Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Of the three books I read, I loved one (Murakami's Kafka on the Shore), liked another (Zadie Smith's On Beauty), and viscerally despised the third (Ian McEwan's Saturday). Leave it to the Times to love Saturday, an effete novel with an elitist view of the world and an adolescent viewpoint on the build-up to the Iraq War.
Even so, for sheer monkeyfuck gall, the last couple weeks have seen the kind of revelations that Mike Malloy wouldn't stomach in his worst fever dreams.
A few highlights, in case you're not a European journalist or chronic reader of left-wing blogs:
First came news that the U.S. used a chemical substance called white phosphorous on civilians in Fallujah. It's like napalm on crystal meth, burning to 5,000 degrees and incinerating anything it touches. The administration's defenses have largely turned on the semantics of whether this substance should be labeled a "chemical weapon."
Then the British press learned that in an April 2004 meeting, the president made comments indicating that he wanted to bomb the TV studios of Al-Jazeera, a civilian news outlet based in the pro-American country of Qatar. This story is huge in Britain, where the leakers of the meeting's classified minutes face government prosecution. Imagine a foreign government bombing BBC or NBC headquarters, and you can see why people are a tad pissed.
Also in Europe, news broke that the U.S. has essentially set up off-the-books torture facilities in Eastern European countries. If this is true, such an action would be against the EU constitution, and cooperating countries could face penalties that include expulsion from the EU.
Also, as reported in the Christian Science Monitor:
The row threatens to undermine recent efforts on both sides of the Atlantic to repair US-European relations that had been badly strained by the US-led invasion of Iraq. "This is exactly the sort of thing we do not need," comments Guillaume Parmentier, head of the French Center on the US, a think tank in Paris that promotes transatlantic ties.If you have a dirty mind, this is a neoconservative dream come true: torture the fuck out of people, and bust up the E.U. in the process.
But at least, you know, there's no gay marriage allowed, so we've got that going for us.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Sweet relief. Like me, they're still fuming about that GameDay song:
Big and Rich have made their way onto our Orbital Death Ray list, along with Mark Shapiro. For a long time college football existed as a fiefdom apart from the Sportstainmenttastic! world of ESPN–pleasantly stodgy, frills-free coverage of a sport that allowed you to soak in the atmosphere of each game through the screen. Now we have Nick Lachey interviewing people and Big and Rich suggesting that we need more Ying with our Ying Yang. Two old pieces of redneck jerky–including one who one of our readers pointed out, bears a striking resemblance to Phyllis Diller–who were pulled out of a hat at random by marketing schmucks in New York who were like, “Okay, people. Red state sport—we need us some edgy country!” Total, horrid, absolute fecality soiling the last show we watch on the network.
We’re coming…and we’re shit-tayyy!!!
That song has stigmatized college football even more than Phil Fulmer.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Part I is titled The End of News? Part II is The Press: The Enemy Within. They're close to essential reading.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Halfway through my high school reunion, the crowd self-segregated into married people and single people. I made peace with this issue a few years ago, but many of my former classmates have not. In between stories about Las Vegas and smoking pot outside abandoned jails, they made bitter remarks about marriage ruining people, but conceded that a lot of the women looked good despite having kids.
Those of us living in coastal cities thought we were superior. People who didn't already know appeared confused when I told them that I live in New York. There seems to be a general misconception that all we do is snort coke off models' tits and close billion-dollar deals. I did my best to encourage this misapprehension.
At the end of the night, all the married people had gone home. There was a disagreement about whether to go to a Coney Island place or to somebody's house. Somebody talked about renting a motel room. Not wanting to partake in an orgy with my single former classmates, I called it a night and caught a ride home.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Growing up, Thanksgiving and Christmas always featured disgusting Jellos.
There was cabbage Jello. It was a citrus Jello mold, packed with strands of shredded cabbage. Put aside the taste -- which is about as nasty as you'd expect -- and imagine the texture. Slime and vegetable matter don't mix.
Worse was the shrimp Jello. I think it was supposed to imitate shrimp cocktail via Jello. I think the ingredients include cans of baby shrimp, tomato juice, and plain gelatin. It didn't taste much like shrimp, but more like brine Jello with a patina of tomato, complemented by the texture of an occasionaly tiny shrimp. Vile.
Less offensive was the cinnamon Jell-O. The dark red gelatin is mixed with cream cheese. The final product looks like raw steak.
Somewhere along the line, Grandma [CrimeNotes], may she rest in peace, probably clipped Jellos recipes from an issue of Ladies' Home Journal, and just rolled with it. Aunt [CrimeNotes] picked up the torch sometime in the '70s. We're left with a family tradition on my father's side that echos a scene in DeLillo's Underworld.
Today, it's 15 degrees and snowing, so the weather cancelled family travel plans. Dinner will be at my parents' house. My mom is not part of the [CrimeNotes] family Jello cartel. It will be a typical Thanksgiving dinner, but Jello-free.
Click through to get recipes for cabbage and shrimp Jellos. I'm linking to them so you know I'm not making this up, and not because I recommend them.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I'm thankful for: last Sunday's episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm; pints of Old Speckled Hen; and Steve Breaston's kick returns.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Cheering is a paltry description. The Giants were my delight, my folly, my anodyne, my intellectual stimulation. ... All this I did amidst an uneasing, pedantic commentary I issued on the character of the game, a commentary issued with the patronizing air of one who assumed those other patrons incapable of assessing what was taking place before their eyes. Never did I stop moving or talking. Certainly I drove a good many customers away. Most of those who remained had seen the show before and had come back for more, bringing with them the morbid fascination which compels one to stare at a madman.Excise references to the Giants, and you get the idea.
Why did football bring me so to life? I can't say precisely. Part of it was my feeling that football was an island of directness in a world of circumspection. In football a man was asked to do a difficult and brutal job, and he either did it or got out. There was nothing rhetorical or vague about it; I chose to believe that it was not unlike the jobs which all men, in some sunnier past, had been called upon to do. It smacked of something old, something traditional, something unclouded by legerdeman and subterfuge. It had that kind of power over me, drawing me back with the force of something known, scarcely remember, elusive as integrity -- perhaps it was no more than the force of a forgotten childhood. Whatever it was, I gave myself up to the Giants utterly. The recompense I gained was the feeling of being alive.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
My friends' wedding went forward. Rumor was that some of the guests had chartered a plane and flew direct to Philly from the Michigan-Ohio State game. I honor them.
The groom and others exercised self-restraint in not denouncing their university over the mic. Maybe they had other things on their minds; maybe they are stronger than I am.
I can't speak for the entire Michigan fan base (especially the non-alumni) but in my experience, Michigan has a unique culture in defeat. It's a little like what I've gleaned from Red Sox fans, only less bitter. We never bitch about the refs; we never concede that the other team was better; we never feel like the victims of uncontrollable events. Instead, we treat defeats as self-perpetuated character flaws. In retrospect, all losses feel inevitable.
This season being over, I can now look forward to next fall. It's 300 days until Michigan-Notre Dame, and I'm steeled for the long, cold winter.
Friday, November 18, 2005
The rivalry really took hold for me when I started undergrad life at Michigan. And man, were times good. I'm pretty sure we lost to stupid Northwestern more than we lost to the former Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. I remember being proud to graduate in December and have my final game as a student be this one. My mom, who received her doctorate 30 years prior, had Bo Schembechler's debut against Woody Hayes _ a 24-12 win for Michigan _ as her final student game. Also, this just happened to be my first game as an alum. It capped what might have been one of the best, most debauched weeks of my life. But where was I? Oh yes.
My dealings with Ohio State fans during that time were, as you might imagine from reading this site, rather extensive. But I relished it. I started to feel bad for some of my more frustrated friends, but then I remembered _ they didn't actually go to Ohio State. So I've indulged them and pretended the stakes were just as high for them, when they clearly weren't.
Even when one of our more, shall we say, bling-encrusted readers espouses a newfound desire to limit trash talk to only a couple recent on-field results, I've played along. Because, well, it's very easy to find bad things to say about Ohio State. For starters, Ann Arbor is much more fun. We have prettier girls. It's only cloudy and overcast 245 days a year, not 325. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know where this goes ... just like Mgoblog's comparisons, it's a rout. (Incidentally, those have been hilarious this week; I can totally see Jim Tressel making sure he's deleted enough files from his hard drive.)
I could also go further compare the Buckeyes to Republicans. After all, we do know how much they love exploiting the threat of terrorism, no matter how imagined. (Last year's stunt got big ups from this Buckeyes message board.) But I feel as if we've been down this road too.
So where does that leave us? With the game itself.
If Mike Hart makes like a certain Zaire-born Quebecois running back and goes all Biakabutukan on the Buckeyes, well, I'll probably feel like some special sacrament has been bestowed upon me, too. And if Michigan somehow loses ... well, I'll probably head down to South Jersey and trash Crimenotes' hotel room. But more likely, win or lose, I'll spend the rest of the day soaking up college football and basking in the glory of the best sports rivalry ever.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
At a wedding pre-party. Duh.
The bride and groom -- both Michigan alumni -- have reserved a hotel ballroom for an afternoon screening of the Michigan-OSU game. This is a high-risk, high-reward proposition, but they didn't have any choice, short of holding the wedding in Ann Arbor.
A few things are guaranteed: I'll upchuck on myself sometime in the fourth quarter, if not out of glee or trauma, then from general tension. I'll also scream about my balls. Loudly and repeatedly. The groom will denounce Lloyd's playcalling at the reception, perhaps one-on-one, but more likely with a mic in hand.
During the Michigan-OSU game eight years ago, the bride, one of the bridesmaids, and I learned a painful lesson in why daytime intoxication is a bad idea. (Nothing nefarious!) A televised Michigan loss was followed by an argument with a record store clerk about the price of U2's greatest hits CD, followed shortly thereafter by the now-bride-to-be taking a nasty fall. Later that day I woke from a nap and got sick. One of us received emergency medical treatment -- guess who.
I immediately suspected that in exactly eight years, I'd watch those gals in a wedding.
How do I feel about this? Short of going to Ann Arbor, it's the best environment. I'll be with old friends. If the result is bad, we can trash our hotel rooms. If it's good, the marriage will be blessed by a power greater than any religion. They run the risk of having a pack of surly drunks onhand, but the date made that inevitable.
There's the issue of having a wedding on the most emotionally intense day of the year. When I weep during the ceremony, it will have nothing to do with vows and everything to do with quarterbacking.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
OSU Fans: "Hey, you guys going to prison?"The crack undercover news team at NBC 4 in Columbus did the legwork on that one.
Fake Spartan Fan: "No."
OSU Fans: "...cause I guarantee the guys at Ohio State are going to (expletive) you guys in the (expletive). [OSU fans laugh] I guarantee it. I guarantee it. You're going to go to that stadium and these guys are (going to) be like, '(expletive) bend over, (expletive).' I'm telling you right now."
Fake Spartan Fan: "We're just going to go enjoy the game."
I expect this shit when Buckeyes see Michigan fans, but why treat Sparty that way? It's like hanging outside the special ed. class with a team of dobermans. Those poor fans have enough self-esteem problems without prison rape scenarios.
Some of our commenters took umbrage at linking college football to presidential politics. This proves that Ohioans, in addition to being prison-rapist Republicans (hellooooo, Scooter Libby!) also are thin-skinned. When you burp OSU out of a syphillitic, Land Grant womb, bad things happen. Karma's a bitch. What, wanna brag some more about Andy Katzenmoyer and Warren G. Harding?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
My favorite post today discusses the Dantesque experience of visiting Columbus as a visible Michigan fan. I like my life and my dignity, so I've never done such a thing. The only comparable altercation I saw in Ann Arbor involved belligerent Ohio State dudes standing on a sidewalk, wanting to go into a house party to kick the asses of random Michigan kids. We sang The Victors on a balcony and drove them away with love.
The MGoBlog post includes the following depiction of Flop-worthy behavior:
But one night when I was in college I played something called "SHANKAI JUKU DANCE TROUPE," which consisted of a friend and I screaming "SHANKAI JUKU!!!" over and over, jumping up and down on the furniture, tearing the massive pile of former residents' mail that lived in the family room into tiny bits (a felony), and throwing the bits around the room--we were not the kind of people who would forgo doing something awesome and ridiculous because it was stupidly dangerous.
Monday, November 14, 2005
What's that, you say? There are still bowls to be bowled? Big 12 and SEC conference championships to be determined?
True enough. This season being what it is, I'm not going to take much satisfaction in whatever Michigan does in its bowl game. I'll pull for them, yes, but part of the problem with a season crescendo against Ohio State is that everything afterward feels downhill. If Penn State loses against Sparty and Michigan gets the BCS bid, I'll feel like we've robbed Paterno; if we're in Ybor City or Orlando, it will just feel like a waste.
And Texas aside, the Big 12 and SEC haven't been interesting enough this year to justify much non-conference excitement. This Saturday will be the annual, bittersweet conclusion.
I think the September/October trip to Europe wreaked havoc on my biological college-football rhythms. Was the trip worth it? Let's just say that I'll plan future travels for a different part of the calendar.
MGoBlog has some posts to get you psyched for Saturday's game. Elsewhere, I recently discovered Warren St. John's college football blog, which is every bit as smart and entertaining as his book. Chronicling fan insanity and a little on-the-field substance, it treats us to photos like this:
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Tirico had the call on Michigan's game at Iowa last month, and he was ahead of every call. Especially on penalties. Every time a flag flew, Tirico knew what it would be before the referees told us.
Personally, I'm used to being about five seconds or so ahead of the announcers. Not when it's Tirico. I was watching the Boise State-Fresno State tilt just now, and Fresno completed a long pass from its own end zone, with a defender draped all over the reciever. I thought I saw the Fresno receiver throw the defender off of him, and when a flag flew I said: "That's offensive" interference. (Yes, I was alone in my apartment at the time, why?) Tirico confidently announced "that flag will go against Boise. ... and it's one of the longest touchdowns in Fresno State history."
He was right. I was wrong. My watching experience was actually enlightened by a TV play-by-play announcer. This, of cours, is how it's supposed to work. But it so rarely does.
I now plan to spend the rest of the night watching this tilt, making butternut squash dumplings and drinking wine. I plan to bask in the enlightenment while I can _ the Browns are playing on ESPN's Sunday Night Football this weekend.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Minnesota, the city voted out a Democratic mayor whose primary sin was endorsing President Bush in 2004. The new mayor is a Democrat as well. If those feisty Minnesotans had half of their city shut down while a cavalcade of right wingers exploited 9/11, somebody would have been scalped.
New York is left with a Bush-lover whose ideal urban environment appears to be Singapore. We may have to kiss our civil rights good-bye every time we step on a subway, but at least the luxury housing market will be at liberty. Maybe a couple neighborhoods will finally get razed to allow for some stadiums.
Catch you later. I have to make plans to go to a Vikings game this Sunday.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
- Went to my third show by The Hold Steady last night. As regular readers of this site know, I'm more than a little obsessed. I like The Hold Steady the way my immediate ancestors like Judy Collins, and the ones before that liked Connie Francis. It was the band's final show of its current tour. Craig Finn seemed a tad inebriated -- as is his wont -- and the first half of the show the lyrics were harder to decipher than usual. More importantly, the band didn't play two of my favorite songs -- Knuckles and How a Resurrection Really feels. They did, however, debut a song about a poet friend of Saul Bellow that sounded like a song Bruce Springsteen would write if I liked Bruce Springsteen.Connie Francis, eat your heart out.
- I went with a friend who'd never seen a show at Webster Hall before. He compared it to the interior of the spaceship in Predator 2, but meant it in a good way. I haven't seen Predator 2, so I cannot verify.
- The Colbert Report gained its sea legs in no time. The first few episodes were a little wobbly. In tone and content, it's quickly become a funny and sophisticated satire of cable news, and much more polished than I'd expect in its early run.
- And I'm not feeling guilty for missing Nightline, a show I've watched regularly for years. With Ted Koppel's imminent departure, the show is turning into a scatterbrained replica of evening news. Nightline's skill is finding a serious issue and thinking the hell out of it for 30 minutes. They haven't covered Tom and Katie yet, but lately, the show hasn't been any better than 30 minutes of network news.
- I think it sucks that CNN dumped Aaron Brown, the only cable news anchor who conveyed a sense of smarts and authority. Anderson Cooper, Schmanderson Schmooper.
- Lastly, the European media has been all over a story about U.S. deployment of chemical weapons in Fallujah. Truly gruesome stuff. At this stage, though, it's hard to know what to believe. In a few days or weeks, though, this could make Abu Ghraib look like a pimple.
Now that you've clicked there, check here.
Monday, November 07, 2005
This is a shame, not only because he's the only fully functional blogger who links to us on a semi-regular basis. While most New York blogs are prone to sneering, snarking and celebrity, Spinachdip wrote with enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. Like us, his content was unpredictable and arbitrary, alternating between posts about sports, intoxication, music and current events. Unlike us, he generally wrote about things that he likes instead of things that got under his skin.
The good news is that he'll soon be turning his attention to a sort of collective blogging project called decent content, which I anticipate will be decent in both quality and spirit.
When you see a blog named after a vegetable appetizer but not about vegetables confront its own mortality, it inevitably makes you question the mortality of your own blog named after a vegetable appetizer but not about vegetables.
While a sort of intensity and perfectionism has occasionally made me question the long-term viability of this project, I also like the sort of immediacy that a blog provides. As those of you familiar with my struggles to finish writing the 3,000-page novel about the Peace of Westphalia know all too well, my larger projects spin completely out of control. When I post about how the Real World-Road Rules Challenge speaks to the judicial confirmation process, I can only second guess so much.
Now, sadly, we have cornered the market on the blogs named after vegetable appetizers but not about vegetables, and probably will for the foreseeable future.
God speed, Spinachdip.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Mike Bloomberg gave us the Republican National Convention, tried to wreck the West Side for a generation, out-fearmongered the president and popularized plutocracy.
I understand why real estate moguls support him. Otherwise, I'm mystified. Appeals to self-preservation, populism and partisanship haven't changed any minds. I'm done trying. The only explanation I buy is mass hypnotism.
All I ask is this: When voting for him, pretty please vote for him under the Independent ticket and not as a Republican. It won't make a lick of difference in his governance, but at least you won't feel as bad when your sleepwalk ends.
Sorry. I'm grouchy and confused.
While we're at it, might as well give Bush a third term.
Apologies for starting the week on a negative note. My gripe isn't toward any particular Bloomberg voter. I don't think Bloomberg is evil, just a rich guy with misguided priorities.
Friday, November 04, 2005
- I recently wrote an extensive, yet probably not-quite-extensive enough, e-mail to a friend about to visit Paris for the first time. It was of random, quirky, out-of-the-way places to see, not the standard guidebook fare. I wish I could have sent my friend this. A McSweeney's compilation of random, fun European places.
- I've been working on an Alton Brown post for about a month now. I just got his book, and I honestly think he might be a genius. If he's not, he's smarter and more intellectually curious than 99 percent of Americans, myself included (I heard that, Crimenotes). His publishing house needs better copy editors _ or maybe just copy editors. If you think I'm nuts, DVR his show and see what I mean. But be warned, you'll totally lose patience with most other cooking shows. Except maybe the Tyler Florence cuckold-chic empire.
- A friend pointed this out, but it's good reads: Slacktivist has a post up compiling two fun theories relating to George W. Bush's sliding poll numbers. It's goofy fun, complete with gratuitous use of the word "azimuth" and the hypothetical molestation of Wilford Brimley.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
No dice. Via Law Dork, via Underneath Their Robes, today we learned that Phil Alito wrote some right-wing op-eds for a college publication:
[Bush has] stimulated commerce by cutting taxes for small businesses, and he's defended the role of faith in American society by challenging Roe v. Wade, limiting government funding of stem cell research, and supporting a Constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman. The list could go on and on. This represents the starkest difference between Bush and Kerry: while Bush is an eager defender of these American traits, Kerry, despite his rhetoric, is unwilling to defend these integral characteristics of American society.I'm tempted to point out that not only is this lame propaganda, it's poorly written and unoriginal. Then I remember that I wrote shitty columns in college, and that I was a Republican then. Now I'm a Marxist. I won't be too hard on the dude. Give him a few Long Island ice teas, a pack of Marlboro lights, and The Humpty Dance -- he'll be voting Nader before he knows what hit him.
In the interim, ladies, if a 19-year-old sophomore has his druthers, no abortion for you.
Good news for the gays, though. While a Princeton student in the 1970s, Alito wrote about the importance of the right to privacy, and helped author a task force report declaring that discrimination against gays should be illegal.
Will Judge Alito become a sodomite hero? Or are those days behind him? Will the right wing eviscerate him? Will his know-it-all son disavow him as un-American? And what's up with Santorum wanting a threesome with Don Imus's wife?
These are the days of our mutha-effin' lives.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Know who doesn't suck? His kids.
Here's what his nineteen-year-old son Phil Alito wrote in his profile for a Colgate University humor magazine:
First, God made the heavens and earth. Then came Arby's, followed shortly by Carl Jr. and other inferior brands of fast food. Fast foward. Homer's epics, Texas was created, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier, died at the Alamo, King Kong attacked Manhattan, and then, in a completely reactionary move, I was concieved. I was born 9 months and 2 weeks later by a midwife/wolf named Janie Jean, who would prove very influential during my formative years. Shortly after, I became interested in politics and got involved with Gary Condit (not like that). I served as a parking aide to Nancy Pelosi (I won't even start on her) but was fired when Barbara Boxer came onto me. Eventually, I decided that my teeth needed to be cleaned, so I came to Colgate with a band of gypsies (who I have declared war on and will one day destroy). I decided to join "The Forum" to make friends but obviously that hasn't worked out. So, soon I will probably find a cow at a nearby farm and ride my way to glory in either LA or at the Calgary Rodeos.Okay, not that funny, even by Cole Slaw Blog standards, but not that bad. He was a college freshman. Plus, he dangled a homoerotic implication as to Gary Condit, and dissed Barbara Boxer. Sure, it would be cooler if he banged both Gary Condit and Barbara Boxer, but you can't have everything.
Daughter Lauren is the more serious one. She's a friendship guru:
Friendship is defined as the relationship between two people based on affection and respect. But how many people actually truly value their friendships? It seems to be a growing theme that most people take their friends for granted and think they will always be there for them. Friendship is one of the most important things that people can learn. They learn how to be kind to others, respect people for who they are, and most importantly to just have someone whom they can trust and establish a bond. Far too many people get caught up in being popular and will do anything to maintain their status. They will ruin old friendships because the person was not cool enough. The value of friendship is incredibly important in helping people grow and learn about themselves and others. I believe that without friendship, and the respect that is shared between the friends, the world would be much more hostile and people would only be trying to get ahead in life by putting others down. I think everyone should learn to value his friendships a little more because one never knows what tomorrow might bring and maybe all you'll need is just a friend to lean on.She's an idealist, and she likes her friends. I like my friends, too. Hence, I like Lauren Alito, and her friends. I'm sure they're good people.
There's a small point. I'm grasping at straws here, but it's generally assumed that one of the reasons that Anthony Kennedy and Harry Blackmun move to the left is the influence of their adult children. Because Republicans aren't funny and don't have any friends, I infer that the younger Alitos may be more sympathetic to progressive ideals. Maybe that will rub off on their old man.
But I'm not getting my hopes up.
Note: Underneath Their Robes owns all things Alito the way The Washington Post owned Watergate. It's where I go to learn about the Alito kids, Alito coffee, and Alito jurisprudential depravity -- even though UTR's blogger likes him.