Sunday, July 31, 2005

My Weekend on the Couch

This weekend, I committed myself to a horizontal position on the couch. If felt adventuresome, I would get up and move to the bedroom. I had morning and mid afternoon naps that were interrupted by other naps. My wife referred to me as an "apiring invalid."

Despite my comatose state, I was able to take in some television viewing. Some thoughts:

I know infomercials are low hanging fruit, but there are certain individuals that clearly should be in prison for the content of their ads.

Most notably this guy, who claims to be a former homeless person who has the stock market completely figured out. His scam is "trend trading," which is a formula he has devised to tell investors when to get in and out of the market. He acts as if "short selling" was his idea alone. This trading practice is extremely risky, and involves actually making money on stocks when their value goes down. But in the case of normal stocks, all you can lose is the money you have invested. With short selling, you can lose an infinite amount of cash if the stock rises and rises.

So you're telling me thousands of high priced Wall Street advisors haven't figured out this scam but this New York dirtball has? Wouldn't your Schwab advisor just order his system and pass it on to you if it actually worked?

This is something I have thought about with Matthew Lesko (another member of the "should be in prison" infomercial crowd.) You've seen him - he runs around Washington D.C. in a green suit with imprinted question marks like a crackhead on meth and promises to find government programs to just give money away to everyone. My first action as a Congressman would be to order this idiot's book and eliminate every program he promotes ($350 billion by his count).

Anyway, back to Michael J. Parness, the dirtbag behind "Trend Trading." His infomercial features Lisa Guerrero - it's a long way down from "Monday Night Football," isn't it, honey? His website features this classic line:

Michael, 40, after returning to school, finally graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hunter College in New York City, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in English. He lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side where he continues to rule the freakin' markets every day!

Please, give this man your money.

Informercial #2 pushed the incredible "Velform Sauna Belt." For those of you who haven't seen this, it is a belt that you put on, plug in, and sit on your ass for an hour. It gets really hot, and makes you sweat. They promise that you will lose an inch or two in an hour. I thought it was suspect that the only website I found for it is based in the U.K.

Of course, the models they have demostrating the Sauna Belt need to lose weight as much as I need a third nostril. They show a computer graphic of a 300 pound woman watching the pounds melt off after she straps on the belt - within an hour, she's a supermodel! Of course, it displays all the hallmarks of a terrible infomercial - the unsettlingly happy hosts, the promise that it is "portable," the people doing sit-ups that look like they are receiving a simultaneous colonoscopy, etc.

Before I get off this topic, I have to mention my all-time favorite, the "Body Blade." The body blade is essentially a stick that you wave back and forth to get fit (see website for a demonstration). It is positively the biggest scam ever to grace a TV screen.

I then flipped over to the Women's British Open golf tournament. It's funny that for the men's tournament, it's wall to wall coverage the whole weekend. For the women's, they televise about an hour of it on tape-delay. The announcers are the fourth string team over there at ABC - apparently Cookie Monster and Captain Crunch were unavailable to provide commentary.

For those people who have caught Michelle Wie Fever (accompanied by a rash), they are looking in the wrong place. Paula Creamer, only 18, has already won on tour twice this year, while Wie hasn't won anything except a praying mantis look-alike contest. I also have to admit that Creamer wouldn't have caught my attention if she wasn't a little cutie, which almost makes womens' golf watchable. Get an eyeful now before she gets that trademark LPGA leathery sheen and mustache look (guaranteed to look like M.T. Promises from "The Great Space Coaster"by age 23).

Women's golf has a special challenge to gain American viewers, due in large part to the influx of Asian talent to the game. You can't deny their talent and skill, but you wonder if American audiences are going to embrace a Top 10 leaderboard full of South Koreans every week ("Birdie" Kim had to change her name because she was one of SIX "Kims" on the LPGA Tour). This, however, is a gold mine for my buddy who used to get "Orientails" magazine discreetly shipped to his apartment in a brown paper bag. He ended up marrying a woman that looked more like Secretariat than Lucy Liu.

I also had the misfortune of catching the movie "Mr. 3000" last night. The movie, as you may remember, features Bernie Mac as a former Milwaukee Brewer who, nine years after he retires, has to come back to get three more hits to reach 3000 for his career.

Aside from the ridiculous premise of the Brewers being competitive as recently as 1995, Bernie Mac has one of the most preposterously horrible swings in the history of movies. Only John Goodman's swing while playing Babe Ruth could have been worse, and he has an excuse because he's not left-handed (Ruth obviously was). Of course, watching Tom Cruise play catch with his son in "War of the Worlds" almost made my eyes bleed it was so awkward.

Mac's character, Stan Ross, is a despicable, self-absorbed character from beginning to end, despite us being forced to believe he learned some sort of lesson after the climactic final scene. I'm no Mensa candidate, but let's just say"Titanic" was less predictable than this movie (spoiler alert: the ship sinks).

I know through the plot line, we're supposed to see what a nice guy Ross is on the inside, blah blah blah. But think about this if you were a Milwaukee sports fan observing this from the outside: A 47 year old player comes back to play for the Brewers after retiring in the middle of a pennant race nine years earlier after he thought he got his 3,000th hit. He then goes 2 for 70 (or whatever it ends up being, including 0-for-32 to start) in his selfish push to get his personal milestone. The entire time, he behaves like a petulant, self-absorbed jackass, flying all over the country (?) during the season to promote himself. I, as any fan, would be killing this guy on talk radio the whole season. But for some reason, the fans in the movie are 100% behind the move. Just ridiculous.

As you can already predict, the movie comes down to the final at-bat (spoiler ahead). Of course, there's a man on 2nd base in the final at bat of the final game for Ross, and he chooses to put the team before himself and bunts the guy home for the win, sacrificing his chance at his 3,000th hit.

Let's think about this - you have the count 3-0 with a man on second, and you're batting .032, or whatever it was. There is absolutlely no chance you're swinging (or bunting) on the fourth pitch. The truly unselfish thing would have been to take the walk. But instead, he does the thing that gets himself the most attention and accolades. And how often do you see a runner score from second base on a bunt, anyway, especially with the game on the line?

I know, details, details. It was nice to see Milwaukee get some decent publicity.

A final note: If someone just gave Phil Hellmuth his own TV station, I would watch it more than any other channel. I mean, seriously - we can't cancel Oxygen or WE or any of that other garbage to just watch Phil walk around and go nuclear on people? This would be top-notch entertainment, and when it happens, I expect royalties.