After taking the day off yesterday, I came back to my desk today and was greeted by a mysterious package...plus an equally mysterious series of inky finger prints around the large envelope.
Since I love getting mail at work, I tore this thing open without any hesitation. Inside was a press release (of course) and a tiny red pouch — the type of bag that one might store magic beans in. While not quite magic beans, the contents of the bag turned out to be quite magical. Yes, quite magical indeed.
The pouch contained three boxes of something called Energems®. According to the accompanying press release, Energems® are set to change “the industry.” These little candies are made with “real milk chocolate, caffeine, B-vitamins and a proprietary energy blend.” I’m not sure what an energy blend is, but as long it’s not illegal and/or won’t cause my heart to explode and/or cause my eyes to vibrate in violent fashion, then I’m cool with it. (Note: I ate a series of these while writing this, if something DOES happen to me, please avenge me).
The flavors I received are mint fusion, chocolate charge and peanut butter blast. Allow me to suggest some additional flavors: Vanilla kick, toffee facepunch, and the delicious, fruity touch of coconut crank.
More fun facts about candy mail: Despite initial concerns, these little guys are indeed FDA approved (I found this out after not only consuming some, but passing them out to others in the office). One box of nine candies is equivalent to 24 ounces of energy drink. Also, “this protect is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” So, if you’re taking these to rid yourself of cavities, things probably won’t end favorably for you. But if you want to boost your cyanocobalamin levels (vitamin B12), you’re in luck. One blast (serving) of Energems® has 2,500 percent of your daily value of B12. BOOM.
If you’re wondering if Energems® has a Twitter account, the answer is yes. Yes they do. Almost all their tweets are about staying healthy (which I feel eating a bunch of Energems® will do the opposite of that) and, for some reason, Bonnaroo (I’m picturing them as HUGE Weird Al fans). And of course they’re tweeting about something called The Crush Games. I could look up what that is, but that’s not as fun as wildly speculating what exactly would be awesome enough to be dubbed, The Crush Games. I’m picturing a cross between the Hunger Games and Hungry Hungry Hippos.
The company’s Twitter wallpaper is equally intense. It’s an image that appears to be giant blood capsules blasting out of a pool of delicious, decadent chocolate. #Whoa #aRealPhotoFromTheCrushGames.
In conclusion, thanks for the mail guys!
Second conclusion: As always, the moral the story here is, if you leave mysterious satchels of food in questionable packaging on my desk, I will eat the (cuss) out of it. Every time.
Don’t worry this isn’t another post about me considering changing my byline to Scotty Pukos. (Though, that is a tantalizing prospect. Is Scotty more affable than Scott? Only one way to find out.) Instead this is about school nicknames. To sum things up: They’re goofy, sometimes racist, and just downright entertaining (not the racist ones, they’re just racist).
Here’s a breakdown:
Taking things up a few notches — A common nickname is the Eagles. Somewhat locally, there is the Fillmore Eagles, and nationally there is the Philadelphia Eagles (you know, that team from “Silver Linings Playbook”). My favorite Ontario County school nickname, Midlakes, decided to elevate the simple bird name and go with the Screaming Eagles moniker.
I love that.
A screaming eagle is infinitely cooler than just a boring, non-screaming, jerk eagle.
Others should follow this example. For instance, the Honeoye Bulldogs could switch to the Barking Bulldogs. Any fearsome cat, such as Tigers, Leopards, Panthers, Lions, Wildcats, Keyboardcats, or Garfields, could stick a “roaring” in front of the name. Any bear team can also use the roaring tag, or perhaps Menacing or Berenstain would be appropriate as well.
The Byron-Bergen Bees could benefit from this model too. They could easily switch to the Buzzing Bees, or the Berserk Bees (Side note on Byron-Bergon: I understand they wanted alliteration. But why the Bees? They could have rolled with a more formidable creature such as the Beasts, the Bears, the Barracudas or the Bazookas.)
Yet more examples: The Pavilion Golden Gophers could change to the Pavilion Galloping Gophers, or the Franklin Quakers could transform to the Franklin Quarreling Quakers. Also, the Dundee Scotsmen could become the Screaming Scots (can drop the “men” part since all Scott’s are MEN).
Names I love — Without (much) commentary, here are some school names that rock:
Edison Tech Inventors (What is their logo?! I must know. Right now, I’m assuming it’s Doc Brown)
Midlakes Screaming Eagles
Naples Big Green
Nazareth Academy Lasers (Probably a fact: They’re named after Laser, the American Gladiator. Or laser tag.)
Pembroke Dragons (A chance for some cool pregame theatrics ... All involving fire. Lots of fire.)
Pittsford Mendon Vikings
Rush-Henrietta Royal Comets (Take that, peasant comets!)
Williamson Marauders (Being known as Marauders helps set the bar high for students)
York Golden Knights (You may recognize that name from York’s 2003 Odyssey of the Mind World Championship team that I may or may not have been on)(I was)
And now here’s a list of names that any school in need of a nickname should consider (some are suggestions from co-workers. Anyone you don’t like is from a coworker):
The Fighting Lady Bugs
The Dueling Donkeys
The Sea Turtles
The Screaming Sea Turtles
The Death Stars
The Ron Swansons
The Radio Flyers
The Monocles (obviously)
The Ali Gators (A Muhammad Ali/Gator hybrid)
The Marauding Pirates
The Unicorns (And yes, my floor hockey team name was indeed, the Unicorns of Death)
The Dancing Dinosaurs
The Zombie Dinosaurs
The The's (I’ll stop now)
Special thanks to co-worker Dan Goldman who provided me a list of school nicknames. Not an exaggeration, it entertained me for hours. Clearly.
This is the tale of the 11th annual Literacy Volunteers of Ontario-Yates adult spelling bee, and how things went horribly wrong...
In the end, it was just us and the librarians.
I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect those cutthroat Wood Library employees were preparing to mock us at the slightest hint of a wrong letter. Myself, along with my fellow Messenger Post colleagues, looked at each with puzzlement.
We did not know our word, and time was running out.
The dream team
If you ask me how our 2013 Messenger Post spelling bee team was assembled, I’ll tell you it was in a similar fashion as when Nick Fury recruited the members of The Avengers (I feel I would be the Hulk in this analogy, since I’m super strong). Or, I may compare it to a well-intentioned criminal hand-picking individuals — with very specific skills — to help succeed in an epic caper.
That, of course, would be false. But it sure sounds awesome.
Aside from myself, the Messenger Post team included editors Nora and Ledley (He goes by his middle name Dave, but I feel that he’d want me to call him Ledley in this blog). A formidable trio, if I do say so.
I lobbied that our team name be Vowel Movement, because it’s the best. That idea was turned down.
We eventually settled on the name Spell Fire! The exclamation point is essential.
The name hit the right combination of intimidation and coolness that is needed in a champion. I thought that was important, because in my mind we were winning. There wasn’t even much doubt.
In the weeks leading up to the competition, I had a self discovery: I am not that great of a speller.
In a competition based solely on the ability to spell words, I think this may have been a bit of a disadvantage.
Nora’s spelling skills are slightly (very, very slightly) better than mine, and Dave is a flat-out awesome speller. We quizzed Dave by Google searching “hardest spelling words.” Here’s the list from that search. I was only able to correctly pronounce two of these, and Dave nailed them both (antediluvian and xanthosis, good luck!).
Needless to say, I felt confident. What I didn’t know, since I’ve never competed in a spelling bee, is that these competitions are full of devious traps designed to make people look like fools. I don’t like being played for the fool, spelling bee!
Brunch of champions
Before the bee, Spell Fire met at Patty’s Place on Main Street in Canandaigua to fuel up for the big day. (#ProductPlacement)
Dave’s girlfriend Diane tested us (Thanks Diane!) as we gorged on eggs, links of sausage, hash browns, and waffles. While I didn’t bring my coffee funnel, I did chug some diner coffee to prep my brain for the day’s events (and yes, I understood the huge risk this could have posed during the competition if not for an MVP performance from my bladder).
By the time our plates were empty, our teamwork and spelling acumen was at an all-time high. In fact, we were already discussing what to do with our winnings. We didn’t actually know for certain that there would be any winnings, but we were in agreement that several briefcases full of unmarked bills would have been an adequate reward for achieving spelling superiority.
(Note: The event is actually a fundraiser for the Literacy Volunteers of Ontario-Yates. But still, in the very least, the winner could have gotten a trophy modeled after the Stanley Cup. That’s not too much to ask.)
For me, walking into the Canandaigua Academy auditorium felt like an athlete walking through the tunnel, and into the arena. This was a big deal ... even if there was only a handful of spectators on hand.
I knew the moderator and part of the judging staff, so I immediately initiated phase one of my strategy and made a play to charm the judges. After I was finished schmoozing with the people who held our fate in their collective hands, I joked that my ploy may have had an opposite affect. For instance, as soon as I walked away from them, I could almost hear the whispers: “Let’s screw these newspaper jerks over!” (Note: This would later make a good excuse.)
The tournament featured 15 teams, and was formatted with three opening rounds — 5 teams per round — that was played until only one team remained. The three victorious teams then met in the championship round.
Spell Fire made it’s grand debut in round three, which meant we had to wait through the first two segments before we could see action. This was part helpful (we could practice) and part torturous (these rounds were not short, at all).
Our cheering section eventually expanded to four (thanks for coming out Allison, Kevin, Diane and Chris!). While some members (not naming names, and, um, definitely not me) may have been goofing off a little more than mentally preparing for the big moment, I still felt confident that this thing was ours for the taking.
The Geneva Rotary team, “Splendid Spellers” won round one, and the Canandaigua Medical Group, “The CMG Bees” took round two. (And, if you’re wondering, yes, nearly every team used some variation of “bee” its team names. I was stung by the lack of creativity.)
We discussed making our entrance on stage as grand as possible. Dave suggested pyrotechnics and blasting tunes by 80s hair metal bands. I agreed. Logistically, that was difficult to arrange, so we didn’t go that route (though, I wish we had grabbed some device that could throw flame, or at least a lighter, for this particular moment).
The bee (of doom)
Once we got on stage, and I instagrammed a picture of my view, I started the next phase of my plan: Intimidation/trash talking. I tried to get in the heads of the Wood Librarians with my clever jabs, and insults; however, they seemed unfazed. Probably not a good sign.
The round — like the two previous ones — started with fairly simple words. But things got challenging quickly. Teams around us began dropping, and soon it was just us and those (dang) librarians.
Due to the fact that they were one of the first teams to sign up, the library ladies had a pass. This allowed them to pass on a word, and a different word would be given to them. So, when, they were encountered with a difficult word late in the round, I thought for sure they’d use that card.
They didn’t. And they nailed the word.
And then we got our challenge. Phonetically it sounded like this: ochiose. Naturally, that was our spelling. Then the moderator told us there is another pronunciation, that sounds like odiose. When I heard this, my thought bubble looked something like this: “?????????? (picture of a bee wearing a monocle)????”
Dave delivered our guess into the microphone. It didn’t sound right. And it wasn’t. Spell Fire’s championship hopes were extinguished.
Otiose. That’s the correct spelling. And what does it mean? Good question. Dictionary.com bring us home!
Otiose — ineffective or futile. Superfluous or useless.
Yep. Sounds about right.
When writing, my mind sometimes goes off on tangents, this was one of those times.
It started when I was typing Wednesday’s post about my chat with some American Heritage Girls. This was my thought bubble: You know how boy scouts, girl scouts, heritage girls, etc. earn merit badges for various accomplishments? It’s fantastic, and I say we extend this concept into adulthood. Merit badges for grown-ups!
We could hand out merit badges for traditional things like cooking, writing, walking without tripping, etc., but also get a little creative with it. For instance, when I skillfully weaved my shopping cart through a crowded Wegmans last weekend, I would have earned a merit badge for not smashing my cart into an elderly woman, child or the milk case. Shopping merit badge for me. Degree of difficulty: Moderate. (High-five me for this, and earn the high-five badge. There is no badge for fist bumping ... yet.) And if you wanted to run into stuff at the store, you could still earn the bumper cart badge. This is what they call a victory-victory (win-win is a cliché, and I’m working on the “avoid clichés” merit badge).
I think people would be more inclined to perform mundane tasks if there was some sort of reward. “Hey, you really nailed it when folding those towels.” Guess what? Laundry merit badge! CONGRATULATIONS.
Or people could perfect a skill that previously was underdeveloped (parallel parking badge). Certainly, you could have fun ones too (chicken wing eating badge). Or ones that promote hygiene (flossing merit badge). Even ones that promote good behavior (the gentleman badge for the lads, and lady badge for the classy women out there).
There would be office-based ones too. Since all of our Messenger Post office chairs have wheels, I’ve been trying to get my co-workers to chair race me (it is slightly unfair since I have the fastest chair). So, while boy scouts have their pinewood derby, us working folk can have our chair races. Only the winner gets this merit badge. You’d earn badges for good work, and filing stories in a timely fashion too (I probably wouldn’t earn these, but I would totally dominate the chair race).
The badges can be collected on a sash, vest, hat, or anything of your choosing. Heck, you can get them tattooed to your chest if you want. (Bonus tattoo badge!)
Since we’re adults here, I’m going to take things a little further. Sure, a good deed earns you a merit badge, but what about a bad deed? That earns you a badge of failure (or as I’m going to call it, a BoF).
Obviously, there would be varying degrees that would earn you this reverse award. The more egregious the offense, the larger the badge. So, a typo in an article or blog post? Eh, tiny badge of failure. You’re a poor tipper or don’t hold doors open for people? A little bigger badge. Harass people at work? Cheat on your spouse? Generally, act like a piece of (excrement)? You get a fairly large badge of failure. If you’re a member of the Westboro Baptist Church? You get a BoF the size of a hula hoop (or, if possible, the moon).
I’m thinking we should make the badges of failure smell really bad too. Like they’d really, really smell absolutely awful. Just for fun. It wouldn’t be scratch-n-sniff either, it just always reeks. Bad. If you’re a (stinky) person, you get this (stinky) badge.
It would be administered the same way subpoenas are handed out, except instead of saying “you’ve been served” you would get held down as a large brute, with surprisingly delicate hands, sews the BoF to your clothing (yes, this is how you earn the sewing badge).
Would the badge system work?
Like many of my jokes/rants, I tested out this material in the break room before posting. (Which, by the way, I am accepting applicants for the Cubicle Post laugh test dummies. If you want in, let me know!) There were some laughs (probably of the pity variety, but whatever) from my co-workers, but also some good suggestions for this to become a reality. My friend Melissa suggested a smartphone app — the badge app (I know you earn badges in Foursquare, but trust me, this is different than that app).
You could take pictures of your accomplishments (change a tire badge, clean the litter box badge), and through the magic of technology you would earn a virtual badge. There would be some kinks to work out (cheating for one, and also how would you photograph or verify some accomplishments), but who would not want this application? Gold stars, badges, we all love praise, and we pay enough for our phones that they should be able to give us a little confidence boost on occasion.
We’re going to need some reader input on this one. Badges — horrible idea or brilliant? What badges would you want? Who would earn a badge of failure?
Also, if you like this, and mail me some sort of blogging badge (73 Buffalo St. Canandaigua NY 14424), I will send you a best friend badge in return!
When my editor told me that a group of young women were coming to the office to see me, I got excited.
He explained that it was a group of girls looking into future careers. They wanted to speak with a journalist to get a sense of what we do, and to see if journalism would suit them.
“You want to do this Scott?” My editor asked. At this point my thought bubble (little known fact: My thoughts are actually broadcast to everyone via a cartoonish bubble...it’s a problem) turned to a bunch of brainy college women coming into the Messenger Post office to listen to me speak about something that I happen to be very good at talking about. Maybe I’d even get a chance to show off my fanny pack?
“Yes, yes I can,” I replied.
I called to confirm the day and time, and I was still feeling pretty good about this. Then the person on the other line said, “By the way, you know these are fourth, fifth and sixth graders, right?”
No. No, I did not.
Let’s break this down: First off, how were these girls deciding their career path already? At that age my career aspirations was basically just a debate on if I wanted to be a ninja turtle or a ghostbuster (The correct answer? A combination of both, obviously. A ghostbusting turtle.)
It turned out the group meeting me was a selection of American Heritage Girls (basically, they’re girl scouts with a
different name). They were working on their creative writing merit badge and had to speak with a writer ... They chose wisely, I semi-bragged to them.
You never know how these types of things are going to turn out. Sometimes it’s a huge waste of time, sometimes you’re swamped with work and can’t afford to spend an hour helping someone with a class project. (Sometimes your thought bubble turns to something like this.)
Luckily, that was not the case on this particular day (well, I was swamped with work, but that was okay in this instance). This group was totally engaging, with a creative spirit I admired.
Certainly, I had to get creative, myself, when answering some questions. Here’s an example: I was asked what is the funniest story that we’ve had in the paper. I can answer that easily, just not to a bunch of elementary school children. I'll tell you guys the answer though: 1. Woman allegedly throws bag of sex toys in the road. 2. Alleged crab leg thief strikes again.
(And yeah, this just caused me to Google search “sex toys” on my work computer. If this is my undoing, can someone please find a way to defend my honor?).
Despite the ages of my guests, I was (for the most part) floored by their enthusiasm. The creative energy in the room brought be back to my youth, when I would write stories, draw pictures, staple them together, and have my own book. (I wrote a whole series on a goofy super hero character that borrowed heavily from a “Goosebumps” book. If you can guess which one, I’ll give you the best high-five ever.)
Some of the girls even have a finished story and are looking for someone to publish the tale (so, if you know anyone, give a shout!). It’s a tough path to succeed in, but these young ladies showed some talent, and moxie. I would not be surprised to see their work hit the bookshelves one day (and if they do, I want a cut of that money!).
Also, if any one else needs a merit badge, let me know, I'd be glad to help (just give me beer or compliments in return).
This summer I went to a Snoop Dogg/Snoop Lion/Snoop Liony Lion concert at Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center (CMAC), and while it was far from my favorite concert of the year, it was definitely one of the most memorable.
Snoop showed up stylishly late (I’m not sure why, or if there was actually any style involved behind his tardiness, but when you’re a hip hop legend, it’s okay). The sound wasn’t very good (of course I was standing RIGHT next to one of the huge speakers, so that could have been a factor), and Snoop would occasionally just stand in the corner and let his henchmen take over the mic.
And Snoop’s sidekicks were pretty entertaining themselves. One just stood next to the speaker taking generous gulps from a bottle of booze (Not sure what it was, but I’m sure it was from the top shelf at Ryan’s Wine & Spirits. #ProductPlacement). That was it. That was his job. Stand there and drink, as the speaker blasted every eardrum in a 100-foot radius.
But this wasn’t even close to being the most interesting non-Snoop character on stage — that title goes to the person dressed in the dog costume (who I later found out may be referred to as Nasty Dogg).
Yeah, wearing a dog costume for the entirety of a summer concert is cool, but that’s not nearly enough for a Snoop Dogg (Lion? Still don’t know) concert. No, that dude in the puppy outfit needs to also have a four-foot long foam (there’s no nice way to describe this) phallus to wave around. And, man, did he (or she? Guess we don’t know who was inside this costume) wave that thing around. The lasso move was the go-to maneuver, but there was some real creativity to it to, even a couple times he (or she) draped it over their shoulder (well, it was in August, so I can’t quite remember, but I really feel that was one of the moves).
I like to think this was a hotly contested job. I can see it; applicants wearing their best attire, stepping into Snoop’s office, with resume and references in hand, answering questions about their strengths and weaknesses. Then at the end, Snoop would hand them a dog costume, along with the well-endowed prop, and say, “Don’t forget to add this job to your LinkedIn profile.”
The interview would not include a drug test.
While the Snoop part of the show provided some ridiculousness and fun (oh, and a giant joint, also the property of Nasty Dogg), the opening act was interesting too. I wasn’t real familiar with Southern rapper Yelawolf before the show, but I had a weird experience watching the music video for his single, “Pop the Trunk” … I saw a lot of comedic value in it, but I also kind of liked the song. Weird. The billion (!?) people that watched “Gangnam Style” on YouTube are nodding right now.
Anyway, I saw something during Yelawolf’s set that I kept thinking of when compiling my list for the top albums of 2012 (and like with may of my posts, I realize I am “burying the lede” here, but it’s my blog and I’ll ramble about Snoop-a-Loop if I want).
I was near the back of CMAC, and dancing in the aisle was child who I would guess wasn’t older than three years old. His moves were completely saturated by the glee (the emotion, not the show). He was 100 percent entranced by the music he was listening to — simply put, nothing else mattered to him at that moment.
Put aside the fact that it is horribly irresponsible to bring a child that young to a concert where profanity was prominent, people were chugging $8 Coors Lights, and the air was saturated with smoke, to look at this from the kid’s point of view. He just loved the music (and he just wanted to dance!!!!). And, that’s how I judged my top albums of the year, what music completely captivated me to the point that, for at least the briefest of moments, nothing else matters.
(Note: For a reference, here’s my list of top albums of 2011. Yes, that also features a too long intro.)
Honorable mention (in no particular order)”
Howler — “America Give Up”
The Vaccines — “Come of Age”
Silversun Pickups — “Neck of the Woods”
Divine Fits — “A Thing Called Divine Fits”
Half Moon Run — “Dark Eyes”
Band of Horses — “Mirage Rock”
Caspian — “Waking Season”
White Rabbits — “Milk Famous”
Beach House — “Bloom”
Cloud Nothings — “Attack on Memory”
Fun. — “Some Nights”
The xx — “Coexist”
Titus Andronicus — “Local Business”
Django Django — “Django Django”
(Note #2: I love Green Day, but couldn’t convince myself to list their trio of 2012 albums on here. Maybe they’ll grow on me…)
Top ten countdown:
10. Animal Collective — “Centipede Hz”
It’s weird and fun, so in other words, a typical Animal Collective record. The first half is considerably stronger than the second half, which is one reason why this still ranks behind 2007’s “Strawberry Jam” and 2009’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion.”
9. Japandroids — “Celebration Rock”
One of the best pure rock CDs of the year, and it’s anchored by one of the best songs of the year, “The House That Heaven Built.” It doesn’t hurt that the album’s name fits perfectly with the music, so grab some beer and enjoy this one.
8. Of Monsters And Men — “My Head is an Animal”
One of several bands to launch an excellent debut LP in 2012. The strength of their first single, the excellent “Little Talks,” got people talking, but the rest of the material on this album shows that this band is for real.
7. Mumford & Sons — “Babel”
I didn’t realize until this summer how many Mumford & Sons haters are out there. Maybe it’s too easy to loathe Dave Matthews Band, and people needed a new target. I can understand not liking their music (it is admittedly repetitive and they do have a strange affinity for vests), but to actually expend energy to hate them? That’s strange to me.
I had a chance to see these guys at CMAC this summer, and they were beyond excellent. It was one of my favorite shows of the year (up there with seeing Arctic Monkeys and Black Keys at Madison Square Garden and seeing Wilco at the Highland Bowl). They played a lot of new material during the set, and the songs have really grown on me since that initial introduction to them.
6. The Lumineers — “The Lumineers”
The Lumineers followed the Mumford & Sons’ blueprint on their debut with great success. This one has plenty of songs to sing-along too, the catchiest being their breakthrough single “Ho Hey.” While that song is a great introduction to the band, songs like “Flapper Girl” and “Stubborn Love” can turn into earworms just as easily.
5. Grizzly Bear — “Shields”
No standout singles here like 2009’s “Two Weeks,” but it’s another great effort from Grizzly Bear. Despite the lack of truly dynamic single, I still liked this album more than their last album “Veckatimest.”
4. Jack White — “Blunderbuss”
Make no mistake, Jack White is the man. I love his side projects (Raconteurs and The Dead Weather), but he’s at his best when he’s running the show, like with The White Stripes. “Blunderbuss” can’t touch the best of the Stripes catalogue, but it’s still better than a majority of the music released this year.
3. The Shins — “Port of Morrow”
The Shins are back.
It’s great to hear new music from this group (their first since “Wincing the Night Away” in 2007). It’s hard to tell where this one ranks among The Shins other albums, I’m just hoping we won’t have to wait another five years until LP number five is released.
Standout tracks include, “The Rifle’s Spiral,” “Simple Song” and “40 Mark Strasse.”
2. Dirty Projectors — “Swing Lo Magellan”
Dirty Projectors last album, “Bitte Orca,” got plenty of praise in 2009, and while I liked some tracks (particularly “Cannibal Resource” and “Stillness is the Move”), I rarely would be captivated enough to listen to CD all the way through. That’s not a problem with “Swing Lo Magellan.” It remains strong throughout, and still has strong individual tracks like “Offspring Are Blank,” “About to Die” and “Dance For You.”
1. alt-J — “An Awesome Wave”
This is, simply, an awesome album.
My first reaction was to label alt-J as a British Vampire Weekend, mainly because their music is similarly catchy and, on a more personal level, my introduction to the two bands was alike. But that comparison is at least a little unfair, because alt-J’s music is so creative that it doesn’t really compare to another band. (Plus, they’re the only band with a keyboard shortcut for a name. It’s a fun one too. ∆.)
My first listen was a YouTube clip of “Breezeblocks,” it instantly became my favorite track of the year, and at the end of the year, it remains at the top.
Final note: Thanks for reading, and have a fantastic 2013, ya goof nuggets.
Author's note: This is long. The video of this competition, which was expertly done by Seth Binnix, the wing master himself, is at the bottom of this post. I won't be mad if you scroll down for that bit of awesomeness before reading my words.
The first bite was perfect. I had just the right amount of beer and adrenaline coursing through me. I felt great.
The sauce was sweet and savory; the chicken was delicious, as always. My stomach gave me the green light to send a bushel of wings its way, and I was ready to oblige.
By wing two/three/four, I thought, this might not be too bad. I might actually be able to do this thing. I just may eat three dozen chicken wings in 30 minutes and show up all my coworkers.
Maybe I would even finish early, and need a straw to suck up the rest of the sauce pooled on my platter. Maybe I’d have time to chaw on the bones too. I honestly thought I could do it; I thought I’d claim the Messenger Post chicken wing title.
I was wrong.
A crazy idea
So, how did things escalate to a point where I was racing my co-workers to see who could eat the most chicken wings in 30 minutes?
The idea of a Messenger Post chicken wing eating contest started back in April, shortly after I gorged on a ten-pound cupcake in front of my (horrified) co-workers. Despite some magical editing, it really wasn’t a very impressive feat on my part. I only ate about 40 percent of the chocolate monster...That poor showing led to a few co-workers floating the idea of a wing eating contest my way (because that was clearly the next logical step). I was in. No questions asked. None.
The scheduling process was long, but after months of forgetting that we decided to do this, we picked Nov. 9 as the day of destiny. (Or as the chickens call it...the worst day ever.)
Before competing we each had to sign an extensive list of rules (that also sneakily served as a waiver). We didn’t sign in blood, but instead wing sauce. That paper is probably (definitely) not sanitary anymore (a co-worker took it in the bathroom with her, and after it was mysteriously damp afterward), but, trust me, these rules and regulations are fantastic. (Photos found here and here).
Basically, this was our challenge: Consume three dozen chicken wings in 30 minutes. Through some cruelty we were only allowed one napkin during the contest (but to be fair, when you’re speed eating, you’re not exactly stopping to dab some sauce from the corner of your mouth).
Other rules included: At least 90 percent of the meat must be off the bone (this allowed some leeway for the hard to get bits on the top of the bone), no stabbing (fork stabs are common in eating competitions), no poisoning (a solid sabotage, but not allowed here!), no wing stealing, and, of course, contestants needed to have the ability to read and write.
Backing out of the contest would result in a $1,000 fine, and in case of a tie, a beer chugging contest would determine the winner (obviously).
Also, I insisted on fatifying everyone involved (that was a real, official rule). It just made sense...kind of like a preview of the before and after of this contest.
Now, I considered Belichicking this competition (meaning cheat my way to victory, for you non-football fans). I figured I could bring in a bag of bones (in a fanny pack perhaps?), slip a wink to the refs, and get them to strategically place the ringer bones on my victory plate.
In the end, I opted to not do this, mostly because of honor (but also because the bone store was closed).
Here’s a rundown of my coworkers, or as they were known during the 30 minute contest, my mortal enemies.
Ryan: My beard mentor turned wing nemesis. He was once featured on the cover of Play digging into a wing of chicken, so that was a bit disconcerting. His strategy appeared to revolve around drinking a lot of milk(?). Maybe that was a lie to throw me off the true strategy, but either way, it’s an excuse for me to link to this “milk was a bad choice” clip.
Seth: Leading up to the competition, I kept hearing how much Seth eats...apparently he’s some sort of food machine. So, it was no surprise that his strategy beforehand was to eat. He had a large meal for lunch, which is a lot smarter than trying to fast before a competition like this.
Bethany: The favorite. Everyone was rooting for Beth, and I don’t blame them. Having said that, I wasn’t fooled by her either. You see, she’s small. So, the natural conclusion is that it’s not physically possible for her to eat copious wings. But that’s the twist. She’s was engaging in what is called the long con. The con was genius too, I’ll give her that. She cultivated a petite persona for years, then when the wing contest with Messenger Post coworkers came along, boom (!), she strikes. Luckily, I’m too smart to fall for that kind of trickery.
Referees/rulemasters: Our head ref Nora, and assistant to the ref Melissa were in charge of selecting the prizes, and, more importantly, they had to keep things from going completely bonkers. A tough job. I tip my hat to them. Also, Nora had to sift through our bone scraps to get the official count...that took some moxie, for sure.
Me: Basically, my strategy was to prepare like I did when I ran a half-marathon. This made sense to me at the time, for some reason (I don’t know, rigorous exercise and sitting down while shoving grease and junk food in your mouth are basically the same thing, right?). I drank a ton of water to expand my stomach (and so I’d have the excuse of running to the bathroom any time I got snuck in an unwanted convo). Google also suggested that eat a head of cauliflower to further expand the stomach. I did not do that. I ate pasta the night before, ate a salad and a slew of fruit the day of. I was ready to go. Not to mention, I had the advantage of not caring if I made an absolute fool of myself (exhibit A, and B).
At high-noon, we dined.
Well, kind of. It was 6:30 p.m. and “dined” is maybe not the correct word. More like, we feasted.
The setting for our date with destiny was MacGregors’ Grill & Tap Room at 759 S. Main St. In Canandaigua. A large number of coworkers gathered around the four of us — they seemed eager to watch what was bound to be a truly disgusting display of gluttony.
I knew I would need to factor some beer into this equation, however; the question was, which beer is the fuel of champions? I asked the bartender to recommend a brew to go along with eating a mound of wings, he said, “Michelob Ultra.” I said, “nope.” (A little reverse product placement there. I already had water with me, I wanted beer!). So, the bartender told me a scotch ale (I forget the brand) had the highest alcohol content, and would perhaps help with enhancing my performance. I went with that.
After ordering our beverages, we picked our sauces (mild for Beth and Seth, Cajun gold for Ryan and myself), I bibbed up, and it was on!
Fast forward 30 minutes...
The last bite was not perfect — it was torturous. It took me around 90 seconds just to chew that last bit o’ wing. At that moment, I put down my bib and surrendered (to my glass of beer). I was happy with my outing, but it was apparent that my pile of bones was not the largest.
The final scoreboard looked like this:
Seth — 30 wings (Prize: Cash money. Though, I suspect it was fake.)
Scott — 26 wings (Prize: Dinosaur hat. And if you’re wondering if I stalked around the bar like a dino in the jungle, the answer is yes.)
Ryan — 20 wings (Prize: Pig hat.)
Bethany — 16 wings (Prize: Fake glasses/nose/mustache disguise unit.)
I already claimed the movie rights too. I’m calling it, “Just Winging It.” Alternate title: “How to have a horrible night’s sleep.”
I also have to give a huge shout out to our MPN boss for not only allowing us to partake in this madness, but to also literally make it happen via financing and organizing. He also bought a round of drinks for everyone, which was much needed for one of the hardest working groups I know.
Honestly, it was a great time. Sure, I was caked in wing sauce and probably still smell like it, but it was totally worth it.
Bottom line: I wouldn’t want to commit horribly unhealthy acts with any other group of people.