Friday, January 15, 2010

Is it iced tea? Then I have no idea

It's that time of year again. Time for me to get my hopes up and take another shot at fulfilling a lifelong goal. It's time for the what-now-seems-to-be-annual Jeopardy! online contestant search. Everything you need to know about taking the test is on their website. So let's all sign up and take the test together! Unless you're smarter than me...I'd hate it if you passed and I didn't and I had to pretend to be happy for you, like those annoying girls on Idol last night.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


A new season of The Bachelor started up last week. I read in the newspaper that only one of the 18 Bachelor and Bachelorette seasons has resulted in a marriage. This was viewed as a pitiful success rate, but I'm actually surprised that any of the couples stayed together, since I bet you can count on one hand the contestants whose top priority was finding love, and not just being on TV and becoming G-list celebrities.

These people certainly aren't television's first serial daters. I was watching a Seinfeld rerun the other night, and for some reason got the urge to see how many of Jerry's girlfriends I could think of in ten minutes, and then I took another ten on George, Elaine and Kramer. In just 20 minutes, I came up with 99 romantic interests for the four (43 of them Jerry's).

After the time expired I came up with even more. Some of my most embarrassing omissions from the original list: for Kramer, I forgot the librarian (LOVE the library cop's monologue in that one) and the girl he buys a faulty wheelchair for; I left off Elaine's older boyfriend who has a stroke, and the guy who thinks she smells after she rides in Jerry's B.O. car; I somehow forgot George's piano playing girlfriend (the Pez dispenser episode) and the one he accompanied to the funeral (he double-dipped the chip!), not to mention his flings with the cleaning lady at work and an old man's Senegalese housekeeper; and, worst of all, I somehow failed to come up with Jerry's girlfriend with the talking belly (Helllloooooooo!!) and the woman Jerry drugged in order to play with her toy collection (it's only my all-time favorite episode).

Keep in mind that there were only 180 episodes. That's a pretty impressive track record, especially by the guys. I can understand Elaine not having trouble scoring dates, since she's attractive, fun, and, uh, easy. But George and Jerry...sure, Jerry's character is moderately wealthy and famous, but I don't see many women considering them handsome, and neither of them have very attractive personalities. And it's not like they were dating the riffraff of New York...Jerry went out with a bevy of ladies which included a star from seemingly every show of the '90s (Courtney Cox, Kristin Davis, Teri Hatcher, Lori Loughlin, Debra Messing, Jane Leeves, Jami Gertz, Tawny Kitaen, etc.). More power to them, I guess.

This seems to be the time of year for people to date lots of people at once. At this time last year, my friend Tamara was starting her "31 dates in 31 days" project. Happily, she will be marrying the guy who won the second date this weekend! Congrats, Tamara and Evan! My friend Larissa also set me up with her friend Shayla, who's involved in a similar dating experiment. You can read about our date and, if you want, vote for me to win a second date here.

As far as my dating life goes, I have a few other irons in the fire, kind of. I plan to start attending sacrament meeting in a singles ward. There's also a chance that I could meet someone at work, though that seems unlikely. When I was working evenings while in training, it seemed like there were a lot of weirdos who worked there. But on the overnight shift, there are actually a LOT of good-looking girls. However, talking is basically not allowed on the work floor, and besides my lunch break, the breaks we get are too short to have a decent conversation with anyone. Plus, one of the cute girls seems to try hard to avoid me, which makes me worried that I inadvertently did something to creep her out (I can't be expected to act normally at 3AM, although I know I've never talked to her).

And then there's the temple...since I started working there in October, almost every week one of the older ordinance workers has mentioned to me, knowing that I'm single, that they have a granddaughter or a niece or a neighbor who is single...and that's it. No follow up comments--they just stare at me. How do they expect me to respond? "I'm not picky. Just have her here next week and we'll get married when my shift is over," or maybe "bring in a picture and I'll tell you if she's pretty enough for me"?

But then, last week, the shift coordinator (a quirky old man who looks like David O. McKay and has personal space issues) grabbed my arm and paraded me around in front of the sister workers, and explained that if I am still single when I turn 30 in April I can no longer be an ordinance worker (a relatively new policy). These are mostly all grandmothers, so he wasn't trying to fix me up with them, just helping me network. I already got a name and number from one of them, and may have several more waiting for me this Saturday.

So who knows what will happen. My body isn't hot-tub ready, so I'll likely never be on The Bachelor, but my dating track record and the effort I've put into getting my own dates through most of my adult life indicates I may need some kind of gimmick if I'm ever going to find "the one." That's the good thing, though--whether it takes 18 seasons, or 43 Hollywood starlets, or a different date every day for a month, or just the traditional years and years of swingin' and missin'--you only need to be successful once.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


[Most of this post was written in early November; however, for some reason it wouldn't past from Word into Blogger, and I waited until now to retype it, finishing off the basketball section and adding some links and the Max Hall part.]

Warning: this post is about sports, and will likely be very long. Proceed with caution.

The Yankees won the World Series this week, the 27th championship for arguably the most storied and polarizing franchise in all of sports, at least all of American sports. If you like sports, you have an opinion about the Yankees. You either love them or hate them. For a long time, I have fallen on the "hate" side. However, it's been a down decade, relatively speaking, for the Bronx Bombers. Their last title was in 2000, and I hadn't been in the U.S. when they won the Series since 1998. This lack of recent success, combined with their spectacular collapse in the 2004 playoffs, had softened my dislike of them.

Now, it's back, and it feels great. It's important to have villains in sports, people and teams to cheer against. It's sometimes more fun to cheer against certain teams than it is to cheer on your own--especially when your teams aren't that great. Right now, I'm experiencing the ultimate in sports supervillainy. For the first time ever, the reigning champs in the three major sports I follow are teams I actively dislike. I'm going to break it down sport by sport, explaining why I love certain teams and love to hate others.


Current Villainous Champion: New York Yankees

Why They're Evil: They win all the time, and it's no fun jumping on a bandwagon, except maybe if they're your hometown team. They spend way more money than everyone else, so it feels like they buy championships more than they earn them by stealing away other teams' best players (by the way, probably every argument I make against the Yanks and the other teams that follow can be refuted, at least to some extent, but being a sports fan involves--at least occasionally--thinking and believing in illogical and irrational ways). With their resources, they're expected to win. Being a Yankee fan seems like it wouldn't bring much more satisfaction than being a Harlem Globetrotters fan. The organization seems to have a smug sense of superiority (and their fans, collectively, do too), from the no-facial-hair policy to keeping the old stadium name on each new version to the "God Bless America" 7th inning stretch. Baseball games are always slow-paced, but Yankee games are interminably long. Their egotistical owner George Steinbrenner is a convicted criminal, and he employs admitted cheaters Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte. Plus, A-Rod thinks he's a centaur.

I should point out that my first and all-time favorite player is Yankee legend Don Mattingly. However, when I began following his career I was too young to be aware of the NYY legacy and Steinbrenner's villainous ways. Plus, he starred in the least successful Yankee era since before Babe Ruth donned the pinstripes, so in a way cheering for Mattingly is like cheering for Yankee futility.

Fellow Evildoers: The Atlanta Braves are the only other MLB team I've ever actively disliked (although the Red Sox adopt more and more unlikeable, Yankee-like characteristics every year). Similar to the Yankees, I just got tired of seeing them in the playoffs every year. The dislike has always been mild, though, because they almost always stunk in the playoffs, and now they don't even reach the postseason.

The Good Guys: The Detroit Tigers are my favorite team, which has resulted in a lot of frustration (a trend amongst all the teams I support, as you'll see). They won the World Series in 1984, a few years before I knew about the game, and made the playoffs in '87 (where I first became a fan), but didn't make it back to postseason play until 2006. In between, they had five or six years when their best player was the immortal Bobby Higginson, followed by a season when they came dangerously close to achieving the worst won-loss record of all time. They also had an epic collapse down the stretch this year and missed the playoffs after losing a tiebreaker to the Twins. [And since I wrote this, they've traded Curtis Granderson, perhaps their most popular player, to--d'oh!--the Yankees!]

In the National League, the Dodgers have been my favorite team since 1988, when they acquired Kirk Gibson, who I had enjoyed watching on the Tigers the previous year. His home run off Eckersley in Game 1 of the World Series that year is the coolest and most memorable sports moment I've ever seen live on TV (followed by John Stockton's 3-pointer against Houston that sent the Jazz to the NBA Finals for the first time, Ron Artest charging into the stands in Detroit, the 2004 ALCS, David Tyree's helmet catch in the Super Bowl, and the time Karl Malone knocked David Robinson out with his elbow--oh, and Harline is still open!). Orel Hershiser was phenomenal throughout that year's playoffs, helping him become my all-time favorite pitcher.


Current Villainous Champion: Pittsburgh Steelers [although, since I wrote this, their season fell apart and they missed this year's playoffs!]

Why They're Evil: I'm not sure why I started to dislike the Steelers, or the other teams listed below, although it might have been the prevalence of people wearing those teams' Starter jackets in junior high (although I've never disliked the Dolphins). It might, like the Yankees, have something to do with how historically successful they are, especially in comparison to my favorite teams.

But there are definitely other reasons...wide receiver Hines Ward is probably the dirtiest player in the league, and I can't really put my finger on why, but I don't like Ben Roethlisberger. I also find the Pittsburgh accent to be the most grating of all American accents.

And, of course, there's Super Bowl XL, where the Steelers beat my beloved Seahawks, thanks in large part to incredibly shoddy officiating. I lost a bet with Becky Whitnah on that game, and had to wear a Terrible Towel to ward prayer, which dampened the ensuing open house we hosted (featuring our legendary tater tot pyramid and red velvet Twinkie-Henge).

Fellow Evildoers: I've never liked the Cowboys, Chiefs or Raiders (again, it's the Starter jacket thing). More recently, I've disliked the Ravens, mainly because of my distaste for their arrogant former coach, Brian Billick, and Ray Lewis, who loves to jump on the pile after three teammates have already made the tackle and then celebrate like he just scored the winning touchdown.

Compared to baseball and basketball, though, my dislike of these NFL teams--including the Steelers--is pretty mild.

The Good Guys: When I was a kid I used to copy my older brother in any way that I could. This bothered him, and so when he inexplicably became a Mariners fan, I started rooting for the Seahawks as a covert form of imitation (since both teams are based in Seattle). At the time I knew that Steve Largent was the best wide receiver in the league, and he became my favorite player, even though I had virtually no understanding of the game of football at the time.

Just as in the other sports, I had stumbled into a frustrating fandom. The 'Hawks were awful throughout most of the '90s, then underachieved through much of the next decade, until finally reaching the Super Bowl in '06, only to have their dreams shattered by Willie Parker and some shady/incompetent refs.

My other favorite teams are equally jinxed: I attached myself to the Bills in 1990 (admittedly a bandwagon jump), a season which ended with the first of four straight Super Bowl losses. I also liked the Oilers, who finally reached the big game in 1999...exactly two years after moving from Houston to Tennessee, and one year after ditching the Oilers moniker. Oh, and they fell one yard short of sending that game into overtime. I also was a Barry Sanders fan, but thankfully had stopped considering myself a Lions supporter long before last year's squad went 0-16.


Current Villainous Champion: Los Angeles Lakers

Why They're Evil: Once again, the main reason for the hate is their success. I probably wouldn't care about the Lakers if they weren't a perennial title contender. But their roster is and has been stocked with plenty of villains: Kobe Bryant, like Michael Jordan is unbelievably talented but completely unlikable; coach Phil Jackson is one of the most condescending figures in all of sports; James Worthy is considered one of the 50 greatest players ever, because he was lucky enough to play with Magic Johnson; Doug Christie's wife got in fights with other players; they kept Karl Malone from finishing his career in Utah and didn't even win him a title; and Jack Nicholson won't take his dang sunglasses off indoors.

There's also Shaq, of course. I used to defend him as a good player, even after he punched Greg Ostertag right before the season opener one year. I used to think he got a bad rap (and derived much enjoyment from his actual bad rapping), and enjoyed his sense of humor. Shaq is funny--when things are going his way. When they're not he's just a big, surly guy who has proven he's not above stabbing teammates and organizations in the back. He puts no effort into conditioning, and the fact that he's never improved his free throw shooting, even a little, speaks volumes about his skill level and work ethic.

Special mention here for Derek Fisher. He's a good guy, someone I kind of liked during his first tour with the Lakers. But then he ended up traded to the Jazz, and made it clear from the beginning that he wasn't happy about playing in Utah (he certainly wasn't the first to express that sentiment, but that's no excuse). But Fisher's a pro, and he played hard and played great for the Jazz, helping them get to the conference finals. But his daughter got sick, which he obviously didn't want to happen, but he was happy to exploit her condition as an excuse to get out of his contract (a very magnanimous move by the Jazz).

He claimed that he wanted to be closer to better hospitals so he could take care of his family. The hospitals in Salt Lake City might not be considered the best, but they're very good. And if he was serious about the care of his daughter being his primary motivation for leaving Utah, why didn't he take the next year off of basketball? Why did he sign with the Lakers, and then proceed to play every game--meaning he was on the road away from his family for about half the season? Couldn't he have done the same thing while playing for Utah? Of course, I probably wouldn't be annoyed by this at all, except that year, the Lakers beat the Jazz in the second round of the playoffs, while if you took Fisher's contributions away from the Lakers and added them to Utah, the opposite result would have been likely.

Fellow Evildoers: As much as I dislike the Lakers, they're still a long way off being my least-favorite team in basketball and all of sports. That distinction belongs to the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have been the biggest rival/thorn-in-the-side for the Jazz over the years. And over the last decade or so, it would be hard to even call it a rivalry, as the matchup was pretty one-sided in San Antonio's favor. (Grrr!) To make matters worse, the team is run by Gregg Popovich, one of the grumpiest and most boring coaches/executives I've ever seen, and he's filled his squad over the years with some of basketball's most detestable players.

They've had more than their fair share of floppers: Manu Ginobili is perhaps the worst flopper of all time, but don't forget about Fabricio Oberto and Beno Udrih, who once flopped into Andrei Kirilenko's knee, effectively ruining Utah's season. There's Bruce Bowen, a marginally talented thug, and Mario Elie and Robert Horry, two guys who also seemed to possess limited skills, but always ended up hitting clutch 3-pointers and winning championships. Don't forget Avery Johnson's annoying voice or the one-dimensional games of Sean Elliott and Tony Parker. Last but not least is superduperstar Tim Duncan, a guy I'm sure I'd love if he played for my team, but since he's a Spur I always feel like punching his weird face with its weird beard, especially when he's whistled for a foul and he adopts this incredulous look, as if he's saying, "I'm Tim Duncan. You couldn't possibly be calling a foul on me." He does that EVERY SINGLE TIME.

I also had a hearty dislike for the Bulls during the Jordan era, but MJ, Pippen, Rodman and Jackson all left at the same time, and it was a brand new squad almost instantly.

The Good Guys: I love the Jazz, the one local major league franchise. Like my other favorites, they've never been able to win the big game, but they've been very good for most of my life. I really wish they had been able to knock off the Bulls; I'm convinced they had a more talented team, but Jordan just wanted it more (it's a tired sports cliche, but I really believe it's true in this case). Now I really wish they would stop giving contract extensions to Jerry Sloan. He stopped being an effective coach three or four years ago.

For some reason, I also adopted the Knicks as my second-favorite team and Patrick Ewing as my favorite player. I realize now that those early- and mid-nineties Knicks squads were a bunch of bullies who actively tried to make basketball less fun to watch. I would love to cheer for them as a New York resident, though, if given the chance.

I really do believe sports is more enjoyable when you have heated rivalries and villains to cheer against. Which is why I couldn't understand the fallout from Max Hall's "classless" comments after the BYU-Utah football game.

Um, hasn't it been billed as the "Holy War" since before Max was born? If we're going to hold sporting events where there are winners and losers, how can we get angry when someone gets caught up in the competition, and decides he doesn't like his opponent?

I wish his apology had been something more along the lines of "I'm sorry that I showed myself to be classless by sharing in public the feelings I've had in private for years," or "I'm sorry I used the word 'all' instead of 'many' or 'most' or 'generally speaking' when labelling Ute fans and players as classless. I'm sure there are some good people involved with the University of Utah program, but overall I don't like them." Even though he apologized, I doubt his feelings have actually changed.

By the way, across the pantheon of all sports, I'm a BYU fan, more so than I am for any of the teams mentioned above. Go Cougars! Beat those villainous Utes every chance you get!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Zippity-ay and hidey-ho

My blog turned 2 about a fortnight ago! With a birthday so close to Christmas, it's easy to overlook it. But happy 2nd, ABATA!

I don't think this space will be immune from the terrible twos, if that means my blog will be running around, making noise and getting into all kind of mischief. But the writing and the jokes will be as "good" as ever.

I reluctantly admit that it's grown out of its baby clothes, so I promise to change the picture at least once this year, and to update my blog roll by the beginning of spring. And, if I'm still in Utah when birthday #3 rolls around, there's a good chance I'll change the name too.

Oh, and the best gifts you can give are comments on the posts. That, and anything from Hot Topic. He loves that stuff.

Live from the yellow carpet

Because when your favorite TV show of all time celebrates its 20th anniversary, you kinda have to dress up. (Hmm, looks like I should cut back on Homer's patented, out-of-this-world space-age moon waffles. Aye caramba!)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Family ties

Remember the talk given by Bishop Burton at the last General Conference? The one where he described a Primary teacher who helped him learn the 13th Article of Faith? And later on in his life was his neighbor?

Well, I just learned today that that teacher and neighbor was my great aunt, Nelly Clark! How cool is that?

Unfortunately, I learned this at Aunt Nelly's funeral. As far as funerals go, it wasn't too bad for me--I got all of the non-potato benefits (contemplating the plan of salvation, feeling the Spirit, hearing tributes to a woman who lived a good life, and most of all, being with family, including cousin Rachel--Nelly's granddaughter--who sang and was amazing) and not really any of the sadness, since I didn't know her well (I probably hadn't spoken to her since I was 9 or 10, back when we were still attending the extended family Christmas parties).

When I think or talk about my ancestors and extended family, the first name that comes up, understandably, is Mark Hofmann. Not many people, especially in the LDS church, have relatives as fascinating or notorious as him.

But he's the black sheep. It's nice to know that I come from a family line that includes people who were faithful to the Lord and raised good families, and even taught and inspired future General Authorities.

I only know a little about my ancestors, but what I know I like. For example, my great-grandfather Hofmann was the first on my dad's side to join the church. The bits of his journal I've read include him being arrested for preaching the gospel, teaching the gospel in the hospital after being wounded while fighting (for Germany) in World War I, and treating his marriage proposal as if he were extending a mission call (which I guess would make it harder to turn down; I'll have to remember that one).

All this, combined with the extra time I've been able to spend at the temple as an ordinance worker, has given me a stronger desire to get more involved in family history work than I've ever had. I probably won't do anything about it, but it's comforting to know that, at least briefly, I wanted to.