Thursday, January 27, 2011

Random Opus on Friendship and Sharing

As I'm sure you're all well aware, the staff here at the Ducks keeps a careful eye on what young people are into nowadays.

Given the amount of our street cred (enormous) and how in touch with youth pop culture preferences we are here (very in touch), it's only natural that today we talk about the Spice Girls. (You know, because I like to hit the big issues of the day. I mean, President Obama gave his State of the Union address, The Ivory Coast still has two presidents, "all sorts of crazy shit" -- as Walter Mondale is on the record as saying* -- is going down in Egypt, and the Spice Girls. Those are the big ones and I decided to stay true to my journalistic nature and pick the single most important of the lot.)

*I assume.

So their current smash hit song "Wannabe" got me thinking...

The chorus goes a little something like this: "If you wannabe my lover/you gotta get with my friends./Make it last forever./Friendship never ends."

(Yes, I'm singing that out loud right now.)

(Yes, my co-workers are deeply concerned and their ears scarred for life.)

I'm thinking one of the surest ways to make a friendship end is getting together with someone else's lover, but maybe that's just me.

"You slept with my lover, you skanky ho!"
"Hold on. We are friends and that never ends."
"Oh, that's right. I'm sorry I totally forgot about that. My bad."
"You better believe that's your bad... but we are BFF and I'm forgiving you."
"Thank you, but it still feels like I should be mad at you for sleeping with Bill."

"Friendship NEVER ends."
"Okay. Do you want to watch The Jersey Shore?"

(Note: I'm sure the "if you want to be my lover you need to 'get' with my friends" bit was done to death in the mid-90's, but it only recently occurred to me that they follow it up with the "friendship never ends" part. So, uh, I felt compelled to share it with the world via the Internet. Sounds kind of sad when I say it like that, though...)

Now, I'm pretty good at figuring things out. Maybe not Rubik's cubes or Sudoku or women, but a lot of other things. (Just trust me.) As such, I figure you are probably wondering why I have that song stuck in my head. Let me answer that by saying "Excellent question."

("Um, that really doesn't answer it.")

Okay, I have to admit that I was stalling, but it just struck me where this all comes from!!! I have these random mixed cd's that I burned for while driving around -- wait a second and hear me out before you jump to the conclusion that I was listening to the Spice girls while cruising in the 'hood.

Well, one of them has a couple of Tenacious D songs, including "Friendship." (For the uninitiated, "Tenacious D is an American rock band that was formed in Los Angeles, California in 1994. Comprising lead vocalist and guitarist Jack Black and lead guitarist and vocalist Kyle Gass, the band has released two albums...") (Courtesy of the ever-resourceful Wikipedia.)

The Tenacious D song ends with "as long as there's a record deal we'll always be friends" and that must have weeded its way into my subconscious and fermented into deep thoughts about "friendship." There you have it!

Well, that's all I got for you fine, upstanding citizens today. Next time we will discuss the pending rumors that Justin Timberlake is leaving 'N Sync. (I'm hoping this one's not true, because I just don't see him catching on as a solo act.)

Editor's note: He really hopes to do better next time, folks. (Quite frankly, I really hope he does, too.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Top Ten Countdown Music Blogfest!!!

I've thought about starting this post off with a "10 things I should be doing instead of coming up with my 10 favorite songs" list, but this is just more fun... so without further ado:

The Official Ducks (Out Of A Row) Top 10 Songs

10) Pink Floyd - "Wish You Were Here"
(Just barely over "Comfortably Numb"...)

Because I'm not trading my heroes for ghosts.

9) Michael Jackson - "Beat It"

This was my first "favorite" song off of the first album I had ever owned. (One of my aunts -- I don't use names here, but if you happen to be reading and your b-day falls on the 4th of July, I've never forgotten this -- got me the cassette tape for one of my birthdays. If I had to guess, it was probably my 11th b-day.) "Thriller" (album) quickly became my favorite and I can't even count how many times I listened to that tape. I loved all of the songs on it, but "Beat It" was my #1 jam.

8) James Brown - "Living in America"

This has nothing to do with any sense of patriotism, but rather a devotion to a truly funky groove. And, for the record, yes, I do belt this out at the top of my lungs when cruising around.

7) Outkast - "B.O.B."

This one goes on a bit long at the trail end, but once it starts and kicks in... wow. It's simply a pure sonic force and my head just can't stop bobbing when I listen to it. If you happen to go to YouTube to check out the official video, you will see -- unless you are actually blind, then I suppose you'll have someone read it to you -- a comment from someone asking "What happened to this kind of music?" The answer is: There has never been another instance of them making music like this. (Note: Actually, that might not be entirely true. "All of the Lights" from the most recent Kanye West album has a similar ferociousness with regard to the music, even if I find some of the lyrics rather questionable.)

6) Metallica - "Fade To Black"

I've seen Metallica in concert a handful of times now, but I've never been lucky enough to see them do this one live. Probably for the best, because I could die a happy man right on the spot after that. The lyrics are especially dark and give an authentic portrayal of suicidal depression, but it's the guitar that gives me absolute goose bumps. People might judge Metallica as just being a heavy metal band that plays loud music, but they're only half right. The actual music of this song has an almost classic feel to it, almost as if an orchestra could play it or something...

5) Dr. Dre (featuring Snoop Dogg) - "Ain't Nuthin' But A G Thang"

I believe this was the first rap song that I liked. Until Dr. Dre dropped this on the music scene, I was somewhat locked into the misguided notion that Rock was the only music worth listening to. (What can I say, I was a dumb adolescent at the time.) Since then I've learned that good music is "good music without regard to the style" and appreciate songs from all genres. Anyhow, G Thang is a pure classic. The beat is strong and Dre & Snoop are masterful at mixing the laidback Cali sound with "you don't mess with us" bravado. (Note: This cracker not only likes "It Was a Good Day", but can also rap along to this one.)

4) Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

The essential teenage angst anthem for someone who happened to be an angsted teen in the mid-90's. (What I was "angsted" from, though, is beyond me. I wasn't abused or anything, so what did I have to complain about? The biggest thing that frustrated me was that I felt like a relatively normal person outside of school and school events, but the "nerd/geek/dork" label weighed heavily on me when I was within those walls. Since then, I've grown up and learned to just embrace my weirdness and am fine with being different. There's actually a Smashing Pumpkins song that starts with "I fear that I am ordinary, just like everyone." I could see that as being one of my mottos.)

3) Phish - "Joy"

I've actually recommended this song in an earlier post by saying that it is easily worth the dollar or whatever to download the song and I stand by that. It's a beautiful tale of friendship and encouragement ("We want you to be happy."). The composition is incredible. If I could have written any song from both musical and lyrical standpoints... well it would probably be "Fake Plastic Trees," but this would be a very, very, very close second. "Joy" is actually a rather tight song for a band known for sprawling jams and I think it's definitely for the best.

2) Sun Kil Moon - "Carry Me Ohio"

This is actually the most-played song on my iTunes. I don't even know what else to say about this one except that it gives me chills every single time I listen to it. This is my #1, go-to writing song.

1) Radiohead - "Fake Plastic Trees"

This song is absolutely brilliant. The story of "narrator and she and he" is fantastic. The music builds from a crawl to an outright explosion of emotion ("I can't help the feeling, I could blow through the ceiling.") that leaves the singer... well, just see how he addresses it when the song slows back down in the final moments. (Hint: "It wears me out, it wears me out.") Yeah, I've had days like that before.

Now, I just put this list together off the top of my head. Some songs that were close include: Pearl Jam (“Down” or “Marker in the Sand” or “I am Mine”), Rush (“Limelight”), Blackalicious (“Sky is Falling” or “Blazing Arrow”), or Modest Mouse (“Dashboard” or “Missed the Boat”).

I’m sure there are others, but it’s tough to think about them without having my iTunes with me right now.

Follow Up

Note: This actually might be the first of multiple posts today. (I have several non-connected thoughts that I want to write about, but we'll have to see how the day progresses.) (Also, I want in on Alex Cavanaugh's "Top-Ten Songs Blogfest... Link found here.)

I just wanted to start the day off by following up to my most-recent post and say that the National Weather Service was completely inaccurate with their Winter Weather Advisory, which expired Friday at 5 p.m.

Regretfully, I have to report that we are still experiencing "winter weather." It's cold, snowing (actually, the flurries we have right now are more substantial than anything we had during that wildly inaccurate advisory...) and beach-going is not advised. (Well, unless you are wearing a parka and staying out of the water. If that's the case, I suppose you're good to go. Have fun!)

Anyhow, I felt it was within my journalistic responsibility to let you know about this. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Summer Must Be Right Around the Corner

I'm a Northerner. An overwhelming majority of my life has been spent in either Wisconsin or Michigan. And an overwhelming majority of my life has had the frustration of one particular designation courtesy of the National Weather Service. (Surely, you must have seen this coming from me...)

("No, no we haven't. And please don't call us 'Shirley.'")

When there is a Thunderstorm Warning or Tornado Watch or Blizzard Warning, etc., I have no qualms. I might not want to experience the weather the NWS is reporting/predicting at the moment, but I understand that weather happens. That's just the way it works.

(Note: T-storms are the worst for me. I used to love, love, love thunderstorms... but then I became a dog owner. My little girl dog -- as I like to call the 80 lbs. Tweak Dog -- hates, hates, hates thunderstorms. This drives me nuts. She doesn't understand that we live indoors and are fully protected from the elements. I don't get why this concept is still so foreign to her, as she's always had a roof over her head. I try to explain this to her, but I'm quite sure that she speaks Russian or Korean or something...)

(Another note: As noted, sometimes I don't want to experience the weather -- like a blizzard when I need to drive or severe downpour when I need to be outside -- but I actually do enjoy a good storm -- dog issues aside. I have no idea why, but I think storms are cool.)

Anyhow, my county is one that is under a specific designation from now until tomorrow at 5 p.m. and it really annoys me...

We are under a "Winter Weather Advisory."

I think that is the stupidest thing. (Or at least in the top-10 of stupid things. Hating other people has to top the "stupid things" list.) It's the middle of January and we live in the northern U.S. and they are advising us that we might experience winter weather. If they are going to say "Snow Storm Warning" or "Blizzard Warning," fine. No problems on my end with such designations. But letting us know that we should expect winter weather seems a bit unnecessary.

On a positive note, after 5 p.m. tomorrow we can apparently expect summer weather! So that's good. Guess I'll start unpacking my swim trunks and plan on taking a "sick day" on Monday to go to the beach...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Woolly Bully

Check this article out and then come back. (Please.)

Thank you for coming back! (We try to be polite around these parts.)

So some Japanese scientists are planning to bring woolly mammoths back to existence? Didn’t these people learn anything from Jurassic Park 1, 2 or 3? (Okay, let’s just pretend that JP3 never happened. Moving along now…)

I can totally envision it:

You’ve been transported five years into the future of the Land of the Rising Sun. The streets of downtown Tokyo are full of people screaming wildly as they run away from insanely-large pachyderms, which are knocking buildings down, left and right. The camera – Oh yeah, forgot to mention that this is my portrayal of the documentary about this whole fiasco. Moving along… -- pans in on a taxi cab, moments before it is squashed like a bug under the foot of a gigantic woolly mammoth. The Japanese people are in peril from a large monster! They need… Justin Bieber!

And then it progresses from there, naturally.

(Note: Yes, this is where I get bored of my little scenario and … OH MY GOSH! What the heck is that?! Right there, behind you!! Oh, I thought I saw something. Maybe it was a woolly mammoth or Justin Bieber or something... Uh, where were we. Let’s see. Why thank you, my hair does look fabulous. That is so kind of you to say.)

I think it is high time that we start making all children watch Jurassic Park – and maybe the second one, but definitely not the third – as a precautionary tale. Then we should make them all write reports, because the surest way to get something into a youngster’s head is by making him write a report.

(Yes, I’m kind of like the Dog Whisperer or Horse Whisperer – whichever floats your boat – only for kids.)

(But don’t call me the Kid Whisperer. That just sounds creepy.)

(I mean, even creepier than one might feel while finding Justin Bieber pictures for his blog... hypothetically-speaking, of course.)

Um, that’s all I got for right now. I promise to have some more words for you guys sometime before those wily scientists clone a woolly mammoth. (Or J. Bieb.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lottery Dreams

This is not a typical Ducks post. First and foremost, the bulk of this is not written by the beloved Ducks Guy. This is taken from an article written by Gregg Easterbrook, who apparently is a bit of a polarizing figure.

(While performing the atypical act of “conducting research,” I discovered that one of the drop-down selections in Google when searching “Gregg Easterbrook” is “Gregg Easterbrook is an idiot.”)

(Personally, I disagree.)

Anyhow, he writes a column that tackles science, government and social issues, along with sports, for The excerpt I am posting has nothing to do with sports, but rather the topic of lotteries… which brings us to another reason this is not a typical post: lack of humor.

Usually this blog is a place for goofy musing and attempts – sometimes successful!! – at being funny. Today’s post is more to make you think.

To complete my work in citing the source, this is from Gregg Easterbrook’s January 11th TMQ article “The next step: academics in the BCS?

(TMQ stands for “Tuesday Morning Quarterback,” which Easterbrook uses to refer to himself in the third person.)

Lotteries Bilk the Poor: Last week, the Mega Millions lotto paid what was described in media reports as a "$380 million" jackpot. Actually the number reflects an annuity that pays $380 million over 26 years. The present value of the annuity, the only figure that matters, is $240 million -- heady enough. Any money sum can be made to appear to roughly twice as great by expressing the number as a long-term annuity. If your employer offered you $50,000 this year, or $80,000 conveyed as one payment of $3,000 annually for each of the next 26 years -- the same proportion as the Mega Millions markup -- which would you choose? The media should not sensationalize lottery numbers by using the phony figures the lotto companies promote.

But that's the least of the problems with lotteries, whose financial structure -- spectacularly low chances of winning for players, combined with riches for those administering the lottos -- make them, as a wag once said, "a tax on the stupid." As TMQ wrote two years ago of state-sponsored lotteries, "There is almost no chance you will win, while total assurance you will lose the average of $190 annually that Americans throw away on government-run roulette. Worse, public lotteries, with their glitzy false promises of instant wealth, are a tax on poverty -- as David Brooks of The New York Times has noted, households with an income of less than $13,000 spend an average of $645 annually on scratch-off tickets, meaning the poor are the main group throwing away cash at government lotto sites." Government, which ought to aid the poor, instead cynically markets lottos to the poor -- with false promises of instant wealth, plus a high concentration of lotto sales outlets in low-income neighborhoods. The goal of this cynicism? Wealth for lotto companies and kickbacks -- excuse me, consulting fees -- for the politicians and government bureaucrats involved.

The cynicism is doubling in states that are essentially selling their lotto licenses. Illinois recently agreed to give a lotto management firm called Northstar Lottery a $15 million annual fee, plus around $300 million annually in bonuses, to run the state's lotto. Monique Garcia of the Chicago Tribune reported the deal is expected to bring about $900 million annually to the state, of which $625 million will be spent on education and $200 million on construction. Annual sales for the Illinois system are expected to be about $2.5 billion. Effectively, the state is tricking citizens out of $2.5 billion in order to get $900 million for itself.

Why won't most of the mainstream media cover the harm done to average people by throwing money away in state-run lotteries? This couldn't possibly have anything to do with the lottos buying advertising! The sorts of poor and working-poor people likely to fall for the lotto heist don't read the New York Times, they watch television -- and local television, especially, relentlessly hypes the lottos, a major source of ad revenue. Reporting the Northstar deal in September, newscaster Rob Johnson of the CBS station in Chicago said the ticket money "will be used for education and capital projects and will create thousands of jobs." That makes the lottery sound practically civic-minded. Except only about a third of the money will be used in this way, while "thousands" of new jobs is extremely unlikely.

What about the prizewinners? Many lotto winners end up bankrupt, miserable or both. TMQ's law of money holds that it would be really great to get $1 million, while getting $100 million would ruin your life. The lottery mindset of vast amounts conferred on few, while the majority suffers, is everything that's wrong with American materialism in a nutshell.

Football and lotto note: Not only do many NFL teams now participate in lotto marketing, lending their logos to tickets for a fee -- for shame, NFL owners -- so, too, do some colleges. Reader Peter Wunsch of East Northport, N.Y., notes the University of Florida is among colleges selling their logos to lotteries for a fee. And just try finding the odds at that University of Florida-endorsed lotto website -- all that's stated is "the odds of winning will vary." An institution of learning lends its logo to a company that uses deceptive marketing to participate in the fleecing of the poor -- for shame, University of Florida.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Letters to the Ducks Guy: Session 1

Today we are starting a new feature here at the Ducks. As you can imagine, I receive tons and tons of fan mail. I probably spend a good seven, eight hours a day reading the letters and getting back to my faithful fans.

(Note to Jeremy from Alabama: The autographed cat is on its way. Enjoy!)

(Just kidding. I didn't really autograph and send one of our cats to a loyal reader... as far as you know.)

Anyhow, this got me thinking that I should probably share some of these with you guys, the dedicated Ducks readers. Who knows, maybe one day you will see your own letter published here at DOOAR? (You can only hope.)

Of course, please be mindful of the fact that I get literally -- read as "not literally" -- hundreds of millions of these things every day, so the odds are slim. But slim odds are still odds (says the eternal optimist)!!

To kick things off, I decided to just put one letter up today. I'm envisioning a future wherein three to four are published (and perhaps answered) in a typical "Letters to the Ducks Guy" post, but also looking at a "present wherein the Ducks Guy has a lot of non-blog stuff to do."

(Note to devoted reader Kathryn: You gave me mad props on my exceptional use of the word "wherein" the other day, so the previous sentence was for you. Enjoy!)

Let's get to this...

Hey Ducks Guy,

In your first post of this year [Pre-First Post (of the Year)], you mention that "clowns are creepy." I really resent that. I mean, some clowns might be a tad creepy -- statistically-speaking, any large group is bound to have some bad apples -- but stereotyping all of us is just plain wrong. We are people, just like you, and it hurts our feelings when insensitive jerks make claims like that.

Sometimes it hurts us to the point of volatile anger... and then we start drinking. You know what happens then, huh, wise guy? Well, the Mrs. decides she "can't handle being with an alcoholic clown," so that frigid b*tch leaves and we're left alone in our apartment. Just us… and the empty cupboards and the gun she never knew existed. We're left there with all the time in the world to think about it. And then our thoughts drift to that one blogger who made the comment about us being creepy...

I'm going to leave you with one parting thought: I know where you live...

Chuckles T. Clown

Yikes. (That's really all I can say about this one.)

(Note to self: Pick a less-creepy letter next time...)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Ducks Guy Makes New Year's Resolutions

Given that it's already the 6th and this year is no longer as fresh as mountain air, I should really get around to making some resolutions. You, the esteemed readers, are welcome to come along for the ride. Actually, you are "strongly encouraged" to come along for the ride. Well, that and still "welcome."

("Okay, we get it. We're both welcome and strongly encouraged.")

(I never wavered in my belief that you'd pick up on that.)

Anyhow, let's start coming up with those resolutions!

1) No more procrastinating (says the man who is doing his New Year's resolutions on the sixth). Yeah, the odds of me sticking to this one are about as slim as any of those Twilight actors winning an academy award for those movies. (The acting in the Twilight movies is -- at the very best -- not good.)

(Note to all my readers from the Michigan Water Polo Association: The "at the very best -- not good" reference was clearly for you guys.)

So we need a more realistic #1 New Year's resolution:

1) No more procrastinating... some of the time. That's more like it. (From somewhere in the distance, I hear a woman -- who may or may not be the wife -- rolling her eyes.) (Yes, my ears are that good.)

2) Set my targets low enough and come up with achievable goals. You know, if I had just made this my first resolution and put off the amended #1, I'd be two-for-two on the resolutions so far in '11. Oh well. I can't possibly change this now. (My delete and backspace buttons are broken... as far as you know.)

3) Don't commit any drive-by shootings. This might seem like an easy one, but it is. (See resolution #2.)

4) Return my library books on time. Okay, this will be significantly harder than the previous resolution and might be a tad unrealistic. So let’s modify this one:

4) Return my library books on time... some of the time. Much better!

5) Give myself lots of praise. This is probably one of the greatest resolutions ever made. Good job, me. You are awesome.

6) Give my readers lots of praise. Good job reading, guys. I love the way you go from one word to the next, in order! Fantastic!

7) Leave the reader wanting more. (Note to self: Don't forget to tell them about your daring adventure in the Himalayas when you had to rescue that tiny village from terrorism, global warming and sharks that ate random people on the street.)

8) Finish things you start. This might be

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pre-First Post (of the Year)

So I was thinking that, with a new year upon us, the first Ducks post of the year should be epic.

(Note: The word "epic" is one that was included in Lake Superior State's list of banished words for 2011.)

(Post-note note: I decided to use the word anyhow. I’m just a rebel like that.)

Now, I'll need some time to prepare a post of “epic” magnitude, but I didn't want to leave the billions of Ducks readers hanging in the interim. As such, you are cordially invited to read this here Pre-First Post of the Year.

You are all cordially welcome. (Here’s to making “cordially” one of the banished words for ’12!)

So how are we going to kick this off? Perhaps there should be balloons and clowns and confetti. (Because balloons pop, clowns are creepy and confetti is a disaster to clean? That doesn't sound like a good plan at all... )

Okay, no clowns or confetti, but we aren’t ruling out balloons just yet. (How can anyone possibly have “epic” without balloons?) (Don’t answer that.)

Maybe we should throw a raging kegger to ring in the New Year here on the blog? (The hundreds of millions of frat-boy Ducks readers are probably now chanting "Keg-ger, keg-ger, keg-ger, to-ga, keg-ger...")

We could hire a band! No, not a band... Justin Beiber!! (The hundreds of millions of teenage girl Ducks readers are now swooning in unison.) (*swoon, swoon*)

Early word on the street is that President Obama, Rush Limbaugh and Ralph Nader (I'm covering all bases...) are planning a civil discourse -- much better than a criminal discourse -- on the direction of American Politics in the 2010's for that initial Ducks post of 2011.

So let’s check the list for that first post of the year: Balloons, Kegs, Beiber, Obama, Rush and Nadar. How's that for epic? (Take that, Lake Superior State University!)

Yep, that first post of the year is going to be grand.

"Um, isn't this the first post of the year?" says a quiet voice from the back of the classroom.


Programming note: Come back next time as the Ducks guy rolls out his 2011 resolutions. Also, keep your eyes open for “Letters to the Ducks Guy.”