Monday, June 28, 2010

Crop Circles!! In Greenfield!!

We received a breathless email recently from someone at the BLT Research Team in Cambridge, Mass., alerting us to the recent discovery of crop circles in Greenfield. The email included a YouTube link of the discovery. The YouTube video was posted by a guy named ZuckerSucker.

(I'm not sure what BLT is an acronym for, but I assume it has nothing to do with deli sandwiches.)

We were excited about the news, of course, feeling that we might have a Yeti/Bigfoot/Loch Ness moment right here in Monterey County.

But upon further review of the video, entitled "Crop Circle found in Greenfield, California 6/22," we couldn't help but notice that the circles were found in a dry-farmed wheat field adjacent to a green field and that no familiar mountain range could be seen in the distance.

Nevertheless, one of our intrepid reporters made the telephone calls for further investigation. He discovered that there is another small(er) community in the Central Valley, near Bakersfield or Fresno or some other godforsaken spot, called Greenfield. And that's where the crop circles were discovered.

Better yet is the YouTube video that debunks the claim, called ZuckerSuckers Crop Circle IS FAKE????


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Deep Thoughts, At Least for a Newspaper

For a limited time only, and (semi)exclusively at your preferred hometown newspaper's web site, your favorite former SNL cast members are testing animated online comic strips. I like to think of it as the wave of the future for newspaper comic strips. The cast includes Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, David Spade, Jack Handey, Molly Shannon, Sarah Silverman, Norm McDonald, Colin Quinn and Craig Kilborn.

"Beyond the Comics" is the brainchild of Fred Wolf, former chief writer for Saturday Night Live and writer/director of "Grown Ups," which premieres on Friday. Fred lives in Carmel and grew up dreaming of being a comic strip artist. He ended up doing standup and writing for SNL, but he's maintained his love for newspapers. (Where else would comedians go to stay relevant?)

Please do check out the comics during the test run Monday through Friday of this week. Most important, we need feedback. We wanna know what you think. Which comics do you think are funny and which are duds? Will the comics play in Peoria? Are the links choppy? We need to know all that stuff, which is why we've included a "What Did You Think" Link. This is your chance to be an audience for a pilot show. Spread the word among your friends.

With this test run, we're not so much interested in generating lots of numbers and "clicks;" we're mostly looking for critical feedback.

Return to our home page and click "Beyond the Comics."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Sound of a Botched Lobotomy

So where's the vuvuzela concession?

I've wandered around Pebble Beach all week and haven't found find a single vuvuzela for sale.

This is a big sporting event, right? The U.S. Open is supposed to be the crown jewel of international golf, the ultimate test of sporting skill for determined athletes with steely dispositions and firm putters.

The Open oozes with significance.

All the greats and the potential greats of the game are here.

ESPN is here.

NBC is going all prime time on us on the East Coast.

Corporate tents line the fairways, creating what looks like Spangladesh on the ritziest real estate on earth.

Story lines abound.

So who do you have to know to find a vuvuzela around here?

On the other side of the world, another crown jewel of a sporting event is being played that also features determined athletes with steely dispositions. The difference is that the players in South Africa can't use their hands to grasp their putters (except during a free kick near the goal), and they can run around for hours before the whistle is blown and everyone seems satisfied that the match ended in a tie.

It's called the World Cup. The sport is soccer.

Or football. Or futbol.

Or whatever.

The best thing about the World Cup so far is that a guy named Tshabalala scored the first goal of this year's tournament, and I was happy to see that Tshabalala is making a comeback after Woodstock.

The next best thing about the World Cup is the open use of vuvuzelas.

Vuvuzelas are plastic horns which, when blown by 55,000 drunken soccer fans, sound like the swarm of 20 billion man-eating Marabunta ants that starred in the most excellent 1954 documentary called "The Naked Jungle," featuring Charlton Heston and a cast of sun-bleached skeletons.

In chorus, vuvuzelas sound like the aftermath of a botched lobotomy.

The best thing about vuvuzelas is that they drown out the World Cup television commentators, except for that guy on Spanish-language television who sounds like he swallowed an air raid siren every time some Tschabalala scores a goal.

If the fans at a big sporting event in South Africa can blow the vuvuzela, how come I can't find one at the Pebble Beach Golf Links?

I did manage to find U.S. Open hoodies, at a cost of $65, that I'll be able to find at Ross several weeks from now for $12.99.

I found an $8 sleeve of golf balls on sale for $14 because they've got the U.S. Open logo on them.

I found a Nike logo polo shirt selling for $90 because it also has the U.S. Open logo on it. And I found a Polo logo polo shirt with the U.S. Open logo that sells for $105.

I splurged and bought a $17 dork hat for $34 just because it has the U.S. Open logo on it.

According to news reports, the vuvuzelas in South Africa sell for only $7 each. And that's without the U.S. Open logo.

The USGA is missing a bet — and an agreeable markup — by failing to make vuvuzelas available at Pebble Beach.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Golf Snort Victory a Fiction

Editor's note: Yesterday's sports feature about Vernon Snort's legendary win at the 1939 U.S. Open in Philadelphia should have been labelled "fiction."

Also, anthro-sociologists and golf historians have never said that Snort's performance at the Open that year "defied the odds" and "was by far the most astonishing accomplishment in the hallowed annals of hoary golf narratives."

Snort was also mischaracterized when the author called him "a crapulous lout with a slatternly demeanor who willfully breached the etiquette of America's finest country clubs with his mere presence."

Snort did not in fact design and craft his own golf clubs from salt cedar trees that lined the fairways of his native Broken Femur Golf Links in Gottknows, Alabama.

Similarly, Snort did not whittle a useable putter from his wooden leg with a Buck knife, nor did he ever use his prosthesis to strike a ball on a golf course.

Vernon Snort was not an accomplished banjo player.

While true that Snort was a local legend at Broken Femur, he never won the Golden Splint tournament at his home course. Also, he never shot a 12-under 61 at Broken Femur while carrying only a ginty and a pool cue in his bag.

Snort did not enter the U.S. Open qualifying tournament in 1939 on a bet; rather, he participated on a whim. The qualifying tournament that year was played at Swamp Noggins Country Club, not the Country Noggins Swamp Club. He won the qualifying tournament by 38 strokes, not 42.

Vernon Snort was 42 years old when he travelled 728 miles by donkey to get to the Philadelphia Country Club for the Open, not 38.

The Philadelphia Country Club is in Pennsylvania, and it was simply over-heated hyperbole that led the author to write that the golf course, beautiful though it may be, was located "in the Sublime State of Paradise."

Archival research and anecdotal recollections do not support the assertion that Snort was "throwing-up drunk" when he teed up for his Thursday morning round.

Snort did not bogey each of his first 36 holes during the first two days of the Open tournament. Anybody with a fundamental grasp of the sport would know that no player could possibly "make the cut" with such abysmal opening-round scores in a championship tournament.

A bolt of lightning never struck Snort as he walked off the 18th green on that fateful second day of the tournament, and the lightning storm in Philadelphia that afternoon did not infuse him with "super magical powers" during the balance of the Open.

Byron Nelson was indeed a skilled professional golfer of the era, but it was technically incorrect to refer to him as "the tour's eminent goofball."

In fact, Nelson actually won the 1939 U.S. Open, while Vernon Snort won $24 with his 78th-place finish. It was Snort's only appearance in a major tournament. Inasmuch as he never actually had his "moment in the limelight," it was presumptuous to state that he "faded once more into obscurity" following the Open.

The use of the word "luminous" in the context of Snort's achievements in 1939 is unwarranted.

Byron Nelson was not an accomplished banjo player.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Deep Concentration of Golf

Turn off your smart phone, fella, and throw a muffler over your leather lungs. You're at a golf tournament, after all.

The U.S. Open starts in earnest on Thursday, prefaced by all the excitement of practice rounds starting Monday.

The pages of The Herald will be ablaze with every turn of the Open screw at Pebble Beach during the coming week, and for that I make no apology. The U.S. Open is huge, one of the top events in the sports world. The Open oozes with significance and all the greats and the potential legends of the game will be here, grasping their putters and monitoring wind conditions. And it only comes to Pebble Beach every 10 years.

ESPN will be here. NBC is going prime time on the East Coast. Corporate tents line the Pebble Beach Golf Links. Story lines abound.

This is an exciting time on the Monterey Peninsula. But you'd never really know it from the deportment of golf fans, who are required to watch in stony silence, as if they were listening to a Presbyterian sermon or tiptoeing their way across the public library.

As the Open begins, true sports fans will also be engrossed in the World Cup in South Africa and, perhaps, the seventh game of the NBA championship finals. Fans at these events go bonkers, the noise level in the arenas is deafening and the magnitude of enthusiasm is off the charts.

But at least the athletes in those arenas manage to compete at a high level despite the distractions of their pesky fans.

Certainly it takes intense concentration to hit a contorted three-pointer with a hand in your face when your field of vision is awash with the motion of a thousand Thunder Stix. And I might never understand how a midfielder can ever think to find an open attacker against the cacophony produced by 50,000 vuvuzelas.

So why can't a professional golfer manage to drop a five-foot putt if someone in the gallery lets loose with an ill-timed sneeze?

Don't get me wrong. I fully appreciate the challenge of golf and I marvel at the abilities of the professional stick-swinger. But I guess I'll have to repress all that enthusiasm this week.

Assault of the Church Lady

Despite my best efforts, The Herald might soon become a forum for the temperate judgments of religious extremism. The Church Lady, damn her, is doing her condemnatory best to impose herself and her priggish attitudes upon The Herald's newsroom and its readers.

This is an alarming development. As much as we strive to offer a variety of ideas and opinions, we are concerned that Mrs. Church Lady might be too shrill for our sophisticated readership.

I am seeking an appropriate counter-balance to her self-righteousness. Fortunately, Old Hippie has lifted himself from the smoky haze of his groovy existence to make himself available, but I fear he'll be no match for Church Lady.

I'm not certain how this will play out, what readers might think and how this will impact newsroom morale.

But I guess we'll find out, starting June 21 at

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Election Rap

Several eye-opening developments emerged from the local tundra of Tuesday's primary election.

Of course, the biggest surprise came out of the sheriff's election. Incumbent Mike Kanalakis emerged with the lead, but he fell far short of his bid to end it all in the primary by failing to capture a clear majority of the votes.

There's still a lot of votes left to count — about 24,000 — but by the end of the count early Wednesday, Kanalakis had a 767-vote lead over challenger Scott Miller. Kanalakis says publicly that he is happy to come out of the primaries with the lead, but he can't be thrilled with the numbers.

It's reasonable to believe that the incumbent dearly wanted to win it all with the first ballot, which is likely why his campaign turned so negatively unbecoming against Miller in the final weeks. Also, it's hard to overlook the fact that a solid 63 percent of the voters in Monterey County favored his opponents.

So while he did come up with the most votes on Tuesday, he's got his work cut out for him if he hopes to retain his job in November.

Interestingly, the third man in the race, Fred Garcia, is not yet conceding. He apparently believes that about 40 percent of the late absentee ballots will go his way, which — assuming that Kanalakis continues to take his 37 percent share of the yet-to-be-counted votes — is about what it would take for Garcia to overcome the 2,127-vote lead that Miller now has for the second runoff position. As of Wednesday morning, Garcia had only managed less than 29 percent of the votes. Don't bet on Garcia's chances.

Another stunning development was Ron Holly's abysmal performance in the treasurer-tax collector's race. I doubt if anyone saw that one coming.

Holly is well connected and spent a bunch of money to get elected. (The Herald's advertising department is already adjusting its first-quarter budget now that Holly won't be around to spend more in the general election.)

While true that he shot himself in the foot when he called himself a lawyer on his official candidate's statement, even though he is not a lawyer, conventional wisdom had it that he'd be able to overcome the resulting bad publicity with his vigorous spending and the stalwart support from each of the county's five supervisors.

Holly is an intelligent fellow with much political gamesmanship. But the lawyer thing proved a mortal misstep, and John McPherson, a financial consultant from Salinas, and Mary Zeeb, the assistant treasurer-tax collector, took the top two spots while Holly lagged far behind.

Not so surprising were strong showings by two local incumbents, Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski and 2nd District Supervisor Lou Calcagno. Both faced vigorous challenges and both easily outdistanced their rivals.

Finally, veteran poll watchers were astonished at how the trends of the vote count did not change significantly as the results were released over the course of Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

While the numbers of actual votes increased (of course) throughout the evening, the percentages of votes cast for each of the candidates barely changed. The first batch of votes counted were from the absentee ballots delivered to the elections office before last weekend. The rest of the evening's results represented votes cast at polling places. There was no significant difference.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


So we're coming up to 11 p.m. Tuesday night, election night, and we haven't seen an update from the Monterey County Elections Office for almost three hours now.

We're all for accurate counts and we know that the staff and the volunteers in the office are working very hard, but you'd think that they'd want to issue updated reports on the outcome of some very intense local races as quickly as possible. There's a whole bunch of candidates, voters and others who are anxious about seeing some results — and some of us have nothing better to do in the meantime but update their blogs by whining about slow results!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pull It, Sir!

For those who get the earlier editions of Thursday's paper, we apologize in advance for the stunningly ironic misspelling of "Pulitzer." Fortunately, it got fixed before we embarrassed ourselves to the ENTIRE county.