Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy birthday, XMan

Editor’s Note: Fred “XMan” Stevens unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack on Feb. 16, 2011. The XMan had been featured on this blog many times during his lifetime, including when he was attacked by a killer cactus, suggested his son suffocate him because of the flu and taught life lessons about solving crime. This type of blog entry called “From the XMan Chronicles” is part of a periodic SBG series that recounts tales connected to him.

The XMan would have turned 64 today, and his unexpected and ridiculous death continues to be a part of the Stevens family and Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens.

Today, Stevens will be consuming Boston cream pie to remember the XMan, who loved that dessert. Curiously, extensive Internet research has shown that Boston cream pie is, in fact, a cake and not a pie. It definitely tastes like a cake.

One of the traditions the XMan perpetuated was how he concluded dining out. Frequently, a server would ask, "What you like dessert?" The XMan would reply, "Do you have Boston cream pie?" That typically ended the night.

The other day at a restaurant, 4-year-old Chloe Stevens asked Joe Stevens this: "Daddy, aren't you going to ask if they have Boston cream pie?" It likely is just a matter of time before Chloe asks servers directly for Boston cream pie.We humans — man, we're strange beings. Although we may understand the possibility of death of hitting, the fact that it somehow hit the XMan was a mega-blast to those who knew him. What happened to him did not seem possible. Nine months later, it still is hard to believe.

Mourning comes in waves for Stevens. As it uncharacteristically rains in Los Angeles today on a Monday, it doesn't seem like an overly emotional day for him.

Is XMan in heaven? There may not be puffy clouds and stuff like that. It may look more like Ironwood Golf Course in Hinckley, Ohio. If heaven exists, Stevens would like to visit there to play gin with the XMan and joke about the killer cactus that attacked him.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sophie Stevens is rich

Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens has been outvoted by his staff to include more blog posts about his actual life and stop dwelling on obscure '80s and '90s pop culture.

Stevens: Look, the average reader doesn't care about my personal life.
SBG staff member: I don't mean to be disrespectful, but you don't know what you're talking about.
Stevens: Really?
SBG staff member: Yes. A blog is an online diary. People want to read that. Why are you so sure people are interested in Humpty Hump?

Stevens is a single dad with two daughters, Sophie, 6, and Chloe, 4. This past weekend the three and Stevens' fabulous girlfriend, Tova, went to Big Bear, Calif., where the foursome stayed in a quaint cabin, explored Big Bear and repeatedly took a ski lift to the top of a mountain/menacing hill only to sled ride down it.

During the intense sled riding, Stevens announced, "I can't believe this. This is the best day of my life!"

Sophie Stevens somewhat agreed and even went on her final three runs solo. All was well until they arrived in Long Beach, Calif., where Sophie showed Stevens a loose tooth and went to bed on Sunday night.

Early Monday morning at 12:45 a.m., Sophie yelled, "Daddy, come here. I lost my tooth!"Not only did she lose the tooth out of her mouth, but it fell on her white carpet, lost among the synthetic plushness. Stevens was flummoxed with the significance of the event and could not believe his baby girl had lost a tooth in first grade (Science shows that this type of tooth development is "normal.").

How much could a first tooth be worth? Would the Tooth Fairy pay off Sophie even though the tooth was lost in the carpet? How in the world would the Tooth Fairy break into Stevens' house?

When Sophie woke up, she came out for breakfast like normal. Stevens suggested she look under her pillow to see if the Tooth Fairy came. Sophie discovered a $5 bill, which is way above market value for an incisor.

Sophie Stevens is rich.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

XMan remembered on 'Thanksgiving Eve'

Editor’s Note: Fred “XMan” Stevens unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack on Feb. 16, 2011. The XMan had been featured on this blog many times during his lifetime, including when he was attacked by a killer cactus, suggested his son suffocate him because of the flu and taught life lessons about solving crime. This type of blog entry called “From the XMan Chronicles” is part of a periodic SBG series that recounts tales connected to him.

Today is "Thanksgiving Eve." It is the busiest day in grocery stores across the United States, the busiest travel day of the year and a time when many of us should get busy.

In the Stevens family, it may be a difficult time because we are beginning a holiday stretch in which the XMan somehow will not be a physical part of things. Although the XMan's death was the worst thing that ever happened to Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens, the death spurred on a couple successful household tasks including the installation of two towel bars (see above photo).

Of course, the biggest manifestation of grief through tasks is Stevens' magnificent Chewbacca collection, which ballooned as he grieved. There have been other successful tasks, too, including the procuring of a baby grand piano and 10-person poker table, installation of an outdoor dartboard in a cabinet, new shower heads, furniture and an underwear/sock upgrade program.

Yes, Stevens has been mourning through tasks and home improvement, and that may sound bizarre because he and his father are/were no handymen.

The faded photo above, for example, is a joke photo because once Stevens and the XMan put together an IKEA dresser. Obviously, they opted not to use the directions, which are for suckers, and put together a wobbly edifice featuring necessary spaces and slants between the drawers.

As Thanksgiving Eve continues and the holiday season kicks off, Stevens is hoping that this blog entry serves as a way for him to feel slightly better about the Stevens family's fate and not bring down those around him as he continually thinks about the XMan. The XMan loved the holidays as much or more than he loved the song "Love Shack," and Stevens will attempt to love them as well this year. He might even put up a few more towel bars, which he claims are perfectly straight in real life but the photo makes them look crooked.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fishing with no apparent agenda

Fishing with John. Fishing with John. Fishing with John. Out on the water. Fishing with John.

I cannot explain why, but for the past few days, I have had the theme song from "Fishing with John" constantly playing in my mind. The song is 43 seconds long and can be accessed by clicking here.

"Fishing with John" is among my favorite TV shows of all-time. It originally aired in 1991 on the Independent Film Channel and was hosted by musician/actor John Lurie. The series only featured six episodes and a total of five guests - Jim Jarmusch, Tom Waits, Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe and Dennis Hopper.

Good God, those are five pretty impressive guests. They're all celebrities, - a bit offbeat, of course - and they all seem genuine and valid. The common thread I like about all of them might be: Ride your madness to success.
Yeah, I watched all of the "Fishing with John" shows and would have gladly watched more. The best thing about the shows is that Lurie has no apparent agenda to actually interview the guests. Instead, his agenda is to catch fish, although he and his guests are pretty damn urban. So the show is ridiculous.

"The Sopranos," "Seinfeld," "Top Chef" and "The Office," according to the Snooze Button Generation, are pretty legit shows. But when you think about it, "Fishing with John" likely is the best show of all-time that aired only six times. And, yes, the theme song to "Miami Vice" is pretty killer, but why is the theme song to "Fishing with John" still in my head?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Swooning at street art

When I used to think of street art, I used to think of graffiti, the movie Exit Through the Gift Shop and Banksy. However, when I visited the "Art in the Streets" exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Geffen in L.A. this summer, Swoon changed my view.

The artist nicknamed Swoon (who is actually named Caledonia Dance Curry) was one of the many contributors to the hip 'n' awesome exhibit, and I had the biggest reaction to her work as opposed to the other bombastic and colorful work in the exhibit.

Although I do not pretend to be an art aficionado, I do know that relevant art exhibitions that interest people outside the art world aren't common nowadays. "Art in the Streets," however, was relevant, and I think its scope goes beyond only the troubled and confused art world.

With hip hop blaring, skateboard videos in one room and huge street art throughout the MOCA Geffen, "Art in the Streets" had spunk and fun. Swoon's art, however, transcended the exhibit.Perhaps Swoon took into account the space at the Geffen while the other artists simply did what they normally do and hoped for the best. But Swoon's "Ice Queen" (top photo here) was simply breathtaking. It filled the entire room and sent chills down my spine.

Some might say the "Ice Queen" was out of place at the gritty street art exhibit. But I don't think so. It contrasted so much with the other art that viewing it there gave it a bigger impact.

In a major juxtaposition, the art outside the Swoon exhibit was from former skateboarder Ed Templeton, who had one photo of himself holding his naked erection. Maybe anything would have looked good compared to that photo, but, no, "The Ice Queen" truly was ephemeral and amazing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Pills

Editor’s Note: Fred “XMan” Stevens unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack on Feb. 16, 2011. The XMan had been featured on this blog many times during his lifetime, including when he was attacked by a killer cactus, suggested his son suffocate him because of the flu and taught life lessons about solving crime. This type of blog entry called “From the XMan Chronicles” is part of a periodic SBG series that recounts tales connected to him.

I have an addiction, and I do not plan on kicking my habit. I'm addicted to my daughters.

Every moment that I'm with them, I feel warm and happy. I have often felt this way, but with Sophie now 6 and Chloe 4, I've never felt this way more. My mom has similar feelings.

Following the ridiculous and unexpected death of the Xman, my mom and I have been driving in a grief-mobile that has us united with how we cope. We both agree that Sophie and Chloe have transformed into something called "Happy Pills."

No matter how difficult it is for us to believe what has happened to our world, the Happy Pills cheer us up. Their childlike brilliance brightens our day, and we usually feel our best around them.In Cleveland, my mom resides in "The Polish Mansion," and as we drive in our grief-mobile, we are together emotionally and will be together much more in person. Yesterday, for example, she just concluded a three-week stay in Long Beach, and I was sad to see her leave.

Our grieving wounds remain raw. Signs of the XMan are everywhere. I never really believed in a spiritual world before the XMan's death, but so many signs are around me that I am now wondering more and more about spirituality. The glorious Chewbacca collection, fantasy golf windfall and random hail in Long Beach recently (see video below) all make me realize that the XMan's spirit may be communicating to me.

My girls and I will be visiting my mom next month, then my mom will be back in California soon after that. My mom and I will be using drugs - our Happy Pills.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Humpty Hump: Rare fast food gigolo

Many of us brag. Perhaps we don't mean to do so. But maybe we have insecurities, so we boast about our accomplishments, hoping that the world gives us credit and validates us.

Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens, for example, recently was proud of winning his fantasy golf league. Although that feat amazed most of North America and Europe, it is not considered especially important on other continents. So some feats are incredible to some, but not to all.

That's where Greg "Shock G" Jacobs, also know as "Humpty Hump" comes in.

In the critically acclaimed 1990 hip-hop classic "The Humpty Dance," Humpty Hump sings: I'm a freak. I like the girls with the boom. I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom. I'm crazy. Allow me to amaze thee.I could be wrong, but getting busy in a Burger King bathroom is not something to brag about. Burger King bathrooms tend to be not that clean or romantic.

Is the "Humpty Dance" a significantly important song for the Snooze Button Generation? ... Why, yes, it is.

Is getting busy in a Burger King bathroom something to brag about? ... No. But getting busy in an Arthur Treacher's, now that would be impressive.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sufjan Stevens: No relation

I am white. Therefore, I like Sufjan Stevens.

As the month of Rocktober continues to be celebrated, it is important to note that singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens has no familial relation to Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens.

Both Stevenses have similarities, though. They hail from gritty Midwestern cities (Sufjan from Detroit and Joe from Cleveland), and they both have ties to Kensington, Brooklyn. In fact, Sufjan Stevens is likely the most famous resident of Kensington, while Joe may have held that crown from 1996 to 1998.

There aren't many recording artists in which SBG CEO Joe Stevens looks forward to hearing a new release, but no-relation Sufjan Stevens is one of them, even though his tour de force came out six years ago. Sufjan's songwriting is at a high level; it's multi-layered, deep and impressive. There are a handful of his songs that are easy to cry to, including "Casimir Pulaski Day."

According to Paste Magazine, which has a lot of lists on the Internet, Sufjan Stevens' "Illinois" was the best album of the 2000s. Most likely, that's a correct pick.In 2003, Sufjan released an album called "Michigan," then in 2005, he released "Illinois." It also was announced that he was embarking on a states mission to do albums on all 50 states.

However, in 2011, no other states album exists. In an interview in 2009, he even said, "I have no qualms about admitting it was a promotional gimmick."

Those are hurtful words. Sufjan Stevens must do another states album. Unfortunately, he may not because he takes himself too seriously and, therefore, will never be happy. Oh well. He sure did well with the lone two states albums.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A salty salute to Guided By Voices

I met a non-dairy creamer
Explicitly laid out like a fruitcake
With a wet spot
Bigger than a great lake
Took me to the new church
And baptized me with salt
She told me, liquor
I am a new man

As the glorious month of Rocktober continues, Guided By Voices frontman Bob Pollard deserves his just due as one of the greatest songwriters of the Snooze Button Generation. Now, Bob is 53, so he is a little older than SBG members. But he would agree that the vast majority of his fans are in the SBG.

Chain smoke rings like a vapor snake kiss
She says she don't know why
The closer you are, the quicker it hits you

Five years ago, Paste Magazine released its list of the top 100 living songwriters. Bob Pollard checked in at No. 78. The top three were No. 1 Bob Dylan, No. 2 Neil Young and No. 3 Bruce Springsteen.

Although numerous disagreements pop up with this list, including Springsteen being ridiculously high, one interesting thing is that you realize how SBG-aged songwriters rarely have made their mark.

Bob Pollard has made his mark, and he is probably the most prolific songwriter alive. He has more than 1,400 songs registered with BMI, and his lyrics are magnificent and cryptic. His lyrics have incredibly vivid imagery that is hard to figure out, which to me is exactly how life is.

Cold hands touching my face
Don't hide - the snake can see you
Old friends you might not remember
Fading away from you
The goldheart mountaintop queen directory
Bob Pollard and Guided By Voices remain close to my heart because they started to get popular in the early '90s when I saw them a few times in Columbus, Ohio. A cool friend of mine, John Petkovic, and his excellent band Cobra Verde also played with Bob for two years in the '90s.

My life is dirt, but you seem to make it cleaner
Reduce my felony to a misdemeanor
When I feel sick, you’re an antibiotic
Organize my world that was pointless and chaotic

From 2004-2010, GBV disbanded, and Bob did some other projects, including an outfit called Boston Spaceships. However, the original GBV lineup got back together last year and will be releasing a new album in January.

Maybe I should resist the urge to try to decipher Bob's cryptic lyrics, but wait a minute, on one song, he flat-out mentions my dad, the XMan. That's got to mean something!

Post-punk XMan parked his fork-lift
Like a billion stars flickering from the grinder's wheel
Lower hybrid clad in metal
In subgroup tools

Friday, October 14, 2011

WMMS 'gets down' more than any station

It 6 p.m. on a Friday. Let's blast the Buzzard!

For a long part of my youth, I somehow always listened to 100.7 WMMS at 6 p.m. on Friday. The station played three songs every Friday at that time, "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen, "Friday on My Mind" by Earth Quake and "Cleveland Rocks" by Ian Hunter. Cleveland used to be a thriving blue-collar town, and those songs kicked off the weekend for many of my Northeast Ohio compadres.

As the month of Rocktober continues to be celebrated, there is a chance that WMMS: The Buzzard could be the "Greatest Radio Station of All-Time," if that tag exists.Rock 'n' roll is huge in my hometown, the Rock 'n' Roll Capital of the World, and The Buzzard remains the most distinctive station there. Of course, the station has had numerous make-overs throughout the years, but the fact that I still think of WMMS every Friday must mean something.

Some scientific data exists that might make The Buzzard the "Greatest Station of All-Time." From 1979 to 1987, Rolling Stone named WMMS the "Best Radio Station" (large market). However, for the 1987 victory, the station admitted that it had stuffed the ballot box.

With rock 'n' roll in turmoil, The Buzzard keeps on keeping on. It still plays rock and now is also the flagship station for the glorious Cleveland Browns.

Out of nostalgia for my youth, I plan on listening to the three Friday songs today. Interesting to me, through intense Internet research, I found out that DJ Murray Saul used to do something called his "Get Down" in the mid '70s before the three previously mentioned songs became a mainstay on WMMS.

If you click on "Get Down" above, it certainly sounds like the rantings of a lunatic. I somehow love the rantings.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is it possible to rock wearing shorts?

The greatest thing about AC/DC is the shorts. The worst thing about AC/DC is the shorts.

As the Snooze Button Generation continues to celebrate Rocktober by focusing on rock 'n' roll, an extremely important, age-long question must be pondered: Why are shorts so uncool on rock stars?

A reasonable human being might say that no, no, shorts don't automatically make a rock star lame. Just look at Angus Young of AC/DC.

Nah, I don't think the shorts work. Angus comes off as creepy and a joke. If that's what he's going for, that's great. However, this shorts issue is quite complex, and Angus can't be dismissed. Quite frankly, he almost pulled off the shorts thing. For that, he deserves props, and it is obvious that the best thing about AC/DC is the shorts.

Is it ever right for a male to choose shorts as a style choice when temperature is not a factor? Answer: No.

I have no images in my mind's eye of Frank Sinatra in shorts. I cannot think of any stylish gentleman in shorts. Anderson Cooper? Johnny Depp? Elvis?Well, shorts don't exactly come to mind with Elvis, but his "Blue Hawaii" vehicle made temperature a factor. He was in Hawaii, for god's sake.

Every so often, an extremely douche-bag-esque rock star pops up who attempts to wear shorts. It simply won't work. I remember seeing a video by Faith No More in which the lead singer wore shorts. Ridiculous!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Is Pavement too commercial?

I have reverted to a '90s indie rock guy, despite putting that persona behind me for at least the past decade.

I am not sure how this has happened, but any conversation with me about music turns into a treatise on the death of rock 'n' roll, the listing of indie bands from the '90s and the question, "Is Pavement too commercial?"

Pavement is the quintessential indie rock band, and I've always liked pretentious Stephen Malkmus and his players. However, at a certain point in my life, I pretended not to like the band because liking Pavement was too typical for guys like me. Heck, I even met frat boys who liked Pavement. That could not be a good sign.

Last year, I was shocked to see that Pavement released a greatest hits album called "Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement." (Wait a second! How old are we now?) Anyway, it's a good compilation, and the band rocks and is smart. What else does a band need to do?Back in the '90s, I didn't automatically dislike bands if they were popular. But I found indie bands better, even though it sometimes felt too trendy to like those bands. And what exactly is an indie band?

Well, some people might say R.E.M., the Pixies and Replacements could be considered indie rock. But I define a band as "indie" if it never had a big hit. R.E.M. certainly had hits, and I think the Pixies and Replacements had big enough hits to vault out of the indie-rock genre.

So by my definition, some big and excellent indie rock bands that come to mind are My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr., Superchunk, Lush, Ride, Fugazi, Sebadoh and one of my ultimate faves - Guided By Voices. I definitely give credit to the big indie record labels, Matador, Sub Pop, Touch & Go, Thrill Jockey and Dischord, for the genre's success.

By the time the late '90s hit, a bunch of other bands, like Modest Mouse, Neutral Milk Hotel and Arcade Fire, surfaced, but I just never got into the next wave of indie bands.

Is '90s indie rock the best genre of rock ever? For a lot of the Snooze Button Generation, it is. OK, fine, the rock in the '60s and '70s is pretty killer, but we did not live while that music was in its prime.

We lived through Pavement, Superchunk and Fugazi, and, yeah, that was the best rock of our lives.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Flaming Lips: Creating happiness

"What's your favorite band, man?"

For the past 17 years, I have answered the same thing, and I doubt I'll ever answer differently. For the past 17 years, my favorite band has been The Flaming Lips.

Good god, the reasons why The Flaming Lips are meaningful to me are so numerous that it borders on the absurd. Plus, the band has staying power, having been together for a miraculous 28 years while doing cool, innovative things. The Beatles were together for only 10 years.

For stretches of my life, I have been obsessed with The Flaming Lips. I've seen them live 10 times, own all 13 of their albums and urge anyone who hasn't seen them in concert to do so. Their live shows are full of confetti, puppets, fake blood, crazy lights, the showmanship of frontman Wayne Coyne and constant madness that makes it impossible to not be enthralled.Back in 1993, I remember when the album "Transmissions From the Satellite Heart" came out. A few of my friends were big into music, and they already were fans of The Lips. I, too, got into them, and the band got some popularity with the song "She Don't Use Jelly."

For the next years, I've looked forward to every release they've had, and eventually, I even got the inaccessible and bizarre album "Zaireeka." That is a four-CD set in which all four CDs are meant to be played at the same time.

My peak experience with The Lips came in 1999 when I interviewed Wayne for about an hour and picked his brain about creativity, philosophy and Long John Silvers. I wrote a long article about The Lips for my mainstream newspaper, but really, the interview was more to answer some questions I've always wondered.

I've always considered the band's 1990 album "In a Priest Driven Ambulance" the band's tour de force. Wayne did as well. Before that album came out, the band had been around for seven years with not too much success, and he and his band decided to put everything they could into the album to see if they would keep rocking or maybe give up."In a Priest Driven Ambulance" got the band signed to Warner Brothers, and then The Lips came out with "Hit to Death in the Future Head," another awesome album. Even though I recommend all of The Lips' albums, these two are the best. They also are the only two albums that feature Jonathan Donahue, who left the band to form another band I like a lot, Mercury Rev.

Anyway, the big thing I took away from my long talk with Wayne is the idea that all human life is like playing with the house's money. Why are we here? How did we get here? Hell, man, this is all a bonus of goodness.

The Lips have always pushed the bounds of creativity of what rock 'n' roll can be, what a live show can be, and they've always stayed relevant. But beyond all of that, perhaps Wayne's sincerity, heart and philosophy is why I like the band so much.

A few years back, he did a "This I Believe" segment on NPR tiled "Creating Our Own Happiness." I urge you to go to that link, click the "Listen" button and hear what Wayne has to say. He speaks the truth.

Yeah, The Lips are my favorite band. They'll always be.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hair bands kick off Rocktober

The Snooze Button Generation is pleased to announce that today is the first day of "Rocktober" and the SBG will be focusing on rock 'n' roll for the entire month. We will kick off Rocktober by focusing on THE GREATEST HAIR BANDS OF ALL-TIME.

Now, SBG CEO and founder Joe Stevens never was into hair bands, but he respects their cultural significance. By merely growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1980s, Stevens has official status as a "connoisseur of hair bands."

With that said, the best three hair bands of all-time are Poison, Ratt and Motley Crue. Case closed.

The tricky thing about that assertion is the definition of what exactly makes a "hair band." Motley Crue, for example, is more than a mere hair band, so let's give the crown to Poison with Ratt in second place.

A hair band, for anyone culturally unaware, is a heavy metal or hard rock band from the 1980s that had a overload of hair. In most sophisticated circles, it is gauche to like these bands, but secretly, many people like some of their songs.

Hair bands were out of fashion for the '90s and the bulk of the early 2000s, but nowadays, they've been so lame for so long, that they're not so bad any more. Honestly, a handful of hair band songs totally rock. Right?After Poison, Ratt and the Crue, the next tier of hair bands features Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Skid Row, Warrant, Winger and Whitesnake.

If another tier exists after that, let's go with Stryper, Europe, White Lion and Great White. Sort of like the Crue, Guns 'N' Roses, Def Leppard, Metallica and a few other bands can't quite make the list because they are more than mere hair bands.

And Dokken and Queensryche just suck.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fantasy world becomes reality

Editor’s Note: Prominent SBG enthusiast Fred “XMan” Stevens unexpectedly passed away on Feb. 16, 2011. He is profoundly missed. The following type of blog entry is part of a periodic SBG series called “From the XMan Chronicles” that will recount tales involving the XMan.

From the XMan Chronicles:

For the past couple of years, my father, cousin (who is like a brother) and I have played fantasy golf. Before that sentence immediately stops any reasonable person from reading, please keep in mind that actual money is exchanged in fantasy golf.

This year, 70 players ponied up a $50 entrance fee with additional side bets to create a total kitty of $5,200. Basically, how the fantasy-golf pool works is that you pick a golfer each week and you get his prize money, but you can't pick the same player twice. This year presented a strange fantasy-golf dynamic, though, because my dad unexpectedly passed away in February.

When that happened, I vowed to study fantasy golf as much as humanly possible to somehow win the pool in remembrance of my father. And get a load of this:

It worked. Today was the final day of fantasy golf, and I held on to win $1,300 for the overall crown and an additional $350 from other side bets. I've never won that much in anything.

But it wasn't about the money. It was about my dad.Throughout the day, I was stressing if I could win the pool because a top competitor had Luke Donald, who missed being in a playoff by a mere stroke. As I was stressing, a big problem was that I went to a 6-year-old's birthday party and did not watch the golf or see many updates.

Eventually, the news came via a text message that the final result was too close to call and I'd have to see the PGA Tour's prize-money distribution to see if I won. After that news, I walked back to the party and participated in a game of water-balloon toss with my 4-year-old Chloe.

During the balloon toss, I had an array of thoughts that nearly made me weep. Would XMan be proud of my fantasy-golf obsession? Could I somehow pay someone $100,000 for five minutes with him? Why isn't balloon toss at all parties?

Playing balloon toss with a loved one is a beautiful thing, enjoyable and pure. Could anything be better?

Strange things happened today to make me wonder if fantasy-golf spirituality exists. It ended up that the final result was too close to call because the person on my heels was the son of the golf pool's founder. The actual winner of the PGA tournament was Bill Haas, the son of famous golfer Jay Haas.

Today was all about fathers and sons, fantasy golf and balloon toss. Simultaneously to this, my brother Fred did his best Roy Hobbs imitation to hit three home runs in a softball doubleheader, and the lowly Cleveland Browns improved to 2-1 to have their first winning record in four years.

What would the XMan say about all of this? Well, that's pretty obvious. He'd simply say, "You got to be kidding me. It's all luck."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Who is the Tapatio man?

Does God exist? Is there life beyond our solar system? Why do humans exist?

All of those questions are simple to answer, but I've been struggling with a more serious question for quite some time: Who is the Tapatio man?

Through intense anecdotal evidence, I have discovered that Tapatio is the most common hot sauce. Often when I ask, "Can I have hot sauce?" Tapatio is delivered. Yet even with omnipotent Tapatio, no one knows the back story to the Tapatio man.

Seriously, the Tapatio man's story should exist somewhere. He's selling out more and more each day, and he's going mainstream. This year, Tapatio-flavored Doritos, Ruffles and Fritos even hit the market.I would like to think that he created his magical sauce when he realized that life needs a little spice. He then aptly mixed water, red peppers, salt, spices, garlic, acetic acid, xanthan gum and sodium benzoate and concocted a glorious flavor. But I have no proof that's what happened.

Was he a cowboy? A ladies' man? Was he a plain-food eater converted into a spicy-food lover? I do not know. The Tapatio website doesn't really help.

I guess some mysteries can never be answered. The Tapatio man remains intriguing and mysterious. Perhaps the xanthan gum is his secret ingredient.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Polack becomes wine guru

I asked myself a critical question last weekend: "Can a normal human being become a wine connoisseur in a mere weekend?"

Well, the answer is "no." But when the human being is me - a Polack from Cleveland - and when the weekend is Labor Day weekend, it is possible. And, yes, I now am a wine connoisseur.

Accompanied by a stunning and sophisticated lady, I toured Santa Barbara Wine Country and partook in 16 - yes, 16 - wineries or tasting rooms. For those familiar with this wine country, I toured Firestone, Zaca Mesa, Foxen, Tres Hermanas, Kenneth Volk, Cambria, Stolpman, Rusack, Beckman, Gainey, Somasara, Piedrasassi, Palmina, Flying Goat, Longoria and Ampelos.

The final six in the above list were in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, which is in an industrial park. I liked those the best.

During this wine-crazed weekend, I tasted 105 (this is no exaggeration) wines. Is that possible, you might ask? Well, it happened. Of those 105, I tasted 96 of them and actually drank nine of them.Obviously, wine tastings are ridiculously detailed. If someone put as much focus in any other drink or food item, such as having a "soft drink tasting," everyone would laugh. Perspective can often be lost during wine tastings, and they can be hilarious.

At the Palmina wine room, for example, the guy pouring the wine verbally assaulted my sophisticated lady friend when she washed out her glass with water. "Don't you understand you just messed up the pH balance?" he said aghast as he rolled his eyes.

A few moments later, I asked him, "What is your stance on ice cubs in reds? Yeah or nay?"

Up until this past weekend, the most information I ever got on wine was when I saw the 2004 documentary "Wine for the Confused" with John Cleese. I loved the movie. It proved that nearly all serious wine drinkers could not tell the difference between a white or red wine when blindfolded and that serious wine drinkers also could not tell the difference between expensive or inexpensive wines.

In Santa Barbara, I did discover that I like lighter and smooth red wines, typically Pinot Noirs, and that I like white wines that are not quite as dry as Chardonnays, but not quite as fruity as typical Pinot Grigios. I like something in between those two.

Am I a pretentious wine snob now? No, I am not. But I can pretend to be.