Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A fine whine

I've just upped the difficulty level in NCAA Football, and am re-learning the passing game as a result. I've been trying to slowly wean myself from the gunslinger mentality, in which I figure I can force the ball into the tiniest gaps, because I'm sweet like that.

I just threw an interception right at a linebacker I meant to throw the ball over. Why? I read the safeties wrong. Or, rather, I didn't put enough air under the ball because I thought the umpire was a safety, even though that guy was distracted by the three freaking wideouts I had to that side. Alas, it's now SMU ball, first and 10.

Um, also, I re-read Nick Flynn's Some Ether last week, lest you think I'm a mouthbreathing meathead, posting about video games while my co-blogger puts up essays about recapturing youth under Latin headlines and long treatises about dactylic hexameter.

Also, Seamus Heaney is the tits, I met him once, and I was very happy to see him show up on EDSBS. Which is also the tits.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Good luck with that

I don't know why this story hasn't caught on.
He may be a certified lame duck now, but President Bush and his truest believers are about to launch their final campaign - an eye-popping, half-billion-dollar drive for the Bush presidential library.

Eager to begin refurbishing his tattered legacy, the President hopes to raise $500 million to build his library and a think tank at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Bush lived in Dallas until he was elected governor of Texas in 1995.


Bush loyalists have already identified wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry as potential "mega" donors and are pressing for a formal site announcement - now expected early in the new year.


"It's a stretch," said another source briefed on the plans. "It's so much bigger than anything that's been tried before. But the more you have, the more influence [on history] you can exert."

The half-billion target is double what Bush raised for his 2004 reelection and dwarfs the funding of other presidential libraries. But Bush partisans are determined to have a massive pile of endowment cash to spread the gospel of a presidency that for now gets poor marks from many scholars and a majority of Americans.

The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Bush's institute will hire conservative scholars and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," one Bush insider said.

Pretty much summarizes what we've all come to expect.

Other targets of SMU fundraising:

  • The Rosie O'Donnell Cocksmanship Foundation.
  • The Ron Mexico Chair in Women's Studies.
  • The Mel Gibson Judaica Center.
  • Rumsfeld School of Human Rights Awareness.
  • The Dahmer Culinary Institute.
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd Aviation School.
  • The NBC Endowment for Integrity in Notre Dame Reportage.
  • The Dead Horse Center for the Study of Non-Redundant Amusements.

A book report about how Dido was the world's most spiteful girlfriend

I was assigned to read The Aeneid twice in college, and I read it both times. It seems like The Aeneid is the only epic poem that anybody likes and remembers. Nobody stays up late reading Homer.

On Virgil days the professors were in top form. A frat guy I was friends with wrote a play using Aeneas as a main character. Like the Inferno and Gatsby and As I Lay Dying, The Aeneid was one of those books that everybody seemed to like.

Comic book synopsis: Aeneas was a Trojan warrior who made his debut in The Iliad. About 800 years later, Virgil writes a sequel about how Aeneas founds the Roman empire. After the fall of Troy, Aeneas and has crew knock around the Mediterranean. They spend some time in Carthage, where Dido falls in love with him, and then kills herself when Aeneas leaves for Italy. Aeneas travels to the afterlife to talk to his dad and hear some prophecies. Then, Aeneas, his son Ascanius, and surviving crewmembers land on the western shore of Italy. They fight a bloody war with the locals, Aeneas kills his arch-rival, and the stage is set for the Roman empire. The end.

Aeneas is a great guy, much more vivid and real than what Homer cooked up. He works hard. He's a family man -- a good dad to Ascanius, and during the fall of Troy, he carries his own dad on his back until they get to safety. He's also a great friend: he was about to let his enemy Turnus live, when he remembered how Turnus killed his buddy Pallas: "Decked in the spoils you stripped from the one I loved -- escape my clutches?" Aeneas says. "Never -- Pallas strikes this blow, Pallas sacrifices you now, makes you pay the price with your own guilty blood!"

Aeneas was the first action hero, and all-around awesome.

I reread The Aeneid over Thanksgiving. I hadn't read it since fall of '98, and the new translation was a good excuse.

One thing I forgot: Dido was a lunatic. She was the queen of Carthage and a stone fox, what Elizabeth I would have been if she'd looked like Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee were a Trojan. Aeneas and his team are on the way to Italy when their ships land at Carthage. "His looks, his words, they pierce her heart and cling -- no peace, no rest for her body, love will give her none." After a few days: "Dido cares no more for appearances, nor for her reputation, either. She no longer thinks to keep the affair a secret, no, she calls it a marriage, using the word to cloak her sense of guilt."

Still, Aeneas needs to go found Rome. The gods feel worried, so they remind him not to hang out in Carthage too long. Aeneas doesn't tell her this yet, but Dido still goes crazy. "You're running away -- from me?" she says. "Thanks to you, my sense of honor is gone, my one and only pathway to the stars." She complains to Aeneas that, "thanks to you, the African tribes, Numidian warlords, hate me."

To be clear: Aeneas has done nothing wrong. His hometown has been destroyed and he's been at sea for years. He didn't lie to Dido. She looked at him, flipped out, then accosted him until he banged her. The whole relationship is summarized in The Hold Steady line, "Guys go for looks. Girls go for status." Aeneas explains to her that he's responsible for his son and his people, and that he'd love to stay in Carthage with Dido. Her measured response: "She breaks off in the midst of outbursts, desperate, flinging herself from the light of day, sweeping out of his sight, leaving him numb with doubt, with much to fear and much he means to say."

What does Dido do next? I bet you don't remember all of the details. She tells her sister Anna to build a fire, and tells Anna to burn all of Aeneas' clothes. After that, burn her bed! "I must obliterate every trace of the man, the curse, and the priestess shows the way!" says Dido, shrieking her psychotic little heart out.

Shortly thereafter, Dido throws herself on one of Aeneas' old swords. She dies screeching.

You may think that I'm being too tough on Dido. I mean, I wish that was the case. I wish that she had redeeming qualities. But in Book Six, when Aeneas goes to the underworld, he runs into Dido. He sees her and feels terrible. He says a bunch of nice things and says that he feels bad that she died.

Imagine that you're a dead Carthaginian queen, and that you killed yourself because you lack self control and perspective. Now you're dead. The underworld is boring. Wouldn't you be excited for any company, let alone this guy you were, like, totally in love with?

No. After Aeneas says all of this great stuff, she refuses to speak to him. She glares, looks at the ground, and walks away.

I know this is not a fashionable spin on Dido's behavior. I remembered Dido as this really hot, sad queen that got shafted by Aeneas. That's probably how my professors taught the book. But that is not Dido, who was, in reality, the precursor to Coral from the Real World-Road Rules challenges.

How the hell could you not like The Aeneid? I just described 1 1/2 chapters of a 12-chapter book. Elsewhere in the poem, Euryalus and Nisus become the charter members of NAMBLA, Aeneas explains the Trojan Horse from the Trojan perspective, everybody badmouths Odysseus, and Virgil provides pages of splattered brains and split skulls.

And then Virgil throws in all the right details, like his sketch of the battlefield death of "Menoetes who, in his youth, detested war but war would be his fate. An Arcadian angler skilled at working the rivers of Lerna stocked with fish, his lodgings poor, a stranger to all the gifts of the great, and his father farmed his crops on rented land." And then you think to yourself, Shit, Aeneas is in this for the glory, but a guy like Menoetes, who only wanted to fish in his stream and lead a simple life, is the one who pays for it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

In media res

I woke up Thanksgiving morning hungover on a friend's couch.

His parents whispered when they put a turkey into the oven. They didn't want to wake me.

Under my film of cigarette stink, I was reminded that I liked New York's smoking ban. It isn't just the cigarette smell, it's the way the odor corrupts your pores and reminds you of terrible hangovers from the past. Post-ban, I still wake up in my apartment hungover and some mornings my throat is dry from last night's Marlboro Lights, but there isn't the blanket of bar stench, a smell that I associate with the ripest hangovers from college.

It was a little after 8 a.m. I heard the sounds of small kids upstairs. It was time to find my parents' car.

* * *

I take competition seriously, even when it's beer pong. Mike and I went 3-0 in beer pong at an afterbar, which played out in the basement of some guy who must have been 21 or 22. I hadn't played much beer pong since college, but Mike and I dominated. On game three everyone was running out of steam. It turned into one of those matches where you need 30 tries to finish off the final two cups, which we eventually did to close the night undefeated.

It was late. We were bombed in a basement full of strangers almost a decade younger than us, in a house in the redneck town where we grew up.

* * *

"I want you to go back to New York and carry a message to [Flop]," my friend Jeff said as we left this afterbar. "I want you to tell him that he could never cut it here."

"No way, dude," I said. "[Flop] sees weirder shit than this before lunch. If [Flop] were here, he'd be humping a fat girl in the corner of that basement."

Jeff and I have a running argument about whether, in a hypothetical fight between me and his younger brother, he would side with me. He insists that he would take his brother's side. I don't like this, so I tackled him. Catching him offguard, he landed in the front lawn before quickly regaining the upper hand.

"That's fine," I said. "You win."

I wanted breakfast. It was 4 a.m. We walked to a Coney Island place rumored to be open 24 hours. It was closed for Thanksgiving.

There were five of us. We were too drunk to drive. It was too far for any of us to walk home.

There's a girl in her mid-20s who grew up in this town and now lives in Williamsburg. She was with us. A few weeks earlier, some of us had met up for beers and dinner at Zum Schneider on Avenue C -- normal enough, but then I consider that growing up we perceived any town with a movie theater to be a major city, and Zum Schneider seems like a small victory.

"I'll call my dad," she said. "He'll take everybody home."

Waiting for her dad, we cajoled some of the restaurant's departing employees to give us cigarettes. I begged them to make me poached eggs. They politely declined.

The dad arrived. For a middle-aged man called at 4 a.m. to pick up his adult daughter and four strange, drunk guys, he was pretty nice about it.

My parents live far outside of town. It would have taken 20 minutes for them, round trip. Hence, I would crash at Jeff's parents' house.

* * *

As Mike observed, it used to be that when you came back to town and went to a bar, you couldn't walk 10 feet without running into someone who would buy you a drink. Wednesday was not one of those nights. There were three of us in the ballpark of 30 years old, in a bar full of 21- and 22-year-olds. There were no stray friends, and few younger siblings of friends. The generations had transitioned.

It was an ego blow that no one I spoke to had heard of me.

"Hi," said the beefcat. "I give great head. What do you do?"

The beefcat was 22 or 23. She was subtle, a little shy.

She directed her charms to several of us, not just me personally. After she established her bona fides (she graduated from a competitive private university in the mid-Atlantic, was a fan of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and was studying for a Ph.D) the situation seemed less dangerous. Certain girls -- hardcore rural girls, who live in the area their whole lives, coping with all kinds of meanness, worn out and begging for attention -- who show up on townie nights get drunk and get angry. They are a threat. This girl was being funny.

"Hell, I'll let all three of you fuck me," she said.

I moved a few feet to buy a round. When I came back, Mike had driven her away.

"What the hell did you do that for?"

"She was annoying as hell," Mike said.

"Dude, it was funny," I said. "She likes Sir Gawain. Besides, compared to everyone else here, you're fucking old. You should be flattered that she was even interested."

* * *

Earlier in the night, Mike, Jeff and I visited a girl we went to high school with. Wendy was one of the prettiest girls in our class -- she's still striking. Girls here look different than they do in New York. Most are worse for the wear, but the pretty ones seem cleaner and unaffected. Wendy's married now and lives near Detroit. She had her three-year-old son with her. We were at her parents' house. Her mom didn't recognize me at first.

I incited Wendy's kid. That's what I do. If a kid walks out with a ball, other people say to the little kid, "Wow! Where did you get that ball?" I say, "Cool ball, dude. Throw it at Grandma's head." Within 30 minutes the kid and I were throwing an inflated ball around the living room and knocking over candles.

Wendy talked about being a mom; her mom gave us cans of Labatt; her dad gave graphic descriptions of a recent check-up; Mike and I discussed buying investment property. Mike's real job involves the healthcare industry. He said something about how it seems like a lot of people in this town come down with cancer, and it's true, there seemed to be a lot of random death and illness here, more than I'm used to or hear about from other people. Growing up, there were too many fatal and near-fatal car accidents, and Mike's observation was right, there is a lot of cancer, although it's tough to guess whether it's something in the environment or just the side-effect of a region where there's not a lot of money and a low priority on healthy living.

People here get older faster. Most look older younger. They marry younger. They have young kids. They have a different kind of stress. It's stuff that shows up in peripheral vision, like the same game is playing out with different clocks, a dwindling number of us knocking around in prolonged adolescence while other people settled into premature maturity.

Wendy's dad talked about the burglary at a bar he used to own. Wendy talked about stealing liquor from that bar when she was 16.

It was getting late, and it seemed like her kid would have to go to sleep soon.

So we left that house at 11, with about five hours still to carry on.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


In the spirit of the Thursday holiday, I'm writing this quick thanks to everybody who's been reading and linking to us lately. It's flattering to be read by strangers.

This isn't any kind of set-up. It's nice to get e-mails and links from people we don't know. I mean that.

No, I'm not being sarcastic. Why do you think I'm being sarcastic every time I say something nice? Thanks for reading, and indulging the occasional arbitrary interest and inside joke. Whenever I'm tempted to hold back a little, it occurs to me that the fun of reading someone's blog is enjoying their idiosyncracies.

So if you think I'm being sarcastic, that reflects more on your insecurities than any attitude I've had in the past. I know I'm sarcastic, but I keep it in check. Really, I'm just trying to say something nice to you, but you're resisting. It speaks ill to your sense of self-worth -- you don't think you're worthy of compliments. I've told you before that I'm not out to get you.

I'm so grateful to be read that I'm leaving you with my favorite Thanksgiving knock-knock joke. It's my own adaptation of the celebrated Interrupting Cow cycle. It only makes sense if you tell all three parts in rapid succession.
Me: Knock knock.
You: Who's there?
Me: Interrupting turkey.
You: Interrupting turkey wh-

Me: Knock knock.
You: Who's there?
Me: Interrupting Indian.
You: Interrupting Indi-

Me: Knock knock.
You: Who's there?
Me: Interrupting corn.
You: Interrupting corn who?
[Stand motionless with hands at side in imitation of a cornstalk. Sway softly, as if blown by a gentle breeze.]

Monday, November 20, 2006

Home for the holidays

I'm en route to my parents' house today. It used to be that when I went back for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I expected a quiet few days of reading and napping, with some civilized beers with high school friends thrown into the mix.

That has changed in recent years.

Oh, sure, I'm carrying the new translation of The Aeneid, and I have every intention of getting some work done. My good intentions will be held prisoner by reality.

Take last Christmas. A night out at the bar segued into an afterparty at the empty home of some guy several years younger than the rest of us. The night ended with a mounted bass smashed to smithereens and a raid on the kitchen of our gullible host, who promptly flipped out and screamed for everyone to leave his house. That same trip, my sister's two dogs trashed my parents' bedroom: they shredded a mattress and boxsprings and nearly murdered three cats. My mother, who has watched Babe a few too many times, expressed dismay that the cats and dogs couldn't learn to get along.

A couple years earlier I assumed afterparty responsiblities. I brought a crew home for some 2 a.m. ice skating, waking my future brother-in-law by jumping on his bed, and then rousing my sister with a chorus of taunts shouted from the living room.

My father was not amused, but none of our fathers are amused. Earlier this century there was an infamous hot tub party at a friend's house that precipitated another pissed-off dad to come downstairs and throw everyone out.

On quiet nights, we have bicycle thievery, snowball fighting, and a flirtatious hillbilly psychic who tries to read palms. One evening, 30 of us showed up in a redneck bar to enjoy some fiddling. We shut the place down. Another morning I woke up on a couch with my wristwatch torn apart.

People will hook up with former classmates. Married girls will hit on single boys. Housepets will run wild. Fathers will storm and mothers will weep.

It should be an interesting week.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ohio State 42, Michigan 39

I don't know where I'm goin'.

But I sure know where I've been.

Hanging on the promises in songs of yesterday.

And I've made up my mind.

I ain't wasting no more time.

But here I go again.

Here I go again.

Whitesnake, "Here I Go Again"

We lost, and sure, that sucks. But almost every second of today's game was pure pleasure. It would have made Bo proud.

I'm looking forward to the re-match in Glendale.

Friday, November 17, 2006


"Bo Schembechler reduces me to tears."

-My throwaway line in a post from Monday.

Some of my friends occasionally point out that I didn't care very much about Michigan football until after I left college. It always stings a little.

On the day of Michigan's win against Penn State in 1997, I had what would, in other circumstances, be known as a come-to-Jesus moment. Like a lost soul who wandered into a revival tent, I immediately converted. We shouted in the Law Library and packed into the president's house. We got drunk at the Brown Jug and went home happy.

I still had time at Michigan. Enough to celebrate the 1997 Ohio State win and spend that night wandering Ann Arbor. Enough to be there on that night in November '97 when a friend -- a freshman at the time -- made a poorly timed jump, cut his head, and went to the hospital for stitches.

Enough to get season tickets for the next year.
"I debated it, as you know, longer than I thought I would, and I came to the conclusion, that there are things that are more important to me, and one of them's Michigan. With that in mind I'm staying where I belong, right here"

--Bo, when offered a then-unprecedented $1 million contract from Texas A&M.
When I left Ann Arbor it started to mean something different. I lived in a city that I didn't like. A few good friends were around, but I was away from Ann Arbor and everything I loved so much. Unlike college, the Michigan games weren't just about scores. Instead, you knew that everyone you missed, all over the country, was sitting in bars with strangers doing the same thing that you were. It stopped being a game and became a touchstone.

That first year away, one of my roommates was a college friend. On game days she would cook up huge breakfasts and we would spend the afternoon watching football. That first fall, I looked forward to every Saturday, because I knew that it would remind me of what it was like in Ann Arbor.

This is part of why I hate to talk trash about other teams or other schools. You don't want to step on something that might mean as much to them as it does to you.
Well, you could be one of those people who went to Tufts or Bryn Mawr or Williams or something. And tonight you'd feed the baby, pay some bills, maybe watch some TV, and then spend your Saturday shopping or running errands or maybe getting in some crocheting.
Instead, there's revenge in your heart and blood in your eyes. Sure, this isn't easier, but it lets you know you're alive.

--An e-mail that co-blogger "Flop" wrote to a friend earlier this week
On September 8, 2001, I was in Seattle with about 15 of my college friends. We were there to watch Michigan lose to Washington. We had great seats, low and near mid-field. Lee Bollinger was president of Michigan at the time. He walked past us and said hello. For my friend Erin and I, it was like a brush with celebrity.

I'm not going to get too maudlin about what happened three days later, but I remember thinking about how we'd all been on cross-country flights right before it happened. I promised that I'd abstain from my favorite post-Michigan loss outburst -- "I hate my life!" -- and that I'd take these things less seriously.

None of that happened, of course. Shortly thereafter we had the Spartan Bob game, an event so agonizing that twice that week I woke up with nightmares about that last second. Michigan football never felt so good.
Think of all the glorious victories this team has given us (and the defeats, too). Then think of all the people you shared those moments with over the course of your lifetimes.....

I think it's safe to say that without Bo, Michigan football would have been "less than." As a result, our lives would have somehow been "less than."

Thanks, Bo...just... thanks for everything, I guess....

--Comment left on MGoBlog
It's true that, in college, I didn't spend a lot of time on football. There were approximately 8,456 other things that I loved. It's possible that if I started my years in Ann Arbor as a football nut, that list would be shorter, and that my life would be blander. That's not an overstatement.

But I also grew up in a Michigan family. A now-deceased great uncle was a fan. He wore Michigan ballcaps. Sometimes we watched games at his house.

A cousin 13 years older than me went to Michigan and got an engineering degree. I must have been 9 or 10 when I made my first trips to Ann Arbor for his graduation and later to go to his wedding at a church on campus. (When I was in college, I probably walked past that church on the corner of State and William more than a thousand times.)

It was all enough influence that, as a little kid, I liked Michigan the way that I liked the Tigers, even though I didn't understand either. I remember crying in rage before a Rose Bowl -- the Michigan-UCLA game in 1983 -- because the pre-game pundits predicted a Michigan loss.

And I knew about Bo Schembechler. I knew that Bo coached Michigan football and was to be taken seriously. People talked about him like they knew him, and it's funny when I think about it now, but I always had this vague assumption that my grandparents and people of their generation were friends with the famous people their age. Later, I wore a shirt that had a cartoon Bo face on the front and assorted Michigan bragging rights on the back.

What did I know about Bo? You know what you know about any distant authority figure. From roughly age three to nine, he was as omnipresent and respected as the president or Sparky Anderson. You didn't know anything about him, but you knew enough to venerate.
When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing.

-Bo Schembechler
I ended up in New York at least in part because so many of my college friends live here. Now I watch the games with people I've known for 10 years. There's still the fondness of knowing that my parents are sitting in a house on a lake watching the game, or driving around Michigan with the game on the radio. I think about friends in Ann Arbor, Chicago and L.A., and like the idea that they're all doing the same thing that I am.

Still, the games are different now. I work a brutal job. I don't congratulate myself when things go right because I don't want to get lazy; I don't worry when something goes wrong because, like a relief pitcher or a quarterback, chastising yourself over screw-ups will take you someplace bad. I'm not going to get emotional over work, so it comes out in these games instead. I can celebrate without being self-conscious, or brood without worrying that it's going to carry over tomorrow.
It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired the traits you hold dear -- loyalty, honesty, tradition, victory. And you wonder: if you were a different person who valued other things would you care so much? It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired other traits you share but do not hold particularly dear -- cantankerousness, stubbornness, an inability to suffer fools gladly. And you wonder: do I like Michigan because of the way I am, or am I the way I am because I like Michigan?

The answer seems clear.

Now the man who took that rudderless program and gave it -- gave you -- all the things you like and don't like is dead. In 1969, it all started with a victory over #1 Ohio State.

--Brian from
I was in the office this morning when news came that Bo had been rushed to the hospital because he collapsed before a television interview.

He'd had a scare like this about a month ago. Really, it was a miracle that he lived this long. Famously, at age 40, he had a heart attack on the eve of Michigan's 1970 Rose Bowl game.

With the upcoming Michigan-Ohio State game, he'd been in the media all this week. Every quote was fierce and principled. At a Monday press conference, he brought up an incident two years ago when Buckeye security -- under the guise of anti-terrorism precautions -- inspected the Michigan team's bags: "If they embarrass the Michigan team like they did two years ago, somebody ought to do something about it," Schembechler said. "They didn't do it to any other team, and they haven't done it to any other team this year. By God, they better not do it to Michigan -- and you can take that back to them."

I savored every quote from him this week. This was my man. My chest and my eyes swelled with pride. He was the living embodiment of the University of Michigan; he was sport itself.

He was dead by noon today.

It didn't feel as much like losing a beloved coach as it did like losing the patriarch. It was the passing of generations: of being a little kid who didn't know any better, of the pre-ESPN, regional, parochial sports world, where the post-War generation of Bear and Woody and Bo never had to worry about sportstalk radio or vile message boards.

I closed the door to my office and left it that way most of the day because I found myself choking up at odd moments. Nobody needed to see that.

Walking down the street to pick up a sandwich for lunch, I passed a stranger my age in a Michigan cap. "Go Blue!" I said to him. A few steps later, I turned around and said, "Did you hear Bo died this morning?"

Bo dying on the eve of this year's Michigan-Ohio State game: the best comparison I could think of was John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dying on July 4, 1826.

What happens tomorrow changed completely.

Before, I would have been content with an 11-1 season. A victory would have been a nice ending to a miraculous year. This old-fashioned team -- this Bo-like team -- with its sturdy, relentless running game and a defense that leaves shattered quarterbacks in its wake had given me so much joy that I couldn't feel disappointed.

I don't care about the BCS or any other ranking.

I don't care about being undefeated for the sake of being undefeated.

All I want is this last win -- for Bo and for everything else.

24 hours until kickoff: A restrained Woo!

Desmond says: Let's win it for Bo, guys.

I was originally going to post something about Ohio State fans tendency to either run around bellowing about the concept of ownership like a confused, yet precocious, seventh-grader who just read The Fountainhead. But then it occurred to me that trying to reason with Ohio State fans always makes me feel like Tim Canterbury whenever he had to interact with Gareth. So instead, I'll just offer my most fervent hopes that we can put Ohio State's stapler in the jelly.

LaMarr Woodley: Office prankster.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

We got wars going down in the Middle West

We got douchelords comin' 'round the back in the sweater vest ...
Perhaps you've heard of this game happening Saturday? It's always been big to me, but not for the reasons you might think.

I grew up in Cleveland. And I was obsessed with football. But only pro football. And it pretty much stayed that way until I actually became a student at Michigan.

I owned an actual Cleveland Browns helmet. I thought Brian Sipe was the best football player who ever lived. Saturdays were for cartoons; Sundays were for football. I was dimly aware that there was college football, too. But I lived for Sunday.

And I never liked Ohio State.

I think it started when I'd turn the TV knob to channel 3 on Sunday mornings, looking for the pre-pregame show, and come across Earle Bruce burping up excuses after a loss to to Purdue or Minnesota. BOR-ring! I just wanted my NFL films recap, bitch.

My Saturdays were spent actually outside, actually playing football, pretending to be Reggie Rucker, Rickey Feacher or Matt Bahr until it got dark and cold out. The sight of college football on TV just made me want it to be Sunday that much more.

I only watched Michigan-Ohio State every year because my mom went to Michigan. Between that and stupid ol' Earle, guess which team I supported.

My childhood college football experience as a kid consisted almost entirely of watching Michigan play Ohio State every year, then watching Michigan play in the Rose Bowl.

But ever since I became a student, it's become a much bigger deal. A big reason for all the passion in college football is because so many fans have such an intimate connection with their team. It's more than a shared city or state. It's our own identity.

So yeah, this is big. I'd love to go on and on for thousands of words here about all that, but I'm too excited to think straight.

This week has been draining. The slightest provocation makes me think of the game. I watch DVR-ed episodes of "Scrubs" and wonder if Dr. Cox would be a Michigan fan because he wears a Red Wings jersey.

I'm sure I'm not alone. I've been explaining to my non-college-football-fan friends that this game, in this rivalry, is like waiting for Christmas, only there's a decent chance that Santa comes down the chimney with a flame-thrower. It's like getting ready for your wedding, at which it's possible your beloved will run off with your worst enemy.

I've always enjoyed beating Ohio State, but I can't imagine circumstances in which I'd enjoy beating them more.

Awesomeness awaits us. And possibly hooting.

Fun with mascots (non-college-football content)

For some reason, I've decided to put together a list of the worst imaginable mascots. I have no idea why I thought of this, but here you go. Clearly, this is the work of a mind with extra-spazzy synapses this week.

Subjy, Objy and Preds, Grammar Ambassadors: These adorable scamps in western gear are present at every National Grammar Foundation grammar rodeo. Giant, fuzzy cowboys, except Objy is a horse. Occasionally appear with rodeo clowns wearing prepositions, modifiers and the coveted who/whom lasso.

Casey Clawsen, One-Crab Crustacean: Giant blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) who represents the Chesapeake Bay Area Crabbers Association. Rigid adherence to biologically correct details makes for big laffs when kids step on his "swimming legs." Rejected names for this character included: Thomas Pinchon, Claws von Bulow, Bitey.

Bospy and DarDanielle, The Twins of Turkey: They represent shipping and trade for the Port of Istanbul. The two colorful, jauntily-costumed, nautically themed characters have occasionally sat for Turkish diplomats at EU accession talks. Oddly enough, the mascots resemble large, flightless birds, but representatives are adamant that they are NOT turkeys. Or repurposed Hokie Bird costumes.

The Houston Eulers, Math-Savvy Punsters: Not so much a mascot as an intramural flag-football team made up of grad students from the University of Houston's math department. There are plans, however, to dress up one of their girlfriends in a giant, fuzzy, lowercase e. Just as soon as they can locate both a costume and a willing girlfriend.

Chingy, Anthropomorphization of the I Ching: Giant fuzzy 經 character deployed by the Chinese government to help with outreach after seemingly random and unpleasant events.

Whenever a bus plunges off an unfinished road, a train derails due to poorly maintained rails or, say, a dam is built, flooding ancient cities, Chingy is there to explain and console upset citizens that it's all part of the order in the universe, and has absolutely nothing to do with corruption, greed or a totalitarian government which totally loves its people. Currently cannot appear in western world due to possible copyright infringments.

Limey, The Scurvy-Awareness Lime: Pretty self explanatory, actually. Bring citrus fruits on those long sea voyages, kids. You don't want the scurvy.

It's early Thursday morning and 63 hours to kickoff

LaMarr Woodley says hello. (Photo from the Daily.)

It's the first thing I think about when I wake up. I listen to the ESPNU podcast on the subway -- more annoyance than it's worth, but it gets the juices flowing. At my desk, it's time for MZone, MGoBlog, EDSBS, SMQ, the Daily, and the Free Press. Four cups of coffee and it's time for work, which is little more than a veil of tears that comes between me and my precious.

I'm a basketcase at the office.

A co-worker is so obsessed that his wife might divorce him.

What are your excuses, fuckers?

Thought so.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

We interrupt this tsunami of anticipation to bring you something completely different

As the owner of precisely zero working computers since April, my music appreciation has stagnated. CrimeNotes was kind enough to burn me a CD (I know: so 20022) of The Hold Steady's "Boys and Girls in America" and my reaction to it was similar in amplitude to his. Had he not already published multiple excellent treatises on the matter, I would have happily added my two cents. It's made me giddy with glee ever since CrimeNotes slapped his headphones over my ears and pressed play, Marty McFly-style, while we were drinking on my roof late one night after a cookout.

Strangely enough, that's how I first came across the song "O Valencia!" from The Decemberists' latest album The Crane Wife, although the circumstances were different. My co-blogger was not present. Instead of 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning, it was more like 11 p.m. on a Sunday night. And although my friend and I were plenty drunk, I had been having a monumentally shitty day (never you mind the reasons why). My friend handed me his iPod, cued up to the song.

I sat there, nursing my beer, contemplating my life and listening to Colin Meloy's rollicking and tragic tale of star-crossed lovers. It's story of thwarted happiness resonated with me, although for the wrong reasons. Whatever ill fate had befallen me that day, at least I hadn't just had the love of my life shot to death in my arms.

The lyrics are arresting:
Oh Valencia!
With your blood still warm on the ground
And I swear to the stars
I'll burn this whole city down

I've since been listening to it nonstop on the Decemberists' website. If this song doesn't make you want to shed a tear for every missed opportunity at happiness in your life, you either have a dusty opening where your soul should be, or need to take more risks in your life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's Tuesday and we're within 90 hours of kickoff

A sampling of e-mails:
I cannot deal. I can't think about, talk about, read about, or hear about Saturday's game without feeling like I'm going to puke. [My six-month-old baby] and I are going to go bury our faces in a blankie -- somebody tell us when it's over.

ggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhh motherfucking Ohio State I hate them I hate them I hate them and I hope Jim Tressel's fucking sweater vest gets caught in a CoolZone fan on the sidelines and sends him airborne out of the Shoe and flings him somewhere in the Atlantic aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh
If a disaster occurs, of course, that'll just make the pain more acute. I might commit ritual seppuku with a rusty spatula if we lose.
I can think of something worse than a Rose Bowl vs. Rutgers or WVU or Louisville: The Fiesta Bowl against one of those clowns, while Notre Dame plays in the Rose Bowl. If that happens, I would disassemble my body molecule by molecule until I became a finely atomized mist of fury and outrage.
Please keep the semen jokes to a minimum this Saturday.
Most importantly, this video will sate you for a few minutes.

(Found via the MZone guys.)

Monday, November 13, 2006


The biggest sporting event of our lifetime happens on Saturday, an event that makes this week the longest of my life. Someone should make an advent calendar for this shit: open a little door, and there's Woody Hayes! The next day: Sam Sword! If sports is the opium of the masses, I am presently passed out on the floor of a Chinatown den, my pockets picked by painted ladies while Plug Uglies steal my top-hat.

I am not myself.

Someone threw a chewy toy at me, which kept me entertained until I shredded it. Today I ate a whole chapstick. When people walk into my office or apartment I either jump on them or growl. If they make eye contact, I piddle the rug. Yesterday I destroyed my houseplants. Walking to the subway this morning, I tried to bite a stranger. I have singlehandedly torn apart a chair. On the advice of my vet, I'm wearing a cone over my collar so that I don't scratch my ears any more than necessary.

I can't have candy or sugar products because I'll stay up all night pretending that I'm Alan Branch driving a cement mixer. My bosses won't let me sit near my friends because they act up when they're near me. I think I ate all of the paste in the middle of a meeting. This morning I got yelled at for pretending to be Bennie Oosterbaan. The counselor wants to know why I have problems focusing and asked if I'm having problems at home: I told her to bite me, and then sang The Yellow and Blue.

I cut my ear while shaving. I spend much of the day scouring blogs, newspaper articles and message boards to re-read quotes I've already read five times. I send spastic e-mails to friends and co-workers. I leave annoying comments on football blogs. Bo Schembechler reduces me to tears. I have hot flashes like Barbara Walters. I think I just caught an ulcer.

It's not going to get any better in the next four days. If it becomes necessary, I'm going to take a personal day on Friday. I could run a marathon right now, I swear; I could memorize The Iliad in Ancient Greek, I promise. I sort of figure that at midnight on Saturday I'll have a scrape on my head and will be sprinting shirtless down Mott Street.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thursday link-or-rama: Something for everybody

They're not all exactly recent, but we haven't done this in awhile.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Don't forget that the witch had a sister

Enjoy your war crimes tribunal.

I'm jealous of confident sports fans, the ones who always think that their team is going to win and then blame their losses on biased refs.

I am not that kind of sports fan. In my mind, the team is always on the verge of a spectacular self-imposed collapse, and most of its wins can be attributed to bullet-dodging and dumb luck.

All through last night, I expected a fourth-quarter collapse: for the Western states to buoy the Republicans, for the news that McCaskill, Webb or Tester weren't able to make the cut. Through mid-afternoon, I waited for reports that Virginia had fallen apart and that John Tester had been lapped in Montana.

It wasn't until Don Rumsfeld resigned that I took a deep breath and realized that it was safe to wake up.

In less than 24 hours, the greatest villain of our lifetime has resigned in disgrace, and there's promise that Constitutional order will be restored.

I have a new sympathy for what the Munchkins went through after some house dropped out of the sky and flattened that fucking witch. I'm peeking from behind the corner, eyes half-covered, still trying to figure out whether it's real and whether I can celebrate.

I now move that Cole Slaw Blog adjourn this meeting of Policy Roundtable. Because in the near term, we've got bigger things to think about.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


li8:10: I'm taking a stab at live-blogging the elections. I know the electorate hangs on my every word, but the only reason I'm doing this is because it might be interesting to have a real-time meltdown recorded on this site.

So far nothing interesting has happened, except for the buzz that Lieberman has ended up in a close race. I like Ned Lamont and threw a little donation his way, but this hasn't been a race that I've cared a lot about because, despite being a bit of a douche and frequently wrong, Lieberman takes his job seriously and wants to do the right thing. He's sad and dysfunctional but I can't hate him.

Also, CNN appears to be staffed wholly by fucknuts. Friends and I sat next to Jeff Greenfield and his son at a Yankees-Tigers game last August. He was very nice and his son seemed normal, so I won't bash him. The rest of that network deserves to be torn asunder. Reluctantly, I'm watching MSNBC.

You, sir, were a courteous baseball spectator.

8:27: Hoot! Rick Santorum just lost in Pennsylvania. You know him as the guy who thinks that gays are like dogfuckers; our Baghdad Bureau Chief once heckled him in a softball game for being a fetus-handler and made his staffers cry; I mostly associate him with denying evolution. Thank God he's gone.

Haha -- Howard Fineman just said, "Santorum is a thinker."

8:34: hoot ... MSNBC calls Bob Menendez the winner in New Jersey. Menendez doesn't do anything for me but I have a friend who's driven himself crazy working on this race. I assume he can go back to drinking again.

8:41: Hoot! Sherrod Brown is called the winner in Ohio. I'd like to thank Flop and our commentors Crunk Raconteur and Tommy O for their homestate not fucking everything up for once.

8:57: Oh, for fuck's sake.

MSNBC has devolved into Joe fucking Scarborough trying to insist that he "plays it down the middle" and that he was slandered by Howard Dean. Fuck you, Scarborough, and fuck MSNBC for wasting this valuable airtime with this preening bullshit. Who gives a damn.

This has gone on for about three minutes now. At least. Now Chris Matthews is sucking Scarborough's cock.

You need to shut the fuck up with your insecurities.

9:11: Lieberman wins in Connecticut. Oh well. Now that Santorum is gone, somebody needs to be the national scold.

9:17: Hoot! The Democrat wins in Maryland, interrupting Joe Scarborough's inane blather about his forebearers' political inclinations.

9:20: Damn, Nancy Pelosi is one terrible public speaker. Hearing her give an inspirational speech is like going to a wax museum with Stephen Hawking.

9:27: Hoot! The Democrat wins in Rhode Island. Poor Lincoln Chafee. He seems like a nice man. The Democrats are halfway there -- three down and three to go. (I switched to CNN from MSNBC because Chris Matthews was talking about how he doesn't understand how a nice Republican loses an election.)

9:39: Flop here, taking over the live-blogging action for a while. I don't share his sympathy for Lieberman. Oh, I'm sure he's nice and means well, but cry me a fucking river. Let him serve on the board of a local charity then, and not spend the next two years serving as the White House's Useful Idiot. Also, I'm very happy that Strickland and Brown won in Ohio, thus keeping me from being forced to purchase one of these. I'd like to hear some House results from southern Ohio, though. Mean Jean could be sent packing tonight, along with her partner in Looks-Like-the-Carpool-Mom-Who-Yelled-At-Her-Kids-Right-In-Front-of-You-itude, Katherine Harris.

9:58: Four races left for control of the Senate. Missouri, Montana, Tennessee and Virginia. Democrats need to win all four to inoculate themselves against a party switch by Joe Lieberman. The House is coming along nicely, with some pickups coming in Indiana and Kentucky. Man, it sure is weird watching an election and not feeling like the bottom is going to fall out at any second.

10:05: CNN talking 2008 presidential election here. Which reminds me. Earlier this afternoon, I saw Rudy Giuliani on MSNBC. He noted that Abraham Lincoln, like Bush, faced a difficult war. Then he told the story of meeting a WWII veteran who fought at the battle of the bulge and reminded him that not everyone thought World War II was going great all the time, too. I think that sound bite belongs in the Great Moments in Fuckstickery pantheon. Back to the matter at hand, I've just been handed a bulletin (via IM from Crunk Raconteur) that Nick Lampson is leading in his bid to take over Tom DeLay's former district. Fun.

MSNBC's pundits are psychotic demented psycho clumsy motherfuckers. And they'll put a hook in your bum leg.

10:15: Hoot! Charlie Bass (R) just lost in New Hampshire, meaning Dems have picked up four of the 15 seats they need, after gaining two in Indiana, and one in Kentucky earlier tonight.

10:41: Hoot! Bob Ney's seat in Ohio has been won by a Democrat named Zack Space, whose campaign signs I can only hope were "Space, bitches! Space." Also, another Indiana seat flipped. So it's now six down, nine to go. Also, I heard something about Heath Shuler _ The Washington Post appears to have him winning, but you know how soft they are on the Redskins.

10:53: Hoot! Let's go ahead and give this one to Shuler. Also, some other Democrats have won elsewhere, I think in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Seven to go. This is literally happening so fast I can't keep up. I think I'll just hoot incessantly until the Dems are over the top. Hoooooooot!

10:59: We interrupt this hootathon to note that the Northern Illinois-Toledo game is coming down to a spectacular and surreal finish. The whole game's been played in a thick fog, and now the Huskies are on the Rockets' 10 inside a minute, trailing 17-13. Phil Horvath just threw a fade pattern, and I had no idea if it was caught or not. Fun stuff.

11:02: Hoot! Two more pickups, in Pennsylvania (again) and Florida (the Foley seat). Holy crap.

11:06: Hoot! Down goes Sweeney in New York. Now when he shows up to frat parties, it'll just be weird and kind of creepy, not hilarious because it's a Congressman. Four to go, I think. Hard to keep up.

11:11: This is what a landslide looks like. A nationwide repudiation of the worst president we've seen in our lifetimes. Most news services are saying the Democrats have seized control of the house. There's no reason to doubt it. The Democrats are probably going to keep rolling up wins throughout the night, as well they should. This is a nation thoroughly sick of the bullshit it's been spoon-fed for six years.

11:15: Hooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot!

11:26: Cole Slaw Blog's Washington Desk reports a tip that the only parts of Virginia not to report yet are Charlottesville and parts of Arlington. Both those places should break pretty heavily for Webb, so that's encouraging, but he's got about 7,000 votes to make up. I'm concerned. Also, the Michigan "Civil Rights" Initiative seems to be doing well, and this makes me feel kind of ill.

11:33: CrimeNotes again, resuming control of the reins. Flop's observations are much too sane and serious for my taste because --


There is now just a 5,000-vote margin. I am hitting constant refresh on this site while a friend on IM is literally counting precinct by precinct and doing research to see how these places broke in 2004. I am chainsmoking and hopping.

11:35: In a race closely watched by no one but me ... Democrats sweep the University of Michigan regents' election! It's enough to make one repeat, "Yeah, baby," in a heavy Long Island accent that unsucessfully mimicks an Austin Powers quote.

11:40: A moment of severe bile for Chris Matthews:

Matthews, no one cares if you personally are sad because you personally like Republican congressional candidates who lose. Maybe if you were praising their statesmanship I could swallow it. That is not your style. You are speaking about your warm personal feelings and talking about how you don't understand how such people could lose elections. The people stuck voting for these douches don't know them personally, the way you do. They don't talk to them on their shows for hours and have the luxury of knowing whether they like puppies and caramel. That is what you care about. So go eat some caramel and shut up, dude.

Also, Ken Mehlman is gay. I don't mean that pejoratively. It just needs to be said.

12:10 a.m.: If Claire McCaskill loses, I'm going to try to bite off my own face.

Win or lose, I will always love you.

12:34 a.m.: Hey, Harold Ford just lost.

Oh well.

12:37 a.m.: God. Damn. George Allen -- better known through his screenname World B. Racistselfloathingsisterpuncher -- just gave a short speech saying that he's going to sleep and looking forward to the recount.

12:40 a.m.: Hootness! MSNBC reports that there are 30,000 votes in Democratic stronghold Fairfax County that haven't been counted.

12:42 a.m.: Oh my fucking hootness! McCaskill has just pulled even, per CNN!

12:53 a.m.: I wish this were a joke, but CNN is reporting from a roomful of bloggers in DC. The network just cut away from the studio to go to a collection of pasty dudes with glasses, one of whom looks 15, for their macro-analysis of the evening. The adjectives "liberal" and "conservative" are being thrown like George Allen punches at macaca convention.

CNN, you need to bring me and Flop on board. The cutaways would be much more visually dynamic, and we're definitely better-looking than the douchelords you just showed. Our segment would probably include the following:
  • Liberal use of projectiles.
  • Conservative use of silly string.
  • A libertarian approach to punching in the shoulder.
  • Breaking news in the form of real-time bruises.
  • A moderate approach to yelling.
  • Staying the course in all things monkey-clap dance party.
1:03 a.m.: Someone just IM'd me to say that MSNBC reported McCaskill up by 13,000 votes. Unfortunately, I was watching CNN, where they were talking about James Carville's cell phone calls.

1:16 a.m.: I'm going to try to sign off now and go to bed. There is work to be done and bills to be paid, so I should get some sleep.

But I'll probably post something as soon as John Tester wins.

1:55: It's Flop. Jim Webb has declared victory, although a recount seems in the cards. Claire McCaskill is speaking now on MSNBC, I think also declaring victory. She's also got a slight lead. CrimeNotes wishes he were watching. If Webb, McCaskill and Tester all win, Lieberman becomes a swing vote for leadership elections and of course on legislation. He said he'll caucus with Dems, but I'll believe that when I see it. If it comes down to him, you have to think the White House will be showering him with flowers, candy and caramels (maybe he'll share some with Chris Matthews, who right now is upset that McCaskill and Webb haven't waited for their opponents to concede). Boo fucking hoo.

2:06: Hoot! Claire McCaskill just won, according to the AP. Matthews will probably bitch about this still, although all the talking heads on MSNB are waxing poetic about elections.

2:09: Talent apparently conceded. And Chris Matthews said he did nothing wrong. How about being a Republican and supporting George W. Bush? How about opposing stem-cell research? Nah. He did nothing that Chris Matthews found objectionable. Our nation's guardians of discourse pretty much suck.

2:13: Brian Williams denounces robocalls that keep calling back as "the godfather of dirty business" without noting which party paid for all the calls that behaved in that manner. Typical.

2:57: Allow me a moment of self-interested happiness. Ohio voted to ban smoking in almost all public places, including bars and restaurants. This means no more coming home from the bar and throwing my clothes in the washing machine when I'm home visiting my family and friends. I should also note that they rejected a similar-sounding "ban" which would have actually enshrined the right to smoke in bars, restaurants and bowling alleys (hey, it's Ohio) into the state constitution. The ban that was approved is state law, but not part of the constitution, I think.

3:29: An operative in one of CSB's far-flung bureaus IMs to inform me that Pat Buchanan was saying that Lincoln didn't change his outlook on the war because he had a bad election in 1862. (Note that this is the second Republican to compare Bush to Lincoln today.) Chris Matthews' reply to Buchanan: "Let's not pretend you were on Lincoln's side in that war." It works on so many levels. See what you kids who go to be at responsible hours miss?

3:54: OK, looks like I was wrong earlier about those Ohio house races. Chabot won and Mean Jean Schmidt appears to have done so as well, But challenger Victoria Wulsin isn't conceding yet.

4:42: Man, it's time for bed. I'd say something about how it'll be nice to wake up on a post-election Wednesday not feeling sick to my stomach, but in 2000 I felt fine until I turned on the radio in my car to hear who won. And who knows what bullshit will happen while I sleep. Tester is up in Montana, where there's a delay in the vote reporting, while Virginia is super close, but Webb also leads. That one could become scorched earth if it's down to another recount to decide control of one branch of government. Looks like they have most of the rest of the month to count absentees and provisionals.

4:54: One last thing. Arizona _ Arizona! _ became the first state to defeat an amendment that would ban gay marriage. I didn't think any state outside of Massachusetts or someplace would actually do that. Certainly not Arizona. Definitely another small victory for freedom on a pretty amazing night. So much for Karl Rove's genius. He just got outwitted by the American electorate. Hoots to you all, America.

Monday, November 06, 2006

We're gonna start it with a positive jam

We win approximately 22 seats in the House. I base this conclusion on the political blogs I read and nothing more.

Jim Webb loses in Virginia. I have no reason to say this, aside from a suspicion that many Virginians are insane and that the ballot problems are going to screw enough people in a tight race.

Harold Ford loses. I won't shed any tears.

Claire McCaskill, my favorite, squeaks it out in Missouri. I say this based on the belief that if she loses, I will cry. Because I love her.

John Tester wins. He's tits and smashtastic rolled into one. (That's how I'm quoted in his ads.)

No worries about New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania or Maryland.

And Ohio, if you put a gun to my head, I'd rather have Sherrod Brown in the Senate than see Michigan beat the Buckeyes. It's not going to come down to that, because that's not how democracy works until Mark Burnett takes over.

I think that leaves the Senate 50-50, with Dick Cheney casting tie-breaking votes.

It obviously will make me happy if the Democrats clean up, although it will prompt the White House to incite Constitutional crises on a near-weekly basis. Shit will get a whole lot crazier, bastards are going to ignore subpoenas, and I sort of worry that the White House will push the Constitution even closer to a breaking point.

I also worry that by midnight on Tuesday I'm going to feel like we live in a banana republic, and not the kind that sells beige shit to yuppies.

In New York, we have the luxury of voting for Democrats under the more progressive Working Families Party line. We can also vote for the lame Green Party candidate as a protest against Hillary. I plan to do these things.

Since this is an actual post about politics, as opposed to an effort to have fun that backfired badly, let's fight in the comments.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Your goodwill ambassadors to the world

One of the nice things about the New York Marathon is watching people show off their home countries. You feel like New York is the center of the world after all, not merely an unholy nexus of trust fund babies and self-loathing young professionals.

Nice people in a physical condition superior to my own go running. They wear shirts with their names scribbled on. For those who come from abroad, many choose to wear a shirt that highlights their nation of origin. They look something like this:

Italian Viking, as depicted in Newington's photostream.

Flop and I planted ourselves on the course. We went to Central Park, near the end of the marathon, to watch for our friend Danielle. She was running, and we found a perfect view. Thousands of nice people line the perimeter of the race to cheer friends and strangers. When a man in a Bob shirt runs past, you cheer for Bob. When a lady named Nancy runs past, you whoop and holler, "Go Nancy!" This is what the fans look like:

Marathon fans, as depicted in tommy.lan's photostream.

Flop and I developed a hierarchy of encouragement. At the top of the list was people wearing the T-shirts of Big 10 colleges. When a Michigan shirt appeared in the crowd, a runner heard the standard Go Blues and Go Michigans, shouted with the kind of enthusiasm that I usually save when for Michigan Stadium when the defense is about to pummel some poor bastard on third-and-long.

We saw Wisconsin runners, a couple with Iowa shirts, and Minnesota. They were greeted with love.

"What do we do about Ohio State?" Flop asked.

"I think on a day like today, we root for Ohio State runners regardless," I said.

It wouldn't be that simple. "Hey Buckeyes! Go Buckeyes! Have fun in Pasadena!" I shouted. "You're going to be 11 and 1 after November 18!"

The first couple of Buckeye runners ignored us. The Michigan alumni in New York are manifest. They are ubiquitous. The Buckeye runners had probably encountered enthusiasts less gentlemanly than us.

On the third and final Buckeye, I got creative. "Go Buckeye! You're almost done. LaMarr Woodley called and he sends his regards!"

This got the reaction I wanted: a smile and a wave.

We rooted for a MAC school -- "Hey Bowling Green! Go Bowling Green!" -- which was met with surprise and appreciation. Flop asked whether we should cheer basketball schools too. "No fucking way," I said. The Duke alumni received no encouragement.

When cheering in English, I found Flop to be a somewhat difficult fan. He adopted the intonation of an angry gym coach bullying the fat kid to cross the finish line. "Let's go, Barbara. Let's go!"

"Dude, don't yell at Barbara like that," I said. "She needs encouraging."

"What, that didn't sound encouraging?"

"No, you sound like you're chastising her for showing insufficient go. Barbara doesn't need to be yelled at by the likes of you for not having enough go."

But in foreign languages, Flop was a one-man United Nations.

Who knew that Flop was a man of the world? A dude who can't comb his hair to save his life is somehow able to inspire foreigners in their native tongues, no matter what the dialect. He apparently knows every flag and every language, from Albanian to Uzbek.

Flop went wild for Frenchmen and the Swiss. He greeted Hungarians in Hungarian. When dudes came by with Mexican logos, he spoke fluent Spanish and pronounced Mexico as Meh-hee-ko.

Japanese runners were inspired in fluent Japanese and gesticulation that appeared to be an invitation to Sumo Wrestle. He shouted in Hindi and held an impromptu Diwali celebration. When a troupe of Peruvians ran past, he terraced a hill in Central Park for agricultural purposes -- it was a gesture to pay his respect to the Incas. He celebrated in Korean and whipped up a batch of Kimchi. When Canadians ran past, he sang O, Canada! in both French and English, with apparent mastery. He presented Australians with bloomin' onions. He waxed Brazilians, who thanked him in Portugese.

When he broke out the Hungarian, elderly ladies next to us turned around and stared in awe. "That's the only Hungarian I know," he said, then chanted, "Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi oi oi!"

Unable to compete with that kind of enthusiasm, I became discouraged. I yelled things like, "Hey, Danielle, where are you?" She's a marathon veteran, but I worried that something happened -- that maybe she ran out of steam or even was injured. Flop and I stood for more than an hour and long past the time she was scheduled to hit this spot in the race.

We got news that Danielle had already finished. She ran right past, but we missed her.

"If we saw her, I wanted to yell, 'Janice Rossi is a whore!'" I said. "That's her favorite line from Goodfellas. She would've heard that for sure."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More suggested jokes for John Kerry

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." John Kerry, 10/30/06.

On the radio program "Imus in the Morning," the Massachusetts senator said he was "sorry about a botched joke" about Bush. John Kerry, 11/1/06.

A few bulletproof "jokes" I'd like to propose:

"I am deeply concerned that America's lower classes no longer show appropriate respect for the debutante season."

"You know, if you network effectively while at Yale, you make the most of it and join the proper social club, someday you too might be tapped for Skull & Bones and become a major party candidate for President of the United States. Tragically, the rest of you could end up stuck as successful bankers and Wall Street lawyers."

"If you aggressively groom thyself and monitor thy eating, thou also might marry a billionaire widow. If thou art unkempt and unsightly, thou may have no choice but to bang a University of Minnesota cheerleader."

"Perfect your Latin, study hard, and you can read The Aeneid in Virgil's original, splendid voice. With inadequate Latin, you will be consigned to read the serviceable new Robert Fagles translation while eating freeze-dried soup in Kandahar."

"If they don't pay close attention in their wine-tasting classes, I fear that more Americans will drink Night Train."

"I understand the struggles of America's working folks. Just the other day I was driving my Volvo to Dean & Deluca when I spilled a latte on my crotch. In conclusion, our very, very gay and brave troops must be encouraged to marry persons of the same gender."

"I have come all the way to Des Moines to tell you that Rick von Sloneker is a cad, and it is my current intention to thrash him."

"Who among us does not love the Cha-Cha?"

(Preemptive rebuttal: Spare me any comments about how I'm holding water for the Republicans or about how Kerry's remarks were taken out of context. Just like you, I broke things the night that he lost, and I've been busting my ass trying to make sure that the right thing happens in this mid-term. Candidates on the margins shouldn't have to suffer just because we nominated the Bill Buckner of American politics in 2004.)