Friday, June 30, 2006

The 10 Greatest Americans: 2006 Edition

In honor of July 4 and the long weekend, we're updating our roster of America's 10 all-time greatest citizens. The list was assembled by consensus, but each entry's author is noted at the end of the post. For those who like to track the rise and fall of celebrity, last year's list is available here.


10. Superman. The problem with superheroes is their inadequate superness. X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man never did it for me because I couldn’t help thinking, "How is that power going to save the day? Awesome, you shoot webs out of your wrists, or you have weird retractable claws. Good luck using that to stop North Korea."

They pale in comparison to Superman. He flies, uses heat vision, wields superhuman strength, and renders the hole in the wall in Porky’s redundant with his x-ray vision.

I could talk about how he represents how America views itself or how he was a subconscious father-figure to millions whose own fathers were lacking. But in the end, he’s just a poor, undocumented immigrant who grew up working on a farm, then, by virtue of his own super-ness, saves the world and scores a hottie.

American values embodied: truth; justice; American way; tight clothing; undocumented immigration

--Crunk Raconteur

9. Capt. H.M. "Howlin' Mad" Murdock. "In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team."

Hilarity, as we all know, ensued.

Also, he's apparently a hit on my current side of the pond, too.

American values embodied: Vigilantism; the right to bear arms; van ownership.


8. Butterstick the Baby Panda. We live in a time of intense polarization, which is always evident in our nation’s capital. The two sides can't agree on anything.

Anything, that is, but this: We all love that freaking baby panda so much that it hurts.

Some of us love him so much that they hacked the online poll to determine his name so we could vote for “Butterstick,” and some of us love him so much they were willing to put out just to see him. The sheer amount of productivity that was lost, as hundreds of thousands of people spent their work days watching the Panda Cam, is mind-boggling.

Unfortunately, time is running out. On his second birthday we have to give the little guy back to China, so get your Butterstick merchandise while you still can. Free Butterstick!

American Values Embodied: multiculturalism; love of child stars; anti-communism; handjobs; workplace slacking; computer piracy; grassroots commercialism.

--Crunk Raconteur

7. Blog Perv Danielle, Her Majesty the Queen of 2006 ("BPDHMQ2K6"). Aside from the fact that she isn't much of a drunk, BPDHMQ2K6 is exactly the kind of chick that America needs more of.

She actively loves college football.

She claims to be fascinated by porn, and discusses it openly.

She is tolerant of bad behavior, whether it's vomiting into empty beer pitchers or dudes shouting in her apartment.

She likes the Shake Shack.

When she showed up at Brian's Memorial Day barbecue with a nicely-racked friend, Flop spent several hours hoping that there was lesbianism involved. BPDHMQ2K6 was unoffended.

BPDHMQ2K6 never takes too long getting ready, never obsesses about her hair, and has zero patience for high-strung girly girls. Aside from her fondness for tiaras and the fact that she's a chick, you could mistake her for an eighth-year senior in charge of the Sigma Chi house. We mean that in a good way.

American values embodied: liking football; being a perv.


6. Mark Cuban. The modern Bill Veeck is loud, aggravating, and an obnoxious whiner.

But I read something about him that made me see him in a light. It was just a question: "If your favorite team were for sale, wouldn’t you want Mark Cuban to buy it?" And I would, a thousand times over. If I had any chance of affecting it, I would be actively agitating for Cuban to buy the Cavaliers from Dan Gilbert, if only because Cuban is the only owner who would do whatever it takes to keep LeBron.

Besides, at least when he whines, it’s entertaining. Like the time he ended up working behind the counter at a Dairy Queen to prove a point.

American values embodied: shitty blogging; excessive wealth; bad haircuts; whining; Dairy Queen; nerd hegemony; unnecessary extravagance.

--Crunk Raconteur

5. Axl Rose. Making a repeat appearance, yes, but how could we not reward the Mike Tyson of hard rock? Since we last honored him, he bit the leg of a Swedish bodyguard and got into a fight with fashion mogul and well-known pussy Tommy Hilfiger. These are two things that I wouldn't have the guts to do, no matter how much I'd like to or how much the situation demanded. There needs to be much more of this, particularly when it comes to punishing those whose livelihoods depend on fashion.

It's almost two decades since Appetite for Destruction came along and changed the life of everyone born in the '70s who isn't deaf. If you can't still rock out to "Welcome to the Jungle," you're someone I don't want to drink with.

American values embodied: Biting; beating down a fancy fuck; substance abuse; rock.


4. Estes Kefauver. One night at Dempsey's Pub, CrimeNotes, Bitey and I were discussing random politicians in American history.

CrimeNotes mentioned Estes Kefauver, and then was amazed that both of us at the table knew who he was. The conversation didn't end until Bitey's immortal words: "Estes Kefauver can suck my twat!"

I knew him as that guy with the '50s-style glasses from my parents' coffee table book of photos from Life magazine. But Kefauver was one of the more influential progressive politicians in American history, having been around both to support the New Deal and to stand up to racists in his own party decades later. The three Democrats who didn't sign the Southern Manifesto opposing integration were Lyndon Johnson, Al Gore Sr. and Kefauver. Not bad company.

Of course, Kefauver was vilified. He fought for antitrust legislation and consumer protection laws, which everyone knows are bad for business, bad for America, and communist.

In fact, in 1948 he was accused of being in cahoots with the commies. To refute the allegations, which compared him to a raccoon, Kefauver donned a coonskin hat and made a televised speech.

It was such a hit that he took his unique brand of haberdashery to the hustings, wearing the cap in every campaign, including his 1952 presidential run. Which should just be further proof he's the beacon the Democratic party is sorely missing.

American values embodied: Progressivism, wearing dead animals, chutzpah.


3. Rutherford B. Hayes. The 19th president of the United States, he remains the only non-appointed president to win office despite losing the popular vote. He was known for his coarse, imposing beard.

Most importantly, he's a hero in Paraguay. He arbitrated a dispute between that nation and Argentina and decided in Paraguay's favor. Paraguay has named a province AND a city for him. It would be like the United States turning to international soccer star Barriaga, or perhaps Arriaga 2, to solve an international dispute, and then renaming Colorado and Denver for him.

Hayes is also one of the many mediocre presidents produced by the state of Ohio, and his official presidential center is conveniently located off the Ohio Turnpike in Fremont. Of course, he may be the greatest President produced by Fremont, but he's only the second-greatest American produced by that city ...

President Rutherford B. Hayes presides over a Cabinet meeting in this daguerrotype from 1879. Also shown: Secretary of State William M. Evarts (seated); Attorney General Charles Devens (No. 42).

American values embodied: Ability to juke defenders out of shoes.


2. Summer Fucking Sanders. Summer Fucking Sanders can't get into an airport because every time she goes through security the metal detectors blow their wads.

She can only say, "What the balls is your problem? I'm Summer Fucking Sanders. Oh, are my gold fucking medals upsetting your little machine? Perhaps you'd like my tender little foot up your twat."

Little known facts about Summer Fucking Sanders: She bathes in Old Style Lager; she only eats what she kills; she ghostwrote LFO's "Summer Girls"; she has a peanut allergy yet is immune to arsenic; she has publicly pledged to dismember any mermaid on sight; she attracts lightning; she shits titanium; her favorite color is orange.

When he was 23, Flop met Summer Fucking Sanders, and like every human (male and female, gay and straight) he wanted to tap that ass. When he spoke, Summer Fucking Sanders gazed wearily past him. To her eternal heartbreak, the only male powerful enough to pleasure her was sired by Zeus and a hippo. You know him as Alasdair from You Can't Do That on Television.

American values embodied: hotness; badassery; gold fucking medals


1. Thomas Jefferson
What did you expect? Thanks for putting pen to paper 230 years ago, T.J. If it weren't for you, Kevin Federline would have been in this spot.

Happy July 4th, homies.

Also receiving votes: Harry Anderson; Andre the Giant; Andrea Barber; Moses Cleaveland; Cool Papa Bell; Bitey; Clarence Darrow; P. Diddy; Hugh Downs; William Faulkner; Craig Finn; Benjamin Franklin; World B. Free; Morgan Freeman; Elbridge Gerry; Evil Girl; Alexander Hamilton; Mike Hart; Harlan Hatcher; Hiawatha; HMQ2K5; Desmond Howard; Montell Jordan; Kleinbaum; Bernie Kosar; John Larroquette; Abraham Lincoln; Shirley McFee; James Madison; Chief Justice John Marshall; Richard Moll; Oprah; Chris Perry; Charles P. Pierce; Markie Post; Elwood Reid; Franklin Roosevelt; Babe Ruth; Charles Sumner; Uma Thurman; Mark Twain; Marsha Warfield; Chief Justice Earl Warren; George Washington; Ralph Williams; Winston.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Too-Late Endorsement: The NBA Draft

So, continuing my ongoing rapprochement with NBA basketball, plus the fact that there was nothing on TV last night, I started watching some of the NBA Draft. I like pro sports drafts, because they feature three things I'm a big fan of: sports, posses, and idiotic catchphrases.

Anyway, given that I follow college basketball for 3 weeks a year, and high school and European basketball not at all, I really couldn't be very worried about who Cleveland was going to pick (some dude named Shannon. Apparently not all those farmers play foot-ball.), but I noticed something that made this incredibly entertaining.

Right before Connecticut's Rudy Gay was picked, the commentators were discussing him. For those who don't even follow college hoops 3 weeks a year, the buzz on Rudy Gay all year is that he's incredibly talented but has a seeming total lack of competitiveness and doesn't seem to like basketball much at all. He's lazy and, despite his monumental talent, seems destined to be a career underachiever.

Jay Bilas, Stephen A. Smith, and the gang were basically giving this exact rundown when the shot shifted to Gay sitting waiting to be called, and that's when I noticed that the sound was a little weird. I finally figured out that the same audio I was hearing on ESPN was being broadcast in the room as well. Meaning, I was sitting there looking at Rudy Gay listening to Bilas and Stephen A. talk about how lazy he is.

After that, it was riveting. Later, they were discussing Marcus Williams's character issues (stemming, in part, from his role in the theft of a bunch of laptops), and knowing that he could hear it made it one of the most entertaining things I've ever seen.

Can we work this into the NFL Draft? Imagine, the shot is of Vince Young and John Clayton is talking about the bad Wonderlic score...and Vince can hear him!

Of course, this would make it incredibly likely that some linebacker or safety would kill Chris Mortensen or Mel Kiper Jr.

Quite Frankly, They Could Have Heard Him Without a Microphone

Viva los Argies

If like Crimenotes, soccer makes you blind with rage click here.

It's one of the tastiest upcoming World Cup matches: Germany against Argentina for a spot in the semis. On pedigree and class alone, it could be a final. Based on the way both teams have been playing, it might be better.

Argentina has scored both the biggest rout (6-0 over Serbia and Montenegro, a defeat so stunning, the country held a plebiscite and voted to dissolve into its component nations) and the sweetest goal. If you haven't yet seen it, enter the terms "argentina goal maxi rodriguez" into the YouTube search window and try not to hurt yourself when you fall out of your seat.

Germany, meanwhile, has been wowing fans with its attacking style. The normally cautious, counterattacking Germans have 10 goals in four games, and even their only one-goal game was dramatic, with a substitute sticking a dagger in Poland's heart in stoppage time. I've even been impressed by Torsten Frings, one of my all-time sports bad guys for his unnoticed handball late in the 2002 quarterfinal against the United States.

I've got nothing against the Germans. The country has been an exemplary host nation, they've managed to shed some of their understandable qualms about nationalism without losing their heads and their team is playing entertaining soccer.

They must be stopped.

Why? Simple. I want their coach, Los Angeles resident and former Germany superstar Jurgen Klinsmann, to take over the United States team. And for that to happen, I want him to come under a torrent of bullshit from the German media.

No sport does recriminations like soccer. So if the Germans get whacked, even by a team like Argentina, the outcry against Klinsmann's attacking style _ and quite possibly Klinsmann himself _ should be substantial. Normally, I'm appalled when the media and fans pronounce innovation dead on arrival after one attempt, but in this case, I'd be happy for the United States to benefit.

After enough piling on from the press and fans, you'd have to think the easygoing media treatment of soccer in the United States would look pretty good to Jurgen. Did I mention he lives just up the road from the Home Depot Center in Carson? As bad as the 405 Freeway can be, it's got to be better than 11 hours on Lufthansa.

And if Klinsmann did take over the considerable young talent on the U.S. team, the stage would be set for a sweet grudge match in the 2010 World Cup. For U.S soccer fans. it would be revenge for the 2002 quarterfinal, as well as vindication in finally beating a European power after two games in which we were the better team, yet came away without a result. For Klinsmann, it'd be vindication of his style and his talent, in support of his adopted home. Movies have been made about less.

This could what Jurgen Klinsmann sees on his way to work, if he takes over as U.S. soccer coach. Mmm, Crenshaw.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Big Papi of Arabia

On Monday, David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox drove in the winning run in walk-off fashion for the second straight game against the Phillies. Tuesday morning, I saw the highlight on Sportscenter, and then grew angry as the Sportscenter gang threw it over to the Baseball Tonight studios so Orel Hershiser and Steve Phillips could discuss whether or not the Phillies should have even pitched to Ortiz in the first place.

Hershiser’s point was that the situation (there were men on first and second, two outs in the bottom of the 12th) was such that the pitcher is better off pitching to Ortiz, no matter how “clutch” he is. With an open base, a pitcher can throw a wider variety of pitches to a wider variety of locations, since if he walks Ortiz, it isn’t the end of the world. Hopefully, the pitcher could get him to swing at a bad pitch out of the strike zone and make the last out. If Ortiz ends up walking, you have to throw strikes to the next hitter (the extremely-good-at-hitting Manny Ramirez), because walking him brings in the winning run. As such, logically, being able to pitch outside the strike zone to Ortiz has a better chance of success for the pitcher than having to throw only strikes to Ramirez, no matter who is or isn’t clutch.

Meanwhile, Phillips (notable for putting together the early 00s Mets, the Arbusto Oil of baseball teams) had no particular argument other than “Nooooooooooo, Big Papi is just soooooooooo clutch. You just know he’ll drive in the winning run! You just know it!”

This is the same argument we had over the Iraq war, just in a different forum. On one side, you have logic and reason. On the other, just something that “everyone just knows is true.” Back before the war began, I used to argue all the time that it was a bad idea to invade, because of (insert one or more: historical animus between Sunnis and Shiites, making a civil war between them likely; the fact that an alliance between a radical Islamist group like al Qaeda and a secular dictator like Saddam didn’t make much sense; etc.)

All there was on the other side was, “We were attacked on September 11!” and “He’s a threat, everyone just knows he’s a threat!”

And I think we know how that turned out.

No matter how it turned out for the Phillies, they still did the smart thing. Hershiser was right. The pitcher just made a bad pitch. It happens. But pitching to Ortiz is still the right move.

The Bushies keep trying to say the same about Iraq, that it was the right thing to do but there were just some problems in the execution. But they didn’t do the logical thing, the Hershiserian thing. They followed the example of Phillips. To take the metaphor further, what they did is equivalent to having intentionally walked Ortiz (because you just knew he would beat you), then given up a walk-off grand slam to Ramirez, then saying “Hey, nobody could have predicted that Ramirez would have hit that. Walking Ortiz was still the right thing to do, because he’s so clutch. What? How can you say he’s not clutch? I can’t believe you would continue to deny his clutchness!” As if that were the point.

But hey, who am I to question the received wisdom from on high that everyone just knows? Does this mean I hate America and David Ortiz, or am I just objectively pro-Manny?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Something about monkeys

Editor's Note: Commentor Evil Girl wrote a couple weeks ago complaining about the lack of "irrelevant" posts since Flop left for Europe. When Evil Girl speaks, we listen. She's been a friend of mine for about a decade, and despite my attempts to be a good influence, she and Flop had a dangerous liaison late in college. Also, she's been known to castrate guys who don't do what she says. This is why Flop can sing soprano. Last week she submitted the following post. It was written e.e. cummings style, so I've formatted it to be a poem. I don't exactly understand it, but it sure is in the spirit of Flop. I present Evil Girl:
flop called the other evening
he was drunk in a phone booth
recently befriended by
the british equivalent of crimenotes while
doing his wash

at the time he suggested he hadn't
posted anything of late because
he feared the writing equivalent of
"come look at this neat log i left in the loo"
alas the derth of irreverant musings
and crenshaw melon

in flop's honor and absence,
crimenotes agreed to
let me write the following:


this weekend the discovery channel aired
what is perhaps the greatest interpretation of shakespeare
ever produced
using monkeys

monkeys may even have typed it

romeo and juliet: a monkey's tale

it's not scheduled to air again anytime soon
god willing there is a blackmarket dvd

there was a monkey juliet
a monkey romeo
monkey tension
and monkey romance

but more than anything
these monkeys had balls

gigantically disproportional balls

i wish i could provide you a drawing

it would be one-third balls
and two-thirds monkey

Monday, June 26, 2006

Italian barber shop

I get my hair cut at a barber shop near City Hall. It took about a year of living in the city to find a barber shop I like. This wasn't a problem for me in Boston or in Michigan. In hair, as with everything else, I want to keep it simple. I want my hair cut by people whose idea of hair product involves running the comb under a spigot before it touches my locks. If there's music, it should predate 1960 or else be sung in a Romance language other than French. I don't care if the cutting is competent so long as it doesn't make me look dumber than usual.

As much as I hate getting it cut, I was born with a thick head of hair. Sometimes I fear that I'm starting to become prematurely gray, and when I feel sorry for myself, it's comforting to know that I'll never be bald. The problem is that I have to keep it short, especially in the summer. Get complacent, and on a humid day, it looks like I should be drumming for The Who, with all kind of cowlicks and strands. "You look like Archie from the comic books," a former co-worker once said.

Haircuts suck. It's not comfortable to have a stranger hold a sharp blade four inches from your eyes. In old age and retirement, I plan to never shave or cut my hair. I'll look like a cross between the Unambomber and King Lear, and probably will adopt their attitudes to boot.

Still, I like this barber shop. It employs five or six Italians, ages 45-75, of both genders. After a few years of going there, they recognize me by face. I know who cuts fast and who'll get on my nerves. The walls have framed autographed pictures of Giuliani and Bloomberg and Ray Kelly. The barbers say enough to be entertaining and friendly but not so much that we get into awkward smalltalk.

They mostly speak in Italian, and I know enough of the language to grasp every fifth word. Today, when the youngest among them ran in sweating and shouting, I didn't understand a word, but I knew it was about soccer.

He was ranting so angrily that I assumed Italy lost. The sixtysomething lady clipping my coiff paused mid-haircut to listen.

In fractured English, she asked whether I like soccer.

"No," I said proudly. "I like football."

She was dismissive and told me that when the U.S. became good, I'd learn to like soccer. I didn't have the energy to correct her.

It was the first time she'd cut my hair, and she was quirky. When my neck posture slacked she slammed her elbows onto my shoulders and pushed my head up straight. She kept breaking to listen at the youngest barber's soccer ravings. She winked at me in the mirror and said something intended to incite her coworker.

The rant in heavily accented Italian went on for about five minutes, and for the first time I was amused by soccer.

It reminded me of the day that John Ratzinger was named pope. I was getting my haircut an hour or so after the white smoke came out from the Vatican.

The barbers were all livid, livid the way I was the night of the Alamo Bowl when Michigan lost to Nebraska. "Tedeschi!" they kept shouting, using the Italian word for Germans. The shouting was relentless. My haircut turned out fine.

Better Know Your Adversary: Introduction

I have a Republican friend, with whom I argue constantly over email. I enjoy this, because it keeps my arguments sharp and allows me to hear all sorts of laughable Republican talking points and false choices (my favorite is still when he angrily demanded how, had he been elected in 2000, President Gore would have handled the Iraq War. Um…).

Anyway, I received an email from him a couple of weeks ago, ostensibly about the shortcomings of the DNC’s website, but really a metaphor for how the Democrats don’t stand for anything and the Republicans are strong and resolute and blah blah blah. This contained a great comparison of how all the DNC site had were platitudes, while the RNC site “has an Issues section that says what the Republicans have done, and bullets what they plan to do.”

You hear a lot of this, and it’s pretty well hardened into conventional wisdom. I figured it may even be true, so I went to the Issues section of to see for myself (I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Stay tuned…). I tried responding to him, but it was too long and complex for an email. This, however, is a much better venue for that discussion.

There are 9 subsections of the Issues section, each discussing a different topic. Every day (okay, most days), I’ll examine one of them and find out if the Republicans have really been as forthright as my friend claims about their accomplishments and intentions. I can’t be completely sure what I’ll find yet, but it’s likely that we’ll also get into many of the myths, straw men, and false choices that represent pretty much the entirety of Republican thinking and argument these days.

Tomorrow: Issue 1, Social Security.

Friday, June 23, 2006

If Plato Is a Fine Red Wine, Then Aristotle Is a Dry Martini*

It’s hot. It’s really hot. And the weekend is just a few short hours away. And nobody wants to a) work, or b) read the series of political rants I keep putting off. So, here are three ways to kill this Friday afternoon.
  • Make your own South Park doppelgänger. Some of you may have seen this already (when I mentioned it to Flop, he told me he’d seen it before), but the create-your-own-South-Park-character generator is absolutely fantastic. Included at right is the character of me made by my roommate. It’s terrifying in its realism. This looks more like me than my passport picture. I particularly like that he added the sweat from wearing that suit in 98% humidity.

  • Remember that, fundamentally, soccer is laughable. Honestly, is this clip from the Simpsons ever not funny? And yes, I’m bitter about Team USA. But I’m going to keep watching the World Cup, I just have to find a new team to pull for now. Maybe the Netherlands? I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my predilection towards teams with orange in their uniforms, funny names, and a tendency to never win championships.

*Okay, I need to stop with the Kicking and Screaming references.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

This looks familiar

Via MZone we have this video of two teenagers whose argument about Texas and Ohio State turns retarded:

Their conversation ends like pretty much every conversation I've ever had with Flop, only with less bloodshed.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

An idiot's travels in London

LONDON (CSB) -- Yes, yes, yes. My undisclosed location is no longer a secret. I'm in London, as probably was obvious by my earlier dispatch. Contrary to my co-blogger's rodent-centric experiences, I've found the city to be more than just a theater of the absurd and giggleworthy.

Not that there isn't all sorts of ridiculous shit to see, but rather than spin yarns about my observations on all the slight differences that make going to other countries worthwhile from almost the minute you step outside the airport, I thought I'd provide some vignettes from my travels. I'm not yet at the midway point of my transatlantic sojourn -- I've got more countries and more travels ahead. And tomorrow, blog "pinup" Brian joins me in London for soccer-related antics and alcotourism opportunities.

For now, here are some highlights:
  • On approach to Heathrow, my plane banked right over the center of London. I was struggling to make sense of the grid laid out before me when I saw the serpentine in Green Park. I said "holy shit" in a voice just audible enough to make my seatmate laugh softly. Then I stared at the houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the British Museum, St. Paul's and all the other landmarks as they shone on a perfect Sunday morning at dawn and thought to myself: "It's about 1 a.m. back in New York. Crimenotes is probably three sheets to the wind and stealing accessories from drag queens so he can work out in the bar."
  • I wandered around London in a sleep-deprived haze all day that day. Some memories include: Finding a truly awful novel on a table that someone was selling underneath the Waterloo Bridge. I didn't want to carry it around, and now I've been back twice and can't find it. Would have made a perfect gift for my friends with literary taste. ... Walking for hours and seeing next to no one, as if London were there just for my own exploration. Then stumbling into the market at Covent Garden and smiling at the sight of all the people there as if I'd just spent six years on a deserted island. ... Sitting on the bed in my hotel room (once I could finally get in) and enjoying the slow pace of a test match between England and Sri Lanka in cricket. Giggling when the commentator's partner in the booth kept silent after being asked "penny for your thoughts" while England was getting crushed by Sri Lanka's batsmen. ... Waking up in the middle of the night to a broadcast of "Sunday Night Baseball" on Five, and seeing the British guy and American guy talk ball between innings instead of commercial breaks. ... Bangers and mash for dinner, along with a pint of Guinness.
  • Danced with a Japanese girl who barely spoke English at a Brazilian bar after Brazil beat Croatia.
  • Absorbed Meghan Daum's collection of essays (fucking brilliant) with a pint or two (ditto) at a pub across the street from the British Museum. Going into the traditional, red phonebox in front of said plunder repository to tipsily call a friend who dog-eared one of the essays for me and tell her how fucking good they were. Seriously.
  • Giggled at the Guardian's World Cup guide. ... Giggled at the Guardian's daily bets placed by a fish. ... Giggled at the Guardian's "Soccerball: Today at the World Series" item, supposedly written by a 12-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. (If you don't get why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are so odious to English soccer fans, pay more attention to the world around you, or at least google that shit.). ... Wondered why the United States doesn't have a newspaper as good as the Guardian.
  • Found a local pub, somewhere in between the pub at which I had the pub dinner my first night in town, and the one at which I read those essays. I've wanted to have a local for years -- now I do.
  • Did shots of Jagermeister with a leggy blonde German girl because, well, she was a leggy blonde German girl and she wanted to do shots of Jager.
  • Went to the London Aquarium, partly because I was feeling introspective and partly because I'd just seen Closer. ... Ate fish and chips.
  • Went to an Aussie pub shortly after the Socceroos lost to Brazil. Marveled at celebratory mood and willingness amongst drunken Antipodeans to sing "Land Down Under" at full volume. Chatted up a Brazilian girl who spoke English with an Aussie accent, because all her friends are Australian.
  • Speaking of on-the-nose soundtracks: I watched the RAF flyover on the Queen's birthday. I'd taken my headphones off, but not hit pause on my iPod because the planes showed up sooner than I expected. As the last few groups of jets flew over, I realized that "Danger Zone" was playing.
  • Discovered all sorts of random alleys, parks and markets. ... Made instant friends in pubs while discussing the World Cup. ... Watched a shitload of soccer. ... Walked until I got blisters on my blisters. ... Purchased a used copy of "James and the Giant Peach." ... Finally asked out the unbelievably cute bartender at my local.
London as shown in CrimeNotes's photo stream.

Lost classics

Crunk and I had a short discussion in the comments about Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming, an early movie by the director of The Squid and the Whale that should not be confused with the Will Ferrell soccer comedy. This 1996 movie about a group of recent college grads who can't get over their graduation or each other is one of my staples -- a little uneven, but it nails a moment.

I've never heard anyone talk about Kicking and Screaming. There are at least three other movies I love that never managed to find a place. Get on NetFlix or set the DVR.

1. True Stories. Has anyone ever heard of this movie, much less seen it? This 1986 Talking Heads movie is criminally underappreciated .

Talking Heads frontman David Byrne directs and stars in a mockumentary celebrating the 150th anniversary of Virgil, Texas, a town that thrives after the birth of the computer chip. This isn't a satire like the Christopher Guest movies (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman) -- more of a deadpan comedy that doubles as a rock movie. It's a series of elaborate comic set pieces about small towns, romance and technology. Radiohead named itself after a song in the soundtrack.

One sequence halfway through features the late great Spalding Gray in an extended monologue about how computers are changing everything. It predated the tech boom by more than a decade, but was prescient in mocking all the pretensions that came with it. Other great sequences include a conspiracy theorist minister whose sermon segues into a wacked-out Talking Heads gospel song, the greatest fashion show in the history of movies, and a voodoo priest (played by Pops Staples) helping a pre-Roseanne John Goodman win over a bed-ridden heiress.

I'm making this sound too much like just another self-consciously quirky small-town comedy. No way. There's something about the music and photography that makes it unique. I'd like to say that it's about how technology upends people, except that the movie is so effin' fun I don't want to overthink it. It's what MTV might have become if it'd had the balls to be great. Turn it up and don't take your eyes off it.

Roger Ebert's enthusiastic review struggled to describe the movie, but sums it up best:
It's a bold attempt to paint a bizarre American landscape. This movie does what some painters try to do: It recasts ordinary images into strange new shapes. There is hardly a moment in True Stories that doesn't seem everyday to anyone who has grown up in Middle America, and not a moment that doesn't seem haunted with secrets, evasions, loneliness, depravity or hidden joy - sometimes all at once. This is almost like a science-fiction movie: Everyone on screen looks so normal and behaves so oddly, they could be pod people.
2. Fearless. This 1993 movie directed by Peter Weir (of Dead Poet's Society and Mosquito Coast) has some of the all-time great character actors in best form: Jeff Bridges, Rosie Perez, John Turturro, Isabella Rossillini, Tom Hulce, and a pre-famous (and chunky) Benicio Del Toro. It's the story of what happens to Bridges's character in the weeks after he survives a plane crash in California and leads other passengers into safety.

It's about a yuppie whose life is changed, but not in any easy, cheesy way. He become literally fearless, convinced of his invincibility, alternately thrilled and terrified by what he thinks of his new power.

In showing a guy seeing everything new for the first time, the movie is completely persuasive. He sees the petty worries that paralyze normal people, and they seem trivial to you, too. It's a scream against being bored and worried.

3. Dangerous Liaisons. A movie about humping and getting humped in order to get revenge on people you don't like, which should never be confused with a Jane Austen costume drama.

There's too much in this movie to love: Glenn Close, playing an evil, feminist nymphomaniac; John Malkovich in his first star turn; Uma Thurman and Michelle Pfeiffer at maximum hotness; and a hilariously miscast Keanu Reeves as an opera fan. Close and Malkovich work out a scheme for Malkovich to seduce Thurman to get revenge against their old flames. As an aristocratic gigolo, Malkovich wants to seduce Pfeiffer only for the triumph of wrecking a virtuous woman.

It's funnier and more watchable than its retarded rip-off Cruel Intentions. The movie makes amorality entertaining, and when it turns serious toward the end, the shift in mood works.

I watched it a lot when I was thirteen or fourteen. My parents probably thought I was being weird for watching a costume drama so much, not realizing that it was a subversive story about sex and Uma Thurman's boobs.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I Would Have Thought God Would Want to Limit My Power

As part of my post Friday about who is and is not pants, I called out two teams I am a fan of, in the “Pants” category, the Washington Nationals and US National Soccer Team.

Well, they both certainly made me look stupid.

Since then, it’s been good times for the Nationals and National Team. The Nats took two out of three from the Yankees in interleague play over the weekend, both on comeback victories and Sunday’s game on a walk-off homer by developing stud 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman (incidentally, with Zimmerman, David Wright, and Miguel Cabrera, does any division boast as many good young 3Bs as the NL East?).

I’m still getting used to wrapping my head around being happy about a tie, but it was a seriously impressive tie USA managed to wrangle out of Italy. They were fast, they were sharp, they did it while playing with 9 guys against 10 for basically the whole second half. They even came oh-so-close to pulling out the win, but for the offsides that invalidated Beasley’s go-ahead goal in the 65th minute. And they sure illustrated a difference between Team USA and those flouncing, flopping Europeans. Brian McBride wiped the blood from his face and kept on going!

Sure, the Nats didn’t sweep, and USA didn’t even win, but they certainly played like credibly good teams. There are many reasons why this could be: better preparation, opponents laid low by injuries, playing a bunch of whiny Italians, etc. But I’m going to attribute this to their embarrassment at being called Pants in this space.

Who would have guessed I had that kind of power?

That said, and just in case, I’d like to issue a blanket pronouncement of “Pants” to the following teams: Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Cavaliers, Vanderbilt Commodores (all sports), Ohio State Buckeyes* (football), Team USA (all Olympic events).

And you too, Nationals and, er, nationals. You’re both pants. Make us proud again this week.

*Not that the Buckeyes need it, given that they own Michigan and all...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Asshole, Vol. 2

It was September of sophomore year, and nobody had a driver's license.

Homecoming was on the way. On my parents' property, there was a big metal pole barn, large enough to fit a flatbed trailer and 30 fifteen year olds. For those of you who grew up in cities and suburbs, picture a free-standing metal garage in the middle of a field. It looked kind of like this picture I found on Google, only it was tan:

My parents are patient people. They were willing to allow the flatbed to be brought to their pole barn for the construction of a Homecoming float. Dozens of high school sophomores trekked out to our house on weekends and weeknights, and at first, my Mom and Dad were happy to put up with us.

Because we didn't have driver's licenses, there was no easy way to access the high school party spots. These generally were clearings in woods and fields several miles outside of town. Without access to parties, people hadn't yet turned into drunks, and if anyone was getting laid, it was an aberration and a source of confused bitterness. At fifteen, we had all the right impulses but no access to the vices.

We built the sophomore class Homecoming float that September, and for that month, my parents' property became the default hangout spot. People's parents dropped them off late in the morning, and many of them stayed well after midnight. It was an extremely broad cross-section of my high school class. We listened to Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the Rolling Stones while we worked, but plenty of people were happy to play basketball in the driveway or volleyball in the yard. It was a month-long, alcohol-free, sexually frustrated party.

I don't remember how the Ouija Board fad started. A group of us must have been hanging out in my parents' basement watching TV when someone saw it on the shelf. It was taken out, and suddenly, the floatbuilding process took an unexpected turn.

In telling this story to friends who grew up elsewhere, I've been told that Ouija Boards were the province of girls. That wasn't my experience. Faith in the Ouija Board was a unifying creed: jocks and nerds, ugly girls and girls who gave handjobs, and people who should have known better -- they all believed in Ouija.

We would go into my parents' basement, sit in a circle, and light candles. For those who aren't familiar, the Ouija Board is a Parker Brothers product. There is a fold-out board-game-style platform that lists the alphabet and the numbers 1-9. Two participants are supposed to lightly place their hands on a plastic pointer. After a minute or two, a spirt presence channels itself through the users' hands, guiding them to the letters and numbers that spell out whatever message the spirit elects to communicate. It looks like this:

There were Ouija veterans in the group. Someone told us that if you worked a Ouija Board alone there wasn't enough human power to counterbalance the spirit, and you'd become possessed. Another person said that a burning Ouija would scream.

Keep in mind that I did not grow up in a sophisticated place, and it was pretty religious to boot. Not in an evangelical way, but there were plenty of Methodist and Lutheran kids, much sterner stuff than I was taught before I became an atheist in third grade.

Some combination of factors apparently made Ouija irresistible. The ritual went something like this: the two participants would wait for the spirit to announce itself, generally by moving the users' hands to spell "Hello." There would be questions asking for the spirit's identity, and then the fun started. There were a lot of questions about tragedy and who in the group would be first to die. I remember that Ouija told an avid hunter in the group: "You will shoot a dead human." Girls screamed, and the hunter became upset. This was some prime material.

The routine went on night after night. Building the Homecoming float became an excuse for people to come to my parents' house and play Ouija Board -- candlelight, darkness, privacy and mixed company. In retrospect, there might have been a kind of sexiness to it, only that people were taking the Ouija Board seriously.

Very, very seriously.

Did I believe at the time that the Ouija was legitimate? I might have. I was reading a lot of Stephen King around then, so supernatural messages seemed sensible enough. I certainly was entertained by it, and as the activity became extremely popular, I was happy to participate. It was a bonding experience.

I was enjoying this.

I was enjoying it so much that it was time to push things further.

In the age of The Clapper, my parents had been gifted a kind of remote control device. It was a white box that plugged into an electrical outlet. This box itself had a socket for an electrical plug, and a remote control went with it. Plug the lamp of your choice into the white box and press a button on the remote control, and the lamp turned on and off.

I went about laying my trap, rigging a lamp into the remote control system, and testing out how easy it was to activate the remote control in my pocket.

That night, things started as usual. More than a dozen of us were in my basement, candles lit, and the Ouija ready for action. The remote control was hidden in my jeans pocket.

After the spirit arrived, I suggested a standard question:

"Ask Ouija for a sign," I said.

"Ouija," Laura said, "can you give us a sign of your presence?"

Usually a slight flicker of candlelight or the sound of my Springer Spaniel barking upstairs was enough to convince people of the spirit's authenticity.

Tonight would be different.

I allowed for a pregnant pause.

I pressed the remote control button in my jeans pocket.

A lamp came on.

And screams followed.


Real fucking screams. Carrie prom scene, endangered lives, we're-all-gonna-die screams.

People fled. Shrieking sophomores up the staircase. Shouted profanity and covered eyes, "Holy shit" repeated like a Buddhist mantra.

15 seconds later, I had the basement to myself. I worked fast, disposing the technological evidence behind some books. It happened quickly enough that when I ran outside, also screaming, there wasn't enough of a time gap to invite suspicion.

And there they were -- my friends and classmates, on my parents' back lawn, a couple of them collapsed and rolling around in the grass.

It was a moment of triumph.

Oh, they knew what they saw, and were logical about it: "It would be one thing if the light turned off," Andrea said, "because that could be from a lightbulb burning out. Nothing explains how the light could turn on."

My dad immediately knew what I'd done. He tried to explain my method, but no one believed him. When the scene of my ruse was revisited, there was no evidence.

This could not be explained away.

It was a spirit.

My parents became concerned about how this might affect our family's reputation. My dad told me that we couldn't do any more Ouija Board at our house. His hilarious and perceptive observation: "I don't want people to think that there's devil worship going on."

For the next year or so, Ouija Boards occasionally surfaced at parties. I remember a group of us going to one girl's lakehouse after a football game specifically to do Ouija.

But nothing could top that moment. Booze, cigarettes and sex came along, and the Ouija era ended.


You'd think that this episode would have become just one of those stories, and that people forgot about it or rationalized it.

You're wrong.

A few weeks later, my friends and I had a bonfire on my parents' property, and decided that it would be a good experiment to throw a full can of spraypaint into the fire. The can's label probably said something like, "WARNING: Keep away from fire and open flame. Highly combustible." That wasn't going to stop us.

We threw the can into our fire and stood back.

Five minutes later, the can exploded. Its boom sounded like a proper explosion -- like an actual bomb. A mushroom cloud flared and rose 10 feet into the air, looking like a small-scale nuclear test. Hot coals scattered all over the backyard.

For once, my parents were visibly pissed. My dad still brings it up. In retrospect, we were all lucky that no one got burned. What's even luckier is that the whole thing was captured on VHS.

The ultimate lesson for some was not, "Don't throw spraypaint cans into fires." Instead, it was, "This is proof that the spirit of Ouija has been unleashed and is out to get us." On videotape, various of my classmates -- mostly female -- testify the spirit of Ouija was responsible for that fire.

This wasn't the only proof. In the Homecoming parade a few days prior, Andrea's foot had been run over by the flatbed that carried our Peter Pan float. She fainted on Main Street, in the middle of the parade. The takeaway lesson for some of my classmates? "The spirit of Ouija has been unleashed and is out to get us."


For years, I'd been convinced that everyone who was there that night believed that a spirit was responsible for turning on the lamp.

One night when I was home from college, I told my friend Jeff what I'd done. Jeff is a very smart guy, a high school basketball star now doing a post-doc at Yale. We've always understood each other pretty well, and I like how he seems both entertained and mystified by my choices. He has good instincts and a lot of sense.

When I explained my steps, he clapped his hands and shouted, "I knew it!" Even so, his tone was more appropriate to hearing that Verbal Kint is Kaiser Soze than the shrugging, "Yeah, of course knew that," that I expected.

Like my dad, Jeff has since tried to tell other eyewitnesses that I was responsible for the light switching on. They didn't believe him, either.

It's been awhile since I've seen a lot of the people from that night. Most of the people I still hang out with from high school either weren't there, or gave up on the incident a long time ago.

Still, there was a conversation in the last three years when I was back for Christmas or Thanksgiving, and a woman from my graduating class mentioned it. She said that she still thinks about it, and that it was the most frightening moment in her life.

"I know," I said, shaking my head and raising my eyebrows into the expression I save for serious matters. "It's crazy, what happened. I'm kind of relieved my parents moved out of that house."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The iPod was essential

I listened to Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" about six times before I clicked to Poison. I was riding the 6 train and a little bit grouchy because I knew I'd be watching soccer with someone who likes it. "Nothin' but a Good Time" came on. I bopped.

I looked up and saw that halfway down the subway car, a five-year-old Puerto Rican girl was bopping, too, dancing all-out in wedding-reception style. Periodically she swung around one of the poles. Even without music, she was feeling the beat.

Watching her antics while I listened to Poison, I saw my own awesome music video. I laughed the whole way. It looked something like this, only I was the only one with a soundtrack:

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Flop sends his regards

From an e-mail exchange reprinted and edited with Flop's permission. World Cup fans, enjoy his international flair. All editorial comments are my own:

To: Flop
From: CrimeNotes
Date: Jun 16, 2006 1:43 PM
Subject: get the fuck back here


To: CrimeNotes
From: Flop
Date: Jun 16, 2006 2:28 PM
Subject: re: get the fuck back here

I'll have lots of antics to report. Today, I went to do my laundry, the soap and paying machines ate two pounds, and I met some dude who had just flown back from Germany (where he watched England-Trinidad and Tobago) and I bought him a 59p can of cider while our clothes spun.

Then he dragged me to this youth hostel in the neighborhood called the generator, where it was pints for a pound, and now I'm using their internet room. (He's gone off to cadge a shower because he's not exactly staying here.).
Why the fuck didn't I travel through Europe when I graduated? This would be awesome if I were 22.
Some other time, I'll tell you about the New York-ophile German girl who's moving to Argentina I met. She had me doing Jager shots at 1 a.m. last Sunday.
I predict that this trip ends with Flop carrying the Avian Flu.

As to why Flop bought cider for some dude while their "clothes spun," then accompanied the guy for an off-the-books shower, I'll leave commentor Evil Girl to worry about.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Much like 2002, one of the most enjoyable things I’ve read about the World Cup this year has been Michael Davies’s running diary on The best entries have been about England’s matches, titled “England Are Pants” and “England Are Pants…Again.” Whether this is a Britishism I’m unaware of (it’s a synonym for “bad”), or simply the doing of a creative England fan (like Davies), I giggle every time I read it. So, since it is Friday, I don’t feel like starting the post series I have planned for next week, and as a homage, here are my personal rankings for the week, like Davies, in ascending order of pantsness.


Univision: So, I’ve been watching a lot of World Cup coverage on Univision. They do soccer so well that I could pretty much follow the announcers even though I don’t speak Spanish. As a bonus, hearing the rapid fire Spanish announcing interspersed with a name like, say, Schweinsteiger, is always fun.

Outdoor Drinking: In these last few days before this town reverts to the malarial swamp from whence it came, I’ve enjoyed cool, tasty beers (and less-cool, but still tasty, and blessedly free Scotch) in venues ranging from barbecues to outdoor patios at bars to my own balcony, and all of them were incredibly satisfying. Good times all around.


Washington Post Style Section: As I said before, I thoroughly enjoyed the Flag Day article and its delightfully subversive page placement. Downgraded slightly for the Reliable Source complaining about too few DC people on the People “Hottest Bachelors” list, when it’s the responsibility of people like them to hype DC bachelors! Come on, Amy and Roxanne, get cracking so this doesn’t happen again next year. And remember, that’s “Crunk” with a C.


My Office Cable Service: On Monday, I had to watch Team USA’s on Univision because I don’t get ESPN2 on my office TV. Now, I like Univision soccer coverage, but come on. All over the world, national holidays are declared on days the national team plays, and I couldn’t even watch it in a language that I speak. This would have ranked lower if I had not discovered a grainy ESPN2 feed yesterday on a channel that usually has nothing, but I still missed USA, and I’m bitter.


Washington Nationals: Got swept in a four-game series by the Colorado Rockies at home, giving up an average of 8.75 runs per game. Seriously, guys, these games were at RFK, not Coors. How does ANYBODY average almost 9 runs a game over a 4-game series there, much less the freaking Rockies? I know Bush’s Washington likes to help out faith-based organizations, but come on now. Now they get 6 straight games with the Yankees and Red Sox. Ugh.

USA Soccer: I know nothing about soccer, but watching the match, I noticed something. Every player on the US team was faster than every player on the Czech team. And none of you players or coaches could figure out a way to exploit that advantage? Eddie “The Assassin” Johnson is the only thing between you and Absolute Pants.


Congressional Republicans: For their Iraq debate stunt. Those who are not serious about the business of governing should not be allowed to do so.

Ben Roethlisberger: For his statement today, where he said he will never again ride a motorcycle without a helmet. What? Seriously, Ben, you incomprehensible idiot, the lesson you should be taking away from this is not riding a motorcycle again PERIOD.

The History Boys

The History Boys and The Colbert Report have one thing in common. Both of them understand that postmodernism has been coopted by the right. The academic doctrines that called for cultural relativity, no such thing as right and wrong, the validity of all opinions no matter how unsubstantiated -- these arguments, once embraced by hippie professors, have been coopted and abused by people with power. Intelligent design is as valid as Darwinism, and Saddam had links to Al Qaeda: nothing can be disproved if all that matters is opinion.

That's truthiness.

The History Boys starts with an unidentified, wheelchair-bound official in the British government talking about the need to persuade people to cede their rights in order to be free.

Cut to the 1980s, to a class at an English boys' school taught by an obese, opinionated teacher named Hector.

His students are the top boys, bound for Cambridge and Oxford, able to quote Auden from memory and speak fluent French. Hector believes in knowledge for the sake of pure knowledge. He sounded like a lot of the professors I had in college, whose ideal of education was based on the principle that knowing great books and understanding history would enrich your life.

But there are college entrance exams and institutional reputations. The school's headmaster hires a recent, polished Oxford grad named Irwin. Irwin doesn't care if the students' answers are logical, so long as they're unconventional. The students, at first resistant, gradually become intoxicated by his personality and his unconventional ideas. Irwin is too young to be as cynical as he is, to take as much pleasure as he does in belittling the unoriginality of teenagers. He regrets his life, and on some level envies theirs. At heart, he is a careerist: the point of his students' education is to get them into Oxford or Cambridge.

Hector, by contrast, says that there's no point to entering Oxford and Cambridge. Someday, the boys will graduate, and when the whole goal of life is entering one of the top schools, as soon as they leave they'll have nothing left.

The History Boys has a lot of big ideas -- about how to think about history, about what it means to have an education, and about how teachers' inner lives can disrupt the lives of their students.

Ultimately, it was powerful and persuasive, but it had a cumulative effect. At certain points, the classroom antics of the play's precocious students seemed lifted from Head of the Class. Often, the boys were not convincingly written. If I remember correctly, playwright Alan Bennett is about five decades removed from being a teenager, and it showed. I occasionally wondered why the show was so acclaimed.

There was another problem: The play's portrayal of its characters' sexualities -- particularly Dakin, the central student character -- was not credible. Irwin's status is ambiguous. We learn from the beginning start that Hector has a habit of fondling favored students while giving them lifts home on the motorcycle; his students react to this with a tolerant weariness, including the womanizer and the devout Christian. One of the students, Posner, is forthrightly gay, and tortured by his attraction to Dakin. Dakin, who is sleeping with the headmaster's secretary, is disgusted by Posner's attention, yet content to manipulate it for his own amusement. Much of this behavior seemed far-removed from real life.

I'm not a theater guy. I go to about two performance a year, usually one Shakespeare and one drama. I bought the tickets in April on the morning that I read a rave review in the Times. It was a coincidence that I went the week it won six Tony Awards, including Best Play. I'm a big sucker about history and academic politics, so I thought it would be a good fit.

Ultimately, I guess, it was. There were a lot of bells and whistles that I didn't buy, and a few points where I rolled my eyes. Yet by the end, I loved many of the characters, and was fundamentally moved by their fates. I don't think the play understands adolescence, but to its credit, it fully understands education. I thought about all of the great history professors that I had in college, where I hung on every word and had afternoons when it felt like my brain was on fire. Hector would be happy to know that I still think about those teachers all the time.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Portrait of the blogger as a young asshole

Editor's Note: This post isn't our usual style. Indulge me.

Most high school yearbooks are feel-good celebrations assembled by happy goodie-goodies. In the early '90s, that had been the case at my high school.

That changed my senior year.

A few nights ago I stayed up until three in the morning re-reading my senior yearbook and laughing. I was partly responsible for a lasting monument to obnoxiousness. It took potshots at all of the administrators, the teachers who crossed us, the janitor, and several students who we simply did not like.

That yearbook staff was an example of the hippie ideal of infiltrating an organization in order to subvert it. My co-editor J____* and I were backed by the funniest, most pissed off kids in school. J____ and I were pissed too, but more in a Lewis Black way than a fuck-the-man way. Not the people looking for a sentimental tribute. We were going to shoot the moon. K____ and L___ were happy to provide our backup, and abetted by an adviser who either A.) didn't give a shit or B.) was more bitter than the rest of us, we had free reign.

Essentially, we were a pack of aggressive, highly motivated teenagers with a captive audience, plenty of resources, and minimal adult supervision.

We made interesting choices. It was our policy that we would run mainly candid photos of "average" students. This did not mean that we were refusing to run pictures of good-looking, popular kids (who were, by and large, our friends) in favor of nerds -- it meant that we ran dozens of photos of people whose main interest was sitting and glaring at the camera. The book is full of this. We had no idea who those kids were, as is evidenced by many unidentified captions.

We wasted no time. On the first page, there is a collection of people in crutches, identified as "The Crutch Club." Next to them is a picture of one of our friends standing next to a well-liked teacher -- the caption reads, "Studs! Studs! Studs! Studs!" On that same page is a collection of anonymous and unrecognizable people eating tater tots -- they're labeled as "students enjoy[ing] good nutrition." Some guy who got in our camera's way is described as "a happy kid, having fun in the halls."

One theme dominating the yearbook -- photos of people sitting on benches, doing nothing. Sometimes you forget how much of high school was spent just sitting around and waiting. We accurately captured that.

In retrospect, our captions are unambiguously rude. It's startling to realize that somebody's grandchild is going to pick this up to see their young ancestor mocked. Mocked by me and J____.

Someone standing in front of a green bulletin board is labeled "the Jolly Green Giant." People are called "genetic counterparts." Basketball fans hold a sign that says "Tame Those Pussys" [sic], a photo that we ineffectively tried to censor with a water-based marker. We have a caption where someone "is ignored by her schoolmates," one saying that someone "is never up to anything," a "confused" janitor, "junior boys going hog wild," kids who "ponder what love is all about," someone who "tickles her friends with a really, really funny knock-knock joke," someone who "suffers from the ravaging effects of really, really dry skin," someone who "cheerfully displays his lovely mouth and throat," a "mere prom peasant," "a really wonderful pep assembly," "a desperately pathetic attempt to look hip," a teacher who "finds inner peace amidst the tranquility of the boiler room," pictures of head-shaving, and frequent, repeated, nonsensical and inapplicable usage of the word "tough" and the phrase "always up to something."

The Vice Principal is "always on the lookout for punks, deviants, miscreants, troublemakers, hoodlums, smartmouths, weirdos, rabble-rousers, truants, class-cutters and anarchists." The Christmas Assembly (one of my many contributions to life at that school) had gifts that "included The Jingle Cats Christmas album, which featured felines meowing to Christmas songs, and fire logs, which are pre-fabricated wood that makes for easy yuletide fires."

The phrase "stop coming home drunk" appears. A friend and I manipulated a senior poll to ensure that Tom Wolfe's LSD-drenched The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was listed as a favorite book.

And we had scandal, when one of our attention-starved staffers attempted to stuff the ballot box to win the title of Most Likely to Hit a Deer. J____ and I caught this before the fraud made it into print.

We took polls. We asked the sophomores who they most admired. Their choices were Martin Luther King, the vice principal, Nancy Kerrigan, Marcia Clarke, Bill Clinton, Rush Limbaugh and Shannon Doherty. Martin Luther King won in a landslide, though with only 59% of the vote.

True, I was an asshole through most of high school. If I listed the obnoxious things that I did in my junior and senior years (an in-progress Homecoming float denouncing our principal was rightfully vetoed by a teacher, even if I didn't go down without a fight) this yearbook wouldn't crack the top 10. Back home at Christmas, I still apologize for the psychological scars left 10 years ago.

But those things won't sit on somebody's bookshelf for a decade. They're fodder for bar conversations, or else archived on VHS tapes safely hidden in my parents' basement.

Maybe it's a sign of maturity that I'm moderately embarrassed that some teenagers from the rural Upper Midwest have been permanently chronicled as tater-tot loving retards and unloved layabouts.

Moderately embarrassed, but not too embarrassed to share it on this blog.

*We're hyper about our anonymity. Editing out the common first name of an old high school classmate may be a little excessive, but I'll stick to policy.