The Daily Dump

A place where everyone (me) is welcomed to express their opinions openly and honestly. I encourage free thinking, free wheeling, off-the-cuff banter and monetary donations.

Friday, March 31

Some More Random Thoughts On Friday

I should make a clarification concerning yesterday’s post about The Girlfriend’s surgery – the procedure she had done (PRK) isn’t the usual procedure (LASIK). The majority of people who get laser eye surgery, like me for example, have LASIK, which is far less traumatic to the eye and causes about 90% less pain and discomfort than does PRK. So if anyone is thinking of getting laser eye surgery, if you qualify for LASIK totally go for it. It’s still gross as hell, but well worth it – best decision I ever made, even taking into account the time I got that rash checked out early before it got any worse. I’m sure it could have waited another week without spreading too much.

Bad news for Matt Leblanc, who can’t seem to make a marriage or a punch line work anymore. But the weirdest part of the story was this line:

“LeBlanc, 38, and the former Melissa McKnight, in her late 30s or early 40s, wed in May 2003 in Hawaii.”

You mean to tell me no one knows how old Melissa McKnight is? It’s not like she was shipped here from an African tribe with no birth records. Apparently what passes for fact checking in the Yahoo! newsroom is passing around a picture and asking, “How old does this woman look to you?”

I couldn’t be happier that we turn the clocks ahead tomorrow. It’s my second favorite day of the year, right behind my birthday and Christmas which are tied for first. They may as well rename this day “Everyone Get Happy” day because if that extra hour of sunlight doesn’t liven you up you’re probably the kind of person who doesn’t tear up when they move the bus on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” And I’m not OK with that.

In my efforts to include more music talk here, I came across this collection of Ray LaMontagne bootlegs that is just fantastic. Listen to “She’s Your Girl,” then come back here and thank me. I swear I would make love to this guy’s voice if it were a woman. Even if it was a guy I would probably go to third base.

It is absolutely unsurprising that so many of my readers enjoy the benefits of prescription painkillers. It’s just further proof that I love you all, even Janet who made it a point to comment that she had never taken any. It’s OK Janet, you’re one impacted wisdom tooth away. And we’ll all be here when that time comes. Especially The Girlfriend, who can sniff out Percocet like a DEA dog.

I was at a theater party last night for the show Well, which I’ve been pimping in the sidebar for weeks because my good friend John works for the company that produced the show. Last night was opening night and the reviews were positively stellar, meaning that the after-party was over-the-top with excited theater types (boring), executives (boring) and Joan Allen (ding ding ding!) I only caught a drunken glimpse of her from afar (read: stalked her), but from what I can tell she is surely in the running for “most attractive actress aged 50 or over” (she actually turns 50 in August). Although I don’t see her overtaking Rene Russo anytime soon; unless, of course, Rene stops with the surgeries. Then all bets are off.

Thursday, March 30

The Girlfriend Gets Surgery. I Get An Aneurysm.

As I mentioned earlier, two weeks ago The Girlfriend went in for laser eye correction surgery. Obviously there weren’t any huge complications, otherwise you would have been reading posts with titles like “What’s The Point? My Girlfriend’s Blind” or “Any Advice On How To Break-up With A Blind Girl And Not Look Like A Bad Guy?” Luckily for both of us the only real “complications” were excruciating pain (hers) and a little piece of sanity dying a slow death (mine).

Let me backtrack – because if you don’t already know enough about The Girlfriend there are three key things you will learn about her here:

1. She has no conscience in when it comes to the capitalist marketplace.

2. 98% of all infants have a higher pain threshold.

3. Given the opportunity, she would gladly quit the corporate life and become a pill-popping housewife. Not a stay at home mother, a pill-popping housewife. It’s an important distinction.

Chapter 1: Tough As (Lee Press-On) Nails

The Girlfriend has been wearing contact lenses for years now. A prerequisite for the surgery is that you must take out your contacts one week prior to the procedure, meaning that The Girlfriend had two options: either hire an assistant to read documents to her at work or wear glasses. After much debate, she caved into wearing glasses for the week.

How she went about getting the glasses is the interesting part: she decided to do the same thing she had done once before, about three months ago when she was originally scheduled to have the procedure but then at the last minute decided to have the life saving laparoscopic surgery on her internal organs instead. (Fun!) Back then, in preparation for the week without contacts The Girlfriend went to Lenscrafters, the home of the “Unconditional 30-day Money Back Guaranty,” meaning that she bought a whole new pair of glasses, wore them for a week and then returned them with the excuse “I changed my mind” as though she were returning an espresso maker, not an instrument necessary for sight.

Now, one would think that doing this once took balls. I mean, it’s not like buying a dress, wearing it once and returning it. They made the lenses for her. They can’t just put those glasses back on the shelf and sell them to someone else for much the same reason you can’t resell dental implants or prosthetic feet. But then – to do it twice! To bend Lenscrafters over and whisper in their ear, “This is your own fault for dressing like a slut.” I mean, that’s downright cold-blooded. For two yuppies like us, walking into Lenscrafters for the second time in a four month period to buy glasses for the sole purpose of returning them a week later, well it was like staring in our own episode of “24,” the tension mounting as we sit down at the glasses-fitting guy’s little table and he looks at his computer and says suspiciously, “So you’re a returning customer?” and watching her shoot back a cool, “Yup.” God it was hot. And, needless to say, she got the $400 Dolce & Gabana glasses saying, “If I have to wear them for a week I may as well like them, right?” Cold as ice I tell you! It’s no wonder she made fun of me for crying at the end of Big Fish.

Unfortunately, The Girlfriend’s toughness doesn’t extend much outside the consumer forum, likely because there is a low probability of a sales associate inflicting any sort of physical pain on her. Little do they know she would even pay full price for a damaged, off-the-mannequin sweater if only they pinched her arm in the right spot. Indeed, if only I could have taken away the epic pain the surgery caused her I was promised, among other things, sex every day for the rest of my life, half her weekly paycheck and permission to skip any event or outing in lieu of a football game. Actually, I made the last one up – I proposed that once to her and her response was, “You can have then when I die.”

Chapter 2: Epic Pain

You know it’s bad when your OPHTHALMOLOGIST tells you that you are going to have a really hard time with child birth.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that she had no reason to be complaining about pain. In fact, I watched them perform the surgery on her. One eye at a time, blown up on a 17 inch monitor, I stood on the other side of a Plexiglas window watching them prep her eye, putting a tool (yes, a TOOL) in place to hold her eye open. Here was my proverbial path diverging in the woods, and to the left there was me running back to the waiting room and reading Men’s Health, and to the right there was me standing firm, committing myself to witnessing this eye surgery. In the end, what made me stay was a conversation I had with my friend Matt a few weeks earlier about how out fathers are so much more “fatherly” than we could ever picture ourselves being. Fatherly as in killing big bugs with bare hands, siphoning gasoline from a gas tank, gutting a lobster, etc. In that moment I told myself, “My father would watch the surgery.” So, in an effort that turns out to be kind of gross, I acted fatherly for my girlfriend and watched them cut a circle in her cornea and, with a tiny spatula, rub it off and bunch it up in the corner of her eye, then shoot a laser into her pupil for 30 seconds, with smoke rising off the surface, and when finished take the tiny spatula and smooth out the cornea as though spreading icing on a cake. (Note to TG: I’m never doing that again. Our kids are fucked.)

Three quarters of the way home from the doctor’s office, the numbing anesthetic wore off and The Girlfriend immediately started screaming, “Ow ow ow ow ow!” I drove at a breakneck pace, as though I was taking my injured girlfriend to the hospital, when in fact I was taking her away from a doctor and towards my parents house which, despite all the delicious food, contained no hardcore painkillers. My poor mother – seeing The Girlfriend in such pain and her not being able to do anything was like her seeing a puppy bleeding on the side of the road. It was a display she had never been privy to, whereas I was a weathered pro from back when The Girlfriend had her other surgery and it got to the point where we would have daily conversations like:

TG: “I swear I can’t take this pain anymore, I’m going to kill myself. I’m just going to jump out the window there’s nothing else I can do.”

Me: (watching CSI) “OK, want me to make you a sandwich? When the commercial comes on.”

It’s not so much that she exaggerates it, it’s just that her body totally convinces her mind that the pain is intolerable. It’s the same biological reaction that toddlers have when they fall and for 10 seconds seem completely fine before bursting out crying at the inexplicable event that just occurred where something happened to their body that they didn’t request.

Chapter 3: Painkillers are The Girlfriend’s best friend.

When The Girlfriend had her first surgery she was given Tylenol with Codeine and Vicodin. Her first question was, “Can I take the two together? How about with Advil?”

In a lot of ways I completely agree with her. It’s about being resilient – not in terms of dealing with the pain, but in pushing your body to the limit of how much medication it can handle. In this regard, much like in her refusal to pay full price for a display item, The Girlfriend is unflappable.

After the eye surgery she was prescribed Darvocet, a relatively mild pain-killer which, when she found this out, made her incredulous of the doctor’s abilities. “Darvocet? Can I take my leftover Vicodin with that?” Ultimately she got by on the Darvocet, unintentionally almost OD’ing by taking the prescribed two pills every four hours straight through the night, around the clock unlike normal people with lesser gumption who don’t take pills while they are asleep. We finally figured it out when she went through the entire bottle in the first three days and upon calling the pharmacy for a refill they told us, “You can’t refill that for another two days. She . . . she shouldn’t have finished the whole bottle yet.”

To her this was like someone saying, “Well you ate too much lunch, so no dinner for you.” Shouldn’t she be rewarded for her diligence? Like belonging to “The Clean Plate Club?” Alas, she was forced to undergo a 24 hour detoxification period, during which she became startlingly more mobile and coherent, until the pain came back with a vengeance and we called up my sister who had half a bottle left over from when she had her eye surgery. As I was hanging up the phone telling my sister I would be at her house in 15 minutes to pick it up, the only other noise you heard in the house was a voice from the pitch-black basement moaning, “Tell your sister I love her. I love her and I will do anything for her.”

Flash forward to Monday of this week when, after a four day respite of pain, for some reason it came roaring back. The Girlfriend, undeterred in her quest to alleviate discomfort, made an appointment with the doctor out on Long Island and while we were there refilled her prescription for Darvocet. As I drove her home from the CVS she popped two pills.

TG: (in ecstasy) “Thank you, Sweet Jesus.”

Me: “You know, the next time we come out here is going to be for rehab.”

TG: “Don’t try to take this away from me, it’s my only escape.”

Me: “Something every boyfriend loves to hear . . .”

Chapter 4: The Gift of Sight

Some people are blessed with certain attributes: the ability to do math, a good singing voice, perfect eyesight, etc. The Girlfriend was given none of these things, but though she might never be able to calculate a proper tip at a restaurant, the miracle that is modern medicine has provided her with the opportunity to wake up every morning, open her eyes and see clearly. She’s not quite there yet (it should be a few more days) but that’s a gift you can’t put a tag on.

So if she had to do it all over again, would she? Probably, although I’m afraid to ask her because I just got off the phone with her and the conversation consisted of her saying, “I have a fucking headache and I can’t see shit,” and me saying, “Just called to say hi, I’ll talk to you later!” But give that girl enough pain medication and she’s as sweet as a spoonful of sugar. I think the only part I’ll miss is her wearing sunglasses and a visor around the house due to the light sensitivity. In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone will miss that, especially my Dad who seemed to get a real kick out of referring to her as Stevie Wonder – which, in hindsight, maybe makes me a little more fatherly than I thought.

Tuesday, March 28

Alcoholism Is All A Big Joke With Me

Yesterday afternoon I’m in an elevator with a middle aged guy; we’re both looking at that little TV screen that shows news stories, stocks, the weather, etc. A random statistic flashes across the screen reading “Over 15 million Americans are dependent on alcohol.” Then this conversation ensues:

Guy: (gesturing to the screen) “That used to be me.”

Me: (politely confused look)

Guy: “Yeah, that was me. Drinking every day. That was back when I was in advertising. Haven’t had a drink in years though. Now I’m an attorney.”

Me: (trying to be funny) “You went into law and then stopped drinking? That’s a bad idea!”

Guy: (dead serious) “No. No it’s not. It’s a good idea. Sobriety was the best idea I ever had.”

If there’s any possible correct response in a situation like that, I’d love to hear it. Because I believe mine was, “Good for you!” as though he had told me he just bought a previously owned BMW.

Monday, March 27

Staples Takes Their Easy Button Too Far

I’ll preface this by saying that I like Staples. As a company, they’re probably the easiest vendor I’ve ever dealt with. I can, and have, ordered a box of paperclips from their website and had it delivered for free to my desk the next business day. That’s beyond phenomenal.

Then they created the “Easy Button” commercials, which, it turns out, isn’t just a marketing gimmick, but an actual product, of which Staples sold 500,000 in 2005. I don’t know what you do with this, besides put it on someone’s chair so when they unwittingly sit on it you can throw toner at their head and yell, “BOB! GET OFF THE EASY BUTTON!” Although you have to believe that at least a handful of those sales came from companies who saw the commercials, where employees press the Easy Button and things magically fall into place and business becomes profitable, and thought, “That is EXACTLY what my Dog Diaper business needs!”

And then Staples took their ad campaign one step further and said, “But what if the Easy Button didn’t just fix problems in the office – what if it fixed problems other places, like in the Ancient Chinese desert for instance?” So they devised a commercial where a Chinese Empire is about to be overrun by a nomadic, blood-thirsty tribe. At the last minute, one of the Chinese Empire’s infantry opens a box to reveal a Staples Easy Button and upon pressing the button the Great Wall of China is erected and the tribe is saved – EXCEPT for the guy who pressed the button! He was standing in the front line and unfortunately the Great Wall erected just to his rear, meaning everyone else was saved by his gallant efforts, but he was left to face the onslaught of hundreds of savages charging at him on horse.

The only inference you can take away from this commercial is that this guy dies. I mean, in the best case scenario he is captured and taken back to their camp where he is tortured for information about the Easy Button. But in all likelihood he is simply run over and killed right there outside the Great Wall; which raises the question: How did we get here from office supplies? Toner to out and out murder? “Yeah, we’ve got that,” to “Take his head, and find out what that button does?” I know a lot of advertising doesn’t make sense, but for some reason this just seems weird and, frankly, unconscionable to me.

The commercial must have struck a cord with other sympathetic viewers as well, you know the ones that lost a loved one in the same manner, because Staples has now created a game wherein you must calculate the trajectory necessary to safely catapult the Easy Button guy over the great wall and into a safe landing zone like a bale of hay or a tree (your welcome, Xiu Jing!) They’ve also created a section where you can crack open your “office fortune cookie” to reveal such platitudes as:

“Counting to ten before confronting coworker only gives them time to get away.”

“He who drinks too much at office party should worry about other things besides online fortune cookie.”

“First sign of spring is inappropriate clothing memo from HR.”

Which, to be honest, are pretty funny considering they came from the Staples website. But the question remains: When did Staples get into the business of stereotypical Ancient Chinese history and traditions? This is a leap I’m simply not ready to make. Staples, stick to what you are good at: free delivery and Business Rewards checks which, I don’t know how this happened, keep getting sent to my apartment instead of to the office.

(My high score so far is 105,000. It could have been better but I had some trouble with the last round. Who knew that hot air balloons were such effective weapons in Ancient times?)

Friday, March 24

Top Five Game Shows From My Youth: #1 “The Price Is Right”

The Premise

First, you hail from the Midwest or Florida. Then you wear a big sweatshirt or any other overtly 80’s apparel. Then, when you hear your name called out by Rod Roddy, you do one of two things: you either a. jump up out of your chair like someone just jabbed you with a live wire and run down to Contestant’s Row; or b. rise from your seat as you might rise from a rocking chair on a porch on a warm Summer day and leisurely stroll down to Contestant’s Row while everyone looks on thinking, “This person has no idea what’s going on.” Either way, after that you embark on an hour long journey through what is undoubtedly the most inventive game show ever devised around guessing the price things.

The Host

Bob Barker defies definition. Sexually aggressive, egomaniacal and as old as a Giant Red Oak, Bob Barker has ruled over daytime television for over 30 years. To this day, his show still gets higher ratings than its competition, including Martha Stewart’s show “Martha” and “The View.” “THE VIEW” people!

Women want to kiss Bob Barker and men want to shake his hand. I heard a rumor once that Bob Barker turned down sex with a college girl because “she made him feel old.” OK, that’s a lie, but don’t even try to tell me that you didn’t believe it. Because at this point there’s very little you could hear about Bob Barker and not believe, unless it was something like “Bob Barker made a mistake,” or “Bob Barker’s hair was messed up.” Hell, Bob Barker sued one of the models on his show solely because she sued him! Then, when another model was subpoenaed to testify against Bob, he fired her! This man does what he wants, when he wants and no one, not even Alex Trebek, would be willing to step in his path.

The Highlights

Last year, my friend Scott decided that he wanted to go to a taping of “The Price is Right.” He and a friend flew out to L.A., waited on line, got their tickets and made it into the audience. Now if you don’t remember the show, during commercial breaks Bob Barker would chat with the audience and sometimes this would spill over into the show after the break. Well, my friend Scott, being loud and from Queens, caught Bob’s attention with his homemade t-shirt reading “NYC luvs BOB.” And when Bob singled him out of the audience and complimented him on his shirt, this conversation ensued:

Scott: “Can I have your suit?”

Bob: “What size are you?”

Scott: “42 regular.”

Bob: “That's what I am. How tall are you? 6'1"

Scott: (laughing) “Only 5'7", Bob.”

Bob: “My suit jacket would be like tails on you!”

Scott’s friend Len sitting next to him: “Bob put you in your place!”

Scott: “And that place is sadness . . .”

(commercial break ends and they start taping)

Bob: “There was a gentleman in the audience who wanted to buy my suit. Stand up . . . well what do you bid, Scott?!”

Scott: “One dollar!”

Bob: “Sit down!”

To this day, Scott says it was the most stern yet loving command he has ever received.

Why I Liked It

I could probably list about 75 things I loved about this show. But I’ll limit it to the following:

– Barker’s Beauties. Made up almost exclusively of past or future Playboy models, Bob Barker single handedly revolutionized sexual objectification in the late 70’s straight through the 80’s. His concept was simple: get hot women to wear low cut shirts and show off the prizes. I’m 100% convinced that “The Price Is Right” is the grandfather of the modern beer commercial. Also, to a 12 year old, Janice Pennington showing off a beautiful new bedroom set is like porn.

(Note: Ian Ziering’s wife, Nikki Schieler Ziering, was a model on the show until 2002 when Bob Barker had her fired, presumably because she had become too popular and taking attention away from him. Yes, you read that correctly, Ian Ziering’s wife is popular.)

– The Showcase Showdown. Whether it was a little old lady who needed Bob’s help or a hulking logger who spun it so fast it looked like a pinwheel, there is perhaps no greater game show prop than The Wheel. As far as childhood dreams go, wanting to spin The Wheel was right up there with wanting to drive KITT.

– The brilliance of the following games:

Shell Game. Six words: Overgrown walnut shell Three Card Monty.

Safe Crackers. There’s something about a model and a gigantic safe. Something . . .

Punch a Bunch. This game combined two of my favorite things: violence and cash. Punch through a paper covered hole and pull out the slip inside. Then hand the slip to Bob and, in his subtly devastating way, he reveals to you what you have won.

Pathfinder. Guess the price of a car by stepping on the correct sequence of digits on a giant light-up board. Best way to guess the price of a car ever.

Plinko. By far my favorite game. A contestant guesses the price of four small items, and with each correct answer wins a Plinko chip. Then the contestant climbs the winding staircase to the top of the Plinko board and, positioning the chips with precision (the most strategic players started at the sides) dropped the chip and watched it wind its way through the pegs to the bottom of the board and, God willing, into a big-money slot. A maximum of $25,000 could be won and, indeed, only winning the maximum amount was considered to be a “win” for Plinko. Hence, with the maximum award topping out at $23,000, Plinko, to this day, has never been won.

Hole in One. Screw the game, it’s all about Bob Barker showing you “how easy it is.”

Hit Me. This was where I formed my lifelong love affair with oversized playing cards. Seriously, the props on this show were iconic. If someone offered me all the props from “The Price is Right” or all the props from Jenna Jameson’s last movie, well I can’t end this sentence without using the term “think long and hard,” so I’ll stop right here.

Cliff Hangers. Contestants guess the price of small items (shocker!) and for every dollar they are off, a yodeling climber makes his way one step up a hill. If he takes too many steps, he falls off the edge at the top and you lose. I honestly believe the creators of the show got together and smoked opium before coming up with some of the ideas for this show.

Blank Check. THAT pen?

Bump. Four busses displaying possible prices of prizes were aligned over two prices on a shelf below. The contestant would decide which way the bus train needed to move in order to line up the correct price with the correct prize. Then, Janice and Dian would seductively swivel their hips and, with sexual authority and memorable sound effects, “bump” the cars into place. Dian later sued Bob Barker for sexual harassment.

The trench warfare that was Contestant’s Row. You’re down in a pit with three other contestants and the fighting gets dirty. I never understood how a fight didn’t start down there. While the $1 bid may just be good strategy, the “someone else’s bid plus $1” was just a nasty, dirty play. Basically you’ve taken that person out of the running to win, unless the item costs exactly what the other person bid. Honestly, if I was in Contestant’s Row and I bid $500 and the last person bid $501 and the actual price of the prize was $525, I would run over and tackle the guy on his way to the stage. Or old woman, or whoever the son of a bitch was who did it.

When a woman would guess the exact value of the Contestant’s Row prize and Bob Barker would make her take her $100 bonus directly out of his pocket. God bless the 80’s.

What Was Wrong With It

Is there any more random sign off in the history of television than Bob’s plea to have your pet spade and neutered at the end of every episode? And it’s not that I didn’t like it, I just think he could have had more fun with it. Like one week say, “And remember, shut the water off when you’re brushing your teeth,” or “Please, cover your mouth the next time you sneeze in public. I’m Bob Barker.” But no, Bob devoted all his energy and considerable fame to the cause of not propagating the unwanted pet population. Which isn’t a bad cause I guess. I’d probably put it in the Top Three, along with world hunger and cancer.

Thursday, March 23

Top Five Game Shows From My Youth: One More Interruption

Just like those plane crash survivors on “Lost,” bloggers are a tight knit bunch. So when one of them needs help, I do whatever I can as long as it doesn’t involve minor travel or any sort of inconvenience. And guest posting at Spinachdip was neither painful nor inconvenient. Except when I tried to post the entry this morning and, like jumping behind the wheel of a big rig after driving a Saturn my whole life, had no idea how to get the thing to work. Luckily I have friends who actually know what they’re doing when it comes to computers. Like I said, bloggers stick together.

p.s. Speaking of “Lost,” did anyone else cry last night when Jin said “I love you” in English? Yeah, I didn’t think so . . . I mean, that would be lame.

Wednesday, March 22

Top Five Game Shows From My Youth: #2 “Press Your Luck”

Dedicated to Peter Tomarken, the man who started it all – all being “20 hours of trolling the internet for pictures from 1980’s game shows.”

The Premise

Big money, no Whammies. That about says it all. Honestly, I had to read the Wikipedia entry for “Press Your Luck” to even remember how the game was played besides pressing a red button and trying not to get a Whammy. Apparently, in the beginning of the show they asked trivia questions and for every correct answer a player was awarded a spin on the Big Board. I have absolutely no recollection of this happening. I can only presume that I watched my “Thundercats” video for the first ten minutes of the show and only tuned in when it was time for the Whammies.

The Big Board portion of the game was rather straightforward: you had a certain number of spins and as long as you landed on a prize or a money amount, and not a Whammy, you kept on going until you used up all your spins or decided to pass your spins on to someone else in hopes they land on a Whammy. The player who ended the game with the most money won. It was a game made for ADD before ADD even existed – something was constantly flashing and beeping and actual thinking was kept to a bare minimum.

The Host

Peter Tomarken . . . what can I say about him except that I had no memory of him whatsoever until he died and I decided to blog about him (I wonder if they’ve engraved his tombstone yet . . .). But in the world of competitive game shows (trust me I know) the mark of a great host is his ability to make a show about the contestants and about the intrinsic value of the game. Tomarken never tried to upstage the Whammy – he knew that the Whammy was his meal ticket and that it didn’t matter if three-quarters of the audience couldn’t pronounce his name. Because when he died in a valiant plane crash many years later, he would get buried at this very fancy cemetery despite the fact that Alex Trebek once said of him, “Who? Doesn’t ring a bell, you must be making him up.”

Also deceased, Rod Roddy was the announcer on “Press Your Luck” for its entire run. While I could only find a picture of the cemetery that Peter Tomarken is buried at, I found the GPS coordinates of Rod Roddy’s grave. That, my friends, is celebrity. Or stalking. Either celebrity or stalking. But I don’t know if you can technically stalk a dead person. It’s certainly a lot easier, but I think stalking takes effort. You know, you really have to go out of your way to stalk someone. In fact, when they’re dead really it’s just visiting. So we’ll say it’s celebrity.

The Highlights

While there are certainly many things to celebrate about “Press Your Luck,” there is no more impressive highlight than what Michael Larson pulled off on May 19, 1984. An ice cream truck driver by trade, Larson watched “Press Your Luck” religiously and discovered that while the pattern of flashing lights on the Big Board seemed to be random, in fact there were only six different sequences, and by memorizing those six sequences he could, with a bit of good timing, assure himself of never landing on a Whammy.

And that’s exactly what he did. It took two episodes, just about one hour, to tape Larson’s string of winning rounds. Starting with seven spins he won in the trivia round, he parlayed those seven spins into 35 Whammy-less spins and won $110,237.

You have to watch the video clip of this. The crowd is going absolutely nuts, and Tomarken’s reactions are priceless. A game show host doing a complete 360 degree “I can’t believe this is happening” spin? How often do you see that, once every twenty years? Maybe?

Why I Liked It

To a seven year old kid, Whammies were like cartoon crack. I mean, what better way is there to lose in a game show? And the real genius behind the Whammy was that, while the Whammy would take away all your money and do it in a showboating, boastful manner, the Whammy would then incur some sort of karmic retribution where they would invariably end up pounded, splashed, wiped out or blown up. So the Whammy got you, then karma got the Whammy and, in turn, you felt good about yourself again. Plus all the while you’re enjoying a cute little cartoon right in front of you.

(Note: I often wondered what the contestant actually saw, part of me believing that they literally witnessed these scenes take place in front of them in 3D. Not that the Whammies were alive or anything, that would be crazy. But maybe at least they were two dimensional creations that materialized in a 3D format on cue with a person losing all their money. At my age, that was an absolute possibility. Then again, so was Big.)

Looking back, the Whammies were more than just delightful cartoons though. They were symbols for what stood as the driving force of “Press Your Luck” – Greed. Winning wasn’t based on knowledge or merit – but a desire to get more and more based solely on chance with as little work as possible, just like all my real like interactions. In fact, the Buddhists should buy the copyright to Whammies and use them as a visual representation of the pitfalls of greed. Besides, I think Eastern religions could really benefit from some Western influence.

Also, no game show had better reactions from contestants when they lost. It was like all their hopes and dreams were wrapped up in that press of the red button, and landing on a Whammy was like being hit by a truck, hence creating the infamous “constipated grimace of defeat.”

What Was Wrong With It

There was really no climax to the show – no lighting round or ultimate prize. The contestants just played until the spins ran out and whoever had the most money won. On two occasions, the game actually ended in a three-way tie with each contestant finishing at $0. Sure purists and some soccer fans might say that it was just a strong defensive battle, but we all know that the only place you cheer a 0-0 tie is at the Special Olympics. I have no idea where that came from.

And as crazy as the people on “Family Feud” may have been, “Press Your Luck” attracted some of the most insane people I remember from my youth. I mean, one time an older cousin of mine tried to give me a weird back massage, and that was STILL less traumatic than this watching the episode with this woman:

The poor guy on the right looks like he’s ready to draw his sidearm and defend himself.

Oh, and apparently there is a new version of “Press Your Luck” called “Whammy! The All New Press Your Luck.” Here’s a picture of what a new Whammy looks like:

I don’t know who makes the creative decisions for this show, but I’m fairly certain he was molested as a child and has some real issues with anger and some real hate against cash.

Monday, March 20

Top Five Game Shows From My Youth: #3 “Classic Concentration”

(A public service announcement before we start – The Girlfriend had her eye surgery on Friday and while it may have irritated her the way a dog gets irritated when you blow in its face, she made it through and is recovering nicely. She should be able to see again by mid-week, and until then the Stevie Wonder jokes will fly through my parents house while she sits at the dinner table in her sunglasses. To quote my mom: “We make fun of you because we love you.” I don’t think that has the loving sentiment she was shooting for, but it’s honest if nothing else. On with the Top Five.)

The Premise

This show was kind of like the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indiana had to survive all those booby traps in the cave leading to the Holy Grail. First he overcomes the “only the penitent man will pass” section, but then just as he thinks he’s made it, he has to traverse the faux stone floor by spelling out Jehovah with his steps. But in Latin it begins with an I!

In much the same way, the two contestants would first go head-to-head in a memory matching game. Competition was often intense.

The contestants sat before a board of 30 squares, each of which concealed the name of a prize. One at a time, the contestants called out two numbers, and if the prizes matched, whatever prize was printed on the card was placed on a board behind the contestant and added to their booty.

More importantly, matching two squares removed them from the board, revealing underneath a rebus, which is not a cut of meat, but rather a puzzle where you decode a message consisting of pictures representing syllables and words. The player could try to solve the rebus or choose two more numbers. Here’s an example of a rebus I created:

(I’m just kidding – as any rebus-lover knows, many rebuses use sarcasm! And no, much to my dismay it isn’t “rebii.”)

The Host

Only a man so in love with his own legend would wake up one morning, look himself in the mirror and say, “The world needs you to host three game shows, Alex.” That man was Alex Trebek.

Like a well oiled machine, Trebek abstained from sex, travel, horseplay, and leisure on a whole in his conquest of the game show world while simultaneously hosting “Jeopardy,” “Classic Concentration,” and the short lived reincarnation of “To Tell The Truth,” which presumably failed because Alex decided it was to fail. Considered to be his “lighter side” gig, “Classic Concentration” gave Trebek a forum for his cozier, more humane side, most notably when he pet a terrified chiwawa at the end of the show.

(Cut to scene of Alex Trebek sitting in front of his computer at home, leaning toward the monitor. He is reading my blog and shaking his head in disappointment. When he is done, he slowly turns to a large man in a suit standing beside him and silently nods his head. I am dead within the week.)

There was also some controversy when the original prize model on the show, the well received Diana Taylor, was replaced only a few weeks in by Marjorie Goodson-Cutt who was conveniently the daughter of Mark Goodson, the producer of the show, and wife of crewman Tim Cutt. Talk about your nepotistic slut! Anyway . . .

The Highlights

Because they were basically giving away like 13 prizes per game, they couldn’t make them all quality prizes. So while one match would yield an Alaskan cruise the next would his and hers bath towels. Plus, along with there being prizes underneath the tiles, there were also things called “Takes.” Getting a take basically meant that you could “take” any one of the prizes your adversary had won off the board. It was hilarious when one contestant would simply dominate the board, matching up all the prizes while the other contestant sat there with the his and hers towels on their board, until finally the dominant contestant would get a Take and strip them of the one thing they had left to hang onto. You could just tell Trebek loved doing this. He would stare the person directly in the eye while he took away those his and hers towels.

By the way, is it just me or was Scientology MADE for Alex Trebek? I feel like he is the pinnacle of what all Scientologists strive to become. Ironic if the reason he isn’t one is because they don’t allow Canadians . . . Actually, that’s not ironic at all, it’s just bigoted.

Why I Liked It

Because you’d have to be a real asshole to not like a good rebus.

What Was Wrong With It

For one thing, the blind couldn’t play along at home. That always bothered me.

Furthermore, I don’t care how many Stanford grads you have working on your rebus team, there’s only so much you can do with using pictures to spell out phrases. It got to the point where as soon as you saw a flesh colored bit of picture you knew it was the bent leg with the three red arrows pointing at the knee and the phrase probably contained the word “need,” “any,” or “many.” Plus the range of difficulty on the puzzles was inane. It went from “so easy English didn’t even have to be your first language” to “so hard if I were a high school student and rebuses were a subject I would slam my book in frustration and shout at my parents ‘I hate rebuses. And I hate you!’ ” But once I learned that rebuses could be fun and were a vital part of my education, I would have come to appreciate them for the delightful tidbits of puzzlery they are.

Friday, March 17

Top Five Game Shows From My Youth: Interrupted Due To Madness

Boy did I pick a bad time to start this Top Five. Right in the middle of the NCAA basketball tournament? What was I thinking? I may as well have signed up for a swimming class the same week I get my period. I mean yesterday I didn’t come close to registering on the scale of productivity, even by my low standards. I came into the office, finished filling out my brackets, went to a free food / free drink event hosted by CBS at Planet Hollywood (more on that later), came back to the office drunk and watched basketball on my computer for the remainder of the day. They’re not kidding when they call it March Madness. My boss was maaad!

On top of that, I’m leaving work today in about, oh, 45 minutes (total time in office: 2 hours) to take The Girlfriend out to Long Island to have laser corrective surgery on her eyes. Why Long Island? Well for one it’s the same place where I had mine done, and for another I don’t want my girlfriend getting a laser shot into her eye by some guy who advertises on the subway. What if he makes a mistake and she goes blind? That would be a horrible way for our relationship to end. So, follow the rule of thumb: When lasers are involved, go with someone you trust.

Another rule of thumb: When drunk, avoid your office if at all possible. Because all the same rules apply as when you’re home and drunk (e.g. craving pizza, want to call girlfriend for sex, sit in the same spot for ten minutes “deciding what you should do,” etc.) but instead of being home where you can do these things, you’re at work where a whole other set of rules apply, ones like “no slurring your speech” and “no taking naps,” rules that are obviously counter to everything a good drunk holds sacred.

Still, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for the free spread, courtesy of CBS via my “entertainment” friend John, who never ceases to amaze me when he walks into a room full of 500 people and immediately starts doing the “touch the person’s elbow from behind” thing because he knows everyone in a ten foot radius. Although a bit of the aura wore off when we were looking for a seat and he found a couple of empty chairs at a table where a large black dude and his friend wearing a do-rag were already sitting. John walks over, obviously knowing the large black dude, and starts talking to him. We sit down, eat our food, and leave when we’re done. When I ask John how he knew that guy, if he was some kind of singer or entertainer, he replies, “He’s the doorman at my office. I have no clue what he’s doing here.”

We hung around for about an hour and a half, finally deciding that staying any longer would require us calling our offices and telling them that we were hit by cabs on our lunch breaks and wouldn’t be able to return for the remainder of the day. As we were walking out, like a siren singing to me off the shore of some remote island, a waitress in a miniskirt walked by with a tray full of assorted beer bottles.

This, my friends, is the epitome of free booze. No open bar where you feel bad not tipping, not even an oversized cooler full of beer for the taking, but scantily clad women walking around HANDING it to you, like it’s intrinsic selling points weren’t enough, they felt it necessary to add sex and convenience. I looked at John like a son looking to his father while leaving an arcade, pleading with my eyes “Just on more game?” But John was strong, and I merely walked away saying, “Just so you know, this is contrary to everything I believe in.” I made it back to work with plenty of time to write a blog post, but about 10% of the ambition. So, alas, this Top Five will carry over into next week when the basketball games will be less frequent.

Speaking of basketball games (I’m glad someone brought it up) if I have any readers in the San Diego area, I need a favor. I need someone to drive over to San Diego State University and find a guy named Brandon Heath and scream in his face “PROTECT THE BALL!” Then I need you to go over and find the rest of the basketball team and teach them how to set a pick. Don’t worry if you have no basketball experience, it’s one of the most elementary plays in the game. I learned it in the third grade; hopefully these college players can pick up on it. Then, if you have the time, collect $20 from them to refund the entry fee on the bracket they ruined for me by losing last night – incidentally the same bracket I filled out for the office pool for The Girlfriend, who called me this morning to say, “You really fucked us with San Diego State.” Thanks, I would appreciate it.

Wednesday, March 15

Top Five Game Shows From My Youth: #4 “Family Feud”

The Premise

Two families who you can’t even imagine existing in reality square off in a contest to guess the 100 most popular answers to various survey-type questions, such as “Name a popular color for a car,” or “Tell me a species of animal that is smarter than the people on this show.”

To see who gets “control of the board,” a member of each family goes up to the podium, shakes the other’s hand and then hears the question read. They then press the red button as fast as they can and scream out an answer at the top of their lungs, or, if they think they have a really, really good one, they pause for a second and then whisper it thus highlighting the ensuing raucous screams from their family behind them. Whichever family representative guesses the more popular result on the board wins control of the board for their family. From there, each other family member takes a guess and if they reveal all the answers on the board (typically between three and eight per round) without using up their three big, intimidating red X’s, they win the round. This game is a lot more complicated than I remember.

The Host

Originally, the show was hosted by the inimitable Richard Dawson, who my mother likened to a B-grade porn star (ouch). Unfortunately the majority of his shows aired while I was still pooping in a diaper, so I have little to no recollection outside of any reruns I may have seen. Missing out on the Richard Dawson era is one of the more disappointing discoveries of my life. Apparently, not only was Dawson known to be visibly drunk on the show, slurring his speech and stumbling, but he was also renown for his sexual harassment and overt racism. Sounds like my kind of guy! recounts the following occurrences:

“. . . he almost always kissed the female players, and gave some of the women and their children lollipops from a special "lollipop tree" at the end of each family podium. . . . In one show an African American contestant picked a lollipop with a black stick meaning that the family won a bonus $100. Dawson held the lollipop up to the contestant's skin and asked the crowd if the contestant had a secret advantage. On another show, an Asian family was not ready to answer a question when Dawson asked, so he yelled gibberish Chinese at the family until they turned around and answered.”

This took place ON NATIONAL TELEVISION! I get nervous watching “Law and Order” episodes where a cop makes an off-hand remark like, “They’re all criminals in this neighborhood,” referring to, you know, people who aren’t white. OK, moving on . . .

For the most part, I got stuck with Dawson’s replacement, Ray Combs who, despite his tough sounding name, did not lick the women nor did he spew racial slurs like small talk, which is probably why the ratings went down to the point where Dawson was brought back in the early 90’s, prompting Combs to commit suicide. His children set up the website as a tribute to their father. You should check it out; their efforts at preserving his memory through time are really quite touching.

The Highlights

What wasn’t a highlight on this show? To name a few:

– When the family would want to get together in a huddle to discuss their final answer, but the head of the team would wave them off like a hero saying, “I got it, I got it!” and then blurt out this utterly inane answer.

– There invariably being one member of the family that wasn’t as bright as the others, and everyone knew it, so when it was their turn and the question was “Name something you might accidentally leave on all night” and they answered “Your shoes,” there would be a pause followed by hesitant clapping and mounting cheers of “Good answer! Good answer!”

– Every time a contestant gave an answer, despite how awful it was, it was Combs’ job to make pretend that it might be up on the board and go through the motions of saying, “Show me [answer]!” This invariably led to moments of high comedy when Combs would smile, restraining himself from laughing at their answer and, for suspense, lead into it with: “I asked you to name a dangerous, dangerous piece of playground equipment, you said "a tire." (pause, with family clapping in background) “Show me tire.”

Why I Liked It

It was a game that, even at an age where my mind had only reached a fraction of its developmental capacity, I could still outplay the majority of the competition. The beauty of the game was that you weren’t asked to name what actually were the most popular food items a person might choke on, you were asked what 100 other people thought the most popular food items a person might choke on were. And, even at a young age, I considered myself to be a good study of people.

I often wondered, though, how they actually went about surveying the 100 people. I imagined (I’m not even kidding) how I would respond if someone came to the front door saying they were from “Family Feud” and would I mind if they asked me a few questions. I told myself I would give intelligent, well-reasoned answers, not just so-called “popular answers.” This way, if there ever was an intelligent person on the show and for the question “Name a flower a woman might like to receive,” they answer “a Miltonia orchid!” their answer will be up there.

I was also addicted to the computer game for my Apple 2C.

What Was Wrong With It

I don’t know if it was the quality of the competition or the difficulty of the final Fast Money Round, but I rarely remember anyone actually winning. In the Fast Money Round, one family member was given 15 seconds to answer a series of five questions while another family member went to a mysterious “isolation booth” off stage. Once the first contestant was done, the second contestant came on stage and was given 20 seconds to answer the same five questions, no duplicates allowed. The players earned one point for each person that the "survey says" gave that answer, needing a total of over 200 to win. Routinely families cracked under the pressure giving answers devoid of reason or coherence. It was like watching two teams struggle through a competition on their multiplication tables and when one finally comes out victorious they found out they have to complete a quadratic equation before actually winning. An absolute bloodbath.

Top Five Game Shows From My Youth: #5 “Hollywood Squares”

Like a scene out of a stereotypical 1980’s movie, my family used to watch this show on a 13 inch TV resting atop a cart that was rolled right up next to the table while we ate dinner. This isn’t the later Whoopee Goldberg / Gilbert Gottfried version, but rather the old school version (or perhaps the “middle school version,” seeing as how the show was first on the air in the 60’s). This version had celebrities like Jim J. Bullock, Milton Berle and Joan Rivers, a woman so terrifying that just as I was getting over my fear of witches from my toddler years*, I tuned into “Hollywood Squares” and couldn’t watch The Blair Witch Project until I was 22.

The Premise

B and C grade celebrities sit in open-faced cubes stacked 3 x 3 to form a tic-tac-toe board. The stars are asked questions by the host (e.g.: “True or False: This is the lowest point of your career and rent is due.”) and the contestants judge the veracity of their answers in order to win control of that box. According to, original host Peter Marshall’s description of the objective to the contestants was legendary: "Object for the players is to get 3 stars in a row; either across, up-and-down or diagonally. It is up to them to determine if a star is giving a correct answer or just making it up; that's how they get the square."

Peter Marshall, ladies and gentlemen.

The Host

John Davidson, known as a “world class bluffer” when he appeared as a guest on the original version, hosted this updated version. The opening paragraph to the bio on John Davidson’s webpage reads: “Singer, comedian, actor, television host, beautiful person, above average bocce player, perfect husband, father of the century, your best buddy, a swell guy, John Davidson . . . wrote these liner notes.” Call me crazy, but I like John Davidson.

Basically John’s job was to set up the celebrities for jokes and not look too stunned when one of the contestants got any one of the ridiculously easy questions wrong. And as far as hosts go, he did a good job. There is also no doubt in my mind that John Davidson slept with a TON of women because of that show.

The Highlights

The guest appearances made the show. In the same way that the only reason people watch “Saturday Night Live” anymore is for the host and the musical guest, so too was it the main reason people tuned into “Hollywood Squares.” Everyone from The Monkeys (all in one square) to Weird Al Yankovic to Wolfgang Puck (with a hotplate cooking food) took their turn in a square. Even the host, John Davidson, spent a show in a square when ALF appeared as a guest host.

Is it just me, or were the 80’s a simpler time? The fact alone that “ALF” was a hit show in primetime is staggering, but then a game show decides to make him the special guest host for an episode? It’s like we were all Russian immigrants and the simplest things amused us to no end.

Why I Liked It

This seemed like a grown up TV show. It had all these celebrities whose names my parents knew and they made jokes I mostly didn’t understand but my parents laughed at anyway, such as:

John Davidson: “A Russian man has just shown you his "balalaika." What has he shown you?”

Jim J Bullock: “Why he's not so popular with the party girls.”

Right there, that’s funnier than anything Regis Philbin has ever said in his life. Plus there was the absolutely CLASSIC prize ceremony at the end of the show when the winner would choose one of five keys and then choose one of five cars to try with the key. If they chose the correct car for the key, the car started and music played, people screamed and balloons fell from the sky. Mind you this car was probably worth $8,000. People won that on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” by answering questions like ‘Which one of the following is not a vegetable?” If the key did not start the car, it made the typical game show sound (whaa waaaa) and the contestant tried again the following week. Basically, if you didn’t need a car there was really no reason to go on this show.

What Was Wrong With It

This game took little to no skill whatsoever. Just like in regular tic-tac-toe, if you went first and you didn’t have a rod sticking out of your cerebrum, you probably won. Even if the celebrity was asked a difficult question, all the contestant had to do was point out the obvious – that the celebrity had no idea what type of grass the White House’s lawn was made of and by pointing out that the celebrity’s answer was wrong the contestant still won. It was so rare that contestants didn’t answer correctly that when they missed a question the audience gasped, as if to say, “I didn’t know getting it wrong was even an option.”

Also, this was my first brush with Richard Simmons, who was a regular guest. I remember asking my mother what was wrong with him and her replying that there was nothing wrong with him, he was just different and me thinking “If that’s what being different is, I can’t wait to grow up and be just like everyone else.” And that’s why I’m a paralegal today and not a world famous explorer / travel writer.

* I’ve done extensive research trying to find the name of the show that first instilled my deep seeded fear of witches and I can’t seem to find it. All I remember is that it was a show made up entirely of hand puppets and they were small and cheap looking with hoop dresses and plastic faces. And the witch character was particularly frightening. Come to think of it, she even bore a close resemblance to Joan Rivers. If anyone has any insight to this, it would be appreciated so I can gather the courage to face the fears of my childhood and finally watch this documentary on the Salem Witch Trials I’ve had on my TiVo for months. Thank you.