Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thought bubble

A colleague snapped this at a recent book party we held at a museum. Another possible headline: Before and After.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Spinning wheel, got to go round

The demo wheel
I recently tried out for Wheel of Fortune.

The invite came from a friend who had applied online to be a contestant. 6-8 months later, an email invited him to try out for "Best Friends Week." Thinking strategically, he called me, rather than his true best friend, hoping that my vast (but ultimately shallow) knowledge pool would provide a tactical advantage.

We arrived at the hotel conference room, where about 70 other "best friends" had been summoned. Wearing our best game faces, we tried to convey the enthusiasm that all TV producers covet as we scouted out our competition. The odds weren't in our favor: hot college girls to our right, a Price is Right veteran1 to our left who oozed ordinary-guy charisma.

First, the producers had us complete a questionnaire, and then each pair was asked to simply state their names for everyone to hear. After that, we started to play a simulated game. The producer spun the wheel (pictured above) on our behalf and quietly took notes as we were each called upon. People who didn't answer fast enough, didn't make sense, or didn't have that Sajak-esque aura somehow always landed on BANKRUPT after a few spins. Winners of each puzzle won autographed Vanna White glossies, bobbleheads, and/or handsome Wheel of Fortune beach towels.

Finally our turn arrived. The category was "Phrase," and one player had already gone, leaving us with:
(image via

We instantly has the same thought: it must start with "I'VE".

So my friend spoke for us with conviction, requesting "A 'V' please!"

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Well, in our case, it got shot down with a feisty buzzer, compelling us to sit back down. I hammed up my disappointment, thinking I may yet impress the producers with my stage presence.

Upon taking my seat, I had the simultaneous thoughts that:
  1. the first word could just as easily been "I'LL"
  2. there are a lot more common letters to choose than"V"
We were not called on again. Many others got a second go-round, and we clapped hard for each player, but our unquestionable spirit was not rewarded. Nor was the person who asked to spin again when solving our original puzzle, which at that point read:

Finally, there was a worksheet with shockingly difficult fill-in-the-blank puzzles (i.e. the answer to one, a "Before and After" one, was MARILYN MONROE DOCTRINE). They were collected after five minutes (along with our questionnaires), and they were "scored" in a backroom.

In reality, the puzzle is used as a cover for people to rationalize why they weren't picked. The producers only look at the questionnaire answers, which asked us, among other questions, for our favorite celebrity, whether we had been on a game show before, and "something that you're proud of."

Of the 30-40 duos, only 10 were asked to stay2 to play another round. Months later, the show aired, and the BFFs to my left won big money (as they say in game show speak).

But I am not deterred, as I hear they are bringing back American Gladiators, and I like my chances.

Not only a contestant, but a star: he won a car. After the show, the local dealer called him to get his preferred color. When he said that he was just going to resell it anyway, they gave him the car's retail value in cash.

The Price is Right veteran and hot college girls were indeed chosen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Things Remembered: The TI-82

Before Blackberries, iPods, or smatphones, my generation's in-school electronic entertainment came from the TI-82 graphing calculator. Its killer app was the Programs menu, where you could setup mini-applications to handle, for example, converting Fahrenheit to Celsius or solving the quadratic equation.

Mainly, though, we used it for games. One classmate proved particularly adept at programming, creating "Guess the Number" and "FASTKEY," where you had six seconds to press a key over and over (the record holder maxed out at 82, which remains impressive). Pre-wifi, you could link your TI-82 to another via a cable, allowing for easy swapping of programs. People came back from band competitions with new games, such as Blackjack and Archery. I created a few programs of my own, mostly involving profanities.

Remarkably my calculator and the programs remained intact for more than ten years. It wasn't until this past weekend when a memory failure wiped out my archive. As it was the same weekend that I moved from the city into the suburbs, it was hard not to feel that a larger break from the past was occurring. Having long since lost the linking cable, I have no way of getting those programs back or to download new ones off the Internet.

So I bid adieu to the TI-82 and its bulky, low-tech technology. Because of you, I never really learned pre-calc or understood trigonometry. And for this, I thank you.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Master of business

I now have an MBA.

So now, more than ever, don't fuck with me.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Down for the count

In the years since my love of pro wrestling waned, a disturbing number of pro wrestlers have taken life's ultimate piledriver. The latest is Bad News Brown, who I best remember for his devastating finishing move called "The Ghetto Blaster."

Earlier this year, Jersey's own Bam Bam Bigelow succumbed to natural causes; natural in the sense that cocaine comes from nature. A veritable Who's Who of 80's Wrestling preceded him, from Mr. Perfect to Hercules to Junk Yard Dog to the Big Boss Man to my namesake Andre the Giant (posse still alive and well).

Many more articulate have explained why wrestlers often die before their time. I would only add this: that Bad News Brown, even in death, still scares the crap out of me. Observe:

Monday, March 05, 2007

Pizza, Pipes and Pandemonium

Pizza, Pipes and Pandemonium exterior

Anyone remember this Groton landmark? All I found online was this memory:

In Groton, CT there used to be Pizza, Pipes and Pandemonium. It survived until the mid-80's or so. I remember going there as a kid. The pizza wasn't that good but the enormous pipe-organ sure was cool. They had it set up so that you could walk around it and see all of the mechanisms moving while it was being played.
Apparently the pizzeria/organ music combo was a nationwide phenomenon. And why not? Moreso, why not now?

Update: There's now a Facebook page where people share their memories, including this (somewhat haunting) photo:
Birthday party with clown at Pizza, Pipes and Pandemonium

Monday, February 05, 2007

The NFL knows its fans

And that's why Cirque de Soleil opened up the Super Bowl, and why Prince was the halftime entertainment.

Cirque de Soleil at the Super Bowl

That's fan-tastic.