Monday, June 16, 2008

It's late, but we had a call for me to talk about my father.

Two moments:
Many years ago before YouTube, or any of the internet's repositories, my father went looking for a tape. A very specific tape. See It Now, March 19, 1954. So he consulted catalogs, checked archives, and finally ended up calling up CBS Television, and got them to give him an copy of their archive footage. And he showed that to me on one night when I was back from college, and I guess it's been an influence ever since. For my dad it was formative as he watched it live, and watched his father broken from being spellbound. This showed him how the powerful can be taken down, armed with facts and logic and without hate or lies. For me, it's always been the sanitizing power of sunshine, give people have enough information, they get an accurate picture, and they make the right decisions.

This past Sunday, we got to sit and talk about my work. He's always had a passing interest in my work with NAQT because of the similarities between the quizbowl situation, and the minicomputer industry back in the early '80s. In '83 he was selling minicomputers and memory boards (10 grand a Megabyte!) to industrial plants, for a company that held 80% of that market. But that company had made a lot of mistakes, they had alienated a lot of their customers and employees, and they believed themselves invincible. So my dad got together with a few other people, and put together a technological improvement to their model, and he started a company. Over three years they took a prototype to production, and it ended up in utility plants, factories, and (in his proudest moment) JPL, where it processed the signal from the Voyager probes (even at this distance, they're still sending signal through). He spent a week in the crawl spaces of JPL pulling cable to connect it all up. And after three years where his opposition was arrogant enough to put its clients up for the taking, then worried enough to lie and spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about him and his products, then paranoid enough to bury their statements, and incompetent enough to let their 80% market dominance become his company's 80% market dominance, he sold his company back to them, and watched as the increase in processor speed obliterated the market for minicomputers.

So he's always seen the similarities between NAQT and his situation back then, and now that we find ourselves at the end of the road for one of our competitors, he could see the similarities. He sat there on Father's Day and having heard of all the changes and who was gunning for us and how they had burned their own reputations while trying to burn ours, and who we could still help, he just smiled, which is rare enough for him, and he said, “I think you should keep at it.” And he 's right, the situation may have changed, but if we're going to hook this up truly for everyone, there's still some cables to pull.

At the end of the day, we end up being our father's sons. And I am not descended from fearful men.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's entirely possible the years of Pirate baseball have damaged my ability to watch other forms of baseball. I got to watch nine innings of purely ordinary incompetence, this weekend, a 12-8 game where the starter managed to go five innings, giving up 7 runs on four hits, four walks, 2 hit batsmen, a passed ball, and a balk. The home team falls behind on a grand slam only to gut it out to pull ahead and win. To top the excitement off, the mascot dance-off was punctuated with a marriage proposal.

And with all of this action in a 12-8 game, I nearly fell asleep. Apparently I now need the incredible craziness of Pirate inexplicability to really enjoy it. "Yes this sucks, but that guy might beanball his third baseman at any moment."

In other news, I would like to note that television has finally caught up with the notion of "I'll Eat That," my theater of cruelty gameshow. And I think that by adding the notion of gyroscopic exercise equipment, they may have actually surpassed it with Hurl. Not that I really want to watch it, but I know exactly the people that will. And with this, we move one step closer to Running Man.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I note this for posterity, because you won't believe it otherwise. Tonight's primetime showing on Fox Sports Pittsburgh? Women's Football, Boston vs Pittsburgh. (Pirates were a day game, Penguins are off the 2-day cycle)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

So today Cornell comes back to the tournament. I'm not sure what proper procedure is in this. First, we haven't been in while I've been an alum. Second, it's making the tournament in what for Cornell has to be the wrong tournament. We're a hockey school, we know that. A little lacrosse certainly, and we even the faintest trace of football history (back to back nationals in 1921-22, and we didn't even need to do it while there was a war on.) I have to think the committee wanted this to be the matchup. They took our colors, and 117 years ago, Stanford stole our faculty to staff their school, and we're still a little bitter. (The centenary of this was celebrated on the football field, so I was close enough to the blood lust then.)

I guess it's relentless homerism time, as we watch the Big Red Bear do to the Tree what it usually does in the woods.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sad news came out of the town this week, three students at a local college got shot by someone they knew, and two of them died. It caught my attention because they mentioned that one of the people played quiz bowl for the school.

On one level I feel grief for this because, even without a personal or professional connection between us, he was getting some enjoyment out of the game, and that is what I always want to see. I tend to believe in the possibilities of people, and now there's no possibilities there. And of course there's the dark thought that had there not been someone playing quiz bowl involved, I'd have blithely passed the article without a second glance. On another level, it sobers me to what hate, madness, and rage will turn a person to, irrationally lashing out, destroying their own life by destroying others.

We also have the tragedy of the passing of Al Whited. Our paths crossed only occasionally, but without the lineage of the Georgia Tech program of Al's era, the cross-pollination north to Cornell would never have occurred in my era.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Congratulations to Mike for seeing a payoff to one of the longest running setup gags in internet history.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Well played gentlemen, but this is going to up ticket prices.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I find myself disturbed by the death of Chef Tell. More because as a small child, his name, which in the midst of Evening Magazine seemed to beg the questions "Chef Tell What?" and "Is this subject-verb agreement?", questions that if asked would have been much harder hitting journalism, seemed to push me toward grammar fascism.

Meanwhile, I am merely depressed by this study of my former and adjacent district. You can feel the collapse of its economy coming. If the primary impetus for what stabilizes the district is one man's patronage, the aftershocks will devastate.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

S'Anyway... I've started to get worried that I wasn't keeping up on this, and I didn't really want to hang an empty month on this. My good opportunity for comment, the family reunion in August, was neither so horrific to inspire good prose, nor so pleasant a surprise to earn note. There was a possible comment about me expecting the collapse of the LOLcats meme, mostly due to the oppressive nature of the Impact font, when taken repeatedly, but I don't think it's quite dead yet. So I was wondering, with issues of month end like "I need to remember to pay my bills." pressing, would I find anything interesting to write to prevent a break in the chain? Well, if nothing else, FraughtWatch delivers. Yes, this is the same Willie Williams, I had lost track of him, figuring he had been lost in the morass of the U's recent record. But no, he was in your Louisville, eating your weed.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I'm now convinced the funniest day of the year is last Tuesday. Note that I mean 'last Tuesday' as a relative concept, not July 31. I sort of thought this after vacation, with the joke about Vermont's integration of lunch counters (allowing black bears to sit), calling it a historical day, one that historians far and wide refer to as "last Tuesday". (See, funny. And really "last Tuesday" is the thing that blows it past the "maybe that was slightly offensive, were I a Vermonter" to "oh, that's just completely insane rantings.")

S'anyway... I was reading through this fark thread about National Mustard Day and saw someone promoting something called Bacon Salt. Naturally, I'm intrigued, after all, the power to impart bacon to anything, you know that's really what the superpower of the Baconator should be, not sensing your fear. So reading through the site I find that they've certified this both vegetarian, and kosher. Now I'm pretty sure in olden days, had you made the announcement that you had made a magic powder that makes everything tastes and smells like bacon, and was kosher. The first three words out of the crowd you had assembled would have been "Burn the witch!!" So in describing this at Sunday dinner, I made that observation, it fell dead. so not wanting the line to fall dead, I added "forget olden days, that was probably true until Last Tuesday." Only then did it kill. Last Tuesday. Not so much comedy gold as comedy gold helper.

Monday, July 23, 2007

While I've been gone, it's been good for fraught closure:

If I were greedy, I'd even pat myself on the back for sensing something early here.

It's entirely possible we're living in the golden age of fraught. Each of the four major sports has a crisis that could obliterate its credibility throughout the land.

  • MLB: Steroids
  • NFL: Vick
  • NBA: Refereeing and corruption
  • NHL: The sale of the Predators, which looks to be the problem of the Penguins squared, compounded by it being a prism through which one can see the failure of current league strategy.
I'd call it a perfect storm to let MLS in, but after seeing Once in a Lifetime, I'm more or less convinced adding Beckham is less 1975 all over again, than 1977.

So here we are, in the middle of some big crazy time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Today people are discovering what I've known about the Pirates for years: Though they are incompetent on practically every aspect of baseball, once they have you in the park they are absolute masters of in-park, off-field entertainment.

The impetus being the film of this recent add-on to the on-Jumbotron entertainment. In addition to being pitch perfect, it's important to note that around 2:18 in the clip Oliver Onion, the Emo pierogie, turns cannibal. The Pittsburgh Pirates. We will... devour our own.

Strangely, this wasn't the most upsetting mascot related thing I found today. No that's this site here, which appears to be Canada's preeminent supplier of nightmare fuel. To wit:

1. Here we see Christ substitute Kool-Aid Man welcoming Greenpeace into the harbor.
2. Something designed to traumatize children into a lifetime of littering because they're afraid the can will eat them.
3. The anime version of Jim Henson's Edward G. Robinson Babies
4. Norrin Radd for the Royal Canadian Mint.
5. All Glory to the Hypno-Cup.
6. Mr. Hydrolix, who caused me 15 minutes of Don Music-style fits trying to fit the letter K into the phrase "Xzibit drove by the crib and righteously pimped Jeff's new Q*bert."

and last, but certainly not least,
7. A mascot that utterly amazes me that it could be commissioned. Once you realize what it's advertising, it's utterly jaw-dropping that someone would either commission or wear it. The only purposes I can see for it are ads like in the Truth campaign, or as it looks like the picture was shot out of a doorway, a singing telegram of such spectacular awkwardness as to blast the entire industry back to the stone age, or at least before the days of polyphony.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Apparently, I still have Dabney Coleman buried in my basement.

Many years ago at one of the Ironheads I wrote a question that began "Try as he might, Dabney Coleman cannot escape Pittsburgh." in which I noted that Dabney Coleman managed to appear in Inspector Gadget, where the city was used for background, the Guardian, which used the city as setting, and some fairly awful TV movie where he played a kidnapped fashion designer, which used city cop cars. The question then insinuated that I had him tied up in my basement, which is a dirty lie. I don't even have a basement.

So when flipping through the channels this evening, I saw TNT had a new medical drama and the setting was an organ transplant unit at a Pittsburgh hospital. I then paged down in the listing, and we find the first episode's B plot is Treat Williams trying to become chief of surgery when his mentor and special guest star falls ill. Yup, Dabney Coleman really can't escape Pittsburgh.

Monday, June 11, 2007

On the other hand, this I KNOW is transgressive marketing.

In my drive-thru pickup order I got ad for Wendy's new burger monstrosity. (Their previous effort being the Bacon Mushroom Swiss melty thing that achieved its greatest publicity as being the burger David Hasselhoff was too drunk to eat.) They call it the Baconator. Now ordinarily I'd take this as a challenge. However, they've decided to promote it with the exact method of promotion I'd expect some advertising firm to do if they were forced to alert a neighborhood to a predator.

"Okay, so number one, we can't actually tell them about it, what we have to do is get the warning out about the Baconator without telling them about the Baconator. So we have them slip the flyers in their bags, put 'em under the salad on the tray. We need plausible deniability here. We want them finding out about the Baconator miles from here, so they can't ask questions about it. It's equally important that people know, but we can't be seen as knowing about it when it gets released."
"So what do we put in the flyer?"
"I don't care. Tell them it can sense fear. Tell them they need to be prepared, because the police can't or won't stop it."
"Sir, are you actually advocating vigilante consumption of the Baconator?"
"All I'm saying is I'm not letting my kids within a mile of the Baconator. If somebody else gets rid of it, so much the better."

I'm just trying to figure out if this is going to end up a Law & Order twist, or Chris Hansen gets takeout.

UPDATE: Just when I thought this was limited to Wendy's, Long John Silver's posting up signs saying that "MONSTER SHRIMP ARE COMING!"

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I'm not sure if it's transgressive marketing, but I'm becoming convinced that whoever designed this year's Kennywood campaign is an exhibitionist.

Allow me to explain:
Kennywood is the local amusement park, it's fairly well known among roller coaster enthusiasts for its wooden coasters. This year they've decided to go with an ad for the park that includes the phrase "Kennywood's Open...Those words signal the beginning of summer for me."
One problem with this, in one of the more inexplicable etymologies of Pittsburghese, "Kennywood's Open" is common and/or polite euphemism for "your fly is open." So given the level of gusto and delivery of the ad, it certainly sounds like this guy is far too happy to be called out on it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I have always thought of the Kool-Aid Man as some sort of artistic allegory of Christ. ("Take my blood and add just the right amount of sugar." If he wasn't arterial red I wouldn't have this issue.) I'm pleased to know I'm not alone in the bizarre symbology of advertising mascots. The entire suicidefood weblog (via boingboing) is excellent, but it's a special kind of crazy that sees the Death of Marat in a lobster pot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Papers passed, "Who marked them last?"
Dumbass times have come, to my hometown.

Once again, we have two parties in Washington County, the idiots in charge, and the ineffective opposition.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I thought I felt a disturbance in the fraught somewhere south of me.

Okay, Bob Huggins is going to WVU? Prior home of Pacman Jones, Chris Henry, and couch burning celebrations. What can possibly go wrong? Light up the FraughtWatch.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm fairly certain this is going to turn into an ethics violation at some point, but I can't be sure if adding shoddy ethics to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's list of sins actually moves it up in status or not.

I'm this close to wanting to organize the Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Control Board Control Board.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Apparently, if you're not a Pirate fan, this is painful to read. If you'd like to simulate what it felt like for me to read it: Get a brick. Every time you scroll down while reading, smack your temples with the corner of the brick, then drag it across your eyes, then smash your other hand with it. Now realize your pain is your fault and you could have prevented it. That's about what it feels like.