Thursday, December 29, 2005

Alafuckingmo Bowl

At about 2:20 a.m., I woke up to a giant cracking sound.

I looked down at the floor and saw that my psyche had fallen out and shattered into a million little pieces.

Thanks, Michigan and the Sun Belt Conference referees! Because of your playcalling and your Third World officiating, I'm now a schizophrenic!

No you're not.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas 2005: a lexicon

Andersen, Hans Christian: (1805-1875) Danish writer of children's tales. He has no genealogical nexus to the Netherlands. Hence he is a Dane, and not a Dutchman.
basement: A place to go for being loud at 4 a.m.
bass, mounted: The preserved, sanitized, and displayed remains of a freshwater fish popular among sportsmen, which somebody's younger brother knocked from a wall, partially shattered, and attempted to conceal.
bed: A comfortable sleeping apparatus that may be destroyed by dogs. See also: boxspring; mattress. Ex: "The dogs were in such a frenzy that they destroyed my parents' bed." (see illustration)
boxspring: Bed component that may provide shelter to cats. Easily destroyed by dogs.
Brooklyn, New York: One of five boroughs comprising New York City, Brooklyn featured prominently in the popular television series Welcome Back, Kotter. Mocked and misunderstood by Upper Midwesterners. See also: Williamsburg.
cats: Domesticated mammals noted for indifference and good personal grooming.
chocolate: A popular candy celebrated for its sweetness and heavy texture. At least 10 pounds must be daily consumed from Dec. 22-26.
Confessions of An Economic Hitman: 2005 autobiography by John Perkins, sharply critical of the World Bank and American involvement in developing economies. Received as a gift from an aunt and uncle; having purchased and read the book myself, it was promptly re-gifted to my dad to counterbalance the Tom Friedman book he also received.
Corporation, The: 2003 feature documentary sharply critical of large commercial enterprises, screened by my parents on Christmas morning.
cousin: The offspring of an aunt or uncle. May procreate prolifically.
dogs: Friendly, domesticated mammals that lack self control. (see illustration)

eggs, poached: An underappreciated breakfast comprised of chicken offspring.
fistfight: Hypothetical physical altercation between me and a friend's younger brother, prompting angst as to who the friend should support.
Grand Rapids, MI: Conservative midwestern city of 100,000 residents with a metropolitan population of approximately 1 million. It has an airport.
Gunner Palace: 2004 documentary sharply critical of Iraqi occupation, screened by my parents shortly before I departed.
incest: A category of humor that should be sparingly deployed when referencing one's own immediate ancestors.
Jason: The name of a 25-year-old aspiring optometrist who threatened to beat me up.
Jell-O: A popular brand of edible gelatins. Heavily consumed in narrow demographics of the Upper Midwest.
laundry machine: A barricade for the protection of cats. (see illustration)

mattress: Padded strata comprising a significant portion of most beds. More difficult to destroy than a boxspring, and consequently dragged aside by dogs attempting to destroy beds.
snowball: Compacted sphere of frozen precipitation celebrated for its projectile qualities; may be forbidden by skittish late-night hosts.
Tim, Tiny: (1932-1996) Kitsch ukulele-playing entertainer from the 1960s and '70s whose rendition of the popular Christmas carol "O Holy Night" chagrins my parents.
voices, indoor: A manner of locution favored by the weak and weary.
Williams, DeAngelo: A Memphis runningback.
Williamsburg: A Brooklyn, NY neighborhood perceived by some as fashionable; home to a 24-year-old lady employed by Sony-BMG.
"Woodland Critter Christmas": A 2004 episode of the popular animated television program South Park, in which mountain lion cubs perform an abortion on a male fourth grader in order to expunge from his body a half-porcupine, half-Satan antichrist.
World is Flat, The: Nonfiction book by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Notable for its antecolumbian geography theses.

The Flop Year in Fun: 20-11

While 2005 probably won't go down as the best year of my life, or even this decade, that's not to say that it hasn't been fun. In fact, one could say that there's been at least 20 fun moments. Actually, thanks in large part to some really great friends and family and all that good stuff, there's been a whole lot more than that. Of course, I'm going to limit this list to just the first 10 of my own top 20, with the second installment to be published sometime ... well, in the next couple days, possibly even before 2006.

20. Cole Slaw Blog. Yeah, I know, real freaking original. But this blog has been pretty damn good to me, despite sometimes making me feel as if I'd adopted a particularly cantankerous Tamagotchi or Funzo or something. But that's only when I've neglected it. When I'm a good blogger, I feel proud to have contributed to our readers' knowledge of Cucumis melo.

19. New Year's Eve last year. I drank a bunch of gin and champagne and beer and my co-blogger and I kicked the year off in true Cole Slaw Blog style, by dueling with plastic scimitars, crowning a queen and besottedly heckling passers-by. If you're on the lower east side this year, stroll by 1 Cole Slaw Center around 2 a.m. and prepare for curbside haranguing. We'll see you in hell!

18. The Wisconsin loss. Strictly speaking, the loss was not particularly fun. Every other part of the experience was, and I never wrote about it on the blog, so I'll take a little longer to do so now. I was with Her Majesty, the Queen of 2005 and her royal consort [manservant?], Blog Pin-Up Brian. We had just arrived to Hilton Head after a long day of travel. I rose before dawn to catch a flight at LaGuardia, then hung out with HM2K25 and BPUB in Savannah, Ga., until a fourth friend arrived and we drove to Hilton Head. After stocking our cooler with beer, we drove immediately to the local Michigan bar. We were the youngest alums by a solid four or five decades. But the blue-haired alums had plenty of spirit, and drained pitchers at an impressive clip. I enjoyed peel n' eat shrimp as Michigan outplayed Wisconsin for most of the game, then shouted at the screen in a drunken, overtired haze as Michigan's fucking three-deep zone conceded the game. After everyone stopped cursing and expecting a hurricane to hit the island, we paused to take pictures. As I violated several alcoholic beverage-and-motor-vehicle related laws in the passenger seat of our rental on the drive back to our place, I realized that I really want to make sure I'm still watching Michigan games with my friends when I'm so old that I don't know where the headlights switch is, because I never go out at night unless the Wolverines have a night game.

17. Paris. I went to Paris with the entire Flop clan this spring and it was a truly excellent experience. I had a blast waking up early every day, buying L'Equipe and having an espresso or two at the local cafe. I also didn't cause any international incidents, and got to watch the Eiffel Tower twinkling in the dark every night from my window.

16. Winning my office's NCAA Tournament pool. I now forgive North Carolina for the 1993 NCAA Tournament final (Chris Webber is another story). Thanks to a friend who is a Heels partisan, I saw more than my share of them that season, and I like to think that may have helped me to unfurl my "Everyone Sucks But Me" banner. I challenge all of our readers in the the CSB tournament pool, coming in March.

15. The Deadliest Catch. The first indication of my crustacean fixation. I was totally enthralled with the docu-reality show "The Deadliest Catch" on the Discovery Channel this June. I'm sure you all remember the deal: There were boats, and they were trying to catch Alaskan crab. Which is really dangerous. Which makes for kick-ass documentary footage. I even toyed with the idea of taking a job in an Alaskan fishery, but I was pretty down on my job then. Regardless [Still], it was a bitchin' show. Also, the theme song for it was "Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi, which my co-blogger recently sang in the middle of Third Avenue as we headed to Around the Clock for some tempura bacon and waffles.

14. The Ha-Ha by Dave King. This novel was unforgettable. The protagonist, Howard, is a middle-aged man who hasn't been able to speak since he was injured in the Vietnam war. Resigned to a daily existence that's neither challenging nor rewarding, he rediscovers living when he has to take care of his ex-girlfriend's nine-year-old son while she goes off to rehab. I was reading this on the subway, and as I neared the end of the book, I arrived at my stop. I stood on the platform for 20 minutes during rush hour to finish it.

13. The Office. No, not the U.K. version -- the U.S. version has actually gotten good this year. Is it better than the original? Nah. But it no longer is so obviously a paler version of the series that ran for two six-episode seasons across the pond and totally redefined for me what a brilliant TV series can be. The U.S. version isn't brilliant, but it's pretty damn good. And in a world where Arrested Development gets dumped while tat like Prison Break and Nanny 911 are nurtured like rare and precious bonsai, that's a good thing. Thank God the inimitable Hot Beckyness of Scrubs is almost back.

12. My iPod. Yes, I know it's 2005 and I just got one for Christmas. What can I say? You know how they call some people "early adopters" of technology? Yeah,I'm not one. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that my great grandfather was the last one on his block to get a Victrola. Or that great-great grandpaw [Flop] was still blasting away with his trusty blunderbuss when the neighbors all had bitchin' new muskets. I'm not saying my family has a portrait of Ned Ludd on the wall or anyything, just that we definitely made sure to borrow the neighbors' newfangled wheel thingy before getting one of our own. On the plus side, the one I got was the video one. I've already downloaded "Lazy Sunday" for it.

11. Stylin' roundups. Ah, back in our bile-filled early days. CrimeNotes and I took turns savaging the New York Times' stupid Styles section. After about we found our snarky rants were met with mostly crickets, we scaled back, mainly because we couldn't stand reading that shit on purpose twice a week. It was fun while it lasted, though. Two greatest hits:

From May 30
I ran back and forth in my apartment, screaming, "Punk rock, bro!", Times-reader style. Damn you, Emile Hirsch, and damn you, Lords of Dogtown. Now I'm so pumped and excited for Lords of Dogtown that I can't finish my Sunday Styles roundup. Time to go outside and spread the word.
From June 16:
I should be hesitant, throwing around the name Neil Sheehan and mentioning the Pentagon Papers. I've done it before. I'll do it again. There was a time, years before I was born, when the Times performed some of the most important work of any institution in America. It is now a screaming fiasco that quotes puppets on the subject of men jerking off in locker rooms. If I hadn't already done it two years ago, this would be the night that I canceled my subscription.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A simple wish for the holidays

I'm at my parents' house in the Upper Midwest, where the lake is frozen and my sister and her husband have brought dogs the size of ponies. Bing Crosby never had it this good.

On behalf Flop, Evil Girl, Crunk Raconteur, HMQ2K5, BPUB, TWU Local 100, and the pretty waitress at Dempsey's Pub, I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a Jodi Sweetin boob job new year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The CrimeNotes Year in Fun: 20-11

Introduction. A few weeks back, Flop and I discussed an appropriate send-off for 2005 -- or, as it's known in the Korean zodiac, Year of the Slaw. No cool-kid lists of top 10 albums or wackiest commercials for us, thanks very much. The premise is more expansive: What were the 20 most memorable, interesting and fun experiences of the year? Intangibles don't count; entertainment in any medium does. Halfbacks, novelists, rock stars and federal judges compete head-to-head.

At Cole Slaw Blog, it's apples versus oranges.

20. Cole Slaw Blog. Conceived a couple years back during a night of eating coleslaw in the East Village and birthed by yours truly during a bored March night, CSB has become my daily habit and minor obsession. We originally were going to write in the voices of two coleslaw-loving yokels. It is, instead, an unruly, arbitrary, sometimes tedious project. Though we may, in fact, actually be coleslaw-loving yokels, we do our best to represent.

19. Kafka on the Shore. Haruki Murakami's funny, eerie novel about memory, love and art was a singular reading experience. Following the duel stories of a teenage runaway and an elderly itinerant who communicates with cats, it's the rare instance when magical realism is not wholly annoying. I wrote a lengthy review here, and will only add that I've thought of the book more fondly with time.

18. Waterskiing Accident. On a trip to my parents' house in August, I took a waterskiing spill that left my rib muscles aching for the next month. I was in pain getting in and out of chairs, going to sleep -- even walking. It was a preview of old age, I guess. It also gave me something to bitch about for a month.

Am I a pussy? Probably. But let's see you injure yourself in a waterskiing fall and not be an asshole about it, hotshot.

17. St. Patrick's Day. Every year since 1999, I serve dinner for thirty, with beer and whiskey to boot. Over the years, it's become an unpredictable event. Like a resurgent Notre Dame under Charlie Weis, this year's party was a return to glory, with my apartment crammed to the seams and bastards staying past 4 a.m. One of my friends brought an authentic Irishman that she picked up in a bar, and Flop dazzled the ladies with his annual Yeats reading. What more could you ask for?

See you in March, bitches!

16. Democracy. No, not the Iraqi elections, or New York's collective brain fart formally known as Mayor Bloomberg. I'm referring to a play about West German politics in the late '60s, which made parliamentary democracy seem more exciting than any pack of aircrash survivors greeting polar bears on a desert island. More than any work since Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men, the play understood the idealism, cynicism and heartache of politics. It was smart as a whip, generally asexual, and kind of beautiful -- not unlike myself.

15. Let's have babies! This was the year my married friends went baby-crazy. Grad school roommate? Having a baby. College friends? Baby time. Go to Chicago and meet up with different grad school friends? Take a wild guess. People are reproducing like mad fools. While I question the wisdom of procreating in a world where Michigan goes to the Alamo Bowl, the executive branch has declared war on civil liberties, and My Humps dominates bar audio systems, I'm kind of digging this. It will let me buy lots of Fraggle Rock DVDs, and, in the long run, provide me with new people to terrorize.

14. Land of the Dead. Oh. My. God. Who knew that zombies could go underwater? And fire guns? This shit was the Gone With the Wind of zombie movies. Dennis Hopper plays an amalgam of Donald Trump and Mike Bloomberg -- an out-of-touch real estate mogul preserving an island city against the zombies lurking on the outside. A small sliver of the elite are favored, while the rest of the citizenry lives a Hobbesian existence in streets. When he pisses off John Leguizamo, there will be hell to pay. Like all the great zombie movies, the real horror comes from the humans, not the living dead. When you combine zombies with an overt critique of out-of-control capitalism, the result is a thing of beauty.

13. The Polphonic Spree at Irving Plaza, February 16, 2005. Blog Pin-Up Brian ("BPUB") and I went to this show not knowing what we were getting into. It was Godspell meets Sgt. Pepper's meets the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. 20 insanely gleeful people together on stage -- including a harpist, a flutist, and a dancing choir. More sound than any group of people should make. The show was pure, sloppy, unselfconscious joy. If they formed a cult, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.

12. The Colbert Report. Skeptical? Sure I was. But when Ted Koppel left Nightline and that show rapidly stumbled into the breach, I had my replacement. Smart, funny, highly-specific satire of the highest order. Stephen Colbert has appropriated a discreet genre and turned it into a mockery.

11. John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The Terrence and Philip of American conservative jurisprudence. One (Roberts) is da bomb, and the other (Alito) is fit only to shine John Paul Stevens's shoes. And, alas, there was poor Harriet. Imagine the shitstorm we'd have if the president's criminal wiretapping exercises came to light while Harriet was in confirmation proceedings, or on the Court. Love them or hate them, for a nerd like me, it's been a slice of jurisprudential heaven.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Remember the one where he fought with Aneesa?

An ABC News website accidentally blurred the line between two of my favorite subjects: Real World-Chicago and the White House. (via Reality Blurred)

The great white father loves you

A friend of mine was telling me about a book he's reading on the Iraq War. In it, a Scandinavian journalist describes what TV was like under Saddam. On one channel, music videos feature action shots of Saddam firing guns in the air, greeting his subjects, and the like. On another channel, it's Saddam's greatest hits -- shots of him speaking at meetings, for example. The audio goes on when Saddam speaks. When someone else speaks, the tape plays soft violin music, only to switch to voices when Saddam talks again.

Elections don't separate democracies from dictatorships. As Fareed Zakaria argues in his book The Future of Freedom, permanent institutions and a system of checks and balances are the key to democracy. Without a check on popular elections -- a six-year-term Senate to cool the two-year vagrants in the House of Representatives; judicial review; advice and consent -- democracy is a mess.

Two things are shocking about the Bush Administration's domestic spying operation. The first, obvious shock is that it happened at all. I've got outrage fatigue to kill an elephant. That the president unilaterally and secretively ignored a federal law to approve spying on Americans
is criminal, period. Worse than Nixon; worse than Teapot Dome; worse than open graft and corruption. It's impeachable.

The second shock is the administration's defense of the program. I'm going to call it the Stalin Defense. The Stalin Defense is based on the presumption that the head of state knows best, and therefore should be trusted in all things. The institutions and separation of powers that Zakaria and the Federalist Papers view as essential safeguards in a polity don't matter.

The president tragically, hilariously attempted to explain how his power was checked in today's press conference. In response to a reporter's question (I think it was The Washington Post's Peter Baker, whose book The Breach is essential reading on Clinton's impeachment) the president asserted the following:
There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times.

This is an awesome responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the American people, and I understand that, Peter. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor programs such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States. To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the President, which I strongly reject.

Get it assholes? He took an oath, and anyone who takes an oath to uphold the law is pure and creamy and honest and will do the right thing with his "awesome responsibility." You take an oath, you can't be a dictator, and if someone calls you a dictator, your feelings get hurt.

Unsurprisingly, his assertions of Congressional oversight are a joke. Read Jay Rockefeller's handwritten letter to Dick Cheney dated July 17, 2003. Rockefeller has nice penmanship, and his concerns seem more immediate in the original handwriting. But in case you're impatient, here's the text:

I am writing to reiterate my concern regarding the sensitive intelligence issues we discussed today with the DCI, DIRNSA, and Chairman Roberts and our House Intelligence Committee counterparts.

Clearly the activities we discussed raise profound oversight issues. As you know, I am neither a technician or an attorney. Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities.

As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveillance.

Without more information and the ability to draw on any independent legal or technical expertise, I simply cannot satisfy lingering concerns raised by the briefing we received.

I am retaining a copy of this letter in a sealed envelope in the secure spaces of the Senate Intelligence Committee to ensure that I have a record of this communication.

I appreciate your consideration of my views.

Most respectfully,

Jay Rockefeller

Congress has "checked" this power about as effectively as Michigan "checks" mobile quarterbacks. From Rockefeller's letter, it appears that a handful of senators and congressmen were invited to guess what the administration was thinking and left to fill in the blanks. At this point in time, the Rockefeller letter is like a corner of the Rosetta Stone, allowing for just enough decoding to get a small idea of what's going on here. Some excellent comments at TPM make note of the two things that jumped out at me: first, that Rockefeller was explicitly making a real-time record of this program in order to make clear the shoddiness of the briefing he received. Second, the allusion to not being "a technician" implies that this spying operation involves some sort of technological novelty outside of routine national security and law enforcement hardware.

Can I think up a situation where this kind of conduct is defensible? Maybe -- in the immediate months after 9/11, when there was no doubt an effort to put in place a flexible operation without the benefit of time or the luxury to experiment with new law enforcement arrangements.

The administration hasn't even come close to making that kind of case, and they haven't offered a linear, logical reason for why it's had to continue.

Instead, we get the Stalin Defense, which is based entirely on the premise that the president is trustworthy. For argument's sake, let's say that's true. He combines the vision of FDR, the fortitude of Lincoln, and the virtue of Jimmy Carter: that wouldn't change a thing. What worries me is that so much energy has been spent by people trying to take apart Bush (for understandable reasons) and defend Bush (often for unforgivable reasons) that the gravity of what he's done here will be overlooked. That is, the unilateral and brazen disregard of a federal law, running roughshod over two branches of government in the wildest executive power grab since Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus.

Historians generally regard the suspension of the writ as the biggest mistake of Lincoln's presidency. I imagine that Gore Vidal -- who views Lincoln as the man who brought about the rise of the military state and the end of the framers' vision of the republic -- would view Bush's conduct as a logical extension of Lincoln's conduct. But a key difference between Lincoln's suspension and Bush's spying operation is the transparency of the former and the secrecy of the latter.

In his press conference today, Bush stated that "an open debate about law would say to the enemy, here is what we're going to do." If that's not tantamount to letting the terrorists win, I don't know what is.

He has put into place a line of argument that would, in essence, make dispensable the elections, laws, and the other branches of government. It is premised entirely on crediting the virtue of one person and his inner circle. After all, he was sworn to enforce the law, and so long as he took that oath, there's no reason to question him.

I had started reading Sinclair Lewis's book It Can't Happen Here when this story broke last week. Published in 1935, Lewis's book is premised on the rise of a legally elected American dictator, along the lines of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. Parts of the book don't track current events, but others are painfully, sometimes amusingly parallel with the conduct of this administration.

I've frequently found myself thinking that the primary thing separating this president from the mid-century fascists is a lack of ambition. Sometimes I find myself thankful that he doesn't have Reagan's silver tongue or the political mastery of LBJ. Imagine what would have happened if, instead of telling Americans to shop in response to 9/11, he had encouraged the formation of youth patriot brigades to hoist the American spirit and stand guard against terror. Thank God for small favors, right?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Careful what I wish for

At the moment I type this, I'm watching a show on E! called "50 Cutest Child Stars: All Grown Up." And it's so wonderfully inane and giggleworthy, that I feel its miscast in its Thursday prime-time slot. This is one of those shows you watch when hungover on a Saturday or Sunday after football season's over and there's no good college basketball games on.

Anyway, the Jason Bateman item (I think he was No. 37) was funny and well done. With only one reference to Teen Wolf Too.

Incidentally, it sounds as if the narrator is Candace Cameron, who starred with another child star who seems to be the focus of far too goddamn many internet searches. In fact, at this point, I'm only still wathching to see if you-know-who shows up. We've just blown through Thora Birch and Amanda Bynes, so I'm guessing she'll be top 10 at this point. Let's say ... no. 4.

Also of note: The show had one of the sublimely awful Bay Ridge Toyota commercials, which made it all worthwhile, even if I did get so sick of things that I just recorded it, then came back and fast forwarded to see the final order of finish.

Final thoughts from ""50 Cutest Child Stars: All Grown Up" only on E!:

  • I'm so glad I recorded this. I stopped the fast forwarding when I saw an adult Soleil Moon Frye on the screen. They began her segment with a clip from Punky Brewster in which Frye's title character, announced to her guardian: "Henry, I'm getting boobs!" Which is awesomeness, because later, the actress would become known for her bodacious cans. We also learned that she was teased and called "Punky Boobster" before she had her now-famous breast-reduction surgery (chronicled in People mag). Excellent.
  • I was right. Candace Cameron was narrating. Make that Candace Cameron Bure, whatever. She's D.J. Tanner. And her co-host: Keshia Knight-Pulliam, a.k.a. Rudy Huxtable.
  • Candace's brother, Kirk Cameron, came in at No. 12. "In the mid-80s, Kirk Cameron was the Brad Pitt of his day." Um, if you say so, Rudy. Now he stars as a character called Buck Williams. No, not in porn. In the "Left Behind" series of movies. Um, they didn't mention that quite so specifically on the show. But as a service to you, the reader, I dug that up.
  • Knight-Pulliam (No. 11) is pretty damn hot. I'm trying not to think about her on "The Cosby Show" now. I don't think she could ever out-sultry Lisa Bonet, though.
  • No. 10 is Gary Coleman. Too easy. But of note, we did get to hear D.J. did say "gubernatorial." There should have been an episode in which Uncle Jesse ran for California governor.
  • Coulier has been spotted! Three guesses which star(s) prompted this top-10 hit. No shots of anyone else hoovering coke at velvet-rope hotspots, though.
  • Outstanding. Alyssa Milano has maintained world-class levels of hotness for like, what, two decades? She should have been honored with the No. 1 spot. Alas, there's probably not that many heterosexual males calling the shots at E! methinks. Samanther was no. 5.
  • No. 4 is the kid who was Elliott in E.T. His name is Henry Thomas. And is apparently a serious actor and stuff. I wonder if Drew Barrymore made the list?
  • Yep. No. 3. Super cute. We all know this story. Rehab at 13. Adam Sandler movies after. Success ensues.
  • And here's a shot of Macaulay Culkin with a mullet. He's No. 2. Which means No. 1 is going to be someone who's not Jodie Sweetin. Which is not disappointing at all. I'd like to point out that Culkin was good in "Saved!" which was not as subversive as you've heard.
  • No. 1 is ... all three Simpsons kids. This is a pretty serious cop-out. E!, you suck. Now go stand in the corner with ESPN Classic.

In praise of the JMZ

On the eve of what may be a city-stopping transit strike, I briefly pause to praise my obscure-but-sublime adopted subway line: the JMZ.

The brown-hued JMZ trains dip briefly into Manhattan. Sandwiched between stations in Queens, Brooklyn, and Brooklyn again, the line makes six stops between Delancey and Broad streets in Manhattan. The JMZ is never crowded: at rush hour, I could extend my arms and twirl without hitting anyone. I've never seen tourists, peanut M&M salesboys, panhandlers, or menacing schizophrenics. Everyone minds their own business: the only socially acceptable activites are reading and listening to music. I've never seen a loudmouth or troublemaker on the train, because they know better than to play games on the JMZ.

By virtue of its location, the line is resolutely working class. Everybody wants to get to work and get home. There are no pretentious ladies curling their eyelashes on a crowded train; no drunk NYU kids squealing or stinking of cologne or perfume; because it does not connect major nightlife destinations, there is no suffering the yuppie indignities of the F.

On top of that, I rarely wait more than five minutes for a train, and the conductors seem uniquely willing to hold the doors when they see people rushing their way.

I'm rooting for the Transit Workers in this strike. Not necessarily eight-percent raise rooting, but enough that they catch a break and save a little face after the belligerent sabre-rattling they've endured from a disgraceful governor and a pandering mayor.

As a commentor on Gothamist noted:
I'm a conductor, and for all the times that I've been threatened, swung at, spit at, spit on, pissed on (yes...PISSED ON), cursed out, degraded, slurred racially, etc...because someone had a bad day, or missed their train or whatever. Nah, they don't pay me enough to take someone else's abuse. I get it on both ends. From management and the riding public. And for sure, I don't want what I already have to be taken away. And if that means that people have to suffer for a few days, then let the chips fall where they may.
Then there's this comforting thought: When a London-style bombing happens here, these are the people who are going to be the first responders and on the front line. They'll be the next category of municipal workers to be celebrated and lionized. It may be well-deserved, but it sure as hell wasn't what these people signed up for when they took the job.

Plus, if there's a strike, we'll all have a great excuse to wear sneakers at work.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

ESPN Classic hates us all

OK, so the other day I set my DVR to record a program on ESPN Classic _ the NFL yearbook for the 1989 Browns. When I went to watch it, it was a show on the 1998 Patriots. I watched Pete Carroll on the sidelines for two minutes and turned it off in disgust. Bud Carson would have to wait for another day.

This is just one of a number of slights from Classic recently. The only reason I was even perusing the Classic listings was because of my college football withdrawal, which is particularly acute this December. Of course, the savvy folk at classic anticipated this, and made sure to fill the bill of fare with programming like "PBA Bowling 2003 Geico Earl Anthony Classic from Tacoma, Wash."; "Wide World on Ice"; PBA Bowling 2003 World Championship from Taylor, Mich."; "2004 World Series of Poker"; and "Billiards 1997 Challenge of Champions, Final, from Uncasville, Conn."

Thanks, Classic! Just what everyone was thinking about right now: "How can I see even more goddamn poker and billiards on TV?"

This from the channel that, unbeknownst to me, apparently has earned the enmity of Michigan fans, because three-fourths of the Michigan games shown on the channel are apparently losses. I really don't buy this, having seen some good mid-80s Michigan wins over Ohio State on the channel, as well as Rose Bowl wins over Washington and, I think, Washington State. I also can't imagine either of our recent overtime wins over Michigan State weren't on there, especially the triple-overtime, 17-point comeback game.

Also, I have a snippet of the Penn State game from this year saved on my DVR. That said, if there's a Michigan-Notre Dame game on Classic, I don't bother watching. It seems that Remy Hamilton's 1994 FG in South Bend might as well not exist. Along with Mercury Hayes' catch against Virginia in 1995, or John Navarre's TD catch from Steve Breaston against Minnesota in 2003. I'd even be happy to see the Anthony Carter "Not So Fast, My Friend" game.

So while I don't buy the idea that Classic "hates" us. I will buy the idea that they just hate all their viewers, and punish us with excess bowling. I can't wait until it's time for "2002 Detroit Shock vs. Sacramento Monarchs from Auburn Hills, Mich." or "Great Outdoor Games Men's Championship Logroll from Lake Placid, N.Y."

Or even the 1995 New York Jets yearbook. Sigh.

Thanks for the synergy, Classic.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Real-time blogging: The Gauntlet II

Cole Slaw Blog has been a little quiet lately. I can't speak for Flop, but there hasn't been much material that's caught my eye. True, I could have posted about my co-blogger's quasi-hazing of me last Friday (it was the usual -- 3 a.m. taunts that lead to overimbibing; erroneous speculations about my sex life in college) but that's old news.

Between highly enjoyable (yet civilized) Christmas parties, Bush-related outrage fatigue, and the end of the football season, I've hit a wall.

Leave it to the Real World/Road Rules Challenge to inspire some material. It's the poor man's Television Without Pity.

As you may recall from previous season, I love the Challenge. It is my guilty pleasure; my Desperate Housewives and Ultimate Fighting Championship rolled into one.

We begin with Jo from Real World San Francisco flipping the fuck out. Bitch is irate that chocolate syrup got poured on the floor and on her bed. Why did this happen? Her castmates were drunk and rowdy. Totally respectable in my world.

She calls the Trindidad/Tobago police and tells them she's' being attacked and manhandled. The cops show. Ruthie (RW-Hawaii) concludes that Jo "is just crazy," which is like Rep. Duke Cunnigham (R-Cal.) saying that someone has a corruption problem. "It's over!" Ruthie declares. "Crazy bitch is gone!"

It's challenge time. I can't explain it. It involves coconuts and bamboo sticks. Captain of the losing team: automatic Gauntlet. Either Adam (RR-desert) or Alton (RW-Vegas) will go to the Gauntlet. They both feel confident.

It's veterans versus rookies -- like Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) versus Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio).

The coconut-and-bamboo challenge begins. The Veterans appear superior at hauling coconuts, and break a fast 15-5 lead. (Really, it's not worth explaining.) M.J. (RW-Philly) screws up, and rookies are down 28-9. Gap tightens to 38-29. Then, 85-80. Rookies up! 111-89. Then they're up 134-120. Later, it's 184-183. Tension! One second left and it's like Henne has Manningham open.

Most MTV commercials make me feel like I'm 80 and living in Mississippi. Tonight's are fine -- Tony Hawk video games, 40 Year Old Virgin on DVD. The Brittany Spears perfume ad is fucked up, kind of like the lousy Tom Cruise movie Legend from the mid-80's, with Brittany as a distressed woodland virgin. Spicy! Plus, the show Meet the Barkers looks like a fiasco.

Back from the break, and the rookies win. Huzzah! Julie (RW-New Orleans) gets pissed. [Electronics store] product placement. Derrick says, "Fuck that and fuck you too," for reasons I can't discern. Derrick and Adam will go to the Gauntlet in a game called "Name that Coconut." The host looks stoned and stupid. Derrick says that he's going to brush his teeth.

The Gauntlet is lame. It's a trivia contest about their 32 castmates. Names are written on coconuts, and they have to fight to get the right coconut. The producers of this show have run out of challenge ideas, no doubt.

Adam thinks Derrick has the advantage. I'm getting the correct answers to these questions. Adam and Derrick wrestle for coconuts.

Ad time! Promo for a show where spiteful, ugly teenagers get jealous when their significant others French others. Petty teenagers! Clearasil ad. Resident Evil 4 looks like a good video game, and I think I want it for Christmas now. I like to think I'm above it, but I guess I'm not impervious to ads, either. Fucking capitalism.

Cara (RR-South Pacific) thinks that Adam is the brains behind the Veterans team, which is akin to crediting Rep. Ben Jones (R-Ky.) as the brains of the Republican Congress. Adam is winning 2-1. I know the answers to all of these questions -- David had a relationship with a member of the casting department. No shit. I don't have a Ph.D in pre-2002 MTV reality shows for nothing, fools.

Derrick wins. Everyone on the show thinks Derrick sucks, and everybody likes Adam. I don't like either of them. Timmy (RR-Season 2) thinks Derrick has a lot to prove.

Derrick brags that he whooped the shit out of Adam. "It's good to be king," he says. Asshole. Dave (RW-Seattle) thinks Derrick's bravado will hurt the team.

The promo for next week looks lame, and there's a Hope & Crosby movie on Turner Classic Movies. Probably what I should've been watching in the first place.

What would Fox do?

When I was little, Santa scared me shitless, too.

More like these here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The beer bong granny, economics, and more

None of the following merit their own post, but they're worth clicking through.
  • More updated links on the right. They incorporate our recent fixation with college football blogs. I also attempt to make our retardation respectable by linking to various University of Chicago economists, the utility of which is dubious.
  • Our friend David Enders must have nine lives. Check out the latest. It's always good to see the diminutive hipster war reporter safely back in New York. We'll do our best to discourage him from making that February trip to Iraq; he won't listen.
  • Speaking of friends, enjoy True, he lifted two of his first three posts from my e-mails, but they weren't original to me anyway.
  • The blogger formerly known as spinachdip offers a cogent analysis of Ford's policy toward gay-targeted advertising. I've read a lot of foaming-at-the-mouth blog posts about the subject, but this one provides a thoughtful, reasonable take.
  • Last night's Daily Show segment about Fox News's "war on Christmas" omitted my favorite incident: Bill O'Reilly threatening to "bring horror" to anyone who won't fucking celebrate Christmas, goddamn them to hell.
  • Hillary Clinton sickens me as much as O'Reilly. Would she be a worse president than Bush? I hope we never know.
  • Finally...

83-year-old Frances Levine is the world's awesomest grandma. The Michigan Daily explains why.

Gator love

It's that time of year again: the great college football pause between the last of the games and the start of the bowls. Everyone is still buzzing with college football interest, even though the Heisman campaign is a foregone conclusion. What's a college foots fan to do?

An essential college football blog, Every Day Should Be Saturday, has decided to profile, in a multi-part series, ads that universities show during football games. In part the first they examined an ad that was about as successful as George Michael swinging the broom around in his campaign against Steve Holt.

Today they examined one of the all-time favorites: The Michigan ad that, even now, rarely fails to silence a bunch of us. It's really that good, but I always assumed that we were just indulging in a touch of vanity when we'd stop to watch it, and invariably comment on what a sweet PSA it was.

But the good folks at EDSBS think it kicks ass, too. In a laugh-out-loud writeup, no lesss. I'd excerpt some of it here, but it's worth it to just go and see for yourself.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ladies, start your engines

That's right. The reign of Her Majesty the Queen of 2005 ("HMQ2K5") has a scant 24 days left.

24 days until we will crown the Queen of 2006. Who will it be? What will next year's honors entail? Might we have a repeat, or will Blog Perv Danielle make a long-anticipated power play in a run for glory? What darkhorse candidates lurk in the wings?

The answers to these questions are, right now, unknowable. But we do know this: HMQ2K5's celebrated reign may be in its twilight days. It's been a good reign. We don't blame her for FEMA's failures or the loss to Ohio State. She has been benevolent -- settling drunken arguments, making cookies for football games, tolerating bad behavior.

One thing's for sure: New Year's Eve will be bittersweet for all interested parties.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Someone please shoot me now

So yesterday, I'm having a rare Sunday not in front of the TV. I see online that the Browns have started rookie quarterback Charlie Frye. I also note that after watching them all season, and seeing very little of former Michigan superstar Braylon Edwards, Frye has found his training camp roommate twice for touchdowns.

A light goes off in my head, and whenever that happens, we're not far from calamity. Sure enough, I take advantage of my online-ness to tend to my fantasy football team, which is without much pop at the receiver position since Terrell Owens ate those three adorable kitties and then stole money from orphans while kicking handicapped people in the nuts or whatever. So remembering how much Frye likes to throw to his buddy Braylon, I figured I'd take a chance on him.

As soon as I made the move, I felt this funny feeling in my stomach. Kind of like that little twinge in your gut you get when you start reaching for the garbage disposal switch when you mean to turn the light on so you can see where that spoon you're reaching for got to after it slid down the drain. I shrugged it off and took a nap.

I woke up and read that Edwards landed awkwardly on his knee and felt a dreaded "pop." now comes news that he tore his ACL and could be out most of next season.

I hate my life.

UPDATE: A friend just e-mailed this. Near the end is a report from inside a local bar where Browns fans watch their dreams get stomped on.

At least it isn't Creed

I'm watching Flight of the Phoenix on HBO. It's an aspiring action movie about a plane that crashes in the desert, with the survivors left to, well, survive, and find a way out. Nothing special, but it's watchable.

Then, an hour into the movie, Hey Ya! plays. The survivors dance around and high five and shit. Then they return to facing off against nature.

Speaking of unexpected nonsense, has anyone else read this? Read it, and it will be the best thing about your day.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

They said it better

We're almost done with the incessant fooball posting. There's not a whole lot more to bitch about. Plus, we have 2005 to summarize, there's a Supreme Court nominee (still!), I've been doing a lot of weird things while drunk lately, and the 2008 election is a mere three years away.

But on the day that Michigan is exiled from New Year's bowl goodness and forced to go to a dump bowl in a dump state, there's some bile to spit. Not to compare Florida to Florence, but now I know how Dante felt.

The comments on mgoblog have been beautiful in the self-disgust, bitterness and snottiness that make being a Michigan fan what it is.
  • This is the appropriate end to a terrible year. The only fitting final touch will see Michigan pooch punt the ball and watch Nebraska - NEBRASKA - throw the ball all over the field 90 yards in two minutes for a game winning touchdown. After the game, the Huskers will have saved Callahan's job and claimed a victory that returns their program to glory. Then lloyd will announce he would do it the same way again if he had to. And then Jim Brandstader will wholeheartedly agree. The more things change, the more they stay the same.,
  • "Remember the Alamo" is now going to become a rallying cry to remind people not of valiant soldiers, but of the dangers of mediocrity. At least, in my head it will.
  • I'm so torn. Part of me is pissed @ the Outback committee for passing UM over. Part of me agrees w/ the previous comment about this being "tough love" & UM didn't deserve a Jan. 1 bowl. All I know is the program has hit a low point. To be honest with everyone I may not even watch the shitty bowl game. What a joke!
  • The worst thing about this is that Michigan is going to maul nebraska. The Huskers are probably the worst team Michigan will play this year out of the non-functional DNPs. It will make LLLL(L)oyd look good to beat them when he should not be lauded in any way this season.
Relatedly, on January 2, 2006, I will be rooting for Ohio State harder than I'll root for Michigan at the motherf***ing Alamo Bowl. Ohio State-Notre Dame is college football's version of the Iran/Iraq War, and I sure as shit won't pull for Khomeini.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I hate Congress

Watching GameDay this morning, I was thinking about how much I like the bowl system, even in its flawed BCS incarnation. If college football ever adopts a drawn-out championship system, it would be the final dagger in the heart of college sports, busting up traditional rivalries and making every Saturday as monumental as your average regular-season NHL game.

Plus, part of the beauty of college sports is its ambiguity and open-endedness. You can argue for hours what would have happened in '97 if Michigan played Nebraska, which is a lot more fun than having had the game itself.

So I was just thinking about this, and thinking about posting about it, when I saw this article.

The small-government Republicans are going to hold a Congressional hearing about the "deeply flawed" BCS system.

Fuck them.

"Too often college football ends in sniping and controversy, rather than winners and losers," [House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Chairman Joe] Barton said. "The current system of determining who's No. 1 appears deeply flawed."

Barton said he does not have legislation in mind to force a change, but said he hopes congressional hearings will spur discussion and improvements. It won't be the first time Congress has looked at the BCS. In 2003, the Senate probed whether the system was unfairly tilted against smaller schools.

Granted, I think that there are some possible antitrust problems in a system that shuts out all of the smaller conferences. And a system that allows a representative from the wretched Big East an automatic BCS bid but shuts out one-loss Oregon is clearly messed up.

I take that in a heartbeat over the spectacle of Congressional oversight of a bowl system. Aren't these the same assholes who talk about getting big government out of everyday life? Goddamn, if Teri Schiavo weren't enough, we're going to be smacked with a hearing about whether Auburn should be on BCS-bowl life support?

And doesn't a subcommittee on energy and commerce have bigger wells to drill? Have they ever heard of -- hell, I don't know -- the motherfucking oil industry?

For incompetent meddling in college football, one of the only sources of pure joy in life, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) is the biggest asshole in the world.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thursday Stylin': back for the holidays*

* Well probably only occasionally. But holy hell, does Alex Kuczynski deserve a smackdown today.

A friend and I watched each of our sorry, no-account football teams wheeze and cough its way to another loss last Sunday. When matters on the field became too trying, we turned to discussing literature. Somehow, Jane Austen came up. I told my friend that when I was in eighth grade, I was made to read Pride and Prejudice.

I admitted to only getting through like 100 pages before I'd had enough of the flouncing. But I kind of wished I'd finished it, if only because some friends whose taste in books I trust almost absolutely have said good things about it.

Now, as regrets go, this one is kind of mild. But after reading today's bullshit from our gal, A-Kucz, I decided I need to finish that. And then maybe polish of Wuthering Heights and other period novels for good measure. Just so I'm not in the club with someone who was forced to read it before she could open her Christmas presents.

Also, there's this bit of obnoxiousness that couldn't go unremarked upon:

I may be the only member of the Asia Society who joined only for the 10 percent discount at the museum store. I have not set foot inside the museum for more than three years, but I visit the store regularly for its shawls, jewelry, toys, home items and books, which this year includes my favorite new book of essays on shopping, "Hooked! Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire and the Urge to Consume" (Shambhala, $16.95).

Happy consumerist holidays, y'all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Times's books of the year

Today's New York Times lists the paper's ten best books of 2005. If you're looking for a list of suggested reading, you could do worse.

Of the three books I read, I loved one (Murakami's Kafka on the Shore), liked another (Zadie Smith's On Beauty), and viscerally despised the third (Ian McEwan's Saturday). Leave it to the Times to love Saturday, an effete novel with an elitist view of the world and an adolescent viewpoint on the build-up to the Iraq War.

Worse than you thought

After five years of graft, death and mayhem, it gets a little tough to muster up the same kind of anti-Bush anger that burned out of my pores in, say, 2003.

Even so, for sheer monkeyfuck gall, the last couple weeks have seen the kind of revelations that Mike Malloy wouldn't stomach in his worst fever dreams.

A few highlights, in case you're not a European journalist or chronic reader of left-wing blogs:

First came news that the U.S. used a chemical substance called white phosphorous on civilians in Fallujah. It's like napalm on crystal meth, burning to 5,000 degrees and incinerating anything it touches. The administration's defenses have largely turned on the semantics of whether this substance should be labeled a "chemical weapon."

Then the British press learned that in an April 2004 meeting, the president made comments indicating that he wanted to bomb the TV studios of Al-Jazeera, a civilian news outlet based in the pro-American country of Qatar. This story is huge in Britain, where the leakers of the meeting's classified minutes face government prosecution. Imagine a foreign government bombing BBC or NBC headquarters, and you can see why people are a tad pissed.

Also in Europe, news broke that the U.S. has essentially set up off-the-books torture facilities in Eastern European countries. If this is true, such an action would be against the EU constitution, and cooperating countries could face penalties that include expulsion from the EU.

Also, as reported in the Christian Science Monitor:
The row threatens to undermine recent efforts on both sides of the Atlantic to repair US-European relations that had been badly strained by the US-led invasion of Iraq. "This is exactly the sort of thing we do not need," comments Guillaume Parmentier, head of the French Center on the US, a think tank in Paris that promotes transatlantic ties.
If you have a dirty mind, this is a neoconservative dream come true: torture the fuck out of people, and bust up the E.U. in the process.

But at least, you know, there's no gay marriage allowed, so we've got that going for us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Another media collapse: ESPN

Via Fanopticon, I came across a site called Every Day Should Be Saturday, which just did for ESPN what my co-blogger once did to my circulatory system: turned it into a bloody mess all over the front porch.

Sweet relief. Like me, they're still fuming about that GameDay song:

Big and Rich have made their way onto our Orbital Death Ray list, along with Mark Shapiro. For a long time college football existed as a fiefdom apart from the Sportstainmenttastic! world of ESPN–pleasantly stodgy, frills-free coverage of a sport that allowed you to soak in the atmosphere of each game through the screen. Now we have Nick Lachey interviewing people and Big and Rich suggesting that we need more Ying with our Ying Yang. Two old pieces of redneck jerky–including one who one of our readers pointed out, bears a striking resemblance to Phyllis Diller–who were pulled out of a hat at random by marketing schmucks in New York who were like, “Okay, people. Red state sport—we need us some edgy country!” Total, horrid, absolute fecality soiling the last show we watch on the network.

We’re coming…and we’re shit-tayyy!!!

That song has stigmatized college football even more than Phil Fulmer.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Act like a ho in Iowa

In a billboard loaded with potent imagery, the abstinence-only crowd suggests that you have sex in exchange for riches. (Via Atrios.)

"utterly spineless reporting with no edge"

In the New York Review of Books, Michael Massing has published the second of a two-part critique of what he perceives as a catastrophic collapse in print and TV news. Massing assembles heavily discussed themes -- profit motives, White House pressure, the internet -- and synthesizes them into a long, damning critique of everything that's gone wrong in America. It's an intensive, ferocious piece of work, original no matter how much Ken Auletta, Howard Kurtz or Media Matters you've been reading.

Part I is titled The End of News? Part II is The Press: The Enemy Within. They're close to essential reading.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

10-year reunion

If you went to high school with me and you're a chick, chances are good that you have three kids, and they're all blond. Chances also are good that you look better today than you did in high school, and that you like dancing to "Hollaback Girl."

Halfway through my high school reunion, the crowd self-segregated into married people and single people. I made peace with this issue a few years ago, but many of my former classmates have not. In between stories about Las Vegas and smoking pot outside abandoned jails, they made bitter remarks about marriage ruining people, but conceded that a lot of the women looked good despite having kids.

Those of us living in coastal cities thought we were superior. People who didn't already know appeared confused when I told them that I live in New York. There seems to be a general misconception that all we do is snort coke off models' tits and close billion-dollar deals. I did my best to encourage this misapprehension.

At the end of the night, all the married people had gone home. There was a disagreement about whether to go to a Coney Island place or to somebody's house. Somebody talked about renting a motel room. Not wanting to partake in an orgy with my single former classmates, I called it a night and caught a ride home.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The misspent Jellos of my youth

Maybe it's a Midwestern WASP thing.

Growing up, Thanksgiving and Christmas always featured disgusting Jellos.

There was cabbage Jello. It was a citrus Jello mold, packed with strands of shredded cabbage. Put aside the taste -- which is about as nasty as you'd expect -- and imagine the texture. Slime and vegetable matter don't mix.

Worse was the shrimp Jello. I think it was supposed to imitate shrimp cocktail via Jello. I think the ingredients include cans of baby shrimp, tomato juice, and plain gelatin. It didn't taste much like shrimp, but more like brine Jello with a patina of tomato, complemented by the texture of an occasionaly tiny shrimp. Vile.

Less offensive was the cinnamon Jell-O. The dark red gelatin is mixed with cream cheese. The final product looks like raw steak.

Somewhere along the line, Grandma [CrimeNotes], may she rest in peace, probably clipped Jellos recipes from an issue of Ladies' Home Journal, and just rolled with it. Aunt [CrimeNotes] picked up the torch sometime in the '70s. We're left with a family tradition on my father's side that echos a scene in DeLillo's Underworld.

Today, it's 15 degrees and snowing, so the weather cancelled family travel plans. Dinner will be at my parents' house. My mom is not part of the [CrimeNotes] family Jello cartel. It will be a typical Thanksgiving dinner, but Jello-free.

Click through to get recipes for cabbage and shrimp Jellos. I'm linking to them so you know I'm not making this up, and not because I recommend them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm fighting back a little flu as I head to the Upper Midwest for the holiday. Hopefully I'll recover in time before a class reunion on Saturday.

I'm thankful for: last Sunday's episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm; pints of Old Speckled Hen; and Steve Breaston's kick returns.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Excerpt of the Week

From A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley, a great American novel about sports, fiction and mental illness:
Cheering is a paltry description. The Giants were my delight, my folly, my anodyne, my intellectual stimulation. ... All this I did amidst an uneasing, pedantic commentary I issued on the character of the game, a commentary issued with the patronizing air of one who assumed those other patrons incapable of assessing what was taking place before their eyes. Never did I stop moving or talking. Certainly I drove a good many customers away. Most of those who remained had seen the show before and had come back for more, bringing with them the morbid fascination which compels one to stare at a madman.
Why did football bring me so to life? I can't say precisely. Part of it was my feeling that football was an island of directness in a world of circumspection. In football a man was asked to do a difficult and brutal job, and he either did it or got out. There was nothing rhetorical or vague about it; I chose to believe that it was not unlike the jobs which all men, in some sunnier past, had been called upon to do. It smacked of something old, something traditional, something unclouded by legerdeman and subterfuge. It had that kind of power over me, drawing me back with the force of something known, scarcely remember, elusive as integrity -- perhaps it was no more than the force of a forgotten childhood. Whatever it was, I gave myself up to the Giants utterly. The recompense I gained was the feeling of being alive.
Excise references to the Giants, and you get the idea.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The day after

Michigan lost in typical Michigan fashion. I bitched for awhile, analyzed my condition, hydrated, napped, then showered and changed for a wedding where I was one of the few who opted not to comply with the request to wear black tie.

My friends' wedding went forward. Rumor was that some of the guests had chartered a plane and flew direct to Philly from the Michigan-Ohio State game. I honor them.

The groom and others exercised self-restraint in not denouncing their university over the mic. Maybe they had other things on their minds; maybe they are stronger than I am.

I can't speak for the entire Michigan fan base (especially the non-alumni) but in my experience, Michigan has a unique culture in defeat. It's a little like what I've gleaned from Red Sox fans, only less bitter. We never bitch about the refs; we never concede that the other team was better; we never feel like the victims of uncontrollable events. Instead, we treat defeats as self-perpetuated character flaws. In retrospect, all losses feel inevitable.

This season being over, I can now look forward to next fall. It's 300 days until Michigan-Notre Dame, and I'm steeled for the long, cold winter.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Best. Rivalry. Ever.

I'm always thinking about Michigan's rivalry with Ohio State, especially this week. Having grown up in the rivalry it's perfectly natural. But because I was so obsessed with the NFL as a kid, Michigan-Ohio State and the Rose Bowl were really the only college games I watched. I usually would root for Michigan in the first game ... and then go on and root for Michigan in the next.

The rivalry really took hold for me when I started undergrad life at Michigan. And man, were times good. I'm pretty sure we lost to stupid Northwestern more than we lost to the former Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. I remember being proud to graduate in December and have my final game as a student be this one. My mom, who received her doctorate 30 years prior, had Bo Schembechler's debut against Woody Hayes _ a 24-12 win for Michigan _ as her final student game. Also, this just happened to be my first game as an alum. It capped what might have been one of the best, most debauched weeks of my life. But where was I? Oh yes.

My dealings with Ohio State fans during that time were, as you might imagine from reading this site, rather extensive. But I relished it. I started to feel bad for some of my more frustrated friends, but then I remembered _ they didn't actually go to Ohio State. So I've indulged them and pretended the stakes were just as high for them, when they clearly weren't.

Even when one of our more, shall we say, bling-encrusted readers espouses a newfound desire to limit trash talk to only a couple recent on-field results, I've played along. Because, well, it's very easy to find bad things to say about Ohio State. For starters, Ann Arbor is much more fun. We have prettier girls. It's only cloudy and overcast 245 days a year, not 325. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know where this goes ... just like Mgoblog's comparisons, it's a rout. (Incidentally, those have been hilarious this week; I can totally see Jim Tressel making sure he's deleted enough files from his hard drive.)

I could also go further compare the Buckeyes to Republicans. After all, we do know how much they love exploiting the threat of terrorism, no matter how imagined. (Last year's stunt got big ups from this Buckeyes message board.) But I feel as if we've been down this road too.

So where does that leave us? With the game itself.

If Mike Hart makes like a certain Zaire-born Quebecois running back and goes all Biakabutukan on the Buckeyes, well, I'll probably feel like some special sacrament has been bestowed upon me, too. And if Michigan somehow loses ... well, I'll probably head down to South Jersey and trash Crimenotes' hotel room. But more likely, win or lose, I'll spend the rest of the day soaking up college football and basking in the glory of the best sports rivalry ever.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Michigan + Ohio State = Love

Where, you ask, will I be watching the Michigan-Ohio State game?

At a wedding pre-party. Duh.

The bride and groom -- both Michigan alumni -- have reserved a hotel ballroom for an afternoon screening of the Michigan-OSU game. This is a high-risk, high-reward proposition, but they didn't have any choice, short of holding the wedding in Ann Arbor.

A few things are guaranteed: I'll upchuck on myself sometime in the fourth quarter, if not out of glee or trauma, then from general tension. I'll also scream about my balls. Loudly and repeatedly. The groom will denounce Lloyd's playcalling at the reception, perhaps one-on-one, but more likely with a mic in hand.

During the Michigan-OSU game eight years ago, the bride, one of the bridesmaids, and I learned a painful lesson in why daytime intoxication is a bad idea. (Nothing nefarious!) A televised Michigan loss was followed by an argument with a record store clerk about the price of U2's greatest hits CD, followed shortly thereafter by the now-bride-to-be taking a nasty fall. Later that day I woke from a nap and got sick. One of us received emergency medical treatment -- guess who.

I immediately suspected that in exactly eight years, I'd watch those gals in a wedding.

How do I feel about this? Short of going to Ann Arbor, it's the best environment. I'll be with old friends. If the result is bad, we can trash our hotel rooms. If it's good, the marriage will be blessed by a power greater than any religion. They run the risk of having a pack of surly drunks onhand, but the date made that inevitable.

There's the issue of having a wedding on the most emotionally intense day of the year. When I weep during the ceremony, it will have nothing to do with vows and everything to do with quarterbacking.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ohioans: When not voting for Bush, they celebrate prison rape

Over at Fanopticon, Warren St. John points out what happens when Ohioans see reporters posing as Michigan State fans.

OSU Fans: "Hey, you guys going to prison?"
Fake Spartan Fan: "No."
OSU Fans: "...cause I guarantee the guys at Ohio State are going to (expletive) you guys in the (expletive). [OSU fans laugh] I guarantee it. I guarantee it. You're going to go to that stadium and these guys are (going to) be like, '(expletive) bend over, (expletive).' I'm telling you right now."
Fake Spartan Fan: "We're just going to go enjoy the game."

The crack undercover news team at NBC 4 in Columbus did the legwork on that one.

I expect this shit when Buckeyes see Michigan fans, but why treat Sparty that way? It's like hanging outside the special ed. class with a team of dobermans. Those poor fans have enough self-esteem problems without prison rape scenarios.

Some of our commenters took umbrage at linking college football to presidential politics. This proves that Ohioans, in addition to being prison-rapist Republicans (hellooooo, Scooter Libby!) also are thin-skinned. When you burp OSU out of a syphillitic, Land Grant womb, bad things happen. Karma's a bitch. What, wanna brag some more about Andy Katzenmoyer and Warren G. Harding?

Who's reading us?

It could be a graphic in The Onion:

1. People looking for photos of Jodie Sweetin.
2. People who google "Jodie Sweetin boob job."
3. People looking for the history of cole slaw.
4. People who need cole slaw recipes.
5. Masochists.
6. Sensitive Ohioans.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

More about Ohioans, the people we have to thank for W's second term

MGoBlog has been a source of joy to me this week.
My favorite post today discusses the Dantesque experience of visiting Columbus as a visible Michigan fan. I like my life and my dignity, so I've never done such a thing. The only comparable altercation I saw in Ann Arbor involved belligerent Ohio State dudes standing on a sidewalk, wanting to go into a house party to kick the asses of random Michigan kids. We sang The Victors on a balcony and drove them away with love.

The MGoBlog post includes the following depiction of Flop-worthy behavior:
But one night when I was in college I played something called "SHANKAI JUKU DANCE TROUPE," which consisted of a friend and I screaming "SHANKAI JUKU!!!" over and over, jumping up and down on the furniture, tearing the massive pile of former residents' mail that lived in the family room into tiny bits (a felony), and throwing the bits around the room--we were not the kind of people who would forgo doing something awesome and ridiculous because it was stupidly dangerous.

Monday, November 14, 2005

One week of happiness left

It's Ohio State week, which means that I have only one week left before beginning the 10-month drought that is life without regular-season college football.

What's that, you say? There are still bowls to be bowled? Big 12 and SEC conference championships to be determined?

True enough. This season being what it is, I'm not going to take much satisfaction in whatever Michigan does in its bowl game. I'll pull for them, yes, but part of the problem with a season crescendo against Ohio State is that everything afterward feels downhill. If Penn State loses against Sparty and Michigan gets the BCS bid, I'll feel like we've robbed Paterno; if we're in Ybor City or Orlando, it will just feel like a waste.

And Texas aside, the Big 12 and SEC haven't been interesting enough this year to justify much non-conference excitement. This Saturday will be the annual, bittersweet conclusion.

I think the September/October trip to Europe wreaked havoc on my biological college-football rhythms. Was the trip worth it? Let's just say that I'll plan future travels for a different part of the calendar.

MGoBlog has some posts to get you psyched for Saturday's game. Elsewhere, I recently discovered Warren St. John's college football blog, which is every bit as smart and entertaining as his book. Chronicling fan insanity and a little on-the-field substance, it treats us to photos like this:

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Mike Tirico, I tip my cap to thee

Have you ever watched a college football game with Mike Tirico in the booth? It's a rare treat. Say what you will about the man, but he knows football better than any broadcaster I've ever watched. (Sorry, Keith. You're still the man. Can you find a fake torch to give your Disney colleague or something?).

Tirico had the call on Michigan's game at Iowa last month, and he was ahead of every call. Especially on penalties. Every time a flag flew, Tirico knew what it would be before the referees told us.

Personally, I'm used to being about five seconds or so ahead of the announcers. Not when it's Tirico. I was watching the Boise State-Fresno State tilt just now, and Fresno completed a long pass from its own end zone, with a defender draped all over the reciever. I thought I saw the Fresno receiver throw the defender off of him, and when a flag flew I said: "That's offensive" interference. (Yes, I was alone in my apartment at the time, why?) Tirico confidently announced "that flag will go against Boise. ... and it's one of the longest touchdowns in Fresno State history."

He was right. I was wrong. My watching experience was actually enlightened by a TV play-by-play announcer. This, of cours, is how it's supposed to work. But it so rarely does.

I now plan to spend the rest of the night watching this tilt, making butternut squash dumplings and drinking wine. I plan to bask in the enlightenment while I can _ the Browns are playing on ESPN's Sunday Night Football this weekend.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mayoral post-mortem: I am out of touch

Bloomberg 58, Ferrer 39. It's like the score of a Northwestern-Indiana game.

Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Minnesota, the city voted out a Democratic mayor whose primary sin was endorsing President Bush in 2004. The new mayor is a Democrat as well. If those feisty Minnesotans had half of their city shut down while a cavalcade of right wingers exploited 9/11, somebody would have been scalped.

New York is left with a Bush-lover whose ideal urban environment appears to be Singapore. We may have to kiss our civil rights good-bye every time we step on a subway, but at least the luxury housing market will be at liberty. Maybe a couple neighborhoods will finally get razed to allow for some stadiums.

Catch you later. I have to make plans to go to a Vikings game this Sunday.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

It's like I have A.D.D.

Maybe it was one of those days.
  • Went to my third show by The Hold Steady last night. As regular readers of this site know, I'm more than a little obsessed. I like The Hold Steady the way my immediate ancestors like Judy Collins, and the ones before that liked Connie Francis. It was the band's final show of its current tour. Craig Finn seemed a tad inebriated -- as is his wont -- and the first half of the show the lyrics were harder to decipher than usual. More importantly, the band didn't play two of my favorite songs -- Knuckles and How a Resurrection Really feels. They did, however, debut a song about a poet friend of Saul Bellow that sounded like a song Bruce Springsteen would write if I liked Bruce Springsteen.Connie Francis, eat your heart out.
  • I went with a friend who'd never seen a show at Webster Hall before. He compared it to the interior of the spaceship in Predator 2, but meant it in a good way. I haven't seen Predator 2, so I cannot verify.
  • The Colbert Report gained its sea legs in no time. The first few episodes were a little wobbly. In tone and content, it's quickly become a funny and sophisticated satire of cable news, and much more polished than I'd expect in its early run.
  • And I'm not feeling guilty for missing Nightline, a show I've watched regularly for years. With Ted Koppel's imminent departure, the show is turning into a scatterbrained replica of evening news. Nightline's skill is finding a serious issue and thinking the hell out of it for 30 minutes. They haven't covered Tom and Katie yet, but lately, the show hasn't been any better than 30 minutes of network news.
  • I think it sucks that CNN dumped Aaron Brown, the only cable news anchor who conveyed a sense of smarts and authority. Anderson Cooper, Schmanderson Schmooper.
  • Lastly, the European media has been all over a story about U.S. deployment of chemical weapons in Fallujah. Truly gruesome stuff. At this stage, though, it's hard to know what to believe. In a few days or weeks, though, this could make Abu Ghraib look like a pimple.

Ironic link of the day

An extensive discussion with a friend about Peyton, Eli and even Cooper Manning downshifted into a discussion of college football seasons past and certain younger brothers of other famous QBs and, well, some notorious ones too. I bring all of this up to mention that I found this link, which is good for posterity.

Now that you've clicked there, check here.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Spinachdip, R.I.P.

The kinder, gentler blog named after a vegetable appetizer but not about vegetables has decided to put away the cornballs and bring the party to an end.

This is a shame, not only because he's the only fully functional blogger who links to us on a semi-regular basis. While most New York blogs are prone to sneering, snarking and celebrity, Spinachdip wrote with enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. Like us, his content was unpredictable and arbitrary, alternating between posts about sports, intoxication, music and current events. Unlike us, he generally wrote about things that he likes instead of things that got under his skin.

The good news is that he'll soon be turning his attention to a sort of collective blogging project called decent content, which I anticipate will be decent in both quality and spirit.

When you see a blog named after a vegetable appetizer but not about vegetables confront its own mortality, it inevitably makes you question the mortality of your own blog named after a vegetable appetizer but not about vegetables.

While a sort of intensity and perfectionism has occasionally made me question the long-term viability of this project, I also like the sort of immediacy that a blog provides. As those of you familiar with my struggles to finish writing the 3,000-page novel about the Peace of Westphalia know all too well, my larger projects spin completely out of control. When I post about how the Real World-Road Rules Challenge speaks to the judicial confirmation process, I can only second guess so much.

Now, sadly, we have cornered the market on the blogs named after vegetable appetizers but not about vegetables, and probably will for the foreseeable future.

God speed, Spinachdip.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A plea to the Bloomberg voters

Never since Calvin Coolidge has such an unremarkable Republican been so popular.

Mike Bloomberg gave us the Republican National Convention, tried to wreck the West Side for a generation, out-fearmongered the president and popularized plutocracy.

I understand why real estate moguls support him. Otherwise, I'm mystified. Appeals to self-preservation, populism and partisanship haven't changed any minds. I'm done trying. The only explanation I buy is mass hypnotism.

All I ask is this: When voting for him, pretty please vote for him under the Independent ticket and not as a Republican. It won't make a lick of difference in his governance, but at least you won't feel as bad when your sleepwalk ends.

Sorry. I'm grouchy and confused.

While we're at it, might as well give Bush a third term.

Apologies for starting the week on a negative note. My gripe isn't toward any particular Bloomberg voter. I don't think Bloomberg is evil, just a rich guy with misguided priorities.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday slacker roundup

Yeah, Friday afternoon is definitely the most productive time of the workweek. In that vein, here's some shit you should be reading to grind that clock down to such a time that you can carelessly drop your inanimate carbon rod and head for the employee lot.

  • I recently wrote an extensive, yet probably not-quite-extensive enough, e-mail to a friend about to visit Paris for the first time. It was of random, quirky, out-of-the-way places to see, not the standard guidebook fare. I wish I could have sent my friend this. A McSweeney's compilation of random, fun European places.
  • I've been working on an Alton Brown post for about a month now. I just got his book, and I honestly think he might be a genius. If he's not, he's smarter and more intellectually curious than 99 percent of Americans, myself included (I heard that, Crimenotes). His publishing house needs better copy editors _ or maybe just copy editors. If you think I'm nuts, DVR his show and see what I mean. But be warned, you'll totally lose patience with most other cooking shows. Except maybe the Tyler Florence cuckold-chic empire.
  • A friend pointed this out, but it's good reads: Slacktivist has a post up compiling two fun theories relating to George W. Bush's sliding poll numbers. It's goofy fun, complete with gratuitous use of the word "azimuth" and the hypothetical molestation of Wilford Brimley.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Alito-watch, Day 3: some more about the kid

Yesterday I speculated that perhaps Samuel Alito's kids had liberal tendencies, which could soften the judge's hard-edged views.

No dice. Via Law Dork, via Underneath Their Robes, today we learned that Phil Alito wrote some right-wing op-eds for a college publication:
[Bush has] stimulated commerce by cutting taxes for small businesses, and he's defended the role of faith in American society by challenging Roe v. Wade, limiting government funding of stem cell research, and supporting a Constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman. The list could go on and on. This represents the starkest difference between Bush and Kerry: while Bush is an eager defender of these American traits, Kerry, despite his rhetoric, is unwilling to defend these integral characteristics of American society.
I'm tempted to point out that not only is this lame propaganda, it's poorly written and unoriginal. Then I remember that I wrote shitty columns in college, and that I was a Republican then. Now I'm a Marxist. I won't be too hard on the dude. Give him a few Long Island ice teas, a pack of Marlboro lights, and The Humpty Dance -- he'll be voting Nader before he knows what hit him.

In the interim, ladies, if a 19-year-old sophomore has his druthers, no abortion for you.

Good news for the gays, though. While a Princeton student in the 1970s, Alito wrote about the importance of the right to privacy, and helped author a task force report declaring that discrimination against gays should be illegal.

Will Judge Alito become a sodomite hero? Or are those days behind him? Will the right wing eviscerate him? Will his know-it-all son disavow him as un-American? And what's up with Santorum wanting a threesome with Don Imus's wife?

These are the days of our mutha-effin' lives.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A small ray of hope

Think Sam Alito sucks? Me too.

Know who doesn't suck? His kids.

Here's what his nineteen-year-old son Phil Alito wrote in his profile for a Colgate University humor magazine:
First, God made the heavens and earth. Then came Arby's, followed shortly by Carl Jr. and other inferior brands of fast food. Fast foward. Homer's epics, Texas was created, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier, died at the Alamo, King Kong attacked Manhattan, and then, in a completely reactionary move, I was concieved. I was born 9 months and 2 weeks later by a midwife/wolf named Janie Jean, who would prove very influential during my formative years. Shortly after, I became interested in politics and got involved with Gary Condit (not like that). I served as a parking aide to Nancy Pelosi (I won't even start on her) but was fired when Barbara Boxer came onto me. Eventually, I decided that my teeth needed to be cleaned, so I came to Colgate with a band of gypsies (who I have declared war on and will one day destroy). I decided to join "The Forum" to make friends but obviously that hasn't worked out. So, soon I will probably find a cow at a nearby farm and ride my way to glory in either LA or at the Calgary Rodeos.
Okay, not that funny, even by Cole Slaw Blog standards, but not that bad. He was a college freshman. Plus, he dangled a homoerotic implication as to Gary Condit, and dissed Barbara Boxer. Sure, it would be cooler if he banged both Gary Condit and Barbara Boxer, but you can't have everything.

Daughter Lauren is the more serious one. She's a friendship guru:
Friendship is defined as the relationship between two people based on affection and respect. But how many people actually truly value their friendships? It seems to be a growing theme that most people take their friends for granted and think they will always be there for them. Friendship is one of the most important things that people can learn. They learn how to be kind to others, respect people for who they are, and most importantly to just have someone whom they can trust and establish a bond. Far too many people get caught up in being popular and will do anything to maintain their status. They will ruin old friendships because the person was not cool enough. The value of friendship is incredibly important in helping people grow and learn about themselves and others. I believe that without friendship, and the respect that is shared between the friends, the world would be much more hostile and people would only be trying to get ahead in life by putting others down. I think everyone should learn to value his friendships a little more because one never knows what tomorrow might bring and maybe all you'll need is just a friend to lean on.
She's an idealist, and she likes her friends. I like my friends, too. Hence, I like Lauren Alito, and her friends. I'm sure they're good people.

There's a small point. I'm grasping at straws here, but it's generally assumed that one of the reasons that Anthony Kennedy and Harry Blackmun move to the left is the influence of their adult children. Because Republicans aren't funny and don't have any friends, I infer that the younger Alitos may be more sympathetic to progressive ideals. Maybe that will rub off on their old man.

But I'm not getting my hopes up.

Note: Underneath Their Robes owns all things Alito the way The Washington Post owned Watergate. It's where I go to learn about the Alito kids, Alito coffee, and Alito jurisprudential depravity -- even though UTR's blogger likes him.