Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Right Royal Fuss

Everyone likes flattery; and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on with a trowel. ~Benjamin Disraeli

I must begin by confessing that the fact that another member of the British Royal Family is getting married is of no particular import to me. In fact, if I had been asked, I wouldn't be able to tell you a) which royal was getting married, and b)whom he/she was marrying. However, my attention has been captured by one Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden. As reported in The Register, Rev. Broadbent has no use whatsoever for royal marriages or, for that matter, royals in general.

He refers to the whole affair as "nauseating tosh", which doesn't sound good. He criticizes the entire royalty concept, announcing that he is a "Repbulican." This is not a declaration of which political party he belongs to; he favors a republican form of government, not a monarchy.

He offers various other comments, but the one that probably got him into more trouble than any other was a beaut. Quoth the Rt Rev Broadbent: "I managed to avoid the last disaster in slow motion between Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll, and I hope to avoid this one, too."

Is Rush Limbaugh looking for writers?: I think this gentleman has possibilities.

Of course, the Right Reverend made this pronouncement on his Facebook page, ironically only a day or two after it was announced that the Royal Family now had a Facebook page. Presumably, the Windsors and Rev. Broadbent aren't friending one another (or whatever it is Facebook people do; I don't go there, so I wouldn't know for sure).

Well, needless to say, there was consternation galore, particularly in the Church of England. Rev. Broadbent's superior, the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres was especially annoyed. By the way, are there any Left Reverends?

Sorry about that. Anyway, Rev. Broadbent prostrated himself before the press, apologizing profusely. Rev Chartres was not sufficiently mollified and suspended Rev. Broadbent immediately. Perhaps the Bishop of London's morification was somewhat intensified by the fact that he is in line to preside over the nuptials.

The irony is that the Royals have the target of the British tabloid press for years. Old Big Ears has been targeted on many occasions thanks to the fiasco that was his first marriage and his subsequent second marriage, which I presume is the Porcelain Doll reference. I should note the Porcelain Doll is probably his first wife, since, as I recall, Charles' second wedding was a low key affair. Also, I would assume that his current wife would have earned a sobriquet of Horse Face.

Okay, that was nasty, but the whole thing is ridiculous.

The Royal Family is the most blatant example of rich people welfare left in the world. They cost the taxpayers a pile of money and tend to be an embarrassment to the country as a whole. Sure, the Queen has managed to retain a certain dignity despite her family's behavior, and I'm sure she is still well-regarded. She does, after all, harken back to a more elegant time, when the sun never set on the Empire.

Well, the sun has set, and it's time to move on.

On one score, Rev. Broadbent should be very glad it's the twenty-first century and the Windsor family in charge and not, say, the Tudors. Had he published statements like these during the reign of Elizabeth I, he wouldn't have had time to apologize. He'd be in the Tower of London. The only "suspension" he'd get would be to be dangling from chains in a very cold cell.

Then there's that whole chopping block thing that would be waiting for him. Doing in members of the clergy was not an unusual act back then.

On the other hand, without Facebook, perhaps he'd have been smart enough to keep his opinions to himself.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is It All About Game 7?

Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character. ~T. Alan Armstrong
 
By now, it's fairly obvious that NASCAR is broken. Ratings are down, and "The Chase" ain't helping. Perhaps it's because real racing fans are tired of the poor races; I can't judge because the racing got bad enough three years ago that I stopped watching NASCAR racing. Perhaps fans are tired of seeing Jimmy Johnson win, especially in a year when he obviously didn't give a crap whether he did or not. Perhaps the fans are tired of the machinations that seemed to go on to make that win possible: Taking points away from Clint Bowyer after race 1 of the Chase; a convenient speeding penalty to Kevin Harvick in the last one.

Aren't "Hendrick cautions" sufficient any longer?

At any rate, Brian France has decided that changes need to be made in the Chase format, despite having arguably the most exciting Chase since they started the thing. And, stranger still, he made this announcement before the final race. Clearly, he felt the idea had to be floated fast, presumably because ratings were sinking into the sunset (along with attendance).

I mean look at the picture in the linked article. Does this look like a man whose sport is having it's most exciting finish in years? Or does it look like one who is hearing very negative vibes from the sponsors and television people because so few people are watching that exciting finish, a man who has to do something quickly before said sponsors and TV people take their money and go elsewhere?

But what really attracted my attention was the comment that, in July, France made a statement to the effect that NASCAR was looking at ways to "create a game 7 environment." The reason that the statement jumped out at me was an almost identical statement from Mike Greenberg of Mike and Mike in the Morning. During the MLB playoffs, he offered that game 7's were great and sports needed more of them.

Evidently, according to Greenberg and France, the only time competition for a championship is interesting is when it's do-or-die time. A series is all well and good, but unless it's game 7, it just doesn't have the cachet, the intensity, the drama of a true championship.

Seems to me that when a team is down 3-0, 3-1, or 3-2, there's a game 7 element to every game left in the playoff. According to Greenberg, though, it wasn't dramatic enough. Sports need more game 7's.

What Greenberg and, for that matter, France really mean is that television needs more game 7's. After all, television is paying Greenberg's salary and for France's follies. All that counts is television ratings.

Evidently, Bud Selig agrees. He wants to expand the playoffs. Why? Forget the public statements. There are two reasons: More teams get to make money in a playoff series, and more game 7's.

Now, if you ask NBA and NHL fans what they don't like about their respective sports, one thing both will say is that there are too many teams in the playoffs. The NFL is pretty close to this level, if they haven't reached it already. The funny thing is that one theory that the "everyone gets in" proponents have always pushed is that it makes the late season more exciting. This is funny because as the seasons come to a close, most fans could hardly care less about a couple of .500 teams duking it out for the final playoff spot.

It's always a hoot hearing the sports commentators trying to say how the last games of the NFL season are so important to the playoff possibilities, only to realize that things are pretty much set except for one wild-card team. Frankly, it's more interesting to see which teams will tank on purpose (in all sports save baseball) to try to get the number one draft pick.

Also, let's be honest. Not all elimination games are exciting, drama-filled, nail-biting events. I've seen some game 7's that were pure stinkers. And let's not even talk about the number of utterly forgettable Super Bowls that have limped by over the years.


What gets lost in all of this is what being a champion is all about.

It's about consistency. That doesn't mean being in first place all year. It means getting the job well enough during a season to be in the fight at the end.

It's about winning when it counts. The best team on paper isn't the champion until they prove it on the field. As Chris Berman says (channeling John Facenda), "That why they play the games."

It's about great team efforts and great individual efforts all coming together at the right time. It's about winning game 3 because you're down 2-0. It's about playing hurt. It's about pulling together everything you learned about yourself and your team through a long season to overcome all comers.

In some sports, particularly racing, it's about consistency over the long haul. A series race champion is one that got the job done race after race, not necessarily by winning but by running well more often than anyone else. Sure, it's fun to see the series championship come down to the last race, but it is just as rewarding to a real fan to see a superlative season-long performance.

A championship is about getting there, not just winning that last game.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"She Doesn't Complain."

A hospital is no place to be sick. ~ Samuel Goldwyn

The Wife had to have an out-patient "procedure" the other way, which is doctor-speak for cutting someone open, sticking her back together, and then sending her home. Fortunately, everything went quite well, and things are nearly back to normal around here.

Normally, the big concerns about surgery are complications and infection. In our case, it was getting The Wife past The Dog. As I've mentioned before, we have four dogs: Emily, Tiny, Rosie, and the camera-shy Stinky. All of them are bonded to The Wife, but Tiny is attached body and soul. The Wife can't leave the room without Tiny following her. Should The Wife go somewhere Tiny can't follow, Tiny will come to me and give me the "She's left me!" look. It's similar to the look in the picture at the right side of the blog, except more pitiful.

By the way, Tiny was a puppy then. She's 90 pounds of pure, unconditional love now. So there was concern that we might have trouble getting The Wife into the house without getting serious injuries when Tiny reacted to her return.

Fortunately, The Son is 6 foot 3 inches and, while miserably out of shape, capable of holding a death grip on the dog until we could clear her. Tiny strained but mostly gave us this miserable look that said, "What did I do? I just want to say hello ... and tackle her so she can't go away again!"

Anyway, we survived that, but it took my psyche a while to recover from an incident at the hospital.

I'm sure you're familiar with the drill at out-patient surgery. The patient is taken to be prepped, concerned relatives sit in a waiting room with a television showing utterly boring programs, and eventually, a nurse comes in and calls the patient's name to let you know the ordeal is over.

(If a doctor comes in and calls the patient's name, this is usually not good. It means that something got a lot more complicated. Always pray for a nurse.)

So the nurse comes in, and says, "Gog?" I jumped up and met her at a table where she had some forms and stuff. But, instead of the usual platitudes about how well things went, she said, "Your wife doesn't complain."

Now, to me, that would appear to be a good thing, but there was something very disturbing about her tone. It was flat and yet sort of surprised. So I said, "Well, that's good."

"Yes, but she doesn't complain." Same weird tone. Sort of like a Steven King character, or like Big Lenny saying, "He doesn't move anymore."

So, I tired a little levity. "Heh, heh. We are talking about Mrs. Gog, aren't we?"

"Yes,,,she doesn't complain ..."

Okay, this isn't fun anymore. I asked in all seriousness, "Is she ALIVE?"

"Oh, yes, but she just doesn't complain."

By this time, I just wanted to get through the damnable forms and get The Wife away from this crazy person, so I pointed to the forms and stuff. I didn't hear a word she said about the forms, signing anything she wanted signed. For all I know, I may have bought a condo in Death Valley, but I wanted out of there.

She finally brought The Wife out, who seemed to be in reasonable shape. She was able to communicate, at least as well as someone who's on a gallon of painkillers can communicate. When I mentioned the nurse's statements to her, she just shrugged.

The next day, when the drugs had worn off, I asked her about it again. She agreed it was strange. "Look. I was awake, lying on a comfortable bed, and drugged out of my mind. What would I complain about?"

I don't know. Maybe us 60-year-olds are made of sterner stuff. Maybe the younger patients scream bloody murder getting a wart removed. But, even if not complaining is unusual, it shouldn't cause the spooky sort of tone that nurse used when she said, "She doesn't complain."

I'm still seeing her in my nightmares. Except now, she's looking down at me and holding a really big needle. You know what she says?

"You won't complain, will you?"

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Just Move Along

Eminence without humility: This is death indeed of all our hope. ~ Lao Tzu

I grew up in Northeastern Ohio, mostly in a little town called Geneva, about 50 miles east of Cleveland. I went to college in Cleveland. I lived in Cleveland, Geneva, and Ashtabula (10 miles east of Geneva) until 1980. I am now 61. Do the math: it means I lived there a long time.

I was in high school the last time a Cleveland sports team won a championship. That was in 1964 when the original Cleveland Browns knocked off the Baltimore Colts 27-0.

Even though I left a long time ago, I still rooted for the old teams. Well, until Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore (to replace the team moved in the middle of the night to Indianapolis by the Irsays). I tried rooting for the new Browns, but frankly the team is so badly run that it isn't much fun. As for the thugs in Baltimore, well, the less said the better.

But I still hang in there for the Indians (I don't know why, but I do). And I followed the Cavaliers because I was there with them in the days of Bill Fitch, the shrunken head, the wrong-way basket, and the losing..

My point is that when it comes to angst about Cleveland sports, I got cred.

So, just like current Clevelanders, I think LeBron James is the biggest jerk in the history of sports, which is really saying something in a world that has brought us A-Rod, Chad Eight Five, Beckham, Favre, and a host of other self-centered athletes who are juiced, stoned, or otherwise destroying themselves.

Therefore, I would like to offer a message to my fellow suffers in Cleveland in this, their time of sorrow:



Get over it.

That's right. Forget him. Your city, like most cities, has real problems. Instead of wailing over a multi-millionaire who appeared to have tanked it in the playoffs, get on with real life and make Cleveland a better place to live. Sports is for escape, not losing sleep (unless it's to stay up to watch a West Coast game). I mean LeBron made it clear Cleveland didn't mean much to him the first time he showed up wearing a Yankees cap at an Indians playoff game.

Look: Superstars leave teams every year. I mean the Indians traded not one, but two Cy Young winners (CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee) in consecutive seasons because they (and everyone else in Cleveland) knew they team couldn't re-sign them. I don't recall hearing all this anguish then.

It is universally agreed that LeBron's egomaniacal display, aided and abetted by ESPN, of having a 60 minute television show to announce that he was spitting in Cleveland's collective face was classless. Either James is a complete idiot on his own, or he's a complete idiot who trusts other idiots to advise him.

Fine. The city is better off without him. I'm sure there are plenty of wealthy idiots still in town. There's never a shortage.

And, when it comes to athletes, the number that care about the fans is shrinking all the time. They know that it's sponsors and television that pays them the big money, not the fans in the seats. The fact that it's those same fans who cause sponsors and television to pony up the big bucks is lost on these guys.

What Cleveland Cavalier fans should do is to support the team completely next season. Sell out all the games so owner Dan Gilbert can afford to build a good team that can challenge for a title. Support the TEAM, not an individual egotistical spoiled brat (hard to do in the NBA, I know). Show up and cheer them on. When they lose, give them a good hand at the end of the game.

Supporting the team would also show the rest of the world that's sobbing along with Cleveland that the city is made of sterner stuff. After all, they've survived Frank Lane, Art Modell, Butch Davis -- even Dennis Kucinich. Sell out the home season.

Well, sell out the season except for any games against Miami. For those games, no one should show up. Oh, the desire to come and boo and jeer at James is strong, but a collective turning of the back on him by presenting King James with an empty throne room would hit him where he lives.

Right in his big fat ego.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Called Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship is not just about being nice. It is much more important than that. It's about realizing that you could not compete without an opponent and that she has the same goals as you. ~Stephanie Deibler

The NCAA has been changing rules again, but at least this time, they aren't messing with the clock. They think they're going to reduce concussions by legislating against blockers forming a wedge on kickoffs. They won't, because the guys who were kamikaze wedge busters will still be running down the field at full speed to use their head to knock someone down. Y'know, concussions have been part of football since its inception. It's only in recent years, as we saw former NFL players acting punch-drunk, that people have to come realize the damage concussions do over time.

But, what the heck, no harm in trying.

Also, the NCAA has decided that messages on those eyeblack patches players wear to prevent glare (day or night; just how much glare is there in a night game) have got to go. This is supposedly a Tim Tebow rule (who had Bible references on his). Actually, I think the rules makers knew what was coming: Product logos. Good move there.

But, the rule that has everyone all discombobulated is making the taunting rule a spot foul. What that means is that when Joe Coolreceiver starts high-stepping and sticking the ball out at the defender at the 5-yard line, the penalty will be enforced from there, and, more importantly, the touchdown will be nullified. All over the place, commentators are going on and on about how the officials are taking the "fun" out of the game, and how players should be allowed to celebrate, and how players are being penalized for being happy.

Codswallop.

No one is talking about penalizing someone for jumping up and down like an idiot, as any of us would do, after making a huge play. Running around hugging your teammates and whooping it up with the crowd is fine. Yes, officials have screwed up and thrown flags just for someone being happy, but thankfully, it doesn't happen often.

What we're talking about here is the business of showing up the other guy, of insulting the opposition player, of being classless. In other words, we're talking about sportsmanship, or the sad lack of it.

I know sportsmanship is old hat, an anachronism, a dinosaur. The thing is, the disappearance of sportsmanship has coincided with the increase in the thug element in sports (an element many coaches seem to recruit actively). Don't give me any garbage about how it has something to do with the street culture. It has to do with being a goon.

Exhibit one is Mark Gastineau. Gastineau played for the New York Jets and started the crap of dancing like a fool over the prone form of the opposing quarterback whenever he got a sack. It was the very definition of classlessness.

Exhibit two is the endzone choreography of the Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins (the first time around, when they were winning). Happiness is one thing, but when 8 guys run to the corner of the endzone, get in a circle, and do something that's a cross between tribal ritual and spastic Rockettes, it's rehearsed and classless.

Exhibit three is Billy "White Shoes" Johnson who started all this nonsense about a hundred years ago when he played for the Houston Oilers (remember them?). Okay, doing a little dance in the endzone was cute once. But, if we had known it would lead to players planting cell phones in the goal post, I think everyone would have called for rules to stop the dancing--NOW!

Tom Landry, the builder and excellent coach of the Dallas Cowboys, flatly forbade his players to do endzone demonstrations. He told them that when reaching the endzone, "Act like you've been there before."

Amen, brother.

I know that coaches coach cheating. They teach linemen how to hold, defensive backs how to interfere, and quarterbacks how to draw people offside. I'm not expecting players to run up to the referee and say, "I'm sorry, sir, but you missed the chop block I threw at that defensive end. Please assess the appropriate 15 years."

But, if we can at least get the players to realize that the other guy is as deserving of basic respect as they are, then perhaps we'll have less jawing and jousting after each play. It has always struck me as odd that the entire team can hold a prayer meeting before and after the game, only to offer no respect to their opponents by taunting. Perhaps, the pregame religiosity should include something like, "Lord, keep all the players safe and keep me from acting like an egregious ass."

Just when one thinks that all sports are just one endless round of cheating, griping, dirty play, and disrespect of opponents, referees, and fans, there is one sport we can look to: Golf. Golf is the only sport I know of where players will call penalties on themselves. I've seen it many times, even did it myself when I used to play. It's just part of the idea of being someone that another player would like to compete with or just spend 18 holes with. Oh sure, you say, maybe some guys playing at Slippery Pines Par 3 in Podunk will call penalties on themselves, but just wait until the money is on the line.

Well, how's this. A guy named Brian Davis was in a sudden-death playoff with Jim Furyk in a recent tournament. Now, understand that there's a lot of money on the line here; the difference between first and second in this little tournament was $400,000. That may be small change to Tiger Woods, but I'm sure that Brian Davis (or Jim Furyk for that matter) sure as heck could tell the difference. At any rate, Davis took a shot in the rough and thought he hit a loose reed on his backswing.

Frankly, most weekend golfers have done something similar without even realizing it at one time or another, but it turns out it's against the rules. No one took notice of what Davis had done, and even he wasn't sure he'd done anything. He probably could have gotten away with it. But, because he's a golfer and being a golfer means you play fair, he asked a PGA Tour official if he had hit the reed. The official went to a replay, and told him, Sorry, sport, but it appears you did.

Davis was assessed a two-stroke penalty and conceded the tournament. Now, as if that isn't enough integrity, Furyk, who should have been jumping for joy, felt badly for Davis. He acknowledge the crowd quietly and gave his kids a hug. Because he didn't want to show up his opponent.

In the case of both Davis and Furyk, it's called sportsmanship. And it's nice to see that it's alive and well somewhere.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Difficult We Do Right Away; the Impossible Takes a Little While

As always, should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Good luck, Jim. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. ~ The voice on the tape, Mission Impossible 1966-1973

Peter Graves passed away the other day, at an advanced age and quickly, which, if you gotta go, ain't a bad way. Strangely, in most of the stories I saw, the first reference to his acting career was as the pedophile captain in Airplane! Well, he was very funny, but, in this day and age, when people see pedophiles in every guy who pats a kid on the shoulder, it's probably not the way he'd want to be remembered.

Of course, his biggest success was as Jim Phelps, the unflappable boss of the Impossible Missions Force. That was, I think, the role that got people to think of him as something other than just James Arness' brother.

Well, just thinking about that brought back all sorts of memories about Mission Impossible, which was in my top 2 or 3 shows, along with Star Trek, back in my misspent youth. For those of you who are only familiar with the recent movie versions (yech), let me enlighten you.

The original team didn't include Graves. The original boss was Steven Hill, who played a guy named Dan Briggs during the first season. Hill left at the end of that season, for reasons that were fuzzy at the time. I remember something being said about going on a religious retreat, even becoming a monk. According the factoids at IMDB, he left because the show filmed on Saturdays, which conflicted with his observance of the Sabbath as an Orthodox Jew. Whatever the case, he left the show after the first year and left acting for 10 years. You may have seen him a few years ago. Remember District Attorney Adam Schif on Law & Order? Yup, same Steven Hill.

Of course, he had more hair back in 1966.

The best shows were in the first three years, which was right in my nerd wheelhouse. Me and the other geeks at Case Tech used to plunk down in front of the old black-and-white every weekend to watch Trek and MI.

The basic team consisted of the boss, first Briggs and later Phelps, the strong man Willy, the actor Rollin, the femme fatale Cinnamon, and the electronics genius Barney. Oh, and there was the voice on the tape, which was done by the same guy for the entire run of the show.

Y'know, it really used to bug me that they melted that tape all over the recorder. It seemed like such a waste of equipment.

Willy was played by Peter Lupus and got about two lines a show. At some point he would lift something heavy to show how strong he was, then exit stage left.
The producers claimed he was really lifting the weight because they wanted to assure us that everything we saw on IM was actually possible. Yeah, right, like we cared -- or believed that (see Barney below).

Rollin, overacted by Martin Landau, actually had the easiest role on the show. Every week he was supposed to create some magic mask that would allow him to impersonate someone. At that point, another actor (usually the guest star) took over, and Martin took the rest of the week off, watching his wife Barbara Bain smooch the bad guys.

Ms. Bain played Cinnamon, whose job usually was to vamp around trying to look sexy. However, they seemed to shoot her through an awful lot of gauze to get the effect to work.

For us geeks, the real hero was Barney. Greg Morris played this electrical genius who could bug any room, tap into any phone line, and create holograms with the aid of his magic alligator clips. Morris didn't get any more lines than Willy, but he got a lot more screen time because he was always doing the tense stuff in the electrical closet.

Barney would open a circuit box or remove an electrical panel and whip out his alligator clips. The next thing you knew, all the lights in the building were flashing Morse code, spilling all the bad guys' secrets. He could work magic with an elevator. Pull the panel, apply the clips, and --bingo-- pressing "6" took the bad guy to the 15th floor -- and it was only a 14 story building. I fully expected one day he'd apply those clips in an elevator, and the bloody thing would go sideways.

All of us nerds desperately wanted a set of those clips.

Peter Graves was, of course, suitably cool as Jim Phelps. He would come up with these arcane plans that would get the bad guys to kill each other or blow up their own nuclear plant or change their invasion plans so that they would parachute their troops into a swamp consisting entirely of quicksand.

In my favorite episode, though, Phelps had to convince a bad guy that he (the bad guy) had actually found the plot out. I forget why, but trust me, it was the right thing to do. At any rate, Phelps and the IMF team are leaving all of these ridiculously subtle clues around, because the bad guy is really smart, so sending him a letter saying, "It's a TRAP!" was out of the question (and many years too early).

As we come to the end of the program, Phelps is out in a truck listening to the bad guy (thanks to one of Barney's clever bits of bugging, which has somehow eluded our super-smart bad guy), and the bad guy isn't figuring it out. He's got the final clue right in his hand, but he isn't seeing it. The clue is a pack of matches, in which the matches were torn out by a left hander when they should have been torn out by a right hander or some such thing (I may be confusing that with a Columbo episode). At any rate, Phelps is muttering to himself how he made the clues too subtle, and the bad guy isn't going to get it, and the whole deal is going to fall through, and the damned secretary is going to disavow them for real this time. Suddenly, the bad guy looks at the matches and voila! He's got it.

The bad guy puts the wheels in motion that IMF wanted him to do all the time, then pauses and says something to the effect that the Phelps character was very, very clever but his plan has been foiled. "He'll be crushed," says the bad guy with a touch of regret.

Yeah, right. Well done, Mr. Phelps.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shooting the Bluebird of Happiness

Happiness does not consist in pastimes and amusements but in virtuous activities. ~ Aristotle

According to a psychologist in Australia, happiness is a bad thing. It seems, according to his testing, that when people are happy, they are more selfish, which means that if people were less happy, the world would be a better place.

Not a happy place, but a better one.

Yes, I think he's an idiot.

Basically, his methodology for determining that happiness is evil went something like this. First take a bunch of students and make some of them happy and some of them miserable. He had a couple of ways of doing this. One was with a fake test, where some people got very negative feedback, while others were praised. The other way was to show some students an excerpt of a comedy show while showing others a depressing movie clip. The students were then given a questionnaire to determine how happy they were. they were then given lottery tickets and told they could share them with a friend. The happy people gave away less tickets than the depressed people, thereby showing that they were selfish bastards.

It's hard to decide where to begin dealing with this nonsense. First of all, college students are not average people. They are hormonal young people who are less than predictable in their responses to anything. Some people ranked as depressed by the negative feedback may actually have laughed it off, while those supposedly happy may have been suspicious of the praise. And when it comes to viewing movie or TV show clips, some college students will be very moved by a supposedly depressing film. Or perhaps any number of them had more serious things on their mind (a coming term paper, a boy or girl friend they just broke up with, and so on) than whether their performance on some strange test was problematic.

And people will lie on questionnaires. Especially psychological questionnaires. If the surveys just dealt with the events of the study (how do you fell about the praise/browbeating you received?), it ignores the external factors that could affect their overall attitude.

My point is that the researchers really had no idea how happy or not happy these people were. And that skews the results. Further skewing the results is that, if someone is a selfish so-and-so, it's unlikely that their mood will have anything to do with whether they're giving away lottery tickets. Frankly, given the state of the world today, I'm surprised any of them gave away anything.


Heck, the questionnaire may have been tilted more to separate the group into selfish and unselfish, rather than happy and unhappy. Psychologists are people, too, and have certainly been guilty of prejudicial surveys.

Psychological research gives me a pain. Aside from all the contradictory findings we've heard over the years from these people, their methods are dubious at best and their interpretations are almost always, shall we say, "fuzzy."

My dislike for this sort of thing goes back to my college days, when I was forced to take a Psych 101-type course. One day, the instructor outlined a study that was performed that "proved" that the adage "misery loves company" was, in fact, false. What exactly is accomplished by testing old adages was never explained.

At any rate, they ran this study in a manner eerily similar to our "happiness stinks" study. They took college students and gave them some sort of impossibly hard test. This was done to invoke "misery." The miserable student was then place in a roomful of happy people (how they were made happy wasn't revealed). The miserable student would just gravitate to a quiet corner and sulk, ignoring the others.

They then introduced another miserable student into the room (the second student had just undergone the same test). As if drawn by a magnet, the second miserable student gravitated to the first miserable student, whereupon they compared miseries.

According to the instructor, this clearly disproved that "misery loves company" because the miserable students avoided the happy ones. Well, I was the first to speak up, but that was only because I was closer, because the entire class rose in objecting to this interpretation. I said, the test proves the adage. It means that, if I'm miserable, I want to be in the company of someone as miserable as I am (preferably more miserable). It's proved by the fact that the miserable students immediately huddled together. They wanted company, just not happy company.

In other words, to those of us in the class, the entire premise of the test was based on a misreading of the adage by the psychologists to begin with.

But, look, if it makes them happy ...