Monday, April 30, 2012

Darwin's Price

     Darwinism and evolution are at work all around us every day, Company, and we hardly ever notice.  Maybe one butterfly loses the chance to fetrilize some eggs because he can't stay airborn enough, so a specimen with better stamina gets to pass on its genes.  Maybe two moose are locked in battle over a female in heat, and one just slowly wears down the other until the battle is over, and the stronger one gets to pass on his genes.  Or maybe two 13-year-olds in Pennsylvania get hit by a car while suntanning in the road.
     But sometimes Darwinism doesn't work.  Sometimes the butterfly lands but lifts off and swoops in again before the one with more stamina can fertilize his eggs.  Sometimes the weaker moose is able to break the stronger one's antlers and get laid.  And sometimes humans have things like air lift ambulances and that allows us to cheat certain death.
    What led Beaver County, Pennsylvania teens Samantha Schermanhorn and Kaylie George to sunbathe in the middle of Donald Avenue I am sure that I will never know.  Maybe they thought that it was a short gravel road that was relatively untraveled.  Maybe there were a lot of trees in the neighborhood, although I can see a picture of the scene and there appear to be a lot of sunny, grassy areas nearby.  Maybe someone made a lot of fun of them for being really pale.  Or maybe they were just dumb.  But when they fell asleep - as sunbathers almost always ultimately do - you knew something bad was going to happen.
     That bad thing that happened was Schermanhorn's 19-year old cousin coming down the road in his car, as would be expected because generally that is what would happen on a road - a car would come down it.   He stopped at a stop sign, turned the corner and ran over the sleeping girls, who naturally couldn't hear the car because THEY WERE SLEEPING!  Two other cousins, who were brother and sister of the driver - saw the whole thing happen and called 911.
These girls are trying to be like Samantha and Kaylie,
but they just can't seem to get it right.
    Now evolution was trying very hard to kill these two young girls.  Fortunately, local paramedics, the crew of two STAT MedEvac helicopters, and the staff at the Childern's Hospital of Pittsburgh were working harder to make sure that they lived.  The girls were conscious when amblances arrived to take them to the helicopters, and they were able to tell paramedics what they were doing in the road.  We talk about this story a little tounge-in-cheek because they girls appear that they are going to be okay.  They were listed in fair condition at the hospital last night.  And the driver was under no sort of influenece, was not speeding, etc. and it was just a horrible, no-fault accident.
     Or was it? I pin the blame squarely on the girls who were dumb enough to sunbathe in the road.  Here is just a little piece of advice for you girls...DON'T LIE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!  You will probably get hit by a car eventually.  I watched a news report about the situation and they showed the helicopters landing in a park somewhere nearby.  There were lots of sunny, open, grassy areas.  Why not go sunbathe there?  There were grassy areas alongside of the road they were lying in, why not go sunbathe there?  Does your house have a roof?  Why not sunbathe there?  There are lots of alternatives, but they chose the road.  I just don't understand.
     So, we know now that a couple of things are going to happen as a result of this incident.  First of all, the parents of these girls are going to have some gigantic medical bills, even if they have insurance.  Second, the girls will hopefully never lie in the middle of the road again.  Third, they will be made fun of by a lot of people for a really long time.  And rightfully so.  Because when you do something that utterly stupid, if you don't pay Darwin's price, you have to pay some price.  And I think the social one is appropriate.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Think Before You Erect we have grown up here at Big Dave and Company.  I was going to come out in this post guns blazing about people being stupid and having all the wrong priorities, but instead of doing that and putting my foot in my mouth like I did with the "A-Ha Moment" thing, I am going to take a slightly more measured approach.  I am going to chalk this whole incident up to an unfortunate misunderstanding.  See how far we've come?
     A lot of times, people forget what it was like to be a kid.  And by kid I mean anywhere from 1 to...oh say 20.  It is not easy to be a kid or teenager or young adult or whatever, okay?  People often think it is because from an adult prospective it seems like the problems and issues are easy and minor and trivial.  And that probably true when you are dealing with adult problems and issues.  But to kids going through the experience, it can be extremely difficult.  An important function of any school system is not only academic education but social education and acclimation.  The ins and out of the social scene in a building where hundreds of people with vastly different stories and backgrounds are forced together helps teach kids how to handle themselves vís a vís other people in society.  Unfortunately, the people in that arena - and by this I mean the other kids - aren't mature.  So the rules you have to play by are a little different.  That is why things often turn out badly when parents stick their noses in and try to help.  For one, it sort of takes away that whole social learning aspect, plus parents don't know the special rules.  And I think that is what happened here.
     Brandy Day is an 18-year old senior at Harker Heights High School in Killeen, Texas.  She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy from the waist down when she was three.  Since then, through effort and physical therapy she has learned to walk without crutches and braces and even the special shoes that she generally has to wear.  As one could imagine, it could not have been an easy road.  Aside from the physical pain and discomfort, one could image that there is a fair amount of teasing that has gone on from her peers - from good-natured ribbing from friends to the truly and intentionally cruel.   Then there is the aspect that she has never been able to truly compete with her peers on a physical level.  She never would have stood a chance in basketball, swimming, etc.  That makes for a tough road to hoe.  So when Brandy's mom found out that Brandy was trying out for prom queen she thought that this was something that Brandy could win and decided that she was going to throw some time and resources behind her daughter.
     And that is fine.  And I sort of think that if this campaign had been managed correctly Brandy probably could have won as prom queen, or at least made the final three.  I really do.  Then this would be a feel-good story and we in the blogosphere could all be bitching and moaning about how people are so uplifted because someone with mild cerebral palsy won prom queen whereas if she was just some regular kid no one would care.  But that is not how it went down.  Brandy's mother Tammy just didn't understand the special set of rules in kid society and it all went horribly awry.
     It started out well enough, it really did.  Brandy made fliers and posters to hang up and distribute at school (pretty standard).  The two canvassed neighborhoods and hung fliers in businesses (a little bit excessive but not beyond the bounds of good taste).  Then Brandy joked about a billboard and mom ran with it.  That is where this whole thing took a wrong turn.  The billboard went up on the highway near the school, and I am pretty sure that I saw in an ABC News piece that there was an advertisement in the paper.
The billboard in question.
     You just don't do that by the rules of kid society, okay?  All that does is make you look spoiled.  And that, Company, is not good when you want your kid society peers to vote for you.  So I am not surprised that she did not win.  I am not surprised that she did not even place or show.  And I am definitely not surprised that some of the kids in her school have begun to ridicule and harass her.  The number one rule of kid society is that you don't call attention to yourself.  That's bed juju.
     Putting up a billboard with your picture on it is like putting a ridicule target on your back.  It is just never a good idea.  And I am sure Brandy knew that, because she brought up the idea as a joke at first.  But mom didn't understand the kid rules.  Tammy told ABC News "If you're going to do it, give it 150%."  She spent over $1000 on Brandy's campaign.  And that is a fine maxim but putting your daughter's picture on a prom billboard is not the way to do it.  It violates Rule #1.  Mom thought she was helping, and by adult rules she was.  But she didn't understand the kid rules.  By that set she was sinking the ship.  And that is a shame, because I really do believe that Tammy's heart was in the right place.  I believe that her intentions were good.  I don't think this is one of those situations with an overbearing parent trying to live out his/her high school fantasy vicariously through the child.  But it doesn't matter.  It didn't turn out right.  Mom just didn't understand the rules.

Friday, April 20, 2012

St. Peaches Day Around the Country

     We have, on numerous occasions in this space, talked to you about the glorious holiday known as St. Peaches Day.  And so we will again.  I am not going to get into the history of the holiday and how it came to be, but what I would like to do today is take the opportunity to look at how the holiday is celebrated in select areas around the country.  And if it isn't celebrated in these cities in this manner, then it really should be.

New York City
Plum Beach, where fireworks are traditionall shot at people
in celebration of St. Peaches Day.
New York City is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the United States, sorry LA.  As such, it is a hotbed of St. Peaches Day celebrations.  New Yorkers from Staten Island to Brooklyn to the Bronx traditionally celebrate by parading across the Brooklyn Bridge in single file while wearing party hats.  After the parade, the celebrants go to Chinatown where they buy crates of illegal fireworks, which they shoot off towards one another at Plum Beach on Jamaica Bay.  Also, the traditional cake or blueberry pie that is served on this day is ofter replaced by cheesecake or Brooklyn-style pizza across the city.

Las Vegas

A fake plant of the type that is traditionally given on
St. Peaches Day in Las Vegas.
Traditionally, the residents of Las Vegas go to the casino to gamble on St Peaches Day, and many of the casinos offer specials and discounts for those who live in Clark County.  Las Vegasans or whatever they have called - due to their desert location - have created a unique local twist to the traditional method of celebrations.  While they still sprinkle confetti on their bushes, they traditionally purchase fake plants or flowers with which to celebrate.  Another trend that is growing in popularity is to actually give the fake plant as a St. Peaches Day gift in place of the traditional gift of Legos.

Twin Cities

Spoonbridge and Cherry.
In the Twin Cities, the curious local custom of spending St. Peaches Day listening to Tenacious D and drinking home-brewed beer while baking cookies has developed.  Locals often engage in this practice late into the night - almost until dawn - and then cap off the festivities by having early morning breakfast at Hell's Kitchen or any other sheik downtown Minneapolis restaurant.  Also, it is considered good form for everyone to put on tuxedos or evening gowns and party hats and get a group photo of family and friends taken in front of the Spoonbridge and Cherry in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.


A low calorie - or diet - Wisconsin Candy Apple. 
 Strangely enough, locals in Wisconsin celebrate St. Peaches Day in a starkly different manner than their neighbors to the west.  In Wisconsin, St. Peaches Day is always celebrated by throwing confetti in the bushes in front of one's home or in one's yard.  They day is then spent alone drinking beer, eating the local deep-friend delecacy the Wisconsin Candy Apple and building Star Wars Legos.  After sundown, locals then hit the streets and bars which generally leads to higher than normal amounts of arrests for public drunkeness, lewd behavior, and drunk driving.  Oddly enough, however, local authorities generally suspend tickets and arrests for public urination on St Peaches Day in an effort to mark the occasion in their own special way.


It's St. Peaches Day in Columbia, South Carolina!
 In the Carolinas, the celebration of the holiday varies widely from region to region.  While areas along the ocean tend to celebrate by throwing confetti into the water and having picnics on the beach, in western North and South Carolina the holiday is generally celebrated by bluegrass music festivals and Hawaiian-style pig roasts.  In the piedmont of North Carolina the holiday is celebrated in the traditonal way with a little bit of a southern twist - confetti is thrown on bushes, party hats are worn, but they replace blueberry pie and ravioli with peach cobbler and fried chicken.  In central South Carolina, a highly specialized form of celebration has developed.  Bars and comedy clubs across the region host special shows in which special guests or even the public in some cases perform, with the show always ending with the people on stage throwing confetti on the crowd.  At these shows, the audiance drinks nothing but wine and eat taquitos.  Traditional dress for these celebrations include assless chaps, flip flops, sunglasses indoors, and large buttons with pictures of the characters from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force animated television show on them, with Master Shake being the most popular.  The wearing of a button with Karl on it is generally acknowleged to mean that the wearer is single and looking to hook up on this most festive of occasions.

So that is just a taste of how this wonderful holiday has evolved differently in different areas of the country, often heavily influenced by local customs and traditions.  All is well though, because the holiday is all about togetherness and celebration, no matter how it is done.  May you have a happy St. Peaches Day no matter where you are and how you celebrate.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Park Grill

     Let's consider the park grill today, Company.  Even though it is snowing outside of my window as I write this, it is Tax Day, and in most major cities across America there are long lines of people waiting to get their tax returns postmarked April 16th, lest they be late.  Never mind that they have had their W-2 forms since at least the end of January, or that the post office generally won't postmark your letter or cancel a stamp at the counter anymore.  That is now done two truck rides and two hundred miles away, at least that's how it is for the remote compound that is the Worldwide Headquarters.  But I digress, I have lost track.  The point of all this rambling is that we are at the point in the year when it is or should be spring, and it is time to look forward to summer and the delights that it beings.
This is what I am talking about.
     One of the most ubiquitous things in my part of the world are those little single fixed municipal park grills that you see in every town and county park along the side of the road.  You know the ones that I am talking about.  They have a single pole that they stand on, and there is a sort of grate that has adjustable levels so you can cook like right on top of the coals or slightly less on top of them.  The grate always has such wide slats that anything will fall through, and the slats themselves are usually huge and rounded so that they aren't able to make any of those classic grill marks on anything that you put on them.
     Who uses those things?  They are without exception always dirty as sin being covered with a mixture of grease and oil and ash and God knows what else.  99% of the time they are standing empty but there is always some sort of evidence of use in every single one of them.  But you never actually see anyone using them.  Sometimes you can see that some stupid kids were just burning anything flammable in one, and other times you just see huge piles of ash.
      I have used them, on more than one occasion.  Thinking about the paragraph above, especially the part about how dirty they are, I wonder why I have used them and how I was willing to eat something that had touched them, but they are actually pretty handy.  You still have to haul all the charcoal and lighter fluid with you, but they are a lot more convenient than carrying around a little Weber, or a generator and your George Foreman grill.  They work pretty well too, and the really nice thing is that if you go about them correctly you can make a nice large surface to cook on.  The downside is that you can't usually build up a gigantic pyramid of coals to get them started, so sometimes you don't have enough coals to cover all that cooking surface.  I tried to make corn on the cob on one of those grills once and it took me approximately 16 years to get them done.  I tended them constantly and half of them turned out burned and half of them turned out raw.  But they work okay for burgers and dogs and that kind of fare.
     What really blew me away was that they still sell these things.  Sometimes I go down to City Hall and steal some of the magazines and catalogs that get sent there, and one of them is a catalog that is aimed at selling things to municipalities.  They have things like park benches and speed bumps and garbage cans.  They also sell those little park grills and I can't but help to wonder why.  There are like fifteen unused ones in every park in America, who could possibly be needing to buy and install more?  Where is there a park that is wanting for those things anywhere?  I beseech you to show me a park where there is a line of people waiting for their turn at the park grill.  Dad standing with his kids, peeking out around the shoulders of the people in front of them trying to see what is taking so long.  Think ticket line for the big concert but with a park grill at the front.  Is that hard for you to visualize?  That is because that scene has never occurred.  Ever.
     So there they are.  And that is that.  Next time you are cruising past the park take a look around, I guarantee you that there is at least one of them somewhere in the park.  And if there isn't then there is one at the next park down the block.  But I defy you to see someone using one.  But then again, summer is coming, so you never know.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Post-Easter Ramblings

     Happy Belated Easter, Company.  I am going to post a picture of some Easter eggs and tell you that I hope you found many of them in and about your homes.
I hope that you found many of these in and about your homes.
     I did not find any of them near the Worldwide Headquarters - unless you count pile after pile of dog shit - mostly because no one bothered to hide any around.  Either that or the Easter Bunny just wanted to go to other worldwide headquarters instead.
    Anyway, I don't really have anything specific to write about for you today, but I figured that it has been a while so I would just put on for you here whatever came to mind.  What is coming to mind to me today is that I went to Mass on Easter Sunday and I was a little bit appalled by how people were dressed.  Now, I was in a small town and I understand that sometimes in a place like that you aren't going to get super fancy plants, but come on.  I guess that I can understand things like jeans, especially in this day and age, but at least put on a collared shirt for Easter Sunday.  I was sitting behind a family, and bless his heart the father had a wife and four daughters.  And they were all teenagers or impending teenagers.  The dad was dressed sort of okay - with a button up shirt and sort of khaki looking carpenter-style pants - but the girls?  Not so much.  The mom was dressed like she was going out to the bar.  Way too much makeup and fake tanning and hairspray.  She had on this little mid-thigh skirt and some hoochie shirt under a coat that she never took off, probably because she was cold for not wearing enough clothes.  Each of the daughters looked like they were about to be on an MTV program including one who was wearing a short skirt and hooded sweatshirt and looked just ridiculous.  For some reason that particular family raised my ire a little bit.  I got the feeling that the father tried for a while but he just sort of looked defeated.
Using children to line garden paths instead of woodchips or stone
is the latest green fad in the landscaping community.
      So that is that.  Spring is here and while I used to sort of look forward to springtime I have learned that it just basically means a lot more work for me - most of it out in the yard.  There is always things to be raked and cut and dug, and all that stuff.  Plus, everything in the yard is expensive.  I can't go into the home improvement store without dropping at least $30.00 on something for the yard, and then I get to go work my ass off as a result of it.  I just don't understand the whole gardening thing.  I know that a lot of people really enjoy it, and they find it relaxing and restorative.  I just find it tiring and dirty.  I do really like the satisfaction that comes with seeing your work once it is all completed but it is such a fleeting thing.  You work and work and plant and then suddenly a fall wind blows by and everything is gone.  It is something you have to do anyway I suppose.  And the yard does look nice...
      In other news, baseball has begun, and I know that I try to not talk a lot of sports on here because you guys don't care, but I am going to do it anyway.  The coming of baseball is a little bit more than a mere sports thing is sort of like a cultural thing.  Baseball is like a phenomena in its own right and there is nothing like it.  Also, in a traditional year it is a harbinger of summer, although this year things have been a little strange with the warm early spring weather (Editor's Note: It was snowing outside the Worldwide Headquarters as this was written.) and it seems like summer is already upon us.  The really funny thing about baseball is that it lasts FOREVER.  Right now everyone is excited about it, but in about two months we are all going to be saying "I am sick of seems like it's been going on all year."  Just wait until the NFL folks get it into their mind to expand their season to the entire year.  Yikes.
     So that's about it for today, just some post-Easter ham-induced ramblings on the 33rd anniversary of the Red River tornado outbreak.  Have a wonderful day, Company.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Basketball Life Choice

     Last night, the University of Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Kansas University Jayhawks to win the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.  But don't worry, this isn't a sports post, this is a life post.  Much has been made out of the fact that Kentucky is led by mostly freshmen players, 18 or 19-year-old young men who traditionally are a little selfish or inexperiences.  This group, however, has adopted a very team-centric style of play.  The other major point with many of the players being freshman is that this massive watch has begun to see if any of them bother to come back and play another season in college or if they all choose to enter the NBA draft.
     Give me a fucking break, okay?  They're going.  All of them.  And I will tell you why.   I was listening this morning to an interview this morning with Antoine Davis, the star center for the Wildcats, and no offense to Mr. Davis, but I couldn't understand a word he was saying.  Through the mumbles and jumbles I thought I heard him say that he hadn't decided whether or not he was going into the NBA.  And that is bullshit.  I don't know Anthony Davis, and I am going to make some GIGANTIC assumptions here, and I apologize in advance if I am wrong, but he didn't seem to sound to me like the kind of guy who cared a lot about his education.  Again, I could be wrong.  But the fact that he hadn't quite mastered things like anunciation or prepositions tells me that he hasn't thought a lot about life beyond the hardwood.
     If he was dedicated to education beyond basketball I would suspect that he would be reading and writing a lot more, and if he were reading and writing a lot more I would suspect that he would be a little better at speaking.  If he wasn't planning to go directly into the NBA I wouldn't really expect him to go directly over to the part of the Superdome crown where William Wesley - a great friend of NBA superstar guys like Michael Jordan and LeBron James - and the entire Nike contingent were sitting.  Guys who are worried about they final in Chemestry 101 aren't generally that worried about hanging out with the founder of Nike.
     Then there is the coach.  I don't like John Calipari and I won't apologize for saying it.  I have never met him, but I just get an uneasy sense about the man.  One thing that he has done consistently this season is never shy away from the fact that a major part of what he does at Kentucky is prepare his players for the NBA, and he readily admits that the NBA draft is as big or bigger a goal than a national championship.  So all of these kids - six of them some are projecting - are being groomed to be NBA Draft First Round selections.  He has worked there to create essentially a breeding ground for NBA draftees, which would tend to attract the type of young man who is less interested in getting an education and more interested in the promise of the big payday in the NBA.
     Let's be honest, if you are a young man with tremendous basketball talent and you want to get a really good free education as a result of your talents, there are going to be a lot of schools that will hand you a four-year full-ride to play baskeball that are probably a lot more academically esteemed than the University of Kentucky.  Not that Kentucky is a bad school by any means, but I would suspect that the pitch you get from Stanford or Northwestern will be a lot different than the pitch Calapari is giving at Kentucky.  I am just saying.  And on the flip side, there aren't a lot of kids going to Stanford or Northwestern to win a national championship or as a pathway to the NBA Draft.
     So I guess, to borrow a phrase that has been popular recently, it is what it is.  People always make the choice that they feel is best to them. So if Antoine Davis and his Kentucky teammates feel that going one-and-done and then hoping for that big payday in the NBA is the right choice for them, then more power to them.  And it might not seem like it but I truly wish them the best and hope that they succeed mightily.  But I will be honest I feel that the odds are against them.  There are a lot more lists of the biggest NBA draft busts than there are of the biggest NBA draft successes.  But there are a lot of Northwestern grads who played basketball that are making a pretty penny.  I'm just saying.  But you do what you've gotta do, right?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Bad April Fool's Day Pranks

     So, today is April Fool's Day, and in the spirit of such, we here at Big Dave and Company , in conjunction with Officer Butt Hansen, would like to bring you five April Fool's Day pranks that will cause him to hunt you down, kick your ass, then sleep with your girlfriend.

1.)  Going down to the nearest major highway intersection and just discretely changing all the arrows to point the opposite direction.  This is especially nefarious because the locals just know where they are going but it will really, REALLY confuse the out-of-towners.

2.)  Cutting a big slice in the side of the vacuum bag.  This will get dust everywhere.  True, in the end it will probably not hurt anything, and it will be hilarious to watch the vacuumer try to keep sucking but the dust, but there will be dirt everywhere.  And Officer Butt Hansen really hates dust and dirt.

3.)  Buying an old, used up ATM machine, then setting it up out in front of your apartment building.  Programming it to always pay out $50 whenever someone puts in their bank card.  Advertising that there is no fee.  Then filling it with nothing but Monopoly money or replica Confederate bank notes.

4.)  Replacing all of the eggs in your refrigerator with hard boiled eggs.  It will be hilarious when your significant other goes to make scrambled eggs for Sunday brunch.  By the way, Officer Butt Hansen is coming over for Sunday brunch.  And he required scrambled eggs.

5.)  Dumpster diving to find a whole bunch of empty clear alcohol bottles, then filling them with water.  Taking them to a junior high school dance, telling a bunch of the kids that you have spiked the punch, then watching them go about their business thinking they've been drinking vodka.  Hilarious!  Except that Officer Butt Hansen has a night gig chaperoning school dances.  Might want to go over to the next town over for this one.

Happy April Fool's Day Everyone!