Sunday, June 27, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 17.

17. Entering an air-conditioned building after being out in the humidity for a while.

I don't mind the heat. I really don't. Given a choice between 100 degrees + humidity, or winter, I'll go with the sweat-sticking-my-new-throwback-Rambis-Lakers-shirt-to-me anyday.

And I'm not crazy about air conditioning, because I like it warmer rather than colder.

That said, when you're all sweaty and hot and worn out and tired, and you go into a convenience store or other building and get that blast of 67-degree air, it's beautiful.

Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

11. Hammocks.

12. Longer days.

13. Sandals.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guest Post: The Ten Best Teen Superheroes

Note: Joe Sergi is the author of the YA novel Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, published by Read my Rum Punch review of that book on Thinking The Lions by clicking here. I asked him to talk about something Best-Y and Superhero-Y, and this is what he gave me:

By Joe Sergi.

Making this list ended up being more difficult than I thought. There have been some great teen superheroes over the years. Superboy (Clark Kent) was almost on the list, but he really just acted like Superman and not a teen. Supergirl almost made the cut (I. always buy Supergirl sketches from artists when I go to conventions and have quite a collection), But, I realized that the character as she originally appeared was derivative of her famous cousin and the current incarnation's characterization has been highly inconsistent (although Kara In-Zee from Superman TAS and JLU Unlimited is great). Robin (Tim Drake) and Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, who would have been on this list at one time, have taken to very dark places. Other characters like the members of Runaways, Young Justice and Young Avengers almost made the cut. Even so, two other characters made honorable mention because of a lack of space.

Honorable Mentions: Speedy and Stargirl.
When written well, these are two of the strongest characters in comics. Stargirl is Courtney Whitmore, a legacy hero in the Justice Society of America (now the JSA All Stars) and is the heart of both teams. She is based on and a tribute to Geoff Johns' sister, who died in the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996. Her original adventures in Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. are recommended reading. Everyone loves her (a few too many people want to do it in the biblical sense for my tastes).Green Arrow's teen sidekick is Speedy, Mia Dearden. Like the previous Speedy (Roy Harper, who became a drug addict) Mia has had a rough life. She is a former prostitute and addict and, as a result, has become HIV positive. She does not let this stop her from being a great heroine. Her mere presence was enough to affect the resolution of the recent Fall of Green Arrow storyline. Unfortunately, this character has not yet had a chance to shine.

10. Terra
There were several characters named Terra. The first was a villain and a traitor to the Teen Titans. However, the most recent is the creation of Jimmy Palmiotti and a great heroine. I like her because she isn't bogged down by angst. Palmiotti's portrayal of her in her own series and later Power Girl shows as a beacon of hope.

. Zephyr Noble
If you haven't checked out Noble Causes by Jay Faerber, you really don't know what you are missing. The Noble's are kind of like their Universe's Fantastic Four except that they are hounded by the paparatzi. This became more complicated when Zephyr, the very promiscuous teenage daughter of the team became pregnant. Over the course of the series we see Zephyr grow as both a character and as a hero.

8. The New Mutants
I was tempted to put the original X-Men on this list, after all they were billed as "the world's teens." But, then I thought about it. By the time I read X-Men, the team had been replaced by the All New All Different X-Men, which was mostly team of adults (but see Kitty Pryde below). The New Mutants were a different story. I remember picking up that first Graphic Novel and reading about Sam (Cannonball), Bobby (Sunspot), Xian (Karma), Rahne (Wolvesbane) and Dani (Moonstone). Within a year they were joined by Amara (Magma) and Illyana (Magic). Like Kitty Pryde, the New Mutants were also the creation of Chris Claremont, a prolific comic creator that focuses on characters (and Bill Sienkiewicz’s art was amazing). Louise Simonson continued the great work Claremont started and her stories were also great.

7. Spider Girl
I know Spider-Man is already on this list and that Spider Girl may appear redundant, but I needed to save a spot for May Day Parker. Tom Defalco created that character as part of an alternate future where the daughter of Spider-Man has taken up the mantle of her father. There is a nice dynamic between the two, which, I imagine, is not unlike what would happen if the daughter of a police officer took up the badge.

6. Robin (Dick Grayson)
Let's face facts. Dick Grayson deserves to be on this list. Bob Kane created him and he is the original teen sidekick. He also gets props for being the first superhero to grow out of the teen sidekick role. Marv Wolfman and George Perez really did an excellent job with Dick in Teen Titans (even putting him in bed with a hot orange skinned alien) and the eventual adoption of the Nightwing identity. Current readers of the Batman books know that he has moved on to so much more at the hands of writer Grant Morrison.

5. Bucky
There used to be a rule at Marvel Comics that only Bucky and Uncle Ben had to stay dead. With the "Winter Soldier" story, followed by "The Death of Captain America" and the "Captain America: Reborn," Ed Brubaker has challenged that rule with incredible results. Like Robin, Bucky has moved on to bigger and better things. Like Robin, he has grown up (and is currently knocking boots with Black Widow, which is not too shabby).

4. Spider-Man
While Robin and Bucky were the original teen sidekicks. To my knowledge, Spider-Man was the first teen to be recognized in his own as a solo hero. Of course no one knew that he was a teenager (hence the whole "Man" in his name). But, in those early days, Peter Parker was a high school student. These early stories are still among Spidey's best. Brian Michael Bendis was able to recapture Stan Lee's initial magic and reinvent it with his Ultimate Spider-Man, which put Peter back in high school.

3. Invincible
Mark Grayson is the son of Omni-Man, the world's greatest hero. So, when Mark develops powers of his own, he follows in his father's footsteps as the costumed adventurer known as Invincible. But, when Invincible finds out Omni-Man's secret, he must truly become a hero. Robert Kirkman has done great work on this title. Like his other book, the Walking Dead, Kirkman makes you care about these characters.

2. Kitty Pryde

Kitty Pryde was my first exposure to the X-Men and to mainstream comics (I had only read Star Wars comic books). Chris Claremont had been writing the book for a couple of years when I jumped on. He really nailed the characters and I saw a lot of myself in Kitty. In fact, you might say that Kitty and I joined the X-Men and grew up together I was elated when her romance with Colossus blossomed (and sad when it failed). I was with her as she struggled through her parents divorce and with her ever changing identities.

1. Sky Girl

In Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, DeDe Christopher is any ordinary teen with an extraordinary destiny. She discovers that she has the powers of a comic book character, SkyBoy. Luckily, she has the help of her best friend, Jason, who is a self-proclaimed comic geek, to help her adapt to her powers as she faces the all-too-real enemies and allies of SkyBoy. She must not only face aliens, apes and robots, but must also deal with a vindictive dance rival and an obsessive coach desperate to do anything to win. Despite this, DeDe still manages to overcome the odds and become a hero.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 15

Road Trips.

In the winter, nobody drives anywhere just for fun. That's reserved for the warmer months, when you can get into the car with a backpack full of cheesepuffs for the Babies! and your iPod set to the perfect playlist for that day (Road Trip, I believe you titled it) and head off for... wherever. Maybe it's just the water park. Maybe it's a hamburger stand in Prairie du Chien. Maybe it's Harry Potter's new theme park. (nerd!). The destination doesn't matter so much as the fact that it's sunny, your elbow is getting a tan, and you can play the Alphabet Game with the kids. Or your wife. Make her play; she's got to loosen up.

Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

11. Hammocks.

12. Longer days.

13. Sandals.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Best New Way To Become Famous

There's an old joke that goes something like this:

A man stops another man on the street and says "Excuse me, sir, can you tell me how I might get to Carnegie Hall?" The second man says, in response, "Show a little nipple."

That's funny because it's relevant. Also, I'm not exactly sure what "Carnegie Hall" is. I think it's where Boss Tweed used to have his supporters beaten until they stuffed all the Chicago ballot boxes with fake beyond-the-grave votes for JFK.

The point of this rambling is that the musical group "Sparks," which made the classic Music That You Can Dance To:

Also made a song called "How Can I Get To Carnegie Hall," which isn't on Youtube in any format I'd care to reproduce here. Plus they made a song called The Rhythm Thief:

So those are all good songs.

And, um, they serve a larger point -- I have to claim they serve a larger point because I got a little offtrack there and don't want you to think that the mention of Carnegie Hall automatically made me think of Sparks, and that I then went and listened to their songs and watched those videos for a while and forgot what I was writing about here, even though that's exactly what happened. Since I don't want you to know that, I'll stick with my claim that Sparks' songs serve a larger point, and that point is that it's no longer necessary to be talented to be famous, and also that it's getting progressively harder to become famous, because all of the things that can be done to be famous are getting taken up, and pretty soon doing those things won't make you famous anymore, and you'll have to go back to the drawing board, so to speak -- and I'm speaking metaphorically, because "going back to the drawing board" is already taken up as a way to become famous: Andy Azula had his moment in the sun as "that one guy who draws those things for UPS on the white board."

Andy springboarded from a job as the director of the UPS Campaign to the star of it by being good at doodling, and then doodling on national TV commercials. (He had help doing it; a professional illustrator re-drew things between scenes.)

So if you're having trouble becoming famous and keep finding your ideas taken up, going back to the drawing board won't help; someone already got famous for that and you can't do it again -- as proven by the failed "Drawing Board" campaign Bud Light tried:

Everybody hated those, right? Just like everybody will soon hate Betty White, who is becoming famous again-- showing that one way to become famous, in the 21st century, is to have been famous in the last century. Betty White's resurgence into fame began with her appearance in one of the dumber Super Bowl ads on record:

And continued into an SNL appearance and probably a bunch of other stuff, but I don't watch things that feature Betty White in them, so I'm not sure just how famous she is right now: Famous enough to be on SNL, but not so famous that we have to see upskirt photos of her on celebrity gossip sites, is her level based on my complete lack of research.

Betty White had a second route to fame: Funny old lady doing unoldladylike things, a route to fame that was presaged, if not pre-empted, by that old lady rapper in The Wedding Singer:

Who kind of looked like Betty White, didn't she?

That's funny because all old ladies look the same.

That lady, whose name I forgot by the time I clicked on the video to copy it, turned her brief rapping (and dirty talk) in that movie into an almost-career, but she got her brief fame out of it, and in doing so, nearly closed the door that Betty White has now slammed shut on that route to fame.

Betty White may not be desperate enough to hang onto her fame this time to go to the lengths that some people try as they strive to capture public attention: We haven't yet been subjected to seeing Betty White's nipples, but you can't rule it out, because exposing parts of your body is, for some reason, a surefire fame-grabber -- so surefire that such nonluminaries as Demi Lovato have latched on to it in recent days:

I'm not entirely sure who Demi Lovato is. If you're keeping track of things I'm not entirely sure of, then the list is up to:
1. What Carnegie Hall is, 2. Who Demi Lovato is, 3. What it is, exactly, that I even do for a living anymore.

While I don't exactly know who Demi Lovato is or why anyone should care about her butt "accidentally" slipping out of her bikini in front of a bunch of paparazzi, the fact is that I do know who Demi Lovato is, generally speaking -- because of her butt "accidentally" slipping out of its bikini covering -- so Demi Lovato managed to get famous because of that, and as ways to get famous go, it's much more acceptable, I assume, than the far-more-hardcore way to get fame that exists further down the spectrum -- that being "making a sex tape."

In the past, making sex tapes, or at least making sex tapes that other people would eventually get to see, was reserved for people who were already famous, and by that I mean "Only Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee," the couple who inaugurated our era of "Fame Through Sex Tapes," only Pam & Tommy weren't seeking fame through their sex tape; they were plenty famous already for being on Baywatch, and being in a band. Making a sex tape seemed, at the time, to be simply an offshoot of who they were, and not a way to become famous.

But the fact that their sex tape became such a big hit led to other people using sex tapes to become famous -- and using sex tapes to become famous has become so popular and so automatic that (a) it's been reduced to a science, and (b) it no longer makes people famous.

(By now, you've gathered that my "research" for this post has consisted of nothing more than going back and re-reading The Superficial, and also you've gathered that "The Superficial" counts as "science" in my book.)

(My book is "The Big Book Of Things That Count As Other Things," and includes an entry labeled "Dessert Foods That Count As Main Courses")

The days of Paris Hilton rising to fame via a sex tape, and Kim Kardashian rising to fame via a sex tape, and other people rising to fame via a sex tape:

are over. We, as the sex-tape-consuming public, no longer allow people to become famous just by having a sex tape, any more than we allow them to become more famous by having a sex tape. Tila Tequila, Kendra, and that woman from that housewives show: you're all out of luck. If you want to become famous (or more famous), you'll either have to expose your problems on national TV, like fat people and the members of "The Hills" do, or you'll have to float away in a balloon.

That's actually the latest trick attempted by people who want to be famous: Floating away in a balloon. Nearly 30 years after Lawnchair Larry first grabbed some pre-internet fame, and 113 years after Salomon Andree tried to find fame and fortune by slowly dying on a balloon trip to the North Pole, people are still thinking that "floating away in a balloon" will bring fame -- and sometimes it will, as both Balloon Dad and Jonathan Trappe can tell you.

Trappe is the man who recently crossed the English Channel
in a chair tied to some balloons,

both of them special -- that's the chair and the balloons, not Trappe, who got written up on websites and the back column of Sports Illustrated for his efforts -- thereby proving that fame cannot be reached, anymore, by dangling from a balloon, because the truly famous do not get relegated to the last thing someone reads in Sports Illustrated.

(Actually, the final column is the first thing I read in Sports Illustrated. Then I skip to Peter King's Things I Think I Think, because I like to get aggravated by how dumb that title is. King: If you think you think them, then you do think them. Also, King: quit talking about texting athletes. When did texting replace interviewing? I don't like to talk on the phone because I have important things to do [like blogging], but isn't a reporter's job to talk on the phone?)

Floating off in a balloon, making a sex tape, being one of four sexually-charged old ladies on a dimly-remembered sitcom: All out as ways to become famous. But we, as Americans, want to become famous. We need to become famous. It's in our blood: Fame is our royalty. I know that I said ranking things was our royalty, but fame is also our royalty, and ever since we kicked out British royalty, we've been trying to recreate the experience of having people who are better/richer/getting more action than us by making people famous, sometimes for no reason whatsoever, and sometimes for great reasons, but for whatever reason we've elevated people to fame, we've continued to do so, and we need famous people exactly as much as we need ways for we, ourselves, to get famous.

"In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes," Andy Warhol famously said, and in doing so, Andy cemented his own fame, fame built on taking other famous things and showing them to us: his reprints of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's Soup Cans were nothing more than a mirror held up to society and reflected back at us -- making Andy famous for realizing that he could do that, and making his quote almost ironic (although the word ironic really has no meaning anymore, thanks to twentysomethings' continued misuse of it), and also self-contradictory, an oxymoron: If everyone is famous, is anyone famous?

That depends on what the meaning of the word famous is; fame, like celebrity and related words, is a slippery notion. Someone can be a celebrity without having done anything to be celebrated. Someone can be famous but not in a good way: John Wayne Gacy is famous but nobody wants to become famous that way (nobody except maybe some of the Real Desperate Housewives, who would probably do anything to become famous, so start checking under the basement floors of those tacky NJ mansionettes.)

Famous to me is when everybody knows who you are and at least a little about why they know who you are: That measure of fame makes the whole world into a Cheers restaurant for those who are admitted to the evergrowing/no-longer-really-elite club that is fame -- a club that is expanding exponentially, as the digital age increases the speed with which people can become famous and the speed with which we can then discard their fame. Joe The Plumber was famous, for a bit, and then tossed aside. (Mostly.) Sarah Palin was famous, and still is, so fame doesn't choose political sides (although it helps, in becoming or staying famous, if you've got breasts.)(But breasts can't do all the work, as Carrie Prejean would be the first to tell you.)

Nor can talent be enough to carry one to fame anymore -- the best leading indicator of fame, American Idol -- proof, in television show form, that I'm right when I say Americans are programmed to want fame and need ways to make themselves and others famous -- American Idol shows that talent can't carry the day in making one famous, as recent years have led to controversy over the finalists deemed more talented missing the cut while less worthies go on to become American Idols, in name only, really, as nobody idolizes them and they're not even really idols in name only, because nobody knows their names.

Talent's not enough, and looks aren't enough, and ballooning across bodies of water aren't enough, so what, then, will ensure that Americans can become famous and briefly, or not so briefly, enjoy the adulation and admiration of our less-famous-peers? Having kids? Lots of kids? That might have worked once -- but not any longer, not now that everyone, seemingly, has tons of kids: Look how hard Kate Gosselin has to work to stay in the public eye. Just a few years ago, simply having a lot of kids was enough to get her a TV show and a book deal. Now, in this era of heightened fame, she's got to sing and dance for her supper, literally.

Sporting achievements, once a guarantee of a certain level of fame, don't cut it any longer, either. Name a gold medalist from the latest Winter Olympics: I bet you can't. Name a World Cup Soccer player... one who's not from your country, and who's not Wayne Rooney. Name the New Orleans' Saints kicker who got the Saints into the Super Bowl, and who then pulled off the daring onside kick that helped them win it.

The answers to those questions are:

1. Who cares about the Olympics?
2. Winston Reid, the Kiwi who scored New Zealand's first-ever goal in World Cup history, and
3. Garrett Hartley:

But are any of them really famous? I say not, and I say that because it furthers my point, that athletic achievements can't do it alone. Take Brett Favre: He's won a Super Bowl, been named MVP of the NFL 3 times, has never missed a start in 18 years and had the best season of his career last year... and Brett Favre has to keep his name in the news by constantly pretending to retire.

Or take Michael Jordan, the single greatest athlete ever to play any game. Not playing basketball anymore, Jordan has tried a variety of things to keep his name on people's lips and his image in their minds: he tried baseball, he ran a basketball camp, he unretired, he got divorced, he became a GM, he advertised underwear, and when all of that still kept him at a fame level that was actually lower than Jonah Hill's, he did this:

Is that what we have to do to become famous? Mimic mass-murdering genocidal dictators? If so, count me out. I'm not going to Pol Pot myself just to get a TV series on the Disney channel, which itself used to be enough to make one famous (Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Shia LeBeouf, Jamie Lynn Spears, and Miley Cyrus...) but now can't carry the weight of lifting people above the heads and shoulders of the madding crowds.

What's left, then? You readers know that I try never to leave you hanging -- that I try not to pose a question that has no answer, and that I try not to give you an answer that was not preceded by a question. I'm like a matchmaking service for questions and answers, and I've got, as you'd expect, the answer to the question I've posed. I've got

The Best New Way To Become Famous.

And that way is:

Do nothing.

Just ... do... nothing.

It's brilliant. You're just absorbing and thinking about it and you're starting to see that, but I'll explain it.

The world, right now, is full of people who are doing something to become famous. They are writing books, or starring in movies, or writing books about starring in movies. Everyone has a blog, everyone has a Twitter account, everyone has an arqebus...

... what's that? You don't arquebus? How can you not? Well, maybe because I haven't actually invented arquebusing yet, but I will.

An arquebus, as you probably already know, is a medieval firearm that consisted of a tube with a hole in one end and a seal at the other. I'm planning on creating the next big wave of social media networking, Arquebus, a site where users will be able to log on to post one comment and one comment only, and then can never comment again. You'll be able to read their comments, but cannot reply in any way. It's going to be hot, for about six months, until people figure out there's no way to see naked people on it and abandon it.

Everyone's got a way to become famous: Youtube elevates people and sneezing pandas and then throws them back down into the pit. We all videotape our kids and post them on the Internet in hopes that some fame will spatter on to them, and us:

I'm no better than you are.

We're all out there, is the point, slaving away at becoming famous, and in doing so, we are continuously upping the ante for fame -- making it harder and harder to stay above the ever-rising tide of fame.

Do you want to live in a world where people have to cut off their own limbs to become famous? Once, getting your arm bit off by a shark while surfing would get you on the news. Now, a guy has to saw off his own arm -- as two people have done -- to get a reporter to stick a microphone in his face.

That's not the kind of world I want to bequeath to my kids -- two of whom, I'll note, were shown in that video up there, and don't you think they're cute enough to be on TV? If so, get in touch with me.

The kind of world I want to leave to my kids is one where people can become famous more easily, and to do that, we're going to all have to try a little less hard to become famous. We're going to have to stop doing what we're doing and start doing what we're not doing. We have to stop trying to get ourselves onto reality TV shows and stop lighting basketballs on fire before all of our teens are permanently eyebrowless. We have to stop letting old men try out for American Idol because they have a cute song, and stop being those old men trying out for American Idol. We have to turn off any TV show that has "Next Top" or similar words in the title, which should be easy because we've used every occupation that can be used for those shows.

And then we have to sit back.

And relax.

And maybe do our jobs (you do that; I'm really not sure what it is I actually do for a living anymore.)

And raise our kids.

And clean our kitchen floors.

And read one of the few books in print that were written by people who wanted to write as opposed to reading one of the 173,000,000,000 written by someone who wants to become famous.

Or watch a movie meeting those same criteria.

It'll take a little while, but eventually, you'll see: People Magazine and CNN HLN USDA and the gossip blogs will realize that they're running out of upskirt photos and drunk-driving citations to talk about, that Tea Parties and top models are getting boring, and they'll start looking for someone else to focus on.

That's when they'll notice us -- sitting, parenting, reading, or just living -- and they'll realize, hey, here's a trend. They'll start interviewing people who are actively not seeking fame -- and make that person famous. For not seeking fame.

It'll be the reverse Andy Warhol: Instead of becoming famous by showing people what it's like to become famous, we'll all go through the looking glass and become famous by refusing to become famous. And our fame will only rise if we stick to our guns. The first time Joy Behar comes calling, trying to interview me to see what it's like to become famous for not becoming famous, I'm not going to take her call. I'm not going to post on my Twitter account how I didn't take her call. And I'm not going to write a book about not posting on my Twitter how I didn't take her call.

That'll only increase my fame: As others get on the news or in the papers (if there are still papers) for not being famous, my stock will rise as I continue to stubbornly resist being famous -- and I'll refuse more phone calls and refuse more interviews and not write more books. I'll be like a famous, real-life version of Todd Snider's band in Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues:

and it'll just keep rising.

You can come with me -- there's enough fame to go around -- by refusing to become famous, too, which will, in all likelihood, increase our fame. The more of us there are, the more famous we will be for not being famous. A whole group of shadowy people who don't want to be famous might be the most famous group of all -- we'll be like Scientologists if Scientologists were all secretly Illuminati-Masons.

The best part is, it requires less effort to become famous than to get a hotel refund; you may have to book your hotel through a website and then do nothing to get a refund, but under my system, you don't even have to do that to become famous. You'll become famous through no effort at all, kind of like how George W. Bush became president, only you won't wreck American society through your efforts. And once there, you'll enjoy all the perks that go with fame: recognition, endorsements, the chance to guest-host Regis & Kelly, all of it. But you won't have to do that; you'll be able to live your life, famously, without having to go through all the junky parts of fame that famous people are complaining about -- the loss of privacy and invasions of rights and constant recognition and harassment by fans that they complain about right up until they don't have it anymore, at which point they start talking about their sex lives or going nude in movies to become famous again.)

You won't have to go through all that, and neither will I. We'll be famous, and nobody will know what our underwear looks like.

And eventually, we will rewrite that old joke so it goes a little more like this:

A man stops another man on the street and says "Excuse me, sir, can you tell me how I might get to Carnegie Hall?" The second man says, in response: "Really? Jennifer Aniston's going to go nude in a movie?"

Well, I mean -- we may be famous, but we'd still want to see that, right?

You bet we would.

Recap: A year ago or so, I was also thinking about becoming famous - -and back then I opined on The Next Best Way To Become Famous (And The Celebrities To Try This On.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 14

Garden Centers At Stores.

I already like malls. (As you know.) And I like strip malls. And big box stores. I just like to look at stuff and maybe buy some things I didn't need, although I never really buy anything because most of my money is spent getting the Babies! Happy Meals (and then eating their cheeseburgers.)

But I really like malls when they have garden centers outside -- when I can not only enjoy the experience of walking through a store that sells t-shirts, shoes, big-screen TVs and Siamese fighting fish, but then I can go outside and wander through a piece-meal forested garden. I would like the environment, and nature, much better if they were always located just 20 feet away from a rack of Super Soakers.

Plus, I have the utmost respect for any plant that can survive being cared for by the guy whose job last week was stacking diapers.

Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

11. Hammocks.

12. Longer days.

13. Sandals.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 13


Or any kind of open-toed shoe, really. For most of the year, toes are along for the ride the way Mafia snitches get taken to the river. But in June, July, and August, toes get a front-row seat to all the action.

Also: There really are sandals in that picture, if you look closely. I had to put that picture here because I couldn't find a picture that went with "toes."

Also-er: DO NOT GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH THE WORD "TOES." Who puts images like that on the Internet? You people are freaks.

Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

11. Hammocks.

12. Longer days.

Welcome Another TBOE Reader!

Yet another celebrity reader of TBOE has surfaced. Megan Fox -- who you may remember had a career as recently as a month ago, before she forgot that hot twentysomethings are as common in Hollywood as PEZ were in my 5th grade math class...

... really: PEZ were very popular back then. Trust me on that.

... Megan Fox is trying desperately to hang on to her fame, and in doing so, has revealed that she is a reader of The Best Of Everything.

Nearly a year ago, I posted "The Best Foods That Should Be Made Into Movies In Which One Actor Plays All The Parts." (I know that you copied that post word-for-word into your diaries, but you can click that link to go read it.) In that, I proposed "Hamburger, The Movie," described thusly:
Maxine (Megan Fox) decides that she's going to prove her grandmother invented the hamburger and draw attention to her proof by making the world's largest hamburger and setting a new world record. But Maxine struggles to do this on her own, with flop after flop, and so she must, one at a time, bring in others: her fiance (Megan Fox), the town's crazy psychic lady (Megan Fox) and eventually the World's Record Certifier herself (Megan Fox) -- who reveals that she's only helping because she's fallen in love with Megan, leading to the first-ever onscreen girl-kissing-herself- scene.

The pitch for that movie was this: Did you hear me? Megan Fox Kisses Megan Fox!.

Now, here we are, not even 6/12 into 2010 and Megan Fox has shown herself to be a reader of this blog by releasing new publicity stills... photos of her making out with a mannequin that looks exactly like her.

Here's one:

And here's another that will either put her career back on track, or get you all fired from work for looking at it:

Want to see who else reads TBOE? Everyone from Stephen Colbert to dolphins... click here for more information.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 12:

Longer days.

Am I the only person who suspects that Daylight Savings Time is a hoax? They say it's daylight savings time, but I never get any of it back. I bet it's all stored in some warehouse in Colorado. Right next to the strategic helium reserves.

I, for one, want to be alive on the day when the government cracks open those strategic helium reserves. I want to see what it is that finally requires using that vital national resource. A national "squeaky voice" day? A counterattack of 100 red balloons? What will it be?

Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

11. Hammocks.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 11:


I like hammocks so much I bought one once and tried to use it in my dorm room when I first went to college.

It didn't work.

But if I had a hammock now, I'd totally lay in it all the time. And talk to the Skipper about when we're going to get off this island. And whether he thinks Ginger or Mary Anne was hotter. (Correct answer: Both.)

Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

Whodathunkit?! The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want To Know About The World Cup

Because the divorce judge was drinking when custody of this feature was decided, Whodathunkit?! is a joint venture between Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! and The Best Of Everything.

I've made up my mind. I am, like, 98% certain to watch a World Cup match.

Okay, 70% certain, with the percentage going up if you count "probably dozing off a bit with the TV tuned to the US-England match" as "watching the World Cup."

The World Cup -- which I'm led to believe features soccer, which, in turn, I'm led to believe is considered a sport by those parts of the world that Americans only venture to in order to bring back trinkets that they could have bought at Pier One but then they wouldn't be "authentic" -- begins today, and like everything else in soccer, the beginning itself is screwed up.

Because when I say "the World Cup begins today," I mean, of course, that it begins tomorrow -- since if you ask me (you probably wanted to but didn't know my phone number) a sporting event begins when, you know, the sporting event begins. Not when Shakira sings. Lots of things happen when Shakira sings, and none of them count as "the beginning of a sporting event."

The more I look at that last sentence, the dirtier it sounds.

Anyway, the World Cup has come around again, and I've decided that I'm going to watch it and follow it and even root for teams, a decision I made based on several factors.

First, it's the only truly worldwide event that happens every four years. Unlike other so-called worldwide sporting competitions (I'm looking at you, Olympics)(Actually, I'm not; I'm still looking at that picture of Shakira), the World Cup is said to take place every four years, and actually does take place only ever four years. The Olympics don't do that anymore. They say they do that, but the Olympics are a continuous event now. Like the NBA Finals and Lady GaGa, they never seem to go away.

The World Cup, on the other hand, happens every four years. Or maybe it happens more often. Who knows? This is the first year I've decided to follow it.

Second, my decision to follow it was made based on the fact that the U.S. takes on England in the opening match. I'm not sure if the US has ever played England in soccer before -- and I know I'm supposed to call it football, or maybe futbol, but let's face it, "Rest of the World," you're going to do what Americans say you have to do, or we're going to overwhelm your country with some combination of military force/Levi's Jeans/goodwill visits from Larry King. So get with the program (i.e., the US) and call it soccer.

As I was saying, I'm not sure if the US has ever played England in soccer before. I'm also not sure if "England" is the right word for the country - -aren't they sometimes called "The United Kingdom," or am I getting United Kingdom confused with Magic Kingdom? (The last time tha that happened, I ended up sharing a tea cup with Prince Charles.) But I know they play each other this Saturday, at 1:30, and that's got my competitive and creative juices flowing (which means you don't want to sit next to me on the bus)(unless you're Prince Charles).

For example, I came up with the most awesome ad ever for US Soccer -- not a hard competition to win, since the last most awesome ad ever for US Soccer had a surfeit of English Junk:

This guy was once famous for something or other.

Whereas my ad would use "balls" in a more poetic/metaphorical sense.

Here's my idea for the ad -- and you can go ahead and use it, whoever it is that is in charge of promoting US Soccer; don't worry about payment, I'll sue you later on. Not being good with Photoshop, and in fact not having Photoshop on my computer (collective gasp!), I'll have to use the power of words to convey the idea.

Here's the idea, via words. Don't pull an eyeball-hammy reading it:

The ad opens on a scene showing a soccer... um... field? Pitch?... whatever, and it's kind of nighttime and kind of daytime, with lights and people cheering. You get the idea. Use footage from an NFL game to overcome the fact that on average, soccer games draw a crowd of 6 in the US. As the camera homes in on the field, we see some British players [we know they're British because they have bad teeth and haircuts from the 1960s, and also they sweat in a nonphotogenic way] running downfield kicking the ball. They get to the American [I.E. Good Guy] side of the field, and are met with US soccer players who, from the waist down, are wearing shorts, socks, and shoes -- soccer garb. From the waist up, they've got revolutionary war coats on and tricorner hats [NOTE: This will appeal to Tea Partiers, because they're dumb]. The US players steal the ball, knock the Brits around a bit, and generally look great doing so.

At the end, the players line up over the crumbled bodies of their British foes, and the voice over says:
"234 years ago, we told them to take their king and shove him. Now, we're going to prove we've still got balls!"

I've got goosebumps. You probably do, too. Flaunt them.

That ad would be almost as good as the ad that really also made me want to watch soccer, although I didn't understand the ad, really, until I read the explanation on I'm talking about Write the Future, Nike's Hononymical Ode To Soccer Via That Guy Who Directed That Naked Japanese Girl In Babel:

That ad is awesome, and probably even more awesome if you know who those people are. Like I said, thanks to, I kind of get it. Plus I like the music.

Finally, I've decided to watch the World Cup because, why not? It's not like I've got anything else going on. Summer is a dead zone for sports, and if I can find something, anything to watch while spending most of my time praying that Better Off Ted hasn't been cancelled, I'll take it.

But I understand that you, like me, may not be entirely sold on soccer -- that it may take more than Shakira's butt and yodeling rock songs and puns about American Balls to get you to watch soccer, and so that's why I, like always, am here to present you with some insight into the mystifying world of this sport that the rest of the world loves so much, a sport that this time around might actually capture the interest of America and take off like a pop cultural phenomenon on the par of, say The Muppet Show (it won't), and as always, that insight is presented by giving you The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want To Know, with this time those things being related to the World Cup, vaguely.

This'll give you something to talk about after you've used the line "The US should make it out of their group," which is the only actual-soccer-related line I know, and which I drop into conversation all the time, as shown in the actual transcript of the actual conversation I had this morning:

Cop: Do you know why I pulled you over?

Me: The US should make it out of their group.

Cop: I'm going to taze you.

Me: Goalie? Andrew Rooney?

Let's get on with those things you want to know!

1. Shakira stole Fozzie Bear's line to promote the World Cup:

I didn't just put Shakira's picture at the top of this post by accident; it was for a "valid business reason," and by that I mean "Sweetie can't get mad at me for this one," the business reason being that Shakira is some sort of official spokeswoman for the World Cup. She's going to perform her song tonight at the Opening Ceremonies -- what is it with worldwide athletic competitions and opening ceremonies? -- but you can get a sneak preview of it now and then spend tonight watching Parks & Recreation re-runs:

Waka Waka is, of course, Fozzie Bear's signature line:

But Shakira was forced to use Waka waka in her song, because what else rhymes with Africa? Nothing. There's not a single other word in the world that rhymes with Africa.

Or maybe Shakira was intending her song to be a multifaceted tribute to Africa, Fozzie Bear, and Pac Man, because if you google the phrase "what does 'waka waka' mean" you'll get, as the first result, a link to a definition that hilariousily claims Pac Man is called Pakkuman. Ha ha! Right!

Speaking of Pac Man, isn't it about time that we, as a world, decided to make Donkey Kong into a double-entendre of some sort? I'm thinking something along the lines of "Man, that chick was Donkey Konging me all night long."

In reality, waka waka is said to mean almost anything. One source (?) says it means Do it in Cameroonian (which might be a real language; I'll have to check on that later), while another claims that waka means canoe in Maori, which I know is a real language because Alan Dean Foster once wrote a book that I read, and the book was called Maori.

Alan Dean Foster also wrote Splinter of the Mind's Eye, proving that you can get paid for writing fan fiction, so as soon as I finish this post, I'm going to send off my Phineas & Ferb novelization to every major publisher.

2. Nobody can actually win the "world cup." Unlike the Lombardi Trophy, which pretty much everyone and their brother gets to hold up after the Super Bowl (unless you lose and pout your way off the field, right Peyton?), and unlike the disgusting traditions surrounding the Stanley Cup, which apparently is used to feed the smelly, drooly dogs owned by smelly, drooly hockey players , the powers-that-be who are in charge of Soccer Universe don't actually let anyone ever win the World Cup.

Except Brazil.

Brazil is the permanent owner of the previous World Cup, called the "Jules Rimet Cup" (it was named after Richard Nixon, who used Jules Rimet as his pen name when writing crosswords for the LA Times in the 1930s).

Looks classy, doesn't it? And not
at all like it's made of

The Jules Rimet Cup, as befits a world-class trophy, didn't always spend all its time sitting in a pawnshop in Brazil (I'm guessing); it also was hidden in a shoebox under a guy's bed in World War II, to protect it from occupying troops, who likely would have used it as a bong.

Despite the incredible levels of security and commitment implied by keeping a trophy in a box under your bed, the Jules Rimet Cup somehow fell into evildoers' hands, anyway -- and by "evildoers" I mean "a small dog named Pickles."

This may not be the actual Pickles, but
it's not like a dog can sue for libel.
Can they? I'll see you in court, Pickles!

According to the official World Cup website, run by someone called "FIFA," this actually happened:

Then in 1966, the cup disappeared while on display as part of the build-up to the World Cup in England and was only recovered, buried under a tree, by a little dog called Pickles.

If you're keeping track of things England has lost, it's

1. North America.
2. Australia
3. The Spice Islands.
4. The Jules Rimet cup.

On the plus (?) side, they've gained Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.

There was not even a 0.00000001% chance that I was
going to post a picture of Madonna here.

The Brits aren't the only ones to treat the Jules Rimet Cup as though it was less valuable than a McDonald's Shrek glass; the Brazilians, having won the right to keep the Cup forever, promptly had it stolen by bandits. FIFA claims the Cup was probably melted down -- but I think I'm right about that Pawn Shop guess.

In any event, they're not taking any chances anymore. FIFA now doesn't let anyone keep the cup. Winners hold the Cup until the next World Cup competition, after which it returns to FIFA.

Unless Pickles gets it first.

3. Who's the underdog I should be rooting for to win against all odds, with a movie someday being made about it in which a washed-up actor will play the coach?

I tried to look up the odds of teams winning, at a site called "World Cup Odds EU," figuring that Europe must be good for something, and gambling on soccer might be it. But instead of a nice, easy list of teams followed by odds, the way the US would do it (also known as "the correct way"
), I got all kinds of groups and things, and numbers with commas in them instead of decimals and got horribly confused.

So I had to retreat to the heart of America -- Las Vegas -- and try to find real odds there. But that was even worse. At this site, I saw something that said I could bet on South Africa vs. Mexico tomorrow, with one team being "+175" while the other was "+145."

Rest of the world: If the US wanted to use Celsius and kilometers, we'd let you know. Quit trying to wreck stuff by making it simpler and easier to use, because when you do that, I can't figure out which team I'm supposed to put the mortgage money on.

Before I ended up putting 13 hectometers on Serbia, I clicked away from the site, and decided to arbitrarily pick New Zealand:
Shown: the 2010 New Zealand
world cup team (starters only)

New Zealand is my Underdog-To-Root-For in the World Cup primarily on the basis that any country which has suffered the indignity of Guillermo Del Toro insulting it deserves a pick-me-up, and what is a better pick-me-up than being picked to win it all by an obscure sports blog?

Seriously, what's a better pick-me-up than that? 'Cause I need something to give Sweetie to make up for that Shakira picture.

And this one: