you out of your "Noah & The Whale-ish" bliss, so the ability to thumbs-down that song and get rid of it and its ilk is an improvement, making Pandora actually The Best Better Way To Listen To Music.

But even with that, even with Pandora being better than your own iPod because you'll get to hear new music that's similar to what you like without having to sit through DJs and songs by Jason Mraz like you would if you ever listened to radio that wasn't talk radio, even with all of that, Pandora can and has been gone one better, because with Pandora you can actually toy around with music and see if you can combine genotypes and cross-pollinate your music and hone it down to the perfect slice of music , the musical equivalent of cold Rocky Rococo's sausage and onion pizza -- trying to create a playlist of songs each of which is perfect.

Which is what I spend a lot of time doing these days, or did spend a lot of time doing these days before I found something even more fun and more challenging. I'd start up my computer in the morning and create a station and then throughout the day try to hone that station on Pandora so that I never ever heard a song that in any way jarred me out of the mood I was trying to create with that station -- while still letting me hear new music mixed in with familiar music.

I got good at that, too -- thereby creating a skill for the 21st century, a skill that has never existed before but which someday might actually be part of the criteria for a job, that skill being the honing of music: I became able to tell, within a few seconds, whether a song would fit into a given station or playlist and what the effect of thumbs-upping or thumbs-downing that song would be -- whether it would further perfect the playlist in the same way that butter perfects popcorn, or whether it would throw it into chaos the way left turns destroy traffic patterns.

Then I got bored. It was too easy. I've got "Paul Simon" stations and "Mika" stations and "Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You Stations" and about 15 in all, each of which is perfectly tuned to reflect a given mood. If I come into work and it's a "The Shins" kind of day, I can click on my "Shins" playlist and know that all day long I'll be feeling Shin-ny and that nothing will jar me out of that. I have hit a level of station-shaping that will qualify me to serve as a consultant for that in the future.

(Wouldn't that be a phenomenal way to earn a living? Q: What do you do? A: Oh, I travel around to people's homes and offices and set up the perfect Pandora stations for them. I earn about $20,000,000 per year. Q: Is there any downside? A: Not really, unless you count the fact that I know EXACTLY how many people out there really like Justin Timberlake's music. That causes me to lose a little sleep at night.)

Since I don't yet have that job and therefore that mock interview has not yet taken place, I tried something new: crossing playlists. (Insert incredibly dated don't cross the streams joke here. Is it possible that joke is so dated that it's come back around and it's cool again?)(Also, if you don't get that joke, aren't you a little young to be reading a blog? Shouldn't you be texting people while driving dangerously, or pretending you're too old to watch Hannah Montana anymore, or whatever it is young people do today?)

Here's what I do: I put in an artist, like "Cloud Cult." I then listen to that playlist for a while and shape it a bit... then I put in a different artist, one that's not very similar to that artist, like, say, "The Housemartins," and listen to that for a while. I alternate back and forth, and try to turn one playlist into the other. Through choosing "Cloud Cult" type of songs, deliberately shaping the musical playlist, I try to get it to mutate to the point where it's also a Housemartin's playlist -- while still allowing me to like the playlist.

It's kind of like being a mad scientist creating new species, only instead of "mad scientist" I'm more of a "bored, music-loving lawyer" and instead of cool new species that I could set loose on my enemies and/or give to friends as pets, I get a cool new playlist of music to listen to in between phone calls that interrupt me and take me away from creating those cool new playlists... but otherwise, it's pretty much exactly like the "mad scientist" thing.

Which is one of the reasons why Mutating Pandora Stations is The Best Best Way To Listen To Music-- that mad scientist feel is what pushes it over the top. That, and it gives me a bizarre sense of accomplishment -- bizarre because there's really no point to it, when I think about it. There's no reason to try to turn my "New Pornographers" radio station into a "Queen" radio station, other than to see if I can do it. If I want a "Queen" radio station, I can just create one, but that's not the point. The point is to see if I can get there from here, and isn't that, actually, not bizarre? Isn't that a major part of existence for humans? To see if we can do something not because it benefits humanity or has a tangible result, but simply to challenge ourselves and see if it can be done? Isn't that why people climb mountains, run marathons, eat that entire bag of Skittles, to see if it can be done? Don't we want to be more than mere spectators, don't we want to feel that there is more to life than simply trading this for that, working to make money, cooking to have a meal? Isn't part of the nicer side of life the idea that as higher life forms, as sapient creatures who are self-aware, we can create art, we can sculpt, we can paint, we can sing -- we can do things for the simple pleasure of doing them, for the simple pleasure of realizing that we have done them?

Isn't life, in short, at least in part about raising my hands in victory because my "David Bowie Radio Station" is now identical to my "Bronski Beat" Radio Station? Or, if not that, then, isn't life at least in part about trying to conflate what we do in our spare time into something important, trying to ascribe significance to even the most minute action we take, trying to achieve something of significance even if we've never achieved anything of significance?

And haven't I done just that, here, by getting you thinking about whether you could mutate a Pandora station into a different Pandora station -- thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, taking my own downtime activity and transforming it into something that you'll now spend time wondering if you could do it, and if you are wondering if you could do it, doesn't that mean that you are both thinking about it and wondering whether you might not be able to do it? And doesn't that mean that you are acknowledging that my ... hobby... is in fact a challenging activity that is worthy of some level of respect? So haven't I won?

Hey, you have your victories, I have mine.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

The Best Phrase That I Would Like To See Make The Jump Into Pop Culture Because Of Me.

Remember "Limecat?"

I sure do, but I don't know how I know about Limecat, and how I heard about Limecat. I just did. And I first heard about Limecat a long time ago in the olden days (2002) when people didn't hear about things as quickly as they do now, when texting and Digg and even the Internet were not as big a deal as they are now.

Don't believe me that things weren't that big a deal back then and that as recently as 2002 it was much, much harder to spread the word about back then? It was, and I can prove it: Youtube wasn't founded until 2005; before 2005, you couldn't find videos instantly on the Internet. Myspace wasn't founded until 2003. Facebook began in 2005. Even text messaging wasn't so big then. Text messaging grew exponentially after 2002. In 2001, 250 billion texts were sent. That sounds like a lot -- but by 2004, that number was 500 billion. It doubled in two years, which doesn't sound so big, either, so instead, picture it this way: Imagine 250 million text messages. Now, imagine another 250 million text messages.

Pretty big, huh?

The point is really, though, that nowadays, it's much easier for people to hear about things, for people to be plucked from obscurity and have fame thrust upon them no matter how little they might actually deserve it, or for people to start laughing at something for no apparent reason, or for someone to decide to make a book out of something that really didn't need to be bookified.

And the point is, too, that thanks to the Internet, we now know how things get passed around and how everyone hears about everything and how jokes can spread and who is responsible for starting trends. In the past, it was hard to say who was responsible for such great or horrifying trends and styles. Who first started wearing Izod shirts with the collars up? Was it in a movie, or did the movies copy some kids, and then other kids copied the movies? How did the word cool spread as slang for something that was good or neat or fun? Why did people around the world start using the phrase "A buck two-eighty" to mean $2.80?

Okay, that last one may not have been universally popular, and in fact probably was not universally popular. It was, though, a phrase in a home movie my uncles made called "The Buck-Two-Eighty Kid," a silent film in which my Uncle Bob was accidentally electrocuted and then brought back to life, a la Frankenstein's monster crossed with the Six Million Dollar Man, but a Frankenstein's monster/Steve Austin who wore only gym shorts and had a light bulb in his mouth and, for some reason, a pincer hand made out of tinfoil. "The Buck-Two-Eighty Kid" was a very popular movie for us nephews to watch -- the only one that was more popular was their karate-themed movie "Weedhopper," a movie that featured the most awesome fight ever. How awesome was it? Let me tell you: At one point, one uncle (wearing full karate gear) tries to kill the other uncle by ramming him with a chopper motorcycle missing a front wheel. And they did this in my grandma's basement. That's how awesome it was.

They were Tarantino before Tarantino was alive, or at least when Tarantino was very young. But they were Tarantino with no budget and with no way to promote those movies, which were shown at family gatherings and that was it. Nobody outside of our immediate family ever saw "The Buck-Two-Eighty Kid," or "Weedhopper," or even the docudrama "The Day That Began With The Sun Coming Up," (a classic in which Grandma's dog, Cinnamon, was the star) because back then there was no Internet, no texting, no cellphone cameras, no way to spread the word about something that you thought was cool and wanted other people to see.

If Weedhopper were made today, it'd be on Youtube in 30 minutes and would have 25 million hits not much later. If the Leave Britney Alone guy can film himself in a tent and get offered a tv show out of that, I am absolutely 100% certain that "Weedhopper" would have resulted in a three movie deal for my uncles.

That could all make me sad, I suppose. It could make me sad because more people know about Limecat than will ever know the fun of watching my Uncle Bob take the chopper out of the back room and ride it towards my Uncle Mark and then take a piece out of the wood-paneled bar in the rec room. But it doesn't, because, hey, those are the breaks. And also, it doesn't because I live in the current era (2009) in which I can harness the awesome power of the Internet and use it for my own ends, as I do with publishing my writing, and my other writing, and my other other writing, and as I will do now, when I give you The Best Phrase That I Would Like To See Make The Jump Into Pop Culture Because Of Me.

The phrase is this:

You shoulda put a ring on it.

I get that phrase from the Beyonce song, "Single Ladies," a song I would show you the video for but Beyonce for some reason does not want anyone to see the video; she won't allow it to be embedded anywhere, so please, honor Beyonce's wishes and DO NOT under any circumstances watch her video.

Instead, I'll show you this video so you can hear the song without horrifying Beyonce by watching the video she put on the Internet but doesn't want anyone to put anywhere ELSE on the Internet:

That video helps kind of prove my point about the Internet and hearing about things, although to be perfectly honest, I'm not 100% certain that I know what my point is, anymore.

That video, the one I've chosen to show you, is am amalgam of a video that was made a while ago, "Walk It Out Fosse!!":

Which I'd never heard of before, but which someone made and put on the Internet back in 2007, and which apparently Beyonce saw and liked, because Beyonce then made "Single Ladies" and copied...

... wait, let me amend that because Beyonce may not just dislike people watching her videos; she might dislike being called a copycat...

Beyonce paid tribute to by filming her own video (which she doesn't want people to watch) and which then drew so much attention (by being on the Internet, where Beyonce doesn't want people to see it) that it got mentioned in Entertainment Weekly, where I read about it, and went to find the video on Youtube (where, luckily, Beyonce will still let it be seen, but remember, it will bother her if you watch it anywhere but there) and then I went to watch the original Walk It Out Fosse!!

And, yeah, I realize, all you Internetties out there that I am way way behind the curve and everyone else is probably all past "Single Ladies" right now, but I'm forty, so leave me alone and stay off my lawn, you darn kids, and also, that's not my point.

My point is, at least I think my point is, that the Internet made it possible for people around the world to watch a video of Beyonce copying... tributing... someone else's video and that without the Internet I might have never heard Beyonce's song and liked it so much that I not only watched the video, but I downloaded the song and have played the song a lot, and also, without the Internet, I might never have decided that not only could I co-opt...

... that is, pay tribute to...

... a phrase from the song, but I could maybe use the Internet to convince others to do just that, and I could be the person responsible for injecting a phrase into pop culture.

Well, me and Beyonce. But I'm sure she'll share credit. As long as we don't embed the credit anywhere on the Internet. She just strikes me as a nice, kindly, beautiful, sharing, non-suing, nonlitigious person who by reading these words has hereby released me from any claims or liabilities known or unknown whether now or in the past or in the future and also has agreed that I am solely responsible for popularzing this phrase..

Ha. Don't mess with a lawyer, Beyonce.

The phrase that I want to popularize is, of course, if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it. Beyonce (in the song) uses the phrase to mean that her boyfriend should've married her, but I think it can be so much more than just that, and I've started to use if for more than just that -- since, after all, telling people they should've married me has only limited uses in my current life.

So far, all the spinoffs and remakes and such of this video have focused on the dance, or the words, or otherwise kept the idea tightly focused. Well, I want to end all that (and garner some credit for myself) and get the ball rolling on using if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it in a variety of contexts.

So picture this: You and someone else are both angling for that prime parking spot and you beat the person to it, prompting them to honk, or give you the finger, or maybe shoot you, depending on where you live. Do you honk, finger, or shoot back? No. You tell the person If you liked that spot, you shoulda put a ring on it. You take them out, Beyonce-style.

Someone finish the last of the leftover pizza, prompting someone else in the house to complain that there was no leftover pizza for their breakfast? Just tell The Boy... I mean, just tell someone, "Hey, I didn't see no ring on it," and you're off scott-free.

The possibilities are endless. See a sports play that you was so great, you liked it a lot? Shout out: put a ring on that play, baby! and tell the world that you liked it and wanted to put a ring on it. It works for movies, too: I woulda put a ring on "Paul Blart, Mall Cop." Guys, when your wife asks how an outfit makes her look, tell her good enough to put a ring on you, even though you may already have done that, and she'll love you for it.

So get out there, Internet masses, and start describing the things you like as things you'd put a ring on, and the things you take from others as things they didn't put a ring on, and get this phrase going.

Just remember to give me credit because while Beyonce waived her share, I put a ring on this idea.

See how it works?

Also, if you think of it, throw a little "Buck-Two-Eighty" around.

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Five Pages publishes a novel as I write it: Five pages at a time, each week day. Right now
Up So Floating Many Bells Down:
Sarah's fiance has drowned, and while she struggles to convince the world, and herself, that he was killed, her brother Dylan up and moves to Las Vegas to pursue a career as a photographer.