Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The solitary life of an American soccer fan

This is my living room in the wee hours of the morning. I've got quite the setup here: some red curry lentil soup, pickled okra, pickled beets and a giant Kirin Ichiban. It's probably the weirdest sports snack you've ever laid eyes on, but it's appropriate. Take a look at the television screen. I'm watching soccer.

Soccer is like the pickled beets (or is it okra) of sports in the United States. And I'm OK with that. I'm not one of those soccer evangelists who likes to go around denouncing everyon who doesn't like the game. I haven't played the sport in any organized form since I was six. I just happen to enjoy watching it. I even chose a team to follow in the Premiership this year, Reading FC.

So this is how I came to be sitting alone on my couch, with the sounds of Britons chanting at the top of their lungs providing an aural backdrop for the calm, accented announcer. I had been waiting all day and night to watch my recording of the FA cup match between my beloved Reading, and those horrible bastards, Manchester United.

It couldn't have started worse. Manchester United scored in the second minute, when the ball slipped through the arms of the goalkeeper they started in place of American Marcus Hahnmann. Then they scored again, catching the poor, catatonic Aussie out of position. Then my DVR's recording went all screwy and the announcer was out of his gourd because it was 3-0. I have no idea what happened. Which is fine because my balky DVR inadvertently provded me with an idea of what it must have been like to be Reading at the time.

I fast forwarded a bit, just to see if the rest of the match would be worth watching, or if I should just skip it and watch some DVR-ed episodes of Frasier. Reading scored to make it 3-1, so I skipped ahead to halftime and fixed the glorious repast you see above.

Incredibly, I watched the entire second half, transfixed. Reading's players kept attacking, and kept playing their asses off as if the game were tied. Manchester United played haughty, seemingly happy to run out the string and advance to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup, England's all-comers national tourament. As someone who did not have Reading FC running through my veins in any meaningful way, I was content enough to enjoy the brilliant, indomitable play that Reading was showing on my behalf.

I started typing this blog post when it was 3-1, imagining a pleasant rumination on the nature of the casual, pickle-philic sports fan. But then late substitute Leroy Lita, an imposing, Kinshasha-born striker, who had caught my attention early on in the Premiership season (Reading came back from 2-0 down to win its debut). Several minutes later, he scored an astounding goal seeming to catch and redirect the ball almost 90 degrees with his head. Reading now had a notion with about six or seven minutes left.

I was transfixed. I couldn't have looked away if I had to. When, in stoppage time, a hard drive beat United goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar but not the crossbar, I jumped off my sofa -- nearly upsetting my computer -- and landed in a crouch I maintained until the final whistles.

A perfectly innocuous night had been transformed for me. I stuck by "my" team, watched the balance of a game I could have easily quit on, and though I didn't get the reward of a win, I still get to feel as if I witnessed something amazing.

And now I really, really hate Manchester United.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I love google images

One minute you're arguing about the African serval, a massive housepet banned from New York.

Immediately, you stumble upon this, and spend 20 minutes laughing your ass off.

Fun with quotations

Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged. -- Abraham Lincoln, as channeled by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) last week during debate on the non-binding Iraq war resolution.

How this didn't become a minor outrage -- or even become one of those "weird news" items that get e-mailed around -- I'll never know. But more important is to be prepared for future ones. Here's some more I soon expect to see on the House floor, uttered by Republicans to support their cause.

"The right and true locus of power is not in a House of Burgesses or any such body, but with a moral man who leads alone." -- Thomas Jefferson.

"It befitf all great men, whatever their belief may actually be, to offer their fupport, fweat and tearf to a ftrong leader in a time of war or ftrife." -- George Washington.

"Fuck Spain. We're taking them out." -- Theodore Roosevelt.

"Commerce is the one true method by which our great nation can make itself into a shining cross of gold on a hill, one upon which the rest of the world may gaze upon in awe." -- William Jennings Bryan.

"Het lijkt met het beste dat ik een eigen bed krijg, want ik ben enorm. Ik slaapwandel en soms gil ik in mijn slaap. Als dat teveel stoort sleept ik voortaan elke avond wel een matras naar de huiskamer." -- Martin Van Buren.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

An evening with CrimeNotes and Flop

Discussion agenda includes:
  • Hypothetical treatise titled "The Human Butt."
  • Medical cocaine.
  • Whether a surgeon should invite a retarded ten-year-old son to observe in the operating room.
  • Coffee enemas.
  • Prank text messages.
  • The phrase, "Me so gay."
  • Whether intestines have the most neurons in the human body outside of the brain.
  • Hillary vs. Obama.
  • Driving in the snow.
  • Crashing a snowmobile through a garage door.
  • Query: Who is the biggest pussy?
  • Query: Is Cleveland completely despicable, or just fucked up?
  • Query: When is it appropriate to root for Ohio State?
  • Idiocracy: is it funnier than Team America?
  • Variations in the rules of euchre.
  • Excessive Tivo use.
  • Tumors.
  • The injustice of Peri Gilpin never winning an Emmy award for her work on Frasier.
  • Niles Crane.
  • The Michigan State fight song.
  • Urine.
  • The bathroom habits of truck drivers.
  • Reach-arounds.
  • Ivy League hockey.
  • Crustaceans and their chitin shells.
  • Traffic in the Death Valley.
  • Surgeons who like XBox.
  • Whether Penn grads are deplorable.
  • Eating clubs at Princeton.
  • Harvard's overrated professional schools.
  • Who went to what high school in suburban Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Farting.
  • Dead raccoons, muskrats, and nutrias.
  • People who masturbate in the living room.
  • Whether winters in the Midwest make a person's cheeks "rosy."
  • South Georgia.
  • A dictatorial field hockey coach.
  • Instant messaging phrases.
  • Wikipedia.
  • The role of Jesuit priests in Japanese military history.
  • Irish Catholics who hate Notre Dame.
  • Sisters.
  • Horrible crowds at Lower East Side bars.
  • Getting trashed with parents.
  • Ph.Ds who marry.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The most trusted name

(Click to enlarge, but only if you're a sucker.)

It's 1:30 a.m. and (no link thru -- not worthy) features the following:
  • 4 Anna Nicole Smith headlines
  • 3 Britney Spears headlines
  • "Two clowns shot dead"
  • Baptist sex abuse
  • A mom throwing ice
  • "Gay hip-hop artist tries to take back f-word"
  • Desperate Housewives star
  • An autistic woman who "voices own language"
  • Clinton-Obama sissyfight
  • An Iranian (a pro-American one, thank balls)
  • Iraq (a story about rape)
By contrast, features:

  • 6 Anna Nicole Smith headlines
  • 2 Britney Spears headlines
  • Desperate Housewives star
  • Diaper astronaut
  • Posh Spice
  • An apology to Cameron Diaz

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dumbass Diptych

Self-Portrait with swiss chard and kiwi, 2007
digital photograph

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The comprehensive encyclopedia of The Hold Steady, Vol. 1: Places

A little while ago I noted plans to put together a full guide to the people and places mentioned in The Hold Steady's lyrics. With the help of Google Spreadsheets, I've put together the first installment. In addition to the basic details, I've added lyric excerpts, limited background about some of the more obscure places, some occasional analysis of the lyrics, and, where relevant, some background on the band's relationship to a particular place.

For Twin Cities-specific background, I again recommend the good work at The Hold Steady Guide to the Twin Cities.

Volume 2 will break down the people (bands, writers, Catholic saints and pop culture figures) mentioned in the band's lyrics. Volume 3 will be dedicated to recurring characters in the band's work.

If the layout is a little unwieldy, the full spreadsheet is published here.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

CrimeNotes and Flop debate the collapse of civilizations

Paraphrased from an argument last night:

Flop: Fucker, if you could get text messages you would have known where we were.
Me: No, if I could get text messages I wouldn't have read your fucking text message because I would have been annoyed that someone sent me a text message.
Flop: Great. I'm sure that if you were a Roman, you would have refused to adopt those newfangled phalanxes.
Me: Didn't the Roman's have phalanxes?
Flop: No they didn't. That's why their empire collapsed.
Me: You huge asshole. The Romans had phalanxes. That's not why their empire collapsed.
Flop: Okay, fine, pick an empire that collapsed because it refused to adapt to new technology.
Me: The Romans rotted from within.
Flop: The Hittites!
Me: Fuck you and your Hittites.
Flop: Why did the Hittites collapse?
Me: Beats the hell out of me.
Flop: I'm pretty sure it's because they failed to adapt. Okay, well, pick a fallen empire that refused to adapt to technology, and that's you.
Me: Okay, the dinosaurs.
Flop: (sarcastic) Oh yes, the dinosaurs. Of course, the dinosaurs and their mighty mighty empire. And they were victims of what kind of technological failing exactly?
Me: They refused to develop a missile-defense shield that would deflect incoming asteroids.
Flop: The kind of great missile defense that George W. Bush is developing, right?
Me: Okay, the Aborigines probably didn't adapt to technology.
Flop: You're only saying that because they're black. What's next, are you going to blame the Iroquois for not having a smallpox vaccine at the ready?
Me: No, you motherfucker. But now that you mention it, the Indians died of smallpox, right?
Flop: That's right, asshole.
Me: Okay, and according to popular legend, the English gave them blankets infected with smallpox, correct?
Flop: Yes, you douche.
Me: So the problem wasn't refusing to adapt to technology, it was that they were too greedy in wanting to adapt to all of that new blanket technology. If the Iroquois had refused to accept the new cutting-edge blankets, no smallpox. Blankets were the text messages, and text messages are the smallpox, and wanting to have all of the new technology is what doomed them. I fucking win!

Circle of life

The queen is dead.

Long live the queen?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Anna Nicole's shocking death inspires self-reflection

I have all kinds of days where I wish I had been born legally stupid, so that I wouldn't sit around worrying about a war in Iraq or roll in bed until 3 a.m. pondering whether my job reflects my values.

And so I fantasize that I had been born the kind of person who wears a hemp necklace and tends bar in Florida and doesn't vote, and that I had these just huge pecs and got sweet suntans and laughed out loud at Maxim and banged girls who work in retail. My only worries, therefore, would involve how frickin' sweet my tan is, how big my awesome pecs are and what kind of beer I'd drink before scoring some hot retail 'tang in Florida.

I think, "Wow, it would be nice to get by on looks, spend life drunk and stupid."

Recent events have prompted me to reconsider this fantasy.

Boobs or pecs, every chest comes with a downside.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Night of the Monkey

It's not always evident by his posts, but Flop is a sort of improvisational genius. He is a master of the non-sequiter, the comic prop, the malapropism and the bizarrely obscure allusion. He has no capacity for shame -- neither yours nor his own.

Flop will turn 30 over the weekend. Rather than write something myself, I undertook some original reporting. Here are a few anecdotes that reflect Flop's entertainment capacity, running from the mid-90s through the present.

Thanks to all who contributed.
  1. As a female friend and I wrapped up another evening of beer pong at a local bar, Flop and the then-boyfriend of said female began slow dancing to Bad Company's "Feel Like Making Love." --NT
  2. When one of our friends was leaving for her freshman year of college, we gathered at her house for goodbyes. In order to lighten the mood, Flop started throwing his keys in the air, hoping those who were sad would be distracted by shiny flying things. It wasn't working, so there was only one thing for Flop to do ... throw harder! With a mighty heave he threw his keys up... up... up... onto the roof of the house. Or so we thought. It was only once he had climbed up onto the roof and was capering around spastically that we realized he had actually thrown the keys completely over the house into the backyard. --CT
  3. Flop celebrated his 21st birthday with the usual suave and finesse. He ended the evening at a local dive bar, where he sat at a table among his peers, listing and swaying like a vessel headed for a watery grave. When it became clear that he was going to need some kind of receptacle -- and quickly -- a friend grabbed one of the empty plastic beer pitchers scattered around the table, and Flop unloaded the cargo before sinking. -ER
  4. The plan was simple: Fly to NYC, hang out with Flop, rent a car, drive to the Jersey shore for a wedding, and then drive home. Being of legal car-renting age, Flop and I would both sign for the car and split driving time. All Flop had to do was renew his drivers license within the 6 month time frame that we formulated the plan. Upon arriving to New York I was informed that Flop did not have a license because he was unable to get his renewed. --TO
  5. Stupid things Flop has made me do: Responding to misogynist bile by biting the closest available hand (unfortunately, not Flop's). Wearing tank top with "weapons of mass seduction" across the chest to soccer game at Giant's Stadium. Visiting Montreal Casino. Spying on former NY governor at a Bruce Springsteen concert. Flop's stupidity: Contributions to the endless supply of jack and ginger. Other dumb Flop things: Spilling a full pint in my lap after I'd snuck around the block to avoid my boyfriend in order to keep drinking. Throwing an umbrella at my feet in the street like a gauntlet. Hanging out in the photo booth at Lakeside Lounge (see Jack and Ginger, above). --J.C.
  6. Several of us were on vacation at the beach in Hilton Head, SC., and we went off to buy provisions. The Five-and-Dime store had lots of random stuff ... and an extra-large inflatable ball. I mean like 4 or 5 feet in diameter, so they even needed to use their air pump to inflate it since it would take a human all week just to blow the thing up. It was way too big to use for anything so it sat there all week -- and at the end of the weekend we needed to deflate it, which took a while. While it was deflating, Flop put a beer bottle in front of the valve to try to make the bottle "sing." -K.D.
  7. There was a night after a Michigan game and many beers at The Hairy Monk. I left to go elsewhere, and after whatever I did (probably some other bar night) I called Flop to see if he was still at the Monk. I returned to find that he not only appeared to have met everyone in the bar, but that he was excitedly talking to a woman. In French. --B.F.
  8. He makes out with girls near smelly men's room doors. He once dumped Budweiser into my coffee, he puked into an empty beer pitcher on his 21st birthday, he likes to shimmy, some people call him Monkey Boy, and during college, a barbecue at his house was interrupted by a family of skunks. He used to adjust himself in public a lot, but not so much lately. --J.E.
Enjoy your thirties, Fucker.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Just take a look at the condition of that kettle, would you?

Yesterday, The New York Times saw fit to consult Bill Donohue as an arbiter of civility and religious tolerance.

Since that's how they've decided they want to roll, here are some future offerings we can look forward to from the nation's most respected daily newspaper:

  • Sunday front-pager about the dangers of soaring divorce rate in the United States, with expert analysis from Larry King, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich.
  • Op-Ed decrying the role of lobbyists in our legislative system and proposing good-government and ethical reforms. Co-authored by Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff.
  • Plangent letter to the editor from Pol Pot calling for immediate world action to halt the killings in Darfur.
  • Week in Review piece on the importance of due process, habeas corpus and civil liberties, by Alberto Gonzalez.
  • In the 2007 college football preview, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel explains how to stop Florida's spread option.
  • Mario Batali writes in the food section about simple meals you can make at home, with just some simple extra-virgin olive oil, a wild boar tenderloin, fresh Po valley sour cherries, and house-made pecorino romano.
  • Sunday magaizine story about the imporance of public figures accepting accountability for their actions and retaining credibility consults Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Ohio Reb. Bob Ney, Florida Rep. Mark Foley, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, President George W. Bush, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Mel Gibson and O.J. Simpson.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Only the weak hate cold

You don't know cold from shit.

Where I grew up we had days where school was canceled because of 40-below windchills.

Where I grew up your spit would freeze before it hit the ground.

Sorry, precious, that you bundle up in layers and scarves and hats and gloves and walk around shivering and scowling because it's a balmy fifteen-degrees. I'm the dude who stepped out of his office without putting on a jacket and is taking a short walk around the block while I smoke a cigarette. This is perfectly comfortable. I laugh at your weakness.

Where I grew up we used to wear shorts on the first forty-degree day. It was usually late March. Snow was on the ground. We wore shorts because it felt good.

Where I grew up, on single-digit nights we'd all head out in our snow gear. All the neighborhood kids tied sleds to the back of snowmobiles. The drivers sped through backyards hauling sleds full of kids. It was five degrees.

Where I grew up, you'd cross-country ski shirtless because nine degrees was too hot to wear shirts when you cross-country skied.

Where I grew up, you'd shiv someone with an icicle if they bitched about being cold.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I could have been this kid. Indeed, on Sunday, I would have been this kid, if Flop were more creative with dares. Reports the Associated Press:
A teenager who wanted to continue the family tradition of running around the garden barefoot during halftime of the Super Bowl game has learned a painful lesson.

It was 17 below zero at halftime Sunday in this city about 30 miles northwest of Minneapolis, and D.J. Brown's dad said it was too cold to continue the tradition. But the 18-year-old senior at Buffalo High School ran outside in his T-shirt and jeans, threw off his socks and shoes, and ran around the block.

Brown said he was outside only five minutes, but his feet started swelling and blistering when he got back inside. The pain was excruciating.

"I consider myself having a high pain threshold, and this was just so 10 out of 10," he said. "I was, like, chewing on a towel."


Brown, who said he's a straight-A student, chalked up his actions to "teenage arrogance."

Brown hopes others will learn from his mistake. "I wouldn't want anyone else to go through this," he said.

You know what sucks worse than frostbite on your feet?


The first day it's 80 degrees, I'm going to be a whiny little bitch. My insides will cook. I'll have sunburns in five minutes and my hair will turn blond. One block walking and I'll be drenched in sweat.

You fuckers will go to the beach. I'll be lying face down in front of an air conditioner, sunburned and blond, wishing it were fifteen degrees so that I could be comfortable and happy.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Emotion porn: the male version of chick flicks

The outlines of this story should be familiar. You may be a young man somewhere in your late 20s and early 30s who left home to attain financial and career success in a difficult industry. (In Good Company; Garden State) You don't see your parents often (provided that they're healthy and alive), your childhood friends are far away and your love life is unsatisfying. Doubts crop into your mind and you wonder whether it's all been worth it -- all of the hard work and the disproportionate achievement. Poised to accomplish everything that you wanted, you can't escape the gnawing doubt that you've lost touch with yourself.

Or maybe you're an older man -- a creative type -- going through mid-career anxiety about your work and life (Lost in Translation; Wonder Boys) and a fear that the well has run dry.

Fortunately, help is on the way. You may have a troupe of quirky friends who resurface to remind you of who you really are (Beautiful Girls; Wonder Boys; Grosse Pointe Blank). Alternatively, there may be a freespirited but unattainable girl (Natalie Portman; Scarlett Johansen; Katie Holmes) several years younger than yourself (Garden State, Beautiful Girls, In Good Company, Lost in Translation, Wonder Boys). The two of you flirt and share a mutual attraction, but for whatever reason (marriage; age difference; job complications; conscience) you never consummate, and if you do (In Good Company), the moment will later be fondly recalled as a stepping stone in your path to redemption. But sex wasn't really the point, anyway. Maybe you share some adventures (karaoke, ice skating, literature convention, etc.) but what's critical is that at some point, she utters a truism that will prompt a small moment of clarity and a step in the path to self-actualization.

Or maybe you'll have beers with one of your buddies, who says something that helps you realize that you don't need to worry about impressing the phonies.

Your life comes into focus. At the end of the movie, maybe you have it all figured out. Or maybe the resolution is more ambiguous. The hero may just go back to the same bad habits that were bringing him low, but at least he had a moment of clarity and connectedness. Sometimes that's good enough.

I'm labeling these movies "emotion porn" because I find many of them deeply satisfying and a snapshot of the unattainable ideal. Wonder Boys and Lost in Translation are the class of the group and the most canny about human behavior. They're also not the archetypes. In Good Company and Garden State are the archetypes.

I can't pass over In Good Company when it's on HBO. It's unchallenging and simple. I like that there are no clear bad guys, and that Topher Grace isn't whiny as much as he is bewildered. He can't quite figure out how he ended up where he is. The close of the movie is close to the ideal, with the protagonist having left a miserable job and running on the beach while talking on the phone with his former mentor. Garden State, by contrast, is insufferable. Zach Braff's ennui is over-the-top, and so is Natalie Portman's aspirational quirkiness.

"We are soggy, and quite sensitive."

It always seemed to me like Grosse Pointe Blank was a marginal move that tacked these lessons onto a bad imitation of the violent dark comedies that Jonathan Demme used to make (Something Wild; Married to the Mob) before he made Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia and lost his sense of fun.

What all of these movies have in common is this central thesis about needing to escape prestige and status in order to be happy. A walk through recent comedy history shows that this theme is highly unusual.

The Secret of My Success, broadcasting this month on HBO, is the radical opposite of emotion porn, and a deranged celebration of corporate excess to boot. It's terrible. A small-town boy from Kansas (Michael J. Fox) comes to New York dreaming of climbing to the top of the corporate ladder. He gets a mailroom job and then begins masquerading as an executive. Along the way he fucks his uncle's wife in a poolhouse -- her husband is the CEO, and she offers to give him "a leg up" within the company. He says that no, he'll make it on his own, and then begins a romance with a Harvard MBA played by the zombie-like Helen Slater. After previously refusing his aunt's offer for help, the climax of the movie is made possible only when she introduces him to various Wall Street tycoons who back our hero's tender offer to take over the company. (Hypocrisy No. 1: Although the movie seems to celebrate self-made success, our hero's achievements are possible only through auntfucking and family connections.) And although he aspires to do the right thing by the company, his first act as CEO is to engage in corporate fraud and self-dealing by telling corpse-imitating Helen Slater that they'll take the corporate jet out to Kansas to meet his folks. (Hypocrisy No. 2: A movie calling for corporate responsibility concludes with a violation of law.) As the credits roll, Pat Benatar sings an atrocity called "Sometimes Good Guys Finish First," with the first lines, "s-u-c-c-e-s-s, that is how we spell success."

A corpse-lady confronts Michael J. Fox.

The Secret of My Success
is another movie that I almost never skip. I've Tivo'd it at least twice. Creatively and morally, it misfires on every level. Fox's character is supposed to be plucky and lovable, but mostly he comes off as an arrogant asshole who demeans people in meetings. If I had to work with this guy, I would try to destroy him with every fiber of my being.

Now, The Secret of My Success is the perfect foil for the emotion porn classics, but a lot of legitimately good 1980s comedies have the same philosophy. Risky Business is about making a buck, getting laid and getting into Princeton. Working Girl (easily the best chick flick ever made and the smarter cousin of The Secret of My Success) celebrates mergers and acquisitions and getting the corner office. Revenge of the Nerds is about getting laid and getting revenge, and ultimately getting ahead of slicker football guys. The canon of John Hughes classics (and Weird Science in particular) celebrates higher social status as the ultimate life goal. As emotion porn reflects the self-help era, the best comedies of the '80s celebrate ladder-climbing. (Big is a notable exception.)

If you go back a little earlier -- to Animal House and Caddyshack -- the key ideal wasn't the tangible successes of the 80s or the inner satisfaction of the 90s and 00s, but the counterculture-infused idea that anarchy equals liberation. (The Witches of Eastwick, which was made in 1987 straddles a line between chick flick and flat-out awesomeness, has a similar view of the world.) In this respect, they all owe a huge debt to the great Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup. These were movies about upending class distinctions and assigned social roles -- celebrations of extreme self-expression and the joy of chaos.

And while I'm being an amateur comedy genealogist, it bears noting that emotion porn generally but Lost in Translation and Wonder Boys in particular are more cheerful reworkings of Woody Allen's Manhattan: dissatisfied man gains insight from failed romances with one much younger woman and one quirky, freespirited woman. In the last scene, Mariel Hemingway plays a kid who knows more about life and sympathy than the middle-aged protagonist. He thought that he was an exploiter, but really, he was the student.

Separate and apart from emotion porn's underlying philosophy that money and tangible success are not particularly good things is its underlying queasiness with sex. If it happens at all, it's part of a responsible relationship on the road to enlightenment. Compare Lost in Translation to the idiotic 1984 movie Blame it On Rio (an older man in a foreign city with a much younger woman) or In Good Company (gentle, slightly guilty sex) to The Secret of My Success (auntfucking, zombiehelenslaterfucking, wackiness).

Typical sex scene, circa 2003.

Even outright sex comedies like Wedding Crashers, American Pie and The 40-Year Old Virgin are more about lessons in love than having fun and getting laid.

If Animal House were made today, Eric Stratton really would have been in love with Fawn Liebowitz. Shelly Dubinsky would come along to teach him about life, and his quirky but lovable fraternity brothers would realize that they shouldn't worry about getting kicked off campus, since life is about more than college degrees and the success that could come with it.

Now Idiocracy comes along with an even higher moral purpose. If emotion porn is about quiet self-fulfillment, Idiocracy manages to be hilarious while imploring people to be altruistic and intelligent.

In conclusion, 1.) we're all pussies, 2.) money and success are bad, 3.) emotion porn gives us false hope that someday we'll wise up and reject it, 4.) chaste flirtation > sex, and 5.) it is high time for someone talented to film an anarchic and guilt-free sex comedy.

Super Bowl/Puppy Bowl live-blogging, cont'd

8:31 p.m.: Group mockery of fumbling.

8:32 p.m.: Flop: "I remember something called, 'Daddy Loves Leather.'" Additional Tobias Funke impersonating.

8:37 p.m.: Indianapolis challenges a call, giving everyone an excuse to flip to Puppy Bowl. People "awww" and pick which dog is their favorite. I fucking love dogs, but even I consider this to be emasculating behavior.

8:40 p.m.: Discussion of the Puppy Bowl strategy to splash water out of water bowls. Flop impersonates a splashing puppy, discusses brothel pianos.

8:44 p.m.: Puppy Bowl P.I.P. just hindered our view of the play. Puppy Bowl shifts from lower-right to lower-left corner.

8:45 p.m.: Rex Grossman, running in sheer panic and stumbling, loses about 15 yards in the backfield. The apartment laughs and hoots with delight. Nobody likes Grossman.

And then he does it again.

"This is what happens when you let Jews in the Superbowl," says a Jew.

8:48 p.m.: Flop can't find his cell phone and spazzes out. He asks people to call it. He finds the phone in his room. In his coat pocket. "I got my comeuppance," he says.

8:53 p.m.: Indianapolis field goal. Flag thrown. We switch to Puppy Bowl. An argument breaks out about whether all dogs were descended from domesticated wolves and whether any dog breeds naturally evolved in nature.

Colts-Bears sucks. Fantasy contests of similar quality: 2005 Michigan vs. 2006 Iowa; 2006 Stanford v. 2006 Indiana; Chi-Chi's v. Red Lobster; Corky v. Benny.

9:02 p.m.: Ohhhh... Grossman almost throws an interception. We get a field goal instead. Running tally: 16 turnovers, 6 field goals. Camera man gets slammed and goes face down into a huge sideline puddle.

9:07 p.m.: A card trick expo breaks out at the far end of the coffee table. I can't really follow what they're doing. Indianapolis successfully challenged a call, but no one is paying attention. The tiers of interest seem to be 1.) Puppy Bowl, 2.) card tricks, 3.) beer and snacks, 4.) talking about college football, 5.) cold weather, 6.) smoking and 7.) the Superbowl.

9:14 p.m.: Puppy Bowl introduces its featured players. Flop gets schooled in card tricks. Lengthy Arrested Development discussion follows, as well as an argument about the relative difficulties of performing card tricks. "Yahweh loves the card tricks," Flop says.

Flop talks about smoked pickled okra. "Holy shit," he says.

9:21 p.m.: Fucking retard Grossman throws a "hideous" interception into the cushiony mitts of some dude who played on Illinois in college.

Apropos of nothing, Flop just threatened to kill me.

9:31 p.m.: I go out for a cigarette. We walk in and Flop shoots Mr. Met with a foam grenade gun. Within seconds, Grossman throws his fifteenth interception of the game, in one of the most horrible performances in football history. This is unworthy of I-AA.

Mr. Met just got shot in the face again with a foam grenade. This toy gun, it's been floating around since New Year's. It shoots to hurt.

Meanwhile, the Puppy Bowl is still going strong.

9:38 p.m.: Peyton is going to get his precious fucking ring. There should be an asterisk instead of a jewel, and on the other side of that ring, it should say, "Played Grossman."

9:46 p.m.: Dullest football game ever.

As to the Bears, Flop observes, "Instead of having hot-and-cold running hookers in the hotel room, they'll have to go out to the cistern."

9:50 p.m.: Two minutes left.

This live blog has been only marginally more interesting than the game.

I'm signing out to take a short nap on the couch and maybe play some euchre afterward. Congratulation, Peyton, you overexposed dynastic bastard you.

Live-blogging the Super Bowl. And, the Puppy Bowl

Greetings. I'm in Flop's palatial Park Avenue apartment watching the Superbowl with the host and assorted guests. Sadly, the crowd has been much more interested in the Puppy Bowl than in anything football-related.

This is due to a.) an excess of turnovers and b.) no one liking Peyton Manning. Or Rex Grossman. Or either team, really.

8:11 p.m.: Flop: "Actually, almost every Rachel I've known has been excessively attractive." Pause. "Also, none of them have been Jewish. And puppies like to gambol."

8:15 p.m.: "What if they had a camera of Prince drinking out of a bowl? ... Looks like he's got a curved dong."

8:17 p.m.: Flop talks about specific people who passed gas in college.

8:18 p.m.: With Prince's performance over, consensus calls for flipping back to the Puppy Bowl.

8:19 p.m.: The room comes alive every time we switch to the Puppy Bowl. The room starts yelling and laughing. "Animals are funny when they pee and poo," Flop said. "I think Jim Sorgi was doing that on the sidelines." There are at least four sports professionals in the room, and they're all much more interested in Animal Planet than Rex Grossman.

8:23 p.m.: "I'm amazed we haven't seen a dog go to the bathroom yet," someone says.

8:25 p.m.: Discussion of "taking a dump on the field" in Puppy Bowl versus taking a dump in the Super Bowl. "It's basically what Rex Grossman does in eight out of ten games," says a sportswriter.

8:27 p.m.: Half-time is over. Game's on, bitches! Picture-in-picture goes to Puppy Bowl.

8:30 p.m.: No one is interested in this game, so we discuss past Michigan games against Notre Dame and Indiana, and audio-visual arrangements in apartment screenings.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Someone alert the Hungarian authorities

OMG, does Budapest's police force know about this? I feel that this is a serious indication that terrorists are about to hit the Hungarian capital. Someone needs to get the Rendőrség on the horn, stat. Otherwise, Hungary will be left hoping that Chuck Norris comes to defend his bridge. I'm a realist when it comes to global affairs, so I've got to admit I'm just not liking the Magyars' chances.

Look at this. Just chilling.

And they thought Attila and Keyser Soze were menaces.
(From metaphorge's Flickr stream)

In which a humanities social science major uses math to review The Sarah Silverman Program

I've always been slightly, just slightly, interested in Sarah Silverman. I've never seen her do stand up for long, but she seems like she might possibly be a hoot. I also find her extremely attractive. I've long suspected that she's "funny" because she says shocking things, and then makes a cute face.

Let's examine this a bit more. If you plotted most Hollywood actresses on a graph, the line of best fit for the data points would look like something like a basic hyperbola. So if y = hotness and x = funny, the best equation to describe the relationship between the two is probably:

f(x) = 1/x

Apologies if you were hoping for a photo of Sarah here.

On this graph, Silverman would exist somewhere above and to the right of the curve at the point (1,1), but a bit farther up the y-axis than along the x. Voila! Mathematical proof* that her fame is as much a result of her attractiveness as it is her ability to be funny. (Take all of this with a huge grain of salt. I'm a sucker for girsls with big, brown eyes and dirty mouths. Maybe she actually is funny and I'm too busy trying to see what her tongue does when she says "vagina.")

Anyway, about the show. I won't say it was a total disaster. There were (at least two or three) times I laughed. But having to wade through so many scenes of forced interaction and gratuitous cruelty to strangers made the payoff totally not worth it. I assume that the creators are aiming somewhere along the Seinfeld-Curb Your Enthusiasm vector. But Seinfeld managed to be funny with unsympathetic characters
because the writers mined absurdity from banal situations.

The Sarah Silverman Program
, by contrast, goes straight for the ridiculous _ one key plot points involves Silverman's character drinking too much cough syrup and entering a hallucinatory land of cartoons while driving, only to come to when her car winds up in the middle of a playground.

Now, it could be argued that this kind of silliness isn't any less absurd than, say, getting laughs from someone using a fishing pole to retrieve a marble rye or even any of the zany predicaments of Seinfeld's final two seasons. But the difference, I think, is that we're much more appreciative of this kind of absurdity after several seasons of watching characters who obsess over big salads, jackets and nose-picking. Or maybe it's because Seinfeld stuck to it's "no hugging, no learning" guns. Silverman's character, meanwhile, hugs sister Laura near the end of the episode, but then uses the chance to threaten her sister's new boyfriend. Yes, yes, we get it.

I don't really watch Curb Your Enthusiasm all that much, but I'm almost always turned off by Larry David's character's self-absorption and neediness. I think I feel the same way about Sarah Silverman's eponymous character, but, hey at least she's easier on the eyes than David.

It's too bad her show is such a hodgepodge of discrete gags and painful jokes, complete with characters either unsympathetic or two-dimensional. The sole exception would be Laura Silverman. She's kind of like a faint echo of Michael Bluth in hell _ but unfortunately, not one bit of the chaos around her bears any resemblance to the high-wire antics in Arrested Development.

Verdict: I would put this show on in the background while surfing the internet, because Sarah Silverman is adorable, although my opinion of her comedic talents definitely took a header in the 20-odd minutes it took to get through the episode. The Sarah Silverman Program therefore falls somewhere on my Spectrum of Watchability between Entourage and Life on a Stick.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

"Whatever happens, I feel like my hair is safe at the moment"

Apologies in advance for this new freshet of bile, but I'm still stunned and appalled by the whole Boston mess.

Let's review: Signs with lights depicting a cartoon character appear in Boston, along with nine other cities. Boston authorities lose their heads, then upon reflection realize they've gone too far. So they decide to pretend that the people responsible for the signs were actually trying to trick them all along.

The media in Boston appears set to join them. Check out this whining, scolding and utterly craven editorial from The Boston Globe.

... [A]nyone older than 8 or 9 should be able to understand the dangers of staging such a stunt in the post-Sept. 11 world. Homeland Security experts will need to review the response of local law enforcement. Public safety personnel may have overreacted; local bloggers apparently identified the guerrilla advertising campaign early on.

May have overreacted? I think shutting down the city and calling NORAD because of cartoon characters might be the very definition of overreacting. God help Bostonians if they ever got a gander of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade here.

Of course, this point will be lost on the "better-safe-than-sorry" crowd, whom we can also thank for random searches on the subway, long lines at airports and basically the second term of Bush's presidency. This is even dumber than the panic over Aqua Fresh and Vaseline Intensive Care. (Look out! He's moisturizing!)

It's already clear that the media in Boston is going to side with the powers that be. (Better safe than sorry, right guys?) It's especially clear after the two artists' brilliant, dadaist press conference today. Watch this video. You can almost hear all the reporters stamping their feet and demanding that this Very Serious Situation get the respect it deserves.

Sounds like this mess is getting exactly the appropriate amount of respect.

UPDATE: I reworked the second paragraph to tone down my rage. I also wanted to point out that this column is not only the height of hackery (it is the Herald after all) but it's also one of the saddest, most hate-filled things I've read. My read of Howie Carr's ideal America is one filled with white males who dress neatly, major in finance and stay the hell off his lawn.