June 29, 2006

Miller Lite is one of those beers that I’ve never cared for. Sure, it’s cheaper than a lot of other brands, but I’m certainly old enough to afford good beer, and besides, Miller Lite has zero taste. Same goes for anything made by Budweiser.

But both Miller Lite and Bud have one thing in common: if they spent 10% of their advertising budget on their actual product, they would rule the world.

That said, the latest Miller Lite ad campaign is hilarious. It features a group of male celebrities and athletes sitting around a square table debating rules of etiquette for men — or more simply, “Man Laws.”

Some of the highlights from the accompanying Web site:



And my personal favorite:


Fourth of July weekend, here I come! (And happy 230th birthday, USA.)

[ No. 265 ]

June 25, 2006

Ever since I downloaded and installed Comcast Toolbar on my home computer, I’ve been able to surf the Web with far fewer interruptions. (It was also very helpful to disable “Messenger Service”, a so-called feature of Windows XP, in order to cut down on pop-up advertising as well.)

However, despite the toolbar’s many useful services, its display of local weather conditions could use some further testing. Temperatures around here stayed in the 70s today (trust me, I checked), but my browser said otherwise:

Comcast Toolbar: It's 122° outside? Really?

Based on that data, I can only imagine the weather conditions in Arizona.

[ No. 264 ]

June 22, 2006

As I’ve said many times, I’m far from perfect when I’m behind the wheel. And I know that I’m getting repetitive with my complaints about poor drivers, including but not limited to aggressive SUV owners, reckless hippies, RIGHT LANE ENDS offenders, and cantaloupe eaters, if you can believe that.

But the creativity that I see on the road is relentless, and I find these driving-related rants to be mildly cathartic. So here’s one more.

Two minutes after leaving my house this morning, I turned right onto Chesterbrook Boulevard, the main thoroughfare in my neighborhood with one lane in each direction and a wide, grassy median. It was raining heavily, and the driver in front of me was taking his or her time through the downpour. Suddenly, the headlights and grille of a tan Nissan Maxima occupied my entire rear-view mirror — a sight that makes me anxious, since I’ve been involved in more than one accident involving someone who was following me too closely.

Apparently fed up with this unbearable 30-second delay to her commute, the woman flashed her high beams at me. On a one-lane road. Twice.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Equally confused and enraged, I threw my hands up toward my rear-view mirror, shouting out loud (as though she could possibly hear me), “Where would you like me to go?!”, among other things that I won’t repeat here.

As soon as the road briefly expanded into two lanes near the Chesterbrook office complex, she zipped past me on the right (wisely making no eye contact), then sped toward the entrance to Route 202 South. As her sedan disappeared down the on-ramp, I resumed my commute to work in a thoroughly bad mood.

In every NFL game, head coaches are entitled to two “challenges”, which permit them to ask for a formal review of a questionable call by a referee. Since most people seem to treat driving as a contact sport, I’m starting to think that drivers should be granted a similar instant-replay challenge, maybe one per year.

The process would require some very strict rules, including a ban on profanity and physical contact of any kind. For everyone’s safety, a mediator of some sort would be advisable, too. But the basic idea is that both drivers would need to pull over to the nearest shoulder, and the driver who called the challenge would have the opportunity to ask the aggressor a simple question:

“Unless you’re on the way to the hospital, what is the matter with you?”

[ No. 263 ]

June 21, 2006

Your government at work:

“All in favor of raising the minimum wage for the first time in nine years?”

Roughly half of those in attendance, most of them Democrats, raise their hands, but the final tally is eight short of the 60 votes needed to approve the measure.

Denied. Next motion?

“All in favor of raising our own wages for the eighth time in nine years?”

Dollar signs suddenly appear in the politicians’ eyes, and every hand goes up.


[ No. 262 ]

June 14, 2006

My high school, Archmere Academy of Claymont, Del., has received national news coverage recently. In fact, Archmere was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal last Wednesday. But unfortunately, the publicity is anything but good news for my alma mater.

It all starts with Thomas Capano, a prominent Wilmington attorney who killed his younger mistress, Anne Marie Fahey, and dumped her body in the Atlantic Ocean in June 1996. (You can read much more about the infamous murder at Court TV’s Crime Library and in Ann Rule’s book, And Never Let Her Go.)

Tom’s younger brother, Louis Capano, Jr., was no angel, either. He destroyed evidence, took part in witness tampering, and lied to a grand jury — all in an unsuccessful attempt to exonerate Tom, who was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1999. Tom Capano was originally sentenced to death by lethal injection, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison earlier this year.

Last fall, in an apparent attempt to atone for his past, Louis struck a deal with his old high school: he would donate $1 million if Archmere would name a new building on campus after his parents, the late Louis Capano, Sr., and Marguerite Capano. And if that wasn’t enough, he made an additional million-dollar offer for the naming rights to a new building at the elementary school he had attended, St. Edmond’s Academy.

Archmere announced Capano’s seven-figure donation at a capital improvement event on the school’s campus on Sept. 25, 2005, but widespread knowledge of the agreement only began to surface recently. In response, Archmere students, parents, and alumni have launched a furious grassroots effort to oppose the new Capano building and have built a Web site, Protect Archmere’s Legacy, in order to promote the cause.

As for my own feelings on the matter, here is a copy of the comments that I’ve posted on the online petition (forgive the lack of line breaks):

I must express my extreme disappointment in Archmere’s decision to accept a million-dollar contribution from Louis Capano, Jr., and dedicate a campus building in his family’s name. I certainly recognize that a cornerstone of the Catholic faith is forgiveness. But it is completely unacceptable to honor a man who tampered with evidence and lied to a grand jury in an effort to help his brother literally get away with murder. In Delaware and the Philadelphia suburbs, the very name Capano is synonymous with scandal and crime, and no building on the Archmere campus should bear that name, regardless of how much money their family wishes to contribute. (As I understand it, Capano refused a request from St. Edmond’s Academy to name their new building after a saint instead, so it’s quite clear that his motives are not entirely selfless.) It’s very sad to realize that Archmere’s greed appears to outweigh its integrity, and judging from the comments on this site, I’m not alone in that opinion. I sincerely hope that Archmere will reconsider this regrettable decision.
— Mike Devine ’92

There’s no question that it would be extremely difficult for any institution to walk away from a million bucks. But I can’t believe that, while reviewing the Capano proposal, no one on Archmere’s board of directors didn’t ask out loud, “Do we really want to put that notorious last name on our campus? And how will our students, faculty, and alumni, let alone the local media, react to this decision?”

This is analogous to naming a Catholic high school building in Los Angeles after O.J. Simpson’s parents. Granted, they weren’t the ones who committed a violent crime, but seeing their family name on a school building would be nauseating, and I doubt that anyone would let that happen. Well, this is my high school that we’re talking about, and I am not going to stand for this.

More to follow on this story as it unfolds. Stay tuned.*

* Update: Dan Rubin graciously covered this story on the Inquirer blog Blinq, and the ongoing battle became the leading story on ABC’s Nightline on June 19 (read the transcript). It’s pretty surreal to see your high school on national TV, especially under such unfortunate circumstances.

So far, the Archmere administration is digging in its heels; the national attention hasn’t swayed them in the least. But according to the Protect Archmere’s Legacy site, a special meeting of the Board of Trustees will be scheduled within the next week or so. Cross your fingers — maybe they’ll come to their senses.

* Update 2: After weeks of mounting pressure and national publicity, Archmere’s Board of Trustees issued the following statement:

This evening, Monday, June 26, 2006, the Archmere Academy Board of Trustees convened a special meeting to discuss concerns raised regarding the naming of the Student Life Center. At the outset of the meeting, Mr. Louis Capano, Jr., an alumnus and benefactor of Archmere Academy, offered the Board the opportunity to name the Student Life Center in honor of a religious figure of historic significance to the school. The Board will meet again promptly to discuss the naming of the new facility and the appropriate means of recognizing, in some other way, Mr. Capano’s gift in honor of his parents. Mr. Capano recognized that the Board would decide what is in the best interest of Archmere Academy.
After the meeting, Dr. Rosalie Mirenda, Chair of the Archmere Board of Trustees, stated that “throughout our 75-year history, Archmere Academy’s success has always depended on its dedicated faculty and staff and on the strong support of our alumni, parents, students and friends. In the days ahead we invite everyone in the Archmere community to help us emerge from this controversy with a renewed commitment to the school we all love.”

Amen to that! I was thrilled to hear this news, and I’m relieved that my alma mater can finally move on from this mess. No hard feelings on my part; Archmere reached the right decision.

By the way, I see a strong parallel between the Archmere/Capano fiasco and the shameful pay raise scandal in the Pennsylvania legislature last year — it’s truly amazing what an online grassroots effort can accomplish. Three cheers for the Internet!

[ No. 261 ]

June 13, 2006

For a while now, I’ve felt the highest level of contempt for demonstrators at military funerals who voice hate speech during solemn services for fallen soldiers. It’s truly hard for me to imagine anyone actually behaving that way.

But leave it to ultra-conservative pundit Ann Coulter to surpass those heartless zealots. In her latest book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, she describes a group of 9/11 widows as follows:

“These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities. … I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much.”

There are few absolutes in life, but when someone insults people who lost loved ones in a national tragedy and makes a profit while doing so, then that person has reserved a prime spot in the waiting line for hell.

I feel slightly guilty even mentioning her by name on this site, but this needs to be said: Ann Coulter is a horrible human being, and anyone who buys her book is guilty by association.*

* Update: My friend Steve writes:

What did you think of the rest of Ann’s book when you read it?
Please tell me you did actually read it and didn’t just cut and paste two sentences out of an entire book out of context that you read somewhere on the Web and condemned the author completely.

It’s pretty obvious that I didn’t read Godless in its entirety yet. The book was released just last week, and I simply wouldn’t have had the time to finish it by now — that is, assuming I would want to read any polemic by Ann Coulter, which I don’t.

My condemnation of Coulter is not based on a pair of sentences alone; I’ve seen her interviewed about her book, and her verbal commentary is just as appalling and unapologetic as the words I had quoted. And seriously, if anyone can envision a way that those two sentences could be placed in any context that’s not completely repugnant, then I’m all ears.

Steve continues:

I have not yet read the book but will reserve judgment of the media hype until I have had the chance to do so and form my own opinion. …
Then I will be sure that my reactions will be in context. I am not positive, but I do wonder how many of the talking heads did read the entire context prior to condemning the entire book and author. My guess is that very few did.

Some of Coulter’s detractors in the Evil Liberal Mainstream Media probably did read the entire book before commenting on it, but that’s only my guess against Steve’s — neither of us really knows for sure. And given that Coulter is herself a “talking head,” here’s another guess on my part: she probably doesn’t read everything cover-to-cover, either.

Regardless, I strongly doubt that the remainder of her book casts those ugly words in a more palatable context, and I’d rather not suffer through 320 pages of similar bile to find out.

[ No. 260 ]

June 6, 2006

I have no intention of going out to see The Omen, partly because the original came out 30 years ago, and I’d prefer to see that version first. But more importantly, as I mentioned last summer, I’m completely sick and tired of uninspired movie remakes.

That said, I have to give credit to the person who thought of releasing the film on 6/6/06, which is a clever way of promoting a movie about a demonic child. (Can we expect to see a movie involving slot machines on 7/7/07, or maybe a film about toll-free numbers on 8/8/08?)

On a related note, I just learned today that all of the numbers on a roulette wheel (1 through 36, 0, and 00*) add up to 666. How weird is that?

* Note: Another strange fact, thanks to Wikipedia: double zero only appears on American roulette wheels, and only some of the time. The net effect of the extra 00 slot is to increase the house advantage, naturally.

[ No. 259 ]

June 1, 2006

It’s that time of year again — the National Spelling Bee is underway.

I have a special appreciation for this event, since I actually competed in the 1988 National Spelling Bee back when I was in eighth grade. In April of that year, I had won the Delaware County Daily Times bee, which granted me the privilege of an all-expenses-paid weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., with my dad as well as a chance to compete among 200 national finalists.

I’m pretty sure that, as a 13-year-old, I didn’t fully realize the significance of taking part in a national competition. I’m also pretty sure that I could have prepared more diligently for the contest, but it was hard to take the task seriously — my fellow contestants and I were instructed to study from a gigantic unabridged dictionary with a spine six inches thick, and any word in the book was fair game.

The 1988 competition lasted two days — it takes a long time to eliminate 199 spellers. I survived the first day and part of the second day until I finally stumbled on the word patronymic (“a name derived from that of the father or a paternal ancestor usually by the addition of an affix”). When all was said and done, I finished quite respectably, placing 59th out of 200.

Fast-forward to today. The National Spelling Bee had received live coverage on ESPN since 1994, but this year, the final rounds of the competition are being televised on prime-time TV for the first time ever. And this comes as no surprise to me — Paige Kimble, the director of this year’s bee and the 1981 champion, has promoted the event as a grade-school bookworm edition of American Idol:

“I think we’re ready for prime time and I think America is ready for spelling bees in prime time, too. … We like to think of ourselves as the original reality television programming.”

My friend Larry, who knows that I had competed in the 1988 bee, sums up my feelings about the prime-time broadcast perfectly: “Be thankful there wasn’t television coverage for the spelling bee back then.” (Let’s just say that I didn’t look my best at the age of 13.)

[ No. 258 ]