Monday, October 31, 2005

Chicago did not seem tired last weekend

Chicago knows what I like.

It's a rare treat to hear Chumbawamba, even rarer to perform it in a karaoke bar between dueling renditions of "Elvira" by the Oak Ridge Boys. I never realized how redundant the lyrics to "Tubthumping" are until I repeated the same words twenty times.

I get knocked down, but I get up again. Story of my life.

After sleeping in, I woke the next day to visit downtown Chicago. I somehow avoided the White Sox victory parade -- the previous night's singing would have rendered as redundant a performance of "Twist and Shout."

Downtown Chicago is pretty:

After a hard-earned nap, I met two graduate school friends for a dinner of Bell's beer and steak. I thereafter visited a bar opened by the brother of a college acquaintance. I was first accosted by an older lady who kept striking me and trying to grab my cigarettes.

I assumed that she was associated with someone in my group -- a deranged colleague, perhaps -- but it turned out that she was merely a belligerent lady.

Later that night I met a young lady who introduced herself by saying, "I'm obviously coming on to you, but doing a terrible job at it." I snapped this photo, which is posted here with permission:
Needless to say, I was flattered to be hit on by a beret-wearing orange-eater. While such things happen to my co-blogger during his regular visits to Bungalow 8, I am not so fortunate. After a few hours of drinking, shouting, and flirting, it was time for hot dogs:

Wieners [sic] Circle is the Jerry Springer of hot dog stands. Fat ladies flash their boobs, customers scream profanity at employees, and drunks throw punches at each other. Being Halloween, some of the patrons were in a festive mood:

I was outside eating hot dogs with friends when I heard someone shout, "[CrimeNotes]!" I turned around to see a table populated with five guys from my grad school class. Grad school was not a pleasant time, and my behavior there could be charitably described as difficult and anti-social. I was surprised and slightly unsettled that these people recognized me. They apparently associated me with a rogues' gallery of former classmates, and I was questioned as to the whereabouts and activities of unsavory persons from our time in school. I spoke to them for a few minutes, then politely re-joined my friends.

Then, this group of people tried to rally strangers to visit their apartment, presumably for beer and more shouting. I do not know them, and wasn't able to attend. They live at 111 Chestnut, Apartment 40C, in case you're in Chicago and want to party with a keg of Old Style:

The next morning, I was badly hung over. I gingerly made my way to a local diner, where a college friend and I ate breakfast and discussed literature and current events. I was pleased to hear that my friend also disliked Ian McEwan's Saturday, though he didn't despise it as much as I did. We both share disgust over the hypocrisy and corruption of Washington, D.C.

After another afternoon nap, my weekend hosts and I drove to a Chicago suburb called Evanston. It is an unlikely site for a Big Ten university. I've never visited BYU, but I'm guessing that Northwestern gives the Mormons a run for their money in terms of low-quality social life. If you like dormant residential neighborhoods that span miles, Northwestern is the ideal.

I didn't go to Evanston for its social life. I went there for the football.

The Michigan Athletic Department apparently decided that because this year's football team is so mediocre, the university's marching band would not perform at away games. That didn't stop the marching band from coming in full force, and with kazoos. Shortly before kick-off, about a hundred undergrads took seats in the aisle across from us. They wore matching T-shirts that read, "Band take Ryan Field," with a logo on the back that read, "We don't need no stinkin' instruments." Angered that they wouldn't be playing, the instrument-free band was on fire. They performed on kazoos and did a lot of shouting. Northwestern's half-assed Wildcat mascot was denounced as an ugly beaver. Sitting next to the band was like being in a students' section. They made the night.

By coincidence, Blog Pinup Brian was seated six rows ahead of me. This prompted repeat trips down the stairs to scream at him that Michigan was finally playing like Michigan.

And, indeed, Michigan played like Michigan. I expected the team to lose, but instead, I went hoarse screaming declarations of love for the defense. After a wildly entertaining first ten minutes, which left Michigan up 14-7, including an interception run into the end zone, the second half turned into a long defensive grind. Chad Henne continued to make poor decisions and the Michigan offense was limited to two field goals.

Still, at the end of the game, Michigan's season had the potential of being salvaged. Pleased band members alternated between victory cheers and a chant of "Ybor City," home to the Outback Bowl.

It's filibuster time, bitches

George W. Bush woke up this morning and decided that he was going to dress up as a Christo-fascist. Unindicted co-conspirator has been getting a little old.

The Alito nomination is going to trigger the kind of scratch-your-eyes out, "extraordinary circumstances" fight that was avoided with the Roberts nomination. I'm as furious about Alito as I was enthusiastic about Roberts.

Otherwise, ladies, I suggest that you learn to love the fetus and hate the fetus-killers. Reading up on Jesus won't hurt, either.

Mother. Fuck.

The Browns try one's soul

As I alluded to before, the Browns are making a habit of perking up moribund teams by offering themselves as cannon fodder. It's getting to be an irritating little habit.

This week's effort was particularly lame, as the Browns were clearly a better team (not a good one, mind you. Just better than Houston). But, rather than grouse, I'd just like to point out that the Browns' miserable afternoon was bookended rather nicely by two plays from Texans cornerback Philip Buchanon.

On the Browns' first possession, receiver Antonio Bryant stiff-armed Buchcanon and knocked him to the turf. As he fell, Buchanon reached out and swiped at Bryant's ankle, causing him to tumble, too. A sure completion sailed over their heads and the refs held their flags. The Browns punted. Then on the Browns' final play, when they needed a big fourth-down conversion, Buchanon swatted away Trent Dilfer's pass for Bryant at the last instant, preventing a touchdown.

Of course, the Browns couldn't find the end zone on about a million chances earlier in the game, and coughed the ball up in Texans territory twice. So it's not as if they were robbed. What really pisses me off about this win, though, is that the bat-guano crazy among the Browns' fan base will immediately start clamoring for anointed future star QB Charlie Frye.

Which I can totally understand. I mean, it's not as if Browns fans have any recent experience with a rookie quarterback being thrown to the dogs and allowed to "learn on the job" or some such shit.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

It's feeding time!

The CBS world premiere movie "Vampire Bats" is about to start, and since the only other TV option at this moment involves three dim-bulb gentlemen jabbering overexcitedly while a football game occurs in the background, I'm sold. Here we go:

The protagonists seem to be three outsider-y students, two goofy dudes and one improbably hot girl. They are invited to a party at which the only beverage is punch of indeterminate origins. One of the guys get drunk and wanders off into the underbrush. He pauses, and the flutter of leathery wings can be heard amid the crickets. He trips and falls into a mud puddle and then we hear his screams. Damn.

Now we're introduced to Lucy Lawless. She's a professor. As is her husband. They have two young children and each has a class to teach in an hour. Despite having presumably earned terminal degress in their fields, neither has arranged for a sitter. This may prove important later, but if not, it's an excuse to point out that the actress playing the kids' aunt used to be on Grace Under Fire or some shit. Glad to see she's gettting work.

But no time to dwell on that. A dead deer has turned up on the edge of town. One cop wants to report it, but the other one assures him he'll take care of it. But then we see him dousing the carcass with gasoline. Something is so totally up. Then the Scottish guy who took over for Howard Hesseman on "Head of The Class" goes fishing on the bayou at night. I have to say, so far, this movie is kicking ass at dredging up actors I haven't thought of in like forever. Of course, soon after we meet good old Billy, the bats set upon him like a giant pint of McEwan's and that's the end of that. Speaking of, a six-pack of High Life is calling my name from the fridge.

Three other students run into each other on campus, and one of them wants to hold another "underground" party like the first one, but down in the campus steam tunnels. Ominous.

Things get even more ominouser when the boat containing a kicked Scottish Billy washes up in the canal behind Xena's house. The game warden shows up and mentions that some deer have died mysteriously. Xena so totally wants them to alert the public, but the mayor or college president or whoever it is wants to keep the beaches open for the Fourth of July. OK, I admit I got distracted because, as I'm typing this, a drunk and pretty female student is undressing and going to sleep on top of her covers ... with the window open! No! Don't do it!

OK, 48 minutes in, we finally see our first bat. The little bastards swarm out from below a dock while Prof. Xena and her husband are at a school function on a riverboat. Meanwhile, undergrads party in the steam tunnels, but over their heads we can see ... ZILLIONS OF FUCKING BATS!!!!!! Oh shit! It's on now!

The action cuts back and forth to depict what has to be the worst nightmare of any university administrator: Simultaneous vampire bat attacks. Xena herds the boat passengers belowdecks while the undergrads bolt from their party spot, and the rout is on. Xena gives a look of grim determination out a window on the boat and we go to commercial. I have to admit, from here on out I was pretty bored and distracted so if the narrative breaks down, it's because I got bored and disinterested. I was checking the football score, surfing the net, reading the paper, etc. But I'm not giving up now.

Anyway, the petulant, dismissive mayor of the town looks a lot like President Bush. He wants to poison the bats and Xena wants to study the root cause of the bat attacks. Before we can consider the subtle allegorical imperatives, the pretty student from earlier foams at the mouth and passes out in class. Turns out she's got the hydrophoby.

Then Grace Under Fire sees a suspicious character at a local lunch spot dining with the mayor. Xena then goes out to catch bats, and her students come with her.

And we find out that these aren't just vampire bats ... they're MUTANT VAMPIRE BATS! HOLY SHIT! And a waste-disposal facility on the edge of town seems to be the culprit. Could it be illegally burning toxic waste? I'm going to guess that ... yes, yes they are. Now they're actually seeing poisonous goo come out of a pipe, in case anyone out there didn't connect the dots.

The students in the lab put on some club music. But it upsets the bats! They throw themselves against the side of the cage in rage. At least they have taste. There's another random attack on some skinny-dipping students, but the girl holds her breath and stays underwater in the pool while the bats drink their fill of her would-be hookup. And then Xena's talking to someone about her toxic waste theory. And then that busybody, Grace Under Fire, interjects with her news about seeing the waste-management guy at lunch with the mayor. Everything is coming into place, isn't it?

Xena's students have concocted a way to control the bats by playing different kinds of club music. After we tie up some loose threads (turns out the mayor was just meeting with a whistle blower over at the plant, not taking bribes. Uh, I think.), we're down in the steam tunnels getting ready to deal with the rest of the bats. But the crooked game warden handcuffs Xena to a pipe and leaves her in there while the bats are drawn in by the speakers. Will she be able to, oh, I don't know, trip the crooked game warden, take his handcuff keys and free herself in time for a dramatic dash to freedom while being chased by a horde of bats? Well, you'll have to get the DVD to find out, because I'm not going to ruin the ending.

All in all, this was a pretty damn lousy movie, although usually in an enjoyably cheesy way. The characters were like cardboard cutouts, but then again, that's all I expected. It's a hell of a project when the most talented actress by far is Lucy Lawless. The dialogue was wooden and forced, sometimes laughably so. Of course, one memorable line sticks in my head.

Lawless was examining some material on the shirt of one of the bats' initial victims. She picked it up, eyed it and pronounced: "It's guano."

Yes, it was. That said, if I can find it on DVD, I'm totally screening it at the next monkey-clap dance party. It'll be perfect for when the player piano in Crimenotes' apartment breaks down again, as it is wont to do.

Vampire Bats

As I watched the Browns cement their role as good-will ambassadors to the rest of the NFL today, I took solace in one thing: The made-for-TV movie "Vampire Bats" would be airing after football on CBS. I haven't been this excited for a TV movie since "Spring Break Shark Attack" or "Riding the Bus With My Sister."

According to the CBS plot summary, it presents valuable lessons about public policy, such as the importance of the presumption of innocence, as well as the need for clean water.

A former USDA voracious insect specialist who is now a college professor, Maddy Rierdon (Lawless), in search of a simpler life, has moved to Louisiana with her husband, Dan Dryer (Dylan Neal), and their two daughters. But her life becomes more complicated when one of her students is found dead with his body covered in mysterious puncture marks and completely depleted of blood.

When two of Rierdon's students are implicated in the boy's death, she immediately gets caught up in the investigation and discovers that the student was killed by a swarm of bats. When other attacks occur and more people are found dead in a similar fashion, evidence leads Rierdon to discover that these are not ordinary bats, but aggressive vampire bats that have mutated due to a tainted water supply. Though she tries to discourage them, several of her students volunteer to help in the investigation, which could put them in grave danger. But Rierdon knows that she doesn't have a choice and must find a way to halt the bats' deadly progress.

Don't you hate how complicated life gets when one of your students is found dead with his body covered in mysterious puncture marks and completely depleted of blood? Anyway, I'm sitting here as the late-afternoon NFL games end, and I totally can't wait for "Vampire Bats" to begin. If only we hadn't set our clocks back last night, it would be happening in 22 minutes instead of 82.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Thai that binds

I was first introduced to Thai food in college, when a girlfriend took me to what had to have been Ann Arbor's only Thai restaurant. We always forgot the name of it, so we referred to it on subsequent visits as, simply, "Thai Place." I remember the rice came in a hammered metal bowl, and the way the hot and sweet of the basic red curry I got tasted like nothing I could have imagined.

I'm not equipped to judge the objective quality of the restaurant, but I have nothing but good memories. Both of the company and the combination of sweet, hot, spicy and sour flavors that Thai cuisine is based on. I think that's part of the reason I've taught myself a few basics of Thai cooking, and have been on the lookout for good Thai ever since.

Of course, in Queens, this is pretty much no problem. I'm lucky enough to live in delivery range of one of the best Thai places in town. And yes, I remember the name of it this time.

I bring all this up because work duties are keeping me at home tonight. And because the delivery guy is almost here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Today I go to the city where I almost attended college, almost went to grad school, almost went for a career, and yet haven't seen since 2000. Daunting to think about how differently things would have worked out if I did any of those things. For one thing, I'd probably be paying cheaper rent.

I'll be watching a mediocre team from a good program play a good team from a mediocre program. Because my life has resembled an extended version of Ferris Bueller's Day Off in recent weeks, I intend to disrupt the White Sox victory parade with a Beatles/Wayne Newton medley.

The usual disclaimers apply as to how Flop behaves when I'm gone.

Woe is Harriet

Poor Harriet. She's been the victim of a high-tech lynching by uppity Christian conservatives.

Or has she?

What if my hunch is correct, and she was actually up to her neck in the legal defense of the Plame investigation? Everyone is dismissing Miers's and the White House's assertion that her withdrawal stems from institutional concerns about executive privilege. But maybe it actually is about executive privilege, and the objection is based less on the preservation of executive privilege per se but more on the details that would come to life concerning the White House's inner workings during Miers's tenure.

Maybe Bush's second nominee will be a pothead.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

October Slaw: Astros fans waited how long for this?

Five hours of baseball last night, all leading up to Ezequiel Astacio's appearance on the mound. And, well, we all know how that went. It was a fitting metaphor for Astros fans. They've waited 40-odd years for this?

Sheesh, even the Indians won a game (two, actually) when they made the 1995 Series after making their fans wait four decades. Not that the Indians didn't go quietly into the night in that series (they did), but as a quintessential happy-to-be-there team, at least they gave their fans something to hang on to.

That said, things haven't reached a truly awful state in Houston yet. I mean, is there any way this doesn't get remembered as the greatest Astros team in history? At least until they make it back to another Series? I'll hold off on the fan-outreach programs until Houston fans have been through the wringer a couple more times.

If I seem uncharitable, it's because today is the eight-year anniversary of Game 7. Yes, that Game 7.

UPDATE: A certain bling-encrusted guest blogger of ours has pointed out to me that, had that 1995 team won the World Series, there would be ample argument to consider the 1995 Indians one of the greatest teams of their time, if not ever. People always remember that team won 100 games, but they don't always remember it was a 144-game season. Translated to a 162-game schedule, their winning percentage of .694 would be good for 112 wins. The Tribe led the AL in homers, ERA, batting average, OBP and probably some more shit.

Of course, it's all for naught because they simply didn't hit in the World Series. Sigh.

Fun fact: Did you know Billy Ripken played on that 1995 Indians team? I sure as hell had forgotten, if I ever knew.

Fiscal conservatism

Reading the New York Times Sunday Magazine over the weekend, I came across this rather frank interview with former Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.). It almost read like parody. Asked where the United States would get money if it keeps cutting taxes, Mack said "We'll borrow it." Asked a few questions later if this is fair to future generations, Mack said ...

I am not worried about that. We are a huge country producing enormous assets day in and day out. We have great strength, and we have always adjusted to difficulties that faced us, and we will continue to do so.

Party of personal and fiscal responsibility my ass. Jim Anchower runs his personal finances with more foresight and wisdom.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

They must have good insurance

Next season of The Real World may be set in Detroit.


Reviews in five lines or fewer

I'm counting my five lines as they appear on Blogger, not as they'll appear on the page. Still shorter than my usual.

New Pornographers at Webster Hall, Oct. 13. Canada's greatest supergroup had Dan Bejar, Neko Case and Carl Newman on stage simultaneously. Did that thrill me more than it should have? Probably. Although Webster Hall's handling of rock shows is so chaotic as to threaten public safety, the Pornographers are worth being crushed to death. Sing me Spanish techno, please.

U2 at Madison Square Garden, Oct. 14. The crowd at the Garden was more enthused than the lethargic stumps that slouch into the venues below 14th Street. It was a long, somewhat exhausting show; when your band is out to save the world, it's hard to rock out. Friends who've seen the show all have been enthusiastic, and I don't think U2 will ever bore me. They know how to run an arena show. Still, I miss their personas from Pop and Zooropa.

Neil Young, Prairie Wind. I like Neil enough that I own 21 of his albums and plowed through Jimmy McDonough's 700-page biography. His last album, Greendale, was the only successful artistic response to post-9/11 America. Prairie Wind trades Greendale's ambition and vitality for a trite folkie retrospective, with lyrics like, "It's a long road behind me/it's a long road ahead." It's worthy of a lesser artist; I expect better from Neil, who's still primed.

Marah, If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry. I made the mistake of listening to this album before going to bed last night. Hence, I stayed up late. Great drinking music. These guys must have listened to Sticky Fingers several hundred times before making this record. Not that it's in the same league, but it's the same boozy combo of blues, country and party rock, meant to be heard after four too many beers and ten too many cigarettes.

Tim DeLaughter, Thumbsucker Soundtrack. The brains behind The Polyphonic Spree has been talking about this album since at least last winter. I haven't seen the movie, but standing on its own, the soundtrack didn't offer much. More of a film score than a Spree splinter project.

The Go! Team, Thunder, Lightning, Strike. Peppy, poppy, energetic. Sounds tinny in my iPod earbuds, better on the stereo. If the New Pornographers had a D.J. and a cheerleading squad, they might sound a little like The Go! Team. Will provide serviceable ambience at a future monkey clap dance party.

The Colbert Report. Still struggling to find its voice, but entertaining. Colbert has had some timing problems, and if the show is going to be a deadpan satire of cable news, it needs to smooth out the more conventional late-night talk show moves (banter with the cue card guy, etc.).

Turner Classic Movies. The best excuse for having digital cable. M., Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Vertigo and Psycho in four nights? It's my new go-to channel.

Capote. Impressive performances in a meandering movie. I felt like I learned too little about Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, or the New York literary world. Philip Seymour Hoffman owned the screen, though, which is no small thing.

The Squid and the Whale. I'll stop blaming Noah Baumbach for The Life Aquatic. This was a Wes Anderson movie stripped of whimsy and sentiment. For the last half, I expected the next scene to reveal that one of the four main characters had committed suicide. This is a dark movie, and its many funny moments made me feel guilty for laughing -- a portrait of existential dysfunction gilded by appreciation for absurdity and the importance of good books. I agree.

Wise Blood, by Flannery O'Connor. I always want to lump O'Connor in with Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers. Instead, she's more a progenitor of Cormac McCarthy or David Lynch with a religious bent. Creepy, icky, depraved, scarier than anything Stephen King has written in 15 years. I have no idea what it all means.

Decline and Fall, by Evelyn Waugh. Making amorality entertaining.

Will in the World, by Stephen Greenblatt. A synthesis of Elizabethan social history and Shakespeare's plays masquerading as a Shakespeare biography. Sure, there was plenty about Shakespeare himself, but the real fun was the book's detailed look at life in Elizabethan England -- plague cures, pets, tenancy and landowning, crime, bear baiting, and the monarchy's efforts to maintain social stability, which Greenblatt blends into an analysis of W.S.'s plays.

Amos Berry, by Allan Seager. Out-of-print, published in 1953, long forgotten. I'm not going to pretend that anyone will go to the trouble to track this down. Seager was a hell of a writer, clearly influenced by both Hemingway and Faulkner. As is true for Seager's short stories, Amos Berry is better than any of Fitzgerald's lesser (translation: non-Gatsby) works. Someday Seager will be re-discovered.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Harriet's mire

Harriet Miers is being publicly flayed for no good reason.

On a human level, this is close to the doomed nominations of John Tower and Lani Guinier for the sort of cruelty heaped on an unobjectionable personality. I stopped taking Miers seriously when I read the Dear George letters, but I also consider this unfair. Fairly serious people have e-mailed worse things. Besides, is it measured to think someone is an idiot for kissing up to her boss on his birthday?

While I was knocked out by the nominee's birthday card word choice, people have generally framed Miers's nomination as broader evidence of cronyism.

If Al Gonzalez had been nominated, there would have been rumblings on this issue, but it wouldn't have been the same. People would have taken Gonzalez seriously, even though the bulk of his experiences -- Texas real estate lawyer -- isn't much different than Miers's. Gonzalez wrote 21 opinions as a Texas Supreme Court justice; most federal judges write four or five times as many opinions in a year. By any objective criteria, Gonzalez would have been no more qualified than Miers.

She's a crony and so is Gonzalez. You know who else was a crony? Abe Fortas. And when Franklin Roosevelt nominated Frank Murphy to the Supreme Court, Murphy was a crony. I'm not going to praise cronyism, but it's not a disqualification in itself. It's one of those things like being fat or having bad breath -- crippling if out of control, but generally correctable.

What's actually going on is sexist as hell, along with being cruel and stupid. If she were a man, there would not be the same kind of uproar about her closeness to the president and the ability to hear cases with detachment. There would, appropriately, be serious questions on that front, but they wouldn't be as dire.

She's being portrayed as a hack, idiot, vacuous, inexperienced, unserious, illiterate, possibly corrupt, ass-kissing, ugly, lesbian, asexual, liar, inconsistent, religious zealot -- you name it. It's a dishonest debate. Little to none of it involves her fitness as a justice. As an article in today's Times points out, Lewis Powell came to the Supreme Court with a resume similar to Miers's.

Powell was confirmed with only one vote against him.

I cautiously like Harriet Miers for the same reason that I cautiously like John Roberts. I think that career litigators come to the Supreme Court with a different way of thinking than career judges. They're more used to looking at issues from multiple angles, and on any given case could be arguing the opposite site. Reliant on the parties' filings with the court, a judge isn't as accustomed to the open-ended spread of a practicing lawyer. By temperament and training, a Miers or Roberts will be less rigid than a Scalia or Ginsburg.

There is still a huge problem.

If the first elephant in the confirmation room is rampant sexism, the second is her involvement in the investigation of the Valerie Plame leak.

Talking Points Memo raised this question. I haven't seen it anywhere else. TPM makes the following understated observation:
Given her role at the White House at the time, Miers would seem uniquely placed to give some read on just what [Bush] knew and when he knew. Indeed, what she knew and when she knew it.
If Harriet Miers is worth her salt as a lawyer, she has been closely involved in the leak investigation from the day she became White House counsel. John Dean was immersed in Watergate. Even assuming that Bush has clean hands in the Plame leak, Miers should have been doing everything she could to shield him, counsel him and build a record on his behalf. If she's a good lawyer, she knows more about the Valerie Plame leak than anyone in the White House.

On the other hand, if she hasn't been involved, it's further evidence of a dysfunctional White House, and an indictment of her competence. This wouldn't be surprising, either, given the short-term, self-righteous attitude of the administration. As a simpleton, Bush might say something like, "I didn't know anything about the leakers, so there just wasn't any reason for Harriet to get involved." This would be very stupid, and if Miers accepted such a statement at face value, she is a bad lawyer and unworthy of the Supreme Court.

Unless there is a simple, credible explanation for why Miers knows nothing about the Plame investigation, she will be another personnel casualty of the Fitzgerald investigation.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A wounded animal can be scary

Over at Daily Kos, Delaware Dem has posted this map showing President Bush's state-by-state approval ratings. In Texas, his approval level dropped 19 percent over the past month. Approval and disapproval ratings are equal in Montana and Alabama.

I don't think the President will be chastened. My imagination isn't gruesome enough to predict the specifics, but my guess is that he'll do things in the next year that will make Nixon look like a class act. Nixon snarled, then withered; Clinton and Reagan begged for love. Bush doesn't give a shit about that. Sinking approval ratings and a Rove indictment will make him more untethered. A spoiled rich kid without any friends wants to show everybody who's boss.

Note: After posting this, I came across a post in Daily Kos raising the same concern. I don't fear a war with Syria as much as I worry about a grimmer future for Iraq.

The sober Joe Namath

It was easy to miss Lloyd Carr's greatest media moment. I caught just a sliver of it after the Iowa game, when he kissed the cheek of a stupid but pretty sideline reporter.

"What does a win in overtime do for your program?" she asked.

Carr replied, "It's a lot like a win in regulation." Realizing that he might have sounded like an ass, he smiled, and added, "That was an excellent question." He paused to hug her, kissed her on the cheek, and walked away.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Drunken downloading

Here's what happens when you don't work on a Thursday: you get nostalgic for fifth grade.
  • Whitesnake, Here I Go Again
  • Cinderella, Somebody Save Me
  • Dokken, Dream Warriors
  • Poison, Nothin' But A Good time
  • Poison, Talk Dirty to Me
  • Poison, Every Rose Has Its Thorn
  • Warrant, Cherry Pie
  • Bon Jovi, You Give Love a Bad Name
  • Bon Jovi, Livin' on a Prayer
  • Bon Jovi, Wanted Dead or Alive
  • Def Leppard, Pour Some Sugar on Me
  • Megadeth, Symphony of Destruction
Notice a trend? Truncatin' the -ing endings to "in' ". I cherish the time when phoenetic accuracy mattered.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Updated links

If you're like me, you're not prone to browsing the unexplained links posted on the right side of a blog. They're a little like fan T-shirts, essentially saying, "This is who I follow and who I want to be associated with."

Even so, I humbly suggest scrolling down the page and making a habit of checking out any of the sites that are unfamiliar to you. From the obsessively monomaniacal (Brooklyn Vegan's musical interests, Underneath Their Robes's love of the federal judiciary, or slacktivist's labored parsings of the Left Behind series) to the pleasure of reading the unedited thoughts of Richard Posner and Gary Becker, these sites make killing time on the internet a valuable experience. I read them closely and often.

Stephanie Rosenbloom's non-functional blog doesn't count. That one stays up for old time's sake.

One favorite blog is not listed. As spinachdip noted, a great site called Tale of Two Cities recently announced its imminent closing. Observant, witty, and obnoxious without being meanspirited, it was a cynincal enthusiast's chronicle of life in lower Manhattan. The site's proprietor hints that he'll be leaving to work for Gawker, a site that finishes a close third behind Fox News and the Times's styles sections as my most hated media outlet. Good luck and Godspeed, joeyNYC, whoever the hell you were. Move on to better things soon.

October Slaw: Could I have been more wrong?

Yeah, so I had a whole post about how I totally was wrong about Jose Contreras and the White Sox. It done got eaten.

So I'll just move right along. A friend of mine and I were watching the denoument of Game 5 of the NLCS the other night and discussing an Astros-White Sox World Series when Pujols hit that mammoth blast that might have ended Houston's season right there. A loss like that is beyond just a gut punch. It's one of those things that can leave a team of zombies. We'll see tonight if the Astros have regrouped. While I have sympathy for the 'Stros and their fans, I have to say that I'd prefer to see the Cardinals win the World Series over either of the other remaining teams. I was raised in Cleveland, but I was born in St. Louis.

Also, my bling-encrusted, guest-blogging friend and I do love making juvenile jokes about the exact degree of Taguchi on the Cardinals' bench. (How Taguchi is it, anyway?)

'Tis the season

Continuing with the Fitzmas countdown, an article in today's New York Daily News reports that in 2003, President Bush learned that Karl Rove was responsible for leaking the news that Joe Wilson's wife was a CIA operative.

The article buries the lede. If it's to be believed, Bush knew two years ago that Rove committed treason. An election followed, with the president knowing that his chief political strategist was a criminal.

What makes the article credible and strange? Instead of focusing on the president's longstanding knowledge of Rove's criminality, its angle is that the president was furious with Karl Rove in 2003, when Rove first came clean about his leakiness. Thus, the article spins the president's knowledge of (and continuous allegiance to) a traitor in his midst into a portrait of an engaged leader, let down by his closest aide and angry about it. Clearly, the Daily News's reporters were given this account by someone close to the president in an attempt to portray the president as principled but loyal, remaining fidelitous to his friends while expressing disapproval.

Of course, the other interpretation is that the president had direct knowledge of the identity and the aims of the leakers; that he opted to take no internal actions; opted not to make any information public; was reelected through the counsel of a man he knew engaged in criminal conduct; and has yet to take an affirmative steps to clean house.

Even Nixon wasn't so brazen: "Men on the payroll of my reelection committee broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee. I want the public to know that I'm mad about this, but because they did it for my benefit, I'm sticking by them."

Question: Isn't this the kind of thing that a typical White House counsel knows about?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Merry Fitzmas

Daily Kos has introduced a new meme: Fitzmas.

It includes the following advice.
Lower Your Expectations: Hey, it worked for Laura Bush. Don't expect too much from this. We don't know what was said in that grand jury room; about all we know definitively is that Karl Rove has a "typical" garage. Fantasies of Cheney being indicted and Bush as unindicted coconspirator are just that at this point--fantasies. Trust the Fitz to do what's right based on the evidence, and trust that the result will be as far as he was legally able to go.
Here's hoping that things turn out as expected. If I've been a little quiet on Plamegate, it isn't for lack of interest.

Today I was thinking about a history professor who talked about Watergate as a political atonement for the sins of Vietnam. The domestic antibodies for the Iraq disaster are only getting started. I suspect that Patrick Fitzgerald's indictments -- and the careers that they end -- are a preview of further institutional collapses.

If taking pleasure in the imminent indictments of executive officials seems crass, think about the alternative. Not to get idealistic and shit, but if it weren't for the rule of law and public transparency, the kinds of actions under investigation would trigger coups and purges.

Pretty pictures

Here's a shot from a small town in Italy named Lucca ...

Lucca, Italy

... a place where they lower wheelbarrows down the sides of buildings.

Lucca, Italy

Florence is pretty when it rains at night:

Florence, Italy during the rain


And also during the day ...

Florence, Italy view from Duomo

... especially when there are rainbows.

Florence, Italy with rainbow

When I was in Scotland, I saw another rainbow.


In Rome ...

Rome, Italy -- Hail Caesar!

... there are arrogant cats ...


... and scruffy dogs outside the Pantheon ...

... a place I liked so much I visited it twice.


When I was in Rome and looked up, I usually liked what I saw:



This contrasted with Amsterdam, where the interesting stuff was at eye-level or lower:




Formatting note

The proprieters of this blog spend plenty of time hammered. But now we're getting hammered with spam.

Those of you kind enough to comment will now be required to go through a small hurdle before your comments post. You will now need to enter a password displayed on screen.

In other news, I've had several blogworthy days. My posting has been negligent, but other interests call. Updates to follow.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

It's arrested development

It's 4:18 a.m., I'm drinking water in my living room and watching college football highlights on ESPN. And you know what I'm doing? Still getting excited when Mario Manningham catches that pass. It's as if I'm seeing it live. I'm sure my neighbors disapprove. Shouldn't I be more mature than this?

I honestly could watch this all night. What a finish. One of the hidden treasures of a ridiculous, roller-coaster season is a moment like that. A year or two ago, Michigan would have handled a team like this year's Penn State by a touchdown or two. It would have been satisfying, pro forma and pretty much unremarkable.

I'm not wishing for more seasons like this one, because my nerves are frayed. But in the midst of a season in which wins can no longer be taken for granted, that was a truly memorable moment. I'll remember where I was when I saw it ... will you?

Isn't college football the best? I'd say it's even better than Crenshaw melon.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Four book reviews

Ian McEwan's Atonement is one of the best-reviewed books in the last five years, but for as long as I've owned it, I've been dismissive, writing it off as a family melodrama set among English elites, somehow centering on the morality of a group of children putting on a play. Every time I picked it up, I read the first three pages, felt annoyed, and placed it back on the shelf.

It turned out to be one of the great reading experiences of my lifetime, up there with American Pastoral, As I Lay Dying and All the King's Men in the way a character-driven story unfolds with a sort of crushing momentum. What at first appeared to be a story about class and family in rural England turns into a story about the paranoia, terror and prejudice of early adolescence. It is unsentimental and severe.

The first half of the book focuses on the events of a single day, climaxing in a brutal action that was unforeseeable in the book's first gentle pages. The second half moves the action seven or eight years later, to London during World War II, the characters now young adults, all of them scarred by the events that preceded them.

This is as perfect as any contemporary novel I've read. I'm being a little vague in my description because I don't want to spoil the experience. One of my complaints over the years is that not many contemporary writers understand how to set up a plot and finish a novel -- plenty of them assemble convincing characters and scenarios, but not many know how to wrap things up. Atonement does not suffer from this problem.

From the extraordinary to the horrible, McEwan's recent novel, Saturday, is a disaster in every way. The premise is promising enough: haunted by the imminent Iraq war, a London neurosurgeon goes about a typical Saturday in London when a violent altercation occurs after a traffic accident. Later that day, this incident is revisited when the surgeon's antagonist intrudes upon his home.

The book's theme seems to be that in the age of terrorism, the only way for people to persevere and maintain sanity is to think small -- focusing on basic things in their lives and not becoming oppressed by the existential dread of global events.

Again -- fine. But this book is horribly executed. Full of pedantic navel-gazing, centering on a family that is too perfect to be liked or credited. The husband is a neurosurgeon; the wife is a media lawyer; the 23-year-old daughter is a gifted poet with a book imminent; the son is a successful blues musician studying guitar under Jack Bruce from Cream. The children's skin is pure as cream. They love their parents. Everyone is articulate, loving, innocent and clean beyond belief. This family makes any episode of The Cosby Show look like the precursor to Natural Born Killers.

McEwan's political views -- while sincere -- are trite. The characters' "think small" credo comes about because the author is unable to think large about the issues he's trying to explores. A debate about the characters' views on the Iraq War is unconvincing in tone and in substance.

Saturday features a villain that is wholly unconvincing. The protagonist's powers of insight are so deep that he immediately recognizes that this person is suffering from Huntington's Disease. When he appears at the family's home late in the book, the events that follow lack basis in normal human behavior and storytelling instinct.

Lastly, there is an unconvincing "twist" that not even the writers on Boston Public would have tried.

I'm n0t quite sure how Ian McEwan managed to follow-up one of the best novels of my lifetime with a work that fails on every level, but he did. Saturday is the worst kind of failure -- a work that tries to think big and tackle grand themes, but descends into trite pomposity.

On Beauty, Zadie Smith's homage to Howard's End, also is a flawed work, albeit far more successful than Saturday. The good news first: She assembles a collection of likeable characters, most of whom are credible, and sets them loose in a fast-moving and readable story. At different points in this book, I loved or raged at almost everybody, and found her ability to track a dozen different characters and multiple storylines to be seamless.

The bad news: There is no big idea underlying this book, which concludes in a sort of vague mash. Her satire of academic life and politics is trite and not knowledgeable -- not even in the early '90s were campus leftists and conservatives spouting such simplistic ideas. Lastly, her depiction of black and mixed-race teenagers and young adults in Boston reads as a little condescending and unconfident, like she drank from the cup of I Am Charlotte Simmons before writing.

What to make of the following? Her most authentic and likeable character is a philandering, fiftysomething art history professor who spouts some of the most stereotypical liberal claptrap, while Smith -- the mixed-race, 30-year-old daughter of London natives -- does not convincingly convey the inner lives of mixed-race young people. Does this testify to her skills as a novelist? Do I know what I'm talking about? There might be something peculiarly British to her sensibilities that keeps her from convincingly portraying young Americans.

Still, I don't want to be hard on this book. It lacked the energy and joy of White Teeth, and it felt a little uncohesive. She raises a lot of questions about race, art, family, class and politics, but doesn't seem able to answer them. It's still a pleasure to read -- a kind of thoughtful, likeable escapism. If it was a little less than I hoped for, that's only because Zadie Smith at her best can acheive so much.

Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is the second book of his that I've read in the past two months. When I previously wrote about Kafka on the Shore, I struggled to decide how much of the book was artistic achievement, how much was sleight of hand, and whether I was giving Murakami the benefit of the doubt because I assumed he was commenting on Japanese culture with more specificity than I comprehend.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle does nothing to resolve this confusion. A Murakami fan described this as the perfect book for someone with A.D.D. -- hopping between characters and storylines, containing multiple novels-within-a-novel. If nothing else, the book testifies to a modern Japan haunted by the atrocities it committed on mainland Asia during World War II. As with Kafka on the Shore, what it all adds up to -- and what Murakami is trying to say -- is anyone's guess.

Also like Kafka on the Shore, it reflects a preoccupation with a cat -- cats serving as the intermediary to some sort of malevolent interior world. It is also concerned with water, wells, islands, sex and dreams. If I were to guess at a thesis, Murakami is saying that Japan is so haunted by its legacy from World War II that it has turned into an antiseptic technocracy, the placid exterior of which conceals lifetimes of repression and dread.

Wind-Up Bird also confirmed a fear that I had when reading Kafka -- that like Pynchon, Tom Robbins, and many others, Murakami is a novelist who strikes you most deeply the first time you read him, with subsequent works less affecting. He's clearly got a lot to say, but his vision of the world and his storytelling techniques don't have the same magic on a repeat visit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


I spent a lot of my time in Rome getting lost, and it wasn't always the good kind of lost, where you wander around picturesque streets and then stumble across something wonderful. My hotel -- about a mile away from the Tiber River -- was in an area slightly reminiscent of Jackson Road in Ann Arbor. Since moving to New York, I walk everywhere, which, in Rome, meant getting lost a lot. Hence, at the end of my second day in the city, I found myself walking along the shoulder of a highly unPhish-like freeway called Anastasio II.

After that, I started taking cabs. One phrase was repeated constantly over the cabs' dispatch radios: "Anglo-Americani." It was repeated about 90 times each minute. There were a lot of Anglo-Americani in need of car rides.

The Anglo-Americani I saw in Italy were indistinguishable. Most of them were in late middle-age or in early retirement. They approached everything with a combination of enthusiasm, clunkiness and self-consciousness, equally likely to wear goofy caps with an Italia logo, sit in piazzas drinking half-pints of beer, and react in giddy and nervous ways when confronted with a menu in Italian. Eager, happy, content, sufficiently clueless to be annoying and endearing at the same time.

This reinforced a conclusion that I reached in London and in Scotland. The difference between Britons and Americans is so slight that it's only an accident of history that we're no longer part of the same country. The American Revolution was a brain fart.

When I was in London and Scotland, I was thinking about how traveling from the Northeast to Britain was less jarring than visiting the South or the Upper Midwest. I mentioned this to someone in Scotland, who wasn't surprised. He talked about the misfortune of visiting Texas, and the continental Europeans' poor grasp of America.

A couple weeks later I read an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune by a Briton named Rob Blackhurst, who had just returned home to London after a month in Vienna. Somewhat dismayed, he observed that "the British will never be comfortable Europeans," and that "Britain has slowly but inexorably rejected European-style social democracy and embraced American-style individualism." Blackhurst later noted that while British politicians pay lip-service to being good Europeans, they rapidly adopt American-style economic and social policies. He concludes that the British have willingly traded community and security for individuality and wealth.

Sadly, I didn't have time to meet with any British sociologists or treasury officials, but watching TV before naps and bedtime, I saw programs so garish that they made Fox and Spike look like Masterpiece Theater. This included a reality program about sweaty, sexually promiscuous teenagers learning how to be more romantic with their dates, and another program where lower-class teenagers competed for jobs as construction workers. Evelyn Waugh would not be amused.

Is this a byproduct of globalization? Neither the Netherlands nor Italy had such recongizable fashions or attitudes. Italian Survivor was comparatively classy, albeit lengthy. The inevitable result of America's status as a former colony? I spent a summer of college working in the Canadian Parliament, where the politics and civic culture more closely resemble continental Europe than either America or the U.K. My guess is that the policies of Reagan/Thatcher, Bush I/Major, and Clinton-Bush II/Blair have been so similar that the economic and political cultures have basically elided. Both countries have been electing identical heads of state for 25 years.

As far as the two countries' pop cultures, I blame Rupert Murdoch.

Disband NAFTA and let Canada join the E.U., where it belongs. Canada is too pleasant and gentle to be stuck with us. Britain needs to call off its engagement with the E.U., which will only end in heartbreak -- it's been 230 years, so let's stop playing hard-to-get with each other. Just a little free trade and a little immigration relaxation. I'm not saying we go all the way, but I'll volunteer that Andrew Jackson was one sick son of a bitch and that Churchill could like nice on the twenty. (U.S. conservatives are batshit about him anyway.) We could also dump Grant for a picture of a squirrel.

This way, it will be much easier for both nations to wreck Middle Eastern countries, produce shitty reality shows and throw away their civil liberties.

Pint of the Fuller's? Yes, please.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005



I'm back in New York, with some pictures properly uploaded from my trip. It's photo time.

I'll soon post a collection of snaps, accompanied with observations that range from the immature to the culturally insensitive.

Before I start that overview, I'd like to talk a little more about the love that dare not speak its name -- the Britons' squirrelophelia.

I initially thought that I'd only seen a few eccentrics who were grudgingly tolerated by the public at large. Having spent the past few days in London, I learned that this was not the case. Squirrelophelia is a minor epidemic in all of Britain, with its epicenter located in St. James Park, London. On Sunday morning, I struck out for a little stroll, and observed a man sitting on a park bench. He wore a baseball cap, upon which a squirrel was perched. By the time I grabbed my camera, the squirrel had run off.

That afternoon, walking back to my friends' apartment, I passed through a different section of the park. I overheard two elderly ladies having a conversation, one of whom said this:
"He captured a squirrel, took it indoors, put it out of its bloody ..."
I could hardly believe my ears. Not wanting to blatantly eavesdrop, I kept walking, never to know what "bloody" thing the squirrel was put out of. Its misery? Its mind?

Giddy to have overheard this -- and to have a mystery to ponder for the rest of my life -- I darted behind a tree and wrote the lady's words in my notebook.

In college, my professor of English social history said that the British had an obsession with animals. A famous historian, Keith Thomas, has written a book on ths suject.

Squirrelophelia is alive and well in London. In America, Rick Santorum worries about man-on-dog sex being the logical next step after legalizing gay marriage. With the Anglo-American alliance still in full force (this will be the subject of a future post) can the squirrels be far behind?

Monday, October 10, 2005

TPM is up in here, up in here

We try not to play off other blogs here, especially heavyweights like Talking Points Memo. But I saw something in a recent post over there and I had to add my praise.

It's a rather dense, detail-filled post. But I'll just say that a concert involving DMX was mentioned (in context, trust me). And TPM owner-operator Josh Marshall managed to get in a crack about Republican staffers "partying it up on Jack Abramoff's dime."

I suppose as such references go, this one isn't all that subtle or deft. And if I have to explain too much I might ruin the post. But I happen to like the DMX song "Party Up" to an irrational degree. Honestly, I can't not turn the volume up any time that song comes on. It's nice to see someone else seems to like it that way, too. Or it's just a coincidence and I'm an idiot. I'd give even odds.

But I don't care. Now I've got that song stuck in my head and a hop in my step.

Back to Earth

It's been a rough couple of weeks for me as a sports fan. My Cleveland Indians woes are well-documented and the Browns still haven't beaten a team outside the NFC North. This is all to be expected, but my usual balm for Cleveland sports woes is Michigan football. Not to be over-the-top here, but no team in my life has ever been consistently so much fun to root for as Michigan's football team.

And now, the Wolverines have three losses. It's October. This is totally inconceivable.

It feels like an out-of-body experience. It really does.

I think Michigan fans everywhere are going to begin to appreciate a little bit more what we've seen in the past 10 years. Two four-loss campaigns were somewhat redeemed by ruining Ohio State's undefeated season each year. The next year Michigan quit fucking around and won a national title of its own.

Since then, Michigan's won the Big Ten four more times, gone to two Rose Bowls and hasn't made its fans suffer the indignity of watching them in December even once.

Let's be honest, we've been spoiled.

But I don't think Michigan fans would trade the 10-plus seasons of the Lloyd Carr era with the past decade of any other program, save maybe Southern California. That's fine, but I'm happy with the way things worked out because Michigan won a national title while I was a student there. Meanwhile, the Trojans were busy being hot garbage for most of the 1990s. (Oh, how quickly we forget the Age of Sultan McCullough.) Don't underestimate the value of winning a title while you're a student. I'm not sure I'd trade that one for three national titles down the road.

That said, it's clear that Michigan fans are probably going to be dealing with the kind of painful issues that literally every other set of fans has had to confront in the past 10 years. It's payback time in the Big Ten, and teams that have been living under the Wolverines' thumb for years and years are lining up to get their licks in. Already Minnesota and Wisconsin, two teams which never once got one over on the Wolverines during my time at Michigan, have won this year. This is like Bart Simpson getting outwitted by Uter and that nerdy kid with the glasses and nasal voice. It sucks and it shouldn't happen, but you have to think that it won't last long.

One of the best things about rooting for Michigan is that they've been an incredibly resilient team. They've got games left at Iowa, and home against Penn State and Ohio State. They might not be favored in a single one of those, but I'll be shocked if they lose more than one. Of course, at this point, I'm not taking Ralph Wiggum or Martin Prince for granted either so anything could happen. To say the least, it will be interesting.

Sunday Stylin': they still suck

Just because we haven't been giving The New York Times' Styles Section the back of our cabbagey hand lately doesn't mean it's been suddenly living up to our standards (or, really, any journalistic standards at all.)

While I do enjoy that I no longer make myself read that shit on a weekly basis, let's look at what I missed. An article on the subject of a recent movie.

IF you are born into the British high life, specifically to the actor Laurence Harvey and Pauline Stone, a Vogue model, and wend your way through life so that you end up chasing drug dealers, murderers and thieves through the streets of South Central Los Angeles as a bounty hunter, chances are good that someone will eventually hear your story and think it's a movie.
And chances are good that if you're a dyspeptic blogger, you're going to spit out your Mr. Pibb when you read that. Or this.

On Friday, when "Domino," starring Keira Knightley, arrives in theaters, audiences will get a glimpse of the complex, contradictory life of Ms. Harvey. But the movie's subject, who was eagerly awaiting the release, will not. She was found dead in her bathtub on June 27.
Sometimes, I myself do stupid shit because it will make other people laugh. I hope that's what the Times is doing here. The rest of the section includes more horsefeathers about Coco Fucking Chanel and an article about how high gas prices are making some people consider riding their bikes to work. I'd say something snarky like 'You heard it in the Stylin' Section first!' but I feel like I should just be thankful the Times seems to have spotted an actual trend, rather than fabricating one out of whole cloth.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Take that, Port Moresby

Not to turn this into a Cleveland-centric blog, but I should point out that Cleveland was recently named a most-livable city. Yes, I know, "livable" cities are so because no one actually wants to live there.

I just thought I'd point out that sports teams are probably not taken into account in the survey (though I don't know the methodology). In fact, Cleveland's mayor, Jane Campbell, seems to think that what makes Cleveland fun is the Browns. Anyone who has put up with my sports angst this week should know better.

I also wanted to lord it over Port Moresby, in Papua New Guinea, which finished dead last. But I bet John Elway never ruined the childhoods of a generation of Port Moresbians back in the 80's. And those same kids never had to watch their local baseball team capture the city's hearts, just in time to crush them.

Lucky bastards.

Housekeeping redux

Our guest bloggers were received with such widespread acclaim, I've unilaterally decided to bring them back until Crimenotes returns stateside. I'll still be posting, too. But I've got lots of work and non-work-related program activities to tend to this week, so I figured we could keep them in the mix for a bit longer.

Aborting Indiana

Generally speaking, I don't like a lot of people. I'm evil, and I find the world is populated with a lot of needless morons and people with bad fashion sense who mistake ugly for style.

But that said, and all evilness aside, I'm of the general belief that people, no matter how stupid, should be able to do what they like, so long as it doesn't result in the deaths of others, or damage to children, puppy dogs and great works of literature.

Apparently, the great minds of the Indiana legislature don't agree with me on this.

Having unquestionably perfected the state's educational, criminal and economic systems, the elected representatives of the Hoosier State have now turned to making sure that everybody is not gay -- or really uncomfortable if they are -- and in love with jesus, and, of course, paired up like monkeys on the arc.

State lawmakers recently proposed a law that would prevent unmarried people, single parents, same sex couples and pretty much any combination that doesn't include a marriage certificate, from using science to make babies when they can't do it on their own.

And those couples looking to be exempted from the law would have to undergo a review that would consider the family lifestyle, including whether they worship the jesus or other overbearing. No indication on whether straight folks who still like ass-fucking would be excluded, too.

Update: State Sen. Patricia Miller, rendering the use of her single active brain cell, has decided to withdraw her proposal, acknowledging the issue might be more complex than she'd considered.


LUCCA, ITALY -- If Florence proves anything, it's that two homoerotic statues of a nude adolescent David is one too many. Add to that the many paintings of baby Hercules wailing on some snakes sent by Hera, and it was time for a change.

I've been visiting mainly powerhouse cities up until now. Leaving Florence, I was faced with a choice of where to go next. I considered Bologna, Venice and Pisa, but based solely on the advice of my guidebook and a desire to get out of tourist havens, I ended up in this delightful small town about 90 minutes east of Florence.

It's surrounded on all sides by walls built during the Renaissance, which themselves are circled by parkland. Also, it has the most attractive gene pool in the world. Maybe I couldn't distinguish the locals from the fat German tourists, but in Rome and Florence, the Italians were not living up to their reputation for attractiveness. Here, even the middle aged people are hot.

Yesterday, the most attractive woman I've ever seen stopped me on her bike and asked for a cigarette. I complied, and she winked. Then, she said something. My Italian is good enough that I can communicate clearly, but when someone speaks to me, I have no idea what's going on. So, I nodded stupidly. Maybe she said, "I want to make love to you." More likely, it was something undramatic, like, "I like buttermilk," or "You dress like a retard."

Today I saw the glass-encased body of a 16th century saint. She proved that the human body has evolved to a larger size over time.

Otherwise, this city is the earthly paradise. I could rent a huge apartment for a year for less than what I pay in four months' rent in New York. Pity that retirement is just a marketing tool for Republicans and brokerage houses, otherwise I'd start making plans.

Now on to Milan, then another day in London. I'll be back in New York on Monday. In the first few days there, I have tickets to the New Pornographers, great seats for U2, and a college football season to attend to. Pretty ladies are nice, but it will be good to get home.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Squandered good will

You know what's not helping my psyche these days? Watching a baseball postseason filled with mostly uninspiring teams and realizing that the entire country might have well been rooting for the Indians. I'm reasonably sure that with the exception of Boston, St. Louis, San Diego half of Chicago, half of New York and whatever percentage of the Los Angeles area cares about the Angels, the Indians would be everyone's favorite story.

Not that this matters all that much, but it sure would have been heartening to see. Of course, we'd have to hear how Jacobs Field "rejuvenated" downtown (it didn't) and how the city of Cleveland has turned the corner (it hasn't). We'd probably have to endure some clips of The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot and Game 7 of the 1997 Series.

But it'd be OK. It'd be worth it for everyone else to realize just what Cleveland fans are dealing with here. For far too long, we've had to listen to Boston fans complain about the Red Sox, while their basketball and hockey teams put together dynasties for the ages. The same goes for Chicago Cubs fans.

Generations of Cleveland kids have grown up without a winner, and I think it's damaged us in some way (your joke here).

Of course, we really don't care if the rest of the country gets behind a Cleveland team or not. In fact, for their own mental health, let's be honest _ it's probably for the best. And besides, if Cleveland became shorthand for sports futility to broadcasters and sportswriters, we'd be dealing with backlash. So maybe that's for the best. Then again, I thought the Indians could ride their hot streak pretty far, so maybe not. Regardless, I'd rather the Indians were playing ball right now, and I know I'm not alone.


Monday, October 03, 2005

Hello, Cleveland

The occasion of the latest Cleveland sports collapse is not all negative. Among the rubble, a positive sign: I'm adding the Mistake by the Lake Sporting Times to our list of blogs.

It's run by two college students, one of whom lives here in New York. Both were raised on the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers. It's strictly a sports blog, although the two brothers seem to share our love of minutiae (they're nearing completion on an occasional series on the greatest Cleveland players to wear each jersey number from 00 to 99.). Also, they keep the Buckeyes talk to a minimum _ which is welcome.

Despite their youth, and its attendant unpardonable optimism, I think they'll be a welcome addition. They're both fans of reality-based baseball analysis, rather than fable-based hokum, which is a major point in their favor. Also, they run a weekly feature called "Born and Raised on the Cleveland Browns." As someone who spent many, many Sundays at the old Stadium, it really resonates.

Make sure to check out this week's special edition, Born and Raised on the Cleveland Indians. Their criticism is especially trenchant down in "Idiot of the week." Whenever I hear those White Sox announcers on the baseball package, I think of Fred Willard's character from Best in Show.

Anyway, with a pivotal season in the LeBron James era coming up, as well as a potentially less-agonizing-than-usual Browns season, I know I'll continue to be a regular reader. Our regulars with Cleveland roots should consider doing so, too.

Query: Who the fuck is Harriet Miers?

FLORENCE, ITALY -- Seriously. Is this a practical joke? They say Bush has a good sense of humor.

In other news, I've overcome the exhaust fumes of Rome and found myself in a wonderful Anglo-American tourist colony on the banks of the Arno River.

In the tourist season it's probably a miserable place, but in early October it's sort of wonderful. Not too crowded and easily navigated. A hard rain was falling for my first 24 hours, which made my shoes soggy but the city sort of beautiful. Today I walked to the top of the Duomo just as the rain let up. A rainbow was over the city. Very nice indeed.

While Harriet Miers may suck, the Michigan win salvaged my trip and my sense of dignity. More on that later.

October Slaw: There is no Scotchtoberfest, Ozzie Guillen

There's a great episode of The Simpsons in which the Groundskeeper Willie character plays a supporting role in a sting set up by Principal Skinner to catch Bart red-handed in a prank. The sting itself required a fabricated autumn festival called Scotchtoberfest. When Willie, a Scot, finds out that he's been had, he cries out in his outraged brogue :"You used me, Skinner! You used me."

I bring all this up now because I feel like we're about to see something similar happen during America's totally non-fictional autumn festival, the baseball playoffs. Last week, Boston fans were spitting up their chowder? Why? Well, it was the very idea that, with the AL Central wrapped up, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen might prepare his team for the postseason, rather than help the Red Sox (and Yankees) by playing to win against the Indians.

Guillen probably should have been resting regulars and setting up his playoff rotation. Instead, he mollified the AL East contenders by trotting out Mark Buehrle to start Friday against the Indians, who were the only competition Boston and New York had for the AL wild card.

Now he can't start Buehrle in Game 1 against the Red Sox. Which also means Buehrle probably won't start game 5. Now, I'm not a professional baseball manager, but I'd certainly put setting up my rotation for the postseason ahead of some high-minded hokum about doing the right thing for the game. If the the White Sox are eliminated by their partners in hosiery, Guillen might have to wonder about

Much like a Scotsman duped into thinking there was an actual Scotchtoberfest, Guillen probably should have known better.

Judicial Slaw

While I expect my co-blogger to check in from his travels and briefly weigh in on the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, I thought I'd add my initial reactions, if only to move this blog along from yesterday's unpleasantness.

I'll leave the critiquing to Crimenotes. But I have to wonder: Didn't we learn anything about appointing a political flunky to an important position? I know this is different for many ways, but still. I know William Rehnquist wasn't a judge before he was appointed, either. And I'm certainly willing to be open-minded about such things.

But let's be honest: Has anything good come about when George W. Bush has elevated people to positions of power based on their fealty to him? Just asking.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

No, seriously, I really do hate everything

It's just not my day.

I was writing a post about the Indians collapse, but Blogger ate it when I tried to save it. And it was painful enough to write once, so I'm just going to revisit it in summary form, then pour myself a couple fingers of Jack, possibly as measured by my Rawlings.

The Indians sure looked good for a while, didn't they? But then Grady Sizemore lost that ball in the sun, Belliard grounded into that game-ending double play, Aaron Boone botched a sacrifice bunt and, oh, then we knew it was on. After avoiding the indignity of a sweep by the Devil Rays, there was that truly awful 13-inning game. The missed opportunities in that one were legion.

After that, the Indians were pretty much walking corpses. It was all too familiar. In fact, this sort of pain is so familiar that it's been about six or seven hours after the final out, and I haven't heard from a single Cleveland fan yet. Why would I? I can't imagine one thing we'd say to each other. We all know how this works.

I have, however, gotten plenty of calls and e-mails from other fans, all expressing sympathy. It's oddly touching, in a way. One friend noted that Sizemore's bungle might have been the worst thing to happen to the Indians in center field since Willie Mays made that catch.

It's certainly the worst thing to happen to the Indians in a long time. Sometime soon, this season might be viewed in a more upbeat light. But I'm guessing that in Cleveland right now, it's pretty hard to be optimistic about anything.

Thanks are due

As previously alluded to, I am in fact back from a very welcome vacation. I'm pleased to see that our friends, both evil and bling-encrusted, took what appears to be excellent care of the blog.

I apologize for not popping in with updates from my travels, (although the datelines "HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.," "CHARLESTON, S.C." and "SAVANNAH, Ga." would be a nice contrast to Crimenotes' more worldly locales).

I'll try to make up for that soon with some tales of randomness. First, though, I need to thank Blog Pinup Brian, who generously let us stay at his mother's place this week. For that matter, thanks also go to Mrs. BPB.

Also, while thanking our blog-cheesecake friend I should provide a list of the following things I now like more than I did before this trip, in no particular order.

  • Robbie Fulks, the New Pornographers, OK Go, and Ryan Adams (I still like giggling at "Summer of '69" jokes, though).
  • Shiner Bock.
  • The cities of Charleston and Savannah.
I'll probably expand on some of these later, but while I'm doling out the thanks, I should also add thanks to frequent commenter tommyo, whose recommendation of the restaurant 82 Queen in Charleston resulted in one of the most (groin-grabbingly) transcendent lunches of my entire life. I hope to expound more on my day in Charleston in the near future

Dread at home

I'm back from the beach and I've made a discovery. If a baseball team one has followed since youth is going to relinquish control of the playoff chase via a string of excruciating, one-run losses, then one might as well spend the week at the beach.

I watched what I could and checked my phone and ESPN News for scoring updates, but an ice-cold Palmetto Pale Ale and a trip down to the hot tub pretty much took the sting out of most of those losses. Which, let's be honest, were mostly about as painful as possible. Typical Indians. If Michigan had managed to fritter away that game against the Spartans on Sunday (which I watched, as tortured as Crimenotes, albeit from a beery watering hole in Savannah, Ga.) I think I might have been living my most nightmarish sports week ever.

Now I'm back in New York, spending a gorgeous Sunday afternoon indoors, allowing myself to be tortured by events happening in a Cleveland stadium. Already, the Indians are down 3-0 to the White Sox.

I don't know if this one has a happy ending. We're dealing with a Cleveland team here, so I'm going to go ahead and say ... no.

At least the Browns can't ruin this Sunday.

UPDATE: White Sox 3-1 is a final. I now hate everything.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Dread in Rome

ROME -- I just stepped into an Internet cafe to work out travel plans, not realizing that the Michigan-Michigan State game was in progress and that I was able to follow it on ESPN. Hence, my last night in Rome is being spent following hazy details of a football game that, right now, I care about as much as life itself.

This post should discuss my exploits wandering around a Roman freeway and getting lost in what appeared to be a Roman crack alley far, far off the beaten path; about slamming my head into a shelf when stepping out of the shower and fears that I'd die from it, complete with Michael Hutchens rumors; about people assuming that I'm Italian, my ambivalence about the Sistine Chapel, and how the trip to Europe may be turning me into a neo-conservative. But that will all have to wait for another day.

The game just tied, 31-31. I am in considerable agony.