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  • Adventures in Bitcoining - Awhile back I posted on my fascination with bitcoin. As it turned out, the post was inspired by the all-time high price of bitcoin . . . up to that point. ...
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Judge This


I have a love/hate relationship with gymnastics and figure skating. I love what they're able to do. They're definitely in the "shut your mouth, you can't do anything like this business, okay?" category. With both those sports, you pretty much have to dedicate your entire life to that one thing and just decide you want nothing more than to be a freak of nature. Normal people, even extraordinary people, can't jump up in the air, spin around three times, and pick which edge of a metal blade they want to land on. Humans can't balance on a wooden beam, do a flip, and land on one foot without so much as a wobble. So anytime somebody enters that "nobody else in the history of time could ever do this" stratosphere in something other than, say, Dungeons & Dragons: the Animated Series trivia knowledge, you have to at least respect the accomplishment. I'm not ashamed to say that I love watching it.

I hate the commentary so much that I almost love it again. If Ed Wood's movies could be turned into sportscasting, they would get behind the microphones of a gymnastics event and the result would be pretty much exactly what we have here except Bela Lugosi would be Bela Karolyi. It is so bad it's good. If this telecast isn't produced by Christopher Guest, I'd be a little surprised.

And it's hard to know where the commentary ends and the judging begins. I mean, any sport that is determined exclusively by judges is ridiculous. You catch a touchdown, six points. They don't let the ref deduct a tenth of a point because your legs came apart or you didn't stick the landing. The Australian judge can't award anybody seven tenths of a run for not being completely vertical when rounding third base. It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous that someone's whole life can be dedicated to a competition decided by incompetents and less than arbitrary arbiters.

Maybe I'm being unfair to the judges. I don't know them. The only thing I know about gymnastics scoring is that there are five levels of deductions: Huge, not huge, not good, wow, and disastrous. But I don't understand how someone can land on their knees (prompting a "wow" and a "disastrous") on half of their vaults and still win a medal . . . in vaulting.

Part of it is that the new gymnastics scoring has turned into the new NBA All Star Game Dunk Contest. You know, it used to be that if you missed a dunk in the dunk contest, your score got cut in half and you lost all chance of winning. Now they'll let you try the same nearly impossible dunk for five minutes until you finally prove it is semi-possible. What used to be a spectacle has become a lame parade of extremely difficult mediocrity. It's the same thing in gymnastics. They fall. They step. They waver. They fail. They medal. Woo hoo. It's still difficult, but it's not pretty anymore.

Back to the love. I love the fact that the whole thing boils down to drama . . . that shockingly talented people who aren't satisfied with being the best until they're validated by people they think are idiots and awarded medals of the appropriate metal and podiums of the appropriate height can be reduced to tears by a hundredth of a point. I love the disdain, the chastising, the anguish, the incensed cries against international injustice. All sporting respect aside, it's just so darn fitting.

So, no, sports should never be judged. But I like standing in judgment over the ones that are.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Observations Over the Past Few Days

NBC gymnastics commentator Al Trautwig is running away with the Gold Medal in the Idiot Olympics. If I listen to him too closely, I can actually feel a vacuum forming in my brain. It's a real feat in a three-person gymnastics broadcasting team to make a name for yourself as the dumb annoying one. Way to go, Al. You did the impossible.

I'm not green, but I loved Wicked. It was phenomenal. There was plenty to love, from the crystalline vocals and hilarious verbal and physical high jinks of the two lead witches to the witty plot playfully adapted from Gregory Maguire's book of a similarly wicked name. But among all the resounding harmonizations, glorious costumes, and spectacular satire was one detail that stood out to me for some odd reason: as the first act concluded in an explosion of spectral brilliance resembling Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album cover on Human Growth Hormone, Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch of the West) belted out the final note in the rousing anthem, "Defying Gravity," while suspended high above the stage, and all the dizzying beams of light that filled the entire theatre suddenly contracted into a single fading circle of burning light . . . the victorious viridescent face of Elphaba. Sure, my mind has been far more occupied with the myriad misinterpretations of the so-called political undertones, but that one moment of technical detail impressed me the most. I don't know why. It was just cool.

Addison said this the other day: "I'm not going to hit you. I'm just pretending to cut your head off with my light saber."

I don't think there's a big difference between the nature of the Creationists vs. Evolutionists squabble and that of the WrestleMania IV double disqualification bout between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant in the 2nd round of the WWF championship elimination tournament.

The scoring of synchronized diving is almost completely arbitrary.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Before I Ever Blogged . . .

. . . I did Trivia. I've been sending out trivia questions by email daily for something like nine years, I think. Some days would include long and wordy commentaries on pop culture while others have been short wanna-be-talk-show-monologue jokes. Other times I would just get right to the question. I'm not sure why I did it that way. I didn't know what blogging was. In fact, it probably didn't exist yet, certainly not on any sort of a popular level. But I did it every weekday with relatively few days off.

To be honest, I'm still not 100% sure what blogging is supposed to be. The genre hasn't exactly been precisely defined for me, but I get the gist. The purpose of this blog (at least the primary purpose I've attached to it) is to give myself and others the chance to waste time in a way that doesn't feel like a waste. It's meant to be a diversion that feels like the right way to go. In essence, trivia that somehow feels important . . . and fun. And that has been the model of my trivia email pursuits from the beginning. I've tried to make my readers' days just a little brighter while also making ourselves just a little brighter as well.

Anyway, I say all this to let you know that if this blog ever grows stagnant (oxymoron alert) you can always look to Trivia for a little bit of pointless knowledge and frivolous commentary. And if it winds up feeling purposeful and meaningful, well, so be it. Here's the introduction to today's question. It's a typical example of the way things used to be before conventional blogging forced trivia into its current truncated existence:

Say what you want about the air quality, but there's something in the water in Beijing. It seems that a new world record is being set with every heat of every round of every swimming event. Now, the optimistic side of me loves the fact that the American men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay team completed the most amazing comeback in the comeback world since L.L. Cool J told us not to call his comeback a comeback. I was whooping and hollering right along with those four musclebound marine mammals as they rubbed their smash-prediction-defying victory in the turned-up noses of the French.

But they beat the world record by almost four seconds. In a race that runs just over three minutes, that's a full two-percent shift. Keep in mind, the old World Record was not yet a day old. Five, count 'em, FIVE of the eight teams in the race beat the previous world record. I'm not saying the Americans are cheaters. I'm saying everyone is a bunch of cheaters. There is still no test for Human Growth Hormone.

But I'd say the stopwatch is a pretty good indicator.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My Favorite . . .

Quote from watching a few minutes of America's Got Talent tonight:
"I think Vegas is looking for a new Elvis."

Commercials to make fun of:
The ones about genital herpes. It's its own punchline, really.

Canadian pronunciation:
Saying sorry like "soary"

Learning process at the moment:
It's a tossup between Colin trying to walk and Addison trying to ride a training-wheel-free bike.

Olympian of all time:
Mary Lou Retton, hands down. No, wait. Hands up.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Bag It

I came to a life-changing intersection of life at the grocery store checkout counter this week. I made a run to pick up an assortment of products from our local Town & Country, and milk was the headliner. A full on gallon of whole milk.

There was nothing visibly special about it. Nothing to differentiate it from the half million other gallons of milk seen in my lifetime. Well, except the ones in Canada that they sell in plastic bags so you can just put them right into a pitcher . . . but I digress. There was something that made this gallon of milk special.

I had bagged all of my other groceries into their plastic bags (no, I'm not green, not with envy and not with eco-friendliness) and I stared down that thing of milk. Then I looked around the store to see if anyone was watching. I was going to do it.

You see, I've gone my whole life wondering why people don't put milk in a bag. It has long tormented society as the most inconvenient thing you can ever buy at the store. Even when you buy it at a convenience store, all convenience is neglected by this inexplicable compulsion to carry it by the tiny hand-cramping handle whilst carrying all the other groceries in bags. So milk jugs have handles. So that means you can't put them in bags? Pshaw, pshaw. And again I say pshaw. Milk jugs just might be the hardest thing in the store to carry, so it makes no sense not to bag them.

Still, as this furious rage against nonsense and injustice stormed within me, I didn't know for sure if I was doing the right thing. I slipped the jug into the plastic bag and wondered if I was making a mistake. The big question now was the question of weight. Can a plastic bag hold a gallon of milk? Will the handles tear? Will they slice through my hand? Will the bag split through the bottom?

So I picked up that bag and quickly placed it inside the next plastic bag. But even as I did so, I realized that the double bagging was unnecessary. The jug that always feels so unwieldy and cumbersome was pleasantly wieldy and cumberless. I left the grocery store knowing that as I walked away with my food, I was leaving behind a tradition that had weighed me down for far too long. I felt free. I felt like I was beginning life again. I felt like the sole beacon of wisdom in a world full of gallon-jug-carrying fools.

And now, this is me shouting it from the virtual rooftops: Put your milk in a bag! Those gallons are not special. They don't deserve to roam free in car trunks and back seats, segregated from the cans and produce and buns and cheese and dishwasher gel. They can sit there suffocating in a plastic bag like the rest of your groceries. If you want your milk to feel special, hire a milk man. Otherwise, give up the charade. The handle is for pouring, not for carrying across driveways and up stairs.

Okay. I'm prepared for the backlash. Bring it on.