Sunday, July 30, 2006

Extreme heat and excessive socializing make for lousy blogging

This is the first time in nine nights when I'm not at some kind of bar or party. The oddly busy social calendar has been keeping me off the blog.

While I've been enjoying myself greatly, those nights haven't provided postworthy material. Nevertheless, happy 29th birthday to HMQ2K5; to certain others, I'm sure you passed the bar exam, so chill; and I forbid the rest of you to leave for either California or the Middle East.

Speaking of which, I have no useful insights, other than to wonder whether Israel is Sal and Lebanon is Radio Raheem. (Further thoughts are available here.)

Similarly weighty insights:
  • As much as Joe Lieberman deserves to lose, on a personal level I feel damn sorry for the guy. Like others before him, he's his own worst enemy.
  • I've always associated Mel Gibson with David Hasselhoff. Maybe as a kid, Road Warrior and Knight Rider seemed like first cousins. Hasselhoff clearly has grown up to be the more respectable of the two.
  • Mike Bloomberg is another tool. After reading this, no one to the left of Alberto Gonzalez should defend him.
  • This message board thread on The Hold Steady's upcoming fall release isn't much to go by, but it's enough to make me excited.
  • Hey, I've invented two new emoticons. (_I_) is when someone is being an ass. [Update: this apparently has been discovered already. Curses! -CN.] de(in)ed is a new way to write the word "indeed." Maybe that's not an emoticon, but I think I'm pretty smart.
  • I wrote about it awhile back, but Hey Jenny Slater is truly an excellent site. He alternates between SEC football and some well thought-out posts about subjects like Iran. There's nothing more boring than a predictable blog, but like many of my other favorites, Doug is interested in just about everything.
  • I've been wanting to write about Baghdad Girl but haven't found the right moment or words. Click through and see for yourself.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Utopia on the Danube

While I'll try not to regale you with too many tales of my travels, I would like to share one important Eureka moment I had while in Vienna.

There's just something strangely familiar, yet not recognizeable at all about that city. I spent my three days there trying to lay my finger on exactly what it reminded me of. For sure, it wasn't any American city. Nowhere in the U.S. can anyone find such a confluence of friendly, well-educated and happy resisdents; excellent public transport via bus, tram, subway and commuter rail; and such clean, well-maintained streets and buildings.

I was mulling all this on the morning of my second day in town as I walked past the entrance to the Schwedenplatz U-Bahn station. I happened to look up and saw a small, but wide pedestrian street named Hafnersteig. I immediately took a picture, thinking there could be nothing cooler than a street, no matter how inconsequential, named for Travis Hafner. I thought to myself If I were mayor, I'd totally do that. Wait a minute: If I were mayor ...

It hit me. Vienna was just a real version of every town 've ever been happy to have created in SimCity. Of course. It all made sense now. The excellent transit. The joie de vivre (OK: Lebensfreude) amongst the populace. A bigass park. Things named for shit I like. Vienna is what I've had in mind any time I've Goldie Wilsoned a city of ones and zeroes.

I continued walking along the Ringstrasse, giddily satisfied to have solved the mystery, hoping Michael Hรคupl set disasters to "off," lest my vacation be marred by a totally preventable UFO or Godzilla attack.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Welcome back, asshole

From: CrimeNotes
Jul 24, 2006 11:23 AM
Subject: wow

Your punching bruised up my arm pretty bad. Thanks for that.
From: Flop
To: CrimeNotes
Cc: HMQ2K5
Date: Jul 24, 2006 7:08 PM
Subject: Re: wow

It's not my fault you're a such a daisy.
Besides, wasn't the punching in retaliation for you doing something to me?
From: CrimeNotes
Jul 24, 2006 9:37 PM
Subject: Re: wow

Fucking hell.

I wish i could quit you.
From: Flop
To: CrimeNotes
Cc: HMQ2K5
Date: Jul 24, 2006 10:50 PM
Subject: Re: wow

For someone who used to get so skittish at anything within shouting distance of gay, you sure are prancing about lately. First your impromptu feather-boa jazzercise, then the man bag and the capri pants, now this.
From: CrimeNotes
Jul 24, 2006 11:02 PM
Subject: Re: wow

Great. Fall down on your ass at some chick's birthday party then get a bag to carry work shit, and all hell breaks loose.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Farewell to Queens

After four years in New York's least-fancied and least fancy borough, I'm about to become a resident of Manhattan again. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this yet.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not ambivalent about my new place (very nice and well-located, with a roof made for grilling and late-night hooting and/or hollering). And I'm not at all ambivalent about my new roommate, a good friend with whom I have dwelt before.

What has me conflicted is leaving overlooked, middle-child Queens for the glittering canyons of Manhattan. I feel like a minor turncoat, as if I've spurned the girl next door for the leggy captain of the soccer team. Sure, I'm making a choice I'm happy with, but what I'm giving up is not insubstantial. That said, this isn't really a lament, it's just an update.

My friends and place of business will be closer. I won't be prisoner to subway vagaries that include different lines serving my stop at different times of day, too-frequent weekends without service in one direction and a G train which seems scheduled by the insane. I won't have to explain to people not from here where Astoria is, while they nod and say "Oh, OK" as if I've suddenly started speaking in Finnish.

On the other hand, I'll be paying more in rent. I'll no longer smugly be able to leave my house an hour before my plane is scheduled to leave LaGuardia, or 30 minutes before the first pitch at Shea. The best Thai food in the city (don't just take my word _ Romania can't get enough, either) no longer will be a phone call away. The Greek cafes on Broadway or the Czech beer garden near Astoria Boulevard will require special trips.

I don't look forward to telling the staff at the laundromat in my neighborhood that I'm leaving, and not only because I'm not quite sure how to say it in Spanish. The Columbian bakery, home of the 90-cent cafe con leche, with the milk properly hot and the coffee properly strong? Might as well be in Medellin.

If, when winter comes I want one, I'll be left to shell out four times as much for a crappier drink at Starbucks if I want something remotely similar. And the Columbian hot chocolate, made with cinnamon and spices and poured out of a battered tin pitcher ... well, let's just say I don't think that quite comes with your tabletop s'mores kit at Cosi.

I'll miss my immigrant-run bodegas, all four of them (Korean, middle Eastern, Dominican and south Asian, each with its own subtle variations in its selection of beverages, newspapers and familiar customers). I won't be able to, on a whim, go to the local Irish bar and gamble at the OTB on the second floor. I will no longer walk past the door of the "social club" on the corner, peering in for a look at the crusty, vaguely menacing old men sipping beer and playing cards. There will be no more marveling at the old butcher shops that still cater to sturdy immigrant women with itchy-looking dresses and handcarts they aren't afraid to use as weapons. No more curbside haggling with black-cab drivers in their clattering old Town Cars.

I'm leaving this whole shabbily loveable patchwork behind for the starched shirts and swept streets of Manhattan.

I know it's for a number of good reasons, and I'm definitely looking forward to living with a good friend and former roommate. I'm excited to be moving to a bigger apartment, with a better location and, yes, better roofdeck (though I'll miss the scene from my own _ watching planes lazily spiral to Earth at three airports with the Manhattan skyline and East River bridges as a backdrop). And even though the knowledge that I'll be able to walk to the greenmarket at Union Square is one of those things yuppies spring granite-countertop hard boners when they're discussing their apartments over a round of lychee-tinis at Spice Market, I'm sufficiently eager to get good produce without the intervention of FreshDirect that I'm going to overlook that confluence, and I know you will too. I'm excited to be moving to Manhattan, and it's definitely time for me to move, but at the same time, I feel like a small part of me is being left behind.

I know in my head that this is a good move, a move that is highly likely to make me happier and my life easier and more rewarding. My heart just hasn't caught up yet.

This isn't a lament, just an update.

Monday, July 24, 2006

...Like the Fat Kid in Dodgeball

Well, with the return of Flop (incidentally, frequent fellow commentor Tommy O and I were just discussing the other day that we hadn't heard from him in a while, and were hoping he had not ended up in an Eastern European prison...while simultaneously hoping he would bring back a Magyar woman looking for a green card marriage, instead of a Hungarian guide book...but alas), it appears as though my usefulness here has ended.

Anyway, thanks a lot, I had fun, and if the idea I'm kicking around to start up my own blog--which will give me an outlet to obsess over the impending minutia of Election '08, post the pale-impression-of-Digby thinkpieces I've been working on, and allow me to mock the free-to-be-eight-and-three 2006 Michigan Wolverines in peace--comes to fruition, CSB will be first on my blogroll.

It may happen, it may not. If not, I'm still taking applications for my team for the next World Series of Pop Culture. Look for me, my roommate, and a third person yet to be named (although we're considering Flop, since he and I have past televised trivia competition experience together) next year. We'll either be called "Donna Martin Graduates!" or "Little Lebowski Urban Achievers."

Until then, go Buckeyes.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

New York, Magyar style

This was printed in 2001.

Co-blogger Flop is back from his travels in Eastern Europe. His gift to me? A Hungarian travel guide to New York, which, in itself, is awesome. But the cover's unconscious homage to Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, made it even more worthwhile.

Apparently, this is what Hungarians think of when they think of New York. And I love every part of this.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The joys of The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Until it began its recent rotation on HBO, I missed the boat on one of the great movie comedies.

What are the great comedies, and what makes them great? My list of favorites is very short: Animal House, Caddyshack, the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, Groundhog Day, Risky Business, and now, The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

I watch these movies over and over. I think I've seen The 40-Year-Old Virgin four times in three weeks, and with Animal House also in heavy rotation on HBO, I've watched it three times in the last month. These viewings usually happen late at night on weekends, when I come home drunk and rambunctious to see that, joy of joys, one of these movies is airing. Staying awake until 4 a.m. seems like a good choice.

These movies have common qualities. They're all about people living outside of a conventional system who are forced to fight some combination of privilege and cynicism. The short narrative: an oppressed group or person is forced into conflict. A culture clash ensues. Our protagonists win either by unleashing spectacular anarchy (Animal House, Caddyshack, Risky Business, Duck Soup) or making peace with themselves (Groundhog Day, The 40-Year-Old Virgin).

No one can confuse them with The Battle of Algiers, but on some level, they're idea movies about class conflict and the path to enlightenment. They're as distant from Ace Ventura as they are from The Best Years of Our Lives.

Another common trait that rewards repeat viewing: Every minor character is flawlessly rendered. These movies are populated by complete people. Groundhog Day is Bill Murray's movie, but in one short scene you understand Ned Ryerson's entire life.

Animal House
and The 40-Year-Old Virgin best exemplify this. There are probably 20 characters in Animal House that, at different points, reward your complete attention. Marion Wormer only gets a couple of minutes of screentime, but you recognize her as a bored housewife in a loveless marriage with the authoritarian dean, an ageing hottie, a character who would be at home in a novel by Philip Roth or John Updike who only needs the slightest prompting to fuck the system by fucking a recognizably sleazy fratboy.

Why do these minor characters add so much here, while, in a movie like American Pie, they're a forgettable, throw-away presence? When they succeed, the writers, directors and actors love their people and take the care to flesh them out. They have tics and inner lives. In American Pie -- a movie I despise for its glibness, cruelty and cynicism -- there are no people, only vehicles that carry a mildly unamusing payoff or plot development.

Which brings me to The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I thought it would be American Pie, but instead it's Groundhog Day. The admittedly lame premise is just our excuse to spend time with wonderful and recognizeable people.

Nowhere is the attention to detail more on display in the heavily-advertised scene where Andy (truly, in a just world, Steve Carell would have been nominated for Best Actor) receives a chest-waxing.

In the TV ads, this scene looked like a one-off gross-out joke, like Ben Stiller zipping his balls in There's Something About Mary. And sure, it has that quality, but the scene is also sublime in its goofiness.

Playing the role of the beautiful loser, Andy is surrounded by his well-wishing friends as the no-nonsense Waxing Lady starts her handiwork. At first he smiles beatifically while his friends crack wise. We watch as his facial expressions transition from the naive optimist hoping for a new beginning to a hilariously pained victim. He unleashes a torrent of profanity, then is immediately embarrased at his impropriety. His pain and terror purge in hilariously nonsensical obscenities -- "Gaaaaw, suckamuck, you shitter, oh I hate you!" "Fuuuuuck me in the assho-ho-ho-hole -- wowie, I'm sorry, I really don't swear this much." "Dooooh, nipplefuck, you should burn in hell." -- that alternate with apologies, optimism and bewilderment.

Why does it rise to something better than a gross-out joke? By the time of the scene, we have a feel for Andy and his friends. The incident isn't a set-up. Carell's mood swings feel pitch-perfect, and his sympathetic but entertained friends are along for the ride.

Like my favorite comedies, every small character is a real person with likeable qualities and inner lives. Amy, the ex-girlfriend of Paul Rudd's character, is on screen for a few seconds, but she speaks credibly for every woman fed up with a guy who can't take a hint. Paula, Andy's masculine, blunt, Michael McDonald-loving boss, is at turns frightening and wholly endearing.

In the hilarious speed-dating sequence, every small character is a real person with complicated motives and histories, not just an easy-joke punchline.

It gets the small details right. Bored guys kill time by smashing burned-out fluorescent lights behind their workplace. They denigrate each others' sexual prowess while playing videogames. Catherine Keener's character has completely authentic arguments with her daughter about teenage sex.

And this is the key point: The slapstick sequences work even better because the characters' quirks and motivations are so believable. Would we give a shit about Andy's sex life, or the Faber College homecoming parade, if the filmmakers hadn't taken so much care in bringing their people to life?

Contrast this with Swingers, a good movie, but one where Jon Favreau's loserness seems too overdrawn to be relatable, and Vince Vaughn's swagger is just a good actor having fun. I like Swingers, and I like Anchorman, but they're two comedies that jump at easy targets without caring about motivation.

Good comedies make the leap to greatness not just because their characters do funnier things, but because we understand why they're doing funnier things.

I should have expected this from Judd Apatow, whose short-lived Fox series Undeclared was one of the best comedies ever broadcast. I think that the combination of The Forty-Year-Old Virgin's marketing and its title led me to expect a series of half-baked jokes and a plot that would wear thin after 20 minutes.

But by the time that Apatow regular Loudon Wainwright makes his cameo appearance at the movie's conclusion, this cheerful, observant, and very funny movie has run the table and shot the moon. It could run longer than Lord of the Rings without getting old.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

30 is the new 21

In 2006-07, Flop, many of our featured friends and I will turn 30. A few months ago it was BPDHMQ2K6's turn, and this week I made a rare Wednesday appearance at Professor Thom's for the 30th of blog posterboy and drinking partner Brian (pictured below). Luminaries in attendance included Original Jeff, Backup Jeff, Tertiary Jeff, Brooklyn Danielle, High School Dave, and Kickball Girl. Vanessa was one of several attendees who lack a nickname.

I was honored that several strangers remembered me from a party appearance last fall. I arrived at that event in quite a condition. Flop and I were going through a stage where we liked to whoop, then shout, "Roll Tide!" I did it quite a lot that night, and many people I don't remember now think of me as the Roll Tide guy. Sad that I don't even like SEC teams.

Brian's longtime girlfriend HMQ2K5 made a cake, and since it was a weeknight I was on good behavior. Brian stayed classy given the occasion.

I have 67 days before I hit 30. It's a night that will probably end ugly.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

All News Is Good News...If You're a Republican

This morning I started a little experiment. I went out looking for reactions in the press to the whupping handed to former Christian Coalition head, Abramoff buddy, and third-place winner in a Rick Santorum lookalike contest Ralph Reed. Reed was running for lieutenant governor of Georgia, and, given his connection to Abramoff and others, Reed losing (and badly, 56-44) is a big deal. I expected at least to see stories talking about how this is an example of how Republicans are in trouble in the fall, much as we saw stories a month ago that Francine Busby’s loss in the special election for Duke Cunningham’s seat illustrates that the issue of massive Republican corruption is not helping the Democrats.

I mean, there should be such stories, right? Reed was a shoo-in who lost entirely due to his massive corruption. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots, does it?

I checked the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal stories. Both of them were pretty straight news stories, which is fine. The election was yesterday, and it usually takes a couple of days to produce election analysis.

Then I got to the New York Times. You know, the “liberally biased” (as we’re endlessly told) New York Times? What did the Times have to say?

"Mr. Reed's candidacy was viewed as a test of the effects of the Washington lobbying scandal on core Republican voters."
All right, here it comes. And how did that test come out?

Well, they don’t mention that. They don’t have any insight into whether turnout was down, and, if so, why (disgust with corruption?). They don’t have any insight into whether that test was passed or failed at all. Nothing. Just that passive declaration that it was viewed as a test (by whom?).

But, surely they made some sort of extrapolation...

But some Democrats actually rooted for Mr. Reed, believing that he would be prove to be a liability for the incumbent Republic governor, Sonny Perdue, and that he would have been easier to defeat.

"It may mean that Democrats lose the lieutenant governor's race," said William Boone, a political science professor at Clark-Atlanta University. "It certainly takes away the issue of corruption that the Democrats nationally have been using."
WHAT? So now, this is bad for the Democrats? A Democrat loses, and it's bad for the Democrats. A Republican loses...and it's still bad for the Democrats???

Is it even possible for ANY outcome to happen in anything that won't be viewed by the press as bad for Democrats?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

News about The Hold Steady

My favorite working band, The Hold Steady, will release its new album "Boys and Girls in America" on October 3. The title refers to the opening lines of the first track, "Stuck Between Stations" -- "There are nights when I think Sal Paradise was right./Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together." Having heard the song performed live twice, and, according to iTunes, having played an acoustic mp3 of it (available here) 45 times, it would be an understatement to say that I'm excited that I'll have the full neck-grabbing version of the song a few days after I turn 30.

The next ten years will be good to me.

The second track, "Chips Ahoy," is some of the most raucous hard-rocking since AC/DC hit its prime.

From what I saw and heard at their last two shows in New York, the new album won't be as thematically intense as "Separation Sunday," veering instead toward the direction of rowdy fun.

Here is the new track list:

01 Stuck Between Stations
02 Chips Ahoy!
03 Hot Soft Light
04 Same Kooks
05 First Night
06 Party Pit
07 You Can Make Him Like You
08 Massive Night
09 Citrus
10 Chillout Tent
11 Southtown Girls

Dyspeptic Crunk Corner: Outdoor Film Festivals

Last night was the first night of Screen on the Green, Washington’s version of the old-movie-played-outdoors-in-large-public-place summer evening activity that I know New York has, and I would assume that other cities like Boston, Philly, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. do too.

I hate Screen on the Green.

It’s practically blasphemy around this town to say it, but it’s true. It sucks.

In theory, it’s a spectacular idea. You head home from work, grab a blanket and a picnic dinner, and spend the evening lounging under the stars surrounded by the monuments. But that’s not how it actually is. In reality SotG (not to be confused with SoaP) involves getting there no later than 5:30 for a movie that starts at 9:30, and sitting on the ground for hours only to see a usually-second-rate movie (some 1953 musical is on tap for next week), then trudge to the jam-packed metro (although this has gotten better since I first moved here. The screen used to be just west of the Washington Monument, near the White House, but was moved when they decided to pave over that section of the Mall, but don’t get me started about that).

Oh, and there’s one other thing. It’s freaking hot. It was still 85 degrees at 10 pm last night, and that’s not at all unusual for DC in July.

Now, some might be wondering why I am even ranting about this. Just don’t go, you say. Well, that’s what I try to do, but every year I end up having a version of this conversation (it happened just yesterday):

Well-Meaning Friend: I’m getting people together to go to Screen on the Green tonight. You interested?

Crunk: Not really, but thanks.

WMF: Why not?

Crunk: I don’t particularly like Screen on the Green.

WMF: WHAT? How could you not like Screen on the Green?

Crunk: I just don’t. It always seems like more trouble than it’s worth.

WMF then walks away muttering, “I can’t believe he doesn’t like Screen on the green, it’s the best part of a Washington summer.”

But I’m not here just to complain. I think the idea of Screen on the Green is worth saving, and lord knows the interns and poor young staffers of Washington need more decent cheap date options. It just needs some adjustments. Here are my proposals:
  1. No Mondays!: Mondays, by far, are both the hardest days to organize people to go out on, and the least fun days to go out. Mondays are out, with one exception (which I’ll get to later). In its place, we’re going to go with Tuesdays.
  2. No July!: It’s just way too hot in July to be sitting out there for hours. We need to move the run back to the middle of May to the middle of June. It’s still warm then, but not unbearable.
  3. Exception to the Monday rule: If we start in mid-may, the second or third week will be the day after Memorial Day. That week we actually run a trilogy (say, Star Wars), with Star Wars the Sunday night, Empire on Monday, and Jedi on Tuesday. The tourists will love it.
  4. Crowd Control: By now, I’ve made SotG more comfortable and more tourist-friendly, which means that there will be even more people. But that’s where I come to my next point. More screens. The current screen sits on the west side of 4th Street, facing west, and the SotG area consists of there to the next cross street, 7th Street. Why not put another screen facing east at 7th? While we’re at it, put two screens on the sides, too, on the steps of the National Gallery of Art and the National Air and Space Museum (note: both the NGA and Air and Space are close at 7 on Tuesdays, so the screens won’t block the doors). That way, you can increase the number of people, and still have everyone sitting closer to a screen than those poor bastards sitting two blocks away are now.
  5. Seating Sections: Set up special designated sections for the people in the lawn chairs, so they don’t block the view of the people sitting on the ground.

See, with just a few modifications, we can improve Screen on the Green, and make sure that the sweaty, awkward intern-on-intern gropings that result therefrom are not nearly as sweaty (yet still awkward) as they otherwise will be.

More to the point, we only have so much time to make it bearable before the much-anticipated 2008 (or so) SotG showing of SoaP.

Monday, July 17, 2006

This cat is poised to ruin your day

Meet Jeff the cat.

Jeff the cat practices the scariest, most thrilling violence since Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.

This is not a joke.

His caretakers have a site that chronicles Jeff's exploits. They explain:
Though he doesn't really belong to us, we provide Jeff with food and water; however, this does little to lessen his killer instinct. To humans, Jeff is an exceptionally good-tempered and friendly cat; to rodents and other small animals, he is death itself.

It could be that Jeff likes to bring us gifts to repay our hospitality. Perhaps he is simply a hardwired killing machine. All we know for certain is that he hunts down a wide variety of small animals and disembowels, decapitates, and dines on them. Often.
Oh, Jeff is a hardwired killing machine. His very existence is the proof that there is no line between your purring tabby and the law of the jungle.

He is the most creative killer to ever stalk a lawn. With rodent parts, he is Jackson Pollack and Salvador Dali combined. He appears to have a very dark sense of humor.

This is a warning. This is not me being cute. It is an actual warning about graphic content.

If you click here you will see pictures of Jeff behaving like a casual housecat. But your eyes will be drawn to the links at left -- "The Kills." And you will click on one because you are curious, and then you will fear all cats. You will not believe your eyes. And if you are at work, you may quite possibly throw up on your keyboard.

Why am I writing about this?

Because I think I love the site, the same way I love old slasher movies and the George Romero zombie classics.

Because Jeff mixes horror and hilarity more effectively than Shaun of the Dead.

Because I'm not very classy.

Because I am generally not a fan of cats, and in a matter of seconds Jeff taught me about fear.

(Discovered via Sploid.)

Faded glory is still a hell of a thing

VIENNA, Austria (CSB) _ This former seat of the Habsburg throne is filled with some of the finest architecture, music and art the Western World has ever seen. Of course, despite having extended my stay here by one day (I'm off to the eastern capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire in a few short hours) I've seen almost none of that. The weather has been so perfect, every time I wanted to enter a musem, I found myself wanting to go lie on the lush grass in front of the Hofburg. So what have I done? Well ...

  • Given directions to a group of Italian tourists (in English) withing minutes after getting off the train. I did use the one recent Italian word I learned, campioni. That got a smile and a pat on the back. At which point, I fell to the sidewalk, writhing in agony and clutching my face. At which point the local polizei came and carted the gent off to Viennese jail. Which is probably immaculate, well-designed and serves coffee, complete with a little glass of water and three sugar cubes.
  • Realized that not only is my German adequate for most simple transactions, but that it's a ridiculously fun language to speak, provided you do so with enough enthusiasm.
  • Went to an heuriger, which is a kind of country wine tavern very popular here. Imagine a well-kept Dominic's, with well-heeled Austrians ordering hearty local fare from a counter and carafes of the tavern's own wine from sturdy teutonic matrons. So, nothing like Dominic's, other than the opportunity to sit outside at (clean, splinter-free) picnic tables underneath trees and scratch your feet in the gravel as the wine settles in.
  • Got my heart broken by a Slovenian diplomat. OK, so that's exaggerating a bit. But getting rejected next to the Staatsoper, as I did, was one of the prettiest Heismans of my life. I got over it pretty quickly, because the diplomat and spent the rest of our final night in Vienna drinking at a sort of outdoor Taste of Vienna type thing in front of the city hall, then ambled back to her place through near-silent streets before I said goodbye and went home. It sounds like some sort of stupid, agonizing, chaste romance for Christian kids, probably called "Before Midnight." But being in Vienna definitely took a lot of the sting out of things.
  • Purchased a T-shirt for an Australian colleague with a kangaroo silhouette and the words "No Kangaroos in Australia."

Sunday, July 16, 2006


One year ago today Flop authored the quintessential Cole Slaw Blog post. The site had been around for about five months already, but July 16, 2005 was when it found its voice.

It was the date of a post about eating melons, which segued into a comment war about squirrel taxonomy. If there's anything that this site has brought to the world, it's posts about weird topics that devolve into even stranger comments.

For the record, your thoughts about fruit and rodents are always welcome in our comments.

Friday, July 14, 2006

10 things I expect to hear soon

My co-blogger Flop has been abroad for a long time. Shockingly, some people are looking forward to his return. Here are 10 utterances that I anticipate are imminent:
  1. We have a Soho in London, too.
  2. Sorry dude, I only get my news from BBC.
  3. The beer in Eastern Europe is so much better than the beer at dba.
  4. Hey, are you gonna finish those frites, or is sand in your vagina?
  5. Dude, I got you an Etros shirt! (sniffs nose loudly)
  6. Budapest is like Brooklyn, only Hungarian girls have these amazing racks
  7. Architecture in the East Village is banal.
  8. That's why I showered with a bunch of old Romanians.
  9. I won't eat anything that's been pasteurized.
  10. Dude, pretty ladies in Albania wanted some of this. (Grabs crotch.)


A week after one of our posts got linked by Gawker, Cole Slaw Blog's quasi-permanent guest-blogger Crunk Raconteur has been linked by the official site of Open Source, Christopher Lydon's daily public radio show, one that I download as a podcast daily. Crunk's post is in illustrious company, part of a list that includes writings from the Harvard International Review, The New York Times and Slate.

It was a post about soccer, so while my feelings are understandably mixed, it's also nice when a site read by fewer than 100 people daily gets attention from the big kids.

Notwithstanding the recent, relatively modest attention, we promise not to become trendy or fancy.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

But...but...She Weighed the Same as a Duck!

I give my home state a lot of grief around here, so in the interest of balance I started writing a post about something bizarre that just happened in my current home commonwealth (that one’s for Flop. If I had called Virginia a state, he would have had to post a transatlantic comment to correct me).

But, in the end, I’m now officially scared out of my wits.

Anyway, it turns out that my governor, Tim Kaine, pardoned a witch on Monday. Yes, this past Monday, July 10, 2006. Pardoned a witch.

Wait, I have to be able to find a better witch picture than this...
Apparently, 300 years ago, a woman named Grace Sherwood from Pungo, just south of Virginia Beach, was the only person in Virginia history who was ever convicted via a “witch ducking trial.” And what is a witch ducking trial? I’m glad you asked. In a witch ducking trial, the accused’s thumbs are tied to her feet (and for good measure, a 13-pound bible is tied around her neck), and she is tossed into a river. If she floats, she’s a witch. If she does not, she’s innocent, although, obviously, she has other problems at that point. Well, Grace apparently wriggled out of the ropes underwater and swam back to the surface, at which point she was sent to prison. She was eventually released, but remained a convicted witch until she was pardoned on Monday, in a nice little proclamation by Governor Kaine.
"With 300 years of hindsight, we all certainly can agree that trial by water is an injustice," Kaine wrote.
Well, yeah, but remember, the Bush Administration is still in charge. We may be back to this stuff sooner than you think. In fact, aren’t they already doing it at Gitmo?

Now that's more like it...

But, this brings me to why I’m so scared. This, also from the article about the pardon:

Sherwood beat back most of the accusations -- she was hauled into court at least 12 times -- but what finally did her in was the discovery of two moles on her upper ody. "This was evidence that she was in league with the devil," Nash said. "So she agreed to be tried by water."

As it happens, I also have two moles on my upper body. Even worse, I have two moles on my face. That, coupled with a government in the throes of religious hysteria, not exactly tolerant of those who dissent, and generally predisposed to show trials (speaking of which, excellent work, Supreme Court) and inhumane punishments has me more that a little scared.

At the very least, I won’t be taking a vacation to Virginia Beach.

Flop checks in from the road

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (CSB) _ I think my final verdict on Prague won't come until I'm on the train leaving it, and I think I'm going to like it, even though I think the best way to see it is as a 22-year-old backpacker. Prague is almost everything I thought it would be (but smaller and more walkable) and a lot of things I didn't expect. For one, it's HOT here. Temperatures have been in the high 80s, and probably hit 90 my first day in town. I assumed it was just the heat on the tarmac (yes, I got to fly a random state airline, and yes, I got miles for it.) The communist-built Metro is like Washington's but prettier and colder. (And mercifully uncarpeted).

Most everything else in this town dates from the 12th century onward. It's utterly fascinating, as long as the German or American tourists don't run you over. I admit, I was pretty shocked by the crowds. My experience with European capitals has been limited to London and Paris. In both cities I speak the language, blend in to some degree and always get asked for directions. That hasn't happened here. For one thing, everyone's reading maps in the middle of the street. For another, I'm wearing the one pair of shorts I brought with me _ purchased at a surf shop in Hilton Head. They're khaki in color and cargo in nature. I'm a tourist. But it's OK, I think. A friend who was also traveling here (she was in Europe to cover the World Cup, in a happy coincidence) explained to me that Florence was even more crowded in the summer. I really like Prague, but I think I'll try Italy in the low season.

Then there's the lanugage barrier. I refuse to march up to someone in his or her hometown and address them in a foreign language. Even (and especially) if said language is rapidly becoming the world's lingua franca. Unfortunately, my standard "dobry den" usually gets a flurry of Czech in reply. At which point I have to sheepishly ask if they speak English. Of course, most Czechs do, and well, and sometimes I wonder why I bothered.

I haven't decided which bit of town is my favorite so far, but Prague Castle, the tower at the Old Town Hall and the Charles Bridge, especially when viewed from a riverbank cafe, with a cold Pilsener Urquell in front of me) all are up there. I searched high and low for a portable version of one of the castle windows, so Crimenotes and I can re-enact my favorite bit of Habsburg history at the bar, but no soap so far. Incidentally, that aforementioned beer was the most expensive I've had in town _ it ran my 55 Kc. Which in 'merican dollars is about ... two. Usually beers are about $1.25 here, as they were at the beer hall which is the home of the original Budweiser. You'd pay four times that in New York and get something about 40 times less good.

Speaking of beer, I think it's about time I stop using my CSB expense account on internet access and start spending it on more of that golden nectar whch can actually be cheaper than water here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I want to headbutt you

I would watch this sport.

It disturbs me that the only interesting moment in the World Cup is the subject of controversy.

Some Frenchman did a headbutt and you'd think the world is coming to an end.


Who among us does not love to headbutt?

It's one of my favorite ways to annoy my friends via head. It's more intrusive than petting their hair but puts you at less risk of disease than trying to lick them. It's hygenic, intrusive and never fails to get a reaction.

What's not to love?

In football and hockey, fuckers get concussions. They slam to the ground and bang heads all the time.

I grew up liking headbutts. I've enjoyed them ever since I was a professional wrestling fan in third grade. I no longer like pro wrestling. But you know what I do like? Headbutts.

Legalize them, and maybe I'll like soccer, too.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I read too much

This summer I've been binge-reading at least as much as I've been binge-drinking. When I'm off work there's usually a beer in my hand, a book in my hand, or both.

What follows is a stupid exercise. You can't summarize great books in a few sentences, but I've come to recognize that multi-part reviews aren't very sexy. You get this instead.


Play it As it Lays, by Joan Didion. Superlatives get tired, so when a book is called a classic you figure that's bullshit. This book deserves to be classic. Didion appropriates the allusiveness of Hemingway and predates Carver, she makes Southern California seem more sinister than Short Cuts and Chandler, she writes a brutal and bestial and scorching book about the wreckage of a minor actress who destroys everything she touches. Sometimes saying too much ruins a book. This is a book best appreciated with bourbon on the rocks, a warning, and no advance information.


Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell. I wanted to buy his Cloud Atlas, but I didn't see it in my repeated trips to The Strand, so I picked up his new one instead. It's the story of a thirteen-year-old living in an English village. He has literary aspirations, his parents' marriage is in disarray, he is bewildered and rattled by everything. Mitchell is Britain's hot new writer, but the book doesn't amount to anything very special. He persuasively establishes his narrator without finding any bigger truths. Sometimes that's good enough, and if the book doesn't break new ground, it's enjoyable anyway.

Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky. Here's one of the great might-have-beens: Nemirovsky wrote two novella-length sections of a planned five-part novel about France under Nazi occupation. The first section focuses on elite Parisians fleeing to the countryside at the onset of German occupation, and the second is about French villagers coping with Germans who occupy their town and are boarded in their homes. Nemirovsky wrote amid the occupation, and before she finished the book, she was seized by the Nazis and sent to her death in Auschwitz. Already, she was a major literary figure in France, and her fate adds poignancy to the book's skepticism of elites' acquiescence to the German invaders. The book succeeds in its own terms, but you glimpse the way she planned to mingle her characters and plots, and it's hard not to think that had she lived, she would have written a masterpiece.

The Stranger, by Albert Camus. Dumb to describe one of the 20th Century's great novels in a paragraph, but you'll either read this book or you won't, and my opinion shouldn't mean shit. During the first half, I thought I was reading one of the great books of my life -- a parable about French colonialism in Algeria and the inhumanity it bred. The Plague is one of my favorite books, and if I were in a more ambitious mood, I'd write a post about Camus and Iraq. But I'm not in an ambitious mood.

When We Were Orphans, by Kazuo Ishiguro. His most recent book, Never Let Me Go, made me stay up late, fall down backwards, roll around, cry for awhile, swallow my tongue, do 100 push-ups, and paint my apartment black. When We Were Orphans didn't make me do those things, but it's still very good -- the story of a British kid who grows up in Shanghai when suddenly his parents go missing. As an adult he lives in London, where, Bruce Wayne-style, he becomes a socialite and crimefighter. Still obsessed with his parents' disappearance, he returns to Shanghai during its Japanese occupation, believing that he can rescue them. Like Never Let Me Go, it's a story about repression and regret, and an adult who remains obsessed with what happened when he was young.

The Line of Beauty, by Alan Hollinghurst. A big gay Great Gatsby set in Margaret Thatcher's London, Nick Guest leaves Oxford and is taken in by the alluring family of a Conservative Member of Parliament. Nick likes dudes, so he humps a few in the book, but the real fireworks are in Hollinghurst's elaborate descriptions of what's left of London's elite society and the cruel stupidity of Thatcher's politics. Hollinghurst assembles convincing characters and lets them loose. Like Gatsby, it doesn't end pretty.

Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. The perfect book to give to your Presbyterian mother or grandmother. But who am I kidding? I don't know why I read it. It's about a Congregationalist minister in Kansas who's dying and writing out the story of his life for his seven-year-old son. Maybe I'm recommending it because it was a thoughtful, moral book, and reading it was like spending time with a really nice old man. If I wrote something unenthusiastic, I'd feel mean, and then guilty.

Not Recommended

Vernon God Little, by DBC Pierre. Like The Line of Beauty, this won the Booker Prize, but it's a trainwreck. The author is some kind of Australian drifter who put together a book that reads like a stupid Natural Born Killers and a stupider Elephant. It's a black comedy about a school shooting in Texas. The title character was friends with the shooter. An unscrupulous journalist tries to make his reputation on the story, but then the protagonist flees to Mexico. Heavyhanded hilarity and lots of annoying clamor ensue. Some U.S. reviewers thought the book was anti-American, but I think the writer's slapdash caricatures and broad, clumsy comedy was the product of junk writing more than hatred.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Uncomfortable, then disgusting

For the last year or so, every Saturday and Sunday morning I go to a nearby coffehouse and read for a couple of hours. Right now I'm on Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky.

The place was unusually empty this morning. It draws its share of characters. It's the closest thing to an Ann Arbor coffeehouse that I've found in New York.

It also serves alcohol.

There were three other people there this morning when someone sat directly next to me. He looked about sixty. It was 10:30 a.m. He ordered a bottle of Budweiser and belched. I was in deep-read mode, and not psyched that he elected to sit a foot away from me in the middle of the empty establishment.

After twenty minutes, he turned to me and asked loudly, "Can you help me with this?"

I looked down and saw that he was holding a loose, gold-chain bracelet. He wanted me to hook it around his wrist.

Strange, but it was the second time in 12 hours that I was being asked to put a bracelet on another dude. The night before I went with a friend to see his brother's band. The band was pretty good. One of its gimmicks was to hand out neon snap-bracelets to friends and fans.

So, having helped Peter with a neon bracelet the night before, I similarly fumbled with this dude's bracelet, not able to work the hook. Laughing, he mocked me, and said, "Come on, a guy like you must have a girlfriend."

"I'm not into jewelry," I said.

"Wow man," he said, "you're cold."

After much confusion, I successfully helped him with the bracelet.

I turned back to my book.

Loudly, he ordered a vodka on the rocks.

Five minutes later, he turned back to me and said, "What are you reading?"

"It's a book," I said. Realizing that I should clarify before the next question, I said, "It's about World War II."

"Ah, history," he said. "Let me ask you something. Do you think they really killed six million Jews?"


"Really?" he asked. "Because you hear so much controversy about that."

"I don't think there's any controversy," I said, in my most deadly serious, clipped, even-toned, do-not-argue-with-me voice.

He got my message, but mumbled, "The controversy is everywhere."

"Yeah, I don't think so," I said.

Apparently disappointed that I wasn't up for playing ball, he turned away and looked out the window. I wasn't up for explaining that Nemirovsky was in the middle of writing the War and Peace of World War II when she was taken out of France by the Germans, shipped to Auschwitz, and killed within days. That what she left is an unfinished yet near-perfect novel, and that her book suddenly seemed too melancholy to put into words.

I made a swift and early exit before the conversation went further. There's no teaching an old, jewelry-loving, Holocaust-denying drunk at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Friday, July 07, 2006


In my first post about the World Cup, I mentioned my favorite World Cup barstool argument, the “What would Team USA look like if our best athletes played soccer?” game. In honor of this weekend’s Cup finals (go…er…France, I suppose), I’ll close my soccer commentary for the next four years with my own answer to that question.

First, however, a couple of notes. This team is awfully NBA-player-heavy, but that’s because basketball skills tend to translate more to soccer, mostly the whole running-around-nonstop-for-a-long-time thing. That is contrasted with baseball, where the skills are incredibly different and most of those major league players whose sheer athleticism would have qualified them wouldn’t qualify to be on a team USA (I’m thinking here of guys like Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones, etc.). Also, for our purposes, this team plays a 4-4-2 alignment.


Allen Iverson and LeBron James: As I’ve said before, Allen Iverson, if he had been a soccer player, would have completely redefined the striker position as we know it. Nobody could match his quickness and speed. As for LeBron, I was inspired to put him here by watching the gangly, uncoordinated, 6-7 Peter Crouch play forward for England. If that guy is what a 6-8 forward looks like, then the dominance a 6-8 guy like LeBron would enjoy would almost be unfair to the rest of the world.

Which would you choose? I thought so.


Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Carl Crawford, and LaDainian Tomlinson: Even I will admit that Crawford here is really forced, so I can have at least one baseball player on the team. A point guard like Chris Paul or Kirk Hinrich would probably be better, but Crawford is the choice, and would be a fine central midfielder with Tomlinson (yeah, like some Czech dude is going to get the ball away from him). Wade and Bryant out on the wings sending crosses in to LeBron would be completely unstoppable. Kobe’s defensive tenacity would also disrupt the other team’s playmakers.


Troy Polamalu, Roy Williams, Sean Taylor, and Ben Wallace: As Americans, we all hate the flopping. But we may have to learn to live with it, if Team USA starts Polamalu, Williams, Taylor, and Wallace, which I like to call the “We’ll give you something to cry about!” backline. Not to pick on the English, but if Wayne Rooney tried that nut-stomping on, say, Wallace, I think we all know that getting a red card would be the least of his problems. Also, USA would be partaking in the grand tradition of fantastic World Cup hair, between Polamalu and Wallace (since I’m the manager of this team, I’m mandating that Wallace go with the full-on, blown-out afro at all times).

Now THAT is what I'm talking about...


Kevin Garnett: KG is 6 feet, 11 inches of arms, legs, and ridiculous intensity. I’ve been watching the World Cup, and when the games go to penalty kicks, sometimes even when the goalies guess the right direction, they can’t dive far enough to get to the ball. Let’s just say, that wouldn’t be a problem with Garnett.

A menacing keeper, don't you think?

Am I crazy, or would these guys have just destroyed, say, Italy?

Fact: I dress like an idiot, but it's by accident

Setting: Monday night on Brian's rooftop.

Question: [CrimeNotes], why are you always in jeans?

CrimeNotes: I bought all of my shorts when I was in college. They have holes in the pockets. The last time I wore a pair, my keys and wallet kept falling out.

Old short pants, with hole in pocket.

Question: Idiot, that was years ago. Why don't you buy new shorts?

CrimeNotes: Excellent question. I tried to buy a pair on Friday. I went to Century 21 after work. It's the only place I go to buy clothes because people aren't in your face asking if they can help and there isn't annoying music. It's like shopping in K-Mart. It's big and chaotic and everyone leaves you alone.

But the problem is that everything there is basically on remainder and they didn't have many short pants.

[Here, I was mocked for using the phrase "short pants." People said that they hadn't heard that phrase and that it made me sound like a little boy. I said fine, but I associate the word "shorts" with boxers, and that they'll always be short pants to me.]

After looking around I found some. It was a pair in size 31 and I congratulated myself on achieving a goal. They looked kind of baggy, but not bad. I thought they wer
e normal short pants.

New short pants.

Then I took them home and tried them on. They go below my knees. They're basically like capri pants for men.

So now I have this pair of short pants [more mockery of my word choice] that's brand new, but I'll never wear it because it looks so stupid.

The conversation briefly shifted to how a friend sports male capri pants and their popularity in Europe. It then circles back to why I'm an idiot.

This wasn't an isolated incident, I explain. I hate shopping for clothes. It's my most hated thing. When I'm shopping, I find the first thing that looks roughly acceptable, grab it off the shelf, and run to the register.

But I don't always pay attention to what I'm buying. Like, I've got all of these French cuff shirts sitting around that I'll never wear. I don't even own cuff links. I thought I was just buying normal button-down shirts, then I take them home, go to put them on a hanger, and realize, "Fuck, I've done it again."

Unworn French cuff shirt.

Blog Perv Danielle, Her Majesty the the Queen of 2006 (BPDHMQ2K6): Just get cufflinks and wear them.

CrimeNotes: No way. They're for industrialists and oligarchs. I feel ridiculous enough without wearing them.

BPDHMQ2K6 pointed out that her boyfriend likes French cuff shirts. I immediately offer him several, but despite our similar heights, his shirt size is different. Hence, these shirts will be unused in perpetuity.

CrimeNotes: But wait, it gets worse. One time I thought I was buying a normal dress shirt. When I was at the register the guy gave me this weird look, and it wasn't until I got home that I realized why. It wasn't a dress shirt, it was some weird fucking thing with no buttons.

I've tried to describe this shirt many times, but the only way to do it is through this badly lit photo I just took:

Note the absence of buttons.

It's the dumbest thing I've ever owned, I said. Once I realized my mistake I figured out why the guy at the register looked at me like I was a moron.

Question: Why don't you return all of this stuff?

CrimeNotes: It's too embarrassing. Plus, I keep telling myself that if I'm wasting money like this, I'll start to be careful. Not returning these clothes is my punishment for being stupid.

Question: So you've learned your lesson, right?

CrimeNotes: I think so, but I think that every time. And every time it happens again. It happens whenever I have to buy clothes. I can't help it.

I'm better with work clothes, but even then I buy something and wear it until it's literally fraying at the cuffs and has coffee stains all over.

BPDHMQ2K6's Boyfriend: Basically, you buy clothes every five years.

CrimeNotes: Nah, more often than that. But it's only once every five years that I'll buy something I wear.

The male capri pants and the buttonless shirt.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Much As Crunkmas Is In January, Not April

Out of respect for the CSB tradition of letting the 10 Greatest Americans hold down the fort over the Fourth of July, I held this one back until now.

July 4 is not “America’s birthday.”

I know, the date is right there at the top, in big letters, “In Congress, July 4, 1776.” But does July 4 really deserve as much resonance as we give it? For example, was July 4, 1776 really a more important date in American history than April 19, 1775, when the battles of Lexington and Concord were fought? Those, after all, were the “shot heard ‘round the world”…

But that’s irrelevant, because America’s birthday should be September 17, to commemorate the ratification of the Constitution on September 17, 1787.

There are several reasons why, but they all boil down to one thing: The Constitution is far more important to both American history and the American experience than the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration, great as it is, only put 13 wayward British colonies on the path to freedom. The Constitution, on the other hand, marks the nation having arrived as something recognizable, to those of us living today, as the United States.

September 17 is also almost universally a better day than July 4, even leaving aside the historical significance. For one thing, September 17 is a much much much more pleasant time of year to go to an outdoor fireworks display on America’s front yard than July 4. For another, it means that we can extend summer another 2 weeks. Labor Day currently marks the unofficial “end of summer,” but wouldn’t it be immeasurably better to have 2 more weeks of September (the best weather month of the year everywhere I’ve ever lived) count as summer? What better way to close out another fun summer than with a massive birthday celebration for the ol’ U.S.A.?

March 4 is another possibility for America’s birthday, since that was the date the Constitution went into effect, but I think that September 17 is better.

Look at it this way. If America were a person, April 19 would be the day its parents first got together, July 4 would be the day it was conceived, September 17 would be the day it was born, and March 4 would be, I dunno, the day it was baptized? Bar mitzvahed? Something like that?

If we join together we can start a movement to change the observance of America’s birthday to September 17. All we need is a catchy slogan…I’ve got it!

“America’s life did not begin at conception.”

Hmm…that seems unnecessarily politically charged, I think.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The internet, explained

Comments by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), attempting to describe the internet:

There's one company now you can sign up and you can get a movie delivered to your house daily by delivery service. Okay. And currently it comes to your house, it gets put in the mail box when you get home and you change your order but you pay for that, right.

But this service isn't going to go through the interent and what you do is you just go to a place on the internet and you order your movie and guess what, you can order ten of them delivered to you, and the delivery charge is free.

Ten of them streaming across that internet and what happens to your own personal internet?

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially


The regulatory approach is wrong. Your approach is regulatory in the sense that it says "No one can charge anyone for massively invading this world of the internet". No, I'm not finished. I want people to understand my position, I'm not going to take a lot of time.

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

It's a series of tubes.

And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

(As excerpted on Daily Kos.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Serious advice for White Horse Tavern and other misguided bars

Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" should never be played to a crowd of wheezing drunks in a half-empty bar at 2 a.m.

The drunk id has bad taste in music. I have the iTunes purchases to prove it. (Hello, "Somebody Save Me" by Cinderella.)

Mp3 jukeboxes do nothing but empower this bad taste. My humble prediction -- mp3 jukeboxes will be the ruin of many good bars.

Just like a good bartender knows when to cut people off before they puke or start a fight, a good bar should know that drinkers from all walks of life shouldn't be given instant access to thousands of songs -- many of which suck, qualify as guilty pleasures, or are actively despised by all but two or three patrons.

The scene at a generally good, if inconsistent, West Village mainstay at 2 a.m. on Sunday:
  • one member of my group is visibly passed out;
  • one lectures me about the evils of A-Rod;
  • a third plots his Journey selections for the jukebox;
  • and "Isn't She Lovely" turns the bar into my own Abu Ghraib.
I made my exit before Journey came on, but not before two half-witted 22-year-old fucktards (I think they were interns at a Gap) got their grubby paws on the mp3 jukebox, selected Mr. Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely," an assortment of current dance-punk (or whatever you call that Bloc Party, Killers-style bullshit), "Hotel California" (some dance to remember, I'll dance to forget), and other audible assaults that no one needs to hear when it's one beer too many and several tequila shots too late.

In that situation, "Isn't She Lovely" should only be played to clear out customers so staff can go home.

I'll defend my musical tastes against anybody's, but like driving ability, it's impaired by alcohol. My mind turns back to college, and I'll want the likes of Skee-Lo, Chumbawumba or (forgive me, but yes) Hanson. Mildly amusing in an apartment with five friends. Not cool in a public drinking establishment that doesn't specialize in karaoke.

The bar should not give those choices. White Horse Tavern should know better than to make every last English-language song available to every moron with dollar bills, y'all. In this situation, we are all victims, and if given the opportunity, we will all be perpetrators. And the dirty bar that smells like piss will take on the ambience of a wedding reception.

We need our options limited to the bar staples: the Stones, Bowies, Velvet Undergrounds, and Johnny Cashes; some John Fogerty and some old U2. The only time Billy Joel ever sounds good is after midnight on a jukebox. If you're not a hardliner, you can get some Wilco. I'm no tyrant.

But at 2 a.m., you want to shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

What's another alternative? That somebody's body is a wonderland. That John Mayer will come onto an mp3 jukebox, and by virtue of song choice, that body's wonderland will demand to be bruised and broken and brought to justice by an angry mob of drinkers.

[Note: Many thanks to Gawker for the link. Now that our site has been linked by Gawker, Thrasher's Wheat, and a Daily Kos diary, we've hit the trifecta and can die happy.]