Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans: canary in a coal mine

The New York Times crosses the Rubicon today in a rather harsh editorial blasting the president's response to the hurricane.

This time yesterday, the editorial would have pissed me off. For awhile, do you know what else was pissing me off? Everybody at Daily Kos and Air America who blamed poor hurricane preparedness on the president.

Man, I was sitting around yesterday, congratulating myself for being mature and keeping the partisanship in check. I was annoyed by all the cheap shots, disgusted that these people were so wedded to their anger at the president that they saw his handiwork in a natural disaster.

Then, Kos linked to this:

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

. . .

The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."

Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."

And this.

A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, in which the Corps of Engineers strengthened and renovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans' levees, but it was too late.
Would a billion dollars in levee infrastracture have prevented the flooding? I'm not a civil engineer, but if Venice and the Netherlands did it, it must be possible.

Compassion aside, we all have an incentive to care about what happens in rebuilding New Orleans. If you believe in global warming, New Orleans could be a laboratory for securing urban coastal environments; if you believe in terrorism, New Orleans may provide a lesson in how to rebuild a devastated metropolis.

Yesterday, in what the Times described as "one of the worst speeches" of the president's life, the American president said this:
The folks on the Gulf Coast are going to need the help of this country for a long time. This is going to be a difficult road. The challenges that we face on the ground are unprecedented. But there's no doubt in my mind we're going to succeed. Right now the days seem awfully dark for those affected -- I understand that. But I'm confident that, with time, you can get your life back in order, new communities will flourish, the great city of New Orleans will be back on its feet, and America will be a stronger place for it.
Uh ... no, it won't.

He always sees strength via death and destruction. He is terrifying.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees, a city turned into a toxic waste zone, armed gangs run amok, a breakdown in infrastructure, and a wholly incompetent leadership class: It's looking as if we live in a third-world country. He sees strength.

The race issues explain themselves. If 80,000-plus patrons of the Gap were at risk of death by disease or drowning, FEMA and other executive agencies would be in New Orleans like white on rice.

We're all New Orleansians now

I consider myself lucky enough that I don't have any family or friends in New Orleans to worry about (though before this weekend, I was exchanging e-mails with an aunt in Palm Beach County, Fla., just north of where Hurricane Katrina hit there).

And of course, there's more than enough ugliness around the whole looting issue, including the question of who's looting and who's just stocking up on supplies in an emergency. (Food and diapers are one thing, basketball goals and televisions are very much another.) And then, of course, there's this ugly little distinction.

I've been spending far too much time reading up on the whole disaster, but I've been lucky enough to come across some local news sources that provide a close-up view. I've found it much more enlightening than the usual national sources of information. The mass quantities of wire-service photos on yahoo are transfixing, but I haven't seen the citizen-submitted ones from other sites yet. I basically got my start on local blogs here of all places. But the site for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which didn't publish a print edition on Tuesday, is fascinating in its rawness.

I've never been to New Orleans, but I've always wanted to go. I wonder what's there that I'll never see now because of Katrina.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Great Moments in Shellfish

I'm back. Both figuratively and literally. I haven't written in more than a week, mostly because I've been busy, but also because I was just generally a little run down. However, I went back to Washington for a long weekend and I think I've recharged the batteries a little.

I say back because D.C. was the first place I lived after college. To be precise, I lived in a highly suburban part of Alexandria, Va., but I only returned there to sleep and shower. In fact, I spent so much time being busy when I lived there, I managed to never partake in some of the finer aspects of National Capital Area life.

Among the highlights of my trip was a trip to a local crab shack. Yes, it was in Arlington and not exactly hard by the Chesapeake, but crabs are more D.C. than you'd think. And I'd been waiting to partake for two decades, during which blue crab had become a kind of decapodal white whale for me.

The species has fascinated me ever since I watched people catching them on Kiawah Island when I was eight years old. I wanted to catch some and take them back to our place and eat them. But a messy table piled high with marine life wasn't really my parents' thing. So I had to content myself with pulling a few cranky critters out of the sound and tossing them back. During a visit to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I even took a dip net and waded around near Oregon Inlet, an Ahab in (albeit, two) low-top Chuck Taylors. I scooped up plenty of ornery arthropods, but had to gently release each one.

In the 20 years in between the genesis and resolution of this minor crustacean crush, I've sampled stone, Dungeness, king, snow and even imitation crab, but never the real thing. Until last weekend. And I have to say, as great moments in shellfish go, this one was pretty profound.

The way it works is this: You sit down at a table which is covered in newsprint. Pitchers of cold beer materialize, followed by plastic knives and small mallets. Then, the crabs arrive in a spicy, vinegary cloud. You dismantle the shell, pick the meat out, then go after the claws with your mallet. Do not rinse, just repeat until you've had your fill. It's messy, tasty fun.

The best analogy I can think of for our regular readers is that if blue crabs were a rock n' roll band, they'd be The Hold Steady. A crab feast isn't the most sublime experience to be had in the seafood world, but it might be the most fun.

I've totally been missing out.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Wash. Post columnist: NASCAR is evidence of intelligent design

Via Atrios, we learn today that Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins unironically believes that professional athletes are living evidence of intelligent design.

She is so unsarcastic. So painfully, insanely unsarcastic.

Schwartz wants to launch a study of NASCAR drivers, to better understand their extraordinary focus. He finds Darwinism, as it applies to a high-performance athlete such as Tony Stewart, to be problematic. To claim that Stewart's mental state as he handles a high-speed car "is a result of nothing more than random processes coming together in a machine-like way is not a coherent explanation," Schwartz said.

Instead, Schwartz theorizes that when a great athlete focuses, he or she may be "making a connection with something deep within nature itself, which lends itself to deepening our intelligence." It's fascinating thought. [sic]

"It's fascinating thought" if you're a retard.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

College football countdown: the preseason media

  • Today, The New York Times predicts that Michigan will win the national championship. This might be cause for enthusiasm, until you consider the source.
  • Kirk Herbstreit predicted that Ohio State will beat USC to win the national championship. His prediction can be attributed to an excess of furtive masturbation.
  • Speaking of Herbstreit, NCAA 2006 on Playstation 2 has already made me sick of him: "This kid's a goodlooking back. Let's see if they go to him again."
  • Trev Alberts is a Republican. He makes sweeping, extreme statements and can't be bothered to support his opinions with pesky irritants like fact and analysis.
  • Other guesses at the political leanings of ESPN commentators: Herbstreit is a Republican; Mark May and Chris Fowler are Democrats; Lee Corso is a swing voter.
  • I never root against a Big Ten team in non-conference play. That rule will be broken for the Texas-Ohio State game. A cocky Buckeye is like a retarded midget with a Napoleon complex, and nothing would be more annoying than the dot-connecting that would come with an Ohio State win over Texas. (No offense to the retarded midgets.) Besides, I've liked Texas ever since Major Applewhite.

Sunday Styles inspires a meta-theory, smugness

What do reality TV, Ross Perot's 1992 presidential campaign, and have in common?

People are so sick of being force-fed derivative, manufactured products that they'll grasp at anything that gives them a hint of authenticity, even if the product is wholly inauthentic and every bit as contrived as the products that consumers want to escape. (cf. Thomas Franks, the conquest of cool)

As depicted in today's Sunday Styles article, is a nine-figure business founded by two hipsters but recently acquired by Rupert Murdoch and NewsCorp. It's Friendster 2.0. The people in this article project too much of themselves into their status on -- spazzing about how many people they list as friends, throwing parties for their profiles, etc. It's very Eleanor Rigby, as reflected by the profile of a 19-year-old Californian named Ben: "I live in a suburb where a new shopping center makes everyone go loco it is so boring. I have got to find real people to talk to, thus I am on my space. I am here. Talk to me."

Goddamn, everybody needs to watch Pump Up the Volume and then get laid. When people turn to Rupert Murdoch because they're lonely, they're in trouble.

Elsewhere, the Styles Section reports on a pricey new social club for successful businesspeople and B-list celebrities.* Its purpose and $55,000 entry fee are sort of obnoxious, but at least it involves actual face-to-face interaction. Snotty, yes, but at least these people participate in something that actually exists.

*This article was written by Warren St. John, who I sort of praised to the hilt in a previous post on his book Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer. St. John should quit his day job; he is too talented to be writing about this crap.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Belated reviews: Rude Pundit Live and Sufjan Stevens

Rude Pundit Live, August 21, 2005: The Rude Pundit doesn't fuck around. If you like your political commentaries with imagery of sodomy, necrophilia, and rape, he's your man.

His blog rarely makes me squeamish. Its graphic language and imagery don't feel gratuitous. First, his writing is calculated and polished. Second, he offers a lot of original research and analysis. In between phrases that make The Aristocrats look like The Aristocats, he connects dots that other people don't.

It's tempting to think that he appeals just to the Id, or to the fourth-grade titillation of nasty phraseology. I don't think that's the case. There's a purpose and a method to his rudeness. With the Iraq War as a backdrop, there's no easy way to articulate all of the pain and frustration that comes with citizenship right now. By pushing language and sexual imagery to their extremes, Rude Pundit mediates horrors and outrages without becoming self-righteous. He finds new, better ways to articulate rage.

He's one of my favorite political commentators, and my favorite daily read. Unfortunately, what works on a blog didn't succeed in person.

The Rude Pundit was performing a one-hour show called "The Year of Living Rudely" as part of the Fringe Festival. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks. Maybe expectations were unreasonable.

There was a problem with seeing this kind of rhetoric live. Instead of focusing on the words (which were rehashed in large part from prior blog posts) I focused on performance. When the words work so well on paper, there's not much that an in-person performance contributes -- maybe especially when it comes to such extreme material. It all got a little bit loud, a little icky, a little over-the-top.

If you're an Air America listener, you can get a better jeremiad from Mike Malloy on most nights. I thought about Mike Malloy a lot during the show. He does a nightly three-hour radio show out of Atlanta. It starts at 10 p.m., and in New York, WLIB cuts him off at midnight in favor of local programmingg. Mike Malloy is wild -- he is to the left what Michael Savage is to the right. Malloy condemns the Democrats for being the patsies in every Republican brainstorm. He's angry every night, and every night, he bashes Bush, Rumsfeld, racists, and Christians, essentially equating them all. His sense of humor died sometime before I was born. But he's overpowering. He makes things feel better. I look forward to Malloy's nightly bombast about as much as I look forward to Rude Pundit's daily screeds.

Even with a full head of steam, Rude Pundit's live show wasn't as persuasive as Mike Malloy on an off night. Malloy probably couldn't write a paragraph as elegantly as the Rude Pundit; Rude Pundit didn't put on a show as good as Malloy's. Everybody's got their medium. I'd buy a Rude Pundit paperback in a heartbeat. I would not see him live again.

Sufjan Stevens, August 20, 2005, Bowery Ballroom: Who's the opposite of Rude Pundit? Squeaky-clean, ultra-earnest Sufjan Stevens.

His music isn't naturally to my taste. Mostly, I listen to him because his highly literary lyrics synthesize approximately 2,000 themes simultaneously. They're smart as hell. Also, he grew up a short drive away from where I grew up. Being from such an isolated corner of the Lower 48, that counts for a little.

I did not expect to like Stevens in person; I expected that I'd be bored to tears. So I was surprised again. His music strikes me as painfully earnest, a little self-important, too cute by half. I was glad that his performance was not reverential. The show for his Illinois album was structured like a pep rally. There were cheers and University of Illinois cheerleading outfits. Stevens was witty and likeable. He didn't take himself or his music too seriously. I left liking him a lot more.

Friday, August 26, 2005

"They had an elaborate hoax."

Check out this Chicago Tribune article about an extraordinary series of lies recently uncovered in southern Illinois. Imagine if Neil LaBute teamed up with Ashton Kutcher: It's certainly more interesting than The Shape of Things.

I read the first three paragraphs and thought I knew where this was going. I was wrong.
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Word that Sgt. Dan Kennings had been killed in Iraq crushed spirits in the Daily Egyptian newsroom. The stocky, buzz-cut soldier befriended by students at the university newspaper was dead, and the sergeant's little girl--a precocious, blond-haired child they'd grown to love--was now an orphan.

They all knew that Kodee Kennings' mother had died when Kodee was about 5. The little girl's fears and frustrations about her father being in harm's way had played out on the pages of the Daily Egyptian for nearly two years, in gut-wrenching letters fraught with misspellings, innocent observations and questions about why Daddy wasn't there to chase the monsters from under her bed.

It turns out Daddy didn't exist. And neither did Kodee.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Five Months

Five months ago today, Flop and I brought our C-game to Blogger, and complimentary vegetable appetizers haven't been the same since.

To mark the occasion, here's a blast from the past that a few of you may recognize. Cole Slaw Blog made its debut seven years to the day after this notorious Crime Note saw publication.

From The Michigan Daily, March 24, 1998:

The department of Public Safety received a call on Friday stating that an 11-year-old child stole a light bulb from the Argus I building on West William Street, DPS reports indicate.

The caller said the boy, after removing the bulb from its socket, left the building and threw the bulb on the ground. When the bulb broke, the caller said the boy screamed, "I am the cat and I am here to steal."

Reports do not indicate whether the boy was apprehended.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Drawl out your fatwah, cracker!

This week, the liberal buzz machine worked as effectively as the right-wing libel machine.

A couple days ago, Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez. Media Matters picked up on the story when a site visitor e-mailed a report. Raw Story (seriously, required reading -- it cross-pollinates Daily Kos and The Drudge Report) linked to the Media Matters summary. I saw it and shrugged. I have outrage fatigue. If, during an evening of channelsurfing, I came across a Fox show that featured Dick Cheney and Ted Nugent raping transgender Venezuelan peasants, I would sigh wearily, open a Peach Snapple, and stare out my window at the bar across the street. My pulse would stay the same.

Thankfully, other people are still able to muster some indignation. As of this afternoon, a story that 48 hours ago was the exclusive province of liberal blogs featured prominently on the web pages for both CNN and The New York Times. It was the lead story on CNN's homepage since early this afternoon. The Times headline reads, "Robertson Is Pilloried For Assassination Call."

As Montell Jordan once said: This is how we do it. Media Matters is hit-and-miss in its critiques, but always a great resource. Without it, I don't think this story would be afloat. And by "this story," I mean that a major political-religious figure has called a fatwah on the elected leader of a sovereign nation.

If a major Islamic religious leader uttered such a statement about the head of state of a Western power, Scott McClellan would rightfully denounce the fucker as a t-word. (I will not use the t-word because it has lost meaning, except as a synonym for meanie.) Pat Robertson, a major political ally of the president, made an utterance typically associated with a t-word.

Besides being monkeyfuck insane and morally reprehensible, it's bad politics.

Now, because of a progressive buzz machine, an already-neutered president will have to choose between alienating his base and speaking critically of Robertson, or looking like a hypocrite before the world on his trademark issue. Any thoughts on what he'll choose?

*Photo ganked from Media Matters.

Dadaist spam

Some of the spam I get is more interesting than the intentional e-mails. If you've ever gotten an e-mail from my co-blogger and compared it to one sent by a Nigerian spammer, you know what I mean.

One piece of spam this morning offered the following gems, in between appeals to lose 20 inches from my waist.
Horses write long love letters to misers. Finite element fanatics wish to dance with district attorneys. Most aristocrats feel that the employers complain about shepherds.

Hot dog vendors look down upon Bubbas. English students have just broken up with geochemists. I read on the Goodyear blimp today that Cray users fight Europeans.

Windsurfers torture notary publics. Phrenologists pester pushers. During the debate, Ann Richards maintained that the bestselling authors panic the insurance agents.

Supreme Court judges own caffeine addicts. Grandfathers could learn from lawyers. Cattle are reincarnated as pornographers.

Twin Cinema

What did it take to drag me from 24 hours of Six Feet Under depression?

Apparently, downloading the new New Pornographers album from iTunes. I never claimed I wasn't moody.

The band is like Dr. Suess for grown-ups -- escapist joy, funny wordplay, totally smart. I want to be like Claire Fisher and live until 102 if this plays on a loop the whole time.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Burying Six Feet Under

The last four episodes of Six Feet Under were maddeningly similar to the last two seasons of Six Feet Under: stretches of melodrama punctuated by brief moments of intensity and beauty. The latter almost counterbalanced the former, but not quite.

The immediate fallout from Nate's death was handled well, but things took a Terms of Endearment dive and never recovered. The Fishers' mourning and Brenda's hostility with Maggie were moving and effective, but these were no-brainers. By this point, we have enough affection for the characters that even the worst writing couldn't screw up the episode after Nate's death.

But then came all of the eyerolling factors. They were, by turns, exploitative, non-credible, and lazy. First, the writers made an unforgiveable move with David's hitchhiker hallucinations. They had the feel of a cheap horror movie, with an I-told-you-so taunt to everyone who bitched about the hitchhiking episode from last year. I don't know why they would wanted to remind us of that disastrous episode, except as an attempt to sell a conceit that it was part of a master plot toward David's redemption. Stylewise, the ominous music accompanied by the sinister red hoodie were cheesy as hell. In all, it was wholly unpersuasive.

I also considered the following ineffective: Brenda's renewed sexual tension with Billy; the quarrels over who would take custody of Mya; Nate's beyond-the-grave observations; Keith's escapade with the drugged-up actor; Ruth's brief breakdown over the stuffed monkey; Claire's flashback to Kurt Cobain's suicide.

What worked: Nate's funeral and burial; Ruth washing the hair of Nate's body; Maggie delivering the quiche to Brenda; George's return to lucidity and his interactions with Ruth; every story involving Rico and Vanessa; the scenes with David and Keith's adopted kids.

Indifferent: Claire's storylines and her interactions with Ted.

At its high points, the show thrived on weighing its characters' risktaking and compromises. Nate chose stability with Lisa and immediately regretted it; David had to reconcile his self-righteousness with normal human behavior; Ruth stumbled her way out of emotional repression. But the show's macro plots rarely were convincing, with the writers pushing their characters beyond believability. The resolution of Lisa's disappearance and George's bomb shelter both come to mind, but there were plenty of other lowlights.

The close of the series worried too much about tying up loose threads and asserting closure at the expense of our spending more time with these wonderful characters.

Still, I spent large parts of the last four episodes misty-eyed, thinking about missing these people in the same way that you miss people in real life. These last four episodes had plenty of sloppy writing, but much excellent acting. I loved that the series ended with Claire leaving the funeral home for New York, the way that Nate once left the funeral home for Seattle.

And just then, when I was blissed out on the show, there came the spectacle of shitty make-up and flash-forwards extending through 2085, and we were on the fast track to pompousville. I'll chalk it up to the residual effects of LSD in Claire's system and assume that none of it happens. Because, goddamn, while closure is nice, so is a little bit of mystery.

Postscript: I might have benefited from waiting until today to post about the episode, which, despite my harsh words, was very affecting. It made for a difficult work day.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

CSB Clarification: dim sum edition

Just in case we've somehow developed groupies: No, I was not having dim sum at Oriental Garden on Sunday. Apparently my New York doppelgänger was, because he apparently was spotted engaging in horseplay with younger relatives. I offer this explanation because a person bothered to lean over and ask me about this from another table in the beer garden at Loreley, where my co-blogger and I shared a stein after seeing The Rude Pundit's show.

That said, the guy did plant the seed of an idea. Namely: Dim Sum Sunday, coming this fall to a blog near you. There will be lively debate, afternoon constitutionals through Chinatown and "airplane rides" for Crimenotes.

Further clarification: We did not "share[] a stein." We each drank from our own, separate mugs. Further, "airplane rides" does not connote inappropriate or illegal conduct. Thanks. -CrimeNotes

Sunday Stylin': teenage wasteland

I know we've said it before, but this Sunday's Stylin' section is a pointless, boring waste of newsprint. The section is fronted by one reporters account of a night on Long Island with teenagers. While we've all had nights where we drive around aimlessly until we decide to go to Denny's (me) or the Hot n' Now (my co-blogger), even then we never considered them newsworthy.

If I were Harry's Shoes, the Genetic & IVF Institute or Prada, I'd call my ad rep, posthaste. No one read the page that article jumped to. In fact, I like you all too much to even provide a link.

I can't believe I paid $3.50 for this. Thankfully, I read Timothy Egan's rather good article on bankruptcy filings, which helped make things worthwhile. Now maybe I'll pick up the real estate section and feel thankful that my rent is low and my neighborhood interesting.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A belated appreciation of The Hold Steady

About two weeks ago, Flop, atrain and I went to see The Hold Steady play at Bowery Ballroom. The Hold Steady is the first band that I've ever loved in its prime. No matter how many times I listen to Rust Never Sleeps, I'll never get to see what it was like for Neil Young and Crazy Horse to play "Powderfinger" in 1978. Ditto for the Stones and Dylan. I'm lucky that the performers I've loved since junior high continued to perform and be productive into my adulthood, although Neil is the only one who remains consistently jawdropping.

Before The Hold Steady, I never appreciated the intensity that comes with loving a band that's your contemporary. It's more like loving a team than having a favorite author -- more immediate and visceral than analytical. As much as I like "Blood on the Tracks" and Philip Roth's books, they're not going to change my August.

What separated the August 5 performance from the show I attended in May was Craig Finn's intensity. The earlier show, he appeared humbled and a little overawed. The recent show, he was all confidence and bravado, much more playful and self-assured. This included a self-deprecating monologue about the lyrics to "Barfruit Blues." ("she said it's good to see you back in a bar band baby; I said it's great to see you're still in the bars.") Less a humble musician made good, more a full-throttle rock star.

Also, the thing that irks some friends of mine (Craig Finn's voice) makes a great live show. Because Finn delivers the lyrics in a barely melodic half-shout, you could never feel self-conscious shouting along.

The music is rowdy and unsubtle. Their lyrics, though, are stupendously dark and funny, like the group has chugged several pitchers of Flannery O'Connor, took a few shots of Jerry Springer, followed by a toke of VH1. Their first album, Almost Killed Me, includes a song called "Knuckles." "Knuckles" starts with the lyrics, "I've been trying to get people to call me Freddy Knuckles. People keep calling me right said Fred." Between allusions to Drop Dead Fred, Freddy Mercury, and Sunny D, the song sets a backdrop of federal agents in kevlar vests going to war with midwestern crystal meth labs. The song's main story appears to be about a serial killer.

Then, two-thirds through, you learn that the song's narrator is highly unreliable. You're not hearing the dark confession that you thought. It's something totally different. So you're left with a song about what? Is it a parody? A practical joke? A threat? Its last words -- "white crosses and wooden stakes" -- bring to mind roadside highway memorials and vampire killers.

What confounds me is that while they draw on enough Biblical and pop culture allusions to warrant an essay collection, they're trashy-sounding populists, beery and unselfconscious. I think that they're totally unhip (in a great way) and got the feeling that a lot of the Bowery Ballroom crowd consisted of midwestern ex-pats (especially Minnesotans). They're more rustbelt than Bowery anyway.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Simply the Best

I'm going to be nice to the New York Times now. Mainly because the Arts section covered a subject I like, and I didn't become enraged reading it at all. I also couldn't be more looking forward to Ricky Gervais' new show.

That said, quote leads are the reporter equivalent of eating bugs.

Thursday Stylin': Still awful a day later

I'm trying to be less bilious in general lately, so I'll refrain from saying too much about the Stylin' crew's largely, but not wholly, ham-handed attempt at discussing how people will handle Sept. 11 this year.

I'll also refrain from pointing out too much about the Critical Shopper this week, except that my eyes bled throughout. Was it the $9,000 purple python purse? The near non-sequitur aside to Coco Chanel? Or the way the world looked so much better to her after a revelatory day of shopping?

Also, gerund headlines are the copy-editing equivalent of the walking taco.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Kuczynski watch: Congratulations to the PPK

A reader from our San Diego bureau alerted me to some potentially disturbing news. Pedro Pablo Kuzcynski ("PPK"), father to the world's most famous critical shopper, has been named prime minister of Peru.

BBC has the skinny.

Strange when I think about it, but Alex Kuczynski of the New York Times styles sections has been bashed on this blog more than any other person. More than Tom DeLay, more than anyone at Fox News, and more than my co-blogger. Until we started this blog, I never heard of her or the stores she patronizes. What gives? All I can say is, she strikes a nerve.

Now, I ask: What kind of prime minister will Peru find in PPK? Will PPK's sensibilities be similar to his daughter's when she visited the Target in Mt. Kisco? (She was concerned with social inequities and looking for bargains.) Or will he kiss up to the type of "rarefied crowd" that Alex found at the Stella McCartney store in the Meatpacking District? My guess is that the people of Peru have less patience for bullshit that Times readers, and that PPK will behave respectably. If not: impeach him.

Cole Slaw Blog will remain attuned to any developments on the PPK front, and how they may reflect on his hapless daughter.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Giving credit where credit is rude

The New York Times ran a review of the Rude Pundit's live show that included the following phrase: "The Rude Pundit is a child of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and Hunter S. Thompson."

High praise indeed. Then again, how seriously can a person take a newspaper that gives a column to John "Mars or Bust" Tierney, and features lengthy expositions about comfortable sneakers?

More importantly, Flop and myself will be in attendance at one of Rude Pundit's performances this weekend. I believe I speak for both of us when I say that expectations are high. Expect a review and analysis early next week.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Just another pedantic Monday

Reading accounts of the (vexing and horrific) airliner crash Sunday in Greece, I was struck by the utter refusals of the media to call data a recorders and voice recorders what they plainly are. Instead, news outlets mostly insist calling them something they're not.

Flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders are kind of boxy but they're not black. They're orange, to stand out better among crash debris. But that's not important right now.

It doesn't take an expert to discern their function, especially when the discovery of them at a crash site is newsworthy. And yet, news outlets everywhere are determined to refer to them as "so-called black boxes." Or worse, to call them black boxes and then explain what black boxes do. (Hint: it has something to do with recording either flight data or cockpit voices).

I don't mean to get pissy about this, but it's one of those things that I suspect papers do because it's what they've done in the past. Possibly, "the reader" is invoked and slandered as a simple, beer-swilling rube who's heard of black boxes but couldn't possibly comprehend fancy words like "data" and "recorder." But that's just a grandfather clause for imprecise writing. Why bring a story to a screeching halt with unnecessary clauses?

In other news, (World Wide) Web logs, or so-called "blogs" are not made out of trees.

I know, I know. I'm probably the only one who cares about crap like this.

But then again, some friends and I had a conversation at a bar on Saturday night about "10 items or less" vs. "10 items or fewer" as well as the rule "everyone knows" about splitting infinitives.

What? Yes, actually. I am single. Why do you ask?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Last pictures from Michigan

I fly back to New York tomorrow afternoon. Here are a few more shots, including a cameo appearance by a very special sidedish.




Saturday, August 13, 2005

Let it rain, Let it rain, Let it rain ...

It's been a hot, sticky couple of days here in New York. Last night, when I got back to my apartment shortly before 2 a.m., it was 83 degrees out. I went up to my roof to look at the skyline, and most downtown buildings were obscured by haze. Today, it reached 99 degrees. It was so ridiculous, I considered going to see Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo because there would be air conditioning. March of the Penguins would have been pure porn.

Instead, I read about college football, wrote an incoherent ramble about the Gators, and savored the knowledge that fall is just around the corner.

Then I went to run an errand, and as I left my apartment, the skies opened up with a wonderful deluge of ... well, warm rain. I was hoping for the kind of icy, refreshing downpour you get in a real thunderstorm, the kind that reminds you that the rain fell a long way. But this was just fine. I could feel the heat from the sidewalk radiating up around my knees while the rest of my body was cooler. On the way back, it rained even harder, and I walked until I was soaked.

College Football Countdown: Urban Legends

OK, I've gotten the ill-advised Urban Meyer headline urges out of my system now. That sorted, let's move on. I read Stewart Mandel's article in this week's Sports Illustrated about the spread option offense Urban Meyer and his staff plan to run this season at Florida.

I recommend you do the same. For those of you, like me, who love the Xs and the Os (as well as the sheer violent glee that comes from watching undergrads knock the Natty out of each other) it's a nice, but all-too-short article. That said, I'm going to be watching every Gators game I can this year. Between the increased competition in the SEC, and Chris Leak's draft prospects inflating like a bag of mayo-based slaw left out in the sun, it should be a fun year for the Gators.

(The article can be found online here, but it's subscription only.)

The reason I highlight this as part our ongoing occasional series, College Football Countdown, is because it demonstrates one of my favorite things about college football. The game rewards innovation. Never mind the structural reasons for this right now. But think about the NFL: Every team basically runs the same old tired scheme. The West Coast Offense (TM) was new at basically the same time as Trapper Keepers and Garbage Pail Kids. And yet two decades later, most NFL offenses feature some form of one-back, sideways-passing attack. This is not to dump on the NFL, the sport on which I was weaned. I love my NFL Sundays. (Those of you who know me have probably heard my aphorism that baseball is our national pastime and the NFL is our national obsession.)

But the NFL seems to be in kind of a coffin corner of talent. Defenses are so good and so fast, there's really only a couple proven ways to move the ball. Any deviation from the straightforward norm is likely to be punished.

NFL coaches also are working on a shorter time frame, with much more scrutiny from fans and media. This leads many to favor the kind of proven schemes that produce utterly boring, cookie-cutter football for nationwide broadcast. Laugh if you want, then imagine the punting unit trotting out on Sunday night football after an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-1.

The chief counter-arguement to this, of course, is the success of the creative and inventive schemes of the New England Patriots. ButI feel as though the Patriots aren't actually all that radical, except by the staid guidelines of the NFL. They're like pad thai on the menu at the country club. Bill Belichick, a decidedly Milton Waddams-esque coach in his Cleveland days, was unafraid to experiment by the time he took over the Patriots, and has been rewarded for it.

Now the bigger college football programs tend to be almost as fearful of innovation. Tradition is part of the whole package at schools like Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, Alabama and the like. Which is why you tend to see the newer, more off-the-wall schemes come out of smaller schools, where there's less to lose, and coaches might as well make a splash, rather than go take a loss running the same old I-formation.

Which is why Urban Meyer has found the perfect Football Factory school to develop his craft. Florida, of course, is the former home of Steve Spurrier, another fearless innovator. So the media and fan base welcomes an approach like this. Meyer's also got Leak at quarterback, a major advantage for any coach. But the most important thing I care about in all this is that Florida is going to be on TV almost every week, going against top-flight teams on a near-weekly basis.

I can't wait.

Friday, August 12, 2005

College Football Countdown: Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer

While reading Warren St. John's Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, I came up with an unverifiable theory: sports, like lawsuits, prevent disputes and anxieties from blowing up into violence.

During the miserable days and weeks after the 2004 election, one of the few things that made life bearable was the prospect that my school had not yet played Ohio State in the college football season. All of my Ohio-directed rage would be channeled into a relatively benign three-and-a-half hour football game, after which things would return to normal.

True enough, about three weeks later, Ohio State beat my team, but given the dynamics of the Big 10 race, the loss didn't matter. Even if it had, the beating would have had its own cathartic quality.

The quest underlying St. John's book is to understand why people invest so much energy into following teams. My answer: Somewhere in our reptilian brains, the impulse to follow sports satisfies a need once fed when our clan killed the neighboring clan. The same protectiveness and aggression fueled by kin selection makes us loyal to the teams we grew up with, and prompts us to view those teams' losses as personal failings.

Have you tried to switch team loyalties since becoming an adult? I can't. I've sincerely tried. The teams I liked when I was nine are the teams I'll like until death. I'll renounce my citizenship more easily than I'll root for the Red Sox, Yankees or Mets instead of the Tigers. I was interested in the NBA just long enough to see Michael Jordan dethrone the Bad Boys-era Pistons, a Chicago coup d'etat that still makes me respond to Jordan with visceral dislike. (I guess he's done okay for himself otherwise.)

Now in my late twenties, I have dreams and nightmares about college football. Five years ago, bad dreams about a clock-manipulating play in East Lansing woke me twice the following week. Both times I was so upset that I didn't go back to sleep.

St. John understands all of this, even if he comes about it from a different angle. Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is a meditation on sports and the individual quest for meaning -- written as a travelogue through the campuses of the S.E.C., as viewed through the boozy, smoky prisms of hardcore Alabama football fans. Hundreds of them travel together in unwieldy RV caravans. They arrive to campuses days ahead of the game, where they commandeer whole neighborhoods for their RVs. Most of them are middle-class and upper middle-class professionals who didn't attend Alabama, and whose jobs and incomes are such that they can afford to miss two days of work 12 weeks a year.

A few years ago I would have found this pathetic. Now, it sounds like a dream come true. As a fan and as an armchair sociologist, St. John finds himself seduced by this system. As the season progresses, he begins to disdain the fans who arrive just before kickoff and head home when it's over. If they really cared, they would be willing to sacrifice more to immerse themselves in the experience.

The S.E.C. is a different world. Fraternity boys and sorority girls arrive late to games, dressed in nicer clothes than the ones I wear to work. The games are more alcohol-intensive than what I'm used to. I view heavy pre-game drinkers as weaklings too nervous to withstand life's real pressures. And in the S.E.C. there is, undeniably, an undercurrent of regional resentment that fuels a lot of these teams. St. John points out that Bear Bryant's salad days were during an era when the state's institutional racism and poverty made Alabama a national disgrace. Bryant's success was a point of pride, as well as defiance.

Rammer Jammer is good with the personal anecdotes and the small details about its fans' lives. It doesn't have any grand insights to what fuels fandom en masse, and what makes the S.E.C. quite so intense and peculiar. He directly addresses issues of race (specifically, fans who are comfortable rooting for a guy and then condemning him with the n-word) but doesn't dig too deep into the complexities of what it means.

Happily, though, we're left with a series of scenes that fall somewhere between anecdotal and existential. One of the most telling passages involves a married couple who attended an Alabama-Tennessee game instead of going to their daughter's wedding. When St. John chronicles the reactions, most of the fans express vulgar hostility about the daughter's decision to marry on a football Saturday.

I'll be attending such a wedding this November. It will be on a day that means as much as Christmas and New Year's combined. I've been told that the bride and groom (fans of the same team) were shocked when they realized the scheduling conflict.

The solution? Rent a hotel ballroom and arrange for large television sets. The wedding will be that night. They won't move the wedding date, but none of us will have to miss the game.

That's what I call love.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Great moments in punditry

One of our longtime friends made his debut as a cable news talking head last night. The gentleman who created and enforced the infamous "Three-a.m. Rule," hosted beer pong in the backyard, and antagonized a generation of coaches and S.I.D.s intoned somberly on issues of law and order. Looking freshly coiffed and properly made-up, he showed nary a trace of nervousness, aside from the occasional "um" and rapid glance.

Congratulations all around. In a few years' time, that bitch from Celebrity Justice won't know what hit her.

Stylin' Roundup: Girl Crush

Stephanie Rosenbloom writes about girl crushes. I would totally talk about this some more, but I'm still sputtering with remaindered rage from my last post.

But just think of how Crimenotes acts around Craig Finn and you'll have a reasonably accurate analogue.

UPDATE: Gawker has thrown the flag on our Stephanie. Seems she's not the first to note this trendlet.

Ol' Alex is back to her usual antics as the Critical Shopper. Maybe she's grumpy about having to work in August, because she's taken to skewering stores with cachet among those who read way too much celebrity news.

That said, a little bile must sharpen her game. Because two paragraphs in, we have almost the entire checklist complete. Check it:

  • Celebrity names? Invoked.
  • Excessive prices? Cited.
  • Materialism? Celebrated.
  • Obscure musician? Referenced.
  • Class status? Reaffirmed.
All that's left now is for our correspondent to appropriate some bystanders to provide some color, and we're out. And by the sixth graf, we have a French tourist. That was quick. See you all next week!

More war

I think by now we're all familiar with the story of Cindy Sheehan as well as the kind of treatment she's been getting. It's truly appalling. But it's also made me think.

I can't even imagine what it must be like to lose a son to a war _ any war. But I can't imagine it helps much to know that once you lose a son or daughter, your loss will be thrown back in your face if you so much as dare to voice an objection.

And then there's the argument that we have to stay the course because otherwise people will have died in vain. How horrible is that? Once someone's killed in Iraq, they become part of the ex post facto justification for the war. It's like some horrible dystopian nightmare.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Wednesday culture roundup

In the interests of toning down the bile (see previous post), I thought I'd try to post about some things that actually bring me happiness, rather than outrage. So here's a list of miscellany that has been on my mind lately.

  • James Salter, Last Night. A collection of short fiction. These stories land softly but pack a wallop nonetheless. Salter's characters are impelled by desires they can't quite give voice to. One character leaves a dinner party to spy a comet as it passes by Earth. One seeks a lost love after 20 years. Yet another is prepares to help his terminally ill wife commit suicide, but seems to have already moved on. The prose is exquisitely well-polished. Details shine like tiny gems, and simple sentences can devastate. The stories inspire contemplation, and reward close and repeat readings.
  • Louis Begley, Shipwreck. This is the second time I read this since it came out (and a friend was kind enough to get me an inscribed copy). It was just as hard to put down as the first time. You'd think a novel about the self-destructive urges of a renowned author, done entirely in flashback and told to a cipher who may or may not be a figment of said author's imagination, wouldn't be a page-turner, but you'd be wrong. Filled with self-doubt over his work, the author beds a French journalist, then contrives to keep that world separate from the world which he inhabits with his wife. The girlfriend becomes obsessed, forcing the protagonist to redouble and redouble again his efforts, all while trying to work on a new novel.
  • Eurotrip. No, seriously. When I first became aware of this movie, it was via a flyer handed to me in a bar where I was to watch the Super Bowl. Not a good sign. By all accounts, this should be a total dog, but I have to say I didn't hate it. And so far, I haven't found anyone who has. I definitely felt for the kid who does all the planning, and gets abuse heaped upon him for it. I also enjoyed Michelle Trachtenberg, in all her attainable hotness. Of course, I keep catching it on HBO, so I still don't think I've seen it all the way through. OK, I think if I say any more, I'll be sued by Knopf. Question: I wonder if there's some blogger out there who can't get enough Truffaut and Peckinpah, but also enjoyed the latest by Clive Cussler.
  • Kasey Chambers. Went to see this Australian country singer in Brooklyn, at the kind invite of everyone's favorite blog pinup. She was, in a word, bonzer. Was expecting a wonderful night out under the stars in Prospect Park and some half-decent Australian country stylings. She was actually really good, to the point where I'm trying to figure out which songs of hers to download. Also, adorable accent. The rest of the evening was spent on the roof of a friend of said blog pinup near the park, drinking Brooklyn Pennant Ale and enjoying a non-sweltering New York night.
  • The Hold Steady. Rocked, as is their wont. I'll leave the rest of the concert review to my co-blogger, who is probably composing his latest valentine at this very moment. Assuming he's not bass-fishing or waterskiing.

More postcards from Michigan

Here are a few more snaps from my week at the parents' place. Weather has been beautiful: high 80s and low 90s, but breezier and dryer than New York. My ribs still hurt from the waterskiing fall -- like someone punched me just above the gut -- but I'm planning to give it another shot this afternoon. If I really injure myself, there are worse fates than being stuck here while recuperating from broken bones.



Sept. 11 was not a good thing

I remember watching the Republican National Convention here in New York and wanting to vomit with rage on a daily basis. The events of Sept. 11 were invoked daily. And after watching for a while, it occurred to me that there was this idea out there that Sept. 11 was actually a good thing, because it united the country in patriotism. Of course, said unity has since been pissed away by our president, most likely on purpose. But nevertheless, people still like to cite the positive effects of Sept. 11.

I don't get it. But I also think I really don't need to explain why this is an appalling notion to me. I was incredibly lucky that day. Everyone I cared for, including friends who worked downtown and who lived near the Pentagon, was accounted for by mid-afternoon. I still consider it one of the worst days of my life.

Apparently, I'm in the minority.

I suppose after four years, all the Jeanketeers out there who are ready to move on and use it to celebrate. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to be the wet blanket here and say that this day sucked, and I don't feel like celebrating.

And then of course, there's the irony of celebrating freedom to mark a day that has directly contributed to a rather appalling erosion of liberty in our country. I remember talking to my mom again later that night. (She had called me immediately after the second tower was hit, as well.) She said she was glad not to be so young, that a whole lot of terrible things are going to happen. I asked her what she meant. And I haven't been able to get that conversation out of my head since. The Patriot Act. Hate crimes. Guantanamo. The invation of Iraq. Calls for concentration camps.

And of course, there's the thousands dead and thousands more they left behind. So yes, by all means, celebrate.

Me, I still remember that dusty smell of burnt plastic and scorched metal that hung over the city for months afterward. I'll be thinking about it next month, but I won't be celebrating.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Greetings from Michigan

I'm away on a 10-day vacation to a lake in Michigan, where I'm doing a lot of reading, some writing, and a little napping. In the past 48 hours, I've managed to give myself a bad sunburn and mash up my ribs in a waterskiing spill. Could a car crash be next? We'll see.

In the interim, I don't plan to be doing much Cole Slaw blogging. Having just read Warren St. John's very entertaining book Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, I learned some insights on the contrast between SEC and Big 10 football fans. I'm also anxious to write about The Hold Steady's recent performance at Bowery Ballroom and my ongoing fascination with that band. Alas, these and other posts will wait until later in the week, or for else my return to sweaty, sweltering lower Manhattan.

In the interim, here is a postcard.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

College Football Countdown: Party Up

It's just 29 days before college football season starts again. And people all over are abuzz with excitement. This includes this blog, which has found an extensive list of analogues between different college football teams and rappers that best represent them. I thought it was dead-on accurate, but then again, my knowledge of college football far outstrips my knowledge of rap. So caveat lector. I should also note that, quite appropriately, I was tipped off about this by frequent commenter and fashion adviser Crunk Raconteur.

I found the best of the comparisons tended to reach the kind of sublime ambiguity normally limited to a McSweeney's List. Reading it, you suddenly realize that the comparison fits both team and rapper equally.

One of my favorites was the Wisconsin entry. The blog's author, Ian, shows enough savvy to avoid the easy choice (House of Pain) and go with the fun, yet mostly inconsequential DMX. Most readers will rightly anticipate the SMU entry as well. It's all excellent fun, and perfect for a slow summer Friday.

But, as the great LeVar Burton used to say, you don't have to take my word for it.

Even more Ohio issues

Man, is Ohio getting shit on left and right these days.

Leaving aside the whole special election fiasco, which despite the moral victory, is still, like all moral victories, an actual loss. Look, moral victories are certainly encouraging, but that shit's for Princeton in the NCAA tournament. We should demand better. So congratulations to Paul Hackett, who should definitely run for the Senate. But no laurels should be rest upon, Ohio Democrats.

Why? Because there's too much undoing of Republican fuckery to be done. For example, the Toledo Blade has yet another story today on Ohio's modern-day Teapot Dome scandal. To wit, the mess made by GOP crony Tom Noe is such that three grand juries are now working on it. The DA's from Lucas (Toledo) and Franklin (Columbus) Counties are supervising one, while the other two are federal grand juries, requiring the attentions of both U.S. Attorneys in the state. (A nod and a free ramekin of our special sedition slaw goes to the mighty Atrios, whose blog is on top of all matters Coingate.)

Much like my co-blogger, I do recommend reflexively checking Eschaton like 20 times a day.

And then there's this.

Obviously, not just an Ohio issue, but this attack was particularly devastating, and hit Ohioans hard. There's not much more to say except that this all could have been avoided and we'd be in no less danger.

Connie Schultz, whose Pulitzer was the genesis of one of my very first blog posts here, penned a particularly heartbreaking account.

You don't know John

You know all of that stuff about John Roberts being a rabid right-winger and a Scalia clone?

Stick this in your pipe and smoke it: He was instrumental in the victory of a major gay rights case in 1996, Romer v. Colorado. As reported in today's L.A. Times (in an article available here) Roberts did pro bono work on behalf of the plaintiffs in that case, which resulting in a ruling vacating the results an anti-gay rights initiative in Colorado. Says the lead attorney from that argument, "John Roberts ... was just terrifically helpful in meeting with me and spending some time on the issue. He seemed to be very fair-minded and very astute."

Keep in mind that in a pro bono case, a lawyer is not working for a paying client or acting within the confines of his or her job. The pro bono cases litigated by a lawyer of Roberts's caliber are usually taken because the lawyer has some philosophical allegiance to the outcome.

Note: I didn't lift this from Daily Kos, but reading the Kos post reconfirms my gripe that the laypeople opposing Roberts are totally ignorant about the legal profession.

Sunday Stylin': There but for the grace of God, goes Alex

In the lastest iteration of the Critical Shopper, we find Alex Kuczynski tasked with a visit to Jacob and Company, the jeweler we are meant to know is a "purveyor of chunky rap-style diamond jewelry."

While visiting Jacob the jeweler, as the establishment is apparently known, A-Kucz manages to hit all the usual notes. She ropes in innocent bystanders, but doesn't quote them by name (a basic journalism no-no, but this whole section is basically one giant middle finger to journalism). She name-drops rappers, making sure to inlcude someone outside the penumbra of parental knowledge, possibly because such a move provides her with a bizarre, Stylin' section street cred. And, of course, she never, ever lets us forget that she is a woman of taste and refinement.

Trying on some of the store's wares, she gets some of her Hamptons-gilded arm hairs yanked out by a particularly chunky piece. But it's a small sacrifice for the perfect anecdote.

The men's watches - the simple ones, with no diamonds - are rather ugly, with white faces and intersecting geometric figures. At $5,900, they look to me like something you might pick up in a duty-free store in Southeast Asia for $80. The most expensive item on display is a watch: the Royal, which is covered in D-flawless diamonds and costs a publicity-ready $1 million. I tried it on. It was heavy. The hairs on my arm got caught in the band. I just didn't get it.

But the Edith Wharton of advertorial content has employed a journalistical device! Those of you with the morbid curiosity to actually read the story will be note that our correspondent's tale begins with the mention of two preppy girls from Connecticut. Well, she mentioned them for a reason, and not just to make herself feel better about being in such a place when Harry Winston and Tiffany (never Tiffany's) are just around the corner.

She spends the last six paragraphs or so on them, and I do recommend you read for yourself what transpires at the end of this lurid tale of mass-appeal, high-end retail.

As for the rest of the Stylin' section, I'll keep things mercifully brief. But I'd be remiss if I didn't clue you in to some off the rest of this week's twaddle. Namely, the Ball Park Franks of the Stylin' world, and one of the most awkward headlines I've ever seen. I wonder if this poor copy editor had to try out words like "Irish" and "Dander" before deciding on "Hackles." Apparently, it's not enough to kick around journalism, but now the Styles Section must abuse the language, too?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Yet another post on Ohio politics

Flop isn't the only person preoccupied with Ohio's electoral politics this week. Today, in Ohio's Second Congressional District, an Iraqi War veteran who anchored his campaign on intense opposition to the war and blistering criticism of the President came within four points of winning a special election against a traditional right-wing, pro-Bush candidate.

This was a near-miss, but considering that 65 percent of this same district backed Bush nine months ago, it's a reason for hope. Maybe it's hard to read too much into this (I'll defer to Flop for his knowledge of Ohio's congressional districts) but it made for a happy evening nonetheless. I also view this as a partial vindication of Howard Dean's 2004 candidacy and his leadership of the Democratic Party. Dean's message was ahead of its time.

This election has been extensively covered by the major left-wing blogs like Atrios and Daily Kos. Not everyone checks those sites 20 times a day like I do, but everybody should.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Royal birthday wishes

A couple years back, when Her Majesty the Queen of 2005 ("HMQ2K5") began dating blog pin-up Brian, she did not realize that he used to be a roommate of a weird dude (Flop) who, in turn, used to hit on one of her own former roommates.

She had no reason to expect that she would endure such behavior again. And she didn't realize that, just before the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2004, she should be crowned New Year's royalty. She didn't realize that she would later be named one of the 10 Greatest Americans, and with that title gain a permanent place in history.

For her endless patience, her enthusiasm for football, her contempt for Governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) and her royal status, the proprietors of Cole Slaw Blog wish a happy birthday to HMQ2K5.

Fancy some jicama tea and gooseberry crumpets? Yes, please.