Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stupid things I do

Today I walked into a vegetarian takeout place and ordered the "nutmeat patty with sauce" expecting it to be like some sort of veggie burger. It was not, and I'm hard pressed to imagine acts I've regretted more instantaneously. Why'd I do it? Why such a gratuitous act of stupidity from a devoted omnivore? Well, I have a history of vegetarian sympathies, and not only because I've dated at least two.

My freshman year in college I lived in a dorm that was, for a variety of reasons, very popular with the large vegetarian/vegan coalition. We always had at least one, and sometimes several, meatless options. We also had soy milk. I always was afraid of it, until the following year when I worked in the cafeteria and a cute, vegetarian co-worker convinced me to try it.

It was good, actually. Milky, only a little chalky and with a nice buttery, nutty taste to it. Also, it came in a vanilla flavor that was great with cereal. Score one for the veggie kids. I still stuck with the regular moo juice at home, though.

But that motivated me to try veggie burgers. It helped that they were cheap and easy to microwave after class or a night of drinking that didn't end at the Backroom or Jug. And you know what? They were pretty damn good, too.

Then I had another moment: It was a cookout at then-girlfriend's house. After helping position and tap the keg, I was on grill duty. She produced a box of frozen meat pucks with some sort of horrible pattern on them, presumably from some sort of machine that rolled out a uniform mass of pulpy cow. Thankfully, by the time they were ready, I was drunk enough not to think about that anymore. But I stuck with fresh afterward.

Later on, another girlfriend, this one vegetarian introduced me to the joys of meatless chicken nuggets. They were a revelation. I don't keep in touch with her, but I still get those on a semi-regular basis. I'd be hard pressed to think of a better at-home late-night drunk snack that's impossible to fuck up. I'm not the only omnivore who feels this way, I'm sure.

So with all this vegetarian understanding as a history, I found myself standing on 23rd street today, not ready to go into Wendy's, fearful of Subway and not up for an extended exploration. So I walked into this bright, well-lit place right across from Madison Square Park and looked around.

There were coolers filled with organic orange juice, mineral water and coconut water, all house-brand. There was a giant write-n-wipe menu. There was a wire shelving unit stacked with flyers for yoga and animal-rights stuff.

There was nothing I could see that would be used to apply heat to food.

I was definitely out of my element. The place was filled with exactly the stereotypes you expect: guys who make Andy Dick look like Joe Rogan and women with mousy visages and giant, cloth handbags. I felt out of place. But I stuck it out and found something that looked worthwhile.

I collected my order from an obviously terrified counter staff and adjourned to the park. I sat down. I applied fork to raw-food patty, making sure to include sauce. I took a bite, and remembered to keep my expectations low.

My measured reaction: Definitely some nuts in there, but there was a definite note of bitterness or astringency, along with some apricot flavor. Thick texture.

Of course, that's the neutral, polite view. My actual reaction was "Trail mix. If someone had chewed it for me. After gargling with witch hazel."

I deposited the remainder of my patty into a trash can, and walked around the park, reeling.

All my years of understanding the vegetarian kids, all those grilled cheeses with hummus down at the Halfass in college, all those boca burgers, anyone who restricted their diet for non-religious or medical reasons ... I thought I understood you, even if I couldn't join you.

But this felt like a betrayal, even though that's not far. I know raw-foodism or whatever is well beyond being vegetarian or even vegan. But I can't help it. I feel like a political moderate who can no longer caucus with the extremists. I don't know what to think.

I did, however, know what to do. Shake Shack was right there ... and there was no line.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Boys and Girls in America: The sublime "Stuck Between Stations"

On April 8, 2006, I posted the following:
Somewhere in the ether, there is an ideal platonic Bruce Springsteen song, and somewhere else, there is an ideal platonic Billy Joel song, neither of which exist in real life. On their new album, The Hold Steady will have a song called "Stuck Between Stations" that is those songs -- the Springsteen and Billy Joel that never existed, but should. It's a story about the poet John Berryman. Any song that pays tribute to On the Road, the Golden Gophers, and a celebrated American poet is going to be intriguing; what I can't do justice is the sweep and the sweetness of the sound. You can find an mp3 of "Stuck Between Stations" played acoustically on Bows Plus Arrows. It's a nice version, but it doesn't give you a glimpse of the song's grandeur; it's a pencil sketch of a Rembrandt, but for now, it'll do. I'm giddy right now so I don't trust myself; I want to call it one of the great songs of our lifetime, but in retrospect, I'm sure that judgment will embarrass me.
That judgment does not embarrass me.

The Hold Steady's new album "Boys and Girls in America" goes on sale a week from tomorrow. Between Amazon's streaming-with-purchase function and the thoughtfulness of another blogger, I've had a few days to listen, argue my thoughts, and digest.

The album is not as dark, smart or literate as The Hold Steady's two prior releases, "Almost Killed Me" and "Separation Sunday." It aims its sights a little lower than a Biblical epic about disgrace and redemption, drawing instead from the band's threads that connect to the Meatloaf and the Billy Joel, about teenage boys and girls and the romances that crash down around them.

It's a very good album. I plan to write more about it, but for now I just want to address the first track, "Stuck Between Stations." It's in a class apart.

According to the Oxford Book of American Poetry, the song's hero, John Berryman, was born in MacAlester, Oklahoma. "When he was eleven, his father (whose restaurant business had gone under) was found shot to death." The death was determined to be a suicide, a theme that appears in many of Berryman's poems: "Berryman felt that the 'artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business.' On 7 January 1972, he jumped to his death off the Washington Avenue bridge between St. Paul and Minneapolis."

It's natural material for Craig Finn, whose lyrics drip Twin Cities lore and a two-books-a-week erudition. Like the early Martin Scorsese movies, he's preoccupied with Catholic suffering and redemption. (The released version of this song actually omits a great couplet that made it into the acoustic version -- "he was petulant and spastic / but he ended up a crazy cool Catholic.") Spending a little time looking over Berryman's poems, I think Finn was consciously mirroring Berryman's structure and word choice.

Berryman's 1948 poem "The Traveler" includes the following passage:
I took the same train that the others took,
To the same place. Were it not for that look
And those words, we were all of us the same.
I studied merely maps. I tried to name
The effects of motion on the travelers,
I watched the couple I could see, the curse
And blessings of that couple, their destination,
The deception practiced on them at the station,
Their courage. When the trained stopped and they knew
The end of their journey, I descended too.
Here's a passage of Craig Finn's lyrics from "Stuck Between Stations":
The Devil and John Berryman, they took a walk together,
and they ended up on Washington, talking to the river.
He said, "I surrounded myself with doctors and deep thinkers,
but big heads and soft bodies make for lousy lovers."

There was that night that we thought that John Berryman could fly.
But he didn't so he died.

She said, "You're pretty good with words but words won't change your life."
And they didn't so he died.

And he was drunk and exhausted but he was critically acclaimed and respected.
He loved the golden gophers but he hated all the drawn out winters.
He likes the warm feeling but he's tired of all the dehydration.
Most nights are kind of fuzzy but that last night he had total retention.

These Twin Cities kisses, they sound like clicks and hisses.
We all fell down and drowned in the Mississippi River.
I don't know if Finn was consciously mimicking "The Traveler" or if portions of the structure and rhyme scheme -- lyrics that revolve around a rhyme with "station" and culminate in a descent -- sound similar by coincidence. Finn certainly knows the poem, but whether he had it in front of him or it just burrowed into his mind is anyone's guess.

The power of these lyrics might get subsumed in the song's opening quotation of Jack Kerouac ("There are nights when I think Sal Paradise is right: boys and girls in America have such a sad time together.") and its framing around the narrator's girlfriend, who also likes the warm feeling but is tired of the dehydration. The individual lines in these lyrics have real force. Words won't change your life; big brains and soft bodies make for lousy lovers. At once, Finn romanticizes and dreads a writer's life, and Berryman's.

This song also rocks as much as any other Hold Steady song. Finn's lyrics could have been about guinea pigs or his humps and the song would be a minor classic. This is essential to the song's success. With maudlin music, it would be Tori Amos for dudes. As it is, you can hate poets but love the song, which is fine by me.

I'll write later about my ambivalence with other portions of the album, where the lyrics don't live up to the band's quirky sophistication -- forget Humbert Humbert and Mackenzie Phillips, because some stretches are Laguna Beach material. Whatever my other small misgivings, this song compensates.

Lastly, I think Finn and Berryman look a little bit alike. Even if it's just in the glasses.

John Berryman

Craig Finn

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Another open letter, this one very short

Dear ESPN:

College football does not "tide us over." It's our reason for being. Stop packing your college broadcasts with ads that imply we're a bunch of drooling idiots who willingly ignore two whole days packed with football because we just can't wait for the pageantry and sportstainment content that comes along with "Monday Night Football" the TV show, institution and religion. It's just one more football game at the end of a long weekend filled with them, no matter how loud Chris Berman bellows.

And another thing: No one actually looks forward to it because it means the weekend is over and we have to go back to work. Monday night games are, at best, the digestif after our weekend of football gorging, a postprandial cognac in front of the fire, the third cookie you take because the second one was so delicious.

Also, I don't have kids, and neither do my neighbors. So fuck off out of it.



Thursday, September 21, 2006

An open letter

Dear whoever it was who did all the previous home improvement in what is now my new bedroom:

Dude, seriously. A giant freaking red wall? To go with three tan ones? Did you think doing the whole room in red would look cool, but you ran out of paint? Or were you going to try gray and purple, but thought it wouldn't look random enough?

Actually, wait. Don't answer that yet. Because I want to know what you were thinking when you decided to run the cable line along the ceiling above the red wall, like post-industrial crown molding for the Information Age. Brilliance.

The overall effect was Communist Apartment Bloc meets Builder's Square Dadaism. You must be very proud of your degree from Plovidiv Tech.

After having laid down two coats of primer this afternoon trying to cover up your installation-art homage to The Shining, I also want to thank you for painting the coax red, too. That was fun, painting that two feet over my head. Your unstinting attention to detail shows, in the way you soaked red paint into every crevice of the outlet covers, too. I guess blue tape would have just messed with your artistic flow.

The previous tenant was man enough to shrug off your hackery and get on with his life. I can do no such thing. Consider yourself on notice.



Sunday, September 17, 2006

Revenge, served cold

I woke this morning to a clear and rejuvenating sunlight.

The hangover didn't bother me, even though it was pretty ugly. I lay in bed, some peeks of the sky visible through my blinds, focused on my breathing. I had found an inner peace from the knowledge that a good world had been restored.

It goes without saying that, yes, of course, many of us are pleased by that 47-21 victory, although it wasn't merely the fact of the victory or the score or even the pleasure of seeing a quasi-fictional media darling like Brady Quinn unmasked as a fumbling beagle who happens to have good cheekbones.

As much as anything, it was the forceful unremitting stomping, the swagger and crush, that peaked awesomely and hiliariously with that final gawky Brady Quinn fumble and the great but inelegant LaMarr Woodley running that fumble for a touchdown.

Photo snapped by a friend who was on the premises.

That whole game was like a present to my reptile brain and the slingshot to a long night of beer drinking and headbutting and bearhugging and faked efforts at faux-Frenching and general 1997-style rowdiness.

I have read some blasphemy that draws analogies to 1997, which, even as I experience this intense pleasure, I find uncomfortable. My heart has been broken too many times to become too happy this early in the season. I'm worried that Penn State is due to beat us, and that they'll be our spoiler.

I'm not thinking about big-picture issues. What I want instead is a revenge fantasy fulfilled -- the season of Kill Bill. A hero revived from the coma, who methodically eviscerates the old assassins who should've known better.

The 2005 season was a succession of humiliations, starting with Notre Dame, and then Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio State. They must be avenged. Yesterday's game wasn't a normal victory. It was a pyrotechnic and precise evisceration, the stuff of acrobats and brick walls. Lying in bed this morning, I began to think about Kill Bill, and the ethos of that movie:
For those regarded as warriors, when engaged in combat the vanquishing of thine enemy can be the warrior's only concern. Suppress all human emotion and compassion. Kill whoever stands in thy way, even if that be Lord God, or Buddha himself. This truth lies at the heart of the art of combat.
And as to Brady Quinn:
As I said before, I've allowed you to keep your wicked life for two reasons. And the second reason is so you can tell him in person everything that happened here tonight. I want him to witness the extent of my mercy by witnessing your deformed body.
It's mercy, compassion, and forgiveness I lack; not rationality.
Charlie Weis, speaking to media afterward, displayed graciousness and humility, although after a loss like that, showing anything else might have been a PR disaster. He bows before my university:
It's really only right to give just due to your opponent who just kicked your butt. You know, they've been much maligned coming into this game. I have a lot of respect for Coach Carr and his staff. I think it's really important to understand that that team just came and just whupped us pretty good.
As much as I want this to be just the beginning, it's also possible that the rest will be anticlimax. In every revenge movie, part of the thrill is that the bad guys never see that justice is coming. The heroes administer justice, survey the wreckage, and steal a Heisman on the way out.

"Thought that was pretty fuckin' funny didn't you?
Word of advice, shithead - don't you ever wake up."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Blood on the porch: the night Flop almost killed me

It was the summer after college graduation. A bunch of people were still in Ann Arbor. We didn't have much to do. Most days I woke up around noon, took a several-miles run, read and napped for a few hours, and then met a group of people to start drinking and eating. Somewhere around four a.m. -- after much beering and smoking and arguing, and occasionally dancing on lawns and sidewalks, and occasionally befriending odd high schoolers, and then yet more beering and a fair amount of heckling and late-night projectiles to boot -- the steam would run out. I'd take a leisurely stroll home, wake up at noon, and repeat the cycle. (Yeah, go ahead and insist that college wasn't when you were happiest. Liar.)

I almost began to leave a comment about this over at Pissed & Petty today in response to a post about getting scraped up in a moment of drunken, rowdy oneupsmanship, when I decided that instead this was postworthy material. Given how often this story gets told and retold, I'm surprised I haven't recounted it before.

Our friend the accomplished filmmaker had just finished a production. Today he would be the first to admit that this particular project was not a triumph. I remember him describing it at the time: it was some sort of student-film short-form historical sci-fi adventure. There was something about dragons or monsters, which would be inserted using a crude college-level CGI. I don't suspect that he's proud.

That night, he had a wrap party. Many of his non-film friends -- including me and Flop -- were invited. There were costumes left from the film shoot. I was (and am) an enthusiastic lad. Relatively early in the night, I donned a viking helmet and some sort of leather armor. I swung a prop sord and shouted threats at the empty fraternity house next door.

It was a great night to be alive.

But Flop is not graceful. For about a year, he had been enjoying a favorite prank. I'm sure you've experienced it. Two people hold beer bottles. Using the base of one bottle, the first person delivers a strong tap to the top of the second person's bottle. The second person's bottle foams up, and a big mess of spilled beer ensues. To succeed, the tapper has to strike the tappee by surprise, lest the tappee's bottle be drawn back and protected.

Flop loved this shit. He was convinced that it was the height of comedic genius. You could reliably predict that on any night when people were hanging out with bottles of beer -- hence, every night that summer -- Flop was going to showcase this golden move. Only a fool or a knave would let his guard lapse.

Yet there we all were, on this beautiful summer night, drunk and celebratory on a front porch, owning the town and not worrying about anything but Molson or Labatt or Rolling Rock.

It was time for Flop to be hilarious.

I am standing on the porch chatting with our friend the filmmaker and his beloved then-girlfriend. Without warning, broken glass sprays everywhere, and so does my blood.

Flop's wackiness had gone horribly wrong.

Instead of a fizz-producing tap, Flop has slammed his beer bottle. Two bottles of Rolling Rock shatter, and the resulting debris has left cuts all over my hand.

I am bleeding profusely. Blood drips onto the front porch. It's trickling onto my clothes. I look down and see that this isn't one huge gash, but many small incisions peppering the back of my hands.

That sonuvabitch.

I unleash a torrent of invective. The filmmaker's beloved then-girlfriend (she was my friend first!) goes inside with me. I'm too drunk to be sensible. I'm bleeding and cursing and sweating and recriminating. We run water over my bloodied hand. Under the cold clear water, it is evident that I have not suffered a major attack on a vein or artery, and, thus, my death is not imminent. What I have instead is a collection of slices, none of them threatening in itself, yet collectively enough to trigger a collective bloodletting.

It's a product of unjustified violence, but at least I'll live.

Now, a person would think that after severely cutting me up -- because come the fuck on, this could easily have ended up with a severed artery or vein or nerve damage -- Flop would respond with humility or an apology.

But no.

Instead, I was the bad guy.

Unbelievably, the torrent of profanity and threats that I unleashed was so severe that poor delicate unimpeachable Flop was now the victim in the entire fiasco. After cutting me and bleeding me within a millimeter of my life, Flop rapidly went to work winning the propaganda war. In the immediate aftermath, few people remembered that I was almost mutilated to death.

Instead, what people remembered was that I was just so damn angry about getting chopped up that I was fucking mean to Flop. That was the lesson -- not, "Don't slam beer bottles and shred people with broken glass." Apparently, that lesson is boring.

"I can't believe how mean you were," said the filmmaker's beloved then-girlfriend.

Unfortunately, I didn't save the e-mail Flop sent the next day lambasting me for being "mean" to him after he nearly killed me. The whole experience was a little like barely evading an assassination attempt from by the Taliban, and then being lectured for expressing displeasure with the Taliban.

[Tangential aside: A google images search for beer bottles blood leads you to this.]

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A note in appreciation of Ann Richards, who was one bad-assed old lady

She looked classy, but her balls were bigger than ours.

She'll only be a footnote in American political history, but for about seven years the late great Ann Richards was America's biggest and best bulwark against the steady creep of decrepit, decayed, Third World thuggery.

She died today. I looked up the famous speech that she gave at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Then the State Treasurer of Texas, she ripped the shit out of a sitting Vice President in one of the most famous lines in recent political history.

But the lines that followed are interesting too.
Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

Well no wonder, no wonder he can't figure it out. Because the leadership of this nation is telling us one thing on TV and doing something entirely different.

They tell us that they're fighting a war against terrorists. And then we find that the White House is selling arms to the Ayatollah.
Her speech was about George H.W. Bush, but the remark foreshadowed the failed administration of his despicable son.

It was only appropriate that the harshest critic of the first Bush saw her career ended by the second. She lost the Texas governorship to George W. in 1994. The campaign against her previewed all of the horror and indignity we now take for granted. According to The Atlantic:
Bush's 1994 race against Ann Richards featured a rumor that she was a lesbian, along with a rare instance of such a tactic's making it into the public record—when a regional chairman of the Bush campaign allowed himself, perhaps inadvertently, to be quoted criticizing Richards for "appointing avowed homosexual activists" to state jobs.
There's no way to overstate how much better off we all would be if she had managed to squeak out a reelection. Generations of Texas voters owe the world an apology.

Another bittersweet passage from her 1988 speech:
Now, I'm going to tell you, I'm really glad that our young people missed the Depression, and missed the great big war. But I do regret that they missed the leaders that I knew.

Leaders who told us when things were tough, and that we would have to sacrifice, and these difficulties might last awhile.

They didn't tell us things were hard for us because we were different, or isolated, or special interests. They brought us together and they gave us a sense of national purpose.

They gave us Social Security. And they told us we're setting up a system where we could pay our own money in and when the time came for our retirement, we could take the money out.

People in rural areas were told that we deserved to have electric lights, and they were going to harness the energy that was necessary to give us electricity so my grandmama didn't have to carry that old coal oil lamp around.

And they told us that they were going to guarantee that when we put our money in the bank, that the money was going to be there, and it was going to be insured.

They did not lie to us.

Monday, September 11, 2006

On the edge of turning 30

I'm not preoccupied with my age. I've never talked about how other people at a bar look young, or looked at photos from college and thought, "Wow, we all looked young," because I think I look the same and so does everyone else.

I've successfully avoided material responsibility. I like that one day I could up and leave without having custody of heirlooms or valued items. (There's not much I own that I'd miss, so when my apartment was burglarized a couple years ago it left me unrattled. I did like that camera, though.)

By all accounts, I'm less mature (but probably nicer) now than I was at 14, 18 or 24.

In two weeks I turn 30. This crept up on me. A couple months ago it seemed like I might as well have been 19, but the numeric flip suddenly caught me like a fist to the eye, and all of a sudden I'm reading "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" a few times a week and the e.e. cummings Buffalo Bill poem about how do you like your blueeyed boy, Mr Death?

Item: Last week I was at a social function for work. Speaking to someone younger than me, I mentioned my age, and got the reply, "Wow, I never guessed that you're 29. You look so much younger." I felt pleased, then I felt sad that this pleased me.

Item: The next day I was at work. Speaking to someone roughly my age, I mentioned that I'm 29, and received the reply, "Really? I didn't know you were only 29." I think it was meant as a compliment. This startled me, then I felt sad that this startled me.

Item: I've been the same weight and height for a decade but I'm becoming self-conscious about weight. Visiting my parents' house last month, I saw a picture of my dad when he was 41, and felt reassured that he looked thin and youthful in the picture -- as young as a handful of people my own age. This reassured me.

Item: After nine years of Marlboros -- the last two having transitioned from manageable affectation to full addiction -- I stopped smoking at the beginning of August. Abruptly, and with no real withdrawal symptoms. It's getting close to a month-and-a-half now, and today I realized that not smoking is making me feel old. That I think this way shows that marketing has left me mangled and corrupted. I won't smoke because I know it will kill me, a conclusion that shows I acknowledge my own mortality and am, therefore, no longer young.

Item: I've become a bit paralyzed about planning the 30th birthday itself. I'm playing with numbers and locations. On the verge of reserving a private room, I decided that I didn't want to focus on numbers thresholds or introducing people to each other. This might just be an excuse. I'll do something, but I'm a poor planner, and the fact that this is a landmark year has pushed me to procrastinate.

Item: I am now nostalgic for landlines, which is the equivalent of our great-grandparents being nostalgic for telegrams. I liked having friends' numbers taped on the wall and being excited when there was a message on my answering machine. Because of Blackberries and cell phones, nothing is escapable.

And then thinking about this makes me feel like a lazy self-indulgent douche who should consider himself lucky that he doesn't have substantial things to worry about.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Thoughts on psychics and pies

Four of us were watching the Penn State-Notre Dame game on Saturday afternoon. The game had turned boring by the second half. We had to keep ourselves entertained, so we discussed emus for awhile. (Flop does good emu impressions.) Then, I fell asleep in my chair.

I couldn't have dozed off for more than five minutes. I didn't miss anything in the game, but when I woke up, something had gone wrong.

"What were you guys just talking about?" I asked, slightly hostile.

Nothing, they said.

"Were you talking about birds or chickens?"

"Nah, just emus," one of them said.

I explained that while I was napping, it occurred to me that a person could bring a pie or a cake to a psychic, and that the psychic would become upset. Pies and cakes, like many baked goods, have eggs as an ingredient. If you brought a psychic a product made with eggs, the psychic could tell you about the chicken that that egg could have grown up to be.

The rest of us see a cake or pie, but to a psychic, desserts are the ghosts of chickens who never had the chance to live, and the cheeping that they hear must overwhelm them.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A practical tip for better living

Arrested Development is gone, yes, but its candle burned out long before its legend ever did. It left in its prime before it got saggy and slobbery and smelled like mothballs and stale piss. (Hello, Thursdays on NBC!)

You'll be pleased to learn that it now airs in reruns on an obscure cable network called G4. (Channel 105 on Time Warner Cable in New York.) I've never heard of G4 either, but if you have Tivo what does it matter? Fire that bitch up.

Meanwhile, a TV show even funnier than Arrested Development will air its first three back-to-back episodes early Sunday morning on September 17. The Thick of It on BBC America prompted me to suffer some kind of minor seizure. If you like your misanthropy with all kinds of British accents and undertones of elitism and misogyny, this show will make stale pudding squirt from your nose.

Foots, foots, foots

Yes, I know. It's another omnibus post. What do you want? I have the attention span of a hummingbird that's just drank an entire feeder's worth of Mountain Dew: Code Red.

Like college football? How would you like getting to watch less of it because TV demands it? Probably about as much as Crimenotes would like having his bikini zone waxed. But that's what we've gotten so far this season thanks to a new rule that has reduced the number of plays per game by around 10 percent or so. Less college foots is a bad thing indeed, isn't it?

Nectar: a taste as real as the streets ...

College football season is fleeting enough _ there's no need to make it even shorter so that we can have more Taco Bell Chicken Burrito Bowl commercials. Sign the petition at We Hate The New Clock Rules. This is the sort of cause that needs to get taken up by college newspaper editorial pages everywhere.

In other college football news, the Upon Further Review play-by-play recaps at MGoBlog (mgoblog? I've mislaid my CSB Style Guide) are the best thing in college football coverage, anywhere. Brian, the blog's owner-operator watches each game and charts every play on both offense and defense to see who was actually good (Hi, Mr. Woodley? I think I found your wallet? ... Yes, actually, it does say 'Bad Motherfucker' ...) and who was pants (Ruben Riley, you're probably on notice somewhere.)

In other foots news, I stopped into a soccer store in my neighborhood, and happend to ask the guy behind the counter if they had any items for my team, Reading FC. I knew it was a longshot, but there were Bolton scarves hanging on the wall, for cripes' sake. He produced a bootleg Reading pencil case, and let me have it free of charge, mainly because he figured he'd never get another Reading fan in the shop. It's a good day when you get a free pencil case out of nowhere.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This post is almost totally pants

During my highly eventful weekend, I did lots of stuff and had lots of thoughts. None of them deserves its own post (and believe me, we've set the bar very, very low when it comes to single-post deservedness here), but here they are combined into one omnibus post (with subheads instead of bullet points, just because.)

Books ... check 'em out

I'm about 75-80 percent through The Corrections, having resisted giving in to the buzz years ago. I picked it up because I was intrigued by positive comments and its presence on my benefactor's bookshelf. I'm finding it a worthy read, although I'm sure there are reams of criticism out there about the way Franzen views female characters (To wit: as if through a slot which he has paid 25 cents to make open). This is not to discount that criticism, only to say it's the only really noticeable flaw so far. Of course, if it ends with a rupture in a holding tank at the St. Jude Bic factory submerging the town and all the characters, I might be a trifle cranky.

Speaking of things my co-blogger has read and liked, I also finally found a copy of Postwar, by Tony Judt, this weekend. I lugged it around all day yesterday, because I didn't want to have to wait any longer. I'm looking forward to this one.

Don't stop believin' ...

I attended a Power Ballad BBQ this weekend on a rooftop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The view was incredible, the beer cold and the music ... well, it was everything you expect from a power-ballad-themed cookout. There were mullet wigs, a freight elevator with an ominous warning about a flooded shaft chalked on the walls, and seaplanes buzzing the tower, as it were, before splashing down on the East River.

People ... they're the worst

I spent most of the weekend feeling strangely misanthropic. I don't know if it's all the Armani Exchange T-shirts I've seen on the Upper East Side; the woman in front of me at Starbucks who took five minutes asking the guy behind the counter the price of every bag of beans and every mug, despite his repeated and polite reminders that there was a price tag on each. (Although it occured to me later that she could have had a vision problem, and that I was probably just being a surly prick); or reading all the quotes from Republicans over the weekend about how Democrats want to appease all terrorists by giving them the Sudetenland, but I'm sick of it. I like it better when I basically like people, even if I think most of them are stupid. Also, the sentence before the last one was ridiculous.

It's about time

Michigan's defense looked awesome this weekend. Yes, I know it was just Vanderbilt, but they were not a bit like last season's unit (predictable, passive, pushovers). Shawn Crable was night-and-day different, while the linebackers no longer treated the notion of contain as something to be debated abstractly, like the Schopenhaurian notion of the Self vis-a-vis that of Kierkegaard, but instead decided to hit people and make them fall down.

Also, everyone is grumbling about Henne. To be honest, I thought he was fine, save for some really dumb passes. But one of those actually converted a 3rd-and-long on the way to Michigan's last touchdown. But fans always bitch about the quarterback, so I'll just discount it unless he has another game like he had against Wisconsin or Notre Dame last season.

The rest of the rest (i.e. where I get all Larry King on your ass)

Was it just me, or was every college football TV commentator terrible this weekend? I heard Gottfriend and Pam Ward were bad, but I think that's to be expected. Bob Davie actually called Brady Quinn "courageous" for getting sacked a lot against Purdue four years ago and Chris Spielman actually sounded like he was about to start making mouth sounds in the booth; "And Shawn Crable comes around Woodley here on the stunt and _ 'DOOZH!' _he just blows up Nickson. Woo-ee! I bet that makes him feel like ding-dong, ding-dong, ah-OOO-gah! Great play, Crabes. Just great. WOO! Roll Tide!" would have made perfect sense coming from his mouth. ... You know what's just not funny? Typing Jeff Samardzija's name by just mashing the keyboard because, ha ha, it's so funny that his name is difficult to spell. Yes, we get it. Big laffs. And for the record, it was just as annoying when Bill Simmons did it with Ben Roethlisberger. Both players were or are genuine stars; it doesn't hurt anyone to look up how to spell their name. ... I've been going to get bagels every day at the nearest Tal Bagels outpost. For my money, it doesn't get any better than walnut-raisin cream cheese on a fresh, plain bagel. Nummy. ... My arms are covered in green and yellow bruises from moving. I feel kind of like a badass, but mostly just like someone who wrestled his shit down from and back up to another third-floor walkup. ... The Browns are probably going to go 6-10 this season. I can already feel the anguish. I'd like one of those wins to come against Pittsburgh, and a couple more against Cincinnati and Baltimore, two overrated teams. Especially Baltimore. ... My faith in most Democrats to not fall for GOP bullshit between here and November is actually lower than my faith in most Americans not to fall for it. Conversely, I would not be surprised if some unprecentented scare-mongering tactics are used. ... If I had a cat, its breath would totally smell like cat food.

Monday, September 04, 2006

My weekend was better than yours

I would like to extend a long-awaited welcome to the unofficial start of autumn, the only season that matters. I've missed you.

I'm back

On a windy, rainy Friday evening, with the help of two friends who had not decamped for Ann Arbor, Seattle, or other points, I packed all my worldly possessions into a U-Haul truck and moved them into my new apartment in Manhattan.

Early the next morning (and I mean before-six early) I hopped in my truck and trundled back through the drizzle over the 59th Street bridge, to clear out of my apartment a horde of dust bunnies and some assorted, left-over refuse. I made one last visit to my local donut shop (large coffee, milk and sugar please ... and a Boston cream donut as well) for energy, and then swept and bagged and lugged for two hours before finally going up to the roof to watch planes descend below the clouds into the swirling wind and take one last look at the Manhattan skyline I'd soon be too close to appreciate.

Then I returned the truck, showered, and headed up to the royal palace of HMQ2K6 to watch Michigan beat Vanderbilt. Then I took a six-hour nap to inaugurate my week of holding down the fort for Her Majesty while she's off waterskiing and swatting mosquitoes in northern Michigan. (It's a long story why my possessions are living at my new place, but I myself am not.)

So I'm a Manhattanite again. And for this week, an Upper East Sider to boot. But more important: I no longer am spending most waking hours planning my move, and I have internet access.