Monday, December 31, 2007

Normally around now, I'd make a list of New Year's Resolutions, which would include not to procrastinate by blogging other lists, like this array of songs on my run mix, but since it's still 2007, what the hell...

Congratulations to Green to who got the most lyrics right. A CD is on its way to syncopate 2008. And Happy New Year, everyone.

1. "Know Your Rights" by The Clash. Love the guitar, the driving beat, and Joe Strummer yelling that if 3 rights is not enough... "Get off the streets!"
2. "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" by The Geto Boys. Everyone knew that one. Was it because that many people actually saw Office Space?
3. "Steady Rollin' Man" by Eric Clapton (originally written by Robert Johnson). All of 461 Ocean Boulevard is great. Clapton should quit a bad drug habit before every album.
4. "Going Back to Cali" by LL Cool J. Awesome East Coast rap about the West Coast.
5. "Taking it to the Streets" by The Doobie Brothers. This gets me going like Rerun before he got caught taping the concert in that episode of What's Happening!
6. "It Was a Good Day" by Ice Cube. Hard to believe this was the same guy who later starred in Are We Done Yet?
7. "Rocky Mountain Way" by Joe Walsh. Surprised nobody got this one. Maybe I should've included "Life's Been Good".
8. "Running Free" by Iron Maiden. Not surprised nobody got this one. I like earlier Maiden -- raw and more punk-influenced, though it didn't fully utilize "Eddie".
9. "You Be Illin'" by Run DMC. "But Homes, you did not read it was a can of dog food!"
10. "Motorbreath" by Metallica. Thrash metal gets me going, but a lot of it is too frantic to run to. This one -- a favorite when I was a kid -- is an exception.
11. "Top Jimmy" by Van Halen. Tickets for VH with Diamond Dave in Vegas this week were so expensive, and wasn't sure I could win back the price at the craps tables.
12. "Pretend We're Dead" by L7. I also like "Shitlist", and included it on the CD.
13. "99 Problems" by Jay-Z. Though I have the DJ Dangermouse version, mixing Jay-Z and The Beatles on The Grey Album.
14. "Eminence Front" by The Who. Some friends & I just performed "Won't Get Fooled Again" and we totally rocked... playing "Rock Band", of course.
15. "Renegades of Funk" by Rage Against the Machine. Song kicks ass. That is all.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

No more huffin' and puffin' when I'm runnin'. Now I'm singin' along to my new Nano. You can do the same -- here are lyrics to 15 songs on my workout playlist. See if you can name 'em. The first to get the most correct (honor system -- no Googlin') and I'll try to burn & send you a CD. I can't guarantee it, only 'cause I'm new to this technologicalistical stuff, but I promise to at least list the answers early next week, before 2008.

1. This is a public service announcement
With guitar!

2. And all I gotta say to you
Wannabe, gonnabe, cock-suckin', pussy-eatin' prankstas
'Cause when the fire dies down what the fuck you gonna do

3. I am the man that rolls when icicles are hanging on the tree.
Why can't you hear me begging, mama, woo-hoo Lord, down on my bended knee?

4. Her bikini -- small, heels -- tall
She said she liked the ocean
She showed me a beach, gave me a peach
And pulled out the suntan lotion

5. Take this message to my brother
You will find him everywhere

6. With the seven, seven-eleven, seven-eleven
Seven even back do' li'l Joe I picked up the cash flow
Then we played bones, and I'm yellin' domino.

7. Well he's tellin' us this,
And he's tellin' us that
Changes it every day
Says it doesn't matter
Bases are loaded and Casey's at bat
Playin' it play by play
Time to change the batter

8. Just sixteen, a pickup truck
Out of money, out of luck
I've got nowhere to call my own
Hit the gas and here I go

9. You finally wake up, Doc's gone to town
'Round his back, through the hoop, then you scream "Touchdown!"

10. Don't stop for nothing, it's full speed or nothing
I am taking down, you know, whatever's in my way

11. Some friends of mine, just the other night
Went to hear this cool cat blow
They said he sang so good that the roof fell in
And he didn't even stop the show

12. Turn the tables with our unity
They're neither bold nor majority
Wake up and smell the coffee
Or just say no to individuality

13. I got the rap patrol on the gat patrol
Foes that wanna make sure my casket's closed

14. The sun shines
And people forget
The spray flies as the speedboat glides
And people forget
Forget they're hiding

15. Say jam, sucka! (jam sucka!)
Say jam, sucka! (jam sucka!)
Say groove, sucka! (groove sucka!)
Now groove, sucka! (groove sucka!)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

MIKE & MERV: Part 4

And now for the exciting conclusion of Make Mine Mike meets "Merv Griffin's Crosswords". Will I end up groovin' and gropin' the green from Griffin or will Merv serve me a curve and make me lose my nerve? To find out, watch the video below.

0:11 Some consolation prize, huh? One step above Turtle Wax. Contestants don’t receive any proceeds ‘til 120 days after the show airs. So I wouldn’t be able to cash in, take trips, get the watch, whatever, for a while. But I bet there’ll be a bunch of Crossword watches selling on eBay next year…

0:37 Now that Ty summed up the situation, lemme add this: During the break, Erin, the remaining spoiler kindly commented on how well I was doing. I told her that before I left this morning, my girlfriend told me she didn’t care if I won any money, just win some trips. And even though we had already been to Palm Springs and Vegas together, it would be great to go back, this time on Merv Griffin’s dime. And at that moment, my only competition was Erin. If she buzzed in and was right, she’d take my podium, and if she was wrong, she’d let the other spoilers get a chance. But as Erin said, I worked so hard at accumulating the money and trips… so why would she want to ruin that…?

0:42: In the final round, all the answers presented during the game were filled in on the puzzle, whether or not contestants got them right. Leaving the final player with about 20 clues to solve. It woulda been nice to see the whole puzzle during the earlier rounds though…

1:10: LEANTO, DANTE -- common crossword clues. But c’mon, you’re impressed, aintcha?

1:26: Totally embarrassed that I knew that. It’s ‘cause AIKEN has lots of vowels and is in puzzles a lot, not that I watched that stupid show. I swear. I’m guessing the weird spelling of “Jordin Sparks” and “Sanjaya” may make them crossword-friendly in the near future. Not that I know who they are.

1:55: I thought Nancy’s and Erin’s answers were perfectly good, better than the right one, in fact. Doesn’t mean I don’t hate Erin for bringing the other spoilers back.

3:05: NANA, RELY – I know my songs, as long as they’re not an ARIA.

3:40: This was ridiculous. Polly wants a CRACKER. Who says Polly wants a SALTINE?! And since this clue isn’t even part of the main puzzle, there’s no intersecting words to govern this obscure answer. Even the spoilers are shocked. And it friggin’ cost me $850.

3:53: Just like the way a hot dog PANTS, the answer came to me a split-second too late. I had to hope that neither of the spoilers thought of the answer, ASH…

4:06: Dammit.

4:15: It’s okay, it’s okay. I can just steal the podium back from Erin.

4:22: Now that I’m a spoiler, even if I ring in first, I don’t get to answer first. Dammit. It’s okay, it’s okay. I’ll steal on the next clue…

4:33: Dammit!

I wuz robbed. Even Erin admitted it. In Segment 4 she fails to complete the puzzle. I think I coulda done better, but I don’t know if I would’ve finished it either, so I wouldn’t have won the measly extra two grand… but that trip to Antigua woulda been nice. I’ve been there before many times, too, but a trip won is better than a trip paid for…

…or earned. I hope Erin’s remembering that when she’s in Vegas and Indian Wells.

But I’m not bitter. I’ve also included Segment 5 -- just all the contestants standing at the end staring at the puzzle and chatting. You can see I’m a lot more relaxed. I couldn’t blame Erin for playing the game and I was just relieved it was all over.

I got an update e-mail from the production company saying that we’d get our swag eventually, that we’d be notified if they re-ran our episode, blah blah blah… Then they mentioned that if the show comes back next season, they might do themed episodes with returning players… including one for people who lost their podium at the last second.

So who knows? Make Mine Mike may be back for more…

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

MIKE & MERV: Part 3

Had a great time last night at Bar Lubitsch for an LA Blogger bash. Adelphia & I met up with Nina and Will and other cool new people -- Annika, Leyla, Louis, Rachel and TC -- but one too many Gingerbread martinis keeps me from remembering all the details.

Besides, what does this have to do with my game show performance? Here's the next segment of "Merv Griffin's Crosswords", with my commentary below:

0:05: In case you were wondering, there was no studio audience. Any applause or laughter is completely canned in. Amazingly, most of it was done on the spot, so we contestants heard reactions instantaneously, allowing us to believe we were humiliating ourselves in real time.

0:32: Now the host Ty Treadway has explained the spoilers. Among all my opponents, I pegged Bill as the biggest threat. Earlier, when we contestants were waiting and watching others play via closed circuit, we'd shout out answers as we knew ‘em. Bill seemed to know the most, including the more obscure clues. I admired and dreaded that guy. But sitting on a couch playing along is different than being under the lights and under the gun. I was hoping that crosswords savant would fall victim to performance anxiety.

1:05: As Ty said, I was playing defense here. Wasn’t 100% on the answer, but when I heard a spoiler ring in, I figured I better do so too and take a chance, since the people at the podium get to answer first. I’m a born & BRED strategist, I tells ya.

1:36: Yes, I’m playing defense again here. No, I’ve never watched “Everyone Loves Raymond”. And yes, I realize my answer was completely stupid. Dumb luck here. By the way, I hate the word “hubby”. Even in this puzzle-solving hobby, "hubby" gives me the heebee-jeebies.

2:19: This is one of the big flaws of this show. In a puzzle, you’d get to see the cross clues -- the words that intersect. So you’d have some idea of what would fit. But without ‘em, there could be several perfectly good answers. My AROMATIC, Bill’s REDOLENT and the puzzle’s FRAGRANT all were good 8-letter words for pleasant-smelling. ODIFEROUS or “Odoriferofarious” or however Nancy tried to spell it, is not.

2:34: This was from watching too many episodes of “On the Lot” which was sponsored not-so-subtly by FORD.

2:57: Alaska has cities like Kodiak, Ketchikan, Kenai… I mixed Kirkuk up with ‘em. So I hesitated, not knowing if the correct -- and politically correct Eskimo term -- was ALEUT or INUIT, but I was way off…

3:19: I like to nod knowingly, as if to say, “ahhh, of course!” I’m usually thinking, “who comes up with this shit? Sure as hell ain’t Will Shortz.”

3:50: Erin kept the game interesting by answering wrong and reactivating the other spoilers. Nice lady. How I hated her.

4:25: I thought of the answer -- a hot dog PANTS -- but too late. I had to hope the spoiler didn’t figure it out...

4:35: ...but she blanked out. I lucked out.

4:56: My look was goofy, but the sentiment was genuine. I love Vegas.

5:32: Again, defense. I wasn’t gonna let Bill take my trips to Indian Wells & Vegas.

5:57: Lucky again. I didn’t know it, and worried Bill did. Truly was EERIE.

6:13: Everyone later said my IDEA was clever, but what can you do? Say HALO -- and goodbye -- to my leetle friend, $200.

7:01: Do enough crossword puzzles, and words like INLAND become second nature. But will that any of that help if I choke like I’m on a NOOSE...?

Stay tuned for Part 4...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

MIKE & MERV: Part 2

Game day. We spent all morning and afternoon in a sealed-off room of the studio waiting to tape “Merv Griffin’s Crosswords”. You know how I feel about waiting. After technical difficulties, they fell behind schedule and they couldn’t even guarantee that all of us were going to get on the show. I took off work hoping to win big bucks and instead it was costing me a day’s pay. Too bad he was illin’, 'cause I would’ve giffen Merv Griffin's face a biffin' and who cares iffin I was forgiffin.

Still, one benefit of going later was that we waiting contestants got to see others’ episodes being taped via closed circuit. It became clear that there was a lot of luck involved. And you couldn’t win that much money anyway. Still, I was determined to emerge victorious. If I ever got to play.

So when they finally brought me down for my chance, I had my game face on. Which isn’t entirely TV-friendly, I know. TV shows just want their cast to have fun and loosen up, but I was focused. Plus I was friggin’ freezin’. Friggin’ AC refrigeratin’ the lights & camera. So when it was time for action for Merv Griffin I seemed to stiffen, but I was driven. Now it’s time to be relivin’…

Here's the first segment, with my commentary below…

0:07: I cut my last name out for the sake of anonymity on this blog. Though probably anyone reading this knows plenty about me. Like where I live, and that saying I’m “from New York” is more interesting for a Hollywood show than giving a shout out to Santa Monica. And that I don’t always give such a forced dorky smile. Usually I just glower.

0:18: I never heard of Ty Treadway before this show. I think he was some soap opera guy. And I don’t know if that’s his real name, but it sounds cool. Maybe I shouldn’t have cut out my full, real name: Michael Motorcross.

0:30: Okay, this is the only bit of friendly banter we had to endure. Since I talked about the marathon during my interview, for my TV soundbite I said I was training again. I have been running a lot, and am about 20 lbs. thinner than when this was taped, but I don’t think I’ll do this year’s LA Marathon. Also, I meant to say “…but I find it gives me good stamina…” or “helps build stamina” or “I’m better at putting words in puzzles than actually saying them aloud”.

1:23: First question. I knew the answer, but I was just getting warmed up.

1:52: I thought I’d had heard angry people exclaim, “Jesus wept!” but maybe not. Notice Ty mentioned it was from the New Testament. Notice I pointed out that my answer rhymed with the correct one. VERSE, CURSE… for a hundred buck purse, this rhyming Jew coulda had it worse.

2:07: Starting to get warmed up, though I nearly tripped up on the spelling.

2:20: Since Nancy beat me to the buzzer on this one, let me take a moment to comment on the dollar-worth of these clues. $50, $100… in the next round, they’re doubled, but we’re still talking chump change compared to most other game shows. And I’m not even talking those million-dollar primetime things hosted by schticky ‘80s comedians. Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak wouldn’t stiff you like this…

2:42: Now I’m starting to get on a roll. I may be showing genuine crossword puzzle knowledge, but my reactions to the Getaway ads are pretty forced. The deal with these prizes is that they’re all within 10 hours driving time of LA. Some of the destinations seemed kinda lame (e.g., Pismo Beach), but Indian Wells is near Palm Springs. And a few days there wouldn’t be too bad…

3:20: Gulp. I’m not worried about gambling money for the Extra question. But I was thinking in terms of words and now I gotta think in terms of numbers. Plus the dollar amounts were to the right, and the host was to the left and I didn’t want my whopping $200 to go down the drain…

3:48: INANER. Good crossword puzzle word.

4:20: Here’s the deal with the spoilers: Three people stand behind the first two players. If any of ‘em buzz in and get the answer right (and the first two players fail to buzz in or get the answer wrong) they switch places and the spoiler steals their podium – cash and prizes and all. In some episodes, a spoiler stole the podium at the last second and made it to the final round. In others, the spoilers switched back and forth several times. Would I hold my spot? Or lose it and BOOMERANG back later? The pressure was on.

Stay tuned for Part 3...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

MIKE & MERV: Part 1

Crosswords have always been in my family. My parents were puzzle-solvers for as long as I can remember, and often argued over who’d get to do the New York Times grid. Even when they photocopied the paper, they’d still bicker over the answers or who solved it faster. So ever since I was a kid, I came to enjoy word games and eventually joined the daily task of having cross words about crosswords.

I let my subscription to the paper lapse and my skills atrophied, but when I dated Adelphia, we’d work the Sunday Times puzzle together and I started remembering all those common grid-friendly words, like EPEE, AERIE, AGOG and people like UTA HAGEN, EERO SAARNINEN, UDO KIER.

So when she suggested I audition for a Merv Griffin's new game show involving crossword puzzles, I figured what the hell. I could use the money and was willing to play a TV game that required some brains, but if it meant smarter-than-a-5th–grader schtickiness, the deal was no deal. Besides, a friend of mine had won over fifty grand on TV once. It was back during the post-Who-Wants-To-Be-a-Millionaire glut of game shows, and now that this second wave of easy money was hitting, why couldn’t I cash in?

Thing is, I had tried out for some of these games during the last craze. And I never got picked to play. I always passed the written test, a basic quiz to make sure you had some smarts, perhaps to weed out weak-minded weirdos from going wacko on the airways. It was the personal interview that I flunked. And that was what worried me about trying out again.

When I went over to the studio in Hollywood, the first thing that struck me about my fellow auditioners was how different they were than the people at my job. I work on a TV show where they’re all young, hip, stylish… and shallow and selfish. This TV show attracted people who are older, nerdy professionals… and though often socially awkward, they were among the nicest individuals I’ve met in LA. Everyone was cordial and encouraging about our difficult written exam. (I was kicking myself that I put down the wrong five-letter word for the capital of Senegal. DHAKA is the capital of Bangladesh. The right answer was DAKAR, dammit.) But I passed. Only a third of us got to stay.

The next part of the day was the worst -- sitting through everybody else’s personal interview. I was the last person to go. I hate waiting, and as friendly as these folks were, listening to a lot of 'em talk about themselves was excruciating. How they won a fortune years ago on Jeopardy and spent the money playing online fantasy games like Elfquest or Warcraft or some shit…

I had to remind myself that this impatience is probably what did me in last time. So when I finally got to meet with the producers, I did my best to seem upbeat and friendly. Be accessible without droning on or freaking anyone out (unlike the guy who went into serious detail about his recent release from a psychiatric ward and that to do the game show, he’d have to get the okay from his court-appointed therapist.). I told them a concise story about running the LA Marathon and just missing my goal time by 10 seconds, figuring it might be refreshing to have a contestant who does something physical, or at least gets out of the house once in a while.

But who am I to talk? I spent the next month doing every puzzle I could get my hands on, and checking my answers with crossword blogger Rex Parker. I had to. I was in training. The show called and set up a date for me to be on their game show. "Merv Griffin’s Crosswords" wanted me…

Stay tuned for Part 2...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

At 7:30AM this morning I ran a 10K (that’s 6.2 miles) in 44 minutes, beating my personal best by over 2 minutes. In fact, I ran this same race 4 years ago, but today I knocked off 30 seconds per mile. Next, I wanna break a 7 minute pace for that distance, or do a sub-8 half marathon (13.1 miles).

What do all these numbers mean? I ain’t getting older. Just faster.

Plus my fiancé Adelphia got me an Ipod Nano for Hanukkah so I can spur myself on with inspiring music while I run like the wind.

But now I’m exhausted. I’m going back to bed.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hanukkah starts Tuesday night, so we don’t have to wait all of December. And we get eight crazy nights, not to mention Adam Sandler’s Who’s Jew list and Kenny Ellis bebopping Twas the Night Before Hanukkah. So who needs one eve of Xmas gift-giving and an eternity of Der Bingle’s crooning?

Don’t get me wrong. I love Yuletime traditions. Mistletoe as nature’s mandatory make-out session. Eggnog spiked with napalm. Tiny Tim finding Zuzu’s petals after shooting the Heat Miser with an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

So it surprises me when people wonder if I get jealous of Christmas rituals, such as tree-trimming or decorating the house with lights and Inflatable Snowmen. No can do, Cindy Lou Who. I’d rather gaze at the goyim’s garishness than feel obliged to embellish my own area. I’ve heard the pagan case for a fir in my flat, but a Hanukkah Bush sounds too much like Dubya demanding Ari Fleischer debriefing him on dreidels.

And even though we now have a chimney doesn’t mean I’m inviting St. Nick to stop by. I didn’t spend all weekend splitting wood to burn in our fireplace to let some fat bastard commit B&E and steal my milk and Mallomars.

But I gotta admit, my newest obsession is the Advent Calendar. I like their cute compartments containing a little candy to count down ‘til Christmas. It’s kinda like my grandma’s month-long pillbox, but instead of keeping track of arthritis medication and psoriasis pills, each day you get a dose of dark chocolate. Brilliant. They should tie these into Halloween -- any leftover Trick or Treat treats can be siphoned out to savor the rest of the year. Of course, I’d be more like Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa and scarf the whole thing down on day one…

…if I had an Advent Calendar. But it’s too Christmassy. When my fiancé saw me eyeballing them in stores, she offered to get me one, but I declined. If I start a confection celebration for 25 days, next thing you know I’m stuffing stockings instead of stuffing my face with latkes, going to Midnight Mass instead of lighting the menorah and before you can say "Kathy Lee Gifford" my foreskin grows back.

But when Adelphia bought me these (click here for a bigger view), I couldn’t resist. I don't gotta feel guilty about going goyisha if I get eight days of gelt, right?

Happy Holidays.

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