Posts Tagged 'MOFT'

2009 MOFT of the Year: Mrs. Deadman (of course!)

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, but it’s that time of year when I must bestow the coveted My One Favorite Thing award of 2009. Last year, you may recall, Cottonelle Wet Wipes Toilet Paper won the 2008 MOFT, just edging out Barack Obama.

This year, there are so many worthy candidates. Certainly Obama was in the running again, as his January inauguration provided one of the more stirring moments of the year. But while infinitely better than what we had at this time last year, the Prez has been just a bit disappointing to me, so he’ll have to settle with his consolation Nobel.

Other early notable contenders for the 2009 MOFT included Reddi-Wip, the Oster Electric Wine Opener, Scramble (a perennial favorite), Phil Ivey, the St. Louis Cardinals, Dexter, our housekeeper Gloria, and Ingrid Michaelson. Meanwhile, a number of late dark-horse candidates in recent months have emerged, including the Wii (finally got one and it rocks), Modern Family, fantasy football, and even in the last couple of days, this hilarious, mind-fu** of a video.

But in the end, to be honest, it really was no contest. By far, My One Favorite Thing of 2009 is my brand shiny new wife! (She may in fact be even better than the Wet Wipes!)

For those of you don’t know, I married the now Mrs. Deadman on Halloween in Saratoga Springs, NY. It was quite a lovely and fun event if I do say so myself, with almost all of our closest family and friends in attendance.

While I so far am very glad I took the plunge, overcoming the commitment phobia that’s plagued me my entire life, i do have a couple regrets from that weekend. One is the DJ, who sucked so hard I am surprised there was any air left in the reception hall (she will certainly be a top contender if I get around to doing My One Least Favorite Thing of 2009 sometime next week).

Another thing I regret was not taking the time sometime during the night to give this little speech about my new wife. It was something I planned on doing, just like the Mrs. and I both planned on taking a brief moment to thank a bunch of people, but we wanted to try and spread out the speeches and toasts and let people eat and have fun, and then it just never seemed like the right time.

It really is amazing how crazy weddings are when you’re one of the key participants. The night just flies by, and you really feel like you have no control over anything. (Apparently, it wasn’t just the wedding night that didn’t go exactly as planned – Sorry Genghis!). No matter how many people warn you to try and appreciate the moment and be truly present, it’s basically impossible. You feel more like a character in a movie than a real live human being making perhaps the most important decision of your life.

But the truth is, we just should have done what we had planned. It was our wedding and our party, and we just should have found time to thank the people who helped make it all happen, and I should have delivered my little ode to Mrs. Deadman (which to be fair I had thrown together very quickly the week before.)

I guess instead, I will have to settle with posting it here and hoping people read it. So without further ado, here it is:

I just want to say a few words about my beautiful, brand-spanking new wife. Keri and I had our first date 2 years, 2 months, and 2 weeks ago from this very day. And I knew very early on, I had stumbled upon something special.

In fact, I remember one day, no more than a couple of months into our relationship, getting ready with Keri to go out and I found myself just staring at her for a few moments before eventually blurting out ‘How in the world did I get so lucky to have found you?”

“No seriously,” I asked, “how in the world have you stayed single long enough so that I could find you?!?”

I mean, here was this incredibly smart, extremely sexy and cool girl. Sensitive and sweet – with just enough spice and even a touch of the occasional vinegar to keep things interesting. Pretty and funny – not only appreciating my own sense of humor, which is tough enough, but also constantly making me laugh. And it all came bundled in this one little enticing skinny package!

So of course i thought there had to be a catch.

Now it turns out there was no catch, but as I said, this was very early on, so my question might have been a bit naive.

Because the truth is, it’s just that relationships are hard, very hard – and I think people in general – and especially as we get older – are too quick to throw our hands up in the air and throw in the towel when things get a little tough and the inevitable concerns arise. It’s so easy to just give up and move on.

But I think it’s OK when two people in a relationship sometimes have differences of opinions, competing philosophies. It’s healthy. Would be boring otherwise. It’s when we accept and maybe even embrace the differences that we grow as people and couples.

And there is no doubt I have learned so much from Keri over the past two years, especially about how to live a good life and be a better person. And honestly, it would have been impossible to move on because even during tougher times, there were certain things about Keri that stuck with me.

Like how genuinely scared and concerned she looked when she came to visit me in the ER after I had a little heart scare, tears welling in her eyes as I was hooked up with all these wires (probably worrying what the hell she was getting into).

Or like how she is with our dog, Oliver, the love and affection she showers on him – and this was most certainly not a dog person when we first met.

Or how she makes me laugh by breaking out into one of her silly godawful dances, such as the infamous one-legged south-facing boogie (which perhaps if you’re lucky enough, she’ll share with you tonight).

Or how warm she is with all of my family and friends, who will invariably come up to me after meeting her and warn me, “Don’t you dare F this up, Darren!!”

It was just always so easy to envision Keri as my wife because she is exactly what i’ve always pictured when I thought about my life in this stage.

And the more I think about my original question – “How in the world did you stay single long enough so that I could find you? – the more I wonder if the answer is not just that relationships are hard, but that perhaps, this is the only way it could have possibly been.

That it, and us, and today were always going to be. Had to be.

And I am just so happy and thankful right now, so excited about our future … and I love you very, very much!

MOFT: Episode 18 (Monk)

I have to apologize for my prolonged posting absence, but things have been getting hectic. And with several trips upcoming, including two jaunts to Vegas (one my bachelor party!!), a pre-wedding party in my hometown St. Louis, a wedding (with still a millions things that need to be done), a minimoon, and various other things happening all in the next couple of months, I have a feeling it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

One thing I still amazingly always find time for, however, is television. Fortunately, it’s the summer so the Tivo is rather sparse, but one of my favorite shows – Monk – recently started airing new episodes. Alas, it is the final season for the underappreciated comedic detective series on USA Network, which wins the latest My One Favorite Thing of the Week award. I encourage everyone to check out the last few shows on Friday night 9/8c

The strong character ensemble team is easily the best thing about Monk. Tony Shalhoub has received well-deserved accolades, including a couple of Emmys I believe, for his performance as the title character – the lovable, OCD-afflicted, genius detective Adrian Monk. Monk, who was kicked off the San Francisco police force after suffering from mental illness when his wife was killed in a car bomb, is afraid of just about everything. And somehow Shalhoub has managed to keep all of Monk’s numerous tics and neuroses from getting stale and annoying over the years. Along with Hugh Laurie’s Gregory House, Shalhoub has created one of the two most memorable TV personalities of the past decade.

But truthfully, the rest of the Monk cast is just as strong, each of the main actors creating endearing, funny characters who play off of Monk’s oddities extremely well. The only other performer you’ll probably recognize is Ted Levine, Monk’s former boss Captain Leland Stottlemeyer, as he was Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. He’s terrific, gruff and perpetually exasperated with the antics of Monk and his own hilariously inept underling Lieutenant Randy Disher.

But my favorite non-Monk actor is probably Traylor Howard, who plays Monk’s assistant Natalie Teeger. She is tough but caring, patient but strong-willed, and she gives as good as she takes. And even more impressively, I honestly first hated her when she came on the show because she replaced a character I thought was awesome, Monk’s original assistant Sharona.

Now I don’t want to oversell the show. The writing is pretty good, but the plots usually aren’t much to speak of, and you’ll probably figure out most of the ‘mysteries’ (many of them taken from recent headlines) long before Monk finally solves the case near the end of the show. I’m sure fans of shows like Columbo and Murder She Wrote will often feel a strong case of deja vu.

But still, it’s top-notch entertainment, and I’m sure going to miss Monk and the gang when they disappear from the airwaves for good next month.

MOFT: Episode 17 (Crocs)

As devoted deadman blog readers with photographic memories know (a surprisingly slim sample size), I’ve never been a fan of being barefoot.

For much of my teenage, young adult and now creeping middle-age life, my bare feet have been a rare site, indeed, with notable exceptions being in the shower and on the beach. I’m not 100% sure of the reason for this, exactly – while they definitely don’t fall into the stunningly beautiful category, I don’t think my feet are hideously embarrassing either (photographic evidence to the right – my apologies to my photographic memory readers who will now be stuck with this image seared into their brain for all time).

I think my aversion to bare feet in the past has been partly due to bad circulation (there are times during the dead of winter when I have to soak my feet in hot water just to feel them), partly due to the way I hate the way toenails and skin rub against bedsheets (it reminds me of fingernails on blackboards), and partly just out of habit (as if I am anything, I am certainly a creature of that)

Whatever the reason, the conspicuous lack of naked, or even scantily sandal-ed, feet has been a notable trait of my life, so much so that some of my lovers have never even seen my feet (oh yeah, sex with socks – hot!!!), and the soon-to-be-Mrs. Deadman has endearingly nicknamed me Sox.

But all that has changed over the past two summers, and the reason for the sudden change of events is solely due to Crocs footwear, winner of the latest My One Favorite Thing of the Week award. Granted, I don’t yet sleep or shower or exercise in my Crocs (though I think it’s high-time I try sex with Crocs), but at almost every other time you can find me and my bare feet luxuriating in a pair of these bad boys.

These things rock. They’re so cushy and comfortable. Seriously, it’s a like a party with every step. They’re not the most fashionable things for sure, although many of the newer styles have abandoned the clunky atrocities of the earliest versions of Crocs.

I look at people now wearing Birkenstocks, or heaven forbid, regular thong sandals, and I feel so sad, like I’m watching savages who haven’t yet discovered fire, or heathens who need to be shown the Light and taught the way of the Croc.

Yea, once I was Sox. Now, just call me Crox.

Unfortunately, the company that manufactures these little rubber beauties may be in some operating trouble – its 2-year stock price performance, at least, has been a sheer disaster as the brand has passed that hot fad phase.

But I can at least feel good knowing me and my Beyonce have done our part to ensure the company’s survival, scooping up pairs and pairs of the shoes just in case we have to hoard them for the future.

Yet I don’t think that will be necessary. While the proliferation of reality TV may suggest otherwise, i still believe in the inexorable progress of evolution, and I just can’t imagine society ever going Croc-less again.

MOLFT: Episode 1 (Priceline sucks)

I’m usually an easy customer. It doesn’t take much to please me. Just treat me fair and show me respect. Work with me if you’ve made a mistake. Just basic, simple stuff.

Do this and I’m yours forever. Because I’m loyal, too. I’ll return over and over again to your business and I’ll sing your praises to everyone I know. Amazon.com is a company that fits this bill. If I can find it on Amazon, I’m buying it there, even though they include sales tax now in New York and their prices are rarely the best available. In years and years of buying stuff on Amazon, they have rarely done me wrong, and when they have, they quickly made it right.

But if you do something stupid, even if it’s something little, and treat me like you don’t care about having me as a customer, then it’s bad news. As Bruce Banner often warned potential transgressors, ‘Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” No matter how much I may like your product or service, if you cross me and don’t make amends, I will never spend another dollar with you again.

A couple of years ago, I started using a JetBlue AmEx credit card almost exclusively, spending thousands and thousands of dollars on it so that I could earn free tickets on an airline I absolutely loved (the new planes, the leg room, the fair pricing, the friendly employees, the TVs – just awesome).

Then I found out that their much-advertised promise that your miles will never expire as long as you use the credit card wasn’t quite accurate – the miles may technically not expire, but once you fly or spend enough so that those miles turn into a free ticket award, that ticket does expire. It’s a joke of a system, and while I should have read the fine print more closely, I thought the company was being deliberately misleading. And I didn’t realize this until it was too late and a couple tickets expired.

When I continued to get canned negative responses to my elaborate, detailed requests to have an expired free ticket reinstated, I told JetBlue I was tearing up the card and using the airline only out of necessity or convenience. It wasn’t an easy decision, but as a customer, sending your dollars elsewhere is the only recourse you really have. Dell (a classic story of corporate arrogance and ineptitude) and AT&T Wireless are two other companies to which I have vowed not to send any more of my money.

(I may relax the AT&T ban since their offense of atrocious customer service was many years ago, and I can at least rationalize to myself that it’s a new company now that they’ve merged with Cingular – but mostly I just really want an Iphone. I hear AT&T’s service still sucks, however, and I really like my current provider T-Mobile, a company that knows how to treat its customers)

Unfortunately, Priceline has become the first My One Least Favorite Thing of the week award recipient, and may soon become the next blacklisted company on my shopping shit list.

Until yesterday, I’ve always loved using Priceline, so when I wanted to find a reasonably priced four-star or better hotel on the Las Vegas Strip for a trip I’m planning there this Labor Day, it was one of the first sites I checked out. Unfortunately, my ‘Name Your Own Price’ bid was accepted by a hotel – the Westin Casuarina – which markets itself as an ‘off-strip’ venue. Granted its only a block and a half off the strip – but these are Vegas blocks we’re talking about here, and in any case, it’s more a matter of principle.

Now Priceline says that the area I checked was ‘Strip Vicinity’ and that the Casuarina is located within that region. But as I told them in my letter, I’m no cartographer; how am I supposed to know which hotels are within the poorly defined shaded circles on the map – the site gives you no way of checking in advance, a sorely lacking feature. All I know is when I clink on a box saying I want a ‘Strip’ hotel I should get a Strip hotel.

Priceline has a policy where they cannot cancel or change a reservation made using their ‘Name Your Own Price’ system. I understand that policy as a general rule, given that the whole reason hotels agree to offer their rooms to users at much lower rates is because they believe they are dealing with brand-indifferent consumers. But there are times when exceptions must be made, or at the very least something should be offered as a way to compensate an aggrieved consumer, perhaps a significant discount on a future purchase.

Again, maybe I should have been a more diligent researcher. But I wasn’t trying to game the system, and the bottom line is I didn’t get what I expected or wanted. Why can’t the company make a relatively small gesture to keep me happy and a returning customer?

What truly pissed me off the most about the experience was the hour-long call to the customer service hotline, where two different agents did nothing more than repeat the line – over and over again, like it was some sort of holy mantra – ‘I’m sorry. Our contract with the hotels does not allow us to refund or cancel your reservation.’

I stayed as calm as I could, begged them to go off script for a second, to just really listen to me for a moment, and at least pretend to understand where I’m coming from. But they were no better than robots.

Afterward, I sent an email to management, which I think was pretty clever (attached below). Alas, I don’t expect a response, at least not one of the non-canned variety.

And if I don’t get one, it’s goodbye Mr. Shatner and Priceline, and hello Hotwire. My business may not mean much to them and they may not give a damn, but it will sure make me feel better.

Kinda like this blog post.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————–

My Letter to Priceline Management:

Hello there. First of all, I want to say I appreciate Priceline offering customers this ability to contact management in order to address issues and problems. Not all companies do that, so it’s very nice to see, and I sincerely hope someone high up enough to make a difference reads the entirety of this email (it’s a long one!) and follows up in a reasonable time.

I just got off the phone with customer service regarding a problem I had with Request Number: 628-999-***-**.

I was looking to book a hotel and name my own price for a Vegas trip I am taking this Labor Day with my fiancee. After a couple of failed offers trying to bid for 4- and 5-star hotels on the North Strip, I checked the South Strip box and tried again.

This time, my $85 offer was accepted by the Westin Casuarina. Even though I had never heard of the hotel or remember seeing it, at first I was happy about it because the price was decent and I am a regular Westin customer.

But then I went on the Westin website and noticed that the hotel itself markets it as being ‘off-strip’. And taking a look at the map showed clearly it was a block and a half off the strip, which posed a problem because my traveling companion sometimes has trouble moving around and as you know if you’ve been to Vegas a block and a half there is not your normal block and a half and pretty much means you’re looking at a 20-30 minute walk to get to any hotel on the strip.

I frankly felt duped by Priceline. I have used Priceline in the past many times, have sung its praises to friends and colleagues over and over again. I consider it a great, unique service and have never had a bad experience before, but this was just uncool.

My assumption is that the Westin is in fact within the circle on the area I selected in the name the bid process, and that Priceline wasn’t outright lying by including it. And perhaps I should have been more careful but I am not a cartographer, and can’t be expected to know every hotel that is offered within a poorly defined circle on a Website map (especially because Priceline does not have any way – that I could find – to show customers which hotels are in fact in that shaded circle area. That is a feature that should be added tout de suite). What I do know is that the Westin Casuarina is NOT a Strip hotel, which is clearly what I was after.

I know the ‘no-changes, no-refund’ policy of Priceline associated with the name your own bid process. And as a general rule, I understand it. But clearly there are times when exceptions should be made and I thought this was one of them.

So I called Priceline customer service expecting to get some customer service. Instead I ended up spending nearly an hour on the phone with two agents who had to be about as unhelpful as customer service people could possibly be.

As I tried in a very calm, respectful manner to explain my situation as fully as I could, the ONLY thing they’d say, and they kept repeating it like it was a holy mantra, was ‘I’m sorry. Our contract with the hotels does not allow us to refund or cancel your reservation.’

The second agent – who was I guess supposed to be higher along the customer service food chain – was as unhelpful as the first guy but even worse, in that he didn’t even seem sympathetic to my issue. His name was Matt, and his ID # was *********.

In any case, I’ve gone on long enough. But needless to say, if no one can help me out, then I suppose my much-anticipated trip to Vegas will be dampened unnecessarily. And given that it’s the only recourse as a consumer I have, I will have no choice but to not use Priceline ever again and try to convince others in my circle to not do so either and use Hotwire or some other service instead. I may not be as good at convincing people not to use Priceline as William Shatner is at convincing them to use it, but I will try my best.

Given that I really like Priceline, and love Shatner (heck, I feel just by writing this letter I’m being The Negotiator he is constantly imploring us to be), I’d much rather feel like someone at your company cared enough to go the extra mile to make me happy so I can continue to use your services and sing your praises. While for therapeutic reasons I was going to write this letter regardless (nothing is perhaps more frustrating that being stonewalled by two customer service agents who clearly enjoy not helping customers), I’m hopeful that it will get a non-canned response and a satisfactory resolution.

Thanks very much. Yours truly,

MOFT: Episode 16 (PokerStars)

You’ve seen a lot less of me on dagblog lately, and while I’d love to put all of the blame for my absence on my Beyonce and the wedding plans which have been set in hot and heavy motion (It’s mostly painful, stressful stuff, but registering at Target was hella fun – come to Papa, Wii!!), but there is a much bigger badder beast than Mrs. All-Consuming Wedding at work here – and its name is PokerStars.

The truth of matter is, if we’re going to point fingers at anyone, Genghis is really the one to blame because it was partly due to his move to Philadelphia that our weekly NYC poker game, which has been going on regularly for more than eight years, has become very hit-and-miss, and I can’t have that. I need my cards fix.

So I decided to take the plunge and join Pokerstars, which easily earns the award for this week’s My One Favorite Thing. This isn’t the first time I played poker online – A few years ago I was on PartyPoker before that company decided to give up the U.S. market when Congress passed a law banning banks and other financial institutions from funding customer deposits.

The whole issue of the legality of online poker remains in flux, which is a complete joke considering the haphazard nature of this country’s gambling laws (yeah, state lottos and ‘riverboat’ casinos that aren’t even on the water, I’m talking to you) and considering that poker is a skill game enjoyed by millions and millions of Americans.

Indeed, poker is as American an institution as apple pie, and I’m pretty convinced now that the Democrats and card-loving Barney Frank are in charge that it’s only a matter of time before online poker becomes a fully regulated, fully taxed, fully legal activity. In the meantime, I had no qualms about rekindling my little addiction by joining Pokerstars, which along with a couple of other companies decided to take the risk and continue operating in the US.

As far as the site goes, it’s pretty good, very reminiscent of the PartyPoker look and feel. While Texas Hold ‘Em is far and away the most active game on the site, PokerStars offers up enough variety for a non-specialist like me to keep entertained, and I probably most enjoy playing Omaha Hi-Lo and 8-Game (which is eight different games that switch every 5 minutes or so).

And also like PartyPoker, I am convinced that the card distribution on PokerStars isn’t totally random – there are just way too many runner-runner flush suck outs that I see the bigger stacks hit. (This won’t make sense to you unless you know poker, but it basically means that the site’s algorithm seemingly has a mysterious way of moving games along – which if true makes the site a lot more money – by enticing people with few chips to call, only to nail them later in the hand. However, it’s possible it only seems that this happens a lot because you see so many hands playing online – I generally have three games going on at any one time).

I’m trying to keep my cardplaying to at least a reasonable minimum, but I have to admit it’s definitely eating into my blogging time, and sleeping time, and eating time. I’m just thankful we have such solid new contributors to keep the site active. I promise eventually I’ll start caring again about the real world – aside from poker and weddings that is. But right now, I have a game to get to.

MOFT: Episode 14 (The soon-to-be Mrs. Deadman)

Sorry for my extended absence the last couple of weeks, but the excuse is a good one: I’m engaged!!

So as much as I may have wanted to make the clementine My One Favorite Thing of the Week – I mean, really, it’s got all the health-filled, sunshine-y goodness of the orange but with more sweetness, less seeds and in an adorable little easy-to-peel package to boot – it’s only fitting that I bestow that honor instead on the amazing girl who finally convinced me to give up 35 glorious years of singlehood.

The soon-to-be Mrs. Deadman is sweet, smart, sensitive, silly and sexy (yes, she too comes in an adorable little easy-to-peel package). Even though we’ve been together for just under 2 years, it is tough to imagine my life without her. She has a very caring soul, is incredibly nurturing (you should see her coddle our dog – and to think she wasn’t a dog person when I first met her) and totally trustworthy. Her smile and laugh are infectious. She keeps me entertained and challenged. She supports me in every way imaginable. She gets along beautifully with my family and friends (and as a big bonus, I love her family and friends, too). I really could go on and on about how great my fiancee is (we both hate that word and have stolen her sister’s use of the word beyonce instead), but suffice to say, she is a catch.

Now that I’ve made all the readers sick with my saccharine description, I will begrudgingly admit we’re not perfect. We have our scraps. But that’s OK. We know we love and care about each other a great deal and we start with that premise whenever one of those thankfully rare disagreements arise.

At some point, I will probably discuss my qualms over the institution of marriage in general and how I got past them. But for now I just want to keep this (mostly) romantic!

The bottom line is that I’ve found someone who makes me laugh, who makes me think, who makes me horny, who makes me dinner (on the rare occasion!), who makes me happy … who just makes me better.

And I feel like a very lucky man.

MOFT: Episode 13 (Scramble on Facebook)

My One Favorite Thing this week is Scramble, an anagram word game on Facebook that is basically the online equivalent of the old board game Boggle.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the basic idea is you are given a bunch of letter tiles laid out on a square board and you must string adjacent letters together to form words of at least three letters long, racking up more points for longer words.

It’s quite the simple premise … and also dangerously addictive.

To be honest, I don’t even know if Scramble is My One Favorite Thing. It could quite possibly be My One Least Favorite Thing. All I know is I’m playing it a lot. A LOT. In fact, I can’t stop playing it. I’m playing it now, actually, even as I write this, because one of the unfortunate side effects of playing the game for extended periods is you can’t stop seeing Scramble boards floating in front of your head and trying to form words off of them.

Yes, I am apparently hallucinating from overdosing on Scramble. Now I understand the true meaning of the game’s name – it totally scrambles your brain into mushy eggs.

I don’t quite know how it got to this point. A few months ago, I was playing a few games of Scramble a week – a rather innocuous amount – with one of my friends on Facebook. Unfortunately, she’s like an anagram idiot savant and always crushed me.

While I was getting a bit better, the bad losses continued to pile up and began to really bother me. I said as much to my friend and she suggested I get more practice by trying out the ‘Play Live’ version of the game where you can compete against hundreds of other people who are playing Scramble online at the same time.

So I tried it. And then I couldn’t stop. The beauty of the game is that it is short – each match is between 1 minute and 3 minutes, depending on the version you play – and after the time stops, you can see what words you missed (and also get their definitions if you’d like but learning useful stuff really has nothing to do with Scramble). You can also see your scoring rank updated realtime, and if you are in the top 25 by the end of the game, you can see your profile picture proudly displayed to the right. Each match sends a tiny little shot of endorphins rushing through your bloodstream.

One night, I decided I was not going to go to bed until I got every 3-letter word on one of the boards, so after each game I would write down a three-letter word I missed and had never heard of before and commit it to memory. I spent the next six hours – writing down almost 100 words in the process (file attached) – trying to accomplish my goal. I never did it, getting only as close as one missed 3-letter word before I realized I was perhaps a game away from completely losing it and going on a Scramble-induced murderous rampage.

Part of me wants to go on and on about all the nuances of the game – how I wish they would get rid of the ability to use gameplay credits to get word hints because it’s F-in cheating and I know people use it all the time just so they can push me out of the top 10 at the last second, how I wish I knew how the game calculates one’s Word IQ because it seems almost totally arbitrary, how I wish people in the chat board would say something – ANYTHING – other than ‘gga’ or ‘wd’ after every friggin game, etc.

But there’s this other part of me – oh, call it every last tingling, jangling nerve in my body – that needs another Scramble hit right now, so you’ll have to excuse me while I get my next fix.

MOFT: Episode 10 (Ingrid Michaelson)

I finally have a celebrity crush!

For the first time in 35 years, there is finally a woman out there whose posters I want to plaster all over my bedroom walls, whose biographical trivia I want to accumulate like so many rare golden nuggets, whose live and TV appearances I want to schedule my life around (while still respecting all applicable stalker laws, of course).

The object of my intense affection and the clear winner of this week’s My One Favorite Thing award is singer Ingrid Michaelson.

Before last Thursday, all I knew of Ms. Michaelson is she sang this simple, catchy love song called “The Way I Am” that my girlfriend dedicated to me on Facebook (That song, featured in an Old Navy ad, propelled Michaelson to the significant indie-type of stardom she now enjoys. My girlfriend dedicated it to me mostly because it contains the line “I’d buy you Rogaine when you start losing all of your hair,” which, alas, has some, uh, personal relevancy).

I didn’t have much in the way of expectations when my girlfriend told me she bought us tickets to go see Michaelson live at New York’s City Winery (which for all you locals is a fairly new, awesome music venue worth checking out – cavernous yet still somehow cozy, with great acoustics, and good, reasonably priced food and wine to boot).

I certainly didn’t expect Ingrid Michaelson would give one of the most entertaining, enchanting performances I have ever witnessed, and that she would make me all giddy with girl-crush tingliness.

Now I knew from listening to a few of her songs that Michaelson had strong pipes, but she’s no mere studio voice. On stage, her sound reached soaring heights with very little effort, showing at least as much range and power and clarity as on her albums. Plus, she also knew how to use the occasional, well-placed ‘crack’ in her voice to display an endearing vulnerability and fragility in songs that were inevitably about the getting and/or losing of love.

Though it played a clear second fiddle to the star singer, Michaelson’s band was pretty tight as well, benefiting from their long-time collaboration. And the backup vocals – performed by the three guitarists and a key factor in many songs – meshed beautifully with Michaelson’s voice. Her music overall generally rocked a teensy bit harder than some of the other female songwriters who I would put in a similar category, like Feist or Regina Spektor.

But it wasn’t the technical performance of the concert that won me over. The star of the show was clearly Michaelson’s silly, playful, self-deprecating, lovable personality … which came as a complete surprise to me. I don’t know if it was because of her name or her voice, but I expected Ingrid to be this tall, stunning, rail-thin, aloof performer, yet she was actually a bit on the short side, full of curves, mad funny and totally engaging.

Dressed in a stylish yet comfy-looking hipster outfit – tight dark pants, brown leather boots, sleeveless black shirt, colorful scarf and a cute, bowler-like hat -  she reminded me of the sexy best friend you totally dig hanging out with and then all of a sudden somewhere along the way, you realize you’ve fallen in love.

Despite her talent, she seems rather humble and doesn’t take herself or her work too seriously, joking during the concert that she composes all her songs in the ‘C’ chord because it’s the simplest and turning the lyrics of another song into a catchy paean for the Lost TV show.

(I wondered at times if her humility and self-doubt were a bit of an act – she seemed way too engaging of a performer for it to be totally legit – but then there were moments, like when she came back for her encore and spent several minutes trying to remember how to play a tune on the piano, where she truly seemed about ready to lose it).

Michaelson loves interacting with the audience, and its one of her biggest strengths as a performer. Early in the show, she obliged one fellow who wanted to propose to his girlfriend by popping the question for him and then dedicated a beautiful, yet also sweetly realistic song of hers called ‘Giving Up’ to the happy couple. “Thanks for reminding me I’m alone,” she joked. (Oh, but you so don’t have to be, Ingrid!)

At another point, she chided the audience for not being more enthusiastic about joining in on the chorus Ingrid and Deadman ... Can you feel the love?to her song ‘The Hat’. She created this hilarious little story/metaphor – seemingly on the spot – about taking us on a date and comparing our vocal performance to a lame first kiss:

“I take you in my car. I take you home and I reach in, I lean in for a kiss. And what you just gave me was like a dry, half-mouthed, Aunt Mabel kiss. And I bought you like seven dirty martinis so I think I could get a little bit more. So I’m going to try once again, and at least let me get a full lip situation, if not a little over the blouse action.”

When the audience subsequently obliged with a more full-throated response, she screamed “You’re a slut” into the microphone before finishing the song.

I fear I’m not doing a good enough job explaining her rockingness, so I just encourage everyone to catch her act when she’s in town and see for herself. You won’t regret it.

The only thing I regret is how stupid and flustered I got after summoning up enough courage to approach her after the show to get her picture. I don’t remember what I said, but I’m pretty sure it was incoherent. My girlfriend tried to help me out by telling Ingrid that I had immediately placed her in my Top 5, and thus was free to fool around with her, but I think that scared her even more!

Oh well, I’ll do better next time ;-)

The dagBuzz for 2/12/09: (Darwin, Lincoln, and the new MOFT)

Exciting news, daggers (well, it’s at least exciting for Deadman)!! I have bought a snazzy new hi-res Webcam, and the videos should now end up being much, much clearer. However, the bad news is that not only do you now get to see all of Deadman’s defects in full glory, but I kind of liked the way the old dark and grainy images fit the Deadman persona.

All hope is not lost, though, as the new webcam can do some very cool things, some of which could help solve my persona dilemma.

The actual dagBuzz portion of the video today is brief, but please daggers watch the video all the way through to the end so you can see what the camera can do, and let me know what you think. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed, it’s pretty cool stuff – The Logitech 9000 Pro Webcam has been immediately anointed as My One Favorite Thing of the week – and as a bonus, I embarrass myself to the fullest throughout the proceedings.

Here are the Yahoo Buzz! stories:

Op-Ed Contributor: The Origin of Darwin

Obama looks to Lincoln while launching presidency      (AP)

Obama looks to Lincoln while launching presidency (AP)

MOFT: Episode 8 (Reddi-Wip)

The first time I remember seeing a Reddi-wip can was on a camping trip during a high school summer when some of my friends tried to get high by snorting the nitrous oxide gas inside it. Even back then, a ‘whippit’ sure looked like a stupid, only mildly effective, thing to do.

But now almost 20 years later, Reddi-Wip is indeed getting me high on a regular basis — through sheer creamy goodness. I’m telling you, I am using this shit in and on everything. Hot cocoa, coffee, peanut butter sandwiches, cereal, cookies. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful invention (and not surprisingly, it was a St. Louisan, Aaron ‘Bunny’ Lapin, who made it all happen some 60 years ago). Congrats, Reddi-Wip, you are easily My One Favorite Thing of the week.

The best part is the regular stuff has only 15 calories and 1 gram of fat, and the fat-free variety is only 5 calories and basically just as good. (It also comes in Chocolate, which is awesome, and Extra Creamy, which just sounds way too sinfully decadent to try even though it only has a mere 20 calories a serving).

Want a really delicious, relatively healthy snack? Try a couple of Stella D’oro Almond Toast cookies (100 calories, 2g fat, 0 saturated) and then cover them with some Redi-Whip … hmmm-mmm…

I frankly just don’t understand how the caloric content can be so low. Now zero calories in diet soda and the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray, that I understand, because those things taste like the chemical crap they are, but Reddi-Wip is so creamalicious, it’s like taking a drink straight from a cow’s teat.

And as if it couldn’t get any more perfect, Reddi-Wip is also a great accessory for naughty sex play. Certainly much better than chocolate body paint, which by the time you get anywhere good, you’re already in a hypoglycemic diabetic shock.

There is only one small caveat when it comes to Reddi-Wip enjoyment. For your own good, do not accept offers for Reddi-Wip when you’re at someone else’s house as it is effing impossible to resist the temptation to use one’s mouth to clean off the top of the can after spraying it. not to mention, there may be punk teenagers in the house who try and snort the damn thing when mom and dad aren’t around. So just do what I do and bring a can of Reddi-Wip with you wherever you go.

(P.S. I am amazed that ‘Reddi-Wip’ is how you spell the product. If someone would have asked me before writing this, i would have gotten both parts of the hyphenate wrong. It’s much easier to write Nature’s Perfect Food anyway).

MOFT: Episode 7 (Well, duh…)

Can there be any question as to what My One Favorite Thing this week was? Could it be any more obvious?? I mean, clearly, it was Rick Warren’s Invocation Speech. Duh. What a beautiful testimonial to the goodness of god, the power of prayer and the righteousness of Scripture!

Ok, ok, i keeeed. i keeeed. MOFT of the week was obviously the Inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama, which more than two million people witnessed in person, and another 38 million people saw on the telly. It was a glorious event, and nothing – not a less-than-perfect handling of crowd control and seating, not a bungled recitation of the oath of office, not an inaugural speech that lacked the fancy rhetoric and beautiful poetry of some of Obama’s best performances, not another sickening 5%-plus stock market decline, and not even the presence of one anti-gay reverend could dampen the meaning and importance of last Tuesday.

The hard part for Obama and for the rest of America is still to come. The president is not just trying to lower expectations when he talks of the difficulties this country is facing. They are serious, and they are numerous. And there are no guarantees for success. Obama may be intelligent and well-spoken, flexible and principled – qualities sorely lacking in the White House these last eight years – but the questions of his competence and capabilities won’t be answered for some time. We should keep a watchful eye on his performance, and guard against the kind of blind loyalty and lack of reflection many on the other side fell victim to in recent years.

But last Tuesday, for the first time in a long time, it made sense to hope that better times are ahead. It made sense to hope that America could be all that it once was and more – productive, respected, compassionate, true to its most hallowed ideals – for we now have a leader who seems up to the enormous tasks at hand.

For one day, at least, hope felt like it was more than just an empty word, more than just a campaign slogan. It felt real. Tangible. Something you could hold onto. And for one day, at least, that was more than enough reason to smile.

MOFT: Episode 6 (Chase’s New ATMs)

It doesn’t take much for a bank to make me happy. Give me online access, a good interest rate, a bunch of branches, and I’m all good. Heck, lately I’m just thrilled when my chosen banking institutions don’t implode and go boom.

But just because I’m easily satisfied doesn’t mean a bank often gets my juices flowing. Yet that’s exactly what happened this week as my main bank, JP Morgan Chase, installed sweet new ATMs that take the latest MOFT (My One Favorite Thing) title. I don’t know if Chase used TARP money to finance these new contraptions, but if so, consider it money well spent!

What’s so great about these new ATMs? It’s all about the deposits, baby. It used to be that whenever I wanted to deposit a check, I’d have to stand in line at the counter with all the deposit slips and envelopes and wait until one of the few chained pens that actually still had ink in them became free. I’d then fill out a bunch of uncomfortably personal information – account numbers, address, etc. – with strangers looking over my shoulder (waiting for their own shot with that elusive working pen), before getting back in line to wait for an ATM. Sure, the process only took several minutes, but my time is valuable, ya hear.

So imagine my delight when I stop by my nearest Chase branch and see these fancy new ATMs, which will take your loose checks, sans envelopes or deposit slips. Shove a bunch of them all together in the slot and watch the machine somehow magically decode the amount of each check (sometimes it fails to read handwriting and asks you to manually type in the amount – I was tempted to put in one meeeeelioon dollars, but somehow didn’t think my girlfriend had that much in her account). The ATM will even print your receipt with images of the deposited checks.

Ok, maybe it’s not very impressive. But all you hear about lately is how stupid bankers have been and how they’re responsible for much of the economic mess this country is in. And I just want to give props where props are due.

Though Chase yesterday reported its fourth-quarter profit fell 76 percent from the year-ago period, the bank remains in an enviably solid position, having acted the least stupidly during the mortgage and credit bubble. And now they are exploiting their relative largesse by placing themselves squarely at the forefront of cutting-edge ATM technology. Bravo, Chase … This check’s for you!

MOFT: Episode 5 (Californication)

I don’t think 2008 was a very good year for pop culture.

The Hollywood writers’ strike seemed to have lingering effects, delaying the return of some of my favorite TV shows past the point of anticipation all the way to indifference. Probably can’t blame the strike, but most of the year for movies was also generally a disaster, with the summer slate being a particular disappointment (I was even let down by The Dark Knight).

It was miss after miss on the reading front for me as well, with several much-hyped books, like Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and O’Neill’s Netherland leaving me cold and unsatisfied. And our most exalted Prophet has admitted that it wasn’t a particularly great year for new music, either.

Maybe it had something to do with the election, but late in the year I felt a renewed sense of hope and optimism that things would turn around in pop land. 30 Rock, The Office and House returned in fine form to the small screen (Even Heroes got better). At the cinema, The Wrestler provided quality entertainment, and most of the late-season Oscar contenders all seem worthy of their accolades. My brother has supplied me with a robust stack of some fine new music, including The Fleet Foxes’ excellent disc.

And most excitingly, I rekindled my love with Californication during the barren TV holiday season, watching all 12 episodes of the Showtime program’s second season in rapid-fire succession (thank you, on-demand technology). The show, which stars David Duchovny as a frustrated novelist seeking inspiration in a soulless and sex-obsessed Hollywood, kicks off 2009 as the first My One Favorite Thing of the week.

Why do I love Californication so much? Well, first, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. The writing is at times too literate. Duchovny’s character, Hank Moody, always spouts just the perfect line when he’s trying to seduce a woman, or when he’s verbally sparring with a rival. They’re great lines and always make me laugh, but they also make Moody appear too smooth and somewhat contradict his otherwise very fallible human characteristics.

Even worse, some of Californication’s most profound wisdom is uttered by the show’s children – such as Moody’s a-bit-too-precious young daughter, Rebecca – which strains the bounds of credulity (in a way that i think also detracted from the realism in the movie Juno).

Also, the show’s plot developments usually manage to be at once both highly implausible and totally predictable.

Yet these flaws are really just minor complaints. Californication boasts some of the most memorable characters and situations on TV today, with some of the best, cleverest discussions about sex, and relationships, and art, and parenting, and a hundred other interesting topics, all the while navigating that fine line between comedy and pathos better than any series I can remember watching.

The show is anchored by Duchovny, in a convincing portrayal of a character who is at his core a good-hearted, moral family man, but who just can’t escape his demons and completely grow up. It appears that given what we now know about the actor in real life (i.e. his sex addiction), Duchovny was born to play Hank Moody. Even if there’s not a lot of acting going on there, I’m still very impressed (Duchovny has a surprisingly impeccable comedic timing).

The other main asset of the show is the mother of Moody’s child, Karen Van der Beek. The terrific and stunning Natascha McElhone plays the Baby Mama as the perfect straight foil to Moody. She is brilliant, responsible, and wise, but she’s not perfect either (her affair was the initial reason the two broke up) and more often than not empathizes with Moody’s restlessness and forgives his various transgressions. She is also clearly the love of Moody’s life (and vice versa), and you can’t help but root for the two to live happily ever after, even though you know the show will not – cannot - allow that to happen.

Aside from their daughter, the two main characters are surrounded by some of the most shallow, immature, pathetic creatures, including Moody’s best friend Charlie Runkel, a Hollywood agent and sexual pervert who loses his job after being taped repeatedly masturbating at his office desk; and Mia Lewis, the manipulative teenage daughter of Karen’s fiancee from Season One, who after having an affair with Moody ends up stealing his novel and selling it as her own.

Season Two introduced several new characters in that same mold, with the highlights being the wildman record producer (and Moody’s Doppelganger) Lew Ashby and the self-help guru/fraud Julian.

Yet despite their eccentric, juvenile behavior, almost all of the recurring characters manage to retain a modicum of dignity, earning important empathy points from the viewing audience.

Even though I was not a fan of the way the second season ended – another one of those frustrating, predictable plot developments – it did lend itself nicely to transition in a third season, which Showtime has announced will be on its way later this year.

I can’t wait.

more about "Californication clip", posted with vodpod

MOFT Of The Year!! (Cottonelle’s Fresh Flushable Moist Wipes)

Ok, so 2008 won’t go down as one of the best years in recent memory. We’ve had a financial collapse of historic proportions, a housing meltdown, a credit crunch, a $50 billion investment scam, a failing U.S. auto industry, dramatic oil and food price shocks, deadly terror in India, continued mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan, genocide in Africa, voter turnout scandals, Sarah Palin and Rod Blagojevich, and to cap it off, a re-emergence of violence in one of the most intractable conflicts of all-time (Congrats, Israelis and Palestinians, for once again proving how stupidity and inhumanity know no borders!)

But the year wasn’t all bad. And I’m not just talking about Barack Obama, either. In addition to the president-elect, some of My Many Favorite Things this year that I haven’t yet mentioned in my MOFT columns include Marshmallow Fluff, Rock Band, the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympics, Amazon.com, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Bob, Noa, The Week magazine, brown rice, The NY Times Magazine Crossword Puzzle, Lean Cuisine BBQ Chicken Pizzas, and of course, dagblog.com.

Flushables1But My One Favorite Thing of the Year towered above the rest. The MOFT Of The Year is actually something that I’ve been enjoying for the past several years, but I just feel now that I have this platform, I owe it to this particular thing to give it the publicity, honor and respect it so richly deserves.

I’m talking, of course, about Cottonelle’s Fresh Flushable Moist Wipes, which is basically a long-winded way of saying wet toilet paper. Now before you scoff, let me tell you a story (and demonstrate exactly what I mean when I say the Deadman has no shame).

One of my most horrific memories growing up involves me riding in a car as my mom rushed my dad to the hospital. I remember watching my dad, who whom I have always thought of as having a considerable pain tolerance, writhing and moaning in the back seat with what was apparently an awful, unbearable case of hemorrhoids.

My dad, after undergoing an emergency surgery to remove the hemorrhoids, ended up putting those problems, ahem, ‘behind’ him, but that scene was foremost in my mind when in college I started experiencing some significant derriere discomfort. There were days when sitting down was difficult and the prospect of going to the bathroom filled me with dread.

The pain would come and go, but I always worried that one day it’d be my butt on its way to the hospital. So I learned all I could about avoiding hemorrhoids and reducing their prevalence – eat more fiber, don’t strain, get off the pot as quickly as possible. But I quickly found out (on a tip from Howard Stern, I believe) that wiping your tush with water and keeping it thoroughly clean was far and away the best thing you could do.

However, moistening toilet paper with water can get a little messy and isn’t usually practical in a public restroom. And for reasons I will never fully understand, the bidet – quite possibly France’s greatest contribution to society – hasn’t yet been accepted in America (though Google has installed them in their Mountain View, Calif. headquarters).

Thankfully, Kimberly-Clark and Cottonelle came to the rescue by introducing their pre-moistened wipes in the U.S. in 2001. Other companies have since come out with their own wipes, and I’ve tried them all, but I feel Cottonelle’s are the best: They’re strong, stay moist the longest, and are removed in an easy ‘pop-up’ style (and also come in convenient refill and travel pack sizes.)

I love these things. They’re fucking magical. I barely ever use regular, dry toilet paper anymore, and my butt pain is basically a thing of the past. My girlfriend makes fun of me because I am always buying or ordering more boxes of these wipes, but I don’t want to run out, especially now that this year I’ve found out they aren’t just for wiping your ass. They’re great for after-sex cleanup, and removing small spills, and for quick, in-between-groomer dog baths, and I’m betting they have many more uses that I just haven’t discovered yet (perhaps somewhere hidden in all that Aloe-and-Vitamin E moistened goodness is the solution to the Middle East conflict?).

So congratulations to Cottonelle for winning the prestigious MOFT of the Year award, and I now eagerly await your snide and mocking comments (please include at least one badass pun somewhere within your comment; bonus points for two or more well-situated, cheeky double entendres)


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