Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'll Never Be That Way... Will I?

A woman came into my store and asked, "Do you have a senior discount?" I politely told her that we did not and offered her our rewards program. She left the counter and I did not pay it another thought for the rest of the day. Later that night, I remembered her question and wondered to myself about the tendency for our more, er, mature members of society to want to save money every chance they get. Sure, it is a wonderful thing to save money, but to openly ask for discounts? That would never cross my mind.

Why should seniors feel entitled to pay less than you or me just because they have lived more years? Aren't they lucky for having lived so many years when the rest of us have no idea how many we have left? Being cheap has long been a commonly recognized trait of seniors. Why is this the case? One reason could be that many who are in their 70's or older have lived through the Great Depression. Learning from a young age how to get by with practically nothing will leave a deep-seeded sense of never having enough. They are always looking to save as much as possible, never knowing when the economy will go bad.

Gregg Easterbrook, in his book The Progress Paradox, makes the case that things are better now than ever before because incomes have risen so dramatically while the real price of goods has fallen sharply. When seniors were younger this was not the case and the type of comfortable, luxurious lifestyle that even the middle class so commonly enjoy these days was only attainable through extreme hard work and severe spendthrifty behavior. Even once life is comfortable with fewer expenses, the feeling that nice things can only be attained while scrimping for every penny possible never subsides.

Older people also tend to be far more cranky than your average younger person. Why is this? I have three explanations. First, with so few years left to live, seniors feel a pressing need to get everything as fast and as easy as possible so as to continue living their lives the way they want instead of wasting time doing such things as waiting in lines and being civil. Second, their life has been difficult having lived through such difficult events as the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Too much exposure to difficult times tends to make one angry and embittered. Lastly, it is difficult for most seniors to navigate the strange new world of technology and global commerce. It is frustrating to have to live in a world you do not understand among other people with whom you cannot relate.

Are these tendencies something that comes naturally as you advance in years or are they a result of the time during which they lived? Will things be differently for the younger when they get older? Currently it is probably a combination of both. Certainly there are things that will be common with many future generations of oldsters. Frugality will arise where there is a drop in steady income, even if there is ample money saved in retirement accounts. Crankiness will ensue as they feel the clock ticking more and more loudly. As for the gawd awful combinations of clothes? Well, considering the dress habits of young people these days, I would bet that would continue long into the future.

I would surmise that many of the traits exhibited by the current generation of the elderly, and joked about by the young, are simply more pronounced as a result of the aforementioned events which transpired during their lifetimes. They are crankier, more frugal, and poorer dressers than future generations are likely to be. Yet we can expect to be the same way someday. Then, we will have to hear the whispers and joking behind our backs as the young whippersnapper punk kids make fun. Just as soon as we turn up our hearing aids.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Deny?

In case you've been living on Mars, in a cave, with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears, Tiger Woods is in trouble. Not with the law, just with the swift justice of a golf club swung by his wife. After a week of insistent denials, Woods issued a statement expressing that he regrets his transgressions and blah blah blah. This statement was released right after Us Weekly released a recorded voicemail he "allegedly" (quotation marks because we're only 99.99999% sure it was really him) left on a woman's phone asking her to change her voicemail greeting so it would not include her name. For a week we all suspected the worst and it was finally confirmed by a tabloid magazine. How might Tiger's week have been different if he would have handled the situation more proactively?

We live in an age where everything is recorded, videotaped and time and date stamped. If you are a major celebrity you cannot go to the grocery store without a pimply 19 year-old taking pictures and selling them to TMZ or X17 Online. Why would someone of Tiger's stature believe that he could indefinitely have affairs with an assortment of young women and have it be a secret? When the National Enquirer first made the allegation that Woods had an affair with a well-known New York socialite he should have known that the gig was up. He must have known that he had left voicemail messages and texted the various women he was cavorting with. How would he not know they would come out? Yet he insisted that all of the rumors were false and there was no substance to them. Then he gets into the car accident that didn't add up and people's imaginations ran wild. Let's examine what he should have done.

When the National Enquirer story, which was accurate, came out he should have known that others he had been with would come forth, either through investigation or seeking a payday. He should have immediately told his wife everything like Vic Mackey did at the end of The Shield. Perhaps if he would have come clean from the beginning she wouldn't have blown up at him like she did and cause the embarrassing accident that had him in the hospital and leading the network news shows. There would have not been visits by the Florida Highway Patrol and subsequent stonewalling the authorities. He and his wife could have begun to handle things on their own time. Tiger then should have issued a truthful statement which directly addressed the allegations. Mine would have looked like this.

"There have been reports from the National Enquirer regarding an affair I was reported to have with a woman by the name of Rachel Uchitel. I can confirm that the basic details of the story are true, that Ms. Uchitel and I had a sexual relationship. I can also confirm that there were other women I have had sexual relationships with since I have been married. Some of what will come out in the coming days and weeks will be true and much of it will not. I will not comment any further on any specifics regarding any additional allegations that will arise. My family and I ask that you please allow us to treat this matter privately. Thank you."

A simple statement that does not put himself down, make any promises, create any expectations. It states that he will not address any further allegations so no matter what comes up he can lean back on his statement and not feel compelled to confirm or deny. Sort of a believe it if you want stance. This is what Woods should have done. Instead he denied, stupidly, and let his reputation take a further hit. The public is forgiving and could have lived with a powerful, famous, rich athlete who traveled all the time and succumbed to temptation. Instead, the public feels like he tried to deny, cover up, deflect and not deal honestly with his fans and sponsors. People feel that if you avoid the authorities you have something major to hide. This hurts him more than any infidelity ever could. Tiger should have taken a lesson from Presidents of the late 20th century.

Lyndon Johnson lost the trust of the country regarding Vietnam not because the war was not going well (which it wasn't) but because he was not truthful about how the war was going. If Johnson had looked the American people in the eye and told them that many thousands were dying and he felt bad about that but that us leaving would imperil millions of Vietnamese and perhaps the freedom of Southeast Asia he might have garnered more support, albeit tepid support. I believe the public would have viewed the war similarly to our current wars, disliking the results but accepting our reasoning for still being there.

Richard Nixon lost the trust of the American people not because representatives of the Republican Party broke into DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel but rather because of the subsequent cover-up. Had Nixon taken the stance that the break-in was wrong, that he would cooperate fully with any investigations and not tried to take revenge on those running the investigation, he might have been able to absorb the blow and move the country forward. Instead he came across as a schemer and paranoid, and nobody trusted him or believed a word he said.

Bill Clinton had some Tiger-like indiscretions while President. As much as the left-wing tries to claim that he was impeached for cheating on his wife, this is patently untrue. If Clinton had admitted to his affair with Monica Lewinsky under oath and at the now infamous press conference, instead of wagging his finger, he would have taken a popularity hit but could have continued on with his administration. Lying under oath, regardless of what it is about, is something that one can never do, especially the person most entrusted to uphold the Constitution, and therefore, the law. The public had looked past his extramarital dalliances before, there is no reason to think it would not do so again, especially if he delivered an empathetic, contrite apology saying something to the effect of he regretted not fully learning the lessons of the past and that he would work on trying to restore the dignity of the Presidency. If he would have done this, Hillary Clinton would not have gone on The Today Show and notoriously claimed it was all "a vast right-wing conspiracy." Had she not taken this credibility hit, perhaps she would be sitting in the same Oval Office her husband had occupied 8 years earlier.

The lesson here is that in our digital and tabloid society, nobody of any fame or notability can do anything for very long without it being found out. Why celebrities would try to do something that could get them in trouble with the law or embarrassed publicly is beyond me. But as we've seen, if you do get caught, it is better to get ahead of the story, let the public digest it quickly, then move on to who Paris Hilton left Pure Nightclub with last week. We've all been in trouble with our parents, lied to cover it up, then been punished worse for the lying than for the act itself. Why can't we learn this lesson from our childhood, especially when everything celebrities do ends up in front of the eyes of millions anyhow?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

1/3 Baked Ideas

The computer that is my brain never stops working. Even when I want it to power down for a little bit it keeps on whirring. Only through copious amounts of alcohol can I even slow it down. For all the times this is annoying, occasionally it yields interesting results. These results are my 1/3 baked ideas. For those of you new or unfamiliar, these are ideas which are not quite good enough to be half baked. Today you are getting 1/3 more of my 1/3 baked ideas. For you without calculators, that's 4. These come completely from my own brain. Any resemblance to any other ideas, past or present, is merely coincidental.

Idea 1. I love Twitter. I try to tweet every so often without being obnoxious about it. I also follow a lot of other people who are tweeting. I enjoy reading what they have to say and appreciate the updates. Unless it is an update on something that is on TV which has not yet aired on the west coast. Last night I checked my phone and saw there was a text message from twitter. I pressed OK to read it and the yet-to-be-aired results of Dancing With the Stars (I'll admit I watch it. I am not ashamed.) hit me in the face like a Manny Pacquiao right hand. The time was 8:26 PDT when I read the message and the final results show would not begin to air for another 34 minutes. I know people are eager to give congratulations for great achievements (or not so great achievements) but can this wait until everyone has had a chance to see it?

I propose that individuals not be allowed to tweet results of awards shows, competitions, etc. that have yet to air in their entirety on the west coast. Anyone caught violating this rule more than once will have their twitter account suspended. I should not have to forsake all contact with my cell phone for an entire evening so results are not spoiled for me. Thanks in advance.

Idea 2. The NFL, in its quest to make not just other worldly money but rather ungodly money, is throwing around the idea of extending the regular season from 16 to 18 games. More games means more revenue. This is a terrible idea. There are already so many players who get hurt during the course of playing 16 games of such a fast, violent sport. What do you suppose will happen if you make these tired, weary players play 2 more games? Fewer injuries? I don't think so. If the NFL wants to make more money without putting their players (without whom nobody would get all of this revenue) at risk here is what it needs to do.

The regular season is 17 weeks long currently. The extra week is because each team gets a bye week at some point during the season. What if the NFL just extended the regular season by one week and gave each team an extra bye week? Every team would play on the first week of the season and the last week of the season. Then each team would receive a bye in the first half of the season and the second half of the season. This would mean that 4 teams would have a bye each week. The same number of games would be played as before but revenue would be increased in two ways.

First, revenue would increase directly because the league could negotiate slightly higher TV rights contracts due to the extra week of football. Indirectly, revenue would increase because players would be better rested and less prone to injury. Viewership is up when key players are healthy and playing instead of injured. Also, with players having more time to rest, the quality of play will increase slightly, making the games more fun to watch and garnering higher ratings, which will lead to increased TV rights money and higher advertising dollars. The league gets more money and the players do not need to play any extra games. Win-win.

Idea 3. A couple days ago I got a paper cut at the very top of my finger, right by the edge of my fingernail. A traditional band-aid will not work because if you place it over the top of your finger, it will not stay on. Wrapping it around the finger at the top will keep it on but the paper cut is slightly exposed. Why can't we have a band aid that goes on kind of like a thimble, covering the entire top of the finger so that the wound can be completely covered. At the top of the bandage would be the antiseptic pad and the bottom would be sticky so it can adhere to the finger tightly all the way around. Problem solved.

Idea 4. We all have either played Rock Band or watched somebody play. We stand, mouth agape, in awe of someone playing at 100%. We laugh at that same person who has had too much to drink and cannot play nearly as well. Wouldn't you like to see this side by side? I propose a new web series that will show people doing the same things both sober and intoxicated. Imagine seeing a video of someone playing Rock Band. The camera looks over the shoulder as the same song is played sober and drunk so you can see the person racking up points on one side, messing up constantly on the other. We could expand this to other endeavors. How about sober vs. drunk free throw shooting? Or bike riding? (Without cars around and while wearing a helmet of course) How fun would it be to see highlights of someone taking an SAT exam sober vs. drunk and seeing how much more poorly they score drunk? Could someone do these things better while drunk? I think it would make for good entertainment. The possibilities are endless. Like you wouldn't watch this?

Those are the results of this week's endless thought. I'd like to think some of these ideas might work in a parallel universe. It's a shame my brain isn't wired to think about social problems or physics. Alas.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Unsportsman(or woman)like Conduct

I am a father of two daughters. One is 9, one is 5. From the moment I wake up until the time I fall asleep I have only two goals for them. The first is that neither of them end up as a stripper. The second is that neither of them end up doing porn. Nothing worse than accidentally ending up in the adult film section of DVD Planet and seeing one of your daughters staring seductively back at you. Sorry, I just got back from taking a Silkwood shower. Those were the two most important things that guided each and every decision I made. That is until November 5. I now have a third goal: do not, under any circumstances let my girls grow up to be like Elizabeth Lambert.

Elizabeth Lambert played for the University of New Mexico's woman's soccer team against Brigham Young University in a Mountain West Conference semifinal. Her play, if you can call it that was so horrendously dirty that it has launched a firestorm of YouTube clips. Check the video out here. Go on, I'll wait. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Watch it now. Great. Your reaction was likely one of two things: shock or laughter. Shall we take a closer look?

For you soccer newbies, players are issued either a yellow card (caution) or red card (instant ejection) for play or conduct deemed dangerous or detrimental to the sport. A player who is issued two yellow cards during the same match is instantly ejected. If I told you that after all of these incidents she was not even ejected would you believe me? Let's break down the action.

Incident 1: Lambert puts a solid forearm into the back of her opponent. If an official were to see this a yellow card is likely issue. This could be eligible for a red card if it happened later but early in the match a yellow is more appropriate.

Incident 2: Lambert wildly kicks at a ball near her opponent's chest and roughly impedes said opponent's progress and brings her to the ground. This could bring out a yellow card but would most likely be a very stern warning from the official that anything else would mean receiving a card.

Incident 3: Lambert completely wipes out her opponent with an out of control tackle, barely making any real attempt at the ball. This would almost certainly be a yellow card, which at this point should have been her second yellow card, thus leading to her ejection. Details are cloudy but I believe Lambert indeed received a yellow card for this.

Incident 4: Lambert pulls a BYU player to the ground by her ponytail. Clearly this qualifies for a red card and disqualification, regardless of what point of the game this happened in or what had preceded it. Strangely this was not caught by the referee or any of the sideline officials who have the authority to stop the game, confer with the lead official, and assure that the appropriate action is taken.

Even more incredulous is Lambert's reaction to the outrage her play has caused. She states that more attention has been given to her because she's a woman. I don't believe this is so. This would have made mainstream sports highlight shows regardless of whether it was a man or a woman who had done this. She also states that her rough play was just hard play in the context of a soccer match and that casual fans wouldn't understand. I consider myself to be a slightly more than casual fan of soccer and I have never seen this before. Lastly, she states that the video makes her look like a monster and this is not the way she plays. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt on this to a degree. I have not seen any other games she has played but I have not heard of any other incidents such as this one. For this game, however, it is clear that she was intent on playing aggressively and doing whatever it takes to win. Whatever is right.

I have never seen rough play as blatant as Lambert's performance in this game. You will see one incident from time to time but never repeatedly. Why? Because officials usually are competent enough to stop this sort of play after the first incident! We documented 4 separate incidents where she could have received a yellow card and 2 where she could have received a red card. How so many incidents were overlooked by three officials over the course of the game mystifies me.

You have read previous posts by me about my growing love of soccer. I thoroughly enjoy the sport when it is played at the highest level. I yearn for the day when soccer is as important here as the other major sports and we can compete on the highest levels internationally. Exactly what needs to be done for this is a discussion for another day but part of the problem is we do not have the level of officiating needed to ensure that games are fair, well played and the skill of players is allowed to shine through. Once this is resolved we will be able to go a long way toward building the type of sport that Americans can enjoy on the highest level without having to look to Europe.

As I go to sleep tonight I will be thinking about Elizabeth Lambert and doing everything I can to make sure that my daughters do the opposite of her and conduct themselves with grace, honor and professionalism at all times as young women and on into adulthood. Oh yeah, and making sure they do not end up on a stripper pole or on YouPorn either.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thrill of a Lifetime

I'm back. After a bit of a sabbatical to tend to personal matters I have returned. I spent the vast majority of my time the last two weeks studying for my pharmacy tech certification exam. I am pleased to say that preliminary results indicate I have passed. I will get the official results in about a week and a half and then I will be able to officially call myself Tony Counsil, CPhT. Titles make me feel extra important. Thursday was the exam but Friday was also a big day for me.

As loyal readers to my blog will know I regularly refer to ESPN's Bill Simmons, a.k.a. the Sports Guy. I would consider him my favorite columnist on the web due to my unhealthy addiction to sports and his witty, acerbic take on them. He recently wrote a book which chronicles the history of basketball. While I am not finished with it yet it has proven to be excellent so far and I look forward to the remaining pages.

Mr. Simmons was in Anaheim signing his book for fans. Being that I have read every word he's written over the last 8 years as well as listened to every podcast he has done there was no way I was missing it. I lined myself up with 400 or so of my closest friends, eagerly anticipating a chance to see the man who has taken up more of our lives than anything except working and sleeping. To say that I walked away from the experience impressed would do a great injustice to the afternoon.

This was my first book signing that I have been to so I was a bit unsure of what to expect. I have heard that many authors will sign his or her name only. Some will write the same small, generic phrase or greeting in all books. I have even heard stories of authors not bothering to look up at the very people who are consuming their product. Bill Simmons did none of the above. As each person stepped up to the table at which he was sitting, he greeted each one with a smile and a kind word. He then proceeded to strike up a short conversation, noticing something about what the fan was wearing or giving a genuine answer to a question a fan might have asked. Only after about 20 or 30 seconds would he begin to write. The message? Something that related specifically to the conversation he had just had. At least that was my experience.

Standing in line for a while before the signing began, I had struck up conversations with a few of those in line. After we had our books signed we compared our experiences and all came away with the same impression: Bill Simmons was the greatest. For each of us he had written something that had pertained to the brief conversations we had with him. Our only conclusion was that he had done this for each and every person in line. To do this for a select few fans would have been nice. To do so for the 400 or so that showed up was downright impressive. He seemed to be truly appreciative for the support of his book and rewarded those of us who took the time to show up with something personal and treasured.

I may go to other book signings and be equally impressed with those authors, who for all I know may end up being even more appreciative and humble. But there is something about the first time you do anything that makes it extra special, and I cannot imagine walking away feeling any more elated than I did last Friday. So often we create heroes and idols in our minds only to meet those heroes and walk away thoroughly unimpressed. I am glad to say that my expectations were greatly exceeded and my signed copy of The Book of Basketball will be a prized possession until I am too senile to follow a basketball game on TV. Or on whatever people are watching games in 2058.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grab Bag

I have several things on my mind and could not narrow down any one thing to talk about so today I will truly meander with my thoughts.

I saw the funniest/stupidest thing today. I was at a four-way stop and two cars were moving into the intersection in front of me. Both of them needed to turn left but since neither of them had their turn signal on they assumed the other was going straight. They proceeded to hold up traffic for 15-20 seconds until they each figured out that the other was also turning left. I see so much terrible driving that I think there should be a mandatory behind-the-wheel test every 10 years so people don't idiotically forget the basics.

I was thinking about music and wondered what my Mount Rushmore of albums would be. Here are the four in no particular order.
1) Aja - Steely Dan This album is the perfect mood record to listen to when you are in the mood for some upscale jazz rock. From short impactful songs to long, winding, epic instrumentals it has a little bit of everything.
2) Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - Smashing Pumpkins Speaking of having a little bit of everything, what can be said about this masterpiece that hasn't already been said? For anyone coming of age in the mid to late 90's and into any type of rock/alternative this was the album to own. Lay back, close your eyes and let yourself go on a two hour journey through every emotion. This will certainly go down as the best alternative album ever.
3) Court and Spark - Joni Mitchell Possibly my favorite album ever. Perfect in every way. The songs flow together perfectly, instrumentation is perfect, Joni's voice is perfect. I really grew into this album listening to it almost nonstop on the two cruises I went on. I have probably listened to this 500 times.
4) The Chronic - Dr. Dre The pinnacle of 80's and 90's gangsta rap. This was the first album to blend hard, real lyrics with unparalleled producing. Never before had there been so much melody on rap tracks and the only tracks to have more since ripped off other songs wholesale. Not everyone's cup of tea but definitely the defining album of a very large genre.

A few words about the Angels. My favorite professional sports team was eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Yankees on Sunday. The Yankees were simply better. Once you get so far you always think there is a good chance for your team to win but there is not shame in losing to a better opponent. Manager Mike Sciocsia gets a bad rap for not winning more World Series titles with the team he's got but it's hard to win. Since the Angels won a World Series in 2002, of the four times they have made the playoffs not counting this year, they have been knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual World Series champion three times. They may make it four out of five if the Yankees win this year. They simply are not the better team. It was too bad they couldn't go further but I am not at all disappointed with this year. Great effort all around. By the way, you should have to wait at least a week after your team fails in the playoffs to wear any branded clothing. Wearing Angels gear the next day is not cool.

Finally, a couple of quick notes. Anybody who is fat enough to have ample fat rolls around the stomach should not wear a message T-shirt. I saw a couple today that had illegible words due to excess folding in the midsection. Please do us all a favor; if you are super fat please stop wearing clothes meant for skinny people. Thanks in advance.

I passed a house that had what looked to be spiderweb decorations except they looked like the house got TP'd. Decorations that look like pranks = Halloween FAIL.

I'll stop rambling for now and hopefully on Friday I will have a reasonably coherent group of words for you to read. Until then.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Dreams can be uplifting, scary, emotional. I am not talking about the dreams we have for where our lives will end up; I am talking about the dreams we have at night. I am not sure if I am in the minority but my dreams border on out and out bizarre. I'll share a small sample of the past couple of nights. I have no idea what any of it means or why I would dream it, rather I am just writing it down.

My first dream the other night placed me at an Angels World Series Game. I was in a booth which seemed to have a very nice place to eat but not a very good view of the field. I watched Third Eye Blind perform a pregame song which tore up the field and caused a delay. Then during the game, a foul ball came into the booth where I was standing and right to me, which I proceeded to catch. Being that I had never caught a foul ball at a game before, I was quite excited. I moved down to a seat right along the field just as the final out was being made. I looked at the scoreboard: Angels 16, Dodgers 14.

My next dream wasn't very long but it did involve me hanging out at the home of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Their house was filled with many hallways and I got the overwhelming sense of there being a lot of exposed wood beams and wood paneling. I have no idea why I was there, just that Brad was watching a football game and Angelina was off watching the kids.

My dream last night was the weirdest of all. I was at my grandmother's house and was watching a show on TV about Atlantis. They had celebrities, including Alan Thicke of all people, participating in experiments showing that Atlantis was not located off the coast of South America but rather under the coast of South America. There was someone in the room who studied different historical and extraterrestrial phenomena and I remember he had several books with him. I went outside and was surprised to see that instead of the usual cratering on the moon, craters were arranged to look like the back of a dime. Then suddenly what looked to be the sun rose over the horizon, only it wasn't. What it was I am not sure but soon after that something weird happened.

All of the birds in the sky started to fall as well as all of the airplanes. For some reason there were hundreds of birds and dozens of planes in the immediate area. A rather large passenger plane crashed just a couple hundred yards away and I remember being pelted with debris as I hid behind a wall. Before a minute more had passed some type of militaristic law enforcement officers drove up and down the street with loudspeakers telling us that we had to remain inside and would be under constant surveillance. We were also instructed to burn all pictures of loved ones and instead replace them with a list of encrypted names to represent who was supposed to have been in them. This is where the dream ends.

I am not sure if everyone has dreams with weird on a regular basis, but all of my dreams make no sense and most are approaching the level of strangeness in these. I need to look up what all of this means, though part of me is afraid to. I really should write all of my dreams down. It would probably make for either a good case study or a best seller.