Sunday, September 30, 2007

New York as a college football town

The closest comparison to college football season in New York is New York during the World Cup. The rest of the city is oblivious to the passions of small, provincial sects. Saturdays on the Upper East Side and in Murray Hill, you pass groups of strangers walking together in team attire, getting together in bars and watching something that reminds them of home.

Most Michigan games air nationally so the bars aren't an issue. Much better to get together in a friend's apartment with people who actually understand the game and watch it the same way rather than cram together in a bar with fellow alumni whose knowledge, intensity or agenda don't quite match.

The Saturdays still have the feel of a secret holiday. Walking around the East Village or the Lower East Side, there's a scattering dressed in shirts for Texas, Notre Dame, or Michigan, all of us headed for a more football-appropriate part of town.

After last week's Penn State game, a group of us passed a collection of Penn State fans standing together outside a Murray Hill bodega. Being friendly, sympathetic types (I've never met a Michigan person who doesn't like Penn State) we didn't say anything. An angry Penn State guy saw us and screamed, "Fuck Blue!", with the rage more appropriate to Columbus. I look back and smiled. "Yeah, why don't you fucking go on and lose three more games this year!" he said, in a way that was indicating fistfight more than trash-talk.

We went to a neighborhood bar where three girls in Arkansas shirts screamed at a TV and a table of Wisconsin fans watched their school edge past Iowa.

In 2003 -- the last time Oregon defeated Michigan -- we watched at Blondie's on the Upper West Side, none of us knowing that it was an Ohio State bar. The Buckeyes finished up just before the Michigan game. I had a beer and waited for my friends. One of the Buckeyes struck up a conversation about how much he hates to see Michigan lose, and how his ideal season is Michigan going undefeated every year until they play Ohio State. I had the same philosophy. We commiserated about the problems with our respective fan bases.

This phenomenon isn't limited to national powers with huge alumni populations in the city. Murray Hill and the Upper East Side are alumni central. Last year, after Michigan beat Indiana, a group of us ended the night in a bar on the Upper East Side that happened to be Manhattan's unofficial Kansas State bar. It was the most fun I've had watching a football game that didn't include Michigan, that Kansas State upset over Texas last year. There was happiness and surprise in the mere fact that the Upper East Side has a Kansas State bar, and the experience of being swept up in the euphoria of fans from a school utterly foreign to you.

The front of the bar hosted Texas Tech alumni that night. Every so often I'd walk up for a beer, past the table of Texas Tech fans, who watched on one mounted TV. There they were, the Texas Tech fans and the Kansas State fans, all of us stuck in a sports town mostly distracted by baseball, the credit markets and other frivolities.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Discrete Northwestern-bashing

It's a glorified vocational school. Smart people go there, true, but a couple months ago, when posed the question of which school in the Big 10 I'd least like to be affiliated with, the answer was Northwestern. It's good at engineering, business, theater and journalism. Hence, it's the world's most selective and respected community college. Only Gary Wills classes up the place. As a college town, Evanston makes Cambridge look like Ann Arbor or Madison, because Northwestern is boring and the locals hate the students. It's limited and suburban. Also, they have dry frats; for awhile, I lived with the former president of a dry frat at Northwestern. His enthusiasm was sincere, yet without exception, everyone I know who went there for undergrad speaks of their school with the grim, supporting fortitude of an Amish elder defending his sect's way of life against the encroachment of internet porn and electric hair dryers.

Boycott Gillette

I've now shaved for more than half my life. Because Gillette has hired Brady Quinn as a contest spokesman and infected my Saturdays with his stilted, barbering retardation, I will never again buy Gillette. It's like Katherine Harris ruining my morning with Gatorade or Tressell praising his Weber Grill. I hate them all.

Fuck you, Gillette, for subjecting us to this. Brady Quinn must stumble into anonymity and irrelevance.

Ross Ryan Field*

Two years ago the Michigan Athletic Department elected not to send the marching band to Evanston, prompting the band to travel en masse to Northwestern. They took a couple hundred seats around us.

They were great fans -- smart, loud and drunk. Michigan won, 33-17. I snapped this at the end of the night. I've always liked the two dudes in front, grim and uninterested in the Michigan kids around them.

Tomorrow's Michigan-Northwestern game is on the Big Ten Network, which means that we're damned to the same unpleasant bar that played host to Michigan's season opener. It's the first time in 28 days that I'm going to bed confident of a win. We know how that turned out last time.

* The band kids rechristened Northwestern's Welsh Ryan field in honor of Michigan's then-punter.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Broadcast News is one of the great movies

They're at a D.C. cocktail party, one of a handful that drift in and out of this movie, and these parties, they seem romantic and unbearable at once.

Tom is feeling confessional and reflective, but he has the bad luck that the mood strikes him when he's next to Aaron.

"What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?" Tom says.

"Keep it to yourself," Aaron hisses.

In Broadcast News, every character upsets our expectations. The good-looking, shallow anchor played by William Hurt is sincere and decent. Tom's in over his head, but at least he knows it. He spends the movie mystified by his good fortune, unsure of how he got so far on a head so empty. Tom probably would have been happy as a sportscaster in Tampa, but instead finds himself anchoring live during the latest crisis with Libya, pulled into the D.C. cocktail-party circuit, subject to feuds and vendettas that weren't his own doing.

Holly Hunter's character proves the adage about all cynics being failed romantics. She argues with the boss on a staffing decision; he practically rolls his eyes, with the weariness of a man who's been down this path before. "It must be nice to always believe you know better," he says, "to always think you're the smartest person in the room." She pauses, her voice almost cracking, and says, "No. It's awful."

Poor Jane. She can't turn the switch to off. She observes out loud that she's repelling the men that she's trying to attract, but that's the perfectionist's burden. She holds herself and her profession to standards that are unattainable. When other people can't meet the criteria she imposes on herself, she's furious and mystified.

Lastly, there's Albert Brooks. In most movies, the earnest smart guy is the anti-hero and the sympathetic one. Aaron is anything but. Smug and insecure, he can't help but show off. He resents Tom because Jane is attracted to him, and then he resents Tom for his superior on-air presence, but without these tensions he'd belittle Tom just the same. He can't stomach the stupid, and when his desperation to be liked doesn't yield dividends, Aaron lashes out.

Broadcast News can be minimized as a romantic comedy, and it's been reviewed as a critique of its title subject, but ultimately it's neither. It's about people who can't reconcile their goals with their personalities. Hard news as a concept is quickly dying: People want domino rallies and stories about date rape, not reporting on nuclear arms reduction. Jane has devoted her life and her intellect to substance, but then has the bad fortune to fall for Tom, a man who embodies everything that she hates. For his part, Tom ambles on, doing what he's told, and in the rare moments where he exercises independent judgment, he does what he believes is expected of him, cutting small corners to get ahead. Bewildered Tom, he's like a stupid pet trick: He says and does things to play the part of newsman, but there isn't any more thought behind it than a dog barking, "I love you." His ethical lapses are startling in their lack of cynicism. Aaron yearns to climb the ladder, but he doesn't have the looks or charisma. From the start, he seems to know that he's doomed. When he stumbles into reasons for hope, he fumbles them, and the despair gets worse.

Not many movies understand the Type-A, and this one doesn't hit a false note. There's an alchemy to these performances, and the way these characters get along. The three leads work as well together as any ensemble cast -- in the realm of Godfather quality and Casablanca quality. William Hurt's oafishness never becomes unlikeable or pandering. Holly Hunter could have played the standard hard-assed single professional, but instead there's something more subtle -- her vulnerabilities never seem weak, and her tantrums are human. When she eventually decides not to tell her cab driver which route to take, it isn't because she's grown up and let go: it's because she's defeated. Albert Brooks's bundle of neuroses and tics don't have the quirky affectations of (for example) the characters that Woody Allen or Noah Baumbach do so well. He's not self-aware enough; when you think you're the smartest person in the room, it usually doesn't occur to you that you're being an ass, you merely want to share your special brand of genius.

Broadcast News becomes one of the great movies, a likable love triangle like The Philadelphia Story, made even better than that for its undertow. The Philadelphia Story, too, knows how smart people fight with each other, how pride and the fear of failure creeps into their personal lives and body language. But that movie is limited by its setting (a long weekend centered on a society wedding) and its gentler spirit.

In Broadcast News, no matter how impressive their job titles and resumes, they're in a world they don't understand anymore. This agonizes the control freaks like Jane and Aaron, but allows a loose leaf like Tom to be content no matter what direction the wind blows. There are sweat glands, hormones, emotions, job cuts coming from corporate, and isn't life a bitch when distractions like these lay waste to your well thought plans?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A slice of life

One of the minor joys of living in a city like New York is all the different people you come across. Each person has his or her own story, a tale to tell. Everyone has someplace they're going.

Like the nice lady I saw sitting on a bench in Madison Square Park this morning.

She was sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette with a determined air about her. Within reach was an open can of Red Bull. So clearly, she felt the need to ingest a quantity of stimulants sufficient to get Diamond Jim Brady up and at 'em again, calling for malpeques and ale. Why? I can't say for sure.

I do, however, have a few guesses:

  • She has been awake for six and a half days, and needs to make it 12 more hours to win a bet with her know-it-all older sister, Lisa.
  • There's yet another a goddamned soldering prodigy she has to compete with down at the hummingbird-feeder factory.
  • Or maybe she has to fill in for resourceful, yet alcoholic friend, Cheryl, who leverages her DTs into a sidelight as Jitters, the Friendly Clown. But fucking Cheryl's on the sauce again and if she misses this gig, she'll have to move back onto the couch.
  • Maybe Parliament-and-sugar-free-Red-Bull lady is a TA for some English professor who has scheduled guest speaker Chris Tucker to participate in a poetry slam for a class he's teaching at the New School entitled "Everyday Bards: Poetry found in Quotidian Life." And she'll be damned if she gets shown up by fucking Ruby Rod.
  • It's possible that she told her good friend Kelly Ripa she'd join her for first annual "Pogo 'Round the Park" charity bounce-a-thon, but then remembered what a fucking disaster that would be.
  • It could be Rimsky-Korsakov Day at her Pilates studio and she doesn't want to lose her status as the hardest worker in the eyes of Horst, the instructor with the chiseled arms and smoldering Teutonic eyes who is always just a touch more hands-on than he needs to be.

Carol Jantsch -- a.k.a. the Mike Hart of the music world -- will spot you a trough of Mountain Dew and still do anything you can do, only faster. And better. Especially if it involves playing Rimsky-Korsakov's most famous piece -- on the fucking tuba -- while wearing a bumblebee costume. Now BUZZ, bitches! BUZZ!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Policy Roundtable

This site occasionally summarizes the world wide web's most important and sophisticated developments.
  • Cole Slaw favorite Jebus H. Christ is now co-proprietor of an Iowa-centric football blog, Black Hearts Gold Pants. Iowa's in soft focus (as I guess should be expected in a season that's been uniquely cruel to everyone) thus leaving Jebus and company to chop it up about college football more broadly. This is our gain. It's quickly become a daily stop, alongside such staples as MGoBlog and EDSBS.
  • Also, he recently made a nice girl cry on a date. :(
  • I've never said anything nice about Notre Dame. Its suffering completes me. Still, the pluck and deluded optimism shown by the school's fans in light of a historic collapse have been touching. At Michigan, half the alumni want to scrap the entire university when there's a minor fuck-up on special teams. Notre Dame becomes Temple with a history, and their fans just look forward to a brighter tomorrow. Neither approach is sensible, but I'd rather think like them than think like us. This post at Blue Gray Sky and the subsequent comments made me like the school, if only a little bit and only for a couple minutes. (Bonus points if you can spot the grammatical error in my comment.)
  • Bee-Spot Blythe and dmbmeg (more on her in a second) are running some weird-assed tournament wherein they decide which bloggers they'd like to accompany on an imaginary date. Or perhaps marry. I can't tell. Nothing about it makes sense. I started out as Blythe's No. 1 seed, and apparently haven't been eliminated yet. Personal highlights include all hell breaking loose in the comments, prompting me to drop Carrie allusions like tenth-grade me, adding to the confusion (embrace the pig blood, fuckers) and inspiring me to fall back in love with the work of Brian DePalma. I also tried to bait Jeff Weiss into a fight, but he's too much of a man to respond. It's like sixth grade, but less sophisticated.
They're all going to laugh at you!
  • Contrary to popular belief, dmbmeg is not short for "dumb Meg," though it's easy to see how some could make that mistake. But whether Dave Matthews Band or just ordinary dumb, she recently posted the most repelling vomit story since Davey "Lard Ass" Hogan woofed blueberry pies.
  • Midwesterner in the City pulls the plug. God speed, sir. Your, uh, candle burned out long before your legend ever will?
  • His passing is made easier by the apparent return of Pissed & Petty. Look out, North Brother Island.

Pictures that make my heart happy

If you really did sell your soul, I hope you have more of these coming. Three, to be exact.


Both pictures from Yahoo! Photos. Which is an incredible site on which to waste hours of valuable work time while also informing yourself about the world.

My hands work just fine

That's OK, I don't need a bag. Really. I'm not kidding.

Seriously, I don't want a bag. Stop looking at me like that. I said "I don't need a bag" not "Bend over so I can see your sweet Asian tush" so there's no need to make this awkward. Well, from the look you gave me, I might as well have. But all I wanted to convey is that I will not be requiring the services of a bag today. Yes, I do know that they are free. I just don't care for one. I would like to carry these items I have just purchased home with my bare hands. Or, should I tire of that, I will place them in my backpack. What do you care, anyway?

I do realize a bag offers many conveniences, such as easy-to-grip handles and the ability to carry many things in one hand, while leaving the other one free to do whatever it likes, such as unlocking my front door, twirling the thumbwheel of my iPod or carrying another bag. That's OK. I'll take my chances with gravity. Seriously, I just don't see the need for a bag right now.

Well, since you asked, yes, I do think it helps. OK, no matter how many times you use one to carry your lunch to work, eventually, these bags wind up in the trash. Well, we produce a lot of trash -- doesn't it make sense to take, you know, a really easy step to cut down on that. OK, so your convenience is more important to you. That's fine. I'm not preaching here. I'm just trying to get myself some breakfast.

I am totally not being judgmental. I just prefer to not use a bag when I don't have to. It's that simple. Eventually, oil won't be cheap enough for this shit. I think they'll have higher priorities for the coal-to-liquids stuff. Look, you started this, not me. I just want to take my egg and cheese on a roll, my Coke zero and my muffin back to my apartment. Without a bag. Please don't be offended.

No, I don't need a straw either. Christ ...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I believe that our young white Texans will lead us to a new era of happiness and prosperity

Take it away,
Ryan Mallett is a drop back passer with arguably the nation’s strongest arm. When Ryan Mallett sets his feet he can throw with unreal velocity. Sometimes, he’s all arm and tends to forget some fundamentals. Ryan Mallett shows good accuracy. Ryan Mallett arm allows him to make those hard throws over the middle look so easy. Ryan Mallett throws the deep ball with good touch. At 6-6, Ryan Mallett shows good mobility and he makes good decisions with the football.
In addition, Ryan Mallett arm is so accurate that doctors trust Ryan Mallett to insert heart stents using only his arm and a little artery-sized football. Sometimes, he's all leg and tends to lumber into the end zone like the Jolly White Giant at speedwalking club.

Susan Sarandon taught Ryan Mallett to wear garters. Susan Sarandon like Ryan Mallett for the sex. Chad Henne is the one she truly loves.

Also, Sam McGuffie? He only wants to be with us. Detroit Free Press says:

McGuffie, who plays at Cypress (Texas) Cy-Fair High, said he's still 100% committed to playing for the Wolverines.

"Definitely," McGuffie told the Free Press before the game. "This is where I needed to be. It's kind of simple."


Standing on the field during pregame warm-ups, McGuffie took it all in.

"I love the campus," he said. "It's beautiful. It's perfect."

One more time, for good measure and all-around happiness:

Bonus Round

University of Michigan Provost Teresa Sullivan and her husband, renowned legal scholar Douglas Laycock (author of "Introduction: International Litigation Symposium Honoring the Distinguished Career of Professor Russell J. Weintraub." Tex. Int'l L.J. 38, no. 1 (2003): 1-10) relocated to Michigan after long and impressive careers at the University of Texas.

Sources close to the program credit Provost Sullivan for Michigan's success in recruiting white Texans.

Suck it, Charlie Weis.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A possibly unpopular opinion

The kid who got Tased by University of Florida cops didn't deserve it.

Q: But wasn't he causing a disturbance?

Yes. So?

Q: You shouldn't cause disturbances.

As a general guideline. But how do you handle it when they occur? Should everyone who inconveniences you and your horribly important life be arrested and given electric shocks?

Q: Actually ...

OK, you've never, say, asked a gate agent to explain to you why you couldn't get on the next flight to Minneapolis? Or asked a pointed question?

Q: He could have had a bomb.

Um, yes. Technically, he could have. So could everyone you pass on the street. This means nothing.

Q: OK, fair enough. But he should have played by the rules. The event organizers were right to throw him out.

Certainly, it's their prerogative. But do you really think the use of this much force is justified to remove a loudmouth from a lecture hall? What if he resisted the Tasing? Should they have clubbed him? Shot him? I think we can agree that there's a line and that its location is open to debate.

Q: But the cops told him he had to leave. Once an officer tells you to do something, you have to submit, or you're going to jail.

Well, that assumes that the cop is in the right. But even so, there's still a line. Do you really want to live in a society in which the police are directive-issuing robots?

"Sir, you have to move your car." "But my friend's flight just landed." "OK, now you're under arrest for refusing to obey an order." "Wait, what? For double-parking?" ZAP!

Your view of the role of police and order in society frightens me to my core. You and Mike Bloomberg should found a small entrepot fortuitously situated near major shipping lanes.

Q: Order is important.

How important? Some things have to trump it, right?

Q: It's pretty important. I don't want people thinking they can just waste everyone's time. Other people wanted to ask Sen. Kerry some questions, too.

I bet you hated it when students asked questions about stuff that wasn't going to be on the test.

Q: What are you saying?

Never mind. Go on.

Q: OK, order isn't the most important thing. But this guy wasn't like Martin Luther King or something. I think he just wanted attention.

So what if he did? You think Martin Luther King had rose petals cast at his feet by sheriff's deputies? This guy's previous writings suggest he might have been a self-regarding know-it-all. I thought they were pretty stupid. But who cares? You don't have to be friends with him. The beauty of living in a free country governed at least nominally by the rule of law is that dicks and douchebags get the same protection as you and I. Or would you want others to justify violence against you because they didn't like what you wrote or suspected your motives or just plain didn't like you?

Q: I would never do something like this. I'd play by the rules.


Q: Hey, what do you mean?

Never mind. Hey, I hear O.J.'s in trouble again.

Q: I know! What goes around comes around. Serves him right. You know, he totally killed her. Oh! And I guess what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas! I can't wait to see him carted off to jail.

Q: Hello? You still there?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Turnabout is fair play

The Cy-Hawk: A bizarre, Frankensteinian raptor hybrid found almost exclusively in north-central Iowa.

Seeing as dmbmeg did so much to cheer us up when we tried to asphyxiate ourselves (no link; those photos are more disturbing every time I look at them) after Michigan's 0-2 start, I thought I would return the favor by helping the healing begin with her and her Hawkeyes in light of their disastrous 15-13 loss to Iowa State, a team that previously mustered no signs of life against Kent State and Northern Iowa.

Losing to Iowa State is the football equivalent of spilling your coffee in your lap when someone asks you to check what time it is. It takes ... some real doing. And yet the Hawkeyes just scalded their own junk again, for the ninth time in 12 years. The mind reels.

So I figured I could cheer up Megan by taking Iowa in NCAA '08 and trouncing some ketchup-and-mustard-dressed Cyclone ass. A couple lessons were learned in Iowa's closer-than-it-should-have-been 21-14 win:

My fucked up TV makes it really hard to read the coverage on the split end. I threw a short out against what turned out to be zone coverage for a painful Pick 6. AGH, IT BURNS!!!

Man, Dominique Douglas sure is good. Too bad his yen for fine haberdashery outweighed his desire for playing time. I made a lot of hay with his virtual doppelgänger on post routes. (To be fair, I'd make hay on post routes to a lineman if he was lined up at the X spot).

Oh, the road to the Rose Bowl is filled with temptation.

Clearly, Iowa State casts a spell of stupidity on Iowa players whenever they share the same field. I picked off one of the game's first passes, only to fumble it back, and I later had a silly fumble on next to no contact on a key rushing play, but thankfully that one rolled right to a lineman. Huzzah for the fat guys. Otherwise, this post might have gone very differently indeed.

In summary, Yes, I know I certainly am one to talk, I'm sincerely sorry you lost to Iowa State and have now contracted Transitive Property Herpes, but hey: At least you guys can't possibly lose again to Michigan this year.

And I went out and won you the Cy Hawk trophy. You can come over and gaze at it's jury-rigged glory any time.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New hot garbage on HBO

A synthesized script of HBO's Tell Me You Love Me:
WHITE WOMAN (annoyed): Why aren't you interested in my feelings?
WHITE MAN (annoyed): Are you kidding? I fucking love you.
WHITE WOMAN (annoyed): Act like you mean it.
WHITE MAN (horny): Let's make love, romantically.
WHITE WOMAN (annoyed): Do you think about the sales clerk at 7-11 when we fuck?
WHITE MAN (annoyed): Uh-oh! Not this fight again!

WHITE WOMAN (annoyed): Feelings fucking matter, too.
WHITE MAN (insecure): Is my ass fucking edgy enough for HBO?
WHITE WOMAN (annoyed): It's our "intimacy" that makes this fucking edgy. That, and lighting.
WHITE MAN (insecure): I fucking love intimacy.
WHITE WOMAN (annoyed): Let's fucking quarrel some more! Fuck, why don't we fucking quarrel some fucking more? Fuck!


WHITE MAN (insecure): I can't believe they canceled John From Cincinnati for this shit.
WHITE MAN and WHITE WOMAN (dejected, in unison): Furtive masturbation.
WHITE WOMAN (annoyed): Everything is fucked.



At least there's hope in Purgatory

Unto mine eyes did recommence delight
Soon as I issued forth from the dead air,
Which had with sadness filled mine eyes and breast.

The beauteous planet, that to love incites,
Was making all the orient to laugh,
Veiling the Fishes that were in her escort.

To the right hand I turned, and fixed my mind
Upon the other pole, and saw four stars
Ne'er seen before save by the primal people.

Rejoicing in their flamelets seemed the heaven.
O thou septentrional and widowed site,
Because thou art deprived of seeing these!

When from regarding them I had withdrawn,
Turning a little to the other pole,
There where the Wain had disappeared already,

I saw beside me an old man alone,
Worthy of so much reverence in his look,
That more owes not to father any son.

--Purgatorio, Canto I (Longfellow translation). Photos published in Detroit Free Press.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lloyd is not the first man to know hell

Midway in our life's journey, I went astray
from the straight road and woke to find myself
alone in a dark wood. How shall I say

what wood that was! I never saw so drear,
so rank, so arduous a wilderness!
Its very memory gives a shape to fear.

Death could scarce be more bitter than that place!
But since it came to good, I will recount
all that I found revealed there by God's grace.

How I came to it I cannot rightly say,
so drugged and loose with sleep had I become
when I first wandered there from the True Way.

But at the far end of that valley of evil
whose Maize had sapped my very Hart with fear
I found myself before a little hill

and lifted up my eyes. Its shoulders glowed
already with the sweet rays of that planet
whose virtue leads men straight on every road,

and the shining strengthened me against the fright
whose agony had wracked the lake of my Hart
through all the terrors of that piteous night.

Just as a swimmer, who with his last breath
flounders ashore from perilous seas, might turn
to memorize the wide water of his death --

so did I turn, my soul still fugitive
from death's surviving image, to stare down
that pass that none had ever left alive.

And there I lay to rest from my Hart's race
till calm and breath returned to me. Then rose
and pushed up that dead slope at such a pace

each footfall rose above the last.

*Mike Hart photo found courtesy of Ron Bellamy's Underachieving All-Stars. Love of Dante courtesy of Allison Cornish and Ralph Williams. University of Michigan, you're the best thing that ever happened to me. I'll still love you either way.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A fruitful night of dreams

Last night, I was blocking Notre Dame tight end John Carlson while Michigan ran a slow-developing run play. I learned that I couldn't hold him very long because he weighed 273 pounds, but that I was much more successful when I took my feet off the ottoman. (To be clear, I mean the furniture; there were no 19th century Turks on the field).

Anyway, when I say slow-developing play, I mean it. I ran downfield to block while the other 10 players stayed motionless. I guess it was a trick play. Once I got my block on Carlson, who appeared to be the only Notre Dame defender, Henne scooted around the other end and appeared in the end zone on his side in the fetal position. No one could find the ball, then they looked at Henne. He had it. It was 14-7 Michigan, early on. It had all been too easy, so Notre Dame was complaining. Especially the dude I just blocked (who seemed pretty cool) and someone who I think was Brady Quinn, who had somehow shown up.

Then everyone agreed to take the touchdown off the board, and I was mad because somehow my sympathy to Notre Dame's plight had allowed this to happen.

Mercy is for the weak.

Later, I was parking my Volkswagen in one of the two spots reserved for me in a parking lot as a doctoral candidate in International Affairs. I didn't do a very good job, and wound up taking about three cracks at the spot, looping over the sidewalk, across the street and even through a field, mostly because the brakes didn't work great, and I was trying to steer with one hand while holding a very full cup of coffee in the other. You'll be pleased to know I didn't spill a drop.

Once I got that squared away, I ran into two plainclothes cops. Los Angeles Police Department officers Dee Dee McCall and Rick Hunter had me help them break into an apartment. They left me and another person they'd apparently recruited off the street to hold down the fort, armed with a sickle and a bowie knife. Some friends later showed up to drink wine with us. The next day I showered in a moldy shower and checked my e-mail in one of the bedrooms at the apartment. I couldn't remember who won the Michigan-Notre Dame game the day before, but I reasoned since I had repressed the result, we must have lost. I used my laptop, which I had covered in wood-paneling stickers, to check MGoBlog for the score, but all that was up was a cryptic message referencing an inside joke I didn't get. And I was pissed, because I was like "Man, I could have sworn we were winning earlier.

You guys wait here. We'll be back after we go see what Sporty has to say.

Questions raised:

  • Why was there an ottoman on the field? Does it make more sense if I tell you the game was happening in someone's living room, which it totally was?
  • Why was a tight end playing defense?
  • Seriously? A Ph.D in international affairs? I like reading A Fistful of Euros, but that seems a bit much.
  • What's with the theme of me being recruited to join in and help out?
  • Dude, wood paneling? I guess if I really wanted to be ironic, I'd have a little coal chute on there.

Lessons learned:

  • Give fucking Notre Dame an inch and they'll take a mile. Seriously.
  • Even Michigan's most innovative trick plays are slow and frustrating.
  • Stay low for leverage when blocking someone much bigger than you.
  • Two hands on the wheel at all times seems like a best practice.
  • I clearly am sweating this game more than I let on.
  • Make sure your friends coordinate their wine coverage, or otherwise they might all bring white, leaving you without any red.
  • isn't as up on sickles as they are on scythes, but they are enthusiastic and gamely willing to help with any questions you might have.
Without this, comrade, weeds whack you! HA!

What the hell is Facebook?

I thought it might be nice to try this new thing that gets on the cover of news magazines and that assorted friends and acquaintances celebrate.

But I didn't understand what I was doing, and half my gmail contacts got invited to be my Facebook friend, including people who were on e-mail lists to bachelor parties that I didn't attend, and several names that I simply did not recognize. (Apparently gmail saves contact information for everybody on every chain. I think I have 10,000 contacts. Technology is a bitch.)

Then you get on the goddamn thing and are asked to disclose all kinds of information (I almost clicked that I was interested in meeting "Males" because I thought they were asking for my gender, not the gender of strangers to meet on the internet) and then immediately I started getting e-mails like, "I can't believe you're on Facebook. WTF?"

"I know," I replied. "I don't understand the point. This isn't going to work. I don't want to explain myself to the public."

Five minutes later, the Facebook profile was erased, and now all kinds of people have e-mail invitations to be my Facebook "friend." They'll wake up excited to see the message. Their feelings may be hurt when they see I've withdrawn, and they'll be disappointed that I can't be their Facebook "friend," but most of them have suffered worse at my hands and I'm sure they'll recover just fine.

Moral of the story: Don't do Facebook.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

me so happy



loves to dance



nice lady


good friends

daddy miss u


I bet he has AIDS.

Six years of fear

If there's one thing we've learned since Sept. 11, it's that decisions made out of fear tend to be very poor ones indeed. We've also learned that unimaginable trauma will cause very different responses in people. People wanted revenge, war, killing.

But above all else, we decided that nothing bad should ever be allowed to happen again, ever. And that idea has proven as harmful as any.

If that means strip-searching every brown person at an airport, then fine. We'll do what we had to do to preserve our way of life. (Because every time a nation has created a permanent group of second-class citizens, nothing but peace, strength and prosperity has followed in its wake.)

If that means war, invasions, occupations then hey: We've got an army. What else is it for? (Peace is nice, but not everyone can be Switzerland, you know.)

If that means imprisoning people without due process, suspending habeas corpus, and letting the government observe your every move, then, well, if you're not doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about? (Now get out there and get shopping, patriot.)

Some of that must have seemed reasonable at the time, six year ago minus a couple days, when you looked out the window and wondered if a Cessna was about to go by spraying nerve gas, or if Iraq was sending us 'thrax-0-grams. (It was very finely milled, if you recall. Pharmacetical grade, not that crunchy herbal rave shit.)

Fear reigned, even among sane people. The loudest and most frightened got to carry the day. We would have war, announced during NFL games. We would have long lines at airports, and nothing pointy would be allowed on board, because that might mean more death and destruction. We would throw scary foreigners in prisons (in fucking Cuba!) outside the reach of our own laws, which we reminded ourselves were not suicide pacts. They clearly were meant to be revoked if they got in the way.

We would announce terror alerts, mobilizing press secretaries, the color-coded threat board and every resource cable news could throw at telling us about ... well, something scary. Out there! Can't you hear the chatter? Chatter! Someone could be plotting an attack that totally could happen! At any time!

And of course, there's Iraq. Jesus.

Its only link to Sept. 11 is that it was our willfully misguided response. Empires have foundered on lesser miscalculations. History is a heartless bitch. We will not be judged kindly.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The weekend that was, but I wish wasn't

Commenter and gadfly crunk raconteur did the math for me. Here's the composite score of my football ventures this weekend.

Flop teams 14, Flop-ponents: 73.

Yea, it was a weekend of woe.

The Browns' bed-shitting against the Steelers no less, was an annual rite of passage. Although having a Pittsburgher IM me on Sunday and say (approximately):

IrnCty07: As a Pgh native, it is my birthright to rub this one in your face.
Flop: Thanks, but aren't yins' rubbin' elbows getting tired?
IrnCity07: Well, you'd think, but it's still fun.

So what to make of all this? Well, my hopes for the rest of the season ride on a true freshman, albeit one who spent his summer as an intern with the European Space Agency, tossing supplies up to the International Space Station; as well as this guy.

So, um, yeah. I would say it can't get worse, but it always can. I'm just glad the Indians aren't sucking, and that I've got lots of booze and Lost DVDs (on loan from the permanent collection of one Mr. Crime P. Notes.)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pain in the forecast

Just because we usually bounce back doesn't mean we will this time. Just because we're Michigan doesn't mean that we'll stop the bleeding. Just because an 0-2 start, with losses in games we had penciled in as wins just eight days ago, is inconceivable doesn't make it any less likely that Michigan's defense will wheeze and sputter yet again. We could lose to Oregon today, and it could hurt.

A lot.

Why? Here's why, after nearly two season's of obsessively reading MGoBlog's excellent Upon Further Review series after each game, I predict further evenings spent with a bottle, a glass and some ice in a dark room, wondering what I did to cause this:
  • Michigan is stupid. This much is clear every time Chris Graham lines up to cover a wide receiver because we don't appear to have a dime package. This much is clear every time we shuffle our fullback to the side we plan to run to. This much is clear whenever we have safeties patrol the area 10 yards downfield from wide receivers we might otherwise task a linebacker to cover.
  • Michigan is slow. This is mostly based on anecdotal evidence, but Michigan's strength and conditioning program appears to predate leotards, leg warmers and Tab. NFL trainers and opposing players have intimated as much. Opponents, too.
  • Michigan does not adapt. Despite ample evidence that a team is exploiting our weaknesses, we steadfastly refuse adjust. Appalachian State kept running the same basic play -- with success -- last Saturday, and our defense showed no signs of attempting to stop them.

Stupid, slow and unadaptable. Sounds like the control in a Darwinian experiment. Unless PETA comes along to spring us, it's going to be a shitty dozen Saturdays.

Sure, we've got an offensive line that should pave Oregon's so-far unimpressive defense. And sure, Mike Hart is a nearly inexplicable wonder who deserves to have scholarships, academic excellence centers and babies named for him.

But ... man. That defense. It's going to inspire nightmares all year. It might be worse than 2005's. And the less said about that unit, the better.

Please don't let today's game be like this.

I was much more optimistic about the Oregon game before I revisited the game through Brian's stoic charting efforts. So now what? Well, assuming my pessimism is founded, the following will happen:

  • I'll become quite deft at explaining to the ignorant why Lloyd Carr is not going to get fired. (If you must know: three Rose Bowls in four years; the 1997 national championship; a clean record free of academic or recruiting chicanery; and possibly above all, the successful carrying of Bo's torch.) While the last three seasons have ended pretty badly, we are not Nebraska or Alabama.
  • I'll become much more impatient with my fellow alums. While I plan to never set foot in that bar again while a Michigan game is on, I still will have to read the trauma-seared minds of my fellow alums as they spaz out and call for heads on pikes.
  • I'll make a new friend. Me and Bourbon, we was just acquaintances before. We'll be best pals by October if this shit keeps up.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

An Open Letter

To my erstwhile Lost-watching friend:

Remember that time I made everyone dinner, and then CrimeNotes loaned me his first season DVDs of Lost? We watched it together, through those first couple episodes. And then the following week, we watched a couple more. And then the week after that. And it ruled. We laughed, we freaked out, we tried to decode one of the smartest and most ambitious shows we'd ever seen.

And then, you stopped coming by to watch with me. Was it something I said? But I kept watching because I couldn't just not. Especially not with those DVDs just sitting there, like eggs about to hatch or something and they were there, just sitting there! I couldn't not watch. And then dmbmeg said she'd watch with me one night, because she's been a viewer from the start, and loves it. And you said it was OK, that we'd catch up.

But it's not the same. (No offense, dmbmeg. I love watching with you.) I need to watch this with someone who is as new to it as I am. I need to have someone else to discuss this with. Even raising some issues after season one with CrimeNotes, he blabbed about something that hasn't happened yet. It's minor, but still, I didn't want to know they [highlight to reveal spoilers] discovered a giant foot. I already had the part about the sickness or disease or whatever that starts to infect them ruined by something I stumbled across while reading. And I've heard people talk about the others, and the tail section and all that.

And now, I'm eight episodes into the second season. I've almost lapped you. I know you said on my roof the other night that you were so over it, that you thought it was all "gimmickry" or whatever. I'm not buying it. I know what it's like to try to convince myself I'm not that into something (like college football right now) and it's just not true. I want you to come on back. We can watch the end of Season One together. I'd certainly benefit from a rewatch. And I need someone else with an agile and razor-sharp mind like yours to help me decode. This is a show that almost demands a discussion section. Everyone else has already seen it, and would probably tip me off to some things I don't want to be tipped off to.

So please, come on back. I can tell you that the dude you think is so hot figures prominently in the next couple episodes. I'll also make vegetarian fajitas or even a floplette with eggs fresh from the greenmarket. It can be like it was.

I can't do this alone. It's a two-person job.

-- Flop

It should go without saying that spoilers in the comments would be completely unwelcome. Such misbehavior would be a bannable offense. This is not a Lost discussion forum. Please keep in mind that although I've been catching up, the recipient of this open letter is far behind in her watching. And there might even be some people who haven't seen episode one, too.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Credit where it's due

Woodson still deserved it more than Peyton. Our stadium is still bigger than theirs.

But when it comes to Klan rallies, the University of Tennessee's hometown showed us all how it's done .

“White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted, “White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt “White Flour”.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more, “White flowers?” the clowns cheers and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.

My God, that's some hilarious smartassery. It stands on its own merits as a way to challenge the hateful ideas of an extremist fringe group without elevating them to a position that takes them seriously. Huzzah for white flowers.

Unfortunately, it probably won't work for more solemn public actions.

And yes, I mainly just wanted to get a post up that didn't remind me that I'd like to perform an eyeballectomy on myself with a grapefruit spoon.
[This whole story is via digby via rick perlstein, both of whom should be in your regular blog rotation anyway.]

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Victory is not a birthright, and other life lessons

1.) The wrong side of schaudenfreude is nastier than expected.
Unendurably painful. One thing to experience an unpleasant loss, another to see the thing you love most become a laughingstock. The families of Britney Spears, Andy Dick and George W. Bush deserve compassion.
2.) If you think you might assault a stranger, it's best to go home.
The good-natured, not-undeserved ribbing from strangers in Colorado shirts: That was not welcome. The rage and hatred, they took the back seat to risk-aversion, embarrassment and pussiness. A few minutes later, someone innocently brushed against my back. I wheeled around, planning to slug. That's when it was time to go home.

Assaulting friends, of course, is to be expected and completely acceptable.
3.) It's better to attend a school without a football program.
What would life have been like at the University of Chicago or Carleton College? Less fun, maybe, but I'd feel better about myself on more mornings. Steer children toward pissy private schools or the local community college. They should not know this kind of voluntary heartache.
4.) The rest of the world actually hates Michigan, and likes it to suffer.
See Lesson No. 1; see also Bret Musberger; ESPN. It isn't personal. That doesn't make it easier. The beast demands blood, and the Lohan of college football provides it.
5.) It's best to have diverse interests.
New possibilities include: watercolors; a kitten; knife-throwing; joining the 4-H; oxycontin; survivalism; target-shooting; going on reality TV; and crochet. Ideally something where an entire calendar year doesn't turn to dust in 3-1/2 hours.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The flames of hell are apparently hot, hot hot

I just had the most awful nightmare. I was at a bar, surrounded by all the Michigan alums I used to make a point of avoiding when I was an undergrad. We were there because forces beyond our control had prevented us from watching Michigan's game against a sacrificial lamb except on satellite.

And it was not going well. I suppose if Michigan had shown any ability to stop tiny little fast running quarterbacks, I wouldn't have minded all the people who kept standing up and talking to their bros like it was penny pitcher night at Rick's. And I suppose if Michigan hadn't taken so many needless, five-yard penalties on offense, the dudes at the next table singing what I presumed to be fraternity drinking songs wouldn't have bothered me. And if Michigan's special teams execution hadn't been less-than-existent, the dude in the white button-down shirt, pale blue shorts and Vinyard fucking Vines tie wouldn't even be getting a mention here. Although, to be fair, this guy kept standing up in front of the screen, and was walking around the bar with his bottle of Budweiser Select as if there weren't a game on. So he would have earned my enmity if we were blowing out Notre Dame, too.

But there was. And it was awful. This is totally what hell must be like: Your alma mater starts the season off with a horrendous bedshitting, and you have to watch it with people you would prefer to avoid. Also, the bar keeps playing music over the game, and starting the "Let's Go Blue" chant at the most bloody-minded of times.

Also, one of the most beautiful runs you've ever seen goes utterly, utterly to waste, you're fucking 0-1 because you lost to Appalachian State and you respond by typing up nasty little blog posts that should illustrate the "defense mechanisms" section of Psych 101 book.

I seethe with hate and anger.

The gathering storm

Eight months of emotional numbness and secular prayer are over.

It's been an evening for quiet thought and tranquility, as well as the following: a happy win for Ty Willingham against Syracuse in a season that may not be kind to him; rude ESPN interruptions for a failed no-hitter; and a Navy-Temple game.

There will be no going out on the night before kickoff.

The first bad dream came a couple of weeks ago. It was the start of the fourth quarter. Oregon was ahead 28-10. It was one of those dreams where you wake up reassuring yourself that it was only just a dream, and that the season hadn't even started yet, but still the stress is hard to shake.

Those dreams happen when a person's happiness and emotional well being are tied to the actions of college kids.

Warren St. John in Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer wrote about research finding that fans' testosterone levels rise after their team wins, but that the emotional fallout of a loss outweighed the emotional benefits of a victory. This is true, especially when the team is a perennial contender. The wins are less satisfying because they're expected. Even when the team wins, there's much to complain about: blown coverage, sloppy penalties, transparent playcalling. Michigan fans complain as much about the wins as the losses: it seems like last year's Ball State game inspired more post-game disgust than the losses to Ohio State and USC.

The losses can be almost cathartic. They're a reminder that you can face your worst fears and survive. The literal nightmares that come the next week -- about Spartan Bob, about the ball slipping out of A Train's wet hands -- are the price you pay for caring about something bigger than yourself.

The next time Michigan wins a national championship, the following day we'll start complaining about next year's disappointment.

And that's the scary thing about this season. Michigan has been painfully, exorbitantly hyped. There's already a bittersweet feeling about a last season for Henne, Hart and Long -- Michigan guys who seem like they've been there forever, who seem like they've been there since I was a freshman twelve years ago, like there's this sense of nostalgia for things that haven't even happened yet -- so strong that I feel tics of guilt when I get excited about Ryan Mallett and Sam McGuffie, like you're about to abandon the family for a new trophy wife. Knowing this program and having suffered PTSD based on events experienced via television, the enthusiasm needs to be tempered.

Throw in the Harbaugh blood feud, and there's even a sense that your program needs to avenge itself against its former (and formerly beloved) quarterback. The name of a football blog, Michigan Against the World, seems increasingly appropriate.

What's that, you say? Why am I being ornery on a day that begins three months that inevitably will include moments of unmitigated joy, cross-country travel, extreme socializing, hoarseness, sunburn, frequent-flyer miles, heightened testosterone levels, platonic kissing, head-butts, bruises, screeching, rolling around on floors, falling down, T-shirt acquisitions, early mornings, late nights, warm feelings and dehydration?

Co-blogger Flop, in a rare moment of insight, summarized it best. It was Ohio State week, less than 48 hours before Bo Schembechler died. The tension was already killing me: I wasn't doing much work that week. Flop wrote the following to a friend of ours in Ann Arbor:
Well, you could be one of those people who went to Tufts or Bryn Mawr or Williams or something. And tonight you'd feed the baby, pay some bills, maybe watch some TV, and then spend your Saturday shopping or running errands or maybe getting in some crocheting.

Instead, there's revenge in your heart and blood in your eyes. Sure, this isn't easier, but it lets you know you're alive.
Consider this post the insurance policy that I'm writing for my psyche.

Now that that's out of the way, in the famous words of some random dudes who screamed at some dumb chicks out of a window at Bursley:


This photo is framed and hangs in my apartment.