giving up basketball to play baseball.
adding a cute little kid, cousin Oliver, to boost sagging ratings.
Celebrities who name their babies "Banjo," "Apple," "
," "Moxie Crimefighter" or "Bronx Mowgli."
Everybody has an opinion on the stupidest ideas anyone ever has had. Many people also would include the Taco Bell chihuhua, "AfterM*A*S*H," the Cleveland Indians' 10-Cent Beer Night, the
and the bone-headed decision to give a sitcom puppet, ALF, his own
Two Hartford-based writers, Daniel B. Kline and Jason Tomaszewski, recently published a hilarious, lighthearted and colorful compilation of what they consider to be the lowest points in American pop culture. "Worst Ideas Ever: A Celebration of Embarrassment" (Sky Horse Publishing, 232 pp., $12.95) is an extension of Kline and Tomaszewski's blog,
, which features a weekly podcast and funny postings whenever well-publicized stupidity strikes.
"It's not so much that people are stupid, but that they are unwilling to admit when they are wrong," Kline says. "In most cases of these bad ideas, the writing was on the wall early in the process, but people refuse to back down and push themselves into worst idea territory."
Kline, who lives in
with his wife, Celine Provini, and 7-year-old son, Joshua, and Tomaszewski, who lives in
with his wife, Dawn, and his 2-year-old twin sons, Benjamin and Cooper, met years ago while working at the
Register-Citizen. Now both are editors at websites, Kline at itsrelevant.com, based in
, and Tomaszewski at educationworld.com, based in Wallingford.
The guys record their "Worst of the Week" podcasts at a tiny office on Charter Oak Avenue in Hartford, which is decorated with many of the lamebrained items that made their list, including a can of Pepsi Blue, an Apple Newton, a
of the misguided "Friends" spinoff "Joey," and Domino's Pizza's repellent mascot The Noid. Many of the silly items were bought at Kline's old job, Time Machine Hobby in Manchester.
Pizza advertising takes a real hit in their book; another entry is Pizza Hut's decision to use
as a pitchman, which astoundingly sounded like a good idea to someone at the time.
takes a hit, too: The husband of former Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon is slammed for creating both the XFL and the World Bodybuilding Federation.
The guys came up with their list through their own conversations, and queries on the internet.
"I threw out on Facebook, 'hey, anybody remember a bad electronic device?' I didn't remember DivX, a DVD player, where you had to buy a custom player and the disc went bad after a week," he said. "But my favorite [electronic device] was the
Virtual Boy, which has a warning on it, to not play for more than 10 minutes, and if kids did, they got
Tomaszewski said some of the dunderheaded creations they came across sounded so unbelievable they had to research them to make sure they were real. "Especially some of the food ones. I mean, you hear urban legends of people putting a hamburger between two donuts, but you gotta check it out. There's always something ridiculous, deep-fried cola, deep-fried beer."
"Worst Ideas Ever" for the most part spans the '60s to the early 21st century, with a few exceptions going farther back in history. Prohibition is listed as an all-time bad idea, as was the invention of Esperanto and a decision by two 19th-century popes, and Queen Victoria, to throw their support behind a brand of wine laced with cocaine.
The book is divided into the categories of Food & Drink, Stuff, The "Arts," Sports and Media & Politics. The guys said in their selections, they tried to make the book eclectic, touching on bad ideas that are both silly — edible underwear, the
Dreamcast, the female urinal — and serious, such as the danger of alcohol-laced energy drinks, the lethal potential of deep-frying a turkey, and
's premature "Mission Accomplished" speech.
"When we were getting it down to what was going to make it into the book, we made a conscious effort to span generations, span genres, to get that balance," Tomaszewski said..
But for every bad idea listed in the book, Kline and Tomaszewski say, many more were rejected.
"We rejected the Millennium Dome, the Bridge to Nowhere," Kline says. Tomaszewski added "We weeded out things that were really superficial, where people would say, 'we spent a lot of money and we had nothing'."
"We found, certain stories, we looked into them, and there wasn't anything else to them except that they happened," Kline says. "With the ones that made the cut, like New Coke, there really were layers of depth to it."
Tomaszewski especially enjoyed mulling over the sports events. 'Michael Jordan not being drafted at No. 1, that made the cut, but Jackie Smith dropping the touchdown pass in the
, which was fairly obscure, didn't make the cut," he said.
Kline said the appeal had to be wide. "It had to be either a really amazing story, or just so goofy," he said. "There are some really horrible sports trades, but it's really only techy sports guys would care about it."
When adding movies and TV shows to the list, Kline and Tomaszewski found a commonality in all the bad productions.
"What they have in common is that about a quarter or halfway through, everybody involved in it knows it's a bad idea, but there's too much money involved, too much ego," Kline says. "So If you're on the set of 'Battlefield Earth,' you can't tell
'this isn't working.' You can't pull the plug. You're better off spending $60 million making the movie and then spending $40 million in advertising and putting it out and hoping to cut your losses."
"There's so much money sunk into it," Tomaszewski says, "there really is a point of no return."
Our society possesses such a rich reservoir of imbecility that Kline and Tomaszewski have enough material to write a sequel; they might be asked, if this book sells well enough. Ideas pop up every day, as can be seen on their blog. (A recent posting: "
' face tattooed: You don't have to be all that bright to realize that a lifelong commitment to Jesse James may not be a good idea. Sadly, Kat Von D is not all that bright.")
"We already have a title for the sequel: 'Worst Ideas Ever 2: Electric Boogaloo,' from the movie 'Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo'," Kline says. "That didn't make it into the book, but we have enough to write about how every feel-good rap movie has the same plot, which is, we have to save the community center by having a rap contest."
"Worst Ideas Ever" is Kline and Tomaszewski's second book together. Their first also was celebrity- and pop-culture oriented, "50 Things Every Guy Should Know How To Do: Celebrity and Expert Advice on Living Large" (Plume Publishing, 2006, 208 pp.). It included segments by poker star Amarillo Slim on how to play No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" host
on dressing for a date, Sen.
on running for office and "This Old House" host Kevin O'Connor on home improvement.
But they are even more fond of their "worst ideas" project, because it's fun and easily relatable across a broad spectrum.
"It's the train-wreck factor," Tomaszewski says. "People love a disaster. They take joy in reading about it and watching it."