Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fear of Christmas

With the holiday gift giving season upon us, most men start to feel a tightening of the chest and a moistening of the palms as they contemplate what to give their significant others. We are absolutely terrified of this chore (sorry…labor of love). Every man has experienced at least once, if not repeatedly, the wrath of a female who has been inappropriately gifted.

Men just naturally believe that a great gift does something valuable, has a practical purpose, and maybe creates the opportunity to enjoy a hobby or pastime together. Gifts in this category are kitchen and lawn items, bikes, skis, surf boards or scuba equipment. Obviously, these are gifts we would like to receive as well.

Kitty tells me that women want gifts that make them “feel” special. In other words they want stuff that shines, and has no purpose, (other than produce profits for jewelry stores and inhumane African diamond mine operators).

This desire, according to female logic, makes gift giving even easier, since all you have to do is visit a jewelry store with lots of credit left on your card and trust the judgment of the sales person, because you haven’t got a clue what is good or bad, although you somehow know the more expensive the bobble, the better.

The chain store J.C. Penny recently highlighted what happens when you misgift in a video called the “The Doghouse” which is where you are banished to in the certain event that you will screw up.

This video is supposed to be funny, but is mostly a horror film for men. It dramatically reinforces the jewelry/bobble myth, and promotes actually going into the J.C Penny jewelry department to purchase said items. (The only thing redeeming about this is that you can buy yourself an eight dollar digital watch that keeps time in 4 time zones and tells you whether its high tide or not. Now there is a good gift!)

So assuming you will probably make a mistake, and you will probably end up in the proverbial doghouse as a result, how do you recover without having to go Jac Penne’s. ? How do you extract yourself from the doghouse in time to enjoy Christmas turkey and booze, without feeling like you are a prisoner on work release?

I found a website that purports to have the solutions.

The article starts with what seems to be the best and most logical way to deal with the problem. “Sit her down. Explain what happened. Apologize”. The author then explains why logic and good sense never works in these situations and provides ten ways to get out of the dog house with specific instructions on each methodology. The broad categories of strategy include:

  1. A major ass kissing session
  2. Flowers
  3. Gifts (ironically) of the appropriate kind presumably from Penny’s
  4. Poetry (you can find some on the Internet)
  5. Food
  6. Social sacrifice (this one involves not doing something with the guys that you really want to do and doing something with her like going to the Penny’s jewelry department, which you really do not want to do)
  7. Sexual favors and/or cuddly affection.
  8. Clean the house (this one has its own traps however, since there is no way you can do it right)
  9. Public humiliation (they recommend that you tell everyone what a jerk you are in your Facebook profile)
  10. Ten lashings. (whatever)

The best way to avoid all of this of course is to make damn sure that you gift her properly.

Remember the sage words of Jack Nicholson when asked how he can identify with women so well. “I think about a man, and I take away reason and accountability.” When buying a gift, make sure there is absolutely no reason for it to exist other than it is a thing that has no reason to exist and because it has no purpose or practical use, it provides no accountability.

According to Jack, it works every time. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Great Squirrel Recession

The economy is pretty bad now for humans around here, with some people calling this deep recession the new Great Depression. Well, now even the squirrels are hitting hard times due to a dramatic shortage of acorns. From Virginia to Pennsylvania to New York to the Midwest, naturalists are reporting a startling loss of acorns, according to the Washington Post.

People are reporting, that even on their own properties, oak trees that were dropping acorns like crazy last year are bare this year. According to experts, the squirrels are at risk of starving this winter due to this shortage.

Without their normal foodstuff, squirrels are on the rampage, according to the story. Calls have come in to animal control offices reporting “crazy squirrels” that are “eating garbage, inhaling bird feed (and) greedily demolishing pumpkins.”

“Let’s hope it’s not something ghastly going on with the natural world,” said one naturalist.

Wow…this appears to be serious stuff…especially since Raleigh is known as “The City of Oaks” and the symbol for the town is a giant acorn that drops from sort of a contrived oak tree to mark the beginning of the New Year.

I have always believed that the squirrel, by way of their dependence on acorns and sheer population in this area should have some official status as either Raleigh’s animal ambassador or worst pest. (This is a real dilemma…The River’s program manager, Brian Taylor tells me that squirrels are just tree rats with a good PR firm…and he knows about these sorts of things.)

Some quick ideas from said PR firm: Raleigh, Where the Squirrels are Fat”. Raleigh, Land of Happy Squirrels” or better yet, “Raleigh, Where the Dogs are Always Entertained”. (This last one works for me since I have always believed that the common yard squirrel was placed here solely to give dogs something to occupy their time and thoughts.)

I did some looking around to see if any organizations that are concerned with squirrels had any insights into the squirrel recession. Instead, I found mostly organizations that wish the worst for squirrels. Besides wanting to eradicate them, some of these groups, such as the Anti Squirrel Coalition believe that squirrels “are satanic, non-American, non-apple pie loving, non-smoking, communist tree rats!”

The ASC believes that squirrels “deliberately try to make drivers crash their vehicles by suddenly running across the street. Most people slam on the breaks and/or swerve their car erratically in such scenarios. It's a natural reaction and Squirrels know and exploit this, especially on wet or frozen roads.”

The ASC believes you should ask yourself the following questions when confronting a squirrel on the road: 'Is avoiding a squirrel who is running across the highway worth swerving to avoid and in the process dying in a fireball explosion as my car skids off the pavement and plummets into a 2000 foot deep chasm of doom?' This is the same group that says that the reason that the proverbial chicken crossed the road was to show squirrels (and humans) it could be done successfully, thus proving that squirrels are screwing it up on purpose.

Anyway, back to this claim that squirrels are satanic. My mother-in-law, who is deeply religious, spends most of her free time sewing and doing wonderful arts and crafts. Her other pursuit is killing squirrels in her back yard with a pellet rifle. She absolutely hates them.

According to the biblical expert Tim Rowland, the Bible contains a possible clue. It is written: “And thoust shall knowest it is the end of days when thine acorns driest up from thine mightiest oak and thine squirrels shall freakest out.”

So maybe this whole acorn shortage is some sort of biblical event. Or perhaps it’s just nature’s way of saying that the squirrel population is out of balance. You know people used to eat a lot of squirrel. In fact the original “Brunswick Stew” that you can get at almost any barbecue restaurant was made with squirrel. (Now they use chicken, which taste like squirrel…which begs the question: What came first? “Squirrel tastes like chicken” or “chicken tastes like squirrel”.

We actually served squirrel pizza at a recent party….and everyone loved it. (Of course they didn’t know it was squirrel). Quick recipe: skin the squirrel, remove head and boil whole for at least an hour. Then strip the squirrel meet off the bones and dice into small pieces. Then sauté the squirrel in olive oil, fresh garlic, red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Spread the meat thinly over a store bought frozen three cheese pizza and cooked until bubbly. Bonn appetite!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Russell Wilson: Rookie First Team All ACC Quarterback

I was sitting between my brother and my father in the home section at the recent UNC vs NC State game in Chapel Hill. The State offense, let by freshman Russell Wilson was dismantling the UNC defense, and Carolina fans were stunned. Many were loudly blaming the UNC defense…who at the time was one of the top rated in the NCAA.

Most UNC fans don’t go to State games…but I am required to so by my wife, an ardent State fan. (This ain’t so bad, considering the fun that State fans have tailgating versus Carolina fans…more on that later.) So I had already seen Wilson do miraculous things in several games. Because of this, I felt the need to disabuse the angry UNC fans around me of the idea that it was a faulty defense that was allowing State to march up and down the field…Russell Wilson was the problem….for UNC or any team for that matter.

So now State fans are euphorically envisioning three more years of Wilson’s magic, as I am. (UNC will figure something defensively by then) Many think he is too small for the NFL, so he probably would not be leaving early for pro football. Instead, unfortunately for all of us, (and I mean that) Wilson may be lost to professional baseball instead; because he is a prodigal second baseman…this being one of the reasons he came to State in the first place.

So why would he do this to us? We want to delight in his quick feet, laser vision and rocket arm for years to come. Well, money talks and non-football players walk, usually without a limp. If Wilson was to go to pro baseball, he would earn a minimum of $350k and possibly up to $4 million his first year. That is serious coin, especially in the middle of whatever you want to call our current economic conflagration.

Other things start to figure into the equation as well. College football has the highest injury rate of any sport…ten times greater than baseball and six times greater than basketball. The injury type is many times a concussion, which Wilson has already had, and a fairly serious one at that.

The prevailing opinion in sports medicine is that there are only so many concussions an individual should take before giving up contact sports. Too many concussions can lead to all kinds of problems including depression, confusion, short term memory loss and an affinity for Rush Limbaugh.

If you actually survive college and make it to pro sports, the numbers speak loudly as well. The average career length for a pro football player is three years. For major league baseball it is 5.6 years which is about the same as basketball. So if you have a choice, you would take baseball due to it providing you on average twice the income earning potential as football. (This math becomes more difficult with too many concussions.)

The last thing I would factor into Wilson’s equation is what I would call “the fun factor”. This relates to how much fun, or not, it is to play these sports. I played football and basketball in high school, and baseball until the 9th grade, and I can say from my own experience is there is a huge difference in how much fun a sport is to watch versus to play. For example:

Football: Really fun to watch. Painful and arduous to play, even if you win. You can barely get out of bed the next day and you do not want to get near a football for several days afterwards.

Baseball: Sort of fun to watch for a dwindling audience…sort of an acquired taste that many young Americans aren’t acquiring. Sort of fun to play but includes long periods of boredom punctuated by the terror of screwing something up. Why do you think they chew all that tobacco…they need the nicotine to stay awake.

Basketball: Fun to watch, especially in March. Really fun to play. Basketball players will get out of bed the next day and go find a pickup game. Even if you lose, you can have fun doing it.

So you start to see why Russell Wilson might not be around for three more years. We fans don’t play…we just watch…so we all hope he sticks around regardless of the risks…but I also hope he makes the best decision for his future….which could be baseball.

I’m not a baseball fan so I would probably never to get see him play anything again…which makes me sad.