You gotta pay your dues before you pay the rent

The Cricket is relocating to sunnier pastures and will resume writing Michael McDonald songs by moonlight in mid-June.

(Beachlife in two weeks)

- Team Cricket


Smell ya later

The Cricket staff enjoyed the first round eliminations of the Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which is by far the best post-season system of any professional sports league.

So sorry annoyingly optimistic Calgary fans ... guess you'll have to cheer for Edmonton, your archrivals.

Now, if only Colorado and New Jersey follow suit in the upcoming second round, it will be a banner year for the "new" NHL.

My pre-playoff predictions are already shot (Carolina versus Nashville, a battle of the Smokies), but nonetheless, here are the Cricket's predictions (some more hopeful than others).

Eastern Conference

(1) Ottawa vs. (4) Buffalo: Once a formidable blue collar city, Buffalo is in desperate need of something going its way, especially after the team went through bankruptcy during the 2003-2004 season. The Sabres looked to be nearly unbeatable in the latter part of the season and easily annihilated Philadelphia in the first round (Didn't The Hockey News pick Philly as their pre-season favorite?). Meanwhile, Ottawa trounced the equally anemic and elderly Tampa Bay Lightning squad.

On a personal note, I wasn't impressed by Ottawa's superstar deal to acquire Heatley for Hossa. Time will prove that Atlanta got the better end of the bargain.

The verdict: Buffalo in six games.

(2) Carolina vs. (3) New Jersey: While New Jersey proved they could survive in the post defensive-trap NHL, the team didn't face as worthy of an opponent as I expected in the first round. They easily swept the Rangers in four games, leading to too much downtime in the playoffs. Carolina, the strongest team in the NHL this year, overcame a two game deficit to the Canadiens to win the series in six games, quite a feat considering how strongly Montreal played.

The Hurricanes' crisp passing and deep roster should lead to the demise of the Garden State.

The verdict: Devils go down in five games. Carolina meets Buffalo in the conference finals, which will be one of the best in recent memory.

Western Conference

(5) San Jose vs. (8) Edmonton: The Oilers dismantled Detroit, stunning the masses of cocky unemployed auto workers. It was Detroit's third consecutive premature exit from the playoffs (and the cricket hasn't shed a single tear). The lesson for the Red Wings is to close down the geriatric wing of the locker room and invest in some youth. (Is Chris Chelios going to play until he breaks a hip?)

San Jose upset the Nashville Predators, but the victory wasn't as impressive since the Preds' young netminder wasn't as tested as Vokoun, although Chris Mason did play well at the end of the season. The fact is Nashville -- after getting off to the best start of any team -- began its downward spiral long before Vokoun suffered a season ending back injury.

The verdict: Edmonton has all of the momentum after knocking off the President's Trophy winner and the edge in the regular season matchups against the Sharks. The Oilers will eek out the series in seven games.

(6) Anaheim vs. (7) Colorado: Even after a quick turnaround from a game seven trouncing of Calgary, Anaheim should be able to rebound, especially with a plethora of highly skilled offensive and defensive players. The Ducks also have two viable goaltenders. On a side note, Anaheim's pickup of the year was Francois Beauchemin, whom I hated to see leave the Jackets.

Colorado is one of my least favorite teams and, therefore, they should lose. Scratch that, therefore they will lose. If only it was that easy!

The Avs made a fatal error in picking up Jose Theodore. The rest of their roster is non-descript, other than Joe Sakic and Alex Tanguay.

The verdict: Anaheim's stellar top defensive pair (Niedermeyer and Beauchemin) will prevent Sakic from seeing the net. He will not be a factor. Tanguay and Heijduk will snipe a few pucks through from the perimeter, but won't be able to carry the rest of the team forward. Anaheim in six games.

Hollywood's death rattle (Part 847)

Inspired by the fact Poseidon Adventure is the latest remake to come out of Tinseltown, The Cricket searched for the absolutely most terrible upcoming movie.

Snakes on a Plane, a film with a premise so bad that it is almost destined to be released straight to TNT.

It does have some degree of star power, however, with Samuel L. Jackson and Julianna Margulies, who was on ER at the very beginning of its lengthy, predictable and tiresome run.

Courtesy of IMDB.com, here's the bright idea:

On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who's a witness in protective custody, lets loose a crate full of deadly snakes.
And the tag line:
Relax. They're first class fliers.
Can't you just picture a room full of studio execs kicking that idea around?
"$75 million guaranteed," I'm sure one of them said.
In March, New Line Cinema -- claiming massive fan interest on the Internet -- reshot portions of the movie to increase the rating from PG-13 to R. I'm guessing the stunt coordinator-turned-director added a couple more swear words and a boob (or two).
Apparently, Samuel L. Jackson is adamant the title of the movie stays "Snakes on a Plane." He fought producers when they tried to change it to "Flight 121," IMDB reported.
Sometimes comedy writes itself.


Resort Quest

The Cricket is lamenting the fact he is no longer in a multimillion dollar beachfront condo. Assimilating back into working life has been a challenge.

To ease the wounds, here is a photo essay documenting the last week. Sorry to my comrades for the inciminating photos (but that's what you get for coughing on me).

First and foremost, I do believe our cast of misfits made Michael McDonald over $3 million in just one weekend by writing his next double album (think: Use Your Illusion 1 and 2, only with more ballads, smooth jazz beats and female backup singers.)

If you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about, check out nightplanet and atlmalcontent.

First stop: The ATL

Most memorable rest area: Luverne, Alabama

Atlmalcontent outside of the Ranch House Bar-B-Q.

Nightplanet (L), "Oil Rig" Moreland (R)

The world famous Luverne Pepsi bottling plant.

Boy's Club officially begins (in style) from Destin, Florida:

The view from Resort Quest (above).

(Cricket in the middle)

Nightplant dances to The Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha."

A life only Michael McDonald is accustomed to.

(End of Memory Lane)


- Team Cricket


So, how did YOU get here?

A new contest comes out of my ability to cyber-stalk you, gentle reader.

At the bottom of the cricket is a handy little tool called "Site Meter," which tells me a little bit about the cast of regulars who visit this blog. Among the features, is a listing of where they live and how they got here.

Go on, check it out for yourself.

With that background established, I sometimes check out what Web site referred people here.

Occasionally, it's a Google search.

Frequent search terms include Rafita Mirabel, Mexico's littlest bullfighter, and "Jesus shitting on American flag."

Go figure.

Apparently, those are the only lasting legacies of this young blog (so far).

My favorite of the day is "Why doe (sic) a cricket make noise," sloppily typed in by someone from Stoke, England.

That particular search turned up the cricket first, so I'm guessing my English friend was a bit disappointed.

So, here's the information they were hoping to find.

(thanks to gigglemoose.com)

Crickets (part of a group of insects that also includes grasshoppers and locusts) create sounds by rubbing their wings together. The process, called "stridulation," is quite similar to playing a miniature violin. A cricket lifts its front wings, then drags a ridge on the upper wing across the sharp edge of the lower wing. Membranes amplify the noise.

Male field crickets have at least three songs: one to attract females, one that woos the female after he gets her attention, and one that warns other males to back off.

You know, kind of like many humans.

Crickets are also smart enough to disguise their "voices" when in danger. By lowering its "voice," a cricket can make itself sound far away.

If only that woman talking loudly on a cell phone while waiting in line at a coffee shop would adhere to that same wisdom, the world would be a better place.

The unterrified cricket makes noise because, like all Americans, I am an arrogant attention whore.

(End of lesson.)

Gradually slipping into vacation mode

Two days and counting ...

(Team Cricket)


The unintended comedy

Keanu Reeves, the monosyllabic actor with such notable lines as "Whoa" and "Guns, we need lots of guns" is back.

This time, it's to prove that he can't act, even when animated.

Check out the trailer for A Scanner Darker, which regrettably will be released later this year.

The cricket laughed his way through it last night while waiting for Thank You for Smoking, a thoroughly enjoyable film.

Taking a cue from Waking Life, which was shot on film and then animated, Hollywood decided to go the same route with the Philip Dick novel.


Extreme case of the Mondays

I don't play the lottery to win. I play to not lose.

Despite not being a regular player, the cricket finds it hard to pass up a chance at $265 million, especially when co-workers join forces to buy 30 tickets.

Every year or so, there are news reports of a company where most of the workers bought tickets together and won. Instantly, the 20 or so workers become millionaires.

The employees talk about what they're going to buy first and whether they're going to quit their jobs.

However, the reporters never find the real story: the cheapskate employee who didn't pony up that single dollar.

One dollar for the chance of winning $20 million, a small price to pay. Instead, that poor sap bought a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger from a local fast food joint.

It's hard to imagine a more painful scenario than being the one person at a workplace where everyone else is financially set for life -- even that annoying assistant business manager that once gave you grief for being a half-hour late on your timesheet, even though you worked all weekend and she didn't.

Think of her grating voice as she boasts about blowing off work, going to the Caribean, buying fancy sports cars and moving into a new house.

Compare that to your own situation. You've worked hard and scraped by, but your co-worker now has more money than you'll ever see in your entire life.

That's enough motivation for me to play.


Beast of burden

The hunt for a bear that allegedly killed a six-year-old Ohio girl is reportedly over.

According to published reports, the 350 to 400 pound black bear was found today near a recreation area at Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.

A mother and her two young children were attacked by the bear Thursday, while heading back from a popular swimming hole. Adults attempted to scare the animal off of a trail when it mauled the woman's two-year-old son, biting the boy in the head.

The mother tried to fend off the bear with rocks and sticks, but the bear attacked her, dragging her several yards off the trail, the
Associated Press reported. Her six-year-old daughter apparently ran away and was later found dead next to the bear, which ran away when someone tried to shoot it.

Since then, U.S. Forest Service officials have attempted to capture the animal with baited traps.

A forest service spokeswoman said today that they believe the culprit is in custody. It will be euthanized and examined to see if it was, in fact, the same bear.

The official told NBC the bear is "the same size" as the one that killed the young Ohio girl. She also said there aren't "that many bears" in the area.

Black bears in the Eastern United States are typically quite docile, retreating from humans when provoked.

"We don’t know (that) the bear hadn’t been antagonized on the trail by the children," Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency spokesman Dan Hicks told the Associated Press. "In this case, all of our witnesses made a posthaste exit."

There have been only 56 documented killings of humans by black bears in North America in the past 100 years, according to the North American Bear Center in Minnesota

What a sad commentary on the amount of wild terrain left in this country of suburban sprawl.

The once-plentiful species, along with many others, has been pushed further and further west as the grid of orange lights is gradually extended from sea to shining sea.

A national park is no longer a safe refuge. Folks have swimming to do.


Working for the man

While the cricket hesitates to use photos of President Bush, in this circumstance, it is worth the uncomfortable anxiety it naturally evokes.

So, how are those tax cuts working out?

For some at the top of the ladder, quite swimingly.

Check out this information reported on CNN:

According to information released by the White House on Friday, the president and first lady Laura Bush paid $187,768 on income of $735,180. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, made more than 10 times as much, but are entitled to a $1.9 million refund.
(Apologies for the Saturday afternoon buzzkill.
Then again, it is Easter weekend.)
-Team Cricket


Not Jason Lee!

After some inspiration from atlmalcontent's listing of Scientologists, the cricket did a cursory search for former professional skateboard, now actor Jason Lee, best known for his roles in Kevin Smith films and "My Name is Earl."

Jason Lee? No way, I thought.

Sadly, I was mistaken.

Check out this data of the "courses" he has completed, obtained from www.truthaboutscientology.com:

Jason Lee
Celebrity 250

Jason Lee
Celebrity 252

Jason Lee
Celebrity 266

Jason Lee
Celebrity 274

Jason Lee
Celebrity 286

Jason Lee
Celebrity 290

Jason Lee
Celebrity 292

Jason Lee
Celebrity 292

Jason Lee
Celebrity 297

Jason Lee
Celebrity 299

Jason Lee
Celebrity 315

Jason Lee
Celebrity 315

Jason Lee
Celebrity 325

Jason Lee
Celebrity 335

Jason Lee
Celebrity 337

Jason Lee
Celebrity 343
Jason Lee

Celebrity 345
Jason Lee

Celebrity 349

Jason Lee
Celebrity 363

According to the Web site, Scientology organizations frequently send out newsletters listing the names of people who have recently taken classes. A researcher has collected some of those documents and made a database of the names.

She cautions that some listings could be different people with the same name.

The researcher's preliminary findings:

about 60 percent of people who try the "religion" do only a single course or service

80 percent of new members become inactive within two years.

65 percent of those who reach the level of "Clear" become inactive within a year.

Name this cat

Team Cricket's newest feline friend needs a name.

He is a strapping young up-and-comer, recently acquired from the minor leagues.

Post your suggestions below.

(he's not actually mine, but this will make for some springtime fun)

Maximum respect,


resident parrot

Not to beat a dead horse

Fellow blogmate atlmalcontent posted similar criticism of Comedy Central caving to Islam.

"So Bill O'Reilly was right, sort of. Not that I'm buying the alleged "war on Christians," but there's certainly been a surrender to Muslim extremists. "South Park" made that point brilliantly last night, via a mock Islamofascist propaganda film showing Jesus using the American flag as a toilet (which was preceded by a blacked-out image of Mohammed handing "Family Guy" a helmet topped with a dead salmon).
Homer: "It works on so many levels."
So it's okay to disrespect one religion but not another? Comedy Central says yes, as they've banned any depiction of Mohammed on their network. But Christ taking a shit ... big deal. Jerry Falwell hasn't threatened to kill us, so screw 'em."
You can read his entire post here.
South Park did air a depiction of Muhammed in July 2001 on its "Super Best Friends" Episode, without any controversy.

The episode's synopsis is here.


Scientology, Islam and iced tea.

Comedy Central did in fact censor tonight's South Park, the end is near.

I personally hope the lame network gets egg in the face like it deserves.

In tonight's episode, the creators showed that American cable television will selectively choose what can be made fun or and what can't.

It's either everything or nothing, as Kyle says in one of his "gay" speeches.

Let the slippery slope begin, political correctness at its worst.

Comedy Central will show Jesus shitting on an American flag, but not Muhammad handing over a helmet with a fish on it.

On a recent "Inside the Actor's Studio," Dave Chappelle voiced similar concerns about his former employer, Comedy Central. He said to the group of eager students, "You're still idealists ... you haven't discovered where art and corporate interests meet."

Such is American media, where a comedy channel can't muster the courage to push a few boundaries.

Way to go South Park. Leave the network.

You lads are better when you're pissed off.


An open request

Claudia, of Buenos Aires, documents her city's beautiful murals and graffiti.

She is hoping to post photographs of graffiti and murals from other cities, countries.

Please explore your own city and e-mail the photos to her with any sort of applicable information.

The e-mail address is listed on her blog.

(Thanks for your time.)

- Team Cricket

My child is an honor student at Aguascalientes Elementary

Meet nine-year-old Rafita Mirabel, Mexico's littlest bullfighter.

The child prodigy of the archaic sport has been at it since 2003, already participating in two-dozen matches, the Associated Press reported.

Mirabel is not yet strong enough to kill the bulls by thrusting his sword into the heart. He fights younger, smaller animals in the meantime, but does not kill them.

His sights are set on the ultimate prize.

"LeBron" Mirabel should be slaying the beasts by the time he turns 11 or 12. Most bullfighters aren't able to until age 15.

"He's got it in his blood," his manager said in the AP story. "He's got a great future."
On a personal note, the cricket cannot wait for his first product endorsement.
I envision a little Nike "swoosh" or two on his pint-sized conquistador outfit.


I am a patient boy

In waiting rooms and lobbies across the country, it is still the "Summer of the Shark" and Michael Jordan, failing to learn from past mistakes, toys with ending his second retirement.

Reality changes during a doctor's appointment. Certain world events have yet to happen, according to the paltry selection of periodicals.

For that brief time, Mother Nature hasn't thrown a powerful hurricane at New Orleans or whipped up a giant wave in the Indian Ocean.

Arizona's top ten golf courses are still ranked as if it's 2003.

Love is in the air. Publications tout the rock solid marriages of Brad and Jennifer, Nick and Jessica.

A Reader's Digest shares the heartwarming story of rescuers saving those miners, who floated helplessly in cold water until rescuers could drill deep enough to save them.

The election of 2004 is a cliffhanger. Will Kerry pull it off?

The world according to the waiting room flows through time at a relaxed pace, like an afternoon baseball game.

You miss a few things from the stands on that sunny day, while grabbing a beer or watching two fans fight over a foul ball.

The lobby thrusts you back to life before technology made things so on-demand.

I can close my eyes and envision myself in the Wild West, waiting for major events to gradually reach my small town. Fewer distractions torpedo into my immediate surroundings.

Information is leisurely updated.

The gaps of time mean I can correct past mistakes before reaching the exam room, which, in essence, is a second waiting room.

I can quit smoking and start jogging, retroactive to March 19, 2005.

My imagined reality shatters as a nurse throws a new stack of current events on top of the dusty magazine rack.

The waiting room world catches up, the tortoise momentarily reaches the hare.

I don't fear because I know it is only temporary. Time will again begin to lag, and in six months, I'll be in a fixed period of time again.

In short order, I'll be wondering whether Democrats will pick up seats this November or if Hillary will enter the race and ultimately lose.

The reprieve from updated information puts things into perspective.

A bigger question becomes whether any of those thoughts really matter.


Come out of the closet, Comedy Central

The cricket tends to agree with atl malcontent about South Park being the only anti-establishment voice in the cartoon realm these days, filling a void created when The Simpsons decomposed after a slew of stale seasons.

However, I do not share his sentiments about Family Guy relying solely on slapstick humor, although the format is sometimes tiresome.

Remember the episode lampooning "the freakin' FCC?"

In the wake of Comedy Central's sudden yank of the now-infamous scientology show, the boys have blasted back.

Wednesday's episode focused on the hysteria created when Family Guy was censored for trying to show the prophet Muhammad drinking iced tea. When the writers demand the character be aired without the black box in a subsequent episode, Fox caves since Family Guy is its biggest and most successful series.

Hmm ... sounds familiar. Come to think of it -- without South Park -- CC really doesn't have that deep of a lineup.

Mass Muslim riots ensue, terrorism is threatened and Cartman vows to prevent the episode from airing and get the series cancelled.

Kyle, a fan of the show, tries to stop him.

The episode ends with a "to be continued" and asks whether Comedy Central will "puss out" and pull next week's show, implying that the embattled network might fear reaction to putting a caricature of his holiness on the boob tube.

Or maybe it's a bluff and they have no intention of crossing that line.

Well played, South Park. Well played ...

In related news, the show won the illustrious 2005 Peabody Award.

South Park: 2. Mind of Mencia: 0.


Better homes and gardens

Apparently, there is a rise in men getting Brazilian bikini waxes.

I'll let that sink in for a moment.

According to dermadoctor.com, men are paying up to $100 for the procedure, which includes applying hot wax to the buttocks and public area and then ripping out the hair with cloth strips.

For years, the procedure has been a common practice for some gay males, but it appears to be taking off with their straight counterparts in several major metro areas including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Washington, DC, the Web site reported.

You know, atl malcontent, we are going to the beach in about three weeks ...

Men claim it makes for a more sensual experience and without the hair, objects may appear larger than they really are.

Professional bodybuilders, swimmers and cyclists have used to hair removing procedure for years.

The cricket will admit to some occassional landscaping, but never total removal.

With a rash of hot female teachers wanting prepubescent boy action, maybe hairless is the way to go guys.

Who can say no to this?

Rachel Holt, 34, of Delaware, allegedly had sex with a 13-year-old student in one of her classes, while another student watched.
During a one week period, they had sex 28 times, lasting a grand total of 33 minutes.
Obviously, some beer was involved.

(The cricket laments going to school when he did.)


South America's not-so-hidden urban art

Cheers to Claudia in Buenos Aires, a new friend in a very appealing climate.

She is truly a documentarian, snapping photos of graffiti around her beautiful city. In some cases, Claudia permanently preserves the art, before it is covered with a fresh coat of paint.

Check out her blog, which she updates quite regularly.

The graffiti ranges from politics to light-hearted cartoons, and most everything in between.

Her blog, and more great pictures, can be found at http://claugraffitis.blogspot.com/

It will make your night, the cricket promises.

My pet can't catch a frisbee, but she says "thank you."

A few years ago, I received a bonsai tree as a present.

Determined to help my new friend prosper, I studied how to properly care for my notoriously needy companion. I trimmed off dead leaves, rationed out the ideal amount of water and even rotated the tree everyday to ensure each side received equal access to the sun.

Several months later, I debated turning over the half-dead tree to some sort of bonsai hospice program, a place for tired plants to die with dignity. Maybe I was treating my small tree too much like a special needs child, trying in vain to cater to its every need, yet ultimately choking it of having any kind of life of its own.

Can one be too overbearing, even for a houseplant?

No more poking, prodding or fertilizer, I vowed. Just warmth and love and water, the necessities.

Three weeks later, I tossed the carcass of my friend-turned-nemesis into the trashcan. It seems the only way for a houseplant to escape from my bedroom is to wither away, leaving its master to dispose of the remains, the ultimate insult.

I nervously slipped into the local florist on a whim last week. For some unknown reason, I just had to buy a new plant. Overcome with Spring fever, some greenery would really cap off two days worth of cleaning, I thought, trying to convince the naysayer on my left shoulder who's all too familiar with the bonsai saga.

"You don't want a geranium, it's like having a child," the clerk said after appearing with a large fern. "Try this, anyone can take care of it."

With that ego-boosting reassurance, I waltzed out of that flower shop, with the ultimate solution to buck my checkered botanical past.

On my desk now sits a magnificent peace lily, a plant that actually tells you when it needs water.
This morning, my lily looked about half as tall as it did when I bought it. Its leaves and flower buds drooped; reminding me of the pathetic look a dog has when begging for food.

I poured some water into the pot and headed off to work.

By the time I returned, my plant's leaves and flowers had returned to full staff.

My new puppy was wagging its tail.


Odd name, inherently funny animal

Scientists estimate there are between 2 million and 100 million animal species in the world. That wide range suggests we really have no idea about the environment in which we live, no matter how much we pretend to.

Introducing the cricket's first part of -- we'll just say -- a long series.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the dikdik, nature's clown.

Dikdiks are tiny antelopes slightly larger than a hare, but do not have the distinction of being Africa's smallest antelope. That distinction rests with the dwarf royal antelope of West Africa.

The dikdik is actually the third smallest mini deer, behind the suni.

There are five species of dikdik, primarily found in eastern and northeastern Africa. They live in monogamous pairs on territories they mark with their own dung. Almost OCD with protecting their shrubby land along dry, rocky stream beds, the dikdik will lay one down around the boundaries and on top of other species' crap, even elephants.

To put the size of the animal into perspective, the digidigi (as the locals call it) can grow to between 10 and 12 pounds and stand at a hilarious 14 to 16 inches.

They eat foliage, shoots, fruit and berries. They are nocturnal, therefore feeding mostly at night.

Dikdiks like salt, but do not need to drink.

Enough liquid is contained in the plants they eat.

Range life moves quickly for the small deer, as just about everything eats it, including monitor lizards, eagles, pythons, small cats, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs and humans. To compensate, dikdiks reproduce like rabbits.

A doe can get pregnant just 10 days after giving birth. A young dikdik reaches sexual maturity at six months of age.

Dikdiks get it on like dikdiks.

Go on; say the animal's name a couple times. A smile, albeit slight, is guaranteed to cross your face.

Use it as a pet name for your lover.

Don't be alarmed if they react like a true dikdik and do considerable damage with their razor-sharp hooves. The best-case scenario is that he/she leans over and uses the nose to whistle a seductive "zik-zik" into your ear, which is likely how this jester got its moniker.

If you close your eyes tight enough, you can just pretend your beau has an exotic accent.

A tip of the hat goes to the African Wildlife Foundation for the information.

The secret ingredient is cough syrup

Several years ago, I noticed the coming wave of alcopop supplemented with caffeine, ginseng and guarana (what is that anyway?) while on vacation in Ireland, Belfast and London. At bars and clubs, sugary concoctions -- often in bright colored cans and bottles -- took up as much space as beer, the national staple.
While the trend seemed staunchly entrenched there, I remained optimistic it wouldn't cross the Atlantic.
Sadly, the insurgency is upon us, here in America, or at least in this test market that is the cricket's home.

Riding high with such notable successes as Bartles & Jaymes and Zima, conniving beverage companies armed with laughable advertising campaigns seek to expand the market to people not hip to the time-honored status quo of drinking stiff drinks, getting drowsy and falling asleep.

After the advent of Red Bull, high fructose corn syrup is no longer enough. We need energy, a little something extra to get us through a five-hour NASCAR race or give us a second wind to outlast that drunk sorority girl at the Abercrombie & Fitch keg party.

When the hell is she going to pass out?

It all started with Sparks (I could never bring myself to drink something of that name, especially with prominently displayed flavors like sour apple). Hmm, I'll go with the green stuff. If I'm feeling adventurous, I might branch out with purple.

Next, came Budweiser B "to the" E.

"We created a great new drink that's outside the boundaries of the taste adults would expect from a traditional beer," said Nathaniel Davis, brewmaster, Anheuser-Busch, Inc in a 2004 company press release. "With B-to-the-E, we've come up with a beer that has a taste with a 'wow' factor at the finish."

Against my better wishes, I'll admit to being suckered in by the novelty once. For the record, that 'wow' factor at the end comes from the SweeTarts dissolved into a big vat of watery domestic brew.

Make way for the king: Natty Up, the fusion of Natural Light and energy drink.

It's being test marketed by Anheuser-Busch in Ohio, although I don't believe it's been placed in any actual stores yet.

The news gets worse from here.

A study this month in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research suggests people who consume energy drinks with alcohol may feel more sober than they are, according to a Reuters story.
"In experiments with young male volunteers, Brazilian researchers found that the men were no less impaired when they drank a mix of alcohol and the energy drink Red Bull than when they downed a standard mixed drink.
Drinkers did, however, seem to think they were less drunk -- reporting less fatigue, fewer headache symptoms and better coordination."

Just what we need: A bunch of rednecks and frat boys with more stamina.

"Honey, grab me another Natty Up so I have the energy to beat you a little more."

I sense a few more couch fires this summer.