Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Welcome, little marmots

Pour a big glass of whiskey (no ice) and go to the bodega to buy a pack of Marlboro Reds (no Lights). This is an acceptable time to drink and pick up smoking, what with it being the eve of destruction and all.

The self-medication will help parse the recent weeks' posts at Jim Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation. Kunstler is a brilliant Chicken Little who doesn't think that the sky is falling so much as raining fire, incinerating Fifth Avenue and Greenwich hedge funds and Western exurbs at once. He's a Cassandra whose predictions of economic wasteland read like the prologue of The Road.

He's on break from peak oil to walk us through recent weeks' market volatility. The result: equal parts analysis and tour of hell. Even when not persuasive (which is part of the time) the writing is brilliant:
Reality is biting hard. As with the little marmot caught in the Gray Wolf's jaws of death, the body simply surrenders and God's grace of physical shock softens the translation from free-willed joyful creature to dead meat. That is where we are at here in the final days of August, 2007. Digestion follows. The Big Fund Boyz and all their minions will end up as mere worm castings in the aforementioned global compost heaps.

Terrible shocks are going to rip through the socioeconomic fabric of the USA as we turn the corner past these late summer doldrums. The fiasco of bad debt won't be contained. The choices for those who find themselves financially underwater in the fall of 07 will be 1.) liquidation, 2.) bankruptcy, or 3.) destroy whatever remains of confidence in the US dollar in order to erase debt by hyperinflation. People holding power don't like the first two, which translate into Depression (let's make it capital "D.") When a nation turns into a fire sale from sea to shining sea, and bankrupt citizens don't even have enough cash-on-hand to buy things desperately cheap -- well, that's a Depression. Everybody from Fed officials to news editors have favored the softer term "recession" the past half century because it implies a mere pause in the inexorable march of progress toward economic nirvana. That's not what we're heading into.

Two years later

If there's any justice in the world, the words "Hurricane" and "Katrina" will appear somewhere in the first 200 words of every obituary of George W. Bush.

He's hovering around New Orleans today, like a ghoul, no doubt praising all the good that's come because of the disaster. Can you imagine what he'd tell people in Iraq, were it safe for him to appear there? ("Hey, that masjid was blockin' your view!")

One of the good things about the slow pace of work at the former World Trade Center site is that he hasn't shown up to praise the new and improved lower Manhattan. But hey, who knows? Maybe we'll all be treated to an appearance in a couple of weeks.

Assuming we survive until then. It's August -- traditionally Bush's most deadly month. Normally I'm all for him doing as little work as possible to fuck up America. But his sloth and negligence is one of his trademarks. Even the most repugnant paleoconservative could have at least set the wheels of government in motion upon receiving the Aug. 6 brief about bin Laden or learning of the disaster unfolding in the Lower Ninth Ward. This man couldn't be bothered.

Whatever you think of the man's father, he clearly had a strong work ethic. One detail I'll never forget from Richard Ben Cramer's What it Takes is of Poppy dutifully hand-writing thank you notes to every minor functionary who helped pull off each of his campaign appearances.

Clearly, much like J.D. Salinger's son felt the need to zig where his dad zagged, so has George W. "See, presidenting isn't that hard. I can take August off every year, and the country does just fine."

It's not that he doesn't care about black people (Hello? J.C. Watts?) it's just that he doesn't give a shit in general.

I apologize for the dark tone. I promise the next post will be about YouTube videos of Thomas Pynchon's kid performing at street fairs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Don't call it a comeback, but who the fuck cares. Blogging is the tobacco of words. The voices won't stop, like when psychics meet pies.

One of the Alpha Betas in Revenge of the Nerds is named Danny Burke. Revenge of the Nerds played on Fox Movie Channel tonight. In the closing credits, when Burke is in the Atoms lockerroom wearing makeup and a blond wig, he resembles former Notre Dame receiver Jeff Samardzija.

You're a pretty pretty pretty pretty such a pretty girl

An actor named Matt Salinger portrayed Burke. Matt Salinger was born in Windsor, Vermont on February 13, 1960. A leap year! He attended Phillips Academy at Andover. Impressive! His other acting credits include Baby Fever (1994) and Let the Devil Wear Black (1999).

An actor named Matt Salinger portrayed Burke. Matt's father is J.D. Salinger. Having attended America's most elite prep school and then starring as a bullying athlete on a football team, Matt lived a daily revenge-dream against Holden Caulfield. Being the son of J.D. Salinger is difficult, and playing a supporting (albeit notable) role in Revenge of the Nerds would be like Jesus's kid being a competent but obscure (albeit notable) hypnotist who tricks pilgrims into acting like chickens in a thriving club on the outskirts of Golgotha.

*Blogging is bad for me, and I shouldn't be doing this. I should quit blogging. I should quit a lot of things. But most of all, I should just quit you. The original post on what happens when psychics meet pies.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Greenmarket blues

I sneaked off to the Union Square greenmarket this afternoon. Why? I was out of food, dumbass.

I'm staring to wonder if I should have bothered, though. It was the first time in five months or so of semi-regular attendance that I've been thoroughly disappointed. I'd been looking for greengage plums ever since I stumbled upon them one Sunday morning in Tompkins Square. They were fantastic -- glowing chartreuse pearls that when you bit into them tasted like confectioners sugar left out in the sunshine. I've never had a better plum.

These ones were beaten up, cracked, bruised. It looked like they'd been rolling around the back of a pickup truck on the drive into town. I picked out as many marginal ones with unbreached skin as I could. The whole pile of them was sticky from the cracked ones. It was disheartening, to say the least.

Then I found some okra and plum tomatoes, and bought some cherry tomatoes and organic lettuce -- just enough to make a BLT. And with the cherry tomatoes, the 'T' won't try to slip out all at once, leaving me with a BL.

I also bought a half baguette and some sort of rosemary-goat cheese and dill-gorgonzola bread from a ridiculously sweet and nice lady on the way out. She was sweeter than a greengage plum -- the good kind.

I've had worse Mondays.

Friday, August 24, 2007

If you guessed beer, you're mostly right

I feel so pretty!

It looks as though the answer was in my previous post all along. Evil girl has sent me more Bell's. Out of the goodness of her heart and sympathy for my essentially Bell's-free existence in New York, yes. But she also meant it as an inducement to be in her wedding.

Yes, I'm going to be a bridesmaid.

Or whatever a male attendant for the bride is called. I suppose this will engender a new comment guessing-game.

I hope the dress doesn't make my ass look big.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What's in the box?

Actually, I could totally use a food processor. Any chance that's what it is?

My friend evil girl sent me a package the other day. I opened it and at the top of the box, above all the packing material, was a card envelope with this message on the front:

do not open yet!
call me when you get this

Naturally, when I called, she was busy. And when she called back, I was busy. And now it's been almost 24 hours and I still don't know what's in that box.

All I know is that it's not a Black&Decker 475-watt Crush Master (TM) 10-speed blender. My guess is booze of some sort, because evil girl is sweet like that. She once sent me a six pack of Bell's Best Brown for Christmas. I gave one to CrimeNotes at my New Year's Party, and then spilled it for him when he went out to pick up dinner for everyone, which was totaly ungrateful of me. And last time I was in evil girl's town, she and I did much drinking of Bell's in the out-of-doors.

Anyway, the box is fairly heavy, and as you can see from the photo, bigger than a breadbox. Your guesses are welcome in the comments.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A madman's latest

President Bush has always defied caricature by being so over-the-top stupid and evil that an honest assessment of him sounds like hyperbole. Shrill, even.

I'll spare everyone a heated reprisal of his most awful moments to date. (OK, a few: "Please, don't kill me;" "You've covered your ass, now;" "I know they're here somewhere;" "Bring it on;" etc.).

But what do you say when he wants to make sure kids who didn't take personal responsibility to have rich parents don't have health insurance? I'm really not exaggerating when I say that. His view, doubtless shared by many serious conservatives who don't have to worry about this shit, is that it would be inappropriate for the government to expand a successful, popular program that provides health insurance to kids whose parents are unable to do so.

(I mean, this is a perfect, gift-wrapped data point to back up my Unified Theory of Republican-Conservative Philosophy; Namely: "If something bad is happening to someone else, it's just not my problem, and caring about it would be an inappropriate reaction.)

Although the combination of a deeply unpopular, radical, lame-duck president with an opposition Congress is certainly a potential problem, this isn't some petulant, scorched-earth tactic. Bush isn't kicking over the sand castle to spite everyone else. This is an honest attempt to enshrine a conservative* policy. And if some kids have to get sick or die, well, you can't make a wonderful omlette of conservative utopian policies without breaking a few eggs. By which we mean kids, apparently. Lovely.

August has always been the month in which he got the most people killed.

* I was going to have a cute little moment here when an old conservative comes back from the dead to wag his (undoubtedly, right) finger at me for calling the modern Republican party conservative, when it's clearly a just a coalition of business interests, religious extremists, xenophobic bigots and citizens crazed with fear and clinging to whatever authoritarian branch they can find. But my mind has been so warped by a lifetime of equating "conservativism" with the tofurky pot pie served up by Reagan, Thatcher, et al that the exercise was threatening to sink the whole post. If you must, pretend the ghost of Edmund Burke came back or something.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Farewell to a kind and clever soul

Lily, seen here patiently tolerating Flop's attempts at portraiture.

CLEVELAND, Aug. 17 -- Lily, the world's greatest dog and loyal companion to Flop and his family has died. She was 11.

The Canadian-born standard poodle was an intelligent, perceptive, reliable dog, whom Flop's mother referred to as "never wrong."

"Lily is never wrong," she said. "If she was barking at you, then her water is empty, or she needed to go outside or something else, somewhere, was amiss."

Lily was also known for her clever antics, among them a move known as "The Gator." Lily would tuck her snout under the table, leaving only her eyes above the table like an alligator waiting for a hapless swamp creature to stumble past and become lunch.

Of course, with live nutria a rarity in the Flop kitchen, Lily's tactic was to look balefully at diners until one would sneak her a morsel of people food. This gambit was known to work especially well on Flop's father, a notorious soft touch when it came to Lily.

The cause of death was believed to have been that she was 11. Experts say that age is the equivalent to being 77 in people years.

"She was 11 and a half, actually," Flop said. "She was a great dog. The greatest."

A preternaturally smart dog, Lily enjoyed punctuating chants of "Here we go, Brownies, here we go!" -- a cheer traditionally followed by woofing sounds -- with two loud barks of her own. Despite living in Ohio for almost her entire life, Lily was an avowed supporter of the University of Michigan, the alma mater of both Flop and Flop's mother. When asked if she would rather be an Ohio State fan or drop dead, Lily would lay down on her side, and occasionally demonstrate her disdain for the very idea of the question with a dismissive yelp or two.

"No wonder she was always going after [Crunk Raconteur's] shoes," Flop said. "She knew he was a total Buckeyes daywalker."

"Good girl!" Flop added.

No, Lily did not suffer fools.

Her usual response to the "pretend to throw the ball but really hold on to it" trick was to simply turn and fix the would-be thrower with an impatient stare. Games of fetch with her were invariably lost by the thrower. Once Lily felt she had retrieved the tennis ball enough (rarely more than three times), she would trot off with it to settle down for some quality tennis-ball chomping, a favorite pastime.

"She was a kind and clever soul," Flop's sister, L.N., said.

Although Grace, her younger companion, was easily duped into running between the two entrances to the kitchen by any member of Flop's family (usually him or his father). Lily would just sit and watch as the younger, less-savvy Grace worked herself into a leaping, yelping lather.

Lily also was known to send birthday cards to Flop and his sister, signed at first with pawprint, then later with an elegant, calligraphic script she taught herself one particularly long and squirrel-free Northeast Ohio winter.

Lily was the first dog companion in Flop's life. Although he never lived at home during her life, save for a couple summers in college, the two were fast friends. She used to greet him enthusiastically at the door every time he came home, whether it was from his freshman year at Michigan or after flying back from New York. One time when he returned after final exams, she got into a stash of chocolate-covered espresso beans and ran around the house all night, barking and leaping and pawing at flop's parents and sister while Flop slept soundly upstairs, oblivious to the chaos.

She also liked to lick the raspberry-scented lotion off the legs of his girlfriend, which amused Flop far more than it did his girlfriend. However, the two shared a bond that went beyond a shared interest in licking things off Flop's girlfriend.

"One time a couple years ago, I came home from my flight, and I went to my parents' computer to check something," Flop said. "While I was sitting there talking to my mom, Lily came in, sat down and looked at me. When my mom and I stopped talking to see what she was after, Lily put her paw on my knee. I don't know why she did that, but it was pretty cool. I felt like David or whomever God is touching in Michelangelo's Ceiling."

Lily's immigration to America got off to a rocky start. When Flop's father went to Toronto to pick her up, he returned through the "nothing to declare" line at U.S. Customs. But the inspector asked him: "What about the dog?"

Flop's father must have looked aghast, because the inspector noted that he was just pointing out a technicality, adding: "Don't worry, I'm not going to take your puppy."

He would have been the world's luckiest customs inspector if he had, Lily's family agreed.

The family has asked that in lieu of donations or flowers, people spend time with their own dogs or animal companions, or just go out to the dog run in the park and watch dogs and their owners enjoying life.

Lily is survived by Grace, 6.

Separation Monday

I feel, uh, a little awkward telling you this, but where blogging and I are concerned, we're on indefinite hiatus.

Chances are that this is a Joseph Mitchell-type hiatus, not a few weeks' sabbatical, but you never know. Maybe I'll be gone for a month and decide that I miss it.

Awkward, huh? You can work through it. Flop will still be here, at least through football season. You were okay before me and you'll be fine without me.

Thanks for reading, writing and linking. It's been an honor.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Yarr, enjoy ye weekend.

And do some reading up on pirates. (By which I do not mean Salomon Torres and Jason Bay.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wither Slawgust

Flop promised you a post a day for the month of Slawgust. He failed.

Meanwhile, as he pointed out via private e-mail, I'm currently drowning in a sea of my own excellence. It hurts me more than it hurts you.

I'll be off to a wedding on Thursday, after which I'll be spending a week in an undisclosed location. If you're lucky, I'll post some pictures of my legs while I'm lying in a hammock or my unclothed torso jumping backward off a dock.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Politeness got me nowhere

I've had a monthlong stretch where I haven't been sleeping before 3 or 4 a.m. It's been happening night after night, due to work, extreme socializing, and general whathaveyou. This doesn't both me because I'm indestructible. I can smoke a pack of Marlboros and then run an eight-minute mile; I provide genius three hours early under a four-hour deadline; I can subsist for days on a bowl of Vanilla Special K, a pack of Trident, and black coffee. Sleep, like food, is a nuisance that keeps you from doing better things, and a hobby for felines and infants.

Nevertheless, yesterday it caught up with me. I met friends in the afternoon to talk college football and presidential politics, and the four or five pints affected me roughly twice as much as normal. Then it was a big dinner at a French restaurant, and by the time I finished dessert, even the coffee wasn't bringing me back to life. I felt exhausted.

I'd think that this would be a welcome relief. I mean, I assume that people get tired of the bombast and provocations. Last night, I was tired, calm, and almost tranquil. All night, I was thinking, "What a nice treat for my friends. I'm sitting here engaging in normal conversation, moderating disagreements, not taunting anyone. I am delightful, friendly and sophisticated."

Instead, it was like when the mean older brother breaks his leg and the younger siblings use the opportunity to beat him while he's weak. At a birthday party later that night, I was the zebra carcass on the Serengeti. Co-blogger Flop had invited a delightful young woman, but instead of amusing her, he spent the whole night yanking my leghair and telling people that he's buff. He wasn't the only one. It was open season on everything: my goddamn hair ("Did you dye your fucking hair?" A: "No, my hair turns blond when I'm in the fucking sun."), my fucking pants ("Why do your pants keep falling down?" "Loan me your fucking belt."), my goddamn armhair ("You're hirsute." "Bullshit, just my arms below the elbow."), my posture ("Look at you, sitting there all reclined. Are you gay, or just prissy?"), my drinking choices ("Why the fuck are you drinking MGD?"), my past behavior ("Jump some rope, asshole."), my underwear ("Stop showing people your boxers.") my reading choices ("You haven't even read Gravity's Rainbow, so you're an idiot."), my smoking ("I hope you die."), and immortality ("What's it like to be born without a soul?").

By the end of the night, people I barely knew were joining in.

I took it, dude. The fight was drained out of me. After midnight, I curled up on a couch in the corner of the bar, taking their abuse without protest. Most nights, it would be open season. This kind of weak-assed, inept mockery would have triggered my predatory instincts, and these assholes would have been left like the mice and lizards on What Jeff Killed. They took down a man in a weakened state, and one who showed a small degree of consideration in not ruining his friends' lives in the presence of their significant others.

To Flop et al.: Consider last night a free pass. I hope you had fun. But I'm not going to be tired forever, and I'm not going to always show concern for the welfare of your dignity, your self-respect, or your self-worth in the eyes of women. You enjoyed yourselves, and I'm aware that if you'd administered complete justice, the attacks could've been uglier. Just like Muhammed Ali, they called him Cassius, and just like Muhammed Ali, I can absorb your pummeling, but will come back with a knockout.

It was fun. I'm not offended. But don't think that I'm turning over a new leaf.

On a similar note, the Comedy Central Roast of Flavor Flav is horrible, except for the part where Patton Oswald makes fun of Brigitte Nielsen's snatch.

Post post facto

I have failed in my charge to you, our readers, in my goal of posting once a day. However, I can totally just bang out some posts, set the date on them to be on the days I missed and _ viola! The only evidence of my utter, utter slackerdom will be this post!

Friday, August 10, 2007

A perfect Slawgust 10

In 1776, they heard about the Declaration of Independence in London. I bet they were like "Bloody Hell, what is that crappy little, ketchup-guzzling, tea-tossing backwater playing at? Crush them."

Yeah. About that. Sorry, guys.


Judd Apatow.

His generous take on human nature and carefully dosed slapstick bring to mind the best stuff of Bill Murray, Woody Allen and Preston Sturges. It's nice to have a guy who knows that the funniest parts aren't mean or manic, but happen when people are just being themselves.

Not funny

Andy Samberg.

"Dick in a Box" didn't make any sense, and it was ripped off from Diner to boot.

Go away, Andy Samberg. Just because your mouth is preternaturally large doesn't mean you're funny.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Happy Slawgust 9!

Dude, it's totally Thursday. Remember back On This Date in Slawgust, 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned in shame?

Well, maybe George W. Bush will do that today. Although that would necessitate there being pressure on him to do so. Despite the fact that two in three Americans pretty much despise him, and he's caused more harm and there's plenty of evidence that he's committed more felonies in office than any other previously impeached president, there's no chance of him -- or the equally deserving Vice President -- being impeached. So he probably won't.

In other news, on TDiS in 48 BC (or BCE if that's how you roll) , Julius Caesar beat the snot out of Pompey. I wonder if Bush ever fancied himself a latter day Casear the way he did with Churchill.

Another fun fact. Rod Laver's birthday is today. He was born in 1938. Roger Federer's birthday was Slawgust 8 -- uh, I mean "yesterday." OMG coincidence!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What is today, anyway? Slawgust 8?

Sounds about right. Anyway, today. Yeah. It sure feels like a Wednesday. Which today totally is.

Wednesday, August 8. 8-8-08. It's one year until the Olympics open in Beijing, at 8 p.m. Because eight _ 8 if you prefer _ is lucky.

That's a future This Date in Slawgust. And you thought we were only going to look backward. Oh no.

Well, OK. We totally can, in executive-summary paragraph form.

In 1220, the Battle of Lihula was lost. By Sweden. In 1605 the city of Oulu, Finland, was founded. By Sweden. And in 1915, affordable, well-designed homewares, Volvos and sweet n' sour sauce were all invented ... BY FUCKING SWEDEN!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Live and learn

This made me laugh so hard that tears were rolling down my face in the office. It even got CrimeNotes -- a noted office sourpuss -- to laugh out loud at his place of business.

The best part, I think, is the contribution from the blogger at the end. The reformulations are limited only by the number of Division I-A schools and idiomatic expressions of indifference or resignation. And raptors, I suppose.

Personally, I would go with Washington State, A Steller's Sea Eagle and "Who'da thunk it?" But that's just me.

In certain UK home nations, this is what they think of when they think of the Palouse.

[I read about this on Deadspin.]

Slawgust the seventh

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I said a post a day. And you know what? Here's your stinkin' post. We've all got priorities.

Based on this post, I'm pretty sure Midwestern Gal is out in the heat and humidity, cranking out some six-minute miles while either cooking or making love right now. And Meg is probably disrobing, falling down or both -- or possibly gyrating with the undead -- because that's just how she does.

But I'm about to slice into an ice-cold watermelon and then watch some episodes of Lost. What was your Tuesday night like?

Monday, August 06, 2007

See, it's only a temporary abrogation of liberty

The Democrats who voted to expand the executive branch's power to eavesdrop and spy on communications not only made America safer, they insulated themselves from future charges that they're weak on terror. Forever.

And besides, it's only for six months. The brilliance of it is that by handing the George W. Bush White House the kind of power that gives Nixonites the kind of boners you hear about only in commercials, they can now pursue all those ninnyish policies they just can't help themselves for pursuing -- like restoring Habeas rights, closing Guantanamo Bay, and outlawing torture. And Iraq, too. And once those six months are over, we get our liberty back! Freedom is so totally going to be on the march at some point between now and February of '08!

I know everyone's kind of gobsmacked at the utter fear and cowardice the Democrats showed on this issue, but it's really a brilliant piece of statecraft and people should shut up. There's a time to speak out and a time to be silent and trust our leaders. We've got 16 months until the presidential election, and not one Republican will be able to credibly say that Democrats are weak on terrorism ever again. I can see it now:

"Our nation faces an increased threat of a terrorist attack. Democrats have taken measures to protect Americans and have not ignored any threats to the homeland whatsoever." Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"Our country is now much less likely to be attacked by terrorists due to the actions of our leadership across the aisle." Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Tenn.

"There will be no disaster on this doorstep, homes." Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.)

"Look, psychoanalysis simply does not work with Islamic terrorists. I should know, I was mayor of New York when we were hit on September the 11th. Of course, it would be unfair of me to say that Senator Obama is soft on terrorism, because so many of his fellow Democrats have shown their resolve, even if he made some faggoty noises about liberty or some shit. It's cool." Rudy Giuliani, Republican presidential candidate.

Hey! You promised you wouldn't call us that anymore!

This Date in Slawgust, bitches (And a happy independence day to our readers in either of Bolivia's capital cities or high(er) in the Andes. ¡Feliz cumpleanos a ti, Bolivia!):

1809 Alfred Tennyson is born. (Slawgust is totally poet time.) I was going to make a comment here about him having the middle name "Lord" when I really know he was made a peer, and then watch people decide in the comments whether I'm kidding or really that stupid. But nah, I don't feel like it.

1843 Soup magnate Jos. Campbell comes across some old recipes in a chiffarobe and gives them to his wife, Ophelia. He sells it at his dry-goods store in Bucks County, Pa., and it's a hit. You didn't know Campbell's comes from Philadelphia? Why do you think Donovan McNabb is their spokesslurper?

1988 The Tompkins Square Park riots kick off. I remember 1988 being an unusually hot summer, so I'm sure the heat was to blame for some of this as well.

2001 President Bush receives a briefing entitled Bin Laden Determined to Strike In United States. It makes an awesome coaster for that lemonade he likes to drink out of the tall glasses after brush clearing is done for the day.

Hell yes

After a few days of work that left me on death's doorstep, tonight I came home to this:

Baby's hands are trembling.

LaMarr Woodley's bad-ass visage is on the Penn State ticket, and the great Chris Perry is on the Purdue ticket (not pictured).

The Hart races; the heart quickens. Only 26 days until kick-off, friends.

Snapshots from the first weekend of Slawgust

Friday, 2:11 p.m. I purchase a ton of produce at the Union Square Greenmarket, including a dark green watermelon the size of a volleyball. Summer is good.

Saturday, 10:34 p.m. I am dozing when Barry Bonds ties Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs. I get a text from a friend. "Did you see it?" Nope. And although I'm not one of the legions of baseball fans who spit when they hear Bonds' name or wish him ill, as if he's the only cheater and prick ever to play the game, I don't feel that bad for missing it.

Sunday, 11:17 a.m. A gaggle of foreign tourists surrounds the bronze bull at the apex of Bowling Green park. As I get closer I realize they're taking pictures of the women posing with their hands on or near the bull's massive, cast-metal testicles, and everyone is kind of giggling and enjoying themselves way too miuch. It made me kind of want to be part of their group _ not because I want pictures of women I know posing with their mitts on bull balls (dmbmeg, white courtesy phone), but because I like people who don't take themselves too seriously and can have a little immature fun once in a while. Unless it's my parents -- then I'm mortified.

Sunday, 11:57 p.m. A friend convinces me to watch another episode of Flight of the Conchords. I told him I really disliked the first episode -- I thought it was like a YouTube act that had been given its own show out of desperation. The songs are well-crafted and kind of funny on their own, but the actual attempts at plot in between were a wreck. The second episode I saw, which I think was actually the fourth, was better, but it still tried too hard to be clever. The unnecessary boss character, Murray, tries to be an antipodean David Brent a bit too much. The creepy fan adds little and girls who interact with the main characters are just plot devices who could be represented by cardboard cutouts, the best boy grip or an attractive, potted Norfolk Island Pine. Summary judgment: I think I want to see them banished to YouTube, because they write very clever songs that, strung together, can't quite carry a half-hour show. CrimeNotes will have more to say on this soon.

This Day in Slawgust:

August 4, 1693: The traditional birthday ascribed to Champagne, as invented by the monk Dom Perignon. Of course, this is apocrypha, much like Abner Doubleday's invention of baseball and the story of the ancient tribe of American people (like all ancient tribes, probably distantly related to the Celts) settling down by the banks of the Potomac in 4000 B.C. But hey, whatever. Happy birthday to champagne.

August 4, 1792. Percy Bysshe Shelley is born, setting a record for least masculine names given to a male child. He overcame this by becoming a poet and boning Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Despite having a name about 1,000 times as manly as that of her husband's, she was pretty hot for the 19th century, proving that poets get laid a ton.

August 4, 1912. Raoul Wallenberg is born. I would be totally fine if we renamed Michigan Stadium for him. It would be giant middle finger to both hoary athletic traditions (which state that only coaches may be so honored) and Admiral Horthy, who, frankly, doesn't get enough scorn heaped on him.

August 5, 1735. Peter Zenger is acquitted, because the shit he wrote was true. The tabloid Nieuwe Yorke Pofte, writes a series of blistering editorials bemoaning the fact that Zenger got off on a "technicality" and engages in a smear campaign against the publisher in defense of Gov. William Cosby. Typical.

August 5, 1914. Cleveland invents and installs the first traffic light. Next time you're stuck at a red light, thank Cleveland! While I'm discussing great moments in Cleveland history, how about one more?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

In praise of lead poisoning

It would have been good for me to have had lead poisoning as a child.

I had a bunch of Matchbox Cars. When I was a little kid -- like three or four -- I put them in my mouth and whatnot. Just one of those fucking things. Kids stick toys in their mouths.

Now there's a Hasbro recall on lead-tainted toys, and for most kids, that's a good thing. Most kids are halfwits, and because of lead poisoning, those kids grow up to be that much dumber. As adults, they are labeled "soccer fan" and "Republican."

Myself, I would have benefited from lead poisoning. I like to imagine how awesome it would be if I were just another tall, cool, handsome dude who could skip his ass all over town and not get annoyed during tickle parties. Sadly, I'm a fucking genius, so when I go to tickle parties I stand there thinking about foreign policy and whose tickle is the best analogy to the Algeciras Treaty.

I wish I had lead poisoning as a kid, so that I wouldn't be cursed with a brain that makes me think about such things. In the event that I suffered lead poisoning, I'm grateful for it, because it kept me from being that much smarter, and worrying about these things even more.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Close enough

I'm pretty sure it was after midnight when I finished the Barry Bonds post (no, there's no link. Just scroll down. Oh, come on. It's right below this one. But blogger records the start time of a post, not the time it goes to press.

So here's TDiS for August 3. There's some doozies in here. But then again, there always are ...

1492 Columbus set sail from Spain to spread Spanish hegemony and diseases throughout the Caribbean.

1811 Elisha Otis was born. He invented elevators. That's super.

1852 College sports were invented when Harvard and Yale race in boats. The rest of the college world later would find better things to compete at (ask Rutgers and Princeton), but these two schools still like to row. How nice for them.

1936 James Cleveland Owens is an Ohio State alum, which would normally earn him some snark, if not unfair hostility here. It won't come from me, though, because 71 years ago this Slawgust he gave Hitler's ideas about race a giant middle finger with the whole world watching. Then he returned to the United States, where American society treated him ... well, about as well as it treated black men in those times, which is to say: shittily at best. Ohio State, however, called its new track and field venue Jesse Owens Stadium. Why they didn't name the Horseshoe for him, I'll never know. Maybe the descendants of Jebediah Ohio would have squawked. I like to think that he and Raoul Wallenberg have an annual bet on the game.

1977 Tom Brady is born, 10 days late. He originally wasn't going to come out of the womb at all, and the family didn't know what to do. But then a fat man with a spiked haircut and an "ND" jacket, convinces the infant Brady to emerge, and there is much rejoicing. But the mysterious midwife disappears before the Bradys can thank him, although he is seen in the shadows of other watershed moments in a young Tom Brady's career, including toilet training, his First Communion and the night he discovered masturbation after getting into a tickle fight with his babysitter, Samantha.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Barry Bonds is good at baseball

One of the things I've learned about having watched most of Barry Bonds' at-bats since he reached homer No. 754, is that Barry Bonds has an unbelievable batting eye. I mean, I've known this for a long time, but it's another thing to get to see it in person.

Yes, I know he's a very difficult person and he is the only baseball player to have ever been a prick or to have cheated (evidence of which, I would point out, is only circumstantial), and he's retroactively ruining everyone's childhood, but goddamn. If he never hit 10 home runs in a year, he would wind up in Cooperstown.

Also, Bud Selig apparently "took the night off" from watching the games. Yes, I've been to Chavez Ravine ... it's truly brutal to have to sit amongst the palm trees and pretty people and knock back some suds and a Dodger Dog. First he prevaricated for weeks on whether he'd show up, he finally did and now he's going to chill at the hotel? (It's possible he's taking the night off from the media _ when the booth contains the toxic combination Joe Morgan and Chris Berman, that's certainly forgivable.)

Also, it's a fun treat to watch Barry Zito throw his non-Euclidean curveball. If I were a big league hitter and I saw that, I'd ask my agent about a real estate license.

Unless I was Barry Bonds. In which case I'd just sort through the pitches like I was looking for a check in the mail ...

Slawgust rolls on

As Slawgust picks up steam, some rules will emerge from the chaos. One already has. If we can note a significant event involving the letter Æ, we totally will. And you'll see that down where we discuss important things that have happened on This Date in Slawgust.

Before that, we would like to extend our sincerest wishes for a happy 30th birthday to Her Majesty, the Queen of 2005. I was lucky enough to attend the royal bash in the West Village earlier, although a work situation prompted my early departure. I was harshly, though deservedly, catcalled. One colleague even pointed out that she would be drinking more than I did, staying up later and going in to work earlier. She will henceforth known as Ol' Ironliver, possessed of the U.S.S. Constitution of metabolic pathways.

I was far more upset to have been gently upbraided by Her Majesty. Chastened, I shall resolve to drunkenly carry on until all hours at the next opportunity. Chastened, I have no stomach for further posting, and shall proceed to This Date in Slawgust.

On August 2, 924, Ælfweard, King of Wessex died. (See, I told you we'd work these in.) It is not known who immediately succeeded him. (1,010 years later, Paul von Hindenburg died. His successor is known.)

On TDiS 1776, The Declaration of Independence was signed. July 4 was just when it was adopted by the Continental Congress. In honor of this fact, we will be doing our traditional Great Americans post later this month.

In 1982, Grady Sizemore was born. He would go on to become a future star center fielder for the Cleveland Indians and invade the seuxal fantasies of every heterosexual woman and gay man in Northeast Ohio, along with those of approximately 72 percent of the rest of the population. His raw sexuality rubs off on anyone who attends Indians games, meaning guys find themselves unaccountably attractive to women up to 24 hours later. Nine months after he makes one of his trademark diving catches, births in the Greater Cleveland area spike more than 400 percent. Female fans arriving at Jacobs are discreetly quizzed as to their birth-control measures and if they profess to not be taking any, are quietly directed to the upper decks, as far from center field and the plate _ and Sizemore's raw sexuality _ as possible. Unless, of course, they want to conceive and bear the Infanta of dreamboat baseball players just by getting too close to him.

Caution: Fans seated in the first eight rows may become pregnant.

Jerry's kids

Seinfeld debuted in 1990, when I was 13 or 14. Like everyone, I love the show, and even its angry stepson, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Let's talk about Seinfeld's sixteenth episode: "The Chinese Restaurant." It may be the first great episode in the series, centered entirely around the wait for a table in a (wha?) Chinese restaurant. George is trying to access a payphone to break up with a girlfriend; Elaine becomes increasingly desperate to be seated. She breaks out observations like this:
Remember when you first went out to eat with your parents? Remember, it was such a treat to go and they serve you this different food that you never saw before, and they put it in front of you, and it is such a delicious and exciting adventure? And now I just feel like a big sweaty hog waiting for them to fill up the trough.
In retrospect, not many things seem as revolutionary now as they were at the time. Louis Armstrong played old music and Van Gogh painted pretty pictures -- neither guy seems like a rebellion. We forget how Seinfeld's observational, slapstick-free humor parted from the good comedies (Cheers, Night Court) that came before, and how odd it was to have relatively plot-free episodes about the lives of a group of platonic friends. When Seinfeld started, it wasn't just funny, but something entirely new.

This episode changed more than is dreamt of in your philosophy.

Seinfeld infiltrated everything, and that's what we're here to talk about. The literary critic Harold Bloom has argued that before Shakespeare, people didn't know how to process themselves and the world -- that those conversations we have inside our heads were not so complicated, that Shakespeare, in Bloom's words, "invented the human as we know it." It's hard to accept that kind of judgment at face value, yes, but I think that Harold Bloom's basic point -- that a Shakespeare can come along and fundamentally change the way we think about ourselves, and the stories that write themselves in our heads -- is sound. Bloom's observation isn't that we individually read Shakespeare and are affected, but that he captured something about human psychology that changed the way everyone viewed themselves, whether we've read the plays or not.

In its skilled hands, Seinfeld raised triviality into an art form. Go back to that episode at the Chinese restaurant: Inconveniences and nuisances, small roadblocks, petty dramas like an interminable restaurant wait or payphone politics, we all have them. Take the episode where Elaine finds herself on a subway trip interrupted by stalls and power failures: It's another universal, set in New York but speaking to someone trapped in traffic in Phoenix. Seinfeld took these universal, trivial things, observed them closely, and tilled them into fertile creative material.

Harold Bloom. I would have been traumatized, too.

Seinfeld isn't Shakespeare, and I'm not Harold Bloom (for two things, I'm not morbidly obese and haven't [yet] traumatized Naomi Wolfe) but lately I'm wondering if Seinfeld hasn't done something similar to what Bloom described. I'm not talking about the show's use of irony -- this isn't some Jed Purdy handwringing about how horrible it is that people aren't more sincere.

No, what Seinfeld spawned is an preoccupation with little things, and a belief that our own inconveniences, superiorities and minor frustrations are in any way interesting. Before you disagree, consider recent conversations that you've had with minor acquaintances and co-workers. A significant percentage of them probably involved these small frustrations. Only rarely do people talk about actually doing things, or recommend something good that they came across. All smalltalk is painful, but a distinctly Seinfeldian whining and a mistaken idea that these things are amusing, they're something different.

They're also entirely reactive. Like all the best Seinfeld moments, the person is caught in a tangle that someone else started. You're never the person who does things, you're the person who sees things, the rubber that bounces the glue. Isn't it wacky that the wireless company is a dick?

Those awful commercial for the Sonic fast food chain? Seinfeld. "Lazy Sunday?" Seinfeld. Those stories about your dry cleaner, your subway trip, the waitress at lunch? These are boring things, but we don't recognize them as boring anymore because more talented people have turned them into entertainment. Not recognizing the distinction, we think that they're all entertainment.

Seinfeld has given everyone an illusion that these things are more important than they are. A rude service employee or a transportation inconvenience become stories to share. It's not enough to shrug it off and forget it.

You may think that I'm wrong in three respects. First, you might say that people always talked about these things. Not true. You're mistaking boring conversations with people trying to be cute about boring topics. No book, movie or TV re-run that predates Seinfeld features these kinds of fetishized conversations. But Dave Eggers or Jonathan Franzen? Friends, Entourage or Sex in the City? It's glib, clever minutia. The average conversation with your parent or aunt and uncle might be boring (more weather stories, please) but their not gilded with pissy fake cleverness. The boring conversations that people 35 and under have, they're Seinfeld's spawn, and we're Jerry's kids.

Second, you might say that Seinfeld is a symptom, not the cause. That's possible. Reality Bites made clear that half-witted, self-absorbed podlings were the new Punk. Without Seinfeld, what's now mistaken as "wit" might have been earnest. The mind reels.

Third, maybe you think that the post-Seinfeld norm isn't a bad thing. Maybe you think it's fun to hear these stories -- they're relatable and simple and you like telling them. They're like little helpings of junk-food conversation. No harm done, and I'm being a dick for thinking all of this is bad.
Colleague in Elevator: How was your weekend?
CrimeNotes: Fine.
Colleague: What did you do?
CrimeNotes: [Pause.] Went to a bunch of parties and saw a band. [Pause, and if feeling talkative, add:] Read a biography about Cicero/watched a bunch of football. [Resentful pause.] What did you do?

Cue story about trip to beach and supposedly funny thing that happened on the train back.
Do you see what I did right there? I tried to be all fucking clever and amusing with a bullshit anecdote about something trivial. I'm here to fuckin' amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? Tell me, tell me what's funny?*

Apparently, no one ever does anything.** Don't complain to me about being bored.

*Goodfellas was released the year Seinfeld debuted. That was a good year.
**And then I'm the asshole because I have to go and blow up a conversation because I can't sit through another half-assed anecdote. The next thing you know, I'm described as "mean" and some girl is crying in the corner because I didn't smirk at the story about the check-out woman who couldn't get the milk to go through the scanner correctly. Thanks, Jerry.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Happy Slawgust, Assfaces!

Before Rocktober, there's Zeptember. And before Zeptember is Slawgust.

What's Slawgust? If you have to ask, you're in the wrong place, Junior, and it's probably time to hightail it back to facebook. Slawgust is a state of being, and a sweaty one at that. Slawgust is a time for getting around to all the shit we didn't get around to yet. You'll see a post about Great Americans, just in time for Labor Day. I'll write something about how stupid it is that we're going honor Grover Cleveland with not one but two coins (in a nonconsecutive way, natch).

And there's a small chance that we might finally finish off the Tournament of Everything. No promises, though.

One thing I will promise, however. A post a day or your money back. Seriously. Today's post is to honor August, which is usually the crappiest, hottest, do-nothingest month (although I managed to injure myself rather seriously in Augusts past). August used to be named Sextilis or something like that, but then it got renamed because Caesar Augustus did some shit in the month to a sufficient degree that it warranted renaming the whole thing.

Which is the point of Slawgust. We're taking this month and making it our own. But we're also cognizant of the 2,012 or so Augusts that preceded the existence of Cole Slaw Blog. As such, we render this small tribute:

On August 1 ...

... 984 Æthelwold of Winchester died and was later canonized. He fought corruption and was sympathetic to the poor. So it's safe to say he wouldn't be a Republican today. Happy Feast Day of St. Æthelwold, everybody! I'll see you at 10 a.m. mass down at St. Æthelwold's ... oh, let's say Basilica.

1291 Switzerland was invented. Yes, it's an entire (vaguely bear-shaped) nation built on über-precise timekeeping, an utter refusal to take a stand on anything and happily hiding your filthy, filthy lucre from the taxman. Also, they produce clean fonts, notable monster of the ski slopes Pirmin Zurbriggen and a populace that has never coughed, not once. No one's fucked with them for eight centuries, and I'm not about to start giving them stick now. Raclette for everybody!

1885 George de Hevesy was born in Budapest. Why should you care about a random chemist? Because when the Nazis invaded Copenhagen, where Hevesy was working in Niels Bohr's lab, it was his idea to dissolve the gold Nobel Prizes of the laureates in the lab into a solution and hide it in plain sight on a shelf. After the war, they precipitated the gold out of the solution and had the medals recast. This makes your smartest idea look about as crafty as going for the diagonal win in Connect Four, so don't scoff.

1876 Colorado, a state in which a surprisingly large amount of Cole Slaw Bloggers have resided, was admitted to the Union. President Ulysses S. Grant later admitted in his memoirs that he did it just to piss off Wyoming, which he thought "totally copied" Colorado's design.

1981 MTV first went on the air. The Real World vs. Road Rules challenge Battle of the Sexes II was only 23 years away! It's been a mixed bag, to be sure. But if nothing else, they provided the world with this song: