Monday, September 24, 2007

The women I love

I had a revelation a couple of weeks ago. It may be time to add a new name to the list, for the first time in six or seven years.

At least I know I’m not dead, yet.

I never planned to make a list, it just happened. I’m not sure who made that list first, but I noticed many years ago that I was drawn to a couple of women in particular, Andie MacDowell and Drew Barrymore.

Sure I was hot for Vanna White back in high school, but perhaps it had something to do with all those letters she was turning. Had her career been as a TV newscaster I probably wouldn’t have been in love with Vanna back in the day. Chances are she wouldn’t have had me tuning into CNN on a regular basis. “Wheel of Fortune” came first, Vanna was a nice bonus.

But when it comes to my list, it doesn’t matter how good or bad the movies or television shows are. All that matters is that it’s another showcase of the women I love.

While I can still kick ass when it comes to solving Wheel of Fortune puzzles, Vanna fell off my radar years ago. But at some point after graduating college I became enamored with Andie and Drew, and that holds true to this day.

They were the first two women I was drawn to for their unrelinquishing sexuality, even when they weren’t playing it up.

Andie and Drew took very different paths to their careers in film, and have projected two very different personas, but I’ve been in love with both of them for years. (And yes, it was a dream come true in 1994 when they co-starred in “Bad Girls,” a lame cowboy flick.)

They’re two of five women that have made the exclusive list over the years. Well, two of four. No. 5 still has her membership pending, and although she’s late to the party, better late than never, I say. This is not a ranking, but rather a chronological recount, starting with No. 1:

I’m not sure when the first time I encountered Andie MacDowell was. It might have been “Groundhog Day,” a movie that cracks me up to this day. (I try to make a point to watch it every Feb. 2.) She wasn’t particularly stunning as a local television producer, but she left a distinct impression upon me, enough that I started making a point to check her out regularly. She mesmerizes me, I can’t explain it and at this point I couldn’t care less why she does.

At one point I’d seen all of her films, “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Green Card,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and even “Hudson Hawk.” At 49, she’s the oldest woman on the list, and as beautiful as ever. She has often been panned for her acting, and while she isn’t a critical darling, she’s not that bad. And recently I learned she has divorced her second husband, so the window of opportunity is open again!

It would be hard to pick between her and No. 2:

When Drew emerged from her drunken teenage years, she played edgy, troubled young women. The kind you wouldn’t want to bring home to meet your parents, but the kind you couldn’t resist, either. She graduated to mainstream flicks and a diverse body of work. She maintains her wild streak, but damn, she cleans up well.

For a few years these two were the only two that held the key to my heart, until along came No. 3:

I can’t explain why, but somehow I was captivated by Joey Lauren Adams when I first saw “Chasing Amy” more than 10 years ago. I had loved “Clerks,” so after suffering through Kevin Smith’s follow up, “Mallrats,” I went to see Chasing Amy the first chance I had in the Twin Cities. (I had been living in Canada at the time.) While Joey was in Mallrats, she had a small part in it, and didn’t really capture my imagination. But in Chasing Amy I was mesmerized. I saw it again at a budget theater and rented it twice before the end of that year. In the years since I’ve probably seen it another 10 or 12 times. (Ironically I still don’t own it in any format.)

I’ve seen almost all of Joey’s movies, some have been big budget mainstream flicks, some have been small, artsy flicks. She’s known for her slightly annoying voice, and it doesn’t bother me a bit.

I can’t explain why she fascinated me so in Chasing Amy. I don’t think I’m attracted to lesbians, although if I am, that could explain No. 4:

Piper Perabo is best known as the young, naive girl who wants to make it big as a songwriter in “Coyote Ugly.” Given that pop music is all about shaking the money maker, you can’t really fault her character’s wet T-shirt exhibitions atop the bar. Even though the movie was lame, it was love at first sight.

She has had a mixed bag of work, much like Joey and Andie. She has appeared in small and supporting roles in a few big budget flicks, such as “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “The Prestige” and “Because I Said So,” and has a lot of artsy flicks to her credit, many of those with significant roles. And in at least two of them she plays a woman with lesbian tendencies. She’s adorable.

So for several years it has been the four of them. Sure, there are plenty of beautiful women in entertainment, although Angelina Jolie does little for me. She’s not unattractive, but she doesn’t make my heart stop. That’s heard to do, VERY hard to do.

But a couple of weeks ago while watching Letterman he had a guest I vaguely remembered seeing before. She is by far the wackiest, but is vying to be No. 5:

Amy Sedaris, 46, has carved out a niche for herself during the past several years with her offbeat sense of humor and style. The woman is wacky. As I watched her on Letterman recently I was highly entertained by her sharp, eclectic wit. From there she went from being another pretty face to the latest object of my desire.

I’m not very familiar with her work, although I know I’ve run across it a few times. I think her most notable work is the television series “Strangers with Candy,” which spawned a prequel film by the same name last year. I have never seen the series, which ran on Comedy Central, but I know one film on my short list the next time I hit the video store. Somehow I have a feeling there’s going to be some lesbian undertone to the movie, I just know it. (Ironically I was dying for a “Kissing Jessica Stein” fix on my way home from a city council meeting tonight. That’s another DVD I have to finally buy.)

I have no idea what the story is behind the set of Amy photos I posted. When I did a simple Google search of her name, that was one of two images it returned. But let’s be honest, what’s not to love about a woman who rolls around in whip cream and sprinkles for a photo shoot. Can I get an “amen” people?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Screamtown, baby! (unedited)

I stumbled onto a nice surprise this weekend, Screamtown!

I’m not sure why, but I was attracted to the thrills of a haunted house at a young age. I have been to many haunted houses and mazes over the years. If Halloween passes and I haven’t been to a haunted attraction I feel like I cheated myself out of the enjoyment of an otherwise silly day on the calendar.

While I don’t spend all my weekend every October going to a haunted attraction, I’ve been to enough of them over the past 10-plus years and watched the development of many of them to be a quasi-historian on the subject.

For the past several years I have attended such attractions primarily with two people, my nephew and “The Chief.” Chief is a youngster I was matched with about 10 years ago through the Big Brothers program, and for several years we hit up the biggest attractions in the metro. In the past few years that role has been filled primarily by my nephew.

Haunted attractions tend to have a limited life span, for whatever reason. In its early years the Mall of America had one of the best haunted houses I have ever been to. I loved it and it was seemed to do good business. I’m not sure why it went by the wayside after a few years, but it did.

The first haunted attraction to raise the bar in the metro, to the best of my knowledge, was Spooky World. It started in the mid-1990s, originally at Murphy’s Landing, a site best known for its historic preservation of old buildings, and later at Canterbury Park, a site best known for horse racing and poker.

Spooky World seemed to be the first to serve up a combo platter. There were a couple of prominent haunted hay rides around the metro and a variety of haunted houses, some with mass marketing, others that seemed to stick to entertaining the local crowds. Spooky World put the two together and threw in a bunch of miscellaneous crap to sell itself as the best of both worlds. I think it worked.

I did go to it in its earliest incarnation at Murphy’s Landing, although I don’t remember a lot about it. There was a hay ride and there was at least one haunted maze, and perhaps two. By the time it moved to Canterbury it was featuring the hay ride and three or four haunted mazes, as well as the miscellaneous crap. I went to it a couple of times at Canterbury, thanks largely to media comps.

Spooky World’s proprietor was self-employed, evidently, and when he took a full-time job a few years ago he apparently couldn’t sell the enterprise, as he sold off the props and costumes, bringing Spooky World to a close.

But by that point every haunted hay ride still in existence was offering a haunted house as part of its package, or vice versa. The Trail of Terror, operated by the same huckster(s) that run the big Renaissance Festival each fall, added a hay ride to their package somewhere along the line. The Trail of Terror was already mass marketed, but the proprietor(s) ratcheted it up a bit, positioning their operation as the successor to Spooky World.

The Trail of Terror seems to be a big success. I get media comps to it each year, so I’ve been there for at least the past three or four years. It’s not bad, but it’s not that spectacular, no matter how much they talk it up in their advertising. And you can spend two hours waiting for a hay ride on a busy weekend, a hay ride that’s well done, but not worth two hours of your time.

So I’ve soured on the Trail a bit in recent years. Last year a new player entered the market. Our major amusement park, Valleyfair, decided to offer its own combo platter, haunted mazes and amusement rides. It’s the most expensive haunted attraction in the metro, but worth it if riding roller coasters in 50 F weather is appealing. I took my nephew to it on a Sunday afternoon last year (and then the Trail that night) and it was cloudy and 44 F in the afternoon. Not ideal conditions for a ride on the Wild Thing roller coaster.

I think Valleyfair’s mazes are well done, and I don’t say that because I worked there last year. (I had for years thought it would be a blast to work at a haunted attraction, and last year I added that to my life experiences. I enjoyed it so much I’m going back for another season this October.)

The mazes are well done, but again, you have to want to pay for the privilege of rides, too.

With the Trail of Terror and Valleyfair’s ValleyScare in the south metro, not that many miles apart, it wouldn’t seem like there’s room for yet another combo platter in the vicinity. But this weekend I learned I was wrong.

There are a few websites dedicated to listing haunted attractions by state. Some have more listings than others and some are better organized than others. I don’t have a favorite, but and are two of several that offer such a service. Getting excited for the upcoming Halloween season I decided to peruse one of them. And what do I find? Screamtown!

Screamtown will operate at Canterbury park, a mile or so from ValleyScare. Property outside the track has been the site of a popular corn maze for more than a decade, and that appears to be the locale for Screamtown.

Screamtown doesn’t have a hay ride, but the same corn maze will become the “Nightmare Corn Maze,” as best as I can tell. There are also three other haunted attractions, “Circus Vampire,” “Haunted Chambers” and “The Carver Mansion.” These seem to be indoor attractions although there aren’t permanent indoor structures near the corn maze, so it’s unclear as to exactly how substantial each of these are.

My first instinct it to pencil in a date to visit the newest attraction in the metro. Screamtown is getting the jump on most, if not all, haunted attractions by opening this weekend. Typically haunted attractions are open for four weekends in October, at most. Screamtown will be open for five weekends this season, although its only Sunday night will be Oct. 28.

My ValleyScare schedule will keep me booked on Friday and Saturday evenings in October, so that limits my options quite a bit.

I will be up north this weekend, bicycling my ass off I hope, so I cannot make it to Screamtown this weekend. It looks like I will have four chances to visit it. One Wednesday and Thursday night during the week of the big education convention that turns kids loose every mid-October, the Thursday night before Halloween and the final Sunday of October.

So there are two nights that are particularly appealing out of the four. While that should be enough of a window of opportunity, I’m not sure I’ll make it. The Chief is now a high school graduate, so he’s too busy to meet up with me more than once a year, and my nephew lives too far up north to be convenient, as I proved last year. Both my available nights are school nights for him, so I have to write him off.

Most of my friends are married with children and have never struck me as highly interested in visiting a haunted house. And their kids are too young for these sorts of things, so it’s too early for me to start borrowing them for a night of haunted fun. Perhaps in a few years.

So perhaps I’ll have to rely upon the reviews of others this year to learn how good or bad Screamtown is since I may be tapped out of resources for exploring the latest haunted destination in the Twin Cities. If that’s the case, is this the end of an era, a sign that yet another chapter in life is coming to a close? Or do I just like to assign significance to silly circumstances in my life?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My disease (unedited)

Heredity is tough to beat.

I have inherited characteristics of both of my parents, and I’d like to think the fact I’m not the least bit bald is because my grandfather had a decent head of hair into his 70s. (Baldness skips a generation and is influenced by your mother’s side of the family, allegedly. True or not, I’ll buy into it.)

I inherited one of my mother’s traits that I cannot shake, and I doubt I ever will.

I love coupons.

It pains me to shop without them, and while I’m not obsessed with using them, it warms my heart when I do.

I collect coupons for restaurants near the office and periodically patronize those places. My co-workers, who must make a lot more money than me, act as if going to the same place twice in two weeks is some sort of dining faux pas. Rush never tires of making some lame coupon quip whenever we talk about going somewhere to eat, but I never here him complain when I split the cost of a meal with him using a coupon and it costs him less than $5 for lunch.

While I don’t buy five copies of the Sunday paper each week, I will clip coupons from it each week. I also pull off several of the in-store adhesive coupons that are directly on packages if I’ll use them down the road. Tonight at Target there were “save $1.50 now” coupons on 12-packs of Sierra Mist and Sierra Mist Free. I don’t buy Sierra Mist Free very often, I need my Diet Pepsi fix most of the time, but I grabbed six coupons off of the packages for future use.

So why was I shopping at Target? I don’t buy a lot of groceries there, even though research shows Super Target stores are as competitive as the local grocery chains. The biggest reason I shop at Target: printable coupons.

Target has printable coupons on its website, evidently, and while there aren’t tons of them offering huge savings, there are a few gems. I buy small bottles of mustard for 9 cents, (many of which are donated to the local food shelf, occasional meat and cheese products for a great price if they’re on sale and Pepsi products for less than $2 a 12-pack, typically, when I use the $1 off a 12-pack coupon for each one.

Printing the coupons is easy, because people transfer the coupon image to their own websites and create coupon generators, a template that prints out any denomination of desired coupons quickly and easily.

I learn about some of these great deals through websites such as, online forums where people discuss online and retail deals around the country. Many of those folks are hardcore. I look like an amateur in comparison to the hoops some folks jump through to get things for free, or even make a profit after a rebate. I haven’t graduated to that level, and I don’t think I ever will.

If only there were coupons for beer.

Speed round:

• My weekend bike ride in northern Minnesota was canceled, which is unfortunate, as Saturday would have been a great day to bike 100 miles.

• I love the book I’m reading, “Breaking Vegas.”

• I watched one movie the entire summer, “Super Bad.”

• Future blog topic: the women I love.

• Two years ago I went to a Halloween party. My costume was a hybrid of Gene and Richard Simmons. There’s a picture somewhere. Since I'm not smart enough to figure out how to post it here, (I don't think my ancient computer will let me,) all I can do is post a link. Look here, Chachi!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

When you can't come up with a fresh, new and exciting idea, it's better to cut your losses

There are several things I would like to sit down and write about, but instead let’s play “Jeopardy!”

Miller Park for $200
Following my third tour of Stinktown’s Lakefront Brewery, it was the final score of Friday night’s Brewers/Cincinnati Reds game that Stinktown lost on Robin Yount bobblehead night at Miller Park.

What is 6-5 Cincinnati?

U.S. Cellular Field for $200
After a cameo at the Bay View Bash, it was the final score of Saturday night’s White Sox/Anaheim Angels game that Chicago lost at the former Comiskey Park.

What is 2-1 Angels?

U.S. Cellular Field for $400
The going rate for parking several blocks from the ballpark.

What is $20?

U.S. Cellular Field for $600
The cost of a leftover 2005 World Series championship shirt (XL) at my favorite team’s stadium.

What is $5?

Headwaters 100 for $200
The annual Headwaters 100 bike ride I will participate in on Saturday begins and ends in this U.S. city.

What is Park Rapids, Minn.?

Good ideas that don’t pan out for $200
A failed attempt at random recaps from the Fonz’s life.

What is this blog?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Megabus, baby!

I could write a book, but I’m old, tired and irritable, very irritable. Nothing negative has happened in the past 72 hours to make me that way, it’s just a fact of life.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. (That’s catchy, I should trademark that.) Actually I had a great weekend. I wish I could say that more often.

I spent the weekend in Stinktown, my first since December 2005. Dang, it doesn’t seem like it has been that long, but it’s true, it’s true. (Copyright Kurt Angle. No, I’m not a pro wrestling geek.)

I’m not a tree hugging son of a bitch, but I have been intrigued by a mass transit concept introduced to the United States a few years ago: Megabus. Megabus has a very limited schedule of bus routes in this country, but it’s trying to revolutionize the bus industry.

I learned about Megabus a couple of years ago. Somehow I wound up on the e-mail list for Megabus press releases. The company offers coach bus trips to several destinations in several states and recently added a limited line in California, which includes destinations in Nevada and Arizona. Several months ago Megabus added a direct line from Minneapolis to Milwaukee. Since that time I have been anxious to try it.

Megabus has bus stops, not terminals. You don’t go to a de facto homeless shelter to board the bus, you go to a random intersections in a downtown district, typically. It’s a bit odd, but it’s effective.

I rode Greyhound between Stinktown and Minneapolis a few times during my college years, but once I graduated to a Toyota Cressida lo those many years ago my Greyhound days were over.

Megabus offers tickets as low as $1 each way, if you’re lucky enough to book your trip early. I could have booked one of those $2 round trips earlier this summer for a weekend in August, but I didn’t act quickly enough. I didn’t want to travel that weekend anyway, I wanted to stay here in God’s Country and bicycle 65 miles in the rain as part of an organized bike ride. So had I booked it at the low low price of $2.50 I would have flushed all that cash down the toilet. (There’s a 50-cent booking fee for tickets.)

So I ended up booking a weekend in Stinktown for $16.50 round-trip, and that weekend was this past weekend.

Megabus pimps itself as a low-cost alternative, and it smells like a bus service that is designed for business travelers on a budget. It makes sense. If I’m a two-bit drug dealer who needs to get to Chicago to pick up a brick of cocaine, I can roll into a Greyhound bus terminal with a stack of greenbacks and buy my way onto the next bus to Chitown.

Megabus has a limited number of seats available on a daily basis and you have to book online, so if you’re a felon who is running from an outstanding warrant, you’re probably not using a credit card to book bus tickets online. That helps keep riff raff off Megabus, I figure.

The drawbacks to Megabus are plenty. I had to be in downtown Minneapolis before 7 a.m. on Friday to catch the one bus to Stinktown. No problem, of course, because I like being up until 1 a.m. the night before departure, getting up at 5 a.m., driving into Uptown Minneapolis to park my car and then taking Metro Transit into downtown so I can walk seven blocks to the Megabus bus stop.

Megabus doesn’t make a dozen stops per 100 miles like Greyhound, but when I drive to Stinktown I can stop at exit 28, which I do any time I travel through Wisconsin via I-94. I also have the luxury of stopping at adult bookstores that show up inexplicably along interstate exits between God’s Country and Stinktown. (After all these years I have yet to do so, but it’s only a matter of time.)

Considering how far $16.50 will get you in this day and age, I can hardly complain about the inconveniences. And for the most part Megabus was devoid of riff raff.

But I learned one important thing: you may need a credit card to buy a ticket, but that does very little to keep level 3 sex offenders off the bus. My ticket was a printout of a confirmation e-mail. The printout has unique ticket numbers on it, but it doesn’t identify who I am, so the driver has no idea if I bought the ticket. If the bus crashes and burns to ashes Megabus can present the media with a list of who bought the tickets, but that won’t tell company representatives who actually used the tickets.

Megabus helps keep riff raff off the bus, but not completely.

And lucky me, my trip to Stinktown turned out to be slightly more colorful than I cared for. Everyone on the bus seemed to be mentally stable, except for one woman. I could tell she was 13 cards short of a full deck when she was dropped off at the bus stop.

We all boarded the bus in downtown Minneapolis and headed for the University of Minnesota, our second and final stop before heading to Stinktown. After picking up mostly college co-eds at the U, we were about to depart when psycho woman chirped loudly from her seat in the middle of the bus, “Hey bus driver, can we get a movie on?” (The bus had several overhead monitors, but they weren’t used.)

The driver heard this as he was climbing into his seat and yelled back (due to lack of a microphone and speakers) that “there’s no movie on this bus.”

The woman chirped up a few times after that. The driver yelled back, asking her to keep it down. I was a bit nervous at this point.

But the whack job kept quiet for a while after that.

Many people dozed off during the trip, but I don’t sleep well when traveling, unless I’m exhausted, so I was awake most of the time.

I did doze off for a few minutes, however, so I missed the psycho working her way back to the token restroom on the bus. (I try to sit as far away from that door as possible.)

I regained consciousness and heard a woman behind me asking, “Are you OK?” She was speaking to the psycho woman in the can, evidently. Psycho was spending a lot of time in there, it turns out.

I was awake when some dude helped the slightly overweight psycho back to her seat. (Walking was a challenge while the bus was in motion, evidently.) He brought her back to her seat and she hugged him quite enthusiastically. The dude was a little weird from the onset, I determined, but I’m too tired to detail that goofball now.

So all was quiet again, but 15 or 20 minutes later the psycho got up and made her way to the back of the bus, again. And she spent plenty of time in the can. Nobody asked her if she was OK, but I heard her let out a few random hoots and hollers while inside the confessional.

Side note: I have never used a charter bus restroom, but I have to assume, based upon appearance, that U.S. Sen. Larry Craig would never use it if he was traveling by bus. It has to be too small to accommodate his “wide stance.”

After another long session in the can, the psycho was escorted to her seat by the same goofball.

What Megabus didn’t tell me online or via confirmation e-mail is that we’d stop at a traveler’s plaza outside Madison for 20+ minutes. (It was announced as a 15-minute stop.) I got off the bus simply to stretch my legs. I planned to have lunch in Stinktown so I bypassed convenience store snacks.

As the bus started rolling out of the parking lot, the psycho chirped again. “Hey bus diver, can we get a movie on or somethin’?” She chirped three or four times. The driver ignored her. The thought of yelling out in response to her crossed my mind, but I didn’t pull the trigger. I’m sure everyone on the bus would have appreciated it had I done so. Too bad I’m not nearly bold, or beautiful, enough to take matters into my own hands.

The rest of the trip to Stinktown was uneventful. Although we arrived 30 minutes behind schedule and had to endure the psycho, it wasn’t a painful experience.

Many of us got off the bus in Stinktown, but several people remained, as the bus was continuing on to Chicago. The psycho was standing part way in the aisle as we were trying to get off, saying “God bless you, college students.” Our bus stop, near the Amtrak station, had several new passengers waiting to take our place.

Construction in downtown Stinktown made it tough for Chip to navigate to the proper intersection to pick me up, but I was able to catch up with him a block away. (My adventures in Stinktown, and Chicago, shall wait until another day.)

My biggest regret about taking Megabus in the summer was that my only option for departure on Sunday was at 11:25 a.m.

In the winter I wouldn’t care so much, but it would have been nice to be stick around Stinktown until 5 p.m. and then drive back to God’s Country. When I travel on a Sunday I tend to leave earlier in the day during the winter than I do in the summer. A breakdown on a Sunday evening is a major inconvenience any time of the year, but in the summer you won’t freeze to death. Having to be downtown shortly after 11 a.m. on Sunday was kind of a bummer.

The return trip was quiet and uneventful. It turned out the psycho was back on the bus, but she must have taken her medication, as she was quiet and a non-issue the entire way. The bus arrived in Minneapolis about 45 minutes behind schedule, but that didn’t surprise me, based upon Friday’s experience.

Will I use Megabus again? Perhaps. I’m not a tree hugger, so using mass transit doesn’t give me that warm feeling below the waistline, but I like the idea you can travel really cheap with minimal riff raff if you plan ahead. I don’t plan to use Megabus in the summer months, but I’ll keep an eye on reservations for the winter. I will book any round trip I can get for $2.50 because even if I can’t make the trip that weekend, that’s half of what I’d lose in a non-winning blackjack hand. If I can book four trips that cheap this winter, yet only use one of them, I’d still make out better than I did this past weekend. And this weekend didn’t exactly cost me an arm or a leg.

As soon as I win the lottery, however, I’m renting a Hummer and driving to Stinktown for one hell of a happy hour celebration.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm tempted

I sure hope a lot of people give in to “Temptation.”

A new game show debuted this week, and for game show geeks like me, it rekindles the hopes and dreams we’ve harbored for years, a game show renaissance.

Temptation is a new syndicated game being offered this fall. It’s the first new syndicated game show offering in five years. Five years! That’s criminal.

Thanks to the steady ratings of “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” we have had a steady diet of games for more than two decades. But there was a time when stations carried several syndicated games instead of 10 different talk shows and courtroom fiascos. I get the appeal of a show like “Judge Judy,” but do we need eight different judges trying to sell their unique personality in a small claims court setting? The answer is no.

But with the loss of daytime network game shows in the past 15-20 years, save for “The Price is Right,” syndicated games have gone by the wayside, too. A few of the big money prime time shows have been legitimate games, but too many of them are game operas, such as “Survivor.” My favorite game in prime time these days is “1 vs. 100.”

Sure, we’ve had a few successful syndicated offerings in recent years. The last version of “Hollywood Squares” lasted six years, and “Family Feud” is starting its ninth season in its latest incarnation, despite changing hosts twice. And “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” has done something “Weakest Link” didn’t and “Deal or no Deal” probably won’t in syndication, maintain its appeal to the core audience when offered as a weekday game.

Temptation is not an illogical attempt at generating game show magic in the United States. The show is an update of “Sale of the Century,” a time-honored format that had a successful run in the 1980s on NBC’s daytime schedule.

Temptation has lots of variations from the 1980s version, but it follows the basic premise. It has a lot of flaws, but despite them, I am rooting for the show, shockingly.

Let’s see how many flaws I can list off the top of my head:
• The host is less than spectacular.
• The show is cheap compared to its predecessor.
• The show doubles as a shopping network.

Those are my biggest gripes. I’m not impressed by the announcer or the theme music, and the show’s jargon annoys me, but overall I’m not highly disappointed.

The host is Rossi Morreale, a guy I’ve never heard of. He has carved out a niche as host of various cable channel offerings, is relatively young and is easy on the eyes, I’m sure most women would say. He has a bit of a southern accent, and despite the various cable shows on his resume, he isn’t a very polished emcee. He’ll probably never win me over as a host, and I’m not sure why he was the best choice out there, but I’ll look past that.

I’m also unsure why a few game shows I’ve seen over the past several years have offered less in prize money than their predecessors. (Donny Osmond's "Pyramid" comes to mind.) It makes no sense to me. A good game is a good game, but there’s a reason why prime time games usually have big money payoffs, it makes them more exciting. When you’re playing for $10,000 in 1975, that’s exciting. When you’re playing for $10,000 in this day and age, it’s a nice chunk of change, but not nearly as significant, and therefore not as exciting.

Temptation offers some nice prizes, but overall the payoff to a winner isn’t as exciting as it was in the 1980s, and I think that hurts the show a bit. Maybe not a lot, but it doesn’t help, I am certain.

I’m not really annoyed by it, but Temptation offers a couple of deals on products that you can order either online or by phone during each show. I’m not sure if the products they’re offering are bargains, but they sell the idea they are. They’re offered just before a commercial, so they’re not intrusive, although I’m not sure if they’re tied to prizes offered in the game. (I haven’t watched the show that closely yet, I’ve watched it while doing other things.) While the home shopping aspect is a bit tacky, it’s not nauseating, thankfully.

The announcer is some woman I don’t remember even though she had her own talk show in the 1990s, evidently, and the theme music isn’t memorable. While those are minor points, they don’t sell the idea that this is a legitimate game show.

The single most annoying thing about the show is that Rossi refers to each players score as “Temptation dollars” almost every time he mentions the score. That irritates me greatly, and I know I’m not the only one.

The game has a few different ways for players to earn Temptation dollars. The old Sale of the Century was a straight-forward quiz for the most part. The new show also offers instant bargains to the player in the lead, and those are fun to watch. That's the temptation. Do you want to risk a portion of your lead for a prize that is yours to keep?

The bonus round offers a chance for the winner to earn more Temptation dollars. Those dollars can be used to buy a bonus prize, or banked toward a future prize, much like the original bonus round of the old game. If the champion buys a prize, s/he leaves the show. If the champion banks the Temptation dollars, s/he comes back to defend her/his title in an attempt to win more Temptation dollars, risking the chance to win any major prize by being defeated the next day. Depending upon how good a champion is at answering questions that seem to lean toward pop culture topics, the top prize can be obtained in about five days. The top prize is a car, and its Temptation price is more than you could earn in one day, but a pop culture genius might pull it off in as few as three days.

I like that the show has the possibility of returning champions, that makes the show more compelling to watch on a daily basis. But Temptation also follows a game show trend of recent years, contestants aren’t identified by last name, and there’s little time spent getting to know anything about them. It’s harder to connect with contestants you’re watching when they’re basically anonymous and interchangeable.

Temptation is being carried on most MyNetworkTV affiliates, if not all of them, so it is being offered in much of the country this season. It could use many tweaks, but it has promise. If Family Feud has made it for the past eight years, I have to think Temptation has a chance to succeed. I certainly hope it will.

Coming in the next couple of weeks, my review of another new game show offering that debuted this week, but I haven’t had a chance to see, “Merv Griffin’s Crosswords.”

Monday, September 10, 2007

What do you want to be?

Tonight's blog title is brought to you by Slash's Snakepit circa 1995. I still listen to the CD, which I can’t say about many of the hair band CDs I bought back in the day.

I was inspired to start a blog by my good friend D Cup. (We've never met, but I still refer to him as my good friend.) I found his blog by chance, and I've been a reader ever since.

Sadly his employer pulled the rug out from under him a while ago, deeming a personal blog that discusses anything he might cover as a reporter for the Associated Press to be off limits.

Being a journalist means you're supposed to appear to be apathetic. Nobody would believe you really are. We all have opinions, likes, dislikes, tastes, preferences and ideas, but when you write about the opinions, likes, dislikes, tastes, preferences and ideas of others, you cannot appear to have any of your own. It's very fraudulent, but that’s the way the game is played.

D Cup has pondered whether or not there’s a reason to continue his blog. His favorite blogging topics – politics and his job – are now off limits. Talk about taking the wind out of his sails.

I have wondered if he should start a new blog, completely anonymous, something he dislikes. He could blog about politics and topics he has covered, but wouldn’t have his identity tied to the blog.

Despite being anonymous, there’s always a tiny chance the blog could be linked to him. Given the ramifications if that happened, and the fact he has issues with blogging anonymously, it’s not a viable solution.

He has also pondered making his blog private, meaning only a select few folks would have access. That would essentially skirt the AP rule, but again, there’s a small chance it could blow up in his face. Worse than that, it denies everyone in the free world the opportunity to stumble upon his blog by dumb luck, and that wouldn’t be right. He has great stories and entertaining anecdotes to share from his life of celibacy, stories that should be available to the masses. OK, I admit, I made that last part up. His anecdotes aren’t entertaining. (rim shot)

So that leaves one option, fewer blogs and less topics from the world of D Cup. That’s not fair, but most jobs come with some sort of sacrifice. The fact that D Cup was chopped off at the knees is just another example of the old adage: nobody said life was fair.

Therefore I say, “Sally forth, D Cup, the world awaits your next run in with a drag queen!”

And with that I would like to introduce Chris. Like D Cup, I stumbled upon Chris’ wacky world by pure luck. In her case she found me by chance and introduced me to her world via a comment she made on one of my recent blogs. I’m not sure if I’d be more amused or terrified of her if I met her in person, but she raises interesting points with her unorthodox style. I hope she keeps up the good work. A link to her blog now appears in my list of favorites.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Friday night sights (unedited)

I did one of those things I promised myself on Oct. 7, 2005 that I have to do.

I went to a high school football game on Friday night. It wasn’t the most fish out of water thing for me to do, but it was one of those things I wanted to do, although I’m not entirely sure why.

Part of the reason I went is because the chamber of commerce executive director, whom I talk to periodically and not always for a story I’m writing for my newspaper, has been a big booster of the local high school team for the past few years since her sons both played on the team.

Her youngest son graduated, but she still plans to attend the weekly games along with other parents whose children have moved on. She has always invited me to join her group at a game, and I always tell myself I should.

I had hoped to visit a friend on Friday night, but he had to scrap that plan, so that left me with an open evening. Given the local high school was playing one of its big conference rivals, I decided it would be the game I attend. The mild weather early in the season was an added plus.

So, on Friday night I attended my first high school football game in more than 10 years, Minnetonka vs. Wayzata at Wayzata High School.

I’m not sure if Twin Cities suburban football holds a candle to the legend of high school football in Texas, but this was quite an event. I have no idea how many people attended, and I’m bad at estimating, but I have to think that there were more than 4,000 at the field for the game. It was a zoo.

The game turned out to be quite a contest. Minnetonka’s kicker missed a 34-yard field goal with barely a minute to play, giving Wayzata a 23-21 victory.

Minnetonka looked like it was going to dominate the game in the first half. The teams alternated touchdowns in the first half, giving Minnetonka a 14-7 lead. Minnetonka had a chance to take a two touchdown lead late in the first half. About 10 yards from the end zone in the final minute or so the Minnetonka quarterback threw an interception, sending the teams to the locker room with a 14-7 score.

Wayzata scored on a long touchdown pass on the second play of the second half, but had its extra point blocked, making the score 14-13. Wayzata quickly shut down Minnetonka’s offense and scored another touchdown, giving the team its first lead, 20-14.

Whatever defensive adjustment Wayzata made at half time, it worked. Minnetonka was lackluster on offense and its defense was struggling to control Wayzata’s offense.

A missed field goal by Wayzata did little to inspire Minnetonka, as Wayzata made a field goal on its next possession, giving the team a 23-14 lead with less than 6 minutes remaining in the game.

Minnetonka finally had a breakthrough, however, on the following possession, moving the ball down the field and scoring a touchdown with about 3 minutes remaining.

On Wayzata’s next possession Minnetonka was able to contain Wayzata on three running plays, using time outs to stop the clock after two short runs and then forcing a fumble on third down, creating a short field for Minnetonka’s potential game winning drive. Minnetonka seemed to be playing for the field goal, calling three running plays seemingly in an effort to run down the clock prior to the kick. Three plays without a first down set up a 34-yard kick. The Minnetonka kicker had the distance, but the kick was just wide to the left, giving Wayzata the win.

I never found the chamber director’s group. I arrived just after kickoff and the visitor’s bleachers were packed, expect for one section on the far end, next to a student section. The students stand up during the entire game, for whatever reason, and although it doesn’t seem like many of them are actually paying attention, they immediately take their cue to cheer or boo when appropriate.

My section was quite empty, so I wondered if it was reserved for the marching band. There was no indication of it, and a few folks were sitting in the section, so I made my way to the top of it.

What I found during the first quarter is that the section became an overflow section for students. And there were plenty who arrived after kickoff. Holy cow! I had a group of junior high football players, wearing their jerseys, take occupancy of the few rows of bleachers behind me, along with their classmates. This group seemed to have little or no interest in the game, it was just a social gathering for them. Yikes!

As students from the high school began to fill my section, it reached a point where neither I nor the two people in front of me could see the game without standing up, so we did. What was funny was to watch some dude several rows below me. He was wearing a jersey with a number, so I assume he was a parent, but I was puzzled as to why he wasn’t with other parents. Perhaps he’s just a lonely alumnus hanging on to the glory of his high school years. Either way, he made several attempts to tell students they were block his view as they were filling the section, and was growing obviously frustrated each time a student passed in front of him or stopped to talk to a friend. I couldn’t help but laugh. Eventually he moved to the very end of the bleachers and resigned himself to standing to see the game.

I didn’t take a count, but a few non-students in my section vacated at half time. I figured I was never going to find another seat, so I opted to stick it out amongst the children.

Seeing today’s students cheer for their team reminded me that some things don’t change. Many students go to the game simply to socialize. They may wear school colors and participate in a cheer, but they’re not really interested in the action on the field.

Some students like to go over the top in expressing their school pride. That wasn’t a surprise. I forgot about one high school tradition, but it was good to see it was alive and well: girls wearing their boyfriend’s jersey. Since players have a home and away jersey, their girlfriends wear the opposite jersey on game day. That’s so cute!

Not surprising, technology makes it easier for students to socialize in this day and age. Most students didn’t seem to be busy working a cell phone, but plenty of them were busy calling somebody or sending a text message during the game. God bless privileged suburban kids.

What did I learn from attending a high school football game merely as a spectator for the first time in decades? I’m still sorry I didn’t embrace life during my high school years. College turned out to be a great experience, but I struggled with life in general during high school. It has been nearly two decades since that time of my life. I regret that I didn’t spend that time differently, and while it’s amusing to see today’s youth embracing their high school years, it doesn’t make me feel warm or fuzzy being an observer, even if the game on the field is compelling.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Joker, joker, joker!

Something irritated me today, and I don’t recall what it is, so now that is irritating me.

Here’s a little joker’s wild since I’m in the mood to write something.

• I worked at the Minnesota State Fair during 10 of the 12 days, but I spent very little time taking in any of it. I’m not much of a fan, I just wanted the short-term income. I did, however, play a $1 game of “Deal or No Deal” at the arcade on Monday night before going home. The game is played for tickets to trade for cheap trinkets. For $1, the top prize is 200 tickets. (You can play a $2 game for a top prize of 400 tickets.)

There are 16 cases in this game and a bank offer to buy the case after each round. I kept my case to the end. It was down to either five or 200 tickets and the bank offer was 102. I wasn’t playing for a prize, but it was tempting to take 102 tickets and trade them for some lame trinket because five tickets wouldn’t have been worth anything, but I went for broke and hit 200 tickets. Wow, I’m quite the gambler! I traded my tickets for a pair of rubber dice which have a flashing red light that is activated when you roll them.

• I have had a cold since Tuesday. I have a runny nose that I can’t stop, even with over-the-counter crap. And when I have a sneezing spell I get really pissed. Sneezing is a stupid involuntary response, but when I sneeze multiple times in a finite period of time I get the equivalent of road rage. It makes no sense, but it’s true.

• I am going camping on Saturday night, weather permitting.

• On top of the fact I’ve had a cold the past three days, it has been hot and humid. That makes me twice as cranky.

• The Minnesota Vikings game may be blacked out locally this weekend because the team can’t sell out the big inflatable toilet. The deadline to sell it out was today, but since it is close to a sellout, the deadline was extended until Friday afternoon. What’s the point of the deadline then? It’s a soft deadline if you’re close to a sellout, and a hard deadline if you’re never gonna make it anyway. That’s lame.

Vikings officials are suggesting a combination of factors are contributing to the slow ticket sales. One excuse is highway closures coupled with the loss of the 35W bridge. People aren’t willing to make the trek downtown under such adverse conditions, allegedly. 62,000 people are, but not 64,000, evidently.

Another excuse is the lack of Michael Vick. People were willing to shell out more than $100 for a pair of nosebleed tickets, prior to his legal woes, just to see him play? Really? I find that hard to believe.

Shockingly Vikings officials aren’t the least bit concerned that their lackluster team, coming off a woeful season, is a reason people are unwilling to fork over half of a mortgage or rent payment for an afternoon of “entertainment.” Nope, that can’t have anything to do with it.

• “Wide stance” is on the verge of becoming the best pop culture term since “wardrobe malfunction.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Fair ball?

I should really master linking my blogs to my sources, but I’m too lazy.

I have been puzzled by the determination that Matt Murphy will be taxed on the perceived value of a baseball.

Murphy is the New York man who caught Barry Bonds home run 756 in San Francisco. I don’t think he actually caught it, he merely emerged from a pile with the ball. Nonetheless he has a ball that is predicted to fetch $500,000 in an online auction.

He claims he wanted to keep the ball instead of selling it. I’m not sure I believe him, but he’ll never be able to prove me wrong.

That’s because tax experts are saying he could be taxed on the perceived value of the ball, the same as if it is income. It’s unclear if that is true, but if I was Murphy, I wouldn’t challenge the assertion.

The concept is puzzling. The Internal Revenue Service declined to address the question in an article I read, so the issue remains muddied. There didn’t seem to be a good reason why the IRS wouldn’t answer the question, and there’s no obvious precedent as to why Murphy should be taxed on a leather baseball, evidently.

So Murphy is doing what he needs to do, since he’s too poor to pay taxes on a $10 baseball with a perceived value of $500,000.

There are practical reasons for selling it. If he keeps it, he’ll have to keep it in a safe deposit box. Keeping it on display in his home would only invite burglary or robbery, even if it could only be sold in an underground market.

And while the ball could appreciate in value, it could easily depreciate if Bonds’ legacy is further tarnished after he retires.

But how can the guy be taxed for catching a free baseball at a ballpark? Nobody knows what the ball is worth unless it is sold, it’s merely speculation.

If I inherit stocks or property from my grandfather, you can place a value on those things. If I inherit an original watercolor painting from my grandfather, who is not a known artist, could you argue I inherited a $500,000 painting? What if he leaves me a home run baseball he caught at a Minnesota Twins game in the 1960s, is that worth $100,000? Nobody knows. If there’s one person foolish enough to pay $100,000 for a Tony Oliva home run ball from 1965, is my tax liability based upon the desires of an over-zealous baseball fan, even though I have no interest in selling the ball?

Should I be taxed on the old comic books I bought during my youth? Some of them are worth more than what I paid for them, at least I hope so.

What if I bought a rare baseball card for pennies when I was a youngster and it could sell for $10,000 today in an online auction? Should I be paying taxes on the value of that card even though I haven’t proven it to be worth anything? What if I pee on the baseball card and diminish its value, am I no longer responsible for the tax liability?

I received a free set of Roger Clemens baseball cards during my lone visit to Yankee Stadium in 2003. They were as free as a home run baseball. Am I expected to pay taxes on that set if my set contains the lone solid gold card inserted randomly in a pack? (There wasn’t one, I’m exaggerating.) What if i don’t acknowledge publicly that I received the gold card?

What if Murphy never gave his name to the media on his way out of the ballpark, does the government hunt him down to identify who he is? (Television cameras would have made it easy to identify him, so in reality, he couldn’t have hidden his identity.) But what if he stuck the ball in his pants and acted like he had no idea where it was, and then quietly walked away at the end of the game, everyone none the wiser? Would the police launch an investigation to determine who walked away with an alleged $500,000 souvenir? No, probably not, but because this guy was publicly identified, he is now assumed to have a baseball worth $500,000.

What if Murphy pees on the Bonds baseball instead of offering it up for public auction, does he still have to pay taxes? And if so, is the ball worth more because of the statement he made by peeing on it? Who determines that?

If Murphy had the Bonds baseball appraised and insured, you could argue he had something of value. But unless it was assigned a value by a reputable third party, such as Lloyd’s of London, it seems to me that assigning a value to it and taxing Murphy is a bit un-American.

But then again so is allowing Bonds to hit his 756th home run as if he has never been guilty of wrongdoing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Day of rest

I'm done with the fair, so it's time to go back to my normal life, thankfully. Perhaps there will be more to come about the fair this week.

For now, a T-shirt wrap up:

day 8: I stopped making notes about my favorite T-shirts, so I forgot one that I found to be clever. Perhaps then it wasn't as memorable as I thought. I wish I had jotted it down.

One dude was memorable for being one of those classless idiots I despise. I have no idea what it said on the front of his shirt, but on the back it said, in big letters, "Can you hear me now a$$h*le?"

The other memorable shirt was a dude with some cheesy illustration of a character that was supposed to be a pimp. The guy wearing the shirt looked like your typical white trash slacker, shockingly! His shirt had this big green illustration of some character dressed like a pimp with cash around him. The thing that made me laugh is that the shirt had accents, like beads or something, to represent the "bling" in the illustration. The dude bought a beaded T-shirt that probably cost him $30 or more because it had a cool pimp illustration. What a goof.

Consolation prize goes to the dude with the heavily beaded shirt. It wasn't quite as ridiculous as the pimp shirt, even though it had more beads.

The image was entirely of beads or some sort of shiny stone and they formed what looked to be the profile of a skull wearing a Native American headdress. If it wasn't supposed to be a skull, then I was fooled by it. It was bizarre, yet not as ridiculous as the pimp shirt.

day 9: I didn't seem anything memorable, and if I did, it was forgotten because I didn't take notes.

day 10: Two memorable shirts for my final day. One was a dude with a silly message that said something like "If you are taking the time to read the message on my shirt, you're a loser." I don't remember how it was worded, but that was the gist of it.

My favorite shirt of my final day was a dude, probably in his early 20s, who wore a Minnesota Lynx fan appreciation shirt from August 2001. In Minnesota the WNBA is a failure, and here's a dude wearing a fan appreciation shirt from six years ago. It's that sense of humor I appreciate most.