Friday, June 26, 2009

End of a Great Run?

To begin, let me get one thing straight. Achewood is probably the funniest webcomic of all-time, and certainly the funniest comic strip that I have ever read on a day-to-day basis in my life. The run of consistent hilarity that the strip had from 2002 to early 2008 is pretty much unparalled.

The comic, which takes place in the fictional town of Achewood, revolves around a cast of talking stuffed animal and robots. The characters all have unique adult qualities, whether it be the entrepreneurial, thong-wearing, jive-talking cat Ray, his programming, depressed best friend Roast Beef, or cocaine-snorting, wild child Todd the Squirrel. The characters grow on the reader over the years, each earning laughs with their own distinctive brand of humor. The ingeniusly utilized alt text also provides additional insight from the creator, Chris Onstad, on the strip and often earns a bigger laugh than the final panel.

If you have at least 10 minutes of free time right now, do yourself a huge favor and read a few strips from the beginning. The only real way to read the strip properly is chronologically. While the humor is slightly more offbeat towards the beginning, it picks up in a real way after a few months of material. Pretty soon you'll be addicted.

Unfortunately, over the past nine months, the quality of Achewood output has considerably declined. Some pretty bad storylines regarding Cornelius' girlfriend, Lyle's origins, and Little Nephew traveling back in time to Wales have really weighed it down. I trace this decline in quality to three main culprits:

1) Focus on Merchandise: Onstad has posted free strips to his site for almost seven years with no advertising, so it's understandable that he wants to make some money (especially now that he has a kid). However, with the release of the Great Outdoor Fight book last fall/early winter, he decided to go on a book tour. This resulted in a decline from roughly 4 strips a week to 1-2 strips per week. Additionally, the quality suffered. January of this year only featured two strips the entire month. That's thin even for an Olson twin.

2) Premium Content Segment: Achewood also features a premium content section, which gives paying subscribers access to exclusive strips and character blogs. While I can't blame Onstad from making a buck off this, I can't help but be convinced that this has taken away from the soul of Achewood, the main storylines which remain public. A detractor from both quality and quantity.

3) Fatigue: In any sort of art or entertaining, a common wall is simply ideas. There's only so many things you can do with the same characters to draw laughs without it becoming overly repetitive. There's a reason Fawlty Towers and The Office (UK) kept themselves to twelve episodes. Between the pressure of being consistently funny 100-150 times a year and having to raise a young kid, it looks like Onstad's head might be out of it. This might also explain the excessively haughty, boring language that's been used in some of the recent storylines.

In any case, I could never bad-mouth Achewood. I've bought merch from the store (which has excellent and friendly customer service), read the site almost daily for over four years, and still love all of the characters. I will always still read the site as long as they continue to offer free content. I just wish the characters would wake up from almost a year of being boring as a group of Saturday night stoners and get back to being the fun gang of the days of yore.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Middlesex Follies: Breaking News...Ed McMahon Eats Hot Dog 15 Years Ago

This was the front page photo for the Lowell Sun today. The lead article describes a 1994 visit that Ed McMahon made to Lowell. The late Johnny Carson sidekick started his career in radio in Lowell.

I guess it's nice to pay a tribute to the guy's life, but this is really scraping the bottom of the bag. The guy liked hot dogs. So do about 100 million other American guys. Maybe pay some sort of tribute to the guy's radio career or give him a nice half-page obituary, but this? As the lead story? Were there really no drug-deal-orgy-turned-triple-murder cases in Lowell this past week?

Come to think of it, this is a priceless photo. Ed McMahon sure could stuff a weiner in his mouth.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Throbbing Steeds

For those of you who I've seen this summer, I've most likely made references to the Adam Carolla Podcast, which I listen to about five hours per week at work. It's a pretty hilarious show that gives Carolla the opportunity to rant and riff with various different comedians or performers about whatever interests him.

One of the funnier theories that Carolla has presented in the past month or so of his podcast is his "Good for the 'Stang, Good for the Wang" theory. This notion is that historically, a large number of Triple Crown race-winning horses have had names that sound a lot like something that you would name your johnson. Using this theory, he postulated that, therefore, top horses have dick names and then attemped (unsuccessfully) for each of this year's Triple Crown races.

Looking at Wikipedia pages of past Triple Crown race winners, I now present the Twenty Greatest Stang Wang Names of All-Time:

20. Bold Venture
19. Black Gold-The ebony prince
18. Needles-Long-but-thin gets the win
17. Pleasant Colony-Your cock is a wonderland
16. Commando-Anti-underpants artillery
15. War Admiral
14. Stage Door Johnny
13. Empire Maker-Probably what Travis Henry named his
12. Duke of Magenta
11. Bally Ache-For the frequently blue-balled
10. Colonel Holloway
9. Chateaugay
-For the Brokeback crowd
8. Tobasco Cat-Sure to leave girls burning for weeks
7. Commendable-Well done, genetics
6. Regret-The low-standard love pump
5. Majestic Prince-I bet Shakespeare called his junk this
4. Ruthless-Rarely takes Tenacious D's advice to heart
3. Big Brown
2. Lemon Drop Kid-When life hands you balls, make lemonade
1. Genuine Risk-Neglecting to wear a rubber since 1978

Honorable Mentions:
Conquistador Cielo (The Latin lover)
Phalanx (Sounds pretty phallic)
Foolish Pleasure

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Maine Outing

All the men from the last two generations of my dad's side of the family went up to my brother's godfather's place in Maine this weekend to lamp. Pretty solid weekend drinking Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat from the kegerator of one of the finer man-caves southern Maine has to offer. A few firsts went down, including beer pong game with the pops, boosting our life-time record to 1-0. Also, I never thought I'd smoke up with uncles, but I guess I just didn't give credit where credit's due. These dudes lived through the 70's. They had to grow up in an era without cable television or internet porn. And if that ain't hardcore, then at least this is:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Just Back

Colin said go abroad and he's right. He pretty much covered it all so it's not worth beating a dead horse. Just do it.

And just as Colin mentioned, a lot has happened since we have been gone, like me discovering that there is a National Sleep Foundation. Did you know this? It's nonprofit and was started nearly 20 years ago. Check it out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Off Road Classiness

Done with work for the week, I pulled out of my company's office park and accelerated towards the first set of lights. When there's a red light and I've got 50 or so yards before the nearest car in my lane, I like to coast in. There's no rush in these situations since I'm going to have to wait for the car ahead of me to accelerate anyways and get up to speed when the lights finally do turn green. Add the ever-increasing price of gas into the equation, and coasting is just the economical way to go.

On Fuck You Fridays, however, Dan Douchebags don't agree with me. I caught a black Toyota truck 30 yards behind me as I start my coast, rapidly approaching within seconds. The truck quickly switched lanes and began accelerating towards the red light in the vacant right side of the two-lane road. However at the last second, instead of opting to be first in that right lane, the truck switches back into my left lane behind the only car waiting at the light. Taking this as a "fuck you grandpa" message to me, I threw my hands in the air and slammed on the breaks behind this Toyota.

I knew the driver of this truck was not bourgeoisie material. Anytime you see an off-roading roof rack with a light cage, you know the guy behind the wheel most likely is the sort of fella who brought a crib sheet to his GED exam. But nonetheless, his trashiness managed to surprise me when I caught the sticker on his back windshield:

Cape Cod Nude Beach
Parking Permit

How do I compete on the road with that kind of man. Touche 1992 4WD Toyota. May the summer grace you with the divine imagery of sagging tits and furrowed ball sacks.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

7 Reasons Why Golf is Great Television

Before USGA officials selfishly suspended play of the 1st Round of the US Open at Bethbage Black earlier this morning, it had been a great day at work. Thanks to a live video feed at the official US Open website, I was able to watch the group of Tiger Woods, Paddy Harrington, and Angel Cabrera play their first six holes of the day. This, along with a handful of lazy Sunday afternoons spent on the couch this spring, got me thinking about the reasons that golf is amazing to watch.

1. The Courses

The golf courses featured in PGA events are some of the most beautiful pieces of landscaping mankind has ever seen. The advent of HD television has only made the vibrant green fairways and wooded surroundings easier on the eyes. And there's just something so soothing about the Masters' theme playing just after commercial break with those close-up shots of azaleas.

Additionally, the wide variety of courses play makes each tournament unique. Each new course has its own personality and distinctive holes, such as Augusta's Amen Corner or the island par-3 at Sawgrass. Whereas in most sports the field of play is a merely a boundary, golf is a unique sport in which the terrain is the adversary.

2. The Personalities

While golf doesn't necessarily feature the outrageous trash-talking wide receivers of the NFL or the egomaniacal, motormouths of boxing, the independent nature of the game of golf allows players to develop their unique personas. Whether it be the boyish energy of Sergio Garcia, the chain-smoking huskiness of Angel Cabrera, or the crush-brews/crush-drives attitude of John Daly, its exciting to watch the wide field of PGA members week-in, week-out.

3. The Meltdowns

Golf meltdowns are the equivalent of big crashes in NASCAR; you feel bad for the guy involved, but you get a kind of sick pleasure out of it. Whether it be Jean Van de Velde triple-bogeying the 72nd hole of the 1999 British Open or Retief Goosen firing a final round 81 to blow his lead at the 2005 U.S. Open, golf fans love to see the world's best players show their mortality.

4. The Cinderella Stories

As is the case in any sport, people love to see a dark horse storm to the front of the pack. Who could forget #1-ranked Tiger Woods being forced into a playoff round (and forced to win the 18th and 19th holes to win that round) at the 2008 U.S. Open by Rocco Mediate, who was ranked 158th at the time. Or Ben Curtis winning the 2003 British Open as a rookie ranked 396th in the world. Team sports involve playoff systems that keep the Washington Nationals or Los Angeles Clippers from having their moment in the sun. Contrarily, each golf major bring the promise of introducing a player that you have never heard of, performing at the top of his game and surprising millions of fans.

5. The Championship Putts/The Playoff Holes

For my money, nothing in sports surpasses the tension of a player needing to make a putt on the 72nd hole of a major to either win or extend the tournament. You can see and practically feel the tension in his face and body language as he lines up the putt. Thousands of hours spent on the range and course, all building up to this defining moment in his career. It makes me rattled enough to watch it from the couch; I don't even think I could hold a putter with the kind of pressure, let alone stroke the thing, without Parkinson-esqe trembles. The triumph of draining the putt is pure ecstasy; the emptiness of missing it must leave one wondering if they've just blown their last chance at glory. It's pure melodrama--what is more entertaining than that?

Playoff holes are nearly as exciting, although generally less climactic. They're at their best when three or four different leaders are forced to play together, effectively turning pars into necessities, birdies into Holy Grails, and bogeys into death certificates.

6. Players' Wives/18+ Year Old Daughters

Try Googling "Elin Nordegren" or "Kenny Perry's daughter" and you'll get the idea. As proven by the Hotness/Television Face Time ratio, the hotter a spouse, the more the camera flocks to the wife when her man is leading the pack. Fortunately for viewers, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are usually leading the pack.

7. Tiger Woods

What can be said about Tiger Woods that hasn't already been said? He will doubtlessly finish his career as the greatest golfer of all-time, if he isn't already considered it. He already has 14 majors, putting him only four behind Jack Nicklaus for the majors record of 18. Nicklaus did this over a span of 26 years, winning his last major at age 46. Tiger is 33...and getting better at the game.

He is young and black, with a great public image in a gentleman's sport, making him a media darling. His wife is smoking. He is jacked and could definitely beat you up and steal your girlfriend. He delivers in the clutch, being basically automatic when he has the lead going into Sunday and never missing a putt when he needs it on 18.

And most importantly, people watch him. TV ratings for the PGA Championship were down 55% last year with Tiger out recovering from knee surgery. Meanwhile, the final round of the U.S. Open last year drew more viewers than the competing Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Love him or hate him, you still watch him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Middlesex Follies: Yes, That Is a Nightmare

I'm going to try to make a do a segment in this blog where I analyze some of the headlines from local paper, The Lowell Sun.
Today's front page article front page blurb read as follows:

It was something straight out of a nightmare. Except Debbie Voisine was wide awake. The clock read 1 a.m. on May 19 when Voisine awoke to a horrible smell. Her mobile home was dark.

That's literally as far as the blurb elaborated. It does sounds like a nightmare. If I ever had a dream about living in a trailer park, I'd probably wake up in a cold sweat. I'd hit the library for six hours the next day and diagram up some better life goals. Even still, cheap rip at the Middlesex County's unwashed, Lowell Sun.

The article continues:

She climbed out of bed and walked toward the bathroom. When she entered the room, Voisine says she slipped and landed in a couple of inches of raw sewage.

So not only does the lady get shit on in a quite literal sense, but she goes to the papers to get her story out and gets another heap of journalistic dung poured on her person.

But wait, park maintenance to the rescue!

When park maintenance showed up, Voisine said they used duct tape to fix the pipe and seal her heating vent, then used her garden rake to pull toilet paper from under the trailer.

Great service, guys. You eff up her pipes to the point that her midnight bathroom trip turns into an anecdote from The Things They Carried. But thankfully, you come in with the rescue plan on a twelve-year old: put tape on the hole and throw TP on the mess.

Chalk that up as reason #7,894 to not live in Chelmsford.


It's been almost a year since I last posted here. A lot has happened in this year. The United States now has its first black president. The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals to win the Super Bowl. Paul Blart: Mall Cop was released to universal acclaim.

In any case, as the summer brings more time to my hands, I'd like to update this a bit more. I'd say my intent is to provide an eclectic mix of whatever I feel is interesting and, preferably, original. I feel like a lot of the stuff I read on blogs are just tiresome rehashes of stories, bogged down by even shoddier writing. Even I have been guilty of this trend. But no more. I'm going to bring straight fire, Dylan-style, and hopefully induce a chuckle or two along the way.