Saturday, February 25, 2006

Nice to Be Here (based on a true urban legend)

Once upon a time there was a town so nice that one day, someone said, "Hey, this is a really nice town. Let’s invite some more nice people to live here so it will be a nice town, only bigger." So it came to pass that a kind developer drew up a plan to expand the nice town nicely. He did this by carefully using lots of green and blue crayon in his map. Then he asked the nice people of the town if they liked it.

"It’s a very pretty map," someone said.

"It could use more green," suggested another.

"I don’t like maps," whispered another.

Some of the nice people decided that since the map was so nice, they should make it really big, almost life size, and add it to their nice town. Other people, just as nice, were politely afraid that if they did that, their nice town might not stay nice. So the nice people shared a dilemma – while they were all darned nice people, they couldn’t agree on what to do. They certainly didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. So they decided to flip a coin. No, actually, they asked Simon Cowell to decide. Oops, sorry, no -they dug up a wooly mammoth. Ok, they really did that, but it has nothing to do with this story.

They did what nice people do all over this nice country of ours –they put it up for a vote. Everyone was quietly excited – some people put up lovely green and white signs that said, "No thank you – we are happy just like this." Some other people, just as quietly excited, put up attractive blue and white signs that read, "Yes, please – come live in our nice town with us." This was very exciting for the nice little town, just exciting enough to be fun, in a good way.

Then a not-so-nice thing happened. Some of the blue and white "Yes" signs disappeared. "That’s strange," said the nice people. "They are very attractive signs. Maybe someone borrowed them. They’ll bring them back soon."

But they didn’t come back. And the nice blue and white "Yes" signs kept disappearing, to the point where the people that had owned them missed them very much, and started have sign-envy of the people with the green and white "No" signs.

"It’s not very nice," said the "Yes" people, "That you have signs and we don’t."

"No," said the "No" people, "It’s not nice, but we don’t know what to do about it."

This upset the nice people of the town so much that they couldn’t sleep in their nice comfy beds. One night, while they weren’t sleeping, one of the nice people heard a noise outside their nice house. She peeked out and saw a large, squatty troll eating her "Yes" sign.

"Excuse me, Mr. Troll," whispered the nice person, not wanting to wake her nice neighbors, "That lovely sign belongs to me. If you’d like, I could make you some nice soup instead."

"Burrrrp!," said the troll as it waddled away.

That wasn’t very nice, thought the nice, sleep-disrupted villager. But with little experience in not-so-nice things she didn’t know what to do. At least she had another lovely sign to put out, and now that the troll had eaten his full, she felt confident the new sign would not be eaten.

The next night, the troll came back. His raucous burping awakened the lightly sleeping townspeople. After eating a few more blue and white signs (apparently the green and white ones gave him terrible gas), he waddled away again. This time a nice but very sleepy villager followed him. It was easy to do since the troll was such a messy eater he left pieces of half-eaten signs everywhere. Sure enough, the sleepy villager discovered that the troll did not live in the nice town, but a good distance away, in a city known as Uglyville.

The next day, which was a meteorologically perfect day in the nice town, some of the nice townspeople went to Uglyville to talk to the troll. Being very careful where they stepped, they approached the troll, who was snoring on a huge pile of sign debris under a dead tree. They waited patiently until he woke up. This was difficult because the troll, due to his poor diet, had very bad breath.

"Excuse me," said one, "But we’d really appreciate it if you didn’t eat our signs."

"Snark!" said the troll sleepily.

"Look," said another in his most stern voice, "We like our signs. They’re nice. Please don’t eat them anymore."

"Snork!" said the troll, eyeing the lovely blue and white hat of one of the townspeople.

"I don’t like maps," said a third, obviously confused from lack of sleep.

"Shush!" shouted the troll, "I’m sick of all of youse and youse silly signs. I’ll eat what I want when I want. And youse ain’t gonna stop me!"

And with that the squatty troll got so upset that he suffered a massive coronary, no doubt brought on by excessive cholesterol content of the blue and white signs, complicated by his sub-par anger-management skills.

The townspeople, while saddened momentarily to see anyone kick the bucket, brightened at the thought of such a lovely Deus ex Machina. Eventually the blue and white "Yes" signs were able to come back, happily side-by-side with the green and white "No" signs, like so many strange Spring daffodils.

And the nice townspeople took all the trash from under the troll’s tree and used it as sub-base material to widen the freeway, which made everybody very happy. And that, too, was nice.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

"O" is for "Odd"

Oh, my. I just watched the opening ceremonies of the NBC 2006 NBC Winter Olympics on NBC. Actually, I watched them last night but it took me until now to recover. Plus with the time difference, tape delay, and long, meaningful pauses by the announcers, it’s already next Tuesday.

I’m really trying to like them. But most sporting events are fast-paced, lots of noise, and the announcers (good or bad) are into it. So far, this show has all the pacing of an olympic bowel movement. Bob Costas puts me to sleep. Not literally, but he's a snore and a half. Meaningful pause? Noooo. More likely he’s trying to make it through 2 weeks of 24/7 broadcasting, so he’s dozing on his feet.

Before the opening ceremony began, they brought in a comedian to 'warm up' the crowd. When I say 'warm,' I mean something that would defrost the white wine slushies they were serving. When I say ‘crowd,’ I’m referring to the 33,000 people in the stadium, speaking about 834 different languages, with approximately 759 cultural comedic differences. Can you imagine? -
Announcer 1:"A horse walks into a bar..."
Announcer 2:"Un cheval camine dans le bistro..."
Announcer 3:"Ick ein cabal danke beergarten..."
Smedvig:"Vat horse? Vere? Shoot it, Gustaf! We eat again tonight!"

It didn't work. The temperature in the place after the comedian was hauled away was still a balmy 22 degrees metric. And what a supremely international way to bomb onstage. So quiet you could hear a Finn drop, a few coughs, and Bob Costas snoring.

I loved the simplicity of the 4th grader singing the Italian anthem by herself. Wow. In Italian even. Simple. Clear. Beautiful. Aaah, cut to commercial. Oh, well.

It’s difficult to please everyone. The Hindus were really miffed about the cow outfits. They insisted that they be designed to be flattering, that the spots follow a more vertical and slimming pattern. And the Tibetans were having a cow over the ‘mountain’ dresses. I have to agree – they looked like somebody lifted the design off a beer can. Rocky Mountain tasteless.

As I watched the parade of nations in horror, I was channeling Joan Rivers. "Awk – look at the Germans – tutti frutti, anyone? And what’s with the red and white color scheme – do they all work at Target or what?" At least she would have made it more interesting.

My neighbor must have had his disco station cranked, ‘cause all I heard during the parade was golden oldies. A rather peculiar contrast. What did they really play – Italian opera? Pagliacci, perhaps? Sorry I missed it.

I don't have hdtv, and I noticed a rainbow-type 'flare' on certain things on my screen. I'm assuming that's due to the hdtv signal. I've never seen it before. It was on an announcer's hair last night. I didn't hear a word he said. Oooh, shiny! It might have been an aura of some type. Turin is the home of the famous NBC Shroud of Turin. Never know when Jesus might make a special guest appearance. Is it sweeps week?

NBC, the Network of the Olympics, and proud owner of a slew of cable channels, is not broadcasting the Olympics here in primetime… much. Why not sack everything on MSNBC and just run a live feed from Turin? NOT TORINO. If they say TORINO, they should speak Italian ALL the time. Or start referring to Cleveland as "Tierra del Cleve."

Oops, gotta run. The women's freestyle is on and the boys are trying backflips off the couch.