Saturday, January 22, 2011

Christmas 2010: Santa Photos, James Eats Shoes (Again), and Presents!

I wasn't going to get Santa photos ($20 for a 2 hour wait at the mall? No thank you), but then I found out about Tiny Tots in Campbell. You set an appointment time so there's no wait, and they send you free high res images. While we waited (okay, there's a 5 minute wait), my dad smiled and chatted with someone else's little ones. Because of his grey beard and love of children, the store actually asked if he'd be one of their Santas! Later when I brought it up again to my dad that he could make some money on the side next year as a Santa, he said, "I didn't think they'd pay me. I'd do it for free!" (Pssssst, Dad, don't say that at Tiny Tots.)

Julia tolerated Santa, and then it was time for both of them to sit on Santa's lap. James was a minute away from a meltdown but he got through it. And then the photographer asked if I wanted some photos with just James and Santa. I knew what was inevitable (meltdown in t-minus 10 seconds at that point) but I also knew that the crying pictures are truly the best Santa pictures. I still feel guilty thinking about James looking right at me while bawling as if to say, "Save me, Mommy!"

Julia tolerates Santa...

Julia gets used to Santa and James does okay...

Uh oh.

My friend Natascha's twins, Emilie and Celeste, got the best Santa photo ever.

My parents and brother arrived two days before Christmas. When they arrived I raced to buy a pair of shoes for James to wear with his Christmas Eve and Christmas Day outfits. And then he didn't end up wearing them! I put his new shoes on him on Christmas Eve and he was much more interested in wriggling out of them and chewing on them. He also left bite marks in Julia's red Mary Janes. James loves him some footwear. One day I wore fuzzy green socks and he kept cuddling with my feet! He also will follow my mother-in-law around to try to get at her slippers.

Mmmm... tasty.

This is nothing new for James. At our trip to the pumpkin patch James tried to eat one of Julia's shoes four times.

James with Papa

Julia's hand got stuck in the curling ribbon and she dragged around this present for a little while.

The adults opened presents Christmas Eve so we would not be interrupted by babies a million times, but Christmas Day was all about the babies' presents.

Mommy Santa left Julia her favorite thing in her stocking. (James likes puffs too, but Julia shakes like a drug addict for them when she sees the container.)

Julia totally looks like Mark's dad here. It should be noted that Mark's dad does not crawl around with his tongue hanging out. Usually.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Was on Jeopardy, Part IV: More Exciting Green Room Action and Jeopardy Arcana (Yes one day I'll write a post about my actual shows)

Remember Quiz Show and the scandals from the 50s? Jeopardy takes the rules that came out of that very seriously. While you wait at the studio for your episode to tape you can only talk to other contestants or the wranglers, and except for the complimentary photo with Alex, there is definitely no Trebekian interaction except for what you see on screen. In the studio audience, even though Mark, Lila, and Brendan were literally across the aisle from me as I waited to be called for my episode, we were not allowed to speak to each other. In fact, guests were told there would be trouble if they even smiled at us! (You can see the studio and the audience here. The contestants waiting to play sit in the far left quadrant.)

After each game you're rounded up and sent back to the green room. Since you're basically sequestered upon arriving at 8 a.m., you get to know your fellow contestants fairly well. There's even more camaraderie among the people playing the last games of the day just by virtue of being around these people longer. I'm now Facebook friends with the guy I beat and the guy who beat me (and it's been fun chatting with them since our games). I was a bit dismayed though that my fellow contestants were on the young side, even compared to me, since the two Jeopardy champions who have won the most moolah (Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings) were 25 and 30 when they won. I find it interesting that there were so many youngsters at my taping, yet at my tryout there were, in my estimation, only 4 of us out of 21 who were under 40.

My week of contestants. Squint and you can see me on the far left of the second row. They're all young whippersnappers!

That's me!

The wranglers are also really fun and supportive and come over to you during the commercial breaks of your game to keep your spirits up (and also to make sure everyone's buzzers work). In fact, my friend April who was on Jeopardy in 1999 told me that she was so nervous she considered leaving but didn't want to let the wranglers down.

After the Wednesday game is taped, the contestants are rounded up again and shuffled over to the Sony Cafeteria. I spotted the two ladies from the Clue Crew there and went up to one of them and said, "You're with the Clue Crew!" (I'm so lame.) I overspent the $10 Jeopardy lunch budget by $2 (first I went up to the counter and realized I had only spent $6 so I went back to get soup), and the Jeopardy lawyer had to cover me. Oops.

Some other interesting tidbits you might not know about Jeopardy:

I noticed after the final game for the week that the rack of clothes in the green room still was full. Apparently, people leave their extra changes of clothes there all the time and don't ask to have them returned. I was astounded because I would think you'd wear your best clothes (suits for the gents, especially) to Jeopardy and that you'd make some effort to get them back.

The after game chat with Alex is choreographed in terms of where each person stands on the stage. The champion is always farthest from Alex.

After each episode is taped there's a random draw (the contestants names are written on notecards and shuffled) to determine the players for the next show, taped thirty minutes later. There are always two locals in the contestant pool for the week. One plays that day and the other is assured a spot in the Monday - Wednesday games of the next day of taping. Ari, who beat me on Friday's show, was one of the two locals. (Why couldn't I have gotten the laid back musician guy? He mysteriously didn't play the following week so I don't know if he was any good but he didn't seem to have the killer Jeopardy instinct.)

(Picture found online of some random dude.) I poked around to see what exactly was behind the white diamond wall "fence" on the side. Answer: lights.

The commercial breaks are just as long in the studio. During the first break Alex has pictures taken with the two new competitors. During the other breaks Alex takes questions from the audience. Our friend Brendan raised his hand and Alex addressed him as "the curly-haired fellow," a description that excited Brendan. Most of the questions were pretty dumb. My favorite was from a high school age girl:

Girl: Are you and Pat Sajak best friends?
Alex: We're friends. I wouldn't say best friends.
Girl: Do you ever have dinner together?
Alex: Actually, we did have dinner the other night...
Girl (gleeful): At his house?
Alex: Uh, no... At a fundraiser.

Not best friends, okay?
I got this picture from a website where people voted on who would win in a brawl. Trebek had 76% of the votes.

During my games I missed the part where Alex took questions from the audience, but apparently announcer Johnny Gilbert talked about the episode where Ken Jennings lost. "A lady beat him!"

In the morning you get to play a practice game to get a feel for the buzzer, and everyone (with two exceptions but I didn't get to play them - d'oh!) was pretty darn good. I had no idea who the dominant players would be, and it's pretty intimidating because you realize that it's pretty much a toss-up as to who would be the eventual winners. But besides that, the practice game was a whole lot of fun! When it ended I just wanted to keep playing!

Outside an entrance to the set

I was afraid to send this photo out before the episode aired for fear that you Oliver Stone types would Zapruder the photo and realize I was wearing my Friday taping outfit instead of Thursday's. (Yeah, that's right. I'm making Zapruder into a verb.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Was on Jeopardy, Part III: The Road Trip and Inside the Green Room

R o a d T r i p !

My Jeopardy episode taped on a Tuesday so Mark and I drove down to L.A. late Monday morning and drove back as soon as taping finished on Tuesday. (It should be noted that Jeopardy does not pay for your transportation or accommodations unless you are the returning champion at week's end and have to return to L.A. for another taping.) It was both sad and liberating saying goodbye to the babies, since of course I hadn't spent a day without them since they were born. Our friends Lila and Brendan came with us, and it was our first road trip together since the 1998 Summer of Chev when we drove to Tahoe and ate at 10 Chevys in 4 days.

The 1998 Summer of Chev

The 2010 Jeopardy victory tour

A Jeopardy road trip was Lila's idea - she said they could quiz me during the drive. What actually ended up happening was I studied the trivia spreadsheets I had created with the idea that I'd give them to my friends to quiz me, but then I got really sleepy and tried to nap the last half of the trip. The highlight of the road trip was stopping at Casa de Fruita for the first time (there's a Casa de Choo Choo that goes through a Casa de Haunted Tunnel) and getting gas in Lost Hills. I'm pretty sure Lost Hills is the most isolated of the Interstate 5 towns, since when you leave it in either direction there are signs telling you how far away the nearest gas station is. Lost Hills is awesome because of the two big "travel centers," a.k.a. trucker stores, which feature both trucker showers and - wait for it - an ENTIRE AISLE OF BEEF JERKY.

Oh no. The Casa de Corrugated Iron Semi-Circle is Casa de Haunted.

I was most disturbed by the existence of jerky chew.

Sasquatch Jerky!

The spokesperson of the "travel centers" is John Ratzenberger which tells me that B.J. from B.J. and the Bear must have been busy. B.J. and the Bear combined two great trends of the late 70s: trucking and monkeys. Since the show aired in 1980 I'll just assume Bear was also unavailable due to having been stuffed. (Please tell me the hat is still on him.)

G r e e n R o o m !

I always imagined the night before I'd appear on Jeopardy I'd be a nervous wreck and get no sleep, but I was so sleepy I think I went to bed at 9 p.m. and slept like a baby. That was good since I had to be at the Sony studios at 8 a.m. The first episode began taping at 11:30.

The Jeopardy green room is a pretty basic little room, actually painted green, with pictures from Celebrity Jeopardy adorning the walls. I immediately realized that David Duchovny, Neil Patrick Harris, and Wolf Blitzer must have used the same two toilets I did! I will never wash this wiping hand again!

Wolf. Our butts have two degrees of separation. (One being a toilet.)

Inside the Jeopardy green room. (Not my group. This is College Jeopardy.) One of the bathrooms with an Ed Asner backside-touched toilet is behind that closed door.

Since I was still feeding my little ones breastmilk, I pumped in the green room (under the watchful, but not too watchful, eye of a wrangler) during the Tuesday game. It's too bad I missed it because that game turned out to be the funniest one of the week.

"McLovin" from the Tuesday episode was declared The Most Entertaining Jeopardy Contestant Ever (here's video proof) by

So what goes on during those three and a half hours?
1) Go to make-up (but you do your own hair)
2) Review your anecdotes with the Jeopardy wranglers
3) Go around the room and show the wranglers your excited face if you win (really)
4) Learn obscure Jeopardy rules (and some Celebrity Jeopardy anecdotes) from wrangler Maggie

Some interesting ones:

If you add an article to the title of something that doesn't have an article you normally won't be penalized. However, if you add an article to something like the movie Unforgiven, you would not be given credit since there is already a different movie called The Unforgiven.

If you get a question right and Alex asks someone else to choose a category, do not stop the game.

Regis Philbin does not wash his hands after pooping. (Okay, that one I made up.)

5) Creating and rehearsing a "Hometown Howdy"

A Hometown Howdy is a ten second shout-out that your local affiliate might air to encourage people to watch; you say your name, where you're from and to watch you on Jeopardy. And you have to have something else specific to your city in there, too. Did I mention they only told us we needed to come up with one that morning? I spent a couple hours not having a clue what I was going to do. But then I thought up one, possibly inspired by the move to our first house two days later:

Also, here:

In my second "Hometown Howdy," recorded just before the second game, I didn't have anything planned so I just told viewers to see if I "keep the streak alive." Yes, my streak of ONE. I never did see my Hometown Howdies air (thanks a lot, local affiliate!), but at least the first one was available on the Jeopardy website.

Ironically, in Ken Jennings' first Hometown Howdy he told his fellow Provo-dians to watch his 15 minutes of fame.