Sunday, January 30, 2005

Pats win by CCLXXVII

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Super Bowl XXXIX is coming up. I don't know a lot about football, but I do know my Latin. "XXXIX" means "39."

Anyway, just VII days from now, our mighty New England Patriots will face the Philadelphia Eagles. One team will emerge from the Super Bowl triumphant, to grace its home city with a victory parade where all fans young and old will share in the glory.

The other team will have a long bus ride home. They will not stop for ice cream along the way.

I predict the Eagles will be that latter team. You heard it here first, or at least you heard it here as one of the many places you've heard it.

Normally, I don't like football. There are a lot of rules and players who perform tasks that are beyond my understanding. But I do like talking trash. Therefore: the Eagles will lose.

It's not just because I'm from New England and in the newspaper business, and I have to root for the home team or be fired. It just makes sense that the Patriots will win the Super Bowl. They've been playing well, and the Eagles are a team that wears teal. You do the math.

Many other factors went into my pro-Pats prediction.

Due to the blizzard, the Patriots will have spent much of the time before the big game digging out their cars and cleaning off the field. I myself dug out two cars recently, and take it from me -- it builds incredible amounts of rippling muscle.

Also, shoveling snow increases endurance and tolerance to cold weather. That will work in the Patriots' favor, big time. The temperature in Jacksonville, Fla., often dips into the low 70s or even the 60s once the sun goes down.

The Eagles, on the other hand, will have spent the two weeks between their NFC championship game and the Super Bowl in Philadelphia. In the cold. Without as much shoveling to do. You know what that means. They'll just sit on the couch and eat, eat, eat. Chocolate, hoagies, cream cheese, cheesesteaks.

I have relatives in Philly, so I'm intimately familiar with that fair city. Throw a stick in any direction and you'll hit cheese. It's one of the fattest cities in America--recent surveys show that the entire metropolitan area had to poke a new hole in its belt with a barbecue fork. I once saw a homeless guy standing on a milk crate holding a sign that said, "Sober veteran. Will work for large cheesesteak, no onions, large chili cheese fries and X-large chocolate shake." Long story short, before next Sunday, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb will develop a thick layer of paunch that will inhibit his throwing motion. And unless there's a platter of cocktail weenies waiting, there's no way any Eagle will be running all that way to the end zone.

I also snuck behind enemy lines, to the Philadelphia Eagles Web site, so I could figure out their strategy.

No such luck. Their latest article is about the Eagles sponsoring a book mobile on their way to a Super Bowl victory. That's right, football fans. A book mobile.

"On Tuesday, Jan. 25, the Eagles started 'booking it' to Jacksonville as the Eagles Book Mobile departed from Philadelphia on a four-day, 1,600-mile journey," reads the article. "In cities and towns along the way, they want to help make the dreams of less fortunate children come true by using the Eagles Book Mobile to inspire children to read and by giving them new, free books to do so."

Oh. So it's books, is it? Giving them away for free, no less? That's an interesting pre-game training technique. Let me just check how many librarians have won the Super Bowl...

But, hey! If a bunch of needy kids show up on the field and the NFL suddenly decides to hand out points for giving them books, then look for the Eagles to get on the scoreboard early.

Just for kicks, I visited the Patriots Web site. Their top story: something football-related. "The Pats will throw the linebackers at Westbrook the way they handled St. Louis Rams do-it-all back Marshall Faulk in the Super Bowl three years ago." I didn't understand this sentence, so it's probably important to the game.

Also factoring into my prediction: The Eagles play at Lincoln Financial Field, and the Patriots play at Gillette Stadium. One is named for a president with a funny beard. The other is named for a razor company. Razors shave beards. No contest.

I should probably throw some play details in here. Look for Pats QB Tom Brady to throw the ball to a guy who will run with it to the end of the field and dance. My score prediction: 278-0.

There's only one thing about the Eagles that could prove troublesome.

In my online research, I compared the two cheerleading squads. Now, don't get me wrong -- the Pats cheerleaders have a lot going for them. There aren't too many Jennifers, and the team is well balanced between blondes and brunettes. According to their biographies, they have a combined 319 years of cheerleading and dance experience. That tells me they're gutsy veterans who've worked hard to get to this point.

But before I could log on to the Eagles cheerleaders' site, I encountered a warning of "age-appropriate content." An interesting sign. Clicking past that brought me to an extremely salacious photo of what appeared to be a cheerleader's tight end. Many other pages contained bios and photos and ads for the 2005 lingerie calendar that's rather light on the lingerie (just $13.99). There was so much deep cleavage it was like watching a Grand Canyon slide show.

Be warned, Pats fans. This squad is lifted, tucked and prepared to push themselves higher than I've seen in a while. They're not ready to play -- they're ready to WIN. Mark my words: If the Eagles cheerleaders can start their jumping-up-and-down-in-place routine early, look for a seriously distracted Pats offense.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Queer eye for the bad guys

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I'm a pacifist regarding international conflict. I believe that nations should resolve almost every confrontation through nonviolent means, particularly if that nonviolence involves not fighting each other. That's Diplomacy Rule No. 1.

Diplomacy Rule No. 2: when it comes to global friction, apply lotion to the globe's affected areas.

It's not that I'm a wuss -- I'm just willing to turn the other cheek. Try it yourself. Call me a wuss. I may even turn both cheeks at you.

My pacifism stems from my belief that life is too precious a gift to be squandered through needless violence. I don't want to see anybody hurt anywhere for any reason. Except for a few people. Six, maybe -- six, seven. They can rot in hell for all I care. Apart from those walking parasites, we owe it to future generations to provide a good example of the heights of benevolence to which humanity can soar. Eight, tops.

So I was thrilled to hear that America actually has military personnel dedicated to waging non-lethal war.

It's a great idea. If America is going to "liberate" other countries like Iraq, we have a moral obligation to do so in a way that kills as few "liberees" as possible. Wait. "Liberees"? Is it "liberees"? "Liberaces"? "Free-ees"? I used to know this one.

Anyway, I read a Reuters news service story from Jan. 16 that said there's a department at the Pentagon called the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate. It spearheads the development of weapons that don't slaughter the enemy -- just tease them into not fighting anymore. Which essentially gives you the same peaceful result without the pesky guilt and college campus protests.

According to the story, recently declassified documents show that back in 1994 the military "suggested using chemicals that could be sprayed on enemy positions to attract stinging and biting bugs, rodents and larger animals."

That there's my kind of war, man. Summon the very beasts to fight for us! Given our situation in Iraq, the mental picture this conjures is too delightful to ignore. You can't reason with the insurgents, and the more of them we kill, the more just follow their cause, so we need a new way of thinking. Like Operation: When Animals Attack.

We could find the insurgents' strongholds and conjure flocks of rodents to gross them out. Or maybe even bears to scare them and swipe their pick-a-nick baskets. Or a plague of locusts if that wouldn't be a separation of church and state issue. Best of all, nobody gets hurt too bad, except perhaps the odd locust.

Soon enough, the insurgents would get the picture -- we have the entire animal kingdom on our side.

Unfortunately, the military rejected this idea. Likewise, they nixed another proposal that involved "creating 'severe and lasting halitosis' to help sniff out fighters trying to blend in with civilians." Probably because people who live in stone hovels in the middle of the desert with no food or running water aren't known for their minty-fresh breath as it is.

The strangest idea the military rejected was developing an aphrodisiac "to spur homosexual activity among enemy troops."

The point being?

"We feel it's very important to offer our deployed service members and their commanders a greater range of options in dealing with increasingly complex operational environments," said Marine Capt. Dan McSweeny of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

In other words: Hee hee!

A Department of Defense spokesman said the so-called gay bomb was "rejected out of hand," because pinpointing the enemy afterward required readily available but unreliable "gaydar" technology.

Strategist analysts also ran post-war scenarios. You know -- after two insurgents spot each other across a crowded bunker and spend an evening just gazing at the stars and talking about their dreams. Classic insurgent meets insurgent, insurgent loves insurgent, insurgent breaks insurgent's heart, insurgent vows never again to fall for another pair of brown eyes and U.S. Army surplus rocket-propelled grenade launcher, but finds himself suddenly seeing his best friend who has helped him through the heartache -- really seeing him for the first time, this partner who was always there with kind words and a shoulder to cry on -- and insurgent realizes the person he's been running away from his entire life has been himself, so the two make beautiful music, settle down in the suburbs and raise little insurgents of their own.

Military planners also foresaw problems with "Operation: Village People" when, of course, the newly freed population would demand same-sex marriage rights. Thus offending a bunch of crotchety prudes who also love freedom.

And if you don't ask about the repercussions for "friendly fire" situations, I won't tell.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Wayne in my brain is plainly insane

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I've diagnosed myself as both a paranoid and a hypochondriac, but I don't remember which one I noticed first.

I'm also addicted to caffeine and get nasty migraines and cold sores. Can I come over for dinner?

As for the hypochondria, that's probably just all in my head. The paranoia, however, is real.

It started young. When I was a boy, hanging out after school at my grandparents' apartment near St. Anthony of Padua Church, I would stare at the commemorative plate of President Kennedy hanging above the door and wonder if there was a spy camera in it.

After staring into Kennedy's ice-blue eyes for a few weeks, I decided that there was.

This was during the 1980s, so naturally I assumed the Soviets put the camera there. I watched the Kennedy plate for hours. I hoped to form some sympathetic psychic link with the fur-hatted Communist spy on the other end. I wondered who would change the camera's batteries when they ran out -- probably a mysteriously accented cable repairman, I deduced.

Once I flipped it the bird and was immediately sorry.

The stormtroopers would arrive swift as the wind to drag my Vavo away from her sewing machine. They'd leave behind a few jackboot prints in the carpet and a vague but insistent odor of beets and Stolichnaya.

Later, of course, I learned that commemorative plates of President Kennedy are common in many Portuguese households. As a culture, we're positively wild about Camelot gossip.

Lately, most of my paranoia involves the phone. I'm normally very nice, but talking on the phone is very vexing, mainly because I like to make finger quotes around words, and you can't do that audio-only. What I mean to say is, you could, but it
would sound like this: "My dog used our couch pillows as a NAPKIN. I just made finger quotes around the word NAPKIN."

Any-hoo, for years, I was receiving phone calls for somebody named Wayne. All different people called for him. It was troubling.

I told all of them the same thing: I was not Wayne, I had never been Wayne, and I had only known one Wayne in my life and he was a very nice guy but I can count the number of times I'd seen him in the past 10 years on one hand, and that probably wasn't the Wayne they were looking for.

A few months ago, I found I had a voice mail message on my phone at work.

It was Wayne.

I don't remember his last name, but Wayne wanted me to call him back.

It was [make finger quotes here] urgent.

I call Wayne up, and Wayne answers.

"Is this Wayne?" I said.

Wayne sounded very busy. "Oh, great! Thanks for calling me back, Dan," he said. "Are you going to be there in the next 10 minutes?"

"I think so."

"I'll call you right back, OK? Right back. Do not go away." Then Wayne hung up.

I waited patiently by the phone, but Wayne never called back -- not in 10 minutes, not in 10 hours.

All afternoon I wondered why Wayne would want me to stay in my office, why he was so adamant I wait for his phone call.

I called my wife -- on a different line -- and told her about Wayne.

"It's got to be the same Wayne from the wrong phone calls," I said.

"Why would that be?" she asked.

"How many Waynes have you ever known? Two, tops? Wayne is an uncommon moniker, my lovely, quite uncommon." I stroked my chin, and told her over the phone that I was stroking my chin. "Clearly, Wayne has some ulterior motive for making sure I remain at my desk -- 'Do not go away,' he said." I paused for a moment to let the irony simmer.

"Hello?" my wife said. "Still there?"

"Indeed, my sweetness. If I had to guess -- and I don't -- I would say this Wayne is up to some mischief. I would wager he's trying to assassinate me." I cackled delightedly. "Egad! How do I do it?"

"Did he sound threatening on the phone?"

"Waynes never do, Watson. They lure you in with their Wayneish charm until it's time to strike." I began speaking more swiftly now as the pieces fell into place. "It's elementary. If I'm not to leave, then he must have had his henchmen plant some sort of explosive device here, perhaps under my very desk. Or in my very file cabinet. There's room."

"Henchmen," my wife muttered.

"It could be in my very mug where I keep my very paper clips."

My wife cleared her throat. "Uh, maybe he knows you're onto him, though. And he knows that if you're onto him, you'd leave--"

"Oh no..." I said.

"Which is exactly what Wayne wants you to do," she said. My wife is brilliant and beautiful, and no, you can't borrow her.

"So I should stay inside at work?" I asked, gnawing my knuckle. "Or do I leave? What the hell should I do? No, wait. I take that back. What would Wayne not expect me to do?"

She considered it, then said, "Better leave. Make some excuse--like, go out for coffee?"

"All right."

"While you're at it, bring me home a mocha latte, sugar, no whipped cream, please."

I bade her a tearful farewell, in case I didn't bring her the coffee quickly enough, and wrapped my scarf around my neck so I didn't catch pneumonia -- it's everywhere these days. Before I left, I made sure the phone was plugged in and gestured to the nearest copy editor.

"If Wayne calls, tell him..." I narrowed my eyes with a sneer. "Tell him he can't get to me -- up here." I pointed to my head with a solemn index finger. "And tell him you're pointing to your head."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

In the Year 2005...

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Many years from now, when I'm old, I'll be willing to recall the really big events of 2004: the war, for instance, or that day in April when I got a General Tso's chicken combo plate for lunch that was so delicious I desperately wanted to get another one for dinner, but shame prevented it.

For now, though, I want to put 2004 behind me. The presidential race, the Swift Boat Veterans, that TV show where a bunch of dwarfs raced a camel (and lost), everybody going on the Atkins diet, everybody going off the Atkins diet, Janet Jackson's northern hemispheres -- all that 2004 stuff is going in storage.

So instead of recapping the top moments of 2004, I'd like to look forward -- to the fantastic future!

Many readers have confessed to me their sneaking suspicions that events that supposedly occur in "real life" and reported by us as "news" are actually just fiction made up by this newspaper to pander to our own agenda. That's actually true. The reporters at this newspaper love to make stuff up, and the editors tinker with articles for months to get the spelling mistakes just right.

Here, then, are sneak previews of five news stories we're working on for 2005:


HESS LNG'S PLAN TO BUILD IN, DESTROY CITY APPROVED

FALL RIVER -- In a move that will simultaneously solve the area's natural gas shortage and housing crunch, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday approved Hess LNG's proposal to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in Fall River and obliterate it from the face of the earth.

"This will speed gas supplies to the Northeast," said Hess LNG spokesman Snidely Whiplash during a press conference at the Weaver’s Cove site off North Main Street.

Building the LNG terminal will also clear hundreds of acres of developable land after the disaster. The area is scheduled to be a smoke-shrouded potter's field in early 2007 after the tank is built and explodes.

"The few Fall River homes left standing after the city's imminent destruction will benefit from the ample supply of gas Hess will provide," Whiplash said, "including an annual savings of up to $1. People who use oil heat, naturally, are a whole different story."

Whiplash also announced the hiring of two local people to clean the place.


CITY COUNCIL OKs BID TO FORM 'FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING'

FALL RIVER -- Spurred by a viewing of the epic 12-hour fantasy film "The Lord of the Rings," the City Council renamed itself "The Fellowship of the Ring."

"Nine councilors," Council President William F. Whitty said at a meeting Tuesday. "To match the nine ringwraiths. I move we change our name, but first my motion must be seconded. One of you must do this."

Councilor Bradford L. Kilby, who will hereafter be known as the Elven prince Legolas, threw his weight behind the measure, saying, "Leo would be a great Gimli. He's so dwarfish."

The motion carried, 7-2, with Linda Pereira and Alfredo Alves opposed, reportedly unhappy with their positions as Meriadoc and Boromir, respectively.

The Fellowship's first order of business involves amending the city's laws to allow broadswords and axes in council chambers.


GILLETTE UNVEILS 13-BLADED RAZOR

BOSTON -- In the latest salvo in the razor wars, Gillette Corp. announced the release of the Gillette Lucky Stroke, a 13-bladed disposable razor.

The announcement comes hard on the heels of Schick's 12-bladed Schick XXXXXXXXXXXXtreme.

"The Lucky Stroke is the answer to stubborn beards. Really stubborn beards," said Gillette spokeswoman Fanny Bottoms. "Like, extremely stubborn beards. The first four blades gently lift the hairs, the next two arrange them in a uniform direction to ensure a clean cut, and the next five cut the hairs in a series of ever-closer slices.

"The next-to-last blade, which is more jagged, digs into the skin to remove ingrown hairs," Bottoms continued. "The final blade grates off a layer of epidermis to keep that five-o'clock shadow from showing up until after eight."

Other features of the Gillette Lucky Stroke are four soothing conditioning strips, a battery-powered electromagnet that emits micropulses to lift the hairs, a steam nozzle to straighten curly hairs, a 20-gigabyte computer hard drive, Bluetooth headphones, for some reason, and a comfort-grip handle.


HODGSON'S LATEST PURCHASE CALLED COOL BUT 'SCARY'

DARTMOUTH -- Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson recently unveiled the newest piece of equipment in the Sheriff's Department crime-fighting arsenal: the Bristol County Mobile Voltron Unit.

The equipment includes five robotic lions that can unite, if needed, to form one 50-foot super-robot.

Each individual lion employs super speed, laser beams and flying technology. Besides the lasers, the combined super-robot also carries a very large sword.

At a press conference Thursday, Hodgson sat in the cockpit of the black lion and explained that the $970.6 million unit will be used to stop the forces of Zarkon, should they make their presence known in Bristol County.

"The unit will ultimately save taxpayer money," Hodgson said, donning his helmet. "Form Voltron!"

At his command, the super-robot joined together in a burst of light and electricity, and demonstrated its tremendous firepower to the media by shooting a series of cardboard Zarkonian targets.

Former candidate for sheriff Leo O. Pelletier said the unit's necessity is so far unproven.

"Don’t get me wrong," Pelletier said. "It's gigantic. And the girl lion pilot is cute. But frankly it scares the hell out of me.

"I bet you a million bucks after a week he'll lose half the pieces," Pelletier said. "We'll only see it in parades."


CITY'S STEAK INDEX RISES

FALL RIVER -- The city's Portuguese Steak Index rose Friday, pushing the median price of a large Portuguese steak from $8.50 to $8.53. It marked the first change in the index in decades.

Economists say the increase is due to an overall shift in economic trends and a tight national supply of unpitted black olives, used to garnish the steaks.

"Considering you get a large steak, eggs, red pepper, fries and rice, I think we were due for a rate hike," said Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in town for an O'Gil's sandwich.

At the closing bell Friday, the city's Carne Alentejana Index remained steady at $8.25.
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