Friday, February 3, 2012

Spanish Lotto Story

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

Just a few more days until Super Bowl XLVI (pronounced “xil-vee” almost like Sylvie) and I’m ready for a party even if nobody else shows. Hell, I may even strike up the grill in the backyard if the mood sets me right. Let’s see, what’s happened the past few days? Bubbles & I had a nice Italian dinner at Il Borgo, a really nice place for a first date… hence why she knew of the place after a bad first date… but liked the restaurant & wanted to enjoy it with a REAL man. The atmosphere was very nice, the food was pretty good though the raviolis were a little firm & the service was pretty good too. Bubbles made a comment afterwards that the waitress was really focusing on me whenever she said anything… and my response was “Of course she was… She assumed it was our first date or something & she knows where her tip is coming from… the one paying the bill 99% of the time in that restaurant.” Overall, a great dinner with great company… and we got to catch up a bit & talk about things.

Fun fact: The other week when I loaned Gretchen to Bubbles for the weekend, on the drive back from Tahoe she ran a toll booth so I got the ticket. She said of course that she would pay for it & just let her know how much when it comes in. Well, this is San Francisco with their ridiculous prices on parking tickets, registration, etc so I thought I’d play a little joke. The notice came in the mail… and I sent her a text “Jesus! $230 for a toll violation?” and that was it. I pictured her on the other end frantically asking the other guests in the jeep to chip in, worrying a bit about how she was going to pay that on such short notice, probably having a few drinks to help her think… so after a few hours, I sent “Sorry typo, it’s just $30.” Yes, I’m an a$$ from time to time. Well, she mentioned that that was exactly what she did for the few hours leading up to that. I apologized but she’s got a sense of humor… and she’s known me forever… so it’s always a little expected.

Wednesday night marked the first time in a LONG time that all four roommates were in the same room at the same time. Literally months since that happened… so we celebrated by ordering pizza, drinking a bottle of wine & watching the news (Daily Show & Colbert Report). Just thought that I’d share that with everybody. Here’s some real news…

RIP Don Cornelius – In one of the worst possible ways to start Black History Month, the great Don Cornelius, the silken-voiced host of TV's "Soul Train" who helped break down racial barriers and broaden the reach of black culture with funky music, groovy dance steps and cutting-edge style, died early Wednesday of an apparent suicide. He was 75 years young. Police responding to a report of a shooting found Cornelius at his Mulholland Drive home around 4 a.m. He was pronounced dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound about an hour later at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to the coroner's office. Police Officer Sara Faden said authorities have ruled out foul play. Detectives have not found a suicide note and are talking to relatives about his mental state. His death prompted many to speak of the positive influence he and his show had on pop culture, music and the black community. "God bless him for the solid good and wholesome foundation he provided for young adults worldwide and the unity and brotherhood he singlehandedly brought about with his most memorable creation of 'Soul Train,'" said Aretha Franklin, an early performer on the show. Franklin called Cornelius "an American treasure." The Rev. Jesse Jackson told KNX-Los Angeles that Cornelius "was a transformer." "'Soul Train' became the outlet for African-Americans," Jackson said, adding that he talked to Cornelius a few days ago and there were no signs Cornelius was upset. Others also expressed their grief. "I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius," Quincy Jones said. "Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business. Before MTV there was 'Soul Train,' that will be the great legacy of Don Cornelius. "His contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched," he said. "My heart goes out to Don's family and loved ones." Clarence Avant, former chairman of Motown Records, said, "Don Cornelius' legacy to music, especially black music, will be forever cemented in history. 'Soul Train' was the first and only television show to showcase and put a spotlight on black artists at a time when there were few African-Americans on television at all, and that was the great vision of Don." "Soul Train" began in 1970 in Chicago on WCIU-TV as a local program and aired nationally from 1971 to 2006. You read right, it didn’t STOP until 2006. It showcased such legendary artists as Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Barry White and brought the best R&B, soul and later hip-hop acts to TV and had teenagers dance to them. It was one of the first shows to showcase African-Americans prominently, although the dance group was racially mixed. Cornelius was the first host and executive producer. My sincere condolences to his family & friends.

Boxing Trainer Angelo Dundee Dies - The biggest fight in boxing history might not have been nearly so big were it not for the cunning and quick thinking of trainer Angelo Dundee. Long before Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier met for the first time in their iconic heavyweight title bout at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1971, Dundee saved Ali from a near-certain defeat in a fight against Henry Cooper. On June 18, 1963, when Ali still was known as Cassius Clay, Dundee noticed a tear in one of Clay’s gloves before the fight in London. Rather than say anything, Dundee filed away the information for future use. Clay was one win away from challenging Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title when Cooper decked him with a devastating hook near the end of the fourth round. Clay arose but was in bad shape and needed time to recover. That’s when Dundee, who died Wednesday in his Florida home at 90, used the information he had gleaned earlier. It was only after the fourth round, when a woozy Clay needed a longer break than the 60 seconds he’d get, that Dundee brought to the attention of referee Tommy Little the tear in Clay’s glove. Little immediately called time and ordered that Clay be given a new glove. The respite was all Clay needed to regain his bearings, and in the next round he stopped Cooper, continuing his march toward the heavyweight title and the ultimate showdown with Frazier. The bout with Frazier, which forever became known as “The Fight of the Century,” might still have occurred, but it wouldn’t have pitted two undefeated champions and thus would never have become as massive a sporting event as it did without Dundee’s quick thinking at the end of the fourth round of the Cooper fight in 1963. “As a trainer, Angelo was OK; he was good, but not great,” said promoter Bob Arum, a close friend of Dundee’s for five decades. “But as a cornerman, he was great. There was never anybody nearly as good as he was in the corner. He’d pick up things during the round, he communicated very well with his fighter in between rounds, and nobody, and I mean nobody, ever could motivate a fighter during a fight as well as Angie.” Dundee was instrumental in wins for many of the sport’s top stars, including Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman. In 1981, it was Dundee’s now-famous line, “You’re blowing it, son. You’re blowing it!” which helped motivate Leonard to rally and knock out Thomas Hearns in the 14th round of their mega-fight at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. In Leonard’s autobiography, “Sugar Ray Leonard: The Big Fight,” he credited Dundee’s exhortations for helping him to win the bout, writing: “The way Angelo said it was as important as what he said, with the perfect mixture of urgency, encouragement and affection. Angelo was no Knute Rockne, but, with the exception of the Dick Ecklund fight (see “The Fighter”), he knew precisely how to get through to me at the most pivotal moments, and no moment in the fight, or in my career, was more pivotal than this.” Dundee wrote about the same incident in his book, “My View from the Corner,” and though he said, “It wasn’t a battle cry that would wake the echoes,” he, too, believed his encouragement played a role in Leonard’s turnaround. “It didn’t take a brain surgeon to see that the moment had gotten away from us, that there were no more Sundays, no more tomorrows, and no title at the end of the road,” he wrote. “Something had to be done. Now, there are certain rules for trainers in corners: There’s no time for hand-wringing; and no time to get preachy. You’ve got to give your fighter stripped-to-the-bone advice, just as Manny Seamon had given Joe Louis in the second Jersey Joe Walcott fight when he told him simply, ‘You’ve got to knock him out,’ and Louis, heeding his advice, did.” In total, Dundee trained FIFTEEN World Champion boxers in his career including obviously some of the all-time greats. He was elected into the Boxing Hall of Fame long ago but his legacy will hopefully live on now that boxing has kind of hit a really sad time in the sport (seriously, I don’t know what’s going on with Mayweather-Pacquaio but if the biggest event POSSIBLE is to put two little dudes in a ring & let them duke it out… or dance around in a way that’ll never live up to all the hype… then that’s bad).

Such a horrible way to start off the month with news like that… and if I were in Pennsylvania, I’d keep an eye out on Puxatawny Phil tomorrow for Groundhog Day. You never know, he may have a heart attack seeing his shadow… and then what? Winter would never end? Kind of a reverse global warming? “Oh $teve, you crazy! That’d never happen.” Really? Then how do you explain this?

Manneken Pis Update - The Manneken-Pis, a bronze statue of a young boy urinating that is a symbol of Brussels and a major tourist attraction, has had to stop peeing because of sub-zero temperatures, Belgium's tourist office said on Wednesday. Officials turned off the flow of water through the statue, which has stood on a Brussels corner since the 1600s, out of concern the cold might damage its internal mechanism (bladder). Temperatures in the Belgian capital were set to fall to minus 10 Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) Wednesday night, far below the average minimum for February. "It all depends on the weather, if the temperatures go up again it will work again," a tourist office spokeswoman said. The statue, which is on the site of a 15th Century drinking fountain, has more than 800 specially made outfits which city officials use to dress it up during the year. It is one of Brussels' most popular attractions… because we are all weirdos. It makes perfect sense though… because if it’s too chilly outside to whip it out, even for a few moments to relieve one’s self… then it should be turned off… and I don’t anticipate too many people are going to be particularly offended if there’s not a lemon flavored piss-sicle off the statue in the heart of winter. I’m just always looking for an excuse to mention obscure things that people find fascinating for really no reason other than… it’s a statue of a boy pissing… that people dress up throughout the year. It’s not exactly as quirky as say… having your national symbol be a tower with a horrible foundation surrounded by pickpocket gypsy hordes like Italy & the leaning tower of Pisa. Don’t get too high & mighty America! Two of the great symbols of Freedom, Independence, Hope & most of all LIBERTY in our country… are a bell that we cracked, tried to fix & cracked again… and a gift statue of a lady in a toga that was made & designed in France… and they’ve got one just like it in Paris. Just a little food for thought…

Spanish Lotto Story – Back in December, the tiny Spanish village of Sodeto collectively won a major stake in the annual $950 million Spanish national lottery. Today, the village of farmers and construction workers is enjoying a minimum payout of $130,000 per resident. CHA-CHING!!! And yet for all of the new wealth making its way around Sodeto, one villager came away empty-handed (wah-waaaah…). Costis Mitsotakis, a Greek filmmaker who moved to the village for a woman (it’s always a woman’s fault), is the only resident of Sodeto who did not purchase a ticket. Mitsotakis says he is no longer with the woman and now lives in a barn he is restoring just outside the village. Mr. Mitsotakis said it would have been nice to win. But he has benefited nonetheless. He had been trying to sell some land without much success. The day after the lottery a neighbor called to say he would buy it. The next day another neighbor called. But Mr. Mitsotakis refused to get into a bidding war. "This is a small village," he said. "You don't want bad feelings." Spain's national lottery, known as "El Gordo" (the fat one), was first established in 1812 and operates somewhat differently than most American lotteries. For example, this year there were 1,800 first-prize winning tickets, each with the same winning number of 58268. Each winning ticket was awarded a cash-prize equaling $520,000. But since each ticket costs $26, Spain allows them to be divided into as many as six "participations." As for the other residents, they've found that with the newfound wealth comes distractions and fortune seekers. The village has reportedly been bombarded with sales representatives of all forms, each trying to cash in on the nearly $150 million infusion of wealth. More from the New York Times: “On a recent morning, the vendors just kept showing up: bankers in suits offering high interest rates, car salesmen talking up BMWs and furniture dealers going door to door. Like many other local farmers, José Manuel Penella Cambra, who had recently invested in more efficient irrigation techniques, worried about how he would meet his payments. But his wife bought two tickets, worth $260,000, and his son found two more she had bought earlier and had forgotten about, bringing the total to $520,000. "I kept saying: look for some more, look for some more," he joked in the village cafe, a shabby establishment with a few Formica tables and a ripped black leatherette sofa.” Of course, in a town where everyone is rich, who serves the wealthy? As Mayor Rosa Pons notes, "Some of the ladies talked about going to the hairdresser. But the hairdresser won, too. And she said, 'I'm not working today.' So that ended that." Ah the inconveniences of having too much money… what a shame it must be. How’s that for a nice little tale? Some hardworking farmers & construction workers finally get a nice chunk of change to hopefully set themselves for life & not have to worry about The Man taking their homes & livelihood. Kind of sad that the mere working hard doesn’t take care of that for everybody but… hey, that’s the Game.

What would you do with $130,000 that just popped up overnight? I’m curious, please leave me a little note.

By the way, let me ask y’all another quick question if I might. Well, you know, really a series of questions. Let’s say that you had a dream job as a kid. I’m sure it differs from firefighter to archeologist to princess to whatever… but let’s just say it’s a pretty average job like… an engineer. You’re good at math as a kid… like real good… and you REALLY enjoy doing it. You study hard, you do all kinds of extra projects, join the various school teams to compete against others that are also into engineering. You approach your senior year of high school… and you have an important decision to make about where to go for college. There are even places like MIT, Harvard, all the big names coming out and actively recruiting you based on your performance in the competitions & offering you scholarships and full access to their facilities to further your studies. Then again… there are also companies telling you that college would be a waste of time because you’ve already read all the books that they’re going to be teaching from & you’ve already got your own theses & experiments going & idea ready to go. Plus… they’re going to offer you a starting wage of $350,000 a year because they feel that you’re already in the top percentile of engineers. You’re working part time at a grocery store to get gas money to go to all your classes and have a little fun on the weekends… and within a month’s time, you’d be making six digits a year for something that you love to do… and they’re going to be teaching you along the way too, with their state of the art facilities. You’d take that mutha f**king job in a heartbeat, right?

No? You still want to go to a university for the “college experience” with your peers? By the way, the “college experience” regularly involves stuff like dropping out, barely making ends meet, unexpected pregnancy, STDs, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, sex addiction (if that’s a real thing), and then after four years… you can hope that you didn’t f**k things up along the way… but let’s say for the sake of the example, you didn’t succumb to any of that… you’ll get a similar offer for that six digit salary you passed on years earlier… or maybe something along the lines of $500,000 a year. Do you take it now? Of course you do, right? You’re in the real world.

Add this other twist four years earlier: Let’s say that instead of $350,000 a year right out of high school graduation… they offered you $1,000,000 a year. Would you take the job then? Of course you would. You’d be a Goddamn fool not to, right? How about if you had no say where you’d be working from other than it would be in one of their offices in the United States (and one in Canada)? Would you take the job then? Absolutely! Even Detroit has gated communities that would welcome you with open arms with an annual salary of seven digits. Okay… do you see the point that I’m getting around to? If not, let’s say instead of being an engineer… you play basketball… or football… or some other sport. Do you still think those teenage kids who jump straight from high school to the pros are foolish? Then perhaps you’re being a little foolish. Oh… and the $350,000 a year, I think that’s still the minimum salary for a 15th player on the bench in the NBA but that was a few years ago so it may be more… and the average salary isn’t $1 million, it’s more around $5-6 million per year… or basically over a hundred times what I make in a year & I’m doing pretty good, I think. The point is… Don’t hate the Playa, hate the Game.

Anyway, that’ll probably do it for tonight. Excited for the forthcoming Super Bowl Party!!! The game shouldn’t be too bad either, but we shall see. Kinda want both of them to lose… but I’d rather go for the Patriots than the Giants. Sorry Jersey!!! Have a great weekend!!!

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