Practice Makes Prefect

That's right, Allen!  This week, we gon' be talkin' 'bout practice!

That’s right, Allen! This week, we gon’ be talkin’ ’bout practice!

Poor August.  It gets such a bad rap because it’s the only month on the American calendar without any special days that fall within it.  Plus, it’s about that time of the year when all those warm weather people begin to realize that hot and muggy summer isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.  But there are many reasons August should be celebrated!  Kids are swept up off the street and put back into school where they belong, about ten billion people I know have a birthday this month, and best of all, there are 5, count them, FIVE Fridays in August!  And you know what that means…

Accordin' to this here chart, we're gonna git 25% more Millunaire Journey this month!  Yeehaw!

Accordin’ to this here chart, we’re gonna git 25% more Millunaire Jerney this month! Yeehaw!

And I promise you, by the end of this month we will finally be ready to get this party started!  But first, we still have many things to learn.  Last week, we practiced going Bendy Side Out and sitting in the High Chair Hot Seat.  This week, we’re going to actually see if we have what it takes to be a contender, and run off a few just-for-fun Fastest Finger questions!  This is going to be a blast!

If we don’t fall asleep during the legal briefing, that is….

And we can use your image and likeness across all media present and future throughout the universe in perpetuity... just like how long this briefing is going to last....

And we can use your image and likeness across all media present and future throughout the universe in perpetuity… which is about how long this briefing is going to last….

In between learning how to walk and sit, and how to push buttons on a machine, we have to listen to the show’s crack lawyer bore us to tears.  At least it wasn’t some stuffy barrister who was going to utter legal words that are never used in the English language.  ABC’s attorney who was going to go all legal on us and guide us through our Fastest Finger practice was a young woman with short, legally blonde hair.  One of the other contestants compared her looks to Meg Ryan at that time, and I’d say that’s a pretty spot on comparison.

This image actually has the closest resemblance to our legal briefer that I was able to find on Google.  Boy, has Meg gotten old lately or what?

This image actually has the closest resemblance to our legal briefer that I was able to find on Google. Boy, has Meg gotten old lately or what?

The most important piece of advice Meg gave us was to let them know if they fucked up (I tried looking up the legal term for “fucked up,” but came up blank.)  If we think there’s a problem with one of the questions we get asked, LET THEM KNOW.  If we need clarification on a question, LET THEM KNOW.  If Regis can’t pronounce an eight-bit word correctly, and we’d like an official pronunciation along with the word’s use in a sentence, LET THEM KNOW.  If our Fastest Finger machine goes on the fritz or electrocutes us on contact, LET THEM KNOW.

And what happens if you don’t LET THEM KNOW about something that isn’t right…?

That's right, Judge Wapner.

That’s right, Judge Wapner.

Each Fastest Finger and Hot Seat question result wasn’t final until the show’s judges declared it so… and once they made their final decision, the time to LET THEM KNOW had come and gone.

Oh, and Meg told us not to listen to Regis when he inevitably tries to guide us on a question while in the Hot Seat, because he doesn’t know Jack Schitt…

Well... officially, that is.

Well… officially, that is.

Next, we’re told how to work our Fastest Finger machines.  This is great since my group is now sitting in the bleachers while the second taping group is actually down in the Ring of Fire with access to the devices, so I can’t actually look at the layout while it’s being described.  If you ever wondered what the control board of these FF machines looked like, here’s a diagram someone from my message board made a long time ago:


Obviously, the four purple buttons were for entering the order of the choices for the Fastest Finger question.  The red button allowed us to go back and delete the last letter we entered, and the green “OK” button officially submitted our answer and registered the time it took for us to enter it.  What we entered would show up on the LCD display over the buttons, with a “>” symbol appearing when we pressed OK.  Once we pressed OK, we could not go back and change what had been entered.  Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?

So simple, even an idiot trying to buy a pie without any money could do it!

So simple, even an idiot trying to buy a pie without any money could do it!

Yeah, about as simple as a man with no arms trying to get money out of an ATM.  The buttons were extremely finicky.  They had to be pressed down with the kind of firm pressure you would normally use on someone who is bleeding to death, or the choice would not register.  You also had to fully depress one button before you could press the next button, or risk not having the second entry register.  Check the LCD screen to make sure all four choices have been entered, and are in the correct order, and then make sure to push the OK button to stop the clock.  In fact, feel free to hammer at the OK button until Regis stops you just to make sure…

smashing smartphone

OK! OK! OK! OK! OK! OK! OK! OK!….

And to top it all off, here is what you would see on the screen in front of you when a Fastest Finger question was asked:


So you have the choices show up in 2X2 rows, and you have to try to enter them on a 4X1 row of buttons.  The appeal of this game show was based on its relative simplicity, but they sure as hell made it as insanely difficult as possible behind the scenes to play the damn Fastest Finger questions!

Speaking of… let’s begin, shall we?

squirrel with gun

Fire away!

Each of our groups was going to get five Fastest Finger practice questions.  Since the second group was already seated on stage, they got to go first.  They had a mixed bag of results, but one person from that group emerged as a clear favorite after winning three of the five practice questions… Claire Edelstein, who would indeed make the Hot Seat on her show and win $32,000.

But enough about those guys… they’re only entangled in my saga due to the Millionaire crew wanting to take Fridays off and smashing two tapings together on Thursdays.  Now it’s time to switch places again and see what this squirrel can do with this medieval contraption that will stand between me and the big bucks…

Whammies are slightly easier to operate due to their possum-like squishability.

Whammies are slightly easier to operate due to their possum-like squishability.

Unfortunately, time and the fact that there is no official record of FF practice has caused me to forget the exact choices that were attached to these rehearsal questions.  But at least I had jotted down what the theme of each one of them was…

First up was money amounts in order from smallest to largest.  Pretty easy question… my fingers do the walking to enter each choice in correct order, I smack that OK button, and then look at the LCD screen to see something like this…


homer doh

One question in, and already I’ve had one of my choices not register.  The fingers were fast, but apparently too fast for this machine that was probably built from recycled parts of the Titanic.  Once the 20 seconds is up, I look up to the big board and see that seven of my ten contemporaries had no problems entering all four choices in correctly.  And the winner is… Amy Turner!

a.k.a. Ethel Merman.

a.k.a. Ethel Merman.

So now I’m a bit worried my button pushing technique is not going to jive with this stupid computer in front of me.  Had I known at the time how incredibly inept I’d eventually be at trying to work a smartphone, I’d have probably just thrown up the white flag to all technology right there.  But no, I don’t have time to worry about how much machines hate me, the next question’s coming up…

The machines are evil.

The machines are evil.

It’s units of length in order, and there are three American units along with one metric unit thrown in to make us actually have to think while we press and depress buttons.  Just like last time, I don’t take time to think about how I’m entering the answers, I just do it.  This time, after hammering the OK button, I see four letters followed by a “>”.  Ha, take that, you stupid Jumbotron reject!

I look up to the big board, and eight names light up.  Damn, my bunch is hot.  Then the winner’s name starts flashing.

It’s me.

The only ready artwork I have of ES with his arms raised in celebration.

The only ready artwork I have of ES with his arms raised in celebration… and it’s at a urinal.

If there is one thing I remember better than anything else that went on that day, it is that when I found out I had won that practice question, I instantly raised my arms up and let out a “YES!”  I was so fucking excited, that even my natural shyness couldn’t be contained.  I only wish my pathetic nearsighted eyes could have made out what winning time I had registered on the big board that may as well have been on Long Island for how well I could see it.

Practice question number three involved putting parts of a bee in order from top to bottom.  I get this one right as well…. in fact, EVERYONE got it right.  But only one name flashes…

It's me again!

It’s me again!

Yes, a second win for Amy.  The fourth question was a simple put in order question… the title “Lord of the Flies” in correct order.

Which conjures up images of the wrong reality show of that era...

Which conjures up images of the wrong popular reality show of that era…

I’ve got this whole button this down now, as I once again enter the choices in correctly… as do seven others.  This time the celebratory holla is from my left, as the mad teletypist Andrea Carla Michaels is in with the fastest time.

One last question… and an odd one.  Liquids in order of their acidity from most acidic to least.  Fortunately, those chemistry classes weren’t all that far off in my past, and I get the last four questions correct after FUBARing the first one.  But there were seven of us who got that question right, and only one winner.  And who do you think that’d be….?

Face it, you guys are toast in a few hours!

Face it, you guys are toast in a few hours!

With three wins under her belt, Amy has certainly become the favorite to make the Hot Seat on our show.  But given the overwhelming amount of green my entire group painted on the monitor, I had certainly underestimated the prowess of what seemed like a gang of misfits.  We had just gone a collective 40/50 in Fastest Finger practice, which is a remarkable total given that probably half of those scant ten misses were not due to brain farts, but rather entering problems like I had with the first question.  Make no mistake, I was going to have to be damn good… and lucky if I wanted to beat out this crowd for the Hot Seat…

I'm feeling lucky tonight!

I’m feeling lucky tonight!

Oh, and just to make it even harder on my group, while we were taking our practice, the carryover contestant who would be starting out in the Hot Seat on our show entered the studio to mingle with the second-tapers.  It’s Ed Toutant from Austin, TX, who just barely made it to the chair at the end of the previous taping.  He’ll be starting our show off with the $300 question… the earliest in a Hot Seat run that contestants were allowed to carry over with…

So much for getting many chances at the Fastest Finger.

So much for getting many chances at the Fastest Finger.

Well, that news has pretty much killed my appetite.  But that may be a good thing, because now that rehearsal is over, it’s time to break for whatever New Yorkers consider to be lunch.  That means a trip upstairs to the ABC commissary.  Join me here next Friday for yet another fun culinary adventure in the cafeteria of the stars….

This is how we should be competing for the Hot Seat...

This is how we should be competing for the Hot Seat…

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Evil Squirrel’s Nest Comic #118 — 7/31/14


Cartoon Craziness Challenge – Week 4

This week’s theme was “Kids and Pets” (no, not this stuff that I stock at work).  When this idea came to me, I already had the kid in Sully… so I dropped the Pigladillo at his feet to complete the theme since he’s often used in the pet role in my comics.  I shall continue to try working the theme of these challenges into each week’s comic!

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I’m OK, You’re OK

Live from the Sporting Goods department...

Live from the Sporting Goods department…

The new Mecca CD is here!!!  And a good month earlier than I thought we would get a change in the muzak… but this year’s Summer CD has been replaced with…. um…. the meccamuzakmondaysSummer CD?  OK, I may have to start referring to the most recent disc as the Spring CD, because the one playing now is absolutely the one Mecca meant to provide the atmosphere for the warm season.  Plus, it’s practically a remix of last year’s Summer CD, complete with Beach Boys overload….

And yes, I have issues.  I am probably the only person alive who is actually tickled to death at the prospect of learning a new nine and a half hour playlist….

Anyhoo, in honor of this occasion, I’m going to dedicate this week’s edition of Mecca Muzak Monday to one of those wonderful songs that tickled my eardrums last summer that has returned to provide great joy once again as I stock the Suavitel and Fabuloso.

stocker squirrel

And other stuff…

If you were wondering who that chick was I led off today’s post with, and what she had to do with MMM, she is actually a pretty well known singer-songwriter by the name of Ingrid Michaelson.  Ingrid’s yet another Mecca CD alumnus who got their start as an indie act, which means she was never pressured to dress up like a slut in front of the camera to try and sell more records CD’s downloads… and why should she when her reddish locks and nerdy spectacles make her ten times cuter than the artists who dress in meat costumes and engage in lesbian tongue wrestling on stage?

who doesn't love furry lesbians?


Here is a lyric video of Ingrid’s magnificently catchy little song that has now become a Mecca summer tradition… her 2008 single “Be OK”:

My focus on the background over the obvious tends to run over into my taste in music as well… and while everyone focuses on the voice and the wailing guitars in a song, I tend to enjoy the bass and percussion even more.  Many of my favorite songs have a killer bass groove and/or some nifty percussion work… and “Be OK” definitely has the latter… complete with snapping!

Not this kind of snapping...

Not this kind of snapping…

Thanks to Ingrid Michaelson and the genius mixmakers behind the Mecca Muzak CD’s, for two and a half minutes every night I’m at work, everything will be OK when this song comes on!

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We Just Disagree

I hope you know you'll be sleeping in the birdhouse tonight, Ralph.

I hope you know you’ll be sleeping in the birdhouse tonight, Ralph.

Ooo-ooo-ooooooh!  Who-oooo-ooooah!

sqturday squirrel logoIt’s a well-known fact that squirrels can be pretty testy creatures… particularly with one another.  But what if those squabbling squirrels were significant others?  I took this photo a few weeks ago, and when I look at it, I can’t help but think that it looks like these two sciurines just had a little domestic throwdown, and are now busy sulking on opposite sides of the pole.  Maybe it’s just my overactive imagination, but there doesn’t seem to be any love lost between these two Saturday Squirrels.  Can’t we all just get along?  Kiss and make up you two!!!

Have a much more enjoyable weekend than this couple seems to be having!

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Welcome back, everyone!  I'm Yeti the Yak.  Follow me to the Millionaire studio.

Welcome back, everyone! I’m Yeti the Yak. Follow me to the Millionaire studio.

Well, this is it… the final Friday in July.  Every Friday for four whole months now, I’ve been presenting you with another tantalizing episode of my Millionaire Journey.  Slowly but surely, like ketchup falling onto a plate of fries, we are making progress in getting to the exciting game show action you are all so patiently waiting for…. and will have to continue waiting until the end of the following month for… but hey, we’re having a hell of a time on the glacier-like trek to the promised land, aren’t we?

DAMMIT DAMMIT DAMMIT!!!!  Get to the good part... NOW!!!!!!!!!

DAMMIT DAMMIT DAMMIT!!!! Just get to the good part… NOW!!!!!!!!!

Last week I went into detail about how my personal associate producer Brent managed to take a few boring details about my life and turn them into exciting tidbits that would make me look like an awesome person in the Hot Seat.  As that chapter concluded, the contestants from both taping groups were being lined up to head to the studio downstairs for rehearsal.  Let’s head down there, shall we?

I knew going in that there were supposed to be two people from the WWTBAM message board and/or its sister board on Yahoo who were going to be in the second taping group.  I was easily able to determine by matching a screen name to a real name who one of them was, and it was the first contestant from Group 2, who was conveniently just two places behind me in line.  I asked if she was who I thought she was…

Hey, Baby!

Which would have been really awkward had it not been… especially had I greeted her like this.

That lady was Laurie Petersen, who posted with the handle “AttyLP” on our board.  She was excited to meet me (hey, who wouldn’t be?), and when our line made a pit stop at the potties on the way downstairs, she took advantage of the break to introduce me to the other member of the show’s online community, who I had known only through her online identity “Ethel Merman.”

Foreshadowing alert!  File this association away for future reference...

Foreshadowing alert! File this association away for future reference…

It turned out she had put herself in the wrong taping group on the message board list that was generated of contestants who had been called from this round of auditions.  She was actually in my group, and Ethel turned out to be Amy Turner, who would be sitting opposite me in Seat 2.  She seemed like such a nice lady, and it would be such a shame to have to kick her ass at a little trivia…

You're goin' down!!!!  You're ALL goin' down!!!  ARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!

You’re goin’ down!!!! You’re ALL goin’ down!!! ARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!

The pre-rehearsal potty break was due to the fact that thanks to all of the cheating that went on during the game shows of the 1950’s, contestants had to have an associate producer babysitter at all times, even to just take a leak.  Contestants were not allowed to leave the green room for any reason without being escorted by an AP.  This was to make sure we didn’t seize the opportunity to wander over to wherever the hell the question writers were located in the big, huge building we had never been in before in our lives to pick up a crib sheet.

Dammit!  Why can't game shows be more like school was...

Dammit! Why can’t game shows be more like school was…

Once all bladders were drained of all remnants of continental orange juice, we continued on the short trek to get to see for ourselves the familiar Millionaire studio that we had only before seen on TV.  One of the illusions of watching any kind of show on television that is filmed in a studio is that the set always appears to be much bigger than it actually is in real life.  And that was my first impression of the studio my favorite game show was shot in as I walked inside of it for the very first time, just how small it actually was.

My second impression was, “Holy shit!  Could it be any fucking colder in here!?!?”

Dammit!  I'm going to freeze my nuts off!

Dammit! I’m going to freeze my nuts off!

Most television studios are kept very cold in an effort to offset all of the heat from the intense overhead lighting.  I already knew this to an extent from having interned at a local television station a few years prior, but still wasn’t really prepared for the polar vortex that had taken over in ABC’s studio.  I was now very glad my chosen outfit for the actual taping included a sweater.

You gotta dress appropriately for the situation.

You gotta dress appropriately for the situation.

Those of us in the first taping group were instructed to take our places in the infamous “Ring of Fire,” where the prospective Hot Seaters sat while waiting for their turn to qualify for the main game.  Those in the second taping group had a seat in the audience bleachers that were directly behind my half of the Ring, while the twenty companions occupied the bleachers on the other side.

And there I sat… in the infamous Seat #9.  The place where so many a “board buddy” had rotted a slow, painful, zero dollar death.  A seat where comedian Norm MacDonald on the most recent celebrity edition of the show in November of 2000, wound up being the last of the ten celebs to win a fastest finger question…

That's Norm there as the last contestant left.  He had to move from Seat 9 to Seat 4 just to get a damn Fastest Finger question right!

That’s Norm there as the last contestant left. He had to move from Seat 9 to Seat 4 just to get a damn Fastest Finger question right!

No sooner had I taken in the ominous ambiance of our community’s most infamous chair that I heard a continuous string of clustered pecking to my left.  It sounded like someone was furiously sending out a Morse code message to someone halfway across the Atlantic.

It's a message from our underground agent in New York.  They want us to send blankets and a continental lunch.

It’s a message from our underground agent in New York. They want us to send blankets and a continental lunch.

It was the contestant seated next to me in Seat 10, Andrea Carla Michaels, and she was firing away at the buttons on the Fastest Finger console in front of her like the fate of mankind depended on it.  This was actually a piece of advice the people on our board who’d been there before always gave to the newbies off to seek their game show fortune for the first time… take plenty of time during the rehearsal to get the feeling for the console!  After all, winning a Fastest Finger question was the only way to get into the Hot Seat, and the more at ease you were with the way the archaic buttons worked and felt, the better your chances of winning.  So I fiddled around with the buttons a bit myself…

Not everyone can win by just pounding your fist on the podium like Billy Joel.

Not everyone can win by just pounding your fist on the podium like Billy Joel.

One other thing my ADHD body very quickly found out is that the chairs swiveled.  Not just a little bit side to side, but you could do circles in these things.  Since Seat 9 is directly behind where Regis sits as he asks the questions, that meant I was going to be seen over his shoulder quite a lot on the air, and I’m sure some dumbass constantly twisting side to side would not be what the producers would want showing up on their nationwide broadcast.  Hopefully I can get my tape of the show transferred to some kind of digital format so that when I finally get to the good part, I can show you just how totally not in control of myself I was during the taping…



One of the female AP’s took center stage to address the mini gathering.  We’re going to learn how to properly leave our chairs and come up to greet Regis should we happen to win a Fastest Finger question, as well as the correct way to get into the Hot Seat.  Sure, you may be laughing that we would actually have to practice this, but let me tell you that at this stage in the game show adventure, nothing is a gimme.  The unfamiliarity and the nerves are definitely taking over.

squirrel toilet

I better go get my babysitter… er, AP to help show me how to wipe my ass.

The first instruction we are given should we win is to come “Bendy Side Out.”  I’m not making that up, that’s exactly how it was explained to us.  To help demonstrate, here is a photo of the studio set-up (I actually think it’s the studio for the UK version of the show, but the set was identical to the US version) with my beautifully written markers to show you what’s what…

Closed captioning provided by possums with no arms.

Closed captioning provided by possums with no arms.

Notice how the first five Ring of Fire seats have console supports that bend out to the left, and the last five have supports that bend out to the right.  This was the side we were told to exit out of as we walked up to shake Regis’ hand… except for the contestants in Seats 5 and 6 who were supposed to come Non-Bendy Side Out since they were already close enough to where Regis would be standing to slap him on the ass and call him Sally.  We were not to walk behind the row of contestants, as that would look like we were trying to get out of the center of our row to buy some popcorn in the middle of a ballgame.

Easy as chileh pie, right?

You forgot to go Bendy Side Out, Dick!

You forgot to go Bendy Side Out, Dick!

Not for a klutz like me.  I had already managed to trip on the studio’s glass floor when I first walked in, and got all tangled up in the Bendy Side as I tried to plop my ass down in Seat 9.  And you can best believe that every single time I got into and out of that damn seat, I tripped over the fucking Bendy Side.  To whoever invented the Bendy Side game show console, I got just one message for you…

Stick this up your Bendy Side!

Stick this up your Bendy Side!

Next up was training on how to enter the Hot Seat.  I can assure you that the kids from Space Camp had a much easier time re-entering our earth’s atmosphere than most contestants had trying to park their fannies in this fucking famous chair.

I say we go Bendy Side around this next satellite.

I say we go Bendy Side around this next satellite.

To get into the Hot Seat, we must stand with our backs to it, grab the armrests from behind, and use all the physical strength we can muster to pull ourselves up into it.  Since the Hot Seat was positioned about seventy feet off of the floor, this was not as easy as it sounds.  For those who are too short to play professional basketball, they had a stagehand standing by with a wooden box to stand on to make this task about 2% easier.  I think this was the stagehand’s only responsibility during the entire taping process was to man the wooden Hot Seat booster box.

We box-toting stagehands have a good union.

We box-toting stagehands have a good union.

We were warned not to try to get into the chair by using the footrest, unless we wanted to break the whole damn chair and put the stagehand out of a job.  Once in the seat, a small 90 degree spin would put us facing Regis and the monitor our questions would show up on.  Nothing too it, right?

So when it’s my turn to go through this exciting practice run, I get up out of Seat 9, trip over the Bendy Side, shuffle my way up the hard to judge transparent glass floor, shake the fake Regis’ hand, walk up to the Hot Seat, hoist my fat ass up in the chair, and put enough torque into my spin to have completed a circumnavigation of the globe had I not managed to grab at the monitor for dear life…

But hey!  Regardless of what would come to be later in the day, for three whole seconds I could say I had sat in what at the time was the most famous chair on television!

Oh yeah!  How do you like me now, bitches!?!?

Oh yeah! How do you like me now, bitches!?!?

After we’d all gotten the chance to make a fool of ourselves, we traded places with the second taping group so they could go through the same routine.  While they’re doing that, I’m going to take this opportunity to rest up for a week.  We’ll continue with the conclusion of the rehearsal session next Friday… but until then, remember that there’s only one way to live life!

Bendy Side Out, Baby! (Artist credit: Deidre Wicks)

Bendy Side Out, Baby! (Artist credit: Deidre Wicks)

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