Thursday, April 30, 2009

20. Happy new year! (unedited)

New year's resolutions never made much sense to me. You decide because the calendar is flipping from the 2008 Betty Boop to the 2009 Marilyn Monroe that it's time to change your life. In Minnesota in the dead of winter, that's not such a good idea.

I hate summer. There's so much to do in Minnesota during the summer, and so little time. Yeah, there are plenty of outdoor activities in May and September, and even April and October, but they're just not the same.

Hell, by late June we're already starting to lose minutes of daylight at night. It's just not right.

Summer is too short, it's full of too many things I cannot find the time or money for, and it goes by so fast. Usually when the summer is over I look back on it and can take pride in what I accomplished. I try not to let it go to waste, much like the last several months of my life has.

I hate heat and humidity, I hate the fact the grubby kids in the apartment across the way are outside running around making noise and I hate I bike my ass off all summer and lose very little weight. I hate summer, and I'm going to hate it even more this year. It's going to be the longest, hardest four months of my life. And if my heart can withstand the stress, I'll be a better person because of it come September. One way or another, I'll be dead by Labor Day. I'll either collapse from exhaustion and die or the life I have known for 38 years will be dead. I'll be happy with either.

My new year begins on Friday. It's going to be the shortest year of my life.

19. I promise (unedited)

I am almost half way to 40 blogs, and I'm running out of good ideas.

I also came close, again, to forgetting to blog. I was in bed when I recalled I hadn't written a blog. I had thought about it earlier, but failed to follow up the thought, and instead did a bunch of nothing.

I am tired every day, and I'm going to be twice as tired in May, I promise. I keep busy most of the time, and I'm going to be twice as busy in May, I promise. I am going to accomplish as much this summer, if not more, as in summers past, I promise. I am going to enjoy many things this summer, yet it's not going to be the most memorable or exciting summer of my life, I promise.

Symbolically this is the last summer of my life, I promise.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

18. Bankrupt (unedited)

The mighty newspaper conglomarite is bankrupt!

Today it was announced we filed bankruptcy. What does that mean? I'm not sure. I guess we're owned by banks, although I thought we were owned by stockholders who had taken a bath on their investment. I guess we have some capital to work with, because the monthly income isn't enough to cover our asses. I am told it is business as usual on Wednesday, although who knows how long that will hold true.

A local media watchdog/critic wrote that it was surprising that it took this long to happen. I have no idea if it should have or not. All I know is that there's some bogus optimism about the fact we've acknowledged we're bankrupt. Call me cynical, but it was great news that we were being turned into a public stock barely two years ago, and how did that work out?

One day I'm going to show up to the office and find that the building is locked, and we're all unemployed. I'm sure of it.

As a co-worker pointed out, today we are publicly bankrupt. Too bad we've been morally bankrupt for years.

Monday, April 27, 2009

17. Double or nothing

If my salary doubled tomorrow, how would my life be different?

I'm not sure. I would immediately get a new vehicle. My Pontiac Grand Prix is about eight years old. It's looking a little long in the tooth, and it is loud. It runs OK, but the constant engine knock is annoying. It is paid off, however, and I don't really want to start a new series of car payments right now if I can avoid them. But I might need to bite the bullet and do something different this summer. Knowing any day that my car might blow up on the highway is a bit disconcerting.

How else would my life be different? I'm not sure it would change significantly, at least not initially. I'd start pondering if the time had come to buy a home instead of rent an apartment, but it wouldn't be a quick decision, I suspect.

Perhaps I would splurge on a few luxuries, like an occasional massage and a pedicure. Yeah, really, a pedicure.

After 38 years I have yet to learn how to trim my toenails without mangling them. I'd feel like a dork getting a pedicure, but I'd be far from the first guy to do so. And it would be nice, just once, not to have snarled toenails.

Yeah, I dream big.

16. Better late than never

I took a long siesta on Sunday evening, and nearly forgot to write a blog entry tonight. I thought about it a long time ago, and then got distracted.

The Halloween party was a bit lackluster in attendance, but several people made a cameo, and I got to see a couple people I seem to cross paths with less often at Halloween gatherings, so it was worth being there. I was really tired last night, however, which sucked, because I wasn't my usual upbeat self.

So what do I have to look forward to in the coming week? A long overdue visit to the heart doctor, a Twins game with company seats and a fundraising event on Saturday evening for my sister's workshop. My sister, being mentally retarded, goes to "work" each weekday at a special program where they work within her skill set to help her develop. Unfortunately she seems to be at the limits of her capacity.

Every time I think my life sucks, I try to remember my sister has suffered far more than I have, and I have the ability to change my life. She'd be lucky to have my empty, meaningless life.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

15. Happy Halloween

Tonight features one of two pre-Halloween parties I'm going to this year. This one is half way to Halloween. (Six months from now is Oct. 25.) There's also a party planned this summer.

Both of these are gatherings of friends from the haunted attraction I am a three-year veteran of. Tonight will be a non-costumed affair, but the summer gathering is intended to be a costume party, I'm told.

My Halloween friends are a diverse group that I don't have a lot in common with, but we all have a love of the spirit of Halloween, and funny, sometimes we like the same movies, or enjoy bowling, or like the same video games. I guess we're no different than most groups tied by one common thread. All I know is that my life is better for knowing these people. Where will any of us be in five years? That's a good question. For now we have each other, and that's awesome.

Perhaps next year I can inspire my group to celebrate Hallowang on the last Saturday of April. What's Hallowang? Read all about it at Hallowang.

14. Meet me in St. Louis? (unedited)

With the conclusion of this blog I will have two weeks in the books and about four weeks left to go to hit 40 in 40. I'm impressed I've made it this far.

Monica invited me to her house for a Friday evening get together. She was hosting "game night" at her house. The players, a random collection of people, some of whom she had never met, yet they all convened at her house because she is now the queen of a group for social singles.

The idea of random people meeting to share a common activity is not a new concept, but the internet makes it that much easier to do it. You can find a wide variety of people for any common activity, and plenty of people use resources like to do just that.

Monica, ever the social butterfly, has been an active member of the singles group for a while, as well as a few other groups via, and she was recently recruited to take over leadership of the group. That means she plans a portion of the events. It's like a part-time job, I swear.

There are so many great people in the world that we'll never get the chance to meet. So why is it that I find contrived social gatherings such as Monica's game party or other group gatherings to be so odd? I'm not anti-social, but I'm not anxious to meet a random group of people for any of the billions of activities and discussion groups that exist. Is Monica weird for having a group of people over to her house for games, a group that includes people she has never met? Is she weird for planning gatherings at bars and events for a group of people that anyone can join, no questions asked? Or am I weird for thinking is weird?

Evidence seems to point to the latter.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

13. In memory of Karen? (unedited)

There's a woman I know, met several years ago, her name is Karen.

Karen and I are not great friends. Quite honestly we're not friends. We got to know each other, but we're not friends. We don't call each other, don't e-mail back and forth, and until a little over a year ago, we had pretty much ceased all contact with each other. Then she sent me an e-mail out of the blue, and we chatted a bit. Then a year went by without any contact between us. Then a few weeks ago I received an e-mail from her.

This afternoon I received an e-mail from Karen's old e-mail address. It didn't say who it was from, but it sounded like it came from a parent. (She lives with her parents, which sounds pathetic, but she helps take care of her ailing father, which is a big sacrifice to make.) The e-mail informed me that Karen had died in a car accident the night before. I was shocked.

I haven't seen Karen in years, and I had been meaning to e-mail her for about a week, as I needed to clear something up from our recent e-mail exchanges. I sent a reply to the e-mail, offering my condolences.

A few hours later I received an e-mail from Karen's primary e-mail account. Her old account had been hacked, and the hacker sent that message out to everybody in her old address book.

As far as hoaxes go, it was well executed.

But even me, a guy who likes to post profanity on a message forum and irritate people who are too stupid to think critically, didn't find there to be humor in the hoax. Sure, it was a relief to learn she was alive, but for a few hours my life was dogged by the thought of having lost somebody I have known for years. Not a relative, not a close friend, but someone I just had contact with a week ago.

Karen is a bit shaken by all of this. I'm usually good at sniffing out internet bullshit, but this one was unlike anything I had seen before, and as I said, well executed. The message was completely believable.

There are a lot of lousy people in this world. Karen is not one of them, not even close. The fact somebody would do this to her is all the more perplexing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

12. Welcome back, Regis (unedited)

Just read that it's official, Regis Philbin will be hosting two weeks of prime time "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" this summer.

It will have been 10 years since the show debuted in prime time on ABC. The show has never went away, but it has changed/evolved since that initial limited run, and for the most part, it's still entertaining. It was a surprise ratings success at a time when networks still viewed summer as a graveyard for prime time television.

It returned for additional limited runs and eventually became a weekly prime time fixture, being broadcast multiple times per week. That overkill is sometimes blamed for its demise as a prime time attraction.

That may or may not be true, but its demise in prime time coincided with its launch as a daily syndicated offering, a program that has survived for several years in the nebulous world of syndicated programming. It seems to be harder, the daily show, with less viewers, doesn't seem as eager to give away $1 million as the prime time version was, from what I have read. And like most shows, the formula has changed a little bit over the years. The pay structure was altered slightly, the lifelines have changed, too. And this season they've installed a clock on each question, keeping people from dwelling too long on one question. That's both good and bad, I think.

It's not the best quiz show on television, that title still belongs to Jeopardy! But WWTBAM is typically entertaining and I'm glad to see it returning to a format that served it well in the past. I will be interested to see what rules they use for its return in August and if they up the ante. The show returned previously as "Super Millionaire" with a $10 million prize for two short stints in 2004, (a fact stories I read today seemed to forget,) so it's quite possible that we'll see something on a grander scale than what's being done on the daytime show.

In a world where the only prime time hit game show the past few years has been the overly dramatic, simplistic "Deal or No Deal," I say "Welcome back, Regis."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

11. Public service (unedited)

Yep, I'm a jackass.

There's a Facebook application that I use to work for once upon a time. For all of five months I was paid a small monthly fee to create content and handle some miscellaneous tasks. I didn't have the power and authority to do any real damage to the program, but I had some responsibility, and the creative part was fun. The monthly paydays were nice bonuses in my Paypal account.

My five-month tenure ended because of some changes that were made to the application, changes that somewhat diminished the need for people like me. There were several of us doing similar jobs, and some of us were cut a month or two after a major change. The rest were cut four or five months later. I wasn't surprised.

I don't know the first thing about how Facebook applications work. All I know is that the dudes who created a knock off of Scrabble were making $25,000 per month, if you can believe the media, before Hasbro shut them down.

My application, which yes, is remaining nameless. All I know is that if you believe stats kept by Facebook, the application had about 55,000 unique users during a 30-day period last summer. Today that amount is less than 3,500.

The application was growing weekly, in both content and users, and seemed to be loved by most who used it. The problem was that the developers made a couple of major miscalculations in the application. They worked hard to meet the demands of the few, but I think one of their decisions was a major blunder. Add to that several smaller miscalculations and you have an application that could have been one of the biggest on Facebook. Instead it is all but dead.

The developers don't comment on the state of their application, but all signs point them leaving the application as is, to die on the vine. That's fine, expect one or two morons have taken it upon themselves to patrol the various message forums in the application and delete comments. That doesn't seem like such a bad idea, but the problem is that the idiot isn't just deleting comments that have profanity or attack other users, the idiot deletes other stuff. The first time it happened was when there was disagreement about a topic of discussion and people commented in ways that were not insulting, but in a few cases were judgmental, and more importantly, wrong.

I questioned why comments were being deleted, and never got an answer. A few weeks later I helped perpetuate a day long April Fool's Day joke. A few people made themselves out to be a bit of an ass, since the joke, started by me on March 31, was rather damning of another user, who was in on the whole thing. By Wednesday evening we spilled the beans for all to see. Hours later 95 percent of the posts were deleted, although not all of them containing my (false) accusations about another user. Again, no rhyme or reason for why most of an April Fool's Day prank was deleted.

Again I asked for an explanation for the deletions, and of course didn't get a response from anyone in charge.

So that's when I took it upon myself to start providing my public service. If some rogue moderator had an insatiable appetite for deleting, I was going to give him or her something to delete. I started by posting profanity. Eventually I realized I could post thousands of characters of text in one post, and would do so, by using a simple website that would generate truckloads of words, in numerous languages, in a matter of seconds.

And people hate it!

I don't blame them, it clutters up the page and makes it inconvenient to quickly ascertain if anybody has posted anything new regarding the topic of the moment. Many people criticize me for being annoying, childish, etc., and I respond by comparing myself to Jesus Christ or telling them they should be thanking me for protecting their comments from being deleted.

A few people have commented, publicly or otherwise, that they aren't going to get irritated about it. Sometimes my thousands of characters and the half-dozen posts within which they're contained are deleted in short order. Other times they remain for hours.

What I'm doing is known as "trolling" in internet speak. And I'd have tired of it, no matter how irritating some jackasses deletions of comments are, if not for the rubes. It is often said you need to ignore a troll for the troll to go away. It certainly doesn't take long for me to post a bunch of annoying messages, but the negative feedback I get is hilaroius, and certainly energizing.

I shouldn't be surprised, there are too many idiots in this world, and most of them, at least in developed nations, have internet access. So they're hypocritical, ironic comments about me are bound to show up on the message forums.

The application I once fondly worked for is all but dead, yet it is providing me with a wildly hysterical new source of entertainment. And it's worth it, even if 10 rubes think I'm an idiot. (Yeah, it's really that small of a group.) The joke is on them, but nine of them are too stupid to know it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

10. N36 (unedited)

It's late, again, so I'll just throw a bunch of stuff out there to keep the streak alive. At least I'm not in bed yet.

Following up the bingo talk, I found my way to the bingo hall about six years ago because I wanted some part-time income, but really didn't want to work at Target or some crummy retail job like that. There's an inherent coolness factor to being a poor journalist who works at a bookstore, evidently, but that didn't seem very appealing to me.

I have long been in love with the sound of my voice. I doubt I'm going to make a living off of commercial voice overs, but you could do a lot worse than mine. Years ago I worked as a deejay at bars. Not cool, trendy bars where you mixed the latest hipster dance tunes. Typically the bars I worked at were a bit lackluster when it came to the size, and sophistication, of the crowd. Eventually I wound up at a sports bar where I was a glorified channel jockey, changing the cable television feed for various TVs around the building while playing rather bland music. I worked some Thursday nights, and those were kind of fun, because we had a big promotion that was dependent upon a little creativity and personality behind the mic.

Eventually I tired of that and took a break from part-time work. When I decided it was time to make extra cash, I was reminded of a trip to a casino where I had played bingo. The work was kind of dull and repetitive, but it beat dealing with morons at Super America, I figured.

I have earned progressively less as I have moved from part-time job to part-time job, which is stupid. It's not the lucrative hourly wage that keeps me going back to the bingo hall, it's the ability to have a part-time gig waiting for me from November through April, based upon my availability. Hard to argue with that.

The employees and customers of the bingo hall come in all shapes and sizes, literally. There are the requisite little old ladies, and the not-so-little people. Holy cow, no pun intended.

You get nice people who enjoy talking to the employees, and then there are the grouches whose lives are so miserable that if they won $1 million, they'd bitch about having to wait so long to win it.

I've had a few memorable run-ins with complete morons, but when the day is over, I don't go home to a life as miserable as theirs, so it doesn't bother me much.

I work with an eclectic cast of characters. Some are parents, some are young and potentially have their whole life ahead of them. Some are tragic figures, like Al, who has a college degree and was once married, but a car accident has left him a shell of his former self. He worked there for years, but was fired about a year ago, although I'm not sure why. He use to get irritated about the way things were run around there. He must have hit the breaking point.

I won't soon forget John. He worked full time elsewhere as well as part time at the bingo hall. One night after work a bunch of us gathered for beers and he explained how he ended up in the U.S. He was from England, was married once, ended up married a second time to a woman from the states. He eventually became a shift manager at the bingo hall, and sometime after he quit he was indicted for skimming something like $65K from the books of a nonprofit group he served as treasurer of. I seem to recall he was convicted, but got off with a seemingly light sentence.

I'd love to see a biopic about some of my coworkers. I know a few odds and ends about their lives, but I'd really like to get a closer look. I'm not going to start asking probing questions, but I can't help but wonder how or why things are the way they are for some of my co-workers.

It's a weird, weird world out there. Bingo helps me keep in touch with the weirdest of the weird.

9. N35 (unedited)

I nearly forgot to write my blog. I was laying in bed two minutes ago when it occurred to me that my online poker playing kept me from taking care of business.

Given how late it is, this will be short and sweet.

I have to stop working at the bingo hall.

I have worked at an area bingo hall for nearly six years. I started by working two to three times per week, and nearly quit after a couple of years because I was irritated and figured I could easily replace the chump change I earned at the bingo hall.

They offered me the opportunity to stay at the bingo hall on an on-call basis, and I accepted. Within a year or so I realized I had the perfect winter job. I decided what months I would work, asked for the number of shifts I wanted on a weekly basis, and life was perfect.

Except for the fact that I don't ever get a raise from year to year, and the novelty of dealing with the riff raff that patronizes the bingo hall, and there's plenty of it, wears off in a hurry.

Last spring, just before I departed for the season, the bingo hall fired the overnight cleaning guy. I think it was for a combination of reasons. End result: the evening shift workers every night have to do cleaning at the end of the shift.

That's not so bad on a weeknight when you'd otherwise work four hours, but on weekends, when there's a matinee and evening session, the after hours cleaning can be a bit much.

Last winter I was working both shifts on Sundays, about nine hours a week, through the winter. It's not backbreaking work, but after nine hours at a bingo hall, you don't really want to hang around. And after two sessions, an extra 30-45 minutes of cleaning is of no interest to me.

And that's a lot of the reason why I decided to come back this winter for one shift per Sunday: the afternoon shift. I could use the extra cash, but the idea of being there for up to 10 hours, and finishing off my evening with vacuuming and other such crap held little appeal to me.

On Saturday I got a call from Rachel, one of the sweetest girls I know. She has asked me to pick up a shift a couple of times this winter, and I have had to turn her down for one reason or another. When she called yesterday, I had no reason to say no. Given I didn't work the past two weekends, and wanted to work one double shift this winter, for old-times sake, I said yes.

I was sore and tired from 10 hours of working on Sunday.

My Sunday marathon reminded me I don't want to work double shifts any time soon, and given I never get a pay raise at my lousy paying job, I have to do something I promised myself I'd do last spring, walk away from the bingo hall.

Yep, another part of me has to die in 2009, the part of me that works at the bingo hall in the winter.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

8. Economics (unedited)

I've seen three performances by artists from the hair band era so far this year. Increasingly I wonder how the economics of their live shows work.

We'll start with Mr. Hair Plug, Bret Michaels. His band, Poison, sold a ton of records and had a lot of MTV hits back in the day. After spending much of the 90s out of the spotlight, they reunited and found a way to market their nostalgia act. They do a good job of it. They limit their gigs to summer concerts and have packaged their product in different ways over the years, and wisely so. Michaels has taken to performing as a solo act in recent years, and thanks to some VH1 genius who saw the potential of Michaels as the star of a poor man's version of "The Bachelor," his solo show is generating more cash than ever, or than it should be.

A few weekends ago I saw L.A. Guns at a glorified bar in the far north metro. This band has made a habit of playing gigs in Minnesota more than once per year, thanks, perhaps, to the fact that their management firm is based in St. Paul. L.A. Guns did okay back in the day, but they're not nearly as memorable, or weren't nearly as beloved, as Poison.

Let's pretend that their show from a month ago sold out all 500+ tickets at $12-$15. To keep it simple, we'll assume 500 tickets were sold at the "door" price of $15. That means the bar sold $7,500 worth of tickets. How much does the bar pay the band to play? Given the band doesn't tour the country like it back in the day, it typically books weekend tours, playing two to three shows over a weekend in one area. The band is based in Los Angeles, so a three-night stint anywhere else in the country means travel. I have no idea how the band travels, but it has been suggested the band flies into an area, then travels be vehicle to each destination before returning to the airport.

You have airfare, car rental, hotel and food costs for that weekend. And although the band doesn't have an entourage traveling with it, there are support people with the band. And where does the equipment come from? Assuming the band received the $7,500 in ticket sales as its performance fee, (therefore leaving the bar relying upon drink sales for its income that night,) is that enough to make it worth all the time, effort and expense to travel for a three-day run in the midwest?

By the way, even if the bar "sold out," as I was told, there weren't 500 people there. And as is often the case, there were likely a percentage of people in the bar who did not pay $12 or $15 to be there. So I doubt the bar took in $7,500 in ticket sales, and I doubt the band was paid that much. I'm a bit puzzled by how the economics of that show work.

And if you think that's perplexing, let's look at the BulletBoys. L.A. Guns has a small, but loyal fan base. I'm not sure there are more than five people in the country who would call themselves die-hard BulletBoys fans.

So on a Friday night in late February, the BulletBoys headlined a show at a venue that would have been laughed at by the Bulletboys back in the day. That show would have cost me $10 had I not "won" tickets from a local radio station.

If more than 200 people paid $10 to see the band, I'm surprised. That means the bar sold $2,000 worth of tickets. I can promise you the bar wasn't delusional enough to expect the BulletBoys to generate $5,000 in ticket sales, so I can only assume they didn't pay the BulletBoys $5,000. The BulletBoys just can't command that kind of money, so how can they afford to tour?

Not only did they play in the Twin Cities on a Friday night, they played in Mankato the night before. Mankato, a college town about 90 minutes south of the Twin Cities. The youngest of those college students weren't even born when the BulletBoys released their first CD. Most of them probably couldn't tell you one thing about the BulletBoys. And while there are probably a few tired, aged headbangers from back in the day lurking around Mankato, I can't honestly think the BulletBoys are drawing more than 100 people in Mankato on a Thursday night.

And unlike L.A. Guns, BulletBoys are on an extended tour of clubs around the U.S., as if they're a hot commodity with a product to sell. They have no new material, they have no die-hard fans, they're lucky to playing anywhere in Minnesota. A good local band will draw more than the BulletBoys will in Minneapolis, I guarantee it.

Yet 20 years after their debut, the lead singer and three anonymous dudes are getting paid something to perform in Minnesota. Somebody please explain that one to me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

7. The week that was (unedited)

I made it through my first week of blogging. I've managed to avoid writing the long-delayed final chapter of my trip to Mexico, but I honored the Dancing Queen, which is something I wanted to do.

Thanks to Bob Barker's cameo on The Price is Right I was finally inspired to write about Bob's fraudulent "best of" DVD collection, something that has been on my mind for about a month. I may not have done the best job of making my point, and I shouldn't have tackled the topic in the wee hours of Thursday night, but that water is under the bridge.

I certainly didn't expect to end up writing about the loss of a friendship for two consecutive days, or how meaningless my life is, and how I plan to die trying to find a meaning to it, but life isn't all hearts and flowers. I wish it was, but it's not.

I had hoped to go to the bar with Doug and catch up on life, but that didn't happen tonight, and that's fine. I am tired, I had a busy week at the newspaper. That's not a bad thing, but my satisfaction because of it is tempered by the fact I work in a dying industry. Oh well.

I went to my first game at the Big Inflatable Toilet on Wednesday night, and watched the Twins get destroyed by Toronto, 12-2. And I didn't get sick off of the $1 hot dogs.

It was a good week.

6. Bob Barker is a fraud (unedited)

Yeah, I'm a "The Price is Right" fan. I've been to tapings of the show, I've watched it since I was a youngster and although I'm not an expert on TPIR trivia, I know plenty about its history.

While I can't say it authoritatively, I can say confidently that Bob Barker is a bit of a fraud.

Thursday was a day that was surely celebrated by many TPIR fans. Bob made a cameo during the showcases of Thursday's show to promote a new book he wrote. I have no idea what the book is or isn't about, but I'm sure it leaves out the lurid details of his life.

Bob was married for many years, and he has a charitable foundation named in honor of his wife. That's all well and good, but most of us who have watched the show for two decades or more remember that in the years following his wife's death, he ended up in a relationship with one of the models on his show.

That relationship wasn't common knowledge, I don't think. It seems to me that the reason it became a hot topic was the fact he was being implicated in some sort of discrimination or wrongful termination action by the model who he was diddling.

I can't say as I blame him for hooking up with a babe 20 or 25 years younger than him, and it's not like he was married, so there's nothing wrong with the relationship. But in the last 15 or so years of his TPIR career, he was accused of several punitive actions involving the models on his show.

Bob became rather powerful as host of TPIR. He became more than just a host, he became an executive of the show, and that gave him leverage to fire people at will.

But his powers weren't limited to hiring and firing models. In the 1970s there were plenty of fur coats given away as prizes on the show. At some point Bob became an animal activist. Eventually the show stopped giving away furs.

For a while in the 1990s the fledgling Game Show Network broadcast old episodes of the show, but not those where furs were given away. Bob made sure that didn't happen.

For whatever reason the Game Show Network's license to rebroadcast the show was withdrawn several years ago by the ownership of TPIR. I'm not sure how much Bob had to do with it, but I can only suspect that there's no chance the decision will be reversed as long as Bob is still alive. Will Bob's death change that? Hard to say.

While the old shows have been archived, again, for several years, a small collection of them surfaced in the past two years. This collection was billed as a "best of" collection, but it's not. It's not close to a "best of" collection.

The collection has a couple of gems, including black-and-white episodes from the 50s, when the show was very different than Barker's version, and was hosted by Bill Cullen. Those shows aren't that exciting, but it's interesting to see the first vision of the show. I had never seen the show in its original incarnation.

The rest of the collection, however, is predominantly from the early 1970s. The episodes are mostly from when the show was a 30-minute presentation, and it provides a look at a few pricing games that ultimately failed. It's a lot of fun to see people playing games for new cars valued at less than $3,000. There are lots of subtle difference between the shows of 1973 and the shows of 2009.

Yet for all the great moments and games that appeared between 1976 and 2006, there's no sign of them in the collection. It jumps from 1975 to 2007, and features the final five episodes of Bob's tenure.

Why do you suppose that is? I'm not sure if there's any financial benefit for the models who appeared in those episodes, but Bob has made a conscious effort to erase Janice, Dian, Holly and Kathleen from TPIR history. Do I know that for a fact? No, but I'd be stunned if the effort to exorcise them from TPIR history has been driven by anyone else on the staff.

Janice was the longest-tenured model on the show, starting with its launch in 1972 until she was dismissed in 2000. She, along with Kathleen, the first African-American model who was hired in 1990, were dismissed. Allegedly they were going to be reassigned within the parent company of TPIR, but it is commonly believed that they were pulled off the show in retaliation for their testimony in legal wranglings involving Bob.

Because Janice was there on day 1, she is featured in all those early '70s shows, alongside Anitra, a model who left in '76. It wasn't until '75 that Dian was added as a third model. She does appear in the first, regular hour-long version of the show, included in the collection, but she's otherwise left out. I'm surprised she even appears once given the fact she's the model that Bob had a consensual relationship with for some period of time prior to her dismissal and the beginning of Bob's legal wranglings.

It's obvious that the DVD collection is avoiding the longest-tenured models on the show as much as possible. It wasn't the only time the quartet was snubbed, either.

Toward the end of Bob's reign over TPIR there was a special prime-time tribute show that featured flashbacks between pricing games. Shockingly the foursome was snubbed during that tribute, too.

Everybody loves Bob, and he was a great emcee. And when it comes to animals, his heart is probably in the right place. But his lovable emcee persona was tarnished in the final 15 or so years of his career, and it seems that he's a petty man who holds a grudge because a group of women dared to defy him.

I don't care what his book is about, I will be skeptical of the content if I ever bother to read it, because Bob is a bit of a fraud.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

5. Inspiration point (unedited)

For the past couple of days I have dwelt upon the end of a friendship. People disappoint me regularly, I should be use to it, but I never will be.

I know my flaws, and I know my weaknesses. That doesn't make it easier to live with them, but at least I know what to expect. Somehow the good never outweighs the bad.

I promised myself that 2009 would be the year I'd prepare to die. I intend to make good on that promise. After last night's blog I spent two hours catching up on odds and ends around the apartment, and there's hundreds of hours of projects where that came from. I was tired today, and instead of coming home and taking it easy, I went to the Twins game with a co-worker who had scored a pair of company tickets and wanted to see the game. It would have been easy to say no, but it was late in the afternoon and he didn't have anybody available to go on short notice, so I figured it was the right thing to do. It's not like I hate watching baseball, but there was no motivation to accept the offer and give up five hours of my evening. Yet I did so, and now I'm doing laundry at 12:30 a.m. so I won't get to sleep before 2 a.m., as usual. And it's going to be a long day tomorrow, too. And that's fine with me.

I regret that I didn't accomplish more of my menial tasks this winter, but I'm on a mission now. If I die tomorrow my family would have to sift through a ridiculous amount to stupid shit, most of which would end up going to a thrift store or the garbage bin out behind my building. I intend to save them the trouble, and while there's no chance I'll complete my mission by the end of the summer, I'm going to pretend it's possible.

I have hours upon hours of bicycling ahead of me in the next five months. I am working as hard as ever at the newspaper, yet taking home nothing more to show for the effort. I'm going to be so damn tired at some point this summer that I'm going to collapse from exhaustion.

And that's when I'll know I've accomplished something.

As I look around my apartment, I see a bunch of crap I don't need, crap from a life I have little appreciation for. I know what's important in my life, and I'm going to honor that, even if I die trying to do so, because I sure as hell can't continue to live like this.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

4. Mellon collie and the infinite sadness (unedited)

It saddens me to know that somebody I have been friends with for years is no longer a part of my life, and probably won't be ever again. (Read No. 3 in the series if that makes no sense.) It saddens me more than I would have expected.

Not every friend you make is a friend for life. People move on, people change.

My rational side only needs to remember the insensitive things she has said to me, the stupidity I have had to look past and the superficiality I have had to tolerate to be her friend. Was I the best friend I could have been? Probably not. But there are things about her that practically left me embarrassed to willingly associate with her.

Unfortunately there were times when she was a thoughtful, intelligent person whose heart was in the right place. That endeared me.

So even when I'm treated poorly by somebody repeatedly, my instinct is to forgive and forget, at least to the best of my ability. That's what's wrong with me.

I try too hard to maintain friendships. Even when people don't deserve my time, if there's something I like about them, I don't want to let go.

The sad part is that there are plenty of people in my life that I wish I spent more time with, but don't make the effort. Yet when I lose somebody who doesn't deserve my friendship, that leaves me disappointed. I should be rejoicing to have one less person to care about, one less person to make time for, because the loss of that person gives me more time to focus on the people who deserve my time. But I'm not very good at that, especially when there's some sort of emotional attachment to the person.

I have a disease. Instead of saying "fuck you" to somebody who treats me poorly and riding off on my high horse, I open myself up to more of the same.

I have cut the cord several times. I bent over backwards to stay in touch with my college buddy Dan for several years. But it was me initiating the effort 99 percent of the time. He didn't treat me poorly over the years, he just didn't reciprocate very well. Then he got married. And had a child. And even though there wasn't a big formal wedding, there was never an invitation of any kind, or a voluntary update on how things were going with his newborn child. Then he mocked an e-mail I sent three years ago, asking my friends and family for assistance in fundraising for my annual bike ride to benefit the MS Society of Minnesota. I decided at that point he didn't appreciate my friendship. And if he did, he could contact me. I haven't heard from him since, and I don't care.

My head says I'm better off for walking away from Shitcan. But for some reason, my heart hurts a little bit, even though it's completely irrational.

I wish I could treat people as disposable. I really do. Life would be so much easier.

Monday, April 13, 2009

3. The truth hurts (unedited)

I have been in love with somebody for the past two or three years, and it makes no sense, no sense at all.

It's hard to keep track of time, but four or five years ago a new co-worker arrived on the scene. She was barely out of college and had the personality of a sales rep, not a reporter. She would be a perfect fit for our sales staff, and would do quite well in the world of superficial broadcast news "reporters." As a matter of fact, she wound up working for a local broadcast station for more than a year.

Sometimes I think she has the I.Q. of a squirrel.

She didn't last long at my prestigious media conglomerate. She failed as a community editor and was sent packing after a few months on the job. We all thought she was borderline nuts, we really did.

But she was always friendly to everyone. She wanted to acclimate to our world, and she was friendly to me. I tried my best to be friendly to her, despite the fact we all laughed behind her back more than once. It sounds shitty, but we did, and with good reason. Working with her was at times hilarious, but it was also quite painful. Literally, it was excruciating to watch her struggle through her tenure as a community editor.

We have all laughed about her failure as a community journalist several times in the years since she passed through our lives.

But for whatever reason, I have maintained a friendship with her.

We were all warned she was getting gassed in the 24 hours preceding the unceremonious shitcanning. None of us were there when it happened that weekday afternoon. She left her personal e-mail address for another co-worker, an older woman who is perhaps the nicest person I have ever met.

That co-worker maintained correspondence with Shitcan, and gave me little updates about her life post newspaper. After a few months I decided I should send Shitcan an e-mail, letting her know we all really wanted her to succeed.

I don't think any of us were sorry to see her go, but if we'd been given a choice, our hearts were in the right place, we'd have preferred to see her succeed, not fail, regardless of how immature and superficial she was. And honestly, sometimes she seemed downright stupid.

I sent a nice e-mail to Shitcan and let her know I wished her the best, (and spoke for everyone, even if I shouldn't have,) saying we wished the best for her. Deep down, I'm sure we all did, but yeah, she has been the butt of jokes for years.

My expression of sympathy resulted in a friendship that I never bargained for. Maybe subconsciously I wanted the friendship, and more. Beats the hell out of me.

What I do know is that she reminds me of Michelle. Michelle was in ad sales at one of my previous newspapers. She was larger than life, seemingly nuts, but usually fun to be around. She was great in small doses.

Her boyfriend at the time, Lon, worked at the local radio station, doing news updates on the local AM and FM dial. He was low key, hard working and likable. He seemed like the polar opposite of Michelle, and nobody understood why he was in a relationship with Michelle.

They got married. Eventually Lon graduated from small town radio to small town television. Last I knew he was working for a small market television station. They're still married, and have kids, if I remember the story correctly.

I'm Lon. Shitcan wasn't in sales, but she's a larger-than-life personality whose world is always a silly whirlwind of activity. I'm low key.

In the years since Shitcan was kicked to the curb I have grown fond of her. Not because I love her superficial ways, immature habits or less-than-intelligent characteristics, but because despite it all, she's intelligent, determined and has managed to learn a few things along the way, the things you don't learn from a textbook.

Despite that, I have long known that our worlds would never mesh. Unlike Lon and Michelle, we'd never be able to overcome our differences. There are so many reasons we'd make a great couple, yet there are just as many reasons why we wouldn't.

She knows I think a lot of her, and I appreciate her for the right reasons. But it doesn't matter, she doesn't feel the same for me. I'm almost surprised by that, actually, given some of our past conversations.

Now our friendship is strained, and maybe it's over, and I don't care. It's probably for the better this way. But the jackass that I am wants to tell her what an idiot she is in so many ways, how I've stood by and watched her make stupid decisions in life, all the while just hoping for the best for her. I'm torn between having a bad taste in my mouth and doing unrepairable damage to what's left, if anything, of our friendship, just in the hope that she learns a thing or two from me.

If I knew that she'd learn something from my observations, I'd rather she hate me for the rest of her life. But given she doesn't respect me enough to deserve my friendship, (and she doesn't,) anything I'd say would fall on defiant ears.

So instead we'll both be left with bad tastes in our mouth, maybe never to speak again. That's probably for the best. The sooner I travel down that road, the better I'll be. I may not be truly in love with her, but there's a part of me that loves her, as irrational as it is, and she wants no part of that.

I thought she was my Michelle, but I guess I was wrong.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

2. Dancing queen

A couple of weeks ago I went to see another hair band perform live.

I went to see L.A. Guns in the far north metro, at a bar that wasn't well designed for live music. On my five-tier scale of hair bands, with the top being the A list and the bottom being the E list, L.A. Guns reached C level. My unscientific class system puts them one level below Warrant and Cinderella and two levels below Poison, Def Leppard and Guns 'n' Roses. But they're one level better than Enuff Z'nuff and BulletBoys. Not sure where I'd put Ratt. They're somewhere between the A and B level, not sure which they'd be a better fit for, but I digress. (Who is and isn't lumped into the hair band genre is also open for debate.)

So, since last summer when I saw The Black Crowes at the Minnesota State Fair I have seen Warrant with its new lead singer, Ratt lead singer Stephen Pearcy, Poison lead singer Bret Michaels, BulletBoys and L.A. Guns. For all five of those shows I have collectively paid $12 in ticket fees. Funny how that works.

Bret Michaels was quite the spectacle, and BulletBoys prompted me to write a long recap for the wrong reasons. I have long been a fan of L.A. Guns, but I'm not going to recap my March 27 outing, instead I'm going to honor a guy who loves the music and isn't afraid to show it. I call him "The Dancing Queen."

DQ came to my attention at the BulletBoys show. He seemed to be hanging solo, like me. He is a bit stocky, which probably makes him appear to be older than he is. When I looked closely at him I guessed he was probably in his early 20s, but a little facial hair, glasses and 75 extra pounds tends to make a person appear older.

His behavior at the BulletBoys show was bizarre. During the set by opening act Swirl, DQ was working his way back and forth in front of the stage, dancing like it was an ABBA concert. At times he'd wave his hands in front of the lead singer's face. It was rather bizarre.

He proceeded to dance during the BulletBoys, too. I didn't get it.

At L.A. Guns four weeks later I saw him walking around, and immediately recognized him. And sure enough, I saw him dancing around during L.A. Guns. The crowd was packed tight in front of the stage, but that didn't stop DQ from trying to strut his stuff or waive his hooded sweatshirt in the air. I think he was trying to hit on a few women between dances. I'm not sure, but it was pretty clear he was creeping a few of them out.

It was quite strange, and somehow I don't think I've seen the last of Dancing Queen, unfortunately.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

40 blogs in 40 nights

With apologies to The Donnas, here is the first of what I hope is many blogs. Forty, in a row, to be exact.

I know, I'm fooling myself, but I'm going to try, I really am. Many of the entries will have to be short, sweet and pointless if I'm ever going to make it to 40. But who am I kidding? I'm just fooling myself.

But in case I'm not, then here's the rule. If I sleep in my bed, then it counts as one of the 40 nights. If I don't, I get a pass that night. There's an outside chance I will be out of town for a weekend in the coming six weeks, and that will make it impossible to blog in the wee hours of the night.

Oh yeah, there's one more rule. I don't have to wait until the evening to write the blog, but writing at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. doesn't count as two nights, it's still just one. If on a Saturday I choose to write at 2 p.m., that's a night.

That's it, those are the rules.

So how did I spend the night before Easter? I went to a birthday party.

Unlike last week, when I spent my Saturday evening at a birthday party for a 1-year-old girl, this party was a joint celebration of birthdays for Cosmo and his wife, who have birthdays less than a week apart.

The party was at Cosmo's house. I like Cosmo and his wife, so I enjoy hanging out with them, but I knew I wasn't going to enjoy making a cameo at the party. Yet somehow I have a warped sense of obligation to accept such invitations when I can.

I'm somewhat anti-social in my old age, and while I can ask people a million questions if need be, somehow I'm not in the mood any more. Of the handful of co-workers who were invited, only one other guy would be attending, along with his wife and infant son. And I waited just long enough to show up that Jason and family were nearing departure. When the kid gets tired, the party is over for mom and dad.

Most of those attending were friends of Cosmo and the wife, which means I had them all beat by about 10 years.

So not only do I attend a party full of youngsters who are in the prime of their life, I decided it would make sense to wear the silly pink bunny ears I procured from my haunted house gig last fall. Nobody other than Jason's 1-year-old found them to be amusing, and even the kid wasn't that fascinated, even when I turned the blinking lights on.

So after 90 minutes I'm ready to leave and saying my goodbyes. I've endured as much bad karaoke as I can tolerate when some random woman decides she wants a picture of me with my bunny ears as I'm getting ready to ascend from the basement/saloon. I force Mrs. Cosmo to be in the picture with me and then end up in a conversation with the random woman. It turns out she was Cosmo's prom date in high school. They weren't even very good friends back then, yet they went to prom together.

They're friends now, and this random woman seemed really interested in having a conversation with me, which was bizarre and puzzling. She seemed disappointed by the fact I was about to depart for the evening. We ended up talking upstairs for about five minutes or so, and for the life of me I can't figure out why this woman found me interesting. She had no idea who I was or what my connection was to either Cosmo or the wife when she first approached me, yet she engaged me in conversation.

I never did figure out why I was so fascinating to her, nor do I really care. I did learn she was there with a boyfriend, which only made the situation more perplexing. And if she went to high school with Cosmo, certainly she must have known several people at the party. So why did she single out some stranger at the party?

Maybe these stupid ears are more powerful than I imagined. Yeah, that's it. It's gotta be the ears.