March 31, 2010

Who's That? - The Hits Keep Coming

I don't know what the weather has been like where you live, but we've been subjected to a steady rain for the past 48 hours or so, so forgive us for being a tad gloomy. Hopefully, another "Who's That?" will lift my spirits... and maybe we'll get a few more guesses today (hint, hint) -

But first... yesterday's answer revealed. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether the better answer was Scott Baio, Willie Aames, or heck, Ellen Travolta... but you were looking at one of Charles' charges from the sitcom that also gave us the "tree-like" Josie Davis.

Who's in Charge here?

Today, we've got what could be an easy one, but only time will tell... close your eyes, and think back. Why should we know this girl?

March 30, 2010

Who's That? - Episode IV, A New Hope

People, people... you're all letting me down.

Well, not all - Hoopachoo is doing his part by humiliating himself with horribly wrong guesses after a shocking upset early on in this trivia battle. In many ways he's the Northern Iowa of this blog, but at least he's putting himself out there for all to see.

Come on folks! Post those guesses! Prove to me I have the smartest readers in all of blogdom.

Anyway, here's the answer to yesterday's "Who's That?" -

Stay back, clown!

It's the brother of Carol Anne from Poltergeist who apparently has survived whatever "curse" surrounded the making of the series of ghost stories and is a live and well today.

OK, buddies... today we have another child star "all growed up" - one whose identity might be a little easier to suss out - but who knows? Only time will tell. Can you tell me the name of this fellow's most famous co-star from the days of his youth?

March 29, 2010

The First, My Last, My Everything

Today is my wife Sara's birthday, so allow me to take a personal moment to wish her the happiest of days, and the best possible year going forward. For those of you who know her, I don't have to tell you how much she rocks, and for those of you who don't - well, it's your loss.

Who's That? - Round 3

Nobody came up with the answer to the last challenge. However, a close look at the man in the striped shirt might help jog your memory of a scary Big Wheel ride through the halls of a vacated hotel and ice cream shared with Scatman Crothers.


Today's mystery guest is here below... can you figure out what movie this actor was in? Post your guesses in the comments. Answer will be revealed tomorrow...

March 26, 2010

Who's That? - Round 2

OK, gang. Hoopachoo got it in one.

He somehow figured out (i.e. - totally guessed) yesterday's picture was indeed the bike riding paperboy stalker from Better Off Dead, looking for his two dollars. Today, we'll try a tougher one... at least I hope it's tougher.

Same rules apply. Give me the famous movie dialogue associated with one of the people in this photo. Answer will be posted on Monday.

Good luck!

March 25, 2010

Do You Know This Guy?

Here's a "current" photo of someone who hasn't acted in quite some time - but most people of my generation, if not all of them, still quote him quite frequently.

Anybody care to take a guess? No need to name him. Just provide the dialogue....

March 24, 2010

March 23, 2010

Chasing the Chicken

Oh, those wacky college kids!

Maybe if the school's basketball team ever actually made it to the NCAA Tournament, they'd be less inclined to create their own forms of March Madness at Northwestern.

Here, we see what happened when a freshman was charged with going around campus dressed as a chicken in order to promote awareness for the upcoming dance marathon for charity.

Perhaps he should have hatched a better exit strategy before wandering into the lair of this organic chemistry professor, who seemed unwilling to stray from his scheduled lesson plan…

Now this is how you take over a college campus...

March 19, 2010

Working Overtime

Hold on, Garrett... you ain't won yet.

Next week, the NFL owners will be voting on whether or not to change the rules of "sudden-death overtime" to something more akin to "slow, torturous anti-climactic overtime."

Under the new proposal, which would only - for now, at least - apply to the playoffs, a team that scores a field goal on their opening drive would not win. They would have to kickoff and give the other team a chance to get the ball. If the other team kicks a tying field goal, the game would then become sudden death.

NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay explains the math behind the decision to make a change: "When sudden death was put in for 1974, it clearly worked very well and was a good system. It brought excitement and effectively broke ties. From '74-'93 you had a 50-50 (breakdown) in who would win between those who won toss and who lost the toss."

"Changes occurred over time, and the numbers have changed to 59.8 percent winning the coin toss and winning the game. The team that loses the coin toss wins 38.5 percent. We are trying to put in a system that emphasizes more skill and strategy as opposed to the randomness of the coin flip.

So what happened in 1994 to turn a 50-50 proposition into something far more unbalanced? A rules change by the NFL that moved kickoffs back five yards, shortening the distance that a team needed to go to get into field goal range - a range that itself became easier to reach as kickers got stronger.

It seems to me that is the problem, not the "sudden death." So wouldn't a better fix simply be to have the kickoff in overtime moved up five yards, back to where it was when you had the 50-50 win results?

Or better still - since you clearly don't want kickers deciding games, let's eliminate them from the equation as much as possible. Here's the new overtime rule I propose:"The winner of the overtime coin toss gets the ball, 1st and 10, on their own 20 yard line. First team to score wins."

Problem solved. If the defense can't keep a team out of field goal range from that starting point, they don't deserve to win.

But of course, the owners will probably pass this rules change so that teams won't be eliminated while their star quarterbacks sit on the sidelines helplessly watching, and next year's otherwise thrilling playoff games could end with a whimper…

"4th and 8, Kansas City back to pass, receiver open over the middle… Complete, close to the marker. We'll have to measure… The Steelers go to the Super Bowl!!!"

Missed it by that much... sorry about that, Chiefs.

March 18, 2010

His First Madness

I'll give Singapore - home of Richard Chandler - a day off, because today is all about the Madness. Yes, the annual winnowing of 64 teams down to a single National Champion begins today.

Now my son turned five earlier this year, and for the first time, wanted to know more about "all those boxes" on that sheet of paper I was filling out with all those "names of states." Yes, it was bound to happen sooner or later… he's finally old enough to have caught the Madness.

I explained to him the basics of the bracket - what the seeds meant and the whole concept of a single-elimination tournament. Then I let him pick each game on his own. To my surprise, he actually did a fairly decent job of it.

Kansas is his eventual champion, which is a very real possibility. Of course, his love of the letter "X" explains why he has both Xavier and New Mexico making the Final Four, but all in all, right now he's got as good a chance of his old man does at having a perfect bracket.

I'll keep you all posted as the Tournament moves along as to which member of the Mass family is less confused when it comes to college hoops. For the record, my bracket can be found here for your perusal, and heck if a certain "you know who" wants to donate a nice cash prize to the winner of this little family wager, who would I be to turn down the offer?

March 17, 2010

Sing… Singapore

Let's see - Monday I logged one reader from Singapore. Tuesday, I had two. Wednesday? Hmmmm.... Clearly it's only a matter of time before we become the most popular blog south of the Malay Peninsula.

So welcome and
"Majulah Singapura" to all my new friends south of Johor.

And for the rest of the world - here are a few facts you might not know (and for all I know, might not actually be true) about that super groovy place known as Singapore.

  • The capital of Singapore is Singapore, making rote memorization that much easier for American geography students.
  • Singapore (the city) was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles, which you'll have to go a long way in convincing me was not actually a cat.
  • Apparently, Vanda Miss Joaquim is not a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race, but rather is the national flower of Singapore.

Lipsynch for your life!
  • More children are born in Singapore during October than any other month of the year… meaning they must have AMAZING New Year's parties.
  • Changi Airport has won the 'Best Airport' award from the UK/Europe edition of 'Business Traveller' magazine. This is the roof of the airport:

  • And of course, it is the home of that great man, Richard Chandler, who I'm sure would not want me to suddenly change the object of my blog's devotion. Hint, hint...

March 16, 2010

What's the Buzz?

Beekeepers - important, and possessing a great sense of humor.

Yesterday, I wrote about billionaire Richard Chandler and how you can simply tell from his picture what a terrific guy he surely must be. I mentioned that he was from New Zealand, and that his father was a beekeeper.

But what I didn't mention was that his current place of residence is Singapore. When I checked the site report of this blog a few minutes ago, I noticed a visitor from Singapore had read yesterday's post.

Very interesting…

Well, since I'm trying to get Mr. Chandler to be my "anonymous benefactor" I'm sure it wasn't him - or anyone who knows him - or even anyone who might happen to be able to, you know, in passing give Mr. Chandler a little "Hey, did you see that AJ Mass' blog? He wrote some nice things about you. Why not drop him a cool $1 million? Seems like a decent bloke."

Anyway, in case there are those of you out there who have no idea about how important beekeeping is to the fabric of society, this video clip may well be able to explain how noble the Chandler lineage truly is...

March 15, 2010

Go Ahead and Surprise Me

The most generous and - did I mention, handsome? - Richard Chandler

Where's my mysterious benefactor?

Lately, there's seems to be a run of anonymous donations running rampant through the world. Earlier this month, Baylor University received a $200 million donation from a "secret source" who wanted the money to be ticketed for research into medical research, particular towards issues associated with aging. And in San Francisco, the Exploratorium science museum received two donations totaling $90 million to help give it a new home on the waterfront.

But it's not just large ticket donations that get the publicity. When vandals recently defaced a statue of Andy Griffith in Mount Airy, North Carolina, anonymous donors came out in force and now there's a $1000 reward for catching the culprit, who may or may not bear a striking resemblance to Mr. Furley.

He's no Richard Chandler.

Well, not to sound all Daffy Duck, but "Bartender! Bartender! Where's mine?" Why can't I get a stunning surprise donation full of zeroes (using the Donate button at left, perhaps) from a random billionaire who happens to like the cut of my jib and gets a kick out of my bloggitude? In fact, I have the perfect philanthropist in mind.

New Zealand native Richard Chandler, son of a beekeeper, who has become one of the richest men in the world, according to Forbes magazine. Reportedly, he once lent his mother $4 million dollars to open a gallery in New York City for her paintings. So, he likes creative people. I'd like $1 million to publish my book, as well as start my own publishing company to help other undiscovered authors get their first big break.

I know somebody from New Zealand has been reading my blog lately, and with a population of only 4 million people, there's a slight chance you might be the one who has been checking in. Just in case you are, I'd be happy and humbled to accept your gift.

So what do you say, Mr. Chandler? It can be our little secret.

March 12, 2010

Improv 101 – Don’t Plan Ahead

The Hermit

I've worked with many improvisers over the years. Some were amazing talents. Some needed to be carried a bit until they found their footing. Others were "look at me" spotlight hogs who had no business on the stage.

I've done shows that I'm incredibly proud of, scenes that still make me cringe at the memory over a decade after the fact, and thousands more scenes that if you pulled out a videotape which had secretly recorded those performances I would have absolutely no recollection of having taken part in them.

That's part and parcel of "being in the moment" on stage. When a pair of performers is "in the zone" it can sometimes be an out-of-body experience. It's getting to the point of trust with your fellow actors where you allow yourself that kind of "freedom to fail miserably" that's difficult to achieve, and even harder to maintain. Yet, it is in those rare moments of "improv nirvana" where the greatest work is created.

Of all the moments I've ever had on stage, one stands out as being simultaneously the most "pure" and most fleeting of them all. I was in a company called Freestyle Rep in New York, and we were doing a show which was based around the tarot deck, playing the characters of the Major Arcana.

Our set that season consisted of a series of screens (pull-down window shades) each with a different backdrop painted on it. Pull down the "city" screen and you're in a bustling metropolis. Pull down the "starry sky" screen and suddenly it's nighttime.

We were in the middle of the show, and as one scene ended, my fellow improviser, Asaf Ronen had taken to the stage to pull down a different screen, so as to intimate a change of location. Today, I don't remember the complicated plot that was going on at the time, but I do recall that the story dictated that my Hermit character needed to meet secretly with Asaf's Magician in order to get the ball rolling towards the tale's denouement. Asaf knew this as well, and was calling my character's name as he took the stage.

"Ben! Where are you Ben?"

I stood ready at the foot of the stage ready to bound on, reminding myself what we needed to accomplish in the scene plotwise, but before the scene could proceed, Asaf began to have trouble with the shades. He was trying to pull down the "forest" yet couldn't get the screen to "click" into place.


It kept rolling itself back up.

"Where are you, Ben?"

Asaf continued vamping for time as the set refused to cooperate with him.

After a few aborted tries, Asaf finally gave up and pulled down another screen – perhaps it was the "castle wall"? I don't really remember the details. All I remember is my starting and stopping as I waited for him to get a screen into place so that the stage lights could be brought up to full from their dim state and I could enter and we could proceed with the screen – and the mild tittering from the audience as they became amused with his failure to be successful.

Finally, after a delay which surely felt light years longer than it actually was, a screen clicked in, the lights shone brightly, and I finally started up the steps to the center of the stage. Asaf immediately continued as if nothing had happened, but of course, as he'd been calling my name for some time, when he finally saw me on stage, he simply said, "You're late!"

Without even a moment's hesitation, I made a small gesture towards the screen and said, "You moved."

It was pure instinct – and it was a perfect moment.

Asaf lost it.

The audience lost it, laughing and applauding.

I lost it.

And as quickly as it came, that "improv nirvana" vanished. I don't remember anything else about that scene or that show. But that moment? I still treasure it to this day, because for an improviser… that's as good as it gets.

Asaf Ronen, neither actual size, nor actual level of evil

If you love improv, be sure to check out Asaf's blog here. His advice about the craft is always spot on.

March 11, 2010

Time to Realign

I read that Bud Selig's advisory committee is seriously considering the concept of blowing up the current baseball divisional alignment. Of course, the idea they are currently bandying about is one of "floating divisions" which would involve only a few teams trading places, such as Tampa Bay and Cleveland, in order to provide their owners with a "trade-off." In this example, Cleveland would move to the AL East to get the financial benefit of more games against the Yankees and Red Sox, while the Rays could go to the AL Central to have a better shot at actually making the playoffs, which in turn would give Tampa Bay a financial benefit.

I think the fact they're even discussing realignment is a huge step, but if they are going to do it - let's go all the way. No more AL and NL. We have interleague games already, so that mystique is gone. Decide one way or the other on the DH (I'm in favor of abolishing it – especially since I don't need to see 40-year-old guys who can barely walk stay in the game long past the point where you can legitimately consider them athletes just because they swat the occasional home run – but either way, it's time to make the call) and build up geographical rivalries that truly matter.

Here's my suggested divisional alignment – each one with a 2/3 split from the current AL/NL divide. Six divisions of five teams each, winners make the playoffs. Top four second place teams play in a one-game playoff to see who gets the two wild-card spots.

California Division – Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Athletics, Padres

West Division – Rockies, Rangers, Mariners, Astros, D-backs

Central Division – Cardinals, Twins, Cubs, White Sox, Royals

Northeast Division – Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Pirates

Southeast Division – Marlins, Braves, Rays, Nationals, Orioles

Great Lakes Division – Tigers, Brewers, Reds, Blue Jays, Indians

Baseball fans, what do you think?

March 10, 2010

Spoiler Alert – You’re an Idiot

Interdimensional man of misery, Ben Linus

I normally am not a fan of television show message boards. After all, what exactly is there to discuss about the latest episode of most programs? "Hey, did you see how they thought they caught the murderer on Law and Order, but then it turned out there was a twist and they were wrong? Wasn't that cool?"

But I make an exception for Lost. After all, there's usually so much going on beneath the surface and little hidden Easter Eggs within scenes that I like to see if I "missed" anything on my initial viewing. This is where eagle-eyed viewers with plenty of time on their hands, an HDTV-TV and a quick handle DVR rewind/freeze frame can inform me of the "name of that book that so-and-so was reading" and I can be further impressed with the show's attention to detail.

However, the downside of reading these message boards are the vast number of "haters" – people with nothing better to do with their time than to write long negative commentary about a show they clearly despise, saying how horrible it is and proclaiming that they'll never watch it again.

And I'd even be fine with them if I thought they were doing it just to "push the buttons" of the overzealous fans of the show. It's the posts that display sheer stupidity that annoy me, such as this random example:

"…I don't get how this could be a good episode without 1 question answered. In fact, they haven't answered one question we didn't already know since the begining (sic) of this season. This show is on the way to one of the worst final seasons of a show…"

This person clearly watches every week and is upset because there was "not a single question answered" and can't understand why anyone actually liked the episode. Idiot!

Let's forget the fact that the acting of Michael Emerson is masterful to watch and worth the hour spent viewing the show, plot be damned… but let's address some answers that actually were given to the audience this week:

  • Richard is confirmed to have arrived on the island aboard the Black Rock.
  • He reveals he "can't die" as a result of being touched by Jacob… which of course, also gives "immunity" to several other main characters on the show.
  • Both Locke and Ilana confirm that there needs to be a replacement for Jacob on the island and we learn officially that the number of "candidates" is down to six.
  • And, most importantly, with the battle lines being drawn for "the final battle" – we learn that Ben ultimately chooses to be on the "good" side.
Were some of these things hinted at earlier in the series? Sure. But they've never been truly confirmed by the show. But I guess it's easy to miss revelations when you're not too bright. Like Richard going to the ship and saying "I haven't been here since I first came to the island." Now did he say, "I arrived on the island on this boat, The Black Rock, back in the 1800's"? No. But that doesn't mean he didn't answer that question.

Lost is not a show where they're going to beat you over the head with a big reveal… you have to do a little work for the reward, such as when Miles mentions in passing that two of the graves surrounding him contain Nikki and Paolo and $8 million in diamonds, a call-back to several seasons ago. Then, near the end of the episode, Miles is sitting on the beach holding a diamond. That's subtle… and hilarious!

But I guess since he didn't stand up, face the audience through the camera lens and announce, "Look at this sparkly diamond I just dug up from the grave marked Nikki. I'm rich!" it must not have happened, right?

Maybe some folks need to stick to watching "Two and a Half Men" where you know when to laugh because the editors pressed the Pavlovian button to tell you someone said something funny.

In other words, if you don't "get Lost"... get lost!

Remember us? No? Anyone?

March 9, 2010

Marsupial Marketing?

Reports from a small mountain town in Japan are that the locals are seeing strange creatures lurking in the area. No, we're not talking Bigfoot… we're talking kangaroos. And yet, despite many local news crews setting up hidden cameras throughout the area, no actual video evidence of these numerous kangaroo sightings have been captured.

Maybe I'm just being far too cynical, but it seems strange to me that this "news story" is suddenly being reported as new episodes of ABC's Flash Forward are ready to ramp up again in this country… as well as coinciding with the program making its debut on Japanese TV.

After all, a mysterious kangaroo sighting is at the centerpiece of unraveling the bizarre plot of the sci-fi based series.

Don't believe me? Listen to the producers of the show and judge for yourself.

March 8, 2010

Playing It Safe in Las Vegas

We’ve all heard the saying – “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas…”

However, some of the things that happen in Vegas seem like they wouldn’t make for all that interesting a story. I am sure there are plenty of crazy escapades that actually do end up with a tiger, an abandoned baby and Mike Tyson singing Phil Collins, but the vast majority of interactions with Vegas nightlife – mostly jungle cat free, I’m hoping – seem to be not all that interesting to talk about.

Take for example this YouTube video about the “hot, happening” LAX club:

Maybe once you get inside the happening club, there will be excitement enough to last a lifetime, but I can’t imagine that waiting in line will give you one those classic stories that your friends will be asking you to tell again and again. (“Joe, tell Charlie the one about the time that guy in front of you on line couldn’t remember the lyrics to Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ and you silently laughed to yourself.”) If that’s how you want to spend your Vegas vacation, by all means – but it’s not getting me on the phone with my travel agent to book that next flight to Nevada.

Then again, maybe the safety of the casino encased velvet ropes are where you want to be, lest you end up dead. Poor Becky Longhoffer never left Las Vegas after an attempt to cross the Strip back in 2003. Seems she stepped off of a traffic island and onto a cast-iron plate which was covering electrical wiring and, due to an unexpected rainstorm, water had collected on top of the metal… and the result? A one-in-a-million electrocution.

If you were going to beat the odds in Vegas, this was not the way to do it.

You've Got a Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

James Taylor has always been one of my least favorite performers. I suppose he's fine for lullabies, but I just find him incredibly depressing - regardless of the song... although that makes him perfect for the Oscars and their annual "clap for the dearly departed" montage.

But other than this use of Mr. Taylor's vocal abilities, I have no desire for him to suck any more joy out of my brain. I can hear him now as they bring in a candlelit cake at a festive celebration...

"Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, You're one year closer to death...."

No thanks.

March 5, 2010

96 Problems, But Dartmouth Ain’t One

5-21? Sure! Come and dance!

The rumor has it that, perhaps as early as next season, the NCAA will decide to expand March Madness and invite 96 teams to their championship tournament – up from the current total of 65 teams. I don't know for sure if they will go through with it, but on the surface it seems to be a horrible idea.

Right now there are 31 college conferences that get an "automatic bid" to the tournament, and all but the Ivy League awards that golden ticket to the team that has a three-game winning streak at the end of the season in the conference tournament. Of course, that means that occasionally a truly deserving team from a smaller conference – like say, a 23-win team from the Colonial – in favor of the seventh-place team in the ACC.

While I do believe there is a bit of an inequity in this regard, I'd rather the solution be that a rule is passed that a team must finish in the upper half of its conference standings to make the tournament, rather than adding 31 extra teams to account for the one or two quality snubs that occur each year. An even simpler solution would be to – rather than have one play-in game between the two weakest conference tournament champions for a shot to play the overall No. 1 seed – expand the field by three to 68 and have a play-in game amongst the "last four in" and "last four out" bubble dwellers. Those winners would then be given a 12-seed and all would be right with the world.

If the NCAA suddenly hands out 31 more at-large bids, now you're looking at teams like NC State – currently in last place in the ACC making the tournament. That's insane, but it's what will likely happen. With 96 teams, the concept would be to give 32 teams a bye. Here's the only way I see this idea having any merit. All 31 (and eventually perhaps 32 – the Great West may one day earn an automatic bid) conference regular season champions get a bid, making the regular season actually matter. Then you still have the conference tournaments and award an automatic bid to that winner as well.

So what's to prevent a team like Butler from simply tanking the conference tournament to allow a second team from the Horizon Conference into the dance? Simple. First round byes are automatically given to any team that wins both the regular season and their conference tournament. You think a school like Morgan State wouldn't love to be given what amounts to an "8-seed"? They'd come to play!

It's not going to happen this way, but I'd love to see it. After all, the whole reason we love the first few rounds of the tournament is the potential for upsets and Cinderella stories. Why not encourage more of that rather than dilute the field to the point of homeopathic preposterousness?

I Have The Power!

I'll bet Mumm-Ra ended up with the gig.

March 4, 2010


When their record company refused to let their new video be shared via blogs, by disabling certain codes that allow video-sharing, the band OK Go fought the good fight and wrote a letter to the New York Times to protest...

"Embedded videos — those hosted by YouTube but streamed on blogs and other Web sites — don’t generate any revenue for record companies, so EMI disabled the embedding feature. Now we can’t post the YouTube versions of our videos on our own site, nor can our fans post them on theirs. If you want to watch them, you have to do so on YouTube.

But this isn’t how the Internet works. Viral content doesn’t spread just from primary sources like YouTube or Flickr. Blogs, Web sites and video aggregators serve as cultural curators, daily collecting the items that will interest their audiences the most. By ignoring the power of these tastemakers, our record company is cutting off its nose to spite its face."

Good for them! And it is a great video. I'm happy to join the ranks of the tastemakers and not only share that video with the world, but also their "alternate version" complete with a marching band! Go, OK Go!

OK Go - This Too Shall Pass from OK Go on Vimeo.

March 2, 2010

Mr. Gorbachev, Put That Wall Back Up

It's hard to believe that we were ever terrified of the Russians after seeing these videos. While the Sex Pistols were making waves with Anarchy in the UK, the kids in the USSR were being treated to this biting musical commentary on societal ills:

And clearly, after the US hockey team proved to the Soviet machine that American culture was the wave of the future, Moscow immediately tried to incorporate some of our way of life into theirs and clearly surpassed us quickly. I believe we're seeing in this clip Russia's answer to Flashdance followed by the precursors to Project Runway and the i-Pod.

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

Head for the hills, Wolverines!

Brushes With Pre-Greatness (Volume 3)

Sam Anderson

Lost is in the process of wrapping up the bevy of mysterious storylines in this, its final season. It's a mystery to me how I almost had forgotten my one-time acquaintance with Sam Anderson, who plays Bernard on the show.

After graduating from college, I briefly moved out to the West coast with my friend Ron Hart to attempt to make it as a television writer. While Ron got a job as a cab driver, and learned much to his horror, that one of his co-workers, Vargas, could break into any car in under two minutes flat, I found employment at a bookstore, where the clientele was a bit more upscale.

I helped out celebs such as Morgan Fairchild and the brilliant Roscoe Lee Browne, who once had anonymously called ahead to pick up ten copies of Malcolm X's autobiography on audio cassette - a strange Christmas gift, we thought, until he walked in to collect his order and we realized it was his voice on the audiotape.

"The rubbing of the heads..."

Still, one of the "regulars" to the store was Sam, who came in every other week to browse. If memory serves, he was always in search of James Patterson's latest novel. Anyway, I just remember him being incredibly nice and at the time, I had no idea he was an actor at all. He always chatted about the news of the day, and all of us at the store looked forward to his visits.

Over the years since I moved back to the East coast, I started seeing him everywhere: guest spots on cop/lawyer shows, the principal or boss on various sitcoms, a fairly regular gig on Angel, and now, he's Bernard - and I "root" for his character, simply because, well, it's nice to be nice to the nice.

March 1, 2010

Burdens of Proof

Great A'Tuin carrying the Discworld

My 5-year-old is a voracious "listener." What I mean by that is that although he reads constantly, he's much happier if I do the reading, tackling "grown-up" books that he can't yet read for himself.

My favorite author is Terry Pratchett, who writes biting satire in the guise of the fantasy genre. His Discworld series is all about witches, wizards, vampires, werewolves, trolls and Death himself, and their escapades around the "Discworld" - a flat planet carried on the backs of four giant elephants, themselves standing on the shell of a large turtle, who is swimming through space towards an unknown goal.

I recently started to read my son the first book in the series, editing out some of the more grownup words I don't feel like explaining just yet - for example, pillaging is fine, but its companion gets immediate parental redaction. The story begins with a lengthy description of the planet and its mode of transport through the galaxy, and my son immediately cuts me off.

"That doesn't make any sense."

Not only did he question the whole elephant/turtle scenario, but he challenged the notion of a flat planet. After all, "the Earth is round, otherwise airplane trips wouldn't work and boats would fall off the edge." He's five and he gets it.

Not so 33-year-old Daniel Shenton, the president of the Flat Earth Society. He believes that the Earth is indeed just as it looks on a classroom map - flat as a pancake. Gravity? A lie. Moon landings? A hoax. Shenton's point of view, as tells The Guardian, "I haven't taken this position just to be difficult. To look around, the world does appear to be flat, so I think it is ­incumbent on others to prove ­decisively that it isn't. And I don't think that burden of proof has been met yet."

Sigh. Yet another case of self-denial. What evidence exactly would convince someone like this that he is mistaken? All the pictures from space are - to him - fraudulent, since space travel itself is not a consistent part of his world view. and listen to this logic as to why he believes "round-Earthers" are the delusional ones.

"While flat-Earthers know that the ocean is really just a large bowl, (with great sheets of ice around the edges to hold the ocean back), and the atmosphere is contained by a large dome, the backwards 'round-Earth' way of thinking would have you believe that all those trillions of gallons of water and air just 'stick' to the planet's surface. Conventional thinking would suggest that the water would just run down the sides of the Earth and fall into outer space."

Kind of like my brain just started leaking out of my ears and onto the floor.

Don't get too close! You might fall off the Earth!