Thursday, December 29, 2005

Alafuckingmo Bowl

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

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

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

No you're not.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas 2005: a lexicon

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

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

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

The Flop Year in Fun: 20-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 23, 2005

A simple wish for the holidays

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

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The CrimeNotes Year in Fun: 20-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you in March, bitches!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 19, 2005

Remember the one where he fought with Aneesa?

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

The great white father loves you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I appreciate your consideration of my views.

Most respectfully,

Jay Rockefeller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Careful what I wish for

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

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

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

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

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

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

In praise of the JMZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

ESPN Classic hates us all

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or even the 1995 New York Jets yearbook. Sigh.

Thanks for the synergy, Classic.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Real-time blogging: The Gauntlet II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would Fox do?

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

More like these here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The beer bong granny, economics, and more

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

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

Gator love

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ladies, start your engines

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 05, 2005

Someone please shoot me now

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

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

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

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

I hate my life.

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

At least it isn't Creed

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

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

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

Sunday, December 04, 2005

They said it better

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

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

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

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I hate Congress

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

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

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

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

Fuck them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thursday Stylin': back for the holidays*

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy consumerist holidays, y'all.