Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Then it was time to pay the check

The hard-working, hard-partying week-and-a-half kicked off when I left straight from work for Amsterdam, arrived in Amsterdam, walked around for a few hours, went to a wedding and then on to its reception, which lasted until 3 a.m., at which point I'd been up more than 36 hours, not including the three or four slept on my flight. Nine hours of sleep and it was another day, but the morning after that I flew back from Amsterdam to New York, and the next day at work I was in the office until midnight, and the night after that I was out drinking with the interns until one a.m. Two nights later it was Friday, and I pulled a near-all nighter for work, putting in a solid 20-hour day and not stopping until 4:30 in the morning because I was so pleased to use a machete to cut through red tape. Saturday (the day) was for more work, Saturday (the night) was for cake-hoisting and drinking late, and Sunday ended when I crawled into bed on Monday morning as the sun came up, though at that point I couldn't distinguish the birds from the ringing in my ears. I wasn't on peyote shouting "I get it!" but I might as well have been.

Yesterday I started to feel sick in the afternoon, and now today I'm pretty sick, like a mild case of Ebola came out of nowhere just as temperatures started cresting in the 80s, even though I (almost) never get sick, not even a hangover or headache. Subordinates try to sway me to take their medicine. I cancel a lunch meeting. Maybe I have the tuberculosis. Maybe I have eye amoebas.

"When you smoke a pack of cigarettes and then run six miles, doesn't that defeat the point?" Flop recently asked.

"No," I said, "it just means that nothing can stop me."

There's a lesson in this.

There's nothin' on Earth like genuine, bona-fide, liquified, home-grown anthracite!

I still think subsidizing the crap out of coal-to-liquids is pretty incredibly idiotic for a lot of reasons, among them the simple idea that it would probably be actually wiser to just burn the coal for electricity and use the carbon sequestration technology which we've been assured is going to be a cakewalk.

But I don't have time to go into that right now, so I'm taking a shortcut here. I've also apparently created the impression that this issue is the only one that really gets me bile flowing. Not remotely true. This administration's _ and a large part of the populace's _ willingness to embrace torture makes me incredibly scared and sad and angry in a Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes way and shit like this was one of the reasons I thought Bush would be an incredibly dangerous president as far back as 1999.

So without further ado, my shorthand denouncement of coal-to-liquids subsidies, expressed here with the help of yet another reference to The Music Man.

My Irish is up

I was totally planning on making this a post about shit that pissed me off, but Blogger crashed my Firefox earlier today and I had to go to Madison Square Park to lie down and look at the trees and sky and think calming thoughts.

Then when I came back, I wanted to start with the phrase you see there in the headline, and it occurred to me that what this internet really needs is site where one can go to research outdated vernacular, an urban dictionary of anachronisms. Where else would any confused readers go if I made repeated reference to my Irish (or dander, I can never choose) being in a constant state of alertness. It would also come in handy while reading Mark Twain, Gregory Newton Peck or usenet forums debating the use of Jeely Cly vs. Great Honk in The Music Man.

So what was it that pissed me off so much? I'll leave it for another time. But if you want to do some directed reading, go here and circle all the cardinal sins of the Bush administration as you encounter them, then go here and see how long you can go without feeling the need to pour yourself a stiff drink.

(Grist started all this.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Lost" knows everything

Lost has rewired my synapses. Lost: it has riled and absorbed me, taking up a special spot in my brain usually reserved for Michigan football and the visceral emotion that I feel when recalling Atonement or my most recent Hold Steady concert. I try to stop thinking about it, but then I cannot. And now I am knee-deep in geek fan-boy mode, scanning message boards and blogs and re-reading recaps of episodes that I've already seen twice.

It has long stopped being a serial with heavy hooks. Pick up a syllabus to an intro class on philosophy, anthropology or religion, and the show covers half the topics. Its dozens of plotlines and dozens more characters are not (as I once thought) a card trick. There's substance here, dude, a virtuoso melding of plot in service of ideas about free will, sacrifice and social organization.

Lost. Here I've been thinking about The Sopranos in its closing hours, and suddenly, that show feels weak and sad in comparison -- As the World Turns with gunplay. This is not fair, I know, because the two don't need to be compared. The Sopranos has been great television, and I have loved it. Today I decided that the past three episodes of Lost have been more interesting, thrilling and disturbing than the final three seasons of The Sopranos.

In Lost, we've had patricide and the calculated massacre of a village, revenge killings and the island equivalent of political assassinations. The body count has been immense -- at least fourteen characters in the season finale alone, and (we think) probably one more. A major character stepped back from suicide and another elected to die in hopes of saving a friend.


But none of it feels particularly forced. This isn't 24. The explosions come after long slow buildups, deep character development, ongoing references to Enlightenment philosophy and Old Testament prophets. They're not writerly plot twists intended to set up the next hour. No salacity here. At a certain point you punch yourself in the face and say, "This shit is on ABC? Have I been shortchanging the show because it's on a broadcast network? And how can something so deep and complex and tremendous be marketable?"

I've spent too much time wondering about the timber used in Carmela Soprano's construction project and not enough contemplating the organizing principles of society and individuals through the lens of Lost -- or even, say, what the underground market forces behind the 19th Century slave trade have to do with all of this.

The show deservedly evokes observations like this:
How I loved this scene for presenting without judgment some very complicated ideas about justice, personal responsibility, and how people become the people they become. Yes, the morality of all this is troubling and disturbing. So is our world. Which brings this full circle.
These people:
  • Ben Linus: He is a villain as persuasive as Hannibal Lecter. (Michael Emerson owes much to Anthony Hopkins.)
  • Jack Shephard: I never, ever would have thought that I would be transfixed by a Matthew Fox performance, let alone feel a kind of rooting interest last seen in second grade when Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom hit theaters.
  • Hugo Reyes: Every time he's on screen I feel happiness and trepidation all at once.
  • Claire Littleton: I care about her so much that it hurts.
  • John Locke: Whatever bad acts he commits, I am convinced that he will be the show's ultimate hero.
If The Sopranos was born as a child of the '90s -- a self-aware parable about personal hedonism, the emptiness of prosperity, a little self-help therapy and illusions of sensitive mannishness -- Lost is all '00s: people coming to grips with tragedy that they never expected and never deserved, negotiating random acts of violence and manipulations by leaders they trusted, never able to reckon with the extreme relocation forced by external events.

I feel, like, pained that I didn't pay closer attention when I watched earlier episodes.

The Sopranos is (almost) dead. Long live Lost.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Please allow me to introduce myself.

"Welcome to my social function. Thanks for coming. Let's French."

"Welcome to my social function. Thanks for coming. Let's French."

"Nice to meet you! I'm Clarksville's leading pornographer and very controversial in my own right. Quick, penetrate my ear, before Chris Batty throws a fucking stapler at me."

"Oh hi. I'm an itinerant astronaut from Missouri. Tomorrow is my fiftieth birthday, but I just found these really sweet alien cocoons in the pool. They're having a positive effect. We should totally go swimming later."

"The pleasure is all mine. Don't you love the Big Ten? Pardon me while I stick straws in my eyes and fall down."

"Good to see you again. I've been stalking you near your workplace, LOLzy."

"Hmmm, yes. Please pose for a photo. My britches, they're odorless, I swear."

"Cheers dude. I see through your bullshit."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Murakami on cole slaw

On the flight to my too-short 48 hour weekend stint in Amsterdam, I managed to read Haruki Murakami's new novel After Dark. It's a good little book, not as tiresome as some of his longer novels, and its subplot about the beating of a Chinese prostitute put to rest all romantic illusions about the Dutch whores.

Mostly, I wanted to highlight this passage:
"I'm kind of a low-key guy. The spotlight doesn't suit me. I'm more of a side dish -- cole slaw or French fries or a Wham! backup singer-" (p. 13)
Cole Slaw Blog is not about being low-key. It is not about the side dish. It is not a Wham! backup singer.

It is Wham! itself, and my co-blogger is a George Michael look-alike.

Monday, May 21, 2007

No brains? Here, these fireworks should suffice

In which Flop takes on Detroit and strawmen.

Now don't get me wrong. I like Detroit and the Detroit area. I feel like it's kind of a second hometown for me. Like Detroit and Cleveland were brothers growing up, and Detroit was the more successful one for a while, but has fallen hard, while Cleveland's just making do with what it has. Which isn't much.

That said, with the Pistons the only thing between me and getting to see my team play for the NBA title, we're going to set aside all our warm fuzzies and get some bile going. I think my (temporary) Detroit hatred will come to a head next Sunday night, when the Indians take on the Tigers and the Pistons are making excuses for why another budding superstar wearing No. 23 and playing for a regional rival is sending their crumbling dynasty for another Viking funeral.

Thus is the gauntlet thrown down in Motown. As for the straw, I'm getting a sense that the national media is treating LeBron James and the Cavaliers with a collective yawn this postseason. I'm aware that the Wizards were zombies on a strict vegetarian diet and the Nets weren't actually that good. But still, LeBron is averaging 26 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. That ain't nothing, for those of you who think he's going through the motions. I mean, if you take half his assists (remember, an assist is worth at least two points) and convert them to points of his own, he's looking at 34, 8 and 4. Kobe would covet those numbers more than the ability to fuck women besides his wife.

Yes, I realize that American sports are structured so that "moments" rather than sustained excellence, is what we get all excited about. Here's hoping LeBron can sustain his current, peerless form while also providing some sparkle for the bellowing heads to ooh and ahh over.

Zombies and sportswriters love fireworks.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The polls have closed

The people have spoken: erstwhile co-blogger Flop (seriously, would it kill the brother to write something?) is a garden-variety asshat, and not a staggering disappointment.

As a reward for public participation, enjoy the second and final installment of my LOLFlop series.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Personal notes

Dear Wilco: I didn't understand you until A Ghost Is Born, which reminded me of Neil Young in his Arc and Weld stage. So how the hell did Sky Blue Sky turn out so boring? Whenever I try to listen to it, I fall asleep. Watching Chinatown does the same thing to me, so maybe you're in good company. Please try harder next time.

Dear Hold Steady: Thank you for the EP that you just released on iTunes. It was a nice surprise, even if the only new track is a cover of Bob Seger's "Against the Wind." I recently stumbled across an mp3 of "For Boston," and feel lucky that I did. True, almost everything you do is crazy fun, but how did the horrible "Chillout Tent" make Boys and Girls in America while "Girls Like Status" and "For Boston" couldn't cut it?

Dear Besnard Lakes: You and I shouldn't like each other at all, but for some reason it's a match.

Dear Amy Winehouse: Occasionally good albums get to be popular, and I'm glad that you've pulled it off. I saw you on Letterman just before the album came out, was instantly smitten, and hunted down every song I could find. You're still keeping me happy and interested. Thanks for that.

Dear Arcade Fire: I find your albums boring and overwrought, but God damn, your reputation as live performers is well earned. The show at Radio City last week, it felt like a privilege to be in that room. I was in a good mood for the next few days just because of you. You may become my next U2: even when they annoy me, their lives shows are indispensable. It was an extraordinary night.

To The Band: The box set for The Last Waltz was worth the price. You're a band that I always turn back to, and I'm glad that we found each other when I was in college.

To The Sopranos: I don't predict you or overanalyze you. I let the experience wash over me. However, it occurred to me that the animating force of this show is that Tony was raised by a woman who tried to murder him, and the pity and horror of seeing Tony kill a man who he thought of as a son brought the series full circle. He is no better than Livia. Also, while I'm writing, I'd like to note that the Slate guys who write about you are first-rate fucktards.

Dear Gary Shteyngart: I avoided reading Absurdistan because its title (wacky!) sounded like a Jimmy Fallon skit and the premise sounded Boratian. Yeah, I'm an idiot sometimes. I haven't had so much fun with a book since A Confederacy of Dunces, and in its first half, it kept occurring to me that you're the John Kennedy Toole who lived. Thanks for being so fun, dude.

Dear Richard Yates: I know you're dead so you might not be reading this, but Revolutionary Road has its great moments, even if it lost me at the end. Very glad to have read it, but it will just make me angry when the movie comes out.

Dear Michael Chabon: True, I'm just 120 pages into The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and true, it's just started to pick up, and true, it's not fair for me to say something mean before I finish the book. But the first 100 pages are rough. Real rough. In the past you could be annoying, but never so boring, and I'm worried about what's going on with you.

Dear Ian McEwan: I hated Saturday, and I hated it oh so very much, but it might be the kind of hatred that only a genius inspires. You know Atonement is my favorite book this century so far, but it took me awhile to forgive you for Saturday. I got around to reading Amsterdam and was happy to see it pull off a great little puzzle and get the tragicomic tone just right. Let's forget Saturday. It's all good now, even if the New Yorker excerpt made me nervous about On Chesil Beach.

Dear Amsterdam: Looking forward to seeing you again this weekend.

Best to all,


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

L8er H8er

Falwell on AIDS:
"AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."
What is real:

The social impact of HIV/AIDS is most evident in Africa's orphans crisis. Approximately 12 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to be orphaned by AIDS. These children are overwhelmingly cared for by relatives including especially grandmothers, but the capacity of the extended family to cope with this burden is stretched very thin and is, in places, collapsing. UNICEF and other international agencies consider a scaled-up response to Africa's orphan crisis a humanitarian priority. Practitioners and welfare specialists are sensitive to the need not to identify and isolate children orphaned by AIDS from other needy and vulnerable children, in part because of fear of stigmatizing them.
Falwell on Apartheid:
In the 1980s Jerry Falwell was an outspoken supporter of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. When president PW Botha was elected President by the White South African minority, Reverend Falwell went to South Africa and made statements supporting the government there and urging American Christians to buy Krugerrands, a coin issued by the South African Government
What is real:

The most violent time of the 1980s was 1985–88, when the P.W. Botha government embarked on a campaign to eliminate opposition. For three years police and soldiers patrolled South African towns in armed vehicles, destroying black squatter camps and detained thousands of blacks and coloureds. Some of those who were detained died in incidents ranging from outright murder by the authorities to suicide. Exact numbers are impossible to ascertain but is estimated by some to be hundreds and by others to be more than a thousand. Rigid censorship laws tried to conceal the events by banning media and newspaper coverage.
Falwell on Theocracy:
"The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country."
What is real:
"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What have been the effects of coercion? To make one half of the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and terror all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different religions. That ours is but one of a thousand." --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia (1784)
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon that the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel." -- Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason (1794)

"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise." --James Madison (April 1, 1774)
Falwell on 9/11:
After the September 11, 2001 attacks Falwell said on the 700 Club, "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"
What is real:

Mark Bingham is believed to have been among the passengers who attempted to storm the cockpit to try to prevent the hijackers from using the plane to kill hundreds or thousands of additional victims. He made a brief cell phone call to his mother, Alice Hoagland, shortly before the plane went down. Hoagland, a former flight attendant with United Airlines, later left a voice mail message on his cell phone, instructing Bingham to reclaim the aircraft after it became apparent that Flight 93 was to be used in a suicide mission. Bingham was survived by his former boyfriend of six years, Paul Holm, who says this was not the first time Bingham risked his life to protect the lives of others. In fact, he had twice successfully protected Holm from attempted muggings, one of which was at gunpoint. Holm describes Bingham as a brave, competitive man, saying, "He hated to lose — at anything."
It's sad that Jerry Falwell died today at age 73.

It's sad because it happened 50 years too late.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Greetings and hostilities

I rarely click through other sites' blog listings, but once in awhile, on a slow afternoon when I'm antsy, I'll get on a blog I like, go down the line, and click through anything unfamiliar.

I've recently been updating our own slate of links. Here are a few introductions:
Businger's Truth to Power: Sports Edition. You recall "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" from the South Park movie. This is like that, only instead of being about the famed figure skater, it's dedicated to disgraced basketball coach Bob Knight. Here is a site filled with lies, damn lies and wholly fabricated statistics, accompanied by entertaining digressions and detours.

Drunk Brunch. She writes mostly about being drunk and/or horny. I once saw Flop give her a McDonald's cheeseburger, which prompted her, on her blog, to describe "the Cole Slaw boys" as "fun for the whole family." Fun indeed.

Cajun Boy in the City. Found via East Village Idiot, who appears to be scouting New York-centric blogs. I'm leery of "[blank] in the city" themes, but this site is well written and doesn't go for the easy shots.

Matt Sears Forever. Another one I found on East Village Idiot. Highly funny, LOL, etc.

Bee-Spot. A self-described "public school ho" in Oklahoma who likes getting drunk, eating food and gorging herself on pop culture. Rumor is that she's a reader of this site and was heartbroken that she's never been linked from here. Awwwwwww ...

Milk Was a Bad Choice. A group blog written by a collection of high-spirited young men who appear to be friends from high school. Like most high-spirited young men, they like sports, movies, music and pretty ladies all greased up. A post on this site inspired me to write a masterpiece.

All Butter is Mine
. Another goddamn Oklahoman. Throw Pissed & Petty into the mix and you start to think that Oklahoma in 2007 is to blogging what Seattle in 1990 was to guitars. Apparently, all Oklahomans love to blog. Combined with the preceding site, it's allowed me to create a dairy-themed blog collection. As Spinachdip (deceased) observed in the early days of our blog-courtship, you can never have enough blogs named after food that aren't about food. ABiM also happens to be well-written and amusing.

Copyranter. Much bigger than us. He doesn't need our links or sympathy. True, I hate all advertising, but he works in advertising and seems to hate it with more smarts and passion than I can summon.

Kissing Suzy Kolber. I showed up late to this party. It's a mega-blog about the NFL that receives thousands of links. I hate the NFL: college only. Here is a site so profane, well written and funny that its subject doesn't matter.
But it helps me segue to the next topic.

Civil War.

Brady Quinn being drafted to the NFL is no big deal for most people, but he happens to have been selected by the Cleveland Browns, which, for co-blogger Flop, is a very, very, very big deal.

In a matter of seconds, a player who we have long mocked and reviled for a team that we hate with a passion -- Flop loved him. Fuckwit hasn't even played yet, and Flop loves him.

At least it showed Flop's true colors. In a matter of weeks he'll be celebrating the president and raving about how cool American Idol is and abstaining from alcohol and doing everything else that is wrong and stupid and unholy.

Hence, my first and only foray into the dumbest internet fad ever:

I commissioned the following poll. Vote or Die, bitch.

See? It's not just me who's obsessed

Other blogs do it too.


There are two apartments per floor in my building. I've lived in this apartment almost four years and just renewed my lease for a fifth. My across-the-hall neighbor has been here the whole time. He's about my age. We're friendly but not close. That one day a few years ago when I had my brush with crime victimhood, I hung out in his apartment for awhile. He was great about that, giving me cigarettes and a beer and letting me babble while I decompressed.

I came home late tonight. There was a baby carriage in our short hallway. "Weird," I thought.

While I unlocked my door, I glanced over. I saw fur in the baby carriage. It looked like cat fur.

"What the fuck?" I thought. I peeked a little more, expecting to see a sleeping pet.

But it was a long patch of fur.

My heart skipped a beat. "It's a dead animal," I thought. "Dead animal in a baby carriage."

Instead, it was a large toy rabbit.

And now I'm writing this from the tangent universe.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sophisticated living

Installment deux of an infrequent chronicle.

Few things are more sophisticated than leafy greens and gravy, and after the lady-lawyer polished off a plate of elite cheese fries, nothing remained but a large leaf of lettuce, soaked in grease and dusted with flakes of batter.

"I'll give you five dollars if you eat that," I said to Flop, my highly prestigious co-blogger.

And so he did. He folded the large leaf of greasy lettuce, savoring it in a single helping. I placed a five-dollar bill on the table.

There was still the matter of the accompanying sauces -- gravy, curry sauce and blue cheese. We were seated at an al fresco establishment on Second Avenue. A tornado passed by.

"Excuse me m'am," said our gentleman co-adventurer to the waitress, "but is there a tornado going on?"

"No," said the waitress, oblivious to the tornado. "The women inside are just loud."

The lady lawyer was more interested in the sauces than the tornado. She promised Flop that if he combined the gravy, curry sauce and blue cheese, and drank it like a shot, she would pay him five dollars. I said that her idea was elite and sophisticated, so I placed more money on the table.

Flop, an ambitious capitalist and entrepreneur, considered this a good investment. He poured the gravy into the blue cheese, and then the curry sauce, and mixed. He lifted the cup to his mouth and consumed the mixture.

"You just took a month off your life," the lady lawyer told Flop.

"It was worth it," Flop said.

The lady lawyer turned to our co-adventurer, a gentleman. "[Name redacted] once drank his own urine," she told the gentleman.

"I don't believe that," said the gentleman.

"Flop," I said, "how much money would be required for you to drink your own urine?"

"We're talking four figures," Flop said.

"Perhaps I should organize a fundraiser," I said. "It would only be a teacup's worth. All beverages are civilized when there's a teacup involved. Plus," I added helpfully, "urine is an antiseptic."

"Hey Flop," said the gentleman co-adventurer, "how much money to drink a teacup of ejaculate?"

"That would be in the six figures," Flop replied shrewdly.

The brain trust engaged in sophisticated speculation about urine and ejaculate. The gentleman co-adventurer asserted that he drinks his own ejaculate "all the time."

"I fingerbanged your girlfriend," the lady lawyer told the gentleman. "I made out with girls in college."

Elites love waltzing and anal sex, but for the truly sophisticated, the fingerbang is without substitute. As I stepped away from the table to smoke a cigarette in the tornado, I heard the brain trust engage in an animated discussion about acts of fingerbang. I paused to quietly reflect on the rich rewards of sophisticated living.

"You couldn't pay me enough money to smoke a cigarette," Flop said when I returned.

"I ran ten miles today," I countered. "I'm much healthier than you. I can smoke if I want."

An arm-wrestling tournament followed: gentleman co-adventurer defeated Flop, I defeated the lady-lawyer, and the gentleman co-adventurer defeated me. Beer spilled. The waitress walked out into the tornado.

For awhile we exchanged ideas Old English, French, Italian and Chinese: "Hit rǣd swīþlic feortan be wind," Flop said.

"On peut jamais avoir assez de coup de doigt dans le vent," said the lady lawyer.

"Vorrei avere sesso con quella ragazza sottile nel tiara," said the gentleman co-adventurer.

"对手指轰隆将居住," I observed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sandwiches are nice but football is better

Most of you who care will find The New York Times profile on Zingerman's without my help.

It was a few blocks from the house where I lived in Ann Arbor. It was never one of my prime spots. I generally went there just to get a coffee.

Mostly I wanted to make note of the article because of its audio slideshow, which is less remarkable for the fact that it includes pictures of overpriced food and yuppies than it is for the music that bookends it.

It's that time of year. As with every spring, I'm not looking forward to summer, but to the end of summer, football season and trips back to Ann Arbor. Sandwiches are fine, football is around the corner and summer can suck it.

Only four months to go.

The Georgia Ruben I ate at Zingerman's the day after Michigan lost to Notre Dame in 2005.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fat man and little people

"When all actions are mathematically calculated, they also take on a stupid quality." -Theodor Adorno

"People to whom nothing has ever happened cannot understand the unimportance of events." -T.S. Eliot

His name was King Kong Bundy and he was a mountain of a man. "Big trouble comes in 450-pound packages," he said, "like King Kong Bundy," thumbing himself in the chest.

King (as in royalty) Kong (as in King Kong) Bundy (as in Ted).

He wanted Hillbilly Jim most of all, but if "those other midgets" -- those midgets, not his midgets (Little Tokyo or Lord Littlebrook) but those midgets -- if those midgets get in his way, Bundy had a pledge:

He would squash all three of them.

"They'll have to pick you three up with a platter!" Bundy vowed.

As no less than Gorilla Monsoon would observe, "King Kong Bundy, obviously looking to make a great squash out of some midgets."
"To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend." -Derrida

The people's poet; the Belvederean bard.

But on that day he was high above the crowd. It was Wrestlemania III: March 29, 1987, in the Pontiac Silverdome. I lived three hours away, but to Bob Uecker, my ten-year-old self was not part of his world.

Flanked on one side: Mr. Monsoon. To Uecker's left, it was Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

Uecker, drawn by celebrity and lucre. He was at the peak of his game. Mr. Belvedere was halfway through its fabled run. And Uecker had it all. Wrestlemania III was the cultural midpoint between the fictional Owens home of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and glamorous Hollywood. Away from the shadow of Christopher Hewett and Ilene Graff, he arrived to the Silverdome triumphant.

He was there to announce, and he would announce the balls out of that shit.
"Domination delegates the physical violence on which it rests to the dominated." -Theodor Adorno

Hillbilly Jim was not going to be mistaken for royalty, much less King Kong Bundy.

The ascent was so startling that there's little sense in exaggerating the obvious. Mud Lick, Kentucky one moment, and the next, international renown.

Hillbilly Jim strode big in overalls and hat, the pride of Appalachia. Jim, we can safely assume, has never read Cormac McCarthy, but McCarthy's early works (Outer Dark, Suttree) may well have been composed with Jim and his kin in mind. A simple person, a person of dirt and struggle: that was Hillbilly Jim.

"I'm not really worried about myself in this match here," said the hillbilly, "because I know how King Kong Bundy is and I believe I can take whatever he dishes out. But I'm worried about my little buddies here, and I'm here to tell you ... I'm going to do my doggest."
"In his state of complete powerlessness the individual perceives the time he has left to live as a brief reprieve." -Theodor Adorno
What distinguished the match was not the timeless spectacle of oppression (Bundy) against the masses (Hillbilly Jim). It was the midgets. "Midgets" -- a term now in disfavor.

Little people are little people and midgets are an epithet.

There are no epithets on this blog. Those midgets, they were a cross-section of the world. Bundy was brute power and Jim was the sweet spirit of the people.

Those midgets were humanity.

Little Haiti: a symbol of those oppressed by colonialism's madness. Little Beaver: wither the white man for what he did to the Americas.

Little Beaver.

Little Tokyo: The pain of Japanese automation in the heart of American labor and its struggling auto industry. Lord Littlebrook: England's vicious class system would new allow a little person to be among the elites.

Little Tokyo, in younger days.

And surely, it was no accident that the victims of modernity found themselves in the squared circle against a "King." The impoverished white man of Appalachia had anointed himself their liberator.

Before they stepped into the ring, the hillbilly swept Little Haiti and Little Beaver into his arms. He carried them, the way that he carried the mud of his youth. As the banjos played, they rolled to the ring as one. They dosey-doed before the crowd.
"Art is permitted to survive only if it renounces the right to be different, and integrates itself into the omnipotent realm of the profane." -Theodor Adorno
Most people have stages where they are interested in something regrettable -- "Ice, Ice Baby," "Mama's Family," etc. From second through fifth grade, my interest was professional wrestling. Baseball and other real sports came along and I didn't think about "Nature Boy" Ric Flair or Greg "The Hammer" Valentine after that.

A few weeks ago I followed a link to a post about Wrestlemania III. It was all coming back to me. My inner third-grader got inspired, and then he got greedy, and then he ordered from Amazon. Later, a package came to my office -- Wrestlemania III. I balanced it with Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy (Yale Univ. Press 2006) and Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt (Random House 2003).

It's good to have interests.
"The worst enemy of life, freedom and the common decencies is total anarchy; their second worst enemy is total efficiency." -Aldous Huxley
At this point, there are no more images.

Some struggles are better played in the life of the mind.

The midget triple tag-team: Hillybilly Jim, Little Haiti and Little Beaver, fighting King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook and Little Tokyo.

Uecker fears the midgets. "I don't want my kneecaps rearranged," he says. "I'm doing fine the way I am right now." And then, says Uecker, "Beaver reminds me of a girl I used to go without about 25 years ago. She had the same kind of haircut."

The four little people unleash. All four wrestle at once. Gorilla Monsoon observes that the referee will struggle to keep them "all in line" at once. Ventura observes that the little people move at such fast paces, referees have difficulty maintaining order over the matches.

We know what Monsoon and Ventura were saying: That power of the law is in a constant struggle to retain its mastery of the oppressed.

"You're part of history now," Monsoon informs Uecker.

"I'm telling you gentleman," Uecker replies, "this is the greatest."
"True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power." -Milan Kundera
The brutality begins with Ventura. He expresses hope that Bundy will "crush" one of the midgets. "They'll have to bring Aunt Jemima's spatula out there," he says.

Uecker agrees. "Marinated mushrooms, that's what it will be."

Cannibalizing midgets is popular, but so is risque entendre and misogyny. As Little Beaver unleashes swift but ineffective attacks on Bundy, Uecker observes: "I think there's a lot of Beaver all over this place."

"Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them." -T.S. Eliot
Little Beaver faces death.

The hillbilly is immobilized. The King wants to destroy.

Bundy lifts Little Beaver above his head and slams him to the ground. As the crowd boos, Bundy raises a finger and shrieks at the masses.

"Is he gonna splash him?" Ventura wonders aloud.

Yes. And an elbow lands on the small Native American's chest.
"The hardest hit, as everywhere, are those who have no choice." -Theodor Adorno
The hillbilly cradles the broken Little Beaver in his arms.

"They can throw him in a garbage bag," observes Venture, "and stick him in the dumpster."
"We humans are an extremely important manifestation of the replication bomb, because it is through us - through our brains, our symbolic culture and our technology - that the explosion may proceed to the next stage and reverberate through deep space." -Richard Dawkins
The match is over. The referee intercedes. It is too late.