Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why I fear having kids

Because I might totally lose the plot and say stupid things at a school board meeting. Like these parents, who objected to a woman teaching their children. Because she was born a man and had sex-change surgery. And, um, therefore might give them poisoned lollipops or something.

I don't even see the case the parents are trying to make. Other than that their poor dears aren't smart enough to accept changes like this. Or that sexual reassignment surgery is like lead paint, a hot grill or a stranger's Econoline van _ stuff you want your kids to stay the hell away from.

Of course, there's not a lot of data to back up the parents' position. I'm sorry, but if you're going to object to something like this, shouldn't you at least try to show potential for actual harm?

"I, as a parent, am appalled to have this issue brought into my child's psychology," Steve Bond said.

Vincent Mustacchio predicted "chaos" at the school when the students learned of McBeth's surgery

Young children will be confused by the conflicting appearance of McBeth, who has a deep voice and masculine features but otherwise looks like a woman, other parents said.

"I will not allow you to put my kids in a petri dish and hope it all turns out fine," said Mark Schnepp, who had taken out an ad in a local newspaper urging parents to turn out for the meeting.

Petri dish? Really. Is being around transgendered people an experiment now? I have friends who are all about the reproducing. I'm reasonably sure they'll be the kind of parents who set examples for open-mindedness and acceptance of differences. As I'm reasonably certain that I will be, should I choose to loose my progeny upon an unwitting world.

I just don't see the argument here, other than that these parents think sex-changes are icky. Thankfully, the grownups prevailed; the school board found their arguments lacking, too.

Winter Slaw: name game

Just because the Winter Olympics have been over for days doesn't mean I have to stop writing about them, does it? Before we move on from Turin 2006, I think it's time to take a look at all the new and wonderful athlete names we've come across in these games. I'm one of those people who loves finding athletes with strange and wonderful names. I'm not sure why, but I definitely find a kind of poetry in all the strange and wonderful names. Some are well-known competitors, like Apolo Anton Ohno. Some are known only to me and a few others (does anyone remember Markus Prock?)

Regardless, the Turin Olympics added a bunch of good names to my mental store. Here's a list of some of my favorites, from Kjetil André Aamodt to Pirmin Zurbriggen. Olympians make this list by dint of a mellifluous name, the achievement of a random or dubious feat, or just being part of a memorable moment. All the new additions to this list (which, to be honest, I've never written out before) are in bold.

Kjetil André Aamodt
Surya Bonaly
Phillip Boit
Jan Bos
Annelise Coberger
Deborah Compagnoni
Harald Czudaj
Bjørn Dæhlie
Shani Davis

Toby Dawson

Eddie Edwards
Enrico Fabris

Marc Girardell
Nicky Gooch
Edgar Grospiron
Georg Hackl
Midori Ito
Jean-Claude Killy
Johann Olav Koss
Janica Kostelić
Ted Ligety
Roar Ljoekelsoey
Uwe-Jens Mey
Carole Montillet
Cammy Myler
Gunda Niemann
Matti Nykänen
Apolo Anton Ohno
Tanja Poutiainen

Markus Prock
Rintje Ritsma
Vreni Schnieder
Katja Seitzinger
Resi Stiegler

Picabo Street
Fritz Strobl
Alberto Tomba
Eva Twardokens
Vegard Ulvang
Markku Uusipaavalniemi

Bart Veldkamp
Gustav Weder
Andreas Wenzel
Pernilla Wiberg
Yang Yang (A) (formerly Yang Yang (L))
Yang Yang (S)
Zhao Hongbo
Pirmin Zurbriggen

Monday, February 27, 2006

Winter Slaw: the cruelty of sport _ part 2: the flip side

After the two Finns and I left the bar (see part 1 if you don't know what I'm talking about) we walked through a bright, freezing day to find a diner. During the march, my friends decried their country's inability to beat the Swedes, despite having taught serious lessons to the rest of the hockey world. Then they extrapolated the loss on out to Finland's national inferiority complex, and griped about their nation's high rates of alcoholism, suicide and violence.

It sounded just like my friends and I after a loss by the Browns or Wolverines. Except we're usually bitching about three-deep zones, the lack of an offensive line and special-teams disasters.

Then we ate, and they started telling me stories of Helskini nightlife. At first the stories were kind of dark. It's apparently not uncommon to see people so drunk their eyes are glazed over and they can't stand. Stabbing are depressingly common. Then they mentioned that Finland has the highest rate of crimes solved in the world. I mentioned that CSI: Espoo would probably be a hit, even if Americans would probably think it was happening in Norway or Denmark.

Then we started talking about how the three national beverages of choice are vodka, a kind of vodka infused with salty licorice, and some truly excellent dry cider, which is not at all like the super-sweet Magner's and Woodchuck you find here.

Then, suddenly restored, we moved to another pub and they told me more stories about Finland. About goreous lakes and cabins next a kind a sled that's like a chair, but with runners on the back for standing. The word they used for it was in Finnish, so I have no idea what to call it or how to google it. But it's apparently a hoot, and easy to fall off if you've been drinking before taking it out in a snowstorm.

After a few hours, we were no longer dejected hockey fans, but just a couple friends getting together and turning what could have been an ordinary day _ or an upsetting one _ into one that would be memorable for better reasons.

Oh, and we also made sure to do what every good New Yorker does on a lazy Sunday. Sometimes the cruelty of sport ain't so bad.

Winter Slaw: the cruelty of sport _ part 1: Sweden 3, Finland 2

I love big sporting events, even if I don't have much of an emotional investment. Or, really, any at all. Emotional investment is always a good thing, to be sure. I still remember the time my friends and I happened upon a bar that was about to show New Zealand play Australia in rugby, live at 3:30 a.m. (The match was, obviously, down under). We stayed and cheered on the All Blacks to a decisive win over their rivals.

Yesterday morning, I dragged myself out of bed to go to a bar and watch Finland play Sweden in hockey for the Olympic gold medal. To me, this was a can't-miss event. The rivalry was intense and friendly, but just barely. Finland, which once belonged to Sweden, still apparently does when it comes to hockey. The Finns have a painful past of blown leads on big stages when it comes to playing Sweden. This was a chance for them to erase those stains. For Sweden, of course, it was another chance to win a title by beating a rival.

I had company. A friend whose mother is from Finland, and a Finnish expat friend of hers showed up and we took standing near the bar, surrounded by Finland fans, and one couple who was rooting for Sweden. We all stood there, packed in like Baltic sardines while Finland screwed around and took silly penalties in the second period, but tied it before allowing a goal in the first 10 seconds of the final period. The last couple minutes were heart-stopping, but ultimately crushing. Having not really gotten my way in a lot of rivalries lately, I knew exactly how they felt.

My friends stood there staring as the cameras showed Swedish players whooping and hugging and celebrating, their gloves and sticks a happy mess on the ice. Then they showed Finland star Teemu Selanne. The Olympic tournament's top scorer had failed in the gold medal game. He hung his head.

Behind me, I heard the one Swede who had been in our section all day cluck his tongue and say softly, to himself: "Oh. The cruelty of sport."

I looked at my friends and had to agree.

CSB: behind the scenes

me: So do you want to guest blog for spin­achdip?
Flop: I think so
I'm exhausted right now, so I'm going to consider it in the morning
me: It'd be fun.
Flop: but in general, yeah, I'd like to
me: Just don't break a beer bottle on his blog.
Were you out last night with Brian?
I got FUCKED UP on Friday and needed to mellow.
I ended up in Koreatown and did karaoke to "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."
Fucking grade-A mess.
Flop: HA HA HA
me: But I was so drunk i couldn't keep up with the lyrics
Flop: What prompted your Den­ver­-i­an stylings?
me: So I kept apo­lo­giz­ing throughout the song.
Flop: hee hee
me: Well, we just did some Bon Jovi.
I'd pre­vi­ously been seranding a cab driver with Poison.
So it was time to mellow out with John Denver.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Network was released 30 years ago. It aired last last night on Turner Classics. I'm watching it now, and a new two-disc DVD goes on sale this Tuesday.

This is not just one of the greatest movies every made. It is a subversive prophecy that, 30 years after its premiere, is more stinging than Syriana.

Howard Beale is a Walter Cronkite-type anchor who came of age working with Edward R. Murrow. Under corporate pressure for higher ratings, he is abruptly fired, and announces that night his intention to commit suicide in his final broadcast. From this, ratings skyrocket. As a mental breakdown begins, Beale believes that he is receiving instructions from God. The ratings grow apace with Beale's descent. The news is turned into entertainment. The network begins to follow its newscast with violent reality programming, including the Mao Tse-tung Hour, which chronicles the exploits of a Communist terrorist organization.

I watched Network in early 2001, and pressed it on friends and co-workers as a prophecy about reality TV. Since then I've watched it a couple times a year. It's a different movie every time, and in the age of multinationals, prime time chaos and neoconservatives, it always has a different relevance.

Take, for example, the jeremiad that turns out to be Beale's undoing: a broadcast attack on Arab ownership of media companies. His speech rallies the public and leads to the withdrawal of billions in Arab investments to the U.S. This draws the ire of his corporate masters, who like Beale's high ratings, but need the Arab money more.

Does Good Night and Good Luck or Brokeback Mountain touch on anything as sweeping as the following warning from a corporate heavy played by Ned Beatty?
You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it. Is that clear? You think you've merely stopped a business deal? That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity. It is ecological balance. You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations; there are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems; one vast, interwoven, interacting, multivaried, multinational dominion of dollars.
The movie is also entertaining. It doesn't overplay its hand, it's funny, perfectly acted, and while foreshadowing three decades' worth of mayhem, it works just as well as a character study of corporate titans and disillusioned news executives.

Movies don't get better.

57 people who might have made excellent presidents

John Anderson
Howard Baker
James Baker
Lewis Cass*
Zachariah Chandler
Salmon P. Chase
Frank Church
Henry Clay
DeWitt Clinton
Mario Cuomo
Howard Dean*
Eugene Debs
Thomas Dewey
Bob Dole
Fredrick Douglass
Dick Gephardt
Al Gore*
Gary Hart
John Hay
Charles Evan Hughes
Hubert Humphrey*
Estes Kefauver
Ted Kennedy
John Kerry
Robert LaFollette
Henry Cabot Lodge
Richard Lugar
Gene McCarthy
John McCain
George McGovern
Walter Mondale
Daniel Patrick Moynihan*
Frank Murphy*
Sam Nunn
Colin Powell*
Walter Reuther
Nelson Rockefeller*
George Romney
Eleanor Roosevelt
Warren Rudman
Brent Scowcroft
William Seward
William T. Sherman
(Senator) Paul Simon
Al Smith*
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Thaddeus Stevens
Adlai Stevenson
Charles Sumner
Samuel Tilden
Henry Wallace*
Earl Warren
Daniel Webster
Paul Wellstone
Gary Wills

*Denotes a personal favorite.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

57 perfectly good girls' names, all of which are primed for a comeback

'Lil Shitty
Mary Ellen
Kathleen Turner
Evil Lynn
Peppermint Patty
Grendel's Mother

Friday, February 24, 2006

Actual sporting awesomeness

You probably won't see anyone bring down the house like this for a long time.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Winter Slaw: sporting awesomeness

The Winter Olympics have always been my favorite, ever since I was old enough to really pay attention. Sarajevo was the first time I saw any Winter Games, but they didn't do much for me. Four years later, though, I was hooked. I read every article I could. I watched luge, speedskating, bobsled, alpine skiing, nordic skiing, hockey and figure skating and more from Calgary. I still remember names from back then. _ Bonnie Blair, Georg Hackl, Debi Thomas, Alberto Tomba, Eric Flaim, Harald Czudaj and of course, noted South Park oracle Brian Boitano.

The U.S. had a disappointing showing. Six medals, two gold. I didn't care. My friends and I were "speedskating" in our socks on my house's hardwood floors. I think we even tried luge-ing down the steps.

I was hooked. My obsession was unabated four years later for Albertville. 1994 and 1998 I paid a touch less attention, if only because of my age at the time (17 for Lillehammer, 21 for Nagano). Mind you, I still paid attention. I just didn't park myself in front of the TV for hours at a time.

Salt Lake was similar, but for whatever reason, I'm back to being obsessed this year. Roar Ljoekelsoey. Ireen Wust. Jan Bos. Anja Paerson. Resi Stiegler. Tanja Poutiainen. Antoine Deneriaz. Jordi Font. And the sports _ this is the first year I've really paid a lot of attention to the following sports:
  • Skeleton. It's like luge, but head-first. In other words, the way North American kids sled. The skeletons also slide all over the ice, making a luge look like a Buick.
  • Nordic combined. Competitors ski-jump, and then start a cross-country race, based on how well they jumped. First one to the finish line wins. It's an elegant way to mesh two disciplines. If the race comes down to a sprint to the finish, as it often does, the drama is palpable. And, as in most cross-country races, the skiers all pretty much tumble to the snow, spent, the second they cross the finish line.
  • Biathlon. Cross-country skiing with a rifle. Racers ski a lung-searing kilometer or three, then stop and shoot five targets. Misses are punished with 150-meter penalty loops. The cool thing about biathlon is that a missed shot or two can turn a race upside-down. Also: super-fit Nordic women with pigtails and guns. If that's your thing.
  • Curling. I only watched a little of this in 2002, but apparently, I was missing out. I'm kind of hooked now. I've watched curling pretty much every day of the Olympics. It looks slower than a beer-league softball game, but there's plenty of dramatic moments and Olympic curlers make impossible shots look routine.
  • Snowboarding. Especially snowboard cross. Four people racing down a snowy chute filled with jumps and obstacles. It's filled with awesomeness. I've found a new sport to keep watching after the Olympics.
In the next Winter Slaw: How I came to like short-track speedskating. I wasn't planning to write this. But I just now (on my DVR-ed broadcast of the women's biathlon relay) saw a professional sports journalist on NBC tell me that no one in the United States would have ever heard of the sport if it weren't for the mighty soul patch and bandana of Apolo Anton Ohno. So add one more name to that list of legends (in my own mind): Cathy Turner.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

57 proposed names for my hypothetical son or dog

Installment five of an ongoing series.

Ol' Dirty
Sweet Lou
Big Al
Bi Gal

In which the Democrats bat the bunny around

It seems pretty clear that the decision by the Bush Administration to hand over control of several U.S. ports to a state-owned business from the United Arab Emirates is going to be a political loser. Democrats and Republicans are both oppposed.

But why are Dems hitting this particular issue getting so much harder than some of the other soft spots in the Republican Death Star?

I mean, there's the domestic wiretapping issue, the debacle that is Medicare and the drug bill, the truly awful idea of health savings accounts and a dizzying array of Congressional corruption scandals, none of which is bipartisan in nature.

The frustration and helplessness is like watching a good friend who can't get girls to pay any attention to him.

Everyone has that friend. Oh, he's a great guy. Smart, funny once you get to know him. Maybe a little shy. Usually, he's coming off a heartbreak, or a bad breakup or 12 years as a totally ineffective opposition party. You go out, he sees a girl. You can tell he thinks she's cute. But despite your offer to buy every round the rest of the night if he goes over and talks to her, no matter how bad he gets shot down, he remains in his seat. And next thing you know, she's picking out songs on the jukebox with some douche in a corduroy blazer.

Or maybe even he gets to the point where he asks a girl out. She says yes. And it's on, until you find out the next day that they went to dinner, got one beer afterward, and he was home in time for the 11 o' clock "Seinfeld."

What's a good wingman/progressive voter to do? I don't know, frankly. All I know is I'm getting sick of watching elected Democrats be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's really hoping makes it happen.

I mean, they've got these claws, and they're just staring at them. While the bunny shivers in the corner and Republicans spill Scotch all over the Constitution.

Meanwhile, if the Democrats keep taking themselves out of the game, talking about puppy dogs and ice cream, well, you know it's going to end up somewhere on the theocratic-plutocracy tip.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Programming Note: The lists of 57

Late last week, I was complaining to Flop about the new chat function in gmail. IM bothers me. I feel like I'm taking a timed essay, I can't focus on anything in the background, I second-guess every word, time spills away. Hate it.

A couple days later I was expounding about how Gawker embodies all that's wrong with the internet, and realized that I'm a Nineteenth Century man. I came up with a list of 57 other things that I can barely navigate yet are unavoidable in 2006.

I liked the concept. I came up with a list of 57 uncool things that I like, and then started coming up with many, many other lists. They will be published here in due time.

Fifty-seven is a beautiful number for a list. It is attainable, but takes effort. It's small enough that you can exercise discretion on what belongs. It's a perfect number. It's the quantum of Heinz varieties. I love it. If it were on the Roulette wheel, I would always bet 57.

I am going to post 57 lists of 57 things, totaling 3,249 entries.

It's an ambitious project -- the most ambitious project in the history of all blogs.

When I'm done, it will be a towering achievement. Those of you who read my first entry and thought that it was curmudgeonly or arbitrarily contrarian will soon feel humiliated, and decades from now, lying on your deathbed with The Doors' "Morrison Hotel" blasting in the background, y0u will turn, watery-eyed, to your great-grandson, and whisper in a scarcely audible but deeply dramatic voice, "I was there from the beginning."

57 fads endured in our lifetime, many of them regrettable

Star Wars*
Rainbow Brite
Care Bears
Pound Puppies
Cabbage Patch dolls
Garbage Pail Kids*
Knight Rider
"Where's the beef?"
Mary Lou Retton
The Cosby Show
Kool-Aid Man
Big League Chew
The Fry Kids
Hulk Hogan
Mr. T
"You look maaahvelous"
Hair bands
Jokes about Ishtar
Friday the 13th movies*
Nightmare on Elm Street movies*
The California Raisins
Eddie Murphy*
Sam Kineson
Andrew Dice Clay
Magic vs. Larry
"Make it Mac tonight!"
Gangsta Rap
Jokes about Hudson Hawk
Jokes about Bonfire of the Vanities
Twin Peaks*
"... in a van, down by the river."
Rush Limbaugh
Garth Brooks
"I am the master of my domain."
"Not that there's anything wrong with that."
Boy Bands
Britney Spears
"Another overly precious TV commercial ... Priceless."
The Drudge Report
Sosa v. McGuire
Jokes about Gigli
Harry Potter*
The fragile French judge
Puff Daddy/P. Diddy
Lazy Sunday*

*Denotes my continued interest or enthusiasm.

Monday, February 20, 2006

57 excellent books that you may have neglected

Not listing the indispensible books from freshman lit classes (e.g., Dante, Gatsby) or books and writers currently popular with my demographic (e.g., Zadie Smith, The Human Stain).

Russell Banks, Cloudsplitter
Russell Banks, Rule of the Bone
John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor
Robert Caro, The Power Broker
Robert Caro, Master of the Senate
Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
Don DeLillo, End Zone
Mike Davis, City of Quartz
Mike Davis, Ecology of Fear
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
Bob Dylan, Chronicles Vol. 1
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
James Ellroy, American Tabloid
James Ellroy, L.A. Confidential
Frederick Exley, A Fan's Notes
Thomas Frank, the conquest of cool
Chris Hedges, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics
Harry V. Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided
Stephen King, The Shining
Stephen King, The Stand
Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
Jimmy McDonough, Shakey
Larry McMurtry, Texasville
Joseph Mitchell, Up in the Old Hotel
Toni Morrison, The Song of Solomon
Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the shore
Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood
Rick Pearlstein, Before the Storm
Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time*
Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2
Matt Ridley, The Red Queen
Matt Ridley, The Origins of Virtue
Alex Robinson, Box Office Poison
Theodore Roszak, Flicker
Philip Roth, The Counterlife
Philip Roth, Operation Shylock
Warren St. John, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis
Allan Seager, A Frieze of Girls
Hubert Selby Jr., Last Exist to Brooklyn
Robert Sullivan, Rats
Donna Tartt, The Secret History
Jim Thompson, Pop. 1280
John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
Gore Vidal, Burr
Gore Vidal, Lincoln
Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men
Jonathan Weiner, Time Love Memory
Colson Whitehead, John Henry Days
Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
Robert Wright, The Human Animal
Robert Wright, Nonzero
Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom

*I've only read the first two volumes. It's big time investment, and not to everyone's taste. If you get through the first volume, though, you're hooked.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sarah Vowell always says it best

From the conclusion of today's piece in the Times:
Alas, I see my initial worries about the current administration as the greatest betrayal in my whole life by my old pal pessimism. I attended the president's inauguration in 2001. When he took the presidential oath, I cried. What was I so afraid of? I was weeping because I was terrified that the new president would wreck the economy and muck up my drinking water. Isn't that adorable? I lacked the pessimistic imagination to dread that tens of thousands of human beings would be spied on or maimed or tortured or killed or stranded or drowned, thanks to his incompetence.

57 things I like

Part two of an ongoing series.

Goat cheese
Black coffee
Room-temperature beer
Cold weather
Air conditioning
Prizzi's Honor
Kathleen Turner
Contact lenses
Girls who wear glasses
Christmas lights
Interrupting Cow
Guinea pigs
Crashing on floors
Belly buttons
The subway
Grand Theft Auto
Rowdy teenagers
Rowdy Roddy Piper

Saturday, February 18, 2006

57 things I don't like

I'm available to take your questions in the Comments section below.

Instant messages
Text messages (I won't even look at them)
Camera phones
Receiving personal calls at work
TV commercials
Fine dining
Fast food
Sugar in my coffee
Mixed drinks
Investment banking
Hot weather
Indoor heating
Car services
Other vehicles
Celebrity gossip
Celebrity fashion
Insider trends
"the gym"
"the beach"
Actresses after Kathleen Turner
The Family Guy
Death Cab for Cutie
Dudes getting weepy
Misuse of "irony"

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thursday Stylin': Still Astonishing

Part of our occasional series looking at the New York Times' most reliably offensive section.

One of the regular features of Styes Section journalism (cough) is the positing of a trend. Most of these trend stories include quotes from some random or seemingly random person on the street, supporting the author's assertion of whatever the trend is. The trends declared in these stories are often highly specific and buzzworthy.

For example: A story on how many people purchase different headphones to use with their iPods would be too prosaic for the Stylin' crew. But a piece on people who own several different iPods, and carry different ones according to their mood? Now we're talking. That story would probably include phrases like: "kicky, pink Mini"; "feeling slinky" and "the iPod is to 21st century Americans what the snuffbox was to our 19th century forebears _ omnipresent, addictive and a way to make a statement without saying a word."

Now that I've gotten all that exposition out of the way, here's the thrust of the Stylin' Sections latest trend declaration. The film "Brokeback Mountain" has made it acceptable to dress like a cowboy.

No, they even said that.
OF the many cinematic barriers broken by the success of "Brokeback Mountain," one previously overlooked achievement is that the film has made it acceptable to dress like a cowboy.
Sounds OK, I suppose. Let's continue.

... Western fashion has struck a chord with audiences, as several people are now willing to pay top dollar for that authentic Brokeback look. A few items from the cast wardrobe have been donated to charity auctions and are commanding astounding bids.
Yeah, that emphasis (and incredulity) is mine. A trend is now ... several people. But check it out. Those several people aren't just dressing like cowboys. They're wearing the actual clothes from the movie. Indeed, the rest of the article reveals that while there's no evidence of New Yorkers (Or Los Angelenos, or Miamians or Parisians, Londoners or anyone else from cities that matter) dressing like a cowboy. Instead, only evidence of wealthy people purchasing the actual wardrobe from a movie. Seriously.

New rule: If the number of people doing something is less than the number of people who read Cole Slaw Blog in a particular week, it's not a trend.

* * *

In the next Stylin' Roundup:

Alex Kuczynski offhandedly mentions other things she's discarded in a snit: Prada brand chewing gum, disputed territory on the Ecuadorian border, Uggs. And Eric Wilson authors a trendlet piece on wealthy Francophiles purchasing the actual moustache worn by Steve Martin in "The Pink Panther."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Something needs to change around here

As today's posts underscore -- variously covering Cleveland sports, Flop's unhinged musings about God, U.S. intelligence failures, Abu Ghraib and football-themed pop songs -- this blog suffers from an ongoing identity crisis.

Since its inception, I've been uncomfortable with how the posts here alternate between serious discussions about politics, descriptions of tasty fruit, and fanciful drinking games. At best it makes for an uncomfortable reading experience, at worst it demeans important topics that deserve better.

At some point in the near future, all of my posts on more timely topics will be assigned to an alternate blog, name and address TBA. This may lead to occasional organizational difficulties, but I think it's for the best, and should ease some of the Cole Slaw-related whiplash. I plan, of course, to continue posting here, but the emphasis will be more beer, fewer books.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hook 'em Horns

What happens when you mix third-tier pop bands with college football? Ladies and gents, I direct you to Bubba Sparxx and Big 'N Rich, whose tainted ditties have transformed College Gameday into an endurance test.

They unfortunately started a trend. I speak, of course, of the song "Hook 'em Horns" by Cowboy Troy. I would like to describe the song as a mix of "Devil Went Down to Georgia" and frat-party gang rape anthem, but that would be a little too subtle. The song begins with screams of "Hook! Hook! Hook 'em Horns!" and Metallica-style guitar before transitioning to enthusiastic fiddle playing that accompanies lyrics like, "In come the Longhorns, spread the word," "that ain't a lightning strike, that's a touchdown pass," "defense like a horde of bees," and "Southern-fried rage comin' out the cage."

Is it the Longhorns? Or is it thunder?

As one of the iTunes reviews points out, this song is the best thing ever to happen to Texas A&M.

I expect this to spawn imitators, including Uncle Kracker's "I Party With Sparty," 'Lil Kim's "I Fuck High with a Buckeye," and the Black Eyed Peas' "Bobby Bowden's Humps." Michigan will, of course, forego this trend, and opt for its traditional pained silence.

The new Abu Ghraib photos

Just published by Australian media outlets, a set of them is available here. This is the original article.

Awful as the first round was, the sadism in these pictures outdoes the prior nudity and sexual humiliation.

State of War, by James Risen

Here's something that you probably haven't heard before: in 2000, President Clinton approved a disastrous espionage operation that involved delivering a faulty nuclear roadmap to Iran. When the operation got underway, it became clear that the plan's flaws were easily recognized and corrected. The CIA proceeded with the operation anyway, and as a result, the U.S. helped speed along Iran's nuclear ambitions.

State of War is a highly readable, fascinating book, with scoops and insights beyond the FISA evasions that made news in the Times. It has plenty of insider gossip -- including a tense phone call between George W. Bush and his father over the direction of U.S. foreign policy -- and accounts about the bureaucratic infighting that accompanied the Iraq War. According to the book, Rumsfeld is a master of bureaucratic infighting, and has brazenly ignored the orders of the President; Condoleezza Rice is an incompetent manager whose career has advanced only because of her closeness to the president; and the intelligence that fed the Iraq War was not only faulty, but virtually non-existant.

A few highlights:
  • George W. Bush questioned whether pain medication should be given to detainees.
  • A former top CIA official describes Rice "as probably the worst national security advisor in history," who abdicated her responsibilities to Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
  • Young CIA officials promoted a plan to sink a ferry carrying luxury goods for Saddam and his inner circle, and use the ferry's existence as a pretext for war. When this plan was presented to CIA station chiefs at a London meeting, the station chiefs realized that "they were just grasping at crazy ideas."
  • In the months leading up to the war, CIA officials sent U.S. Iraqis on secret missions to Iraq to see whether family members had knowledge of a nuclear program, in a last ditch effort to find pro-war intelligence. The operation made clear that there was no Iraqi nuclear program, but the CIA proceeded to assert that a weapons program was ongoing. This information was deliberately concealed from the president.
  • Washington has actively permitted Afghanistan to develop its heroin supply trade in order to curry favor with local warlords.
  • The U.S. did not act on its most promising leads concerning bin Ladin's funding, either out of incompetence or in an effort to protect the Saudi royals.
  • Saudi intellgience tipped off Al Qaeda operatives to U.S. phone monitoring operations.
Risen, who reports on intelligence for the Times, has put together a book that not only reads like a thriller, but depicts a war on terror undermined by incompetence and knowing deceptions. State of War is the cynical cousin of James Mann's more evenhanded The Rise of the Vulcans, and a more readable, gossipy counterpart to Seymour Hersh's Chain of Command. I highly recommend it.

Are You There, God? It's me, [Flop].

In case God is among our blog's literally dozens of readers, I'd like to make it clear that I don't necessarily consider the snowstorm to necessarily be an instance of His wrath. In fact, aside from the inconvenience it caused friends who braved the weather to come out on my birthday, I rather enjoyed it.
Perhaps in an earlier time, I would have taken a massive, record-breaking storm on my birthday as a sign that God was going all Old-Testament on my ass. But this weekend, I just enjoyed watching the flakes swirl while I shared a couple pints with my friends. It was either a gift or fortuitous coincidence, depending on your belief in such things. (Cole Slaw Blog is a secular entity, and considers religion to be a private matter. As such we believes in freedom of religion or, if you prefer, freedom from religion.)

I have no opinion about His feelings toward Cleveland sports teams, but, well, there's precious little evidence that He's ever chanted ""Here we go, Brownies! Here we go!"

He probably uses that yellow mustard, too.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cleveland already had its Moses

It's apparently God's Wrath Week here at Cole Slaw Blog. After inundating our reader(s) with a veritable white-out of snow-related photos, it's time to examine another possible form of God's vengeance. Namely, His utter contempt for Cleveland sports fans, which He expresses chiefly by using the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers as vessels to convey His displeasure.

What did we do? I don't know. Perhaps too many of those mammoth brunch scrambles at Skip Church's restaurant, if you know what I mean. Or perhaps Clevelanders became tall poppies, and committed the sin of pride, living as most of them do in a city that defaulted on its loans, had a river catch fire and was recently named the poorest major city in America.

Or maybe He's upset that we dropped the 'a' from Moses Cleavleland's name? Might explain explain the 40-years-and-counting in the also-ran wilderness.

But whatever it was Cleveland fans did to deserve The Catch, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, Game 7 presented by Jose Mesa, Red Right 88 and getting punk'd by Tommy Maddox, haven't we suffered long enough?

Apparently not. Did I mention the time God smote Ernie Davis after the Browns traded Bobby Mitchell for him? It was kind of like the whole Len Bias thing, but in a straight-up tragedy instead of a morality play. (We have our own Len Bias, anyway. His name was Don Rogers.)

Regardless, it's an impressive amount of misfortune, to be sure. But I'm not willing to believe that it's the result of a supernatural vendetta (although if God were a San Francisco 49ers fan with a grudge going back to the AAFC, it would make sense).

I'm not ready to blame Cleveland's misfortune on God, but fortunately for you, the superthin slice of the reading public with a yen for cabbagey side dishes and sporting angst, someone else is. That someone is Mike of God Hates Cleveland Sports, a new Cleveland sports blog that is, despite being a bit of a downer, an excellent read. You get the uncomfortable idea that this might be how the perky, bright-eyed youngsters at Mistake by the Lake Sporting Times might turn out after another decade or so of Cleveland sports beatdowns.

GHCS skips the optimism. It's all about why God hates Cleveland sports, with posts entitled: "Giving us the finger" (on Larry Hughes' accursed digit) "Our national nightmare" (about the Steelers winning the Super Bowl) and "How God will punish us tonight. (something tells me this one might become a regular feature).

The blog's habit of cutting right to the (inevetably miserable) conclusion is actually kind of refreshing in a way. Except where the Coco Crisp-Andy Marte trade is concerned. Even Mike, my favorite vaguely blashphemous blogger, was in favor of that one.

And why not? That one's totally going to work out for us.

More snow!

By which we do not mean the author of "Informer."

A view from Queens (uh, and Manhattan late last night), delayed by my own technical bumbling and some minor issues beyond my control. The aerial shot is from my roof, which was its own snowy moonscape.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


A snowdrift, a skier, and empty streets:





Saturday, February 11, 2006

Hide the women and children

For some, today is day two of the winter olympics.

For others, it is my co-blogger's birthday.

For the rest of us, it's the eighth anniversary of that night he vomited into an empty pitcher at an Ann Arbor drinking establishment. What will tonight bring? A blizzard is in the forecast, so it probably means people having snow tossed in their faces and frequently being pushed.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Because you can't spell Torino without "riot"

Conversation from last Saturday (paraphrased):
Blog Pin-Up Brian: I hate the opening ceremonies. I only like curling.
CrimeNotes: I don't like either, and I also dislike The Eagles and Billy Joel.
BPUB: I mean, I really hate the opening ceremonies.
CrimeNotes: I will make them fun by inventing a drinking game.
The following was born:
  • Do a shot of nation-appropriate alcohol when a country of your ethnic heritage is introduced.
  • Announcers like to mention other nations' obscure national heroes. For instance, they might refer to a Swedish two-time gold medal winner in the pentathalon and observe that in her home country, she is "bigger than Michael Jordan." Whenever something like this happens, sip.
  • When Salt Lake City is mentioned, the person born closest to Salt Lake City must drink. Any Mormon present must chug apple juice.
  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was chairman of the Salt Lake City Olympics. If he is mentioned, any Boston sports fan must drink. Any Republican must do a shot, then apologize to the room. If the apology is deemed unsatisfactory by a majority of those present, the Republican must do a second shot. No Republicans or Boston sports fans? Then the person born closest to Massachusetts must do a shot.
  • Terrorism may be mentioned. If this happens, scream as if frightened. The last person to commence screaming must do a shot.
  • Abstract dances and performance art symbolizing winter or snow will likely appear. When this occurs, drink.
  • If Italy's relationship to Catholicism is mentioned, all Catholics must drink. If this is embodied by dance, performance art, or skit, all Catholics must do a shot.
  • If the word "brotherhood" is uttered, anyone who has a brother or is a brother must drink.
  • Children of the host nation often feature prominently in opening ceremonies. For every performance featuring children, the youngest person in the room must drink. If an elementary school teacher is present, he or she must do a shot.
  • Any time the broadcast is interrupted to air a story about an athlete overcoming injury, the person most recently hospitalized must drink.
  • Bode Miller is mentioned? Chug.
  • When the torch first appears in the stadium, everyone must down a Flaming Dr. Pepper.
  • The Shroud of Turin is a famous Torino artifact. If the announcers mention it, everyone who has seen The Passion of the Christ must do a shot.
  • Speed skating rewards rapidity. If that sport is mentioned, the slowest person must drink. If there is a dispute as to who is slowest, it may be settled with a footrace the length of one city block; if you live in a suburb, the relevant distance is the length of your driveway.
  • If ice dancing is mentioned, the last person to dance while holding an ice cube must drink.
  • Ice skating is for girls. When ice skating is referenced, all the ladies drink. In the alternative, they may leave the site of your viewing party to visit the nearest ice rink, and ice skate ... naked.
  • With every reference to the Jamaican bobsled team or Cool Runnings, light a fatty blunt.
Play by the rules and have fun. A night of this:

Can quickly become a night of this:


If you're don't habitually read political blogs, you've missed a whole bunch of bullshit this week. Also, you're probably not outraged!

Exercising typical good judgment, some right-wing nuts started the fight by being offended at a couple of veiled, relevant, and substantive swipes taken at President Bush's policies during Coretta Scott King's funeral. Democratic bloggers were quick to get outraged about the outrage, particularly the often-excellent Digby. (Posts here and here.) Example from Digby:
I personally find it absolutely outrageous, OUTRAGEOUS! that Republicans are attacking Coretta Scott King and her family this way. Why, she is an American icon! How dare they! Do they really think that African Americans don't know how to behave at a funeral for one of their own? How very white of them.
What has followed is mudwrestling about 1.) whether liberal activists (and, impliedly, black liberal activists) know how to behave themselves at funerals, or, alternatively, 2.) whether it is appropriate for conservative activists to second-guess what the wife of a civil rights icon would have wanted at her funeral.

A few observations. First, if Kate O'Beirne doesn't make you throw up, you're not worth knowing.* Second, the Republicans still carry the weight of Kevin Phillips's race-baiting southern strategy. Third, the second observation speaks for itself and doesn't need to be underscored by raising questions about who has the right to say what. Fourth, implying that it's not the Republicans' place to comment on the conduct of a major, nationally televised funeral service attacks the mere existence of a debate instead of making substantive points about progressive values.

I don't have many strong beliefs, but if forced to list them, one would be that you can say what you want about whatever you want. That means speaking truth to power at the funeral of an activist, as well as making an ass of yourself when second-guessing the etiquette of those speakers.

The reply to the conservatives' "how-dare-they-upset-the-president" seizures is not reciprocal liberal outrage about the mere act of second-guessing Coretta Scott King's eulogists. The ghouls who take behavioral cues from the sepulchral Kate O'Beirne aren't thinking about a tolerant society in the first place, so getting outraged over her outrage just obscures the debate, and makes me outraged. Because as soon as the fight turns into a tit-for-tat over who has the moral high ground of "how dare they!" we're playing a Bush league version of getting pissed over Danish political cartoons, or whether a Senate committee's inquiry comforts The Enemy.

*I suspect that she smells like mothballs, tomato soup and a dirty bathroom.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mike, you're doing a heck of a job

It brings me no pleasure to report this, but Lloyd Carr is getting close to turning the Michigan football program into the Tammany Hall of Washtenaw County. Call it the State Street Project if you prefer a more modern analogy.

Saying this this makes it a little harder for me to make my point that Ohio State represents the Republicans (achievements of dubious legitimacy that no one really wants to look into, lauded boy genius "architect," over-involvement of unlettered Ohioans), but it has to be said anyway.

Here's what's happened: Offensive coordinator Terry Malone left to take a job with the New Orleans Saints. Defensive backs coach Ron English left for a job with the Bears, and Mike DeBord was promoted to offensive coordinator. Yes, the same Mike DeBord who had been just kind of hanging out at Schembechler Hall after screwing up the International Arabian Horse Association after his first stint as OC, from 1997-99.

While it's true that Mike DeBord was the offensive coordinator for two of the best seasons of Michigan football that I've seen with my own eyes (1997 and 1999), it's also true that his teams played some boring-ass, predictable offense.

So is his rightful place in the universe alongside Lloyd on Saturdays, whispering "we should punt here" and "let's play this one safe" in his ear? I don't know. It's possible he's learned from his disastrous run in Mount Pleasant. It's possible that he's going to be less conservative and predictable playcaller than he used to be. But there's nothing that assures us that he wasn't hired just because Lloyd wanted him around and wants DeBord to succeed him, merits be damned.

OK, so comparing all this with the appalling excesses of Republican politics is an overstatement. But what's happening here is that Lloyd has ceased with bothering to find new solutions. He's just going to keep applying what's worked in the past until he retires, which might not be for a couple years now.

In typical Lloyd fashion, he's trying to run out the clock too early.

This would be a good time to mention DeBord's record as a head coach in Mount Pleasant. He was 12-34 there. I feel vaguely like Walter Sobchak breaking the news to the Dude about The Jesus: "Eight-year-olds, Dude."

I'm certainly not saying Michigan needs to go cruise the Cadillac dealerships and candy stores of Youngstown to find a hire like Cheatypants McSweatervest (HT: EDSBS). I'm just saying that setting up for a coaching search that consists of "Where's Mike?" could quite predictably lead to disaster.

Eight-year-olds, Dude.

(I need a drink. Where's the Kahlua?)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

My own Overheard in New York

Corner of Houston and Clinton, approximately 1 a.m.:
Long Island-ish Girl, Shouting into Cell: It's like, I like you as a friend, but I don't want to fuck you!
Random Early Twenties Guy, Taunting While Walking Past: Exactly!
LIGSC: Good night. I love you!
RETGTWWP: hahahahaha

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Destruction of evidence

At the excellent firedoglake blog, attorney Reddhedd has a very informative post about the newest round of obstruction confronting Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation in the Valerie Plame leak. It appears that, contrary to White House policy, e-mails during a key time of the Plame investigation were deleted en masse.

This development hasn't gotten much attention amid the State of the Union, and the issue has only surfaced in legal filings from Fitzgerald's office. Here's the entirety of what Fitzerald told the Court:
We are aware of no evidence pertinent to the charges against defendant Libby which has been destroyed. In an abundance of caution, we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system. (Ex. C, p. 6)
Reddhedd precedes this excerpt by thoroughly scrutinizing other filings in an effort to infer what Fitzgerald may know and where his investigation is headed. It is a superb piece of work.